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December 27, 2006

SF Reports Considerable Progress In Talks

News About Ireland & The Irish

IT 12/28/06 SF Reports 'Considerable Progress' In Talks
BB 12/27/06 Funerals For James McGuigan & Lorna
BT 12/27/06 Stone's Security Records 'Destroyed'
TO 12/27/06 Gangland Dublin: Deadly Spree Of Violence
BT 12/27/06 Van's Belfast Gigs Feature CD That Isn't In The Shops
RT 12/27/06 US Tourist Figures Reach Five-Year High


SF Reports 'Considerable Progress' In Talks

Sinn F‚in has reported "considerable progress" in talks
with Irish and British government officials about policing
and justice which are central to the restoration of
powersharing at Stormont.

Chief negotiator Martin McGuinness said both Taoiseach
Bertie Ahern and prime minister Tony Blair were involved in
discussions which have continued over the Christmas break.

A brief statement from Mr McGuinness last night sounded a
distinctly positive and optimistic tone about the
discussions centring on the PSNI - which republicans have
yet to endorse - and the devolution of justice powers, a
key Sinn F‚in demand.

The issues have dogged the political process since the two
governments and parties met at St Andrews in Scotland in
October. Despite this, and the difficulties which
supporting the PSNI and sharing power with republicans pose
for Sinn F‚in and the DUP respectively, Mr McGuinness
sounded distinctly upbeat last night.

"We have made considerable progress over the Christmas
period and have been working with both the Taoiseach Bertie
Ahern and British prime minister Tony Blair, including
contact once again this afternoon," he said. "This work
will continue in the coming days to try and ensure that
agreement can be made with the DUP to get the powersharing
institutions back up and running as quickly as possible.

"The Sinn F‚in leadership has continued to work at this
over Christmas because we want to see the new year mark a
new beginning in the relationship between our party and the
DUP. We want to work in partnership with them in a
powersharing government to address the problems facing
people across society."


Funerals For Father And Daughter

The funerals for a father and his eight-year-old daughter,
killed in a road accident, have taken place.

James McGuigan, 30, and his daughter, Lorna, died when
their car hit a tree on the Ballyhill Road in Crumlin,
County Antrim on Friday.

Two other daughters, aged four and five, who were also
injured in the crash, are being treated in hospital.

Mr McGuigan had been taking his children to their
grandmother's house when the accident happened.

Four people have died on Northern Ireland's roads since

So far this year, 125 people have been killed on the roads.

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2006/12/27 12:03:29 GMT


Stone's Security Records 'Destroyed'

[Published: Wednesday 27, December 2006 - 09:20]
By Chris Thornton

Killer Michael Stone's prison security records are believed
to be among 800 files mysteriously destroyed by the Prison

Their destruction means Stone's current guards are unlikely
to have a complete record of his contacts and behaviour
from when he was first jailed in 1988.

The loss of files is also believed to have hindered the
return to prison of Seamus Mullan, an IRA police killer who
had his licence revoked last week.

Prison officials insist privately that their computer
records contain all the relevant information that they may
need about Stone since he was returned to prison after he
attacked Stormont in late November.

But the Billy Wright Inquiry team - who exposed the
destruction of the security files - have shown that the
paper files contained information which has been lost

The inquiry's hearings in November revealed that the Prison
Service destroyed files containing secret security
information on about 800 prisoners in 2002.

The files were described as the "principal repository of
intelligence information on or about prisoners".

The inquiry was told the files contained information on
virtually every prisoner released under the terms of the
Good Friday Agreement - a category which includes Stone and

Lawyers argued that the files should have been preserved in
case any prisoners who were freed on licence were later
returned to jail - just as Stone and Mullan have been over
the past month.

A prison governor claimed the files were burned on the
order of Martin Mogg, a former Maze prison governor who is
now dead. But no record of the destruction was ever made.

The destruction of the files and the disappearance of other
documents have thrown up significant obstacles to the
inquiry into Wright's murder, which happened nine years ago

Stone was released from six life sentences in July 2000,
when the Maze Prison closed, but his freedom was revoked
after he stormed Parliament Buildings on November 24.

The Prison Service has refused to confirm or deny the
destruction of files about Stone and Mullan.

But officials have insisted that their computer system -
known as SASHA - has material on any freed prisoners who
might be returned to jail.

But the Billy Wright inquiry team found the computer system
was " deficient" when compared to paper records.

Derek Batchelor QC, the lead counsel for the inquiry, said
that computer printouts on paramilitary prisoners returned
to jail, like Stone, "did not record any information before

In Stone's case, that means the absence of any records for
his first decade in prison. He was originally jailed after
attacking an IRA funeral at Milltown Cemetery in Belfast in
March 1988, earning him the moniker the Milltown Murderer.

Mullan, from Lisnascreaghog Road, Garvagh, was released the
same year the computer system was introduced, meaning most
of his information could be lost.

He was jailed for the 1985 murder of Constable Willis
Agnew. Described as a disaffected republican, Secretary of
State Peter Hain revoked his licence, indicating that he
"remains a real danger to the public".

In contrast to the computer records, the paper files were
said to contain " other relevant material such as papers,
reports from other bodies, newspaper clippings, telephone
transcripts and the like".

Mr Batchelor recently cited an incident where information
about Billy Wright's killers that was not on the computer
was found in the one of the few remaining paper files.

Stone is currently being held in Maghaberry Prison.

He recently applied for High Court bail, claiming the
attack on Stormont was "performance art replicating a
terrorist attack".

The bail application was adjourned to see if forensic
evidence would support Stone's claim that the devices he
carried were not capable of injuring anyone.

c Belfast Telegraph


Gangland Dublin: Deadly Spree Of Violence Leaves A
'Carefree' City Looking Into Abyss

David Lister, Ireland Correspondent

:: President blames affluent drug users

:: Former members of IRA suspected

The image of Dublin as a prosperous, carefree city has been
dealt a series of blows by a surge of gangland violence
that has led to a record number of murders and created a
security crisis for Bertie Ahern's Government.

Ten years after the murder of Veronica Guerin, the
investigative journalist, triggered a public outcry over
the country's power-thirsty drug dealers, an escalating new
feud has illuminated the dark underbelly of the Irish

Police launched a murder investigation yesterday after a
28-year-old man became the latest victim of the violence.
He was shot in the early hours of the morning as he slept
on a sofa in a house in the north inner-city district of
Named locally as Stephen Ledden, a father of one and a
convicted robber, he was believed to have been targeted in
retaliation for the murder of a rival criminal outside a
supermarket in Dublin two weeks ago. Mr Ledden was killed
by a gunman who entered the house through the unlocked
front door before shooting him once in the back of the

The murder of Mr Ledden was the 63rd violent death in the
Irish Republic this year, including 27 gun killings, the
highest level in almost a decade. They include the murders
this month of Dublin's "Mr Big", the drugs baron Martin
"Marlo" Hyland, and Anthony Campbell, 20, an apprentice
plumber, who was in the house at the time and was shot to
stop him identifying the killer.

Mr Campbell's death provoked widespread outrage and was
described by Michael McDowell, the Irish Justice Minister,
as the act of "evil people".

He has promised an extra 1,000 police officers to help to
fight gangland crime, and has also accused judges of being
partly to blame for the rise in violence by releasing too
many gang members on bail. Yesterday opposition politicians
accused him of not doing enough. Joe Costello, member of
the Dail for Dublin Central, said: "Authorities have to get
to grips once and for all. We have seen again the ease with
which gangs have access to weapons and the brutal way in
which they are prepared to use them."

Jim O'Keeffe, justice spokesman for the Fine Gael party,
said: "The manner of last night's brazen, professional
murder shows just how little gangland killers fear the

Why the level of violence has risen so dramatically is not
clear, but the issue is an emotive one in Dublin, where the
killing of Guerin in June 1996 was condemned by John
Bruton, then the Taoiseach, as "an attack on democracy".
Record heroin seizures in Dublin in recent months have
underlined the city's growing drugs problem, while former
members of the IRA are suspected of selling their terrorist
expertise to gangs in return for a share of profits.
Although the IRA has taken steps to distance itself from
criminality on both sides of the Irish border, the same
cannot be said for some of its former members.

A former "officer commanding" of the Dublin IRA is believed
to be involved in a drugs feud in the north inner- city
area, while a man in his late forties, who served a jail
term for explosives before being freed early under the 1998
Good Friday peace accord, is also reported to be closely
associated with one of the city's biggest heroin gangs.

The murders have provoked widespread soul-searching, not
least from President McAleese.

In a Christmas interview she described the rising gangland
violence as "a hideous, ugly development" but said that
Ireland's prosperous middle classes had to accept part of
the blame. She said: "Who creates the market that allows
these people to become so powerful? It is the people with
the good jobs, it is the people with a great social life,
with the fancy car at the door who are doing cocaine
thinking it is a really smart and cool thing to do.

"The gangland killings don't come out of nowhere. The
people who do drugs in rather nice environments are
implicated directly."

Monsignor Diarmuid Martin, the Archbishop of Dublin, also
spoke of the killings in his Christmas address and referred
to the violence as one of the dark sides of modern
Ireland's success story. He said: "There are signs of an
insatiable greed which . . . fails to fill the hunger for
selfesteem and value; there is the violence of those who
seek to profit from the suffering and addictions of others.
There is the terrible violence we find on Dublin's streets,
a disregard for the value of life which haunts me and fills
me with a sense of horror."


Van's Belfast Gigs Feature CD That Isn't In The Shops

[Published: Wednesday 27, December 2006 - 10:24]
By Noel McAdam

Van Morrison fans have been given an extra Christmas gift -
an unexpected new album. But the double CD, Live at Austin
City Limits Festival, won't be available in the shops.

Instead, it will be on sale at Morrison's concerts in the
Waterfront Hall in Belfast in February, other gigs and
through his official website.

The performance set comes less than a year after Morrison's
last official album release, his exploration of country and
western music, Pay The Devil.

Recently, Morrison has lamented record companies' refusal
to release much more than one album a year and has hinted
he may become involved in more special projects.

Among them could be a follow-up to his Philosopher's Stone
album - unreleased tracks mostly from the first half of
Morrison's career.

Meanwhile, Van himself has turned Santa for his legion of
fans with this first official concert album since A Night
in San Francisco a decade ago.

The legendary Belfast-born singer has tended to release
live sets every 10 years, including the famous Live at the
Grand Opera House in 1984, which came 10 years after the
classic It's Too Late to Stop Now.

The new album includes a handful of his country album
tracks but is more a 'greatest hits' package including
Bright Side of the Road, Moondance and Brown Eyed Girl.

The album comes just a few months after Morrison's first
official DVD release, Live at Montreux, which has
performances from the 1970s and 1980s.

Over Christmas, Gloria Hunniford paid an emotional tribute
to her daughter, Caron Keating, by selecting another of
Van's songs as a pick on the BBC's Desert Island Discs

She chose Have I Told You Lately That I Love You as Caron
and husband Russ Lindsay danced to the song at their
wedding. Caron died of breast cancer two years ago at the
age of 41.

c Belfast Telegraph


US Tourist Figures Reach Five-Year High

27 December 2006 22:06

The number of US tourists visiting Ireland has returned to
the level of before the 11 September attacks five years

Figures from the Irish Tourist Industry Confederation show
there's been an 11% increase in visitors from the United
States this year.

The number of British tourists went up by 5%.

Overall, 7.5 million tourists visited Ireland this year,
generating around ?6 billion for the economy.

Irish Tourist Industry Confederation described 2006 as a
'memorable year'.

Approval for a second terminal at Dublin Airport and the
success of the Ryder Cup were among the highlights in its
end of year review.

The ITIC said the development of a national conference
centre at Spencer Dock in Dublin's Docklands will only
enhance Ireland's reputation abroad.

It also said that visitor numbers for 2007 are expected to
reach 8 million.

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