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June 03, 2007

McCord: I Will Name Haddock's Handlers

News about Ireland & the Irish

SL 06/03/07 Raymond McCord: I Will Name Haddock's Handlers
BB 06/03/07 Paisley Remarks 'Were Homophobic'
SL 06/03/07 Craig McCausland Rejects UVF Chief's Offer To Meet
SL 06/03/07 Split Fears As UVF Expels 60 In Mid-Ulster
DC 06/03/07 New Evidence With Links To IRA re:‘93 Brinks Robbery.
BG 06/03/07 The Lack Of The Irish
BN 06/03/07 Pope To Canonise New Irish Saint Today


Raymond McCord: I Will Name Haddock's Handlers

[Published: Sunday 3, June 2007 - 09:48]
By Stephen Breen

Anti-collusion campaigner Raymond McCord last night vowed to name
the RUC Special Branch officers who protected UVF serial killer
Mark Haddock.

He issued the warning after security minister Paul Goggins
confirmed he would meet him to discuss his son Raymond jnr's

Although the north Belfast man had hoped Tony Blair would meet
him, he welcomed the opportunity to raise the victims' issue with
the senior NIO official.

Crusading Mr McCord - who'll be joined at his meeting with Mr
Goggins by North Down MP Lady Sylvia Hermon - will discuss the
findings of Police Ombudsman Nuala O'Loan's controversial report.

He said: "I'm pleased Paul Goggins has agreed to meet me - I just
hope he doesn't fall asleep the same way Peter Hain did when he
met me!

"I had hoped to meet Tony Blair, but I think he's forgotten about
the O'Loan report into my son's case because he is leaving soon.

"I'll be giving Mr Goggins the names of these officers and it's
up to him to take appropriate action. So far, nothing has been
done about it.

"Victims still have a right to know why people were allowed to
kill while they were working as police informers.

"My son was murdered as a result of collusion and the Government
- just like the new Assembly - cannot be allowed to bury its head
in the sand over this issue."

Mr McCord says he will also name the high-ranking UVF informers
during the Troubles.

He added: "I know their names and I will give them to the
Government in the hope they do something about it.

" These people were paid huge amounts of money and we still
haven't been told the reason why this happened.

"I am confident that I will see the informers who murdered my son
in court, but this won't stop me from continuing to highlight the
issue of collusion."

c Belfast Telegraph


Paisley Remarks 'Were Homophobic'

A leading Presbyterian minister has criticised the DUP's Ian
Paisley Jnr for allegedly saying he was "repulsed" by

Speaking on BBC Radio Ulster's Sunday Sequence, Reverend Bobby
Liddle claimed Mr Paisley's remarks were "homophobic".

"I think his language was immoderate, I think it was unhelpful in
the debate," he said.

Mr Paisley, a junior minister in the NI Executive, made the
comments in an interview with Hot Press magazine.

Reverend Liddle is convenor of the church's social issues and
resources panel.

He has recently written a report on the issue of homophobia,
which will be discussed by the church's General Assembly on

Mr Paisley is quoted in the magazine as saying: "I am pretty
repulsed by gay and lesbianism. I think it is wrong.

"I think that those people harm themselves and - without caring
about it - harm society.

"That doesn't mean to say that I hate them. I mean, I hate what
they do."

The DUP has said there was no suggestion Mr Paisley's comments
were any form of discrimination.

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2007/06/03 11:25:15 GMT


Family Of Innocent Loyalist Feud Victim Reject UVF Chief's Offer
To Meet

[Published: Sunday 3, June 2007 - 09:58]
By Stephen Breen

The UVF godfather suspected of ordering the killing of innocent
loyalist feud victim Craig McCausland has offered to meet the
young man's family.

Sunday Life can reveal the top loyalist - the terror group's
commander in the Woodvale area - requested the meeting with
Craig's aunt, Cathy McIlvenny, earlier this month, through an

The paramilitary boss also passed a message to the family,
denying any involvement in Craig's killing during the bitter LVF-
UVF feud in July 2005.

But Mrs McIlvenny, whose sister and Craig's mum, Lorraine, was
murdered by the UDA in 1987, rejected the UVF leader's offer.

The west Belfast woman claims the terrorist has only offered to
meet the murder victim because he hopes to secure a highly-paid
job in the local community.

The Shankill-based hairdresser, who has raised her concerns with
Belfast City Council and the police, hit out at the terrorist for
requesting the meeting.

Said Mrs McIlvenny: "Why did this man not request this meeting
two years ago?

"Why is he only issuing these denials now?

" We are not afraid to meet him, but there's no point because he
will just tell us lies. We believe he ordered the murder of an
innocent person, because the police told us they believed he had.

"He is going for a big job now in the community and I think he is
worried because I have been contacting different people about
him, including the funders of various community posts.

"I am not trying to stop community groups, but important jobs
should be given to individuals who make a positive impact in the
areas - not someone who continues to intimidate and threaten

"This man wants a good job because his organisation has said that
their arms have been put beyond use.

"He wants to meet with us in a bid to prove he had nothing to do
with my nephew's killing, but we know the truth."

Sunday Life knows the name of the top terrorist, but cannot
publish it for legal reasons.

Police Ombudsman Nuala O'Loan is also investigating Craig's
killing over claims the gunmen were police informers.

Craig was one of four men murdered by the UVF in a six-week
killing spree in 2005.

Police have confirmed that he was not a member of any
paramilitary organisation.

It has been suggested he may have been targeted because he
refused to join the UVF.

c Belfast Telegraph


Split Fears As UVF Expels 60 In Mid-Ulster

[Published: Sunday 3, June 2007 - 09:46]
By Stephen Breen

More than 60 members of the UVF in mid-Ulster have been stood
down by the terror group, Sunday Life can reveal.

Senior security sources say the terrorists were forced to leave
on the orders of the UVF's Shankill-based 'chief of staff'.

Sources say they were booted out after questioning the
leadership's decision to put its arms "beyond use".

Those expelled include two high-ranking 'officers', two notorious
brothers from Banbridge and the UVF's leader in the Waringstown

Their number also includes former supporters of LVF mass murderer
Billy Wright.

Said a senior source: "There is some dissension within the UVF's
ranks in the mid-Ulster area over the direction the group has
taken and that's why the leadership has stepped in.

"Criminality is still ongoing in the area, but the Belfast-based
leaders are determined to put an end to it.

"A special meeting was held last month in which the members were
told they were being stood down. There was no discussion and it
was all over in minutes.

"A lot of the men didn't take it too well because many of them
believe there is still a threat from dissident republicans in the

" Nobody knows if the expelled members will form their own group
to continue with their criminality.

"These men were disobeying orders and other members have been
told that this will not be tolerated."

The UVF has instructed its members to end all their criminal
enterprises. Sources claim senior figures in north and east
Belfast have been told to " monitor" their members' activities
over the coming weeks.

Added a source: "The leadership has received some complaints
about the criminal actions of people with links to the UVF and
they are determined to stamp this behaviour out.

"They have been told to keep a close eye on people because the
leadership is sticking to its stance on keeping everyone behind
the one strategy."

c Belfast Telegraph


Hot on trail of two local cold cases

Authorities Unearth New Evidence In Crimes With Links To IRA,
1993 Brink's Robbery.

Gary Craig
Staff writer

June 3, 2007 4:55 am - Damien McClinton was finishing up his
shift at Genesee Brewery's northwest Rochester distribution
warehouse when someone fired six shots into his midsection, knee
and face, killing him.

That Dec. 3, 1987, slaying remains unsolved to this day.

Almost eight years later, Joseph "Ronnie" Gibbons, a retired
welterweight boxer, borrowed a car in Manhattan and drove to
Rochester. Here, he spent the night with a friend, drove to a
Greece restaurant the next morning, left the car and stepped into
another vehicle with two men.

Since Aug. 10, 1995, he has not been seen or heard from and is
presumed dead.

Gibbons' disappearance, like the McClinton slaying, is also

Now, Rochester police and State Police are reviving
investigations into the two "cold cases."

In a city with dozens of homicides annually, police have no
shortage of unsolved crimes to investigate. But these two cases
are uncommon, involving one of the largest robberies in the
country's history and rumors of connections with the Irish
Republican Army.

Police will say little about why they've reopened the cases.

Rochester police Lt. Michael Wood, who heads the department's
homicide investigative unit, would say only: "We have had some
recent developments (regarding evidence)."

State Police Lt. David Hennessy said recently that the State
Police unearthed some evidence in a different investigation that
they brought to Rochester police, prompting them to reopen the

Neither Hennessy nor Wood would provide specifics about the new
evidence. They did say, however, that in recent months police

Scoured the hundreds of pages of police reports and court files
connected to the cases.

Conducted more than a dozen interviews.

Reviewed what evidence can be submitted for state-of-the-art
forensic testing. "Things have changed in the last 20 years,
especially as far as science goes, and our evaluation of physical
evidence and our ability to link certain people to crime scenes,"
Wood said.

Researched claims by an incarcerated killer from Orleans County
that he knows where Gibbons' body is buried, as well as the
bodies of others who have no connection to these crimes. That man
has refused to provide specifics to police, and some authorities
think he's lying.

At first blush, the two crimes - McClinton's slaying and Gibbons'
vanishing - appear unconnected. And, in fact, the two men
apparently did not know one another. But there are common

Both McClinton and Gibbons shared a passionate Irish nationalism.

McClinton, an Irish immigrant, was once active in Irish political
organizations, and some Irish media outlets covered his slaying,
alleging that it could have been linked to militant groups such
as the Provisional Irish Republican Army.

Gibbons' roots also are Irish, though he lived in England before
moving to the United States in the early 1970s. Similarly, he had
ties to a crime that also prompted claims of IRA links: the 1993
robbery of the Brink's Inc. depot in Rochester.

Some authorities speculated that the $7.4 million robbery, then
the fifth largest of an armored car company in the United States,
provided funds to the IRA, although police provided no evidence
to support the allegations.

"There were certainly items that helped support (the theory),"
said retired FBI Special Agent William Dillon, one of those who
investigated the heist.

Gibbons was friends with one of the robbers, Samuel Ignatius
Millar, and also helped with the initial planning, according to a
2003 book Millar wrote after finishing a prison sentence for his
involvement in the crime.

Millar, who'd been jailed in the notorious Northern Ireland
prison Long Kesh for IRA-connected crimes, also knew McClinton.

Brewery slaying

McClinton, 38, was a father of four young daughters when he was
slain. He and his wife had separated. He'd remained here in
Greece while his estranged wife and his children returned to
Belfast, Ireland. A gregarious man, McClinton seemed to have few
if any enemies, which made his slaying all the more difficult to
understand - and to solve.

"He was my best friend, the life and soul of the party," said
Joanne McClinton, 35, who lives in Belfast and was 15 when her
father was slain. "He just loved to socialize and have a good

McClinton had a routine at the brewery that was predictable,
right down to his locking the gate of the 20 Ferrano St.
distribution center as he left in the evening, said retired
Rochester police Investigator William Mayer, who headed physical
crimes in 1987 and investigated the killing.

"My first thoughts were ... that it was an ambush, that it was
someone who knows him, knew his schedule and had planned it all
out beforehand," Mayer said. "It wasn't a robber."

Ultimately, police developed three theories: that a romantic
entanglement may have been the cause, that McClinton had angered
someone in the local Irish nationalist circles, or that an angry
drug dealer shot him because a friend of McClinton had fled town
owing a significant debt for drugs.

Each theory was investigated thoroughly but police were unable to
build a case, Mayer said.

Damien McClinton's brother, Brendan, said he thinks the claims of
IRA connections were specious, perhaps driven by the fact that
many of the people involved were fervent about Irish nationalism.

"I don't believe it," said Brendan, who lives in Henrietta.

What partly drove the allegations of IRA involvement with
McClinton's slaying was an episode in Belfast several years
before his killing, Brendan McClinton said. Then, Damien
McClinton's girlfriend was spotted in a club known as an IRA
stronghold with a family friend who, it turned out, worked for
the arch-enemies of the IRA - the Royal Ulster Constabulary
police force.

The girlfriend was unaware of the man's law enforcement job, as
was Damien, but some nationalists questioned their sympathies
afterward, Brendan McClinton said. Mayer confirmed he also
learned of this episode during the investigation.

Brendan McClinton, 64, said he hasn't given up hope that his
brother's killer will be found.

"It hurts to think that the person who did this can walk around."

Joanne McClinton said recently that for years she didn't want to
know about her father's slaying because "it wasn't going to bring
him back."

But now, she said, "I want closure. It makes me hopeful that they
have opened the case."

Brink's link

In January 1993, masked gunmen robbed the Brink's depot at 370
South Ave. of $7.4 million. Immediately, federal authorities and
police suspected an inside job and focused on one of the Brink's
guards, retired Rochester Police Officer Thomas F. O'Connor.

O'Connor, who lives in Irondequoit, did not reply to several
requests for comments for this story.

According to his admissions in court, O'Connor, who took great
pride in his Irish heritage, had met Samuel Millar about a decade
before and ultimately smuggled him into the United States through

O'Connor also knew McClinton. They'd both worked at the Genesee
Brewery, where O'Connor became a security guard after retiring
from the police force in 1982. O'Connor was questioned about
McClinton's slaying in 1987, but was never named as a suspect.

After months of investigation into the Brink's robbery, the FBI
arrested O'Connor and Millar, who by then had moved to Queens
where he ran a comic book store.

Also arrested and connected to the heist was the Melkite priest,
the Rev. Patrick Moloney, who ran a home for troubled youth in
Manhattan's lower east side.

As part of its Brink's investigation, authorities also subpoenaed
records of the local chapter of the Irish Northern Aid Committee.
NORAID maintained that its role was humanitarian - including
raising funds to help the families of jailed IRA members. British
authorities have contended that the organization sometimes
funneled weapons to the IRA.

A federal judge refused to allow the speculation of IRA
connections to be part of the prosecution case at the Brinks
trial. The seven-week trial in Rochester ended in November 1994,
with the jury convicting Millar and Moloney of possessing cash
from the heist, while acquitting O'Connor of all charges.

The authorities then knew nothing of Gibbons or any link he might
have had to the crime.

But Gibbons apparently decided that he was an integral part of
the planning for the heist, according to an interview with
Gibbons' close friend, Terry Quinn of New York City, and Millar's
book about the robbery, On The Brinks.

In August 1995, Gibbons told Quinn about the robbery and said he
was going to Rochester to get a cut of the $5 million that had
not been recovered by authorities.

Always long on charm but short of cash, Gibbons borrowed Quinn's
car and told him to call Gibbons' brother in Liverpool, England,
if he didn't come back.

He didn't come back.

"He didn't call me the next day," said Quinn, a New York City
firefighter who is the lead consultant on the FX television
series, Rescue Me. "Two days went by and he didn't call me. This
was unusual, especially since he had my car."

Eventually, Quinn called two of Gibbons' boxing friends. They
were able to retrace his steps to Rochester by finding Gary
Brown, a childhood friend of Gibbons' with whom Gibbons had spent
the night here. Brown said that Gibbons had asked for directions
to the Applebee's Neighborhood Grill & Bar in Greece the morning
he left, though Gibbons gave no information about why he was
going there.

The two friends of Gibbons drove to the Applebee's, found the car
abandoned in the parking lot, and popped the trunk open, Quinn
said. There they found some of Gibbons' papers and a pager he
typically carried.

"They were completely freaked out," Quinn said.

Quinn contacted Gibbons' family in England, and they alerted the
FBI. The FBI learned that Gibbons had been seen by an Applebee's
waitress getting into a car in the parking lot with two men, but
couldn't find further information.

But in 2004, more than eight years after the disappearance, an
Orleans County man, Gerald O'Connor, was scheduled to be
sentenced for murder, kidnapping and sodomy. On the eve of
sentencing, he told authorities that he'd helped Gibbons' killer
bury the body, according to Orleans County District Attorney
Joseph Cardone.

Gerald O'Connor, who is no relation to Thomas O'Connor, also said
he'd helped killers bury three other bodies in Orleans County
over the course of more than a decade. But he refused to lead
police to any of the supposed burial sites, prompting some
authorities to decide he'd lied in a desperate bid to get a
reduced sentence.

Gerald O'Connor, 69, maintained his innocence at trial; he is not
eligible for parole until 2049. He has refused to speak with the
Democrat and Chronicle about the allegations he made then.

Yearning for answers

Police are now investigating Gerald O'Connor's claims, as well as
any possible links between the McClinton slaying and the Gibbons

"We're exploring the relationships between these people,"
Rochester police Lt. Wood said.

Gibbons' mother, Margaret, 76, who lives in Liverpool, England,
said that authorities called the family years ago, when a body
washed ashore in Florida, but it turned out not to be her son.

"I told them, 'Please call when you know you've got the right

For years, she heard little about her son's disappearance, she
said. But recently she spoke by telephone with Rochester police
homicide Investigator William Lawler, a member of the team
looking into the cases, she said.

"It certainly cheered me."

Joanne McClinton recalls how much she looked forward to her
father's telephone calls when she was a teenager in Belfast. Her
family didn't have a phone, so they'd go to the home of a
neighbor, and her father would call there.

"My daddy never wrote," she said.

Several days after his death, however, she and her sisters got a
letter from him.

"We received this letter saying how much he missed us and how
much he couldn't wait to see us," she said.

She and her sisters treasure the letter, a reminder of the father
who didn't get to see them grow up.

And rarely, she said, does she not think of him - or wonder how
and why he died.

"I want answers."


The Lack Of The Irish

Long before baseball ruled this town, the quirky sports of Gaelic
football and hurling provided Irish arrivals with a vital link to
their homeland. But now, with fewer and fewer legal - and illegal
- immigrants washing ashore, these Gaelic games are in the fight
of their lives.

By Jeremy Miller June 3, 2007

As the sun is going down on a Saturday in March, three youngsters
- Jack Lynch, 12, of Weymouth, Joseph Kennedy, 12, of Milton, and
Jack Young, 10, of Walpole - kick a Gaelic football around an
empty playing field in Canton. In warm-up jackets zipped to their
chins, they cut and fake, as if to shake invisible defenders. One
delivers a pass by dropping the ball, which looks like a swollen
volleyball, from his hand to his instep. The other catches the
ball midstride, bounces it once like Paul Pierce on a drive into
the lane, and delivers a low, bending drop kick on goal that
caroms off the post. If I hadn't known what I was looking at, I'd
have thought this was a serendipitous game of childhood
imagination. But the sport is ancient, and it is thoroughly
Irish. Though Lynch, Kennedy, and Young were born in the United
States, all of them have Irish parents and have played Gaelic
football, a mix of soccer and rugby, since they were 5 or 6 years
old. They've also been playing hurling, which is similar to
lacrosse, for about as long.

"But are these games nearly as fun to play as, say, basketball,
soccer, or baseball?" I ask, expecting a conciliatory "No" in

"Oh, yeah," says Kennedy, the group's self-appointed spokesman.
"They're just different."

"Do any of your friends at school play them?" I press.

All three shake their heads. "No," says Kennedy, grinning coyly
at his mates. "I play hurling and Gaelic football with my Irish
friends." Then he drops the ball to the turf and delivers a kick
that snaps it into the net beyond Young's outstretched hands.

And there lies the challenge for those working to preserve
traditional Irish sports in Boston and other US cities. Twenty-
five years before ground was broken on Fenway Park, in 1886, the
first Gaelic football match was played on Boston Common. Since
its founding in 1884, the Boston Northeast Gaelic Athletic
Association has done more than organize these matches. It has
nourished and spread Irish culture and political viewpoints and
provided a critical economic and social safety net to new Irish
immigrants. "On a psychological level, it has been hugely
significant, particularly for those of a rural background coming
to a heaving, busy metropolis," says Paul Darby, a senior
lecturer in the School of Sports Studies at the University of
Ulster in Northern Ireland. Darby, who's working on a book about
the Gaelic Athletic Association in the United States and Canada,
came to Boston in the late 1990s as a guest player for the
Boston-based Armagh-Notre Dame club and experienced the
phenomenon firsthand. "It's tremendously reassuring to find a
group of like-minded people playing games you would have played
back home. In a way, it feels like coming home."

Not surprisingly, the GAA in Boston and other US cities depends
almost exclusively on Irish-born players to fill its rosters. But
today, the flow of Irish immigration to the United States is
ebbing. According to the Irish government, nearly 14,000 people,
most returning Irish emigrants, moved from the United States to
Ireland between 2000 and 2005. The Irish-born population in this
country dropped by 18 percent, to 128,000, between 2000 and 2004,
according to US Census figures. The Boston GAA, the largest
member league outside Ireland with 22 clubs, has seen an even
more precipitous decline. The league has lost nearly 700 players,
or 35 percent of its membership, since 1999.

As fear of summary deportation swirls in the wake of the New
Bedford raid and Irish immigrants box up their Massachusetts
homes and return to their native country for good, many in the
Boston GAA see the struggles of local sports clubs as a loosening
thread in the city's already fragile Irish tapestry. They find
themselves asking an ominous question at the start of the new
athletic season: Could this be the end for Irish sport in Boston?

A common misconception about Gaelic sports is that the "amateur"
label is synonymous with "laid-back." The stakes are high. The
athletes are fit. Play is crisp and - for lack of a better term -

In Gaelic football, played by both men and women, participants
carry the ball by hand and pass and shoot it by foot. Hurling and
its women's version, camogie, are played with ax-shaped wooden
sticks called "camains" and "camogs," which are used to strike a
hard leather ball called a "sliothar." The "Clack!" of clashing
sticks is to hurling what squeaking shoes are to basketball. The
devil is in the stickwork, says Fiona Gohery, a nanny from
Waltham who plays for the Brighton-based Eire Og Camogie team.
"The tough part of the game," she says, "is what seems basic -
learning to solo [balancing or bouncing the ball on the stick] or
simply getting the ball up off the ground with a load of
defenders around you."

While practices take place throughout metro Boston, all games are
played at the Irish Cultural Centre of New England in Canton.
Gaelic football, hurling, and camogie all use a playing field
more than twice the size of a standard American football field.
It has to be big to accommodate the long-range passes and driving
shots that careen like meteors toward the H-shaped goals at each
end. A whack of the sliothar or a kick of the football through
the upper crossbars is worth 1 point, a shot past the goalie on
the lower goal, 3. The games move frenetically - forward and
back, side to side - like marbles on the deck of a rolling ship.

US teams follow the same rules as those in Ireland, as all teams
in this country are overseen by an Irish governing body, the
Cumann Luthchleas Gael. Because of the smaller pool of players in
the United States, the games are played 13 to a side instead of
the traditional 15. The effect of fewer bodies on the massive
piece of real estate, says Gerry McKenna, coach and treasurer for
the Aidan McAnespie Gaelic Football Club in South Boston, is
similar to four-on-four penalty time in hockey. "It becomes a
much more offensive-minded game," he says. The McAnespies, clad
in the red and white of Ulster, know something about offense:
They've won Boston's senior Gaelic football championships the
last two years.

Christy Lynch, a greyhoundlike halfback for the McAnespies, says
he's noticed some distinct differences between football in Boston
and Ireland. "I think because of the intense rivalries here, the
games tend to be more rough and tumble," says Lynch, who arrived
in April from Belfast just to play for the club.

Ireland's former economic and political woes were long the North
American GAA's gain. For years, the league was able to lure top
Irish talent with the promise of employment. In the 1980s, during
the last great surge of Irish immigration to the United States,
unemployment in Ireland hovered near 17 percent. "If you go back
to the '80s and early '90s, Ireland was leaking 20,000 people,
officially, every year. That did not count the people who went
over on J-1s [temporary visas] and stayed illegally," says Mike
Cronin, academic director for Boston College's Centre for Irish
Programmes in Dublin. In the Irish-friendly milieu of metro
Boston, visiting players had little reason to fear serious
repercussions for overstaying their 90-day visas. Indeed, many
never went back.

But the combination of post-9/11 scrutiny and an unprecedented
era of Irish prosperity, political cohesion, and self-assuredness
has made it increasingly difficult to get top Irish players to
join American clubs. Today, according to United Nations figures,
Ireland has the world's third-highest per-capita income. Northern
Ireland's two rival factions, Sinn Fein and the Democratic
Unionist Party, have met in a power-sharing assembly. Earlier
this year, rugby and soccer, long-banned English games, were
played for the first time at Dublin's Croke Park, the epicenter
of Irish sport.

Boston, in turn, has come to be seen as craggy terrain for
illegals. Stories of undercover agents staking out Boston pubs,
spurned lovers placing calls to immigration services, and minor
traffic infractions escalating to full-blown deportation
proceedings color local conversation.

Nevertheless, some players still make the journey. Those who
successfully navigate the US Customs Service and the league's
rigid visiting-player system get royal treatment, says Connie
Kelly, an ursine Belmont man who's promoted Gaelic sports in
Boston for almost 40 years and is the spokesman for the
Dorchester-based Kerry Gaelic Football Club. "We pick them up at
the airport. We put them up in an apartment. We get them a good
job." For the best players, it can become an outright bidding
war. "Say we've got our eye on a player. Well, there are eight
other clubs that are interested in him as well. The minute they
hear Johnny is coming over to play, they call and ask, 'What's
Kerry offerin' ya?' " says Kelly. "It's just like the Red Sox and
Yankees." The Boston GAA, he adds, is well connected; many
coaches and managers are also local contractors, pub owners, or
restaurateurs. That top players have been offered cash incentives
by clubs in cities such as Boston, New York, San Francisco, and
Chicago, however, has been a source of great friction. GAA rules
are clear: The league is amateur, and players are not to get
paid. "These inducements," says Darby, the University of Ulster
professor, "have heightened the underlying tension between the
GAA in Ireland and the US." Fergal McNeill, spokesman for the GAA
in Dublin, says the topic of player payments by US clubs was
discussed this April at a GAA congress meeting in Dublin. "I
think," says McNeill, "we've come to an understanding on the

Amid the changes at home and abroad, the average GAA player in
Boston has also undergone a shift. "It's a generalization to say
all the guys that play GAA are working construction," says hurler
and civil engineer Fergal Brennock, who lives in Watertown and
plays for the Galway Hurling club of Boston. "Many are highly
educated - computer programmers and engineers. The guys that come
over to play are not all desperate for work anymore." McNeill
says this has to do with the rapid modernization that has taken
place in Ireland. "Ireland has changed, and so has the makeup of
the players in the GAA."

While the men's teams are struggling to cope with the lack of
players, the Boston GAA's women's clubs, says league secretary
Sharon O'Brien, have begun to adjust. O'Brien, a nanny who has a
cherubic face and a subtly devious smile, lives in Arlington and
plays Gaelic football and camogie for the Brighton-based Tir na
Nog and Eire Og clubs. They have successfully recruited players
from local university rugby teams and city soccer leagues,
O'Brien tells me over an afternoon pint at the Banshee Pub in
Dorchester. (Although that day the Red Sox are facing the Angels
at Fenway, Schilling on the hill, the TV above us stays
faithfully tuned to the test pattern of Setanta, the Irish sports
network.) "Almost all of the men playing are Irish," she says.
"But the women's teams are much more diverse. We have Chinese,
black, and Latina women out there." A mere 7 percent of the
players on Boston's men's teams are American-born; that figure
jumps to more than 25 percent in the women's league.

The men's league's intense focus on luring top talent from
Ireland, say youth league officials in Boston, has coincided with
neglect of local youth programs. "We've spent too much time
feeding the head while letting the body starve," says youth coach
Martin Bannon, of Hyde Park. Still, there have been some efforts,
including demonstrations of Gaelic sports at schools and Irish
events around the country. Larry McCann, a no-nonsense Ulsterman
who first came to New York City in the 1970s as a Gaelic
footballer and now lives in Hanson and works as a youth league
chairman, says his group signed up 40 boys and girls at this
year's St. Patrick's Day parade in South Boston. "These games are
a thread of Irish life," he says. "But we've got to figure out
how to get American kids excited about them."

While Gaelic football can be picked up later in life, hurling and
camogie have a more specialized skill set. To master them, in
most cases, you must be exposed to them at an early age. Hurling
and camogie's sticks are swung in impossibly close quarters, and
you must learn to step into the swing of the opposing player. If
you don't, it's only a matter of time before a stick catches you
full force in the jaw. "You've got to start by age 7," says
Michael O'Connor, of Milton, the North American GAA's youth
officer. "If you don't develop these instincts at an early age,
you'll never play."

Unless interest can be generated among American youth, says
O'Connor, hurling and camogie will disappear in the United
States. (Gaelic football appears less threatened.) Sharon O'Brien
says that six years ago, eight all-Irish camogie teams played in
the United States; now there are only five teams and, of those,
only three are all-Irish (the other two, based in Milwaukee and
Washington, D.C., have all American players). The New York GAA
has lost five hurling teams in the last five years, and Boston is
expected to lose one this year.

"The games and the [Irish] community are interdependent," says
Boston GAA youth officer Frank Hogan, of Westwood. "When the
leagues suffer, the community suffers." Gaelic sports are, at
their core, a resounding expression of Irishness. "Being a member
of the GAA has traditionally been tied up with a political act,"
says Cronin of Boston College. "It is a statement." While the
North American GAA, historically, has exploited Irish talent,
Ireland has exploited the financial resources and nationalist
sentiments of the North American GAA. "Nationalists in Ireland
recognized that in order to be successful in their broader
political objectives, they'd need the help and finances of the
Irish diaspora," says Darby of the University of Ulster. He's
found evidence in the Irish-American press that the GAA
participated directly in fund-raising for the Easter Rising in
1916. This trend reemerged in the 1970s through the early 1990s,
says Darby, when GAA events were used as fund-raising
opportunities by members of Irish Northern Aid, an American
organization that sent money to the families of political
prisoners and, many believe, the IRA.

But now, out of necessity, the Boston GAA's political gaze has
shifted away from Ireland and to domestic affairs. The league
backs changes in US immigration laws, including increased
opportunities to legalize undocumented immigrants already here.
"The GAA was the canary in a coal mine for the Irish immigration
issue," says Kelly Fincham, director of the New York City-based
Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform. "That's why they've been so
receptive to our efforts."

Indeed, the GAA has emerged as the movement's de facto ground
force. At an Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform rally on a snowy
afternoon in March, a raucous crowd crammed into a stuffy banquet
hall in Washington, D.C. They came to hear Senate headliners Ted
Kennedy, Hillary Clinton, and Chuck Schumer pledge support for a
now-defunct bipartisan immigration bill sponsored by Senators
John McCain and Kennedy. According to organizer estimates, about
90 percent of those attending from Boston were affiliated with
the Boston GAA. Above the stage, a few green balloons tucked
themselves into the crevices of a massive ceiling fixture made of
sharp glass. An Irish rock band led a rowdy version of the 19th-
century famine ballad "The Fields of Athenry." A close inspection
of the crowd revealed a motley array of Gaelic sports jerseys
peeking out from under white T-shirts that read

Like the legendary road to Dublin, the path through Washington to
immigration reform will be a rocky one. But it's a fight the
Boston GAA and Connie Kelly, the Kerry club spokesman, can't
imagine losing. "We'd better get a handle on this soon, or else
we'll find we've lost a whole generation of players," says Kelly,
striding in Kerry green and gold as the sun sets on the empty
fields of Canton. "If we don't, we're extinct."

c Copyright 2007 The New York Times Company


Pope To Canonise New Irish Saint Today

03/06/2007 - 11:10:41

Pope Benedict is to canonise a new Irish Saint in St Peter's
Square in Rome.

President McAleese will attend the ceremony in the Vatican.

Blessed Charles of Mount Argus was born in the Netherlands, but
became known for his holiness in south Dublin in the late 19th

Before that, he also helped Irish people in England, who were
fleeing famine in the 1850s.

He is the first Irish Saint to be canonised since Saint Oliver
Plunkett in 1975.

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