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May 28, 2007

Ball's in FF's Court

News about Ireland & the Irish

BN 05/27/07 Ball In 78-Seat FF's Court As Counting Finishes
BN 05/27/07 Kenny In Talks To Form Govt
BN 05/27/07 Greens 'Ruling Nothing Out' On Government Options
RT 05/27/07 Adams Admits Election Was Difficult For SF
IT 05/28/07 Sinn Féin In Retreat Needs To Regroup
BT 05/28/07 How An Overconfident Adams Lost The South
BB 05/28/07 Sinn Fein Result 'No Surprise'
BT 05/28/07 Did Guerrillas FARC Out $2m For SF's Campaign?
BT 05/28/07 Inquiries A Drain On Policing: PSNI Chief
BT 05/28/07 Inquiries Cast A Shadow Over How Policing Has Changed
AP 05/26/07 Former Combatants Meet As Network Launched
BT 05/28/07 Opin: Ahern Win Aids Stability At Stormont
IN 05/28/07 Opin: Result Shows Adams Out Of Touch In South
BN 05/27/07 First Ever Scheduled US Flight From Knock Takes Off


Ball In 78-Seat Fianna Fail's Court As Counting Finishes

27/05/2007 - 09:58:14

The counting of votes in general election 2007 is now complete.

John Moloney of Fianna Fail took the last of the remaining 166
seats in the constituency of Laois/Offaly in the early hours of
this morning.

The final state of the parties is: Fianna Fail 78; Fine Gael 51;
Labour 20; Greens 6; Sinn Fein 4; and Others 5.

The big losers though were the PD's who retained just two of
their eight seats.

The outgoing Taoiseach Bertie Ahern is now five seats short of an
overall majority and has a number of options to work on in order
to form a government.

Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny refused to rule out the possibility
of an alternative coalition with Labour the Greens and
Independents but the ball is firmly in Ahern's court.

He can opt to offer Mary Harney the Health portfolio again to
secure the two PD seats and then negotiate a deal with the

Jackie Healy-Rae and Beverly Flynn come from FF stock and Tony
Gregory and Finian McGrath are also possibilities.

Mr Ahern could also opt to go with either the Greens or the
Labour Party but the price of such a deal would be much higher.


Kenny In Talks To Form Govt

27/05/2007 - 14:10:56

The Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny says he's going to talk to the
leader of the Greens, Labour and the PDs with a view to forming a

Enda Kenny says the seat tallies mean either side could be in
power - but has again ruled out doing a deal with Sinn Fein.

He says the election results - in which Fine Gael and Labour's
'Alliance for Change' gained twenty seats - need a great deal of
analysis and attention.

The Fine Gael leader is now going to talk to Pat Rabbitte, Trevor
Sargent, Mary Harney and the independents about forming a

But he's reiterating that he won't go into power with Sinn Fein.

If they all were to agree - they'd have 84 seats between them -
versus 78 for Fianna Fail.


Greens 'Ruling Nothing Out' On Government Options

27/05/2007 - 16:35:58

The Green Party is considering its options after the outcome of
the General Election.

Party Leader Trevor Sargent said: "With six TDs elected to the
30th Dail, the Green Party is in a strong position to implement
its progressive policy agenda.

"We have held our representation in Dail Eireann and increased
our vote in extremely difficult circumstances. We experienced the
same 'squeeze' as other small parties, but unlike Sinn Fein, the
PDs, Labour and the Socialists, we managed to maintain our level
of representation.

"Our Parliamentary Party has held initial discussions this
afternoon and over the next days we will be taking soundings
within the party on how to proceed.

"We want a responsible, stable and effective government and at
this stage we are ruling nothing out."


Adams Admits Election Was Difficult For SF

Sunday, 27 May 2007 17:06

Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams has said his party's loss of
seats in the election was 'obviously a disappointment'.

He said it was always going to be a difficult election for Sinn
Fein and claimed that the established parties for months
beforehand were trying to make the party irrelevant.

Mr Adams said that in the course of the campaign it became a
referendum on the Taoiseach and who voters wanted to run the

He said all of the other issues that Sinn Fein put
on the political agenda about public services, the equality
agenda, Irish unity and the environment, are issues which the
incoming Government was going to have to address.

Mr Adams said it is unprecedented and very challenging to try and
build in jurisdictions in a partitioned Ireland but he thinks
that Sinn Fein is up for that challenge.

He said Sinn Fein should be judged on the changes they are
capable of bringing about.

He believes the people voted for continuity but they are still
dissatisfied that the economy is not serving the public services,
that the equality agenda still needs to be dealt with and that
Irish unity still remains an attainable goal.

Mr Adams said he wants to see an end to a British jurisdiction on
this island and he believes it is attainable.

He said that when it came to it, with a booming economy people
decided that they did not want change.


Sinn Fein In Retreat Needs To Regroup

Mon, May 28, 2007

Party analysis: In times of trouble, Sinn Fein has a tendency of
putting its head down, committing itself to working harder and
suffering tunnel vision.

Such an attitude will not help it come to terms with the verdict
of the Republic's electorate, one that fundamentally changes its
future south of the border.

Before Thursday, every other party believed that Sinn Fein would
make gains on its five outgoing seats. Some said eight. Some said
10. None predicted a loss. Instead, it lost Se n Crowe in Dublin
South West and saw Aengus O Snodaigh elected without reaching the
quota after a struggle in Dublin South Central.

Its grand hopes for Mary Lou McDonald in Dublin Central collapsed
after she received 1,800 fewer votes than Nicky Keogh won there
in 2002, and then got few transfers.

In Donegal North East, P draig Mac Lochlainn added more than
3,000 to his 2002 first preference tally, only to be defeated by
Fine Gael's Joe McHugh. Nearby, in Donegal South West, Pearse
Doherty secured 8,462 votes, adding nearly 6,000 to his 2002
first preference result, but it still was not enough.

However, his real rise is less because his 2002 tally was reduced
by the 2,630 votes received at the time by the then Independent,
Thomas Pringle, who later joined Sinn Fein. Nevertheless,
O'Doherty's total would have been enough in other times to have
won on Friday, but he suffered from the massively increased vote
of Fine Gael's Dinny McGinley.

On the northside of Dublin, the situation was even worse, where
Larry O'Toole failed in Dublin North East and Dessie Ellis in
neighbouring North West. While O'Toole won 1,300 more votes than
in 2002, receiving 4,661, he received a poor share of the Green
Party's David Healy's transfer before falling at the third count.
Dessie Ellis needed a much increased first preference vote on
2002 to win - given the lack of potential transfers - but he
managed to add fewer than 100 votes.

In Waterford, David Cullinane, one of the party's strong hopes,
managed to add just 350 votes to his 2002 result, and then pulled
in fewer than 1,000 transfers before his chance expired. In
Wexford, New Ross-based John O'Dwyer equally failed to get far
enough up the electoral poll to stay in, receiving 5,068 first
preferences - just over 100 more than five years ago, but he
again failed to attract transfers, finding fewer than 400 from
limited available sources before going out.

Though the results will be much perused, all of them cannot be
put down to Sinn Fein being caught in the vice-grip of strong
Fine Gael and Fianna Fail showings. The "squeeze factor" does
explain some of the party's difficulties, but seats in working-
class areas such as Dublin North West should have been ripe for
the taking.

So what has happened? In places such as Tallaght the working
class has become middle class or at least possessed of middle-
class aspirations. Jobs are more plentiful, mortgages secured.
Some who voted for Sinn Fein before now have assets to protect.

Equally, Sinn Fein failed to convince those who voted for them in
local elections to do so for the Dail. "They see us as
councillors, not as TDs," complained one SF source. The poor
showing was privately feared by a minority in Sinn Fein's Parnell
Square headquarters days before voting, though none forecast its

While party leader Gerry Adams' poor TV debate showing turned off
many who saw it, it had just as damaging a "viral" impact as word
spread to those who had not. "He was too programmed, too
packaged. He is better off the cuff. So, too, is Mary Lou.

"We have to show more passion. People like the Greens' Eamon Ryan
show it. We must too. We must show people why we are right.
Because we are not going to change our views," said one party

But Sinn Fein has had many bad days. May 25th is a day
significant for many in Sinn Fein since it marks the anniversary
of Cllr Eddie Fullerton's murder in Donegal in 1991. "We have had
a lot of bad days. Friday was one. We must regroup, and do things
differently. We can't continue to do everything like we did," he

c 2007 The Irish Times


How An Overconfident Adams Lost The South

[Published: Monday 28, May 2007 - 09:10]

Twelve weeks ago, Gerry Adams had his eyes on the prize.

"We want to be in government in both parts of this island," he
told his party's ard fheis on March 3, "because that is a means
to fulfil our historic mission to bring about a truly national
republic and a truly national government."

Last week voters in the Republic postponed the revolution,
handing Sinn Fein their most serious election setback in recent

Instead of doubling their seats in the Dail and becoming tempting
partners in government for Bertie Ahern, they ended up losing one
seat and getting behind the Greens in the queue for power.

Bankable gains in Donegal and Dublin fizzled out. They lost a
seat in Dublin where they topped the poll last time. The
candidate they had promoted most - Marylou McDonald - ended up
losing ground in Bertie Ahern's home constituency.

The party could draw some comfort from a slight increase in their
vote - 6.9% against 6.5% in 2002, but that was to be expected.
They were running more candidates in more constituencies and
therefore should have seen the vote go up.

But the final share was considerably down from the 2004 local
government elections, and less than the polls indicated. The
wheels haven't come off, but the fast-track to government is no
longer there.

The setback was remarkable for several reasons. It was their
first reverse in a steady climb stretching back over the peace
process - at least from the time of the second, enduring, IRA

The loss also went against the party's own predictions. Sinn Fein
tend to be accurate and conservative in their forecasts: the
accuracy comes from knowing their electorate intimately, the
conservatism from knowing the media and their political opponents
would jump all over them if they fell short - one prediction that
is proving accurate.

But one of the most notable outcomes is that blame is being
visited on Mr Adams, including some open internal criticism.

In the Republic, Sinn Fein's rise has been closely connected to
Gerry Adams. Polls generally rate him as the second or third most
popular party leader, behind Bertie Ahern.

But his performance during the most public outing in this
campaign, an RTE debate of the minor party leaders, was widely
considered to have been poor.

Progressive Democrat leader Michael McDowell (who lost his seat)
mocked Mr Adams' claim to draw the average industrial wage -
asking how he managed to afford his second home in Donegal in
those circumstances.

A more serious criticism was that he appeared vague on important
Southern issues, like the economy and health.

That may have reinforced notions that Sinn Fein is defined by the

This may give Mr Adams pause for thought. Like some African
dictator or Free Presbyterian moderator, there was an assumption
that Adams was president for life, if he so chose.

But in one of his autobiographies he says he was reluctant to
assume the leadership of Sinn Fein because he believes the party
is better led by someone from the South. Instead, the upper tiers
of his party are dominated by Northerners.

Mr Adams' ard fheis speech was evidence of what turned out to be
massive overconfidence.

He gave the signal that he was ready for government and the
Southern electorate did not respond. Why must be an important
consideration as they set about regrouping for the local
government elections.

Could their appeal in the South have been based on their
reasonableness when cast against unionist intransigence? Is that
gone now that the DUP is gung-ho for power-sharing and Ian
Paisley is matey with Bertie?

Mr Paisley does his deal and Sinn Fein come out looking weaker.
Does that make the DUP winners from the Republic's general
election? That really was an unexpected result.

c Belfast Telegraph


Sinn Fein Result 'No Surprise'

It was not a surprise Sinn Fein did so badly in last week's
general election, Irish Foreign Minister Dermot Ahern has

Mr Ahern said young people in the Republic were "not tuned in to
a party with Marxist socialist policies".

The election returned Fianna Fail as the largest party but
without an overall majority.

Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern will begin work this week on
the formation of a new government.

The taoiseach hopes he can form a coalition with the much-reduced
Progressive Democrats and a number of independents.

Sinn Fein, which lost one of its five Dail seats, has been ruled
out as a coalition partner by Fianna Fail.

'Economic issues'

Foreign Affairs Minister Dermot Ahern said he was not surprised
at Sinn Fein's poor showing.

"I was always confident... when we got Sinn Fein into a situation
where we were talking about bread and butter issues, talking
about economic issues," he said.

"People saw that a party that has a Marxist, a socialist
philosophy is not really in tune, particularly with the younger
population who are all working, have cars, go on holidays and are
trying to buy a house."

Fianna Fail secured 78 seats in the 166-seat assembly, but saw a
decline in the vote of its previous coalition partners, the
Progressive Democrats.

Mr Ahern now faces the prospect of tough talks with opposition
parties to build a coalition government.


He can count on two independents and two surviving Progressive

The main opposition Fine Gael polled well, winning 51 seats, but
its potential coalition partners Labour and the Greens fared less

As a result, not even these three parties combined could overtake
Fianna Fail and the PDs.

The Republic of Ireland's system of proportional representation
means that parties' representation in the Dail (lower house of
parliament) closely matches their percentage of the vote.

The taoiseach has led a coalition government since 1997 - a
period of sustained economic growth for the Republic.

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2007/05/28 10:18:57 GMT


Did Guerrillas FARC Out $2m For SF's Electoral Crusade?

[Published: Monday 28, May 2007 - 09:44]

A top-level think-tank closely connected to the US military has
linked an alleged $2 million payment made by Colombian guerrillas
to the IRA with Sinn Fein's election campaign.

The bombshell report - by the influential Rand Corporation - is
likely to re-ignite the controversy over the Provos' links with
the Marxist FARC movement.

The report - on the sharing of information between various
subversive organisations around the world and its impact on US
security - comes as Sinn Fein failed to live up to pre-poll
predictions in the Republic's general election.

While much of the report investigating the links relies on
previously-published material - which claimed IRA members trained
FARC in the use of mortars and other technology - it goes further
by linking cash raised in Colombia to Sinn Fein and its election

The IRA reportedly received $2m in exchange for training FARC, as
the rural-based organisation wanted to step up its campaign in
urban areas.

The report, which draws on published documents and private
interviews with security officials in Ulster, concludes: "The IRA
. . . may have seen the opportunity to advise FARC as a new
source of funding. British intelligence has speculated that PIRA
could have received as much as $2m for its efforts, which would
make up for some of the losses suffered as a result of reductions
in funds collected from US sources."

It continued by linking the alleged FARC cash to Sinn Fein.

"The costs of running a nationwide organisation such as Sinn
Fein, which boasts 1,500 election workers, is expensive and the
group's criminal operations may not be enough to sustain it
militarily and politically."

While the Rand Corporation says the expertise FARC gained led
directly to the deaths of hundreds, the IRA has never admitted
its members were involved in training the rebels.

Three men - Martin McCauley, James Monaghan and Niall Connolly -
were arrested as they attempted to leave Colombia using false
documents in August 2001.

They were initially acquitted of training FARC, but convicted of
travelling on false documents. As prosecutors appealed, the three
were freed and went into hiding.

They have consistently denied training FARC and claimed they were
in the country to learn about the stalled peace process there and
to educate the movement's leaders about Ireland. Following the
appeal, which overturned the acquittals, the three did not come
out of hiding and later returned to Ireland.

The Rand Corporation was set up 60 years ago to advise the US
military, with which it still has close links, but it has since
expanded to become one of the most influential advisory bodies in
the country.

Senior White House officials, such as Secretary of State
Condaleeza Rice and former Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld,
have close connections to the think-tank.

The report baldly states that the IRA became involved with FARC
for other reasons apart from the cash.

These included using the FARC-controlled zone to test weapons.
The report states that, in spite of denials by the 'Colombia
Three', authorities in the troubled South American country began
noticing an improvement in FARC's ability to carry out more
sophisticated operations.

"Beginning in early 2001, FARC began intensifying its operations,
killing more than 400 members of the Colombian armed forces in 18
months, using car-bombs, secondary devices and homemade mortars."

While the Rand Corporation promotes itself as an objective think-
tank, some critics argue it has too close ties to the military-
industrial complex in the US.

The report suggests that the IRA linked up with FARC because
funding from America was drying up after the events of September
11, 2001.

Yet the Colombia Three were taken into custody weeks before 9/11,
while elsewhere the report concludes that IRA members were
travelling to the South American country from 1998.

Nevertheless, the IRA/FARC link continues to be controversial in
spite of the huge progress made in the Ulster peace process.
During the general election campaign, outgoing Justice Minister
Michael McDowell and Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams were
involved in a tetchy exchange that included a reference to the
Colombia connection.

When Adams expressed concern about the drug problem in Ireland,
the Progressive Democrat leader accused the republican movement
of being willing to sell "Provo know-how" to "narco-terrorists"
for $25m - a figure never before alleged.

The Rand report - Sharing The Dragon's Teeth: Terrorist Groups
And The Exchange of New Technologies - also investigates links
between different organisations in other parts of world,
including South-East Asia and Palestine.

c Belfast Telegraph


Inquiries A Drain On Policing: PSNI Chief

[Published: Monday 28, May 2007 - 13:17]
By Chris Thornton

The senior PSNI officer tasked with dealing with collusion
inquiries today warned that handling the past is a "drag anchor
on policing".

Assistant Chief Constable Alister Finlay made the comments as it
emerged that collusion probes have already cost the PSNI almost
œ4m - putting the known price tag of the investigations beyond
œ25m before full hearings have started.

With the Billy Wright Inquiry due later this week to become the
first of the inquiries to begin full hearings, Mr Finlay revealed
that police preparation will cost œ2m this year.

He said the force also spent œ1.6m last year dealing with the
three collusion inquiries that have opened, as well as two probes
under way in the Republic.

In an interview with the Belfast Telegraph, Mr Finlay - who was
hired last year specifically to deal with inquiries because the
work was " eclipsing " another senior officer's work on current
crime - said that " dealing with the past is a drag anchor" on

He also admitted he expects the police and other agencies to be
criticised by the inquiries for the loss of records.

He said the PSNI has handed the first inquiry a substantial body
of material about Wright's murder in the Maze Prison in 1997, but
has been unable to find all the records requested.

Mr Finlay acknowledged that some retiring officers took records
with them, but says he is not aware of anyone deliberately
destroying material to keep it out of the hands of the inquiries.

The ACC said the PSNI is committed to helping the inquiries, but
has concerns that "covert methodology" could be exposed by the

He also questioned whether the inquiries provide "best value".

"We've got a lot of money looking at the past. Is that the best
way of utilising it?" he asked.

"These are tragic events and it's understandable why families and
associates must have questions arise in their minds either
confirmed, denied or dispelled.

"But there are very real dangers that through the portrayal of
those events, it adversely affects the relations that we're
building in policing today."

The Wright Inquiry is the first of three separate collusion
allegations being investigated. Inquiries into the deaths of
solicitor Rosemary Nelson and Portadown man Robert Hamill are
currently in the preparation stages. A fourth inquiry recommended
by Canadian judge Peter Cory is due to examine the murder of
solicitor Patrick Finucane, but it has not been established.

The Wright Inquiry, which begins hearings in Banbridge on
Wednesday, has been the least expensive of the probes so far.

By last December, it had cost the Government œ3.9m. The Hamill
Inquiry was put at œ7.5m at the same time, and in March the
Government said the Rosemary Nelson Inquiry had cost œ11.6m. The
œ3.6m spent by the PSNI is accounted separately.

c Belfast Telegraph


Inquiries Cast A Shadow Over How Policing Has Changed For The

The Monday Interview
[Published: Monday 28, May 2007 - 09:16]
By Chris Thornton

Alister Finlay has one of the most unusual commands in policing.
An assistant chief constable, he is at the top tier of the PSNI,
yet generally has just four police officers working for him.

But he does have lawyers, squads of administrative clerks and
researchers. Files and records are his beat.

ACC Finlay is yesterday's man - in the sense that he is
professionally occupied with the past.

The first of four expected collusion inquiries begins later this
week, when retired Scottish judge Lord MacLean begins full formal
hearings on the murder of LVF leader Billy Wright.

ACC Finlay, a 46-year-old Scot who came to the PSNI from
Strathclyde Police, is in charge of the PSNI's preparations.
Already, they have handed over something like 1,000 files to this
inquiry team, but the other three inquiries - looking into the
deaths of Robert Hamill, Rosemary Nelson and Pat Finucane - will
all demand even greater involvement from the PSNI.

Preparation for the collusion inquiries and two others in the
Republic - without considering the expense of the legal teams
that will represent the PSNI at hearings - is costing police œ2m
this year alone. Between this year and last year, the total is
about œ3.6m.

And it's a full-time job. Mr Finlay was hired last year because
the inquiry workload - previously handed to the ACC in charge of
Crime Operations, Peter Sheridan - was starting to swamp other

"The time Peter was having to give to the issues around the
inquiries was eclipsing the time that he could actually deal with
the current crime," said Mr Finlay.

"That says something about the scale of work and demand and also
how these inquiries aren't straightforward.

"We are talking about public inquiries into areas that we haven't
really had public inquiries into before, into how the police and
other security services went about their business."

Much of Mr Finlay's job is about facilitating the inquiries -
finding material and handing it over. But it is also partly
defensive - concerned with protecting specific operational
secrets and the general reputation of the present PSNI against
judgments on the past.

"There's a lot of effort going on in this organisation dealing
with the past, and we're anxious to do it," he said at his office
outside Carrickfergus.

But he added: "Dealing with the past is a drag anchor for this

"Because time has passed and things have changed so much, it
actually influences some of the really positive things we're
trying to achieve at the moment."

He says all the inquiries could end up "raising the wrong notion
in people's eyes".

After Wright, the case of Robert Hamill will look at accusations
that police stood by and failed to intervene when Hamill was
fatally beaten by a loyalist mob. Rosemary Nelson's case concerns
threats allegedly made by police before the Lurgan lawyer was
murdered by loyalists. One aspect of Finucane is whether police
officers helped loyalists target the solicitor.

All could have serious consequences for police.

"The inquiries will have a view on how things should be done and
could be improved, but the passage of time between when these
incidents took place and now is such that most, if not all, of
the things that they may make in their recommendations have been
overtaken by events," said Mr Finlay.

"We have a significantly different organisation going about its
business in a different way and in a different environment. There
is a real criticality to the inquiries dragging back the
progressive work of PSNI because of the public's perception of it
being influenced negatively.

"The whole inquiry process has a real potential to distract from
what we're doing right now and has a real potential in people's
mind to say, this is the police now, as opposed to this was the
police then in a different context, in a different time,
operating in a different way.

"It's not a matter of burying the past. It's about
contextualising the past.

"Because there's an awful lot of water passed under the bridge.
We're in a different place to where we were in those particular
times. These are tragic events and it's understandable why
families and associates would like to know more answers, must
have questions arise in their minds either confirmed, denied or
dispelled. But there are very real dangers that, through the
portrayal of those events, it adversely affects the relations
that we're building in policing today."

Then is the emphasis on public inquiries justified? "I suppose
it's justified if, at the end of the day, people feel satisfied,"
he said

"But I don't know if everyone's going to be satisfied with the
results. I mean that from the point of view of going through a
public inquiry process.

"We've got quite a lot of looking back. We've got the public
inquiries looking back, we've got the Ombudsman's Office getting
involved in issues of the past, we've got the Historic Enquiries
Team looking at reviewing the murders during that period.

"I don't know if we've actually joined all that up. I don't know
if there is an opportunity at some point for someone to take
stock and say what are we actually trying to achieve - what are
we trying to achieve for the future of Northern Ireland by doing
this? What are we looking for?

"The thing about the public inquiries is they are a judicial,
legislative process. They involve lots of lawyers. They take a
long time because they've got rules of engagement and a legal
process. They cost a lot of money. Do they provide best value? I
don't know if they do.

"I think currently the inquiries are around œ18m. Our running
costs this year will be around œ2m.

"Presumably, if I'm incurring about œ2m, then there are other
agencies incurring significant sums of money. It's a lot of money
that might be used in a different way."

The Wright Inquiry has already brought criticism down on the
Prison Service for the destruction of some key files and the loss
of others.

But Mr Finlay has indicated they will not be alone - admitting
that the PSNI and other agencies will probably be criticised for
poor recordkeeping, although possibly not to the same degree as
the Prison Service.

"All the information that we have of the Billy Wright
investigation has been made available," he said.

"There's some things they've asked us for and we have to say 'no,
we can't find it'. And I've said to the inquiry if we can't find
it, we can't find it. I'm not going to tell you otherwise. We're
not going to make it up and pretend we have something we don't
have. We've searched as comprehensively as we can through a
diverse and wide estate."

He added: "I'm sure we will all get some adverse comments about

"But that's not unique. I think that, when you find the Health
Service have their public inquiries... if they're making an
inquiry into something it relies on the records and people's

"Very often public inquiries are much closer to the event than
these ones are. So, we've had a long period of time when the
opportunity for the records to go missing, not maliciously, but
put into cupboards or storage and without having at that time a
whole structure of records' management that allows you to store
things properly and archive things.

"No-one, I think, at a particular time went about thinking
'there's going to be a public inquiry over this, we better keep
all this together'.

"Around the late 90s and prior to that, the organisation wasn't
really set up to focus on recordkeeping and archiving as being
one of its core tasks. Its core tasks were saving lives,
preventing crime, disrupting activity, a whole host of things
that came as more important to do rather than the maintenance of
libraries, of files and such."

He says recordkeeping is better now, partly because of new
requirements in the law. But prior to those changes, retiring
officers did walk away with some records, especially their
personal log books or journals.

"Historically, that did happen," he said. "The organisation
didn't have any controls in place.

"For some reason, and I can't make any explanation why, there was
no real structure in place round about journals. And people would
write a lot in their journal.

"And then, when they retired, we didn't have anywhere to give
them into. In some cases, we do know of officers who said 'yeah,
I took my journals with me when I retired because there was no
other option and we've now destroyed them'. Maybe they didn't
want them lying about.

"In other cases, we've been able to go to officers who say 'yes
I've got my journals', and we'll then take them back and we'll
store them securely."

Also stored securely, in London, are the records of the Stevens
Inquiry's three investigations into collusion.

Those records, which will be especially crucial to the Finucane
Inquiry if it is ever established, are under the direction of the
PSNI. Recently, Metropolitan Police sources claimed MI5 and the
MoD have been demanding the return of sensitive documents and
destroying them.

"My understanding is that (it) is not an accurate portrayal of
events," said the ACC. Any documents that have been returned, he
says, have been copied.

"The Stevens Inquiry document collection is intact," he added.

For the foreseeable future, ACC Finlay will be dealing with the

He says the inquiries could be a "valuable learning opportunity",
but says again "so much has changed between the times when these
incidents took place and now".

"They all have the potential of distracting from what PSNI is
doing today and how PSNI is working in the community for policing
today and tomorrow."

c Belfast Telegraph


Former Combatants Meet As Reconciliation Network Launched

By Laura Friel

Senior republicans and loyalists attended the official launch of
Belfast Reconciliation Network last week. The network was
established in 2001 at the height of community tensions
particularly in North and East Belfast.

Engagement and dialogue have been the cornerstones of the
network's approach to interface tension and conflict resolution.
Their success was evident in the wide range of people and
organisations attending the launch.

While the initiative came from nationalist communities seeking to
develop post ceasefire strategies, engagement with loyalist
communities has necessarily been a key component.

The presence of former combatants, senior republicans and
unionist paramilitaries from both the UVF and UDA, as well as
officials from the NIO and 26 County Department of Foreign
Affairs gave some indication of the headway already achieved
through conflict resolution.

Senior republicans, Se n Murray and Bobby Storey mingled with
former UVF prisoner Tom Roberts and Jackie McDonald and John
Bunting of the UDA. Also present was Orange Order deputy chaplain
Mervyn Gibson and Holy Cross priest Fr. Aidan Troy.

The initiative was launched by Martin McAleese, husband of the
President of Ireland, Mary McAleese, and chaired by Gerry
McConville of the Falls Community Council. McConville described
the initiative as "a milestone in the road to conflict
transformation". McAleese said the recent developments at
Stormont provided a new opportunity for interface disputes to be
resolved using "brainpower not firepower".

Golden moment

McAleese said hearts and minds were widely engaged in peacemaking
as never before providing a "golden moment bursting with
opportunity". Interface areas "that have suffered so much during
recent troubles" have "a huge contribution to make to the
successful future," said McAleese.

"The landscape of tomorrow will not be a landscape of waste but
of wonder at what this coming generation can achieve when out
from the shadows of the past," said McAleese.

McAleese urged communities to "fast forward into a better
furture" by getting involved. The needs of interface communities
mirrored each other and instead of working separately they needed
to find solutions together, said McAleese.

Speaking on behalf of the network, Se n Murray said the group
hoped to develop a common strategy to interface issues with

"Our aim is to develop a common decisive approach to interface
issues. These are the communities who have suffered
disproportionately more than any other during the conflict," said

"When the political process was stalled it was groups like
ourselves who encouraged dialogue and engagement between the two
communities. With the return of devolution the feel-good factor
is at its zenith," said Murray.

"We need a common strategy to tackle social deprivation, poor
educational achievements and a host of other issues which have
blighted the working class communities that have been divided by
peacelines for 30 years. We want to develop a joint vision which
will make the peacelines redundant and devoid of fear and
hatred," he said.

"We want to develop the vision of a shared future. We believe we
can only start to tackle these issues when we are speaking with
one united voice for people on either side of the peaceline,"
said Murray.

"Weaponry no longer viable option"

Frankie Gallagher of the UDA-aligned Ulster Political Research
Group said loyalists should now learn from republicans. Welcoming
the initiative Gallagher said republicans and loyalists had been
politically and culturally miles apart while only living a
"stone's throw away" from each other.

Gallagher said republicans and loyalists had travelled a similar
political journey since the 1994 ceasefires with one significant

"Your community has, through a process of conflict resolution and
transformation, learnt and moved to a position that you can now
prove the most powerful weapon is the ballot box," said

"This is in itself a major achievement and you must be recognised
and congratulated in your achievement. Loyalists must now learn
how to make the ballot box work. Weaponry is no longer a viable
option," he said.

Tom Roberts, former UVF prisoner welcomed the interface
initiative as a "genuine attempt to address a legacy of conflict.

"Catholic and Protestant families in working class areas had been
blighted by sectarianism and there was an onus on republicans and
loyalists to take part in genuine engagements to find lasting
solutions to interface problems", said Roberts.

"Abraham Lincoln famously said 'Am I not destroying my enemies
when I make friends of them?' I hope that is what we can
ultimately achieve," said Roberts.


Viewpoint: Ahern Win Aids Stability At Stormont

[Published: Monday 28, May 2007 - 09:58]

From a Northern Ireland perspective, the election to the 30th
Dail in the Republic has worked out favourably. The British and
Irish Prime Ministers, Tony Blair and Bertie Ahern, both invested
a tremendous amount of time and personal commitment into the
province's peace process, building on the tentative foundations
laid by their predecessors. It is debatable if the new devolved
government at Stormont would have emerged but for their efforts.

With Mr Blair now in the final days of office, the last thing the
fledgling power-sharing Executive needed was a change of
leadership in the Republic. Mr Ahern has long experience of the
political process which led to the resurrection of devolved
government. His victory in the Republic's election ensures a
continuity of the relationship which has been established between
the two parts of this island and provides a crucial backdrop of
stability for the Executive.

Although the exact shape of the new coalition government in
Dublin is not yet clear, Mr Ahern has a number of suitable
partners to choose from, including the two remaining PD TDs, a
number of independents and the Green Party. The only alliance
that has been firmly ruled out is between Fianna Fail and Sinn
Fein. It is ironic that the party which Mr Ahern and others
realised was crucial to success in forming an administration in
Belfast will play no part in his deliberations on the new
government of nationalist Ireland.

For Sinn Fein the election results were pretty disastrous. Buoyed
by its increasing domination of the nationalist community in the
North, Sinn Fein was confident that its new status as a party of
government would lead to further gains in the Republic. Instead
it lost a seat and now has only four TDs. But, as party president
Gerry Adams pointed out, Sinn Fein is a party which knows how to
fight the long fight and it may be premature to consign it to the
status of bit player in the Republic's political game.

In a way Sinn Fein's performance shows that for the electorate in
the Republic, Northern Ireland is a side issue. The bread and
butter of politics ? health, education, the economy ? are the
issues which really matter. Partition, a matter which used to be
known as the 'national question', is now barely an issue south of
the border.

These are quite astonishing times. Who could have imagined that
political enemies like the DUP and Sinn Fein would now be the
dominant partners in the power-sharing Executive? And who would
have imagined that Ian Paisley and Bertie Ahern would have forged
what seems a genuine and amiable relationship? And who would have
imagined that Fianna Fail, the party known as "The Soldiers of
Destiny", is playing a vital role in underpinning, rather than
undermining, a Stormont government?

Something about Elena

The courage and selflessness shown by the little girl featured on
our front page today is truly remarkable.

Elena Byrne may be just ten years old, but she has more energy
and initiative than most grown-ups.

Elena has been nominated by her babysitter for the 12th annual
Breathing Life awards. This star-studded ceremony celebrates the
achievements of people with Cystic Fibrosis and Elena has a
particularly long list of achievements for one so young.

At just ten, she is a talented young writer and is also studying
for her Spanish GCSE. But these are just some of her gifts. She
also paints, golfs and plays the tin whistle and piano.

Even more impressively, Elena has also helped care for her
grandfather, grandmother and an aunt during recent illnesses. And
every Christmas and Easter Elena gives all but one of her
presents back to her mum and they are raffled at school to raise
money for Cystic Fibrosis research. She has already raised œ2,000
for charity.

She achieves all these despite the constant battle of living with
Cystic Fibrosis, and the very demanding treatments necessary to
ease it.

Whether Elena wins an award in London this week doesn't really
matter. In our judgment, she is already a winner.

c Belfast Telegraph


Opin: Result Shows Adams Out Of Touch In South

Jim Cusack

Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus - better known simply
by the initials MRSA - is a major health issue that has gripped
the public consciousness of this country and blighted the
hospital service for years, but it is obviously not high on the
radar of the Belfast-based leader of Sinn Fein.

Asked last month by Ursula Halligan on her TV3 Political Party
programme about the major political issues facing the electorate,
Adams cited the "crisis" in the health service over "MRSI".

It is possible that Mr Adams confused MRSA with Magnetic
Resonance Spectroscopic Imaging, an important non-invasive
imaging device used to detect cancer.

It wasn't the only lapse by the leader of a political party
running for election in this State - a State which he and his
party, up to very recently, consistently referred to as "the 26
Counties" and its parliament as "Leinster House".In an interview
last Friday evening with Sean O'Rourke on RTE radio, Adams
referred to Pearse Doherty, his party candidate in "Donegal North
West". "Donegal South West," O'Rourke corrected, causing Adams to
mumble: "Sorry, South West."

The Sinn Fein leader's lack of certainty about any of the major
issues facing the republic's electors was compounded by his
performance during the smaller party leaders' debate on RTE 10
days ago.

He became a target for Michael McDowell, who turned on Adams,
saying his organisation had "sold Provo know-how to the Farc
guerillas in Colombia in exchange for 25 million dollars".

Adams attempted to assure viewers that he, personally, was a
person of frugal means living on the "average industrial wage".
McDowell immediately asked about Adams's holiday home - a
converted traditional stone house situated in one of the most
desirable areas of Donegal and worth anywhere between ?600,000
and ?1m.

"Owned by the bank," Adams retorted. "The Northern Bank?" quipped
McDowell, leaving Adams looking slightly stunned.

Adams's self-exposure as a vacant lot on the political landscape
of the Republic of Ireland was further compounded by another
farce over Sinn Fein's economic policy, or lack of it. At its Ard
Fheis in February last year, the party proposed raising
corporation tax from 12 per cent to 18 per cent, and income tax
for those earning over ?100,000 a year to 50 per cent.

Again, when questioned about his party's tax policies on RTE
three weeks ago, Adams said it had decided that it would not be
proposing raising either corporation or income tax. The party had
apparently "thrashed around the issues" and decided to throw out
last year's policy.

Compounding Adams's failures was the likely perception of his IRA
history and the spectre of the IRA and its descent into murderous
criminality in this State.

Esther Uzell-Rafferty's intervention in Dublin South-East
highlighted the murder of her brother, Joseph Rafferty, by an IRA
man who, until this election, worked for Sinn Fein. Eighteen
months ago Sinn Fein's candidate in Dublin South-East, Daithi
Doolan, was riding at 13 per cent in constituency polls.

The constituency of the Minister for Justice was a very high-
profile target for Sinn Fein, which poured money and resources
into Doolan's campaign. On Thursday he received only five per
cent of the first-preference vote.

Although it was an issue almost completely ignored by parts of
the national media, the IRA's involvement in murder and major
criminality on both sides of the border has clearly remained a
background issue for electors.

The convicted paedophile rapist Christy Griffin - the man at the
centre of the vicious feud in north inner Dublin - was also a
close associate of the former "officer commanding" of the IRA in
Dublin and also another Sinn Fein election worker.

And, though it might not have impacted widely on the electorate,
within Fianna Fail there was certainly suspicion about Frank
Connolly's role in the propagation of the leaked Mahon tribunal
details of Bertie Ahern's finances.

The fact that Frank Connolly, who was exposed as having visited
Colombia on a false passport and in the company of a leading IRA
man, was one of the conduits of this story undoubtedly added to
Fianna Fail's determination to rally behind their leader.


First Ever Scheduled US Flight From Knock Takes Off

27/05/2007 - 16:01:00

The first scheduled flight from Knock Airport to New York has
taken off.

It's being operated by the Scottish low-cost carrier

Three flights a week will be run from Ireland's West Airport
Knock to JFK International Airport in New York.

A twice-weekly service to Boston will also begin next Wednesday.

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