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26 Feb 2008
A weekend paintbomb attack on St. Mary’s Catholic Oratory in Newbuildings has been condemned by the local Parish Priest Fr. Aidan Mullan who says it’s an indicator that the “spirit of sectarian badness in the village hasn’t gone away.”
The attack, which occurred sometime between 8pm on Saturday night and 9am on Sunday, co-incided with a weekend visit to the parish by the Bishop of Derry Most Rev. Dr. Seamus Hegarty to confirm children from St. Columba’s School, Newbuildings.
Fr. Mullan said he hoped the incident was not directly linked to the Bishop’s visit to the parish but he was concerned that this was a planned sectarian attack on the Catholic Oratory.
The Oratory has been a target for numerous sectarian attacks in the past, but according to the parish priest, this is the first serious incident for some time.
“Thankfully there have been few incidents at the Oratory over the
past 18 months or so. Quite often, bottles or glasses are thrown into the Oratory grounds, but we’re told these are the actions of drunken fellahs coming out of bars. However, this is different, this was a deliberate, planned attack. The paintbomb had to be made. This wasn’t the actions of someone with a drink in them. You don’t come out of a bar with a paintbomb. Someone deliberately decided to do this”.
Fr. Mullan said he felt it necessary to speak out to enlist the support of the good people of Newbuildings in ensuring that this wasn’t the beginning of a new onslaught of attacks on the Oratory.
“The paint damage can be cleaned up, but unfortunately it’s an indicator that the spirit of sectarian badness hasn’t gone away in Newbuildings. I hope the good people of Newbuildings will do all they can to ensure that this sort of incident is nipped in the bud”, the parish priest added.
Thursday 28, February 2008
An Assembly Commission visit to Dublin is likely to delay a decision over Sinn Fein plans to commemorate an IRA bomber in Stormont.
The Commission, which is responsible for the day-to-day running of the Assembly, travelled across the border yesterday to meet its counterpart body in Dublin.
The two-day visit includes talks with the body which organises the Dail in Leinster House and senior TDs from all parties in the Republic.
The trip is likely to delay a decision, however, on Sinn Fein’s application to hold a commemoration of IRA bomber Mairead Farrell in Stormont’s Long Gallery as part of International Womens Day celebrations on March 8.
The DUP has put on hold an application for a commemoration of the SAS, which shot Ms Farrell with two other IRA members, Danny McCann and Sean Savage, in Gibraltar in 1988, until the Commission reaches a decision.
It is thought, however, if the Commission refuses permission to use the Long Gallery, Sinn Fein will stage the event in its own Stormont offices.
Meanwhile, Gerry Adams claimed yesterday that the IRA unit was gunned down after the Irish government passed on information about their movements.
The west Belfast trio were shot by undercover soldiers as they prepared to launch a car bomb attack on troops based on The Rock.
It was claimed they had been under surveillance by British intelligence and the authorities in Spain who monitored their movements as they crossed the border into Gibraltar, apparently after leaving Ireland on a flight out of Dublin.
The Sinn Fein president declared: “It is my strong view that the killings in Gibraltar were authorised by Margaret Thatcher, and it is my strong view that the Irish government of the day passed information to the authorities about the movements of those killed.
“I cannot prove that, but that is my conviction.”
Thursday 28, February 2008
Just one phone call could help end three years of agony for Lisa Dorrian’s tormented family.
Somebody knows what happened to the pretty 25- year-old on February 28, 2005, and where her body is hidden – but for 1095 long days they have remained silent.
Every morning her family hopes today will be the day that person breaks their silence and shares the secret that could lead them to Lisa.
On the afternoon of March 4, 2005, the PSNI issued a statement saying they were becoming increasingly concerned about a 25-year-old Co Down woman, Lisa Dorrian, who had not been seen for five days since a party in Ballyhalbert, and that a crime could not be ruled out.
From that moment, Lisa’s disappearance gripped the public’s attention.
When it was finally confirmed that a murder inquiry had been launched, the mystery of what happened to the blonde sandwich-shop assistant, with dreams of buying a house or starting a life abroad, sparked public alarm.
Overnight, Lisa’s family was launched into the spotlight as they made impassioned appeals for help to find their daughter and sister.
They issued a £30,000 reward for information, launched a website to raise awareness of Lisa’s disappearance, posted advertisements on billboards, trailer boards and bus shelters and urged people to wear blue Ribbons of Hope to show support.
As they embarked on their brave campaign they found themselves in a surreal world where they were offered support from people like US singer Donny Osmond and former PM Tony Blair, to Milltown killer Michael Stone.
When Stone offered to meet Lisa’s killers, after police confirmed loyalist paramilitaries – believed to be the LVF – were being linked to the murder, her sister Joanne summed up the family’s incredulity at the life they had found themselves in. She said: “It just goes to show you how crazy the situation my family finds itself in.”
The interest in the case has been unprecedented – the lisadorrian.co.uk website had 5 million hits in just one week – and helped keep the case in the public eye. The family’s tireless fight to find Lisa’s body has won them support from across the globe. However, the family campaign has not always been welcome.
In November 2005, they were forced to go to the Rathcoole estate on the outskirts of Belfast under police cover to remove a trailer board with a picture of Lisa after it was overturned. They have also had nasty messages posted on their website message board.
Detectives investigating Lisa’s murder insist that everything is being done to lead them to her body and killer. However, the investigation does not appear to be moving anywhere fast. Over the past three years several leads have been followed and a number of arrests made, but nobody has been charged.
The Dorrian family show no sign of giving up hope.
All it would take is one call to disclose the secret of what happened to Lisa and allow her family to lay her to rest.
Teach Dáithí Ó Conaill, 223 Parnell Street, Dublin 1, Ireland
Phone: +353-1-872 9747; FAX: +353-1-872 9757;
Date: 27 Feabhra / February 2008
Internet resources maintained by SAOIRSE-Irish Freedom
In this issue:
1. RSF TO oppose Armagh visit of English queen
2. RSF to hold annual Seán Keenan commemoration in Derry
3. British police embarrassed
4. Family of Aidan McAnespie continue their quest for truth
5. Stormont Minister ‘snubs’ invites to Irish language events
6. Huge support for Irish language parade
7. Peace Vigil at Shannon Airport
8. Eviction swoop on Tara solidarity camp
1. RSF TO OPPOSE ARMAGH VISIT OF ENGLISH QUEEN
ON Holy Thursday, March 20 Republican Sinn Féin will be protesting the presence of the Queen of England, Elizabeth Windsor, at the Maundy Thursday celebrations in St. Patrick’s Church of Ireland Cathedral in Armagh City.
Recent meetings of An Ard-Chomhairle (National Executive) and Comhairle Uladh (Ulster Executive) agreed that the presence of the English Queen in Ireland would be actively opposed.
National Publicity Officer, Richard Walsh, said: “Until such time as England withdraws from Ireland and hostilities cease, we are opposed to the presence of British royals in our country. Whilst the British Occupation of Ireland continues, Elizabeth Windsor can only be viewed as an enemy of the Irish people.
“Her visit will not go unopposed.”
2. RSF TO HOLD ANNUAL SEÁN KEENAN COMMEMORATION IN DERRY
THE annual Seán Keenan Commemoration will be held on Sunday, March 2, at the Seán Keenan Memorial (Celtic Cross) on Fahan Street in the Bogside area of Derry City at 3pm. The main oration will be delivered by veteran Mayo Republican, Dan Hoban. Seán Keenan was made an Honorary Vice-President for life of Republican Sinn Féin in the late 1980s.
3. BRITISH POLICE EMBARRASSED
THE RUC/ PSNI was embarrassed this week after mistakenly claiming that a UVF bannerette carried during last year’s Twelfth of July Orange Order parade might be ‘OK’ because it referred to the organisation’s early gun smuggling days of 1914.
The banner bears the names of two men who had links to the UVF, Sam Rocket who was murdered by loyalists in 2000 and William Hanna shot dead by the British Army in 1978.
It was carried by members of The Pride of Ardoyne Flute Band along the Crumlin Road last July in a clear violation of the British Parades Commission’s rules which say “no paramilitary-style clothing is to be worn at any time during the parade and flags, bannerettes and symbols relating to a proscribed organisation should in no circumstances be displayed”.
4. FAMILY OF AIDAN McANESPIE CONTINUE THEIR QUEST FOR TRUTH
ON February 21 Aghaloo GAA club hosted a weekend of Gaelic football and cultural events to mark the 20th anniversary of the death of Aidan McAnespie (24) who was shot by a British soldier as he walked to attend a game at the club grounds on February 21, 1988. The weekend highlighted the ongoing quest to uncover the truth regarding the shooting.
The remembrance events commenced on February 21 with an anniversary Mass at the nearby Clara Chapel at 8pm, followed by a céili in the marquee at Aghaloo GAA grounds. On February 22 there was a dance in Quinn’s Corner with music by Pat Casey and Gerry Cunningham. On February 23 an under-18 boys football tournament was held at Aghaloo with the final taking place the following day.
The minor final acted as a curtain-raiser for the senior clash between Aidan McAnespie GFC, Boston and Cormac McAnallen GFC, Australia. On Sunday a host of GAA stars past and present – including Peter Canavan, Joe Brolly, Brian McGuigan, Ryan McMenamin, Enda Muldoon, Larry Reilly, Anthony Tohill, Nudie Hughes, Greg McCartan and Ollie Murphy – took part a special football match to commemorate the 24-year-old’s life at 3pm at Aghaloo GAA club.
Also in attendance was the GAA president at the time of the killing, Dr Mick Loftus. Following the shooting of the young Aghaloo clubman, Dr Loftus, along with the late Primate of All Ireland Cardinal Tomas Ó Fiaich, described the incident as ‘murder.’
The British army claimed Aidan had been hit by a ricochet when the weapon had discharged accidentally as the soldier was moving the gun with wet hands. Charges were initially brought against a Grenadier Guard for manslaughter but were dropped prior to prosecution.
The day after the killing, the 26-County Administration appointed Garda Deputy Commissioner Eugene Crowley to investigate the incident. The results of the investigation were received by the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform Gerard Collins on April 8, 1988, but have never been published. An RUC investigation also took place which concluded that the killing was accidental.
Aidan’s sister, Eilish said the weekend was one of mixed emotions for the McAnespie family. “It will bring back painful memories for the family with 20 years without Aidan,” she said. “It feels like it happened last week as if time had stood still. It will be a very difficult time for my mum and dad. It is a comfort to us that he is being remembered in such an honourable way and that helps to ease the pain for us slightly. Aghaloo O’Neills could not be praised enough for the effort they have put into this. They were excellent at the time of Aidan’s death with the funeral and the support they have given us.”
Speaking of the on-going campaign to get to the truth regarding the shooting of her brother, Eilish said, “We have not received justice for what happened to Aidan. We are still actively pursuing this case… There has been information covered up and when you know the truth has been hidden it does make you very, very angry. It is 20 years on and we still feel that injustice. This weekend will be a commemoration and to keep Aidan’s name to the fore to highlight the injustice that happened.”
5. STORMONT MINISTER ‘SNUBS’ INVITES TO IRISH LANGUAGE EVENTS
STORMONT culture minister Edwin Poots admitted on March 26 that he has not accepted an invitation to any Irish language events since he was appointed, despite attending five Ulster-Scots celebrations.
Edwin Poots said he turned down invitations to four Irish language events since the restoration of Stormont in May 2007.
However, he has attended five Ulster-Scots projects including a re-enactment of the 1798 Battle of Saintfield in August as part of the Saintfield Liberty Days Festival.
Janet Muller from Irish language group Pobal said they had invited Edwin Poots to attend a march in support of official recognition for the language in June but never received a reply.
“It could just be coincidence that he hasn’t attended any Irish language events,” she said.
The news comes just two weeks after it was revealed that Stormont funding for the promotion of Ulster-Scots is to outstrip Irish language projects over the next three years.
Figures from DCAL show Ulster-Scots projects will get around £1 million more in funding than Irish language schemes between 2008/09 and 2010/11.
Meanwhile, Pobal has said they will raise DUP assembly member Jimmy Spratt’s comments on the Irish language act with British Secretary of State Shaun Woodward.
Janet Muller said they will also speak about the issue with the monitoring bodies for the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities and the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages.
At a meeting of the DUP’s Tandragee branch at the weekend, Spratt said that “thanks to DUP policy”, a proposed Irish language act had been “rubbished” by Edwin Poots.
“We have also seen devolution deliver greater funding for our culture,” he said. “For the first time, funding to Ulster-Scots will be greater than funding to the Irish sector. This money can be used for capacity building in order to increase community activity within the unionist and protestant family.”
Janet Muller said Mr Spratt’s comments showed the DUP’s “opposition to the [Irish Language] Act is purely based upon narrow party political interests”.
6. HUGE SUPPORT FOR IRISH LANGUAGE PARADE
THOUSANDS of people took to the streets of Belfast city centre on February 23 to show their support for the Irish language and cultural diversity.
The march, organised by POBAL, the umbrella organisation for Irish language groups in the Six Counties, was hailed by the Chief Executive of POBAL, Janet Muller, as a huge success.
A 20-foot Chinese dragon led supporters from West Belfast to Writers’ Square in the city centre for an afternoon of music and poetry from Irish language speakers and multi-ethnic groups from as far away as Poland and Ghana.
Several groups attended to show support not only for the Irish language and cultural diversity itself, but also for Ciste Craoltóireachta na Gaeilge (the Irish Language Broadcast Fund) which is under threat at present. They were also supporting the call for an Irish Language Act and backing the threatened Irish language paper Lá Nua. Ms Muller said the large crowd and colourful atmosphere showed the depth of support for the ‘Say Tá to the Irish Language’ campaign.
“It was an extremely lively, noisy and colourful march and the multi-ethnic atmosphere showed just how wide the support is,” she said.
“We had traditional Irish music from Marcas Ó Murchú and Oisín Mac Diarmada, poetry readings from Jamaican and Ghanaian poets and ethnic music from Polish and Slovenian musicians, so it shows how wide the cultural support for this is.
“People from all walks of life were here and they came from all over Ireland to show their support. A lot of what you can hear about the Irish language can be bad and this event proved just how colourful and joyous it is. The great turn-out showed the wealth of support there is out there for the Irish language.”
Janet said that in recent months, the language itself was under attack, with the decision not to introduce an Irish Language Act, the threat to the broadcasting fund, and now the threat of the imminent closure of Lá Nua, Ireland’s only daily Irish language newspaper.
Before the parade took off the organisers held a an international food fair in Cultúrlann Mac Adam Ó Fiaich, and storytelling in An Ceathrú Póilí bookshop, also in the Irish language arts centre on the Falls Road.
A large number of Gaelscoil pupils also participated, with the march being led by salsa drummers from Dublin and Coláiste Feirste, and a Chinese dragon created by Year 7 in Bunscoil an tSléibhe Dhuibh.
7. PEACE VIGIL AT SHANNON AIRPORT
ON February 17, Cosantori Siochana hosted what is now a monthly vigil at Shannon Airport to highlight Ireland’s participation in a war raging around the globe. This dignified witness was supported by Amnesty International and several Quakers from Limerick City.
Standing at the entrance to Shannon Airport, the group of peace-mongers held banners calling for the demilitarisation of the Airport and to end the use of Shannon by CIA torture taxis. This low key vigil is gaining numbers since peace activists resumed a monthly presence in December with just five people.
Shannon Airport has seen over 1,000,000 US troops pass through to Iraq and Afghanistan. Last year, the government was criticized by the Irish Commission for Human Rights for not searching CIA and Military flights at the airport. Several of these planes have been involved in the US’s Extraordinary Rendition programme where prisoners were transported to other countries for outsourced torture.
Speaking at the vigil, a local peace activist said “We have come back to show that this is still an issue with the people of Ireland. It is great to see Amnesty and the Quakers here. Both groups are well known in the peace movement and bring a strong presence to the vigil.”
Commenting on the large amount of Gardai positioned near by, he said, “Judging by the amount of security here, it seems that the government knows that any protest at Shannon highlights their complicity in America’s military failures. Obviously this threatens the state and they will continue to pour taxpayers money into securing the myth that it’s business as usual at Shannon Airport.”
After initial contact with this peaceful group, An Gardai Síochána kept a visible distance reminding these citizens that they were at hand. Three local detectives interrogated one of the youngest members of the group as he went past their unmarked patrol car. When confronted by the young boy’s irate father, the driver said: “We were just engaging in conversation!” Detective Sergeant Michael Houlihan sitting in the back seat refused to tell the father if they had recorded the boy’s details. The member in the front seat had an open notebook on his lap.
The next vigil will happen at Shannon Airport at 5pm, 23rd of March. Please bring flowers to commemorate those who died since the Iraq war started five years ago
8. EVICTION SWOOP ON TARA SOLIDARITY CAMP
ON February 25 a large number of Gardaí, along with SIAC Ferrovial private security
conducted a swoop on the Tara solidarity camp, located beside Rath Lugh and Lismullin national monuments in Country Meath, which contains approximately 30 demonstrators.
A large number of ‘paddy wagons’ arrived on the scene, and a lot of large machinery arrived and prepared for demolition works in the area of Rath Lugh, the site Minister Gormley placed a Temporary Preservation Order on late last year.
The camp is located on wooded land that is publicly owned by Coillte, and has been occupied by a large number of protestors for over a year. However, instead of treating this as a civil trespass matter, Gardaí arrested people and charged them with criminal violations. At least one person was taken into custody.
It is believed this action is a continuation of Garda ‘Operation Bedrock’, a policing plan created to deal with Tara demonstrators. Minister Lenihan claimed “Operation Bedrock is in place to uphold the law in the context of the construction of the M3 motorway”, in response to an official complaint that was lodged, alleging breaches of civil and human rights, as a result of ongoing assaults on peaceful demonstrators.
Police have threatened arrests on a grand scale, unless demonstrators disperse. The situation is currently ongoing and is being monitored.
Laura Grealish said:
“We lodged a complaint with regards to the mistreatment of demonstrators with Minister Lenihan last week. There has been no written reply, and this escalation seems to be his response. This is clearly a joint operation between the Gardaí and private security for SIAC Ferrovial. They are rushing to make the M3 a fait accompli, even though cases are before the High Court and the European Court of Justice.”
Vincent Salafia said:
”This operation is taking place on the same day that Minister Dempsey is launching his so-called ‘sustainable transport’ initiative. The M3 is the most unsustainable project ever invented in Ireland, and is illegal according to the European Commission. What we have here is business as usual.”
27 February 2008
It was one of the most heinous crimes during Northern Ireland’s bloody past. Ten years on, the pain and suffering is as raw for the parents of Phillip Allen and Damian Trainor as it was on the night when the lifelong friends were murdered in the Railway Bar in Poyntzpass.
On March 3, 1998, LVF killers Stephen McClean and Noel McCready burst into the quiet bar, riddling it with bullets from handguns. Phillip and Damian were shot dead and two other men were injured in the horrific attack.
The mothers of the murdered men have told how their lives changed forever that night and how there is not a day goes by when they don’t think of their sons.
”I’m trying my best to go on with life but every day is the same, I can picture Damian working across the road in the garage,” said Damian’s mother An
”Faith has got me through the last 10 years, I don’t pray but others pray for me and it’s a comfort.
I have received a great deal of support from the community and it’s great.” Ethel Allen can also remember that dreadful night and the scene which met her as she entered Canavan’s bar.
”As I was making my way to the bar, I thought Phillip had maybe been shot in the arm,” she said.
”But when I went into the bar he said, ‘mum, I’m dying, I’m dying’.
I told him I loved him and not to worry and that we would follow him to Daisy Hill but he died before he got there.” Both women believe the men who murdered their sons should rot behind bars forever.
Ann said McClean and McCready are both ”pure evil”.
”Please God I hope they don’t get out of prison,” she said .
”They will suffer one day and I hope I see that day.”
By Brian Rowan
26 February 2008
Planned talks between Lord Eames and Gerry Adams have been put on hold – just hours after the IRA moved to rule out a meeting with the Consultative Group on the Past.
According to a source a “formal request” for a meeting with the IRA leadership was to have been made this morning – in scheduled private talks involving the retired Church of Ireland Primate and the Sinn Fein President.
But the Belfast Telegraph understands that a face-to-face meeting at Stormont was postponed at the last minute at the request of Lord Eames.
The talks are to be rescheduled when the co-chair of the Consultative Group has had more time to reflect on yesterday’s republican briefing.
That was not conducted by the IRA’s ‘P O’Neill’, but by a senior republican source.
On the Eames/Bradley Group, he said:
–The body was appointed by the British Government
–Its terms of reference were set by the British Government
–It’s reporting back to the British Government.
“In that context they (the IRA) don’t have confidence in the body. Therefore it’s highly unlikely that they would want to meet them,” the source continued.
In effect the IRA answered Lord Eames’ question before it was asked.
But it is understood the Eames/Bradley Group will still make a formal request for a meeting.
As exclusively revealed in this newspaper, the group recently held private talks with the UVF leadership in Belfast, including the most senior figure in that organisation’s ‘Command Staff’ – a man suspected of being a long-time Special Branch agent.
Approaches have also been made to the UDA.
But through an authoritative republican source the IRA has made its position clear.
That will not stop the group from making its recommendations this summer.
Its work is but one phase in a wider process.
One source speaking about the group’s remit said its job “was not to sign, seal and deliver this” – meaning to settle every issue and answer every question at this stage.
Thousands line the street to bid ‘The Dark’ a fond farewell
By Ciarán Barnes
22 February 2008
More than 2,000 mourners lined the streets of West Belfast on Tuesday for the funeral of IRA hunger striker Brendan Hughes.
The 59-year-old’s coffin, which was draped in a tricolour and had black gloves and a beret on top, was carried by Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams.
The former IRA leader was cremated at Roselawn Cemetery after funeral Mass at St Peter’s Cathedral.
Fr Brendan Smyth, who conducted the service, said Brendan’s hunger strike in 1980 had taken a huge physical and mental toll.
“His life after that time could not outrun or forget all that had happened to him and the many like him,” he said.
The first hunger strike was called off after 53 days, with IRA volunteer Sean McKenna on the verge of death.
Fr Smyth told mourners Brendan made a “brave decision” in ending the protest.
He added: “We know that when someone has the courage to do the right thing, then nothing but good can come from it, and we know of at least one person whose life was immediately saved for him having taken that courageous decision.”
Brendan joined the IRA in 1969.
He was arrested in the early 1970s along with Gerry Adams and Tom Cahill and sent to Long Kesh.
He escaped shortly afterwards in a rolled-up mattress but was eventually re-arrested.
In January 1978 he was transferred to the H-Blocks where he became the IRA’s Officer Commanding and led first the hunger strike against prison conditions.
Bobby Sands, a close friend of ‘The Dark’, took over from him as OC in Long Kesh.
Bobby Sands ordered the second hunger strike in 1981 in which he and nine other inmates died.
Brendan never fully recovered from his hunger strike ordeal and two years ago underwent an operation to save his sight.
Although a staunch critic of Sinn Féin in his later years, he remained hugely respected by supporters of the party.
Martin Galvin • 24 February 2008
Radio Free Eireann, New York’s influential Irish radio program, begins each week with a song that shouts the words “unrepentant Fenian”. Once the description “unrepentant” Fenian or “unrepentant” Republican puzzled me. Repentance denotes regret and a contrite turning away from some misdeed or wrongdoing. Fenianism or Republicanism I took to be a virtue or accolade, synonyms for Irish patriotism. No one speaks of a repentant patriot. Why should a Republican or Fenian ever be repentant and why would it ever be noteworthy to single out a Republican for being unrepentant?
Brendan Hughes surely lived and died as an unrepentant Republican. He could have no more repented or disowned or denied his part in the IRA’s fight against British rule, than he could repent being Irish or disown Belfast or disavow the legitimacy of the Irish struggle by donning a British criminal uniform in the H-blocks of Long Kesh.
The very suggestion that he repent, disown or even mitigate his part in the struggle to make himself more politically palatable to the British crown or a Paisley led Stormont would have been met with that sly mischievous smile, perhaps a chuckle and an instruction to ”cop yourself on.”
Like countless others, I knew of him long before I would meet him. Like a Jim Lynagh, or Pete Ryan or Francis Hughes among so many others, Brendan Hughes was one of those volunteer IRA soldiers whose courage and determination seemed to overflow into those alongside them, somehow instilling confidence that the overwhelming military advantages held by British crown forces would someone be neutralized or overcome because he was there.
It was perhaps most characteristic of him that when he escaped from a British prison he did so not to gain freedom and safety in the south or even a respite, but to get back to the fight within days.
In the H-blocks he had the unenviable, if not near impossible task of rallying the H-block blanketmen, keeping up their spirits and morale in the daily fight against British criminalization while exercising the restraint and patience required by the Republican movement, to build a campaign and network of support in Ireland and beyond.
He was instrumental in the campaign which would eventually inspire countless thousands across Ireland and around the globe to rally behind the blanketmen against Thatcher’s brutal torture.
When all attempts at a political resolution, including that by Cardinal O’Fiaich were dismissed by Thatcher, and the ultimate protest, hunger strike, was forced upon Republican political prisoners, Brendan Hughes volunteered to lead. While himself suffering 53 days of hunger strike after having undergone years of protest the decision fell upon him to end the first hunger strike when it seemed that the British had ceded an honorable resolution in time to save the life of Sean McKenna. We would then see Thatcher renege and choose the tactics which would mean the death of ten hunger strike martyrs, in her vain effort to break the struggle by breaking the prisoners.
Twenty years ago after his release from Long Kesh, Brendan volunteered to come to the United States to collect funds on behalf of the Republican Movement. It was not an assignment he relished, but one that was important to the struggle. He would begin meetings candidly by explaining he was not there to seek monies for Irish Northern Aid or the families of political prisoners or for Sinn Fein.
He threw himself into the tour, patiently and diplomatically meeting small groups answering questions and explaining strategy. He worked with patience, determination and some humor and succeeded nearly doubling his original goal. Years later it would be speculated that he was perhaps too successful. Denis Donaldson would be sent to New York the next year and someone would quip that agent Donaldson was Britain’s answer to Brendan’s success.
In those days, the British trumpeted the propaganda fiction that the IRA fight was continuing not due to the injustice of British rule but because so-called godfathers were profiting from the war. Anyone who ever visited Brendan Hughes would see this claim for the lie that it was, as he clearly never profited, benefited or was enriched by a struggle in which he long played a leading role.
Later, he would come to disagree with the deal that would barter away acceptance of British rule with a unionist veto, in exchange for power, places and patronage within Stormont. How easy it would have been for him to keep silent, and simply continue to enjoy, the esteem, camaraderie and job opportunities, to which his part in the struggle more than entitled him. Instead the same beliefs which brought him out on the streets of Belfast to join the struggle against the forces of the British crown led him to decide that loyalty to the struggle now demanded him to speak against the deal, and direction in which the Movement was headed.
His positions are public and in most cases show him taking a stand to defend others. He spoke out for a Republican debate on a political alternative to Stormont .He supported the demands of Republican prisoners at Maghaberry for segregation which was now being used by the British in place of a prison uniform as a new tactic of imposing criminalization. He urged against a Republican feud after the murder of Joseph O’Connor. He spoke for support for former Republican prisoners whose time in British jails had taken huge physical, mental and financial tolls. He expressed deep fears that the movement which could not be broken by British repression was being co-opted by power, privilege and profits within a British regime. Most recently he was to the forefront in opposing any Republican backing of the RUC-PSNI, which he saw as an endorsement of British rule, criminalization and repression, a force whose members had murdered, tortured and jailed Republicans.
His arguments were seldom answered on the merits but sidestepped with fanciful claims that Brendan was affected by the hunger strike or his years of imprisonment. The worst and most hurtful of these was the slander that he was against the leadership on a personal basis. This was a movement led by some with whom he had fought alongside, been imprisoned and risked his life. The idea of speaking against these leaders must have been heartbreaking for him and harder in some ways than than refusing the crown uniform in Long Kesh. Such slanders were created to enable others to rationalize themselves to themselves without dealing with the truth behind his words.
In remembering this unrepentant Fenian there are no better words than something he, himself wrote for THE BLANKET, about a relative named Charlie Hughes, who had given his life in the struggle and whose memory Brendan said inspired and sustained him while on hunger strike:
“He lies in the plot of the brave from where his inspiration reaches out to touch those of us who had the honour of knowing him.”
By Noel McAdam
25 February 2008
The DUP today indicated it will not proceed with an application for an official Stormont function to commemorate the SAS if a Sinn Fein commemoration of IRA bomber fails to go ahead.
The Assembly Commission is expected to discuss the Sinn Fein plans to include IRA bomber Mairead Farrell in an International Women’s Day celebration in the next few days.
Both ceremonies, if given permission, would take place in the Long Gallery at Stormont.
MP Jeffrey Donaldson today said: “We have not yet submitted our application and I will await the outcome of the Commission’s deliberations before proceeding with this proposal.”
He argued Sinn Fein, which has demanded the removal of British symbols elsewhere, was being deliberately provocative in planning the tribute to Farrell, who was shot dead by the SAS in Gibraltar in 1988 with fellow IRA members Sean Savage and Danny McCann.
He also said the SAS event would be only the first in a series to mark the service of the security forces in the province, while Farrell was not “something to be celebrated”.
In one of the most disputed killings of the Troubles, the later inquest in Gibraltar heard Farrell (37) was shot five times as the IRA unit attempted to bomb British soldiers. All three IRA members, however, were said to have been unarmed.
The deaths led to one of the most unsettled periods which included the killing attack on Milltown cemetery by Michael Stone and subsequent murders of Army corporals Derek Woods and David Howes.
Ms Farrell was also jailed between 1976 and 1986 after being arrested as a bomb was planted the bombing of the Conway Hotel in Dunmurry, outside Belfast.
Sinn Fein MLA Jennifer McCann, who is organising the event for March 8, said: “Stormont is a shared space and that’s the way it has to be seen.
“We have a right to hold the celebration there. I would never, ever say to unionists or loyalists that they should or should not be doing something.”
Mr Donaldson, who served with the former UDR, said: “I believe we should celebrate the lives of role models, but who in their right mind could view a terrorist who was prepared to kill innocent men, women and children as a role model?
” That is not the image we want to portray to our children as we build a peaceful and prosperous Northern Ireland. However, it is right and proper that we should celebrate and commemorate our armed forces who stood against terrorists such as Farrell.”
25 Feb 2008
The IRA appears to have ruled out meeting the consultative group looking at how best to deal with the past.
Lord Eames and Denis Bradley co-chair the group
The co-chairmen, Denis Bradley and Lord Eames, want a meeting to discuss the IRA’s willingness to reveal details of its activities during the Troubles.
Republican sources, however, said that was “highly unlikely”. The group has already met MI5 and the UVF.
The IRA stance is seen as a major blow for the group which was set up to design a process to deal with the past.
Lord Eames and Denis Bradley have said repeatedly that all groups involved in the Troubles must be prepared to co-operate if such a process was to work.
They have met hundreds of people including representatives of the security forces, victims of violence, and politicians including Sinn Fein.
They had been hopeful that the IRA leadership would agree to their request for a meeting to discuss its possible involvement.
A republican source said the IRA had no confidence in the process because the British government had established the consultative group and set its terms of reference.
A spokesman for the group said it had no comment to make at this stage.
25 Feb 2008
Five men – two of them from Strabane in County Tyrone – have appeared in court in Dublin charged with membership of an illegal organisation.
The five, alleged members of the INLA, were arrested in Cork and Limerick over the weekend.
Four men were arrested in Cork on Friday night as part of an operation against an alleged kidnap plan.
Three others were arrested in follow-up searches. Two of the seven were released without charge.
However, files on them are being sent to the director of public prosecutions.
The two Strabane men are 42-year-old Edward McGarrigle, from Melmount Gardens and John McCrossan, 46, from the Ballycolman estate.
Also appearing at the Special Criminal Court were Gareth Dunne, 22, of Clonard Road, Crumlin, and Gerard Kelleher, 26, of Cathedral View Walk, Kevin Street, also in the city.
A fifth man, Neil Myles, 53, gave no fixed address. All five were remanded in custody.
Lawyers told the court there would be applications for bail at the next hearing on Friday.
By Brian Rowan
Sunday 24, February 2008
The Independent Monitoring Commission will not link the IRA leadership to the Paul Quinn murder when it next reports in April.
South Armagh man Paul Quinn died after being severely beaten last October.
Republicans are believed to have been involved, but there is no suggestion that the IRA leadership sanctioned the attack.
“At a senior level, no,” one source commented. “In terms of people around locally, not clear at the moment.”
It is understood the IMC plans to give “the best possible assessment” by April.
One source added: “Do we know who was involved (in the attack)? Yes we do.
“Is it clear there is a republican connection? Of course there is. There is no doubt that there were people there who have been involved in the IRA.
“When is somebody ex?” the source asked, meaning an ex-member of the IRA.
But there is no information in the intelligence assessment linking the Army Council to the murder.
BRITISH police have ignored pleas from families of the Omagh bomb victims asking that they request that a Canada-based internet company, Netfirms Inc, to stop hosting a website that supports the Real IRA.
Supporters of the Omagh victims believe that a decision has been made by either police or British security agencies to allow the site to continue so that they can monitor the Real IRA’s internet activities.
The site continues to advocate the killing of police, and kneecappings and other forms of terrorism.
Two years ago, a posting on the website called for the murder of former Ulster Unionist leader David Trimble. In May 2006, Mr Trimble wrote to the British Home Secretary, the Northern Ireland Secretary and Commissioner of the London Metropolitan Police in relation to the website. However, the site is still in operation.
Netfirms Inc wrote to Victor Barker, whose son James was one of the Omagh victims, saying that it would shut down the website if it received a request to do so from the British — or any other — police force. The fact that the website is still live has prompted the belief that a high-level decision was taken to allow the site to continue for surveillance purposes.
The site hosts a blog on which recent postings have urged the murder of police officers and punishment shootings.
Mr Barker wrote to the Metropolitan Police on several occasions, complaining about the material advocating violence on the site. However, as the site was administered by a man in Glasgow, via the Canadian server, the Met referred him to Strathclyde Police in Scotland.
Following a complaint to Strathclyde Police last year, the force wrote to Mr Baker saying that it had submitted a file to the Procurator Fiscal — Scotland’s equivalent of the Director of Public Prosecutions — who had advised there was no evidence of a crime having been committed.
Strathclyde Police wrote to Mr Barker, saying: “It is the view of the Procurator Fiscal and the Police that the described content of the website is distasteful. However, in law what is offensive to one person is not necessarily offensive to another. I am clear that the circumstances related in your letter are distasteful to any ‘reasonable person’, but the discussions on the site cannot be said to be either tantamount to incitement to commit offences or an obvious breach of the peace (whether sectarian or otherwise).”
Mr Barker wrote again to Netfirms Inc of Toronto, pleading with them to stop hosting the 32 County Sovereignty site, which carries pictures of masked men in combat uniform firing rifles. The same site was used to agitate support for the riot at the Love Ulster rally in Dublin two years ago.
Mr Barker wrote: “It has long been accepted by the Government of the United Kingdom that the 32 County Movement and the Real IRA are inextricably linked.
“I find it disturbing to say the least that a website such as the above can be permitted to peddle its message of hatred without any criminal sanction from the police in Canada or the USA.
“The photographs of themselves glorify the use of arms and contain such extracts as: ‘tell you what if the RIRA started posting their bullets again (which are presumedly in short supply) post them though the back of the Bastards’ heads for F**K’s sake’.
“A recent message on the site states (concerning a method of stopping joyriders in the area — who steal cars and drive them recklessly for fun): ‘break their two legs and they will not joyride for a long time’ — this is a thought process which cannot be tolerated in any liberal democracy.”
In May 2006 in his letter to the London Metropolitan Police Commissioner, Sir Ian Blair, Mr Trimble wrote: “If you look through it you will see that there are many clear incitements to violence . . . as well as the absolutely disgusting libellous statements referred to above. There is no doubt about the site’s relationship with the Real IRA.
“I do not take the threat to myself particularly seriously, but I do think it is a grave mistake for the authorities to permit the continued operation of what is in effect a terrorist support group in this way.
“Whatever complacency there might be within mainland police forces about this sort of activity must surely have ended after last year’s bombs in London and I do hope vigorous action will now be taken on this matter.”
By Suzanne Breen, Sunday Tribune
February 24, 2008
From his flat high in Divis Tower on the Falls Road, Brendan Hughes looked down on the city he bombed. He pointed to a car hire firm, owned by a wealthy unionist businessman in the 1970s, and one of the IRA’s prime commercial targets.
“We bombed that place so many times, yet he kept re-opening it. I respected him for not giving up,” said Hughes. In the end, Hughes’ heart was broken by the belief that the leadership of the movement he served for three decades had given up the goals he still cherished.
Visiting the former Belfast Brigade OC in the tiny, threadbare flat where he spent his last years was always an emotional experience. The war, and the peace, had left him with indelible physical and mental scars. A slight figure in a Che Guevara t-shirt, he chain-smoked and drank to ease the pain of what he called “the sell-out”, but it never really worked.
As I’d leave his flat, he’d hand me pages of thoughts he’d scribbled down on Sinn Féin, poverty in republican areas, the Middle East conflict, and Catholic Church child abuse scandals. An atheist, he wanted the Church – not the IRA – disbanded.
Nicknamed ‘the Dark’, Hughes had been a ruthlessly committed paramilitary. His gun battles with the British entered republican folklore. Yet he was a complex man, displaying a compassion often missing in republican ranks.
Once, he’d a chance to kill a young British soldier in Leeson Street. The terrified soldier cried for his mother: “I stood over him with a .45 aimed at his head. I could have pulled the trigger and sent him to eternity. But morally and emotionally, I wasn’t able to end his life. He was a mere child, so frightened.”
Later, Hughes was haunted by the faces of IRA colleagues whom, he believed, had died for nothing. He’d spend days crying in his flat. A photo hung on the wall of Hughes in Long Kesh, with his best friend, Gerry Adams, arms around each other. “I loved him. I’d have taken a bullet for Gerry. I probably should have put one in him,” Hughes said.
He accused the leadership of abandoning republicanism for “personal power” and said the GFA (Good Friday Agreement) stood for ‘got f**k all’. He’d developed left-wing politics as a teenage merchant seaman. Entering African ports, he was appalled by the poverty he saw. He gave boxes of the ship’s supplies to locals.
He joined the IRA in 1969 and was jailed in 1973. He soon escaped, rented a house in the affluent Malone Road, dyed his hair, and donned a suit and tie. He became businessman Arthur McAllister, travelling around Belfast in disguise, coordinating the IRA campaign.
Eventually, his cover was blown. He spent 13 years in jail and 53 days on hunger-strike. On release, he rejoined the IRA. He worked for internal security but became suspicious of the ‘department’ which, it has since been revealed, included high-placed British agents.
His first clash with the leadership came when he complained of the £20 a day wages paid to ex-prisoners by a large west Belfast building contractor. An Official IRA member, shocked to see ‘the Dark’ carrying bricks and sweating in a ditch for a pittance, was told by the boss: “He’s cheaper than a digger.”
When Hughes tried to organise a strike, he was offered £25 a day on condition he not tell the others. “I told (the boss) to stick it up his arse and I never went back. I wrote an article about if for Republican News but it was censored.”
His wife had become involved with another man when he was in jail. Other prisoners urged him to give her a hard time. Hughes apologised to her for “always having put the movement first”, and told her to be happy.
While others of his rank secured holiday homes and businesses after the IRA ceasefire, Hughes survived on disability allowance. Just last month, he was left without heating until another ex-prisoner lent him an electric fire.
He craved solitude, visiting the pub in the quiet of early afternoon, and coming home to watch Channel Four’s ‘Deal or No Deal’. Prison had left him with arthritis. He was prone to chest infections and started to go blind. He didn’t eat well and neglected to take his medication. Political disillusionment had weakened his will to live.
In 1995, he was approached by army council member, Brian Keenan, who expressed discontentment with Adams and McGuinness and asked for help in devising a new military strategy. Hughes was interested but thought it a false approach to have him reveal his hand.
While he remained against the peace process, he came to believe all opposition should be peaceful and ‘armed struggle’ was pointless. Despite his militancy, Hughes’ outlook wasn’t narrow. He was chuffed when, years after jail, a Protestant prison officer tracked him to Divis. They went for a drink.
Two years ago, he visited Cuba to see the Sierra Maestra where Che had fought. He loved the locals and was angry the authorities barred them from hotels reserved for Westerners. In solidarity, he refused to enter.
He died, aged 59, after total organ failure. His ashes will be scattered on the Cooley Mountains, his parents’ grave, and the Falls Road IRA garden of remembrance. The last of the writings he gave me conveyed his inner torment: “I go to bed in pain, I wake in the middle of the night in pain, I get up in pain. What the f**k was it all about?”
This article appeared in the February 24, 2008 edition of the Sunday Tribune.
24, February 2008
By Alan Murray
The notorious former republican terrorist dubbed the ‘Border Fox’ has been attending Gospel meetings.
Reliable sources say Dessie O’Hare – who is suspected of up to 30 murders – is professing to be “saved”.
But his presence at meetings of a small Protestant congregation in south Armagh is causing distress to relatives of his victims living in the area.
The ex-IRA and INLA man is also reported to have attended prayer meetings in Dundalk in recent weeks.
It is understood that while O’Hare’s presence has caused unease within the tightly knit south Armagh congregation, leaders of the religious community are prepared to allow him to continue to worship with them.
No-one connected with the group was prepared to speak about O’Hare’s presence at their meeting last week.
But one Church source in the area, who did not want to be identified, said: “My understanding is that Mr O’Hare has become a Christian believer and has attended religious services recently”.
But one local man, whose close relative was shot dead by republicans, said: “I have been told that O’Hare attended a prayer meeting in this area recently and it has caused upset among victims,
“It is causing a lot of hurt. This has happened before with terrorists supposedly finding salvation and becoming ‘born again’ but the victims and their relatives find it hard to accept that such wicked people can be reformed”.
Sunday February 24 2008
The security service, MI5, has drawn up plans to decamp to a state-of-the-art emergency headquarters in Northern Ireland if its base in London falls victim to a terrorist attack. The £20m building on the shores of Belfast Lough can house up to 400 staff and has a reserve computer system capable of co-ordinating all security operations.
Opened without fanfare in December, the centre is one of eight regional MI5 hubs that feed in information about suspected terrorist activities. But writing in the new edition of Monitor, the journal of the Royal United Services Institute think-tank, Margaret Gilmore, a fellow of the institute, says the building has been given a remit that stretches far wider than combating terrorism in Northern Ireland.
The base already houses linguists, IT experts and interpreters. But intelligence sources have told Gilmore that if there was a national emergency and the service’s main headquarters at Thames House could not be used, operations would be switched to the Belfast centre.
But the opening of the base is in danger of widening rifts in Northern Ireland. Nationalists view the security service with suspicion and accuse it of turning a blind eye to loyalist activities.
Sinn Fein’s policing and justice spokesman, Alex Maskey, told Monitor: ‘I treat anything MI5 does with suspicion and our aim is to get it out of here.’
By Claire McNeilly
Saturday, February 23, 2008
The Sinn Fein MLA who organised a memorial service for a convicted IRA bomber at Stormont has defended the plan.
Jennifer McCann sparked fury among unionists after she booked the Long Gallery inside Parliament Buildings for an event dedicated to IRA bomber Mairead Farrell.
She said that the event was scheduled to coincide with International Women’s Day, which is on March 8.
Mrs McCann said that she did not intend to offend unionists, but nor did she expect them to back her plans.
“It’s not about agreeing,” she said. “I’m not asking anyone to agree with what I am doing, but I am saying they should respect it. Stormont is a shared space and that’s the way it has to be seen.
“We have a right to hold the celebration there. I would never, ever say to unionists or loyalists that they should or should not be doing something.”
She added: “It’s International Women’s Day and we’re celebrating the life of Mairead Farrell. I don’t think that should offend anyone.”
But unionists vowed to block the celebration of Farrell, one of three IRA members shot dead by the SAS in Gibraltar in 1988.
North Belfast DUP MLA Nelson McCausland branded the plans as “ludicrous” , and that they demonstrated “warped thinking”.
“Mairead Farrell was a Provisional IRA bomber who was intercepted by the forces of law and order on her way to kill innocent people in Gibraltar.
“For Jennifer McCann to claim that an event celebrating the life of such a criminal has anything to do with International Women’s Day is quite frankly ludicrous.
“People like Farrell and her fellow terrorists in the IRA killed hundreds of innocent women throughout the course of their campaign of terror.
“To hold such a person up as a role model demonstrates some of warped thinking.
“The DUP will oppose this event taking place.
“As the home of our local assembly, Stormont is a shared public space.”
23 February 2008
Seven suspected dissident republicans have been arrested in Cork in the Irish Republic.
Four men were arrested by detectives in the Lover’s Walk and Montenotte area of Cork City at about 2000 GMT on Friday.
Gardai have not said what the men were doing when they were arrested, but it is understood a number of weapons and other items were recovered.
Another three men were arrested in follow-up searches and the police operation is continuing.
Gardai have described it as “a significant operation against the activities of a dissident republican organisation”.
The men were detained under Section 30 of the Offences Against the State Act, under which they can be held for up to 72 hours.
Northern Ireland Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness said today he would have killed every single British soldier in Derry in the aftermath of Bloody Sunday if he had been able to. The self confessed former IRA man said feelings were running so high in the wake of the killings he would have had no difficulty killing every soldier in the city.
A total of 13 civil rights marchers in the Bogside area of Derry in 1972 were shot dead by paratroopers. A 14th died later from his injuries.
Derry born and raised Mr McGuinness, the Sinn Fein MP and MLA, said the shooting “hardened our attitudes considerably”.
Speaking during a wide-ranging interview on RTE – the Irish State radio – he said: “There is no doubt whatsoever that in the aftermath of Bloody Sunday there was a renewed determination to oppose the British army and the RUC.”
“If I had had the ability to kill every single British soldier that was on the streets of Derry I would have killed every single one of them without any difficulty whatsoever.”
The report of the official inquiry into Bloody Sunday is still nowhere near being ready the British government revealed recently.
What has become the longest running inquiry in UK legal history has run up a bill of £181.2 million (£1 = $1.94) so far, Northern Ireland Secretary Shaun Woodward revealed in a Commons written reply earlier this month.
Tributes have been paid to Margaret Hughes, mother of Co Derry hunger striker Francis Hughes, who died yesterday after a two-year illness.
Margaret Hughes nee McElwee (94) died at home comforted by her family.
She is survived by her husband Joe, who is aged 99.
“On behalf of the Sinn Fein leadership I would like to extend my deepest condolences to Maggie’s husband Joe and large family circle at this difficult time,” Sinn Fein’s Martin McGuinness, the deputy first minister, said.
Another son, Oliver, an independent republican councillor in Magherafelt, said that while Mrs Hughes had been very sad that Francis had died on hunger strike, she was intensely proud of him. In the last years of her life she took great comfort from praying for him and from the belief that he was watching over her, Mr Hughes said.
Francis Hughes was involved in the 1980 mass hunger strike before becoming the second prisoner, after Bobby Sands, to go on hunger strike the following year.
Mr Hughes died after 59 days without food. His cousin Tom McElwee also took part in the protest and was the ninth hunger striker to die.
Boston renamed the street in which the British consulate in the city is located as Francis Hughes Street.
Mrs Hughes’s funeral will leave the family home at 6 Scribe Road, Bellaghy, tomorrow at 10.15 for Requiem Mass and burial at St Mary’s, Bellaghy.