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March 02, 2007

Critics 'Trashing RUC Reputation'

News about Ireland & the Irish

BB 03/02/07 Critics 'Trashing RUC Reputation'
DJ 03/02/07 Eddie Fullerton's Daughter In TV Speech
BT 03/02/07 'Plastic' Police Will Not Be Able To Detain
BT 03/02/07 Poll: SF+SDLP Vote Greater Than DUP+UUP Vote
BN 03/02/07 Sinn Féin Gather For Conference
BT 03/02/07 Big Man Of Ulster Politics Holds All The Aces
TH 03/01/07 Irish Fight For Reform Of Immigration
IV 03/02/07 ILIR Members Get ‘Bebo’
BT 03/02/07 Opin: Dice Loaded Against A Workable Assembly
BT 03/02/07 Opin: Our Poll Is A Reality Check For All Parties
BT 03/02/07 Opin: Cashing In On American Role In Ulster Economy
BT 03/02/07 Ahern Tops Popularity Poll

(Poster's Note: When the Police Federation accused Mrs. O'Loan
of political conspiracy, they must have forgot to mention her
other long-term conspirators who independently issued reports
accusing the RUC of collusion. They were:

:: Sir John Stevens (Metropolitan Police Commissioner),
:: Retired Canadian Judge Peter Cory,
:: Professor Douglass Cassel (Law professor at Notre Dame),
:: John Stalker (Manchester Deputy Chief Constable), and
:: Judge Henry Barron from the Republic of Ireland.

These poor victims of defamation of character (the RUC) possibly
should consider their legal options. That is probably the only
way they would get the 'day in court' they deserve.

Though the police federation made one valid point. They said it
was futile for victims' families hope for any prosecutions. The
police & the politicians need to hang together, or they will hang

You have to go a ways to 'trash' the RUC's reputation. It would
be similar to trying to trash Paris Hilton's reputation.



Critics 'Trashing RUC Reputation'

The RUC's reputation is being trashed as part of a political
conspiracy, Northern Ireland's police union claims.

It is the strongest attack so far on Police Ombudsman Nuala
O'Loan and the government by the Police Federation.

In a Police Beat magazine editorial, it says the "savaging" of
RUC officers was part of efforts to encourage Sinn Fein to sign
up to policing.

Mrs O'Loan rejected the claims made by the federation on her
report into collusion between police and loyalists.

Her report found Special Branch had colluded with UVF members in
north Belfast who killed up to 16 people.

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

The Police Federation, which represents more than 9,000 current
officers, rejected Mrs O'Loan's report when it was published in
January, but this editorial goes much further than before.

It rejects the ombudsman's criticism of the handling of informers
and said there was no evidence to substantiate her claims about

Highly critical

The editorial was also highly critical of Northern Ireland
Secretary Peter Hain, saying his response to the report meant the
faults in north Belfast "could be deemed endemic across the whole
of the RUC".

"Hain's performance in making sure that Sinn Fein could see the
distinction between the 'old order RUC' and newly-improved,
vastly-transformed PSNI was outrageous," it said.

"The savaging of the RUC and its former senior officers,
especially ex-Special Branch, was meant to secure Sinn Fein
support for the police and in achieving that objective, the
report played its own strikingly timely part."

The federation will raise its concerns in a meeting with Security
Minister Paul Goggins next week.

The Police Ombudsman found UVF members in north Belfast committed
murders and other serious crimes while working as informers for
Special Branch.

She found that Special Branch officers had given the killers

Federation chairman Terry Spence said: "We are very concerned
about the timing of this report coupled with the disgraceful
comments of the secretary of state, where he suggested that the
old guard RUC had been transformed into the PSNI."

Mrs O'Loan said the publication of her report had been planned
"long before we knew anything about Sinn Fein or their plans for
an ard fheis" (on policing).

She said her report had also pointed "to the good service of so
many officers in the RUC".

"We also put out evidence-based reports... most of which have
actually found that policing was properly done.

"This one did not find policing done as it should have been, and
it was my duty to report the facts as the evidence showed them to

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2007/03/02 06:50:46 GMT

A Northern Ireland Office spokesman responded: "What happened in
north Belfast cannot be justified and no one should attempt to
justify them, but the excellent and brave work undertaken by many
in intelligence gathering should not be tarnished by the failures
of a few."


Eddie Fullerton's Daughter In TV Speech

THE DAUGHTER of murdered Donegal County councillor Eddie
Fullerton is to address a TV audience at Sinn Fein's Ard Fheis on
the campaign to get to the truth about her father's killing.

Amanda Fullerton, who is heading the Eddie Fullerton Justice
Committee, is to speak for around seven minutes directly ahead of
Sinn Fein President Gerry Adam's Presidential address in the RDS.
Her address will be televised on RTE One from 5 p.m. tomorrow.

Ms Fullerton last night told the 'Journal' that the family of the
late councillor who was gunned down in his Cockhill home in May
1991 was "very grateful" to be given the opportunity to tell
their story of the investigations into his death and allegations
of collusion to the people of Ireland.

She added that making the speech - which will deal with campaign
of the family to expose collusion in the death of Colr. Fullerton
- will be doubly emotional as it comes almost a year to the day
that her brother Albert, who spearheaded the campaign since its
foundation, died as a result of road accident.

"It will be very emotional and poignant for that reason as well
but I can't afford to let my emotions to take over because this
is a very important part in the campaign. To a lot of people
we'll be reaching it will all be new information - I'm very aware
our message will be delivered to a great many people for the
first time on Saturday," she said.

"Primarily I will be providing an overview of the campaign. I'll
cover the key issues and where we have to go to move on from
here. It's a real opportunity to raise awareness across the
country, to talk about it in the context of collusion and in the
context of recent revelations about collusion in the North, and
how that fits in to our campaign."

The latest twist in the EFJC's campaign was the commitment from
British Prime Minister Tony Blair that a Northern Ireland
Minister would make a direct response to issues raised in a
letter from the late Colr. Fullerton's wife Dinah which was
presented to him recently.

Sinn Fein Donegal County Councillor, Padraig MacLochlainn - who
was a close friend of the late Albert Fullerton - said the
televised address by Ms Fullerton would be timely because of the
anniversary of her brother's death.

"This is what Albert would have wanted, for tens of thousands of
viewers to hear about the campaign to get to the truth of Eddie's
murder's - for it to be profiled on a major platform."

He added Sinn Fein was always committed to helping the EFJC to
achieve its goals.

"Gerry Adams always maintained he was very fond of Eddie
Fullerton and the campaign is something which has always been
very close to his heart. It was he who personally asked Amanda to
do it."

02 March 2007


'Plastic' Police Will Not Be Able To Detain

[Published: Friday 2, March 2007 - 11:28]
By Mark Hookham

New community support officers - dubbed plastic policemen - will
not have the power to detain suspects when they take to the
streets of Northern Ireland, the Telegraph can reveal.

Ministers have decided not to initially hand Ulster's Police
Community Support Officers (PCSOs) the power to detain suspects
for up to 30 minutes.

A total of 20 of 43 police forces in England and Wales allow
their PCSOs to use "reasonable force" to hold suspects while they
wait for police officers to arrive.

Ulster's PCSOs will be given only six powers. These will be:

to acquire the name and address of suspects

to confiscate alcohol from young people and dispose of it

to seize tobacco from young people and dispose of it

to enter and search premises for the purpose of saving life and
limb or preventing serious damage to the property

to direct traffic and place traffic signs

to enforce cordoned areas for the purposes of a terrorist

Future powers may be handed over at a later date if they prove

Their range of responsibilities were unveiled by Leader of the
House of Lords Baroness Amos during a debate which saw the
legislation needed to introduce the 'community cops' pass its
final parliamentary hurdle.

Baroness Amos insisted they will make Northern Ireland's streets

She said: "PCSOs are not a cheap alternative. They will be full-
time members of staff and will have a clearly defined role that
will reflect their unique contribution to enhancing community

She added: "These are six areas that the Police Service of
Northern Ireland considers will produce the most immediate impact
on the ground.

"There is a strong view that if we conferred the full range of
powers at the outset, it would delay the introduction of CSOs."

PCSOs were introduced in Great Britain as part of the Police
Reform Act 2002 to act as the "eyes and ears" of the police

They have proved very popular in some areas but debates have
raged over their powers.

Critics say more police should simply be put on the beat, with
some claiming that the cost of six PCSOs is the equivalent of
four police officers.

c Belfast Telegraph


Results Of Poll Halt Politicians In Their Tracks

[Published: Friday 2, March 2007 - 09:19]
By Chris Thornton

The results of the Belfast Telegraph opinion poll have stopped
politicians in their campaign tracks.

The findings were digested in party headquarters and campaign
outposts across Northern Ireland as the parties enter the last
lap before next Wednesday's Assembly election.

The DUP came out as the leading party - but their deputy leader,
Peter Robinson, said the results are a warning to unionists.

"The Belfast Telegraph opinion poll showing that the SDLP and
Sinn Fein together have a larger vote than the DUP and UUP
combined should alert 'stay at home unionists' to the danger of
apathy," he said.

He said the DUP's 3% gap over Sinn Fein was within the poll's
margin of error - making it obvious that if nationalist turnout
"were to even marginally increase it would have dire

He added: "Adams and McGuinness would travel the world purporting
to speak on behalf of Northern Ireland, Martin McGuinness would
be proposed as Northern Ireland's First Minister and nationalists
would be in a majority in any Executive."

He said the poll "helpfully" demonstrates that "maverick
unionists are not eating into the DUP's vote" and it will remain
the largest unionist party "by a mile".

"It is vital that unionist voters turn out to vote rather than
staying at home and when casting their votes support the DUP so
that their votes will have the greatest impact and make sure Sinn
Fein does not become the largest party," he said.

UUP deputy leader Danny Kennedy, whose party was ranked fourth by
respondents to the poll, said voters are responding "much more
positively" than the poll suggested.

"It is quite clear that our core vote has held firm and responded
well to our manifesto and message," he said. "As the poll showed,
A majority want devolution to work. They want the restoration of
stable accountable government. But they are not convinced that
this can be achieved by Sinn Fein and the DUP alone."

The poll predicted increasing in support for Alliance whose
deputy leader Naomi Long said the results show "that people do
not believe that the tribal can deliver genuine power-sharing".

"The Ulster Unionists and SDLP have had their chance to deliver
in the last Executive, and failed miserably," she said. "The DUP
won't even talk to Sinn Fein, so people do not have any
confidence in them either."

The United Kingdom Unionist Party hit out at the presentation of
the poll as "wholly misleading" because the figures for voting
intentions included only those who have decided how they will

The party's South Belfast candidate David Hoey said: "If for
example there were 10-20% undecided then the DUP vote could well
be slashed by up to one-third."

Green Party leader Trevor Sargent was enthusiastic about his
party's 3% support, putting them "well ahead of the PUP and

He said the result is "testament to the growing desire of the
people of Northern Ireland to see Green policies implemented."

c Belfast Telegraph


Sinn Fein Gather For Conference

02/03/2007 - 07:46:40

The pre-election party conference season continues today with the
Sinn Fein Ard Fheis in Dublin.

The party aims to field candidates in most of the state's 43
constituencies for the poll, expected in May.

While Labour and the Progressive Democrats have made tax cutting
pledges, Sinn Fein will woo voters with new policy ideas on
housing, health, road safety and worker rights.

Trade union officials and the leader of the political wing of
Spanish terror group ETA are guest speakers at the two-day event
in the RDS venue.

Sinn Fein's chief negotiator Martin McGuinness will deliver the
keynote opening address tonight while president Gerry Adams will
make his televised speech tomorrow evening.

This year's Ard Fheis has been shortened from three to two days
because supporters will travel to Northern Ireland on Sunday for
last-minute campaigning before the March 7 elections for the
Stormont Assembly.

The Ard Fheis will be addressed tonight by Siptu president Jack
O'Connor and Unison union official Patricia McKeown.

The leader of the Basque's Batasuna party, Arnaldo Otegi and ANC
representative Ronnie Kasrils are guest speakers on Saturday.

One of the conference motions calls for the appointment of a
junior Government minister with responsibility for all-Ireland

Another proposal to provide free Irish and English language
lessons for newly-arrived immigrants will also be voted upon by


The Big Man Of Ulster Politics Holds All The Aces

[Published: Friday 2, March 2007 - 09:27]
By Lesley-Anne Henry

Home of the Giant's Causeway, North Antrim is famed for the
legendary figure who helped forge its rugged coastline. But it is
the real life giant who has helped shape Ulster's political
landscape who has dominated recent history.

Ian Paisley has become a legend in his own lifetime having topped
the polls in every election since 1970. And despite the hype
about internal strife and dissent over the St Andrews Agreement
the Big Man of Ulster politics is odds-on favourite to triumph
this year again.

This is undisputed DUP territory - Mr Paisley has been MP for 37
years and his party holds three Assembly seats.

It includes the whole of Ballymena, Ballymoney and Moyle district
councils and is among the most rural of all the constituencies.

At the last census in 2001 the population stood at 101,437 -
fifth out of the 18 constituencies. And with an average age of 37
many voters will never have known anything other than the status

In the 2005 local government election there was much speculation
over whether Mr Paisley would stand down for health reasons but
he battled on and took 25,156 votes - more than three times his
closest rival.

This time round all the talk is about trouble within the DUP. And
for the first time Mr Paisley has faced a revolt from his old
North Antrim faithfuls.

The possibility of power sharing with Sinn Fein has proved too
much for six councillors on the chief's home turf who had refused
to canvass for the DUP during the campaign. And on Wednesday
former rugby international and Ballymena councillor Davy Tweed

Despite this the opposition is still unlikely to make much of a
dent in the DUP's massive majority.

Also standing are outgoing DUP MLAs Ian Paisley Jnr and Mervyn
Storey as well as Deirdre Nelson.

With the race for the top spot seen as a foregone conclusion it
is the challenge for fourth, fifth and six place where interest

The UUP, SDLP and Sinn Fein all have one seat each. There are a
host of new faces on the posters round the countryside and all
parties are hoping fresh blood will win over the electorate.

Republicans are hoping that an injection of youth will be the
answer. Last time round Philip McGuigan's 7,191 votes won Sinn
Fein, its first seat in North Antrim. However he has now taken up
a post within the party's 26-county committee at Stormont leaving
24-year-old Ballymoney council colleague Daithi McKay to take on
the might of the DUP.

Making a challenge for the republican vote is the brother of
former INLA leader Dominic McGlinchey. Paul McGlinchey has set
himself up as an independent candidate opposed to Sinn Fein's
endorsement of policing.

The Ulster Unionists are hoping to claw back the seat they lost
to Sinn Fein and are fielding outgoing MLA Robert Coulter and
Robert Swan.

And the SDLP will also be hoping to do better with its new
candidates. Former Stormont minister Sean Farren has stepped
aside to make room for Moyle councillor Orla Black and Police
Ombudsman Nuala O'Loan's other half, Declan O'Loan of Ballymena

Hoping to catch votes from unionists opposed to St Andrews will
be the UKUP's Lyle Cubitt.

Others in the running are Jayne Dunlop of the Alliance Party and
Independent James Cregg.

As well as the big issues like water charges and rates increases
the people of North Antrim are keen to have the bread and butter
issues resolved before the review of administration kicks in.

Emergency service cover is a concern for those in the most rural
areas. There are posters up all over Ballymoney and Moyle
opposing fire service cuts and the people of Rathlin Island are
in need a new nurse. The establishment of new district command
units for the PSNI is also a talking point for Moyle voters.

All across the constituency the rising tide of anti-social
behaviour is a major problem with local councils forking out a
fortune for repairs.

Tourism is another issue which is exercising the minds of
politicians. There are almost three quarters of a million
visitors to the Giant's Causeway each year and there is some
concern that a proper tourist plan has yet to be developed for
the North Antrim and Causeway coast.

Plans for a multi-million pound Visitors' Centre at the Causeway
were announced four years ago a long with a luxury five-star
hotel and golf course in Bushmills, but as yet both are still in
the planning process.

New planning restrictions preventing people in rural areas
building homes on their own land is another issue.

And the current EU payments scheme for farmers will have some
influence as politicians vie for votes.

c Belfast Telegraph


Irish Fight For Reform Of Immigration

By Ian Swanson

Thousands of Irish-Americans will arrive in Washington 10 days
before St. Patrick's Day to lobby members of Congress to reform
immigration laws.

The Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform (ILIR) organized the March
7 event and expects as many as 4,000 people to attend, many of
them traveling to D.C. by bus from the heavily Irish communities
of New York, Boston and Philadelphia.

Several members of Congress, including Sens. John McCain (R-
Ariz.) and Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.), who are writing an
immigration bill, spoke at a similar rally last year, as did
presidential candidates Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) and
Sam Brownback (R-Kan.). ILIR Chairman Niall O'Dowd hopes to offer
a similar lineup next week.

"They're pretty powerful," said Rep. Christopher Shays (R-Conn.),
a member of the Friends of Ireland caucus in the House who
credited the Irish lobby as a "major force" in winning
immigration reforms in 1986.

ILIR's executive director, Kelly Fincham, said the group's focus
this year is on House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), since
Pelosi would be capable of bringing an immigration reform bill to
the floor. She said about 200 members of the group are expected
to travel to Washington next week from San Francisco.

O'Dowd said the group supported the Kennedy-McCain bill
introduced last year and will be pressing members of Congress to
move that legislation this year. O'Dowd said he expects the two
senators to introduce their legislation in the next two weeks.

The Irish lobby can make a difference by reminding members of
Congress of the diversity of immigrants, according to Stacy
Terrel of the National Council of La Raza, a Hispanic civil
rights and advocacy organization. ILIR estimates there are 50,000
unauthorized Irish immigrants in the U.S., many of whom
overstayed tourist visas and want to remain in the country. That
number is dwarfed by estimates on the number of illegal
immigrants from Mexico and Central America.

"I'm thrilled they're coming," said Angela Kelley, deputy
director of the National Immigration Forum. She said participants
last year caught the attention of members of Congress and staff
by marching through office buildings wearing green-and-white T-
shirts bearing the slogan, "Legalize the Irish."

O'Dowd said McCain credited the group with changing the minds of
four or five senators last year.

That said, ILIR has not convinced all of its traditional allies
to support legislation creating a pathway for unauthorized
immigrants to receive citizenship. O'Dowd described Rep. Pete
King (R-N.Y.) as a friend of the group on other issues, but said
it was disappointed with his views on immigration.

King, whose parents hail from Ireland, said the world changed on
Sept. 11, 2001. The U.S. no longer can afford to turn a blind eye
to illegal immigrants, and it also cannot carve out an exception
for the Irish, the ranking Republican on the House Homeland
Security Committee said.

"You can't be saying, 'We're looking just at Arabs and Muslims
and look the other way at Irish immigrants or any other group,'"
King said.

He acknowledged the differences over immigration have caused
friction with some Irish groups. "I used to get their awards. Now
I'm public enemy No. 1 for some people," King said.

He noted that in the past, when there was fighting in Northern
Ireland, there was a fear that Irish citizens deported could be
detained or even tortured if they were sent home. King also
pointed to the growing Irish economy, which many believe has
cooled Irish immigration to the U.S.

Despite the strong economy, O'Dowd said Irish people still want
to emigrate to the U.S. because of longstanding personal

"There's a 200-year history that isn't going to go away anytime
soon," he said. "Irish people are still fascinated and still want
to come to America."

That history lives on in one Irish immigrant with whom the Hill
spoke through ILIR. Brian, who asked that his last name not be
used for fear of deportation, works as a plumber in New York and
originally came to the U.S. to visit an uncle. He overstayed a
tourist visa and will have been in the U.S. for nine years in
April. Brian married another Irish immigrant in 2005, and the
couple had a baby three weeks ago

"We could go back and do just as well in Ireland, but we like
this country," Brian said.


ILIR Members Get 'Bebo'

By April Drew

THE Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform (ILIR) draws on
traditional methods such as media, posters, word of mouth and its
website to reach out to people about its fight for immigration
reform, but a young Irish American girl has come up with a unique
way of communicating with the younger members of the Irish
community in the U.S. It's called Bebo.

Bernadette Gibbons, 19, of Queens, who describes herself as a
"product of immigration," is the daughter of George and Mary
Gibbons who emigrated from Ireland when they were in their

She told the Irish Voice that she became involved with ILIR
because she valued her freedom of being able to go back and forth
to Ireland with her family, so she decided she also wanted to see
Irish couples with families to also have an opportunity to return
to their homeland with their children.

"My heart goes out to those who have young kids and can't bring
them home to meet their family. As it stands, without immigration
reform, they have one of two choices- move back to Ireland or
stay here but can't do both," she said.

Gibbons, a journalism student, dancing teacher and part time
waitress, was first introduced to Bebo when her Irish cousins
send her an invitation to join. She set up her own personal
account and about a month ago she decided to give ILIR its own
Bebo site and 30 days later the site, at time of print, had been
viewed by 939 people and has 156 members. It is growing everyday.

"My aim is to get in touch with new young Irish who were very
involved with ILIR mainly at the beginning but sort of lost hope,
and today it's all about the internet so I thought it was better
than a flyer or a poster," she said.

Bebo, founded in January 2005, is a social networking website,
designed to allow friends to correspond in a variety of ways. It
has developed into an online community where users can post
pictures, write blogs and send messages to one another, and is
similar in format to MySpace. It is primarily used by Irish
citizens at home and abroad for keeping in touch.

"There are people from all over the U.S. now members of the ILIR
Bebo site," said Gibbons, who goes on to give say that she was in
contact with an Irish guy in San Francisco and because of the
site he discovered that their was a rally being held in his area,
which he later attended.

Gibbons never imagined in her wildest dreams that there would be
so much interest in the webpage.

"It's funny and great, a lot of people in Ireland are even
logging on. People are befriending us from all over, not just
undocumented, but people who are curious about the fight for
immigration reform," she commented.

In the profile section of the site, Gibbons writes about the ILIR
and it's members. "Underneath the t-shirts that you all have seen
and the articles you have read, are seas of undocumented Irish
that inhabit this great country," it reads.

Gibbons goes on to encourage fellow Irish men and women to get
involved in the fight for immigration reform by saying, "Your job
now is to get yourself involved. We are always looking for new
members because every extra hand helps. There are meetings held
weekly in both the Bronx as well as Queens. Let's stick together
as did our ancestors before us and together we will legalize the

Gibbons also created a poll to have a little fun with the members
but also to remind people about the upcoming Lobby day on March
7. The poll is named "Are you going to Washington," and she has
received an overwhelming 85% "Yes" answer.

The site also allows people to upload photos of ILIR events and
leave messages about the organization, ask questions and post up
upcoming dates nationwide, "basically anything to do with ILIR is
on that site," she said.

"People have even been leaving me messages in Gaelic," laughs
Gibbons, admitting that she has no idea what they say.

To log onto the ILIR Bebo site go to
It will be instantly recognizable by the green wallpaper and map
of Ireland and more noticeably the green card express bus logo,
chosen specifically to "draw peoples attention and get them
curious," explains Gibbons.


Opin: The Dice Are Loaded Against The Creation Of A Workable

[Published: Friday 2, March 2007 - 10:48]
By Eric Waugh

It is the sundering of the tribes that makes this election so
hard to call. Orange and green the issue may be. But within the
rival hives, the bees swarm with an angry buzz, while the bread
and honey issues, so vital to the people, are nowhere.

The DUP dilemma is clear. Paisley's party is charged with
breaking faith. Robert McCartney quotes the leader 10 months ago
as declaring that "the DUP will never enter into any Government
with IRA/Sinn Fein".

This is enough to spell danger for Paisley. One recalls the
soothsayer's warning to Caesar to 'beware the Ides of March'. If
the DUP maintains its vote and Paisley heads for the chamber to
take office, as Caesar headed for the Senate, the precedents of
Irish history will all be against him. The line from O'Connell,
through Redmond and Collins to O'Neill, Faulkner, Hume and
Trimble, is clear. Appearing to modify one's traditional line in
order to close a deal with the political enemy has invariably
proved fatal.

So we now behold a tug of war within the unionist conscience. On
one side stand the traditionalists, deeply disgusted at Paisley's
perceived readiness to bed down in office with McGuinness, and
tempted to vote for the UKUP - or to abstain - in protest; only
to be reproved by tacticians on the other side who allege that,
by so doing, they risk elevating McGuinness to First Minister.

On the green side, the SDLP stakes everything on recovering the
votes lost to Sinn Fein, the cuckoo it invited into the
nationalist nest. But Adams, like Paisley, will fear an
abstentionist protest, particularly west of the Bann. In this
election, as much will depend upon how many vote as upon how they
vote. In Northern Ireland, 90,000 fewer citizens voted in the
last general election in 2005 as did in 2001, the sharpest
decline of any UK region.

Ominously, the question on many lips is: what is this election
for? But even if one assumes that an Executive will be launched,
two challenges loom. The first is the parcel of issues demanding
decisions at once. Several are controversial. In the last
Assembly, the members ducked them - and then blamed direct-rule
ministers for taking decisions they did not like. It will not do
this time.

If they think they have a constructive policy on water charges,
rates and educational selection, let them spell it out. But
supporting 108 MLAs sitting one day a week to debate important
questions may not satisfy an electorate grown cynical with the
years. Maintaining the dynamic in democracy demands the smack of
firm government.

But is this possible when the Cabinet is headed by senior
ministers who have never spoken together - and, let us not cavil
here, hate each others' guts, and whose presence in Cabinet owes
absolutely nothing to the preferences of the Prime - or First -
Minister? In 1974, the pragmatic personalities of Faulkner and
Fitt rendered it possible until the outside pressures became too
great. But Paisley is no Faulkner and McGuinness is no Fitt.

Deepening the chill, of course, is the elephant in the room: the
fact that the nationalist parties who would share Government have
as their prime aim its destruction! Holding this view is no more
remarkable than a similar view held by the SNP in the Edinburgh
Parliament and Plaid Cymru in the Cardiff Assembly. The key
difference is that neither of these parties is in Government.
They are members of the opposition.

Stormont, though, has spawned its own diluted brand of democracy:
a peculiar species of pseudo-parliamentary government without an
opposition, invented by an obscure Belgian. Having ministers
inside Government, privy to all its secrets, those whose wish is
to destroy that Government and who, whatever their misdeeds or
sheer incompetence, themselves cannot be dismissed by the First
Minister has, unsurprisingly, never been tried anywhere else

The First Minister does not, as would be normal in a democracy,
appoint his ministers, or even have the right to express an
opinion to those who do. In fact, his new ministers owe him
absolutely nothing. Accordingly, at a stroke, the vital cement
has been chipped away which normally secures the structure of
Cabinet government. It is going to take a special dedication and
a very principled loyalty - by each party - to make this strange
construct work.

If that dedication and loyalty is denied, the new experiment will
fail. One hopes for success, but the system has loaded the dice
heavily the other way.

c Belfast Telegraph


Opin: Our Poll Is A Reality Check For All Parties

[Published: Friday 2, March 2007 - 10:54]

At almost every election in Northern Ireland's history the
paramount issue for most voters has been the constitutional
issue. That is likely to remain the case next Wednesday, but the
results of day two of the Ipsos-MORI poll for the Belfast
Telegraph suggests that bread and butter issues are starting to
exercise more minds.

The finding that the health service is seen by 30% as the key
issue facing Northern Ireland today is in part a reflection of
the shambolic state of our hospitals. Stories of lengthy waits in
accident and emergency units, or patients unable to find beds,
are now legion.

But the fact that the NHS weighs more heavily on voters' minds
than devolution or even the constitutional status of Northern
Ireland is significant. Times are changing and the reality is
that while nationalism still aspires to a united Ireland, all
parties now accept the will of the majority should prevail, and
that change can be pursued only by peaceful means.

The border question will always provide a backdrop but now that
it has been effectively parked, issues such as water charges, the
economy and education are starting to strike a chord.

Policing, paramilitarism and partnership have not gone away, but
as the peace process takes root, they no longer dominate the
election debate. As some commentators have suggested, it is as if
voters have already factored in the prospect, whether they like
it or not, that the DUP and Sinn Fein are poised to sign up for

The emergence of bread and butter politics is a healthy sign for
Northern Ireland, but it is also a reminder of the challenges
which lie ahead for any new executive. The parties have promised
to deliver, and they will be held to that pledge by a weary

After so many false dawns, the public is running out of patience
with the politicians. Indeed, the finding that the Taoiseach,
Bertie Ahern, is viewed more favourably than any of the local
political leaders reflects the level of disenchantment with the
main men of Ulster politics, not to mention Messrs Blair and

A further indication of mounting frustration among the public is
the overwhelming support for the Secretary of State's threat to
axe Assembly members' salaries if the devolution deadline is
missed. Across the community, 74% of voters want the plug to be
pulled if there is no agreement by March 26, and this should
concentrate the parties' minds and embolden Mr Hain.

As the poll indicates, Northern Ireland politics is in a state of
evolution, and the old certainties no longer apply. Most voters
will still exercise their franchise along constitutional lines
but the pressure on all the parties to address other issues is
increasing. And that in itself is a good sign.

c Belfast Telegraph


Opin: Cashing In On The American Role In The Ulster Economy

[Published: Friday 2, March 2007 - 11:11]
By Dean Pittman

Monday was a busy day at the Consulate. We had both the US
Ambassador to London, Robert Tuttle, and the US Ambassador to
Ireland, Tom Foley, visiting - a rare treat.

Both ambassadors come from private sector backgrounds and share a
strong belief in the positive role that business can play in the

The United States is so well known for its role in the peace
process, I think that sometimes the American role in the Northern
Ireland economy gets overlooked.

There are about 100 American companies here, making the US the
largest foreign investor in Northern Ireland. Since the mid-
1990s, the number of US companies here has increased by 150%.

Our major investors include Caterpillar, NTL, Moy Park and
Citicorp. A subsidiary of Caterpillar - FG Wilson - opened a
state-of-the-art plant in Larne in 1998. Within two years, they
had created almost 1,000 jobs. In Derry, the three largest
private sector employers are American - DuPont, Seagate and

In Kilkeel, American-owned BE Aerospace produces 40% of all
aeroplane seats world-wide and employs about 600 people. The
American company that bought it originally had the intention of
closing the business and selling off the equipment. But each year
the company's management showed itself to be more creative, more
innovative and more competitive. Now, instead of closing, there
is talk of expanding.

But Ambassadors Tuttle and Foley didn't come to talk just about
the role of overseas investment. They came instead to talk about
something they know well - the job and wealth creation that comes
from entrepreneurship.

On Monday, they launched the All Ireland Entrepreneur Network, an
exciting new initiative sponsored by Intertrade Ireland and
supported by business leaders across this island.

They met with the board of the US-Ireland Research and
Development Partnership, an effort begun in 2002 to co-ordinate
research among the United States, the Republic and Northern
Ireland, on issues ranging from the development of new
nanotechnology to the search for better treatments for diabetes
and cystic fibrosis.

Queen's University, Belfast, and the University of Ulster are
playing key roles in this co-operative effort. Finally, the
ambassadors met young folk from north and west Belfast who are
interested in learning about the benefits of entrepreneurship.

This group is part of the National Foundation for Teaching
Entrepreneurship (NFTE) Ireland, whose Northern Ireland programme
I launched at the Consulate last December.

I was amazed by their energy, enthusiasm and confidence. One
young fellow raced to greet Ambassador Bob Tuttle exclaiming:
"What about you, Bob!" We had to do a bit of Northern Ireland
translating for the ambassador on that one!

The point of the day was to talk about how important
entrepreneurship is to Northern Ireland's future. We depend on a
strong entrepreneurial spirit in the United States to drive our

Certainly, entrepreneurship has risks. You sometimes fail, but I
know the entrepreneurs I talk with find that valuable lessons are
learned through failure and those lessons often translate into
future successes.

The challenge for entrepreneurs in Northern Ireland, I
understand, is one of concern for local business people. Economic
figures show that Northern Ireland lags far behind the rest of
the UK and the Republic, Europe, and my own country in private
sector development. In Northern Ireland, the public sector
accounts for over 60% of the economy, a figure I'm told by
experts is too high.

By contrast, in the US the public sector only makes up about 15%
of the economy.

That's a huge difference. So, what really drives the US economy?
Small business - firms with fewer than 500 employees - provide
jobs for over half of the nation's private workforce.

Small businesses are job creators. The latest figures show that
small businesses create 75% of the net new jobs in our economy.
Small businesses represent 99.7% of all firms. The 23 million
small businesses in the US are located in virtually every
neighbourhood and make up 97% of exporters and produce 29% of all
export value. Family businesses contribute almost one-third of
our economy.

What's more, many of the huge American firms that have become
household names - Starbucks, Hewlett Packard, Microsoft, Walmart
- all started life as small businesses.

Their founders, like great entrepreneurs from this side of the
Atlantic like Richard Branson or Michael Ryan, will tell you that
while government can play a role in small business development
(and Invest Northern Ireland's Go For It campaign is a great
start!) the single most important element is developing a culture
that encourages taking risks and applauds success.

I always say here at the Consulate that part of our role is to
shine a light on Northern Ireland's many successes, be they the
peace process, a new beginning to policing, or the recent
increase in tourism. Where I come from, we talk about folks who
like to keep their light hidden under a bushel. Sometimes I
suspect Northern Ireland hides its own light too much. That's why
it was a great pleasure on Monday for our ambassadors to join me
in applauding Northern Ireland's impressive entrepreneurs - from
Gerry McCaughey and Ed Vernon, both of whom are committing their
time to the entrepreneurial network, to the amazing young people
NFTE is helping launch a gardening business on the Shankill.

With enough encouragement, we hope their example will inspire
others in creating a prosperous future for Northern Ireland.

c Belfast Telegraph


Ahern Tops Popularity Poll Ahead Of Ulster's Leaders

[Published: Friday 2, March 2007 - 09:22]
By Chris Thornton

Bertie Ahern emerged as the most popular political leader among
Northern Ireland people in today's poll results - the second time
he's come tops in a Belfast Telegraph poll.

Mr Ahern ranked ahead of other political leaders in a similar
poll two years ago.

But his top rating isn't that much to boast about - he and every
other leader got stronger negative reactions than positive ones.

For example, Mr Ahern got a favourable response from 27% of the
people polled, putting him ahead of Ian Paisley and Gerry Adams.

One factor in his popularity could be the limited role he has in
decisions that directly affect voters here.

But 35%, mainly Protestants, rated the Taoiseach unfavourably.

Catholic respondents were mainly responsible for Mr Ahern's

They gave him a 45% favourable rating, ahead of both Northern
nationalist leaders, Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams and SDLP
leader Mark Durkan.

No leader got as strong a positive reaction among Protestants,
although Ian Paisley was their clear favourite with 40%
favourable ratings.

That helped Mr Paisley finish second overall with a 23%
favourable rating.

Mr Adams finished third with 21%.

Secretary of State Peter Hain got the lowest favourable rating.
Just over one in 10 voters gave him a positive response.

Both Mr Paisley and Mr Adams got the strongest unfavourable
ratings - 53% each - thanks to heavy negative responses from the
other community. A total of 77% of Protestants gave Mr Adams a
negative rating and three out of four Catholics felt the same
about Mr Paisley.

Prime Minister Tony Blair's negatives were just as strong - due
mainly to a strong Protestant reaction against him. Two-thirds of
Protestants were unhappy with him.

The Prime Minister actually got a stronger favourable rating from
Catholic respondents than Protestants.

UUP leader Sir Reg Empey may be the leader who will have the most
concern about these findings - his negative ratings among
Protestants were nearly as strong as his positives.

c Belfast Telegraph

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