Ireland has highest Mensa membership in the world

05/02/2005 - 11:28:56

There are more highly intelligent people recorded in Ireland than in any other country.

Mensa, an association of people with high IQs, says Ireland has the highest figure of Mensa members in the world.

To join Mensa you must have an IQ in the top 2 % of the world's population.

Ireland has over 1,200 members and its ranks are swelling here while they decline in the UK.

Mensa's international president David Schulman, who lives in Dublin, said although education helps develop the IQ, natural intelligence is something one is born with.

Mr Schulman said membership of Mensa covers a broad social spectrum from heads of businesses to unemployed and unemployable people.


War and peace

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by Ed Moloney
Irish Times

And so the dance, the tiresome shuffle resumes. Having kicked its peace-process partners in the teeth with December's Northern Bank raid - just one of several such blows last year, according to the Taoiseach - the IRA and Sinn Féin leadership don the mantle of victimhood in protest at being blamed, withdraw their decommissioning offer and retreat to sulk.

By this stage, counting the number of times P. O'Neill has stormed out of Gen de Chastelain's office in protest at this or that slight in recent years is probably a task beyond most people, but on each occasion events have followed almost exactly the same pattern. Alarmed by the turn of events the governments behave like spurned lovers. At first they utter angry words, but then they pursue Sinn Féin and the IRA with the political equivalent of flowers and chocolates, offering yet more concessions to coax them back into the process.

With the accommodating but sadly abused David Trimble on hand to assist, negotiations are renewed only to end in disappointment or another incident in Colombia, Castlereagh, Kelly's Cellars in Belfast, or elsewhere sparking another crisis; and so the dreary waltz drifts on, repeating itself endlessly. It has been like Groundhog Day but with a touch of menace.

All this has been enormously to Sinn Féin's benefit. Victimhood reaps nationalist votes, the governments are made to look like weak fools, unionism is divided, the Provisionals are rewarded for moving slightly closer to the peaceful politics they supposedly signed fully up to many years before and still the IRA survives, ready to be traded, but never delivered, over and over again. The Provisionals even have a name for all this - the Tactical Use of Armed Struggle, or TUAS.

It is a brilliant stratagem and to its architects, Gerry Adams and the clever people in his think tank must go the plaudits. Better than anyone else they realise it works so well because the British and Irish governments both fear that the IRA, if sufficiently provoked, will return to war and the peace process will become history.

That's why the decommissioning offer has now been withdrawn.

This peace process is partly modelled on the Cold War diplomacy of the 1960s in which either the US or the Soviet Union would make a unilateral concession knowing that the other would have to reciprocate or look bad to the rest of the world. It worked and saved the planet from nuclear destruction.

This week's move by the IRA is designed to signal that our own process might be in reverse gear; that if the British and Irish governments react with an equivalent response, so may the IRA, and bit by bit we could fall back into the abyss.

To add teeth to the implied threat, the IRA statement announcing the move was full of angry language, making reference to the ceasefire breakdown of 1996 and including promises not to remain "quiescent" and "to protect to the best of our ability the rights of republicans", a hint at the possible use of violence. That was followed by a warning not to "underestimate the seriousness of the situation", while at a Belfast press conference the Sinn Féin president, Gerry Adams refused to discuss the stability of the cessation, thereby implying that it might not hold. The overall message, albeit unspoken, is unmistakable.

This sort of sabre-rattling has worked time and again, but strangely, few people question whether the assumption behind this stratagem, that the IRA can go back to war in a meaningful way, has much basis now. It is perhaps beyond time for the governments to take a long, hard look at this issue and, if appropriate, to adjust their own strategy accordingly.

To begin with, this particular crisis has been surrounded with speculation about divisions within the leadership of the IRA and rumours that the organisation's "hard men" have been enraged both by the decommissioning demands of the DUP leader, Rev Ian Paisley and the eagerness of both governments to blame the IRA for a robbery they say they did not commit. The impression has gained ground that Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness are on the defensive and may lose control of the IRA.

The known facts suggest that such an assertion is highly doubtful. The key body in the IRA is its seven-man army council which determines the organisation's policy, including whether or not to call off ceasefires. In IRA ranks, the army council is regarded as the real government of Ireland, the inheritors of the all-Ireland mandate bestowed on the Second Dáil of 1921 and its authority is questioned at peril. He who controls the army council controls the IRA.

From what is known about the army council's current makeup, the Adams-McGuinness faction hold at very least a comfortable five to two majority. Three of the five are associated with Sinn Féin and the other two are Belfast IRA men who earned their places by proving their loyalty to Adams. Of the two who are not known for their enthusiasm for politics (they hail, unsurprisingly, from South Armagh) one, who is also the chief of staff, has a track record of siding with, or at least not opposing the Adams-McGuinness group when pushed into a corner. If the IRA was to go back to war it would not be because the Adams-McGuinness bloc had been outvoted or overwhelmed - although we would be encouraged to think that - but because they supported such a move.

Figures associated with the Adams-McGuinness group have controlled the army council since the late 1970s and this has meant that key posts elsewhere in the IRA have been filled with people chosen for their loyalty to the leadership as much as anything else. The post of Northern commander has been crucial in this respect, for he appoints local commanders in the IRA's most important theatre. Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, when the peace process was revving up, that post was held by a figure synonymous with the process and the result was that when a split happened, in 1997, all but a handful of IRA members in the North, where it mattered, stayed loyal.

That split, and the ceasefire breakdown which preceded it, happened because the Adams-McGuinness leadership had failed to secure control of one key IRA body, the executive, an advisory body elected by the rank and file which also chooses army council members. In the mid-1990s the executive was dominated by the IRA quartermaster general, Michael McKevitt and by the director of engineering, a Dubliner, who led a revolt against the Adams peace strategy which brought a brief renewal of violence but failed in its primary aim of ousting the Adams-McGuinness leadership. That led them to depart to found the Real IRA.

The Real IRA's strongest support came from Southern units of the Provisional IRA but the failure to garner support in the North, along with the disastrous Omagh bombing and an associated quarrel with potential allies in the other dissident grouping, the Continuity IRA, sidelined the dissidents and took enormous pressure off Adams and McGuinness. Since then the current IRA leadership has taken pains to ensure that the executive's make-up is such that no repeat rebellion is possible.

In the years since the departure of the dissidents, the IRA and Sinn Féin leadership have taken their organisations in directions that not long before would have been dismissed as unthinkable and judged certain to provoke bloody feuds.

The principle of consent, the defiance of which defined the post-1921 IRA, has been embedded by the twin referendums of 1998; Sinn Féin has taken seats at Stormont, the parliament the IRA bombed out of existence in 1972, and party luminaries have occupied Cabinet posts under the Crown.

Acceptance of the North's policing system is on the agenda, while the IRA has done that which we were told it would never do and began, however unsatisfactorily, to decommission its weapons. Vast swathes of ideological ground have been abandoned without a peep of protest from the grassroots nor a hint of rebellion or division. The conclusion is inescapable: those who direct the Provisionals' political policy also exercise complete control of the military strategy. Talk of splits should be accompanied by generous servings of salt.

Nobody doubts that the IRA can go back to violence and could explode bombs and shoot people. This is what PSNI Chief Constable Hugh Orde means when he says the IRA has the capacity for violence. But that is not the real question. What really matters is whether the IRA has the ability to sustain a lengthy and effective campaign of violence of sufficient intensity to change or influence British and Irish government policy. Otherwise there seems little point in abandoning the peace process.

Here, the track record of the last 30 or so years strongly suggests that the IRA would face a dismal future if it did return to violence. Ever since the Treaty negotiations of 1921 it has been axiomatic in IRA thinking that ceasefires weaken and sap fighting ability. Volunteers relax their guard, public expectations of peace rise as toleration of violence declines while activists get rusty and lose their passion for the fight. Michael Collins understood that and it is one reason he agreed to sign Lloyd George's accord.

The Provisionals have learned all this the hard way during these Troubles. There have been four ceasefires since 1969 and the lesson from the three that broke down is that each time the IRA was weaker or at greater disadvantage afterwards than when they went in to ceasefire.

The first and shortest ceasefire in 1972 was resisted by those who now lead the IRA for precisely those reasons and even though they succeeded in returning to violence, the IRA lost valuable no-go areas in Belfast and Derry shortly afterwards. In 1975 there was a longer ceasefire which so enervated the IRA that the British were able to criminalise it and came close to securing a military victory. The 1994 ceasefire collapsed after 18 months with the spectacular bombing of Canary Wharf but the campaign that followed quickly degenerated, in the memorable words of one RUC officer, into "a pathetic, grubby little war" in which the principal casualty was the IRA's credibility as a fighting force.

The current ceasefire has lasted seven-and-a-half years, much longer than any previous cessation, and the IRA's pool of activists is as many years older, as well as being thicker around the midriff and greyer at the temples. Not only must their physical ability to wage war once again be questioned but also their enthusiasm for it. They and their families have got happily accustomed to living without the constant threat of sudden death or lengthy imprisonment while the communities from which they sprang have likewise grown fond of normality and are unlikely to welcome a return to the bad old days. To be sure the IRA still takes in new recruits, but these are ceasefire soldiers and past experience shows that ceasefire soldiers disappear like snow off a ditch in spring when war starts again.

To all this must be added the considerable political price Sinn Féin would pay if hostilities were renewed. The party's political growth in the North was fuelled by Catholic voters who switched from the SDLP to Sinn Féin to encourage the move to peace. Abandoning the peace process might well reverse that. In the South, Sinn Féin's growth has been assisted in no small measure by the fact that many of its new supporters have no knowledge or memory of the daily atrocities and funerals that constituted life in the Ireland of the 1970s and 1980s. But start the killing again and that will certainly change.

The world is also a very different place than it was in 1996.

For one thing, 9/11 happened and there is no doubting American and Irish-American hostility to terrorism of any stripe. If the IRA went back to war not only would Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness be denied entry to the US and the clout and dollars that come with it but they would be consigned to a pantheon of villainy alongside people such as Osama Bin Laden. Not a happy prospect for people who have grown used to swanning around Congress and Fifth Avenue.

The renewal of violence in 1996 made the point well: the IRA can start the war again, but sustaining it is a different matter. It would be the same now, except exponentially worse. Should the IRA defy common sense and go back to violence the most sensible response from the governments might be to eschew concessions and let events take their course, sure in the knowledge that demonstrating its own impotency to itself might be the cure the IRA needs.

The problem with this is that up to now both the British and Irish governments have behaved not just as if the IRA can return to effective warfare but as if it has a thermonuclear device secreted somewhere in the sewers of London. This may well be the time to call the IRA's bluff, but are Tony Blair and Bertie Ahern made of the right stuff?

February 5, 2005

Ed Moloney is author of A Secret History of the IRA
This article appears in the February 5, 2005 edition of the Irish Times.


At last, a daily paper to call our own

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The Celts were right. No, I am not referring to Martin O’Neill’s bhoys (although I must say I breathed a sigh of relief when they sweetened the cake enough to get big Balde to say yes for another four and a half year. ) I meant the Celts. Our noble ancestors.
We got it right, and if you want the proof get up early tomorrow morning and take a dander around the grounds of Belfast Castle. Or up to the Cave Hill. Spring is in the air.
The Brits, for some reason, prefer to keep Winter scowling around until almost the end of March. That’s because our eastern neighbours are a sorry bunch who never knew nathin’. But the Irish always knew that Spring starts on the first day of February. Lá Fhéile Bríde.
It wasn’t always Saint Brigid’s day. Before Brigid was ever a saint she was an Irish Goddess, a celestial Celt from former times (and no, sorry, I am not referring to the late lamented Henrik Larsson. I told you, it’s nothing to do with football.) A symbol of fertility, renewal and reawakening. Sex, basically.
In fact, in this country the first day of February used to be the first day of the year. Same in all the Celtic countries.
And when I become appointed as Minister for Festivals and Holidays in the forthcoming All-Ireland government, I think I will change it back.
In the meantime, however, the first of February remains the first day of Spring and if you don’t believe me just go out for a walk tonight and breathe the fresh air, and feel the new life force. Experience spring.
And what a day our revered publisher picked to launch the new daily newspaper, Daily Ireland. Have you seen the Daily Ireland? Have you read the Daily Ireland?
I know it’s only the start. As I write this, the third edition is still making its way to the presses up in Andytown. But already I can feel it, I can FEEL it. At last, a daily paper to call our own.
No bullshit. No claptrap. No toadying up to the British, or the Irish government, or the Catholic Church.
No more assuming from the start that the people are always wrong and the authorities always right. No automatically supporting the police, just because they are the police...
I was delighted to see that in their presentations the Daily Ireland people admitted that they learned a lot about publishing on a daily basis from their experience with Lá, the Irish language daily paper.
Lá has been going 20 years, Daily Ireland is now into its fourth day. Fad saoil orthu beirt – long may they both prosper.
Yes, it’s Springtime and the first congratulations of the new Celtic year goes to the Daily Ireland. The second goes to young Pádraig Ó Mearáin who featured on the front page of edition number two.
Pádraig is a pupil at Meánscoil Feirste and he was treated like a master criminal or an international terrorist suspect by a mob of PSNI bullyboys.
He was forced to strip, made to don some kind of a boiler suit, had his clothes taken away for forensic tests and then had to undergo the ordeal of providing Hugh Orde’s henchmen with a DNA sample, before being dumped out of Grosvenor Road barracks to await charging.
And his alleged crime? Well, he wrote on the perimeter wall of the derelict building that used to be Andersonstown Police Station.
The PSNI had already vacated the premises, leaving the building to be demolished by bulldozer in the coming weeks.
But seven vehicle loads of uniformed and well-armed roughnecks chased three kids, and I’m talking schoolchildren here – and arrested one following hot pursuit. ‘Fágaigí an bealach ag Slóite na bhFiann,’ was the offending piece of graffiti – it means, basically, Get the Hell Out of Here (roughly translated) – and Pádraig can thank his lucky stars he didn’t end up in Guantanamo Bay.
So comhghairdeas a Phádraig! Congratulation Pádraig Ó Mearáin, and your two comrades who helped with the handywork but who managed to hoof it with more success than yourself.
What the PSNI put this lad through was a disgrace and in a normal society heads would roll. Here, he’s probably just going to have to get used to it. For the present, anyway.
Instead of being charged, Pádraig Ó Mearáin should be given a grant from the Arts Council because his painting is one of the most effective pieces of community art we have seen in a long time.
It almost brought tears of joy to my tired eyes when I saw some young Irish speakers had decided to make a public statement in their own language. And that statement was apt, timely, succinct, and perfectly spelt! Poetry.
The right sort of writing on the wall, and I am delighted to announce here and now that Pádraig and his comrades get my nomination for this year’s Aisling Awards for Irish language, for the Arts, for Community Service and for being a credit.
Reminds me of a certain Irish teacher, many moons ago, many, many moons ago, who got stopped by the UDR in Andersonstown and refused to speak in English.
He was happy to answer all their questions, but only in the native tongue.
The national language. Irish. Cost him a weekend in jail and a hefty fine, but he never spoke a word of English.
Come to think of it, Breandán Ó Fiaich is teaching up in the Meánscoil. By God, we’re not beat yet, not by a long chalk.



SF 'against any conflict return'

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Gerry Adams said Sinn Fein wanted to defend the peace process
Sinn Fein is totally opposed to any return to conflict, Gerry Adams has said.

Mr Adams said a return to conflict would have "devastating consequences for everyone on the island".

He challenged the British and Irish governments to decide where their priorities lay.

The IRA denies claims it was behind the £26.5m Belfast bank raid in December, and earlier this week, it withdrew its offer of complete decommissioning.

Mr Adams said Sinn Fein's priority was to defend the peace process and the Good Friday Agreement.

The Sinn Fein president was speaking after the IRA issued two statements warning of the serious state of the political process.

Mr Adams told party members in Dublin on Saturday that the governments had abused the party's role as messengers for the IRA.

He said: "The electoral mandate of the Sinn Fein party has been ignored. We remain wedded to our peace strategy."

Mr Adams added that the "mishandling" of recent political efforts had been "extremely damaging to the peace process".

He claimed the problem was the DUP's refusal to share power, and said the government's confrontational approach was making a bad situation worse.

On Friday, Irish foreign minister Dermot Ahern said Sinn Fein has a mandate but must sever its links with the IRA before it can play a full part in democratic politics.

"We have got the distinct and definite view of the police forces on both sides of the border that there was Provisional IRA involvement in the robbery and that has really had a huge effect on the trust and confidence of the two governments," he said.

IRA statement

The IRA's latest statement said: "The two governments are trying to play down the importance of our statement because they are making a mess of the peace process.

"Do not underestimate the seriousness of the situation."

Unionist politicians have described the statement as "sinister".

The Independent Monitoring Commission has presented its report on the robbery to the British and Irish governments.

The report is not expected to be published until next week.

It is thought it will concur with the police assessment that the IRA was to blame for the bank raid and to suggest sanctions against Sinn Fein.


Loyalist elements feuding with the UVF - Blamed for attacks at Unity Walk

Sean Mc Aughey • 1 February 2005

"Nationalist homes are under attack on a nightly basis by Loyalist mobs, say residents living in the small nationalist enclave of Unity Walk, situated at the foot of the Shankill Road district, Belfast..."



Bones of a controversy

Angelique Chrisafis in Dublin
Saturday February 5, 2005
The Guardian

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Under bare Ben Bulben's head
In Drumcliffe churchyard Yeats is laid

... or maybe not. WB Yeats's tombstone may carry the
most famous of all self-penned inscriptions, but
that's no guarantee it is true. For whether the grave
in County Sligo actually contains the remains of the
great poet is again being seriously called into
question by scholars. What started as a joke back in
1948 when Louis MacNiece quipped that the coffin
lowered into the dark peaty soil might well contain "a
Frenchman with a club foot" for all anyone knew, has
developed into one of the great literary mysteries.

The confusion came about because although Yeats was
clear about where he wanted to "cast a cold eye/ On
life, on Death", he was actually buried in Roquebrune
in the south of France close to where he died in 1939.
The war put paid to plans to bring the body home, and
it was not until 1948 that the Irish government, in
another poignant rub of fate, sent Sean MacBride, the
son of Yeats's great unrequited love Maud Gonne, to
oversee the exhumation.

But his and other graves on a short lease had been dug
up and lumped in with bodies disturbed by the
fighting. His bones were eventually identified by the
truss he wore. Unfortunately it transpired that the
plot next to the poet's, also exhumed, was occupied by
another large "Anglais" with a truss - Alfred Hollis -
whose family are still convinced that the bones taken
to Ireland were his.

Yeats expert Anthony Jordan has now published a paper
that asserts the "very real possibility" that the
bones in Drumcliffe are not the poet's. Ray Bateson,
the author of a new book The End - An Illustrated
Guide to the Graves of Irish Writers, said this week
he had been contacted by Yeats fans furious that he
had even mentioned the controversy in print. Brenda
Maddox, Yeats's biographer, has long argued that a DNA
test would solve the riddle.

Until then, we must take it on truss that horsemen
pass Yeats and not Alfred Hollis in Drumcliffe

· Another poet-casualty of war is Padraic Fiacc. His
collection Odour Of Blood, written in Belfast in the
dark days of 1973, broke what Seamus Heaney called the
"eternal rubric of whatever you say, saying nothing",
and addressed the savagery head-on. His reputation
never recovered. Now 80, and living in a Belfast
nursing home, there are at last signs of a critical
rehabilitation. Gerald Dawe is the latest big-hitter
to call for a reassessment of his work and there are
plans to reissue two of his collections.

· Even Fiacc has not been written off as often as the
short story. In Ireland, however, they are not yet
ready to accept its demise. As a part of its year as
European City of Culture, Cork, the home of Frank
O'Connor, perhaps the greatest short story writer of
them all, has put up a £35,000 prize in his memory.
Needless to say, the city showed him no such largesse
in his lifetime.


One Year After The Kelly's Incident: Bobby Tohill Speaks

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Liam O Ruairc • 3 February 2005



Burdens Unbearable

Anthony McIntyre • 4 February 2005

Robert McCartney's murder



Belfast Telegraph

Cash given to help asbestos victims' centre

By Heather Simpson
04 February 2005

A Northern Ireland charity which supports the victims of asbestos has been handed almost £10,000 to help launch a respite centre in Belfast.

Justice for Asbestos Victims was given £4,500 by the TSB bank and £5,000 by the Lottery Fund to start an information office offering help to sufferers and their families.

Chairman of Justice for Asbestos Victims, June Brown, said: "The money will go some way towards opening an office to offer advice to victims of the disease and their families. But my vision is to open a respite centre to help those affected psychologically."

June's husband Robbie Brown started the charity in 2002 before he died from asbestos-related lung cancer in 2003.

Since then the voluntary charity has guided its 300 members on everything from medical information to the law.

Asbestos has been widely used in the shipbuilding industry - resulting in a legacy of serious health problems.

Last week the Appeal Court in London overturned a decision to award £82,000 in damages to a woman who died from secondary exposure to asbestos last year.

The court said that Harland and Wolff were not liable for Teresa Maguire's death after she was exposed to her husband's work clothes.

June Brown said organisations should be held accountable.

She said: "They knew they had asbestos but they didn't make people aware. It's scandalous what happened."

Belfast Telegraph

**Maybe we could get them to exorcise the peace process :p

Exorcism experts urged for Irish dioceses
Priest wants help with 'strange happenings'

By David Quinn
04 February 2005

Every Catholic diocese across the island of Ireland should have a specialist who can assess possible supernatural occurrences such as "poltergeists, hauntings and demonic infestations", according to a priest who is an expert on spiritual issues.

Father Pat Collins made the call in the current issue of the religious periodical, The Furrow.

He also said that a special conference to discuss these issues is needed which would bring together theologians, psychologists, parapsychologists and experienced exorcists which would aim to "explore this aspect of ministry".

Fr Collins, who has written books on spirituality, said he regularly receives calls from people around the country reporting "strange happenings" in their homes.

"They range from footsteps, sounds of crying, smells, objects moving, to electrical appliances going on and off."

He wrote that his usual practice is to refer such people to their local priest for help, but that they would "recount how the priests they had spoken to had either dismissed their stories in a sceptical manner, said Mass or prayers in the house without any discernible effect, admitted that they were not competent to help, or referred them to someone like myself."

Fr Collins said that as a result of this lack of response from most priests, many Catholics are instead turning to "New Age practitioners, spiritualists, psychics and other non-Christian helpers".

He wrote that the Catholic Church needs to find a more systematic way of responding to queries about possible supernatural phenomena and to this end each diocese should appoint a specialist or expert in the area.

"Those who want to deal effectively (with reported supernatural occurrences) need to be au fait with psychology, the paranormal, the notion of the restless dead, and the possibility of infestation by evil.

"Like good doctors, they diagnose what the nature of the problem is, and then try to come up with an appropriate remedy.

"Not all priests would be expected to know about such things, any more than all doctors would be expected to know all about rare diseases.

"Good doctors refer difficult medical cases to specialists.

"Surely priests should be able to refer difficult cases, to do with such things as poltergeists, hauntings, and demonic infestation, to diocesan specialists. Otherwise those who are afflicted may have recourse to New Age practitioners, spiritualists, psychics and other non-Christian helpers," he said.

Fr Collins called for a conference designed to pool knowledge of the area. And he said that many Christians have given up belief in the supernatural because of the influence of secular ways of thinking.


Garda chief rules out investigation into bombings

THE Garda Commissioner yesterday ruled out the reopening of the investigations in to bombing atrocities in the State including the Dublin and Cavan blasts which killed five people over thirty years ago.

Commissioner Noel Conroy told TDs and senators he could not see how the gardai could now advance in any way the investigations conducted in the early 1970s.

He was speaking to the Special Oireachtas Committee examining the Barron Report in to the bombings of 1972 and 1973.

Three busmen were killed in two blasts in Sackville Place and Eden Quay in the early 1970s and two teenagers lost their lives in a bomb in Belturbet, Co Cavan in 1972. There were also 10 other bombs and three murders in the state in the early 70s and these are now being examined by the special Oireachtas Committee.

"I would not want to build up hopes of the relatives of the victims. I can't see how we could advance in any way the investigations conducted then. It would be very wrong of me to give false hopes and linger on with an investigation," the commissioner said.

"My professional viewpoint is I don't see how we could be in a position to develop the investigations any further. I'm sorry to say it," he said.

But the Commissioner did say he would appoint a liaison officer to speak to the families of the bereaved and go through the garda files on their behalf. And any questions they had would be answered but it might be difficult in relation to intelligence matters. Mr Conroy said the gardai could "give indications" of what the intelligence was at the time in relation to the crimes.

He said, like the families of the victims, he would like closure in the cases. He had looked at the files and he could see where the investigating officers had run in to difficulties which could not be overcome.

Referring to the 1972 Eden Quay and Sackville Place bombings, Mr Conroy said 319 written interviews are recorded on the Garda investigation file.

When asked about an anonymous call at the time linking five people to the bombings Mr Conroy said he found nothing to support putting evidence before the DPP.

Ann O'Loughlin


Time to listen to Republican anger


The IRA is sick of being blamed for everything which goes wrong in the peace process and recent developments reflect that, writes Danny Morrison.

THE statement issued yesterday afternoon by the IRA, the second in 24 hours, represents an ominous development and a major deterioration in the peace process.

Unlike Wednesday night's lengthy exposition of the IRA's analysis on what went wrong last December when a deal foundered, Thursday's statement was terse and suggested that the talking had finished. Republican frustration and anger has been building for some considerable time.

Certainly, where I live, in the heart of Gerry Adams's constituency in west Belfast, there is a feeling that each and every time republicans have made concessions the goalposts are shifted by unionists, often with the support or tolerance of the two governments.

The majority of Northern nationalists, who voted for Sinn Féin, are of the view that the governments are hypocritical and operate double standards. Elements of the two governments are hostile to Sinn Féin for different reasons. Some, on the British side, are still fighting the war by other means; are out to destroy the Adams leadership and would consider a split in the IRA and a return to conflict as a major success which would allow them to finish off the organisation.

Political parties in the Republic, particularly Fianna Fáil, never anticipated the success of Sinn Féin and its potential. Their concern is now a real factor in perversely affecting Dublin government thinking and using the current crisis to lambaste a domestic rival instead of coolly assessing what is a complex situation.

Republicans cite the list of compromises they made to help make peace: Sinn Féin changing its constitution to recognise a Northern Assembly; supporting the amendments of Articles 2 & 3 as a concession to unionist sensibilities; compromising and accepting the Patten proposals on new policing; the IRA suffering a split over the issue of engaging with the International Decommissioning body (IICD), which led to the formation of the Real IRA; the IRA putting three large tranches of weapons beyond use; and offering total decommissioning of weapons by Christmas, independently witnessed by Protestant and Catholic clerics.

But Patten was gutted during its legislative process. The old Special Branch migrated into the PSNI. There has been no Bill of Rights. Outstanding changes on criminal justice and equality have been stalled. The strictest electoral laws in Europe were introduced on the back of false allegations of mass personation by Sinn Féin only for Sinn Féin's vote to increase.

Republicans recall David Trimble being found guilty in court of illegally excluding two Sinn Féin ministers from North-South council meetings yet he suffered no sanctions. Unionists refuse to accept the Decommissioning Commission's word on arms even though it was set up for them. David Trimble reneged on the deal for the re-establishment of the executive in October 2003.

When at Christmas the anti-Agreement Ian Paisley blocked the peace process by demanding the total humiliation of the IRA, its wearing of sackcloth and ashes, the two governments caved in. They didn't threaten the DUP. They didn't look for an alternative 'government of the willing' of pro-Agreement parties, in the way they would now like to establish a gerrymandered coalition if they could recruit the SDLP.

The governments went along with the unionist demand for transparent evidence of IRA decommissioning. But when republicans politely asked for transparent evidence of IRA involvement in the Northern Bank raid new rules of confidentiality kicked in.

And now republicans are told by the two governments that the only obstacle in the way of peace is the IRA. That is such a blatant lie.

But it is a pretext for the British rolling back the Belfast Agreement and nationalists are angry that they are being thwarted once again from achieving their rights.

The IRA which re-emerged in 1969 because nationalists were left defenceless has not gone away and won't go away until the security of the nationalist community in the North has been established and guaranteed and republicans are free to use established institutions to peacefully campaign towards unity.

The two governments have always calculated that the IRA cannot return to armed struggle without Sinn Féin paying a heavy price.

Undoubtedly, because there is a degree of association, Sinn Féin's vote would suffer. However, the reason why a return to armed struggle would be foolhardy, in my opinion, is because it would be a return to a military stalemate.

However, the IRA defies conventional analysis. If it decided there was a case to be made for a return to armed struggle it would go down that road without regard to the post 9/11 perception of the world.

It has always been easier for the governments to blame the IRA than to face up to what Britain created in Ireland at the time of partition a sectarian state which refused to treat a section of its citizens as equals.

A major political vacuum looms. Hope is evaporating.

People feel desperate. All depends on whether the governments listen to what is being said.

Danny Morrison was national director of publicity for Sinn Féin from 1979 until his arrest in January 1990 in connection with the abduction of Sandy Lynch, an IRA informer, for which he was sentenced to 8 years' imprisonment.

He was a spokesman for Bobby Sands during the hunger strikes. He is credited with coining the phrase "an armalite in one hand and a ballot box in the other."


IRA threat triggers war fears

Harry McGee, Political Editor

THE IRA last night made a veiled threat to return to war with an ominous statement warning the Irish and British Governments: “Do not underestimate the seriousness of the situation.”

In what was described as a deeply sinister development for the unravelling peace process, the two-line statement accused the governments of playing down the importance of the statement issued the previous night, where the IRA said its offer to decommission all its weapons was off the table.

It also allegedly both Governments were "making a mess of the peace process".

The statement was issued to RTÉ just before 6pm last night. Although not appended with the usual P O'Neill signature, it came through established IRA channels.

The only public response from the Government was made by Finance Minister Brian Cowen who said the Government fully understood the seriousness of the situation. "I do not know what (the statement) means. The signatories of these statements are not amenable to any form of democratic accountability."

However, reliable Government sources last night said the statement was worrying as it was as close as the IRA have come to threatening a return to violence and could signal a dangerous change in dynamic.

The sources did not dismiss the possibility that the IRA was merely reasserting its credentials and authority to its supporters after being antagonised by the widespread downplaying of its previous statement.

Speaking earlier in the day, Taoiseach Bertie Ahern said he didn't read the statement in a negative fashion and portrayed the withdrawal of the offer to destroy weapons as a fact that followed the breakdown of negotiations. It is also believed that the Provisional movement was influenced by PSNI chief constable Hugh Orde's comments that the IRA had the capability of returning to war but not the intent.

The sources went on to say that the second statement allied to the harshness of criticism made earlier in the day by Sinn Féin representatives sent out mixed signals that were hard to interpret but might signal Sinn Féin putting some distance between the party and the Provos. It is certain that there are divisions within the republican movement in the current climate. In the worst scenario, it could mean the political side of the movement can no longer control the situation or, worse, it may indicate a possible return to violence.

The statement followed a day of unusually hard-hitting comments from Sinn Féin, even in the context of the recriminations following the Northern Bank robbery. In several interviews, party leaders Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness declared that Sinn Féin would no longer be willing to act as a conduit or interpreter for the IRA a departure that some interpreted as the party placing a clear gap between itself and the IRA.

"The IRA will speak for itself and Sinn Féin will speak for ourselves," said Mr Adams and, in a stark message to both governments, he warned that confrontation was "not the way forward, otherwise the peace process could be as transient as Mr Blair's time in Downing Street".

Mr Adams labelled Mr Ahern's linking of Sinn Féin politicians with criminality as a "disgrace", while Martin McGuinness lambasted the Taoiseach as Michael McDowell's "poodle".

Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny said last night that the statement was "tantamount to a threat against the Irish people and our State".

He called for political parties to stand firm against "this attempted intimidation".

Labour leader Pat Rabbitte condemned what he called "IRA belligerence."

Last night, a Government spokesperson rejected one view being posited that the IRA statement was actuated by a new tone of moderation by Mr Ahern yesterday, which flew in the face of his previous stern criticisms of the Republican movement. The spokesperson said that while Mr Ahern had been critical, he had persistently argued against Sinn Féin exclusion from the process.


Searching for craic on the web

Ice cream lovers can type in "poke"

A linguistics expert has been drafted in to help with an internet search engine which recognises Northern Ireland slang.

Dr Alison Henry of the University of Ulster has provided consultation on the type of words users may type into the website.

Colloquialisms such as gutties, craic, poke and bog will be recognised on the search engine Yell.com.

It has looked at slang words used in areas across the UK.

It said people from Northern Ireland living in Ipswich would be able to find opticians by typing in 'gleckers', which is slang for glasses.

Dr Henry, a professor of linguistics and author of Belfast English and Standard English, said: "Language plays an important role in Northern Ireland's culture and our local linguistic colloquialisms are much loved.

Bevy/scoop = Drink
Gutties = Trainers
Poke = Ice-cream
Offees = Off-Licence
Bog = Toilet
Piece = Sandwich/Slice of bread
Craic = Entertainment/Fun
Chippy = Chip shop

"People in Northern Ireland have a great sense of pride both in knowing and using these local colloquialisms in everyday conversation and it is great that in the digital age Yell.com acknowledges this."

The search engine said it was on the hunt for other suggestions and was launching a radio competition to find local words people would like to see added.

The company's Eddie Cheng said it was a recognition of the diversity of language in the UK.

"But we realise we've just scratched the surface in terms of the extent of regional dialect and that's why we're encouraging people to go to Yell.com with their own suggestions," he said.


Meehan attacks MI5 website’s loyalist nonsense

Sinn Féin has branded an MI5 website that refers to loyalists being “vigilante” groups as “a nonsense”.
The information contained on the web page of the British intelligence community says that loyalists originally came into being to protect their communities from republican attacks.
“Loyalist vigilante groups were originally formed in the 1960s and 1970s to defend their neighbourhoods in Northern Ireland against republican violence,” the website says.
It goes on to say, “but (they) swiftly developed into terrorist organisations”.
An angry Martin Meehan said, “they are trying to turn history on its head. Everyone knows what happened here in the 1960s, but this so-called British intelligence organisation seems to want it recorded another way,” he said.
“What happened to Peter Ward and the assassination of John Scullion.
“There was no republican campaign at that particular time.”
John Scullion and Peter Ward were Catholics murdered by the UVF in 1966.
UVF leader Gusty Spence and two other men were jailed for their part in the murder of Peter Ward outside a bar in Malvern Street in the Shankill area.
“Then in 1969 it was the UVF who blew up the water pipelines to blame it on republicans and how can you tell the hundreds of Catholic families burned out of Hooker Street, Herbert Street and Brookfield Street that their attackers were vigilantees.
“That side of the Crumlin Road was burned down by B Specials supported by their Orange hordes before any republican campaign.
“These are people who are trying to turn our history on its head.”

Journalist:: Staff Reporter


Tributes flood in from across the country for Brendan Bradley, who died on Monday of this week

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Mina Wardle, Director of Shankill Stress and Trauma Centre
“If there’s one tribute we would have, is that he gave us so much support. We were both members of a group, which advised the government and the then Minister Adam Ingram from a victims’ perspective, between 1998 to 2000.
“We represented both areas, and we knew that we didn’t want a hierarchy of victims, so from when I first met Brendan I knew there was an affinity there already.
“He was the first person to have the names of the 4,000 people who had died in the conflict, from both communities on all sides. I thought he was very brave.
“He was so au fait with all the issues working-class people had. Brendan accepted everybody for what they were and he reached out to all communities. He was most definitely a one-off.
“His own troubles I think spurred him on, he knew what victimhood was at first hand.
“And he spoke with great authority of what people suffered and he knew all the issues and problems they faced.
“Survivors of Trauma is a great tribute to Brendan in that it went from a very small group to such a well-respected and listened-to body.
“We have lots of calls from people asking about Brendan from across the community. I think he’s left a lovely legacy for his own children.
“He never broke faith with his own community and yet he understood street politics and could represent all victims, all at the same time.
“Brendan is one of those special people that you don’t meet very often. In January 2004 at the Slieve Donard Hotel in Newcastle, Brendan told his own story and it was so poignant.
“We’d heard Brendan’s story before, but we’d never heard it that way before.
“He told his own family journey in such a way that everyone identified with it. He touched the hearts of an awful lot of people. I will miss him, and our group will miss him terribly.”

TRIBUTE BY: Staff at Survivors of Trauma
“Working with Brad was both enjoyable and challenging. He had so many ideas for the work he carried out in the centre and also for the wider community. Some were small things with a big impact others were huge like training up young people in construction to build homes in the community.
“We would often feel that we were working with the scarlet pimpernel – one minute you would see him, the next he was away to one of the many meetings he attended.
“In the mornings he opened the centre and put the kettle on and as soon as we came in he would say “tea or coffee love”. It was a nice way to start the day.
“This would follow with a lengthy lighthearted discussion on the recent news stories and what was going on in the community. A couple of cuppas later and the vocal chords were well lubricated we each would go about our jobs with much slagging and banter – mostly from the man himself.
“Brad greeted everyone who came into the centre with a smile and made them feel at home. No one left feeling unwanted and many returned.
“He would sit in the coffee area and tell stories about everything under the sun all with a joke and a smile. There were times when he was even a clairvoyant, but only to the unsuspecting which give people a lot of laughs.
“You rarely ever saw him without a film or TV crew, groups of students or professionals listening intently to the stories of his life and the many views he had about the society he lived in.
“He knew about everyone in North Belfast who had died as a direct result of the conflict and spoke of them all with compassion – they were more than just a name on the memorial – they were people who had a life and a family.
“We were not just people who worked together we were friends who laughed together, cried together, fought together and Brad was the glue that held us all together.”

TRIBUTE BY: Pat Convery
“Brendan Bradley was a man who was deeply concerned for his family and community as well as being a friend to all who asked for help.
“I am glad that I met Brendan and over the years we developed a good and positive friendship while working together on various projects especially the Survivors project from the beginning and through to its conclusion.
“Yes like everyone else we had our differences and disagreements but he was always prepared to talk to you the next day and everyone who required help was treated equally without favour.
“One thing that his family can be proud of was that he was prepared to be different regardless of any criticism and he was able to fit in to any situation whether it was meeting a government minister or talking to residents in the local community.
“It is regrettable that his untimely death will have left many of his ideas incomplete.
“I would like to pass on my condolences and that of my family to his wife Rosaleen and family circle and to say that it was a privilege to have known and worked with Brendan.
“I have lost a true friend.”

Michael Liggett, Ardoyne Focus Group
“Where do you begin to try and write a tribute to Brad? The shock of his sudden death will only be apparent from his absence at committee meetings or when you need him to give you a lift or to be that much-needed presence when negotiating or mediating. Brad was an all rounder.
“We worked together on building sites, learned music and the Irish language together. We stood together in the pouring rain collecting for Conradh na Gaeilge.
“He was there when the Brits and peelers used to hassle young men and women on the streets of Ardoyne. He even showed us how not to be bullied by them.
“There were good times as well. I remember him enjoying himself as he shared the stage with Shebeen or even as he played the fiddle or bodhran at a session. Or even the day he got drunk at my wedding. He enjoyed people and his greatest ability was organising.
“The campaigns he was involved with are countless and his profile as a community leader is without blemish. Brad got involved with the Ardoyne Fleadh from its inception. His involvement with the Fleadh helped him realise the importance of organising the community, an activity which he continued to the best of his ability right up to his untimely death.
“He had been in bad health but numerous scares with his heart never slowed his determination to get a good deal for the community.
“The shock of his parting still hasn’t sunk in. While he will be greatly missed by us all, his imprint on the entire district will be with us for many years to come.”

President of Ireland pays tribute to “good friend”
The President of Ireland Mary McAleese has sent a message of heartfelt condolences to the family of Brendan Bradley.
Describing Brendan as her good friend, the Ardoyne born President praised his life-long commitment to cross-community work in Belfast's interface areas.
“Work of this kind is often the toughest and the stresses and strains, unimaginable,” said an t-Uachtarán.
The President of Ireland was unable to attend the funeral at Holy Cross on Thursday morning but she sent an aide-de-camp Captain Lorraine Fahy to represent her office. President McAleese paid a visit to the Community Development Centre on the Cliftonville Road in February 2000 which Brendan was chairperson of.
During that meeting, the President along with her husband Martin met with community workers to discuss ways in which the community sector was helping society recover from the trauma of the past 30 years.
She praised people like Brendan Bradley who pioneered cross-community efforts and peace-building projects.
“People like Brendan and countless others had the vision and imagination to see that we could obliterate the win-lose ethic of the past and replace it with a new generous doctrine of trust, respect and reconciliation,” Mary McAleese said at the time.
This week, President McAleese also conveyed her sympathies to all those organisations with which Brendan Bradley was involved.

TRIBUTE BY: Holy Cross Priest Fr Gary Donegan
“Brendan was one of those people who realised how important the themes of suffering and victimhood really were. Considering the personal pain he and his family went through, Brendan threw himself into it even though some would have avoided it.
“He was very level headed about everything and many thought he was older than what he was. His wisdom will be greatly missed as will his maturity in tackling sensitive matters and the underlying trauma.
“He was involved in bringing consolation to others, even though he lost his own nephew through suicide. Determined to highlight the issue, he got involved in lots of work with young people with groups across the area.
“He was a real friend in every way, and he had a dry sense of humour which had people in stitches. When I first arrived at Holy Cross, there had been violence on Alliance Avenue and even in the midst of great diversity, and the area being riddled with gun fire, there was great humour.
“The fact that the President is sending a representative shows the esteem in which Brendan was held. People from the Shankill and his own community have been paying tribute ever since the word spread about his untimely death. Brendan transcended all of the barriers life throws at us here and instead threw his life into reconciliation. He was an example to all of us.”

Reverend Bill Shaw
“I’m still trying to come to terms with Brendan’s sudden death and like so many people I’ve talked with in the last couple of days – people who knew him better and longer than me – have my own thoughts about the sort of man he was. Everything I’ve heard merely confirms my own ‘first impressions’.
“I had met Brendan not long after I started 174 Trust at a meeting – can’t remember now what it was about because he, like me, was involved in so many different and diverse initiatives.
“I continued to bump into him over the years – particularly in connection with the negotiations around the Holy Cross dispute – and came to know him as someone who refused to allow personal tragedy and hurt to embitter him but was always willing to work with anyone and everyone to improve things for those he represented – often people struggling to cope with their own pain.
“Brendan will be sorely missed by all those working to make this part of our city a better place.”

Sinn Féin MLA Kathy Stanton
“Brad was a dedicated and committed person the proof of which was reflected in the work he carried out without hesitation in his community and beyond.
“Brad not only spoke the word inclusiveness but also genuinely practised what he preached. He made contacts and spoke passionately about his people at a period during the conflict when all others demonised our community.
“His courage shone through at all times to ensure all working-class people had a voice and could bring about the true meaning to the words ‘a better quality of life’.
“Personally he will be a hard person to replace and I wish to extend my sympathy to his wife and children on their great loss.
“Thankfully they will have treasured memories of their father and husband who contributed greatly not only for the betterment of their lives and for all who knew him but for the people in North Belfast, especially those who suffered the ultimate price of losing their loved ones.
“I am proud to have worked with him and will never forget the sincere and committed man he was.”

Journalist:: Staff Reporter


First Irish school funded by BELB opens

It was a celebratory day for the pupils of a North Belfast Irish primary school this week after it became the first Irish medium school to be funded by the Belfast Education and Library Board.

The great news followed a hectic year in 2003 when the students had to leave their home in St Patrick’s school in North Queen Street.

But now Bunscoil Mhic Reachtain (McCracken primary) can now call the former Fredrick Street nursery home and the kids are delighted with their new surroundings.

When the school had to vacate the premises at St Patrick’s, Presbyterian minister Bill Shaw threw open his doors and temporarily housed the youngsters while classes continued.

And principal Seamus O Donnghaile said the local naiscóil An Lóiste Úr and a new nursery in the grounds of Glengormley’s St Enda’s GAA club had bolstered numbers at the school.

BELB chief executive David Cargo and chairwoman Carmel McKinney were at the school for its official adoption into the BELB fold.

David Cargo paid tribute to the school’s inclusiveness.

“The board was looking at the concept of controlled status. We have majority protestant schools that are controlled, we also have catholic schools and we have integrated schools,” he said.

Journalist:: Staff Reporter


Agonising wait for a grieving family

No-one charged with May Street murder as family told they may have to wait until Tuesday before body is returned

The Belfast family of murdered Short Strand man Robert McCartney may have to wait up to another week before the body of the father-of-two is released for burial, it has emerged.

The latest news will only compound the grief of the McCartney family.
Mr McCartney’s parents had returned from holiday to hear the news of their son’s fatal stabbing outside a city centre pub.

Mr McCartney was drinking at Magennis’s Whiskey Café in May Street at around 11pm on Sunday night with friends when a fight broke out and spilled into the street. He was found unconscious in Cromac Street but died later in hospital.

31-year-old North Belfast man Brendan Devine was also seriously injured during the fracas.

Deputy Mayor of Belfast, Joe O’Donnell, extended his sympathy to the grieving man’s family and said the whole Short Strand community was still in shock from the murder.

“The family is obviously distraught at the moment and my deepest sympathies go out to them.

“This man went out for a drink with friends and ended up dead. I just don’t know how they are coping," said the Sinn Fein councillor.

Last night a PSNI spokesperson said no one has yet been charged or is currently is being held in custody relation to the incident.

Seven people so far have been questioned and released without charge.
Allegations of PSNI ‘heavy handedness’ and of the ‘politicisation’ of the murder of the Belfast man have been rife, after a series of raids on homes of former republican prisoners in the Short Strand area. "I am in no way trying to take away from the grief of the McCartney family, they have my total sympathy at this time, but the fact remains some of the raids carried out by the PSNI have been politically motivated," said Cllr O’Donnell.

He added: “The PSNI are politicising Bert McCartney’s death.”

Journalist:: Staff Reporter


SF criticise anti-collusion group ban

Sinn Féin has criticised a decision to ban the anti-collusion group An Fhírinne from a “diversity” week at the University of Ulster campus at Jordanstown.
The groups were forced out despite the presence of a stall for the PSNI and the university promoting the British army in recruitment drives in the past.
Belfast city councillor David Kennedy met with representatives of the university’s student union, public relations office and Provost Bill Clarke regarding the removal of a one-day anti-collusion display.
But the university said though it supported a request to have it removed it had not banned the exhibition.
“The display highlights those who have been victims of state collusion, which was given the go ahead before Christmas by the UUJ Students Union,” said Cllr Kennedy.
“However, when the exhibition went ahead we were told by the Union to remove it with the excuse that some people found it offensive.
“That is despite nationalist students finding stalls for the PSNI and British army offensive, but they weren’t removed.
“On the day the PSNI had a stall only a hundred yards away. This flies in the face of any form of even-handedness and exposes the university for denying a human rights organisation access to the campus.”
A university spokesman said the exhibition had “offended the neutrality protocol”.
“There were many dozens of posters. Physically the exhibition took over the foyer. The media had been invited and there were some family members there without prior permission.”
He also defended the presence of the PSNI saying they were there to “disseminate public safety information”.

Journalist:: Staff Reporter


One in three live in poverty in North

04/02/2005 - 09:58:34

Nearly a third of the North's population is living below the poverty line according to shock details released today.

Studies of poverty showed there was a higher proportion of families in poverty than in either the Republic or in Britain.

Academics at Queen’s University Belfast have found that 185,000 households - more than 500,000 people - were living below the poverty line.

Poverty was measured by two yardsticks: low income and deprivation – having to go without things which the public regard as necessities of life, such as enough money to pay heating, electricity and telephone bills on time and new, not second-hand, clothes.

Professors Paddy Hillyard and Eithne McLaughlin were detailing their findings at a seminar of senior social scientists and police-makers meeting in Belfast to explore how far the British government is succeeding in abolishing child poverty, reducing social exclusion and improving equal opportunities in the North.

Brought together by the Economic and Social Research Council, the UK’s biggest funder of social research, the seminar was examining the distribution of income, benefits and tax in the North.

The academics’ reports showed that children and families in the North were more deprived than their counterparts in Britain.

Professor Hillyard said the North was one of the most unequal societies in the developed world.

He added: “The challenge for Northern Ireland and local politicians is how to reduce these deep fractures of inequality and create a more just society.”

Professor McLaughlin said lone parents in the province face particular difficulties because of low levels of job opportunities for women generally, combined with low pay and lack of early years provision.

Random Ramblings from a Republican

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Celebrating the Countess' Birthday!



Who gains from this breakdown?
The British and Irish governments have reason to undermine Sinn Féin

Niall Stanage
Friday February 4, 2005
The Guardian

The Irish peace process, which just two months ago seemed inches away from a final settlement, is in turmoil. The current downward spiral began in late December, when a raid on a Belfast bank netted its perpetrators £26m. Tony Blair and his Irish counterpart Bertie Ahern wasted no time in declaring that the IRA was responsible for the heist. They have stuck with that position since, though they have not produced a shred of evidence to back up their claims. The two premiers this week characterised the IRA as "the sole obstacle" in the way of progress.

The IRA responded in kind on Wednesday, declaring that further decommissioning was now "off the table". While reaffirming its desire to see the peace process succeed, it also warned, ominously, that current circumstances had "tried our patience to the limit". That statement, in turn, provoked an outcry from Irish republicanism's opponents. Ian Paisley, the leader of the hardline Democratic Unionist party, said that the IRA had "never had any intention of giving up their criminal empire".

The peace process has passed through moments of peril before, of course. But now, all forward momentum seems lost. Sinn Féin's Martin McGuinness spoke yesterday of a "deepening crisis".

Two things have remained true of Northern Ireland since the worst years of the Troubles. First, things are rarely as they appear. Second, it is always vital to ask whose interests are served when unsupported allegations are flung about.

There are three possible explanations for the bank raid which precipitated the current mess. It could have been carried out by the IRA with the approval of the Sinn Féin leadership; or by freelancing current or former members of the organisation; or by someone else entirely, possibly someone who would like to see Sinn Féin ostracised and republicanism's political progress halted.

The British and Irish governments clearly favour the first explanation. Their vehemence has fuelled the notion that they must have cast-iron evidence. Perhaps they do. But why, then, have they not produced any of it? In order to believe that the likes of Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness were complicit in the bank robbery one must make a series of assumptions that make no sense.

The current republican leadership has invested two decades in the peace process. They have nothing to gain from its failure. Why, then, would they give tacit approval to a massive bank raid? Even if the perpetrators were not caught in the act, Adams and McGuinness would know that suspicion would fall upon them. And they would know that such suspicion would in itself be potent enough to wreck the project to which they have dedicated much of their lives.

It is more plausible to believe that individuals who are, or were, members of the IRA carried out the raid for personal profit. But if that is the case, why should the 300,000 Irish nationalists who vote for Sinn Féin be punished in response? One thing is not in doubt. It is Sinn Féin's opponents who can reap most benefit from pinning blame for December's robbery on republicans.

Attributing blame to republicans for the current impasse also gets Paisley off the hook. Many people believe that he kiboshed a possible deal on decommissioning at the end of last year: the IRA had offered to disarm fully, but Paisley demanded photographic evidence and made a provocative speech in which he demanded the IRA don sackcloth and ashes.

This would not be the first time a unionist leader has been saved from international condemnation by a flurry of allegations against republicans. Those who regard such talk as conspiratorial nonsense might recall that in late 2002, David Trimble was finally beginning to take flak for his intransigence - until sensational allegations of an IRA/Sinn Féin "spy ring" emerged. Almost all charges relating to that affair were eventually, and quietly, dropped. But Northern Ireland's devolved government has never been resuscitated.

The Irish government has good reasons of its own to blacken Sinn Féin's name. Adams's party is on the rise in the Irish Republic. It has five members of the Irish parliament and its first MEP from the south, and continues to threaten the establishment parties, Bertie Ahern's Fianna Fáil in particular. What better way to put a stop to Sinn Féin's gallop than to paint it as deceitful and nefarious?

Many Irish republicans were always suspicious of the peace process. They believed that the British government and the unionists were interested only in their defeat, not in genuine political progress. They believed they would be drawn away from the armed struggle, only to be frozen out politically. Recent events give them ample reason to say "we told you so".

· Niall Stanage is a correspondent for the Dublin-based Sunday Business Post



Sinn Féin and Dublin in grudge match

After IRA withdraws decommissioning offer, Republicans are furious with Irish PM for accusing leaders of approving £26.5m bank job.

Angelique Chrisafis, Ireland correspondent
Friday February 4, 2005
The Guardian

On the Falls Road, someone had scribbled "IRA is the best" in marker pen on a wall. Other more light-hearted graffiti, "Gerry, Gerry give us a loan", had turned up elsewhere.

Steven, an unemployed coalman who voted for Sinn Féin, was in a pensive mood. "The IRA were right to withdraw the offer on decommissioning.

"What else could they do? It's the only playing card they have and they had no option but to use it," he said.

He did not believe the IRA had carried out the £26.5m Northern Bank robbery. It was MI5 or "British dirty tricks".

He had served time in prison for membership of the IRA and said a mood of frustration had taken hold of republicans who, a decade after their first ceasefire, saw no sign of the Stormont assembly sitting.

"The ceasefire won't be broken - this leadership wouldn't go back to war now - but the younger generation could run out of patience," he said.

Others in this republican area were not so sure the IRA's hands were clean. "It had to be a big organisation that robbed that bank, didn't it?" sighed a woman who would not be named. "They are very silly withdrawing the decommissioning offer. The majority of people round here just want peace. We don't want our kids going through what we did."

The IRA's statement that it was withdrawing its offer to decommission all weapons is a gambit that has been tried and tested before.

It broke off contacts with General de Chastelain's decommissioning body in October 2003 after a deal with the Ulster Unionist leader David Trimble collapsed, but returned to the table when the atmosphere changed.

But the threatening tone of the new statement is of a different order. It is seen by some as a return to the old instinct of the armalite in one hand and the ballot box in the other, a reminder there is still an awkward stable of unhappy paramilitaries to be squared.

There is a more crucial difference. The enemy is not the unionists or even Downing Street, but Dublin, and this is what seems to have made republicans jittery.

Sinn Féin seem to have been taken by surprise by the vehemence with which the Irish prime minister, Bertie Ahern, has turned on them after police blamed the IRA for the bank robbery.

It is now no longer simply a struggle with British government, but a grudge match within nationalism. Mr Ahern has been scathing in the Daíl, linking the IRA to a series of multi-million pound cigarette and other robberies as well as punishment attacks.

He has effectively said Sinn Féin and the IRA are one and the same. What is more, he has got personal, claiming that both Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness knew the bank robbery was being planned while they negotiated with him to end IRA activity.

The other Dublin parties have rolled in behind him to denounce Sinn Féin, accusing it of refusing to play by the rules of democracy.

Sinn Féin's wounded response was illustrated last night by Mr Adams lashing out at the "criminality" of what he called the republic's culture of political backhanders and brown envelopes.

Mr McGuinness attacked Mr Ahern for playing electoral politics, saying even more forcefully than before that the robbery was the "work of criminals who have nothing to do with the IRA". He talked of "malign forces" at work, accusing Dublin of listening to London's intelligence rather than its own.

All this has happened against a backdrop of rising republican violence. The IRA has been blamed for an upsurge in brutal new forms of punishment beatings across Northern Ireland as it flexes its muscles against young undesirables. This week a senior republican was arrested and questioned about a bar fight murder in the staunchly nationalist Markets area of Belfast. As police moved in to do searches, they were pelted with bricks, stones and bottles by youths.

The new siege mentality within Sinn Féin was caught by the first front-page headline of Daily Ireland, the republican all-Ireland newspaper launched this week. It asked: "House raids and harassment to replace handshakes and dialogue?"

Republicans denied that a split in the IRA between hardliners and political strategists had led to withdrawal of a decommissioning offer.

One ex-republican prisoner in West Belfast said the pessimistic mood was the worst in 10 years, with republicans angry that their efforts in the peace process had not been recognised."The IRA is getting blamed for everything. When dissident republicans throw paint over a kid in Falls Road, the IRA is blamed."

Another source in west Belfast said there were serious differences in opinion in the movement about whether the peace process was working.

There is no palpable fear in Northern Ireland that the IRA will return to violence. The chief constable, Hugh Orde, repeated his claim that the IRA had the capacity and the capability to return to war, but not the intention.

Most believe that Sinn Féin's international statesmen and strategists could not countenance a repeat of an act like the Canary Wharf bomb in the post-September 11 world.

Anthony McIntyre, a former republican prisoner and commentator, said the IRA's withdrawal of its decommissioning offer was "about a process of brinkmanship, about throwing the rattle out of the pram. It creates a difficult atmosphere. Sinn Féin wants to give the impression they are victims."


Ulster standoff after new IRA threat

Michael White and Angelique Chrisafis
Friday February 4, 2005
The Guardian

The renewed political crisis in Northern Ireland intensified last night when the IRA brushed aside British and Irish allegations of criminality and warned the two governments: "Do not underestimate the seriousness of the situation."

Twenty-four hours after the Provisional IRA withdrew its long-stalled promise to decommission weapons stockpiles, London and Dublin refused to be impressed. Convinced that the IRA and its political wing, Sinn Féin, are bluffing, they also insist that the IRA's ceasefire will hold.

There was some comfort for Tony Blair and Bertie Ahern when administration sources in Washington confirmed that that the Bush administration is considering excluding Sinn Féin's president, Gerry Adams, from the annual St Patrick's Day celebrations at the White House on March 17. The move would be a gesture of support for the tough Anglo-Irish stand against the IRA's alleged £26.5m robbery at the Northern Bank in Belfast on December 20.

Last night neither side was prepared to blink. London and Dublin insisted that the focus must be maintained on the real issue of paramilitary "criminality".

Sinn Féin again denied the bank robbery charge and the IRA appeared to hint at an end to the ceasefire.

In a menacing two-line statement, a senior republican source said: "The two governments are trying to play down the importance of our statement because they are making a mess of the peace process. Do not underestimate the seriousness of the situation."

That statement echoed comments by Mr Adams yesterday that the peace process could be "as transient as Tony Blair's time in Downing Street." Asked whether the IRA ceasefire would last, Mr Adams had refused to interpret the IRA's overnight statement. Instead he and his deputy, Martin McGuinness, accused his critics of seeking confrontation.

Unionists called their tactics a "temper tantrum". They appealed to voters to stop supporting a political party that threatened to "embed" criminal violence in their society.

Republican sources in Belfast suggest that their bluff is being called by both governments. As a result they are warning them that they are in deadly earnest, that their authority is not being respected, and that they must be heard as they were earlier in the peace process, rather than being grilled and ridiculed.

The Independent Monitoring Commission's report on the robbery, delivered yesterday and to be published next week, is expected to endorse the guilty verdict and may recommend that Sinn Féin be suspended from any power-sharing cabinet for six months.

Last night the IRA accused Mr Blair and the taoiseach of deliberate confrontation after mishandling the peace process before Christmas when the DUP leader, Ian Paisley, insisted on photographic proof that IRA stockpiles were being blown up. Yet ministers remain adamant that the advice of police and intelligence services in both countries is that the ceasefire will hold and that the IRA is not facing a split.

London is considering ideas being floated by the mainstream parties in the province that they should try to restore devolved government at Stormont, suspended two years ago, without Sinn Féin, now the largest nationalist party.

"We do not want to go down that road," said one senior official. "But if the IRA persist in criminal activity we may have no option."

After talks at No 10, the Northern Ireland secretary, Paul Murphy, said: "We told Sinn Féin that they are to go back and reflect upon the points that the governments have made to them - in many ways the ball is in their court - to stop the criminality which is associated with the IRA."



**Earlier today in the Guardian, Murphy was pronouncing on the IRA. I won't include the whole article, but this part I found interesting for McGuinness' assessment:

Murphy: IRA not preparing to go back to war

Matthew Tempest and agencies
Thursday February 3, 2005

...This morning Sinn Féin shifted the blame back to the British and Irish governments for last night's IRA withdrawal of an arms decommissioning offer, saying the entire peace process was now in "deep crisis".

Speaking the morning after the IRA formally withdrew its offer of allowing full inspections of arms dumps, Mr McGuinness said Mr Blair and the Irish taoiseach Bertie Ahern had been too quick to buy into the "opinion" of one police officer over December's £26m bank raid, blamed on the republican terrorists by Northern Ireland chief constable Hugh Orde.

Although Downing Street has kept its nerve in the face of the IRA move, calling it "not unexpected", it comes just six days after Mr Blair met both Mr Adams and Mr McGuinness for face-to-face talks at Chequers.

But as the war of words escalated this morning, Mr McGuinness told the BBC: "The real difficulty here is that the two governments have opted for confrontation.

"The IRA statement is obviously a direct consequence of the retrograde stance of the two governments, and I think it is evidence of a deepening crisis."

Refusing to accept the IRA were guilty of the December bank raid, he said the whole crisis had been created by the "opinion" voiced by Mr Orde that the IRA was responsible for the Northern Bank raid, which was then taken up by Mr Blair and Mr Ahern.

"These are opinions. Would you like to be convicted on the word of the chief of police, because that is what we are talking about here.

"We are talking about an entire process being held hostage to what is an opinion. What we have to deal with is facts. We cannot allow any situation where the justice system is set aside and effectively all decisions are taken by chiefs of police, prime ministers or international monitoring commissions made up of three spooks and a British lord."


McDowell plans to recruit 1,400 volunteer gardaí

03 February 2005
By Cormac O’Keeffe

JUSTICE MINISTER Michael McDowell plans to have 1,400 volunteer reserve gardaí in place by the end of the decade.
The minister said the garda reserve will have the same powers, duties, immunities and privileges as full-time gardaí.

Garda representative associations and the State’s human rights watchdog have expressed concerns at the proposal.

Speaking yesterday, Mr McDowell said the number of volunteers will be around 10% of the full-time force, which is scheduled to reach 14,000 members by 2008.

“I would hope the reserve force would be in place within the next five years and I hope the planning would start in the relatively near future,” he says.

The reserve will be modelled on the voluntary police force in Britain, known as the ‘Special Constabulary’. It is understood the volunteers would accompany gardaí on the streets, particularly at busy periods.

They will also be used to ‘steward’ major events, such as sporting occasions and parades. In addition, the volunteers could have an involvement in processing traffic offences and other administrative functions.

Provisions enabling the establishment of the force are contained in the Garda Síochána Bill 2004, currently before the Dáil.

The garda associations have expressed concern at the establishment of a volunteer unit.

“We’ve no problem putting in enabling legislation, but we don’t believe there is a public demand for it,” said Pat Flynn, general secretary of the Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors (AGSI).

“We don’t believe it’s the way to go. We believe the force should be steadily increased up to a proper number. We also believe they should carry out a proper study on An Garda Síochána to see what is the proper number of gardaí required to provide a proper service.”

The State’s Human Rights Commission (HRC) has also expressed opposition to the volunteer force.

“The HRC is seriously concerned about any proposals for the exercise of police powers by ‘non-gardaí’,” said the body.

“We believe that individuals who have not undergone any serious period of police training and education should not be granted legal power to arrest and use reasonable force.”

Speaking on RTÉ radio, Mr McDowell said he would meet the AGSI and any other representative body to discuss the matter.

He said the volunteer force was entirely separate.

“I want to make it very clear both to the representative associations and the public that in no way do I consider garda reserve an adequate substitute for an adequate professional full-time police force.”

RTE News - Paisley censured for homophobic comments

Paisley censured for homophobic comments

03 February 2005 20:15

The DUP's Ian Paisley Junior has been formally censured by the Northern Ireland Policing Board for homophobic comments he made about an adviser to the Ulster Unionist leader, David Trimble.

Mr Paisley, who is a member of the policing board, made disparaging comments about the gay marriage in Canada of Stephen King and his partner earlier this week.

Following news of the wedding in Canada, which recognises gay marriage, Mr Paisley described homosexual relationships as immoral, offensive and obnoxious.

After a meeting today, the board said it had resolved that Mr Paisley's comments were incompatible with its policies and practises.

The censure followed a motion from independent members of the board, who cited the rising incidence of homophobic attacks in Northern Ireland


SF faces sanctions

03/02/2005 - 18:22:02

Sinn Féin is facing new sanctions after paramilitary watchdogs today blamed the IRA for the Northern Bank robbery.

As security chiefs insisted the Provisionals were not set to go back to war despite withdrawing a disarmament offer, the Independent Monitoring Commission delivered its report on the £26.5m (€37.8m) raid.

The specially prepared dossier, which London and Dublin are due to publish next week, has backed the North's Chief Constable Hugh Orde’s assessment that the terrorist organisation plotted the stunning December 20 heist on the Northern’s Belfast HQ.

Even though Northern Ireland’s power-sharing government has been suspended for more than two years, the three-member IMC is believed to have suggested banning Sinn Féin from any executive cabinet for six months.

Secretary of State Paul Murphy must now decide whether to invoke the punishment should devolution be restored at Stormont, although any revival looks impossible before the British General Election.

It is the second time the Commission has recommended sanctions against Sinn Féin.

Last April the party was fined for alleged IRA violence, including the abduction of a Belfast dissident republican.

But the latest move will do nothing to improve the mood among republicans which led the Provos to take their decommissioning offer from the table.

The IRA said British Prime Minister Tony Blair and Taoiseach Bertie Ahern had tried its patience to the limit by claiming its alleged criminality was the sole obstacle to peace.

And Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams warned the process was now in a deepening crisis because of the two governments’ attitude.

He said: “We have told them both that confrontation is not the way forward.

“Otherwise the peace process could be as transient as his (Mr Blair’s) time in Downing Street.”

Both Mr Murphy and Mr Orde stressed, however, the IRA was not on the verge of a renewed campaign of violence.

The Northern Ireland Secretary ratcheted up the pressure on republicans to halt all crime operations.

He said: “They (the IRA) have to accept that is what is dealing a great blow at the moment, both to the peace process and the political process in Northern Ireland.

“We told Sinn Féin that they are to go back and reflect upon the points that the governments have made to them – in many ways the ball is in their court – to stop the criminality which is associated with the IRA.”

Mr Orde was briefed by his anti-terror officers before declaring a fresh wave of terrorism was not imminent.

“We are clear the IRA has the capacity, it has the capability, but I don’t think they have the intent to go back to war or armed struggle,” he said.

In Dublin, Mr Ahern called for time to try to hammer out the political impasse threatening the Good Friday Agreement.

“I don’t read the IRA statement in a negative fashion,” he said.

“They are saying what is a fact, that negotiations have broken down.

“Everything is off the table and that’s the normal course of negotiation.”

But unionists were outraged by republicans’ tactics, with pressure growing for Sinn Féin to be blocked from attending any US St Patrick’s Day events being organised for next month by the White House.

Peter Robinson, the Democratic Unionists deputy leader, revealed he has been in talks with President George Bush’s special envoy to Northern Ireland, Mitchell Reiss.

He said: “Sinn Féin’s access to the States and fund raising should both be tackled.

“Is Gerry Adams going to be allowed to walk in and have tea with the President on St Patrick’s Day or is it going to be cancelled?”

Ulster Unionist chief David Trimble emerged from Downing Street talks with Mr Blair to hit out at any future IRA violence.

He said: “I do not believe it, and I think even if there is something coming from that direction it should be treated with contempt and disdain.”

The Upper Bann MP also claimed Mr Blair acknowledged the process had changed.

He said: “The Prime Minister is clearly saying to us we are now in a different situation to where we were before.”

Mark Durkan, leader of the nationalist SDLP, accused the IRA of arrogance in its statement.

He said: “The reality is that the IRA carried out the Northern Bank robbery.

“Instead of facing up to that fact and the huge damage they have done to the peace process, they have thrown a huff at the two governments.”

RTE News

Man remanded over Robert Holohan's death

03 February 2005 19:47

Wayne O'Donoghue remanded in custody

A 20-year-old engineering student charged with the manslaughter of schoolboy Robert Holohan has been remanded in custody for a fortnight.

Wayne O'Donoghue, of Ballyedmond, Midleton, Co Cork, was charged with killing the 11-year-old in Midleton on 4 January last.

The case was the first to be called at Midleton District Court this morning where Inspector Martin Dorney applied for a two-week adjournment.

Robert's body was discovered near Inch Strand in east Cork eight days after he disappeared.

A post mortem examination showed that he died of asphyxiation.

Mr O'Donoghue is being detained at Midlands Prison in Portlaoise. He will appear in court again on 17 February.

RTE News

Govts playing down statement says IRA

03 February 2005 20:24

The IRA has accused the British and Irish governments of trying to play down the importance of its statement, withdrawing its offer to decommission weapons.

In a second statement issued to RTÉ News this evening, the organisation said the crisis in the peace process is serious and the situation should not be underestimated.

Speaking on RTÉ News, the Minister for Finance, Brian Cowen, said there is no role for paramilitaries in modern Ireland and that the essence of republicanism is to agree with the will of the people.

The Fine Gael leader, Enda Kenny, said the latest IRA statement is 'tantamount to a threat against the Irish people and its state'.

The Labour Party leader, Pat Rabbitte, described the latest IRA statement as a sinister development.

The Green Party leader, Trevor Sargent, described the latest statement as hardline and said its language and tone was extremely intimidating.

The new two-line statement came as the report of the Independent Monitoring Commission into the Northern Bank raid in Belfast was delivered to the Minister for Justice, Michael McDowell.

The report will be considered by the Government at a Cabinet meeting next Tuesday.

The North's Chief Constable Hugh Orde has told the Policing Board that the IRA is not on the verge of a return to all-out violence despite withdrawing its offer to decommission.

That assessment was backed by the Northern Secretary, Paul Murphy.

Taoiseach plays down IRA statement

Earlier, the Taoiseach said he did not view last night's statement from the IRA in a negative fashion.

Bertie Ahern said the Irish and British governments would continue to engage with all the political parties to try and find the resolution to the present crisis.

However, he repeated that there must be a firm commitment from the republican movement to an end to criminality and to deal with the issue of decommissioning in a transparent way.

The Taoiseach refused to be drawn on remarks by Sinn Féin's Martin McGuinness on RTÉ Radio this morning in which Mr McGuinness accused Mr Ahern of being a poodle for Michael McDowell and the Progressive Democrats.

The Taoiseach said Mr McGuinness is a good negotiator for his party, but he added that Fianna Fáil had not robbed the Northern Bank. Issues have been raised and questions have to be answered, said Mr Ahern.

At the Order of Business in the Dáil this morning, Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny said the IRA statement was an affront to Irish people North and South.

Labour leader Pat Rabbitte described the comments from the IRA as petulant, belligerent and somewhat threatening.

IRA withdraws offer to complete disarmament

In a strongly worded statement last night, the republican paramilitary group said it was withdrawing its offer to complete the decommissioning process.

The statement, which was released to the republican newspaper, An Phoblacht, is seen as a response to criticism of the organisation in the wake of the Northern Bank raid.

The raid has been blamed on the IRA by both the British and Irish governments.

The IRA claimed that in December 2004 it was prepared to speedily resolve the issue of arms and move into a new mode where its activities would no longer endanger a comprehensive peace agreement.

However, it said its initiatives had been attacked, devalued and dismissed by pro-unionist and anti-republican elements, including the British government.

The IRA said the Irish Government has lent itself to these attacks on the republican movement.

The paramilitary organisation went on to say it does not intend to remain quiescent to what it called 'this unacceptable situation'.

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