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BY Connla Young
All republican prisoners in Maghaberry are refusing to eat meals in their cells as a protest picks up against prison regulations.
An estimated 18 protesting republican prisoners refused to eat meals in their cells earlier this week as part of a campaign for better conditions in the Co Antrim prison.
It is understood that the remainder of republican inmates in the prison’s Roe House section, refused to eat meals in their cells on Wednesday.
In a statement issued last night, republican prisoners aligned to the Irish Republican Prisoners Welfare Association, called for an end to controlled movement within the jail.
“No Northern Ireland Prison Service personnel have been injured, intimidated, threatened or attacked since we moved to Roe House on Sunday, March 7, 2004. Yet we are forced to endure punitive and draconian measures by which it takes five prison officers to move three prisoners, yet it only takes one prison officer to move two prisoners to the legal visits and back again.
“It also only takes two prison officers to supervise 16 prisoners in the gym and two prison officers to supervise 12 prisoners on the astroturf pitch.
“It has been left to those most opposed to the Steele report to implement its measures,” the prisoners said.
John Steele, a former head of the Northern Ireland Prison Service, carried out a review of safety at Maghaberry. In September 2003, the British government formally accepted his report’s recommendations.
The statement said the prison authorities were wasting cash on implementing unnecessary measures.
“We have to eat all of our meals in our cells, which is degrading, unhygienic and unacceptable as there is a toilet within five feet and a sink for washing our person that’s also used for dishes.
“We also have to endure constant strip searches, which are often carried out in a degrading manner.
“On certain days of the week, we can be locked up for as long as 26-and-a-half hours at a time.
“The effects of excessive lockups is detrimental to long-term prisoners’ mental wellbeing. We therefore call on the NIPS and the Northern Ireland Office to address these issues before we have a situation that escalates into further turmoil,” the statement said.
A prison service spokesperson said: “The government and the Northern Ireland Prison Service strive to achieve a progressive prison environment. The changes for separated prisoners strike an important balance between the desire to move forward whilst still holding to the principles of safety, security and good order that underlie the regime.”
BY Ciaran Barnes
The British Legion is coming under pressure to distance itself from Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) members who plan to take part in weekend Somme commemorations.
The charity is involved a series of events throughout the North and in France in memory of the thousands of Irishmen who died in the bloody World War I battle.
Saturday is the 90th anniversary of the start of the fighting, and to mark the date up to 100 UVF men have travelled to the Somme to lay wreaths honouring the dead.
Many of those who died at the Somme were members of the old UVF, which was a legal organisation unlike the present day paramilitary version.
Victims of modern-day UVF violence are unhappy at what they see as an attempt by current UVF members to muscle in on the commemorations.
Belfast man Raymond McCord, whose son Raymond McCord Jnr was murdered by the UVF, called on the British Legion to distance itself from the paramilitary group.
At the time of his death Mr McCord Jnr was a member of the Royal Air Force (RAF). Every year on July 1, his grieving father leaves a wreath of poppies, bought from the British Legion, at the war cenotaph at Belfast’s City Hall in memory of his son.
“I want the British Legion to call on the UVF to stay away from the Somme commemorations in France and Northern Ireland,” said Mr McCord.
“The UVF has been trying to muscle in on these commemorations for years.
“They think they are carrying on the fight of those brave men who died at the Somme, when nothing could be further from the truth.
“The modern-day UVF is simply a drug-dealing and criminal gang that has caused more damage to the Protestant community than republicans ever did.”
A spokesman for the British Legion said that although it is taking a lead role in the weekend Somme commemorations the event is being organised by the British embassy in Paris.
He said the charity has no connection with and is not responsible for any other group taking part in the Somme commemorations.
BY Ciaran Barnes
The Public Prosecution Service will be forced to drop charges of Ulster Defence Association membership against the leading loyalist Ihab Shoukri because the organisation is not specified, legal sources have confirmed.
The 32-year-old was remanded in custody yesterday, charged with UDA membership.
However, it is unlikely he will be convicted on this charge because the British government recognise the organisation’s ceasefire.
In March 2004, four men who kidnapped the dissident republican Bobby Tohill had IRA membership charges against them dropped because the organisation was not specified.
Ihab Shoukri is in the same position. Legal experts have predicted he will be released.
A barrister who spoke to Daily Ireland said the charges “could not be stood up”.
“The courts set a precedent with the Tohill case, which they will have to stick to,” the barrister said.
The charges against Mr Shoukri are connected to a PSNI raid on the loyalist Alexandra bar in north Belfast in March.
The court heard that, when Mr Shoukri was charged on Wednesday evening, he replied: “I have recently been acquitted of that charge. I have to ask whose agenda is being served here.”
Mr Shoukri’s defence argued that the court did not have the authority to remand him in custody. His lawyers cross-examined the PSNI chief inspector about the evidence.
The officer said that, on March 2, police entered the Alexandra bar as a result of intelligence indicating that a UDA show of strength was to take place. Several people were found on a stairwell wearing paramilitary-style uniform.
Seventeen people were arrested. One person was found in possession of a written speech in support of the UDA. The last page related to the preparing of premises for a show of strength.
The police officer said comparisons with forms that Ihab Shoukri had filled in for a passport, a driving licence and a Housing Executive application had led a handwriting expert to conclude that such were the similarities that Mr Shoukri was indeed the writer of the speech.
The expert confirmed that Mr Shoukri’s fingerprints had not been found on the paper.
Mr Shoukri’s counsel Charles MacCreanor said in closing that the case was going nowhere and should be stopped.
However, the resident magistrate was satisfied the defendant should be remanded in custody. Mr Shoukri will appear again on Monday via video link.
By Claire regan
30 June 2006
Suspected British spy Freddie Scappaticci has succeeded in getting a High Court injunction banning the media in Northern Ireland from revealing details of his identity or whereabouts.
The former IRA man, who was accused of being double agent Stakeknife in 2003, took the action against Independent News and Media Limited – The Belfast Telegraph and Sunday Life – and MGM Limited which owns The Mirror.
Mr Justice Weir granted the injunction, which applies to all media, after the west Belfast republican’s solicitor submitted a draft order to the High Court in Belfast yesterday with a number of requests regarding publication of his details.
Among the information banned from publication by the order was:
– Any proposed new name for Scappaticci;
– His address or any details which may lead to information on his whereabouts;
– Any image made or taken of him from May 11 2003 onwards;
– The nature and location of his employment;
– Any image made or taken of any place or premises he attends or has links with;
– Any description of accommodation in which Scappaticci lives.
Scappaticci, once head of the IRA’s internal security unit known as the ‘nutting squad’, has consistently denied the spy allegations first levelled against him in a number of Sunday newspapers on May 11, 2003.
The top level republican was accused of being Stakeknife, a double agent working for the British at the heart of the IRA for more than 25 years.
Legal representatives for both MGM Limited and Independent News and Media Limited told the court that they did not object to the terms of the injunction. The court was told of confusion over the action because none of the newspapers involved had intended or were seeking to publish information about Scappaticci.
A barrister representing MGM Ltd said his client could not understand why it had been chosen for the action.
“There is nothing to suggest we were seeking to publish information,” he said.
“It is unfair that MGM should bear the costs for the benefit of many others. Why us? Why should we be out of pocket when the application affects all other media in Northern Ireland?”
Scappaticci’s barrister Michael Lavery QC had earlier told the court that MGM Ltd had been chosen because its newspapers had taken a “keen interest in the Scappaticci family”.
The court also heard that Scappaticci had taken the case with the use of Legal Aid funding.
Granting the order, Mr Justice Weir said that anyone could apply to have it discharged or varied with seven days’ notice.
BY DAVID LYNCH
The controversy surrounding Fine Gael’s Irish language policy continued yesterday.
Glór na nGael claimed 5,000 people had signed an on-line petition against party leader Enda Kenny’s stance.
Last year Mr Kenny said he believed the language should be removed as a compulsory subject in the leaving certificate examination.
“Glór na nGael committees all around the country have been collecting names on paper in their local area this last number of weeks” said Nóra Welby Glór na nGael spokesperson.
“We also have postcards which the public can sign and post a message back to us about the policy and their unhappiness with it.
“This campaign will be touring the country in the coming weeks and we are delighted with the positive and supportive response from the public since we began this petition.”
Last week Mr Kenny renewed his call for a radical re-look at how the language is taught.
“We must examine the training that is being given to teachers and ensure teachers are confident in Irish,” he said.
“That is so they can use their skills in the best possible way when in the classroom.
“Enhanced immersion in the language, and interaction with native speakers for both new and practising teachers, is urgently required.
“At the time of the next general election, Fianna Fáil will have been in power for 18 of the last 20 years.
“In this time, they have presided over a dramatic decline in the Irish-language proficiency of primary school children.”
Glór na nGael said it will be offering the people of Letterkenny, Co Donegal the opportunity to sign the petition against Fine Gael policy tomorrow.
The petition will be taken between 12 and 3 pm on the Main Street in Letterkenny and in the area of the Bus Éireann station in Letterkenny.
The Glór na nGael on-line petition is at www.petitiononline.com/gaeilge.
Published: 30 June, 2006
Sinn Féin Assembly member Upper Bann John O’Dowd today accused the British government of funding anti-Catholic bigotry and sectarianism. Mr Kelly comments come after David Hansen handed the Orange Order over £100,000 to promote their anti-Catholic parades in Belfast.
Mr O’Dowd said:
“The Orange Order is an anti-Catholic sectarian organisation. This is an undisputable fact. Year after year they seek to march through nationalist areas without the consent of the host community. In the past they have been involved in widespread violence and intimidation as witnessed in Belfast last summer. No matter how much money David Hansen throws at the Orange Order he cannot alter these facts.
“The Twelfth of July parades are not tourist attractions and they never will be. David Hansen would be better facing up to the reality that his proposed ‘Orangefest’ will be seen as little more than ‘bigotfest’ in the eyes of the vast majority of people not connected to the Orange Order, many of whom annually flee from the north during July.
“David Hansen and his department have for sometime been raising very serious concerns amongst nationalists about the sectarian allocation of funds. Last week well over £100,000 was removed from successful inclusive community festivals in North and West Belfast. It is unacceptable that the British government have now decided to allocate taxpayers money to fund sectarianism, bigotry, prejudice and domination.” ENDS
30/06/2006 – 08:25:33
The aid agency Trócaire is refusing to take part in talks on humanitarian relief that are due to be held on a British warship in Dublin today.
The talks are due to take place during a visit to Dublin by HMS Ocean, which was centrally involved in the British invasion of southern Iraq three years ago.
Trócaire director Justin Kilcullen has described the move as insensitive given the fact that the vessel itself could be involved in creating a humanitarian crisis.
“What is happening is that the role that the traditional agencies led by the Red Cross and others has played has now been taken over essentially by a military agenda,” he said.
“I think we have say stop to that. We are not going to be manipulated by an overall effort that is being run from a military perspective or co-ordinated by the military.”
The government is to spend £104,000 to help the Orange Order in Belfast develop the Twelfth of July as a major tourism event.
It said it was disappointed that those who did not feel comfortable with parades would abandon the city centre during the marching season.
The money, to be paid over three years, will fund a development officer who will promote the day as a festival.
It is hoped it will become a family friendly, fully-inclusive “Orangefest”.
Social Development Minister David Hanson said he hoped the money would help to regenerate Belfast.
“There are very many negative perceptions about the Orange Order and the Parading Season – I understand why those are the case,” he said.
“What we are trying to do over this three-year period is to help support the Order to mitigate against those negative perceptions – to talk to shopkeepers, to talk to local residents groups and assist with, I hope, the promotion of the city of Belfast.”
Sinn Fein assembly member Alex Maskey, a former lord mayor of Belfast, criticised the funding move.
“This is entirely the wrong decision. It is unacceptable that the British government should fund an organisation which continues to force its anti-Catholic parades through Catholic areas,” he said.
“The Twelth of July for many nationalists in Belfast represents domination and sectarian violence.”
However, Orangeman William Humphrey, who is vice-chair of the Belfast County Grand Master’s Advisory Committee, said there was “huge potential” to develop the Twelfth parades to bring in visitors.
“This is one of the largest tourist attractions in Northern Ireland and one of the largest festivals in western Europe,” he said.
“The (Orange) Institution is interested in the civic life of this city, because we are key stakeholders in it, with thousands of members and tens of thousands of supporters.
“It is in our interest that Belfast is a success story.”
The author of the Lonely Planet Tourist Guide to Ireland, Fionn Davenport, said those hoping to make the Twelfth a tourist magnet would face an uphill struggle.
“It’s not very inviting or inclusive and I think that’s the general impression,” he said.
“Rightly or wrongly, it’s seen as a militaristic expression with none of the criteria of a happy friendly carnival day out.”
The Orange Order is the largest Protestant organisation in Northern Ireland with at least 75,000 members, some of them in the Republic of Ireland.
Its origins date from the 17th century battle for supremacy between Protestantism and Catholicism. Prince William of Orange, originally of the Netherlands, led the fight against Catholic King James.
**See also >>Day queen got stoned – the full story 40 years after event
“Paisley worked on my bench, making boxes and wooden practice targets for the RAF, I think. He knew my point of view and listened to me. We had many arguments over 1916 and what happened here after 1921. Sometimes they were so hot and heavy that the work stopped”
After being sentenced to four years imprisonment for dropping a breeze block on the British queen’s Rolls Royce, 17-year-old John Morgan was brought to the reception in Crumlin Road jail where he was roughed up by warders. He spent a month on ‘stage 1’, a period during which he had to qualify for association and to earn privileges such as tobacco and wages.
He was physically attacked and was involved in many fights. But he had been a boxer and could handle himself and was initially supported by five young men from Andersonstown who were serving short sentences for political offences. He was made to wear a brown prison uniform with a red star sewed onto one of its arms. This indicated that he was a ‘first-time’ offender and was to be kept away from ‘habitual criminals’. Ironically, he was put to work in the same joinery shops as Gusty Spence and the rest of his UVF gang who had just been sentenced to life imprisonment for murdering two Catholics – John Scullion and Peter Ward – earlier that year.
“It was very tense at first. There was a lot of dirty looks but that eventually died. One of my workmates was a nationalist who had got 18 months for the Cromac Square riots which Paisley had provoked.
“We were supposed to be separated from the lifers by a sliding wooden door between the workshops but it was left open because of the dust. We had loud arguments which became discussions.”
In the workshops were Leslie Porter, a UVF driver, who was doing four years; Noel Docherty, serving two years, a former B-Special who had set up the Ulster Constitution Defence Committee with Paisley, and the Ulster Protestant Volunteers, which Docherty ‘secretly’ armed. Docherty had supplied the gelignite to the UVF which was used in the bombing campaign to bring down the government of Terence O’Neill (for which the IRA was falsely blamed). The others were Spence, William Millar, Bob Williamson and Eddy McCullagh.
Hugh McClean, who, when arrested for murder, told police: “I am terribly sorry I ever heard of that man Paisley or decided to follow him”, worked elsewhere, in the plumbing shop.
“I was there when Paisley came in after getting three months for unlawful assembly. My family lived in Dover Street, off Divis Street, and Paisley had been well-known for triggering the riots there by threatening to come in and remove the Tricolour from Sinn Fein’s election offices in 1964. That was the first time I was beaten up by the RUC.
“Paisley worked on my bench, making boxes and wooden practice targets for the RAF, I think. He knew my point of view and listened to me. We had many arguments over 1916 and what happened here after 1921. Sometimes they were so hot and heavy that the work stopped.
“We ended up walking around the yard together much to the disgust of the ‘hardliners’ but I totally disagreed with his whole philosophy and outlook as regards republicanism. He would not acknowledge what was wrong here and would fly off the handle. I found him a very funny man, at times, but a fanatic. We parted on good terms and he said that if I was ever in trouble he would ask, help, assist if he could.”
Leslie Porter also became friendly with Morgan. For walking around the yard with him and learning Irish (as Gusty Spence was later to do) Porter was put off the wing by the UVF and went on to share a cell with Morgan. They were actually released from prison on the same day.
“Just before we were released we were measured up for clothes. Noel chose slacks and a jacket and I ended up getting a pinstripe 1920s-looking suit, with a hat, fit for a Chicago gangster. We walked out of the jail together but I never saw him again.”
Three months after Morgan’s release his family in Dover Street and hundreds of other Catholic families across Belfast were intimidated or burnt out of their homes in the pogroms of August 1969. Morgan subsequently worked for many years in London before returning to Belfast when his mother, who has since passed away, became seriously ill. He worked up until five years ago when he developed a degenerative disease of the arteries and has had three minor strokes. He guards his privacy and only recently agreed to talk about the incident which at the time made the headlines in Britain and Ireland.
“I had left school at 15 without any qualifications and joined a plumbing firm. But when I was overlooked for an apprenticeship, which was given to the younger brother of a Protestant co-worker, I decided to go to Dublin. I was given work by Harry White, a former neighbour of my father, who had his own plumbing business.”
White had been active in the IRA bombing campaign in England during the 1940s and had been sentenced to death for the killing of a Garda special branch officer during a shoot-out but the sentence had been commuted.
“Harry White opened my eyes to the history and politics of Ireland. I got involved with the Kevin Barry Club and with the renovation committee for Kilmainham jail on which Harry and his wife Kathleen were members. All Harry’s family spoke nothing but Irish in their home – and I was amazed. Every Friday night we went to a republican gathering where traditional Irish music and patriotic ballads were kept alive.
“I got involved in the campaign to replace the post boxes which had been merely painted green after 1921 but still had the royal emblem embossed on them. At the 50th anniversary of the 1916 Rising myself and a couple of Dubs were arrested for heckling de Valera.”
When John returned to Belfast he heard about the forthcoming Queen’s visit.
“I asked republican friends what they were going to do about it and was amazed that no protest was planned. I brooded on it and decided that something had to be done about the state of nationalists in the North. So, I decided to take action.”
He hands me an ageing clip from a newspaper, an interview with his mother.
“John was a quiet boy,” she said. “He liked watching TV and making plastic aircraft models. He would go to dances. He was just a typical teenager but not a mod or a beatnik. There was a big change in him when he came back [from Dublin]. He had joined a debating society, an amateur dramatics society and a ballad group. He started reading a lot. I saw him with books on government and the Irish constitution. This was out of character too. To this day I still don’t know what was in my son’s mind when he dropped that block of concrete.”
John started to laugh. “I got some of my republicanism from her!” he said.
She said: “I took time off to watch the Royal procession. I stood near the spot where the incident happened. I cheered with the others as the royal car passed. I will never really know why, when it turned the next corner my eldest child dropped a concrete block on top of it from the highest building.”
Today, 57-year-old Morgan – who was a bit of a hero to my generation – remains unrepentant about the day, 40 years ago, when the queen got stoned in Belfast.
BY Mícheál MacDonncha
It is not often that moments of real emotion occur in Leinster House. But last Thursday was such an occasion when we welcomed the families of Irish Republicans who died on hunger strike.
It was 25 years on since the election of Kieran Doherty and Paddy Agnew as prisoner TDs for Cavan-Monaghan and for Louth. Kieran died within weeks of his election and Paddy remained a prisoner in the H-Blocks. Their families, friends and supporters were locked outside the gates of Leinster House as both a Fianna Fáil and a Fine Gael/Labour government failed to act while the prison tragedy unfolded and ten men died. On 22 June 2006 there was much symbolism in the occasion as relatives of the 1981 hunger strikers, as well as those of three hunger strikers from other eras, were greeted at the gates of Leinster House by the Sinn Féin TDs.
Several generations were represented among the relatives present. Kieran Doherty’s brother Michael was there with his wife Betty and young son Kieran, named after his uncle. “At last a Kieran Doherty is taking his seat in Leinster House”, remarked Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin. Joining families of the men of ’81 were relatives of Tony Darcy of Galway and Seán McNeela of Mayo who died on hunger strike in de Valera’s jails in 1940 and of Frank Stagg of Mayo who died in Wakefield Prison, England, in 1976. The women of Armagh Prison were represented by former prisoners Síle Darragh and Marie Gavigan
In the oldest and most historic part of Leinster House the Sinn Féin TDs made presentations to the families. Chairing the simple ceremony, Aengus Ó Snodaigh, Sinn Féin TD for Dublin South Central, spoke of the impact the 1981 hunger strike had on him as a young republican and on so many others. Former hunger striker Lawrence McKeown recalled his experiences. He described Kieran Doherty – ‘Big Doc’ – as a father figure for the younger prisoners like himself, even though Kieran was a young man who had spent most of his youth imprisoned by the British state because of his republican beliefs. Lawrence also paid tribute to the work of the National Hunger Strike Committee in marking the 25th anniversary, and to Seando Moore in particular.
Kieran Doherty’s Director of Elections in Cavan-Monaghan in 1981 was Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin, now the leader of the Sinn Féin TDs. He said:
“It cannot be stressed strongly enough that the prisoners in the H-Blocks and Armagh had the support and good will of the great mass of the Irish people North and South of the border. There was a vast gulf between the people of Ireland and the political establishment in this State during the H-Block-Armagh crisis. With very few exceptions, Kieran and Paddy’s fellow TDs stood idly by while the agony of the prisoners and their families went on from 1976 when criminalisation was first imposed until the end of the Hunger Strike in 1981. Yet the Hunger Strikers will be long remembered by the Irish people and by freedom-loving people all over the world when most of those who held public office in 1981 are long forgotten.
“The Dáil record has very few references to the death of Kieran Doherty, TD for Cavan/Monaghan, at the hands of a callous British Prime Minister. There was no special debate. No motion of support for the prisoners’ demands. No unity in the face of a British government that was wreaking havoc in our country. There was a shameful silence within these walls.
“Two of those who died on Hunger Strike in 1981 – Kieran and Bobby – were elected representatives of the Irish people. They followed in the footsteps of that other elected representative who died on Hunger Strike, Terence McSwiney TD, Mayor of Cork. In all 22 Republicans trod the lonely path of Hunger Strike to death from Thomas Ashe in 1917 to Mickey Devine in 1981. We remember them all equally and our tribute here today encompasses those who died in every phase of our nation’s struggle for freedom.”
Monday 29 June 1981
Laurence McKeown, then an Irish Republican Army (IRA) prisoner, joined the hunger strike.
Laurence McKeown was born in Randalstown, County Antrim. He was arrested in August, 1976 for alleged IRA activities and in April, 1977 he was sentenced to life imprisonment. McKeown spent the next four and a half years on the Blanket and the No Wash Protest in the H-Blocks of Long Kesh. (Photo from Larkspirit)
In October, 1980 he volunteered for hunger-strike but the strike was over before he was called as it was believed the British Government were going to satisfy the republican prisoners’ demand for Political Status. When a second hunger-strike was called for March, 1981 McKeown again volunteered and commenced his strike on June 29th, 1981. McKeown fasted for seventy days before his family intervened to authorise medical attention. In 1991 McKeown contributed an article with Felim O’Hagan to Éirí na Gealaí: Reflections on the Culture of Resistance in Long Kesh. He was released from Long Kesh in 1992.
This extract is from McKeown’s recollections of the Blanket, No Wash protest and Hunger Strikes in the H-Blocks of Long Kesh entitled Nor Meekly Serve My Time (1994) which he co-edited with Felim O’Hagan and Brian Campbell.
When a comm [communication] came round explaining the situation, outlining the attempt we had made to resolve the deadlock [after the first hunger strike of October – December, 1980] and detailing the manner in which we had been arrogantly rebuked at every turn, I was delighted we would be embarking on a second hunger strike. For a while it had seemed as if we would just give up or be forced to concede defeat. I knew that wasn’t how the majority of the men felt. We had been through too much to accept that we had gained nothing.
A large number of those who had returned to the protest for the duration of the hunger strike had already begun to leave, realising that the situation was no different from that several months previous. That didn’t concern me so much. I had been glad to see them return as it had bolstered our numbers for a while, but at the end of the day it wasn’t numbers on the protest that was going to win our demands, but our resolve to see our struggle through to a successful conclusion.
We knew the hunger strike was the only way out of the impasse. The NIO were not prepared to yeild an inch, and all the politicians, churchmen and pseudo-liberals who had been vocal during the hunger (asking that we end it in order to allow the British Government to negotiate free from pressure) were all suddenly mute. Faced with this intransigence, the feeling was that we should take them on and show them that we were not beaten, nor could we be. Our integrity was at stake. We felt that some of our pride was restored the day that volunteers were once again asked to forward their names for hunger strike. We were back in the fight and hitting back….
Bobby [Sands] was now an MP. What clearer sign could there be that the people regarded him – and by extension all of us – as political prisoners than by voting for him as their parliamentary representative? We felt that this would cause the British all sorts of problems and put them in a dilemma as to how to treat an MP who they were condemning as a criminal. We felt the contradictions would be hard for them to overcome.
Once again we underestimated the Brits’ capacity to blatantly change the rules to suit themselves. They simply enacted a Bill which barred prisoners from standing for future elections. That taught me a lot about the brits and politics and about power and the misuse of it. It taught me a lot about the facade of democracy which cloaks a very unjust and deep-seated system of privilege and power in the hands of a few….
On Wednesday morning [July 8th, 1981] Joe MacDonnell died after 61 days on hunger strike; then the recriminations began. The ICJP [Irish Commission for Justice and Peace composed of Catholic clergy and SDLP delegates who had mediated between the NIO and the prisoners] claimed publicly that the NIO had promised them such and such, the NIO said they hadn’t and the British government, to back up this position, pointed out that no junior minister could have promised anything of the sort. The whole episode appeared very messy.
That was possibly the last serious attempt the Church or the Dublin government made at intervention in the stalemate. After this their public pronouncements became more weighted against the hunger strike, calling on the hunger strikes to come of it and more or less agreeing with Thatcher’s line that ‘no government could be seen to concede to such pressure’. I think it was at this stage we began to realise we were very much on our own and that our actions were having a wider political effect than we had first imagined. We were exposing the so-called nationalist politicians and cutting through their rhetoric. We were posing a threat to the status quo, no longer prepared to bend the knee and accept moral control from the Church, thinking for ourselves and acting in our own best interests. We had to be stopped. Soon Fr. Faul stepped up his anti-hunger strike campaign of vilification of the Republican Movement and its leadership…
British amend law to stop election of prisoners
Following the election to the Westminster parliament of IRA Hunger Striker Bobby Sands, the British Government under Margret Thatcher were detrmined to change electoral registration so that the feat could not be repeated. In June 1981 it pushed ahead with an amendment to the Representation of the People Act.
The amendment was specifically designed to bar republican prisoners from standing in further elections. With Bobby Sands’ death on hunger strike the Fermanagh South/Tyrone constituency was now due for another by-election. The amendment passed by 348 to 137 in Westminster after Labour allowed its MPs a free vote. A quote from English newspaper, The Guardian, summed up the situation:
“It would be a mistake to assume that because of its grandiose name this measure (The Representation of the People Bill) is about representing anybody. Quite the contrary it has to do with non-representation of a certain class of people who are notoriously reluctant citizens of the United Kingdom – the IRA and its supporters.”
On 25 June the bill was extended to cover prisoners in jails in the 26 Counties.
On 19 June British Direct Ruler Humphrey Atkins had astonished people when he announced he intended to start a new round of talks with the political parties. A sign of how much pressure the SDLP was under came in Seamus Mallon’s prompt dismissal of the notion accusing Atkins of great insensitivity towards “a community which is being torn apart emotionally by the continuing tragedy of the hunger strikes”.
The SDLP had still to call whether or not they would contest the Fermanagh/South Tyrone by-election. There was speculation that the republican prisoners would stand a substitute candidate. Fermanagh man Owen Carron, was the name being mooted. He was a republican of long standing and had been Bobby Sands’ election agent. The unionist candidate, Harry West, was expressing hope that the RUC would interview Carron about “his long standing association with the IRA over many years” before any by-election was held.
In response to requests, from amongst others, Charles Haughey and The Irish Commission for Jutice and Peace, Atkins ruled out any concessions to the Hunger Strikers. Speaking on 30 June he said that there would be no concessions towards the granting of the prisoners Five Demands or political status.
Making vague noises about useful activity as opposed to work and ordinary clothes as a substitute for prison clothes and saying the hunger strike must end before anything could happen the statement was welcomed by the SDLP and the Irish and British media. The ICJP went furthest of all stating that Atkins’ statement together with “clarifications” received over a number of days had encouraged them in their efforts to reach a solution.
Rejecting the statement the H-Block prisoners said: “The purpose of this statement is to buy the silence of various genuinely concerned groups- such as The Irish Commission for Justice and Peace who have been lobbying the British for our five demands – by vaguely guaranteeing unspecified further developments of the prison regime at some unspecified time in the future.
“The Atkins statement cannot be taken as a sincere attempt – based on the need to find a solution and avoid any further tragedy – to end the hunger strike, for no one with even the most basic grasp of the situation can expect us to submit to such an ambiguous and distorted statement.
” To do so would be an insult to ourselves, our comrades who died, our steadfast relatives and supporters and all those bodies who want to see a just settlement to this issue.
“It is becoming blatantly obvious that the British are intent on creating a worsening situation if this statement is anything to go by. Even as one of our comrades lingers on death’s doorstep we call on the British to climb down from their high horse and act in a responsible manner and initiate meaningful dialogue with the prisoners to find a solution.
“Lastly we wish to state in unequivocal terms that contrary to what the British say, the Five Demands which we are committed to obtaining, would go far to give back all prisoners dignity as human beings of which we are robbed at the present and we would welcome their introduction for all prisoners.”
Taoiseach Charles Haughey said of the ongoing impasse: “I have explored every means of finding a solution on humanitarian grounds”, before declaring “I intend to take a fresh initiative to find a solution, which will bring the present tragic and dangerous situation to an end.” In the end this new initiative amounted to a statement criticising the intransigence of the British but not a lot else. Sinn Féin described it as four months and four deaths too late.
The credibility of the North’s Parades Commission and its chairperson Roger Poole hit rock bottom last weekend after it allowed over 700 Orange marchers and up to 16 loyalist bands to parade through the nationalist Springfield Road in West Belfast.
By contrast nationalist protesters, objecting to the parade, were ordered to confine their picket to a 100-metre stretch of the road between the contentious Workman Avenue peaceline to the Mackies site.
Speaking to An Phoblacht Sean Murray of the Springfield Residents’ Action Group accused the Parades Commission of exercising, “a blatant double standard”.
“The Parades Commission and its chairperson Roger Poole facilitated a loyalist march up the nationalist Springfield Road but refused to facilitate a nationalist protest.
“This Parades Commission has no credibility, nor integrity in face of these decisions”, said Murray.
Murray went on to describe the Commission’s decision to allow 50 Orangemen to march through the Workman Avenue peaceline and parade along the Springfield Road to Mackies, where they rejoined the bulk of the parade, as a retrograde step.
“The Commission, in effect, permitted two parades on the Springfield Road. But the real problem lies in the fact that the Orange Order is confirmed in its belief that violence works.”
Murray was referring to the violence that erupted in loyalist areas of Belfast after last year’s Whiterock parade was rerouted through Mackies.
And while Saturday’s march passed off peacefully the fact remains that yet again an offensive loyalist parade was permitted to march along the full length of the nationalist road.
Among the bands taking part in the parade were at least two, who in defiance of the Parades Commission determination, were displaying unionist paramilitay banners bearting the initials of the UVF and YCV.
One resident speaking to An Phoblacht, criticised the Orange Order over its attempt to legitimise what is in reality a unionist paramilitary parade.
“Most of the bands have UVF and UDA links and their insignia is made up of paramilitary emblems”, said the resident.
The nationalist resident also pointed out that while the Orange Order claims the march only takes 15 minutes to cover the Springfield Road, “the truth is that a heavy PSNI presence is in place for hours before the parade. We are under curfew from 9am in the morning waiting for a parade to pass at 3.30pm”.
Meanwhile Sinn Féin councillor Tom Hartley praised the, “dignity and restraint”, of the 150 nationalist protesters who lined the Springfield Road between Workman Avenue and the Mackies as the Orangemen passed by.
Hartley accused the Orange Order of provocation and questioned why one parade marshall was using a camcorder to film the nationalist protesters.
“One man in particular was filming nationalist residents. This is a sinister development and raises the spectre of loyalist intelligence gathering.”
Loyalist youths blamed for destruction of car after resident challenged paramilitary flags
By Connla Young
A car owned by an elderly Catholic couple has been torched in an apparent sectarian attack in Co Derry.
Loyalists youths have been blamed for torching the car in the scenic seaside village of Articlave in the early hours of Wednesday.
It is understood the owner of the house asked a number of local youths not to erect loyalist flags outside his home at Fairview Park last weekend.
Coleraine Sinn Féin councillor Billy Leonard says the attack was sectarian.
“This is without doubt a thuggish and sectarian attack. When these people came to put up the flag outside the house for the first time in literally decades, the man told them he didn’t want it. Three days later his vehicle is totally ruined. This graphically displays the heightened tensions of the so-called marching season, the thuggery that goes alongside it and the plight of nationalists and republicans in predominantly unionist/loyalist areas. We are now well into the time when nationalists or republicans go on their holidays or live a siege type life week after week.”
Mr Leonard says there have been rising tensions in Co Derry in recent months.
“Just before hearing about the Articlave incident residents of Garvagh which saw numerous sectarian attacks some weeks ago, contacted me about UVF flags being purposely erected outside the homes of Catholics in the town. So the message there is, not only will your homes be attacked but we will also rub salt into the wound with UVF flags.
“We now have flags bedecking Coleraine, Castlerock, Articlave and Garvagh. So much for the potential of tourism on the north coast and throughout the borough. Do they not see that they are turning sections of their own community?”
The PSNI said they are still investigating a motive for the incident.
President’s office denies Martin McAleese is holding discussions aimed at ending armed group’s campaign
By Connla Young
A Spokesperson for President Mary McAleese’s office yesterday denied her husband has held secret peace talks with the Real IRA aimed at bringing an end to the group’s armed campaign,
Informed sources have claimed that Martin McAleese has been holding discussions with the republican grouping, which is opposed to the Good Friday Agreement, for the past 18 months,
As part of a bid to bolster the peace process, it has emerged that the Real IRA’s leadership has not sanctioned any violent attacks in the North since March 2005.
News that the organisation’s leadership has not ordered any attacks to be carried out in over 12 months has fuelled speculation that it may be considering a ceasefire, their first since one was called in the days after the 1998 Omagh bombing in which 29 people were killed.
Mr McAleese will accompany the president to Belfast today for a visit to south Belfast to launch a cross-community project.
It is not known if the Ulster Defence Association’s most senior member and South Belfast brigadier Jackie McDonald will attend the event.
The couple have established firm links with the veteran loyalist in recent years in an effort to assist the UDA to leave its violent past behind.
It is understood the couple, through Martin McAleese, have also attempted to talk the Real IRA into bringing its campaign to an end for good.
It is believed talks between the Real IRA and Martin McAleese have focused on a number of issues including prisoner release and a financial package for deprived nationalist areas similar to the one announced by the British government earlier this year for unionist districts.
A spokesperson for Mary McAleese last night denied that any meetings have taken place. “Doctor McAleese hasn’t had any meetings with the Real IRA,” said the spokesperson.
Click >>here for details
Press Release 28 June 2006
By Seán Ó Murchú – Republican Sinn Féin – Cork
From this week the number of Segregated POW’s in Maghaberry engaged in the Prison Protest is set to increase. No attempts have been made to address the 5 Demands of the POW’s although the RPAG have reported these demands on numerous occasions.
1. FREE ASSOCIATION
2. END TO CONTROLLED MOVEMENT
3. RIGHT TO FULL TIME EDUCATION
4. SEPARATE VISITING FACILITY
5. RIGHT TO ORGANISE OUR OWN LANDINGS
The Prison Protest will continue until these demands are addressed and the necessary changes are implemented. The media are censoring the ongoing struggle in Maghaberry and the prison service are ignoring it, despite this, support for the POW’s and their demands is growing. This situation cannot continue and POW’s are determined that this situation will be resolved once and for all. The implementation of Segregation was not a meaningful attempt to deal with the issue of Political Prisoners it was a political move made in 2003 to trick the Irish people into believing that the conditions that led to protests within the prison at that time had been improved and that the issues had been resolved. Since Segregation conditions for both POW’s and their visitors have worsened.
The POW’s are relying on the Irish people to stand with them in their fight to improve conditions and ultimately to win back Political Status. The Irish people have never failed POW’s in the past and we have faith that they will not fail them now.
REPUBLICAN PRISONERS ACTION GROUP STATEMENT
28th June 2006
BBC (link no longer works)
**”Like Fulton, Scappaticci fled Northern Ireland. Rumors circulated that he had gone to Italy, specifically to a certain Hotel La Pace in Cassino…” (Double Blind)
**See also >>Scap spied at seaside resort
‘Outed IRA spy Freddie ‘Stakeknife’ Scappaticci has been making frequent visits to a secret bolt-hole in PORTRUSH.’ (May 2006)
The High Court in Belfast has imposed a media ban on publishing anything that could reveal the whereabouts of Freddie Scappaticci.
The Belfast man went into hiding after he was accused of being Stakeknife, a leading republican who was also a British informer within the IRA.
Mr Scappaticci has always denied those claims.
The ban also prevents the publication of any pictures taken of him within the last three years.
A bus was driven under an Orange arch
A Newtownabbey man has been charged with hijacking and placing a hoax device on a bus in Glengormley.
Martin Gerard Rafferty, 38, from Fairyknowe Park, was remanded in custody after appearing at Belfast Magistrates Court.
Two men boarded a bus on the Ballyclare Road on Tuesday, left a package and told the driver to drive it to Glengormley Orange arch.
The road was closed before the object was declared a hoax by the Army.