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December 13, 2006

Orde & Sinn Fein Held Talks

News About Ireland & The Irish

BB 12/13/06 Orde & Sinn Fein Held Talks

Representatives of the UPRG who met with Brian Rowan yesterday.

Clockwise from top left, Billy McQuistan, David Nicholl, Colin
Holliday and Sammy Duddy (click pic to enlarge)
BT 12/13/06 Loyalists Won't Try To Prevent Power-Sharing
BT 12/13/06 Talking & Watching, But Not Decommissioning
BN 12/13/06 Ahern Encouraged By Hain On Collusion Inquiry
BT 12/13/06 Plea For Progress On Policing By Next Month
BN 12/13/06 IRA Not Linked With Drug Baron Killing – Ahern
BB 12/13/06 UUP Veteran Nesbitt To Step Down
BT 12/13/06 Birmingham 6 Man Offers Help To Hunger Striker
IN 12/13/06 Ex-IRSP Man To Stand Again
IN 12/13/06 Opin: SF Right To Make Policing A Deal-Breaker
BT 12/13/06 Opin: So This Is Christmas?
IN 12/13/06 Opin: Shoppers A Sad Reminder of Illegal Irish
BB 12/13/06 MPs Criticise Museums 'Failures'
BN 12/13/06 Spectacular Meteor Show Expected
IT 12/13/06 TCD Launches Irish Studies Course


Orde Holds Talks With Sinn Fein

A Sinn Fein delegation led by party president Gerry Adams
has met the head of Northern Ireland's police.

The meeting with Sir Hugh Orde came as republicans face
growing pressure to support the police as part of the deal
to restore devolution.

Mr Adams described the meeting as "good" but said he could
not yet call a special convention on policing.

The chief constable also said the meeting "had been good"
and described the converstaion as "testing".

Speaking before the meeting, Mr Adams claimed that MI5
"orchestrated a policy of collusion" and could have "no
role in civic policing".

During the meeting at Stormont, they discussed issues such
as MI5, collusion and the closure of barracks.

MI5 is due to take over the lead role in intelligence
involving national security in Northern Ireland by the end
of 2007. A complex for the security service is being built
at Palace Barracks in Holywood, County Down.

"We will also raise political policing and the need for
clear proof that this has ended or will end, an end to
plastic bullets and Sinn Fein is committed to law and order
and proper and effective policing," he said.

"Consequently, we are determined to ensure that the police
service operates under the highest standards and is held to
account through the most rigorous and efficient accountable
and transparent mechanisms and we will also discuss

Mr Adams was accompanied at the meeting by assembly members
Gerry Kelly and Caitriona Ruane and fellow MP Michelle

The Police Service of Northern Ireland said the chief
constable had always indicated he was prepared to talk to
anyone willing or able to make a positive contribution to

Sinn Fein is facing demands from other political parties in
Northern Ireland as well as the British, Irish and US
governments to fully endorse the PSNI.

Ian Paisley's Democratic Unionist Party has insisted
without such a move from Gerry Adams' party there will be
no power sharing at Stormont next March.

However, Mr Adams repeated Sinn Fein could not hold a
special conference to change its policing policy without
agreement first on a date for the transfer of justice and
policing powers from Westminster to Stormont, the type of
government department that will handle it and assurances
that MI5 will have no role in civic policing.

"I am prepared to call a meeting of the Sinn Fein ard
chomhairle (national executive) immediately agreement has
been reached on these issues and for the purpose of
convening a special ard fheis (conference) within the
timeframe set out at St. Andrews," he said.

"However, I will not go to the ard chomhairle to seek a
special ard fheis unless I have the basis to do so."

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2006/12/13 11:40:38 GMT


Hard Men Of Loyalism Won't Try To Prevent Power-Sharing

[Published: Wednesday 13, December 2006 - 09:04]
By By Brian Rowan

The so-called hard men of loyalism do not stand in the way
of an Ian Paisley-Martin McGuinness government.

That was the message delivered by the UDA's political wing
- the Ulster Political Research Group - in an interview
with the Belfast Telegraph.

UPRG spokesman Davy Nicholl told this newspaper: "The UDA
does have concerns with St Andrews and would reject it on
the basis of the constitutional tests" - a reference to its
north-south aspects. " There's no rejection of power

"We won't be voting for Sinn Fein," but he said they
accepted the " democratic right" of the nationalist-
republican community to do so.

"It is for Ian Paisley with the democratic mandate that he
has to determine the course of action he has to take to
move the unionist people out of conflict," the loyalist
spokesman said.

Four members of the UPRG spoke to this newspaper.

On the arms question - decommissioning - Mr Nicholl said
the UDA had made clear this issue would be addressed "in
the fullness of time".

The organisation was talking to General John de
Chastelain's Commission, but there was no suggestion of any
imminent arms move.

Republican dissidents posed "a significant armed threat",
and according to the loyalists that threat could grow.

"We believe that when Martin McGuinness takes the oath
(supporting policing), he will have breached the green book
of the Provisional Army Council and there is a likelihood
that others will swing to the dissident elements," Mr
Nicholl said.

He also claimed the dissidents were "actively targeting" in
his community, and there were concerns that they could
carry out an attack - or some "stunt" - "to draw loyalists

The political spokesman for the UDA further claimed that it
had knowledge that both the British and Irish Governments
had "back channel contacts" with the dissident groups.

"What that will bring them to, we don't know," Mr Nicholl


They Are Talking And Watching, But They Are Not Decommissioning

By Brian Rowan

It was the UDA that wanted to talk. Well, not quite the
UDA, but its political wing - the Ulster Political Research

It's the new way in this part of the loyalist world. Yes,
there is still a paramilitary leadership in place - the
inner council and its "brigadiers ", but things are
different now.

This organisation - after all of the falling out and the
feuding with Johnny Adair and John White and Jim Gray and
the Shoukris and Alan McClean - has been easing its way
back into the peace process.

It has met with the British and Irish governments, has been
given some money to develop "conflict transformation
initiatives" and has been trying to keep its paramilitary
nose clean.

That will take a rather large handkerchief - and probably
more than one.

Are things perfect? No they are not - far from it, but they
are getting better, or, more accurately, the leadership is
trying to make things better.

That leadership has taken a step back and pushed its
political spokesmen forward.

I met four of them yesterday - Davy Nicholl from
Londonderry, William " Twister" McQuiston from west
Belfast, Colin Halliday from Dromore who is closely
associated with the UDA leader Jackie McDonald, and Sammy
Duddy from north Belfast.

The faces aren't new, but the role is becoming more
significant, because the paramilitaries are allowing that
to happen.

These people are now the talking heads of loyalism - or
this part of loyalism that fits under the umbrella of the
UDA and the UPRG.

It is an indication that things are becoming more political
- that the " war" end of things is over, or nearly over.

And, it is in this changing context, that the inner council
has begun to fade into the background and has left the
stage, or more of the stage, to those who spoke yesterday.

"That is not to say that from time to time that they (the
UDA) will not issue important directives," Davy Nicholl
explains - but on the political stuff others will now do
the talking.

Yesterday they discussed a whole range of issues - power
sharing, the St Andrews Agreement, decommissioning, or more
accurately the reasons for non-decommissioning, and the
continuing threat posed by a range of republican dissident

The loyalists believe that threat could grow as republicans
move ever closer to endorsing policing - a process which
has taken Gerry Adams and a senior party delegation into
talks today with Sir Hugh Orde, his deputy Paul Leighton
and the assistant chief constable Peter Sheridan, who has
control of Special Branch and who is the author of five
principles aimed at defining the new PSNI-MI5 working
relationship on national security issues.

"We believe that when Martin McGuinness takes the oath
(supporting policing) that he will have breached the green
book of the Provisional Army Council, and there is a
likelihood that others will swing to the dissident
elements," Davy Nicholl of the UPRG told this newspaper.

The loyalists believe the dissidents already pose "a
significant armed threat" - that they are actively
targeting inside the loyalist community, and that they
could try something, some "stunt", to " draw in"
organisations such as the UDA.

You wonder if all of this is a context being created by
loyalists to defend the organisation's position on
decommissioning, or, as mentioned earlier, non-

They will tell you that they are speaking to General John
de Chastelain's Commission, but it is clear that
conversation is not about an imminent arms move.

"Are they prepared to make the journey?" Davy Nicholl asks
- meaning are the dissident republican groups ready for
peace and decommissioning.

"Clearly they are not," is the answer he gives to his own

And all of this takes you to the position that the UDA will
deal with the arms question "in the fullness of time" -
whatever that means.

Clearly it means not now and not in the near future.

The organisation certainly doesn't feel threatened by the
developing politics - or that part of the developing
politics which could have Ian Paisley and Martin McGuinness
in the same Executive.

Yes, there are parts of the St Andrews Agreement that the
UDA and its political wing don't like - the north-south
bits and the Irish Language Act, but there is "no concern
about the power-sharing aspect".

And that means the loyalist hard men are not standing in
the way of a power-sharing deal involving the DUP and Sinn

There is a confidence about these men.

No sense of nervousness about the future; no complaints
that they are being left out or left behind, but more a
belief that they are being encouraged to be involved in
what is now developing.

They want to develop within their own communities these
"conflict transformation initiatives" - develop them across
Northern Ireland, and that will mean looking for more money
from the government to add to the £135,000 recently
allocated for these types of projects.

The loyalists are keeping an eye to what's happening in the
bigger political picture, of course they are, but they
aren't waiting for anyone else to give them directions or
tell them what to do - not any more.

"We will be rowing our own boat," William McQuiston said.
"We will make the decisions about our future. Nobody's
writing our script."

The loyalists, it seems, are ready to think and talk for
themselves - on every issue and all issues.

It's all part of what is changing. They are saying some of
the right things, but they need to do more of the right

© Belfast Telegraph


Ahern Encouraged By Hain Comments On Collusion Inquiry

13/12/2006 - 12:55:38

Taoiseach Bertie Ahern has said he is encouraged by an
apparent willingness from the British government to share
information relating to the loyalist killings in the North.

There have long been suspicions that British forces
colluded in a series of loyalist atrocities, including the
1974 Dublin and Monaghan bombings.

However, investigations into this collusion have been
hampered by the failure of the British authorities to hand
over relevant documents.

Barrister Patrick McEntee has been given until February 14
next to complete these investigations and Mr Ahern told the
Dáil that he was encouraged by the latest comments on the
matter from Northern Secretary Peter Hain.

He said Mr Hain made it clear that the British government
would do everything it could to assist in bringing closure
to these issues.


Plea For Progress On Policing By Next Month

[Published: Wednesday 13, December 2006 - 11:57]
By By Mark Hookham

British and Irish ministers have stressed the "critical"
importance of making a breakthrough on devolution of
policing and justice to Stormont before the end of January.

The latest session of the British and Irish Inter-
Governmental Conference, in London, sought to inject
momentum into the political talks.

A joint communiqué from the governments stopped short of
demanding that Sinn Fein should call its special policing
ard fheis before the end of next month.

But both Ulster Secretary Peter Hain and Irish foreign
minister Dermot Ahern stressed the importance of making
progress during the next six weeks.

Mr Ahern told a Whitehall Press conference: "The month of
January will be critical".

Under St Andrews Agreement legislation, the Assembly will
be dissolved on January 30 for a fresh Stormont election on
March 7.

Mr Ahern said: "The sooner some move is made in this
respect, the better because it clarifies matters going into
the period when obviously a call has to be made as to
whether or not there will be an election or not."

Mr Hain stressed the need for "clarity" both from Sinn Fein
and from the DUP after statements over the devolution of

© Belfast Telegraph


IRA Not Linked With Drug Baron Killing – Ahern

13/12/2006 - 11:16:53

The IRA was not involved in yesterday’s brutal killing of
top drug baron Martin Hyland, the Taoiseach insisted today.

Even though the crime boss was allegedly linked to the
Provisionals, Taoiseach Bertie Ahern said there was nothing
to suggest that the terrorist organisation was linked to
the hit.

His assessment, delivered to the Dáil today, came as the
Sinn Féin leadership held crucial talks with the North's
chief constable Sir Hugh Orde in a bid to break the party’s
deadlock over policing and justice.

Hyland, 39, was shot dead as he slept in a bed at his
niece’s home in Dublin yesterday morning.

It was the biggest gangland killing in the Republic for
over 10 years and raised fears of all-out bloodshed between
rival gangs in the capital.

Any IRA involvement in Hyland’s murder would have had a
devastating impact on the Republican leadership of Gerry
Adams, who met Mr Orde at Stormont today.

Speaking about security briefings he received on the
murder, Mr Ahern told the Dáil: “I’ve seen nothing that may
suggest that the Provisional IRA was involved.”

© Thomas Crosbie Media 2006


UUP Veteran Nesbitt To Step Down

A veteran Ulster Unionist politician has said that he will
not seek re-election to the assembly.

South Down assembly member Dermot Nesbitt, 59, has told his
party he wants to do other things.

Mr Nesbitt, environment minister in the Trimble
administration, has been active in electoral politics since
the 1970s.

As a young unionist he was the election agent for Brian
Faulkner in the years 1973 to 1977. Outside the political
arena he qualified as a pilot in 1972.

He was a member of Down District Council from 1981 to 1989
and in 1996 Mr Nesbitt was elected to the Northern Ireland
Forum, and became a member of the Ulster Unionist
negotiating team.

He helped negotiate the Good Friday Agreement and Mr
Nesbitt was one of its staunchest defenders.

Mr Nesbitt told the BBC on Wednesday it had been "a
privilege to be involved in politics from Brian Faulkner
right through to Sir Reg Empey".

"But you reach a position where you now say it is time to
step aside, and then you actually take that decision."

Mr Nesbitt said he was only "a minor cog in a big wheel
that has been trying to make progress against a backcloth
of 30 years, even 40 years, of violence".

'Tragic events'

Before entering politics full-time, Mr Nesbitt was an
academic, lecturing in finance at Queen's University,

He was head of the university's Department of Accountancy
and Finance from 1990 to 1998.

It was at QUB that he graduated with a BSC (first Class) in
1974, having been educated previously at Down High School.

It was while at Queen's that one of the tragic events of
his life occurred.

He was standing chatting to friend and colleague, Edgar
Graham, an Ulster Unionist law lecturer at Queen's, when he
was murdered by the IRA in 1983.

Mr Nesbitt married his wife Oriel in 1970.

The couple have two children, Andrew and Elaine.

Outside politics and international relations, Mr Nesbitt's
interests include motor racing, the cinema and flying.

Meanwhile, a council by-election takes place in Coleraine
on Wednesday to replace the former mayor, Dessie Stewart,
who was jailed for four months for electoral fraud.

Mr Stewart resigned from the DUP and the council following
his conviction last month.

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2006/12/13 07:10:10 GMT


Birmingham Six Man Offers Help As Hunger Striker Is Fed By
A Drip

[Published: Wednesday 13, December 2006 - 08:57]
By By Deborah McAleese

Paddy Hill of the Birmingham Six has offered to help Ulster
hunger striker Oswald Brown in his battle to have his rape
conviction re-examined, the Belfast Telegraph can reveal

Brown, who today entered day 53 of his hunger strike, was
rushed to Belfast City Hospital from Magilligan Prison
yesterday evening after the High Court granted hospital
staff permission to feed him through a drip.

Mr Justice Deeny said it was "lawful and proper" that Brown
should be given intravenous nutrition after hearing that
there had been a " significant deterioration" in his

In a letter of support to Brown, Mr Hill's Miscarriages of
Justice Organisation (MOJO) offered him legal expertise and
access to top forensic experts - provided he agrees to come
off the hunger strike.

Brown was convicted of raping a student in 2001, however he
claims he is innocent and although he is due to complete
his prison sentence within days he has vowed to starve
himself to death unless his case is reopened.

The Miscarriages of Justice Organisation wrote to Brown as
soon as they heard about his case, urging him to come off
his hunger strike.

The letter says: "If you are innocent we will help you in
any way we can.

"There are a million and one questions I would like to ask
you about your case, however before we help you, you will
first of all have to help yourself by getting stronger and
fitter and taking this fight to them.

"Although there is no magic wand we can guarantee help with
legal experts and top forensic scientists."

John McManus, co-founder of MOJO, told the Belfast
Telegraph that if Brown really wants to clear his name he
will have to come off his hunger strike.

"We can only help him if he agrees to help himself. If he
wants to clear his name he is going to have to get stronger
both physically and mentally. The only way to do this is
through the legal channels," he said.

Mr McManus said that Tommy Campbell - who was cleared two
years ago of murdering six people in Glasgow after serving
20 years behind bars for the crime - is also keen to meet
with Brown.

Like Brown, Mr Campbell also went on hunger strike while in
prison to protest against his conviction.

Brown's wife Amanda last night said her husband's health
was continuing to deteriorate.

The east Belfast man was jailed for six years in March
2001, with two additional years on probation, after he was
convicted of the " opportunistic" rape of a student.

He has since continually protested his innocence.

In a recent letter to the Belfast Telegraph he said that if
he dies he wants his ashes to be scattered outside the
Court of Appeal.

© Belfast Telegraph


Ex-IRSP Man To Stand Again

Southern News
By Valerie Robinson

A former IRSP man wrongly convicted for the 1976 Sallins
train robbery in Co Kildare is to stand again for the
Labour Party in the Republic’s next general election.

Labour leader Pat Rabbitte announced that Councillor Nicky
Kelly will stand alongside deputy leader Liz McManus in

Mr Kelly, who lives in Arklow, narrowly missed election in
Wicklow in 2002, losing out by a handful of votes to
Independent TD Mildred Fox after a number of recounts.


Opin: SF Quite Right To Make Policing A Deal-Breaker

By Brian Feeney

Among all the other criminal offences reported last week,
two received substantial publicity – a rape in Woodvale
Park and on a much more mundane level the vandalised
parking meters in the Sandy Row no-go area for traffic

You can bet your life that if either or both of these
offences were reported in north or west Belfast or in Derry
the meedja would have sought out some ‘hapless’ Sinn Fein
councillor, not to hear condemnation of the crimes but to
ask why Sinn Fein doesn’t support the police and if Sinn
Fein would tell anyone who knew anything about the events
to give their information to the police.

In this line of questioning the north’s unionist-dominated
meedja unquestioningly follow the unionist line and avoid
the real issue.

Unionists like to claim, as they have always claimed, that
they are the ‘law-abiding community’, as if nationalists
are a kind of

sub-species who enjoy criminality and endorse lawlessness.

Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact northern
nationalists have always wanted but never enjoyed, proper

The quest for properly accountable policing is the real
issue, not whether you can find someone in SF to support
the PSNI.

The simple fact is that if all elected Sinn Fein members
lined up at Stormont and chorused their support for the
PSNI and urged all their constituents to tell the police
anything they knew about crimes it wouldn’t make a blind
bit of difference.

It’s taken for granted that all unionists support the
police. Does that mean all their constituents report what
they know to the police? Of course not.

Are unionists any more law-abiding than nationalists? Of
course not. Did the people of Sandy Row provide evidence to
the police about who sliced off the parking meter coin-
holders in their district? Not a chance.

Furthermore, we had a unionist councillor trying to tell us
that it hadn’t happened, that the DoE had removed the
meters at the request of local traders.

Did he call on his constituents to pass information to the

Not a bit of it. Was he asked? Natatall.

Are we really supposed to believe that crime in nationalist
areas would plummet if SF announced their support for the

Is there anyone who does not realise that this demand,
dutifully put to SF by the meedja on every possible
occasion, is the DUP’s demand, a demand concocted simply
and solely to postpone the evil day when they have to share
power with SF?

For some reason no-one puts to the DUP this question – Is
it their policy to share power with nationalists and if
not, when will it become so?

Instead, the DUP is allowed to hide behind the false
pretext of demanding support for policing, which is nothing
other than the traditional unionist demand since Norn Iron
was invented.

Sinn Fein have made a mess of their response to this

Their demand is that justice and policing be devolved. They
need to explain why this must be so.

All they’ve said is that they want an end to political
policing. What they need to spell out repeatedly is the

Policing in the north was created by and for unionists.
Policing always belonged to unionists because they believed
the very existence of their northern state depended on a
police force created to defend it.

Nationalists knew that the RUC would treat any nationalist
protest like an insurrection and would attack nationalist
communities at the drop of a hat as they did on many
occasions with the help of the B Specials and later the RUC
Reserve. OK. That’s over.

Now, in order to ensure all that can never happen again,
nationalists have to run a ministry in the north which is
in charge of policing and justice. That’s why Ian Og will
not be the minister for police and justice. It’s quite

If nationalists are to share in running the northern state,
they have to participate in running the police so that they
are seen to be their police and not just a re-structured
unionist police.

It’s an essential condition and SF are quite right to make
it a deal-breaker.


Opin: So This Is Christmas?

[Published: Wednesday 13, December 2006 - 08:44]
By By Lindy McDowell

Much shock and horror is currently being expressed about a
couple of dodgy Christmas cards allegedly being peddled by
dissident republicans to raise funds for the Continuity

The cards feature a badly drawn Santa and a snowman
wielding AK47s shouting slogans mis-spelt in Irish.

Given the scale of atrocities committed by the organisation
concerned, the militaristic misrepresentation of a couple
of festive figures hardly rates as among the worst of their

Still. You can see why people would take offence.

This set me thinking, though, about the other side of
Christmas paramilitary output.

The side that claims to be turning its back on physical
force and embracing an exclusively political path. What
sort of message will they be sending out this season?

Obviously, for those outfits which insist that they're
transforming their military wing into an olive branch, the
usual displays of the holly and the weaponry would strike
the wrong note entirely this year.

Santa Claus with a Christmas box in one hand and an
Armalite in the other is suddenly very passe.

Yet, not so very long ago, you could buy calendars
featuring armed and balaclava-ed men being sold in the name
of what's today coyly referred to as "mainstream

The problem for P O'Neill now is this - how to reflect a
new, non-militaristic, mood while still spinner that a
calendar represents?

I have given this some thought and I'm afraid the obvious
conclusion is a frightening one.

Could "mainstream republicans" be considering a WI style

You know the sort of thing we're talking about here - a
calendar where members pose in the nude behind a few
strategically placed objects.

Consider the possibilities.

P O'Neill stripped bare. Even his balaclava is whipped off
as he smiles provocatively into the camera. But his
weaponry is nowhere to be seen - it's been cleverly
concealed by that passing dove of peace.

And what about Gerry Adams? What could he use to spare his
blushes? A PSNI helmet, perhaps?

But why stop with republicans?

After all, when it comes to displaying bare-faced cheek,
loyalists also take some beating.

Strategic props to hide their arsenal? With the UDA it
would have to be money.

We already know that the UDA thinks £8m would just about
cover it.

What it all comes down to is that the newly repackaged
republicans and loyalists could easily feature on the same

They're not shy, any of them, about flaunting their
paramilitary bodies.

But, oddly enough, they all share the same inhibition about
letting the rest of us see what they've done with their

Should they collude in a calendar, doubtless our Secretary
of State would be keen to back the project.

But would Peter himself be prepared to pose?

There's a fair chance.

After all, it wouldn't be the first time we'd seen a flash
of Mr Hain's naked ambition ?

© Belfast Telegraph


Opin: Shopping Hordes Are Sad Reminder For Illegal Irish

By Ray O'Hanlon Letter from America

You could spot them and even hear them at 10 yards, this
despite the Fifth Avenue din.

The Irish shopping posse on what has become a seasonal
routine patrol.

It was T-minus 17 to Christmas and counting and with the
flight back to Ireland probably leaving that night, or the
day after, it wasn’t as if time was exactly a friend. So
the posse’s obvious joy at being in New York a week into
December was tempered somewhat by the grim reality that
there was still a lot of shopping to do as the minutes
raced by.

At least they were in the right place. This stretch of the
avenue, in the fifties, has all the fancy designer label
stores you could ever want clustered in a stretch of 20
blocks or so.

It’s a mall with cars running through it.

The plane that these shoppers will take back to Ireland
will be packed, mostly with other shoppers. The same plane
will have been packed with replacement shoppers when it
landed at Kennedy.

The run down to the corner shop of bygone yore has been
replaced by the transatlantic hop.

You can only imagine how it all looks to those Irish in
America who can’t fly home with a bag full of Osh Kosh,
bercrombie and Hollister for the kids.

To these Irish, the undocumented immigrant Irish, the
holiday shopping hordes are another reminder of their
physical confinement at a time of the year when the ability
to visit loved ones is given near sacrosanct status.

Being confined to a continent three million miles – and
then some – square hardly qualifies as geographic

But it’s more about people than places.

At a recent rally in New York held by the Irish Lobby for
Immigration Reform, a group that has been campaigning for
legal status for this latest generation of undocumented
Irish, one speaker stood up and told the room what
Christmas day was going to be like.

It would be dominated by tearful phone calls to her parents
and other close relatives 3,000 miles away.

This young woman has a life in America, a home and a job.
But she can’t leave the US for fear that she will not get
back into it.

Another woman at the rally, which was addressed by Senator
Charles Schumer, the mastermind of the recent Democratic
triumph in the mid-term congressional elections, told of
how she was unable to return to Ireland for her brother’s
funeral, this on the advice of her family who did not want
her to risk what might have been a one-way trip.

For the illegal Irish, the lack of progress on immigration
reform is most keenly felt at Christmas.

But there is increasing hope that there could be a
breakthrough on the immigration front in 2007, one that
would bump a few shoppers off the Atlantic flights and
replace them people who have half forgotten what their
native island looks like.

Schumer promised that his party would get immigration
reform back on track when the newly elected 110th congress
convenes in January.

The outgoing 109th Congress witnessed the passage of a
Senate reform bill that was mostly the work of Senators
John McCain, a Republican and Democrat Ted Kennedy.

The bill was not, however, matched with a House of
Representatives partner and died as a result.

House republicans contented themselves with a fence along
the Mexican border.

McCain/Kennedy is now set for a comeback in the Senate
while the Democrats now control the House as well.

This is no guarantee of ultimate success, however. What’s
needed to secure passage of an immigration bill acceptable
to President Bush is a deal between pro-reform Democrats
and Republicans.

Still, the prospects of such a deal look markedly better
now than they did just a few weeks ago.

So much so that Schumer belted out “Tiocfaidh ar la” more
than once during the rally and in reasonable Irish too.

The process of steering two mutually compatible bills
through the corridors of Capitol Hill will not be an easy

President Bush, however, will want a workable reform bill
to sign; indeed any bill that doesn’t mention Iraq.

So the momentum would finally appear to be with the

This is a little good news for thousands of Irish now
hunkering down for another Christmas where the one gift
they will not get will be the one they want most – the
freedom to choose where and with whom they will spend
Christmas day.


MPs Criticise Museums 'Failures'

An all-party committee of MPs has given a damning verdict
on the way museums in Northern Ireland look after
historical items and artwork.

The Museums and Galleries of NI (Magni) and the Department
of Culture, Arts and Leisure were both criticised in a
Public Accounts Committee report.

It accused them of "profound deficiencies in

Magni and the department welcomed the report and promised
to consider its recommendations.

Two previous reports by the Comptroller and Auditor General
for Northern Ireland have criticised Magni and the
department and the MPs accused both of a failure to

Edward Leigh, MP, chairman of the committee, said:
"Safeguarding Northern Ireland's national collection is
dependent on its proper management, development and

"It is evident, however, that Museums and Galleries of
Northern Ireland has, over a long period of time, not
addressed its responsibilities.

"Storage is inadequate, record keeping fails to meet
recognised and acceptable standards and computerisation of
records has, despite previous undertakings, yet to be fully

He said the department's oversight of the body was
"deficient", adding: "Meaningful performance measures have
not been set to challenge its operation and encourage

"To compound matters, DCAL and Magni, have failed, at a
corporate level, to recognise the risk of damage or loss to
the collection in their statements of internal control.

"This fundamental omission is symptomatic of profound
deficiencies in custodianship."

A huge part of the collection - some 90% - is kept in
storage away from the public.

Mr Leigh said to continue to operate with 60% of storage
space either in a "poor" or "unacceptable" condition was
simply not good enough.

The report also noted the recent closure of the Ulster
Museum for a multi-million upgrade.

It said it would necessitate decanting its collections for
up to four years.

The report added: "Unfortunately Magni has not aligned the
availability of proposed new storage facilities to the
commencement of these works."

Two previous reports by the Auditor General highlighted
failures in the management, documentation and
computerisation of records and storage of the collection
which runs to some 1,450,000 artefacts and works of art.

Despite warnings and recommendations for improvement, the
museums body was still unable to confirm the extent to
which the national collection had been documented to
national and international standards.

The report added: "Contrary to Magni's own policy, annual
management audits of the collection have been sporadic,
ineffective and in two sites, non-existent."

The chief executive of Magni, Tim Cooke, said the
recommendations would be considered "urgently and

He said: "We take our responsibilities to care for and
develop the national collections with the utmost

"We are fully committed to addressing the issues raised and
improving the service we provide."

The department said it would be inappropriate to comment in
detail in advance of its considered response.

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2006/12/13 06:43:27 GMT


Spectacular Meteor Show Expected

13/12/2006 - 07:00:25

The most spectacular meteor shower of the year will be
visible in the Irish skies tonight.

Astronomers are gathering around the country to watch
fragments of an asteroid slamming into the Earth’s

Observers looking to the heavens can expect to see bright
streaks in the sky, one roughly every 20 to 30 seconds,
according to Astronomy Ireland.

The ‘shooting stars’ occur when pea-sized fragments of a
5km-wide asteroid collide with the atmosphere at 35 km per
second, burning up at heights of 100km.

“This is the best meteor shower of the year, with two or
three blazing across the skies each minute; a spectacular
sight,” said David Moore, Chairman, Astronomy Ireland.

Watches have been organised in Dublin, Carlow, Clare, Cork,
Dundalk, Clonmel, Waterford and Wexford with telescopes for
the public.


TCD Launches Irish Studies Course

Trinity College Dublin has launched a new Irish studies
degree programme which draws on disciplines as diverse as
Irish, English, history of art, genetics and film and drama

Students will study the main periods of Irish history and
will familiarise themselves with key concepts in cultural
history and theory.

The course will also focus on subjects such as an
introduction to genetics and DNA testing which will include
genetic research of population patterns and genealogies in
prehistoric and medieval Ireland.

The course is a collaboration of lecturers from the
departments of History, English, Irish, Geography, History
of Art, Politics, Linguistics, Film and Drama Studies and

In a new departure in how Irish Studies are taught at
university, students will be able to study Irish from
beginner's level and the programme will allow students to
study Irish literature in the Irish and English languages.

Commenting on the significance of the new degree course,
TCD Provost, Dr John Hegarty, stated at the launch: "As
Ireland develops further and embraces greater innovation
and excellence in education and society at large, it is
appropriate that a unique interdisciplinary degree course
is now available that will explore and question our
literature, language, history and culture in a way that has
never before been possible, either at home or abroad.

"The Irish studies degree will contribute to the continuing
development, growth and maturity of Ireland and Irish
society. It represents a celebration of our Irishness, and
also of our contribution to global diversity and the
languages, histories, literatures and cultures of the
modern world," he concluded.

There will be 26 places available - 20 for students from
the European Union and six for students outside of the EU.

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