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First Report of the Independent Monitoring Commission on paramilitary violence in Northern Ireland

POSTED ON August 27th  - POSTED IN IE

CONTENTS (the report is 67 pages long and may also be downloaded at the Commission’s web site, www.independentmonitoringcommission.org).

1. Introduction and context.

2. Scope of the Report

3. Paramilitary groups ? organisation and assessment of current activities

4. The incidence of violence by paramilitary groups

5. Incident in Belfast on 20 February 2004

6. Paramilitary groups ? non-terrorist crime, funding and local control

7. Leadership of paramilitary groups

8. Conclusions and recommendations

ANNEXES

I. Articles 4 and 7 of the International Agreement

II. IMC Statement issued on 9 March 2004

III. Summary of measures the IMC can recommend for action by the Northern Ireland Assembly

1. INTRODUCTION AND CONTEXT

1.1 We submit this report under Articles 4 and 7 of the International Agreement establishing the Independent Monitoring Commission. Article 4 directs us to look at the continuing activities of paramilitary groups. Article 7 allows us when reporting under Article 4 to recommend any remedial action we consider necessary or measures we consider might appropriately be taken by the Northern Ireland Assembly. At the request of the two Governments we report three months earlier than originally expected and also specifically address the incident which took place at Kelly?s Cellars, Belfast on 20 February 2004, putting it in the context of our wider analysis.

1.2 We issued a statement on 9 March setting out how we were going about our work and the principles that would guide us. That statement is at Annex II and we invite readers to refer to it.

The IMC?s objective in Article 3

“The objective of the Commission is to carry out [its functions] with a view to promoting the transition to a peaceful society and stable and inclusive devolved Government in Northern Ireland.”

1.3 We address our objective in Article 3 very conscious that we work in a complex environment with a long history, and one in which opinions are strongly held. Our objective has been shared by many for a long time. People have worked towards it in numerous ways, publicly and in countless private and unsung capacities throughout Northern Ireland. Moreover a number of other bodies have been set up to serve in different ways the same ultimate purpose. The IMC is the newest amongst them. We are acutely aware therefore that our contribution can only complement what others have done and are doing and that other acts of completion besides what we are concerned with are necessary. What we are dealing with is the challenge of helping make the rule of law work. The challenge of making politics work is for others.

1.4 The IMC was established nearly ten years after the first PIRA ceasefire and some six years after the Belfast Agreement. Its immediate origins lie in the Joint Declaration of the British and Irish Governments of May 2003. These three events remind us of the difficulty and delicacy of the peace process and the political process whereby Northern Ireland has been emerging from the troubles. Our aim is to help people leave those troubles further behind. We also fully recognise the strength of views held on both sides of the community about the history and the future of Northern Ireland.

1.5 We have had this context fully in mind in preparing this report. But we have a job to do, and we will do it to the best of our ability. We will do the same when fulfilling the two other parts of our remit in future, namely to report on security normalisation and on claims made to us by parties represented in a restored Assembly .

The IMC?s guiding principles are:

- The rule of law is fundamental in a democratic society.

- We understand that there are some strongly held views about certain aspects of the legal framework, for example the special provisions applying to terrorism, and that those holding these views will continue to seek changes. But obedience to the law is incumbent on every citizen.

- The law can be legitimately enforced only by duly appointed and accountable law enforcement officers or institutions. Any other forcible imposition of standards is unlawful and undemocratic.

- Violence and the threat of violence can have no part in democratic politics. A society in which they play some role in political or governmental affairs cannot ? in the words of

Article 3 ? be considered either peaceful or stable.

- Political parties in a democratic and peaceful society, and all those working in them, must not in any way benefit from, or be associated with, illegal activity of any kind, whether involving violence or the threat of it, or crime of any kind, or the proceeds of crime. It is incumbent on all those engaged in democratic politics to ensure that their activities are untainted in any of these ways.

- It is not acceptable for any political party, and in particular for the leadership, to express commitment to democratic politics and the rule of law if they do not live up to those statements and do all in their power to ensure that those they are in a position to influence do the same.

2. SCOPE OF THIS REPORT

2.1 Article 4 encompasses the activities of paramilitary groups in the widest sense. We deal not only with terrorism and sectarian violence but with all other forms of criminality that these groups commit. The Article thus goes beyond the terms of paragraph 13 of the Joint Declaration of May 2003, and we intend to make full use of this wider scope. Overall the peace process has brought about huge improvements. Nevertheless, we are deeply concerned about the extent of continuing paramilitary activity and the impact it has on communities in Northern Ireland.

2.2 We want our report to meet our objective as set out in Article 3 of the International Agreement and in the process to serve the widest possible interests of the people of Northern Ireland. We understand the sensitive political circumstances in which we deliver our report. But there is little point in our being less than forthright for fear that we might upset people in one quarter or another. We know that a number of the things we say are likely to be uncomfortable to some of those who read them. We believe we have a role to play in helping refocus discussion and in spotlighting things which we believe have received too little attention. We hope very much that people will let us have their views on this report.

2.3 We have carefully considered the relevance of the term ceasefire to our work. We recognise that the ceasefires have played a key part in the wider peace process and we acknowledge the efforts made in sustaining them. We also recognise their contribution to the improvement of daily life in Northern Ireland. However Article 4 is not concerned with the observance or otherwise of ceasefires and means that ceasefire is too narrow a term for us. We believe that Article 4 represents a substantial shift of focus and that everybody should move on from debating whether or not a ceasefire has been broken to concentrate on the full range of illegal activity by paramilitaries and the impact it has on communities in Northern Ireland. We seek to contribute to that in this report.

2.4 All organisations are more effective if set a challenge and the IMC is no exception. To help us fulfil our task we have set ourselves this one:

To contribute in whatever way we can to the ending of the violence, other criminality, and exertion of pressure by or on behalf of paramilitary groups, and to help the people of Northern Ireland live their lives untroubled by paramilitary activity.

2.5 Throughout our work on paramilitary activity we have asked ourselves two questions. What does it mean for the people of Northern Ireland? How can we play our part in helping them move to more peaceful times? This leads us to look at how paramilitaries exercise control within some parts of Northern Ireland; at what amount in some places to alternative and unofficial criminal justice arrangements; at the issue of links between the leadership of political parties and paramilitary organisations. We have heard many times, including from bereaved families and others who have experienced the suffering caused by paramilitary violence, of the increasing stranglehold that these groups have over some communities. We are all too aware of how violence, threats and fear can affect individuals and communities. These are all insidious features, which can only corrupt a society. We believe it is our task to contribute to their rooting out, though we recognise that in any society there will be varying levels of criminality, organised or not, and that it is not our job to address crime as such.

2.6 We are also entirely clear in our own minds, as we set out in the principles we published on 9 March, that political parties in a democratic and peaceful society must not benefit from or be associated with illegal activity of any kind. All who claim to espouse democratic principles must accept that authority can be exercised only through the accountable organs of the state. Here there can be no compromise or fudge.

2.7 There are two further preliminary points. First, we are delivering this report in half the time we had expected to have. We have not been able to pursue a number of issues in the depth we intend. In the short time since we were established people have already started to come forward to us with information and we have been able to embark on a dialogue with all sections of the Northern Ireland community. We believe this dialogue is essential if we are to do our job effectively. In this report we focus mainly on the use of violence by paramilitary groups. Future reports will deal with the connections between these groups and organised crime and with their sources of funding.

2.8 Second, people have been very forthcoming and we have acquired a wide range of information ? from official sources, political parties, journalists, people in business and in academic life, and from private individuals, including from the bereaved and others who have suffered at the hands of paramilitary groups. We understand that some are sceptical about the nature of the information we receive, especially from official bodies. We are constantly broadening our sources and will acquire much more information. We urge people to come to us with information and views on everything covered by our remit. We assure them, as we have everybody so far, that we will observe any confidences they wish. In the nature of things, much of the information is sensitive. We are bound by law not to put anybody at risk, not to prejudice legal proceedings, and not to prejudice the national security interests of the UK or Ireland. We have applied our best judgement to all of the material available to us, from whatever source we have received it, and the findings and recommendations we make are the result of our own considered assessment of that material.

3. PARAMILITARY GROUPS ? ORGANISATION AND ASSESSMENT OF CURRENT ACTIVITIES

3.1 In this Section we briefly examine paramilitary groups in turn. The conclusions we draw are all based on the information available to us. We deal in Section 4 with the incidence of violence by paramilitary groups and in Section 7 we examine further the question of the leadership of paramilitary groups and any links with that of political parties.

Continuity Irish Republican Army (CIRA) and Republican Sinn F

Google confuses Dublin with one of its parts

POSTED ON August 26th  - POSTED IN IE

By Susan Falvella Garraty

Google announced last week that it’s adding 200 jobs to its center in Dublin, but hopefully one of the new hires can fix a glaring error in the Google Map function.

Currently, Google shows Dublin, Ireland, as being in County Fingal. Well, everyone knows that Dublin is in County Dublin. There is an administrative delineation called Fingal, but Google hasn’t been able to parse the difference.

Complaints by users on the Google Map site have been made. Karlj in Ireland stated the obvious in the Google Map Help Forum. “Dublin is not in Co. Fingal.”

“Google Maps reports Dublin city centre as being in County Fingal, however Co. Fingal is only one of the 4 administrative districts that make up Dublin, and excludes Dublin city centre. [Fingal County Council has administered the north of the county since 1994.] The correct entry should be “Dublin, Dublin City” or “Dublin, Ireland”. There is no way to suggest this correction to Google that I can find and yet it means that Latitude, etc. are all wrong when referencing Dublin. Any advice?”

A user known as ClaireMcHugh posted her concerns and shares Karlj’s geographic pain. “I also find Dublin, Co. Fingal a major annoyance. There is no such thing as Co. Fingal. It is an area within Co. Dublin. Given that your European Headquarters is also located in Dublin in the imaginary County Fingal, I really thought it might get highlighted as a mistake and resolved a bit quicker. I

will also petition Tele Atlas to sort this out, but I’m disheartened that it isn’t being dealt with directly by Google.”

Both complaints were answered by GmapperHF in the forum.  GmapperHF asserts the problem stems from Google’s outside provider of maps, Tele Atlas. “Tele Atlas is Google’s map data provider for Ireland. You could report the issue directly to them at:

http://mapinsight.teleatlas.com/mapfeedback/index.php It can take a very long time for Tele Atlas to process the request, update and release their data….and then have in synchronized over to Google Maps. Without requesting it from Tele Atlas, though, it will probably not get updated otherwise.”

The mapping and GPS provider TomTom recently purchased Tele Atlas. Their spokeswoman located in Boston has a name that indicates she should understand the problem, and she agreed Dublin is in Co. Dublin, not Co. Fingal.

“Our current map database has Dublin appropriately associated with County (Dublin) and District (Dublin City),” wrote TomTom spokeswoman Erin Delaney in response to queries about the inaccuracy on Google.

She said verification of their maps are done daily, and major changes to their databases are made four times a year.

“In some cases, this means a change will be reflected in our database, but may not yet be available to the customers of our industry partners,” Delaney said.

Google responded to the Echo just before press time: “The team is looking into it.”

Parishioners back priest after bishop’s letter

POSTED ON August 20th  - POSTED IN IE

SUPPORTERS of a priest who stepped down from his position over allegations regarding the safeguarding of children have said he will launch a robust defence against what they described as the “ludicrous” claims.

A groundswell of support has gathered in Blackrock, Co Louth, for Fr Oliver Brennan, who made the decision in order to allow the investigation to proceed.

Substantial anger has been aimed at Bishop Gerard Clifford, who made a statement telling parishioners of the development at a Mass over the weekend.

Last night, a close supporter of Fr Brennan said the priest, who is currently staying with members of his family, was “absolutely devastated” at the allegations.

Fr Brennan, who is originally from Edmondstown, Ardee, Co Louth, is expected to launch a strong defence in what is expected to be a lengthy process.

He has been a priest for 38 years and has been in the parish of Blackrock for some 11 years, where he has garnered a large amount of respect from locals.

“Ultimately, what he would like to do is get back to his priestly ministry and his life’s work. That is his reason for his existence.

Devastated

“He couldn’t exist without his pastoral role and priestly role and would be very anxious to get back to that,” a source close to Fr Brennan said.

Bishop Clifford was confronted by a number of irate parishioners after he read the statement. He was said to have been visibly affected by their angry reaction.

In a statement, the bishop said the civil authorities had been informed and both the diocese and the priest would be co-operating fully with the investigation.

Last night, both the HSE and the gardai declined to comment on the matter. However, supporters of Fr Brennan have questioned the “natural justice” of the situation, whereby he has stepped down on the basis of an allegation.

“A lot of people are saying an allegation doesn’t have to have credibility, it just has to be made without it being tested for its credibility at all.

“Without any investigation, someone’s life is just thrown upside down,” the source close to Fr Brennan said.

The source added: “When this matter is finally done and dusted, I think a lot of thought will have to be given by a lot of people to the present protocols.

“There must be some investigation of the credibility of an allegation before someone is unceremoniously turfed out.”

Family thanks L.I. firefighters for saving 2 lives

POSTED ON August 19th  - POSTED IN IE

By Peter McDermott

“I’ve two birthdays, now,” Glenna King told the Long Beach, N.Y., firefighters who saved her life three weeks ago. “Aug. 12 and July 26.”

On the latter date, Firefighter Anthony Fallon took her 6-year-old autistic son Maxwell out of her burning apartment to safety and then went back for her. With the help of Assistant Fire Chief Antonio Cuevas and Capt. Hadrick Ray, he carried the 41-year-old woman from the East Olive Street building.

King, who became unconscious soon after calling 911, was taken to nearby Long Beach Medical Center for stabilization. She was then transferred to Nassau University Medical Center for aggressive treatment.

Eighteen days after her rescue, she dropped into the fire station with her ex-husband, her son and the boy’s class to thank Fallon and his colleagues.

“Though limited in verbal communication, Maxwell showed no limits in his excitement and emotion when finally meeting Anthony,” said the Long Beach Professional Firefighters Facebook page after the reunion a few days ago.

On July 26, Ambulance 2319 and Engine 2343, staffed by on-duty professional firefighters, were among the first to respond to the 3 a.m. call. A total of 50 firefighters would go to the scene.

“Five full-timers are on duty at any one time,” Fire Chief Scott Kemins told the Echo.

In all, there are 26 paid firefighters in the Long Beach Fire Department and 170 volunteers. Both Cuevas and Ray are in the volunteer ranks, as was Fallon for the first half of his nearly two-decade career as a firefighter.

“I was very proud of him,” Kemins said, referring to Fallon’s rescue in a building with zero visibility. “That’s what he trained for for 19 years.

“I’m a 30-year member and this is one of the calls and rescues that will stand out for the rest of my career,” he added.

“As I was carrying the child downstairs, I realized that there had to be another victim, because there was no way that any parent would leave a child in a burning house,” said Fallon, whose father Tony, a well-known singer in the Irish community, is from Athlone, Co. Roscommon, and whose mother Mary is from Charlestown, Co. Mayo.

He and Cuevas felt their way to King’s bedroom, while Ray directed the hose line. “Anthony and Antonio simultaneously found the mother,” Kemins said.  With Fallon feeling the ill effects of the two rescues, Ray helped him and Cuevas carry the woman to safety.

Chief Kemins said the heat was intense.  “The fire damage was limited – it was more heat and smoke damage,” he told the Long Island Herald later that day. “The smoke alarms were going off, and because the rooms were super-heated, they melted.”

Investigators have concluded that the fire was electrical and that it started in the living room of the apartment. They added that King had probably saved Maxwell’s life by shutting his door after putting him to bed.

Before leaving the fire station, the firefighters’ Facebook page reports, the class handed Fallon a group-made art project featuring their hand prints and a message for the firefighters: “Thank you LBFD for helping our friend Maxwell King.”

Trapattoni discharged from hospital

POSTED ON August 17th  - POSTED IN IE

Republic of Ireland boss Giovanni Trapattoni has been discharged from hospital after being taken ill in the run-up to last week’s friendly clash with Argentina, RTE reports.

The 71-year-old manager underwent minor surgery at Dublin’s Mater Hospital last Wednesday after complaining of abdominal pain. He remained in hospital until this morning, but has now been discharged.

Trapattoni missed the Argentina game (which Ireland lost 0-1) after his surgeon decided to operate when investigations revealed his discomfort was being caused by minor scar tissue from a previous procedure.

His assistant Marco Tardelli will announce the Republic squad for next month’s Euro 2012 qualifiers against Armenia and Andorra on Friday.

A statement released by the Football Association of Ireland said: ‘The Football Association of Ireland today confirmed that Republic of Ireland manager, Giovanni Trapattoni, was discharged from the Mater hospital this morning.

“Giovanni Trapattoni would like to express his sincere thanks to the staff of the Mater hospital for their excellent care,” it said.

Philly center provides services, home away from home

POSTED ON August 13th  - POSTED IN IE

By Peter McDermott


There’s no such thing as a free lunch, they say. But don’t tell them that at the Irish Immigration Center in Upper Darby, Pa.

Indeed, on a recent Wednesday, West Cork native Declan Forde got both lunch and an Irish passport.

The Dublin-born executive director Siobhan Lyons summarized the center’s goals as “supporting immigrants, promoting citizenship, and strengthening the Irish community” in the Philadelphia area.

The long-standing midweek seniors’ lunch falls under the rubrics arguably of the first and third categories. The center, meanwhile, assists with both Irish and U.S. citizenship applications. It also deals with Irish and U.K. passport renewals, green card applications, family-based immigration petitions and issues relating to housing, employment, driver’s licenses, social security and tax I.D., and emergency medical treatment.

“The center has a particular mission to help the most vulnerable: the elderly, the undocumented, those who’ve been in prison, or those who’ve been arrested and are facing deportation and anybody in difficulty,” Lyons said.

The executive director added that the community’s organizations all want to promote Irish heritage and culture and to strengthen the ties between Ireland and the diaspora. However, she believes that they can achieve those goals most effectively if they work together. Journalists Denise Foley and Jeff Meade of the website www.irishphiladelphia.com agree and they visited the center on that Wednesday afternoon to discuss ways to better coordinate the activities of the diverse community.

Meantime, several of the senior citizens lingered for an hour or so. Donegal native Susan Bradley said: “I come to chat with my friends. I look forward to this day.”

Pat Lyons, who is from Belfast, said: “Some weeks we tell funny stories about growing up — things you thought you’d forgotten about. We laugh for hours.”

Marie McGrath has always remembered that Sarah McGillian, seated next to her, was a champion at marbles when they were children back in Strabane, Co. Tyrone. That was when they were in grammar school together, but they went their separate ways in their teenage years. The two reconnected after they immigrated to the Philadelphia area and have stayed close ever since.

Fifty years ago, people came to America for adventure, McGrath recalled, or were sent by a parent to keep a watchful eye on a sibling. It often wasn’t for a job. “There was plenty of work in Tyrone,” she said.

Once hired to child-minding positions in the Philadelphia area, many young Irishwomen found themselves to be virtual slaves. They recounted on that last Wednesday in July their individual escape stories.

The 75-year-old Forde’s unhappy tale, though, goes back to his childhood. His parents both died when he was a small child. After staying with relatives for a couple of years, he was sent at age 8 to the Fishery School in Baltimore, West Cork, a clerical-run industrial school, the worst of such institutions, according to reports, in terms of the degree of abuse and neglect suffered by the children. He left when he was 16.

He has a few good memories of the school. Future Taoiseach Jack Lynch and fellow Cork legend Christy Ring, for example, visited to show off their hurling skills. He’s sure that neither man was aware of the crimes being committed behind its walls, although some other visitors may well have been.

In America, he met his future wife when they were both working at Boston Children’s Hospital – he was in administration, she a student nurse. They are now great-grandparents. His family have all done well, he said.

“I’ve had an interesting life, all things considering,” Forde said.

He dropped into the center one day a few months ago. It happened to be a Wednesday. “I didn’t know it was here,” he said. “Siobhan told me to come back at lunchtime.”

In contrast, Kathleen Murtaugh, who grew up on the Roscommon/Mayo border, has been a regular since the lunch started some years ago. “They are very nice people here,” she said.

About once a month, the center hosts a guest. John Byrne and a fellow musician entertained the 40 or so who showed up the previous Wednesday. The archbishop of Derry and the consul general to New York are among those who’ve spoken at the lunchtime gathering.

Regulars at the center have also traveled to meet well-known personalities. “Pat and I got to go to New York to meet President McAleese,” Murtaugh said about the recent U.S. visit by Ireland’s head of state. “We met her husband, and her brother and sister-in-law,” she said. “They are all very nice people.”

To help with this busy schedule the center has Mairead Conley, who on a recent night was crowned Rose of Tralee for both Philadelphia and the Mid-Atlantic region.

“I’ve been coming here four days a week since last August,” said the deputy director for community planning. “It’s been quite a year.
“There’s never a dull moment,” said Conley, who plans to do post-graduate study with a view to working in the non-profit sector. “It can be challenging especially when assisting the undocumented. But I’ve learned to deal with deadlines on a daily basis.”

Generally, though, for a few hours each Wednesday the atmosphere is relaxed, while senior citizens, small children and those from every age group in between enjoy a meal together.

“Siobhan goes out of her way for everyone.” Pat Lyons said. “It’s a family here.”

[PHOTO BY PETER MCDERMOTT] Declan Forde inspects his new Irish passport with Siobhan Lyons, the executive director of the Irish Immigration Center.

The Irish Immigration Center of Philadelphia is located at 7 South Cedar Lane, Upper Darby, Pa. 19082. Tel: 610-789-6355; Fax: 610-789-6352. Email: info@icphila.org. Website: http://www.icphila.org.

Bonner welcomes Nations Cup

POSTED ON August 12th  - POSTED IN IE

Former Republic of Ireland goalkeeper Pat Bonner said today he is looking forward to the newly-sponsored Carling Nations Cup coming to the Aviva Stadium in Dublin in the new year, RTE reports.

The tournament involving the Republic of Ireland, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales will be played at Dublin’s new Aviva Stadium, with each side having one fixture on Feb. 8-9 and then two per team in the week commencing Monday, May 23.

The biennial tournament will be played in the other competing nations in future years.

Bonner, who played in the 1990 and 1994 World Cup finals, said: “The Carling Nations Cup is going to be a fantastic new tournament for fans of the Republic of Ireland, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales, and also gives our international teams a chance to compete against each other in a wonderful new stadium.”

The Donegal-born ex-Celtic star added: “There is always a special atmosphere when international teams from Ireland and Britain play against each other and now we don’t have to rely on being drawn together in World Cup or European Championship qualifying groups. It’s all very exciting.”

Bank seizes developer’s car

POSTED ON August 6th  - POSTED IN IE

ACC BANK has seized a BMW saloon car from the Donnybrook home of developer Paddy Kelly, the Irish Times reports.

Bailiffs acting on foot of a warrant to the Dublin city Sheriff’s Office took the seven-year-old 7 Series yesterday.

The car was featured in an article in the Irish Times last month when Kelly spent a day with Irish Times assistant editor Fintan O’Toole traveling to developments around Dublin and its environs.

Kelly, who owes various banks €350 million, was unapologetic in the article about the extent of his debts.

Two weeks ago he appeared at the MacGill summer school in County Donegal, where he once again seemed apparently untroubled by his borrowings and drank champagne conspicuously while joking about the car and his lifestyle.

Kelly said yesterday that the car, which was seized without warning when Kelly was not in the house, belonged to his wife, and had been taken unlawfully.

“I don’t know if it was for show or . . . trying to embarrass us or whatever. We are going to take legal advice on this,” he said.

Kelly said he had never owned the car and that the sheriff’s office had evidence the car was in his wife’s name prior to seizing it. Last month Kelly told The Irish Times that he had bought the car in 2003 for €139,000.

Last year Kelly moved out of his home on Dublin’s salubrious Shrewsbury Road to his current address on Morehampton Road in Donnybrook, amid pressure from banks about repayments on loans.

ACC, which is owned by the Rabobank Group of the Netherlands, obtained a judgment last April against Kelly and his sons Simon and Christopher for €16.9 million in respect of property deals that have gone sour.

It followed a €6.1 million judgment in May last year against the developer.

Ex-trader sets his satiric sights on Wall St.

POSTED ON August 5th  - POSTED IN IE

By Peter McDermott

Brendan Connellan knows just what kind of reaction he wants to get from audiences this week.

“I hope they’ll be shifting uncomfortably in their seats,” said the Dublin-born, New York-based performer and playwright. “While laughing.”

Specifically, he had in mind some of his friends and former colleagues on Wall Street who are going to see “Kill the Bid” at the Manhattan Theater Source on McDougal Street. “Some of them are quite excited about it,” he said.

Connellan, who left his native city equipped with a green card, began working in New York’s financial sector in the latter half of the 1990s.

But last year, he assumed his job was rather less than secure. “Wall Street has turned upside down,” he said. “Companies have shriveled to half their size.”

So, the Dubliner bailed out and opted to dedicate all of his energies to writing plays. Indeed he has written four that he plans to stage through next spring. “And I will also be doing four storytelling shows in that time period,” he said.

“It thought I’d have a good concerted go at it,” said the University College Dublin graduate. “It was as good a moment as any.

“The play is about humans pushed to the brink,” he said of the first, which opened on Monday night. “What happens when you think you are going to lose your job? Whom might you hurt to stave off your own firing? How does your family view what you do, in the light of the global crisis? Are there better things to do with your life?”

Connellan understands the panicked “jostling” for survival by people with mortgages and comfortable lifestyles in the suburbs.

He believes also that his direct experience of that world of work combined with his immigrant outsider’s status makes him well placed to write about it. But something else from his background is also important, he feels.

“Growing up, stories were a big part of my family life,” said Connellan, who is the middle of five children.

He admires the brisk interplay involving multiple characters in the work of Alan Ayckbourn and the way that Martin McDonagh can have audiences gasping with shock and still lead them where he wants them to go. ”

That’s quite a skill,” he said.

Connellan has been honing his own talents over the years in stand-up comedy, improv and story-telling at venues like the Nuyorican Poets Café and the Bowery Poetry Club.

“There was no real overlap with what anyone else was doing up there on stage,” he said. “Those who liked it, liked it a lot.”

In the process, he made friendships and contacts, which helped when he was putting together his cast of seven for “Kill the Bid.” More than 50 actors went to his apartment to read for parts at various stages of the writing process.

Connellan is directing the play and also acting in it. He took on another key role, too, to ensure that the project got done. “I decided to produce it myself, even though it is a harrowing and exhausting process,” he said.

Illegally dumped waste to be sent back to Republic

POSTED ON August 3rd  - POSTED IN IE

Thousands of tons of waste illegally dumped in rural County Fermanagh will be sent back across the border tomorrow by authorities in the North, the Irish Independent reports.

Around 4,500 ton of household rubbish from Cork and Wexford will be sent back from Garrison.

Stormont Environment Minister Edwin Poots said it sent a strong message to landowners not to accept the material on their land.

“No matter how attractive the potential payment, it will never be worth the threat to your property and finances when you are caught,” he said, according to the Press Association.

The problem arose 10 years ago, when illegal disposal of waste from the Republic was taking place on a large scale.

Poots added: “It involved serious criminality with absolutely no regard to the impact on the environment, local communities or our economy.”

A total of a quarter of a million tons of illegally abandoned refuse will be returned, more than Belfast produces in a year.

The Democratic Unionist minister added: “This process involved challenging work for my officials in DoE (Department of the Environment) and the Northern Ireland Environment Agency (NIEA) and their counterparts in the Republic.

“It illustrates the importance of co-operation to protect the environment, pursue environmental crime and protect those who are trying to run legal waste businesses in these challenging economic times.”

It follows a 2007 agreement between the two governments and a further resolution in June 2009 which agreed measures for dealing with sites containing waste from the Republic.

When the rubbish at Slattinagh near Garrison is removed, officials will begin work on a site located near Trillick, Co. Tyrone, containing around 10,000 tons of refuse.

Anne Blacker, head of the NIEA’s environmental crime unit which carried out investigation of the sites, said: “The sight of lorries full of waste being removed represents the culmination of a great deal of planning and teamwork.

“We are removing a source of pollution which had the potential to keep polluting for decades.”

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