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December 17, 2006

SF Rejects DUP Justice Plan

News About Ireland & The Irish

BB 12/16/06 Sinn Fein Reject DUP Justice Plan
ST 12/17/06 Hopes Fade As SF Rejects DUP Compromise
BB 12/15/06 Sinn Fein Police Snub 'Temporary'
ST 12/17/06 Irish Illegals Hope For Visas
IE 09/27/06 Ahern Reiterates Support for ILIR
IT 12/15/06 NI Inquest Into O’Hagan's Death
IT 12/17/06 Concern At Failure To Recover No Bank Cash
BB 12/15/06 London Irish Lodge Racist Claim
BN 12/17/06 Armed Gardaí To Police Streets Over December
IT 12/16/06 Welcome To SNN. Weapons Must Remain On Board

(Poster’s Note: We are taking an end of the year
Holiday. The news posting will be spotty. Merry
Christmas & Happy New Year! Jay)


Sinn Fein Reject DUP Justice Plan

Sinn Fein will not collude in any attempt to exclude
republicans from a future justice ministry, the party's
justice spokesman has said.

The DUP had suggested that a future minister should be
elected by a weighted cross-community vote.

This method, however, is likely to exclude both Sinn Fein
and the DUP.

Sinn Fein's Gerry Kelly told the BBC Inside Politics
programme he "will not collude" in his own party's
exclusion from office.

"What party could argue for its own exclusion in these
circumstances?" Mr Kelly asked.

He said he and his party president, Gerry Adams, were part
of a Sinn Fein delegation which met the head of the Police
Service of Northern Ireland on Wednesday.

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

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2006/12/16 09:39:55 GMT


Agreement Hopes Fade As Sinn Fein Rejects DUP Compromise

Liam Clarke

SINN FEIN has dealt plans to restore power sharing to
Northern Ireland a serious blow by rejecting a compromise
proposal that would have eased the way to the transfer of
policing powers to a Stormont assembly.

Agreeing the timetable for the devolution of justice and
policing powers is the key Sinn Fein demand before the
party will endorse the PSNI.

The DUP is refusing to share power with Sinn Fein until it
backs policing. Ian Paisley’s party will not agree a
timetable for devolution of policing powers because it is
concerned that Gerry Kelly, the Sinn Fein policing
spokesman and a convicted bomber, would get the job of
justice minister.

On Friday, the DUP suggested the justice appointment should
be subject to “a cross-community vote” requiring unionist
and nationalist support.

Since neither the DUP nor Sinn Fein could hope to win
cross-community support, the ministry would go to the SDLP,
UUP or Alliance. If that was accepted it might have eased
the way for the DUP to agree a timetable.

A source close to the negotiations said: “The main hope of
resolving the policing issue lay around agreement that the
ministry could go to a candidate from the smaller parties.
Without that it looks intractable.”

Yesterday, Kelly rejected the proposal outright. He told
the BBC’s Inside Politics programme that he “will not
collude” in his own party’s exclusion from office. “What
party could argue for its own exclusion in these
circumstances?” he asked.

Sinn Fein appears to have raised the bar on policing
because of increasing grass-roots pressure on the party.
Party sources say Sinn Fein is reluctant to go into an
election on a platform of support for the police.

Under the Good Friday agreement, an assembly election must
be held by March 7 next year. In late January the British
government must decide whether an election is worthwhile.

It has already stated it will not call an election unless
there is agreement on policing and power sharing.

The British and Irish governments have also told Sinn Fein
that it needs to call an ard chomhairle (party executive)
this month and an ard fheis (party conference) to formally
endorse policing in January.

Last week, Declan Kearney, Sinn Fein six-county
chairperson, and a key figure in the inter-party talks,
appeared to rule out compromise.

He told an audience of dissident republicans and Sinn Fein
supporters: “There are elements of unionism that have set
their face against any possibility of any change in the
current operation of policing in the six-county framework,
and the issue is whether they are going to blink.”


Sinn Fein Police Snub 'Temporary'

By Mark Devenport
BBC Northern Ireland political editor

From the moment Sinn Fein decided to take seats in a
Stormont assembly and places around a power-sharing
executive table, their refusal to back the police and the
courts always looked temporary.

How can you be in charge of schools without backing the
lawful authorities if they are called in to investigate a
crime in the classroom?

The same difficulty could potentially arise in hospitals if
medical staff or patients are assaulted.

Both the education minister, Martin McGuinness, and the
health minister, Bairbre De Brun, managed to just about
circumvent the problems of being half in and half out of
the state structures.

But the logic of their position only pointed in one

Sinn Fein's Gerry Kelly told BBC Northern Ireland's Inside
Politics programme this weekend that his party's support
for the police cannot be taken for granted.

It is, he insisted, a question of both if and when.

However, after Gerry Adams's tete-a-tete over a cup of tea
at Stormont with the PSNI Chief Constable Sir Hugh Orde,
most observers believe it's increasingly a question of
when, not if.

Adams and Orde have held meetings away from the cameras
before - most publicly in Downing Street two years ago.

Sinn Fein's Gerry Kelly said that his party's support for
the police could not be taken for granted

The fact that the Sinn Fein president highlighted the
latest encounter in advance in an article for An Phoblacht
and then invited the media in to witness the scene inside a
Stormont committee room, smacks of a very deliberate signal
to his own grassroots that republicans are keen to support
a reformed police service.

Meanwhile, the Police Federation, which represents rank and
file officers, says it believes there is much to be gained
from Sinn Fein backing the PSNI.

If Sinn Fein go into government the federation wants to
meet them.

Stumbling blocks remain, however, and they are big enough
to derail the timetable envisaged in the St Andrews
Agreement and delay the election scheduled for the spring.

Sinn Fein wants a precise date for the transfer of policing

The DUP says that depends on unionist community confidence.

If a special Sinn Fein ard fheis (conference) is not held
by the end of January, Peter Hain could be left facing some
hard choices about whether to bin yet another deadline.

DUP sources indicate it would be easier to entertain a
timetable for the transfer of justice powers if they could
control who a future policing minister might be.

That's why the party has suggested a strong weighted
majority vote.

By indicating, albeit in guarded terms, his candidacy for
first minister, Ian Paisley appears on for a deal. By
meeting Sir Hugh Orde on camera, Gerry Adams appears on for
supporting the police

The notion that the department should initially be over and
above the 10 existing ministries and would not have a vote
in the executive, suggests the DUP is wanting to leapfrog
both the UUP and the SDLP and give the job to the Alliance

However, SDLP sources maintain the government has sounded
them out about whether they are interested in the

Far from grabbing the opportunity to freeze Ian Paisley
Junior out of the office, Sinn Fein see the DUP proposal as
a naked attempt to exclude republicans from power over the

Gerry Kelly told the BBC's Inside Politics he won't collude
in his own party's exclusion.

Sinn Fein wants strong cross-community safeguards, but not
a cross-community vote.

Instead, it believes the same proportional system as used
for the other executive departments should be applied to
the policing portfolio.

The SDLP is pushing its own idea for the immediate
appointment of a justice minister wielding those powers
already devolved, such as law reform.

The ingredients for yet another stand-off are in place.

Nevertheless, it could be argued that both the DUP and Sinn
Fein leaderships have already shown their hands.

By indicating, albeit in guarded terms, his candidacy for
first minister, Ian Paisley appears on for a deal.

By meeting Sir Hugh Orde on camera, Gerry Adams appears on
for supporting the police.

Prolonging the current situation only leaves both
leaderships vulnerable to dissenters in their own camps.

Can they find a compromise over the appointment of a future
minister which will enable both sides to move onto new

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2006/12/16 10:08:15 GMT


Irish Illegals Hope For Visas

Nicola Tallant

UP TO 50,000 Irish people living illegally in America hope
this will be their last Christmas in exile.

Campaigners expect legislation to help undocumented Irish
will be introduced to Congress by the Democratic party
early next year, granting them secure status for the first

Since the 9/11 attacks, an estimated 25,000 Irish people in
New York, and a similar number across the rest of America,
have not been able to hold driving licences or travel
because of controls on illegals.

They face hefty fines and criminal convictions if they are

Niall O’Dowd, chairman of the Irish Lobby for Immigration
Reform, (ILIR), says that although a visa amnesty is
unlikely, new legislation should mean that illegals will be
able to travel home again.

“There is a comprehensive immigration reform bill in place,
but it was rejected this year by the Republicans. Now that
the Democrats are in, we believe that it will be passed,”
he said.

“It is very extensive legislation and would have a huge
impact for the Irish here. At the moment the inability to
travel back and forth to Ireland is the biggest problem
facing anyone living here with no visa.”

O’Dowd said that the brother of one of his employees was
killed in a car crash in Kerry earlier this year, but she
decided not to go home for the funeral because she would
have been unable to get back into America.

“So many people want to see their families at this time of
year but they can’t because they wouldn’t get back in,”
said O’Dowd, owner of the Irish Voice newspaper in New

“If this new legislation does not come in, a lot of people
will just throw in the towel and head home. People who have
kids can’t even get a driving licence to drop them to

O’Dowd says he started the ILIR to force the issue on a
political level. The last rally organised by the group
attracted over 3,000 for a march on Capitol Hill.

The group plans to hold another rally next month.

“Last year, of the 1.2m green cards issued, only 2,000 went
to Ireland, so we desperately need to get some legislation
in place that will open it up,” O’Dowd said.


Minister Ahern reiterates support for the Irish Lobby for
Immigration Reform campaign and the activities of Irish
Immigration Centres in the U.S.

The Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr Dermot Ahern T.D., met
with representatives from the Irish Lobby for Immigration
Reform (ILIR) in New York today to discuss the ongoing
campaign on behalf of Irish undocumented in the United
States. Speaking after the meeting the Minister said :

“I would like to reiterate the strong support of the
Government for the campaign of the Irish Lobby for
Immigration Reform on behalf of the Irish undocumented in
the United States. The plight of the undocumented gets
harder by the day and the ILIR campaign has undoubtedly
already had a strong impact in Congress and beyond. The
Government will remain actively involved in representing
the concerns of the undocumented in the crucial period

Minister Ahern also met with representatives from Irish
immigration centers in New York yesterday evening to
discuss their work programmes for the year ahead. These
organisations are engaged in the provision of support and
advisory services that are accessed directly by Irish
emigrants. The meeting follows an announcement by the
Minister in July of grants from the Irish Government
totaling US$1.183m (€919,374) for 14 Irish community
organisations in the US in 2006.

During the meeting with the centers the Minister spoke
warmly about their work.

“The services offered by the Irish immigration centers are
critical, particularly for the more vulnerable members of
our communities here. I welcome the ongoing focus on
supporting community networks and the development of
services for older Irish people in this country. The work
that the centers undertake to respond to the particular
difficulties encountered by the undocumented in their
communities is also of key importance”.

Note for Editors

The Minister met with representatives from the following
Immigration organisations in New York yesterday :

- Emerald Isle Immigration Centre
- Aisling Centre
- Irish Immigration and Pastoral Centre, Philadelphia
- New York Irish Centre
- Project Irish Outreach
- Coalition of Irish Immigration Centres

The grants to the Irish immigration centres announced by
Minister Ahern in July total US$1,183,050 (€919,000). This
represents an increase of 29% on the amount distributed in
2005 (US$915,000). It is close to double the amount
disbursed in 2004 (US$653,242) and more than three-times
the funding available in 2003 (US$356,000).

Since 1990 the Department of Foreign Affairs has allocated
over US$6.8 million to the Irish Immigration Centres in the
United States.

Funding supports the delivery of advice and information to
Irish emigrants in the US. Particular priority is
attached to supporting the work of the front line community
organisations engaged with vulnerable Irish citizens,
including undocumented Irish people. Further information
on the work of the immigration centres may be obtained from
the Coalition of Irish Immigration Centres (
tel: 00-617-9870193) or directly from the centres concerned.

Overall, Government funding for emigrant services continues
to rise significantly. In 2006 Department of Foreign
Affairs funding in this area has reached €12 million,
representing an increase of 45% on 2005. Most of this
allocation is directed to groups in Britain, with the rest
directed to groups in the US, Australia and elsewhere.
ENDS +++

27 September 2006
Press Office


NI Inquest Into Journalist's Death

An inquest into the death of Northern Ireland journalist
Martin O'Hagan will be held next Tuesday.

Mr O'Hagan was shot dead by loyalist paramilitaries five
years ago close to his home in Lurgan, Co Armagh, as he
walked home from a pub with his wife, Marie.

Even though several people have been questioned, nobody has
stood trial.

There have been claims that police at the time, September
2001, failed to charge anybody to protect informants
working for Special Branch.

Gunmen linked to the Loyalist Volunteer Force are suspected
of shooting him in the chest and stomach because of his
investigative work for the tabloid Sunday Worldnewspaper.

Mr O'Hagan (51) had written extensively about their

At the time his widow said: "He died because he repudiated
and exposed terrorism from whatever quarter."

The inquest is due to be held at Armagh Courthouse.


MEP Concerned At Failure To Recover Northern Bank Cash

It is "absolutely extraordinary" that the £26.5m sterling
(€39 million) Northern Bank robbery cash has not been
recovered after nearly two years, an Irish MEP said today.

Dublin politician Eoin Ryan also queried if political
parties like Sinn Fein have profited from the Belfast heist
- one of the biggest in British history.

The audacious December 20th, 2004 crime, which police
blamed on the IRA, sparked a massive cross-border
investigation into illegal cash laundering.

Mr Ryan said today: "Thirty-odd million was stolen and
practically none of it has been recouped and practically
nobody has been charged with it - and it's gone."

He added: "It does seem extraordinary that (€39 30
million can be robbed out of a bank in Northern Ireland and
nobody knows where it has gone - and the IRA doesn't know
where it has gone.

"The idea that it can suddenly disappear... where is it
going? Where is that (€39 30 million. Is it going to
be put into use in electoral purposes for political parties
or where is it gone?

"It is absolutely extraordinary. It was a story that was
massive at the time and now people have forgotten about
it," he told Dublin-based Newstalk Radio.

A two-year investigation by the PSNI and the Garda has
resulted in several arrests and raids on properties north
and south.

Small quantities of cash believed to be from the robbery
were found at various locations including a PSNI country
club in Belfast and at a house outside Cork city.

Sinn Fein and the IRA have both denied any involvement in
the raid, during which armed men kidnapped Northern Bank
staff to gain access to vaults at its central Belfast


Irish to lodge racist abuse claim

London Irish are to lodge a formal complaint over alleged
racial abuse in Friday's Heineken Cup match against Ulster,
the BBC understands.

However, Ulster chief executive Michael Reid said that he
was "comfortable that the allegation is unfounded".

London Irish director of rugby Brian Smith claimed Delon
Armitage was racially abused by an Ulster player.

"One or two things have happened at the end of each of the
games that we will be formally taking forward," he said.

Smith told BBC Radio Berkshire that Irish would lodge a
formal complaint with authorities on Monday.

"We'll do whatever we need to on Monday in terms of putting
those issues in writing," he said.

"There's no room for some of the nonsense that one of our
players had had to put up with for two weeks in a row."

In response, Ulster chief executive Mike Reid said that his
side had "an unblemished record in relation to racial

There's no love lost between the squads

London Irish coach Brian Smith

"We would take this issue most seriously if the allegation
is formally made but from my initial discussions with
players, I am comfortable that the allegation is
unfounded," said Reid.

Smith said that he had already verbally lodged the
complaint to ERC chief Derek McGrath, who attended Friday's

The London Irish coach added that there was "no love lost"
between the sides after the two recent games.

"It starts from number one to 22 and carries on through the

Smith also claimed that London Irish playmaker Mike Catt
was "taken out by Neil Best" in the first minute of the
game and the England international had to go off injured at

"As a result, he (Catt) carried a shoulder injury
throughout the first half. Neil Best got a penalty and we
might be without Catty for up to a month.

"It should have been dealt with by the match officials.

"It was just one illustration of what's been a very
interesting two weeks playing against this mob."

Story from BBC SPORT:
Published: 2006/12/15 22:28:56 GMT


Armed Gardaí To Police Streets Over December

17/12/2006 - 10:17:58

Gardaí wearing body armour and armed with sub-machine guns
will, for the first time, be on duty over the festive

It’s in response to the recent wave of gangland shootings
in Dublin.

The Taoiseach is to meet with the Minister for Justice and
Garda Commissioner tomorrow to discuss Garda resources, the
tightening of the bail laws, and the need for speedier

Michael McDowell has openly criticised what he calls “soft
judges” who allow hardened criminals out on bail despite
strong Garda objections.

A survey published this morning shows that 96 per cent of
people questioned want the non-jury Special Criminal Court
to deal with organised gangs.


'Welcome To Shannon. All Weapons Must Remain On Board The

US soldiers returning from Iraq are in high spirits, unlike
those going the other way. Some of the thousands of troops
passing through Shannon Airport talk to Tom Clonan.

As Atlantic storm-force winds and rain whip across Shannon
Airport's runways and terminal buildings, Christmas trees
and ribbons of festive lights sway crazily in the
maelstrom. Despite the atrocious December weather, all of
the American military flights due at Shannon are on
schedule for today.

Since March 2003 - and the invasion of Iraq by US and
British forces - approximately half a million US soldiers
have travelled through Shannon airport.

"An average of 3,000 US personnel pass through here on a
weekly basis. At busy times, like Christmas, that average
goes up to 5,000 soldiers per week," says US army Maj Chris
Sabatini, who is based full-time at Shannon airport. He is
the liaison officer between the US military's European
Command (EUCOM) based in Stuttgart, Germany and the Shannon
Airport authorities.

Most of the soldiers are bound for service in Iraq and
Afghanistan. An occasional aircraft brings US troops to
Germany and elsewhere in Europe.

In the duty-free area today, approximately 200 troops, in
distinctive, well-worn desert fatigues, are browsing the
many souvenir stands and perfume counters in the main
foyer. These soldiers are mostly from the US 82nd Airborne
Division, returning home after a tour of duty in Iraq. They
arrived on an ATA flight from Kuwait City this morning and
are due to fly to McGuire Air Force Base, New Jersey.

The returning soldiers are visibly relaxed, with a large
number queuing for drinks at the Sheridan Bar in the open-
plan duty free area. The first soldier I approach - at
random - is Staff Sgt Debbie Ochsner (40) who has been
serving with the 82nd Airborne Division in Baghdad.
Deployed to Iraq in April of this year, Ochsner says she is
returning to her home town Fayetteville, North Carolina to
be with her two sons, aged eight and 14.

She has bought Irish souvenir T-shirts for the boys and she
has also bought a "worry stone" in the duty-free area.

"I'm carrying the worry stone as a reminder of my husband,
Robert. He's still in Iraq, serving with the 82nd
Airborne," she says. She is being sent home early to the US
on compassionate grounds following the death of her
husband's younger brother, James, aged 36, who was recently
killed in action in Afghanistan.

Ochsner then shows me a silver bracelet she is wearing with
her brother-in-law's name engraved on it, along with the
date, time and location of his death.

"We've all got them," she says, "to commemorate family
members we've lost in the war." She adds that she was
unable to see her husband during her tour of duty in Iraq,
even though they were both serving "in-country" at the same

"It's part of the sacrifice military families have to
make," she says. She plans to spend Christmas with her
mother, who has been minding their two sons since she was
sent to Baghdad eight months ago.

The next soldier I meet in the Sheridan Bar is Staff Sgt
Fran Smith (44), who was serving in Baghdad with the 263rd
Air Missile Defence Unit. She says she has been in Iraq
since October 2005. Her daughter, Vicky (24), has just
given birth to a baby girl.

Arriving in Shannon is "surreal", says Smith. "After all
that time in the heat and dust of Baghdad, to see the
green, green grass of Ireland is so strange to me.

"It's also strange to go home as a grandmother," she adds
with a laugh, "and not to have to carry a weapon - for

Also in the Sheridan Bar are Sgt Maj James McDowell (45)
and Sgt First Class Steven Edmondson (34) from Brooklyn,
New York. They both claim Irish ancestry. Both are
finishing a one-year tour of duty in Iraq with the newly
configured Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat
Organisation (JIEDDO) based in Baghdad.

"So many of our guys and gals are getting taken out with
IEDs [improvised explosive devices] in Iraq that we've
started a whole programme to wise them up to the threat,"
says McDowell. "We start stateside by briefing them in our
training centres in Louisiana and California about the IED
threat. Then we tell 'em again in Kuwait just before they
deploy to Iraq, but they don't really pay attention until
they're in-country in Iraq.

"Then they see IEDs rolled up in foam rubber and dipped in
cement to make the bombs look like rocks - then they pay
attention real fast, because its life or death. We've also
come across hollowed-out kerbstones or dead dogs and cats
stuffed with high explosives and detonated by remote
control when our troops come by."

All of the troops agree that the ubiquitous Humvee - the
standard US military transport vehicle in Iraq - is
especially vulnerable to IEDs.

One soldier refers to them candidly as "death traps".
Before he heads for the departure gate, McDowell points out
that new medical advances being developed in the field in
Iraq, such as powerful powdered coagulants designed to stem
arterial bleeding, are saving lives among US troops badly
injured by IEDs.

An ATA announcement calls the US troops to board their
return flight to New Jersey. Within minutes, the duty-free
area empties of US troops. They file silently towards their
departure gate, many carrying hastily wrapped gifts, soft
toys, dolls and teddy bears for children they have not seen
for more than a year.

The photographer and I follow them to the departure gate.
However, The Irish Times is not allowed to go on board the
ATA flight. We are informed apologetically by an ATA
employee that "there are weapons and dogs on the flight and
it isn't very photogenic". When I inquire about the
"weapons" and "dogs", I am informed that the troops
sometimes carry their personal weapons, "minus the
ammunition" on board for ease of transport back to their
home installations.

As for the dogs, a departing US soldier explains: "We
regularly get army dogs on the flights. Most of them are
trained to sniff out bombs or drugs. They're not allowed
off at Shannon to get air or exercise because of Irish
Department of Agriculture rules about dogs. Which is a
pity, because they get real excited in there when they
smell the fresh Irish air and sometimes they pee on the

As he disappears into the air-bridge he quips, "Hey, make
sure you tell your readers that it isn't just the troops
that are enthusiastic about the Shannon stopover".

WITHIN 45 MINUTES of the departure of the ATA flight to New
Jersey, another ATA flight from the US Marine Corp's Camp
Lejeune in North Carolina lands at Shannon. On board are
members of the US Marine Corps Regimental Combat Team 2,
2nd Marine Regiment, bound for deployment to Al Anbar
Province, Iraq.

As the ATA Boeing 757 aircraft taxies to the arrival gate,
The Irish Times is given permission to board the aircraft.
With the aircraft door just opened, the sight inside the
aircraft is a little unusual. There are no passengers
crowding the aisles, reaching for hand-luggage in the
overhead cabins, as is the norm among civilians prior to
disembarking an aircraft.

Instead, stretching right back to the rear of the aircraft,
there is row upon row of crew-cut marines in identical
combat fatigues sitting in total silence. The ATA announcer
on board the aircraft states, "Folks, good morning, welcome
to Shannon. You're going to be on the ground here for 45
minutes. The bar and the duty free are available and there
is a smoking section just straight across from the bar. All
weapons must remain on board the aircraft, and that
includes gun holsters. Thank you."

The marines leave the aircraft in near silence and head
straight for the duty free area - and the Sheridan Bar.
Their commanding officer, Lieut Col Andrew Smith (41), says
the marines are on their way to Al Anbar province for a
year-long deployment. Lieut Col Smith, whose family is
Irish-American, explains that he brought his family to
Ireland to stay in Adare Manor this summer, "as a last
family vacation prior to my deployment to Iraq".

With a daughter named Shannon, Lieut Col Smith smiles as he
describes the significance of the Shannon stopover to the
US Marine Corps: "Shannon, for every US marine, is the
highlight of any transit to Iraq. The people of Ireland are
genuine and warm and it's always nice to land here. Plus,
you get the benefit of a pint of Guinness," he says. "It's
always special to touch down here as you go in harm's way.
For marines in transit, if they know they're landing in
Shannon, it's a very big deal for them."

These sentiments are echoed by Capt Conlon Carabine (34) of
the 2nd Marine Regiment. "If you were to poll the US Marine
Corps, 99 per cent of them would say that Shannon is the
stopover of choice when passing to or from Iraq or
Afghanistan." Capt Carabine describes how Shannon has
entered the informal culture and vernacular of the US
Marine Corps, with the airport becoming synonymous with
service in Iraq for most US soldiers.

"I'll tell you this, leaving Kuwait, leaving Iraq to come
back to the United States and you'll land in one of two
places, either Hahn in Germany or Shannon in Ireland.
Everybody, without exception, wants to land in Shannon and
celebrate with a Guinness. It's not just the Guinness
though. The Irish and the American populations are tied
together at the hip. We're inextricably linked since the
Famine, I guess. More than any other European country,
especially since the 1840s."

The mood among the marines departing for Iraq is noticeably
far more sombre than that of those returning to the US.
When asked about leaving his young family of four children
at Christmas, Lieut Col Smith is philosophical about the
sacrifice his family has had to make for military service.

"Of the last four Christmases, I've spent one at home. I
spent last Christmas in Al Anbar Province, Iraq. Sure, my
kids are curious as to why their Dad leaves around the
Christmas time-frame, but that's just how the cards play
out. They're old enough to know the risk, and they do ask
about Iraq and what's going on there."

Capt Carabine describes the ferocity of combat experienced
by the 2nd Marine Regiment in Al Anbar province in their
previous deployment, during which they sustained many
losses in battles with insurgents in the city of Khaim,
close to the border with Syria.

"These guys don't just stand and fight, some of them are
prepared to stand and die in battle."

Capt Carabine, who was married in August, describes to The
Irish Times the difficulty of leaving family behind in the
US, especially at Christmas. "I'll tell you, I've been shot
at multiple times and it takes more courage to say goodbye
to loved ones going to a combat zone, going away to war."

Capt Carabine, who spent his summer holidays as a child
with cousins in Foxford, Co Mayo, is philosophical about
the risks in Iraq.

"Fear isn't an issue for me. I would say there is some
anxiety with losing some of the troops under one's command.
As far as myself is concerned, dying or getting hurt, I'm
not afraid. To be honest, I do not fear death or getting
hurt. There's anxiety, but not fear."

Capt Carabine and Lieut Col Smith barely have time to
finish a pint of Guinness before they are called to
departure Gate One and their departure to Kuwait City and
Iraq. As a steady stream of young marines boards the Boeing
for Iraq, their dun desert combats seem poignantly out of
kilter with the howling wind, driving rain and green, green
grass of Shannon.

Dr Tom Clonan is the Irish Times Security Analyst. He
lectures in the School of Media, DIT

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