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Top cop ‘naïve’: security sources

POSTED ON August 21st  - POSTED IN News, News & Views


By Irish Echo Staff



Out of his depth? PSNI Detective Supt. Kevin Geddes

Out of his depth? PSNI Detective Supt. Kevin Geddes



A PSNI detective who has been branded “naive” and “out of his depth” after he made contradictory claims about IRA involvement in the Belfast murder of Kevin McGuigan is being blamed for crashing the peace process in Northern Ireland.

Detective Supt. Kevin Geddes told reporters Thursday that “former members of the Provisional IRA” were involved in the gunning to death of McGuigan who had been linked to the murder of ex-IRA leader Gerard “Jock” Davison in May.

But in the same press conference, the mid-level cop said “a major line of inquiry for this investigation is that members of the Provisional IRA were involved in this murder.”

Cue outrage from unionist politicians and demands for Sinn Féin to be kicked out of the already floundering Stormont Executive.

This despite repeated calls by Sinn Féin for the public to help the PSNI bring to justice those behind both recent murders and public condemnation by Martin McGuinness of the gang posing as Action Against Drugs, which is believed to have targeted former IRA member McGuigan.

But this morning security sources in Belfast were briefing that Detective Supt. Geddes, a Scot, was “out of his depth” and “naïve.” “There’s no one who believes that the IRA is still a functioning armed group overseeing attacks or ordering killings,” said one source. “Geddes went off the reservation when he made that claim. However, when he said former IRA members were involved with Action Against Drugs, alongside dissident republicans and established criminals, he was on the money.”

As unionists lined up to lambast Sinn Féin and demand their removal from the Northern Ireland Executive, Sinn Féin’s Gerry Kelly was unequivocal in rejecting any republican link to the murder of McGuigan. Describing the PSNI comments as “contradictory,” Kelly said, “The IRA has gone, it has left the stage, it made a statement in July 2005, saying it was gone. In his statement Detective Supt. Geddes said that AAD, Action Against Drugs, was the organization he believed was involved. I am a republican. I am saying this is a criminal gang. I think I may have the credibility to be able to know the difference.”


Mayor shifts tone on NYC horse ban

POSTED ON August 20th  - POSTED IN News, News & Views



Horse-carriage drivers’ spokesman Stephen Malone, left, with Council member Rafael L. Espinal Jr., who was announcing his opposition to the ban at City Hall last September. PHOTO: PETER MCDERMOTT

By Irish Echo Staff

Not so much a climb-down as a step back.

Whichever the case, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio clearly signaled yesterday that he has bigger priorities than pursuing the horse-carriage ban, a hitherto signature policy.

When asked by radio host Brian Lehrer why the ban has been stalled after 18 months in office, de Blasio indicated that the City Council was in the way.

“What I would say to every [ban] advocate is, you already have my vote; go get the votes in the City Council,” he said on the Lehrer show on WNYC. “Solidify the support in the City Council so we can make this change. That’s where people should put their energy.”

The message seemed obvious enough: de Blasio’s City Hall would not be doing any more arm-twisting on behalf of its own bill, which appears to have lost votes since it was introduced last year.

“The fact is, the industry has a lot of support in the City Council and among the populace,” de Blasio said. “Ultimately, you are going to see an end to the horse-carriage industry in the city. But we have to do this through the City Council, where there is a wide range of views.”

A poll conducted by Quinnipiac University earlier this year showed that 63 percent of voters opposed the ban and 25 percent supported it. All three main newspapers – the New York Times, the Daily News and the New York Post — have editorialized in defense of a union-backed industry that has strong ties to the Irish and other immigrant communities.

“I think it’s a sign that he’s moving on,” Democratic political consultant George Arzt said to the Post. “I think politically most people understand that this is a losing battle on the one hand, and on the other that there are bigger issues to go after.”

Animal-rights activists, and business interests with a stake in the issue, strongly backed de Blasio’s mayoral campaign in 2013 and reportedly also spent $1 million in opposing Christine Quinn, considered at one time his chief rival for the Democratic nomination.

Edita Birnkrant of Friends of Animals New York told AM New York that the mayor’s change of tone was “frustrating” and “disappointing.”

Daniel Dromm, a Democratic councilman from Queens and the ban’s most prominent supporter on the City Council, said to the Times yesterday, “I don’t understand why the mayor made the comments that he made this morning.”

Meanwhile, Teamsters Joint Council 16, which represents the horse-carriage drivers, told the Echo it would not be making any official statement about the mayor’s radio interview for now.


Biggest secrets yet to be revealed

POSTED ON August 19th  - POSTED IN News & Views
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 Dr. William Watson of Immaculata University.



By Ray O’Hanlon

Over the coming days the Duffy’s Cut excavation team, with Dr. William Watson of Immaculata University to the fore, will start to extract core samples from what is believed to be a mass grave, the last resting place of a group of Irish immigrant railroad workers who died either from disease or nativist violence in 1832.

The mass grave is under ruined stone structure just yards from an AMTRAK/SEPTA commuter rail line in Malvern, PA, less than twenty miles from Philadelphia.

“It should take about a month to go through the core samples, then I expect that we will be starting a full excavation in the fall,” Dr. Watson told the Echo.

Watson is recently returned from Ireland and the interment in County Tyrone of the partial remains of Duffy’s Cut immigrant, Catherine Burns.

“We are also waiting for DNA on the Ruddy samples, which is in the hands of our forensic dentist,” added Dr. Watson, this in reference to the remains of Duffy’s Cut victim John Ruddy, whose partial remains were previously interred in his native Donegal.

Novel idea

POSTED ON August 18th  - POSTED IN News, News & Views


Christine Kinealy, right, with Quinnipiac University Vice-President for Public Affairs

Lynn Bushnell in the Irish Cultural Center of New England last week 


By Mairtin O Muilleoir

The horror of Ireland’s Great Hunger is to be told in graphic detail in a unique collaboration between Irish America’s leading authority on An Gorta Mór and a Boston artist brought together by Quinnipiac University in Connecticut.

Professor Christine Kinealy — author of the devastating indictment of British government policy in Ireland during An Gorta Mór, “This Great Calamity” — has teamed up with John Walsh to present the story of the worst humanitarian disaster of the 19th century in a captivating, modern form.

“The Bad Times,” due in shops in December, was inspired by a compeling painting in Ireland’s Great Hunger Museum at Quinnipiac University which boasts the world’s most comprehensive collection of art relating to An Gorta Mór. Kinealy told the Irish Echo that the painting, which shows three young peasants in the period just before Black ’47, inspired the story she wrote bringing the three young people to life to accompany the images in “The Bad Times.”

Professor Kinealy, now director of Ireland’s Great Hunger Institute at Quinnipiac, where she has put together a program of lectures, conferences and courses complementing the Museum, says the graphic novel will bring the story of the Great Hunger to a new audience. “Hunger and famine are with us in the 21st Century and as such it’s very pertinent to young people today and I think a graphic novel is ideal. It’s a very powerful medium for speaking to a younger generation.”

Established Irish American artist John Walsh previously authored “Go Home Paddy,” a graphic novel about an Irish Emigrant’s struggle to survive in Famine-era Boston.

You can see a Quinnipiac University video about the graphic novel collaboration online and you can follow John Walsh on Twitter at @thickmick.


Caption: An illustration by John Walsh from “The Bad Times.”

Fr. Parkes looks to broader horizons for Cristo Rey

POSTED ON August 13th  - POSTED IN News, News & Views

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Fr. Joseph Parkes

By Irish Echo Staff

The Irish American president of Cristo Rey High School in Manhattan is looking east for the opportunity to export its groundbreaking network of high-achieving schools serving economically disadvantaged children.

But Fr. Joseph Parkes, son of Irish immigrants from counties Cavan and Fermanagh, says his next port of call will be Hong Kong rather than Ireland or Britain — despite the fact that he has visited both countries to share the success of the Cristo Rey model with educationalists.

At the thirty Cristo Rey schools across the U.S., children, usually hailing from low-income immigrant homes where English is not the first language, work for a company outside of school one day a week.

Corporations that have participated in the school/work scheme include Pfizer, American Express, JP Morgan and McKinsey.

“That’s the secret sauce,” Fr. Parkes told the Irish Echo this week.

“It gives them confidence, introduces them to another world and makes them hungry for success,” he said of his students.

As president of Cristo Rey in New York and a member of the national board, Fr. Parkes devotes much of his time to making the high-level contacts with Fortune 500 companies who will open their doors to Cristo Rey pupils — and pay the school for the privilege.

He also has a firm focus on fundraising. The Cristo Rey School in East Harlem alone has running costs of just over $5 million.

But ultimately, his primary concern is to ensure that Cristo Rey pupils graduate with a firm college place offer.

And in that endeavor, the college’s graduation rates speak for itself.

One hundred percent of seniors at Cristo Rey New York earned college acceptances.
“I have had the good fortune to be invited to Belfast and to Liverpool, England, to view the education system and explain the Cristo Rey approach,” says Fr. Parkes.

“But there has been no attempt to date to replicate the Cristo Rey model there.

“However, I’ve been invited to Hong Kong in November and, despite what you might think, there’s a lot of poverty there. It seems to me to be fertile ground for the Cristo Rey approach. I really think it’s time for us to go international.”

Remember the tickets, money…biometric identifiers

POSTED ON August 13th  - POSTED IN News, News & Views

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By Ray O’Hanlon

The old tickets, money, passport check list as you head out the door for the airport is no longer just the ticket.

These days you more often than not don’t need a literal ticket.

And you can forgo cash for plastic.

But you still need a passport.

But the old sort increasingly won’t do.

And this will soon be even more the case for Irish travelers to the United States.

Ireland is one of the 38 nations included in the U.S. Visa Waiver Program.

This means that Irish passport holders can travel to the U.S. for up to 90 days without a visa obtained at an interview at a U.S. embassy or consulate.

Countries qualify for the waiver program if they have a low rate of citizens who fail to make the return journey.

Qualifying nations must also have an approved standard of passport issuance and control.
But the bar is about to be raised with regard to passports.

The Department of Homeland Security is moving to boost the security of the waiver program amid fears about potential terrorist attacks, The Hill newspaper reported.

The agency said it will begin requiring passengers from the 38 program countries to use an e-passport during their trips.

Such e-passports contain an electronic chip and a biometric identifier that make it harder to “skim” travelers’ data.

Other new rules for visa waiver program participants include requiring passengers to be checked against a lost-and-stolen-passport list, which is maintained by international police force Interpol, and expanding the use of federal air marshals on flights from visa waiver countries, the report stated.

Homeland Security chief, Jeh Johnson, said the new requirements would boost the security of the visa waiver program, which, he said, is a valuable tourism recruitment tool.

“As I have said a number of times now, the current global threat environment requires that we know more about those who travel to the United States. This includes those from countries for which we do not require a visa,” Johnson said in a statement.

“Our visa waiver program is a valuable program for lawful trade and travel with this nation’s most trusted partners. There is more we can do to enhance the security of this valuable program.”

The visa waiver program has come under scrutiny as fears about international terrorist groups such as the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria have risen. Some lawmakers have said ISIS could try to exploit a weakness in the visa waiver program if they have access to travel documents from friendly nations, The Hill report added.

Many European countries — including Britain, Belgium, Germany and France — that have a large number of citizens who have traveled to Iraq and Syria are part of the (visa waiver) program, the New York Times reported.

Irish Minister for Foreign Affairs Charlie Flanagan recently stated that Ireland needed to remain vigilant against ISIS and said that files were being compiled on suspected jihadists living in the republic.

Former IRA man shot dead in Belfast

POSTED ON August 13th  - POSTED IN News, News & Views

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Police at the murder scene in Belfast last night. Pacemaker Photo

By Ciara Quinn

A murder inquiry has been launched after a former member of the Provisional IRA was shot dead in East Belfast on Wednesday night.

Father-of-nine Kevin McGuigan Sr. was shot in his home at Comber Street in the Short Strand.

Police said he was one of a number of suspects in the murder of Gerard ‘Jock’ Davison – a former senior IRA man – who was shot dead as he walked to work in Belfast in May.

Mr. McGuigan was treated by paramedics at the scene before being taken to the Royal Victoria Hospital for treatment, but later died from his wounds.

The victim’s mother, Margaret McGuigan, told the BBC that her son’s killers would have to live with what they had done and that she “would pray for them.”

She added there had been “too many murders” in the area and that she hoped her son’s would be the last.

Mr. McGuigan had been questioned by police after the murder of 47-year-old Jock Davison.

McGuigan was previously shot several times in a so-called punishment attack

Sinn Féin Councilor, Niall Ó Donnghaile, who lives in the Short Strand, said: “The community
here rejects any attempt by any armed group to turn the clock back to the past.”

SDLP leader Alasdair McDonnell condemned the attack.

“Those behind this savagery on our streets must be brought to justice,” he said.

“There is no place for the gun in our society,” said Alliance Party leader and Justice Minister David Ford.

“Those responsible for this appalling crime have left a family grieving and a community in shock.”

Northern Ireland’s First Minster, Peter Robinson, said there would be repercussions if any organization was found to be involved in the murder.

Robinson was asked if he was concerned that IRA, or former IRA members, may have carried out the attack.

“I think everyone should be concerned that would be the case,” he said.

“We will speak to the PSNI to see what their findings are in terms of the involvement of any organization. But let’s be very clear, there will be repercussions if that was found to be the case.”

Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness said his thoughts were with the McGuigan family.

“I unreservedly condemn this appalling deed,” he said.

No immigration reform this side of 2017: McConnell

POSTED ON August 12th  - POSTED IN News, News & Views

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Senator Mitch McConnell

By Ray O’Hanlon

Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell has ruled out any action on immigration reform in the current Congress.

Speaking to reporters at a press conference, McConnell made it clear that reform advocates will have to wait.

And he point the finger of blame at President Obama.

“Not this Congress. I think when the president took the action he did, after the 2014 election, he pretty much made it impossible for us to go forward with immigration reform this Congress,” said the Kentucky senator, this in reference to President Obama’s executive actions on immigration – actions which have since been tied up by court rulings.

“The concern that we expressed about that I think was validated by the fact that he (Obama) is currently under a court order not to go forward with what he decided to do.

“And so the atmosphere for dealing with that issue in the wake of what he did is not appropriate to get the kind of immigration reform that we probably need to address,” McConnell said.

“Hopefully in the next Congress we’ll do it, where we’ll have for sure a different president,” McConnell added.

The Echo was alerted to the Majority Leader’s words by Keith Carney who was attending the press conference.

Carney runs a broadcast news organization on Capitol Hill called FedNet which provides daily Radio/TV coverage of Floor debates, press conferences and hearings.

Regardless of congressional inaction, or indeed because of it, immigration reform, and its ever present companion, border security, looks set to be a front burner issue in the 2016 presidential election campaign.

It was addressed during last week’s first Republican candidates’ debate in Cleveland.

CNN ‘stuck in a time warp’ says AOH

POSTED ON August 11th  - POSTED IN News, News & Views

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By Ray O’Hanlon

The CNN documentary series “The Seventies” is stuck in a time warp of misinformation with regard to Northern Ireland.

This is the view of the Ancient Order of Hibernians in regard to the much touted lookback at the decade in which the North Troubles were making worldwide headlines.

In a statement, the AOH said it was “both disappointed and saddened” that CNN, a major news network, would, in a recent episode of the series entitled “The Golden Age of Terrorism” “continue to perpetuate a sadly dated, skewed and inaccurate depiction of the struggle for freedom in Northern Ireland.”

It was hoped that the episode (aired July 30th) would take advantage of the forty years that have transpired between those dark days in Irish history and today to bring fresh perspective and analysis to the human tragedy that was the Troubles, said AOH Political Education Chairman, Neil Cosgrove, in a statement.

“Unfortunately, CNN’s segments concerning ‘the Troubles’ in Northern Ireland presented viewers only the same highly bowdlerized depiction of events as originally offered by the British state-run BBC which were accepted uncritically by the American media of the 70s and which CNN promulgates fresh again in 2015,” said Cosgrove.

And he continued: “CNN continues the sad media tradition of presenting a highly censored depiction of the conflict in Northern Ireland, completely omitting the ‘loyalist’ paramilitaries such as the UVF and UDA who committed numerous atrocities in collusion with the British State.

“It was particularly reprehensible and inaccurate to describe the proximate cause of Bloody Sunday, a massacre which the Saville Inquiry held the members of the British Parachute Regiment fully accountable and vindicated the innocence of the Irish victims, as a reaction to ‘the Internment of terrorists,” when history shows that due to faulty British intelligence many of those interned without charges, nor trial, had no terrorist connections.

“The true root of the Troubles in the 70s grew out of rampant discrimination in hiring and housing, the violent suppression of peaceful civil rights marchers who were attempting to emulate America’s civil rights movement, and a military sent in as ‘peacemakers’ who instead became active and partisan belligerents.”

Cosgrove said that the AOH was taking note that the series did not cover incidents such as the shooting without provocation of innocent civilians by members of the same parachute regiment in Ballymurphy in August 1971, the invasion and bombing of the Republic of Ireland by loyalist paramilitaries supported by members of the British military and intelligence forces in the Dublin/Monaghan Bombings of May 1974, or the murder of innocent civilians by members of the UVF and UDR in the Miami Showband Massacre in July 1975, “an event which we note with sad irony occurred one day shy of forty years prior to CNN’s airing this skewed depiction of the Troubles.”

He said that though well within the remit of the show, CNN was being “conspicuously silent” on acts of loyalist and state terrorism.

“We also note that unlike other groups covered in the program, there was no contemporary analysis, nor present day interviews, with people who had actually experienced the Troubles first hand.

“At a time when fresh revelations are showing that the British government was an active and willing participant in furthering the violence of the Troubles, when weapons used by loyalist paramilitaries to commit murder previously declared ‘lost’ by the RUC and PSNI are ‘found’ on display in the Imperial War Museum in London, CNN’s coverage of the conflict in Northern Ireland as depicted in ‘the Seventies’ is as dated as its title, and instead of bringing illumination to that conflict, merely parrots the flawed, and now discredited, sound bites of forty years ago.”

Shane wins, Rory’s back

POSTED ON August 10th  - POSTED IN News & Views
Esker Hills Golf Club Watch WGC Bridgestone Invitational, Clara, Offaly 9/8/2015 Members of Esker Hills Golf Club look on in as Shane Lowry wins the WGC Bridgestone Invitational Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/James Crombie

Members of Esker Hills Golf Club celebrate as Shane Lowry wins the WGC Bridgestone Invitational


By Ray O’Hanlon


Shane’s breakthrough and Rory’s comeback are the big Irish golf stories this week.

Actually, they are the big world golf stories as Shane Lowry’s win Sunday at the World Golf Championship Bridgestone Invitational in Akron, Ohio has reverberated across the global game.

And Rory McIlroy turning up at Whistling Straits in Wisconsin to defend his PGA title later this week has been making headlines as well.

Many were expecting the Clara, Co. Offaly native Lowry to make the breakthrough on the PGA circuit, though some might have been a little surprised that it happened in Akron, where the elite of golf were competing by invitation.

And though the Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone Country Club is not a golf Major, it features a Major-worthy field.

Lowry had to fend off the challenges of this year’s Major winners Jordan Spieth and Zach Johnson over the four days, and in the final holes he had to see off two-time Masters champion Bubba Watson, as well as former U.S. Open winners Justin Rose and Jim Furyk.

This was a big win for Lowry, a very big win.

And it was achieved with grit and style.

Twice Lowry saved himself from disaster by hitting the green after being stymied behind trees, first on the tenth when he launched a blind wedge shot that ended a little over a foot from the cup, and again after a wayward drive on the 18th.

A second shot over the trees on that final hole clipped a branch and landed about ten feet from the hole.

Lowry sank the putt for a most unlikely birdie and secured a two shot win over Watson while registering a final round of 66.

Throughout his round Lowry demonstrated the kind of sangfroid necessary to win the big ones.

He did so with mostly fairway hitting drives and in particular several clutch par-saving putts, one of them being a 17-footer on the 14th after finding a bunker.

The win delivered a check for $1,570,000 and an open door to the PGA Tour and the Fed Ex Cup.

It also vaulted Lowry from 48 to 19 in the official world golf rankings.


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