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Jonathan Stewart was shot at a house in Manor Street, Belfast
An associate of Johnny Adair has been cleared of murdering a man at a party in north Belfast during a loyalist feud more than two years ago.
Wayne Dowie, 25, formerly of Manor Street, Belfast, was found not guilty of murdering Jonathan Stewart, 22.
When the verdict was given there was uproar in the public gallery as members of Mr Stewart’s family and friends tried to attack Mr Dowie in the dock.
The judge described the murder as a “calculated execution”.
Mr Dowie had always denied the murder during the bloody feud between the mainstream UDA and Adair’s breakaway ‘C’ Company.
On Thursday, Mr Justice McLaughlin said the UDA feud which claimed his life had involved two factions who both demonstrated murderous ruthlessness.
However, the judge told the Belfast court that the prosecution evidence was so weak that he could place no reliable foundation upon it.
He found Wayne Dowie not guilty and told him he was free to leave.
There was immediate uproar in the public gallery as Jonathan Stewart’s family and friends attempted to break into the reinforced glass dock, shouting abuse and threats at Mr Dowie, who was ushered away by security officers.
There were further angry scenes in the street outside the Laganside court complex, and the police were called.
Mr Stewart’s brother Jake and sister Lilian told the BBC that the family was devastated at the verdict, and they feared that it may re-ignite the feud within the UDA.
The murder was linked to a feud between elements of the UDA although Mr Stewart was not a member of any paramilitary organisation.
The closure of some rural police stations has been agreed
The Policing Board has approved some of the chief constable’s planned closures of rural police stations, but postponed a decision on others.
A list of 17 PSNI stations was sent to the board by Hugh Orde for debate on Thursday.
While the board agreed to close nine stations, a decision on others in Fermanagh was deferred so consultation can take place over coming months.
The PSNI said it remained committed to Orde’s recommendations.
Ulster Unionist Policing Board member Fred Cobain welcomed the decision to hold more consultation over the Fermanagh stations.
“This proposal ensures that police go back to the district policing partnerships and to elected representatives in the areas affected and engage in extensive consultations,” Mr Cobain said.
“The community must be reassured about the direction of future policing strategy. I am pleased that this process will soon be underway.”
Earlier, the proposal to close all 17 stations was defended by Security minister Shaun Woodward.
The plan had come under fire from a number of unionist politicians.
But Mr Woodward said no station was closed without extensive consultation. “We always do consultation on all of those that have been closed,” he said.
“Of course, you are going to find people who will say: ‘I don’t care what’s coming in its place, I don’t care what services the police are putting in its place, I don’t want that station at the end of my road to close’.
“He (Hugh Orde) is charged with the job of putting out there an efficient policing service and that’s why some have to close and new ones have to open.”
DUP assembly member Arlene Foster said the move would have a detrimental effect on policing in Fermanagh.
“I’m concerned about response times,” she said.
“I’m concerned about the fact that Fermanagh is a very rural community and they need policemen on the ground at those stations and especially along the border,” she said.
Shaun Woodward said resources had to be managed in the best way
Orde’s recommendations were put forward after the chief constable reviewed more than 60 police stations in which there was consultation at local level.
Eight of the 17 stations have already been run down and almost half of the locations on the list are in Fermanagh and include Rosslea and Kinawley.
Some of the other stations are Castlerock, Ardglass, Moy and Dromore in County Tyrone.
The others are understood to be Moneymore, Castlewellan, Plumbridge, Ballygawley, Caledon, Ballnamallard, Derrygonelly, Irvinestown, Lisbellaw, Newtownbutler and Tempo.
by Ciarán Barnes
The Police Ombudsman has been asked to investigate the conduct of PSNI members who patrolled a controversial Orange Order march in Ballymena.
On Monday night, three nationalists in the Co Antrim market town were arrested during a march involving 450 loyalists and 13 bands.
Those arrested have been accused of committing public order offences, but, according to Sinn Féin, all they were doing was monitoring the parade.
The arrests took place after the Orange Order marched through the predominantly nationalist Market Road and Broughshane Street.
There were no protests, although some locals did attempt to record the parade on camcorder in case there was any breaches of Parades Commission guidelines.
At previous loyalist parades in Ballymena paramilitary flags have been displayed and sectarian tunes have been played.
Locals were prevented from filming by the PSNI and a short time later three nationalists were arrested.
North Antrim Sinn Féin Assemblyman Philip McGuigan has complained to the Police Ombudsman about the behaviour of the PSNI.
He insisted they were heavy-handed and blatantly partisan in their treatment of nationalist residents.
Mr McGuigan said: “It is obvious from the partisan treatment handed out to the nationalist and republican community of Ballymena that the PSNI here operates in a sectarian manner.
“They don’t even try and cover up this fact,” he said.
“I will be contacting the Police Ombudsman regarding this operation in Ballymena.
“I will also be contacting the Irish government as Bertie Ahern’s government have an obligation to protect the rights of Northern nationalists.
“I intend to make sure that he fulfils his obligations.”
Mr McGuigan said he will ask the Irish government to send representatives to monitor future parades in Ballymena and to investigate alleged abusive patterns of policing.
SDLP Assemblyman, Sean Farren, and local councillor Declan O’Loan, said they had “grave concerns” about how the parade was policed.
They said questions have to be asked about the way nationalists were handled by the police.
“We are very concerned about the conduct of policing of the parade and the protest,” Mr O’Loan said.
“They prevented pedestrians walking along the street, and questioned people, including public representatives, as to who they were and their reasons for being there, as if assuming they were trouble-makers.”
The SDLP said the incident would be raised at a public session of the Policing Board on Thursday.
Ballymena Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) councillor Roy Gillespie, who took part in Monday night’s parade, claimed nationalists objecting to loyalist parades in the town were “anti-Protestant and anti-God”.
“Republicans start all the trouble,” said the Orangeman.
“They should be locked up because they want to disrupt every parade in Ballymena and attack the police.
“All the songs the Orangemen played were gospel tunes.
“Republicans had better learn them if they want to get to heaven.
“They can have no objection to decent, hard-working Protestants walking the Queen’s highway,” added Mr Gillespie.
Referring to Mr McGuigan’s complaints, a spokesperson for the PSNI said it could not comment because the matter had been referred to the Police Ombudsman.
New photos of Abigail Witchalls, who was paralysed after a stabbing in April, show signs of the recovery which has given hope to her family and amazed her doctors.
Abigail Witchalls with her occupational therapist
The pictures show her working with Emma Linley, her occupational therapist, on improving the movement which is slowly returning to all of her limbs – particularly her right hand.
Mrs Witchalls, who is being treated at the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital in Stanmore, said: “I’m exited by every bit of progress and happy to be able to spend more time with Joseph. I’m in good hands and feel incredibly blessed.”
The 26-year-old, who is pregnant with her second child, can now lift her right arm a small amount and is able to move the fingers in her right hand.
She can even sit up in a wheelchair for most of the day, is able to speak softly and has begun to eat small amounts of pureed food.
Such a recovery seemed unlikely after Mrs Witchalls was stabbed in the neck in front of her 23-month-old son Joseph as she pushed his buggy down a quiet country lane in her home village of Little Bookham, Surrey.
She was considered likely to die, or be permanently paralysed, when she first arrived in hospital after the attack on April 20.
Her husband, Benoit added: “Members of the family spend time with Abigail every day.
“We all enjoy sharing her sense of achievement in her progress, and her positive attitude to her continuing serious disability. We are looking forward to the time when she will be able to resume family life with us all.”
The hospital confirmed that scans at seven and 11 weeks showed Abigail’s pregnancy was “progressing normally”.
Police are still “one or two weeks away” from passing a file to the Crown Prosecution Service putting forward a man who killed himself as a suspect for the brutal stabbing.
Richard Cazaly, 23, died in Edinburgh, apparently from an overdose, after fleeing Little Bookham, Surrey. Police are hoping to talk to Abigail again soon and show her pictures of cars, in a bid to identify to her attacker’s vehicle.
By Jarlath Kearney
A Derry primary school will today celebrate “a major milestone” with the departure of its first batch of students.
A handful of children, who were the first to attend Gaelscoil Éadáin Mhóir in 1998, today graduate as the school’s first primary seven class.
The gaelscoil is Derry’s second Irish-medium primary school.
Founded with just six pupils, the gaelscoil has grown dramatically and attendance in the coming academic year will top 130 students.
In total, over 300 young people are now being educated through Irish-medium education at primary school level in Derry city.
Risteard Mac Dabhéid, the gaelscoil’s vice-principal, hailed the moment as “a major milestone”.
“It’s a ringing endorsement for Irish-medium education,” Mr Mac Dabhéid told Daily Ireland.
“The fact that these children are now solid bilingual speakers means they are on a par with 70 per cent of the world’s population in being able to speak two languages.
“That alone will open doors that would possibly be closed through other mediums of education.
“With the enrichment of Irish has come the opportunity to develop and possibly secure employment in the future utilising bilingualism. And with the children now moving on, they have a very solid foundation for developing Spanish – the third language thay have been learning,” Mr Mac Dabhéid said.
With the gaelscoil placing a heavy emphasis on “the quality of education provided”, Mr Mac Dabhéid said that an equally important factor is the gaelscoil being anchored in the heart of the Bogside and Brandywell community.
“This school started with just six children in one mobile classroom beside Seán Dolan’s GAA club in 1998.
“In 2002, the school completed the permanent move to the Gasyard community complex and received formal recognition from then Education Minister Martin McGuinness.
“The gaelscoil’s success is undoubtedly its close bond with the community in which it exists, through the support of parents, teachers, local representatives, community organisations, but most of all through the contribution of the children in attendance,” Mr Mac Dabhéid said.
Meanwhile Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams has applauded the decision of direct rule Education Minister Angela Smith to grant formal recognition to Gaelscoil na Lonnain in west Belfast.
After raising the issue on a number of occasions with Ms Smith, the West Belfast MP welcomed news that the gaelscoil will now have secure funding for the next three years.
“This Irish-medium primary school has been playing a vital role in the life of the lower Falls community on a shoestring budget.
“The fact that Gaelscoil an Lonnain will now receive support from the Department of Education is the good news which parents, children and staff in this school have been waiting to hear,” Mr Adams said.
by Ciarán Barnes
Loyalists in a quiet Co Antrim village are planning to march around a religiously mixed cul-de-sac despite opposition from local Catholics and Protestants.
The Pride of the Village Flute Band have filed an application with the Parades Commission to march around Stoneyford on July 11.
The route they plan to take will see them parade around a new housing development that was the scene of sectarian violence last year.
Nationalists who publicly opposed a loyalist parade around the Beeches Manor cul-de-sac last summer were forced to flee the area after receiving death threats. There are fears that these threats could be repeated after next month’s march.
The late-night parade will culminate with around 60 loyalists and one band walking to a bonfire in the village and then setting fire to the bonfire.
There were reports last year of men taking part in the march wearing T-shirts bearing the emblem of the Orange Volunteers, a small loyalist paramilitary outfit.
Local Sinn Féin councillor Paul Butler described the new Stoneyford parade plans as “ridiculous”.
He said: “No one in the Beeches Manor area wants this parade passing by their homes.
“This is a quiet and religiously mixed area. After last year’s trouble, residents just want to live in peace.
“They don’t want loyalist band parades stoking up sectarian tension.”
Ed Nolan was one of the Stoneyford Catholics forced to flee the village after loyalist threats last summer.
He said his home had been attacked eight times in three months before he moved back to Belfast.
He said: “When we moved in, there was a brand new lamppost at the end of the street which was painted red, white and blue.
“The next day, someone repainted it white but, the day after that, it was painted red, white and blue again. It was afterwards that all the trouble started.”
Mr Nolan said that, as well as smashing the windows of his home, loyalists loosened the wheel bolts on his car.
“Perhaps the most sinister thing was that a car came in cruising around the area one night before sitting across the street from my house.
“When I went out into the darkened hall, I heard them shouting something about ‘fenians’ before speeding off.”
The Parades Commission will rule before the end of the week on whether the Stoneyford march can go ahead as planned.
Several other controversial parades are planned for the village during the summer.
In 1999, Stoneyford featured heavily in the news when intelligence documents on 300 nationalists were found in the local Orange Hall.
Republicans claimed that the documents were being used by the Orange Volunteers and had been leaked to the group by the RUC.
By Jarlath Kearney
Foreign minister Dermot Ahern yesterday declined to support the campaign for a full independent inquiry into the 1991 murder of Donegal councillor Eddie Fullerton.
The Sinn Féin councillor was assassinated by loyalist paramilitaries.
His case has raised serious questions about collusion and cover-up by authorities on both sides of the Border.
Mr Ahern was speaking in Belfast yesterday during a day-long series of meetings. The minister was accompanied by senior officials. His schedule included engagements with the SDLP, the PSNI and The Irish News.
He also met representatives of the Ulster Unionist Party and of the Policing Board, as well as Police Ombudsman Nuala O’Loan.
Asked whether he supported the Fullerton family’s campaign, Mr Ahern responded: “I have heard Minister [Michael] McDowell in relation to this. If he, for one minute, believes that there is need for any investigation, he will put that in place. I would agree with Minister McDowell.”
Mr Ahern’s failure to publicly back the Fullerton family contrasts with the unanimous support of every political party on Donegal County Council in calling for a full independent inquiry.
Addressing reporters, Mr Ahern said an expected IRA statement should come as soon as possible but that the outstanding elements of the Good Friday Agreement would continue to be implemented.
“As I said previously, the sooner they [the IRA] make their decision, the better for all of us so that we can get on with real politics and bring benefit to all our peoples on both sides of the Border,” he said.
“That’s why the British and Irish governments met last Monday. That’s why I’m here today. That’s why there will be a continuation of movement right across all the areas of the Agreement that we can deal with.
“We are prepared to move forward with the British government and the other political parties in the North to bring benefit to the people of Ireland,” Mr Ahern said.
Praising the announcement of a deal on this year’s July 12 march in Derry city, Mr Ahern said the Irish government was “delighted with the decision”.
“Obviously we have to keep in very close contact with the parties on the ground.
“Ultimately, dialogue is absolutely important but, equally so, adherence to the Parades Commission – putting in place the necessary police arrangements to ensure that the determinations of the Parades Commission are adhered to – and we just hope and pray that the good grace and the understanding that was developed in Derry will continue over the next two weeks,” Mr Ahern said.
After meeting Mr Ahern, the new Ulster Unionist Party leader Reg Empey described the talks as “constructive”.
Mr Empey said any IRA statement would be judged against the organisation’s actions.
by Ciarán Barnes
The heavily pregnant partner of jailed Belfast republican Seán Kelly has hit out at the Irish government for not doing enough to get the father of her children released.
Speaking to Daily Ireland, mother of three Geraldine Friel, who is expecting her fourth child in October, called on Taoiseach Bertie Ahern to put “real pressure” on the British government to secure the 33-year-old’s release.
Mr Kelly was sentenced to nine life sentences for his role in the IRA’s 1993 Shankill bombing, which claimed ten lives.
He was released in 2000 under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement but was returned to prison on June 18 this year.
Secretary of state Peter Hain, relying on intelligence provided to him by Britain’s Special Branch, has claimed that Mr Kelly reinvolved himself with paramilitarism.
The minister refused to elaborate on how the north Belfast man had breached his terms of release. This prompted the Taoiseach to call on his own officials to provide him with this information.
Irish senators Martin Mansergh and Maurice Hayes have also questioned the motives behind Mr Kelly’s return to jail.
However, Ms Friel said the Irish politicians could be doing much more to bring her partner home.
“I feel let down by the Irish government,” she said.
“They have not done enough to get Seán out of jail or find out why he was sent back there.
“They should be putting more pressure on the British government and demanding answers.”
Mr Kelly had only been in Maghaberry prison for four days when he was threatened by a loyalist inmate.
The mother of his children says she fears for his life inside.
“Seán is in a lot of danger in jail and I worry about him all the time,” said Ms Friel.
“The children are very scared. I let my nine-year-old know almost immediately that he had been jailed but I didn’t tell my five and three-year-olds for a couple of days. I pretended to them that he had gone on holiday.
“It was tough breaking the news to them, one of the hardest things that I have done.”
Ms Friel said she believed there had been a focused attempt to keep Mr Kelly from speaking to or seeing his family.
“Seán has been in jail for 12 days now and, in that time, I have seen him once and had just two telephone calls.
“The kids haven’t seen him at all. It’s as if the authorities don’t want him to get in touch with his family,” she said.
The arrest of Mr Kelly has led many republicans and former IRA prisoners to reconsider the role they have played in trying to prevent clashes in Belfast’s interface areas.
Mr Kelly played a key role in keeping the Ardoyne area of north Belfast calm while Orange parades passed nationalist homes. Now there is a fear among republicans that his arrest may not be the only one, something that his partner also recognises.
“Seán, like everyone else working on the interfaces in north Belfast, was trying to keep things quiet,” said Ms Friel.
“I know him better than anyone and, since he got out of jail, he has not been involved in any paramilitary activity, no matter what the British government says.
“All he has been doing is working for the benefit of his community and he has been sent to jail for trying to keep things peaceful.”
30 June 2005 17:51
The Minister for Justice has announced a statutory inquiry into the death of a 14-year-old boy who slipped into a coma while in garda custody in Clonmel three years ago.
Michael McDowell has also apologised to the parents of Brian Rossiter for the way the case was handled by the Department of Justice.
Brian Rossiter had been arrested on suspicion of public order offences in Clonmel on the 10 September 2002, and was held overnight with the consent of his father.
The next morning he was found to be in a coma and was transferred to hospital, but died two days later.
Brian’s father Pat Rossiter has welcomed the Minister’s announcement but said he has serious reservations as to the scope of the inquiry.
Speaking to RTE News in Clonmel this evening, Mr Rossiter said he is unsure if the truth will come out in relation to the death of his son.
Michael McDowell said the inquiry by Hugh Hartnett SC would look into whether there was any maltreatment of Brian Rossiter, or any circumstance which gives rise to cause for concern in relation to how members of An Garda Síochána handled his arrest and detention.
He added that this inquiry would not cut across legal proceedings relating to the incident in which Brian Rossiter received a black eye, two days before his arrest.
Mr McDowell conceded that correspondence from the Rossiter family was inadequately dealt with by his Department, and that the delay in dealing with it was ‘indefensible’.
30/06/2005 – 18:03:21
The Health and Safety Authority (HAS) should urgently examine the National Aquatic Centre after a damning report found 126 cracks in pool walls, it was claimed today.
A study by independent consulting engineers also found unsafe storage of chemicals and questionable structure at the €62m West Dublin facility.
Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny said the condition of the Aquatic Centre raised very important public health concerns and a HAS inspection was immediately required.
He said: “These revelations represent a damning critique of the facility that the Taoiseach described as a “visionary concept brought to magnificent fruition.”
“This is also the €62m euro facility that has been described by Sports Minister John O’Donoghue as ‘money very well spent’ – a view backed up by the Taoiseach in the Dáil on Tuesday.”
Mr Kenny said he fully supported a forthcoming audit on the centre by the Comptroller and Auditor General as recommended by the Public Accounts Committee.
“We found that we had, and have, chlorinated water leaking into the ground and a roof that was not assembled properly,” he said.
“Now we find that there are 126 cracks in the walls of the pool, the chemicals used in the facility are not being stored properly and the overall integrity of the structure is being called in to question.”
“In the immediate future, the HSA needs to conduct an inspection of the facility with a view to providing the public with much needed assurances that the centre is safe to work in and use and not likely to pose a health or injury risk.”
Problems began for the facility – which Mr Ahern admitted was his ‘pet project’ – when its roof was damaged by freak winds on New Year’s Day.
30/06/2005 – 17:29:01
Five men jailed for their opposition to a gas pipeline today called for a public boycott of all petrol stations owned by Shell and Statoil.
The men, farmers Willie Corduff, Philip McGrath and Brendan Philbin, and retired school teachers, Vincent McGrath and Michael O’Suighin, spent last night in prison after refusing to give assurances to the High Court in Dublin they would not obstruct the construction of the pipeline for the €990m Corrib gas project in Mayo.
At a news conference hosted by their families, the men released a statement in which they claimed the people of North Mayo were being used as guinea pigs.
“We urge the people of this country to picket and boycott Statoil and Shell, the main shareholders in this project.”
They added: “This pipeline is unsafe by Shell’s own international standards. It must not pass the houses. There is an easy solution – clean it at sea”.
Shell E&P Ireland want to pump gas from the Corrib gasfield along a 9km pipeline to a refinery at Bellanaboy in Mayo.
However, Caitlin Ni Suighin, 68, whose husband, Michael, is one of the men in prison, said they were determined to prevent the gas from being piped across their land.
“Yesterday in court just angered me and we’re not lying down and taking this rotten gas in to be refined in Bellanaboy. It better be refined at sea,” she said.
Her daughter, Brid Ni Suighin, 33, said supporters were protesting on the roads outside at the Shell depot in Rossport, Co Mayo.
Irish politicians have called for the immediate release of the five men, who will be kept in jail until they purge their contempt of court.
Local Mayo TDs Michael Ring, Jerry Cowley, Marian Harkin, Beverly Flynn and Fine Gael leader Mr Kenny all raised the matter in the Dáil.
Mr Ring said: “The safety concerns of the residents were not taken into account when they are the ones who will have to suffer the consequences of the Shell pipeline.
“It’s not right that people should be in prison, are in prison. Shame on the Government. Shame on the Government.”
Sister Majella McCarthy, a member of the Our Lady of Apostles Order, said she was supporting the men because of her involvement in the protests against Shell’s activities in Nigeria.
She was a friend of the author Ken Saro-Wiwa, who was executed by the Nigerian Government in 1995 for his part in protesting against environmental problems caused by Shell.
“I think the Shell story is the same everywhere. The abuses in the Niger Delta are just totally unbelievable. That’s as bad as this company gets when there is no regulation.”
In 2002, Shell E&P Ireland became the first ever private company to be granted a compulsory land purchase order.
The gasfield, which was discovered 11,00 feet below the seabed in 1996, is due to go into production in 2007.
Shell Ireland chairman Andy Pyle said the families had refused to meet the firm in the months before the High Court conviction for contempt.
But he hinted that some compromise may be still possible if contact was established.
“It’s a very difficult situation and I can’t see an easy solution unless we can get into an open dialogue about the concerns of the individuals and what we can do to allay and address those concerns.”
Taoiseach Bertie Ahern said the Corrib Gas project had been through the rigours of the planning process and added that Shell was well within its rights.
“It is regrettable that it has come to this stage. It’s a decision for the courts. The Government doesn’t lock up anybody. The reality is you comply with the obligations and decisions.”
The Orange Order’s west Belfast district master has taken part in talks involving one of the city’s most senior republicans, the BBC has learned.
They took part in discussions leading up to last Saturday’s postponed Whiterock Parade.
Billy Mawhinney – the most senior orangeman on the Shankill Road – and republican Sean Murray were involved.
The Order says it does not engage in face-to-face negotiations with residents’ groups or republicans.
However, there were a series of meetings involving the Springfield Residents group and the North and West Belfast Parades Forum.
Sitting in these sessions as part of the forum was Mr Mawhinney and Mr Murray.
The meetings were regarded as confidential and chaired by Duncan Morrow, the chief executive of the Community Relations Council.
‘Intend to reapply’
They discussed the plans for the Whiterock Parade – including security, music, flags and the size of the march.
While progress was made – no agreement was reached.
That led to the Parades Commission’s decision to re-route the march through the old Mackie’s Factory Site.
The Orange Order said that was unacceptable and postponed the march – but they intend to reapply in order to hold it some time later this summer.
Nationalist Springfield Road residents welcomed the postponement. Sinn Fein said dialogue was needed on both sides.
The order said it would be inappropriate to comment at this time.
The Parades Commission was set up in 1997 to make decisions on whether controversial parades should be restricted.
Mountain opening unearths some hidden treasures
Two ancient dwellings have been found on the new Divis Mountain nature reserve.
Workers discovered the small forts while clearing the hillside after it was bought from the Ministry of Defence.
The homes date from the Bronze Age around 2,000 years before Christ. Divis warden Dermott McCann said they will now be included in the organised walks across the mountains.
The forts were found by workers who cleared 1,500 tons of rubbish from the mountain, including more than 1,000 dumped tyres.
Dermott said, “Our archaeologist was delighted by the finds and discovered that they were in fact unique to Ireland because they have an inner chamber.
“They’re just a series of small stone walls but you can imagine what they were once like and the incredible views these ancient, pre-Celtic people enjoyed.”
Hundreds of people attended the official opening of the mountain this week, although there were no volunteers for the mountain’s Black Walk.
There are four organised walks in total and each are colour-coded. The shortest can be completed in just over an hour – but the biggest – The Black one – takes all of eight hours, so you’ll need to pack some sandwiches.
It goes around the circumference of the 1,500 acre reserve and Dúlra has put it on his to-do list, although it will take some time before he can build up the courage.
Divis Nature Reserve is open 24 hours a day, every day of the year. There’s no cost – it’s just a matter of arriving and walking. Although Dulra would recommend doing it soon – winter on Divis Mountain starts in September and lasts 10 months!
Ever see birds playing? Dulra hadn’t until this week when the baby blue tits left their nest in the garden wall.
Around 10 of them packed into a broom bush and set about chattering to each other, swinging on the branches and flapping their wings with abandon.
They hadn’t a care in the world and were like a group of kids on their first day of nursery school. Their constant chattering even sounded like laughter.
Dulra went out to get a closer look and they didn’t budge. He could have picked them up in his hand.
The parents haven’t got round to teaching them about the dangers of life. But it won’t take long. One deadly swoop by a sparrowhawk or a cat’s sharp claws will rob them of their childhood innocence.
All the time, the parents buzzed back and forth, trying to feed all 10 hungry gobs. They’ll do this for a day or two, then it’s time for the young blue tits to find their own way.
Two days of childhood, having fun with their brothers and sisters in the broom bush, is all they’ll get.
Tough old life isn’t it?
A word of remembrance
The prayers of hill walkers are for the family of John Hannon, the Tornaroy farmer who died this week, on the very day that Divis was given back to the people.
John was a familiar figure and he and his family farmed on the mountain for generations.
He will be sadly missed.
Local people are gearing up for an abundance of fresh air and exercise this weekend as they take advantage of the newly-laid walkways and routes across the Black and Divis mountains.
Officially opened to the public on Monday, vast tracts of the mountain range, which were acquired by the National Trust last November, have been opened up for all to share and offer stunning views across Belfast – stretching out as far as the Mourne Mountains with Strangford and Belfast Loughs, the Castlereagh and Holywood hills and the Sperrins all visible on clear days.
The Trust secured the purchase of the land from the Ministry of Defence (MoD), which had been in control of the upland since 1953.
Used as a watch station and training area, the lease for the land ran out in 1986, and was then officially purchased by the MoD for use during the late ’80s and ’90s.
However, given up by the MoD in 1999, the land was sold to the National Trust for £3m, with financial assistance from the Heritage Lottery Fund and Environment and Heritage Service of the DoE. It has now been cleared of thousands of tonnes of debris to make way for a ‘floating path’ to the summit of Black Mountain.
Delighted by the opening of the 1,500 acres of moor and heathland he knows so well, community activist and Save the Black Mountain campaigner, Terry Enright says he’s hopeful that the Trust’s acquisition of the land will aid in the Belfast Hills Partnership’s efforts to have the site recognised as an important conservation area for the whole city.
“It’s great to see it all happening because it’s the culmination of 10 to 15 years work of raising all the issues,” said Terry. “Really this all came about from a campaign to save the Black Mountain from destruction and the quarrying that is taking place and from that we ended up with a situation where you had people like me taking thousands of people onto the mountain to see not only the destruction of the mountain, but also the beauty of it and the potential of it,” he added.
Identifying Peter McLoughlin from Bryson House as instrumental in driving the project, Terry said the dedicated campaigner opened many doors for the Save the Black Mountain campaign and was pivotal in identifying the area as a potential site for purchase by the National Trust.
“There are a lot of problems in identifying the ultimate aims we would have in terms of a regional park,” said Terry. “Farmers are very wary of it for obvious reasons; they have so many restrictions on them as it is, because they’re an industry under tremendous threat and tremendous pressure. But this is a way of helping them to become, if you like, the guardians of the environment, and by and large we have built up a good rapport with them and at the moment we are about building relationships and trust and there are a lot of positive things happening.”
Continuing to work closely with the Belfast Hills Partnership, which brings together many organisations to promote sustainable management and enjoyment of the wider Belfast Hills, the National Trust’s purchase of the land will help preserve it for generations to come and, says Terry, will help highlight the continuing issues surrounding the hills with regards to the continuing quarrying and the three proposed landfill sites on the mountain.
“What’s really required is a public enquiry into all of this,” said Terry, “it’s a total contradiction of things that have already been put down as written in the Belfast Metropolitan plan – that there be no dumps in the Belfast Hills area, where there is a high scenic value, that there is no more mineral extraction in areas of high scenic value, and yet it’s still going on.
“We are a step forward, but we’re not all the way there yet.”
To celebrate the opening, the Trust lit a lamp on Divis Mountain to mark the spot where the Drummond limelight shone in 1828 to start the Ordinance Survey mapping of Ireland. The MP for West Belfast, Gerry Adams, pulled on his wellies to join in the celebrations and for a kestrel’s eye view of his constituency – and many others.
“Along with local community organisations and environmental campaigners Sinn Féin has worked for many years for the conservation of the Belfast Hills, including Divis Mountain and Black Mountain,” he said.
“Because of the British army’s use of large parts of this land I raised this matter some years ago directly with the British prime minister Tony Blair and I supported the efforts by the National Trust to secure funding from the Lottery Fund to purchase the land.
“There is more work to be done to secure the conservation of the rest of Divis Mountain, Black Mountain and the Belfast Hills,” continued Mr Adams. “Sinn Féin has proposed that this area should be developed into a regional park.
“However, the quarry on Black Mountain and the retention of military surveillance camps on top of the mountains is an obstacle to the development and conservation of the area.
“The campaign to achieve this and to protect this valuable environmental asset for this and future generations will continue.”
Journalist:: Ciara McGuigan
Residents of a West Belfast street are up in arms after the recent announcement that a nearby pylon is to be moved – even nearer to their homes.
The electricity pylon, which sits at the bottom of the Upper Donegall Road behind a fast-food restaurant, is to be moved several hundred metres toward the residential area of St Katherine’s Road.
The work is being done in preparation for reconstruction work to the nearby Westlink, due to start at the beginning of 2006.
However, local people say they are deeply unhappy about the proposed move, and add that there is already a high incidence of deaths due to cancer in the area. They say that the movement of the electricity pylon closer to their homes will deepen health concerns.
Voicing the worries of local residents, chairperson of the St James’ Action Group Against Pylons, Paul May, said, “Residents of St Katherine’s Road are living on the front line, but this pylon move is also going to affect people in the surrounding area.
“People aren’t too sure of the health risks involved with pylons,” he added.
“We asked NIE did they have concerns about the health risks, and they said it can’t be proved that they’re bad for people and we said, well, you can’t prove that they aren’t and they agreed with me.
“There’s no point in going to people’s doors in 50 years time and saying, ‘oh, you were right’, we want something done about it now. What the residents would be happy with is to bury these existing power lines and it can be done.
“They are spending an estimated £330m on the Westlink and the effects on this area will be huge, so we are asking for the government departments to take into consideration this one request while making their final plans.”
Councillor Marie Moore agreed: “There is the suggestion that a small pylon will be put up first, so that then a bigger one can be put up to carry the lines over into the Village.
“But the lines will be buried from here onwards, so residents are suggesting why not bury the lines back as far as they can, right back up to Stockman’s Lane,” she added.
“The effect these pylons will have on the cost of people’s homes is only secondary to their concerns over health issues because there has been an increase in cancer cases within this area.
“The residents understand that the work has to be done on the Westlink, we’re not doubting that, what we’re not happy about is having a pylon put up in our back garden.”
A recent study by Oxford University found that power lines may increase the risk of leukaemia. It revealed that children living within 200 metres of power lines were about 70 per cent more likely to develop leukaemia, compared to those who lived beyond 600 metres.
A spokesperson for the Department of Regional Development said, “The proposed works to provide the much-needed improvements to the M1 and Westlink require alterations to the NIE network in the vicinity of Broadway Roundabout.
“This work is to be carried out on Roads Service property between Rodney Parade and the M1 Motorway. This essential advanced work needs to be completed this summer to reduce the risk of delays to the main project which is programmed to start early in 2006,” she continued.
“As part of Roads Service’s commitment to keep people informed about the project it has met with the residents of Rodney Parade, St Katherine’s Road and St James’ Road area and local political representatives.
“Roads Service is proposing to site the replacement electricity tower as close as possible to the southernmost boundary of its property and replace the maximum amount of overhead cables.
“Remaining overhead cables will be along the same line as the existing network ensuring that these cables will be located no closer to any properties in the area.”
Journalist:: Ciara McGuigan
Last year Stoneyford bandsmen were happy to walk the village main street. Now they’re looking to change their route so they can get up the noses of Catholic families in two new estates
With just over a week to go before the Twelfth, tensions are rising as high as the flags that are fluttering over the mixed villages of Dunmurry and Glenavy.
In the past couple of days the main street in Dunmurry has been flanked with alternating Union flags and Northern Ireland flags, put up in full view of the local PSNI station, while in Glenavy Orangemen from outside the town are preparing to erect their annual Orange arch. And tension is set to heighten further in South Antrim with news that loyalists have applied to march in Stoneyford on July 11, in a new route that will take them into two new housing developments.
Sinn Féin Lagan Valley representative, Paul Butler, has condemned the erection of flags in recent days as “total and utter madness”.
“Dunmurry has over the years witnessed a campaign of sectarianism,” he said. “This is a time when we should all be trying to work together for a peaceful summer, not marking out areas as unionist territory.”
Referring to the loyalist flags flying outside Dunmurry PSNI station, a PSNI spokesperson told the Andersonstown News: “Many of the issues surrounding the flying of flags cannot be resolved with a policing solution.
The matter can only be resolved by local communities and statutory agencies working together to find an acceptable answer. Where police action may be required, consultation and negotiation will take place with community representatives regarding local feeling on the flags displayed, and if required, their removal.”
The Lisburn City councillor has also called on the Orange Order to end its practice of erecting an Orange arch in Glenavy village every year to commemorate the Twelfth. It comes after Orangemen erected an Orange arch in the predominantly nationalist town of Crumlin on Monday night.
“There is no support from Glenavy’s Catholic community for this arch,” said Councillor Butler. “I am appealing to the Orange Order to help improve community relations in Glenavy by calling a halt to this practice. Erecting this arch in the middle of the village every year does nothing to help the already strained political atmosphere in the area.
“It is seen by the Catholic community as provocative and offensive. The demographics of Glenavy village have changed considerably over the years and the Orange Order must come to terms with that new reality.
“The Orange Order has to realise that they are imposing something on the vast majority of the population that they simply do not want. Glenavy village should be seen as a neutral place, where both communities can carry out their business, without any flags, emblems or Orange arches being displayed which are associated with one particular part of the community,” said the councillor.
Meanwhile, residents of the nearby village of Stoneyford are bracing themselves for a controversial loyalist band parade on July 11 which has altered its traditional route to take the bandsmen through two new housing developments. The parade has been organised by the Pride of the Village Flute Band with up to 60 participants taking part.
“The Beeches and Stonebridge Meadows have been added to the march route this year. The band parade in Stoneyford is usually along the main street of the village and you have to question why they want to march through these estates,” said Councillor Butler.
“It is widely believed that the only reason they changed the route is to intimidate and provoke Catholics living in these new estates who, of course, do not want this march.
“The organisers should respect the wishes of the local residents as there is no justifiable reason why this march should go into what is essentially small private housing developments made up of cul-de-sacs.”
Last year a Catholic family had to leave their home when the local Orange Order marched through The Beeches estate wearing Orange Volunteers t-shirts. The family were forced to flee after threats were made to them when they objected to the march.
This year the new housing development Stonebridge Meadows, which has only recently been built, has been added to the route.
“This is nothing other than an exercise in triumphalism and sectarian coat-trailing designed to strike fear into Catholics who have moved into these new houses,” concluded the councillor.
Meanwhile in the run-up to the proposed Orange Order march on the Springfield Road on July 12, Springfield residents will today meet the Parades Commission.
Journalist:: Francesca Ryan
The childcare lobby is due to travel to Belfast City Hall to demand urgent government funding to save afterschool clubs in Northern Ireland.
Two hundred red balloons will be released for each of the voluntary clubs under threat of closure.
Funding has run out for the facilities, which are mainly used by parents who cannot afford private child care.
Marguerite Hunter Blair from Playboard said the clubs’ loss would be devastating for low earning families.
Earlier this month, the group said plans for a massive expansion of out-of-school provision should be extended to Northern Ireland.
It said European and lottery money had almost run out and the government had not earmarked any specific funding.
The group said NI’s voluntary out-of-school sector was now “in real danger of being virtually wiped out”.
The government is putting £680m into encouraging more schools in England to set up breakfast and after-school clubs.
There are 237 voluntary out-of-school clubs in Northern Ireland.
If the clubs closed, hundreds of parents could be forced to give up their jobs, said PlayBoard.
The parents who would lose their jobs were those on low incomes who could least afford to do so, said Ms Hunter Blair.
29 June 2005
Police have issued a warning to householders in west Belfast following a number of burglaries in the area over the past weekend.
Officers say entry to premises having been gained through unlocked doors and windows in almost 30% of domestic burglaries in the area this year.
Constable Pete Connolly, the Crime Prevention Officer at Woodbourne police station, said: “What is most alarming is that these burglaries tend to occur in the very late evening or through the night. People are going to bed at night without taking the simple protective steps of locking their doors and windows.
In many areas, car criminals and burglars are literally walking the streets trying the doors of people’s homes. This is not sophisticated crime it is entirely opportunistic.”
Constable Connolly said that by taking simple steps of locking doors and windows and putting valuables out of sight of casual observation, householders could reduce the likelihood of criminals successfully targeting their homes.
Just a note to say that I in no way have any control over which Google ads appear to the right on this page. That is Google’s call based on what they perceive to be the topic at the time. Many times the ads are ones I would rather not have. If you find them offensive, you can view the news ad-free at the alternate site listed. Most of the time, I don’t pay any attention to them :p
29/06/2005 – 18:24:07
Built for disaster
The proposed Freedom Tower at the former World Trade Centre site, redesigned to address security concerns, will lose the distinctive asymmetrical shape envisioned in earlier plans but will be the world’s strongest and safest high-rise building, officials said today.
The redesigned tower will be straighter and squarer, will rise from a base clad in shimmering metal chosen for beauty and blast-resistance and will be topped with an illuminated spire.
The details are part of a redesign described today for the soaring skyscraper in lower Manhattan that has been delayed by bureaucratic squabbling.
The new design for the 1,776ft tower is meant to make it more resistant to car bombs. The building will now be 90ft – instead of 25ft – from West Street, the major north-south thoroughfare along the Hudson River.
Its main roof will be the same height as the fallen World Trade Centre twin towers.
“In a subtle but important way, this building recalls … those buildings that we lost,” lead architect David Childs said at a news conference.
The tower’s cubic base will be clad in luminous materials – probably a combination of stainless steel and titanium – that will be shimmering and light-reflective as well as blast-resistant, according to a description of the redesign by the Lower Manhattan Development Corp.
As in the original design, the structure outlined in the latest plan exceeds city fire code requirements, and will have biological and chemical filters in its air supply system.
It also has the original design’s extra-wide emergency stairs, a dedicated staircase just for firefighters, enhanced elevators and “areas of refuge” on each floor. Stairs, communications, sprinklers and elevators will be encased in 3ft-thick walls.
The tower will be capped with a mast incorporating an antenna, meant to suggest the torch of the Statue of Liberty.
The plan for rebuilding the 16-acre site devastated by the September 11, 2001, attack retains 2.6 million sqft of office space and an observation deck. Sixty-nine office floors will sit atop a 200ft-high reinforced base.
New York Governor George Pataki laid the tower’s cornerstone on July 4, 2004, but the past year has seen more fighting than progress by the agencies and individuals with roles in the site’s rebuilding.
Officials have said the concerns have probably delayed the tower’s original 2009 ribbon-cutting, and the revised plan now calls for it to be ready for occupancy in 2010.