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December 21, 2006

Judge Rules Wright Inquiry Evidence Not Secret

News About Ireland & The Irish

UT 12/21/06 Judge Rules Wright Inquiry Evidence Not Secret
BB 12/12/06 Wright Father Wins Inquiry Ruling
BN 12/20/06 Talks To Break Policing Deadlock 'May Go To Wire'
BT 12/21/06 MI5 Is Seeking To Recruit Ex-RUC Officers: SDLP
BT 12/21/06 DUP Say No To Concessions For SF Over Police Deal
IT 12/21/06 It's All To Play For Yet In Deadlock On Policing
BT 12/21/06 Accused Murderer Claims Loyalists Made Him Flee
BB 12/20/06 Challenge To Loyalist's Acquittal
BB 12/20/06 Murderer's Early Release Revoked
BB 12/21/06 Judge Rules Omagh Trial To Go On
BN 12/20/06 New Integrated Schools For North
BB 12/21/06 Integrated School Set To Close
BT 12/21/06 Integrated Schools Policy 'Just Lip Service'
BN 12/20/06 Complaints To Human Rights Commission Double In Year
IT 12/21/06 Sinn Féin Candidates' Deselection Not Ratified
IT 12/21/06 Ahern May Have Opted Not To Delve Into Payment Facts
BT 12/21/06 Opin: Call That Art? Michael Stone Defends Himself
IN 12/21/06 103 Inmates Released On Christmas Home Leave
BN 12/21/06 Crowds Gather For Newgrange Solstice


Judge delivers Wright probe ruling

The father of murdered LVF leader Billy Wright has won a
landmark ruling over how the inquiry into his son's killing
is to be conducted.

In the High Court in Belfast today Mr Justice Deeny ruled
that Secretary of State Peter Hain acted unlawfully when he
changed the nature of the inquiry to a system which enables
the State to keep evidence secret.

The inquiry was initially set up under the Prisons Act -
Billy Wright was shot dead in the Maze in 1997 - but Mr
Hain later converted it to be held under the Inquiries Act
2005 after it was rushed through Parliament.

Despite today`s ruling, the future form of the inquiry has
still to be determined as Mr Justice Deeny said he would
give lawyers time to study his 40-page judgement before
deciding on the appropriate remedy to be granted to 72-
year-old Mr Wright.

The judge held that Mr Hain failed to take into account the
important and relevant consideration that the independence
of such an inquiry was compromised by Section 14 of the
2005 Act giving a Minister power to terminate the inquiry
at any time.

He said Mr Hain was wrongly advised that an equivalent
power existed under the Prisons Act.

Mr Justice Deeny said that as the decision-maker, Mr Hain
did not direct himself nor did he have called to his
attention, the "novel and unrestricted power given to him
and his successors as Ministers in a Northern Ireland

"In saying that I make it clear that my criticism of the
decision does not involve a personal criticism of the
decision-maker," he said.

"There was no question of bad faith here. He ought to have
been advised, at the least, that there was a seriously
contentious issue relating to the powers under Section 14."

The judge described the power to terminate an inquiry as
"untrammelled" and said it would be difficult for a party
aggrieved by the decision to challenge it by way of
judicial review because Parliament had left such a wide
discretion to the Minister.

The Wright inquiry, along with similar ones into the
murders of Pat Finucane, Rosemary Nelson and Robert Hamill,
was set up following an investigation by retired Canadian
judge Peter Cory into alleged collusion by agents of the


Wright Father Wins Inquiry Ruling

The father of LVF leader Billy Wright has won a ruling over
how the inquiry into his son's murder is conducted.

Initially the inquiry was to be carried out under the
Prisons Act, but it was changed to the 2005 Inquiries Act
by Secretary of State Peter Hain.

This would effectively have given a minister the right to
terminate an inquiry at any time and so allow for evidence
to be kept secret.

Mr Justice Deeny ruled on Thursday that Mr Hain had acted

The judge said Mr Hain had failed to take into account the
importance of the inquiry's independence.

He said he did not suspect bad faith on the part of Mr Hain
but that he had been ill-advised.

The nature of the Wright inquiry has yet to be determined.

A spokesman for the NIO said the secretary of state was
disappointed by the judgement and would study it carefully.

He said the the decision to convert the inquiry to the
Inquiries Act was taken at the request of the independent
tribunal chairman, Lord McLean.

Wright, 37, was shot dead by three INLA prisoners in the
Maze Prison on 27 December 1997.

Former Northern Ireland Secretary Paul Murphy announced the
public inquiry into Wright's killing in November 2004
following allegations of security force collusion in his

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2006/12/21 13:42:49 GMT


Talks To Break Policing Deadlock 'May Go To Wire'

20/12/2006 - 19:01:18

Crucial behind-the-scenes talks to break the deadlock over
policing in the North could go down to the wire, it was
claimed tonight.

As Sinn F‚in leaders met to review negotiations with the
Irish and British governments to resolve the party's
differences with Ian Paisley's Democratic Unionists,
republican sources said intense discussions were

"The talks that have been taking place with the British
government are at the highest level," a republican source

"There is a feeling that this one could go down to the

Sinn F‚in is facing demands from the Democratic Unionists
to sign up to supporting the Police Service of Northern
Ireland before any commitment to transfer policing and
justice powers to a Stormont Executive can be given.

Gerry Adams has told the DUP and the Irish and British
governments that if he is to secure a change in the party's
policy towards the PSNI, a date for the transfer of powers
will have to come first.

Taoiseach Bertie Ahern and British Prime Minister Tony
Blair believe securing Sinn F‚in support for the PSNI, the
courts and the rule of law is an essential ingredient of
their plan to revive power-sharing at Stormont next March.

Mr Ahern, Mr Blair, Northern Secretary Peter Hain and
Minister for Foreign Affairs Dermot Ahern have been
involved in the latest efforts to persuade Sinn F‚in leader
Gerry Adams to call a meeting of his party's national
executive to recommend a special party conference on

Sinn F‚in's chief negotiator Martin McGuinness, policing
spokesperson Gerry Kelly and DUP Deputy Leader Peter
Robinson have been involved in talks with the Northern
Ireland Office in recent days.

It is understood that Mr Hain has also sounded out
nationalist SDLP leader Mark Durkan about the possibility
that his party could take the policing and justice
portfolio in a power sharing government if the powers are
devolved from Westminster to Stormont.

However Stormont sources said Mr Durkan had told the
British government that his party was not prepared to walk
blindly into an inadequate policing arrangement.

Mr Hain has also sounded parties out on a DUP proposal that
the policing and justice minister could be elected under a
different system in the Assembly than other ministers.

The DUP had proposed a 70% plus weighted majority vote in
the Assembly to choose the minister, meaning he or she
would have cross community support rather than allocating
the post under the d'Hondt system used at Stormont for
allocating ministries according to party strengths.

Sinn F‚in and the SDLP, however, have rejected the
suggestion on the grounds that it would give the DUP, the
largest party in the Assembly, a veto over the minister and
they have also criticised the proposal that the minister
would not have voting rights at cabinet meetings.

As Sinn F‚in continued to deliberate over whether it should
publicly endorse the PSNI, the latest six-month study by
the North's Policing Board showed Catholic confidence in
the police service had risen over the past year.

According to the study, almost four fifths (79%) of
Catholics have total, a lot or some confidence in the PSNI.

This compared to 75% in September of last year and 76% in

Among Protestants, the confidence level remained the same
over the past six months at 80%.

The overall rating in the community was 79%.


MI5 Is Seeking To Recruit Ex-RUC Officers: SDLP

[Published: Thursday 21, December 2006 - 12:02]
By Chris Thornton

MI5 has been accused of moving goalposts in the St Andrews
Agreement so they can recruit retired RUC Special Branch

As negotiations continue about the agency's future role in
Northern Ireland, SDLP MLA and Policing Board member Alex
Attwood claimed MI5 is attempting " to renege on the
already inadequate commitments made at St Andrews".

Mr Attwood said the security agency cannot be trusted.

"This shows you cannot take MI5 at their word," he said. "
That is why you need strong legal powers to hold them to

"It is why the SDLP does not want MI5 to have the proposed
enlarged role and it is why we are calling for the Police
Ombudsman to be able to investigate complaints against them
in the North."

MI5 is due to take over responsibility for national
security in Northern Ireland from the PSNI in a matter of
months, meaning the agency will manage all anti-terrorist

Nationalist parties oppose the move, which has been the
subject of intensive negotiations over recent months, often
involving Downing Street.

The SDLP has argued that the change will undermine the
Patten policing reforms by building an intelligence unit
without effective oversight. Sinn Fein says it opposes MI5
involvement in civic policing.

At the St Andrews negotiations in October, the Government
made a number of unprecedented concessions about MI5's

They included an acknowledgement that former police
officers would be employed by MI5, but said that for
"operational reasons" they would have to have experience of
"the arrangements under which the PSNI currently operate".
This was interpreted as meaning that Special Branch
officers who left the police before 2001 and the full
introduction of Patten reforms would not be eligible to
join MI5.

But there are now reported to be indications that MI5 wants
to employ officers without that experience - either former
RUC officers or police from English forces.

Mr Attwood made his comments after meeting Chief Constable
Sir Hugh Orde last night to discuss the future security
arrangements. He said the party also met MI5 and the NIO
last week.

He also attacked Sinn Fein's position, saying that
divorcing MI5 from police links and police oversight "would
only create a force outside the police service and recreate
the problems we had with the old Special Branch" .

c Belfast Telegraph


DUP Say No To Concessions For Sinn Fein Over Police Deal

[Published: Thursday 21, December 2006 - 09:05]
By Noel McAdam

THE period between the Assembly election and formation of
an Executive could be extended if the political impasse
over policing remains, party sources warned today.

Ahead of another meeting of the Assembly's policing and
justice sub-group this afternoon, it emerged the Sinn Fein
leadership held talks in Dundalk last night.

At present a power-sharing Executive including the DUP and
Sinn Fein is due to go 'live' on March 26, just over three
weeks after the poll.

But, the sources indicate, the gap could be stretched until
September, partly conceived as a "testing" period, if
progress on the crucial policing issue proves impossible.

Gerry Adams was today coming under pressure amid growing
fears the governments' devolution timetable could slip.

The Sinn Fein President was facing an essentially personal
decision whether to call a meeting of his party's executive
which could summon a full ard fheis on the policing issue.

Prime Minister Tony Blair was being kept informed about the
state of negotiations being handled largely by Secretary of
State Peter Hain and believed to include DUP deputy leader
Peter Robinson.

There was speculation Sinn Fein could extract Government
movement on a number of areas, possibly including plastic
bullets, accountability of Ministers and the on-the-runs,
in return for agreeing to take the first step of calling
its national executive this side of Christmas Day.

But the DUP insisted Sinn Fein is "boxed into a corner" on
policing and warned the Government against the impact of
making what unionists will see as new concessions.

Officials were working on a form of words which could allow
the stalemate - Sinn Fein insisting it needs a firm date
for the transfer of policing and justice powers to the
Executive, the DUP adamant it will not give any date - to
be overcome.

A DUP proposal for a 70% cross-community vote on a Minister
for Justice, which would effectively rule both them and
Sinn Fein out, was being developed between officials and
the other parties.

It could result in the first Minister for Justice coming
from the Ulster Unionist, SDLP or Alliance parties, and
potentially having no vote on the Executive.

Ulster Unionist leader Sir Reg Empey said today, however:
"Why should we? I do not agree with the way the policing
issue is being handled by Government.

"There is no demand in the unionist community for the
devolution of justice powers. Sinn Fein has no escape hatch
on the policing issue and rather than be in a bargaining
position they should be left to solve the problem

Sir Reg argued Sinn Fein was now using policing in the same
way republicans had used decommissioning over recent years.

It is understood Mr Hain has sounded out SDLP leader Mark
Durkan about the possibility that his party could take the
policing and justice portfolio but was told his party was
not prepared to walk blindly into an inadequate policing

c Belfast Telegraph


It's All To Play For Yet In Deadlock On Policing

Thu, Dec 21, 2006

Solving the policing conundrum could be to the mutual
benefit of Dr Paisley and Mr Adams, says Gerry Moriarty

With London exercising the shoulder, and Dublin providing
the exhortation, heavyweight political prop-forward
pressure was mounted over recent days to break the policing
deadlock that is threatening the implementation of the St
Andrews Agreement. "The game is still in play," was the
word late last night from a senior talks source.

It was a countdown to Christmas, a race against the clock
to create the conditions where either today, tomorrow or
Saturday, Gerry Adams would feel in a position to call an
immediate ardchomhairle that in turn would requisition a
special Sinn F‚in ardfheis on policing for early to mid-

It is chiefly Mr Adams' call, and it is a big call. If the
ardchomhairle doesn't happen in the coming days, then the
whole St Andrews Agreement and the prospects for the return
of full devolution on March 26th is in jeopardy. It all
could come crashing down like a badly set scrum.

If the ardchomhairle isn't called this week, then it could
be into January before such a gathering of the general Sinn
F‚in leadership takes place. If it goes to January under
Sinn F‚in rules, it would take a further two weeks before
an ardfheis on policing would happen. That would take us
towards the end of January, when the Transitional Assembly
is to be dissolved and the Assembly election campaign
begins, leading to polling day on March 7th.

This, as the British and Irish governments and the parties
acknowledge, is cutting it very tight to strike a deal on
policing. In fact, it is leaving it so tight there could be
little point running with an election at that stage. Both
the Taoiseach and Northern Secretary have indicated that if
the DUP/Sinn F‚in policing standoff is not resolved in
January - preferably early January - there will be no
Assembly election. This would suit elements in the DUP -
quite a number of those in the so-called Twelve Apostles or
Dirty Dozen who dared question the Rev Ian Paisley's
strategy and leadership last month. They would prefer if
the election was put back later into 2007 or 2008 to test
the bona fides of Sinn F‚in and the IRA.

But the governments continue to insist that irrespective of
what happens in these negotiations the St Andrews Agreement
timeframe is set in stone, and that part of the timeframe
is agreement on policing by January at the latest. If that
doesn't happen, the rest of St Andrews doesn't happen.

But if an ardchomhairle this week calls a special ardfheis
for early to mid-January, and if Mr Adams carries that
ardfheis on policing - which, with some difficulty, he
probably can do - then at the very least the St Andrews
timeframe is back in business. The DUP could still walk
away from it all but in this scenario the blame would fall
on Dr Paisley, not the Sinn F‚in president.

But it could still result in bad fallout for Sinn F‚in. A
devolution deal in March would surely provide a fine big
bounce for Sinn F‚in in the general election in May. In all
those tight marginal constituencies it could be the making
of those extra seats Sinn F‚in craves, so that they can be
a force both in the South and the North. Mr Adams knows all

The options appear between cracking the policing problem
now to ensure the survival of the St Andrews Agreement and
its big brother, the Belfast Agreement, or come early
February or maybe March the governments throwing in the
towel and applying Plan B.

Plan B, of course, is shutting Stormont, and providing a
stronger role for Dublin in Northern Ireland affairs. That
is anathema to Dr Paisley's agenda, although worryingly for
the governments there may be some in his party who haven't
quite come to terms with this reality. It is apparent that
unpuzzling the policing conundrum - which would involve
dangerous leaps of faith for Dr Paisley and Mr Adams -
could be to the mutual advantage of Sinn F‚in and the DUP
and the Christmas box the governments require.

c 2006 The Irish Times


Man Accused Of Double Murder Claims Death Threat Made Him

[Published: Thursday 21, December 2006 - 09:13]
By Chris Thornton

An alleged killer claimed yesterday that he was under a
death threat when he fled Northern Ireland in the aftermath
of a loyalist double murder.

Mark Burcombe, who is accused of murdering two Portadown
teenagers six years ago, made the claim during an outburst
over a court video link as he was refused bail for

The stonemason from Hillsborough is one of two men accused
of murdering David McIlwaine and Andrew Robb on a lonely
country road outside Tandragee, Co Armagh.

The two teenagers suffered "catastrophic injuries" when
they were stabbed repeatedly during the February 2000
attack, the High Court in Belfast was told.

UVF members were blamed for the murders.

Burcombe (26), and Steven Leslie Browne, also known as
Steven Revels, from Castle Place, Castlecaulfield, Co
Tyrone, were both charged with the murders last year.

Another man who allegedly took part in the killings, Noel
Dillon, apparently took his own life early last year.

A defence lawyer said Burcombe was making his third
application for bail yesterday because he had been held in
prison for over a year while Browne's lawyers fought
against the admission of some evidence.

A preliminary enquiry to consider whether the case should
go to a full trial had originally been scheduled to take
place in August, but has been delayed until February.

Burcombe's lawyer argued that the only evidence against him
is statements he made after coming forward to police last

Lord Justice Nicholson refused the bail application. While
giving his reasons for refusal, he noted that Burcombe
"went off to England" after the murders.

"Because there was a threat on my life," Burcombe said over
the video link from Maghaberry Prison, where he is being
held on remand.

He continued to make remarks and was ordered to keep quiet
by the judge.

A court official then turned off Burcombe's microphone and
he got up and left the Maghaberry video booth before the
hearing finished. His lawyer apologised for his behaviour,
saying it was uncharacteristic.

c Belfast Telegraph


Challenge To Loyalist's Acquittal

A challenge to the acquittal of loyalist William 'Mo'
Courtney on a murder charge will begin on 18 January.

It will be the first time prosecution lawyers in Northern
Ireland have attempted to retry a person on a murder

The prosecution claims the judge made a mistake and have
lodged 10 grounds of appeal.

Last month, Courtney was acquitted of the murder of Alan
McCullough who was shot dead in 2003.

Courtney is out on bail and was in court when the date for
his re-trial was fixed.

Earlier hearing

Last month, Belfast Crown Court judge Mr Justice McLaughlin
said he could not convict him of the murder of Mr
McCullough - a former associate of UDA leader Johnny Adair
- or UFF and UDA membership.

The body of Mr McCullough, 21, was found in a shallow grave
on the outskirts of north Belfast. He had been shot.

An earlier hearing had been told that Mr McCullough had
been a member of the so-called "C company" of the UDA -
headed by Adair.

"C company" had been expelled from the UDA in 2002, and a
number of its members, including the victim, had been
ordered out of Northern Ireland by UDA leaders.

Mr McCullough returned to Northern Ireland in April 2003
and his body was found on 5 June.

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2006/12/20 16:28:08 GMT


Murderer's Early Release Revoked

A convicted murderer has had his early release under the
Good Friday Agreement revoked after being charged with
money laundering and fraud offences.

Seamus Francis Mullan from Lisnascreaghog Road, Garvagh, in
County Londonderry, appeared in court last week.

Secretary of State Peter Hain revoked his early release
licence on Wednesday.

Last week, Mullan, 52, was described by police in court as
a disaffected republican.

He denies acquiring criminal property, having almost a
quarter of a million illegal cigarettes and dishonestly
obtaining nearly œ20,000 in benefits.

Mullan, who served a 14-year prison sentence for murder,
had assets worth œ300,000 frozen last week.

Mullan was refused bail at Londonderry Magistrates Court
after a senior detective warned he was likely to re-offend
and interfere with witnesses.

He was arrested during police raids on 16 houses in
Limavady and Coleraine on Tuesday in which a number of
people were arrested.

The accused was remanded in custody to appear again on 11

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2006/12/20 22:20:38 GMT


Judge Rules Omagh Trial To Go On

The judge at the Omagh bomb trial has ruled the case should

Mr Justice Weir rejected a defence application calling for
the case to be thrown out.

In a short statement, he said at this stage the evidence
did not have to show a case against Sean Hoey "beyond
reasonable doubt".

Mr Hoey, 37, from Jonesborough in south Armagh, denies 56
charges, including the Omagh bombing. Two charges against
him have now been officially dropped.

The judge said the test to decide if the trial should
continue was whether the evidence was "so discredited or so
intrinsically weak" that it could not support a conviction.

He ruled that the case did not fail that test.

The prosecution accepted there was no case to answer in the
two charges that were dropped.

The remaining charges against Mr Hoey include include 29
counts of murder as a result of the Omagh bombing, which
happened in August 1998.

There have now been more than 50 days of evidence at the

The crown had completed its case before the application by
the defence to have it thrown out.

Mr Hoey's legal team will begin responding to it when the
trial resumes in the new year.

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2006/12/21 12:24:35 GMT


New Integrated Schools For North

20/12/2006 - 17:29:02

The British government today announced the expansion of
integrated education in the North and the closure of two
traditional primary schools.

Education minister Maria Eagle rejected proposals for the
creation of a number of new integrated primary and post-
primary schools and the granting of integrated status to
two existing schools.

The minister said the British government was fully
committed to increasing the levels of integration within
the education sector, which was why it had asked Sir George
Bain to examine the issue as a core element of his recently
published Strategic Review of Education.

She said she had decided to approve the establishment of
Rowandale Primary School in Moira, the transformation of
Tyrella Primary to controlled-integrated status and the
phased expansion of Omagh Integrated Primary School.

She also signalled the closure of Ballycastle Nursery and
the opening of a nursery unit at the Ballycastle Integrated
Primary School.

Ms Eagle said she had decided not to approve the proposal
for a new integrated post-primary school for Antrim.

"I felt that the proposal is premature as other options for
developing integrated provision for this area are currently
being explored."

The minister also turned down proposals for the
establishment of new integrated primary schools in
Ballymoney and Strabane and the transformation of Collone
Primary in Armagh and Knockbreda Primary in Belfast to
integrated status.

She said: "Young people have a need and a right to interact
with young people from other communities through their
education. I must stress to parents across Northern Ireland
that I am committed to ensuring that all children have that

"This can be met through integrated schools but, as the
Bain Report makes clear, there are other ways to create
this important element of the education experience."

The minister said she would be bringing forward a detailed
British government response to Bain early in the new year.

Meanwhile, the minister signalled the closure of two
existing primary schools.

Ballyduff Primary in Newtownabbey, which has an enrolment
of just 25, is to close at the end of the current school

Ms Eagle said she believed closure was in the best
interests of the pupils and their transferral to
alternative primary schools would afford them increased
educational opportunities.


Integrated School Set To Close

Another Northern Ireland primary school has been told it is
to close because of falling numbers.

Groomsport Primary is the latest integrated school to get
disappointing news from the Department of Education.

On Wednesday, plans to create or transform five other
schools were turned down.

Groomsport has only 25 pupils at the moment and the
government is planning to increase the minimum enrolment
for rural schools to more than 100.

Parents were told at a carol service on Wednesday night
that the school is to close by August.

DUP assembly member Alex Easton criticised the closure.

"I regard the closure decision as unjustified and frankly
unjustifiable," Mr Easton said.

"It represents flawed thinking and I am concerned that we
have an education minister who knows the price of
everything but sadly in my opinion does not comprehend the
value of education." <>Funding

The three new integrated schools turned down for funding
were a secondary in Antrim and primaries in Ballymoney,
County Antrim, and Strabane in County Tyrone.

Two more existing primaries which wanted to transform into
integrated have been turned down.

They are Knockbreda in Belfast and Collone in Armagh.

However, Education Minister Maria Eagles has agreed to a
new primary school in Moira, the transformation of Tyrella
Primary, the expansion of Omagh Primary and the move of
Ballycastle nursery into the integrated primary.

In a separate announcement, Ballyduff Primary in
Newtownabbey is to close in August 2007.

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2006/12/21 07:43:01 GMT


Shared Schools Policy 'Just Lip Service'

[Published: Thursday 21, December 2006 - 08:54]
By Sam McBride

The Government's commitment to integrated education is
under fire after its refusal to fund five proposals for
integrated schools.

Education Minister Maria Eagle vowed yesterday that
integrated schooling is a right Ulster children will have
access to and announced two new and one expanded integrated
primary schools.

The announcement was welcomed by the Northern Ireland
Council for Integrated Education but it attacked the
decision not to fund five other projects.

Chief executive Michael Wardlow branded as "incredulous"
the decision to refuse funding for the five projects and
said the Government's commitment to integration was "lip

He said: "Added to other development proposals which were
turned down in March, this means the Government has denied
integrated choice to parents in seven areas during 2006

"Not only do these refusals appear to be at odds with the
Government's commitment to a shared future, but also appear
to contradict the core recommendations of Sir George Bain
in his recent report."

Under the plans announced yesterday Rowandale Primary
School in Moira will be established and Tyrella Primary
will become an integrated school.

There will be a "phased expansion" of Omagh Integrated
Primary School to accommodate 385 pupils and Ballycastle
nursery will close to be replaced by a nursery unit at
Ballycastle Integrated Primary School.

Ms Eagles said: "Young people have a need and a right to
interact with young people from other communities through
their education."

She turned down a proposal for an integrated post primary
school in Antrim, it as "premature". Proposals for new
integrated primary schools in Ballymoney and Strabane and
the transformation of Collone Primary in Armagh and
Knockbreda Primary in Belfast were also rejected.

c Belfast Telegraph


Complaints To Human Rights Commission Double In Year

20/12/2006 - 16:37:46

The number of complaints to the North's Human Rights
Commission almost doubled in the last year, it emerged

The plight of residents in Killyleagh forced to live beside
a 45-foot developers' wall was among causes championed by
the commission, which dealt with 920 pleas for help.

Commissioners also criticised the British government's
alleged erosion of civil liberties during their annual
report for 2005/2006, which was published today.

The document said: "A remarkable feature of the year was a
sharp increase in the number of new inquiries or complaints
presented to the commission.

"In the past years, this had fluctuated at around four to
five hundred. The total for 2005/06 reached 920, which may
reflect the increased volume of media coverage attending
the changes in commission membership."

Chief Commissioner Brice Dickson stood down last year and
was replaced by Monica McWilliams.

Seven more new commissioners were also appointed.

Ms McWilliams has lobbied for better conditions for
immigration detainees, who are being transported from the
North to Dungavel Detention Centre in Scotland.

Commission chief executive Paddy Sloan said it had been a
positive year for the body.

"The absence of a devolved administration, the continued
and disturbing erosion of civil liberties through
increasingly restrictive counter-terrorism measures, the
lack of progress in securing enhanced powers for the
commission and the ongoing challenge of re-energising the
debate on a bill of rights have required commissioners to
become familiar very quickly with a broad range of complex
issues," she said.

The British government has sought to increase the number of
days for which terror suspects can be held without charge,
although officials have also outlined plans to end the
North's Diplock court system of trying suspects without a
jury except in exceptional cases.

On Monday the first meeting of the new Bill of Rights Forum
was held in Belfast, involving representatives from
politics and civic society.

Northern Ireland Office minister David Hanson chaired the
gathering of the body, which will make recommendations to
the Human Rights Commission on what shape a bill of rights
should take.

The British government recently announced fresh powers for
the commission, allowing it unrestricted access to
detention centres as well as the authority to launch legal
cases involving the Human Rights Act.

Homeowners in Killyleagh contacted the commission last year
after a developer put up a 45-foot wall overshadowing
residents. They had been battling the plans since 2003.

He was ordered to take it down by the department of the
environment after sustained pressure from local


Sinn Fein Candidates' Deselection Not Ratified

Dan Keenan, Northern News Editor

Thu, Dec 21, 2006

The deselection of two Sinn Fein Assembly members as
candidates for the next election in March has not been
ratified by the leadership, the party said last night.

Pat O'Rawe, a former leader of Armagh council, and Davy
Hyland, a former mayor of Newry, were both deselected by
their local organisation earlier this week.

However, a party spokesman said the selection of candidates
is a two-stage process and is ultimately dependent upon the
ratification of local decisions by the leadership.

The Irish Times understands that Ms O'Rawe will be included
on the Sinn F‚in ticket in the Newry-Armagh constituency
when electors go to the polls on March 7th next year on the
leadership's insistence.

It is not expected that Mr Hyland will be among the three
Sinn F‚in candidates chosen to contest the six-seat

In North Belfast, Kathy Stanton has indicated she will not
be running and the local party has denied she was also

Supporters of Mr Hyland spoke yesterday of the sitting
Assembly member's hard work and of his difficulty with
accepting moves towards endorsing the PSNI.

One caller to BBC Radio Ulster's Talkback phone-in
programme said Mr Hyland had suffered at the hands of the
former RUC over many years.

Policing spokesman Gerry Kelly has denied that differences
over the question of policing and justice had also led to
the decision of Ms Stanton not to seek re-election in North

Rumours continued to circulate yesterday that further
selection problems, prompted by the policing question,
remain for Sinn F‚in candidates in another constituency.

A spokesman said such talk was "premature".

c 2006 The Irish Times


Ahern May Have Opted Not To Delve Into Facts Of Payment

Colm Keena, Public Affairs Correspondent
Thu, Dec 21, 2006

The Moriarty report says Taoiseach Bertie Ahern and others
may have wanted to "leave undisturbed" the facts behind a
large payment made to Fianna F il on the day of the 1989
general election.

The previously unreported comment is made in a section of
the lengthy report that deals with œ75,000 given to then
taoiseach Charles Haughey by businessman Mark Kavanagh that
was intended for Fianna F il.

Only œ25,000 was recorded by the party as having been
received from Mr Kavanagh. The party's records showed the
receipt for the donation had been given to Mr Haughey.

Tribunal chairman Mr Justice Moriarty describes as
"extraordinary" the apparent fact that conversations seven
years later in which Mr Ahern was involved did not lead to
the discrepancy becoming known.

Last night a spokeswoman for Fianna F il said the party's
legal advisers were studying the report. It was only when
their work was complete that it would be known if the party
could sue the Haughey estate for the return of money
intended for Fianna F il, she said.

Mr Justice Moriarty's comments about Mr Ahern come in a
section dealing with donations from Mr Kavanagh and Dr
Michael Smurfit. Dr Smurfit said œ60,000 he sent to a bank
account in London in 1989 was intended for Fianna F il.

Around the same time Mr Kavanagh gave œ100,000 to Mr
Haughey. He told the tribunal he intended œ25,000 to go to
the Brian Lenihan fund and the rest to Fianna F il.

However, Mr Haughey gave only œ25,000 to the party, which
he said came from Mr Kavanagh. He gave the party another
œ50,000 which he said was from Dr Smurfit. He kept the
remaining œ25,000 from Mr Kavanagh and the œ60,000 sent to
London by Dr Smurfit.

In 1996 when the late Eoin Ryan snr was seeking to raise
funds for Fianna F il from Mr Kavanagh, Mr Kavanagh
complained he had never received a receipt for his 1989
donation. Mr Ryan told the tribunal Mr Kavanagh did not
mention an amount.

Mr Ryan raised the issue with Mr Ahern and Mr Ahern spoke
with the party's then financial controller, Se n Fleming.
Mr Fleming told Mr Ahern the party had received œ25,000
from Mr Kavanagh and that the receipt was given to Mr

Mr Ahern subsequently met with Mr Kavanagh and apologised.
He assured Mr Kavanagh that the donation had been received.
Mr Kavanagh wrote out a new cheque to Fianna F il.

"What is extraordinary about these events is that it
appears from the evidence of Mr Ryan, Mr Kavanagh and Mr
Ahern, that in the course of all of the dealings between
them, the discrepancy between the donation made and the
donation recorded never arose," Mr Justice Moriarty said in
his report.

He said it appeared Mr Kavanagh had never mentioned to Mr
Ahern or Mr Ryan a donation of œ75,000 and that Mr Ahern
had never mentioned that the party records showed the
receipt of only œ25,000. The men had also not mentioned the
role of Mr Haughey.

"The only reasonable explanations for all of these
omissions are that: either those concerned were deeply
embarrassed by what had occurred and chose to adopt a
diplomatic approach to the issue or that there was a tacit
understanding between them that the matter had arisen in a
former era and that its details were best left

The Fianna F il spokeswoman said Mr Ahern did not want to
comment on these observations.

Yesterday Mr Ahern responded to Mr Justice Moriarty's
observation that Mr Ahern was "imprudent" when he signed
blank cheques on the Fianna F il party leader's account
during the Haughey era.

"If I ever for a moment had thought that by signing a
cheque, which was a practice that everybody did in the
country, let's be very frank and honest about it and not be
prudish about it, I would have never signed them," he said.

c 2006 The Irish Times


Opin: Call That Art? Michael Stone Defends Himself

[Published: Thursday 21, December 2006 - 11:01]
John Walsh

Politicians, journalists and photographers who were in the
Stormont parliament building on 24 November watching
Michael Stone, the loyalist murderer, come crashing through
the revolving doors armed to the teeth with bombs, a knife
and a handgun, might have imagined it was a genuine
"attack". As he yelled "No surrender!" and was wrestled to
the ground by security personnel, naive bystanders may have
thought they were witnessing a Protestant nutter bent on
their imminent destruction.

How wrong can you be? The truth, as revealed on Tuesday in
Belfast's High Court where Stone is applying for bail while
facing charges of attempting to murder Gerry Adams and
Martin McGuinness, is more subtle. His defence lawyer,
Arthur Harvey QC, claimed, with an admirably straight face,
that the incident was not intended to hurt anyone, but was
"a piece of performance art replicating a terrorist

Stone had written to Northern Ireland Secretary Peter Hain,
and Sir Hugh Orde, Ulster's Chief Constable, pointing out
that he was performing an "unfinished work" called Never
Say Never - a confrontational item designed to highlight
the need for political stability in Ulster by embodying
"the spectre of our troubled past". He obligingly traced
the influences on his no-holds-barred style to Picasso's
Guernica, and to the journalist Eamonn McCann, who once
moved into a Londonderry building to protest against the
war in Iraq.

This explanation diverges sharply from his stated aim, on
the day itself, of killing Adams and McGuinness in the
debating chamber because, he yelled, "These sectarian
bigots are unworthy to hold political power in Northern
Ireland." He didn't mention it was an Art Thing at the
time. Yet if we look at the scene on 24 November, it's
clear that Stone is in a tradition of aesthetic display, in
which the artist becomes the artwork.

His flung-out arms suggest both Dali's Christ of St John of
the Cross, but also Sebastian Horsley, the art-terrorist,
who had himself crucified (he called it "method painting")
in the Philippines.

Though he is more scary than Gilbert & George, the
original performance artists, Stone's insistence on his
function as symbol and emblem recalls the pair's Singing
Sculpture (1970) in which, painted as gold statues, they
sang "Underneath the Arches" for four hours at a stretch.
Stone's work is more vivid and his vocalisings ("IRA
fascists!" fortissimo) offer a briefer but no less moving
synaesthetic grace-note.

And one cannot contemplate his manhandling by a male and a
female guard without recalling the artist Jeff Koons's
objectification of his sex life with La Cicciolina -
although Koons' work has admittedly a more dreamily
romantic tone. Stone's use of mixed media and everyday
materials (homemade explosives, gun, fireworks powder)
shows imagination.

If Tracey Emin could be nominated for the Turner Prize for
her conceptual piece My Bed, there should be nothing to
stop Mr Stone entering the whole scene of disarray in the
Stormont lobby - the scattered bombs, the horizontal
security men, the fleeing politicians - as his own
artfully-contrived masterpiece.

c Belfast Telegraph


103 Inmates Released On Christmas Home Leave

By Allison Morris

MORE THAN 100 sentenced prisoners, including 15 convicted
murderers, will be released from prison tomorrow for a
period of Christmas parole.

The Irish News has learned that 103 prisoners have been
granted home leave over the festive period.

Among those to be released are 13-youth prisoners from
Hydebank Wood Young off-enders centre, including several
convicted car criminals and 90 adult prisoners from
Magilligan and Maghaberry.

The majority of prisoners will be released for almost two
weeks, from Friday December 22 until January 2, with some
prisoners granted shorter periods of leave.

Paul Doran of the Northern Ireland Probation Board said
that risk assessments have been carried out on all
prisoners ahead of seasonal home leave.

"Our staff carry out an assessment of risk of harm in the
community and how likely that prisoner is to actually carry
out any harmful action," he said.

"That information is then all fed to the home leave board
who have the ultimate say.

"If a prisoner is also subject to a custody probation order
then they will have an additional appointment to see a
probation officer during their home leave period.

"Any prisoner released on home leave over the Christmas
period will have already had a previous period of parole.
No prisoner will be released for the first time at

Last year west Belfast man Sean Paul Reid, convicted of an
aggravated burglary on an elderly couple in Turf Lodge,
absconded following his Christmas parole.

Reid failed to return to Hydebank on January 3 2006 when
his home leave was due to end and was unlawfully at large
until rearrested in September of this year.

He is on remand facing a number of serious of criminal
offences he is alleged to have committed while AWOL from

In total 169 prisoners applied for Christmas leave, 19
withdrew their applications with a further 45 were refused
after the Home Leave Board - which assess the applications
- considered them to be too high a risk.

A spokesperson for the Prison Service said: "All prisoners
eligible for Christmas home leave have been subjected to a
risk assessment and must have successfully completed a
period of pre-release home leave.

"Top-risk and remand prisoners are not eligible for the
scheme. The scheme has been operational for many years and
has been largely successful with very few prisoners
breaching the scheme conditions.

"It has helped underpin our policy of strengthening
prisoners' links with their families, particularly over the
festive season."


Crowds Gather For Newgrange Solstice

21/12/2006 - 09:22:41

One of the most mysterious sites of ancient Ireland will
this morning attract devotees keen to observe the first
light of the Winter Solstice.

Thousands are believed to have applied for permission to
witness the first rays of light creep through the ancient
monument at Newgrange, but only a handful are lucky enough
to have been allowed access to the structure's main

Many more are expected to gather near the Co Meath site to
mark the shortest day of the year.

The world famous monument is believed to date from around
3200 B.C, making it 500 years older than the Great Pyramid
of Giza in Egypt and a thousand years older than England's

Archaeologists believe the grass-covered mound is a
"passage tomb".

This refers to a passage running to a cave-like chamber,
where the remains of the dead were placed.

The site attracts large numbers of visitors each year from
around the globe.

c Thomas Crosbie Media 2006.

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