08 April 2006

Donaldson funeral service


Family and friends have attended the funeral in Belfast of murdered British agent Denis Donaldson.

Requiem Mass was held at his former family home in Aitnamona Crescent in west Belfast.

Mr Donaldson was buried in Belfast's City Cemetery

Ex-Sinn Fein official Donaldson, 56, was found shot dead in a remote cottage in County Donegal on Tuesday.

He was buried in the City Cemetery, where fewer than 100 people attended. On Friday, his family said they did not believe the IRA murdered Mr Donaldson.

He had been expelled from the party in 2005 after admitting he was a paid British agent.

Mr Donaldson's family said they did not know who killed him but blamed the "activities of British intelligence" for their "difficult situation".



Private funeral for IRA double agent

Jamie Doward
Sunday April 9, 2006
The Observer

Denis Donaldson, the murdered ex-Sinn Fein official who spied for British intelligence for 20 years, was buried yesterday in Belfast, close to his former home in Andersonstown. Fewer than 100 mourners attended the funeral of the man who had been the subject of death threats since he sensationally confessed to being a double agent on national television.

Donaldson, a former confidant of IRA hunger striker Bobby Sands, was shot dead in a remote cottage near Glenties, Co Donegal, last Tuesday.

His wife, Alice, daughter Jane and sons Pearse and Denis Jr led mourners during the private Roman Catholic service. Afterwards, mourners used umbrellas to shield the coffin from the media. The cortege then drove to the Falls Road and the city cemetery. One of Donaldson's granddaughters clutched a single white rose by the graveside as rain fell.

Sinn Féin to attend reconvened Assembly on May 15th - The focus - a power-sharing government

Sinn Féin

Published: 8 April, 2006

Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams MP speaking during a meeting of the party’s Ard Chomhairle said “Today the Sinn Fein Ard Chomhairle met, following detailed consultation with our Assembly team, and after careful consideration, we have decided to attend the reconvened Assembly on May 15th. Our focus in doing so will be the formation of a power sharing government on the basis set out in the Good Friday Agreement. “

Mr. Adams said:

“On Thursday, in response to the joint statement from the two governments, I said that Sinn Fein would judge their proposals against the benchmark of the Good Friday Agreement, and whether they would secure the restoration of the political institutions. I also welcomed the convening of the Assembly and the clear statement that its primary role is to elect a power sharing government.

“Today the Sinn Fein Ard Chomhairle met, following detailed consultation with our Assembly team, and after careful consideration, we have decided to attend the reconvened Assembly on May 15th. Our focus in doing so will be the formation of a power sharing government on the basis set out in the Good Friday Agreement. This also has to be the focus of the Irish and British governments.

“The DUP have to decide if they are prepared to join the rest of us in a power sharing government. That is the inescapable question which they must face. If they refuse to do so the two governments must deliver on their commitment to jointly implement all other elements of the Good Friday Agreement. In the coming days Sinn Fein will seek clarity and detail on the accelerated all-Ireland co-operation and action that will replace the Assembly if the DUP is not prepared to share power.”ENDS

Seven remanded over bomb charges


Six men and a 16-year-old youth have been remanded in custody on charges of possessing bomb making materials.

At Belfast Magistrates Court on Saturday all seven were charged with possessing a timer unit and other items with intent on 5 April.

It is understood the charges arose after the men were arrested in a house at Springfield Crescent on Wednesday.

The officer in charge of the case told the court he believed he could connect each of the accused to the charges.

The six men are Sean Maloney, 20, from Cavehill Road, Owen Farrell, 18, from Springfield Crescent, Joseph Connor, 23, from Charnwood Avenue, all Belfast and Ballymena men Peter Kyle, 18, from Dunclug Park, Kieran McIlwaine, 19, from Mount Street and Alan Daly, 31, from Moohan Road in Cabra near Dungannon.

The 16-year-old cannot be identified because of his age.

They were remanded in custody to appear again via videolink on 5 May.

Funeral service for murdered spy


Family and friends have gathered in Belfast for the funeral of murdered British agent Denis Donaldson.

Requiem Mass was held at his former family home in Aitnamona Crescent in west Belfast.

Ex-Sinn Fein official Donaldson, 56, was found shot dead in a remote cottage in County Donegal on Tuesday.

He is being buried later in Belfast City Cemetery. On Friday, his family said they did not believe the IRA was responsible for his murder.

He had been expelled from the party in 2005 after admitting he was a paid British agent.

Mr Donaldson's family said they did not know who killed him but blamed the "activities of British intelligence" for their "difficult situation".

Head of administration

Irish police have been carrying out searches in the vicinity of the remote cottage near the village of Glenties where Mr Donaldson's body was found.

Post mortem examination results have indicated he died from a shotgun wound to the chest.

It said there were other injuries to his body consistent with shotgun blasts, including a severe injury to his right hand.

Police removed a car at the scene on Thursday.

Mr Donaldson had been Sinn Fein's head of administration at Stormont before his 2002 arrest over alleged spying led to its collapse.

He and two others were acquitted of charges last December "in the public interest".

One week later he admitted being recruited in the 1980s as a paid British agent.

He said there had not been a republican spy ring at Stormont.

Apprentice boys get go-ahead for Ardoyne march

Belfast Telegraph

By Chris Thornton
08 April 2006

An Apprentice Boys' parade has been approved for one of Belfast's most notable flashpoints in recent years.

The Parades Commission told organisers of the feeder parade past Ardoyne that they can follow their regular route on Easter Monday.

However, they will be restricted from playing music while passing the republican area in north Belfast.

The Commission also approved an Apprentice Boy's parade that passes part of the Short Strand in East Belfast, but rerouted marchers who applied to pass through the lower Ormeau area.

Nationalist residents' groups had planned protests against each of the Belfast marches.

Ardoyne has recently stood out as one of the most difficult marching areas, with violence breaking out in response to Twelfth parades over the past two years.

The Parades Commission met over two days this week to consider one of the early batches of this year's contentious parades.

1916 collection goes under hammer


****Ireland's priceless history to be sold to the highest bidder

Some of the items to be auctioned

BBC Northern Ireland reporter Diarmaid Fleming has been to see some unique relics of Irish history.

This year marks the 90th anniversary of the Easter Rising - but it also marks the largest collection of 1916 memorabilia ever to go on sale.

The collection, much of it on view to the public for the first time, goes under the auctioneer's hammer on Sunday and Wednesday.

The 1916 Easter Rising marked the symbolic birth of the Irish Republic.

The leaders of the doomed rebellion were quickly executed by the British after a fight against hopeless odds and the might of the British Empire, but their deaths inspired the drive for Irish self-determination.

There is fascination in Ireland about the Rising and what inspired it - even among a vocal group of modern critics who argue it was undemocratic, a claim mocked by those in Ireland who today revere the leaders, the great folk-heroes of Irish nationalism.

The 90th anniversary sees two auctions.

Up for grabs are items such as rebel leader Michael Collins' typewriter, the hand-written first manuscript of the Irish National Anthem by its author Peader Kearney, and a vast store of memorabilia - everything from police intelligence reports, personal letters, propaganda posters, medals, to art.

The first written copy of the Irish national anthem

Stuart Cole of Dublin fine art auctioneers Adam's, said: "One of the principal unique aspects of this sale is that it contains so much material that comes directly from the families of those who were involved, principally the Thomas Clarke archive which is, to my mind, one of the only intact archives from one of the leaders of 1916."

Clarke's wife Kathleen painstakingly recorded everything to do with his life.

In doing so, she provided a treasure-trove for historians, much of which has not been seen before and which will provide unique new insights into the men and women behind momentous events in modern Irish history.

"She really had an archivist's mind. Every single item, Kathleen annotated - or she sometimes even wrote a letter about it. She had a unique understanding of her place in history," said Mr Cole.

"Tom's last letter to her comes with an explanatory letter from her saying how he'd bribed a soldier with his watch - the only thing of value he had - to get it to her and how she received it two weeks after his death."

1916 memorabilia is now big business. There was little interest in memorabilia for the 50th anniversary in 1966, possibly because Ireland was a poorer country and many participants in the Rising were still alive.

Ireland's economic boom has seen revolutionary relics rocket in value.

Items stored in cupboards and drawers across the country have been brought to the auction rooms in Dublin, often family heirlooms, with owners either keen to cash in, or fearful of caring for and storing items now worth huge amounts of money.

A death mask of Wolfe Tone is one of the lots to be auctioned

Auctioneer Fonsey Mealy of Mealy's, said: "There is a big price range. We have items to cater for every pocket.

"The lowest priced item is a bundle of postcards of the republican leaders which might go for 50 euro, up to the original Irish National anthem which we've priced at between 800,000 to 1.2m euro.

"There has never been a record of any country's national anthem going up for auction, so we're in the dark ourselves."

Auctioneer Ian Whyte of Whyte's, who are also holding an auction which includes the personal papers of Peader Kearney, says that Irish wealth in the economic boom now means that 90% of 1916 collectors are Irish-based, the reverse of 30 years ago when most went to the US and abroad.

But some fear the auctions could see the disappearance of jewels of Irish political history and say that the Irish state should have intervened to buy them.

"With the large amount of wealthy collectors around, the museums and archives can't afford to buy all this, they'd need huge amounts of funds," said Mr Whyte.

"The happy medium is where serious and responsible collectors have the pleasure of owning items, conserving them and insuring them - and then they lend it to the museums who wouldn't even have the space for much of this.

"But when they have big exhibitions, they can draw on the resources of collectors - which also enhances the value of their collections. So the private owners are a resource for the national institutions."

Some collectors will be holding on to their memorabilia, while others will be buying at these auctions, mindful that in 10 years time the centenary of the 1916 Rising could see a another revolution in prices on anything to do with the Irish rebellion.

One wonders what the executed 1916 socialist leader James Connolly would think of it all....

The 1916 collection is open to the public. More details can be found on the following websites:




Nation's heritage for sale to the highest bidders

Irish Independent

THE nation is about to witness the tragic dispersal of a unique treasure-trove relating to the centuries-long struggle for independence.

Ironically, this will happen in the week running up to the 90th anniversary of the Easter Rising. An enlightened government might have purchased this irreplaceable archive in the public interest to safeguard our heritage. This one is standing idly by as the family silver is sold off to diverse ownerships abroad or at home, notably to the private collections of the wealthy Irish diaspora and the Celtic Tiger's nouveaux riches.

Invaluable documents and memorabilia from the 1798 Rebellion, Young Irelanders, Fenians, Home Rule, the Land League and the men and women of 1916 will all go under the hammer at private auctions.

The first commercial exodus of cherished socio-political and cultural gems takes place tomorrow in Dublin's RDS when "The Irish History Sale" is held by Whyte's, followed on Wednesday by "The Independence" auction of Adam's & Mealy's. The centre piece of Whyte's splendid collection is The Official Peadar Kearney Archive with a fully authenticated signed and dated manuscript of the National Anthem, (Soldiers' Song), and Kearney's own handwritten account of its history.

It also offers signed letters from O'Connell, Davitt, Parnell, Pearse, de Valera, Yeats, Joyce, Shaw, as well as the War of Independence Ceasefire Order by General Mulcahy, a valuable 1916-22 film archive, Erskine Childers execution archive, historic collectibles with Celtic gold ring money, 1798 Rebellion weapons and a 1912 Titanic telegram.

The Adam's & Mealy's auction trumpets the "the most important sale of Irish Historical Documents ever held" including the Thomas Clarke Archive, the Brendan Brennan Collection Part I and the National Anthem (Amhran na bhFiann) first draft manuscript.

Also advertised in a superb Adam's and Mealy's catalogue are "important and previously unknown" documents from Padraic Pearse, Michael Collins, Eamon de Valera, John Devoy, Thomas Clarke's last letter, a 1916 Proclamation, the original drawings for the design of the GPO, the telegram confirming Ireland's Free State status and Michael Collins' Sinn Fein membership card.

My gripe is not with the two auction houses which have done a civic service in assembling such a marvellous collection. Nor do I begrudge those collectors with financial means to do so, to acquire such coveted items. Indeed, I envy them.

What enrages me is the lack of foresight, not just by the Coalition but also by successive governments since the foundation of the State, in not passing legislation and allocating sufficient budgetary resources for the acquisition in the common good of such, literally priceless, historical material.

I indict our elected representatives for not having constructed a modern museum-research centre for holding these materials, to which scholars, students and school-children, as well as interested individuals and tourist visitors, could have access.

While Dublin has a National Library and a National Archive, both suffering from lack of adequate finances and facilities, it does not have the kind of public shrines displaying its history that adorn London, Paris and Washington.

Hopefully, as has been done by the Government in the case of a Kearney manuscript, its appointed servants and our academic institutions will be there with cheque-books to salvage as many items as possible for the people. Of this, I am not optimistic.

The millions of euro a philistine government has squandered on failed computer systems, unoccupied buildings, an underwater Millennium clock and a moronic Spire on O'Connell Street could have been better invested in a national museum with well-stocked materials that tell our history so graphically and tangibly.

We can still arrest alleged leader of IRA, senior gardai claim

Irish Independent

Tom Brady and Diarmaid Mac Dermott

AN eight-years-old Garda warrant for the arrest of the alleged former head of the Provisional IRA in the South has been cancelled in court.

But senior officers said last night they had the right to seek another warrant if they wanted to detain "Dickie" O'Neill.

Gardai believe O'Neill was in charge of the IRA's so-called southern command in the mid 1990s when Det-Gda Jerry McCabe was murdered during an abortive raid on a postal van at Adare, Co Limerick.


It was alleged at the time that the murder had been carried out by a rogue unit who did not have sanction for the shooting.

Four members of the unit were subsequently convicted of killing Det-Gda McCabe.

They are currently serving sentences at The Grove bungalow complex within the grounds of Castlerea Prison.

O'Neill was later alleged to have stepped down from his IRA position and to have left the country. He is now believed to be living in Spain for several years.

The Special Criminal Court in Dublin yesterday cancelled an eight-year- old warrant for arrest on a charge of IRA membership The warrant had been there for eight years and was cancelled following an application by the DPP at an unscheduled sitting.

The warrant was issued in 1998 for the arrest of Gerard "Dickie" O'Neill, a native of Belfast, with an address at Cushlawn Park, Tallaght, on a charge of IRA membership on July 12, 1997 of an unlawful organisation, styling itself the Irish Republican Army, otherwise Oglaigh na hEireann, otherwise the IRA, on July 12, 1997.

Prosecution solicitor Denis Butler told the court there would be no counsel appearance for Mr O'Neill.

Never executed

He said that the bench warrant for Mr O'Neill's arrest was issued by the court on March 18, 1998, and his instructions now were to have the warrant cancelled.

Det-Supt Diarmuid O'Sullivan of the Special Branch said the warrant was never executed and he was now applying to have it cancelled. Mr Justice Paul Butler said the court would cancel the warrant.

Garda officers said last night the option remained open to seek another warrant to detain O'Neill or look for his return to Ireland under an European arrest warrant.

If the old warrant had been executed, the main plank of the case against O'Neill would have been the evidence of a garda chief superintendent.

But he has retired from the force since the warrant was issued.

Confession of Executed British Agent John Dignam


7 April 2006

A writes:

This is a copy of the confession by John Dignam given to the PIRA before they executed him as a British agent.

cryptome.org/john-dignam (Zipped WMA, Audio, 8 minutes, 8MB)


BBC, 2 July 1992

IRA murders 'informers'

The IRA has admitted killing the three men found by the army at different roadsides in South Armagh last night. They claim the men were informers for MI5 and the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) Special Branch and they had been tried and killed by the IRA. The victims were from Portadown, County Armagh and have been identified as Gregory Burns, 33, John Dignam, 32, and Aidan Starrs, 29. In a style typical of IRA ritual killings the bodies were found in ditches, naked and hooded with evidence of beatings and single bullets through the backs of the heads.

The IRA tried to justify the murders in an unusually detailed statement, outlining the intelligence work of the three and linking them to the murder of civil servant Margaret Perry, 26. Her body was found on Tuesday in a shallow grave over the border in Mullaghmore, County Sligo after she disappeared on her way to work in Portadown over a year ago. The IRA claim that Ms Perry was having an affair with one of the dead men, Mr Burns, but says she had threatened to expose the group's intelligence links to the IRA, so they had kidnapped and murdered her.

All three men disappeared from their homes a few days ago and their bodies were dumped close to the border within 10 miles of each other, at Newtownhamilton, Bessbrook and Crossmaglen. The army left them overnight in case they had been booby trapped. These are the first killings in Northern Ireland in eight weeks, and come in the wake of recent progress at talks in Stormont, Belfast and London.

Speaking in the House of Commons, Prime Minister John Major said, "The IRA's actions demonstrate yet again the true nature of terrorism".


British Irish Rights Watch
Director's Report
February 2006


I attended a meeting on 22nd February between the family of John Dignam and the PSNI’s Historical Enquiries Team in Lisburn. John Dignam was murdered by the IRA in 1992 and branded as a Special Branch informer, after he made a forced confession of involvement in the murder a year previously of a civil servant, Margaret Perry. However, there is evidence to suggest that at least one of John Dignam’s two associates was working for army intelligence, the Force Research Unit, and that all four murders could have been prevented. The HET is looking into the case as part of their investigation into the activities of Frederick Scappaticci, known as Stakeknife, who was FRU’s key agent in the IRA internal disciplinary unit known as the nutting squad.


British Irish Rights Watch
Director's Report
November 2005


BIRW has prepared a report on the murder of John Dignam whose body was found on 1st July 1992. The bodies of two other men, Aidan Starrs and Gregory Burns, were found on the same day at separate locations. The IRA were responsible for all three murders. They claimed that the men were informers and that they had been involved in the murder of a woman called Margaret Perry, who was killed a year earlier. According to a confession extorted from John Dignam, he was an accessory after the fact, in that he helped Aidan Starrs to hide her body. BIRW is concerned that no-one has ever been brought to book for these three murders. Like other families, if the Northern Ireland Offences Bill is passed, the Dignams can expect no justice.

British spy says UK govt offering him no protection


08/04/2006 - 08:57:15

A double agent who infiltrated the IRA for British security services has broken his cover to tell the BBC that he has been given no protection, despite promises to the contrary from the British government.

His revelation comes in the wake of the brutal killing of former Sinn Féin official and self-confessed British agent Denis Donaldson on Tuesday last.

The long-time British agent fled to England when his cover was blown and assumed a new identity., but has come forward to tell the BBC that he expects to suffer the same fate as Denis Donaldson.

He said he is scared and frightened and was forced to assume the new identity himself as the British government refused to issue him with one.

Deal deadline set to become law


The two governments' deadline for a deal to restore devolution will be written into an emergency law due to be brought before Parliament this month.

Northern Ireland Secretary Peter Hain told Radio Ulster's Inside Politics this will make the deadline rock solid.

He said unionists should not be concerned about any change to NI's constitutional position if a deal on devolution cannot be achieved.

"There's no question of joint authority or anything like that," Mr Hain said.

"There's no question of joint government. That would be in contravention of the referendum that that the people of Northern Ireland voted on when they endorsed the Good Friday Agreement.

"So there's no issue about that, it's not a constitutional matter."

Mr Hain also confirmed to the programme there were plans for a prime ministerial summit on Northern Ireland in June.


The deadline for a deal on devolution is 24 November.

Tony Blair and Bertie Ahern travelled to Northern Ireland on Thursday to give parties a "take-it-or-leave-it" plan.

The assembly is to be recalled on 15 May with parties being given six weeks to elect an executive.

If that fails, the 108 members get a further 12 weeks to try to form a multi-party devolved government. If that attempt fails, salaries will stop.

The British and Irish governments would then work on partnership arrangements to implement the Good Friday Agreement.

AGENDA: 99 Ardoyne residents murdered between 1969 and 1998

An Phoblacht

Free Image Hosting at www.ImageShack.us
Photo: Alan Lundy was shot dead by the UFF while working on the home of his friend, Sinn Féin councillor Alex Maskey (click to view)

Alan Lundy - casualty of British policy

On 1 May 1993, Alan Lundy was shot dead by the UFF while working on the home of his friend, Sinn Féin councillor Alex Maskey. Alan, his wife Margaret and their four young children lived in Ardoyne, an area which had suffered so much from unionist killer gangs, but was in the relative safety of West Belfast when he was cut down.

Alan Lundy was a husband, a father, a son, a brother, a friend, a comrade, a neighbour, a worker and a valued member of his community- he was all of these things and much more.

Alan Lundy was a member of Sinn Féin. He had been interned some 20 years previously and was then imprisoned for a second time by the Diplock courts. He was one of 20 members or relatives of members of the party assassinated during this period. He was one of 99 residents of Ardoyne to be killed between 1969 and 1998, and he was one of almost 1,500 nationalists to die at the hands of the British state forces and the unionist paramilitary groups they ran throughout their war.

Alan Lundy died as a result of the policy of institutionalised collusion which the British state in Ireland has operated since the outset of the recent conflict. The person who pulled the trigger may well have been an Irish-born 'loyalist' but the people pulling the strings were at the very heart of the British Government.

The revisionist line on collusion is that it was a matter of some 'rogue elements' of the RUC or British army leaking intelligence documents on suspected republicans to autonomous unionist killer groups. This is far from the truth. The British, as a matter of policy;

Alan Lundy was killed by the UFF, a cover name for the UDA which was set up in September 1971 by British agent Charles Harding Smith. In April the following year, when appearing in a London court with fellow agent John White and RUC officer Robert Lusty on charges of attempting to buy £100,000 worth of weapons, Harding Smith was supplied with a glowing reference from an RUC Assistant Chief Constable which referred to his usefulness as a 'pacifier'. They were acquitted.

In 1972 the UDA killed more than 70 Catholics, yet in November of that year, the British Prime Minister had a letter from his Ministry of Defence stating that "An important function of the UDA is to channel, into a constructive and disciplined direction, Protestant energies which might otherwise become disruptive." The UDA remained legal for the next 20 years during which time, in a 'constructive and disciplined direction', it killed another 300 Catholics.

The other major unionist paramilitary group, the UVF, was also under the control of the British state. Retired RUC Detective Jonty Brown recently said that every fifth or sixth UVF man was working for one or other branches of the security forces. That does not include those who were working with them, in mutually beneficial relationships. The commander of the UVF in Mid-Ulster, for example, amassed a personal fortune from construction contracts for the 'security forces' and had a licensed personal protection firearm. This despite the fact that his unit was responsible for dozens of sectarian murders.

From the very beginning of the conflict, the British state ran these organisations. They trained them, armed them and directed them to such a degree that it can justifiably be said that every unionist killing (and there were more than 1,000 of them) was a state killing. This use of pseudo-gangs to 'terrorise the terrorist community' was a tactic used by Britain in earlier colonial conflicts in Cyprus, Aden, Malaya and Kenya. There is no doubt that they are still at it in Iraq.

We can't bring Alan Lundy back, or any of the more than 3,700 people who lost their lives in the conflict. What we can do though is ensure that we build a society worthy of their memory and that none of their stories are lost in the lies and propaganda spun by revisionists.

Republicans need to focus on the main points around the collusion issue. Collusion was central to the British Government's counter-insurgency strategy and as such was pivotal in its attempts to defeat republican resistance to their rule in our country. Collusion goes straight to the heart of Britain's dirty war in Ireland.

As the Sinn Féin spokesperson on Truth and Victims it has been my experience that while there is a lot of goodwill towards victims and victims' issues, activists often don't know what they should be doing.

Families and victims' groups dealing with this issue require our assistance. We owe it to them and to all victims to do everything we can to help them in their campaigns.

On the broader issue of truth recovery and dealing with the past, which the British have turned into a site of struggle, Republicans need to actively challenge those who attempt to conceal and ignore issues such as collusion. The Sinn Féin groups on Truth and Collusion have a DVD presentation on this very question. If your area hasn't been covered you should ask through your Comhairle Ceanntair. In the meantime, you should be pushing for:

07 April 2006

Remembering 1981: Bobby Sands contests by-election

An Phoblacht

Eyes of world on Fermanagh/South Tyrone


Image Hosted by ImageShack.usOn the fifth day of the 1981 Hunger Strike, Frank Maguire, the MP for the constituency of Fermanagh/South Tyrone, died of a heart attack.

Over the following three weeks the number of candidates for the by-election fluctuated up and down with, at one stage, as many as seven candidates being mooted, and almost an eighth candidate when by mistake an over-enthusiastic member of Sinn Féin took out under her own name, a second set of nomination papers for Bobby Sands.

Noel Maguire, brother of Frank Maguire, was first to declare his candidature, and lodged nomination papers at the electoral offices in Dungannon on Wednesday the 25 March. Bernadette McAliskey had also declared herself as a runner on a Smash H-Block/Armagh and anti-repression ticket.

Former Ulster Unionist leader Harry West was elected as their candidate at a party convention, and UDR lieutenant Roy Kells, with the encouragement of Ian Paisley, was announced as being prepared to stand, but only as an 'agreed' loyalist candidate. And, as expected, an SDLP convention in Irvinestown ratified Austin Currie, who had previously attempted to wrest the seat from the late Frank Maguire in the bitterly contested May 1979 election.

Free Image Hosting at www.ImageShack.usThe 1979 election, contested without endorsement from the SDLP party executive, who correctly feared repercussions from splitting the nationalist vote, placed the local SDLP in a difficult position. They too were deeply divided over the wisdom of not just contesting the seat, but contesting it on an anti-IRA ticket, their fears being proven justified when Currie lost the election. (Click photo to view)

Currie's self serving attitude in 1979 forced the party leadership to temporarily remove him from his executive position, though he was by 1981 reinstated. It was the fear of being ostracised for good, should he do a repeat performance that forced Currie to swallow a bitter pill, when the party executive decided to overturn the local selection convention and not to contest the election.

The SDLP had mistakenly calculated that Noel Maguire was a definite runner and that between him and Bobby Sands, who by this stage had emerged as a definite candidate, that the nationalist vote against a single loyalist contender would be already split enough. The SDLP withdrew from the election, only to be dumbfounded when Noel Maguire also withdrew at the last minute and joined the broad-based backing for Bobby Sands, which included Tommy Murray (SDLP), Neil Blaney (Independent Euro-MP), Frank McManus (Irish Independence Party), and Bernadette McAliskey (National H-Block/Armagh Committee). Two members of the Irish Independence Party and the SDLP's Tommy Murray, signed Bobby Sands's nomination papers.

The confirmation that Sands would be a candidate had come from a Sinn Féin announcement on 26 March. Earlier that morning, Bernadette McAliskey had revealed that if a hunger-striker was to run then she would stand down in his favour and 'work the shirt off my back' for him.

The Sinn Féin statement said that Sands's candidature provided the electorate with the opportunity of quantifying their support for the political prisoners and against attempts to criminalise opposition to British rule. The statement made clear that under no circumstances, following Sands's election, would the seat be allowed to fall to the runner-up, in the event of a court action to dislodge him

Meanwhile Ian Paisley's attempts to push Harry West out of the running floundered when Paisley's choice, Roy Kells withdrew when he did not get the full support of the UUP. But Paisley continued to orchestrate a campaign against Harry West, which included personal visits and appeals from the widows of four UDR and RUC men. West, however, performed a minor coup, got photographed smiling with the widows, and stood his ground. Even a poster campaign against West, favouring the UDR lieutenant, with transport and manpower laid on by the UDR in the middle of the night, failed to change West's mind.

Bobby Sands's nomination papers were lodged by Jim Gibney and Owen Carron on the last possible day, Monday 30 March. Noel Maguire intended to withdraw just before the deadline, when it would be too late for Austin Currie to respond. As the 4pm deadline approached Gerry Adams and Owen Carron waited in a car beside the electoral office just in case Maguire failed to withdraw. In his pocket Gerry Adams carried a statement announcing Bobby Sands' withdrawal. With less than ten minutes to go Maguire arrived, went into the office and emerged with his nomination papers and called on his supporters to back Bobby Sands.

In a message to the electorate of Fermanagh/South Tyrone, their candidate Bobby Sands said that: "there is but a single issue at stake, the right of human dignity for Irish men and women who are imprisoned for taking part in this period of the historic struggle for Irish Independence."

He went on to say: "We are not elitist; we do not seek a different status to that afforded the ordinary prisoner because we supposedly frown upon them. Our protest and this hunger-strike are to secure from the British government an end to its policy of labelling us as criminals. This can be done by them conceding to us the same status that several hundred men in the cages of Long Kesh and three women in Armagh prison have. The eyes of this nation and many parts of the world will be on the people of Fermanagh and South Tyrone on polling day."

Key turning point in the struggle


Image Hosted by ImageShack.usI hid behind the wall of St. Patrick's Catholic Church, less than 200 yards from the front door of Dungannon's Electoral Office in Northland Row. From this safe distance I could watch, unobserved, the comings and goings at the Electoral Office. It was short of 2.30 in the afternoon, a warm day as I recall now, some 25 years later.

My inside jacket pocket held a little piece of paper, pregnant with historical change, of far reaching proportions for republicans. Of course at the time I was completely unaware of this. As I paced up and down the car park behind the Church I was more concerned not to be seen by anyone who would recognise me and be alerted to my intentions. The little piece of paper in my pocket was Bobby Sands' nomination papers to contest the by-election for Fermanagh/South Tyrone.

In Ballygawley Road housing estate, a few miles away, Gerry Adams was sitting by a phone. He was in communication with republicans in Lisnaskea, the home town of the recently deceased MP for the constituency, Frank Maguire. Gerry was also in communication with me, not I hasten to add by mobile phone, they were yet to be invented, but through Jimmy McGivern a local republican in his car.

Earlier Gerry had given me my instructions. They were simple enough. If by 3.50pm Noel Maguire, Frank's brother, had not withdrawn his nomination papers from the by-election then I was to withdraw Bobby's name from the contest. Four o'clock was the final deadline to withdraw papers. Three o'clock was the deadline for submitting a nomination. The leadership of Sinn Féin had decided Bobby Sands would not contest the election if there was another nationalist in the field.

At approximately 2.45pm the word from Gerry through Jimmy was that Noel Maguire was sighted in the company of a local republican in Lisnaskea shortly after 2pm. He had not been seen since then. The grapevine had it he had gone to ground. My heart sank with the news as I prepared myself to withdraw Bobby's papers.

Then another courier arrived at the car park with a more positive rumour. Noel Maguire was on his way to the Electoral Office with the local republican but no one knew for certain why.

Lisnaskea was a difficult hour's drive from Dungannon. We were all on edge. Would Noel make it to the Electoral Office before the deadline? Would he be stopped by the British Army at a checkpoint and delayed deliberately until after the deadline? Why was he coming at all if not to withdraw his name? Maybe he was just coming to tell the growing number of journalists outside the Electoral Office that he intended to stand?

I was not prepared to believe anything unless I saw it with my own eyes. Experience of the previous few weeks taught me that. It was packed with highs and lows as republicans grappled with what to do over the nomination of Bobby.

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usMy anxious wait ended well within the time set for withdrawing a nomination. The solitary figure of the white haired Noel Maguire ascended the steps outside the Electoral Office. It was obvious he had decided to pull out of the contest. In keeping with his gentle demeanour he announced in a soft voice to the waiting journalists that he was withdrawing from the by-election because he had been told it would help save Bobby's life. He could not have it on his conscience that any action of his would endanger another person's life.

Noel Maguire's gesture was not only magnanimous. It was a pivotal moment which shaped the future conduct of the republican struggle in a dramatic and unexpected way at the time. Had Noel stayed in the contest then Bobby Sands would not have been elected MP for Fermanagh/South Tyrone because I would have withdrawn his name from the election. And the year 1981 might not have been the year the struggle changed so dramatically.

Bobby's election rocked the Thatcher government and the Irish establishment. It also came as a huge surprise to many republicans with one very senior IRA man saying to me, as we watched the news of Bobby's win on television, that it was worth 20 bombs. It was a spectacular victory against all the odds. It gave the prison struggle, and the struggle generally, a much needed boost.

Following Bobby's election, Kieran Doherty and Paddy Agnew were elected TDs and other prisoner candidates did well across the 26 counties in that year's general election. The election of two prisoner candidates as TDs was also significant for another reason. It ended Fianna Fáil's reign as the dominant party in the south. They never again formed a government as a single party. That year also saw Owen Carron hold Bobby's seat with an increased majority in the by-election caused by Bobby's death.

In the middle of all that was happening and with Bobby's win in the bag, I argued internally for Sinn Féin to contest the May local government elections held less than a month after Bobby's success. Not surprisingly I lost the argument. Other organisations like People's Democracy (PD), the IRSP, the IIP and pro-prisoner candidates did stand. The SDLP lost many of their council seats to these candidates including that of their leader Gerry Fitt who was still a Westminster MP at the time. Thereafter the struggle opened up a new front: contesting elections.

The election successes of 1981 gave republicans the confidence they needed to take the leap into the unknown electoral arena. I was not there for the internal debate which followed 1981. I was off to jail for the next six years. I can imagine it would not have been an easy debate to win. Republicans were very suspicious of participating in any form of struggle which they suspected was out of step with pursuing the armed struggle. For many in the leadership and elsewhere participating in elections was controversial and to be done selectively.

I was at an Ard Fheis in 1980 and heard Sinn Féin President, Ruaraí Ó Brádaigh denounce those republicans from Tyrone who put a motion to the conference to contest local elections in the Six Counties. Republicans in the 26 Counties were already contesting local elections. He warned delegates that anyone advocating such a course of action would face expulsion.

Between that Ard Fheis and Bobby Sands' election there was a low level debate among some of the leadership of Sinn Féin about how best to build Sinn Féin into a popular political party and the role, if any, of participating in elections. The opposition to fighting elections was very strong. Indeed this was reflected in the extreme opposition among Fermanagh republicans to the proposal to stand Bobby.

I proposed standing Bobby in the by-election. It came to me in a flash on hearing the news on the radio of Frank Maguire's sudden death. I thought it was a not to be missed opportunity to highlight the Hunger Strike and the protest for political status. I was to learn very quickly that not all republicans were taken by the idea.

The opposition in Fermanagh centred on the traditional republican hostility to elections. They were seen as a dangerous distraction summed up in the view that even if Sinn Féin won every seat in the country the Brits still had to be forced out by arms. There was also a genuine concern for the fate of Bobby and his comrades. Failure to win the seat would strengthen Thatcher's main argument that the prisoners did not have popular support.

The opposition held out over several meetings against the combined persuasive powers of Ruaraí O Brádaigh, Daithí O Conaill, Gerry Adams and Owen Carron - all arguing to stand Bobby.

For republicans 1981 is, understandably so, one of the bleakest years of the conflict because of the deaths on hunger strike of the ten lads. It is also a seminal year in terms of opening up a new and challenging front, participating in elections. This led to other, equally important changes- taking seats in Leinster House and forcing republicans to build a serious party with a radical message.

It all started in earnest on 9 April, 25 years ago this Sunday, in Enniskillen's Technical College, when the Returning Officer, in a breaking voice announced to the world, 'Sands, Bobby, Anti H-Block/Armagh Political Prisoner, 30,492, West, Harry, Unionist, 29,046'. Bobby Sands was declared MP for Fermanagh/South Tyrone.

Set-back for immigrants in U.S.


April 7th 2006

There's been a set-back to the hopes of Irish immigrants in America.

A compromise plan to change US immigration law has failed on its first test vote in the Senate.

It comes just a day after leaders from both the Democrat and Republican parties had agreed to the plan and predicted it would have wide support.

Opponents of the measure complained it would give an amnesty to illegals in the US, of which, 20,000 are estimated to be Irish. Senator Ted Kennedy, a co-sponsor of the legislation has stated that, "politics got in the way of policy and there's enough blame to go round".

Backers of the bill were 22 votes short of the 60 needed in the 100-member Senate to overcome procedural hurdles and move the bill forward.

IRA double agent arrested in Holyhead


Apr 7 2006

Prosecution chiefs in Northern Ireland are to study a file on a Real IRA double agent questioned over a series of terrorist attacks prior to the Omagh bomb massacre.

Paddy Dixon, 42, was arrested by police in Holyhead, North Wales.

He was handed over to detectives in Northern Ireland and interviewed about serious terrorist crime.

Although Dixon was released yesterday, a police spokeswoman confirmed a report will be sent to the Director of Public Prosecutions, Sir Alasdair Fraser.

The Dublin man, who was at one time living under a police protection scheme, was an Irish Special Branch informer who was asked to provide a car by the organisation which bombed Omagh in August 1998, killing 29 people.

Days before the atrocity he was told the car he was asked to supply was not needed.

But he later emerged as a key intelligence figure in the cross-border police investigation to track down the bomb gang.

He was held on Tuesday for questioning about dissident republican attacks across Northern Ireland in the months before Omagh as part of what became known as a linked inquiry.

Dixon, a former car thief who stole to order, first for the Provisional IRA and then later for dissident republicans opposed to the Northern Ireland peace process, worked for Detective Sergeant John White, who himself became embroiled in corruption allegations against the Garda in County Donegal where he was once based.

Dixon, fearing for his life from republican dissidents, later quit Ireland to live in Britain with a new identity.

But detectives involved in the Omagh investigation had been under pressure from relatives of the dead and injured to have him arrested.

It is understood he was questioned about car and mortar bombings in Banbridge, County Down, Markethill, County Armagh, Newry, County Down, Armagh City and Belleek, County Fermanagh.

In September, south Armagh man Sean Hoey, 36, is due to stand trial in Belfast for the murders of the 29 people killed in Omagh.

Republicans "with grudge" killed Donaldson - INLA tells 'Journal'

Derry Journal

07 April 2006

"REPUBLICANS WITH a grudge" were the most likely killers of Denis Donaldson, an INLA source told the 'Journal' last night.
As speculation continued yesterday, the source in the North West said there was no involvement by the INLA in the murder in Glenties, Co. Donegal, earlier this week.
"It's all pure speculation at the moment. There are so many suspects in the pot, you could pick almost any of them.
"But it was most likely a republican killing. Republicans with a grudge," said the source, who said he did not believe the killing was sanctioned by the IRA leadership.
"I can't see it having been sanctioned from the top," the source added.
Gardai were last night continuing their painstaking fingertip search around the remote cottage of the Sinn Féin official-turned British spy, who was shot dead on Tuesday.
In the latest develop-ment in the massive investigation to find the killers, a car was removed from outside the 19th century house were Mr. Donaldson had been hiding out after admitting in December he was a paid informer for more than 20 years.
Members of the Gardaí's dog and water units have now been drafted in to assist in the huge search of two square miles of bog and lakeland which was immediately cordoned off after the murder.
At the time of going to press last night, a Garda spokesperson told the 'Journal' there had been no further developments in the hunt for Mr. Donaldson's killers.
Post mortem results indicated the Belfast man died from a shotgun wound to the chest.
The IRA has denied involvement in the murder of the ex-Sinn Fein man who was warned by Gardaí that his life could be in danger.
Unionists, meanwhile, say they are unconvinced by the denials of the republican movement who have hinted that British intelligence could be to blame.
However, Peter Hain, the North's Secretary of State, said yesterday that that assertion was "fanciful and rather desperate".
Mr. Hain said it was more likely that dissident republicans carried out the shooting.
However, this allegation has been challenged by the INLA. "I would be surprised if dissidents were involved," the source added.
Chief Superintendent Terry McGinn, who is leading the investigation into the murder, refused to be drawn on details of the killing, or on whether there had been a specific threat to Mr. Donaldson.
In a press briefing on Wednesday, she vowed that Gardaí would leave no stone unturned in their bid to track down those responsible.

Rossport Five face crippling legal bill


07/04/2006 - 13:38:34

The president of the High Court today ordered the Rossport Five to pay the legal costs to Shell following their contempt of court over their Corrib Gas pipeline protest.

Judge Joseph Finnegan said that although the court had the right to punish the men for refusing to comply with the court order not to obstruct the construction of the pipeline across their land in County Mayo, he had decided not to impose a jail sentence.

He said he was having regarded to the time the men had spent in prison (94 days) and the disadvantages that three of them continued to suffer while they were in contempt.

But Judge Finnegan said he was making an order for the costs in the case, which could run into hundreds of thousands of euros to be awarded to Shell.

Parades body rules on loyalist marches

Daily Ireland

BY Ciarán Barnes

The new-look Parades Commission last night ruled on four loyalist marches scheduled to take place in nationalist areas of Belfast and Tyrone on Easter Monday.
Daily Ireland understands that the Apprentice Boys have been allowed to parade past the Short Strand in east Belfast on April 17 but have been banned from marching down the lower Ormeau Road in the south of the city.
Rulings on parades through Ardoyne in north Belfast and Castlederg in west Tyrone are not yet known.
The Easter Monday Apprentice Boys marches are being viewed as the first real test for the new commission, which was appointed in November last year.
Nationalists are fearful that the appointment of the senior Orangemen David Burrows and Don MacKay as commissioners will lead to an increase in the number of disputed loyalist parades getting the green light.
Mr MacKay caused anger last week when he said he was fighting the cause of the loyal orders from “inside the fence”.
The decisions to allow the Short Strand parade and ban the Ormeau Road march were expected.
The rulings on Ardoyne and Castlederg are harder to predict and will be watched closely by a sceptical nationalist community.
Today, the Parades Commission will formally announce its rulings on the four parades.
In all, 39 Apprentice Boys parades are taking place in the North on Easter Monday, ten of which are in Belfast.
Four of the 39 marches are described as disputed by the Parades Commission.
Around 10,000 Apprentice Boys parade annually on Easter Monday at different locations in the North.


PFC News




"Denis was a loving husband, a devoted father and grandfather and a good brother. The events of recent months have been very difficult for our family.

In December, Denis left his home in Belfast and moved to Donegal where it was his desire that he be left alone to rebuild his life. Unfortunately, he continued to be pursued by sections of the media, some of whom gave details about his whereabouts.

On Tuesday 4th April, Denis was murdered. We do not know by whom. But the difficult situation which our family has been put in is the direct result of the activities of the Special Branch and British Intelligence agencies.

We acknowledge the speedy statement from the IRA disassociating themselves from this murder. We believe that statement to be true.

We would ask those politicians and media commentators who have sought to use this tragedy to score cheap political points to stop doing so.

In the next few days, Denis will return home to Belfast to be with his family for one last time and to be buried. The funeral will be private and we would ask the media to respect our privacy at this time.

Finally, we wish to express our deep gratitude to friends, neighbours and the wider community for the compassion, solidarity and sympathy given to our family throughout this ordeal."


Inefficiency pays off


By Fr Des

WHAT awful mistakes we must have made during all those years. Remember how we set up education projects out of our own money? Remember the street collections for them, the scraping and saving, the empty rooms and the people being asked to invent education without money and without teachers if necessary?

All madness – why did we bother? We should have sat on our hind ends, done nothing and waited for £30 million from Mr Hain's government, the £30 million which comes, like everything, to those who wait. We should have gone out every election day and voted for the very people who kept the poor Protestant unionists in a state of bad housing and near poverty and a lot of ignorance. Look what it gets you, £30 million. But we did not. We had too much respect for them and for ourselves to vote that way.

Of course, the poor unionists were always just as badly off as the poor nationalists. So what difference was there between us in the deprivation stakes? Well, one difference was that the poor unionists voted for, paid for and often prayed for the political representatives who kept them deprived, while nationalists and republicans did not.

Don't ask why the poor unionists voted for ‘the great deprivers’, it is one of those strange acts of a strange world. We voted against them.

We voted against the unionist politicians who wanted their own people to be poor enough to stay in subjection. Less poor than poor republicans or nationalists, of course, but poor all the same.

So where did we make our mistake? Was it in using our own resources to educate ourselves, was it by parents scraping up enough money to pay 100 per cent or 65 per cent or 25 per cent of the cost of a school for their children or a hospital?

Was it our mistake to set up all those community associations, credit unions, writers' groups, nursery schools, public inquiries, small businesses?

Well, yes, it was, Mr Hain's government would say, you should have waited; waited until the money for the shipyards ran out – like some of those who worked there – waited until the “security" jobs in the police, army, prisons, government offices had run dry, waited until the various sources of ready cash for virtuous government supporters had dried out – when by a miracle of riches in a cash-starved world, lo and behold, money in sackloads would appear pouring from the ready hands of those who love you still.

And would it be for us too? For all who wait sitting on their hands, or just for some? Ah no, it is reserved for deprived unionist waiters, of course.

And these, the once privileged, now deprived, it appears, are to be found in droves in all places where the union flag flies in reverence for the government and its representatives who made them poor. There they have waited, like the exiles in Babylon, the poor unionists.

Thank God they are still well-dressed and well-fed and so forth, and thank the lodge they have a deal of self-respect left too, but deprived.

Deprived because through some wickedness for which they are not responsible they have fewer community structures than ‘those others’ have, and, alas, they have made less use of education, and have rejected the kind of education ‘those others’ have made for themselves.

What foolishness. Why did we not just wait? We might have received Mr Hain's government's bounty too. Just sitting there and saying no to education, no to sharing, no to inventing things, no to making a real work ethic rather than a pretend one, no to being independent (maybe that is the trouble). Unionist leaders kept their opponents in as near to servitude as they could, and kept their own people in as near to poverty as they dared – provided, of course, that the ‘professional and business classes’ who led them were well-heeled themselves. But why think about that, sure after all didn't the poor unionists vote happily and determinedly for the people who did all that to them? And would do it again. Provided their leaders, including Mr Hain's government, will guarantee that while the poor unionists will have their acceptable level of poverty ‘those others’ will have worse.

You could call it their acceptable level of deprivation.

Well, good luck to the poor unionists who will now spend, what is it, £30 million? We will watch their space and see what they create out of it. If they create half as much as the republicans and nationalists created out of the nothing Mr Hain's government allowed them, they will do well.
One doubts it, though.

Paisley warns on North-South dealings

Belfast Telegraph

By Noel McAdam
07 April 2006

DUP leader Ian Paisley has warned the Government that any moves towards new partnership arrangements with the Republic to jointly govern Northern Ireland will be strongly resisted.

The North Antrim MP said the proposals for a 'step change' in North South co-operation if the re-called Assembly failed to agree on an Executive by November 24 would change the "status quo" and the British Government would prove unable to deliver on joint sovereignty.

Northern Ireland was now part of a United Kingdom where a foreign government has more say than the people in the province, he argued.

"Given the reality that there will be no Executive in the foreseeable future the best way forward is to get working in the Assembly," he added.

Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams, however, urged the DUP to say 'yes' to power- sharing and warned: "The days of unionist domination are over.

"We have concerns about aspects of the statement, but we think (it's) a good forward step."

As all parties studied the proposals, Ulster Unionist leader Sir Reg Empey said his party will be there when MLAs meet for the first time on May 15.

Sir Reg said the partnership plan with Dublin were "quite a threat" but unionists should not be surprised.

Senior Sinn Fein negotiator Martin McGuinness said his party's preference was for government with the DUP rather than any form of joint authority between London and Dublin, while the ultimate goal of Irish reunification remained.

The SDLP have welcomed the chance to elect a First and Deputy First Minister and get the Agreement working again.

"As we predicted, the DUP seem comfortable with these proposals and believe them to be right up their street. That street is a dead end," SDLP leader Mark Durkan warned.

Wear your Easter Lily with pride


In the grounds of Belfast Castle and beneath McArt’s Fort where Theobald Wolfe Tone and his United Irishmen pledged to fight for a better Ireland, republicans gathered this week to mark the 90th anniversary of the Easter Rising.
Flanked by two Sinn Féin councillors and relatives of people who have died in the conflict, Gerry Kelly officially launched this year’s Easter Lily Campaign.
2006 marks the 90th anniversary of the 1916 Rising, as well as the 25th anniversary of the 1981 hunger strikes.
The MLA said he was calling on people throughout North Belfast to make a special effort this year to wear an Easter Lily and honour Ireland's patriot dead.
“This is a time when we can reflect on 1916 as a turning point in Irish history and, more importantly, seek to educate ourselves and take the lessons of that period forward with us into the new society we wish to create in the future,” he said.
The Sinn Féin politicians were joined by family members of three fallen IRA volunteers in the grounds of Belfast Castle.
Sharon McCabe’s brother in law Pat McCabe was murdered by the British army in 1973 when he only 17-years-old.
Mary McIlroy’s uncle Brian Smyth was also murdered the same year by the British army and in 1978 her nephew Michael Scott was killed after two gas canisters exploded at his house. Pat McIlvenna’s husband Sean was killed by the RUC in 1984 while on active service in Armagh.
The importance of women and the role they played throughout Ireland’s conflict cannot be overstated, the MLA said.
“In 1926 the Cumann Na mBan (League of Women) introduced the Easter Lily as a symbol of remembrance for those who died during or were executed after the Easter Rising,” Gerry Kelly said.
“Constance Markievicz, Kathleen Lynn and many, many more women played a leading role in the rising and throughout the year we will be continuing the work that they began for equality and Irish unity.
“We are also celebrating the activism of women who are today involved in political activity in communities across Ireland, including those women who are to the forefront of community development, women involved with voluntary organisations, women campaigning on socio economic and equality issues in their own communities, nationally and internationally.
“The 1916 proclamation promised equal rights and universal suffrage. On the 90th anniversary of the 1916 Easter Rising it is important to remember and to revive the connection which existed at that time between feminism and nationalism.”

Journalist:: Áine McEntee

Commissioner to seek urgent meeting with HE chief executive


The Human Rights Commissioner was so shocked by the real life experiences of mothers and children living in the New Lodge tower blocks that she is seeking an urgent meeting with Paddy McIntyre, the Chief Executive of the Housing Executive.
Monica McWilliams was invited to the area for the first time in her new role as human rights boss by Sinn Féin councillor Carál Ní Chuilín.
During her visit to the New Lodge Housing Forum and the tower blocks the human rights boss said she discovered some ‘very disturbing’ health and housing issues.
“The whole experience was very disturbing. There are real legitimate concerns here about families with young children being exposed to raw sewage in the flats in their bath water, infestation of insects, lack of play facilities which is associated in high rise accommodation, and a lack of short, medium or long-time plans by the Housing Executive,” she said.
“I listened attentively and I have agreed to take their concerns back and address this in whatever way I can. Clearly there needs to be a start by public statutory agencies in addressing this. I will be seeking a meeting with Paddy McIntrye to discuss this further.”
Housing campaigners say the Executive’s strategy to tackle alarmingly high levels of housing distress in nationalist North Belfast has failed miserably.
In six years of the seven-year North Belfast Housing Strategy, the level of nationalists living in urgent housing need has remained at a critical level from 81 per cent in 2000 to 78 per cent at the start of 2006.
Cllr Ní Chuilín said the housing situation had human rights implications.
“She talked to the families who lived in the high rise flats and heard what their daily lives entailed, and what it’s like to live in the flats with small children.
“We want to use every opportunity to highlight this and to ask agencies with responsibility to address this crisis in whatever way possible.
“I know that I and the families very much appreciated her visit. She made them feel they are not forgotten.”

Journalist:: Áine McEntee

Loyal Orders urged to talk


The Ardoyne Parades Dialogue Group (APDG) has again called on loyal orders to engage immediately in talks about the problem of contentious parades on the Crumlin Road.
Following a meeting this week with the new-look Parades Commission Joe Marley of the APDG said the group was very concerned that the loyal orders have so far refused to speak with nationalist residents even as another marching season looms.
The Ardoyne community worker said he was concerned that the loyal orders may once again be rewarded with another march on the Crumlin Road on Easter Monday despite their refusal to talk to nationalists.
“The APDG has demonstrated on two occasions over the last year (Easter Monday last and in December) our resolve in trying to move things on and create a positive climate by withdrawing our protest.
“Since last June the APDG has repeatedly tried through various ways to engage with the North and West Belfast Parades Forum, but we have been met with an ongoing refusal to engage in dialogue.
“There must be a clear message from the Parades Commission that the loyal orders and parade organisers will not be rewarded for this non-engagement.”
Joe Marley said the feeder parade organised by the Apprentice Boys for the Crumlin Road on Easter Monday was designed to intimidate.
“We view these feeder parades as nothing short of a coat trailing exercise designed to humiliate the nationalist community of the Crumlin Road.
“The marchers go through the Nationalist area only to board a bus to travel to the actual parade,” he said.
“This only serves to heighten tensions and create further divisions between communities.”
The APDG spokesman said that the North Belfast group had also made it clear to the commission that it believed the position of one of its commissioners Don McKay was now untenable.
“The appointment of two members of the Orange Order Don McKay and David Burrows to the commission earlier this year was greeted with disbelief in the nationalist community. It is hard to imagine how two people actively involved in this problem can act impartially in making determinations.
“However, the recent revelations that Don McKay was dishonest when filling in his CV for the commission and the fact that that he said last week in a public meeting in Portadown that he was fighting the cause of the loyal orders ‘from inside the fence' now makes his position untenable.”
And although the first contentious parade of the year is now only 10 days away Joe Marley said that the APDG is prepared to talk to anyone in a bid to resolve this issue.
“If they are interested in finding a lasting solution to the problems caused by parades then they should open up meaningful talks with us as soon as possible,” he said.
But this morning Tommy Cheevers of the Apprentice Boys - who are to march on Easter Monday accused the APDG of not representing Ardoyne residents.
“We offered dialogue in 2001 and were in a process until last year until the violence (on the Twelfth).
“I would doubt at this last stage if there would be any talks.”

Journalist:: Evan Short

Five Mayo men not to return to jail: court


07 April 2006 12:01

The High Court has ruled that the five men who are objecting to the construction of the pipeline in the Corrib Gas Field through Rossport, Co Mayo, are not to serve any more jail time for their contempt of court.

The five men were jailed last June when they breached a High Court order restraining interference with the construction of the pipeline.

They served over 90 days in jail before being released last September.

1916 'revision' gets hero's name wrong on sign

Irish Independent

Edel Kennedy

THEY helped shape the nation we live in today, but Dublin City Council couldn't get the spelling of the 1916 heroes correct.

As the city gears up for an Easter Parade next weekend, it was pointed out that the council took down a sign with the correct spelling of one of those killed - and put up another with the misspelled name.

A small lane just off Moore Street in the city centre has been called 'O'Rathaille Parade', in memory of Michael 'The' O'Rathaille.

But last year the English sign was removed.

It was then replaced with a new dual language sign, with the misspelled 'O'Rathaillaigh' and 'O'Rathailly' on show.

His grandson Prionsias O'Rathaille is furious that the council managed to get it so wrong.

"They still can't get things right," he said.

"Coming up to the 1916 commemoration parade, it's very bad.

"It's within a stones throw of where the fighting took place and close to where the anniversary celebrations will be."

'The' O'Rathaille had been treasurer of the volunteers and helped Childers bring arms into Howth aboard the 'Asgard'.

He was the only leader to be shot in action during the Rising.

Meanwhile, a granite stone honouring the signatories of the 1916 Proclamation was unveiled at the Curragh Camp yesterday by Defence Minister Willie O'Dea.

The Curragh was chosen as a location because the seven military barracks there were named after signatories, Clarke, MacDiarmada, MacDonagh, Pearse, Ceannt, Connolly and Plunkett.

Country on high alert as bird flu outbreak 'inevitable'

Irish Independent

Aideen Sheehan and Allison Bray

IRELAND is on high alert following confirmation yesterday that a wild swan found dead in Scotland has tested positive for the deadly H5N1 strain of avian flu and six swans in Northern Ireland are being examined for the virus.

Agriculture Minister Mary Coughlan said that the risk to Ireland is rising because of our "close proximity" to the UK.

However, she said that there was no need to go over the top as Ireland was highly prepared and stressed there was no risk to consumers of getting bird flu if they cooked poultry properly.

The Agriculture Department's Expert Advisory Group will meet today to discuss additional measures that might be needed to prevent or contain the disease here.

It is now "inevitable" that bird flu will spread to Ireland, given it is only a matter of miles from our coast, said Labour agriculture spokesperson Dr Mary Upton, calling for an emergency simulation of how to handle an outbreak, and an overall figurehead to coordinate the national response.

The case in Fife is the first time the deadly strain has been confirmed in a wild bird in the UK, making it the 14th country in the EU to succumb.

It could be only a matter of time before the virus reaches this country.

Bird watchers here are also being urged to keep a close eye on dead wild birds, as the Scottish outbreak has taken place at the peak of the migratory season.

The Department of Agriculture and Rural Development in Northern Ireland confirmed they were examining the badly decomposed remains of five swans in Portglenone, Co Antrim and one swan in Moira, Co Down for signs of avian flu.

If necessary they would test these birds for avian flu, but these examinations were routine as they had tested 20 birds since last autumn, all of which proved negative, a spokesperson said.

Meanwhile, in Dublin there was an upsurge of calls to the department's avian flu helpline with 56 calls made yesterday, but there were no highly suspect dead birds being tested, a spokesman said.

Scotland's Chief Veterinary Officer Charles Milne yesterday confirmed a swan found in Cellardyke, Fife had the lethal H5N1 virus and said a surveillance zone in the area was being extended to 2,500 sq km, covering over 3m poultry.

The Irish expert group meeting today will discuss whether additional precautions along these lines should be introduced here.

Around 100 people have died from bird flu since this outbreak began three years ago, but the World Health Organisation has warned of the serious risks of a global pandemic that could kill millions if the bird flu mutates into a form that is easy for humans to catch.

Department of Agriculture Secretary General Tom Moran said they were doing everything they could to prevent and/or contain the spread of the virus here. "We're in a state of readiness. Risk assessments are now being carried out but it appears the swan was a visitor," he said.

He added that it did not have an identity tag or "ring" revealing it was indigenous to the area.

"The Department is now working with the UK authorities to put a contingency plan in place," he said, vowing that measures to stop the spread of the disease here "will be vigorous".

"We have a contingency plan in place and will apply it," he added.

However, the Government was criticised for delaying 24 hours to counter the threat by Fine Gael Agriculture spokesman Denis Naughten who demanded urgent action in light of the case in Scotland and suspect cases in Northern Ireland.

"It is also imperative that the public is given clear information on what to look out for and that there is little or no risk to the human population," he said.

Members of Birdwatch Ireland will be keeping a vigilant watch on wild birds in light of the increased threat which coincides with the migratory season, spokesman Niall Hatch said yesterday.

SF and SDLP criticise Rea’s Police Board re-election


07/04/2006 - 08:36:38

Sinn Féin and the SDLP have both criticised the re-election of Prof Desmond Rea as chairman of the North's Policing Board.

Prof Rea, who defeated independent member Pauline McCabe in last night's vote, has held the position since the board was established in 2001.

He had been the preferred choice of unionist members of the board, while nationalists had come out in support of Ms McCabe.

Sinn Féin's Gerry Kelly has claimed Prof Rea's re-election highlights a unionist failure to grasp the concept of power-sharing, while the SDLP has said it was disappointing that the opportunity for change was not taken.

Report highlights child poverty


More than 110,000 children in Northern Ireland live below the government's poverty line, a report has claimed.

The most deprived children go without three meals a day or without the right kinds of food, the report said.

They live in households where their parents worry constantly about finances and how to pay the bills, it said.

The report - Child and Family Poverty in Northern Ireland - was based on research carried out for the Office of the First and Deputy First Minister.

It said the food poverty experienced by NI children was partly a result of the low incomes of families on benefits and partly the result of high prices for basic foodstuffs and fuel.

Published by the Equality and Social Inclusion in Ireland Project and Save the Children, the report also said that 60,000 more children were "living in poverty" in the province.

It said this meant they were going without many things others took for granted, such as family day trips, holidays, leisure and social activities, new clothes and sports gear.

"It is regrettable that the suspension of the devolved government in 2003 so seriously interrupted the development of an anti-poverty strategy in and for Northern Ireland," the report's authors Eithne McLaughlin and Marina Monteith said.

IRA 'not behind' ex-spy killing


The family of a former British spy has said they do not believe the IRA was responsible for his murder.

Ex-Sinn Fein official Denis Donaldson, 56, was found shot dead in a remote cottage in County Donegal on Tuesday.

He had been expelled from the party in 2005 after admitting he was a paid British agent.

Mr Donaldson's family said they did not know who killed him but blamed the "activities of British intelligence" for their "difficult situation".

In a statement, the family said: "On Tuesday 4th April, Denis was murdered. We do not know by whom.

"But the difficult situation which our family has been put in is the direct result of the activities of the Special Branch and British Intelligence agencies.

"We acknowledge the speedy statement from the IRA disassociating themselves from this murder. We believe that statement to be true.

"We would ask those politicians and media commentators who have sought to use this tragedy to score cheap political points to stop doing so."

In a statement released by a Belfast law firm, the family also blamed the media for reporting details of Mr Donaldson's new location.

"In December, Denis left his home in Belfast and moved to Donegal, where it was his desire that he be left alone to rebuild his life.

"Unfortunately, he continued to be pursued by sections of the media, some of whom gave details about his whereabouts."

The family said Mr Donaldson was a loving husband, a devoted father and grandfather and a good brother.

"The events of recent months have been very difficult for our family. In the next few days, Denis will return home to Belfast to be with his family for one last time and to be buried."

Irish police have been carrying out searches in the vicinity of the remote cottage near the village of Glenties where Mr Donaldson's body was found.

Post mortem results have indicated he died from a shotgun wound to the chest. It said there were other injuries to his body consistent with shotgun blasts, including a severe injury to his right hand.

Police removed a car at the scene on Thursday.

Mr Donaldson had been Sinn Fein's head of administration at Stormont before his 2002 arrest over alleged spying led to its collapse.

He and two others were acquitted of charges last December "in the public interest".

One week later he admitted being recruited in the 1980s as a paid British agent.

He said there had not been a republican spy ring at Stormont.

Obituaries: Denis Donaldson

Times Online
The Times April 07, 2006

1950 - April 4, 2006

Senior IRA man revealed to have been a spy in the pay of British Intelligence for 20 years
HAD Denis Donaldson not been a paid agent of British Intelligence and Special Branch for more than 20 years, the close-knit Irish republican family would have reacted to his death as if one of its model members had passed away.

A “pre-Sixty-Niner” — one who joined the IRA before the eruption of the Troubles — a convicted bomber, a hunger striker, an international ambassador: Donaldson had all the hallmarks of an apostle and he would have been buried with due ceremony in the republican plot in Milltown Cemetery, Belfast, where every Easter the movement renews its vows to end British rule in Ireland.

The irony is that now only time will tell if he really was a model Provisional: the test of that will be how many more of his comrades in the upper reaches of Sinn Fein and the “army” are exposed as informers in the pay of the British.

Donaldson was born into a traditional republican family in the embattled Short Strand, a tiny Catholic enclave in overwhelmingly Protestant East Belfast. Its Catholic parish church, St Matthews, holds an iconic position in Provisional mythology for it was here in June 1970 that Billy McKee, leading a small IRA group in the defence of the neighbourhood, opened fire and killed two Protestant men and a Catholic man.

Donaldson took part in that night’s activities, which finally buried the taunt “IRA — I Ran Away” as the Marxist leadership of the “Officials” was swept away by the Provisionals.

Donaldson had joined the IRA as soon as he was old enough, first in the Fianna, the “boy scouts” of the republicans. But as Belfast descended into chaos he quickly decided, like many young Catholic men of his generation, that the Provisionals and not the Officials — who favoured forging a non-sectarian alliance with the Protestant working-class — were the future.

He rose rapidly through the ranks. He was Provisionals’ commanding officer in East Belfast when he was arrested during a bombing mission on a bottling plant. He served half of a ten-year sentence in the Maze Prison – Long Kesh to republicans. There a smuggled camera caught Donaldson’s young beaming face as he put his arm around Bobby Sands. It was to become one of the most famous republican images after Sands, elected MP for Fermanagh South Tyrone, starved himself to death in May 1981 for the recognition of political status.

Donaldson took part in an earlier hunger strike, which was called off when it appeared that the Government had granted the prisoners’ wishes. On his release Donaldson took on the Provisionals’ intelligence portfolio and was one of the pioneers of the Adams-McGuinness leadership in holding dual high-ranking membership roles in both the IRA and its political wing Sinn Fein.

In 1981 he was arrested at Paris-Orly airport while travelling on a false British passport from Lebanon. Before his release he admitted that he had been visiting Palestine Liberation Organisation training camps.

In 1983 he stood unsuccessfully in Belfast council elections for the east of the city. It was during this period that he was secretly recruited as a British agent.

In his recent confession Donaldson described it as “a vulnerable period” in his life, but the mystery of his recruitment remains. The Irish feminist Marie Mulholland recently described him thus: “Denis stood out, all five foot nothing of him. Yes, he was a small man but somehow it never seemed to matter because he had charm — buckets of it. Not the schmoozing of an operator, but real charm; a blend of wit, generosity, mischief and that capacity to make you feel like you, your problem or your request were the most important thing to him right at that moment. It worked wonders with women, and Denis loved women — lots of them.”

Donaldson once told the journalist Brendan Anderson that British Intelligence had tried to recruit him while he was on holiday in Spain with his wife. “He was not asked if he had declined the offer to work for the British — in retrospect a serious omission,” Anderson wrote.

Over the following years Donaldson travelled widely, taking charge of the republican movement’s international relations, forging close links with “brother liberation struggles” in the Middle East and the Spanish Basque Country.

He also tried to obtain the release of the Irish Beirut hostage Brian Keenan who, after Donaldson’s arrest in 2002 on spying charges, said: “Two human beings put their lives at risk on my behalf. One was Terry Waite and the other was Denis Donaldson.”

In the late 1980s Donaldson was sent to the US to impose the leadership’s writ on fund-raisers. Martin Galvin, the former Noraid publicity director, said of him: “He created trouble, he made bad recommendations about genuine people, he attempted to undermine supporters with traditional republican credentials and he pushed those with reformist politics on the North.

“I was told that Donaldson’s credentials were impeccable, that he was beyond reproach, and that he had the full confidence of the Sinn Fein leadership in Ireland.”

By 1998 Donaldson was a senior apparatchik, running the Sinn Fein operation at Stormont and acting as a fixer for the leadership.

In the autumn of 2002 police carried out a dramatic raid on Sinn Fein’s offices at Stormont, and Donaldson and two others were arrested and charged with operating an IRA spy ring. The episode led to the collapse of the Stormont power-sharing executive, the end of the political career of David Trimble, the Ulster Unionist leader and First Minister, and the unravelling of Unionist confidence in the Good Friday agreement.

Last December the Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern got it right when he declared “this is as bizarre as it gets” when the Public Prosecution Service dropped charges against Donaldson and his co-accused “in the public interest”.

Donaldson appeared triumphantly between Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness to declare that the IRA spy ring had been “a fiction created by Special Branch to save Trimble”.

Yet within days, Adams issued a statement exposing Donaldson as a British agent, and a few hours later Donaldson read a prepared statement to RTE Television, the Irish state broadcaster, confirming his double life and offering his apologies.

Donaldson, as a career member of the IRA, knew the traditional price for “touting” was a bullet in the back of the head. He was apparently spared because the IRA had recently declared an end to all its activities: a killing would have only confirmed Unionists in their refusal to share political power with Sinn Fein.

He disappeared to a primitive cottage in Co Donegal owned by his son-in-law but said that he was not in hiding. Nobody could understand why he would freely choose to live in such reduced circumstances, nor why he continued after the Irish police warned him that his life was in danger.

He was killed by an unknown person or persons armed with a shotgun who broke into the isolated cottage.

He is survived by his wife Alice, his daughter and two sons.

Denis Donaldson, IRA leader, was born in 1950. He died on April 4, 2006, aged 56.



6 April 2006

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usA writes:

This website has published the name of the former special branch officer RUC / PSNI, who secretly filmed Denis Donaldson with Sunday World reporter Hugh Jordan. Special Branch leaked the location of Donaldson to the media.


06 April 2006

Hope for undocumented Irish in US


06/04/2006 - 20:40:44

Tens of thousands of Irish people living illegally in the US may benefit after the Senate agreed a new Immigration Reform Bill.

The comprehensive document could provide a path to permanency for the majority of the undocumented Irish in the US.

Foreign Affairs Minister Dermot Ahern said he was encouraged that the leaders of both parties in the US Senate agreed the outline of the Bill.

“The compromise has been welcomed by Senators Edward Kennedy and John McCain and the Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform. Negotiations are continuing on the details and it is expected that the Bill will be voted on by the Senate by the weekend,” Mr Ahern said.

“Once a Bill is passed by the Senate, it will then have to be reconciled with the Bill passed by the House of Representatives last December.”

He said the proposal contained many of the key elements of the Kennedy/McCain Bill and would be welcomed by the undocumented Irish.

The deal would allow illegal immigrants who have been in the US for more than five years a chance to become a citizen if they meet certain requirements and pay a fine.

Other rules would apply for those in the US for less than five years.

The overhaul would also include a temporary worker programme.

Mr Ahern said: “The Government will continue to remain very actively involved in the critical period ahead, and I would intend to travel to Washington to meet the key players in the House and Senate in advance of the reconciliation process.”

Rea is re-elected board chairman


The Policing Board holds the PSNI to account
The newly constituted Northern Ireland Policing Board has re-elected Sir Desmond Rea as its chairman.

The vice-chairman will be the prominent businessman Barry Gilligan. He replaces Denis Bradley who stepped down a few weeks ago.

Members have been attending a two-day induction programme in Limavady. They are to appoint committees and their chairs and vice chairs on Friday.

The first public session of the new Policing Board will be held on 3 May.

Asked about claims that a nationalist should have been elected chairman, Sir Desmond Rea said he believed he had drawn support from both identities in the community.

"I'm very gratified about that, simply because I have sought over the past four years to seek to interpret the mind of the board to the wider community."

He said it was important that every part of the community was policed, that recruits were drawn from every part of the community and that they could "go back and visit their parents" in safety.

Sir Desmond said Sinn Fein's refusal to take its places on the board was a matter for "wider politics".

However, he added: "The fact that Sinn Fein is not on the police board creates a vacuum that the dissidents can play their games in and its sends a very powerful signal to the whole of the community."

Last month, outgoing vice chairman Mr Bradley said the next chairman "should be a nationalist".

In his outgoing speech last month, deputy chairman Mr Bradley said he looked forward to the day when the background of the board chairman would become a "non-issue".

He also expressed concerns about MI5 taking control of intelligence gathering, fearing it would become "a force within a force".

Mr Bradley also predicted that Sinn Fein would take its seats on the board in the autumn.



04/06/06 10:13 EST


============================================================ Following is the entire text of today's Joint Statement by Irish premier Bertie Ahern and British PM Tony Blair.

Armagh, April 6th, 2006

1. In recent months we have held discussions with all the political parties in Northern Ireland with a view to restoring the political institutions and building on the peace and prosperity which have flowed from the Good Friday Agreement.

2. When we last met, we noted the historic progress represented by the IRA statement of July 2005. We are convinced that the IRA no longer represents a terrorist threat. By any standards, that is a momentous stage in the history of Northern Ireland. On that basis, we have made it clear that all parties should engage in political dialogue. We have also made it clear that all parties should support the police as the most effective way of addressing continuing concerns about criminality.

3. We cannot force anyone to enter the political institutions. Every part of the political process over the past eight years has been voluntary. What we can do is to set out what we believe to be a practical framework and a reasonable timescale for moving forward. While we are conscious of the view that further confidence needs to be established, we also know that time alone is not enough: trust will not build itself in the absence of positive engagement by all parties. Everyone in Northern Ireland is aware of the dangers of a political vacuum.

4. The Assembly will therefore be recalled on 15 May. Recognising that it has not sat for nearly four years, it seems sensible to give the Assembly a short period in which to prepare for government as envisaged by paragraph 35 of Strand One of the Good Friday Agreement. The Assembly's primary responsibility would be to elect a First and Deputy First Minister as soon as possible, to allocate Ministerial posts under the d'Hondt formula and to make other preparations for Government within Northern Ireland and in the North/South and East/West fields.

5. As soon as the Assembly elects a First and Deputy First Minister on a cross-community basis and forms an Executive, power will automatically be devolved to the Assembly, as happened in December 1999, and all its functions will be resumed. At that point the British Government's power to suspend the Assembly will lapse for good.

6. If, despite best efforts, the Assembly is not able to elect a First and Deputy First Minister on a cross-community basis within the normal six week period, we would be prepared to allow a further period of 12 weeks after the summer recess in which to form an Executive and we would expect it to do so at the earliest opportunity within this timeframe.

7. We are also conscious that all parties have made proposals for the better functioning of the institutions and that discussion on these issues has not yet concluded. It would be open to the parties to continue these discussions with each other and with the Governments, as appropriate, so that consideration could be given to proposals for the implementation of the Agreement, including changes to Strands 1 to 3 in the context of a commitment by all involved to participate in a power-sharing Executive.

8. It would of course also be open to the Assembly to prepare for Government by considering issues which the Executive will have to deal with, such as future economic strategy, water rates, public administration and education. Ministers would naturally take account of views which command cross-community support within the Assembly.

9. While it is reasonable to give the Assembly a little more time, there must be a clear limit. We said in January that a power-sharing Executive must be formed this year. If by 24 November the Assembly has failed to achieve this, we do not believe that any purpose would be served by a further election at that point or a few months later in May 2007. We do not think that the people of Northern Ireland should be asked to participate in elections to a deadlocked Assembly. There would be no choice but to cancel salaries and allowances for MLAs and to defer restoration of the Assembly and Executive until there is a clear political willingness to exercise devolved power. The Governments would, of course, stand ready to facilitate full restoration when all parties indicate such willingness.

10. If restoration of the Assembly and Executive has to be deferred, the Governments agree that this will have immediate implications for their joint stewardship of the process. We are beginning detailed work on British-Irish partnership arrangements that will be necessary in these circumstances to ensure that the Good Friday Agreement, which is the indispensable framework for relations on and between these islands, is actively developed across its structures and functions. This work will be shaped by the commitment of both Governments to a step-change in advancing North-South co-operation and action for the benefit of all.

11. The British Government will introduce emergency legislation to facilitate this way forward. It will set out clearly the limited timescale available to the Assembly to reach agreement. In parallel with the recalling of the Assembly, we will engage intensively with the parties to establish the trust necessary to allow the institutions not only to function but to flourish. There is a great deal of work to be done. The Governments will do all in their power to restore the institutions and return devolved Government to those elected by the people of Northern Ireland. But the final decisions are for the parties. We hope they will seize the opportunity to move forward.


Following are remarks today by An Taoiseach, Bertie Ahern, at Navan Fort, Armagh:

The callous murder of Denis Donaldson earlier this week is a brutal reminder of Northern Ireland's tortured and tragic past. Today here in Armagh is about putting that past behind us once and for all. It's about putting politics centre stage.

It's about giving political responsibility back to Northern Ireland's politicians. When Prime Minister Blair and I met in Dublin earlier this year, we said we wanted to see the restoration of devolved partnership Government in Northern Ireland as soon as possible this year.

In recent months, the parties have been asking the Governments to give direction and leadership. We are now doing so and outlining our agreed strategy for the restoration of the Assembly and devolved government. It is fitting that the location of this meeting and announcement is Navan Fort (or Emain Macha as it is known in Irish).

As the ancient capital of Ulster, it played a central role in the very early history of this island. And so today, once again, this place of history is centre stage in the politics of this island. The message of the Irish people in 1998 was clear. They supported the Good Friday Agreement. They endorsed the new arrangements and new politics of that Agreement. Last year saw real, undeniable, progress. Progress many thought could never be achieved. The time has now come to build on all of this and to move the process on.

Anyone with any knowledge of Northern Ireland knows that leaving things as they are is neither responsible nor feasible. To do so is to store up difficulties for the future. Nobody should want that. And as two Governments we certainly don't want that. Both the Prime Minister and I are united in our conviction that the devolved government of the Good Friday Agreement is what will best allow Northern Ireland to move on and to prosper. Northern Ireland is a place of very special and difficult circumstances.

That is why we negotiated and agreed the Good Friday Agreement eight years ago next week. The potential benefits of partnership government in Northern Ireland are obvious and real. No one will disagree that devolved government can respond to local needs in a way that direct rule never can. It offers the best hope to those who are most marginalised in society. The best care for the sick. The greatest opportunity to business.

The best future for the young. And it offers the best hope of healing the deep division that is at the heart of Northern Ireland. It is what the people of Ireland, North and South, voted overwhelmingly for eight years ago. Partnership government is exactly what it says: a partnership.

The two Governments cannot make it happen. Each party must cross the threshold to Government voluntarily. But what the Governments can do is help create the conditions that are most likely to enable partnership to succeed. That is the responsibility that we are shouldering today. Today, we are placing Northern Ireland's politicians back on the path to power. We are giving them the opportunity to take power back into their own hands. There is no more obvious responsibility for an elected politician.

When the Assembly is recalled on 15th May, its primary responsibility will be to elect a First and Deputy First Minister and establish an Executive within six weeks. We believe that the arguments for forming a partnership government are compelling. And we want to see this achieved. There is a particular onus on those parties with the largest mandate and who will occupy the positions of leadership in a restored Executive. They acquired this enhanced status at the elections in 2003. They are now being asked to exercise this responsibility in a positive way.

We want them to engage with one another and everyone else to give this initiative a chance. They may not have an opportunity again for quite some time if they cannot make it work on this occasion. It is time, therefore, to talk. And it is time to agree. People are entitled to firm assurances, if there is deadlock, that it will not be allowed to continue indefinitely. The restored Assembly will, therefore, have a limited period of time to form an Executive. We have reached a point in the process where the parties must decide. We are giving them a reasonable but finite time to do so.

If an Executive cannot be successfully formed in the time available, then the Governments are also agreed that we will exercise our responsibilities to ensure that the Agreement is implemented to the maximum possible extent for the benefit of all communities.

We will do so together because at that point it will be the only way to advance a process to which we are both firmly committed and in which we have already invested enormous personal energy and determination. I have given some of the best years of my political life to this process. It is an investment that I would happily make over and over again in the interests of peace and agreement on this island. The challenge now is to finish the job. We believe that this is possible. And that is why we are here today. Our joint strategy represents the best opportunity to pave the way for the restoration of devolved government this year.

No reasonable person could see it as anything other than an honourable and fair attempt to enable the parties do the work they were elected to do. We are today urging Northern Ireland's politicians to take this opportunity. And we hope they will do so. The firm partnership and joint stewardship of the two Governments have proved vital to the peace process. I commend the Prime Minister determination's to see this process brought to successful finality.

Together, both he and I will continue to do all in our power to give effect to the will of the people of this island.


This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?