(IH) News from Ireland: Number 1
- This weeks news:
1.Plan for troop cuts in Northern Ireland
2.BUSH TO TRAVEL TO NORTHERN IRELAND ON MONDAY
3. Schumer Seeks Visa for McAliskey
4. Senator Clinton Vows Support For The International Fund For Ireland
Plan for troop cuts in Northern Ireland
By David McKittrick, Ireland Correspondent
22 March 2003
An ambitious plan to make severe cuts in the Army's strength in Northern
Ireland was revealed last night.
If all goes well, all 10 of the controversial border watchtowers will be gone
by the end of next year, with many other bases closing and the overall number
of troops eventually more than halved to 5,000.
But the plan depends on a continuing reduction in the terrorist threat, which
is being referred to as an "enabling environment". Ministers and security
chiefs will weigh up the threat posed by the mainstream IRA and the dissident
Crucially, the launching of the programme will depend on an early move by the
IRA in response to Tony Blair's call for "acts of completion". The
demilitarisation initiative is one of the moves aimed at restoring devolved
government in Belfast.
Elections to the Belfast Assembly are scheduled for the end of May, but by
that stage the authorities hope the IRA will have responded with a
substantial act of decommissioning and other confidence-building measures.
The three-phase plans envisage only 5,000 troops remaining by the end of
2005, which is viewed as a standard garrison that would no longer be active
on the streets.
The police service would be the first line in security terms, with
republicans endorsing its legitimacy and encouraging young republicans and
nationalists to join.
The scores of military bases presently operational would be reduced to 14,
including army headquarters in Lisburn and main posts such as Palace Barracks
in Holywood, Co Down.
Many existing bases were opened during the Troubles while the IRA campaign of
violence was in full spate. The hope now is that the IRA and Sinn Fein will
be able to convince the Government, and the various Northern Ireland parties,
that the IRA war is over. In the early 1970s, troop levels topped 25,000.
BUSH TO TRAVEL TO NORTHERN IRELAND ON MONDAY
04/04/03 02:34 EST
US President George W Bush will meet the British Prime
Minister Tony Blair in Northern Ireland next week.
The two are expected to discuss the war in Iraq, the Middle
East and the Northern Ireland peace process, White House
Mr Bush will meet Mr Blair on Monday and Tuesday in the
Belfast area, it is believed. The two leaders last met at
Mr Bush's Camp David retreat on March 27th.
Mr Blair and the Taoiseach Mr Ahern were due to hold
discussion in the North next week in a renewed effort to
revive the peace process. They are expected to unveil their
plan for the peace process on Thursday.
This will be President Bush's first visit to Northern
Reports from the US said it would be a two-day visit. It
is reported that US Secretary of State Colin Powell will be
travelling with President Bush.
A Downing Street spokesman said the two leaders would join
Irish premier Bertie Ahern for talks with the main pro-
They will have meetings with the Ulster Unionist Party,
SDLP and Sinn Fein.
The Downing Street spokesman said: "It is an important week
in the Northern Ireland peace process. It will be useful
to get the US President's support for our efforts to
encourage the leaders to the acts of completion the prime
minister has outlined."
He added: "The president and the prime minister have
discussed Northern Ireland on several occasions. It is an
example of how peace can be taken forward in seemingly
impossible situations. We want that spirit applied to the
Middle East peace process."
A White House spokesman said: "The president's going to get
a first-hand insight and update on the incredible progress
being made on the Northern Ireland peace process as well as
discuss other efforts in the world to bring peace and
security to the Middle East."
Meanwhile, a series of political meetings took place today
ahead of what could be the most important week for the
Northern Ireland peace process in five years.
Mr Blair and Mr Ahern are due back in the North later next
week to publish their blueprint for restoring devolution.
Secretary of State Paul Murphy met Irish Foreign Minister
Brian Cowen this morning to discuss the potential for
political progress in the coming weeks.
Schumer Seeks Visa for McAliskey
NEW York Senator Charles Schumer is championing the cause of Irish civil
rights activist Bernadette Devlin McAliskey this week. In a letter to U.S.
Consul General Barbara Stephenson in Belfast, Schumer urges “(moving with)
all due speed to approve a visa for travel to the United States for former
member of Parliament, longtime Irish civil rights leader and frequent visitor
to the United States, Bernadette Devlin McAliskey of Co. Tyrone"
Schumer is just the latest in a long list of supporters that have come
forward in the last few weeks to support McAliskey, who says she threatened
and interrogated before she was deported from the U.S. as a security threat
on February 21, after arriving in Chicago.
"One agent read what he said (a fax from Ireland) contained, that there was
a passenger with my name who was a real or potential threat to the security
of the United States," McAliskey told the Irish Voice after her deportation.
Her deportation has angered Irish American groups across the country.
Peter Foley from the labor workers union told the Irish Voice there is an
active campaign to get McAliskey back into America.
"We are enlisting the help of congressman and lobbyists to get Bernadette
permission to enter America again," he said.
In his letter to the U.S. consul, Schumer says, "Given her frequent
visits to the United States, the significant regard with which many in our
nation hold her--she has received the keys to several American cities,
including, New York -- and her lifelong commitment to civil rights, and
social justice, it is hard to understand why Mrs. Devlin McAliskey was
treated in this fashion.
"While I am deeply concerned about the treatment Mrs. Devlin McAliskey rec
eived at O'Hare Airport, I am more eager to see the situation rectified,"
According to the senator's office the U.S. Consul in Belfast is prepared to
work with McAliskey.
SENATOR CLINTON VOWS SUPPORT FOR THE INTERNATIONAL FUND FOR IRELAND
Speaking in New York Senator Hillary Clinton, vowed her support for the
restoration of the appropriation for the International Fund for Ireland
("IFI"). In the budget submitted to Congress for FY04, President Bush cut
the funding from $25 million to $8.5 million. In her remarks, Senator
Clinton said that to cut the funding now would be "an abdication of all we
have worked for" in Ireland.
On Monday, the Republican-led House of Representatives passed a Bill (H.R.
1208) to restore the money for the IFI but, unfortunately, the same House
voted for a $726 billion tax cut. It is, therefore, unlikely that the money
can be found for the IFI when the Bill reaches the Appropriations Committee.
With President Bush's failing economy and the huge tax cuts, the chances for
the restoration of the IFI funding are not good. The focus now shifts to the
Senate where Senator Clinton will join the fight to restore the IFI
The Republicans have also added a codicil to the International Fund for
Ireland Bill, asking that 20% of the IFI money be appropriated to policing
and other special programs that conflict with the Fund's mission to promote
peace through economic development. The International Fund for Ireland needs
to be restored in its entirety and the money used to foster economic growth
in Northern Ireland and the Border Counties, which is essential to building
the peace. We welcome Senator Clinton's help in our struggle to convince the
Bush administration and the Republican controlled Congress that they should
reinstate this important money for Ireland.
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