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October 23, 2006

Peace Dividend Top of SF Agenda

News About Ireland & The Irish

SF 10/23/06 Peace Dividend Top SF Agenda At Brit-Irish Body
BT 10/23/06 Ahern Tight-Lipped On £700m Financial Package For North
NH 10/23/06 Senior Catholic Officer Tells Of Sectarianism Within RUC
NH 10/23/06 Nationalist Community Deeply Divided On Policing
IN 10/23/06 Family Says Police Failed To Arrest Murder Suspects
SF 10/23/06 Social Apartheid Still Exists In Education - Crowe
IN 10/23/06 Education Overhaul Could See Schools Go
SF 10/23/06 McDowell Only Interested In Soundbites And Column Inches
BT 10/23/06 Don't Expect Lower Business Taxes: Eagle
RT 10/23/06 Report Highlights Unaffordable Houses


Peace Dividend To Top Sinn Féin Agenda At British Irish
Parliamentary Body

Published: 23 October, 2006

Speaking before the first session of the British Irish
Parliamentary Body, which is meeting in Belfast over the
next two days, Sinn Féin TD Arthur Morgan said that his
focus would be on building support for a substantial peace
dividend for the north and the border counties to be
delivered by the British and Irish governments.

Mr Morgan said:

"Sinn Féin has been in ongoing discussions with British
Prime Minister Tony Blair and Taoiseach Bertie Ahern for
some time now in relation to the need for a substantial
peace dividend for the north and the border counties. Last
week we met with British government officials in London and
myself and Mitchel McLaughlin met with the Minister for
Finance Brian Cowen to discuss how the Irish government
will contribute to such a peace dividend. The Minister said
he would look positively at such proposals.

"I welcome the comments made by the Taoiseach Bertie Ahern
over the weekend indicating that the Irish government are
now up for such a significant investment. It is important
that the British government also step up to the mark and
jointly develop the sort of significant package which is
required to tackle decades of neglect and under investment,
particularly in border areas. A peace dividend will be
crucial to plans for economic regeneration. Also required
is the removal of barriers to cross border mobility for
employers and workers. I will also be discussing the
benefits of the all-Ireland economy to all of us living on
the island.

"This is very much work in progress and I will use the
opportunity presented by today's meeting of the British
Irish Parliamentary Body to seek broad support for a peace
dividend as a crucial element of ongoing efforts to see the
Good Friday Agreement political institutions put back in
place." ENDS


Ahern Tight-Lipped On £700m Financial Package For North

By Lisa Smyth
23 October 2006

Taoiseach Bertie Ahern last night refused to be drawn on
the amount of money the Irish Government plans to spend on
large infrastructure investments in Ulster in an effort to
cement the St Andrews Agreement.

Although he did not deny a report in The Sunday Times that
£700m has been earmarked to fund healthcare, hospitals and
energy links throughout Northern Ireland, Mr Ahern said
details of a financial package have not yet been finalised.

Speaking outside Bodenstown yesterday, Mr Ahern said:
"Well, there's no figures at the moment, but what we have
said throughout and we've already shown, I think, our
support for Derry Airport by our co-operation on a number
of projects that we are prepared to play our part in
whatever is worked out by a peace settlement.

"We've all the time said that the economic reality of the
co-operation on the basis of the Good Friday Agreement was
that there were areas that needed assistance and help.

"I know there is shortly to be arranged a meeting with the
Chancellor of the Exchequer, Gordon Brown, and the parties
in the north.

"I'm not sure of the date of that and then these issues
will be looked at. Obviously these issues will also be
reflected as we prepare the national plan for the next
number of years."

According to the report in The Sunday Times, the money will
be made available by the National Development Plan - the
largest and most ambitious investment plan ever drawn up
for Ireland - involving an investment of €57bn of public,
private and EU funds in numerous projects and initiatives
throughout the country, including education, roads and
public transport.

Although exact details of any cash package for Northern
Ireland will only be revealed when the NDP is announced in
January, The Sunday Times claimed that funds will be made
available to co-fund projects such as the upgrading of the
90-mile Londonderry to Aughnacloy road to motorway

It also said that funds will be allocated to help finance
two electricity interconnectors and radiotherapy facilities
at Altnagelvin Hospital in Londonderry.

DUP MP Nigel Dodds offered a cautious welcome to any co-
operation between Northern Ireland and the Republic which
results in mutual benefits for both countries, but said he
wanted to wait until the official announcement was made.

"I would say obviously we have to wait and see what is
actively suggested in their blueprint when it comes out,"
he said.

"Any suggestions of expenditure on any projects in Northern
Ireland have to be made by Northern Ireland ministers," he

"At the end of the day, they must make the final decision."

An NIO spokesman last night refused to confirm the claims
made by The Sunday Times, but said: "The governments remain
committed to making long-term capital investments to
underpin the economic transformation of Northern Ireland as
well as bringing long-term benefits for the island as a


Senior Catholic Officer Tells Of Sectarianism Within RUC

(by Suzanne Breen, Sunday Tribune)

The most senior Catholic police officer in the North has
said that he has experienced sectarianism in policing in
the past.

In an exclusive interview with the Sunday Tribune,
Assistant Chief Constable, Peter Sheridan, said he had
witnessed unacceptable behaviour and attitudes from some
colleagues while in the RUC.

He was speaking as Sinn Féin prepares to call a special ard
fheis where the leadership will recommend supporting the
Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI). The party has
experienced strong resistance from grassroots in some

Sources said Sinn Féin policing spokesman, Gerry Kelly, had
been given "a very hard time" in north Belfast since
returning from the St Andrews' negotiations. "A lot of
people in Ardoyne are very angry and are saying they'll
never vote Sinn Féin again," the source said.

Appealing to Sinn Féin to take the historic step of
supporting the police, Peter Sheridan admitted problems had
existed in the past:

"There were a few bad apples in the barrel. Some
sectarianism was inevitable because the RUC, as an
organisation, was 90% Protestant. Any sectarianism wasn't
institutional, it was from individuals.

"It was like whole areas being demonised because of the
attitudes of a few people in them. Everybody in an entire
community being treated as suspect. Sometimes, less that
nice language was used."

Occasionally, he was unhappy about how people stopped at
checkpoints were treated. "I came across bigots in the
police but it was on a very small scale. The vast majority
of officers were decent people. My own style has always
been to treat people equally and with respect, regardless
of their politics or what they think of the police."

Sheridan is seen as a possible future Chief Constable when
Hugh Orde steps down. While acknowledging that some
republicans would never accept the police, he said Sinn
Féin must "show leadership" and move forward.

"During the debate before the ANC joined the police in
South Africa, a phrase was used 'sekenjelo' – 'the time is
now'. I would say to Sinn Féin, 'the time is now'. As a
society, we can either go over all the wrongs we did to
each other in the past or we can move into the future."

Sheridan said the nationalist community was often ahead of
Sinn Féin on the issue: "Reported crime in Crossmaglen rose
155% last year. That doesn't mean there was more crime,
it's just that people started reporting it."

October 23, 2006

This article appeared in the October 22, 2006 edition of
the Sunday Tribune.


Nationalist Community Deeply Divided On Policing

(by Suzanne Breen, Sunday Tribune)

Martin O'Neill remembers police charging at the funeral
cortege of the two dead IRA men. "They attacked the people
carrying the coffins. One of the coffins fell to the

"For a second, I thought it would split open and the
remains tumble out. Thank God, that didn't happen but it
was one of the most brutal assaults I've ever witnessed."

The police wanted to arrest a gunman who had just fired
shots over the coffins of Derry IRA men, Paddy Deery and
Eddie McSheffrey.

"They baton charged mourners. They fired plastic bullets
randomly. I remember looking at women's and children's
shoes scattered across the road – they'd come off as people
fled in terror. That happened 19 years ago but it's as
vivid for me as if it were yesterday. I could never back
the police," says O'Neill.

The Sinn Féin ard chomhairle is preparing to call a special
ard fheis where it will recommend supporting the Police
Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI). It's hugely divisive
among republican grassroots. The leadership is expected to
win the vote but there will be resignations.

O'Neill, an ex-IRA prisoner, says: "Police tore nationalist
homes apart in raids. I was physically and mentally
tortured in Castlereagh, so were hundreds of others. Some
were beaten so badly, they were left deaf.

"Those detectives are still there, some have even been
promoted. The PSNI isn't entirely different from the RUC.
Look at the Omagh bomb trial and see what they've been up

O'Neill denies he is demonising every officer: "I'm not
saying there are no good people in the PSNI. But what they
are like personally is irrelevant. I'm a republican and
they're enforcing British rule in Ireland.

"It's irrelevant if more Catholics join. I don't want to be
policed by a Protestant British police officer or a
Catholic British police officer." Does he regard police as
'legitimate targets'?: "Anyone upholding British rule in
Ireland should be challenged."

Peter Sheridan wasn't thinking of upholding British rule in
Ireland when, as a 16-year-old Enniskillen Catholic, he
joined the RUC. "The only time the Troubles had impacted on
my life was when a schoolfriend's uncle was shot dead on
Bloody Sunday. I thought that a huge injustice.

"I knew nothing about politics. I was more interested in
football. I just wanted to be a policeman. I applied to the
RUC, the guards and the Metropolitan police. The RUC wrote
back first, the Met a year later, and I'm still waiting to
hear from the guards!"

Thirty years on, Assistant Chief Constable Sheridan is the
most senior Catholic in the PSNI: "I was called an Orange
bastard plenty of times on the streets. I remember a fellow
at a checkpoint, who refused to speak English, being very
surprised when I answered him in Irish, courtesy of summers
in the Gaeltacht."

The dangers never bothered Sheridan who spent many years in
Derry: "There were threats. I had to move house a few times
and, okay, I couldn't drink in the Bogside Inn. But I still
went for weekends in Dublin and Donegal. I still went to
Mass, although I couldn't be too visible at church, or do
readings and other things I'd have liked to do."

Did he experience sectarianism in the police?: "Yes, I did.
There were a few bad apples in the barrel. Some
sectarianism was inevitable because the RUC, as an
organisation, was 90% Protestant. Any sectarianism wasn't
institutional, it was from individuals.

"It was things like whole areas being demonised because of
the attitudes of a few people in them. Everybody in an
entire community being treated as suspect. Sometimes, less
than nice language was used."

Occasionally, he was unhappy about how people were treated
at checkpoints. "I came across bigots in the police but it
was on a very small scale. The vast majority of officers
were decent people."

Sheridan says Sinn Féin must support the PSNI: "Who else
will deal with the £18 million of drugs coming into
Northern Ireland, the 300 rapes every year, the attacks on
the elderly?

"As a society we can either go over all the wrongs we did
to each other in the past, or we can move into the future.
There are people in the republican community who will never
change their minds, who live with their memories and refuse
to recognise things have changed.

"I would say to Sinn Féin to make decisions on the present,
not the past. The PSNI isn't perfect. The vast majority of
officers are honourable people but I'm not naïve enough to
believe there aren't some criminals or bigots in this
organisation. Police reflect the community they come from.

"The test is how the system deals with problems. We have
accountability. If republicans came into policing, they'd
be surprised at what they found."

Paul O'Connor of Derry's Pat Finucane Centre says
nationalists are still hurt and angry about RUC actions.
The centre deals with 120 families whose loved ones were
killed or injured by the security forces.

"The police were guilty of torture and collusion. It wasn't
a mistake, it was deliberate wrong-doing. A big problem is
that there has never been any public admission of that,"
says O'Connor.

"There have been many positive changes to policing but
areas of concern still exist. The police have more lethal
weapons now than ever – new plastic bullets, CS spray,
water cannons and they want Tasers. CS spray was used on a
man in Rossville Street who was already handcuffed. His
face was badly burned."

O'Connor says Sinn Féin shouldn't be rushed on policing.
"It's more important to get it right. The Pat Finucane
Centre doesn't tell young people to join the police or not.
But we would say attacks on the family homes of Catholics
who do so is wrong."

Ryan Agnew (26) from Ballymena, whose father is in Sinn
Féin, says the party's imminent endorsement of the PSNI has
made it "the butt of jokes" among young republicans in the
town. "The PSNI asked a Shinner for his name the other day.
The Shinner refused to give it. One of my friends said to
him, 'you'll be giving it soon enough to get your pay

Agnew says endorsing the PSNI will open up a huge gap
between Sinn Féin and republican youth when a house is
raided or there is a street confrontation with police.

"Sinn Féin will be invaluable to the PSNI because it has so
much information on republicans. No-one should be surprised
that it will pass that on. Historically, former republicans
have proved themselves more than capable of hunting down
old comrades. Just look at de Valera."

Sympathy for the problems Sinn Féin is experiencing with
its grassroots over policing is thin in the SDLP. "The
nationalist community is crying out for policing. The old
person frightened when they hear noises at night should
feel free to call police, so I'm glad Sinn Féin seems ready
to sign up to policing," says Derry SDLP councillor Gerard

"But let's remember they called us collaborators for doing
so a few years ago. We've fought hard for changes to
police, we've done all the heavy lifting, they're just
joining in the swansong. The best artist's impression of a
future Sinn Féin policy is a current SDLP one."

Ardoyne priest, Father Aidan Troy, says the time is right
to accept policing. Last week, a parishioner, James
Flanagan (17), was injured in a Continuity IRA punishment

"He was shot in the back, the legs, and brain. He's lying
in hospital dosed with morphine. His psychological wounds
are even greater," says Father Troy. "Our choice is either
this inhumanity or to accept policing despite its

"When people highlight the PSNI's faults, I say 'have you
read the Morris report?' Policing is far from perfect in
the South, and we've the advantage of a strong, fearless
Police Ombudsman up here and a very active Policing Board.

"Every society has policing problems. I was in the US when
that awful video was played of Los Angeles police beating
blacks to a pulp. It's as unfair blaming every PSNI officer
for what some police did in the past, as it is blaming
every priest for wrongs some priests committed."

'IRA/Sinn Féin traitors' says the graffiti on Sinn Féin
offices on Belfast's Lower Ormeau Road. Local resident,
Sean McCaughey, says most people don't accept police have
changed – "it's a case of new day, same s**t".

People are sick of "Sinn Féin spin" on policing, he says,
and don't believe any grassroots consultation will be
genuine. If Sinn Féin supports the PSNI, McCaughey will
never vote for it again: "It's not a case of a few rotten
apples in the PSNI, the whole orchard is wrong. Bringing in
a few Catholics, a few women, and a few gays isn't enough.
We need root-and-branch change.

"The police have always used their guns against this
community, they've never protected us. You should teach
your kids to run to police and away from strangers. My kids
do the opposite."

October 23, 2006

This article appeared in the October 22, 2006 edition of
the Sunday Tribune.


Family Says Police Failed To Arrest Murder Suspects

By Staff Reporter

The Police Ombudsman has been urged to probe the
investigation into the murder of north Belfast teenager
Gerard Lawlor after allegations that the PSNI had failed to
arrest key suspects.

The parents of 19-year-old Mr Lawlor believe that the
inquiry into their son’s killing was flawed and may have
been thwarted to protect police informers.

The Catholic father-of-one was shot dead by UDA gunmen in
July 2002 on the Antrim Road in north Belfast.

His parents, John and Sharon Lawlor and Gerard’s partner
Siobhan Ramsbottom have now asked Police Ombudsman Nuala
O’Loan to investigate a series of apparently serious
failures in the PSNI murder inquiry.

They say that over the past 18 months they have become
increasingly concerned that there was never any serious
effort to apprehend their son’s killers.

Among their concerns is that a tip-off linking an associate
of Johnny Adair to the shooting was not followed up by
investigating officers.

The Lawlors and Ms Ramsbottom have highlighted other
aspects of the case which they claim were never properly
pursued by the PSNI.

Mr Lawlor said: “We trusted the police when they told us
they were doing everything they could to catch Gerard’s
killers but now we believe the original police
investigation was nothing more than a sham and that
Gerard’s killers were protected.’’


Social Apartheid Still Exists In Education - Crowe

Published: 23 October, 2006

Sinn Féin’s Education spokesperson Seán Crowe TD, pointing
to the increasing numbers attending fee-paying secondary
schools has attacked the system of ‘social apartheid’ in
our education system. Pointing to figures showing that only
20% of students with low-skill/manual workers as parents go
on to college, he went on to say that ‘Education is at the
core of our society, equality should be at the core of

The Dublin South-West TD said: “It has emerged that almost
one in every 10 second-level pupils attend fee paying
schools, giving them an unfair advantage. Such schools have
extra resources, better quality facilities and smaller
class sizes. The so-called elite schools have a higher
proportion of students attending university and this is no

“Despite the current government claims of prioritising
eradicating educational inequality and disadvantage, social
apartheid is evident in college entry with almost 90 per
cent of children from well-off backgrounds attending third
level education while a mere 20 per cent of students with
low-skill/manual workers as parents go on to college. PAYE
workers are part funding the children from professional

“Taxpayers should not have to subsidise these elite fee-
paying schools. The majority of parents will never be able
to afford to send their children to such schools and many
parents struggle financially in sending their children to
‘free schools’, with rising books costs, school uniforms
and contributions.

“Private education reinforces a two-tier education system.
Education is at the core of our society, but equality
should be at the core of education. Entry into University
should not be largely the preserve of the rich, in which
socio-economic background determines the likelihood of
attending third level education.

“Instead of subsidising fee-paying schools, this government
should increase its expenditure on education, as we have
continually performed close to the bottom of OECD countries
on levels of primary and secondary level spending. Based on
the 2006 Revised Estimates Allocation €5,711 is spent per
year on primary pupils while almost double that is spent on
third level students. To ensure equality in education, it
is imperative that spending per pupil at primary level
increases, as most students from disadvantaged backgrounds
are not making it to the college starting gates. Spending
must also be focussed on pre-school level. The current
situation of the children of professional classes being
subsidised by PAYE workers is unfair to say the least.”



Education Overhaul Could See Schools Go

By Simon Doyle Education Correspondent

A radical overhaul of the Catholic education sector could
see as many as 50 primary schools closed or amalgamated in
the next five years.

Around 20,000 empty desks will be removed in the most far-
reaching review of primary school provision ever launched
in the north.

The Council for Catholic Maintained Schools (CCMS) says,
this will inevitably mean that some primary and nursery
schools will “cease to exist”.

However, the CCMS adds that it will not scythe through
large numbers of schools – instead it will consider
mergers, ‘federations’ and other new models.

All Catholic maintained primary and nursery schools will be
involved in the review, which is being developed on a
parish-by-parish basis.

There are no exceptions – even schools that have been
recently amalgamated will be included.

CCMS has been awarded funding for projects designed to
accelerate school ‘rationalisation’ and cut surplus places
caused by falling birth rates.

The Department of Education says there are 50,000 empty
desks in the north’s schools and this is expected to rise
to 80,000 by 2015.

The CCMS review will remove 20,000 – the bulk by replacing
existing over-sized, unsuitable buildings with smaller

Trustees say the review will be in the context of
sustaining an inclusive system of education which will
enable access for all to an “appropriately resourced
curriculum within a Catholic ethos”.

Gerry Lundy, CCMS head of school planning and development,
said it was inevitable some schools would close but added
that this would be limited by taking a “proactive

About 520 primary and nursery schools will be included in
the review. While CCMS says most will avoid closure, it is
thought that up to 50 could be wound up.

“A proactive early approach can offer perhaps other
solutions for retention. Part of the strategy is to explore
options and to have all the options on the table so that
people are aware of the pluses and minuses and the
possibilities,” Mr Lundy said.

“It would be wrong to say that all schools can be retained
but it is equally wrong to say that there will be a
significant removal of school provision for many areas. If
you take a proactive approach you can maximise the
retention of provision.”

A Department of Education (DE) spokeswoman confirmed that
the CCMS has received £350,000 to reduce surplus places.

“DE has provided funding to undertake work to accelerate
reorganisation and rationalisation of schools,
demonstrating that options for collaboration and sharing on
a cross community basis are being considered and fully
explored,” she said.


McDowell Only Interested In Soundbites And Column Inches
Ó Snodaigh

Published: 23 October, 2006

In a scathing attack following indications from Minister
for Justice Equality and Law Reform, Michael McDowell TD
that the Government is considering an assault on civil
liberties in order to pose a tough on crime, Sinn Féin's
Justice spokesperson Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD accused the
Minister of only being interested in soundbites and column
inches. He predicted the Minister would keep 'beating the
law & order drum with an increasing tempo' as we near an
election. This follows the Minister's comments at the
weekend that a range of rights, such as the right to
silence or against 'double jeopardy' are to be reviewed.

The Dublin South-Central TD said: "As we get closer and
closer to an election, we can expect Minister McDowell to
keep beating the law & order drum with an increasing tempo.
The reality however, is that he is more interested in press
column inches and failed gimmicks like ASBOs, than in
really tackling crime and anti-social behaviour.

"With the PDs having been put firmly in their place by
Fianna Fáil over the last couple of weeks, what better way
to recapture the publicity our Justice Minister is most
concerned with than announcing a new assault on long-
standing civil liberties.

"While the Minister preens for the media, real measures of
supporting besieged working class communities are ignored.
Last week community restorative justice projects in Nenagh
and Tallaght outlined to the Joint Oireachtas Committee on
Justice the success they have been having but there is no
sign of this being rolled out on a a national level. The
deployment of Gardaí remains little more than farcical with
minimal civilianisation of Garda posts that would allow
Gardaí to be out on the street. Efforts to reduce
recidivism are sidelined for bigger prisons.

"We have a Minister whose criminal justice policies are
little more than a collection of soundbites and poses. His
latest thoughts are an unacceptable violation of the rights
of innocent people to remain silent if they so choose and
would allow for multiple prosecutions for the same crime.
The Minister should realise there are better ways of
dealing with crime than undermining civil liberties and
human rights."



Don't Expect Lower Business Taxes: Eagle

By Sean O'Driscoll
23 October 2006

Enterprise Minister Maria Eagle has said it would be "very
difficult" to allow Northern Ireland to have a lower
corporate tax rate in order to equal levels offered in the

Speaking in New York following a groundbreaking north-
south trade mission to Canada, Minister Eagle said her home
city of Liverpool and other poor parts of Britain might ask
for the same treatment if Northern Ireland works out a
special deal.

She said she was aware that the Northern Ireland parties
wanted reduced corporation tax, but said she was not
convinced of its effectiveness.

Politicians from the main parties have pledged support for
the Belfast Telegraph's Better Deal for Business campaign
calling for reduced corporation tax levels.

At present, Ulster's corporation tax rate stands at 30% -
in common with the rest of the UK. However, businesses in
the Republic pay just 12.5%.

It is this lower tax rate which has been credited with
reviving the Republic's economy and building the 'Celtic

In April last year, Sir Anthony O'Reilly, chief executive
of Independent News And Media PLC, proposed that the
Treasury create a sub-division of the UK tax system for the
province for ten years and lower corporation tax.

As with all tax matters, the issue would have be to decided
by Chancellor Gordon Brown.

Minister Eagle said attracting inward investment to
Northern Ireland was "slightly more complicated than
comparing corporate tax rates".

She warned the Northern Ireland parties should not see a
lower corporate tax as the overall economic solution.

"People tell me it would have these benefits but nobody has
ever demonstrated to me that it would. It's not the simple
issue that it's made out to be," she said.


Report Highlights Unaffordable Houses

23 October 2006 13:07

A new report has said people are increasingly finding that
they are unable to buy homes.

However, the AIB's Economic Research Unit says the supply
of housing is increasing and that the rate at which house
prices are increasing is moderating.

AIB, which is one of the country's biggest mortgage
providers, predicts that average house price increases
during next year will be between 3% and 6%.

This is the latest report on the housing sector assuring
current and prospective home buyers of a soft landing in
the market supported by economic and population growth.

AIB says its overall outlook for the next two years is
quite optimistic with an expected 93,000 new homes built
this year, falling to 78,000 in 2008 as housing supply
catches up with demand.

And it says the risk of a property crash, which would be
bad for the wider economy, remains low despite opinion from
some domestic and international observers to the contrary.

But the reports says top end properties in Dublin may have
become too expensive with buyers refusing to pay the asked

It also says that potential buyers may not be two comforted
by forecasts that the Europe's desire to increase interest
rates will end any time soon.

In the meantime, the housing market has become increasingly

This morning on RTE Radio, Fine Gael's finance
spokesperson, Richard Burton, said his party is in favour
of reducing stamp duty on houses if elected next year.

His comments follow those from PD leader Michael McDowell
who recently said the Government did not need the tax
income earned from stamp duty.

In his commentary though, AIB chief economist, John Beggs
describes stamp duty rates as punitive but warns easing the
burden at this stage would go straight into higher house

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