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May 10, 2007

Tributes Paid to Blair's NI Work

News about Ireland & the Irish

BB 05/10/07 Tributes Paid To Blair's NI Work
BT 05/10/07 The PM Who Brought Republicans In From Cold
BT 05/10/07 Ulster Role Secures Place In History
BT 05/10/07 Fury As DUP Joins Privy Council
BB 05/10/07 SF Martin Ferris Was Not Drink-Drinking
SC 05/10/07 Opin: The Troubles Are Over
LA 05/10/07 Opin: Northern Ireland's Past Has A Future
BN 05/10/07 Flat-Screen TVs Found During Prison Searches


Tributes Paid To Blair's NI Work

By Brendan Anderson
BBC News website

Politicians in Northern Ireland have been paying tribute to Tony
Blair who has announced he is standing down as prime minister.

Mr Blair, who has visited Northern Ireland 37 times in the past
ten years, said he would resign on 27 June.

First Minister Ian Paisley said Mr Blair had devoted more time to
Northern Ireland than his predecessors.

He said, however, there were many issues on which he "did not see
eye to eye" with the Prime Minister.

"Indeed, he kept me out of Downing Street for several years. Also
unionists do not forget his failure to live up to promises in the
early years," the DUP leader said.

"They believe he was too willing to offer concessions to
republicans, which may have delayed the progress that has been
achieved recently.

"There is no doubt, however, that the Prime Minister's concerted
efforts helped in ultimately securing devolution in Northern

Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness said Mr Blair had made a
"mighty contribution" to the peace process.

"That comes from someone who is not used to giving credit to any
British prime minister," Mr McGuinness said.

"But credit has to be given for the massive role that he played
in the negotiations which led to the Good Friday Agreement."

Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern said Mr Blair left office "with
an honoured place in our history assured".

"The Good Friday Agreement stands as a noble testament to his
commitment to address the problem of Northern Ireland in a fair
and balanced way," the Taoiseach said.

"Tony Blair leaves a priceless legacy of peace and agreement in
Ireland. I am privileged to have worked side by side with him on
the peace process... ."

UUP leader Sir Reg Empey said there was no question that the
Prime Minister was "deeply committed to Northern Ireland".

"Without that commitment, the Belfast Agreement, upon which our
current institutions are based, would not have been reached," Sir
Reg said.

"His tactics and approach, while questionable on occasion, have
delivered what we all hope is a lasting and stable political

SDLP leader Mark Durkan said he did not believe the Good Friday
Agreement would have existed without Mr Blair's contribution.

"He deserves immense credit for his perseverance in our process,"
he said.

"The amount of time and personal capital he invested, alongside
the Taoiseach Bertie Ahern, should never be underestimated."

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2007/05/10 12:16:43 GMT


The PM Who Brought Republicans In From Cold

[Published: Thursday 10, May 2007 - 11:34]
By Ben Lowry

There was little indication that Tony Blair would take such an
intensive interest in Northern Ireland when he became Labour
leader in 1994.

He visited the province later that year, and again two years
afterwards in December 1996 when he met with the major Northern
Ireland parties except Sinn Fein, at a time when the IRA was not
on ceasefire.

But Mr Blair moved quickly to bring republicans in from the cold
after he was elected to 10 Downing Street in May 1997. The IRA
murdered two policemen in Lurgan in June 1997, then declared a
second ceasefire the following month and within three months of
that Mr Blair had met and shaken hands with Gerry Adams. Two
months further on, Sinn Fein were in Downing Street.

Over the decade of his premiership, Mr Blair visited the province
a total of 37 times, meaning that on average he flew into
Northern Ireland once every quarter.

Eight of the visits were crammed into a six month period
straddling the Belfast Agreement of Easter 1998, including a
joint visit with his predecessor John Major to promote the deal.

But in recent years the trips have dried up - Mr Blair's visit to
Northern Ireland on Tuesday was his first in ten months, bringing
to an end one of the longest stretches of his premiership in
which he did not make a trip to the province.

There was only one longer period of his tenure as Prime Minister
when he stayed away from Northern Ireland, and that was between
December 2004 and April 2006. That 16-month absence from Ulster
coincided with a period of political stalemate following the
Northern Bank robbery, and ended when he travelled to Armagh with
Bertie Ahern to reaffirm the then deadline of November for a

Perhaps the Prime Minister finally had been feeling demoralised
with Northern Ireland during those absent months - some years
earlier, after the alleged IRA spying ring was uncovered in
October 2002, he had delivered one of his most significant
speeches, at the Belfast Harbour Commissioners, telling
republicans that they could not continue to be half-in, half-out
of the political process.

But Mr Blair's involvement was far greater than the sum of his
visits here. He visited Dublin too, and invited the main
political parties at Downing Street on scores of occasions.

Mr Blair, alongside his counterpart Taoiseach Bertie Ahern,
hosted three major sets of talks on the British mainland, all
aimed at reviving the stalled political process in Northern

The first of these summits was at Weston Park in Shropshire in
July 2001.

Three years later, in September 2004, Mr Blair was at Leeds
Castle in Kent for the failed talks there.

But the key meeting was at St Andrew's last autumn, when Mr Blair
again presided over talks with the local politicians, paving the
way for Tuesday's historic scenes at Stormont.

On three occasions Mr Blair accompanied US Presidents to Northern
Ireland, two of those times with Bill Clinton. But perhaps his
most striking coup was persuading George W Bush - who has less of
an interest in Northern Ireland affairs than his White House
predecessor - to hold a "war and peace" summit in Hillsborough
Castle in April 2003. This was just as American troops were
taking Baghdad, and allied victory in the Gulf War seemed

On September 3, 1998, Mr Blair attended the Waterfront Hall with
President Clinton. Later on the same visit, they went to the site
of the Omagh bomb, which had exploded weeks earlier.

Mr Blair's first visit to Northern Ireland as Prime Minister was
on May 16 1997, just over a fortnight after he was elected to 10
Downing Street. He wasn't back in the province for another five
months, when he had the historic first Sinn Fein meeting.

It was a critical moment in a process that culminated in
extraordinary scenes in Belfast this week.

c Belfast Telegraph


Ulster Role Secures Place In History

[Published: Thursday 10, May 2007 - 11:28]
By Sam Lister

Tony Blair swept to power on a wave of goodwill ten years ago but
as he announces his departure today his popularity is at an all-
time low.

Much has been made of his desire to secure his "legacy" and place
in history.

The decision to go to war in Iraq has indisputably overshadowed
his reign, along with the hugely damaging cash for honours

But the resumption of power-sharing in the province this week is
one of the feathers in his political cap.

MPs in the province have given a mixed assessment of his

The DUP's Jeffrey Donaldson, MP for Lagan Valley, said:
"Undoubtedly Tony Blair's time as Prime Minister will be
remembered by the controversy surrounding cash for honours and
the Iraq war.

"There is no doubt he has also made a positive contribution.

"His legacy to the political process in Northern Ireland on the
whole is a positive one.

"He devoted many more hours to the issue than any other Prime
Minister in modern times and his role as a facilitator in moving
issues forward here should be properly recognised.

"If there is one criticism of his performance on Northern Ireland
it is that he was too quick to make concessions to Republicans.

"Unfortunately this only delayed the great progress that we have
seen in the last few years."

Lady Sylvia Hermon, UUP MP for North Down, said although Mr Blair
had made mistakes, he had shown compassion for the people of
Northern Ireland.

"Tony Blair was a breath of fresh air when the electorate first
handed him the keys to Number 10 a decade ago," he said.

"New Labour captured the mood of the nation, they looked good and
they sounded good.

"Time and time again he prioritised Northern Ireland, he did not
always get it right, but he showed an enormous amount of
compassion for the people here and to paraphrase him, he wanted
to get Northern Ireland 'sorted'.

"It is rather fitting therefore that in his final week of office
he came to Belfast to take the applause he richly deserved for
his persistence and resolve."

Sinn Fein vice-president Pat Doherty, MP for West Tyrone, said:
"As an Irish republican obviously I want to end the British
presence in Ireland.

"Tony Blair has certainly made a positive contribution to
developing the Irish peace process.

"He has brought a different approach in terms of British policy
in Northern Ireland.

"However, there is still some way to go until the British role in
Ireland is ended."

c Belfast Telegraph


Fury As DUP Joins Privy Council

[Published: Thursday 10, May 2007 - 11:19]
By Noel McAdam

The SDLP has attacked the appointment of two senior members of
the DUP to the Privy Council, which is given access to high-level
security intelligence.

Deputy leader Peter Robinson and Lagan Valley MP Jeffrey
Donaldson are to join their party leader Ian Paisley on the
council and will be entitled to be referred to as "the Right

It is understood agreement on the appointments stretches back to
the St Andrews negotiations last October but has only been made
public following the restoration of devolution.

The DUP views the council as an important means of verifying the
information - from MI5, the Army and police - which the
Independent Monitoring Commission uses in its regular reports.
And the party said that it has been told it will be entitled to
security briefings by intelligence staff.

The party also wants the Joint Intelligence Security Committee,
which monitors the work of MI5 and the military, to have an
increased input from Northern Ireland.

And it hopes to set up a special security committee at Stormont
to monitor paramilitary activity in the province.

Mr Donaldson is also a member of the Policing Board.

The Privy Council is among the oldest and most historic
structures of government and has more than 300 members, including
two former Ulster Unionist leaders, Lord Trimble and Lord

It was established - the word 'privy' meaning 'private' or
'secret' - as a committee of advisers to provide confidential
advice to the King or Queen, but was superceded by the Cabinet as
the power of the Monarchy waned.

Mr Paisley said: "Our Privy Councillors, together with the DUP
Police Board members, will adopt a monitoring role over all
security and intelligence matters over the coming months and

SDLP leader Mark Durkan said, however, the appointments were "not
in the spirit" of the events of Tuesday when devolution was
restored and an Executive formed.

Appointments to the Privy Council "should not be made on the
basis of a party political contrivance," he said.

"This step corroborates the concerns we have consistently
expressed about British Government plans for MI5 in Northern
Ireland including what was agreed at St Andrews," the Foyle MP

c Belfast Telegraph


Gun-Runner Was Not Drink-Drinking

Former IRA gun-runner Martin Ferris has been cleared of suspected

A urine sample had proved the North Kerry Sinn Fein TD was under
the limit when he was stopped and arrested by gardai last month.

Mr Ferris had consumed three alcoholic drinks before he was
stopped at a checkpoint at Ardfert on 22 April.

He failed two breathalyser tests before being taken to Tralee
Garda Station where a doctor took a urine sample.

I would never have gotten into my car if I thought there was any
chance I was over the limit

Martin Ferris

"Obviously I am greatly relieved that the results of my urine
test have shown that I was under the limit when I was stopped by
Gardai in Ardfert," said Mr Ferris.

"In a statement following my arrest I said I was confident that I
was under the limit and that I would never have gotten into my
car if I thought there was any chance I was over the limit."

He added that he regretted what had happened and said if he was
in the same position again he would not "get behind the wheel".

Mr Ferris was elected to Kerry County Council and Tralee Council
in 1999 and to the Irish parliament for Kerry North in 2002.

He was jailed for ten years for his part in an IRA gun-running
operation after the Irish Navy intercepted a trawler off the
Kerry coast in 1984 with seven tons of weaponry in its hold.

The arms shipment had been smuggled from America across the
Atlantic in a fishing boat.

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2007/05/10 12:09:08 GMT


Opin: The Troubles Are Over

Thursday, May 10, 2007

FOR 30 YEARS, bombings and bloodshed marked Northern Ireland's
political life. Peace and compromise were flickering ideals,
honored briefly before older hatreds returned.

This history makes it hard to declare that the generation-long
Troubles are truly over. But the signs this time -- and the
players involved -- make a convincing case that both tone and
meaning have changed completed. Peace is at hand.

Consider that Protestant firebrand Rev. Ian Paisley and Sinn
Fein's Martin McGuinness, the hardest of hardliners, agreed to a
power-sharing deal that has long rested on the table. Moderates
had sought their support for years, but neither man could relent
until a string of gun turn-ins, talks and pledges happened.

The agreement must be tested, especially because earlier
breakthroughs have collapsed. But this one, with handshakes,
smiles and signatures, carries extra weight.

It comes equipped with ample political interest. British Prime
Minister Tony Blair may announce his retirement date this week
and wants credit for this pact to cap his career. Likewise,
Ireland's leader Bertie Ahern is facing elections and needs a

But a generation of street fights, bombings and killings could be
over. And the best evidence is that the prime instigators --
Protestant diehards and Catholic paramilitaries -- have signed

What happens next will be worth watching. Can former gunmen run a
modern nation and where will they take it? A third of the
province works for the government, and if Britain withdraws from
running daily life, a new economy must materialize. While the
northern province festered in civil strife for decades, Ireland
grew from a backwater nation into a tech and pharmaceutical hub.
It's a lesson that should be studied in Belfast.


Opin: Northern Ireland's Past Has A Future

Most nations 'move on' after periods of tragedy and war, but
Northern Ireland grapples with how it will remember its violent

By Tony Platt, TONY PLATT was a visiting professor at the
Institute of Criminology and Criminal Justice, Queen's
University, Belfast, in March. He is author, with Cecilia
O'Leary, of "Bloodlines: Recovering Hitler's

May 9, 2007

TUESDAY MARKED the historic restoration of power-sharing between
Catholics and Protestants, Irish republicans and British
loyalists in Northern Ireland - and the beginning of a new set of
difficult challenges, including how to remember the bloody past.

"It is recognized that victims have a right to remember," stated
the 1998 Belfast Agreement, which provided the framework for the
restoration of local government.

It's a little shocking to read this principle enshrined in the
cold print of an official document. In the United States, the
government tends to protect our right to forget. There is no
public holiday to mark the emancipation of slaves, for example,
one of the most significant events in U.S. history. Too often, we
paper over our violent history of Manifest Destiny, of "winning"
the West, of native genocide and ethnic cleansing with an
official myth of progress.

How will Northern Ireland implement its right to remember? The
lure of amnesia will be strong, as it was in Germany at the end
of World War II, when proponents of the Cold War promoted a
"move-on mentality," and in Spain after Franco's death in 1975,
when the government issued a "pact of forgetting."

The tendency to forget is understandable. Many individuals are
reluctant to relive tormented suffering or to burden their
children with painful memories. And governments have their own
reasons for "scrupulous forgetting," to use a term coined by
German historian Jorg Wollenberg. In the aftermath of the 1994
genocide in Rwanda, the new government banned the teaching of the
region's history in order to avoid recriminations.

In Northern Ireland, some people say it would be better for
economic development and tourism if what comes to define the
region are the Mourne Mountains and its medieval past rather than
the decades of "the Troubles." Better to appreciate Derry's
Walled City and ancient cannons than to look too closely at the
legacies of Catholic-Protestant warfare in Bogside.

But the suppressed past has a tendency to simmer and reemerge at
unexpected moments. Today's Germany is engaged in a profound
reflection about Nazism, and Spain is about to reexamine the
legacies of fascism. And here in California, in the midst of
bruising immigration battles, deportations and wall building, we
continue to pay a price for our amnesia.

In Northern Ireland, there will be some tiptoeing around hard
issues. Before it closed for reconstruction, the Ulster Museum's
exhibition, "Conflict: The Irish at War," paid minimal attention
to the contemporary period and ignored the role of Britain in the
conflict. A display of rubber bullets and Royal Ulster
Constabulary batons was ever so cautiously and awkwardly
described - "as might be regarded as being symbolic of police

It seems that there will be a museum (a.k.a. the International
Center for Conflict Transformation) on the grounds of notorious
Long Kesh/The Maze - the prison where Bobby Sands and other IRA
militants died. The new name indicates a desire at least to make
the site serve the needs of both remembrance and education of all
parties to the struggle. And yet the emotions stirred by the site
alone - the cells where men starved - will make this a difficult

Although physical violence has been dramatically reduced in
Northern Ireland, we should expect culture wars to proliferate.

In the future, it might be relatively easy to fly new flags at
Stormont - once a unionist stronghold and now the seat of
Northern Ireland's partnership government - but it will be harder
to topple, transform or supplement the Protestant monument to the
British loyalist Sir Edward Carson that frames Stormont's
entrance. And imagine how difficult it will be to produce a new
textbook on Northern Irish history for schoolchildren that is
acceptable to the leading political parties.

And yet, a few weeks after the March vote, Belfast celebrated St.
Patrick's Day in the center of the city without incident or
sectarian tension. More important, grass-roots organizations and
communities have successfully "decommissioned" neighborhood
murals that encouraged violence on both sides of the divide. The
most bombastic and explosive of the murals, already well-
documented in photographs and books, have been literally
whitewashed by a democratic process.

It is most encouraging, however, that in 2006, the Belfast
organization Healing Through Remembering could convene a task
force of republicans, unionists and independents - many formerly
on the battle lines - to produce a thoughtful investigation into
how to make peace with the past. Taking on this challenge is "not
just a question of politics," their unanimous and influential
report concluded, "it is a question of morality."

If left to government and commercial interests on high, public
history is almost always turned into cultural pabulum and
profitable kitsch. But Belfast and Derry's long history of social
struggles, vital debates and dedicated community organizations
suggests that the politics of remembrance will be vigorously
contested from below. And that makes for hope for the future of
the past in Northern Ireland.


Flat-Screen TVs Found During Prison Searches

10/05/2007 - 08:02:28

Three flat-screen TVs have reportedly been discovered during
further searches of prisoners' cells at the maximum-security
Portlaoise jail.

It emerged yesterday that mobile phones, drugs, syringes and even
a budgie had been found during a series of searches on Tuesday.

Reports this morning say a second budgie was also seized and at
one stage there were seven of the birds in the prison, with the
tuck shop even selling bird seed to their owners.

Meanwhile, three flat-screen TVs have also been recovered along
with a DVD player, including one in the cell of convicted drug
trafficker John Gilligan.

Staff at the prison are reportedly insisting that they are not
involved in smuggling such goods into the jail.

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