18 March 2006

Colombia army chief met RUC and British military

Daily Ireland

by Connla Young

The commander of the Colombian army held secret meetings with the Royal Ulster Constabulary and British military officials while on a tour of military installations in the North, Daily Ireland can reveal.
The revelation has prompted British officials to deny that Colombian security forces are being trained by the “regular army” in the North of Ireland.
A spokesman said he was not aware if Colombians were being trained by members of the British special forces. General Jorge Enrique Mora met senior members of the RUC in Portadown and at their Knock headquarters in Belfast in 2000.
Confidential British government documents obtained by Daily Ireland reveal that General Mora also met with Peter Hain, the current British secretary of state in the North, while he was attached to the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office.
During his five-day visit to Britain in August 2000, the Colombian general was introduced to former commander of the British army in the North General Roger Wheeler.
The general toured a facility used by the military to train army personnel before they are sent to the North.
While in the North, Mora, who was accompanied by other senior members of the Colombian military, received detailed briefings from senior members of the British security forces on the nature of joint police and army operations.
The detailed document revealed that neither human rights or collusion issues were brought up during the general’s visit to the North.
The South American visitors also met with former chief of the Northern Ireland Prison Service John Steel.
One month after the Colombian visit to Belfast, then British Secretary of State Mo Mowlam travelled to Colombia and met senior officials there.
The get-together took place just a year before three Irish men were arrested and charged with training left-wing guerrillas and travelling on false passports. Niall Connolly, James Monaghan, and Martin McCauley, fled Colombia last year.
Although the PSNI refused to go into detail, Daily Ireland understands that a Colombian official met with the PSNI earlier this month in the North.
In recent years the relationship between Britain and the Colombian governments has been questioned by human rights groups.
The British government is believed by many to be providing the Colombian authorities with practical military help in their ongoing campaign against left-wing rebels.
In the past both governments have been accused of colluding with state sponsored paramilitaries in the murder of civilians.
Military authorities in both countries meet regularly and as late as 2004 General Carlos Ospina Ovalle of the Colombian army visited a number of British army installations.
A PSNI spokesman said: “Colombian officials have visited the PSNI on a number of occasions in the past and also visited the RUC.”

'No executive' NI assembly plan


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Mr Ahern insisted: "We are going to finalise this in 2006"

A Northern Ireland Assembly may operate for some months without an executive, the Irish premier has told the BBC.

Taoiseach Bertie Ahern said the aim was to have a fully functioning assembly with an executive as envisaged under the Good Friday Agreement.

However, he said a deadlock over the formation of that executive should not stop the assembly from operating while there is work for it to do.

He made his remarks in an exclusive interview with the BBC's Politics Show.

It comes as the British and Irish governments prepare to unveil their blueprint for restoring Stormont.

Mr Ahern said he wanted to give the assembly a chance and it would not be a meaningless interim assembly.

He suggested the assembly could operate over the summer and into the winter.

However, he warned that time was limited and that if there was no agreement on an assembly with an executive, Stormont would not operate into next year.

"At the end of the day, we want to get to a position where we'll have the assembly operating fully and functioning as it was designed in the Good Friday Agreement and we want to get the executive doing the same."

He added: "What we have said is that 2006 has to call it. So we'll set out our plan, but I think we do not intend to go into another winter in this position, but at the same time if politicians want some time to debate issues and to go through things we'll listen to that.

"There are no two better listeners (than Mr Ahern and UK PM Tony Blair). We've spent the last nine years listening to debate."

'A huge tragedy'

Mr Ahern said "if we don't agreement on the executive you can't have an executive".

"But that shouldn't stop the assembly operating for a period of time while there is work for it to do and that could take a few months."

The Irish premier said that if "we cannot get the institutions functioning as per the Good Friday Agreement this year, then we'll all have to think again".

"But that would be a huge tragedy and I do not want to find myself in that position."

Earlier on Saturday, Irish Foreign Minister Dermot Ahern said the British and Irish governments would take the decisions on Northern Ireland if NI politicians did not share power.

Speaking on BBC Radio Ulster's Inside Politics programme, Mr Ahern said London and Dublin would adopt "an intergovernmental approach".

DUP MP Jeffrey Donaldson said any such move would be "completely unrealistic".

"It's time Dublin stopped being the bully boy and worked with the rest of us," he said.

Devolved government at Stormont was suspended in October 2002 following allegations of a republican spy ring at the Northern Ireland Office.

A full interview with Bertie Ahern will be featured on The Politics Show at 1230 GMT on Sunday on BBC One.

Two hanged Irish remembered

The Republican

Saturday, March 18, 2006

NORTHAMPTON - It was a great day for the Irish in Northampton. A lot better than the day two Irishmen had 200 years ago.

The laughter that usually marks St. Patrick's Day festivities was tempered somewhat yesterday as the community took the occasion to commemorate the deaths of James Halligan and Dominic Daley, a couple of Irish immigrants who were hanged in 1806 for a murder they didn't commit. Gathering around a monument to the two Irishmen on Hospital Hill, where the men were put to death, leaders of the city's Irish community joined other opponents of prejudice in emphasizing the lesson that the story holds for society today.

"We want to remember these men, because they were subject to prejudice and intolerance in their day," said Judge W. Michael Ryan. "Prejudice is poison. We have to accept all as our neighbors and treat all equally and with justice."

Daley and Halligan were traveling through the area on their way to New York City when Marcus Lyon, of Wilbraham, was murdered. A 13-year-old boy who lived near Lyon told authorities he had seen two men acting suspiciously on the nearby toll road and picked Daley and Halligan out of a lineup.

The prejudice shown against Irish Catholics at the time was hardly disguised as court-appointed defense lawyers were given a mere 48 hours to prepare their case after Daley and Halligan had been held in jail for four months. Some 15,000 people turned out to watch the two Irishmen be hanged. Some years later, another man confessed to the murder on his deathbed.

Michael White, a professor at Fairfield University and author of "The Garden of Martyrs," a newly released historical novel about the incident, said he visited the memorial during his research and thought about what must have been going through the minds of the two men. Hampshire County Sheriff Robert J. Garvey read from the final statement of the condemned men, in which they reasserted their innocence but forgave their executors.

"'We blame no one,'" Garvey read. "'We forgive everyone.'"

The ceremony was one of a yearlong series of events commemorating the 200th anniversary of the deaths of Daley and Halligan.

The day started off on a more cheerful note as some 300 Irish and Irish-for-a-day gathered at the Clarion Hotel for the 26th Annual St. Patrick's Day Breakfast. As usual, the breakfast was an occasion for levity. With her recent mayoral opponent Richard J. Feldman sitting nearby at the head table, Mayor Mary Clare Higgins suggested that her Irish heritage helped her carry the day last November.

"I think a lot of people looked at the ballot and said, 'Didn't I go to St. Michael's with her?'" Higgins said.

Feldman, who followed Higgins to the podium, told the crowd, "The last time I spoke for a few minutes following the mayor last November, I didn't do so well, either."

Put Troubles behind you with a trip down the IRA heritage trail


**Via Newshound

By Tom Peterkin in Crossmaglen
(Filed: 18/03/2006)

Image Hosted by ImageShack.us"The people here are the friendliest in the world," said Tommy McKenna as he sipped his pint of Guinness in an upmarket hotel bar in the IRA heartland of south Armagh.

"But don't ever cross us," he warned. "The British Army crossed us and they had 30 years of hell."
Open: The Cross Square Hotel in Crossmaglen

With masterly understatement, Mr McKenna summed up the inhabitants of a place once notorious as the most dangerous posting in the world for a British soldier and where helicopters are still the safest mode of transport for the Army.

But following the IRA's promise to abandon the armed struggle, the lawless border area nicknamed Bandit Country is attempting to forsake terrorism for tourism.

The most obvious manifestation of that transformation is the brand new hotel where Mr McKenna sat drinking.

Opened yesterday, St Patrick's Day, the Cross Square Hotel, Crossmaglen, is the first such establishment to exist in south Armagh in almost a century.

Crossmaglen remains a place apart, however, with the 15-bedroom hotel offering splendid views of fluttering tricolours, a republican memorial and the helicopters flying into the forbidding military installation overlooking the village square.

The owners of the Cross Square hope visitors will be attracted by fishing on the Fane, a trail inspired by 18th century Gaelic poets and the Ring of Gullion, the beautiful geological landform dominating the Irish border.

But they are realistic enough to accept that opening in south Armagh means guests will be anxious to explore the former fiefdom of the Provisional IRA. The south Armagh brigade of the IRA was responsible for many of Ulster's worst atrocities and numerous mainland bombing campaigns

"We have grown up with the Troubles," said Fiona Carragher-Kieran, the hotel's marketing manager.

"It is part of our history and it is inevitable that people will want to see that, but we want to change people's perception of Crossmaglen and what south Armagh is about."

Judging from recent headlines that could be a challenge for Mrs Carragher-Kieran and her parents, Gene and Briege Carragher, who have invested £1.5 million in the family venture.

This month, police and Army raided the farm straddling the border at Hackballscross owned by Thomas "Slab" Murphy, believed to be the IRA's chief of staff.

A few miles from the hotel, fuel laundering equipment, oil tankers and smuggled cigarettes were found when six properties including Murphy's farm were targeted in an attempt to close down the Provos' smuggling empire.

Although the IRA's alleged criminality is still a cause for

concern, there is relief at the

passing of the dark days of the conflict when south Armagh republicans accounted for the lives of 127 soldiers, 67 RUC officers and 96 civilians.

After checking into the Cross Square, The Daily Telegraph went on its own "terror tour" taking in monuments to the hunger strikers and a lonely roadside cross at Kingsmill marking the place where 10 Protestant workmen were hijacked and slaughtered by the IRA 30 years ago.

Also on the itinerary were the remaining Army watchtowers, which are being dismantled as troops are withdrawn from Ulster, and the Three Steps pub in Drunintee. This was the Provisionals' watering hole from where Capt Robert Nairac, an undercover SAS man, was abducted and murdered after his cover was blown in 1977.

Graffiti, shrines, murals and unofficial signposts reflecting the IRA's dominance cannot be avoided by the tourist. But one horrific legacy of the IRA is not to be seen.

To this day the whereabouts of "the disappeared", corpses of several IRA victims, including Capt Nairac, is still unknown.

But a different side of south Armagh was in evidence in the friendly hotel bar.

The Carraghers, who have been in the oil distribution business for the last 25 years, explained that the last hotel in Crossmaglen was owned by a distant relative.

Fittingly, it was Mrs Carragher-Keiran's grandmother's aunt, Auntie Geough, who ran the Commercial Hotel.

This notable establishment closed after the Great War when the partition of Ireland saw Co Armagh become a border county. And south Armagh's ability to throw up the unexpected surfaced spectacularly when a representative of one of the most quintessentially English institutions appeared at the bar in this hotbed of republicanism.

Cricket is not something one would associate with a place whose notion of sport begins and ends with the highly successful Crossmaglen Rangers Gaelic football team. But Mick Hunt, a Londoner and the MCC's head groundsman at Lord's, has been visiting Bandit Country for more than 30 years.

In 1974 he married Rosemary Quinn, a nurse from Crossmaglen, after they met on an aeroplane.

His most frightening episode during the Troubles was a nasty scuffle with some Scottish soldiers, who took umbrage at his English accent following the 5-1 defeat of Scotland at Wembley in 1975.

"It was a bit squeaky," he recalled. "But as long as I was with someone local - my brother-in-law or my wife's cousin - then it wasn't a problem.

"I come back here every year, I really love it.

"You've got to remember St John's Wood is full of bank robbers."


One in 12 here own guns

Belfast Telegraph

By Michael McHugh
18 March 2006

Over 20,000 firearms certificates were issued by police to members of the security forces and private citizens last year, it emerged last night.

That equates to one in 12 people here owning a gun - three times the figure for England and Wales - and that's just the legally held weapons.

Gun owners believe concerns are "alarmist" but news that the Chief Constable issued 20,074 certificates to applicants in 2005 will spark more attention.

Lord Laird obtained the information in Westminster and he said the authorities should be trying to reduce the number of weapons held, both legal and illegal.

"I recognise that there are certain people who have to have firearms like farmers with vermin but I do feel we should be looking at trying to cut down on the number of guns," he said.

"I am opposed to hunting as a sport and that is an area in which I would like to see gun ownership coming to an end.

"In an ideal world there would not be a single gun in Northern Ireland, that is the utopian world which we should be working towards."

The Belfast Telegraph revealed last month that 7,174 new guns were issued in the last four years recorded.

There are presently more than 144,500 legally-held guns in Northern Ireland. This does not include security force personal protection weapons.

Police screen applicants for certificates under the provisions of the Fire Arms (NI) Order 2004.

According to information on the PSNI's website, successful applicants must not be of "intemperate habits or unsound mind" or for any reason unfitted to be entrusted with a firearm. The petitioner must also not constitute a threat to public safety or the peace.

Many of the weapons are used by farmers, although there are only 51,000 farmers registered in Northern Ireland under the most recent census.

Some of the more than 30,000 privately-owned rifles and handguns would be used at Northern Ireland's 55 authorised gun clubs and 39 legal gun ranges.

There are 132 registered gun dealers. A PSNI spokesman said the checks carried out on applicants were "among the most rigorous in the world".

Unionists in a flap over flags

Belfast Telegraph

By Jonathan McCambridge
18 March 2006

Unionists last night said the St Patrick's Day celebrations in Belfast were "intimidatory" because of the waving of Irish tricolour flags.

For the first time, the Belfast parade from the City Hall to Custom House Square was funded by the council, which had attempted to ensure that tricolours were not paraded.

But both the DUP and UUP claimed protestant constituents left the celebrations because they felt they were intimidatory, casting doubt on future council funding of the event.

UUP MLA Michael Copeland said the event had proven "unwelcoming" to unionists.

"Commemorations of St Patrick in Northern Ireland should reflect the fact that his legacy belongs to all the people of Northern Ireland, both protestant and catholic," he said.

"Unfortunately St Patrick's day celebrations in Belfast have one again proved to be for one side of the community only.

"Many of my constituents who ventured to the celebrations did not stay long. They felt uncomfortable and unwelcome. The sheer number of tricolours and the strong nationalist look and feel to the parade rule out any sense of a cross-community event."

DUP representative Diane Dodds said the St Patrick celebrations were "another disappointment".

She added: "There were not that many people at the concert but there were plenty of republican flags and it seems that for republicans it is simply an excuse to wave Irish tricolours in the city centre.

"It would be good to have a cross-community event in the city, one where unionists and nationalists can feel safe, but it is clear that republicans cannot cope with that."

But SDLP deputy Lord Mayor Pat Convery said he thought yesterday's parade had been a "small step forward" for a divided city.

"We hope that the diversity of our city will be able to be included in this parade and concert," he said. "We hope we will be able to generate a lot of interest in this new event every year."

Hain sparks 'poison pit' housing row

Belfast Telegraph

By Noel McAdam
18 March 2006

Fury erupted last night over Government plans to restore full housing powers to councils in Northern Ireland.

Secretary of State Peter Hain was warned the move could return the province to the "poisonous pit" of the past.

Insisting the Government abandon the idea, the SDLP argued it could seriously dent fragile community relations. Assembly member Patsy McGlone said: "It is incredible a Labour Government could think of doing this."

A senior Ulster Unionist MLA also called the plans a "recipe for disaster" and predicted council chambers would become "sectarian bear pits".

UU Assemblyman Fred Cobain said: "Can you imagine councils allocating houses along sectarian interfaces? It would be a nightmare."

Under the blueprint, the seven new 'super-councils' would have control of housing management and allocations - effectively dismantling the Housing Executive. But the proposal will raise the spectre of one of the most contentious issues - discrimation - which underpinned events leading to the Troubles.

Mr Hain is expected to announce the potential transfer of housing powers to local government as part of a massive shake-up of Northern Ireland quangos next week. But it is understood he will hold out the prospect of a completely restored housing function until after the new councils are up and running by 2009.

But SDLP housing spokesman Mr McGlone said last night: "This is totally crazy territory. It is incredible to think the Government could be so stupid and naive."

In a letter to Mr Hain he warned the return of housing allocation and management to councils would open up every opportunity for a step back to the "poisonous pit" of discrimination.

A spokesperson for the review of public administration, whose blueprint for the unelected quangos is to be unveiled on Tuesday, said they could not respond. The Belfast Telegraph yesterday revealed the Housing Executive could lose a number of other key functions to councils, including grants, health environmental schemes and the fuel efficiency programmes.

While it declined to respond, senior Housing Executive officials were said to be "extremely concerned" about the operational changes.

British airports handled 73 CIA flights


Richard Norton-Taylor
Saturday March 18, 2006
The Guardian

Aircraft suspected of being used by the CIA for "extraordinary rendition" - the practice of sending detainees to camps, including Guantánamo Bay, where they were at risk of being tortured - passed through British airports on 73 occasions since 2001, the government disclosed yesterday. They included an aircraft which left the Afghan capital Kabul and landed in Edinburgh in November 2002 before continuing its journey to Washington.

The aircraft, registered N85VM, landed at Guantánamo Bay on a number of occasions in 2002 and 2003, sometimes via the Turks and Caicos islands in the Caribbean, a British overseas territory, according to flight records seen by the Guardian.

New details of aircraft known to be used by the CIA were disclosed by Alistair Darling, the transport secretary, in answer to a parliamentary question from Michael Moore, Liberal Democrat foreign affairs spokesman. Some of the aircrafts landed here on their way to the Middle East.

Mr Darling said none of the information held by his officials "provides evidence that these flights were involved in rendition". He said that Britain had made clear to the US, "including in recent months", that the government expected it to seek permission before rendering detainees via British territory and airspace.

Mr Moore said last night that the disclosures raised serious questions about the number and purpose of CIA flights through the UK. He added: "A fundamental question remains unanswered: has the UK government actually asked the US how many individuals have been rendered through Britain? If this hasn't been asked, then why on earth not?"

The Ministry of Defence admitted last week that two aircraft known to have been chartered by the CIA landed 14 times at RAF Northholt, west London, and RAF Brize Norton in Oxfordshire between October 2003 and May 2004.

Gareth Crossman, policy director of the civil rights group Liberty said last night: "The government's ongoing smoke and mirrors campaign, in which piecemeal information on these flights is grudgingly handed over, is baffling and in gross contrast to our obligations against torture."

Pair questioned over murder freed


A man and a woman arrested in connection with the murder of north Belfast teenager Thomas Devlin have been released.

A report is being sent to the Public Prosecution Service. The pair, both aged 22, were arrested in Belfast on Wednesday morning.

They were freed on Friday night, but details have just been released.

Thomas, 15, died after being stabbed five times as he and two friends walked along Somerton Road last August.

No-one has been charged in connection with his killing, although a number of people have been questioned.

Delay scuppers Adams' US speech


Gerry Adams had been attending meetings in Washington

Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams missed a St Patrick's Day event in the US after being delayed at a Washington airport for "secondary screening".

He had been invited by Congressman Brian Higgins to speak in Buffalo.

Mr Higgins told the audience Mr Adams was absent because his name was on a "terror watch list", but Homeland Security officials would not comment.

They said he had a routine security check and "secondary screening" but was not arrested or detained.

Mr Adams, who had earlier attended a St Patrick's Day event at the White House, was due to speak at the Buffalo Irish Center in New York state.

His name, and that of a travelling companion, appeared on a terror watch list at Washington's Reagan National Airport, claimed Congressman Higgins.

AP news agency said he told the crowd awaiting Mr Adams' speech: "When I spoke with his assistant a little while ago, their luggage was still being, let's just say, inspected.

"Gerry Adams should not have been on a terror watch list," he said.

"That his name would appear in this untoward manner and that appearance ruined his ability to celebrate St Patrick's Day in Buffalo is sad and unfortunate when one considers Gerry Adams' leadership in the decommissioning of the IRA's weapons and his commitment to the Good Friday agreements," Reuters quoted him as saying.

A Homeland Security official refused to comment on whether Mr Adams' name had appeared on a terror watch list, saying privacy restrictions precluded them from discussing individuals on no-fly lists, said AP.

The official also declined to explain why Mr Adams underwent the secondary screening, which was described as "thorough".

17 March 2006

Bobby Sands' diary - final entry


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Tuesday 17th

Lá Pádraig inniú 's mar is gnách níor thárla aon rud suntasach, bhí mé ar aifreann agus mo chuid gruaige gearrtha agam níos gaire, agus é i bhfad níos fearr freisin. Sagart nach raibh ar mo aithne abhí ag rá ran aifreann.

Bhí na giollaí ag tabhairt an bhia amach do chách abhí ag teacht ar ais ón aifreann. Rinneadh iarracht chun tabhairt pláta bidh domhsa. Cuireadh ós cómhair m'aghaidh ach shiúl mé ar mo shlí mar is nach raibh aon duine ann.

Fuair mé cúpla nuachtán inniú agus mar shaghas malairt bhí an Nuacht na hEireann ann. Táim ag fáil pé an scéal atá le fáil óna buachaillí cibé ar bith.

Choniac mé ceann dona dochtúirí ar maidun agus é gan béasaí. Cuireann sé tuirse ormsa. Bhí mo chuid meachain 57.50 kgs. Ní raibh aon ghearán agam.

Bhí oifigcach isteach liom agus thug sé beagán íde béil domhsa. Arsa sé 'tchim go bhfuil tú ag léigheadh leabhar gairid. Rudmaith nach leabhar fada é mar ní chrlochnóidh tú é'.

Sin an saghas daoine atá iontu. Ploid orthu. Is cuma liom. Lá fadálach ab ea é. Bhí mé ag smaoineamh inniú ar an chéalacán seo. Deireann daoine a lán faoin chorp ach ní chuireann muinín sa chorp ar bith. Measaim ceart go leor go bhfuil saghas troda.

An dtús ní ghlacann leis an chorp an easpaidh bidh, is fulaingíonn sé ón chathú bith, is greithe airithe eile a bhíonn ag síorchlipeadh an choirp. Troideann an corp ar ais ceart go leor, ach deireadh an lae; téann achan rud ar ais chuig an phríomhrud, is é sin an mheabhair.

Is é an mheabhair an rud is tábhachtaí. Mura bhfuil meabhair láidir agat chun cur in aghaidh le achan rud, ní mhairfidh. Ní bheadh aon sprid troda agat. Is ansin cen áit as a dtigeann an mheabhair cheart seo. B'fhéidir as an fhonn saoirse.

Ní hé cinnte gurb é an áit as a dtigeann sé. Mura bhfuil siad in inmhe an fonn saoirse a scriosadh, ní bheadh siad in inmhe tú féin a bhriseadh. Ní bhrisfidh siad mé mar tá an fonn saoirse, agus saoirse mhuintir na hEireann i mo chroí.

Tiocfaidh lá éigin nuair a bheidh an fonn saoirse seo le taispeáint ag daoine go léir na hEireann ansin tchífidh muid éirí na gealaí.

(Translated, this reads as follows:)

St Patrick's Day today and, as usual, nothing noticeable. I was at Mass, my hair cut shorter and much better also. I didn't know the priest who said Mass.

The orderlies were giving out food to all who were returning from Mass. They tried to give me a plate of food. It was put in front of my face but I continued on my way as though nobody was there.

I got a couple of papers today, and as a kind of change the Irish News was there. I'm getting any news from the boys anyway.

I saw one of the doctors this morning, an ill-mannered sort. It tries me. My weight was 57.70 kgs. I had no complaints.

An official was in with me and gave me some lip. He said, 'I see you're reading a short book. It's a good thing it isn't a long one for you won't finish it.'

That's the sort of people they are. Curse them! I don't care. It's been a long day.

I was thinking today about the hunger-strike. People say a lot about the body, but don't trust it. I consider that there is a kind of fight indeed. Firstly the body doesn't accept the lack of food, and it suffers from the temptation of food, and from other aspects which gnaw at it perpetually.

The body fights back sure enough, but at the end of the day everything returns to the primary consideration, that is, the mind. The mind is the most important.

But then where does this proper mentality stem from? Perhaps from one's desire for freedom. It isn't certain that that's where it comes from.

If they aren't able to destroy the desire for freedom, they won't break you. They won't break me because the desire for freedom, and the freedom of the Irish people, is in my heart. The day will dawn when all the people of Ireland will have the desire for freedom to show.

It is then we'll see the rising of the moon.

Devices left at St Pat's day parade - claim

Belfast Telegraph

By Jonathan McCambridge
17 March 2006

A claim was made today that a number of devices had been left at a St Patrick's Day commemoration in Dungannon.

A caller to the Belfast Telegraph - using a loyalist paramilitary cover name - also claimed that they would now be targeting members of Republican Sinn Fein and the Continuity IRA following the recent disruption of the Love Ulster rally in Dublin.

The man, who used a code word, claimed to represent the Red Hand Defenders, a cover name previously used by the UDA and the LVF.

The statement could not be immediately authenticated, but the codeword was similar to one used in the past.

It said: "Republican Sinn Fein and the Continuity IRA disrupted the Love Ulster Parade in Dublin.

"The commemoration at Edendork Cemetery in Dungannon today. We have placed four devices in and around the cemetery and will continue to attack Republican Sinn Fein members from now on."

The Red Hand Defenders cover name was used by the UDA when they murdered Daniel McColgan, Ciaran Cummings, Gavin Brett and Daniel Lawlor.

More recently it was used during an incident in which a Catholic taxi driver had a gun put to his head.

However, since then the UDA issued a statement claiming that the Red Hand Defenders did not exist and that it was a cover name used "by criminals".

The Love Ulster rally in Dublin had to be cancelled recently after republican protesters rioted and attacked the police.

McCartney and Rafferty families look to freeze SF assets

Irsih Independent

Friday March 17th 2006 19:14

The killings of Dublin man Joseph Rafferty and Robert McCartney have been raised in the White House during talks between the Taoiseach and US President George Bush.

It is understood that both families have begun moves to freeze Sinn Fein's assets in the US until the party identifies those responsible for the murders of the two men.

The families are believed to have had discussions with Washington-based lawyers Powell Goldstein.

Mr McCartney's sister Catherine said the Republican Movement was ``impeding justice``, while her emotional mother Kathleen said the past year had been a nightmare.

Ms McCartney said: ``Robert's murderers are still being protected by Sinn Fein and the IRA. The republican movement have not just done absolutely nothing, they're actually impeding and frustrating justice.

``To sit back and do nothing is not good in itself but to actively impede justice is a far more serious case.''

Fianna Fail councillor Gary Keegan, who is supporting the Rafferty family's case, said: ``We met a law firm here yesterday and we are exploring legal avenues. For example, Sinn Fein are registered under the Foreign Agents Registration Act here.

``There is a precedent for organisations that are proven or suspected to be implicated in illegal activity that their assets can be frozen and fundraising endeavours suspended pending the outcome of the case.''

Ms McCartney added: ``I don't think either family has any interest in fundraising but if we can use that to put pressure on the leadership to make the murderers come forward then we will do it.''

Schools struggle to find Irish language textbooks

Irish Examiner

By Niall Murray
17 March 2006

ALL-IRISH schools have difficulty getting textbooks in the language despite huge Government spending on unread translations of official reports, Senator Joe O’Toole claimed yesterday.
In a letter to Education Minister Mary Hanafin seeking immediate progress on the sidelined €1.9 million all-Irish education centre planned for the Co Cork Gaeltacht, he said schools are struggling to teach subjects through Irish without Irish language texts.

“This is a problem not just for the all-Irish schools but also for the many schools that would like to teach certain aspects of the curriculum through Irish, but who can’t access appropriate textbooks, apparatus and information technology to support such initiatives,” Mr O’Toole said.

The former Irish National Teachers’ Organisation general secretary said hundreds of thousands of euro are being spent each year on translations of State reports, while there was a total dearth of Irish language textbooks.

“The decision makers would appear to believe it more important to have glossy company reports ‘as Gaeilge’ that a couple of dozen people, at a push, might read than to provide appropriate Irish language texts that potentially half a million pupils might use.”

Around 350 schools where the curriculum is taught exclusively through Irish have almost 50,000 students. Mr O’Toole urged Ms Hanafin to give her approval for the education centre in Ballyvourney, first announced in 1999.

Despite getting planning permission and tenders being invited in 2004, the project has been stalled. The centre’s aim is to provide training for teachers in all-Irish schools and to improve Irish teaching standards among staff in other schools.

Meanwhile, free Irish language software is being sent to all 4,000 primary and second-level schools in a deal between which will see Irish versions of Microsoft’s Windows and Office products on disk arriving in classes in the coming weeks.

Microsoft and Foras na Gaeilge developed the language interface pack into last year, after translating more than 600,000 terms.

Dad's fury at PUP's police role

Belfast Telegraph

By Jonathan McCambridge
17 March 2006

The devastated father of a UVF murder victim today described how he felt "sick to his stomach" when a PUP representative was appointed to Northern Ireland's Policing Board.

Co Antrim man John Allen spoke of his fury that the loyalist party which is linked to a terror group would now have a role in holding to account the police force investigating his son's death.

But the PUP chairperson Dawn Purvis - who was appointed as an independent Policing Board member on Monday - said she would be prepared to meet Mr Allen to assure him that she did not know who killed his son.

Thirty-one-year-old John Allen Jnr was shot in the back of the head by the UVF in Ballyclare in November 2003. Nobody has ever been charged with his murder.

His father told the Belfast Telegraph: "This has been an awful week. The Government has appointed an unelected representative whose party is linked to the UVF to tell the police what to do. I cannot understand how unionist politicians could go along with this farce.

"I am now supposed to pay taxes to support this Policing Board. When I heard about this I was left sick to my stomach.

"If the party wants to be taken seriously then they should break their link with the UVF. Only then can they think about going onto the Policing Board.

"I heard Dawn Purvis saying that if she knew anyone who was involved in a crime then she would report it to the police. I challenge her to come out publicly and say that she will support the police investigation into my son's death."

Mr Allen added: "There is not a day goes past that I do not think about John.

"I was in Ballyclare a few weeks ago and I saw the man who murdered him walking about laughing. He is walking about the streets with complete impunity.

"By making this appointment the Government have shown contempt towards victims. It is a slap in the face for me and other people in the same position."

Asked about Mr Allen's comments, Dawn Purvis said: "First of all I would like to say my heart goes out to Mr Allen but I know absolutely nothing about his son's murder and I would never disrupt any police investigation.

"While I understand his anger and frustration I do not understand what it has got to do with my appointment. I have never been involved with paramilitaries and I am a member of the PUP, not the UVF.

"I was appointed as an independent member by the Secretary of State and I had as much right to apply as anybody else.

"I have no problem with meeting Mr Allen and talking to him face to face. I could not even begin to comprehend what he has had to go through in losing his son.

"However, if Mr Allen thinks the PUP has information about who killed his son then that is something he should pass on to the police."

She added: "The new Policing Board represents a healthy cross-section of society and I am looking forward to beginning work on it."

Final farewell for Celtic legend

BBC Scotland

**Many more links, details and photos onsite

Thousands of mourners have turned out to say their final farewells to football legend Jimmy Johnstone.

The service took place at a church in Uddingston

The former Celtic and Scotland winger, nicknamed Jinky, died on Monday after a long battle with motor neurone disease.

His former Lisbon Lion team-mates, the Old Firm managers and Celtic's current first team joined mourners at the St John the Baptist Church.

Many more fans gathered outside the church in Uddingston, South Lanarkshire to pay tribute to the former player.

Floral tributes were piled up in front of the church before the funeral got under way.

One, in the shape of a football, was dedicated to "Wee Jinky, Lisbon Lion".

There was a tribute of lilies "to the greatest ever Celtic" from everyone at Celtic Football Club.

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After the service the cortege travelled through the east end of Glasgow to allow people to pay their respects. (Click to view)

The Lisbon Lions team, with captain Billy McNeill, current Rangers manager Alex McLeish and former Rangers players Ally McCoist and John Greig attended the service.

Author William McIlvanney and Glasgow councillor Alex Mosson were also at the church to pay their respects.

'Brave as a lion'

Others in attendance included singer Rod Stewart and Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson.

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Thousands of fans lined the streets as the procession made its way to Celtic Park, where supporters had left scarves, shirts and written tributes to arguably the finest exponent of the Scottish game. (Click to view

Johnstone was a member of Celtic's Lisbon Lions team, who became the first British side to win the European Cup, beating Inter Milan in 1967.

He scored more than 100 goals for Celtic and won 23 Scotland caps.

More details

Born in Viewpark, Lanarkshire, Johnstone made his Celtic debut in 1963 and his skills on the ball earned him the nickname Jinky.

He became part of the team which won nine consecutive Scottish League titles between 1965 and 1974.

Johnstone was diagnosed with motor neurone disease in November 2001.

The Requiem Mass was led by the Rt Rev Joseph Devine, Bishop of Motherwell.

He told mourners: "I sensed a tidal wave of sorrow across the land when people began to be aware that he had died, a river of sadness at the passing of the greatest ever Celtic player.

Johnstone became a campaigner for research into his condition

"It was the kind of sadness that eclipsed Old Firm rivalries, indeed all manner of rivalries, as Jimmy was beloved of all supporters of the beautiful game."

The Rt Rev Devine also recalled the time when Celtic Park became "the field of our dreams", his own personal memories of Jinky and paid tribute to his "immense efforts" to find funding for research into motor neurone disease.

Billy McNeill, the captain of the Lisbon Lions, told mourners Johnstone was as fond of the fans as they were of him.

"The wee man was an incredible personality and an incredible footballer," he said.

"He had unbelievable ball control, as sharp as a tack, as fit as anything, as brave as a lion.

Celtic fan Rod Stewart and Penny Lancaster arrive for the funeral

"People talked about Jimmy's fans. Jimmy loved the fans - because he was a fan himself."

McNeill ended his tribute by saying: "Wee man - you will never walk alone, son."

Current Celtic chairman Brian Quinn said the player truly earned the title "magical".

"To see him racing down the wing at full speed, stop dead and leave the pursuing defender to storm past like a bull charging at a matador seemed almost to defy the laws of physics," said Mr Quinn.

"Twisting and turning on the proverbial sixpence he destroyed entire defences."

Meanwhile, in New York, the St Patrick's Day committee has given permission to Celtic supporters taking part in the parade to hold a minute's silence in memory of Johnstone when they stop outside St Patrick's Cathedral on Fifth Avenue.

'Rendition flights' landed in NI


Allegations on rendition flights continue

The transport secretary has revealed that aircraft allegedly operated by the CIA to take prisoners out of the USA landed at airports in Northern Ireland.

The planes landed at Belfast International and City of Derry airports after January 2001.

Alistair Darling said the government had no information about the flights' purposes as they were "non commercial". Anti-Iraqi war campaigners said they were used to fly prisoners to states where torture was used.

A total of six US planes linked by campaigners to "extraordinary rendition" used UK airports 73 times since 2001, Mr Darling confirmed.

Campaigners claim to have details of planes used by the CIA to transfer terror suspects to countries where they could be tortured.

Mr Darling confirmed the serial numbers of planes that had landed in the UK matched those on the campaigners' list.

But he said he had no evidence they were involved in rendition.

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has denied the US uses torture, but insisted the practice of extraordinary rendition was not unlawful, adding: "Renditions take terrorists out of action, and save lives."

Thousands turn out for St Patrick's parades

17 March 2006 17:11

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usMore than 500,000 people turned out to watch the St Patrick's Day parades around the country today, though cold weather meant that attendances were down on last year. (photo: O'Connell St, Dublin)

Some 400,000 people lined the streets of Dublin to watch more than 2,000 participants from Ireland and the United States as well as groups from Togo, Bangladesh and Shanghai march through the city.

More than 50,000 people turned out to watch the parade in Cork, some 55,000 in Galway, approximately 30,000 in Limerick and about 30,000 in Waterford.

An estimated 5,000 attended a parade and concert in Belfast, where the parade was officially recognised by the City Council for the first time.

So far all festivities have been peaceful and there have been no reports of arrests or disturbances.

Millions of people around the world are also joining in the celebrations. Hundreds of cities including New York, Sydney and Singapore are marking the event with street festivals and parades.

President's St Patrick's Day message

The President, Mary McAleese, has said St Patrick's Day is a one off celebration for Irish people and their friends at home and abroad.

The President said the Ireland of today was vibrant, cosmopolitan and filled with energy and that international relations were playing an important part in our maturing as a nation.

Meanwhile, the Catholic Primate, Archbishop Seán Brady has warned against celebrating St Patrick without referring to his Christian faith.

In his message for the national feast day, Archbishop Brady says today unites Irish people everywhere and that the national saint has become a symbol of Irish history and heritage.

However, the Archbishop of Armagh warns that simply reducing St Patrick to this without referring to his Christian faith distorts the truth.

Naomh Gall abú: the best offer we have

Daily Ireland


St Patrick turned the stone and drove out the snakes and invented the shamrock and whatever else, but the best thing he did was to give the plain people of Ireland the Football and Hurling Club Finals in Croke Park on the day on which Irishmen, women and children all over the world remember our patron saint.
The County is the County and I look forward to the day when the saffron shirts of Antrim lift the Liam McCarthy and the Sam Maguire and bring them back home to Belfast, but the club is the club. That’s local. That’s up the road, and down the street. That’s us.
Thanks be to God that I used to go to St Gall’s.
St Gall’s was my primary school, and I remember running up Bombay Street every morning to get into that joyous institution. Well, I’m sure it was joyous, but that’s not the point.
The point is I that went to St Gall’s Primary School from September 1962 until June 1969 and that makes me entitled to go to Croke Park today and shout my wee head off for the boys in blue. Yellow, for the boys in yellow with blue bits here and there. Look, it doesn’t matter what colour they wear today, our heroes are going to win the Andy Kerrigan Cup and that will be the first time for any Antrim team to have won the All-Ireland Club Football Championship.
And I say our heroes because, well, when each boy left St Gall’s Primary School in June 1969, the Brothers presented us all with membership of the St Gall’s club. Okay, maybe it was junior membership, or juvenile membership, or a trial period – I don’t know, 1969 was a while ago now – but I definitely remember something and as far as I am concerned that means I’m in at Croker today.
I admit my connection with St Gall’s since those heady days of ‘69 has been a little bit tenuous, a little bit tenuous to say the least. I think I called in to the clubhouse for a drink one night around 15 years or so ago, and I am almost sure I once bought a raffle ticket off one of the members, but never mind: today, in Croke Park, we are all St Gall’s.
St Gall’s’ big match today has set west Belfast alight with excitement – well, people are talking and there are big banners up here and there, and that’s good. We are normally well-used to excitement, and mostly of the political type. These days, however, things are slow.
Noises are being made, but I don’t know. For instance, front page Irish Times yesterday, side headline read ‘Pressure on DUP to start talking to Sinn Féin’. And that’s all fine and dandy, but then you read further and see that Secretary of State Peter Hain stated that the DUP must ‘eventually’ start talking to Sinn Féin.
Sure there isn’t a DUP man from Ballymena to Comber who would disagree with that bold statement. Yes, of course they will speak to Sinn Féin eventually, but when is eventually? And who gets to decide when eventually has eventually arrived?
We have to examine what Peter Hain or other British politicians mean when they use the word pressure in the context of the DUP talking to Sinn Féin. For a start, the word ‘eventually’ negates the effect of the word ‘pressure’ from the get-go. The word ‘pressure’ normally assumes a somewhat tighter timescale than ‘eventually.’
Putting pressure on a person or organisation to do something is usually quite easy. You just lay out a course of action that makes it clear to the subject that the consequences of not doing what they are being asked to do will worse for them than doing what they are being asked to do. You can even suggest that doing what they are being asked to do will bring rewards that the subject person or organisation would find quite attractive.
The DUP does not want the Good Friday Agreement to work, they do not want to talk to Sinn Féin and they do not want change towards equality in the Six Counties. That is fair enough because they are the DUP. Others, obviously, have a different perspective, but that is the way the DUP look at things.
The British government seems to be pressurising the DUP to talk to Sinn Féin, work the God Friday Agreement and progress towards an equitable society in the Six Counties by wagging a fatherly finger at them and telling them to do as they are bid. Or else not.
The consequences of not talking to Sinn Féin will be not talking to Sinn Féín. The consequences of not working the Good Friday Agreement will be the Good Friday Agreement does not work. The consequences of refusing to move with the rest of us towards a fair and equitable society in the Six Counties will be that a fair and equitable society does not come about.
Now I am loathe to credit Ian Paisley and his party with any great brains, but you do not need a degree from the Open University to realise that this level of pressure is bearable. Rocket science, it ain’t.
Perhaps St Patrick can work one of his miracles. Perhaps the sight of victorious Naomh Gall, showing Andy Kerrigan off to all of the Falls Road, will be enough to change Big Ian’s mind. Or perhaps not.
You would think that the two governments between them could come up with a better plan to achieve progress in the North, rather than ‘pressurising’ the DUP or hoping for the best.
Okay, I admit it, tomorrow I will be back to supporting Naomh Pól, football and hurling, handball and camogie, all grades and all competitions, but today my tenner is on the men from Milltown.
Naomh Gall abú!

TAKE FIVE: Blind boys and would be soldiers

Daily Ireland

BY Laurence McKeown

We grow up with myths. Most of them are harmless, incredible or humorous but all reflect political, social, or cultural opinions. As an adolescent male I learned that masturbation makes you blind but the discovery of sexual pleasure overcame such dire forebodings and only now do I need glasses - apparently because of age only.
Another myth was that Catholics were, “disloyal to the crown but not the half-crown". For readers too young to know, the half-crown was a silver coin. Four of them made a pound. The implication was that Catholics had no problem taking the dole and social benefits from the state whilst simultaneously being disloyal to that state. Protestants, on the other hand, had a work ethic, were industrious, worked hard, and didn’t accept handouts.
Of course this myth, like others, looked at only part of the picture. Catholics were more likely to be unemployed and dependent on state benefits because of discrimination. Protestants were more likely to access employment.
Another myth was that only Protestants and unionists fought for Britain during the First World War. In reality thousands from nationalist areas, including the Falls Road, served with the British forces. The myth in this instance lived on in no small part due to the nationalist community’s denial of the role earlier generations had played.
Yet another myth concerning loyalty/disloyalty was that republicans brought the gun into Irish politics - ignoring the gunrunning activities of the Ulster Volunteers in 1914 when they openly defied the British government’s policy of Home Rule.
Last week one myth was finally laid to rest - that those who joined the UDR/RIR did so primarily out of a sense of duty and loyalty. When given the opportunity to serve Queen and country in Iraq, being a soldier with the RIR suddenly lost its appeal. In the good old days you could wear the khaki, carry a real gun, drive about in jeeps and harass and intimidate nationalist neighbours – sorry, enemies of Ulster. It didn’t matter that you were four foot six or that you wore glasses with lenses so thick they questioned just what those adolescent years looked like – you were a soldier. But a soldier who at the end of the night would return home rather than to a smelly barrack room - and there the myth would end. As all myths should.

Laurence McKeown was a republican prisoner for 16 years in Long Kesh and spent 70 days on the 1981 hunger strike. He is the author of a doctoral thesis, co-author of the feature film H3 and plays The Laughter of Our Children and A Cold House.

Nothing less than equality will suffice

Daily Ireland


It’s hard to know how to categorise the Irish obsession with the US come St Patrick’s Day. No one would deny the Irish who overcame discrimination and adversity to build the USA their day in the sun, but whether our political leaders need to spend St Patrick’s Day on Capitol Hill is another matter altogether.
Suffice to say, that some admirers of the shepherd boy who brought Christianity to Ireland will allow themselves a wry smile at the prospect of Taoiseach Bertie Ahern discussing the Irish peace process with a US President who has been castigated for torture and warmongering by one of his predecessors, Jimmy Carter.
However, with only the Rev Ian Paisley snubbing the shamrock hooley in the White House this morning, it’s clear that the St Patrick’s Day festivities are seen by nationalist Ireland as an opportunity to get their message across to a receptive audience.
All that may be changing now, however, as President Bush’s Sergeant Bilko, Mitchell Reiss, brings the deft touch to Irish policy which until now has been confined by the White House administration to Iraq.
Not content with dismissing the International Commission on Decommissioning by rejecting their unanimous assertion — and the conviction of the independent observers — that the IRA had put all its weapons beyond use, Mr Reiss has now decided to play ‘blink’ with Gerry Adams.
It seems that until Mr Adams signs up to the PSNI, the US envoy is going to prevent him from personally raising money for Sinn Féin in the US.
Mr Adams last night castigated Mr Reiss in no uncertain terms, stating that if he was advising the Bush administration to take its current stand, he was giving very bad advice indeed. In diplomatic language, that’s basically the equivalent of saying he doesn’t know what he’s doing and shouldn’t be in the job.
It’s hard to know if such an approach is more childish than oafish — because Friends of Sinn Féin in the US can raise greenbacks by the cartload as long as the Sinn Féin President isn’t present — but either way if Gerry Adams was to allow fundraising in the US to affect his critical faculties when he makes the call on the PSNI, he would be run out of town by his electorate.
Mr Reiss, knowing the price of everything and the value of nothing, won’t understand that of course.
He shouldn’t take our word for it that he’s barking up the wrong tree. Take the word of the US’s premier Irish-American newspaper, the Irish Echo, which declared this week: “The largest nationalist party in Northern Ireland has been made the whipping boy of the St Patrick’s Day season... The problem is this: The North’s nationalists sat at the back of the bus for too long to now tolerate anything short of equality.”
On the National Saint’s Day, Amen to that.
Go raibh Lá Féile Pádraig faoi shéan ag ár léitheoirí uilig.

Mural artists see red over black shamrock

Daily Ireland

**See also The Bogside Artists' Studio

By Eamonn Houston

Anti-war campaigners were yesterday branded ‘fascists’ after defacing one of the North’s best known tourist attractions.
The Bogside Artists, who have produced 12 murals in an area of Derry that witnessed the Battle of the Bogside and Bloody Sunday, condemned the placing of the black shamrock insignia on one of their murals.
All 12 of the gable wall murals, which has become known as The People’s Gallery, have been funded by residents in the area and fundraising events.
A mural entitled The Petrol Bomber had a black shamrock affixed to the image in recent days.
Anti-war activists in Derry have launched the black shamrock badge as a symbol of opposition to the Irish government’s policy of allowing aircraft belonging to the American government to stop over in Shannon airport. The campaign has targeted key landmarks in the city and further afield to help further its aims.
However, the Bogside Artists said that the altering of a mural to promote a political message went against the ethos of their work: “This mural is simply about 30 years of conflict in the North. To try and gain publicity for a political cause is cheap and fascist,” Tom Kelly, one of the three Bogside Artists, said.
“We are not precious about our work. This has been a 12-year project and has depended solely on the support of the people. The people have always been consulted. In this case no one was asked. Personally we would be supportive of an anti-war campaign, the rear of Free Derry Wall has been used for such purposes in the past.
“What has happened here has not been discussed or debated – no consent was sought. Whoever did this is infantile and exploitative – these murals were paid for by the people and we have taken great pains to consult them down the years and gain their consent. The consent of the people has not been sought here,” Mr Kelly said.
Shane O’Curry, an anti-war activist and one of those spearheading the black shamrock campaign, said: “Firstly I think that they [the Bogside Artists] should read some more books and maybe a dictionary to find better words.
“They do have a right to complain, but the tradition of murals and muralists is that they have to interact and contemporise the work. The Bogside Artists have elevated murals to the status of art when they are not art. Their reaction has been rash and intolerant of artistic and creative dialogue.”
Mr O’Curry said that the black shamrock campaign had been a massive success. He said that over 30,000 badges had been distributed in Ireland, Paris and the United States.
The Galway Alliance Against War revealed last night it has sent one of the black shamrocks to US President George Bush.

Derry IRSP Relaunch Celebration Of Resistance 1981 Committee

Derry Journal

Friday 17th March 2006

The Celebration of Resistance 1981 Committee, originally launched in October 2000 to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the Hungerstrikes, has been reformed. Spokesperson for the committee Martin McMonagle said that every effort will be made in the coming months to highlight the political battles that the prisoners faced in the H-Blocks and Armagh leading up to and including 1981.
"In 2001 the Celebration of Resistance Committee launched a booklet and a website and both were hugely successful. The booklet entitled 'Memories of 1981' was a collection of personal accounts of the period of the 1981 hungerstrike from family members, comrades and friends of the hungerstrikers. We hope to launch an updated version in the coming months" he said. "We would like to appeal to the people of Derry for items relating to the 1981 period to be lent to us in order to put them on display at upcoming events this year. We would particularly like to see photographs, posters and any other memorabilia from the period relating to the hungerstrikers and the campaign for political status." Mr McMonagle added that the committee also plan to unveil two plaques in remembrance of INLA volunteers Patsy O'Hara and Mickey Devine later this year. For further information on the committee contact the Teach na Failte office in Unit 14 Lenamore Business Park or telephone 028 71 353 090 between 11.00am and 3.00pm weekdays.

Row Erupts Over Magilligan Prison Plan

Derry Journal

Friday 17th March 2006

A ROW has erupted over plans to build a new £3.75m cell block at Magilligan Prison - despite the fact that the jail could be closing. The threat of closure has been hanging over the prison since last year when it was revealed that the head of the prison service, Robin Masefield, confirmed in a circular to staff that he was considering closing Magilligan and building a new prison in a different location.
However, the Northern Ireland Prison Service has also revealed that prison numbers at Magilligan and Maghaberry have soared by 70% since 2000 and show no sign of slowing down. To compensate for this, plans have already begun to construct two 60-cell accommodation blocks at the two prisons. The new blocks at the two jails are scheduled for completion in November 2007 at an estimated total cost of between £6.5m and £7.5m. Last night, SDLP Assembly member John Dallat accused the Prison Service of "throwing good money after bad". He said: "Lots of money has already been spent shoring up what is already there. The public has a misconception of the facilities at a modern prison and in reality this structure is not suitable to meet the needs of a modern society." However, DUP MP, Gregory Campbell, who is fighting a proposal to relocate the prison, said plans to build new cells at Magilligan were welcome. "This is not the best option. The best is a minimum spend but I welcome any new building taking place at Magilligan because relocating to a greenfield site in County Antrim would be an excessive cost," he said. The extra accommodation is designed to meet anticipated growth in the adult male population over the next two to four years. With extra capacity required to address these needs, the Prison Service said it hopes that the new units can also be used to provide temporary accommodation to allow for the refurbishment of existing accommodation. A spokesman said: "A team was set up to consider the most efficient structures to deal with the requirement for more accommodation and it is proposed to provide accommodation based on the faster-build format currently being used in England and Wales and generally referred to as RTUs (Ready to Use)."

There’s a precedent to pay off the smugglers

Daily Ireland

**Via Newshound

Jude Collins

Big money sloshing around this last week, some of it going to people (the RIR) and some of it being taken from people (Tom Murphy).
There are those who think giving to the RIR and taking from Mr Murphy were both good moves, others who believe both actions were reprehensible. Who’s right ?
Let’s start with the RIR.
The DUP led a campaign that swore the RIR would not, would not, would not be moved; but as with a number of other DUP campaigns, it puffed and guldered and got nowhere. Seeing Paisley in danger of a serious loss of face (no, don’t laugh), the British government pushed some £250 million in the direction of the RIR retirees and allowed the DUP to talk as though they personally had produced this going-away present.
Mr Paisley and friends rammed home the point to any microphone available, insisting that the nation owed the brave RIR men every penny and more for their wonderful contribution to law and order down the years.
It’s always nice to see people who are confronted with the dole queue getting a financial cushion, but I if I’d been one of the 76 people who lost their jobs at the West Belfast-based company Trivirix last week, or one of the 30 people at Tyco Healthcare in Ballymoney who are facing redundancy this morning, I might be asking myself: How come they got all that and I got nothing?
But you can’t let subjective judgements from people who’ve lost their jobs decide if the RIR money was wisely spent.
You have to stand back and be dispassionate.
OK . Since the RIR got the big money and ordinary punters don’t get such a massive pay-off, it must have something to do with the quality of the job the RIR did. Their contribution to society must have been superior to that of ordinary workers. So was it?
Well, I’ve no research to back this up, but I’d guess that, over the years, nearly half the population here felt something between uneasiness and terror when they saw a close encounter with the RIR/UDR coming up.
You may say so many people shouldn’t have felt that way, but the fact is they did.
So even if the RIR had been as inoffensive as a Ballymena lamb throughout the Troubles, they’d still have failed spectacularly in one central function of any militia : to win the trust of the people in whose name they keep law and order.
Of course it goes beyond this.
The RIR and its predecessors, were guilty of involvement in a range of crimes that helped ignite and keep burning the flames of violence over the past 30 years.
For those unionist politicians who think otherwise, here’s a little challenge: produce one nationalist public representative who declares the RIR/UDR/B Specials did a good job, and I’ll donate £50 to Ian Paisley’s fund for the conversion of errant Roman Catholic priests to Free Presbyterianism.
What about Tom Murphy?
One thing is certain after the last week’s media coverage of the raid on his farm, should legal proceedings ever be instituted against him, it will be impossible for Mr Murphy to get anything remotely like a fair trial.
Yet the antagonism against Mr Murphy, as often happens in these cases, is confused and confusing.
On the one hand we’re told repeatedly that he was the chief of staff of the IRA. So perhaps that explains the vitriol and hatred directed against him: he was (allegedly) responsible for violent and maybe lethal actions against members of the RUC, the RIR/UDR and the British army.
But hold on a minute. A week or so ago we saw a range of self-confessed killers parade across our screens and be commended by Bishop Desmond Tutu for their courage and honesty.
If the allegations against Mr Murphy are true and if he was involved with the IRA, it would make no sense to verbally assault him while accepting and even embracing others who had been engaged in similar violence.
Besides, unlike the organisation to which such as Michael Stone belonged, the IRA campaign and the IRA itself are fast receding into history.
No, the public out-cry against Mr Murphy is not because of his alleged IRA background but because it is claimed he is…a smuggler.
Excuse me. My cat, confronted with public attitudes in this twisted corner of the island, has just collapsed in a laughing fit. Give me a moment to put him outside until he comes round. Because if Mr Murphy’s smuggling is a crime, my Auntie Peg was a criminal. For more than ten years through the 1940s and into the 1950s she never crossed the border without something illegal nestling in her knickers – jam, sugar, butter. If petrol had been cheaper in the north I’m sure she’d have found a way to carry that too.
Did we think of Auntie Peg as a criminal? Or ourselves, when we assisted her, as accomplices in crime? For God’s sake. The way she looked at it, we looked at it, everyone I know looked at it was, we didn’t invent the border, but since it was there, we were going to squeeze as much good out of it as we could.
Generations of nationalists and I suspect the odd unionist have lived with and acted on that belief.
So if Mr Murphy is a smuggler - and I have no reliable way of knowing if he is or not, certainly not from the unsubstantiated shrieks that pass for press coverage – if he is a smuggler, then he differs from my Auntie Peg and the rest of us only in scale.
Would I be wracked with guilt if I discovered I’d bought cheap petrol which came to me via Mr Murphy or someone like him? Hah. If I still smoked, would I refuse to buy smuggled cigarettes with Mr Murphy’s thumb prints? Hah again. If Mr Murphy has made a tenth of the money the press claim he has through smuggling, then I’d suggest instead of being vilified, he be employed by the CBI and Invest Northern Ireland to teach entrepreneurial skills and venture daring to the sad excuses for business thinkers who have for the past decade and more kept this sad corner on an economic life-support system maintained by the British Exchequer.
Alternatively, if those who yell their rage against Mr Murphy’s alleged smuggling empire were serious about wanting to end that empire, they know how it could be done overnight: charge the same price for products on both sides of the border. It’s a no-brainer, lads. Or if that’s too hard, give the smugglers £250 million to go away and stop annoying law-abiding people. There’s a precedent for that.
Happy Paddy’s Day.

Super councils may get key role in public housing

Belfast Telegraph

NIHE role may be reduced in major revamp

By Noel McAdam
17 March 2006

A major revamp of the Housing Executive was being signalled last night as the Government shifts more powers to Northern Ireland's seven new 'super' councils.

The Executive may lose a number of key functions which would then be carried out by elected councillors instead.

According to well-placed sources, the councils could be given control over the Executive's grants system, its fuel efficiency programme and environmental health schemes.

And the re-organisation may also involve a new co-ordination role for the Department of Social Development.

But the further reduction of Housing Executive responsibilities will almost certainly mean "significant" job losses, sources claimed.

Direct Rule Ministers will make the announcement next week as part of the latest stage of the shake-up of public administration in Northern Ireland.

Senior Housing Executive officials were last night said to be "extremely concerned" about the operational changes.

"There is an air of gloom," one source said. "A positive spin will be put on all this," one departmental source said, "but it arguably amounts to a dismantling of the Executive".

The Executive has an annual budget of around £545m and a staff of almost 3,200 across Northern Ireland. But initial consultations by the review of public administration team showed almost no support for any change to the Executive.

There was "widespread recognition" that the Executive "has been successful and has developed and operated a fair system for housing allocation".

A year ago, however, the review team said the options for the Executive were either the status quo or the transfer of responsibility to the new larger councils with the Department of Social Development "taking on an enhanced policy and co-ordinating role".

But in November, when Secretary of State Peter Hain announced cutting the present 26 councils to seven, there was no specific mention of the new authorities having any input into housing. A spokesperson for the team said: "We cannot respond to rumours. Everyone is just going to have to wait and see."

The Housing Executive verdict will come as part of a raft of Government decisions on the province's plethora of quangos.

Maze stadium plan is 'waste of public cash'

Belfast Telegraph

By Debra Douglas
17 March 2006

Belfast's SDLP Deputy Mayor last night branded plans to spend £85m on the proposed Maze stadium as a "waste of public money".

Speaking ahead of today's planned advertisements inviting expressions of interest from developers to deliver a multi-range sports stadium for the city in one of three suggested locations, the SDLP's Pat Convery said spending huge amounts of public money on a major stadium when people throughout the province are facing three-fold increases in their rates bill was unacceptable.

He said: "This is a separate proposal from the national stadium as we believe that Northern Ireland's capital city requires such a stadium regardless of whether or not the Maze project goes ahead. If the Government decides not to proceed with the Maze, we will be happy to work with them on this project.

"Our project would not be dependent on public funds. Our ratepayers are facing a 19% hike in rates from central government this year, a review of the rating system and water charges which is likely to see rates bills rise threefold in the next few years.

"The Government says it needs to increase this taxation to meet infrastructural and service needs, yet at the same time seems able to find £85m to fund a sports stadium in an area where there is clearly no social need."

He said the council wanted to know where the money would come from and what other projects would suffer as a result.

"We believe the Government must produce a business case to show the viability of the Maze site," he added.

"The fact is all the evidence around the world shows that stadia should be built in major cities, such as the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff, Croke Park in Dublin and the new Wembley in London. Stadia outside of cities are not economically viable.

"There is a groundswell of opinion rising up against the Maze project. It is not too late for the Government to reconsider and join us in developing a stadium in the capital city and using the £85m it was going to spend on this project for more deserving and needy causes."

The council has potential sites for a 25,000 seater stadium at Ormeau Park, Maysfield or North Foreshore.

DUP is urged to meet loyalist paramilitaries

Belfast Telegraph

By Brian Rowan
17 March 2006

The DUP could assist peace moves within loyalism by meeting "openly" with the paramilitary leadership, a senior loyalist source has said.

The comments follow recent talks involving DUP MPs Peter Robinson and Nigel Dodds and the chairman of the Loyalist Commission the Rev Mervyn Gibson.

The paramilitary source made the call for direct talks as the UDA, UVF and the Red Hand Commando continue to debate the future status of their organisations.

He said the DUP should face paramilitary leaders "head-on".

"The right people aren't encouraging anybody," he said.

The senior paramilitary said loyalists needed encouragement "from the right quarters".

He said they still felt they were "being ignored", and they were "having problems bringing people along". The DUP "could break the impasse," he added.

"That (direct talks with paramilitaries) would cause them embarrassment because of Sinn Fein, and Sinn Fein would use that against them, (but) somebody is going to have to show leadership and break the mould," he said.

The source said one meeting could determine what would be needed of the paramilitaries for "the talking to continue".

Peace moves within loyalism have been undermined by the recent activities of the UDA in north Belfast, but, in a statement last week, the leadership of the paramilitary group said its members were "committed to a process of change".

Orange Order issues first St Patrick's Day message

17/03/2006 - 08:45:42

The Orange Order has issued its first ever St Patrick's Day message saying the festival should be about more than just green beer and leprechauns.

The Order said St Patrick’s message is in danger of being lost and today should be a day of Christian reflection and re-dedication to Biblical standards and morality.

It also said that it is greatly concerned by the breakdown of morality in our society, such as the recent introduction of civil partnerships.

The Order does condemn violence and hatred towards homosexuals but notes that the Bible condemns homosexual practices as well as heterosexual immorality.

Meanwhile, the Archbishop of Armagh has called for all Irish people to hold out the hand of friendship to the many ethnic minorities living here.

Archbishop Brady said by doing so, we will reflect the real meaning of Saint Patrick , who himself was a migrant.

He said we should be mindful of the many people like Saint Patrick living among us, in an effort to build a society that welcomes the cultures and traditions of others.

Sectarian upsurge in wake of UDA arrests

An Phoblacht

16 March 2006

Image Hosted by ImageShack.us Claims that the UDA intends to end it's sectarian campaign have been dismissed, as nationalists across the North face an upsurge in loyalist death theats and sectarian attacks.

Dismissing the UDA statement Sinn Féin's Martin McGuinness said "we need to hear and see from the UDA evidence that their violent campaign against Catholics is over".

In the past week a Sinn Féin councillor in Banbridge, County Down was given a death threat while a number of North Belfast taxi firms were warned they are being targeted. Meanwhile homes and cars were attacked in Derry and a Catholic church daubed with graffiti in East Belfast

Banbridge Sinn Féin councillor Dessie Ward has been warned by the PSNI last week that unionist paramilitaries are currently targeting him.

Nationalists in North Belfast are on high alert after death threats were delivered to the homes of a number of Catholic taxi drivers by the PSNI on Tuesday 7 March.

The latest threats come on the back of an attempt by the UDA to kill a taxi driver last week in Ligoniel.

In the Waterside area of Derry in the early hours of Thursday, 9 March a number of nationalist owned homes and cars in two estates were damaged in sustained attacks by loyalists

Sinn Féin Mayor of Derry Lynn Fleming said loyalists were intending to raise sectarian tensions in the areas in the run up to the Orange marching season.

Meanwhile a Catholic priest in East Belfast has described an attack on his church, whose congregation includes Filipino, South African, Asian and European families, as sectarian and racist. Father Paddy Downey made his remarks after excrement and racist and sexual graffiti were daubed inside St Colmcille's on the Upper Newtownards Road in East Belfast on Thursday evening 9 March.

"I think those responsible are influenced by their environment and think that someone who comes from abroad must be lesser and talked about with this sort of language. Foreign nationals are vital to our congregation and community and are enthusiastic. The young people serve on the altar, we have adults in the choir and on the parish pastoral council".

This latest sectarian attack followed an incident on Sunday 5 March when graffitti were scrawled on posters and a banner in the church.

No special deal for 50,000 illegal Irish, US tells Ahern

Irish Examiner

By Shaun Connolly

TAOISEACH Bertie Ahern was last night told there could be no special deal for the 50,000 Irish illegals in the US as he used the annual St Patrick’s Day visit to Washington DC to battle to save them from deportation.

Republican Senator John McCain insisted the workers could only be included in an overall agreement dealing with the 12 million such foreigners believed to be in America.

He said he was hopeful the legislation he and Senator Ted Kennedy are championing will prevail over more draconian attempts to tighten immigration laws.

The Arizona senator said illegal Irish and foreign workers needed to be encouraged to join mainstream society to end their "exploitation" on its margins.

"Are there Irish citizens here being exploited? There are I've talked to some of them," he said after meeting the Taoiseach.

Mr Ahern pledged to keep up pressure on the issue as he conducted a day of intensive lobbying which saw him meeting other leading political figures as well as being guest of honour at a Congressional lunch attended by US President George W Bush.

Senator Kennedy said: "The status of the 50,000 to 70,000 undocumented Irish in America needs to be adjusted."

The Taoiseach also urged US pressure to help force a deal on power-sharing and civil policing in the North by the end of the year.

Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams criticised the Bush administration for banning him from fundraising activities during his US visit.

"It's the principle that's involved, that Sinn Féin would be treated differently from any other party. I have to say I am just bewildered about that," he said.

Meanwhile, the widow of murdered Belfast solicitor Pat Finucane, Geraldine, said Senator Hillary Clinton had pledged to press the British government to allow a fully independent inquiry into the killing.

Mr Ahern will meet Mr Bush for further talks today.

Irish-Americans' plea to SF and DUP


16/03/2006 - 21:02:04

Irish-American politicians tonight called on Sinn Féin to endorse policing in Northern Ireland after it turned down policing board seats in the North.

But the group, led by Senator Edward Kennedy, also said it was essential Ian Paisley’s Democratic Unionists committed themselves to taking part in an inclusive government with Gerry Adams’ party.

The Friends of Ireland, a lobbying group of congressmen and senators, said in a statement that Sinn Féin must continue to build on the “significant progress” already made.

“Progress on policing is essential in order to ensure peace and stability in Northern Ireland,” they said.

“A decision by Sinn Féin to support and join the new policing structures would be a very important step forward.”

On Monday, Northern Secretary Peter Hain announced the new-look 19-member policing board for the North, which will sit for the first time on April 1.

The board will have four Democratic Unionists, two Ulster Unionists and two Assembly members from the SDLP, but Sinn Féin has turned down the two seats it was offered.

The party also refused to take its seats on the previous board because it believes policing reforms in the North do not go far enough.

The Americans also called for justice to be done in the case of Robert McCartney and for paramilitaries to end “criminality and intimidation“.

The group, which also includes senators Chris Dodd and Susan Collins and Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi, said September’s decommissioning by the IRA should have been embraced by all in the unionist community.

“We regret that the Democratic Unionist Party has refused to state that it is willing to share power with all parties, including Sinn Féin, and has continued to reject the Good Friday Agreement,” the group said.

“It is essential that the DUP unequivocally agree to share power with all parties, and commit itself to working within all the institutions established by the agreement.”

The statement came as Taoiseach Bertie Ahern met Senator Kennedy and other leading Irish-American politicians, and said he would be looking to them later in the year to help convince Northern parties that working under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement was possible.

16 March 2006

'Birmingham Six' Hill demands apology


16/03/2006 - 18:38:33

One of the Birmingham Six has vowed to launch legal action against the British Government unless he gets a public apology.

Paddy Hill – who was released from prison 15 years ago this week – slammed Prime Minister Tony Blair for not acknowledging their plight when he openly said sorry to the families of Gerry Conlon and Annie McGuire last year.

Like the Birmingham Six, Conlon and McGuire had been wrongfully convicted for IRA bomb attacks in the UK the 1970s. They served 15 years in prison.

Legal proceedings will also be taken over the Government’s failure to reintegrate the men back into society, according to Mr Hill, 62, who runs the Miscarriage of Justice organisation from his Scottish home.

“I have no idea why he left us out,” he said, referring to Mr Blair.

“I wrote to him and told him I commended him for having the courage to stand up and do it (apologise), but told him I was a bit disappointed that while he was apologising to the Conlon and McGuire families he didn’t apologise to the other Irish great miscarriage of justices in the 1970s, namely Judith Ward and the Birmingham Six.

“A few weeks later I got a letter from Anthony Phillips (his private secretary) telling me Tony Blair would be writing to me when it was appropriate, but I’ve never had a word since then.

“I did send word back to them two weeks ago telling them I was going to take action against them.”

Mr Hill told RTE radio the past 15 years had been very hard, but he thought little of the anniversary of his release.

“I’ll never forget what happened to me and I never forget when we were looking for help everybody slammed the door in our faces,” Mr Hill said.

“People have this perception that we came out and got a load of money and everybody kisses and makes up and we all ride in to the sunset. Unfortunately it’s nothing like that.”

In Lancaster in 1975, the six Birmingham based Irishmen – Paddy Hill, Bill Power, Dick McIlkenny, Hugh Callaghan, Gerry Hunter and John Walker – were sentenced to life imprisonment for a Birmingham bombing which killed 21 people and maimed or seriously injured 161.

Despite pleas that the confessions had been obtained because of beatings by warders and ill treatment, the case was initially upheld on appeal. The men were eventually freed on March 14, 1991.

In 2000 Mr Hill was offered a final settlement of more than £960,000 – with £50,000 charged for bed and board for his years behind bars.

Mr Hill said he could accept his jail term if it had guaranteed no other miscarriages of justice and been carried out in the UK.

“You come out and you’re on a high,” Mr Hill continued. “But there was no help at all out here for us, we have to fight for everything. We had absolutely no counselling when we got out.

“Unfortunately for all the miscarriages of justice victims, one day you’re sitting in a prison cell. At 8 o’clock that morning the door is opened, the next thing you know is you’re in the prison van, you’re up at the Court of Appeal and if you’re lucky and win your appeal later that afternoon you’re dumped on the court steps with half a dozen bin liner bags with your few possession and legal papers.

“They give you a £50 discharge grant and a one way rail ticket to wherever you come from. That is it, goodbye.”

Although having a home, Mr Hill spent almost the first year of his release sleeping rough in a nearby park to feel the fresh air around him. Shortly afterwards he was diagnosed with depression.

He said: “A psychiatrist told me I had been living under a state of depression for so long it was normal, and I’m still not alright today. I felt like I was coming apart at the seems.

“One minute I’d by sitting there fine and there would be nothing wrong with you, the next minute you’d be sitting there crying your eyes out like a child, you don’t even know what you’re crying for. And then I started locking myself up in the house, going around opening all the windows, locking them all up again and I ended up living in one room like being in prison.”

Bobby Sands' diary - day 16


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Monday 16th

I had a wonderful visit today with my mother, father and Marcella. Wonderful, considering the circumstances and the strain which indeed they are surely under.

As I expected, I received a lot of verbal flak from Screws going and coming from the actual visit. Their warped sense of humour was evident in their childish taunts, etcetera.

I wrapped myself up well to keep me from the cold. My weight is 58.25 kgs today, but I burnt up more energy today with the visit. I've no complaints of any nature.

I've noticed the orderlies are substituting slices of bread for bits of cake, etcetera -- stealing the sweet things (which are rare anyway) for themselves. I don't know whether it's a case of 'How low can you get?' or 'Well, could you blame them?' But they take their choice and fill of the food always, so it's the former.

They left my supper in tonight when the priest (Fr Murphy) was in. There were two bites out of the small doughy bun. I ask you!

I got the Sunday World newspaper; papers have been scarce for the past few days.

There is a certain Screw here who has taken it upon himself to harass me to the very end and in a very vindictive childish manner. It does not worry me, the harassment, but his attitude aggravates me occasionally. It is one thing to torture, but quite a different thing to exact enjoyment from it, that's his type.

There was no mirror search going out to visits today -- a pleasant change. Apparently, with the ending of the no-wash protest, the mercenary Screws have lost all their mercenary bonuses, etcetera, notwithstanding that they are also losing overtime and so on. So, not to be outdone, they aren't going to carry out the mirror search any more, and its accompanying brutality, degradation, humiliation, etcetera.

Why! Because they aren't being paid for it!

I'm continually wrapped up in blankets, but find it hard to keep my feet warm. It doesn't help my body temperature, drinking pints of cold water. I'm still able to take the salt and five or six pints of water per day without too much discomfort.

The books that are available to me are trash. I'm going to ask for a dictionary tomorrow. I'd just sit and flick through that and learn, much more preferable to reading rubbish.

The English rag newspapers I barely read, perhaps flick through them and hope that no one opens the door. A copy of last week's AP/RN was smuggled in and was read out last night (ingenuity of POWs again). I enjoyed listening to its contents (faultless - get off them ! - good lad Danny (Morrison)). I truly hope that the people read, take in and understand at least some of the truths that are to be regularly found in it. I see Paddy Devlin is at his usual tricks, and won't come out and support the prisoners...

Well, that's it for tonight. I must go. Oíche Mhaith.

Mural detail from >>CAIN

1,000 gardaí on duty for Dublin parade


16 March 2006 17:56

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One thousand gardaí will be on the streets of Dublin tomorrow to police the St Patrick's Day parade and other events taking place in the city.

They will be clamping down on people who drink on the streets.

500,000 people are expected in the city for the parade, although the weather is expected to be very cold and windy.

SDLP MP apparently voices support for assembly without power-sharing


16/03/2006 - 17:26:36

A furious row has broken out in the North over comments made by the SDLP MP Eddie McGrady, apparently supporting the idea of recalling the assembly without power-sharing.

McGrady called for the restoration of devolution, if necessary with a temporary executive of non-elected members, or with the current B ritish ministers until the parties could agree.

Welcoming the comments, the DUP deputy leader Peter Robinson said they were a “helpful step forward”, falling “within the DUP’s proposals of a phased approach to power sharing.”

Sinn Fein reacted furiously, saying that the SDLP was sending out mixed messages and challenging the party to come clean.

Mr. McGrady said the DUP had got the “wrong end of the stick” and that he had “only been seeking information, not making concrete proposals.”

BBC misrepresent and distort remarks of US Senator

Sinn Féin

Published: 16 March, 2006

Sinn Féin today said that the BBC was either guilty of deliberate misinformation or the worst kind of unprofessional sloppy journalism after they ran a story wrongly claiming that Senator Ted Kennedy supported the position of the US Administration regarding Gerry Adams fundraising in the USA. Mr Kennedy had in fact stated the exact opposite at the press conference being reported by BBC NI journalists in Washington, and has previously been on the record stating this position.

A Sinn Féin spokesperson today said:

"Since early morning broadcasts the BBC have been running a story filed in Washington claiming that US Senator Ted Kennedy shared the position of the US Administration regarding Gerry Adams fundraising in the USA.

"The basis of this report was a press conference given by Senator Kennedy yesterday. However at that press conference Senator Kennedy once again clearly stated that his views on the matter differed from those held by the Administration a fact reported by other media outlets who attended the press briefing.

"However the BBC alone reported the exact opposite and continued to do this throughout much of today. This BBC story was then picked up by other outlets and has been widely covered during the course of today.

"This is a disgraceful piece of journalism and leaves very many questions needing to be answered by the BBC here in Belfast. The BBC need to tell us how a situation arose when their journalists alone distorted and misrepresented the content of yesterdays press briefing. Was this a case of unprofessional sloppy journalism or was it a case of deliberate misinformation. The public will draw their own conclusions.

"Sinn Féin will be writing to senior BBC management demanding answers to these and other very serious questions which this episode raises regarding the nature of BBC coverage." ENDS

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