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February 26, 2007

Talks Focus on Steps To Devolution

News about Ireland & the Irish

BT 02/26/07 Talks Focus On Steps To Devolution
IT 02/26/07 Onus On SF To Prove Bona Fides - Allister
BT 02/26/07 McCord Threatened By UVF
BT 02/26/07 McCord To Meet Hillary On US Trip
BT 02/26/07 Top Level Talks On Collusion Cases
SN 02/26/07 Immigration Debate, With An Irish Spin
BB 02/26/07 A Bread And Butter Election?
IT 02/26/07 Adams Hails SF Progress As Office Reopened
BT 02/26/07 SDLP Won't Go Overboard On Republican Backlash
BB 02/26/07 SDLP Can End 'Stop-Go' Politics
IT 02/26/07 Sitting Comfortably On A Knife-Edge Seat
IT 02/26/07 West Belfast: Constituency Profile
BT 02/26/07 Defections And Dramas In The Spotlight Again
BT 02/26/07 Hain Gives A Boost To Maze Plan Opponents
BT 02/26/07 Times Are A-Changing At An Emotional Croke Park
IT 02/26/07 Anthems Filled Croker With Pride & Joy
IT 02/26/07 Campaigner Calls On Gay Byrne To Quit
IT 02/26/07 Deputy Mayor Welcomes Byrne Remarks
IT 02/26/07 Opin: More Than A Match
IT 02/26/07 Opin: Should US Troops Land At Shannon
BT 02/26/07 Clerics & Lovely Girls For Father Ted Event


Talks Focus On Steps To Devolution

[Published: Monday 26, February 2007 - 11:10]
By Noel McAdam

Arrangements for crucial negotiations to restore devolution
after the Assembly election were under focus today at a
meeting of the British and Irish governments in Dundalk.

The negotiations will have to include an agreed economic
package for Northern Ireland, which the DUP have made a
pre-condition for going into government, and a date for the
devolution of policing and justice, essential to triggering
full Sinn Fein support for policing.

No details have emerged of how the governments intend
handling discussions in the aftermath of the election
results, which should be completed on Friday, March 9.

There has been speculation that the St Patrick's Week
events in Washington could play a more significant role
than they have tended to in recent years in the necessary
post-election discussions.

But new inter-party talks, possibly in London, the week
after March 17, could also be on the cards.

A senior Northern Ireland Office source said today he was
"not aware of any specific arrangements" for after the

"As soon as we see the shape of things after the election I
expect people will want to examine where we are at," the
source added.

Secretary of State Peter Hain and Irish Foreign Minister
Dermot Ahern were also expected to again underpin that
March 26 - the cut-off point for a devolution deal - is an
"absolute" deadline.

The London and Dublin Ministers met at the latest session
of the British and Irish Inter-Governmental Conference at
the Ballymascanlon Hotel, Dundalk.

Mr Hain has repeatedly argued that without agreement on
devolution, the governments will invoke so-called 'Plan B',
which would enhance the role of the Irish government in the
day-to-day administration of Northern Ireland under the
overall umbrella of direct rule.

Mr Hain has so far stayed out of the argument during the
lacklustre election campaign but the NIO pointed out
today's meeting had been on the calendar for months.

His comments were expected as the parties geared up for the
final full week of the election campaign, with manifestoes
expected later in the week from Sinn Fein and Alliance.

Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams accused the DUP of
"posturing" ahead of the decision it would have to make

c Belfast Telegraph


Onus On SF To Prove Bona Fides - Allister

Gerry Moriarty, Northern Editor
Mon, Feb 26, 2007

DUP MEP Jim Allister, one of the party's main sceptics
about powersharing with Sinn F‚in, has said that unionists
must not be easily persuaded about republican bona fides.

Mr Allister, who was campaigning in South Down for DUP
candidates Jim Wells and William Burns, said yesterday
these were representatives "willing to put manners on

"Republicanism, with its bloodthirsty past, is owed no
favours by unionism. Nor, in consequence should we be
easily persuaded as to their democratic bona fides. The
onus is on Sinn F‚in," said Mr Allister.

"There can be no conditionality, equivocation or
selectivity in supporting the police, the rule of law and
the courts. Delivery is not weasel words but sustained
action, tested and proved over a credible period. Jim Wells
and William Burns will not be rolled over either by a
bullying government or half-measures from Sinn F‚in, either
now or in the future," he added.

Mr Allister, while urging support for DUP candidates, said
unionists should use the proportional representation system
to maximise the overall vote for unionism by voting down
the ballot paper for other unionist candidates.

Meanwhile, the SDLP candidate in Strangford, Joe Boyle,
said that climate change and other environmental issues
were now important matters on the doorstep. "I believe
people are ready to change their lifestyles to help the
environment, provided they are given leadership and there
is a fair distribution of the sacrifices that must be
made," he said.

He called for a concerted approach to help reduce "our
carbon footprint", and added, "it is time to break down the
totally false argument that environmental protection is
some sort of extra cost or imposition on business and

Eco-friendly production has its own economic rationale and
can in fact make a direct contribution to more sustainable
farming and the economic regeneration of rural areas and
small coastal communities.

"Hand in hand with punitive measures to combat polluters
and those who would profit from illegal waste dumping, we
need to build upon the structures that are already in place
to encourage everything from alternative energy to zero-
waste production and lifestyles."

Former Noraid chief Martin Galvin has predicted that
independent republicans opposed to the St Andrews Agreement
who are standing in the Assembly elections will upset some
of Sinn F‚in's ambitions. Mr Galvin campaigned last week
for former IRA prisoner Gerry McGeough in Fermanagh South
Tyrone and for Peggy O'Hara, mother of H-Block hunger
striker Patsy O'Hara, in Foyle.

Republican Sinn F‚in is also standing candidates in six
constituencies who oppose St Andrews and who have deplored
Sinn F‚in for endorsing the PSNI.

While Sinn F‚in claims that opposition from independent
republicans will not pose a serious threat, Mr Galvin said
the candidates were being well received on the doorsteps.
He said former Sinn F‚in supporters were canvassing for
independent republican candidates and that the response was

c 2007 The Irish Times


Candidate Threatened By UVF

[Published: Saturday 24, February 2007 - 09:59]
By David Gordon

Raymond McCord defied UVF death threats yesterday to take
his Assembly election campaign into the loyalist stronghold
of Rathcoole.

A PSNI patrol stood watch as the independent candidate
canvassed the estate within the north Belfast constituency.

Mr McCord's long battle to expose police informers within
the UVF gang that killed his son has led to a string of
warnings from police that his life was under threat.

The most recent notification from the PSNI came just two
weeks ago.

"Police warned me of a UVF plan to kill me if I went into
Protestant estates," he said.

"You have to be concerned about your safety, but no
paramilitary is going to tell me where I can and can't go.

"Those days are supposed to be over. They are not going to
intimidate me."

Mr McCord's allegations about informers within the Mount
Vernon UVF in north Belfast were vindicated last month by a
Police Ombudsman report.

He followed yesterday's canvass of Rathcoole by campaigning
in the neighbouring nationalist estate of Bawnmore.

"I'm very pleased with the response I got in Rathcoole and

"People realise that what they see is what they get with

"I'm standing against paramilitaries and the sectarian
attitudes of other parties."

Mr McCord was joined on the campaign trail yesterday by
former Labour councillor Mark Langhammer.

Mr Langhammer represented the Rathcoole and Bawnmore
estates on Newtownabbey Council for 12 years up to 2005.

He was targeted by UDA pipebombers in 2002 over his support
for a policing clinic in Rathcoole.

Voicing his support for Mr McCord, the ex-councillor said:
"Working class areas across north Belfast are scourged by
paramilitary control. We all know it.

"And, 13 years after the so- called loyalist ceasefire, not
a gun or bullet has been decommissioned by loyalists. We
need proper, accountable policing."

Mr McCord is confident that he will have face-to-face talks
with Tony Blair about the Ombudsman's report after the
Assembly elections.

Ulster Unionist MP Lady Sylvia Hermon has been in
correspondence with the prime minister over a proposed

c Belfast Telegraph


McCord To Meet Hillary On US Trip

[Published: Monday 26, February 2007 - 08:46]
By Stephen Breen and Chris Thornton

The campaigning father of loyalist murder victim Raymond
McCord Jnr is set to meet United States presidential
candidate Hillary Clinton when he goes to America next

Raymond McCord Snr will present Police Ombudsman Nuala
O'Loan's report into his son's murder to Mrs Clinton and
other US politicians during his week- long visit from March

"My visit to America is part of a cross-community
initiative in which victims can be given a chance to
highlight what they have been through," he said.

"I am going to tell the truth and to inform the American
people how agents of the state in Northern Ireland were
paid huge amounts of money while they continued to murder
innocent people."

The north Belfast man, who is standing as an independent
candidate in the March 7 election, is also waiting to
receive confirmation of his first meeting with Tony Blair.

He hopes to meet the Prime Minister to discuss the
publication of Mrs O'Loan's report after next week's
Assembly election.

Mr McCord requested the Downing Street meeting through
north Down UUP MP Lady Sylvia Hermon after it emerged he is
to meet Mrs Clinton.

Lady Hermon said: "Since Secretary of State Peter Hain
showed scant sympathy and interest when he met with Raymond
McCord and myself late last year, I was determined to
facilitate a meeting between the McCord family and the
Prime Minister."

c Belfast Telegraph


Top Level Talks On Collusion Cases

[Published: Monday 26, February 2007 - 11:08]
By Chris Thornton

Imminent decisions about bringing soldiers to court for
collusion murders are being watched at the top levels of
government, a senior law officer has admitted.

The Attorney General, Lord Goldsmith - who has the power to
block prosecutions on national security grounds - has held
private talks with Northern Ireland's chief prosecutor
about the Stevens Inquiry cases and has reviewed detailed
legal briefs.

The Government has said his involvement in the sensitive
cases - including up to 10 murders - is routine.

But the SDLP has branded it an "unacceptable" conflict of

The Belfast Telegraph revealed on Saturday that prosecutors
are close to deciding whether to bring charges against 24
members of the security forces and a civilian who were
investigated by the Stevens Inquiry.

Files on those individuals were passed to the Director of
Public Prosecutions, Sir Alasdair Fraser, almost four years
ago by Lord Stevens, the senior British police officer
whose collusion investigation spanned almost 15 years.

The cases are believed to concern the activities of the
Army unit known as the Force Research Unit (FRU), whose
soldiers ran notorious agents, such as UDA man Brian Nelson
and the IRA mole known as Stakeknife.

The head of FRU, Brigadier Gordon Kerr, was among a number
of soldiers questioned by the Stevens Inquiry. Brigadier
Kerr is now believed to be leading the Special
Reconnaissance Regiment in Iraq.

Sir Alasdair has had discussions with Lord Goldsmith about
the cases and sent him eight binders full of "detailed
analyses of the evidence and underlying legal principles",
Solicitor General Mike O'Brien told SDLP leader Mark

The last of those binders was received more than 18 months
ago, and since then three QCs have been brought in to give
further advice.

Mr Durkan is preparing to ask more parliamentary questions
about the depth of Lord Goldsmith's involvement, but Mr
O'Brien insisted the discussions about the cases are

"The Attorney-General has not seen the Stevens reports or
the evidence submitted," he said.

"It is the nature of superintendence that the director will
discuss with the Attorney-General cases of particular
complexity or seriousness.

"The decisions remain those of the director."

He said decisions on the cases "are close to being

SDLP Policing Board member Dolores Kelly said it is
"unacceptable that the Attorney General has engaged with
the director over the prosecutions" .

"There is a clear and obvious conflict of interest in
having the Attorney General, a key figure in the British
Government, consulted on prosecutions when the British
Government has for years worked so hard to cover up the
truth about the involvement of their personnel in
collusion," she said.

In 1988, the Attorney General - then Sir Patrick Mayhew -
blocked Stalker Inquiry prosecutions against members of the
security forces on the grounds of national interest.

Mrs Kelly said her party is also concerned that the passage
of time is diminishing the chances of successful

c Belfast Telegraph


Immigration Debate, With An Irish Spin

Undocumented residents from Ireland will join D.C. rally in
push for more work-based visas.

By Susan Ferriss - Bee Staff Writer
Published 12:00 am PST Monday, February 26, 2007

SAN FRANCISCO-In a cozy room above a Russian market and a
Shanghai-style restaurant, an Irish nanny gently rocked an
American baby.

When the nanny reveals that she hails from the Emerald
Isle, she said, American citizens are usually warm and
welcoming and many speak proudly of their own Irish

They don't suspect her secret. They'd never imagine that
the San Francisco nanny feels a special bond with millions
of others, most from Latin America or Asia, who are illegal
immigrants -- just as she is.

"The Irish are a bit luckier. We speak English, and we tend
to get the better jobs," said the $17-an-hour, full-time
nanny. She requested anonymity because she feared she and
her 8-year-old son could be located and deported.

Next month, in what some call a critical turning point for
their cause, the nanny and more than 150 other undocumented
Irish and supporters from California will travel to
Washington, D.C., to join a rally on March 7 outside

Donning "Legalize the Irish" T-shirts, they are expected to
join thousands to lobby Congress for an increase in work-
based immigrant visas and enactment of a program for
undocumented workers to earn legal status. They have
powerful allies on Capitol Hill, and they hope to woo more.

Once more numerous, undocumented Irish immigrants are today
estimated at about 50,000 nationwide, a number that pales
in comparison to Latin Americans, Chinese or Indians, but
could be matched, for instance, by undocumented Polish

A decline in Irish immigration in recent years is
attributed to Ireland's unprecedented economic boom, the
so-called "Celtic Tiger." The European Union has invested
billions in grants to develop infrastructure, and the Irish
embrace of the high-tech industry is fueling economic

But some Irish arrived in America on tourist visas before
the emergence of the Celtic Tiger, staying because they
found plenty of work here. Also flocking to the United
States are those from less-prosperous Northern Ireland.

As did generations of Irish before them, today's immigrants
view the United States as an exceptional land of
opportunity. But they've found that there is almost no way
to immigrate legally today other than by marrying a U.S.
citizen or a legal resident or winning a space in a visa

"I have about as much a chance at that as I do at winning
the money lottery," said Rachel, another undocumented San
Francisco nanny who works 50 hours a week. Out of concern
for being discovered, Rachel asked that her last name not
be revealed.

In 2005, out of a total of more than 1.1 million people who
were granted legal residency, only 2,088 were Irish. Most
were married to U.S. citizens or legal residents.

In a separate lottery competition that reserves 50,000
slots a year for people from around the world, only 160
slots were won by Irish in 2006. In San Francisco, more
than 450 Irish vied for the lottery and lost, including the
two nannies interviewed by The Bee.

Because of a dearth of paths to immigrate legally, the
Irish have joined a coalition with Latinos, Asians,
employers, unions and churches to lobby for more visas to
fill job shortages.

More than 34 million Americans trace their ancestry to
Ireland, a cultural bond the Irish believe can strengthen
their case before the American public.

"Anybody with their faculties can see there are thousands
of jobs to fill," said Niall O'Dowd, New York-based
chairman of the nationwide Irish Lobby for Immigration
Reform. Irish have found jobs in households, construction,
the hospitality industry and in professional fields.

O'Dowd responded to the argument that illegal immigrants
shouldn't be rewarded for illegal behavior. "We're not
advocating illegal immigration. We're advocating legal
immigration," O'Dowd said. "A lot of hatred has been spewed
by the right. This is an issue affecting a lot of ethnic
groups. This is about access to America."

Once subjected to intense discrimination themselves, the
Irish can identify with other illegal immigrant groups who
are offered work here but scorned as being too different to
fit in, said Kelly Fincham, executive director of the Irish
immigrant lobbying group.

"We were unwanted," Fincham said, "because we were funny,
filthy and worshipped funny gods."

In the past, the Irish have successfully lobbied Congress
to enact limited visa programs that benefited them and

Their movement resonates with Irish Americans. Chris Brown,
a member of the cultural Shamrock Club of Sacramento said,
"The club is willing to support Irish people as part of its
mission." He would like to lobby to make sure the flow of
Irish immigration continues.

The Irish are emboldened by encouragement from U.S. Rep.
Nancy Pelosi , the new Democratic speaker of the House, who
sent a representative and letter of support to a recent
Irish event in her home district of San Francisco.

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-
N.Y., two presidential hopefuls, showed up to personally
show their support when Irish immigrants staged a rally a
year ago in Washington.

Celine Kennelly, a director of the Irish Immigration
Pastoral Center in San Francisco, said, "We're leveraging
200 years of political involvement in the United States. We
have a voice that can cut across lines."

As for helping immigrants find positions, "We've never had
a problem filling a nanny or an elder care job," said
Kennelly, whose office makes job referrals and is one of a
dozen such centers in U.S. cities with large Irish

The undocumented nanny who earns $17 an hour said that when
her employers put an ad on the craigslist Web site several
years ago, only two people who were not illegal immigrants

Paul, an Irish illegal immigrant living in San Francisco
for 10 years, will be among those rallying Congress next
month. He left Ireland before the economic boom. Today, he
runs his own licensed construction company and owns his own
home in a country he praises for rewarding hard work.

Paul, who also asked that his last name be withheld,
employs a dozen people -- some Americans, some Latino
immigrants. He pays all taxes, and he's tried fruitlessly
to find a way to become legal. With his driver's license
soon to expire, he's desperate because new security laws
make it difficult to renew. One of his own children, he
added, doesn't even know she's not a U.S. citizen.

Said Paul: "Oh, Americans want immigrants, all right,
whether it's the right way or the wrong way."


A Bread And Butter Election?

By Mark Devenport
BBC Northern Ireland political editor

In the past the broadcast media, myself included, have been
criticised for concentrating our campaign coverage on
unionist-nationalist constitutional politics to the
exclusion of the so called bread and butter issues.

Our response has tended to be that we are reporting
campaigns as they are, not as some might like them to be.

The fact is that our main local parties define themselves
in relation to their attitude to the border.

Instances of voters transferring their allegiance from,
say, the DUP to Sinn Fein after close reading of those
parties' manifesto commitments on health and education are
few and far between.

That said, I think I may be beginning to detect a shift
towards bread and butter concerns in this campaign.

Both unionist and nationalist candidates report far more
comments from the voters they meet on the doorsteps about
water charges, rates, the health service and so on than
about the policing and power sharing problems the British
and Irish governments tried to iron out at St Andrews.

To some extent this may be because neither the DUP nor Sinn
Fein want to play up disquiet over the policy shifts they
have made or are contemplating.

To do so would play into the hands of the anti-St Andrews
agreement unionists and the dissident republicans who are
trying to make the big parties' lives difficult within
their own core constituencies.

However, it may also be that the voters have had enough
years of the peace process to work out the general drift in
local politics.

Moreover, the imminence of the new water charges and rate
demands makes those concerns more tangible than fears of a
return to violence or worries about Northern Ireland's
future constitutional status.

But if the bread and butter issues are moving right up the
agenda, voters still face a problem in working out how to
influence affairs via the cumbersome system inherited from
the Good Friday Agreement.

This is not an election in which an unpopular government
can be thrown out in favour of an opposition promising to
reverse its policies.

Whichever combination of local politicians emerge
triumphant, they will still face major problems in agreeing
a coherent programme for government which addresses the
voters concerns whilst balancing the competing priorities
of four different parties.

DUP negotiated changes may ensure less fragmentation
between individual ministers pursuing contrasting agendas.

However, it's still unclear whether those changes will lead
to a smooth running executive or to administrative deadlock
and constant vetoes.

Various alternatives have been suggested to the system of
designations and parallel consent designed by the Good
Friday Agreement.

A "voluntary coalition" reliant on a heavily weighted
majority has been the option supported both by Alliance and
the DUP.

Such a system would enable a government to be formed around
a coherent policy platform.

By unfreezing the designation system it could also allow a
degree of flexibility which might make it easier for the
smaller parties seeking to break into the Stormont system.

It could also provide a ladder by which the SDLP and the
Ulster Unionists could clamber back to a position of
greater influence.

The DUP says it wants to ensure the mandatory coalition is
only a temporary emergency measure.

But this will be met with extreme scepticism from Sinn
Fein, who will view it as code for excluding republicans
from power, and by nationalists in general who may believe
it is merely a backdoor attempt to reinstate majority rule.

Vowing that a system is only temporary is easy enough.
Negotiating a functioning alternative is a bit harder.

All this talk of systems of government may baffle voters
concerned about the bills hitting their doormats right now.

But the question is this - if a future executive based on a
mandatory coalition fails to fulfil their expectations by
the time of the next assembly election, how would they go
about voting it out of office?

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2007/02/26 08:06:59 GMT


Adams Hails Progress Of SF As Belfast Head Office Reopened

Patsy McGarry

Mon, Feb 26, 2007

It was Saturday morning and images of Fidel Castro, Bobby
Sands (died on hunger strike), M ir‚ad Farrell (shot),
James Connolly (shot), M ire Drumm (shot) and Nelson
Mandela were draped across the front of Sinn F‚in's Belfast
headquarters, Connolly House on the Andersonstown Road.

A small plaque on a wall beside the entrance gate had been
erected to the memory of John Downes, "murdered at this
location by the RUC on 12/8/84". He was hit by a plastic

But people were there to celebrate and tricolour bunting
hung on many lines from the house to surrounding walls
while at the back a bouncy castle was being inflated. A
tricoloured ribbon was draped across the front door
awaiting a scissors to mark the formal reopening of the
building - an otherwise unremarkable house - after

Those present included Sinn F‚in MEP Bairbre de Br£n, local
MLA Sue Ramsey, Dublin city councillor Dessie Ellis, Paul
Maskey, a Sinn F‚in candidate in the current Assembly
elections, and party president Gerry Adams.

"The blast wall has been taken down, a sign of the times,"
he said, referring to a structure which had been erected in
front of the building to protect it from bomb and rocket
attack. "Connolly House has been at the centre of
republican activity in this city since it was bought by the
party in 1983," he said in a brief address.

It had been named after James Connolly - Belfast organiser
for the Irish Transport and General Workers' Union from
1911 - who had lived not far from there until he left
Belfast on Good Friday 1916 for the Easter Rising in
Dublin, he explained.

The house "was acquired in the aftermath of the hunger
strike campaign and as part of Sinn F‚in's evolving plans
to build a strong political party in Belfast," he said.

"It was an extraordinary time in the development of
republican politics. . . when our first councillors, Alex
Maskey and Se n McKnight, went into Belfast City Council;
the assembly election of 1982 saw Sinn F‚in win five seats
across the North and confound and upset our political
enemies; and then in the 1983 Westminster election when we
won the West Belfast seat for the first time."

When Connolly House was first opened, Sinn F‚in was "a
relatively small party. . . beginning to get to grips with
the political challenges of creating change. . ." He
recalled the DUP slogan at the time, "Smash Sinn F‚in", and
Ian Paisley appearing at a press conference waving a

Today Sinn F‚in was "the largest nationalist party in the
North, the largest pro-agreement party" and was going into
the March 7th election with 24 Assembly seats, he said.

"Twenty five years ago the DUP thought they could smash
this party. Now they are within weeks of agreeing to go
into a power sharing executive with Sinn F‚in," Mr Adams

Connolly House had been attacked "on several occasions".
Rockets, bought from the old apartheid regime in South
Africa and brought into Ireland by unionist paramilitary
groups and British intelligence, including the DUP-founded
Ulster Resistance, were fired at the house, he said.

Several republican activists were shot and wounded in two
attacks in February 1994 and "on another occasion hand
grenades were hidden in a hedge near the front entrance and
a trip wire laid to catch anyone coming into the building,"
he said.

It was there as well that thousands had gathered "a few
hours after the first IRA cessation was announced on August
31st 1994" to commend "the courage and wisdom of the IRA
leadership and its willingness to take risks for peace".

He recalled how in September 2004, "at a very sensitive
time in the peace process", a four-foot long bugging device
was found in the house which was brought to Leeds Castle
and returned "to its owner Tony Blair, who said famously
'is that all?'."

c 2007 The Irish Times


SDLP Won't Go Overboard On Republican Backlash At Polls

[Published: Monday 26, February 2007 - 09:16]

The grey, uninviting sky heralds the sort of morning which
renders callers unwelcome. Still, the SDLP is boldly out

"I saw a forecast that said rain followed by showers," said
a veteran door-rapper. "Was that about the weather or the
party?" I quipped cruelly and, fair dues, he laughed. "It's
the other crowd who are the shower," he bantered back.
"Don't quote me on that."

It isn't made clear, though, if he means the Shinners or
the DUP. In the past the party came a cropper, targeting
Ian Paisley rather than Gerry Adams. I don't ask.

Another veteran party worker said they have detected
disillusionment among some republican voters but wouldn't,
she added, "go overboard".

"There are some who say we've been proved right, who feel
sold down the river, especially on policing," she said. "A
few have said they might vote for us, but you would never

This is not an election the party wanted and many fear it
will further boost the size and strength of the two blocs -
DUP and Sinn Fein - cementing instability.

The SDLP vote never collapsed; it just stayed at home. The
party had a dreadful shock in the 2003 Assembly elections,
only partially ameliorated by a victory in South Belfast
and holding onto Foyle in the Westminster battle more than
18 months ago.

For a while, it stemmed the seemingly unstoppable Sinn Fein
machine - the electoral gap between them remained. To the
extent it represented a comeback, can that now be

If, as some calculate, the Sinn Fein vote has plateaued,
then improved on-the-ground campaigning and better vote
management should mean the SDLP at least holds its own.

"We've been through our Garden of Gethsemane," one veteran
activist said. "By comparison, I don't think the Ulster
Unionists are even at the gate yet."

The metaphor refers to facing the realities of the
political forces out, but being unable, ultimately, to
destroy it. The party believes it can make gains.
Unfortunately, it could also sustain losses. The big fear
is the 'stay-at- home' factor.

"We are the party who has suffered most from the stay-at-
homes. The attitude among SDLP voters is that they will
only come out if it looks like things are going to work," a
party veteran argued.

"Our message is that we are looking more at success than
for a long time, but only a strong SDLP can help make it

Overall, the story of the SDLP is one of struggle to hold
its own since the heady, glory days around 1998 when wily
backroom workers calculate woeful vote management cost the
party up to five seats.

Mark Durkan has done much, however, to restore organisation
and structure, particularly centrally. "Morale is better,
but having said that there an awful lot more to do yet."

c Belfast Telegraph


SDLP Can End 'Stop-Go' Politics

SDLP leader Mark Durkan has labelled the DUP and Sinn Fein
"suspension parties" and argued only his party can deliver
an end to "stop-go" politics.

He was speaking at the launch of his party's 50-page
election manifesto.

The SDLP is also proposing that the A-level exam system in
Northern Ireland should be scrapped and replaced with a
broader curriculum for pupils.

It also called for an independent revenue regulator to act
as a watchdog against "excessive rates increases".

Speaking in Belfast, Mr Durkan accused the DUP and Sinn
Fein of engaging in "king of the castle politics", placing
their own ambitions above those of the voters.

He said on 7 March, people would face a series of clear

In its manifesto, the SDLP said it would replace A-levels
with a "broader post-16 curriculum that would offer all
young people wider career options and life pathway

The SDLP said it would:

Restore the link between rates and water funding, and
oppose privatisation of the water service and support the
modernisation of it and the sewerage system

Secure a fairer rates system based on ability to pay with
relief for students, pensioners and the disabled

Press for a single all-Ireland Corporation Tax regime at
12.5%, and place a cap on industrial rates with a range of
reliefs or exemptions

Establish an all-Ireland economic policy unit and develop a
North-South strategy to maximise overseas investment,
create an enterprise growth loan and equity fund to
increase business start-ups, and establish a cross-border
economic development zone

Campaign for a regional pension fund, deliver a cross-
departmental strategy to protect migrant workers' rights,
eradicate adult illiteracy and innumeracy by 2015 and
secure an independent review of tuition fees

Reshape the Programme for Government

Guarantee a well-resourced health service, plough
additional resources into cancer, heart disease, stroke and
respiratory disease services, cut waiting lists and promote
healthier lifestyles

Improve and monitor cleanliness in hospitals, ensure access
to clinically effective drugs for conditions such as MS,
Alzheimer's and arthritis, develop an all-Ireland approach
to mental health issues and increase support for carers

Ensure the end of academic selection, oppose pupil profiles
and computer adaptive testing, develop an all-ability co-
educational school system, fund integrated early years care
and guarantee special educational needs children's right to
attend mainstream pre schools, primaries and secondary

Support the introduction of the Autism Act, increase
funding for Irish language education, and secure fair pay
for teachers

Release more land for social housing, remove the PPS14
planning restrictions, make the publication of the
Homelessness Strategy a statutory obligation on the Housing
Executive, review the housing benefit system and protect
tenants of private landlords

Insist on the further development of an anti-poverty

Develop a renewable energy plan for Northern Ireland and a
plan for all public transport stock to run on bio-fuels,
campaign for the closure of Sellafield

Develop a new all-island agriculture industry, develop an
all-island strategy for the reform of the Common Fisheries
Policy, cut agricultural red tape, press for higher relief
barriers on inheritance tax, and produce a cross-cutting
White Paper to strengthen rural communities

Invest in public transport

Support a comprehensive Irish Language Act

Deliver a Single Equality Bill, help eliminate the gap
between men's and women's pay, oppose the dilution of fair
employment monitoring, deliver an effective, well-resourced
sexual orientation strategy, develop an anti-bullying
strategy, deliver a Comprehensive Bill of Rights, champion
an all-Ireland charter of rights, and reverse the decision
to deport asylum seekers

Work for an all-Ireland sex offenders' register, support
the tagging of dangerous offenders and demand tougher
sentences for breach of licences, and support properly
regulated human rights compliant restorative justice

Push for more police officers to be released from desk
duties, oppose the use of plastic bullets, ensure there is
no diminution in the powers of the Police Ombudsman or
Policing Board, seek the devolution of policing and justice
powers to a single department at Stormont by May 2008,
oppose MI5's takeover of intelligence policing and
establish an all-Ireland Criminal Assets Bureau

Secure a legal requirement for power-sharing in local
government, oppose the seven super councils plan under the
Review of Public Administration

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2007/02/26 12:42:42 GMT


Sitting Comfortably On A Knife-Edge Seat

Patsy McGarry
Mon, Feb 26, 2007

You might imagine Diane Dodds would be feeling just a tad
vulnerable, being the only unionist (and DUP at that!) MLA
in West Belfast, but not a bit of it. She is no stunned
rabbit stunned by the glare of headlights from the Sinn
F‚in juggernaut as it trundles through the constituency.

Not even if she won the seat by just 87 votes in 2003, on
transfers from UUP and Alliance candidates and despite
securing fewer first preferences then than Sinn F‚in's Sue
Ramsey and the SDLP's Joe Hendron.

In the 2005 Westminster election she increased her vote by
4.2 per cent, which helps account for her perkiness at the
moment. In fact she is "more confident than ever before".

In the last Assembly election there were four unionist
candidates in West Belfast, whereas this time there are
just two, she pointed out.

Realistically no other unionist candidate was likely to
take the seat, she continued, implicitly dismissing UUP
Louis West's chances. She also observed that the PUP was
not running a candidate at all on this occasion. The only
possible fly in the ointment was turnout, and unionists in
the Shankill and West Belfast generally did not have a good
record when it came to that, she said. However, "I can hold
it", she insists.

The SDLP's Alex Attwood ought to be feeling delicate too,
with Sinn F‚in chasing five of the six seats in West
Belfast where they currently hold four. But he is talking,
not just of holding onto his seat, but of the party
securing two quotas in West Belfast between himself and
fellow party candidate Margaret Walsh.

There, as throughout Northern Ireland, the SDLP was finding
that "people were browned off at politics being stuck for
the past four years and direct rule, misrule on issues like
water charges and domestic rates", he said.

There were also "rumblings over policing. Not that Sinn
F‚in got it wrong, but that it took them so long to get it
right". There was "confusion as to why they waited so long.
People were saying to him "you played it straight. You took
the hit electorally and acted in the interest something
bigger than the party".

The voters were being "more hard- headed" in this campaign
and "were not buying the usual lines", he said.

Still, "you have to work for every vote" in West Belfast,
he said, and people had to be motivated to turn out.

Overall in Northern Ireland he believed the SDLP was going
to gain in both vote share and seat numbers on March 7th.

Sinn F‚in president Gerry Adams disputed a media perception
of the election campaign generally as being "flat". In his
view "people are up for it." He did however feel there was
a degree of apathy among younger people.

He would not speculate on how Sinn F‚in would perform
overall but was confident the party could take five of the
six seats in West Belfast. They already had four and
securing the fifth was a matter of vote management, he

It was his "strong view that the DUP was going to come on
board" where a new powersharing executive was concerned,
but he wished "they would do so in a more graceful way. In
fairness, they do not have much choice. Either they come
into the Assembly or there is no Assembly. Their electorate
is ahead of them and if you want to sustain a political
class you must keep people involved.

"Some time they will be up for it" so why not now, he

Where policing and republican paramilitaries were concerned
he said he has been "very diligently trying to engage with
various armed groups and will continue to persevere" on the
matter, with a view to persuading them their current route
was not the way forward.

He had written to Ruar¡ O Bradaigh, president of Republican
Sinn F‚in, but he had refused to meet him, and he had been
trying to engage with the 32 County Sovereignty Movement
"on a daily basis".

c 2007 The Irish Times


West Belfast: Constituency Profile

Mon, Feb 26, 2007

West Belfast

NATIONALIST BATTLEGROUND:This is the greenest constituency
in Northern Ireland, indeed probably in the whole of
Ireland. Sinn F‚in's ambition is to take five of six seats.
It currently holds four. It is running five candidates and
expects all five to be successful. The scale of this
ambition is matched by no other party.

Gerry Adams said at the weekend they would "definitely get
four" and that it would be a "big shock" if they didn't get
the fifth. He has been on door-to-door canvasses himself in
the constituency, which is unusual as he tends to favour
the walkabout. Should Sinn F‚in take the fifth seat it can
only come from the SDLP or the DUP and it seems, at first
glance, the most likely casualty would be Alex Attwood of
the SDLP. But not necessarily so. Diane Dodds is heavily
dependent on a big turnout of her unionist support to
guarantee she holds the seat. If that doesn't happen she
could lose, with either Alex Attwood or a fifth Sinn F‚in
candidate benefiting. Attwood will also have the benefit of
transfers from party colleague Margaret Walsh.

UNIONIST BATTLEGROUND:There is no battleground among
unionism in this constituency. There are just two unionist
candidates. They are Diane Dodds, wife of DUP North Belfast
MP Nigel Dodds, and the UUP's Louis West, who realistically
is not at the races. In the 2005 Westminster election Diane
Dodds polled 3,652 votes, or 10.6 per cent of the vote, an
increase of 4.2 per cent on her performance in 2001. In the
2003 Assembly election she took the last seat with 2,544,
or 7.7 per cent of the vote. So she is a serious contender.
It seems most likely she will be in a dog fight for the
last seat on this occasion too. Whether she holds it
depends on turnout, and some DUP supporters - here as
elsewhere in Northern Ireland - disillusioned by the
party's perceived current direction may not vote at all. It
is also being said locally that the register of voters in
the Shankill is down by as many as 1,500 votes, at least.

WILD CARDS:There are 14 candidates for six seats in this
constituency and just seven can be taken seriously. Those
are all five Sinn F‚in candidates, Alex Attwood of the SDLP
and Diane Dodds of the DUP.

The rest are "also-rans".


Gerry Adams (SF)6199 (18.9%)
Fra McCann (SF)4263 (13.0%)
Bairbre De Brun (SF)4069 (12.4%)
Michael Ferguson (SF)3849 (11.7%)
Alex Attwood (SDLP)3667 (11.2%)
Diane Dodds (DUP)2544 (7.7%)

Quota: 15 per cent

c 2007 The Irish Times


Defections And Dramas In The Spotlight Again

[Published: Monday 26, February 2007 - 09:14]
By Sarah Brett

The one-time Ulster Unionist stronghold that straddles the
Bann has seen some dramatic defections and departures at
election time - and this year was no exception.

From the ousting of the UUP's stalwart Willie Ross by
Gregory Campbell (DUP) in 2001, to the switch by Protestant
former police reservist Billy Leonard from the SDLP to Sinn
Fein in 2005, East Londonderry has provided more than its
fair share of shocks.

This year the spotlight fell on internal strife at the DUP
camp and the furious departure of arguably its most
controversial councillor.

Limavady firebrand Leslie Cubitt could not face the
prospect of power sharing with Sinn Fein and made his sense
of betrayal clear earlier this month.

The outspoken former meat plant boss will now stand for the
UK Unionist Party on March 7.

East Londonderry takes in the whole of Coleraine and
Limavady District Council areas.

Fourteen candidates are being fielded here, six of them
former assembly members elected in 2003 - Gregory Campbell
and George Robinson for the DUP, David McClarty and Norman
Hillis for the UUP, Billy Leonard for Sinn Fein and John
Dallat for the SDLP.

Robinson and Leonard won in 2003 at the expense of Michael
Coyle from the SDLP and Pauline Armitage, an independent.

United Unionist Boyd Douglas was another casualty.

Better balancing by the DUP could conceivably have got them
a third seat ahead of the UUP's Hillis; better balancing by
the UUP would of course have reduced any such threat.

The final margin was Dallat's 218 votes ahead of his
running-mate Coyle; two counts earlier, Coyle had edged out
the DUP by 153 votes but this was only for the honour of
being runner-up.

East Londonderry had lost 9.12% of its electorate in the
great electoral register shake-out, varying from 15.16% in
the Cross Glebe ward of Coleraine to 4.99% in Ringsend,
also in Coleraine. Five constituencies lost fewer voters,
12 lost more.

The current boundary commission proposals would shift two
wards into the constituency from Foyle, with minimal
electoral consequences.

Some argue that a third nationalist seat is more likely.

This year the DUP will hope to gain a seat from the UUP,
but this is by no means a sure thing.

East Londonderry's population in the 2001 census was 88,737
with an average age was 35.55. In a breakdown of
denominations 34.74% described themselves as Catholic,
26.07% as Presbyterian, 19.02% as Church of Ireland, 1.27%
as Methodist and 5.21% as members of other Christian

A little over 13.44% declared themselves as no religion or
religion not stated.

New faces - or parties - this year are Orla Beattie for the
SDLP, Joseph (Leslie) Cubitt for the UKUP, Barney
Fitzpatrick for Alliance, Michael McGonigle (a republican
independent) and Philippe Moison for the Green Party.

c Belfast Telegraph


Hain Gives A Boost To Maze Plan Opponents

[Published: Monday 26, February 2007 - 08:41]
By David Gordon and Matthew McCreary

Opponents of a new sports stadium at the Maze today said
Secretary of State Peter Hain's comments in support of
hosting showpiece events in a city centre were a
vindication of their case.

Mr Hain's direct rule team has repeatedly dismissed calls
for a new sports stadium for Northern Ireland to be located
in Belfast rather than the former Maze Prison site near

But, comparing the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff to the new
Wembley Stadium in London at the weekend, Mr Hain said that
holding events in a city centre rather than the suburbs
created a "wonderful atmosphere".

Mr Hain told BBC Radio Five Live the Millennium Stadium was
"probably one of the best in the world".

He emphasised the advantage of it being "right in the
centre of Cardiff" , and continued: "? there's a wonderful
atmosphere of people milling around the streets, which
become pedestrianised, coming in and out of pubs and
restaurants and cafes and flooding into the ground.

"And it's a great sense of occasion, much more so, I think,
than it will be when the ... new Wembley Stadium opens,
because Wembley is in a suburb rather than a city centre."

The comments have met with approval from many of those
opposed to the siting of the stadium at the former prison,
who claim it will be hard for supporters to reach.

"This obviously vindicates what we and others have been
saying in that a stadium in a city centre is what would be
best for Northern Ireland, and even the Secretary of State
knows that's the case," said Gary McAllister, a spokesman
for the Amalgamation of Official Northern Ireland
Supporters' Clubs.

"We would again call on government to look at the whole
stadium project and consider what would be best for sport
in Northern Ireland. What's good enough for the rest of the
UK should be good enough for us in Northern Ireland as

Belfast councillor Bobby Stoker said he also welcomed the
Secretary of State's comments.

"It maybe shows there is still a bit of wit left in
government after all, that they do recognise a stadium
should be located in the city centre, and not miles outside
the main population base," he said.

However, Lagan Valley MP Jeffrey Donaldson said the case
remained strong for the siting of the stadium near Lisburn.

Mr Hain's comments followed his attendance on Saturday at
Croke Park in Dublin - another acclaimed city centre
stadium - for the historic rugby match between Ireland and

c Belfast Telegraph


Times Really Are A-Changing At An Emotional Croke Park

[Published: Monday 26, February 2007 - 08:51]

It took barely a minute to sing God Save the Queen but, in
that fleeting time, it seemed as if 800 years of Anglo-
Irish conflict was laid to rest. Croke Park on Saturday
February 24, 2007, will surely never be forgotten by the
82,000 souls who were privileged to be there.

As we trekked out of the stadium into the dark, tough
streets of inner city Dublin, the talk in the crowd was of
how times had changed. These were the same mean and rain-
swept streets down which the British forces had travelled
with their armoured cars and guns to the first Bloody

Yet, the terraces and tenements around Croke Park on
Saturday night bore no sign of protest, save for a couple
of Garda police horses, idling nervously on a street
corner, as the crowd passed by.

For all the history lessons from media columnists before
the match, about what did or didn't happen on that tragic
Sunday in 1920, the 82,000 people at Croke Park had voted
with their feet that the past was past. And, so too, it was
clear, had the residents of Dublin.

But what price our thoughts as we stood to attention for
the anthems in the gathering dusk a couple of hours
earlier? Had politics and sport ever mixed more in our
minds than in the few minutes it took to sing A Soldier's
Song, God Save the Queen or Ireland's Call?

It was only a rugby match yet it will be remembered as a
momentous meeting of the waters that have divided England
and Ireland over many centuries.

It was only a rugby match but it was the day the hatchet
was virtually buried in, of all places, the green sward of
a gaelic pitch, on centuries of enmity.

It was only a rugby match but it may well prove to be a
surprisingly accurate barometer of a new beginning in the
21st century for all of us on this island.

For me, personally, standing in the Hogan Stand, as the
British and Irish anthems were either sung with great
passion by those around me, or listened to with tight-
lipped respect, Saturday was a turning point in our times.

My mind swung back to childhood in County Tyrone and the
high hedge that separated my rugby-playing Protestant
school from the local Catholic academy.

When our muddy rugby ball was kicked for touch, it
sometimes went over the hedge, a hedge so dense and tall
that none of us could see through or over it. We would wait
patiently for the ball to be returned and eventually
someone, somewhere on the other side, would do so.

In Croke Park on Saturday, like a thousand other barriers
that have tragically separated the peoples of this island
and Britain for so long, that hedge was finally chopped

The minutes leading up to the singing of the anthems were
different from anything we had ever experienced before.
First, the warm applause as the England team ran out onto
the pitch.

Then the President, a woman from Belfast's Ardoyne, shaking
hands with the English team.

And finally, the tingle of expectation in every corner of
the vast grandstands as the teams lined up and the combined
Irish Army and Garda bands stood ready for the anthems.

God Save our gracious Queen, Long Live our noble Queen, God
save the Queen

Could this be for real, we thought, in this citadel of
gaelic, Catholic, conservative Ireland?

Long to reign over us, God Save the Queen

It was real and it was happening and what mattered most of
all was that it was happening with not a disrespectful sign
or utterance from any quarter of the crowd.

This was the moment when our cultures and traditions, north
and south, east and west, British and Irish, converged. And
the words of the anthems showed how far down the long and
winding road of history we had come to this day in 2007.

In Erin's cause, come woe or weal, 'Mid cannons' roar and
rifles peal, We'll chant a soldier's song.

These were the sentiments of another era, where Ireland and
Britain had come from, not where they are now.

What will be taken away from Croke Park is an image of a
new Ireland where anthems, emblems, flags and traditions
are not banned and sullied but tolerated and even
respected. Of course, this was only a rugby match but it
has sent out a message that there is another more tolerant
way of living together on this island if we have the sense
and maturity to grab it.

As we trekked out of Croke Park on Saturday night,
surrounded by St George's Crosses and Irish tricolours, we
knew we had witnessed something special. Outside, the tough
streets of north Dublin were peaceful.

The Gaelic Athletic Association had called it right in
opening its turnstiles to rugby and soccer international
matches at Croke Park. Great sporting occasions can be
enriching experiences but this one beat them all.

Our camp fires now are burning low, See in the East the
silvery glow, Out yonder waits the Saxon foe, So chant the
soldier's song."

That is the anthem of an old Ireland. On Saturday last, the
thousands at Croke Park witnessed the new.

c Belfast Telegraph


Hair-Raising Cry Of Anthems Fills Croker With Pride And Joy

Mon, Feb 26, 2007

The music swelled in Croke Park, and somehow, we swallowed
the lump in our throat. We sang. Misty-eyed, we sang our
hearts out, writes Miriam Lord.

The message, not the words, mattered: Here we are. All of
us. Happy. Proud. This is Ireland. We are Ireland. Live
with it.

Before this rugby game, there was too much talk of sell-
outs and patriots spinning in their republican plots. The
good humoured maturity of the Irish fans settled that
question before an English boot touched the ball.

On this significant Saturday, with the Cross of St George
flying alongside the Ulster flag and Irish Tricolour,
England came to Croke Park to play a non-Gaelic game. There
was tension in the air.

This journey to the crucible of the GAA had been a long
one. Fourteen people shot dead by British forces during a
match in 1920. The Hogan stand, named in memory of the
young Tipperary footballer killed in that massacre. Hill
16, built on the rubble taken from O'Connell Street after
the Easter Rising.

And now, here we were, minutes away from a rendition of God
Save the Queen. Oh, passions were high alright. But only
about the game.

Outside, the riot police, on standby, stood by. A few
streets away, the pursed lip brigade of stubborn old men
rehashed their desiccated rhetoric for the media. Then they
lodged a protest letter with the GAA.

Back inside the stadium, back in step with time, the
English sportsmen got a generous welcome. But when Brian
O'Driscoll led out his Irish squad, the noise was

The players lined up to meet President Mary McAleese. It
seemed like an age before she returned to her seat,
heightening the sense of anticipation before the national

The teams waited. The crowd hushed. Finally, but not before
she was grabbed and kissed twice by Bertie Ahern, the
President sat down. The Garda Band and the Army Number One
Band struck up. The English were in good voice. They made
themselves heard.

At last, our turn. The Irish may need two anthems, but
those who wear the green share a singular passion. Amhr n
na bhFiannand Ireland's Callwere belted out with such hair-
raising intensity that men and women were crying as they
sang. No dishonour in that. On the field, the players
battled with their emotions too. Hooker Jerry Flannery, in
floods. John Hayes, a scary looking prop forward with a
shaven head and greased up cauliflower ears, blubbered.

How could England have touched these men, imbued with such
an unshakeable sense of destiny on this historic day? They
couldn't. In their play, O'Driscoll's men reflected the
maturity, confidence, spirit and passion of the fans who
cheered them. Marvellous. Ireland 43 - England 13. Cry God
for Croker, Ireland and the oval ball!

c 2007 The Irish Times


Anti-Drugs Campaigner Calls On Gay Byrne To Quit

Ronan McGreevy
Mon, Feb 26, 2007

One of the country's best-known anti-drugs campaigners has
called for the resignation of the chairman of the Road
Safety Authority Gay Byrne over remarks he made at the
weekend about the legalisation of drugs.

Mr Byrne told the RT Radio 1 Conversations with Eamon
Dunphyprogramme that he was coming round to the view that
illegal drugs should be legalised because attempts to deal
with the problem through law enforcement had "demonstrably

Mr Byrne said he had been speaking in a personal capacity,
but the international president of the Europe Against Drugs
Network (Euraid), Gr inne Kenny, said she was "appalled" by
his comments.

Ms Kenny is also the chair of the EU-wide Stupified Driving
Committee, which is looking into the links between driving
and both alcohol and drugs.

She said Mr Byrne's views directly impacted on his role as
the chairman of the Road Safety Authority.

"If he is to be in charge of road safety, he should be
educated on drug use as well as alcohol use. If you are a
cannabis smoker, your driving is affected and that is a
scientific fact," she said.

Mr Byrne told Eamon Dunphy that he believed trying to
control the drugs problem is a "hopeless task" and that
fresh thinking was needed on the issue. "It's a major chasm
for me that we should seriously consider legalising drugs.
It seems to me that, in no other area of human endeavour,
have you tried to cure a problem for 40 years by doing
exactly the same thing and finding out that it doesn't
work," he said.

His views were supported by homeless campaigner Fr Peter
McVerry, who provides a drug detoxification house through
his Welcome Home charity.

"I'm all in favour of legalising drugs. However, I realise
it is not a political option at the moment," he said.

c 2007 The Irish Times


Deputy Mayor Welcomes Byrne Remarks

Piaras Murphy
Mon, Feb 26, 2007

The deputy lord mayor of Dublin has welcomed comments by
former broadcaster and chairman of the Road Safety
Authority Gay Byrne on the legalisation of drugs.

Mr Byrne told the RT Radio 1 Conversations with Eamon
Dunphyprogramme that he was coming round to the view that
illegal drugs should be legalised because attempts to deal
with the problem through law enforcement had "demonstrably

Speaking today, Labour Cllr Aodhan O Riordain agreed with
Mr Byrne that a new approach to drugs was needed.

"Drugs are a continuing cancer which have a devastating
effect on communities throughout my electoral area of the
North Inner City, throughout Dublin and indeed throughout
the country.

"However it is becoming clear to me that we as a society
need to start a new debate on the problem as we are clearly
losing the war on drugs," said Mr O Riordain.

But the international president of the Europe Against Drugs
Network (Euraid), Gr inne Kenny, said she was "appalled" by
Gay Bynre's comments and called for him to resign as
chairman of the Road Safety Authority.

Ms Kenny is also the chairwoman of the EU-wide Stupified
Driving Committee, which is looking into the links between
driving and both alcohol and drugs.

"If he is to be in charge of road safety, he should be
educated on drug use as well as alcohol use. If you are a
cannabis smoker, your driving is affected, and that is a
scientific fact," she said.

c 2007


Opin: More Than A Match

Mon, Feb 26, 2007

Simply put, it was an occasion to be deeply proud to be
Irish. It was pulsating, emotional, sporting in the very
best sense of the word, unspoiled by bad manners or
churlish gestures.

It was much more than a game. Croke Park, with its visceral
history, excelled itself in providing a magnificent venue
for the accommodation of all traditions within the island
of Ireland. Great credit is due to the GAA and to the IRFU
for making a day that will go down in the annals of

The behaviour of the large crowd of more than 82,000
attending the first Ireland-England rugby match at the home
of Gaelic games was exemplary but, more importantly, it was
genuine. The local community, more accustomed to their
usual football and hurling guests, were also very welcoming
with bunting and flags abounding.

At a time when it is fashionable to be critical of the
materialism of Irish society, the rugby match at Croke Park
on Saturday evening showed off Ireland at its best. The
playing of God Save The Queen, without interruption, on the
sporting ground where 14 innocent people were killed by
British Auxiliaries in 1920, was hair-raising and historic
and set a special backdrop of expectation for the players
before the game began. The national anthem, Amhr n na
bhFiann followed with what seemed a louder and greater
gusto than on other occasions. There were many wet eyes.

The respect shown to the singing of the British national
anthem at Croke Park is a measure of how much Ireland has
changed for the better. There was no sign of the petty
begrudgery and narrow-minded republicanism witnessed at the
time of the GAA's debate on changing Rule 42. Although the
current accommodation of rugby and soccer may be only a
"temporary arrangement", it was clear from the crowd who
attended Croke Park on Saturday that they would have no
problem with a longer term association.

All in all, it was a very special night to remember in the
history, not just of sport, but of a modern Ireland, full
of self-confidence and comfortable with herself. It was a
privilege to be there, an occasion to be recited to
grandchildren. A new little bit of history was made.

But, why? The Ireland-England rugby match at Croke Park
will go down in history as the day that we demonstrated a
confidence amongst ourselves as a nation, a generous sense
of Irishness, a belief in our sovereignty as an independent
state, a pride in our achievements in the Celtic Tiger
years and, above all, a national affirmation that we are in
command of our destiny. British occupation is a thing of
the distant past.

c 2007 The Irish Times


Opin: Should We Let US Troops Land At Shannon En Route To

Mon, Feb 26, 2007

Head2Head: NO argues Edward Horgan, who says the role of
Ireland and Shannon airport in the Iraqi debacle has been
shamefully selfish

Like many Irish people, I am part American. My mother was a
US citizen and my nephew served with the US marines in
Fallujah last year. But Irish/American friendship does not
justify helping to attack our Iraqi neighbours. The US and
UK launched an invasion of Iraq in contravention of the UN
Charter. By allowing the passage of US troops on their way
to this unlawful and unjustified war, Ireland was also in
breach of international law, and complicit in unlawful

In the meantime more that one million US troops have passed
through Shannon airport. It is now widely accepted that
this war, and the consequential civil war, has caused,
according to the Lancet study, the deaths of over 655,000
people, including about 262,000 children.

The Irish Government has argued that UN Security Council
Resolution 1546 (June 8th, 2004) approved the occupation of
Iraq and that therefore the Irish Government is only
complying with the UN in allowing US troops through
Shannon. However, the UN General Assembly decreed in 1970
that it was as a principle of the UN that the occupation of
territory by aggression cannot be legitimised post facto.
Therefore the US is engaged in a continuing unlawful
occupation of Iraq and UN approval of this occupation is in
breach of its own charter.

However, such niceties of international law hold little
sway on the bloody streets of Baghdad. If the US troops
were in Iraq for humanitarian reasons, and if they were
additionally succeeding in preventing crimes against
humanity, pragmatists could argue that the occupation was
justified, as was the case with the Vietnamese invasion of
Cambodia that overthrew the genocidal Pol Pot regime in
1978. US troops are not succeeding in Iraq, and their
presence is literally inflaming the situation. The primary
reasons for the US invasion and occupation of Iraq was to
preserve US "national economic interests". It did not
invade oil-starved Rwanda in 1994, or Zimbabwe to date.

Taoiseach Bertie Ahern has admitted (in the D il on March
20th, 2003) that Ireland is supporting the US war efforts
for reasons of "our long-term national interests" and that
to withdraw US military permission to refuel at Shannon
"would be a hostile act". Was helping to kill 655,000 Iraqi
people a friendly act?

Local politicians have supported US military and CIA
torture rendition use of Shannon because of the
questionable economic benefits to Ireland and the midwest.
These actions make Ireland a "rogue neutral state", and the
Iraq war makes the US and UK "rogue UN member states" .

Peace, freedom, democracy and the rule of law cannot be
achieved by unlawful wars, internment and torture, imposing
client governments, and gross breaches of international

The argument that we are helping our American friends
raises the question:

Who designated the people of Iraq as our enemies? The
answer is that D il ireann did, on March 20th, 2003, when
all Fianna F il and PD deputies voted to support the US in
its war against the Iraqi people. Remember this on election

Bush administration supporters argue that violence would be
worse if the US withdrew from Iraq. The present token surge
of US troops amounts to little more that a US presidential
face-saving device, and is having the predictable effect of
stirring a hornets' nest. Because the US has suffered its
most embarrassing military defeat since Vietnam, it wishes
to replace the type of panic-stricken withdrawal from
Saigon by going out of Iraq with all guns blazing. Air
attacks on Iranian nuclear facilities are also being
planned (see Tom Clonan, The Irish Times, February 3rd),
all regardless of the local and regional consequences.

The mayhem in Iraq was predictable, predicted, avoidable,
and caused by the US invasion and occupation. The beginning
of the end of this mayhem can only happen when US forces
withdraw. The use of Shannon airport should be denied to US
forces immediately because it is inherently wrong, and was
never militarily necessary, as shown by the move of World
Airways from Shannon to Leipzig.

The solution now is to restore the UN as the only lawful
international peacekeeper, and interpose UN peacekeeping
forces between the US and the various Iraqi factions, to
facilitate a rapid US withdrawal, and help negotiate
peaceful compromises between Shia, Sunni and Kurdish
factions. The troops for such a UN force should come from
relatively neutral Islamic states such as Indonesia, Yemen,
and Bangladesh.

I am deeply saddened by the unnecessary deaths of over
3,000 US soldiers, many of whom were Irish American. Almost
one third of the people of Iraq (over seven million) are
now either refugees or displaced within Iraq.

However, it is the children who have suffered most. Some
died when US bombs fell on their homes, but far more are
dying of cancers caused by depleted uranium munitions, and
from diseases because the water and sewerage plants were
deliberately targeted by US warplanes.

The role of Ireland and Shannon airport in the Iraqi
debacle has been shamefully selfish, and criminally

Retired commandant Edward Horgan is a former UN peacekeeper
and took a constitutional case against the Irish Government
over US military use of Shannon airport.

YESargues Frank Groome, who believes that the economic
argument, although tired, remains vitally important

Nearly half a million US troops, politicians and diplomats
have travelled through Shannon airport since 2003. Many of
the soldiers go on to fight in Iraq or Afghanistan but some
travel to US military installations around Europe. The
debate surrounding Shannon airport can be broken into two
separate but related questions, though for many in
opposition these two questions form part of the same issue.
The first relates to the passage of US military troops
through the airport on the way to Iraq and Afghanistan, and
the second concerns the use of Shannon airport for the
covert transfer of prisoners. Those opposing the use of
Shannon have argued a moral case that in the first instance
the Irish Government is complicit in the killing of Iraqi
and Afghan citizens and in the first and second instance
the Government is in breach of international humanitarian
and human rights standards.

Although the Irish Government has accepted US State
Department assurances that no rendition flights have
stopped at Irish airports, the Minister for Foreign Affairs
still maintains that if evidence did emerge to support the
allegations, then American aircraft would not be welcome in
Ireland. According to a recent Amnesty International
report, 76 per cent of the Irish public want "to play no
role in the grotesque practice of renditions" and want the
Government to investigate each apparent CIA flight through
Shannon. On the issue of rendition, there is a strong moral
argument in favour of adhering to the highest standards in
international humanitarian and human rights law and I would
not attempt to refute this position. However, when
assessing the transit of US troops on the way from America
to Iraq and Afghanistan and back again, it is important to
consider the following issues:

First, an historical assessment of the Irish-American
relationship offers some interesting reading. The
relationship has never been as smooth in practice as the
rhetoric suggests. Until the 1970s, it was a somewhat
uncomfortable alliance. It is only in the last generation
that Ireland and the US have developed the positive,
productive and dynamic interaction that defines the
relationship for many today. The development of a close
diplomatic and political relationship between the two
countries has grown and been cultivated over recent years.
Today, the Taoiseach is the only world leader that has
guaranteed access to the White House each year on March
17th - a situation that has augured well for Ireland.

Second, the economic argument, although tired, remains
vitally important. According to recent estimates, there are
approximately 600 US companies employing roughly 90,000
people in Ireland. Collectively, American companies have
invested nearly $60 billion in Ireland. Importantly,
however, this relationship is reciprocal. Over recent
years, Irish companies have invested more than $25 billion
in America and employ almost 70,000 people. For former US
ambassador to Ireland James C Kenny, the Shannon issue is a
commercial and not a political arrangement. Moreover, it is
an arrangement that has been in place for decades. The
commercial agreement is supposedly worth more than ?37
million a year in fees and services to Shannon airport. In
a statement to the Irish Parliamentary Society in March
2006, the ambassador was candid. If the use of Shannon was
denied to America, there "are dozens of other airports
across Europe that will jump at the business . . . closing
it to US forces will not end the war in Iraq, but it will
end the jobs of hundreds of people who rely on that trade
to provide for their families."

Against this backdrop, maybe dissent would be more usefully
directed towards the Government's recent economic pandering
to dictatorial leaders in the Middle East and China.
Perhaps the Government should discontinue efforts to
generate new economic links that will ultimately make
Ireland reliant on countries that are brazen human rights

Third, the anti-war movement certainly raises some
interesting and vital issues regarding possible breaches in
international law and international human rights standards.
On the other hand - and not to dismiss the ambiguity
regarding the reasons for war in Iraq in the first instance
- Article 49 of the United Nations Charter does call on
member states to afford "mutual assistance in carrying out
the measures decided upon by the Security Council". This
can be interpreted to include Security Council resolutions
1483 and 1511 on Iraq and 1623 on Afghanistan. Furthermore,
this "mutual assistance" could include facilities at
Shannon. I doubt many would advocate that Ireland should
breach our commitment to the United Nations Charter; the
very act some accuse America of doing.

Finally, it is important to take account of the historical
precedent set by the Irish Government regarding the use of
Shannon by US military personnel. Successive Irish
governments have allowed US and other military aircraft
pass through Shannon during the Cold War and during the
first Gulf War. In light of our over-reliance on US foreign
direct investment, perhaps we cannot expect the Government
to backtrack eagerly from this position. In fact, set
against historical evidence, perhaps the question becomes
why should we now deny access to US forces travelling
through Shannon?

Frank Groome is a researcher at the Clinton Institute in
University College Dublin.

Last week, we asked whether God Save the Queen should be
played at Croke Park. Here are edited versions of some of
your comments:

YES:If we do not have the maturity to listen to another
nation's national anthem being played at a sporting event,
then it places into question our maturity as a nation.
Hatred and political bitterness have no place in sport, and
rugby, as a sport, has headed the table in terms of
accommodating all political beliefs (the very fact that the
Irish rugby team normally uses its own anthem is a clever
case of accommodating non-nationalist players from North of
the Border). - Laura, Ireland

NO:Gerald Morgan hits the nail on the head with one of his
eminently reasonable reasons why God Save the Queen should
not be played at Croke Park. In a rugby game between
Ireland and England, the anthems of Ireland and England
should be played. England's insistence on the respect of
others towards an anthem glorifying the long-since smashed
British empire would be a curiosity if it did not have the
extra baggage of being so emotive. - James Connors, Ireland

YES:What an unnecessarily divisive debate. God Save the
Queen has been played for years at the RDS before the Aga
Khan Cup and on other occasions during Horse Show week. Why
on earth should we now stop being tolerant, sportsman-like
and welcoming? - Kerry Holland, Ireland

NO:Irish nationalists should respect the nationalities of
other countries, and therefore their national anthems.
However, the problem with God Save the Queen is that it
contains sentiments which are repulsive to modern
democratic ideas. It is rooted in medieval superstitions
that the privilege and wealth of the monarchy is "God-
given". It does not express English nationalism in a
positive way, but rather the subservience of the English
people to an outdated class system which has no place in
modern society. - Owen Bennett, Ireland

YES:Time and time again here in Boston, where I now live, I
have the difficult task (only when asked) of explaining our
Irish history in a five-minute summary to people who are
largely ignorant of the details and emotions. I find myself
more and more focusing on the incredible work done between
our two countries to make peace, rather than the bigoted
view I grew up with in the sixties and seventies. It was
with trepidation I clicked to see how the voting was going
and it brought a smile to my face to see a majority say yes
to a sports tradition (not history) and once again the
great feeling that never goes away - I'm proud to be Irish!
- Clare Waldron, United States

NO:As soon as the English have an anthem that honours the
nation of England and not one unelected, irrelevant, and
anachronistic individual who lives in a palace paid for by
the taxes of working people, I will have no problem
standing to attention for an English national anthem at
Croke Park or anywhere else. I will never pay respect to an
anthem that honours the ridiculous concept of monarchy
regardless of what country it is intended to represent. -
Siobh n N¡ Bhuachalla, United States

YES:The fact that this issue has been raised shows that in
some respects some portions of the population have not
matured to what is required as international norms on such
occasions. Not to play the national anthems would be a
great insult to the status of international sport and a
great disrespect to the visiting international team.
History is in the past, we should look to the future. - Joe
Brady, Afghanistan

NO:The bigots that grunt out God Save the Queen while
giving fascist salutes will no doubt enjoy the paddy-
baiting in Croke Park. It's a pity that the GAA will
facilitate the bigots that follow British rugby in Northern
Ireland, with their sashes and bowler hats and oval balls,
I hope the Brit anthem is overshadowed by a rousing
rendition of Come Out Ye Black and Tans - Ray, Ireland

online: join the debate @

Head2Head is edited by Fintan O'Toole

c 2007 The Irish Times


Boozy Clerics And Lovely Girls For Father Ted Event

[Published: Monday 26, February 2007 - 09:21]
By Louise Hogan

Three hundred Father Ted fans descended on a small island
off the west coast of Ireland yesterday, donning white
collars and habits to celebrate the comedy series.

As surreal as any Father Ted episode, Inis Mor, the small
11km-long island, suffered the invasion of hundreds of fans
determined to party as hard as drink-swilling Father Jack.

The bleak landscape of the largest of the Aran Islands was
chosen as a fitting location for Craggy island for the
three-day Friends of Ted event from February 23-25 to mark
the ninth anniversary of the death of comic Dermot Morgan,
the star of the Channel 4 series.

A bizarre array of themed events got under way based on
episodes of the show. On the bill were Toilet Duck Comedy
Awards, the Father Jack Cocktail Evening, A Song for Europe
and the Lovely Girls Competition.

Michael Gill (65) from Inis Mor, sat supping a pint of the
black stuff at a pub in the village packed with clerics,
alongside the lovely girls.

As the Lovely Girls battled it out on the stage in the town
hall, Dermot Morgan's son Ben said he was very proud of his
famous father and delighted that so many people had turned

Lovely girl winner, Agnes from Limerick, who wowed the
judges with her blue flower-patterned dress, said: "I want
to thank you for all the prayers that did it. I feel better
than the Rose of Tralee."

Another to snap up one of the 100 prized tickets for the
festival, Thomas Fortune (25) from Kilkenny, struck a
realistic Father Jack armed with a pistol and a bottle of

"This festival - three days drinking on an island - where
can you go wrong? We are definitely enjoying it," he said.

Eithne Gillooly, from Inis Mor, who was dressed as tea-
pushing Mrs Doyle, said: "It has been all go. I have been
run off my feet making tea."

Organiser Peter Phillips, whose idea grew after it was put
on a website, promised the event would be back next year.

c Belfast Telegraph

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