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February 21, 2007

Metro Police Chief: RUC Was Paramilitary Organization

News about Ireland & the Irish

BB 02/21/07 Met Chief: RUC Was Paramilitary Organization
BT 02/21/07 Top Cops Knew About Haddock Seven Years Ago
BT 02/21/07 Paisley: DUP Hold Veto On Power-Sharing With SF
BN 02/21/07 DUP: Devolution Depends on Financial Packet
BT 02/21/07 DUP 'Ready' To Share Power With Sinn Fein
NL 02/21/07 Devolution – DUP Digs Its Heels In
BT 02/21/07 From Brawl In The Hall To Flare In The Square
BT 02/21/07 DUP Has Its Eye On Securing A Third Seat
BT 02/21/07 Sinn Fein Speech On RTE Days Before Poll
NL 02/21/07 Apology To RUC Widows, But Hugh Refuses To Go
RT 02/21/07 1,000 Rescued At Sea In 2006
BB 02/20/07 World Cup Stars Sign For Fr Ted
BB 02/21/07 'Wilde' Party In Oscar Town


Met Chief Rejects RUC Slur Claim

The Metropolitan Police Commissioner has said a row over
his remarks about the RUC is "a storm in a tea cup".

Sir Ian Blair had paid tribute to those who transformed
policing in NI from an "almost completely paramilitary
organisation, to an emblem of hope".

The DUP said it was a "disgrace" and urged him to withdraw
his remarks.

Sir Ian said he was describing a police force that during
the Troubles had to be supported by heavily-armed military,
and he did not intend any slur.

"It's a storm in a tea cup - of course I don't want to
offend anybody," he said.

"I was using the word as we would use it in England,
because that would be a description of a force that faced
the horrific terrorist threat that it did.

"I think this is Ulster politics choosing words so that
every word is weighed in a different direction."

On Tuesday, Sir Ian had told an Ulster Television reporter:
"You would have to be entirely insensitive not to have
noticed that there has been change here.

"I pay tribute to all the people from so many different
walks of life... in making the changes from what was, as
you say, a paramilitary, almost completely paramilitary
organisation, to an emblem of hope."

The PSNI replaced the old Royal Ulster Constabulary in 2001
as part of wide-ranging reforms of policing in Northern
Ireland, recommended in the Patten Report.

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2007/02/21 10:24:03 GMT


Top Cops Knew About Haddock Seven Years Ago

[Published: Wednesday 21, February 2007 - 08:49]
By David Gordon

Damning documentary evidence has conclusively shown that
the RUC learned the truth about informer Mark Haddock years
before he was toppled as a paramilitary godfather. A
previously confidential letter has proved that detailed
allegations on Haddock's killing spree were spelt out to
police headquarters in 2000.

That was three years before a major investigation by
Ombudsman Nuala O'Loan finally brought an end to the UVF
man's double life as a paid Special Informer.

During that period, his north Belfast murder gang continued
to build its crime and drugs empire, committing murder and
other acts of terrorist violence.

The existence of the letter was revealed by this newspaper
last month but its contents have remained unknown - until

The letter raises fresh questions over the RUC's handling
of the Haddock case. It also creates further problems for
the PSNI as it faces legal action from families of the
informer's victims.

It was written by campaigning father Raymond McCord and
sent to the Stevens collusion inquiry team.

It was forwarded to the office of Chief Constable Sir
Ronnie Flanagan at RUC headquarters in September 2000.

He is understood to be adamant that he did not see the
letter, which raises questions about the RUC's handling of
such sensitive correspondence.

Mr McCord last night said: "I did not keep a copy. I was
confident that I had spelt out chapter and verse about
Haddock but could not prove this without the letter. Now
the PSNI have released a copy to me and it vindicates
everything I have been saying.

"People cannot say the RUC was unaware of the allegations.
They are there in black and white."

In the letter, Mr McCord named Haddock as a Special Branch
informer and leader of the Mount Vernon UVF.

He said the 1997 murder of his son, Raymond jnr, was
carried out on Haddock's orders - a claim backed up in the
report published last month by Police Ombudsman Nuala

He also stated that the Mount Vernon UVF had carried out
other killings including that of Catholic woman Sharon
McKenna in 1993 and Protestant Billy Harbinson four years

"Not one person has been charged with any of these murders
even though the UVF in this area is full of informers," Mr
McCord's letter stated.

It also said: "RUC men have told me privately that every
investigation concerning Haddock hits a brick wall, i.e.
someone puts that brick wall there."

In a plea to the Stevens inquiry team, Mr McCord added: "Is
it right that a 'man' can work for the security forces and
also be granted immunity or else be allowed to murder due
to his handler protecting him? My family and me hope and
pray outside people like yourself will expose what is going
in our country and see that justice does exist."

The PSNI's present chief constable Sir Hugh Orde worked for
the Stevens team in 2000. He told the Belfast Telegraph
last month that Mr McCord's letter was forwarded to Sir
Ronnie Flanagan in September 2000, as it was outside the
remit of the Stevens investigators.

The PSNI subsequently said the document was dealt with by
the force's command secretariat - the chief constable's
office. It stated that the letter was sent to the officer
investigating the Raymond McCord jnr murder case.

Sir Ronnie has been contacted by this newspaper about the
September 2000 letter, but has not commented. He is now
head of Her Majesty's Inspector of Constabulary, which
oversees all UK police forces.

He is understood to be privately emphatic that he did not
at any time see the correspondence forwarded by the Stevens

This would mean that he did not personally deal with a
matter raised by a high-level outside police team
conducting a major collusion investigation.

In a statement last month, Sir Ronnie stated: "With respect
to the specific matters dealt with in the Ombudsman's
report, at no time did I have any knowledge, or evidence,
of officers at any level behaving in the ways that have
been described."

Mrs O'Loan's report stated that Haddock was not struck off
as a police Special Branch informer until 2003, when Mrs
O'Loan's office alerted Sir Hugh to the facts it was

Haddock was paid an estimated œ80,000 during his 12 years
of informing.

The O'Loan report linked him and his UVF associates to at
least 10 killings. These included the murder of loyalist
politician Tommy English in October 2000 - one month after
the Stevens team contacted the RUC about the McCord

In December 2002, Haddock led a gang in a knife and hatchet
attack on Ballyclare man Trevor Gowdy. He is currently
serving a jail sentence for this vicious assault - also
committed while he was still an informer.

Mrs O'Loan's report stated that Special Branch's shielding
of Haddock had " consolidated and strengthened" the UVF's
position in north Belfast.

The Ombudsman also said that he would have been "well aware
of the level of protection which he was afforded".

Relatives of four victims of the Mount Vernon UVF are suing
the PSNI in the wake of the Haddock revelations.

c Belfast Telegraph


Paisley: DUP Hold Veto On Power-Sharing With SF

[Published: Wednesday 21, February 2007 - 12:30]

The DUP manifesto launched this morning in the North says
it won't be forced into power with Sinn Fein by any
government deadlines.

It claims both the British and Irish governments support
its preconditions on restoring devolution, and that Sinn
Fein must deliver first.

The DUP leader, Ian Paisley, refused to say whether he
would support power-sharing by next month but he did say
that his party had a veto over North-South relations.

c Belfast Telegraph


DUP Warns Over Power-Sharing

21/02/2007 - 11:13:36

Sinn F‚in or the British government will be at fault if
there is any delay to power-sharing in the North, the
Democratic Unionists insisted today.

As the Rev Ian Paisley's party continued to resist demands
for it to commit itself now to power-sharing by March 26,
its Assembly Election manifesto said any decision it made
would hinge on republicans proving their support for the
police, the courts and the rule of law.

But the 64-page document also warned British chancellor
Gordon Brown that the size of the final financial package
he offered to a future Stormont executive would also
determine if devolution returned.

In a reiteration of the statement issued by the DUP
executive last November, the manifesto said: "Republicans
know what they need to do.

"Sinn F‚in making support for policing and the rule of law
conditional on them being in government may satisfy Peter
Hain but it is not sufficient for the DUP or the people of
Northern Ireland who have borne the brunt of decades of
republican attack on the rule of law.

"There must be upfront and proven delivery. There can be no
cherry-picking of policing functions to support."

The DUP added: "The restoration of devolution will not be
delayed by the DUP.

"It will only be delayed if republicans or the (British)
government do not deliver on their commitments and

The British government has been accused of offering little
in the way of new funds in the Brown's offer last November
of œ50bn (?74.5bn) over 10 years to the North's politicians
in the event of power-sharing returning.

The DUP said today the resolution of this issue was a
precondition to the formation of a devolved government.

And while its manifesto trumpeted what has been achieved
since the DUP became the largest party at Stormont four
years ago, it also restated its opposition to water charges
and new rating system for the province.

The party demanded:

:: Voluntary metering for all households should water
charges go ahead, an end to the system of basing bills on
the capital value of homes, and all charges to be no higher
than the average in England and Wales;

:: Changes to the rating system, ending the current
practice of making the capital value of homes the basis for
calculating what people pay, and a more generous rates cap
for senior citizens and other vulnerable groups;

:: A cut in the rate of Corporation Tax to entice foreign
investors, other fiscal incentives to foster research and
development, a cap on industrial rates, a simplified tax
and benefits system, reduced business banking charges, and
lower fuel duty;

:: A new method of testing based on ability for schools
such as computer adaptive testing, extra resources for
special educational needs, support for small schools
especially in rural communities, and an end to preferential
funding for Irish language or integrated schools;

:: The training, recruitment and retention of more health
service staff, reduced NHS bureaucracy and streamlined
decision-making, a focus on health promotion, early
intervention and prevention of illness at community level,
and a range of initiatives at individual, community and
province-wide levels to reduce suicide;

:: A more joined-up approach across government departments
to tackle housing problems, the development of land to
provide new low-cost homes for local people, and enabling
people to buy their own homes;

:: A reduction in agricultural red tape, the development of
the North as a centre of excellence for renewable energy,
support for the fishing industry such as tie-up aid, and
the extension and enhancement of the warm homes scheme to
cut energy bills and carbon emissions;

:: Long-term sustainable funding for victims' groups, and a
fund for Ulster Defence Regiment soldiers equivalent to the
money for those who served in the Royal Ulster

:: Legislation tackling discrimination against the elderly,
the creation of a Commissioner for Older People, the
reduction of means-testing to encourage senior citizens to
claim benefits they are entitled to, more domiciliary,
residential and nursing home places and better respite
provision, more support for patients with Alzheimer's and
other forms of dementia, and stiffer sentences for those
who attack and rob the elderly;

:: A devolved or junior minister dealing with children's
issues, greater inter-agency co-operation and information
exchange for not only child protection but prevention, more
accommodation options for young people in care, and
initiatives to combat bullying;

:: Stiff minimum sentences for sectarian and racist crimes,
the provision of enough resources for the Serious Organised
Crime Agency, sentences which reflect the seriousness of
car crimes, upholding the right of Loyal Marching Orders to
parade, and more funding for loyalist community festivals.


DUP 'Ready' To Share Power With Sinn Fein

[Published: Wednesday 21, February 2007 - 09:13]

These are strange times in the DUP. But as the Assembly
election campaign hardens, the party's key inclinations are
undoubtedly becoming clearer.

First, it appears increasingly willing - resigned to, if
not enthusiastic about - joining a power-sharing Executive
including Sinn Fein.

What many viewed as the party's very raison d'etre, to
thwart and 'smash' Sinn Fein, is slowly evaporating in the
context of Northern Ireland's fast-changing political

For many party members and supporters, conceding what they
regard as principle will come, according to one councillor
who has resigned, as 'a hell of a gunk'.

Secondly, however, it is being increasingly signalled that
the party intends smashing through the British and Irish
governments' deadline of March 26 for a devolution deal.

"We are ready for government on March 26," a senior
leadership figure said. "The only question is (whether)
Sinn Fein is ready to be in government by March 26."

Like their rivals, the Ulster Unionists, some in Ian
Paisley's DUP claim to have been taken aback on the
doorsteps by unionist voters saying, often in so many
words: "get on with it - get into government."

The senior party representative said: "There is a real
desire for devolution (but) we want to make sure it is not
the old stop/go devolution. That would wreck devolution

Then in a key sentence, the leadership personality added:
"I believe there is an inevitability about devolution
coming back. I don't think Sinn Fein can duck out at this

The party also clearly calculates the Government is not any
more firmly committed to the next deadline than it proved
to be, in the end, to last September - or others.

"I don't think it's remotely likely the Government is going
to throw out all the progress so far," the senior anonymous
briefer added.

While containing the predictable criticism of Sinn Fein and
other parties, today's manifesto is tougher on the
Government and the causes of government.

It makes clear an acceptable and much improved economic
dividend package from Chancellor Gordon Brown is a pre-
condition for going into government. " A deal-breaker," one
source said.

By contrast, and in contrast to speculation last week, the
requirement for improved mechanisms to prevent collapse of
the Executive should Sinn Fein default, is in there - but
not as a make-or-break condition.

After its considerable successes in the last two elections,
the DUP believes it is on a roll.

For the first time since 1981 - in a then highly polarised
context - the DUP moved ahead of Ulster Unionists in the
Assembly elections of November 2003.

It gained 30 seats - then boosted to 33 when Jeffrey
Donaldson, Arlene Foster and Norah Beare quit the UUP and
defected - and 27.8 % of the vote, compared to the UUP's

Westminster comparisons have their difficulties, but
handsomely winning nine seats in the Commons and 33.7% of
the vote consolidated the DUP's position.

But strategists admit there are two factors they are
largely unable to quantify.

The extent to which unionist voters may stay at home in
this election, and the element of DUP supporters who, angry
over moves towards power-sharing and the shift to
accommodate Sinn Fein in the governing structures of
Northern Ireland, may deliver a protest vote for
independents - some of them former DUP figures - or the
smaller parties such as Bob McCartney's United Kingdom

c Belfast Telegraph


Devolution - DUP Digs Its Heels In

THE DUP's election manifesto will vow to "put manners" on

The 64-page document, which is due to be unveiled this
morning, is keenly awaited by the other parties and
governments looking for some form of commitment to power-
sharing from Ian Paisley's party.

Instead, they will get a tough message that much more needs
to be done before a devolved government is formed.

The "put manners" retort, a deliberate dig at Gerry Adams,
who made the remark that his party would boss the PSNI,
will make it clear that the restoration of the Stormont
Executive is not a done deal.

The News Letter understands that the weighty policy
document will also include demands for a substantial
financial package from the Government before devolution

Last night, the SDLP accused the DUP of sneering at
devolution and challenged Peter Hain to devolve, no matter
what, on March 26.

DUP deputy leader Peter Robinson hit out at the call by
Mark Durkan.

He said: "I thought the whole idea of having an election
was to allow the electorate to have an input into what
should happen.

"I could well understand why Mark Durkan would call for
devolved government come what may because his diminishing
returns proves that he is more than slightly out of touch
with what the people think and want."

Mr Robinson said his party had made it consistently clear
that "the process is not calendar led. It is condition led.
We have never recognised deadlines.We need delivery".

Mr Durkan, he added, should be focusing on those who have
not yet reached democratic standards in order to enter and
form a government, rather than the DUP.

There has been speculation that the Government may consider
setting up a power-sharing government in shadow form on
March 26 before devolving full powers.

This would buy the DUP more time to test Sinn Fein's
credibility on policing.

But the Secretary of State yesterday ruled out the prospect
of shadow power sharing before full devolution and said the
deadline was not a false one.

"There's no prospect at all of a shadow Assembly or a
transitional Assembly on March 26," he said.

"The legislation on the statute books does not allow for
anything else other than dissolution on March 26 unless we
achieve devolution.

"If we don't get devolution it shuts down. The door is
locked and the MLAs, who have just been elected, will go

"This is it. You either choose to devolve on March 26 or
you dissolve. Sinn Fein need to continue to contribute to
policing, as they did today by turning up, but unionists
need to offer to share power.

"I urge everyone to seize that opportunity, otherwise, why
are we having an election?"

But at an SDLP candidates launch in Belfast, Mr Durkan
said: "Even now the DUP are cooking up a Plan C and gearing
up for yet more negotiations after these elections.

"This proves that they don't take the Government's rhetoric
about devolution or dissolution on March 26 seriously. They
just hear it and they sneer at it.

"That's why we are calling on the governments to end the
games and devolve on March 26 come what may.

"That would put it up to the DUP to form the executive. But
even if they don't and the Assembly is then dissolved at
least we will be clear on who exactly is responsible. That,
at least, would end some of the uncertainty."

Speaking in advance of the publication of the party
manifesto DUP leader said, "Unionists know what they need
to do at this election. We are facing a battle with Sinn
Fein as to who speaks for Ulster.

"By giving me a massive mandate, unionists will be sure
that our strategy will deliver. Our approach has brought
republicans this far, and will succeed. Ultimately it will
ensure that when devolution returns it can be on a stable
and long-term basis."

21 February 2007


From Brawl In The Hall To Flare In The Square

[Published: Wednesday 21, February 2007 - 09:14]
By Noel McAdam

The DUP has accused Bob McCartney of "orchestrating" a
confrontation with Ian Paisley in the centre of Lisburn.

But the United Kingdom Unionist Party leader denied he had
planned any ambush and hit back: "If I'd been orchestrating
it I would have had more people with me."

The 'Flare in the Square' came as the city centre was
thronged yesterday with shoppers for the weekly market.

As Mr Paisley entered Lisburn Square, accompanied by his
deputy Peter Robinson and local candidates Jeffrey
Donaldson and Edwin Poots, Mr McCartney rushed across to
speak to the DUP team.

He then attacked DUP moves towards power-sharing and asked
Mr Paisley: " How did never, never never become yes, yes,

Mr Robinson and Mr Donaldson were standing between Mr
McCartney and Mr Paisley. They shouted "vote-splitter" at
Mr McCartney as the DUP leader walked on.

The UKUP later claimed to have driven the DUP out of the
square - while the DUP said Mr McCartney had left "with his
tail between his legs".

The two-minute spat also included, however, a handshake
between Mr McCartney and Mr Poots.

Mr Donaldson said: "He came running over, shouting abuse
primarily directed at Dr Paisley. He was clearly attempting
to orchestrate a confrontation.

"We did not rise to the bait, however, and after we put a
few home truths to him, he left with his tail between his

Mr Poots said: "He ran away when we questioned him about
his strategy which would involve Martin McGuinness becoming
First Minister."

Mr McCartney said afterwards: "The nonsense is that the DUP
now think they are unionism and that anyone who votes for
any other unionist party is splitting unionism. That is
what they did for years.

"I had questions to ask and Mr Paisley, who was wearing his
Fedora hat, never lifted his head," the UKUP leader added.

Mr McCartney is standing in six constituencies, including
Lagan Valley, in an attempt to attract the anti-Agreement

The DUP was responsible for the so-called 'Fuss at the Bus'
during the last election campaign when its battle vehicle
drew former Ulster Unionist leader David Trimble and senior
colleagues from their party headquarters.

c Belfast Telegraph


DUP Has Its Eye On Securing A Third Seat

[Published: Wednesday 21, February 2007 - 09:11]
By Chris Thornton

The lowest point dominates the skyline. Look along
alleyways in the lower streets or down through clumps of
trees in the higher reaches of East Belfast, and you will
see Samson and Goliath.

The big yellow cranes of Harland and Wolff draw the eye.
They once symbolised the steel and strength of this part of
the city, but these days the tufts of grass that poke
through the shipyard's concrete aprons seem more active.

The industrial muscle is sagging: the shipyard is a ghost
of what it once was, questions remain about the future of
Shorts, and even the Civil Service - the shipyard of the
middle-class up the hills around Stormont - is not the safe
employment bet that it once was.

The East isn't so inscrutable. With an ageing, mainly
Protestant population, it will raise its concerns about the
economic future on the doorsteps this election and then
vote across the spectrum of unionism.

The constituency is the fiefdom of Peter Robinson, the
area's longtime MP and the deputy leader of the DUP.

His dominance is the DUP's strength and weakness - his
reputation as the master strategist of the party is a
bigger draw to voters than his running mates, but it can be
too big.

Last time out, in the 2003 Assembly election, Mr Robinson
topped the poll and got too many votes. He received more
than two quotas under the transfer system, and then the
votes transferred unevenly.

In others words, poor vote management probably cost the DUP
a third seat. One of Mr Robinson's running mates, Robin
Newton, got in but the third DUP candidate, Harry Toan,
missed the cut by about 550 votes - less than 15% of Mr
Robinson's surplus.

This time the party has increased their chances of an extra
seat by running a high-profile third candidate. Lord Browne
- or Wallace Browne as he was known when he was Lord Mayor
of Belfast - could boost their chances of winning three.

But at whose expense? Ulster Unionist leader Sir Reg Empey
should be safe. Three other candidates were elected below
the quota last time (they got in because all other runners
had been eliminated), suggesting three are vulnerable.

Of those three, Ulster Unionist Michael Copeland scraped
into the sixth seat, more than 400 votes behind Alliance
candidate Naomi Long. He will be hoping that his
constituency work, especially along the Albertbridge Road
neighbourhoods, keeps him afloat.

Ms Long stepped confidently into Lord Alderdice's shoes
last time and finished fifth out of six. She has made the
Alliance seat her own in the intervening years. Her return
is not guaranteed but she may be considered among
Alliance's best hopes for retaining a seat.

The fourth place finisher is no longer with us. David
Ervine's death means the new PUP leader, Dawn Purvis, will
attempt to hold 3,000 votes.

Her campaign will show whether that vote was truly down to
her party's hold in the area or was carried personally by
Mr Ervine. If it was the latter, the PUP seat will turn out
to be the DUP's best hope for a third seat.

The nationalist candidates will probably be on their way
home by mid-afternoon on the day of the count.

The Short Strand and the scattered Catholic homes in the
leafy parts of East Belfast will muster just over 2,000
nationalist votes, but that number needs transfers to
translate into a seat, and there is no obvious source for

c Belfast Telegraph


Sinn Fein Speech On RTE Days Before Poll

[Published: Wednesday 21, February 2007 - 11:41]
By Noel McAdam

RTE is to broadcast a major address by Sinn Fein President
Gerry Adams - four days before the Assembly elections.

The Dublin broadcaster said guidelines did not apply to
Northern Ireland - but indicated they might have to be
reviewed in future. The station said Sinn Fein was entitled
to have the key section of its ard fheis broadcast.

Arrangements for broadcasts of all the political parties'
conferences were finalised last autumn - before the March 7
Assembly poll was called.

RTE is now estimated to be available to around half of
Northern Ireland households.

Peter Feeney, chairman of RTE's election steering group,
said: "It is the first time this has happened but it is
something we could consider as penetration in the North
increases. But for all practical purposes, the
responsibility only extends to the Republic. The criteria
were drawn up for the Republic of Ireland.

"Sinn Fein is the only party with candidates in the
elections in both north and south and is entitled to the
broadcast in terms of its membership in the Dail. But if an
election had been called in the Republic we would not cover
the conference."

His comments came as Sinn Fein today launched its election
campaign with a special website asking for questions to
Gerry Adams to be emailed to

c Belfast Telegraph


Apology To RUC Widows, But Sir Hugh Refuses To Go

PSNI Chief Constable Sir Hugh Orde has rejected calls for
his resignation and apologised to the RUC widows he may
have offended by being with his mistress instead of at a
memorial service last year.

The weekend papers had revealed that Sir Hugh ran alongside
his mistress, with whom he has a 16-month old child, in the
Great North Run in October on the same day a church service
was held to honour police officers killed in the line of
duty in Northern Ireland.

The News Letter yesterday revealed that Sir Hugh raised
œ1,000 for RUC George Cross Widows' Association by running
in the event and that his wife, Kathleen had attended the
memorial service.

The Chief Constable confirmed he had spoken to
representatives of the RUC Widows' Association and the
Police Federation in recent days about the ongoing

Speaking during the first day of an international
conference on policing, Sir Hugh made clear he did not mean
to cause any distress or offence by failing to attend the
event in October last year.

"It was never my intention to cause any hurt or (take away)
from the dignity of the event," he said.

"I have attended many memorials in the last four and a half

The head of the PSNI also rejected the calls of those who
have asked for him to stand down.

"There's more work to do and I intend to stay to make sure
that work is done."

Sir Hugh was given the full backing of the chairman of the
Policing Board, Professor Sir Desmond Rea.

"I talked to each of the individual members, I spoke to the
representatives of the political groups and there was
unanimity as far as they were concerned that this was
personal, private and not a public matter and that we had
confidence in our chief constable," he said.

"If there was hurt caused in respect of this association he
would acknowledge that hurt and he has done so today. It's
our view he has made an outstanding contribution to
policing and we would simply wish this would move on."

Yesterday, a representative of the Widows' Association
confirmed Sir Hugh had spoken to them.

21 February 2007


1,000 Rescued At Sea In 2006

Wednesday, 21 February 2007 08:55

Irish Lifeboats rescued nearly 1,000 people last year
responding to over 900 emergencies at sea.

The annual report of the RNLI says the most common call-out
was to power boats.

Senior lifeboat inspector in Ireland, Colin Williams said
the voluntary crews deserved the greatest praise for saving
so many lives and that new technology developed for
lifeboats enables a faster response to emergencies.

An average of 19 people a week were rescued by lifeboats
last year.

The annual lifeboat statistics show that Bangor in Co Down
and D£n Laoghaire in Dublin were the busiest coastal

The two RNLI inland stations at Lough Derg in Co Tipperary
and Enniskillen in Co Fermanagh were also busy, with a
total of 57 launches between them and 102 people rescued.

There were 237 emergency calls from powered pleasure craft,
125 from yachts, but only 16 from commercial shipping.

Fishing vessels also kept the lifeboats busy with 173 calls
for help.


World Cup Stars Sign For Fr Ted

The saga of the inaugural Father Ted festival has taken
another twist with Irish World Cup stars John Aldridge and
Tony Cascarino signing up.

The three-day "Friends of Ted" event takes place this
weekend on Inis Mor, the largest of the three remote Aran
Islands off County Galway.

After neighbouring Inis Oirr claimed it should be the real
Craggy Island, it was decided a five-a-side football match
was the only solution.

And Aldridge and Cascarino will need to draw on all their
international experience, as the match is being played to
avoid a diplomatic incident.

The stakes are high, as the losing side will have to make
do with the honour of spending the next year representing
Rugged Island, the home of Father Ted's nemesis Father Dick

The festival was organised by a group of friends from
Galway to mark the ninth anniversary of the death of comic
Dermot Morgan, the star of the Channel 4 series.

The organisers hope to limit the event to 100 lucky fans,
and a proportion of ticket sales will go towards Croi, the
West of Ireland Cardiology Foundation.

The event has generated so much publicity that Dublin-based
bookmaker Paddy Power has even begun taking bets on the
outcome of the match.

At the time of writing, the away side, Inis Oirr, are
marginal 8/11 favourites while Inis Mor are evens.

A rival bookmaker ranks Aldridge as one of the favourites
for the Republic of Ireland job in the event of current
boss Steve Staunton being sacked, so at the very least, the
match should give him vital experience.

The festival features an array of themed events associated
with the comedy series, such as the Father Jack Cocktail
Evening, the Father Dougal Breakfast Movie Charades, the
Lovely Girls Contest and Charity Auction and A Song for

Also featured on the bill are the Toilet Duck Comedy
Awards, Crazy Golf, Hide A Nun and Seek, Ludo Aerobics,
Buckeroo Speed Dating and a Ferrero Rocher Quiz Night.

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2007/02/20 13:41:12 GMT


'Wilde' Party In Oscar Town

Veteran singer and songwriter Van Morrison is about to
receive an alternative Oscar.

The Belfast born star will be honoured with an Oscar Wilde
award at the Wiltshire Ebell Theatre in Los Angeles for his
contributions to cinema.

His songs have formed the back drop to nearly 50 films,
from Martin Scorsese's The Departed to Thelma and Louise.

Some of the biggest names in the American and European film
worlds will be present at Thursday's ceremony.

Actor Al Pacino will present the award, Helen Mirren plans
to attend and controversial film maker Michael Moore is to
make a speech.

The event is the second annual Oscar Wilde: Honouring Irish
Writing in Film event.

It is hosted by the US-Ireland Alliance, a non-profit
organisation created to foster ties between the film
industries in America and Ireland.

Born in Belfast on 31 August 1945, Van Morrison has penned
such enduring hits as Brown-Eyed Girl, Gloria and Precious

He is also expected to perform at the ceremony and each
guest will receive a copy of Van Morrison at the Movies:
Soundtrack Hits.

The songs include Gloria from The Outsiders, Wild Night
from Thelma and Louise and Brown-Eyed Girl from Born on the
Fourth of July.

Hotel Rwanda director Terry George, from Belfast, will also
be honoured.

He has twice been Oscar-nominated for his film writing and
will be presented his Wilde Award by Michael Moore.

William Monahan, screenwriter on the Irish American mafia
film, The Departed, will also be honoured.

Trina Vargo, president of the US-Ireland Alliance said the
event, co-sponsored by the Irish Film Board was about
bringing leaders in the Irish film community together with
their Hollywood counterparts.

"The buzz created after last year's event has made this
year's one of the hottest tickets during Oscars week," she

The 79th annual Academy Awards take place on Sunday.

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2007/02/21 11:24:57 GMT

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