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February 19, 2007

Anglicans & Catholics Should Reunite Under Pope

News about Ireland & the Irish

BT 02/19/07 Bishops Urge Anglicans, Catholics To Reunite
BT 02/19/07 Washington Trip May Be Crucial To Assembly Deal
BT 02/19/07 Parties To Slug Out State Of Unionism Battle
IT 02/20/07 Cameron Urges Rejection of Sectarian Politics
IT 02/20/07 North Down: Not An Easy Place To Read
SF 02/19/07 SF To Attend Policing & Collusion Conferences
BB 02/19/07 Families Sue For Murder Collusion
BT 02/19/07 Croke Park: England Return To Scene Of Massacre
IC 02/19/07 Opin: The Protest Vote
BT 02/19/07 St Patrick's Day: Belfast Set For Celebrations
IT 02/20/07 Clare Coach Firms Angered By Cliff Fees


Bishops Urge Anglicans, Catholics To Reunite

[Published: Monday 19, February 2007 - 10:29]
By Maureen Coleman

Senior Catholic and Anglican bishops have agreed on
proposals - which will be published later this year - to
reunite under the leadership of the Pope, it was claimed

In a 42-page statement prepared by an international
commission of both churches, Catholics and Anglicans are
asked to explore how they might end their split and reunite
with the Pope as leader.

The statement is being considered by the Vatican, where
Catholic bishops are understood to be preparing a formal

The news comes as the archbishops of 38 provinces of the
Anglican community meet in Tanzania to discuss gay
ordination and other liberal doctrines that have taken hold
in parts of the western Church.

It is thought that should these discussions lead to a split
between liberals and conservatives, many of the former
objections in Rome to a reunion with Anglican conservatives
would disappear. Many of those Anglicans who object to gay
ordination also oppose the ordination of women priests.

The Vatican showed it could be flexible on the issue of
celibacy when it received dozens of married priests from
the Church of England after they left over the ordination
of women priests.

This latest report was drawn up by the International
Anglican/Roman Catholic Commission for Unity and Mission,
which is chaired by the Right Rev David Beetge, an Anglican
Bishop from South Africa and the Most Rev John Bathersby,
the Catholic Archbishop of Brisbane.

The commission was set up in 2000 by the former Archbishop
of Canterbury, Lord Carey, and Cardinal Edward Cassidy, the
president of the Vatican's Council for Christian Unity. Its
aim was to find a way of moving towards unity through
"common life and mission".

The document, leaked to The Times, is the commission's
first statement, Growing Together in Unity and Mission.
While acknowledging the " imperfect communion" between the
two churches, it says there is enough common ground to make
its call for action about the Pope.

c Belfast Telegraph


Washington Trip May Be Crucial To Assembly Deal

[Published: Monday 19, February 2007 - 10:51]
By Noel McAdam

Crunch negotiations after the Assembly elections could
involve the annual trek by the political parties to
Washington for St Patrick's week, it emerged today.

The extended sequence of events around March 17 - a
Saturday this year - might play a more pivotal role in the
province's politics than in recent years.

For it is by around that weekend that the British and Irish
governments will ideally want to attempt to calculate
whether a devolution deal is on the cards for March 26.

Senior party sources said, however, that as in the past
negotiations are likely to stretch to the last possible day
- and it is not yet clear whether all the parties intend
sending full delegations to the US.

The speculation rose as DUP leader Ian Paisley said there
were still " too many ifs and buts" over Sinn Fein support
for policing and his party needed to be persuaded

Interviewed on RTE's This Week, Mr Paisley said there was a
"craving for peace", but it was essential to ensure it
would last.

"There will be obstacles and difficulties, but we are going
to see this one through," he said.

His upbeat assessment came after Sinn Fein's ard chomhairle
(executive) met in Dublin to debate the election and its
annual ard fheis in two weeks.

Afterwards, chairperson Mitchel McLaughlin ruled out the
DUP's so-called 'plan C' aimed at preventing the collapse
of a Stormont Executive if Sinn Fein defaults in future.

Mr McLaughlin said: "There is no plan C or D.

"This is the last chance for those who have stood in the
way of progress for so long to come on board.

"There are only two options facing the parties. Either we
go with plan A, the Good Friday Agreement and set up the
political institutions.

"This has to be the best option. Or the governments will
implement their joint management proposals. There are no
other options."

The Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland also met, at Tamnamore in
Co Tyrone, and afterwards issued a statement attempting to
counter a feared unionist stay-at-home element in the

Both main unionist parties have expressed private fears
that its electorate may not come out on March 7.

The Orange Order named no parties, but said voters must not
allow those who had been involved in a "murderous campaign"
to gain seats in the Assembly "due to apathy or lack of

c Belfast Telegraph


Parties Ready To Slug It Out In State Of Unionism Battle

[Published: Monday 19, February 2007 - 11:07]
By Noel McAdam

While David Trimble has departed, Upper Bann remains one of
the key barometers of the state of unionism - between the
DUP and Ulster Unionists in particular.

And Banbridge is the area all the main parties are focused
on in attempting to alter the 'safe bet' outcome of two
DUP, two UUP, one SDLP and one Sinn Fein.

Memories of former MP, now Lord, Trimble and his wife,
Daphne, enduring a concerted assault as they left an
election count may by now be fading, but temperatures
between the parties in the area still run high. They will
slug it out to the last.

Although they have still a considerable gap to close, the
DUP can be considered within sight of a third seat.

That possibility makes the constituency an important test
of support for the party still facing crunch decisions on
power-sharing with Sinn Fein.

Has support dropped or stabilised?

Two factors - fears of a huge stay-at-home element and the
effect of two independent unionists - could thwart their
hopes however, with Ulster Unionists confident they can
hold onto two quotas.

DUP vote management is focused between Craigavon and
Banbridge, where the party has spent 18 months building up
the profile of newcomer Junior McCrum, replacing senior
Orange Order leader Denis Watson who fought and failed in

McCrum is fairly unknown in the Craigavon area where
instead sitting members David Simpson, who defeated Trimble
for the Westminster seat, and Stephen Moutray should share
well over two quotas.

The unknown entity is apathy. "There is a degree of
unhappiness in Upper Bann, there's no doubt about it," one
strategist conceded.

The loss of the former party leader and First Minister
weakens the UUP brand, but a contingent of the constituency
association argues Trimble had become a liability.

The UUP is playing a 'safe pairs of hands' strategy,
fielding sitting MLA Samuel Gardiner, former Stormont
member George Savage and new candidate, veteran councillor
Arnold Hatch, a senior player in the all-party local
government association who intend to capitalise on
disgruntlement in and with the DUP.

"We are finding people on the doorsteps telling us 'you
were right - we were wrong to support the DUP'," one
veteran party worker said.

Sinn Fein is also pushing, however, for a second seat,
fairly confident of current MLA John O'Dowd being returned,
but believing Banbridge councillor Dessie Ward could also
advance the party's one-and-a-half quotas, at the expense
of a collapsed UUP vote or the SDLP.

Republican Sinn Fein have put up a standard-bearer,
however, in Anthony Toman.

The SDLP's sitting tenant, Dolores Kelly, is convinced she
will retain her seat. Another element which can potentially
effect the outcome is where the Alliance vote - represented
by another Banbridge figure, Sheila McQuaid - transfers to.

It's a fairly packed field. No less than ten candidates are
not going to make it. The wife of former loyalist prisoner
Clifford Peeples, Suzanne Peeples, is also standing, at the
apparent behest of 'bitterly disillusioned' sections of the
DUP electorate.

Characterised as a Protestant Unionist, the former security
forces and Orange Order member argues once faithful DUP
voters feel 'betrayed'. And independent local veteran David
Calvert, who has won the support of DUP councillor Mark
Russell, could dent the DUP vote even more.

c Belfast Telegraph


Cameron Urges Voters To Reject Sectarian Politics

Scott Jamison
Tue, Feb 20, 2007

Conservative leader David Cameron has called on voters in
the North to leave behind "sectarian politics".

Mr Cameron was in Bangor yesterday to drum up support for
James Leslie, the Conservative Party candidate for North
Down who is attempting to gain the first Conservative seat
in the Northern Assembly.

Mr Leslie defected to the Conservatives from the Ulster
Unionist Party in September 2006. He won an Assembly seat
in 1998, although he did not stand in the election of 2003.

"I believe the Conservative Party has a lot to offer people
in Northern Ireland because we ought to be getting away
from sectarianism and voting on the basis of the community
you belong to," said Mr Cameron.

"Instead, people should be voting on the issues they care
about and candidates who reflect your values. That is what
the Conservative Party hopes to do in Northern Ireland."

The Conservatives will field nine candidates and hope to
make a bigger impact than the 0.2 percentage points they
gained in the election of 2003.

"I want to see the Conservative Party do well in every part
of the United Kingdom. I think there is a real opportunity
because we want politics here to return to normal and get
away from the endless issue of how Northern Ireland should
be governed."

On the issue of whether there would be a powersharing
executive come March 26th, Mr Cameron was optimistic.

"I hope we will see power-sharing and will see it work, but
all parties have to do what they can to make sure it does

One of the main issues in the election run-up has been Sinn
Fein's support of the police and unionist reaction to it.

"I respect what Sinn Fein have done. It was difficult for
them to support the police, and I applaud that. I think
those are very important steps forward, but we need to see
it reflected now in deeds as well as words.

"We need to see it happen on the ground. I think Sinn Fein
have steps to take to show their support for policing is
real and tangible, but I hope all parties will work

Earlier in the day Reg Empey, the Ulster Unionist leader,
challenged Mr Cameron over whether any potential
Conservative Assembly members would designate themselves as
unionists once in the Assembly.

Mr Cameron said the Conservative Party was the "strongest
supporter of all parts of the United Kingdom remaining part
of the United Kingdom".

"Of course it is up to the candidates to decide what to do,
and, having spoken to our candidates, I am sure if they
have to designate they will designate themselves as
unionist. But we ought to be getting away from this whole
idea that you have to designate. One of the reasons we are
standing is to say to people that politics does not have to
be like this."

c 2007 The Irish Times


North Down: Not An Easy Place To Read

Dan Keenan, Northern News Editor, in Bangor
Tue, Feb 20, 2007

Constituency Proile/North Down:Ten years ago the voters of
North Down would not have seen a DUP candidate knocking on
doors. These days Peter Weir, an Ulster Unionist defector,
does precisely that.

Accompanied by Alex Easton, a surprise winner in the 2003
Assembly campaign, the DUP is fighting for a third seat.
It's a tall order, but the party is targeting the vote of
rebel unionist Bob McCartney and anticipating a possible
further decline in UUP support.

McCartney anticipates that Ian Paisley's bid to do business
with Sinn Fein will backfire and that unionists will damn
him for doing what he once set his face against.

Lady Sylvia Hermon is the popular local MP and the Ulster
Unionists' only member of the House of Commons. She can
attract half the vote in a general election, winning some
tactical votes from others, notably the Alliance Party, in
the process.

However, she's not on the UUP ticket and the anti-agreement
McCartney vote is not what it once was. That leaves an open
chance for the DUP and the party is going for it.

Easton is a cautious campaigner and does not count his
chickens, but he knows that the reception on the doorstep
is indifferent at worst and increasingly positive
elsewhere. One woman convinces him that solid constituency
work means she'll give him a No 1 and she is encouraging
others to do the same.

"In a sense the DUP is like Sinn Fein," he says. "We both
do the ground work well, we're close to the electorate and
it pays off at times like this." There is a sense among
Easton's voters that they want the DUP to "get on with it"
and do a deal to restore Stormont - even if it means
sharing power with Martin McGuinness. You can't choose your

Alan McFarland, the UUP's main man, believes that DUP
policy changes won't go un- noticed among the solidly
unionist electorate. "Paisley changed at St Andrews," he
says. "He promised a new deal without Sinn Fein and the
d'Hondt mechanism. Not now." The push for a third DUP seat
is a sign of a party over-reaching itself, he believes, and
it is simply running too many candidates.

People want "normal politics" and he insists his party will
"catch the wave" of popular opinion in favour of
powersharing and stability. "Paisley and McGuinness cannot
provide that," he says, a fact the electorate appreciates.
They will vote accordingly, he hopes.

To the outsider North Down is affluent, Protestant and
unchanging. The facts are otherwise.

Poverty sits alongside some of the wealthiest areas of
Northern Ireland. Its voters are independently minded and,
rather than solidly Protestant, a huge swathe of people do
not have a religious affiliation or prefer not to declare
it. Voter volatility means that in addition to the UUP-DUP
dogfight, a host of others see the chance of grabbing a
seat here.

The Greens are running a former Alliance frontrunner,
hopeful of making the breakthrough on to the Stormont

Brian Wilson is careful not to wish a plague upon the
traditional houses of the larger established parties.
Conscious of pressing local environmental concerns, he
wants to ensure he corners the market for preference votes
without annoying any one group of voters.

His party's biggest challenge is convincing anyone who will
listen that the Greens are not a single-issue pressure
group supported by those opting out of "normal" politics.
The party, explicitly coveting the Alliance vote, sees
itself as the deserved inheritor of voters fed up with the
perceived tribalism of the larger parties.

But the Alliance Party is not surrendering that territory
easily. Stephen Farry, party general secretary, believes he
can and will hold on to the considerable personal support
which the party's flag-bearer Eileen Bell had earned here
since 1998.

Like the Green Party, Alliance has the area well marked out
with posters and door-to-door campaigns established. Its
tactic is to garner sufficient first preferences to avoid
elimination, then to attract transfers - but that is also a
tactic employed by a range of independents.

Brian Rowan, a former BBC journalist, caused many a raised
eyebrow when he announced his candidacy. The Holywood man
insists he's a genuinely independent independent - and not
linked to any traditional camp.

A peace process insider, he says he is well placed "to act
as a voice for the process" and to "make a contribution to
the debate on all sides".

He could win. He could come nowhere - North Down is not an
easy place to read.

NATIONALIST BATTLEGROUND:There isn't one. Of Northern
Ireland's 18 constituencies, North Down comes 17th in the
nationalist/Catholic running.

The SDLP and Sinn Fein survive on micro- percentages with
many people sympathetic to such parties opting to vote
tactically against the unionist they least like or, more
likely, staying at home. The SDLP's Liam Logan has a
profile in Ulster-Scots circles, so he may benefit
somewhat, but there is little chance for him to challenge
for a seat.

Voters who do not see themselves as unionist have Alliance
and a variety of Independent options. Remember that the
outgoing Alliance member, Eileen Bell, is a Falls Road
Catholic, proving that religion may be less of a factor
here than in other unionist areas.

UNIONIST BATTLEGROUND:This is relatively new territory for
the DUP following years of independent unionist
representation by figures such as Robert McCartney and the
late James Kilfedder.

This time, the DUP is well established and pushing for a
third seat. Ulster Unionists too are hopeful of a third
member with hopes fostered by the large personal vote for
their only MP Lady Sylvia Hermon. However, she is not on
the ticket and it could be that her vote exceeds her
"party" vote and she benefits from Alliance tactical

The DUP does rather better here in local government rather
than Westminster elections, pointing to a complicated and
unpredictable voting picture.

WILDCARDS:Take your pick. The larger parties mumble about
the rising Green vote, the Conservative candidate and the

This is a volatile constituency - the Women's Coalition had
a breakthrough here in 1998 before losing out next time
around. No one genuinely knows if journalist Brian Rowan
will win dozens or a few thousand votes.

PREDICTED OUTCOME:There could be seven or eight counts here
before anyone reaches the quota for the first seat. It
seems a fair bet that the DUP is on course for at least two
seats as are the Ulster Unionists. Alliance, too, is well
placed for a seat. But as one candidate suggested to The
Irish Times: "Anybody can win the fifth seat and absolutely
anybody can be in with a shout for the sixth."

OUTGOING MEMBERS Leslie Cree (UUP) 3900 (12.6%)

*Peter Weir (DUP) 3675 (11.9%)
Alex Easton (DUP) 3570 (11.6%)
*Alan McFarland (UUP) 3421 (11.1%)
*Robert McCartney (UKUP) 3374 (10.9%)
*Eileen Bell (Alliance) 1951 (6.3%)

*Denotes winner of seat in 1998

c 2007 The Irish Times


Sinn Fein To Attend Policing And Collusion Conferences

Published: 19 February, 2007

Tomorrow a Sinn Fein delegation including Policing
spokesperson Gerry Kelly and Raymond McCartney will attend
the conference on Policing in the Waterfront Hall organised
by the Policing Board. The delegation will also attend the
Hilton Hotel conference on collusion which has been timed
to coincide with this.

Speaking today in advance of the meetings Gerry Kelly said:

"Tomorrow we will attend the conference entitled 'Policing
the future' in the Waterfront Hall. Sinn Fein's focus in
this as in all of our engagements in any policing
structures or events is to ensure that we have a policing
service which carries out its duties and responsibilities
in a fair and impartial way and which is democratically
accountable to the public.

"Policing with the community needs to be the core function
of any civic policing service and especially in relation to
protecting the most vulnerable sections of society. It must
be free from partisan political control.

"The importance of this is best illustrated by the event
taking place in the Hilton beforehand. The conference is
being organised by groups working with those families
bereaved through collusion and will bring together
families, campaigners and the media. Our job is to ensure
that the type of policing of which collusion was an
integral part never happens again or of it does that it is
promptly exposed and expediently dealt with. Tomorrows
engagements are part of delivering that agenda." ENDS


Families Sue For Murder Collusion

Families of four murder victims named in a report on RUC
Special Branch collusion with loyalist killers are to sue
the chief constable.

Police Ombudsman Nuala O'Loan said some Special Branch
officers gave immunity to a UVF murder gang in north

The families issued legal papers which allege negligence
during investigations into a series of murders in the

A delegation of relatives delivered a letter to PSNI
headquarters, outlining their intention to seek

Jacqueline Larkin, whose brother Gerard Brady was murdered
by the gang at the centre of the report, said legal action
was their only option.

"We should not be standing here 13 years on, having to go
through all this," she said.

"The investigations should have been carried out in a
proper manner in the first place, and our families should
have had closure.

"We haven't had that and all we're asking for is proper
closure and answers."

Prosecutions unlikely

Police Ombudsman Nuala O'Loan's report found some Special
Branch officers colluded with loyalists behind over a dozen
murders in north Belfast.

The officers "created false notes" and blocked searches for
UVF weapons, said the ombudsman's report.

They also paid almost œ80,000 to leading loyalist Mark
Haddock, jailed for 10 years last November for an attack on
a nightclub doorman.

Although the report called for a number of murder
investigations to be re-opened, it is unlikely that any of
the police officers involved will be prosecuted.

The ombudsman said that evidence was deliberately destroyed
to ensure there could not be prosecutions.

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2007/02/19 13:19:30 GMT


Croke Park: England Return To Scene Of Massacre

[Published: Monday 19, February 2007 - 12:15]
By David McKittrick

This time in Croke Park, according to the joke doing the
rounds in Dublin, the English won't have the advantage of
having rifles and armoured cars when they take on the Irish
at rugby next Saturday.

It used to be that such quips would have a raw, jagged edge
to them, giving vent to ancient Irish antagonisms against
the English. But in today's Ireland such quips tend to be
received with a smile: for while Croke Park's turbulent
history remains well known, it no longer generates the
anger it once did.

Saturday's match will nonetheless be a moment of huge
significance that will spark deep emotions. Its importance
will be not just sporting but also of profound cultural and
social relevance, saying to the world that the Irish
Republic - in existence for less than a century - is
exhibiting a new maturity.

The last century of Irish history is irrevocably bound up
with the story of Croke Park. For many, it will be a moment
for reflection when the anthem "God Save the Queen" is
sung, and when the Union flag flutters over this
traditional citadel of Irishness. Croker, as it is known,
this month hosted its first rugby game, when the French
beat the Irish in the last moments. But the appearance of
England will have more profound historical resonances.

Croke Park came into being early last century as part of a
Gaelic movement that promoted Irish sport, culture and
language, emphasising separation from Britain, disapproving
of most things British.

In 1916, the push for independence moved from the cultural
arena to armed rebellion, a rising in which small groups
seized key buildings in the centre of Dublin. It did not
last long, not least because British artillery quickly
pounded rebel strongholds to rubble, especially in Dublin's
main thoroughfare, today's O'Connell Street.

The rising commanded little widespread support, but in its
aftermath the authorities made what was seen as a
disastrous over-reaction, executing 15 rebel leaders by
firing squad. The wave of anger and sympathy led to a
marked shift of Irish public opinion towards the rebels.
Some of the rubble was used to help build Croke Park, one
section of which is to this day known as Hill 16, a
reference to the year 1916. The stadium was recently
rebuilt as one of the finest in Europe, but it still
retains as part of its physical fabric some of the material
from that time.

It was thus part of the Irish campaign for independence.
But four years later other events gave it a permanent, if
unwanted, place in Irish history.

In 1920, Michael Collins, one of the leaders of the Irish
guerrilla campaign, sent assassins to strike British
intelligence agents in Dublin. More than a dozen died in
ruthless early-morning raids on their homes.

The British forces involved in the campaign, most notably
the so-called Black and Tans, were notorious for swift

Crown forces went to Croke Park, where Dublin were playing
Tipperary, opened fire on the crowd and killed 14. One was
Tipperary captain Michael Hogan, whose name lives on in
Croke Park's Hogan stand. The incident was a political and
public relations disaster for the British.

It was a violent and ruthless period, with insurrectionists
first fighting the British, then each other. But in the
past two decades the tendency to dwell on past injustices
has strikingly lessened. So when Dublin's Lansdowne Road
ground grew too rickety to stage rugby and soccer
internationals, the Gaelic Athletic Association agreed to
open Croke Park to rival sports.

What has really changed is the dramatic drop in antagonism
towards England. On the field, Ireland will of course want
to inflict defeat on the English, but of a purely sporting
character. None of the past has been forgotten in Dublin,
for Irish memories are as long as ever. But there is a new
sense that even a deeply troubled history need not be

Oh, yes: the other quip in Dublin is that the most
appropriate Irish margin of victory would be 19-16.

c Belfast Telegraph


Opin: The Protest Vote

Andersonstown News

Dissident republicans will be standing in a number of
constituencies in the forthcoming Assembly elections, West
Belfast included. And while they will be hoping to profit
from perfectly understandable community concern about the
Sinn Fein decision to sign up to policing, they will only
do so if they set forward a viable and realistic political

What is their alternative? It's a question that has been
asked many, many times, and it is one that will be asked
many times more until dissidents decide to provide an
answer, which thus far they have signally failed to do.
Wrapping yourself in the green flag and loudly claiming to
be more patriotic than your neighbour may attract some
attention in the short term, but it is no substitute for a
strategy. Sinn Fein have laid out their stall very clearly.
They intend to work within the existing political and legal
arrangements with a view to constantly expanding the all-
Ireland aspects of the Good Friday Agreement. At the same
time they intend to build on their electoral support to
make them the pre-eminent political party in the North and
an electoral force to be reckoned with in the South. With a
large and hard-working team of political representatives
labouring at the coal face of politics in both Dublin and
Belfast, the party believes that the existing peaceful
momentum towards the ending of partition will become an
irresistible force.

That is their plan. Some may not like it, but there it is.

An important question needs to be asked of anyone
presenting themselves on the doorsteps in the coming days
and weeks in search of the votes of nationalists and
republicans. Do they believe that a return to war is
preferable to peaceful political activism? There is much
general talk being bandied about at present about Irishmen
and women having the right to bear arms against a foreign
oppressor, but this is an issue on which candidates need to
be crystal clear for the sake of our peace of mind, and for
the sake of our children. Being chary about the RUC/PSNI is
one thing, and there are many people out there who have
genuine worries about saying yes to the current policing
arrangements. There are precious few people who hold such
reservations, though, who are in favour of returning to the
dark days of conflict. Those concerned enough about the
Sinn Fein Ard Fheis vote to consider placing a protest vote
should make it their business to know the entire contents
of the dissidents' political package.


St Patrick's Day: City Set For Hectic Day Of Celebrations
And Shopping

[Published: Monday 19, February 2007 - 11:16]
By Bryan Gray

Traders in Belfast are gearing up for a hectic weekend next
month brought about by the clash of dates between St
Patrick's Day and Mothering Sunday. The annual St Patrick's
Day holiday falls on a Saturday with Mothers' Day following
on Sunday.

Retail outlets in the city are expecting revellers to
converge for the annual street parade and associated
festivities, alongside traditional last-minute shoppers
seeking presents for their mums.

Thousands are once again expected to throng the city's
streets. The carnival parade, funded by the city council,
will start at the City Hall at 12.30pm.

It will then make its way to Custom House Square for a two-
hour concert.

A Belfast City Council spokesperson has played down any
fears of associated problems due to the conflicting dates
and confirmed celebrations will take place on the Saturday.

He said: "Belfast City Council has vast experience of
organising events of this type and of keeping disruption to
a minimum.

"The parade itself is expected to only last 20 to 30
minutes at most, so any interruption to trading will be
kept to a bare minimum.

"The council has an excellent working relationship with
Belfast City Centre Management and Belfast Chamber of Trade
and Commerce. Translink have also been made aware of
disruption around Donegall Square.

"This year's event promises to be a great day out for
everybody and if anything will have an obvious added-on
effect for our traders."

Belfast city centre manager Joanne Jennings was unaware of
the date clash when contacted by the Belfast Telegraph.

She said: "Obviously from the traders' point of view it is
important that operations are well managed. It will
certainly help traders and the management of the city
centre that the main event is held in Custom House Square,
therefore easing pressure somewhat.

"Any concerns raised by traders will certainly be filtered
by us through to the City Council."

DUP councillor Robin Newton believes to counter the
problem, the parade and concert should be held on the
designated holiday.

He said: "Traditionally the parade is on the holiday. As
the holiday this year falls on a Monday, the parade should
take place on the Monday.

"The parade is not inclusive and does nothing to enhance
the city centre. It has a negative effect for our traders
and I have every sympathy for them in this case."

Sinn Fein councillor Fra McCann stressed the importance of
having the parade on March 17.

"Belfast would certainly seem a bit strange were St
Patrick's Day to be held on the 19th," he said.

"It would need to be discussed but from my perspective it
would prove difficult.

"The clash on the eve of Mothering Sunday to my knowledge
has not been raised in any council committee meetings."

The event has always been a source of fierce political
debate and last year's carnival was the first to be funded
by Belfast City Council.

c Belfast Telegraph


Clare Coach Firms Angered By Cliff Fees

Gordon Deegan
Tue, Feb 20, 2007

Safety concerns have been expressed over coach operators
defying Clare County Council's planned price rises for the
Cliffs of Moher site by opting not to use the new car park
and instead dropping off tourists at the roadside.

The charge for coach operators using the new ?31.5 million
visitor centre is being increased this week. A car will be
charged ?8, a bus or coach with 15 people on board ?25,
with 16-39 on board ?50 and with 40 passengers or more ?60.
The original charge was a flat fee of ?5.

Ger Dollard, project leader at the Cliffs of Moher centre,
said that coach operators were already opting not to use
the car park.

"This has been occurring even in cases where tour operators
have fully agreed the proposed new charges and have made
bookings on that basis. There are serious traffic issues
and health and safety issues associated with the practice
of parking and dropping visitors on the road," he said.

"The council is also concerned that such a practice is
being employed . . . where the tour operator has made
bookings with the Cliffs of Moher centre for group visits,
and the full benefit of the new facilities is not being
afforded to these visitors, despite prior arrangements
being made."

Mr Dollard added: "It is disappointing at this late stage
that the coach operators do not accept the arrangements now
in place, which are very fair and reasonable when account
is taken of the facilities provided at the cliffs"

At a meeting last Friday, coach operators failed in an
attempt to persuade the council to reduce its charges.

Cora Collins, chief executive of the Coach Tourism and
Transport Council, has accused Clare County Council of
being antagonistic in its approach to the charges issue.
She added: "To say we didn't get anywhere is putting it

Jackie Cronin, of Ennis-based Glynn's Coaches, says that
the council is asking the operators to do its "dirty work"
for it by imposing the facilities charge rather than by
charging people individually at the gate.

Jim Deegan, managing director of Railtours Ireland, said:
"The council has grossly underestimated the depth of
opposition to the new charges. They are too much, too soon.
Implementation of the new charges by the council has been
clumsy and confrontational. The council has been engaging
in bully-boy tactics.

"There is no move whatsoever from the council on the
charges. It is being completely inflexible and there is a
reluctance to negotiate. We are dismayed and disappointed
by the council's attitude."

Mr Deegan continued: "It is not an option not to go to the
Cliffs of Moher for us as a company, but we won't be
parking the coaches in the car park. It is all very
unfortunate, as the new visitor centre is very positive."

Mr Dollard commented: "The meeting on Friday last was held
in the public area of the first-floor restaurant in the
centre. I don't know how, in such an environment, the
meeting could be described as hostile, and I would suggest
that it is the coach operators, by their actions and their
references such as 'dirty work', who are engaging in such
an approach.

"On the issue of charges, the council has made its position
clear on a number of occasions. We have undergone a long
process in the last two years in engaging with individual
operators and we have met with representative groups where
requested to do so.

"We have significantly moved from our original approach on
two occasions directly on foot of representations made by
the industry. We have introduced a number of discount
schemes which will assist other tourist attractions in the
area and offer opportunities to coach operators to
substantially reduce the charges proposed."

Mr Dollard said that the charges would be reviewed at the
end of the year.

c 2007 The Irish Times

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