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May 07, 2007

Paisley May Boycott Assembly Opening

News about Ireland & the Irish

BT 05/07/07 Improve Deal, Or Paisley May Boycott Assembly
BN 05/07/07 New Govt 'Must Take Lead On Sectarianism': McGuinness
BT 05/07/07 Michael's Legacy Of Peace, One Year After His Murder
BT 05/07/07 Paisley Warns Of Huge Challenges For New Government
BN 05/06/07 Poll Comfort For Fianna Fáil
BB 05/06/07 PDs Not Leaving Irish Government
BN 05/07/07 McDowell Should Reveal His Information: Greens
BN 05/06/07 Sinn Fein Leadership Attend Loughgall Commemoration
BT 05/06/07 QC Begins Interviews Into Alleged NIO Cover-Up
BT 05/06/07 Martin McGuinness: Peacemaker & Poet
BT 05/06/07 Opin: Another Step From Darkness Into Light
BT 05/04/07 Opin: UVF - Destroy Arms Don't Dump Them
BT 05/04/07 Opin: Stability At Stormont Is Top Priority
IN 05/04/07 Opin: Shameless Act Ends Teflon Taoiseach’s Term
IN 05/04/07 Arsenic Traces Found In Louth Well Water


Improve Deal, Or Paisley May Boycott Assembly

[Published: Monday 7, May 2007 - 10:18]
By Kathryn Torney

Last minute negotiations are set to take place today in a bid to
resolve the deepening row over a financial settlement for
Northern Ireland.

A warning was issued by the DUP last night saying tomorrow's
historic devolution day could be scuppered if Chancellor Gordon
Brown does not come up with a better peace package for the
province than the one put to Ian Paisley and Sinn Fein's Martin
McGuinness last Thursday.

Mr Paisley and Mr McGuinness are due to take part in further
crunch discussions with Mr Brown today in a bid to secure better
economic support - including cutting the corporation tax to the
same 12.5% rate as the Irish Republic.

Mr Paisley warned that his attendance at Stormont tomorrow - when
he is due to be sworn in as First Minister - is not guaranteed.

Meanwhile, Sir George Quigley, chairman of the Industrial Task
Force, said cutting the corporation tax is critical to closing
the wealth and productivity gap with the rest of the UK and
catching up with the Republic.

Deal breaker?

As the hours tick away towards restoration of power-sharing, the
lack of a worthwhile financial package could put Stormont in

The restoration of the Assembly was under threat last night after
the DUP warned of the crucial importance of securing a good
financial deal for Northern Ireland.

Chancellor Gordon Brown has been criticised by both the DUP and
Sinn Fein following a meeting he had with Ian Paisley and Martin
McGuinness on Thursday.

The incoming First and Deputy First Ministers are due to take
part in last-minute talks with Mr Brown today and will reiterate
their argument for a raft of measures to provide economic support
to the province - including cutting corporation tax to the same
12.5% rate as the Irish Republic.

Mr Paisley has threatened that his attendance at Stormont
tomorrow - when he is due to be sworn in as First Minister - is
not guaranteed.

Speaking on the BBC's Inside Politics programme over the weekend,
he accused the Chancellor of not treating the demands for a
financial package seriously enough.

"We shouldn't have been put into this position," Mr Paisley said.

"All we have to say is: 'Have your little pantomime on Tuesday,
but we'll not be there'.

"I want them to get that message - I want them to get the message
that this is so serious that we can't possibly do justice to our
country if we don't get this."

Meanwhile, Sir George Quigley, chairman of the Industrial Task
Force, said that the government is still failing to take
seriously the verdict of unsustainability which it has pronounced
on the economy.

"The parties are fully justified in taking all necessary steps to
ensure that the Government now delivers an effective economic
package," he writes in today's Belfast Telegraph.

Speaking last night, the DUP's Jeffrey Donaldson said: "It is
important that we make progress with the Chancellor in advance of
devolution being restored.

"What is on the table at the moment is inadequate and Gordon
Brown knows it. We are determined to push harder for a better
financial deal.

"When you consider that the Irish Government has been generous in
comparison to our government, it is disappointing.

"Gordon Brown needs to take his eyes off Scotland for a moment
and focus on the possibility for success in Northern Ireland. As
for what will happen on Tuesday, we cannot say at this stage.

"I hope that the events will proceed, but the Chancellor and
government need to know that the DUP should not be taken for
granted and we are determined to ensure the best deal for
Northern Ireland."

It is thought unlikely that the row will ultimately disrupt the
restoration of the Assembly tomorrow, but the DUP is determined
to lay down a firm marker and make it clear that the problem will
not just go away.

Speaking on the BBC's Politics Show yesterday, Secretary of State
Peter Hain said that the peace dividend on offer from Gordon
Brown - more than œ51 billion over the next 10 years - would be
an excellent platform for devolution.

"I am sure that, when the negotiations are concluded, then the
Executive will be in a very good position to really deliver for
Northern Ireland in the way that people wanted," he claimed.

Speaking after Thursday's meeting, Martin McGuinness said: "What
is presently on offer in terms of an economic package to reflect
the momentous events politically over the last number of weeks
doesn't come up to scratch. Ian Paisley and I are agreed on

However, he added: "This is all work in progress and we're not
giving up."

The Industrial Task Force, led by Sir George Quigley, and the
Belfast Telegraph have both run sustained campaigns for more than
a year urging Mr Brown to harmonise tax levels with the Republic.

Cutting corporation tax must be the cornerstone of package

By Sir George Quigley, chairman of the Industrial Task Force

The Secretary of State's comment over the weekend that all that
needs to be done is to improve the detail of the economic package
already announced by the Chancellor shows that the Government is
still failing to take seriously the verdict of unsustainability
which it has pronounced on the economy.

The brutal fact, which no amount of spin can disguise, is that
the package contains no significant departure from existing
policy. There is nothing in it capable of shifting the economy
onto a new trajectory by achieving a step change in the size and
performance of the private sector.

The parties' major proposal on corporation tax is critical to
closing the wealth and productivity gap with the rest of the UK
and catching up with the Republic. The Government's willingness
to move on tax is the acid test of its stated commitment to
giving the Executive the means to transform Northern Ireland's

The 12.5% tax proposal has already been independently evaluated.
The Government has had the results for six months. There is no
excuse for further procrastination.

If there is to be an Investment Conference, the ability to offer
a competitive rate of corporation tax would be crucial. The
Secretary of State's recent comment that Northern Ireland's
corporation tax regime is even more favourable than the Republic
is simply without foundation.

Judging by the Secretary of State's comments at the weekend, the
Government still intends to fob the parties off with a spiced-up
version of the Varney Review. It would be most disappointing if
the parties fell for that.

There is no point in having a review unless it is seen to be
independent and open-ended. The Government must also make it
unequivocally clear ? now, in advance ? that it has no objection,
in principle, to Northern Ireland having a differential rate of
company taxation if that is necessary to enable Northern Ireland,
given its situation on the island of Ireland, to compete for
global investment on the scale and of the quality needed to
rebalance the economy.

The parties are fully justified in taking all necessary steps to
ensure that the Government now delivers an effective economic

c Belfast Telegraph


New Govt 'Must Take Lead On Sectarianism': McGuinness

07/05/2007 - 08:54:17

The new power-sharing government in the North will need to take a
tough stand against racism and sectarianism, Deputy First
Minister-in-waiting Martin McGuinness claimed today.

On the eve of the return of devolved government to Stormont,
Martin McGuinness said he believed his new power-sharing partner
the Rev Ian Paisley was committed to making the new
administration work.

He stressed the need for all sides involved in the North's
marching disputes to engage in direct dialogue.

The Sinn Fein chief negotiator said: "I've always believed the
way to dilute sectarianism is by a combination of approaches. The
really important one of all is for people of different political
persuasions to work together in a positive and constructive

"I would hope that Ian Paisley and I have begun to show people
that it is possible to do that.

"I think all of that will have a very positive effect on people
out there in our community who will see that it is possible for
political leaders who want to totally and absolutely rid our
society of sectarianism and racism.

"I also think that that must be coupled with ensuring that if
people are behaving in a racist or sectarian fashion they are
effectively brought before the courts.

"I think we need to be strong on all fronts and we need to send
out a very strong message to everybody that we are not prepared
to tolerate that type of situation within what will hopefully be
a whole new society evolving over a period of time.

"It is not going to happen overnight but I think principally by
leading from the front and leading by example we can send a
powerful message to everybody about how we want this society to
shape up."

Mr McGuinness and Democratic Unionist leader, the Rev Ian Paisley
will be sworn in tomorrow at Stormont as the joint heads of the
new Stormont government.

Taoiseach Bertie Ahern and British Prime Minister Tony Blair will
attend the opening session of the devolved Assembly to witness
the transfer of power to the new team of unionist and nationalist
devolved ministers.

However, one of the first potential problems the new executive
could face would be a tense marching season this summer in
flashpoint areas like the Ardoyne in north Belfast, Whiterock in
the west of the city and Portadown's Garvaghy Road.

Mr McGuinness said rival sides in marching disputes should draw
inspiration from the way the Democratic Unionists and Sinn Fein
struck their deal in March to revive power-sharing.

"It shouldn't be beyond the collective wit of all of us - and
what I mean by all of us is society in general - to try and
resolve those matters," he argued.

"I consistently point to what happened in my hometown of Derry
where it was clear there were people within the unionist
political parties and republican political parties, in Sinn Fein
and the community, who were prepared to roll their sleeves up and
get involved in an engagement which resulted in many of the
difficult parades there being resolved as a result of dialogue
and discussion between those involved.

"Obviously people's thoughts turn immediately to how do we
resolve the Garvaghy Road?

"The only way to sort out the Garvaghy Road is to have a real
engagement between the people in the Orange Order and the people
of the Garvaghy Road because at the end of the day it is going to
be up to the people of the Garvaghy Road who have to live in that
area how they are going to deal with that situation.

"Nobody, not me, not anyone else can tell them. They have to, as
I believe they are willing to do, see a willingness on behalf of
the Orange Order that they are prepared to treat them with the
respect they deserve and sit down and have a meaningful
discussion and dialogue with them.

"Look at the events here the weekend of March 24-26. Once the
discussion and dialogue began between the DUP and Sinn Fein, we
moved very rapidly over a two day period to make agreements and
it manifested itself in this building, to the surprise of loads
of people, in the images we saw the following Monday morning.

"Face-to-face talks made that happen."

Having served as Education Minister in the last executive, Mr
McGuinness said he was relishing returning to devolved government
and admitted to feeling deeply frustrated by the collapse of
power-sharing in 2002.

The experience of preparing for power-sharing with the Rev Ian
Paisley over the past six weeks has been encouraging, he said.

"I said on a number of occasions in the run-up to the election
that whenever Ian Paisley agreed to go into the institutions that
it was certainly not my view that he was going in to walk out or
do what David Trimble did - be fixated about the UUP in the way
David Trimble was fixated about the DUP.

"I was of the view he was going in to make it work. You can only
judge people on the experience that you have had. Certainly from
the experience we have had in the period from March 26 through to
today everybody is entering on this journey in a spirit of being
positive and constructive and wanting everything to work. I think
that is very encouraging.

"My experience of the last few weeks is that people are embarking
on this with a view that, yes there will be problems but it is
our job to cohesively try and sort these problems out.

"I think the events of the last couple of weeks have been a
revelation to people, because the difference now is that Ian
Paisley is involved.

"Ian Paisley has shown leadership. Ian Paisley has taken
courageous decisions in terms of moving into these institutions
and in my opinion has shown good leadership.

"We all have to do that. We all have to work hard at this new and
better opportunity to move forward and provide a better future
for the people we represent.

"There are lots of difficult issues out there. I am not the sort
of person who shirks a challenge and I also think Ian Paisley
isn't the sort of person who shirks a challenge. Our job now is
to deliver."


Michael's Legacy Of Peace, One Year After His Murder

[Published: Monday 7, May 2007 - 10:48]
By Ben Lowry in Ballymena

On the first anniversary of Catholic teenager Michael McIlveen's
sectarian murder, his relatives have had a warm reunion with the
ex-DUP mayor who attended the 15-year-old's funeral.

The meeting between Councillor Tommy Nicholl, the victim's
mother, Gina, and his uncle, Francis, took place in People's Park
in Ballymena, a neutral location in the divided Co Antrim town.

Michael, who lived in an area of Ballymena called Dunvale, was
brutally attacked by a gang during the early hours of a Sunday
morning as he was on his way home from a pizza parlour.

There was cross-community revulsion at the killing and, amid
their grief, Michael's family hope some good has come from his
death. It occurred, ironically, one year to the day before Ian
Paisley and Martin McGuinness take power at Stormont.

Tomorrow at 8.10pm, the time that Michael lost his battle for
life a year ago, representatives from both sides of the community
will release helium balloons in his memory from the basketball
court in the Dunclug estate where he used to play.

Mr Nicholl's attendance at the Catholic funeral ? he was mayor at
the time ? was a break with convention among the DUP in
Ballymena. His visit to the family home and a similar visit by
Ian Paisley, when the DUP leader prayed with the McIlveens, was
interpreted by some observers as a key moment in reconciliation
for the province.

This month's reunion between the McIlveens and Mr Nicholl, in Ian
Paisley's heartland of Ballymena, was arranged for a Dutch film
crew from a current affairs programme called Netwerk. The
visiting TV team wanted to know whether the killing had become a
turning point for the town and a symbol of reconciliation in
Northern Ireland.

Mr Nicholl told the Dutch crew that he wept when he heard of
Michael's death.

"It was a very emotional time. I felt the killing brought the
borough to a new low. As mayor and first citizen, I realised I
had to show true civic leadership," he said.

Michael's mother, Gina, was present for the meeting with Mr
Nicholl, but did not want to speak on camera to the Dutch team,
such is her ongoing sense of trauma at the loss of her son.

His uncle, Francis, said that he was keen to see Mr Nicholl
again, in recognition of the DUP man's unequivocal public display
of support for the family at the time of the killing.

"It was nice to see Tommy Nicholl again, he is a great guy. He
was at the house, he was at the funeral," Mr McIlveen said. "Mr
Nicholl is an outspoken councillor on behalf of both

Mr McIlveen added: "Hopefully, the sectarianism has calmed down a
bit. My sister Gina and her daughter Jodi, Michael's sister, are
still sometimes taunted."

Mr Nicholl is no longer mayor of Ballymena, but remains one of
the DUP's most loyal members in a council where six out of a team
of 14 councillors have quit the party to protest the DUP's power-
sharing deal with Sinn Fein.

Francis McIlveen said that his family had no interest in
politics, but they had appreciated the support from Mr Nicholl
and Mr Paisley, as well as other politicians including Mark
Durkan and Martin McGuinness.

"The police were also very good. Superintendent Terry Shevlin was
out at the house several times," he said.

Mr Nicholl was appalled at the killing, which occurred months
after he had launched the so- called Mayor's Initiative to combat
what he believed was a sectarian crisis in the borough.
Ballymena's reputation had been taking a battering on the
international news, he said.

Speaking in support of Mr Paisley's deal with Sinn Fein, Mr
Nicholl added: " I have great hopes for the future and would
fully support what the DUP is doing at a higher level for our
children and grandchildren."

c Belfast Telegraph


Paisley Warns Of Huge Challenges For New Government

[Published: Monday 7, May 2007 - 09:06]

Civil servants will no longer be able to dictate how Northern
Ireland is run, the Rev Ian Paisley insisted today.

As he prepared to be sworn in as First Minister tomorrow at the
start of a new era of power sharing, the Democratic Unionist
leader warned devolved ministers would inherit a number of huge
challenges from the Northern Ireland Office.

"Out there, there is great hype right now where everybody seems
to think everything is wonderful," he said.

"What I am trying to say as First Minister is this: Look, we're
not in paradise. We have all these problems to solve and we need
every degree of courage and stickability we can get to face up to
these challenges.

"Many of the problems are not of our making but are the making of
squatters (Northern Ireland Office ministers), as I call them,
from outside our country who flew in and flew out of here."

"Some of them did not stay very often over the whole year - maybe
they stayed overnight six times in a year. As a result, we've
been run by civil servants. Civil servants had too much power
because their ministers weren't there.

"The civil servants must realise now that their masters have
come. Some of them will not like it but we will be opening the
books. We will be seeing it as it is and if it is anything like
what I think it is, then we have a very tough road ahead of us."

The incoming executive has been engaged in tough negotiations
with Chancellor of the Exchequer Gordon Brown to secure a
financial package to bolster the new devolved government.

They also want economic measures that can help remodel the
province's economy.

The First Minister Designate said the scale of the challenges
facing the new devolved government meant it was essential the
Chancellor improved on his offer of a ?36 billion peace dividend
over four years.

"There's no use having a nice vehicle sitting in your driveway if
you haven't the fuel to put into it," the North Antrim MP

Mr Paisley said the Northern Ireland economy needed to be
reshaped, moving away from its heavy reliance on the public

c Belfast Telegraph


Poll Comfort For Fianna Fail

06/05/2007 - 12:35:08

Support for Fianna Fail has increased by two points to 37%,
despite controversy surrounding the Taoiseach's personal
finances, according to the latest Red C tracking poll in the
Sunday Business post.

The increase covers the period since the last poll two weeks ago.

Support for Fine Gael falls marginally by one point to 26%, while
support for the Labour Party rises by a similar margin to 12%,
maintaining the 38% rating for the proposed alternative

Support for the Green Party is at 8%. Sinn Fein remains steady on
8%, as do the Independents on 7%.


PDs Not Leaving Irish Government

The Progressive Democrats will not be withdrawing from the Irish
government, party leader Michael McDowell has said.

Mr McDowell made the announcement at a news conference in Dublin
on Sunday.

There was speculation the coalition could collapse over concerns
about Taoiseach Bertie Ahern's personal financial history.

However, Mr McDowell said Mr Ahern cannot seek re-nomination as
taoiseach in the next dail, unless he gives a full public
statement on his finances.

Mr Ahern said he may do so.

"If I can pull all of the stuff together, I am not adverse to
doing that," he said.

The concerns about the issue were rasied at a meeting of the PD
leadership on Saturday, but the party has said no purpose would
be served by them leaving government.

They said this would result in them handing over the justice and
health portfolios to people who are unfamiliar with the issues.

However, in a statement on Sunday morning, Mr McDowell said he
believed information given by Mr Ahern on his personal finances
had been "anything but complete".

He said the taoiseach must give a credible and comphrensive
public statement.

The PDs have said the statement must be made before election day
in the Republic - 24 May.

Mr Ahern has said he has done nothing improper, but will only
answer detailed questions about his finances at an investigating
judicial tribunal which has been suspended until after the

The PDs have been in coalition government with Mr Ahern's Fianna
Fail party since June 2002.

'Highly significant'

In a statement on the PDs' website, the party said Saturday's
meeting "was called to evaluate new information relating to the
financial affairs of Taoiseach Bertie Ahern".

It added: "It was agreed that the new information is highly

The information was provided by Sunday Independent journalist
Jody Corcoran.

Mr Corcoran has said that, in his opinion, the information
contains no revelation that is not already in circulation or that
the PDs were not already aware of.

Writing in the Sunday Independent, Mr Corcoran said that he gave
the information at Mr McDowell's behest to a PDs special advisor
on Friday.

He said that the new information he provided, though serious, was
not all that disturbing but that interpreted in a certain way
could be damaging to Fianna Fail.

He also said that he is legally prevented from publishing what he
disclosed to the party.

The Progressive Democrats describes itself as a liberal Party and
was formed in 1985 by Desmond O'Malley, Mary Harney and Michael

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2007/05/06 10:22:31 GMT


McDowell Should Reveal His Information: Greens

07/05/2007 - 11:21:58

The Green Party leader says Michael McDowell has a responsibility
to put the information he has about the Taoiseach's finances into
the public domain.

Trevor Sargent also believes the T naiste's leadership of the
Progressive Democrats is in question following yesterday's

He says the sooner Bertie Ahern makes a statement about his
finances, the better.

"Michael McDowell also has a responsibility in the national
interest to put the information he has into the public domain, so
that the statement from Bertie Ahern can be judged in the context
of what Michael McDowell knows," he said.


Sinn Fein Leadership Attend Loughgall Commemoration

Published: 6 May, 2007

Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams and the party nominee for the
post of Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness were today joined
by other members of the Sinn Fein leadership including MP
Michelle Gildernew at the commemoration in Galbally County Tyrone
to mark the 20th anniversary of the deaths of 8 IRA Volunteers at

Speaking from the event in his Mid-Ulster constituency Mr
McGuinness said:

"We must never forget the sacrifices of many republicans and
their families in the course of the last 35 years. Their courage
and their integrity are beyond question. Ireland has undergone
many changes in the twenty years since the events at Loughgall
which saw the deaths of eight IRA volunteers and a civilian in an
SAS operation. There remain many unanswered questions about the
events of that evening and they are questions that the families
of those killed are entitled to be answered.

"Just as Ireland has undergone many changes sine 1987 so to has
the Republican struggle. The IRA have taken courageous decisions
which I believe have advanced and strengthened our struggle and
which open up for the first time since partition a democratic and
peaceful path towards Irish unity and independence. Republicans
are now on a political offensive. The challenge for Sinn Fein is
to deliver on the undoubted potential which now exists.

"The new power sharing Executive which I will jointly head with
Ian Paisley will begin its work on Tuesday. We are determined
that this latest political initiative will not fail. We want to
build a new relationship with unionists on this island. We want
to demonstrate to them the benefits of sitting down and resolving
problems ourselves and overcoming challenges without the need or
interference of British Ministers with no mandate in Ireland.

"In the coming weeks we have an opportunity to bring our unique
Republican analysis to the doorsteps in the South during the
election campaign and into the government in the North. I am
confident that people will once again respond in large numbers.
Sinn Fein stand on the verge of holding real and meaningful
political power. It is political power that we will use to make a
real difference to people's lives and all of the time ensure that
our struggle moves forward.

"Sinn Fein are up for the challenges which lie ahead. We will
bring to all of this our desire to overcome difficulties while at
the same time setting all of our work within the context of our
primary political objective which is to deliver Irish
reunification and a genuine process of national reconciliation on
the island." ENDS


QC Begins Interviews In Probe Into Alleged NIO Cover-Up

[Published: Monday 7, May 2007 - 10:38]
By Chris Thornton

A QC representing the Attorney General was due to begin
interviewing witnesses in Belfast today to find out if the NIO
hid evidence to cover up an illegal deal with the DUP.

Peter Scott QC has made special arrangements to interview one of
five witnesses on the bank holiday for his review linked to the
appointment of the Victims' Commissioner.

The review was sparked by a High Court judge's concerns that the
NIO attempted to pervert the course of justice by hiding Peter
Hain's decision to appoint Bertha McDougall to the post as a
favour to the DUP.

Two other witnesses will be interviewed in Belfast later this
week, and two other witnesses will speak to Mr Scott the
following week.

Mr Hain is not the witness being interviewed today, although it
is not clear if he will take part in any of the following

Mr Hain pledged the NIO's full co-operation with the review when
it was launched in December, but officials consistently refused
to discuss what role the Secretary of State may play in it.

They say the interviews are "a matter for the review".

Mr Scott's review team has so far refused to give any details of
its work, referring all questions to the Attorney General's

Last year Lord Justice Girvan criticised Mr Hain and his two most
senior civil servants for their handling of the court case about
Mrs McDougall's appointment.

He said the NIO had relied on "obviously misleading" information
to defend the appointment of Bertha McDougall. He said Mr Hain
had illegally appointed Mrs McDougall as a sop to the DUP.

The judge said evidence showed there could have been an attempt
to pervert the course of justice during the case - saying that
"for some reason it was decided within Government that incorrect
and misleading information would be supplied" to the court.

Mr Hain has welcomed the review, insisting there was "no
question" of an attempt to deliberately mislead the court.

Mr Scott's interviews are follow-ups to detailed questionnaires
he submitted to 17 witnesses about the case.

Those questionnaires are believed to have been based on 67
questions Lord Justice Girvan posed about the NIO's conduct in
one of his rulings.

Mr Scott's review is being taken to the High Court next week by
Brenda Downes, the Belfast widow of Sean Downes who was killed by
a plastic bullet in 1984

She is asking the court to order Mr Scott to give her updates
about his work and access to the documents he has received.

Mr Scott has offered to meet Mrs Downes, but has turned down her
request for details about how he is conducting the review.

Next week could see a preliminary hearing of Mr Hain's appeal
against the original ruling that declared Mrs McDougall's
appointment illegal.

c Belfast Telegraph


Martin McGuinness: Peacemaker & Poet

[Published: Monday 7, May 2007 - 11:25]
By David McKittrick

He's a poet, a fisherman, a chess-player, a family man described
as considerate and thoughtful, somebody who cares about nature
and the environment, passionate yet even-tempered.

He enthuses about nature, especially the rugged heaths of
Donegal: " Purple-heathered hillsides clothe the peaty bogs,
leaching streams of water, swimming pools for frogs." He's good
at relationships and a conspicuous success at most things.

But no, this is not some dreamy, liberal luvvy: this is Martin
McGuinness, icon of republican militancy. That poem, which is
being auctioned this weekend in south Armagh, is dedicated to a
republican who was shot dead. From Tuesday, McGuinness will be
running Northern Ireland together with the Rev Ian Paisley.
Unlikely is far too mild a word to describe this emerging
partnership between two lifelong adversaries, the dedicated
republican and the staunch loyalist.

Yet last week they astonished Belfast by conducting a news
conference together - joking, joshing and exuding large amounts
of twinkling geniality. Later they sat side by side in Edinburgh
pressing Gordon Brown for more funds. "Martin is a people
person," according to one who works closely with him. "People
warm to him: they just do. It's early days, but he and Ian
Paisley are just getting on with the business. It's astonishing."

The week brought extraordinary displays of an entirely new
political tone. Circumstances have brought the two together in
scarcely conceivable coalition and - so far at least - their
relationship has proved uncannily amicable. Yet it should come as
no surprise that McGuinness can forge close ties with people. His
relationship with Gerry Adams, President of Sinn Fein, has proved
crucial in persuading their republican movement to shed many
outdated practices.

Together they have recast a party, previously hidebound by the
past, into Ireland's most pragmatic political outfit. During many
tense moments it was the McGuinness reputation for flinty, sea-
green incorruptibility that reassured traditionalists Adams was
not moving too far, too fast. In the past decade the two
republicans forged a key working relationship with Tony Blair,
becoming frequent visitors to Downing Street and Chequers. No one
suggests complete trust exists, but Blair and the republicans
have taken chances with each other.

McGuinness was not always in the business of twinkling geniality,
or of making friends and influencing people. He began as a
trainee butcher, packing bacon in a Derry butcher's shop. In the
early 1970s, when Northern Ireland and Derry exploded into
sustained violence, conventional life ended for him and he gave
up his job packing bacon in a butcher's shop. He was still a
teenager when he turned full-time to guerrilla warfare, rising
quickly to a high position within the IRA. His units did a great
deal of damage to the city with a campaign that made it look, in
the words of one observer, as if it had been bombed from the air.

The British Army in particular had cause to regret his
streetfighting skills: it lost more than two dozen soldiers,
gunned down on Derry streets. He himself dodged many bullets,
once admitting that he had been "fired at by the British army on
countless occasions over 20 years". He also managed to avoid a
determined loyalist assassin who was intent on killing him. He
was good at evading the law, serving just two short prison
sentences. He often, however, saw the inside of police
interrogation centres, fending off detectives determined to make
him crack.

He was high in the IRA from an early age, and was only 22 when
the Government smuggled him and other republicans over to Chelsea
for secret talks. The meeting was unproductive, the authorities
saying he and other IRA leaders had presented "impossible demands
and absurd ultimatums".

Many years went by without McGuinness budging, and with the IRA
fighting its long war, the death toll mounted. Sinn Fein made
limited political progress, but remained outcasts as IRA violence
went on. McGuinness remained adamant that any ceasefire would be
seized on by Britain as a sign of weakness. He once declared that
no section of the republican movement "believes that the freedom
of Ireland can be won only through political involvement in
constitutional politics or in elections".

This was back in the days when Ian Paisley was fighting elections
holding a sledgehammer under the slogan "Smash Sinn Fein". But
that was then, this is now: today Paisley has no sledgehammer.
McGuinness has no IRA any more, and is commited to the idea that
the freedom of Ireland can be achieved without it. Somewhere over
the years he morphed from the icon of militarism into the
politician of today who has been seasoned by meetings with
British, Irish and American representatives.

Republicans retained their faith in his integrity and apparent
refusal to compromise, but as time passed both he and they got
deeper into politics, the business of negotiation, and give and
take. It has brought him to this once inconceivable point where
he will be No 2 in government. But no one believes he cares about
reaching office for its own sake, or making money, or that he has
given up on the republican goal of a united Ireland.

Life is hectic for him. About to become a senior minister, he is
a Westminster MP, a member of the Belfast Assembly, and his
party's chief negotiator. He is also spending much time in the
south of Ireland where he is canvassing in the general election.
In a previous Stormont administration he was regarded as the best
of the 10 departmental ministers, impressing officials and
political rivals alike with his performance as education
minister. "He was the best of the lot," said a Unionist opponent.

The surprise at his success in the education brief was all the
greater since, like Adams, he left school at an early age,
without much education. His schedule leaves him with little time
for fishing or chess, and little enough time with four children
and five grandchildren. While his verse may not rival that of
Seamus Heaney, he has shown versatility, proving proficient in
IRA activities, politics, negotiation and now high public office.

His last spell in government did not last long, falling apart
because of IRA misbehaviour. But now the organisation he once
helped to lead seems to have gone away, with republicans now
prepared to rely on McGuinness's political skills rather than his
military prowess. When it became clear that a McGuinness-Paisley
partnership was in prospect it was said it would be " a battle a
day". But they are conducting themselves with good humour,
without rancour.

Last week Paisley declared: "We have many problems but we are
seeing a light and are directing our footsteps towards not just
sunlight but I trust full sunshine." If this new rhetoric is any
reflection of reality then the remarkable career of Martin
McGuinness is about to enter yet another new phase, this time in
a transformed political scene.

David McKittrick is Ireland Correspondent for the Independent
(London) .

c Belfast Telegraph


Viewpoint: Another Step From Darkness Into Light

[Published: Monday 7, May 2007 - 10:52]

The eyes of the world will be on Northern Ireland tomorrow as the
new Stormont executive is sworn in. The agreement between the DUP
and Sinn Fein to share power is a truly ground-breaking move
which creates the potential for Northern Ireland to move into a
dynamic new era.

The decision by the Government to allow the parties a six-week
breathing space following the joint press conference by the Rev
Ian Paisley and Gerry Adams has been vindicated. The hiatus has
allowed the politicians to develop a working relationship and has
enabled the public to come to terms with the enormity of what is

Since March 26 there have been many dramatic images, such as Mr
Paisley shaking hands with Bertie Ahern, and more recently, Mr
Paisley and Martin McGuinness jointly welcoming European
Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso to Stormont. Behind the
scenes, the foundations have been laid for an administration
which should be able to deliver good government.

The omens are good but the question remains as to whether it will
all work. Despite the bonhomie, will the executive turn out to be
a battle a day once the divisive issues arise?

Can republicanism and unionism start to build on what unites
them, rather than focus on what divides them? Will newly sworn-in
ministers be up to the job of running their departments?

Although the rhetoric and body language have changed, challenges
lie ahead. The economic package has failed to live up to
expectations and crucially, the Treasury has so far been found
wanting on the key issue of corporation tax.

Without structural changes it is difficult to see how the
executive will be able to produce the step-change which the
Northern Ireland economy needs. Once it is up and running, the
executive must intensify pressure on the Chancellor for
meaningful measures to be introduced.

That said, the positive images which will go round the world
tomorrow should act as a spur for investment in the province. The
war is over, as both the IRA and the UVF have testified, and the
creation of partnership government should create a new climate of
peace and prosperity.

The political landscape has changed, but this transformation has
not taken place overnight. It has taken long years of patient
diplomacy by many people and as Messrs Paisley and McGuinness
enjoy the limelight tomorrow, nobody should forget the
contribution made by David Trimble and Seamus Mallon in the first

As everyone at Stormont tomorrow will recognise, political
agreement is just another step on Northern Ireland's journey from
darkness to light. Not until sectarian divisions are erased and
all the peacelines dismantled will the new Northern Ireland be
able to reach its full potential.

c Belfast Telegraph


UVF: Destroy Arms Don't Dump Them

[Published: Friday 4, May 2007 - 12:14]

The long-awaited UVF statement on disarmament is a step in the
right direction, but it does not go far enough. If the UVF
genuinely intends to turn its back on violence, arms must be
verifiably decommissioned and not just "put beyond reach",
whatever that phrase means.

Certainly, everyone should welcome the fact that the UVF and Red
Hand Commando have vowed to switch to a "non-military,
civilianised" role. More than 12 years after declaring a
ceasefire, two of the most violent of paramilitary organisations
have finally acknowledged that further paramilitary activity
serves no purpose.

But as Peter Hain says, actions will always speak louder than
words. The rhetoric must now be followed up by a serious
engagement with the Independent International Commission on
Decommissioning with a view to the dismantling under supervision
of all the loyalist armoury.

An organisation which was responsible for 20 murders and
continued to target and threaten people during the period it was
on ceasefire cannot expect to have its statements taken at face
value. The best way for the UVF to show that it means what it
says will be to involve the IICD.

Despite what Gusty Spence may say, "trusting the rust" is no
substitute for trusting the angle-grinder. The people of Northern
Ireland, unionist and nationalist, will be satisfied with nothing
short of disarmament, decommissioning and disbandment by both the
UVF and RHC.

Significantly, yesterday's statement addresses the ongoing
problem of criminality. It is encouraging that the UVF is
"reaffirming" its opposition to criminality and calling for co-
operation with the police, and this message must be heeded.

The support proffered to restorative justice projects should be
built upon, but it is vital that the PSNI is fully involved in
any such schemes and that the process of law is not ignored. The
police must retain control in all areas.

The dynamic in Northern Ireland has changed and those who have
worked to develop new thinking in the UVF - not least of all the
late David Ervine - deserve credit. Now the pressure must be
intensified on other loyalist organisations, most notably the
UDA, to follow suit.

In the new political dispensation, which will see the DUP and
Sinn Fein sharing power at Stormont on Tuesday, there is no place
for guns or army councils, loyalist or republican. The war is
over, and private armies have no role to play.

When the new Assembly takes office, people in Northern Ireland
will at last dare to believe that a new era is dawning in which
harmony will replace hatred. The UVF is making a welcome
contribution to this process but it cannot afford to stop there.
If this really is a fundamental change, the arms must not just be
dumped, but destroyed.

c Belfast Telegraph


Viewpoint: Stability At Stormont Is Top Priority

[Published: Tuesday 1, May 2007 - 08:34]

For obvious reasons, there will be far more interest than usual
in the Republic's general election on May 28.

On it depends the future of the Fianna Fail-PD coalition, which
has co-operated so successfully with the British government on
the peace process, and the seemingly unstoppable rise of Sinn

If both come through strongly, Northern Ireland will stay high on
the agenda in Dublin, if not in London, after the retirement of
Tony Blair. But if the southern voters refuse to back Mr Ahern
for a record third successive term and Gerry Adams fails to
increase Sinn Fein's representation substantially - from the
present five TDs - a pause could be expected in the changes
taking place in Northern Ireland politics.

As it is, events here and in Britain over the next few weeks are
bound to have a considerable impact on the Irish election. Next
Tuesday, Sinn Fein will take its place alongside the DUP at the
head of a Stormont executive, attracting world-wide publicity
that must improve its image as a fully-democratic party. But
despite its growing acceptability in Northern Ireland, memories
of its past persist in the Republic, where one recent opinion
poll showed a mere 1% gain.

Much will depend on the ability of Gerry Adams, a non-resident
non-candidate who is leading Sinn Fein's campaign, to appeal to
the natural Labour supporters who have failed to benefit from the
Celtic tiger economy. Although economists deride his "voodoo
economics", including an increase in the 12.5% corporation tax
which Northern Ireland covets, Sinn Fein has a habit of
confounding the experts when the votes are counted.

The choice, as Mr Ahern presents it, is between a continuation of
the present coalition, tried and tested over 10 years, and an
experimental combination between Fine Gael, Labour and the Green
Party, which would have difficulty forming a coherent government.
He rules out Sinn Fein as a partner, because of its threat to the
Fianna Fail vote, but if the PDs failed to come up to the mark,
few believe that his veto on Sinn Fein would stand. While he
might not include republicans in government, a guarantee of
support would give them influence.

Whoever wins, and the polls show growing discontent with
accusations of government sleaze, the peace process will continue
unabated and all the cross-border institutions will survive. Yet
if there is a change of government in Dublin, as well as a new
Prime Minister in London, a period of reflection may be

That may be no bad thing, as people here try to absorb the
enormous changes in the local political scene. With Labour about
to suffer killer blows in the Scottish and local elections,
achieving stability at Stormont should be the main priority.

Dog law must have bite

Our revelation today that the USPCA is having to hand two pit
bull dogs back to their owner should set alarm bells ringing at
Stormont and at Belfast City Council.

For the saga potentially reveals a muddle at the heart of policy
on dangerous animals.

The south Belfast man who owns the dogs is demanding them back,
via his solicitors, and is presumably claiming they are not pit

However, the USPCA has assessed the animals and has judged them
to be pit bulls. As it is illegal to own pit bull terriers in
Northern Ireland, one would be forgiven for thinking that the
authorities could refuse to hand the dogs back: full stop.

But, prosecution powers lie with Belfast City Council and the
USPCA apparently has no legal reason to refuse the pit bull
owner's demand to return the dogs.

This is a classic case of enforcement of the law on a serious
issue falling between two stools.

In the case of the pit bulls due to be handed back today, Belfast
City Council should take immediate steps to ensure that the law
is complied with. But in the longer term, the authorities must
ensure they lay the foundations for a joined up approach to this

While they are doing that, they should widen the legal definition
to clarify the law on 'pit bull-style' dogs as well.

c Belfast Telegraph


Opin: Shameless Act Ends Teflon Taoiseach's Term Of Office

By Susan McKay

What a stunt. Charlie Haughey would have been proud of his

What a furtive and shabby way to bring a Dail to an end and
launch an election.

An Taoiseach Bertie Ahern scurried up to Aras An Uachtaran so
early on Sunday morning that the only people on the streets to
see his shiney state car whizz by were the newspaper sellers,
busy laying out on their stalls for early Massgoers.

The headlines explained Bertie's sudden dash to see the

The Mahon Tribunal into allegations of planning corruption was
due to start hearing details of Ahern's personal financial
dealings yesterday morning.

He has been accused of receiving substantial payments from
property developers in the 1990s. He denies any wrongdoing.
Selected journalists got a text message from one of Bertie's
expensive apparatchiks at around pub closing time on Saturday
night. They were told to be on two hours standby for the next 48
hours. At 6am a second text message told them to get themselves
to the Phoenix Park.

When they got there, they witnessed the most bizarre dissolution
of the Dail.

The president might have been in her dressing gown only for the
fact that she was rushing out the door for the airport for a
scheduled official visit to the US.

She just had time to sign the papers.

Then Bertie put on his cheeky face to wave goodbye to the

No questions were allowed.

No questions at the launch of his election campaign later on
Sunday morning either. A press release full of spelling mistakes
and a brief scripted speech. Bertie was on the run. Judge Alan
Mahon announced yesterday morning that he would suspend hearings
at the inquiry until after the election on May 24. He could
hardly have done otherwise.

The taoiseach had already indicated disapproval of the judge's
previously declared intention of proceeding with his inquiry
until two weeks before the date of the election. Ahern sniffed
that there was precedent on these matters.

He has no such qualms when it comes to putting himself in the
limelight when he is cast as the star. He deserves his moment of
glory at the do at Stormont next week. After all, he played his
part well in the wearisome years of work that went into hauling
Ian Paisley out of the apocalyptic mire of sectarian ranting and
17th century battles and into 21st century politics. But couldn't
they find seats, even if they're not in the front row, for the
leaders of the Republic's opposition? They've defended the Good
Friday Agreement too.

The frolic on the banks of the Boyne with Paisley could have
waited and he will have to hope there are no barbed remarks from
the old prophet of No Surrender.

The DUP will have noted his weekend attempt to fend off the
Shinners by declaring that Fianna Fail will work in the next Dail
to unite Ireland.

But the address to the British Houses of Commons and Lords on May
15, just nine days before the Irish elections, is pushing it.
Tony Blair badly needs the halo that the northern Irish peace
process has provided for him to distract from other dramatic and
appalling failures of his long years as prime minister. Ahern
could do with it too but to take part in such a showpiece event
in the middle of an election is hardly playing fair.

RTE, which is obliged to monitor precisely the amount of time it
allocates to each of the parties, will be hard pressed to sort
out what counts as party political broadcasting and what doesn't.
Ruari Quinn is right the Brits should postpone the event until
after polling day. Ahern will still be taoiseach at least until
the formation of the next Dail.

How hilarious that Sinn Fein has sprung to defend Ahern's right
to the great honour of addressing the British parliament. Perhaps
the party will even decide to complete the wondrous
transformations of our times and turn up at Westminster on the
day to claim their seats for the show.

Mary Lou McDonald threw in that she hoped the taoiseach would use
the occasion to talk about Irish reunification and to call on the
Brits to come clean on the Dublin-Monaghan bombings. As if.

This is the man who last week had a meeting with PUP leader Dawn
Purvis and, according to her, didn't even raise with her the
issue of the UVF's fresh spate of death threats against more than
100 northern Catholics. He is shameless is our Bertie.


Arsenic Traces Found In Well Water

By Aoife McKeever

Residents in a Co Louth village were told not to use their water
supply after a well was found to contain levels of arsenic.

Householders in Faughart, on the border outside Dundalk, received
notification by letter from Louth County Council at the end of
last week to take precautions when using the water after low
levels of arsenic were detected in the supply.

The source is believed to be naturally occurring in the area and
is located in private wells.

The scare is at this stage localised to one property's well and
believed to be isolated.

Louth County Council organised the provision of water provided by
the fire service for residents in the village that is famous for
being the birth place of St Brigid and attracts pilgrims every

In the centre of the village there is a shrine dedicated to St
Brigid with a holy stream that flows through it.

The stream is said to have healing properties.

Theo Henry, who lives in the area of the scare, said there was
confusion among residents about the areas of the supply affected.

"The first I heard about it was when a neighbour came up with the
letters that had been delivered," Mr Henry said.

"We have got no word of anything from the council but all the
houses around us have.

"Apparently they are going to test 110 wells on Tuesday.

"I have been using my well for over 25 years and another

system that has been there for more than 100 years.

"I changed my pump system about five years ago and everything had
to be checked to get the grant and we were given the all-clear so
we have been using the water, what else are you supposed to do?
You have to wash and shave and the rest.

Mr Henry described the situation as a "farce".

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