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BBC

Agency freezes £200,000 of assets

The Assets Recovery Agency has been given permission to freeze about £200,000 of assets belonging to a County Antrim couple.

The assets, including two houses, over 20 bank accounts and a boat, were held by David Winston Hill and Pauline Hill of Woodland Place in Newtownabbey.

The agency told the High Court in Belfast that Mr Hill is believed to have links with the UDA.

It also contends he received income from unlawful conduct.

Mr Hill was convicted of blackmail in October 2003 and is currently serving a 42 month sentence.

The court heard that it was not alleged that his wife had committed any acquisitive crime, but that she held some of the assets derived from the proceeds of crime.

The agency began its investigation after the case was referred to them by the police in 2004.

Speaking after the judgement, Assets Recovery Agency Assistant Director Alan McQuillan said the seizure was a “very positive development”.

“The agency is currently working with the police and customs to target all levels of criminality, including significant criminal figures in local communities,” he said.

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Irish Independent

Why loyalists decided ‘Doris’ has had his day

31 March 2005

YESTERDAY’S announcement by the UDA that it has sacked its East Belfast Brigadier Jim Gray comes as no surprise – it was always a question of when, not if.

The forty-three-year-old nicknamed ‘Doris Day’ by the tabloid press had become an embarrassment to the largest of the loyalist paramilitary organisations.

Regarded as the ‘figurehead’ rather than the actual power within the East Belfast UDA the BMW driving Gray gave every appearance of the archetypical cash splashing, jewellery dripping loyalist paramilitary.

Yesterday morning his peers on the UDA’s ruling Inner Council decided Gray would pay the price for media profile his exploits generated.

Until recently a pub owner in East Belfast the streak haired medallion man was shot by a rival Loyalist organisation in September 2002 as he paid a sympathy call to the home of a murder victim who the UDA was initially suspected of shooting. He survived after surgery.

The move against Gray by the UDA’s five other Brigadiers was known only to a few before it was announced via the media yesterday morning so the full details of why the six foot plus blonde bombshell and three other senior members of the East Belfast leadership were dethroned have yet to emerge.

A suggestion that Gray was perceived as ‘too pacifist’, allowing other loyalist organisations in East Belfast to seize the initiative in certain parts of his fiefdom was circulated by his opponents as the reason for his removal. In the last couple of weeks loyalist sources say that the Loyalist Volunteer Force element behind Gray’s shooting in 2002 has been flexing its muscles in the area.

Gray may have cut just too ridiculous a figure for the rest of the UDA’s controlling Inner Council to have placed enough store in his ability to counter the challenge to the organisation in the east of the city.

That physical threat from the LVF in East Belfast may have become the main cause of concern within the rest of the UDA leadership and may indeed herald the beginning of a new round of loyalist infighting in the weeks to come.

Already two main feuds have erupted between the UDA, UVF and LVF factions since the Good Friday Agreement was signed in 1998 and additional minor skirmishes between one or two individuals from different organisations continue every week in loyalist areas of the North without making the headlines.

But the release from prison two months ago of Johnny Adair the former commander of the UFF’s notorious C Company in the Lower Shankill has added an element of potency which can’t be ignored even if Adair is currently confined to the environs of Greater Manchester for safety reasons.

Adair has undiminished ambitions to return to the Shankill to regain his turf and in the process rout those in the UDA who forced the departure of his henchmen and his wife Gina clutching the €100,000 nest-egg Johnny left at her disposal.

There are rumblings of aggravation within other loyalist areas where the UDA has strength particularly in North Belfast where the police warned Gray’s counterpart that republicans are closely studying his movements.

The consequence overall could be further upheaval within loyalist areas in the coming weeks with Gray’s departure the prelude to a tougher stance coming from the direction of the UDA.

Alan Murray
in Belfast

Irelandclick.com

New Marathon course decided –
West Belfast is back in the Belfast City Marathon – and that’s official!

The Andersonstown News campaign to have the West reinstated in this year’s Marathon paid dividends on Friday when the Marathon Committee met with local community representatives. At the meeting it was agreed that the May Day race would be ‘tweaked’ so as to bring West Belfast back into the race.

It followed an Andersonstown News campaign after this paper first revealed earlier this month that the Falls and Andersonstown Roads had been excluded from the race for the first time in 23 years.

Following our exclusive story hundreds of people signed a petition calling on the route of the race to be redrawn.

And yesterday, after a further meeting with the Marathon Committee, Upper Falls Sinn Féin councillor Paul Maskey finally secured a new route for this year’s Marathon.

“The race will be coming up the Grosvenor Road and will turn right at the Dunville Park and down the Falls to the city centre,” said a jubilant Councillor Maskey.

“This is a victory for people power. We’ve been inundated with support since this story first broke and now the Marathon Committee have agreed that West Belfast should not have been left out of the race in the first place.”

The Sinn Féin councillor also revealed that local representatives will meet with the Marathon Committee in August to draw up a new route for next year’s Marathon.

“What we would like to do now is to get the local community groups together and to organise a big event in Dunville Park around the day of the Marathon.
“It will be a day for the whole family to come out and enjoy,” he said.

Last night West Belfast MLA Alex Attwood welcomed the route change to the Belfast Marathon and said: “It is an important first step in undoing the decision of this year and we would encourage the Committee to include more of West Belfast in future years.”

Although the Andersonstown News has learned that Cllr Attwood is a member of the Belfast Marathon Company Limited, he said that he has never attended any of the meetings or received notification of meetings.

Journalist:: Staff Reporter

Irelandclick.com

Cllr welcomes gun find decision by Ombudsman

A Lisburn councillor has welcomed the ruling of the Police Ombudsman in relation to a gun find at his party’s offices on the Stewartstown Road, writes Pádraig ó Meiscill.

On October 13, 2004 the PSNI discovered an imitation Walther pistol and 20 rounds of live ammunition in a planned search at the rear of a garage close to the Sinn Féin constituency office. Cllr Paul Butler is one of the councillors who uses the office on a regular basis.

Despite the proximity of the constituency office and the fact that Butler and his home have suffered frequent attacks in recent years the PSNI did not inform him of the find.

However, it was only after being contacted by the Andersonstown News that the PSNI admitted finding the gun and ammunition.

In a letter to Mr Butler the Ombudsman’s office recognised that notification of the find should have been given.

The letter went on to say: “It is the view of the Police Ombudsman that where live ammunition is found in close proximity to the offices of a constituted political party it would have been in the public interest to advise you accordingly.

“In the circumstances the Police Ombudsman considers that it was appropriate that you complained about this matter and regards your complaint as substantiated.”

The Ombudsman also stated that further enquiries were being conducted to establish the “operational reasons” why Councillor Butler was not informed.
Responding to the letter the Lisburn councillor said that the findings upheld his concerns about “the way the PSNI tried to cover up the raid.”

Councillor Butler continued: “I am also very concerned that the PSNI say they did not say anything about this find for operational reasons. What are these operational reasons?

“The full facts about this find of a gun and ammunition should be made public.
“This gun was found near our offices, I and other Sinn Féin elected representatives use this office on a regular basis. It is grave concern to us that we found out by accident that this gun and also live ammunition was found so close to our offices.”

Sinn Féin councillors in the Lagan Valley area have been a frequent target for loyalist paramilitaries in the past.

Gunmen attacked former elected representative Annie Armstrong’s home during her term of office while Councillor Butler himself has been sent death threats and bullets in the post.

Journalist:: Staff Reporter

Irelandclick.com

We’re no dumping hole

As minister green-lights superdumps, furious residents prepare to take battle to Europe

Residents ‘devastated’ by minister’s decision to ok controversial dumps

Members of the Castlerobin Residents’ Group have vowed to bring their ‘Stop the Dumps’ campaign to Europe, following news that two massive landfill sites at Mullaghglass and Aughrim have been given the green light by Minister for the Environment, Angela Smith.

Residents say they are “devastated” by the decision to locate the two ‘superdumps’ in their communities.

They have also demanded a public inquiry into the legality of dumping millions of tonnes of rubbish in such close proximity to a residential area, and warned of roadblock protests when the sites become active.

Local woman Margaret McCroskery explained that residents believe their human and civil rights are being breached, and said the group plan to take their case to Northern Ireland Children’s Commissioner, Nigel Williams.

“We’ve been told of the impact that one superdump would have on our lives in terms of health threats and traffic,” said Margaret. “That was bad enough – one lorry every six minutes carrying tonnes of waste. We can’t even begin to think about the impact that two of these landfill sites will have.”

Margaret added that feelings of hurt and anger are running very deep amongst the local community: “To say we’re furious would be a gross understatement,” she said.

“Those contracted to deliver the waste stand to make a huge amount of money, but it’s our health that’s potentially at stake.

“There are so many good people here who have lived together in this mixed community for years and years.

“None of us deserve this attack on our wellbeing. Thankfully we’ve had the full backing of Lisburn City Council. We just hope that they can still help us.”
Speaking to the Andersonstown News about the decision, Sinn Féin Councillor Paul Butler said, “The reality is that these landfill sites will become a superdump nightmare for local people in the area who will see the burial of millions of tonnes of rubbish over the next 15 years.

“Angela Smith has been panicked into making her decision given the pressure her department have been under in recent times to come up with a credible waste management strategy. The reality is that her department’s response to managing waste has been patchy and slow.”

Cllr Butler went on to say that a recent report by the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee shows clearly that the DoE have lost their way over waste management.

“If the North of Ireland doesn’t meet its waste management targets set by Europe by 2010, it could face financial penalties in the order of £180 million per annum.”

Echoing Cllr Butler’s sentiment, Lagan Valley MLA Jeffrey Donaldson expressed his disappointment yesterday.

“Naturally I was saddened to learn that the Minister granted approval for the site,” he said.

“Regrettably, though, it seems there is very little that the local community can do to have the decision overturned at this stage, except perhaps challenge it on the basis of infringement of human rights.

“The decision Angela Smith has taken could potentially harm the local environment, and this is chief amongst my concerns.”

Mr Donaldson added that he would be making it his business to express to Ms Smith his grave concern about the decision.

Describing the decision as underhanded, SDLP Cllr Patricia Lewsley added her regrets and said, “This decision was taken in a cynical and underhand fashion. While no one can deny that we need to have a high quality and efficient waste management system, is the answer simply opening three further landfill sites in the Greater Belfast area?”

Although many of the local residents live in new houses which have only received planning permission in recent years, Margaret McCroskery said she did not believe they would move away on a grand scale.

“This is our home,” she said. “It’s where many of us grew up, where our families are and our friends.

“Where else would we go? We love where we live.
“We just don’t want to see it destroyed.”

Journalist:: Staff Reporter

Belfast Telegraph

UVF blamed for McCord death threat

By David Gordon
30 March 2005

A father campaigning to expose his son’s UVF killers today revealed that he has been warned of another threat to his life.

Raymond McCord was ironically warned of the plot last night after visiting the family of Robert McCartney, the Short Strand man stabbed to death by republicans.

He said he was visited by police at his home and told that “individuals” in north Belfast are planning an attack on him.

“I have no doubt UVF members are behind this. I have had about 12 other threat warnings.

“I had just met with the McCartney family at their home to discuss their case and voice my support for their campaign for justice,” he said.

“They are fighting the same battle as I am – against paramilitaries.”

Mr McCord’s 22-year-old son Raymond was beaten to death by a UVF gang in 1997.

He has alleged that the murder was carried out on the orders of a high-level police informer.

Police Ombudsman Nuala O’Loan is conducting a major probe into his claims and is due to publish her findings later this year.

Mr McCord today issued a defiant message to those behind the latest threat.

“They are not going to stop the truth coming out. Mrs O’Loan’s report is going to be published and I believe it will vindicate what I have been saying.”

Mr McCord also challenged the PUP, the UVF’s political wing, about the threat.

PUP leader David Ervine, who is out of the country at present, today said: “Raymond McCord is the most written-about parent in the world, in a country where over 3,500 people died.

“I just can’t see the logic or the rationale why the UVF would want to do anything to Raymond McCord.

“This situation has been going on for a very, very long time.”

Belfast Telegraph

Cynicism over UDA move

By David Gordon
dgordon@belfasttelegraph.co.uk
31 March 2005

Secretary of State Paul Murphy granted the UDA’s ceasefire official recognition again last November in a move that was met with a large degree of scepticism.

A great many people remain highly cynical about the organisation’s intentions.

They will see yesterday’s “under new management” announcement in east Belfast as nothing more than a cynical public relations exercise.

A more benign view is that the UDA leadership had to begin somewhere if it was serious about clamping down on drugs and general criminality in its ranks.

And east Belfast was not a bad place to start.

The UDA in that part of the city has been associated for years with allegations that it was up to its neck in dealing cocaine and other illegal drugs. Some of them were up to their noses in cocaine too, breaking the old gangster rule: “Don’t get high on your own supply.”

A source close to the loyalist organisation last night claimed the east Belfast changes showed those seeking a new direction were “winning”.

“The days of sorting these things out with hundreds of men on the streets are over,” he claimed.

However, the best the UDA can probably hope for from most observers at this stage is a “wait and see” approach.

The early signs are that the leadership change in east Belfast may not provoke a fresh round of major infighting. But there have been rumbling rumours of possible coup attempts in other areas.

More instability within the UDA would shorten the odds on yet another feud.

Belfast Telegraph

Brigadier ‘toppled by a revolt from within’

By David Gordon
dgordon@belfasttelegraph.co.uk
31 March 2005

The ousting of UDA chief Jim Gray will not trigger a fresh shooting war on Belfast’s streets, senior loyalist sources have predicted.

It was also claimed that Gray was toppled as a result of a revolt from within his heartland in the city.

The 43-year-old’s east Belfast UDA faction has long been accused of involvement in the illegal drugs trade and other Mafia-style crimes.

He lived the life of a modern-day godfather, sporting flamboyant clothes and a permanent tan, dining in top restaurants and regular overseas holidays.

He was stood down as east Belfast brigadier by the UDA’s Inner Council leadership yesterday.

One well-placed loyalist source said there was no possibility of the shake-up leading to another protracted loyalist power struggle.

“Jim Gray has no support base. He has been forced out because of a revolt by his own men in east Belfast,” he said.

The source said Gray failed to attend a high level meeting yesterday morning to answer allegations against him by UDA members.

“He had returned early from a holiday in Spain to try to rally support but did not succeed.”

Other sources also played down the prospect of fresh feuding, but said the full picture would emerge over the next few days and nights.

The possibility of isolated incidents involving individuals linked to the axed east Belfast leadership was not being entirely ruled out.

The UDA’s brief statement on Gray’s departure said: “As from 12.30pm March 30, 2005, the Ulster Defence Association has stood down the current leadership of the East Belfast UDA until further notice.

“To dispel any confusion, East Belfast UDA are now under the direct command of the Inner Council.”

The UDA’s move against him is being described by loyalist sources as an attempt to clean up its act.

Gray survived a murder bid by the LVF two and a half years ago. The gun attack sparked months of murderous feuding within loyalism, culminating in the kill- ing of UDA brigadier John ‘Grug’ Gregg and expulsion of Johnny Adair supporters from their Shankill Road strong- hold.

A UDA source last night said a small number of Gray’s allies have also been pushed out. The ousted faction is believed to include a close associate of the “briga- dier”, who was widely regarded as the real power behind the UDA in east Belfast.

There has been speculation about Gray’s position, following claims of a fresh crime spree by some UDA members, supposedly under his command.

Sinn Féin

Sinn Féin calls for NO vote on EU Constitution

Published: 31 March, 2005

Speaking today Sinn Féin Chairperson Mary Lou McDonald MEP called on Irish voters to reject the proposed EU Constitution in forthcoming referenda in 2005 and 2006. She said that the debate was not between ‘pro and anti Europeans’ but between ‘different visions for the future of the EU.’ Ms McDonald said:

“The debate on the EU Constitution is not between pro and anti Europeans. It is a debate over different visions for the future of the EU.

“Sinn Féin wants to see an EU that promotes sustainable growth, environmental projection, social and economic equality, human rights and global justice. Since last years EU elections Sinn Féin has been to the forefront of the ongoing campaigns for an alternative vision of the EU which is democratic, accountable and which operates in the interests of ordinary people.

“We have carefully studied the text of the proposed Constitution and have found it wanting on many grounds. It deepens the democratic deficit, further concentrating power in the hands of the few at the expense of national parliaments and ordinary people. It undermines neutrality, and seeks to transform the EU into a global superpower, with its own Foreign Minister, army and armanents agency. It copperfastens the right wing economic agenda which has dominated EU policy for over a decade and seeks to extend such policies to public services and international trade agreements, undermining welfare provision and global justice priorities.

“It offers no new or meaningful social or human rights protections to citizens of member states, yet significantly increases the power and scope for undemocratic bodies such as the EU Commission and Council, in crucial areas of policy such as International Relations, defence, criminal justice, trade, and the internal market.

“The proposed EU Constitution is not in the interests of Irish people. It is not in the interests of any member state. Indeed the Constitution is not in the interests of the EU itself.

“On this basis Sinn Féin will be vigorously opposing the Constitution in the two referenda which will take place in Ireland in 2005 and 2006. We urge all sections of public opinion, particularly those in trade unions, community organisations, human rights groups as well as supporters of other political parties to join with us in opposing this Constitution.”ENDS

Belfast Telegraph

Adair taunts ex-comrades
Gray’s downfall is ‘long overdue’.

By David Gordon
dgordon@belfasttelegraph.co.uk
31 March 2005

Johnny Adair has taunted his UDA foes from across the Irish Sea, claiming the ousting of leading figure Jim Gray showed the organisation was “crumbling”.

Adair’s enmity with the east Belfast “brigadier” was one of the factors that led to the vicious UDA power struggle of recent years.

He told the Belfast Telegraph that the fall of Gray was “long overdue”.

“It’s no big surprise to me. It was just a matter of time before it happened to that man. It should have happened a long time ago.

“He’s nothing but a Scarlet Pimpernel who shed bad light on the UDA for many years,” he said.

Adair, the former head of the UDA in west Belfast, was freed from Maghaberry Prison in January.

He was flown by military helicopter to England to team up with his family and closest allies in their Bolton bolthole.

Adair’s C Company faction was forced out of its Shankill heartland after it murdered the UDA’s south east Antrim chief John Gregg in 2003.

He recently made a brief visit to Northern Ireland, defying a UDA death threat.

Adair has continued to lambast his former UDA “comrades”.

He said: “It’s a crumbling organisation that’s riddled with police informers, drug dealers, rapists and pimps.

“It’s in crisis. It’s just a criminal gang masquerading as loyalists.”

The exiled loyalist also claimed he was back in the province again just last weekend.

“I’ll continue to go home on a regular basis. It’s my intention to go home and live there for good, but Rome was not built in a week,” he said.

Adair’s C Company faction was also accused of extensive involvement in drugs and other crimes.

But he said: “I was never sent to prison for extortion or drugs. Look at my secret file and look at their secret files. That’s all I have to say.”

Adair’s teenage son Jonathan and other Shankill exiles were netted in an anti-drugs operation by Bolton police last year.

The ousting of Gray has led to fresh calls for the entire UDA to stand down.

East Belfast Alliance Assembly member Naomi Long said: “Like the IRA, the UDA serves no purpose other than to terrorise communities and engage in criminal activity.

“East Belfast has had enough of paramilitarism. It’s not just Gray – the UDA must go away.”

SDLP Assemblyman Alex Attwood said: “As recent events around the IRA prove, actions taken against one or a handful of members don’t add up to much.

“The UDA, the IRA and the others need to do what the community really wants.”

RTE News

Protest could disrupt ATM services

31 March 2005 12:37

SIPTU has warned that cash deliveries and ATM services could be disrupted because of a protest by cash-in-transit security staff.

Branch Secretary Kevin McMahon said that the 600 staff working in the industry were angry that their fears over health and safety were being minimised in the aftermath of yesterday’s €2.4 million bank robbery in Dublin.

Mr McMahon said that members plan to hold a meeting on Friday 8 April at Liberty Hall in Dublin to discuss their health and safety concerns.

If significant numbers of staff from security firms attend the meeting, cash deliveries could be disrupted, as would ATM services on the weekend of 9 and 10 April.

Meanwhile, the Minister for Justice, Michael McDowell, and the Garda Commissioner, Noel Conroy, are to meet representatives of banks and the security industry today.

They will discuss the latest security lapse following yesterday’s security van raid.

Mr McDowell has threatened to ask the Private Security Authority to review the licences of security companies authorised to deliver cash to banks and ATM machines, in the wake of a series of multi-million euro robberies.

Yesterday’s incident in Artane, north Dublin is the latest in a series of cash-in-transit raids which has not only yielded millions for armed gangs but also threatened the lives of security staff and the general public.

It is thought Mr McDowell and Mr Conroy will today ask why cash delivery companies such as Securicor and Brinks Allied have not introduced state of the art systems to deter criminals – such as electronic alarms and dyes which discolour money when cash boxes are opened by unauthorised personnel.

Brinks Allied announced the introduction of such precautions along with new vans last summer.

However, none of those measures were in place when one of its older model vehicles was held up yesterday morning after the crew stopped at a service station for coffee.

Neither Brinks Allied, or the Irish Security Industry Association – the umbrella organisation representing cash in transit companies – were available to comment on the latest raid.

BreakingNews.ie

Campaigners vow legal action if Roche approves Tara plans

31/03/2005 – 09:17:19

The Save Tara-Skryne Valley group has vowed to take legal action if Environment Minister Dick Roche approves the planned route of the controversial M3 motorway in Co Meath.

Reports this morning said Mr Roche was planning to allow the road to run through the valley and past the Hill of Tara, the ancient seat of the High Kings of Ireland.

The move comes despite opposition to the route of the motorway from the director of the National Museum and hundreds of archaeologists and academics worldwide.

Asked about the minsiter’s plans today, Dr Muireann Ni Bhrolchain, a spokesperson for the Save Tara-Skryne Valley campaign, said they would take court action in Ireland and Europe if necessary.

She said alternative routes were available for the M3 and, even then, the road would not solve traffic problems for commuters in Co Meath, but would simply speed up their journey to the congested M50 in Dublin.

BBC

Council reverse marathon decision


Over 11,000 runners are expected to take part in this year’s race

Belfast City Council has reversed a decision to exclude west Belfast from the route of this year’s marathon.

In February, race organisers were criticised when a new route included parts of North Down and Newtownabbey, but left out the west of the city.

However, the Grosvenor Road and parts of the Lower Falls have now been included in the race.

The decision was made following a meeting between the city’s marathon committee and local representatives.

Committee chairman Danny O’Connor said he hoped the new course would attract a greater Northern Ireland audience to the race.

Community

“By tweaking the route for 2005 we have now included all areas of the city and we think this is a compromise which allows the marathon to move forward as an international race and still maintain support as a community event,” he said.

West Belfast Sinn Fein councillor Paul Maskey said it was important that every community in the city was involved in the event.

“The committee have also agreed to involve themselves in a proper process of consultation with interested parties before deciding on the route of next year’s marathon,” he said.

Over 11,000 runners are expected to take part in this year’s event which is being held on 2 May.

BreakingNews.ie

Judge’s statement gives Colombia Three new hope

30/03/2005 – 20:53:25

Lawyers for three republicans convicted of providing terrorist training to Colombian guerrillas expressed hope today that the verdict would be overturned after a member of the three-judge panel said questioned the evidence that was allowed in court.

Judge Jorge Enrique Torres, in his signed dissenting opinion, said much of the evidence used to convict James Monaghan, Niall Connolly and Martin McCauley – whose whereabouts are now unknown – was “questionable”.

Torres was on the three-judge panel that convicted the trio in December and sentenced them to 17 years in a Colombian prison, overturning an earlier acquittal on the terrorism-related charges.

Torres’s statement shows he differed sharply with the other two judges on the panel who voted to convict the trio.

The defence lawyers, who presented Torres’ statement at a press conference in Bogota today after it was released by the court, said they would use it to reinforce their appeal made in February to Colombia’s Supreme Court.

“I was overwhelmed by the countless amount of technical evidence used in this case that was questionable,” Torres wrote.

Pedro Mahecha, one of the defence lawyers, claimed the dissenting judge’s arguments indicated the other two judges convicted the trio due to pressures from Colombian politicians and military officials.

“Torres clearly points out that there was no certainty of guilt in the case,” Mahecha said. “The ruling was completely politicised.”

After their initial acquittal in June, the trio walked out of a Bogota prison and were ordered to remain in Colombia pending the government’s appeal of the acquittal. But they have not been heard from since.

Jorge Noguera, head of Colombia’s secret police DAS, said today he was sure the men had fled the country.

The trio, who have been blamed for an IRA plot, were arrested at Bogota’s airport in August 2001 after leaving a stronghold of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or Farc, deep in Colombia’s southern jungles. Authorities accused them of teaching Farc rebels how to make bombs and mortars.

Monaghan, McCauley and Connolly said they were innocent and were in Colombia to observe the government’s peace talks with the Farc, which collapsed six months after their arrest.

The Farc has been waging a 40-year-old struggle to topple the government in a conflict that kills more than 3,000 people every year.

BBC

Maze site ‘approved’ for stadium


How the Maze site could look under the new proposals

The former Maze prison site in County Antrim is the only viable location for a new £55m sports stadium in Northern Ireland, the government has decided.

Finance Minister Ian Pearson has said he intends to put the design of the 365-acre site out to tender.

The two other shortlisted sites for the multi-sport stadium were the Titanic Quarter and the North Foreshore of Belfast Lough.

However, both proposals were deemed to be too expensive.

Last month, the cross-party Maze Consultation Panel agreed unanimous recommendations for the development of the site.

Investment

As well as a 30,000 seat arena for soccer, rugby and GAA, the panel passed proposals for an International Centre for Conflict Transformation, a zone for industrial development, an arts centre and an international equestrian centre.

The panel believes the development could lead to £1bn of public and private investment.

In his first detailed response to the panel’s report, Mr Pearson has asked for tenders from teams of designers, developers and planners. He wants proposals for the site to be handed in by the autumn.

“These projects will potentially be of transforming benefit to the community, but they will also require a major investment of taxpayers’ money,” he said.

“We therefore have to ensure value for money, and also encourage the private sector to invest significantly in the rest of the site.”

The minister has also confirmed talks are under way with the Royal Ulster Agricultural Society about a possible move from their current base in south Belfast to the new site.

Daily Ireland

Photographic evidence confirms sewage flow from army spy posts

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The British army is letting raw sewage flow openly from its heavily fortified spy posts on hilltops across south Armagh.

Daily Ireland can exclusively reveal, with photographic evidence, that sewage is running from the posts, which were supposed to have been taken down under the terms of the 1998 Good Friday Agreement.
An army spokesman denied claims made by the South Armagh Demilitarisation Committee that raw sewage was flowing from the army installations when he spoke to Daily Ireland last week.
“The SADC’s claim that raw sewage runs from the hilltop sites is complete nonsense and has no basis in fact,” he said.
“Raw sewage is flown out of the sites. The residue is treated on site and emitted as a clear harmless liquid through an outflow pipe.”
A war of words has erupted between residents in south Armagh and the British army over the issue.
Brian Finnegan, public relations officer with the South Armagh Demilitarisation Committee, said yesterday: “The SADC have made photographs available to Daily Ireland that have been taken by demilitarisation activists over the last few months.
“One of these photos shows an open sewage pit inside the perimeter of a spy post.
“The British army go on to claim that residue is treated on site and emitted as a ‘clear harmless liquid’. The committee have also made available a number of photographs taken by environmentalists which show a wide strip of bright green grass running down the hillside below a number of spy posts,” he added.
“The natural plant life, predominantly heather, is not in evidence. Close-up photos reveal a putrid sludge below unnatural grass. Pipes emerging from the posts are seen to be emitting anything but a harmless liquid.”
Public representatives in the region are also worried about the sewage flowing from the spy posts.
“It’s a disgrace that it has been happening for years and years and nobody does anything about it,” said local Sinn Féin councillor Terry Hearty.
“If you go to south Armagh and have a look at the mountains, you can see green strips of grass running down the mountain and that is where grass has grown on the sewage.
“This sewage runs into the local rivers and streams and even into our domestic water supply.”
He added: “I even know of some local farmers who have stopped allowing their livestock to drink out of local streams as they are so polluted.”
The British army also told Daily Ireland that emissions from surveillance equipment in its fortresses were not responsible for the alarming increase in cancer in the area.
The South Armagh Demilitarisation Committee has angrily rejected these claims. The row between residents and the British army is set to continue.

Daily Ireland

Attacks under fire

A British government campaign to reduce violent attacks on the North’s firefighters has backfired and made the situation much worse, the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) has claimed.
Firefighters’ morale has now plummetted because they expect to be attacked on every call after months of increasingly violent incidents, according to FBU spokesman Jim Barbour.
The latest violent attack on firefighters took place on Monday night during a call-out in Co Tyrone. Firefighters were extinguishing a chimney fire at Windmill Hill in Dungannon when they were attacked by a gang of teenagers throwing stones.
No one was injured but local station officer Davy Laurence warned that a firefighter could easily have been killed.
He said: “There were two crew members on the roof of the building. If they had slipped because of the stones thrown at them they could have been seriously injured.”
Within the past four years there have been 1,500 attacks on the emergency services in the North of Ireland. The majority of these attacks have been directed at firefighters. Sixty four calls ‘for assistance at civil disturbance attacks’ were also made to Fire Brigade headquarters in Co Antrim during a three week period earlier this month.
The British government has already spent £600,000 on a media advertising campaign to try and stop the attacks. However, this campaign has been slammed as a “waste of time and money” by the FBU’s Jim Rodgers.
“The campaign was ill-advised and all it has done is to inspire copycat attacks. The situation is getting worse but the government seems to be waiting on a tragedy to happen before it will begin to take these attacks seriously,” he said.
“Firefighters are seething because they believe they are going to be attacked on every call, yet no one seems to interested in doing something about it.”
Last week, the North’s Health and Public Safety Minister, Angela Smyth, rejected claims that the number of attacks on firefighters were being played down by the British government.
However, Mr Rodgers is accusing the minister of taking a “sticky plaster” approach to the situation.
“Firefighters on the ground are on the receiving end of these attacks but the minister isn’t bothered about doing anything about it. Her sticky plaster approach to the problem has failed because the plaster keeps coming off.”
Mr Barbour is demanding the introduction of more cross-community interaction schemes to educate young people on the dangers of attacking firefighters.
“We have always believed that this is the best way forward because people don’t need a media campaign to tell them these attacks are wrong,” he said. “We have had cross-community events in Belfast and Derry in recent weeks where firefighters interact with young people. This has proved to be extremely successful and is an example of the sort of thing that should be implemented.”

Daily Ireland

Sectarian attack on north Belfast Catholic

A sectarian attack which left a Catholic man hospitalised in north Belfast has been condemned by unionist and nationalist politicians.
Martin McAllister (24) said he thought he would be killed during a violent sectarian assault outside his Belfast apartment on Easter Monday night.
He was attacked from behind by three men who kicked and punched him to the ground and also stole his mobile phone and money.
He was later treated in the Mater Hospital.
The victim had been returning to his home on Clifton Park Avenue, a sectarian interface in the north of the city, when the gang, who were waiting for him, attacked him.
“I thought they were going to murder me last night. I’m in pure agony,” he said.
Mr McAllister said he was too afraid to return home and will try to find new accommodation.
SDLP MLA for north Belfast, Alban Maginness, said it was a horrific attack and said he is worried at the increase in sectarian attacks in the area.
“It is an appalling incident but the fact that it was sectarian adds to the horrific nature of this attack.
“I sincerely hope that this is not the beginning of further sectarian attacks in this area.
“I would appeal to people to use common sense and to warn people against being involved in this type of incident which, in the end of the day, damages us all,” he said.
“I hope this is not a prelude to attacks on Catholics in north Belfast.”
The DUP’s north Belfast MLA Nelson McCausland said that anyone with information should go to the PSNI.
“I deplore this attack, we have far too many instances of this sort of assault.
“I would urge anyone with information about it to go to the police so that the culprits can be apprehended.”
However Mr McCausland said it would be wrong to link the attack with recent sectarian incidents in the north Belfast area.
Last week a Catholic schoolgirl was beaten up on the Whitewell Road in north Belfast as she walked towards her home on the Throne Estate with her mother.
An Easter parade was also attacked by loyalists on the Whitewell Road last Saturday evening.

Random Ramblings from a Republican

The Death of Airey Neave

breakingnews.ie

One-third of jailed juveniles in North re-offend within year

30/03/2005 – 13:43:12

A significant proportion of juveniles imprisoned in the North re-offend within a year, according to a report published today by the British government.

The Northern Ireland Office report said more than one-third of 10 to 16-year-olds committed further crimes within a year of being released.

Political parties said it showed that the criminal justice system in the North was failing to tackle juvenile crime.

Bobby Sands mural photo
Ní neart go cur le chéile

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