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November 18, 2006

McGuinness - Process Is Edging Forward

News About Ireland & The Irish

SF 11/18/06 McGuinness - Process Is Edging Forward
BB 11/18/06 DUP Will Not Be Rushed - Robinson
NH 11/18/06 Individuals Under Loyalist Threat Call For Protection
IT 11/18/06 NI Court Ruling On Hain Decision Postponed
IT 11/18/06 Fmr DUP Mayor Sentenced To 4 Mths For Impersonation
BB 11/18/06 Did Prison Education Bring Peace?
BB 11/18/06 Opin: Remember.. What Was That Date In November?
IT 11/18/06 Gardai Invstgatng MRSA At Hospital Send File To DPP
BN 11/18/06 Referendum On Statutory Rape To Be Held In March
IT 11/18/06 Contrite O Cuiv Bows To Wishes Of People Over Dingle
BN 11/18/06 Snow Forecast As Winter Kicks In
BT 11/18/06 I See Dead People


McGuinness - Process Is Edging Forward

Published: 18 November, 2006

Sinn F‚in Chief Negotiator Martin McGuinness this morning
said "On Monday myself, Gerry Adams and Michelle Gildernew
will represent Sinn F‚in at the Programme for Government
committee. There is a lot of work still to be done and I
hope that this long overdue engagement will be genuine and
that progress can be made on all of the outstanding issues
without unnecessary delay. Nationalists and republicans
will be watching what happens within this committee very

Mr. McGuinness said:

"Nationalists and republicans won't be unnerved by
intemperate language from some within the DUP. People see
that the process is edging forward and that more progress
can still be made, even in the run up to November 24th when
it is expected that myself and Ian Paisley will be put
forward by our respective parties.

"What is at stake here is the re-establishment of the
power-sharing and all-Ireland institutions and the
implementation of the Good Friday Agreement.

"On Monday myself, Gerry Adams and Michelle Gildernew will
represent Sinn F‚in at the Programme for Government
committee. There is a lot of work still to be done and I
hope that this long overdue engagement will be genuine and
that progress can be made on all of the outstanding issues
without unnecessary delay. Nationalists and republicans
will be watching what happens within this committee very


DUP Will Not Be Rushed - Robinson

DUP deputy leader Peter Robinson has said his party will
not be rushed by government deadlines.

Mr Robinson said there would be no formal designation of
shadow first and deputy first ministers at Stormont on 24

But speaking on BBC Radio Ulster's Inside Politics
programme he insisted the political process was moving in
the right direction.

He said what remained was to deliver on the progress made
so far.

"I expect that what we're talking about is a qualified
intention to proceed when all the conditions are in place,"
Mr Robinson said.

"I think we are making progress and it's clear we made
progress at St Andrews, we've made further progress since
St Andrews and there is further work to be done.

"On top of the work that has to be done there is the big
issue of delivery."

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2006/11/18 11:46:06 GMT


Individuals Under Loyalist Threat Call For Protection

(Allison Morris, Irish News)

Up to 11 people in north Belfast have been warned by the
PSNI their lives are at threat from a loyalist paramilitary

Several of those warned by police on Tuesday evening have
received loyalist death threats in the past and a number
have been forced to move home.

At least three of the families had their homes attacked
during the Holy Cross dispute in 2001 but have been refused
Key Persons Protection grants in order to instal security
measures in their homes.

They now say they will take legal action in order to
receive financial assistance to protect their families.

A single mother and a husband and wife are among those who
have been warned they are under threat from a caller
claiming to represent the Protestant Reaction Force.

Those targeted have all been told they must increase their
personal security in light of the threat but claim they
have been given no assistance to enable them to install
security measures in their homes.

Crimestoppers received a call by a male, claiming to
represent the Protestant Reaction Force, stating that
action would be taken against the 11 people if they were
seen entering the Woodvale or Ballysillan areas.

Speaking to The Irish News yesterday (Wednesday) one of the
people warned of the threat said: "Being told that your
life is in danger and to up your personal security is one

"Being told that your not entitled to any help to protect
yourself or your family is another.

"We're talking about young families and single parents

"We can't be expected to up and move house with Christmas
just weeks away.

"Politicians are given protection if they're threatened but
us ordinary people get nothing. What's the difference. Are
our lives not worth protecting?

"I have been in touch with my solicitor and instructed him
to take legal action against the NIO for refusing to help
protect my family."

Police said they could not comment on security matters
relating to individuals.

November 17, 2006

This article appeared first in the November 16, 2006
edition of the Irish News.


NI Court Ruling On Hain Decision Postponed

Dan Keenan, Northern News Editor

A High Court judge has postponed ruling on the heavily
criticised appointment of the Northern Ireland Victims'
Commissioner by Northern Secretary Peter Hain.

Last week Mr Justice Girvan strongly criticised the manner
in which Bertha McDougall was named by Mr Hain as interim
commissioner, saying he had breached acceptable standards.

The judge accused Mr Hain of "improper political motive"
and of having "failed in his duty of candour" as well as
trying "to divert attention from the true course of

Brenda Downes, the west Belfast widow of plastic bullet
victim Se n Downes, had challenged the manner of the

The High Court was to have said yesterday what the response
to the appointment should be. That has now been postponed.

Last week Mr Justice Girvan said the appointment of Mrs
McDougall, the widow of a police officer murdered by the
INLA, was politically motivated to help build unionist
confidence in the political process.

The judge further criticised senior civil servants, saying
they had been "providing misleading and incorrect
information" about the appointment process.

The judge added that government departments had also failed
to "disclose the true nature of the limited consultation
which took place with one political party [the DUP]".

Mr Hain has said he will give the judge's findings serious
consideration, but he has so far rejected calls from a
group representing relatives of those killed as a result of
alleged security force collusion to suspend the senior
officials. "I am not intending to suspend them at all, so
let's study the judgment, learn any lessons that need to be
learned and respond accordingly," he said following the
judge's comments.

The issue prompted a call yesterday by two Welsh MPs for Mr
Hain to consider his position.

Welsh nationalist MP Elfyn Llwyd said the judge's
criticisms of Mr Hain, who is also Welsh Secretary, were

Conservative MP David Jones said Mr Hain should also
consider if he should retain his two government jobs. The
judge's comments were "trenchant, very damning criticism,"
he said. "It's a very demanding call for anybody to do two
important jobs as secretaries of state and I think he ought
to give serious consideration as to whether he can carry on
doing both".

Mr Llwyd, who is also a barrister, told BBC Wales that the
judge's criticisms were "devastating". "The comments are
scathing, as trenchant as you can get from a High Court
judge," he said.

However a spokesman for Mr Hain said Mr Llwyd's comments
were "preposterous".

In an interview with BBC Wales yesterday, Mr Hain said:
"Obviously, we're studying the judgment carefully and we're
looking at the consequences of that. But the big picture is
I was acting on behalf of victims and will continue to do


Former DUP Mayor Sentenced To Four Months For Impersonation

A former Democratic Unionist mayor was yesterday jailed for
four months after it emerged he bullied staff at a
residential home into handing him postal ballots for last
year's elections.

Relatives of Dessie Stewart (57), of Parker Avenue,
Portrush, who is a former mayor of Coleraine, were shocked
after Judge Piers Grant jailed him after he admitted
impersonating voters and preventing them from casting their
votes in last year's Westminster and local government

Stewart was also banned for five years from holding public
office, standing for election and voting.

Antrim Crown Court, sitting in Newry, was told how Stewart
bullied staff at the Tieve Tara residential home in
Portrush into giving him the postal ballots for 15
residents on April 25th, 2005.

The voting irregularity was discovered as votes were
counted for the East Londonderry seat in the general
election after staff noticed the same handwriting was on
the declarations of identification accompanying the ballot
papers and that they had been witnessed by the same person.

Judge Grant told Stewart, a councillor for 17 years until
he quit this year: "I am satisfied that given your long
experience and familiarity with the electoral system that
you knew what you were doing was entirely wrong.

"I am further satisfied that you used your position as a
councillor and standing in the community to bully the
[residential home] staff into giving you the voting papers
and to ride roughshod over the concerns that they

The court was told Stewart visited the residential home on
the day that postal voting papers arrived and on learning
that the proprietor was on holiday demanded that they be
handed over to him to take care of.

Derval McGuigan, prosecuting, said that when a member of
staff queried him, Stewart said: "This is the way it is
going to be done from now on."

His manner was described as overbearing.

Judge Grant said: "I have no doubt she complied with your
demands because of the forceful and arrogant way in which
you swept aside her concerns and queries."

He asked another member of staff to witness the signatures
of residents at the home, but when she indicated she was
too busy, Stewart said he would do it for her.

When the proprietor returned from holiday, Stewart was
challenged about his actions but refused to hand over the
papers, insisting what he did was perfectly legal.


Did Prison Education Bring Peace?

By Kevin Connolly
BBC Ireland correspondent

We are all familiar with the way the story of Northern
Ireland's prison system runs like a dark thread through the
tapestry of the Troubles.

Paramilitary prisoners - republicans in the main - always
resisted any form of treatment which implied that their
politically-motivated offences were in any way analogous to
the crimes that put murderers or rapists or drunk-drivers
behind bars.

Successive British governments vacillated hopelessly
between repression and concession - first interning people
without trial, then treating inmates as prisoners of war,
and finally insisting that they submit to a conventional
prison regime.

It all culminated in the lethal stalemate of the republican
hunger strikes of 1981 which left 10 prisoners dead, and
which will almost certainly come to be seen by historians
as the critical turning point in the story of the Troubles.

But I wonder if one day the story of prison education won't
come to be seen as almost equally significant in it's own

After spending several weeks with producer Rachel Hooper
making the programme Shared Convictions for BBC Radio 4,
I'm convinced that the answer is "yes".

I don't mean the usual catch-up Maths and English courses
which you find on offer in prisons everywhere.

Successive British governments vacillated hopelessly
between repression and concession - first interning people
without trial, then treating inmates as prisoners of war,
and finally insisting that they submit to a conventional
prison regime

I mean the higher education which came to absorb large
numbers of inmates from both sides of the conflict and the
informal teaching and pooling of knowledge which took its
place during the years of protest and unrest, particularly
in the Maze prison.

It all started during the years of internment when a group
of academics in Belfast led by the lecturer John Fairleigh
decided to do something about the conditions in which large
numbers of men were being held without trial.

He recruited a group of volunteer tutors including the poet
Michael Longley and the BBC newsreader Anna Ford who was
then teaching in Belfast, and they established a kind of
lecturing network for the men detained in the camps.

It established a tradition that higher education was to be
available inside Northern Ireland's jails (although not
without interruption) and that raises the point which is I
suppose at the heart of the programme.

What role, if any, did education play in creating the
circumstances that bought about the end of the Troubles?

John Fairleigh and his colleagues were motivated by
outraged decency, partly at least because of the
circumstances in which they saw people being held without
due process of law.

But was there in government somewhere a belief that perhaps
putting paramilitary prisoners through the process of
education in politics and social sciences would inevitably,
over time, nudge them towards moderation?

As one of our former prisoners says in the programme, the
essence of education is being taught to see things from
another point of view.

As one of our former prisoners says in the programme, the
essence of education is being taught to see things from
another point of view

If that idea was buried somewhere deep inside government
circles at the time, no-one is saying it out loud now - and
of course it would have been a high-risk strategy - after
all, educating politically-motivated prisoners is as likely
to turn them into more articulate extremists as it is to
inspire them along the path to accommodation.

There's enough in the programme to illustrate how
unpredictable the outcomes can be.

Not just the obvious - Billy Hutchinson is a loyalist where
most of the other former prisoners are republicans.

Among our former IRA prisoners are Anthony McIntyre and
Raymond McCartney who went through very similar educational
experiences inside the prison system and came to
drastically different conclusions.

Raymond is a senior Sinn Fein politician these days, and
Anthony is one of the party's most effective critics - a
major presence in the world of internet political debate.

So Shared Convictions is an attempt to put the issue of
prison education during the troubles somewhere near its
rightful place, at the heart of the matter.

But along the way, it manages to touch on such issues as
Match of the Day, the readability of Tess of the
d'Urbervilles and how you reproduce the saxophone riff from
Gerry Rafferty's Baker Street without using a musical

Let me know what you make of that, or any of the other
issues raised by emailing me at

Shared Convictions, Monday 20 November, 1100 GMT, BBC Radio

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2006/11/18 09:51:47 GMT


Opin: Remember, Remember... What Was That Date In November?

Big Picture Trumps Tough Talking

By Mark Devenport
BBC Northern Ireland political editor

Ah yes, the devolution deadline of 24 November on which
Peter Hain said he would turn into Peter the Terrible.

The Northern Ireland secretary had promised to slash
salaries all around him and leave the Stormont politicians
without a roof over their heads if they didn't do a deal.

It now looks like the deadline day will be a bit less

Wages and allowances will continue to find their way into
assembly members' wallets, and the new "Transitional
Assembly" - or Hain 2 - will convene to hear what the DUP's
Peter Robinson describes as "a qualified intention to

The public may shake their heads in dismay, but the
governments insists it is more important to focus on the
big picture than previous tough talking.

If there had been no deadline, the argument goes, then
there would have been no St Andrews, nor the latest
legislation changing the Stormont rules and devolution
would have been an even more distant prospect.

But are we merely procrastinating, pushing off the
inevitable breakdown until further down the track?

The latest St Andrews Bill sets out a ministerial pledge
which contains clear support for the police and the courts.

However, Sinn Fein are not yet ready to call a special
conference to give their backing to the PSNI.

They are still looking for definite commitments on a
timetable for devolving policing and justice.

Yet the DUP won't give such a promise, saying it all
depends on community confidence. With the clock ticking
towards a March election, how do we cut this Gordian knot?

Interviewed for Inside Politics, DUP deputy leader Peter
Robinson said he didn't see a Sinn Fein minister for
policing on the "political horizon".

However he did not rule out an Ulster Unionist, SDLP,
Alliance, nor of course, a DUP minister. Need that be such
a distant prospect?

Inextricably linked

Sinn Fein hopes to revisit its concerns about the
devolution of policing and justice once the new Programme
for Government Committee starts meeting on Monday.

There it should become clear that the precise model of any
policing and justice ministry is inextricably linked to
when such a department might come into existence.

Earlier this year, the parties agreed there should be a
single ministry, but they couldn't decide whether that
should be headed by a single minister, a senior and junior
minister, joint ministers or ministers rotating in the job.

There are various ways in which a future minister could be

It could be part of the traditional d'Hondt handout, in
which it's conceivable that a Sinn Fein politician like
Gerry Kelly could get the job.

But according to the Northern Ireland Miscellaneous
Provisions Act passed earlier this year, the minister could
also be appointed on the say so of the first and deputy
first ministers and after a cross community vote in the

During the summer, Gerry Kelly told a Stormont Committee
that Sinn Fein opposed the idea a policing minister, unlike
an education minister, should be subject to a cross-
community vote.


Republicans are clearly sensitive that unionists would use
such a tactic to exclude them from the office, although
Sinn Fein could equally use its power to veto Ian Paisley
Jr as Justice Minister.

Agreement on the method of appointment would surely go a
long way to addressing the "community confidence" barrier
the DUP has raised over transferring policing powers.

The political realties make it likely that any future
minister (or ministers) subjected to cross-community vote
would be from the centre ground than either of the two
dominant parties.

Some sources suggest an extra lock, such as requiring a
highly weighted vote across the Assembly as a whole.

Either way, could this be how devolution of policing
becomes a reality?

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2006/11/18 10:00:24 GMT


Gardai Investigating MRSA Case At Hospital Send File To DPP

Eithne Donnellan

Garda¡ investigating a complaint from a woman about a
hospital in which her late husband picked up MRSA have now
sent a file to the Director of Public Prosecutions.

Dr Teresa Graham, from Tramore, Co Waterford, says her
husband picked up the superbug while he was a cancer
patient at Waterford Regional Hospital.

She made a formal complaint to garda¡ last June about the
hospital under Section 30 of the 1947 Health Act.

Under this section it is an offence for an individual who
is caring for another person with an infection not to take
reasonable precautions to prevent the infected person from
spreading their infection to others.

Dr Graham said yesterday she had now been informed by her
local Garda station that a file on the matter had been sent
to the DPP.

Her husband died in October 2004.

Dr Graham, who is a spokeswoman for the MRSA and Families
Network, said she was aware of at least one other family
who had also made a complaint to garda¡ in respect of a
family member in Kilkenny who had picked up MRSA and had
since died.

Anyone convicted under Section 30 of the 1947 Health Act
would face a maximum fine of only ?50. The Oireachtas
health committee has passed a motion calling for the Act to
be amended.

MRSA is an antibiotic resistant superbug and can prove
fatal if it gets into the bloodstream through an open
wound. There were close to 600 cases of MRSA bloodstream
infections reported by Irish hospitals last year.

Earlier this week a coroner's court in Cork returned a
verdict of death by MRSA infection in the case of Valentine
Ryan (74) from Carrigaline, who died in April 2002. It is
believed to be the first time such a verdict was recorded
at an inquest in the State.

Well over 100 people who picked up MRSA in hospitals in the
State have already instructed solicitors to take civil
actions for damages on their behalf against the hospitals

But the MRSA and Families Network called at its annual
conference two weeks ago for a redress scheme for those who
were infected in hospital to prevent them having to go to

However Minister for Health, Mary Harney told the D il, in
reply to a parliamentary question, her Department has no
plans to set up a redress board to compensate people who
have contracted MRSA.

Neither did she plan to set up a judicial inquiry into the
non-implementation of national guidelines for the control
of MRSA drawn up in 1995, something the MRSA and Families
Network has been seeking.


Referendum On Statutory Rape To Be Held In March

18/11/2006 - 11:00:45

A referendum to deal with the fallout from the statutory
rape controversy is likely to be held next March.

The date was chosen to coincide with the planned vote on
children's rights.

This amendment would render it impossible for an adult who
had sex with a person under 15 to avail of a defence of
honest mistake as to their age.

It follows a Supreme Court decision in May which allowed
for a man to be acquitted on the grounds that he believed a
girl was old enough to offer consent for sex.

According to reports, proposals to reword Article 38 of the
Constitution - which deals with trial in due course of law
- are to be recommended by the Oireachtas Committee on
Child Protection in the coming weeks.

It's understood that the committee is also to call for the
age of consent to be changed to 16 for both boys and girls.


Contrite O Cuiv Bows To Wishes Of Townspeople Over Dingle

Anne Lucey

At the end of a long day a contrite Minister for Community,
Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs, amon O Cu¡v, told councillors
he would "bow" to the wishes of the elected members and
respect their decision to apply to Minister for the
Environment Dick Roche for a name change from An Daingean
to Dingle Daingean U¡ Ch£is.

It will now be up to Mr Roche and the Government to do what
they can within the law to bring about a bilingual name for
the Gaeltacht town.

Mr O Cu¡v received a round of applause from the members.

Two years ago, with the introduction of the first ever
official Irish placenames, under the Placenames Order of
the Official Languages Act, Mr O Cu¡v pronounced that the
name Dingle officially no longer existed. On signposts it
had to be An Daingean and nothing else, Mr O Cu¡v had said.

Before this order, on Easter Monday 2004, no Irish
placename had ever had official status.

Cllr Paul O'Donoghue, brother of Minister for Arts, Sport
and Tourism John O'Donoghue, had smoothed the path towards

Speaking about dock-side piers provided by the Minister,
the councillor said he wished other Government departments
would take a leaf out of Mr O Cu¡v's willingness to consult
with local communities and "reach consensus" on issues.

Mr O Cu¡v told councillors he had not anticipated that a
Gaeltacht town would want an English name.

That controversy has seen townspeople in Dingle take to the
streets and vote overwhelmingly to return to a bilingual
and anglicised version. He had expected that most Gaeltacht
people wanted an official Irish name.

He expected the controversy to be about the form of the
name, about the spelling of the Irish version. He was
"sorry if he didn't see the other".

"It was a bad read on my part. I hope you now understand
the decisions were rational and reasonable," Mr O Cu¡v told

Prior to the placenames order removing Dingle, there had
been consultation, but not with the townspeople, he

He could revoke the order and "I did suggest the plebiscite
should ask if it wanted to be Irish or English and if
Irish, Daingean or Daingean U¡ Ch£is," he said.

"Either of these options I could act upon," Mr O Cu¡v said.

He could still revoke the order, and reinstate Dingle, but
complying with the plebiscite and the council's choice for
Dingle Daingean U¡ Ch£is might leave them in a legal limbo.

"You complicate it when you have both," the Minister


Snow Forecast As Winter Kicks In

18/11/2006 - 11:24:35

Weather forecasters are predicting winter may finally
arrive today with snow expected in some places.

Met Eireann confirmed tonight would be very cold with
showers affecting the north and west, some falling as hail
or sleet and with some snow possible in places.

Forecasters predicted the rest of the country will be
mainly dry with clear spells and sharp to severe ground
frost setting in.

Met Eireann warned there will be a danger of icy roads.

Last month was the warmest on record for almost four
decades in some western parts of Ireland. Weather stations
at Valentia Observatory in Co Kerry and Belmullet in Co
Mayo had their warmest October since 1969.

Average air temperatures throughout the country were close
to two degrees higher than for the period between 1961 and

Valentia recorded is wettest October day for some 19 years
on the 25th with a rainfall of 55mm. Dublin Airport had its
sunniest October since 2000.

The mild temperatures last month followed the warmest
September on record for many parts of Ireland.


I See Dead People

Joanne Maguire is one of Northern Ireland's best-known and
renowned psychics. She made headlines when Dr Susan
Phoenix, whose husband Ian, an RUC detective superintendent
died with 24 other top anti-terrorist intelligence officers
when their Chinook crashed en route to a conference in
Scotland in 1994, said the Belfast woman had helped her
contact her husband from beyond the grave. Now, on Sunday,
she is holding an Angels, Energy And Auras conference in
Belfast's Hilton Hotel. Joanne (32) lives with her partner,
William, a mechanical design engineer in Dunmurry. Here,
talking to the media for the first time, she tells Features
Editor Gail Walker how she first realised she could
communicate with the spirit world when she was just four
years old, why she is convinced she talks to dead people
and ... what spirits look likeTell us what exactly happened
when you and Dr Susan Phoenix visited the Mull of Kintyre,
where the Chinook carrying RUC and security personnel

17 November 2006

Tell us what exactly happened when you and Dr Susan Phoenix
visited the Mull of Kintyre, where the Chinook carrying RUC
and security personnel crashed.

That was a very, very special day. Susan and I first met at
an angel workshop, where people learn more about getting in
touch with angels. Some months after that she had asked me
to accompany her to the hillside. She had already learned
that Ian was still with her and would pop in and see her
from time to time from what I call "upstairs".

Once we were there she actually felt his physical presence;
she felt him kiss her. I was there, just helping her along.
But it was lovely for her - and lovely to be there with

To begin with, we sat there and meditated, and then I got a
sense of all those on board the Chinook walking together
over the hillside.

They all looked very at peace. And from what I was sensing,
I was able to give Susan some information, such as names -
things that she knew but that I could not possibly have

Define what exactly it is that you believe you can do.

Have you ever seen the film, The Sixth Sense? Well, I was
just like the little boy in that film ? the pale, quiet
child that started seeing the spirit world. I'd have been
just four or five at the time. I'd have been able to give
messages to, say, my aunties.

Weren't you frightened?

Oh yes. Initially, it was very scary. Whenever I told mum
that I could see people in my bedroom, she said: "Don't be
silly, that's just your brother fooling around." She told
me that because she didn't want me thinking that I was
seeing ghosts. But, in truth, she knew that's exactly what
I was seeing because my grandmother - her mum - had the
same gift.

What exactly did you see?

I used to see an old woman all the time. My sister used to
see her as well, and she would pray that she would go away.

Do you see anyone here with us now?

I don't often see people any more. Now, I just hear and
feel them. I stopped seeing them just before I became a
teenager - I'm kind of glad about that - although there has
been the odd occasion when I've seen someone since then.
For example, one time late at night, a friend and I were
walking through Wallace Park in Lisburn and we realised
there was a man following us. We started to get panicky,
and then I looked up ahead and there was a man dressed all
in white and wearing an old-fashioned trilby-style hat.

I knew right away that I had nothing to fear; that I would
be looked after. They tend to turn up in times of need.

But what do these spirits look like? Are they just like us?

People look like people and spirits look like spirits.
Mostly, they are opaque in colour. It's a person, but they
wouldn't be in 3D. And sometimes I just see them in my
mind's eye, like the way you might recall a memory of what
someone you once met looks like.

Once when I was at Belfast Spiritualist Church, which I
attend, I saw a young man walking down the church, and he
was covered in water.

Minutes after that the medium on the stage said she had a
young man in his mid-20s with her who had drowned.

His family were at the church that night. That's the type
of thing that might happen sometimes.

It must have made for an interesting childhood ?

It impacted in lots of ways, and some of them were quite
amusing. I remember once when a cousin got secretly engaged
and didn't tell anyone about it. A few days later it was
her birthday and mum sent me to the shop to get some
birthday wrapping paper for her gift. But I just pointed to
this engagement paper and would not leave until I had got
some. I arrived back home with it and people realised
something was up. Soon, everyone knew she had got engaged -
I blew her secret.

You sound quite relaxed about it.

I am now, but it used to scare the life out of me. I had to
sleep with the light on. When you are really relaxed and
just on the point of falling asleep is the time when they
come close to you.

Now, I'm more at ease with it. A friend keeps joking that
he's going to get me a T-shirt printed with that famous
phrase from The Sixth Sense, 'I see dead people'.

But, as a teenager, I moved away from it ? played it down.
I think that was because I just wanted to be like everyone
else, like my friends.

Then, when I was 17 or 18, I came back to it. People would
come to me and ask me to read for them and I would tell
them everything. I wouldn't hold back, which is something I
have learned to be more careful about now. As you get older
you learn to refine what you should pass on to someone.
Back then I was reading Tarot cards, but I don't use those
anymore. I use Angel cards, which I find very pleasant and
gentle. The messages on them are very supportive.

Why you?

Actually, everyone naturally has this gift. But you have to
think of it as, say, you would an artist. Some people paint
for a living and some people paint to relax and some people
wouldn't dream of painting. But we all have it within us. I
think that at some point everyone has felt a loved one from
the spirit world close to them ? just a sense or a smell ?

I have a spiritual guide called John, who is a teacher
assigned to me.

You do volunteer work for charities as well as giving
readings. You're also a qualified counsellor and
complementary therapist, offering acupuncture,
aromatherapy, reflexology and healing. How do you go about
building a career as a psychic?

I'm not sure I would see it like that. In fact, I don't do
that many readings, I don't have the energy. And I like to
work where I feel I'm needed.

I suppose I started taking it more seriously in my mid-20s.
Up until then I'd been living in south Belfast and enjoying
the life of a typical young woman about town. I liked
socialising, that sort of thing. But then I decided to go
to London to do a degree in health sciences, which was how
I learned about complementary therapies. I did the final
part of that degree at the University of Ulster, and that
included a diploma in counselling, which has proved very
useful when giving readings because people are often very
upset and you need to know how to handle certain

I've also done post-graduate research into using
complementary therapies with people who have cancer.

While I was in London, I was also taught by a medium lady
and when I came home that side of things started to develop

So, you are a medium, which is quite different from

Yes. though I would get people who want to know the name of
their next boyfriend.

Can you tell them?

Well, sometimes you might be given a name or names, but I
am not a fortune-teller. I would, however, try to
understand where that person is coming from because
obviously that is something that is very important to them.

How do people hear about you?

Mostly, by word of mouth. And I also take part in a healing
session at Belfast Spiritualist Church every Thursday
night. That's voluntary work. A lot of people attend those
sessions - perhaps they're suffering from grief or
depression or a physical illness, such as back ache. I'm
kept busy all night, but then I feel there is no point
having something like this unless it helps others. People
also come to me for advice.

But there are occupational hazards. People get to hear what
you do and you can be on a night out and suddenly someone
grabs you and pulls you into a corner and asks you to help

Do you earn a lot of money from it?

No. I couldn't do that. If people give me money I give it
to charity.

Do you ever experience any antagonism?

Never. The other day a woman came over and kissed me in the
street because she had heard about what I do.

Have any famous people come through? What about Elvis? Or
Princess Di?

(Laughing). No. No Elvis or Di.

Describe a typical day.

There isn't one. Today I'm doing two readings, another day
I won't do any. It can be very draining. After a reading my
partner will ask: "Did anybody cry?" If I say yes, then he
knows that it has been successful.

Some people would say that what you are doing is wrong.
That if spirits do talk to you, then they are evil

I was brought up a Catholic and I very definitely have a
very strong faith in God. I get a lot of religious people
who will ask me not to tell anyone that they have come to
see me. I wouldn't tell anyone anyway. Confidentiality is
very important to me. I never discuss individual cases.

And I always know if a religious spirit comes through
because the first thing he or she will show me is the
Bible. What I would say to people who criticise what I do
is that the basis of all religion is love, and the reason
that spirits come through with messages to the ones they
love is because they want to offer them comfort,
reassurance and, sometimes, an apology.

They want to tell the person they are ok and safe in the
spirit world, particularly if they have died through some

Or they may want to give someone guidance. I've never had a
spirit that has been negative. The end result is often
emotional and healing.

So, where do you believe people go when they die?

Like I said, I believe they go 'upstairs'. I believe there
are different places for people to go - people who are very
good will go to an amazing place, very like how we imagine

People who haven't been so good may have some job to do,
something to work through, before they progress to
somewhere like that. Those spirits have to, if you like,
correct the bad things they have done.

The conference you have organised for this weekend looks in
detail at the subject of angels. You believe we have angels
looking after us.

Yes, even as a child I loved to say the guardian angel
prayer: "Angel of God, my guardian dear, to whom God's love
commits me here." But the thing I love about angels is that
they cross all religions, which is wonderful because in
this day and age people are fighting so much about
religion. Also, growing up in this country I also saw a lot
of religious conflict. Angels are found in Christian,
Jewish and Muslim texts, and angels can bring a lot of

Of course, today a lot of people say they are not religious
yet are very spiritual, and if you don't have any
particular religion you can still be in touch with an
angel. If you are religious, then you can add to it with an
angel. The conference will tell people how to develop angel

So, you have an angel?

Yes. Some people have names for their angels, but I just
call mine 'my angel'.

But what's the point of an angel? How do you believe an
angel can help you.

In lots of ways in everyday life - some of which are very
mundane. For example, a lot of people would call for angel
parking spaces. But they can help in every area of your
life. Others would ask the angels for protection for their

Run through what those attending can expect.

Diana Cooper, the internationally renowned therapist and
healer, will give a talk about contacting guardian angels
and also explain about the archangels. She'll also be
showing people how to do angelic meditations to help
connect with angels and explaining how the power of angels
can help people in their everyday life.

Susan will be bringing her aura photography. We will chose
someone from the audience, and show their aura on screen,
and then as the healer works on that person, we will show
how the aura changes colour. I'll be showing people how
they can develop their intuition and feel comfortable with
their own sixth sense. Everybody will also be asked to
select an angel card and then we will look at how that
message relates to them.

What does your family and your partner William make of what
you do?

I'm one of six children - I have two brothers and three
sisters. One of my sisters lives in Australia and is also a
psychic. I have a lovely family and they are very
supportive. William and I celebrated our 11th anniversary
this week and he has no problem at all with my work, but
then he sees the difference it makes to people and he knows
how worthwhile it is.

Angels, Energy & Auras: A Day with Diana Cooper, Dr Susan
Phoenix and Joanne Maguire, Sunday, Hilton Hotel, Belfast,
10.30am-5pm. Doors open 10am. Tickets, œ49. For further
details, tel Joanne: 9030 9474

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