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March 24, 2007

Delayed Rosemary Nelson's Inquiry Costs £12m

News about Ireland & the Irish

IT 03/23/07 Rosemary Nelson Inquiry Has Cost £12m
BB 03/23/07 Is British Rule About To End In Ireland?
AN 03/23/07 Assembly Recall Too Close To Call
BN 03/23/07 Economic Package Not Enough, Says Paisley
IT 03/23/07 NIO Places Conditions On UDA Grant
BB 03/23/07 Can Paisley See Forest For Trees?
BN 03/23/07 Public To Pay If Unionists Refuse To Form Government
BN 03/23/07 Pope Tells McAleese World Needs Peace Process To Work
IT 03/23/07 Ahern Welcomes US Immigration Bill
IV 03/23/07 My Attempt To Change His Mind
BT 03/23/07 Opin: Devolution Or Dissolution?
AN 03/23/07 Bets Laid To See Who’ll Play Paisley On Big Screen


Rosemary Nelson Inquiry Has Cost œ12m

Sat, Mar 24, 2007

A delayed inquiry into Catholic solicitor Rosemary Nelson's
murder has cost nearly œ12 million, Northern Ireland Secretary
Peter Hain revealed today.

And the bill for the Bloody Sunday tribunal in Derry is also
continuing to rise - now topping œ176 million.

Mr Hain disclosed the level of spending as he confirmed another
œ390,000 went on a critical three-day political talks session in
St Andrews, Scotland.

But it was the financial resources which have already gone into
the attempt to establish the truth around Mrs Nelson's killing
which most outraged unionist critics.

The lawyer and mother-of-three died in a car bombing outside her
home in Lurgan, Co Armagh in March 1999.

Even though loyalist paramilitaries planted the device,
allegations of security force collusion were strong enough for
retired Canadian Judge Peter Cory to recommend an inquiry into
her assassination and three other controversial murders in
Northern Ireland.

Yet full hearings in the Nelson case, at first due to begin in
Spring 2006 and then again in January, have been delayed due to
huge workloads.

With September pencilled in as the next possible date for public
evidence sessions to get under way, a Democratic Unionist MP
called for the Government to pull the plug.

Mr Hain disclosed the level of spending in response to a
parliamentary question.

With Lord Saville still to publish a report on his tribunal into
Bloody Sunday, when 14 civilians were killed after paratroopers
opened fire following a civil rights march in Derry in January
1972, Mr Hain confirmed its overall costs had reached œ176.2

And there was a œ390,000 bill for the all-party political talks
in Scotland last October, which led to the St Andrews Agreement
blueprint for restoring a power-sharing administration in

Those costs are to be jointly shared with the Irish Government,
Mr Hain added.

c 2007


Is British Rule About To End In Ireland? If It Is, It's Only A

Deadlines, deals and devolution

By Martina Purdy
BBC Northern Ireland political correspondent

That's because a power-sharing deal on devolution this weekend
will lead to devolution at midnight on Sunday, but no affirmation
of ministers until noon on Monday.

So for 12 hours there would be no secretary of state at the helm
and no local ministers in place. That leaves Northern Ireland
adrift for half a day.

So we will be waking up to anarchy, one journalist asked?

"No," said a smiling civil servant, "you'll still have us."

A DUP man just laughed, while a republican joked that he would be
running a tricolour up the pole at Stormont, adding: "It's a
planned coup d'etat."

Given that the cynics think the civil servants ran the show for
years anyway, will anyone even notice the gap?

All the same, what happens after the noon deadline on Monday
could changes things, utterly.

One DUP man suggested three months of hell would follow. More
like a marriage made in purgatory, others might say.

As the DUP leader keeps everyone guessing about his intentions
(does he even know himself?), civil servants are busily preparing
the ceremony for a political union between unionism and

The Sinn Féin leader, Gerry Adams, has already nominated Martin

If Ian Paisley, after meeting his executive, sends a letter at
the weekend to the secretary of state nominating himself for the
post of first minister, then the assembly proceedings are due to
begin at noon on Monday.

Appropriately enough, the first item is two minutes of prayers.

This will be followed by the speaker's business.

Eileen Bell could invite Trevor Lunn, the newly elected Alliance
member who has yet to sign the member's register, to do so.

As the assembly failed to pass new standing orders, the secretary
of state will have to direct the speaker on this matter.

Peter Hain could simply direct that the assembly to use the
standing orders that were voted on this past week.

After that, the speaker is expected to invite Ian Paisley and
Martin McGuinness to affirm the pledge of office.

Once that happens, the d'Hondt process for selecting the other 10
ministers is run.

Ian Paisley is expected to select Peter Robinson at the helm of
the finance portfolio.

Gerry Adams, with second choice, could opt for education but the
party is not saying what it will do.

The DUP has third choice, followed by the Ulster Unionists, the
SDLP, Sinn Féin, DUP, Sinn Féin, DUP, and finally the Ulster
Unionists again.

The speaker is then due to invite nominations for a replacements,
plus new deputies.

The speaker will have to be confirmed by a weighted majority of
60% including 40% of nationalists and unionists.

Other business includes formalising the business committee and
appointing a Stormont commission to run the estate.

An adjournment then follows to allow the business committee to
agree a timetable for other matters, including the appointment of
committees on Tuesday or Wednesday.

Interestingly, there is provision for an executive meeting on
Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday next week, but there is some
speculation in political circles that it might not happen for a

The DUP is known to be focusing on transitional arrangements.

It is thought that the rules do not prevent the executive meeting
being delayed as it could only be held if the first and deputy
first minister agrees.

Might Ian Paisley insist on a period of weeks or months to
negotiate by proxy the Programme for Government and to test the
republican commitment to policing and other matters?

He could then have the executive meeting in late April or early
May, an image that would only be captured after he was satisfied
the new institutions were operating well.

In the meantime, Sinn Féin ministers could bed down but big
decisions would await executive approval.


This could give the DUP leader time to steady nerves in his party
which are said to be frayed in some quarters over the prospect of
devolution next week.

One DUP executive member said he would be at Saturday's meeting
even if he had to go "on his knees."

He intends to vote "no" to devolution but this does not mean he
will leave the party. "I didn't say that," he said.

The good news for the DUP leadership is that resignations from
the assembly team have no affect on Monday's nomination of
ministers as the selection will be based on the DUP's 36-strong

What will Sinn Féin have to say about a transitional period?

Provided it is not too long the republican leadership may show
some patience.

That would go out the window, however, if the government
attempted to change existing legislation.

The delay in the executive meeting could be done within the
rules, although Downing Street may be most displeased.

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2007/03/23 16:01:11 GMT


Assembly Recall Too Close To Call

Andersonstown News
By Evan Short

MLAs from the main political parties have given an upbeat
assessment of the chances of devolution taking place next week.

According to the local representatives, the manner in which the
Assembly has been working this week suggests that all parties are
ready to enter into government, despite there being continued
negativity about its chances from the DUP.

Basil McCrea from the Ulster Unionist Party said it was odds-on
that MLAs would be sitting in a new Assembly.

"All the signs show it is going to happen. The mood music in the
Assembly is that people are co-operating and that can only be
with a view to some sort of deal being sorted out. I would say
its about 80 per cent certain that it is going to sit on March

The Lagan Valley MLA said from what he had seen happening over
the last number of days, the signs were positive.

"Just the general sort of thing I saw between the parties and how
they are being conciliatory to each other in the assembly in
Stormont suggested it would happen.

"In our way of going, both of us know that if we want to go and
upset the other side it is quite easy to do, so if you're not
doing it, it is because you don't want to do it and they [The DUP
and Sinn Féin] are not doing it - they are getting on," he said.

Also viewing the prospects positively was Sinn Féin's Fra McCann.
He looked to the progress that was made this week at Stormont as
a marker for the future.

"It's difficult to call but I think its difficult to see how it
wouldn't come about. There doesn't seem to be anyone being
negative because if you listened to the DUP yesterday in most of
the discussions that were going on in the Assembly itself, it
appears that they are preparing for government and we hope they


"I think we have all come too far to look back. From our point of
view it is urgent that things get back up and running as quickly
as possible.

"We held a number of discussions on legislation regarding
standing orders that were discussed and voted through. Also, we
discussed the duty and conduct of Assembly people and the Office
of the First Minister and Deputy First Minister. By and large,
everything went okay. It was a productive meeting. We all live in
hope - I don't think we can do anything else," he said.

Displaying more caution was West Belfast SDLP MLA Alex Attwood,
who described the chances as "too close to call".

"There are some good indicators and there are some negative
indicators," he said. "The meeting between Blair and Paisley may
well be critical but I suspect they are about to enter into what
always happens on these occasions - that it is going to go right
up to the wire and that you are going to see the British Prime
Minister to-and-fro between the parties to see if this can be got
over the line.

Up and running

"We are going to be subject to another pantomime and the truth of
the matter is if the unionist leadership, and the DUP in
particular, had accepted their responsibilities long ago, and if
the republican movement had done what they were meant to do long
ago, we would long ago have had government up and running and
serving the needs of the North."

Showing even less confidence was Edwin Poots from the DUP. He
said there still had to be movement from Sinn Féin on the
policing issue before they could consider entering into

"I would doubt it unless things significantly change. Ultimately
Sinn Féin have to accept policing and the rule of law in all its
forms. Clearly there were caveats put in place and those caveats
have to be dealt with."

He also cited lack of an agreed financial package as a stumbling

"Peter Hain is producing a lot of stick and not an awful lot of
carrot. Unless he substantially changes that approach over the
next three days it will fail. The benefits to the people of
Northern Ireland have not been clearly demonstrated to date."


Economic Package Not Enough, Says Paisley

24/03/2007 - 00:39:03

British Chancellor Gordon Brown needs to improve on the offer
made to an incoming Northern Executive, Ian Paisley insisted last

As he prepared to leave for London for crucial talks with British
Prime Minister Tony Blair on plans to reactivate power-sharing
next Monday, the Democratic Unionist leader told a business
conference in Belfast Mr Brown's economic package would not
produce the change needed for a dynamic economy in the North.

He also accused Mr Brown of sleight of hand by announcing an
additional œ1bn (?1.5bn) for the incoming Stormont government,
when in reality œ400m (?590.4m) of that money came from the Irish

He also urged the Federation of Small Business to support
politicians in the North in their bid to secure a better package
which also addressed more favourable Corporation Tax levels.

"Progress has been made in some areas," he said. "But I do not
believe there is anything in the present proposals of the
Chancellor which will lead to the step change in the economy that
is needed and which will close the gap with the rest of the UK.

"Additional money for roads or to allow some time for
reconsideration of water charges is one thing. What is really
needed are measures which will allow our economy to grow in
future years and be less of an economic drag on the rest of the
United Kingdom."

Pressure is mounting on the Democratic Unionist Party to give the
green light to a new era of power-sharing in the North.

However the party has insisted it still needs more clarity on the
attitude of Sinn Féin to co-operating with the police in the
North as well as a better economic package from the British

The DUP's 120-member party executive is due to meet in Belfast in
what is being billed as the most critical debate in the history
of the party.

Northern Secretary Peter Hain will need a signal from Mr Paisley
by midnight on Saturday that he intends to nominate ministers.

If a power-sharing government is not formed, Mr Brown's peace
dividend for the new Executive will be withdrawn and the Assembly
will close down, with British ministers continuing to push
through controversial plans for water charges, the end of
academic selection and rural planning restrictions.


NIO Places Conditions On UDA Grant

Fri, Mar 23, 2007

The Northern Ireland Office has said a grant of œ1.2m (?1.76
million) of public money designated for a project aimed at moving
the loyalist Ulster Defence Association away from violence will
be witheld unless offending is reduced by the paramilitary

A spokesman for the NIO made the comments after a senior PSNI
officer confirmed that the UDA is "still involved" in criminal
activity a day after the British government announced details of
the financial package.

"This is exactly the kind of criminality the initiative is
intended to tackle.," the spokesman said.

"Continued funding is conditional on clear evidence that the
levels of criminality are reducing," he said.

Detective Superintendent Esmond Adair's disclosure that there was
significant evidence of the UDA being involved in extortion has
increased pressure on Northern Ireland Secretary Peter Hain to
abandon the planned grant for their advisors in the Ulster
Political Research Group.

Speaking on the BBC's Nolan Show, Mr Adair said there was
"significant evidence the UDA are involved in extortion."

"We are very aware that extortion is rife in Northern Ireland. It
is a vastly under-reported crime. We reckon that only 1-3% of
extortion is actually reported to police."

The SDLPs Alban Maginness has said it would be indecent of the
British to hand over public money to the UPRG following the
latest security assessment.

He said: "Quite simply, this grant can't go ahead. This huge sum
of money cannot be paid out to representatives of an organisation
which has not decommissioned and is actively using its armed
force to extort vast amounts of money.

"It cannot be paid to an organisation which confirmed on the very
day the grant was announced that decommissioning is not even on
its agenda.

"This direct rule bribe is indecent and it drags our whole
political system into disrepute. It must be stopped immediately."

With the UDA directly blamed, Mr Maginness insisted the money
offer had to be withdrawn. "Today we got direct confirmation from
a senior police officer that the UDA is still engaged in
extortion of businessmen," he said.

"In fact, we also got confirmation from a businessman that one
victim is paying the UDA œ92,000 on a convenient instalment plan
of œ700 a week.

"Only a tiny fraction of their extortion is being reported and
the paramilitaries are so confident of avoiding detection that
they are actually prepared to accept cheques."

c 2007


Can Paisley See Forest For Trees?

By Gareth Gordon
BBC NI political correspondent

There's a scene in the film Forrest Gump which, according to one
DUP stalwart, accurately sums up the relationship between the
party and its one, and so far only, leader.

Drill sergeant: "Gump! What's your sole purpose in this army?"

Forest Gump: "To do whatever you tell me, drill sergeant!"

Drill sergeant: "God damn it, Gump! You're a god damn genius!"

That may be slightly unfair to fine political brains like Peter
Robinson and Nigel Dodds who have certainly flourished under Ian
Paisley's leadership, but you get the point.

For all of his party's existence it's been Paisley's way or the
highway. And with one or two notable exceptions that's been just
fine by most.

But the drill sergeant may be about to ask his party to do
something most thought they would never have to do - go into
government with their arch-enemies in Sinn Féin.

"Doc's mad keen, keener than Peter," says one source who remains
to be convinced such a course of action is the right course.

What if we jump now and there's another Colombia or another
Northern Bank. We're going to look very stupid

DUP source

The reason for such a road to Damascus conversion is the source
of much speculation within the party and without. The various
theories go like this...

Could it be, wonder some, that he's been apprised of the
consequences of not doing the deal and it's too awful a vista for
him to even share with his party?

Could it be that he woke up one morning and decided to lead his
people to the promised land at the twilight of his political

Or could it be that he's "power hungry"? Unlikely, say those who
believe that if that was his motivation, he'd have done it a long
time ago.

Whatever the explanation most people are agreed that Ian Paisley
has reached the point of doing the unthinkable and completing a
remarkable political journey well ahead of some of those who have
been every inch of the way with him.

"I'm having sleepless nights," says one elected representative.

"What if we jump now and there's another Colombia or another
Northern Bank. We're going to look very stupid."

Another says they might resign unless there's eleventh-hour
progress on issues like Sinn Féin's attitude to policing, a
default mechanism for dealing with parties who break the Stormont
rules or a financial package to smooth the passage into

Ian Paisley is caught between the devil of Tony Blair's
devolution demand and the deep blue sea of his party deal
sceptics. He may decide to play for time yet again

Gareth Gordon

"I was elected on the slogan of 'Getting It Right'. Well, how can
I go back to my constituency and explain to those who voted for
me that we got it wrong?"

But don't make the mistake of assuming the DUP could be heading
for an Ulster Unionist-style implosion. This is not the Ulster
Unionist Party and such comments as those above are made more in
sorrow than in anger.

No-one in the DUP mutters any dark thoughts about Ian Paisley in
the way that marked much of the open hostility in the Ulster
Unionists towards David Trimble.

"So many people owe Doc so much - none of this is personal," says
one, "it's not a question of trusting the Doc."

If Doc decides to push this through he will win, there's not the
slightest bit of doubt about that, He won't even have to play his
ace card - 'back me or sack me'

DUP source

Likewise, whatever he thinks his party should do now, the last
thing Ian Paisley wants to risk is party unity.

That's why a crunch meeting of the officers went on to midnight
this week trying to agree a position everyone could buy into
while getting them over the tricky problem of getting around a
government deadline for devolution which has, so far, proved
stubbornly resistant to slippage.

The issue could come to a head at a meeting of the party's ruling
executive on Saturday. "It's the most important meeting the DUP
has ever held," said one representative.

Ian Paisley is caught between the devil of Tony Blair's
devolution demand and the deep blue sea of his party deal
sceptics. He may decide to play for time yet again.

Yet even those less convinced than he of doing the deal concede
that where the DUP is concerned he can choose his next step in
the certainty of victory.

"If Doc decides to push this through he will win, there's not the
slightest bit of doubt about that, He won't even have to play his
ace card - 'back me or sack me'," said one.

Those who don't like it and may be contemplating a future beyond
the DUP need only look at the recent derisory election results of
those former party members who stood on an anti-St Andrews

Of course the even more famous line from Forrest Gump goes,
"Life's a box of chocolates... you never know what you're gonna

At least two separate movie makers are said to be interested in
bringing Ian Paisley's life story to the big screen. They'd be
wise to wait before scripting the ending... they never know what
they're gonna get.

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2007/03/23 18:50:12 GMT


Public To Pay If Unionists Refuse To Form Government

23/03/2007 - 16:20:59

Controversial water bills will be posted to homes in the North in
four days time if unionists refuse to form a power-sharing
government, it emerged tonight.

As the Rev Ian Paisley met Prime Minister Tony Blair in London
for crisis talks, government sources confirmed the bills have
already been put into envelopes and will be issued next Tuesday
if there is no devolved executive.

And they also warned Assembly members if they failed to form a
power-sharing administration on Monday, they will not receive a
single penny for their work.

"The parties should be under no illusion," a source told the
Press Association.

"The water bills are being enveloped today and they will be
posted on Tuesday if there is no executive.

"If they want to stop the charges, if they want to avail of the
œ70m (?103.3m) the Treasury is offering to defer the charges,
they will have to form an executive on Monday.

"If they refuse to appoint ministers, the Assembly will close
down and MLAs will not receive any salaries or allowances."

With Northern Secretary Peter Hain setting a deadline of midnight
tomorrow for the Democratic Unionists to confirm they will
nominate the Rev Ian Paisley as first minister, pressure mounted
on the party to give the green light to power sharing.

DUP sources insisted there were still a number of issues to be
resolved before the party could commit itself to power sharing by
Monday's deadline at tomorrow's meeting of the 120-member party
executive in Belfast.

It is understood the party is reluctant to have a cabinet meeting
within 48 hours of the power sharing executive being formed,
although Sinn Féin economic spokesperson Mitchel McLaughlin
insisted it would have to take place if ministers were to stop
the water charges.

A DUP source said: "We're not so sure that is the case.

"The talks we are having now are exploring a number of ways to
access the Chancellor's multi-billion pound economic package and
stop water charges."

Concerns have been mounting outside the DUP about Mr Paisley's
ability to persuade some senior party colleagues, including Derry
MP Gregory Campbell, that the time is right to go into government
with Sinn Féin.

Before he and his colleagues Peter Robinson and Nigel Dodds left
for talks with the prime minister, Mr Paisley told a business
conference in Belfast his party was still holding out for a deal
which would deliver stable and enduring government and where all
ministers including Sinn Féin's were fully committed to the rule
of law.

The DUP leader insisted the chancellor's economic package of
œ51bn (?75bn) over 10 years, including œ36bn (?53bn) over four
was too stingy and he accused Mr Brown of a slight of hand over
claims he had found an extra œ1bn (?1.5bn), noting œ400m (?590m)
of it was actually Government money.

"I would go so far as to contend that the financial package is
unfair because the UK Exchequer is getting off lightly in
proportion to the capital investment on offer from the Republic
of Ireland," the North Antrim MP said.

"The Treasury has to realise that it has to be generous, not
stingy in this regard and this slight of hand which the
chancellor used to put the money in with that of Ireland's
(money) and then tell the people we're doing a good job, we need
more than Republic of Ireland euro, we need the British Exchequer
to start making sacrifices for the people of Northern Ireland."


Pope Tells McAleese The World Needs Northern Peace Process To

23/03/2007 - 15:25:58

The world needs the Northern Ireland peace process to work to
show that Christians can co-exist together, Pope Benedict said

The Pontiff made his comments during a 35-minute meeting with
President Mary McAleese in the Vatican.

Mrs McAleese's spokesman said after this morning's Vatican talks:
"The peace process in Northern Ireland was discussed and the Pope
said that the world needed this process to work and emphasised
the importance of Christians working together, demonstrating that
reconciliation can work."

According to President McAleese, the Pope also indicated that the
Irish bishops had invited him to visit Ireland and he added: "We
must see what is possible."

The President told him: "I, the Irish people and the Government
would welcome this visit and support it in every way possible."

During her visit to Italy, Mrs McAleese also met the President of
Italy, Giorgio Napoletano, and attended engagements at the
Pontifical Irish College and the Dominican Community in Rome.

She also met Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone and addressed the EU
Bishops Conference to mark the 50th anniversary of the Treaty of


Ahern Welcomes US Immigration Bill

Fri, Mar 23, 2007

Minister for Foreign Affairs Dermot Ahern has welcomed an
immigration bill in the United States that he said would
regularise the status of thousands of undocumented Irish
immigrants there.

The bill - which was introduced in the House of Representatives
yesterday - seeks to combine tough border security and workplace
enforcement measures with other programmes that the authors said
will end the flow of illegal immigrants into the United States.

"Rather than . . . targeting Windex-wielding cleaning ladies, or
wasting millions of dollars on failed strategies of the past, our
bill offers real solutions," said Representative Luis Gutierrez,
an Illinois Democrat.

The bill would create a new conditional non-immigrant status for
millions of illegal immigrants with a visa that would let them
work and live in the country while they seek permanent status and
eventual citizenship.

Mr Ahern said: "Although the legislative situation is fluid and
the final outcome uncertain, the introduction of the bipartisan
bill in the House marks a significant advance in the debate."

In an effort to head off opposition from some conservative
Republicans and others who said similar legislation last year was
an amnesty that rewarded illegal behaviour, bipartisan sponsors
pointed to requirements such as paying fines, taxes and learning

The bill would require illegal immigrants to exit the United
States and re-enter legally during their conditional status

That provision drew fire from at least one group that said it it
was impractical to force millions of people to do that.

Comprehensive immigration reform failed last year in the face of
stiff opposition from a group of House Republicans opposed to
giving legal status to those who entered the country illegally.

But with Democrats now in control of Congress and President Bush
backing an overhaul of the existing laws, the bill's sponsors see
a good chance of enacting legislation this year.

More than half of the estimated 12 million illegal immigrants in
the United States are Mexicans. The House last year passed and
Bush signed legislation to build 1,100 kilometres of fence along
the US border with Mexico.

c 2007


My Attempt To Change His Mind

By Samantha Melia

A SMALL lobby group who arrived on Capitol Hill for the Irish
Lobby for Immigration Reform (ILIR) lobby day on March 7 after a
4 a.m. start in the Bronx were asked by the group's fiery
charismatic Vice Chairman Ciaran Staunton to head to an
appointment with Congressman Thaddeus McCotter from Michigan in
the Longworth building.

We rushed through the snow, and as I knew was that he was a
Republican I was nervous that he might oppose the Kennedy/

McCain bill. The truth was I had never heard of him before our
lobby day.

Mary Maguire, Brian Murray and my husband Liam made up our small
but determined group as we knocked on the door and made our way
in our shining new Legalize the Irish t-shirts, with our bright,
cheerful and what probably sounded like very thick brogues to the
staffers inside.

We were a little late for our appointment and apologized
immediately, they understood it was snowing outside. They
informed us that McCotter's immigration aide Lisa Subrise was on
the phone and would be only a minute.

I quickly glanced around the room and my heart soared as I
immediately honed in on what I assumed where three treasured
items to the congressman, but where now even more treasured to

The first was a large framed poster of the Pogues. Congressman
McCotter is a big fan, his staffers said when we pointed it out.
The second was an Irish Tricolor flag standing stiff and proud in
a glass cabinet, and last but certainly not least was a large
bold sign nailed to the wall stating "No Irish Need Apply."

Now when I saw this I assumed the congressman was determined to
remind himself and others of a time in America when the Irish
were treated as second class citizens and how hard his ancestors
had it in their day.

I couldn't believe our luck it was the very same sentence that
was the headline on the leaflet thousands of Irish and Irish
Americans were handing out all across Capitol Hill, and I was
holding in my hand, No Irish Need Apply. When it comes to legal
status, how could be possibly disagree?

Moments later Lisa was off the phone and introduced herself, and
we went in to the office to talk. As Lisa was wearing a Claddagh
ring, Brian asked her about her connection to Ireland she told us
she studied at University College Galway. As Brian is a Galway
city native they talked about people and bars they both knew.

Now I was getting even more excited. However when the talk turned
serious we learned to our shock that the congressman was firmly
against the Kennedy/

McCain bill.

For the next 55 minutes we explained our case. How the 1965
Immigration and Nationality Act stopped Ireland receiving a set
number of green cards a year, how extremely difficult a process
it is to get legalized, how the Irish neighborhoods across
America were in danger of dying off completely.

How Irish Gaelic football, dancing, arts, culture and music was
dwindling away, and how this bill was our savoir. I passionately
explained how the congressman's relations who hailed from Clare,
the staffers think would not have been able to immigrate to
America under the current legislation.

I appealed for a fresh new look at the bill, which they said did
not have enforcement and border control we pointed out that
indeed it did.

The most disheartening of all, however, was that Lisa stressed
that the congressman was opposed to "amnesty" in any form, which
is how he sees this bill.

Not so fast! We went on to explain it is earned legalization, a
fine, a background check and then to the back of the line for
green cards and citizenship. That's not amnesty, but a sensible,
fair and humane solution to the problem which would guarantee the
Irish connection with America.

In the middle of all this Congressman McCotter himself appeared
and shook all our hands but left quickly. Apparently the King of
Jordan was in Washington, or maybe he overheard us and avoided
us. I really am not sure.

The one thing I am sure of, though, is that I did not waste my
time taking the day off work and going to Washington, nor
fighting our case in the office that day. I would talk to the
minds we have to change all day because I believe that we can.

Not for one minute when Congressman McCotter looked at that bill
for the first time did he believe that four young Irish
immigrants would come into his office lobbying for it, and yet
they did.

When we were leaving it was on a positive note, as Lisa expressed
the bill had not come in its final form from the Senate to the
House yet, and as I said he might vote for it yet for the sake of
the Irish. Stranger things have happened.

My small team are going to e-mail and write to Congressman Mc-
Cotter urging him to help keep the Irish in America and remind
him of the lyrics of a Pogues song: "Thou-sands are sailing
across the western ocean where the hand of opportunity draws
tickets in a lottery."

McCotter is the hand of opportunity, and by voting for the bill
he will be giving me mine.


Opin: Devolution Or Dissolution?

[Published: Friday 23, March 2007 - 11:14]

Can we get devolved goverment by Monday - and will it work?
Politics professor Rick Wilford weighs the prospects

Peter Hain's oft-repeated statement that the March 26 deadline
for the restoration of devolution is non-negotiable should, it
seems, concentrate minds. The Secretary of State's mantra, "it's
devolution or dissolution" , has been echoed by his southern
counterpart, Dermot Ahern, the British and Irish premiers, and
the chorus of junior ministers in the Northern Ireland Office at
almost every available opportunity. All are clearly singing from
the same, by now rather crumpled, hymn sheet.

Though sceptics may be forgiven for wearing a wry smile - given
that the peace process has been characterised by, among other
things, the elasticity of its deadlines - that smile is unlikely
to linger.

If the Secretary of State is to be believed, then unless the
process of nominating the First and Deputy Ministers and their 10
ministerial 'colleagues' is completed on Monday, which includes
each of them taking the revised Pledge of Office, then he is
required by the St Andrews Act to revoke the Restoration Order at
midnight and direct rule, under the joint stewardship of London
and Dublin, will be implemented for an indefinite period.

In short, there is no obvious soft landing unless, that is, there
is new legislation. Apart from anything else, such legislation
would have to find time on the parliamentary timetable - and time
is a resource which is in short supply at Westminster. That said,
as a former Leader of the House of Commons, Mr Hain is savvy
enough to know that as parliament proposes so, too, it disposes.


If the restoration of devolution is judged to be within touching
distance by Monday, then a short delay could be justified, even
though it would cause the Secretary of State some considerable

For the moment, though, the Secretary of State has to be taken at
his word, which confronts the DUP with a stark choice. While some
among its number may prefer direct rule to a devolved
administration that includes republicans, whether or not they are
reconstructed, it won't be direct rule as we know it.

Come the results of the looming general election in the south,
the as yet undefined role for the Irish Government could enable
the involvement of Sinn Féin ministers/junior ministers in the
joint stewardship arrangements that Plan B may entail, without
being subject to the new north-south accountability mechanisms
that the DUP was at pains to secure during the negotiations at St

Irrespective of the composition of a new Irish Government, the
absence of accountability by a joint stewardship regime to local
politicians is hardly a recipe for sound governance and could be
profoundly destabilising.

Moreover, the implementation of the well-flagged and radical
policy agenda set by the NIO, including water charges, the new
rating system, the reform of public administration, and the
ending of academic selection, would be prosecuted with vigour,
indeed relish.

There are, in short, a range of sticks that we all understand
will be wielded by Mr Hain and his colleagues should devolution
fail to be restored. Equally, there is a range of incentives to
entice our recently elected MLAs back into office, not least some
sort of financial package from the Treasury, supplemented by
Dublin, and the prospect of ameliorating the effects of water
charges and the new rating system so that the pips in our pockets
won't squeak quite so loudly.

While the sight of party leaders trooping in like a succession of
Oliver Twists to see Gordon Brown may seem unedifying, such is
the real politik of Northern Ireland's financial dependency,
whether under devolution or direct rule.


Though it is the case that our political leaders can exert
significant leverage on the British exchequer in the run-up to
Monday, only the most naive will believe that the Chancellor,
fresh from delivering his 11th and probably final Budget, will
dispense a gift wrapped package with no strings attached: don't
forget that the favourite word in the Treasury's vocabulary is

Let us, though, assume that sweet-ish reasonableness does prevail
among our prospective governing parties - aided by some modest
largesse from London and Dublin - sufficient to allow a new
power-sharing Executive to be established by March 26.

How will it work? Indeed, can it work? This is where one reaches
for the proverbial political anorak to identify in what respects
the St Andrews template differs from both the original 1998
Agreement and the failed Comprehensive Agreement of December
2004. More particularly, one needs to focus on the procedural
changes agreed at St Andrews, especially those designed to
achieve more cohesion within the nascent Executive.

Under the terms of the 1998 Agreement, the nominees for the co-
equal posts of First and Deputy First Minister, David Trimble and
Seamus Mallon, were subject to a cross-community ratifying vote
in the Assembly, as was the later pairing of Trimble and Mark
Durkan, albeit amid some procedural shenanigans involving the
temporary re-designation of three Alliance members and both of
the Women's Coalition MLAs.

Thereafter, each minister was nominated via the D'Hondt mechanism
in accordance with the respective seat strengths of the Assembly
parties. That procedure was abandoned in the failed Comprehensive
Agreement which instead would have required the Assembly to
endorse the whole 12 member Executive, not just the First and
Deputy First Ministers, by means of a cross-community vote,
thereby endowing it with inter-communal legitimacy.

At St Andrews, however, the parties agreed to dispense with any
such legitimising vote. Instead, the nominating officer of the
DUP as the largest party will nominate Dr Paisley as First
Minister, his equivalent in SF, as the second largest party, will
nominate Martin McGuinness as Deputy First Minister, each of whom
will take the (revised) ministerial pledge of office.


Then the nominating officer of each of the eligible parties will,
in D'Hondt governed order, nominate a minister (and his/her
department) from within its ranks until all 10 ministerial
positions are filled. This will yield six unionist ministers (4
DUP and 2 UUP) and four nationalist ministers (3 SF and 1 SDLP),
each of whom must take the ministerial pledge of office. Thus,
together with Messrs Paisley and McGuinness, there will be a 7:5
unionist: nationalist balance within the full Executive.

So, unlike the two previous Agreements, instead of a ratifying
vote, there will be a joint coronation of the First and Deputy
First Ministers and the anointment of the other ministers via

While this is a signal departure from prior arrangements, whether
actual or proposed, what it shares in common with the first
Assembly is that we will not know the identity of the ministers
or their preferred departments until the D'Hondt process is run -
apart, that is, from the DUP's already signalled first choice
(and it gets first pick in the ministerial pecking order as the
largest party), of Finance and Personnel, with Peter Robinson the
likely minister holding the purse strings.

Given that there have been no inter-party negotiations over the
division of the ministerial spoils, this process of Executive
formation can be likened to the pulling of political straws.

With the business of forming the Executive accomplished, how then
will it work? Is there new procedural glue that will result in a
more collective approach to governing? A persistent criticism
voiced by the DUP among others, was that the 1998 Agreement, by
vesting responsibility in individual ministers and departments
rather than in the Executive as a whole, enabled individual
ministers to go on solo policy-runs unfettered by their
ministerial colleagues. In short, that there was no mechanism for
fostering collective ministerial responsibility.


Though occasionally overstated, this was broadly the case.
Moreover, the DUP itself took some pleasure from the fact that
between 1999-2002 its (twice ro tated) ministers could act as
'ministers in opposition', and that they could and did absent
themselves from both Executive/cabinet meetings and plenary and
sectoral meetings of the North-South Ministerial Council.
However, the revised pledge of office set out at St Andrews will
frustrate such behaviour and in addition engineer a form of
collective responsibility which could, indeed should, lead to
more stable and cohesive government.

For instance, the new pledge - which betrays the impression of
both DUP and SF demands - obliges all ministers to endorse the
PSNI and the criminal justice system and to support all the
policing and criminal justice institutions. This commitment was
inserted at the behest of the DUP, as was the requirement that
all ministers would promote the interests of the whole community.
Equally, the requirement to observe the joint nature of the
Office of First and Deputy First Minister - and its incumbents
are formally co-equal, not dominant and subordinate as the
respective titles might imply - and to participate fully in all
institutional strands of the original Agreement was insisted upon
by Sinn Féin in order to prevent the repetition of the DUP's
boycott of the Executive and the NSMC.

In addition, a new statutory ministerial code of conduct, debated
in the Assembly on Tuesday this week, is also designed in part to
bridle ministers who might otherwise act autonomously as, for
instance, Martin McGuinness did in summarily announcing the
ending of academic selection. Together the pledge and the, yet to
be fully agreed, code signify the attempt to engineer collective
responsibility within the Executive.

To be doubly sure, new decision procedures were proposed for the
Executive. For instance, where there is no consensus among
ministers on a decision and a vote is required, any three
ministers can require that such a vote would be taken on a cross-
community basis. In addition, referrals to the Executive can be
made by 30 MLAs in respect of 'important ministerial decisions',
albeit that such a referral may be made only once in respect of
the same decision. A Jeremiah would interpret these provisions as
opportunities to promote gridlock within the Executive.


Alternatively, a Pangloss would perceive them as means of
providing a greater opportunity for forging collective agreement.
Whichever interpretation is the more accurate remains to be seen.
Certainly, where there are yawning policy differences between and
among the four major parties over, for instance, academic
selection or the reform of public administration, such procedures
may prove unequal to the task of ensuring Executive unanimity.

But then, all coalitions, whether contrived or freely negotiated,
contain inherent political and policy tensions, some of which are
manageable, others not.

The test for the ministers is by what means such differences are
resolved: that is, whether they are settled on the merits of the
respective arguments or by retreat into communal voting within
the Assembly. If the former style of discourse prevails, then
Northern Ireland can justifiably lay claim to the status of a
parliamentary democracy: if the latter style is reasserted, then
the prognosis is bleak and no amount of procedural reform will
prevent possible implosion.

Our prospective ministers should, however, remind themselves
constantly that politics is the art of the possible: or, rather
perhaps, that in the context of Northern Ireland one can think up
six impossible things before breakfast, not least next Monday
morning, including a DUP/SF led devolved administration.

No doubt the relationship between the two major parties will
resemble a loveless form of political co-habitation, in OFMDFM
especially: yet one doesn't have to like, let alone love, those
one works alongside.

Rick Wilford is Professor of Politics at Queen's University,

c Belfast Telegraph


Bets Laid To See Who'll Play Paisley On The Big Screen

Andersonstown News
By Evan Short

As news broke this week that Ian Paisley's family have
commissioned a screenplay to be written by playwright Gary
Mitchell about the preaching politician's life, thoughts
immediately turned to who would take on the lead role.

Liam Neeson has already been predicted to play the part as he
hails from the same part of the world as Big Ian.

But spare a thought for our local politicians. Any movie about
'Dr No' would have to include recent momentous political events,
and that means republicans will be included in the film alongside
other party members.

That throws up the prospect that local MLAs will have to be
portrayed by actors in certain scenes. But who would they like to
see playing themselves?

One man who is often seen at the shoulder of Paisley is Lagan
Valley DUP man, Edwin Poots.

He confirmed he would be first in line to watch any film about
his party's leader.

"I will go to see it if it comes out. I am sure it will be like
any movie and that it will not be totally accurate, but it will
be good entertainment."

Mr Poots had only one person in mind to play himself. "I would
have to see Pierce Brosnan take on my role, or someone that looks
like me," he laughed.

If rumours that Ian Jnr is to be Executive Producer are true, the
fact that characters are Irish republicans may be a problem, but
anything can happen in Hollywood, they say.

Sinn Féin's Fra McCann got a bit carried away with who would play
him in Paisley the Movie.

"You never know - I might be asked to play a part. I look across
at him every time I sit in the Assembly so I suppose I could be
in it.

"Hopefully Brad Pitt would take on my role," he laughed,
confirming he would probably not be first in the queue to see the

Ulster Unionist MLA Basil McCrea said he wouldn't be interested
in watching the film. "I think I have seen enough already," he
said with a chuckle. He also said he doubted he would appear in
the movie.

Finally, Alex Attwood, who has had some well-documented sparring
sessions with the Paisley clan, had his mind firmly fixed on

"I am much more interested in playing a role on the political
stage than I am on any other stage," he said.

So would a movie about a divisive figure like Paisley appeal to
the North's movie going public?

Michael McAdam from Movie House Cinemas said there is no doubt it
would be watched by many.

"It's interesting, films about Northern Ireland are loved by
local people.

"If you look at controversial films like Resurrection Man and
Some Mother's Son, we were not sure what side of the community
would come to see them but what you find is that the community it
leans towards will come in the first week, and after that
everyone comes to see it.

"I would be very happy to show it when it gets released," he

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