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BBC

The Alliance Party is refusing to back the Ulster Unionists for any top posts on Belfast City Council because of its links with the Progressive Unionists.

The Alliance holds the balance of power on the council, and its councillors will support the SDLP’s candidate for city mayor in the election on Thursday.

The UUP have come under pressure over their assembly arrangement with the PUP, which has links with the UVF.

Naomi Long of the Alliance said all loyalist groups must be on ceasefire.

“We have made it clear that whilst the UUP maintain their formal links with the PUP and the UPRG, and whilst the paramilitary groups to which they are linked are not on ceasefire and refuse to address decommissioning, Alliance will not be in a position to support them for any of the top posts,” she said.

“Unlike others, we will not differentiate between loyalist and republican paramilitarism, but want to see all groups commit to exclusively democratic and peaceful means and move towards a peaceful and shared future.”

Extra seat

As the assembly reconvened on 15 May, Progressive Unionist Party leader David Ervine joined the Ulster Unionist grouping.

The move would give the UUP an extra ministerial seat at Sinn Fein’s expense if a power-sharing executive is formed.

Sylvia Hermon, the party’s only MP, was among those who have criticised the move.

And the party has come under renewed pressure following Tuesday’s shooting of Mark Haddock, who was named in a court case as being a leading member of the Ulster Volunteer Force.

However, party leader Sir Reg Empey said on Wednesday he was trying to help stop such attacks.

“We have a political arrangement with one MLA and that does, of course, have negative things with it,” he said.

“But there is also a longer-term commitment I have made. I am prepared to give it a real try.”

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BBC

The Alliance Party is refusing to back the Ulster Unionists for any top posts on Belfast City Council because of its links with the Progressive Unionists.

The Alliance holds the balance of power on the council, and its councillors will support the SDLP’s candidate for city mayor in the election on Thursday.

The UUP have come under pressure over their assembly arrangement with the PUP, which has links with the UVF.

Naomi Long of the Alliance said all loyalist groups must be on ceasefire.

“We have made it clear that whilst the UUP maintain their formal links with the PUP and the UPRG, and whilst the paramilitary groups to which they are linked are not on ceasefire and refuse to address decommissioning, Alliance will not be in a position to support them for any of the top posts,” she said.

“Unlike others, we will not differentiate between loyalist and republican paramilitarism, but want to see all groups commit to exclusively democratic and peaceful means and move towards a peaceful and shared future.”

Extra seat

As the assembly reconvened on 15 May, Progressive Unionist Party leader David Ervine joined the Ulster Unionist grouping.

The move would give the UUP an extra ministerial seat at Sinn Fein’s expense if a power-sharing executive is formed.

Sylvia Hermon, the party’s only MP, was among those who have criticised the move.

And the party has come under renewed pressure following Tuesday’s shooting of Mark Haddock, who was named in a court case as being a leading member of the Ulster Volunteer Force.

However, party leader Sir Reg Empey said on Wednesday he was trying to help stop such attacks.

“We have a political arrangement with one MLA and that does, of course, have negative things with it,” he said.

“But there is also a longer-term commitment I have made. I am prepared to give it a real try.”

Newshound

(by Suzanne Breen, Sunday Tribune)

They’re the forgotten victims of the Troubles. While the stories of those killed in the conflict are familiar, those who survived gun and bomb attacks, but were left with serious injuries, are ignored. Their names are unknown, their voices unheard.

More than 40,000 people were injured in political violence in the North in the past 35 years. “They’re over-looked,” says Sandra Peake, chief executive of the victims’ group WAVE. “They perceive that they’re neglected in comparison to the bereaved. They’ve been left to pick up the pieces of their lives, suffering mental trauma and debilitating injures, with little support. This entire area remains under-researched and under-funded.”

An independent study has begun into the lives of those seriously injured in the conflict. Here are the stories of three of them:

Joe Gaston, 79, former UDR soldier

His spare room is full of artificial legs. For nearly 30 years now, he’s been searching for a replacement for the real leg the IRA bomb blew away. He always knew he’d never move the way he once did. But maybe, he reckoned, he’d find something which would let him walk a bit further, or sit in the same position for more than a few minutes, without pain.

And so Joe Gaston travelled, all over Ireland and Britain, and bought. Two dozen legs or more. Some, he later sent to Africa, for limbless people even worse off than himself. “That leg was a torture chamber,” he says, pointing to one unwieldy construction. Another was “too roomy”, the next “too rigid and hard”.

“I’m nearly 80 and I’ve given up searching. This is as good as it gets,” he says, pointing to his current leg. Within a few minutes of sitting down, it’s slipping forward. Standing up is an ordeal. It creaks when he moves. In the summer, it’s uncomfortably sweaty.

Joe walks slowly across the front room of his home in Glarryford, Co Antrim, cluttered with family photographs and knick-knacks. ‘If all else fails, asks granda’, a plaque suggests. “That’s where it happened,” he says pointing to the now disused farm-yard across the road, “that’s where I lost my leg”.

It was a fortnight before Christmas 1977. He was a part-time UDR man but the land was his passion: “I’d 100 dairy cows, I was building up the farm.” He started the tractor. “A wall of heat hit my face. A bomb had been attached to the clutch or break. There was a bang. The tractor was blown to bits. It was the worst pain of my life. I put my hand down – there was nothing where my right leg used to be. They found my foot in the shed.

“I just lay there, saying a wee prayer for God to give me strength. I thought of the wife having to rear five children on her own. The eldest boy Samuel was in the yard when the bomb went off. He came running over. It was a blessing the younger ones were at school. My mother, who was 80, was in the living-room. The blast brought the window in around her. She lost her mind after that.”

Photographs taken in hospital before surgery are horrific. Nerves and muscle, bleeding and raw, hang from the stump that is left of Joe’s leg. His wife wants him to burn the photos “but I think it’s important to remember”. In the china cabinet, a glass jar holds a piece of the tractor the surgeons removed from his leg. It’s Joe’s nature to hold onto things. “When we got married, a man said to the wife, ‘you’ll be alright with Gaston girl, he keeps whatever he gets’.”

They used to dance, Isobel and Joe. “None of this shaking and rattling they do now. The quickstep was my dance. The wife would never get a chance to sit down, I’d have her up on the floor all night. She wouldn’t be fit for a thing afterwards.” His grand-daughter Julie is getting married next month “and that’ll hurt, not dancing at her wedding”.

He had to stop farming but wouldn’t sell the farm: “If I gave in, the other boys would have won.” He’d loved walking on beaches, up the Antrim coast to Portstewart where the sands are wild and deserted, but that became impossible too.

His hearing was seriously impaired. Surgery hasn’t improved it. A hearing aid makes one-to-one conversations possible, but he’s lost when several people talk at once. His blood pressure “went haywire” after the explosion. He had a stroke. The bomb damaged his kidney, then cancer set in, and the kidney had to be removed. “There’s a dull thudding pain constantly in my leg. It takes me three or four hours to get to sleep at night.”

He thinks the North’s younger generation don’t realise what their elders suffered. After the explosion, he threw himself into politics to keep busy. He was an Ulster Unionist councillor but lost his seat in last year’s swing to the DUP. As an Orangeman, he has a novel way of ‘marching’. He leads Ballymoney’s parade from a motorised scooter, “and I haven’t been rerouted yet!”

His proudest moment was receiving an MBE from the Queen. “They wouldn’t let me take my walking stick into Buckingham Palace for security reasons. I’m not too good without it. You have to walk up to the Queen, then take a few steps backwards, which is difficult with an artificial leg. But I managed it!”

He received £58,000 compensation, “enough to get by but it’s no life of luxury”. He thinks the security forces were expendable: “After we were injured, we were of no use and the authorities discarded us.” His son Hugh wanted to join the police. “The wife tried to talk him out of it but Hugh prevailed.”

Joe says he knows the identity of those who planted the bomb on his farm: “Some of their relatives had worked for me. I employed everybody, Protestant or Catholic, I never cared. I had the information and I’m sore nobody was ever prosecuted.” Not that he wants revenge – “that would make me as bad as the IRA but I can’t forgive because they show no remorse”. Yet, he’s a gentle, reflective man. “Do you think I’m bitter?” he asks, his voice soft and low.

Sam Malcolmson, 57, ex-policeman

Even now he hates confined spaces, and he’s always opening curtains and blinds. He has to be able to see a way out. He was in a restaurant in Newcastle, Co Down, with his wife the other evening. All the window seats were taken. They had to sit at the back. “It was awful, I felt enclosed. I wanted to get up and walk out”.

When the IRA gunmen opened fire on the police car in south Armagh, there was nothing they could do. “We were trapped inside. When the bullet hit me, it was like being pierced by a hot poker. My colleague slumped over the wheel. I saw blood seeping up through his corduroy jacket. He was drifting in and out of consciousness.

“I lost the power in my body but my mind was working. The survival instinct kicks in. I told him to weave along the road, making it harder for them to hit us again. We drove like that for two miles, into Crossmaglen. We crashed into the barrack gates. I remember nothing after that.”

He learned, much later, that his mother rushed to his bedside where she dropped dead, of a heart attack. She was 48. “I accept the risks I took as a police officer but my mother was a civilian. In my book, she was murdered by the IRA.

“If peace depends on my forgiveness, then peace is a long way off. The attack made me turn away from religion. I’m sick hearing ministers telling me to ‘move on’. I’d like to ask the IRA if they regretted my mother’s death, or did they think ‘two hits for the price of one’? Nobody was ever prosecuted for the gun attack.

Part of the bullet lodged in Sam’s spine, paralysing him from the waist down on the left side of his body. While his motor nerves were damaged, his sensory ones remained intact – the result is chronic pain. “I’m still on morphine, 34 years after I was shot. I take 16 pain-killers a day. My wife divides them into four boxes – ‘morning’, ‘noon’, ‘evening’ and ‘night’. Sometimes I feel like throwing those boxes against the wall. The tablets have strong side-effects.

“I wear a leg calliper. It’s like strapping on a ball-and-chain every morning. Six years ago there was a glimmer of a chance that spinal implants would ease my pain. They didn’t work. Allowing myself to hope was a mistake. There was a pit of depression afterwards. It was hard to climb out. Before, I’d never been sympathetic to people depressed or suicidal. I am now.”

For a while, he bred pheasants: “It calmed me down, going out and talking to the birds, but looking after them got to be too much.” When he’s depressed, he thinks of a Charlie, a fellow officer, blinded in a bomb attack. “I close my eyes and walk about the house and imagine living in darkness all the time. I find driving through beautiful scenery helps relieve my pain. Sometimes I’ll take Charlie out with me, describing everything I see to him.”

Sam envies other officers who joined the RUC with him. “I was 22 when I was shot. My career was over. I never got to do the job I loved. I’ve found life very boring.” After the shooting, he visited the Mournes to watch the lads with whom he once went cross-country running. “I began crying when I saw them on the starting-line. I had to walk away. I realised I’d never be there again, never be on top of the mountain either. I was condemned to being a spectator.”

Deception has been necessary too: “When you’re injured, many people presume you’re a paramilitary. If you admit you’re ex-security forces, it can be dangerous. When my four daughters were growing up, I told them I’d been a plumber and crashed the car drink-driving. That was the story for them to give their friends.”

He received £25,000 compensation from the British government. He says payments to those wounded in the 1970s, when people didn’t know their rights, were pitiful. “Awards in non-Troubles cases were far higher. You’d get more for losing a toe in a car crash than losing a leg in a bomb. Sometimes, the government challenged the courts’ awards, turning it into a cattle-market.

Even if somebody got a decent settlement, the money would be gone in a few years if they needed private medical treatment. I know one police officer considered selling the medal he’d won for bravery.” Sam thinks the government doesn’t want to hear awkward voices like his anymore. “And we victims are getting old and worn down. We’re tired fighting. Soon, we won’t be heard at all. They’ll be glad to be rid of us.”

Eddie McGarrigle, 40, ex-INLA member

It was raining and he was running – big, long strides – to open the back door so his girlfriend wouldn’t have to hang outside getting wet. She was a real looker, a former Miss Strabane. They’d been walking home from a date when the heavens opened. He gave her his coat, before darting ahead.

The gunman was waiting in the doorway. Eighteen-year-old Eddie McGarrigle saw a figure in the darkness point what looked like a rifle at him but he couldn’t take it in. Thinking a friend was “acting the eejit”, he shouted “f**k off!’. When he realised, it was too late. He started to run away but the gunman shot him in the back.

“I crawled along the street, calling him a bastard. My girlfriend arrived and started screaming. I thought I was dying. I told the ambulance driver not to tell my mother.” McGarrigle lost consciousness and woke up, three days later, in hospital. “Nobody ever told me I was paralysed from the waist down – I just sort of found out.”

Twenty-two years on, it’s hard catching up with him. One evening, he’s playing basketball “and I’m not stopping when I’m winning!” Next, he’s on a hunger-strike march in the Bogside. Then, he’s out with his dog, Troy. Never mind the raft of First Communions, odd for a self-proclaimed Marxist.

But McGarrigle confounds stereotypes. When he was an INLA prisoner in Long Kesh, comrades who didn’t know him, presumed he’d been shot by the security forces. They didn’t realise it was his own organisation, the INLA, which had put him in a wheelchair.

He became an “active republican” during the hunger-strike. In 1983, a woman told him a man had sexually abused her daughter. Another INLA member warned the man McGarrigle was asking questions. The man stole an IRA gun, shot McGarrigle, and the INLA claimed responsibility.

The man was later convicted of sex abuse. The INLA apologised to McGarrigle. “It was hard but I accepted the apology. The INLA had been in disarray at the time. I wasn’t about to change my politics because I personally had a rough deal.

“The Brits were my enemy. I wouldn’t be distracted from that. I’d loved sport. I was a big lad, 6″1. I was Tyrone boxing champion, I played hand-ball, I ran cross-country. All that stopped but self-pity is a waste of time. Too many people in the Troubles wrapped victimhood around themselves. I was just glad to be alive.”

Out of hospital, the security forces “tortured” him. “I was arrested every few weeks. They thought the wheelchair was my weak spot. They’d sing ‘You’ll never walk alone’ at me. They’d stop my car and open the boot and bonnet, knowing I’d struggle to get out and close them, and then they’d walk off.

“One day, the Brits demanded I get out of the car and open the bonnet. I refused. I told them I’d give them five minutes if they genuinely wanted to search the car, otherwise I was off. They stood laughing at me. So when the five minutes were up, I just started the car and drove at them.” McGarrigle was convicted of knocking down a soldier.

For legal reasons, the extent of his “republican socialist activities” can’t be disclosed: “I’m not saying I was Dan Breen but I played a full and active role. I wasn’t restricted to sitting at home planning things. In terms of disability, the INLA was an equal opportunities employer.”

Being a paraplegic didn’t destroy his personal life: “I pushed my girlfriend away emotionally because I reckoned everybody thought, ‘He’ll have to marry her. He won’t get anybody else now’. But I didn’t love her and wouldn’t have married her anyway. I’d no trouble getting women. I’d be on the dance floor, wheelchair spinning – though now I’m older, they’d have to forcibly push me out there!”

In 1990, McGarrigle was arrested following the attempted murder of a UDR man. “At night, the cops carried me to the cell bed. But, on the last three nights, one cop abused me, talking about the need to “cook you vegetables”. I wouldn’t let him touch me. I sat in the wheelchair, three days and nights. I fainted during interrogation.

“The doctor told me to say I was unfit for questioning. I refused. That would have been crying for special treatment. I was convicted of conspiracy to murder. I should have got 10 years but the judge took a year off because I was in a wheelchair. I was raging at the old c**t for making a big deal about that.”

Belfast’s Victorian Crumlin Road jail was an inhospitable place. “They held me in the cell for infected diseases, the only cell wide enough to take a wheelchair. It was 24-hour lock-up, solitary confinement.

“The toilet and shower room wasn’t wide enough either. They said they’d carry me into it. I refused so for two years I’d no washing facilities and a newspaper on top of the bed became my toilet. It was hard. I wrote poetry about drowning and coming up for air. After the Crum, Long Kesh was heaven – a modern building and all on the flat!”

McGarrigle supports the ceasefire but is anti-Belfast Agreement. “The war’s over; republicans lost. Adams and McGuinness settled for what could have been achieved in 1974.”

He’s married with two children, Liam, 9, and six-week old Paiti. “I can’t play football with Liam so I take him to see Celtic instead. I don’t want to burden him with politics. He thinks I fell off a motorbike. My wife’s a special person. She says I’m softer and more compassionate than most men. I’m the best vacuum cleaner in Strabane. Anything like putting up shelves, or cutting the grass, her brother does.”

McGarrigle met disabled ex-security force members during treatment in the spinal unit. “On a human level, I feel for them, but we’ve nothing in common. The reality is I’d have put them in a wheelchair, and they’d have put me in a wheelchair if they’d had the chance. It was a war. We were on different sides.”

He never fought his disability, “just tried to get on with life” as best he could. Sometimes, though, things are different: “When I’m dreaming, whatever I’m doing, I’m never in a wheelchair.”

May 31, 2006
________________

This article appeared in the May 28, 2006 edition of the Sunday Tribune.

Western People

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

The centenary commemorations must be the beginning of a new era of recognition of the achievements of Michael Davitt, writes John Cooney.

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usTHE celebration of the death of Michael Davitt a hundred years ago this week as been overshadowed by the Irish Government’s Commemoration Parade on Easter Sunday of the ninetieth anniversary of the 1916 Rising. However, it is still not too late to hope that Davitt’s legacy for today’s Ireland will help switch the focus of national debate away from the remembrance of military violence to the politics of peace. Davitt, above all, should be remembered as an ex-Fenian who abandoned armed insurrection for the politics of peaceful protest.

The story of Michael Davitt has the capacity to exercise a powerful hold over our imagination a century after his death for the lessons which he taught about upholding human freedom, educational advancement, prison reform, the rights of women, social commitment and political idealism.

A study of Davitt is timely because the values he espoused are under attack from international terrorism, a monolithic media culture, disrespect for multi-ethnic diversity and the growth of arbitrary State powers.

Fate dealt Davitt two severe blows even before he reached adolescence and intellectual maturity. At the age of four, he watched helplessly as his parents and his other siblings were evicted from their thatched cottage at Straide in County Mayo.

‘I have a distinct remembrance (doubtless strengthened by the frequent narration of the event by my parents in after years) of that morning’s scene,” he was to write his masterpiece, The Fall of Feudalism, published in 1904.

‘The remnant of our household furniture flung about the road; the roof of the house falling in and the thatch catching fire; my mother and father looking on with four young children, the youngest only two months old, adding their cries to the other pangs which must have agitated their souls at the sight of their burning homestead’. At the age of eleven, as a working class refugee in the village of Haslingden in east Lancashire, seventeen miles north of Manchester, he lost his right arm in a cotton mill accident.

The combination of these two personal tragedies catapulted him into the secretive Irish Republican Brotherhood, the template for the twentieth century Provisional IRA. This involvement led to his capture, arrest and sentence to eight years of penal servitude in Dartmoor Prison. He was only 24 years of age when he was imprisoned as a convicted Fenian felon for terrorist activities.

Yet, Davitt learned from such adversity while in prison. He came to the conclusion, as he records in his Leaves from a Prison Diary, that violence was self-defeating, and that membership of an underground, armed conspiracy merely invited the counter-productive attention of State agents infiltrating the movement and recruiting informers – a phenomenon recently re-enacted in the brutal fate of double British and republican agent, Denis Donaldson, in his spartan Donegal hideaway.

These insights became the bedrock of Davitt’s conviction to become an apostle of non-violence, though he could use incendiary language on occasions and further brushes with the law. Lastingly, however, he emerged as a symbol of human solidarity. Pertinently, the historian, Carla King, in her foreword to Davitt’s Collected Writings, 1868-1906, Edition Synapse, has remarked that ‘during seven years of a brutal prison regime, Davitt turned, with a greatness of soul and a power to forgive, reminiscent of Nelson Mandela a century later from a physical force terrorist to a constitutional politician’. Davitt inspired Mahatma Gandhi of India in his campaign against the British Empire.

Davitt became the most internationalminded Irish nationalist of his generation. He developed a mission to unite the Irish and British working classes against landlordism and imperialism.

Indeed, Davitt, the one-armed Irishman who spoke with a pronounced Lancashire accent, is best remembered in history books as a leading figure in the nineteenth century Irish Home Rule movement, and especially for his role as the revolutionary founder of the Land League that was to make small farmer proprietorship, in the words of writer Sean O Faolain, the basic social unit in ‘the dreary Eden’ of Eamon de Valera’s independent Ireland. It was not for this that Davitt campaigned.

His advocacy of land nationalisation was rejected as communistic – and as the later experiment in the Soviet Union of collectivised farming showed – unrealistic. In his day, Davitt’s slogan, ‘Land for the People’, helped to simplify the complex agrarian issue, and accelerated what he called ‘the fall of feudalism’ in the land of his birth. Successive Land Acts passed by the House of Commons gave Irish tenants not just Davitt’s three F’s – fair rent, fixity of tenure and free sale – but allowed them to purchase their land on favourable terms from oppressive but mainly absentee landlords. That class was worn down by ‘Captain Boycott’.

While Parnell was venerated posthumously as a martyr, Davitt was excoriated as a Judas. Remarkably, by 1916 just ten years after his death, Davitt had been deliberately air-brushed out of the script for Irish freedom. ‘Republican’ Ireland declined to acknowledge him as being among ‘the Greats’. The 1916 leader, P. H. Pearse, did not assign Davitt a place in the Republican pantheon of Theobald Wolfe Tone, John Mitchel, Fintan Lalor – and even Parnell.

Nor, throughout the ‘Long War’ of sectarian violence on to the current attempts of Taoiseach Bertie Ahern and British Prime Minister Tony Blair to restore the Good Friday’s Executive and Assembly, has Davitt’s reputation been rehabilitated.

Insufficient attention has been put on Davitt’s role as an ex-Fenian who took the road of peaceful, democratic politics by renouncing his Fenian oath and taking a seat in the House of Commons at Westminster. He totally excluded violence as a means of advancing Irish unification.

Davitt’s career as a journalist and author after his departure from Westminster recast him as an anti-imperialist writer with his book The Boer Fight for Freedom. His reputation as an international human rights campaigner and investigative journalist was confirmed in his follow-up book on Russian racial pogroms against Jews in Kishniev, Within the Pale – The True Story of Anti-Semitic Persecutions in Russia.

Over Davitt’s grave in Straide, a Celtic Cross in his memory bears the words: ‘Blessed is he that hungers and thirsts after justice, for he shall receive it’. Referring to the awesome nature of this memorial, the historian M.R. D. Foot wrote, in 1963, that Davitt had received scant justice from the British in his lifetime and that even in Ireland he had become an unperson. Hopefully, that may about to change on the 160th anniversary of his birth and the 100th anniversary of his death.

Guardian

An attempted murder could have disastrous consequences for the alliance between the Ulster Unionist party and the Progressive Unionist party, says Henry McDonald

Wednesday May 31, 2006

As the leading north Belfast loyalist paramilitary Mark Haddock fights for his life in hospital today, Ulster Unionist (UUP) strategists must fear that their party is on a political life-support machine and someone soon is going to pull the plug.

If it transpires that Haddock’s former comrades in the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) carried out yesterday’s attempted murder on the man labelled a terrorist by MPs on both sides of the Irish sea, the political fallout for the UUP will be disastrous.

At present, the UUP is involved in a controversial alliance with the UVF-linked Progressive Unionist party (PUP) at Stormont. The arrangement has created an Ulster Unionist bloc bigger than both Sinn Féin and the moderate SDLP. If a power-sharing government were restored in Belfast, an unlikely event, the UUP would have three ministries as opposed to Sinn Féin having two in a Northern Ireland executive.

The UUP has tried to portray this bloc as a victory for unionism; that they have robbed their republican opponents of a ministry and put the overall unionist forces in Stormont in the majority once more. In reality the move to absorb the PUP has been a public relations disaster for the UUP.

The PUP’s David Ervine is the articulate voice of loyalism in Northern Ireland. An ex-UVF prisoner who gained a degree while in the Maze prison, Ervine was central to bringing about the loyalist ceasefires of 1994. He is an able and affable politician who has admirers across the floor of the assembly, including his former enemies in Sinn Féin.

However, while Ervine continues to argue for an end to loyalist violence on the streets, both pro-union terror groups are engaged in crime and terror on a weekly, and often daily, basis. Last summer, for instance, the UVF shot dead four men it alleged were linked to the anti-ceasefire drug dealing faction known as the Loyalist Volunteer Force (LVF). The UVF acted as judge, jury and executioner in what was effectively a war of annihilation against its smaller rival in greater Belfast.

The problem for Ervine and hence now Sir Reg Empey’s UUP is that, unlike the IRA, there is no centralised controlling political influence over all the disparate loyalist forces that were unleashed by the Troubles. Even if, as they have promised, the UVF leadership winds up the organisation, there will be individual units of that organisation and the larger UDA that are always in danger of carrying on reckless, ruthless and criminal activities, usually aimed at their own community.

The damage to the UUP though could be even more incalculable than the PUP. Even before yesterday’s shooting there was grave disquiet inside the UUP about the alliance. Moreover, the party’s only MP in Westminster, Lady Sylvia Hermon, has publicly expressed her unease about the arrangement. Sources close to the North Down MP are hinting that she is even considering becoming an independent if UVF involvement is proven.

Whoever shot Haddock (whose paramilitary history is steeped in controversy, particularly allegations that he is a security force agent), they achieved three things. Firstly, it has almost immediately taken the public focus off Martin McGuinness and allegations that the Sinn Féin MP worked for MI6 – claims made by the British army intelligence whistleblower Martin Ingram. Secondly, it provides Sinn Féin with a powerful counter-argument to unionists who continually insist they can’t share power with republicans while the IRA remains in existence. Why, republicans will argue with some justification, do unionists have no problem getting into political arrangements with loyalists linked to armed and active movements whilst ignoring the mandate of Sinn Féin?

Finally, the Haddock shooting has the potential to divide and damage an already weakened and demoralised UUP. The prospect of Ian Paisley’s rival Democratic Unionists totally eclipsing what was once the largest party in Northern Ireland looms ever closer.

· Henry McDonald is Ireland editor of the Observer and co-author of UVF.

BN.ie

31/05/2006 – 14:55:12

The head of the Sisters of Charity has refused to apologise for the physical and sexual abuse of boys at St Joseph’s Industrial School in Kilkenny in the early 1970s.

Sister Una O’Neill expressed regret and sorrow for the abuse while giving evidence to the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse today.

She also admitted that there were “system failures” which led to the abuse.

However, she refused to apologise because, she said, no members of the Sisters of Charity perpetrated the abuse, colluded in it or tried to cover it up.

Commission chairman Judge Sean Ryan suggested that it was a serious failure on behalf of the nuns not to understand what several children meant when they complained that someone was “at them”.

However, Sr O’Neill said the phrase was not understood at the time in terms of physical or sexual abuse.

Newshound

(by Suzanne Breen, Sunday Tribune)

They’re the forgotten victims of the Troubles. While the stories of those killed in the conflict are familiar, those who survived gun and bomb attacks, but were left with serious injuries, are ignored. Their names are unknown, their voices unheard.

More than 40,000 people were injured in political violence in the North in the past 35 years. “They’re over-looked,” says Sandra Peake, chief executive of the victims’ group WAVE. “They perceive that they’re neglected in comparison to the bereaved. They’ve been left to pick up the pieces of their lives, suffering mental trauma and debilitating injures, with little support. This entire area remains under-researched and under-funded.”

An independent study has begun into the lives of those seriously injured in the conflict. Here are the stories of three of them:

Joe Gaston, 79, former UDR soldier

His spare room is full of artificial legs. For nearly 30 years now, he’s been searching for a replacement for the real leg the IRA bomb blew away. He always knew he’d never move the way he once did. But maybe, he reckoned, he’d find something which would let him walk a bit further, or sit in the same position for more than a few minutes, without pain.

And so Joe Gaston travelled, all over Ireland and Britain, and bought. Two dozen legs or more. Some, he later sent to Africa, for limbless people even worse off than himself. “That leg was a torture chamber,” he says, pointing to one unwieldy construction. Another was “too roomy”, the next “too rigid and hard”.

“I’m nearly 80 and I’ve given up searching. This is as good as it gets,” he says, pointing to his current leg. Within a few minutes of sitting down, it’s slipping forward. Standing up is an ordeal. It creaks when he moves. In the summer, it’s uncomfortably sweaty.

Joe walks slowly across the front room of his home in Glarryford, Co Antrim, cluttered with family photographs and knick-knacks. ‘If all else fails, asks granda’, a plaque suggests. “That’s where it happened,” he says pointing to the now disused farm-yard across the road, “that’s where I lost my leg”.

It was a fortnight before Christmas 1977. He was a part-time UDR man but the land was his passion: “I’d 100 dairy cows, I was building up the farm.” He started the tractor. “A wall of heat hit my face. A bomb had been attached to the clutch or break. There was a bang. The tractor was blown to bits. It was the worst pain of my life. I put my hand down – there was nothing where my right leg used to be. They found my foot in the shed.

“I just lay there, saying a wee prayer for God to give me strength. I thought of the wife having to rear five children on her own. The eldest boy Samuel was in the yard when the bomb went off. He came running over. It was a blessing the younger ones were at school. My mother, who was 80, was in the living-room. The blast brought the window in around her. She lost her mind after that.”

Photographs taken in hospital before surgery are horrific. Nerves and muscle, bleeding and raw, hang from the stump that is left of Joe’s leg. His wife wants him to burn the photos “but I think it’s important to remember”. In the china cabinet, a glass jar holds a piece of the tractor the surgeons removed from his leg. It’s Joe’s nature to hold onto things. “When we got married, a man said to the wife, ‘you’ll be alright with Gaston girl, he keeps whatever he gets’.”

They used to dance, Isobel and Joe. “None of this shaking and rattling they do now. The quickstep was my dance. The wife would never get a chance to sit down, I’d have her up on the floor all night. She wouldn’t be fit for a thing afterwards.” His grand-daughter Julie is getting married next month “and that’ll hurt, not dancing at her wedding”.

He had to stop farming but wouldn’t sell the farm: “If I gave in, the other boys would have won.” He’d loved walking on beaches, up the Antrim coast to Portstewart where the sands are wild and deserted, but that became impossible too.

His hearing was seriously impaired. Surgery hasn’t improved it. A hearing aid makes one-to-one conversations possible, but he’s lost when several people talk at once. His blood pressure “went haywire” after the explosion. He had a stroke. The bomb damaged his kidney, then cancer set in, and the kidney had to be removed. “There’s a dull thudding pain constantly in my leg. It takes me three or four hours to get to sleep at night.”

He thinks the North’s younger generation don’t realise what their elders suffered. After the explosion, he threw himself into politics to keep busy. He was an Ulster Unionist councillor but lost his seat in last year’s swing to the DUP. As an Orangeman, he has a novel way of ‘marching’. He leads Ballymoney’s parade from a motorised scooter, “and I haven’t been rerouted yet!”

His proudest moment was receiving an MBE from the Queen. “They wouldn’t let me take my walking stick into Buckingham Palace for security reasons. I’m not too good without it. You have to walk up to the Queen, then take a few steps backwards, which is difficult with an artificial leg. But I managed it!”

He received £58,000 compensation, “enough to get by but it’s no life of luxury”. He thinks the security forces were expendable: “After we were injured, we were of no use and the authorities discarded us.” His son Hugh wanted to join the police. “The wife tried to talk him out of it but Hugh prevailed.”

Joe says he knows the identity of those who planted the bomb on his farm: “Some of their relatives had worked for me. I employed everybody, Protestant or Catholic, I never cared. I had the information and I’m sore nobody was ever prosecuted.” Not that he wants revenge – “that would make me as bad as the IRA but I can’t forgive because they show no remorse”. Yet, he’s a gentle, reflective man. “Do you think I’m bitter?” he asks, his voice soft and low.

Sam Malcolmson, 57, ex-policeman

Even now he hates confined spaces, and he’s always opening curtains and blinds. He has to be able to see a way out. He was in a restaurant in Newcastle, Co Down, with his wife the other evening. All the window seats were taken. They had to sit at the back. “It was awful, I felt enclosed. I wanted to get up and walk out”.

When the IRA gunmen opened fire on the police car in south Armagh, there was nothing they could do. “We were trapped inside. When the bullet hit me, it was like being pierced by a hot poker. My colleague slumped over the wheel. I saw blood seeping up through his corduroy jacket. He was drifting in and out of consciousness.

“I lost the power in my body but my mind was working. The survival instinct kicks in. I told him to weave along the road, making it harder for them to hit us again. We drove like that for two miles, into Crossmaglen. We crashed into the barrack gates. I remember nothing after that.”

He learned, much later, that his mother rushed to his bedside where she dropped dead, of a heart attack. She was 48. “I accept the risks I took as a police officer but my mother was a civilian. In my book, she was murdered by the IRA.

“If peace depends on my forgiveness, then peace is a long way off. The attack made me turn away from religion. I’m sick hearing ministers telling me to ‘move on’. I’d like to ask the IRA if they regretted my mother’s death, or did they think ‘two hits for the price of one’? Nobody was ever prosecuted for the gun attack.

Part of the bullet lodged in Sam’s spine, paralysing him from the waist down on the left side of his body. While his motor nerves were damaged, his sensory ones remained intact – the result is chronic pain. “I’m still on morphine, 34 years after I was shot. I take 16 pain-killers a day. My wife divides them into four boxes – ‘morning’, ‘noon’, ‘evening’ and ‘night’. Sometimes I feel like throwing those boxes against the wall. The tablets have strong side-effects.

“I wear a leg calliper. It’s like strapping on a ball-and-chain every morning. Six years ago there was a glimmer of a chance that spinal implants would ease my pain. They didn’t work. Allowing myself to hope was a mistake. There was a pit of depression afterwards. It was hard to climb out. Before, I’d never been sympathetic to people depressed or suicidal. I am now.”

For a while, he bred pheasants: “It calmed me down, going out and talking to the birds, but looking after them got to be too much.” When he’s depressed, he thinks of a Charlie, a fellow officer, blinded in a bomb attack. “I close my eyes and walk about the house and imagine living in darkness all the time. I find driving through beautiful scenery helps relieve my pain. Sometimes I’ll take Charlie out with me, describing everything I see to him.”

Sam envies other officers who joined the RUC with him. “I was 22 when I was shot. My career was over. I never got to do the job I loved. I’ve found life very boring.” After the shooting, he visited the Mournes to watch the lads with whom he once went cross-country running. “I began crying when I saw them on the starting-line. I had to walk away. I realised I’d never be there again, never be on top of the mountain either. I was condemned to being a spectator.”

Deception has been necessary too: “When you’re injured, many people presume you’re a paramilitary. If you admit you’re ex-security forces, it can be dangerous. When my four daughters were growing up, I told them I’d been a plumber and crashed the car drink-driving. That was the story for them to give their friends.”

He received £25,000 compensation from the British government. He says payments to those wounded in the 1970s, when people didn’t know their rights, were pitiful. “Awards in non-Troubles cases were far higher. You’d get more for losing a toe in a car crash than losing a leg in a bomb. Sometimes, the government challenged the courts’ awards, turning it into a cattle-market.

Even if somebody got a decent settlement, the money would be gone in a few years if they needed private medical treatment. I know one police officer considered selling the medal he’d won for bravery.” Sam thinks the government doesn’t want to hear awkward voices like his anymore. “And we victims are getting old and worn down. We’re tired fighting. Soon, we won’t be heard at all. They’ll be glad to be rid of us.”

Eddie McGarrigle, 40, ex-INLA member

It was raining and he was running – big, long strides – to open the back door so his girlfriend wouldn’t have to hang outside getting wet. She was a real looker, a former Miss Strabane. They’d been walking home from a date when the heavens opened. He gave her his coat, before darting ahead.

The gunman was waiting in the doorway. Eighteen-year-old Eddie McGarrigle saw a figure in the darkness point what looked like a rifle at him but he couldn’t take it in. Thinking a friend was “acting the eejit”, he shouted “f**k off!’. When he realised, it was too late. He started to run away but the gunman shot him in the back.

“I crawled along the street, calling him a bastard. My girlfriend arrived and started screaming. I thought I was dying. I told the ambulance driver not to tell my mother.” McGarrigle lost consciousness and woke up, three days later, in hospital. “Nobody ever told me I was paralysed from the waist down – I just sort of found out.”

Twenty-two years on, it’s hard catching up with him. One evening, he’s playing basketball “and I’m not stopping when I’m winning!” Next, he’s on a hunger-strike march in the Bogside. Then, he’s out with his dog, Troy. Never mind the raft of First Communions, odd for a self-proclaimed Marxist.

But McGarrigle confounds stereotypes. When he was an INLA prisoner in Long Kesh, comrades who didn’t know him, presumed he’d been shot by the security forces. They didn’t realise it was his own organisation, the INLA, which had put him in a wheelchair.

He became an “active republican” during the hunger-strike. In 1983, a woman told him a man had sexually abused her daughter. Another INLA member warned the man McGarrigle was asking questions. The man stole an IRA gun, shot McGarrigle, and the INLA claimed responsibility.

The man was later convicted of sex abuse. The INLA apologised to McGarrigle. “It was hard but I accepted the apology. The INLA had been in disarray at the time. I wasn’t about to change my politics because I personally had a rough deal.

“The Brits were my enemy. I wouldn’t be distracted from that. I’d loved sport. I was a big lad, 6″1. I was Tyrone boxing champion, I played hand-ball, I ran cross-country. All that stopped but self-pity is a waste of time. Too many people in the Troubles wrapped victimhood around themselves. I was just glad to be alive.”

Out of hospital, the security forces “tortured” him. “I was arrested every few weeks. They thought the wheelchair was my weak spot. They’d sing ‘You’ll never walk alone’ at me. They’d stop my car and open the boot and bonnet, knowing I’d struggle to get out and close them, and then they’d walk off.

“One day, the Brits demanded I get out of the car and open the bonnet. I refused. I told them I’d give them five minutes if they genuinely wanted to search the car, otherwise I was off. They stood laughing at me. So when the five minutes were up, I just started the car and drove at them.” McGarrigle was convicted of knocking down a soldier.

For legal reasons, the extent of his “republican socialist activities” can’t be disclosed: “I’m not saying I was Dan Breen but I played a full and active role. I wasn’t restricted to sitting at home planning things. In terms of disability, the INLA was an equal opportunities employer.”

Being a paraplegic didn’t destroy his personal life: “I pushed my girlfriend away emotionally because I reckoned everybody thought, ‘He’ll have to marry her. He won’t get anybody else now’. But I didn’t love her and wouldn’t have married her anyway. I’d no trouble getting women. I’d be on the dance floor, wheelchair spinning – though now I’m older, they’d have to forcibly push me out there!”

In 1990, McGarrigle was arrested following the attempted murder of a UDR man. “At night, the cops carried me to the cell bed. But, on the last three nights, one cop abused me, talking about the need to “cook you vegetables”. I wouldn’t let him touch me. I sat in the wheelchair, three days and nights. I fainted during interrogation.

“The doctor told me to say I was unfit for questioning. I refused. That would have been crying for special treatment. I was convicted of conspiracy to murder. I should have got 10 years but the judge took a year off because I was in a wheelchair. I was raging at the old c**t for making a big deal about that.”

Belfast’s Victorian Crumlin Road jail was an inhospitable place. “They held me in the cell for infected diseases, the only cell wide enough to take a wheelchair. It was 24-hour lock-up, solitary confinement.

“The toilet and shower room wasn’t wide enough either. They said they’d carry me into it. I refused so for two years I’d no washing facilities and a newspaper on top of the bed became my toilet. It was hard. I wrote poetry about drowning and coming up for air. After the Crum, Long Kesh was heaven – a modern building and all on the flat!”

McGarrigle supports the ceasefire but is anti-Belfast Agreement. “The war’s over; republicans lost. Adams and McGuinness settled for what could have been achieved in 1974.”

He’s married with two children, Liam, 9, and six-week old Paiti. “I can’t play football with Liam so I take him to see Celtic instead. I don’t want to burden him with politics. He thinks I fell off a motorbike. My wife’s a special person. She says I’m softer and more compassionate than most men. I’m the best vacuum cleaner in Strabane. Anything like putting up shelves, or cutting the grass, her brother does.”

McGarrigle met disabled ex-security force members during treatment in the spinal unit. “On a human level, I feel for them, but we’ve nothing in common. The reality is I’d have put them in a wheelchair, and they’d have put me in a wheelchair if they’d had the chance. It was a war. We were on different sides.”

He never fought his disability, “just tried to get on with life” as best he could. Sometimes, though, things are different: “When I’m dreaming, whatever I’m doing, I’m never in a wheelchair.”

May 31, 2006
________________

This article appeared in the May 28, 2006 edition of the Sunday Tribune.

Western People

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

The centenary commemorations must be the beginning of a new era of recognition of the achievements of Michael Davitt, writes John Cooney.

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usTHE celebration of the death of Michael Davitt a hundred years ago this week as been overshadowed by the Irish Government’s Commemoration Parade on Easter Sunday of the ninetieth anniversary of the 1916 Rising. However, it is still not too late to hope that Davitt’s legacy for today’s Ireland will help switch the focus of national debate away from the remembrance of military violence to the politics of peace. Davitt, above all, should be remembered as an ex-Fenian who abandoned armed insurrection for the politics of peaceful protest.

The story of Michael Davitt has the capacity to exercise a powerful hold over our imagination a century after his death for the lessons which he taught about upholding human freedom, educational advancement, prison reform, the rights of women, social commitment and political idealism.

A study of Davitt is timely because the values he espoused are under attack from international terrorism, a monolithic media culture, disrespect for multi-ethnic diversity and the growth of arbitrary State powers.

Fate dealt Davitt two severe blows even before he reached adolescence and intellectual maturity. At the age of four, he watched helplessly as his parents and his other siblings were evicted from their thatched cottage at Straide in County Mayo.

‘I have a distinct remembrance (doubtless strengthened by the frequent narration of the event by my parents in after years) of that morning’s scene,” he was to write his masterpiece, The Fall of Feudalism, published in 1904.

‘The remnant of our household furniture flung about the road; the roof of the house falling in and the thatch catching fire; my mother and father looking on with four young children, the youngest only two months old, adding their cries to the other pangs which must have agitated their souls at the sight of their burning homestead’. At the age of eleven, as a working class refugee in the village of Haslingden in east Lancashire, seventeen miles north of Manchester, he lost his right arm in a cotton mill accident.

The combination of these two personal tragedies catapulted him into the secretive Irish Republican Brotherhood, the template for the twentieth century Provisional IRA. This involvement led to his capture, arrest and sentence to eight years of penal servitude in Dartmoor Prison. He was only 24 years of age when he was imprisoned as a convicted Fenian felon for terrorist activities.

Yet, Davitt learned from such adversity while in prison. He came to the conclusion, as he records in his Leaves from a Prison Diary, that violence was self-defeating, and that membership of an underground, armed conspiracy merely invited the counter-productive attention of State agents infiltrating the movement and recruiting informers – a phenomenon recently re-enacted in the brutal fate of double British and republican agent, Denis Donaldson, in his spartan Donegal hideaway.

These insights became the bedrock of Davitt’s conviction to become an apostle of non-violence, though he could use incendiary language on occasions and further brushes with the law. Lastingly, however, he emerged as a symbol of human solidarity. Pertinently, the historian, Carla King, in her foreword to Davitt’s Collected Writings, 1868-1906, Edition Synapse, has remarked that ‘during seven years of a brutal prison regime, Davitt turned, with a greatness of soul and a power to forgive, reminiscent of Nelson Mandela a century later from a physical force terrorist to a constitutional politician’. Davitt inspired Mahatma Gandhi of India in his campaign against the British Empire.

Davitt became the most internationalminded Irish nationalist of his generation. He developed a mission to unite the Irish and British working classes against landlordism and imperialism.

Indeed, Davitt, the one-armed Irishman who spoke with a pronounced Lancashire accent, is best remembered in history books as a leading figure in the nineteenth century Irish Home Rule movement, and especially for his role as the revolutionary founder of the Land League that was to make small farmer proprietorship, in the words of writer Sean O Faolain, the basic social unit in ‘the dreary Eden’ of Eamon de Valera’s independent Ireland. It was not for this that Davitt campaigned.

His advocacy of land nationalisation was rejected as communistic – and as the later experiment in the Soviet Union of collectivised farming showed – unrealistic. In his day, Davitt’s slogan, ‘Land for the People’, helped to simplify the complex agrarian issue, and accelerated what he called ‘the fall of feudalism’ in the land of his birth. Successive Land Acts passed by the House of Commons gave Irish tenants not just Davitt’s three F’s – fair rent, fixity of tenure and free sale – but allowed them to purchase their land on favourable terms from oppressive but mainly absentee landlords. That class was worn down by ‘Captain Boycott’.

While Parnell was venerated posthumously as a martyr, Davitt was excoriated as a Judas. Remarkably, by 1916 just ten years after his death, Davitt had been deliberately air-brushed out of the script for Irish freedom. ‘Republican’ Ireland declined to acknowledge him as being among ‘the Greats’. The 1916 leader, P. H. Pearse, did not assign Davitt a place in the Republican pantheon of Theobald Wolfe Tone, John Mitchel, Fintan Lalor – and even Parnell.

Nor, throughout the ‘Long War’ of sectarian violence on to the current attempts of Taoiseach Bertie Ahern and British Prime Minister Tony Blair to restore the Good Friday’s Executive and Assembly, has Davitt’s reputation been rehabilitated.

Insufficient attention has been put on Davitt’s role as an ex-Fenian who took the road of peaceful, democratic politics by renouncing his Fenian oath and taking a seat in the House of Commons at Westminster. He totally excluded violence as a means of advancing Irish unification.

Davitt’s career as a journalist and author after his departure from Westminster recast him as an anti-imperialist writer with his book The Boer Fight for Freedom. His reputation as an international human rights campaigner and investigative journalist was confirmed in his follow-up book on Russian racial pogroms against Jews in Kishniev, Within the Pale – The True Story of Anti-Semitic Persecutions in Russia.

Over Davitt’s grave in Straide, a Celtic Cross in his memory bears the words: ‘Blessed is he that hungers and thirsts after justice, for he shall receive it’. Referring to the awesome nature of this memorial, the historian M.R. D. Foot wrote, in 1963, that Davitt had received scant justice from the British in his lifetime and that even in Ireland he had become an unperson. Hopefully, that may about to change on the 160th anniversary of his birth and the 100th anniversary of his death.

Guardian

An attempted murder could have disastrous consequences for the alliance between the Ulster Unionist party and the Progressive Unionist party, says Henry McDonald

Wednesday May 31, 2006

As the leading north Belfast loyalist paramilitary Mark Haddock fights for his life in hospital today, Ulster Unionist (UUP) strategists must fear that their party is on a political life-support machine and someone soon is going to pull the plug.

If it transpires that Haddock’s former comrades in the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) carried out yesterday’s attempted murder on the man labelled a terrorist by MPs on both sides of the Irish sea, the political fallout for the UUP will be disastrous.

At present, the UUP is involved in a controversial alliance with the UVF-linked Progressive Unionist party (PUP) at Stormont. The arrangement has created an Ulster Unionist bloc bigger than both Sinn Féin and the moderate SDLP. If a power-sharing government were restored in Belfast, an unlikely event, the UUP would have three ministries as opposed to Sinn Féin having two in a Northern Ireland executive.

The UUP has tried to portray this bloc as a victory for unionism; that they have robbed their republican opponents of a ministry and put the overall unionist forces in Stormont in the majority once more. In reality the move to absorb the PUP has been a public relations disaster for the UUP.

The PUP’s David Ervine is the articulate voice of loyalism in Northern Ireland. An ex-UVF prisoner who gained a degree while in the Maze prison, Ervine was central to bringing about the loyalist ceasefires of 1994. He is an able and affable politician who has admirers across the floor of the assembly, including his former enemies in Sinn Féin.

However, while Ervine continues to argue for an end to loyalist violence on the streets, both pro-union terror groups are engaged in crime and terror on a weekly, and often daily, basis. Last summer, for instance, the UVF shot dead four men it alleged were linked to the anti-ceasefire drug dealing faction known as the Loyalist Volunteer Force (LVF). The UVF acted as judge, jury and executioner in what was effectively a war of annihilation against its smaller rival in greater Belfast.

The problem for Ervine and hence now Sir Reg Empey’s UUP is that, unlike the IRA, there is no centralised controlling political influence over all the disparate loyalist forces that were unleashed by the Troubles. Even if, as they have promised, the UVF leadership winds up the organisation, there will be individual units of that organisation and the larger UDA that are always in danger of carrying on reckless, ruthless and criminal activities, usually aimed at their own community.

The damage to the UUP though could be even more incalculable than the PUP. Even before yesterday’s shooting there was grave disquiet inside the UUP about the alliance. Moreover, the party’s only MP in Westminster, Lady Sylvia Hermon, has publicly expressed her unease about the arrangement. Sources close to the North Down MP are hinting that she is even considering becoming an independent if UVF involvement is proven.

Whoever shot Haddock (whose paramilitary history is steeped in controversy, particularly allegations that he is a security force agent), they achieved three things. Firstly, it has almost immediately taken the public focus off Martin McGuinness and allegations that the Sinn Féin MP worked for MI6 – claims made by the British army intelligence whistleblower Martin Ingram. Secondly, it provides Sinn Féin with a powerful counter-argument to unionists who continually insist they can’t share power with republicans while the IRA remains in existence. Why, republicans will argue with some justification, do unionists have no problem getting into political arrangements with loyalists linked to armed and active movements whilst ignoring the mandate of Sinn Féin?

Finally, the Haddock shooting has the potential to divide and damage an already weakened and demoralised UUP. The prospect of Ian Paisley’s rival Democratic Unionists totally eclipsing what was once the largest party in Northern Ireland looms ever closer.

· Henry McDonald is Ireland editor of the Observer and co-author of UVF.

BN.ie

31/05/2006 – 14:55:12

The head of the Sisters of Charity has refused to apologise for the physical and sexual abuse of boys at St Joseph’s Industrial School in Kilkenny in the early 1970s.

Sister Una O’Neill expressed regret and sorrow for the abuse while giving evidence to the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse today.

She also admitted that there were “system failures” which led to the abuse.

However, she refused to apologise because, she said, no members of the Sisters of Charity perpetrated the abuse, colluded in it or tried to cover it up.

Commission chairman Judge Sean Ryan suggested that it was a serious failure on behalf of the nuns not to understand what several children meant when they complained that someone was “at them”.

However, Sr O’Neill said the phrase was not understood at the time in terms of physical or sexual abuse.

RTÉ

31 May 2006 12:15

The Supreme Court has been asked by the State to hear an urgent appeal on Friday against yesterday’s High Court decision to release a man jailed for the statutory rape of a 12-year-old girl.

Laffoy, the woman judge who let the child raper go free

The Chief Justice, Mr Justice John Murray, said the answers to the complex issues raised by the case do not pop out of a self-service machine.

The court has risen to consider the written submissions and decide how soon the matter can come before them.

Meanwhile, the Tánaiste has told the Dail she shared the public outrage following the ruling.

Mary Harney said the Department of Justice was informed about the case in 2002 by the Chief State Solicitors Office and that there was an information deficit.

She said even if the Government had changed the law at the outset of the case involving Mr A it could not have been applied retrospectively.

Mary Harney also said that the Government never anticipated losing the Supreme Court case which led to his release.

She said the State’s Supreme Court appeal would determine the outcome of other similar cases.

Gaping hole in law: Rabbitte

The Fine Gael leader, Enda Kenny, described the Government as a headless gang of bunglers while the Labour leader Pat Rabbitte said it was disgraceful that young people were at risk and there was now a gaping hole in the law.

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usMr A walked free after the High Court ruled that his continuing detention was unlawful following last week’s Supreme Court striking down of the law on statutory rape.

Protected ‘Mr A’ – free to rape again

He had been jailed for three years in 2004 after pleading guilty to unlawful carnal knowledge of a 12-year-old girl.

Yesterday, counsel for the State had asked the High Court to keep Mr A in prison to give the State time to go to the Supreme Court to ask what the judgment meant from a technical point of view.

However, Ms Justice Mary Laffoy refused to continue the man’s detention.

Govt to rush emergency legislation

Meanwhile, it has emerged that the Government intends to rush emergency legislation through the Oireachtas next Wednesday following the High Court decision.

Yesterday, the Taoiseach, Bertie Ahern, said he was prepared to recall the Dáil and Seanad next week if legislation dealing with the fall out from last week’s ruling is ready.

Mr Ahern was responding to strong attacks from opposition leaders who accused the Government of incompetence and complacency in the face of the decision.

Last night, the Government Chief Whip, Tom Kitt, told a meeting of the Fianna Fáil parliamentary party that both houses would sit next Wednesday to deal with the new legislation.

The legal changes are still under consideration by the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform and the Attorney-General’s office.

Daily Ireland

By Connla Young
31/05/2006

The convicted loyalist killer Ken Barrett was spirited out of the North within hours of his release from Maghaberry Prison, Daily Ireland has learned.
The only man convicted of the murder of Pat Finucane was taken directly from the prison to George Best Belfast City Airport after his release on Tuesday last week.
Earlier that day, the Sentence Review Commission gave the go-ahead for the former Ulster Defence Association hitman to be set free after serving less than two years for the 1989 murder of Belfast solicitor Pat Finucane.
The ex-UDA killer was convicted of the murder of Pat Finucane in 2004 and sentenced to life behind bars with a minimum of 22 years to be served.
During his time in Maghaberry, the former loyalist was held in solitary confinement because of fears for his safety.
The killer, who was also an RUC Special Branch agent, is suspected of involvement in the murder of dozens of Catholics.
Informed sources told Daily Ireland last night that, when asked where he wanted to go on his release, Mr Barrett requested he be taken to England.
It is understood that he was still in custody in the North when news broke that he had been granted early release.
After being held at the PSNI’s holding facility at Belfast City Airport for several hours, he was placed on the first flight to London’s Gatwick Airport.
He sat next to dozens of unsuspecting passengers during the 90-minute flight.
It is understood that, in London, he was met by British police, who escorted him from the airport.
Mr Barrett’s current whereabouts are unknown.
He is not the first convicted loyalist to receive the red-carpet treatment on release from jail.
In January 2005, former Shankill Road UDA boss Johnny Adair was taken directly from Maghaberry to RAF Aldergrove before being flown out of the North by helicopter.

Belfast Telegraph

By Noel McAdam
31 May 2006

The SDLP has warned the Government’s ‘set up Stormont’ committee could be used by the DUP to block devolution – but has said it will take part. Sinn Fein said it will be there too – but called on the DUP to attend.

Alliance will also take part in the ‘task force’ – but voiced concerns the committee won’t be able to do its work. The DUP has yet to make a decision but is expected to attend, and the UUP will almost certainly be there.

The Preparation for Government Committee, to be chaired by Assembly speaker Eileen Bell, is to meet on Tuesday.

But SDLP leader Mark Durkan said he was concerned over Secretary of State Peter Hain’s suggestion that talks would be with the governments and not between parties on the committee.

He said he feared the committee could be used ‘to set preconditions for the restoration of the Agreement’s institutions’.

Belfast Telegraph

As the plans for the Maze stadium are unveiled, the arguments over its merits as a suitable location continue to rage

By Deborah McAleese
31 May 2006

Free Image Hosting at www.ImageShack.us
Click to view graphic w/ notes – HM Prison Maze – Long Kesh

Ulster’s new sports stadium can only be housed at the site of the former Maze Prison, the Government last night insisted.As vigorous arguments over its location were re-ignited, minister David Hanson yesterday called on everyone to throw their weight behind the project.

Unveiling the ambitious proposals for the 360-acre plot near Lisburn the minister admitted that major private investment will be necessary for the planned redevelopment of the site, which he said could cost up to £400m.

As well as a 42,000-seater stadium, plans also feature an international conflict transformation centre, cinema, industrial zone, hotel, restaurant and parkland. Unveiling the Maze/Long Kesh masterplan yesterday, Mr Hanson, the minister responsible for the project, said that the former jail is the only site that can attract rugby, football and GAA.

He said: “I think it is now time for Northern Ireland to get behind this project, a project for all of Northern Ireland but also a project that will make a significant contribution to the continued success of the region’s capital city, Belfast. It is now time we look at this stadium as a real possibility for the future.”

In 1981 IRA Bobby Sands became the first of 10 republican hunger strikers to die in the Maze. Mr Hanson said the site could now become a symbol of the progress made since the days of the Troubles.

“The opportunity now exists to turn security and military assets so long associated with conflict into symbols and engines of economic and social regeneration, renewal and growth,” he said.

He added that the international centre for conflict transformation could be a place where people can learn about transcending conflict.

“This particular initiative lies at the heart of what the transformation is about – learning not just locally and regionally but internationally about our experience here of the move from conflict into peace,” he said.

The site will also contain a hotel, conference facilities, leisure outlets including bars, cafes, restaurants, specialist retail outlets, multi-screen cinema, a possible ice rink and an equestrian centre. New transport links have been added to the plans.

YES to the plans

The stadium development proposals for Lisburn have been welcomed by a range of groups.

The Maze/Long Kesh Monitoring Group, headed by Lisburn politicians, has called for speedy implementation of the masterplan for the 360-acre site.

Group chairman Edwin Poots said he looked forward to seeing the development begin.

“It is important that the Government, including the Strategic Investment Board and other related public bodies, process the various stages of the Master Plan without undue delay and hopefully to its ultimate implementation. Implicit in that is a challenge for the private sector to engage with the project, as it has a vital role to play in making the plan come to life.

“This is an exciting, multi-faceted plan which, if implemented, will provide world-class facilities on a site accessible to all the people of Northern Ireland and agreed by the four main political parties.”

The blueprint includes plans for a conflict transformation centre. Coiste spokesman Laurence McKeown, which represents republican ex-prisoners, views the plans as a step forward.

“The suggestion for a conflict transformation centre was actually made by Coiste so we are certainly very supportive of the announcement,” he said.

“The intention in preserving part of the prison was that future generations could learn from it as the prison really was central to the conflict in a way that perhaps other famous prisons like Robben Island in South Africa were not because they were more removed.”

Irish Football Association chief executive Howard Wells said it was a positive move.

“We have been waiting for some months for a move forward in terms of the next stage in the process,” he said.

Lagan Valley MLA Seamus Close said: “It is for the good of our whole society and it is futuristic and ambitious and this will be a driving force to get action rather than just talk.”

Michael McHugh

NO to the plans

The Amalgamation of Official Northern Ireland Supporters’ Clubs chairman, Phil Smyth, said he viewed yesterday’s announcement with dismay.

“Developing a cinema and all the rest is all very well and good but for football supporters the stadium is much too big for the number of fans in Northern Ireland,” he said. “There will be a loss of atmosphere and we feel that the logical thing to do would be to build a smaller stadium in Belfast.

“At the minute we are filling out Windsor Park at 14,000 but to increase our attendance three-fold is a bit much.

“This site has the potential to cost an absolute fortune and the vast majority of football fans are taxpayers so it is money out of our pockets for something which we don’t want.”

A Northern Ireland Tourist Board spokesman said: “Whilst NITB has expressed no preference in promoting specific sites, it has highlighted that the application of criteria aligned to tourism and related economic development priorities tends to favour city centre locations which are well supported with accommodation, restaurants, transportation networks and other amenities.”

Belfast Chamber of Trade and Commerce President Dave Pennick, described it as a setback.

“We believe that this is a very time-sensitive venue in Lisburn in which people will simply attend for the event and not come for the weekend as we would see in Belfast and as we see in other cities with major stadiums like Cardiff. We have plenty of car parking and we have the infrastructure in place to cope with large numbers of people coming to the city,” he said.

He added that the traffic problems associated with large events affected all similar cities and said it was an issue which could be dealt with.

Michael McHugh

Belfast Telegraph

Shooting heaps pressure on Empey

31 May 2006

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usLeading loyalist Mark Haddock was clinging to life today as suspicions over his attempted murder centred on former associates in a notorious north Belfast UVF gang.

The shooting is expected to heap pressure on UUP leader Sir Reg Empey over his party’s Assembly link-up with PUP leader David Ervine.

Haddock (37), is the ex-Special Branch informer at the heart of a major Police Ombudsman probe into alleged security force collusion with the UVF in the Mount Vernon estate.

He remained in a critical condition in the Royal Victoria Hospital today after being shot up to eight times in a house in Newtownabbey late yesterday afternoon.

There have been widespread rumours that Haddock’s once loyal allies in Mount Vernon had been ordered to kill him by the terror group’s bosses.

The murder bid raises fresh questions about court bail decisions. Haddock is awaiting a verdict, on a charge of attempting to murder Ballyclare pub doorman Trevor Gowdy in 2002.

He was granted bail in January, despite a police warning that his release would trigger UVF violence.

There will also be fears that yesterday’s murder bid will create further instability within loyalism in north Belfast.

Haddock had enemies outside the UVF, having being accused under parliamentary privilege of involvement in a string of murders.

The UDA blamed the Mount Vernon UVF for spreading a loyalist feud out from the Shankill to north Belfast and Newtownabbey in 2000.

But a source close to the UDA today said: “There is no chance of UDA involvement in this. There is no doubt that it was the UVF.”

Haddock was named in the Dail last year as the senior loyalist and ex-police informer at the centre of a Police Ombudsman investigation into the murder of ex-RAF airman Raymond McCord Jnr in 1997.

Irish Labour leader Pat Rabbitte also told the Dail in October that Haddock had been involved in eight other killings, starting with the murder of Catholic woman Sharon McKenna in 1993.

PUP leader David Ervine today said he had spoken to UVF members about the attack, but remains unsure about who was responsible.

“I think I’ve got to condemn an attack made on a human being,” he said.

But he added: “The same tears for Sharon McKenna are not necessarily the same tears for Mark Haddock.”

A ‘marked man’

Suspicion was last night falling on former UVF comrades of leading loyalist Mark Haddock after he was shot up to eight times in a murder bid.

The prominent loyalist, thought to be commander of the UVF in Mount Vernon, was left fighting for his life after he was attacked just before 4pm yesterday in the Mossley area of Newtownabbey.

He was shot multiple times but managed to make his way to a neighbour’s house where an ambulance was called.

Last night, he was undergoing treatment at the Royal Victoria Hospital where his condition was described as “critical”.

Haddock, who is currently on trial for the attempted murder of doorman Trevor Gowdy, was out on bail and was thought to be living in the Newtownabbey area.

Last year, he was accused in the Dail of having been a long-term Special Branch informer linked to a number of murders, including that of Raymond McCord Jnr.

The 37-year-old UVF man was gunned down at a house where he had been staying in the Mossley area of Newtownabbey just before 4pm yesterday.

It is believed he was shot between five and eight times before he made his way to a neighbour’s house where an ambulance was called.

The prominent loyalist, who is suspected of being the Commander of the UVF in Mount Vernon, was taken to the Royal Victoria Hospital, Belfast, for treatment. His condition was last night described as “critical”.

The scene of the shooting remained sealed off throughout the evening as detectives carried out a follow-up investigation.

As forensics experts scoured the area for clues, loyalist sources claimed it was only a matter of time before Haddock was attacked.

“He was a marked man. Things hadn’t looked good for him for some time,” one said.

Another at the scene claimed: “It looks like an organisation cleansing itself.”

At one stage, police asked the waiting media to turn off cameras as his family was escorted from the scene in a car.

It is believed Haddock has had an address in the area for the last two-and-a-half years and had been living there on and off.

He has been on trial on attempted murder charges following an attack on a nightclub doorman three-and-a-half years ago and was out on bail while a judge considered the case against him.

The loyalist was also questioned by police about the murder of Raymond McCord Jnr. The 22-year-old former RAF airman was beaten to death and his body left at a quarry in 1997.

His father, Raymond McCord Snr, has always maintained Haddock was involved in his son’s murder. His ex-wife and son, Gareth McCord, were at the scene of the shooting yesterday.

Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph, Gareth said: “If he dies, he will be buried with the truth, but we won’t see justice for my brother’s death through the court.”

Raymond McCord Jnr’s murder has been the focus of an investigation by the Police Ombudsman’s office and a file is due to be published in the next month or so.

Last night, Sinn Fein said there would be suspicions about the shooting.

North Belfast MLA Gerry Kelly said it was widely accepted Haddock had been working for Special Branch for many years.

“An inquiry into collusion between the Mount Vernon UVF and the Special Branch is currently being conducted by the Police Ombudsman and is due to be published next month,” he said.

“Mark Haddock is at the centre of this inquiry. Given this, many people will be rightly suspicious of both the timing and the motivation behind this shooting.”

Mr Kelly added: “There is a clear pattern of former British agents being killed in circumstances like this, just as allegations of collusion or other activities are about to be exposed.”

Ulster Unionist MLA Roy Beggs Jnr condemned the shooting.

“There can be no place for this kind of activity in right-thinking society,” he said.

He added: “The perpetrators of this barbaric act must be swiftly taken off the streets and subjected to the fullest rigour of the law.”

………………………

Forced out of the shadows

By David Gordon

Mark Haddock could not be described as a celebrity godfather.

He has never courted the limelight like Johnny “Mad Dog” Adair or Jim “Doris Day” Gray.

The fact that he was forced out of the shadows in recent years was due in large part to two men – Raymond McCord Snr and Trevor Gowdy.

For many years, Mr McCord told anyone who would listen that his son Raymond Jnr was beaten to death in 1997 on the orders of an RUC Special Branch informer in the Mount Vernon UVF in north Belfast.

Few people – outside of a small circle of journalists – took him seriously to begin with.

All that changed when he took his grievances to Police Ombudsman Nuala O’Loan in 2002.

His allegations prompted the Ombudsman’s most far-reaching investigation to date. A report on her findings is now being finalised and is due to be published this summer.

Haddock was publicly linked to Raymond McCord Jnr’s 1997 killing under parliamentary privilege in the Dail last October.

Irish Labour leader Pat Rabbitte told fellow TDs: “At least two members of the gang who carried out the murder were Special Branch informers.

“They were Mark Haddock, who ordered the murder, and John Bond, who was present when Raymond McCord was murdered.”

The Dublin politician also stated: “According to his father, the Mount Vernon UVF murdered Raymond McCord because he had been summoned by John ‘Bunter’ Graham, the officer commanding the UVF on the Shankill Road, to account for his role in ferrying drugs for Mark Haddock.

“He was murdered to prevent Graham finding out about Haddock’s unsanctioned drugs operations.”

Mr Rabbitte accused Haddock of being involved in eight other murders, starting with the killing of Catholic woman Sharon McKenna in Mount Vernon in January 1993.

He also told the Dail: “The central allegation is that Haddock was not charged with any crime because he was an informer who had to be protected.”

The Irish Labour leader’s claims were aired shortly before Haddock went on trial last November for the attempted murder of Ballyclare pub doorman Trevor Gowdy in Monkstown in December 2002.

Mr Gowdy, a former Army boxing champion, left Northern Ireland under a witness protection programme after naming Haddock as one of his attackers.

The homes of relatives and friends were subsequently targeted in a sinister and co-ordinated campaign.

Haddock, meanwhile, went on the run and was eventually caught in Holyhead, north Wales.

He denied the attempted murder charge. A Crown Court judge has been weighing the evidence ahead of delivering his verdict.

During early legal proceedings in the case, Haddock was accused by Crown lawyers of being a senior UVF figure in Mount Vernon.

His low profile was gone for good.

An ex-informer who has made many enemies

Security expert Brian Rowan assesses the implications of the Haddock shooting

It is one of those shootings that has the word inevitable written all over it – and in its wake there are other inevitabilities.

Mark Haddock worked for the Special Branch. He was, in the jargon of that secret police world, a covert human intelligence source – something that, in the loyalist dictionary, translates into tout.

The allegations against Haddock were stacking up, and yesterday’s shooting was becoming ever more likely.

He had been de-activated as an agent – a move that coincided with a Police Ombudsman investigation into the 1997 murder of Raymond McCord Jnr and a purge of the informer world ordered by the chief constable Sir Hugh Orde.

There was a review of every single informant under police control and many were struck off. Haddock was one of them.

The recent murder of Denis Donaldson told us that, even in our developing peace, there is no safe place for the informer – something confirmed by yesterday’s shooting.

If it is pinned to the UVF – if proof is produced that that organisation pulled the trigger – then there are significant political implications and there will be many more questions about the controversial Empey-Ervine arrangements at Stormont.

Another of the inevitabilities to emerge out of yesterday’s shooting.

Can that political arrangement be sustained?

Can the Ulster Unionists really afford to keep the man with political links to the UVF within their Assembly group?

It was tricky enough before this shooting and it will be even more difficult now.

That is the flaw in the Empey-Ervine arrangement – that its survival depends so much on the behaviour of the UVF; on an organisation whose ceasefire is not recognised; and on a paramilitary group that only recently ruled out imminent decommissioning.

That said, the Hume-Adams process survived many violent IRA actions and eventually delivered the ceasefires of 1994 and 1997.

The UVF is involved in a peace discussion within its ranks – in a debate that has stretched across the entire organisation in Northern Ireland as well as in Scotland and England.

We know the outcome of that debate will not be declared until after the November deadline for a political deal at Stormont.

A spokesman for the UVF leadership made that clear in a recent interview with this newspaper.

But, again, if this shooting can be traced to the loyalist group, then the credibility of that debate – its peace discussion – will be undermined.

“If they (the UVF) were responsible, why now?” a senior loyalist asked.

“How many enemies did Haddock have? Count them,” the source said.

Haddock’s enemies rest within the UVF organisation – one-time comrades who clearly believed the informer allegations that were being made, and repeated, on so many occasions.

According to a source who should know, there is a more senior police informer inside the UVF leadership – and there is a report due soon from the Police Ombudsman’s office that will link a series of agents to a series of killings.

It is a report that will prompt the question – just how dirty was the Dirty War?

Belfast Telegraph

31 May 2006

The NIO’s explanation for targeting Parades Commission applications from the Orange Order is “bizarre”, a senior appeal judge remarked yesterday.

The Court of Appeal heard that Secretary of State Peter Hain wrote to the loyal orders because an official apparently included them in a list on her own initiative. The letters were central to a High Court ruling removing Orangeman David Burrows from the Commission this month.

Mr Hain is appealing the ruling, which found that officials were wrong to solicit applications from the loyal orders without considering if they should also ask nationalist groups.

The official in charge of the recruitment, Carol Moore, had told the High Court she believed the orders were inserted into a list of parties for Mr Hain to write to by another official, Diana Turkington. But the explanation could not be checked as Ms Turkington is on maternity leave.

“It’s rather remarkable that a decision of that kind should be taken by a middle management official without consultation,” Lord Justice Nicholson remarked during yesterday’s hearing. “Bizarre, it strikes me.”

Bernard McCloskey QC, for Mr Hain, said the case brought by Garvaghy Road resident Joe Duffy was “devoid of merit, both legally and factually”.

He told the appeal judges – the Lord Chief Justice, Sir Brian Kerr, Lord Justice Nicholson and Lord Justice Campbell – that writing to the orders was “a quite innocuous step which has been blown out of all proportion”.

“How on earth did these three letters – these three drops of sand – have the distorting effect that the applicant contends?” he asked. He said there was no evidence of a connection “between the three controversial letters and the outcome of the process”.

“These three letters we submit did not skew or divert the process in any way,” he said.

The Lord Chief Justice asked why the NIO would then choose to have Mr Hain write them.

“The answer is: why not?” Mr McCloskey replied.

Barry Macdonald QC, for Mr Duffy, said no one involved in parading or opposing parades could serve on the Commission.

“No member of the loyal orders, no member of interested parties could be a member of the Commission in circumstances where the Commission discharges of the kind specified in the Act,” he said.

He said that since there is no right of appeal against rulings it is “of particular importance that the Commission that makes the decision is free from bias”.

The case continues.

Sinn Féin

Published: 31 May, 2006

Sinn Féin Assembly member for North Belfast Gerry Kelly today said that yesterdays murder bid on Special Branch agent and senior UVF figure Mark Haddock, again raised serious questions about who actually controlled the loyalist gangs.

Mr Kelly said:

“It is widely accepted that Mark Haddock was a senior figure in the UVF. The gang he was believed to be leading carried out numerous murders. It is also widely believed that Mark Haddock was controlled and directed by the Special Branch throughout this period while he was engaged in killings with the full knowledge of his handlers.

“The Police Ombudsman is currently completing an investigation into Haddock’s activities and those of the Special Branch figures who controlled him. The attempt to kill Haddock last night follows a long standing pattern. Billy Stobie, another Special Branch agent and a man involved in the murder of Pat Finucane died in similar circumstances.

“Many will believe that last nights attempt to murder Mark Haddock was an attempt to silence him and help prevent further allegations of widespread and systematic collusion between the Special Branch and the loyalist death squads emerging. Those members of the Special Branch who handled Mark Haddock would have much to gain from his death. This reality raises serious questions about who controls these gangs and who controlled the loyalist gang involved in yesterday evenings murder bid.” ENDS

RTÉ

31 May 2006 12:15

The Supreme Court has been asked by the State to hear an urgent appeal on Friday against yesterday’s High Court decision to release a man jailed for the statutory rape of a 12-year-old girl.

Laffoy, the woman judge who let the child raper go free

The Chief Justice, Mr Justice John Murray, said the answers to the complex issues raised by the case do not pop out of a self-service machine.

The court has risen to consider the written submissions and decide how soon the matter can come before them.

Meanwhile, the Tánaiste has told the Dail she shared the public outrage following the ruling.

Mary Harney said the Department of Justice was informed about the case in 2002 by the Chief State Solicitors Office and that there was an information deficit.

She said even if the Government had changed the law at the outset of the case involving Mr A it could not have been applied retrospectively.

Mary Harney also said that the Government never anticipated losing the Supreme Court case which led to his release.

She said the State’s Supreme Court appeal would determine the outcome of other similar cases.

Gaping hole in law: Rabbitte

The Fine Gael leader, Enda Kenny, described the Government as a headless gang of bunglers while the Labour leader Pat Rabbitte said it was disgraceful that young people were at risk and there was now a gaping hole in the law.

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usMr A walked free after the High Court ruled that his continuing detention was unlawful following last week’s Supreme Court striking down of the law on statutory rape.

Protected ‘Mr A’ – free to rape again

He had been jailed for three years in 2004 after pleading guilty to unlawful carnal knowledge of a 12-year-old girl.

Yesterday, counsel for the State had asked the High Court to keep Mr A in prison to give the State time to go to the Supreme Court to ask what the judgment meant from a technical point of view.

However, Ms Justice Mary Laffoy refused to continue the man’s detention.

Govt to rush emergency legislation

Meanwhile, it has emerged that the Government intends to rush emergency legislation through the Oireachtas next Wednesday following the High Court decision.

Yesterday, the Taoiseach, Bertie Ahern, said he was prepared to recall the Dáil and Seanad next week if legislation dealing with the fall out from last week’s ruling is ready.

Mr Ahern was responding to strong attacks from opposition leaders who accused the Government of incompetence and complacency in the face of the decision.

Last night, the Government Chief Whip, Tom Kitt, told a meeting of the Fianna Fáil parliamentary party that both houses would sit next Wednesday to deal with the new legislation.

The legal changes are still under consideration by the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform and the Attorney-General’s office.

BBC


Megan McAlorum’s body was found in an area of forest

A teenager has been told he must serve at least 15 years in prison for the murder of a Belfast schoolgirl.

Thomas Purcell, 18, from Windsor Road, Belfast, had denied murdering 16-year-old Megan McAlorum, but at the last minute changed his plea to guilty.

Megan was killed in an isolated area of west Belfast on 11 April 2004.

Mr Justice McLaughlin said Purcell had attacked her “with pitiless ferocity and with overwhelming force designed to achieve on object – namely her death”.

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usThe Craigavon Crown Court judge told Purcell that his age at the time of the killing and his very last moment guilty plea were mitigating factors in the case.

But he added: “Your record has a catalogue of robberies and a very serious arson, together with the extreme gratuitous violence you inflicted on Megan are severe aggravating factors.”

Mother collapses

The judge described Megan as a “bright, vivacious fun-loving young woman, a credit to her parents and family and had everything to life for”.

He added: “She had been brought up by her parents to respect others, to contribute to society and she ahd a bright future ahead of her.

“You destroyed all of that by killing her and in doing so destroyed the lives of her parents, brothers and sisters.”

As Purcell was led from the cells, Megan’s mother, Margaret, collapsed and had to be supported by family and friends as she left the court.

Her family had called for Purcell to be jailed for the rest of his natural life.

The court previously heard that on that Easter Sunday 2004, Purcell abducted the former pupil of St. Genevieve’s and drove to an isolated forested area just off the Glenside Road in west Belfast.

He had sex with her and then killed her, pretending to discover her partially clothed body the next day.

Just before his trial was due to start last month Purcell admitted committing the murder.

Daily Ireland

By Connla Young
31/05/2006

The convicted loyalist killer Ken Barrett was spirited out of the North within hours of his release from Maghaberry Prison, Daily Ireland has learned.
The only man convicted of the murder of Pat Finucane was taken directly from the prison to George Best Belfast City Airport after his release on Tuesday last week.
Earlier that day, the Sentence Review Commission gave the go-ahead for the former Ulster Defence Association hitman to be set free after serving less than two years for the 1989 murder of Belfast solicitor Pat Finucane.
The ex-UDA killer was convicted of the murder of Pat Finucane in 2004 and sentenced to life behind bars with a minimum of 22 years to be served.
During his time in Maghaberry, the former loyalist was held in solitary confinement because of fears for his safety.
The killer, who was also an RUC Special Branch agent, is suspected of involvement in the murder of dozens of Catholics.
Informed sources told Daily Ireland last night that, when asked where he wanted to go on his release, Mr Barrett requested he be taken to England.
It is understood that he was still in custody in the North when news broke that he had been granted early release.
After being held at the PSNI’s holding facility at Belfast City Airport for several hours, he was placed on the first flight to London’s Gatwick Airport.
He sat next to dozens of unsuspecting passengers during the 90-minute flight.
It is understood that, in London, he was met by British police, who escorted him from the airport.
Mr Barrett’s current whereabouts are unknown.
He is not the first convicted loyalist to receive the red-carpet treatment on release from jail.
In January 2005, former Shankill Road UDA boss Johnny Adair was taken directly from Maghaberry to RAF Aldergrove before being flown out of the North by helicopter.

Bobby Sands mural photo
Ní neart go cur le chéile

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