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28 October 2004 Edition

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The 5th Column

It's a long, long way from Larne to here

IT WAS TOO GOOD to be true - Free Presbyterian firebrand and DUP leader leaving his sectarian baggage behind for a damsel in distress.

A story starting with chivalry by Papa Doc is told by Channel 4 News TV presenter Jon Snow in his autobiography, Shooting History, published this week. Snow says that the episode, in 1976, taught him more about the conflict in the Six Counties than 25 years of reporting.

The story began at Heathrow Airport, where Belfast flights had been cancelled due to fog. Snow was waiting with Papa Doc and nine other MPs, including then SDLP leader Gerry Fitt and the UUP's Jim Molyneaux. Also waiting was a young woman, distraught that she would miss her own wedding in Belfast.

The gallant Snow and the MPs rallied round and a saga involving a flight to Glasgow, a special emergency landing at speed by a kind-hearted 737 pilot, baggage hastily unloaded by Ian Paisley & Co, a race to the train, missing the train by minutes, culminating in a taxi convoy dashing to Stranraer to catch the last boat to Larne in the nick of time, scrambling aboard as the gangway was being lifted.

In one taxi was Jon Snow, Jim Molyneaux, Gerry Fitt, Paisley and the bride-to-be.

When the delighted and breathless bride arrived at last in Larne, the DUP leader cheerfully asked her where her wedding was going to be, adding that he might like to go. The young woman replied happily: "The Church of Our Lady of..." and then tailed off when she saw the look on Paisley's pusser.

Jon Snow recalls that Ian Paisley decided not to go.

How far has Ian Paisley come from Larne?

Don't forget your ID if you want to go to work

CHRISTY MOORE was given the Special Branch heavy treatment at Holyhead port in Wales last week, despite being the best-known folk singer in Ireland and probably Britain. He was held, allegedly, because he didn't have ID. Christy had a copy of his songbook with his photo on it though!

Christy was held under the notorious (and formerly "temporary") Prevention of Terrorism Act and endured what the burly balladeer described as a "threatening" and "frightening" two-hour interrogation.

Christy and a colleague were stopped in a minibus full of musical equipment coming off the car ferry en route to gig in Liverpool and around England. Other vehicles were searched ahead of them and sent on their way but Christy's caravan was not searched at all, yet he was hauled in for quizzing about his family and his song lyrics.

One Branchman, peering at hand-written lyrics, probed Christy about a song he's working on called The Bogman, centred on being from County Kildare. "Why are you writing about the Bogside?" asked the defective detective. Christy corrected him and offered a few verses of The Bogman or even a song about the Bogside but it failed to soothe the savage beast of the Branch.

Released without charge, Christy only went public because the Branch claimed it was routine and it happens to Irish travellers all the time. But Christy insisted it was anything but routine questioning. "I found the whole experience threatening. At no time was I given any explanation as to why I was being held and interrogated in this manner. I found the whole affair quite frightening. But the feeling I am left with is one of sadness as I thought this kind of behaviour towards Irish people travelling to Britain was a thing of the past."

The Department of Foreign Affairs in Dublin is to raise the case with the British Government.

Physical force republicans

AS England's Football Association probes the Premiership pizza-pelting and soup-throwing tunnel row between Alex Ferguson's Manchester United and Arsene Wenger's Arsenal, a storm in a tearoom has rocked the delph in Dundalk.

Angry clashes at last week's meeting of Louth County Council spilled over into the tearoom, with Fianna Fáil Councillor Declan Breatnach allegedly slapping Fine Gael Councillor Finnan McCoy in the face.

The row began when the Soldier of Destiny refused to support a section 140 planning application from the Blueshirt councillor. Names were called, fingers were wagged, and a pushing of hands later ended up with a wee dig in the face.

The Fianna Fáiler claimed it was an accident; the Fine Gaeler is seeking legal advice.

Maybe they should both decommission their arms - and their fingers.

Baywatch battle with British Army

BAYWATCH 'BABE' Pamela Anderson is taking a strip off the British Army. The barely clad Pam has written to Queen Elizabrit, petitioning her over the use of bear pelts for the world-famous busby headwear of the Irish Guards and four other Guards regiments.

She has collected 200 of her fans' signatures for the petition, which she posted to Buckingham Palace this week.

Anderson, who was born in Canada, is calling for a switch from the use of Canadian bears' pelts to synthetic materials in the headwear.

The animal rights group, PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals), says: "Peta has worked with a top faux fur manufacturer to produce a material that is now being field tested by the Ministry of Defence to replace bear fur, but during this process bears continue to be killed to make these ceremonial hats."

A British Army spokesman, Lt-Col Peter Dick-Peter (we're not making this up), said that no synthetic alternative had been found.

Although the Guards regiments continue to wear bears on their barnets, the smaller busby hats worn by the ceremonial King's Troop, Royal Horse Artillery, are no longer made from beavers.

The Devil's Own

THE British armed forces have always been regarded in some quarters as the spawn of Satan but now the Royal Navy has made devil worshipping official.

A non-commissioned officer has had Satanism officially recognised as his religion and he will be allowed to practise rituals on board ship.

Leading Hand (equivalent to corporal) Chris Cranmer has become the first registered Satanist in the British armed forces after the captain of HMS Cumberland agreed to recognise his beliefs.

A spokesperson for the Royal Navy said: "We are an equal opportunities employer and we don't stop anybody from having their own religious values. Our policy is that, wherever practical, reasonable requests for time and facilities that do not impact on operational effectiveness or the welfare of other personnel, are met."

So the sacrificing of virgins and petty officers dancing naked around a bonfire won't be allowed in the NCOs' mess. That will have to be done in the privacy of their own homes.

Maybe Rod Stewart should update his chart-topping Royal Navy theme, We Are Sailing, with new lyrics: "We are Satan, We are Satan, Home again, Across the sea." Or they could adapt Queen's Bohemian Rhapsody with new lyrics, "Beelzebub has a devil for a son. At sea. At sea."

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