30 April 2005

RTE News

New pedestrian bridge for Dublin

30 April 2005 20:24

Free Image Hosting at www.ImageShack.us
Click to view - Ha'Penny Bridge, Dublin - Painting by Mary McSweeney - 'The Ha'penny bridge, with Bachelors Walk in the background is the oldest pedestrian bridge over the river Liffey and was opened in 1816. Accepted as the symbol of Dublin, it acquired it's unofficial moniker from the one half-penny toll paid to cross the river'. Source: Mary McSweeney's Online Gallery, which is well worth a visit.

A new pedestrian bridge over the River Liffey in Dublin is being hoisted into place this evening.

The 320 tonne bridge, which will be located east of the Matt Talbot Bridge, is made up of two sections which will swing open to allow boats to pass through.

The first section is currently being put in place. The second section will be put in place tomorrow.

It is being hoisted into place by the 'Mersey Mammoth', the largest marine crane in Europe.

The bridge is due to be officially opened in June.


When Ireland Starved: An Gorta Mór, The Great Hunger: Irish Famine Curriculum

by James Vincent MuIlin, BA, M.Ed, MLS

'James Vincent MuIlin prepared the first state-approved Irish Famine Curriculum in the nation in 1996. He is a highly regarded Irish Scholar'.

The curriculum links and free Adobe Reader download can be accessed >>>Here.

**Special thanks to Seán McNulty

Belfast Telegraph

Shot boy Darragh showing signs of recovery

By Deborah McAleese
30 April 2005

THE five-year-old Fermanagh school boy who was shot in his school grounds is no longer in a critical condition, it was confirmed today.

But little Darragh Somers remained seriously ill at the Royal Hospital for Sick Children this morning.

A spokeswoman for the hospital said: "The clinical team has said that Darragh is more stable. His condition has now been described as seriously ill, but stable. He is no longer critical."

Yesterday Darragh woke briefly and responded to his mother Janine.

A PSNI spokesman said: "Darragh was awake for a time and responded to his mother. While his condition has slightly improved he is still very ill."

Darragh was shot in the head while playing in the grounds of St Patrick's Primary School in Mullinaskea.

According to family priest Fr John Halton, the local community has greatly welcomed the news of a slight improvement in Darragh's condition.

He said: "It is great news, but it is still early days. The community is praying for Darragh and his family. We are very hopeful, but the child is still seriously ill. However, every little bit of progress is good news."

Detectives are hoping that news of some progress in Darragh's condition may result in new information coming to light.

"Police would appeal to anyone who has not yet contacted them to come forward," a PSNI spokesman said.

The responsibility for the shooting has been a mystery, with initial speculation that he was struck by a stray bullet from a hunter's gun.

Police have appealed for the owner of a dark blue Toyota four-by-four seen at the school just before the shooting to get in touch.


City homes are damaged in attacks

Police have appealed for information after four houses in north Belfast were damaged in early morning attacks.

Two houses in Twaddell Avenue had their windows smashed at about 0100 BST. Two other homes in the street had paint thrown at them.

A couple in their 80s live in one of the houses. Frank McAuley whose home was targeted said five youths were seen running in the direction of Ardoyne.

He said he could not understand why his home had been attacked.

"There's only one question I would like to ask these people: 'Why come over and annoy pensioners who do no harm?'," he said.

"If they could answer that question we would be quite happy.

"My house has been attacked on numerous occasions, my vehicle has been attacked on numerous occasions.

"We just want to live in peace here."

Police have appealed for anyone with information about the attacks to contact officers at the Tennent Street station or use the Crimestoppers line.


PSNI probe vote fraud allegation

Police in Dungannon are investigating an allegation of electoral fraud in connection with postal and proxy voting applications.

It is understood the police probe was launched after concerns were raised by the Electoral Office.

Meanwhile, the Alliance Party has complained to the police about phoney leaflets which bear the party's colours and urge voters to back the UUP.

The Ulster Unionist Party has distanced itself from the leaflets.

Alliance leader David Ford is blaming a "dirty tricks campaign designed to help the UUP".

"Many people have told us that they have received a leaflet printed in Alliance colours of yellow and blue, headed 'Thinking of Voting Alliance'," he said.

"It is clearly intended to confuse Alliance supporters."

'Absent votes'

Meanwhile, a record number of voters in Northern Ireland have applied for "absent votes" for the 5 May poll.

More than 33,000 applications have been received from people who claim they cannot vote in person.

The figure includes both postal and proxy votes and is about 10,000 up on the 2004 European election and the 2003 assembly election.

Voters can claim an absent vote due to sickness, if they have to be away on business or are going on holiday.

But the late spring election date of 5 May is well outside Northern Ireland's main holiday season of June to August.

Despite this, Northern Ireland's electoral authorities are reportedly fairly confident there will be a low incidence of fraud related to the postal votes.

There has been a wave of concern about fraud in other parts of the UK.

However, the electoral fraud laws enable the authorities in Northern Ireland to scrutinise an applicant's signature and to check their date of birth and national insurance number against their database.


Some parties believe there still may be some loopholes.

The SDLP say they have come across cases of people who have given what they believed was a postal application form to a political party, but have then found the form switched to an application for a proxy vote, to be cast by another person.

The Electoral Office placed adverts in Northern Ireland's local newspapers on Friday telling people how to use their postal votes and warning them to keep their papers safe and secret.

Chief Electoral Officer Dennis Stanley said his office strove to ensure that absent voting was not exploited.

"We are always concerned about fraud," he said.

"We want to keep as vigilant as possible, and we want to make sure every person has the opportunity to cast their vote in a fair and free way and that no-one interferes with it, so absent voting is a particular area we pay attention to."

The votes have to be returned by 2200 BST on polling day.

Although there is no breakdown by seat of how many absent votes have been applied for in each constituency, the counting centres have the following figures:

- 3,264 between the four Belfast seats

- 7,692 between Upper Bann, Newry and Armagh, South Down and Lagan Valley

- 9,819 between West Tyrone and Fermanagh South Tyrone

- 1,534 between East Antrim and South Antrim

- 5,350 between North Antrim and Mid-Ulster

- 4,000 between Foyle and East Londonderry

- 1,784 between Strangford and North Down.

29 April 2005

::: u.tv :::

Via IRA2

Shoukri barred from Belfast

FRIDAY 29/04/2005 15:20:31

Alleged terrorist chief Ihab Shoukri will be released from jail when he has found a suitable address, a judge said today.

However, Belfast Crown Court Judge Derick Rodgers barred Shoukri from entering Belfast, Bangor or Newtownabbey and from physically being with his brother Andre, but allowed the pair to talk on the phone.

Earlier prosecuting lawyer Geoffrey millar told him that while the Crown opposed his bail application, "we have to take a reflective view" that he has been in custody for almost a year in total with very little prospect of his case getting to trial before the new term in September.

Shoukri, 31, from Alliance Road in north Belfast, denies charges of being a member of the outlawed UDA and UFF on February 1, 2003.

Giving evidence to the court, Detective Sergeant Irvine said the police believe Shoukri "is a high ranking member of the UDA", adding that if he were alowed back into Belfast "it could lead to the intimidation of witnesses".

The officer told the court that police would make a list of the people, including alleged murderer William `Mo` Courtney that Shoukri would be barred from contacting.


Shot boy 'responds to his mother'

Darragh Somers "responded to his mother" in hospital

There has been a slight improvement in the condition of Darragh Somers, who was shot in the head in his school playground last week.

The five-year-old was awake for a time on Friday and responded to his mother. However, he remains critically ill.

Darragh was hit by a .22 bullet last Friday at a Fermanagh school. It is thought he was shot accidentally by someone shooting in nearby fields.

Police want anyone with information who has not yet come forward to do so.

Earlier this week, police urged the person who shot the child to consider contacting them through a clergyman.

Detective Chief Inspector Nigel Kyle said police were following a definite line of inquiry.

Police are understood to be examining 45 rifles as part of their investigation.


Ballistics experts are looking at legally held guns handed in by local people.

Police said they believed the shooting was an accident.

However, they said they may revise that theory if the person responsible did not come forward soon.

Police are investigating a report that someone was firing shots at a dog worrying sheep near the school.

They are also trying to trace a dark blue Toyota seen in the vicinity of the school at the time of the shooting.

They also want to locate a red pick-up truck which was seen near the school with a dead calf in the back, and a dark maroon coloured van.

Darragh is currently being treated in the Royal Belfast Hospital for Sick Children.

An Phoblacht

New Short Strand mural

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East Belfast Sinn Féin candidate in the forthcoming elections, Deborah Devenny, has called on the people of the Short Strand to came out and show their support at a rally and mural unveiling this Sunday at 2pm on the Mountpottinger Road.

The unveiling of the mural and plaque dedicated to the ten 1981 republican Hunger Strikers and local Volunteers has been organised by the Short Strand Commemoration Committee.

The main speaker at the event will be North Kerry TD Martin Ferris and the unveiling will be carried out by local republican Rita Fitzsimmons.

An Phoblacht

Kelly family anger as probe cop is reassigned

The top English police officer seconded from the West Midlands force to reinvestigate the 1974 killing of Independent Nationalist Councillor Patsy Kelly, has returned to England.

PSNI sources confirmed that Detective Superintendent Andrew Hunter has been released from his post to return to work in the West Midlands

Now the Kelly family is saying that this latest investigation will be closed again without anyone being charged.

Previous investigations have been hampered because vital evidence went missing and RUC files were lost.

Kelly's brother Peter, commenting on this latest development, said: "That's it. It is all over for us. We have said it from the start and we will say it again, we had no confidence in any police investigation and as far as I'm concerned, this result just proves it."

The RUC reopened the case in 1993 but those investigations led nowhere and in 2002, when the PSNI indicated it would reopen the investigation, the Kelly family rejected this and, demanding an independent inquiry, went to the High Court. However, their case was dismissed.

Patsy Kelly, a 33-year-old Independent member of Omagh District Council, was ambushed and shot as he returned home from the bar he managed in Trillick, County Tyrone, on 24 July 1974. His body was discovered by fishermen three weeks later in Lough Eyes in County Fermanagh. He had been shot four times.

There has always been strong evidence to suggest local UDR members were involved in the killing and the Kelly family has accused the RUC of colluding with the UDR to protect the killers.

In 1999, former UDR soldier David Jordan broke down in a bar and admitted he was there when Kelly was killed. He also named other UDR men who, he said, carried out the killing.

Daily Ireland

Campaign moves to London to highlight McBride injustice

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Thirteen years after he was murdered by the British army in the New Lodge area of north Belfast, the name of teenager Peter McBride is echoing through the 2005 Westminster election campaign in the heart of London.
The 18-year-old Mr McBride was shot in the back on September 4, 1992 by members of a Scots Guards patrol.
Two soldiers — Mark Wright and James Fisher — were subsequently convicted of his murder.
After receiving early release, both men were readmitted to the British army by a Ministry of Defence board on the grounds of “exceptional circumstances”.
They still remain employed on active duty by the British army, despite the fact that the High Court in Belfast has twice concluded that the circumstances of their case are not exceptional.
With the support of the Derry-based Pat Finucane Centre, Mr McBride’s family has waged a campaign to have both murderers thrown out of the British army.
A key development in that campaign took place last week when Mr McBride’s sister Kelly met London Mayor Ken Livingstone and Yasmin Qureshi, the Labour Party parliamentary candidate for Brent East.
Brent East, in the northwest of London, has the largest concentration of Irish citizens voting in any of the city’s constituencies.
The object of last week’s meeting was to garner support for the McBride family’s latest campaign initiative.
Essentially, the family wants to change the law during the next term of parliament so that anyone convicted of a serious offence such as murder, rape or torture is automatically expelled from the British army.
Kelly McBride stood in a by-election for Brent East 18 months ago to raise the profile of her family’s plea for justice. Paul O’Connor of the Pat Finucane Centre accompanied Ms McBride to London last week.
Speaking to Daily Ireland yesterday, Mr O’Connor said that Brent East was an appropriate place to launch what is being dubbed the Article 7 Campaign.
The campaign gets its name from Article 7 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which begins: “All are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to equal protection of the law.”
Mr O’Connor said: “Because the Ministry of Defence keeps ignoring court judgments and moving the goalposts, we have come up with a relatively simple idea that is about 200 years out of date — that someone convicted of a very serious offence such as murder, rape or torture should be automatically dismissed from the British army.
“It’s similar to proposing that children would not be sent down the mines, and that’s why one would naturally think that this provision would be in the law. Britain is the only European country that allows convicted murderers to be retained in the army.
“The final straw was that General Mike Jackson — the head of the British army and someone who sat on the MOD board which permitted Fisher and Wright to be retained — and the Prime Minister apologised to the Iraqi people for the behaviour of British soldiers who they said were responsible for bringing disgrace to the British army there and who were dismissed. By implication, Wright and Fisher did not bring the British army into disgrace when they murdered Peter McBride.
“Basically, we’re asking the question: Do you believe that the law in Britain should be changed so that anyone convicted of murder, rape or torture should be automatically expelled from the armed forces? It’s a very hard one for them to argue against,” said Mr O’Connor.
Campaigners are now hoping to tap into London’s Muslim communities and the significant opposition to the war against Iraq to bring about a change in the law.
Ken Livingstone’s office is also including information about the campaign in a mayoral newspaper circulated to 3.5 million people throughout London.
On account of Yasmin Qureshi’s pledge to seek to introduce the new legislation, she has received the backing of the Irish community in London.
“Mark Wright and Jim Fisher shot 18-year-old Peter McBride in the back after they had searched him and knew him to be unarmed. In anyone’s book, that was murder,” she said.
“They served just a few years for this crime and were readmitted into the army. I believe it is right to kick anyone found guilty of abusing prisoners out of the army and it is equally right that those found guilty of murdering civilians in Ireland can have no place in the army.
“I will give my full support to Peter McBride’s family’s campaign and raise it in parliament and directly with the government.”
Kelly McBride told Daily Ireland yesterday that her family was “very, very grateful to Yasmin and Ken Livingstone, as well as Sarah Tether, the Liberal Democrat who holds the seat.
“They’ve been very supportive of our family.
“What many people seem to forget is that this is an ongoing injustice. As of today, April 27, 2005, the two people who murdered my brother remain in the British armed forces and we’re going to keep pushing this campaign.
“The next thing will be a large public meeting in London and an appeal to people concerned about the Iraq situation to support this change in the law,” Ms McBride said.
Prominent Irish-American lobby groups have already mobilised over other aspects of the campaign to have Peter McBride’s murderers thrown out of the British army.
The latest initiative on this side of the Atlantic will ensure that the injustice in Peter McBride’s case continues to be a thorn in the side of the British government.

Sinn Féin

Real and lasting peace is the most important issue facing the Irish people today

Launch of Westminster election manifesto

Click on above link and then download the .pdf file

Daily Ireland

‘Help all Church abuse victims’

Victims of child abuse have called for an Irish government compensation scheme to be extended to the North.
The call comes after Daily Ireland revealed last week that up to 12,000 people who suffered sexual, physical and emotional abuse in church and state-run institutions from the 1920s until the 1970s have yet to come forward to seek compensation.
In the late 1990s, several religious orders and organisations paid large amounts of cash into a fund which was then redistributed to the victims of abuse throughout the Redress Board.
A legal firm representing Irish victims who now live abroad says those who qualify for compensation should make themselves known before December this year or risk losing out on compensation.
Last night a victim of abuse at a church-run facility in Derry City called for the Irish government’s Redress Board’s remit to be extended to cover those who suffered in church-run facilities north of the Border.
For decades, thousands of children were cared for in Catholic Church-run facilities across the North. Many of the religious orders who were forced to contribute cash in the Republic also ran facilities in the North.
The Derry-based abuse victim, who does not wish to be named, suffered a horrific catalogue of sexual and physical abuse at the hands of several nuns and older residents over an 11-year period at Sisters of Nazareth-run Termonbacca care home outside Derry City.
“I contacted the legal firm that is calling on victims to come forward and they told me they could not represent people who were not in institutions within the Republic of Ireland.
“I was a bit surprised because this order was an all-ireland order. These religious groups were forced to pay into a fund to help compensate people who suffered at their hands but it all seems to end at the Border. I think the remit of the Redress Board should be extended north to cover the victims of abuse here.”
The man, who is now in his 50s, was resident at the notorious Termonbecca centre for 11 years from 1953 until 1964.
“I know of four men who were there when I was there who have taken their own lives in the years since.
“It wasn’t just the nuns who physically abused us but they appointed prefects, usually older boys to look after the younger ones, and they also abused us.
“The abuse I suffered was both physical and sexual and we couldn’t tell the nuns what the people they had appointed to take care of us were doing.
“I still see one of my abusers walking free around the streets of Derry.
“It’s not really about the money it’s as much about letting people we know exist.”
Director of the One in Four support group Colm O’Gorman says it is unlikely that the Southern government will extend the remit of the Redress Board.
“The biggest problem here is that the Irish government has no responsibility for homes in the North of Ireland,” said Colm.
“When someone was placed in residential care they became a ward of the state which meant that the state had responsibility for them. But the point that this man raises is very important. The industrial school system was established when the Republic was under British rule and the British abolished them long before they were abolished in Ireland.
“This issue has not been dealt with in the North of Ireland. At one point in 2001 over 90 per cent of British police forces were carrying out investigations into care homes but this did not happen in the North.
“There are a number of other avenues the victims of abuse can take in the North. Although based in Dublin we are happy to help anyone on either side of the border.”
To contact One in Four call (00 353) 16624070 or visit their website www.oneinfour.ie.

Daily Ireland

The roundabout stops for Mickey

A Belfast man immortalised in a famous Irish song died peacefully at his home in the west of the city yesterday.
Mickey Marley, of Mickey Marley’s Roundabout fame, was found dead at his home at Roden Street.
Originally from the Markets area of south Belfast, Mr Marley was made famous by the Barnbrack song .
Throughout the 1960s, 70s and 80s he toured Belfast, particularly those areas worst affected by Troubles-related violence, with his horse-drawn roundabout.
This led to local singer Bobby Hanvey recording the song 'Mickey Marley’s Roundabout', which was covered and became a hit for Barnbrack in 1983.
Barnbrack guitarist and vocalist Alex Quinn has fond memories of Mr Marley.
He recalled: “Mickey was a great wee character, a true Belfastman. He would travel the city with the roundabout and the kids loved to see him walking up their street. They would literally flock to that roundabout.”
Mr Quinn revealed that a section of the Mickey Marley’s Roundabout song was deliberately written to poke fun at him.
He said: “Part of the lyric goes, ‘If you haven’t got a penny and your ma’s gone out, you can still get on his roundabout’.
“Nothing could be further from the truth. Mickey would have chased you if you tried to get on the roundabout for nothing.
“He had this wee Jack Russell dog with him all the time, and like Mickey it took no nonsense.
“He was a great laugh and I will really miss him.”
Mr Marley’s fame, prompted by the song in his honour, led to him appearing at Barnbrack concerts in Belfast’s Arts Theatre and Grand Opera House.
“He would come on stage when we were in the middle of the song and get the biggest cheer of the night,” Alex Quinn said.
“Mickey was more popular than the band.
“We would wind him up and ask where he kept all his money. He would answer in the roughest Belfast accent, ‘In Monte Carlo, what’s it to you?’
“With Mickey’s death Belfast has lost a real character.”

Daily Ireland

SF hits out at Orde

PSNI Chief Constable Hugh Orde has once again been accused of making a “political intervention” after he told reporters that IRA activity is continuing.
“We know they are still recruiting, they still target, they still carry out the activities that they have always done with the exception of actually going out to kill soldiers, police, civilians, members of the public,” Mr Orde said in Belfast.
Mr Orde, however, said that it is his view that “the Provisional IRA are not going back to an armed struggle”.
“That is my current assessment. They have the capability. They have the capacity.
The Chief Constable’s comments come exactly one week before the general and local elections in the North.
Dismissing Mr Orde’s intervention as “political”, Sinn Féin general secretary Mitchel McLaughlin said his party “will not allow Hugh Orde, or anyone else, to distract us from our efforts to rebuild the political process and see the recent initiative by Gerry Adams built upon”.
“At a time when those of us in the leadership of Sinn Féin are concentrating on rebuilding the political process and following on from confirmation that the IRA have authorised a discussion on its future direction, nationalists and republicans will view Hugh Orde’s comments as yet another political intervention from the PSNI,” Mr Laughlin said.
“When Hugh Orde took over the reins of the PSNI he told us that he would not mix policing with politics.
“Unfortunately on a number of occasions he has insisted on making very overt political interventions.
“Given the fact that these latest remarks come in the midst of an election campaign and at a time when the initiative by Gerry Adams offers the prospect of forward movement in the political process, many questions will be raised about the intentions of the PSNI in the time ahead,” Mr McLaughlin said.


Sinn Fein's manifesto challenges

The Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams

Sinn Fein has laid down challenges for the two governments and unionists if the IRA decides to abandon the "armed struggle" for purely political means.

Launching their election manifesto, party president Gerry Adams also called for the British government to move on policing and justice issues.

He said unionists in Northern Ireland must accept equality and human rights.

Mr Adams also said the Irish government would have to address what he called "the united Ireland agenda".

The party's manifesto, published on Friday, called for the scaling down of military bases and the Army's presence in Northern Ireland.

It claimed it was unacceptable that, eight years after the Good Friday Agreement, more British troops were in the province than in Iraq.

The party stressed the importance of transferring responsibility for policing and justice from Westminster to the next government at Stormont.

Sinn Fein also said in the event of the powers being devolved, Gerry Adams would recommend to his national executive that a special party conference be held, but only once the British government had enacted new policing legislation.

The main points of the Sinn Fein manifesto include:

--Repealing anti-terror legislation

--Setting up a proper inquiry into alleged security force collusion with loyalists in the 1989 murder of Belfast solicitor Pat Finucane

--Rejecting water charges in Northern Ireland and privatisation of services

--Increasing capital gains tax for owners of several homes, a 50% tax band for incomes in excess of £100,000, removing the low-paid out of the tax net

--Seeking a green paper from the Irish government setting out its strategy for a united Ireland, with a minister of state appointed in Dublin to oversee this

--Economic planning for Irish unity such as the development of a common currency throughout the island and a harmonised tax regime

--Seeking participation for Northern Ireland's 18 MPs in the Irish Republic's parliament and senate

--Additional funding for small rural primary schools to keep them open, expanding the school breakfast programme and after-schools clubs

--Ending academic selection with all-ability comprehensive schools for 11 to 18-year-olds

--Extending student loans and grants programmes, abolishing top-up fees and establishing an Irish language higher education sector

--Creating a minister for children at Stormont and increasing the level of child benefit

--Moving towards an all-Ireland health service

--Introducing a properly resourced waste management strategy based on reduction, reuse and recycling, rejecting incineration to dispose of waste

--Introducing early retirement schemes in farming, the lifting of the beef export ban in Brussels and the removal of UK status from food exports from Northern Ireland

--Creating a commissioner for the Irish language in Northern Ireland and a commissioner for senior citizens.

Irish Health.com

Fetal alcohol warning

[Posted: Fri 29/04/2005]

The Irish Government needs to increase its efforts in the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, according to a researcher in the field.

Prof Susan Ryan, Fulbright Scholar at TCD, stated that Fetal Alcohol Syndrome is the biggest cause of non-genetic intellectual disability in the western world and the only one that is 100% preventable.

Statistics show that Fetal Alcohol Syndrome occurs in three to six of every 1,000 live births, according to research conducted by the Center for Disease Control in the USA.

Applying this research to Ireland, there could be 177 to 354 babies born each year with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome.

"These figures could be as high as 1,770 if all the alcohol related neurological disorders were included. The effects of maternal consumption of alcohol on the baby can include physical abnormalities, behavioural and learning disabilities. Prevention efforts by society and the Government would change these statistics", said Prof Ryan.

"There is a critical need for society in Ireland to address the growing culture of binge drinking among young women," stressed Prof. Ryan.

"Binge drinking can cause risks to the unborn child. No amount of alcohol has been proven safe during pregnancy. Alcohol consumption during pregnancy can cause Fetal Alcohol Syndrome. The children in Ireland affected by alcohol need services and supports".

Prof Ryan was speaking on the occasion of Dr Kieran O'Malley of the University of Washington, Seattle giving a presentation in Trinity. Dr O'Malley is a child and adolescent psychiatrist from Belfast.

He has worked with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder patients for 15 years in Canada and the USA. His presentation was organised by the National Institute for the Study of Learning Difficulties, TCD, in collaboration with FAS Ireland.


Looking for Lisa

Her death came just weeks after the murder of Robert McCartney, but while his killing made headlines worldwide, Lisa Dorrian has been forgotten. Was she the victim of Loyalist paramilitaries as many believe? And where is her body? Angelique Chrisafis investigates

Friday April 29, 2005
The Guardian

Ballyhalbert holiday caravan park, according to the sign in front a cluster of grey mobile homes decorated with plastic swans and hanging baskets, "Is a whole new way of life!"

This is the most easterly village in Northern Ireland, where the Scottish hills loom across a narrow stretch of sea and "Christ died for our sins" beams down from the wall of the Gospel Hall. There was a pub here once, but the lady in Ballyhalbert's only shop can't even remember when it closed. A shred of rotting union flag bunting clings to a telegraph pole. Even the red, white and blue paint on the kerbstones that tells you that Ballyhalbert is Protestant and proud of it is chipped and fading.

In the slightly snobbish hierarchy of caravanning on the Ards peninsula of County Down, this pebble-dashed village is a decent place without the rough "Shankill-sur-mer" connotations of other holiday sites nearby.

So when Lisa Dorrian, a smiley and impressionable 25-year-old sandwich shop worker from up the coast at Bangor, told her parents she was off there for the weekend with a new crowd of friends, they didn't think anything of it. It was late February. She had split up with a long-term boyfriend before Christmas and had met a new crowd. She was deeply into fashion and was wearing her white furry moonboots.

But Lisa never returned from the caravan park. Police believe she was murdered, and two months on, despite extensive land and sea searches, her body hasn't been found. It is widely believed she was murdered by the Loyalist Volunteer Force, the most volatile and unpredictable loyalist paramilitary group. The LVF deal in drugs and death, often hiring themselves out as assassins for other groups during loyalist feuds. Some of its members have a reputation for humiliating women. Lisa might have inadvertently crossed paths with their young, macho element. Her newfound circle of friends was thought to be mostly made up of fun-loving twentysomethings like herself. But a few others were more sinister, with links to the LVF. One of them was believed to be wooing her.

Lisa - blonde and beautiful in her passport photo - has vanished into that strange void of "the disappeared" of the Troubles whose bodies have never been recovered. In an age when photogenic victims get priority, it is odd how her death - coming only weeks after the killing of Robert McCartney, which has made headlines around the world - has only made the local media.

In a well-kept cul-de-sac in Bangor on north Down's "Gold Coast", which was almost untouched by sectarian conflict, Lisa's mother Pat sits on her sofa, with sympathy cards on every mantelpiece. A stack of newspapers are hidden in a black bin-bag from her distraught eight-year-old daughter who has been told that her older sister Lisa got lost in the woods after dark and died of the cold.

Pat is English, and the family are not politically aware like the McCartneys, who grew up in the teeth of the conflict. "I'm from Oldham," she says. "I haven't the first clue about paramilitaries. None of us in this family would." She works in an old people's home and her husband John is a driving instructor. They are Catholics in a predominantly Protestant town, but live on a nice, mixed estate.

"We were wrapped in cotton wool, growing up," says Lisa's sister Joanne, an English student.

"People always asked me, 'Would you go back to England?'" Pat says. "But my standard of living here is better, there's better schooling for my children."

The family, and relatives in Oldham and Manchester, are becoming increasingly desperate. Yesterday they offered a reward of £10,000 that they have scraped together to get back Lisa's remains. "We just want her body," Pat says.

Facts are thin on the ground. On the night of Sunday February 27, there was a party at the caravan site. It is not clear if Lisa ever arrived. Some of the people there told her family that she had left at 5am on the Monday morning and "got lost in the dark". She left her handbag and all her possessions behind. Her clothes, make up, jewellery and hair straighteners were collected by her sister there days later, when she suspected something was "seriously wrong".

A murder inquiry was launched very quickly for a missing persons case. Something was not right. "The police must have had some sort of intelligence," Pat says. The family had not met Lisa's new friends. "She was young for her age and she was quite naive, anything you told her, she would have believed it as gospel," says Joanne.

Soon afterwards graffiti appeared on the walls of houses at a local estate telling police, "Ask the LVF where Lisa is", and in town, "LVF: ladykillers".

The LVF was founded by the murdered loyalist icon Billy Wright in 1996. King Rat, as he gloried in being called, had his powerbase in the sectarian hotbed of Portadown in north Armagh and the LVF does not have a huge presence in leafier north Down. It makes large sums dealing and trafficking drugs. The group has been linked to a string of gruesome murders including the shooting of an 18-year-old Catholic girl as she slept next to her Protestant boyfriend, and the killing of journalist Martin O'Hagan in 1999, the only reporter murdered during the Troubles.

The police say speculation about LVF involvement is unhelpful. They are following a number of definite lines of inquiry. Three men have been arrested and questioned but released. The LVF itself issued a statement to the Belfast Telegraph saying they weren't involved. But paramilitary statements are often taken with a generous pinch of salt.

David Ervine of the Progressive Unionist Party, linked to another group, the Ulster Volunteer Force, says: "I can't see an organisation condoning in any way the murder and disappearance of this young woman.

"Someone knows what happened to Lisa Dorrian and it would seem they are not prepared to impart that to the police, possibly because they are frightened. We as a society need to encourage these people not to be frightened."

Where paramilitaries may be involved, witnesses have always been notoriously reluctant to come forward, fearing they will be the next target. As the McCartney murder showed, the old mantra "whatever you say, say nothing" holds as true now in Northern Ireland as it did 30 years ago.

At home, looking at the last photo of Lisa, her mother said she was always accident-prone - but she could never stand pain.

"She was always falling off her skates," Pat said. "She had had two knee operations. She couldn't stand pain. She wouldn't even open up her mouth for the dentist. Her dad had to sit for an hour while she ripped a piece of paper to bits in her fist. She couldn't tolerate pain, you would hear her howl from one end of the country to the other."

John Dorrian has a newspaper article on the disappeared in his car with him. One mother is reported as having never given up hope of finding a body. She prays and lays flowers at other people's graves because she has none to go to herself.

But he can't equate Lisa with the disappeared yet, it's too painful. "We want her body back, that's our focus, that's our only focus, that's all we can think about, all we can wish for."

"Two months on, we are in exactly the same situation," says Joanne before making another public appeal for information yesterday. "It's a terrible situation to think the best you can hope for is to have your sister's body back. Someone out there knows something."

At the caravan park, the flowers left by the family have now died. Advertisements are up for a children's disco and karaoke and weekenders don't like people asking questions. One man in the site office says: "It's very sad, we have great sympathy for the family and we have helped the police, but people here are trying to move on, and get back to normal."

"This is a very quiet place, we're in shock," says a worker from the local fish factory. "No one saw or heard anything. This has to do with outsiders. If we knew something, we would say."

Meanwhile, Lisa's nephew is beginning to find holes in the cover story of their aunt's death. "I used to have an auntie but she got lost in the dark and died," says the four-year-old. "But if you were going out in the dark wouldn't you take a torch?"

Belfast Telegraph

Sinn Fein manifesto calls for truth over collusion

By Noel McAdam, Political Correspondent
29 April 2005

Sinn Fein today demanded an "effective truth recovery mechanism" in Northern Ireland as its manifesto was launched.

The blueprint emphasised, however, the need for truth in relation to state violence and collusion.

With less than a week before polling day, Sinn Fein became the last of the main four parties to detail its policies - stressing the vulnerability of the peace process.

The party said it was seeking the endorsement of the electorate for Gerry Adams's ground-breaking initiative in asking the IRA to embrace pure politics and "rebuild the peace process".

It was thought that the IRA was not likely to formally respond to Mr Adam's call this side of next Thursday.

Like all such publications, the manifesto sought to touch all the right buttons of its support base. Sinn Fein said it would challenge unionism to reject sectarianism, accept equality and inclusivity.

It would also continue to pressurise both the British and Irish governments "to deliver on their responsibilities on demilitarisation ... Irish language, and justice and policing."

In advancing the Irish unity agenda, the province's 18 MPs should be automatically accorded membership of the Dail, with both consultative and speaking rights, Sinn Fein argued.


Couple vow to facilitate re-adoption of Tristan Dowse

29/04/2005 - 08:16:15

Tristan, at the orphanage in Indonesia

The couple at the centre of the Tristan Dowse adoption case have reportedly vowed to take whatever legal steps are necessary to allow the three-year-old to be re-adopted.

Reports this morning said Irishman Joe Dowse and his Azerbaijani wife made the promise in a statement issued through their solicitor yesterday.

The couple adopted the three-year-old shortly after his birth, but returned him to an Indonesian orphanage last year. He is an Irish citizen and only speaks English.

The Indonesian authorities are attempting to have the adoption declared illegal so the youngster can be looked after by an American couple who have expressed an interest in adopting him.

Despite the Dowses’ vow to facilitate such a move, this morning’s reports said the Adoption Board and the Government had been in contact with the couple for the past year seeking unsuccessfully to resolve the situation.


New paper is 'set to shed jobs'

Daily Ireland hit the news stands in February

There is speculation Daily Ireland, the tabloid newspaper launched just two months ago by the Andersonstown News group, is set to shed jobs.

It is not known how many posts will go, however it is believed to be in double figures.

Staff at Daily Ireland have been told there is a possibility that up to 12 jobs may have to go.

A statement from the management of the newspaper group is expected later on Friday.

When it was launched in February, the management of Daily Ireland said it would be cross-border and pro-nationalist.

About 60,000 copies of the paper were printed to coincide with the launch.

Its aim was to take sales off the Belfast-based Irish News and the Irish editions of the English tabloids, which sell well in nationalist areas.

It needed to sell 20,000 copies a day to break even and said it expected to pick up sales principally in Northern Ireland, Dublin and the border counties.

28 April 2005

Irish Democrat

04/28/2005 10:59:00 AM

The EU

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Websites linked to information about the EU and anti-EU campaigns

Irish Democrat

Dublin-Monaghan: time for a real inquiry

At last year’s European Social Forum, Bernie McNally and Margaret Unwin, two victims of the Dublin Monaghan bombings of May 1974, gave an impassioned call for a public inquiry into the atrocity to a packed meeting organised by the Connolly Association. Here, the Irish Democrat reprints their speeches in full, including disturbing evidence of collusion by British forces in the bombing.

The bombings

"ON FRIDAY, 17 May 1974, at 5.30 pm, three no–warning car bombs exploded in Dublin City Centre — in Parnell St., Talbot St., and South Leinster St. An hour and a half later, at 6.58 pm a fourth no–warning car bomb exploded at North Road, Monaghan town. As a result of the bombings, 34 people (19 women, 2 baby girls, 1 unborn full term baby and 12 men) lost their lives and hundreds more were injured. I was counted among the injured and remained in hospital for six weeks afterwards.

To put the bombings into the political context of the time — they were planted on the third day of the UWC strike against the power— sharing Executive, which had been established as a result of the Sunningdale Agreement. The bombings were almost certainly aimed at preventing a greater role for the Irish government in the administration of Northern Ireland.

There was a precedent for bombing Dublin at politically strategic times. The first car bombing of Dublin occurred on 1 December 1972 when the Amendment to the Offences against the State Act was due to be voted on in Dáil Éireann. The Amendment looked set for defeat but, in the immediate aftermath of the bombings, the Fine Gael party changed their mind and the legislation was rushed through both Houses of the Oireachtas during the following day. The legislation was designed to give the Gardaí more powers against the IRA.

From the viewpoint of the bombers the Dublin and Monaghan bombings were equally successful. After the fall of the power–sharing Executive on 28 May 1974, the Irish government did not involve itself in the affairs of Northern Ireland for several years.

The attack itself was cold blooded and premeditated murder, aimed at the civilian population, designed to claim the maximum number of lives. These were no–warning car bombs set to explode at the busiest hour of the busiest day of the week — 5.30 pm on a Friday evening. This was not a case of failed or inaccurate warnings and it is likely that many more would have died but for the fact that a bus strike prevented many shoppers from getting into the city.

In the immediate aftermath of the bombings, the Irish government appeared to adopt a fatalistic attitude. The taoiseach, Liam Cosgrave, made an extraordinary speech to the nation on the evening of the bombings in which he suggested that "any person who ever practised violence or preached violence or condoned violence must bear a share of responsibility for today’s outrage". Speeches by the minister for justice, Paddy Cooney, the minister for posts and telegraphs, Conor Cruise–O’Brien and the attorney general, Declan Costello, endorsed this view that the victims, that is, the citizens of the Republic of Ireland, were to blame.

The attorney general went so far as to state that any Irish citizen who had even entertained the thought of supporting the IRA’s campaign, was every bit as guilty of the slaughter of the victims of Dublin and Monaghan as those who had planned and carried out the atrocity.

The bombings disappeared very quickly from all organs of the media and from public consciousness. A long and deafening silence prevailed. There was no national day of mourning, as there had been after Bloody Sunday, no government initiative to set up a fund for the dependants of those murdered, no progress reports were provided to the families by the Garda Síochána, there were no questions from the Opposition in the Houses of the Oireachtas, there were no questions raised by any section of the media, there was collective amnesia among the citizens of the capital city and the country at large. No head was raised above the parapet to call for justice for the victims; the bereaved families and survivors were not just abandoned but were cast aside by the Irish authorities.

When I returned to work on Talbot Street, it was as if the bombings had never happened. Although the owner of the shop where I was employed, like me, had been seriously injured, we never spoke about the atrocity and tried to get on with our lives.

The campaign

The great silence lasted for 16 years — until 1990. In that year, there were small stirrings. A retired Irish army officer wrote articles in an Irish language newspaper, detailing his analysis of the bombings; a journalist put forward similar views in a magazine and a trade unionist was finally successful in persuading Dublin City Council to erect a very modest memorial to the victims.

The unveiling of that memorial in 1991 led to families and survivors coming together for the first time. Yorkshire Television (YTV) were contacted and became interested in the issue. Their investigative journalism resulted in the screening of the documentary: Hidden Hand, the forgotten massacre as part of Channel 4’s First Tuesday series. The main findings of the programme were that, at least some of the suspects were members of the UVF; the UVF acting alone, did not have the capacity to carry out these bombings; the bombings bore the hallmark of a sophisticated and technical operation and the Garda Investigation was wound down after three months.

Hidden Hand was the catalyst for the campaign that has continued since that July evening in 1993. I would like to pay tribute to the producers of that programme who had the courage to do what Irish journalists and Irish television failed to do.

During the six years following the screening of the programme, many doors were slammed in the faces of the relatives. The government refused to set up a public inquiry into the allegations made on the programme. In 1996, the two lawyers who still comprise our legal team came on board the campaign. They took a case against the United Kingdom government to the European Court of Human Rights because of the failure of the Royal Ulster Constabulary to initiate a murder inquiry into the bombings. To assist the case they sought disclosure of the Garda investigation files. The High Court denied access to the Garda files and that decision was upheld by the Supreme Court. Then the ECHR judged that the complaint against the RUC was time barred.

The RUC failed to set up a murder inquiry even though the men who planned and executed the Dublin and Monaghan bombings did so in their jurisdiction, the no–warning bombs that caused the death of 34 civilian men, woman and babies were assembled in their jurisdiction, the cars used to carry the deadly cargo, as well as the getaway cars, were procured in their jurisdiction and the perpetrators, when their terrible deed was done, escaped back safely to their jurisdiction.

Eventually, in December 1999, we negotiated with the Irish government and agreed to accept the Independent Commission of Inquiry, originally under the chairmanship of Judge Liam Hamilton and later under Judge Henry Barron.

The Barron report

After four long years, the Barron report was finally published last December. The British government failed to co–operate with the Inquiry in any meaningful way. Not one single original document (or copy of such a document) was furnished to Judge Barron — all he received after months of prevarication was a ten–page letter on 26 February 2002. Barron concluded that the material assessed by the inquiry was insufficient to suggest that senior members of the security forces in Northern Ireland were in any way involved in the bombings.

From January to March of this year (2004), public hearings into the Barron report were held before the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Justice, Equality, Defence & Women’s Rights. This gave an opportunity for the bereaved families and survivors to have their voices heard in the Irish parliament and I, along with many others, welcomed the opportunity to tell my story.

At the end of the hearings, the committee recommended that, internally, the Irish government should establish an inquiry into the reason for the premature winding down of the Garda investigation, the failure to follow up specific leads and the missing files. They recommended that the Inquiry should be set up under the new Commission of Investigations Act.

The government has announced that it will establish such an inquiry. However, we are unhappy with this type of Inquiry as it is, effectively, a private Inquiry.

Barron was devastating in his criticism of the Garda investigation and the response of the Irish government of the day and also of the fact that, currently, important files are missing in the Department of Justice and Garda Síochána. We learned a lot of new information about the collapse and apparent ineptitude of the Garda investigation — its failure to use the information it had obtained; failure to pursue leads; bungling and delay in sending forensic samples to the laboratory, etc.

However, in relation to the collusion aspect, while acknowledging the paucity of the information received from the British government, we believe that Judge Barron could have attached greater significance to material he did receive, in particular, from Fred Holroyd, from Colin Wallace and from John Weir.

During the course of the four years' inquiry, the lawyers for Justice for the Forgotten, with myself as researcher, carried out almost a parallel investigation, albeit with no access to official files. However, we met with anyone with any information anywhere. We travelled many times to Britain and to Northern Ireland, as well as further afield, to interview people.

One of those who came forward to give information was a concerned Dublin citizen called Roger Keane who reported suspicious activity in Dublin on the afternoon of the bombings involving a British army officer and a van. Roger was in the company of two Gardaí when they searched the van at Dublin port on the evening of the bombings where they found a British army officer’s uniform.

Judge Barron had confirmation of this from an Irish army intelligence report, which stated that a British army officer was taken off the boat by Gardaí and weapons were found in his bag. However, he found no reference to this episode in Garda records.

A man who gave us detailed information over several meetings was Colin Wallace. Between 1973 and 1975 Wallace served as senior information officer (psy–ops officer) in British army HQ in Lisburn.

However, we believe his most important evidence rests in the primary sources of his contemporary letters to his former superior, written in August and September of 1975, 15–16 months after the bombings. These letters are evidence that British army HQ had knowledge of several named loyalist paramilitaries in the bombings — at least one of these, Robert McConnell, was a serving corporal in the UDR. The letters are evidence that British army HQ were aware that these persons were working closely with RUC Special Branch and with the intelligence services.

The letters appear to corroborate John Weir’s claims of a gang of security force members and loyalists working together as a pseudo–gang. Weir’s description of the network in which his group operated is identical to the group Wallace refers to as the ‘Protestant Action Force’. The letters suggest that this gang was linked to a special duties team at British army HQ, Lisburn. The letters confirm that the British army was privy to information that "the Dublin and Monaghan bombings were a reprisal for the Irish government’s role in bringing about the Executive".

The Wallace letters are based on knowledge acquired by him in 1974 when he was at the heart of military command in Northern Ireland.

Capt. Fred Holroyd was military intelligence officer with responsibility for RUC J Division, which included Portadown and large parts of mid–Ulster. He was under the command of Three Brigade, whose HQ was in Lurgan. He was also working for MI6. He, likewise, confirms that many of the loyalist suspects for the bombings were working for RUC Special Branch. He refers to Four Field Survey Troop, whose senior officers were Tony Ball and Robert Nairac and mentions that they reported to a special duties team at Lisburn.

We commissioned Nigel Wylde, Lt. Col., retired, an acknowledged expert on explosives with a long record of service in the British Army in NI. He served as EOD officer in Belfast from June to October 1974. He is also an expert photographic interpreter. He was briefed by us with the forensic reports of Dr Hall of the Northern Ireland Forensic Science Laboratory and Dr. Donovan of the Irish State Laboratory and also with photographs of the bomb scenes. Mr. Wylde made a number of findings:

* That the explosive devices in Dublin were beyond the known competence of Loyalist paramilitaries.
* That the explosive substances in Dublin contained as their main component re–crystallised ammonium nitrate.
* That the re–crystallised ammonium nitrate was likely to have come from IRA stocks.
* That, as the IRA could be ruled out as the perpetrators of the bomb attacks, the explanation for use of such explosives was that they came from British army stocks of seized explosives.
* That the bombings in Dublin were out of character with known loyalist bombings of the time.
* That there were a limited number of persons in the British army as it operated in Northern Ireland, who had access to the secure repositories of seized IRA explosives and they were the Ammunition Technical Officers (ATOs) of the different brigade areas.

Having received many written submission and heard orally from Nigel Wylde, Colin Wallace, the Pat Finucane Centre, the Irish National Congress, the Irish Council for Civil Liberties and many other persons and organisations during the course of their examination of the Barron report, the Joint Oireachtas Committee reached stronger conclusions that Judge Barron on the collusion aspect.

It is their stated view that the suspicion that collusion existed in Northern Ireland between members of the security forces and loyalist paramilitary groups in relation to the Dublin and Monaghan bombings, far from being dispelled, has been reinforced by this further information. They recommended that a Public Tribunal of Inquiry be established in Northern Ireland or Great Britain to investigate this issue, but before such an inquiry should proceed, an investigation based on the Weston Park proposals should be set up.

We understand that the taoiseach (Bertie Ahern) has already discussed this with the British prime minister and is awaiting a response. However, we feel this a further delaying tactic. What we require, after 30 years, is the immediate establishment of a joint public tribunal of inquiry to be established by the Irish and United Kingdom governments to examine all aspects of the Dublin and Monaghan bombings."


£10,000 reward over Lisa's murder

Lisa Dorrian's body has never been found

The family of murdered Bangor woman Lisa Dorrian is offering a £10,000 reward for information leading to the recovery of her body.

The 25-year-old disappeared after a party at a caravan site in Ballyhalbert in County Down on 28 February.

Her body has never been found despite extensive air, land, and sea searches. Three men were questioned about the killing but later released.

Lisa's father John Dorrian said her death had "ripped the family apart".

He told a news conference that they could not move on until they "gave her a Christian burial".

Relatives' appeal

A senior detective has said there were people in the community who could help find her body.

Graffiti in the area following her disappearance suggested a link between the case and the Loyalist Volunteer Force.

When she disappeared, Lisa, a shop assistant, left her handbag and personal belongings behind her at the caravan park.

A caravan from the site was removed for examination.

Last month, the police revealed that four members of the public had come forward with information following an earlier appeal by her family.


Dublin and London urged to consider power-sharing

28/04/2005 - 18:22:23

The Irish and British governments must be prepared to share power in Northern Ireland if unionists refuse to go into government with nationalists, a senior Sinn Féin negotiator insisted tonight.

As unionist leaders continued to insist Sinn Féin cannot be granted a place in government because of IRA activity, the party's general secretary Mitchel McLaughlin urged London and Dublin to present the UUP and DUP with a stark choice.

"If, following the elections, the unionist parties continue to find excuses for refusing to share power, then it is incumbent on the two governments to share power in keeping with their obligations to deliver change in keeping with the Good Friday Agreement," he said.

"The people mandated a locally devolved administration here and we are not prepared to abandon that. But the governments carry a primary responsibility to jointly deliver the promise of the Agreement in the interim.

"The unionist parties are happy to share power where they have no alternative as is demonstrated in those councils throughout the North where nationalists are in the majority.

"The two governments should put a stark choice to those who would continue to reject democracy.

"The DUP and UUP will be glad to share power if faced with the choice of having no power at all and therein lies the clue for the governments in dealing with a sterile unionist position after the elections."

Devolution has been suspended in Northern Ireland since October 2002 when Stormont's power-sharing executive threatened to totally collapse over allegations of IRA spying.

There have been three failed attempts to revive power sharing - two of them involving Sinn Féin and the Ulster Unionists and one last December involving republicans and the Reverend Ian Paisley's Democratic Unionists.

Unionists have insisted they will never share power with Sinn Féin while the IRA continue to recruit, train and target.

They have also responded sceptically to the IRA's internal debate about its future, following Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams's appeal to the Provisionals to consider abandoning armed struggle.

The DUP, UUP and cross community Alliance Party's election manifestos have all suggested politics in Northern Ireland should not be put on pause while republicans make up their minds.

They have called for the replacement of the current system of power-sharing at Stormont which forces the DUP, UUP, nationalist SDLP and Sinn Féin into government together and have advocated instead a voluntary coalition between some of the parties.

Nationalist SDLP leader Mark Durkan has, however, ruled the proposal out.

The Ulster Unionists' David Burnside said recent reports about the involvement of senior Sinn Féin leaders in the IRA Army Council made them unfit for government.

The South Antrim candidate argued: "The godfathers of Sinn Féin's paramilitary and criminal empire must be shunned by all democrats.

"It is time the two unionist parties, Alliance and the SDLP moved on to govern Ulster without them."

Mr Adams was also under fire today from SDLP, Ulster Unionist and independent candidates in his constituency after he did not take part in a debate on paramilitary shootings and beatings.

The SDLP's West Belfast candidate Alex Attwood said: "His non-attendance at the event would seem to be in line with his comment in Derry that criminality is not an issue in this election.

"The reality is that it is very much an issue for voters and people in this election."

Independent candidate Liam Kennedy also described the Sinn Féin leader's no show as disgraceful and detected considerable scepticism about Mr Adams's appeal to the IRA.

"It is not being taken at face value here in Belfast or in Dublin," he said.

"People want action on ending paramilitary activity, not words."

Mr Durkan tonight expressed concern that Sinn Féin and the DUP would try again to "Balkanise" Northern Ireland if they triumphed at the British general election.

The Foyle Assembly member noted comments from Mr Adams that he believed that despite all the rhetoric from the Reverend Ian Paisley, a deal could be reached by his party with the DUP.

"The SDLP is more sceptical and nationalists will be too. Sinn Féin suspended disbelief about the DUP at last year's Leeds Castle talks and yet look at the results.

"No one should suspend disbelief now. That's why if people let Sinn Féin and the DUP take over we are likely to have only more stalemates, suspension and polarisation.

"Even if they can do a deal, does anyone think that the parties who gave us the worst of our past can give us the best of our future ?"

Daily Ireland

**I'm amazed everyone can be so 'understanding' about this, considering an innocent little boy is fighting for his life because a teenager was 'playing' with a rifle, which should have been under the control of his father. The fact that it has been destroyed means the guilty one is attempting to cover-up evidence. If the PSNI know so much, why isn't there an arrest?

Teen suspect in boy’s shooting

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St Patrick's Primary, near Enniskillen - Photo: Haydn West/PA

The PSNI believes the rifle used in an incident in which a five-year-old Co Fermanagh boy was shot in the head has been destroyed.
It is also understood that the officers investigating the shooting of Darragh Somers last Friday also believe a teenager may have been responsible.
It is believed the youth fired the shot while playing with his father’s rifle in a field near St Patrick’s School in Mullnaskea, Co Fermanagh where Darragh was playing.
A PSNI source yesterday revealed the weapon used in the incident has since been destroyed, which would explain why detectives have not been able to close in on the attacker despite carrying out ballistics tests on all legally-held firearms in the locality.
When contacted yesterday about the revelations, a PSNI spokesperson said: “The investigation is ongoing and it would be unhelpful to comment at this time.”
A blue Toyota 4x4 vehicle has also been linked to the scene and the occupants have been asked to contact police.
From the outset, police have made clear their position and stressed that they are treating the incident as a horrific accident.
Although the investigation team are certain who is responsible, they have been appealing since Friday for the person to give themselves up.
Meanwhile, Darragh, a primary one pupil at the school, remains in a critical condition on a life support system in the Royal Victoria Hospital.
Darragh’s parents, Gerald and Janine, have being keeping a 24-hour vigil by his bedside since he underwent surgery to remove the bullet at the weekend.
The man heading the investigation into the shooting, Detective Chief Inspector, Nigel Kyle, this week said that police knew who fired the gun.
“We are following a positive line of inquiry. We have information that points us in the direction of a certain person,” DCI Kyle said.
He also issued an appeal to the person responsible.
“It is better you give yourself up rather than have us come looking for you,” he said.
At first the PSNI centred their inquiries on gun owners, farmers and huntsmen. They carried out ballistics tests on at least ten firearms which they seized in house-to-house inquiries, but none matched the bullet in question.
Principal of St Patrick’s Primary School, Bernie O’Connor said last night: “If this is a young person, I would say this: Don’t de-value yourself any more. You will have good friends if you come forward but if you don’t you will be condemned.”
“I’m sure whoever did this wishes they had come forward straight away.”
Mr O’Connor also said he had spoken to senior PSNI officers and to Darragh’s parents who reassured him that whoever is responsible will be treated with sympathy and understanding.
“Somewhere someone is in terrible pain over all this. This won’t go away. A young person is better off getting help from someone like me or anyone. You will be treated with sympathy, nobody will judge you,” said Mr O’Connor.

Daily Ireland

PSNI accused of keeping victim’s family ‘in the dark’

The brother of a woman murdered by an Ulster Volunteer Force/RUC double agent 12 years ago has accused the PSNI of “keeping him in the dark” over investigations into her murder.
In 1993, Sharon McKenna was shot dead by a UVF gunman as she visited a Protestant pensioner on the Shore Road in north Belfast.
In February, Daily Ireland revealed the killing had been carried out by a senior UVF figure from the Mount Vernon area of the Shore Road who was working for RUC Special Branch.
In the hours after Ms McKenna’s murder, her paramilitary killer told his police handlers what he had done.
The same UVF man was involved in the death of Raymond McCord Jnr in 1997.
On Monday, the father of Mr McCord, Raymond McCord Snr, met senior police officers who told him about the UVF informant’s role in the murder of Ms McKenna.
However, in the decade since the 27-year-old woman’s death, the RUC and PSNI have never made her family aware of these revelations.
Speaking to Daily Ireland yesterday, Ms McKenna’s brother, Paul McKenna, said detectives have only spoken to the family once in 12 years.
“The only time we ever heard from the police was a couple of months after Sharon was murdered,” he said.
“We had a meeting with the Police Ombudsman two years ago but other than that we have been told absolutely nothing.
“The only other information we have been given has been from journalists.”
Mr McKenna said he believed the least the PSNI could do is to keep his family informed about updates in the investigation into his sister’s murder.
He said: “I would have hoped the PSNI could have kept us more informed. At times I feel as if I’m getting over Sharon’s murder, but then all the anger I have comes flooding back when situations like this crop up.
“My family just wants to know the truth.”
Raymond McCord Snr believes the killers of Sharon McKenna and his son were allowed to get away with the murders because they were Special Branch informers.
The UVF/RUC agent involved in both killings is currently on remand awaiting trial for attempted murder.
It is believed he may have been connected to around 30 killings including that of Presbyterian minister, Rev David Templeton, and Ulster Defence Association members David Greer and Tommy English.
A spokesperson for the PSNI said detectives were investigating a number of linked cases.


Grant removed over police remarks

The booklet for ethnic minorities received government funding

The government has withdrawn £10,000 of funding from a west Belfast community group because of comments about the police in an anti-racism booklet.

Minister John Spellar had approved the grant to the Falls Community Council in February to help produce a welcome pack for migrant workers and asylum seekers.

The leaflet described the PSNI as "an extension of the British state" and said the service had "no support".

The government said public money for the project was "inappropriate".

In a letter sent on Thursday, an official of the Good Relations and Reconciliation Division of the Office of the First and Deputy First Minister said it was "not in the public interest that potentially vulnerable members of society should be discouraged from seeking police assistance".

In the West Against Racism Network booklet, readers are advised not to call the police unless it is a "necessity" such as for insurance purposes, and not to answer questions about neighbours.

The government emphasised that the use of the department's name and logo in the booklet was "wholly unauthorised" .

It said that it "improperly gave the impression that the department approved its content in relation to the PSNI".

In response, the Falls Community Council said it was "disappointing that this genuine attempt to tackle the growing problem of racism has been undermined".

The council said in a statement that it had been awaiting feedback from the department and would ask it to reconsider the decision.

Irish Gaelic Translator.com

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Irish Gaelic Translator .com - Free human Irish translations on Irish Gaelic translations forum.

**I found this site yesterday, and I can't begin to describe all the resources available on it. There is a forum, people you can correspond with, audio files to listen to, pages you can download and print and things you can buy. Click the link and see for yourself what a fantastic resource for learning Gaeilge this site is!


Young baby left out in the cold by Housing Executive

HE say they are doing everything to have the matter finally resolved

An seriously ill eight-month-old baby has been left without heat and hot water for the last three weeks after the Housing Executive turned the heating off citing "health and safety" concerns.

Shea Conway lives with his mother and grandmother in Turf Lodge. He has chronic lung disease and finds it difficult to breathe. Without oxygen cylinders he would be unable to breathe independently.

Three weeks ago an engineer from the Housing Executive came to their Norglen Road home on a routine inspection. Spotting the oxygen cylinders the engineer felt it necessary to turn off the gas supply.

"The fella turned off the heating supply and left us with a blow heater but that's no use for heating up the whole house or for heating water," said Shea's father, James Carlin.

"My son has lung disease and brain damage and his sickness means he is prone to catching bugs that are going round. The fact that he has been sitting with no heating is a disgrace and we can hardly get him washed as there is never any hot water.

“The Housing Executive told us they would sort out a new place to live, but we haven't got anywhere yet. Considering my son's condition this is ridiculous.

“How are people supposed to cope with no heat and water?
“It seems to me that the living conditions at the minute are a health and safety concern."

When contacted by the Andersonstown News the Housing Executive said Health and Safety Regulations prohibit the use of oxygen within the same room as a gas room heater.

“Under these regulations the engineer had no alternative but to disconnect the gas heating supply and provide the tenant with an alternative temporary heating source.

"As this property is not suitable for Ms Conway and her child the Housing Executive has been in daily contact with her to find alternative temporary accommodation suitable for the complex needs of her and her family and are doing everything possible to have this matter resolved urgently.”

Journalist:: Staff Reporter


Govt legal expert hopes to clear up Tristan adoption limbo

28/04/2005 - 08:13:28

The Irish Government is to send a legal expert to the aid of an Indonesian boy stuck in legal limbo following a failed adoption by an Irish couple.

Tristan Dowse has been the centre of controversy after the couple abandoned him in a Jakarta orphanage as they claimed the adoption didn’t work out.

Following meetings today between the Foreign Affairs Department, the office of the Attorney General and the Adoption Board, the Department decided to send a legal expert to the Indonesian capital to assess the current situation.

The Adoption Board will also send a social worker and a board member to carry out its own investigation.

Until the current legal situation is clarified, Tristan, who is now an Irish citizen, cannot be adopted by other parents.


**'bring greater harmony to the system' - what a chilling euphemism...

Divorce laws may face adjustment, claims report

28/04/2005 - 09:16:11

The Government may have to amend Ireland’s divorce laws as part of plans to bring greater harmony to the system throughout Europe, reports today claimed.

Reports said the European Commission had given member states until the end of September to come up with proposals on achieving greater harmony.

The reports said this could pave the way for some divorces without the four-year separation clause included in the 1995 divorce referendum.

More harmony could also allow non-Irish EU citizens to seek a divorce in Ireland under the laws of their own State.


Adams under attack for missing debate

28/04/2005 - 10:34:06

Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams and Democratic Unionist Assembly member Diane Dodds were today under fire for failing to attend a debate with other west Belfast election candidates on paramilitaries.

Nationalist SDLP Assembly member Alex Attwood and Ulster Unionist councillor Chris McGimpsey rounded on their rivals over the no-show at the event in Belfast’s Europa Hotel.

Workers Party candidate John Lowry and Independent Liam Kennedy also took part during the breakfast debate.

However, the loyalist Progressive Unionist turned down an invitation.

Mrs Dodds had told the organisers that she could not attend because she was on a school run. But Mr McGimpsey said: “You would think that on this serious issue that the DUP candidate would be present, especially if she is claiming that she will be strong to unionism in West Belfast.”

Mr Attwood lambasted Gerry Adams for failing to respond to an invitation to debate IRA, other republican and loyalist punishment attacks and beatings and criminality.

“His non-attendance at the event would seem to be in line with his comment in Derry that criminality is not an issue in this election,” the West Belfast Assembly member said. “The reality is that it is very much an issue for voters and people in this election.”

Los Angeles Times

**Received via email from 'Steeler' at Irish Heritage Email Group

A Twist for an Ancient Tongue Trying to Survive

By John Daniszewski, Times Staff Writer
April 24, 2005

Free Image Hosting at www.ImageShack.us
Click to view - FOR IRISH EYES: English on signs such as these will soon disappear in parts of Ireland. Gaelic place names will stand alone.
(John Cogill / AP)

AN SPIDEAL, Ireland — Generations of English-speaking tourists who have used this pretty village of thatched cottages as a jumping-off point for the pleasures of the wild Connemara region have known it as Spiddal.

But a new government policy means that the settlement, which boasts spectacular views of Galway Bay and the Aran Islands in the distance, will be known only by its Gaelic name, An Spideal.

As of March 28, all English versions of place names were eliminated in the Gaeltacht, the pockets of Ireland where a majority of people still speak Gaelic. English no longer has official standing on signposts, legal documents or government maps. (For now, until the sign-makers get cracking, officials are just covering up the English names.)

It is the latest official gesture in support of the Irish tongue. But is it too little, too late? In the midst of an economic boom that is both encouraging and threatening Gaelic's popularity, many advocates for the republic's "first official language" are worried.

"It is terrible how things are going," said Seamas O Cualain, an 82-year-old enthusiast of the language of his forebears, which is almost always called Irish on this island to distinguish it from the Scottish form of Gaelic. "The language is dying in the Gaeltacht."

The lilting tongue, which arrived in Ireland with the Celts centuries before Romans reached the British Isles, has an alluring sound, aspirated consonants and a rich trove of poetry and folklore. Just a few words have moved into English: "smithereens" and "leprechaun," for example. But something of its musical syntax is captured by Irish English, as in the phrase, " 'Tis himself that's coming now."

The change in the place names makes sense, advocates say. The English versions, put down by government surveyors in the early 1800s, are mostly nonsensical phonetic approximations of Gaelic words.

Spiddal, for instance, has no meaning in English or Irish. But in Irish, An Spideal means "the hospital," a name that derives from the village's having once been the site of a leper colony.

Another egregious example is a spit of land with the bowdlerized English name of Muckanaghederdauhaulia. In Irish, it won't be much easier to spell: Muiceanach idir Dha Shaile. But at least it will have a meaning: the point between two tides.

Tourist maps, however, will continue to carry English place names in the Gaeltacht — which includes parts of seven counties — alongside the Irish.

The changes are a way to encourage Gaeltacht residents who may be wavering to hang on to their language by showing it its due respect, said Deaglan O Briain of the Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs in Dublin. "Official Ireland [is] saying to people in the Gaeltacht areas that we do recognize that you are there, and your language exists."

O Cualain, meticulously dressed, with glassine skin, blue eyes and a shock of white hair, met a reporter in his neat cottage, the fireplace aglow in his cozy study cum dining room. He is, he said, part of a generation of native speakers trained as teachers in Irish-only preparatory colleges.

The goal was for these graduates to spread the language across the island, bringing the dying tongue back to life in all of the 26 counties that secured de facto independence from Britain in 1922. The idea was promulgated by W.T. Cosgrave, leader of the Irish Free State, the nation's first incarnation as a republic.

More than 80 years later, a debate rages about the efficacy of those efforts, prompted in part by the Irish-language commissioner's recent criticism of the teaching of the language in public schools.

Students must study Irish for 13 years, from kindergarten through high school, receiving more than 1,500 hours of instruction in all. Yet many still graduate without fluency, says Commissioner Sean O Cuirreain.

He is a government official who acts as an ombudsman for Irish-speaking citizens and monitors government departments' implementation of Irish-language policy from his office in An Spideal. O Cuirreain believes that the country could do much better and that teaching methods should be reviewed.

On the other hand, he sees positive signs — such as a recent trend of parents outside the Gaeltacht sending their children to all-Irish-speaking schools.

Five percent of Irish children are in such classrooms, he said, while an Irish-language TV station gets 100,000 viewers a day, and people listen to pop music on a 24-hour Irish-language radio station.

In all, 1.57 million — or nearly 40% — of the nation's 4 million people say they speak Irish, and 337,000 (counting schoolchildren) say they use it daily, according to the latest census figures. In the Gaeltacht, 60,000 people employ it each day.

But at a restaurant in An Spideal called An t'Sean Ceibh (The Old Pier), where a fresh sea breeze wafted through the sunlit bar as patrons sipped pints and ate Irish stew, Soracha Ni Chonghaile admitted that she wasn't always among those.

"It's dying," the 23-year-old waitress said of the language. "I would speak it with my family and with the older customers who come in here, but I don't speak it with my friends. It's not the norm."

O Cuirreain, however, believes that Irish, in contrast to the vast majority of the 6,800 other languages in the world, is on course to survive at least through the next century — thanks to continued government support and its core of thousands of Irish men and women who still use the language daily in their lives.

"We should not be complacent about that … but we should take a certain degree of comfort that we have a fighting chance," he said in a telephone interview.

Why all the effort to keep Irish alive when the world seems to be converging on English? That tongue is not only the language of international business and technology, but also Ireland's most commonly spoken since at least the mid-19th century.

"The Irish language has been spoken for thousands of years," O Cuirreain said. "It is the language of the hearts and minds of peoples for generations in this country…. To lose that would be unthinkable, as far as I'm concerned."

Because of the influx of non-Irish-speakers propelled by Ireland's economic boom, however, the language is threatened even in the Gaeltacht, said Nollaigh O Muraile, a professor of Irish studies at the National University of Ireland in Galway.

"Two things are pressing on it: One is English culture through the media and World Wide Web, and the other is the housing developments stretching out right up into the Gaeltacht area," O Muraile said. "The language is being diluted."

Children speak Irish in the classroom, but English is the language during recess.

Partly offsetting the trend, however, is a vibrant community of people who have taken up Irish on their own initiative.

Residents protective of their language in An Spideal have recently demanded that a developer devote most of his 17-home project to people who can pass a test in Irish and show they are dedicated to the language.

The national planning appeals board gave a mixed ruling Friday. It said it was too late to impose the mandate on the development, which had already received preliminary approval without any language rule.

But the board said such requirements could be made of developers in the future, both in the An Spideal area and other parts of the Gaeltacht. The rules could mandate that new housing developments maintain the same proportion of Irish- and English-speaking residents as in the surrounding areas.

The dispute over the 17 homes was complicated, with the developer asking that the language requirement be lifted and some townspeople demanding an even tougher restriction, O Cuirreain said.

"It's one of those things where you'd need half the Los Angeles Times to explain it, on a good day," he said with a laugh.

But the key point, he added, is that planners had endorsed the principle. "It's a step being taken to protect the linguistic integrity of those areas," he said.

Retired teacher O Cualain said he was glad about the changes but discouraged at young people's apparent lack of dedication to the language.

"When I went to school, we spoke nothing but Irish going and coming," he said in a soft, sad brogue. "Even those who didn't know the language, if they came here, they picked it up by listening. But nowadays, I very seldom hear the young people speaking it."

Some commentators have questioned whether it is a losing battle to keep the language alive through government policy.

Alan Ruddock, a columnist writing in the Sunday Times of London, took on O Cuirreain last month, challenging the need to force-feed the language to schoolchildren.

He said the Irish Republic was willing to pay only "expensive lip service" — costly schooling, subsidized Irish-language radio and television and "often-garbled" Irish at the start of major political speeches.

"But in no way are we serious about promoting Irish in every aspect of national life. Nor should we be," he wrote. "Ireland is not bilingual. We are an English-speaking country, have been from the moment we gained independence and were for a century before.

"Nothing O Cuirreain does will change that, and neither will anything in the Official Languages Act. If Irish is to survive, then it must be freed from the albatross of compulsion."

O Muraile said he saw encouraging signs. Ireland's newfound prosperity, and the pride rising with the "Celtic tiger" economy, is making it "almost a trendy thing to speak Irish."

But in the Gaeltacht itself, it is diminishing as an everyday language.

"I don't know what the future holds, but perhaps we have to exist as a second language," he said. "In a way, it has been a misfortune of Ireland to come up against the most powerful language the world has ever seen."

27 April 2005


Prisoners' right to vote appeal goes to Europe

(Filed: 27/04/2005)

The Government is appealing against a European ruling that prisoners should have the right to vote.

Britain is breaching human rights law by barring prisoners from casting their ballot, the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg says.

The Government was forced to pay out £8,000 in costs and expenses to John Hirst who is serving a life sentence for manslaughter at an earlier hearing.

It is now appealing against the ruling at a hearing before a 17-judge Grand Chamber.

Britain's 1983 Representation of the People Act does not allow convicts to vote in parliamentary and local elections. Mr Hirst, 53, mounted a legal challenge when his application to register to vote was turned down.

The High Court rejected his claim that Section 3 of the act is incompatible with the European Convention on Human Rights, to which Britain is a signatory.

But his lawyers argued in Europe that he had the right to vote under the convention's guarantee to the "right to free elections", the "right to free expression" and "prohibition of discrimination".

The European judges delivered a unanimous verdict that denying a prisoner a vote does breach the "right to free elections" set out in the convention. There was therefore no need, they said, to pass judgment on the issues of free expression and discrimination.

Mr Hirst pleaded guilty on Feb 11, 1980, to a charge of manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility. He was sentenced to "discretionary life imprisonment" and the tariff part of his term - the part relating to retribution and deterrence - expired on June 25, 1994.

But Mr Hirst remains in jail because the Parole Board says he could still present a risk of serious harm to the public.

A final verdict on the appeal will be delivered later this year.

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