You are currently browsing the monthly archive for December 2007.

Relatives of the victims to lobby government agencies for help

Irish Independent
By Alan Murray
Sunday December 30 2007

The relatives of the victims of the Omagh bombing will launch a campaign in the New Year to demand the handing over of all intelligence material held by government agencies so it can be used against the dissident republicans involved in the devastating attack on the town.

The British, Irish and Spanish governments will be asked to co-ordinate resources to compile files of evidence against the 10 key republicans identified by intelligence agencies as the main participants in the bombing 10 years ago.

And the new head of MI5 Jonathan Evans will be approached to take the step that his predecessor refused to take and meet with the Omagh relatives.

Omagh victims’ group spokesman Michael Gallagher says that they are determined to pursue the killers of their 29 relatives until they are brought before the courts. And he wants the British and Irish governments in particular to open their intelligence books to convict the bombers.

“We will petition the British government, the Irish government and the Spanish government to begin the process of bringing the main participants in the Omagh bombing to trial,” he said.

“All three governments lost citizens in the attack and it is their responsibility to put together the intelligence evidence and bring these people to court. There is information about mobile phone calls in the files and many other details that we are aware of which have not been used in an evidential way and we want to see all that amassed information provided to prosecutors so the killers can be put in the dock together.”

The Omagh man, who lost his son Aidan in the devastating explosion, said that the trial of Klaus Barbie, the brutal Nazi Gestapo chief in Lyon during the Second World War, was an example of what can be achieved.

“Barbie wasn’t put on trial until 1987 in Lyon, more than 40 years after the war, so that proves that when governments want to bring people to justice they can succeed, no matter how long it takes from the time of the atrocity.

“In the new year we will launch a campaign to bring the 10 most senior republicans involved in the Omagh attack to justice. We are not deterred by anything that has gone before,” he said.

“The two governments here control the intelligence information that could unlock the door to convictions in the Omagh case and we intend to ask them for that information to be presented to prosecutors. The police forces on both sides of the border have that information but to date the necessary cooperation has not been evident and we want that situation to change. We want all that information handed over,” said Mr Gallagher.

And Mr Gallagher said the relatives will again ask MI5 to put their case for disclosure through a face to face meeting with Jonathan Evans.

“We want to specifically ask him why his agency didn’t inform the RUC that it had information in the weeks before the bombing that Omagh was a potential terrorist target,” he said.

“But that is only part of it, we want a concerted effort from the British and Irish governments to compile the legal case against the perpetrators of the Omagh massacre and we believe that can be done.

“The authorities are regularly appealing to the public to come forward to provide information and give evidence but when it comes to putting their own agents at risk they aren’t so adventurous. We want the police chiefs in Belfast and Dublin to do what they are regularly asking the public to do and we want MI5 to put their former agents before the courts to give evidence in the Omagh trials,” he said.

– Alan Murray

BBC
By Diarmaid Fleming
29 December 2007

An exhibition being held in Tralee about the first head of the British Secret Service, William Melville, has caused some shaking and stirring in the county.


Characters from James Bond films were based on Melville

The original spymaster “M” of James Bond fame came from Kerry, but the hosting of the exhibition in the County Museum named after Irish rebel leader Thomas Ashe means it’s not been without controversy.

William Melville was the first head of the British Secret service in 1903.

The original “M” – as later James Bond’s boss would be known – spent much of his earlier career in the new Special Branch, pursuing Irish Fenians and European left-wing radicals in the late 19th century.

Among those he jailed was Tom Clarke, who was later to be executed as a leader of the 1916 Rising in Dublin.

Some Kerry republicans are furious at the exhibition in a hall named after Thomas Ashe, one of Clarke’s 1916 comrades.

Republican Sinn Fein organised a protest against the exhibition and what Matt Leen of the party says is the “renegade” William Melville.


Jack the Ripper was hunted by William Melville

“Me and my fellow republicans think this is an act of treason, to hold this especially in his hall that’s here to commemorate Thomas Ashe who gave his life for the freedom we enjoy in this part of Ireland and who suffered a horrendous death – he was force fed – at the hands of the cohorts of William Melville,” says Leen.

“To come along 90 years later and to see Melville being commemorated here in the Thomas Ashe Hall, surely there’s a huge contradiction in this exhibition.”

It was in what must be one of Ireland’s most beautiful villages, Sneem, that Melville was born in 1850, before running away from home to become a London policeman.

He rose through the ranks, joining the new Special Irish Branch, forerunner of the Special Branch, where, along with other Irishmen, they targeted their countrymen in the Fenians who didn’t share their allegiance to the Crown.

Once the so-called Fenian “Dynamite War” ended in the late 1880s, he moved his attention to international radicals.

Britain had become a haven for revolutionaries and anarchists opposing monarchies throughout Europe, and Melville had plenty of work on his plate, targeting Russians and others, while still finding time to chase Jack the Ripper.

But little was known of the spymaster from Sneem until recently-opened British secret papers enabled a biography, says village historian, John V O’Sullivan, editor of the Sneem Parish News.

“Locals don’t have strong feelings about Melville,” he considers.

“I wouldn’t say that they’re proud of it, but they certainly acknowledge that he was a genius and the reason he emigrated was by necessity.

“I don’t think there’s very strong views held on him by people – whether they’d condemn him or praise him – but they just acknowledge that at the time, he turned out to be the top detective in Europe.

“That was genius as far as the people here would be concerned, but they certainly wouldn’t hold strong views on what way he operated later on.”

The exhibition includes a bomb loaned by West Midlands Police, used by Melville to frame anarchists in Walsall in 1892, which helped his promotion to head of the Special Branch, a year before he strangely retired at the peak of his career as one of Scotland Yard’s most famous policemen aged only 53.

He had in fact been secretly headhunted, to become the top field operative or spy – known by the alias ‘M’ – for the newly formed British intelligence service, in the new Directorate of Military Operations.

Its divisions MO2 and MO3 were the forerunners of MI5 and MI6.

He ran a network of agents, at home and afar, and worked as far as Persia where he was sent to help secure oil supplies for Britain.

As insurrection raged in Ireland in 1916, he is not known to have been involved in counter-insurgency work in his native land, being preoccupied instead in the war against Germany, before his death in 1918.

The Kerry County Museum rejects republicans’ criticism of the exhibition, saying Melville’s life is simply a remarkable story and for people to judge for themselves.

“I understand their point of view – I don’t necessarily agree with it and nor does the museum necessarily agree with it but I can see why some people would feel it would be not appropriate,” says Kerry County Museum curator Helen O’Carroll.

“But to examine the life of somebody like William Melville who took such an opposite path to Thomas Ashe, for a teacher such as Thomas Ashe, that would be something he would welcome.

“That we would examine these things, not pretend they didn’t happen or hide them away or say we’re not going to deal with that but actually to deal with it and look at it and see how we can integrate somebody like Melville into our conception of Irishness,” she adds.

But what of a permanent memorial to Sneem’s unlikely spymaster son?

The village green in Sneem has a monument to a famous wrestler, but considerable political wrestling in Kerry could be expected to follow any calls for a permanent monument to bring the legacy of the village’s spymaster in from the cold.

Irish Times
Jonathan Bardon
29 December 2007

During the autumn of 1976 Lord (Peter) Melchett took over from Roland Moyle as minister of state with responsibility for education. This flamboyant self-confessed punk rock enthusiast – known to civil servants as “Peter lend-me-a-tie” – arrived with a fiery determination that Northern Ireland should follow the rest of the United Kingdom in adopting comprehensive secondary education.

Furious howls of dismay from Ulster’s establishment followed. Leading unionists stepped forward to declare that academic excellence would be imperilled by the demise of the grammar schools. Amongst those backing Melchett was All Children Together (ACT), an organisation campaigning for integrated schools.

Catholic bishops lost no time in defending their church-run grammar and secondary schools. Civil servants had been stunned by the ferocity of the Catholic hierarchy’s opposition to ACT’s shared schools proposal.

They had met the “Armagh Three” – Cardinal William Conway of Armagh, Bishop William Philbin of Down and Connor and Bishop Edward Daly of Derry – in July 1976, and reported: “Cardinal Conway’s attitude was one of complete intransigence. He dismissed the idea as trivial, irrelevant and without popular support.”

A senior NI department of education official wrote a minute suggesting that Melchett meet Bishop Daly. A handwritten note, probably from the political adviser Roger Darlington, was attached: “Peter: This would be a v. good idea – Daly is far and away the most liberal of the ‘Armagh Three’ – it may be useful to get him away from Conway on shared schools.”

Any expectation that the Bishop of Derry would be flexible on the issue of comprehensive schools or differ from Cardinal Conway on shared schools was dashed on January 24th, 1977. On that occasion Melchett travelled to Derry to meet Bishop Daly and Msgr Coulter, headmaster of St Columb’s College.

According to the “note for the record”, the bishop said that Northern Ireland was a conservative society (“with a small ‘C’ if not a large one”) and that he felt both communities would resent major social innovation of this nature; the big grammar schools were justifiably famous and should not be changed. Msgr Coulter quoted Durkheim, saying that it would be wrong to impose an alien educational system on a society that was not structured for it.

Msgr Coulter proposed that the 11-plus qualifying examination be replaced by a system of “election”, by which parents chose which schools – grammar or secondary – their children attended. Lord Melchett commented that this was unrealistic, as more parents would opt for grammar schools than there were grammar school places. It was also socially retrogressive, since all middle-class parents would opt for grammar schools and most working-class parents for secondary schools.

Under the heading “Integrated Education”, the note for the record continued: “In a general discussion on integrated education Bishop Daly and Msgr Coulter said that there were so few parents who wished their children to be educated at an integrated school that it was hardly an issue worth worrying about. Certainly hardly any of their own community wanted children educated in other than Roman Catholic schools . . . it would be divisive to force integration on the community – the playground would become a battle ground.”

Lord Melchett said there was no intention of forcing integrated education on anyone, although he did point out that religion was the only field in which parents had this freedom of choice; they did not, for example, have any say whether their children attended a grammar or a secondary school.

At the end of the meeting Bishop Daly advised Lord Melchett to tell any supporters of secondary reorganisation whom he might meet to “come and have a word with me”.

On June 14th, 1977, Melchett announced that the 11-plus examination would be scrapped and that education would be reorganised on comprehensive lines. No provision was to be made for shared schools.

Now, 30 years later, comprehensive education has still had not been introduced. In December 2007 Caitríona Ruane, the Minister of Education – with the full support of Catholic bishops – announced the abolition of selection of any kind at 11-plus and the introduction of a comprehensive system.

There are now 62 integrated schools educating more than 18,000 children in Northern Ireland.

Sunday Life
By Brian Rowan
December 30, 2007

Dissident death threats will not change the republican decision to support the PSNI, a Sinn Fein member of one of the District Policing Partnerships has told Sunday Life.

Those partnerships allow the police to engage with local communities across Northern Ireland – and Sinn Fein has been taking up its places.

“The community wants the party to be in there and engaging,” one republican source told Sunday Life.

While the issue of the devolution of policing and justice is important at a high political level, the source said it was also crucial that the PSNI gets “the community link right”.

“It needs to look at its practice and how it engages with the community. We want to live in a stable and safe environment, and good policing is central to that.”

Death threats from dissidents would not change Sinn Fein’s policy, he added.

“In fact, in some senses it’s making us more resolute in the face of it (the threats).”

One senior police officer said both Sinn Fein and the force “will be judged not on the high-wire stuff, but on what happens on the streets of west Belfast”.

Said the senior officer: “Policing is so hugely complex. Sometimes it’s a lack of understanding of what policing can actually do.

“A lot of what we have been doing is peacemaking. What you now need to do is the peace building on the ground in terms of relationships.” The officer said recent dissident activity – including attacks on police officers and threats to republicans – would not damage the new relationship that is developing.

“People are sick of it (dissident violence). They don’t want that agenda.”

By Ciaran McGuigan
Sunday Life
30 December 2007

The coroner is set to hear how a Catholic drug dealer was gunned down by a loyalist gang after being lured to north Belfast with the promise of a cocaine deal.

The inquest is due next week of Frankie ‘Boogaloo’ Mulholland, who was blasted several times at close range as he sat in the driver seat of his Frontera 4X4 after setting up a drug deal with a gang of UFF and LVF killers.

The gang, with close ties to Ihab and Andre Shoukri, set up a £300 cocaine deal with Mulholland in December 2001.

But it’s believed that as one gang member chatted to the 6ft 6ins body-building drugs pusher, another man stepped out of the shadows and opened fire.

A short time later the murder was claimed by the Red Hand Defenders, a cover name used by both the LVF and UFF.

Heartless thugs then added to the Mulholland family’s grief by targeting the funeral service of the 34-year-old dad-of-two at St Patrick’s Church with a hoax bomb warning, also in the name of the RHD.

A pal of Mulholland’s, who was in the passenger seat of the car at the time of the horrific murder, survived unhurt but was treated in hospital for severe shock. He was the only known eyewitness to Mulholland’s murder and is expected to be called to the coroner’s court when the inquest gets under way next week.

At the time of the murder police said Mulholland had made many enemies among both loyalist and republican terror groups.

Sunday Life has previously revealed how he fell foul of ousted UFF commander Johnny Adair after he ripped off the Shankill gangster in a drugs deal.

Mulholland was also high on an hit list of Direct Action Against Drugs (DAAD), a cover name used by the IRA to crackdown on drug dealers.

Man killed acting ‘the peacemaker’ part of loyalist gang that kicked officer to death

By Stephen Breen
Sunday Life
December 30, 2007

The so-called ‘gentle giant’ who died after a fight outside a Co Antrim pub is today exposed as a cop-killing thug.

Heavyweight Darren ‘Fat Fred’ Murphy was dubbed a “peacemaker” in the wake of his death last week as he tried to break up a fight outside a bar in Armoy.

But Sunday Life can reveal he was a member of the blood-thirsty loyalist mob that kicked to death police constable Greg Taylor outside a pub in nearby Ballymoney 10 years earlier.

Dad-of-three Taylor (41) was savagely punched and kicked by a gang of more than a dozen men outside Kelly’s Bar in Church Street, Ballymoney, in June 1997.

Well-placed sources believe that 24-stone giant Murphy may have delivered the lethal blow by jumping on the police officer’s head as he was attacked by the mob.

He was left so badly beaten that he was barely recognisable.

The frenzied attack on the off-duty cop, who had been socialising with pals in the bar, is believed to have been triggered by remarks made in relation to a loyalist band parade that had been blocked by police in Dunloy a week earlier.

‘Fat Fred’ Murphy was among 15 people – including at least two women – arrested and quizzed by detectives investigating the savage murder of their colleague.

However, he was not one of the four men convicted of the killing.

Detectives believe Murphy was assisted in covering up his involvement in the murder by someone who helped wash the cop’s bloodstains from his clothes.

Said a former colleague of Constable Taylor: “It’s ironic that he got away with his role in the murder of Greg and then, 10 years later, died in not dissimilar circumstances.

“It’s sad for his family because, like Greg, he was a dad.

“It’s just a pity he didn’t choose to step in and act the peacemaker when it was Greg who was being attacked, and instead just joined in.

“Maybe it was a case of what goes around comes around.”

Murphy (32) was buried last Thursday in the same Ballymoney cemetery as Constable Taylor.

He died in the early hours of last Sunday after intervening in a disturbance outside McClafferty’s Bar on Main Street in Armoy.

It’s understood that motorcycling enthusiast Murphy – whose father Mel was a one-time mechanic for Joey Dunlop – died at the scene after his head knocked against a wall.

There is no link between the incident that led to Murphy’s death and that of Constable Taylor.

A police spokesman refused to comment on Murphy, saying: “We cannot comment on a matter that is currently before the courts.”

One of two men arrested following Murphy’s death, Raymond Paul Hamilton (36), of Travers Place in Dervock, appeared before Ballymena Magistrates Court last Wednesday accused of unlawful killing.

He was granted bail and is due in court again next month.

sbreen@belfasttelegraph.co.uk

By Ryle Dwyer
Irish Examiner
29 December 2007

ON ST Patrick’s Day 1977, four prominent Irish-American politicians issued a statement in Washington denouncing the violence in Northern Ireland.

The four — Senator Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts and Daniel P Moynihan of New York, Speaker of the House of Representatives Tip O’Neill and Governor Hugh Carey of New York — appealed to Americans “to renounce any action that promotes the current violence or provides support or encouragement for organisations engaged in violence”.

They encouraged the Carter administration to take a stand on Northern Ireland, which seemed hopelessly deadlocked at the time.

In June, Secretary of State Cyrus Vance scheduled a meeting with those Irish-American politicians, who were dubbed the “Four Horsemen”.

“The problem will have to be settled by the parties themselves,” said Senator Kennedy, “but there may be ways that we can provide initiatives in that direction.”

Ambassador John G Molloy and Michael Lillis, counsellor of the Irish Embassy, had talks at the State Department where they suggested President Carter could help by holding out the prospect of jobs in the event of peace as it was hoped this would encourage people on both sides of the sectarian divide to co-operate.

The Carter statement was timed to secure maximum publicity before Congress returned from its summer recess and after “the marching season” in the North. The Irish and British governments were consulted, and Edward Kennedy prepared the ground so that the initiative would have cross community appeal. He had the Library of Congress prepare a study of the Protestant Irish heritage in America.

It was well known that his brother, John F Kennedy, was the first Irish Catholic president of the US, but he noted few people realised that 13 previous presidents had an Irish Protestant heritage.

“It is important,” he said, “for Irish-Americans in the US to do what we can to reassure the Protestants in Northern Ireland that they have nothing to fear from the Irish-American community.”

Mr Carter issued his statement on August 30, 1977.

“The US wholeheartedly supports peaceful means for finding a just solution that involves both parts of the community of Northern Ireland,” said President Carter.

“Violence cannot resolve Northern Ireland’s problems: it only increases them, and solves nothing.”

He asked Americans to stop funding organisations supporting violence in the North. Prospects for investment would, he said, be enhanced by a peaceful settlement.

“In the event of such a settlement,” he said, “the US government would be prepared to join with others to see how additional job-creating investment could be encouraged, to the benefit of all the people of Northern Ireland.”

Irelandclick.com

Northern Ireland’s politicians face the challenge in the New Year of deciding if they are ready to take control of policing and justice in the province, Secretary of State Shaun Woodward said today.

In his New Year message Mr Woodward said the completion of devolution would be a another crucial step for people in the North and the government stood ready to devolve the remaining powers in May.

“The people of Northern Ireland want peace for their children and to be at ease with their neighbours. They want to concentrate on the things that really matter: their health and well-being, their prosperity, their future.

“And they expect the political parties to finish the job of devolution and devolve policing and justice powers to the Assembly,” he said.

Mr Woodward added: “It is for the parties to decide when the time is right, but the government will be ready to make the transfer of powers next May as envisaged in the St Andrews Agreement.”

Only when devolution was completed could Northern Ireland’s full potential realised, he added.

“When Northern Ireland’s politicians have the shared confidence to take over the full range of devolved powers the rest of the world will know that they have truly broken away from the past and are intent on building a new and better future,” said the Secretary of State.

He said he hoped the parties would embrace the challenge and work together to complete the process of devolution which had begun with such pace and promise.

Looking back on 2007 he said by any standards it had been a momentous year and there had been extraordinary progress since May 8th when devolution was restored and Ian Paisley and Martin McGuinness launched the power-sharing government at Stormont.

“These events were viewed with optimism across the world, and the leadership shown by Ian Paisley and Martin McGuinness has provided real hope that, however intractable they may seem, conflicts can be resolved and different traditions can work together for a better future.”

rte.ie
28 December 2007

Secret Government documents from 30 years ago reveal tensions between London and the newly elected Fianna Fáil Government.

The documents, which were released this morning, also show that the Government of the day faced some problems that would seem very familiar today.

After 30 years in Government vaults, the secret records of 1977 are on public view from 2 January at the National Archives in Dublin, the Public Records Office of Northern Ireland in Belfast, and the British National Archives outside London.

The big political story of 1977 was Jack Lynch’s historic election victory, winning the largest majority in the history of the State over the outgoing National Coalition led by Liam Cosgrave.

The election result was viewed with some misgivings in London where it was believed Fianna Fáil had adopted more Republican policies while in opposition.

The London papers reveal that Prime Minister Jim Callaghan refused a suggestion from Dublin that he and the new Taoiseach should discuss the British guarantee to Unionists when they met in September.

But they also show that the British were pleased that the new Government was maintaining existing security co-operation.

Irish Cabinet records show that Ministers agreed soon after the election to continue to allow British reconnaissance flights across the Border, a decision that later returned to haunt Mr Lynch.

The papers also show some familiar concerns including a suggestion by Aer Lingus that it might get involved in flights out of Belfast, but only on condition that they could fly direct to London.

And there was concern that a ministerial pay rise could lead to resentment among workers and cause difficulties in the negotiation of a new national pay agreement.

By James Downey
Irish Independent
December 29, 2007

So, there was a formal link between the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and Irish Military Intelligence, known as G2.

This emerges in State papers, formerly secret, now opened for public viewing from January 2 under the 30-year rule.

It is not unusual for papers of a much earlier date, especially if exceptionally confidential, to appear publicly for the first time in these files.

External Affairs Minister Liam Cosgrave, afterwards Taoiseach from 1973 to 1977, made an agreement with the CIA director, Allen Dulles, after which he ordered the Irish embassy in London to facilitate the passage of information between the London CIA station and the G2 chief, a Colonel Callanan.

The messages were delivered by Ambassador Dr FH Boland’s secretary, a Miss Collins.

In a passage of a letter, he said Miss Collins, “like her predecessor, has always handled messages of a similar kind passing between Col Callanan and another governmental agency”.

Given the context, it might be assumed this referred to another US body, perhaps the FBI. But, it could equally well mean one of the British intelligence agencies.

It is well known that there was intense collaboration at more than one level between G2 and British Intelligence during the Second World War. It could be that the contacts, and some of the methods of passing on the information, had since been maintained seamlessly.

The ambassador’s close involvement must certainly raise eyebrows. It was presumably attributable to a desire to ensure that anybody in on the secret was completely trustworthy.

“Mr Cram”, a former US naval officer and a student in Trinity College Dublin, was appointed to deal with Ireland. His superior was a former American cavalry officer, Daniel De Bardeleben.

The Irish ambassador explained part of the modus operandi in the letter to the Department of External Affairs (now Foreign Affairs): “When Mr Bardeleben has something to send, it will be brought down here by special messenger and handed to Miss Collins. It will be in an envelope addressed to Colonel Callanan. Miss Collins will put this in a covering envelope marked ‘Secret’ and addressed to you, and dispatch it in the bag the same evening.”

But another Boland comment takes innocence to extremes: “Knowledge of matters of this kind should be confined as far as possible to a single individual.”

The arrangement has remained a secret for over half a century. It ties in neatly with the publication, in the same batch of State papers, of the disclosure that in the 1960s the Irish authorities searched Cuba-bound planes at the behest of Washington.

Intelligence agencies have to get their information somewhere. And Irish governments do not like to refuse American requests. But the same Irish governments call this country “neutral”.

– James Downey

Irish Independent
December 28, 2007

DOOMSDAY warnings were sounded about Ireland being plunged into civil war if Britain pulled out of Northern Ireland.

At the height of the Troubles in the mid-1970s official documents spoke of possible intervention by the United Nations, of the Irish Army needing 60,000 troops to control Northern Ireland in the event of widespread violence and of the enormous economic drain such an intervention would have on the country.

In one dire warning, the then Minister for Posts and Telegraphs Conor Cruise O’Brien predicted that if the British withdrew, “the pin is out of the bomb of civil war and neither our own army nor the UN nor anything else on earth will prevent that.”

One draft memo for government, dated 1974, predicted that, in the event of widespread violence that involved Irish intervention, up to 60,000 soldiers costing substantially more than £220 million a year would be needed.

And hinting at possible conscription, the memo reveals that even an intensive recruitment and publicity campaign would be most unlikely to achieve a rate of intake sufficient to raise army strength to 20,000 and that “steps other than voluntary recruitment” would be necessary.

It was against such a grim backdrop that Cruise O’Brien wrote to Foreign Affairs Minister Dr Garret FitzGerald in January 1975 and cautioned against the “serious danger” of “toying” with the idea of an international force to solve the Northern Ireland crisis.

Not only might such an intervention prove “entirely chimerical” but it might let Britain “off the hook” and provide her with an honourable path of retreat from Northern Ireland in circumstances offering only illusory guarantees for the minority.

According to Cruise O’Brien, it appeared the only likely outcomes — he would not call them solutions — were either a continuance of British rule or Protestant rule. And he advised that no further suggestions should be made in any international context of possible internationalisation of Northern Ireland.

Although unsigned, a handwritten draft reply, almost certainly written by FitzGerald, explained that Cruise O’Brien’s letter might be based on a misunderstanding of a memo from the Foreign Affairs Minister three months previously which was drawn up to discuss the situation in the North.

Dr FitzGerald said he was not convinced that discreet “toying with the idea” of internationalisation in any way constituted letting the British off the hook.

Ideally, they should be doing some “discreet groundwork” in Northern Ireland and internationally both to test in general the possible reaction to internationalisation.

Irish Times
28 December 2007
**Posted on indymedia.ie by Coilín

Then taoiseach Seán Lemass authorised searches of Cuban and Czech aircraft passing through Shannon after the Cuban missile crisis in 1962 at the request of the United States. Details of searches were secretly passed on to the US authorities for the following eight years, writes Stephen Collins , Political Editor

Mr Lemass personally gave the go-ahead for the aircraft inspections and the data handover to embassy officials following a direct approach from US ambassador Mathew McCloskey, who called to see him in the taoiseach’s office.

Previously classified files opened to the public for the first time from this morning show that details about aircraft cargo and weight, and about passengers and their nationalities, were handed over along with details of overflights.

On December 6th, 1962, the government announced a ministerial order had been made invoking the power to search aircraft for “munitions and implements of war”.

The files show US assistance was first sought in October at the height of the crisis. A stand-off between the United States and the Soviet Union had arisen out of the decision of Soviet premier Nikita Khrushchev to arm Fidel Castro’s regime in Cuba with nuclear missiles capable of striking targets in the US.

In October 1962 president John F Kennedy imposed a naval blockade designed to prevent any more missiles reaching the island. The confrontation led to the biggest crisis of the cold war and brought the world the closest it had come to a nuclear war.

When the US ambassador in Dublin sought an appointment with the taoiseach in October, a US embassy counsellor, Mr Sweeney, visited the Department of External Affairs and said Mr McCloskey would raise previous inquiries concerning the Shannon stopover involving Prague-Havana flights.

Mr Sweeney “spoke about these flights and the data the US administration were anxious to have”, according to Con Cremin, secretary of the department, in a November 2nd memo.

“He made it clear Washington has been worried about the extent to which the traffic through Shannon may have helped in the build-up in Cuba, and in particular in the transport of technical personnel and possibly of arms.

Mr Cremin said Mr Lemass rang him to record that he had told the ambassador the aircraft would be searched and if any “warlike” material was found, Ireland would consider refusing rights of transit.

“We will supply such manifest data as becomes available in respect of future flights and are prepared to make available similar data in respect of a reasonable past period, going back if necessary to the initiation of the service,” Mr Lemass told him.

Indymedia Ireland

Republican Commemoration – Dáithi Ó Conaill 1938 -1991

“His extraordinary political awareness in identifying the way forward was seen by his proposal that Bobby Sands contest the Westminster elections for Fermanagh/South Tyrone during the 1981 Hunger Strike…”

A Commemoration for Dáithi Ó Conaill will be held on Tuesday next, January 1, 2008 (New Year’s Day).Those wishing to attend should assemble at the gates of Glasnevin Cemetery in Dublin at 12.45pm. The main oration will be delivered by Josephine Hayden.

For information on Dáithi Ó Conaill, click here: http://www.rsf.ie/daithi.htm

Thanks,
Sharon

Related Link: http://1169andcounting.blogspot.com

By Brian Hutton
28 December 2007
Belfast Telegraph

Garda chiefs believed cross- border policing during the darkest days of the Troubles was hampered because detectives in the Republic had no private telephones, according to secret files.

Official documents, marked confidential and just released from the Irish Department of Justice, show half of the Garda Special Branch along the border could not be contacted at home in the late 1970s.

The force’s most senior ranking officers appealed to the Irish government to release money to bridge the apparent communications gap between them and their RUC counterparts.

In a report dated April 1976 and branded “secret”, an unnamed Garda Assistant Commissioner in the Security Department claims detectives were reluctant to contact the RUC from Garda stations.

The senior officer suggested the lack of private telephones was contributing to a breakdown in much needed contact with Northern detectives only miles away across the border.

“The Northern Ireland authorities have provided private telephones for members of the RUC Special Branch but these members cannot contact members of the Garda Siochana Special Branch except through Garda stations,” the report states.

“This method of contact inhibits cooperation as there is an element of secrecy involved, not only as to the content of communication but also as to the fact that contact exists between individual members.

“It will be appreciated members of the Garda Special Branch would be reluctant to openly contact their opposite members in Northern Ireland by using telephones in Garda stations.”

The Assistant Commissioner stops short of spelling out exactly why Special Branch detectives would not want rank-and-file colleagues to know about their private contact with the RUC.

He insists that it was agreed in a joint Garda/RUC report on Cross-Border Advance Planning and Operations that all Garda detectives working along the border would have telephones installed at home.

There were 36 detectives assigned to border areas at the time of the original 1976 report, although a review some months later showed there were 37.

Half of the original 36, named in the report and based in counties Donegal, Sligo, Monaghan, Meath and Louth, had no telephones in their homes.

The Assistant Commissioner also highlights elements of the joint Garda/RUC report that encourages “person-to-person contact” between members of Special Branch, North and South.

But an aide of then Justice Minister Patrick Cooney raises concerns about the request for funds and signals a reluctance to foot the bill.

The official points out, in response, that a secure 24-hour system of ” radio and telephonic communications” already operated between Garda and RUC stations in border areas for confidential exchanges.

“It is not clear why it should be necessary for individual members… to have telephones at their private residences… particularly as there is a security hazard involved in discussing anything of a security nature on ‘open’ telephone lines,” the official adds.

It appears from the files that Garda chiefs later accept the “usual telephone allowance” for the border detectives, which includes 50% of installation fees, 50% of annual rental and the cost of 360 local calls a year.

By Graham Bardgett
28 December 2007
Belfast Telegraph

Accusations that the RUC was not tough enough on loyalist terrorists were faced down in a letter from the then-Northern Ireland secretary of state to Britain’s ambassador to America.

In the confidential letter, released under the 30-year rule for government documents, Secretary of State Roy Mason told Ambassador Peter Jay how the Government was dealing with loyalist violence as well as that from the IRA.

He also touched on Britain’s ‘special relationship’ with America.

In a briefing for Mr Jay for the Washington and New York political circuits, Mr Mason wrote how the Government and the security forces were as ” resolute in dealing with violence from Loyalist paramilitary organisations as with that from the IRA”.

He wrote: “The following notes will provide you with a background brief which you might draw on if the question arises”.

And he stated: “The policy of HM Government is that the law will be applied fairly and impartially to all sections of the community in Northern Ireland. The only criterion for the security forces therefore is whether the law has been broken.

“The security forces apply the law with equal determination to the terrorist criminals in both communities and their record speaks for itself.”

But Mr Mason pointed out: “I should say it is not our normal practice to release figures on the sectarian attribution of responsibility for violence.

“The accusation, however, remains a common one, and if pressed you may wish to back up your rebuttal with statistical material”.

During the first six months of 1977, violence from both sides was as follows: Loyalists had carried out 21 murders, 71 shootings, and 59 bombings.

Republicans had carried out 51 murders, 465 shootings, and 249 bombings.

Mr Mason told Ambassador Jay. “The majority of violent incidents continue to be the responsibility of the Provisional IRA and the balance of attention of the Security Forces is therefore directed towards the detection, arrest, and charging of members of that organisation”.

And the Secretary of State underlined that “significant inroads against those responsible for acts of violence in both communities” had been made.

He said: “The expertise in criminal detection which the Royal Ulster Constabulary have developed and the dwindling support for the terrorist organisations in their own communities have enabled the security forces to achieve increasing success in arresting and charging criminals from both camps.”

He went on to detail the numbers of loyalist and republicans charged with a range of terrorist offences.

Loyalists had been charged with 22 murders, 13 attempted murders, 62 firearms offences, 14 explosives offences and 150 other terrorist offences, totalling 261.

Republicans were charged with 35 murders, 61 attempted murders, 107 firearms offences, 62 explosives offences, and 158 other terrorist offences, totalling 423.

One of my favourite times for posting is at the New Year when government records which have been kept secret for 30 years are finally brought to light. There are all sorts of historical documents released at this time. It’s like finding treasure!

See also THE PUBLIC RECORD OFFICE
of NORTHERN IRELAND
and UK National Archives

28 December 2007
BBC

Historian Dr Eamon Phoenix examines newly-released government documents from 1977 which chronicle the beginning of the blanket protest and the segregation of paramilitary prisoners in jails in Northern Ireland.


The documents chronicle the beginning of the H-blocks protest

In the files, the official designation of paramilitary prisoners as “Protestant” and “Roman Catholic” is striking. A situation report dated 5 January 1977, noted that in Belfast Prison with 760 inmates, “the situation was tense”.

“In A Wing the self-imposed segregation by a number of Protestants continues,” the report said.

“In C Wing all untried prisoners are still locked in their cells and 124 RCs continue to refuse prison food but are eating their food parcels.”

By 12 January 1977, 42 prisoners in H2 Block at the Maze were refusing to wear prison clothes.

Among those protesting was Kieran Nugent of the Provisional IRA, the first person to “go on the blanket” following the ending of Special Category status in 1976.

Also protesting was Mairead Farrell, sentenced to 15 years in Armagh Jail for causing an explosion in 1976. She was later shot dead by the SAS in Gibraltar, in 1988.

Special Category

The number of protests against the ending of Special Category status continued to rise during the year.

By March 1977, the report noted starkly: “There are still 63 strippers” in the H-blocks.”

It was reported that on 9 March, after a prison officer was threatened by two UVF inmates at the Maze, the governor decided that the two men should be brought out for adjudication.

When talks with UVF spokesmen failed, 240 prison staff with a back-up of 125 military personnel, took up position at compound 21.

By this time the UVF prisoners had barricaded the entrance gates, “showing every sign of armed resistance,” according to the report.

The use of an APC (armoured personnel carrier) vehicle to break down the barricades was being considered when the two prisoners voluntarily gave themselves up.

On 15 March 1977, a report states that a proxy bomb, estimated at 50-60 lbs, exploded outside the prison.

Protesting

By June the number protesting had risen to 122.

According to a note in the file, the position of the “blanketmen” was raised at Westminster for the first time on 16 June 1977 by the Independent Nationalist MP, Frank Maguire.

He claimed that three prisoners had been “in a state of nakedness since early May… and are punished by three days solitary confinement every fortnight”.

Replying, Secretary of State Roy Mason stated that the prison rules required convicted prisoners to wear prison clothes.

“They have chosen not to wear it as a form of protest against the ending of Special Category status.”

The role of UVF commander Gusty Spence at the Maze is also highlighted in the releases.

According to the minutes of the Prison Management Committee of July 19, 1977, Spence had “banned alcohol in the UVF wing following drunken brawls on July 12”.

Two UVF prisoners were rejected because of “this spree” and were placed in cells.

28 December 2007
BBC

Historian Dr Eamon Phoenix looks back to 1977 in Northern Ireland as Stormont papers from 30 years ago are released.


James Callaghan initiated a debate on more MPs for Northern Ireland

The year 1977 saw the reduction of violence to its lowest level since the outbreak of the Troubles and a shift in British government policy away from power-sharing and towards a closer relationship between a weakened Labour government and the Ulster Unionists.

In a New Year statement, the IRA declared that they would “remove the British presence even if it meant reducing Belfast to rubble”.

A bomb blitz in London was followed in February by a concerted IRA campaign against leading businessmen in Northern Ireland.

On 2 February, the IRA shot dead Jeffrey Agate, the English-born head of the Du Pont Corporation in Londonderry and two more executives died in the following weeks.

A statement from the paramilitary organisation declared that “those executed had played a prominent role in stabilising the British-orientated economy”.

Loyalist paramilitaries were also active and a 10-year-old boy was killed when a bomb went off at an Official Republican gathering in west Belfast.

The spring of 1977 saw the deaths of two leading public figures.

In March, Brian Faulkner, last Stormont prime minister and head of the 1974 power-sharing executive, was killed in a riding accident and in April Cardinal William Conway, Primate of All Ireland, passed away.

Dominated

His successor was Monsignor Tomas O Fiaich, a native of Crossmaglen.

May was dominated by the United Ulster Action Council (UUAC) strike, launched by the DUP leader, Rev Ian Paisley, and his ally, Ernest Baird, and supported by the UDA.

The stoppage was called to demand a new security offensive against the IRA and the restoration of majority rule at Stormont.

On April 30, Dr Paisley announced that he would quit politics if the strike failed.

The strike began on 3 May but faced a determined attitude from the new secretary of state, ex-miner Roy Mason, who personally co-ordinated the government response from Stormont Castle.

Unlike in 1974, the British military was poised to seize the power stations and Mason’s blend of diplomacy and firmness kept the majority of power workers on board.

Intimidation was rife and a busman was shot dead but most people made their way to work.

As the RUC cleared roadblocks, Dr Paisley fell back on his Ballymena base, only to be charged with obstruction.

Mason was ebullient at the success of his tough line, later telling the BBC: ‘He was a coward, Paisley… went off to Ballymena and barricaded the town.

Gained ground

“I took off in my helicopter from Stormont Castle that day, singing, Don’t Cry For Me, Ballymena”.

In the subsequent council elections, the Ulster Unionists and SDLP gained ground with the DUP winning only 12.7% of the vote.

At the same time, British premier Jim Callaghan announced a Speaker’s conference to consider unionist demands for more Northern Ireland seats at Westminster, a policy resented by the SDLP as “implying integration”.

In May 1977, an undercover SAS soldier, Captain Robert Nairac, was kidnapped and murdered by the IRA in south Armagh.

In June, secret talks between loyalists and republicans under the Nobel peace laureate, Sean MacBride, failed and Fianna Fail, under Jack Lynch, swept the polls in the Republic of Ireland

In August, Queen Elizabeth paid a two-day visit to Northern Ireland as part of her silver jubilee celebrations.

A small bomb exploded at the Coleraine university campus shortly after she left.

In local politics, Paddy Devlin, the Belfast trade unionist was expelled from the SDLP for attacking it as “too green,” leaving Gerry Fitt as the party’s last authentic working-class leader.

The summer witnessed a feud between the Official and Provisional IRA which left four men dead.

In October, Mairead Corrigan and Betty Williams, founders of the Peace People, were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

The death toll for the year was 110, including 67 civilians, 15 British military personnel and 28 RUC/UDR.

By Ed Carty
December 28, 2007
Belfast Telegraph

Jack Lynch’s Fianna Fail Government sanctioned British Army flights into Irish airspace, it emerged today.

A confidential Cabinet memo from July 1977 revealed that incursions and over-flights were formally agreed to by Mr Lynch’s ministerial team.

Even though it was the source of massive annoyance and aggravation for border communities, the Irish government decided to give the Army permission to enter the Republic.

The memo said the decision was simply continuing arrangements agreed by previous administrations.

Helicopters were allowed 2km (1.2 miles) over the border and “salient flights” were also permitted through Clonoony, the area of the Republic south-west of Clones which juts into the north.

Government papers marked “confidential” showed various types of over-flights were allowed.

By far the most controversial involved a 2km strip along the border which the British were given access to. Security flights were allowed into this stretch to take photographs of areas where terrorist incidents occurred most often.

The memo noted that the British wanted a comprehensive photographic record of the area and to identify any improvised bombs, devices or command wires not yet detected.

Units were also allowed over Irish territory to trace illegal crossing points used by terrorists and find firing points set up for IRA snipers.

Flights were supposed to last no more than 30 minutes, stay 2km away from Irish Army installations and no two flights were allowed over the same area in a 10-day period.

But it was later agreed to let the British Army fly back and forth over the border a number of times in the one flight. The British were also allowed ” normal” security checks, where units could go 500m (547 yards) into Irish airspace for photographic or infra-red reconnaissance of suspect devices or buildings.

The memo stated that the flights were permitted “in order to ensure that there are no command wires or other booby-trap devices awaiting the bomb disposal team which will tackle the suspect object”.

Requests for these were made on a case-by-case basis by the British Embassy and both Justice and Defence Departments were consulted before permission was granted.

By Tim Moynihan
December 28, 2007
Belfast Telegraph

The depth of the British Government’s concern after eight SAS soldiers were held when they strayed into the Republic in 1976 is revealed in papers released today by the National Archives.

London kept up a diplomatic onslaught on Dublin which included telephone contact between Prime Minister James Callaghan and his Irish opposite number Liam Cosgrave in the run-up to the men’s two day trial in March 1977.

They were acquitted on the more serious charge of possessing firearms with intent to endanger life and fined £100 each on the minor charge of possessing unlicensed firearms, to which they pleaded guilty.

Callaghan expressed his relief to Cosgrave on the outcome but Britain’s ambassador to Dublin, Robin Haydon, was moved to point out in a memo: ” The Irish have learnt a lesson and will go to some lengths to avoid a repetition.”

The men were held after straying across the border early on May 6, 1976.

A memo from the Northern Ireland Office said they were in three cars and were detained at a Garda checkpoint 300 to 400 metres inside the Republic.

Two were in the uniform of the Parachute Regiment, the remaining six in civilian clothes, and they were armed with a total of 11 weapons.

The British made immediate efforts to have them freed, but a note to the Prime Minister said: “The Irish Government claim (as no doubt we would in similar circumstances) that they can do nothing to intervene with the Director of Public Prosecutions.”

They appeared in court on the evening of May 6 and were granted bail in the sum of £5,000 each, the British authorities depositing a cheque for £40,000 with the court.

In the months that followed there was heart-searching about whether the men should return for trial and intense efforts by the British failed to head off court proceedings.

Northern Ireland Secretary Merlyn Rees told Callaghan: “The facts of the incursion are clear. There was never any intention to cross the border… Given the terrain, experience has shown how difficult it is to guarantee that accidental incursions of this kind are avoided entirely.”

The nub of the matter “may be less a question of the Irish Attorney’s powers than the Irish Government’s political will to intervene. Because of political and public opinion constraints they will be most reluctant to be seen to be giving in to political pressure from us.”

Rees met Irish ministers in Dublin on May 28, and briefed Callaghan: ” To sum up: the Irish are now unmistakably aware of our concern and of the danger to our mutual security interests which would follow from a hitch in the case.”

However, as the trial date of March 7, 1977 approached, concern intensified with no sign of the charges being dropped.

Six days before the trial, Callaghan sent a message to the Taoiseach warning that if matters were to go wrong, “the consequences for evil between our two countries will be incalculable”.

Cosgrave wrote back saying: “I do not think that the question of detention will arise but if it does you can be assured that it will be in a military barracks.”

And he added: “… our best advice is that it is extremely unlikely that there will be a prison sentence.”

28 December 2007
BBC

Secret Public Record Office files from 1977 show senior Stormont officials believed Ian Paisley was associated with loyalist paramilitaries.


Officials considered arresting Ian Paisley

The remarks made by the officials reveal they considered arresting the now first minister for conspiracy.

Almost 400 confidential state papers from 30 years ago were released but 50 files remain closed.

Among them are documents relating to the economic activities of paramilitary organisations.

The remarks on Mr Paisley were recorded in the minutes of a conversation among senior Stormont officials during the United Ulster Action Council Strike.

It was suggested that the DUP leader should be arrested for conspiracy.

The documents also show that the military was ready to seize power stations if workers threatened a stoppage.

State papers released in the Irish Republic reveal that Lord Mountbatten, murdered by the IRA in 1979, was in favour of Irish unity.

Bobby Sands mural photo
Ní neart go cur le chéile

Calendar

December 2007
S M T W T F S
« Nov   Jan »
 1
2345678
9101112131415
16171819202122
23242526272829
3031  

A note about Archives

For March-Sept. 2007 click here:

March - Sept 2007

All other months and years are below.

'So venceremos, beidh bua againn eigin lá eigin. Sealadaigh abú.' --Bobby Sands