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News about the Irish & Irish American culture, music, news, sports. This is hosted by the Irish Aires radio show on KPFT-FM 90.1 in Houston, Texas (a Pacifica community radio station)
February 23, 2007
UDA Admits It Carried Out Atrocities
News about Ireland & the Irish
BT 02/23/07 UDA Admits It Carried Out Atrocities
SF 02/23/07 DUP Need To Sort Out Approach To Power Sharing
BN 02/23/07 DUP: SF Won't Get Hands On Police Force
BT 02/23/07 Police Facing Cuts In Overtime Across Ulster
BT 02/23/07 Anger At £300m Policing Cuts Plan
DJ 02/23/07 Images Of RUC Dead Posted To Met Chief
BT 02/23/07 SDLP Protest Outside MI5 Belfast Site
DJ 02/23/07 Mainstream Rpblcns Not Behind Abduction Attempt
BT 02/23/07 Fringe Cast Unlikely To Spring A Surpirse
BT 02/23/07 RSF: England Shouldn't Play In Croke Park
BT 02/23/07 Croke Park Medals May Not Be Returned
BT 02/23/07 McAleese Plea For England Welcome
EX 02/23/07 Hogan’s Nephew: It’s Time To Welcome England
BT 02/23/07 Feature: Croke Park: The Real Story
IT 02/23/07 Tight Security For England Rugby Clash
IM 02/23/07 Logistics For Croke Park Game
BB 02/23/07 GAA Chief Wants Protestant Teams
BT 02/23/07 Opin: No Point In Saying Sorry At Croke Park
BT 02/23/07 Opin: The Game Itself Should Make Its Mark
BT 02/23/07 Opin: Let Dignity Not Mob Finally Win The Day
BT 02/23/07 Van Morrison Honoured In LA Ceremony
BB 02/23/07 BBC Seeks Stars Of Odd Man Out
UDA Admits It Carried Out Atrocities
[Published: Friday 23, February 2007 - 08:53]
By William Allen
UDA bosses have acknowledged that pub massacres carried out
by loyalists were atrocities and have urged republicans to
make the same admission about their campaign of violence.
Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph after five UDA brigadiers
attended an event in Londonderry's Guildhall, Jackie
McDonald - considered a senior figure in the organisation -
said all sides must face up to their past if they want to
create a better future.
He said young people can now sit in bars without fear of a
massacre at the hands of republican bombers or loyalist
gunmen, and that future generations should not have to live
through the experiences of the past.
UDA inner council members gathered with other loyalists at
the Guildhall on Wednesday to launch a new strategy
document - Learning From Others In Conflict: Loyalism In
The pamphlet, produced for the UDA, outlined why the group
became involved in a campaign of violence, but also charted
a new political path.
It also said that the UDA will have to acknowledge that
'the ordinary Catholic community suffered appallingly' as a
result of its actions.
And it urged the IRA to acknowledge its campaign of
violence 'was not the pure and idealistic liberation
struggle it was so often portrayed as being'.
Asked if he backed the views in the pamphlet, Mr McDonald
said the UDA and political allies, the Ulster Political
Research Group, were 'trying to be honest'.
Accusing politicians and government of lacking the same
honesty, he said: " We have to move on. All the young lads
of Belfast I know, they go to work, 16, 17, 18, 19 year-
olds, they work hard all week and they go for a drink at
weekends and they're not worried about the next strange
face that walks through the door. We need to develop that
Mr McDonald added that a workshop led to the pamphlet's
production. He said: "Look at what happened in some of the
pubs, there were atrocities committed by both sides. Both
sides have suffered. You can't just say, 'look what they
did all the time'.
"People have to realise that if the loyalists had semtex,
they would have done everything that the IRA did."
He added that no-one despises the IRA more than he does,
but he acknowledged it had made progress. However, he said
the British and Irish governments had created conditions
that made them 'respectable and electable' and should now
'afford the UDA, UVF and Red Hand the same luxury and bring
them in from the cold'.
Insisting the only path forward was a political one, he
said: "The only people talking about killing anybody these
days, or using any weapons, are drug dealers and criminals,
they are just scum."
But the UDA boss added that police must tackle drug dealers
effectively so paramilitaries don't 'fall into old ways' of
dealing with pushers.
David Nicholl, an UPRG spokesman, said a new path to peace
was being forged by the UDA and the organisation should be
supported in its move towards exclusively political means
of achieving its aims.
The new booklet followed an international workshop that
brought together UDA members and community activists from
Moldova/Trandsniestria and Israel/Palestine to share
lessons and experiences.
c Belfast Telegraph
DUP Need To Sort Out Betwixt And Between Approach To Power
Published: 23 February, 2007
Sinn Fein Chief Negotiator Martin McGuinness today said
that the DUP needed to sort out their 'betwixt and between'
approach to power sharing by March 26th.
Mr McGuinness said:
"The message that I am getting on doorsteps across the
different constituencies that I have been in is clear.
People want to see local politicians taking responsibility
and taking decisions. There are too many big issues out
there to be left to part time British Direct Rule
"People are frustrated that the DUP remain equivocal about
taking responsibility. The DUP need to sort out their
betwixt and between attitude to entering a power sharing
Executive on March 26th. If the DUP choose to walk away
they also need to realise that the process of change does
not stop. The will loose the Assembly, the one institution
that unionism argued for. Additionally, all-Ireland
activity and bodies will be bolstered and expanded in new
"Sinn Fein remain focused on Plan A. We remain committed to
seeing the political institutions set out in the Good
Friday Agreement delivered. The DUP is the only obstacle to
that happening. The DUP need to come on board with the rest
of the parties who have all indicated a willingness top
take responsibility and indicated that they are up for
power sharing by March 26th. If they do not, then the
process moves on without them" ENDS
DUP: Republicans Won't Get Hands On Police Force
23/02/2007 - 08:17:48
The DUP has claimed it has "destroyed" Sinn Fein's vision
of policing the North.
The party said its negotiations with London have ensured a
triple unionist lock on policing and republicans will never
exert control over the force.
The DUP's Sammy Wilson said republicans had always regarded
policing as the front line and had vehemently opposed the
That was why, he said, the DUP had so vigorously insisted
on Sinn Fein endorsing the police.
Its negotiators, he said, had constructed a 'triple-lock'
veto on the devolution of Policing and Justice by making it
As a result, Sinn Fein would never get its hands on the
levers of power, he said.
Sinn Fein, said Mr. Wilson, had promised their supporters
they would "put manners on the police" but the reality was
that the DUP had put manners on republicans.
Police Facing Cuts In Overtime Across Ulster
[Published: Friday 23, February 2007 - 08:51]
By David Gordon
A shock œ300m cost-cutting plan has been tabled for
policing services in Northern Ireland, it can be revealed
And the proposed measures will directly impact on the
number of hours PSNI officers spend on duty across the
Controversial station closures are also in the pipeline,
while building projects are facing delays.
The projected cuts are detailed in a high-level policing
document leaked to the Belfast Telegraph.
It spells out proposed savings in the PSNI budget for the
period 2008-2011 as part of the Government's UK-wide
Comprehensive Spending Review.
These projected cost reductions add up to œ308m over the
Plans include a sharp reduction in police overtime and the
axing of 300 PSNI civilian jobs.
And a call centre plan to improve the force's interaction
with the public is among the key programmes earmarked for
The leaked paper indicates that the PSNI may face pressure
from the Government for further cost reductions.
Despite the planned savings, the force is still seeking an
overall increase in its budget of around œ850m-a-year to
meet future funding demands.
The chairman of the Northern Ireland Policing Board's
budgetary committee, DUP politician William Hay, has voiced
deep concern at the situation.
Mr Hay said he could not comment on the details of any
leaked document. But he confirmed that "severe cuts" are
being sought from the PSNI as part of the Treasury's
Comprehensive Spending Review.
"It is certainly very worrying," he added. "We are working
with the Treasury, the Northern Ireland Office and the PSNI
to see how we can minimise this. There are still ongoing
"We have to make sure that we don't get into a situation
where front line services suffer."
The measures included in the leaked PSNI budget document
Cost-cutting proposals totalling œ83m for 2008/09, œ118.6m
in 2009/10 and œ106.4m in 2010/11, adding up to œ308m for
the three years. Measures accounting for some two-thirds of
this sum are listed as "agreed".
The remaining proposals are described as "outside control
of PSNI" . These include reductions in special allowances
for officers and civilian staff and substantial savings
from the phasing out of the PSNI full-time reserve
A dramatic reduction in police overtime, cutting 3,000
additional daily hours to reach a total of 5,850 by March
The paper admits this target is "very ambitious" and will
depend on "no increased demands for public order policing";
Delay in the PSNI call centre project;
A 40% reduction in programme for CCTV in police custody
Cutting civilian staff numbers by 300, from 2,740 to 2,440;
Savings of around œ19m from the closure of police stations
and the subsequent sale of sites.
No police stations are named in this section of the report.
The document also notes that station closure plans have
"political and local implications"
Delays in the construction of new police stations for
Ballymoney and Cookstown and new PSNI custody suites at
Craigavon and Foyle.
The paper states the custody suite delays will raise
"health and safety issues".
It will also hold up the implementation of a recommendation
from the Patten report.
c Belfast Telegraph
Anger At œ300m Policing Cuts Plan
[Published: Friday 23, February 2007 - 10:58]
A massive policing cutbacks programme will leave the
Northern Ireland public with a "drastically reduced"
service, the organisation representing rank and file
officers warned today.
The Police Federation was commenting on a high-level cost-
cutting document leaked to the Belfast Telegraph.
It spelt out proposals to slash œ300m from the PSNI's
budget over a three-year period, through measures including
a drastic reduction in overtime hours.
Federation chairman Terry Spence today said his members
would be " incensed".
"What the public are going to get is a drastically reduced
service. They will have to wait longer for police responses
to calls," he claimed.
Mr Spence said he was also "greatly concerned" at proposals
in the document to cut allowances for officers.
He said it appeared that a newly-announced NIO review of
inspectors' allowances already had a pre-determined
"If that is the case, then they will be on a collision
course with us on that particular issue," he said. "I will
be raising this at the Police Negotiating Board in London
and I expect that our colleagues in England, Scotland and
Wales will be equally appalled.
"This is not the way you do business."
A PSNI spokeswoman said the leaked report was an "interim
document" and no decisions had been taken by Government on
"The document is based on a number of scenarios and
negotiations are continuing on future funding," she said.
Some œ200m-worth of the cost-cutting plans are listed in
the report as " agreed".
c Belfast Telegraph
Images Of RUC Dead Posted To Met Chief
A letter accompanied by images of the 302 RUC men murdered
in the Troubles has been sent to the Metropolitan Police
Commissioner asking him to highlight which ones can be
described as paramilitaries.
A grieving mother and a former RUC man, who still has
shrapnel from an IRA bullet close to his spine, are among
those who have backed the letter, which calls for an
apology for the "damning and unbelievable remarks" by Sir
The letter, posted yesterday, asks Sir Ian to consider the
hurt he has caused to the relatives of RUC officers killed
in the Troubles and the 10,000 RUC men injured.
Sir Ian has been criticised for likening the RUC to a
paramilitary force in an interview earlier this week.
He later justified his use of the word paramilitary by
saying: "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."
The letter has been penned by Willie Frazer, of victims'
group FAIR, after speaking to IRA victims and their
One of those, Thelma Johnston, 65, whose son David was
murdered along with fellow RUC community officer John
Graham as they walked along a street in Lurgan in June
1997, said she was "totally disgusted" by Sir Ian's
The two policemen were the last officers to be killed by
the IRA in Northern Ireland - a month before the IRA
declared its second ceasefire.
Constables Johnston and Graham left widows, small children
and two heartbroken mothers.
"I was very angry about Sir Ian calling the RUC terrorists.
Three-hundred-and-two RUC men were killed and nearly 10,000
RUC officers were badly injured," she said.
"My son was killed at 11.45am on June 16, 1997 along with
John. They were shot in the head in Lurgan and killed
"They were both two good RUC community officers. When they
died, people came out from both sides of the community in
Lurgan and stood for David and John. I got Mass cards and
sympathy cards from people saying how sorry they were.
"And now for Sir Ian to come out and call my son a
terrorist is disgusting. It is so terrible to think those
men could be classed as terrorists."
Sam Malcolmson, 57, said that as an injured officer he got
a "hero's welcome" from the London Met.
"Then, all these years later, the head of the Met is
talking to us like that, and calling us paramilitaries," he
Mr Malcolmson, from Katesbridge, said the "slur on the RUC"
was an insult to his mother, who collapsed and subsequently
died after she saw him lying in bed after being shot in
1972. She was 48-years-old.
"To say something like that is an insult to my mother, my
family and all my colleagues who lost their lives."
23 February 2007
SDLP Protest Outside MI5 Belfast Site
[Published: Friday 23, February 2007 - 11:11]
By Noel McAdam
Senior SDLP figures today staged a placard protest at the
site outside Belfast where the œ25m new MI5 headquarters
building is to be based.
Policing Board member Alex Attwood and councillors Dolores
Kelly, Declan O'Loan and Pat Convery were expected to take
part in the demonstration labelling MI5 as 'spooks'.
It was timed after a meeting on the issue with PSNI Chief
Constable Sir Hugh Orde at which the SDLP delegation was to
insist the oversight function of the Police Ombudsman on
national security is maintained.
While the focus was on MI5, a touchstone issue for the
party, the delegation also highlighted and demanded:
an annual œ1.5m to fund rigorous investigations into UVF
serial killer Mark Haddock and others, including some in
the danger of any commission closing down existing truth
recovery mechanisms including the Historical Enquiries Team
growing concern that those named in the Stevens Report will
not face justice with the use of "public interest" decrees.
Ahead of the meeting, Ms Kelly said: "We also want to push
the police on the numbers of ex-Special Branch people being
recruited by MI5 and will they have responsibility for even
more republican agents in future.
"Given that MI5 was the source of monies paid to Mark
Haddock does the claim that RUC intelligence requirements
were set at the highest levels in Whitehall not prove the
deep risks of MI5 having a deeper role in the north?"
Mr Attwood said the Government was still resisting facing
up to the issue and reiterated the deeper role for MI5 had
been a 'strategic error' by Sinn Fein.
The protest came as the SDLP prepared to launch its
manifesto which includes a proposal for an independent
regulator to monitor the effects of rates increases and
c Belfast Telegraph
"Mainstream Republicans Are Not Behind Abduction Attempt" -
Sinn Fein Has Rejected Claims Made By A Gobnascale Family
that mainstream republicans tried to abduct their son.
And, in an unprecedented move, Sinn Fein Councillor for the
area, Paul Fleming, has urged anyone with information
regarding the attack to contact the PSNI.
The 17-year-old, who does not wish to be named, says four
masked men tried to abduct him as he made his way to work
at 6am yesterday morning from his house in Tamneymore Park.
The teenager, who was left physically shaken after the
attack, says he managed to flee unharmed as soon as he saw
the masked gang.
His father says mainstream republicans have visited his
house before to warn of his son's anti-social behaviour.
He said: "The four of them tried to get him. We don' t know
what they were going to do to him - assault him or abduct
"Both me and my wife are shattered by this, especially when
we think what could have happened. Mainstream republicans
have came here in the past and accused him of anti-social
behaviour down the years but nothing warrants this.
"I thought the bad old days had gone away and we were
entering a new era and then we end with something like
Sinn Fein Councillor Paul Fleming said he was satisfied the
attack was not carried out by mainstream republicans.
"Republicans totally refute the allegations made regarding
the alleged incident in the city this morning. Sinn Fein's
position is clear that if anyone has information they
should take it to the PSNI."
Colr. Fleming's call is in line with his party's ground-
breaking recent announcement recognising the PSNI.
The PSNI say they are currently investigating the incident
and are appealing for anyone with information to contact
Waterside Police Station on 0845 600 8000.
23 February 2007
Fringe Cast Unlikely To Spring A Surpirse
[Published: Friday 23, February 2007 - 09:19]
By Linda Mckee
It's rare that anything other than tribal voting gets much
of a look-in in Fermanagh and South Tyrone and this
election is no different, despite a number of independent
Since the 1970s, control of the Westminster seat has swayed
back and forth between unionist and nationalist. A
particular landmark was the 1981 election of Bobby Sands as
its MP, which marked out Sinn Fein as an emerging electoral
Ulster Unionist veteran Ken Maginnis became the incumbent
for many years, helped by a unionist pact that saw the DUP
hold back from contesting the seat. But the 2001 entry of
the DUP into the fray saw Sinn Fein's Michelle Gildernew
race to victory with just 53 votes to spare.
The forthcoming Assembly election will see 13 contenders
slug it out for six seats - and it seems likely that these
will break down to three unionists and three nationalists.
Ulster Unionism has been traditionally strong in the area,
but with Arlene Foster defecting to the DUP after she was
elected to the Assembly in 2003, the fortunes of the UUP
have taken a downturn, and this time it may not manage to
recover its second seat.
The question will be how much of the Ulster Unionist vote
Ms Foster has brought with her. The 14,056 votes she polled
in the Westminster election, bringing her in second ahead
of the UUP, suggests a strong base.
And while UUP agriculture spokesman Tom Elliott is a well-
known figure, he faces competition from two strong DUP
candidates - Ms Foster and Lord Maurice Morrow - while his
own running mate, Crossmaglen unionist Kenny Donaldson, is
a relative newcomer and youngest of all contenders, aged
Meanwhile, Fermanagh and South Tyrone is one of the six
seats being contested by anti-Agreement unionist Robert
McCartney, the only elected representative of the UKUP.
The situation on the nationalist side has become more
complex. Sitting SDLP Assembly member Tommy Gallagher makes
a return, along with a strong running mate - Dungannon
councillor Vincent Currie.
Sinn Fein MP Michelle Gildernew contends her seat once
again and former Sinn Fein agriculture spokesman Gerry
McHugh is back to contest the seat he lost to party
colleague Thomas O'Reilly last time.
Sinn Fein hopes to capture a third seat with newcomer Sean
Lynch, a former IRA prisoner.
Independent Gerry McGeough - editor of nationalist magazine
'The Hibernian' - is opposing Sinn Fein. The veteran
republican was Sinn Fein's National Director during the 'No
To Nice' campaign in 2001, but later left over concerns
about a weakening of republican principles.
Sinn Fein could also suffer damage from a challenge by
Republican Sinn Fein's Michael McManus. He and others
defected from Sinn Fein in 1986 to form Republican Sinn
Local journalist Denzil McDaniel said: "You sense there is
a bit of unease within Fermanagh republicanism about the
policing decision in particular, and up until now anyone
who was of a mind to vote against the Adams leadership
didn't have an outlet for that vote."
The only candidate to break the mould is Alliance's Allan
Leonard, editor of the party's newspaper, the Alliance
Centrist parties tend to be squeezed in Fermanagh and South
Tyrone as the electorate is quite polarised, Mr McDaniel
"On this particular occasion, it looks as if there are many
fringe candidates, but when you narrow it down and look at
the names, you tend to see that most of them are to do with
the argument with dissidents within republicanism and
unionism," he says.
"You tend to get three unionists and three nationalists and
you would expect it to be the same again - but it's how it
breaks down within that that will be interesting. I would
have to say that if it changes this time, it probably would
be a major surprise."
c Belfast Telegraph
Republican Sinn Fein: England Shouldn't Play In Croke Park
[Published: Friday 23, February 2007 - 11:45]
Republican Sinn Fein said it is going ahead with plans to
protest outside the Croke Park before the Ireland - England
The party says the fact that the tomorrow's match is being
played in GAA headquarters represents an unacceptable
normalisation of relations between England and Ireland.
It is predicting that one hundred and fifty people will
turn up for the protest.
Vice President Des Dalton said England should not be
allowed play rugby in Croke Park:
"The fact that they are bringing the game to Croke Park,
with the historical and social significance of Croke Park
and the place that it holds for the Irish people, which is
bringing it to a new level, we would see as very, very
significant," he said.
c Belfast Telegraph
Collection Of Withdrawn Croke Park Medals May Not Be
[Published: Friday 23, February 2007 - 09:30]
The collection of GAA medals, withdrawn from the Croke Park
museum earlier this week might not be returned.
The GAA removed the medals at the request of writer and
former GAA star JJ Barrett.
He was unhappy over plans to play the British national
anthem before the Ireland - England rugby international in
Croke Park tomorrow.
The collection of twenty three medals was won by Mr
Barrett's father Joe and had occupied a prominent place in
the GAA museum.
JJ Barrett said he hasn't yet decided if they'll be
"I'm putting them in for safekeeping at the moment, and
they will go to some museum, not necessarily the GAA," he
"I can't say I trust the management of the GAA when they
had all the cards in their hands and all they had to say
was, we give you our stadium and we'll be very cooperative.
All we ask you to do is not sing God Save the Queen."
c Belfast Telegraph
McAleese Plea For England Welcome
[Published: Friday 23, February 2007 - 11:03]
By Claire Regan
As thousands of Ulster rugby fans prepare to head south for
tomorrow's mouth-watering Croke Park clash, the Republic's
President Mary McAleese urged them to give their English
foes "a welcome to beat all welcomes" .
The president made the call during a trip to a rugby club
in her native Belfast yesterday where the topic of the
eagerly anticipated Six Nations match was clearly high on
A capacity crowd of 82,300 is expected to pack into the
Dublin home of GAA tomorrow to watch history in the making
when Ireland take on England.
Bidding for gold dust tickets was reaching fever pitch this
morning at the clock ticked down towards tomorrow's 5.30pm
Numerous pairs of tickets were on offer for anything from
œ210 to œ2,000.
The highest bid placed so far this morning was œ1,550 for
two seats in the Cusack Stand.
Every rugby fan in Ireland, on both sides of the border,
want to say they were there when England are hopefully
beaten by Brian O'Driscoll's men at Croke Park so the hunt
for tickets has been immense.
Co Down plumber and rugby fan Oliver Forsythe is offering
to fit a brand new bathroom, worth up to œ800, in exchange
for two tickets.
Mrs McAleese was accompanied by her husband Dr Martin
McAleese when she visited Harlequins rugby club in the
Malone area of south Belfast which shares its facilities
with St Bridget's GAA club.
She said the concept of sportsmanship and all it entailed
was " beautifully honoured" at Harlequins.
"What you have done here is very special - to welcome your
good neighbours, St Bridget's, to share the facilities and
be part of the community of Harlequins.
"It is one of the loveliest examples of true
sportsmanship," she said.
"Keep doing what you are doing. It is going to catch on."
Traffic and crowd safety restrictions will be in place for
Gardai have advised fans, particularly those intending to
park at Clonliffe College, to arrive in good time before
the game starts.
People arriving via the M50/M1 motorways are advised to
allow time for traffic delays and in the run up to the game
Dublin Port Tunnel will be open to all vehicles.
Turnstiles will be open at 3.30pm and there will be
rigorous searches at Garda check-points.
Supporters will not be allowed air horns, bottled alcohol,
certain flag poles, or any other item that could cause
injury or inconvenience to others.
c Belfast Telegraph
Hogan's Nephew Says It's Time To Welcome England
By Conor Kane
A NEPHEW of the Tipperary footballer killed in Croke Park
on Bloody Sunday has extended the hand of friendship to the
English rugby players and supporters ahead of tomorrow's
crunch Six Nations rugby match.
Michael Hogan, nephew of Mick Hogan, who was shot dead at
GAA headquarters by the colonial British forces on November
21, 1920, has called on Irish supporters to respect the
English team's national anthem before the start of the
"The English team and supporters are our guests for the
weekend, so we will have to welcome them. We have to
respect their anthem as well. If the Irish team was over in
Twickenham, they'd respect our anthem," Mr Hogan said
While originally against the GAA's 2005 move to allow the
use of Croke Park for soccer and rugby during the Lansdowne
Road redevelopment, the native of Grangemockler, Co
Tipperary, says he "accepts the democratic decision" and
will feel no bitterness tomorrow evening when the English
team walks onto the famous sod.
"I haven't anything against them (the English team). Sport
is sport. It all happened before our time. We're a
different generation now. We have to move on in this day
He also called on anyone planning a protest in Dublin
tomorrow, against the arrival of the English team or the
playing of God Save the Queen, to desist.
"I wouldn't like to see that happening. They're only
troublemakers anyway and they're only looking for more to
"I wouldn't have any time for that."
Mr Hogan lives in the farmhouse at Currasilla,
Grangemockler, where his uncle lived before travelling to
the capital on the morning of Bloody Sunday to play for
Tipperary in a challenge match against Dublin. His father,
Paddy - brother of Mick - was 14 at the time of the
atrocity but remained silent on the issue throughout his
"The family wouldn't ever say much about it. It was too sad
an occasion, I suppose."
A keen GAA fan, he says tomorrow's events won't prevent him
from attending games in future.
"I wouldn't be going to cock my nose at it and it wouldn't
stop me from going there."
Feature: Croke Park: The Real Story
[Published: Friday 23, February 2007 - 11:33]
A series of murderous events on the first Irish 'Bloody
Sunday' in November 1920 ensured that Croke Park, Dublin,
became sacred ground for nationalists. But, on the eve of
the first Ireland v England rugby tournament to be staged
at GAA headquarters, all sports stand to benefit from being
played there, says Neal Garnham, senior lecturer in history
at the University of Ulster
Croke Park is an impressive stadium. In fact, it is one of
the most impressive in Europe. With a capacity of more than
80,000 and further extension possible, it is a remarkable
structure that towers over the neighbouring streets.
However, for many, this modern venue has historic and
In November 1920, a Gaelic football match at the ground
between Dublin and Tipperary was interrupted by a party of
British soldiers, RIC, and members of that force's
Shots were fired into the crowd of 5,000 or so, and 12
deaths resulted. These included one woman and two young
boys, as well as Michael Hogan, a player on the Tipperary
side. This was neither the end nor the beginning of the
After the events at Croke Park, two IRA members and a
friend were arrested and taken to Dublin Castle. That
evening, they were all shot while allegedly trying to
But the key initial events of the day had occurred much
earlier that Sunday morning ... on the orders of Michael
Collins, groups of IRA volunteers had set out with the
intention of killing up to 35 members of the British
intelligence network in Dublin, whose successes had been
significantly hampering IRA activity. In the end, they
succeeded in killing 16 individuals, though these included
at least one innocent woman and one young man, who was a
victim of mistaken identity. A dozen, though, were members
of what had become known as the 'Cairo Gang' of British
agents, so-called because some were alleged to have acted
in similar capacities in Egypt.
Their loss seriously affected British operations against
the IRA, as well as instantly inspiring a feeling of
outrage among their comrades. It was these actions that
seem to have prompted the incursion at Croke Park.
It may have been a simple reprisal, or it may have been a
bungled attempt to trap IRA members believed to be in the
Croke Park crowd, but it certainly had lasting
This first Irish 'Bloody Sunday' ensured that Croke Park
became holy ground for Irish nationalists. Michael Hogan is
commemorated by the Hogan Stand, which continues as a
monument to the events of that day, and one GAA supporter
has written of its turf being 'drenched in patriot blood'.
The defence of this shrine against further British
incursions was ensured by the GAA's ban on its members
taking part in certain non-Gaelic games into the 1970s, and
the only recently rescinded decision that Croke Park should
be unavailable for 'British' sports, such as soccer and
Yet the myths of Croke Park could perhaps stand a little
Perhaps the most recent addition to the story has come by
way of the depiction of the events of Bloody Sunday in Neil
Jordan's film Michael Collins.
Even Jordan admits that there was no armoured car on the
pitch at Croke Park that day, and that machine guns were
never fired into the crowd. But, in many ways, this is a
small detail in the wider tale. Many GAA members have
vociferously opposed the playing of soccer and rugby
matches at Croke Park, and perhaps tomorrow's rugby
international between Ireland and England will be the very
summit of what many find distasteful.
However, what these traditionalists lack is a wider
understanding of the history of Croke Park. Before the site
ever became Croke Park, it was Jones's Road sports ground,
and also the City and Suburban Racecourse.
As such, it was the home to Tritonville professional soccer
club before 1912, so soccer may well have been played at
Croke Park before Gaelic games ever were! The hurlers were
certainly beaten to the mark by the ponies.
Yet, even when the GAA had gained ownership of the ground,
it did not remain an exclusively Gaelic venue. Boxing
matches were staged there, as was a demonstration match of
American football. Somehow it is hard to see Cuchulainn
charging over the halfway line in shoulder pads, gum shield
Moreover, the position of the GAA in independent Ireland
and its relationship to the new government had vital
repercussions for Croke Park. Eager to associate themselves
with an organisation that was genuinely popular and
equipped with impeccable nationalist credentials,
politicians courted the GAA.
One result was the effective exemption of the organisation
from paying taxes.
While soccer and rugby clubs were liable to pay
entertainment tax on their gate money and income tax on any
investments, the GAA was free to invest its earnings in
developing its facilities, not least Croke Park. Grants and
loans from government followed. In essence, Croke Park was
partly paid for by all those resident in the Irish Free
State and Republic, regardless of their sporting
And, finally, it is perhaps worth considering who will
benefit from the staging of soccer and rugby games at GAA
headquarters. Certainly, many individuals who would
previously have been unable to get tickets will now be able
to see their heroes in action.
Rugby and soccer will also certainly benefit from the
enhanced exposure. The IRFU and the FAI will make more
money than they ever could have at Lansdowne Road. However,
the GAA will rightly charge a rent, and the coffers of the
association will swell still further as a result.
c Belfast Telegraph
Tight Security For England Rugby Clash
Fri, Feb 23, 2007
Tight security will surround the home of Gaelic games this
weekend for the historic rugby clash between Ireland and
England at Croke Park.
As final preparations get under way at GAA headquarters,
fans travelling to Saturday's Six Nations Clash are being
warned they will face rigid searches with all items that
can cause an injury confiscated.
Protesters objecting to the English team playing in the
ground are also being urged to contact garda¡ in advance.
Republican Sinn Fein (RSF) are organising a demonstration
in protest at the flying of the English flag and playing of
the national anthem God Save the Queenwhile the Six
Counties remains under what it describes a "occupation".
A statement on its website says: "We protest at the
presence of the England rugby team in Croke park because
they represent a country which continues to occupy by force
the north eastern part of Ireland. We don't want apologies,
England. Give us back our country."
Protesters are asked to assemble at the junction of North
Circular Road and Summerhill Parade near the Sunset House
pub at 3.30pm.
The party also objects to England's presence at a venue
where 14 GAA supporters were shot dead by the Black and
Tans parmailitary police force in 1920.
More than 82,000 supporters will descend on Croke Park for
the sell-out fixture. Stiles will open at 3.30pm for the
5.30pm kick off, with supporters urged to arrive early.
Supervised car parks will be available around Croke Park at
Clonliffe College, Clonliffe Road, Drumcondra, and
motorists whose cars are parked illegally or improperly
will have their vehicles clamped or removed.
There are no parking facilities for people with special
needs inside the Garda cordon, although a number of
designated parking places for this purpose within the car
park at Clonliffe College.
Private buses can drop supporters off and park during the
event on Mountjoy Square.
c 2007 ireland.com
Logistics For Croke Park Game
National Miscellaneous News Report
Friday February 23, 2007 09:45
By Shane O'neill - Journalist Shaneon At Indigo Dot ie
Garda cordon around the ground
This Saturday, 24th February 2007, Ireland play England in
Croke Park in the Six Nations Rugby Championship.
Stiles open at 3.30pm with kick off at 5.30pm.
The event will finish at 7pm and is expected to attract
There will be supervised car parking facilities available
in the vicinity of Croke Park at Clonliffe
College,Clonliffe Road., Drumcondra ( access via Lower
No traffic will be allowed to leave the car park for
approximately 45 minutes after the game to allow supporters
on foot to leave the area safely.
Supporters, particularly those intending to park at
Clonliffe College and are strongly advised to arrive at
their destination in good time before the game starts.
People arriving via the M50/M1 motorways are advised to
allow time for traffic delays.
Dublin Port Tunnel will be open to all vehicles.
Gardai have prepared a route to assist vehicles to depart
Clonliffe College car park as quickly as possible following
This route will be manned and sign posted.
From the stadium supporters will have the option of
travelling on the M50 to the Ashbourne Road (N2), Navan
Road (N3), Lucan Road (N4) and Naas Road (N7).
People not using the car parks outlined above are to be
advised that illegally or improperly parked vehicles can
cause traffic disruption and more importantly can cause
major difficulty for emergency vehicles.
These vehicles will be clamped or may be removed.
There are a number of designated areas for private buses to
drop supporters and park for the duration of the event.
1. Mountjoy Square - South side will be closed to all
traffic and will cater for approximately 30 coaches. The
East and North sides of the Square will be used for nose to
tail parking and will cater for additional buses.
The West side of Mountjoy Square will be used as a
2. Parnell Square - North and East will cater for a further
25 coaches parked nose to tail. The Square will continue to
be used by non event traffic.
3. Western way - Off Constitutional Hill will be used to
park 40 coaches nose to tail.
There are no parking facilities for people with special
needs inside the Garda cordon. There are a number of
designated parking places for this purpose within the car
park at Clonliffe College.
Supporters are also advised to arrive early as there will
be rigid searches at the Garda cordon points.
The following items will not be allowed into Croke Park : -
Air horns, bottled alcohol, certain flag poles or any other
items that could be used to cause injury or inconvenience
to other supporters,
Supporters are encouraged not to carry any unnecessary bags
with them into the stadium.
As is normal practise for major events at Croke Park, an
order under s.21 Criminal Justice (Public Order) Act, will
be in place restricting access to a defined area around the
venue. Any persons or organisations who intend to organise
any gathering or protest in the general vicinity of Croke
Park should immediately contact the Gardai at Fitzgibbon
Street Garda Station, where agreed arrangements can be made
to facilitate such protests.
Finally, all supporters attending the game are asked to
have consideration for local residents and refrain from any
anti social behaviour.
Related Link: http://www.freewebs.com/shaneoneill
GAA Chief Wants Protestant Teams
GAA president Nickey Brennan has said he would support the
setting up of all-Protestant gaelic football teams.
Brennan said he was worried that young people from the
unionist community interested in Gaelic games might feel
intimidated about becoming involved.
In an interview with the Church of Ireland Gazette, Brennan
said the GAA should reach out to Protestants.
Gaelic football and hurling are played mostly by Catholics
but Brennan said the GAA was changing for the good.
"What I would say to the unionist people is, if you want to
set up teams in your own area, we would be happy to assist
and give support to new clubs setting up," said Brennan.
"Maybe the Protestant community in general should consider
forming teams of their own and not feel they have to go to
the existing GAA club that is probably all made up of
Brennan's views come in the run-up to Saturday's historic
rugby match between Ireland and England at the GAA's Croke
In 2001, the GAA lifted its ban on members of the British
security forces joining clubs.
Then in 2005 the association agreed to let Croke Park be
used for some Irish rugby and Republic of Ireland football
Story from BBC SPORT:
Published: 2007/02/23 09:18:48 GMT
c BBC MMVII
Opin: No Point In Saying Sorry At Croke Park
[Published: Friday 23, February 2007 - 11:49]
By Eric Waugh
Saying you are sorry for your own sins is fine. But to say
you are sorry for someone else's? May make you feel better.
But that is about it.
So when Peter Hain says he is sorry for slavery it is not a
Mr Hain, it seems, had it in mind to do something abject
before the Ireland-England rugby match at Croke Park
tomorrow afternoon by way of apologising for the sins
committed on that spot by the British 87 years ago: Bloody
Sunday, November 21, 1920. But apparently Number Ten had
the good sense to slap the idea down. At least when a media
person rang them to seek particulars, they said pointedly
they knew nothing about it.
Slaves still exist. They are mostly sad east Europeans,
young women conveyed to western Europe under false
pretences and exploited by pimps. There is still abuse in
Africa. But the trade that survives is a mere shadow of
what used to be - in the British empire until 1834 and in
the United States until 1865.
No Western government countenances it. So their citizens
know little or nothing about it. Nor do they have a shred
of responsibility for it. So there is little point in
saying sorry on their behalf.
This business of proxy apology commits the cardinal error
of judging events remote in history by the standards of
today. The fraud becomes worse when an isolated sliver is
lifted from the past and held up for our judgment - with
not the slightest attempt to examine its setting at the
time. The ultimate distortion is reached when film makers
like Neil Jordan freely tart up history with tendentious
fiction, as Jordan did in his epic film of Michael Collins.
Tomorrow's occasion is probably the first time since that
fateful Sunday afternoon long ago that an organised body of
the uniformed English have appeared in Croke Park - if one
can call rugby togs a uniform. So it will be emotionally
loaded. But, knowing the rugby crowd, I suspect the pre-
match ceremonial, anthems and all, will be left to speak
for itself in solemn counterpoint to that other, awful day.
Early that morning, Collins' republicans had shot - in the
bedrooms of their several lodgings near the centre of
Dublin - 14 reputed British secret agents. In fact, most of
them were not. Two, shot in the Gresham Hotel, were Army
vets. A third, a Tipperary man, was an officer of the guard
of a police station in Co Clare. Others, Collins admitted
after the truce seven months later, had no espionage role
either, but had to be shot because they had seen their
The Black and Tans were bent on revenge. It was a toss-up,
according to an ex-Auxiliary officer years afterwards,
whether they would burn Sackville (now O'Connell) Street or
raid the Croke Park match. Croke Park, fatally, lost the
toss and 14 citizens died when the Auxiliaries opened fire.
As to the fine detail, fact and fiction merge to obscure
the truth. When the crowd was searched, it is said, 30
revolvers were recovered. Partisans say republicans
picketing the ground opened fire on the Auxiliaries first.
It remains doubtful; but even if it were so, nothing can
diminish the atrocity.
Beyond the park, the Anglo-Irish struggle was approaching
its nadir. There were 40,000 British troops in Ireland,
each of them conditioned to the cheapness of life by the
flooded and stinking shell holes of the Ypres salient and
those other anterooms to Valhalla. As well there were
11,000 fully-armed police, Black and Tans and Auxiliaries,
many not long out of Army uniform.
Only three weeks before, Kevin Barry, the 18-year-old
republican, had been hanged for his part in the IRA murder
of a soldier in an Army ration party collecting bread from
a bakery on Upper Church Street in Dublin. The day before
Barry's execution, the funeral of Terence MacSwiney, Lord
mayor of Cork, took place in that city, he having expired
in Brixton gaol a week earlier after a hunger strike
lasting 74 days.
The celebrated ambush (which became a massacre) of the
Auxiliaries at Kilmichael, near Macroom, by Tom Barry's
Cork IRA (disguised in trench coats and British-looking
steel helmets) was the following Sunday, exactly one week
away. The riposte by the Auxiliaries, the savage burning of
the city of Cork (its effects still visible in the
contrasting age of the architecture on the opposite sides
of its main thoroughfare, Patrick Street), was only three
No wonder the strains of the national anthem will resound
with a heavy tread of history tomorrow afternoon. The
English, of course, should not be using it at all, it not
belonging to them but to the UK as a whole. Hubert Parry's
triumphal Jerusalem, as many favour, would be a much
superior air for the English. As for Ireland's Call, I fear
the great wealth of Irish hymnody, secular or sacred, could
produce much better than this latter-day ditty.
c Belfast Telegraph
Viewpoint: The Game Itself Should Make Its Mark
[Published: Friday 23, February 2007 - 10:53]
Although the Grand Slam has slipped through Ireland's
hands, a cherished Triple Crown is still on the cards. Much
hinges on tomorrow's match between Ireland and England in
Games involving Ireland and England are always crowd-
pullers but with exorbitant amounts being asked on eBay for
tickets - up to œ1,600 for a pair - this is a contest which
is firing the public imagination on both sides of the Irish
The setting for the clash - GAA headquarters at Croke Park
- will inevitably give the occasion an extra twist. While
the Ireland-France match earlier this month was the first
rugby international to have been staged at the magnificent
82,000 capacity stadium, the visit by England was always
going to be something special.
But before a ball has been kicked, controversy has arisen
over the decision to adhere to protocol and play God Save
The Queen prior to the match. Although the GAA was well
aware that rugby internationals would mean national anthems
being played, the prospect has sparked protests from some
diehards. But as the vast majority of GAA fans ackowledge,
times have changed.
Tradition dictates that at all rugby internationals the
anthems of the visiting country and the home nation are
played before kick-off. In addition, as a nod towards the
fact that the rugby team represents both parts of this
island, the more inclusive Ireland's Call has been added to
the repertoire for Irish fixtures.
Under close scrutiny, the words of most country's national
anthems contain phrases which some people will find
offensive. But such is the nature of such songs, which date
from years ago and which are designed to stir the patriotic
International matches do arouse passions, but by and large,
rugby fans show respect for opponents' anthems, and the
hope must be that this tolerance will prevail tomorrow.
Fans who resort to cat calls or booing will only let down
their countries and detract from a great occasion.
The fact that Croke Park, etched as it is in republican
history as the location of a 1920 massacre in which 14
people were killed by British police auxiliaries, is now
serving as a venue for rugby union is a significant
While there are commercial considerations, the opening up
of Croke Park is a sign of a growing maturity in relations
between the two sports, and between the two traditions in
Ireland. People are learning to live and let live.
Tomorrow, the playing of the anthems will inevitably
attract keen interest, and all genuine rugby fans should be
aware of the need to conduct themselves with the usual
decorum. But once the formalities are completed, let the
focus be on events on the pitch. And may Ireland keep their
Triple Crown campaign firmly on track!
c Belfast Telegraph
Opin: In The War Of Inappropriate Anthems, Let Dignity, Not
The Mob, Finally Win The Day
[Published: Friday 23, February 2007 - 11:39]
By Kevin Myers
With heavy heart and weary tread I, too, will add my three
ha'pworth to the issue of Croke Park, God Save The Queen,
Bloody Sunday and 800 years of oppression, if only because
so much attention has been given to JJ Barrett's decision
to withdraw his father's medals from Croke Park.
He is entitled to do that. However, he is not entitled to
inflame opinion by saying that the British National Anthem,
as is played by the English today, is "provocative" and
For those of you who don't know them, here are the words
(upper-case as per author):
God bless our gracious Queen God save our noble Queen God
save the Queen. Send her victorious Happy and glorious Long
to reign over us God save the Queen.
War-mongering? Provocative? Any more provocative and war-
mongering than Peadar Kearney's Soldiers are we, whose
lives are pledged to Ireland?
So, who present at Croke Park will genuinely have the
honour to be a soldier of the Republic, and who will have
pledged their soul to Ireland? Not me, that's for sure.
Or later, In Erin's cause, come woe or weal, Mid cannon's
roar and rifle's peal, We'll chant a soldier's song?
Or even, (and oddly appropriate for Saturday's match) See
in the east a silvery glow, Out yonder waits the Saxon foe,
So sing a soldier's song?
Certainly, neither British nor Irish anthems remotely
compare with the words of the Marseilles: Let us go,
children of the fatherland, Our day of Glory has arrived.
Against us stands tyranny, The bloody flag is raised, The
bloody flag is raised. Do you hear in the countryside? The
roar of these savage soldiers, They come right into our
land, To cut the throats of your sons, your country. To
arms, citizens! Form up your battalions. Let us march, Let
us march! That their impure blood Should water our fields'.
'Impure blood watering our fields'?
Delightful stuff - so delightful, indeed, that Napoleon
banned La Marseilles. Yet this bloodthirsty anthem, written
as the Terror was sweeping through France, sending
thousands to their deaths, is still sung as if its antique
barbarisms had any relevance today.
And maybe it is not a sense of 'relevance' which makes such
an anachronism possible, but a vulgar ignorance. During the
celebrations of the bicentenary of the French revolution in
1989, one of the most popular souvenirs was a little
guillotine, with its victim about to be beheaded, as if
there were something comic and droll about such a murder
Certainly, a comparable ignorance of history seems to be a
defining condition of the English understanding of the
relationship between our two islands - as it does the
English relationship with the rest of Great Britain.
How else is it possible that the English rugby team has
appropriated the British National Anthem as its own anthem?
There is a difference between England and Britain, as a
restless English electorate, tired of subsidising the
whingeing Scots, are beginning to sense.
The anomalies accumulate. Whenever God Save The Queen has
been sung in Lansdowne Road, it has been accorded a
respectful silence. But when it is played for English
visits to Cardiff or Edinburgh, it is treated to a yobbish
caterwauling, though Queen Elizabeth is the monarch of the
kingdom to which both Scots and the Welsh have chosen to
No doubt they feel that adolescent displays of bad manners
are ways of asserting their national identity; but making
oneself appear ignorant on great occasions has not been a
traditional Irish characteristic, and certainly not a GAA
one. Dignity, even at times of profound difference, sets
people of breeding apart from the mob.
In truth, national anthems are wrong for sporting
occasions. Amhran Na bhFiann (The Soldier's Song) is really
appropriate only for affairs of State, and definitely for
ceremonies involving the Defence Forces, who really can say
Sinne Fianna Fail, Ata fe gheall ag Eirinn.
But I cannot, even metaphorically, utter such words,
without feeling both bombastic and ridiculous. Moreover, it
is not because of some international prejudice against
Ireland (as some self-pitiers have, with dreary
predictability, been proclaiming) that Amhran Na bhFiann is
not played abroad as the anthem of the Irish team.
The explanation is simple: it is the anthem of the Republic
of Ireland, not of the island of Ireland, nor of the
unionist people of Ulster. The past 40 years of war and
dissension should have taught the Republic just that little
bit about the sensitivities of the north. As it happens, we
are blessed with many tunes which could serve as sporting
anthems, (though none of them is Ireland's Call). Garryowen
and St Patrick's Day, for example, are two of the greatest
marching tunes anywhere. The lesser known Killaloe is
perhaps even more rousing, and is thoroughly ecumenical,
being a Munster tune which is not only popular with the
Irish Army, but is the regimental march of the old
Inniskillen Fusiliers, and the Royal Irish today.
So. Are we genuinely interested in ecumenism within the
island of Ireland, and between the two islands? Precisely a
year after the anti-Protestant riots in the centre of
Dublin, Croke Park tomorrow will go some way to telling us.
c Belfast Telegraph
Morrison Honoured In LA Ceremony
[Published: Friday 23, February 2007 - 08:10]
Van Morrison has been honoured at a ceremony in Los
The music veteran received the Oscar Wilde Award, sponsored
by a group which promotes Ireland's Arts and Culture
Actor Al Pacino, who described Van Morrison as "the
soundtrack to all our lives" presented him with the award.
c Belfast Telegraph
BBC Seeks Stars Of Belfast Film Noir
BBC Northern Ireland is trying to find the stars of a film
shot on the streets of Belfast 60 years.
Odd Man Out, which starred Hollywood great James Mason, is
a classic piece of film noir.
The BBC is looking to track down the junior stars.
One actress, Maura Shields, played a young girl in the
movie, but has lost touch with her fellow actors.
Belfast was the backdrop for the controversial 1947 film
which picked up awards from Venice to Hollywood.
Odd Man Out tells the story of 24 hours in the life of an
IRA man on the run.
The Crown Bar in the centre of Belfast has long been
associated with the movie, although in fact, contrary to
popular opinion, it was not actually used in the filming.
Instead a copy was made on set in England. It shows all the
familiar ornate features of the real thing, but was more
spacious and laid out in a different way.
The star of the film, an IRA man on the run played by James
Mason, takes refuge in the pub, which in Odd Man Out is
called the "Four Winds".
For many years, the pub which is owned and preserved by the
National Trust, has traded on the link, and tourists often
visit to see it for themselves.
The film also starred Kathleen Ryan, Robert Newton and
The BBC is keen to find those actors who played the gang of
street urchins, who provided some of the most colourful
moments in the film.
They goad the police over their failure to catch IRA man
The boys who had roles in the film were from St Patrick's
Boys' home in west Belfast where many of the scenes were
The children were enlisted by one of Belfast's most loved
actors, Joseph Tomelty, who played the cabbie 'Gin' Jimmie.
If you were one of those boys, if you know them, if you are
related to them or if you remember the production being
filmed, BBC Newsline, BBC Radio Ulster and News Online want
to hear from you.
You can contact the programmes by texting the letters OMO
and your message to 81771, by emailing
firstname.lastname@example.org, or by calling 0870 4111630.
Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2007/02/23 06:43:38 GMT
c BBC MMVII
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