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15 June 2006 Edition

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Fifth Column

Peter Hain's Wonderland

Is there some sort of Alice in Wonderland mentality taking over the British judicial system in the Six Counties?

Last Friday, a judge at Belfast Crown Court said there was "not enough evidence" to try Ihab Shoukri on charges of membership of the UDA and UFF. Ihab's big brother is North Belfast UDA leader André. They were both jailed with two other men six years ago on charges of extortion and UDA membership. In February of this year, Ihab was part of a UDA delegation that had talks in Belfast with the husband of President Mary McAleese.

On the same day that Ihab Shoukri walked out of one court, the Court of Appeal upheld direct ruler Peter Hain's decision to appoint two senior members of the Portadown Orange Order to the seven-member Parades Commission. The commission's job, remember, is to supposedly impartially adjudicate on contentious marches by the Orange Order. Amongst the most contentious marches are those organised by none other than David Burrows and Don MacKay, who are now members of both the Portadown Orange Order and the Parades Commission at the same time.

What was it that Ulster Unionist Party Prime Minister Lord Brookeborough used to say 40 years ago about "a Protestant state for a Protestant people"?

Losing their balance

Reacting to news of the Court of Appeal's decision, Sinn Féin's John O'Dowd described the Parades Commission as "unbalanced".

Maybe it's Peter Hain and the judges who are unbalanced.

Cookstown sizzler

While nationalists were still trying to work out if justice comes into it in the courts, it was revealed that another Parades Commission member's father and uncles are members of the loyal orders.

To be fair to Alison Scott-McKinley, she made no secret of this and has freely admitted it in her Register of Interests declaration before becoming a Parades Commission member.

The lay magistrate and member of the Cookstown District Policing Partnership wrote:

"I have family members who are members of the loyal orders."

There it is, in black and white, in her own words.

And still Peter Hain sees no conflict of interest?

Ivor Callely loses deposit

RTÉ's World Cup panel chairperson and Fine Gael PR man, Bill O'Herlihy, was a rare bird at the Mahon Tribunal last week in that, unlike a clatter of politicians, he actually remembered some dodgy dealings between property developers doling out wads of cash to councillors, senators and TDs (purely in the interests of oiling the wheels of democracy, you understand).

Michael Clifford reported in this week's Sunday Tribune:

"Some politicians display the recall of a ditzy hedgehog when it comes to remembering how much they got, and from whom."

And then the man at the Tribune listed some of the more absent-minded figures at the tribunal.

From Fianna Fáil: Tom Kitt (€3,800); Charlie O'Connor (€2,500); G.V. Wright (€3,500); Don Lydon (€12,000); Marian McGennis (€2,000); and Ned Ryan (€5,080).

From Fine Gael: Mary Flaherty (€1,500-plus); Liam Cosgrave (€4,400); and Michael Joe Cosgrave (€1,270).

And former Mayor of Dublin Michael Keating, who swung from Fine Gael to join the Progressive Democrats, pocketed €3,300.

Now one of Fianna Fáil's flashiest TDs, Ivor Callely, has run into difficulties over his property interests.

The four tenants at one of Ivor's pads in Artane, Dublin, complained to the Private Residential Tenancies Board about the recently-resigned junior minister holding on to their €700 deposit. Now Ivor and wife Jennifer have been told by the board to hand back the cash.

Ivor 'The Publicity Engine' is declining to comment further on the matter.

North isn't Irish, says FGer

Mayo County Councillor John O'Malley (above) of Fine Gael was complaining on RTÉ last Wednesday week (7 June) about members of the Travelling community pitching their caravans on a local beach near Westport (there is only one halting site available in the county).

Slightly missing the whole point of why someone is called a Traveller in the first place, Farmer John complained that many of the Travellers aren't even from Mayo:

"The fact is that those people come from England and Northern Ireland in the first place- they're not actually Irish Travellers at all."

So much for fellow Mayoman Enda Kenny's old guff about "Fine Gael: The United Ireland Party."

Karaoke crackdown

Here is a salutary lesson for people thinking of coming to the Sinn Féin Christmas party.

In Vietnam, 21 officials at the state oil company, PetroVietnam, have been ordered to engage in a stiff bout of revolutionary self-criticism for not joining in the customary karaoke singing at a contract-signing ceremony.

The business bit over, the offenders were apparently more interested in getting home to their families in Hanoi than signing up to a sing-song.

Upwards of 18 department heads are facing suspension "for not participating in collective activities".

You have been warned.

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