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November 23, 2006

Blair in Talks With Paisley To End Standoff

News About Ireland & The Irish

IT 11/24/06 Blair In Talks With Paisley In Bid To End Standoff
BB 11/23/06 Major Day Looming For NI Process
AP 11/23/06 British Plead With N. Ireland's Paisley
UT 11/23/06 Empey: 'Govt Frantic For Solution'
PJ 11/23/06 Time Line-Highs & Lows Of N Ireland Peace Process
BB 11/23/06 Omagh Judge Wants Statement Probe
BB 11/23/06 'Independent' Pledge On Job Probe
SF 11/23/06 Sinn Fein Launch Initiative On Parades Issue
IT 11/24/06 Parlon Rules Out Skellig Railing


Blair In Talks With Paisley In Bid To End Standoff

Gerry Moriarty, Northern Editor

British prime minister Tony Blair held talks with DUP
leader the Rev Ian Paisley yesterday evening, raising hope
that the potential collapse of the political process could
be averted today.

Intensive and "sensitive" separate negotiations were
continuing late last night and into this morning to try to
devise a formula to resolve the standoff over how and
whether Dr Paisley and Martin McGuinness today would be
deemed the North's prospective first minister and deputy
first minister.

Mr Blair's chief spokesman made clear yesterday morning
that if Dr Paisley did not conditionally indicate in the
Assembly today that he would be first minister by March
26th next year, when devolution is scheduled to resume,
then Stormont would shut. "It's either move forward, or
dissolve," he said.

Direct and telephone negotiations continued throughout
yesterday involving the British and Irish governments and
senior DUP and Sinn Fein politicians, with Mr Blair in
contact with Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams during the
day, sources said.

While the consistent line from the DUP was that Dr Paisley
would refuse to be formally nominated as First Minister
designate with Mr McGuinness as deputy first minister
designate in the Assembly today, officials attempted to
devise a compromise form of words to break the deadlock.

There were serious suggestions that Mr Blair might fly into
Northern Ireland today to try to find a solution to the
difficulties. Last night that was considered unnecessary
after Dr Paisley was in contact with Mr Blair. Following
these discussions there was cautious optimism that today's
first meeting of the transitional Assembly could be fudged
or finessed.

British and Irish sources said the governments would be
satisfied if it were clear today that Dr Paisley would be
first minister on March 26th if issues such as Sinn Fein
signing up to policing could be subsequently resolved.

Work was continuing last night on the mechanics on how
today's first meeting of the transitional Assembly would
proceed. The DUP Assembly group is expected to meet before
today's Assembly meeting, scheduled for 10.30am, while the
Assembly business committee is also due to convene to
decide on the structure of the Assembly gathering.

Sources said last night that Dr Paisley, Mr McGuinness, the
SDLP leader Mark Durkan and Ulster Unionist leader Sir Reg
Empey might be asked by the speaker Eileen Bell to make
opening statements, where the governments hope Dr Paisley
is prepared to indicate he conditionally wants to be first
minister on March 26th.

Recent weeks have seen tensions among some grassroots DUP
supporters about Dr Paisley entering into a powersharing
Northern Executive with Sinn Fein.

Hardline comments from North Belfast MP Nigel Dodds that it
would take a "political lifetime" before responsibility for
justice and policing could be devolved to the Executive
have also raised concerns about internal strains in the DUP
at Assembly, Westminster and Europe level.

Those concerns were exacerbated yesterday with the Rev Ivan
Foster, a senior minister in Dr Paisley's Free Presbyterian
Church, saying church members were "deeply troubled" by the
prospect of entering government with Sinn Fein.

Mr Adams said in Dublin yesterday that if the DUP did not
proceed with nominating Dr Paisley today, then the plans
for devolution should be abandoned. "At the very, very
minimum, at the very least, there has to be the nomination
of the First and Deputy First ministers," he said.

"If there are not nominations then fine. That's our very,
very strong view," added Mr Adams.


Major Day Looming For NI Process

Friday will be an important day for the Northern Ireland
political process, the British and Irish governments have

The government wants the DUP and Sinn Fein to indicate
their choices for the posts of first and deputy first

Negotiations have been continuing about exactly what will
take place in the Stormont assembly.

Secretary of State Peter Hain said it was now or never for
the politicians.

"Basically Belfast is the capital of procrastination," he

"The politicians have not been doing their jobs now for
over four years if we hadn't brought things to a head that
could have continued on for who knows how long -
politicians being paid without ever carrying out their
functions - and the Northern Ireland public demanded a
different approach.

"Yes, I've taken some tough decisions but that's what you
do this job for."

Irish Foreign Minister Dermot Ahern warned if the parties
refused to play ball the governments would reluctantly
implement their Plan B for governing the province.

"It is the case that if we fall at any hurdle, then we will
go to Plan B, but it is not the preferred option of the
Irish government or the British government," he warned in
the Irish Parliament.

"We want to see devolved government restored to Northern
Ireland and we believe leadership is needed from the DUP
and Sinn Fein to achieve this."

Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams has said if the DUP do not
nominate devolution should be shelved by the governments.

"At the very, very minimum, at the very least, there has to
be the nomination of the first and deputy first ministers,"
Mr Adams said.

"If there are not nominations tomorrow, then sin e (that's
it). That's our very, very strong view."

The Sinn Fein leader said if the DUP did not indicate its
choice for first minister, "the governments need to move
smartly into the partnership arrangements which they
signalled up in Scotland".

The St Andrews Agreement unveiled by the governments after
intensive talks in Scotland called for the DUP and Sinn
Fein to nominate their choices for first and deputy first
minister in a new Stromont assembly by 24 November.

The DUP choice for first minister is expected to be Ian
Paisley, while Sinn Fein is expected to nominate Martin
McGuinness as deputy first minister.

However, the DUP has said it will not "jump first" before
Sinn Fein changes its policing policy.

As a result the government has watered down its demand
asking the parties just to indicate who their nominees will
be if the executive is brought back in the spring.

The DUP remains reluctant - seeking assurances that there
will be no trappings of office.

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2006/11/23 19:24:55 GMT


British Plead With N. Ireland's Paisley

Protestants resist deadline to nominate leader for Northern
Ireland power-sharing

Belfast, Northern Ireland, Nov. 23, 2006
By Shawn Pogatchnik Associated Press Writer

(AP) British government officials pleaded behind the scenes
Thursday for Northern Ireland Protest leader Ian Paisley to
accept a post as head of a coalition with Catholics.

Paisley, who has built his career on opposing compromise
with Catholics, offered no indication that his Democratic
Unionist Party would support his nomination on Friday, the
government's long-declared deadline for a breakthrough on a
power-sharing plan.

Britain plans to convene the Northern Ireland Assembly so
that Paisley and Martin McGuinness, deputy leader of the
major Catholic-backed party Sinn Fein, can be nominated to
serve in the top two power-sharing posts. The event would
be purely symbolic, because the full 12-member
administration would not be formed and given powers until
late March.

But Paisley faces potential rebellion within his own ranks
if he takes even a single step now toward Sinn Fein, the
Irish Republican Army-linked party long committed to the
destruction of Northern Ireland.

At stake is the revival of power-sharing, the central goal
of the Good Friday accord, a landmark 1998 pact that
Paisley opposed chiefly on the grounds it required too
little from Sinn Fein.

For weeks, Paisley has insisted he won't accept the office
of first minister, the top post, until Sinn Fein abandons
its decades-old policy of boycotting the police force in
Northern Ireland.

Britain agrees that Sinn Fein must accept the British
police in Northern Ireland as part of the deal, but has not
specified when and how this should happen. For its part,
Sinn Fein insists it won't even discuss changing its policy
until after McGuinness and Paisley are in office.

"The nominations will be a very symbolic confidence-booster
for people, even though it may be couched in all sorts of
conditionalities and caveats. We cannot have the process
delayed any further or diluted in any way," said Sinn Fein
leader Gerry Adams.

Leading Thursday's behind-the-scenes diplomacy to find a
compromise formula for the nomination ceremony was Jonathan
Powell, chief of staff to British Prime Minister Tony

Blair already has weakened the requirements for Friday's

After negotiations failed to break the Sinn Fein-Paisley
deadlock, Blair and Ahern said they would require only the
top two posts to be filled by Nov. 24. Their new plan said
the other 10 administration figures would be appointed
March 14, and Britain would transfer powers to the
coalition March 26.

Paisley praised the plan because it appeared to require
Sinn Fein to begin supporting the police.

But the possibility that Paisley could cooperate with Sinn
Fein in any circumstances has rattled his party.

This week, Blair's government retreated again from the Nov.
24. deadline. The British parliament passed legislation
Wednesday requiring the Democratic Unionists and Sinn Fein
to nominate their "preferred candidates" by the date_ but
neither Paisley nor McGuinness would be installed in

This still goes too far for some in Paisley's grassroots.

"I would say most Free Presbyterians are deeply, deeply
troubled," said Ivan Foster, a former Democratic Unionist
deputy and prominent preacher in Paisley's church. "In fact
I would say I know of no Free Presbyterian who would
welcome seeing Dr. Paisley in the position of political
coalition with Sinn Fein _ and particularly with Martin

McGuinness is a particularly hated figure among
Protestants. According to several histories of the Sinn
Fein-IRA movement, McGuinness was the senior IRA commander
for much of the outlawed group's 1970-1997 campaign, which
killed 1,775 people but failed to achieve its goal of
forcing Northern Ireland out of the United Kingdom and into
the Republic of Ireland.

MMVI The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This
material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or


Empey: 'Govt Frantic For Solution'

The Government is frantically trying to cobble together a
solution to a stand-off with the Rev Ian Paisley's
Democratic Unionists over tomorrow's meeting of the
Northern Ireland Assembly, it has been claimed.

By:Press Association

Ulster Unionist leader Sir Reg Empey said parties were
still in the dark as to how Assembly members will indicate
tomorrow who will be nominated as First and Deputy First
Minister next March after senior DUP figures warned they
would not be diverted into a phoney designation process.

Following a warning to the Rev Ian Paisley from a senior
member of his Free Presbyterian Church that the DUP should
steer clear of power sharing with Sinn Fein, Sir Reg said
it had been clear for some time the party had not prepared
its supporters for the compromise at last month`s St
Andrews talks.

"As things stand at lunchtime on Thursday, we are in a
farcical situation where there is no clarity at all on what
is going to happen in the Assembly tomorrow," he told PA.

"Either there is a declaration in some shape or form
tomorrow of who the DUP and Sinn Fein intend to nominate
next March as First and Deputy First Minister or nothing
will happen and we will drift into the New Year with
nothing sorted out.

"There is a propensity at times like this for the
Government and the two parties to try and patch something
up at the last minute.

"But I have to say the performance of the DUP in the House
of Commons over the past few days has done enormous damage
to unionism."

Northern Ireland Secretary Peter Hain had originally set
November 24 as the deadline for the nomination of the Rev
Ian Paisley and Sinn Fein`s Martin McGuinness as Shadow
First and Deputy First Ministers at Stormont.

The Government had warned if this deadline was not met, the
St Andrews plan for power sharing would be shelved and it
would enter into joint partnership arrangements with Irish
Taoiseach Bertie Ahern`s Government.

A row over Sinn Fein`s failure to publicly endorse the
Police Service of Northern Ireland meant the Government in
emergency legislation passed this week watered its demand
down, calling on the parties instead to merely indicate who
will be their choices as First and Deputy First Minister.

However there have been hints from some in the DUP that
they may not even fulfil this requirement because of Sinn
Fein`s failure to address the policing issue.

In the House of Commons yesterday, Mr Hain warned the DUP
if it did not indicate its choice as First Minister it
would have implications for the St Andrews plan.

He warned the DUP`s Nigel Dodds: "It is not a question of
jumping first.

"If there is not a willingness to express even an intention
to nominate on Friday for March 26, what is the point of

Stormont sources today claimed the Prime Minister`s chief
of staff Jonathan Powell had been involved in efforts to
sort out the stand-off with the DUP over tomorrow`s

Prime Minister Tony Blair`s official spokesman said the
Government still believed the leaderships in both parties
were serious about taking forward the St Andrews agreement.

However he added: "Tomorrow we really have to choose
whether we use the period between now and March 26 to
address those two central concerns and prepare for local
politicians to take the decisions on education and other
matters in Northern Ireland, or whether in a sense the
politicians are going to go back to debating in TV studios
as to who is to blame.

"We`ve always made it clear that while we want to continue
going forward, if we`re not going forward, then the choice
is simple.

"It`s either move forward, or dissolve. Now we don`t want
to go down that road, but that`s the choice."


Time Line-Highs & Lows Of Northern Ireland Peace Process

Nov 24 (Reuters) - Northern Ireland's feuding political
parties meet on Friday to take what London and Dublin hope
will be a critical step towards restoring self-government
in the British-ruled province.

Following are key events since the April 1998 "Good Friday"
agreement largely ended 30 years of political and sectarian
conflict in Northern Ireland:

June 1998 - Elections to a new Northern Ireland assembly.
Protestant Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) leader David Trimble
is elected First Minister-designate.

-- Aug - Car bomb in Omagh, Northern Ireland, kills 29 in
the worst single attack in nearly 30 years of violence. The
Real IRA splinter group claims responsibility.

Dec 1999 - After months of wrangling over demands from
unionists, who support the province's ties to Britain, that
the Irish Republican Army (IRA) disarm, the province gets
its own government in which Catholics and Protestants share
power, ending 27 years of direct rule from London.

Feb 2000 - Britain suspends assembly amid Protestant anger
at lack of IRA disarmament.

-- May - IRA says it will put its weapons into storage and
allow inspections. Britain restores power to Belfast

July 2001 - Trimble resigns over IRA's failure to disarm.

-- Oct - IRA says it has put some weapons beyond use.

Oct 2002 - Sinn Fein offices at the Stormont parliament are
raided by police investigating an alleged IRA spy ring.
Britain suspends the assembly and other power-sharing

May 2003 - Britain postpones assembly elections

June 2004 - British Prime Minister Tony Blair and his Irish
counterpart Bertie Ahern set September deadline to end

-- Dec - Talks grind to a halt after the IRA rejects
Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) demand that photographs be
taken of the IRA getting rid of their arms.

Feb 2005 - IRA withdraws its offer to scrap its arsenal.

April 2005 - Sinn Fein calls on the IRA to end its armed
struggle after a series of high-profile crimes such as the
murder of popular Belfast man Robert McCartney caused
international outrage, and a big bank raid in December

-- July - The IRA says it has ordered its guerrillas to
dump arms and pursue their goals through purely peaceful

Oct 2006 - Northern Ireland's ceasefire watchdog, the
Independent Monitoring Commission (IMC), says it believes
the IRA is no longer engaged in terrorism.

-- Blair and Ahern launch three days of talks with Northern
Ireland's parties in Scotland. Britain and Ireland put
forward a plan for reviving self rule despite the DUP and
Sinn Fein failing to reach a compromise on two issues.

Nov 2006 - Britain and Ireland push ahead with plans to
restore self-rule and have set elections for a new Assembly
for March 7, 2007 even though the province's two main
parties gave only partial support to a deal by the Nov. 10


Omagh Judge Wants Statement Probe

The judge in the Omagh bomb trial has said an immediate
investigation should be carried out into why some
statements were altered and the originals lost.

Mr Justice Weir said there were "no grounds for delay".

The call came on day 35 at the trial of Sean Hoey - who is
accused of the 29 murders in Omagh and more Real IRA
attacks, including one in 2001.

Mr Hoey, 37, from Jonesborough, County Armagh, denies all
58 terrorism charges.

His trial has already heard allegations that statements -
one from a police officer and the other a scenes of crime
specialist - had been "beefed up" to give the impression
that forensic precautions had been taken at an explosives

Their original statements have now been lost.

Giving evidence to the court the head of the Omagh enquiry,
Detective Chief Superintendent Norman Baxter, said that
since the evidence had emerged, he had discussions with the
Police Ombudsman's Office, but it was felt inappropriate to
investigate further while the trial was ongoing.

However, Mr Justice Weir said there was no reason for delay
and any investigation he said would not have an impact on
the trial and it should be "pressed on with with all

He warned Mr Baxter that the impression should not be given
to the Police Ombudsman that the continuing trial was a
reason for delay.

The case continues.

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2006/11/23 17:07:29 GMT


'Independent' Pledge On Job Probe

An independent person will investigate if Secretary of
State Peter Hain and his officials deliberately misled the
High Court, peers have been told.

Attorney General Lord Goldsmith told the House of Lords he
hoped to make a report into the matter public.

A judge ruled the appointment of the NI Victims'
Commissioner was motivated by an improper political

The judge said government departments had provided
"partial, misleading and incorrect information".

Speaking at question time in the House of Lords on Thursday
in response to a question from Lord Trimble, the Attorney
General said he had yet to appoint anyone.

But he said that he would also write to senior civil
servants to remind them of the "duty of candour" required
during court cases.

Mr Hain has denied there was any deliberate attempt to
mislead the court and has pledged to co-operate with the

Earlier this month, Mr Justice Girvan ruled that Mr Hain
had failed to take account of the fact that there was no
evidential basis for concluding that interim Victims'
Commissioner Bertha McDougall - the widow of a police
reservist murdered by the INLA - would command cross-
community support.

He also criticised civil servants who had been advising Mr
Hain in connection with the appointment.

He said they "provided partial, misleading and incorrect
information" as to the manner of the appointment".

In his judgement, Mr Justice Girvan ruled that if the
inquiry was to be fair and meaningful it could not be
conducted by those directly involved in handling this case.

The judicial review was taken by Brenda Downes, whose
husband was killed by a RUC plastic bullet in 1984.

Mrs McDougall, 59, a former school teacher, helped set up
the victims' group, Forgotten Families.

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2006/11/23 16:20:29 GMT


Sinn Fein Launch Initiative On Parades Issue

Published: 23 November, 2006

Sinn Fein held a press conference in Lurgan this morning
(Thursday) to launch a major document relating to the
issues of contentious marches, flags and emblems within
Lurgan town centre.

The eight page document, entitled "Lurgan - creating
equal/neutral space" was launched by the leader of the Sinn
Fein Assembly grouping, John O'Dowd MLA, along with several
of his party colleagues on Craigavon Borough Council.

A number of contentious loyalist marches take place in
Lurgan each year which unduly heighten sectarian tensions
and which, on a number of occasions in the past, have led
to street conflict.

Earlier this year, PSNI officers assisted loyalists to
erect flags throughout Lurgan's main commercial centre. The
PSNI's actions are currently the subject of a Police
Ombudsman's investigation.

The Sinn Fein document, which will be distributed to all
traders and businesses, churches, political parties, civic
leaders and other interested groups in the Lurgan area,
contains Sinn Fein's proposals on how the issue of
contentious marches, flags and emblems should be dealt with
in the future.

Speaking at the launch, John O'Dowd MLA said, "Despite the
2006 loyalist marching season passing off with relative
peace throughout the Six Counties, Lurgan once again was
the centre of a number of deeply worrying and indeed deeply
disappointing incidents. These involved sectarian attacks
upon homes, individuals, and property, including Orange
Halls. Fighting between young nationalists and unionists
was also common place.

"We believe that much of this can be linked to ongoing
Loyal Order and loyalist band parades in the town centre
each year during late spring and throughout the summer
which without doubt contribute to a rise in tensions in the
town and wider district. Another significant factor is the
bedecking of the town centre in loyalist bunting.

"Lurgan already faces tremendous challenges and
competition as a result of the relative proximity of places
like Rushmere Shopping Centre and other similar shopping
areas. There are few who would disagree with the fact that
Lurgan town centre is need of investment and regeneration
in order to help counter those challenges and competition
if the town is to progress economically. The Living Over
The Shop Initiative, launched recently, is an indication of
the potential which exists for economic development and
encouraging investment

O'Dowd continued, "Indeed, the LOTS initiative is an
indication of why it is essential to resolve those issues
which act as deterrent to attracting people to the town
centre. After all, what would be the point of converting
properties above shops into living accommodation, if at
least 50% of potential dwellers do not feel it is a safe or
welcoming place to live."

His colleague and leader of the six-strong Sinn Fein
grouping within Craigavon Borough Council, Cllr Michael
Tallon added, "If Lurgan is to develop and build, if Lurgan
is to benefit from a peace dividend, then it is vital that
the problems created by sectarianism are faced up to,
addressed and tackled.

"Obviously what we are proposing has to form part of an
intensive, meaningful and genuine process of dialogue, if
we are to resolve these difficulties and allow Lurgan town
centre to prosper in the future.

"This is Sinn Fein's contribution to starting that
process. The issues which face us can be effectively dealt
with in our view. It will however require positive input
from all civic, business, political and community leaders.
The Loyal Orders will for the first time also have to step
up to the mark." Cllr Tallon concluded, "It is our
objective to see Lurgan become an equal/neutral space in
which people can go about their normal everyday business
without the fear of sectarian threat or harassment from any

Included among the Sinn Fein proposals are: Recognition
that Loyal Order parades to the Church of Ireland and to
the Cenotaph for important anniversaries such as the Somme
should proceed with community agreement and without
nationalist protest. This would require the Loyal Orders to
enter into a process of dialogue with local nationalists
andvice versa.

In reciprocation, Loyal Orders would voluntarily reroute
other parades from the lower end of the town centre. The
removal of loyalist paramilitary flags (UVF,YCV,UDA,LVF)
from Loyal Order parades proceeding to either the Church or

Lurgan town centre to become a flag free area.

Loyalist band parades restricted from parading past
Carnegie Street and into the lower part of the town. ENDS


Parlon Rules Out Skellig Railing

Anne Lucey, in Killarney

The provision of a rope railing on the steep steps of the
monastic hermitage of the Skellig Michael off the coast of
Kerry has been ruled out by the Minister of State with
responsibility for the OPW, Tom Parlon.

He said this would take from the site's world heritage
status and "lend a false sense of security" to visitors.

Kerry County Council had requested the railing on foot of a
council motion which heard safety measures were absent and
needed to be put in place on the Skellig Michael rock.

Fianna F il councillor Michael Cahill said it was an
extremely dangerous place for "thousands of visitors" each

"A rope railing would be a huge improvement, particularly
on a wet, windy day," he said.

The seventh century monastic settlement perched 218 metres
(715ft) above sea level on the steep sides of the island is
one of only three Unesco world heritage sites in the
country. The others are Br£ na B¢inne and the Giant's
Causeway in the North.

Mr Parlon, in his response to the request, said the OPW was
fully conscious of the measures needed "on the one hand to
protect and preserve the delicate fabric of Skellig
Michael, and on the other to ensure the safety of persons
who visit the island". Unesco was satisfied an appropriate
visitor management strategy was in operation, Mr Parlon

The "invasive nature" of the work required in the provision
of a rope railing strung the length of the steps leading to
the monastery would take from the authenticity under which
the world heritage site status was obtained.

"It would also, perhaps, lend a false sense of security to
visitors to the island," Mr Parlon said.

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