Ireland's justice minister launched a blistering attack on the Sinn Fein-IRA movement, accusing its leaders of lying repeatedly and deepening divisions within Northern Ireland. \nMichael McDowell's 3,000-word statement Thursday sought to dissect decades of Irish Republican Army policy -- and explain why the IRA is lying now about robbing the Northern Bank in Belfast, the biggest cash theft in history. \nEarlier Thursday, Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams, a reputed IRA commander, repeated his denials of IRA involvement in the Dec. 20 robbery and criticized the Irish government for not believing him. \nBut McDowell said the IRA had had a lengthy track record of denying, then eventually admitting, responsibility for bombings and deadly robberies at politically sensitive moments. He quoted previous Adams denials that proved false, and said he was certain that senior Sinn Fein leaders also commanded the IRA -- and negotiated about ending IRA activity at the same time they were planning the latest, 26.5 million pound (US$50 million) robbery. \n"Does any sane person believe that the IRA or Sinn Fein would now acknowledge that it had carried out the Northern Bank robbery?" McDowell said. "Sinn Fein and the IRA have lied repeatedly about criminality when it suited them." \nWidespread acceptance that the IRA committed the raid has dealt serious damage to efforts to revive a Catholic-Protestant administration, the key goal of the Good Friday peace accord of 1998. Sinn Fein has grown in recent years to become the north's top Catholic-backed party. \nBut Protestant leaders increasingly argue that the IRA should have fully disarmed and disbanded by now as part of the deal. They are lobbying the governments of Britain and Ireland to back a new arrangement that would allow Protestants to share power instead with moderate Catholics from the Social Democratic and Labour Party. \nIn Belfast, Ulster Unionist Party leader David Trimble -- a Nobel Peace Prize laureate who led a previous power-sharing coalition that collapsed in 2002 -- said Sinn Fein and the IRA "only offer more process, not completion, and have repeatedly refused to reform themselves." \nTrimble said Britain should not offer Sinn Fein "yet another `final' chance." Instead, he said, Britain and other parties should "draw a line under current experiments and go back to the basics of the [Good Friday] agreement." \nThe government of Prime Minister Tony Blair warned it planned to impose unspecified punishments on Sinn Fein if the IRA didn't come clean about the Northern Bank raid and promise to end all activities. \nDuring past crises in Northern Ireland's peace process, Sinn Fein has been able to count on support from the Irish government -- but McDowell signaled this would no longer be the case. He said the IRA was still committing and threatening violence.
Henry Tong (湯偉雄) and Elaine To (杜依蘭) were preparing to spend their first wedding anniversary in separate prison cells until their acquittal for rioting during Hong Kong’s pro-democracy protests. There were gasps and tears of relief in court on Friday last week as a judge declared prosecutors had failed to prove that the couple took part in clashes with police in July last year. The pair walked free in a ruling that has potential consequences for hundreds of other protesters facing similar charges. However, they have a long journey ahead as they try to rebuild their lives and business. “We have already been punished,”
WARNINGS OVER COMPLACENCY: The curves of new infections in numerous countries is climbing, while others see the the first new infections in months Spikes in COVID-19 infections in Asia have dispelled any notion that the region might be over the worst, with Australia and India yesterday reporting record daily infections, Vietnam fretting over a new surge and North Korea urging vigilance. Asian nations had largely prided themselves on rapidly containing initial outbreaks after the coronavirus emerged in central China late last year, but flare-ups this month have shown the danger of complacency. “We’ve got to be careful not to slip into some idea that there’s some golden immunity that Australia has in relation to this virus,” Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison told reporters. Australia recorded its
The Australian government yesterday said that it plans to give Google and Facebook three months to negotiate with media businesses fair pay for news content. In releasing a draft of a mandatory code of conduct, Canberra aims to succeed where other nations have failed in making tech firms pay for news siphoned from commercial media companies. Australian Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said that Google and Facebook would be the first platforms targeted by the proposed legislation, but others could follow. “It’s about a fair go for Australian news media businesses, it’s about ensuring that we have increased competition, increased consumer protection and a sustainable
BEIJING REACTS: China announced that Hong Kong’s extradition treaties with Canada, Australia and Britain would be suspended after those nations acted earlier New Zealand yesterday announced that it would suspend its extradition treaty with Hong Kong. The move came after China passed sweeping new security legislation for the territory. New Zealand is the final member of the “Five Eyes” intelligence-sharing alliance to take such action after the Australia, Britain, Canada and the US previously announced similar measures. New Zealand Minister of Foreign Affairs Winston Peters said that the new legislation goes against commitments China made to the international community. “New Zealand can no longer trust that Hong Kong’s criminal justice system is sufficiently independent from China,” Peters said. Moreover, Wellington would treat military and technology exports to