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Largest ever Irish security operation begins
The largest ever security operation ever mounted in the Irish republic is shifting into top gear ahead of celebrations marking the EU accession of ten new member states.
The focal point for tomorrow`s festivities is Dublin`s Phoenix Park, where EU dignitaries will gather at Farmleigh House.
The vast site, which also houses Áras An Úachtarán; the official residence of the President of Ireland; will be
sealed off later tonight for up to 36 hours.
The co-incidence of accession day with May 1, traditionally a day that sees anarchists the world over protest against globalisation and capitalism, has been a cause for concern; despite the fact that the overwhelming majority of protesters are peaceful riots and vandalism have become commonplace in large cities, and in places (such as Dublin this weekend) where political events of major international importance are taking place.
All Garda leave has been cancelled for the weekend and thousands of extra officers have been based in Dublin in anticipation of trouble. Arrests have already been made. Troops from the Irish army will also be stationed in the capital, with a special view towards protecting Áras an Úachtarán and Farmleigh but also to provide heavy-duty back-up for gardaí should the situation warrant it.
Yesterday, gardaí in Dublin demonstrated new water-canon which may be pressed into use if trouble arises.
Concern has been expressed as to whether Dublin`s health service can handle a major emergency if there is an outbreak of violence.
The Irish Nurses Organisation fears staffing levels are not high enough to meet increased demands.
The INO fears that precautionary health care measures are not in line with those put in place to maintain law and order.
Taxpayer to bail out Colombia Three
30 April 2004
By Fionnán Sheahan, Political Correspondent
THE taxpayer is going to put up the cash to bail out the Colombia Three.
The Department of Foreign Affairs is advancing the €17,000 needed to free Niall Connolly, Martin McCauley and James Monaghan from their jail cells in Bogota.
Arrangements are being made to pay the bond and the men could be back in Ireland in days. The money is supposed to be refunded, either by the men or the Colombian Government, when their jail terms run out.
Last Monday, all three men were acquitted on the major charge of training terrorists, and convicted of the lesser charge of travelling on false passports, for which they received sentences varying in length between 26 and 44 months imprisonment.
Yesterday, Junior Foreign Affairs Minister Tom Kitt said the judgment provides for the men to be released under certain conditions, including the payment of a €17,000 bond.
Mr Kitt said the Department of Foreign Affairs has indicated its willingness to advance funds to cover this cost.
“Advancing funds to Irish citizens abroad, on condition that it is repaid, is a normal feature of the consular service provided by the Department of Foreign Affairs where people are unable to access their own funds easily,” Mr Kitt said.
However, the Colombian Attorney General has yet to make a final decision on appealing the judgment, and has called for the men to be kept in Colombia.
Loyalist paramilitaries threaten to pull out of peace talks
30/04/2004 – 10:09:27
Loyalist paramilitaries today threatened to quit peaceline talks in Northern Ireland over a ceasefire body’s demands for all organisations to cut links with terrorists.
The Ulster Volunteer Force, Red Hand Commando and Ulster Defence Association all said they will pull out of negotiations at Belfast’s sectarian flashpoints unless the Independent Monitoring Commission admits to flaws in its scathing new report.
With police chiefs preparing to mount a major security operation in a bid to stop trouble flaring on the streets this summer, the organisations warned order could not be guaranteed without their backing.
“This has created the most serious situation that has existed here since the peace process began,” a source close to the paramilitaries said.
“The IMC is saying we are not part of society, ignoring the good work we have done.
“Police meet us on a regular basis to help them control the interfaces, but we will just turn our mobiles off.”
Their fury was provoked by the commission’s damning dossier of terrorist shootings, beatings and bombings which it said were being carried out by both loyalists and republican paramilitaries.
The Government has agreed to an IMC call for the Progressive Unionists and Sinn Féin political representatives of the UVF and the IRA respectively to be financially punished.
But it was another recommendation which left loyalists incensed and claiming they had been shunned.
The report declared: “No organisation, statutory, commercial or voluntary, should tolerate links with paramilitary groups or give legitimacy to them.
“In particular, societies and other similar organisations should make every effort to satisfy themselves that none of their members are linked to paramilitary groups.”
Church leaders and community representatives who depend on loyalists’ influence to prevent tensions flaring could find it impossible to cope under this directive, it was claimed.
Paramilitary representatives who sit alongside politicians from both the Democratic Unionists and Ulster Unionists on a forum dealing with hotly contests parades in north and west Belfast have already quit in protest.
“These are people who lauded the IMC report but yet they were in the same room as people they were being told to ignore,” one source said.
“When we walked out it created a dangerous situation because if you remove that community from these meetings the people that are left cannot cope with keeping the peace.
“Some of what could happen doesn’t bear thinking about. The police either won’t or can’t deal with it on their own, contrary to what (Chief Constable) Hugh Orde might say.
“Unless the IMC step forward and recognise they made a big mistake how can we co-operate?”
STUDENT FEARS OVER LOYALIST THREATS
Loyalists held a protest outside the flats
A student living in a loyalist area of Belfast has spoken of her fears amid rising tensions in the area and sectarian threats.
Leaflets calling for Catholics to be put out of their homes, were delivered to homes in the Sandy Row and Donegall Road areas of south Belfast at the weekend.
A loyalist protest was held on Wednesday night outside Whitehall Square flats in Sandy Row, where the young Catholic student lives.
About 200 men, women and children chanted and carried banners saying: “Nationalists out, republicans out.”
Anti-republican graffiti was also daubed at the flats after allegations were made about the residents in the area.
The student, whose father bought the flat as an investment, said she felt very intimidated by the protest.
“I’ve seen the graffiti before, but that’s harmless – you don’t feel threatened by that. This is the first time ever that I’ve experienced anything like this. It’s quite daunting.
“Tonight, I would not feel happy about going out anywhere near the apartment.”
She said it was a shame loyalists in the area could not accept that people from a mix of religions as well as Chinese people lived in the apartment block.
She added: “But that’s their beliefs, they don’t want us here.”
The student, who is moving out, said she did not simply consider herself as a Catholic from the Republic of Ireland.
Homes in the area received leaflets
“I don’t consider that that’s all I am and that’s how people would view me,” she said.
“For the first time, I see that other people’s opinion of me might be something completely different to how I view myself. That’s all they’re interested in.”
She said her father hoped to sell the apartment, because the area was so unstable, despite being advised that the area would be developed.
“It’s inevitable something like this will deter people from wanting to buy in the apartment block,” she said.
“It has been shown to estate agents and he has already been told that he’ll be lucky to get what he paid for it.
“All the graffiti that you can see from the outside, makes the whole block look very unappealing. It doesn’t look like a very nice place to live.”
She added: “He didn’t realise the implications of buying in the area. He didn’t really look into it enough.”
Ulster Unionist councillor Bob Stoker caused outrage on Wednesday after he said people living in Sandy Row had been “provoked” by people living in the apartments.
The SDLP’s Alasdair McDonnell challenged him to withdraw the remarks which he said were “highly irresponsible” and “sheer lunacy”.
“People living peacefully in an area cannot be evicted or told to leave on the basis of background.”
Community Relations Council
Police are investigating the origin of the sectarian literature.
The Community Relations Council said it was working with the police and Belfast City Council to resolve the dispute.
However, Chief Executive Duncan Morrow said there was still a “terrible territorialism” in the province, which had recently manifested itself with racist attacks.
Of the loyalist protest, he said: “There’s a very big community reaction to something going on.”
He added: “Communities, on the one hand, need to be clear that change is going to happen.
“People are going to move into areas, who are not from the background, especially at the moment in south Belfast. That is a very big interface.
“On the other hand, we need to look at whether there’s anything that’s generating this size of a reaction, where there is a legitimacy on the community side. There must be some fear triggering this.
“It’s not that this response, in driving people out, can ever be legitimised.”
–Picture of protest courtesy of Irish News
IT’S OFFICIAL: SPECIAL BRANCH ARE YESTERDAY’S MEN
The Andersonstown News can – for the first time – confirm that none of the PSNI’s current detectives in Special Branch and CID have been recruited into the force under the Patten reforms.
Special Branch and CID are overwhelmingly composed of former RUC members, along with a small number of individual detectives who have been seconded or transferred from other forces. Controversy over the make-up of Special Branch and CID has been building to crisis point, particularly with recent revelations over alleged PSNI malpractice that have led to substantial charges being withdrawn, and in some instances accused persons being acquitted, in relation to ‘politically sensitive’ cases.
Senior republicans have repeatedly complained in recent months that “a cartel of RUC political detectives” dominates the structures of PSNI Special Branch, REMIT and Regional Crime. To date, the PSNI has failed to make any official comment over the issue.
The Andersonstown News can, however, now reveal that during an event in New York, Chief Constable Hugh Orde made a series of specific comments that appear to bolster Sinn Féin’s position.
Mr Orde made his remarks during an address before the National Committee on American Foreign Policy on Monday, March 29.
entred on his allegation that the judiciary in the North has been too lenient in dealing with paramilitaries. Intriguingly, Mr Orde’s highly significant comments about the membership of Special Branch and CID went completely unreported.
“But I now have twelve hundred officers who have only worked for the Police Service of Northern Ireland,” said Mr Orde. “Now again, that may not seem a lot, I have nine thousand officers in total, if you include full-time reserve.
However, the facts are clear, all these officers are on front line policing.
They’ve only got two years service, they cannot have gone anywhere else, they cannot go on to Special Branch yet, they’re too young, they cannot go to CID. So of my four thousand six hundred officers in Districts, over a thousand have never been in any other police service,” said the Chief Constable.
This official confirmation that all PSNI recruits have all been placed on frontline posts in local District Command Units (DCUs), while former RUC veterans dominate detective duties – including ‘politically sensitive’ cases led by Special Branch/REMIT – is set to be the focus of considerable concern for republicans.
The PSNI’s ongoing lack of progress on implementing significant changes to Special Branch was this week once again highlighted as a significant concern in the tenth report of the Police Oversight Commissioner, Al Hutchinson.
He said that, “unfortunately the record of accomplished change in Special Branch has not been stellar”.
This follows on from remarks in the Oversight Commissioner’s ninth report expressing concern that changes to Special Branch were not happening in a “timely manner”.
Meanwhile, the Andersonstown News has also discovered that – despite their ‘normalised’ modern appearance – new stations being built by the PSNI are designed to facilitate the rapid reintroduction of old-style RUC fortifications. Although the latest PSNI stations are being made to resemble ordinary buildings, they are being designed to allow for so-called ‘hardening’.
Significantly, according to a reliable industry source, new stations are being provided with widened foundations in order to permit another defensive ‘skin’ to be erected outside at a later date.The roofs of stations are also being built to enable modifying defensive upgrades, again at a later date. It is not yet known whether the PSNI’s strategy of ‘retaining its capacity’ for heavy fortifications, whilst ostensibly complying with demilitarisation requirements, will feature in the next Independent Monitoring Commission report.
Journalist:: Jarlath Kearney
Posted by Tiocfaidh Armani:
Robert Hamill RIP
Robert Hamill, a 25 year old father of two young boys, and a daughter he was destined never to hold, was kicked to death by a gang of loyalists in Market Street, Portadown, Co.Armagh in the early hours of April 27 1997.
Robert Hamill was killed simply for being a Catholic. He was targeted because of the direction in which he was headed. He did not know his attackers, and they didn’t know him. As Robert, and three friends made their way home to the Catholic area of Portadown, crossing Market Street, Robert and his friend, Gregory, were attacked by a loyalist mob numbering thirty. Robert’s attack lasted for some minutes. He sustained fatal injuries. Robert lay in a coma for 12 days before he died. This attack happened in full view of an RUC Land Rover, and about 200 yards from an RUC station.
Four RUC officers, armed with machine guns and dressed in body armour, remained in the Land Rover for the duration of Robert’s attack. These four officers ignored pleas for them to intervene. One of Robert’s friends had actually banged on the side of the Land Rover, pleading for help. They also could have fired in the air to disperse the crowd of loyalists. They didn’t.
Although Robert lay unconscious in the street, as an ambulance arrived, two of the RUC officers eventually approached the scene but made no attempt to administer first Aid (All RUC personnel are trained in First Aid). No statements were taken by these officers, nor was there any forensic evidence collected.
The RUC issued a statement on the Sunday evening around teatime saying that a man had been injured the previous night in a full scale riot in the centre of Portadown involving around 100 rioters on each side Then when challenged a few days later and realising Robert was seriously hurt, they changed their story and dropped the riot angle. So here we have 4 custodians of law and order who cant tell the truth about how it started , so much for the truth about how it ended.
One loyalist suspect was held at the murder scene, but only for a few minutes; in fact it was a further two weeks before any arrests were made. The six people arrested in connection with the murder all requested a transfer to the LVF’s wing in the Maze Prison. Within 6 months, all but one of the suspects had been released. The remaining suspect was convicted in April 1999 of causing an affray, but cleared of murder.
An eye witness who said they saw the accused attacking Robert was not called.
The only evidence presented by the RUC was a statement that said a Constable saw the accused aim a kick at Robert, but couldn’t say it connected. The judge at the trial stated that Robert was probably dying when the accused attacked him.
Since Robert’s murder, The Hamill family have had to put up with constant abuse and intimidation by loyalists. All flowers and wreaths placed at the spot where Robert died are removed. Robert’s sister has had to endure RUC officers pointing fingers at her in imitation of a gun. Everyone will be familiar with the Huns “Bouncy Bouncy” song and accompanying pogo dance. This is a reference to Robert Hamill’s murder, and the jumping up and down on his head.
In March 1999, solicitor Rosemary Nelson, who was representing the Hamill family in bringing private prosecutions against the six suspects and the RUC, was killed in a car bomb. In April of this year the British Government eventually decided to open a public inquiry into Robert’s death and collusion between loyalists and the RUC after a report by Canadian Judge Cory.
‘They never die, those who live on, in the hearts they leave behind’
Justice for the family of Robert Hamill, punishment for his murderers, and sanction against those who stood idly by.
ROBERT HAMILL RIP
BLAIR REJECTS CALLS FOR IMMEDIATE FINUCANE INQUIRY
28/04/2004 – 13:41:19
Calls for an immediate public inquiry into the murder of Belfast solicitor Pat Finucane were rejected by the British Prime Minister, Tony Blair, today.
Mr Blair stuck to his insistence that all criminal proceedings must be concluded before a probe can be launched despite mounting pressure to speed the inquiry.
Former SDLP leader John Hume demanded swifter action when he raised the issue at Commons question time.
He asked: “Following the death of Pat Finucane and the enormous suffering of his family and given their consistent request for a public inquiry, do you agree that the time has now come for such an inquiry?”
The British government promised to hold any inquiry recommended by retired Canadian judge Peter Cory, who was asked to investigate claims of security service collusion in four high-profile killings.
But when his report was published, Northern Ireland secretary Paul Murphy said Mr Finucane’s death would only be investigated after a prosecution was concluded.
Mr Blair replied to the question: “We have announced inquiries into certain of these cases. We stand by the commitments that we gave at Weston Park.
“There are inquiries proceeding now because of the prosecution in respect of Finucane. We believe it is important that that is taken through its proper process.”
In one of the most controversial killings during the Troubles, Pat Finucane was hit 14 times when gunmen opened fire on him in his north Belfast home in February 1989 as he ate an evening meal with his family.
WEDNESDAY 28/04/2004 17:38:01 UTV
SECOND GUN FOUND IN CO ANTRIM
Police mounting a concerted drive against the activities of loyalists
in north Antrim uncovered a second high-powered weapon today.
The high velocity rifle and two magazines were found during the
search of the garage of a house at Ballyclough Road outside the
On Tuesday police found a heavy machine gun at a neighbouring house,
the discovery of which they said had dealt a “severe blow” to
loyalist paramilitaries in the area.
Two men were arrested following the first find, one has been released
without charge but the other remains in custody, said a spokesman.
TRIO TO STAY IN COLOMBIAN PRISON ‘FOR PROTECTION’
28/04/2004 – 22:17:01
Lawyers for three Irish men who were convicted of using false passports said today they won’t pay a fine to free the men from prison until Colombian authorities provide them with protection.
Supporters of James Monaghan, Niall Connolly and Martin McCauley said they feared the three men would be killed by Colombian right-wing death squads that target suspected rebel collaborators.
The three, who deny being IRA members, must remain in Colombia pending resolution of a government appeal of their acquittals on terrorism charges.
“What is the point of paying for them to be out on the street but unable to enjoy their freedom?” asked Pedro Mahecha, Monaghan’s lawyer.
“It is safer for them inside the prison.”
Caitriona Ruane, who led the “Bring Them Home” campaign seeking the trio’s release, said she met earlier in the day with government leaders to request security for the men.
“We have not received the response we expected,” Ruane said outside La Modelo Prison where the men are being held. “We are very, very concerned about the situation. It is up to the Colombian government to ensure their safety.”
Ruane did not say whether supporters had come up with the $19,500 (€16,500) needed to secure their freedom.
Monaghan, Connolly and McCauley were convicted on Monday of travelling on false passports when they were arrested in August 2001 after visiting a rebel safe haven in Colombia’s southern jungles.
They were acquitted of training members of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, in bomb-making and terrorist tactics.
Mark McLarnon, a spokesman for Sinn Féin, said the political group won’t be contributing to the fines – even though Connolly was Sinn Féin’s Havana-based Latin America representative when he was arrested.
“I presume the ‘Bring Them Home’ campaign will pay them,” McLarnon said of the fines, speaking in Belfast.
“We won’t be paying a thing. Sinn Féin’s role is politically lobbying the Colombian and Irish government authorities to arrange for the men’s safe return.”
He echoed concerns for the trio’s safety.
“You could get into a situation where they’re released on to the street and killed,” McLarnon said.
On convicting the trio on the false passports charges, Judge Jaime Acosta sentenced them to prison terms ranging from two years and two months to three years and eight months, but he decided they had already served sufficient time and ordered them free on payment of a fine of $6,500 (€5,500) each.
The jailed trio claimed to have met with FARC leaders only to learn about Colombia’s now-defunct peace talks between the rebel army and the government.
The FARC and a smaller Marxist group have been battling to topple Colombia’s government for four decades.
Police probe anti-Catholic leaflets
28/04/2004 – 09:00:36
Sinister sectarian leaflets demanding that Catholics be thrown out of a loyalist area of Belfast are being investigated by police, it was confirmed today.
The leaflets appeared in the Sandy Row area of south Belfast, calling on residents to attend a public meeting on the issue.
Ulster Unionist councillor Bob Stoker said there was very little support in the area for such a campaign.
“I don’t think it is from any organisation or any group of people. I think this is coming from an individual who has access to a computer.”
The leaflets centre around a new apartment block built in the predominantly Protestant area.
Anti-Catholic and anti-nationalist slogans have been daubed on the walls of the building.
Pat McCarthy, of the SDLP, said some residents believe paramilitaries are behind an orchestrated campaign of intimidation against Catholics.
He added that last year when workmen arrived to remove sectarian slogans they were attacked and their van was burnt out.
“I don’t think individuals were responsible for that. I believe that there was some degree of paramilitary involvement.”
**This is an absolutely beautiful site about the STONES OF IRELAND, which I found by studying the list of articles on Celtic history and Irish pre-history, part of the great Larkspirit site IRISH HISTORY ON THE WEB.
GUN FIND ‘BLOW TO LOYALISTS’
A Bren gun was seized following the search of a house
Loyalist paramilitaries have been dealt a “severe blow” following the recovery of a heavy duty machinegun in County Antrim, police have said.
The Bren machinegun was seized during a search of a house at Ballyclough Road near Bushmills on Tuesday.
A police spokesman said it was found as part of ongoing investigations into current and past loyalist paramilitary activity in the Ballymoney and Moyle areas.
Detective Inspector Nicholas McCaw said, “I firmly believe that this morning’s weapon find has dealt a severe blow to loyalist paramilitaries operating in the north Antrim area.”
He said he was “delighted that this firearm has been taken out of the hands of ruthless people who would readily use it to inflict death and injury”.
Police are continuing inquiries into the matter.
CAMPAIGNERS TO CHALLENGE MOTORWAY PLAN FOR TARA
27 April 2004
By Dan Buckley
**Click here for activist link Save the Tara-Skreen Valley
THE plan to run a new motorway between the hills of Tara and Skryne in Co Meath is to be challenged in the High Court unless a compromise can be reached within the next week.
Representatives of the campaign to save the archaeologically rich site are due to meet the Oireachtas sub-committee on the environment and local government tomorrow in a last-ditch effort to avoid litigation.
The delegation will include academic experts as well as campaign members.
They will demand that Environment Minister Martin Cullen revoke the excavation licences and challenge the NRA on the impact of construction of the M3 motorway.
However, Vincent Salafia, PRO of the campaign, has made it clear to the council that, unless the construction plans are changed, proceedings will be issued immediately seeking an injunction to prohibit any works being carried out in the valley.
Meath County Council and the National Roads Authority have been issued with a solicitor’s letter threatening legal action if they proceed with excavations.
“The monuments in this valley are an integral part of the archaeological complex that forms the Hill of Tara national monument,” the letter said, claiming the proposed works would be illegal under the National Monuments Acts.
Academic experts on Tara have described the valley as a unique landscape deserving of the highest level of protection and want Tara designated a World Heritage Site.
Dr Muireann Ní Bhrolcháin, spokeswoman for the campaign group, Save the Tara-Skryne Valley, said it had been “proven that there are huge scientific problems with the current plans for the M3. We want to begin formal negotiations, not litigation”.
Local politicians have come out against the proposed route. The former Taoiseach John Bruton said: “My worry is that the choice of this particular route will result in far greater expenditure and a slower completion of the new road.”
The plan would be a “massive national and international tragedy” according to academic experts.
Brendan Myers of the department of philosophy at University College Galway said any commercial development along with a motorway would be “enormously tragic for the national character of Ireland”.
REVIEW TALKS RESUME IN BELFAST
04/27/04 07:38 EST
The British and Irish governments will chair talks in
Belfast today on the future of the Belfast Agreement as
Sinn Féin continued to criticise a commission that
threatened to name alleged senior IRA members.
The review of the agreement was resuming at Stormont as the
US special envoy to Northern Ireland arrived for
discussions with the Assembly parties.
The envoy, Mr Mitchell Reiss, was expected to hear Sinn
Féin concerns about the impact on the peace process of last
week’s report by the Independent Monitoring Commission
London and Dublin recently cancelled plans for intensive
talks this week to move the process forward.
As his party prepared for meetings today with the two
governments and Mr Reiss at Stormont, Sinn Féin Assembly
member Alex Maskey said they had “a number of concerns”.
The South Belfast MLA said: “There is a feeling that the
British and Irish governments have become somewhat
disengaged from the political process and there is a need
for them to focus on what needs to be done. Commitments
made in the Good Friday Agreement six years ago and since
then still have to be delivered. The Independent
Monitoring Commission’s report has also polluted the
atmosphere. We are in a situation were three men in
Columbia were cleared by a court in Bogota of training
“What people need to remember is the same spooks, spies and
securocrats who provided sections of the media with
scareless briefings about the men and what they were
supposed to have been doing are the same spies, spooks and
securocrats who supplied information that went into last
week`s IMC report.”
“Sinn Féin’s position is that we cannot allow these
problems to slow down and undermine the process and we want
to sort them out,” said Maskey.
1923 – De Valera announces end of operations against the Irish Free State, effectively ending the Irish Civil War
1953 – Maud Gonne dies in Roebuck, Clonskeagh, and is later buried in Dublin in the Glasnevin Cemetery
Future is uncertain for Colombia Three
27/04/2004 – 07:05:08
It is not yet clear whether three Irishmen cleared yesterday of training FARC guerillas whether they will be allowed to leave Colombia.
Niall Connolly, James Monaghan and Martin McCauley were found guilty in a Bogota court of travelling on false passports but were cleared of training Marxist FARC rebels.
A court official said the men would be expelled from Colombia once the terms of their sentences had been completed.
But the Colombian attorney general’s office later said it would appeal the innocent verdicts on the terrorism charges.
It is understood the men may not be allowed to leave Colombia while the case is under appeal.
Catríona Ruane, a Sinn Féin member of the Northern Ireland Assembly who headed the campaign to have the men freed following their August 2001 arrests, called on the Government to ensure the men’s safe and speedy return.
“The problem for us, the three men and the Irish Government is that there is no safe place in Colombia for these men,” she said.
She said the men would only receive a limited form of freedom while the appeal was pending and would not be allowed to leave the country.
Ms Ruane said it was ridiculous that the men may not be able to return home until after the appeal was heard.
“It would be like the British government appealing the Birmingham Six case and then the Birmingham Six having to stay in England until the appeal was completed,” she added.
Monaghan, from Co Donegal, received a 44-month sentence, McCauley, from Co Armagh, got 36 months and Dubliner Connolly, once Sinn Féin’s representative in Cuba, 26 months on the false documents charges.
Ms Ruane said Sinn Féin representatives would seek immediate talks with the Colombian authorities to enable the men to return to Ireland.
“We have obvious concerns now about the men’s safety and are seeking an urgent meeting with President Aribe to ensure their safe passage back to Ireland,” she said.
The three had denied training the Marxist rebels and insisted they were in Colombia to study the country’s peace process.
Ms Ruane said the decision, in a one-page judgment, to clear the men of training FARC guerillas had implications for those who had criticised them.
The South Down Assembly Member said: “There is a lesson in this for those who convicted these men in public statements and in the media before a verdict was even given in the court in Colombia.
“I think the lesson is that people have to start respecting the presumption of innocence until proven guilty.”
Dublin, Monaghan bomb inquests reopen
27/04/2004 – 12:16:51
The inquests into the deaths of 33 people in the 1974 Dublin and Monaghan bombings have reopened in Dublin after a 30-year adjournment.
The original inquests opened on May 27, 1974, but were adjourned within days.
Relatives of the victims of the bombings are due to give evidence to the new inquests over the next two days.
The entire hearing is likely to last up to two weeks, with survivors, eyewitnesses, gardaí and forensic experts all due in the witness stand.
Thirty-three people and an unborn child died when loyalist paramilitaries detonated three car bombs in Dublin and one in Monaghan on May 17, 1974.
Nobody has ever been brought to justice in connection with the atrocity.
TRIMBLE THREATENS TO BOYCOTT REVIEW
26/04/2004 – 2:40:16 PM
The Ulster Unionist Party has threatened to boycott the ongoing
review of the Good Friday Agreement unless the review is used to
exclude Sinn Féin from the political process.
Party leader David Trimble said today that he would refuse to take
part in the review if the British government failed to introduce
tough sanctions against Sinn Féin.
The review is due to resume tomorrow after stalling some weeks ago.
Mr Trimble said today that the British government could not continue
with the peace process as if last week’s report from the Independent
Monitoring Commission had not happened.
The report claimed senior Sinn Féin members were also leading
activists in the IRA and that the IRA was involved in the attempted
abduction of a dissident republicans in Belfast last February.
Mr Trimble said that, if tomorrow’s talks were just housekeeping, as
opposed to a move against Sinn Féin, then he would not be taking
TRIAL FURORE ON TERROR LINK CLAIM TO MURDER
By Chris Thornton
26 April 2004
LAWYERS were today preparing moves to get a murder case thrown out of court on the basis that the new ceasefire watchdog has prejudiced the trial by claiming previously unknown terrorist links.
Last week the Independent Monitoring Commission listed the Bangor killing of Michael O’Hare as a terrorist killing – a label that took the victim’s family by surprise.
But it has now emerged that one of the Government’s most senior law officers had already indicated that the case should not be treated as an act of terrorism – raising serious questions for the legal process or the quality of intelligence used by the IMC.
In its first report on the state of paramilitary ceasefires, the IMC last week listed Michael O’Hare as one of 12 people “murdered by paramilitary groups since 1 January, 2003”.
Mr O’Hare died in a flat fire in Bangor in March 2003.
Another Bangor man, Colin Martin Bell, was subsequently charged with his murder.
Six months later, Solicitor General Harriet Harman signed an order indicating that the case is not linked to paramilitaries.
Most serious offences in Northern Ireland, including all murder charges, are automatically treated in court as terrorist crimes, known as scheduled offences.
All scheduled offences are tried by a judge sitting without a jury.
But in cases where there is not considered to be any terrorist involvement, a senior law officer – normally the Attorney General or Solicitor General – signs an order to treat the case as ordinary crime.
When a case is de-scheduled, the trial is then held before a jury.
Ms Harman signed an order de-scheduling Colin Martin Bell’s case on June 27, 2003. He is presently due to appear before a jury at Downpatrick Crown Court.
His lawyer, Joe Rice, said today that the situation “beggars belief”.
“We are looking at preparing an abuse of process application,” he said.
“We believe Bell’s right to a fair trial has been compromised.
“Given the amount of publicity this has now had, given that there will be jury panel looking at it, we would say there is prejudice to Bell.
“On the face of it there is absolutely no hint of paramilitary involvement.”
The IMC was not available for comment this morning.
**Here are some comments found on Slugger O’Toole today concerning the beating and maiming of children:
NI TURNS ITS BACK ON VICTIMS?
The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Paul Murphy outlines (with uncustomary directness) one of the several reasons the British and Irish governments agreed to establish the Independent Monitoring Commission in the first place – ongoing paramilitary violence.
He implies that Northern Ireland has become complacent over problems faced by some communities:
“I have no doubt that if last year alone, 830 young men had been shot or mutilated by paramilitaries in the Republic of Ireland and 12,000 in Britain (the equivalent figures calculated by the IMC per head of population) there would be a public outcry and widespread debate. Yet I sometimes fear that punishment attacks are being taken for granted in Northern Ireland, as if somehow they ‘go with the territory’.”
MAYBE THE REASON THEY ARE BEING IGNORED by many is the truth which is staring all of us in the face – we simply don’t care.
Part of this is the perception (I shall put it no more strongly than that as to do so would warrant the attention of the PC police) that the VAST BULK of those being beaten are criminals themselves. Petty criminals perhaps, but criminals nonetheless – the bulk of them are thieves, joyriders, drug-dealers and smartalec foul-mouthed teenage layabouts. I’m not suggesting that they deserve their treatment at the hands of their ‘hero’ mobsters but the truth of it is to be found in the reactions of most decent-minded law-abiding taxpayers – they are trouble makers and most of us couldn’t give a fish’s dicky what happens to them within their underclass hovels.
A harsh message but the truth hurts.
Between condoning paramilitary shootings of children and horsewhipping the unemployed and kidney-punching the homeless and imprisoning the working class and battering ‘uppity women’ and introducing martial law to ‘terrorist communities’….is there no end to the violence you wish to see ?
May the cat eat your sadistic mind yebollix !
Ken & Ken
Hmm… I think these little shits know the difference between right and wrong. They just don’t care. They terrorise communities, criminally damage and abuse. The reality is that very little seems to have any effect. The criminal justice system is a joke to them.
This type of behaviour (para attacks) are undoubtedly wrong but the community do need to come up with effective ways to deal with these young hooligans.
PARAMILITARY CHILD ABUSE HIGHLIGHTED…
SECRETARY of State Paul Murphy tells the Sindo what he thinks about so-called ‘punishment’ attacks, using the example of the UVF-linked Red Hand Commando’s beating of a 13-year-old boy in Bangor recently to illustrate his point. In a sadistic case of paramilitary child abuse, the boy’s legs were smashed with iron bars.
Murphy is quite right – this barbarism is totally unacceptable. However it is Murphys Government which has looked the other way over these paramilitary mutilations, and the Northern Ireland media continue to describe such incidents as “paramilitary-style” thus inferring that they MAY not actually be paramilitary driven.
Once again, we see the rotten heart of a political process that looks the other direcion whilst kids are mutilated by terrorist thugs.
And it’s Murphy’s Army which shot children with plastic bullets (and real ones) so he and his British Government counterparts know something about child abuse!
Liam Ó Ráiste
COLOMBIA 3 TO COME HOME
Three Irishmen who have spent almost four years in a Colombia
jail were cleared today training Colombian rebels and are to be
deported from the country.
Niall Connolly, James Monaghan and Martin McCauley were found
guilty of travelling on false passports but were found not
guilty of training the left-wing FARC movement.
The men, who have been in custody since they were detained in
August 2001, are now to be expelled from the country once each
pays about $5,000.
The men were arrested at Bogota airport amid a blaze of
prejudicial news coverage and disinformation inspired by the
Colombian, British and U.S. governments.
The three have now received extraordinary sentences of between 26 to
44 months on the ‘false passport’ charge, which normally
requires deportation. They were cleared on the more serious
charge of training guerrillas, for which they faced to 20 years
Court official Emilia Montanez announced the verdict at a press
conference in Bogota today.
Monaghan, from County Donegal, received a 44-month sentence,
McCauley, from County Armagh, got 36 months and Dubliner
Connolly, Sinn Fein’s representative in Cuba, 26 months.
The differing and lengthy sentences for the minor charge appear
politically inspired and gratuitous, as the three have already
served 44 months behind bars in Colombia.
Human rights activist Caitriona Ruane, who headed the ‘Bring
Them Home’ campaign to have the men freed, said: “We are
absolutely delighted by this decision.
“We have obvious concerns now about the men’s safety and are
seeking an urgent meeting with President Aribe to ensure their
safe passage back to Ireland.”
After testimony of Colombian Army informers was firmly
repudiated at the trial, and forensic evidence was discredited,
the long-delayed and lengthy trial of the men all but collapsed.
However, the claims that the IRA was involved in international
terrorism caused considerable damage to the peace process at
the time, and helped to collapse the political institutions in
the North of Ireland. Republicans accused the RUC police (now
PSNI) and ‘securocrats’ of using the men as political pawns to
undermine opposition to British rule.
Their arrests made world headlines and was also used by U.S.
militarists to increase that nation’s funding for the right-wing
Colombian government and its efforts to defeat the rebels. The
arrest placed immense pressure on Sinn Fein in Washington, where
the party’s fund-raising was threatened.
For almost four years, the men have faced daily death threats
from right-wing paramilitaries linked to government forces,
including armed inmates in jails where they have been held.
Supporters of the men are now trying to arrange an international
escort for the men out of the country.
Colombia Three to seek Govt help if convicted
26/04/2004 – 10:08:53
Three Irishmen accused of training Colombian guerrillas will appeal against any conviction, their legal representatives confirmed today.
As James Monaghan, Martin McCauley and Niall Connolly waited for the verdict nine months after their trial ended, plans to go to the international courts – if necessary – were already being laid.
Sinn Féin Assembly member, Caitriona Ruane, who is fronting the Bring Them Home campaign, said: “We are hoping and expecting they will be released as there was no evidence to link them to the serious charges.
“If they are convicted, we will call on the Irish Government to utilise the EU presidency to have the three men safely returned home to their families immediately.”
The men were arrested in August 2001 and accused of travelling on false passports and training the Marxist FARC militia.
Colombian authorities claim FARC have applied IRA bomb technology to their attacks.
The three Irishmen have been waiting in jail for the verdict since the end of their high profile trial last August.
During their imprisonment and trial, campaigners have expressed concerns about the impartiality of the Colombian judicial system.
Some human rights activists blamed the lengthy wait for a verdict on pressure from Colombia’s political and military establishment, but judge Jairo Acosta said the delay was due to a heavy caseload.
Ms Ruane has expressed fears for the men’s safety.
The South Down MLA has travelled to Colombia for the verdict. She has called for an international escort if the men are released.
The verdict will be delivered by a senior judge at the Palace of Justice, Bogota.
If convicted, the men face up to 20 years in a Colombian jail.
THE WAY I SEE IT
IMC’S SPIES AND SPINNERS
The International Monitoring Commission has to be congratulated for its economy in fining Sinn Féin and allowing the £120,000 to offset IMC costs.
The IMC is, of course, a totally independent and impartial anti-Sinn Féin body. It demonstrated its independence when it was asked by the British to report two months in advance of its original deadline. No problem.
It demonstrated its independence when it forgot to report on the British government reneging on its responsibility to implement the Belfast Agreement and on the commitments it made were the IRA to take part in a process of putting its arms beyond use.
It demonstrated its independence when it wrote: “All political parties with people elected to public positions, or aspiring to election, must play a full and constructive part in the operation of all criminal justice institutions. This includes working co-operatively with PSNI and active participation in the Policing Board and District Policing Partnerships.”
All talk of acts of completion is a one-way street. The most significant unresolved issue of the entire conflict, the issue of British collusion with unionist paramilitary organisations in which hundreds of people were murdered, is a festering issue bigger than stealing cigarettes or bigger than vigilantism. Of all the deaths associated with allegations of collusion in the North, Pat Finucane’s is the one with potentially the most profound repercussions for the British state.
Sir John Stevens’ heavily censored report into that death recommended that charges be brought against several police and army officers. No-one was ever charged.
Under intense pressure the British government eventually called in Judge Cory from Canada to investigate a number of controversial killings and it promised to act if he recommended inquiries.
Judge Cory did just that.
Before Cory’s report was completed the DPP charged a loyalist with killing Pat Finucane and the British government now says that there can be no inquiry because the case is sub judice. No date has been set for trial. If there is a conviction the likelihood is that appeals to the High Court, the House of Lords and the European Court would last for another fifteen years. In other words, there will never be an inquiry and the issue will be submerged in a so-called Truth and Reconciliation process.
The British government, at the request of Ulster Unionists, set up the IMC last year. The International Decommissioning Body was also set up at the request of the Ulster Unionists, but General John de Chastelain’s report on the IRA’s third and most significant act of decommissioning last October was dismissed by David Trimble. Tony Blair then reneged on his side of the agreement with Sinn Féin in regard to a Bill of Rights, criminal justice reforms and the status of ‘on the run’ republicans.
David Trimble was never comfortable sharing power with Sinn Féin and for some time had wanted to bypass the weighted safety mechanisms in the Belfast Agreement. Under those mechanisms a party could only be punished for being in breach of the Mitchell Principles’ anti-violence pledge of office if there was cross-party support for putting it out of office (that is, if the SDLP voted with the unionists). Instead, Trimble wanted a mechanism outside of the Assembly to facilitate the exclusion of Sinn Féin from government over the continued existence of the IRA. Note ‘existence’, not just alleged IRA activity.
London and Dublin acceded to that request only for Dublin to discover that the British unilaterally amended its powers of scrutiny. In other words, whilst the Dublin representative and the US nominee (a former director of the CIA) are allowed to investigate Irish republicans they are not allowed to investigate alleged unionist or British government breaches of the terms of the Belfast Agreement and its implementation. And who are the British nominees, chosen for their objectivity? The former head of Scotland Yard’s anti-terrorist unit and the unelectable former head of the Alliance Party! And their sources? The securocrats, of course.
Spies and spinners.
Sinn Féin’s rejection of the IMC as being established outside of the terms of the Agreement and as being a sop to unionists has proved correct. Indeed, the IMC’s scrutiny and reporting of loyalist violence has the appearance of an afterthought, despite a relentless sectarian campaign against nationalists, including murder, long pre-dating the Tohill affair.
In that incident PSNI Chief Constable Hugh Orde immediately declared that it was an attempted IRA kidnapping (of a dissident republican). The IRA denied responsibility. Orde’s precipitousness is in marked contrast to how his force – and unionism generally – understates loyalist violence. And it is those double standards that gall nationalists.
We are told that there can be no investigation of alleged British security involvement in the murder of Pat Finucane because a man has been charged, but British government appointees can carry out an investigation into the alleged abduction of Bobby Tohill, despite four men being charged and it being sub judice.
Next week Sinn Féin faces the withdrawal of the public funding it uses to administer its Stormont offices and service its electorate. It faces further sanctions of the salaries of its Assembly members being withdrawn should they be named by the IMC as being members of the IRA.
All of this might be grist-to-the-mill for unionists opposed to power sharing with Sinn Féin, or for those in the South trying to stem the electoral rise of Sinn Fein. But it does absolutely nothing for the peace process – as the cancellation of next week’s ‘proximity talks’ involving all the parties shows.
Instead, it presents a one-sided picture of the cause of the impasse and allows the British government to evade its responsibility to address the issues of implementing equality, justice and accountable policing as promised in the Belfast Agreement.
1916 – Francis Sheehy-Skeffington, writer, suffragist, pacifist and patriot is apprehended while trying to stop Easter Rising looting and is later executed by the British without a trial.
Searc’s Web biography extract
Francis Skeffington was born in Baileborough, County Cavan and educated at University College, Dublin. His essay regarding women students, ‘A Forgotten Aspect of the University Question’ was published with James Joyce’s essay ‘The day of the Rabblement’ in 1901.
Skeffington married fellow student Hanna Sheehy and took her surname as she did his. They were both prominent in the student suffrage and pacifist movements and after graduation Skeffington became a journalist and co-edited The Nationalist with T.M. Kettle. In 1908 he published Michael Davitt: Revolutionary, Agitator and Labour Leader and in the same year he and Hannah, together with James and Margaret Cousins, founded The Irish Women’s Franchise League.
In 1914 Skeffington wrote and produced a feminist comedy The Prodigal Daughter at Molesworth Hall, Dublin for the benefit of the Women’s Franchise League. In May, 1915 he delivered a lecture attacking the introduction of conscription in Ireland and a week later he was arrested and charged under the Defence of the Realm Act. Skeffington demanded to be tried as a political prisoner but was tried without a jury and sentenced to six months hard labour with a £50 fine or a further six months in prison. Skeffington went on hunger-strike on June 7th, 1915 and was released a week later under the ‘Cat and Mouse’ Act which made him liable for re-arrest from June 30th, 1915. During Easter Week, 1916 Francis Sheehy Skeffington was detained and shot dead without charge or trial by Capt. Bowen-Colthurst of the North Staffordshire Regiment.
NEW PROTESTANT LEADER AIDED IRA PEACE DEAL
26 April 2004
Ireland’s largest Protestant denomination has just elected as its
leader a risk-taker who had extensive secret contacts with Gerry
Adams and is known for his long-standing links to a Falls Road
The Rev Ken Newell will take over as Moderator of the Presbyterian
Church in June, with his close friend Father Gerry Reynolds as a
guest at the installation ceremony.
Tall, silver-haired and with a forthright confidence not always
associated with Protestant ministers, Mr Newell is an evangelist and
a prominent moderate ecumenical noted for his outreach to the
Catholic Church. His year as Moderator may prove eventful in a
church normally dominated by conservative elements.
His undercover activities played an important part in the genesis of
the peace process in the early 1990s, since he and other ministers
were involved in secret talks with Gerry Adams and other
republicans. The meetings began well before the IRA ceasefire of
1994, at a time when anyone in contact with the republican movement
faced fierce condemnation from those alleging they were “consorting
with terrorists”. He was also in talks with loyalist groups, aiming
to halt their violence.
Mr Newell said of his contacts with Catholics and
republicans: “Going down the line of reconciliation is a lonely
road; not vast numbers of people walk that path. It’s what Christ
called the narrow way. You don’t have a lot of people accompanying
you on that journey.”
Before being ordained in 1968, he was brought up in inner-city north
Belfast. “Until I was 25 I never set foot in a Catholic church,” he
said, describing himself as “a very anti-Catholic theological
student”. When eventually he did enter a Catholic church, “I was
deeply impressed with what I saw, very moved by the service. I
realised then my perceptions carried a fair suitcase of prejudices.”
He spent several years as a missionary in Indonesia in the 1970s,
departing just after a wave of IRA bombings which claimed many lives
in Belfast. Appalled by the killings, he recalled: “I very
consciously prayed, ‘What’s behind it; what can I do?’.” When he
came back in 1976 to Fitzroy church in south Belfast, he took the
step – radical for those days – of forming relationships with
priests in nearby Catholic churches. In 1982 he took the even more
radical step of attending the funerals of Catholics shot by
Mr Newell’s most important ecumenical relationship has been with Fr
Reynolds of Clonard monastery, setting up the Fitzroy-Clonard
Fellowship which has been in existence for more than 20 years. He
said: “I was picking up things through Clonard, suggestions that
some republicans were having second thoughts about the ‘armed
struggle’. I was approached to see if I’d be part of a clergy group
that would enable Gerry Adams to engage with Protestants and hear
what their thinking was. The killings were still going on.
“I’ve always believed dialogue opens doors, so it was an act of
faith. We got to know the geography of each other’s souls, got to
know each other’s minds well. But after a year and a half I said
that, unless a cessation of violence was on the agenda, I felt
strongly I should pull out because I didn’t think it was going
anywhere. After some months I was asked to resume on the basis that
we would try to talk our way through the whole issue of how you
resolve conflict and how you bring violence to an end.”
Mr Newell said he argued that after a ceasefire, there would be a
whole new atmosphere for political dialogue. “Most of all there
would be a healing of the wounds that were inflicted very deeply on
both sides. It would take a lot of time but it would happen.”
The ceasefire that followed in 1994 has, in his words, not been
perfect and there have been “horrendous” events. But he
added: “People like Martin McGuinness have tried to have a broader
vision. A 10-year ceasefire must say something about the intentions
of Sinn Fein, and it has made a big difference.”
He is undismayed that the primary party of Unionism is now the
Democratic Unionists, led by the Rev Ian Paisley, whom he once
described as negative and antagonistic. “Within the DUP, there has
been a shrinking of its fundamentalism,” he said. “They’re being
driven much more now by a vision of what they want for the country,
rather than fear. There are people there who want to have good,
healthy, inclusive and cooperative politics at the highest level,
but they’ll do that only if the IRA definitely disband and create a
level playing field.
“That’s the ferment that’s going on, and I think it’s ultimately
going to produce a deal. You have two extremes, both in the process
of change, and neither is as extreme as they used to be. “We live in
a desperately polarised situation,” he said. People find it
difficult to live together, and are also frightened of living
together.One day we’re going to have a very different country. It’s
not going to happen overnight but you know you’ll see the crocuses
NI PEACE DEAL OPENED GATES TO CITIZENSHIP
ONE negative by-product of the Good Friday Agreement is the immigration, or citizenship tourism problem that the Government helped create in 1998, when it negotiated the terms of that accord. Six years later it is now trying to resolve a difficulty of its own making, by once again amending the constitution.
Except this time, its proposed solution has become a political problem, upsetting parties north and south, including the SDLP, Sinn Fein and the Opposition. All claim a lack of consultation about the Government’s constitutional amendment, while some argue that the proposed solution jeopardises the Good Friday accord.
The Government hopes to close a loophole in the country’s liberal citizenship laws, which encourages too many non-national pregnant mothers from non-EU states to have their babies in Irish maternity hospitals. And they come here to secure Irish, and therefore EU, citizenship and passports for their offspring.
The precise scale of the abuse of the citizenship laws by non-nationals is disputed: only in the past two years are figures available, mainly from Dublin’s three maternity hospitals. These show that in 2003 there were some 4,424 births to non-EU nationals.
And of these, the Minister for Justice, Michael McDowell, estimates that up to half that number who gave birth here, did so to secure Irish citizenship for their children. Last year some 58 per cent of female asylum applicants were pregnant at the time of application.
As well, a couple of hundred non-EU-national women came here on a maternity holiday to give birth, collect the birth certificate and passport of the new-born infant, before returning home.
Whatever the strength of its case for change, the Government, however, has embarked on this referendum exercise in a pretty inept fashion. It has offered little real consultation, and provided very limited time for parliamentary discussion. Last week was a case in point.
The bill to enable the referendum take place on June 11 was guillotined through its second-stage debate after a mere two days’ discussion, but with the vote deferred until next Tuesday. The debate was unsatisfactory, not merely because of the time restriction, but also because of the efforts of the Opposition parties to shout down Michael McDowell, both in introducing the measure, and later in summing up the debate on Thursday night.
But if the Government was wrong to rush the debate, then the Opposition was even more ill-advised to filibuster it, and to employ the guerrilla tactics that it did in the Dail, whatever the level of provocation. And there indeed was some.
In February, the Taoiseach denied that any referendum was planned in 2004. But we now know that in January there were some official, though unspecified, contingency plans made for a possible third ballot in June.
By early March the Government, clearly, had changed its mind. It announced the citizenship referendum. The announcement caught everyone off guard, and not only the Government which was sponsoring the constitutional amendment. The Opposition was caught out too.
The current difficulty stems from the decisions taken in relation to the Good Friday Agreement. There, the Government insisted on turning an existing statutory right to citizenship (under the 1956 Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act), which could be regulated by the Oireachtas, into a constitutional right to citizenship for Irish-born, which can only be changed by amending the constitution.
It was clearly a political move. It was taken to reassure and compensate nationalists for the removal of the old territorial claim over Northern Ireland, by bolstering the entitlement to Irish citizenship of the people there. So the constitutional claim to jurisdiction was dropped, and replaced with a new Article 2, which conferred a right to citizenship on all those “born in the island of Ireland”.
The move was wrong, quite unnecessary, and counter-productive. For it created the legal loophole on immigration that the Government, much to its own embarrassment, is now seeking to close.
The Department of Justice opposed the elevation of citizenship to constitutional status at the time, anticipating correctly much that has since occurred: that the right to citizenship for anyone born on the island would encourage non-EU nationals to exploit the opportunity. The department’s objections, however, were overruled.
The Government wanted to keep the immigration issue out of the 1998 referendum debate and, clearly, it never envisaged the scale of the problems that have emerged.
In contrast, the British government defined the qualification for British citizenship in Northern Ireland much more narrowly. There it applies only to children, one of whose parents is either a British or Irish citizen at the time of birth.
Those who don’t meet that requirement cannot claim British citizenship. But, as they were born in the island of Ireland, they can claim Irish citizenship. In the Chen case now before the European Court of Justice, the non-national parent of an Irish-born child is seeking to remain in Britain as a dependent relative for immigration purposes. There, the parents, faced with deportation from Britain, on legal advice moved to Belfast for the birth.So this proposed change in the constitution is not merely to tackle an Irish legal loophole, but one that has potential consequences for Britain as well. Hence, in part, the evident urgency of the Government move to amend the constitution before the Chen case is decided.
When, in 1998, the Government chose to put the right of citizenship into the constitution, it did so against the advice of the Constitution Review Group, chaired by Dr TK Whitaker. It concluded that, given the complexity of the issue, and the difficulty in defining exceptions and conditions, it should remain a matter to be dealt with by ordinary legislation, and not by constitutional provision.
And in the referendum on the Good Friday Agreement, the Referendum Commission, as Joan Burton pointed out in the Dail, in presenting the case for and against the amendment, specifically warned: “The new Article 2 will give a constitutional right of citizenship to anyone born in Ireland. This will make it very difficult to change the laws on citizenship, and it may prevent the enactment of necessary laws to regulate immigration.”
The argument was compelling, but it was ignored. Except by a few, including the former leader of the Labour Party, Ruairi Quinn, whose own suggested amendment at the time has some similarities to what Michael McDowell is now proposing, much to Labour’s current discomfort.
**Thanks to Seán at ira2 for this story:
“A series of hard-hitting essays argues that CELTIC and
its traditions, including flying the Irish tricolour
at matches, are a legitimate focus for the large Irish
immigrant community that settled in the Glasgow area
in the 19th century.”
CELTIC FANS SING THE PRAISES OF SECTARIAN ANTHEMS
SECTARIANISM has been widely condemned as a cancer in
Scottish society that has divided communities and cost
lives for generations. The nation’s leading football
clubs, Rangers and Celtic, often stand accused of
being magnets for bigotry.
But a new book written by leading Celtic supporters
controversially hits back this week, claiming that
sectarian tensions have been fuelled, rather than
defused, by attempts to strip the club and its fans of
their Irish roots.
A series of hard-hitting essays argues that Celtic and
its traditions, including flying the Irish tricolour
at matches, are a legitimate focus for the large Irish
immigrant community that settled in the Glasgow area
in the 19th century.
A central theme of Celtic Minded is that attempts to
crack down on the club’s alleged sectarian symbols
have served only to polarise communities and stoke
religiously motivated violence.
One of the contributors is Tommy Gemmell, a highly
regarded former Celtic full-back who, despite his
Protestant background, says the singing of traditional
Irish songs by fans should be accepted as part of the
Composer James MacMillan, who caused a storm five
years ago when he claimed Scotland was rife with
anti-Catholicism, now asks if there was a “sexual
element” to the anti-Catholic bullying he endured
during his 1960s childhood in the Ayrshire town of
“We were the ‘feminine’ and ‘weaker’ religion after
all,” MacMillan writes. “All that Virgin Mary worship
and imagine allowing yourself to be belted by
‘Penguins’ (the Cumnock word for nuns). And we were
the perennial losers from the Battle of the Boyne to
the various battles of Ibrox (up to circa 1966).”
The prevailing mentality was that “these ‘rogerings’
were deserved, and the administration of them
thoroughly deserved,” MacMillan adds.
Celtic Minded has been compiled by Dr Joseph Bradley,
a lecturer in sports studies at the University of
Stirling and the author of several books on sport and
religion in Scotland.
Bradley said what came across strongly was that
anti-Irishness and a related anti-Catholicism,
although declining, had been part of the Scottish
scene for more than a century.
“There are people living in Scotland who consider
their Irishness to be primary,” he said. “They feel
that their community has not been recognised and that
is why Celtic has become so important.
“That community founded Celtic. They will always
express themselves through that and will continue to
do so. Celtic is an Irish club in Scotland but it and
its fans have attracted a lot of opprobrium because of
The book charts the animosity towards the flying of
the tricolour that persists to this day. In 1952,
after spectator trouble involving Catholic and Rangers
fans, the Scottish Football Association tried to ban
flags that were construed to have nothing to do with
But the SFA lacked the means to enforce its demand and
the attempt petered out. The Irish flag remains flying
at Celtic Park and among the club’s supporters, most
prominently at last year’s UEFA cup final in Spain.
Bradley believes trying to ban traditional symbols of
Irishness only serves to fuel sectarian tensions.
“They see themselves as a community partly under siege
and in continual conflict because of the dilution of
their identity,” he said. “The idea of trying to get
these people to conform to a view of Scottishness that
suits the majority is not the way forward. A degree of
loyalty has to be given to the state that people live
in but there are other cultural things that matter on
a daily basis.
“You should be able to express your primary identity.
When we see people flying the tricolour or the Union
Jack we shouldn’t get it out of proportion. Rangers
and its supporters also have every right to assert
their British identity.”
Bradley said he “loathed” sectarianism.
“This book is a statement against sectarianism and I
hope it will make some headway against this phenomenon
Willy Maley, professor of English literature at
Glasgow University and another contributor to the
book, agreed that past anti-Catholic and anti-Irish
attitudes in Scotland had fuelled sectarianism.
“If you back people into a corner and take away their
symbols of identity it polarises opinion and makes
sectarian violence more probable,” he said. “If you
try to ban something then everyone wants it. It breeds
monsters. Recognising those symbols as legitimate
should reduce tensions.”
One man who has been at the sharp end of the sectarian
debate in Scotland is Donald Findlay, the Glasgow QC
who stepped down as Rangers’ vice-chairman in 2000
after being caught on film singing ‘The Sash’, a song
that commemorates a famous Protestant victory over
Catholic forces in Ireland.
Findlay said in the past he had defended the right of
Celtic fans to fly the tricolour as much as Rangers’
fans right to display the Union flag.
“If this book is advocating respect for everyone’s
traditions then I would be in total agreement. There
are both Catholic and Protestant songs that cause
offence to the other side.
“So there is much to be said for saying to people have
your traditions but update them and take out the most
offensive aspects. The fact you stand up for something
doesn’t mean you are hostile to another man’s
traditions and viewpoint.”
Stamping out sectarianism became a Scottish Executive
goal after a series of murders and assaults involving
Celtic and Rangers fans. Although the figures are
disputed, one Glasgow University study recorded 11
deaths linked to sectarianism between 1984 and 2001.
Last year, a new law came into effect that for first
time linked crimes with religious hatred. Between June
and February this year, 260 people have been charged