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Prominent north Belfast loyalist Andre Shoukri has been sentenced to nine years jail for trying to extort thousands of pounds from a pub owner.
Leading loyalist Andre Shoukri has been jailed for nine years
He was jailed on 18 charges including blackmail, intimidation and acquiring and using criminal property.
Belfast Crown Court heard he used his Ulster Defence Association status to force his victim to hand over cash.
“Shoukri was very aggressive and angry and demanded money be paid to him then and there – it was,” prosecution said.
Prosecuting barrister Gordon Kerr said the notorious paramilitary had become more and more aggressive, constantly making demands and accusing his victim of holding money back.
“She would say she was being directly threatened at this stage.”
The charges against 30-year-old Shoukri included using “certain criminal property, namely a money transfer” from a building society to buy his Clare Heights home in Belfast in November 2004.
Jailed with him for nine years was John Boreland, 38 from Sunningdale Gardens, on four charges of blackmail, one of intimidation and one of possessing a firearm, or imitation firearm to commit assault.
Also jailed, for seven years, was 25-year-old Terry Harbinson from Tyndale Gardens, Belfast, who admitted blackmail, and intimidation and possession of a firearm, or imitation firearm.
Former Met policeman Ian Peter Craig, 47, of Garland Hill, Manse Road, Belfast, turned mortgage advisor who aided and abetted, counselled or procured Shoukri in the dishonest obtaining of a money transfer received two years, suspended for three years.
A police spokesman claimed that the police operation “had the effect of dismantling the leadership of the UDA in north Belfast” at that particular time.
He added that Shoukri, Boreland and Harbinson “thought they were above the law”.
“You could say they thought they were untouchable. The fact is they were not,” he said.
“Those who prey on individuals and communities through extortion are not untouchable.”
The Associated Press
Published: November 30, 2007
DUBLIN, Ireland: A senior figure in the outlawed Ulster Defense Association, the major Protestant gang in Northern Ireland, received a nine-year prison sentence Friday for his extortion and intimidation of a pub owner.
Andre Shoukri, the former commander of UDA units in north Belfast, was convicted of 18 criminal counts after undercover police acting on a tipoff observed him over months demanding money from the pub owner and threatening to put her out of business if she failed to comply.
Shoukri, 29, the burly son of an Egyptian immigrant to Belfast, once had hundreds of loyal deputies under his command. But other commanders of the anti-Catholic gang expelled Shoukri, his brother Ihab and dozens of others following his November 2005 arrest.
His case highlighted the brutal power that the UDA still wields in the poorest Protestant parts of Northern Ireland. The group runs rackets in extortion, counterfeiting, smuggling, drug dealing and prostitution — and rely on intimidation to prevent people from going to the police.
That didn’t work against the pub owner Shoukri targeted. Identified in court only as Witness A, the woman turned to police when Shoukri’s demands got so unreasonable and dangerous that she felt she had no choice.
Four of Shoukri’s accomplices in extortion and fraud also received prison terms Friday ranging from two years to nine years.
Police Detective Inspector Mark Brown said Shoukri and his deputies “thought they were untouchable. The fact is they were not.”
Witness A testified that Shoukri came into her business in June 2004 and demanded 1,000 pounds (US$2,000, €1,500) a week, otherwise he would close her business by force. She negotiated him down to 200 pounds (US$400, €300).
She said Shoukri’s men also placed slot machines in the pub and collected all the money from them.
In December 2004, Shoukri and his henchmen demanded an extra 2,500 pounds (US$5,000, €3,750) after they attended a friend’s wedding reception in the pub. The following month, they demanded an extra 1,000 pounds (US$2,000, €1,500), claiming her pub had enjoyed a particularly busy Christmas.
Witness A turned to the police in May 2005, after Shoukri’s acolytes had taken to ordering and carrying off food and alcoholic beverages without paying or even asking. She said she could no longer pay her rent and faced eviction.
Shoukri also pointed a gun at her husband’s head and demanded to be placed on the pub’s payroll as “restaurant manager” — a fraudulent claim he needed to help him secure a mortgage.
Shoukri has been in and out for prison for the past decade. He was convicted of the 1996 manslaughter of a teenage Catholic tennis player, who was beaten up and then fatally run over outside a Belfast pub, and spent just eight months behind bars for that crime.
He was convicted in 2000 of extorting money from a restaurant owner and, after his release, became the top UDA figure in north Belfast.
The UDA killed more than 300 people, mostly Catholic civilians, in a 1971-1994 campaign to terrorize the host community of the outlawed Irish Republican Army. The UDA since has loosely observed a cease-fire and, on Nov. 11, declared it had renounced violence.
By Tom Brady and Ciaran Byrne
Friday November 30 2007
Residents of south Armagh have indicated to gardai that they are willing to travel across the border to be interviewed as part of the investigation into the murder of Paul Quinn.
Senior garda officers confirmed last night they were continuing to focus on the suspected involvement of Provisional IRA activists and sympathisers in the savage killing.
And they revealed that a massive community response has boosted their prospects of tracking down the killers of truck driver Mr Quinn, who was battered to death near the border last month.
The 21-year-old victim died in hospital after being beaten with iron bars and cudgels by a gang of up to 10 men. He had been lured to a shed on a farm near the Co Monaghan village of Oram on Saturday, October 22.
Mr Quinn’s father Stephen repeated his belief that the IRA was responsible, as 200 people gathered in the Co Armagh village of Cullyhanna in support of a campaign to bring Paul’s killers to justice on Wednesday night.
“It’s about control. Paul got into fights with two of them, connected to the IRA. There’s no one else who could do such a thing around this area,” he told BBC’s ‘Newsnight’.
Taoiseach Bertie Ahern has said he believes that “criminals” killed Mr Quinn and he has also asserted his belief there was no IRA involvement, a view shared by the British government and Sinn Fein.
But International Monitoring Commission member John Grieve, a former Scotland Yard commander in charge of anti-terrorism, has said he believes the IRA was involved.
It is understood the IMC does not believe the murder was directly sanctioned by the IRA’s leadership, but the body does believe that it involved local people who are members or former members of the IRA.
It has also emerged that the IMC has not, however, been asked to produce an early report into the killing.
The Irish and British governments asked the IMC to produce an urgent report after the murder of Robert McCartney, outside a Belfast pub three years ago, but ministers have not done so this time. Instead, the Quinn family will have to wait for the IMC’s next six-monthly report, due next April.
Since the cross-border investigation began, gardai have been attempting to convince the local communities to break the code of silence imposed on them in the past by the Provisional IRA and help them in their hunt for the killers.
Mr Quinn had been told to leave his native area after he had earlier clashed with a republican and the son of another republican. But he ignored the warnings and continued to live in Cullyhanna in south Armagh.
He was known to have associated with a group of young fuel smugglers along the Armagh-Monaghan border.
Gardai believe some of those associates may be able to provide information, and that some people are prepared to ignore threats.
Senior garda officers said last night they were receiving excellent co-operation from the PSNI and the forces were working together on house-to-house inquiries and on joint checkpoints.
– Tom Brady and Ciaran Byrne
A former Ulster Defence Regiment soldier in Ballymoney has been warned of a threat to his life.
The man is a former member of the UDR
MEP Jim Allister said he had been speaking to the man and the police, since the man was informed of the threat on Wednesday.
He said that it was a distressing situation for the man and his family.
“Whatever brand of republicanism this threat is coming from doesn’t really matter – the fact is that it is utterly unacceptable,” he said.
By Ciarán Barnes
A FASCINATING new book contains the chilling British army death warrant issued against a young West Belfast soldier shot dead for deserting during World War I. Lance-Corporal Peter Sands, from Abyssinia Street off the Falls Road, was executed by firing squad in France in 1915.
His court martial papers, signed by Commanding Officer Douglas Haig of the 1st Army, ominously read: “This is a bad case and I recommend the extreme penalty be carried out.”
Sands’ killing, like those of the 27 other Irish soldiers killed for alleged breaches of discipline at the front, was controversial. The 26-year-old had been allowed to leave the trenches of the Western Front for a few days home leave. In Belfast he lost his travel papers. He went to his local barracks, but it had no record of him and told him to go home.
After a few months living openly in uniform in Belfast, Sands was arrested by the Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC) and charged with desertion. He was returned to France and after a court martial was executed by firing squad.
The court martial papers were uncovered by BBC journalist Stephen Walker in the National Archive in London. The award-winning reporter has just published a poignant yet gripping book on the 28 Irishmen who fought for the British army during World War I and who were executed for cowardice or desertion.
‘Forgotten Soldiers – The Irishmen Shot at Dawn’ gives a remarkable insight into the events leading up to the local man’s execution.
After his arrest in Belfast he told his captors: “Had I intended to desert I would have worn plain clothes, but up to the time I was arrested I always wore uniform.”
He also explained that he had lost his travel papers and had approached his local barracks, but was refused a return to the battlefield.
Despite this perfectly reasonable excuse, good character references, and nine years of military service, the soldier was sentenced to death.
Sands was executed by firing squad at Fleurbaix on September 15, 1915. He was buried in a nearby churchyard, but after the war his grave could not be found, so his name was later commemorated in Cabaret-Rouge Military Cemetery at Souchez.
Reflecting on Sands’ case, Stephen Walker’s background in investigatory journalism leads him to conclude that the case of the Falls Road man contains more questions than answers.
“The papers do not give a detailed explanation of why the death penalty was necessary, nor does it appear that Sands’ story about his lost travel warrant was thoroughly investigated,” writes the author.
“Was Corporal Wright, who Sands claims he spoke to at the Belfast barracks, ever interviewed to confirm his account? If so, did he confirm Sands’ story? On the issue of Sands’ previous good behaviour, was this not considered worthy enough to have led to the sentence being commuted?”
• Forgotten Soldiers – The Irishmen Shot at Dawn. By Stephen Walker. Published by Gill & Macmillan
11/27/07 16:43 EST
The Democratic Unionist Party and Sinn Fein were today accused of control freakery in the Northern Ireland Executive as cabinet divisions over the draft program for government and budget widened. Ulster Unionist leader Sir Reg Empey made the claim after Finance Minister Peter Robinson attacked his party and the nationalist SDLP for backing last night in the Assembly an Alliance Party amendment which criticized the draft program and the Executive`s draft investment strategy for lacking vision.
As the Assembly debate drew to a close, Mr Robinson reminded the two parties they were members of a coalition at Stormont.
“The basis upon which any coalition government can move forward is on the basis for a program for government,” the DUP deputy leader told them.
“And so that there is no doubt at a later stage, without an agreed programme for government, there cannot be government.”
However Sir Reg, who is the Employment and Learning Minister in the Executive, accused the DUP and Sinn Fein of operating a two-party cabal and insisting only on collectivity in government when they wanted to be fireproofed from criticism.
“We are currently engaged in a process where we are discussing drafts – I repeat drafts – of the program for government and budget,” the UUP leader responded.
“It is an opportunity for MLAs and the general public to openly debate and offer alternative viewpoints. The threats from certain ministers to attempt to stifle debate by threatening the collapse of the government if these matters are not agreed to their liking reeks of throwing all the toys out of the pram and is a dagger to the heart of the democratic process. MLAs and parties must have the right to discuss and debate these draft proposals.”
“We are now beginning to see signs of control freakery being exhibited. The UUP regrets Mr Robinson`s thinly veiled threats in his closing remarks yesterday,” Empey said.
PRESS RELEASE ON BEHALF OF MADDEN & FINUCANE SOLICITORS
Pat Finucane Centre
28 November 2007
The European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg today gave judgment in favour of the families of eight men who were murdered by a Loyalist murder gang in the South Armagh area in the mid 1970’s.
The cases were taken to Strasbourg following the failure of the British Government to properly investigate detailed allegations made by a former member of the RUC, John Weir, about security force collusion.
The families’ legal representative, Fearghal Shiels, of Madden & Finucane, Solicitors, Belfast said:
“In 1999, the RUC purported to conduct a police investigation into John Weir’s allegations. The RUC took no steps to interview John Weir, and irrespective of the cogent and credible evidence of widespread collusion by members of UDR and RUC with a loyalist murder gang based in Mid-Ulster, concluded that his allegations were false.
Today’s findings by the European Court of Human Rights that the families’ human rights were breached by the UK Government vindicates the families’ central contention that there was a total lack of independence, transparency and accountability on the part of the RUC, in investigating the activities of this murder gang.”
The cases related to the deaths of Colm McCartney, who was murdered at Altnamackin in August 1975; Trevor Brecknell, who was murdered at Donnelly’s Bar, Silverbridge in December 1975; John, Brian and Anthony Reavey, murdered at Whitecross and Joseph, Barry and Declan O’Dowd murdered near Gilford on the same evening as the Reavey brothers in January 1976 and the wounding of Michael McGrath in a gun attack at the Rock Bar, Keady in June 1976.
The families are today arranging to meet with their solicitors to discuss the important implications of the ruling.
Press Statement on behalf of those ‘Murder Triangle’ families affected by the European Court judgment.
We welcome yesterday’s judgement at the European Court of Human Rights which found that there had been a breach of Article 2 of the Human Rights Convention in respect of those cases where we lost family members and/or were shot and injured as was the case with Barney O’Dowd who is with us today and Mick Mc Grath who is also with us.
In 1999 John Weir, a former RUC Sgt and SPG member, made a number of alarming allegations concerning the activities of a Glenanne based loyalist gang made up, he said, of UVF, members of the RUC Special Patrol Group and UDR soldiers from mid Ulster. State agents such as Robin Jackson, the Jackal, played a central role in this gang and their activities were known of and tolerated at a senior level within security and NIO circles. A number of the gun and bomb attacks carried out by this group were directed by agents working to Special Branch and Army Intelligence. As a result of this I began to research the Glenanne gang and the Murder Triangle under the auspices of the Pat Finucane Centre.
The following can be stated as fact ;
At least 120 people died as result of the activities of this wider group;
The dead included Irish and British citizens (such as my Birmingham born father),
Catholics and Protestants on both sides of the border and Italian and French nationals in the Dublin and Monaghan bombings and perhaps saddest of all- three families lost both parents in savage gun attacks carried out by gang members which include state agents and members of the security forces. This goes to the heart of our concerns over the years-the Court has found that the RUC response to Weirs 1999 allegations were a violation of Article 2 -two final points should be made before opening the floor to questions-John Weir was and is probably the single most significant whistleblower to have emerged in the past 37 years. Yet ongoing attempts were made to dismiss his allegations by dismissing John Weir. I have met him on a number of occasions. I have accompanied him to meetings with the HET. He is a credible witness though no doubt he has much more to contribute in a different legal context. This is what the European Court had to say about John Weir
‘…the Court notes, first, that the allegations made by Weir were serious, involving security force collusion in systematic targetting of innocent civilians and that they were, prima facie, plausible, deriving from a source who had been involved in such incidents and giving concrete details.’
The final point I would like to make is this,
Credible and convincing evidence of collusion between the security forces and loyalist paramilitaries has emerged in the recent past-the Glenanne case is, in its way unique. The facts, not the allegations of Glenanne, are that members of the RUC,UDR and security service agents were DIRECTLY involved in murders and bombings. There are relatives at this press conference today who have had official confirmation that police officers, soldiers and agents were the main suspects in these attacks. Gradually the truth is emerging. This judgement has vindicated the families. I leave you with one question. Months ago we asked the Director of the Public Prosecution Service for a meeting with families to explain the actions of that key institution in the cover-up that was the Rock Bar trial and the dropping of charges. Will the Director now meet with us?
See links to cases below:
28 November 2007
The prospect of a stadium being built at the Maze has been brought closer after the GAA, IFA and Ulster Rugby confirmed they would play games there.
How the Maze site could look if the plans get the go ahead
The three organisations have all signed a document estimating the minimum number of supporters they would hope to attract there annually.
Raymond Kennedy, president of the Irish Football Association, said the move made good economic sense.
“We did look at the business case – the business case stacks up,” he said.
“We agreed that we would probably play seven fixtures – three competitive, two or three friendlies, a Setanta Cup final maybe and the Irish Cup final.”
The plan is for a 35,000-seater stadium for soccer and rugby, and the provision of more seats for GAA fans.
Renting the new stadium would cost the three main sporting bodies about £1m annually.
To pay for that, the GAA has said it could bring at least 150,000 spectators to its games.
It believes the new stadium could be used to stage an All-Ireland Quarter Final or a national league decider.
The IFA said it could attract at least 80,000 fans, while Ulster Rugby estimates it could bring about 40,000 supporters through the turnstiles.
The IFA has said it would play at least six international matches there per year.
Rugby would include at least one Autumn international and all of Ulster’s home Heineken Cup matches.
28 November 2007
The families of eight men murdered in the 1970s who said the RUC did not properly examine collusion claims have said they have been vindicated.
A collusion claim was made by former RUC officer John Weir
The European Court of Human Rights said alleged security force collusion in the murders was not properly investigated.
Eugene Reavey, whose three brothers were shot dead in 1976, said there should be a fresh investigation.
“If I was to borrow a catchphrase from Margaret Thatcher ‘murder, is murder, is murder’,” he said.
“My three brothers were brutally murdered by members of the security forces and a loyalist gang and I call on the chief constable to do something about it.”
The collusion claim was made by a former RUC officer, John Weir, on a television programme.
He said a farmhouse owned by another police officer was used as a base from which to carry out a series of murders.
Weir is a former RUC sergeant, convicted for the murder of Catholic shopkeeper William Strathearn in April 1977.
Eight years ago, he claimed to have been a member of the loyalist gang which carried out these and other murders. He said the gang consisted of members of the RUC, UDR and the UVF.
The RUC launched an investigation, but did not interview Weir, who now lives in Africa, as he was said not to be a credible witness.
The relatives say their cases account for just a fraction of the killings carried out by the gang – and they want the government to admit that members of the security forces were part of it.
The families said they want to meet the Public Prosecution Service to find out why members of the gang were not prosecuted deaspite their identities being known as far back as 1978.
Alan Bracknell – whose father was shot dead in 1975 – said it could not be the end of the matter.
“There does need to be a proper independent investigation of John Weir’s allegations,” he said.
By Alana Fearon
A north Belfast man who claims he was verbally abused by police officers and his wife sprayed with CS Spray says he “won’t waste his time” lodging a complaint with the ombudsman.
Gerard Lagan said he has no faith in the Ombudsman and despite Sinn Féin councillor, Margaret McClenaghan’s calls for residents to make complaints following police “heavy-handedness” at the weekend, the north Belfast man said he “wasn’t going to bother”.
Nationalist residents from Butler Walk came out in force in the early hours of Saturday morning after a gang of approximately seven loyalists came into the area.
It is believed the loyalist gang had been sent into the street to lure nationalists down the Crumlin Road where it is reported a gang of up to 20 men were gathered.
Gerard claims that after 15 minutes of hand-to-hand fighting between nationalists and loyalists, police used “heavy-handed tactics” to disperse the nationalist crowd.
He claims he was verbally abused by a police officer and that his wife was one of a number of residents sprayed by CS Spray.
“No one knows why the loyalists came in here,” Gerard said.
“There are a lot of unconfirmed rumours going around but it looks like they tried to get us down the Crumlin Road where a bigger crowd were waiting.
“As usual the police moved in here and CS spray was used and they even grabbed a wee lad and started beating him.”
Margaret McClenaghan lambasted police for what she described as “yet another example of police brutality”.
The Ardoyne woman said the police reaction to Saturday night’s events “left a lot to be desired” and would do nothing to encourage nationalists to support police.
“Time and time again we see police moving into nationalist areas with a complete disregard for residents,” she said.
“There is simply no excuse for this behaviour.
“Nationalists were forced to leave their homes to protect them from loyalists who had entered the area yet police came to us, not the loyalists who had initiated the trouble.”
A police spokeswoman confirmed that CS Spray had been used in the Butler Walk area to affect the arrest of a man during a disturbance.
She said it was also used on several people who had attacked police in an effort to obstruct the arrest.
Anyone who is unhappy with police action should contact the Ombudsman.
By Ciarán Barnes
Social Development Minister Margaret Ritchie is set to go head-to-head with West Belfast politicians for a second time in a major row over housing.
Relations between the senior SDLP member and the local community hit rock bottom earlier in the year over controversial plans to build a five-storey apartment block on the old Andersonstown barracks site.
The proposal was eventually shelved after protests from outrage residents.
However, Ms Ritchie is again facing the wrath of West Belfast after she announced not a single social need house may be built during 2008 at a recent Stormont meeting.
Plans to construct 500 new homes in various locations including Hannahstown, Devonshire and Distillery Street are now in jeopardy.
Sinn Féin Assemblyman Fra McCann yesterday warned that it could be years before construction work begins on the much-needed projects.
He said: “This is a disgrace. Those most in need in our society are the ones who will suffer. The future of up to 500 new homes in West Belfast is now in jeopardy because of this ridiculous decision.”
There are currently 2,240 people on the West Belfast Housing Executive waiting list.
With this in mind the prospect of not a single social home being built in the area next year worries Fra.
He added: “I have written to the Minister for Social Development and asked her to stop blaming everyone else for not delivering.
“She is the minister and has at her disposal the means of kick-starting the fightback in terms of providing social housing and creating an affordable market.”
The Department for Social Development (DSD) claims that with a 2007-08 budget allocation of just £153 million it cannot afford to build any new social homes. DSD officials say they need a budget of at least £546 million.
A spokesman for the DSD said: “No budget allocation has been made yet to the Housing Executive. Everything is in draft form and the minister will work tirelessly to champion the rights of the elderly, disabled and vulnerable in seeking that the actual budget she is allocated for her department increases.
“She is also seeking broad political and community support for this approach. But the fact is that the draft budget being offered for investment in housing, as part of the government’s overall investment strategy, may mean that it may not be possible to start any new social housing next year as it currently stands.”
By Liz MacKean
It is a month since Stephen Quinn buried his youngest son Paul. He looks exhausted and still appears shocked to his core.
“They have to be savages to do what they did,” he says.
Paul Quinn, 21, was beaten to death by a gang with iron bars
He’s talking about a gang of up to ten men who beat Paul to death with iron bars.
The 21-year-old had been phoned by friends who told him to come across the border into the Republic of Ireland to help muck out a barn.
Too late Paul discovered his friends had been taken hostage by masked men and forced to make the call. The gang turned on Paul, beating him with iron bars.
He died later, with nearly every major bone in his body broken. No-one’s been arrested or charged and yet his father is certain he knows who is responsible.
“It’s about control,” Stephen Quinn tells me when we meet at the family home outside the border village of Cullyhanna.
“Paul got into fights with two of them, connected to the IRA. There’s no-one else who could do such a thing around this area,” he said.
The Quinn family say they’ve never been into politics, but their son’s killing is now a political issue. Soon afterwards, political leaders in Britain and Ireland blamed criminal gangs for the murder. But a large group of family friends think differently.
They’ve formed a support group to try to persuade people to speak out. But many are afraid.
During the 30-year conflict in Northern Ireland the IRA enjoyed strong support in Armagh from those nationalists who saw them as their defenders. I go to meet one elderly couple – both of whom are happy to see the British army gone.
They tell me though that it’s high time the IRA went away too.
“This is a desperately dangerous place to live. They have different ways of getting to you. Some of these lads are one kick away from death.”
He is talking about a series of severe beatings meted out to young men, which many locals say are carried out by existing or former members of the IRA.
Since its ceasefire a decade ago, he says about 12 have taken place in the small area of villages near his home.
“They use bars, cudgels, sticks with nails on,” his wife tells me.
The victims are young men deemed not to have shown enough respect to their Republican elders. Even trivial matters like a fight in a disco can trigger a beating.
Soon after Paul Quinn’s death, the leader of Irish republicanism, Gerry Adams of Sinn Fein, declared the IRA were innocent.
He said the killing came about after a feud between rival criminal gangs linked to smuggling. Like many border areas South Armagh has a flourishing black market.
Fuel smuggling in particular is highly lucrative. The Organised Crime Taskforce reports that in 2005, nearly half of all diesel used in Northern Ireland was brought into the country illegally.
Local people tell me such enterprises are tightly controlled by serving or former members of the IRA. But the area’s MP, Conor Murphy of Sinn Fein, insists this is not correct.
We meet at Crossmaglen, once home to the most heavily fortified British army base in the world, and now a prospering market town.
I ask him about Paul Quinn and the family’s insistence that he was no criminal – his only crime was to fall out with the son of a local IRA leader.
“I have spoken to the IRA in his area and I am satisfied with the assurances they gave me, very solid assurances, that they weren’t involved in his death,” he says.
Sinn Fein MP
So the IRA in South Armagh is alive and well but not involved in any criminality or beatings.
The 50 people who’ve joined the Paul Quinn Support Group think otherwise. Jim McAllister, a former Sinn Fein member who left the party over its decision to support the police, says people have finally had enough of being intimidated.
“I genuinely believe this community is rising above fear. I think we have reached a tipping point. They think ‘we have got to stop this now’.”
It was felt a similar tipping point had been reached almost three years ago when Robert McCartney was beaten to death outside a bar in Belfast. The 60 people inside were told: “This is IRA business” and ordered to keep quiet.
His sisters have waged a high-profile campaign for justice ever since. They’ve shaken hands with George Bush at the White House and been invited into Downing Street, but to date only one person has been charged with murder.
I meet them again as one of them, Catherine, launches a book, “Walls of Silence” about the family’s struggle to get people to speak out.
Bertie Ahern said he believes criminal gangs were to blame
“Have we made a difference? Some say we had, but then a young man is taken to a shed and beaten to death,” she says.
Her sister Paula adds: “There was an opportunity I believe when Robert was murdered. The governments could have seen if they’d done the right thing that subsequent murders might not have happened.”
It isn’t just Sinn Fein that have given Irish republicans a clean bill of health.
The Northern Ireland Secretary, Sean Woodward, and Irish premier, Bertie Ahern, have both said they believe criminal gangs were to blame.
Families like the McCartneys believe their suffering is being ignored in the interests of keeping the peace process solid.
Back in Cullyhanna, people who knew Paul Quinn gather in a service of remembrance. Up to 600 have packed into the village church in a show of support to Paul’s family.
His murder is being investigated by Irish police. If IRA members are eventually blamed, it will cause deep tensions in Northern Ireland’s power-sharing government. To his family that’s a small price to pay.
Watch Liz MacKean’s film on Newsnight on Wednesday at 2230 GMT
The Real IRA tonight threatened to launch more attacks against the police in Northern Ireland.
The dissident republican group, which carried out the Omagh bombing, and claimed responsibility for the shooting and wounding of two members of the PSNI in Derry and Dungannon, Co Tyrone this month.
Both Catholic officers were shot in their cars, one as he delivered his son to school and the other as he drove away from work.
The attacks were seen as an effort to deter Catholics from joining the PSNI now that Sinn Fein has given its backing to the service and the policing structures in Northern Ireland.
“We will continue to target Crown forces at a time and place of our choosing,” the Real IRA said. They also threatened action against people passing information to the security forces.
Their statement was issued to UTV in the wilds of Co Tyrone and coupled with a propaganda video showing two men with a rifle and handgun on a “training exercise”.
The terror group killed 29 people including the mother of unborn twins in the worst single atrocity of the Northern Ireland troubles – the Omagh bombing in August 1998.
The Real IRA had been relatively quiet before the shooting of the two police officers – although PSNI chiefs had continued to warn the threat of further attack remained high.
They are reported to have been restructured and to have set up new units to target police officers.
The statement also warned people who had claimed responsibility for their attacks to stop – a previously unheard of group called the Irish Republican Liberation Army said it shot the officer in Dungannon.
The Real IRA said the IRLA were not republicans and nothing but a bunch of criminals using a republican title.
“This criminal gang offers nothing to the republican cause and we advise them to desist from their activities immediately.” The statement said the group should be aware their activities were being monitored.
(Rebecca Black, Irish News)
Publisher Steve McDonogh yesterday (Sunday) released a full transcript of his conversations and emails with Sinn Féin and Columbia three member James Monaghan to prove his allegations that the party had gagged Monaghan in the run-up to the launch of his book last week.
Mr McDonogh, whose company Brandon has published Monaghan’s book, last week accused “the republican movement” of preventing the former IRA prisoner from doing any TV or radio interviews to promote the title.
The correspondence includes an email from Monaghan to Mr McDonogh showing his willingness to go ahead with a press conference and a later email saying, “It seems SF [Sinn Féin] do not want even the print media to have invitations, except for selected small circulation ones”.
Other emails from Mr Monaghan tell of his trying to get in contact with Sinn Féin’s publicity director Dawn Doyle to discuss him talking to the media but not being able to get in contact with her.
In an email dated Monday November 19, Monaghan said he was waiting to hear from Ms Doyle.
This was the last email that Mr McDonogh received before Sinn Féin held a launch of the book on Tuesday November 20.
Mr McDonogh said he suspected the gagging had something to do with the IRA.
However, Mr McDonogh said since the party had put out a statement saying he had acted with “the utmost integrity and professionalism” he did not foresee any difficulty in continuing to work with Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams, whose books he has been publishing since 1982, or Danny Morrison.
Ms Doyle was unavailable for comment but a Sinn Féin spokesman said: “Jim Monaghan’s decision is his own. There is certainly no agenda by the Sinn Féin press office to censor him.”
November 27, 2007
This article appeared first in the November 26, 2007 edition of the Irish News.
In north Belfast teenagers are being driven to suicide after taking so-called Blues tablets. People in the Tigers Bay area speak out about the scourge of their community. By Sharon O’Neill
By Sharon O’Neill
Monday, November 26, 2007
A 14-year-old boy doused himself in petrol after taking the same pills as tragic Dean Clarke, it has emerged. Tonight on Insight we investigate the drugs being dealt to the children and adults of Tigers Bay in north Belfast.
And we examine the UDA’s links to the drugs being peddled on the streets where Dean Clarke took 22 pills, known as Blues.
The 16-year-old died in hospital in the early hours of November 3 after a suicide attempt on the Limestone Road just days earlier.
Ross Cowan chatted with Dean hours before he tried to take his life on Sunday, October 28.
“I said ‘what about you mate, are you all right?’ and he never said to me about the Saturday night or anything and, being none the wiser, I didn’t have a clue either about the drugs. But it came as a shock to me on the Sunday night as I’d seen him on the Sunday morning and he was happy.”
We can reveal that 14-year-old Alistair Doherty, who took Blues on the same day as Dean, has also tried to take his life.
“He was brought home to my house by the police, doused from head to toe in petrol,” says his sister Lynsey Doherty.
“When he doused himself, the petrol must have soaked the lighter. The lighter was incapable of flicking. If that lighter had flicked, that child, God forgive me, that child would have been dead.
“When we questioned him about the petrol he said something about Blues but we didn’t actually catch on.”
These pills are called Blues because of their colour, but not all tablets are the same. Some contain Diazepam, the horse tranquillers Ketamine, and rat poisoning, which is designed to thin the blood.
Dean’s family and other residents in the community have blamed a UDA man for supplying these deadly drugs.
On Remembrance Sunday, the UDA declared its weapons were put beyond use, and vowed to stamp out drug dealing.
But one drug dealer tells Insight about his deal with the UDA.
“I was approached about 18 months ago to sell drugs for the UDA. I sold blow,” he says.
“When you were buying a kilo, you had to pay an extra £300 or so to sell in their area, for them to protect you. I cut them up and sold them in ounces. It was a good living, too good to miss out on …
“The drugs are bringing in the UDA far too much money for the UDA leadership to stop it altogether.”
Lynsey Doherty says her young brother has felt the wrath of the UDA over his anti-social behaviour.
He has received a number of so-called punishment beatings, the first when he was 11 years old.
She recalls an attack just weeks ago: “He was left for dead at the bottom of the street, not only choking on his own vomit but taking a fit. He was left basically for dead with boot marks on his head.”
She is damning of the UDA.
“They class themselves as the – what would I say? – local authority. They’re taking care of their community in the way that they feel like. That’s my opinion, but whether people would agree with it is a different matter. They think that basically, it’s their district, it’s their rules.”
After taking the Blues pills, Alistair’s behaviour spiralled out of control. He wrecked the family home. Uncontrollable, they had him arrested.
While in a detention centre, he tried to take his own life – three times. He is now back at home.
“They don’t know whether or not – with him taking these tablets – he has actually taken a kind of mental breakdown,” says Lynsey Doherty.
“At the end of the day, it’s different if it’s an adult. You know the score. If you’re an adult, you know the risk that you’re taking. A child doesn’t. A child gets a quick buzz, a quick high. A child doesn’t worry about the consequences or the side effects.”
Ryan Longman (16) also tells the programme he had noticed something different about his cousin Dean.
“I saw him a couple of days before and I knew there was something wrong with him. I knew he was on tablets but I didn’t know what the tablets were,” he says.
“His eyes were all funny. I’ve been drunk myself and you don’t go like that when you’re drunk. I knew definitely there was something else in him.”
Dean’s friend, 16-year-old Jamie McDonald, admits he took the Blues too. His last fix was shortly before Dean died.
He took 12 tablets. Asked how he felt on the pills, Jamie says: “To be honest I felt good, the next day I felt like s**t.’ Drugs just ruin your life. They messed up my life.
“I missed a lot of school. I was a good student before I started drugs and then I started taking drugs and I missed more school, and I was taking days off to take drugs, get drugs. I was completely obsessed with them.”
Despite Dean’s death, the drugs are still being dealt to the young in Tigers Bay.
“A couple of friends are still taking them,”‘ says Jamie.
But the Blues aren’t just a drug for the young. One mother-of-eight tells the programme that she took these pills.
She recently handed over her supply to a community meeting.
“I bought 20 in the first batch, then 25,” she reveals. “I started on one, then two, then four a night. The second batch was different, even stronger. The third batch, I passed out in the bath. My daughter had to lift me out. I couldn’t remember a thing. It scared me. I stopped taking them.”
On top of these Blues the mother, who does not want to be identified, had been taking 14 painkillers a day. She admits she is addicted to prescription drugs.
“I’m sitting here now with the shakes,” she says. “My kids were off school for over a week. You just don’t want to get out of bed. You don’t live, you survive. That’s just what it’s like round here.”
The mothers of Tigers Bay are united in a campaign to stamp out drug dealing.
With a UDA man accused of supplying the pills Dean took, they believe the leadership is fully aware of the extent of the dealing among its ranks.
Anjie Wallace says: “Being the leading group of the Tigers Bay area they must know what drugs are coming in and what drugs are going out because it’s like everything else, there has to be money crossing somebody’s hands.
“They must know because they’re bound to be taking money off these dealers.”
By Stephen Breen
Sunday, November 25, 2007
A human rights group has raised concerns about the murder of notorious drug lord Brendan ‘Speedy’ Fegan to Ulster’s top cop.
British Irish Rights Watch (BIRW) director Jane Winter (inset) wrote to Sir Hugh Orde after the Real IRA was blamed at the recent inquest into the 1999 killing.
Ms Winter – who has also raised the murder with the Policing Board – claims she received information months after the shooting linking a top Provo to the killing.
The human rights activist believes Fegan’s killing is one of many committed by the IRA and loyalist terror groups who declared ceasefires.
Ms Winter is hopeful that Sir Hugh and members of the Policing Board will address her group’s concerns about the Fegan killing.
She said: “What worries us is that Brendan Fegan joins a long list of victims whose deaths may have been breaches of the IRA’s ceasefire.
“All the paramilitary groups have broken their ceasefires by committing murder during the peace process. There has never been a convenient moment to acknowledge such uncomfortable facts.
“However, while it may well be acceptable for the police to keep silent if they fear attributing a murder to members of any particular group may rock the political boat, this issue brings their competence into question.
“It also damages public confidence in the police. We have written to the PSNI and the Policing Board seeking an explanation.”
She also urged former members of the security forces to come forward about their experiences of Special Branch during the Troubles.
“We have so many cases involving collusion at the moment and it’s essential for people to come forward.
“I commend the people who have already shared their experiences, but there are more people out there who could help shed some light on this issue. “
By Linda McKee
Saturday, November 24, 2007
Archbishop Sean Brady, who today becomes a cardinal, has come a long way since his Cavan childhood.
He grew up on a mixed farm where his father Andrew bred Aberdeen Angus cattle, and remains a keen GAA fan, reminiscing about the days when Cavan won the All-Ireland in 1947, 1948 and 1952.
Sean Brady was educated at Caulfield National School in Laragh, later becoming a boarder at St Patrick’s College in his home county.
Although he considered agricultural science, he decided to study for the priesthood at Maynooth and later at the Pontifical Irish College in Rome.
He then taught at his old college in Cavan for 13 years before returning to Rome where he became vice-rector and then rector of the Pontifical College, later becoming parish priest at Castletara back in Cavan.
After only 13 months there, he was chosen as the new Catholic Primate to succeed Cardinal Cahal Daly.
In October 1996 he became Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All-Ireland as well as chairman of the Irish Episcopal Conference.
A few years ago he made headlines after accepting an invitation from Presbyterian Moderator Dr Ken Newell to be his personal guest at the opening night of the Presbyterian Assembly.
Outside, a protest at his presence was led by Free Presbyterian Moderator and now First Minister, the Rev Ian Paisley.
He is a strong supporter of ecumenism and when Archbishop Alan Harper became the new Church of Ireland Primate earlier this year, the two leaders made a joint visit to both Armagh cathedrals on St Patrick’s Day.
Politically, Dr Brady has worked hard to solidify the peace process and has led a delegation of his senior clergy to meet the Mr Paisley at Stormont for an exchange of views.
In recent months, Dr Brady has made a series of major speeches outlining basic Christian values at a time of increasing secularisation in Ireland and earlier this year he led Irish bishops to meet Pope Benedict at the Vatican.
23 Nov 2007
A Belfast court has turned down an application for the extradition of Roisin McAliskey to Germany.
German authorities wanted her to face trial for the attempted murder of soldiers at a British army barracks in Osnabruck in northern Germany in 1996.
Ms McAliskey was arrested at her home in Coalisland last May and was on bail.
The Recorder of Belfast, Judge Burgess, refused the application on the basis that it “would be oppressive because of the passage of time”.
Judge Burgess determined that Ms McAliskey believed the threat of extradition was behind her from the time in 1998 when the home secretary announced in the House of Commons that he was refusing to extradite her on medical grounds.
The judge said this was confirmed in Ms McAliskey’s mind by a statement made in the House of Commons in 2000 by the attorney general that there were no grounds for instituting proceedings against her in the UK.
Ms McAliskey’s lawyers had argued that to extradite her would “be an abuse of process as the previous application failed”.
They said it would be unjust and oppressive to grant extradition in the case of a “fragile woman with this appalling history of post traumatic stress disorder”.
This was in reference to evidence given by her mother – former MP Bernadette Devlin – of the mental trauma Ms McAliskey still suffers as a result of an attempted assassination by loyalists in the family home in 1981 when she was aged nine.
The public prosecutor in Germany alleged Ms McAliskey was a member of a Provisional IRA active service unit which fired three mortar grenades at Quebec Barracks in Osnabruck in 1996.
No one was killed or injured but substantial damage was caused to the base.
Home Secretary Jack Straw decided in 1998 not to extradite Ms McAliskey after receiving medical reports.
23 Nov 2007
The final report from the Bloody Sunday inquiry will not be ready until next year.
Soldiers shot 14 people dead in Derry on Bloody Sunday
Lord Saville has told the victims’ families that he needs more time to complete his findings and have the report printed.
However, families of the 14 people killed will be told in advance when the report is ready to be given to the Secretary of State.
23 Nov 2007
The loyalist Michael Stone is to stand trial for his alleged attack on Stormont last November.
Loyalist Michael Stone is restrained at the doors of Parliament Buildings
He faces 14 charges, including the attempted murder of Sinn Fein leaders Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness.
Stone, who was wrestled to the ground by security guards at Stormont’s revolving doors, has also been accused of explosives offences.
He was remanded in custody after a PPS request to have him returned to Belfast Crown Court on a date to be fixed.
Stone, whose licence for the Milltown murders has been revoked, is also charged with going into Parliament Buildings with three knives, a garrotte and an axe, possession of an imitation gun and assaulting a member of staff.
A defence lawyer for the 51-year-old has said the incident was not intended to hurt anyone, and was instead a piece of performance art replicating a terrorist attack.