From Irish Political Review: July 2006
|UUP's Assisted Suicide:||
UUP leader Sir Reg Empey
has been deluged with criticism for bringing David Ervine of the
Progressive Unionist Party, and by extension the Ulster Volunteer
Force, into the Ulster Unionist Party fold in the Stormont 'assembly'.
The UVF is not on Ceasefire and has not decommissioned. The aim of
David Trimble's successor was to increase by one the Ministries held
by the UUP in any revived power-sharing Executive under the Good
Friday Agreement. The extra Ministry would be taken from Sinn Fein,
an added bonus. Without such a manoeuvre the d'Hondt system would
give 6 Unionist Ministers to 5 Nationalist (IN 15.6.06). All this
is theoretical, as the Executive may not be re-established on 24th
November, Hain's deadline.
The first plank of Empey's defence is therefore to point out that
Unionism itself did not have clean hands as far as paramilitarism
was concerned, and was therefore in no position to criticise his
alliance with David Ervine. The second is to assume the consequent
responsibility for politicians to lead loyalism back into constitutional
paths by providing political outlets.
|'Devolution' Committee:||Peter Hain has established this sub-committee
of the 'assembly'. Sinn Fein is not boycotting the Assembly: it just
refuses to participate in its pointless debates. The SDLP has been
attending debates. Both parties are attending the 14-member, oddly-titled
Preparation For Government Committee, colloquially known as the 'Devolution
Committee'. The NI Secretary undertook a delicate balancing act in
establishing it: hence the title which attempts to reconcile two opposing
positions: the SDLP refused to participate in it unless the remit included
negotiating the return of the GFA Executive and Assembly, while
the DUP insisted that it would only be dealing with Government on this
issue. The form of words allows each side to claim a victory. When
the Committee could not agree a Chair, Hain issued an Order appointing
two Deputy Speakers from the Assembly, Jim Wells (DUP) and Francie
Molloy (SF), but as "impartial deputy presiding officers and not
as party representatives" (Hain, IN, 13.6.06).
A NIO Press Release sets out that the task of the Committee is "to scope the work which, in the view of the parties, needs to be done in preparation for government". It "may choose to develop this remit by consensus over time or to establish sub-groups to address particular issues".
Tom Kelly, the SDLP-inclined commentator, agreed "110%" with the Gerry Adams approach of keeping Sinn Fein from participating in the assembly (SDLP Seems Too Eager For Government Scraps (IN 15.5.06). He is scathing about the Devolution Committee:
"A 'business committee' outside of a functioning executive, which has its agenda set, guests invited and venue set by the secretary of state is a feudal if not imperial form of governance" (IN 15.5.06).
Michelle Gildernew (SF MLA) states that she sat through three days of Devolution Committee proceedings "and it was clear not just to me but to everyone else around the table that the DUP had no interest in progress". That Party is "anti-agreement" and wants "a shadow assembly with no power" (letter, IN 13.6.06).
Sean Farren (SDLP) has said that the DUP is setting 12 pre-conditions for restoration of the Power-sharing institutions, which makes SDLP eagerness to participate in the assembly all the more puzzling.
Robert McCartney complained to Speaker
Eileen Bell that the media was calling the new body "the Assembly",
which was confusing the public:
Brian Feeney wrote that in this—
|Libya & Omagh:||Libya made its peace with US/UK a couple
of years ago. As part of the deal Col. Gadaffi gave some low-level
information about Iran's civil nuclear programme which caused that
country some embarrassment. He also paid over a munificent bribe to
the families of Lockerbie victims, even though Libya was probably not
responsible for the bomb which destroyed the plane. Now 160 victims
of the IRA campaign have filed an unlikely suit against Libya in America,
alleging they were damaged by Libyan subsidy and arms shipments to
the IRA in the 1970s and 1980s. As in the Omagh Bombs civil case brought
by relatives, the leading lawyer is Ulster solicitor, Jason McCue of
the London-based H20. This kind of civil action appears to swallow
up huge sums of money in costs. In the first instance the Omagh relatives
raised funds through a UK-wide newspaper publicity drive. When that
was insufficient, Lord Chancellor Lord Falconer committed £800,000
of taxpayers' money under the Access To Justice Order 2006.
At the same time alleged Real IRA member Michael McKevitt, one of those the relatives accuse of complicity in the Omagh bombing, curiously had his legal aid to defend himself withdrawn after he was jailed on unrelated Real IRA charges (on doctored evidence, but that is another story). McKevitt brought a legal challenge in the NI High Court to the committal of public funds to a private legal action and was upheld in August 2005. But the Lord Chancellor is not to seek repayment of the £400,000 already paid to McCue's firm and says he will seek legal ways of continuing to subsidise the case (see IT and IN 10.9.06).
All this money is being wasted. The insurmountable problem for Omagh relations is that agents provocateurs were involved in the Omagh Bombing—which is why no criminal prosecution has yet been brought and why the Government is sponsoring the soft option of a civil case in which the standard of evidence would be lower. The defence is likely to bring out this fact in any court hearing. As for the Libyan action, whoever is funding that, it will not suit UK/US to have its deal with Libya unravel by encouraging extra demands.
|Common assault:||Richard Monteith (48) of Dromore Road, Lurgan, has been accused of common assault by his estranged wife. He was defended by former DUP representative Alan Kane. The case continues. A lawyer himself, the defendant won a libel suit against Sean McPhilemy for allegations in his book, The Committee. In recent years Monteith has represented Orangemen seeking to march on the Garvaghy Road before the Parades Commission and acted for defendants in the Robert Hamill and James Morgan killings (IN 5.5.06).|
On appeal Peter Hain has obtained a reversal of a previous legal decision against his appointments to the Parades Commission. Hain argued there was no necessity to have nationalist objectors to parades represented on the Commission, nor was there any need that the Commission be representative (IN 25.5.06, 10.6.06). Objectors may bring a further appeal to the House of Lords.
Organised Crime Task Force has leaked the fact that it will report
to the International Monitoring Commission that "The IRA is
moving away from organised crime" (it 19.6.06).
Ulster Television is to drop the word Ulster from its "brand identity" and is to be known as UTV with the U not being the initial of Ulster (IN 27.5.06).
Willie O'Dea, Irish Defence Minister, has denied the claim of Labour Defence Spokesman Joe Costello that Irish troops are illegally serving in Kosovo. Present legislation allows participation only in actions in which the UN is involved; O'Dea says that new legislation will phrase this provision more loosely, but still maintain a triple lock on defence missions abroad (IN 12.6.06).
Labour News, Labour's official newsletter, now describes itself as the paper "of the Labour Party in Ireland".
The death has occurred of Fr. Faul, notable for campaigning on prisoners' rights. An Irish Times editorial criticised his opposition to integrated education (23.6.06).
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