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March 06, 2007

Brits Pulling Out of South Armagh

News about Ireland & the Irish

BN 03/06/07 British Army 'Pulling Out Of South Armagh'
BT 03/06/07 Govern Or We Will Go It Alone, Ahern Tells Parties
BB 03/06/07 Geo Mitchell: NI Power-Sharing Is 'Inevitable'
BB 03/06/07 Q&A: NI Assembly Election
BT 03/06/07 Election 2007: The Candidates
BT 03/06/07 Sinn Fein Fears Vote Slump Over Key Celtic Match
BN 03/06/07 Republican Ex-Prisoners Urge Voters To Snub Sinn Féin
BT 03/06/07 Voters Switch Off From Constitutional Issues
BT 03/06/07 Fresh Talks To Follow Ulster Election Battle
BT 03/06/07 Hain's Right Hand Man Off To Campaign For His Boss


British Army 'Pulling Out Of South Armagh'

06/03/2007 - 07:22:52

The British Army is pulling all its troops out of the notorious
IRA stronghold of South Armagh within weeks, according to a
report today.

Overflights by military helicopters in the so-called region will
also be stopped, says the Irish Sun newspaper.

A massive British Army watchtower, which overlooks Crossmaglen
village, was dismantled last month.

"I can tell you today, in addition to the watchtowers, the
British Army will be out of Crossmaglen within weeks," an Irish
Government source told the paper.

The South Armagh region was once the most militarised in western
Europe during the Troubles, with 3,000 British troops deployed in
an area with a population of only 23,000.

Soldiers had to travel by helicopter because of the threat of IRA
snipers or booby trap bombs on the roads.

IRA operations led to the deaths of 115 soldiers and 42 RUC
officers between 1970 and 1997.

A normalisation programme agreed between the Irish and British
governments will see the reduction of troop levels and British
Army bases in Northern Ireland from 64 to 14 by July 2007, and to
only 10 by April 2008.

The scale-down was set in motion following arms decommissioning
by the IRA.

The Irish and British governments hope more progress can be
achieved after Wednesday's Assembly elections in the North and
that the DUP and Sinn F,in will share power in devolved


Govern Or We Will Go It Alone, Ahern Tells Parties

[Published: Tuesday 6, March 2007 - 11:09]
By Lorna Reid

Taoiseach Bertie Ahern has bluntly told Ulster politicians that
if an executive is not formed by March 26, both governments will
do the business themselves.

A contingency plan has already been prepared laid out to cater
for this possibility, but Mr Ahern said he very much hoped that
the opportunity would not be lost this time around.

"If this does not work on March 26 and it is left to the two
governments, then we will implement everything we can in the Good
Friday and St Andrew's Agreements. It would not be ideal, but we
can't leave a vacuum," the Taoiseach said.

Mr Ahern, who is to meet British Prime Minister Tony Blair later
this week to review the outcome of the elections, said that
neither of the two governments wanted to go down that road.

"But if we are forced into it, we are forced into it," he said.

In his keynote speech to the British-Irish Inter-Parliamentary
Body meeting in Dublin, the Taoiseach said that everybody was now
at a point of reckoning in the political process.

"Direct rule is not what the people of Ireland, North and South,
endorsed in the 1998 referendums" he said.

Mr Ahern told the British and Irish parliamentarians that both
governments had painstakingly, patiently and honourably followed
and delivered on the St Andrew's Agreement.

"It would be unconscionable and deeply regrettable if this agreed
deadline is missed and if the opportunity to govern is not

The Taoiseach said patience had already been stretched and he did
not believe that the people in Northern Ireland would take kindly
to further delay.

"The war is over, the key issues are sorted, all must take
responsibility in government for building and consolidating the

The Government, he said, stood ready and committed to work with
the new Northern Ireland Executive in a partnership which could
benefit every individual on the island.

"We offer that partnership without a hidden agenda and in a
spirit of deep and genuine friendship and support. We need to
make up for time lost," he added.

The Taoiseach said that failure to form an Executive, as
envisaged in the St Andrew's Agreement, would be a missed
opportunity of historic proportions, and such a failure would see
the newly-elected Assembly dissolved indefinitely. This would be
a loss for the people of Northern Ireland.

"But the people as much as the two governments know that there
would be no alternative in these circumstances - we have said
that the two governments will implement the Good Friday Agreement
through new partnership arrangements," Mr Ahern added.

The Taoiseach said that since the St Andrew's Agreement there had
been welcome progress on policing, and the landmark decision by
Sinn Fein opened up the prospect for the first time of inclusive
policing across the entire community in Northern Ireland.

No one, he said, should underestimate the significance of this
historic step, a step which the SDLP, with vision and courage had
already taken in 2001.

(c) Belfast Telegraph


Geo Mitchell: NI Power-Sharing Is 'Inevitable'

Former US Senator George Mitchell has said he believes a power-
sharing deal in Northern Ireland is inevitable following the
assembly elections.

In an interview with RTE news, Mr Mitchell said he believed the
people of Northern Ireland wanted it to happen.

However, he confessed he did not think it would take this long to
come to the point where a deal would be possible.

He said all parties had "come a long way" and Sinn Fein's
decision to join the Policing Board was "significant".

His comments come ahead of a planned election to the Northern
Ireland Assembly on 7 March.

Mr Mitchell, who chaired the talks that led to the Good Friday
Agreement, also said the US still had a "huge role to play" in
stimulating investment and trade in Northern Ireland.

He added that Northern Ireland "still had a large part of his
heart and emotions".

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2007/03/06 11:40:45 GMT


Q&A: NI Assembly Election

The Northern Ireland electorate will go to the polls on 7 March.
But who can vote and what if you are not in the country, or have
moved house? The Electoral Office answers these, and other
frequently asked questions.

Who can vote at this election?

You can vote at this election if you are listed on the 2 February
2007 electoral register and are 18 years of age or over. Overseas
electors cannot vote at this election.

Where do I go to vote?

Contact the electoral office to find out the location of your
polling place or have a look at your poll card which will contain
this information.

What identification can I use?

Any one of the four photographic ID documents specified by law.

These are: a current Northern Ireland or Great Britain full
driving licence or a Northern Ireland provisional licence, all of
which must bear the photograph of the holder; a current passport
issued by the United Kingdom or any other member state of the
European Community; a current Senior SmartPass issued under the
Northern Ireland Concessionary Fares Scheme; a current electoral
identity card.

I have moved address and the address on my identification is my
old one. Can I use it?

Yes. The identification document only has to satisfy the
presiding officer of your identity, not your address.

I got married recently. What ID document can I bring as
everything is in my maiden name?

If you bring your marriage certificate, which shows both your
maiden and married names, along with one of the four specified ID
documents, the presiding officer will accept these as proof of
your identity.

When will I get my poll card?

Poll cards are posted out approximately 10 days before the

Do I need my poll card to vote?

No. The poll card provides you with details of where you need to
go to vote. As the card also states your electoral number, it is
helpful if you take it with you when you go to vote, but you can
vote without it.

Can I submit an absent vote application on behalf of someone

No. Each applicant has to provide personal identifiers and sign
the application form personally. All these identifiers are
checked against those provided on their original registration

When will I receive my postal vote?

Postal votes have been issued from 21 February onwards and must
be returned to the deputy returning officer before the close of
the poll at 1000 GMT on 7 March.

Is there disabled access at my polling station?

Please contact us to check the access arrangements at any
particular location.

I have a visual impairment. How can I vote?

You have three options. You can: ask the presiding officer at the
polling station to mark your ballot paper for you; or ask to be
assisted by a companion; or use the selector device which has
embossed markings and braille numbering.

Can someone go in with me to help me vote?

By law, a companion or the presiding officer at the station may
assist a voter with disabilities.

This covers those who are incapacitated by: blindness or visual
impairment; other physical cause; or literacy difficulties.

How do I vote at this election?

This election uses the Single Transferable Vote (PR) method.

This ensures that there is the widest possible representation of
the views of the electorate in that all their preferences are
taken into consideration during the counting process.

You can vote for as few or as many candidates as you wish,
although the PR process is more effective if you express a
preference for as many of the candidates as you can.

You must put a "1" against your preferred candidate, a "2"
against your second preference, and so on for as many or as few
candidates as you wish.

When will the count be held?

Each constituency count will begin on Thursday 8 March and will
continue until it ends either that evening or the following day.

It is unlikely counting will continue overnight.

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2007/03/06 09:41:25 GMT


Election 2007: The Candidates

[Published: Monday 5, March 2007 - 13:43]

Full list of candidates running in the 2007 Northern Ireland
Assembly elections

East Antrim

John Anderson IND
Mark Bailey GP
Roy Beggs UUP
George Dawson DUP
Stewart Dickson AP
Mark Dunn UUP
David Hilditch DUP
Tim Lewis Con
Oliver McMullan SF
Sean Neeson AP
Danny O'Connor SDLP
Ken Robinson UUP
Tom Robinson UKUP
Sammy Wilson DUP

East Belfast

Steve Agnew GP
Joe Bell WP
Tommy Black Soc
Wallace Browne DUP
Glyn Chambers Con
Michael Copeland UUP
Reg Empey UUP
Rainbow George MPH
Naomi Long AP
Mary Muldoon SDLP
Robin Newton DUP
Dawn Purvis PUP
Peter Robinson DUP
Jim Rodgers UUP
Niall O'Donnghaile SF

East Londonderry

Orla Beattie SDLP
Francie Brolly SF
Gregory Campbell DUP
Victor Love Christie IND
Leslie Cubitt UKUP
John Dallat SDLP
Barney Fitzpatrick AP
Norman Hillis UUP
Billy Leonard SF
David McClarty UUP
Michael McGonigle IND
Adrian McQuillan DUP
Phillippe Moison GP
George Robinson DUP
Edwin Stevenson UUP

Fermanagh and South Tyrone

Vincent Currie SDLP
Kenny Donaldson UUP
Tom Elliott UUP
Arlene Foster DUP
Tommy Gallagher SDLP
Michelle Gildernew SF
Allan Leonard AP
Sean Lynch SF
Robert McCartney UKUP
Gerry McGeough IND
Gerry McHugh SF
Michael McManus IND
Maurice Morrow DUP


Martina Anderson SF
Yvonne Boyle AP
Mary Bradley SDLP
Adele Corry GP
Mark Durkan SDLP
Lynn Fleming SF
Willie Frazer IND
William Hay DUP
Eamonn McCann SEA
Raymond McCartney SF
Peter Munce UUP
Peggy O'Hara IND
Helen Quigley SDLP
Pat Ramsey SDLP

Lagan Valley

Billy Bell UUP
Paul Butler SF
Jonathan Craig DUP
Ronnie Crawford UUP
Jeffrey Donaldson DUP
Marietta Farrell SDLP
Paul Givan DUP
Neil Johnston Con
Trevor Lunn AP
John Magee WP
Robert McCartney UKUP
Basil McCrea UUP
Edwin Poots DUP
Michael Rogan GP

Mid Ulster

Billy Armstrong UUP
Anne Forde DUP
Harry Hutchinson IND
Kate Lagan SDLP
Margaret Marshall AP
Ian McCrea DUP
Patsy McGlone SDLP
Martin McGuinness SF
Brendan McLaughlin IND
Walter Millar UKUP
Francie Molloy SF
Michelle O'Neill SF

Newry and Armagh

Paul Berry IND
Cathal Boylan SF
Dominic Bradley SDLP
Mickey Brady SF
Willie Frazer IND
Sharon Haughey SDLP
M ire Hendron AP
Davy Hyland IND
William Irwin DUP
Danny Kennedy UUP
Brendan Morgan GP
Conor Murphy SF

North Antrim

Orla Black SDLP
Robert Coulter UUP
Lyle Cubitt UKUP
Jayne Dunlop AP
James Gregg IND
Paul McGlinchey IND
Daithi McKay SF
Deirdre Nelson DUP
Declan O'Loan SDLP
Ian Paisley DUP
Ian Paisley Jnr DUP
Mervyn Storey DUP
Robin Swann UUP

North Belfast

Fred Cobain UUP
Pat Convery SDLP
Nigel Dodds DUP
Peter Emerson GP
Rainbow George MPH
William Humphrey DUP
Gerry Kelly SF
John Lavery WP
Alban Maginness SDLP
Robert McCartney UKUP
Nelson McCausland DUP
Raymond McCord IND
Tommy McCullough AP
Caral Ni Chuilin SF

North Down

Chris Carter IND
Alan Chambers IND
Leslie Cree UUP
Alex Easton DUP
Stephen Farry AP
Alan Graham DUP
James Leslie Con
Liam Logan SDLP
Elaine Martin PUP
Robert McCartney UKUP
Alan McFarland UUP
Deaglan Page SF
Brian Rowan IND
Marion Smith UUP
Peter Weir DUP
Brian Wilson GP

South Antrim

Thomas Burns SDLP
David Burnside UUP
Trevor Clarke DUP
Marcella Delaney WP
David Ford AP
Danny Kinahan UUP
Mel Lucas DUP
Robert McCartney UKUP
Noreen McClelland SDLP
William McCrea DUP
Mitchel McLaughlin SF
Stephen Nicholl UUP
Stephen O'Brien Con
Peter Whitcroft GP

South Belfast

Jim Barbour Soc
Esmond Birnie UUP
Brenda Cooke GP
Rainbow George MPH
Carmel Hanna SDLP
David Hoey UKUP
Anna Lo AP
Roger Lomas Con
Paddy Lynn WP
Alex Maskey SF
Alasdair McDonnell SDLP
Michael McGimpsey UUP
Andrew Park PUP
Charles Smyth PROC
Jimmy Spratt DUP
Christopher Stalford DUP
Bob Stoker UUP
Geoffrey Wilson IND

South Down

Peter Bowles Con
PJ Bradley SDLP
William Burns DUP
Michael Carr SDLP
Willie Clarke SF
Martin Cunningham IND
Malachi Curran LP
David Griffin AP
John McCallister UUP
Eamonn McConvey SF
Ciaran Mussen GP
Henry Reilly UKIP
Margaret Ritchie SDLP
Caitriona Ruane SF
Jim Wells DUP
Nelson Wharton UKUP


Joe Boyle SDLP
Angus Carson UUP
George Ennis UKUP
David Gregg IND
Simon Hamilton DUP
Michael Henderson UUP
Dermot Kennedy SF
Bob Little Con
Kieran McCarthy AP
Michelle McIlveen DUP
David McNarry UUP
Iris Robinson DUP
Jim Shannon DUP
Stephanie Sim GP
Cedric Wilson IND

Upper Bann

David Calvert IND
Helen Corry GP
David Fry Con
Sam Gardiner UUP
Arnold Hatch UUP
Dolores Kelly SDLP
Patrick McAleenan SDLP
John McCrum DUP
Sheila McQuaid AP
Stephen Moutray DUP
John O'Dowd SF
Suzanne Peeples IND
George Savage UUP
David Simpson DUP
Barry Toman IND
Dessie Ward SF

West Belfast

Gerry Adams SF
Alex Attwood SDLP
Diane Dodds DUP
Rainbow George MPH
John Lowry WP
Paul Maskey SF
Fra McCann SF
Jennifer McCann SF
Dan McGuinness AP
Sean Mitchell PBP
Sue Ramsey SF
Geraldine Taylor IND
Margaret Walsh SDLP
Louis West UUP

West Tyrone

Allan Bresland DUP
Thomas Buchanan DUP
Jo Deehan SDLP
Kieran Deeny IND
Pat Doherty SF
Derek Hussey UUP
Robert McCartney UKUP
Barry McElduff SF
Claire McGill SF
Eugene McMenamin SDLP
Joe O'Neill IND
Seamus Shields SDLP

(c) Belfast Telegraph


Sinn Fein Fears Vote Slump Over Key Celtic Match

[Published: Tuesday 6, March 2007 - 13:15]
By Michael Brennan

Sinn Fein are so desperate to ensure a high voter turnout that it
is preparing to taxi Celtic fans from the pubs to the polls

The party fears that the lure of Celtic's crucial second leg
match against AC Milan will affect the turnout of their
supporters in the Northern Ireland Assembly elections.

It is planning to use Belfast's famous fleet of black taxis to
ensure that Celtic fans can go to the polling station without
missing out on the match.

The taxi drivers, many of whom are former IRA prisoners, will
call round to the pubs before the 7.45pm kick-off and even at
half time. As loyal party members, the service will be provided
for free.

A Sinn Fein spokesman confirmed that the party was putting
special plans in place to ensure a high voter turnout.

"We will be doing our best job on the day to make sure everyone
gets out to vote."

The party's growing share of the vote has been partly attributed
to its highly efficient election machine, which ensures the
highest possible voter turnout.

Party members knock on doors in estates, arrange transport and
tick off names as each voter goes to the poll. All of the
transport is provided for free.

"We are quite rightly proud of how we go out on the day of an
election and organise transport, particularly for older people
and people with disabilities, so that everyone has the chance to
vote," said the spokesman.

But Sinn Fein has identified the Celtic-AC Milan clash as a
possible stumbling block in its bid to win the maximum possible
number of seats.

Many Sinn Fein supporters travel regularly to Glasgow to see
Celtic play and are unwilling to pass up the opportunity of
seeing them win a place in the Champions League quarter final.

"They are genuinely worried that they won't get a good turn out
because of the match," said a source close to the party.

The latest opinion poll shows that Sinn Fein and the DUP are on
course to remain as the biggest parties, 22pc and 25pc of the
vote respectively. The poll also shows the SDLP on 20pc, the UUP
on 16pc and the Alliance party on 9pc.

However, voters are not confident that the election will lead to
the resumption of power-sharing in Stormont.

Less than half thought the election would result in a working
Executive and a quarter believed Ian Paisley and Martin McGuiness
would cooperate as first and deputy first minister.

(c) Belfast Telegraph


Republican Ex-Prisoners Urge Voters To Snub Sinn F,in

06/03/2007 - 10:48:40

A group of republican ex-prisoners has taken out a full-page
advert in one of the North's leading newspapers urging people not
to vote for Sinn F,in.

Around 250 ex-prisoners opposed to the party's decision to
endorse the PSNI have signed the advert in the Irish News.

The move comes just 24 hours ahead of the Assembly elections in
the North aimed at restoring power-sharing government.

The ex-prisoners are urging voters to support independent
republican candidates, saying people's desires for peace were
being cynically exploited.

The group says peace cannot be served by young nationalists
joining the police and spying on republicans, claiming this is a
betrayal of their cause.

The list of names includes two former Sinn F,in assembly men, a
New York priest once convicted of a robbery for the IRA, a former
hunger-striker and 105-year-old Dan Keating from Kerry, the last
survivor of the War of Independence.


Voters Switch Off From Constitutional Issues

[Published: Tuesday 6, March 2007 - 10:32]

If apathy was a candidate in the Assembly elections, it would top
the poll in every constituency.

The main concern of the parties now is to get the vote out.

The parties have discovered local issues on the doorstep - water
rates, health care, grammar school selection and the rising price
of houses for first-time buyers.

At first sight, this is an encouraging sign of returning

The voters have, to this extent, switched off from the great
constitutional issues.

They have decided, instinctively, that the conflict is over and
that it is time for the politicians to get down to business.

Indeed the impatience with politicians for not having done so is
reflected in polls showing that three out of four voters,
unionist and nationalist equally, want to see Assembly members
stripped of pay, allowances and perks if they have not reached an
agreement which would allow a local administration to be formed
by March 27.

This electoral rhetoric about bread and butter issues is shadow
boxing, and everyone knows it.

The parties espouse populist issues to get people to the polls in
the knowledge that once there, nature will triumph over nurture
and they will vote by instinct rather than by reason.

The battle remains between DUP and Sinn Fein, both of whom have
ambitions to wipe out opposition on their own side.

Both wish to secure the highest total of votes, and of seats,
because under the arcane rituals of the D'Hondt system, this will
determine the number of ministerial posts each party secures in
the Executive, the order of choice and the comparative importance
of the portfolio.

The polls, allowing for margins of error, confirm earlier
predictions that DUP will dominate the unionist vote, taking
perhaps four or five extra seats at the expense of UUP.

Those former UUP voters who do not stay at home may switch to DUP
to ensure that they remain the largest party and to fend off the
dire prospect of Sinn Fein being in a position to nominate the
First Minister.

They will also help to counterbalance the defection of those in
DUP for whom engagement in Government with Sinn Fein is a u-turn
too many.

Some disenchanted UUP voters too seem to be swinging to Alliance,
who, if the polls are to be believed, would more than double
their vote.

The polls also confirm the stabilisation of SDLP, perhaps a
recovery of their share of the vote, and even, maybe, the gain of
a seat or two.

And this despite being caught between presenting as the party of
good sense and moderate practicality, and trying to outflank Sinn
Fein on their All-Ireland credentials.

Since the rationale of the process was to encourage unionists to
agree to power-sharing at Stormont because the Agreement secured
their position within the United Kingdom, it seems premature and
perverse to invoke it as a half-way house to Dublin.

This is to repeat the post-Sunningdale gaffe of 'trundling'
unionists into a united Ireland, which helped to torpedo that

The manifesto call for a border poll, which SDLP boycotted in
1973 because the answer was known, echoes oddly at a time when
the answer is still the same. Sinn Fein will likely emerge as the
largest party on the nationalist side, but not by so much as they
may have hoped.

Votes gained as a result of the decision to support policing may
be balanced by the loss of support from traditionalists and
dissidents, some of whom are running as candidates at the

Support gained, too, by assiduous work at local council level may
be dissipated by dissension and the de-selection of councillor
candidates in some areas.

The announcement by the DUP that it will take the commanding
heights of the Department of Finance is perhaps the surest sign
that they are already, mentally, in Government, and with Sinn
Fein. Characteristically they produce yet another hurdle, not for
republicans this time, but for the Treasury.

There can be no consummation of the marriage, they say, until a
substantial dowry has been paid.

Whether Gordon Brown will play ball, or simply regard it as an
impertinent bit of opportunistic blackmail, remains to be seen.

There is an argument for a once-off capital injection for
infrastructural developments, to make up for under-investment
under Direct Rule, but putting Northern Ireland on a drip-feed of
increased public expenditure flies in the face of all economic

This is an economy which is chronically and unhealthily dependent
on the public sector, which needs to encourage entrepreneurship
and inward investment, yet the only thing all the parties seem to
agree on is that there should be a massive increase in public

Maybe it is a good thing that they are not yet talking to each
other, and that both Sinn Fein and DUP see shared Government as
"a battle a day" .

(c) Belfast Telegraph


Fresh Talks To Follow Ulster Election Battle

[Published: Tuesday 6, March 2007 - 10:52]
By Noel McAdam

Fresh political talks hard on the heels of the Assembly election
results were being organised today.

Secretary of State Peter Hain is due to hold a round of meetings
with all the parties beginning from next Monday.

But Government sources insist there will be no new St Andrews-
style negotiations in the run-up to the devolution deadline of
March 26.

Party sources agreed the meetings, some of which are already
pencilled in, will involve a "stocktaking exercise" following the
outcome of the elections.

There will only be a few days before at least some parties send
delegations to the annual St Patrick's week events in Washington
including the Rose Bowl ceremony at the White House.

And while both Mr Hain and Taoiseach Bertie Ahern yesterday
reiterated March 26 is the cut-off point, important decisions
would have to be taken before that date.

Mr Ahern told the British-Irish Inter-Parliamentary Body
gathering in Dublin that without a deal the governments would
attempt to implement " everything we could" in the Good Friday
Agreement and the St Andrews Agreement.

Responding to a question from Conservative MP Michael Mates, Mr
Ahern stressed: "It is not ideal and not what we would like to

But he said the governments and their officials have put a lot of
time into considering what has been referred to as "Plan B" and
drawn up an agreed blueprint - involving an enhanced role for the
Irish government in the day to day administration of Northern

In his speech Mr Ahern emphasised that patience had already been
" stretched" and people would not take kindly to further delay.

"The war is over. The key issues are sorted," he said.

"All must take responsibility in government for building and
consolidating the peace."

Mr Hain also underpinned that the legislation following the St
Andrews document did not allow for any slippage beyond March 26.

"I do hope nobody tries to test me on this," he said.

"I would hate to think that people will wake up on March 27 and
realise what an opportunity they have thrown away because it will
be a very long time before it can be got back. March 26 is the
date and otherwise Stormont will close down."

The governments intend to attempt to ratchet up the pressure on
the parties, in particular the DUP and Sinn Fein.

But there are strong indications a deal will not be finalised in
the fortnight following tomorrow's poll.

(c) Belfast Telegraph


Hain's Right Hand Man Off To Campaign For His Boss

[Published: Tuesday 6, March 2007 - 09:02]

Few tears are likely to be shed among Northern Ireland's civil
servants over the departure of Phil Taylor, special adviser to
Secretary of State.

He will shortly be leaving his post to spend more time on his
boss's ambitions - he's taking unpaid leave to work in the Hain
campaign team for the Labour Party deputy leadership.

Mr Taylor has had a very wide remit within the NIO on policy
matters and his relations with civil servants have been fraught.

Such has been his influence behind the scenes that he's even been
described in some quarters as "the man who's running Northern

There are some similarities between the political backgrounds of
the Secretary of State and his special adviser.

Mr Hain joined the Labour Party in the mid-1970s, after a
prominent role in the Young Liberals.

Some two decades later, Mr Taylor switched to Labour from the
youth and student wing of the Liberal Democrats.

The two men's paths crossed when Mr Taylor was director of
Progress, a New Labour think tank.

Mr Hain appointed him as a special adviser on becoming Europe
Minister in 2001.

Known as "spads", special advisers are classed as temporary civil
servants. They are appointed personally by Ministers, to work
with the civil service to help deliver the Government's political

In Mr Taylor's case, this has undoubtedly meant some tough
exchanges with officials over the development and delivery of

Mr Hain has had a wider agenda at the NIO than many Direct Rule

Secretaries of State like Paul Murphy and John Reid were
primarily focussed on trying to re-establish devolution.

Mr Hain, by contrast, has set about a programme of reform that
has encouraged devolutionist sentiment.

Local voters complaining about rates, the future of grammar
schools, reform of local government or water charges can be told:
"If you don't like it, get your politicians to go back into the

A well-placed Northern Ireland Civil Service source claims the
tensions with officials had little or nothing to do with the
policies involved.

This source says a "bombastic" personal style and "awful"
interpersonal relations were at the heart of the problems.

"It wasn't so much what Phil Taylor was doing, but the way he was
doing it.

"A lot of it was down to Hain giving him free rein and not caring
about the consequences."

The Secretary of State and his adviser are clearly unrepentant.

A source close to Mr Hain's NIO team says defiantly: "Phil's well
known for playing hard ball. But there's often a civil service
machine pulling in the opposite direction to where Peter wants to
go and his job, as just one individual, is to ensure the policies
that Ministers want are being delivered - often they aren't.

"The difference from previous years is not Phil Taylor but that
this whole direct rule team has been focused relentlessly on
bread and butter issues for the first time.

"Previously, the emphasis was largely on just holding the fort
until devolution was restored.

"That left the departments to pretty much run themselves.

"Under Peter Hain, the civil service has had to get used to a
politician who knows what he wants."

Some pressure groups and other bodies have been able to use Mr
Taylor as a shortcut to the top - a way of taking their concerns
and causes directly to Ministerial level.

The Consumer Council, for instance, built up a good working
relationship with him as it lobbied successfully for a new
"reduced tariff" water charges rebate system for low income

That relationship soured spectacularly towards the end of last
year when the consumer body took a judicial review over the tap
tax consultation process.

Details of frosty emails sent by Mr Taylor to the council were
disclosed in court.

Around this time, Ulster Unionist peer Lord Laird used
parliamentary privilege to accuse the special adviser of bullying
Ministers and civil servants, and of being "the person who is
causing the problems in the Northern Ireland Office".

Rejecting that claim, the Hain team source says: "Phil works
within clear parameters set by the Secretary of State. He is
acting with the full authority of his boss. To suggest otherwise
is nonsense.

"It would mean that Peter Hain is somehow unaware of what he is
doing or is unable to control him. That is just an absurd

On another front, MLAs have been criticising Mr Taylor's behind-
the scenes role in the drafting of the controversial PPS 14
planning policy to restrict housing development in the

The adviser's departure from the NIO was announced last week amid
controversy over whether "spads", as taxpayer-funded civil
servants, should be involved in the Labour deputy leadership

Mr Taylor has insisted that he has been "absolutely scrupulous"
in following the guidelines at all times.

These state that any campaigning work should be done in advisers'
own time.

Mr Taylor's work here was probably drawing to a close anyway -
with devolution looking likely to return in the near future.

Peter Hain is meanwhile eyeing a higher profile role within the

He'll need a special adviser there too, maybe even one who's
prepared to be " bombastic" and unpopular.

It is unlikely that we've heard the last of Phil Taylor.

(c) Belfast Telegraph

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