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February 28, 2007

DUP Leaflets Deals With 'Issues That Matter"

News about Ireland & the Irish

BT 02/28/07 DUP Leaflet Deals With 'Issues That Matter'
BT 02/28/07 Old Flashpoint Will Test The Republican Mood
BT 02/28/07 Ford Predicts: We'll Gain Seats
BT 02/28/07 Women's Groups Put Out Manifesto; No Candidates
BT 02/28/07 Conservatives Take 11-Point Lead Over Labour
BT 02/28/07 Feature: The Victims: What They Really Think
BT 02/28/07 Minister's Paisley Jibe Leaves A Bitter Taste


DUP Leaflet Deals With 'Issues That Matter'

[Published: Wednesday 28, February 2007 - 11:02]
By Noel McAdam

The DUP today launched a new leaflet blitz - without any
mention of the constitutional issue, policing or the
prospect of power-sharing with Sinn Fein.

Instead the glossy pamphlet - inserted in tonight's
editions of the Belfast Telegraph - is wholly focused on
health, education and the elderly.

Just a week ahead of the Assembly election, the DUP said it
was dealing with 'the issues that matter' to people and
about which they are being confronted on the doorsteps.

But it came as the Ulster Unionist Party launched another
attack on the party warning support for the DUP will
guarantee instability in any Stormont administration.

Senior UUP negotiator Alan McFarland said: "Can you imagine
Ian Paisley and Martin McGuinness leading a trade
delegation to the USA? Not speaking to each other, not
appearing on platforms or studios together - a recipe for
disaster and embarrassment for Northern Ireland."

Mr McFarland said in 2005 the DUP had promised a 'fair
deal' and added: " Now they are up to their old confidence
tricks again, scaring people and pretending that they can
bring stable government to the Province."

DUP MP Iris Robinson, however, said while the party's prime
focus remained on achieving 'stable and durable devolved
government' the party did not want to neglect the 'bread
and butter' issues.

The party is also expected to return to water charges - one
of the main matters all the parties are being questioned
about on the doorsteps - in the next few days.

With the health service also high among people's
priorities, Mrs Robinson said a more efficient hospital
system is required with enhanced intermediate and community

"Undoubtedly efficiency within the system can be improved.
For instance in England, though they have even fewer beds
per capita than here, their turnover rates are better," the
Strangford MP said.

On education, the party supports area planning with boards
of governors deciding upon the possible joint use of
facilities - and again referred to the retention of
academic selection obtained in the St Andrews talks.

Education spokesman Sammy Wilson said: "Clearly the DUP
does not want schools setting their own criteria to become
a permanent arrangement, but it at least offers a

The elderly, the leaflet said, should be free from poverty
and access to free nursing care was only a 'half-step'.
Concern is also voiced over attacks on older people.

Diane Dodds, a candidate in west Belfast, said: "We support
stiffer sentences to serve as a deterrent. Older people
should feel secure within their own homes, free from the
fear of crime."

c Belfast Telegraph


Old Flashpoint Will Test The Republican Mood

[Published: Wednesday 28, February 2007 - 09:12]
By Chris Thorton

The rough hills of south Armagh are changing - the
watchtowers are down and the beauty of the place is being
wafted in front of tourists in place of the whiff of Bandit

But old ways die hard, and Sinn Fein's policing project
will ultimately be tested here. When the PSNI's writ runs
unruffled through the region, the policing debate in
nationalism will be over.

So Newry and Armagh will be one of the weather vanes for
measuring the mood among republican voters in the wake of
last month's special ard fheis on policing.

Sinn Fein has dominated the politics of the constituency
since Seamus Mallon, the former Deputy First Minister and
one of the old SDLP giants, stepped down from the Assembly
and Westminster.

Based on previous election results, Sinn Fein should be in
a strong position to hold three seats in next week's

But one of the departing Sinn Fein MLAs has also departed
from Sinn Fein after being deselected by the party. Davy
Hyland is now standing as an independent against the party
for which he captured more than 5,700 first preference
votes in 2003.

Departures from Sinn Fein's election list are not unusual
at election time - at times the party rotates candidates
more often than a DUP ministry.

Unusually, Mr Hyland has not gone quietly.

And while party members intimate that he was dumped because
he did not come up to scratch, others in the area say he is
popular and will command something of a personal vote.

Mr Hyland has not loudly positioned himself as an anti-
policing candidate, his vote will be interpreted as a
measure of that position among border republicans.

It's not just Mr Hyland's campaign that makes Newry and
Armagh's election about the performance of independents.
The unionist side carries an element of the same

That's thanks to the onetime rising star of the DUP - Paul

In 1998, Mr Berry unexpectedly captured a seat for the
party and became the youngest Assembly member. DUP elders
put the victory down to his hard work on the doorsteps.

He improved his vote in 2003, topping the Assembly poll. In
2005, his controversial encounter with a male masseur at a
Belfast hotel did not apparently do much harm to his run in
the general election - his vote went up again.

It didn't do much for his standing in the DUP, however, and
he resigned from the party.

Now he is running against them in a test of his personal
vote. Newry and Armagh should hold two unionist seats -
Ulster Unionist Deputy leader Danny Kennedy, Mr Berry and
his DUP replacement, Armagh mayor William Irwin, could have
something of a scramble between them.

A major unionist fracture could be the SDLP's best hope for
a second seat - last time round the party may have had
enough votes to secure two seats, but split the vote across
three candidates. This time they are running two.

In ordinary circumstances, this constituency would appear
to be heading for a broad repeat of the 2003 results. But
the performance of the independent candidates could cause
trouble along the border.

c Belfast Telegraph


Ford Predicts: We'll Gain Seats

[Published: Wednesday 28, February 2007 - 08:58]
By Noel McAdam

Alliance leader David Ford has boldly predicted gains for
his party - in South Belfast and East Antrim.

Launching the party's manifesto yesterday, Mr Ford said he
detected a " perhaps modest" swing towards Alliance.

But the party could also lose some seats - in Lagan Valley
and Mr Ford's own constituency of South Antrim.

The party blueprint proposes an eventual scrapping of the
regional rate in favour of a local income tax, abolishing
university tuition fees and reducing the number of Assembly
members from the present 108 to 80.

And it said the cash raised from water charges should be
used to reduce the regional rate in the meantime.

Mr Ford said an estimated œ300m of the œ1bn spent on
segregation in Northern Ireland could be used to reduce the
regional rate element of household rates bills.

"We have identified the savings to be made by ending
segregation and re-directing expenditure to priority
areas," he told the launch event in Belfast.

"Other parties have simply produced wish lists and are
intent on sending the begging bowl (for an economic peace
dividend) to Whitehall and to Leinster House."

Alliance also called for free personal care for older
people, and free dental and eye check-ups.

On integrated education, the party repeated its demand for
a target of 10% of children in integrated schools in three
years time - and a guarantee of the right of any parent to
send their child to an integrated school.

The manifesto also called for the establishment of an
independent Environmental Protection Agency, and for
mechanisms to ensure all migrant workers and immigrants
have full access to public services and employment rights.

Mr Ford went on: "The four tribal parties totally failed to
deliver a shared future in the last Executive, when they
had the opportunity.

"We know from responses on the doorsteps that local people
are fed up with divisive rhetoric and can see that for
Northern Ireland to work, we need a shared future and a
party that will deliver it."

c Belfast Telegraph


Women's Groups Put Out Manifesto For Assembly... But No

[Published: Tuesday 27, February 2007 - 11:13]
By Noel McAdam

The Women's Coalition may be no more. But nevertheless a
Women's Manifesto for the Assembly elections on March 7 is
being produced.

Candidates from the parties and representatives of a number
of women's organisations are to attend the launch later
this week.

In part it focuses on the inequalities which persist for
women in relation to salaries, medical services and fuller
participation in civic and political life.

A co-production including the Equality Commission, the
Women's Committee of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions and
the Northern Ireland Women's Rights Movement, it also deals
with a range of issues including:

:: violence against women;

:: economic independence;

:: sexual and reproductive health.

Bob Collins, Chief Commissioner of the Equality Commission
for Northern Ireland, said: "Although great strides have
been made in gender equality over the past decades,
inequalities for women still exist in too many areas - in
pay, in discrimination related to pregnancy, in medical,
social and community support services, and in the lack of
full and equal participation in public and political life.

"This manifesto highlights all these issues and emphasizes
the diversity of women in Northern Ireland and how that is
refelected in the many forms of inequality which they
continue to face. It provides a clear guide on what still
needs to be done to effect real change in our society on
this important and pervasive issue."

Margaret Ward, Director of the Women's Resource and
Development Agency, said that: "Women will recognise the
issues raised in this manifesto as they have concerned them
for decades.

"Although women individually and collectively, have made
huge gains, society in Northern Ireland doesn't come near
to being equal - not in the home, not in the workplace, not
in political or public life."

c Belfast Telegraph


Conservatives Take 11-Point Lead Over Labour

[Published: Tuesday 27, February 2007 - 13:59]
By Andrew Grice

The Conservatives have opened an 11-point lead over Labour,
enough to give David Cameron an overall Commons majority of
100, according to the latest monthly opinion poll for The

The survey by CommunicateResearch suggests Mr Cameron's
drive to rebrand his party is attracting floating voters
and firming up the support of natural Tories. It is the
Tories' highest rating from CommunicateResearch since the
company began political polling in August 2004.

The findings will add to the jitters of Labour backbenchers
who fear the party is on the slide during Tony Blair's
final months and worry that Gordon Brown, his most likely
successor, will struggle to turn round such a big deficit.
"We are just treading water and wasting time," one Labour
MP said last night.

According to the poll, the Tories have hit the electorally
crucial 40 per cent mark, gaining 6 percentage points since
last month and increasing their lead over Labour from five
to 11 points. Labour is unchanged on 29 per cent, while the
Liberal Democrats are down four points to 17 per cent and
other parties are on 14 per cent (down two points).

The Tory core vote remains the most loyal of the three main
parties; 91 per cent of people who identify most with the
party say they will vote for it. In contrast, only 76 per
cent of Labour "identifiers" intend to back the party,
while for the Liberal Democrats the figure is 83 per cent.

All the signs are that Labour will find it much harder than
its rivals to get its vote out at the next election - and
that Mr Blair's successor will have a tough task in
motivating the party's natural supporters.

Some 65 per cent of Tory "identifiers" say they are
"absolutely certain" to vote, compared to 53 per cent of
natural Liberal Democrats and only 43 per cent of Labour
"identifiers". Labour's natural supporters are twice as
likely to say they are certain not to vote as their Tory

Mr Cameron seems to be making progress in the important
battle to win over undecided voters. The Tories have the
support of 43 per cent of those who do not know which party
they identify with most, while 28 per cent of this group
say they will vote Liberal Democrat and just 19 per cent
intend to vote Labour.

Some 15 per cent of Labour "identifiers" say they will vote
Tory, while only 4 per cent intend to back the Liberal
Democrats. Seven per cent of natural Liberal Democrats say
they will vote Tory and only 2 per cent Labour.

The Tories, who trailed Labour among women last month, are
now well ahead among both sexes. Some 40 per cent of both
men and women would vote Tory, while 30 per cent of men and
28 per cent of women back Labour. The Liberal Democrats
enjoy much stronger support among women (21 per cent) than
men (14 per cent).

CommunicateResearch telephoned 1,001 adults between 23 and
25 February 2007. Data were weighted to take account of
expected turnout and party identification for those who
declined to say how they would vote. CommunicateResearch is
a member of the British Polling Council and abides by its

Full tables at

c Belfast Telegraph


Feature: The Victims: What They Really Think

[Published: Wednesday 28, February 2007 - 11:36]

Kevin Skelton (52) lost his wife of nearly 20 years,
Philomena (49), in the Omagh bomb on August 15, 1998. He
tells Gr inne McCarry about the challenges of bringing up
their children, Paula (27), Ray (25), Tracey (24) and
Shauna (22) by himself, the struggle for compensation - and
how he believes his late wife would have approved of his
new marriage to Maria (40), with whom he has a daughter,
four-month-old Gabriella

My life changed forever the day the Omagh bomb went off.
Thankfully, a new chapter has begun with my remarriage, but
the day the pain of Omagh leaves me will be the day I am
carried to my coffin.

Just over seven years after I lost my wife, I married
again, on October 12, 2005. In a way, it was through my
first wife Mena that I met my new wife, Maria. Mena was
involved with a charity called The North West Romanian
Relief Fund, which reached out to poor families.

Maria's daughter Andreea stayed with us for two weeks in
the summer of 1997. Her sister, Nicoletta, stayed with
another family. Both children were in an orphanage. Mena
and I had talked about the possibility of bringing Andreea
and Nicoletta over here to live permanently.

After Mena died, I went out to Romania to visit Andreea,
and that's when I met her mother. I think Mena had
something to do with bringing us together. I was finding it
hard to cope with life - the children were all growing up
and branching off on their own lives. I felt I didn't
really have a purpose anymore and was feeling very sorry
for myself. Now I have Maria and our new baby, Gabriella.

Although I'm very happy, memories of that day in Omagh will
always be there. I remember every single thing about it -
how could I forget? Myself, Mena and our three daughters
had gone into the town from our home in Drumquin to shop. I
had been pricing flights to Romania because Mena and I had
made plans to visit Andreea.


Mena was trying to get bits and pieces of school uniform in
the SD Kells shop for Shauna and Tracey, and I was browsing
in the shop next door. Paula was further up the town.

There had been a bomb scare earlier on in the day - that's
why we had moved on to where we were. Then the bomb went
off and the shop's front window was sucked out. I went
outside and saw all the shops along the street cave in one
by one as the bomb's vacuum spread. They folded like cards
... it was like something out of a movie.

I climbed in through the window of Kells to see if I could
find Mena, Shauna and Tracey. I found Mena lying face down
in the rubble inside the front door. She was already dead.
I thought my whole family were. I found Tracey half an hour
later, on her knees beside her mammy. She had been knocked
out, but when she came round she went searching for

It was another two hours before I found Shauna. Someone had
helped her out the back of the shop. She was then taken to
Altnagelvin Hospital in Derry with very bad facial injuries
and then transferred to the Ulster Hospital, Dundonald. I
don't know how Paula survived the impact of the bomb. I
don't know why some lived and others didn't. I had only
three scratches on my forehead. Paula and Tracey didn't
have any physical injuries, but the mental scarring will
always be there.

After Shauna was released from hospital, she received a bit
of counselling. I left it up to each of them to decide if
they wanted any or not. The counsellors came to visit me
and it was obvious they had not been trained to deal with
an atrocity like this. They didn't have a clue what they
were talking about.

It was very difficult to get on with things because there
was no help. The place was swarming with social workers,
but as soon as the funeral was over, the house emptied.

My mother, Maggie, was my rock. Nobody else came near me to
see how I was coping with the children. We were all left to
row our own boats - it was either sink or swim and I nearly
sank ... I worked as a lorry driver and was a referee at
hurling, gaelic football and soccer matches. I was used to
getting phone calls at the weekend a few hours before a
match, asking me to referee.


All that was over. I had to be there to put the dinner on
the table. The odd time I went to a match, but it just
wasn't the same. People treated me differently. Referees
are used to being called names and shouted at, but everyone
was so polite. The bomb changed everything - even wee
things like that.

For the first few months after the explosion, it seemed as
if we were riding on the crest of a wave. Bill Clinton came
over, and Tony Blair and the late Mo Mowlam met with the
families. They really did put on a show promising us the
sun, the moon and the stars. I believed them - I certainly
don't anymore.

The Chief Constable of the RUC, Ronnie Flanagan, said that
no stone would be left unturned in catching the people who
had carried this out and Tony Blair told us that anyone who
committed a crime after the Good Friday Agreement would not
get away with it.


But all of our politicians have sold us down the river.
There were no political points to be scored from a bomb
that killed Spanish, Irish, Mormon, Catholic and
Protestant. Victims are treated like second class citizens,
while the people who carry out these crimes are protected
and looked after by the Government. The bigger a scoundrel
you are, the better you are treated.

I met the Interim Victims' Commissioner Bertha McDougall. I
had problems with her, because I thought she was going to
fight for the rights of all innocent victims - not create a
two-tiered system for RUC victims and UDR victims. Their
families are no different from anybody else's. Then, there
are the murders like that of Pat Finucane and Rosemary
Nelson, which were high profile as both had a background in
working for human rights. They did not deserve to die
either. Each life is as important as the next one. To try
and categorise victims is completely and utterly wrong.

The Omagh bomb shattered my whole family dynamic. I got œ52
a week sick pay for six months from my employer. I don't
know how I would have got by without the generosity of my
family and good people from around the world. I'm not
ashamed to say I received donations from as far away as
Canada and Australia.

When I tried to get the finances sorted out I was left to
feel like I was defrauding the system. I was told that if I
claimed compensation, I couldn't claim benefits. I was told
I wasn't getting compensation, then I got a cheque for
œ7,500. I have since received a further amount of money but
my son Ray, who lost his mother, was entitled to absolutely
nothing because he wasn't in town that day.

Paula was due to go off to do her teacher training at
Stranmillis College in Belfast. She was going to take a
year out, but I insisted she go on as planned. It's what
her mother would have wanted. Shauna is now training to be
a teacher and graduates this year. Tracey is married and
working in an office, and Ray is a joiner. I'm proud of all
of them and always will be.

A memorial is to be erected in memory of the people who
lost their lives and no one can agree on the words
'dissident Republicans' being written on the memorial. Why
not let it be known that it was dissident Republicans that
did this? But Omagh is a Republican town and not everyone
wants it highlighted that the bombing was carried out by
the Real IRA.

Some people say 'Why would God let such an atrocity
happen?'. But God didn't plant the bomb, God didn't kill
all those innocent people. He created human beings and gave
them their own free will. It's up to the individual what
way they use that free will.

Continuing Mena's charity work after she had gone gave the
family something to focus on. Since the bomb, we have
fundraised to build an orphanage in Fagaras in Romania. The
first phase opened in August 2004 and we're hoping that the
second phase will open next year.

Our new baby, Gabriella, is a great wee girl. I had never
seen a child being born before. She's a spoilt wee girl as
well. I think she looks like her mammy, but others say she
looks like me. Maria's other daughters, Andreea (18) is in
Northern Ireland, training to be a beauty therapist and
hairdresser, while Nicoletta (20) has returned to Romania.
They have another little sister, six-year-old Iulia, who
attends St Conor's Primary School in Omagh.

I have a new start now, and a new family. I'm certain Mena
made all of this happen and is looking down on me today. We
will never forget that day in Omagh ... but life has to go

c Belfast Telegraph


Welsh Minister's Paisley Jibe Leaves A Bitter Taste

[Published: Wednesday 28, February 2007 - 10:27]
By Noel McAdam

The DUP today accused First Minister of the Welsh Assembly,
Rhodri Morgan, of "poor taste" after he made a joke about
Ian Paisley on his deathbed.

Mr Morgan made the quip in the presence of Secretary of
State Peter Hain and Prime Minister Tony Blair.

He said Mr Paisley converted to Catholicism before dying
because he thought it was better to lose a Catholic than a
Protestant, the Western Mail reported.

Ian Paisley refused to comment on the remark but his wife,
Baroness Paisley, insisted that "this certainly wouldn't be
his philosophy".

A DUP spokesman said: "It's a joke in poor taste. It's not
a remark one would expect from a First Minister from any
part of the UK. We are involved in more serious activity
and we would trust that the Welsh First Minister would be
more careful with his language and not be so offensive."

The First Minister's spokeswoman said: "The joke used by
the First Minister is an old one, which has been doing the
rounds for a long time. He certainly did not intend it to
cause offence."

The joke was made at a dinner on the eve of the Welsh
Labour conference in Llandudno, north Wales, last Thursday

c Belfast Telegraph

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