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May 23, 2007

Ireland Prepares to Head to Polls

News about Ireland & the Irish

BB 05/23/07 Ireland Prepares To Head To Polls
BB 05/22/07 New Policing Board Members Named
BB 05/23/07 Row Over Playground 'Peace Wall'
BB 05/23/07 Attacks 'Contributed' To Closure
BB 05/23/07 Republican Denying Money Charges
BB 05/22/07 Former DUP Mayor Guilty Of Assault
BB 05/23/07 Republican For Messines Memorial
BN 05/23/07 SF 'Should End Attacks On Protestant Villages'
BT 05/23/07 Sinn Fein To Build Unionist Contacts
BT 05/23/07 Paisley Blasts Critics For Doing 'The Devil's Work'
BT 05/23/07 Equality Law Still On Despite Assembly Defeat


Ireland Prepares To Head To Polls

By James Helm
BBC Dublin correspondent

Voters in the Republic of Ireland are set to head to the polls
with Bertie Ahern seeking to win a third term as Taoiseach, or
prime minister.

Mr Ahern has been praised for his role in the Northern Ireland
peace process.

The Taoiseach has led a coalition government since 1997 - a
period of sustained economic growth for Ireland.

But Mr Ahern and his government have faced heavy criticism during
the campaign and a tight result is expected after Thursday's

His party is Fianna Fail, which is broadly centrist, pro-
business, socially conservative and pragmatic.

During the campaign, he has won praise for his contribution to
the Northern Ireland peace process, which saw the return of
devolved power sharing earlier this month involving former

Personalities over politics

Travelling around Ireland during the campaign, he has tried to
stress the economic success.

But he has faced questions about his own credibility surrounding
money given by a friend in business towards the renovation of a
house in Dublin which Mr Ahern eventually bought.

His opponents have focused on the state of Ireland's public
services, asking, for example, why Irish wealth has not resulted
in a better health system.

There are no gaping ideological differences between the main
parties, but personalities matter here.

The leader of the largest opposition party, Enda Kenny of Fine
Gael, is banking on voters wanting a change, while Mr Ahern is
hoping he will be back, although possibly with a new coalition

During the campaign, the alternative coalition has led, only to
be pegged back in recent days, with Mr Ahern hoping to again
emerge triumphant.

Ireland's system of proportional representation means it can take
several days for all the winners to emerge.

With pundits and politicians forecasting a very close result,
forming the next government could take much longer.

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2007/05/23 23:32:52 GMT


New Policing Board Members Named

The make-up of the new Policing Board has been announced by
Secretary of State Peter Hain.

The three new independent members include former Sinn Fein mayor
of Londonderry, Gerry O'hEara and Belfast charity worker Mary

David Rose, a former deputy leader of the Progressive Unionist
Party, the political representatives of the UVF, was also
appointed to the board.

The independents will now join the 10 political members of the

The six independents from the outgoing board who have been
reappointed include outgoing chairman Sir Des Rea, and his deputy
Barry Gilligan.

The DUP is the largest political party on the board, with four
members. Sinn Fein has three seats, the Ulster Unionists have
two, and the SDLP has one.

The new board is expected to meet for the first time in private
next week to elect a chairman and deputy.

The first public meeting will take place on 6 June.

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2007/05/22 11:06:59 GMT


Row Over Playground 'Peace Wall'

A row has erupted over plans for a peace wall in the grounds of a
north Belfast integrated primary school.

A 25ft high fence is to be built at Hazelwood Integrated Primary

The Northern Ireland Office said it was being erected to protect
Catholic residents in the nearby Throne Park area after attacks
last summer.

However, the Whitewell Road school said it had "many concerns"
about the impact of a security fence on the school and the wider

A spokesman for the Northern Ireland Office said the decision had
only been taken after extensive consultation with residents,
political representatives and the school.

"The minister has - on advice from the PSNI - agreed that a mesh
fence should be erected to protect residents living in the Throne
Park area," said the statement.

"Upgrade security"

Hazelwood Primary said it was "deeply concerned" to hear that
residents, living adjacent to the school grounds, were attacked
last summer.

In a statement, it added: "We believe that the protection of life
both inside and outside of the school is of paramount importance,
and have given our full support to community initiatives that
address some of the underlying problems in the area.

"Therefore, we have given our full support to community
initiatives that address some of the underlying problems in the

"We have also agreed plans, in conjunction with DENI, to upgrade
security in the school grounds.

"It was with great sadness that we heard of the Security Minister
Paul Goggins' decision to erect a 25-foot heavy grade fence in
the school grounds."

Michael Wardlow of the Northern Ireland Council for Integrated
Education said: "The proposed new wall will directly impinge upon
Hazelwood Integrated Primary School.

"Nicie support whatever the school wants and feels is best in the
interests of the school and the wider school community.

"We have to be sensitive to the past and history of north Belfast
where the school is located, but we must also be stewards to the

DUP assembly member Nelson McCausland said it was sad at this
time to be erecting another peaceline.

But he added: "I will support anything that will provide safety
and security in their own homes.

"My priority is the safety and security of families."

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2007/05/23 18:22:58 GMT


Attacks 'Contributed' To Closure

A school principal in County Antrim believes sectarianism has
contributed to his school having to close.

St Mary's Primary in Harryville, Ballymena, had more than 300
pupils in the 1970s but this summer it closes with less than 50
on its register.

Principal Martin Kearney, who has been at the school for 33
years, said trouble in the area had hit enrolment.

All four Catholic primary schools in Ballymena are closing and
being amalgamated into two new schools.

A spokesman for the Council for Catholic Maintained Schools said
it had conducted a review of education provision throughout
Northern Ireland and Ballymena was no exception.

He said the review was a proactive measure carried out due to a
demographic downturn.

Across Northern Ireland there had been a huge downturn in pupil
numbers and schools could not fill places, the spokesman added.

However, Mr Kearney said he thought attacks had played a part in
falling numbers at St Mary's.

"We have encountered at least 10 major arson attacks in our time
at St Mary's," he said.

"In the last 10 years we have encountered four serious fire bombs
and at least one live device.

"We were not far-seeing enough at the time to see that these
difficulties would effect future pupil enrolment, which would
trigger staff redundancies."

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2007/05/23 09:26:32 GMT


Republican Denying Money Charges

Tyrone republican Brian Arthurs has been in court charged with
converting criminal property and obtaining a money transfer by

His solicitor said the 42-year-old was being prosecuted over his
role in the troubles and to "settle old scores".

However, a detective inspector told the court in Dungannon the
charges were part of a multi-million pound fraud investigation.

Mr Arthurs was released on bail to appear in court again next

Bail was granted on two sureties of œ20,000 each and the
defendant's own bail of œ50,000.

The police officer said the alleged offences took place under the
Proceeds of Crime Act and involved a criminal gang.

He said the officers who arrested Mr Arthurs had found more than
œ20,000 in sterling and euro hidden in his car.

However defence solicitor Peter Corrigan said it was "an example
of political policing at its worst".

He said his client, from Meadowvale in Dungannon, had been
pivotal in helping persuade members of the community in east
Tyrone to support the police.

He said in return he had been charged over a mortgage

One other man arrested as part of the investigation was released
without charge, while a third was released on police bail pending
further inquiries.

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2007/05/23 11:16:54 GMT


Former Mayor Guilty Of Assault

A former DUP mayor of Coleraine has been fined œ300 for
assaulting a press photographer outside Antrim Courthouse.

Desmond Stewart, of Parker Avenue in Portrush, was convicted of
the offence, which took place in October last year.

The incident occurred as Stewart arrived for sentencing on a
charge of electoral fraud.

A defence lawyer for Stewart, who has since left the DUP, said
his client's life had been "in tatters" at the time of the

The lawyer asked Resident Magistrate Robert Alcorn to consider
his client's "state of mind", adding that Stewart "deeply
regretted his actions".

"He was a man at breaking point," the laywer said.

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2007/05/22 13:56:41 GMT


Republican For Messines Memorial

Sinn Fein's Martina Anderson is expected to travel to Messines in
Belgium next month as part of a cross-community peace initiative.

The assembly member and her party colleague Willie Clarke will
take part in a series of events marking the 90th anniversary of
the Battle of Messines.

The 16th Irish and 36th Ulster divisions fought together for the
first time during the WWI battle.

Representatives of the Irish government and some unionists will
take part.

Ms Anderson said she was looking forward to the visit and
acknowledged the importance of the event to "others in the

She said that one of her mother's uncles had fought at the battle
and that she was approaching the service with an open mind.

"People fought for a multiple of reasons - and from the
nationalist community too for home rule and others to put bread
on the table," she said.

"But others believed it was the right thing to do."

She also said her party would be launching a "charter for
unionist engagement" in Stormont on Tuesday as part of trying "to
learn and understand where each other is coming from".

The attack on the Messines Ridge on 7 June began with the
detonation of 19 underground mines underneath German lines.

The mines blew the crest off the Messines-Wytschaete ridge and
was reputedly audible in Dublin and heard by Lloyd George in his
Downing Street study.

Addressing his staff before the battle General Herbert Plumer
said: "Gentlemen, we may not make history tomorrow, but we shall
certainly change the geography."

It was later argued that the battle was the most successful local
operation on the Western Front.

For the first time in the war defensive casualties actually
exceeded attacking losses: 25,000 against 17,000.

At Messines, nationalist leader John Redmond's younger brother,
Willie, was killed.

Although over 50 years old, he had insisted both on joining up
and on serving in the front line.

"I can't stand asking fellows to go and not offer myself," he

An Irish Peace Tower was unveiled at the battle site in 1998.

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2007/05/23 08:24:33 GMT


SF 'Should End Attacks On Protestant Villages'

23/05/2007 - 09:59:57

Sinn Fein should end attacks on Protestant villages before they
launch their charter of unionist engagement next week, the DUP
said today.

East Antrim MLA Sammy Wilson said actions spoke louder than words
and republicans should prove their commitment to policing rather
than produce glossy initiatives.

Martina Anderson from Sinn Fein is to launch the outreach
programme on Tuesday at Stormont ahead of a visit to Messines in
Belgium for a cross-community peace initiative next month.

Mr Wilson said: "They could give some respect for unionist
culture instead of deliberately organising attempts to stamp out
that culture across Northern Ireland.

"That includes parades but there's a whole range of other ways in
which they have shown little respect for unionist culture.

"These include stopping the attacks on front-line unionist
communities in border line areas and small towns across Northern

Efforts to resolve the Drumcree parading dispute in Portadown
have reportedly suffered a setback despite a fresh initiative
this year.

Recently there was a suspicious fire in a Church of Ireland hall
in Donaghmore, Co Tyrone, which has been subject to sectarian
attack before.

Ulster Unionist MLA Tom Elliott has asked republican community
workers to help end such attacks.

Ms Anderson said the Sinn Fein event next week was designed to
encourage communication between each community.

"On Tuesday we are launching our charter for unionist
engagement," she said.

"We are trying to ensure that we never revisit the events of the
past again."

She will join fellow MLA Willie Clarke and politicians from
across Ireland on the 90th anniversary of the Battle of Messines
next month.

The 16th Irish and 36th Ulster divisions fought together for the
first time during the First World War battle.

Ms Anderson said there were lessons to be learned from one of the
20th century's bloodiest episodes.

"We will be looking at where we have come from in terms of the
peace process. We all have a part to play in building a shared
future based on equality and human rights," she said.

"It is about looking at the legacy of the past, a legacy of war,
and it is a way to try to prevent it from happening again."

There were about 42,000 casualties in trench warfare between
Germany and the Allies.

Some unionists will take part in the conference, which Ms
Anderson will address on Friday.

She said she had relatives who fought in the conflict and added
that her attendance didn't compromise her republicanism.

"I am comfortable with my republicanism. Republicans accept the
current challenges and while I am opposed to imperialism there
are lessons to be learned."

An Irish Peace Tower was unveiled at the battle site in 1998.


Sinn Fein To Build Unionist Contacts

[Published: Wednesday 23, May 2007 - 15:05]
By Noel McAdam

Sinn Fein is to launch a fresh initiative to increase its
contacts across the unionist community, it emerged today.

Several loyalist and unionist figures are expected to attend the
formal announcement of the plan at Stormont next week.

The 'charter for unionist engagement' is to attempt to build on
the party's so-called 'out-reach' work in recent years, which has
included face-to-face meetings with Protestants and unionists.
These have included church, civic and other groups but the party
is seeking a more intensive relationship.

The out-reach work was spearheaded by a group headed by ex-
Belfast Lord Mayor Alex Maskey and last year the party appointed
a Director of Unionist outreach, Martina Anderson. Ms Anderson,
MLA for Foyle, today revealed the launch of the charter will be
next Tuesday but did not go into any details.

c Belfast Telegraph


Paisley Blasts His Critics For Doing 'The Devil's Work'

[Published: Wednesday 23, May 2007 - 08:55]
By Noel McAdam

First Minister Ian Paisley has hit back at critics in his church
- and warned they may be doing the work of the devil.

An editorial in the latest edition of his church's "official
organ" insisted Christians should confront those they differ with

Under fire from some within the church for agreeing to go into
government with Sinn Fein, Mr Paisley finally tackles his church-
based critics head on.

"There are ways to deal with disputes in the Church and that way
is clearly not the way of slandering God's leadership," the self-
styled Free Presbyterian moderator said.

It starts: "It is the ploy of Satan to attack those whom God has
signally appointed and specially anointed as leaders in His
work." A source close to the DUP leader confirmed the article was
aimed at members of the church, most of whom have access to the
monthly Revivalist magazine.

"The tactics of Satan have not changed and the Bible was written
that we might be prepared for similar satanic attacks upon the
leaders of God's work today," Mr Paisley wrote.

"The Christian is clearly instructed that the party who has some
criticism to offer should seek out his brother or sister and talk
to them face to face.

"To depart from the clear commands of Scripture and enter into a
tirade of accusations and call for support from the blatantly
ungodly as contenders in arms with their views is completely

Mr Paisley's former close colleague, the Rev Ivan Foster, has
been to the fore in attacking the power-sharing deal and
formation of the Executive.

"In the past the Free Presbyterian Church has said it's wrong for
murderers to be placed in Government.

"I believe that what was said in the past is still true today,"
he said.

While making clear he will not be leaving the church, Mr Foster
also directly referred to Mr Paisley.

"[There is] unbelief that the man they have admired, supported
and prayed for should now be engaged in everything that he
opposed throughout the previous 30 years," he said.

"Judging by the number of phone calls that I received from Free
Presbyterians throughout the whole of Northern Ireland, and not
just Free Presbyterians, there are folk who feel that there has
been an abandoning of a truly biblical position regarding
murderers in Government."

c Belfast Telegraph


Equality Law Still On Despite Assembly Defeat

[Published: Wednesday 23, May 2007 - 15:04]
By Noel McAdam

The First Minister's Office will press on with equality
legislation despite unionists combining in the Assembly to defeat
a Sinn Fein motion on the issue.

The DUP warned the Executive must "tread carefully" on equality
which had "spawned an industry" in Northern Ireland.

The party's Upper Bann MLA David Simpson said that in the 10
years since 1996, there were 4,735 cases of reported religious
discrimination but only 50 of the cases had been upheld.

Costs and fees were estimated at œ2.2m, "and none of that total
included the cost of getting legislation passed or appointing
equality watchdogs," he said.

Nonetheless, First Minister Ian Paisley and Deputy First Minister
Martin McGuinness are charged with developing a single Equality
Bill and the issue is likely to be discussed by the power-sharing
Executive soon.

It was a big issue for the previous Executive and the eventual
outcome could become a landmark for the rest of the world.

DUP members who opposed the Sinn Fein motion were joined by
Ulster Unionists who said the debate dipped towards "biased
finger-waving" from Sinn Fein.

UUP chief whip David McNarry said his party had come with an open
mind but had witnessed the kind of "intemperate rhetoric" from
Sinn Fein which it hoped was part of the past.

But Mr McGuinness said he intended to bring forward proposals for
legislation, including measures dealing with discrimination
against unmarried people and victims of "conflict" to the
Executive soon.

"We need to send a signal to all that our future will be based on
justice, equality and protection from discrimination," he said.

c Belfast Telegraph

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