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dannymorrison.ie

Bolstering the SDLP

by Danny Morrison

Last Sunday on BBC television Seamus Mallon accused members of Sinn Fein of murdering Short Strand man Robert McCartney, who was brutally stabbed some weeks earlier. He also said that Sinn Fein was “up to its neck” in criminality and the robbery on the Northern Bank two months ago.

It was an irrational but revealing outburst from a politician who has often been described as having “the sharpest mind” in northern Irish politics and of being “a tough nationalist” – views which have often brought a smile to my face.

What Mallon said showed that the former leader of the SDLP, on the eve of his retirement and smarting from his party having been eclipsed by Sinn Fein, had clearly lost the run of himself. In language akin to that used by two former secretary of states – one of whom, Merlyn Rees, referred to South Armagh as ‘bandit country’; and the other, Peter Brooke, who referred to nationalist people as ‘the terrorist community’ – Mallon astonishingly demonised even his own constituents who for almost twenty years had faithfully returned him to Westminster.

He said: “The people in South Armagh and West Belfast and West Tyrone and other parts don’t want policing, because if you have policing you don’t have criminality.”

Patently, that is untrue because nationalists, especially in urban areas where hoods and criminals are rife and don’t seem to be thoroughly pursued by the PSNI, have been crying out for a proper policing service. They thought one would be delivered to them through the recommendations which flowed from the Patten Commission only for the fundamentals to be undermined by the British government during the passage of the legislation and then accepted by the SDLP.

Nationalists may be desperate for a policing service but not that desperate to follow the SDLP’s ‘anything’s better than what we had before’ attitude. What is wrong with the PSNI can best be appreciated by the Bill Lowry episode. Lowry was the former head of the Special Branch in Belfast who was in charge of the raid on Sinn Fein’s offices in Stormont which led to the collapse of the power-sharing executive.

Although he subsequently resigned from the PSNI he has since appeared on a DUP platform – in fact, the same platform on the night from which Paisley issued his ‘sackcloth and ashes’ demand for republicans to be humiliated. The suspicion and perception is that there are many other Lowrys who hold sway within the PSNI.

On television Seamus Mallon said: “Never a week goes by when I don’t have a constituent, or constituents, telling me what is happening to them at the hands of the Republican Movement… On a daily basis, on an hourly basis,” people are being intimidated, he said. If that is true then where is the dossier of compiled cases? And why do a majority of nationalists continue to vote for Sinn Fein? Are they masochists?

Or, is it the case that in Sinn Fein nationalists feel they have a party which represents them locally and articulates their political aspirations?

Mallon accused Sinn Fein of having strangled the Belfast Agreement and its institutions and of having “thrown overboard” UUP leader, David Trimble. He omitted that after Trimble and he were elected as First and Deputy First Ministers Trimble poisoned the atmosphere by refusing to allow the nominations for the rest of the executive to proceed for another eighteen months. He omitted to mention that both Trimble and Tony Blair reneged on the October 2003 deal to re-establish the executive following the IRA’s third and largest act of decommissioning. He omitted to mention the IRA’s offer before Christmas to put all of its weapons beyond use by the end of 2004.

Do the feelings of republicans count? Are they allowed to feel angry about bad faith and breaches of trust – or is that something only the privileged members of the SDLP, Ulster Unionists and the establishment can feel?

In July 1999 Seamus Mallon unsuccessfully attempted to persuade Trimble to set up the all-party executive. He told Trimble that the SDLP would be the first to exclude Sinn Fein if it defaulted on its commitments (regarding the Mitchell Principles to work exclusively through peaceful means). He said: “I will be the first – our party will be the first – to have them removed from every vestige of the political process.”

Trimble believed that Mallon was bluffing and refused to act on that commitment. Recently, Mallon’s successor as deputy leader, Alasdair McDonnell, and Eddie McGrady, resurrected, not the offer per se, but at least the SDLP discussing the offer. That is, that the SDLP should consider entering a voluntary coalition with the DUP and support the exclusion of Sinn Fein (which would lead to nationalists being gerrymandered out of their full entitlement to executive portfolios).

What could be wrong with that? It is, in fact, the logical outworking of Seamus Mallon’s proposal. But it shows how far the SDLP candidates for South Belfast and South Down fear erosion in their vote and thus need to appeal to unionist voters for support. Their proposal was quickly given short shrift by SDLP leader Mark Durkan, who needs all the nationalist votes he can get in his battle against Mitchell McLaughlin for Foyle.

Durkan knows, as well as the majority of nationalists know, that what is wrong with this country cannot be so facilely, glibly, easily, dumped on Sinn Fein, even though the SDLP often succumbs to that temptation.

The next Westminster election will probably be held on May 5 th. Commenting on this BBC Northern Ireland’s political correspondent, Mark Devenport, said: “They won’t say it out loud, but both governments would like to bolster the SDLP in this election.”

Savaging Sinn Fein, damaging the party’s electoral prospects in the South and bolstering the SDLP in the next election in the North explains the current anti-republican campaign being waged by both governments and the establishment media. They know the foolishness of explaining it in such terms which is why they choose to falsely denounce the IRA as being “the only obstacle” to peace and progress.

Danny Morrison’s play about the IRA in the 1980s, ‘The Wrong Man’, begins a three-week run in the Pleasance Theatre, London, from 12 March

dannymorrison.ie

Bolstering the SDLP

by Danny Morrison

Last Sunday on BBC television Seamus Mallon accused members of Sinn Fein of murdering Short Strand man Robert McCartney, who was brutally stabbed some weeks earlier. He also said that Sinn Fein was “up to its neck” in criminality and the robbery on the Northern Bank two months ago.

It was an irrational but revealing outburst from a politician who has often been described as having “the sharpest mind” in northern Irish politics and of being “a tough nationalist” – views which have often brought a smile to my face.

What Mallon said showed that the former leader of the SDLP, on the eve of his retirement and smarting from his party having been eclipsed by Sinn Fein, had clearly lost the run of himself. In language akin to that used by two former secretary of states – one of whom, Merlyn Rees, referred to South Armagh as ‘bandit country’; and the other, Peter Brooke, who referred to nationalist people as ‘the terrorist community’ – Mallon astonishingly demonised even his own constituents who for almost twenty years had faithfully returned him to Westminster.

He said: “The people in South Armagh and West Belfast and West Tyrone and other parts don’t want policing, because if you have policing you don’t have criminality.”

Patently, that is untrue because nationalists, especially in urban areas where hoods and criminals are rife and don’t seem to be thoroughly pursued by the PSNI, have been crying out for a proper policing service. They thought one would be delivered to them through the recommendations which flowed from the Patten Commission only for the fundamentals to be undermined by the British government during the passage of the legislation and then accepted by the SDLP.

Nationalists may be desperate for a policing service but not that desperate to follow the SDLP’s ‘anything’s better than what we had before’ attitude. What is wrong with the PSNI can best be appreciated by the Bill Lowry episode. Lowry was the former head of the Special Branch in Belfast who was in charge of the raid on Sinn Fein’s offices in Stormont which led to the collapse of the power-sharing executive.

Although he subsequently resigned from the PSNI he has since appeared on a DUP platform – in fact, the same platform on the night from which Paisley issued his ‘sackcloth and ashes’ demand for republicans to be humiliated. The suspicion and perception is that there are many other Lowrys who hold sway within the PSNI.

On television Seamus Mallon said: “Never a week goes by when I don’t have a constituent, or constituents, telling me what is happening to them at the hands of the Republican Movement… On a daily basis, on an hourly basis,” people are being intimidated, he said. If that is true then where is the dossier of compiled cases? And why do a majority of nationalists continue to vote for Sinn Fein? Are they masochists?

Or, is it the case that in Sinn Fein nationalists feel they have a party which represents them locally and articulates their political aspirations?

Mallon accused Sinn Fein of having strangled the Belfast Agreement and its institutions and of having “thrown overboard” UUP leader, David Trimble. He omitted that after Trimble and he were elected as First and Deputy First Ministers Trimble poisoned the atmosphere by refusing to allow the nominations for the rest of the executive to proceed for another eighteen months. He omitted to mention that both Trimble and Tony Blair reneged on the October 2003 deal to re-establish the executive following the IRA’s third and largest act of decommissioning. He omitted to mention the IRA’s offer before Christmas to put all of its weapons beyond use by the end of 2004.

Do the feelings of republicans count? Are they allowed to feel angry about bad faith and breaches of trust – or is that something only the privileged members of the SDLP, Ulster Unionists and the establishment can feel?

In July 1999 Seamus Mallon unsuccessfully attempted to persuade Trimble to set up the all-party executive. He told Trimble that the SDLP would be the first to exclude Sinn Fein if it defaulted on its commitments (regarding the Mitchell Principles to work exclusively through peaceful means). He said: “I will be the first – our party will be the first – to have them removed from every vestige of the political process.”

Trimble believed that Mallon was bluffing and refused to act on that commitment. Recently, Mallon’s successor as deputy leader, Alasdair McDonnell, and Eddie McGrady, resurrected, not the offer per se, but at least the SDLP discussing the offer. That is, that the SDLP should consider entering a voluntary coalition with the DUP and support the exclusion of Sinn Fein (which would lead to nationalists being gerrymandered out of their full entitlement to executive portfolios).

What could be wrong with that? It is, in fact, the logical outworking of Seamus Mallon’s proposal. But it shows how far the SDLP candidates for South Belfast and South Down fear erosion in their vote and thus need to appeal to unionist voters for support. Their proposal was quickly given short shrift by SDLP leader Mark Durkan, who needs all the nationalist votes he can get in his battle against Mitchell McLaughlin for Foyle.

Durkan knows, as well as the majority of nationalists know, that what is wrong with this country cannot be so facilely, glibly, easily, dumped on Sinn Fein, even though the SDLP often succumbs to that temptation.

The next Westminster election will probably be held on May 5 th. Commenting on this BBC Northern Ireland’s political correspondent, Mark Devenport, said: “They won’t say it out loud, but both governments would like to bolster the SDLP in this election.”

Savaging Sinn Fein, damaging the party’s electoral prospects in the South and bolstering the SDLP in the next election in the North explains the current anti-republican campaign being waged by both governments and the establishment media. They know the foolishness of explaining it in such terms which is why they choose to falsely denounce the IRA as being “the only obstacle” to peace and progress.

Danny Morrison’s play about the IRA in the 1980s, ‘The Wrong Man’, begins a three-week run in the Pleasance Theatre, London, from 12 March

BBC

City regeneration plans unveiled


The area around the cathedral is targeted for regeneration

Plans to develop Belfast’s city centre could result in 4,000 new jobs, the government has said.

The city could get two more department stores in a major redevelopment.

The government has unveiled two draft master plans for the Castlecourt and Cathedral areas which include retail developments, as well as housing and leisure facilities.

The government also announced that £14m is to be spent improving public spaces and footpaths.

Minister for Social Development John Spellar said on Monday that after decades of under performance, Belfast was “on the way back”.

“These proposals hold the potential to deliver at least 4,000 new jobs in addition to the 3,000 at Victoria Square,” he said.

“These jobs will provide career opportunities for our young people and the prospect of building a better life for those who live in deprived neighbourhoods.”

Development consultant Gerry Hughes of City Centre Development said this was a real opportunity for Belfast.

“It is light years behind cities like Manchester and Liverpool, even places like Preston, which are rediscovering their city centres and putting substantial investment in the form of new shopping back into their cities,” he said.

“Now is the opportunity for Belfast really to rise to the fore again. There is phenomenal spending power in the province.”

The question of how best to redevelop Belfast city centre has been under consideration since the 1990’s.

The first phase of work – in the shape of the new Victoria Centre – is already under way.

Plans have also been unveiled for the winding up of the Laganside corporation, which has overseen the development of land along the river for more than a decade.

The organisation has said that its job is largely done, with the private sector now needing no extra encouragement to look for opportunities in the city.

Castlecourt owners Westfield and Hermes welcomed the announcement.

“Westfield and Hermes are keen to progress their proposed expansion of Castlecourt shopping centre as soon as practicable and will therefore carefully review the North West Quarter masterplan and work to ensure that any new development meets or exceeds the objectives set out in the Belfast City Centre Regeneration Policy Framework,” it said.

“As a result, Westfield may revise its planning application for an extension to Castlecourt. If so, an announcement will be made in due course.”

BBC

City regeneration plans unveiled



The area around the cathedral is targeted for regeneration

Plans to develop Belfast’s city centre could result in 4,000 new jobs, the government has said.

The city could get two more department stores in a major redevelopment.

The government has unveiled two draft master plans for the Castlecourt and Cathedral areas which include retail developments, as well as housing and leisure facilities.

The government also announced that £14m is to be spent improving public spaces and footpaths.

Minister for Social Development John Spellar said on Monday that after decades of under performance, Belfast was “on the way back”.

“These proposals hold the potential to deliver at least 4,000 new jobs in addition to the 3,000 at Victoria Square,” he said.

“These jobs will provide career opportunities for our young people and the prospect of building a better life for those who live in deprived neighbourhoods.”

Development consultant Gerry Hughes of City Centre Development said this was a real opportunity for Belfast.

“It is light years behind cities like Manchester and Liverpool, even places like Preston, which are rediscovering their city centres and putting substantial investment in the form of new shopping back into their cities,” he said.

“Now is the opportunity for Belfast really to rise to the fore again. There is phenomenal spending power in the province.”

The question of how best to redevelop Belfast city centre has been under consideration since the 1990’s.

The first phase of work – in the shape of the new Victoria Centre – is already under way.

Plans have also been unveiled for the winding up of the Laganside corporation, which has overseen the development of land along the river for more than a decade.

The organisation has said that its job is largely done, with the private sector now needing no extra encouragement to look for opportunities in the city.

Castlecourt owners Westfield and Hermes welcomed the announcement.

“Westfield and Hermes are keen to progress their proposed expansion of Castlecourt shopping centre as soon as practicable and will therefore carefully review the North West Quarter masterplan and work to ensure that any new development meets or exceeds the objectives set out in the Belfast City Centre Regeneration Policy Framework,” it said.

“As a result, Westfield may revise its planning application for an extension to Castlecourt. If so, an announcement will be made in due course.”

Sinn Féin

Republicans reject Hunger Strike claims

Published: 28 February, 2005

Brendan McFarlane, the leader of the H-Block prisoners during the hunger strikes of 1981, has rejected any suggestion that a deal was rejected before the death of Joe McDonnell Brendan McFarlane responding to claims made by former prisoner, Richard O Rawe, in today’s Sunday Times, said,

“All of us, particularly the families of the men who died, carry the tragedy and trauma of the hunger strikes with us every day of our lives. It was an emotional and deeply distressing time for those of us who were in the H-Blocks and close to the hunger strikers. However, as the Officer Commanding in the prison at the time, I can say categorically that there was no outside intervention to prevent a deal. The only outside intervention was to try to prevent the hunger strike. Once the strike was underway, the only people in a position to agree a deal or call off the hunger strike were the prisoners, and particularly the hunger strikers themselves.

“The political responsibility for the hunger strike, and the deaths that resulted from it, both inside and outside the prison, lies with Margaret Thatcher, who reneged on the deal which ended the first hunger strike. This bad faith and duplicity lead directly to the deaths of our friends and comrades in 1981”.

Raymond McCartney, a former hunger striker and now Sinn Féin MLA for Foyle also commented on the claims,

“Richard’s recollection of events is not accurate or credible. The hunger strike was a response to Thatcher’s criminalisation campaign, now being revived by Michael McDowell. The move to hunger strike resulted from the prisoners’ decision to escalate the protest after 5 years of beating, starvation and deprivation. The leadership of the IRA and of Sinn Fein tried to persuade us not to embark on this course of action. At all times we, the prisoners, took the decisions.” ENDS

Sinn Féin

Republicans reject Hunger Strike claims

Published: 28 February, 2005

Brendan McFarlane, the leader of the H-Block prisoners during the hunger strikes of 1981, has rejected any suggestion that a deal was rejected before the death of Joe McDonnell Brendan McFarlane responding to claims made by former prisoner, Richard O Rawe, in today’s Sunday Times, said,

“All of us, particularly the families of the men who died, carry the tragedy and trauma of the hunger strikes with us every day of our lives. It was an emotional and deeply distressing time for those of us who were in the H-Blocks and close to the hunger strikers. However, as the Officer Commanding in the prison at the time, I can say categorically that there was no outside intervention to prevent a deal. The only outside intervention was to try to prevent the hunger strike. Once the strike was underway, the only people in a position to agree a deal or call off the hunger strike were the prisoners, and particularly the hunger strikers themselves.

“The political responsibility for the hunger strike, and the deaths that resulted from it, both inside and outside the prison, lies with Margaret Thatcher, who reneged on the deal which ended the first hunger strike. This bad faith and duplicity lead directly to the deaths of our friends and comrades in 1981”.

Raymond McCartney, a former hunger striker and now Sinn Féin MLA for Foyle also commented on the claims,

“Richard’s recollection of events is not accurate or credible. The hunger strike was a response to Thatcher’s criminalisation campaign, now being revived by Michael McDowell. The move to hunger strike resulted from the prisoners’ decision to escalate the protest after 5 years of beating, starvation and deprivation. The leadership of the IRA and of Sinn Fein tried to persuade us not to embark on this course of action. At all times we, the prisoners, took the decisions.” ENDS

Belfast Telegraph

Troubles Museum Approved
Bogside site marks 30 years of violence

By Paddy McGuffin
28 February 2005

Planning chiefs in Derry have given the green light to a museum documenting the impact of the Troubles on the city.

The Museum of Free Derry project was launched as part of this year’s Bloody Sunday Commemorations in January.

It will exhibit artefacts from the past 30 years and attempt to document the chronology of the Troubles from Bloody Sunday and Operation Motorman through 30 turbulent years.

The Museum of Free Derry is to be sited in Glenfada Park in the heart of the Bogside and the scene of many of the deaths on Bloody Sunday.

The proposal to grant planning permission will be put before a committee meeting of Derry City Council tomorrow.

SDLP councillor Pat Ramsey said he welcomed the project, which he said would not only be valuable in terms of documenting and commemorating the many victims of violence in the city but would be a major boost to tourism.

“I would welcome this project in a historical context but also in terms of tourism for the Bogside,” he said.

“I think the Free Derry Museum will complement the existing murals and Free Derry Corner and be a further boost for tourism in the area.

“I also think that its location in Glenfada Park in the heart of the Bogside is very important.

“So many people lost their lives their on Bloody Sunday. In addition to this, the area has seen a lot of vandalism and I believe the residents will welcome the arrival of the museum and the cleaning up of the area.”

Although intrinsically linked to the events of Bloody Sunday the museum will document all the victims of the Troubles from both communities.

This, says Mr Ramsey, is of great importance.

“The museum will not just deal with the history of the Bogside but the whole of the city and all the victims of violence.”

“I think it will be supported by all the parties,” he said.

Belfast Telegraph

Troubles Museum Approved

Bogside site marks 30 years of violence

By Paddy McGuffin

28 February 2005

Planning chiefs in Derry have given the green light to a museum documenting the impact of the Troubles on the city.

The Museum of Free Derry project was launched as part of this year’s Bloody Sunday Commemorations in January.

It will exhibit artefacts from the past 30 years and attempt to document the chronology of the Troubles from Bloody Sunday and Operation Motorman through 30 turbulent years.

The Museum of Free Derry is to be sited in Glenfada Park in the heart of the Bogside and the scene of many of the deaths on Bloody Sunday.

The proposal to grant planning permission will be put before a committee meeting of Derry City Council tomorrow.

SDLP councillor Pat Ramsey said he welcomed the project, which he said would not only be valuable in terms of documenting and commemorating the many victims of violence in the city but would be a major boost to tourism.

“I would welcome this project in a historical context but also in terms of tourism for the Bogside,” he said.

“I think the Free Derry Museum will complement the existing murals and Free Derry Corner and be a further boost for tourism in the area.

“I also think that its location in Glenfada Park in the heart of the Bogside is very important.

“So many people lost their lives their on Bloody Sunday. In addition to this, the area has seen a lot of vandalism and I believe the residents will welcome the arrival of the museum and the cleaning up of the area.”

Although intrinsically linked to the events of Bloody Sunday the museum will document all the victims of the Troubles from both communities.

This, says Mr Ramsey, is of great importance.

“The museum will not just deal with the history of the Bogside but the whole of the city and all the victims of violence.”

“I think it will be supported by all the parties,” he said.

Belfast Telegraph

Death of a democracy

Gangs of killers roam freely, rape is systematic and the poor eat mud to survive. In Port-au-Prince, Andrew Buncombe finds a people crushed by the dark hand of US foreign policy

28 February 2005

The mud biscuits sold in the markets and stacked high by the street vendors in the most desperate parts of Port-au-Prince are made in a part of the city known as Fort-Dimanche. There, close to the site of a former prison, once used by the dictator François “Papa Doc” Duvalier to lock up political prisoners, women combine clay, water, a little margarine and a scratch of salt. Sometimes they will crumble a foil-wrapped cube of bouillon into the mixture, which they stir, shape into discs the size of a saucer and leave to bake in the Caribbean sun.

In Haiti, these mud cakes are traditionally eaten by expectant mothers who believe they contain nutrients and minerals important to the health of a newborn child. But in recent months they have been sold increasingly to other people, who are too poor to afford anything else. “I have been selling more in the last year. People have less money,” says Mafie, the young woman sitting behind a pile of the pale brown mud cakes at Salamoun market.

In their own way, these biscuits, known in Creole simply as terre, tell a bigger story. One year after the enforced departure of Haiti’s elected president, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, the country he was forced to flee, having been long undermined by the US authorities, is in a hellish state of affairs. Unstable, deadly, wracked by division and wrecked by a hurricane that tore through the country in September, many of the citizens who voted for the bespectacled former priest with a prayer that he might bring them hope and salvation are forced to fill their bellies with cakes fashioned from mud. Naturally enough, they taste like dirt.

Hunger is just one of Haiti’s many problems. Since Aristide was flown out of Port-au-Prince in the early hours of 29 February last year to his destination – the Central African Republic and then South Africa, where he now lives in exile – his supporters and members of his Lavalas political party have faced repression, violence, imprisonment and death.

While UN-mandated elections are scheduled for November, many of the senior members of Lavalas lie in Haiti’s fetid and overcrowded jails. To the outrage of human rights groups, few – if any – of the political prisoners locked up by the “interim government” installed by the US, France and Canada have been charged. Some of those jailed and subsequently released have revealed that they had no opportunity to make their case before a judge. Were it not for international pressure put on Gerard Latortue, the interim prime minister, many of them believe they would still be locked up.

At times, Haiti’s violence appears to be utterly out of control. Fights between rival gangs with political backing in the slums, or raids by the police who are accused of carrying out summary executions, result in corpses being left in the streets, gnawed at by dogs and pigs until someone comes to remove them.

Late last year, there were so many corpses arriving at the unrefrigerated morgue attached to the city’s main hospital, where they lay in piles and were rapidly devoured by maggots, that the authorities refused journalists permission to visit out of concern about the bad image that would be portrayed. Since September, more than 250 people have been killed in political violence in Port-au-Prince.

The Independent has also learned that, in the poorest areas of the city, rape is increasingly common as a tactic of political violence – a phenomenon that last occurred regularly during the early Nineties. Three Pakistani members of the UN peace-keeping force, known by its acronym MINUSTAH, have been accused of raping a woman in the city of Gonaives. An investigation is under way. And, as if that were not enough, a group of rebel soldiers of the supposedly disbanded army are refusing to lay down their guns.

Amid all of this violence and anguish hangs the ghostly presence of the undead. Though it is a year since Aristide left, in the poorer parts of town where his name is repeatedly invoked, it is clear he is never far from people’s thoughts.

Emanuel Exantes, an angry young man in a black T-shirt, who is also a trader at the busy Salamoun market, summed up what many people here believe. “It was wrong. It was not the Haitian people who made him go. It was the Americans. They want to kill Haiti. When Aristide was in power, they did not give him any money. Now, this new fucking person, they’re giving him money all the time. They give money to [the interim prime minister] because he is their man. Aristide was not theirs.” He added: “This whole market is waiting for Aristide. I’m for dialogue but I want to see Aristide come back to the country. He loves the people. Aristide was elected for five years but they never wanted him to finish his term. You could not do that in America.”

Aristide never wanted to leave the country. In the early hours of that Sunday morning one year ago, when loosely co-ordinated rebel forces were marching towards the capital, and after leaders of the opposition told Washington they would not agree to a political compromise that did not involve Aristide’s departure, the president was given a choice. “Come with or stay,” he was told by Luis Moreno, the deputy chief of the US embassy, who arrived with a group of heavily armed marines to take Aristide to the airport. “Live or die”.

Even at that point, the Americans could have preserved Aristide’s presidency with just a few hundred well-armed US Marines. They had, after all, done it before. Following a 1991 CIA-backed coup that ended his first term of office, Aristide was returned to power in October 1994 by President Bill Clinton, who ordered 20,000 Marines to clear the way for his return.

But in 10 years, a lot had changed. Annoyed at Lavalas’s refusal to abide by the economic “reforms” set out by the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the United States had started to look into freezing economic aid to Haiti. In 2000, after Aristide’s re-election, his opponents in Washington seized on a dispute surrounding the vote for the national assembly to block a total of $500m (£260m) in relief to the avowedly Socialist leader.

At the same time, right-wing elements in Washington were actively funding and courting Aristide’s opponents. The International Republican Institute, a body that receives much of its funding from the National Endowment for Democracy, was arranging conferences in the neighbouring Dominican Republic for Aristide’s opponents to meet those from Washington who shared similar political views.

Throughout this time, leaders of business-backed opposition coalitions in Haiti such as Group 184, led by the millionaire industrialist Andy Apaid, and the National Convergence, were receiving a clear message that there was little international support for Aristide or his brand of liberation theology.

By this time, Aristide was increasingly resorting to violence. Rather than reaching out to groups such as students, who should have been his natural supporters, he used armed gangs known as les chimères to break up their demonstrations and attack them. Groups such as Amnesty International detailed how, by late 2003, the tactics of Aristide increasingly matched those of the Haitian dictators he had so opposed and campaigned against. During this period, said Amnesty, there was “almost total impunity for the perpetrators of human rights violations”.

Even at the best of times, Port-au-Prince is a chaotic place. If you stay in the city itself, rather than in one of the plush hotels used by diplomats up on the hillside in the suburb of Petionville, you are awoken at dawn by the crowing of roosters and the noise of a city already on the move – the narrow roads are clogged with battered cars and colourful “tap tap” taxis belching exhaust fumes, the pavements thronged with schoolchildren and street vendors. An an estimated two-thirds of the population have no formal employment, but it seems that everyone is trying to get somewhere.

There is little security. Though the UN force has more than 6,000 soldiers and 1,400 police officers, it has a limited ability to maintain order and an apparently limited desire to intervene. Many Haitians complain that the UN representatives stand by while the police raid properties or attack people indiscriminately. A report by the International Crisis Group said: “Of particular concern are charges of summary executions in populous neighbourhoods – including the murder of street children [by police].” Last weekend, an armed ganged broke into the city’s main prison and released more than 500 prisoners, including Yvon Neptune, a former Lavalas prime minister, and Jocelerme Privert, a former interior minister. Both had been locked up for months without charge.

Outside the peeling blue-and-white prison, pervaded by a foul smell, visitors were being kept at a distance by snarling policemen, some in regular uniform, some clad in black, wearing helmets, dark glasses and carrying semi-automatic rifles.

A young woman called Josiane, who owns a drinks shop opposite the prison, had been outside the previous afternoon when a gang of armed men arrived. She pointed to six bullet holes on the wall of her shop. “They just came and started shooting,” she said. “I ran into the back room and climbed under the bed. When I came out 10 minutes later, there were people running out of the jail.” In the street outside her store, she had seen a dead prison guard, the only victim of the incident. She had covered him with a sheet and tried to wash away the blood. That next morning, the place where he had died was still stained red.

Exactly what had happened and who had been responsible was unclear. In a country where there are few reliable sources of information and where rumours spread at the pace of a galloping horse, it was possible to hear five different versions within 20 minutes. It was Aristide’s supporters, said one, it was a drug gang, said another, a third a stage-managed raid by the government to make Aristide’s supporters look bad.

It later emerged that Neptune and Privert had been returned to prison the day of the break-out, having apparently given themselves up. At the time of writing, 481 other prisoners remain unaccounted for. Meanwhile, Claude Theodat, the director of the prison, has been fired.

The worst of Haiti’s violence is concentrated in its no-go slums, which bear such misguidedly beguiling names as Cite Soleil, Bel Air and La Saline. In these areas, virtually cut off from the outside world, rival gangs terrorise the population. Human rights investigators say that Lavalas-backed gangs commit as much violence as those backed by their opponents. The influential businessman Apaid, who declined several requests for an interview, is said to support an anti-Lavalas gang in the “Boston” area of Cite Soleil, headed by a man called Thomas Robinson who prefers to go by the name of Labanye. A recent report by the Centre for the Study of Human Rights at the University of Miami quoted Apaid as saying he directed police “not to arrest [Labanye] but to work with him”.

In a white-tiled, second-floor office, three women from the extremely poor Martissant neighbourhood explain how gangs are increasingly using rape against political opponents. The women, Malia Villard, Esamithe Delva and Ruth Jean Pierre, were all attacked in the early Nineties and later formed a group called the Commission of Women Victims for Women. Supported by the US-based Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti, the group offers support and access to doctors. They declined to talk about their own specific experiences.

“At times when there is no security and the country has no control. These people can do what they want,” said Villard. “Each time there is instability there is an upsurge [in attacks]. When it is quiet the problem is less because people know they could be arrested.”

The women said victims were often attacked because of their family’s political affiliations. In many cases, the victims’ husbands had been killed and there was no one to protect them. Other reports suggest that, in rural areas, a similar campaign of rape is being carried out by rebel soldiers. The risk of Aids and unwanted pregnancies was ever present, Villard said, and there were no longer any free hospitals. “If you are lucky, you are not dead. If you are lucky, you are not sick.”

Aristide is not returning to Haiti, at least not to be its president. Despite what some may wish and what the radio stations may claim, it would take a political miracle for him to make a comeback. Unlike 10 years ago, he cannot constitutionally serve another full term. Furthermore, although some organisations still recognise him as their legitimate leader, there is little international clamouring to reinstate him. More importantly, he no longer has many friends in Washington.

In the political vacuum created by his absence, an intense debate is going on inside Lavalas to determine whether the party should select another leader and start campaigning, or whether it should boycott the November elections. One of those who recommends a boycott is Father Gerard Jean Juste, a close friend of Aristide and a Catholic priest. He recently returned from visiting the exiled former president in South Africa and some observers believe he may be the man Aristide has anointed as his successor.

The Independent found the priest in a high-walled compound on the edge of Port-au-Prince, where twice a week he provides meals for the poor as part of a project funded by a San Diego-based group called the What If Foundation. Tall, likeable, surrounded by happy, screaming children and with a populist rhetoric that he has polished in the pulpit, he was recently held in prison for 48 days. He was arrested two hours after speaking to Aristide on the telephone, and told he was being arrested for disturbing the peace.

“It must be recognised that Aristide was elected and then we must prepare for his return,” he said. “You are going to have to deal with the election anyway. We are not going to participate [without Aristide]. It’s going to be like the election in Iraq. It will be futile.” To what extent the priest was sticking to the party line was unclear. If he has been selected as Aristide’s successor – at least by Aristide himself – he may feel obliged to talk of a possible return. But when asked if Aristide actually wanted to return to Haiti, he deflected the question. When asked a second time, there was a brief but noticeable pause before he said he believed Aristide did.

The following day, sitting on the breezy terrace of hillside hotel, the muffled noise of the city in the background, another Lavalas leader said he believed that it was vital for the party to begin election preparations. Yvon Feuille, a popular senator from the city of Port Salut, another political prisoner who was released after international pressure, said that the interim government, for all its talk of opening a national dialogue, was doing everything it could to prevent Lavalas from getting itself organised. “That is the debate within Lavalas at the moment – whether to boycott the election or take part. The problem is that, if the people boycott, they don’t have a chance,” he said. “At the same time, I say to the international community that we have to have the same rights as the other political parties.”

Haiti is the poorest country in the western hemisphere. The average income per capita may be as little as £800 a year. Given its seemingly persistent instability and poverty, many commentators have been tempted to simply write it off as a failed state, doomed to political disaster. But as Feuille and others point out, its problems have not all taken place in a vacuum; the country that became the first black republic in 1804 has suffered from a fatal mixture of economic neglect and political interference.

Even now, with a supposedly “acceptable” interim government installed, the attitude of wealthier nations appears at best ambivalent. Washington, which has recently spent many millions of dollars upgrading its embassy in Port-au-Prince, seems more driven by concern about a new batch of refugees washing up on its Florida beaches than about Haiti itself.

Two weeks ago, the World Bank announced it would release $73m in cash to Haiti’s government but only after Haiti paid $52m in arrears. Canada “helped” by giving Haiti another loan of $13m to help pay off its debt. More than half of the $1.2bn in “aid” for Haiti, announced at a donors’ conference in Washington last summer, is made up of loans that must be repaid.

To get a different perspective on why things do not have to be like this, to get a sense of Haiti’s genuine potential, one needs only to take a three-hour drive across the mountains to the coastal city of Jacmel, the country’s former capital. While it is a bustling place, there is none of the chaos of Port-au-Prince and little of the violence. It is a calm, likeable place next to the sea and yet the one thing lacking is tourism. There have been barely any foreign tourists to Haiti since the end of the Duvalier regime, but Jacmel had always been popular with the Haitian elite and its small middle class. In the 12 months since Aristide’s departure, all that has changed.

Eric Danies owns the Jacmelienne Hotel by the beach. Certainly by Haitian standards, Danies is a very wealthy man and, according to the usual analysis, one might expect him to have supported Aristide’s ousting. Instead, he says that in the past year he has watched business plunge.

“Since Aristide’s departure we have seen our occupancy rate fall from 75 per cent to 10 per cent,” he said. “The insecurity has increased for ordinary Haitians. They used to hold a lot of seminars here. Groups used to come to the provinces. Those groups are getting rarer and rarer. People are being told not to venture out of Port-au-Prince. The Haitian diaspora used to come here to visit their families. They have not been doing that.”

From where Danies was sitting at the bar, one looks straight out across a gleaming blue sea and over an almost empty beach. The proprietor gestured to the view in front of him and reflected that this was a perfect location for tourists, a place to come and unwind. “This is what we have been trying to promote,” he sighed. “And it’s not the only thing that Haiti has to offer. The skills of the people here have never been fully exploited.”

THE BLOODY YEARS

1957

François Duvalier (Papa Doc) elected president after seizing power in a military coup.

1986

In response to widespread protests, Papa Doc’s successor, his son Jean-Claude, flees the island.

1990

Jean-Bertrand Aristide elected as president.

1991

Aristide overthrown in a coup led by General Raoul Cedras.

1993

The Haitian military refuses to agree on an accord allowing Aristide to resume the presidency. Failure to sign forces the UN to impose sanctions.

1994

The US threatens to invade Haiti and the military regime quickly surrenders power.

1995

René Préval elected president.

1999

Préval terminates parliament and rules by decree.

2000

Aristide elected president.

2001

July: Three separate attacks kill four police officers. Former army officers are accused of plotting a coup.

December: 12 people are killed in a raid on the National Palace.

2002

Haiti becomes a member of the Caribbean Community (Caricom) trade bloc.

2004

January/February: Violent rebel protests against President Aristide disrupt celebrations of Haiti’s independence. Aristide is forced into exile.

May: More than 2,000 are reported to have been killed following devastating floods in the south.

September: A tropical storm brings more flooding, this time in the north. Almost 3,000 are killed.

November: Violence erupts in the capital and armed gangs supporting Aristide are reportedly responsible for several deaths.

Belfast Telegraph

Death of a democracy

Gangs of killers roam freely, rape is systematic and the poor eat mud to survive. In Port-au-Prince, Andrew Buncombe finds a people crushed by the dark hand of US foreign policy

28 February 2005

The mud biscuits sold in the markets and stacked high by the street vendors in the most desperate parts of Port-au-Prince are made in a part of the city known as Fort-Dimanche. There, close to the site of a former prison, once used by the dictator François “Papa Doc” Duvalier to lock up political prisoners, women combine clay, water, a little margarine and a scratch of salt. Sometimes they will crumble a foil-wrapped cube of bouillon into the mixture, which they stir, shape into discs the size of a saucer and leave to bake in the Caribbean sun.

In Haiti, these mud cakes are traditionally eaten by expectant mothers who believe they contain nutrients and minerals important to the health of a newborn child. But in recent months they have been sold increasingly to other people, who are too poor to afford anything else. “I have been selling more in the last year. People have less money,” says Mafie, the young woman sitting behind a pile of the pale brown mud cakes at Salamoun market.

In their own way, these biscuits, known in Creole simply as terre, tell a bigger story. One year after the enforced departure of Haiti’s elected president, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, the country he was forced to flee, having been long undermined by the US authorities, is in a hellish state of affairs. Unstable, deadly, wracked by division and wrecked by a hurricane that tore through the country in September, many of the citizens who voted for the bespectacled former priest with a prayer that he might bring them hope and salvation are forced to fill their bellies with cakes fashioned from mud. Naturally enough, they taste like dirt.

Hunger is just one of Haiti’s many problems. Since Aristide was flown out of Port-au-Prince in the early hours of 29 February last year to his destination – the Central African Republic and then South Africa, where he now lives in exile – his supporters and members of his Lavalas political party have faced repression, violence, imprisonment and death.

While UN-mandated elections are scheduled for November, many of the senior members of Lavalas lie in Haiti’s fetid and overcrowded jails. To the outrage of human rights groups, few – if any – of the political prisoners locked up by the “interim government” installed by the US, France and Canada have been charged. Some of those jailed and subsequently released have revealed that they had no opportunity to make their case before a judge. Were it not for international pressure put on Gerard Latortue, the interim prime minister, many of them believe they would still be locked up.

At times, Haiti’s violence appears to be utterly out of control. Fights between rival gangs with political backing in the slums, or raids by the police who are accused of carrying out summary executions, result in corpses being left in the streets, gnawed at by dogs and pigs until someone comes to remove them.

Late last year, there were so many corpses arriving at the unrefrigerated morgue attached to the city’s main hospital, where they lay in piles and were rapidly devoured by maggots, that the authorities refused journalists permission to visit out of concern about the bad image that would be portrayed. Since September, more than 250 people have been killed in political violence in Port-au-Prince.

The Independent has also learned that, in the poorest areas of the city, rape is increasingly common as a tactic of political violence – a phenomenon that last occurred regularly during the early Nineties. Three Pakistani members of the UN peace-keeping force, known by its acronym MINUSTAH, have been accused of raping a woman in the city of Gonaives. An investigation is under way. And, as if that were not enough, a group of rebel soldiers of the supposedly disbanded army are refusing to lay down their guns.

Amid all of this violence and anguish hangs the ghostly presence of the undead. Though it is a year since Aristide left, in the poorer parts of town where his name is repeatedly invoked, it is clear he is never far from people’s thoughts.

Emanuel Exantes, an angry young man in a black T-shirt, who is also a trader at the busy Salamoun market, summed up what many people here believe. “It was wrong. It was not the Haitian people who made him go. It was the Americans. They want to kill Haiti. When Aristide was in power, they did not give him any money. Now, this new fucking person, they’re giving him money all the time. They give money to [the interim prime minister] because he is their man. Aristide was not theirs.” He added: “This whole market is waiting for Aristide. I’m for dialogue but I want to see Aristide come back to the country. He loves the people. Aristide was elected for five years but they never wanted him to finish his term. You could not do that in America.”

Aristide never wanted to leave the country. In the early hours of that Sunday morning one year ago, when loosely co-ordinated rebel forces were marching towards the capital, and after leaders of the opposition told Washington they would not agree to a political compromise that did not involve Aristide’s departure, the president was given a choice. “Come with or stay,” he was told by Luis Moreno, the deputy chief of the US embassy, who arrived with a group of heavily armed marines to take Aristide to the airport. “Live or die”.

Even at that point, the Americans could have preserved Aristide’s presidency with just a few hundred well-armed US Marines. They had, after all, done it before. Following a 1991 CIA-backed coup that ended his first term of office, Aristide was returned to power in October 1994 by President Bill Clinton, who ordered 20,000 Marines to clear the way for his return.

But in 10 years, a lot had changed. Annoyed at Lavalas’s refusal to abide by the economic “reforms” set out by the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the United States had started to look into freezing economic aid to Haiti. In 2000, after Aristide’s re-election, his opponents in Washington seized on a dispute surrounding the vote for the national assembly to block a total of $500m (£260m) in relief to the avowedly Socialist leader.

At the same time, right-wing elements in Washington were actively funding and courting Aristide’s opponents. The International Republican Institute, a body that receives much of its funding from the National Endowment for Democracy, was arranging conferences in the neighbouring Dominican Republic for Aristide’s opponents to meet those from Washington who shared similar political views.

Throughout this time, leaders of business-backed opposition coalitions in Haiti such as Group 184, led by the millionaire industrialist Andy Apaid, and the National Convergence, were receiving a clear message that there was little international support for Aristide or his brand of liberation theology.

By this time, Aristide was increasingly resorting to violence. Rather than reaching out to groups such as students, who should have been his natural supporters, he used armed gangs known as les chimères to break up their demonstrations and attack them. Groups such as Amnesty International detailed how, by late 2003, the tactics of Aristide increasingly matched those of the Haitian dictators he had so opposed and campaigned against. During this period, said Amnesty, there was “almost total impunity for the perpetrators of human rights violations”.

Even at the best of times, Port-au-Prince is a chaotic place. If you stay in the city itself, rather than in one of the plush hotels used by diplomats up on the hillside in the suburb of Petionville, you are awoken at dawn by the crowing of roosters and the noise of a city already on the move – the narrow roads are clogged with battered cars and colourful “tap tap” taxis belching exhaust fumes, the pavements thronged with schoolchildren and street vendors. An an estimated two-thirds of the population have no formal employment, but it seems that everyone is trying to get somewhere.

There is little security. Though the UN force has more than 6,000 soldiers and 1,400 police officers, it has a limited ability to maintain order and an apparently limited desire to intervene. Many Haitians complain that the UN representatives stand by while the police raid properties or attack people indiscriminately. A report by the International Crisis Group said: “Of particular concern are charges of summary executions in populous neighbourhoods – including the murder of street children [by police].” Last weekend, an armed ganged broke into the city’s main prison and released more than 500 prisoners, including Yvon Neptune, a former Lavalas prime minister, and Jocelerme Privert, a former interior minister. Both had been locked up for months without charge.

Outside the peeling blue-and-white prison, pervaded by a foul smell, visitors were being kept at a distance by snarling policemen, some in regular uniform, some clad in black, wearing helmets, dark glasses and carrying semi-automatic rifles.

A young woman called Josiane, who owns a drinks shop opposite the prison, had been outside the previous afternoon when a gang of armed men arrived. She pointed to six bullet holes on the wall of her shop. “They just came and started shooting,” she said. “I ran into the back room and climbed under the bed. When I came out 10 minutes later, there were people running out of the jail.” In the street outside her store, she had seen a dead prison guard, the only victim of the incident. She had covered him with a sheet and tried to wash away the blood. That next morning, the place where he had died was still stained red.

Exactly what had happened and who had been responsible was unclear. In a country where there are few reliable sources of information and where rumours spread at the pace of a galloping horse, it was possible to hear five different versions within 20 minutes. It was Aristide’s supporters, said one, it was a drug gang, said another, a third a stage-managed raid by the government to make Aristide’s supporters look bad.

It later emerged that Neptune and Privert had been returned to prison the day of the break-out, having apparently given themselves up. At the time of writing, 481 other prisoners remain unaccounted for. Meanwhile, Claude Theodat, the director of the prison, has been fired.

The worst of Haiti’s violence is concentrated in its no-go slums, which bear such misguidedly beguiling names as Cite Soleil, Bel Air and La Saline. In these areas, virtually cut off from the outside world, rival gangs terrorise the population. Human rights investigators say that Lavalas-backed gangs commit as much violence as those backed by their opponents. The influential businessman Apaid, who declined several requests for an interview, is said to support an anti-Lavalas gang in the “Boston” area of Cite Soleil, headed by a man called Thomas Robinson who prefers to go by the name of Labanye. A recent report by the Centre for the Study of Human Rights at the University of Miami quoted Apaid as saying he directed police “not to arrest [Labanye] but to work with him”.

In a white-tiled, second-floor office, three women from the extremely poor Martissant neighbourhood explain how gangs are increasingly using rape against political opponents. The women, Malia Villard, Esamithe Delva and Ruth Jean Pierre, were all attacked in the early Nineties and later formed a group called the Commission of Women Victims for Women. Supported by the US-based Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti, the group offers support and access to doctors. They declined to talk about their own specific experiences.

“At times when there is no security and the country has no control. These people can do what they want,” said Villard. “Each time there is instability there is an upsurge [in attacks]. When it is quiet the problem is less because people know they could be arrested.”

The women said victims were often attacked because of their family’s political affiliations. In many cases, the victims’ husbands had been killed and there was no one to protect them. Other reports suggest that, in rural areas, a similar campaign of rape is being carried out by rebel soldiers. The risk of Aids and unwanted pregnancies was ever present, Villard said, and there were no longer any free hospitals. “If you are lucky, you are not dead. If you are lucky, you are not sick.”

Aristide is not returning to Haiti, at least not to be its president. Despite what some may wish and what the radio stations may claim, it would take a political miracle for him to make a comeback. Unlike 10 years ago, he cannot constitutionally serve another full term. Furthermore, although some organisations still recognise him as their legitimate leader, there is little international clamouring to reinstate him. More importantly, he no longer has many friends in Washington.

In the political vacuum created by his absence, an intense debate is going on inside Lavalas to determine whether the party should select another leader and start campaigning, or whether it should boycott the November elections. One of those who recommends a boycott is Father Gerard Jean Juste, a close friend of Aristide and a Catholic priest. He recently returned from visiting the exiled former president in South Africa and some observers believe he may be the man Aristide has anointed as his successor.

The Independent found the priest in a high-walled compound on the edge of Port-au-Prince, where twice a week he provides meals for the poor as part of a project funded by a San Diego-based group called the What If Foundation. Tall, likeable, surrounded by happy, screaming children and with a populist rhetoric that he has polished in the pulpit, he was recently held in prison for 48 days. He was arrested two hours after speaking to Aristide on the telephone, and told he was being arrested for disturbing the peace.

“It must be recognised that Aristide was elected and then we must prepare for his return,” he said. “You are going to have to deal with the election anyway. We are not going to participate [without Aristide]. It’s going to be like the election in Iraq. It will be futile.” To what extent the priest was sticking to the party line was unclear. If he has been selected as Aristide’s successor – at least by Aristide himself – he may feel obliged to talk of a possible return. But when asked if Aristide actually wanted to return to Haiti, he deflected the question. When asked a second time, there was a brief but noticeable pause before he said he believed Aristide did.

The following day, sitting on the breezy terrace of hillside hotel, the muffled noise of the city in the background, another Lavalas leader said he believed that it was vital for the party to begin election preparations. Yvon Feuille, a popular senator from the city of Port Salut, another political prisoner who was released after international pressure, said that the interim government, for all its talk of opening a national dialogue, was doing everything it could to prevent Lavalas from getting itself organised. “That is the debate within Lavalas at the moment – whether to boycott the election or take part. The problem is that, if the people boycott, they don’t have a chance,” he said. “At the same time, I say to the international community that we have to have the same rights as the other political parties.”

Haiti is the poorest country in the western hemisphere. The average income per capita may be as little as £800 a year. Given its seemingly persistent instability and poverty, many commentators have been tempted to simply write it off as a failed state, doomed to political disaster. But as Feuille and others point out, its problems have not all taken place in a vacuum; the country that became the first black republic in 1804 has suffered from a fatal mixture of economic neglect and political interference.

Even now, with a supposedly “acceptable” interim government installed, the attitude of wealthier nations appears at best ambivalent. Washington, which has recently spent many millions of dollars upgrading its embassy in Port-au-Prince, seems more driven by concern about a new batch of refugees washing up on its Florida beaches than about Haiti itself.

Two weeks ago, the World Bank announced it would release $73m in cash to Haiti’s government but only after Haiti paid $52m in arrears. Canada “helped” by giving Haiti another loan of $13m to help pay off its debt. More than half of the $1.2bn in “aid” for Haiti, announced at a donors’ conference in Washington last summer, is made up of loans that must be repaid.

To get a different perspective on why things do not have to be like this, to get a sense of Haiti’s genuine potential, one needs only to take a three-hour drive across the mountains to the coastal city of Jacmel, the country’s former capital. While it is a bustling place, there is none of the chaos of Port-au-Prince and little of the violence. It is a calm, likeable place next to the sea and yet the one thing lacking is tourism. There have been barely any foreign tourists to Haiti since the end of the Duvalier regime, but Jacmel had always been popular with the Haitian elite and its small middle class. In the 12 months since Aristide’s departure, all that has changed.

Eric Danies owns the Jacmelienne Hotel by the beach. Certainly by Haitian standards, Danies is a very wealthy man and, according to the usual analysis, one might expect him to have supported Aristide’s ousting. Instead, he says that in the past year he has watched business plunge.

“Since Aristide’s departure we have seen our occupancy rate fall from 75 per cent to 10 per cent,” he said. “The insecurity has increased for ordinary Haitians. They used to hold a lot of seminars here. Groups used to come to the provinces. Those groups are getting rarer and rarer. People are being told not to venture out of Port-au-Prince. The Haitian diaspora used to come here to visit their families. They have not been doing that.”

From where Danies was sitting at the bar, one looks straight out across a gleaming blue sea and over an almost empty beach. The proprietor gestured to the view in front of him and reflected that this was a perfect location for tourists, a place to come and unwind. “This is what we have been trying to promote,” he sighed. “And it’s not the only thing that Haiti has to offer. The skills of the people here have never been fully exploited.”

THE BLOODY YEARS

1957

François Duvalier (Papa Doc) elected president after seizing power in a military coup.

1986

In response to widespread protests, Papa Doc’s successor, his son Jean-Claude, flees the island.

1990

Jean-Bertrand Aristide elected as president.

1991

Aristide overthrown in a coup led by General Raoul Cedras.

1993

The Haitian military refuses to agree on an accord allowing Aristide to resume the presidency. Failure to sign forces the UN to impose sanctions.

1994

The US threatens to invade Haiti and the military regime quickly surrenders power.

1995

René Préval elected president.

1999

Préval terminates parliament and rules by decree.

2000

Aristide elected president.

2001

July: Three separate attacks kill four police officers. Former army officers are accused of plotting a coup.

December: 12 people are killed in a raid on the National Palace.

2002

Haiti becomes a member of the Caribbean Community (Caricom) trade bloc.

2004

January/February: Violent rebel protests against President Aristide disrupt celebrations of Haiti’s independence. Aristide is forced into exile.

May: More than 2,000 are reported to have been killed following devastating floods in the south.

September: A tropical storm brings more flooding, this time in the north. Almost 3,000 are killed.

November: Violence erupts in the capital and armed gangs supporting Aristide are reportedly responsible for several deaths.

Belfast Telegraph

UDA chief’s family slams death probe
Police inquiry ‘left a lot to be desired’

By Debra Douglas
28 February 2005

The family of murdered UDA commander John Gregg today criticised the police investigation into his death.

Gregg (45), from the Rathcoole Estate in Newtownabbey, was shot dead as he sat in a taxi in the Docks area of Belfast in February 2003 during the feud between Johnny Adair’s C company and mainstream UDA units.

Another man, Robert Carson (33), also from Rathcoole, also died in the attack, which was carried out as they were returning from a Glasgow Rangers football match.

At an inquest today, the families of the murdered men said the police investigation into the slayings “left a lot to be desired”.

In a statement given by local councillor Tommy Kirkham, they said: “We would wish to point out that the PSNI investigation leaves a lot to be desired. No-one has ever been charged with the murders, yet most people know who the killers were.

“We were extremely concerned that CCTV footage did not provide sufficient evidence and the absence of security in the area of the docks on that Saturday evening would not be normal.

“The fact remains that we have lost loved ones who will never be replaced. The inquest is now over and we seriously hope the investigation continues until these murderers are brought before the court.”

During the inquest DCI Stephen Maxwell said the murders were the culmination of a number of incidents between the UDA’s Lower Shankill C company and other members of the UDA.

He said the deaths resulted in a number of Johnny Adair’s associate fleeing to Bolton.

The court heard that a Belfast newsroom received an anonymous call the following day which claimed the Red Hand Defenders were behind the murders.

The inquest also heard that Gregg had expressed concerns for his safety, particularly after comments made by John White about him on a television programme.

DCI Maxwell said that 15 people had been arrested in connection with the double murder but that no-one had been charged.

He said that the CCTV footage of the night in question had been ruined due to technical faults.

Gregg’s son Stuart was in the taxi with his father when they were attacked. He said he heard gunshots and saw flashing and realised that they had come under attack.

Taxi driver William “Rab” McKnight said he had been concerned about taking John Gregg in his taxi because he was “a high-ranking paramilitary” but had collected them from the terminal.

He said that when they stopped at traffic lights in the docks area, shots were fired from a car that had pulled up beside them but he could not see who it was.

Mr McKnight was seriously injured and spent 12 days in the intensive care unit at the Royal.

After hearing the evidence the coroner for Greater Belfast, John Leckey, said he hoped people would come forward with enough information to help the police convict those who they believed were responsible for the murders. He said: “I hope the murderers are apprehended and brought to justice.”

He also said he was interested to learn that only John Gregg was the intended target that night.

He said the fact Robert Carson was killed and others were injured showed “the indiscriminate nature of the murders”.

Belfast Telegraph

UDA chief’s family slams death probe

Police inquiry ‘left a lot to be desired’

By Debra Douglas

28 February 2005

The family of murdered UDA commander John Gregg today criticised the police investigation into his death.

Gregg (45), from the Rathcoole Estate in Newtownabbey, was shot dead as he sat in a taxi in the Docks area of Belfast in February 2003 during the feud between Johnny Adair’s C company and mainstream UDA units.

Another man, Robert Carson (33), also from Rathcoole, also died in the attack, which was carried out as they were returning from a Glasgow Rangers football match.

At an inquest today, the families of the murdered men said the police investigation into the slayings “left a lot to be desired”.

In a statement given by local councillor Tommy Kirkham, they said: “We would wish to point out that the PSNI investigation leaves a lot to be desired. No-one has ever been charged with the murders, yet most people know who the killers were.

“We were extremely concerned that CCTV footage did not provide sufficient evidence and the absence of security in the area of the docks on that Saturday evening would not be normal.

“The fact remains that we have lost loved ones who will never be replaced. The inquest is now over and we seriously hope the investigation continues until these murderers are brought before the court.”

During the inquest DCI Stephen Maxwell said the murders were the culmination of a number of incidents between the UDA’s Lower Shankill C company and other members of the UDA.

He said the deaths resulted in a number of Johnny Adair’s associate fleeing to Bolton.

The court heard that a Belfast newsroom received an anonymous call the following day which claimed the Red Hand Defenders were behind the murders.

The inquest also heard that Gregg had expressed concerns for his safety, particularly after comments made by John White about him on a television programme.

DCI Maxwell said that 15 people had been arrested in connection with the double murder but that no-one had been charged.

He said that the CCTV footage of the night in question had been ruined due to technical faults.

Gregg’s son Stuart was in the taxi with his father when they were attacked. He said he heard gunshots and saw flashing and realised that they had come under attack.

Taxi driver William “Rab” McKnight said he had been concerned about taking John Gregg in his taxi because he was “a high-ranking paramilitary” but had collected them from the terminal.

He said that when they stopped at traffic lights in the docks area, shots were fired from a car that had pulled up beside them but he could not see who it was.

Mr McKnight was seriously injured and spent 12 days in the intensive care unit at the Royal.

After hearing the evidence the coroner for Greater Belfast, John Leckey, said he hoped people would come forward with enough information to help the police convict those who they believed were responsible for the murders. He said: “I hope the murderers are apprehended and brought to justice.”

He also said he was interested to learn that only John Gregg was the intended target that night.

He said the fact Robert Carson was killed and others were injured showed “the indiscriminate nature of the murders”.

CAIN: Chronology of the Conflict 1985

Thursday 28 February 1985

Nine RUC Officers Killed

The Irish Republican Army (IRA) carried out a home-made mortar attack on the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) station in Newry, County Down, and killed nine RUC officers and injured 30 others. [This incident represented the greatest loss of life for the RUC in a single incident. The number of deaths was high because most of those killed were inside temporary dwellings within the RUC base.]

—————

CAIN: Chronology of the Conflict 1985

Thursday 28 February 1985

Nine RUC Officers Killed

The Irish Republican Army (IRA) carried out a home-made mortar attack on the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) station in Newry, County Down, and killed nine RUC officers and injured 30 others. [This incident represented the greatest loss of life for the RUC in a single incident. The number of deaths was high because most of those killed were inside temporary dwellings within the RUC base.]

—————

Daily Ireland

Sort it now

Former civil rights leader Eamon McCann told a Belfast rally yesterday that the killers of Robert McCartney had brought themselves down to the level of the paratroopers who shot dead 13 people in Derry on Bloody Sunday.
“They carried out another Bloody Sunday in Belfast,” he told several hundred people who had gathered in the Short Strand in support of the McCartney family.
Mr McCann said those who killed the father-of-two outside Magennis’s bar on January 30 had earlier marched in the Bloody Sunday anniversary parade in Derry.
“How dare they march on Bloody Sunday,” he said.
While Bloody Sunday in Derry had been a terrible injustice, the cover-up was equally unjust and it had taken the people of Derry 33 years to get to the truth of the killings because of a government cover-up, he added.
No similar cover-up should be tolerated in the killing of Robert McCartney.
“This killing must not become another long saga of coming and going, of to-ing and fro-ing. Sort it now. Give up the perpetrators. Give justice to the family of Robert McCartney.”
He also called for paramilitary groups on all sides to call it a day.
“Whatever justification they once had for their existence they can have none now,” he added.
On Saturday, the McCartney family gave a partial welcome to the IRA statement announcing that three members had been expelled. However, the family say the statement doesn’t go far enough. Yesterday, Robert’s sister Paul told the rally that his killers should do “the patriotic thing” and hand themselves in.

Killers should do the patriotic thing and come forward

The family of Robert McCartney, the man murdered outside a Belfast bar four weeks ago, yesterday told a rally that his killers should do the “patriotic thing” and hand themselves in.
Members of the McCartney family spoke to a crowd of around 1,000 people in the Short Strand area of the city.
The rally followed a statement on Friday evening by the IRA which said it had expelled three members who had a role in the father-of-two’s murder.
The McCartney family said they welcomed the move, but claimed it didn’t go far enough.
Sinn Féin’s Alex Maskey was among those who applauded the family and urged people to support their campaign.
Paula McCartney said her brother’s killers should do the “patriotic thing” and hand themselves over.
“Despite intimidation and a whispering campaign people have come out to support us from a deep sense of injustice,” she said.
“People are sickened by Robert’s murder. People in the Short Strand have endured RUC brutality and loyalist aggression.
“Many IRA volunteers have gone to jail and died over the years.
“These qualities have been lacking in the men who stabbed Robert. They are not the kind of people the Short Strand regard as one of their own.
“Those responsible should do the patriotic thing and hand themselves over.”
On Saturday, a man who presented himself to the PSNI in relation to the murder was unconditionally released from custody.
Derry-based civil rights activist Eamonn McCann also spoke at the rally.
He said the murder occurred on the anniversary of Bloody Sunday and had been carried out by people who had been in Derry to commemorate the 13 civil rights protesters shot dead on 30 January 1972.
“The biggest insult I could give these people is that they will have stooped to the level of the British army who organised a cover-up of that day.
“We can’t allow another Bloody Sunday to occur in Belfast by people who came not as aliens but from inside our community.
“How dare the people who murdered Robert McCartney march on Bloody Sunday,” he said.
Mr McCann also said that the campaign was not against any one party nor was it divisive.
Mr McCartney’s niece Laura made a tearful appeal for anyone with information to come forward.
She said the family had only photographs and memories to remember her uncle who had been “brutally taken away at the hands of evil people”.
Sinn Féin MLA Alex Maskey was confronted by an uncle of Robert McCartney shortly before the rally got underway.
He told Mr Maskey that those who “butchered” his nephew should be handed over to the PSNI.
Mr Maskey said he fully supported the McCartney family’s campaign.
“The family say they want justice through the courts. I support that.
“I represent people in the community and I will do that to the best of my ability.
“There has been a media onslaught against republicans in the past number of weeks and people will make their own judgments on that.
“I am here to support the McCartney family in their campaign.”
Also among the 1,000 strong crowd was Brendan Devine, a friend of Robert McCartney, who was injured in the same incident outside Magennis’s Bar in Belfast city centre.

Daily Ireland

Sort it now

Former civil rights leader Eamon McCann told a Belfast rally yesterday that the killers of Robert McCartney had brought themselves down to the level of the paratroopers who shot dead 13 people in Derry on Bloody Sunday.

“They carried out another Bloody Sunday in Belfast,” he told several hundred people who had gathered in the Short Strand in support of the McCartney family.

Mr McCann said those who killed the father-of-two outside Magennis’s bar on January 30 had earlier marched in the Bloody Sunday anniversary parade in Derry.

“How dare they march on Bloody Sunday,” he said.

While Bloody Sunday in Derry had been a terrible injustice, the cover-up was equally unjust and it had taken the people of Derry 33 years to get to the truth of the killings because of a government cover-up, he added.

No similar cover-up should be tolerated in the killing of Robert McCartney.

“This killing must not become another long saga of coming and going, of to-ing and fro-ing. Sort it now. Give up the perpetrators. Give justice to the family of Robert McCartney.”

He also called for paramilitary groups on all sides to call it a day.

“Whatever justification they once had for their existence they can have none now,” he added.

On Saturday, the McCartney family gave a partial welcome to the IRA statement announcing that three members had been expelled. However, the family say the statement doesn’t go far enough. Yesterday, Robert’s sister Paul told the rally that his killers should do “the patriotic thing” and hand themselves in.

Killers should do the patriotic thing and come forward

The family of Robert McCartney, the man murdered outside a Belfast bar four weeks ago, yesterday told a rally that his killers should do the “patriotic thing” and hand themselves in.

Members of the McCartney family spoke to a crowd of around 1,000 people in the Short Strand area of the city.

The rally followed a statement on Friday evening by the IRA which said it had expelled three members who had a role in the father-of-two’s murder.

The McCartney family said they welcomed the move, but claimed it didn’t go far enough.

Sinn Féin’s Alex Maskey was among those who applauded the family and urged people to support their campaign.

Paula McCartney said her brother’s killers should do the “patriotic thing” and hand themselves over.

“Despite intimidation and a whispering campaign people have come out to support us from a deep sense of injustice,” she said.

“People are sickened by Robert’s murder. People in the Short Strand have endured RUC brutality and loyalist aggression.

“Many IRA volunteers have gone to jail and died over the years.

“These qualities have been lacking in the men who stabbed Robert. They are not the kind of people the Short Strand regard as one of their own.

“Those responsible should do the patriotic thing and hand themselves over.”

On Saturday, a man who presented himself to the PSNI in relation to the murder was unconditionally released from custody.

Derry-based civil rights activist Eamonn McCann also spoke at the rally.

He said the murder occurred on the anniversary of Bloody Sunday and had been carried out by people who had been in Derry to commemorate the 13 civil rights protesters shot dead on 30 January 1972.

“The biggest insult I could give these people is that they will have stooped to the level of the British army who organised a cover-up of that day.

“We can’t allow another Bloody Sunday to occur in Belfast by people who came not as aliens but from inside our community.

“How dare the people who murdered Robert McCartney march on Bloody Sunday,” he said.

Mr McCann also said that the campaign was not against any one party nor was it divisive.

Mr McCartney’s niece Laura made a tearful appeal for anyone with information to come forward.

She said the family had only photographs and memories to remember her uncle who had been “brutally taken away at the hands of evil people”.

Sinn Féin MLA Alex Maskey was confronted by an uncle of Robert McCartney shortly before the rally got underway.

He told Mr Maskey that those who “butchered” his nephew should be handed over to the PSNI.

Mr Maskey said he fully supported the McCartney family’s campaign.

“The family say they want justice through the courts. I support that.

“I represent people in the community and I will do that to the best of my ability.

“There has been a media onslaught against republicans in the past number of weeks and people will make their own judgments on that.

“I am here to support the McCartney family in their campaign.”

Also among the 1,000 strong crowd was Brendan Devine, a friend of Robert McCartney, who was injured in the same incident outside Magennis’s Bar in Belfast city centre.

BBC

Restorative justice in spotlight


Schemes can see offenders meet victims

Restorative Justice groups from republican areas of Northern Ireland have declined to attend a conference organised by the police.

Loyalist representatives will be among 200 delegates at the international meeting in Belfast on Monday.

Restorative justice can involve perpetrators meeting their victims.

Provisional figures from a NI pilot scheme suggest a quarter of cases which could be prosecuted, could be dealt with through restorative justice.

Chief Inspector Nigel Grimshaw, of the Police Service of Northern Ireland, said restorative justice was about “respect”.

“It is about bringing people together who have been affected by crime and conflict through a process which encourages taking respect and showing respect for other people,” he said.

Inspector Grimshaw said this was no “soft option” for offenders.

“Having to sit down, face to face, potentially, with the victim of your crime and listen to their story and the consequences of your actions is a very emotional and dynamic thing.”

He added that the police had been keen to engage those working in republican areas in the conference.

“Restorative justice is an inclusive process. Those working in restorative justice schemes in republican areas clearly have a stake,” he said.

However, Inspector Grimshaw said an array of speakers had been brought together for the two-day event which, he hoped, would provoke “real thought and debate”.

The provisional figures are from the Public Prosecution Service pilot scheme which is operating in south Belfast, Fermanagh, Tyrone and all youth courts in Belfast.

The chief inspector said that in the Belfast court area, approximately one in four young people were currently undergoing a restorative process in terms of offending behaviour.

On Monday, delegates will explore advances in restorative justice within Northern Ireland and, on Tuesday, the focus will shift to examine community approaches to restorative justice.

BBC

Restorative justice in spotlight



Schemes can see offenders meet victims

Restorative Justice groups from republican areas of Northern Ireland have declined to attend a conference organised by the police.

Loyalist representatives will be among 200 delegates at the international meeting in Belfast on Monday.

Restorative justice can involve perpetrators meeting their victims.

Provisional figures from a NI pilot scheme suggest a quarter of cases which could be prosecuted, could be dealt with through restorative justice.

Chief Inspector Nigel Grimshaw, of the Police Service of Northern Ireland, said restorative justice was about “respect”.

“It is about bringing people together who have been affected by crime and conflict through a process which encourages taking respect and showing respect for other people,” he said.

Inspector Grimshaw said this was no “soft option” for offenders.

“Having to sit down, face to face, potentially, with the victim of your crime and listen to their story and the consequences of your actions is a very emotional and dynamic thing.”

He added that the police had been keen to engage those working in republican areas in the conference.

“Restorative justice is an inclusive process. Those working in restorative justice schemes in republican areas clearly have a stake,” he said.

However, Inspector Grimshaw said an array of speakers had been brought together for the two-day event which, he hoped, would provoke “real thought and debate”.

The provisional figures are from the Public Prosecution Service pilot scheme which is operating in south Belfast, Fermanagh, Tyrone and all youth courts in Belfast.

The chief inspector said that in the Belfast court area, approximately one in four young people were currently undergoing a restorative process in terms of offending behaviour.

On Monday, delegates will explore advances in restorative justice within Northern Ireland and, on Tuesday, the focus will shift to examine community approaches to restorative justice.

BreakingNews.ie

One third believe health service has worsened under Harney

28/02/2005 – 09:25:53

Almost one third of voters believe the health service has deteriorated since Mary Harney took over as Health Minister five months ago, according to an opinion poll published this morning.

Thirty-one per cent of respondents to the Irish Independent poll said they believed the service had worsened under Ms Harney, while just 14% said they believed it had improved.

A further 49% said they believed the health service had remained the same, despite the abolition of Ireland’s health boards and the establishment of the Health Service Executive.

BreakingNews.ie

One third believe health service has worsened under Harney

28/02/2005 – 09:25:53

Almost one third of voters believe the health service has deteriorated since Mary Harney took over as Health Minister five months ago, according to an opinion poll published this morning.

Thirty-one per cent of respondents to the Irish Independent poll said they believed the service had worsened under Ms Harney, while just 14% said they believed it had improved.

A further 49% said they believed the health service had remained the same, despite the abolition of Ireland’s health boards and the establishment of the Health Service Executive.

Bobby Sands mural photo
Ní neart go cur le chéile

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