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March 31, 2007

US Congressmen on Fact Finding Trip

News about Ireland & the Irish

IT 03/31/07 US Congressmen On Fact Finding Trip
IT 03/31/07 How The Deal Was Won
UT 03/30/07 Michael Stone Charged With Attempted Murder
WP 30/31/07 Colombian Supreme Court Upholds IRA Convictions
AN 03/30/07 Unionists Laughed At Cllr's Collusion Motion
BB 03/31/07 Last Soldiers Leaving Crossmaglen
BT 03/31/07 'Cross' Not Suffering Any Bad Withdrawal Symptoms
IM 03/31/07 More Speak Irish In The North Than Speak Chinese
BT 03/31/07 Opin: Army Council's Meetings Key To Securing Deal
IM 03/31/07 Opin: Lissadell And Closed Roads
SB 04/01/07 Opin: Long, Weary Journey Is Over
IT 03/31/07 Taoiseach On Lissadell House Visit
SB 04/01/07 Folk Singer Paddy Reilly Nets €32m From Sale Of Land
SB 04/01/07 Irish Islands Go On Show


US Congressmen On Fact Finding Trip

Sat, Mar 31, 2007

A delegation of US Congressmen arrives in Ireland today to get an
insight into Irish politics.

The nine-man group, led by newly appointed chairman of the
Friends of Ireland, Congressman Richard E Neal, will discuss a
number of topical issues including Northern Ireland, emigration
and international politics and economics.

Invited by the Ceann Comhairle Dr Rory O'Hanlon and the Irish
Parliamentary Association, the delegation will visit County Kerry
where they will see the Blasket Centre, the Kerry Group in
Tralee, and meet the Mayor of Kerry, Ted Fitzgerald.

Back in Dublin on Tuesday, they will meet a cross-party group of
Oireachtas members at Leinster House, where they will hold inter-
parliamentary talks on a range of key subjects.

On Wednesday, Congressman Neal will address a conference entitled
Ireland's Attitude To The Diaspora at Dublin Castle, before
attending sittings of the Dail and Seanad Eireann, and meeting
President Mary McAleese, An Taoiseach Bertie Ahern and Foreign
Affairs Minister Dermot Ahern.

"Their visit highlights the degree of interest on both sides in
strengthening the closest ties between our legislatures," said Mr
O'Hanlon, expressing his delight at welcoming the members back.

c 2007


How The Deal Was Won

Sat, Mar 31, 2007

The stage was set, the lines well-rehearsed, and when the DUP and
Sinn Fein finally met this week, they gave a powerful
performance. But what went on behind the scenes? Frank Millar,
London Editor, reports

People across these islands and throughout the world gasped in
amazement last Monday when Northern Ireland's tribal chieftains,
the Rev Ian Paisley and Gerry Adams, finally sat down to make

A prescient editorial in The Irish Times had alerted readers that
a historic day lay ahead, if not quite that originally planned by
the British and Irish governments. Forty-eight hours before we
reported that, the DUP leader Dr Paisley and his deputy Peter
Robinson were engaged in the most spectacular gamble of their
political lives.

Against the odds they had resolved to bust the March 26th
"deadline" set in law and apparent stone by Northern Ireland
Secretary Peter Hain. At the same time they thought to claim
"ownership" of the political process by setting their own date
for the commencement of power-sharing government with Sinn Fein.

The wait between expectation and realisation might have been
counted in a small number of hours. Yet, in what proved a huge
gap, nothing could have prepared us for the imagery that would be
beamed across the globe promising something even more potent than
the tearful celebration which greeted the Belfast Agreement on
Good Friday in 1998.

Not only did these veterans - many would say architects,
perpetrators and perpetuators - of conflict meet. They performed
with panache and evident confidence, their statements bearing the
telling evidence of the peacemakers' craft - each displaying due
appreciation of the other's needs and sensitivities. Moreover,
both leaders managed to invoke God, without offence being either
given or taken, in promising a better future for all the children
of the Troubles. It was, as Adams observed later, something quite

Disbelief had mixed with confusion in early morning media reports
suggesting that the unprecedented Adams-Paisley encounter would
determine whether Secretary of State Peter Hain might still be
forced to dissolve the newly elected Northern Ireland Assembly.
This was to miss the point that the fact of the meeting between
the two leaders confirmed an already-done deal.

While giving nothing away at the time, senior British sources
subsequently confirmed they knew - courtesy of Adams's first
cautious response to the DUP adventure - that it was "game-on" on
Saturday morning.

In Berlin for the EU birthday celebrations, however, British
prime minister Tony Blair and Taoiseach Bertie Ahern were
monitoring developments and taking nothing for granted. For
Blair, in particular, believing only came with seeing the draft
of Dr Paisley's proposed statement on his return to Downing
Street at about 10pm on Sunday.

IF BLAIR SLEPT better as a result, the same would not have been
true for all the members of the DUP executive who had on Saturday
afternoon approved the resolution containing the firm commitment
to form a power-sharing administration on May 8th. True, the
leadership carried the day with 90 per cent backing. Delegates
asking the question were told emphatically that there would be no
return for another vote. This was decision-time. And leading
doubters such as MPs William McCrea and David Simpson - who party
sources confirmed had joined fellow MPs Nigel Dodds and Gregory
Campbell in backing the new strategy - would certainly have known
what must follow. Yet some delegates would undoubtedly have
returned home anticipating another six-week period of "testing"
Sinn Fein's bona-fides in respect of support for policing, the
courts and the rule of law.

They were in for a rude awakening, for events moved, as they had
to, with speed. And we would subsequently discover that the now-
famous DUP-Sinn Fein agreement was effectively concluded in the
first direct negotiations between the two parties stretching from
6pm last Saturday until the midnight hour. Key party officials
are said to have carried on the exchanges for the most part on
Sunday. However, there were more face-to-face meetings between
some of the principals on Sunday evening as the agenda was set
for the Paisley-Adams bilateral and joint public appearance the
following morning.

In addition, the two sides had to engage in a protracted
discussion about the size and shape of the table - or tables - at
which Adams and Paisley would meet, who would sit where, and when
the cameras would be admitted. These were absolutely crucial
issues because, as everyone instinctively grasped, the imagery of
Monday would be as important - and possibly more so - than any
words spoken.

It was not, of course, the first time the two parties had met
across a table. Each side had grilled the other in the so-called
"Preparation for Government Committee" of the previous
"transitional" Assembly at Stormont. But this was something else
- the DUP and Sinn Fein sitting down on their own, with no
government ministers or officials in attendance, to hammer out an
agreed way forward.

Robinson led the DUP delegation in the negotiations, which took
place over the weekend at Hain's Stormont Castle residence. He
was accompanied by Dodds, Assembly member Ian Paisley Jnr, and
key officials Timothy Johnston and Richard Bullick. Sitting
opposite them around the table were Sinn Fein deputy first
minister-designate Martin McGuinness, MPs Gerry Kelly and Conor
Murphy, and top aides Aidan McAteer and Leo Green.

There were no handshakes. A number of the participants contacted
later declined to be drawn on their personal feelings, invariably
describing the atmosphere as "businesslike". Yet we know the
chemistry was vital to this enterprise, and, given the end
result, that it must have been considerably better than many
might have imagined.

One small indication of that came when illness forced Dodds to
leave before the rest of his colleagues on Saturday night. This
was not a diplomatic illness; the MP and his wife, Diane, both
endured a nasty dose of food poisoning throughout the weekend.
However, just in case there was any misunderstanding, Dodds went
to the Sinn Fein room to assure them that "he was not walking

We also know something about the necessary chemistry, given one
key aspect of the meeting that has been little commented upon -
namely, the DUP's task in persuading Sinn Fein that it was for
real about the alternative devolution date.

Yes, Adams had given a green light in his earlier contacts with
the British government. It was indeed "deal-on". But it could
still have crashed, taking the process with it to the Assembly
"dissolution" Hain always maintained would follow failure to meet
the original deadline for the appointment of an executive.

THAT POWER OF DECISION had been effectively handed to Adams by
Blair back on the Friday, after a final meeting of the week with
the DUP leadership at which the prime minister accepted that Dr
Paisley would not, after all, be meeting the March 26th deadline.

In fairness to Dr Paisley and Robinson, Blair's counter-strategy
hardly took them by surprise. On the contrary, this was part of
their gamble. For by that stage they had had to accept that, if
they weren't going to comply with the March 26th deadline, then
the prime minister was not going to grant the emergency
legislation necessary to extend it into May.

Blair had told Robinson this in blunt terms during their first
encounter of the week on the previous Wednesday, March 21st in
the prime minister's Commons office. This was the moment at which
Downing Street and the Northern Ireland Office finally accepted
that Peter Robinson was deadly serious in his view that pushing
ahead to meet the Monday deadline risked a damaging DUP split.
Under no pressure from the British, Robinson volunteered that he
had been by Dr Paisley's side for the best part of 40 years. And
the long-serving deputy made clear that if Dr Paisley wanted to
meet the Monday deadline he would have his support. However,
Robinson warned Blair equally bluntly that this would only be
done "at a cost" to the party.

Until that point, Number 10 and the Northern Ireland Office had
been entirely satisfied that "the Big Man" wanted and intended to
take office and nominate ministers on the Monday. This assessment
was shared across all sections of the DUP. The disagreement came
in the analysis of the party's disposition, and the weight Dr
Paisley would ultimately attach to it.

The British were so confident of Dr Paisley that they were
briefing fairly openly at one point against Dodds and Robinson.
In one of a number of "role reversals", Dodds had become "the
Jeffrey Donaldson of the peace process" - with the North Belfast
MP playing Donaldson's original dissident to "Dr Paisley's" David
Trimble. And all sides recognised the particular irony in the
developing frustration with Robinson.

Back in 2003-4, before the blossoming of the Blair-Paisley
relationship that would prove so important, the British and Irish
had entertained fond hopes that Robinson the "moderniser" might
deliver Dr Paisley to an agreement. Now here he was restraining
his leader, despite the overwhelming evidence of the election -
and the Northern Ireland Office's leaked exit poll - that Dr
Paisley had correctly read the mood of the people and won their
trust in the election.

In no-nonsense mood, the British faced into the final week of the
negotiations expectant that the octogenarian leader would assert
his authority; that Robinson would in the end prioritise "the
interests of the people of Northern Ireland over concerns about
party management"; and that Dodds would "stay loyal" and probably
accept a ministry in the new executive.

However, they saw things very differently in the doubting wing of
the DUP (and it was always more "doubting" than "dissident"). No
one at any point denied that the leader had the authority and
capacity to deliver a clear majority in favour of going into
government by the deadline. Nor did any deny that the Paisley
imprimatur was still the one necessary to make an agreement that
would stick. By the same token, as one senior source put it, time
had marched on "and DUP politics is no longer just about Dr
Paisley". The doubters also calculated that - unlike Blair - when
it came down to it, the DUP leader would not forget the essential

This, as Robinson would later remind them, had seen successive
British governments "push" unionist leaders too far ahead of
their people and parties. Robinson had long ago concluded that
Adams considered the "process" indestructible - and that he was
right. It was in that certain knowledge that Sinn Fein had defied
the St Andrews timetable and deferred the required decision
backing the PSNI by two months. So, Robinson argued upfront, the
DUP likewise should be allowed to manage their party and ensure
the ducks were "in a line" before committing.

Some Northern Ireland Office sources fancied that Dr Paisley was
"somewhat crestfallen" at the realisation that things would not
proceed as planned on March 26th. The contrary evidence, however,
is that the leader weighed the internal debate and also concluded
that delay was necessary.

Hence that Paisley-Robinson strategy based on one other key
conclusion: that delay would maximise DUP unity, so ensuring a
much more stable and secure start to the new devolved
administration come May.

At their final meeting in Downing Street on the Friday, Blair
made no attempt to argue with that, telling the DUP that he
didn't care either way about the commencement date.

Hain, by contrast, was in a black mood, and clung to the Monday
deadline. The developing Iranian crisis caused Blair to leave the
room on two occasions.

And on each occasion the Secretary of State reminded the DUP of
the political cost to them if the deadline was not met - in terms
of water charges, the abolition of education by selection, and
"accountability" reforms of the Belfast Agreement. Indeed,
according to one DUP account, Hain maintained his position even
on Saturday, telling the DUP they risked putting Sinn Fein in
"the driving seat".

THE DUP, OF course, weren't listening, intent as they were on
forging their own reality. And it would be disingenuous for
anyone in the Northern Ireland Office to claim that Hain and
Blair have always sung from the same hymn sheet. However, there
is acceptance at the highest levels in Whitehall that Hain's
conduct of the policy debate - coupled with what one source
describes as "his impatience with the impasse" - served an
important function in a process that had grown "too indulgent".
And, in terms of the end result, was there any significant
difference between Hain's stance and Blair's more emollient
message to the DUP on the need to directly engage with, and
persuade, Sinn Fein?

At the last, in any event, Hain was able to laugh with everyone
else. The Ulster Unionist Party's sole MP Lady Sylvia Hermon
plainly didn't see the funny side, as she badly misjudged the
mood in the Commons on Tuesday, protesting when Hain presented
the emergency legislation, overriding the deadline he had always
said was immutable.

But there were prizes for everyone here (including, presumably,
Lady Sylvia's leader, Sir Reg Empey). And there were bouquets for
Hain too, from the Conservative as well as the Labour benches.
Yes, DUP members could congratulate themselves on busting the
deadline. However, many outsiders could also see that - in
Blair's famous "big picture" terms - the deadline had also worked
with the Paisley-Robinson strategy to finally end the DUP's
conditionality about power-sharing.

Coupled with Monday's powerful imagery, and the serious
preparations for government now under way, the outcome was
arguably better than anything that would have resulted from a
decision to force Monday's deadline in face of significant
internal DUP opposition and reluctance. Dr Paisley's hand - like
that of Robinson - has been immeasurably strengthened.

So too, therefore, have the chances that this deal will actually

First signs of first minister

The Fairmont St Andrews Hotel, Scotland:Friday, October 13th,

When we were finally admitted for British prime minister Tony
Blair and Taoiseach Bertie Ahern's press conference at the end of
the three-day negotiation that set the scene for last Monday's
agreement, I noted that the front row of seats had been reserved.

Dermot Ahern and the rest of the Irish ministerial team occupied
the first four. They were promptly followed by Peter Hain and his
two colleagues, leaving just two seats at the end. These were in
turn taken by Dr Paisley and his wife Eileen, Baroness Paisley.

I thought this odd. A quick scan showed the other party leaders
standing around the back, and Gerry Adams not yet in the room at

Later that evening I asked a British government spokesman about
this seating arrangement, and was told Dr Paisley needed to be
close to the platform because he was rushing to the airport
immediately after making his own statement about the talks. And
it was true Dr Paisley and his wife were heading back to a family
party to celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary.

Even so. A seat in the second row would hardly have made any
difference. And the impression lingered, that the Big Man looked
not merely comfortable but as if his presence alongside the
British and Irish ministers was a statement in itself.

This week, and with the deal done, a senior British source was
more forthcoming as we revisited the St Andrews scene.

"There is no doubt in my mind that that was the moment he [
Paisley] crossed over to being first minister designate," he told
me. Frank Millar

c 2007 The Irish Times


Michael Stone Charged With Attempted Murder

Loyalist killer Michael Stone has again been remanded in custody
after appearing in court charged with storming the Northern
Ireland Assembly.

The 51-year-old from east Belfast has been in custody since being
arrested at Stormont last November when he was seized at the main
doors of the Parliament Building by two security guards.

He has been charged with attempting to murder Sinn Fein leaders
Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness, the two security guards and an
unnamed fifth person.

Stone appeared today at Belfast Magistrates` Court by video-link
from Maghaberry Prison and was remanded to reappear in similar
fashion on April 20.

The killer, who describes himself as "the artist Michael Stone",
told an earlier court hearing his escapade at Stormont was
"performance art".

Stone achieved notoriety when he killed three people in a gun and
grenade attack at the funeral in west Belfast of the three IRA
members shot dead by the SAS in Gibraltar in 1988.

He was released early under the terms of the Good Friday
Agreement but had his licence revoked in November when he was
also charged with possessing home-made explosives, an imitation
firearm and articles for terrorist purposes.


Colombian Supreme Court Upholds IRA Convictions

By Jerry Seper Published Yesterday Latin America , Peace and
Conflict Unrated

Ex-IRA members convicted for supporting FARC
By Jerry Seper
The Washington Times

WASHINGTON -- The Supreme Court in Colombia has upheld the
convictions in that country of three former Irish Republican Army
(IRA) members convicted and later sentenced to prison for
providing explosives training to Colombia's leftist rebels.

The high court's ruling affirmed convictions in 2004 by an
appeals court of Niall Connolly, James Monaghan and Martin
McCauley, who in 2003 had been found not guilty by a trial judge
of training rebels of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia
(FARC) to build bigger and better bombs.

Connolly, Monaghan and McCauley, known as the "Colombian Three,"
fled to Ireland while prosecutors in Colombia appealed the trial
judge's verdict.

Trial Judge Jaime Acosta in Bogota had acquitted the men in
August 2003 of teaching FARC fighters how to make bombs, although
he convicted them on lesser charges of passport fraud. He
sentenced them to terms ranging from 26 months to 44 months.
Because of the time they had already served since their arrests
on Aug. 11, 2001, he ordered them freed once they paid fines of
$6,500 each.

In April 2004, the attorney general's office in Colombia appealed
the verdict to the Court of Appeals and in December 2004, the
appeals court overturned the not-guilty verdict, finding the men
guilty of training the FARC rebels and ordering them to 17-year
prison sentences.

Monaghan, Connolly and McCauley had been arrested at Bogota
International Airport for traveling on false passports and were
found to have spent five weeks traveling through a demilitarized
southern zone of Colombia, then under the control of the FARC.

Monaghan and McCauley had arrived in Colombia on June 30, 2001,
on a flight from Belfast via Paris. Connolly had flown from
Dublin via Madrid, spending a day in Caracas before making a
rendezvous in Bogota. They denied the charges, describing
themselves as ecotourists and saying they visited FARC-controlled
areas to study peace negotiations.

Colombia's leftist rebels trained by IRA

In April 2002, Gen. Fernando Tapias, then-chairman of Colombia's
joint chiefs of staff, told the U.S. House International
Relations Committee that FARC rebels were trained by the IRA to
build bombs and upgrade their terrorist operations.

He said "an onslaught of terrorist acts" included the bombing of
320 electrical towers, 30 bridges and 46 vehicles -- attacks that
killed 400 police and military officers and caused $500 million
in damages.

Monaghan, 61, was identified by British authorities as the
designer of the Mark 1B long-range mortar known as the "barracks
buster." Convicted in 1971 of possession of explosives, he served
three years in prison. He also is a former member of the Sinn
Fein Executive Council.

McCauley, 44, served two years in prison for his 1985 conviction
for illegal possession of weapons. Commander of the IRA's
engineering department, he is an expert in using and producing
weapons and mortars.

Connolly, 42, also is a weapons expert and is thought to have
first made contact with the FARC five years ago through a Basque
terrorist group that specializes in bombings and assassinations
of Spanish government officials.


Unionists Laughed At Cllr's Collusion Motion

Andersonstown News
By Roisin McManus

A local Sinn Fein councillor has hit out after some unionist
councillors laughed out loud as a motion on the Police
Ombudsman's report into Special Branch collusion was being read
at a meeting of Lisburn City Council.

Cllr Jennifer McCann put the following notice of motion forward:
That this Council expresses deep concern at the relevations
contained in the report published by Police Ombudsman Nuala
O'Loan into the murder of Raymond McCord Jnr highlighting
collusiion between Special Branch and loyalist paramilitaries and
further calls on the British government to acknowledge its role
in employing this policy during its "Dirty War" in Ireland."

In January the Police Ombudman's report said there was collusion
between police officers and members of the UVF in North Belfast
who carried out up to 16 murders while working as informers. Her
investigation was sparked by Raymond McCord Senior whose son,
Raymond Junior, was murdered in November 1997.

Following a vote it was decided by 24 votes to four to take the
motion to the next meeting of the Corporate Services Committee
for discussion.

Speaking at Council, Cllr McCann said: "I am very, very
disappointed at the way people have reacted. This report has
serious implications, people have been murdered and yet there is
laughter and silliness... I would like to think that this would
be dealt with more seriously."

And, speaking to the Andersonstown News last night she added:
"Families who have been directly affected by the policy of
collusion are entitled to the truth about why a state agency that
is supposed to protect citizens was instrumental in their murder.

"Given the fact that four of the victims mentioned in Nuala O'
Loan's report were from the unionist/loyalist community their
families must feel very let down by their political
representatives who voted against debating the motion," she

Raymond McCord Senior said he would like to attend the meeting of
the Corporate Services Committee when the motion is discussed.

Speaking about the reaction of some unionists to the motion, he
said" "This attitude is disgraceful. Are they saying that the
report is wrong, do they want to brush it under the carpet? I
would like to go along and listen to the debate, I am quite
willing to attend the next meeting," he added.


Last Soldiers Leaving Crossmaglen

British soldiers are pulling out of Crossmaglen on Saturday - the
border village at the heart of republican south Armagh.

When troops of the Black Watch leave the village it will end a
posting all soldiers dreaded.

The area was considered so dangerous that troops and police
officers could not travel by road, and had to be flown in and out
by helicopter.

The move is one of the most significant steps in the
normalisation process.

It was previously considered impossible for the police to carry
out their duties in Crossmaglen without military support.

For more than 30 years, soldiers and police officers based in the
village were tasked with confronting some of the IRA's most
deadly units in the heart of south Armagh.

The area was referred to by many as "Bandit Country" because of
its history of lawlessness.

More than 20 police officers and soldiers were murdered in the
Crossmaglen area during the Troubles.

Demolition has already been completed on the look-out tower and
the Army and police base which loomed over Tomas O Fiaich Square
in the village.

The Army installations, troops on patrol and helicopter flights
were a source of anger for locals in the village for decades.

"For over 30 years the community here in south Armagh has had to
endure British military occupation," MP for the area, Sinn Fein's

Conor Murphy, said.

"It is now important that lands previously occupied by the
British are returned to their owners and that larger sites
vacated by the crown forces are utilised for the benefit of the
communities which have had to endure so much repression from the
British army throughout their unwelcome stay in south Armagh."

An Army spokesman said: "As published in the normalisation plan
of 28 March 2006, the military will be leaving Crossmaglen by the
end of this month."

The withdrawal of the Army from the base is part of the
government's normalisation programme in response to the IRA's
declared end to its activities.

Operation Banner, the name the Army gave to its support role for
the police, will end in August after more than 30 years - the
longest running operation in British army history.

By the summer there will be no more than 5,000 British soldiers
in Northern Ireland, based in 11 locations.

At the height of the Troubles there were almost 30,000, based in
more than 100 locations.

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2007/03/31 08:19:52 GMT


'Cross' Not Suffering Any Bad Withdrawal Symptoms

[Published: Saturday 31, March 2007 - 08:20]
By Ben Lowry

As the Army pulled out of Crossmaglen yesterday, a regular
English visitor to the south Armagh town was reminded of a chance
encounter with a squaddie in the 1980s. He had been curious about
James McCusker's accent.

"I told him I was from Old Trafford in Manchester, and he said,
'so am I'," said James.

Later, when James was playing football back in Manchester, the
same squaddie recognised him. The pair became friends.

It was a dramatic example of a life spent among two traditions
for James, whose dad was born in republican Crossmaglen.

The family would sing "rebel songs", despite living in England at
a time when the IRA were attacking its cities.

"I have always thought that killing people is wrong but you have
to look at the bigger picture and ask why they do it," said
James, in Crossmaglen yesterday for a wedding. "If you look at
the history of the British Empire, or any occupying country such
as the Spanish and French, they have all had to be forced out."

He was delighted to see the Army leave. He said it was a welcome
return to normality after the "superb" deal between Gerry Adams
and Ian Paisley.

"(The Army presence) puts a taint on the place," said James, as
he stood in the town square.

Looking across to the Hotel On The Cross the McCuskers reflected
on how different now-bustling Crossmaglen had been little more
than a decade ago.

"There were no cars in the square," said his sister Geraldine. "
It was like a ghost town."

Also pleased to see the Army go was passer-by Tom McKay (71), who
said he knew the McCuskers' dad Jim.

Mr McKay, who lives near the base, said some soldiers had been
"very nasty, others were polite".

He said: "Every movement was scrutinised, they could look into
your bedroom, they could be lying in your garden at night."

In the hotel, a Lithuanian waitress, Anjelica, had no
recollection of a militarised 'Cross'. She had a different

It was quiet, she said, before talking excitedly at the prospect
of one day moving to Belfast.

c Belfast Telegraph


More Speak Irish In The North Than Speak Chinese

National Miscellaneous Other Press
D‚ Sathairn M rta 31, 2007 17:42
by Ciar n Barnes - ATN

Andersonstown News

More speak Irish in the North than speak Chinese

By Ciar n Barnes

The unionist myth that more people in the North of Ireland speak
Chinese than Irish has been shattered in the House of Lords.

Statistics released at Westminster last week clearly show that
the North's Irish speaking population is eight times that of the
Chinese speaking population.

Responding to a parliamentary question by Ulster Unionist peer
John Taylor, Labour peer John Rooker revealed there are just
8,000 Chinese speakers in the North.

This compares to the 75,000 people who, in the 2001 census, said
they "speak, read, write and understand Irish", and the 167,000
people who said they "had some knowledge of Irish".

Janet Muller, Chief Executive of the Irish language umbrella
group Pobal, said the statistics are another reason why Irish
language legislation should be passed through Westminster.

"All languages deserve respect, and all language communities
should have access to services," she said.

"The circumstances of the Irish language are unique however
because it is an indigenous language with a large community of
speakers, a 2000 year history and a body of literature."

Confirmation of the Irish/Chinese speaking ratios come at a key
time for the future of the Irish language in the North.

If the Assembly reconvenes on May 8 one of its first big
decisions will be whether to implement an Irish Language Act.

Under proposals by the Department of Culture the language would
be given a recognised status.

The Department has proposed the appointment of an Irish language
Commissioner and the establishment of language schemes for public

It is also being suggested that Irish could be used in court
proceedings and official documents could be printed in the

Nationalists have long campaigned for the legislation along with
Irish speakers.

However, unionists have vowed to oppose it in any form.

The DUP's Nelson McCausland has questioned the wisdom of spending
more cash on implementing an Irish Language Act when the British
government already spends œ18 million annually on Irish.

He also described proposals contained in the act as "heavy


Opin: Army Council's Secret Meetings Key To Securing Devolution

[Published: Friday 30, March 2007 - 14:16]

The meeting that everybody knew about was the one that took place
in Dublin on Sunday, January 28 - the Sinn Fein ard fheis that
gave republicans a path into policing.

And it did more than that. The conference decision also created
part of the road to the new political era of Paisley and
McGuinness, and, in all that was happening, the IRA erected no

Before the Sinn Fein ard fheis there was an IRA Army Convention
stretching from Friday, January 26, into Saturday, January 27.

So what is an Army Convention?

It is an occasion when the IRA talks to itself - right across the

These meetings are secret, and they don't happen very often.

They are reserved for the biggest of decisions.

And when Martin McGuinness and Gerry Adams walked into their
party's Dublin conference on that Sunday in January, they knew
exactly the mind and the vote of the IRA organisation.

Indeed they knew they had the IRA with them, and that decision
and the Sinn Fein vote on the Sunday are what opened up a road to
the new politics of this place.

These things made possible that historic meeting on Monday
between Ian Paisley's DUP and Gerry Adams' Sinn Fein.

Army Conventions are the business of the IRA leadership -
business for the Army Council and the Army Executive.

And, yes, Jim Allister is right, there is still an Army Council
out there.

The DUP MEP won't agree with this point, but there has to be.

The IRA is styled as an Army. It takes its lead from the top, and
it is being ordered and directed out of war and towards peace.

That has been the trend since the first ceasefire of 1994.

If there was no Army Council, who would have ordered that
complete cessation of military operations and the second that
followed in 1997?

Who would have ordered the end of the armed campaign in 2005 and
the decommissioning that quickly followed?

Who gave the orders for military structures to be disbanded?

And who would have brought the IRA together in that recent Army
Convention that discussed the question of policing?

Inside republicanism - inside a changed and changing IRA - the
Army Council is making the once unthinkable happen.

And if you read closely into the words and the writings of the
Independent Monitoring Commission that is the trend you will see.

That commission will deliver another report to the British and
Irish governments at the end of April for publication just before
May 8 - the new date for devolution.

"This is not so much an Army Council - whatever it is called -
it's now a change management group," a source told this

"Their role and responsibility now is not to conduct a military
campaign, but to manage the transition from a terrorist campaign
into the democratic process.

"Whatever titles people may have, their roles are now completely
different," the source continued.

That source talked about us still being "in a period of
transition" and not yet being "at the end of it", but, he
believes, we are " at a late stage".

Inside the IRA, the Army Council may well still have the
authority to " declare war", but that is not the republican
direction of 2007.

The leadership at the top of that organisation is moving closer
to some final peace, and it is taking the bulk of the men and
women of the IRA with it.

We don't see the Army Council meeting, but if we care to look, we
can see the change in its thinking and its doing.

All we have to do is open our eyes and our minds.

The conflict is over, and the IRA is being ordered away by those
it will listen to - those who led it in war and then into a
developing peace.

The IRA is listening to its Army Council.

c Belfast Telegraph


Opin: Lissadell And Closed Roads

Sligo Rights And Freedoms
Opinion/Analysis D‚ Sathairn M rta 31, 2007 16:45
By B Scanlon - Right Of Way/Sligo

Disgrace To Her Name

The house that Countess Markievicz was born in now has exhibition
in her honour. This woman born into wealth gave her live to
Ireland and its poor.

Bertie Ahern kicked the show off on Friday for his friend the
owner Eddie Walsh, the very man who had closed of rights of way
on the estate to the people of the area.

The new landlord of Lissadell House had closed of rights of way
that was used for generations.

To have a exhibition to Countess Markievicz live ond work in the
place of her birth where Irish people are been blocked by a Irish
landlord is a disgrace to her memory and everything she believe
in. To have the Taoiseach there to open it is two fingers to
everyone in the area and their right to walk on Irish roads


Opin: Long, Weary Journey Is Over

01 April 2007

It has been an emotional week, during which the winds of Irish
history have blown together the warring factions in the North,
writes Tom McGurk.

It has been an emotional week, during which the winds of Irish
history have blown together the warring factions in the North,
writes Tom McGurk.

They were on the roads early.

As the country turned over in their beds enjoying a spring
Saturday with the promise of more sunshine to come, the DUP and
the Sinn Fein party machines were already headed for Castlereagh
in East Belfast and Parnell Square in Dublin.

The contrast in destinations could hardly be further apart on the
Irish historical spectrum, could hardly be more symbolic of the
still then-unbridgeable gap. Castlereagh has long been 'Republic
of Peter Robinson-land' or should I say empire?

Its red-bricked sumptuous council offices has long been
Robinson's castle; no sooner had he dumped the UUP out of its
safest and most symbolic seat, than he built his fortifications

Parnell Square has always been known as 'Revolutionary Square'.
Tom Clarke's tobacco shop out of which 1916 was hatched was here;
around the corner was Barry's Hotel, from where Michael Collins
ran his squad and the Rotunda hosted numerous defining moments
from the first Irish Volunteer meetings to the first Sinn Fein
and Fianna Fail gatherings.

As the DUP pulled up at Castlereagh and the Sinn Feiners parked
around Parnell Square, everyone was aware that by tea-time at the
latest the die would be cast. Monday was the Westminster deadline
for power sharing and devolution and, since Ian Paisley only did
religion on Sundays, it was today or never.

At the same time as the Dublin and Castlereagh meetings were
beginning, Martin McGuiness was pulling in to the Sinn Fein
offices in Sebastopol Street in Belfast.

(Castlereagh, Parnell, Sebastopol, can the appellations of
history on Irish street corners never leave us alone?) McGuiness
was being excused from the Ard Chomhairle meeting in Dublin to be
on stand-by for whatever might emerge out of Castlereagh. He
switched on his mobile, as did senior civil servants in Dublin,
Belfast and London. They had been instructed to monitor events
from home - after all, it would not be the first time that DUP
meetings had stonewalled.

From early in the week, the governments and Sinn Fein had been
aware of the DUP's internal divisions. There were three visible
groupings in the party, taking three different positions, with a
large number of MLA's and MP's keeping their opinions to

The Paisleys - senior and junior - and Peter Robinson wanted to
'do it now', while Nigel Dodds, Jim Wells and Gregory Campbell
were on the 'not just yet' wing. Total opposition to doing it 'in
the foreseeable future' was being led by MEPJim Allister and Rev
Willy McCrea.

Outsiders were also aware that where the DUP went was also
intrinsically bound up with the leadership succession. As it
stands, Peter Robinson is the anointed successor, but both Nigel
Dodds and MEPJim Allister were known to be interested. Gregory
Campbell and Willy McCrea are both known to be in the Dodds camp.

As the DUP meeting began, in Dublin the Sinn Fein Ard Chomhairle
was ploughing through routine business, though everyone was aware
that the main action was elsewhere. Back at Stormont Castle, a
senior civil servant in Peter Hain's office had been appointed to
act as a link between events at Castlereagh and all the other
interested parties.

It is enormously difficult to obtain inside information about DUP
meetings but, from sources, it seems that Peter Robinson led off
with an argument that the DUP's increased mandate from an
electorate struggling with the prospect of increased rates and
water rating charges were liable to think very poorly of
political failure.

He was ably supported by Ian Paisley Junior, who had increasingly
become an advocate for the deal, and Jeffrey Donaldson. Since
Paisley, father and son, are so close politically, it was a
seminal moment for the party listening.

The opposition was led by Jim Allister and Nigel Dodds, but they
were increasingly confronted with the question by the proposers:
''what is your alternative?"

Neither Jim Allister nor Willy McCrea was able to come up with a
more realistic alternative, other than long-fingering the
decision once again. As the debate continued across the morning,
Ian Paisley Senior saw that a strategy that would unite the 'do
it now' with the 'not just yet' groupings would unite more than
95 per cent of those present. Furthermore, it would allow both
Dodds and Campbell to come on board, as both were not only MP's
but former experienced assembly ministers. Just after mid-day at
Castlereagh, the decision was made to go for more time - and for
May. The civil servant in Hain's office was immediately informed.

But two more important decisions had also been taken by the DUP.
One was to start a new meeting immediately, of the DUP Officer
Board (their smaller central policy grouping), and also to agree
to begin urgent negotiations with Sinn Fein.

The Stormont civil servant informed London and Dublin and Martin
McGuiness of the decision. McGuiness spoke to Adams in Dublin and
told him that the DUP was on board - perhaps - but that its
members needed more time and were unable to meet Monday's Peter
Hain deadline.

Both recognised that the DUP's need for time perhaps represented
a unique opportunity for negotiation. A small window of
opportunity was opening. The DUP needed time both for internal
party difficulties and as a mechanism that would create the
public perception that they were moving on their own volition,
especially after all their huffing and puffing about the
deadline. This was now about face-saving as much as power-

McGuiness and Adams decided that they would negotiate, but it had
to be - for the first time ever - a proper face-to-face meeting
between the two parties in all the long years of this process.
Such was the urgency, with the hours running down to Monday, that
intermediates or next-room negotiators were out of the question.
To give it its due, the DUP saw the sense of that too.

The DUP quickly agreed and nominated Peter Robinson to lead the
negotiation. As the Stormont civil servant rushed to find a venue
there for the unexpected meeting, Taoiseach Bertie Ahern, on his
way to the Ireland versus Wales soccer match at Croke Park, was

By 3.30pm, the first ever face-to-face meeting between Sinn Fein
and the DUP on the Peace Process was secretly underway at
Stormont. Robinson was leading for the DUP and McGuiness for Sinn
Fein. Sinn Fein wanted three things from the meeting: a DUP
commitment to enter all the institutions, a definite date for
devolution and a public event on the following Monday that would
convince an increasingly sceptical general public that, at last,
the whole process was for real.

The first item - the DUP's commitment to work all the
institutions, including the cross-border bodies - provided the
most protracted argument. There could be no a la carte menu, no
working some parts and not others. If that was painful for them,
then policing was painful for Sinn Fein. But in so far as
commitments could be agreed this far in advance of as yet unknown
scenarios, they were given.

That agreed, the timing proved to be not too difficult. Sinn Fein
wanted early May, while the DUP wanted late May. They agreed on

According to sources, the meeting was amiable and business-like
from the outset. It broke off at 12.30am that night, with an
agreement to continue the following day. Still no hand-shakes but
a lot of business done. McGuiness got to bed in Derry at 3am,
after briefly meeting Adams in Belfast.

Sunday March 25

Peter Hain is on breakfast television and the public line at
least has changed. It's no longer ''devolution or dissolution''
but ''well, if the two parties can present me with their
agreement . . ."

11.00am at Stormont and the secret meeting reconvenes. The
immediate task at hand was to agree the choreography for 'the
event' on Monday morning. That would require an agenda for
discussion, a statement that both sides would make publicly and a
method whereby it could be televised without it turning into a
bear-garden for the press.

The agenda is principally a future government to-do list, with
mutual ambitions topping the list. Things like the social issues
of poverty, suicide, youth alcohol abuse (always a DUP
favourite), as well as water charges, rates and rural planning.
There's an emphasis on selecting the non-controversial, the
consensual areas.

By mid-afternoon they have moved on to how the event will happen
- where it would be, how many would be there, who would sit
where, what shape the top table would be and how it would be
publicised. Never has a shotgun wedding reception been subject to
such detailed scrutiny. They agreed the Stormont members' dining
room (it's neutral) and the diamond-shaped table allowing for
discreet distances where necessary.

They agree one film camera and two stills cameras. But there will
be no press, no questions and only the party leader statements
will be recorded as the meeting is concluded. Peter Robinson is
to be media manager.

The most difficult part comes with the party leaders' statements.
There can be no triumphalism, no polemics and yet they have to
appear realistic.

Hours of drafting follow. Each statement has to be agreed by both
sides. By late afternoon most of the agreements are in place,
except the leaders' statements.

Ian Paisley doesn't do politics on the Lord's Day, so final
agreement has to wait until early Monday morning.

Monday March 26

From8amthe television outside broadcasting vans are ringing

The international press makes a familiar yet weary journey across
the lawns. But there's enough speculation in the papers to
suggest that it may not just be another ground-hog day.

At 10am the Sinn Fein members assemble in their room to hear the
news. The rumour-mill has kept the mobiles buzzing late into the
night. Adams tells them that they are about to meet with the DUP
face to face. (Only during their meeting, with 45minutes to go to
'the event' does the final go-ahead on the leaders' television
statements come back from the DUP.)

Catriona Ruane has brought up a party of sixth-form politics
students from Our Lady's Grammar School in Newry to visit
Stormont. She has to ask them to excuse her as she has to go to a
meeting which has suddenly been called. With a huge press
presence around the lobby she dare not say any more.

Little do the girls know they're about to be unknowing
bridesmaids to political history, as they watch the Sinn Fein
delegation suddenly walk across the central lobby and ascend the
staircase to the member's dining-room.

Ruane later recalls that, as she climbed the stairs, she actually
wondered would they find the room empty. They march in to find
the DUP already in position. As they sit down they all open up
the carefully agreed agenda.

Adams quickly breaks the ice by suggesting to Ian Paisley that,
as the majority party, would he like to open the meeting. Paisley
begins from the carefully prepared briefs. Despite all the
rehearsal the meeting is not tense and is remarkably business-
like, given the circumstances.

The agenda is worked through and then its time to call in the
press. The two stills photographers click away as the camera man
sets-up his tripod and camera. On a signal, Paisley reads his
statement, followed by Adams. As Adams finishes, Peter Robinson
signals for the filming to end and the Sinn Fein delegation

Downstairs for once, the press, still filling up central lobby,
are open-mouthed as word of 'the event' spreads. Paisley can't
resist coming to the balcony above them and exchanging some good-
tempered teasing with them.

They rush off to the press room to await the broadcast.

When the tape is finally broadcast a few minutes later, they
watch it, seemingly mesmerised.

So too does most of the country, with an Easter-lilied Adams
performing partly in Irish to a chorus-line of stoney-faced DUP.

However endless and weary this journey across the desert of
Northern politics has been, we actually need to pinch ourselves
that we have not come across a mirage.

Tuesday March 27

I am in cappuccino-land in a fair-trade establishment on the
banks of the canal in Newry.

Beside me, Catriona Ruane is doing an interview in fluent Spanish
on her mobilephone to a Spanish radio station.

Beyond the windows, the economic miracle that is Newry is all
around. The shopping malls, the new apartment blocks, the
cinemas, Newry, whose property prices have risen 500 per cent in
ten years.

Newry, that once bombed-out hulk when you descended the hill and
the army road-block, a place that only twenty years ago you
couldn't have given away for nothing.

That place of blasted shop-fronts, concrete barriers and acres of
desolation alley. Behold now the City of Newry.

Wednesday March 28

Barry McElduff, the West Tyrone MLA, recalls an earlier Sinn
Fein/DUP meeting.

Less salubrious perhaps than the recent one, it was on the
landing of the Crumlin Road prison in the 1980s. IRA prisoner
McElduff was on remand and Ian Paisley MP was on prison
inspection duties.

''We asked him in and he came into the cells to talk to us'' says
McElduff. ''He was actually very nice, very concerned about the
conditions of prisoners. The warders were gob-smacked, come to
think of it. Of course he was a prisoner here himself back in the

The elaborate gold leaf inscription over the door spans the full
width of ornate mahogany portico. It reads 'The Office of the
deputy First Minister'.

The deputy first minister designate himself, Martin McGuiness,
opens the door and leads me in. We walk through an outer-office,
an ante room and then into the vast office. In one corner the
huge desk and bank of telephones, in another, a table and set of
leather chairs and, in another, a small circle of black leather
couches. The walls are still bare; he has just inherited it that
morning. I am the first visitor.

The desk is cleared, ready for business.

We stand and look out the window down at the vast spread of the
Stormont lawns, spring green in the sunshine, the vast entrance
framed by limes and beeches and still on the skyline, Carson's
raised right hand still clawing at the heavens.

For a moment there is no denying the emotion tugging at both of
us. This too takes a little getting used to. I first met him over
thirty years ago, mounting a free-Derry check-point. The straw-
curly hair, the combat jacket, the lean purposeful no-nonsense
Bogside terrier. Behind him, the local unit framed in doorways.

Nor is there any denying the winds of Irish history blowing
across the moment. The ghosts of Collins, Mulcahy, de Valera,
McEntee, Lemass, Aitken, McBride, the same circuitous route and
the same inevitable journey's ending. Their's took a decade; this
one more than a generation.

Later in the day, I read the historian Eamon Phoenix writing in
the Irish News that Monday March 26 (the day the troubles finally
ended) is the anniversary to the very day of the Flight of the
Earls down Lough Swilly.

The O'Neill and the O'Donnell and all their retinue, all of 400
years ago. Now who or what added that to 'the event'?


Taoiseach On Lissadell House Visit

Marese McDonagh
Sat, Mar 31, 2007

During the Famine it doubled as a soup kitchen but when Taoiseach
Bertie Ahern dropped into the restored coach house at Lissadell
House in Co Sligo yesterday, oysters and smoked salmon were on
the menu.

Given the Government's decision nearly four years ago not to
purchase the ancestral home of Countess Markievicz, there were
those who thought that a large serving of humble pie might be in
order, but instead Mr Ahern left with spring cabbage, rhubarb,
spinach and daffodils, all grown on the estate.

He was in Lissadell House to open the Countess Markievicz
exhibition at the invitation of Eddie Walsh and Constance Cassidy
who purchased the estate and some of the furnishings in 2003 for
?4.55 million when the Government baulked at what they estimated
as the ?30 million renovation and maintenance costs.

Mr Ahern was gracious in his admiration yesterday as he surveyed
the work done on the house and estate and joked about how much
could be achieved with the right amount of commitment, drive "and
a good bank manager".

The exhibition features sketches, and paintings by Countess
Markievicz, who was born in Lissadell in 1868, as well as many
hand-written notes detailing plans for the 1916 Rising and
several photographs and documents recording her role as a founder
member of Fianna F il.

c 2007 The Irish Times


Folk Singer Paddy Reilly Set To Net ?32m From Sale Of Land

01 April 2007 By Richard Curran

Folk singer Paddy Reilly is in final negotiations to sell 11
acres of land near his home in Saggart, west Dublin, to Jim
Mansfield's Citywest Group, for a sum believed to be around ?32

Folk singer Paddy Reilly is in final negotiations to sell 11
acres of land near his home in Saggart, west Dublin, to Jim
Mansfield's Citywest Group, for a sum believed to be around ?32

The singer, who immortalised the ballad The Fields Of Athenry,
grew up in the Saggart area, but bought the 11 acres in 1989 for
about œ120,000 (?157,000).

It is not clear whether the deal includes Reilly's home, or
merely the land adjacent to it.

Mansfield, who could not be contacted for comment, is likely to
develop the 11-acre site and build houses or apartments. Speaking
from his home, O'Reilly told The Sunday Business Post that
negotiations were ongoing but the sale was not yet complete.

Reilly has been one of the country's most successful balladeers
for many years, and has been a massive draw on the international
folk scene.

His biggest hit, The Fields Of Athenry, is regarded as Ireland's
most popular song. Penned by Pete St John, it topped the Irish
charts for 18 weeks.

In recent years, Reilly has toured with the Dubliners, after
Ronnie Drew retired from the band in 1995. In 2005, he moved to
America, but has since returned home.

Mansfield owns several hundred acres around the Citywest estate
and the hotel, golf and conferencing business.

His business made a profit last year of ?28.8 million on a
turnover of ?108 million.


Irish Islands Go On Show

01 April 2007 By Elizabeth McGuane

The beauty and harshness of life on Ireland's islands will be
explored in a new exhibition of photographs on display at the
National Photographic Archive in Dublin.

The beauty and harshness of life on Ireland's islands will be
explored in a new exhibition of photographs on display at the
National Photographic Archive in Dublin.

Island Life - The Islands of Ireland will have its official
launch tomorrow, but is already open for public viewing at the
archive's gallery in Temple Bar.

The photographs, taken between 1930 and 1960, feature images of
people and landscapes from many islands around the coast, as well
as those on inland lakes, such as Lough Derg's Station Island.

However, the exhibition concentrates on Achill Island, the Aran
Islands, Valentia and the Blasket Islands.

Several of the images relate to the Aranmore and Achill Beg

The exhibition has more than 71 photographs from seven
collections, as well as four albums.

It includes selected images from the recently acquired
collections of Tomas O'Muircheartaigh and Colman Doyle.

O'Muircheartaigh was an amateur photographer and former president
of Conradh na Gaeilge, and this exhibition will mark the 50th
anniversary of his death. His work was acquired by the National
Library in 2005.

Colman Doyle is considered to be one of the most important Irish
photographers of the last century. The National Library acquired
his collected photographs last year.

RTE's marine correspondent Tom MacSweeney will launch the
exhibition, which runs until June 11, at the archive tomorrow at

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