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November 30, 2006

SF To End Assembly Session Boycott

News About Ireland & The Irish

BT 11/30/06 SF To End Its Assembly Sessions Boycott
IT 11/30/06 Adams Outlines Conditions For Policing Debate
BT 11/30/06 SF Ready To Meet Orde
BT 11/30/06 I'm Ready: Orde
BB 11/30/06 Omagh Trial Charges Move Rejected
IN 11/30/06 Explosive Report Soon To Be Published
IN 11/30/06 Accused Freed From Attempted Murder Charge
IN 11/30/06 Families Welcome Collusion Findings
BN 11/30/06 Ahern To Meet Miami Showband Families
BB 11/30/06 Victim's Mother To Meet Paisley
UT 11/30/06 Durkan Concern At Collusion Claims
IN 11/30/06 Nationalist Anger Over Parade Near Flashpoint
IN 11/30/06 Massacre Collusion Claims ‘Fanciful’ Says MEP
UT 11/30/06 DUP Reject Collusion Claims
BT 11/30/06 Levels Of Business Extortion Up Since GFA
BT 11/30/06 Wilson: DUP Not Using 11+ As Bargaining Chip
BN 11/30/06 ICCL: Govt Should Not Accept US Assurances
BN 11/30/06 Russian Improving After Falling Ill In Dublin
IN 11/30/06 Opin: Time Won’t Change Stark Choice DUP Faces
IN 11/30/06 Opin: Thanks For The New Police, Ian
BT 11/30/06 Opin: Universal Revulsion Over Stone Attack
BT 11/30/06 30,000 BA Passengers Alerted Re: Radiation
BT 11/30/06 Support Network Founded In Tribute To SF MLA
BT 11/30/06 Nothing Left To Chance As Belfast Goes Online
BT 11/30/06 Horrific Ordeal From Flesh-Eating Bug
BT 11/30/06 A Glimpse Into The Irish Writer's Mind
IN 11/30/06 End Of An Era As Family Shoemakers Closes Down
HC 11/30/06 Plenty To Stew About In Dublin


Sinn Fein To End Its Assembly Sessions Boycott

By Noel McAdam
30 November 2006

Sinn Fein is set to drop its boycott of Assembly sessions,
it emerged last night, clearing the way to a return of full
debates at Stormont.

A senior Sinn Fein source said: "We have to recognise that
the Transitional Assembly is not the same as the so-called
Hain Assembly earlier in the year.

"Also, Martin McGuinness is now Deputy First Minister
designate, having accepted the nomination, so things have

The source added: "We haven't taken a definitive decision
yet, but it is likely we will be in attendance."

Secretary of State Peter Hain repeatedly forbade Assembly
sessions on a whole range of issues in recent months
because of the republican 'stay away' strategy.

Sinn Fein argued the debates were a distraction from the
main task of restoring devolution.

Now the new Assembly, whose writ runs until the end of
January, will next Tuesday debate the public administration
review which includes the reduction of the present 26
councils to seven - unless Mr Hain uses his powers of veto.

A UUP motion questioning the "interference" of Mr Hain on
the supposed nominations for First and Deputy First
Minister last Friday is also likely to spark a full debate
on Monday.

UUP leader Sir Reg Empey said it was time for "the control
freaks of the Northern Ireland Office to let go" and give
the Assembly more independence. Earlier this week, Mr Hain
overturned a business committee decision by instructing the
speaker that Martin McGuinness should be allowed to speak
in accepting his nomination last Friday.


Adams Outlines Conditions For Policing Debate

Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams has outlined the requirements
the party says it needs if it is to hold a special party
conference to debate the endorsement of the PSNI within the
timetable envisaged in the St Andrews plan.

In an article published in today's edition of An Phoblacht,
Mr Adams said he needed a definite date for the transfer of
policing and justice powers from Westminster to Stormont,
agreement on the type of devolved government department
that would handle them and MI5 to be excluded from any
civic policing role.

He also offered to meet PSNI Chief Constable Sir Hugh Orde
and the Rev Ian Paisley's Democratic Unionists in a bid to
break the political impasse.

Mr Adams stated: "I am committed to calling a meeting of
the Sinn Féin ardchomhairle immediately when these issues
are resolved.

"This ardchomhairle meeting will be for the purpose of
convening a special ard fheis within the timeframe set out
at St Andrews. However, let me be equally clear that I will
not go to the ardchomhairle to seek a special ardfheis
unless I have the basis to do so," he wrote.

Mr Adams welcomed Dr Paisley's signal last Friday that he
would take up the post of Stormont first minister and share
power with Sinn Féin if all outstanding issues in the peace
process were resolved and the electorate wanted him to.

Mr Adams said while he did not underestimate the challenge
this presented to republicans and nationalists, he was also
aware of the challenge it presented to Mr Paisley and the

However, he insisted all the obstacles to power sharing
could be removed, including policing, if the political will
was there.

Insisting his party wanted a new experience of policing, he
said what would be central to achieving that goal would be
the ability of locally elected politicians to exercise
power and accountability at a devolved government level.

It was unreasonable, he argued, to expect politicians to
take responsibility for policing and justice and have no
real authority over the issues. "Local politicians would
not agree to run the health service without authority over
it," the Sinn Féin leader argued.

"This isn't rocket science. It is about parties taking
straightforward and practical decisions."

Mr Adams said it was unsustainable and bogus for senior DUP
negotiators to argue the devolution of policing and justice
powers could not be resolved for several political
lifetimes because there was no trust. None of the political
parties trusted each other, he claimed.

Very few nationalists or republicans, he said, trusted the
agencies of the North, including the police. However Mr
Adams acknowledged significant progress had been made in
making the PSNI more accountable.

Nevertheless the Sinn Féin president insisted the PSNI
still had a lot to do to gain the confidence of
nationalists. "We need to take control of policing and
justice away from London," he argued.


SF Ready To Meet Orde As Party Edges Closer To Policing

Brian Rowan

Gerry Adams is preparing the republican movement for
another major decision. Security writer Brian Rowan reports

30 November 2006

It seems it is one more step towards the inevitable -
another republican foot inside the policing door.

We know the pattern now. At moments of decision for
republicans, especially on difficult issues, it is Gerry
Adams who sets out the argument.

And where does he do it? Well, usually in the republican
newspaper, An Phoblacht.

This is where he talks to his own.

We have seen it before in the process of getting ready for
ceasefires, for decommissioning, for ending the armed

This time it's about policing - the biggest issue of all as
far as republicans are concerned.

Mr Adams is not saying that there is a done deal - but he
is saying it can be done, and, if the outstanding issues
are resolved, that it can be done within the St Andrews

It's a big IF. And for republicans there are two big issues
- the transfer of powers to local politicians and the
future role of MI5 and how that crosses over into policing.

As part of the overall discussion, Sinn Fein is now
prepared to meet with the Chief Constable and, one assumes,
with his senior officers.

This is the foot inside the policing door.

Yes, it has been done before, but there was political cover
on those occasions - in Downing Street, at Hillsborough and

What is now being talked about is different. This is a
direct dialogue on the policing issues that fall within the
Chief Constable's remit.

He is ready for the discussion.

"My people have got to be able to talk to their people and
at every level," Sir Hugh told the Belfast Telegraph.

"All I ask is that my people are given the opportunity to
protect all communities," he continued.

"Don't judge us by the past. Judge us by what we do now.
That's all I ask."

And what about that issue of MI5?

Well, the Chief Constable doesn't take long to answer.

"National security is about international terrorism and if
people think the island of Ireland is immune from
international terrorism, then they need to wise up."

The issues that Gerry Adams raises about MI5 can be
settled. Listen to what he is saying.

There can be no role for MI5 in civic policing.

There won't be. They are too busy doing other things - the
business of monitoring the threat posed by international
terrorism, which means 1,600 individuals under surveillance
across the UK.

MI5 has 2,850 staff, and, as a source said to me recently:
"You can do the maths."

Mr Adams says: "The PSNI cannot serve two masters. Neither
can there ever again be a force within a force."

Around a hundred police officers will be attached to the
Security Service in its new Northern Ireland headquarters
at Palace Barracks in Holywood.

The big issue is its accountability within the policing
structure and how precisely that is protected.

This is the focus of continuing negotiation.

The more complicated issue is the "definitive timeframe"
that republicans want for the transfer of policing and
justice powers to local politicians.

This requires the agreement of the DUP - something that is
not on offer at this time.

Is there any wriggle room in all of this?

Is there some middle ground?

Can the work that Mr Adams and the Sinn Fein leadership
have to do be achieved with something that is less than

This is what we now have to watch for. It is the main
business of the talking that once again will be taken right
down to the political wire.

Mr Adams is getting ready, or more accurately is getting
others ready, for the big decision that will soon have to
be made one way or the other.

Inside a special Sinn Fein conference, he is prepared to
lead the republican debate on this most sensitive of all
issues - the argument that says they have to support and
participate in policing.

Today he is spelling out just how quickly all of this can
be done - as quickly as the British and Irish Governments
in the St Andrews Agreement suggested it should be done.

That means sooner rather than later. It means answering the
policing question before the March election.

But that can only be achieved in the right circumstances.
Mr Adams and Mr McGuinness are not going to ask for a vote,
are not going to go before a special Sinn Fein conference
unless they are certain they can win.

Are they certain?

Not as things sit today - but republicans are moving
towards the inevitable and are prepared - if the right
context can be achieved - to take the steps that will mean
participation on the policing boards and joining the PSNI.


I'm Ready: Orde

PSNI chief responds to Adams' direct talks offer

By Brian Rowan and Noel McAdam
30 November 2006

Northern Ireland's most senior police officer, Hugh Orde,
today said he was ready for face-to-face talks with Sinn
Fein as that party moves ever closer to participation in

In an article published today, Sinn Fein president Gerry
Adams said he was committed to trying to deal with the
policing issue - and to do so "within the timeframe set out
at St Andrews".

That means going to a special party conference soon but
only if he gets the answers he wants on MI5 as well as a
date for the transfer of policing and justice powers to
local politicians.

Writing in the Sinn Fein weekly newspaper An Phoblacht, Mr
Adams said his party would "intensify our contact with the
British Government".

He added: "We are prepared to meet with the PSNI Chief
Constable Hugh Orde on issues that fall within his remit."

Sir Hugh has met Mr Adams and other senior Sinn Fein
leaders in the past but usually in wider meetings at which
the Government has also been represented.

Now, republicans are ready for more direct dialogue across
a range of policing issues with the Chief Constable.

"My people have got to be able to talk to their people and
at every level openly about all the issues that people are
concerned about," the PSNI chief told the Belfast

"Policing isn't political. It is about people who need

"All I ask is that my people are given the opportunity to
protect all communities. Don't judge us by the past. Judge
us by what we do now. That's all I ask."

On the big question of MI5's future role here, he said:
"National security is about international terrorism and, if
people think the island of Ireland is immune from
international terrorism, then they need to wise up."

Around 100 PSNI officers will be attached to the security
service at its new Northern Ireland headquarters at Palace
Barracks in Holywood.

However, Mr Adams insisted in his article: "There is no
role for MI5 in civic policing. The PSNI cannot serve two
masters. Neither can there ever again be a force within a

The article sets a Sinn Fein context for resolving the
policing question and achieving republican support and
participation. It does not guarantee a deal.

The DUP is not prepared to set a date for the transfer of
policing and justice powers. But to sell policing to the
Sinn Fein support base, Mr Adams argued that he needed not
only a date for the devolution of policing and justice -
there is currently only a target date of May 2008 in the St
Andrews Agreement - but detail of how such a department
would work and certainty that control had been wrested from

Mr Adams argued it was unreasonable to expect politicians
to take responsibility for policing and justice but have no
real authority over it.

"Local politicians would not agree to run the health
service without authority over it," he said.

Following criticism from Secretary of State Peter Hain, Mr
Adams also reiterated his willingness to sit down with the

Mr Hain urged Sinn Fein to hold its ard fheis before the
Assembly elections on March 7.

He also said that comments from senior DUP figures that
unionist confidence in republican involvement in policing
could take a political lifetime were "unhelpful".


Omagh Trial Charges Move Rejected

The judge in the Omagh bomb trial has rejected an
application to dismiss some of the charges facing Sean

His defence team has claimed there had been "a conspiracy"
by a number of police officers to "bury" evidence.

Mr Justice Weir said "the "credibility and reliabilty" of
witnesses DS Philip Marshall and forensic officer Fiona
Cooper had been brought into question.

However, he said that "any predjudice could be dealt with
within the trial process".

The judge declared the conduct of the two police witnesses
was "reprehensible".

Mr Hoey denies the 29 murders in Omagh and more Real IRA

On Wednesday, his lawyer, Orlando Pownall QC, claimed
officers had perjured themselves in court.

He said it would not be fair to try Mr Hoey on two charges
linked to a mortar find at Altmore Forest, near Dungannon,
in April 2001.

The application follows allegations that witness statements
had been doctored to give the impression that certain
forensic precautions had been taken at the scene, where
photographs appeared to indicate that they had not.

Mr Pownall said there had been a "clear indication of a
unity of purpose known as a conspiracy" to beef up

In reply, prosecution lawyer Gordon Kerr acknowledged there
had been "impropriety" in the way witness statements had
been submitted.

However, he said there was no prejudice to Mr Hoey because
the issue had been exposed and explored at trial.

Mr Hoey, 37, of Molly Road, Jonesborough, County Armagh,
faces 58 charges in all.

The rest refer to a series of bombings and bomb finds
between 1998-2001.

The trial continues.

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2006/11/30 11:55:13 GMT


Explosive Report Soon To Be Published

By Bimpe Fatogun

AN EXPECTED explosive report by the Police Ombudsman into
loyalist murders linked to the Mount Vernon UVF has a
provisional publication date of the third week of January

Nuala O’Loan’s office had originally hoped to release the
findings of their investigation, which is expected to be
highly damaging to police and the British government, some
time over the summer.

However, it had to lodge more material with the Public
Prosecution Service (PPS), which itself has been examining
a preliminary version of the report and deciding whether to
press charges.

The ombudsman’s investigation was mounted following a
complaint by the father of UVF murder victim Raymond

The 22-year-old former RAF man was beaten to death and his
body dumped in a Co Antrim quarry.

Special Branch informer Mark Haddock, who was last week
found guilty of GBH for an attack on a Newtownabbey
doorman, is alleged to have sanctioned the murder.

However, the ombudsman’s probe has broadened beyond the
killing of Mr McCord and is said to have uncovered
“explosive and damning” evidence linking Haddock to a
string of sectarian murders in north Belfast while
operating as an RUC Special Branch informer.

A number of officers of the controversial unit, which has
been dubbed a ‘force within a force’, are understood to
have been implicated in a cover-up of at least 12 killings
during the 1990s.

It is believed to be the ombudsman’s largest investigation

The PPS will decide whether or not anyone accused of
wrongdoing will be brought before the courts.

If it directs no prosecution, any officers under suspicion
who have since left the police will not face any action.


Accused Freed From Attempted Murder Charge

By Staff Reporter

A man accused of attempting to murder former UVF leader and
police agent Mark Haddock has walked free after the charge
was dropped.

Darren Moore (36), from Mount Vernon Park in

north Belfast, said he may attempt to sue police after a
prosecution lawyer withdrew the charge without explanation
at the city’s magistrates court yesterday.

A week ago, the charge was also withdrawn against Moore’s
co-accused Ronald Bowe (29), also from Mount Vernon Park.

The pair had been in custody since June, when Haddock
survived an assassination attempt in which he was shot six

Haddock, who has been linked to a series of murders in
north Belfast while a Special Branch agent, was jailed for
10 years last week for an attack on night

club bouncer Trevor Gowdy in December 2002.

Moore was also charged in connection with the assault,
although proceedings against him were stayed, leaving
Haddock to face the charges alone.

Both Haddock and Moore, friends since their teenage years,
were jailed for three years in 1997 after pleading guilty
to taking part in an attack on the Golden Hind bar in
Portadown during a UVF/LVF feud.

Moore’s solicitor Eileen Ewing told the court yesterday the
prosecution had ignored repeated requests

to state whether or not Haddock had made a

statement of complaint about the attempt on his own life.

“It is only now that we know they were told as far back as
June that he did not intend to pursue the matter,” Ms Ewing

Outside the court Moore said: “Haddock phoned my father on
June 16 and told him he would not be making a statement of
complaint to the police. He said ‘everything would be all

“Despite that I have been held under 23-hour lock-up in
Maghaberry for nearly six months.

“Why was I kept in custody all this time when the police
knew from the very beginning that this case was not going
to come to a full hearing?

“I will be taking legal advice about what steps I should
now take, including a claim for compensation for false
imprisonment,” he said.


Families Welcome Collusion Findings

By Valerie Robinson Southern Correspondent

An Oireachtas committee has found that British security
forces colluded with loyalists to carry out a series of gun
and bomb attacks in the Republic.

Victims’ families last night welcomed the findings
contained in the committee’s report but expressed
disappointment that it had fallen short of ordering a full
public inquiry into the killings.

The so-called Glenanne Gang, which contained UDR and RUC
members, is believed to have been behind most of the UVF
attacks covered in the report.

The attacks looked at by the committee include the bombing
of Kay’s Tavern in Dundalk, Dublin Airport, the Three Star
Inn in Castleblayney, and an attack on the Miami Showband.

The committee found “the spectre of collusion” in the

Maura McKeever, whose father Jack Rooney was among two men
killed in the 1975 Dundalk bombing, said: “Although the
committee did a great job, we’re still convinced that a
public inquiry is necessary to get at the full truth.”

Alan Brecknell, a researcher for the Pat Finucane Centre
whose father Trevor died in a gun and bomb attack on
Donnelly’s Bar in Silverbridge, Co Armagh, called on
secretary of state Peter Hain to “release the documents
which to date have been withheld from the Irish Government,
NGOs and families”.

“It’s time to come clean on the links between the northern
security forces and loyalist paramilitaries,” he added.

Oireachtas committee chairman Sean Ardagh last night said
members had been left in “no doubt” that “widespread”
collusion had taken place in a series of attacks in the
Republic in the 1970s.

Their findings were based on public hearings on the fourth
report by Justice Henry Barron on murderous attacks by
loyalist paramilitaries three decades ago.

Official British Army documents from London’s National
Archive suggesting between five per cent and 15 per cent of
the UDR were also loyalist paramilitaries formed part of
the bulk of evidence reviewed by the committee.

Details of the documents’ contents was revealed by The
Irish News earlier this year.

Mr Ardagh said the committee was convinced that collusion
had taken place in “many if not all of the atrocities”
investigated in the final Barron report.

“We are horrified that persons who were employed by the
British administration to preserve peace and to protect
people were engaged in the creation of violence and the
butchering of innocent victims,” he said.

“The committee believes that unless the full truth about
collusion is established, and those involved either admit
or are fixed with responsibility then there cannot be
closure for the families.”

The committee also concluded that the state should have
done more to assist the victims of atrocities during the

Taoiseach Bertie Ahern said he had been in contact with the
British government, adding it was “essential” that it
examines the report findings and cooperates with “all
investigations into the serious issues that have arisen”.

He said that the attacks had taken place in a “dark and
tragic period of the history of this island”, adding that
the findings of the latest report were “deeply troubling”
and painted “a very disturbing picture”.

He supported a call by the Oireachtas committee for a full
debate in the Dail and Seanad on collusion, adding that he
planned to meet a group representing victims and survivors
of the Miami Showband killings today.


Ahern To Meet Miami Showband Families

30/11/2006 - 07:25:22

Taoiseach Bertie Ahern will meet members of the Miami
Showband Families today.

The Miami Showband atrocity was one of the most shocking
events in the North’s Troubles, resulting in the killing of
three band members.

The Taoiseach is expected to discuss the Report on the
Dundalk Bombings of 1975 by the Joint Oireachtas Committee
which was launched yesterday.

In July 1975, the Ulster Volunteer Force gunned down three
members of the Miami Showband after a bomb attack the
loyalist gang was planning backfired, killing two of their

The showband, who were one of the country’s most popular
live bands in the 1970s, were returning from performing at
a dance in Banbridge, Co Down, when their minibus was
flagged down by men dressed in army uniforms on the road to
border town of Newry.

Band members were told to line up in a ditch while UVF
members posing as Ulster Defence Regiment members tried to
plant a bomb inside the minibus which they hoped would
explode later on as the musicians headed home to Dublin.

As the gang loaded the bomb, the musicians were asked for
their names and addresses but it exploded prematurely,
killing two UVF members Harris Boyle and Wesley

After the explosion, the UVF gang was ordered to open fire
on the band, killing lead singer Fran O'Toole, trumpet
player Tony Geraghty and Brian McCoy.

Guitarist Stephen Travers and Des Lee survived.


Victim's Mother To Meet Paisley

DUP leader Ian Paisley is due to meet the mother of one of
the so-called Disappeared.

Vera McVeigh's son Columba, 17, was kidnapped, murdered and
secretly buried by the IRA in 1975.

Mr Paisley was contacted by the late Monsignor Denis Faul,
a campaigner for the Disappeared, asking for his help.

In July, Mr Paisley said Fr Faul had told him not to give
in until the families of the Disappeared had retrieved
their loved ones' remains.

The meeting was set up by the DUP peer Lord Morrow.

Columba McVeigh's younger brother, Oliver, said that his
mother talked about her murdered son every day, and needed

He said that they hoped the involvement of the DUP leader
would help his family and the other families of the

"They can certainly apply more pressure on Sinn Fein/IRA
and on the two governments because there's going to be no
closure for our families unless they turn up the bodies,"
he said.

"If anyone saw my mother - seen the state she was in, they
would certainly want it to happen and I'm sure the other
families would be the same."

In 2003, Mrs McVeigh said she had given up hope of ever
finding her son's body.

She was speaking as police completed a 14-day excavation at
bogland at Bragan near Emyvale, County Monaghan.

The operation was the third dig in the area and followed
new information passed to the Irish Government by the IRA.

In 1999, the IRA offered to help locate the bodies of the
nine Disappeared. Three victims were found in 1999 while
one was uncovered in 2003.

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2006/11/30 08:54:32 GMT


Durkan Concern At Collusion Claims

Prime Minister Tony Blair faced more demands to look into
claims by an Irish Parliamentary Committee that there was
endemic collusion by members of the security forces in
Northern Ireland in loyalist murders.

By:Press Association

Nationalist SDLP leader Mark Durkan vowed to raise in the
House of Commons the naming in the Joint Oireachtas
Committee`s report of loyalists and members of the security
forces involved in murders on both sides of the border.

The Foyle MP joined Bertie Ahern in calling on Downing
Street to examine collusion as the Irish Prime Minister
prepared to meet relatives of three members of the Miami
Showband who were killed in 1975 in one of the most
shocking incidents in the Troubles.

Mr Durkan said the Dublin Parliamentary committee had been
clear and forthright in the way it itemised the nature and
extent of collusion.

"The activities of the infamous Glennane gang were recently
brought fully into the light thanks to the efforts of the
Pat Finucane Centre, and now the considered view of a
parliamentary committee is that collusion was endemic,
there was extensive evidence of that collusion at the time,
and elements in the British security forces were engaged in
international terrorism," the SDLP leader noted.

"The British Government must heed the call of the Taoiseach
and the Pat Finucane Centre to examine the findings of the
committee and take appropriate action.

"We owe a debt to the families of the victims of the Dublin
and Monaghan bombings who have pursued this case over the
years to the point where the truth is at last beginning to

The Miami Showband were one of Ireland`s most popular live
bands in the 1970s.

They were returning from performing at a dance in
Banbridge, Co Down, when their minibus was flagged down by
men dressed in army uniforms on the road to the border town
of Newry.

Band members were told to line up in a ditch while UVF
members posing as Ulster Defence Regiment members tried to
plant a bomb inside the minibus which they hoped would
explode later on as the musicians headed home to Dublin.

As the gang loaded the bomb, the musicians were asked for
their names and addresses but it exploded prematurely,
killing two UVF members Harris Boyle and Wesley

After the explosion, the UVF gang opened fire on the band,
killing lead singer Fran O`Toole, trumpet player Tony
Geraghty and Brian McCoy.

Guitarist Stephen Travers and Des Lee survived.

The Joint Oireachtas Committee chaired by Fianna Fail TD
Sean Ardagh focused on nine loyalist murders which killed
18 people during the 1970s on both sides of the border.

Among the other incidents they examined were the bombing of
Kay`s Tavern in Dundalk, the murder of three members of the
Reavey family in Markethill Co Armagh and the murders of
three members of the O`Dowd family in Gilford Co Down.

The committee said: "We believe there is an abundance of
information to suggest that there was reasonable if not
significant, knowledge on this side of the border that
British security personnel were working with, and as,
loyalist paramilitaries.

"The fact that little or nothing was done to address this
is, to put it mildly, alarming."

It was scathing about the British Government`s refusal to
co-operate with investigations into allegations of
collusion in the incidents.

Mr Ahern said the report`s findings were disturbing, deeply
troubling and a matter of the most serious concern.

The Taoiseach said it was vital the British Government now
co-operated with all investigations.


Nationalist Anger Over Parade Near Flashpoint

By Staff Reporter

THE Parades Commission has been urged to reverse a decision
allowing an Apprentice Boys feeder parade to pass close to
a nationalist area of Castlederg.

Thousands of Apprentice Boys are expected to attend the
annual Closing of the Gates ceremony in Derry this
Saturday, at which an effigy of loyalist hate figure
Governor Robert Lundy is traditionally burned.

But while the main parade is expected to pass off
peacefully in the city, there are concerns about a feeder
march in the Co Tyrone town of Castlederg the same day.

Sinn Fein councillor Charlie McHugh said nationalists were
shocked that the Parades Commission has given permission
for Apprentice Boys to march close to a nationalist area.

He said the same parade last year ended with clashes
between police and nationalists.

“The Parades Commission must overturn this unbelievable
decision,” Mr McHugh said.

Up to 5,000 Apprentice Boys are expected to be accompanied
by a large number of supporters at the main march through
Derry on Saturday.

Businessman Garvan O’Doherty, who chairs talks involving
the loyal order and Derry’s Bogside Residents’ Group, said
a lot of work has gone on behind the scenes to ensure it
passes off without incident.

Mr O’Doherty said a number of meetings have been held and
he was satisfied the day would be peaceful.

DUP assembly member and prominent Apprentice Boy Willie Hay
also said a great deal of effort has been put into
organising Saturday’s march.

“We are planning for a very good day and hopefully we would
like to get to a point where the parade will pass off

“Of course it is very hard to plan for every eventuality
but as far as we are concerned we have done everything we

Mr Hay said the Apprentice Boys have made a number of
changes to facilitate business owners in Derry, including
moving the march forward by two weeks and ending
proceedings earlier in the day.

He said the issue of feeder parades was being dealt with by
Apprentice Boys clubs, although the organisation’s
leadership was prepared to give whatever advice it could.

Saturday’s main parade sets off from Waterside railway
station at around 11.30am.

The day’s events are expected to continue until 4pm.

Police have warned there will be traffic restrictions at
certain times of the day.


Massacre Collusion Claims ‘Fanciful’ Says MEP

By Staff Reporter

A Northern Ireland MEP yesterday denounced a European
Parliament visit by the families of six men murdered in a
loyalist massacre as a Sinn Fein “coat-trailing exercise”.

Families of six men shot dead by the UVF as they watched a
1994 World Cup match in a bar in Loughinisland, Co Down,
joined Sinn Fein’s Bairbre de Brun and Caitriona Ruane for
a series of meetings with MEPs yesterday to highlight their
concerns about security force collusion in the attack.

But while Jim Allister, described the Loughinsiland
shootings as an outrage, he also claimed the allegations of
collusion were outlandish and said they proved Sinn Fein
was insincere about dealing with the past.

“Yesterday’s coat-trailing exercise in Brussels by Sinn
Fein, based on outlandish claims about collusion in the
Loughinisland murders, in itself shows how insincere Sinn
Fein is about moving forward,” he said.

“The Loughinisland murders, like all terrorist crimes, were
indeed a terrible outrage, whose perpetrators deserve to be
convicted and severely punished – through the judicial
process which Sinn Fein refuses to support.”

Ms Ruane branded the Democratic Unionist MEP’s comments
insensitive and insulting to the Loughinisland families and
accused Mr Allister of making a number of obnoxious
statements in the European Parliament.


DUP Reject Collusion Claims

Irish authorities demanding action from the British
Government over damning new evidence of security force
collusion in a series of loyalist terrorist murders during
the 1970's were tonight told: Get your own house in order

Jeffrey Donaldson, a Democratic Unionist MP who once served
in the Ulster Defence Regiment, defended the organisation
and police in the face of a devastating dossier of
collaboration in paramilitary bombings and shootings in the
Irish Republic.

After studying Mr Justice Henry Barron`s report into 18
murders, an Irish Parliamentary Committee concluded that
collusion was widespread.

Irish Premier Bertie Ahern described the report as "deeply
troubling", stressing how his administration had
consistently pressed the British Government for any co-
operation it could provide on these incidents.

But although Mr Donaldson accepted that rogue elements were
involved in atrocities such as the 1975 Miami Showband
massacre, he insisted it did not prove that systematic
security force plotting with the loyalists took place.

He said: "There`s no evidence that these individuals were
acting under the direction of anyone within the security

"It could also be claimed that there`s evidence of
collusion between security forces south of the border and
the provisional IRA in a number of cases.

"I would say to the Irish Government, you should be very
cautious about pointing the finger at the security forces
in Northern Ireland.

"They might be better served at this stage inquiring into
allegations of collusion in their own territory.

"There`s a lot of grey areas here and people should be wary
about seeking to build a case based on considerable

Mr Donaldson, who served in the UDR for five years,
insisted the regiment`s integrity remains intact.

"Just because there were a few rogue elements, as indeed
there were south of the border, does not mean to say any
organisation like the UDR or the RUC was corrupted by
collusion. I simply believe that was not the case."

But the Pat Finucane Centre, a human rights lobby group in
Northern Ireland, demanded immediate action from the
British Government.

Its researcher Alan Brecknell, whose father died in a gun
and bomb attack carried out by loyalists in south Armagh,
allegedly with security force assistance, called on
Northern Ireland secretary Peter Hain to disclose all
available documents to the Irish authorities and victims`

He added: "It`s time to come clean on the links between the
northern security forces and loyalist paramilitaries.


Levels Of Extortion Against Business Is Up Since GFA

By Jonathan McCambridge
30 November 2006

The level of paramilitary extortion rackets has increased
in Northern Ireland since the Good Friday Agreement of
1998, a senior police analyst has claimed.

Small businesses are being forced to pay up to £10,000 a
month to paramilitaries who threaten them with violence and
intimidation, according to Bridget Lloyd, assistant
director of analytical services at the PSNI.

Writing in the current edition of Economic Outlook And
Business Review, Ms Lloyd said the sophistication of
organised crime in Northern Ireland had been influenced
significantly by paramilitary involvement.

In an article entitled Extortion - The Cost Of Doing
Business In Northern Ireland?, she said: "It is hard to
assess the scale and scope of this problem [extortion] in
NI, as it is grossly underreported to police.

"What is clear is that extortion is prevalent in many parts
of Northern Ireland and that its overall impact on
businesses, individuals and on the community as a whole is

She added: "Traditionally, demands were made on behalf of
the organisation, very often under the guise of prisoners'
welfare, but the release of most of the paramilitary
prisoners following the Good Friday Agreement (GFA) has not
led to any diminution in levels of extortion; if anything
the problem has increased with individual members and
former members operating independently but using their
terrorist credentials to increase the fear factor for their

"It is suggested they are operating with the knowledge of
their leadership of their organisations on the
understanding that they will not be afforded any
organisational support if caught."

Ms Lloyd said extortion often begins with two or three
individuals visiting a firm and making an "invitation" to
buy security services. New businesses are asked for a one-
off payment with subsequent regular payments.

She said: "Typical demands are in the region of £50-£100 a
month for small retail outlets, £1,000-£10,000 for small
businesses and private individuals and there is no upper
limit for demands of larger, often multinational,

Ms Lloyd also said extortion rackets were run exclusively
by men. No woman in Northern Ireland has ever been
convicted of an extortion offence.

She said: "The vast majority of individuals convicted for
extortion offences have previous convictions for other
types of crime; a large proportion of extortionists have a
tendency to violent crime and lawlessness."

She said the local building trade was the worst affected,
with fast-food outlets, restaurants and licensed premises,
car dealerships and retail outlets also targeted.

The PSNI Extortion Unit has a helpline. Call (028) 9092

Extortion and protection rackets are not unique to ulster
and can have global implications, according to psni analyst
bridget lloyd

• The Italian Mafia is estimated to make millions through
protection money, bribes and illegal money- lending,
putting the organisation on a par with some of the biggest
companies on Italy's Stock Exchange

• Known as sokaiya, corporate extortion is widespread in
Japan. Extortionists threaten to disrupt a company's
shareholder meeting by asking awkward questions or
attacking shareholders unless the company pays their demand

• In February of this year, a federal grand jury in Seattle
indicted five members of the Hells Angels motorcycle club
for racketeering and related offences

• The tourism industry in Nepal is reported to have been
hit hard by Maoist insurgents demanding large sums of money
to allow hotel and tour operators to continue to trade

• In April, 19 people were indicted for extortion, money
laundering, theft and illegal trading after a network,
believed to be taking its orders from and generating funds
for Hezbollah in Lebanon, was uncovered in Michigan

• In June, 12 members of the Basque separatist group ETA,
accused of being part of an extortion network, were
arrested in Spain and France


Wilson: DUP Not Using 11-Plus As Bargaining Chip

Democratic Unionists' education spokesman rejects claims of
Queen's University professor

By Kathryn Torney
30 November 2006

The DUP has hit back at claims that the party is using
academic selection as a bargaining chip in a game of
political poker.

In an article written for Tuesday's Belfast Telegraph,
Professor Tony Gallagher, head of the School of Education
at Queen's University, was strongly critical of attempts to
retain selection as a means of determining which children
get into grammar schools.

He said that Northern Ireland could have one of the best
education systems in the Western world if Government plans
to scrap academic selection went ahead.

If power sharing is restored next March, the Government
will halt its plans to scrap academic selection and will
leave it up to the Assembly to agree on a way to transfer
primary pupils to post-primary schools. The current 11-plus
test is due to be scrapped in 2008.

Speaking from Westminster, DUP education spokesman Sammy
Wilson said: "I am glad that Professor Gallagher has
recognised that the DUP is at the forefront of fighting for
the maintenance of our excellent system of education here
in Northern Ireland.

"We utterly reject however the criticism that, by insisting
on this issue being addressed in the talks at St Andrews,
we were using selection as a bargaining chip.

"The issue was important because, to date, decisions have
been taken by a well-placed cabal of ideologists who are
intent on destroying all that is good about our education

Mr Wilson said a recent Sunday Times article showed that
Northern Ireland was "punching well above its weight" in
terms of educational performance.

He added: "Rather than turning our backs on the working-
class electorate as Professor Gallagher suggests, it is a
system of merit and academic selection which gives working-
class children the opportunity to progress to grammar
schools - an opportunity which does not exist for working-
class children in England, Wales or Scotland.

"Our party has put forward numerous proposals for a way
forward for all types of schools.

"We are not just fighting for grammar schools," Mr Wilson


ICCL Says Govt Should Not Simply Accept US Assurances

30/11/2006 - 12:03:04

The Irish Council for Civil Liberties (ICCL) says the
Government should not simply accept US assurances that
prisoners are not being transported illegally through

The council was commenting as Minister for Foreign Affairs
Dermot Ahern prepares to give evidence to a European
Parliament committee investigating the CIA's controversial
rendition scheme.

At least 147 flights involved in the programme have passed
through Irish airports in recent years.

However, the Irish Government says it accepts US assurances
that no detainees have been on board any of the aircraft
while they were passing through Ireland.

The ICCL says this is not good enough and the Government
should instead set up a regime of random inspections to
ensure the US authorities are telling the truth.


Former Russian PM Improving After Falling Ill In Dublin

30/11/2006 - 11:27:16

The condition of a former Russian Prime Minister who was
allegedly poisoned while in Ireland last week is reported
to be improving.

Yegor Gaidar, who served under Boris Yeltsin in the 1990s,
became violently ill after he spoke at a conference in NUI
Maynooth last Friday.

He was taken to hospital in Dublin in a serious condition,
but later improved and returned to Moscow, where is now
recovering and undergoing tests to determine the cause of
the illness.

Friends are claiming that he may have been poisoned by the
same people who killed former Russian spy Alexander
Litvinenko in London.


Opin: Time Won’t Change Stark Choice DUP Faces

By Jim Gibney

David Trimble could not do it and was cast into the
political wilderness leaving behind the party that was once
led by unionist luminaries like Edward Carson and James
Craig; the party that was the unionist government for more
than 50 years; the party that today is struggling to come
to terms with being in second place to the DUP.

Ian Paisley is still considering whether he can do it. The
party that he shaped in his own image – dour, unyielding,
fundamentalist, obedient only to him, is showing signs of
stress, of tension in the face of deciding if they can do

The it in question, a simple, yet in northern politics a
very powerful concept – power sharing, accepting
nationalists as equals with political, economic and
cultural rights.

The power-sharing tide flowed towards Ian Paisley’s feet as
he stood speaking in the assembly chamber last Friday. The
tide ebbed in the face of his harsh words echoing a time
past. It then flowed back towards him again outside the
assembly chamber, when he issued a statement of ‘intent’ to
be first minister in certain circumstances.

The mood among assembly members in last Friday’s chamber
was a world away from the mood of those who gathered on
Monday past to complete the business abruptly interrupted
last Friday when a bomber knocked on the assembly’s door
with murder on his mind.

The unionist benches on Friday swirled with invective as
the DUP and UUP accused each other of selling out.

The zeal of the convert was very much on display in the
performance of Jeffrey Donaldson who eagerly struck out at
any of his former UUP colleagues who dared to raise their
heads to accuse the DUP of doing what the UUP tried to do
and failed – compromise.

Monday was much calmer. Ian snr reclined comfortably into
his assembly chair as Peter Robinson permitted himself a
chuckle, just a little, but considerably more than he
allowed himself on Friday. On Friday he sat impassively and
listened to his leader’s inaudible, weak and monotone

Nigel Dodds also seemed more relaxed. The frantic angry,
twitching in his right leg, which accompanied Ian’s speech
on Friday was replaced by an occasional, relaxed, sagely
nodding of his head.

Although you could hear murmurings as DUP assembly members
shuffled uncomfortably as an uncharacteristically mild-
mannered Bob McCartney tried to find a place for his
rapier, which he wielded more in ‘sorrow rather than
anger’, at the party which he voted for at the last
election and which was about to ‘betray’ him.

Eyed askance by Paisley snr, McCartney failed to land any
of his verbal punches on a party which had a weekend to
reflect on what seemed to us observers like a party in

On paper, half of Ian Paisley’s parliamentary party and a
third of his assembly party had the temerity to issue a
public statement last Friday which appeared to contradict

Time will tell whether Mr Dodds, the most senior of the
rebels, is about to assume the wrecking mantle carried by
Jeffrey Donaldson when he was a member of the UUP.

But time will not change the stark choice the DUP face.
They faced it at St Andrews – they can occupy the benches
at the assembly, be part of an all-Ireland administration
and help shape future politics for their supporters, or
occupy Westminster’s benches and helplessly watch the
British and Irish governments implement joint authority.

The word on the ground among some of Belfast’s seasoned and
experienced journalists is that Ian Paisley, despite
Friday’s political tantrums, still wants to exit politics
with the position of first minister emblazoned on his CV.

This year marks the 35th anniversary of the formation of
his party. For that time and more he took the scalps of all
unionist leaders who contemplated power sharing. Last
Friday he looked like a man teetering on the brink of
losing his own scalp. By Monday past he seemed to have
regained his composure.

With Martin McGuinness as his co-equal deputy first
minister he is now shakily wearing the crown of
transitional first minister.

In time it could become a firmer fit.


Opin: Thanks For The New Police, Ian

By Pat Quinn, Armagh city

I find Mr Paisley’s self-righteous lectures about other
people supporting the police hilarious and difficult to

Mr Paisley has supported the police on certain occasions,
of course:

:: when he waved confidential information he received from
rogue elements within the RUC

:: when he was allowed to take over the centre of Armagh
with an armed mob for a full night and day to confront a
legal civil rights march – an event, I witnessed

He has supported the police when they abetted him in
dubious activities. However when the police tried to
enforce the law in an even-handed manner, he attacked them
with the vitriol for which he is famous internationally.

The one-sided nature of their actions and fear

of him have been among the main reasons

for the reform of the police service.

So we have Paisley to thank for showing up in public the
sickness of the old state and the RUC.


Opin: Viewpoint: Universal Revulsion Over Stone Attack

30 November 2006

Michael Stone's chilling letter to the Belfast Telegraph,
describing how he planned to murder the Sinn Fein leaders,
Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness, at Stormont, is typical
of the man. It is a confused mixture of fact and fantasy,
by someone who thinks he has a right to take life to
destroy a democratic peace process.

Thankfully, he has lost whatever credibility he ever had,
within loyalism, and admits that he was acting alone, as a
"freelance dissident loyalist". Yet when his case comes to
court, for attempted murder, it must be explained how he
obtained such an array of weaponry for his aborted mission
- including seven nail bombs and an explosive device. Did
he make them, or who helped him to get them?

Now that he is safely behind bars again, the Government
must be regretting the wholesale release of paramilitary
prisoners, under the Good Friday Agreement. Stone is one of
15 killers who have broken the terms of their licence, and
he can hardly be the only one who has pretended to turn
over a new leaf, as artist, author and peace process
supporter. Until all paramilitary organisations disband,
the temptation to return to old ways will remain.

Only a psychologist could analyse Stone's letter, and judge
whether it was written by a fantasist or a cold-hearted
assassin. His "mission" was never going to happen the way
he planned it, bluffing his way past the security staff,
throwing a "flash-bang device" and seeking out his victims
either in the Assembly chamber or the Sinn Fein rooms, but
it reveals a meticulous, calculating mind.

Once again, it helps to emphasise the brave part played by
the security staff, who could not have known that the gun
was a replica or that Stone was not wired up like a suicide
bomber. They deserve the highest credit, and medals, unlike
those who let themselves be persuaded that the Assembly, on
such a special day, did not need police protection.

The damage has been done, by Stone, to the unionist cause
he would claim to uphold. Around the world, nationalist
sympathisers have seen the depths to which a so-called
loyalist would sink, to try to stop unionist politicians
entering a tentative, and very conditional, relationship
with their republican counterparts.

All the fine arguments about whether Sinn Fein should have
to support the police before the DUP would be required to
agree to power-sharing have been lost in Stormont's
revolving door. There must be universal revulsion, against
all such attacks on democracy, and a new resolve to ensure
that the rule of law is the bedrock on which power-sharing
will be founded.


30,000 BA Passengers Alerted After Radiation Found

By Cahal Milmo
30 November 2006

Radioactive contamination has been found on two British
Airways passenger jets at Heathrow by scientists involved
in the investigation into the poisoning of the former
Russian agent Alexander Litvinenko.

Traces of a nuclear material believed to be polonium-210
were found on BA aircraft used on the London-to-Moscow
route. A third aircraft was grounded in Moscow last night
while tests were carried out to see if it is also

It is understood that Scotland Yard ordered tests to be
performed on the planes as part of its investigation into
the movements of individuals who were in London around the
time Mr Litvinenko fell ill on 1 November.

Up to 800 people were on board the planes during the four
flights under investigation between 25 October and 3
November, and a further 30,000 passengers and 3,000 staff
are estimated to have travelled on the 221 flights the
aircraft made before being grounded.

BA chief executive Willie Walsh said concerned passengers
should contact NHS Direct or their doctor. He said: "At
this stage we want to reassure our customers in relation to
this. The advice that we have is that the risk to public
health is actually very, very low."

The flights being investigated are BA875 from Moscow to
Heathrow on 25 October, BA872 from Heathrow to Moscow on 28
October, BA873 from Moscow to Heathrow on 31 October and
BA874 from Heathrow to Moscow on 3 November.

In a statement, the airline said: "The initial results of
the forensic tests have shown very low traces of a
radioactive substance on board two of the three aircraft.
British Airways has been advised that this investigation is
confined solely to these three Boeing 767 aircraft, which
will remain out of service until further notice."

It is the latest crisis beyond British Airway's control to
hit the airline, less than four months after delays and
flight cancellations as a result of hand luggage
restrictions imposed in the wake of anti-terror raids and
arrests in Walthamstow and High Wycombe.

The findings will refocus attention on a meeting on 1
November between Mr Litvinenko and two Russian businessmen
at the Millennium Hotel in Mayfair. One of the men, Andrei
Lugovoy, a former KGB bodyguard, had travelled from Moscow
to watch a football match between CSKA Moscow and Arsenal.
Mr Lugovoy has denied any involvement in Mr Litvinenko's
death: in a press conference in Moscow with his business
associate Dimitri Kovtun the pair stressed that alcohol was
the strongest "poison" they had offered Mr Litvinenko.

The development came as the Italian academic who also met
Mr Litvinenko on the day he fell ill said tests at a London
hospital had shown he was not contaminated. Mario
Scaramello was being interviewed by detectives last night
after he voluntarily returned from Italy on Monday. He is
being questioned as a potential witness.

Detectives from the Yard's anti-terrorist branch are
continuing to try to piece together the movements of Mr
Litvinenko on 1 November, when he met Mr Scaramella at a
branch of the Itsu restaurant chain, the first of several
meetings held by the former Russian agent that day.

Mr Scaramella, who had known Mr Litvinenko for five years
and claimed the former Russian intelligence officer told
him he was involved in smuggling nuclear material, said: "I
am fine. I am not contaminated and have not contaminated
anybody else."

In a further twist to the mystery, a former Russian prime
minister, who was once guarded by one of those who met Mr
Litvinenko on 1 November, was being treated in a Moscow
hospital last night after falling ill while visiting
Dublin. Yegor Gaidar, 50, who is a veteran of the liberal
opposition to Russian president Vladimir Putin, collapsed
while on a tour to publicise a new book, Death of the
Empire, about the fall of Communism.

He was flown back to Moscow yesterday where friends drew a
parallel with the deaths of Mr Litvinenko and the dissident
journalist Anna Politkovskaya, who was murdered in Moscow
last month. His daughter, Maria, said: "Doctors are trying
to come up with a diagnosis but they can't find one. His
condition is satisfactory and he is speaking but he looks
very bad ­ he looks pale and thin."

She added that doctors were trying to diagnose his "rather
strange symptoms", including a nose bleed and loss of
consciousness. A friend, Anatoly Chubais, said his
condition appeared to be life-threatening.

"He was in the balance between life and death. Could this
simply be some sort of natural illness? According to what
the doctorssay ­ no."

The Health Protection Agency said 49 members of staff at
the two London hospitals where Mr Litvinenko was treated
had been asked to provide urine samples to test for
exposure as a "precaution".

An inquest will open today into the death of Mr Litvinenko
last Thursday, some three weeks after he swallowed a lethal
quantity of polonium-210.


Support Network Founded In Tribute To MLA

By Claire Regan
30 November 2006

A new cancer support network is being established in west
Belfast to honour the memory of Sinn Fein politician
Michael Ferguson who died from the disease earlier this

Macmillan Cancer Support and the West Belfast Partnership,
of which Mr Ferguson was vice-chair until his death, have
teamed up to increase awareness of the charity's services
for sufferers in the west of the city.

Mr Ferguson (53), a father of four, died suddenly in
September just two months after being diagnosed with
testicular cancer.

The West Belfast assemblyman and Lisburn City councillor
had been due to start a course a chemotherapy at the time
of his death.

He had also just gone public on his battle against the
disease in a bid to raise awareness on testicular cancer.

Emma Rea, fundraising manager at Macmillan Cancer Support
said: "Awareness of the cancer issue was high following the
death of Michael Ferguson, as he bravely fought the illness
in the public eye.

"Macmillan had already been working with some groups and
individuals in the west.

"Now, we hope to formalise our activities, making it easier
for people living with cancer to access information and

The West Belfast Partnership is to host an information
evening at its Falls Road office Tuesday December 5 at 7pm.

Ms Rea added: "On that evening, we will make people aware
of our services and one of our Macmillan nurses, who is
based in the Royal and provides front-line support in west
Belfast, will be speaking about her work and how we support
local people living with cancer.

"We provide practical, medical, emotional and financial
support and push for better cancer care and I invite anyone
interested in the issues to come along on the night."

Big-hearted west Belfast people have already raised £1,450
at a coffee morning held in the offices of the partnership
the same week Mr Ferguson passed away.

Geraldine McAteer, chief executive of the West Belfast
Partnership, said his death was "devastating" for staff

"Through his illness he was passionate in his support for
the Macmillan Cancer Support charity," she said.

"Indeed, one of his last pieces of work was to organise the
coffee morning at our offices and similar events in schools
across west Belfast.

"Our partnership is delighted at the large sum of money
raised to help Macmillan ... and we are also delighted to
help the new west Belfast cancer network to get off the

"I hope this lasting legacy will be of some comfort to
Michael's family and everyone touched by the cancer issue
in our city."


Nothing Left To Chance As Belfast City Goes Online

By Emily Moulton
30 November 2006

A new website which brings together a range of information
and public services has gone online.

Belfast City Online, which went live this week, gives
residents, visitors and the business community a single
point of access for relevant information.

The site has been developed by Belfast City Council and
features four main sections ? Living in Belfast, Discover
Belfast, Doing Business and Your Council.

Users can get information on services from the community
and voluntary sectors, as well as links to regional and
national government websites via its search facilities and

Eventually the council plans to set up a series of kiosk
points throughout the city, allowing people to access the
information and services.

To check out Belfast City Online log on to

The service is also available via digital television.


My Horrific Ordeal After Contracting Flesh-Eating Bug

By SDLP councillor
By Lesley-Anne Henry
30 November 2006

A Co Antrim councillor has told how a flesh eating bug left
him fighting for his life.

Ballymena SDLP man PJ McAvoy spent 52 days in hospital and
had to learn how to walk again after contracting
Necrotizing Fasciitis - a life-threatening form of

The 63-year-old had been in England enjoying last month's
horse racing at Newmarket when the deadly disease struck.

He was rushed into the intensive care unit at Addenbrooks
Hospital in Cambridge where he had to undergo agonising
emergency surgery to remove all the skin from his left leg.

He then spent eight days in a coma while his devastated
family gathered at his bedside.

"They had to strip the skin off me from the top of my toes
to the top of my thigh on the left leg. The whole lot was
removed from my toes to the joint of my thigh and groin.

"That was on the front and back - my leg was just left like
a snake's back - all the colours of the world was in it.
But they had to do that to prevent it from spreading
because if it had got into the stomach area it would have
attacked the organs and then that would have been the end
of it and there would have been no saving it," he told the
Belfast Telegraph.

He recalled the excruciating pain of the lengthy ordeal.

"The whole leg had to be stripped of skin and they then
started in to take the skin off my other leg as the donor

"They removed skin from my stomach and right leg - to the
point that my right leg was like the colour of bacon. And
you couldn't have breathed on it let alone touched it
because of the severity of the pain.

"They just took that skin off and left it," said Mr McAvoy.
"They never put anything on that skin again, that was just
left to heal on its own.

"That was the start of it. I was in a coma for eight days
after that. I had tubes down my throat, eating things down
my throat and liquid pipes down my throat. I was on a
ventilator the whole time and it was touch and go at

"The last thing I remember about anything was Saturday
evening before I went to hospital, until I woke up eight
days later out of this coma.

"I lay on my back for four weeks, which then left me to the
point that I couldn't walk then. I was like a baby I had to
learn to walk again. You should have seen me trying to put
my legs over the edge of the bed, you have no idea," he

Four weeks after being admitted Alderman McAvoy was
transferred by air ambulance from Cambridge to Belfast
where he spent a further three weeks having physio
treatment at the Ulster Hospital.

But now he is back in Ballymena and is able to walk with
the aid of a stick. He is due to meet with consultants next
week to discuss his recovery.

"Everything that can be done has been done for me and it is
just basically down to me getting better now.

"I am very happy to be at home and am very lucky to be
alive," he said.

He has paid tribute to the medical staff who helped him and
thanked everyone who has wished him well.

"I would like to thank all the people who came to see me
and all the people who sent me cards. And the support that
my family gave me through it all was unbelievable," he


A Glimpse Into The Irish Writer's Mind

By Matthew McCreary
30 November 2006

The thoughts and ideas of two of Ireland's greatest writers
have been chronicled in a new book being launched this

Dear Mr McLaverty features letters written between 1959 and
1980 by Belfast author Michael McLaverty and Leitrim writer
John McGahern.

"It allows us to eavesdrop on conversations that would not
perhaps have taken place had we been in the room," said
Arts Council Chief Executive Roisín McDonough.

"The friendship between these important writers crackles
and jumps with inspiration. The dynamics are fresh, the
thoughts are new and heard aloud for the first time."

McLaverty, who died in 1992, is best known for his short
stories, including The White Mare and Other Stories (1943)
and Collected Short Stories (1978), which draw on the
people and places where he lived, including Rathlin Island,
Belfast and the Lecale area of Co Down.

McGahern, who died this year, is renowned for novels
including The Dark (1965), which was banned at the time by
the Irish Board of Censorship, and his Booker prize-
nominated work Amongst Women (1990).

A reading will be held at the Linen Hall Library on
December 19. For details call 9032 1707.

l The inaugural Michael McLaverty Short Story Award has
been won by Newry man Patrick O'Hanlon. It has been
published in a book along with the two runner-up entries
and is available from


End Of An Era As Family Shoemakers Closes Down

By Allison Morris

After generations of handcrafting the finest leather shoes,
McKernan’s shoemakers is finally closing its doors. Allison
Morris slips on her finest stilletoes to find out more

At one time the well heeled men of Belfast would not have
dreamt of stepping out without a pair of the finest hand
made leather shoes adorning their feet.

And McKernan’s shoemakers were the best known in the city,
with craftsmanship and expertise handed down from
generation to generation.

The family have been shoemakers dating back to Pat
McKernan’s great-grandfather James who started making shoes
in Omagh in the early 1800s.

His son – also called James – left Co Tyrone to follow his
sweetheart to America, and they returned to Belfast and set
up shoemakers’ shop in Frederick Street in 1905.

In 1910 they moved to Donegall Street, where Pat’s father
Patrick was born. He also went into the family trade,
making hand stitched leather shoes.

Today, however, will signal the end of an era as McKernan’s
shoemakers in lower North Street ceases to trade.

A fire that damaged their former premises in North Street
Arcade in 2004 and the spiralling costs of keeping the
small family-run business afloat have forced the doors
closed for the last time.

Now aged 73, Pat McKernan is finally ready to put his feet
up having worked with his father crafting shoes out of the
finest leather since he was just 14-years-old.

His son Mark, the last in the line of family shoemakers, is
off to work for a large shoe repair firm and so the last
custom-made shoe shop in Northern Ireland is confined to

“When people ask me when was the first time I was in the
shop, I say since I was in the pram,” Pat said.

“My eldest brother was supposed to work with my father at
first, he lasted two days before he decided it wasn’t for

“Making a pair of shoes is a long drawn out process, it can
take up to four days with the cutting and shaping and

“I’ve been a shoemaker since I was 14, my father,
grandfather and great-grandfather were also all shoemakers.

“My son Mark followed me into the family business but he’s
the last in the line, it’s just too tough now to make a

“At one time Belfast was full of shoemakers and shoe
repairers, everyone would have had their shoes hand made.”

But the arrival of cheap imports – first from America, then
Poland – “more of less killed off the craft”, Mr McKernan

“I was lucky in that I had customers who stuck with me over
the years, that’s probably why I was able to keep going
once the other places folded,” he said.

“My work is all done by hand. I have no machinery in the
shop at all, a pair of hand made shoes can cost around £230
but if they’re looked after you can have them a lifetime.

“Most of what’s in the shop is going in the skip, I’m
taking a few souvenirs to keep them in the shed at home.

“Every now and then I’ll walk in and smell the leather as a
reminder of the past.”

Mark McKernan said it was sad to see the end of an era but
blames the financial pressures placed on small business
holders as the reason.

“It is sad but to be honest I’m looking forward to paid
holidays and a day off work once a week,” he said.

“When we moved from the arcade after the fire it was the
beginning of the end really.

“With the rates and bills and the tax man looking his cut
we were left with no choice other than to call it a day.

“I’ve two children of my own Fiona and Ben, but I’ll be
encouraging my son to get himself a job that doesn’t
require getting his hands dirty. The line stops with me.”


Plenty To Stew About In Dublin

Famed bar serves traditional Irish treat

By Ken Hoffman
Copyright 2006 Houston Chronicle

This week I reached out for a big bowl of authentic Irish
stew at bustling, jam-packed Oliver St. John Gogarty Bar
and Restaurant, one block off the River Liffey in the
trendy Temple Bar section of Dublin, Ireland.

Of course, here in Dublin, it's not really Irish stew ...
it's just stew. You know, like in Beijing, the locals don't
say, "You feel like eating Chinese tonight?"

The Oliver St. John Gogarty Bar and Restaurant at 58-59
Fleet St. is "the" place in "the" district of hip Dublin.

Named for a rabble-rousing poet, writer, politician and
world-class socialite and beer-guzzler of the early 1900s,
the Gogarty positively vibrates at night, with tourists and
locals hoisting huge tubs of Guinness beer and only
slightly smaller glasses of Jameson whiskey.

Traditional Irish music plays nightly. And on the second
floor, guests are digging into authentic Irish dishes such
as Esther Dunne's Potato Cake with Bacon, Seafood Molly
Malone and Dublin Coddle (sausage, bacon, carrots,
potatoes, onions and cream). I know, they were doing fine
until they got to the cream, right?

The most popular item on the menu: Irish stew for 18.95

That should convert to about $26-$28 — pretty steep to
start. But by the time you convert your dollars into Euros
at the Dublin airport and change them back again at home,
well, you've been fleeced worse than the lamb that went
into your stew.

There's nothing really special about Irish stew, except how
terrific it tastes.

Stew is one of those cuddly foods that everybody likes, but
practically nobody eats anymore. It's just not on the menu
at most restaurants. I mean, where would it fit in? Even
cavemen prefer "the roast duck with mango salsa" these

Irish stew is simply slow-simmered lamb or beef, potatoes
(remember where you are; this is Ireland, after all),
carrots, celery and whatever else is lying around in the
back of the refrigerator. This is the ultimate leftover
dish, which tastes 10 times better than what it was

The chunks of meat are tender, and they give you a ton at
the Gogarty. The potatoes are diced, but you'll find a few
whole round ones swimming in your bowl, too. The carrots
and veggies are tender and colorful. My favorite part of
the meal was sopping up the gravy with crusty bread. I'll
fight you for the heel.

Considering Ireland's climate, which is chilly, then cold,
then downright cold most of the time (except for the most
beautiful summers in the world), Irish stew is the perfect
comfort food. It makes you feel warm and toasty just
ordering it.

When you get the bill, you'll be even hotter under the
collar. Still, eating Irish stew in a Dublin pub is one of
the memorable eating experiences of your life.

You can find Irish stew — excuse me, stew — on most menus
in neighborhood and tourist restaurants. It is served
steaming hot, with crumbly, gritty brown soda bread and a
story of why this is the best stew in town.

Because Irish stew is cooked all day, you don't have to
wait for the kitchen to prepare your bowl from scratch.
You're eating before everybody else at your table.

Hey, at $26 for a bowl of stew, every little victory

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