25 March 2006

Gerry Adams - Dublin Speech

Sinn Féin

Published: 25 March, 2006

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usSinn Féin President Gerry Adams MP today gave a keynote speech to Sinn Féin's National Elected Representatives Forum in Dublin, in the Writers Museum, Parnell Square at 10.45am.

The speech focused on the challenges ahead for Irish republicans but he will give the Forum an up-to-date assessment of the current negotiations around the restoration of the political institutions in the north.

Summary of points on Current negotiations

* Several weeks ago Sinn Fein resolutely opposed any halfway house, in-between, transitional, interim or shadow Assembly. That remains the party's position.
* There is no future in the governments tampering with the Good Friday Agreement to facilitate the DUP.
* The governments need to be coming forward with propositions which are about implementing the Good Friday Agreement and then endeavouring to get the DUP on board.
* Sinn Féin will look at whatever proposals the governments produce, and is in daily contact with them.
* There is no point in the governments withdrawing proposals a month ago and then repackaging the same proposals and trying to represent them as something else. It won't wash.
* The governments have to deliver.

The Sinn Fein leader also outlined the party's position on advancing the all-Ireland agenda. ENDS

Text of Speech

Sinn Féin - Looking to the Future

I want to welcome you all to the AGM of Sinn Féin's National Elected Representatives Forum. I want to begin by commending the work of all of our elected representatives, and of those within Sinn Fein whose task it is to effectively co-ordinate the work of the hundreds of Sinn Fein elected representatives.

I want to thank all of the people who represent our party. Sinn Fein expects the very highest standards from our representatives. We take our example from the first MP of our generation - Bobby Sands MP and our first TD Kieran Doherty.

While we cannot expect to emulate their sacrifices, their example, their integrity, generosity, comradeship and dedication, along with that of Councillor Eddie Fullerton, Cllr John Davey, Cllr Bernard O‚Hagan, Shenna Campbell, Vice President Maire Drumm and the many other members of this party and family members and friends who were killed, are the role models for us today.

Remember that our mandate and the rights of our electorate were won on the sacrifices of others and their families.

The National Elected Representatives Forum has the job of advancing our political policies and objectives in an efficient manner and to make best use of the power and influence our mandate provides.

It is a fact that Sinn Fein is the largest pro-Agreement party in the north and the third largest party on this island. We have elected representatives in all of Ireland's democratic institutions, as well as 5 MPs and 2 MEPs.

This brings with it enormous political responsibility.

Sinn Féin is the Future

It is also a fact that Sinn Féin is an Irish republican party.

Our strategy to achieve a united, independent Ireland marks us out from other Irish political parties, all of whom, with the exception of the unionists, proclaim their republicanism but have no strategy or political will to achieve it.

Sinn Féin's goals are straightforward; an end to partition, an end to the union with Britain, the construction of a new national democracy - a new republic -on the island of Ireland, and reconciliation between orange and green.

But we are not prepared to wait until we have achieved these goals for people to have their rights to a decent home, to a job and a decent wage, to decent public services like health and education, and a safer cleaner environment.

Irish Republicans want change in the here and now. Our policies provide a real alternative to the uninspiring and jaded approach of the other parties who before election time promise radical measures and them replicate the mistakes of those they temporarily replace.

Irish republicanism is better than that. Our republicanism is about positive, progressive change - fundamental, and deep-rooted.

That means we have to be agents of change. This is an enormous responsibility.

Sinn Féin is about empowering individuals and communities to achieve change. We are about building an alternative to the kind of government which can preside over one of the wealthiest economies in the European Union, yet fail to provide ordinary citizens with decent public services, in health, in education, transport and housing.

We are about transforming an economy where the income of the wealthiest ten percent is thirteen times that of the lowest paid workers.

Sinn Féin is for equality. Sinn Féin represents the future.

We don't have all the answers but we have never been better placed to make the case for national independence, social justice and equality for all.

A Year of Anniversaries

This year marks the 90th Anniversary of the Easter Rising -- as well as the 25th Anniversary of the hunger strikes.

For those of you who have forgotten I want to remind you that tomorrow is Mothers Day. It is also a day for remembering the families of those hunger strikers who died and we have asked that people light a candle in solidarity with them.

The Proclamation of Easter 1916 is the rock on which modern republicanism is built. It is a Proclamation of Freedom and a Charter of Liberty. It was a radical affirmation of the kind of Republic it would be.

'The Republic guarantees religious and civil liberty; equal rights and equal opportunities to all its citizens and declares its resolve to pursue the happiness and prosperity of the whole nation and all its parts cherishing all of the children of the nation equally ...'

The task of the National Elected Representatives Forum is to turn these objectives into reality.

It is to use our electoral strength and representation on Town Councils, District and County Councils, on Údrás na Gaeltachta, Leinster House, the northern Assembly, at Westminster and in the European Union, to do this.

For Irish republicans these are all sites of struggle.

Today's agenda, covering policy development, political strategy, priorities for the Forum in the year ahead, truth processes and campaigns, is a reflection of all of this.

Let me also take this opportunity to express my support for the motion to be discussed today, which calls for equality in the selection of Forum representatives to the Ard Comhairle.

The AGM should agree to selecting a man and woman as representatives to the Ard Comhairle.

Strategic Challenges

In my Presidential address to the Ard Fheis I set out the five key strategic challenges, which lie ahead for Sinn Fein, both in the short and longer term.

Current Negotiations

First and foremost we must concentrate our efforts on the current negotiations. The peace process is arguably the most important issue facing the people of this island today. Progress will create stability, will create opportunity, will create wealth, and will improve our standard of living.

Failure will set all this back by decades. So, the coming weeks are critical.

The briefings in recent days from the two governments, and in particular from the Irish government, have been giving some indication of their likely approach.

Several weeks ago Sinn Fein resolutely opposed any halfway house, in-between, transitional, interim or shadow Assembly. That remains our position.

If there is to be an Assembly in the north then it has to be the Assembly contained in the Good Friday Agreement.

Although it only worked for a short time it was popular and relatively efficient.

However, the current approach of the governments to the restoration of the political institutions is a source of significant concern. There is no future in the governments tampering with the Good Friday Agreement to facilitate the DUP.

Rather than looking at how they can change the Good Friday Agreement to suit the DUP, the governments need to be coming forward with propositions, which are about implementing the Good Friday Agreement and then endeavouring to get the DUP on board.

Our party obviously will look at whatever proposals the governments produce, and we are in daily contact with them. But there is no point in the governments withdrawing proposals a month ago and then repackaging the same proposals and trying to represent them as something else. It won't wash.

As far as Irish republicans are concerned we have delivered big time in terms of this process. It's now over to the governments to deliver. Their responsibility is to implement the Good Friday Agreement. It is now over to the DUP to deliver.

This phase is particular challenge for the Irish government. The Taoiseach has a duty to come forward with propositions that are about the Good Friday Agreement - not some notion that Ian Paisley has conjured up.

If the DUP are not prepared to come on board with the rest of us -- if they insist to sticking with No! -- then the governments and the rest of us must move ahead without them.

This means, especially for the two governments as the two sovereign authorities, that they proceed to faithfully and vigorously implement all other aspects of the Good Friday Agreement, in respect of demilitarization, human rights, equality and the all-Ireland agenda.


The second great challenge facing us is the need to develop an entirely new relationship with unionism. Our engagement with unionism must deepen and broaden in the time ahead. This is a major challenge for this party and especially for our elected representatives in the north who are among the few republicans who engage directly with the DUP.

I would urge you to see this as a personal priority and challenge in the time ahead. Regardless of the disposition of the DUP, republicans need to engage with unionist communities. We need to talk about the future.

Everyone has the right to guarantees for their civil and religious liberties. Republicans need to talk to unionists about this. We need to listen to their concerns. It is within our collective ability to resolve problems. For example, as I said at the Ard Fheis the annual crisis caused by the small number of contentious loyal order parades must be sorted out. This requires positive political leadership and meaningful dialogue based on equality and mutual respect. Sinn Féin has consistently supported such an approach.

The all-Ireland Agenda

Our third great challenge will be to build an Ireland of equals. We want to advance the all-Ireland agenda, to make partition history and to campaign for an Ireland of equals.

Sinn Féin is for building on the all-Ireland aspects of the Good Friday Agreement irrespective of the negotiations around the restoration of the institutions. It makes sense. It especially makes sense on an island as small as ours and with a population of only five million, half that of most major cities in the world!

How do we do this?

The Good Friday Agreement established a range of areas of co-operation and implementation bodies. These covered issues as diverse as Health, Education, Transport, Environment, Agriculture and Tourism; as well as Intertrade Ireland, a Food Safety Prevention Board, Foras na Gaeilge, and others.

The potential and real benefits of closer harmonisation, co-operation and implementation in such key areas of governance are clearly evident.

For example health provision is in crisis across Ireland. It makes sense to mould the two health departments into one. This would lead to more money for drugs and new technology, a better planned and co-ordinated service, and obvious benefits to patients.

Or take transport as another example. Why can't we have an all-Ireland road strategy, which links our major towns and rural areas and enhances the potential for every area, however isolated, to secure economic investment and jobs?

Or take the example of agriculture. A common all-Ireland agricultural policy would benefit farmers, especially in negotiations with the EU.

And there is room for significant expansion of these areas of co-operation and implementation.

Energy and strategic/infrastructural investment, education and youth, sport and recreation, waste management, policing and justice and rural development, are just some of the areas of governance which can be improved.

In fact there is no facet of life on this island, which cannot be improved by adopting an all-Ireland approach.

Which brings me to the whole area of equality and human rights law and implementation, and the rights and entitlements of citizens. No more prevarication. Let the governments provide the Human Rights and Equality Commissions with the necessary legislation and resources to see speedy progress on the introduction of a Bill of Rights in the north and an all-Ireland Charter of Human Rights.

A Charter of Human Rights will assert comprehensive social, economic, political, cultural and civil rights, for all of the people.

Let us make better and proper use of the Equality Commission to effectively promote and enforce equality in public authorities, Government departments and statutory agencies.

And then there is the all-Ireland Consultative Civic Forum which was allowed for under the Good Friday Agreement but which has never met.

This can make a significant contribution to the promotion of democratic accountability. The Irish government should move ahead with convening this body.

The all Ireland Consultative Civic Forum holds the potential to bring all those who are marginalised in society, along with the other social partners, together and to impact on Government plans and projections for the implementation of a human rights based society.

It offers the potential for the development of participatory governance, where the people themselves, through their community organisations, have a formal and established role in determining the priorities of government.

We now must deepen our engagement, our understanding of unionism if we are to have partners in conflict resolution.

British Solidarity Movement

The fourth great challenge facing this party is to build support for Irish unity in Britain.

Last week I was in the United States. Irish America remains faithful to the cause of peace and freedom in Ireland.

Its importance is to be found in the open doors in the White House and on Capitol Hill. Ignore the nonsense about Sinn Fein being marginalized in the US. It's not true and Irish America is our guarantee against it ever happening.

In my opinion there is a potential to create in Britain a solidarity movement similar to that in the USA.

Building Sinn Féin

Our fifth strategic task is to build Sinn Féin.

There are more republicans in Ireland today than at any time in our history. There are many more republicans on this island than there are members of Sinn Féin. We need to encourage men and women to join our party.

We especially want to open up our party and our leadership to women. We need more women involved in our decision making processes.

Five big strategic challenges -- with the biggest challenge being that we have to do all of this at the same time. I believe we can do it.

The Year Ahead

2005 was an historic year for Irish republicans. The IRA formally ended its armed campaign and dealt with the arms issue.

2006 is a year of great potential, of great opportunity in the peace process.

But also between now and the next AGM of this body we have a big job of work to prepare for elections, north and south. That means selecting candidates, oiling the election machine, and much more.

Sinn Fein continues to be significantly underdeveloped in the 26 counties. But the fact is that there are more republicans on this island today than at any time since partition. That is a measure of our success and our potential.

So, hard work, sensible planning, and common sense policies - well presented - will make a difference.

Sinn Fein has a vision for the future. We are totally committed to establishing an entirely new Ireland built on positive change, on equality, on partnership. An Ireland which is open, transparent and accountable -- a people-centred republic -- owned by and responsible to the people. An Ireland in which there is no more war, no more conflict, and where the wealth is invested creatively and more fairly and where our children wake up in homes that are warm and go to schools which are properly resourced.

An Ireland where no one waits for a hospital bed, a home or a job. The resources exist to build this republic -- the New Ireland.

And in seeking to achieve it we should be guided by Wolfe Tone's motto, which remains perennially relevant, to seek to unite politically all patriotic people "under the common name of Irishman", which of course includes Irishwomen as well. ENDS

UUP considers boycott of policing board


25 March 2006 14:12

The Ulster Unionist leader, Sir Reg Empey, has refused to confirm that the party will take its seats on Northern Ireland's incoming policing board.

The UUP has threatened to boycott the policing body because the new board will have more independent members than elected politicians.

Speaking at the party's AGM in Belfast, Mr Empey said Ulster Unionist leaders would meet next week to decide whether they would join the new board or not.

The current term of the existing policing body runs out at the end of this month. If the UUP fail to take its seats, it could put the operation of the board in jeopardy.

Mr Empey also revealed that he and other UUP officials have been talking directly with members of the UVF and the UDA in an attempt to bring all loyalist paramilitary activity to an end.

He said constitutional unionism had a responsibility to try and bring an end to loyalist paramilitarism, just as efforts have been made to bring republican paramilitary activity to an end.

This was Sir Reg Empey's first AGM since becoming UUP leader.

There were no candidates put forward to challenge his leadership today.

Spanish PM to visit Dublin for peace process help

abc news

Mar 25, 2006 — By Ben Harding

MADRID (Reuters) - Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero will visit Dublin within weeks to see what he can learn from the Irish peace process after the Basque separatist group ETA's ceasefire declaration.

He has accepted an invitation from his Irish counterpart Bertie Ahern and will probably go in April, a Spanish government spokeswoman said on Saturday.

Zapatero is keen not to let momentum slip after the ETA guerrillas' declaration this week raised hopes of an end to their 38-year armed campaign, in which they have killed some 850 people.

On Friday, the first day of the truce, Zapatero said he would ask Spain's parliament to approve plans to initiate contacts with ETA before the summer.

ETA has called ceasefires before, but this is the first it has described as "permanent" rather than "unlimited" or "partial."

In a press conference in Brussels on Friday, Zapatero singled out Britain and Ireland for their "extremely useful" contribution to the process in the Basque Country.

Saturday's El Mundo newspaper said Zapatero had met British Prime Minister Tony Blair twice during his two-year premiership specifically to discuss lessons from the Irish peace process.

The spokeswoman said Blair and Zapatero were likely to talk again informally but there were no plans for them to meet.

On Friday, Irish Roman Catholic priest Alec Reid, who has been heavily involved in the peace process in Northern Ireland, said he had been talking to figures in the Basque Country for around four years.

"ETA isn't the problem," he told Reuters in the Basque city of Bilbao. "The problem is you don't have a culture of dialogue and therefore of democracy.

"For them (Spaniards), dialogue is me trying to persuade you that I'm right."

On Wednesday, Gerry Adams, leader of the Northern Irish republican party Sinn Fein, political ally of the Irish Republican Army guerrillas, urged the Spanish government to halt the trial of Arnaldo Otegi. Otegi is the leader of Batasuna, which is widely viewed as the political wing of ETA.

Otegi is due to appear in court next week and is likely to be jailed for breaking bail terms.

Although trust is still lacking at a political level between Northern Ireland's rival communities, the province has enjoyed unprecedented calm since ceasefires by the IRA and pro-British Protestant guerrillas paved the way for an historic peace deal to be signed in 1998.

Parallels between the conflict in the Basque Country and the one in Northern Ireland have long since been noted. Both exploded into life in the late 1960s and involved armed campaigns against state forces.

But there are many differences too.

Batasuna has never enjoyed the level of popular support that Sinn Fein commands in Northern Ireland and there is no equivalent in the Basque Country of the sectarian strife that plagued the British-ruled province for decades.

Empey accuses DUP of accelerating concessions to republicans


25/03/2006 - 11:22:18

The Reverend Ian Paisley’s Democratic Unionists were today accused of looking for cover to enable them to go into government with Sinn Féin.

In his first speech to the Ulster Unionist Council’s annual general meeting since becoming leader nine months ago, Sir Reg Empey launched a hard-hitting attack on his rivals, accusing them of accelerating concessions to republicans rather than stopping them.

Despite heavy losses to the DUP in last year’s Westminster and local government elections, the East Belfast Assembly member insisted the Ulster Unionists were more resilient than some of their critics and rivals believed.

He told UUC delegates in Belfast: “It would be easy – too easy in fact – to take pot shots at the DUP.

“But the fact is that their failure to deliver is having an impact on all of us.

“Neither this party, nor the pro-Union electorate at large, can take any satisfaction when the DUP drops the ball.

“Yet after eight years of telling us that they had all the answers the DUP has stopped nothing, changed nothing and delivered nothing – not a Fair Deal, not a Fairer Deal, not a Fairly Similar Deal, not even a Fairytale Deal!”

He continued: “They won electoral success on a promise to prevent any more concessions. Far from stopping concessions, they have accelerated.

“They are learning that it is not as easy as they thought to deal with a government that puts its own interests first.

“They will end up in government with Sinn Féin – even the famous dogs in the street know that – it is all about finding enough cover, whether from the IMC, which they opposed, or the Prime Minister, for whom they have contempt.”

The former Stormont Economy Minister accused republicans of acting in bad faith in the peace process by maintaining the IRA’s links to criminality.

He also claimed Tony Blair’s government had yielded to republican threats to return to violence and the result had been a catastrophic loss of unionist confidence in the process.

With Mr Blair and Taoiseach Bertie Ahern planning a road map for reviving the the North Assembly which will be unveiled next month, Sir Reg said Stormont could be recalled before the summer.

However he cautioned against an Assembly which was a mere talking shop.

The UUP leader said the North needed a devolved Assembly back to reverse controversial British government decisions such as the reform of post-primary education in the province.

He accused Northern Ireland Secretary Peter Hain of coming up with proposals for the reform of local government and public bodies which only Sinn Fein liked.

“The spin sounds good that he wants to save money,” Sir Reg observed. “Don’t we all. But local government is much more efficient than central government. Only Sinn Fein supports him.

“This week he proposes to axe the Housing Executive and create seven new housing authorities. He proposes to abolish what has been the most successful public body of them all. Surprise, surprise, only Sinn Féin supports this!”

Sir Reg acknowledged his party had a huge task ahead of it to rebuild itself but insisted that work had begun.

Mistakes had been made from the top down in the UUP, he said, but lessons had been learned.

In a reference to the party’s much-criticised Assembly and General Election campaigns, he vowed: “There will be no more ’Simply British’. No more ’Decent People’.

“No more making it up as we go along. No more cabals running the show.

“Instead, there will be a renewed focus on the virtues and values that have been the bedrock of this party since this council first met a century ago.

“And there will be more reliance on the collective wisdom of our grass roots.”

The UUP leader also pledged to make proposals to bring more women and young people forward as election candidates.

He also announced plans for a forum for UUP members in the west of Northern Ireland to consider issues affecting them and he vowed to improve internal and external communications in the party.

Inquiries plea on two deaths

Daily Ireland

Answers sought after arrested men end up dead


• Two families demand answers
• The Wheelocks and Maloneys believe they have been denied justice
• Terence Wheelock and John Maloney Jr both died shortly after release from Garda custody
• Families say investigations show inconsistencies
• Time has come for inquiries, say relatives

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Relatives of Terence Wheelock and John Maloney join forces

Two families of two young men who died in suspicious circumstances after being arrested and detained by gardaí have demanded inquiries into their deaths.
Relatives of Terence Wheelock (20), who died in September last three months after he was found unconscious in a cell in Dublin’s Store Street Garda station — joined forces with the Maloney family, whose son John Jr collapsed and later died after being released from Garda custody.
Terence Wheelock would have been 21 yesterday. According to gardaí, he tried to hang himself.
The relatives and friends of the two dead men protested outside the Dáil.
Both families urged the government to set up independent probes into the two deaths, claiming they had been denied justice.
Larry Wheelock, Terence’s brother, said there were too many unanswered questions and a string of inconsistent accounts from state bodies.
“All we are looking for is answers into Terence’s death and an independent public inquiry is the only way to get those. That is not too much to ask for in a civilised society,” he said.
“I’m sure Michael McDowell would expect the same if he was in a similar situation.”
Petitions backing the two families were signed by dozens of relatives, friends and supporters and handed to Labour Party justice spokesman Joe Costello to present to the justice minister.
Teenager John Maloney Jr, from Crumlin in Dublin, was arrested in May 2003 and detained at Rathfarnham Garda station. He was found lying unconscious less than an hour after his release. He died 11 days later in hospital.
An open verdict was returned at an inquest into the 18-year-old’s death.
John’s mother Sandra Maloney said: “They denied they ever had my son. I heard it on the radio that there was a lad found unconscious, and I recognised that it was my son. My husband went to the Garda station and they said he was in Tallaght Hospital with a bump on his head.”
Mrs Maloney said her son had not signed any release forms before leaving Rathfarnham Garda station. She said his body had been covered in bruises on his chest, hips, back and neck and that he had had marks on his kneecaps.

Unemployment higher in nationalist areas

Daily Ireland

Ciarán Barnes

The number of long-term unemployed in parliamentary constituencies with nationalist MPs is almost double that of areas with unionist MPs, Daily Ireland can reveal.
On average, there are 425 people who have been unemployed for at least 18 months or more in nationalist constituencies, compared to 256 in those controlled by unionists.
The areas suffering most from long-term unemployment are West Belfast and Foyle, with rates of 840 and 700 respectively. Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams represents West Belfast, while SDLP leader Mark Durkan represents Foyle.
The constituencies with the lowest long-term unemployment averages both have Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) MPs.
Jeffrey Donaldson’s Lagan Valley has a rate of 150, while Peter Robinson’s East Belfast registers 165.
Sinn Féin MLA Kathy Stanton said recent claims that unionist communities are disproportionally disadvantaged are exposed as untrue by these figures. After serious loyalist rioting in Belfast last September loyalist leaders claimed lack of investment and disadvantage was a catalyst for the violence.
Ms Stanton accepts there is poverty in unionist areas, but not on the same scale as in nationalist districts.
She said: “Yes, there is poverty in unionist areas, but when will the day come when unionists accept that poverty and disadvantage is greater in nationalist areas and start to try and understand why?”
Former Ulster Unionist mayor of Belfast, Jim Rodgers, disputed the long-term unemployment figures. He said: “As far as I’m concerned, unemployment is too high in all areas. I’m not interested in one area claiming to suffer more than another.”

Murder probe criticism

Daily Ireland

Jarlath Kearney

The father of an Ulster Volunteer Force murder victim has criticised senior PSNI members linked to the original investigation into his son’s killing.
Paul McIlwaine last night renewed his criticism of the PSNI’s original probe into the murder of his son David and of Andrew Robb in Tandragee, Co Armagh, in 2000.
The murders are believed to have been carried out by the UVF, although the organisation has denied the killings.
Police Ombudsman Nuala O’Loan is investigating serious complaints relating to the original PSNI investigation, which failed to secure prosecution of the killers.
Two weeks ago, Daily Ireland revealed that the PSNI had destroyed evidence that could have implicated a senior UVF member in Co Armagh in targeting Catholics.
The evidence consisted of a marked electoral register. The register was recovered in original follow-up searches after the murders in 2000. It is alleged the senior UVF member linked to the hit list was a Special Branch agent.
The PSNI declined to comment on Daily Ireland’s revelations because the Police Ombudsman was examining the original investigation.
Other significant evidence related directly to the murders, including DNA evidence, only emerged recently following the appointment of a new senior investigating officer last autumn.
Sinn Féin policing spokesman Gerry Kelly yesterday raised the McIlwaine and Robb case in a meeting with Nuala O’Loan.
Mr Kelly highlighted concerns over her investigations into the 1997 killing of Raymond McCord Jr by the UVF in north Belfast and the shooting dead of Neil McConville by a specialist PSNI unit in north Armagh in 2003.
He said: “The ombudsman confirmed that her investigations into these controversial cases were ongoing and that, in particular, she intended to meet once again with the McIlwaine and Robb families to discuss further revelations concerning the role of a Special Branch agent in the killings and the role of a number of PSNI members in the subsequent investigation.
“In relation to the issue of the British government planning to give MI5 primacy over intelligence gathering in the North, I made it clear to the ombudsman our firm belief that the role of British securocrats in the Six Counties needs to be ended.
“This engagement is the latest in a series of meetings we have held with the Police Ombudsman,” Mr Kelly said.

DUP clashes with SF over posters of hunger strikers

Daily Ireland

Connla Young

The Democratic Unionist Party has led calls for posters erected in honour of the hunger strikers to be taken down in Co Antrim. Many large posters depicting the 12 hunger strikers were put up this week in predominantly nationalist parts of the Ballymena Borough Council area. The posters depict the ten men who died in 1981, as well as Michael Gaughan and Frank Stagg.
Ballymena DUP councillor Paul Frew said: “Calls have been made by various people to have them brought down. People are offended by them.
“Ultimately, these people are terrorists, murderers and bombers and we have Monica Digney of Sinn Féin saying they should stay up, that they commemorate their deaths. It’s the same old double speak from Sinn Féin, talking about equality, but these people were not fighting for equality. They were fighting for special status when all along they were murderers, bombers and criminals. It’s insensitive to the victims.”
Ballymena Sinn Féin councillor Monica Digney defended the posters.
“These 12 young men gave their lives so that the rest of their comrades could serve their prison terms with dignity. This lets their families and everyone else know they will never be forgotten. Unionists want these posters taken down but paramilitary flags and Union jacks deface the streets and roads.”

DUP battles plans for Boyne site incinerator

Belfast Telegraph

By Linda McKee
25 March 2006

The DUP has lodged a planning objection to the siting of a large waste incinerator on the site of the Battle of the Boyne.

The move follows calls by the major Orange institutions to extend the existing Bru na Boinne World Heritage Site to take in the battlefield.

A cement works has already been built on part of the battlefield, but Orange institutions opposed plans to extend it. They said it was vital to prevent further industrial improvements from disfiguring the site.

DUP environment spokesman Jim Wells visited the proposed site of the incinerator and the cement works yesterday. correct

Cross-border lobby group Battle for the Boyne welcomed news that Mr Wells had lodged an objection to the planned incinerator with Meath County Council Wednesday evening.

The incinerator, proposed by Belgian firm Indaver, would be close to the Bru na Boinne site that covers Newgrange, Knowth and Dowth.

The Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland, representing 1,200 Orange lodges, and the Independent Loyal Orange Institution, representing 25, have called for the battlefield to become part of this site, arguing it is of major significance in terms of the future development of western European and world history.

A spokesman for Battle for the Boyne last night said the 21st century battle to protect the heritage of the Boyne Valley was underway.

"People from all shades of opinion on this island are saying 'No Surrender' to this type of cultural vandalism that is condoned by national and local government in the Republic," he said.

"Both Bru na Boinne and the Battle are ancient graveyards. Allowing heavy industry into the area would be a disgraceful move, especially when the local authorities have identified several other areas where an incinerator could be sited. The incinerator can be moved, the battle site and Bru na Boinne can't."

The Orange Orders say it is ironic the plans are being progressed when there are hopes of developing an interpretative centre at Oldbridge to highlight the heritage surrounding the Battle of the Boyne.

Trust mourns destruction on mountain

Belfast Telegraph

Beauty spot marred by fire horror

By Linda McKee
25 March 2006

It could take years for Slieve Donard to recover from the blaze that devoured its slopes this week.

The National Trust, which owns tracts of land on the shoulders of Ulster's highest mountain, warned the outbreak on Thursday night may have consumed the roots and seed banks beneath the heather, preventing fast regeneration.

Several square miles of landscape above the popular access route of Bloody Bridge have been left blackened and smouldering in a fire that is believed to have been deliberately set.

The National Trust's coast and countryside manager, David Thompson, estimated 50,000 visitors a year pass through the Bloody Bridge area.

Mr Thompson said songs have been written about the area.

"It's our highest, best, iconic mountain, that locals call the Purple Mountain because of the heather," he said.

"It's a mountain well-known and well-loved for its appearance and that has been severely damaged.

"Bloody Bridge is an incredibly busy focal point, and this burnt, charred landscape is all in the face of anyone driving on that main road or walking in Bloody Bridge," he said.

Mr Thompson said the National Trust had yet to assess how deeply the fire burned.

"It can burn into the roots and seed bank, and if the seed gets destroyed, there is nothing there to grow back," he said.

"There is an ecosystem set back to square one. It will recolonise in good time, but how long depends on how fierce this fire was.

"If the vegetation doesn't recover soon enough, there is a danger of serious soil erosion, which again impairs the re-establishment of vegetation and perpetuates the scar and the mess."

SDLP councillor Eamonn O'Neill said: "Apart from the loss of plant life and damage to wildlife habitat, we now have a dirty black scar stretching for miles across the face of our greatest tourism asset.

"Only the overnight rain prevented this turning into a major environmental problem.

South Down Assembly member Willie Clarke said the arsonists had caused considerable anger locally.

"The destruction of this important natural habit for wildlife and flora and fauna, in an area of outstanding natural beauty, cannot be overstated."

One-day strike set to cripple province

Belfast Telegraph

50,000 take action in fight for pensions

By Marie Foy
24 March 2006

Public services across Northern Ireland are set to grind to a halt next Tuesday as up to 50,000 workers are expected to go on a one-day strike to protect their pensions, it was warned today.

The public sector staff - most of them low paid - are among 1.5 million employees in the UK gearing up to take industrial action.

Services which will be hit include all 26 local councils, schools and colleges, public transport and the Housing Executive.

Manual and administrative workers from cleaners, drivers, and leisure centre attendants to refuse collectors and clerks will take part.

Rallies and demonstrations will be held across the province with a parade likely through Belfast city centre and a picket at the gates of Stormont.

The protesters are angry at government plans to cut pension entitlement which unions have said is "unfair and mean-minded".

Workers have been told they cannot take their full pension rights until the age of 65 (up from 60), or accept a worse pension.

The strike is being co-ordinated by the Irish Congress of Trade Unions and Tuesday's wide-ranging protests are expected to be the first of an ongoing campaign of industrial action.

Unison spokesperson Lily Kerr, said: "Members are outraged that government is treating them differently from all other public sector pension schemes.

"Health service employees, civil servants, teachers, police and fire fighters have all been granted protection on their current schemes.

"Members are asking why should those employed within local government, universities, higher education and education be treated differently.

"Every political party within Northern Ireland has backed the call for these staff to be treated fairly and equally. Those calls would seem to have fallen on deaf ears."

Patricia McKeown, ICTU chair, revealed that the average pension for men in the sector was £3,800 per year, and £1,600 for women, the majority of whom are part-time.

"This is about fundamental workers rights. These are not fat cat pensions. There was no justification for what government is doing," she said.

"Our message to the general public is please support us in our struggle for our rights. We have always supported you in yours.

"We don't want to see staff mistreated and face a future that is below the poverty line."

She added that many of the jobs in question were dirty, hard work and took their toll on people and could not effectively be done over the age of 60.

Transport and General Workers Union spokesman, Albert Mills, said: "I envisage this strike will have a wide effect. There have been negotiations going on for months over this and we have asked for the same arrangements as other workers. The government is saying, for some reason, that we can't have that."

Trade union representatives also predicted further all-out strike action and also key worker action over the coming weeks.

IRA chief gets €4m tax bill from Criminal Assets Bureau

Irish Independent

Tom Brady
Security Editor
25 March 2006

THE Criminal Assets Bureau has slapped a tax bill for more than €4m on the chief of staff of the Provisional IRA, Thomas "Slab" Murphy.

The tax bill was processed alongside the massive cross-border operation into his alleged involvement in a multi-million euro organised crime racket.

It was served on Murphy earlier this month after an assessment of his wealth was completed by financial experts on behalf of CAB.

Documentation and computer files seized in the cross-border raids as well as evidence gathered in the huge investigation last October will form a key part of the State's case if the tax assessment is challenged in the courts.

But lawyers acting for Murphy may seek to negotiate a settlement of the massive tax bill.

A detailed examination of the 30 boxes of documents taken from the homes of Slab Murphy, his brothers, Patrick and Francis, and the headquarters of Ace Oils Ltd, all with addresses at Ballybinaby, Hackballscross, Co Louth, will take several months.

But an initial look at the paper trail has convinced garda officers that the network built up by Murphy and his associates along the border over the past couple of decades has ensured that it is very difficult to be involved in oil distribution activities there without his knowledge.

The High Court in Dublin this week granted an interim order to CAB freezing more than €1m in cash and cheques which had been seized in the cross-border searches.

The legal officer of CAB was appointed receiver and given the power to open up bank accounts to lodge the proceeds. The interim order was officially served on the Murphys on Thursday morning.

Under the Proceeds of Crime Act the assets must be frozen for seven years before the State can seek an order from the High Court to confiscate them.

In an affidavit to the High Court, the head of CAB, Det Chief Supt Felix McKenna, said the discovery of the cash and cheques in black plastic bags in a cattle shed, some distance away from the houses and the business premises, indicated that the bags had been deliberately moved or concealed to prevent detection.

North: Fire crews attacked after attending hoax call


25/03/2006 - 09:51:54

Fire crews were attacked after being lured to west Belfast by a hoax call early today.

Youths hurled bricks and bottles at the fire crews who answered a 3.40am call to a house fire on the Springfield Road.

When they arrived they discovered there was no fire and the call had been a hoax. However a number of windows had been broken in the unoccupied house.

An 18-year-old youth was arrested for riotous assembly and later released pending reports.

Meanwhile in Portadown, Co Armagh, a school was badly damaged in a fire.

A classroom in Lismore Comprehensive in Portadown was destroyed and several other classrooms extensively smoke damaged.

The Fire and Rescue Service said it was only their swift response to the blaze which prevented it spreading throughout the school.

Police forensic experts were carrying out an examination of the school to establish whether the fire was started deliberately or was an accident.

A man was also being questioned by police today following a fire at a north Belfast house in which a woman was injured.

The woman was said to be seriously ill in hospital after the blaze at Clanmorris Street.

A police spokeswoman said she was rescued shortly after fire crews and police arrived at midnight.

An examination of the scene was being carried out to establish the exact cause of the fire.

Empey in 'paramilitary meetings'


Empey was interviewed for the BBC's Inside Politics programme

Ulster Unionist leader Sir Reg Empey has told the BBC he has been meeting loyalist paramilitary leaders since the autumn of last year.

It was an effort to persuade them to abandon violence, he said.

Sir Reg told the BBC the UDA and UVF were at different stages in their internal consultations.

The main unionist parties "had a special responsibility to persuade the loyalist paramilitaries to commit to purely peaceful means".

Empey was interviewed for the BBC's Inside Politics programme.

"We are trying to create circumstances where there is sufficient confidence in that community to move away from the old ways," he said.

"To be committed to exclusively peaceful means, to focus on community activity in local areas, to recognise that one cannot go on as one has been doing with rackets, with drugs and other activities - that has to stop."

In January, an Independent Monitoring Commission report said the UDA and its members had continued to undertake targeting, shootings and assaults.

"Members of the organisation were engaged in drug dealing, extortion, the production and sale of counterfeit goods, money laundering and robbery," it said.

On the UVF, the IMC said: "It remains a continuing and serious threat to the rule of law and our previous phrase - active, violent and ruthless - still applies to it."

Predator in the badlands


It was a 40-year trail of violence and murder that began with the attempted rape of a six-year-old in 1965 and has finally ended with Robert Howard jailed for life. Susan McKay investigates.

Saturday March 25, 2006
The Guardian

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usPriscilla Gahan says, "I'm the luckiest person in the world sitting here. There is no way he was letting me out of there alive after what he'd done." What Robert Howard had done was to rape Gahan repeatedly, "in every way", tightening a rope around her neck when she tried to stop him. "I was roaring, crying, and he told me to shut up, that he was going to do what he was doing whether I was alive or dead," she says. This ordeal took place in Howard's flat on Main Street, Castlederg, near the Irish border in County Tyrone.

On the third day, while Howard was asleep, Gahan crept upstairs and found a window she could open in the second-storey room where he kept caged birds. She jumped, and then ran to the heavily fortified police station round the corner. She was 16. It was 1993. What she didn't know was that she was far from being Howard's first victim. Nor would she be his last.

Howard, now 61, is serving a life sentence in Frankland Prison, Durham, for raping and murdering 14-year-old Hannah Williams in Kent in 2001. He is the only suspect for the murder of 15-year-old Arlene Arkinson in 1994, and in recent months he has been questioned about the rapes and murders of several other women and girls in Ireland and England. He is known to have attempted to rape a six-year-old child in 1965, when he was 21, a young woman in 1969, and an older woman in 1973.

Gahan, now 28, is angry. Howard got away with what he did to her. Hannah Williams' mother is angry. She believes Howard should have been in jail at the time he preyed on her daughter. The Arkinson family is angry, believing he could and should have been convicted of murdering Arlene, whose body has never been found. "We need a full public inquiry into how this man got let go again and again to do the things he did," says Arlene's sister, Kathleen.

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usThe case of Robert Howard suggests that the authorities - from the police to the prosecutors to the judiciary - simply haven't taken rape seriously enough. Howard got nine days in borstal for the assault on the six-year-old. He got six years for attempted rape of the young woman, and was free within three. After he raped the older woman, a psychiatrist warned that Howard was a dangerous psychopath and should be jailed for as long as possible. He got 10 years and was out in seven.

In 1994, after Howard raped Gahan, another psychiatrist warned that he was dangerous to women and becoming more so. He got a suspended sentence. Howard moved easily between the Republic of Ireland and the north, and across the Irish Sea to England and Scotland. He was rarely monitored, and never for long. Liaison between police forces was minimal.

Gahan, who has moved back to the Irish midlands where she was born, is still deeply traumatised by the violence Howard inflicted on her. She left home as a 15-year-old emerging from a troubled childhood. Her mother had been killed in an accident when she was five. "My father was finding it hard to control us," she says. "There were 10 of us. My friend had moved up to the north and I decided to follow. I was running away from Daddy, really, but it wasn't his fault. I was wild."

Her friend's boyfriend knew a middle-aged woman called Pat Quinn, who said Gahan could stay in her house in Castlederg, where she lived with her own teenage daughter, Donna. Castlederg is one of those small Northern Irish towns that is well described by Yeats's phrase, "Great hatred, little room." It was deeply afflicted by the Troubles.

Gahan liked it. She got a job washing dishes in a Chinese restaurant. She became part of a circle of teenagers, including Donna and Arlene Arkinson. Their social life revolved around nights in bars and discos in Castlederg and neighbouring towns in Tyrone, and in Donegal in the Republic, reached by a network of narrow, mountainous roads through woods and bogs. The border meanders crazily across this lonely territory. Robert Howard, then nearly 50, was Pat Quinn's boyfriend, though he was more interested in the teenage girls he met through Donna. He let them stay at his flat on Main Street.

"He knew I had nothing," says Gahan. "He knew everything about me. He bought me cigarettes and runners and things. He used to bring us up to the bog to cut turf. He brought me out for drinks. I knew him as Bob. He called me Mick. He was so nice to me. He was from the south, like me. I'd left Daddy, and he was like a daddy who let me do what I wanted. I thought the world of him."

A few months after Gahan had arrived in Castlederg, Howard suggested an elaborate plan to her. Ostensibly, he was fixing her up with a young taxi driver she fancied. She was to tell everyone she was going away for the weekend, get a bus to the next town, and then come back secretly to meet Howard - and the taxi driver - at his flat. Except the taxi driver never came.

Howard took Gahan to a pub in the village of Sion Mills that night, but left when they saw someone they knew. "I was afraid," says Gahan, "but I don't remember why. When we got to the flat, I had a pounding headache. He gave me some pills. I remember sitting on his knee. I remember nothing then until I woke up the next morning naked in his bed. He started coming on to me, and I said no. He said I hadn't said that last night. He started getting annoyed then, and that is when he put the rope round my neck."

When she escaped, after three days held captive, Gahan told police she'd been raped, but she felt they didn't believe her. "They banged the table and shouted at me," she says. They wanted to know why she hadn't tried to get away sooner, and why she did not, initially, tell them about her interest in the taxi driver. Looking back, she can see the control Howard had over her. "It was the way he had me thinking," she says. There was compelling evidence to back her account of what had happened: strangulation marks on her neck; her fingerprints on the windowsill from which she had jumped; a rope.

Gahan was taken to a children's home and soon afterwards returned to her family, then to a job in England. Howard was arrested and released on bail. He was ordered to stay with the Quinns, even though this was a household that included the teenage Donna. He was instructed not to go out at night, or into pubs. In the summer of 1994, Gahan was informed by the police in Northern Ireland that her case was coming up. She returned to Ireland, but was not, in fact, called to give evidence. Howard had originally been charged with five rapes and with buggery. But the charges were dropped.

Instead, Howard agreed to plead guilty to unlawful carnal knowledge. The implication was that Gahan had been a willing partner and that the offence lay only in the fact that she was, at 16, under the legal age of consent (17 in Northern Ireland). Her statements had been heavily edited. A prosecuting lawyer told the court that no rope had been found. Judge David Smyth ordered that a psychiatric report be prepared on Howard, and said that if it was satisfactory, he would not be sent to jail. He was released again on bail. This was extraordinary - by that stage, Howard was suspected of having murdered 15-year-old Arlene Arkinson.

On August 13 1994, Arlene was babysitting at her sister Kathleen's home on a housing estate in Castlederg. Kathleen returned home at about 11pm, and soon afterwards Donna Quinn arrived to pick up Arlene. "She said it was her and her boyfriend and her mother and Bob Howard that were going out," says Kathleen. They were going to a disco at the Palace Hotel in Bundoran. An old-fashioned resort full of boarding houses and bars and amusement arcades, Bundoran is perched on the chilly edge of the Atlantic in Donegal. Donna said they'd be back by two the following morning. Kathleen said good night to her youngest sister. She never saw her again.

"Arlene was wild, like me," Gahan recalls. "We were alike, too, because I had no one telling me what to do and nor had she. We got on great."

Arlene's mother had died when she was 11. She lived between the homes of her older brothers and sisters, though she sometimes returned to her father's house. "I used to hear her upstairs, crying, 'I want my mummy,' " he remembers, as he sits in his living room, looking at photographs of his lovely, laughing daughter, missing now for more than a decade.

At first, after Arlene disappeared, the Quinns covered up for Howard, claiming Arlene hadn't gone to Bundoran. However, it quickly emerged that after the night out in Bundoran, Howard had dropped off the others before driving away with Arlene. He claimed that he had dropped her off in Castlederg, and that he'd seen her in a car in the town the next day. He was not believed. Pat Quinn admitted Howard had got back home much later than she had originally said. The terms of his bail on the charges concerning Gahan included a curfew, which he'd broken, but still he was not held in custody.

A petrol bomb was thrown into the Quinns' house. Howard was driven out of Castlederg by members of Arlene's family. He sold the car he'd used the night Arlene disappeared. For a time, he lived rough in a van across the border. Again, he was moved on by local men who knew his reputation. It was a full six weeks after Arlene disappeared before he was arrested. One of Arlene's sisters recalls something a local RUC officer said at this time: "He said, 'I wish I could show you that man's file. You wouldn't believe it.' " Still, at the time he was neither charged nor brought to trial.

As an adult, Robert Howard called himself the Wolfman and the Wolfhill Werewolf. He gave himself a new middle name, Lesarian, believed to be a reference to a mythical child killer. He was born in Wolfhill, County Laois, in the south-east of Ireland, in 1944. He was a tall, gangly boy, bright enough at school, according to some of those who knew him then, but edgy, easily distracted. "He mitched [played truant] a lot," says one contemporary. "His father worked in the local brick factory and drank heavily in the local pub. His mother had nine children to raise. There would have been very little money brought home."

By the time he was 13, Robert was in trouble. Convicted of burglary, he was sent to St Joseph's Industrial School, in Clonmel, not far from his home area, a reformatory run by priests and brothers. The truth about how such Irish Catholic institutions were run has begun to emerge in recent years. "These people were monsters," says one former inmate. "The place was unbelievable. We were starved. We were beaten with leather straps with coins sewn into them until we were bleeding. We had to gather turnips and stones for the local farmers. You had no name. You had a number. There were boys in there going around like zombies. We were terrified, all the time - a lot of us were damaged for life. Love was never spoken of, never shown. There was never a comforting word. Just relentless violence." There was also sexual abuse, and Howard would later claim to have been a victim of this.

On his release, his father threw him out of the family home. The 16-year-old lived rough in barns and outhouses, and possibly in old shafts and tunnels from the days when Wolfhill had coalmines. One man, a child in the 1950s, recalls making a disturbing discovery in his father's hayshed. "We found old cans and blankets and things - Howard must have been sleeping there. We also found a diary. It was all about how he wanted to break into women's houses when they were in the bath, and the violent things he'd do to them. My father caught us reading it and took it away."

Another local man recalls being told by a neighbour that, while out hunting one day, he had come upon a local farmer performing a sexual act on the teenage Howard in the woods. The man didn't intervene, but fired a shot into the air.

Howard continued to steal. He'd rob from local shops and take cars. He was sent to a second reform school, St Conleth's, in Daingean, County Offaly, another of the most notorious of Ireland's brutal institutions for young offenders. A former priest who worked there said the priests were "programmed with an extraordinary level of violence" and that "most of the boys ended up totally disturbed".

Howard moved to England. In 1965, when he was 21, he broke into a house in London and ordered a six-year-old girl to undress, claiming he was a doctor. He attempted to rape the child, and hurt her. A week later he returned and tried to break in again. This time he was caught. His punishment was nine days in a borstal, after which he was sent back to Ireland. At that time it was common for Irish criminals to be sent home in this way, a system of informal deportation. He didn't stay.

In 1969, Howard broke into the home of a young married woman in Durham and attempted to rape her. She ran, naked and screaming, from the house. He grabbed her by the throat before neighbours managed to drag him away. He was sentenced to six years in jail, and served three, in Frankland Prison. During his time there, he assaulted a female member of staff. By 1973, he was free, and was again sent back to Ireland. Using the name Lesley Cahill, he got a factory job in the then prospering seaside town of Youghal, County Cork.

One night in May that year, a 58-year-old woman who lived alone woke up to find Howard in her bedroom. He had broken into her house, which was beside his lodgings. He made her hand over her money and keys, then forced her upstairs again, breaking her ankle in the process. He tied her to her bed, stuffed her mouth with cotton wool and raped her, before driving off in her car. "She was a very vulnerable person," says Willie Doyle, then the local Garda sergeant. "She might have suffocated, but luckily for her some relations called the next morning and found her. She was very traumatised."

Howard was arrested at Dublin airport. "He was very soft-spoken," recalls Doyle. "You would never imagine he could be violent." Psychiatrist Dr David Dunne, who interviewed Howard at the time, says he, too, was surprised by Howard's "extremely courteous" demeanour. "He was a very refined man, but I had seen his record and knew he was also extremely dangerous. I sensed and feared he had already killed someone. I knew his violence was likely to get far worse, especially towards women. I believed him to be an explosive psychopath. I wanted him to be sent to jail for an indefinite period."

Howard could have got life. Instead, he got 10 years. He was out again in 1981. An internal Garda bulletin noted that he had returned to Wolfhill and "local opinion is that he is not going to waste any time before returning to his old tricks".

A woman who remembers him from this time had her own horrific experience of sexual brutality. She was the teenager who would become known a decade later as "the Kilkenny incest victim". In 1981, aged 15, she was pregnant with her father's child. He was beating and raping her routinely, and used to take pornographic pictures of her which he'd show to other men in local pubs.

"Bob used to come to our house sometimes at night, and he and my father would drink whiskey and poitín together," she says. "My father would say to him, 'Where have you been?' He'd say, 'I've been visiting relations.' My father would laugh. I always felt it was some sort of code. He was creepy. They were birds of a feather." Her father was eventually jailed for seven years.

In 1983, Howard got married to a young woman he met in a Dublin hospital. The marriage lasted three years. They lived at various addresses in Dublin. She, too, was described as vulnerable, with emotional troubles; her friends revealed recently that Howard was violent and cruel to her. In 1988, he was jailed for 15 months for larceny. He went to Northern Ireland in 1990 to attend an alcohol treatment unit run by nuns in Newry, County Down. It was at around this time that he met Pat Quinn and moved to Castlederg.

He lived at first in a caravan park on the edge of the town, a down-at-heel place where many of those awaiting public housing lived. Not long after his arrival there, in 1991, a young woman came from Dublin to stay with him. He was 47, she was 22. He tied her up and raped her repeatedly, was extremely violent and kept her as a prisoner until, three weeks later, her parents arrived and took her home.

The woman became pregnant as a result of the rape and now has a 14-year-old child. The details of what happened to her did not emerge until her family told gardaí six years later, in 1997. Police decided she was too vulnerable to give evidence and Howard was not charged. His next known victim was Gahan.

"He has a strong desire to dominate teenage girls both sexually and physically," wrote Dr Ian Bownes, the forensic psychiatrist asked in September 1994 to provide an assessment of Howard to assist Judge Smyth in sentencing him for the "unlawful carnal knowledge" of Gahan. "He has the propensity not only to commit further offences of a similar nature ... but also to escalate his offending behaviour." His activities were premeditated, involving the identification and targeting of "a vulnerable victim" and the use of a "sophisticated grooming process". Bownes said he was pessimistic about Howard's ability to undergo any treatment programme - his pattern of behaviour had been established over many years and would be "extremely resistant to change".

When Howard appeared in court again for sentencing in January 1995, despite the damning psychiatric report, Judge Smyth gave him a three-year suspended sentence. As he freed Howard, the judge told him to stay away from teenage girls. Bownes heard the news on the radio. "I was somewhat surprised by the leniency of the sentence," he says. "In retrospect, we can see the system failed disastrously." Bownes never saw Dr Dunne's 1973 report on Howard. He was not told that Gahan had alleged Howard used a noose.

What Howard would later refer to as "dark days in Castlederg" were over. In March 1995, he moved to Scotland, where he told local housing authorities that he had left Northern Ireland "in a hurry". He said the IRA was after him.

He was given a flat in the rough Glasgow suburb of Drumchapel, near two schools. Pat Quinn came over from Castlederg to join him. The Northern Ireland police informed Strathclyde police about Howard's criminal record - and that he was the chief suspect for the murder of Arlene Arkinson.

Howard returned to Ireland several times, but kept his Scottish base. Pat Quinn left in October, by which time Howard already had another girlfriend, a woman he'd met in a pub. She had a 10-year-old daughter. Then the Sunday Mail, presumably acting on information obtained from the police, outed Howard. The newspaper printed a photograph of the "Face Of Evil" over a piece about the "twisted child sex fiend" that detailed his criminal record and described him as "one of Ireland's most dangerous sex offenders". The sub-headline had a simple message: "Kick him out!"

Within hours, a crowd had descended on the tenement house and the windows of Howard's second-floor flat were smashed. He used a rope to escape from a back window.

Howard was on the move again. A police surveillance team located him at a hostel in Hither Green, south-east London, but he was hounded out by other residents who found out about his past. He disappeared for a time, and was later traced to Brockley, then to Catford. A child protection officer noted at the time that Howard was a difficult subject to monitor.

By 1999, he was living with a woman called Mary Scollom at her house in Northfleet, Kent. Scollom had formerly been involved with the father of Hannah Williams and had remained friendly with the girl after the relationship ended. Scollom would take her for walks with her dogs around the Blue Lake at the back of her house.

Hannah Williams' parents had separated before she was born. When she was four, she had been sexually abused by a boyfriend of her mother's and had spent some time in care. In 2001, she was 14 and living with her mother in the outer London suburb of Deptford. She had learning difficulties and was described as immature.

Howard met Hannah through Scollom and showed a great interest in her. In February 2001, he took a home video of her, cuddling the dogs at the house he and Scollom shared. On April 21, she left home to go shopping in Deptford market, around the corner from her home in Elgar Close. She had very little money, but she liked looking at clothes. Her brother, Kevin, who had a Saturday job in the market, heard her answering her mobile and having a very brief conversation. She told the caller, "I'm going now."

By 10pm that night, Hannah's mother, Bernadette Williams, was worried. Hannah had been supposed to meet a friend that evening but hadn't shown up. She wasn't answering her mobile. By 5am, Bernadette was frantic. She went to the police. She felt she wasn't taken seriously - several officers have since been disciplined for their role in the initial stages of the investigation. Bernadette made her own "Missing" posters and took them round local shops and bars. But Hannah was gone.

Almost a year later, a workman was using a digger to clear dense undergrowth on land near the Blue Lake at Northfleet as part of the Channel Tunnel development. He found a badly decomposed body wrapped in a blue tarpaulin. Police initially thought it might be another missing girl, but when they released a description of the clothes, Bernadette knew it was her only daughter. "I finally found out my daughter was dead, and that her body had been found, by watching it on the telly," she says. "To find out that way was unforgivable. I screamed and then I cried and cried."

Hannah's coffin was placed in a carriage drawn by white horses. "She would have made a beautiful bride," says her mother. "But instead of a white wedding, we had a white funeral."

Hannah had been raped and strangled. The blue rope that had been used to kill her was still wrapped around her neck. Howard was arrested in March 2002 and charged with her murder. During his trial, at Maidstone, Kent, in October 2003, it was revealed that he had used his girlfriend's mobile to call Hannah to her death.

Detective Inspector Colin Murray (now retired), who led the investigation, had no witnesses and no DNA evidence. However, he had circumstantial evidence and he was also able to rely on "similar fact" evidence. A traumatised young woman gave evidence that Howard had brought her to the same place where Hannah Williams' body was later found, and that he had tried to sexually assault her. She had escaped.

Gahan came over from Ireland to give evidence that showed Howard's grooming techniques. Crucially, she also described how, when he was raping her, Howard had put a noose around her neck. Kathleen Arkinson gave evidence about Howard's part in Arlene's disappearance. It took the jury just three hours to convict him. Sentencing him to life imprisonment, Mr Justice McKinnon said, "It is clear that you are a danger to teenage girls and other women, and have been for a long time."

Reporting on the trial was severely restricted because Howard had, by this time, also been charged with murdering Arlene. "Mrs Williams hugged us at the end of Hannah's trial and said, 'See you in Ireland,'" says Kathleen Arkinson. "We assumed that she would be called, and the others, too." But the public prosecution service in Northern Ireland did not attempt to introduce similar fact evidence. It has not explained this decision.

The jury that heard the case in Belfast's crown court in the summer of 2005 knew nothing of the patterns of behaviour Howard had established in a career of sexual violence that spanned four decades. He was acquitted. Weeks later, he was also acquitted of other charges of sexual abuse against a 17-year-old girl in the 1990s.

Police from Northern Ireland, the Republic and England have already held a one-day conference to discuss other crimes with which Howard might be connected. The police ombudsman for Northern Ireland, Nuala O'Loan, has launched an inquiry into the handling of complaints against Howard there. Gardaí in the Republic have applied for permission to question Howard in connection with the disappearances of at least two young women in the 1980s and 1990s. British police questioned him earlier this year about 13-year-old Amanda "Milly" Dowler, abducted and murdered in 2002.

Barry Cummins, a journalist who has written a book about missing Irish women and children, says a thorough investigation into Howard's life is now needed. "This was a man who travelled freely all over Ireland and the UK, and lived in many places," he says. "The police should be looking at all unsolved disappearances, murders and sex crimes against women and girls during the periods when he was at large. They should be asking, 'Where was Howard?' "

Ireland established a sex offenders' register only in 2001, and liaison on the monitoring of sex offenders between the authorities in the North and the South, and between Ireland and the UK, is seriously underdeveloped.

Howard was a skilled hunter. He carried out random attacks on some of his victims, while others were groomed. He could live rough, but also knew how to play the system to get accommodation. He favoured poor areas. It was easy to win women with low expectations. He tracked down socially marginalised women to use as cover while providing access to vulnerable young girls. The ones he chose had typically already had bad experiences with men, and were relatively unprotected. He faked kindness, and deceived many.

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In the desolate boglands around Castlederg, the search for Arlene Arkinson's body continues.

Priest hails Basque party for ceasefire


By Elisabeth O'Leary and Teresa Larraz
24-Mar-06 22:08 GMT

BILBAO, Spain (Reuters) - Batasuna, the outlawed Basque political party, deserves credit for its role in the process which led to this week's ETA ceasefire, an Irish priest involved in the talks said on Friday.

Father Alec Reid, a Roman Catholic priest who has been heavily involved in the Northern Irish peace process, said Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero should recognise Batasuna's contribution.

"That party deserves credit from Zapatero because they opened it up," Reid told Reuters in an interview in the Basque city of Bilbao. "There are some great leaders on the left wing (of Basque politics)."

Speaking on the first day of the ceasefire, called by guerrilla group ETA after 38 years of violence, Reid said he had been coming to the Basque Country regularly for four years to try to help bring about peace.

The 74-year-old, who recently acted as a witness to the decommissioning of Irish republican weapons, said members of Batasuna told him as long ago as 2003 that they were "prepared to trust the dynamics of dialogue".

That was a big step forward for Batasuna, which is widely viewed as the political wing of ETA, has been banned by Spain since 2002 and is labelled a terrorist organisation by the European Union.

Among the Batasuna figures praised by Reid was party leader Arnaldo Otegi, who is due to appear in court next Wednesday and is likely to be jailed for breaking bail terms.

The Spanish government has said Otegi will not be treated any more leniently in the light of ETA's ceasefire.


Reid acknowledged he found it difficult to bring people together from across the political spectrum in Spain.

"ETA isn't the problem," he said. "The problem is you don't have a culture of dialogue and therefore of democracy. For them (Spaniards), dialogue is me trying to persuade you that I'm right."

But he said he was confident the right-wing Popular Party (PP), which has demanded further concessions from ETA as a prerequisite for peace talks, would eventually be persuaded to join other political parties at the negotiating table.

"I believe the PP will be there and at the end of the day they'll be the best peacemakers at the table, even though now they seem to be trying to wreck everything," he said.

Reid also said he wanted to get more women involved in the peace process in both Northern Ireland and the Basque Country.

In Ireland, former Northern Ireland secretary Mo Mowlam, former Irish president Mary Robinson and her successor Mary McAleese have all been credited with helping take some of the machismo out of the province's politics.

"The most powerful dynamic after the grace of God is the dynamic produced by the male and female together," Reid said.

"They compliment one another."

ETA walking a path first trod by the IRA

International Herald Tribune

By Caroline Brothers and Brian Lavery
International Herald Tribune

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usTime and again the Basque separatists who called their cease-fire in Spain this week identified with the Irish Republican Army and the eerie parallel between the two groups held up over nearly four decades, all the way to what seems to be their mutual oblivion.

Last year, Gerry Adams, the longtime leader of the IRA's political wing, Sinn Fein, visited the Basque country to promote his book and to encourage ETA to negotiate for peace. It now seems plain that the peace deals that the IRA was negotiating were the omen of a similar course for ETA.

"When Gerry Adams came and talked about ending violence, it left ETA looking very much more alone," said Fernando Savater, the Spanish writer and philosopher who represents the citizens' movement, Ya Basta (Enough is Enough) and who has had bodyguards for years as a protection against the Basque separatists.

"ETA are not giving up arms because they want to, but out of necessity," Savater said. "ETA has been dismantled politically, legally, in a civic sense, and it has lost its bases in France."

The ETA cease-fire follows the Irish Republican Army's ending of its campaign of violence against Britain by just eight months.

Both fought for nearly four decades against modern democratic governments and each harked back to an ancient language and borders, rallying young people to join the cause against distant oppressors.

In the process they killed thousands - ETA about 850 and the IRA almost 1,800 - and caused monumental power struggles with national governments.

A critical difference is that the IRA thrived in a bitter sectarian divide between Protestants and Roman Catholics. ETA did not have that emotional issue of religion to stir up for support.

Most experts say that both groups were hurt by the Islamic fundamentalism of the new century, notably the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, in the United States and the train bombings that killed 191 people in Madrid in March 2004, when any residual support for the groups in the populace broke in an intolerance for terrorism.

After the bombings in Madrid, Savater said, "they lost a lot of their political audience."

However, Eoin O Broin, Sinn Fein's Belfast-based director of European affairs and the author of a book about Basque nationalism, took a different view, saying that the election of the Socialist prime minister, José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, in 2004, days after the Madrid bombings, represented a chance to begin negotiating.

His predecessor "wasn't interested at all in any kind of dialogue," O Broin said. "Radical Basque nationalists recognized that with Zapatero, they had a major opportunity."

According to the newspaper El País, the Spanish Socialists met with ETA representatives in Geneva and Oslo last year to begin negotiations on the cease- fire.

The similarities between ETA and the IRA were both symbolic and political, analysts say.

"They formed an alliance as outcasts," according to Richard English, professor of politics at Queens University in Belfast. ETA's political wing, Batasuna, and Sinn Fein have at times both been forbidden from taking part in public discourse.

The similarities stretch to the niche languages that the movements promote as a badge of identity.

Nationalists in both regions have fostered dynamic youth movements, often by branding themselves as cool on college campuses, which have provided eager recruits for political - and occasionally terrorist - activities. And they each questioned the legitimacy of the constitutional democracies that control their regions, appealing to the belief that their supporters have been deprived of their rightful ancient homeland.

"Both groups tried to ride a tide of anti-imperialism," English said. Representatives from Basque parties regularly attended the annual conferences of Sinn Fein and addressed the audience.

Security analysts have suggested that those relationships extended to the sharing of weapons expertise and matériel, but in recent years Ireland's most significant export to San Sebastián, the political center of the Basque country in Spain, has been political expertise.

Paddy Woodworth, the author of a book about ETA titled "Dirty War, Clean Hands," says the example of the Irish peace process in the 1990s was crucial in ETA's call for a cease-fire in 1998.

Following the IRA carefully, ETA cannot be completely heartened by what follows after a call for peace. ETA will have learned from the recent IRA negotiations "that these processes can be slow, that they can be difficult and torturous at times," O Broin said.

Caroline Brothers reported from Paris and Brian Lavery from Dublin.

24 March 2006


Derry Journal

24 March 2006

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Members of the ATO arrive at the bottom of Fahan Street after the discovery of the suspect package

SCHOOL KIDS are being blamed for bringing parts of the Bogside to standstill for more than three hours yesterday and for the hoax bomb attack on the home of SDLP MLA, Pat Ramsey, earlier this week.
Sinn Fein Colr. Peter Anderson said those behind the incidents 'represented no one'.
British Army bomb disposal experts were called to Fahan Street yesterday where a suspicious object had been discovered. A controlled explosion was carried out on the object which was later described as an "elaborate hoax."
The road was re-opened to traffic shortly after 12.30pm. During the security alert, residents of nearby St. Joseph's Place were advised to stay at the front of their houses.
Condemning yes-terday's bomb scare, Councillor Peter Anderson said that he believed that young people were to blame for placing the hoax device in a bid to lure security forces into the area to attack them.
"In my view, the people responsible for this are young people, possibly young school-children. They represent no-one and the only people they are hurting are the people in Fahan Street, including many elderly people, and the people of the Bogside. A few days age we had the hoax bomb outside Pat Ramsey's house which caused problems not only for the Ramsey family but also for people living in the surrounding area.
"I would imagine that the same people responsible for causing the hoax outside the Ramsey house are the same people who left this hoax in Fahan Street. I also believe that these are the same people who have been attacking the Fountain.
"Now that republicans and local residents have set up a rota which has stopped the majority of attacks on the Fountain, the young people who are involved in those attacks are now trying to lure the police and the army into the area to attack them," he said.
Councillor Ander-son also said that those responsible for the series of hoax bombs could not claim to be republicans.
"The element who are carrying out this type of thing probably think they are republicans. Most likely they are young people and my advice to them, given the fact that we are approaching the 90th anniversary of the Easter Rising, would be to look in their school books and read the Proclamation and hang their heads in shame," he said.
SDLP MLA Mary Bradley also condemned the incident and said that the people who planted the hoax device showed "contempt" for residents of the area. "I have nothing but total condemnation for this attack. This is the second hoax attack we have seen in recent days and I had hoped that we had left this type of thing in the past. This is a residential area and it is also an area that is used by pedestrians on their way to and from the town.
"The people who left this hoax in Fahan Street probably wanted to attract the security forces into the area because they think it is fun to throw petrol bombs and paint bombs at them but I can say that it is certainly not fun for the people living in Fahan Street to have their street cordoned off and traffic disrupted because of a bomb scare.

Victims hit out at BBC over equality duties

Daily Ireland

Jarlath Kearney

The British government’s refusal to impose basic equality obligations on the BBC in the North has been criticised by victims of state violence.
The Belfast-based group Relatives for Justice, which represents scores of families affected by state violence, contrasted the British government’s treatment of the BBC with large-scale structural changes to other public-sector institutions in the North.
Earlier this week, secretary of state Peter Hain announced the latest stage of the Review of Public Administration.
However, the Northern Ireland Office has refused to apply basic equality provisions introduced under the 1998 Good Friday Agreement to the BBC.
Relatives for Justice spokesman Mark Thompson said it was ironic that the BBC reported extensively on major changes to the public sector, when the broadcaster itself was not bound by basic public-sector equality duties.
“From our perspective, the BBC is the second largest public body in the North and, under equality legislation, it is our understanding that the BBC should have been designated under the Good Friday Agreement,” Mr Thompson said.
“We feel that there is a vested interest on the part of the NIO and British government in not designating the BBC.
“There has been a very close relationship down the years whereby the state broadcaster has largely reflected the views of the state itself.
“This is particularly concerning given that we are emerging from a conflict in which the state has been a central protagonist.
“Undoubtedly such a relationship must be challenged.”
Mr Thompson said the Northern Ireland Office’s failure to designate the BBC under equality legislation was “deeply concerning”.
“In terms of the experience of victims of state violence, it has been one in which the BBC has largely marginalised and isolated them. They are not afforded the same space or given the same attention as other actors in the conflict in terms of the presentation afforded by the BBC,” Mr Thompson said.
Mr Thompson complained that the BBC has failed to cover a range of events organised by RFJ and the anti-collusion group An Fhirinne over the last year.
He said this included a major conference launch which was attended by former Taoiseach Albert Reynolds, as well as subsequent events.
“In contrast, we feel other victims of the conflict who espouse an agenda compatible with the British government and certain elements of the BBC find it much easier to air their concerns.
“It is notable that, despite a highly critical report by Abid Hussein, the UN special rapporteur on freedom of expression about partial BBC coverage in the North, the organisation is still not subject to basic equality laws which apply across the public sector.
“There are questions for the Equality Commission over their failure to insist such equality legislation is implemented by the NIO, as was intended under the agreement,” Mr Thompson said.
Responding to RFJ’s criticisms a BBC spokesperson issued the following statement to Daily Ireland: “The BBC is regulated by an agreement under its charter which upholds the BBC’s political and editorial independence.”
The Equality Commission declined to comment at this time.
The same space or given the same attention as other actors in the conflict in terms of the presentation afforded by the BBC,” Mr Thompson said.
He complained that the BBC had failed to cover a range of events organised by Relatives for Justice and the anti-collusion group An Fhírinne over the last year.
He said these included a major conference launch that was attended by former Taoiseach Albert Reynolds, as well as subsequent events.
“In contrast, we feel other victims of the conflict who espouse an agenda compatible with the British government and certain elements of the BBC find it much easier to air their concerns.
“It is notable that, despite a highly critical report by Abid Hussein, the UN special rapporteur on freedom of expression, about partial BBC coverage in the North, the organisation is still not subject to basic equality laws which apply across the public sector.
“There are questions for the Equality Commission over their failure to insist such equality legislation is implemented by the NIO, as was intended under the [Good Friday] Agreement,” Mr Thompson said.
Responding to these criticisms, a BBC spokesperson issued the following statement to Daily Ireland: “The BBC is regulated by an agreement under its charter, which upholds the BBC’s political and editorial independence.”
The Equality Commission declined to comment at this time.

Rules drawn up for formal mediation in Corrib gas dispute


24/03/2006 - 17:00:05

The Independent Mediator appointed to draw both sides together in the Corrib gas pipe dispute has drawn up and submitted a set of ground rules for formal mediation.

Peter Cassells has given the Rossport Five and Shell a guarantee that the mediation process will be carried out properly, professionally and in an independent manner.

The purpose of his appointment was to reconcile the interests of both sides in bringing the gas from the Corrib gasfield to the market while ensuring the highest standard of safety.

The ground rules call for complete confidentiality throughout the process, meaning no information will be issued to the press.

Peter Cassells will meet the Rossport Five next week and Shell at a later date.

Old-fashioned terrorists run for cover


**Interesting for its analysis

Friday, March 24, 2006
Posted: 1643 GMT (0043 HKT)

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September 11 changed everything

DUBLIN, Republic of Ireland (AP) -- Not so long ago, when a bomb went off in London, you could be sure it was the Irish Republican Army. If the target was Madrid, that meant the Basque separatist group ETA.

But al Qaeda has shattered the old certainties -- and accelerated the decline of European paramilitary groups that peg their survival to a bedrock of public support. The continent's two most entrenched bands of outlaws, the IRA and ETA, have taken their biggest peacemaking steps in the shadow of al Qaeda carnage.

"The old terrorist groups, at leadership level, would not want to be linked in the public mind with this new type of terror. They wouldn't want to be seen to be competing for attention with it," said Christopher Langton, an analyst at the International Institute of Strategic Studies in London.

"With the IRA and ETA and others, they call cease-fires and want to be negotiated with," said Langton, a retired British army colonel. But with al Qaeda, he said, "there's nobody to negotiate with."

He and Jonathan Stevenson, an anti-terrorism specialist at the U.S. Naval War College in Newport, Rhode Island, agree that the al Qaeda threat has greatly increased Western governments' willingness to share intelligence, toughen anti-terrorism laws, and tolerate repressive measures. Previously, Britain and Spain faced international criticism when they cracked down on the IRA and ETA, whose members were easier to identify and arrest.

"September 11 and the rise of the new terrorism hardened governments against dealing with groups that commit terrorist violence," said Stevenson, an expert on conflicts from Northern Ireland to Somalia.

He said al Qaeda's "mass-casualty agenda" meant that the violence committed by the IRA and ETA no longer had "stun value."

In its peace declaration this week, ETA -- which killed about 800 people from 1968 to 2003 in hope of pressuring Spain into granting independence to the Basque region -- pledged its cease-fire would be permanent and demanded only admission to negotiations in return, a remarkable climbdown. The group hadn't killed anybody since March 11, 2004, when Moroccan radicals killed 191 people with blasts on Madrid commuter trains, an atrocity that the Spanish government of the day tried to pin on ETA.

The IRA, which killed 1,775 people during a failed 27-year campaign to wrest Northern Ireland from the United Kingdom, began disarming just six weeks after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States. And just a few weeks after suicide bombers killed 56 people in London, the IRA formally instructed its members to renounce violence for political purposes and to dump their weapons for collection by disarmament officials.

The IRA had ruled out both moves for a decade. Analysts and IRA members alike say that growing international impatience, particularly in the United States after September 11, helped make the unthinkable inevitable.

"Al Qaeda did change things for us," said an IRA veteran, speaking on condition of anonymity because IRA membership remains an imprisonable crime in both Britain and Ireland.

He told The Associated Press that the September 11 attacks made it politically impossible for the IRA to break its 1997 cease-fire. He contrasted that with the fate of the IRA's previous 1994 truce, which ended with a two-ton truck bomb on the City of London, Britain's financial district, that caused vast economic damage and killed two men. The low death toll reflected the IRA policy of phoned warnings and followed two similarly massive strikes on the City of London in 1992 and 1993.

"Up to then, we could expect a certain level of sympathy internationally when we bombed the City of London. Those operations used to be, far and away, the most effective thing we did, the thing that really hit the Brits in their wallets," he said. "I wouldn't expect too many Irish-Americans in New York to cheer us if we did that today -- not after what happened to the twin towers."

Most of Europe's terror-practicing groups rose amid the radical chic and student protests of the late 1960s, when the continent was divided by the Cold War. Germany's Red Army Faction, Italy's Red Brigades and Greece's November 17 kidnapped, assassinated and bombed as they dreamed of Marxist revolution and the collapse of NATO.

Because they lacked any popular base, these small groups proved vulnerable to leaders' arrests. Once the Warsaw Pact collapsed, they disintegrated or lost their direction.

Fred Halliday, a human rights professor at the London School of Economics, said the end of the Cold War undermined virtually all of Europe's paramilitary movements; the IRA, for instance, received Warsaw Pact weaponry through Libya and claimed to be fighting to create a socialist republic.

Halliday cited several factors that drove the IRA, then ETA, toward peace long before al Qaeda appeared. He said the IRA's Sinn Fein party was deeply influenced by the African National Congress' renunciation of "armed struggle" in the early 1990s. Then Sinn Fein jumped at the chance, in 1994, to enter mainstream politics with crucial encouragement from former U.S. President Bill Clinton. ETA, in turn, sought to emulate Sinn Fein's truce-for-talks strategy.

But he said the IRA's and ETA's long road to peace illustrated how long it would take to come to terms with al Qaeda as well as Hamas, the militant Palestinian movement. He said it was inevitable that, someday, the West would end up negotiating with the political descendants of both forces.

"The IRA and ETA must have realized 10, 20 years before their cease-fires that their war wasn't going anywhere. It took their leaders that long to shift their movement towards reality," Halliday said. "How long will it take al Qaeda and Hamas to travel the same journey? It's depressing."

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