News about the Irish & Irish American culture, music, news, sports. This is hosted by the Irish Aires radio show on KPFT-FM 90.1 in Houston, Texas (a Pacifica community radio station)

May 06, 2007

Adams Hails Hunger Striker's Legacy

News about Ireland & the Irish

BN 05/05/07 Adams Hails Hunger Strikers' 'Legacy'
BN 05/05/07 PD Leadership Consulting Party On Future In Govt
SF 05/05/07 SF Begins Election Tour Of Donegal Gaeltacht Areas
SB 05/06/07 Mary Lou Gets Approval In Bertie’s ‘Happy Place’
SB 05/06/07 SF Evokes Mixed Emotions
GU 05/06/07 Unionists Will Hold Vote Veto
GU 05/06/07 All Smiles At Stormont - But Old Enmities Live On
GU 05/06/07 The Stomach For Armed Struggle Is Gone
BG 05/06/07 Understanding Enemy Is Key To Peace
GU 05/06/07 Timeline: UVF: A History Of Violence
GU 05/07/07 Opin: The Day I Thought Would Never Come


Adams Hails Hunger Strikers' 'Legacy'

05/05/2007 - 14:13:56

The IRA hunger strikers who died in jail left a lasting legacy in
the peace process, Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams said today.

Just days before his party enters a new power-sharing
administration with unionists in Belfast, Mr Adams addressed a
commemoration in Dublin marking the 26th anniversary of Bobby
Sands' death.

Sands was one of 10 republicans who starved themselves to death
inside the Maze Prison in 1981 during a struggle for political
prisoner status which plunged Northern Ireland deeper into

At a Garden of Remembrance in Dublin, Mr Adams emphasised the
role played by those men.

He said: "The enduring legacy of the hunger strikers is to be
found all around us. Like the Easter Rising 66 years earlier, it
marked a watershed in modern Irish history.

"The political growth of Sinn Fein and of Irish republicanism is
in no small measure a result of their courage."

Mr Adams added: "But more importantly, their legacy is to be
found in the peace process and the positive transformation it has
brought about in Irish society in recent years. That process of
change continues.

"Despite the brutal conditions, Bobby never lost his faith in
people or his determination to look to the future. Twenty-six
years after his death Irish republicans face that future with


PD Leadership To Consult Party Members On Future In Govt

05/05/2007 - 21:26:47

The leadership of the Progressive Democrats will consult the
parliamentary party on its future in government with Fianna F il.

Following a specially convened meeting of the PD leadership this
evening, to discuss the financial affairs of the Taoiseach, a
statement regarding the matter was released.

The statement revealed that new information that the PDs have
received in relation to the matter is 'highly significant' and
they will seek direction from all the members of the
parliamentary party.


Sinn Fein Begins Election Leadership Tour Of Donegal Gaeltacht

Published: 5 May, 2007

Bairbre de Brun and Sinn Fein have begun their Gaeltacht
leadership tour in advance of the general election on 24th May.
Sinn Fein is the only party which will be having such a dedicated
Gaeltacht campaign.

Speaking on the hustings, Bairbre de Brun commented:

"I am pleased to be visiting the Donegal Gaeltacht areas on
behalf of Sinn Fein. Our party has provided strong leadership in
these regions and in the Ud ras."

"Over the next few weeks, I shall be visiting Donegal, Meath,
Galway, Kerry and Waterford and shall be focusing on the needs of
the communities in these areas and also promoting our dedicated
and able candidates," said Ms de Brun

"Sinn Fein has always prioritized the Irish language and will
continue to do so in government. We supported official and
working status for the language in the EU and the enactment of
the 2003 Official Languages Act in the Dail. We are also
supporting the current Irish Language Act campaign in the six
counties. Our TD Aengus O Snodaigh spoke more Irish in the Dail
than any other TD in 2006."

"We shall be launching our Irish language manifesto next week.
This will focus on more funding for the language, and the need
for a more serious approach to be adopted by the new government
toward the Irish language and towards Gaeltacht communities."


Mary Lou Gets The Large Cheery Man's Approval In Bertie's 'Happy

06 May 2007 By Gerard Stembridge

Recently, a psychologist on Ryan Tubridy's radio show suggested
that Taoiseach Bertie Ahern needed to find his ''happy place'' to
help him cope with the persistent annoyance of questions about
his eccentric financial arrangements.

If only he could think of his happy place, we were told, he could
avoid any tetchiness, tight smiles or tense silences whenever the
campaign failed to go according to Fianna Fail's meticulous

Shadowing Sinn Fein candidate Mary Lou McDonald as she canvassed
the East Wall area in Bertie's constituency of Dublin Central on
a sunny May evening, it felt like this might be the kind of happy
place that Bertie needs. Remember those far-off sunny days,
Bertie, when you were a fresh young candidate, the best and
brightest of Haughey's young colts, full of hopes for the future,
strolling about your domain, knocking on doors, schmoozing the
locals, watching women melt at your bright eyes and shy smile,
collecting votes as easily as pebbles on a beach? Canvassing on a
lovely early summer evening like this can indeed be a pleasure.

Mary Lou and friends certainly seemed to find it so. But then, of
course, candidates inevitably meet people like the Large Cheery
Man, who was clearly up for shooting the breeze with any
candidate who might pass his way. Mary Lou was the lucky
recipient of his attention.

''Tell me now," he said to Mary Lou. ''You're an educated woman.
Who do you think is going to take the four seats here?'' Mary
Lou, careful as well as educated, wasn't giving away any election
secrets. ''Well, Bertie obviously."

This was never going to be enough to satisfy the Large Cheery
Man's hunger for political gossip. ''Well, of course, Bertie will
top the poll," he interrupted, ''but you'll be second, I'd say."

It was a teasing carrot. Mary Lou, safe as houses, didn't accept
it. ''Well, of course, we're working very hard to take a seat
here. It's going to be tough. There's a lot of . . ." This was
all too vague for the Large Cheery Man. He was up for sport. He
wanted the good stuff, real insider info, and lots of it.

''Oh, come on now, you're an educated woman," he reminded Mary
Lou. Second time around, this phrase sounded a little more like a
challenge. Clearly, there was going to be no easy escape from the
Large Cheery Man. Luckily for Mary Lou, the cavalry arrived in
the form of Christy Burke and another of the Sinn Fein entourage
who, very cheerily, broke up the party. Content as the Large
Cheery Man was to while away the evening talking politics - and,
fascinated as he was with the fact that Mary Lou was that
curiosity of our times, an educated woman - the likelihood that
she would ever extract a believable promise of a number one from
him was remote.

Burke had better news of a definite number one further down the
road. In fact, all evening, Christy forged ahead of Mary Lou,
setting the pace, up St Mary's Road, down Russell Avenue, round
Church Road, constantly returning with glad tidings of certain
number ones for Mary Lou. East Wall is Burke's heartland, an area
nurtured by him for more than 25 years, since the days when a
general election quota for Sinn Fein anywhere in Dublin was as
outlandish a notion as Ian Paisley and Martin McGuinness sitting
round the same cabinet table.

Everywhere he and Mary Lou went on a sunny Monday evening, there
was a friendly greeting. For Christy, immediate recognition; for
Mary Lou, polite acknowledgement of Christy's new pal. All in
all, it was a happy place.

The only real problem for the Sinn Fein canvass seemed to be
finding enough people at home in East Wall. Less than one in five
houses answered the knock on the door. Over near Stoneybatter, on
an equally sunny Tuesday evening, Green Party candidate Patricia
McKenna was having the same trouble all along Kirwan Street. When
a door finally opened, a lady with an Australian accent said
sorry, but she didn't have a vote.

''I only came to the door because I thought I saw an undesirable
on the street," she said somewhat mysteriously. She didn't seem
to mean Patricia or her largely female entourage of Green
activists, but everyone was left to wonder exactly what the
nature of the ''undesirable'' she thought she saw was. As the
canvass proceeded, the only undesirable that Patricia met was an
elderly lady who, fag in hand, declared for Bertie, albeit with
apologetic tone. ''I'm sorry love, but I've always voted for
Bertie. I'll give you something though, don't worry."

In two nights of canvassing, in two different parts of Dublin
Central, this lady was the only person to declare as a Fianna
Fail voter. It seems they are lying low this time round.
Stoneybatter and East Wall offered some interesting contrasts.
Virtually all the people that Mary Lou spoke to were, if not born
and bred in East Wall, certainly well settled there.

Along the Green Party route the following evening, Patricia met a
friendly Spanish lady who had worked in the European parliament;
an angry zoologist who didn't approve of Patricia's personal
views on vaccination, a ''staunch Fine Gaeler'' who invited her
to confirm that the Greens would definitely join the Rainbow; an
Indian man who said ''no problem'' to her several times in a way
that suggested it could be a phrase he would employ with other
politicians on other sunny evenings; and a woman who said she was
a radio journalist and addressed Patricia in interview mode
(''And how do you find the campaign so far?").

There were also quite a few examples of recent arrivals to the
area who were not registered to vote at all, or registered
elsewhere. While happy to discuss Green policies or whatever
issue arose (at considerable length sometimes), Patricia remained
clearly focused on her specific purpose: first-preference votes.

She was not satisfied with the many polite vague phrases that
Irish voters are so expert at employing, such as ''I'll keep you
in mind'', ''I'll certainly give you a vote'' (a ninth preference
perhaps?) and ''I'll think of you on the day''. No, Patricia
constantly emphasised the need for number ones in a way that
reflected what might be a particular concern for the Greens -
that their greatly improved support among voters might merely
result in lots more lower preferences, but not enough first
preference votes to keep Patricia in the hunt long enough to take
advantage of the transfers that might fall her way in the long
hours when the final seat is decided.

In some ways, Mary Lou has the opposite problem. There seems to
be no doubt that, in areas like East Wall, there will be a solid
first-preference vote, courtesy of Christy Burke's many years of
old-style Sinn Fein politics. But will the softer imagery of an
''educated woman'' like Mary Lou help extend that vote to areas
like Stoneybatter?

Certainly, if the happy place that was East Wall on Monday night
is replicated elsewhere, then perhaps the Large Cheery Man will
be proved right, and Mary Lou will sail in just behind Bertie.
More likely though, she will be involved in the dog-fight for the
fourth seat. The Sinn Fein belief that Mary Lou will attract
transfers that the party would not otherwise get will then be put
to the test.

Gerard Stembridge's novel According to Luke is published by


SF Evokes Mixed Emotions

06 May 2007 By Olivia O'Leary

When it comes to electioneering style, there is an interesting
contrast between the two Sinn Feiners, Martin McGuinness and
Dessie Ellis.

Martin dives straight in, while Dessie hangs around the edge of
the water to make sure it's not too cold. Granted, McGuinness was
on a high-profile walkabout in Dublin city centre, while Ellis
was canvassing houses in Finglas. Still, a bit of the latter's
caution might have saved the former from at least one

A well-built man in a blue shirt pushed past the Moore Street
admirers to tell McGuinness: ''You regarded me, and colleagues of
mine like Jerry McCabe, as legitimate targets when I was in the
guards. You're a disgrace!" McGuinness brushed it off.

He'd had a great welcome from the fish-sellers. After all, Mary
Lou McDonald was with him and she knows them all by name. One man
with a Liverpudlian accent God-blessed Martin and kissed his
hand. But, as ever, two of the older fruit-sellers could be
relied on to be less cooperative. ''I'm voting for nobody,"
sniffed one.

''I'm doing me own thing." The other, a small grey-haired woman
in a red jacket, was irate. ''I came down in one of your cars to
vote for you," she said to Mary Lou. ''And I didn't see you from
then till now. Go on. I wouldn't vote for you if I was dyin'
dead. Not if I was dyin' dead."

McGuinness and Pearse Doherty, the Sinn Fein candidate in Donegal
South West, had to keep stopping to wait for Mary Lou. Everybody
calls her by her first name. She is the nearest thing that Sinn
Fein has to a media star in the Republic, and people kept
cornering her to shake her hand.

She is warm, easy and comfortably middle-class in her neutral
linens and Coco Chanel sunglasses. She is a godsend to Sinn Fein,
and they are trying to breed more like her. Doherty is one;
Padraig Mac Lochlainn in Donegal North East is another.

But Councillor Dessie Ellis is of the old school. Sentenced to
ten years in prison for explosives offences, he went on a 35day
hunger strike in Portlaoise prison in 1990 before becoming the
first Irish person to be extradited to Britain under the 1987
Extradition Act. He was tried there on explosives charges. Some
of them were dropped; he was found not guilty on the others.

Ellis came very close to taking a seat for Sinn Fein in Dublin
North West in the last election, and picked up a massive vote in
the Finglas area, where he retained his City Council seat in the
last local elections. His election headquarters is at his
mother's home in Dunsink Road, in the workshop where he and his
father ran a television repair business. The party funds him
fully now, but recently, when he was so busy he was on two phones
at once on constituency matters, he got a repair call. Someone
needed a video fixed urgently. Dessie went and fixed it.

When he's canvassing, he still meets voters who will say ''You
fixed me telly!" He and his father used to rent TV sets and video
recorders to people in the tower blocks in Ballymun when no one
else would. It helps.

As he begins his canvass around Lake Glen in Finglas, Ellis
explains the problems of the area: drugs, anti-social behaviour
and vandalism, lack of facilities. He talks proudly about the new
estate of council houses and new sheltered housing being built
and the new community resource and creche and a new swimming pool
being provided for the wider area.

The council is providing this, I remind him. Not Sinn Fein.
''Yes," he says, ''but we got more facilities as Sinn Fein got
stronger here and the other parties wanted to counter us
politically.'' Unlike other party candidates who dive in when
they see a voter at a door, Ellis hangs back.

Is it shyness? If so, it didn't show later in the evening when he
held his own with all the other Dail candidates being questioned
by the public at Ballymun Axis Centre. But, on the canvass, he
was slow to talk to people and, when he did, they were almost
always definite Ellis supporters and he would spend a lot of time
with them.

I wanted to hear from more voters, so I urged him to approach a
woman, but she said she hadn't decided who to vote for. ''I don't
rush in," said Ellis. ''I size things up." He says that he is
being promised lots of votes, but the problem is to get that vote

The weather didn't help last time, and Sinn Fein needed those
first preference votes. He is hoping that the weather and the
transfer climate will have improved this time. Sinn Fein has made
a big effort to encourage people to register but, even so, just
32 per cent of people voted in Ballymun in the last election.

If you excluded from that figure the areas of Santry and
Whitehall where people were more likely to vote, the percentage
for Ballymun would be lower still. So on election day, the party
runs a massive alternative transport service. A few dozen party
supporters form a taxi queue outside the constituency
headquarters, and go wherever they are sent to pick up voters.

Party canvassers have a colour-coded system for each voter -
green for a certain vote, yellow for a maybe, white for a no. The
green voters are contacted about transport. Travellers are
generally registered now - the many Travellers groups ensure that
- so Sinn Fein distributes sample ballot papers to them and, on
election day, sends out buses to the halting sites to take
families to the polling stations.

On the doorsteps in Finglas last week, the same issues came up
again and again: drugs and the worry that a new needle exchange
centre will open in the area. Ellis, who is on the Drugs Task
Force, assures them that it won't.

The cocaine problem has worsened in the area recently. Ellis says
that a dedicated drugs squad, dealing just with the Finglas area,
is needed. ''We need guards in here with working-class accents,"
says a man out in the sun in his Bermuda shorts. ''There's no
point in bringing in country fellas. We need fellas from the
local areas."

People worry about graffiti. It's ironic, says Ellis, that many
kids sign their names to their graffiti and so it is possible to
track them down and have a word with them. Sometimes the
politician at the door ismet with contradictory demands. At one
door in Ballymun, a mother complained that her children faced the
threat of anti-social behaviour orders and couldn't play on the
street for fear of neighbours complaining. Five doors down,
another woman complained about local children who should be kept
in because they made her life a misery.

Some people want to have lanes running behind or between their
houses closed off for fear of being vulnerable to crime and
vandalism. In another road, people complained that the railing
which made a cul-de-sac out of their road was a safety hazard in
case of a fire or accident.

Though everybody was worried about crime - indeed, the two well-
known criminals who featured on Joe Duffy's Liveline programme
last week come from the Finglas area - nobody raised the original
issue behind the Liveline programme: the link between Sinn Fein
and organised crime.

Paul Williams, the Sunday World's crime correspondent, alleged
that money from criminal activity was being used to fund Sinn
Fein, even now. When I put this accusation to Ellis, he denied it
and criticised Williams.

He said that Sinn Fein published its party accounts every year:
''No other party does that.'' Williams had been talking to
particular sources, he suggested, such as the gardai. When I put
the allegation of criminal links to McGuinness, he simply said:
''Rubbish." How do we know, I asked him?

''Where's the evidence?" he asked. ''These are just rumours and
I'm not going to dignify them with a comment." And then he did
just that: ''Even organisations who are hostile to Sinn Fein
concede this isn't true."

And then he said: ''Would Paisley be in government with Sinn Fein
if this was true?" And so the world as we know it has truly
turned upside down. After all these years, Sinn Fein has finally
found the ultimate character witness. His name is Ian Paisley.

Olivia O'Leary is a writer and broadcaster. Her radio columns are
aired on RTE Radio One's Drivetime and two collections of her
columns have been published by the O'Brien Press


Unionists Will Hold Vote Veto

Henry McDonald
Sunday May 6, 2007
The Observer

Unionists will have an effective veto on controversial Sinn Fein
policies, including abolition of the 11-plus, in the new power-
sharing executive, according to a leading constitutional expert.

Rick Wilford, professor of politics at Queen's University, said
changes to the Good Friday Agreement made at St Andrews would
mean unionists could torpedo policies they don't like, such as
any attempt by Sinn Fein to strengthen north-south institutions.

'Under the new rules, if at least three ministers in the
executive object to what a minister is proposing in a given
department, they have the right to refer that policy to the
overall assembly. So if the new Sinn Fein education minister
wants to abolish the 11-plus you can be guaranteed at least three
unionist ministers will veto the policy and refer it to the

'This also has implications for any attempt by Sinn Fein
ministers to deepen and strengthen all-Ireland or cross-border
institutions. If the unionists think these bodies are being
pushed too far in a green, nationalist direction they have enough
brakes to slow the north-south process down.'

Northern Ireland's deputy First Minister-elect Martin McGuinness
has claimed that Sinn Fein in government north and south would
put the party in a position to expand the all-Ireland bodies set
up originally under the Good Friday Agreement. McGuinness said:
'The implementation of the all-Ireland agenda would be hugely
strengthened with Sinn Fein Ministers working in government,
north and south at the same time.

'Among our priorities in government will be the completion of a
green paper on Irish unity within one year, identifying steps and
measures to assist a successful transition to a United Ireland.
We will also appoint a Minister of State with the specific
responsibility to oversee this work.'

But the DUP MP for Lagan Valley, Jeffrey Donaldson, said that
Sinn Fein had not understood the implications of the St Andrews
Agreement. 'Unionists have both a majority on the executive and
in the Assembly. The changes we made at St.Andrews mean ministers
can longer go on solo runs like Martin McGuinness did when as
Education Minister he tried to abolish the 11-plus.

'Anything unionists of either party find unpalatable will be
referred back to the Assembly. Although there will have to be
cross-community support unionists are in the majority and will
have the ultimate veto,' he said.


It's All Smiles At Stormont - But The Old Enmities Live On

Relations between republicans and unionists may look cosy but
behind the scenes daggers are still drawn

Henry McDonald
Sunday May 6, 2007
The Observer

It may be all sweetness and light in front of the cameras between
those former implacable foes, Ian Paisley and Martin McGuinness,
but three miles away from Stormont in the equally ornate
surroundings of Belfast City Hall, Northern Ireland's two main
parties are still daggers drawn.

The founder of the Democratic Unionists and the former chief-of-
staff of the Provisional IRA will form an historic powersharing
government on Tuesday morning. But at City Hall the DUP is still
treating Sinn Fein as social pariahs.

The Observer has learnt that one DUP councillor has been
privately rebuked by his party for being too friendly with Sinn
Fein councillor Tom Hartley, a close friend of Gerry Adams.
Paisley's party is also opposing moves to hand the position of
Lord Mayor to Sinn Fein councillor Tierna Cunningham when the
post comes up on 4 June.

One City Hall insider told The Observer that the DUP councillor
had been seen chatting with Hartley. In the DUP's eyes - at least
in Belfast City Hall - this was a crime. 'He was spotted having a
yarn with Hartley by one of the DUP new kids on the block. This
got back to the party's leader on the council, Robin Newton. He
even got a letter from the party group warning him about being
too chummy with the Shinners,' the veteran City Hall source said.

Newton yesterday denied any of his colleagues had received any
written warning about being too social or chummy with Sinn Fein
councillors. However, he added: 'The policy of the DUP on this
council is only to do business in a very formal manner with Sinn
Fein through the various committees in City Hall. It is not our
policy to sit and have coffee with Sinn Feiners informally
chatting about the council or anything else for that matter.'

The argument over who will be the next 'first citizen' of Belfast
is a much more serious scrap and one that indicates that on the
ground, community divisions and sectarian suspicions are as
entrenched as ever. It has also caused ruptures within both
unionism and nationalism. The present Lord Mayor, the SDLP's Pat
McCarthy, confirmed yesterday that he would not be voting for a
Sinn Fein councillor to take over from him in June. 'My view is
that they don't deserve it,' McCarthy said. 'If they really want
to build a "City of Equals" - their rhetoric - then Sinn Fein
should hand over the killers of Robert McCartney to the police.
Besides, when I ran for Lord Mayor last year none of the Sinn
Fein group voted for me.'

Both the DUP councillor's ticking-off and the squabble over a
possible Sinn Fein mayor represent a warning light to the DUP
leadership of trouble ahead, even with Paisley moving at such a
brisk pace to work with his new partners in government.

The traditional disputes at Belfast City Hall won't spoil the
festivities scheduled for Tuesday. Under the statue of Sir James
Craig, founding father of the Northern Ireland state, Paisley and
McGuinness will hold a joint press conference ushering in a new
era of powersharing and devolution.

The unlikely duo will be joined by two Prime Ministers, one who
is expected to name his retirement day on Thursday, the other
anxiously awaiting the verdict of his electorate 16 days later.
For Tony Blair, Stormont on Tuesday is his last hurrah and his
best opportunity to highlight at least one shining legacy -
lasting peace in Northern Ireland. For Bertie Ahern, battered by
unfavourable opinion polls and a disastrous manifesto launch that
descended into questions about his personal finances last
Thursday, the Belfast visit offers him a chance to boost his
image as an Irish statesman.

Contrary to rumours last week, Bill Clinton will not be returning
to finish what he helped to start back in the early 1990s, when
American involvement in the nascent peace process was seen as
crucial in nudging the IRA towards its first ceasefire. Instead
the US contingent will comprise veteran Democrat Senator Ted
Kennedy and Under Secretary of State Paula Dobriansky,
representing the Bush Administration.

Kennedy's presence is all the more ironic given the one-time
hostility of the DUP towards America's most famous political
family. When his nephew, Joe, visited Belfast at the invitation
of the SDLP in the 1980s, the DUP's Sammy Wilson labelled him
'Joey-the-Republican-parrot' for daring to criticise the British
security forces. Now his uncle, as Paisley's guest, will have a
front row seat when the DUP enters government with Sinn Fein.

The political process received another fillip last Thursday when
the Ulster Volunteer Force, the oldest paramilitary group on the
island of Ireland, declared that its 'war' was over for good. All
its military units were stood down, its intelligence gathering on
republicans halted and the movement stood poised to become a de
facto 'old comrades association'. Gusty Spence, who re-formed the
UVF in 1966, announced its end as a paramilitary force in the
same room where the first loyalist ceasefire was declared 13
years ago.

Despite apologies to the victims of their violence, Spence had no
news on the fate of the UVF's guns and explosives. None has yet
been decommissioned; no one from outside the organisation has
independently verified that the UVF's arsenal, which includes
enough rifles to arm an infantry battalion, has been put beyond
use. Both Sinn Fein and the SDLP said this weekend they would
increase pressure on the loyalists to follow the IRA's decision
to disarm. The final chapter in the history of the UVF has yet to
be written.

Loyalism's largest paramilitary movement, the Ulster Defence
Association is in turmoil. Its leadership, under South Belfast
UDA 'brigadier' Jackie McDonald, has indicated a willingness to
stand the organisation down and decommission its arms. There is,
however, a rebel, breakaway brigade in south-east Antrim. Last
weekend their leader, Tommy Kirkham, was warned by the mainstream
UDA that he should retire from politics and allow his brigade to
dissolve. In response, Kirkham organised a mass show of strength
on the loyalist Catchpole estate.

Loyalist sources told The Observer this weekend that in response
the UDA's main factions have warned Kirkham and his followers
that if necessary the mainstream movement will do what they did
to Johnny Adair's faction in Belfast's Lower Shankill three years
ago and invade his heartland in Rathcoole, physically expelling
anyone who doesn't bend to the UDA's leadership. There may still
be one more final violent confrontation within the disparate and
often warring factions of loyalism before all of those group's
arms are put beyond use.

Meanwhile in Dublin on Friday Irish Deputy Prime Minister Michael
McDowell took time out from electioneering to meet the sisters of
Robert McCartney, the Belfast man murdered by an IRA gang in a
Belfast bar two years ago. Speaking before the meeting, Catherine
McCartney said she wanted the Irish Justice Minister to realise
that families like hers would not be silenced amid the euphoria
over the new political epoch at Stormont.

'Six weeks ago the Police Service of Northern Ireland asked Sinn
Fein to give more information about the night Robert was
murdered. Peace and stability for people like us will only come
when we get justice,' she said. There are hundreds, perhaps
thousands of others who think exactly the same. The biggest
challenge facing Paisley in particular, but also all the other
politicians placed around the seat of power in Stormont from
Tuesday onwards, is to convince that constituency that they
haven't been forgotten.


The Stomach For Armed Struggle Is Gone

Henry McDonald
Sunday May 6, 2007
The Observer

An ex-IRA prisoner I know is writing an Irish republican version
of the tale of Rip Van Winkle. In this latest update of
Washington Irving's story about the man who falls asleep under
British rule and wakes up years later in an independent America,
an IRA man miraculously emerges from a coma after 30 years.

This republican Rip Van Winkle went to sleep following a brain
injury caused by a British army bullet during a gun battle
between troops and the Provos in 1977. He has been kept alive by
a life-support machine in the Royal Victoria Hospital on
Belfast's Falls Road. Then, three decades on, Ruaraigh Van Winkle

The first thing he notices is the absence of British army foot
patrols and armoured convoys. He is astonished by the sight of
two police officers, without flak jackets or military support,
sauntering up the Falls, stopping to chat to shoppers.

Further on he finds that one of the bars he frequented as a young
volunteer is now named after an English football team. The
conversation is all about the value of their houses, how the
equity will enable them to buy a holiday home in Donegal or
Spain, their conversations interspersed with the hope that
Glasgow Celtic can make it four-in-a-row next season.

On the television he stares in disbelief as Martin McGuinness,
greyer now, wearing glasses and a new suit, is making jokes with
an older, leaner, happier Reverend Ian Paisley, both men fielding
questions from a gaggle of journalists.

Van Winkle may be baffled by what he has sees and reject the
compromise of unionist consent, the ending of the armed struggle
and dismiss the changes by citing George Orwell that 'All
revolutionaries are social climbers with bombs in their pockets'.
There may be unionists who would agree with him. But Northern
Ireland has come a long way in 30 years. Peace on the streets
even for those who were the republican movement's core supporters
during the Troubles is all that matters now. Those republicans
who still advocate 'armed struggle' to end the British presence
gained a derisory vote in last March's Assembly elections. There
is no stomach left for using violence to unite Ireland.

Other one-time flashpoints, such as Derry and Newry, are also
enjoying unprecedented prosperity. At present the North of
Ireland is experiencing a construction boom. The cityscapes of
Belfast and Derry are a forest of cranes; house prices are rising
faster than in any other UK region and thousands of migrant
workers, mainly from Eastern Europe, are arriving in search of
work and education for their children.

There are a few landmarks that our Van Winkle would recognise if
he crossed the Falls Road towards where it meets the loyalist
Shankill. Physical barriers erected in 1969 and onwards to keep
Catholic and Protestant communities apart are still there; in
fact, they have been reinforced and in some cases such as one
near Howard Street (a thoroughfare linking the Falls and
Shankill) now resemble mini-Berlin Walls. Across the city, in
north, west and east, 26 permanent barriers, in all kinds of
shapes and sizes, ensure that rival communities contiguous with
one and other are kept apart. The fact that, unlike the Berlin
Wall, these barriers of human separation are popular on either
side is a measure of the deeply embedded sectarianism still
running like a geopolitical faultline under the surface of a
prosperous, peaceful society.

ú Henry McDonald is the author of six books on Ireland.


Understanding Enemy Is Key To Peace

The Rev. Raymond Helmick was a mediator in the Northern Ireland

By Rich Barlow May 5, 2007

Dr. No finally said yes in Northern Ireland. And the "terrorist"
agreed to share power.

Ian Paisley, the octogenarian Protestant leader whose anti-
Catholic diatribes won him the Bond villain moniker, and Gerry
Adams, the Catholic whose reported Irish Republican Army ties
earned him the terrorist tag from Paisley, stunned the world last
month by agreeing to a joint provincial government. The deal,
effective May 8, enacts the 1998 Good Friday accord, which ended
three decades of Catholic-Protestant violence but had sputtered
in its attempts to realize a government involving both sides.

Ironically, those who took up the gun were always the most eager
for peace, says the Rev. Raymond Helmick. A Jesuit priest who is
Irish on his mother's side, and professor of conflict resolution
at Boston College, Helmick, 75, spent nine years trying to
mediate the conflict and has worked at peacemaking in the Middle
East, as well. He spoke about his work last month in an interview
at St. Paul Catholic Church in Cambridge. Excerpts follow.

Q You've met Mr. Paisley and Mr. Adams. What can you tell us
about them personally?

A I remember being very aware that Adams was thinking seriously
in the direction of a nonviolent strategy. He was extremely
difficult to reach. He talk[ed] only within a narrow circle. He
did get over that. Paisley was always conscious that I was about
-- there's hardly a more frightening word to Northern Irish
Protestants than Jesuit. He could have been very dangerous to me
and, with great deliberation, was not. I'm very grateful to him
for that. He was a clever man.

Q Christianity in Northern Ireland never lived through the
separation of church and state.

A Religion gets distorted and used for agendas that are no part
of its agenda. When that's happening, what you need is not less
religion but more, that people find out what their faith is
really about. In Ireland, religion isn't all about religion. From
the point that there was a difference between Catholic and
Protestant [during the Reformation], it was utilized immediately
as a political loyalty test. It's never ceased to be.

Q What lessons does Northern Ireland suggest for peacemaking

A You have to de-demonize the enemy. If you don't get around to
understanding the humanity of the enemy, you don't resolve the

Q If peace is bound to be slow in coming, how can it take
priority over survival for those who face violence against
themselves or their children in the interim? Why wouldn't I say,
"I need a gun?"

A In Northern Ireland, the people who took the initiative to make
the peace were the militants on both sides. On the Protestant
side, I was always finding statements [like], "We have done
terrible things, and we're looking for alternatives."

On the Catholic side, there was much more of this feeling that
we're in the just war. People would get shocked when they found
out that their lads, their great protectors, were torturing
people and things of this sort. Security means you can do
anything. You keep creating more wounds, making reconciliation
much more distant. [Protecting] loved ones is an absolute -- you
have to do that. Does that mean find [the enemies] and blow them
away? If that's what it means, you're deep into rejection of the
other. There are more of them than you can eradicate.

Q The Protestants you met conceded their wrongs; the IRA did not.
Surely remorse bestows some moral superiority on those humble
enough to admit they're wrong?

A You have to work your way through to that, and it's not easy.
People did eventually get to that. I'd talk to people who were
IRA or Loyalist [Protestants] and bring up the South African
Truth and Reconciliation Commission. What I'd keep hearing from
them is, "We're not ready for a truth and reconciliation
commission, because nobody has admitted anything." More recently,
the IRA has done so.

Q Are you saying there's no such thing as evil?

A Evil is not a thing of itself, but the absence of good. That's
a fundamental you would find, say, in [St. Thomas] Aquinas. I
don't believe in evil people. I believe in an awful lot of evil
that is done by people. In the Irish case, clergy who got up to
talk about the conflict were inclined to tell their people, you
are bigots, you are evil. Of course, people would say, "He
doesn't understand us." The only way that could be successful for
the preacher was to find what is the best in their people and
appeal to that.

Questions, comments, or story ideas can be sent to


Timeline: UVF: A History Of Violence

The Ulster Volunteer Force has a grim history of sectarian
violence and crime in Northern Ireland. These are major events in
the loyalist group's history

Press Association
Thursday May 3, 2007
Guardian Unlimited


The Ulster Volunteer Force is set up as a Protestant militia by
Unionist leader Lord Edward Carson to oppose Home Rule for


April: The UVF smuggles 35,000 rifles and 3m rounds of ammunition
from Germany on board a freighter which docks in Larne known as
the Clyde Valley.

August: As Home Rule is set aside during the first world war, UVF
members form the 36th (Ulster) Division of the British Army.


July: The 36th Ulster Division suffers huge losses at the Battle
of the Somme.


Loyalist Gusty Spence is approached to join a revitalised UVF
because of fears of republican violence, even though the IRA is
not a major paramilitary threat.


June: The UVF claims the first victim of the Troubles, shooting
dead 28-year-old store man John Patrick Scullion in west Belfast.
Barman Peter Ward, an 18-year-old from west Belfast, becomes the
second victim of a UVF gun attack. Northern Ireland Prime
Minister Terence O'Neill proscribes the organisation. Gusty
Spence and two other men are later given life sentences for the
murder of Peter Ward.


December: A UVF bomb kills 15 Catholic civilians in McGurk's Bar
in the New Lodge area of north Belfast - the largest loss of
civilian life in a single incident until the Omagh bomb.


The UVF's associate organisation, the Red Hand Commando, is
formed and is outlawed one year later.


April: Northern Ireland Secretary Merlyn Rees lifts the ban on
the UVF to encourage loyalists to take part in political talks.

May: Thirty-three people are killed in no-warning car bombs in
Dublin and Monaghan. The relatives of those murdered to this day
believe there was security force collusion in the UVF attack.


July: Three members of a pop group, the Miami Showband, are shot
dead after being stopped by a UVF gang posing as an army
checkpoint. Two members of the UVF gang kill themselves while
loading a bomb onto the band's bus.

October: The UVF is banned again.


The Independent Unionist Group is formed on Belfast's Shankill
Road, evolving one year later into the Progressive Unionist
Party, the political wing of the UVF.


Lenny Murphy, leader of the infamous sectarian Shankill Butchers
gang, is shot dead by the IRA outside his girlfriend's house. He
is believed to have been involved in 18 killings, including seven
gruesome murders by the gang of Catholics between November 1975
and March 1977, using torture, cleavers, axes and butcher's


Fourteen figures in the organisation are arrested as a result of
information from supergrass Joseph Bennett.


The UVF joins the Combined Loyalist Paramilitary Command, which
also involves the rival Ulster Defence Association.


June: The PUP's Hugh Smyth becomes the first ever loyalist Lord
Mayor of Belfast.

Six people are gunned down by a UVF gang in a pub massacre in
Loughinisland, Co Down, as they watch Jack Charlton's Republic of
Ireland defeat Italy in the USA World Cup.

October: Gusty Spence announces on behalf of the Combined
Loyalist Military Command ceasefires by the UDA, UVF and Red Hand
Commando following the IRA's cessation of violence.


May: The PUP's David Ervine and Hugh Smyth are elected to the
Forum for Peace and Reconciliation as the party takes part in
Stormont talks, which will lead two years later to the Good
Friday Agreement.

August: The UVF stands down the Portadown unit of its Mid Ulster
brigade led by Billy Wright after the murder of Catholic taxi
driver Michael McGoldrick at the height of the Drumcree marching
crisis in July. Wright forms a splinter group, the Loyalist
Volunteer Force, and defies a UVF order to leave Northern

October: Robert 'Basher' Bates, another member of the Shankill
Butcher gang, is gunned down in the Shankill area.


November: The badly beaten body of former RAF radar operator
Raymond McCord Jr is found on the outskirts of Belfast after a
fall-out with a north Belfast UVF gang.

December: LVF leader Billy Wright is gunned down in the high
security Maze Prison by the Irish National Liberation Army.


May: The UVF appoints the PUP's Billy Hutchinson as its contact
with General John de Chastelain's decommissioning body.

June: The PUP captures two seats in the Assembly elections, with
David Ervine elected in East Belfast and Billy Hutchinson in
North Belfast.

September: The first wave of loyalist and republican prisoners is
released under the Good Friday Agreement.


August: The home of Gusty Spence is attacked as UDA commander
Johnny Adair attempts to drive UVF supporters out of the lower
Shankill Road in Belfast. The feud results in seven deaths.


November: The PUP's Billy Hutchinson loses his Assembly seat but
David Ervine manages to hang onto his.


May: A bitter feud erupts between the UVF and the rival LVF
resulting in five deaths. The feud ends when the LVF announces it
is disbanding.


January: PUP leader David Ervine dies suddenly. Sinn Fein
president Gerry Adams and former Irish Taoiseach Albert Reynolds
are among those who attend his funeral in loyalist east Belfast.
Within weeks, Dawn Purvis is elected PUP leader.

A report by Police Ombudsman Nuala O'Loan alleges a UVF gang in
north Belfast riddled with Royal Ulster Constabulary informers
were allowed to murder at least 10 people including Raymond
McCord Jr.

March: Despite being written off before the Assembly election,
Dawn Purvis comfortably retains David Ervine's East Belfast seat
and on the day of the DUP and Sinn Fein devolution deal she holds
her first meeting with the first minister in waiting, the Rev Ian

May: The UVF outlines plans to wind down its paramilitary and
criminal operations.


Opin: The Day I Thought Would Never Come

This week, Ian Paisley and Martin McGuinness will astonish those
who experienced the Troubles

Sean O'Hagan
Sunday May 6, 2007
The Observer

Back when I was a teenager and the Troubles were just beginning,
I was allowed to attend one of the first civil rights marches, on
30 November 1968. I can remember the excitement and trepidation
as the marchers set off from the Killylea Road towards the town
centre, their ranks swelled by coachloads of protesters from
across the province.

The source of that trepidation was one man, the Rev Ian Paisley,
a Free Presbyterian firebrand, who, having been born in Armagh in
1926, had returned with a vengeance to haunt the city. Convinced
that the Northern Irish Civil Rights Association was 'a front
movement for the IRA', he had called for 'every Loyalist in
Ulster' to assemble in Armagh that same day and 'take control of
the city'. This they duly did, though only in their hundreds,
assembling in the town centre, where, according to the rumours
that sped though the marchers, they had armed themselves with
crowbars and cudgels, and, according to local sources, with pick-
axe handles provided free by a Protestant-owned hardware shop.

The marchers never made it through the town. At the beginning of
Thomas Street, the route was blocked by British soldiers and RUC
men in riot gear. The mood turned from restless to defiant, the
strains of 'We Shall Overcome' giving way to more provocative
chants such as 'SS RUC' and 'two, four, six, eight, organise and
smash the state'. Alongside some friends, I pushed to the front
of the throng, where, perched on a shop windowsill, we could see
over security forces all the way down to the other end of Thomas
Street. There, the Paisleyites were being held back by another
phalanx of soldiers and policemen. Even from several hundred
yards, you could feel their anger and hatred.

Like many lapsed Catholics, I eventually shook off the dogma of
my upbringing, but I never shed the sense of hurt nor the sense
of threat that Paisley embodied in his virulent strain of anti-
Catholic rhetoric, a rhetoric that always seemed just a hair's
breadth from the violence it often inflamed. His tone was that of
a hectoring bully, his style that of the Biblical ranters of
another age, steadfast and unyielding. He was the great wrecker,
the demagogue, the living, fire-breathing epitome of Edward
Carson's definition of Ulster as 'a Protestant state for a
Protestant people'.

Paisley was also the hater of all things Papist. He once produced
a Roman Catholic Eucharist wafer during a televised speech to the
Oxford Union in the early 1970s, mocking it and the fools and
blasphemers who believed it sacred. That single act of oafish
offence put Paisley well and truly beyond the pale in our house,
and every Catholic household in Ireland.

That was the first time Paisley impinged on my consciousness,
where he remained, rooted and unchanging, for the entire duration
of the Troubles and beyond. He was a bogeyman and a bigot, a
bombastic preacher who plied not peace and understanding, but
hatred and division. As the Troubles descended into tribal blood-
letting, and the dark days of the 1970s, the civil rights era
became the great lost moment of Northern Irish politics, and the
Provisionals began their long, murderous campaign against the
security forces, Protestant businesses and civilians, Paisley
became the dominant voice of Loyalism whose increasing and ever-
strident extremism expressed the fabled siege mentality of his

The Big Man, as his followers call him, has remained embedded in
my consciousness ever since that day in 1968, a promoter of
ultra-Unionist intransigence. Until, that is, a few months ago,
when the unthinkable happened. The first clue that something was
not quite right with the Reverend Ian was written on his face: he
suddenly started smiling. Immediately, the text messages started
arriving from the wags at home: 'The Brits have been putting
something in Big Ian's Orange Fanta' and 'Paisley's on the

Then, something even more unimaginable. Ian started using the Y
word, and it was like he couldn't stop. He said 'Yes' to sitting
down with his sworn enemies, Adams and McGuinness. He said 'Yes'
to devolved power-sharing. He said 'Yes' to tea and wee buns with
Albert Reynolds. The fledging First Minister metamorphosed into
the province's first 'Yes' Minister. It was almost too much to
take. After the shock of the Sinn Feiners' transformation into a
political party capable of compromising what had long been
thought to have been core principles, the Democratic Unionists
seem to have caught the progressive bug.

Paisley, after all, was the man who coined the very phrase
'Ulster Says No', who roared 'No!' at Terence O'Neill, the doomed
and ineffectual Prime Minister of Northern Ireland when the
Troubles began, who said 'No' to the Sunningdale agreement, and
'No' to James Prior's policy of 'rolling devolution'. The man who
shouted 'No!' to the Anglo-Irish agreement, and the Belfast
agreement, who said 'No' to Mo and Mandy, and to 'Babbling'
Brooke before them, and John 'See you, Jimmy' Reid after them,
and who also said No' to Jesus Christ, Superstar and Jerry
Springer the Opera, to the Anne Summers sex shop in the city
centre, and to Gilbert and George at the Ormeau Baths Gallery.

Was it Prozac? The onset of sudden, benign, old age? Or, could it
be that even the Big Man has been seduced, in the autumn of his
long life, by the irresistible aphrodisiac of power? Whatever, a
transformation has occurred, some kind of late epiphany that is
nothing less than a leap of faith. Not only has he been seen
smiling in the presence of the Shinners, he has even started
cracking a joke or two. When asked by Ahern why he always had
boiled eggs for breakfast, he replied: 'It would be hard for you
to poison them.' (This, for the uninitiated, is as close to a
quip as it gets with the DUP, the rest of whom have yet to
surrender the dour-faced demeanour of the long-suffering.)

It may be hard for those of you who have long grown bored with
the snail's pace of Northern Irish politics to fully comprehend
the incredulity many of we natives feel in the face of these
momentous events. That Paisley and McGuinness will be sitting
down together this week, as First Minister and Deputy, to attempt
to do real - read boring, dogged, matter-of-fact - politics
rather than going for each other's jugulars or indulging in
another round of 'talks about talks', is a moment that most of us
who lived though the Troubles thought we would never see.

I would love to be a fly on the wall, when Ian and Marty, and
Geoffrey and Gerry, and the rest put their pasts behind them and
walk hand-in-hand down the long, rocky road of compromise. But
when the joking and smiling subside, that, even by the painfully
protracted standards of Northern Irish politics, may take a very
long time.

To Subscribe to Irish Aires Google News List, click Here.
To Unsub from Irish Aires Google News List, click Here
For options visit:

Or join our Irish Aires Yahoo Group, Click here

To Get RSS Feed for Irish Aires News click HERE
(Paste into a News Reader)

To May Index
To Index of Monthly Archives
To Searches & Sources of Other Irish News
Comments: Post a Comment

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?