28 May 2005


Hostages held during Boots raid

The police were outside the store most of the day

Two employees of a chemist in Belfast city centre were forced to hand over tens of thousands of pounds to thieves while their families were held hostage.

They were ordered to go their work at Boots chemist in Donegall Place and get money while their families were held at their homes in south and west Belfast.

The cash was then handed over to the thieves at Wellington Place in the city centre at about 0915 BST on Saturday.

Police want to speak to anyone who may have witnessed the exchange take place.

No-one was injured during the incident, however, the hostages are said to be deeply shocked.

The chemist, which is Boots' main store in Belfast, remained closed throughout Saturday while the police investigation took place.


WARNING: Heart patients may have faulty devices

28 May 2005
By Seán McCárthaigh

IRISH heart patients may have been fitted with potentially faulty medical devices implanted in their chests, it has emerged.

US medical equipment maker Guidant - which employs more than 1,000 people in Clonmel, Co Tipperary, - is facing a probe over its delay in alerting doctors about problems with one of its internal cardiac defibrillators.

Guidant has being asked by the US Food and Drug Administration to explain why it took more than three years for it to disclose a problem with one of its heart defibrillators.

The company is under investigation over why it failed to issue warnings to more than 24,000 patients worldwide and their doctors who have been fitted with its Ventak Prizm 2 Model 1861 once it became aware of the problem.

It is understood that some equipment has an electrical problem which causes a small fraction of the devices to short-circuit and malfunction. Implanted defibrillators are used to shock the heart back into a normal beating pattern after disruption to its usual rhythm.

A 21-year-old US student with a genetic heart disease died in March when his Guidant defibrillator failed to work during a sudden cardiac arrest while cycling.

The company was also aware of about 25 other cases of short-circuiting problems with the device, although none had fatal consequences.

An Irish Medicines Board spokesperson said 18 people in Ireland were fitted with the device. However, it said the failure rate of the product was just 0.05%.

Sinn Féin

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Mary Lou McDonald keynote address opposing EU Constitution

Published: 28 May, 2005


The EU Constitution is without doubt one of the most important issues facing Ireland today. If ratified, it will mark an important shift in our relationship with the EU. It will also mark a shift for the EU itself, both in terms of structures and policies.

In light of this, it is vital that people across Ireland have the opportunity to learn and debate these issues well in advance of any referendum. Sinn Féin strongly believes that a broad public debate is absolutely essential if we as a nation are to grapple with the many complex and detailed issues contained within the Constitution.

This weekend's conference is part of Sinn Féin's contribution to that debate.

Last week we launched our analysis of the Constitution, which is available to delegates here today and on our web site. And after this event we will be initiating a nation wide series of events and activities to provoke discussion and debate.

Sinn Féin is opposed to the EU Constitution. However we do not accept that this debate is between pro and anti Europeans. This is not a debate over whether you support or reject the EU. Indeed for Sinn Féin the EU has and will continue to play an important and valuable part in the lives of all member states. Our approach to the EU is one of critical engagement, those things that are in the interests of the Irish people we support and seek to further, those things that are not we oppose and campaign to change.

This debate is about the very future of the European Union. It is a clash of opposing visions of what the EU means, what it does and how it does it.

France & Holland

Tomorrow France will vote in their referendum and next Wednesday the Dutch will do likewise. Like most people here, I have be watching the twists and turns of the debates in those countries in recent weeks, as opinion polls have given either side a marginal lead. I have also watched the way in which some sections of the Irish media have misrepresented the nature of the No campaigns in each country, and uncritically profiled elements of the Yes side. This is a shame, as the debate in France has been long and detailed, and has certainly allowed me to get a better grasp of some of the issued involved.

What is most interesting in both campaigns is the nature of the opposition to the Constitution. In both countries the No camp is lead by the left, including socialists, social democrats, radical greens, global and trade justice campaigners, feminists and democratic reform campaigners. Their arguments cannot be characterised as eurosceptic or anti Europe. Rather, in a general sense, they are people who are committed to an alternative vision of how the EU can work. They are opposed to those elements of the Constitution that deepen the democratic deficit, liberalise economic policy and privatise public services, that allocate greater resources to the militarisation of the EU, and that pursue an agenda that is bad for the developing world.

In short, the No campaigns in France and Holland are arguing that another Europe is possible, that the debate on the future of the EU needs to be reopened and the first step in doing so is to reject this Constitution.

Of course, in France and Holland, like in Ireland, a section of the Yes campaign is trying to present the No campaign as right wing, xenophobic, parochial, and over focused on domestic issues to the detriment of the 'bigger European ideal'. There is even an argument that opposition to the Constitution has nothing to do with the content of the text, but rather a desire to punish government for other policy failures. They are saying that to vote No is to be anti Europe. Some are even saying that to vote No would lead to the end of the European Union itself.

Such scare mongering serves several purposes. Clearly it is an attempt to frighten undecided or unsure voters into supporting the treaty. However, it is also an indication of the lack of any coherent argument for supporting the Constitution itself.

Seanad Debate

I had the opportunity to take part in a debate last week in the Seanad on this very issue. All 26 county MEPs were invited to participate, although our colleagues for the 6 counties were excluded. What was striking during that debate was the absence of any meaningful or specific arguments in favour of the Constitution. Speaker after speaker spoke about the many benefits which the EU had brought to Ireland, and that in light of this, support for the Constitution was the only possibly way forward. One speaker went so far as to say opposition to the Constitution equalled opposition to environmental protection, agricultural subsidies, gender equality and structural funds. Another speaker suggested that voters should only read Part I of the treaty, as it told you everything you needed to know about the Constitution.

A number of speakers rounded on Sinn Féin and our opposition to the treaty. One speaker suggested that our position defied logic and demonstrated a blatant disregard for the truth. Yes none of these speakers responded to our detailed arguments about large sections of the Constitution. Instead they retreated into bland generalisations about the benefits of the EU and the dire consequences of a failure to successfully ratify the treaty.

There is a cosy consensus within the Dáil among Fianna Fáil, PDs, Labour and Fine Gael on the EU and it is not healthy. Indeed it is damaging to Ireland and has resulted in an entire lack of analysis of where this process is taking us.

Sinn Féin's analysis of the constitution focuses on eleven areas of concern, which are outlined in our document 'Ireland and the EU Constitution'. Today I want to focus on just four of those areas, as other speakers during this conference will deal with others.

I want to look at the questions of democracy, the role of national parliaments, economic policy, and policy towards the developing world.

There are many other areas of concern, which have been discussed by speakers today. In particular the issues of militarisation and Irish neutrality are central to Sinn Féin's opposition to the constitution. My colleague Esko Sepannen MEP outlined many of these concerns from the perspective of Finland, another neutral state. Like him, many people in Ireland are concerned that the proposed Constitution seeks to transform the EU into a global superpower, with its own Foreign Minister, army and armaments agency. There is also a lot of anger at the failure of the Irish government to argue for a specific article requiring a UN mandate an article protecting neutrality.

Constitutionalisation of Policy

It is also important to emphasise one of the overarching issues which concerns Sinn Féin, and that is what we call the 'constutionalisation of EU policy'. Put simply this refers to the fact that both existing and new areas of policy contained within Constitution can only be changed by unanimity among the member states. If the Constitution is ratified in all member states, it will only be possible to alter its text by unanimity.

If a member state does not like the policies of its government it holds an election and chooses an alternative. This is democracy.

Under existing EU treaties, if member states are unhappy with aspects of the design or operation of the EU they can renegotiate, as happened recently with the Growth and Stability Pack.

However under the terms of the Constitution, if the citizens of a member state are no longer happy with the policy direction of the EU and its impact on their country, they do not have the right to exercise the ordinary democratic function of electing a new government. Rather they are bound to the detailed policy prescriptions contained within its articles.

Giscard d'Estaing, the head of the Convention on the Future of Europe, who drafted the original Constitutional text, has said that he expects this constitution to last for 50 years. 50 years of being bound by unanimity into detailed institutional frameworks and policy principles. This is a significant shift from the present situation, which although still restrictive, gives member states more room for renegotiation and change.

So the debate on the EU Constitution is not just about those elements of the treaty that are new. It is about the entire text and the way in which, if ratified, Ireland and the citizens of the 25 member states will be locked into a right wing policy framework and undemocratic institutional structure for decades to come.


How will the constitution impact on the functioning of democracy at a national and EU level?

Article 1-7 states that, 'The Union shall have legal personality'. This small sentence has profound consequences. It transforms the EU from a body of co-operating legal entities, the Member States, into a single legal entity in its own right. It gives the EU an independent corporate existence, whose authority will be derived, not from the Member States or their citizens, but the Constitution.

Article 1-6 firmly establishes EU law as superior to national law, in those areas outlined in the Constitution.

More significantly Article IV-444 states, 'Where part III provides for the Council to act by unanimity in a given area or case, the European Council may adopt a European decision authorising the Council to act by a qualified majority in that area or in that case.'

As a consequence of this article, the 25 political leaders of the Member States would have the power, without recourse to the European Parliament or more importantly national parliaments and the citizens of the Member States, to extend the powers conferred on the EU. This is known as the as the 'escalator or Passarelle clause. It would allow the European Council to extend the areas or cases under which, by a Qualified Majority Vote, EU law would operate and thus have primacy. QMV is defined in the proposed Constitution as: 55% of members of the Council, compromising at least 15 Member States who in turn make up at least 65% of the population of the EU.

The Irish governments referendum bill published yesterday indicated that any use of this or related escalator clauses could only take place following consultation with the Irish parliament. However it is unclear to what extent this guarantee is binding and how it would work out in practice. It is also unclear if the text of the bill would protect Irish citizens right to a referendum if and when significant changes are being made under these or indeed other articles of the Constitution.

The escalator clause would remove the need for new Treaties covering any proposed changes to the powers and scope of EU competencies. Rather further changes to EU practice or policy would happen in a more incremental, piece meal way, further undermining public awareness and scrutiny.

The Constitution also proposes that more than 40 further areas of government policy or national-decision making will be transferred from national governments to Brussels institutions. The Constitution specifically removes 63 national vetoes.

Taken with article 1-7 (granting the EU a legal personality), these articles firmly establish the EU as a proto-federal state with the power to extend its own powers independently of national parliaments and the citizens of Member States. The consequence is a profound challenge for Irish democracy.

The word 'Federal' featured prominently in the earlier draft of the Constitution presented by the Convention. However it was removed during the private negotiations of the Inter-governmental Conference, not to reduce the federalist implications of the Constitution, but in order to make the Constitution easier to sell in all member states. Federalists were unhappy but realised that the removal of the term was cosmetic.

The Greens/ European Free Alliance in the European Parliament, an honestly and unashamedly Federalist group, recognised this fact. In supporting the final draft they stated that the Constitution, 'transforms Europe from a collection of states into a unified body in the eyes of international law' and that it, 'creates a political area in which European unification can be translated from a plan devised by the elite and by state chancelleries into a European res publica'.

Sinn Féin also has serious concerns with the changes in operation of Qualified Majority Voting and the lack of meaningful powers for involvement of national parliaments in the decision making process. The detail of these arguments are outlined in our pamphlet.

A simple but important example of how these articles would operate and effect ordinary people can be seen in the area of international trade agreements. The EU, under the common commercial policy, and having a single legal personality would negotiate international trade agreements on behalf of all member states. The terms of reference for and outcomes of such negotiations would be decided by Qualified Majority Vote. These decisions would have primacy over Irish law, and indeed Irish public opinion.

The ending of the national veto on services such as health and education in this field would open the welfare services of member states to international private companies with the resulting loss of public sector jobs and universal service provision. And all of this could happen irrespective of whether an Irish government or the Irish people supported such changes.

While drafted in opaque and legalistic jargon, these elements of the Constitution will have a real and tangible impact on the lives of ordinary people across the European Union. Their net result will be the undermining of Irish democracy and sovereignty.

National Parliaments

Supporters of the Constitution in Ireland are making much of the allegedly increased powers for national parliaments in the EU decision-making process. The so called yellow card system is being presented as a real democratic advance. The reality, however, is rather different.

The Constitution's Protocols on the Role of National Parliaments in the EU and on the Application of the Principles of Subsidiarity and Proportionality would indeed improve the information flow from the EU to the national parliaments. But they do not extend the power of effective intervention to the national parliaments and even less so to the regional and local levels.

Articles 1 and 2 of the Protocol on the Role of National Parliaments requires the Commission to send proposals to the national parliaments, who only have six weeks, or ten days where a matter is considered urgent, to judge whether they satisfy the subsidiarity principle, and to submit an opinion to the EU Council, Parliament and Commission.

Under Article 7 of the Protocol on the Application of the Principles of Subsidiarity and Proportionality the Commission is only required to review its proposal if one third of the votes of national parliaments (each has two votes) claim non-compliance (or one quarter in the case of Justice measures). The Commission can still decide to proceed regardless of the objections raised, unless Member States or national parliaments succeed in stopping them through litigation in the EU Court of Justice.

Considering the size and detail, not to mention the legal and constitutional implications of many Commission proposals, such a time scale is simply unrealistic. This does not amount to an effective mechanism for involvement or intervention by national parliaments, much less by regional or local levels of government.

In reality, it only makes provision for the national parliaments to be informed about EU measures and to indicate their position to the Commission. This is a rather cosmetic exercise that will not generate greater levels of parliamentary or public scrutiny of EU policy decisions, and much less real involvement of these actors in the EU decision-making process.

Economic Policy

The European Union was at its origins intended to act as a mechanism for coordinating aspects of the economic life of member states to mutual advantage. In recent years it has prioritised the development of the Internal Market. The thrust of the economic policy as outlined in the Constitution, recent directives such as those on services, working time and software patents, and the outworking of the Lisbon Agenda clearly demonstrate the right wing, pro market, pro liberalisation agenda which lies at the core of the present EU project.

The impact of such measures will be to increase pressure on Member States to further reduce levels of public spending; to prioritise privatisation over the provision of public services; to promote free trade and capital liberalisation at the expense of job creation, wealth redistribution, and sustainable managed economic growth. A clear example of this can be seen when we look at the specific implications of the proposed Constitution for public services.

Proponents of the Constitution argue that it will improve the quality of life and social protections for people across the EU. However key aspects of policy provision detailed in Part III actively undermine and contradict such rhetorical commitments. Nowhere is this more clear than in those sections dealing with public services and common commercial policy.

Article III-130 states that: 'The internal market shall comprise an area without internal frontiers in which the free movement of persons, services, goods and capital is ensured in accordance with the Constitution.'

Along with Articles 161 and 168, this constitutes a major threat to the welfare state and public services in general. It constitutionally obliges Member States to ensure the free movement of services, thus limiting the ability of Member States to provide universal free service provision through the welfare state or health and education system. Member States will lose the right to prevent or restrict the involvement of the private sector in such provision. It prevents governments from using state aid in ways that would 'distort competition with the internal market', irrespective of whether that aid was being used to save jobs or deliver public services to those who cannot afford services provided privately. Such aid will be banned, and Member States will be monitored and censured if they do not comply.

All of this will lead to the creation of two-tier services such as health and education, whereby the wealthy can afford good quality services, and those on low pay or the unemployed will receive an even lower level of provision.

More troubling Article III-314 states that '..the Union shall contribute, in the common interest, to ... the progressive abolition of restrictions on international trade and on foreign direct investment, and the lowering of customs and other barriers'

As more and more aspects of public service provision are opened up to commercial forces e.g. the increasing use of Public Private Partnerships, the influence of the common commercial policy on the provision of these services will grow.

The Constitution also ends Member States a veto on international trade in services, even if the Member State has an electoral mandate to protect them. The unqualified veto on trade in health, education and cultural and audiovisual services is removed for the first time.

The further extension of the internal market, the liberalisation of international trade agreements and the ending of the national veto over health, education and audiovisual services including public broadcasting will have profound consequences for the Irish economy. Our public services are already in crisis and Fianna Fail-PD led privatisation is not the answer. The Constitution will not only accelerate such failed Thatcherite policies but considerably extend and deepen them. This will lead to greater levels of inequality, poverty and social exclusion

The Developing World

Sinn Féin believes that the EU can play a positive role in world politics, promoting peace, conflict resolution, social and economic development, eradication of poverty and disease, sustainable development and strengthening and reforming the United Nations. We strongly believe in the full attainment of the Millennium Development Goals, the meeting of UN targets for development aid from EU Member States, and the introduction of development aids such as the Tobin Tax (a small tax on international financial transactions). Unfortunately, the proposed Constitution does not match these goals.

It is already clear that the prioritising of trade and market liberalisation both in EU practice to date and enshrined in the draft Constitution means placing the requirements of the market before those of developing countries and their populations. The liberalising of the movement of capital (article III-156) would make the introduction of a modest development aid like the Tobin Tax impossible.

Moreover article III-314 states that, '...the Union shall contribute, in the common interest, to the harmonious development of world trade, the progressive abolition of restrictions on international trade and on foreign direct investment, and the lowering of customs and other barriers'.

The consequence of this article, as a guide for the EU negotiating and signing international trade treaties with developing world countries would be to open domestic markets in the developing world to multi national corporations irrespective of the impact on the local economy and levels of poverty and social exclusion. The impact of free trade agreements such as NAFTA on developing world countries in Latin America is already well documented, and leads to greater levels of poverty, disease, social dislocation and environmental damage. The proposed Constitution will copper fasten such approaches to the EU's relations with the developing world, rendering other approaches unconstitutional.

A worrying development is the linking of humanitarian aid with 'the fight against terrorism'. Article III-309 explicitly links provisions of the Common Security and Defence Policy with the provision of aid mission and other humanitarian tasks. Aid NGOs have said that 'Development co-operation must not be subordinated to EU foreign, security or commercial policy agendas in the EUs policy or institutional framework. The Treaty must make explicit reference to the autonomy, neutrality, and impartiality of EU humanitarian aid. It should not constitute an instrument for EU security policy in a 'war on terror'.

Unfortunately the proposed Constitution does link humanitarian missions and aid to commercial, security, defence and foreign policy in ways that can only be detrimental to the needs of the developing world.

Another Europe is Possible

The Laeken Declaration which established the Convention on the Future of Europe called for 'more democracy, transparency and efficiency' in the EU. It said there was a need to 'clarify, simplify and adjust the division of competencies between the Union and the Member States.' It acknowledged that people across the European Union did not want a 'European superstate.' Clearly the Convention has failed in these tasks. It has produced less democracy, less transparency and less clarity. Moreover in the rush to produce a federalist constitution it ignored the other options set out in the terms of the Laeken Declaration.

Sinn Féin wants to see the original intentions of the Laeken Declaration realised. We want to build a Europe of Equals - a true partnership of equal sovereign states, co-operating in social and economic development in Europe and beyond. We want an EU that promotes peace, demilitarisation and nuclear disarmament and the just resolution of conflicts under the leadership of a reformed, renewed and democratised United Nations. We want an EU that respects and promotes national, collective and individual rights (including human, political, social, cultural and economic rights). We want an economically and socially just EU, not an EU that is merely another economic superpower. Equally we want a globally responsible, fair-trading EU that leads the way on reaching the Millennium Development Goals for halving global poverty by 2015.

Ultimately, we want a future United Ireland to take an active, leading role in such a reformed EU.

Tomorrows debates will examine more of these issues in detail, and the final session, Another Europe is Possible, will look beyond the Constitution and discuss how this alternative vision of the EU can be realised.

However what is clear is that the first step in this journey is the rejection of the proposed EU Constitution. Sinn Féin believes that another Europe is possible; we want to play an active and forward-looking part in building that Europe.

Over the next twelve months Sinn Féin will lead a major campaign, north and south, opposing ratification of the proposed EU Constitution. Our opposition is positive, progressive and forward thinking. We are asking you to join us in this important campaign.


French ferry workers 'will block the Normandy'

28/05/2005 - 15:30:52

French ferry workers have said they will stop the Irish Ferries ship the Normandy docking at French ports.

It follows a breakdown in talks between Irish Ferries management and unions in Dublin.

Unions are unhappy that the company is no longer employing unionized labour and has recruited lower-paid workers from new EU countries in Eastern Europe.

SIPTU Spokesperson Paul Smyth said: "The French are really saying we're not allowing this cancer of exploiting workers on ferries to spread to ferries in our country".

He said that the embargo of the Normandy earlier this week had been lifted only after SIPTU had pleaded with the French unions.

RTE News

DPP backs calls for DNA database

28 May 2005 15:23

The Director of Public Prosecutions has backed calls for the establishment of a DNA database to tackle serious crime.

Addressing the Annual Prosecutors' Conference in Dublin, James Hamilton said the proposed database should not be limited to offenders who have served a prison sentence.

He told the conference that such a database was essential to tackle organised crime where it's difficult to persuade witnesses to testify against violent crime gangs.

The Director said, however, that current proposals to only retain samples from those who have served a prison sentence were too conservative.

He wants the records to include a wider population of offenders.

The law reform commission has already proposed the database in a discussion document and is expected to recommend its establishment in a report later this year.

Indymedia Ireland

Two serious false statements in today's, Friday's. Irish Times re. Eu Constitution

by Anthony Coughlan via imcer - THE NATIONAL PLATFORM EU RESEARCH AND INFORMATION CENTRE Saturday, May 28 2005, 12:21pm

Two false statements on the EU Constitution in today's Irish Times - by Taoiseach Bertie Ahern and the paper's European Correspondent, Denis Staunton:

In his article supporting the EU Constitution in today's Irish Times (P.16)Taoiseach Bertie Ahern makes one quite inaccurate statement. He says that the EU Constitution "includes significant new powers for national parliaments."

The EU Constitution includes nothing of the kind. The Constitution would remove over 60 further national vetoes on top of those already removed by previous EC/EU treaties. Half of these would be in new policy areas where the post-Constitution EU, not National Parliaments, would henceforth make the laws. The other half would substitute qualified majority voting for unanimity in making EU laws in relation to policy areas that are already with the EU. This means that National Parliaments and Governments would lose their power to decide matters for some 60 policy areas.

The EU Constitution does not give National Parliaments a single new power. Its Protocol on Subsidiarity provides that National Parliaments must be informed in advance of proposals for new EU laws, and if one-third of the 25 Parliaments think that a particular proposal goes too far and they object to it, the proposal must be "reviewed" by the Brussels Commission, but the Commission and Council of Ministers can still go ahead with it. Contrary to what Taoiseach Ahern claims, this clearly is not a "significant new power" for National Parliaments. It is not new, for National Parliaments can object already. It is not a power, for they can object all they like and the Commission can go on ignoring them. What National Parliaments get in this provision of the Constitution is more like a new right to be ignored.

If the Taoiseach wishes for a proper national debate on the proposed EU Constitution, as he says he does, he should not himself make such fundamental misrepresentations regarding what is in the Treaty.

Under the heading "No vote will not kill constitution"(P.11) the same paper's EU Correspondent, Denis Staunton, makes a seriously inaccurate statement which could well mislead the Irish public regarding what could or should be done following a posssible French or Dutch No vote in their referendums. He writes: "According to the constitution, if at least four-fifths of the member states ratify it by November next year and the others are unable to do so, 'the matter will be referred to the European Council' of EU leaders."

Contrary to what Denis Staunton states, this is NOT "according to the constitution". The EU Constitution contains no such provision, and even if it did, how could States be bound by the provisions of a document that is
not yet ratified?

What Mr Staunton misleadingly refers to as "part of the constitution" is a political Declaration, No.30, which is attached to the Constitution but is not legally part of it, and which was adopted by the Intergovernmental Conference that drafted the final Treaty-cum-Constitution. This Declaration reads as follows: "The Conference notes that if, two years after the signature of the Treaty establishing a Constitution for Europe, four fifths of the Member States have ratified it and one or more Member States have encountered difficulties in proceeding with ratification, the matter will be referred to the European Council."

Note that the Declaration states that "IfSfour fifths of the Member States have ratified." This is not the same as an obligation on them to proceed with ratification if one Member State has said No and the others decide to respect that No. States are free to abandon the ratification process if they choose. The terms of this Declaration, which is not itself a Treaty or legally binding, make quite clear that the decision by other EU States to ignore a possible No vote in France or the Netherlands and to proceed with their ratifications as if a French or Dutch No could be reversed or over-ruled, is a purely political matter, but has no legal imperative behind it. It would be merely an attempt by EU politicians, bureaucrats and propagandists to bully the people of the country concerned.

This is to contemplate the kind of outrageously undemocratic behaviour that Ireland's political elite engaged in when Irish voters rejected the Nice Treaty in June 2001. When that happened Taoiseach Bertie Ahern could have told his EU partners that he wished the ratification process to stop to take acount of the Irish people's vote. Instead he went to the EU summit in Gothenburg the weekend afterwards to apologise to his EU colleagues in effect for the way the Irish had voted, told them to ignore that vote and to go ahead with ratifying the Nice Treaty. He promised that he would re-run the referendum and get a different result by changing the referendum rules and securing their help in due course to threaten, bully and cajole the Irish electorate a second time around.

French Prime Minister Raffarin has stated that there will be no second vote in France - thereby showing more respect for his people than Taoiseach Ahern did for his - and showing also that, unlike Mr Staunton, he is aware of the legal/political significance attaching to a Treaty Declaration. The only reason for Taoiseach Ashern proposing to hold a referendum in Ireland in the event of a French or Dutch No vote would be that he contemplates us joining in a general EU exercise of bullying or trickery vis-a-vis French or Dutch voters, just as their politicians helped Bertie Ahern to bully and cajole us in our Nice Two referendum.

Denis Staunton dredges up some Professor of Politics in Edinburgh - presumably the holder of some Jean Monnet ideological chair - to state, quite falsely, that there is an obligation under international law for the EU Member States to continue trying to ratify this Treaty when one State has rejected it.

There is no such "obligation". Where could such an obligation come from? The Declaration referred to is not an international treaty and imposes no legal obligation whatever. It is a statement of intention in hypothetical circumstances: namely, that the 25 Governments would discuss the matter if four-fifths of EU States did not ratifiy the Treaty. But that does not amount to a requirement that they should go ahead with their own ratifications while ignoring No votes in some countries, contrary to what Mr Staunton and his Edinburgh Politics Professor imply. That would be a political decision, a decision by politicians to ignore a people's vote. It would be quite typical of the arrogant EU-elite, but let us not pretend that it would have some mandatory legal force behind it.

It is surprising that such an experienced correspondent as the Irish Times's Denis Staunton does not seem to know the difference between a Declaration attached to a Treaty, which is a political statement but not legally binding, and a Treaty's substantive Articles and Protocols, which are. If Mr Staunton had enquired a little harder he might have found someone properly qualified in international law who would have been be able to tell him what was in the EU Constitution and what was not, and who could explain the legal/political weight that attaches to political Delarations annexed to treaties.

One suspects that Mr Staunton is merely echoing and seeking to drum up support for the policy line now being pushed by the eurocrats of the EU Commission and by the many eurofanatics and eurobullies across the EU who want to ignore a possible No vote by the people of either France or Holland in their referendums, so as to keep their precious EU Constitution project on the road, from which they stand to gain much personally themselves.

This is playing politics and making EU propaganda, not good journalism. It us unfortunate that so many European correspondents who "go native" in Brussels seem unable to tell the difference.

Signed: Anthony Coughlan


**about frigging time

Gardaí to vet teachers and school staff

28/05/2005 - 08:41:35

Primary and post primary teachers nationwide are to undergo a series of checks by the central Garda vetting unit in a new effort to ensure no one with a child abuse record is employed in the education sector.

Vetting staff are being trained in Thurles, Co Tipperary.

It is expected that once they are trained, newly-qualified teachers and other staff such as caretakers will be the first to be checked.

However, all existing staff will be checked when the service is fully operational.


Airline stops all live trade for use in experiments

Mark Honigsbaum and Alok Jha
Saturday May 28, 2005
The Guardian

British Airways has been accused of setting back medical research in the UK by enforcing a blanket ban on the transport of live animals for use in experiments. Government officials and leading scientists have expressed their dismay to the airline about the toughening of its stance which they fear will send the wrong message to scientists and pharmaceutical companies involved in animal testing, and could encourage s extremists who have been running a high-profile campaign to shut down the live animal trade.

Department of Trade and Industry officials are understood to have raised their concerns with senior BA management after the airline's decision not to accept the carriage of primates, wild birds or other live caught animals "for use in any laboratory or for experimen tation or exploitation". Colin Blakemore, chief executive of the Medical Research Council, has also questioned the message it sends to people suffering from conditions that could be treated through advances in medical research.

BA's policy coincides with a campaign by extremists targeting executives from the airports company BAA and airlines such as Air France and Air Mauritius. In February the cars of five BAA executives were vandalised and the message "You are now a target for us" was sprayed on one executive's Surrey home.

This was followed by demonstrations at airline offices and travel agents across the UK by a group called Gateway to Hell demanding a boycott of all travel to Mauritius. Yesterday, Air Mauritius announced it was no longer willing to transport macaques - monkeys vital to the development of new vaccines and experiments for Alzheimer's and Parkinson's.

An Air Mauritius spokesman said that Mauritius was not prepared to risk its tourism industry while BA appeared to be at odds with official British government policy.

"Your national carrier appears to have given up on this. We feel that until the British parties decide what to do we we have no choice but to suspend our flights," said a spokesman.

In February Prof Blakemore wrote to BA's chairman, Rod Eddington, asking whether BA would have a similar policy on the carriage of live animals for food. "If BA is prepared to do this, then I can see no argument for not carrying animals that might instead be used in research for the benefit of human kind. How could you explain your decision to members of your own staff who suffer, or have relatives who suffer, from diseases and disorders for which research on animals offers the only hope of a cure?"

Mr Eddington replied that BA's announcement merely reiterated the company's previ ous position. "Whilst our policy does narrow the opportunities for transportation by air we believe there are a number of alternative options for the carriage of this cargo," he replied to Prof Blakemore.

According to BA, its policy on live transports dates back several years and mirrors that of other British airlines, such as Virgin and BMi. However, in December it discovered regulations were not being properly implemented and sought to correct procedures.

"This is a specialist cargo that is difficult to handle," said a BA spokeswoman. "It is well documented that we have been working hard to simplify our business. Carrying these animals is not part of our core business." The DTI said it did not comment on discussions with individual airlines. However, a spokesman acknowledged: "We are aware of the difficulties that have surrounded the transport of laboratory animals for many years."

Scientists and ministers are concerned that Britain's position as a centre of world medical research is being eroded as more companies pull out of dealing with animal research labs. Last year several pharmaceutical companies reassessed their position in Britain, threatening to take billions of pounds of research money with them if they leave. Britain is second only to the United States in medical research. In 2003 British scientists conducted nearly 3m experiments on animals, the majority of them mice and rats. Nearly 4,800 procedures were performed on primates,.

Animal welfarists argue that the decisions by BA and other airlines not to carry lab animals may worsen conditions for macaques. "Researchers will become increasingly dependent on smaller carriers, with less choice and fewer direct routes," wrote Prof Blakemore in his letter to Mr Eddington.

27 May 2005


Different versions of Lisa call

Lisa Dorrian's body has never been found

Two men questioned over the murder of Lisa Dorrian gave different accounts of a call said to have been made after she disappeared, the BBC has learned.

One account emerged during lengthy police questioning - the other was given to the BBC's Spotlight programme.

One man, who claims to have been the last person to see the 25-year-old, told the programme he called her mobile moments after she disappeared.

He claimed it was answered by her boyfriend who said he was in Bangor.

When questioned by police the man who answered the call said he was in a flat in Ballywalter.

Ms Dorrian disappeared after a party in a caravan park in Ballyhalbert more than three months ago.

Just over a week ago BBC Spotlight reconstructed the account of events given by the teenager who claims he was the last person to see Lisa alive.

According to his version of events, at about 0500 GMT on Monday, 28 February they were frightened by noises outside the caravan where they were partying.

But his explanation of exactly what frightened them was vague. He claimed they ran from a caravan and that in the dark he lost Lisa.

Minutes later he said he called her mobile phone but she did not answer. Instead he spoke to her boyfriend who, he claimed, told him he was in Bangor with another woman.

But BBC Northern Ireland Security Editor Brian Rowan said during questioning at Antrim police station the man who answered Lisa's phone told detectives a different story.

Lisa disappeared after a party at a caravan

During two days of questioning he said he was with another man and a teenage girl in a flat in Ballywalter.

The man claimed Lisa's phone had been left in the flat, and that was why he answered it.

He claimed that when he called the teenager gave no indication that anything was wrong.

He told the police the teenager was not distressed or panicked but sounded completely normal.

But the man told the police that later that day he met the teenager in Ballyhalbert.

The man claimed that at that point the teenager appeared emotionally distressed, shaky, tearful and not himself.

Following the Spotlight programme there have been a number of developments, Mr Rowan added.

"It's my understanding that in the past few days there have been two meetings at Belfast City Hall," he said.

"These followed approaches to the loyalist politician David Ervine.

"Several allegations were made. One, that just a couple of weeks before her disappearance, Lisa was being harassed by two men over claims that she owed them money for drugs.

"And a second allegation that she was minding £20,000 at her Bangor flat for another man. Details of these allegations and the names that were given to David Ervine have now been passed to the police."


Recent Sellafield leak went unnoticed for three months

27/05/2005 - 17:57:32

The latest information from the British authorities reveals the recent leak at Sellafield went un-noticed for at least three months.

It is now thought the pipe at the Thorp nuclear reprocessing plant started to fail as far back as last August.

It broke down last January but was not spotted until this April, despite several opportunities.

This latest information doesn't change the fact that the leak has no health implications for Ireland, but it is raising Government concerns over the plant.

The Minister for the Environment Dick Roche is describing the news as deeply worrying and says it does nothing to put confidence in the Sellafield plant.

He says it is part of an untenable pattern where a serious incident occurs, the investigation reveals failures and weaknesses, recommendations are drawn up and further assurances given the plant is safe.

Indymedia Ireland

GAMA- Labour Court settlement reached

by Joe Higgins T.D. - Socialist Party Friday, May 27 2005, 5:56pm
national / workers issues / press release

Labour Court Award of €8,000 per annum for unpaid overtime – a stunning vindication of worker exploitation revelations;

However, award falls far short of what workers should have been paid for massive amount of overtime worked with GAMA.

After eight weeks of work stoppage GAMA workers have voted to accept a Labour Court proposal of €8,000 per year worked plus one month’s wages.

The Labour Court award of €8,000 per annum for unpaid overtime represents a stunning vindication of worker exploitation revelations

However, the award falls far short of what workers should have been paid for massive amount of overtime worked with GAMA. In fact GAMA workers were forced to work up to 84 hours a week in all kinds of weather.

Given that the workers have accepted the Labour Court recommendation, the Government now has a huge responsibility to force GAMA to pay the settlement within days.

For four years GAMA operated a ruthless machine of exploitation of its Turkish workers in Ireland. Never again must such a vile regime of exploitation be allowed in this State.

The trade union movement must now move immediately to a major organisation of all migrant workers to ensure this.

Belfast Telegraph

US wants to be able to access Britons' ID cards

By Kim Sengupta
27 May 2005

The United States wants Britain's proposed identity cards to have the same microchip and technology as the ones used on American documents.

The aim of getting the same microchip is to ensure compatability in screening terrorist suspects. But it will also mean that information contained in the British cards can be accessed across the Atlantic.

Michael Chertoff, the newly appointed US Secretary for Homeland Security, has already had talks with the Home Secretary, Charles Clarke, and the Transport Secretary, Alistair Darling, to discuss the matter.

Mr Chertoff said yesterday that it was vital to seek compatibility, holding up the example of the "video war" of 25 years ago, when VHS and Betamax were in fierce competition to win the status of industry standard for video recording systems.

"I certainly hope we have the same chip... It would be very bad if we all invested huge amounts of money in biometric systems and they didn't work with each other.Hopefully, we are not going to do VHS and Betamax with our chips. I was one of the ones who bought Betamax, and that's now in the garbage," he said.

Mr Chertoff also proposed that British citizens wishing to visit the US should consider entering a "Trusted Traveller" scheme. Under this, they would forward their details to the US embassy to be vetted. If successful, they would receive a document allowing "fast- tracking" through the US immigration system.

A pilot scheme will start within a few months between the US and the Netherlands, allowing Dutch visitors to use a Trusted Traveller card to enter the US without being subjected to further questioning or screening.

Britain is one of 27 countries whose citizens do not need visas to enter the US if they intend to stay less than 90 days. The American government has said it wants 27 to issue new passports by 26 October this year containing a computer chip and a digital photograph.

Mr Chertoff said compatability and the checking system was intended purely to track down "terrorists and criminals" and the main aim was to provide a "fair and reasonable system".

US diplomatic sources stated later that Washington did not wish to interfere in the domestic affairs of other countries.

"When we screen based on names, we're screening on the most primitive and least technological basis of identification - it's the most susceptible to misspelling, or people changing their identity, or fraud," he said.

The scheme will also, say diplomats, ease confusion over who exactly constitutes a suspect. The most high-profile case was that of Yusuf Islam, the singer formerly known as Cat Stevens, who was barred from entering the US because his activities "could be potentially linked to terrorism". The British government is insistent that Mr Islam had no such links.

However, this is the latest controversy to surround Britain's proposed combined identity card and passport due to be introduced in three years' time. Rising costs have pushed the cost up to £93 each after the overall estimated 10-year cost of the project grew from £3.1bn to £ 5.8 bn.

There have also been problems over the effectiveness of the biometric technology which is supposed to safeguard the security of the cards. There were also verification problems with 30 per cent of those whose fingerprint was taken during an enrolment trial of 10,000 volunteers.

An Phoblacht

Three Volunteers killed in Coagh - Remembering the Past


Image Hosted by ImageShack.us
photo of Tony Doris - from Relatives for Justice

Shortly before 7.30am, on 3 June 1991, three Volunteers of Tyrone Brigade, who were on active service, drove towards Coagh village from the direction of Moneymore. In the commandeered red Vauxhall Cavalier they carried two weapons. Their car had just crossed a small bridge leading into Coagh's main street, having passed a number of workmen. As the car entered the edge of Hanover Square, it passed a red Bedford lorry parked near the kerb. This lorry had, according to local people, not been seen in the village before and appeared to have been part of the crown forces' operation. Behind this lorry and in other hidden locations around Hanover Square, eight SAS gunmen lay in wait. From eyewitness accounts it appears that all were armed with heavy calibre assault rifles and at least one was carrying a machine gun.

As the Volunteers' car cleared the Bedford lorry it came under intense fire. All three occupants appear to have been hit by this initial burst. The vehicle went out of control, veered across Hanover Square and crashed into a garden wall. Without letting up their fire, eight of the gunmen closed in on the stricken vehicle. The SAS killers assumed positions in a semi-circle around the car and continued firing for up to ten minutes. The Cavalier, struck from all quarters, burst into flames, the blaze igniting a Volkswagon Golf parked at the scene of the crash.

At least 200 rounds hit the car; others tore around the windows of nearby buildings. One of the SAS gunmen emerged from an alleyway between two houses, took up position less than ten yards from the front of the car, and fired round after round into the vehicle. A resident of one of the houses later told how she had seen this gunman at the rear of her house just before the shooting started. She described him as wearing 'a type of gas mask and some kind of boiler suit', a description of the type of apparel often worn by SAS death squads.

The three Volunteers who were brutally slain were Tony Doris from Coalisland, Pete Ryan from Ardboe, and Lawrence McNally from Ballinderry.

Less than an hour after the ambush ceased, stories of a 'gun battle' were being fed to a media only too willing, to carry the official version of events without question. At the same time, the RUC 'unofficially' give the names of the three dead men to journalists, a clear indication that the ambush had been very carefully prepared and that the three had been under surveillance and could easily have been arrested.

The main RUC line and the one which drew most media attention was the lie that the Volunteers were en route to shoot Protestant workmen when they were ambushed. This was carried even though the media were aware that the Volunteers' car had already driven past the workmen before the shooting began. An IRA statement made clear that the Volunteers were on active service preparing to engage a military target.

The execution of the triple killing and the firepower employed by the British death squad were designed to deliver two messages. The first was that the shoot-to-kill policy sanctioned and overseen by the highest levels of the British administrations was still firmly in place. The second was that those who dared to resist British rule would be met with the full force of a violent and well-armed state, prepared to use both official and unofficial death squads to silence and eliminate those who would not be cowed.

IRA Volunteers Pete Ryan, Lawrence McNally and Tony Doris were fighting a war of liberation. They knew it was likely that they would be killed in that war and their deaths were terrible casualties of it. Their role had been clear, honest and honourable. The British Government's was the opposite.

Despite unnecessary delay and harassment by the RUC and the Gardaí, the three Volunteers were buried with military honours; thousands turned out to honour the fallen freedom fighters.

On 3 June 1991, 14 years ago, three Volunteers of the Irish Republican Army were shot dead by undercover British forces.


Ireland to go ahead with EU constitution vote

Fri May 27, 2005 11:38 AM BST
By Paul Majendie

DUBLIN (Reuters) - Ireland will go ahead with its referendum on the European constitution even if France rejects it in a crucial poll on Sunday.

After the government published a bill on Thursday to enable a referendum to be held, Foreign Minister Dermot Ahern said: "We will proceed in any event. Renegotiation is not on the agenda."

EU officials say if France votes "No" by a large margin, the treaty is probably doomed. Two new polls put French opposition at 55 percent and a third at 54 percent.

Prime Minister Bertie Ahern, eager to defuse "No" campaigners, on Friday denied the constitution would bring neutral Ireland closer to being involved in a military alliance.

"The existing prohibition in the Irish constitution on Ireland's participation in any EU common defence will remain," Ahern wrote in the Irish Times.

"There is nothing in the European constitution that affects our policy of military neutrality or the triple lock," he added.

The so-called "triple lock" means that a government decision, parliamentary approval and U.N. authorisation would all be needed before Irish troops are committed to any overseas operation.

No date has been set yet for the referendum in Ireland, which has been a major benefactor from EU cash to update its poor infrastructure.

Neutrality is one of the most sensitive political issue in Ireland.

Ahern's government came under heavy domestic criticism last year for allowing U.S. jets to refuel at Shannon airport in western Ireland en route to the Middle East.

Among the leading opponents in Ireland of the EU constitution is Sinn Fein, political ally of the Irish Republican Army campaigning to end British rule in Northern Ireland. Ireland's neutrality is its major concern.

With publication of the referendum bill now giving Ireland the legislative basis for staging a referendum, Europe now looks set again to take a much more central role in Irish politics.

Pitching a "Yes" vote to his compatriots, Ahern said: "The constitution reflects Europe's values, extends new rights to Europe's citizens, strengthens Europe's role in the world and simplifies decision-making in the enlarged EU."

Edinburgh Evening News

Ex-IRA prisoner's violent play to get star billing at Fringe

27 May 2005

A HARD-HITTING play by a former IRA prisoner is to be given star billing at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, it emerged today.

The Wrong Man, written by ex-Sinn Fein spin doctor Danny Morrison, is expected to be one of the most high-profile shows at The Pleasance this August.

Its writer has served time after being convicted of kidnapping and conspiracy to murder.

The plot centres on an IRA cell and ticket-holders can expect graphic violence on stage.

The play features a largely Northern Irish cast and is the first production by the New Strung Theatre Company.

Belfast-born Mr Morrison, who spent eight years behind bars after being caught in a house where an IRA informer was being interrogated, was Bobby Sands’ official spokesman during the hunger strikes in the 1980s. Sands was the first of the hunger strikers to die.

Mr Morrison, who claims to have given up political activism when he was released from jail in 1995 during the IRA ceasefire, has already written a string of books.

The Wrong Man is his debut play, which he says has so far been shunned by theatres in Dublin and Belfast because of political prejudice - a claim strongly denied by leading venues.

Mr Morrison, who joined the IRA as a teenager, has been one of the closest aides to both leading Sinn Fein party figures, Martin McGuinness and Gerry Adams, in the past, thanks to his former role as Sinn Fein’s national director of publicity.

His play - billed as offering audiences the chance to catch "a glimpse inside the IRA" - is said to focus on the final days of an IRA informer and the fear and paranoia caused by "the knowledge of an informer at work".

It has already sparked controversy with a three-week run in London, which began just after the notorious murder of Robert McCartney. Ticket-holders will have to be aged 16 or over to be admitted to the venue in Edinburgh because of the terrifying scenes of violence and the harrowing subject matter featured.

Mr Morrison, who famously urged the Republican movement to pursue its strategy with "an Armalite in one hand and a ballot box in the other", told the Evening News he felt audiences in Edinburgh would be "broad-minded" enough to accept the play’s subject matter.

"I’m sure nothing like this will have been at the Fringe before. I’m really looking forward to it.

"I’m sure audiences are going to respond to it well. There’s a lot of violence and a lot of passion in the play, but in my experience Edinburgh audiences are pretty broad-minded."

The show’s promoter Dan Pursey said the show would provide "a unique view inside the IRA".

Liberal Democrat MSP Donald Gorrie, one of the leading campaigners against sectarianism in Scotland, said: "It’s really up to audiences and critics to make their own minds up, but it’s not very helpful with all the efforts that are on-going to tackle sectarianism."

However, city Tory councillor Alastair Paisley said: "I think we can well do without this kind of thing at the Fringe.

It sounds completely abhorrent."

First Minister Jack McConnell’s office declined to comment today.

Daily Ireland

‘Agent’ killers

By Ciarán Barnes c.barnes@dailyireland.com

The three chief suspects in the murder of Bangor woman Lisa Dorrian are being protected from prosecution by the PSNI’s Special Branch, loyalist sources claimed yesterday.
Detectives have so far arrested three people in connection with the murder but released them all unconditionally.
The main suspects in the Dorrian disappearance are two Loyalist Volunteer Force drug-dealing brothers from east Belfast who are related to a murdered loyalist leader.
A cousin of the pair from north Down, who has LVF connections and was close to Johnny Adair’s old Ulster Defence Association C Company, is another prime suspect.
Also in the frame is a young man from the Rathcoole estate on the edge of north Belfast who is linked to the small Red Hand Commando paramilitary group.
It was his involvement with Ms Dorrian that prompted the group to investigate her killing.
According to a number of loyalist sources, three of these four suspects work for Special Branch.
The sources insist that these links are hampering the investigation into Ms Dorrian’s death.
One senior loyalist said: “The [PSNI] drug squad can’t do a raid in east Belfast without consulting these people first. It is the view of many people, particularly those close to loyalism in east Belfast, that the investigation into Lisa Dorrian’s death is being held up because of the suspects’ links to Special Branch.”
Speaking last week, Progressive Unionist Party leader David Ervine said he “cannot work out why” the PSNI was prepared to speculate about IRA involvement in the murder of Robert McCartney but would not be drawn on speculation that the LVF had killed Ms Dorrian.
Mr Ervine said it was “beyond doubt” the LVF killed the 25-year-old. Since its formation eight years ago, the LVF has been riddled with informants.
Ms Dorrian went missing on February 28 from a caravan park on the outskirts of Bangor, Co Down.
It is believed she was murdered after being caught taking drugs from an LVF stash.
Despite constant appeals, the Dorrians are no wiser about the circumstances surrounding their loved one’s death.
The shop assistant’s mother, Pat Dorrian, said the family was no nearer to finding Lisa’s body or those responsible for her death. She said: “In all truth, we don’t have a clue what has happened.
“It’s just as if she has disappeared off the face of the earth. All we have got left is memories, photographs.”


Adams welcomes Ahern's NI commitment

27 May 2005 15:07

The Sinn Féin President, Gerry Adams, has welcomed the Taoiseach's reiteration this morning of his commitment to reaching a political solution in Northern Ireland.

Bertie Ahern said that the Government's commitment to the Good Friday Agreement was 'rock solid'.

Mr Ahern also said if the IRA responds positively to the Mr Adams' earlier appeal to abandon the armed struggle, his Government would urge the DUP leader, Ian Paisley, to sign up to the deal negotiated last year.

He said he was hopeful there would be such a positive response from the IRA, but he repeated there could be no fudges from the organisation on the end to paramilitarism and criminality.

He said if a positive response was forthcoming from the IRA, the Irish and British governments would expect unionism to participate fully in partnership and inclusive politics.

Mr Ahern was speaking at the Institute for British-Irish Studies at University College Dublin.


New Lodge author launches eagerly anticipated novel

Award-winning New Lodge writer Sam Millar is launching a new novel after the phenomenal success of his H-Block book On The Brinks.

The Redemption Factory is the latest offering from the New Lodge man and tells the tale of a man who kills a man he suspects of being an informer but later doubts his actions. Some 16-years later he meets the man’s son and the action unfolds.
An anthology of short stories from Sam Millar, William Trevor and Anne McCaffrey is also being considered for nomination for the prestigious International Hugo Awards, this August.
Sam Millar said he was delighted by some excellent reviews in the Irish and British press for his new offering.
But is his book set with the backdrop of the conflict?
“No I didn’t say where it was. It can be any country in the world and people can read into it,” he said.
“It’s about a man who kills a man he believes is an informer. He’s killed informers before and believes he’s doing the right thing and has no qualms. But he starts to doubt if this man really was an informer and soon realises that he has killed a guy who is innocent and has been set up. He later meets his son.”
Sam Millar will be available for a signing of his new book on Saturday June 11 at 12.30pm. The novel is published by Brandon Books and priced £6.00.
“It will make an excellent Father’s Day present,” said its author.

Journalist:: Andrea McKernon


Surgery to save Romanian orphan success

A little Romanian orphan, who underwent a lifesaving operation in Belfast last week took her first steps outside as she was discharged with a clean bill of health by heart doctors.
The journey to help three-year-old Laura Bodi began over a year ago when charity workers, including St Malachy’s teacher Francie Toner found the little girl in a Romanian hospital in January 2004.
The tiny girl who, up until recently, was the same size as a six-month-old baby, suffers from a rare heart condition called ventricular septal defect.
She had been living in hospital all her young life and was severely malnourished and had anaemia. Romanian doctors told the charity workers if she didn’t get the life saving operation she would not be alive this time next year.
But after massive efforts to raise the £30,000 needed for a critical heart operation, and a success story in obtaining a temporary visa for the little Romanian orphan, Laura was allowed to fly to Belfast at the end of April.
She stayed with a family in Downpatrick and travelled to the Royal Victoria Hospital for her operation last week. She left the hospital on Wednesday after a successful heart surgery with Romanian nurse Maria Kallai.
Laura’s story touched the lives of hundreds of people and her plight galvanised charities, schools and businesses who organised projects in order to raise money.
St Malachy’s IT teacher Francie Toner said he was amazed by the public’s generosity.
“Everyone has been so great and we can’t thank them enough. St Malachy’s raised a lot of money by itself and that’s because the students are fantastic. Everyday they’re asking how Laura is, and how the fundraising is going. We go to Romania every year in the school and this year the fifth years are already looking forward to going in January 2006 and hoping to help another little boy or girl who needs our help.”
Laura’s transformations since her arrival in Ireland has been remarkable Francie added.
“When we saw her in January, Laura couldn’t sit up in her cot, but now she has made so much progress. It’s amazing to see in the four weeks she has been here she has learned to crawl and move. It’s all down to her diet and one to one attention, which has made all the difference.”

Journalist:: Staff Reporter


UDA is on the rampage following arrests

THE UDA are being blamed for causing major disruption and carrying out a number of sectarian attacks in North Belfast and Glengormley last weekend.
In the attacks cars were destroyed and several homes were damaged.
It is believed that the UDA was flexing its muscles following the imprisonment of Lower Shankill UPRG man Denis Cunningham for UFF membership and the arrest of four loyalists in a PSNI sting as they attempted to extort money from a Nutts Corner businessman.
Homes of leading loyalists were among those searched in a follow-up operation. A number of weapons were found and a quantity of drugs seized.
However the PSNI is reluctant to blame all the reported incidents on sectarianism despite both unionist and nationalist politicians agreeing all that the attacks were indeed of a sectarian nature.
At around 11pm on Friday night a Peugeot 406 car was burnt in Cliftondene Crescent in Oldpark, near to three houses which were attacked with paint bombs just before midnight on Friday.
Paint bombs also damaged two houses at Abbeydale Park just off the Crumlin Road, while a Rover car parked nearby was also damaged with stones at 11.30pm.
Around midnight two houses at Ligoniel Road and a property at Somerdale Park were also attacked with paint bombs.
The campaign moved towards Glengormley at around 12.30 am on Saturday when a BMW car parked at Hazelwood Park near Bellevue was destroyed after it was set on fire.
Police in North Belfast confirmed that these series of incidents were "sectarian and connected" and believe loyalists were responsible.
And in what the police are describing as ‘a separate incident that was not thought by police to be sectarian’ a car was destroyed in a petrol bomb attack in Glengormley.
Shortly before 12.40am a Peugeot 106 car parked in Farmley Gardens was completely destroyed when it was petrol bombed.
Three youths wearing baseball caps were seen in the area at the time of the attacks and police say they may have been involved.
Sinn Féin’s Newtownabbey Councillor Breige Meehan believes the Farmley attack was linked and said,
“I utterly condemn the sectarian attacks which took place at the weekend.
“The cowardly thugs should be ostracised within their community.
“I would call for dialogue between the two communities in order to put a halt to sectarian attacks from whichever quarter they come.”
North Belfast DUP MLA Nelson McCausland condemned the "totally unprovoked" attacks.
"It is clear that since there were so many attacks on one night that this was an orchestrated campaign," he said.
"People should have the right to live in their homes without fear of attack on them or their property.
"Such attacks are totally unprovoked and wrong. And, as well as hurting the families attacked, they damage the wider community," he said.
Earlier on Friday evening, two security alerts on the Cavehill Road were declared hoaxes.
The British army bomb squad had to deal with a suspect device on the gates of the Church of the Resurrection on the Cavehill at around 8.15pm.
A short time later they dealt with a similar device at a bus shelter near Westland fire station.

Journalist:: Staff Reporter


Family‘s anger as loyalist is charged

The family of Ardoyne man Eddie Campbell, who was murdered by a Loyalist death squad in 1987 have spoken of their hurt and dismay that one of the men convicted of his murder and later released has appeared in court on arms and extortion charges.
Robert Molyneaux was sentenced to life imprisonment for the murder of Eddie Campbell in October 1988 alongside Darren Larmour and another man.
He was released in 1998, but he recently appeared in court on extortion charges as well as possessing a firearm with intent to endanger life.
The Campbells said that if he is found guilty of the charges he should have his licence revoked and made to serve the rest of his sentence.
Robert Molyneaux was sentenced to life for the murder of taximan Eddie Campbell on July 3,1987. The loyalist gang hired his taxi before shooting him and dumping his body in Ligoniel.
Robert Molyneaux was also sentenced to life for his part in the murder of 22-year-old Catholic James (Jim) Meighan who was murdered three months later in September 1987, as well as a range of other terrorist offences.
In the court Molyneaux and his co-accused sniggered in the dock according to the family, showing no remorse. After being sentenced the killers told Eddie’s mother Alice that “we would do the same again if we got the chance”.
Robert Molyneaux was released under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement in 1998 having served ten years of his life sentence.
However last week, on May 21, he appeared in court alongside three other men on charges of extortion.
Molyneaux, now aged 37, gave his address as Glenbank Place in the Ligoniel area of North Belfast.
The Campbell family who recently suffered a bereavement said they were dismayed that Molyneaux’s name had cropped up again.
“We are disgusted at hearing this man’s name again – it was bad enough that he killed Eddie,” a member of the family told the North Belfast News.
“The family got its chance to grieve when he was sentenced to life imprisonment in 1988 and as the years went on and the peace process came about we had to accept this man getting out of jail under the Good Friday Agreement which the family expected for a better Ireland for us all to live in.”
Darren Larmour was jailed alongside Molyneaux in October 1998 for his involvement of Eddie Campbell’s murder.
He was also jailed for his involvement in the murder of fellow UDA member Thomas Dickson who had been shot dead in October 1987. He served more than ten years like Molyneaux and was released in 1998.
However in February 2002, Larmour was sentenced to five years for attempting to rape his home-help in June 2001. Judge Anthony Hart said he was being lenient because Larmour suffered from Huntington’s disease.
“This is the second member of the killing gang to be sent back to jail and we call on the Secretary of State to revoke Molyneaux’s licence, if he is proven guilty of these recent offences, for he has shown that he is a threat to the public,” the family said.

Journalist:: Staff Reporter


The men behind the murals

In the first of two pieces on changes in the political art in Northern Ireland, the BBC News website's Marie Irvine goes to Derry where a collection of murals is proving illuminating.

The three artists behind the People's Gallery

The political murals of the Bogside artists in Northern Ireland's second city have become known as the People's Gallery.

Its creators see it as a gift by the people, from the people to the people, because the collection of public paintings was financed by local door-to-door collections in this nationalist part of town.

"It's a gallery that will be there in perpetuity," says artist William Kelly.

William with his brother Tom and friend Kevin Hasson, are the men behind the murals.

Together they have created the ten public paintings which make up the gallery along the gable walls of Rossville Street.

"We wave flags for no-one - it's not propaganda, it's genuine art."
Kevin Hasson

In pictures: Derry's murals

This is a largely peaceful part of town now but during Northern Ireland's Troubles it was the scene of many tumultuous events and violent clashes between the security forces and local population.

The murals visually narrate what the artists see as seminal moments in the city's modern history.

The most famous depicts Bloody Sunday when the army shot dead 13 civilians during a nationalist civil rights protest. A 14th man later died from his injuries.

A young curate, Father Edward Daly, later to become the city's Catholic bishop, waves a white handkerchief as he tries to lead others carrying one of those injured to safety.

But if the images are the bleak testimonies of conflict the gallery was conceived in peace as something of a retrospective.

Detail from the Bloody Sunday mural

The mostly black and white pieces were started in 1994 as Northern Ireland was embracing the paramilitary ceasefires of that year.

Significantly the final mural, a dove of peace, completed in late 2004 was in colour and placed at an exit to the Bogside as a final chapter of the story.

Now the walls are receiving official recognition from Derry City Council which has decided to fund the refurbishment of the murals and to install beam lighting.

It promises to add a spectacular dash to what is widely acknowledged as one of the most visited attractions in the maiden city.

Dramatic light

Mark Lusby is the senior economic development officer with the council.

He hopes the improvements will be in place for the autumn.

"The purpose is to use lighting as part of telling the story of Derry and to make it as exciting and dramatic at night as it is during the day.

"We're proud of the walls of Derry, both the ancient ones and the more recent ones, they all have a part in telling the story of the city."

But the move, although welcome, is well overdue according to the artists who feel the council's move is "too little, too late".

"It is not uncommon to go out and find 20-30 Japanese students standing in front of the murals," says Tom Kelly who feels the civic authorities are playing catch-up to the response the work has generated among visitors.

Berlin ban

These artists seem genuinely hurt as well as angry that in some quarters their work has been characterised as sectarian.

In the Bogside studio which is their base

Although the People's Gallery images have toured widely in north America and Europe a planned exhibition in Berlin last year was cancelled at short notice by the Germans.

Although they feel they still haven't had a proper explanation about the reason, it is an episode that rankles.

Kevin says: "We belong to no political organisations here, we wave flags for no-one.

"It's not propaganda, it's genuine art. If we'd been on the propaganda wagon we'd have painted very different art."

William Kelly agrees: "How we are and how we are perceived are two different things.

"Our work contains no emblems, no Irishness - simply key events that we have captured."

Tribute piece

Tom Kelly and Kevin Hasson at work

Tom adds: "We've been using art as reconciliation. We believe we've pioneered that from the mid-80s doing workshops with Protestant and Catholic kids."

The murals have also been studied in modern history classes in secondary schools.

With the gallery finished, William says they are still batting around ideas for their next piece of work which, he says, will be a tribute piece to those public figures judged to have made contributions to the city.

"We have to do that mural somehow. It's a homage to the people who have stuck their neck out, mainly John Hume - those who championed peace."

Irish Echo

**Via News Hound

Spicer threatens to sue Echo, MP

By Ray O'Hanlon

Controversial former British army officer, Tim Spicer, is this week threatening to sue the Irish Echo and a member of the British parliament in the London High Court. The threat of libel action is contained in solicitors' letters sent to the Echo and to MP Sarah Teather.

The legal letters follow in the wake of a recent report in the Echo that pointed to U.S. criticism of the manner in which a Spicer-owned private security company has been operating in Iraq.

Spicer's company, Aegis Defense Services, was last year granted a $293 million contract by the Pentagon for security and reconstruction work in Iraq.

However, a strongly critical report by the Office of the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction recently cited Aegis for not complying with a number of requirements contained in the contract with the U.S. Department of Defense.

The contract has sparked controversy in Ireland, Britain and the U.S. because of Spicer's past record in Northern Ireland where he commanded the Scots Guards regiment during a tour of duty in the early 1990s.

Soldiers in that regiment shot and killed Belfast teenager Peter McBride in September of 1992. Spicer subsequently defended the actions of his men.

Two members of the regiment were tried for murder, convicted and sentenced to life. However, they were released after six years and reinstated in the unit.

In a letter to the Pentagon several months ago, the Derry-based Pat Finucane Center pressed the U.S. army to justify its decision to award the Iraq contract to Aegis Defense Services, of which Spicer is CEO.

The Pentagon has also been pressed on the issue by a group of U.S. senators, Fr. Sean McManus of the Irish National Caucus, and Teather, a Liberal Democrat member of the House of Commons.

It was a line in a recent Echo report that prompted legal letters sent to both Teather, the member of Parliament for the Brent East constituency in London, and this newspaper.

In its May 4-10 issue, the Echo, in a story headlined "Spicer speared in scathing U.S. report," reported Teather's view that "serious questions" still required answering in the McBride case.

However, it was the Echo's precise wording of this aspect of the Spicer/Aegis story that prompted the legal letters to the Echo and Teather.

The report stated: "Teather recently told the Echo that 'serious questions' were still in need of answers with regard to Spicer and his role in the death of Peter McBride."

The letter sent to the Echo alleged that this statement, made with regard to "Lieutenant Colonel Tim Spicer OBE," was "seriously defamatory of him."

The letter stated: "He had no role whatever in the death of Peter McBride. He was the commanding officer of the regiment in which two soldiers involved in Mr. McBride's death were then serving. Thereafter he stood by his men and, in due course, was vindicated in so doing."

The letter demanded an "immediate and full retraction" to be published in the Echo. Such a retraction would serve to "unequivocally" withdraw "the serious aspersions made against our client."

The letter additionally indicated that Spicer, through his legal representatives, would be seeking damages and costs in the event of there being no "satisfactory response" from the Echo and Teather.

The letter to the Echo warned that if there was no such response "proceedings will be instituted against you in the High Court in England and against Ms. Teather without further notice."

Both the Echo and Ms. Teather were taking separate legal advice regarding the matter this week.

Irish Echo Publisher Seán Finlay defended the Echo's coverage of the controversy surrounding Spicer, his record in Northern Ireland and with regard to the Iraq contract, which has been defended and confirmed by the U.S. Army Contracting Agency, in spite of multiple objections.

"We stand over our reporting of this story," Finlay said.

"It is entirely legitimate that the Irish Echo questions the basis for the contract awarded Aegis, as well as Spicer's broader military and alleged mercenary record," Finlay said.

The basis for the Pat Finucane Center's objection to the Iraq contract is rooted solely in the death of Peter McBride.

Spicer was not present at the scene of the shooting which took place September 4, 1992 in Belfast's Upper Meadow Street.

McBride was shot in the back moments after being searched by a sergeant attached to the same patrol as the soldiers who fired their weapons.

Despite his absence from the scene, Spicer's role as commander of the regiment was to draw him to the center of the furious controversy that followed the death of the teenager, a controversy that continues to this day.

In its stated objection to the Iraq contract, first relayed to the Pentagon last December, the PFC stated that the "allegation" against Spicer was not that he advocated for the release of the two soldiers from prison after the shooting of McBride.

"The issue is that he opposed their arrest and opposed their being charged with any offense whatsoever. In a sworn affidavit, and again in his autobiography, Spicer has sought to portray an entirely fictitious and untruthful version of the events preceding, during and following the actual murder," the center stated.

Spicer defended the actions of the two soldiers in a letter to the Times of London on the grounds that both believed they were involved in a terrorist incident and had accordingly acted in good faith, in accordance with the law, the rules of engagement, and their military training.

Separately, in his autobiography, which was extracted in the London Daily Mail, Spicer threw additional light on why he had so vigorously defended the actions of his men.

His view, he stated, was in accordance with the British army's "yellow card," a document that outlined the army's rules of engagement in Northern Ireland.

"My view," Spicer wrote, "is that if the soldier genuinely believes his life, or the lives of his comrades, are under threat from something such as a Mark XV, then even if it was not immediately obvious that one was being thrown, he could open fire."

"Mark XV" refers to a "coffee jar" bomb frequently used by the IRA during the time covered by Spicer's tour of duty in Northern Ireland.

No such weapon, or any weapon, was found on Peter McBride, either during the army search, or after he was shot.

Meanwhile, the criticism directed at Aegis by the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction cites rests in part on rules concerning guns and their use.

The report stated that Aegis had been unable to provide correct documents to verify that its employees were qualified to use weapons.

And it warned that many Iraqi employees were not properly vetted by Aegis to ensure they were not a security threat.

"As a result there is no assurance that Aegis is providing the best possible safety and security for government and reconstruction contractor personnel and facilities," the report stated.

This story appeared in the issue of May 25-31, 2005


Mayor may visit republican areas

Wallace Brown has sat on Belfast City Council since 1985

The new DUP Lord Mayor of Belfast has refused to rule out making official visits to republican areas of the city.

Wallace Browne saw off the challenge of the only other candidate, Sinn Fein's Caral Ni Chuilin, by 37 votes to 14.

The SDLP's Pat Convery, a councillor for north Belfast, was elected as deputy lord mayor.

The new first citizen, who is regarded as a moderate, was elected with the support of the UUP, Alliance Party and the SDLP.

"I see myself as a party politician, a party man that abides by the rules," he said.

"But at the same time I think we have to move forward, and I believe that the DUP, now that it's the largest party in Northern Ireland, has got certain responsibilities.

"I believe that we can proceed with programmes that can benefit all the people of Northern Ireland."

Paul Maskey, leader of the Sinn Fein group, said his party had been "blocked" from top council posts.

Poll topper

"Sinn Fein remains the largest party in Belfast in terms of votes secured at the last election. This must be reflected in the allocation of senior positions at City Hall," he said.

"Sinn Fein will strenuously oppose any squalid cross-party arrangement geared toward denying democratic rights to our party and electors."

The party's Alex Maskey became the city's first republican lord mayor in 2002 and the party's Joe O'Donnell was the city's last deputy mayor.

Mr Browne, a retired teacher, has been on the council since 1985, and topped the poll in the Victoria ward in the election.

The leader of the Alliance Party group, Naomi Long, said they discussed Mr Browne's vision of his year in office with him before supporting him.

"As a group we would have preferred to have agreement as to a way forward for the next four years, in order to deliver continuity from one mayoral term to the next and to maximise the impact which successive lord mayors can have on promoting and enhancing the image of the city," she said.

"However, given the difficult political context in which these discussions are taking place, this has not been possible, and so we have been working hard to bring about maximum consensus for this year."


Man killed in stolen car pile-up

It is understood the dead man was driving the stolen car

One person has died in a road crash in south Belfast involving a stolen car.

It is understood the dead man was driving the stolen car. Police say they were not chasing it, but have told the ombudsman's office about the incident.

Two other people are in a critical condition. It is believed they were also in the hijacked car.

A total of six cars, including a taxi, were involved in the collision, which happened on Boucher Road at 2000 BST on Thursday.

It is not known how many passengers the taxi was carrying.

The road is closed from Glenmacken Street to Stockman's Lane and police have advised motorists to avoid the area.

26 May 2005


United in grief at first heartbreaking removal

26 May 2005
By Caroline O’Doherty

THE tiny two-centuries-old church where the coffin of Claire McCluskey was brought last night could hold barely a quarter of the mourners who gathered to pay their respects.
Some 300 others stood outside, laying wreaths at the old iron gates where a bell ringer tolled sorrowful notes from a small bell.

A marquee was erected to provide some shelter for the crowds in the chill evening as a light spattering of showers became a heavy downpour and the service was relayed outside on a public address system.

In the same way that the crowd overflowed into the little churchyard and the narrow country lane beyond, the grief and shock at the loss of Claire was spilling out far beyond her immediate family.

Parish priest Fr John Brogan said everyone was shattered by the tragedy and was struggling to cope. He told Claire’s family their deep pain was shared by an entire community.

That community gathered in force to support the McCluskeys last night as Claire’s parents, Marie and Christy, and her two sisters, Maria and Anita, made the sad journey from their home in Beauparc, Navan, to the Church of the Nativity in Rosnaree on the road to Newgrange.

Classmates from the Loreto secondary school where Claire was a student formed a guard of honour in their uniforms, along with representatives of the Navan branch of the Irish Red Cross, of which Claire had been a member for the past three years.

Inside the church, several photographs of Claire with her friends were displayed and arrangements of simple white flowers were placed at the altar.

Five of her schoolmates lit five candles to represent their five missing friends, of whom Claire was only the first to be brought to the church. Two of her close friends, Claudia Hegarty and Dean Ladrigan, sang a song that has become a teenage anthem, a track by Green Day with the refrain I Hope You Had The Time Of Your Life.
The opening bars were enough to turn the brave young faces to inconsolable tears and many of the girls clung to each other as they watched Claire’s coffin being carried past them.

The pall bearers passed by a student with her arm in a cast and another leaning on crutches, living reminders of the horror that was Monday’s accident.

Bishop of Meath, Dr Michael Smith, joined the priests of the parish to receive Claire’s remains.

“I do not know if there are words to take away that kind of pain,” he sighed as he prepared to go inside.

Thousands have been sending words of comfort, however. The mourners were told last night that some 4,000 messages of sympathy had been received on the diocese email from all over Ireland and as far as Japan, Nigeria and the US.

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