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March 28, 2007

Dublin & Monaghan Bombing Report Won't Lead To Prosecutions

Click Pic to read Through the Looking Glass:
Remembering the Dublin/Monaghan Bombings,
May 17, 1974

News about Ireland & the Irish

BM 03/28/07 Bombing Report Won't Lead To Prosecutions, Says Ahern
IT 03/29/07 Unionist Concerns Can Be Resolved - Adams
BB 03/28/07 Adams Silent On IRA Army Council
IE 03/28/07 Irish-American Leaders Laud Adams-Paisley Deal
NY 03/28/07 Many Paisley Supporters Back Joint Ulster Government
BB 03/28/07 Telegraph Survey Of DUP Mood Borne Out
BB 03/27/07 Allister Quits Power-Sharing DUP
BT 03/28/07 The Man Who Would Be First Minister
BT 03/27/07 Hour By Hour: How A Historic Day Unfolded
BT 03/27/07 No Going Back
BB 03/28/07 Lords Vote To Keep 'PSNI 50-50'
BB 03/28/07 Orde Offered Contract Extension
UT 03/28/07 Confidential Info To Be Disclosed In McCaughey Case
BT 03/28/07 Blair Stakes Legacy On Historic Agreement In Ulster
BT 03/28/07 Opin: Adams Wants To Level The Rocky Road To Dublin
BT 03/27/07 Opin: Historic Moment Of Truth For Ulster
BT 03/28/07 Take 2: There's A 2nd Film About Paisley In Pipeline
IM 03/28/07 Dublin Easter Commemoration, Sunday, Parnell Square
IM 03/28/07 Sligo Easter 1916 Rising Commemoration
IM 03/28/07 Cork Annual Easter 1916 Commemoration
IT 03/29/07 Republics Economy Slows As Housing, Exports Decline


Bombing Report Won't Lead To Prosecutions, Says Ahern

28/03/2007 - 16:56:39

Nobody will be brought to justice on the back of the long-awaited
report into the 1974 Dublin and Monaghan bombings, the Taoiseach
said today.

The findings, which were compiled by barrister Patrick MacEntee,
are still being studied by the Attorney General.

Bertie Ahern today told the D il he had read a large part of the
report but he didn't think it would result in prosecutions.

"I haven't got through all of it yet, but I've read a substantial
amount of it.

"It will be help the overall debate. It has to be taken in the
context of the Nuala O'Loan (Northern Ireland Police Ombudsman)
collusion reports and previous reports by Justice Barron and
Justice Hamilton.

"There is no doubt that around some of the issues investigated by
these reports, collusion did take place.

"But how much light can we throw on evidence at this remove, I
don't know.

"It will help us in our understanding but my own view is that I
don't think it will help in the area of prosecutions."

Thirty-three people died and 300 were injured when four car bombs
exploded in Dublin and Monaghan on May 17, 1974.

No organisation claimed responsibility but loyalist
paramilitaries were widely blamed for the attacks.

Mr Ahern still hopes to publish the findings before the D il
rises for its Easter recess on April 5 but families of the
victims must first receive copies.

The Commission of Investigation into the bombings was established
in April 2005 under new legislation to fast-track inquiries.

It was due to provide a final report to An Taoiseach within six
months, but later applied for eight extensions in almost two

Following publication, the Justice for the Forgotten group wants
a debate on collusion in the D il and the Seanad before the
general election.

Mr MacEntee and his officials are believed to have travelled
outside the Republic to interview individuals with crucial

The terms of reference of the Commission of Investigation were to
undertake a thorough investigation and make a report on specific
matters considered by the Government, including why the garda
investigation into the Dublin and Monaghan bombings was wound
down in 1974 and why the garda¡ did not follow up a number of


Unionist Concerns Can Be Resolved - Adams

Gerry Moriarty, Northern Editor
Thu, Mar 29, 2007

Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams has indicated that outstanding
issues of concern to unionism can be satisfactorily resolved
including whether the IRA army council will continue in

On Tuesday former DUP MEP Jim Allister cited the continuing
existence of the IRA army council as one of his chief reasons for
resigning from the party while DUP MPs Rev William McCrea and
Gregory Campbell this week also called for the disbandment of the
army council.

In the House of Commons on Tuesday Mr McCrea described the
prospective deputy first minister Martin McGuinness as a
terrorist and a murderer while yesterday in the House he asked
British prime minister Tony Blair did he accept that a
"commitment to exclusively peaceful means must of necessity
include the dismantling of all terrorist structures including the
IRA army council?"

"The Independent Monitoring Commission are the body that is
charged with deciding whether that commitment to exclusively
peaceful and non-violent means is being adhered to or not," Mr
Blair replied.

"As you will know they have a further report coming in the next
few weeks, but they have made their statement that the IRA indeed
is abiding by that principle and I think they are the people best
placed to make that judgment," he added.

In interviews Mr Adams chose to give to UTV, RT and the BBC
yesterday he partially addressed this matter.

Asked would the army council matter and other issues of concern
to unionists be dealt with, he said there were many challenges to
be faced but that outstanding issues would be resolved.

"Is this going to work? Yes. Will these issues be dealt with to
the satisfaction even of a Jim Allister? Yes, I believe they

"The IRA in fairness will continue to be a catalyst for the peace
process, so I think all these issues can be dealt with," he
added. But when he was asked could the army council be disbanded
by May 8th, when devolution is due to resume, he characterised
the question as "stupid".

When it was put to him that Mr Allister and some DUP members had
serious concerns about the army council, he replied, "Then let
them talk to whoever they want to talk to . . . Jim Allister is
out of it. Jim Allister has left, he is yesterday's news."

Mr Adams said he believed powersharing would work. "There may be
a battle a day in terms of a lot of trying to get the system
tailored to meet the needs of the people. I don't think there
need necessarily be a battle a day between us and the DUP on
social and economic issues."

Mr Adams said he had raised social issues such as suicide, youth
alcohol abuse, drug problems and poverty with Dr Paisley at
Monday's groundbreaking meeting at Stormont and that the DUP
leader had responded that the DUP and Sinn Fein were two parties
that had working class support. He said the choreography around
Monday, the seating arrangements, the pictures and the broadcasts
were crucial to impressing on the public that this opportunity
could succeed. "This had to be an event that you did not need to
interpret, that did not need parsed, that the ordinary citizen
can look at the television screen and know that something
magical, something clear, something definitive had happened."

UTV also reported yesterday that the DUP intends "rotating" its
ministers in the Northern executive from May 8th so that party
MPs and Assembly members would get opportunities to run

This could be done through a minister running a department for
two years and then handing over to a colleague for the remaining
two years of the life of this Assembly.

c 2007 The Irish Times


Adams Silent On IRA Army Council

Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams has refused to say if the IRA's army
council will be disbanded ahead of the restoration of devolution.

In an interview with the BBC, Mr Adams would not say if the army
council would still be in place when devolution is set to be
restored on 8 May.

On Tuesday, DUP MEP resigned from the party in protest over
issues including the army council's existence.

Ian Paisley and Gerry Adams agreed to share power from 8 May.

In an interview on Wednesday, Mr Adams expressed confidence that
power-sharing would work.

"There may be a 'battle-a-day' (with the DUP) in terms of a lot
of trying to get the system tailored to meet the needs of the
people," he said.

"I don't think there need necessarily be a battle-a-day between
us and the DUP on social and economic issues."

Emergency legislation

The Sinn Fein leader said he did not want to discuss whether the
IRA army council would go and "the Jim Allisters of this world"
would not be allowed to dictate the agenda.

He added: "I thought we needed to be sensitive to the DUP needs.
I thought we needed to be sensible in coming to an

He insisted "the IRA would continue to be a catalyst for the
peace process".

Meanwhile, emergency legislation has been rushed through
Parliament to give effect to the historic power-sharing deal
brokered in Northern Ireland.

At midnight on Tuesday, the St Andrews Agreement (No. 2) Bill
became law.

It followed a lengthy debate in both the House of Commons and the
House of Lords following the DUP's decision to share power with
Sinn Fein.

Mr Paisley told the Commons on Tuesday that it was a "good day"
for the House, for the United Kingdom and for the "people of
Ireland, north and south".

The DUP leader said it was a "work-in" rather than "a love-in".

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2007/03/28 12:36:30 GMT


Irish-American Leaders Laud Adams-Paisley Deal

By Ray O'Hanlon

Irish American political leaders were quick to welcome Monday's
devolution breakthrough in Northern Ireland. Senator Edward
Kennedy described it as a "giant step."

"Prime Minister Ahern of Ireland and Prime Minister Blair of
Britain have been strong allies for peace. John Hume and many
others have been heroes along the way," Kennedy said in a

But the "indispensable persons" in what was an historic agreement
were Gerry Adams and the Rev. Ian Paisley, said Kennedy.

"In reaching this agreement, they have acted to strengthen
democracy and create a future of peace and stability," Kennedy

"Today, the people of Northern Ireland salute them both for
reaching this new day, and the world congratulates them as well
... Sinn Fein and the DUP have finally taken the essential step
of looking forward together - not backward - and have agreed at
long last to work with one another for the future of Northern

"The eyes of the world will be on them on May 8. All who care
about lasting peace and stability look forward to the permanent
restoration of the Northern Ireland government at that time,"
Kennedy said.

Senator Hillary Clinton said the agreement marked the culmination
of a long and historic journey by all those involved in the peace

The agreement, she said, would mean that the Northern Ireland
peace process would serve as a model to the world in resolving
differences and restoring lasting peace through power sharing and
the promotion of common interests among diverse groups.

"Prime Minister Blair and Taoiseach Ahern, as well as all
officials in their respective governments, deserve the world's
gratitude for their continued dedication and attention to
restoring the devolved government," Clinton said.

"I know all Americans stand ready to do whatever is needed to
help reach a governing consensus and a way forward toward a more
prosperous Northern Ireland. I am grateful to everyone involved
and I know the world will view this agreement as a momentous time
in the history of this great country and its people."

Rep. Richard Neal, chairman of the Friends of Ireland group in
Congress, described the agreement between Adams and Paisley to
work together in government as one of most significant
developments on the island of Ireland in more than a century.

"I would like to congratulate both Rev. Paisley and Gerry Adams
on this remarkable achievement. The historic compromise they
reached took courage and vision. They took a genuine risk for
peace. And thanks to their efforts, a new era in Northern Ireland
is about to begin," Neal added while also acknowledging "the
extraordinary work" of Taoiseach Bertie Ahern and British Prime
Minister Tony Blair.

Neal pledged that Congress would continue to work in support of
power sharing.

"With the help and support of our friends in Irish America, we
made this issue a foreign policy priority. While there were many
difficult moments during the past two decades, America never lost
faith in the peace process. The agreement reached today should be
viewed as one of the great American foreign policy achievements
in recent memory," Neal said.

Rep. Joe Crowley, co-chair of the Ad-Hoc Committee on Irish
Affairs described the Adams, Paisley meeting as "great news' that
represented a major step forward in achieving lasting peace,
freedom and autonomy for the people of Northern Ireland. "Since
the 1998 Good Friday peace accord the goal of forming a unity
government that offers a representative voice for Catholics and
Protestants alike has been just a little bit beyond reach - until

"I share and welcome the surprise of witnessing Ian Paisley and
Gerry Adams sitting across from each other to announce their
coming together to forge this historic power sharing agreement
for self-rule. I commend both men for their willingness to act
for the greater good and open the door to a better future for the
north of Ireland," Crowley said.

Congressman Peter King, also an ad-hoc co-chair, and a veteran of
Irish American involvement in the search for a settlement,
described Monday's events as "truly historic."

King said that fifteen or twenty years ago very few people would
have imagined "an all encompassing agreement" between Adams and

King said that just because the process had gone on for so long
people should not lose sight of just how dramatic a development
the agreement actually was.

New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, just returned from
a visit to Ireland, north and south, described the agreement as a
cause for much celebration.

"After decades of violence, civil strife, and discrimination, a
power sharing government will finally be formed," Quinn said.

"When the Council traveled with the Council of American Ireland
Relations to Belfast a week ago, we met with Sinn Fein, the DUP,
and leaders of the Irish and British governments to offer our
strong support for their negotiations. To have been part of that
historic week, and to have been able to encourage all sides, was
a tremendous opportunity," Quinn added.

"We hope and believe a lasting peace has now been established for
all the people of Northern Ireland," she said.

New York City Comptroller William Thompson, in a joint statement
with Stephen Cassidy, president of the Uniformed Firefighters
Association of Greater New York and who is also trustee on the
New York City Fire Department Pension Fund, saw the meting as a
springboard for greater investment in the North.

Last fall, both men led a delegation to Northern Ireland to
discuss New York City's investments there and urged leaders on
both sides to work toward a power-sharing government.

Such an outcome, they hoped, would help establish the long-term
stability conducive to foreign investment.

"We believe that today's announcement signals a time of great
opportunity for investors such as the New York City Pension Funds
to further invest in Ireland's future. We will join our
colleagues at the Pension Funds to explore prudent investment
options in what we hope will be the dawn of a new era of peace
and justice," Thompson and Cassidy said.


Many Paisley Supporters Back Joint Ulster Government

By Eamon Quinn
Published: March 28, 2007

BALLYMENA, Northern Ireland, March 27 - It is known as the heart
of Paisley Protestant country, the town that started the long
political career of the Rev. Ian Paisley, the hard-line Northern
Ireland Protestant leader once nicknamed "Dr. No."

The New York Times

But a day after Mr. Paisley did the once-unthinkable by agreeing
with his Catholic republican archenemy Gerry Adams to form a
joint administration for the province, many shoppers and workers
in Ballymena, a busy market town 27 miles northwest of Belfast,
said their leader had done the right thing by finally saying

That set them apart from a high-profile member of Mr. Paisley's
Democratic Unionist Party, Jim Allister, who quit the party on
Tuesday over Mr. Paisley's decision.

Mr. Paisley, 80, built a career spanning six decades on rejecting
any form of self-rule in Northern Ireland with Catholic
nationalists who sought a united Ireland. Starting in Ballymena,
he honed his skills as a preacher and orator, denouncing
Catholicism as "popery" and "superstition."

But the agreement reached Monday, if carried out, will mean that
Britain will formally hand back responsibility for running many
of Northern Ireland's internal affairs to an administration
composed of Protestants and Roman Catholics. Mr. Paisley will
serve as first minister and Martin McGuinness, Sinn Fein's chief
negotiator, will be deputy first minister, a post with equal

Carrying packages to a car park near the main street here,
Kathleen Coulter, a Ballymena resident and supporter of Mr.
Paisley for the past 50 years, said she had been surprised by the
news that he and Mr. Adams would form a local government for
Northern Ireland on May 8.

"I didn't think Dr. Paisley and Gerry Adams would do it," she
said, but added that after years of conflict, it was the right
time for Mr. Paisley to make a deal.

Residents here say they believe that local elections three weeks
ago gave Mr. Paisley the confidence to defy dissent in the party
he co-founded 35 years ago. The vote showed that Mr. Paisley was
the undisputed leader of Protestants who seek to maintain the
British link in Northern Ireland.

Ballymena enjoys prosperity from its tobacco and poultry
processing activities and a long established bus-building
business. House prices are soaring, and the local tourist
officer, Christine Butler, says more visitors are coming.

Extra money and the relative peace of the past nine years since
the end of most of the politically motivated violence in Northern
Ireland came as a boost to Ballymena.

That is not to say the town is without sectarian strains. Last
year, in a high-profile case, a Catholic teenager, Michael
McIlveen, died after being beaten near the town's center. More
than 1,000 people across the religious divide attended his

Despite the strains, the townspeople seem ready to support the
power-sharing agreement.

Jim McDowell, a Protestant who works in a clothing and
furnishings shop, said he was ready for change. "I was not happy
with what happened during the Troubles, but we must move on," he
said, referring to three decades of sectarian strife that claimed
at least 3,720 lives.

While most of those interviewed appeared to share his view of Mr.
Paisley's move, they differed on what they believed had motivated
him to finally make the historic deal. Mr. McDowell said Mr.
Paisley did it, in the end, under pressure from the British

Others said they believed just the opposite: that Mr. Paisley
moved from strength, seeing the chance to be in charge and
grabbing it.

That was the view of an 83-year-old Protestant unionist voter,
who wished to be identified only by his first name, Gordon, and
who said he had known Mr. Paisley since they attended Ballymena
Model School in the 1930s.

"The reason he went into it is to be the boss of it," he said,
adding that he feared that Mr. Paisley and Mr. Adams would not be
able to work together.

Richard English, a professor of politics at Queen's University in
Belfast and the author of a history of the Irish Republican Army,
said in an interview on the telephone that he believed that Mr.
Paisley had been motivated, in part, by an acceptance that his
dream from the 1960s - to have Protestants rule on their own -
would not be fulfilled.

Sinn Fein, he said, also had given up its long-held goal of
expelling the British by force.

"Both were based on an unrealistic notion of politics," Mr.
English said. "Neither of these positions could really expect to
win the day and carry people with them," he said. Nonetheless, it
had taken a "long 40 years" to forge that recognition.

But Mr. English also shares Gordon's view on what finally moved
the seemingly immovable unionist leader. He said Mr. Paisley had
fulfilled an ambition to emerge as the dominant force after
painstaking negotiations during which the I.R.A. renounced
violence and promised to disarm, allowing him to depict himself
as the victor.

"From his point of view, he can say that for someone who was
almost a minority voice, he is the dominant figure," Mr. English
said. "He will be the prime minister at his death and he will
feel his career has been vindicated. Once the I.R.A. bent the
knee, he was prepared to sit down with them."

Alan Cowell contributed reporting from London.


Telegraph Survey Of DUP Mood Borne Out

[Published: Wednesday 28, March 2007 - 14:59]

The Belfast Telegraph's survey of the DUP MLAs two weeks ago was
an early indication of the party's preparedness to share power
with Sinn Fein imminently.

When we asked if yesterday's deadline was likely to be met, a
number of the Assembly members specified May - without being
prompted - as a possible start date for power-sharing.

A striking feature of the poll was the lack of outright
opposition to a deal with Sinn Fein among the 27 MLAs who spoke
to us anonymously, representing three-quarters of the 36 MLAs.

Only six of the MLAs were clearly unhappy at the prospect, and
only one of those indicated that he might consider his position.

The general sense among the DUP MLAs that a deal was both likely
and acceptable may have been because many of them believed there
was now widespread support for power-sharing among the unionist

One told us: "The mood of the people is that they want it to
happen. Anybody who says never is very foolish."

This sentiment had been apparent in another Belfast Telegraph
survey, this time of DUP voters, on election day.

Asked whether the DUP should go into government with Sinn Fein,
13 out of 27 DUP voters in Strangford and North Down - almost
half - seemed prepared for sharing power with Sinn Fein without
much complaint.

Only five respondents were unequivocally against.

A further four DUP voters were positive about a deal, providing
Sinn Fein proved its democratic credentials.

Four more voters were unhappy at the idea of a DUP-Sinn Fein
Executive, but saw little alternative, while one DUP voter had no
fixed view.

Our exit poll which, a senior DUP source told us, confirmed the
pre-election consultation of the grassroots had found 80% support
for the leadership's plans of power-sharing, given safeguards.

c Belfast Telegraph


Allister Quits Power-Sharing DUP

The DUP MEP Jim Allister has resigned from the party in protest
over its decision to enter power-sharing with Sinn Fein.

He said he was leaving the party with immense sadness but that he
felt Sinn Fein was "not fit for government".

It comes after a ground-breaking meeting between Ian Paisley and
Gerry Adams at Stormont when they agreed to share power on 8 May.

Mr Allister said he would not be giving up his seat as an MEP.

He said the DUP had not delivered on its election manifesto and
accused Sinn Fein of "weasel words".

Mr Allister, who previously left the party after a disagreement
in the 1980s, was opposed to the DUP executive resolution
committing to power-sharing.

He announced his decision at a news conference in east Belfast.

He said: "To continue as the DUP's MEP, it would be my obligation
to accept the party executive policy decision to usher Sinn Fein
into government in a few short weeks.

"This, in conscience, I cannot do. Thus, I must resign from the

"Sinn Fein, in my view, is not fit for government. Nor can it be
in a few weeks."

He added: "I have fought a protracted battle within the party
over recent months against a premature DUP/Sinn Fein government.

"I now have to accept that this battle is lost."

The MEP said if Sinn Fein believed the IRA was truly and
irreversibly committed to exclusively peaceful means, there was
no need for an IRA army council.

"I just cannot comprehend how the DUP can contemplate government,
particularly where it will be joined at the hip in the Office of
First Minister and Deputy First Minister, with an organisation
which clings to an illegal army council of an illegal army," he

"It seems to me that, sadly, the lure of office has clouded the
party's judgment."

Ulster Unionist MEP Jim Nicholson said Mr Allister's resignation
was "not a huge surprise".

"I would like to assure him that regardless of his political
affiliation, I have every intention of maintaining the good
working relationship we have had since he was elected to the
European Parliament," he said.

'Unrepentant terrorists'

Meanwhile, Ballymena DUP councillor Sam Gaston has stepped down
from the party as a result of Monday's developments.

Mr Gaston said six weeks was not enough for republicans to prove

"I think they have gone into government too quickly," Mr Gaston

"I think those people who have suffered deserve that we don't
have unrepentant terrorists in government."

Mr Allister was elected to the European Parliament in 2004,
ending a 17-year absence from frontline politics.

BBC Northern Ireland political editor Mark Devenport said: "On
Saturday, he was one of the members of the 120-strong DUP
executive who voted against the resolution committing the party
to sharing power in May.

"He drove away from Castlereagh council before Ian Paisley
emerged, flanked by the majority of his colleagues."

It is not be the first time he has parted company with Ian

In the 1980s, he left active politics after disagreeing with his
leader's tactics after the Anglo-Irish Agreement.

His return to the DUP fold to stand as an MEP surprised those who
believed he had already given up politics to concentrate on his
legal career.

Last October, Mr Allister said the St Andrews Agreement had
definite gains but also fundamental negatives.

He said disadvantages included the length of the testing period
for Sinn Fein and enforced mandatory coalition.

He also said there was no mechanism to exclude Sinn Fein if it
"defaulted", other than to punish all parties.

Mr Allister said it would be "intolerable for any unionist" if
the IRA army council was still in existence when the parties are
due to share power. He said this would be a deal-breaker for him.

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2007/03/27 12:55:20 GMT


The Man Who Would Be First Minister

[Published: Tuesday 27, March 2007 - 09:02]
By Chris Thornton

He looked lively prowling the corridors of Stormont yesterday
afternoon as the First Minister-in-waiting and stalking into the
canteen to tuck into a good feed.

But even a slow crawl would have been better than what Ian
Paisley once held out.

Last July, the DUP leader told a Twelfth gathering that Sinn Fein
would enter government "over our dead bodies".

"Compromise, accommodation and the least surrender are the roads
to final and irreversible disaster," he said.

Yesterday he struck a different note: the horrors of the past
must not become "a barrier to creating a better and more stable

Ian Paisley has moved a great deal in the past seven months, but
even further in the previous 40 years.

Once a battering ram against the idea of power-sharing and the
unionist establishment, Mr Paisley has now embraced one and
become the other.

Four decades ago, as he was founding his own church and his own
political party, he was the Stormont outsider - hurling snowballs
at Jack Lynch as the Taoiseach drove up the hill to meet the
Northern Ireland Prime Minister, Captain Terence O'Neill.

He accused Captain O'Neill of "treachery" for beginning contacts
with the Republic.

But later this year, as First Minister he will be expected to
lead Stormont Ministers into talks with the Taoiseach in the
North-South Ministerial Council.

His attitude to power-sharing has also changed.

In January 1974, Mr Paisley was carried from the Stormont chamber
by eight uniformed policemen when he tried to block the power-
sharing executive from taking its seats.

Later that year he was a central figure in the Ulster Workers'
strike that brought down the first attempt at power-sharing.

He sabre rattled repeatedly, famously gathering hundreds of men
on a Co Antrim hillside to wave their gun licences. He donned a
beret to launch Ulster Resistance and famously greeted the Anglo-
Irish Agreement by repeating "Never, never, never, never".

The DUP leader also assailed Pope John Paul II as the anti-Christ
in the European Parliament and set out to "Save Ulster From

At the start of the peace process, he said the Downing Street
Declaration " sold Ulster to buy off the fiendish republican

When the Good Friday Agreement was reached in 1998, many believed
it was the end of the road for Paisley. He was famously heckled
by UVF and PUP men as " the Grand Old Duke of York" while that
deal was reached.

But his party built on unionist unease and eventual distaste for
the Agreement to overturn the Ulster Unionists as the largest
political group in Northern Ireland.

The whiff of power - and the changes in the republican movement -
helped bring him to the table yesterday. "Smash Sinn Fein", one
of his old campaign slogans, is long abandoned. He may never say
never again.

c Belfast Telegraph


Hour By Hour: How A Historic Day Unfolded

[Published: Tuesday 27, March 2007 - 08:45]

Ian Paisley and Gerry Adams came face to face yesterday and
sealed the monumental deal to share power in Northern Ireland.

Here is a blow by blow account of the final hours leading to the
lifelong enemies reaching a political accord, urged on by London
and Dublin.

0600 It may be a day like no other in his lifetime, but Ian
Paisley (80) begins it in traditional style. A breakfast bowl of
porridge alongside his wife Eileen at their east Belfast home
energises the Democratic Unionist Party chief for his summit
meeting with the Sinn Fein leadership.

0831 Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams is the first of the key
players to arrive at Stormont's Parliament Buildings, accompanied
by senior adviser Richard McAuley and bodyguards.

0907 Prime Minister Tony Blair, desperate to get a date for
devolution, telephones Mr Adams from Downing Street seeking
assurances that nothing will derail the plans at the last minute.

0910 Northern Ireland Secretary Peter Hain arrives at his office
in Stormont Castle after early morning media interviews at his
home in Hillsborough Castle, Co Down.

0920 Mr Blair makes his second call of the day to Belfast,
stressing to Mr Paisley before the DUP leader leaves home that he
is about to do the right thing for Northern Ireland's future.

0945 Mr Paisley travels the one and three quarter mile route to
Stormont, via the Massey Avenue entrance, taking a left at the
Carson Statue, and straight into a meeting of his party's
Assembly group.

1101 The moment many thought would never happen. Mr Paisley and
Mr Adams sit down together in the Members' Dining Room - smart
but informal on the second floor looking out towards Prince of
Wales Drive. Outside, a cloudless sky over Belfast heralds a new
season as the leaders of unionism and republicanism finally set
their cards on the table.

1210 Just over an hour later and Northern Ireland's political
landscape has undergone a transformation. Mr Paisley declares he
is prepared to sit in an Executive with Sinn Fein from May 8. Mr
Adams says the agreement marks the beginning of a new era of
politics on the island of Ireland.

1223 A grinning Mr Paisley emerges to charm the press corps
waiting down below in Stormont's Great Hall. "Nice to see you,"
he shouts good-naturedly to assembled journalists more used to
bearing the brunt of his fury.

1229 Sinn Fein chief negotiator Martin McGuinness, smiling just
as widely, comes down the marble stairs to greet and chat with a
group of girls visiting from Our Lady's Grammar School in Newry,
Co Down.

1230 A euphoric Mr Blair breaks off engagements in the House of
Commons to be told of the historic deal. He immediately talks on
the phone with Taoiseach Bertie Ahern, who follows the events in
Belfast, before meeting with Ivan Gasparovic, President of
Slovakia, at Government Buildings in Dublin.

1254 In his Commons office, The Prime Minister says: "Everything
we have done over the last 10 years has been a preparation for
this moment."

1305 Seven hours after his early morning oats, Mr Paisley sits
down to lunch in Stormont's canteen. Remarkably relaxed after
reshaping not only his own turbulent career but government in the
province, he still has to brief other political party leaders on
the power-sharing decision. By now, however, it is a fait

c Belfast Telegraph


No Going Back

[Published: Tuesday 27, March 2007 - 08:42]
By Noel McAdam

The two veteran politicians appeared formal, even stiff. The body
language of Ian Paisley and Gerry Adams betrayed the
significance, and strangeness, of their historic first meeting

In terms of a first date, this was on the distinctly nervous

Gerry shot a few anxious, expectant glances towards his intended
but Ian wasn't up for it.

Nevertheless, the two Grand Old Men of Ulster politics had
finally come together.

After a long and stormy courtship, the two longest serving party
leaders in the province had finally announced their direct

And there's not much time for romance with the nuptials now just
six weeks away.

They've even gone so far as to announce the banns, including a
ban on water charges.

Make no mistake, it's far from a marriage made in heaven, but it
may be a union which lasts.

Little had been left to chance as the respective champions of
unionism and republicanism came together, with their respective
teams, for the first time yesterday.

It had been made clear there would be no handshake, and little in
the way of general chit-chat.

But the atmosphere was described by those on both sides as
"cordial" and "business-like".

When it finally happened, the sight of the DUP leader and Sinn
Fein President less than four feet apart ably illustrated how odd
it would have been had they somehow ended up as Ministers

But it also signified that, with an important first meeting
between the two parties done and out of the way, there is a
greater chance than ever before of Ministers being appointed.

Many people watched, jaws agape, as the two men made their
respective statements, which shared the same language of building
the best possible future.

Many people said the same thing: it was something they never
thought they would see.

The long-opposed politicians also both invoked God in their
statements, Mr Paisley talking about the dark from which we are
now "please God" emerging and Mr Adams about a new start "with
the help of God".

Indicative, too, of the possibility of shared future was that he
said it in Irish.

c Belfast Telegraph


Lords Vote To Keep 'PSNI 50-50'

The 50-50 recruitment rule for the PSNI has been renewed in the
House of Lords by a majority of 44.

The result was 141 to 97. Former UUP leader Lord Trimble urged
peers to reject the move following Monday's deal between the DUP
and Sinn Fein.

He said reverse discrimination was now counter-productive.

However, the government's Lord Rooker said: "Nobody who has been
appointed to the PSNI in the last six years, has failed to be
done on merit."

"All of them have gone through the merit, all of them have
qualified to be United Kingdom police officers."

Pauline McCabe, an independent member of the Policing Board, told
the BBC's Good Morning Ulster it was right to retain 50-50

"On balance, given the progress we have made and the reason for
introducing 50-50 in the first place, I do think it's wise that
for one further period at least, we have the safety of the legal
mechanism to give certainty to what Patten intended," she said.

"Patten said that it should operate for at least 10 years - we're
now in year six/seven - to make sure we achieve the outcome we
are looking for."

SDLP policing spokesman Alex Attwood said great recruitment
opportunities were now opening up.

"With Catholic representation over 21% in the PSNI, with
thousands applying, with female representation increasing and
with all parties now on board for policing, the success of the
implementation of Patten is there for all to see," he said.

In 1999, a commission chaired by Lord Patten recommended
widespread changes to the police service, then the Royal Ulster

The Patten Report recommended the 50-50 policy as a key element
of the 1998 Good Friday Agreement.

It means 50% of all new recruits to the Police Service of
Northern Ireland must be from the Catholic community.

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2007/03/28 13:01:10 GMT


Orde Offered Contract Extension

Sir Hugh Orde has been offered a three-year extension to his
contract as PSNI chief constable by the Policing Board.

Sir Hugh's current fixed contract runs until the end of August.

The Policing Board had the power to extend that and has decided
to offer him the maximum extension possible.

A spokesman for Sir Hugh said he will likely stay after his
current contract ends on 31 August. But it is not clear if he is
to stay for the three years.

Sir Hugh, a former deputy commissioner of the Metropolitan
Police, took up his post as PSNI chief constable in September
2002 on a five-year fixed term contract.

The decision to extend it is expected to be given the approval of
the Northern Ireland Secretary Peter Hain.

Last month, the chief constable was embroiled in controversy
after it was revealed that he had an affair with a Metropolitan
police officer, with whom he had a child.

At the time there was speculation that the revelation could
hinder his chances of a contract extension, and the Policing
Board decision will be viewed as a vote of confidence in him.

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2007/03/28 14:35:18 GMT


Confidential Information To Be Disclosed In McCaughey Case

The father of an IRA man shot dead by the SAS has won a five-year
legal battle over disclosure of confidential intelligence reports
about the killing.

The Law Lords ruled that the Police Service of Northern Ireland
must hand over unabridged information about the 1990 shooting of
Martin McCaughey and Dessie Grew by the undercover military unit
outside Loughgall, County Armagh to the coroner who will hear the
inquest into their deaths.

Today`s judgment overturned an earlier Northern Ireland Court of
Appeal ruling that the PSNI was legally entitled to limit the
information passed to the coroner.

McCaughey, a 23-year-old former Sinn Fein councillor, and Grew,
37, were shot dead close to some outbuildings in fields and the
nature of their wounds raised fresh allegations about a shoot-to-
kill policy being operated by the security forces in the battle
against terrorism in Northern Ireland.

The inquests into the men`s deaths have long been delayed and
McCaughey`s father Owen, launched his lengthy legal bid after the
Chief Constable refused to release the unredacted intelligence
reports, together with a copy of the report into the shootings by
the RUC Investigating Office to the coroner.

Following a six day hearing in January the Law Lords ruled today
that the Chief Constable must disclose the reports in full.

Delivering the judgment Lord Bingham of Cornhill said after the
coroner had been given initial detail by police they needed to be
given further information in full.

He said: "It would so plainly frustrate the public interest in a
full and effective investigation if the police were legally
entitled, after giving the initial section 8 notice, to withhold
relevant and perhaps crucial information coming to their notice

However, later in the judgment the five Law Lords upheld a Court
of Appeal ruling that coroners` courts in Northern Ireland should
not be permitted to reach verdicts of "lawful" or "unlawful
killing" about the killing of another IRA man.

But they said the jury which hears the inquest into the death of
Pearse Jordan may make "relevant factual findings" pertinent to
the killing.

Jordan, 23, was shot dead by police in disputed circumstances in
the Falls Road area of west Belfast in November 1992.

Witnesses claim the stolen car he was driving was rammed by
police and that he was shot in the back as he tried to run away.
Police said they were attempting to prevent a pre-Christmas
bombing blitz on Belfast city centre and that traces of
explosives had been found in the car.

The solicitor acting for both the McCaughey and Jordan families
welcomed the decisions which they said would have serious
implications for the inquests.

Peter Madden of Madden and Finucane said: "The RUC, now the PSNI,
can no longer dictate which information it chooses to withhold
from scrutiny.

"A previous challenge by Hugh Jordan led to a change to the rules
governing inquests and for the first time members of the RUC and
the British army responsible for lethal force shootings are
compellable witnesses at inquests and they will be cross-examined
by lawyers for the families.

"Now the coroner can make factual findings pointing towards a
conclusion that criminal or civil responsibility exists."

Sinn Fein Assembly member Francie Molloy welcomed the judgment as
paving the way for full and open inquests into the killings of
McCaughey and Grew.

He said: "Sinn Fein share the belief of the families that full
disclosure of all relevant documentation will illustrate the fact
that the British government operated a shoot-to-kill policy and
we will continue to stand with the families in their search for
the truth."


Blair Stakes Personal Legacy On Historic Agreement In Ulster

[Published: Tuesday 27, March 2007 - 10:09]
By Colin Brown

Tony Blair is planning to use the moment of history in Northern
Ireland on 8 May as the backdrop for his own departure from
Downing Street.

Mr Blair's aides said that he saw yesterday's historic agreement
between the old enemies, the Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams and
the the DUP leader, the Rev Ian Paisley, as the crowning
achievement for the Prime Minister's 10 years in office and the
fulfilment of a crucial objective for his legacy.

Mr Blair was clearly keen to avoid the date slipping into the
period when Gordon Brown may have taken over, but there is no
suggestion that the DUP colluded in the timing.

Mr Blair said in a statement: "This a very important day for the
people of Northern Ireland, but also for the people and the
history of these islands. And in a sense, everything that we've
done over the past 10 years has been a preparation for this
moment, because the people of Northern Ireland have spoken
through the election."

Emergency legislation will be rushed through Parliament tomorrow
by Peter Hain, the Northern Ireland Secretary, with royal assent
to extend the deadline for the deal to 8 May from Monday night.
Downing Street aides said that yesterday's joint press conference
by the old enemies in Irish politics was "a moment we will all

The Prime Minister's advisers did not dare take it for granted
that the promised meeting between Mr Paisley and Mr Adams
yesterday would take place until it happened.

Mr Blair was hosting a private meeting with Scottish journalists
at No 10 - to warn of the dangers of the Scottish Nationalist
Party winning local elections on 3 May - when an aide whispered
to him that Mr Paisley and Mr Adams were sitting down together to
announce their deal.

The complex choreography included a promise last week by the
Chancellor to pay for a year-long delay of proposed increases in
water bills which caused outrage in the recent Northern Ireland
elections. There were strong hints he will provide more money to
ease the wheels behind the agreement. The Prime Minister's
official spokesman said yesterday: "It is an absolute triumph
that water bills were a number one issue on the doorsteps. That
really was a moment of history."

Mr Blair's advisers said he had spent virtually the whole of
Christmas and his new year holiday at the Bee Gee Robin Gibb's
mansion in Miami, except for Christmas Day, in talks over the
telephone with the Northern Ireland leaders.

Over the weekend, Mr Blair continued intense discussions with Mr
Paisley and Mr Adams by phone while he was at the EU's 50th
anniversary celebrations in Berlin. Last Friday, Mr Blair's
spokesman warned if there was no agreement by "a minute past
midnight on Monday that is it".

What changed over the weekend is that Mr Paisley convinced Mr
Blair that he was serious about doing a deal if he could have a
delay until 8 May It was a risk, but yesterday's press conference
was seen in Downing Street as confirmation that there is no
turning back, even for Mr Paisley.

Mr Blair will stay on until the G8 summit in early June. Mr Hain
also demonstrated his diplomatic skills in bringing the two sides
together but Mr Blair's departure will also mark the formal start
of Mr Hain's campaign for the deputy leadership.

10 years of Labour in Northern Ireland

* Mo Mowlam, 1997-1999

Brought a breath of fresh air to the post, but was criticised by
Unionists for being pro-Sinn Fein. Witnessed the 1998 Good Friday
Agreement, but was sidelined by Downing Street, telling President
Bill Clinton: "I'm the new tea lady around here ..."

* Peter Mandelson, 1999-2001

Suspended the devolved assembly in 2000, accusing the IRA of
refusing to honour its agreement to decommission. Took tougher
line on IRA. Earlier this month accused Tony Blair of making
"unreasonable and irresponsible" concessions to the IRA. Resigned
over row about passport for an Asian billionaire.

* John Reid, 2001-2002

Hardliner put in to ensure some action. The IRA announced it was
putting "arms beyond use" but Mr Reid was forced repeatedly to
suspend and restore assembly amid missed deadlines and broken
promises. In October 2002, days before being moved, he announced
return of direct rule.

* Paul Murphy, 2002-2005

A former junior minister under Mo Mowlam, he returned as
Secretary of State to ease the process forward with minimum

A Catholic, he helped keep the peace process on track in spite of
an alleged IRA spy ring at Stormont, a œ26m IRA bank robbery, and
the beating to death of a Belfast man, Robert McCartney.

* Peter Hain, 2005-present

Will go down as the Secretary of State who presided over the
final peace deal. Took over the Northern Ireland post following
the general election, in addition to responsibility for Wales.
Showed patience and diplomatic skills. In March, began talks
after the elections to revive not just the Assembly but also a
power-sharing executive that led to yesterday's breakthrough.

c Belfast Telegraph


Opin: Adams Wants To Level The Rocky Road To Dublin

[Published: Wednesday 28, March 2007 - 12:20]

The border hasn't gone away, you know. Chris Thornton reports on
why Sinn Fein thinks Stormont ministers can advance Irish unity

One day we'll wake up and wonder what ever happened to the

That's Gerry Adams' idea anyway. The power-sharing Executive that
his party will form with the DUP in May is, in their view, a step
on the way to a united Ireland - not exactly by stealth (Sinn
Fein does want people to notice, after all), but a creeping kind
of unity all the same.

The Provos concluded quite some time ago that they would not get
their Saigon moment, with helicopters lifting unionists off the
roof of Parliament Buildings while the Belfast Brigade smashed
the gates of Stormont in their Soviet-made halftracks. Apart from
all the other logistical problems, enviro-bombmaker James
Monaghan now couldn't bring himself to ride in a carbon-spewing
Russian tank.

So the Adams Project pulled the republican movement along the
political path. A united Ireland had to be a key element of the
republican transition, otherwise what was it all about? If the
IRA gave up without their goal, they were just beaten.

New Sinn Fein may be green in every way, gender balanced and
converted to non-violence, but it remains very much concerned
with eliminating the border.

So what's the political plan? At his party's ordinary ard fheis a
few days before the Assembly election, Gerry Adams owned up to
the goal everyone, including some internal grumblers, knew he had
in mind. He wants Sinn Fein to be in government on both sides of
the border.

We know he's accomplished half that job. After May 8, we'll see
Martin McGuinness, Catriona Ruane and a couple of others smiling,
looking ministerial and promising important things.

Those will be bad images for Bertie Ahern, because they will
lodge in the mind of the South's electorate just as they go to
the polls (Mr Ahern may go to the voters on May 24).

If Sinn Fein increase their current holding of five seats, they
may be attractive coalition partners for Mr Ahern.

Many of Sinn Fein's Southern members fret that the party would
become tainted by a coalition with Fianna Fail. But the Adams
leadership will argue that strategic benefits are obvious,
especially if the party can wangle the same ministerial
portfolios North and South - won't Ireland look a bit more united
if say, courtesy of two Sinn Fein Roads' Ministers, there is a
single agenda for building motorways across the border?

But the Shinners aren't just pinning their hopes on disposing of
Northern Ireland by ministerial decree. Their place in government
on this side of the border is looking pretty fixed, but the
vagaries of Southern politics - coalitions have been known to
collapse - suggest that could be a limited option.

But it's not the only one. If Sinn Fein enters a coalition, their
price is likely to be a Green Paper on Irish unity - thereby
making unity a policy of the Republic's Government, not just an
aspiration, and something that is actively debated.

They will also take a cue from the physical by-products of the
peace process. It's hard to tell where the border actually is
these days - there's no blocked roads, no watchtowers, and if
anything the best roads are on the Southern side these days.

Sinn Fein wants to literally build on that idea - for a party
that pays lip service to environmentalism, they have become
serious advocates of building more roads that ignore the border:
a Derry to Dublin motorway and a Dundalk to Sligo artery, cutting
through Armagh and Fermanagh, have both been mentioned recently.

They also intend to extend the idea of free flowing traffic to
whatever spheres they can influence with their Northern
ministerial portfolios. If it's health, you open up cross-border
health services. Trade, you try to harmonise the business climate
so consumers get the same choices.

They'll have plenty of options for blurring the differences
between the two parts of Ireland. Unionist minds will be harder
to change, but the idea is that one day they can take the border
away because no one notices it's there.

Tomorrow: Noel McAdam on why the DUP thinks Stormont secures the

c Belfast Telegraph


Viewpoint: Historic Moment Of Truth For Ulster

[Published: Tuesday 27, March 2007 - 11:48]

There have been many historic moments in the long history of the
peace process, but none compares with the sight of the Rev Ian
Paisley pictured alongside Gerry Adams and promising to build a
better future for all the people of Northern Ireland.

The most outspoken critic of republicanism and all it has stood
for will share government with Sinn Fein, without equivocation,
starting from May 8.

This cast-iron promise, obtained in private contacts with Sinn
Fein, was the only means of salvaging devolution, after the
Government refused to budge on another deadline. By law, there
had to be devolution or dissolution by March 26, but whenever the
Government hinted that if the leading parties could agree an
alternative timetable, new legislation could be enacted, the way
ahead was clear. The DUP's demand for a testing period was
accepted, the deal was done and honour was satisfied.

It was an immensely difficult weekend, for all concerned, but
everyone deserves credit for the positive part they played. The
DUP, meeting on Saturday, showed they were willing to bridge the
gap between the Government's deadline and their own by taking
part in departmental briefings and "finalising a programme for
government". And although Sinn Fein could have stood firm, opting
for Plan B and enhanced co-operation with Dublin, they consented
to the deferral, allowing the devolution process to proceed.

In retrospect, the Government's insistence on a tight deadline
was the right tactic, as it concentrated minds and brought about
the late compromise. Ian Paisley needed to bring his dissidents
with him, if a deal was to survive, and Gerry Adams knew that if
devolution was not to be lost for years, he had to accept the
DUP's terms. As it is, both parties, in conjunction with the UUP
and SDLP, will have more time to find common ground on a
programme for government, difficult though this will be.

Now for the real engagement, after all the sound and fury of
recent days. The politicians must prove that power-sharing can
not only raise people's hopes but deliver in practical ways. The
promise of an early meeting with the Chancellor, Gordon Brown, to
build on his economic package and address the basic problem of
lack of competitiveness with the Republic, is a step in the right
direction. Without more convergence of corporation tax and fuel
duties, north and south, the new executive will be handicapped
from the start.

As Tony Blair said, everything achieved in the peace process over
10 years has been leading to this moment. The unchallenged
leaders of the unionist and nationalist communities have sealed a
pact that should put Northern Ireland on a peaceful, upward path
- with encouragement and financial help from London and Dublin.
May 8 is one self-imposed deadline that must not be broken.

c Belfast Telegraph


Take Two: Now There's A Second Film About Paisley In The Pipeline

[Published: Tuesday 27, March 2007 - 11:23]
By Maureen Coleman

An Ulster company behind plans for a second feature film on the
life of Ian Paisley has said it is hopeful the movie will go
ahead - without the seal of approval from the DUP leader's

Straight Faced Productions, a sister company of Straight Forward
Productions, is currently is in negotiations with the agent of a
scriptwriter to secure a deal for a movie on Northern Ireland's
most recognised politician.

The company has already won funding from the Northern Ireland
Film and Television Commission and the Irish Film Board and has a
deadline of April 30 to entice the scriptwriter on board the

The film, if it goes ahead, will be independent of the Paisley

The news comes after local writer Gary Mitchell revealed he has
been commissioned by the Paisleys to come up with a script about
the DUP man's life.

It is understood Ian Paisley Jnr will be executive producer on
the project.

Describing the script as "a tremendous opportunity to explore and
expose the great man and all his vices and virtues", the film has
the total support of the Paisley clan.

Mr Mitchell also said he would love Ballymena-born actor Liam
Neeson to play the main role.

Ian Kennedy of Straight Faced Productions, the company behind the
second project, said he had not spoken to anyone in the Paisley

But he said he was confident the movie would go ahead as planned.

"At the moment we are in negotiations with the agent of a screen
writer who is well-known but does not live in Northern Ireland,"
he said.

"I am hopeful we will reach an agreement by April 30, which is
the deadline to accept the joint development loan to fund the

"Whether or not there is room for two movies about Ian Paisley is
really up to the market place and will come down to things like
the quality of the writing.

"We would also like to see an actor from Northern Ireland play
the lead role, but at this stage it's too early to say anything.

"We will just have to wait and see the script."

Mr Kennedy said that if the deal went ahead, it could still take
up to another 18 months to two years before the film is actually

"We have not approached the Paisley family and they have not
spoken to us," he said.

"Our movie will be totally independent of the Paisley family."

c Belfast Telegraph


Dublin Easter Commemoration, Easter Sunday, Parnell Square

Dublin History And Heritage Event Notice
D‚ardaoin M rta 29,
2007 00:42 by DSF

Assemble at 1.30PM at the Garden of Remembrance

The main Dublin Easter Commemoration will take place on Easter
Sunday the 8th of April assembling at 1.30pm at the Garden of

The main speaker for the Commemoration will be Sinn Fein
President Gerry Adams.

Related Link:


Sligo Easter 1916 Rising Commemoration

Sligo History And Heritage Event Notice
D‚ C‚adaoin M rta 28, 2007 23:28
by J. Dunne - Connolly Forum connollyforum@eircom.netHigh Street, Sligo. 071-9145490

Connolly Forum

Annual 1916 Rising Easter Commeration Ceremony

Republican Plot
Sligo Cemetery
Easter Sunday (8th April)
At 12 Noon

Speaker: Cllr. Colette Connolly (Galway)

Assemble Cairns Drive at 11.50.a.m.


Cork Annual Easter 1916 Commemoration

Cork History And Heritage Event Notice

D‚ M irt M rta 27, 2007 15:16
by Se n O Murch£ - Sinn Fein Poblachtach - Cork

On Easter Sunday, April 8 (Republican) Sinn Fein (Poblachtach) -
Corcaigh will hold our Annual Easter 1916 Commemoration.

Assembly Wilton Roundabout, Cork at 2.30pm. The parade will then
proceed to the Republican Plot, St Finbarr's Cemetery.

Speaker: Liam Cotter - Kerry.

Wear an Easter Lilly and Honour Irelands dead.

All Welcome.

Related Link:


Economy Slows Down As Housing, Exports Decline

Marc Coleman, Economics Editor
Thu, Mar 29, 2007

Signals of a slowdown in the economy emerged yesterday with the
release of figures which showed a drop for the first time in new
house starts and a slide in exports.

The number of new houses built in the last quarter of 2006 fell
for the first time in 10 years, according to figures released by
the Central Statistics Office (CSO). Separate figures showed that
the economy's export performance worsened severely in the same

Minister for Finance Brian Cowen warned that risks to the economy
were increasing while business group Ibec described the export
figures for the last three months of 2006 as "dismal".

However, Mr Cowen welcomed the strong overall growth in the
economy last year, the highest since 2002. He said the economic
activity had been buoyant. But he cautioned: "Despite the size,
strength and length of our economic success, we must not take
that success for granted."

Gross Domestic Product (GDP) - the level of output in the economy
in a given period - grew by 6 per cent last year. The full year
out-turn is stronger than December's Government estimate of 5.4
per cent, but growth slowed in the final quarter to 5 per cent,

That is below the Government's projection of 5.3 per cent growth
this year.

While Government forecasts see the economy relying on more
domestic demand next year, the sharp deterioration in external
trade suggests this trend may be more significant than expected.

Final quarter net exports - exports of goods and services less
imports of goods and services - fell annually by 10.2 per cent, a
significantly worse outturn than the 2.8 per cent growth that was
recorded for 2006 as a whole.

Government forecasts are for a more modest 2.3 per cent fall in
net exports next year.

Although full-year net export growth was positive, a breakdown of
exports reveals that goods exports rose by just 0.5 per cent.

The number of new houses built in the final quarter was 1.7 per
cent, down on the same period of 2005. It compared to 2.9 per
cent growth for the year as a whole. Data on planning
permissions, also updated yesterday, suggest this trend is set to
continue for some time.

Approvals of new dwellings in the final quarter of 2006 were 21.4
per cent lower than the same period of 2005, while the number of
approved apartments was 30.4 per cent lower.

Pointing to the slowdown in the housing market, Ibec chief
economist David Croughan said it was becoming more urgent for the
economy to regain competitiveness if it was to compensate for a
declining construction sector. "These figures contain no
comfort," he said.

He added that the figures would have been worse but for a strong
performance by services exports. He said the figures were a
"measure of the loss of competitiveness, which has resulted in
unbalanced growth in recent years. This cannot be sustained in
the medium term."

However, Bank of Ireland economist Dan McLaughlin said the
State's export performance was likely to bounce back in the
current year, driving GDP growth as high as 6 per cent for 2007
as a whole.

Goodbody economist Dermot O'Leary said the economy's performance
this year would be influenced by the housing market. "With recent
data showing housing starts on a declining trend, new housing
will act as a drag on economic growth in 2007," Mr O'Leary said.

Mr Cowen welcomed the figures but said the Government was not
complacent about the economy. "We live in an increasingly
competitive global environment in which we have to trade if we
are to prosper. We must ensure that we maintain and build on our

c 2007 The Irish Times

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