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March 04, 2007

SF Seeks Gains On Both Sides of Border

News about Ireland & the Irish

IT 03/05/07 SF Seeks Gains On Both Sides Of Border
IT 03/05/07 Ó Caoláin Against Motion That Opposed Coalition w/ FF
IT 03/05/07 SF Trying To Capture Third Seat At Expense Of SDLP
BT 03/04/07 SF TD Denies Abusing Members Of Travelling Community
IT 03/04/07 Ex-IRA Prisoners Urge Vote Against SF
IT 03/04/07 Opin: The Challenge For Sinn Féin
BN 03/04/07 NY Gay Council Leader To March In Dublin Parade
BN 03/04/07 Luxury Flats Planned For Ireland's Tallest Building
FR 03/04/07 Houses Have Risen By 2.6% In Last 6 Mths In Ireland


SF Seeks Gains On Both Sides Of Border

Mon, Mar 05, 2007

Analysis: Power sharing in the North may only be weeks away for
Sinn Fein, and the party believes that being in government in the
Republic cannot be far behind, writes Mark Hennessy, Political

Distracted by the Assembly elections in Northern Ireland, Sinn
Fein's weekend ardfheis had the distinct air of a party going
through the motions as it waits for the results.

The next few weeks will be crucial, both for the party's
electoral fortunes in Northern Ireland and its prospects of
sharing the two top political jobs in Stormont with the
Democratic Unionist Party (DUP).

Both the DUP and Sinn Fein have gone out of their way in recent
weeks to avoid picking fights with each other and have been happy
to concentrate on issues irritating the public, notably water

Sensing the political climate, Sinn Fein leaders are quietly
convinced that the DUP's Rev Ian Paisley will make the leap,
unthinkable not long ago, before the Assembly meets at the end of

So far, it has put more emphasis on the proximity of power than
on winning extra seats, although it has five targets: Strangford,
Lagan Valley, West Tyrone, Fermanagh-South Tyrone and West

Emphasising the inevitability of a deal is also good politics
among nationalists and republicans, as it could help to
copperfasten votes taken from the SDLP in the past, votes that
will be vital for any of those gains to be realised.

The retention of votes of middle-class, one-time SDLP supporters
considering changing loyalties may be necessary since, though
relatively silent, more than a few republicans have genuine
difficulties with the policing moves. They will not vote against
the party in any significant way, notwithstanding the presence of
Republican Sinn Fein candidates and others like Gerry McGeough,
but they may stay at home.

During the ardfheis, a desultory attempt was made by a few Sinn
Fein delegates to reopen the party's decision in January to
support the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) and the
legal system there.

However, the lack of any real prospect of an internal revolt was
obvious from the start of the ardfheis, when Gerry Kelly firmly
slapped down the arguments behind such calls.

The decision, he said, had been "comprehensively" supported by
January's special ardfheis and change now would be "foolhardy"
and would let the DUP "off the hook" with the prize so close at

The differences between this campaign and previous Assembly
elections are best highlighted by the lack of DUP reaction to
Fermanagh-South Tyrone MP, Michelle Gildernew.

Last week, she said she would not tell police about arms
possessed by dissident republicans, a comment that in any past
campaign would have had Paisley's followers fulminating.

There is no doubt, however, that the question put to Gildernew
could be - and undoubtedly will be - legitimately put to any of
Sinn Fein's candidates in the upcoming Dail elections.

While the weeks ahead will have much to say about Sinn Fein's
fortunes in Northern Ireland, they will, equally, be influential
in setting the landscape for the party's battle south of the

In his speech on Saturday evening, Adams said that there should
"be no doubt" about Sinn Fein's determination to be in power in
the Republic: and quickly, not just some day.

Sinn Fein had a "historic mission", he said, with the distinct
lack of modesty typical of the party at such moments, to "bring
about a truly national republic and a truly national government".

However, he told delegates and the outside audience watching in
the RDS in Ballsbridge at the weekend, "we are not prepared to
wait until then to tackle the many issues which bear down upon
the people of Ireland".

Although no hard and fast views have been made, the other
political parties in the Republic up to now believed that Sinn
Fein would prefer not to be in government immediately.

Regardless of whether Adams is being entirely straight on this
point, he had little choice but to labour the point about Sinn
Fein's desire for power now, given the dynamics forming in the
general election campaign.

With two alternative alliances already on the starting blocks,
voters may be somewhat reluctant to support a party that would
firmly rule itself out of participation in government in advance.

However, other voters, alarmed by the possibility of Sinn Fein in
ministerial office in Dublin, may revise their intentions and use
their preferences actively to scupper the party's ambitions.

Having won five seats in the Dail in the last election, Sinn Fein
quietly spoke two years or so ago about winning 16 seats,
although its ambitions have been reined in significantly since

Nevertheless, Sinn Fein is still confident that it will win extra
seats and will particularly bank on Dublin MEP Mary Lou McDonald
winning in Taoiseach Bertie Ahern's base in Dublin Central.

Her prospects were brighter a few months back than they are now,
given one negative constituency poll and little evidence on the
ground that she has made significant inroads.

However, her campaign profile will be helped by the prominence
that she is likely to enjoy over coming weeks on Northern issues,
even though her prominence is not reflective of her influence in
the talks themselves.

In Waterford, David Cullinane has prospects, judging by the vote
he took within the constituency's borders in the 2004 European
Parliament elections - particularly if the vote of Fianna Fail's
Martin Cullen is down in the city.

In Donegal South West, Pearse Doherty remains strong, although
Padraic MacLochlainn faces a tough battle in Donegal North East,
given the level of competition within Fianna Fail and between
current and former Fine Gaelers.

c 2007 The Irish Times


Ó Caoláin Leads Charge Against Motion That Opposed Coalition With Fianna Fáil

Michael O'Regan, Parliamentary Correspondent
Mon, Mar 05, 2007

Coalition vote: Delegates overwhelmingly rejected a motion ruling
out coalition with Fianna Fail after the general election.

The motion, tabled by the Charlie Hurley cumann in Bandon, Co
Cork, noted the "incompatibility of the principles and the
policies of the two parties".

Arguing strongly against the motion, Sinn Fein Dail leader
Caoimhgh¡n O Caolain said it would be up to the party's
membership to decide if it should enter any coalition arrangement
with another party, or parties, in the wake of the election.

"Now, that is something you should retain. It is a very, very
powerful instrument in the run-up to the election and immediately
following it."

Mr O Caolain said they all knew Fianna Fail's record, and many
motions on the ardfheis agenda highlighted the party's failures
in Government.

"Make no mistake about it, irrespective of how we view the
proposition in this motion, none of us has any illusions
whatsoever about Fianna Fail at this point in time."

However, said Mr O Caolain, the issue for Sinn Fein was two-fold.
Would any of the other parties measure up to the policy
commitments which Sinn Fein would require in the wake of an

Would entering a coalition enhance Sinn Fein's political strength
and advance its struggle for Irish unity and equality?

"We would have to satisfy ourselves that the answer to both those
questions would be yes before coalition could even be considered.
"Comrades, that is not the business of this ardfheis. That would
be the business of a specially-convened ardfheis if the occasion
presents post the upcoming general election, or any future
general election."

Supporting the motion, Jackie Phelan (Portlaw, Co Waterford) said
the party should not even consider supporting Fianna Fail after
the election.

"There is much ambiguity from the leadership here. We stand for
something which Fianna Fail does not stand for.

"Fianna Fail corrupted the political system. Haughey, Lawlor and
Burke corrupted the system, but there were many others. Who pays
the price for that corruption?

"It is the young people of Ireland who are taking out mortgages
from banks and building societies. We have given the freedom we
won from the British back to the banks, those giving out
mortgages and the developers in Ireland."

Mr Phelan said the greatest betrayal of all by Fianna Fail was
the extradition of republicans into the hands of a British system
which was found guilty of torture by the European Court of Human

"We should be honest with the people who support Sinn Fein and
say that we will not support Fianna Fail in any form." The party,
said Mr Phelan, should not be all things to all people.

"We carry the spirit of the men of 1798 and 1916, the men of the
hunger strike, Bobby Sands and his comrades. We have a special
place in Ireland."

c 2007 The Irish Times


Sinn Fein Trying To Capture Third Seat At Expense Of SDLP

Mark Hennessy, Political Correspondent
Mon, Mar 05, 2007

Twenty-one years ago Sean Lynch was an IRA man on the run when he
was shot in a field by the SAS as he and Seamus McElwain, both
armed with assault rifles, went to inspect a bomb. Today he is a
candidate for the Northern Ireland Assembly.

Jailed for 25 years, Mr Lynch served for 12½ before being
one of those released under the Good Friday agreement. Since 2002
he has worked as Sinn Fein's full-time constituency manager in
Fermanagh South Tyrone.

"If you had told me back then that one day I would be running for
Stormont I would have told you that you were mad," he told The
Irish Timesthis week as he sat in a house in a remote townland
outside Enniskillen.

Currently Sinn Fein holds two seats - Michelle Gildernew, who
also holds a Westminster seat, and Tom O'Reilly, who is not
standing again, while the SDLP's Tommy Gallagher holds the third
Nationalist seat in the constituency, which has a slight Catholic

A full-time party worker for the last five years, Mr Lynch led Ms
Gildernew's successful campaign in 2005 to hold on to the
Westminster seat she had won in 2001 - the seat that marked Sinn
Fein's entry on to the political stage when IRA hunger striker
Bobby Sands won the byelection caused by Frank Maguire's death in

Once the SDLP held the upper hand over Sinn Fein in attracting
Nationalist voters in Fermanagh South Tyrone, but Sinn Fein has
steadily increased its share in recent years.

Now it holds two Assembly seats here, compared with the SDLP's

Sinn Fein dearly wishes to take a third at the expense of the
SDLP's Tommy Gallagher, who was elected in 2003 with over 10 per
cent of the first preference vote and who was helped over the
line by over 2,000 transfers from his running mate Frank Britton.

In 2003, Sinn Fein's Enniskillen-based Joe McHugh lost his seat
to his running mate Tom O'Reilly, a result that surprised both of
them and many locals. This time Mr McHugh, back on the ticket,
has a fight on his hands compared with the high-profile Mr Lynch.

The SDLP's Mr Gallagher, a tough political campaigner, is running
alongside South Tyrone-based Vincent Currie, though few, if any,
believe that a second seat can be won.

On the Unionist side, Fermanagh South Tyrone was once a bastion
for the Ulster Unionists, helped by support from Protestant
farmers. However, the party has struggled here as it has
elsewhere in more recent years.

In 2003, the party won two seats with Arlene Foster and Tom
Elliot, although Ms Foster subsequently defected to the
Democratic Unionist Party after she quarrelled repeatedly with
the UUP's David Trimble.

Ms Foster held on to her Enniskillen vote in the 2005 local
elections for Fermanagh District Council, so expectations are
high that she will be returned alongside fellow DUP candidate,
the Dungannon-based Maurice Morrow.

The highly-regarded Mr Elliot, a farmer and ex-Ulster Defence
Regiment officer from Ballinmallard outside Enniskillen, is
expected to hold onto his seat, though it is hard to see his
running mate Kenny Donaldson (26) being in the reckoning for the
last of the constituency's six Assembly places.

c 2007 The Irish Times


Ex-IRA Prisoners Urge Vote Against SF

Sun, Mar 04, 2007

Up to 400 former IRA prisoners are to sign a letter urging
republicans to vote against Sinn Fein in this week's elections.

With the race for office entering its final few days, disaffected
supporters want rank-and-file voters to punish Gerry Adams' party
for its future endorsement of policing.

The polls open on Wednesday with Sinn Fein hoping to share power
in a devolved Assembly in Belfast with the Rev Ian Paisley's
Democratic Unionist Party.

Former prisoner Danny McBrearty, a long-time critic, said: "The
movement has been dismembered by the current leadership. We are
asking people to open their eyes.

"It is a total capitulation of what the last 30 years was about,
what was the armed struggle about, why did hundreds of out
patriot dead die?

"For Gerry Adams and his leadership to enter Stormont, which they
told us they would never do. They told us that they would never
give a bullet or an ounce, now there's not a bullet or an ounce

Those opposed to Sinn Fein's strategy have accused the leadership
of heavy-handedness and bullying tactics.

Mr Adams has appealed for dissident republicans to engage with
his team.

c 2007


Sinn Fein TD Denies Racially Abusing Members Of The Travelling

[Published: Sunday 4, March 2007 - 16:43]

Sinn Fein TD Martin Ferris has denied allegations that he
racially abused members of the travelling community at a housing
estate in County Kerry.
The claims have been made in a report in a Sunday newspaper.

Speaking earlier in the day, the TD said he's aware that an
incident did take place at a housing estate in Tralee, but he
claims he was not involved in it.

"Without any ambiguity whatsoever, with 100 per cent certainty, I
can say, I did not, in any circumstances give racial abuse
towards anybody," he said.

c Belfast Telegraph


Opin: The Challenge For Sinn Fein

Mon, Mar 05, 2007

Preparing for government North and South was the theme of Sinn
Fein's Ardfheis in Dublin this weekend.

It is an ambitious objective - more realistic, clearly, in
Northern Ireland than in the Republic. But Sinn Fein believes the
experience of government in a Northern Executive with the
Democratic Unionist Party - if this emerges from Wednesday's
assembly elections - will generate public support in the
forthcoming general election, putting the prospect of sharing
power in the Republic firmly on the agenda. Both alternative
governments rule out his proposition.

For the first time before their ardfheis. the president, Gerry
Adams, stated the words: "The war is over. Peace must be built".
The message is welcome indeed and Sinn Fein's role in delivering
it successfully must be acknowledged. Mr Adams promised
"determined engagement with the range of policing . . to prevent
attacks on the elderly, and to confront drug pushers, death
riders, hate crime, sex offenders, domestic violence and
sectarianism". He made the point that "Ian Paisley asked for this
election. He has a duty to accept the outcome." Should Dr Paisley
refuse to share power he would be left to explain why he
undermined unionism's demand for devolution.

There was little or no support for critics of this course at the
ardfheis. So the scene is set for a potentially positive outcome
of this strand of Sinn Fein's strategy. Will it spill over to the
Republic equally positively for the party in coming months and

Sinn Fein has an all-Ireland organisation, but it is stretched to
sustain overlapping election campaigns in both jurisdictions. The
northern campaign has diverted political energy from the general
election. Some potentially sympathetic southern voters are
probably alienated by the northern association, while many more
are hostile to Sinn Fein's violent record or unconvinced by its
new policies. Such scepticism probably explains the party's
recent slackening off in the opinion polls compared to the surge
of support several years ago which gave it over 10 per cent of
first preferences. But it is too soon to conclude that the party
peaked then and will not retrieve that level of support among
southern voters.

Whether Sinn Fein can do so depends on the credibility of its
policies, candidates and organisation. They are rarely assessed
like other parties. On the evidence of this ardfheis, it is a
left-wing nationalist party committed to egalitarian policies in
health and education and taxation geared to those on lower and
average incomes. It is pledged to redistribute the tax burden
more fairly between these and the better-off and super-rich
rather than increase it. It is willing to bargain about
coalition-building after the election. It has young candidates
and a more varied profile than before in many constituencies.

But the party still has a long way to go in explaining and
justifying itself to voters anxious for social change but wary of
destabilising the economic prosperity which makes it possible.

c 2007 The Irish Times

NY Gay Council Leader To March In Dublin Parade

04/03/2007 - 20:17:33

New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn plans to march in
Dublin's St Patrick's Day parade this year, again snubbing the
American parade because of its organisers' refusal to allow gay
and lesbian groups to march.

Quinn, an Irish-American who is the city's first openly gay
council speaker, is heading to the Dublin parade at the personal
invitation of officials there.

She is expected to be joined by other members of the New York
City Council, as well as the Lord Mayor of Dublin, the speaker of
the Lower House of the Dail, and Dublin City Council members.

"My participation in Dublin's parade is also an opportunity to
march openly as a member of the lesbian, gay, bisexual,
transgender community, something we have not been able to do in
New York City," Quinn said in a statement today. "I hope my
participation in the Dublin march will send a message about the
importance of inclusion."

The New York City parade is organised by the Ancient Order of
Hibernians, who have denied permission for gays and lesbians to
march under their own banner since 1991. The group has said it
does not want to politicise the event.

Quinn tried to broker a deal with the group last year after
taking office as speaker in January. But it did not work, so she
boycotted the event as she had in her previous years as a council

During her trip, Quinn also expects to speak about the need for
"a lasting peace in Northern Ireland", her office said.

The Conference for American Ireland Relations will be footing the
bill for the New York council trip to Ireland, according to
Quinn's office.


Luxury Flats Planned For Ireland's Tallest Building

04/03/2007 - 19:27:20

The tallest building in Ireland is to be turned into luxury
apartments, it emerged tonight.

County Cavan building company P Elliott, has bought Belfast's
Windsor House for around ?44m and plans to convert it into
upmarket flats.

The 23-storey block is full of government offices, including the
Parades Commission and the British-Irish Joint Secretariat as
well as the European Commission.

University of Ulster housing expert Paddy Gray said: "Certainly
you will find that plenty of people want to live in the city
centre as Belfast grows in popularity.

"You will find that those apartments in the city business
district will hold their prices very well, it is a very good
location and there is obviously demand for people to live in the
city centre."

P Elliott will have to obtain planning permission for a
residential redevelopment of the premises.

Nearby Victoria Square is being built at present and will also
include high-specification dwellings for professionals.

Mr Gray, senior lecturer in housing, added: "It is a trend across
the UK and in Dublin, where you have developments in areas like
the Temple Bar and many apartments have been sold at the Dublin

"There is more confidence coming into Belfast now and people
would be willing to pay very high prices to live in the city
centre and avoid commuting."

Costs have soared in the city in recent years and price growth is
expected to continue.


House Prices Have Risen By Only 2.6% In The Last Six Months In

Annual Irish national house price growth fell again in January,
according to the latest of edition of the Permanent TSB/ESRI
house price index .

The index shows that the annual rate of growth in January was
10.6pc, down from 11.8pc recorded in the 12 months to December.
For the month of January, house prices were up just 0.1pc -
unchanged from the rate of growth recorded in December and
November 2006.

Niall O'Grady, Head of Marketing at Permanent TSB described
recent rises as "very moderate". He said this was highlighted by
the fact that in the six months to January this year, national
prices rose by just 2.6pc.

The index show that the average amount paid nationally for a
house in January was E311,078, compared with E310,632 in December

House price growth in Dublin slowed more than elsewhere on an
annual basis, with growth in Dublin falling from 15.9pc in
December to 14.7pc in January. Outside of Dublin, price growth
decelerated from 10.9pc in December to 9.7pc in January.

For the month of January, prices in Dublin rose by just 0.1pc
compared to 0.4pc for houses bought outside Dublin. In December
2006 the relative price changes were 0.1pc and -0.1pc.

The average price paid for a house in Dublin rose only slightly
month on month in January to E427,946, up from 427,343 in
December. Meanwhile, outside of Dublin the average price of a
house was E267,484, compared to 266,339 in December.

Elsewhere, the figures show that the price of a home for first
time buyers grew by 0.1pc during January to an average of
E279,399. The cost of buying a second hand home rose 0.2pc to

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