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February 07, 2007

Blair Asks McCain To Intercede With Paisley

News about Ireland & the Irish

IE 02/07/07 Blair Asks McCain To Intercede With Paisley
IT 02/07/07 Victims' Families Need Closure - Ahern
IT 02/07/07 Orde Investigates 'Unhelpful' Officers
SF 02/07/07 Sinn Féin To Meet Orde On Collusion
BT 02/07/07 Rea: PSNI Informants Must Be Carefully Managed
BT 02/07/07 Ulster Murder Rates 'Lowest In 20 Years'
IE 02/07/07 ILIR Rallies In San Francisco
TO 02/07/07 Croke Park Prepares For Historic Conversion
TE 02/07/07 'Old Foes' Return To Bloody Sunday Site


Blair Asks McCain To Intercede With Paisley

By Ray O'Hanlon

British Prime Minister Tony Blair has asked Senator John
McCain to contact the Rev. Ian Paisley and press the DUP
leader to discuss power sharing with Sinn Féin.

The request by Blair was reported by syndicated columnist
Robert Novak.

Novak wrote that Republican presidential hopeful McCain has
been increasingly active on Northern Ireland and had prior
contact with Paisley.

A British diplomatic spokesman told the Echo that he had no
comment on the Novak report.

"The British government has contacts with many people about
the peace process but we don't talk about them," the
spokesman said.

Meanwhile, Democrat Joe Biden has become the third member
of the U.S. Senate with clear-cut Irish roots to declare
himself a candidate for the presidency of the United

Biden quipped that he was now the 800th candidate to seek
the White House and even since he declared his candidacy
last week the already crowded field has grown with the
entry of former New York mayor Rudolph Guiliani on the
Republican side.

Biden, 62, traces his Irish family roots to County Derry.
Fellow Democratic senator and candidate Chris Dodd has a
Clare connection, while John McCain lays claim to Antrim

"Everybody else calls it exploratory. I'm not exploring.
I'm in. And this is the beginning of a marathon," Biden,
who chairs the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said.

Biden, as it happens, was the first in the jam-packed
Democratic field to signal interest in the 2008 election.
He did so back in 2005.

He made a previous bid for the White House in 1988 but had
to withdraw in a flap over a speech, portions of which were
borrowed from then British Labor Party leader Neil Kinnock.

Biden's is a familiar name to Irish Americans as he has a
longstanding interest in Northern Ireland.

Some years ago, when Admiral William Crowe was being
questioned by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee before
his appointment as U.S. ambassador to Britain, Biden
suggested to Crowe that he spend time in Northern Ireland
and become familiar with its politics.

The outgoing U.S. ambassador, Raymond Seitz, had made one
trip to the North but had confined himself to an over-
flight in a British Army helicopter.

"And by visiting Ireland I don't mean a quick helicopter
ride," Biden told Crowe.

Meanwhile, the Irish American Republicans lobby group will
be honoring John McCain in New York on Wednesday, Feb. 28.
Details on the event are available at (518) 210-1200.

This story appeared in the issue of February 7-13, 2007


Victims' Families Need Closure - Ahern

Wed, Feb 07, 2007

Closure must be given to families of victims killed in
collusion-linked bombings and shootings before the General
Election expected in May or June, the Government said

Taoiseach Bertie Ahern and Foreign Affairs Minister Dermot
Ahern both met in Dublin with seven groups affected by
1970s atrocities north and south of the Border.

The relatives are calling for public inquiries and believe
their cases have been strengthened by last month's report
by Police Ombudsman Nuala O'Loan which revealed collusion
between the RUC and loyalist gunmen in several killings.

Mr Ahern said after today's 90-minute meeting: "The
Taoiseach indicated that he would like to deal with this
before the General Election."

It also emerged today that Sinn Fein is holding its first
meeting next week with PSNI Chief Constable Sir Hugh Orde
since it made the historic decision to back policing.

The party is also holding a collusion conference in Dublin
on Saturday. Among those meeting the Taoiseach were
relatives of members of the Miami Showband, the 1975
Dundalk and Silverbridge bomb and gun attacks, the Reavey
and O'Dowd families who each lost three family members in
early 1976, and relatives of the victims of bomb attacks in
Castleblayney and Keady in 1976.

The daughter of a man killed in the 1975 bombing of Dundalk
pub, Kay's Tavern, revealed that the incident still causes
her nightmares. Margaret English, daughter of Hugh Watters,
said she believes the case of her family has been
strengthened by the revelations in the Police Ombudsman's
recent report.

"It is shocking that the British government sent out agents
to kill my dad. I find that unbelievable," she said. Mrs
English also claimed that her family was badly treated by
the Garda and the state over the incident, but added that
the Taoiseach apologised for this today.

She agreed that there should be a compensation scheme set
up for victims of collusion. "I still have nightmares. I
remember running around the streets looking for my dad.
There is a very human aspect. "At the time I was bitter but
my mother said to me if I was bitter I would kill myself
from the inside so I just shut everything out."

Mr Ahern said that the Government was waiting for a report
by barrister Patrick MacEntee on the Dublin and Monaghan
bombings — due on Tuesday.

Mr Ahern said: "He may ask for another extension, we hope
not but obviously that is a matter for him. If we get that
report in February, we will have to have a debate in the
Oireachtas and then decide what to do. "About 3,000 people
were killed in the Troubles and each of those families have
stories to tell.

"We are pushing the British very strongly on the need to
give comfort to these families in some way, it may not
satisfy everyone, but to draw a line under these cases once
and for all. "All of these cases are going to dog the peace
process and (British-Irish) relations forever if we don't
deal with them one way or another.

"There is a willingness to cooperate as much as possible.
If you look at the Bloody Sunday Inquiry, it has gone on
for nearly nine years and had half a billion pounds
sterling spent on it." He said the victims' families would
be consulted before any action was taken.

© 2007


Orde Investigates 'Unhelpful' Officers

Wed, Feb 07, 2007

Northern Ireland Chief Constable Sir Hugh Orde has demanded
the names of every officer who allegedly refused to co-
operate with Police Ombudsman Nuala O'Loan's collusion
investigation, he revealed today.

Sir Hugh instructed his number two, Paul Leighton, to write
to Mrs O'Loan requesting details on all retired and serving
members of his force she believes resisted her appeals for

He confirmed a letter was sent as he brushed aside a
staunch defence by unionist Policing Board representatives
of the ex-Special Branch chiefs at the centre of the row.
He told them: "Senior officers should have turned up to
speak to the Ombudsman's staff."

Mrs O'Loan's explosive dossier on how paid Ulster Volunteer
Force agents behind up to 15 murders in north Belfast were
protected by their Special Branch handlers included a
withering assessment of the level of help given to the
inquiry by some police commanders.

Three retired assistant chief constables, seven detective
chief superintendents and two detective superintendents
refused to provide assistance, the Ombudsman claimed. But
ex-ACC Chris Albiston, one of those named in Parliament as
having failed to co-operate, hit back by insisting he and
other retired officers had supplied written information to
the investigation.

As the row reignited at a Policing Board meeting in Belfast
today, Sir Hugh was asked whether any of the retired
officers involved have been re-employed as civilian workers
within the police service. He told the authority: "I have
requested a full list. "I have two reports (from the
Ombudsman), a public report and a private report which does
contain a number of names of individuals.

"Paul (Leighton) has written to Mrs O'Loan to ask for a
full list of individuals who did not co-operate with the
inquiry." But RUC supporters on the Board lined up to
defend the officers at the centre of the controversy.
Arlene Foster, a Democratic Unionist member, demanded to
know how ex-officers would still have had access to
documents which remained with the force.

"They would have been going along on memory alone," she
claimed. "Through their solicitor they asked the
Ombudsman's Office for specific charges and what she
specifically wanted to know in relation to the
investigation. These specific charges or questions were not
put to them.

"These people have rights too, they are entitled to due
process." Independent member Trevor Ringland, a trustee of
the RUC George Cross Foundation, accused the Ombudsman of
producing a subjective report which could damage confidence
in her office.

© 2007


Sinn Féin To Meet Orde On Collusion

Published: 7 February, 2007

Sinn Féin spokesperson on Policing issues Gerry Kelly today
confirmed that his party would meet next week with the PSNI
Chief Constable Hugh Orde. Mr Kelly said that the meeting
would discuss in some detail the implications of the Police
Ombudsman report into collusion.

Mr Kelly said:

"Unfortunately the controversy created by the SDLP
advertisement in response to a Sinn Féin newsletter has
managed to allow the Policing Board and those unionists
still in denial about the extent of the collusion policy to
create a diversion away from the big issue. This
advertisement was simply a case of the SDLP once again
overstating their role and influence and getting caught

"The real issue for republicans and nationalists is the tip
of the collusion iceberg beginning to be exposed. We will
not allow our focus to shift onto side issues or
distractions created by others. Next week we will hold
talks with the PSNI Chief Constable Hugh Orde. The top item
on the agenda from our point of view will be the O'Loan
Report and the very serious implications which flow from it
for the PSNI and wider issue of who sanctioned this
policy." ENDS


Rea: Use Of PSNI Informants Must Be Carefully Managed

[Published: Wednesday 7, February 2007 - 14:00]

The chairman of the Northern Ireland Policing Board has
said the future use of informants by the PSNI must be
guided by the highest ethical standards.

Desmond Rea was speaking today at the first meeting of the
oversight body since the Police Ombudsman's damning report
on collusion between the RUC and a gang of loyalist

The Ombudsman has found that RUC Special Branch had
protected the gang from prosecution because its leader was
a police informant.

Mr Rea said today that the report was shocking and
informants would have to be carefully managed to ensure
they don't do more harm than good.

PSNI chief constable Hugh Orde, meanwhile, said the
Ombudsman's report was uncomfortable reading, but handing
informants was an essential part of policing, and would
continue to save lives and bring criminals to justice.

© Belfast Telegraph


Ulster Murder Rates 'Lowest In 20 Years'

[Published: Wednesday 7, February 2007 - 15:42]

Murder rates in Northern Ireland are at their lowest in 20
years, chief constable Hugh Orde said today. With the IRA
having abandoned violence as part of the republican
movement's political strategy, terrorist killings have been
replaced by domestic or drunken disputes that go too far.

So far this year detectives in Northern Ireland have
investigated 19 murders, and cleared 16 of them.

The chief constable confirmed the transformation from the
bleakest days of the troubles, before the provisionals and
loyalist paramilitaries declared their ceasefires, as he
praised the success of his murder squad detectives.

He told a meeting in Belfast of the Policing Board which
holds him to account: ``The homicide rate is currently the
lowest it has been for 20 years.''

The chief constable later attributed this reduction to the
continuing move towards peace in Northern Ireland.

``There's been a normalisation and paramilitary killings
have dropped substantially,'' he said.

``If there is such a thing there's a more normal murder
rate now with domestic violence murders and the Friday
night sort, the more routine types of crime.''

The former senior Scotland Yard officer also stressed that
the level of detection and clearance in Northern Ireland
could not have been achieved in London.

He put the success down to his force's crime operations
branch which he described as the jewel in the crown.

Specially trained teams of officers headed by a senior
detective are now available for every murder inquiry.

``That has contributed significantly to what we have
achieved,'' he added.

© Belfast Telegraph


ILIR Rallies In San Francisco

By Celine Kennelly

San Francisco --- The Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform
held its first major west coast rally of the year last week
at the United Irish Cultural Center in San Francisco.

And with a turnout estimated at 1500, organizers were
proclaiming the event a big boost for the campaign to
secure comprehensive immigration reform.

The rally, on Thursday Feb. 1, was opened by Mayor Gavin
Newsom, this despite the fact that he was facing the
biggest crisis in his political career - the admission of
having an affair with the wife of his campaign manager.

Newsom was presented with a "Legalize the Irish" t-shirt
and immediately pulled it on, rolled up his sleeves and
pledged his wholehearted energy and support for the reform

A City of Refuge for immigrants since 1989, San Francisco's
political leaders strongly support changes in the country's
immigration laws.

Before the rally, Mayor Newsom and a rarely unanimous city
Board of Supervisors passed a resolution in favor of
comprehensive reform and support for the ILIR campaign.

Thin Lizzy's anthem, "The Boys are back in Town," set the
backdrop for the Irish Center event with people crammed
into every nook and cranny of the room.

Fr. Brendan McBride from the Irish Immigration Pastoral
Center (IIPC) introduced State Assembly Member Fiona Ma,
who cancelled a prior engagement in Sacramento to attend
the ILIR event.

After donning a "Legalize the Irish" shirt, Ma thanked
everyone for their attendance and pledged her commitment to
immigration reform.

The chairman of the Coalition of Irish Immigration Centers,
Bart Murphy commented: "Contrary to the comments of some
naysayers, the Irish are not looking for a special deal in
this campaign. We are leveraging our national experience of
over 200 years of immigration for the benefit of all
immigrant groups in the U.S. Like Thomas the Tank, we just
happen to be the useful engine of this particular train."

Speaker after speaker reiterated the need for reform. ILIR
vice chairman, Ciaran Staunton said: "We're all in this
together. We're taking this battle to Congress on behalf of
all immigrants. No matter where you came from - Guatalama
or Gort, Mayo or Mexico, Tralee or Tegucigalpa - we're all
immigrants and we're all in this together. When you attack
one immigrant community, you attack us all."

"Every one of you wearing your Legalize the Irish t-shirt
tonight represents every immigrant in this country," said
ILIR executive director, Kelly Fincham.

Speaking of the history of Irish immigration to America,
Angus McCarthy,

Immigrant Rights Commissioner in San Francisco said: "I was
a beneficiary in the late 80s and I am very grateful for the work that was
done at that time. We Irish don't pull the ladder up behind us. It is
important to continue the strong relationship between the U.S. and

The standing room only crowd heard a ringing endorsement
from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi by way of her immigration
spokeswoman, Harriet Ishimoto.

Ishimoto said the Speaker considered immigration reform a
priority, that it could not succeed without ILIR's efforts,
and that she was looking forward to seeing ILIR at the
national immigration reform lobby day in Washington, D.C.
on March 7.

About 150 people representing the Irish community in San
Francisco are expected to travel to the nation's capital
for that event.

This story appeared in the issue of February 7-13, 2007


Croke Park Prepares For Historic Conversion To New Sporting Creed

From The Times
February 08, 2007
Mark Souster in Dublin

A beautiful, bright but cold day in Dublin and the late
morning sun was burning off the last remnants of frost
sprinkling the edges of Croke Park. The ground was a hive
of activity as workmen cleared the final detritus from last
Saturday night's Gaelic football league match between
Tyrone and Dublin, the first to be played under the new €5
million (about £3.3 million) floodlights that were
installed before Christmas and are at least four times more
powerful than those that were at Lansdowne Road.

A vantage point at the back of one of the towering new
stands offers panoramic and uninterrupted views of the
unprepossessing surroundings of north Dublin, as well as of
the vast pitch stretching out below, measuring 148 metres
(about 160 yards) by 88 metres. The stand is so high that
spectators without a head for heights can claim "vertigo
tickets" and swap their seats.

Preparations were under way to make the stadium ready for
Sunday's historic first rugby international to be played at
the home of the Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA), between
Ireland and France in the RBS Six Nations Championship.
Down below, workmen were erasing the whitewash ready to lay
out the markings for the smaller (100 metres by 75 metres)
dimensions of a rugby pitch.

In front of the Hill 16 terrace — so-called because it is
built on rubble taken from Dublin city centre after the
1916 Easter Rising — the crossbar and posts, clad at their
base in green padding emblazoned with the letters IRFU, lay
on the ground. Holes to accommodate the uprights have been
bored like giant cups on a golf green and tested over
several months to ensure that they can take the strain.

By any standard, the stadium — which is only a 15-minute
walk from the city centre and which has undergone a four-
stage, €250 million redevelopment over the past 13 years —
is a magnificent arena, offering world-class facilities for
players as well as 83,000 spectators. Its horseshoe shape
dominates the skyline. It wreaks of the past while
representing the future.

The Hogan Stand is named after Michael Hogan, the Tipperary
player shot by the Black and Tans at a match in 1920 at
Croke Park, an atrocity that also claimed the lives of 12
spectators. The attack was carried out in retaliation for
the murder by the IRA, under the orders of Michael Collins,
of 14 members of the British Government's Cairo gang of
secret agents. It was the first "Bloody Sunday".

Opposite is the Cusack Stand in honour of Michael Cusack,
one of the original GAA founders. The Davin Stand completes
the wraparound.

The stadium boasts expansive changing-rooms, each with
large warm-up areas, medical and physiotherapy treatment
rooms, a players' lounge worthy of a nightclub and 87
state-of-the-art corporate hospitality boxes for up to 60
people each, the purchase of which funded the early stages
of the redevelopment. Only €40 million debt remains, which
is due to be paid off by 2010, if not sooner.

Wembley can only look on and weep. Sunday's international
will generate estimated gross revenues of more than €5
million, of which, under its deal with the IRFU, the GAA
receives either rent of €1.25 million or 26 per cent of the
gross gate, whichever is the greater.

Croke Park is more than a sporting citadel, however. It is
a shrine, too, and represents the identity, culture and
pulse of a nation. Walking around it yesterday, it was
difficult not to sense the history of the place, which
began life in the late 19th century as the City and
Suburban Racecourse, focusing mainly on whippet racing. It
was bought outright by the GAA for £3,500 in 1913 and
renamed in honour of Archbishop Croke of Cashel, the
association's first patron, with the sole intention of
fostering the development of Gaelic games throughout the
island of Ireland. Down the years it has staged American
football matches and rock concerts and Muhammad Ali boxed

In its new guise, it is easy to see the influences from
other stadiums in the United States and Europe. The venue
reflects the fundamental changes that have taken place
within Irish society and politics over the past 30 years
that culminated in the seismic decision — supported by more
than 70 per cent of GAA delegates in April 2005 — to
suspend Rule 42, which in essence banned British games and
which will end with God Save the Queen being played there
on England's visit on February 24.


'Old Foes' Return To Bloody Sunday Site

By Brendan Gallagher
Last Updated: 11:08am GMT 07/02/2007

Tipperary's popular half-back and captain, Michael 'Mick'
Hogan, who had travelled to Dublin for an afternoon's sport
to play in a friendly against Dublin, lay motionless on the
greensward of Croke Park, blood oozing from his gunshot
wounds, cut down by a British machine gun. So too Jane
Boyle, dressed in her Sunday best, who had attended the
match with her fiance and was to have got married five days
later, and William Scott, a fanatical 14-year-old 'Dub' or
Dublin supporter.

Times have changed: the modern, massive Croke Park

A couple of yards away lay 11-year-old William Robinson and
10-year-old Jerome O'Leary – good friends, Gaelic football
fanatics and defenceless children who were bleeding to
death after being gunned down by the so-called tough men of
the Black and Tans. At one point during an afternoon of
madness, the Tipperary and Dublin teams were lined up in
the centre of Croke Park to be executed summarily by the
British but mercifully a high-ranking, although
unidentified, officer intervened and screamed that there
had been enough killing on this awful day. November 21,
1920. Bloody Sunday. The first Bloody Sunday, that is. The
second followed 52 years later in Derry.

In all, 14 Irish citizens were killed by British forces at
Croke Park on Bloody Sunday and 80 badly wounded –
including Hogan's Tipperary colleague Jim Egan – which goes
a long way to explaining why the ground is so strongly
identified with Irish nationalism. Part shrine, part
cathedral, a living historical monument to the freedom
fight. Hill 16 – the massive terrace that holds up to
15,000 fans – is built on the rubble of Sackville Street
(renamed O'Connell Street when the British moved out) after
the uprising of Easter 1916 had left the city centre in a
state of some disrepair. The rubble was carted out to Croke
Park, piled high and grassed over.

It is a mercifully rare, probably unique, occurrence for a
sportsman to be shot dead by British troops on the field of
play, so the story of Mick Hogan warrants re-telling.
Indeed, just telling – it is doubtful if anybody this side
of the Irish Sea without Irish antecedents has ever even
heard it. Strangely, it was never included in history
lessons in British schools.

Horan was born at Currasilla near Nine-Mile-House in
Tipperary in 1896 into an old and much respected farming
family. A talented sportsman who played for the
Grangemockler GAA club, he rose quickly though the junior
ranks to captain Tipperary, and like most able-bodied men
in the area he joined the local volunteers to help in the
underground fight to rid Ireland of the occupying British
Army. Indeed, as a natural leader, he had been elected
company commander of the Grangemockler Volunteers on the
Friday night before the Tipperary team travelled up to
Dublin by train the next day.

advertisementThe Irish War of Independence (1919-21) had
meant that all Gaelic sport had been banned by the
occupying forces throughout 1920 but by the autumn a few
inter-county matches had been allowed and Tipperary's game
against Dublin – undoubtedly the two top sides of the era –
had been organised hastily to raise funds for the families
of those who had been imprisoned by the British. It was
undeniably an overt political act during a period of
extreme tension. While that does not excuse anything that
followed, it does place the incident in context.

Bloody Sunday took place soon after the death of hunger
striker Terence McSwiney and execution of Kevin Barry, and
the Irish Republican Army were looking for revenge. Early
on the morning of the match, in an operation planned by
Michael Collins, a hit squad – the 12 Apostles – staged a
series of raids on British intelligence officers in Dublin
who were collectively known as the Cairo Gang. An hour
later 14 covert intelligence officers had been killed and
six badly wounded.

The British Army, based at Collinswood, considered how to
retaliate and thoughts turned immediately to Croke Park
where a crowd of between 15,000 and 20,000 people was
expected. In fact, however, Dublin was in such turmoil that
day that the figure was nearer 10,000. The Army later
argued that such a crowd was probably the best hiding place
for the assassination squad and their intention was to
search everybody as they left after the game. Anybody not
cooperating would be shot dead on the spot.

It was a combined exercise between the Police (RIC) and the
Army (Black and Tans), with the latter taking the lead. A
spotter aircraft was dispatched to fly over Croke Park
where the game had started half-an-hour late, and three
armoured vehicles circled the ground. However, contrary to
Hollywood's version in the film of Michael Collins — Liam
Neeson taking the starring role — a tank did not burst on
to the field itself.

On the approach of the soldiers and police, the turnstile
attendants raised the alarm, a stampede ensued and the
armed forces rushed straight into the ground and on to the
pitch, firing indiscriminately. In the chaos it is doubtful
if they actually targeted Hogan as such, although Army
officials would probably have known of his background and
that of other players. They were simply reckless as to whom
they killed.

Later that night two IRA officers, Dick McKee and Paedar
Clancy, were arrested for their alleged part in the morning
assassinations and shot dead at Dublin Castle while "trying
to escape". Meanwhile Hogan's remains, accompanied by the
team, arrived in Clonmel on the Wednesday after the game.
Thousands joined the funeral procession to Grangemockler.

He was buried in his Tipperary football suit, the coffin
was draped with the Tricolour and lowered into the grave by
the men who had played beside him on that fateful day.

Thirty years later the main stand at Croke Park was named
in his honour and one of the massive new stands retains his
name. They say sport and politics shouldn't mix but on this
day they were indivisible – which explains why Croke Park
will always be more than just a sports stadium and Mick
Hogan is more than just a Tipperary football player.

• The Six Nations clash between Ireland and England is on
Feb 24.

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