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Derry Journal

'Get Down Off King Billy's White Horse'

Friday 17th December 2004

Sinn Fein leader Martin McGuinness last night dismissed DUP leader Ian Paisley as being 'very confused, very stupid' and said it was time the unionist leader 'got down off King Billy's white horse'.

He was speaking after the DUP leader seemed to be demanding that the IRA cease decommissioning weapons unless this was done under his conditions.

Mr. McGuinness said Ian Paisley was 'very confused' and added: "He seems to be saying that he would prefer the IRA to hold on to their weapons until the DUP decide an appropriate time.

"His demand for a photograph is effectively going to prevent the IRA from putting its weapons beyond use."

Mr. McGuinness added: "Ian Paisley's strategy in demanding a photograph he is never going to get is about humiliation and also victory.

"Ian Paisley wants a photo so that he can hold it above his head like a trophy and claim a victory over the IRA.

"He also wants to be able to claim not one victory but two as he wants to also claim victory over David Trimble.


**Here's another 2-faced orange-arse-kisser not even willing to stand up for what he said.

Email out of context, Reiss tells loyal order

(Barry McCaffrey, Irish News)

The Orange Order says it has been assured by US Special Envoy
Mitchell Reiss that what he said was taken out of context when he
described loyal order parades as provocative and intimidatory.

Last July an email in which Mr Reiss described loyal order marches
as "foolish and malicious" and designed to "provoke and intimidate"
caused outrage among unionists.

In a correspondence to the Irish American priest Fr Sean McManus, Mr
Reiss wrote: "Dear Sean, Thanks for your note and the article.

"I misspoke yesterday when I said 'I did not understand' why
orangemen want to march in nationalist areas.

"Obviously, the idea is to provoke, intimidate and champion
their 'superiority'.

"We've seen this behaviour down through the ages, with many groups
and ethnicities.

"This is an old story that does not improve with the telling.

"What I meant to say, and what I thought was clearly implied, was how
foolish and malicious such actions were.

"I am sure you agree. Best Mitchell."

Unionist politicians, including the DUP's Gregory Campbell and Ulster
Unionist David McNarry, called for Mr Reiss to apologise.

The envoy later confirmed the authenticity of the email but claimed
that his comments had been taken out of context, despite the entire
email being printed by the Irish News.

However, after a meeting with Mr Reiss yesterday, a spokesman for the
Orange Order said the order had been assured by Mr Reiss that his
comments had been taken out of context.

The spokesman said Mr Reiss had expressed a willingness to learn more
about the loyal orders and said representatives had raised concerns
about Protestant alienation with the US administration.

December 18, 2004


Gunmen fire shots into taxi

Detectives have appealed for witnesses

Gunmen have fired several shots into a taxi in west Belfast.

Two men got out of the taxi in the mainly loyalist Shankill area and fired a number of shots back into the vehicle.

The incident took place in Lawnbrook Avenue off the Shankill Road shortly before 1500 GMT on Saturday.

The gunmen then made off on foot towards Cupar Street.

Police said a motive for the shooting had yet to be established. No-one was injured.

Detectives have appealed for witnesses.

Belfast Telegraph

Samaritans stand by for Christmas callers
Busy periods over festive holiday

By Marie Foy
18 December 2004

The Samaritans in Northern Ireland expect to receive around 13,000 calls in the four weeks around Christmas and the New Year.

That is a rise of 8 to 10% on the usual number of people in emotional distress who contact the charity for support.

The busiest periods are expected to be from December 20 to 24 and again from January 2.

Around 650 volunteers are on standby to help.

Last year the charity dealt with a total of 151,000 phone calls, e-mails, letters and people coming into their eight branches across the province.

Publicity officer Paul O'Hare said that traditionally the numbers of people seeking support increased significantly around this time of year.

"There are certain things that the Samaritans have found are particular to this time of year.

"Surprisingly the calls don't all come on Christmas Day. December 20 to 24 will be busy and the maximum number of lines will be switched on.

"New Year's Eve and Day will be quiet and from January 2 onwards we expect the phones to light up," he revealed.

"People call Samaritans at Christmas for the same reasons as during the year - about 60% of calls can be linked to close personal relationship issues.

"There are stresses that might be more prevalent at Christmas and New Year - such as the pressure to have a good time. Loneliness does factor in some calls, but its not an overriding issue. Isolation is different to loneliness. Financial strain is something that people talk about when they call, but financial strain happens all year round too," he continued.

"Because Christmas is supposed to be a time of celebration, people can experience crisis if they don't have a good time. Family stresses can be exacerbated when people who don't normally see each other spend time together and if someone has died or a relationship ends, Christmas can be thought of as a time of dread for those having to deal with it.

"Many people also get a sense of anticlimax and 'back to reality' after the celebrations and find their problems haven't changed."

Mr O'Hare said people of all ages used the organisation, and more young people seemed to be contacting them than in previous years.

"But given the level of emotional crisis among young people, volunteers say they are still not hearing from enough," he added.

"Over the holiday, people should keep the lines of contact open and talk about their emotions with people they trust."

The Samaritans 24-hour helpline is 08457 909090 and its website www.samaritans.org.

If you or anyone else is in crisis and would like to talk confidentially to a volunteer call 08457 909090 or email jo@samaritans.org

Belfast Telegraph

**Interesting that BT's original headline says 'US Backs...' as if everyone is behind it. I have changed it to reflect the actuality.

US Congressman backs Colombia Three sentences

By Sean O'Driscoll in New York
18 December 2004

The Chairman of the House of Representatives International Relations Committee has welcomed the sentencing of the Colombia Three and said that there was "no benign explanation" for their presence in Colombia.

Congressman Henry Hyde, who chaired hearings in April 2002 on the IRA's involvement with Farc, said that the Colombia courts had provided "appropriate punishment" for the men, for training terrorists who target innocent civilians and traffic in deadly drugs.

In a statement issued today, Congressman Hyde said that "there never was a benign explanation on why two IRA explosive experts using false passports were wondering around the jungle with known members of the narco-terrorist guerrilla group, Farc."

He was referring to two of the men, James Monaghan and Martin McCauley, who have previous convictions for IRA involvement.

He added: "The Colombian court decision may provide the answer and appropriate punishment for training terrorists who target innocents and traffic in deadly drugs to Americans and Europeans alike."

The International Relations Committee is Republican-controlled and has a strong influence on shaping the House of Representatives' attitudes to global politics.

During the April 2002 hearings, several Congressmen, most notably Massachusetts Democrat William Delahunt, had questioned the legality of the arrests.

Yesterday, Congressman Delahunt said that he had no idea as to whether the men were innocent or guilty, but said that he questioned the Colombian legal system.


£40,000 funding cut for An Chultúrlann

West Belfast’s Irish language community was dealt another blow yesterday with news that An Chultúrlann has had its funding slashed by Foras na Gaeilge.
Foras is the all-Ireland body responsible for promotion of Irish language across the whole of the island.
However the body’s credibility among local Irish activists has already plummeted with its failure to provide much-needed funding to daily Irish language paper LÁ contributing to two job losses.
An Chultúrlann received confirmation this week that its core funding has been cut by forty thousand pounds, leading to real fears of job losses at the Falls Road cultural centre.
This latest funding blow has prompted veteran gaeilgóir, Seamus Mac Seain, to say that he has “lost confidence” in Foras na Gaeilge.
“It is now all hands to the pump, after the decision of Foras to cut funding to the Cultúrlann.
“I have contributed in a voluntary capacity to the work at the Cultúrlann over the last fourteen years.
“The reality is that this could lead to job losses, and my appeal would now be for people who have a few hours to spare and who can either speak Irish or want to learn a bit more, and who would be willing to do voluntary work in the Cultúrlann, to get in touch with me.
“It is vital that the Irish language community responds to this situation vigorously, but just as we do that we should strive to bolster the service that the Cultúrlann provides to the community.
“Anyone wishing to assist in those tasks should call me on 90619178,” said Seamus.
A spokesperson for An Chultúrlann said yesterday that news of the funding cuts is “very worrying”.
“Obviously we’re talking about this affecting core costs, with all of the implications that has, and it is very worrying.”
A spokesperson for Foras na Gaeilge issued the following statement:
“With regards to our new scheme for community project Scheimeanna Pobail Gaeilge 2005/07, we have reached an interim stage.
“We hope to reach the end of the process by the end of January 2005 when we will publish a complete report on the results of this public competition.
“In the meantime it would not be right or proper for Foras na Gaeilge to comment on any one scheme while the process is still ongoing,” added the spokesperson.
Meanwhile a well-attended protest meeting to discuss the ongoing unionist campaign against LÁ heard a strong message of support from the Alliance Party Deputy Leader, Eileen Bell.
Representatives from Sinn Féin and various community organisations were also in attendance.
The meeting at An Chultúrlann was organised by Irish language umbrella organisation, Pobal and was welcomed by senior editorial staff from LÁ, including editor Ciarán Ó Pronntaigh.
“There was a great deal of anger at this meeting about the way LÁ has been treated due to this unionist campaign.
“However there was also great support from across the political spectrum, from the Alliance Party to Sinn Féin.
“That is a boost to everyone determined to make this unionist campaign against Irish cultural activities fail,” said Ciarán.

Journalist:: Jarlath Kearney


If there is anyone who would like the sports or other articles posted from Irelandclick.com that I don't put up, just leave me a comment and I will do it.



Irish News briefed top unionists over funding

Irish News representatives briefed Lady Sylvia Hermon and Lord Laird of Artigarvan before the leading unionists launched their campaign to block government funding for the Andersonstown News and its sister paper Lá.
At confidential meetings in London last June, the Irish News told Lady Hermon and her UUP colleague Lord Laird that they were opposed to government funding for the Andersonstown News Group's proposed new daily newspaper, Daily Ireland.
Following that meeting, Lady Hermon called for all funding for the Andersonstown News Group to be blocked because of this newspaper's pro-nationalist stance.
Lord Laird, meanwhile, said funding would disadvantage “the Irish News, for which I have a high regard.”

A public meeting in West Belfast on Tuesday night heard that our Irish language sister paper Lá faced closure if monies due to its Donegal office, which has been operating since June under a contract with the European programme INTERREG, weren't released.
Two members of Lá last week lost their jobs as the funds crisis bit and publication of the paper has been cut back to four days per week.
Irish News Chief Executive Dominic Fitzpatrick and press relations consultant Tom Kelly of Stakeholder Communications Limited — who also serves on the Policing Board — made up the Irish News deputation which briefed unionists.
“Though the Irish News received significant government grant-aid right right up to 1997, they’re on record as opposing similar grant-aid to our newspapers in the jobs blackspot of West Belfast,” said Andersonstown News Group spokesman Máirtín Ó Muilleoir.
“That's notwithstanding the fact that this paper group raised no protest when the Irish News, the Belfast Telegraph and other newspapers received, between them, millions of pounds of grant-aid to which they were entitled.”
Lady Sylvia Hermon was yesterday unavailable for comment. However, UUP peer Lord Laird confirmed that he had also been lobbied by the Irish News.
“I would always make time for Tom no matter what he was saying, and always do,” he said.
Lord Laird insisted that his interest in the issue is simply on the basis of ensuring fairness.
Yesterday, Tom Kelly – who said that the Irish News is one of his clients – confirmed that the Irish News had briefed the unionists, adding “there is no mystery to the Irish News briefing”.
“I have been lobbied on behalf of newspapers, so I can't imagine why other people wouldn't be.”
A later statement issued jointly by Tom Kelly and the Irish News read: “I can confirm that the Irish News is one of the clients of Stakeholder Communications Limited and is one of a number of media clients on whose behalf Stakeholder Communications Limited acts. As with all our clients, the work of Stakeholder Communications includes briefings and PR initiatives both in Great Britain or Ireland.”

Journalist:: Staff Reporter


Multi-million investment for area in need

A multi-million pound investment in the Greater Poleglass area will lead to a massive boost in the retail, commercial, social and leisure services for West Belfast.

And the £3.5 million funds injection from the Integrated Development Fund (IDF) has been warmly welcomed by local politicians, community activists and statutory workers.

£21 million of IDF funding — secured on the back of the West Belfast Task Force report — has been earmarked for economic regeneration throughout the West Belfast constituency.

Colin Neighbourhood’s share of that – a £3.5 million windfall - has resulted from an application submitted by local MLA Michael Ferguson and Eamon Foster, Director of Glenwood Business Centre, designed to target the physical regeneration of the area by helping local businesses and improving the environment, community services and transport infrastructure.

Following news that the IDF application was successful, representatives from Belfast Regeneration Office, the Department of Social Development, Lisburn Council, the Department of Regional Development, the Roads Service, the Housing Executive and other agencies met last week to agree an interdepartmental approach.

Councillor Michael Ferguson said that as well as formulating an agreed business plan for the area, efforts will now be made to access immediate funding for a consultation process involving government departments and the community and private sectors.

Commenting upon the developments, Councillor Ferguson said: "The future of the people and particularly the children of Poleglass, Twinbrook, Lagmore and the Dunmurry Lane area is dependent upon our ability to agree a vision for the future that allows us to exploit our peripherality from two cities rather than suffer from it.

"Every neighbourhood needs a heart that has the retail, commercial, social and leisure infrastructure that offers the jobs, resources and services to keep that heart alive and sustain those living off it.

"We hope this £3.5 million will help lever added value and jump-start the physical regeneration of the Colin Neighbourhood and contribute to the other tremendous work and plans of our local schools, health services, community, voluntary and business sectors," said Michael Ferguson.

Highlighting the positive impact of the funding, Eamon Foster of Glenwood Business Centre said the investment is "necessary".

"This visionary project will act as a catalyst for change bringing new economy and social revitalisation into the area. It will have an immediate visible impact on the Stewartstown Road for all the community by enhancing the daily lives of the people who live, work and play in the Colin area.

"The physical redevelopment will bring new employment and training opportunities, as well as the much needed capital investment, assisted by a partnership approach with the statutory bodies and local authority to bring the project to fruition and achieve long-term sustainability."

Colin Glen Trust Chief Executive, Tim Duffy, welcomed the "major environmental improvements this project will bring".

"This fits neatly with our efforts to improve the environment and through this the quality of life of all who live and work in this part of West Belfast," said Mr Duffy.

Journalist:: Jarlath Kearney


West wakes up to waste

Litter wardens set to tackle rubbish hot spots as West Belfast cleans up its act

The streets of West Belfast have seen a dramatic improvement in their levels of cleanliness in the last year, a Belfast City Council report revealed this week.

The report, which indicates the cleanliness of each area across Belfast, through a street cleanliness index, is an independent survey which takes a random five per cent sample of streets throughout the city, with the score of 70 being regarded as an acceptable standard by the Tidy Britain Group.

Awarded scores of 65, 73 and 73 for the period July to September 2004, west Belfast demonstrated a dramatic increase on its previous scores of 70, 60 and 65 and, over the summer period, maintained a high level of cleanliness that out-scored the average for the city by six points.

Speaking after the publication of the report, Gerard O’Neill, chairperson of the Contract Services Committee, said he was delighted with the scores received in west Belfast but highlighted the issue of public conscience in relation to the issues of littering and graffiti.

"We are slowly but surely beginning to get on top of the issue of cleanliness in our areas, and this is also due to the fact that we have a wide front approach that has seen school groups and community groups get involved with clean-ups," said Gerard.

"I had previously felt that the state of some areas was due to a lack of City Council provision, and that is why we asked for a review of the contract services indexing, but it soon became clear that it is important to have a good quality clean-up service from the council, but also to change people’s attitudes as far as littering and dumping are concerned."

Speaking of the need for a change in attitudes to our environment, Gerard said that he felt there was a need to make the issue of littering an "anti-social" one, and added that "people’s ideas need to be challenged and they need to be made accountable for their actions."

In addition to the littering campaign that is currently underway, Gerard said that a pilot scheme is to be implemented in the next few weeks in all areas of Belfast, including the lower Falls area of west Belfast, that will see a litter warden allocated to the area to help residents deal with ‘hot spots’ in the area in need of immediate attention.

"It is a pilot scheme," said Gearad, "that will go into these areas and highlight issues of ownership of land that needs maintained, graffiti, a whole range of issues, that need to be addressed to get the cleanliness index improved again."

Journalist:: Ciara McGuigan

Irish Echo

'The Chef' ponders a lonely Christmas

By Ray O'Hanlon

Larry Zaitschek fears the possible consequences of going to Belfast. So his Belfast-based lawyers flew to meet him in New York last week. Solicitors Kevin Winters and Paddy Murray, along with barrister Neil Fox, are the new legal team representing Larry Jon Zaitschek -- "Larry the Chef" to those familiar with a case that is about to mark its third yuletide but remains a long way from being fully unwrapped.

As cases go, however, this one is more of a legal standoff than a court proceeding.

Zaitschek, a U.S. citizen, faces potential extradition to Northern Ireland over his alleged role in the St. Patrick's Day 2002 break-in at the Castlereagh police facility, where he had worked as a chef.

But close to three years after the incident, no papers have been served on the New Yorker.

Ordinarily, that might be reassuring to an individual facing forced departure from native soil. But Larry the Chef has been stewing. He sees himself caught in a Catch-22 situation, one that has the potential to drag on for years.

Zaitschek denies any role in the Castlereagh affair. But if you ask him about the potential extradition warrant winging his way from Belfast, he will give it short order.

His plea of innocence to the Castlereagh caper runs second to his desire for parental access to his 6-year-old son, Pearse.

Zaitschek, who lives in Manhattan, has not been in contact with Pearse for over a year. And that was just a late night phone call.

Zaitschek doesn't know anything of Pearse's whereabouts other than that he is living with his mother, Zaitschek's ex-wife, somewhere in the Northern Ireland version of America's witness protection program.

Zaitschek quietly visited Northern Ireland in January of this year but was unable to locate his son.

The Police Service of Northern Ireland didn't spot Zaitschek, this despite a thick police dossier on the man currently in the possession of the Director of Public Prosecutions in Belfast and a case that is, according to that office, still under "active consideration."

Back in New York, Zaitschek doesn't have to hide. At one point he was under FBI surveillance, but he believes that has eased off in recent months.

Zaitschek and his legal team share the view that his case might have faded away if a political deal had been reached in Northern Ireland last week. But the failure to nail down a working agreement has thrown that theory out of the window. They also agree that another trip to Northern Ireland would likely risk immediate arrest and charges to follow.

Pearse, meanwhile, recently celebrated his sixth birthday. Zaitschek was able to ship over a present, ironically via the PSNI. But that was it. There was no happy birthday phone call from dad. And the gift arrived late.

The last time father and son spoke was Nov. 16, 2003.

"This can't go on indefinitely. What are they doing to my child?" Zaitschek said.

It is this all too evident despair on the part of the man that prompted his newly acquired lawyers to fly the Atlantic last week and meet him for the first time.

"We are seeking clarification as to what they intend to do," Winters said. "Larry needs to know what will happen to him if he returns to Northern Ireland to see his child."

Winters said he was especially concerned about his client's position should the revised U.S.-UK extradition treaty become law. The treaty was not passed by the Senate before the 108th Congress adjourned last week, but it will come before the 109th when it convenes Jan. 4.

Zaitschek was sitting right in the crosshairs of the treaty, Winters said.

"He is the number one candidate to be affected by it," he said.

Winters said that there had been no move to extradite his client under the existing treaty. This, he said, was either due to political sensitivities behind the case or a lack of real evidence.

"But with this new treaty, they could just come and lift him," barrister Neil Fox said.

Solicitor Paddy Murray said it was time to up the ante on their client's behalf.

For Zaitschek, the most immediate concern is his son and the fact that another Christmas looks set to pass without him seeing, or even speaking, to Pearse, who is a U.S. citizen.

"There are questions over the status of this so-called protection program," he said. "It should be challenged."

Zaitschek, meanwhile, has bought Christmas gifts for his son. Making sure they get to Pearse will be the next task for his legal team. All three, in the spirit of the season, said they were ready and willing to play the role of the wise men.

The three lawyers duly flew back to Belfast last weekend, their dry legal papers augmented by the kind of things that will bring joy to a 6-year-old boy.

Larry Zaitschek, meanwhile, remained in New York hoping that the gifts would reach his son by Christmas Day.

This story appeared in the issue of December 15-21, 2004

Irish Independent

Ahern spurns Colombia 3 as Interpol joins the hunt

THE Government last night ruled out an amnesty for the Colombia Three and said they could not be included in the special peace deal being worked out for terrorists "on the run."

As an international hunt for the fugitive republicans was stepped up, Taoiseach Bertie Ahern called on them to return to Bogota to lodge a counter-appeal against their 17-year jail terms.

Arrest warrants for James Monaghan, Martin McCauley and Niall Connolly are to be circulated among 182 countries through Interpol whose director in Colombia, Victor Cruz, accepted they were no longer in that country.

Mr Cruz said it was presumed the trio had crossed the border using false documents and Interpol was working closely with the Colombian justice system to issue the international warrants.

Sinn Fein's Caitriona Ruane, who heads the Bring Them Home campaign, last night indicated that the three were more likely to attempt to overturn the jail sentences through an international route rather than a Colombian court. Ms Ruane, who flies out to Bogota this morning to consult with the men's lawyers, told the Irish Independent: "I have lost total confidence in the Colombian legal system and this case is only the tip of the iceberg.

"The real question is why are three Irish citizens who were declared innocent after a 10-month trial are now in hiding to protect their lives."

She said that even their lawyers did not know the men's current whereabouts and she had not seen them since they came out of jail six and a half months ago.

"We turned down the offer of Colombian state protection because of their links with right wing groups and decided their best hope of staying alive until the outcome of the appeal was to go into hiding.

"Our legal options now include an appeal through the Inter-American Commission for Human Rights, which is the equivalent of the European Court of Human Rights or some mechanism involving the United Nations," she added.

While in Bogota Ms Ruane will seek a meeting with the Colombian president to outline her view that the jailing had been a political decision that was totally unacceptable.

Meanwhile, US officials in Washington said intelligence reports indicated the three had escaped by driving to Venezuela and then they possibly continued to Cuba where Connolly had been Sinn Fein's representative.

The Taoiseach and Tanaiste Mary Harney both urged the men to return to fight their case in the courts. Mr Ahern said the Government's role was consular but at a human level they could understood the feelings of the men's families.

Ms Harney said: "We don't want to cut across the judicial system in another country; our concern must be focused on humanitarian and human rights issues.

Mr Ahern and Ms Harney both said there was no reason why the controversy should create further problems for the peace process.

Tom Brady, Susan Garraty and Gene McKenna


Irish trio 'have fled Colombia'

Sibylla Brodzinsky in Bogotá and Sandra Laville
Saturday December 18, 2004
The Guardian

Sinn Féin members were last night on their way to Colombia as Interpol joined in the hunt for three men linked to the IRA who are on the run from police.

Officials in Bogotá said yesterday Niall Connolly, 38, James Monaghan, 58, and Michael McCauley, 41, who were sentenced by the appeal court on Thursday to 17 years in jail for training Marxist rebels in Colombia, had fled the country. Luis Camilio Osorio, the attorney general, asked for international cooperation to help find them.

The men went into hiding last June after being released from prison where they were serving sentences for travelling on false documents. But they were ordered to stay in the country until the outcome of a prosecution appeal against their acquittal on the more serious charge of training Farc rebels. On Thursday the appeal court overturned the not guilty verdicts and imposed the long jail terms.

Caitriona Ruane, a Sinn Féin Northern Ireland assembly member who has campaigned for the men's release, was flying to Colombia last night with colleagues to talk to their lawyers and officials as defence lawyers considered making an extraordinary appeal to the supreme court.

She dismissed claims that the men had fled Colombia but refused to be drawn on their whereabouts. Ms Ruane saw the men shortly after they were whisked out of Bogotá's La Modelo prison to go into hiding claiming their lives were in danger from rightwing death squads.

Pedro Mahecha, Monaghan's defence attorney, disputed the idea that they had left the country. However he declined to say whether he or lawyers for the other two were in contact with the men.


Christmas deal 'unlikely' - Ahern

A breakthrough in the political process is unlikely before Christmas, Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern has admitted.

Mr Ahern said he was not going to ask Irish Government officials involved in the process to work over Christmas as they "needed time for rest and reflection".

Instead he called for a renewal of efforts to reach a comprehensive settlement in the new year.

He also suggested the local parties needed some space to work out the way forward.

Mr Ahern was briefing journalists at a European summit in Brussels on Friday.

Proposals published jointly by the two governments earlier this month included a plan for the IRA to allow photographs to be taken of its weapons being put beyond use in the presence of independent witnesses.

The DUP argued that this was necessary to ensure that there was confidence in the act of decommissioning.

But Sinn Fein said the IRA would "not submit to a process of humiliation".

The political institutions in Northern Ireland have been suspended since October 2002 amid allegations of IRA intelligence gathering at the Northern Ireland Office.

The DUP and Sinn Fein became the largest unionist and nationalist parties after assembly elections in November 2003.

However, the two parties have not been able to reach a deal which would allow a power-sharing executive to be formed, and Northern Ireland continues to be governed by direct rule from Westminster.


Belfast Telegraph

Fears over severity of men's sentence

By Conor Sweeney in Brussels and Gene McKenna
17 December 2004

The Republic's government has concerns about the severity of the sentence imposed on the Colombia Three, foreign affairs Minister Dermot Ahern has said.

The minister said they were examining the verdict and would be looking at the issue on humanitarian grounds and would make representations to the Colombian government.

Expressing concern for the men's families, Mr Ahern said they would have to see what was possible by way of getting some relief for the men through contacts with the Colombian government.

Mr Ahern said: "We are surprised, first of all, because a lower court completely exonerated these men and now they have got a very severe sentence.

"The sentence is pretty tough and we will have to look at the 120-page judgment to see if there is any grain of help or promise for them"

He pointed out that it had always been made clear to them in contacts with the Colombian Government that the judiciary was totally separate.

His information, he said, was that there was another legal option, an appeal to the Supreme Court. But that could take "some considerable time". But if the Government intervened with the Colombian Government it would have to be "at the ultimate end" of the legal formalities.

There was supportive reaction from the chairman of the US House of Representatives' international relations committee to the court's decision.

"There never was a benign explanation of why two IRA explosive experts using false passports were wandering around in the Colombian jungle with known members of the narco-terrorist group Farc," said Republican chairman Henry Hyde.

"Today's decision provides the answer and appropriate punishment for training terrorists who target innocents and who traffic in deadly drugs to Americans and Europeans alike."

Belfast Telegraph

Police probe '9-year-old drug dealer'

By Nevin Farrell
17 December 2004

Shock claims that children as young as nine- years-old are dealing drugs in Ballymena are set to be investigated by the police, it was revealed today.

The disturbing allegations were made at a meeting of the District Policing Partnership in the town last night.

Ballymena police commander, Superintendent Terry Shevlin, said that if information was provided to him the case would be investigated and he said if it turned out to be true it would be "shocking".

He said a nine-year-old dealing drugs would be "quite something".

An experienced community group official, who did not wish to be named for fear of his home being attacked, told the meeting he was aware of two primary school children involved in the supply of drugs and he believed they must be the "youngest dealers" in the Co Antrim town.

He said one of the children was as young as nine and the other a "little bit older".

And he said information had already been passed to the police in the case.

The community representative also said the nine-year-old was involved in selling Ecstasy tablets.

And he alleged the boy had drugs in school and that dealing was taking place near the school.

At the meeting Supt Shevlin also said increased efforts by the Assets Recovery Agency against drug lords meant "it's payback time".

He told the District Policing Partnership meeting: "The people that keep their hands off the drugs and get other people to do their dirty work, we will be pointing anybody in Ballymena in the direction of the Assets Recovery Agency, if we can't prosecute them."

He was responding to claims from DPP member, Councillor Maurice Mills (DUP), who said that despite having success against "low level" dealers the police never seemed to prosecute certain other big players.

The councillor said: "These people have been operating for years and there never seems to be a finger put on them."

Mr Mills said people were greatly concerned as they passed information to the PSNI but the police seemed to "get so far but then seem to lose it".

But Supt Shevlin said the Assets Recovery Agency had been involved in a case in recent days in Coleraine which outlined the police's intentions. He also pointed to a major drugs seizure in Glarryford near Ballymena in May this year which police valued at £1.75m.

Belfast Telegraph

Review over terror laws on way

By Brian Walker, London Editor
17 December 2004

A rapid and wholesale review of anti-terrorist law since the 9/11 al-Qaida attacks has been forced on the Government by the law lords' devastating ruling that detention without trial of foreign suspects is contrary to basic human rights.

Pressure is now mounting on them to allow evidence obtained by bugging to be accepted in some trials and to create a new offence of "being connected with terrorism" that could be subject to trial.

The Government is faced with the conundrum of framing workable new laws to prevent terrorist acts, relying on intelligence evidence that can't be disclosed.

Within hours of taking over from David Blunkett, the new Home Secretary Charles Clarke found himself temporarily defying the highest court on the land, declaring that although the Act under which 11 men are held is now contrary to human rights law, they would continue to be detained until Parliament reviews the ruling early in the New Year.

In a written Commons statement, he said: "I will not be releasing the detainees, whom I have reason to believe are a significant threat to our security."

Speaking for an 8-1 majority in a panel extended from the normal five, the senior law lord Lord Bingham of Cornhill ruled that detention discriminated against foreign nationals because domestic suspects could remain free.

Despite the "catastrophe" of 9/11, detention was "disproportionate to the international terrorist threat."

Lord Hoffman declared: " The real threat to the life of the nation comes not from terrorism but from laws such as these."

Belfast Telegraph

Colombia Three 'are on the run'
Men thought to have fled country

By Mary Fitzgerald and Noel McAdam
17 December 2004

Three Irish republicans convicted of training Farc rebels in Colombia were believed to be on the run today amid warnings the controversy could have implications for the Northern Ireland peace process.

Lurgan man Martin McCauley, James Monaghan, from Donegal, and Niall Connolly, from Dublin, are suspected of fleeing the country where they face 17 years in prison after an appeals judge overturned a ruling which last April acquitted them of charges of training Farc guerrillas in bombmaking techniques.

Interpol has been called in as Colombian authorities step up their search for the three men, it has been reported.

After the prosecution successfully appealed against the decision yesterday, a court in Bogota issued warrants for their arrest.

The trio had been in hiding since their release from the city's La Modelo prison in June.

Reports from Colombia suggested that the men had left Colombia following yesterday's decision but their supporters dismissed such claims.

Caitriona Ruane, the Sinn Fein MLA, who has headed the Bring Them Home campaign, said reports that the men had fled had originated from the Colombian attorney general's office.

"I wouldn't trust anything that comes out of that office," she said, vowing to launch an international fight against yesterday's ruling.

"This should never have happened, this is a political decision that we were not expecting. It is scandalous," she said.

Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams also voiced outrage at the outcome.

He said: "This is a grievous miscarriage of justice which will come as no great surprise given the record of human rights abuses by the Colombian government."

Unionist politicians, however, welcomed the ruling. The DUP said the Government should consider moving ahead to restore devolution without Sinn Fein as a result.

Assembly member Ian Paisley Jnr said: "This vindicates the hardline stance we have been taking all along and the Government would be justified now in allowing the train to leave the station without Sinn Fein."

He also called on the Irish and American governments to give commitments the men will be returned to Colombia or jailed if they turn up in their jurisdictions.

So far lawyers for the men have refused to comment on the decision, saying they wish to study all the details before taking action.

It is understood, however, that supporters are considering launching an appeal to the country's Supreme Court. Such an appeal could take years.

Campaigners will make arrangements in the next few days to fly out to South America.

Ms Ruane has also contacted the Irish government, calling for high-level intervention.

The three men, all well-known republicans, were arrested in August 2001 at Bogota International Airport and detained on suspicion of teaching Farc rebels combat techniques and travelling with false documentation.

The arrests sparked off a huge political storm in Northern Ireland and threatened to derail the peace process.

Although charges of IRA membership were dropped, the three men were found guilty of travelling on false passports.

They strenuously denied allegations that they were training Farc guerrillas, claiming instead they were in the region to observe the Colombian peace process.

Although the most damning charges were lifted in April, Judge Jaime Acosta ordered the trio to stay in the country until an appeal by the prosecution was heard.

After their release the three men immediately went into hiding, claiming they were targets for right-wing paramilitaries.


Hunt on for convicted Irishmen

Arrest warrants have been issued for the three men

A nationwide hunt is under way to try to find three Irish republicans convicted of training Marxist rebels in Colombia.

Niall Connolly, Martin McCauley and James Monaghan were sentenced to 17 years after an appeal court reversed their acquittals on the charge.

The Colombian authorities claimed the men had fled the country before they could be re-arrested.

But Sinn Fein's Caitriona Ruane said she was suspicious of the claims.

The men vanished while on bail awaiting the court of appeal decision on Thursday.

There are reports the Colombian authorities have asked Interpol for help in tracing them.

Colombian Attorney General Luis Camilo Osorio is reported to have told Reuters news agency on Friday that they would try to establish where the trio had gone.

"We know they left the country, but we will try to find out what country has received them in order to see that justice is done," he said.

However, Ms Ruane, who has long campaigned for the men's release, said she did not trust the claim that the trio had fled from Colombia.

She said she had no idea where the men were but she intended to go to the country on Saturday.

"The last time I saw them was the night we took them out of jail in June," she said.

Party President Gerry Adams has said the verdict was "outrageous" and a "grievous miscarriage of justice".

Irish Foreign Minister Dermot Ahern said that the appeal court decision had come as "a surprise".

"My initial reaction is surprise at the overturning of the verdict, given the complete exoneration in the lower court, and secondly, the severity of the sentence," he said.

He added that Irish officials would contact the Colombian authorities about the case.

However, Ireland's deputy prime minister Mary Harney said she had "no reason to believe" that a miscarriage of justice was involved in the case.

Ms Harney said that the government wanted to see the men appeal their sentences, and that she did not see why they should have a negative impact on the peace process.

The men, who had been accused of being IRA members, were found guilty in the April trial of travelling on false passports.

They were acquitted of training Farc guerrillas, but the Colombian attorney general appealed against that decision.

A judge had ordered the men to remain in the country pending the outcome of the appeal.

Hardline unionists said the affair proved Sinn Fein was "not fit" to share power in Northern Ireland.

Airport arrests

Ulster Unionist South Antrim MP David Burnside said: "It's time we accepted the proof that republican Sinn Fein leadership still have a terrorist threat, still are involved in widespread criminality throughout the whole of Ireland, have links with international terrorist organisations.

"They are not fit to be in the government of Northern Ireland. It's time we moved on."

DUP assembly member Ian Paisley Jr said the "decision has far wider ramifications than what's happening in the judicial system in Colombia".

McCauley, 41, is from Lurgan in County Armagh, Monaghan, 58, is from County Donegal and Connolly, 38, is from Dublin.

The three had been detained at Bogota's El Dorado airport in August 2001 as they were about to board a flight out of the country.

Their arrest led to speculation that Irish republicans had formed links with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Farc).

The main charge against them was that they had been teaching the rebels urban terrorism techniques.

The Irishmen strenuously denied this, saying they were in the area to monitor the fledgling peace process as well as being eco-tourists.


Belfast Telegraph

Mobile PSNI stations plan

By Jonathan McCambridge, Crime Correspondent
16 December 2004

The PSNI is developing plans for a new form of mobile police station which could be used in areas where bases are to close, it can be revealed today.

Officers have recently visited England where they viewed a number of police stations based in vans to gather ideas.

It is now hoped that plans for an Ulster version of the mobile station will be ready early in the New Year.

The planned station would have a number of facilities and would be linked by computer to police bases. The first area where the new mobile could be used may be Castlereagh, where a consultation process has begun on the future of Carryduff police station.

If it were closed, a number of facilities will be moved to Dundonald station, combined with the mobile station.

Superintendent Gordon Reid said that it was part of his determination to deliver community policing.

"As a means of increasing visibility of our officers, one exciting option would be to look at a mobile station.

"This would be a van which would have a meeting area, an interview area and would be linked by computer to our main station. It could have a digital signboard with information relevant to the community it is in.

"Some of my officers have gone to England to look at designs but they will decide for themselves what it will look like and what will best meet the needs of the community.

"We hope to have a final design next month and have entered into consultations to find what sort of policing people want."

Belfast Telegraph: "

US envoy still hopeful of deal
Ambassador tells of latest 'ideas'

By Chris Thornton, Political Correspondent
16 December 2004

Sinn Fein and the DUP remain committed to completing a political deal in spite of the fallout from the deadlock over photographic proof of IRA decommissioning, American envoy Mitchell Reiss said today.

After meeting the parties and the British and Irish governments at Hillsborough yesterday, Ambassador Reiss said he has no doubts about the willingness to complete the deal that stalled last week over the IRA's refusal to allow photographs of an arms disposal.

And he repeated the British and Irish governments' view that photographs remain part of the formula to resolve the situation, despite Sinn Fein's position that the issue is "dead and gone and buried in Ballymena".

Ambassador Reiss, who was continuing discussions with Irish officials in Dublin today, told the Belfast Telegraph that photographs remain the central issue. He said other concerns that have arisen - including the missing IRA pledge on criminality - have not become deal-breakers.

The US envoy said some "interesting ideas" were discussed at Hillsborough, and a deal remains "very close".

"Everybody at Hillsborough came with a broad agenda," he said. "Some people had some constructive ideas. Other people were a bit more critical of the deal, but I think if there was a theme that transcended political partisanship, it was that everybody wants a deal to get done, and to get it done as soon as possible.

"We're going to continue working on this," he said. "At this point, we're entertaining all things that can contribute to finishing this deal.

"Photos are clearly the key issue right now.There are concerns about other aspects of the agreement. That's understandable, but I don't think there are any deal-breakers there.

"So I think we're very close. I think that people should focus on the larger picture in terms of how far we've come. The distance, not just since Leeds Castle, but especially from last year".

He described the stalled deal as a "significant accomplishment" because it had closed down long-standing issues of concern.

"It's understandable that people focus on the divides that remain to be bridged," he said, "but let's not overlook all the issues that have been settled ? the fact that Sinn Fein have sat down with Hugh Orde, the fact that we're talking about full IRA decommissioning now, it's just the modalities that are up for debate.


Surprise return for inquiry

The operation at the Guildhall has been dismantled

The Bloody Sunday Inquiry is to reconvene to hear the evidence from a man known only as Witness X.

He denies telling the police in 1972 that he fired two magazines from a rifle on Bloody Sunday.

The inquiry has been investigating the deaths of 14 civilians shot by soldiers during a civil rights march in Londonderry in January 1972.

It was thought the tribunal had finally ended last month, after seven years and at a cost of about £150m.

Bloody Sunday inquiry facts
Lord Saville held his first hearing at Derry's Guildhall in April 1998.
The inquiry began to hold public hearings in March 2000
The tribunal has now sat for 433 days.
It has heard evidence from 921 witnesses.
There have been 1,555 written statements from witnesses.
The final bill will be around £150m.
The final report is expected next summer.

Witness X 'to reveal identity'
The whole operation at the Guildhall in Derry, where much of the tribunal took place, has been dismantled including computers and video screens.

It is understood that computer hard drives have been destroyed because of the sensitive information held on them.

It involves bringing back the three judges, various legal teams and staff to hear this one witness.

Witness X is alleged to have told the police in 1972 that he was a member of the Provisional IRA and that he fired a gun from Glenfada Park.

Many of the people were killed in this area, and the soldiers said they saw gunmen there.

Witness X denies this and says he has never been a member of the IRA.

A subpoena was released last January for him to give evidence, but he did not attend because of medical reasons.

Soldiers shot 13 people dead in Derry on Bloody Sunday

If he does give evidence this time, he will be anonymous, behind screens and may appear via video link.

After hearing from more than 900 witnesses, the inquiry was thought to have finished hearing evidence when Lord Saville and his two colleagues retired to write their final report last month.

The Bloody Sunday inquiry was established in 1998 by Prime Minister Tony Blair after a campaign by families of those killed and injured.

Lord Saville of Newdigate and the Commonwealth judges accompanying him on the inquiry began hearing evidence in March 2000.

The inquiry has heard evidence from leading politicians, including the prime minister at the time, Sir Edward Heath, civilians, policemen, soldiers and IRA members.

Lord Saville's final report and conclusions are not expected to be made public until next summer.


Car rammings 'fantasy' says SF

(Catherine Morrison, Irish News)

A Sinn Féin assembly member has described recent reports of cars
ramming police checkpoints in south Armagh as "fantasy".

In the last two months, police have recorded four incidents involving
vehicles smashing through checkpoints near Crossmaglen.

In one of the most serious incidents, a police officer was taken to
hospital with serious head injuries after he was struck by a blue
Peugeot 406 while manning a joint police and army checkpoint outside
the village.

Speaking last night (Monday) as the British army launched an
investigation after yet another incident, Newry and South Armagh
assembly member Conor Murphy said local people were openly
questioning whether these reported incidents had taken place.

"At a time when Sinn Féin have placed the issue of British army
demilitarisation at the heart of the political agenda many local
people are questioning the validity of reports, all of which emanate
from the British Army or PSNI press operations, about a number of
cars breaking through checkpoints in the Crossmaglen area,'' he said.

"It seems strange that there have been more of these incidents
reported in the last three months than in the previous 10 years.''

Mr Murphy said the latest report of a car failing to stop at a
checkpoint south of Crossmaglen in the early hours of Saturday
morning, was being used as justification for the firing of live
rounds at a "passing car".

"There is a feeling locally that many of these stories about British
soldiers diving into hedges or receiving injuries from passing cars
are fantasy and part of a very clear agenda to justify the continuing
presence of the British military in south Armagh,'' he added.

A British army spokesman rejected the assembly member's comments
as "flippant remarks".

"I sincerely hope these suggestions are not representative of the
views of a political party claiming to hold a democratic mandate in a
society where law and order will prevail,'' he said.

"Police and soldiers have been perilously close to serious injury or
worse as a result of dangerous driving by individuals bent on
avoiding – for whatever reason – vehicle checkpoints.

"Checkpoints are set up to maintain law and order and will continue
for as long as it necessary to ensure the rule of law.''

He added that the reason there had been increased media coverage of
such incidents in recent months was because the police and army
were "no longer prepared'' to let the incidents go unreported.

December 15, 2004


Irish trio sentenced in Colombia

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Arrest warrants have been issued for the three men

Three Irishmen initially acquitted of training Marxist rebels in Colombia have now been sentenced to 17 years following an appeal.

The prosecution successfully appealed the acquittal of Niall Connolly, Martin McCauley and James Monaghan.

Arrest warrants have been issued for the three men, who have remained on bail in Colombia.

The three, who had been accused of being IRA members, were found guilty of travelling on false passports.

They were acquitted of the more serious offences by a lower court earlier this year, but the Colombian Attorney General has now successfully appealed against that decision.

Sinn Fein MLA Catriona Ruane of the Bring them Home campaign said Thursday's verdict was "military justice" which would be fought.


A judge had ordered them to remain in the country pending an appeal by the prosecution against their not guilty verdict on training Farc guerillas.

McCauley, 41, is from Lurgan in County Armagh, Monaghan, 58, is from County Donegal and Connolly, 38, is from Dublin.

The three had been detained at Bogota's El Dorado airport in August 2001 as they were about to board a flight out of the country.

Their arrest led to speculation that Irish republicans had formed links with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Farc).

The main charge against them was that they had been teaching the rebels the techniques of urban terrorism.

The Irishmen strenuously denied this, saying they were in the area to monitor the fledgling peace process as well as being eco-tourists.

Sinn Féin News

Prison visits, a driver's tale: BY LAURA FRIEL

As part of An Phoblacht's new 'Living History' series, exploring the lives and experiences of republicans involved in or touched by the conflict, An Phoblacht's LAURA FRIEL talks to THOMAS McGUIGAN, from the Short Strand in Belfast, who drove the families and friends of republican prisoners to and from jails throughout Ireland for over a quarter of a century.

Without the handful of dedicated drivers who over many years manned minibuses in all the major nationalist cities and towns, in Belfast, Derry, Lurgan and Armagh, many families would never have been able to attend the jails regularly and give their sons, daughters, husbands and wives the support they needed.

"I guess I started around 1976 and finished when the Kesh closed and the prisoners were released as part of the Good Friday Agreement," says Thomas.

"I offered to drive the bus to Armagh jail initially because my niece Ellen was a POW there," says Thomas. "She became active after the death of my only sister, who was killed by loyalists."

Thomas drove families to Crumlin Road, Long Kesh, Armagh and Portlaoise. "In Belfast, there were six minibuses and we'd drive families to the Kesh two or three times a day. Sometimes the demand was very high. After the first group of families arrived at the jail, we'd return to fill the buses again and drive back to the jail, picking up families returning from visits in the interim. It was very busy."

Each minibus held around 14 passengers and in the early days, the vehicles had been pretty ropey. "It was a challenge to keep the buses on the road," says Thomas. "They were constantly breaking down and some were so leaky that if it rained during the journey the passengers put up their umbrellas inside to keep dry." But as time went on, the quality and reliability of the vehicles improved.

By 1986, Thomas had become a full time driver for the jail runs. "I got to know all the families and watched many of the children growing up. Despite the many hardships faced by prisoners' families on the bus, at least there was always a bit of craic," says Thomas.

"I remember one woman in particular because she had five children and they'd all be standing patiently waiting for the Portlaoise bus at six thirty in the morning outside the Sinn Féin centre on the Falls. She must have been up so early to have all those children washed, dressed and fed in time. Many women visiting the jails had two or three children."

And the journey of three and a half hours from Belfast to Portlaoise was long enough, made even more so by constant Crown force harassment. "We were always stopped and searched, sometimes by the RUC, other times the UDR and the British Army," says Thomas. And it made no difference which jail they were visiting.

"We could be held at a checkpoint or pulled over to the side of the road for as long as two hours. It was very hard on the children. It was freezing in winter and too hot in summer," says Thomas.

Thomas remembers the visits to Portlaoise as the worst. "The visiting room was like a long corridor with a bench partitioned into cubicles. In front of the prisoner there was a wire grill from floor to ceiling and in front of that a Perspex barrier and then another grill in front of the visitors," says Thomas. "It was tough on the families, particularly those with children. Later, the visiting conditions improved."

John Davey, in the days before he was elected as a Sinn Féin councillor, drove the Lurgan bus and Thomas remembers John describing a particular incident on the way to the Kesh.

"The Brits stopped the bus and told John to pull the vehicle to the side of the road. The soldiers were waving the other traffic on and John suddenly saw red. He threw the bus across the road, blocking all the traffic and when a soldier demanded the ignition keys he threw the keys into a field," says Thomas.

"I asked John if he was afraid he'd be stuck there for hours with the keys lost," says Thomas. 'Don't be daft,' said John, 'I had a spare set in my trouser pocket'."

Fra Toner from Ballymurphy organised the minibuses. He was also a driver. One afternoon a loyalist sniper set up an ambush.

"It was just past the West Circular Road, outside the Orange Hall. Fra always drove past around 2pm so he was an easy target. The gunman opened fire and shot Fra several times at the wheel. He survived but one bullet was lodged too close to his spine to be removed. He was always in pain after then, never the same, and he died a few years later."

In another incident, women and children waiting to be picked up outside the centre were threatened by loyalists in a passing car. "After that, I always picked families up at their homes," says Thomas. "In a more serious incident, the Armagh bus came under fire and a number of women and children were injured. Luckily, no one was seriously hurt."

Thomas remembers driving the bus to the Kesh during the no wash protests and hunger strikes. "The visitors always tried to keep their spirits up with a chat but the atmosphere was different. You could feel the tension and the worry on their faces."

But it was all smiles on the day republican prisoners were freed under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement. Thomas and some of the other drivers drove to the Kesh, just in case anyone needed a lift home. "All the families organised cars, so the minibuses weren't needed. It was a glorious morning, just right for the occasion. I knew all the families and it was wonderful to watch their faces as their fathers, husband and sons were released," says Thomas.



DUP claim the IRA may be about to decommission

15/12/2004 - 20:05:56

The DUP leader Ian Paisley has revealed that confidential sources which have been accurate in the past have told him the IRA may be about to go ahead and decommission its weapons.

Mr Paisley has said however that unless this happens with independent witnesses and photographs, the rest of the two governments proposals that his party has signed up to will be at risk.

He was speaking at Hillsborough, County Down after talks with the Northern Secretary and Minister for Foreign Affairs.

“I want to make it clear that if the IRA does not perform it’s obligation as envisaged in the comprehensive agreement then it's refusal to meet these terms will have very serous consequence in respect of the DUP’s attitude to other elements of the comprehensive agreement.”

Irish Independent

US visa violators are not being helped, says TD

THE Government was accused last night of not doing enough to help Irish people arrested in the US for visa violations.

Fine Gael TD John Deasy made the charge as attempts were being made to secure the release of two men being held for the past six weeks in a top security Denver prison since being picked up for overstaying on their holiday visas.

The men, cousins Alan and Cliff Whelan, both 23, from Waterford city, are being locked up 23 hours a day, according to their families.

The men say that during their transfer by bus from Montana, where they were arrested, they were shackled and chained with 16 other prisoners and accompanied by heavily armed guards.

The cousins were arrested at the beginning of November by four policemen carrying out spot checks on a Seattle-bound train. Since then, they have been allowed one three-minute phone call a week.

According to new figures Mr Deasy has obtained, 290 Irish people have been deported from the US in the past five years. He plans to raise the men's detention with the US ambassador.

Frank Khan


Arms move 'must be visual'

An IRA arms move without photographic evidence would have "very serious consequences" for the peace process, DUP leader Ian Paisley has warned.

He said negotiations had been "in the context of complete verifiable and transparent decommissioning".

Mr Paisley was speaking on Wednesday after the DUP and other parties held talks with British and Irish officials in Hillsborough, County Down.

They are aimed at resurrecting a deal on power-sharing.

Three previous republican arms moves have been witnessed by members of the Independent International Commission on Decommissioning (IICD).

Speaking after meeting Northern Ireland Secretary Paul Murphy and Irish Foreign Minister Dermot Ahern, Mr Paisley insisted there must be a "visual aspect" to decommissioning.

"There is an indication that the IRA may be considering proceeding to decommission its weapons under the original IICD scheme, leaving out the additional elements relating to transparency included in the draft statement from the IICD which formed part of our comprehensive agreement," he said.

"We want to make it clear that if the IRA does not fulfil its obligations as envisaged in the comprehensive agreement, then its refusal to meet these terms would have very serious consequences in respect of the DUP's attitude to other elements of the comprehensive agreement."

After the meeting, Mr Murphy said both governments would welcome decommissioning, but it would have to be done in such a way that it would bring confidence in the community.

He added that any arms move in itself would not produce a "political settlement, however good decommissioning would be".

Proposals published jointly by the two governments last week included a plan for the IRA to allow photographs to be taken of its weapons being put beyond use in the presence of independent witnesses.

The DUP argued that this was necessary to ensure that there was confidence in the act of decommissioning.

But Sinn Fein said the IRA would "not submit to a process of humiliation".

The political institutions in Northern Ireland have been suspended since October 2002 amid allegations of IRA intelligence gathering at the Northern Ireland Office.

The DUP and Sinn Fein became the largest unionist and nationalist parties after assembly elections in November 2003.

However, the two parties have not been able to reach a deal which would allow a power-sharing executive to be formed, and Northern Ireland continues to be governed by direct rule from Westminster.

Belfast Telegraph

Photos still on agenda
Ahern spells out weapons views to heal rift with DUP

By Chris Thornton and Brian Walker
15 December 2004

Photographs of IRA decommissioning remain part of the British and Irish governments' plan for restoring Stormont, Taoiseach Bertie Ahern told the Dail today.

Clarifying his views on photographic proof in order to defuse a row with the DUP, Mr Ahern said that London and Dublin knew the demand for pictures of decommissioning would be difficult but said they had been led to believe it would be addressed.

"In the context of an overall package, it was our understanding that this proposal would be considered by them," he said,

"They have, of course, since said that they are unable to agree to it."

Mr Ahern also rejected republican claims that photographs amounted to humiliating them - saying humiliation "did not play any party in the governments' proposals".

He also said the IRA had not made the necessary commitment on ending criminality that his government wants to see.

"Clarification is required that the IRA's commitment is, indeed, to a complete ending of paramilitarism and other illegal activity," he said.

"We are duty-bound to satisfy ourselves on this point. This whole initiative is based on this vital premise."

It was not immediately clear if Mr Ahern's remarks did enough to restore contact between his government and the DUP, but he came under further pressure from opposition leader Enda Kenny over the proposed release of Garda Jerry McCabe's killers.

The Fine Gael leader accused Mr Ahern of breaking his word and diminishing his office by agreeing to release the killers - including Strabane man Pearse McCauley - if a political deal is completed.

"Right thinking people are also outraged that the Taoiseach of this sovereign state chose to capitulate to a terrorist organisation who apparently refused to fulfil any of their commitments under the Good Friday Agreement unless his solemn word was broken, and broken in secret," Mr Kenny said.

The Dublin debate further reduced expectation of an early resolution to the political stand-off.

As US envoy Mitchell Reiss joined the efforts to pick up the pieces from last week's stalled peace deal, Sinn Fein and the DUP made it clear they were refusing to budge from their positions on photographic proof of decommissioning.

Sinn Fein held up direct talks with the DUP as one possible way of resolving the deadlock.

West Tyrone MP Pat Doherty said it is "time for direct dialogue".

"If Ian Paisley is really interested in finding a solution to the problems then he should talk directly with Gerry Adams," he said.


Yahoo News

BNP leader held in race hate probe

By Gideon Long

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LONDON (Reuters) - Police have arrested the leader of the far-right British National Party after he was secretly filmed calling Islam "a wicked, vicious faith".

The arrest of Nick Griffin, one-time host of French National Front leader Jean-Marie Le Pen, was warmly welcomed by Muslims, some of whom said the government should ban the BNP altogether.

Police arrested Griffin, 45, at his family farmhouse in Wales and took him to West Yorkshire, where officers are conducting a major probe into the activities of BNP members.

Griffin, later released on bail until next March, told reporters on Tuesday: "This is an electoral scam to get the Muslim block vote back for the Labour Party."

Prime Minister Tony Blair's popularity plunged and his trust ratings plummeted after he took the country to war in Iraq.

Griffin's arrest came two days after police detained the party's 70-year-old founding chairman John Tyndall.

They have now arrested 12 people on suspicion of incitement to commit racial hatred since the investigation began five months ago. None has been charged.

The police probe was triggered by a BBC documentary, broadcast in July, which included footage of Griffin giving a speech in the northern town of Keighley in which he railed against Islam and its holy book, the Koran.

"This wicked, vicious faith has expanded through a handful of cranky lunatics about 1,300 years ago until it's now sweeping country after country," he said.


Other footage in "The Secret Agent" documentary -- watched by some 4 million viewers -- shows another BNP member expressing a wish to blow up mosques with a rocket launcher and machine-gun worshippers with "about a million bullets."

Another member told how he put dog faeces through an Asian shop's letterbox, while a third described how he beat up a Muslim man. "I'm kicking away...it was fantastic," he said.

Muslims were jubilant at news of Griffin's arrest.

"At last!" said Massoud Shadjareh, chairman of the Islamic Human Rights Commission, which has long urged the government to outlaw the BNP. "This is extremely important."

"It should have been done long ago. There is no place in British society for the bigots of the BNP," he told Reuters.

The Muslim Council of Britain (MCB), the biggest lobby group for the country's 1.8 million Muslims, also welcomed the arrests, saying it hoped police would now press charges.

"The BNP has been trying to develop a more polished image and a more sophisticated discourse but the BBC documentary showed that behind that facade, the ugly reality is still the same," said MCB spokesman Inayat Bunglawala.

The party's anti-immigration stance has won it a handful of local council seats, mainly in poorer areas with large ethnic populations, but it remains on the fringe of politics.

It has nothing like the clout, for example, of the French far-right of Le Pen, who accepted an invite from Griffin to attend a BNP fund-raising dinner in northern England in April.


**More photos on site

France shows off tallest bridge

The bridge is 23 metres taller than the Eiffel Tower

The world's highest road bridge has been inaugurated in southern France by President Jacques Chirac.

The Millau bridge over the River Tarn in the Massif Central mountains is more than 300m (984ft) high - taller even than the country's Eiffel Tower.

The bridge, which opens to traffic on Thursday, was built to clear summer traffic jams around the town.

The BBC's Paris correspondent, Caroline Wyatt, says the bridge is one of the most breathtaking ever built.

She says that with its concrete and steel pillars soaring high above the morning fog in the Tarn Valley, the construction makes a spectacular sight.

'Delicacy of a butterfly'

Seven slender piers support the roadway, rising into seven graceful pylons bound to the bridge with what look like cobwebs of steel, our correspondent says.

"The bridge is just on the clouds," Millau Mayor Jacques Godfrain told the BBC's World Today programme.

"The architect, Norman Foster, gave us a model of art."

Cost: 394m euros (£272m; $524m)
Highest point: 343m (1,125ft)
Vehicle height: 270m (885ft)

"A work of man must fuse with nature. The pillars had to look almost organic, like they had grown from the earth," the world-renowned British architect said in an interview with regional daily newspaper Midi Libre.

Like Concorde and the Channel Tunnel, the bridge is Franco-British.

French construction group Eiffage - that built the Eiffel Tower - financed the project in return for the right to collect receipts from a bridge toll for 75 years.

The bridge is now a source of pride for Millau, which believes many more tourists will come to admire one of the engineering wonders of the 21st Century, our correspondent says.

The construction also removes a bottleneck at the town, completing a new motorway link between Paris and the Mediterranean.

The construction of the steel bridge - now weighing about 36,000 tonnes - began in December 2001, using innovative techniques.

From the north and south sides of the valley, the metal sections of the structure were assembled, lifted slightly and then carefully slotted into place on each of the supporting pillars.

Motorists are expected to pay 4.6 euros (£3.18; $5.60) for a trip across the bridge.


'No release' for Finucane killer

Ken Barrett was convicted of the murder in September

The loyalist convicted of murdering Belfast solicitor Pat Finucane has been told he does not qualify for early release under the Good Friday Agreement.

Ken Barrett was sentenced to 22 years in September after pleading guilty to the 1989 murder, but it was thought at the time he could be freed by March.

But he has now been told he does not qualify because he is not serving his sentence in Northern Ireland.

His solicitor says his client is appealing against the decision.

Behind bars

Mr Finucane was shot dead by the loyalist Ulster Defence Association.

The killing was one of the most controversial of the 30 years of the Troubles in Northern Ireland, mainly because of the allegations of collusion between loyalist paramilitaries and members of the security forces.

After conviction, Barrett, 42, was transferred to London's Belmarsh Prison because of threats against him.

The decision by the Sentence Review Commission which runs the release programme means he may be forced to serve the minimum 22 years behind bars recommended when he pleaded guilty to murder.

His solicitor Joe Rice claimed that the body had made an error.

"They misdirected themselves in law and effectively didn't give him an opportunity to have his application fully and properly considered," he said.

Pat Finucane was shot dead by loyalist paramilitaries

"Ken Barrett continues to be a sentenced prisoner under the regime applicable to Northern Ireland.

"He's still very much part and parcel of the Northern Ireland criminal process.

"We now have instructions from him by telephone that he wishes to appeal this decision."

It is expected that a three-member panel from the Commission will be asked to review the decision.

Under the early release programme, terrorists convicted before the April 1998 Good Friday Agreement who had served at least two years in prison were considered for release.

The scheme, which saw some of Northern Ireland's most notorious killers walk free, is one of the most controversial strands of the peace process.

Belfast Telegraph

Finucane killer to appeal for early release

By Mary Fitzgerald
14 December 2004

The loyalist jailed for murdering Belfast solicitor Pat Finucane is to appeal a decision to refuse him early release under the Good Friday Agreement, it emerged today.

Ken Barrett was sentenced to life imprisonment in September after he pleaded guilty to the 1989 murder.

The sentence came with a recommendation that Barrett serve no less than 22 years.

However, it is understood Barrett decided to plead guilty because he believed he qualified for the early release scheme and expected to be eligible for release by March of next year.

Shortly after he was convicted, the 42-year-old loyalist was moved from Maghaberry to Belmarsh prison in London. It is understood he was transferred because of concerns for his safety.

The Sentence Review Commission informed Barrett earlier this month that he is not eligible for early release because he is not serving his sentence in Northern Ireland.

Barrett's solicitor, Joe Rice, said his client will now appeal the decision through the commission's appeal process and if that should fail, he will pursue the issue through the courts.

"Mr Barrett was transferred to Belmarsh under a restricted transfer order. He therefore continues to be a prisoner under the regime applicable in Northern Ireland," Mr Rice said.

"We believe the commission has wrongly interpreted the legislation."

A spokesman for the commission dismissed the charge that it had misinterpreted the legislation.

"The commission feels that the advice it received is correct," the spokesman said.

RTE News

Hoax alert at Holy Cross school in Belfast

14 December 2004 09:29

A security alert at Holy Cross primary school in north Belfast ended early today after a suspect object found in the grounds was declared to be a hoax.

Police say the alert followed a bomb warning which had been telephoned to a local newsroom at around 11.30pm last night.

British army bomb experts were called in to examine the object but declared it to be a hoax.

A number of items were taken away for further examination.

Police have appealed for information about any suspicious activity noticed in the Ardoyne Road, Wheatfield or Glenbryn areas at around 11pm last night.


Teenage girl beaten with sticks

A 15-year-old girl is recovering after an attack by two men with sticks in north Belfast.

Her family said she was punched to the ground and knocked unconscious after being chased by a car on Monday night.

Laura Cleary was walking to her Serpentine Road home with a friend shortly after 2200 GMT when they were chased by a car.

The occupants got out and, after grabbing her, punched her to the ground.

Her teenage friend managed to escape and raise the alarm.

Laura's father Martin said his daughter suffered a terrifying ordeal.

"A car drove up the street and started shouting abuse at them and they ran away," he said.

"The car chased them - they got out and there were three men and a woman in it - they got out and caught my daughter.

"The other girl escaped and ran back down to my house - when they caught my wee girl, one of them banged her head off the ground and knocked her out and hit her a big kick on the ribs.

"She was unconscious for five or 10 minutes."

The police said they are investigating an allegation that two 15-year-old girls were attacked by two men carrying sticks.

They believe the men were in a white four door car and have appealed for witnesses to come forward.

Detectives investigating the attack said they were examining CCTV footage of the area.

Laura was taken to hospital, but is now recovering at home.


Irish Examiner

Taoiseach apologises in bid to save peace process

The Taoiseach Bertie Ahern has apologised to Ian Paisley in a bid to halt a new row over IRA disarmament turning into a political crisis, it was claimed tonight.

Mr Ahern telephoned the Democratic Unionist leader after he said all contact with the Dublin Government was being severed, party officials said.

Mr Paisley’s move came after the Taoiseach appeared to concede photographic evidence of weapons destruction – a critical DUP demand in the Northern Ireland peace negotiations – was not possible.

The DUP chief was livid with Mr Ahern’s remarks following talks with Sinn Féin’s Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness.

He declared: “We have cut off from today, all connections with the southern government in talks.

“As far as we are concerned, he is a man that can’t be trusted.”

The break-off briefly threatened attempts to stop the devolution plan nearly agreed last week from unravelling.

But a DUP spokesman said tonight: “The Taoiseach contacted Dr Paisley around tea-time to apologise for the situation and how it had developed and reiterated that the photographs continued to be a part of the package.

“We are satisfied with the outcome of the telephone conversation.”

Earlier, after a one-hour meeting with Sinn Féin leaders, Mr Ahern said it would be “insanity” at this stage not to find a way of settling all the issues.

“We were happy with (decommissioning chief) John de Chastelain,” he said.

“Then there was the issue of further witnesses, we were happy with that.

“We had the issue of photographs and that’s not workable so we have to try to find some other way.”

Mr Paisley had insisted the Taoiseach never before suggested photographing decommissioning was not possible during weeks of negotiations.

“From day one until now Mr Ahern never opposed photographs.

“Suddenly he meets two IRA/Sinn Féiners and he comes out and says ’it is not workable’.

“So, anything that the IRA says is not workable he will bow to.”

In a reference to the wife of murdered Garda Jerry McCabe, who is distraught at the prospect of his IRA killers’ being freed under the deal, the North Antrim MP added: “He double-crossed Mrs McCabe, he will not double-cross us. That’s the end of the matter.”

Mr Ahern also stressed that decommissioning was ready to happen but no progress would be made unless there was a comprehensive deal.

Both the British and Irish would have been satisfied with the deal as it was laid on the table to the DUP and Sinn Féin last week.

He said the issues regarding criminality and paramilitary activity were “not that much different” to those set out last October.

Hopes of reaching an agreement to revive the political institutions were shattered last week when the deal unravelled.

Mr Ahern said: “We were very close last Wednesday. There are one or two issues that have to be resolved and we believe it’s possible to resolve these.”


We Say--

Who will save the Doc from himself?

Did Ian Paisley really make his blood and thunder speech at Ballymena because he wanted to sabotage the deal in the making?

That’s not very likely because under his leadership the DUP was set to seal a historic deal.

The party which made its name in lording it over Catholics and vowing to smash Sinn Féin was on course to make the mother of all U-turns by joining republicans in a powersharing government.

The peace train came off the rails not because Paisley or his lieutenants changed their minds but because the Doc couldn’t help himself from spewing out more bile and vitriol against the ‘Barbarians at the gate’. After 40-plus years of castigating Catholics, it was just beyond the DUP leader to keep his considerable trap closed for a few more days.

Thus came the rabble-rousing speech. The fault didn’t lie with the architects of the new agreement but with Paisley’s lack of experience in peacemaking. After all, this is a chief negotiator who hasn’t yet brought himself to shake hands with Bertie Ahern yet never mind discuss demilitarisation with Martin McGuinness.

And did the IRA only refuse to have photos taken of the final act of decommissioning because of the Big Man’s demand for humiliation? Not so, though he certainly vindicated their stance. The reality is that the IRA had long ago ruled out gifting Paisley photos he could have reproduced on every election-time t-shirt just below the word ‘SURRENDER’ and above the legend, ‘Vote DUP’.

The makings of a breathtakingly comprehensive deal are still there. If someone in the DUP can gag the DUP leader between now and the weekend, we could still make a momentous breakthrough.


Collusion vigil disrupted by ‘off-duty PSNI men’

A candlelit vigil by the An Fhírinne group to highlight the issue of collusion was disrupted last Friday night by a group of men who claimed to be off-duty members of the PSNI.

Over 100 members of teh group gathered at the City Hall to demand the truth behind British Government collusion with loyalist death squads. During the vigil l a group of men — who claimed they were off-duty cops — abused those taking part.

“The actions of these men were totally insensitive,” says An Fhírinne spokesman and loyalist victim Mark Sykes.

“It was totally insensitive and upsetting for drunken PSNI officers to abuse members of the families of those killed through collusion,” said Mark.

“They approached Tom Hartley and at first asked him questions about An Fhírinne, what it meant, and he explained that it meant ‘The Truth’.

“But when they asked was this all not meant to be in the past and should it not all be forgotten about, and they were told that the families of those who’d been murdered needed closure on the loss of their loved ones, they started to poke one of the pictures on the posters and ask what about the 300 or so RUC families who’d lost people.

“And then they became abusive and were totally insensitive to the families.
“It was very upsetting for the family members who were there and it was uncalled for that a peaceful vigil be disrupted in this way.”

Councillor Tom Hartley said “the minor incident” shouldn’t detract from the focus of the evening. “We shouldn’t let the actions of a few overshadow the significance of the vigil which is part of the campaign to highlight the pain and hurt experienced by relatives, and the need for them to know the truth behind their loved ones’ deaths,” he added.

“The relatives at the vigil, in a dignified way, maintained a sense of themselves and we should support them in their efforts to have the truth told.”

* A Special Remembrance Mass for all those killed through collusion, and their families, will be held at Clonard Monastery on Wednesday evening, December 15, at 8pm, and all are welcome to attend.

Journalist:: Ciara McGuigan


Political fall out continues

The SDLP has launched a bitter attack on Sinn Féin following the publication last Wednesday of the proposals by the British and Irish governments for a comprehensive agreement.

In a scathing verbal volley, SDLP party leader Mark Durkan claimed that Sinn Féin has compromised "Irish national democratic interests".

"I have no political ego. But what I absolutely resent is when the Irish national democratic interest is compromised and when people pretend that there have not been changes to the Agreement and worse yet to come,” he said.

"Sinn Féin’s priority has been about the self-image of the IRA, not the proper democratic interest of the nationalist people. That’s what I am annoyed about," blasted Mr Durkan.

Repudiating the criticisms, Sinn Féin MLA Conor Murphy said that the SDLP "is in no position to lecture Sinn Féin about the defence of the Agreement".

"While the SDLP have been unhelpfully sniping from the sidelines Sinn Féin have been defending the rights of nationalists, the equality agenda and the all-Ireland architecture against the objective of the DUP to achieve a veto.
"The approach of the SDLP to a relatively small number of key issues demonstrates that they are increasingly directionless," said Conor Murphy.

Sinn Féin highlighted a range of issues to support their criticism. According to the party, these are: the SDLP’s decision to rubber-stamp the purchase of plastic bullets on the Policing Board; the SDLP’s support for the Independent Monitoring Commission (which even IMC members admit is outside the terms of the Good Friday Agreement); the SDLP’s demand for the introduction of electoral fraud legislation which has led to 200,000 voters being wiped off the voting register; and the SDLP’s decision to support, then oppose, then abstain, when the so-called Mandelson Police Bill was going through Westminster.

Reacting to Sinn Féin’s comments, the SDLP leader Mark Durkan accused Mr Murphy of relying on "spin and untruths".

Meanwhile the prospect of positive political progress has been left open by the IRA leadership, after the organisation issued its first public comment on recent political developments.

In a statement issued to An Phoblacht last Thursday the IRA restated its commitment to the peace process.

"For his part, Ian Paisley demanded that our contribution be photographed, and reduced to an act of humiliation,” the statement from P O’Neill said.
"This was never possible. Knowing this, he made this demand publicly as the excuse for his rejection of an overall agreement to create a political context with the potential to remove the causes of conflict.

"As the IRA leadership has said before, this is a context in which Irish republicans and unionists can, as equals, pursue our respective political objectives peacefully.

"We restate our commitment to the peace process. But we will not submit to a process of humiliation," said the IRA.

Journalist:: Jarlath Kearney

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