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March 07, 2007

Voting Closes In the North

News about Ireland & the Irish

BN 03/07/07 Voting Closes In The North
NY 03/07/07 At The Polls, N Ireland Tries To Resurrect Self-Rule
SF 03/07/07 Adams - Sinn Féin Vote Highly Motivated
IT 03/07/07 Undocumented Irish Rally In Washington
SF 03/07/07 Crowe Addresses ILIR Rally In Washington
IV 03/07/07 McCain/Kennedy Bill May Get St. Patrick's Unveiling


Voting Closes In The North

07/03/2007 - 22:48:04

Voting in the Northern Assembly election has closed, with many of
the parties predicting a higher turnout than four years ago.

Across the North's 18 constituencies, unionist, nationalist and
cross-community parties were reporting turnouts of between 55 and
60% and in some cases they were as high as 70%.

In West Tyrone, which traditionally has a turnout of over 70%,
Sinn Féin was content that it had got its vote out. "It was brisk
in the morning," a party source said.

"But then by mid-afternoon it appeared to stick at around a 35-
40% turnout in many areas. Then there was the traditional rush
between 5.30pm and 7.30pm, although that may have tapered off a
bit because of the Manchester United and Glasgow Celtic matches
in the Champions League.

"Nevertheless we're happy that we have got our vote out and we
believe we are pushing for a third seat."

Democratic Unionist sources were also satisfied with their
canvass returns in their stronghold constituencies.

In Upper Bann and in North Antrim, party workers were reporting
turn out was around 60%. However in East Derry it was believed
turnout may have been slightly down.

"There certainly seems to have been a stronger turnout in the
east of the province than in previous elections," a spokesman

"We're happy enough with the way things have panned out today. We
believe our vote is coming out. In the west, we were hearing that
in one box in Fermanagh and South Tyrone there was a record
turnout by 7pm at around 70%."

A total of 257 candidates put their names forward in the election
for 108 Stormont seats. Each of the 18 constituencies will return
six Assembly members.

Counting of the ballots will get underway on Thursday and is
expected to last until Friday evening.


At The Polls, Northern Ireland Tries To Resurrect Self-Rule

By Sarah Lyall And Eamon Quinn
Published: March 8, 2007

BELFAST, Northern Ireland, March 7 — Every new development is a
historic turning point in the politics of Northern Ireland,
except when it isn't. Deadlines come and go. Progress creeps
along, stalls, then sputters back to life.

So voters who went to the polls here on Wednesday in an effort to
resurrect the deadlocked political process had no illusions that
they had reached the final chapter in their long and complicated
story. They just believed, many said in interviews, that the time
had come, finally, for Northern Ireland to move beyond its
scarred, fighting past.

"We've just got to get things up and running again so we can
address the things that really matter to people — schools,
employment," said Linda Baker, a 48-year-old sales clerk at a
linen store on the Shankill Road, the city's Protestant
stronghold. "The majority of people on this road would have the
same view. It has to move on if it's going to get any better."

Wednesday's election is meant to decide what Northern Ireland's
108-member assembly will look like: how many members will be from
unionist parties (Protestants who favor closer ties with Britain)
and how many from nationalist parties (Catholics who favor a
united Ireland).

But the assembly has not held a session for five years, since it
was suspended during a great cloud of sectarian squabbling.
Wednesday's vote is one in a series of intricate steps meant to
restore the assembly and with it Northern Ireland's ability to
govern itself.

But for that to happen, the unionist and nationalist parties,
traditional enemies, have to agree to share power in a governing
executive. Sinn Fein, the main nationalist party, says it has
shown its good will by accepting the destruction of weapons
belonging to the Irish Republican Army and by endorsing a plan
for a reconstituted police force.

But Sinn Fein's moves have alienated some members of its own
party, who argue that it has already given up too much. And it
remains to be seen whether the concessions are enough to satisfy
the unionists, especially the Rev. Ian Paisley, the fierce leader
of the Democratic Unionists, the largest Protestant party.

The British and Irish governments, which have been prodding
Belfast's politicians to make up and move on, have set a deadline
of March 26. If no government has been formed by then, Prime
Minister Tony Blair of Britain has warned, the assembly will be

Brian Feeney, chairman of the history department at St. Mary's
University College here, said he believed that Mr. Paisley would
agree to share power with the republicans, despite opposition
from Protestant fundamentalists within his party.

"The two governments are putting enormous pressure on the
Democratic Unionists because Tony Blair wants this up and running
as a legacy for his 10 years in power," Mr. Feeney said in an
interview. "He will not let Ian Paisley stand in his way."

In another potential stumbling block, Mr. Paisley's party says it
will not agree to enter the new government unless Britain accedes
to a series of financial demands for Northern Ireland, including
a substantial cut in the corporate tax rate. "We are making this
a deal breaker," said Jeffrey Donaldson, a senior Democratic
Unionist Party negotiator.

Pushing a shopping cart in the Kennedy Center mall in Upper
Falls, the center of republican Belfast, Julie-Anne Bailey, 43,
said the issues dividing the parties had become almost beside the
point. "In the 1970s and 1980s, people here were categorized by
how republican they were," she said. "You were either at the
rallies or out on the road banging your bin lids together, or you
weren't. But people are not so aggressive any more. The talk is
not all fighting talk. And now it's O.K. to say, 'We don't want
to be fighting all the time.' "

In many ways, Belfast has moved on so much that it is almost
unrecognizable. The notorious Andersonstown police barracks in
Upper Falls has been demolished, the space now an empty lot. The
walls are decorated by a republican mural and a campaign poster
referring to perhaps the biggest issue in Wednesday's election:
London's threat to make people in Northern Ireland pay water

The city center, once virtually an armed fortress, is now a
thriving place of fancy hotels, nightclubs and museums. "Politics
used to be really important to people, but now they have had a
taste of what peace is like," said Roy McDonnell, a 39-year-old
businessman who was shopping with his wife, Paula, on Lisburn
Road, booming with fancy new stores. Mr. McDonnell comes from a
republican family — his uncle was an I.R.A. member who served 12
years of a life sentence in prison — but says his own 15-year-old
daughter could not care less about politics.

His wife agreed. "We will never move on till both sides move on
together," she said. "There's a lot of hurt on both sides, but
people are getting fed up with having an assembly that fails all
the time. We don't want any more stumbling blocks. If it breaks
down this time, God help us."

More Articles in International »


Adams - Sinn Féin Vote Highly Motivated

Published: 7 March, 2007

Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams was this morning joined by fellow
West Belfast candidates Paul Maskey and Sue Ramsey along with
party MEP Bairbre deBrún to cast their votes at St. Teresa's
School on the Glen Road.

Speaking to the press after voting Mr Adams said:

"This was not the flat election campaign portrayed by the media.
I have been in constituencies across the six counties and people
are up for this election. There is also significant
international interest in the poll as can be seen from the
amount of foreign correspondents present here today.

"Having travelled extensively over the past number of weeks I
have to say that I am confident that the Sinn Féin vote is
highly motivated and that it will come out in large numbers
throughout the course of the day. This is a hugely important
election and will decide the direction of politics here in the
years to come.

"We are an all-Ireland party and on Friday at the conclusion of
the count in Belfast I will travel to Dublin to formally launch
our General Election campaign in the 26 counties. This is a time
of tremendous opportunity for people on this island. A strong
Sinn Féin vote today will ensure that the process of change
continues and that a strong Sinn Féin team is elected to the
Assembly and the Executive." ENDS


Undocumented Irish Rally In Washington

Paul Anderson
Wed, Mar 07, 2007

Up to 6,000 people were on the streets of Washington DC today to
support a Bill that could give citizenship rights to many of the
US's undocumented Irish.

Republicans last year blocked a Bill in Congress that would have
loosened controls on immigrants resident in the US for some time
obtaining citizenship.

But the Democrats took control of both Congress and the Senate in
last November's Mid-Term elections and today are proposing a
similar Bill once again.

The party is expected to propose offering green cards and
permanent resident status to all immigrants in the US who can
prove residency for more than five years and have worked in the
past two.

The Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform (ILIR) estimates there are
around 50,000 undocumented Irish in the US.

The Bill, which would affect an estimated 11 million people,
would also have a significant impact on hundreds of thousands of
Central Americans - particularly Mexicans.

It is attracting heavy-weight political support with Democrats
Edward Kennedy and Chuck Schumer; and Republican presidential
hopeful John McCain due to speak at today's rally organised by
the ILIR.

President Bush has already given a veiled signal of support for a
change to the status long-term resident immigrants.

The issue is being seen by both Republicans and Democrats as a
potential vote-getter in next year's presidential elections.

But there is likely to be significant opposition from the
Republican right and Mr Bush has previously favoured granting
temporary rights rather than a pathway to full citizenship.

In his latest State of the Union address he was coy, saying the
status of immigrants needed to be resolved.

Republicans and Democrats clashed over the Bill which fell last
year over the former's preference for guest-worker programmes
that do not grant permanent rights.

The new Bill, again sponsored by Senator Kennedy and Senator
McCain is aimed at appeasing the concerns of the Right by
introducing tighter border controls and proposing guest-worker
status for new immigrants while incorporating the liberal agenda
of regularising the situation for illegals already living in the

Senator Kennedy said: "The only realistic way to re-gain control
of our borders is to combine stronger enforcement with a path to
citizenship for undocumented workers who are now here, and a
realistic temporary worker program that includes the possibility
of citizenship. "

The Bill, which has yet to be published, could be introduced on
Capitol Hill as early as next week.

Irish independent MEP Marian Harkin will also raise the issue
tomorrow when she meets with Democrat presidential hopeful Hilary

Ms Harkin said the bill would be "vitally important for the
millions of European citizens now living and working in America
contributing to society and the economy in a valuable way".

"Many of them have families now and have settled down but still
live in legal limbo," she added.

The ILIR will hold a meeting in Dublin next month.

© 2007


Crowe Addresses Irish Lobby For Immigration Reform Rally In

Published: 7 March, 2007

Sinn Féin TD Seán Crowe is in the US this morning to express Sinn
Féin's support for the Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform rally
on Capitol Hill in Washington today. Speaking at the rally today
Deputy Crowe congratulated the organisers and said the proposed
new McCain Kennedy Bill has the potentials to provide a pathway
to citizenship for the many thousands of undocumented Irish

Deputy Crowe said, "Regardless of people's politics, the issue of
undocumented Irish Americans and all the hardships that go with
such status has to be resolved in a humane manner. I believe the
new McCain Kennedy Bill provides the way forward. It represents a
pathway to citizenship for the many thousands of undocumented
Irish Americans.

"I would like to congratulate and thank the organisers of today's
rally for keeping this issue well and truly on the political
landscape. It is imperative that we come to a successful
conclusion of this matter.

"The fear of not being allowed re-enter the US, where many Irish
people have made good lives for themselves, has meant that these
people have been cut off from their families and their native
country. This has caused much hardship for the undocumented Irish
and for their families back home in Ireland and has meant visits,
holidays, weddings and even funerals in Ireland are out of the

"We must remember that the undocumented Irish work very hard and
make a powerful contribution to American social life the economy.
It is now time for them to be granted citizenship.

"When Sinn Féin is here in DC during St. Patrick's week, we will
consistently raise your case to Congress, Senate and all whom we
meet. And we look forward to meeting with your families in Dublin
on April 14th to offer what support we can back in Ireland." ENDS


Men Admit Assault On 'Peacemaker'

Three men who attacked a "peacemaker" who intervened in a row
arising from the murder of Robert McCartney have been given
conditional discharges.

The trio assaulted Jeff Commander after a dispute in the Short
Strand on 12 September, 2005.

Mr Commander was attacked by a gang of up to 10 men and required
four staples to a head wound.

Samuel Edward Caskey, 44, Sean Clinton, 40, and Patick Magee
admitted assault occasioning actual bodily harm.

Caskey from Dromara Street, Clinton from Balfour Avenue and
Magee, 35, from Upper Donegall Street, were due to stand trial at
Belfast Crown Court for unlawfully and maliciously wounding Mr
Commander after pleading not guilty to the charge.

Legal representatives for the three men told the court that since
the arrests for their roles in the attack, each of their clients
have spent time in custody and have been forced to move from
their homes in the Short Strand as part of their bail conditions.

On Wednesday, all three admitted to the lesser charge of assault
occasioning actual bodily harm.

A fourth man, father of four Gerard Leonard, 33, from Lough Lea
in the city, pleaded guilty to a charge of possession of an
offensive weapon which arose from the same incident.

Sewer rods

The court heard that Leonard used the knife he brandished on the
night in question to scrape chewing gum off the ground whilst in
work, but had not taken part in the assault.

Crown prosecutor Stephen Fowler told Judge Desmond Marrinan that
a dispute surrounding the murder of local man Robert McCartney
broke out between two groups in the Short Strand and that Mr
Commander was one of a number of people who intervened to stop
the fighting.

After calm was restored, Mr Commander left the scene with his
wife but returned a short time later to retrieve his car.

The barrister said a crowd of "eight to 10 men who had with them
sewer rods" approached Mr Commander and while Clinton was armed
with a sewer rod, Caskey and Magee were part of the group.

John McCrudden QC, representing Clinton, described his client as
an "interface worker" and said the attack on Mr Commander was a

Magee's barrister, Arthur Harvey, branded Mr Commander's actions
in the incident prior to his attack as "admirable", saying it was
clear the victim was "attempting to calm over-excited

Forced out

Caskey's barrister, Eilish McDermott, said her client, was also
forced to leave the Short Strand area "where he had been living
all his life".

Martin Morgan, representing Leonard, told the court there was
"nothing sinister" about his actions on the night in question,
adding he was brandishing the knife as an act of bravado before
leaving the scene.

Judge Marrinan accepted the defendants had shown remorse over the
attack on Mr Commander, who he said was "an entirely innocent man
trying to resolve a difficult and tense situation."

Telling Caskey, Clinton and Magee they had been "significantly
punished" by spending time in custody and being forced to move
from their homes, Judge Marrinan handed all three a conditional
discharge for 18 months before adding: "I trust that all of you
will be able, if you wish, to return to your homes which you are
now perfectly entitled to do."

Addressing Leonard, the judge said he accepted there was no
intention to use the knife to harm anyone before handing him a
conditional discharge for 12 months.

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2007/03/07 16:09:57 GMT


McCain/Kennedy Bill May Get St. Patrick's Unveiling

By Ray O'Hanlon

The rebirth of the McCain/Kennedy immigration reform bill on
Capitol Hill looks this week as if it will coincide with St.
Patrick's festivities in Washington next week.

And the Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform is rallying in
Washington today in an effort to spur legislators into action on
an issue seen as central to the future of the Irish community in
the United States.

"It's looking more like next week. We're going full steam ahead,"
a spokeswoman for Senator Edward Kennedy told the Echo.

Meanwhile, Senator John McCain, Republican co-author of the
Senate bill alongside Democrat Kennedy, told Irish American
reporters in New York last week that the next few months would
provide a "window of opportunity" for comprehensive immigration
reform but if the opportunity was missed it would be 2009 before
the issue would likely be addressed again.

McCain, speaking before a Manhattan reception organized by the
Irish American Republicans lobby group, said he gave
McCain/Kennedy better than a fifty/fifty chance of success.

His assessment, whether by accident or design, touches on the
number of votes needed for the bill success in the 100-member
Senate. Sixty votes are needed to avoid a possible filibuster.

Given that a small group of Democrats, three or four at the most,
are possibly lined up to oppose McCain/Kennedy, McCain will have
to pull at least thirteen of his GOP colleagues into the 'yes'
column when it comes to a vote.

That vote will focus on a bill that the Senate passed last year
but which ultimately died because it was up against a GOP House
bill that focused entirely on border security, the building of a
700 mile fence along the frontier with Mexico and took issue with
McCain/Kennedy's plan to allow a path to earned legalization for
millions of undocumented and illegal immigrants, many thousands
of Irish among them.

The new McCain/Kennedy bill is expected to preserve the border
fence plan and other proposals to curb illegal immigration in the

But crucially it will again include provision that will set out a
path to earned legislation, this in addition to an allotment of
guest worker visas, an idea that is particularly supported by
President Bush.

"This is a complex issue and demands a comprehensive approach. I
don't expect it to be easy sledding," Kennedy was reported as
saying in the Boston Globe.

Hoping to smooth the path a little today will be several thousand
ILIR supporters who are reprising two previous expeditions to the
nation's capital in support of reform.

As was the case last summer and spring, ILIR will be meeting with
Capitol Hill legislators before staging a rally that will be
addressed by Senate and House members supportive of comprehensive

The rally venue was changed late last week in anticipation of an
even bigger turnout by ILIR members, according to ILIR's Kelly

It will take place at the Washington Court Hotel on New Jersey
Avenue, just a block down from the Holiday Inn on the Hill as
originally planned.

ILIR's lobby day, and the arrival in Washington next week of
Taoiseach Bertie Ahern for the annual shamrock presentation to
President Bush, will serve to remind legislators that the
undocumented Irish in the U.S. are anxiously awaiting a
significant change in immigration law before year's end.

This story appeared in the issue of March 7 -13, 2007


Church Calls For US Immigration Reform To Protect 'Undocumented' Irish

Maynooth - 8 March 2007 - 540 Words

Fr Alan Hilliard, Director of the Irish Episcopal Commission of
Emigrants (IECE), attended a rally in Washington DC yesterday,
calling for immigration reform on behalf of the 'undocumented'
Irish in the United States.

Speaking before the rally organised by the Irish Lobby for
Immigration Reform (ILIR), Fr Alan Hilliard said: "Time is of the
essence in relation to the effectiveness of this campaign. If a
pathway to legalisation fails to appear this year, it will be
hard to offer real hope to the many Irish who are currently stuck
in a legal quandary in the US. Today, many Irish are here on
behalf of friends and relatives and they just want to make an
honest, open contribution for the good of America - the place
many now call home."

Fr Hilliard said: "Keeping faith in the objectives of immigration
reform is vital at this time. It is great to see so many here
today speaking - not just for the Irish - but who are lending
their voices to the many who seek an opportunity to contribute to
this nation. When the of the Bishop of Derry and Chair of the
IECE, Bishop Séamus Hegarty, visited Washington and other US
cities in 2005, he expressed a concern that so few of the
'undocumented' had their voices heard. Today's rally is an
example of people taking responsibility for their own futures,
and while this has not been easy, it is both necessary and

Fr Hilliard continued: "The pastoral welfare of the
'undocumented' is to the forefront of our concern. The Irish
Apostolate has coordinated 110 visits over the last year to
various members of the Senate and of the House of
Representatives. At times we have shared these visits with other
Catholic and interfaith groups which support our stance regarding
the pathway to legalisation. After this rally we will continue
with these visits. We will keep up the pressure and talk, not
only to those who support our stance, but also to those who may
need some encouragement to support our stance.

"While the economic reality indicates that the United States
needs migrant labour, as a society it must also effectively
protect and provide for the safety of its people. This is also a
priority for the people here today who, in many cases, are
themselves parents. They too are looking for safety and security
for the sake of both their children and of future generations.

"One flaw of the immigration reform of the 1980s was a lack of
clear communication of rights and this was coupled with the
propagation of misinformation. Partly - perhaps due to living on
the fringes of society - many were uncertain, nervous and were
consequently afraid to come forward. Many immigrants did not
fully understand what was available to them. However, on this
occasion we will provide information to those in need so that
they can make informed decisions. What must be avoided are
'enticements' and other so called 'quick-fix' solutions which
will be advertised by some unscrupulous people whose motive is
profit and whose style is to prey on the vulnerable. We are
presently upgrading our Irish Apostolate website to enable
browsers to access the legislative changes, if and when they
happen, as they become available online."

Fr Hilliard said: "Yesterday, members of our Apostolate met with
the Catholic Legal Immigration Network to discuss the
implementation of whatever legislation is put in place. Despite
the uncertainty, we have to live with the expectation that
legislative change will happen and, please God, a pathway of hope
will open up."

Fr Hilliard concluded: "I thank the ILIR for organising this
event. I wish also to pay a special tribute to the staff of the
Apostolate and Coalition centres around America. It is an honour
to serve with you. I thank the Congressmen and politicians from
Ireland who are so generous in their support of immigration
reform. However, if I wish to particularly acknowledge one group
here today it is you: you who have no legal status and yet have
taken the risk to step out of the shadows."

The Irish Bishops' Conference established a dedicated service in
1957 ­ the Irish Episcopal Commission for Emigrants (IECE) ­ to
help co-ordinate pastoral support for Irish emigrants in the UK.
Based in Maynooth this outreach (Chaplaincies) service now
extends to Germany, the USA (New York, Boston, Chicago, San
Francisco, Philadelphia); and Australia. The Irish Apostolate is
the service provided by the Irish Bishop's Commission for
Emigrants in the United States. Please see the website of the
Irish Apostolate:

The Catholic Legal Immigration Network was established in 1988 by
the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops as an
organization to support a rapidly growing network of community-
based immigration programmes in the US. Its mission is: "To
enhance and expand delivery of legal services to indigent and
low-income immigrants principally through diocesan immigration
programs and to meet the immigration needs identified by the

Catholic Church in the United States."

The objectives of the United States Conference of Catholic
Bishops' immigration reform campaign are:

- To educate the public, especially the Catholic community,
including Catholic public officials, about church teaching

on migration and immigrants;

- To create political will for positive immigration reform;

- To enact legislative and administrative reforms based on the
principles in the pastoral letter Strangers no Longer:

Together on the Journey of Hope, which was jointly published with
the Mexican Bishop's Conference in 2003;

- To organize Catholic networks to assist qualified immigrants in
obtaining the benefits of the reforms.

There are an estimated 50,000 'Undocumented' Irish immigrants
living in the United States.

Source: Irish Catholic Media Office

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