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January 03, 2007

Justice Minister Row Escalates

News About Ireland & The Irish

BN 01/02/07 Northern Justice Minister Row Escalates
BT 01/02/07 All Change As SF Loses A Fifth Of Sitting MLAs
SW 01/03/07 Sinn Fein Makes Peace With Police
BB 01/03/07 NI Bank Robbery Charges Dropped
BB 01/03/07 Adams Appeal Over The Disappeared
WP 01/03/07 Ring Keeps Pressure On For Illegal Irish In US
LA 01/03/07 Opin: Sinn Fein And The Cops
BN 01/02/07 More People Moving To North Than Leaving
BN 01/02/07 Glendalough Park To Be Extended


Northern Justice Minister Row Escalates

02/01/2007 - 19:10:41

A row between Ulster Unionists and Northern Secretary Peter
Hain over plans for a Stormont justice minister escalated
tonight as the party published the British government’s
proposal on the internet.

Ulster Unionist leader Reg Empey has claimed that the
document proves that Mr Hain was intending to impose a
justice minister on the Assembly in May 2008.

This has been denied by British government sources.

Empey said: “The public should be offered the opportunity
to cut through the triple lock spin of the Democratic
Unionist Party and read for themselves that in the absence
of agreement on the policing issue, government would impose
the devolution of policing and justice as well as the
minister concerned.

“The proposal amounts to a ministerial directive and holds
out the very real prospect of a Sinn Féin minister of
policing and justice by May 2008, regardless and in spite
of DUP claims of a triple lock on the issue.”

The East Belfast Assembly member continued: “The government
has comprehensively outmanoeuvred the DUP negotiators and
confirmed the imposition of the devolution of justice
within the timescale set out at St Andrews, namely in March

According to the letter published today on the Ulster
Unionist website, Mr Hain proposed on December 28 to the
Transitional Assembly’s policing and justice sub-committee
that there would be one justice department with a senior
minister and a deputy minister, who would be elected by
cross-community vote.

The Ulster Unionists highlight one key paragraph, which
reads: “If there was no successful election within the time
frame set out at St Andrews, the government would take any
necessary steps to ensure that the timescale for devolution
was not delayed.

"This includes the appointment of a justice minister and,
to ensure cross-community representation, a deputy justice

Peter Robinson, the Democratic Unionist deputy leader,
yesterday warned that the imposition of a justice minister
on the Stormont Assembly by the British government would
sound the death knell for devolution in the North.

The East Belfast MP said that his party would not accept
the move.

For the second night running, British government sources
insisted that, in his paper to the Assembly policing and
justice sub-group, Mr Hain had not suggested that he would
impose a minister.

One source said tonight: “It could not realistically
happen, the imposition of a minister would be so far
outside the terms of the Belfast Agreement.

“Who would accept a secretary of state coming in at any
stage and imposing the minister?

“The paper the secretary of state submitted was designed to
break the stalemate on policing and justice. It is yet to
be discussed by the sub-group.

“It is not legislation and is only a discussion document.

“What the secretary of state has proposed is a system where
the Assembly would elect a justice minister from 2008 to
2011 on a cross-community vote. Effectively, that means a
self-denying ordinance for Sinn Féin and the DUP.

“He has put that paper to the sub-group because he believes
it can work. It can produce a minister who would command
support in both communities.

“Rather than suggest that in the event of no minister being
elected the government will impose one, we have held out
the possibility that, as a contingency, the Assembly could
ask the secretary of state to appoint someone.

“People should be careful not to read things into this
paper that are not what is being proposed."


All Change As SF Loses A Fifth Of Sitting MLAs

[Published: Wednesday 3, January 2007 - 09:26]
By Chris Thornton

Since the St Andrews Agreement fell from above, the DUP has
been scrutinised closely for evidence of cracks and
aftershocks - whether it's been dissent behind closed doors
or the identity of the "twelve apostles" who signed a
statement that may or may not have differed from the
party's official position.

But so far it's actually Sinn Fein's tremors over policing
that have registered more prominently on the political
Richter scale.

Apart from the publicised threats to Gerry Adams and other
senior party members, Sinn Fein is currently facing the
loss of one fifth of its sitting Assembly party.

This is highly unlikely to translate into a loss of seats -
Sinn Fein has regularly replaced lower level members who
shuffle out of elected politics - but it may be the most
significant indicator of internal problems.

Thus far the party has acknowledged the difficulty that
support for the PSNI presents to republicans, but has
distanced that cause from any effect.

Take Geraldine Dougan, the latest Assembly member to
indicate she will not be standing for re-election.

A sister-in-law of former INLA gunman Dominic McGlinchey,
she emerged in 2003 to replace a dissenter - John Kelly,
one of the founders of the Provisional IRA, who resigned
from Sinn Fein over differences with the leadership.

She decided to stand down before the party's ard chomairle
stepped towards support for policing last week, but her
decision was only made public on New Year's Day.

In a statement from Sinn Fein, she was quoted as saying she
was standing down "for purely personal and family reasons",
but she was also quoted in the Irish News saying that one
of her concerns "is about policing".

Back in 2003, when decommissioning and the future of the
IRA were the sort of issues that made Mr Kelly move, Sinn
Fein saw three members of its sitting Assembly party leave
before the election.

Mr Kelly resigned, Mick Murphy was deselected in South Down
and Pat McNamee stepped down in Newry and Armagh because of
ill health.

This time, five members of the 24 in the Assembly are
currently off the ballot. Another is expected to stand down
before the March 7 election.

As things stand, Sinn Fein faces the election without
Michael Ferguson, who died last autumn (his vote is still
counted for current Assembly procedures).

Two others - Ms Dougan and North Belfast member Kathy
Stanton - will not seek re-election. Ms Stanton has denied
her decision was linked to policing in spite of reports to
the contrary.

Two more have been deselected, although their situation is
not fully resolved.

Davy Hyland and Pat O'Rawe were both deselected by the
party in Newry and Armagh, but Ms O'Rawe could be reprieved
by the party executive.

Mr Hyland, who has indicated he could run as an
independent, linked his deselection to the internal debate
over policing.

So far, the losses look unlikely to present serious
difficulties to Sinn Fein.

Of the five who've disappeared from the ballot so far, all
were first time MLAs who never sat in a fully functioning
Assembly, so they don't represent a major loss of

And there is one significant difference between Sinn Fein's
tremors and the schism that went through unionism in the
aftermath of the Good Friday Agreement.

Ulster Unionists who opposed David Trimble ultimately
helped the DUP.

If Mr Hyland does run as an independent, his experience
will be interesting, but as far as electoral politics are
concerned, Sinn Fein's dissenters appear to have nowhere
else to go.

© Belfast Telegraph


Sinn Fein Makes Peace With Police

by Simon Basketter

The prospect of a power sharing government in Northern
Ireland led by the veteran Unionist bigot Ian Paisley, and
backed by the Republicans of Sinn Fein, took a step closer
last month.

Sinn Fein is to hold a special conference which will decide
that the party can back the Northern Ireland Police force,
the PSNI. Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams announced the
proposal pointedly seated beneath pictures of hunger
striker Bobby Sands and African National Congress (ANC)
leader Nelson Mandela.

Since the foundation of the Northern Irish state,
Republicans have consistently viewed the northern police as
the armed wing of Unionism. Sinn Fein now argues that if
the police is fully devolved and under the control of the
Northern Irish assembly then it will no longer be a British
police force but a Northern Irish police service.

Throughout its existence Northern Ireland has been a
political slum characterised by repression, sectarianism
and poverty. The police have always been at the front line
of that repression.

The PSNI’s predecessor was the notorious Royal Ulster
Constabulary (RUC). The RUC was set up as a paramilitary
police force in 1922, after the British government
partitioned Ireland.

Half its members were recruited from the Ulster Special
Constabulary, which was itself recruited from Loyalist
paramilitary terror gangs.

In the late 1960s people started to fight back against the
treatment of Catholics as second class citizens. The RUC
responded by battering demonstrators and joining with
Loyalist gangs to terrorise Catholic areas. The Special
Branch of the RUC supplied the names, addresses and
photographs of Catholic targets to Loyalist paramilitaries.

The argument is that all this has changed. Even though the
proportion of Catholics in the force has increased since
the introduction of the new policing arrangements in 2001,
it was revealed last month that more than 70 Catholic
recruits have quit out of a total of 1,800.


The PSNI is an armed police force responsible for upholding
neoliberalism in Northern Ireland. Like all police forces,
its main activities are directed at working class people.

Sinn Fein use the example of South Africa as an argument
for recognising the PSNI. But the post-apartheid South
African Police Service has been used to break strikes and

The ANC running a police force is a sign of them making
their peace with the system and it is the same for Sinn

The Republicans aspire to take their place among the
constitutional parties of Ireland and to win as prominent a
role as possible for themselves as nationalists within the
existing structures.

One of the key ways a capitalist state operates is that
there is one army, one police and one law. The recognition
that the only force allowed to have weapons is the state
lay behind the arguments over decommissioning IRA arms. The
recognition of the state’s right to decide the rule of law
lies behind Sinn Fein’s leaders’ acceptance of the PNSI.

The other way of Sinn Fein proving its respectability is
its enforcement of privatisation and other neoliberal
measures when they were briefly given ministerial posts in
Northern Ireland.

Paisley’s Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) and Sinn Fein
differ as to whether economic policy should be seen in a UK
or an all-Ireland context. But that apart, on the economy
there is little to distinguish them.

Sinn Fein wants harmonisation of corporation tax across the
island. The DUP, seeing the Republic as a rival, wants an
end to the “unfairness” whereby the South has lower
corporation tax. Both propose to cut tax on businesses.

The peace process in Northern Ireland is based on the
assumption that there is a natural divide between people.
Working people, Catholic and Protestant, pay the price for
that sectarian divide.

Fortunately, there is unlikely to be the resumption of all-
out war in Northern Ireland. But that danger will always be
there unless working class politics unites Catholic and
Protestant workers against their rulers, both Irish and


Adams Appeal Over The Disappeared

Sinn Fein's Gerry Adams has called for anyone with
information about the bodies of people killed and secretly
buried by the IRA to come forward.

He said he expected work to start this spring to implement
the work of a government-appointed forensics expert.

He said those involved must "have all the information
possible to make their efforts a success".

Nine people murdered and secretly buried by the IRA during
the 1970s became known as the Disappeared.

The remains of four have been found, the latest in 2003.

IRA members involved in the killings have previously
visited burial sites with a forensics expert.

Three decades

Speaking on Wednesday, Mr Adams said he was mindful not to
raise expectations by the families.

"However, if there is any other information available which
might help I am appealing for those with it to now bring it
forward," he said.

"This is particularly the case in respect of the
disappearance of Charlie Armstrong, whose family I have met
a number of times."

He added: "This tragedy has gone on for almost three
decades. The families have suffered enormously. I want to
make 2007 the year this matter is finally resolved for
these families."

The remains of mother of 10 Jean McConville, who the IRA
claimed had been an "informer" who passed information to
the British security forces, were discovered in 2003.

In 1999, the IRA admitted they had killed Mrs McConville
and several other of the Disappeared, but alleged some of
them had been informers.

Mrs McConville, who was a widow, was killed after she went
to the aid of a fatally wounded British soldier outside her
home in west Belfast's Divis flats.

Her remains were finally found at Shelling Hill beach in
County Louth in the Irish Republic in August 2003.

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2007/01/03 14:02:42 GMT


NI Bank Robbery Charges Dropped

A County Down builder jointly accused of the £26m Northern
Bank robbery in Belfast in December 2004 has had the
charges against him dropped.

Dominic McEvoy, 23, from Mullandra Park, Kilcoo, was not in
Belfast Magistrates Court as he had been excused attendance
at remand hearings.

Mr McEvoy had also been charged with falsely imprisoning a
bank official.

However, a Crown lawyer said the test for a prosecution had
not been made and asked for the charges to be withdrawn.

Charges were also dropped against a second man.

Martin McAliskey, 40, from Ballybeg Road, Coalisland in
County Tyrone, was accused of withholding information and
attempting to pervert the course of justice in relation to
a white Ford Transit van alleged to have been used in the

'Long overdue'

Mr McEvoy's solicitor Niall Murphy said while the
withdrawal of charges was welcome it was "long overdue".

He said his client had spent a month in jail before being
granted bail.

That application had been opposed by the Crown and if it
had been successful Mr McEvoy would have spent 14 months in
custody for practically nothing, he said.

Mr McEvoy was jointly charged with Northern Bank official
Christopher Ward, 25, from Colinmill, Poleglass, in west

The prosecution lawyer said preliminary inquiry papers in
respect of Mr Ward were being prepared in draft form and
asked for a further remand.

Mr Murphy, who is also acting for Mr Ward, said he was
"personally flabbergasted and amazed" at the decision to
proceed against his client as there was no evidence.

He suggested that the next remand should not take place
until committal papers were served on the defence.

However, Resident Magistrate Paul Mateer remanded Mr Ward
in custody until 31 January.

"Hopefully there will be some indication then as to when a
preliminary inquiry date can be finalised," he added.

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2007/01/03 12:26:16 GMT


Ring Keeps The Pressure On For Illegal Irish In US

TAOISEACH Bertie Ahern has given assurances that the
Government is committed to securing legal status for the
thousands of undocumented Irish in the US. He was
responding to a Dáil question from Mayo Deputy Michael Ring
who quizzed him on what progress was being made in the

Mr. Ahern said the Government attached the highest priority
to the issue of the undocumented Irish in the United
States. He went on: “I continue to raise our concerns in
all of my dealings with key figures in the US
administration and legislature, including during a wide
ranging discussion which I had with the new US Ambassador
on Nov. 1.”

“In the period since the mid-term Congressional elections,
I have written to a number of senior US legislators to
congratulate them on the outcome of the elections. In doing
so, I have taken the opportunity to emphasise again the
Government’s deep interest in the issue of the
undocumented. Our Ambassador in Washington is also active
in highlighting our concerns in his on-going contacts with
the incoming Congressional leadership, as are officials of
our Consulates across the United States. I was happy to
meet again with the Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform
(ILIR). ILIR is proving highly effective on Capitol Hill
and beyond in communicating the Irish dimension to the
documented issue and I have been happy to support it
financially. This was the third in a series of meetings
that I have had with ILIR since September and it provided a
valuable opportunity to review the situation following the
mid-term elections.

I will be keeping in close contact with them in the period
ahead.” “I now look forward to a further intensification of
the Government’s efforts on behalf of the undocumented in
the period ahead, in particular with key Members of the
incoming Congress. Overall, my initial assessment is that
the recent elections have given a boost to the prospects
for reform, though the issue of comprehensive immigration
reform remains difficult and divisive both in Congress and
in the United States generally.

“I should emphasise also that I very much welcome the
continuing commitment of Senators Kennedy and McCain to the
advancement of the comprehensive approach to immigration
that they have long promoted and which the Government
strongly supports. I also greatly appreciate the recent
reiteration by President Bush of his on-going commitment to
comprehensive reform in this area. “The Government’s
overriding objective continues to be to ensure that our
undocumented citizens in the United States can regularise
their status, travel freely to and from Ireland and
ultimately secure a path to permanent residency.

“The Government’s overriding objective continues to be to
ensure that our undocumented citizens in the United States
can regularise their status, travel freely to and from
Ireland and ultimately secure a path to permanent
residency. Despite all the difficulties and challenges, I
look forward to further progress on this priority issue for
the Government in the coming period.” Deputy Ring said he
too had traveled to the US and met with representatives of
the Irish community who expressed concern that sufficient
pressure was not being put on the US authorities to resolve
the undocumented problem.

“This is an issue that is impacting severely on thousands
of illegal Irish who cannot come home for family gatherings
for fear of being stopped at Shannon and being refused
entry to the US. The Taoiseach will have to up the pressure
from every quarter so that this is sorted out in the short
term,” concluded Deputy Ring.


Opin: Sinn Fein And The Cops

The Irish Republican Army's political wing OKs a police
force. It's a small but significant concession.

January 3, 2007

IN MOST societies, it isn't news when a major political
party accepts the legitimacy of the police force. But the
leader of the political wing of the Irish Republican Army
made not just news but history last week by doing just
that. Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams said he would ask a
party conference to approve a motion supporting the "police
services" in both Northern Ireland and the predominantly
Catholic Irish Republic.

A recognition by Sinn Fein of the new Police Service of
Northern Ireland — a replacement for the Royal Ulster
Constabulary long distrusted by Catholics — would be a
momentous step. It would add the final piece to the jigsaw
puzzle of a new arrangement in which the North's pro-
British Protestant majority shares power with the Catholic

If power sharing is revived, credit will belong not only to
Northern Ireland's erstwhile enemies but to the United
States. Abandoning this country's traditional hands-off
policy, President Clinton committed his administration to
the search for a solution to "the Troubles," which killed
more than 3,000 people. The result was the 1998 Good Friday
Agreement negotiated by Clinton's envoy, former Sen. George
J. Mitchell, which called for an "inclusive" government in

Still, even as savvy a salesman as Clinton would have
failed had not successive British and Irish governments
worked together, often over the heads of their supposed
surrogates in Northern Ireland. Both governments combined
toughness toward terrorism with an openness to negotiations
and creative thinking. (Alas, there is no equivalent of the
Dublin-London axis to induce Israelis and Palestinians to
settle their differences.)

In 1994, in a gesture to Northern Ireland's Catholics,
Britain announced that it had no "selfish" interest in
ruling the North against the wishes of a majority of the
population. Four years later, as recommended by the Good
Friday Agreement, the Irish Republic addressed a long-
standing Protestant grievance by amending its constitution
to renounce any claim to govern the North.

The effect of these and other concessions was to fudge the
question of whether Northern Ireland was eternally part of
Ireland or eternally subject to the British crown. The
answer: It's neither. The North will remain linked to
Britain until a majority decides otherwise, but meanwhile
both London and Dublin will take care that the Protestant
majority shares power — including police power — with a
long-marginalized Catholic minority. And the guns will
remain silent.

It's an untidy compromise, but eminently preferable to
three decades of civil strife and political deadlock. Too
bad it comes to late for those who didn't survive the


More People Moving To North Than Leaving

02/01/2007 - 15:32:52

More people are arriving in the North to carve out new
lives than are leaving, it was claimed today.

Even though new research claimed there was a 15,735 net
fall over a period of 10 years of people leaving the North,
a University of Ulster academic said this was being offset
by an influx of people.

A study from the Halifax Building Society claimed more
people left the North between 1996 and 2005 to live in
other parts of the United Kingdom than people arriving for
a new life in the North from England, Scotland and Wales.

However, the findings revealed an excess of births over
deaths contributed to a population rise over the period of

The North also came second in the UK to London for surging
house prices, with a 215% rise, compared to 218% in London.

Professor Bob Osborne, director of the University of
Ulster’s Social and Policy Research Institute, said the
latest statistics showed the North was reaching peak
population levels.

“The population of Northern Ireland has grown by almost a
quarter of a million since the early 1970s from 1.5 million
to 1.725 million,” he said.

“It would certainly appear that indigenous people from
Northern Ireland are continuing to leave…but this is being
offset by the arrival of more people.

“Over half of those are immigrants from the new European
Union accession states but a significant number are also
people from Northern Ireland returning to live here.”

Prof. Osborne said the rise in migrant workers had been a
factor in the surge in house prices in the North.

“With migrant workers looking for somewhere to live, the
housing market in Northern Ireland is attracting more
investment in the buy-to-rent sector,” he said.

“That is jacking up prices up, which is obviously making it
difficult for first-time buyers.”


Glendalough Park To Be Extended

02/01/2007 - 18:01:57

One of Ireland’s top national parks is to be extended, the
Government announced today.

A significant amount of land in and around the historic
Glendalough in Co Wicklow has been bought for €1.7m by the

The three plots brought into public ownership through the
Wicklow Mountains National Park include land along the
lower lake at the renowned beauty spot.

An area around the famous round-tower monastic site was
also purchased, securing access to the national monument at
Our Lady’s Church.

Minister for the Environment Dick Roche believes the lands
are the most popular among visitors taking photographs in
the area.

The Government also bought a section of St Kevin’s Road and
a number of other monuments in the area including the Seven
Fonts, a large bullaun stone.

Mr Roche said: “I am delighted with this acquisition, which
will enhance our ability to protect and conserve some of
Ireland’s most important and best-loved national monuments
for posterity.”

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