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April 18, 2007

Blair Hosts NI Devolution Talks

News about Ireland & the Irish

BB 04/17/07 Blair Hosts NI Devolution Talks
BB 04/17/07 100 People In UVF Safety Warning
BB 04/17/07 Loyalist-Charities Link 'Mistake'
BN 04/18/07 Inquiry Sought Into Army Use Of Plastic Bullets
BN 04/17/07 Paisley Meeting Disappoints McCartney Sisters
BB 04/17/07 NI Leaders In US Massacre Tribute
BN 04/18/07 Alcohol Consumption Falling In Ireland
BN 04/18/07 Ireland 4th Worst In EU For Drink-Related Road Deaths


Blair Hosts NI Devolution Talks

A Sinn Fein delegation is to have talks with Tony Blair at
Downing Street ahead of the restoration of the Northern Ireland
executive next month.

Led by party president Gerry Adams, the group will also include
deputy first minister designate Martin McGuinness and Wexford
councillor John Dwyer.

Sinn Fein and the DUP have agreed to share power on 8 May, with
Ian Paisley to be sworn in as first minister.

On Monday, Sinn Fein held its first talks with the NI Policing

Mr Adams said he would put a proposal to his party executive that
it should take part in the Policing Board and District Policing

Sinn Fein members voted to support policing in Northern Ireland
for the first time in the party's history at the party's ard
fheis, or conference, at the end of January.

It paved the way for a deal to restore the political institutions
which have been suspended since October 2002 amid allegations of
intelligence gathering at Stormont. A court case which followed

Direct rule from London has been in place since that date.

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2007/04/18 00:48:57 GMT


100 People In UVF Safety Warning

More than 100 people have been warned about their safety after
the police seized documents linked to the paramilitary UVF, a
court has heard.

The details emerged during a bail hearing at the High Court in

Darren Richardson, 30, of Moneynick Road, Randalstown, County
Antrim, is charged with UVF membership.

He faces a further charge of possessing documents that could be
useful to terrorists and having 30 rounds of ammunition. Bail was

Names, addresses and car registration numbers were in five hand-
written documents found during a police search in Ballymena,
County Antrim, last week, the court heard.

A Crown lawyer said the police search was at the premises of
Wright Bus, where Mr Richardson is a manager.

The ammunition was found in his desk and the documents elsewhere
in his office, the court heard.

The documents contained 104 vehicle registration numbers, as well
as the names and addresses of 51 people.

'Records of vehicles'

Another document found in Mr Richardson's car contained 13
registration numbers and personal details, the lawyer said.

The defendant told police he had made records of vehicles acting
suspiciously near his home and kept the lists to establish if
anyone on them were republicans, the hearing was told.

He also said he had been given documents by a man he refused to
name and had also received information from a serving soldier in
the Royal Irish Regiment, whose name he gave to police.

The lawyer said police believed the unnamed man was Aaron Hill,
who worked in the PSNI Crime Management Unit, and who appeared in
court on Monday.

"As a result of all this, police have had to warn 117 individuals
about their safety," said the lawyer.

"Police are trying to establish the identity of others who may be
a risk by checking a computer used by (Mr) Hill to see what
additional information that throws up."

A defence lawyer said Mr Richardson had been "extremely

"What seems to have happened is that he started down a road
several years ago in a sort of glorified neighbourhood watch and
then, by association with these two persons, this activity
spiralled out of control."

He said the defendant denied membership of the UVF and had never
been involved in acts of violence.

The court was told the RIR soldier had been interviewed, but to
date he had not been charged.

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2007/04/17 12:45:58 GMT


Loyalist-Charities Link 'Mistake'

The Department of Education has come under fire over a document
seeming to compare loyalist paramilitary groups to children's

The UDA and UVF were described as "voluntary organisations" and
bracketed with Barnados and the NSPCC.

The document is a note of a meeting between a group of principals
and senior figures in the department.

Dolores Kelly (SDLP) said it was outrageous. The department there
was a "mistake" in drafting the minutes.

Ms Kelly, whose party has accused the department of "illegal
sectarian discrimination" through an action plan which allegedly
favours Protestant neighbourhoods for additional funding, said
she was stunned.

"It beggars belief that anybody would compare the UDA and UVF
with Barnardo's and the NSPCC," she said.

"Indeed it beggars belief that the UDA and UVF would be asked to
help contribute to a plan to help children's education.

"It is, at the same time, ludicrous and insulting. "

The comparison was made in minutes of a meeting between school
principals in Protestant areas of north and west Belfast, the
chief executive of the city's education and library board and a
deputy permanent secretary at the Department of Education.

Called as part of Renewing Communities, the government's response
to a taskforce report on working-class Protestant communities, it
lists a series of actions needed to develop service delivery

One point states: "Maintain/establish good working relationships
with voluntary organisations (Barnardo's, NSPCC, UDA, UVF)."

However, the Department of Education insisted any link arising
from the meeting last year was unintentional.

A spokesman said: "The Department of Education does not equate
paramilitary organisations with those doing excellent charity
work; neither does the Belfast Education and Library Board.

"The document referred to is a minute of a meeting which took
place in June 2006. The minute reflects clumsily views expressed
by those who reflections were sought.

"There was no deliberate intention from anyone to equate
voluntary organisations with paramilitary bodies. This is a
mistake in the drafting of the minutes."

However, Ms Kelly has vowed to take the matter further.

"The SDLP will be writing to the minister for education seeking
an urgent explanation for this ill-conceived and worrying plan,"
she said.

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2007/04/17 16:06:17 GMT


Inquiry Sought Into British Army Use Of Plastic Bullets

18/04/2007 - 10:46:48

Human rights campaigners in the North are seeking an independent
investigation into the use of plastic bullets by the British army
during the Troubles.

The call follows the revelation that British soldiers secretly
used a far more lethal form of plastic bullet in the 1980s, when
six people were killed by the weapons.

The Police Ombudsman has uncovered the information during a
separate investigation into the death of a Catholic schoolboy in
Derry 26 years ago as a result of injuries caused by a plastic

Relatives for Justice and the Pat Finucane Centre, backed by some
of the six families whose loved ones were shot dead by the
British army at the time, are calling for an independent
barrister to be appointed to look into the revelation.


Paisley Meeting Disappoints McCartney Sisters

17/04/2007 - 15:07:33

The sisters of an IRA murder victim said their hopes of a
breakthrough in their tireless justice campaign dimmed today
after meeting DUP leader Ian Paisley.

During talks with the North's First Minister designate, Robert
McCartney's family sought any new details of republican co-
operation with the inquiry into the killing outside a central
Belfast bar.

However, Catherine McCartney emerged from the half hour encounter
at Parliament Buildings, Stormont to say: "Everything is falling
in place for the political establishment and the people in it,
yet people like Robert are just collateral.

"Victims will just have to live with it."

Although one man has been charged with the murder, the family
believe at least a dozen people were involved in the attack in
January 2005.

Ms McCartney and her sister Paula quizzed the Democratic Unionist
leader on whether he had secured any assurances from Sinn Féin
about their brother's stabbing.

The DUP have identified the murder of Mr McCartney, a 33-year-old
father of two, as an acid test of republican backing for the
police service.

With an IRA gang blamed for the killing outside Magennis' bar and
subsequent cover-up, Sinn Féin had refused at the time to
explicitly urge any witnesses to speak to detectives.

Their position changed in January when party leader Gerry Adams
instructed anyone with information on the knifing to go to
investigating officers.

As Sinn Féin and the DUP prepare to share power next month, the
McCartney sisters had hoped Mr Paisley could provide new hope for
a campaign that has already taken them to the White House and
European Parliament.

However, the meeting delivered little progress, even though the
DUP chief gave them a pledge to keep pressing republicans on
their behalf.

A major difficulty involves the so-called retrospective
sanctioning of the murder by the cover-up, when witnesses were
allegedly sworn to silence and the bar forensically cleaned, the
sisters believe.

"They (republicans) have bound themselves to this code of
honour," Catherine McCartney said.

"This is supposed to be some form of litmus test of their
attitude to the rule of law but they have failed it miserably by
offering no co-operation.

"It doesn't appear that situation is going to change.

"Dr Paisley said that there were difficulties within the
republican organisation. Very senior members would have

"But he has said he will continue to push and pressure."


NI Leaders In US Massacre Tribute

Ian Paisley and Martin McGuinness have issued their first joint
statement, a message of sympathy to those affected by the
Virginia Tech massacre.

"We fully understand the impact that events like this can have on
a community and the population as a whole," the men said.

The first and deputy first ministers elect said the "senseless
loss of young life in such numbers is tragic".

They sent their condolences to the families of the victims.

A Northern Ireland playwright who teaches at the university has
said he is stunned by the massacre, which happened early on
Monday morning at the university in the town of Blacksburg.

Eddie Kerr, who teaches there for a month every year, said he
spent all night trying to contact friends there.

"I know the campus very well and have been going back and forth
to it for the last six years," he said.

"I really and sincerely hope that students I know and have taught
are not among the dead," said the Londonderry writer.

"We are having great difficulty trying to get through, and
through to the staff in particular who I have been trying to

"Obviously the lines are all jammed, but I have been able to
contact via email and have been assured that everyone that I know
is safe.

"At this stage, we hope that is the case."

'Tragedy to tragedy'

Mr Kerr said he was "numbed and stunned" by the images he had
seen on TV while back in Derry.

"Knowing the campus, knowing the layout and knowing the area,
this is an idyllic situation - it is right at the bottom of the
Blue Ridge Mountains.

"It is an absolutely beautiful, utopian, middle-class area.

"Blacksburg is a university town and the town is the university."

He added: "This goes from tragedy to tragedy... this is the
result of bearing arms in America."

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2007/04/17 18:34:02 GMT


Alcohol Consumption Falling In Ireland

18/04/2007 - 11:01:44

Ireland's reputation as a nation of drinkers took a knock today
as it was revealed that alcohol consumption has fallen by almost
7% in five years.

Despite a major survey suggesting Irish people were among the
worst binge drinkers of Europe, the latest findings revealed a
6.7% decline in the amount of alcohol consumed per adult in the
state between 2001 and 2006.

In 2001, 14.45 litres of alcohol were consumed per adult (defined
as 15 years and older), while in 2006 that figure reduced to
13.48 litres.

Latest figures also confirm that the decline continued – albeit
slowly – last year when the amount of alcohol consumed per adult
reduced from 13.52 litres to 13.48 (down 0.3%).

The Drinks Industry Group of Ireland (DIGI), the representative
body for the drinks industry in Ireland, said the trend has now
been established for a number of years.

DIGI chairman Michael Patten said the figures highlighted that
the assumption of rising consumption which has dominated much
debate on the issue of alcohol is outdated.

"Much of the debate is still dominated by what happened in the
1990s, when consumption was rising," he said.

"Consumption peaked at the start of this decade and we've seen a
pattern of slowly declining consumption per adult since then.

"I believe that one of the factors is that the very high
proportion of young adults is now maturing and as they get older,
they will typically consume less alcohol than they did

Figures, compiled by Anthony Foley of the Business School of
Dublin City University, were based on information supplied by the
Revenue Commissioners and the Central Statistics Office (CSO).

Mr Patten said the findings highlighted the danger of relying on
out-of-date statistics when approaching policymaking.

"Much of the political analysis of this issue is based on out of
date research," he said.

"To use old statistics to deal with a current problem is like
driving your car by looking through the rear mirrors."

The chairman said his organisation recognises that there are
serious issues with the misuse of alcohol among sections of the
population in Ireland and the industry is committed to working
with policymakers to address these problem areas.

Labelling, alcohol in the workplace, and the introduction of a
code of best practice for the off-trade are among the initiatives
being discussed.

"We fully share the concern of policymakers at the abuse of
alcohol by certain sections of the population and we are playing
a role in devising constructive policies to tackle these problem
areas," he said.

"However, we do not believe that it is necessary, fair or wise to
demonise the majority of people who enjoy a drink responsibly
simply because of problems caused by a minority."


Ireland Fourth Worst In EU For Drink-Related Road Deaths

18/04/2007 - 08:31:40

Ireland has been ranked as the fourth worst country in the EU for
alcohol-related road deaths in the latest report from the
European Transport Safety Council.

The proportion of road deaths resulting from drink-driving was
found to be highest in Sweden at 34%.

Ireland has the fourth-highest level at 28.2%, behind Slovenia,
France and Estonia.

The report also says Ireland has the highest drink-driving
alcohol limit in Europe, at 80 milligrammes of alcohol per 100
millilitres of blood.

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