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BBC

The judge in the Omagh bomb trial has rejected an application to dismiss some of the charges facing Sean Hoey.

His defence team has claimed there had been “a conspiracy” by a number of police officers to “bury” evidence.

Mr Justice Weir said “the “credibility and reliabilty” of witnesses DS Philip Marshall and forensic officer Fiona Cooper had been brought into question.

However, he said that “any predjudice could be dealt with within the trial process”.

The judge declared the conduct of the two police witnesses was “reprehensible”.

Mr Hoey denies the 29 murders in Omagh and more Real IRA attacks.

On Wednesday, his lawyer, Orlando Pownall QC, claimed officers had perjured themselves in court.

He said it would not be fair to try Mr Hoey on two charges linked to a mortar find at Altmore Forest, near Dungannon, in April 2001.

The application follows allegations that witness statements had been doctored to give the impression that certain forensic precautions had been taken at the scene, where photographs appeared to indicate that they had not.

Mr Pownall said there had been a “clear indication of a unity of purpose known as a conspiracy” to beef up evidence.

In reply, prosecution lawyer Gordon Kerr acknowledged there had been “impropriety” in the way witness statements had been submitted.

However, he said there was no prejudice to Mr Hoey because the issue had been exposed and explored at trial.

Mr Hoey, 37, of Molly Road, Jonesborough, County Armagh, faces 58 charges in all.

The rest refer to a series of bombings and bomb finds between 1998-2001.

The trial continues.

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BN.ie

29/11/2006 – 17:57:32

Families of victims killed in the Omagh Bombing tonight called on the Irish government to launch a full cross-border public inquiry into the atrocity.

Survivors also attacked the publication of an edited version of a report investigating claims by a garda that officers ignored crucial intelligence which could have prevented the 1998 bombing.

The Nally Report found the allegations by Detective Sergeant John White were motivated solely by concerns about his own career.

However, the Omagh Support and Self Help Group maintains key witnesses were not interviewed in its preparation.

“The Omagh families directly affected were never given an opportunity to have an input in to the inquiry,” said spokesman Michael Gallagher.

“The families are deeply concerned by the timing of the censored report into garda intelligence and John White’s allegations, in the light of court proceedings involving John White.

“We believe this report is of limited value and now call on the Government to hold a full cross border public inquiry into the full circumstances of the 1998 Omagh Bombing.”

The Real IRA attack on Omagh on August 15, 1998, killed 29 people and injured around 300 others.

The Nally Report concluded there was no foundation to Det Sgt White’s claims that a Real IRA informer told him in advance of the 1998 attack about a car which was to be used in a bombing but that on passing this warning on to a senior officer, it was never passed to the RUC.

“Indeed it is clear from what he said to the group that he made no allegation or mention whatever of his concerns to any person, not even his wife, until after his arrest on 21 March, 2000,” it said.

The report states that there was a direct connection between the difficulties he found himself in with his superiors in the force and the making of his allegations concerning the Omagh bombing.

It adds that Det Sgt White’s assertion that he was motivated to make the information available by a sense of responsibility to the victims is “inherently incredible”

The Nally Group, headed by the former Secretary to the Government Dermot Nally, was appointed in April 2002 to examine matters arising from the Report raising concerns of the activity of An Garda Siochana officers during 1998.

Justice Minister Michael McDowell tonight told the Dáil he was always committed to producing an edited version of the report once criminal proceedings against Det Sgt White were disposed of.

The officer, who is currently suspended from the force, has been acquitted of the unlawful possession of a shotgun in May 1998, despite being heavily criticised in three reports investigating alleged garda corruption in Donegal.

“This commitment was given not on the basis that any public interest would be served in disseminating allegations which had been found to be baseless but in deference to the wishes of the families of the victims of the Omagh atrocity – an atrocity that marked one of the darkest days in the history of this island,” he said, defending the move.

“However, that commitment was subject to the understanding that, even with the criminal proceedings being disposed of, I could not publish the report in full because of the security sensitivity of some of the information it contained.

“My inability to give a fuller account did not sit easily with me – given the gravity of the allegations made.

“Consequently, I hope that this edited version will be seen as a legitimate balance between the public interest in full accountability and the exigencies of the security requirements of the State.”< r McDowell emphasised that the allegations made by John White, although very serious, are quite different from allegations claiming that the gardai could actually have prevented the Omagh bombing.

“As I have already mentioned, the Nally Group found that there is simply no basis whatsoever for these allegations and that they were motivated solely by base reasons, involving the dishonourable abuse of the grief of the Omagh victims’ families,” he said.

“In producing an edited version, I am very much conscious that there will be those who will question the transparency of the editing process and query the validity of the product of such editing.

“No matter what, I am, as I have already indicated, in a difficult position in trying to respond to such concerns, as the only way to put them beyond doubt would be to detail what was edited out, which defeats the whole purpose of editing in the first place.”

BN.ie

29/11/2006 – 18:19:22

British security forces colluded in acts of international terrorism in the 1970s, a Dáil committee said in a hard-hitting report today.

“The spectre of collusion” was present in the attacks investigated by the probe into a series of bomb and gun attacks carried out on both sides of the border by loyalist paramilitaries.

At a press conference in the grounds of the Dáil in Dublin, the committee concluded that security force members were involved in the attacks: “We now have enough information to be fully satisfied not only that it (collusion) occurred, but that it was widespread.”

It added: “The sub-committee notes that the British cabinet was aware of the level to which the security forces had been infiltrated by terrorists and we believe that its inadequate response to this knowledge permitted the problem to continue and to grow.”

Taoiseach Bertie Ahern said the findings were very disturbing.

“The findings in this report regarding collusion are deeply troubling and a matter of most serious concern. They paint a very disturbing picture,” he said.

“We have consistently pressed the British government for any cooperation they can provide in relation to all of these incidents.”

And he said it was absolutely essential the British government examine the findings of all of the reports on collusion.

The Taoiseach said the terror attacks occurred during a dark and tragic period of Irish history and urged people to think of the victims.

The two governments have been in contact today, with Foreign Affairs Minister Dermot Ahern meeting Northern Ireland Secretary Peter Hain.

Mr Ahern said: “I advised him of the Irish Government’s grave concern at the contents of the report, and of allegations of involvement of members of British security forces in these appalling events.

“I stressed the importance of full and unfettered British co-operation with the ongoing investigations and inquiries into these matters, as the Government has consistently made clear to the British government.”

Both the Taoiseach and the Foreign Affairs Minister welcomed calls for a parliamentary debate on the findings.

BBC

The judge in the Omagh bomb trial will decide on Thursday whether some of the charges facing defendant Sean Hoey should be dismissed.

His defence team has claimed there had been “a conspiracy” by a number of police officers to “bury” evidence.

This was allegedly in relation to some of the explosives charges he faces.

Mr Hoey denies the 29 murders in Omagh and more Real IRA attacks. His lawyer, Orlando Pownall QC, claimed officers had perjured themselves in court.

He said it would not be fair to try Mr Hoey on two charges linked to a mortar find at Altmore Forest, near Dungannon, in April 2001.

The application follows allegations that witness statements had been doctored to give the impression that certain forensic precautions had been taken at the scene, where photographs appeared to indicate that they had not.

Mr Pownall said there had been a “clear indication of a unity of purpose known as a conspiracy” to beef up evidence.

In reply, prosecution lawyer Gordon Kerr acknowledged there had been “impropriety” in the way witness statements had been submitted.

However, he said there was no prejudice to Mr Hoey because the issue had been exposed and explored at trial.

Mr Hoey, 37, of Molly Road, Jonesborough, County Armagh, faces 58 charges in all.

The rest refer to a series of bombings and bomb finds between 1998-2001.

The trial continues.

BBC

Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams has revealed he was warned by police of another threat to his life.


Gerry Adams said his party would not be deflected by threats

The party said members would “take precautions to minimise risks” but would continue to do the work they “were elected to do”.

Earlier this month, Mr Adams said dissident republicans were behind threats to him and other party members.

Republican sources said Mr Adams, Martin McGuinness and Gerry Kelly have all now increased their security.

Police have warned recently about the possibility of attacks by dissident republicans to try to derail efforts to restore the Northern Ireland devolution.

BBC

A man accused of the £26.5m Northern Bank robbery has won a hearing in the House of Lords.


The £26m robbery happened at the Northern Bank

Christopher Ward, 25, from Colinmill, Poleglass, west Belfast, denies taking part in the robbery in Belfast in December, 2004.

Mr Ward’s Lords case centred on a court hearing from which he and his lawyers were excluded.

The Law Lords decided that the exclusion of the lawyers raised a point of law of general public importance.

Mr Ward’s solictors have been told that a hearing will be convened to decide the issue.

‘Vitally important’

Solicitor Paul Pierce said: “This case raises very serious concerns over the way in which the PSNI can apply to exclude solicitors and their clients from an application to extend the period of detention.

“It is vitally important that the House of Lords should rule on the issue because the liberty of a detained person is at stake.”

Mr Ward was the first person in Northern Ireland to be held without charge for seven days under new legislation which came into force shortly before he was arrested.

The new law also allows police to apply for 48-hour extensions up to a maximum of 14 days.

The Northern Bank employee was charged on the 8th day after police were granted an extension in the absence of himself and his lawyers.

The robbery took place after another bank official, who was also the key-holder, was held hostage along with his wife at their home at Loughinisland, Co Down.

Denied

Mr Ward has claimed that he was also taken hostage and was acting under duress when he was seen on CCTV carrying a hold-all containing over £1m out of the bank.

He is jointly charged with Dominic McEvoy, 23, from Mulandra Park, Kilcoo, Co Down. Both men have denied the charge.

Mr Pierce said: “The House of Lords has indicated that our petition must be lodged by 6 December so it will probably be early in the New Year before the case is heard.”

Meanwhile, Mr Ward and Mr McEvoy, who are out on bail, continue to be remanded on a monthly basis and this has led to lawyers complaining about delay in fixing a committal hearing and also the prosecution’s failure to disclose crucial evidence.

Belfast Telegraph

A British soldier, an IRA volunteer, a Protestant victim – the extraordinary story of how, behind closed doors, former foes are now fighting for the peaceful future of Northern Ireland

By David McKittrick
29 November 2006

Jackie McMullan, who joined the IRA at the age of 13, was given a life sentence for an attack on a military billet. Behind bars he became a republican legend, surviving 48 days of the hunger strike that killed 10 of his colleagues. He served 16 years in prison.

Alan McBride is a Belfast Protestant whose life was devastated when an IRA bomb killed his wife, Sharon, at a Shankill Road fish shop in 1973. It also claimed the life of her father. Mr McBride said the loss of his wife had sent him to hell and back.

But together, Mr McMullan and Mr McBride are engaged in an extraordinary venture where ordinary people – extraordinary people – rather than politicians are taking the lead. Their aim? Reconcilation. Their means? Talk, and specifically talk about the past, with the aim of creating a better future. Among those working with them is Andrew Rawding, a former British soldier who lost friends and comrades during tours of duty in south Armagh.

For two years, behind closed doors, they have united to tackle one of the most deep-seated, difficult and potentially dangerous issues: how to help in healing the thousands of people on whom the Troubles inflicted emotional lacerations.

“I know Jackie McMullan very well now,” says Mr McBride. “I have a problem with people who are unrepentant and unapologetic but Jackie acknowledges that the IRA caused hurt.” Mr McMullan says: “I learnt a lot from Alan. I have a lot of admiration for him and the position he takes, coming from his circumstances. I believe he has shown moral and political courage.”

Mr Rawding said of their work: “This is an incredibly important process. There is no moral high ground for anybody. It is not enough to remain in a comfort zone and sit on the sidelines and do nothing.”

Some argue that looking back, and trying to make sense of the Troubles, is just too painful and certain to open old wounds. Yet there is already a striking amount of evidence, that the question will not go away.

Many who have studied the problem have concluded that bottling up the personal and communal hurt will cause it to fester. The fact the group, whose stated aim was “Making peace with the past,” did so in a civilised way is an early and encouraging sign that former adversaries can work constructively on the future. “There was a real engagement,” said Mr McMullan. “It wasn’t as if we were shaking hands and hugging but we didn’t spend every meeting arguing and shouting. There were differences but we weren’t locking horns.”

Another participant, former assistant chief constable Irwin Turbitt, said: “It was a robust and mature set of discussions – more robust early on and then more mature later, as people actually started to listen.”

The process produced not unanimity but a comprehensive report with a set of five options that the group hopes “will give shape and depth” to the debate which will continue in the years ahead.

The political world and public opinion have yet to reach a consensus on what to do next but Belfast’s newspapers illustrate daily that scores of individuals and groups are seeking information about their relatives.

More and more previously secret information is gradually being disclosed. The expectation is that further revelations are on the way about loyalist assassins being protected by the intelligence community. As one group member put it: “Truth appears to be seeping under the doors, through the cracks in the ceiling and down the chimney, no matter how determined the attempts to stem the flow.”

This post-conflict process is sometimes referred to as “truth recovery”. The UN calls it “transitional justice”, defining it as “a society’s attempts to come to terms with a legacy of large-scale past abuses in order to ensure accountability, serve justice and achieve reconciliation”.

The Belfast group was assembled by Healing Through Remembering, an organisation that grapples with the notion of how people, in remembering the events of the conflict, can contribute to healing society’s wounds.

Northern Ireland is awash with scores of inquiries, investigations and campaigns. Some are official, others are entirely independent, sometimes community-based and sometimes run by just one family.

The Government, for example, established the Bloody Sunday Inquiry to investigate events in 1972, and the police have set up a historical inquiries team to look into most of the 3,700 deaths of the Troubles.

Smaller-scale official inquiries have been announced into high-profile killings such as those of the nationalist solicitor Pat Finucane. The Irish government is looking into 1970s bomb attacks in the Republic as well as IRA killings of senior police officers on the border.

At a local level, dozens of families are seeking information on how their relatives died. In the case of “the Disappeared”, some bodies have never been recovered, relatives want to know where the IRA buried them in the 1970s.

What is obvious is that whatever formal moves are to be made, a wide range of truth initiatives are already under way.

All that generates highly sensitive questions. Should those with knowledge of killings be legally compelled to talk about them? Should amnesty be available to some? Should names be named in public? Should large-scale compensation be contemplated to victims? What about apologies from perpetrators?

Questions such as those continue to hang in the air, as yet unresolved. Yet many members of the Healing Through Remembering group say such questions cannot be put aside, and need to be faced. But they did consider the option of “drawing a line under the past”.

An argument advanced in favour of that approach was the concern that new revelations could jeopardise a new coalition government headed by Sinn Fein and the Rev Ian Paisley’s Democratic Unionist Party. That was certainly a strong factor behind the Government’s decision, a year-and-a-half ago, to put its consultations on hold.

Northern Ireland Secretary at the time, Paul Murphy, explained: “I have not for one second suggested that we have abandoned the idea. I am simply saying I did not think this was the time for it, and if anything it could be counter-productive .” A committee of MPs concurred, saying “the peace is as yet too fragile, the scars of the conflict too fresh”.

Nationalists and republicans tend to be well-disposed towards truth processes of some sort, though Sinn Fein and the IRA have made no definitive commitment. They will not show their hand until concrete proposals emerge, and it will be a finely balanced decision: obviously they would favour a mechanism that would show Britain and loyalist groups in the worst possible light. Those on the Protestant and Unionist side are much more wary.

The loyalist paramilitary groups who were involved in violence say “the painful political conflict is not yet past” and claim digging into the past would “run a real risk of reigniting violent conflict”.

They say, frankly, that “pro-state paramilitaries”, which is how they describe themselves, typically have more difficulty justifying their actions than groups, such as the IRA, which present themselves as fighting a “liberation struggle”.

They also worry that republicans would outperform them on presentation. According to one loyalist: “Republicans – who are seen to be very skilful in the art of propaganda – would use a truth commission as a stick to beat the British state with.”

Arlene Foster of the Rev Ian Paisley’s Democratic Unionist Party said bluntly: “Any commission would amount to nothing more than a Brit-bashing session. Would we ever learn the whole truth from the terrorists? Are we expected to take the word of IRA men? They have made lying and deceit an art form.”

The bulk of Protestant opinion is against a large-scale commission on the scale of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission which functioned in South Africa.

And not just loyalists but many others recoil from the dimensions of the closest thing to a local example, the Bloody Sunday Inquiry. Announced in 1998, it has yet to report. It is the largest and most complex public inquiry in British legal history. The Government has brought in new measures to curtail subsequent inquiries and has attracted criticism. But with the Bloody Sunday exercise costing about £163m, it is almost universally agreed that no future investigation should incur such phenomenal expense.

The search is therefore on new types of institutions that could do the job quicker and cheaper. For some years, the widespread assumption was that the question was bipolar: should Northern Ireland follow South Africa, or do nothing at all? The group’s report includes the option of such a full-blown inquiry.

Although it would have a financial cap and a specified time-scale it would have a large staff of lawyers and others, holding public hearings. It could grant amnesty to former combatants who co-operate, and could recommend the prosecution of others.

Tony Blair has shown no sign of favouring such an approach, but he believes there “needs to be some way of trying to allow people to express their grief, their pain and their anger without the past continually dominating the present and the future”. It is a view shared by the Irish Prime Minister, Bertie Ahern, who said: “Instead of the healing process setting in, bitterness arises. Something must happen – I do not know what is the best way to do it.”

In addition to examining the South African experience, the group looked at dozens of other countries that had truth mechanisms, including El Salvador, the Philippines, Mozambique, Guatemala, and Rwanda .

Several members were fascinated by the experience of Spain, which seemed to show that attempts to forget atrocities stretching back as far as the civil war of the 1930s have been ultimately unsuccessful.

Although many in Spain went along with a post-Franco pacto del olvido – pact of forgetting – the issue has now resurfaced, with the government appointing a commission to consider truth and reparations. Such research and discussions have produced other options. One envisages paramilitary groups and security agencies voluntarily giving information to families through a central co-ordinating body.

Another is for a commission of historical clarification, placing the emphasis more on devising an independent and authoritative historical narrative that would explore the roots of conflict, employing primarily researchers and historians rather than lawyers. The danger is it could be an arid scholarly process, though one advantage is that people could come forward to tell their stories.

The fifth option is to build on the grassroots initiatives already under way, combining storytelling with investigative work. An oversight body would collect testimony from victims, witnesses and ex-combatants, the idea being to maximise a sense of ownership and empowerment and to allow people to be heard.

The group says the options are not mutually exclusive and could be combined. Other ideas include a museum of the Troubles and a day of remembrance.

Irwin Turbitt, the former assistant chief constable, said: “I think the process that produced the report is as worthy of notice as the report itself. That in itself is a significant sign of progress.”

Mr McMullan said: “Republicans have to set the standard in acknowledging the suffering of all those we hurt. Initially, I saw talking about this as a bit of a burden but now I do feel personally committed to it. The past isn’t going to go away.”

And Mr McBride, who is no stranger to hurt and pain, said: “I believe we need some mechanism for dealing with the past. It could hurt some people but I believe that the good it could do is greater than the hurt.”

The Troubles

3,720 People killed

47,000 People injured

37,000 Shootings

16,000 Bombings

116,000kg Explosives seized

12,000 Weapons seized

Over a million Bullets seized

19,000 Number charged with paramilitary offences

Belfast Telegraph

By Noel McAdam
29 November 2006

Tensions and discontent within DUP ranks are simmering despite party leadership attempts to restore order.

A meeting in Antrim yesterday including local councillors voiced concern over how the party leadership handled the nomination of DUP leader Ian Paisley as First Minister designate.

Last night’s meeting was attended by around 30 people who sought reassurance that the party will not agree a timetable for the devolution of policing and justice – which Sinn Fein insists is a requirement to call its potentially pivotal ard fheis meeting on joining the PSNI.

And, it was argued, the “credible period of testing” for Sinn Fein on law and order might not prove possible before the new devolution deadline of March 26.

Sources said the meeting questioned whether Mr Paisley was nominated as future First Minister in the Assembly last Friday.

Antrim councillor Mel Lucas said: “There are those with reservations about the way it was handled. Some people queried the way it was done.

“The question was asked whether Dr Paisley had (nominated or designated) and we were told that wasn’t the case. Not everyone at the meeting was convinced at that.”

Mr Lucas said support was expressed for South Antrim MP Rev William McCrea, who attended the meeting, and his assessment of the current situation.

There would have to be “delivery” on a range of issues including parades, fair treatment of the unionist community and a mandatory coalition to form an Executive.

The meeting came after deputy leader Peter Robinson said the party was “completely relaxed and confident in its present position”.

“The St Andrews Agreement does not make a timetable from the DUP a condition for Sinn Fein signing up to every aspect of the rule of law. It is not required. It will not happen,” he said.

Belfast Telegraph

Man blown up by Libyan-made IRA bomb tells of his multi-billion dollar law suit

By Lesley-Anne Henry
29 November 2006

The man leading a landmark legal case against Colonel Gadaffi over his IRA links has revealed how he rubbed shoulders with the dictator’s entourage months before being blown up in London – by a Libyan-supplied bomb.

In an exclusive interview with the Belfast Telegraph, Mark McDonald said he encountered Gadaffi’s “circus-like” troupe in a Tunisian hotel early in 1983 – just months before he was badly injured in the Harrods car bomb attack of December 1983.

Mr McDonald (51) who is fronting the legal case McDonald et al v Socialist People’s Libyan Arab Jamahirya (Libya), said he was unimpressed by the charade.

“He was travelling through, presumably to the Tunis area.

“At that time the headquarters of the PLO was in Carthage and there were a variety of Arab world meetings taking place in Tunisia, often private meetings.

“The Cuban women carried their machine guns pointed level, all a bit of a show.

“It was hard to think of it as anything but a bit of a circus act.

“I did not actually see Gadaffi, just his troupe, this relating to where I was standing in the hallway as he went through,” he said.

Mr McDonald (51) is among 170 victims of IRA violence who are pursuing the case in Washington, which if successful, could smooth the way for as many as 6,000 other Ulster victims to receive compensation.

Their complaint accuses Libya of supplying the IRA with millions of dollars, weapons, Semtex, training and other assistance from 1972 onwards.

Mr McDonald, who currently lives in Colorado, suffered serious injuries and spent 10 weeks in hospital after the Harrods bombing of 1983.

He underwent 10 operations in the weeks immediately after the bomb to remove the many pieces of shrapnel lodged in his body.

Large pieces are still embedded in his left hip and shoulder 23 years on.

He lost about 80% of his left hamstring as well as muscle and bone from his left hip and shoulder.

His vision was impaired as a result of blood loss and his eardrums were blown.

It took him several years to be able to walk properly.

Now, however, the oceanographic researcher is fighting fit and is “honoured” to be the leading plaintiff in the multi-billion dollar law suit.

“I certainly never anticipated filing legal action against Colonel Gadaffi.

“I have been very impressed by the attorneys and others I’ve met who are working on this case, thus I am honoured to be the lead plaintiff and I take the responsibility seriously.

“I am confident I can do a good job, with the help of the many others involved in the case,” he said.

“Joining the case was an easy decision, as I find the case is an opportunity to fight terrorism in one more, relatively new, arena,” he said.

The case, which started in March, is expected to be lengthy – the translation and issuing of writs to Gadaffi and senior members of Libyan intelligence took a whole month.

Mr McDonald said he hasn’t been frustrated.

“I never expected such a case would come out of the bombing, and I moved on with my life relatively soon after the bombing, putting it behind me as much as possible.

“From the onset of this case we knew it would be a long process. I have not allowed myself to look too far into the future in this regard.

“What will I do when the case is over?

“As I said earlier, I’ve moved on with my life and while I am very interested in the case and will give it whatever time necessary, it is not now changing my life greatly nor do I expect it to do so in the future.

“If I do receive financial remuneration I might start off by using the money to get a particularly bothersome piece of shrapnel removed from my shoulder.

“Hopefully there is enough left over to start a retirement fund,” he concluded.

Belfast Telegraph

In an amazing letter to the Telegraph, Michael Stone reveals his plan for murder at Stormont

By Lindy McDowell
29 November 2006

Image Hosted by ImageShack.us
Stone’s letter reveals targets were Adams and McGuinness >>Click to read entire letter

KILLER Michael Stone predicted he would meet his death at Stormont in a chilling letter sent to the Belfast Telegraph just hours before he launched his abortive bomb attack.
Click here to read the letter in full

In the astonishing five-page letter, dated last Friday, Stone said his main targets during his attempt to storm a crucial meeting of the Assembly would be the Sinn Fein leaders Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness.

The Milltown murderer is now being held in solitary confinement at Maghaberry.

He is facing five attempted murder charges after his one-man offensive at Parliament Buildings, which ended with him being trapped in a revolving door and disarmed by two Stormont security staff.

In Stone’s letter to the Telegraph — penned in block capitals — he revealed how his deadly plan was supposed to unfold in order that there would be “no confusion as to the objective of my mission”.

Stone described himself as a “freelance dissident loyalist”.

He said that, by the time the Belfast Telegraph had received his letter, he would be in one of two positions.

“One, I will be in police custody with the events surrounding my arrest ensuring that I spend the rest of my natural life in prison. Two, that I am deceased . . . the latter in all probability.”

He wrote that he would carry a replica handgun to “bluff my way past two security guards stationed at a desk behind a walk-through metal detector”.

He also claimed he would carry one large “flash bang device”, seven nail bombs, three knives, an axe, a garrotte and a body armour vest.

The former UDA killer claimed that he would detonate the “flash bang device” in the Great Hall “to create panic and confusion as I move to my left and along the corridor towards the debating chamber and the two targets”.

He said that, if the two Sinn Fein leaders were not in the debating chamber, he would move to the party’s offices on the first floor of Stormont and would take “appropriate action to deter” security staff if they tried to disarm him.

The letter described in detail the location of the Sinn Fein office and claimed there was an “offensive tricolour” on the inside of the office window.

Also in the letter, Stone claimed he was taking action because he believed there would be a united Ireland within 20 years.

He also wrote: “Not a round, not an ounce, lose the golf balls.” This is believed to be a reference to the UDA “brigadier” Jackie McDonald, reported to have played golf with Martin McAleese, the husband of President Mary McAleese.

Stone concludes his letter by stating: “I’m outgunned but I wouldn’t have it any other way”, and signs the letter using his nickname ‘Flint’.

The loyalist killer has had his early-release license revoked by Secretary of State Peter Hain following Friday’s raid.

He was originally jailed in 1989 and told he must serve at least 30 years in jail for six UDA murders, including three at a republican funeral in Milltown Cemetery in 1988 — his first attempt to wipe out the Sinn Fein leadership.

However, Stone was re- leased on licence in 2000 under the terms of the 1998 Good Friday Agreement.

His former UDA colleagues, who once viewed Stone as a hero, have already distanced themselves from his actions of last week.

A UDA statement said: “The Ulster Defence Association had no prior knowledge of Stone’s intention and it is becoming increasing- ly clear that he acted alone.”

The paramilitary group said Stone had recently become “estranged” and branded him a “recluse”.

Police investigating Stone’s attempted bomb attack on the Assembly searched the home of a former girlfriend of the loyalist killer on Monday. Officers carried out a detailed examination of the property in Belfast’s Ballybeen estate. Psychiatrists are examining Stone while he is being held in Maghaberry Prison.

BBC

Police in Northern Ireland hold DNA samples on 1,116 people who have not been convicted of, or charged with any offence, it has emerged.


The police DNA database in Northern Ireland has trebled

Samples from almost 56,000 individuals are now held on the DNA database.

Paul O’Connor from the Pat Finucane human rights centre said the PSNI were going too far.

He said in Scotland, Germany, Austria or Finland, DNA was automatically destroyed if someone was not convicted of a recordable offence.

“It is a no-brainer to have a discussion about whether DNA should be retained on people found guilty of serious violent offences or sexual offences. That is absolutely clear and there is no discussion around that,” Mr O’Connor said.

“The discussion is, should we be following the example in Britain at the moment – or should we be following the example of Scotland or Germany or Austria or Finland or other countries where DNA is automatically destroyed if someone is not convicted of a recordable offence?”

More than 45,000 of those whose DNA is held by the PSNI have been convicted of an offence. About 9,000 more have been charged or are being prosecuted.

DNA databases are held by police forces across the UK and in Europe and are rapidly growing in size.

The size of the database in Northern Ireland appears to have more than trebled in the past six years.

In total, it now holds nearly 70,000 samples but only about 17,000 date back to the year 2000.

The PSNI released the figures to BBC Radio Foyle under the Freedom of Information Act.

Irelandclick

Robin Livingstone
Into the West
Andersonstown News
27/11/2006

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usI have no idea how much of my hard-earned money is spent by the British government on security, but it’s a lot. My heart isn’t usually warmed by the physical manifestation of my security tax – Trevors in all-night garages, British soldiers fighting locals outside dances in Lisburn. That kind of thing.
I wasn’t at Stormont for the historic/crunch (delete as applicable) November 24 deadline on Friday, but if I had have been that was certainly one time I’d have been delighted to see some armed police or even some special forces types on the scene. But as ever, they’re never there when you need them.
I don’t know what was in Michael Stone’s mind when he decided to do a Rambo at Parliament Buildings, but I’ve seen the pictures and I know for sure what was in his eyes – madness.
You have to think the whole thing was a stunt pulled off by a publicity-crazed psycho fed up because the Sunday papers have grown tired writing about his killings, paintings, books, lovers male and female and whatever you’re having yourself. The Browning 9mm that he brought with him was an imitation, but the pipe bombs in the holdall were real. But while the civilian security guards who brought him down and subdued him until the Trevors arrived showed extraordinary bravery, they weren’t exactly Navy Seals.
Along with countless others, I watched in stunned disbelief as the most infamous multiple killer in the North, who had just made his way into Stormont carrying a gun and a grip bag, was tackled by three middle-aged blokes and a woman who had just had her nails painted a very fetching fire-engine red. As the cameras rolled and they laboured to hold him on the wet ground at the top of the Stormont steps, it first appeared to me as if they were trying to tickle Stone into submission, and at one stage it seemed for all the world as though they were giving him the bumps.
Where the Trevors and the British army were is anybody’s guess. While it is true that security at Stormont is provided by civilian guards and not the PSNI, you’d like to think that the Trevors have an emergency response protocol for the seat of government – a rapid-response plan to be put into action should the Hucklebucks decide to launch their own Tet Offensive by taking over the great wedding cake on the hill. But apparently not, because for some considerable time after Stone threw his grip bag into the Great Hall and then did a Marcel Marceau in the revolving doors, he was rolling around on the floor with four I.D. checkers armed with nothing more than their laminated passes and government Biros.
If you ask me, I think the Trevors were secretly delighted. By the time Stone was being taken away down the Stormont drive in the back of a cop car, Ian Paisley Jnr had decided it was the Shinners’ fault for not wanting the PSNI about the place. And with the real possibility of a functioning Executive in the building some time next year, it’s likely that a root-and-branch review of Stormont security will now get under way. And Deputy First Minister McGuinness may well have to bid a cheery good morning to Trevor on his way into work in the morning after all.
As for Stone, he’s had his licence revoked, he’s been charged with multiple counts of attempted murder and he’s back in prison, no doubt for a very long time. At the risk of being accused of rubbing it in, I think that’s not enough. Given that during his last interview with UTV he was hobbling about on a stick, and given that days later he made it up those steep steps without his stick and carrying a gun, a knife, a can of spray paint and a bag of bombs, surely they should take a look at his DLA as well.

robin@irelandclick.com

Irelandclick

Ciarán Barnes
Andersonstown News
27/11/2006

Crucial forensic evidence proving the innocence of a West Belfast man convicted of possessing a bomb has gone missing from a PSNI station, the Andersonstown News can reveal.
Lawyers acting for Christy Walsh asked for items, including the coffee jar bomb he was convicted of having, to be re-examined as part of his appeal.
However the PSNI is now claiming every exhibit connected to the case has gone missing, prompting an angry response from human rights groups.
British Irish Rights Watch (BIRW), which has taken up Christy’s case, said it was “troubled” by the revelation.
The Lenadoon man was sentenced to 14 years in prison in 1991 for possessing a coffee jar bomb.
Christy was arrested in the early hours of June 5 of that year as he walked through an alley between Kerrykeel Gardens and the Suffolk Road.
He was stopped by a British soldier who claimed in court that when he told Christy to take his hands out of his pockets he did so holding a coffee jar bomb.
This story was backed up by another soldier.
Christy has always denied this version of events, saying that the first he knew of the bomb was when the soldier drew his attention to it, sitting on a nearby wall.
The device had no fingerprints on it, and when Christy was stopped and searched he was not wearing gloves.
The re-examination of the coffee jar bomb is crucial to his appeal. But with the PSNI now claiming it has gone missing Christy has to overcome yet another obstacle to prove his innocence.
BIRW director Jane Winter believes the case against him went wrong from the start.
She said: “He was in the wrong place at the wrong time. The case against him was never strong enough to secure a conviction, so it was bolstered by false testimony and shoddy forensics, as has happened all too often in the Diplock courts.”
Christy has failed in two previous appeals against his conviction despite a judge recognising the forensics against him were “unsafe”, and soldiers withdrawing their statements and admitting to being “coached” before appearing in court.

Irelandclick

Máirtín Ó Muilleoir
Andersonstown News
27/11/2006

Eighteen-and-a-half-years ago, Michael Stone was a very dangerous psychopath because he was acting in consort with the forces of law and order (yes, the same forces of law and order we’re supposed to respect and swear allegiance to).
In his role as Branch hitman, he was facilitated in his attack on mourners in Milltown Cemetery in March 1988 which left three dead and over 60 wounded. The grenades he threw that day were brought in from South Africa by British Intelligence agent within the UDA Brian Nelson.
The sinister forces who ferried him into the West of the city that fateful day knew that, for the first time in a decade, the RUC would pull back from a republican funeral. Never properly explained was the presence of an unmarked RUC van on the hard shoulder of the M1 which watched the entire cowardly attack on the funeral of the Gibraltrar Three, driving off rather than making an arrest of the loyalist killer as he fled through the cemetery to the motorway.
As with most loyalist paramilitaries, when acting with the support and resources of his handlers, Michael Stone was a formidable killing machine, butchering unarmed Catholics at every turn for the best part of ten years.
Today, having been cast to the side by the Special Branch and Brit Intelligence who no longer need his brutish services, he is still the same sick, dangerous fantasist he was in 1988 — though the irony is that now he’s more a danger to himself than to others.

Irish Times

27 November 2006

Police investigating loyliast murderer Michael Stone’s attempted bomb attack at Stormont on Friday, searched the home of a former girlfriend of the loyalist killer tonight.

Officers moved in to carry out a detailed examination of the property in the city’s Ballybeen estate. Detectives and forensic experts closed off the area to the public.

Police refused to confirm the purpose of the operation but sources close to the former UDA gunman pointed to a definite link. The dwelling at Grahamsbridge Road is believed to belong to a former partner of Stone.

The loyalist has been thrown back into prison after launching a kamikaze-style attack on parliament buildings at Stormont in east Belfast on Friday.

Northern Ireland Secretary Peter Hain ordered the move after Stone stormed the building armed with a fake gun, and up to eight nail bombs. He was foiled by two security guards who wrestled him to the ground before he could enter the Assembly debating chamber where politicians were discussing the restoration of the power-sharing government.

He was charged at Belfast Magistrates Court on Saturday with attempting to murder Sinn Féin leaders Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness, the two security guards and a person unknown.

Stone (51) was released in 2000 under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement after serving 12 years in prison. He was sentenced to almost 700 years for six murders, three of which were committed during a lone gun and grenade attack on an IRA funeral in Belfast in 1988.

An order suspending his release licence was signed by Northern Ireland Office Minister Paul Goggins on Saturday. Under the terms of the licence, authorities can send former paramilitaries back to prison if they become involved in terrorism again or are considered a risk to the public.

Northern Ireland Lord Chief Justice Sir Brian Kerr has to decide how much more of his life sentence he must serve. If he accepts the minimum recommended tariff set by the judge in the original murder case, Stone will spend another 18 years in detention.

Irish Times

*Via Newshound

Gerry Moriarty and Frank Millar
28 November 2006

Democratic Unionist Party leader Ian Paisley has given his most positive signal yet that he is prepared to enter power with Sinn Féin following an election in the North next March.

In the face of acknowledged dissent within his party over the St Andrews Agreement, Dr Paisley said a powersharing deal was possible within the timeframe set out by the British and Irish governments.

Taoiseach Bertie Ahern and Northern Secretary Peter Hain warned yesterday there would no point in holding the March 7th election without earlier agreement that Sinn Féin and the DUP would form a powersharing government.

Mr Hain said an election would be pointless if Sinn Féin had not called an ardfheis on policing before the end of January.

Mr Ahern, speaking in London where he addressed a conference of business leaders last night, expressed confidence that Sinn Féin would sign up to policing. He said it would be possible then to achieve subsequent agreement on a timetable for the devolution of policing and justice powers, as prescribed by both governments, by summer 2008.

Asked if there was no Sinn Féin ardfheis by the end of January and, therefore, no agreement by the DUP to form a government by March 26th, what would be the point of the Assembly elections, he replied: “There would be none.”

Dr Paisley made clear yesterday that he was willing to see a powersharing government with Sinn Féin subject, chiefly, to that party signing up to policing and the rule of law. This was the case notwithstanding that some senior DUP members such as North Belfast MP Nigel Dodds and MEP Jim Allister had concerns about St Andrews.

In broadcast interviews with RTÉ, UTV, BBC and Downtown Radio after yesterday’s reconvened meeting of the Northern Assembly, he said there was no challenge to his leadership, although there was the “odd squabble” in the party over St Andrews. “There are two or three people who had second thoughts about the way we are going. I think that is cleared up now. I think that we are all singing from the same hymn sheets at the moment, and we will,” he said.

He moderated Mr Dodds’ position that policing and justice would not be devolved for a “political lifetime”, saying: “If Gerry Adams brings about the conditions by his actions that will cause the Protestant population to trust him, then doing that can very much deal with the timeframe.”

He indicated he was conditionally prepared to accept the post of first minister, with Sinn Féin’s Martin McGuinness as deputy.

“I am not sure if I want it or not but I will accept it. I will do my duty to my country. I will do my best if I ever get the job to serve all parts of the population, as I have already done as an ordinary member of parliament,” he said.

“If there is now going to be a good way of getting to a place where we can agree and agree without selling the kernel of democracy, which is obedience to the law, then let’s do it,” he said.

Belfast Telegraph

By Noel McAdam
28 November 2006

Assembly members were on a collision course with Secretary of State Peter Hain last night over who runs Stormont.

The growing row came as the Belfast Telegraph learned Mr Hain ruled that Sinn Fein senior negotiator Martin McGuinness should have been allowed to address the Assembly on designation day last Friday.

His direction overturned a decision by the Assembly’s business committee, which has been promised more independence in the transitional set-up.

The all-party committee had agreed that neither Mr McGuinness or DUP leader Ian Paisley should address the Assembly after their expected nominations.

But Mr Hain’s instruction was sent directly to speaker Eileen Bell and will be raised when the business committee meets at Stormont later today.

Ulster Unionist Party leader Sir Reg Empey said he had concerns over how the business committee was being allowed to conduct its affairs, after several months of confrontation under what has become known as the ‘Hain Assembly’.

Mr Hain turned down a number of requests from the business committee for debates including the controversial review of public administration and attacks on health service workers.

Mrs Bell said yesterday she did not have time to contact MLAs after receiving Mr Hain’s instruction, following the meeting of the business committee on Friday.

She said the transitional Assembly would not have the autonomy or independence which a fully-restored legislature would enjoy.

Sir Reg has also raised questions over the extent to which the DUP, Sinn Fein and the governments knew what DUP leader Ian Paisley was going to say last Friday.

BBC

North Belfast loyalist William “Mo” Courtney has been acquitted of murdering a former associate of UDA leader Johnny Adair.


Willliam “Mo” Courtney was acquitted of murder

Belfast Crown Court judge Mr Justice McLaughlin said he could not convict him of the 2003 murder of Alan “Bucky” McCullough or UFF and UDA membership.

He said there was “inherent weakness” in the evidence given by the McCullough family and of witness A.

Mr Courtney, of Fernhill Heights, was tried under the Diplock no-jury system.

“I could not properly convict the accused of the murder of Alan McCullough,” the judge said.

Mr Justice McLaughlin added: “In addition the prosecution case is highly deficient in establishing that the defendant was part of a common design to kill the deceased.”

However, following recent legislation the prosecution have a right to appeal the judge’s decision.


The body of Alan McCullough was found in a shallow grave

Following the acquittal of the 43-year-old, prosecuting QC Geoffrey Millar asked for the case to be adjourned to Thursday in order to give him time to consult with the Director of the Public Prosecution Service.

Describing the adjournment application as “entirely appropriate”, Mr Justice McLaughlin granted the application as “it’s not something that should be decided in a matter of minutes”.

The body of Mr McCullough, 21, was found in a shallow grave on the outskirts of north Belfast. He had been shot.

An earlier hearing had been told that Mr McCullough had been a member of the so-called “C company” of the UDA – headed by Adair.

“C company” had been expelled from the UDA in 2002, and a number of its members, including the victim, had been ordered out of Northern Ireland by UDA leaders.

Mr McCullough returned to Northern Ireland in April 2003 and his body was found on 5 June.

Derry Journal

28 November 2006

The family of a Castlederg man shot dead by Michael Stone say they now want the notorious loyalist killer “locked up for life” following Friday’s incident at Stormont.
Catholic breadman Dermot Hackett was shot dead by Stone at the wheel of while on his rounds in 1987. At the time it was claimed he had republican paramilitary links, but this has always been strenuously denied by his family.
Last year Stone met with Mr. Hackett’s widow, Sylvia for the controversial BBC series ‘Facing the Truth’.
Following Friday’s security breach, Mrs. Hackett, who lives in Strabane, said Stone had now “shown his true colours”.
“He said he had finished with guns and violence but look at him now.
“When he met us he came in with a walking stick. I didn’t see any walking stick up at Stormont.”
Mr. Hackett’s brother Rodney added that he believed the 51-years-old had “become unhinged”.
“I would say the whole thing has just got on top of him now. This is a really stupid action, what was he going to gain from it?
“He’s a spent force now but when he came out of prison he had a high profile. Maybe this is his natural reaction to losing his profile and he wanted into the limelight again.”

BBC

Television film of the Michael Stone incident at Stormont must be handed over to the police, a judge has ruled.

The Police Service of Northern Ireland applied for an order at Belfast Recorder’s Court on Tuesday compelling the BBC, UTV and RTE to hand over film.

A police officer said he also wanted footage in a BBC camera left running after it was abandoned in Parliament Buildings last Friday.

The judge granted the order which was sought under the Terrorism Act.

Judge Tom Burgess said he was satisfied that various film clips would be of value in the public interest. He said the order included the film in the abandoned camera which was recovered by bomb disposal experts as they checked out the building.

It was put in a sealed bag and handed over to police but has not been seen by anyone.

Bobby Sands mural photo
Ní neart go cur le chéile

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