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Adams Is Accused Of Abusing Human Rights
Jan 30 2004
SINN FEIN leader Gerry Adams was accused in court yesterday of abusing the human rights of people in the loyalist Shankill area of his West Belfast constitutency by refusing to take his seat at Westminster.
The claim was made by a lawyer for Frank McCoubrey, an independent unionist councillor in the Shankill, who applied for leave to seek a judicial review of the MP’s decision not to attend Parliament.
Before going into the High Court, Mr McCoubrey said the Shankill was one of the most deprived areas in the United Kingdom with mass unemployment, poverty, crime and low standards of education.
“By refusing to take his seat and in Parliament, Mr Adams is deliberately failing the people,” said Mr McCoubrey.
His lawyer, John O’Hara, QC, conceded at the outset that for the application to succeed under human rights legislation he had to establish that the MP was a “public authority.”
Mr O’Hara said Mr McCoubrey did not expect Mr Adams to support his unionist stance but he did expect him to intervene and do what he could on a non-party political basis in social and economic matters.
“Sinn Fein MPs at Westminster have been provided with facilities, presumably to fulfil a public function, but Mr Adams is declining to exercise that function,” he said.
“The result is that there is a section of the electorate which is frustrated and uprepresented.”
John Larkin, QC, for Mr Adams who was not in court, said it was impossible to see how he could regarded as a “public authority.”
“But if he is, it could only be in regard to proceedings in Parliament and he doesn’t sit there.”
Mr Larkin described as a “joke” the addresses of some of the 2,025 people who had signed a petition claiming that their MP had abandoned them. He said the addresses included a Pigeon Club and Blues Club.
Mr Adams and the four other Sinn Fein MPs are not allowed to take their seats because they refuse to swear an oath of allegiance to the Queen.
Mr Larkin said the oath was offensive to Mr Adams and it was Sinn Fein policy to abstain from attending Westminster.
Mr Justice Girvan asked: “If the oath was taken away would Mr Adams still refuse to sit?”
Mr Larkin replied: “That is a very detailed political question and I do not have instructions in that regard.”
Judgment was reserved. Outside the court, Mr Mc-Coubrey said he thought the case had gone “very well.”
“No matter what the outcome my opinion will not change,” he said.
“We have an MP who is abusing my rights and those of the people of the Shankill by not taking his seat in the House of Commons.”
Force Fed – Gerry Kelly recalls his time in Brixton when doctors attempted to force feed him more than 160 times
It was yet another shameful period in British penal history when Irish men and women were tortured and subjected to wooden bits and tubes being forced down their throats.
They were held down, bound and subjected to the hateful and deadly practice of forced feeding.
But it was not 200 or even 100 years ago. It happened as recently as the 1970s when young people were dancing to Jimi Hendrix and wearing bell-bottom jeans.
For a handful of Irish political prisoners being held in England in 1974 there was nothing but nakedness, brutality and fear as they languished alone in darkened cells. Nerves were frayed waiting for the moment when the doctors and screws would be at the door to take them to the room where it would be done.
A 19-year-old Gerry Kelly was one of those convicted in 1973 along with the Price sisters and the rest of his unit for the bombing of the Old Bailey.
He and his comrades were to endure an horrific protest for repatriation including a bitter hunger strike that would see them endure some of the worst excesses and brutality of the British penal system.
“There was an historic tradition of forced feeding, but it had been largely avoided by the British after Thomas Ashe died in 1917,” says Gerry Kelly.
Ashe died when his warders forced fed him the year after the Easter Rising and he suffered an horrific death drowning as food was forced into his lungs instead of his stomach. Sixty years later Gerry Kelly and his comrades would suffer the same deadly torture.
He recalls one of the first times when the doctors in the jail forced food down his throat. His shrunken stomach instantly rejected it. But on vomiting it up, the same food was poured back down seconds later.
“I was weak from being on hunger strike,” said Gerry Kelly, “and it was the first time they got this Complan-like stuff forced into my mouth. But my stomach just instantly rejected it. The doctor just lifted the kidney dish where I had vomited and put it back down my throat.”
Though Gerry Kelly was just a teenager, his resistance to the forced feeding eventually helped break the brutal practice.
He was held in Brixton, Winchester and Wormwood Scrubs Prisons and was attacked for forced feeding 167 times.
“It’s funny in a way. I was sitting naked and all I had around my neck was rosary beads. The doctors had told me horror stories about if you fought, the food would go down the wrong way.
“It was horrendous and horrific, but I was determined to fight. There were ten doctors in G2 ward, which was the mental observation wing of the jail. The operating theatre was right beside Hammersmith hospital.
“Out of the doctors three had refused to force feed. There was a doctor who was in charge. I told him I wasn’t doing it. When I heard them come I barricaded the door.
“There was only seven stone of me, but they lost the ‘bap’ and told me not to be so stupid. They got an eight-foot angle bar and put it against the door and pulled the lock down. I saw it coming apart in front of me and things were flying everywhere. About eight screws, the doctors and two nurses came in. I was pretty weak. They never brought back the nurses.”
The horrifying ordeal had begun and also the tactics to force Gerry Kelly to take the substance.
“They trailed me up and forced me down and secured me so much that I couldn’t move. When they got me flat they pulled me up and put me in the sitting position and then bent my head over the headboard.
“They tried to open my mouth and I learned then that your jaw muscles are some of the strongest in your body. They tried all crude stuff like pushing my nose up and getting my chin down. They tried to get in under my lips and trail them down.
“I got into a bit of a panic after they nipped my nose, but I just started breathing through my teeth. They pressed their knuckles into my jaws and pressed in hard.
“The way they finally did force feed me was getting forceps and running them up and down my gums. I opened my mouth, but I was able to resist after that.
“Then they tried – there’s a part of your nose, like a membrane and it’s very tender – and they started on that. It’s hard to describe the pain. It’s like someone pushing a knitting needle into the side of your eye. As soon as I opened my mouth they put in a wooden bit with a hole in the middle for the tube.
“They rammed it between my teeth and then tied it with cord around my head. Then they got paraffin and forced it down the tube. The danger is that every time it happened I thought I was going to die. The only things that moved was my eyes. They get a funnel and put the stuff down.”
But Gerry Kelly said he would not only use physical resistance but also psychological pressure on the doctors.
“The senior medical officer was a man who was a surgeon, but who developed arthritis and was very bitter. He would get the forceps and push the stuff down. It was a constant battle and it would be very painful waiting for this stuff.
“There was one young guy who I would argue with and I would ask him why he was doing it. He said it was to save my life, but I told him he was only doing it to be an English patriot. He was a bit left wing. He put down his tools and walked away.”
By June 3 1974 there was a change coming that force the British prison regime to stop forced feeding. Public opinion was moving against the British government,
“There was a court case about the legality of forced feeding.
“I don’t know if we won or the British government decided to end it before it got to that stage.
“I got a telephone call and we called off the hunger strike as we had been promised our own clothes and a transfer back to Ireland by Christmas.
“It was the first time there was ever a telephone call from prison to prison.”
But the British reneged and the prisoners were back on hunger strike by Christmas 1974.
In April 1975 the British government finally transferred the Price sisters to Armagh Gaol, and Gerry Kelly and his comrade Hugh Feeney to the Cages of Long Kesh.
Journalist:: Andrea McKernon
RESIDENTS REVEAL DOSSIER OF UDA ATTACKS
UUP rejects ‘Roman Catholic’ cemetery Sunday speakers – The week in the Council
Nationalist councillors in Newtownabbey have accused unionists of doing nothing to halt the crisis at Carnmoney cemetery after two Ulster Unionists supported by nine councillors voted to reject the setting up of a Friends of Carnmoney Cemetery Group.
The desecration of graves, and the ongoing protest that has including car bombs at Cemetery Sunday services dominated the first monthly meeting of 2004
The controversy of Carnmoney where the headstone of UDA victim Daniel McColgan has been damaged twice along with other Catholic graves rumbled on.
Nationalist councillors have accused unionists of opposing the cemetery Sunday services held each year in memory of the dead.
Over recent summers loyalist attacks and protests have marred the annual blessing of the graves.
Men dressed in Rangers shirts have for three years walked and stood about the graves as bereaved relatives said prayers for their loved ones.
They pulled out speaker wires from the PA system used to convey prayers and complained to journalists that they were being disturbed from remembering their own dead.
Ulster Unionist councillor Ivan Hunter complained about the PA being intrusive to other graveyard users.
St Bernard’s church was gutted in a sectarian arson attack in June 2001 and last September parish priest Fr Dan Whyte received a loyalist death threat after sectarian graffiti was daubed on the doors of St Mary’s on the Hill.
A leisure committee meeting on January 13 had taken minutes from the cemeteries’ working group held last December.
The group was established last year to come to an agreement over the blockade of the Catholic worshippers.
The minutes of the cemeteries group reported that a “Mr Stanley Clements of Risk Management Consultants gave a presentation to members during which he advised that any security solution to the Carnmoney cemetery problem would involve substantial expenditure on a combination of floodlighting, CCTV, fencing and constant monitoring”.
But before proposals could be approved to the leisure committee Councillor Ivan Hunter and his Ulster Unionist colleague Dineen Walker objected.
An amendment put forward by the unionist duo reads: “That (a) the decision of Item 3 be rejected – the setting up of a Friends of Carnmoney Cemetery Group.
“(b) consideration of item 4 – Cemetery Rules and Regulation be deferred pending further consultation with the Roman Catholic community regarding the use of public address systems in the cemetery.”
The SDLP’s Noreen McClelland hit out at the lack of progress on the Carnmoney issue.
“Nothing has been done in regard to security. Three months have gone by arguing about cemetery rules and I’m wondering if this working group was put together as a smokescreen. Is there any use in continuing with the working group?” she said.
The DUP’s Nigel Hamilton asked mayor Girvan what Cllr McClelland was implying.
“Is this council being admonished as deliberately being ineffective? I would like that clarified,” he demanded.
The DUP first citizen replied that Cllr Hamilton could take it the council was being admonished.
Tommy McTeague of the SDLP blasted “the way this working group has been treated”.
“I would have immediately resigned from it. Committees are disappearing and nobody’s said a word.
“Some of you do not believe in dialogue, which is the most important thing in politics.
“ There is more dialogue with the paramilitaries. The cemetery issue is very important. The Catholic population is not just going to sit back.”
Sinn Féin’s Breige Meehan said she had been told a meeting was to be held in January and that a letter was to be sent to the family of Daniel McColgan regarding their loved one’s damaged grave.
“I asked a council officer about holding an extraordinary general meeting and was told that a letter was being sent out to Mrs McColgan and that a meeting would be in January.
“We are now at the end of January and it’s been put on the back burner,” said Cllr Meehan.
Journalist:: Andrea McKernon
CIARÁN FERRY ILLEGALLY IMPRISONED BY THE U.S. FOR 365 DAYS
THURSDAY 29/01/2004 12:56:29 UTV
Two options considered to replace plastic bullets
Two alternatives are being considered to replace plastic bullets in Northern Ireland, the British government confirmed today.
One is based on technology currently being used by police forces in western Europe and America and the second could be ready for distribution before the summer of 2005.
Northern Ireland Office minister Jane Kennedy made the announcement following the release of the fourth report by a government-led steering group set up to identify alternative riot control weapons.
However, the minister said plastic bullets would remain in Northern Ireland until an alternative is produced.
One of the weapons which is being developed exposes its target to an irritant to the upper body and is fired from a distance.
The “Discriminating Irritant Projectile“ draws on the experience of similar weapons used in the United States and Europe.
The British government believes it will take about a year to develop.
The other weapon is known as the “Attenuating Energy Projectile“ and has a similar effect to a plastic bullet but is designed to reduce the peak force.
The minister said subject to testing, this alternative could be available by the end of 2004 and deployed by the summer of next year.
Ms Kennedy also confirmed the government steering group had examined the use of other equipment such as water cannons to control hostile crowds.
Seventeen people have died in Northern Ireland after being hit by plastic and rubber bullets.
Nationalists have been particularly vocal in their opposition to the weapons, with both Sinn Fein and the SDLP demanding their removal.
In 1999 the Patten Commission on police reform also urged the Government to find a less lethal alternative.
Last April, the government said plastic bullets would disappear by the end of 2003 if an “acceptable, effective and less lethal alternative“ was identified.
The minister said today both alternatives had “real potential“.
“Very good progress has been made in developing these two alternative projectiles in line with the Patten Commission`s criteria and these are currently in the prototype stage.“
Ms Kennedy also noted no plastic bullet had been fired in Northern Ireland by the security forces since 1992.
“I would be delighted if the public order situation further improved, removing the need to resort to baton rounds,“ she said.
“The community as a whole has a contribution to make to achieve that aim but we are not there yet.“
Northern Ireland Policing Board chairman Professor Desmond Rea said his members would give “careful consideration“ to the steering group`s latest report.
“It is essential that the public has confidence in how the police deal with public disorder and that the police have access to a wide range of public order equipment for dealing with various public order situations,“ he said.
“Policing public disorder in a way that protects the human rights of members of the public and of police officers is a difficult task and the board would much prefer that police officers did not have to resort to using such measures at all.
“There is a duty of care to police officers, as well as members of the public.“
Prof Rea noted the report also considered how police should manage conflict situations and examined how the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) and community representatives were able to achieve a peaceful summer last year.
“There is no doubt that PSNI officers and community representatives spent a substantial amount of time and energy in meetings last summer discussing and resolving difficult issues,“ he said.
“They are to be congratulated.
“This was a valuable investment and demonstrates what can be achieved when there is a real desire to find solutions to problems. This must continue to be built on.“
Sinn Fein policing spokesman Gerry Kelly criticised the government for failing to withdraw plastic bullets immediately.
The North Belfast MLA said: “The British government committed themselves to the removal of plastic bullets from operational use.
“These are lethal weapons that have killed 17 people. They should not be in use.
“The consideration of alternatives is no excuse to delay any further the removal of lethal plastic bullets. The PSNI and British Army have used and misused plastic bullets to kill and maim men, women and children.
“Any alternatives must be non-lethal.“
A Night on the Streets
Allison Morris and Mal McCann forego their Friday night frolics to join the Community Watch on patrol
Community and Neighbourhood Watch are now a feature in most areas of West Belfast.
The scheme mimics a similar exercise in reclaiming the streets back from youth mob rule that has been applied in inner cities all over the world.
But few people are actually aware of just what the Community Watch and Neighbourhood Watch projects do. The fact is that most youth crime happens at night and more often at weekends so the people who volunteer for the scheme have to give up their weekends and holiday periods, the times when most of us are at home with our families or out socialising with friends.
But for the elderly, the less able bodied and the residents of estates in West Belfast – previously considered crime hotspots – the Watch are now being hailed as a valuable life line.
The Andersonstown News decided to take to the streets with members of the Colin Safer Neighbourhood project and the local Community Watch on a cold Friday night in January to witness at first hand just what the Community Watch actually do. And to see for ourselves if claims that only the community can reverse the growing post-ceasefire problem of youth crime and anti-social activity hold water.
Poleglass, Twinbrook and more recently Lagmore appear in the papers often, but usually for all the wrong reasons. However in an area of 28,000 people, with the largest youth population anywhere in the North, providing a community based alternative to policing seems a daunting, if not impossible task.
As we climb into the car with members of the mobile watch, Eamonn Cunningham, Michael McCabe and Dominic Hyland, we are told that we are going to visit one of the local Poleglass neighbourhood projects. However, within minutes we come across an abandoned Nissan with the doors lying open blocking the Bryanswell Road. Inside the car is littered with bottles of blue WKD – an alco pop favoured by teenage drinkers.
The car has only been abandoned minutes before and because of the age of the car and the fact that it appears to have been started with a key rather than a screwdriver, the Watch members say it is more than likely a runabout, an old car bought cheaply and then driven around with no tax or insurance.
One member of the Watch radios through the make and registration of the car to priest Fr Martin Magill who contacts the PSNI and lets them know the car has been recovered. If the PSNI officer on duty approves the car for recovery then a recovery vehicle is sent to retrieve it.
“Before we had a problem with abandoned cars being left for hours and sometimes days,” explained Eamonn Cunningham.
“They usually ended up set on fire or the death drivers come back for them. It is vital to get them off the streets as soon as possible.”
Another mobile watch unit arrives and say they will stay with the car to allow us to continue on our tour. A short while later they radio through that the car was picked up by the recovery truck just seven minutes after it was called through. A new record.
“It’s great if the car gets lifted quickly. Someone has to stay with the car and while they are there they are not able to deal with any other problems,” explains Eamonn.
In this case the carefully worked out routine worked like clockwork and another potentially deadly car is taken off the streets.
Next stop is the home of a Poleglass family who all volunteer for the Watch in some form or another – answering phone calls from worried residents, handing out leaflets or taking to the streets during their free time.
The family also store the alcohol confiscated from unruly teenagers by the Watch.
“We really want you to see this as we are often accused by the young people of drinking the alcohol ourselves, but that isn’t the case at all,” says Eamonn.
“We would usually ask the young people to move on first to a designated area where there wouldn’t be a lot of houses nearby. We would drive back round an hour later and if they haven’t moved we ask them again and then the third time we would confiscate their drink.
“Not all the people standing drinking on the street are underage, so we tell them if they want it back they can call the next day with a parent. As you can imagine they rarely do. The rest of the drink we have sold back to off-licences and the money is put towards a local charity.”
There is quite a haul of alcohol stored away in a locked shed in Poleglass, and this is just since Christmas. The December stock had already been sold on and paid for the local ROTO club Christmas party. Multi-coloured alcopops unsurprisingly feature heavily, as does beer and cider.
“It’s so cheap you see,” says Dominic Hyland. “They can buy three two litre bottles for a fiver in some places. We are also aware of some adults who despite appeals are still buying drink for young people and making a profit for themselves in the meantime.”
The Community Watch use radios to keep in touch with other mobile units and the individual estate Neighbourhood Watches
The radios were donated to them by Beckett’s Night Club when they updated their own system.
“We rely on volunteers and donations from local businesses,” says Eamonn.
“But most people are really helpful because they can see the difference it is making.”
That is a sentiment echoed by members of one of the longest running Neighbourhood Watches in Glenbank, Poleglass.
The area has in the past been one of the worst affected by car crime and anti-social behaviour. The Watch is made up mostly of women, local mothers with an interest in making the place they live safer for their children.
“Before we started standing here there would have been six or seven cars burnt each weekend,” explained one mother.
“The cars would screech up and down the road until the early hours of the morning and no-one got any sleep. The homes at the entrance to the estate are bungalows with disabled and elderly residents. They were living in fear.
“Now you can see that it is cleaner and quieter. The young people are asked to move away to one of the designated areas. They give you a bit of grief but you have to remember who is the child and who is the adult here. And we don’t just stop the anti-social behaviour, we have come across elderly people who came out for a walk and got lost or young women trying to get home at night not able to get a taxi and we make sure they get home safely. It has also helped us bond; some people might have been alone with their kids and never spoken to their neighbours, now there is a sense of community.”
It is a similar story in Twinbrook where the Broom Watch has been going for some time and Thornhill was recently set up after a rise in levels of anti-social behaviour.
As we enter Twinbrook the recovery truck goes past with another car on the back that the Thornhill Watch had recovered.
“You see if one area sets up a Watch and another doesn’t,” explains one resident, “there is a danger that you are moving a crowd along and they are simply going elsewhere and causing bother outside someone else’s door.
“Every estate needs to set up a watch, after all it is our lives we are trying to improve.
“This is about reclaiming our streets, taking them back from the thugs.”
But the Safer Neighbourhood project is not all about youth crime.
In the Sally Garden Community Centre there has been a children’s disco set up, run by a band of volunteers and local councillor Veronica Willis.
With an average of 175 children every Friday night, this can me more of a challenge than tackling any gang of teen tearaways full of cheap blue alcohol.
Inside the disco is packed and the young DJs – themselves just teenagers – have found a way to express themselves miles away from an off-licence and bottles of cheap booze.
As the night wears on and the cold starts to kick in I can see why the Watch say they have a problem getting residents to come out every weekend.
My fingers are numb and the rush hour hasn’t even set in yet, apparently the real action doesn’t start until after midnight.
Up in Lagmore the cold is biting but yet another band of residents, who say the main problem is lack of resources for young people, are on the streets.
One resident explains: “Look at the size of this place and there is nothing to cater for our kids. We have to hire buses if we want to take the kids anywhere, and that is when you get an anti-social problem. We were getting a lot of young ones who had been moved on from parts of Poleglass coming in here to drink and take drugs. So we started our own Watch and you can see the difference it makes.”
Even the new private development of Mount Eagles has had problems in the past. But residents there have also banded together to form a Watch.
“There were incidents of young ones breaking into empty homes to have parties and using this road as a getaway in stolen cars,” says one hardy Watch member. As if on cue a battered run-around with the exhaust dragging along the road comes into view and speeds past. A chain of sparks follows the car.
“There is a way they can cut through and into Dunmurry from here; we are trying to get a gate on the road that can be locked at night, as it’s not really used. I think that would more or less stamp out any problems we have in this area.”
Along with the Community Watch almost every weekend is Sally Garden drug outreach worker Martin Parker. He travels along with the Watch trying to reach the young people of the area in their own territory.
“The biggest problem we have is still alcohol. Solvents and drugs such as cannabis and ecstasy are also prevalent, but it is the level of alcohol abuse that causes the most concern.
“I go along with the mobile Watch most weekends and try to gain the confidence of the young people, it is not easy as they are often suspicious of your motives.
“Getting them to ask for help in the first place is the hardest task. I would then assess the extent of their problem and refer them on to either the Falls Community Council or Dunlewey for the help they need.
“We also run an awareness course in the Sally Garden Centre and that is all about giving young people the information they need, not in a pious way but in a way that they can relate to.”
• The Colin Safer Neighbourhood Project will be holding a launch this Tuesday at 11am in the Sally Garden Community Centre; local MP Gerry Adams will be speaking at the event.
Journalist:: Allison Morris
BOBBY SANDS STREET FOR BELFAST
Those involved in the vigorous lobby to stymie British Foreign Office efforts to have the Iranian authorities rename Bobby Sands Street in Teheran deserve enthusiatic support.
Devious as ever, the Brit diplomats have been trying to persuade the Iranians that Bobby Sands Street, on which Her Majesty’s embassy stands, must go if the Mullahs want to lose the ‘axis of evil’ tag. Already, the Iranians — who are, admittedly, no advertisement for democratic government — have made overtures to their Arab neighbours by renaming a thoroughfare provocatively named after the assassin of Egyptian Prime Minister Anwar Sadat.
However, there can be no attempt to link the two street namings. Bobby Sands is a legendary icon of liberation and justice whose fame stems from the fact that he gave his own life for his cause rather than take the life of another.
That’s why streets in his honour can be found from Cuba to Italy, and from France to America. In fact, the only place where you won’t find a street named after Bobby Sands is in his native Belfast.
True, some local communities have banded together to give his name to their local street but while Belfast officially boasts a Queen Street and a King Street, a Windsor House and a Churchill House, a Royal Victoria Hospital and a King’s Hall, we have no Bobby Sands bridge, building or boreen. It’s time that changed.
Those who claim that unionist culture and heritage isn’t getting a fair crack of the whip should try to travel from one side of our city to the other without going down a road or street which isn’t named after a British or unionist warmonger. We suspect that, starting from Royal Avenue, they won’t get as far as Queen’s University unless they avoid Great Victoria Street. And yet, Belfast remains a Pearse and Connolly-free zone.
It’s not so much that the heroes of Irish history are relegated to second-class citizenship but that they don’t figure at all, even when the smallest cul-de-sac or slip road is to be named.
Over recent years, great work has been done in forcing Belfast City Council to erect impressive bilingual street signs across nationalist Belfast. Though Council guidelines still make it unnecessarily difficult to get enough signatures to ensure bilingual signs go up, proud communities are winning the right to have their Irish identity recognised. Fair play to them.
But there should also be a concerted campaign to have the nationalist experience reflected in the names of the streets we walk and the buildings we use. There are very real hopes that the Conway Mill, that great symbol of nationalist endurance, is shortly to get a multi-million pounds funding package. When it rises in all its splendour, shouldn’t the new Conway Mill and the street on which it rests take on the proud name of Bobby Sands?
CIARÁN FERRY MUST BE RELEASED
The narrow-minded US authorities responsible for holding former West Belfast man Ciarán Ferry in jail for the past year are making a mockery of the American war on terror.
They are also undermining repeated claims by the American administration to be four-square behind the peace process.
For one-time political prisoner Ciarán Ferry is no more a threat to US security than a jar of peanut butter. In fact he exemplifies the ‘huddled masses’ who have traditionally fled discrimination and harassment in this part of the world in order to better themselves in the US.
In his adopted city of Denver, Colorado, where he settled with American wife Heaven and daughter Fiona, he proved himself a model citizen.
Until that is, the Homeland Security goons decided he was too dangerous to be on the streets. In the intervening year, not one shred of evidence has been produced to show that Ciarán is a threat to society. In fact, the testimonies which have been made on his behalf by political and business leaders in the US portray him as a hardworking family man who deserves to be given back his freedom now.
Adams rejects funding claims
Mr Adams was outlining his party’s approach to the review
Claims by the Irish justice minister that IRA racketeering is funding Sinn Fein, have been rejected by party leader Gerry Adams.
In recent weeks, Michael McDowell has strongly criticised Sinn Fein over what he suggested are the party’s double standards.
Mr Adams accused him of abusing his position and “engaging in winks and nods but failing to produce evidence”.
The West Belfast MP was speaking on Wednesday as he outlined his party’s priorities for the review of the Good Friday Agreement, which begins next week.
He said that Sinn Fein was not funded by the IRA and claimed the forthcoming Irish Republic’s local government elections had motivated the recent spate of allegations by southern politicians.
In terms of the review, Mr Adams said Sinn Fein would not allow the DUP to subvert the process.
Mr McDowell accused Sinn Fein of double standards
Questioned over whether the current deadlock would indefinitely delay Sinn Fein joining the Policing Board, Mr Adams said his party would exhaust the current review.
However, he added that Sinn Fein may have to examine other options if the review does not reach agreement.
The review will involve parties elected to the Northern Ireland Assembly last November.
Sinn Fein wants the review to be completed within a month and has warned the government not to let anti-Agreement unionists set the agenda.
Republicans argue that the review must defend and accelerate the process of change promised in the Agreement.
The Sinn Fein document is called ‘Agenda for Full Implementation of the Agreement’.
It deals with political institutions; human rights; equality; the expansion of all-Ireland commitments; demilitarisation and policing and justice.
Sinn Fein is the fourth party to publish its priorities for the review – documents have previously been released by Alliance, the UK Unionists and the SDLP.
Meanwhile, Ulster Unionist leader David Trimble has said he feared Northern Ireland had reached a political deadlock and called on republicans to disarm.
The SDLP have called on the two governments to publish a detailed plan for delivering all the commitments in the Agreement and joint declaration
Speaking in Spain on Tuesday, he said: “We are in a political deadlock. There is no sign that the republican leadership think they have to complete the transition.
“They have to finish the process until armed groups no longer exist” for progress to be made, he told an international congress on victims of terrorism near Madrid.
Also on Tuesday, SDLP leader Mark Durkan said the two governments needed to deliver on what they had pledged in the Agreement and in their joint declaration.
Speaking after a meeting with Irish Foreign Affairs Minister Brian Cowen, Mr Durkan said: “The SDLP have called on the two governments to publish a detailed plan for delivering all the commitments in the Agreement and joint declaration.
“We are disappointed that they have failed to do this following last week’s meeting of the British Irish Inter-governmental Conference.
“There is a heavy onus on them to make this up when next they meet in March.”
The devolved administration was suspended in October 2002 amid allegations of IRA intelligence-gathering in the Stormont government.
• PSNI’s amazing briefing to journalists
• Arrests take place days before review
PSNI sources briefed journalists last night that four arrests made in West Belfast yesterday in connection with the hunt for an IRA punishment squad were “down to good intelligence.” But just minutes later one of the men – a teenage carer from New Barnsley arrested in a raid on the home of his frail 84-year-old grandmother – was released.
The amazing briefing, in which faceless cops effectively boasted that they had the right men even before any of the four had been interviewed, came just five days before the start of next week’s crucial review of the Good Friday Agreement. The raids – and the subsequent PSNI briefings – have brought back memories of other briefing frenzies which accompanied high-profile raids and arrests at times of high political drama. • Arrests in connection with the Castlereagh break-in March 2002 came days before the second act of IRA decommissioning. • The simultaneous raids on Sinn Féin’s Stormont offices and homes in West Belfast in October 2002 came as unionists were demanding that the Executive be brought down. It collapsed two weeks later.
ANGER IN WAKE OF LATEST LOCAL RAIDS
The family of an 84-year-old grandmother have hit out angrily at what they say were heavy-handed tactics used by the PSNI following searches of homes in the New Barnsley and Ballymurphy areas yesterday and the arrest of four men.
The PSNI moved in with search warrants on a number of homes in the area just after 7.30 on Wednesday morning.
A PSNI source claimed later the arrests were in connection with Provisional IRA punishment attacks, adding that the raids and arrests were the result of “good intelligence”. The briefing angered the families who say the arrests were politically motivated, coming as they do just days before the review of the Good Friday Agreement.
One of the homes targeted in the raids was that of Margaret O’Rawe, a New Barnsley grandmother who suffers from Alzheimer’s and has to have round-the-clock care.
A number of items were taken away from Mrs O’Rawe’s home and her 19-year-old grandson, Eamonn McLaughlin, was arrested and taken to Antrim holding centre.
Mrs O’Rawe’s daughter, Kate, says her mother has been so traumatised by the events that she’s now under doctor’s orders.
“My mother is very ill and not able to deal with this type of situation.
“There were police, army and forensics all over her house. The mess is awful and my mother is in a terrible state.
“She gets very confused and it’s hard to explain to her just what is going on.
“They arrested my 19-year-old son who is my mother’s carer and stays with her at night in case she wanders off.
“When I asked them why they were taking him they said because my mother was too old or they would have taken her,” Kate added.
“It was like going back in time to the 70s. There was absolutely no need for the amount of PSNI and British army that entered this street, and all to search the home of a sick pensioner.”
In all five homes were raided and four people, including Eamonn McLaughlin, arrested.
Sinn Féin councillor Marie Moore was present at the scene and later visited the O’Rawe family.
“This was heavy-handed policing aimed at intimidating local people,” said Marie Moore.
“Mrs O’Rawe is not a well woman and has been deeply traumatised by the day’s events. Her family are angry and they have every right to feel this way in the circumstances.”
Last night speculation was mounting in republicans circles over the identity of the PSNI investigation teams at the centre of yesterday’s raids.
One informed observer said that questions would be asked over the raids: “This pattern of high-profile raids, orchestrated media briefings and politically well-timed arrests has happened before. It will be very interesting to see which investigators – working on foot of so-called intelligence – have their paw-prints over this one,” said the observer.
A spokesperson for the PSNI said: “Four men have been arrested in connection with serious crime in the greater Belfast area, the arrests follow searches at a number of addresses in west Belfast earlier today.”
Eamonn McLaughlin was released at teatime last night without charge.
Journalist:: Allison Morris
Worried Wilson staff suspect MOD contracts
Worried staff at F.G Wilson have contacted the Andersonstown News to say they believe that work for the Ministry of Defence is being carried out at the West Belfast plant.
A member of staff, who did not wish to be named, said that many nationalist workers are angry that the work is being carried out at F.G Wilson’s on the Springfield Road.
“It has come to my attention that F.G Wilson’s are doing work for the MOD, we are currently building canopies for generators,” he said.
The worker said that he has never been told by management where the generators are destined for or who the work is being carried out for.
The worker also said he is afraid to approach management with his fears in case he is sacked. “The majority of Catholics who work there will be annoyed to find out that this work is going on. I only found out about this last week and the majority of people I approached about it didn’t know what was going on. There are many people in West Belfast who have had family members killed by the security forces and will be angry about this. It seems to be the case that the workers are not being told and they are trying to ship this through before too many questions are asked.”
When contacted by the Andersonstown News, F.G Wilson refused to confirm or deny that work was being carried out for the MOD.
“As a matter of policy, F.G Wilson does not make comment on individual customer orders,” said a spokesperson. “We have a process in place for employees to raise concerns and whenever this happens we are happy to discuss these concerns on an individual basis with them.”
Journalist:: Roisin Cox
West Belfast man held in US for year finally gets visit from Irish Consul General
A West Belfast man will tomorrow mark his three hundred and sixty-fifth day in a Colorado jail after being arrested by US Immigration officials on January 30 last year.
Former Lenadoon man, Ciaran Ferry, has undergone a nightmare of jail and judicial setbacks following his seizure twelve months ago.
The ex-republican prisoner – released under the Good Friday Agreement – had been living in Colorado with his American-born wife Heaven and their daughter Fiona.
The family chose to move from Belfast in December 2000 after Ciaran’s personal details were found in the possession of loyalist paramilitaries.
They settled in Heaven’s home city of Denver and Ciaran was ‘legally in status’ after he filed his application for ‘green card’ status in early 2002.
However at what he believed to be a routine ‘green card’ interview, Ciaran was arrested.
The official charge against Ciaran centres on the allegation that he over-stayed his visa, but his supporters have dismissed this as spurious.
In contravention of US Constitutional rights, Ciaran Ferry has not yet been permitted a bail bond hearing to determine whether he constitutes a risk of absconding.
Normally this hearing should take place within 90 days of a person’s arrest and detention.
In November the Andersonstown News revealed that Ciaran’s application for asylum was rejected.
Yesterday afternoon the Irish government’s Consul General – based in San Francisco – visited Ciaran for the first time in Jefferson County Jail.
In a break with precedent, prison authorities permitted the consultation to occur as an ‘open’ visit.
To date Ciaran’s visits – including those with his wife and daughter – are conducted through a Perspex screen.
Heaven Ferry said yesterday before the meeting that “officials from the US State Department met with Jefferson County jail officials to impress upon them the importance of the Consul General being accommodated in every way”.
“I have been invited along on the visit, but have not yet decided if I will go.
“Honestly I’d prefer to give Ciaran the floor – God knows he has waited long enough.
“If nothing else, at least now the US government must be well aware of the Irish government’s interest in the case,” said Heaven.
With Ciaran’s case – alongside that of other Irish deportees – currently a key focus amongst Irish-American groups, Heaven Ferry conducted a lobby trip to Washington last Autumn.
Just before Christmas a number of prominent Congressmen wrote directly to Tom Ridge – head of the Department of Homeland Security – asking him to drop proceedings against Ciaran.
Speaking exclusively to the Andersonstown News last night, Ciaran’s father, Gerry called for his son’s immediate release.
“Ciaran has been held for exactly a year under very difficult circumstances.
“This is a totally unacceptable abuse of his human rights. Ciaran was released under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement as a political prisoner.
“At least one other person facing deportation has properly been granted the basic right to continue with his daily family life until such time as a final decision is made in the courts.
“The American government now needs to demonstrate some consistency and fairness, and extend that basic right to Ciaran as well.
“Now that the Irish government have finally visited Ciaran, we are calling on them to take action to secure his release.
“We are also urging Ciaran’s friends and acquaintances to write to him and ensure that he knows his case has a lot of support at home,” said Gerry.
A spokesperson for the American Consulate in Belfast said the office was not in a position to comment on Mr Ferry’s case.
Anyone wishing to send mail to Ciaran can do so at the following address:
Ciarán Ó Fearaigh
PO Box 16700
80403 – 6700
Further information about the case can be obtained from the following website:
Journalist:: Jarlath Kearney
Danny Morrison has started this petition to urge the Iranian government to keep the name of the street that the brit embassy is on the same as it is now. Why do the brits want to change it? The street is the BOBBY SANDS STREET! Please sign the petition to show your support and to thwart the brit bastards.
Free Speech On Ireland
**Click on above link to view and sign the petition
To: U.S. Congress
Free Speech On Ireland
To: The Massachusetts Congressional Delegation:
Senator Edward M. Kennedy, Senator John F. Kerry
Congressman Michael E. Capuano, Congressman Barney Frank
Congressman James P. McGovern, Congressman John Olver
Congressman John F. Tierney
Re: US Department of State proscription of 32 County and IRPWA
In May 2001 the US Department of State, in conjunction and collaboration with the US Department of the Treasury and the US Department of Justice, proscribed the Real IRA and included the 32 County Sovereignty Committee, 32 County Sovereignty Movement [32 County] and the Irish Republican Prisoners Welfare Association [IRPWA] as aliases of the Real IRA. This proscription designates 32 County and the IRPWA as [FTO] foreign terrorist organizations. Furthermore, the designation serves to quell and suppress the lawful and legal political advocacy of American citizens.
A petition for judicial review of the designation was filed with the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit and was denied. The appeal was based on deprivation of constitutional rights such as the First Amendment right to free speech and association, the Fifth Amendment right to due process of law as well as US Code concerning statutory jurisdiction, authority and substantial support in the administrative record.
32 County and the IRPWA are perfectly legal in both the United Kingdom and Ireland. The British Government itself has concluded that these organizations engage solely in lawful political speech and legitimate fundraising efforts. Moreover, British Lord Williams of Mostyn has been quoted as saying,
“My Lords, a clear distinction needs to be made between the expression of political attitudes, opinions and beliefs and the actual commission or instigation of terrorist crime…on the basis of evidence currently available, the Government assess(es) that the 32 County Sovereignty Movement is not concerned in terrorism, as defined in statute.”
According to the US Department of State, “A designation may [also] be revoked by an Act of Congress.” The State Department’s FTO designation of a political pressure group and a charitable support group is unfounded and unconstitutional. No democratic government holds a mandate to police thought and suppress political dissent. For the defense of liberty, the proscription of 32 County and the IRPWA must be denounced and overturned from the halls of Congress. We, the undersigned, therefore request that an Act of Congress be drafted and submitted to rectify this egregious injustice.
Loyalists target kids playing GAA
Loyalists are being blamed for a bomb alert at a West Belfast GAA ground yesterday where up to 40 children were training with their club.
The PSNI say the device that was left at Lámh Dhearg GAA pitch at Hannahstown (above) had the potential to kill had it been activated. “This was a viable device, had it been activated it would have had the potential to kill,” added the PSNI spokesman.
A device placed on a pitch where local children were taking part in football training had the potential to kill had it been activated, according to the PSNI.
The device was discovered by a club member on pitches at the Lámh Dhearg GAA Club on the Upper Springfield Road at 2.10pm yesterday.
Up to 40 children aged between 10- and 15-years-of-age had been training on the pitch for almost two hours before the device was discovered.The device had been attached with wire to the left hand side of a gate which leads on to the pitch. Luckily for the children, only the right hand side of the gate was opened. The device was made safe by British Army Technical Officers and taken away for forensic examination.
A spokesman for the Lámh Dhearg club condemned the attack and said it was lucky that none of the children had been killed or injured.
“One of the club members found the device which had been attached to the gate and then buried under some grass.
“We had 40 kids on the pitch from 11.30am and they would have been in great danger had the device gone off.
“We evacuated the kids straight away and they were taken home by their parents.”
Sinn Féin Assembly Member for West Belfast Bairbre de Brún said that the club had been attacked before by loyalists and said that the planting of the device would cause great anger in the local community.
“This is one in a long line of attacks on the club, some have been claimed by loyalists and some have not.
“The club provides a fantastic service and is central to the community.
“This incident happened as the younger teams were training and young people should not be put at risk,” she added.
A PSNI spokesman said that it appeared that the device had been a distress flare. He described the planting of the device as a “despicable act” which should be condemned by the whole community. The PSNI say that it is too early to say who planted the device.
“This was a viable device, had it been activated it would have had the potential to kill,” added the PSNI spokesman.
Journalist:: Staff Reporter
Stormont spy ring case lies in tatters
Allegations of a so-called spy-ring at Stormont – which led to the fall of the devolved Assembly in 2002 – were in tatters last night after the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) officially dropped half of the charges that were initially brought by Special Branch.
STORMONT SPY RING CASE NOW IN TATTERS
Half of the charges are now dropped
Allegations of a so-called ‘Stormont spy-ring’ were in tatters last night after the Andersonstown News learned that no-one is now charged with the offence of possessing “documents of a secret, confidential or restricted nature originating from government offices” – which, it was alleged, had been copied or stolen by republicans from Castle Buildings, Stormont.
In a further development, it can also be revealed that the Department of the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) has officially dropped half of the charges that were initially brought by the PSNI’s Special Branch REMIT team in October 2002.
Four local people – Denis Donaldson, Ciarán Kearney, William Mackessy and Fiona Farrelly – were each charged with possessing information that could be useful to terrorists following the top-secret Special Branch operation, codenamed Torsion.
‘Operation Torsion’ ended with high-profile PSNI raids on Sinn Féin offices at Stormont and local homes on October 4, 2002.
In total, the four accused were originally charged with 14 offences, but that number has now been slashed in half – with just seven charges outstanding.
Those charges will formally be put to Mr Donaldson, Mr Kearney and Mr Mackessy at a Preliminary Enquiry hearing in Belfast Magistrates’ Court on February 4.
All the charges against Fiona Farrelly were sensationally dropped without explanation by the DPP on December 17 last year.
And it is understood that the remaining accused are now charged only with offences that relate to allegations of possessing information on individual persons or properties – including serving or former military or loyalist figures.
Incredibly, no-one is now charged with possessing the personal details of 1400 prison officers, which the Prison Officers’ Association was recently using as a pretext for demanding increased security protection from the NIO.
No explanation has yet been given by the DPP for its decisions in relation to the developments in the case.
The BBC’s Security Editor, Brian Rowan, had revealed the existence of the Special Branch’s ‘Operation Torsion’ in November 2002.
Mr Rowan also printed further explicit details about ‘Operation Torsion’ in a book which he first published six months ago.
Defence lawyers have previously indicated that they may call Mr Rowan as a witness at a later date.
The latest developments in the case are also expected to impact on the paperback version of Mr Rowan’s book – which is due for publication in March.
Commenting on our revelations last night, West Belfast Sinn Féin MLA, Michael Ferguson, said that the developments in the case “give a lie – once and for all – to the spurious and outrageous allegation that republicans were involved in some mythical spy-ring”.
“Sinn Féin has consistently said that the agenda of the PSNI – and Special Branch in particular – was nothing more than an anti-Agreement agenda.
“These cases were used as a pretext for anti-Agreement securocrats to ensure that their desire to pull down the political institutions was fulfilled.
“These latest developments very clearly expose the partisan political policing that still exists within the PSNI.
“The force within a force prevails and Sinn Féin believes that the ongoing nature of these – and other cases – proves the need for proper accountability to be enforced within the North’s policing and criminal justice system.
“Quite clearly we have a long way to go to reach that goal,” said an angry Michael Ferguson.
Last night DUP MP Jeffrey Donaldson said he was astounded by the revelations. Speaking to the daily Irish language newspaper Lá yesterday, he said he would be “astounded if there was no evidence in terms of intelligence gathering against prison officers, members of the security forces and politicians”.
“I myself had the police visiting me telling that my personal details were in the hands of the Provisional IRA. Hundreds of prison officers and their families in my constituency had to move as a consequence of Stormontgate and Castlereagh.”
Journalist:: Staff Reporter
The Way I See It
Words of freedom
WAR, wrote Clausewitz, is an extension of politics by other means. And politics is fought in many ways, not least psychologically through the deliberate use and choice of terminology. To surrender to one’s opponents their definition of the world is to risk surrendering one’s legitimacy.
So language, which is rarely neutral, is a real weapon, and explains, for example, why British diplomats in the USA lobbied papers like the ‘New York Times’ to refer to the IRA not as ‘guerrillas’ but as ‘terrorists’.
NATIONALISTS habitually use the older name Derry rather than Londonderry because the latter term is a colonial reminder of the plantation and dispossession. Unionists speak about ‘Ulster’ (in total denial of having ditched their brethren in Cavan, Monaghan and Donegal to ‘home rule’) when they really mean the state of ‘Northern Ireland’ – which to nationalists is the North or the Six Counties.
The twenty-six counties attempted to distance itself from British rule and assert sovereignty by changing its name from the Free State to Eire to the Irish Republic (though republicans are criticised for still calling it the Free State in order to raise awareness of the unresolved National Question). Many decolonised nations changed their names upon self-determination: for example, South West Africa to Namibia, and Rhodesia to Zimbabwe.
GOVERNMENTS know how powerful and emotive words and descriptions are. We all have some appreciation of how severe conditions are for those prisoners illegally detained by the US government in Camp X-Ray, Guantanamo Bay. By the end of last September the official number of suicide attempts by inmates out of a population of 600 was 32. But the rate has now dramatically declined. Why? Simple. Prisoners’ attempts at hanging themselves have been reclassified as “manipulative self-injurious behaviour”. So, when a journalist phones the Pentagon and asks how many prisoners have recently attempted to commit suicide they can be confidently told, “Suicide? Attempted suicide? None whatsoever!”
NOT long after Long Kesh Camp opened in 1971 the name Long Kesh became synonymous internationally with harsh conditions, brutal British Army raids on defenceless prisoners held in cages and hunger strikes. What did the British do? Within a year they changed the name of Long Kesh to The Maze, they changed the status of the ‘internees’ to ‘detainees’, and their embassies around the world (with some success) issued statements stating that Long Kesh had closed down and internment ended!
They did the same thing with the accident-prone Windscale Nuclear Reprocessing Plant, renaming it Sellafield in an attempt to fool the public that Windscale had been closed!
THE term ‘security forces’ suggests legitimacy, which is why republicans prefer terms like ‘the Brits’ or ‘the Crown Forces’, which undermines their authority.
(Incidentally, there was a discussion on BBC’s ‘Let’s Talk’ last Thursday about the spate of racist attacks on ethnic minorities in Belfast. Carmel Hanna of the SDLP – who can’t open her mouth without splitting a sentence to attack republicans – was one of the panellists. She claimed that the slogan ‘Brits Out’ on walls in republican areas was ‘racist’. I would contend that it is ‘political’: the Brits referred to are the British administration and the British army that enforces its rule. Carmel should take her argument up with the British music industry and see how far she gets: it hosts an annual ceremony called ‘The Brit Awards’. Under her worldview the Vietnamese must have been racists when they demanded, ‘Yankees Go Home!’).
THE name Bobby Sands is known throughout the world, symbolising the heroism of an Irish prisoner and his comrades in the unequal fight against their British jailers. Last week it was revealed that British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw over the course of the past two years has been lobbying Iran’s Foreign Minister to change the name of Bobby Sands Street, where the British Embassy is situated, in the capital Teheran. (It was formerly known as Winston Churchill Street.)
One press agency reported that, “the British nationals employed at the embassy don’t want to be located in a street named after a man whose organisation brought terror to the UK.” In fact, the official addresss of the embassy is no longer on Bobby Sands Street. After the street renaming, the British moved the entrance to the compound a different street to avoid that particular embarrassment.
Yes, WE planted England, renamed her streets, towns and cities (after our overseas conquests, our colonial battles, our royal personages, our great soldiers), destroyed her native language, put her religious heretics – men, women and children – to the sword, starved her people, partitioned their land, made them second-class citizens, shot them down when they asked for civil rights, and colluded in their assassination. What gall we have!
AFTER all these years Bobby still haunts them!
Bobby died not a terrorist but as an Irish Freedom Fighter. He stood for election in Ireland – which is more than any British minister who rules us, has done. The Iranian government was officially represented at his funeral and presented to Mrs Sands a plaque from the people of Iran. We in the nationalist community were delighted and proud when the Iranian capital Teheran named the street after Bobby.
It would be disappointing if they were now to bow to the British government.
In 1981 the people of Iran honoured an Irish revolutionary and reminded the world of British oppression and its black history, of Britain a country which brought suffering to the four corners of the earth in contrast to the courage and sacrifice exemplified by the name Sands.
It is that reminder which sticks in the craw of the British and which is why they want two words, the name Bobby Sands, erased from view, as if it were that easy to erase the spirit of freedom he continues to inspire.
Don’t believe everything the big snowman throws at you
(by Susan McKay, Sunday Tribune)
The DUP leader, Reverend Ian Paisley, has said Thursday’s meeting with the Taoiseach, Bertie Ahern will be “blunt” and “straight.” Sounds like a big stick. Ahern, on the other hand, has been trying the plamas approach, speaking last week of his admiration for the Big Man of Ulster. He said the meeting would be historic and ground breaking.
He ought to bring Michael McDowell with him. The DUP like the justice minister. They loved him saying last week that the British said they had good legal reasons not to publish the Cory reports, that was good enough for him. They love his insistence that Sinn Féin isn’t fit for government. Ian Paisley junior quoted him approvingly last week.
The meeting will be at the Irish embassy in London, so the Irish delegation need not fear the forecast snow. When the then Taoiseach, Sean Lemass, came to Stormont in 1965, Paisley threw snowballs at him and shouted, “No Pope here.”
Speaking in Strasbourg as Ahern took over the EU presidency, Paisley said he wished him “fair wind” only insofar as the new role would keep Ahern busy and, “we will not have to tolerate his presence at meetings in NI.” Then he threw in a jibe about paedophile priests.
All week, the DUP repeated it’s much vaunted “bottom line”. It requires “the end of the IRA” before it will talk to Sinn Féin. This, presumably, is what Paisley will tell the Taoiseach. “You won’t need a dictionary when we leave the meeting, ” he told the BBC.
Asked about the acts of decommissioning already carried out, and verified by General John de Chastelain, Paisley said there was no evidence, and “no real decommissioning” had taken place. However, he was happy to accept McDowell’s claims that the IRA is funding Sinn Féin. No evidence? No need for it.
Last week, the North’s police ombudsman, Nuala O’Loan, published a damning report into the RUC’s investigation of the loyalist murder of Sean Brown in 1997. The investigation was “appalling” in its inadequacies, and the disappearance of key files after the ombudsman’s inquiry began, was “sinister.” What did the DUP say? It said the report proved O’Loan was only out to “blacken the name of the RUC.”
Many nationalists believed that the killing was linked to the Westminster election victory of Sinn Féin’s Martin McGuinness over the DUP’s Reverend Willie McCrea in Mid Ulster. McCrea had said there would be “a price to pay.” Nationalists suspect the Loyalist Volunteer Force’s (LVF) response was to murder Brown, a leading local nationalist. McCrea led the cheers for Paisley last week after he announced he was standing down from the EU parliament.
Gary Blair was jailed for his part in the murder of a Sinn Féin election candidate in 1992, and was one of the LVF prisoners released under the Good Friday Agreement in 2000. Earlier this month, the DUP appointed him as a party officer in Paisley’s North Antrim constituency. Sinn Féin and the SDLP slammed the DUP’s hypocrisy.
The DUP said there was a “world of difference between that and Sinn Féin”. The problem with Sinn Féin, it said, was “its link to violence is still current.” The LVF, aligned with the UDA, has been responsible for most of the violence of the decade since the 1994 ceasefires.
Just last week, the North’s security minister, Jane Kennedy declined to recognize the ceasefire declared a year ago by the UDA, calling on it (albeit mildly) to prove it had renounced violence. The Ulster Political and Research Group, which speaks for the UDA these days, responded with the menacing: “I’m not sure Ms Kennedy fully understands the severity and possible consequences if the UDA isn’t brought into the system.” Not to worry. The DUP understands that Blair has “turned away from all forms of illegal activity.”
New DUP recruit Arlene Foster referred last week to the evidence of ongoing IRA activity – “Columbia, Castlereagh and the Stormont spy ring”. No one has been convicted in any of these episodes. Jeffrey Donaldson was piped into a big DUP gala dinner in the Orange Hall in Lisburn. The venue was symbolic – the Orange Order used to be dominated by big house official unionism – it has veered now towards the anti-agreement, DUP side.
Still, Donaldson not only shared a TV studio with Sinn Féin last week – he sat beside Bairbre de Brun. This Thursday, the DUP’s East Londonderry MP, Gregory Campbell, will debate “the challenges facing Sinn Féin and the DUP” with Sinn Féin MLA Conor Murphy, as part of a weekend of events in Derry to commemorate Bloody Sunday.
The DUP, like Sinn Féin before it, is beginning to send out mixed messages implying change. A hardline statement from MP Nigel Dodds last week ended: “the only way forward is by agreeing arrangements that unionists and nationalists can support.” Signs of a slow, slow thaw.
January 26, 2003
This article appears in the January 25, 2003 edition of the Sunday Tribune.
11-plus to be abolished
The last 11-plus transfer test will be in 2008
The 11-plus transfer test and academic selection in Northern Ireland are to be abolished.
Educationalists gathered at Stormont to hear Education Minister Jane Kennedy’s announcement on Monday following consideration of the Costello Group’s report.
The government-appointed working body was set up to suggest alternatives to the current transfer tests which determine, at age 11, whether a child will go to a grammar or secondary school.
The group has set a lengthy timescale. The last 11-plus transfer test will be in 2008. Pupils currently in Primary 2 will be the last to do it.
Ms Kennedy said the current transfer arrangements had significant weaknesses and there were inequalities of access for pupils.
“We don’t need to wait until 2008 for changes to begin to happen. Parents can opt immediately not to enter their children for the test.”
“This new development will essentially be a passport to learning for each pupil,” she said.
“It will entitle them to access to a minimum number and range of courses, including for the first time, a choice of vocational courses, regardless of the school they attend or where they live.
The minister said academic selection would end and new transfer arrangements would be based on parental choice, informed by pupil profile and better information about options.
According to BBC Northern Ireland’s education correspondent Maggie Taggart: “The Costello group was unanimous in its recommendation to abolish academic selection as well as the unpopular 11-plus transfer test.
“The group had some members representing the grammar schools and although those schools will remain, from 2008 they will not be allowed to choose children on their academic ability.
In the run-up to the announcement, BBC Newsline carried out an in-depth opinion poll on what people think about the exam.
The BBC Northern Ireland’s education correspondent said most of the 1000 people surveyed wanted to keep selection for grammar schools.
However, the majority thought that major decisions on a child’s future should be delayed until children are older.
Of those questioned, the survey found that 56% thought that the current system was generally fair but that the 11-plus should be abolished.
But a majority of teachers – 53% – said it was not fair.
According to the survey, the area people live in has an effect on the answers they give. People in Fermanagh were most opposed to the current system.
A majority 63% said doing the test was not a positive experience whereas in Antrim, only 42% felt the same.
When asked if the 11-plus was fair, 42% of people in Fermanagh said it was, but, in Antrim, 62% of respondents felt it was a fair system.
Former education minister Martin McGuinness had moved to abolish the current secondary level education selection system hours before he left office in October 2002.
The Sinn Fein MP said the final 11-plus tests should be in 2004.
Ms Kennedy, who assumed the education portfolio when the Northern Ireland Assembly collapsed in October 2002, had said she intended to follow the course of action set out by Mr McGuinness.
***It has been 361 days since Ciarán was illegally imprisoned by the U.S. Government.***