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November 05, 2006

Paisley Ready to Defy DUP Opponents On Peace Deal

News About Ireland & The Irish

GU 11/05/06 Paisley Ready To Defy DUP Opponents On Peace Deal
TO 11/05/06 85% Of DUPs Agree To Sharing With Sinn Fein
EX 11/04/06 Adams: Peace Process Must Continue With Or Without DUP
SF 11/04/06 Adams: Young People Need Their Voices Heard For Peace
SB 11/05/06 Money Talks In North Deal
BB 11/04/06 Police Issue Appeal On (Dissident) Firebombs
TO 11/05/06 Focus: They (Dissidents) Haven't Gone Away, You Know
GU 11/05/06 Anika's Lonely Death Highlights (Loyalist) Racist Hatred
SB 11/05/06 Prosecution Is Damaged Again In Omagh Case
GU 11/05/06 Secret Plan To Use Maze Site As Prison
TO 11/05/06 Iraqis Turn To Ireland For Advice On Finding Peace
TO 11/05/06 Ireland: Divided It Stands
IT 11/04/06 Hill Of Tara Campaigners March Against M3 Route
TO 11/05/06 Revealed: Top Irish Who Are Not Who


Paisley Ready To Defy DUP Opponents On Peace Deal

Henry McDonald, Ireland editor
Sunday November 5, 2006
The Observer

Ian Paisley is still prepared to sign up to the St Andrews
Agreement aimed at restoring devolution despite mounting
opposition in his party. The Democratic Unionist leader is
determined to become First Minister of Northern Ireland if
Sinn Fein pledges to support the police and the rule of
law, sources close to Paisley told The Observer yesterday.

A section of the DUP's grassroots has come out against the
St Andrews Agreement. The most significant opposition was
on 19 October during a mass meeting of DUP members in
Lurgan where a majority of the audience was against it.

However, sources close to Paisley insisted the resistance
was neither strong nor deep enough to throw him off course.
'There might be a few councillors here and there who will
resign or jump ship to someone like Bob McCartney but the
majority are behind the leader. The pressure isn't on the
DUP, it's on Sinn Fein now to sign up to policing,' they

Paisley held what was described as a 'very positive
meeting' with Tony Blair at Downing Street last Wednesday.
During their discussions he told the Prime Minister that he
was still prepared to support the Agreement. However, the
24 November deadline set by the British and Irish
governments for the parties to nominate Northern Ireland's
First and Deputy First Minister may not be met. The
Observer has learnt that instead of the two main parties,
Sinn Fein and the DUP, nominating their ministers, they
will exchange letters to the governments indicating their
willingness to fulfil the terms of the St Andrews
Agreement. Sinn Fein has to hold a special delegate
conference in order to sanction the party to sign the
pledge on policing and the rule of law in the north.

Yesterday the UK Unionist leader Bob McCartney offered
disgruntled DUP members the chance to stand against the St
Andrews deal in any election to the Northern Ireland
Assembly. 'The UKUP is a ship with a skeleton crew but if
anyone in the DUP wants to oppose any deal that their party
leadership sign up to then they are welcome to come on
board,' he said.

As the deadline approaches, security forces on both sides
of the Irish border are monitoring the activities of
dissident republicans. Last week Continuity IRA firebombs
damaged several major department stores in Belfast. Senior
garda officers in Dublin told The Observer last week that
the Continuity IRA was trying to repeat the tactic the Real
IRA used in early 1998 when they targeted towns in Unionist
MPs' constituencies. Meanwhile, loyalist paramilitaries
were blamed for a botched gun attack on a Catholic youth in


85% Of DUPs Agree To Sharing With Sinn Fein

Liam Clarke

MORE than 85% of DUP members believe the St Andrews
agreement could allow their party to share power with Sinn
Fein, as long as progress is made on some outstanding

A consultation process in the party, due to be completed on
Wednesday, is expected to produce an approval rating of
"nearer 90% than 80%", according to a DUP source. He based
his prediction on four consultative meetings held in
Belfast, Ballymena, Newtownstewart and Lurgan, and on a
preliminary written response to a consultation document.
Members have three more days to respond to the document by
post, fax or e-mail.

On Friday the Northern Ireland parties must give a formal
response to the St Andrews agreement, which was presented
to them last month by the British and Irish governments.
The results of the consultation should allow the DUP to
agree in principle to power-sharing once its concerns are
met. "It is fair to say that there is massive support for
the leadership line, far in excess of the popular vote for
the Good Friday agreement, which was 72% in the referendum
and was considered overwhelming," the party said.

The issues on which the DUP require progress include the
creation of a mechanism by which Sinn Fein can be expelled
from the executive if the IRA becomes active. One
possibility is an enhanced role for the Independent
Monitoring Commission (IMC). The DUP is also refusing to
share power with Sinn Fein before it declares support for
the police.

The DUP will also make its acceptance conditional on a
range of less clearly defined issues, including an enhanced
financial package, progress on loyal order parades,
arrangements to move away from mandatory coalitions in the
future and "further fairness and equality measure for the
unionist community".

Sammy Wilson, a DUP MP who attended the Ballymena and
Belfast meetings, said: "The question put to members was
not `are you happy with the St Andrews agreement and do you
think we should proceed into an executive government with
Sinn Fein?' We clearly need to get sufficient movement on
the matters outstanding to take us to the next step and I
don't think that is certain. Most members recognised that
we laid down conditions for Sinn Fein to meet. If they do
meet them and it has been verified, then we will abide by
the commitment that has been made in the manifesto."

Bertie Ahern, the taoiseach, underlined the importance of
Friday's deadline at the Fianna Fail ard fheis yesterday.
"We need to have agreed the legislation by Friday and then
it has to be passed in two weeks," he said. "This is a
tight timeframe for what are complex issues. The parties
are up for it, but there are a lot of things that need to
be agreed yet. It is serious. We have six days to do it."

Yesterday Robert McCartney, the leader of the anti-
agreement UK Unionist party, claimed to have been asked by
DUP members to run candidates as a focus for dissent if an
election is held to ratify power-sharing with Sinn Fein.
The St Andrews agreement cannot be implemented without
either a referendum or an election. McCartney, whose party
got 4,794 votes in the last election, said: "I believe
there are 21,000 votes, at least, out there from
disappointed and despairing Ulster Unionists and DUP people
who do not want Sinn Fein in government."


Adams: Peace Process Must Continue With Or Without DUP

04/11/2006 - 16:19:15

Sinn Fein today called on the Irish and British governments
to forge ahead without the DUP if the unionists refuse to
sign up to the St Andrews Accord.

Next Friday is the first of a series of deadlines aimed at
restoring powersharing in the North.

However, the DUP have reservations over the agreement and
the possibility of sharing power with Sinn Fein in a
mandatory coalition.

Speaking in Dublin today, Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams said
the two governments cannot afford to wait around for any
more delays and have a responsibility to "drive on" with or
without the DUP.


Gerry Adams - Young People Need To Have Their Voices Heard
In Consultation On Way Forward For Peace Process

Published: 4 November, 2006

Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams MP speaking at the National
Congress of Ogra Shinn Fein called on young people to take
up leadership roles within Sinn Fein and to ensure that
their voice is heard in the discussions which are taking
place within the party about the way forward in the peace
process. Mr. Adams also spoke about the tragic loss of
lives on Ireland's roads and called on young people to talk
to their friends and peer group about road safety issues,
making bad driving socially unacceptable

Mr. Adams said:

"This is a time of transition, of change and with that,
comes challenges and responsibilities. The discussions that
have been taking place around the St Andrews's Proposals
and the way forward for the party must be owned by
activists. Young people must ensure your voice is heard in
these discussions. There are many challenges facing us.
We need to strategic and long headed. And united.

"Sinn Fein needs to be bigger, and Ogra Shinn Fein needs to
be bigger, we need more members and activists. We need more
women members. We need to reach out to those people new to
Ireland, or marginalised and bring them on board. We need
to make their fight, our fight.

Road safety must be a priority

I also want to mention here today the issue of road safety.
Alongside suicide, accidents on our roads are killing more
and more young people. A generation is being scared by the
carnage on our roads. Not a weekend goes by without another
life lost and a family and community plunged into grief.
While education, or better roads, or safer cars have a part
to play - the people who are best placed to tackle this
issue are you. Young people, activists like yourselves need
to talk to your friends and peer group about road safety
issues, making bad driving socially unacceptable. You need
to talk about the awful consequences of reckless driving.
Young people have a huge responsibility in leading the way
on this issue.

Responding to the Taoiseach's proposals regarding a
constitutional referendum on the rights of the child Mr.
Adams said:

"At the recent health rally I said that I would be very
pleased if the government stole our health policies. We
are about change and setting the public and political
agenda. So it comes as no surprise that the Taoiseach has
proposed a constitutional referendum on the rights of
children. This is a good thing. And I welcome it. Sinn
Fein put forward a comprehensive proposal to the Oireachtas
All-Party Committee on the Constitution when it was dealing
with the rights of the family more than a year ago. In it
we argued for the rights of children to be put into the
constitution. We welcome Fianna Fail's support for this
position and will contact them about the wording of a
substantial new article on the rights of the child in the

In 2004 Sinn Fein proposed the following new article on the
rights of the child in the Constitution:

1. The State guarantees to cherish all the children
of the nation equally. All children, in addition to the
individual rights guaranteed to all persons in this
Constitution, are entitled to the special care and
assistance essential to childhood. Each child has the right
to reach his or her potential as an individual and as a
member of the community.

2. The State shall ensure, as far as is possible,
that every child, for the full and harmonious development
of his or her personality, shall grow up in a family
environment, in an atmosphere of happiness, love and

3. The State shall ensure the child such protection
and care as is necessary for his or her well-being, taking
into account the rights and duties of his or her parents,
legal guardians, or other individuals responsible for him
or her, and, to this end, shall take all appropriate
legislative and administrative measures.

4. Children have the right to be heard, to be
consulted in all matters affecting them and to access
information about their person.

5. In all actions concerning children undertaken by
or on behalf of the State the best interests of the child
shall be the primary consideration.

Full text

A chairde, I am delighted to be here today to speak at
Ogra's eighth National Congress and I want to congratulate
the organisers for the work that has gone into making this
event a success.

Considering the year that is in it, it is especially
appropriate that you are meeting here in Liberty Hall. It
was in the basement of this building that the Proclamation
of 1916 was printed, a document that continues to be the
inspiration of modern Irish republicanism. And it was just
outside this building that Patrick Pearse, James Connolly
and Constance Markievicz set off on Easter Monday, ninety
years ago this year.

I want to commend you all.

And I want to especially commend the work Ogra has done
since the last National Congress. Republicans are so busy
that we rarely have opportunities to reflect on what we
have done, to realise what we have achieved. Your campaign
work around collusion, political policing, and in
particular demilitarisation, have been an essential, and
successful, part of the party's work. So were your
campaigns on suicide prevention and to demand healthcare
rights. You have demonstrated time and time again that
political change does not have to await the pleasure of
those in power, but that young people can educate and
organise to bring about practical change in the here and

There is a clich‚ often repeated by the establishment in
this country that young people are not interested in
politics. That they are turned off by it. But everywhere I
look, it is young people who are involved in campaigns. Not
just marching or protesting, but organising the marches,
running the protests, dealing with the media, and even
creating their own media.

It is young people who ran the anti-war campaign, who took
the lead in the Rossport campaign, who were at the
forefront of the Stad's campaign for the Irish language,
who filled the streets in the Irish Ferries demonstration,
and the Make Poverty History march.

Ogra Shinn Fein activists were among the first to take the
initiative in support of the Rossport Five when they were
imprisoned. It is young people who flocked to the
commemorations of the 1981 Hunger Strikes.

It is not that they are turned off by politics, it is that
they are turned off by the political establishment, which
has failed young people, failed to present a vision, failed
to inspire. And it is young people themselves who are
taking up that challenge, who are stepping into the
frontlines of struggle with Ogra Shinn Fein activists
prominent among them.

Young people do this because they have the idealism. That
is what we have in common. We know that each of us, in our
own way, can make a difference. Twenty-five years ago this
year the hunger strikes were the culmination of years of
struggle in the prison. Young people, no different to
anyone in this room, in the prisons in Armagh and Long
Kesh, at the mercy of a brutal, violent prison regime, clad
only in blankets, defied an empire and broke one of the
most powerful governments in the world.

Hopefully, no-one will ever again be called on to make
those sacrifices, but that strength, that inner belief is a
part of each and every one of us. It is what makes us
republicans. We know we can make a difference and more than
that, we are absolutely determined to do so.

I believe that one person can make a difference. But two
people can make twice as much. And it is obvious that
twenty, fifty, a hundred people can do even better. It is
like a snowball. The more people we bring into Ogra Shinn
Fein, the more people we republicanise, the stronger we
are, the more change we can effect. And the more change
people see us bringing about, the more people will want to
be a part of that, part of changing our communities, our
workplaces or our country.

So I am delighted to see that the Ogra is continuing to
grow in the universities across Ireland as the only
national political youth movement.

But it is also important, that in working to build Ogra in
the universities, we do not lose sight of the need to reach
out to the young men and women who choose not to go on to
third level education or, who are denied that opportunity

Sinn Fein is a party on the move - moving our republican
goals forward. Ogra is crucial to our ability to do that.
Republicans have a vision of a new future, a better future
and we have the spirit and confidence to work with others
to achieve this.

25 years ago we failed to move an Irish government to
challenge the Thatcher criminalisation policy. Why?

Because we were not politically strong enough.

We need to understand and learn that lesson if we want to
achieve our goal of ending the union, ending partition and
achieving the aims set our in the Proclamation.

So building political strength and using that strength
effectively is of paramount importance in the time ahead.
That means strategising, planning, debating and putting the
outworking of our deliberations into effect.

Six years ago in my Ard Fheis speech I remarked on how
close we had come to winning a European seat with Mitchel
McLaughlin, and how Sean Crowe and Arthur Morgan and Martin
Ferris had almost succeeded in taking seats in Leinster

Next time round we did better than that. Bairbre de Brun
and Mary Lou McDonald are our two MEPs. We have five TDs;
5 MPs and 24 MLAs, as well as several hundred councillors
across this island.

A good position to be in but we can do better and not just
electorally through that is crucial. We can be stronger -
politically and ideologically - and in our policies and in
our activism. And we must build political alliances.

Bobby Sands reminded us that there is a place, a role for
everyone in our struggle. We in this room must understand

Sinn Fein needs to be bigger, and Ogra Shinn Fein needs to
be bigger, we need more members and activists. We need more
women members. We need to reach out to those people new to
Ireland, or marginalised and bring them on board. We need
to make their fight, our fight.

At the recent health rally I said that I would be very
pleased if the government stole our health policies. We
are about change and setting the public and political
agenda. So it comes as no surprise that the Taoiseach has
proposed a constitutional referendum on the rights of
children. This is a good thing. And I welcome it. Sinn
Fein put forward a comprehensive proposal to the Oireachtas
All-Party Committee on the Constitution when it was dealing
with the rights of the family more than a year ago. In it
we advocated the need for the rights of children to be put
into the constitution.

I welcome the initiative you are launching this weekend
around an `anti-imperialist' campaign. Imperialism can seem
an outdated word, a concept that is past its sell-by date.
But in simple terms, what it means is the bullying of the
weak by the strong. The occupations of Iraq and Palestine,
the crippling debt and economic exploitation foisted on the
developing world, the efforts to undermine cultural
identity and replace it with mass consumerism, are all the
actions of the powerful against the rest of us. So we have
to learn how to challenge this.

In Ireland of course, we deal with our own legacy of
imperialism. We are part of what James Connolly called `the
re-conquest of Ireland, by its people'. It is about ending
the partition of Ireland, about the people of this island
shaping our destiny together. But it is also a re-conquest
of the resources and wealth produced by our people and
using them to tackle poverty and inequality. And it is
about the restoration of our national language whose
enthusiastic revival in gaelscoileanna throughout Ireland
is an inspiration to everyone with a cupla focal.

The re-conquest of Ireland is the task Sinn Fein has set
ourselves, and by embarking on this campaign, Ogra is
leading the way in making the connection between our
struggle here, and that of those people working for peace,
independence and justice around the world. And leading the
way is something you all better get used to.

It is the current membership of Ogra Shinn Fein who will be
the party leaders of the future. Pearse Doherty is now a
councillor and, we hope, after the next election a future
TD for Donegal South-West. Eight years ago, he was elected
onto the Ogra National Executive. Toireasa Ferris was also
at the first National Congress. She is now a councillor for
the party in Kerry and was the first ever Sinn Fein Mayor
of Kerry last year. Going further back, even before the
founding of Ogra, Deputy Se n Crowe was the party's youth
officer in the 1980s. Look through Sinn Fein today and you
will see many of our elected representatives and our
activists are people who first got involved in politics
through the Ogra.

Sinn Fein, as the senior party, has a role to play in
providing the support and resources that Ogra needs, and
perhaps there is more we could have done, and more we can
do. But the success of Ogra must be your success. You must
not, and cannot, be reliant on anyone but yourselves.

I also want to mention here today the issue of road safety.
Alongside suicide, accidents on our roads are killing more
and more young people. A generation is being scared by the
carnage on our roads. Not a weekend goes by without another
life lost and a family and community plunged into grief.
While education, or better roads, or safer cars have a part
to play - the people who are best placed to tackle this
issue are you. Young people, activists like yourselves need
to talk to your friends and peer group about road safety
issues, making bad driving socially unacceptable. You need
to talk about the awful consequences of reckless driving.
Young people have a huge responsibility in leading the way
on this issue.

Before finishing, I would like to say something about the
choices before republicans today. This is a time of
transition, of change. And with that, come challenges and
responsibilities. The discussions that have been taking
place around the St Andrews's Proposals and the way forward
for the party must be owned by activists.

Young people must ensure your voice is heard in these
discussions. There are many challenges facing us. We need
to strategic and long headed. And united. Short termism
is for short termers. We are about the long term - the

Writing in An Phoblacht around this time last year Barry
McColgan wrote, `Without youth coming through there is no
struggle. The youth must not leave the work up to others.
We must take leadership and influence decisions.'

There is a lesson in those words for all of us, young
republicans. I hope they guide your debate and discussions
this weekend. There is no future for the republican
struggle, without young people coming through to carry it
forward, to lead, to campaign and to organise towards what
Joe Cahill always called, `that certain day', when we
achieve unity, independence, and socialism. Remember, we
will not get one without the other. And we will only get
what we deserve by working and organising for it.

Go raibh mile maith agaibh.



Money Talks In North Deal

05 November 2006 By Colm Heatley

The atmosphere last Wednesday, as the DUP and Sinn Fein
prepared to meet British chancellor Gordon Brown for talks
on an economic package for the North, was described as
``professional and courteous''.

The atmosphere last Wednesday, as the DUP and Sinn Fein
prepared to meet British chancellor Gordon Brown for talks
on an economic package for the North, was described as
``professional and courteous''.

The normal DUP barracking of Sinn Fein and protests about
sitting beside ``terrorists'' had given way to consensus
politics, albeit for the limited objective of raising cash
for the North.

However, within 24 hours, what progress had been achieved
was overshadowed when the DUP sent out clear signals that
it would not endorse the St Andrew's Agreement by Friday's

David Simpson, DUP MP, said he would not be recommending
the St Andrew's deal to his constituency, saying he was
``not optimistic at all'' about agreement by November 10.
His views were echoed by other senior DUP politicians.

The comments provoked the ire of the British government,
which said the whole deal would be scrapped in that case.

Brown's opening offer last week was less generous than
might have been expected, and his message, that north-south
cooperation was pivotal for economic regeneration, played
less well with the DUP and UUP delegations.

The stgœ53 billion (?79 billion) package spread over ten
years is, according to some estimates, worth around an
extra stgœ5 billion (?7 billion) in real terms over the
next ten years, when prior British government spending
commitments in the North are accounted for.

The increase drew criticism from across the political
spectrum and within the business community. The
Confederation of British Industry said it was far short of
the commitment needed to create 140,000 new jobs in the

In any case, it was always unlikely that Brown would make a
firm offer five months before the deadline for complete
devolution, while high levels of political uncertainty
still surround the intentions of the DUP.

Instead, the political parties agreed that Wednesday's
meeting was the opening gambit in a tough round of
financial negotiations, which will culminate next spring
when the parties make a binding political deal.

Around stgœ18 billion (?27 billion) has been earmarked for
improving the North's infrastructure, with particular
emphasis on roads and railways.

But critics argue that the British government had already
agreed to a stgœ16 billion (?24 billion) spend.

Brown also committed stgœ35 billion (?52 billion) funding
for a restored Assembly.

This means annual spending levels would rise from stgœ8
billion (?12 billion) to just over stgœ9 billion (?13
billion) within four years, but in previous comments,
Northern secretary Peter Hain said that the British
government intended to provide such a raise.

Brown effectively ruled out a reduction in corporation tax
for the North, a key DUP demand and one that was strongly
supported by the SDLP and the UUP. He agreed that it could
be discussed at further meetings, but little else.

A change to corporation tax was always unlikely, as it
would effectively mean that a region of the United Kingdom
was given the power to set its own fiscal policy, something
the British government argues is banned by EU law. It would
also open the door for demands from the Scottish and Welsh
parliaments for a similar reduction for their regions, and
would create a Pandora's box of political difficulties for
Downing Street.

Reducing corporation tax in itself is not the panacea for
the North's economic problems.

Universities in the North are producing far too few
science, technology and pharmaceutical graduates. This has
led to a real skills shortage for the type of high-tech
companies that the North's politicians would like to entice
to the region.

Brown argued that almost 96 per cent of businesses in the
North were paying the lower level of corporation tax, set
at 19 per cent. The North's politicians replied that the
high-level of corporation tax was the reason why so few big
corporations had invested.

What was suggested was a cocktail of measures which would
increase the North's competitiveness. Among the major
problems facing the North's economy are a skills deficit in
the hi-tech sector, an almost complete lack of finance for
research and development (R&D), poor transport
infrastructure, over-reliance on the public sector and a
dearth of private enterprise.

A demand for tax breaks for companies involved in R&D looks
likely to be met, along with a restructuring of higher
education to produce appropriately-skilled graduates.

Hard cash incentives will also be on offer for firms
willing to invest in the North.

After the meeting, the DUP, which had hyped the talks as a
potential deal-breaker, was showing strong signs of backing
away from a political deal with Sinn Fein.

Maurice Morrow, one of the three-man DUP delegation which
met Brown, said he was ``extremely disappointed''. He
described the prospect of getting the party to endorse the
St Andrew's deal as ``very small''.

``The deadlines for a deal aren't our deadlines, they are
the British government's and we have no duty to honour
them," he said. ``What Gordon Brown offered was far, far
too little, and I'd have to wonder if he has any interest
at all in making a deal happen or if he just wants to hold
onto his purse strings.

``We'll not be asking our members to endorse any deal until
the last word, but I know now that the prospect of getting
agreement for later this month is well and truly set back."

Mitchel McLaughlin, who headed Sinn Fein's delegation, was
more upbeat in his assessment.

``We put forward our view that the policies defined by the
treasury in London aren't working in the North," he said.

``We have less disposable income than anywhere else, higher
energy costs, a hugely underdeveloped private sector, more
relative poverty than anywhere else and, clearly, we need a
new approach to dealing with this.

``We need to be able to pursue policies that are
appropriate for us, and that means having flexibility.
Thursday was the first of the meetings.

"There will be plenty more in the months ahead and we need
to develop our approach. This is just the first stage.

``In terms of corporation tax, we want a competitive rate.

"But in terms of the south's corporation tax, it must be
remembered that it was established under different economic
circumstances and with a different range of factors in
place than there are in the North."

Last week, Minister for Justice Michael McDowell said the
Irish government would make its own spending plans known
when it had studied the British proposals. Hain said the
financial package was open to negotiation, but only if the
parties attended at the same time and showed a degree of
cooperation in their approach to the talks.

After meeting Brown last week, the DUP showed cold feet for
a deal immediately afterwards. Paisley, not for the first
time in his political career, appears to be opening the
escape hatch on a deal that would involve compromise and
recognition of republicanism.

Whether he is sabre-rattling or really preparing to break
the deal will become evident later this week.

The message from the governments is that the economic
reforms on the parties' wishlists can only be achieved
through a political deal.


Police Issue Appeal On Firebombs

Detectives investigating the firebomb attack which
destroyed a Homebase store in south Belfast have issued a
new appeal for information.

Dissident republicans have been blamed for the attack and a
number of others in Belfast on Wednesday night.

Police want to hear from taxi drivers who picked up or
dropped off a fare at the Shane Retail Park off the Boucher
Road between 1900 GMT and 2000 GMT.

A fire at Smyth's toystore nearby was brought under


JJB Sports in Anne Street in the city centre was badly
damaged in a third attack.

Fire crews were called to all three incidents at about 0200
GMT on Wednesday.

At its height, more than 70 firefighters attended the blaze
at the Homebase store, which also spread to Reid's
furniture store next door.

In a statement, Homebase said none of its staff would lose
their jobs.

Last month, dissident republicans were blamed for a fire
bomb attack on a B&Q store in Coleraine.

The Real IRA was also blamed for a series of incendiary
attacks on commercial premises in Newry in August.

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2006/11/02 12:37:22 GMT


Focus: They Haven't Gone Away, You Know

Last week's bombs show republican dissidents have not given
up the fight. So are they still a force to be reckoned
with, asks Liam Clarke

Last Wednesday, South Belfast's Boucher Road looked like a
scene from the worst days of the Troubles. Aerial fire
appliances pumped water over Reid's furniture store and
Homebase DIY, inside which gas canisters were exploding in
the heat. The job of the 70 fire-fighters at the scene was
all but impossible.

Police were warning that further firebomb attacks on stores
in Belfast could not be ruled out. In a morning briefing at
PSNI headquarters, chief constable Sir Hugh Orde was told
that this series of attacks was not the major terrorist
assault his C3 intelligence section had been predicting for
months. That was still to come.

Efforts are now being made by the PSNI and gardai to
prevent more town-centre bombs and possible gun attacks on
the security forces by republican dissident groups hell-
bent on disrupting the peace process.

The Boucher Road firebomb attacks and other less successful
strikes in Belfast city centre last Wednesday were designed
to switch the headlines away from a Downing Street visit by
the Northern Ireland parties, who were making a pitch for
an economic package to rebuild the province's
infrastructure and economic base as they set terms for
power sharing and devolution.

In that, the attacks were successful. The news that œ3m
(?4.5m) in damage had been caused by firebombs got equal
billing with British chancellor Gordon Brown's promise of
œ50 billion (?74.7 billion) in public spending over the
next four years, at least œ3 billion of it new money over
and above the amount that would have been spent anyway.

It was clearly the intention of the dissident gangs to
spread dismay, hijack the news agenda and exercise a veto
over the political process. Their success was limited,
though, because when all is said and done, what was
involved? The Boucher Road blaze was caused by nothing more
sophisticated than a domestic firelighter concealed in a
video cassette with a timer and small explosive charge to
set it alight. The crude device was probably planted by a
shopper and timed to go off after dark.

The attack required a minimum of planning and co-
ordination. Yet there are only a limited number of people
prepared to take the risk.

A number of individuals before the courts are charged with
such attacks. If they are found guilty, it will justify the
police assertion that dissident republican groups have not
gone away. But the dissidents need to recruit and the very
small pool of potential members is heavily polluted by

MORALE among dissidents is low and, as Sinn Fein drifts
into the political establishment, the remaining IRA
terrorists are increasingly desperate to find some way to
halt the slide.

Last month a group of 15-20 dissidents, some of them still
members of the Provos, met at a house in Dungiven, the
South Derry town that is the focus of discontent about Sinn
Fein's peace strategy. The meeting came after a larger
gathering planned for Toomebridge had to be abandoned when
one delegate, a Real IRA supporter, told The Sunday Times
and another newspaper that violence might be on the agenda.

The intention of the series of mini meetings is to reassess
the way forward for republicans in the light of the
Provisional IRA's decision to end its war without achieving
a united Ireland.

Over tea and biscuits the republicans heard a sobering
message from a representative of the Irish National
Liberation Army (INLA). In the recollection of one witness,
the former bomber said: "The INLA are not capable of
carrying out an effective armed struggle that would get the
Brits out. The Real IRA are not capable of that either, and
neither are the Continuity IRA. Even if all three
amalgamated they still could not remove the British from

"This being the case, it is wrong to go down that line of
physical force because it leads to an endless cycle of
imprisonment, death and destruction with no objective in

To some of those present, the INLA representative sounded
more like the Nobel-prize winning Peace People than a
member of what was once considered the most volatile
terrorist group in Ireland. Yet nobody disagreed with him,
although a few Real IRA supporters were no doubt reflecting
on the planned bomb blitz for October and November.

Even they would have agreed that removing the British was
beyond them. All they could hope to do was derail
devolution, perhaps by unsettling Ian Paisley enough to
make the DUP leader abandon plans to enter government with
Sinn Fein.

For the Continuity IRA, a tiny purist group formed in 1986
that does not attend such meetings, violence needs no
justification. The use of force is a duty handed down from
one generation to the next until the day of British
withdrawal. It will co-operate with the Real IRA whenever

Security forces were aware of dissident plans. As early as
July, the PSNI warned of an autumn offensive and police
have been bearing down on the Real and Continuity IRA ever

Last week at a meeting of the policing board, Orde
described the dissident organisations as "disparate and

"They have little credibility," he insisted. "These are
people who just cannot cope with the new order, so they are
trying to disrupt progress at a political level."

Alex Attwood, an SDLP representative on the board, said:
"We were told that it was hard to know which dissident
group was behind attacks because one group had claimed
actions of the other. The membership between them was fluid
and they continued to have a concern that they could draw
in recruits."

In fact, the need to recruit is a weakness for dissidents,
allowing both the Provisional IRA and the police to
infiltrate. Each time they try to exploit disillusionment
with the IRA, they open themselves to infiltrators. IRA
decommissioning of arms, which led to a split in South
Derry, provided the security forces with yet another
opportunity to move their agents out of the Provos and into
dissident groups.

The result is that whenever more than a few people are
involved in an attack, it is almost inevitably compromised.
This makes it difficult for the terrorists to use large

To make a car bomb using current dissident technology,
fertiliser has to be bought in quantity, usually in the
republic where there is a higher concentration of nitrate.
It must be ground down and the explosives used within days.
A similar level of planning is needed for any attacks more
complicated than the planting of incendiaries.

This widens the circle of knowledge within the terrorist
groups, and arrests follow almost inevitably, such as in
Wexford or Lurgan earlier this year.

Another weakness is that few potential recruits believe the
dissident groups have what it takes to succeed where the
Provisional IRA failed after 30 years of trying.

That, a PSNI officer warned, "doesn't mean that they can't
kill again or that we can be blas‚. They require constant
containment because the initiative is always with them.
They chose where to strike and it is not that hard to
murder someone if you are not too particular who it is".

Comparing the two main groups, a garda officer said: "The
Real IRA always poses the biggest threat but either group
could set off a device. We're working hard at the moment to
make sure it doesn't happen. Look at the number of people
that have been caught and charged. If they hadn't been,
where would they be now?"

Factions and splinter groups

Security forces believe that none of the dissident
republican groups has more than 150 members and active
supporters, and that recruitment drives allow both the
security forces and Provisional IRA to infiltrate them.

Each organisation has a stable leadership, but membership
is fluid, with militants floating from one group to another
in search of arms. The Real and Continuity IRA have worked
together to acquire weapons from America and the Balkans,
and sometimes claim each other's actions to confuse the
security forces.

CONTINUITY IRA: founded in October 1986 by traditionalists
unhappy with Sinn Fein's decision to take seats in the
Dail. Outside Northern Ireland its main area of strength is
Munster. The Independent Monitoring Commission(IMC) judges
it "an active and dangerous threat, but not a very
widespread one".

REAL IRA: founded by Provisional bomb-making experts in
1998 in protest at the Good Friday agreement, its first
leader was a former "quartermaster general" in the IRA.
Responsible for the August 1998 Omagh bombing. Now split
into two factions, both calling themselves RIRA.

INLA: splintered from the Official IRA in 1974 and has had
many splits and feuds since. It has killed well over a
hundred people, but is now committed to a "no first strike"
policy. Contains several experienced gunmen that other
groups seek to recruit.

SOUTH DERRY IRA: in August this year about 40 members and
supporters left the IRA in protest at proposals by Sinn
Fein to support the police. No successful attacks so far,
but the group includes several experienced terrorists.

Additional reporting: Enda Leahy


Anika's Lonely Death Highlights Racist Hatred

Migrants are facing hostility from paramilitaries

Henry McDonald, Ireland editor
Sunday November 5, 2006
The Observer

She died alone, amid squalor, thousands of miles from home.
The plight of Slovakian immigrant Anika White in Ballymena
has highlighted the dark, often lonely and vulnerable side
of life as a migrant in Ireland, north or south.

The 46-year-old was cremated last Tuesday after a funeral
that was not attended by any of her family from Slovakia or
any of her former friends in the North Antrim town's 2,000
strong migrant worker community. So few people turned up
for her funeral that undertakers asked Ballymena citizens
to walk behind her coffin.

On Friday, nobody from the migrant community whom The
Observer approached wanted to take about Anika or the
ongoing hostility directed at immigrants, mainly from
loyalist paramilitaries and their associates.

'Her former friends didn't know Anika was getting buried,'
said one woman who attended the funeral at All Saints
church. 'They weren't told. There appears to have been a
breakdown in communications or they might have been there.'

Anika fell out of favour with a house full of Eastern
European workers after she lost her job in one of the food
processing factories on the edge of Northern Ireland's most
prosperous county town. Outside of Belfast, Ballymena has
the highest proportion of millionaires in the north of

The circumstances of her death on 10 October are still
shrouded in mystery. A post mortem initially revealed
nothing suspicious, though it was inconclusive as to the
exact cause of death. Last Thursday morning PSNI scenes of
crimes officers returned to the house where she died on
Carnduff Drive to carry out a further forensic examination.
The police have had so little detail about her life they
were unable to track down any of her relatives in Slovakia.

Declan O'Loan, a veteran SDLP councillor in Ballymena, said
Anika had 'fallen through the cracks of society'. He
compared her isolation and death to the young Polish woman
in Coleraine who, after losing her job last winter, was
forced to sleep on the streets and eventually had to have
her legs amputated because of severe frostbite.

'It shows how easy it is for immigrants to get "lost", even
in a place like Ballymena,' he said. 'Her story is
completely tragic. She had lost her friends, fallen in with
a bad crowd and turned to drink. I heard from the police
that when they found her, the house she was staying in was
in a disgusting state.'

But O'Loan stressed that her plight was not typical of the
growing immigrant community in Ballymena: 'Out of a
population of around 27,000, there are 1,000 immigrants,
mainly from the European Union's new states in the east.
All are very hard-working individuals, many holding down
two and three jobs. It's just that some people who come
here take a wrong turn.'

Despite the role they have played in boosting the local
economy, the town has also been a hot spot for racist
attacks. Ten days ago, a house on the Moat Road in the
Harryville area was attacked. It is home to a number of
Czech workers.

An Observer survey last month of every media reported
racist incident in Northern Ireland between January 2005
and September 2006 found that more than 90 per cent of the
attacks took place in loyalist areas.

'Ballymena is not a nice place at the moment,' said a PSNI
source. 'You can do your shopping during the day, but once
it gets dark people just stay at home. The streets are too
dangerous to walk now.'


Prosecution Is Damaged Again In Omagh Case

05 November 2006 By Barry McCaffrey

The Omagh Bomb trial is expected to take another dramatic
twist this week, when prosecution lawyers withdraw a number
of bomb charges against the main suspect.

The Omagh Bomb trial is expected to take another dramatic
twist this week, when prosecution lawyers withdraw a number
of bomb charges against the main suspect.

Sean Gerard Hoey, 36, from Molly Road, Jonesborough in
south Armagh faces 58 charges connected to ten Real IRA
bomb attacks, including an attack on Omagh town centre in
August 1998 which killed 29 people. Prosecution barristers
are expected to withdraw charges relating to Hoey's alleged
involvement in a bomb attack on Banbridge in Co Down just
two weeks prior to the Omagh bomb. Hoey is charged with
making a bomb warning over the telephone prior to the

Last year prosecution voice analyst Dr Fredricka Holmes
said she had identified Hoey's voice after comparing the
bomb warning with tapes of his voice recorded during a
phone call made from prison.

She said Hoey was ``more likely than not'' to have made the
bomb warning.

However, the prosecution is expected to say it is no longer
relying on Dr Holmes' evidence and that the Banbridge
charges will be withdrawn.

The trial has already heard of a number of failures to
protect forensic evidence in the case and a police
admission, that a statement was re-written to ``beef up''
evidence. A British army bomb disposal expert has admitted
that evidence may have been ``forensically altered'' after
black tape mysteriously appeared on a bomb-timer unit, when
it was sent for analysis in England.

The court was told the tape had not been present when the
device was originally photographed at the bomb scene or
when it had been previously examined in Northern Ireland.

Trial judge Mr Justice Weir described the tape's appearance
as ``Houdini-like''. Another scientist admitted that labels
on forensic evidence from one bomb scene appeared to have
been altered. It also emerged that a detonator being used
as trial evidence had gone missing for five years. Five
other bomb-timer units connected to the trial are also

Last month a senior police officer admitted asking a
witness to ``beef up'' her statement.

Detective Chief Inspector Philip Graham Marshall admitted
asking Scene of Crime Officer Fiona Cooper to change her
statement relating to the discovery of a mortar bomb at
Altmore Forest near Dungannon in 2001.

Cooper admitted Marshall asked her to add additional
details to her original statement, which she had no memory
or notes of. Cooper told the court she could not have
written the second statement, as she had been in Zambia at
the time it was allegedly written and dated.

Marshall claimed he had been asked to ``beef up'' Cooper's
statement by an unnamed officer from the Omagh Bomb
inquiry. In another blow to the prosecution, Mr Justice
Weir refused to accept a prosecution expert's assertion
that the Omagh bomb and other devices were made by the same
bomb maker. Mr Justice Weir said that expert Dennis
McAuley's conclusion was based, in part, on guesswork.

Later McAuley also admitted that Hoey's DNA could have
inadvertently been contaminated with tape found at a bomb
scene, when both items were examined together by forensic

McAuley conceded that scientists had failed to protect the
items from potential DNA contamination during the procedure
and admitted there was the ``real possibility'' of Hoey's
DNA being transferred onto the evidence.


Secret Plan To Use Maze Site As Prison

MPs oppose 'desperate' proposal to ease jails overcrowding

Jamie Doward and Henry McDonald
Sunday November 5, 2006
The Observer

The government is considering a secret plan to turn part of
the Maze prison in Northern Ireland into a jail for foreign
prisoners, The Observer can reveal. The move has astonished
prison experts who have described it as a desperate act to
contain the overcrowding crisis in Britain's jails.

Nationalist and unionist politicians united last night in
their opposition to the plan, which neither the Northern
Ireland Prison Service nor the Office of the First and
Deputy First Minister at Stormont have been made aware of.

The Maze - scene of the hunger strikes of the Eighties -
was closed in 2000, although most of the prisoners were
released in 1999 under the Good Friday Agreement.

Demolition work on the 360-acre site started last week, but
eight H-blocks and a hospital remain and there is a large
amount of vacant land that could accommodate a new prison.

Any move to use the site, part of which is being converted
into a giant sports stadium, for incarceration purposes
would be controversial and therefore is likely to be
introduced only as a last resort by the government. Sinn
Fein wants some of the site to be turned into a memorial
for the hunger striker Bobby Sands who died in the Maze
hospital. The government has confirmed only that part of it
will be turned into a 'centre for conflict transformation'.
A hut which housed loyalist prisoners is also being
preserved as part of plans for a museum.

However, with the prison population in Britain close to
80,000 the government has been forced to consider radical
plans for urgent expansion. Internal Home Office estimates
- made in July - suggested the prison population would now
stand at around 79,000, almost 1,000 below the actual
current figure. Experts predict the population could touch
90,000 within a couple of years, placing far greater
strains on the existing system if there is no expansion.

In a bid to ease the crisis the government has activated
Operation Safeguard, an emergency measure to house
prisoners in police cells. It is also looking to lease
ships to be used for floating prisons. Earlier this year it
sold the prison ship HMP Weare to an oil exploration firm
based in Nigeria.

It is believed the firm has offered to lease the ship back
to the government for œ10m a year - four times what it is
believed to have paid for it.

The government is also looking to convert an old army
barracks in Dover into a prison. In a sign of its
desperation the government has told prison construction
companies it will award contracts to any firm that can
build a prison by the end of next year. It has also urged
prison governors to come up with 'blue sky' thinking to
help cope with crisis.

One solution, proposed by the Prison Governors Association,
is to use the Maze for housing foreign national prisoners
who have completed their sentences and are awaiting

It is thought that holding foreign prisoners in Northern
Ireland would be less controversial than holding British
prisoners because they would be less likely to have family
in Britain who would want to visit them. The proposal is
being studied by prisons minister Gerry Sutcliffe, although
civil servants have raised doubts about its feasibility.

A Home Office spokeswoman confirmed the plan to use the
Maze was being considered but could only proceed with
parliamentary approval. 'Removing prisoners to Northern
Ireland would require primary legislation and it is
therefore not a short-term solution, so we are prioritising
other things,' the spokeswoman said, emphasising the
government's preferred option would be to exhaust the use
of measures such as prison ships first.

'The crisis is of the Home Office's own making,' said Harry
Fletcher, assistant general secretary of Napo, the
Probation Union. 'The government didn't build, rejected
less punitive sentencing and ruled out the emergency
release of prisoners near the end of their term. To
consider using the Maze is the act of a desperate

The MP for the area that includes the Maze has vowed to
oppose any move to re-open the prison. 'There is demolition
work going on at the Maze at present,' said Jeffrey
Donaldson, the Democratic Unionist MP for Lagan Valley.
'People want to draw a line under the Troubles and this
demolition is part of that. It should not be sacrificed
because of a prison places crisis in England.'

The Northern Ireland Office confirmed that neither the
prison service or the Stormont department in charge of
taking over the Maze estate had any idea there were plans
to re-open the prison.


Iraqis Turn To Ireland For Advice On Finding Peace

Liam Clarke and Marie Colvin

A DELEGATION of Shi'ite and Sunni leaders from Iraq is due
to arrive in Belfast tonight to learn the secrets of
building peace out of seemingly intractable sectarian

The 10-strong group has the backing of Nouri al-Maliki, the
Iraqi prime minister, and is led by Muwaffaq al-Rubaie, his
national security adviser and a leading Shi'ite.

For three days they will meet community, church, police and
political leaders to discuss such subjects as the
decommissioning of terrorists' weapons, combating
sectarianism and preventing the infiltration of the police
by paramilitary gangs.

"The focus of the visit is practical and goal-oriented; the
Iraqis need concrete solutions and structures to deal with
these issues today," said Alison Gordon, first secretary
(political) at the British embassy in Baghdad who is from
Holywood and is accompanying the delegation.

"The road to disarmament and peace in Northern Ireland was
slow and painful. But with strong political and religious
leadership, reconciliation is possible - even in Iraq," she

The group is not expected to meet any of the most senior
politicians, although it will have talks with
representatives of the leading parties. It will also meet
Nuala O'Loan, the police ombudsman, and David Ervine,
leader of the Progressive Unionist party, the political
wing of the Ulster Volunteer Force.

Gordon hopes that, after the visit, the PSNI will hold
workshops or conferences in Iraq or Jordan to pass on its

"They have such big problems with the police force there
that there are rumours they may need to disband it and
start again," she said. "How do you start getting rid of
militia elements that have infiltrated your service? How
can you deal with communities and make the police service
representative?" The delegation will examine the PSNI's
"50/50 rule", which was introduced to discriminate in
favour of Catholics. So far this has succeeded in
increasing Catholic numbers from a base of 8% in 2001 to
21% today. The rule will cease once the proportion of
Catholics reaches 30%.

The delegation will also look at the process of police
reform initiated by Chris Patten.

Other meetings on the security front will be with Andrew
Sens and Brigadier Tauno Nieminen, who oversaw the
decommissioning of IRA weapons, and Lord Alderdice, a
member of the IMC, the international body that monitors the
paramilitary ceasefires.

At police headquarters they will meet commanding officers
from troubled areas and from the crime operations
department, which combines the force's intelligence-
gathering and criminal-investigation departments.

"A second focus is to look at more specific ways in which
they can design their reconciliation initiatives," Gordon
said. "How do they focus on conflict resolution to get some
of the militia elements and some of the rejectionists round
the table to try to make this government work? They are
talking to people from the academic as well as political

Also in the delegation is Rafi'a al-Issawi, minister of
state for foreign affairs and a Sunni from a tribe in Anbar
province, the heart of the anti-American insurgency. It
also includes the controversial figure Hadi al-Amiri,
secretary-general of the Badr organisation, an Iranian-
backed Shi'ite militia that has fought the British in Basra
but now claims to have laid down its arms. Al Amiri, a hard
line Shi'ite, is head of the Iraqi parliament's security
and defence committee.

Other delegates include a tribal leader, a senior military
figure and senior Muslim clerics.

Those due to share their expertise with the delegation
include Archbishop Sean Brady, the Catholic primate, and
lower-level representatives of the main Protestant

Politicians include Sinn Fein's Raymond McCartney, a former
IRA prisoner and hunger striker who was convicted of the
murder of a German industrialist as part of the IRA's
"economic war" to destabilise Northern Ireland. Gregory
Campbell, the MP for East Londonderry, will represent the


Ireland: Divided It Stands

Belfast has endured through all its Troubles and industrial
decline, but even now it struggles to put on a united
cultural front, says Mick Heaney

It is named after a mouth - Beal Feirste, the mouth of the
sandbank - but throughout its history, Belfast has
preferred to let its actions do the talking. While Dublin
and Cork were small medieval towns when they received their
charters, Belfast made itself a city by deed rather than
word: by the time Queen Victoria granted it city status in
1888, it was a bustling industrial centre, home to a
quarter of a million people.

Belfast began the 20th century as the largest city in
Ireland, a dynamic industrial hub bursting with confidence
and prosperity. But the next 100 years would severely test
the city. It would be torn apart by sectarian strife, while
even its most audacious achievements would become bywords
for tragedy: not for nothing is Frederick W Boal and
Stephen A Royle's impressive and comprehensive new book of
essays on 20th-century Belfast called Enduring City.

But while Belfast as a physical entity has survived in the
face of such adversity, its collective self-image has
suffered. As this most vigorous and least introspective of
Irish cities was overtaken by events, so it was unable to
forge a unifying cultural identity that might transcend its
fissures. As William J V Neill says in his essay Past and
Future: "A divided imagination was to be the enduring
legacy in Belfast throughout the 20th century."

The religious divide was the most obvious factor behind the
city's ambivalent self-image, but not the only one. A city
built on industry, it was always likely to encounter a
crisis of confidence once it hit hard times. As Royle
points out, its rise was remarkable - with limited
waterways and few raw materials, it was not a natural
industrial centre. But after dredging new navigation
channels, the city not only became Ireland's biggest port
by 1852, its shipbuilding and linen industries grew,
attracting ever more inhabitants.

Such spectacular growth was bound to cease eventually. Even
after diversifying to overcome an interwar decline of its
traditional industries, Belfast lost more than a quarter of
its manufacturing capacity between 1959 and 1971. For a
city whose raison d'ˆtre was such enterprise, it is not
surprising Belfast struggled to define itself in a post-
industrial world: much of the north of England did

These strains were exacerbated by its sectarian tensions.
Were it not for them, Titanic, that most famous product of
the Belfast shipyards, could have become a symbol of local
pride. But for many Catholics, largely confined to
unskilled employment, the shipbuilding industry's status as
a bastion of Protestant supremacy deprived the Titanic of
such sympathetic symbolism.

Such faultlines lurk in the architecture of the city, even
its most iconic buildings. Belfast City Hall, which
celebrates the centenary of its completion this year, was
intended as a suitably magnificent seat of local government
for a city at its peak. But it was also soon seen as a
citadel of unionist power: Belfast Corporation used the
building in 1913 during the campaign against the Home Rule

Of course, any chance of a shared identity was stymied in
the city's ever-more rigidly Protestant or Catholic
working-class neighbourhoods. Here, separate mythologies
reigned: the troops slaughtered at the Somme were fervently
memorialised in Protestant areas. Catholic areas fed on
rhetorical political and religious pieties while becoming
ever more detached from the institutions around them.

Little wonder, then, that those who sought to transcend
entrenched loyalties seemed to lose interest in the city.
Louis MacNeice, for one, may have scorned the "grey brick
upon brick" of Dublin, but the poet had little affection
for the hard certainties of his birthplace. Witness the
closing lines of his poem Belfast: The sun goes down with
the banging of Orange drums/ While the male kind murders
each its woman/ To whose prayer for oblivion answers no

Meanwhile, his fellow Belfast poet John Hewitt largely
turned his back on his hometown, relocating himself and his
art to the glens of Antrim in his quest for a tolerant
reimagining of Ulster. Even Brian Moore, who used his
native Belfast as the backdrop to his novels, was downbeat
in his depiction of its fractures. Certainly there is
nothing in the Belfast canon to match Joyce's exuberant
mythologising of Dublin.

Nor was Belfast to throw up a dramatic equivalent to Sean
O'Casey. Theatre played a big part in the physical make-up
of Belfast - the Grand Opera House, built in 1895, was more
impressive than any other Irish venue - but contributed
little to its collective consciousness. The new opera house
was more a society venue for Belfast's prosperous merchant
classes than a breeding ground for local talent. Touring
productions and variety shows dominated, with the populist
(and unapologetically Protestant) music-hall star James
Young its most prominent figure.

Pop music, on the other hand, drew on outside influences
with far more febrile results. As well as hosting showbands
from all over Ireland, Belfast also produced a pulsating
beat group scene in the early 1960s, with Van Morrison the
most famous alumnus. Indeed, it is no coincidence that
Morrison, with his openness to jazz and blues and
indifference to the divisions around him, should produce
arguably the most resonant vision of Belfast to date: his
album Astral Weeks evokes a city of aching memory and
unfulfilled longing.

Astral Weeks, of course, was recorded in New York in 1967:
by 1969, such portrayals were unthinkable, as the fabric of
the city was being torn apart by the Troubles. Belfast had
endured calamitous violence before: the internecine
violence of 1920-2 claimed 489 lives, while the blitz of
1941 killed more than a thousand and even fashioned a brief
bond of togetherness between the two communities. But the
Troubles utterly transformed the landscape of the city.

The IRA bombing campaign not only killed hundreds - Bloody
Friday, which saw nine people die in a series of blasts,
became a tragically transcendent symbol of the Troubles'
nihilism - but also reduced the city centre to a ghost town
as shops and pubs were gutted.

The trauma was compounded by the concurrent collapse of
Belfast's industrial heritage, as famous firms such as
Harland and Wolff and Shorts laid off thousands. That the
most famous Belfast-built products of the 1980s were sports
cars from the crooked John DeLorean's grant-aided factory
seemed a bitter epitaph for a city that placed a premium on
honest endeavour.

However, if the Troubles threw up ever more impermeable
barriers and replaced the city's sense of self-worth with
something more atavistic, it also produced imaginative
responses, often from the most unexpected quarters.

From the late 1970s, local punk bands such as Stiff Little
Fingers, the Outcasts and Rudi captured the frustration and
disaffection of those trapped by the Troubles, while
seeking the possibility of an "Alternative Ulster". Such
naive ambitions soon dissipated, but in its unifying
vibrancy Belfast punk marked a brave attempt at a
distinctively local vision, one that married the city's
ever-present energy with a fierce impulse to purge a
discredited past.

Since then, Belfast has struggled to find a satisfactory
identity that embraces its divided loyalties and shared
traumas. Even in the post-ceasefire city, the fissures
remain, with neighbourhoods more segregated than ever.
True, a resurgent city centre has seen its old trading
instincts rekindled, with shopping emporiums emerging as
new civic spaces of a more inclusive kind. However, such
shared experiences of normality may merely paper over
deeper cracks.

New, more mundane obstacles have emerged. As a result of
suburban migration, Belfast has become the most car-
dependent medium-sized city in western Europe, presenting
serious problems for urban regeneration. And, most
alarmingly for a city so long driven by enterprise, the
essayist Mark Hart highlights that Belfast now lags behind
the rest of Northern Ireland in entrepreneurial activity.

Even so, a new, if incipient, sense of a shared Belfast
identity may be making its presence felt. While poets such
as Michael Longley have long navigated their way through
their hometown's mores with inclusive awareness, younger
writers such as Glenn Patterson and Robert McLiam Wilson
have also engaged with Belfast in a fresh manner. Novels
such as Patterson's The International present an image of a
city where common values are more important than political
or religious values, while attempting to avoid glib

Whether such endeavours can reinvent Belfast's driven, but
often divisive, historical identity in a world of political
compromise and sedentary service industries remains to be
seen. Oddly enough, the recent death of George Best may
provide a better symbol for an enduring Belfast. As the
outpouring of grief crossed community lines, it was as if
Belfast had finally found a fitting icon: a man who, at his
best, let his actions do the talking, yet enchanted all
around him.

Enduring City: Belfast in the 20th Century is published by
Blackstaff Press


Hill Of Tara Campaigners March Against M3 Route

Last updated: 04-11-06, 14:11

Campaigners against the proposed new M3 motorway are
marching in Co Meath to voice their opposition to the
section of the road that will run close to the Hill of

The march in Navan has been organised by the Save Tara-
Skryne Valley Campaign, which says it aims to "create
awareness throughout Ireland and internationally that the
Tara Valley will be needlessly destroyed by the proposed

The 60km motorway from Clonee to Kells will bypass the busy
commuter towns of Dunshaughlin and Navan. It will cover
around 700 hectares of land and includes 50km of ancillary
and access roads.

Part of the motorway will run close to the Hill of Tara,
the historic seat of the High Kings. While the National
Roads Authority insists that the planned M3 will in fact be
further away from the Hill of Tara than the existing N3
route, campaigners say the Tara site covers a much wider,
unexplored area than the hill itself. They want the entire
site preserved.

Lawyer Vincent Salafia, a supporter of the campaign for an
alternative M3 route, recently decided not to pursue an
appeal against a High Court decision dismissing his case
against the chosen route.

Archaeological excavations are currently underway along the
route of the planned M3.

The existing National Primary N3 Dublin to Cavan road is
one of the principal routes linking Dublin to the north
west and the National Roads Authority insists it is
inadequate to meet current and future infrastructure needs.

Former arts and heritage minister Michael D Higgins
described Minister for the Environment Dick Roche's
approval for the M3 as "an appalling decision which will
affect...generations to come".

The campaign group TaraWatch is hosting a series of
lectures entitled Tara of the Kings at 12 noon each
Saturday at the Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland
(RSAI) Merrion Square in Dublin.

The series will be edited by Pulitzer Prize-winner
Professor Paul Muldoon, of Princeton University.

Aideen Ireland, President of RSAI said: "Over one hundred
years ago this Society campaigned vigorously to have ill
considered excavations by the British-Israelites on the
Hill of Tara stopped. On that occasion the excavations
ceased and the site was preserved. It would be a scandal if
Tara, saved on that occasion, were now to be sacrificed in
the interests of short-term progress."

c 2006


Revealed: Top Irish Who Are Not Who

Jan Battles

JOHN BRUTON, the former taoiseach and current EU ambassador
to Washington, doesn't make the cut, but Alan Bruton, a
Dublin hairdresser, does. The first edition of Who's Who
since 1999 has raised an even more pertinent question: Who
the hell is that? Despite promising details of more than
1,500 "influential Irish" and 250 leading Irish-Americans,
the weighty 2007 edition doesn't consider the former Fine
Gael leader to be one of the country's movers and shakers.

But Bruton, the owner of Reds salon, is described as "a
rare combination: first-class businessman and top-class
hair stylist; ambitious, a keen intellect, stylish, good
company; has one of the best clienteles in the country".

No doubt they provide a sympathetic ear while tending to
the tresses of Ireland's movers and shakers, but just how
much influence can hairdressers have? Bruton is one of five
crimpers nestling among the judges, barristers and
businessmen on the list. The book also boasts make-up
artists and hoteliers.

Bruton the diplomat's only mention is found in the entry
for Richard Bruton, Fine Gael's finance spokesman.

But the Meath man is not the only seemingly influential
figure whose name fails to appear. Also absent is the
former taoiseach Garret FitzGerald, who is still a leading
commentator as well as holding the position of chancellor
of the National University of Ireland. Missing too is Alan
Shatter, the country's top family lawyer. Judge Peter
Kelly, head of the commercial court, is another absentee,
as is Bob Geldof.

Angela Phelan, the editor of the book, said the entries
were selected from a long list of names put forward by a
panel of experts from various backgrounds and disciplines.
A similar panel selected Irish Americans for the book.

"We wanted people of influence regardless of what that
influence was - people who make a difference or might
change the perceived way of things," said Phelan. "People
from all walks of life from politics, judiciary, sport,
business, the arts - there is quite a cross section of
Irish society there."

Such broad selection criteria has thrown up some
inconsistencies and a rather haphazard collection. While
the fashion designers John Rocha, Paul Costelloe and Lainey
Keogh are included, Philip Treacy, the milliner from Galway
who has created hats for famous clients, is absent.

Stephen Rea, Gabriel Byrne and Liam Neeson are there, but
Brenda Fricker, Brendan Gleeson and Peter O'Toole are not.
Nor was there room for Cillian Murphy, star of The Wind
that Shakes the Barley, or Jonathan Rhys-Meyers, who won a
Golden Globe for his portrayal of Elvis and stars in a Hugo
Boss ad campaign, arguably one of Ireland's hottest young
actors of the moment alongside Colin Farrell, who does
feature. But Yasmine Akram, a 25-year-old actress from
Drogheda who is studying at Rada, is included.

Other notable absentees include Roddy Doyle, whose
Barrytown trilogy was turned into films such as The
Commitments, and Eoin Colfer, whose Artemis Fowl books have
sold millions. Cecelia Ahern, daughter of the taoiseach,
does make the grade.

Ireland's golfers Padraig Harrington Paul McGinley and
Darren Clarke are there, but there is no place for
footballers Roy Keane, Robbie Keane or Damien Duff.

In her introduction to the tome, Phelan writes: "One of the
changes reflected here is the increasing influence of women
in every walk of life. We have a wonderful woman as
president of Ireland, and until recently as formidable
tanaiste." But there is no place for Mary Robinson, the
first woman president and a former United Nations human
rights high commissioner.

Gay Byrne, a broadcasting legend and now chairman of the
Road Safety Authority, is not in the book. His namesake
Claire Byrne, who prompted a legal battle when she left TV3
for Newstalk, is listed.

"Obviously there had to be a cut-off point somewhere," said
Phelan. "It was a selection process. Gay Byrne was omitted
because he had retired and hadn't taken on his job with the
Road Safety Authority. Mary Robinson's influence is outside
of Ireland now. John Bruton is EU ambassador in Washington
- we didn't include any of our ambassadors posted abroad.
His influence is essentially outside of Ireland now."

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