You are currently browsing the monthly archive for January 2008.

BBC ON THIS DAY

*Please use the archive feature on the Livejournal location to search this site for articles posted about Bloody Sunday. Just click on the links for January 30 for years 2007, 2006 and 2005. There will be many articles available

30 January 1972

British troops have opened fire on a crowd of demonstrators in the Bogside district of Derry, killing 13 civilians.


Bogsiders say the troops opened fire on unarmed men

Seventeen more people, including one woman, were injured by gunfire. Another woman was knocked down by a speeding car.

The army said two soldiers had been hurt and up to 60 people arrested.

“They just came in firing – there was no provocation whatsoever.”
Father Daly

It was by far the worst day of violence in this largely Roman Catholic city since the present crisis began in 1969.

Bogsiders said the troops opened fire on unarmed men – including one who had his arms up in surrender.

The trouble began as a civil rights procession, defying the Stormont ban on parades and marches, approached an Army barbed wire barricade.

The largely peaceful crowd of between 7,000 and 10,000 was marching in protest at the policy of internment without trial. Some of the younger demonstrators began shouting at the soldiers and chanting, “IRA, IRA”.

A few bottles, broken paving stones, chair legs and heavy pieces of iron grating were thrown at the troops manning the barrier.

Stewards appealed for calm – but more missiles were thrown and the area behind the barricade was quickly strewn with broken glass and other debris.

The 1st Battalion, The Parachute Regiment, which had been standing by in case of trouble, sprang into action. Squads leapt over the barricades and chased the demonstrators.

The gates were opened and eight armoured vehicles went into the Bogside and the remaining demonstrators were quickly surrounded.

Army claims provocation

The army says it opened fire after being shot at first by two snipers in flats overlooking the street. It claims acid bombs were also thrown.

The gun battle lasted about 25 minutes.

Father Edward Daly, a Catholic priest, was caught on film helping to carry a teenager who had been fatally wounded, to safety.

He said: “They just came in firing. There was no provocation whatsoever.

“Most people had their backs to them when they opened fire.”

Major General Robert Ford, Commander, Land Forces Northern Ireland, who was in charge of the operation, insisted his troops had been fired on first.

In Context

A 14th man later died of injuries received during the demonstration.

An inquiry into what became known as Bloody Sunday headed by Lord Widgery in 1972 exonerated the Army. It said their firing had “bordered on the reckless” but said the troops had been fired upon first and some of their victims had been armed.

The results of the inquiry were rejected by the Catholic community who began a long campaign for a fresh investigation.

In 1998, Tony Blair’s government announced a new inquiry into Bloody Sunday.

The inquiry, headed by Lord Saville, spent two years taking witness statements. It ended in November 2004 and had cost about £150 million.

Lord Saville’s final report and conclusions are not expected to be made public until summer 2005.

*Still waiting

Belfast Telegraph
29 January 2008
By Noel McAdam

The SDLP has been criticised after dividing in the Assembly over the Executive’s three-year programme for government – and signalling it will also oppose the Budget.

The party’s MLAs voted with Alliance against the programme.

But the sole SDLP Minister Margaret Ritchie voted to support it and the plan was approved overall by 60 votes to 24. If she had voted with her party, the Social Development Minister would have been in breach of the Ministerial Code, potentially plunging the power-sharing administration into crisis.

But despite drawing the ire of other Executive parties, former Finance Minister Mark Durkan’s party is still poised to vote against the accompanying Budget proposals today.

The party says too many questions remain unanswered over water reform, there is no mention of the crucial replacement for the 11-plus as well as continued pressures on the health budget and the lack of a children’s fund.

But sources have also insisted there is no question of the party pulling out of the Executive to form a more official opposition with Alliance.

North Down DUP MLA Peter Weir said the SDLP had performed a “complete U-turn” and it was “ludicrous” for Mrs Ritchie to have supported the two programme for government documents without party backing.

“If I was Margaret Ritchie I would be getting worried that my colleagues were deserting me and effectively hanging me out to dry with the electorate,” he said.

Alliance leader David Ford argued: “The logic of the SDLP’s position is that they should now pull out of the Executive.”

BBC

SDLP leader Mark Durkan has denied his party is divided over whether to support the Northern Ireland Assembly budget and programme for government.


Mark Durkan’s SDLP looks set to vote against the budget

Social Development Minister Margaret Ritchie was the party’s only MLA to vote for the programme for government.

However, Mr Durkan said this was because changes to the ministerial code meant Ms Ritchie had no choice.

The assembly is to debate and vote on Finance Minister Peter Robinson’s first budget on Tuesday.

Mr Robinson published his draft budget last October and a final version was agreed by the executive last week.

The SDLP and Alliance Party are expected to vote against the budget, although the DUP, Sinn Fein and Ulster Unionists are set to back it.

On Monday night, the assembly voted in favour of the programme for government and investment strategy.

It was passed by 60 votes to 24, with the SDLP and Alliance Party voting against it.

Mr Durkan said his party decided to vote against the programme for government because it was unclear on many issues including water reform, post-primary school reform and the health budget.

“If Ms Ritchie had not supported the programme for government, the DUP would have excluded her from office,” he said.

“We have a mandate to do what we are doing, we are standing by our manifesto.”

:::u.tv:::
28/01/2008

Lord Saville’s investigation into Bloody Sunday reaches a major milestone tomorrow. It is 10 years since it was officially created, however, it is still dogged by delays and huge costs.

Families of the Bloody Sunday dead, though, say they are prepared to wait another 10 years if it means getting the truth.

It is a decade exactly since the then Prime Minister Tony Blair went before Parliament to order a new inquiry under Lord Saville.

A decade later, 10 years have come and gone, Tony Blair has come and gone and the Inquiry has come and gone.

This is by far the biggest inquiry in UK legal history, a huge amount of material, an army of lawyers and more than 900 witnesses over seven years of hearings.

Much has been made over the £170million price tag of the Inquiry and although the families believe the investigation was worth the time and the money, they are bracing themselves for still more delays.

Even early drafts of the report may be pushed into court and subjected to judicial review.

The longest running inquiry in UK legal history may yet have some way to go.

Belfast Telegraph
28 January 2008
By Noel McAdam

New legislation will be required to underpin Northern Ireland’s four new Victims’ Commissioners, the Assembly was told today.

First Minister Ian Paisley said it was hoped the legislation will be brought forward as soon as possible, but the quartet of commissioners are for now appointed as “designates”.

Mr Paisley and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness also defended their decision to appoint four commissioners rather than one — due to a ” significant backlog of urgent work”.

MLAs, angry that the appointments were leaked before today’s official statement, also heard that the decision to re-advertise the then single position had resulted in 38 new applicants.

But it is understood that at least one of those appointed, former UTV Live anchorman Mike Nesbitt, was on the shortlist from the original pool of applicants.

Mr Paisley also argued a single commissioner would “inevitably” have been forced to delegate many activities, including consultation and liaison, to a secretariat and many specific projects would have had to be undertaken by consultants.

“Obviously” though, Mr Paisley added, administrative support will still be provided to the four commissioners.

“It is our intention to make formal appointments in due course, but we must first introduce the necessary legislation to create the Victims’ Commission,” the DUP leader said.

Before Mr McGuinness was due to take questions from Assembly members, Mr Paisley set out that the initial tasks for the commissioners would include a review of support services and the setting up of a Victims and Survivors’ Forum.

Belfast Telegraph
By David Young
28 January 2008

A leading dissident republican has called on splinter terror groups to unite to enable them to intensify their campaign of violence against British forces.

Londonderry hard-liner Gary Donnelly, a key figure within dissident circles, said the Real IRA and Continuity IRA should join forces.

The groups have co-operated in the past, most notoriously in the 1998 Omagh bomb attack, but have never formed an official alliance.

The Real IRA claimed responsibility for shooting and injuring two off-duty PSNI officers in separate attacks late last year.

Donnelly, who is from the Creggan area, is a senior member of the 32 County Sovereignty Committee, the group regarded as the political wing of the Real IRA.

“I would love to see republicanism united,” he told the Sunday Times.

“It would be more logical to have one group which would be more effective than two.”

The republican said the RIRA was rearming and actively recruiting new members.

His claims follow a foiled alleged attempt by the terror group to purchase arms and explosives in Lithuania last week.

Louth man Michael Campbell (36), the brother of former RIRA leader Liam Campbell, was arrested after a sting operation by the country’s secret service.

Donnelly, who denies being a leading member of the RIRA, said the group was attracting many disgruntled republicans.

“More and more people are returning to republicanism because of what (Gerry) Adams and (Martin) McGuinness have done,” he said.“ And these support the (Real) IRA.”

He added: “History has taught us that there always will be an IRA. Its evolution may ebb and flow but it will always be there as long as the border between north and south exists.”

Belfast Telegraph
By David Gordon
28 January 2008

An IRA money laundering claim made against a businessman by a DUP politician was back in the spotlight today after a High Court judge described it as ” baseless”.

Mr Justice Gillen made the statement while rejecting a judicial review taken by the Sheridan Group, headed by Belfast developer Peter Curistan.Mr Curistan was accused under parliamentary privilege by DUP deputy leader Peter Robinson in February 2006 of a link to “IRA dirty money”.

He strongly denied the claim and argued that it led to his company being ditched later in the year from an investment scheme for the publicly owned Queen’s Quay site in Belfast.Mr Justice Gillen today rejected Sheridan’s judicial review case against the Queen’s Quay decision, dismissing allegations of bad faith and unfairness against the Government.

The judge concluded that the company’s axing from the project was due to an accounting review which had shown up corporate governance weaknesses.

However, he also referred to money laundering allegations as “baseless” — echoing a comment by a Government lawyer during the hearing of the case last month.Mr Curistan today said he was disappointed with the ruling, adding: “Nevertheless, I am completely satisfied with the comprehensive vindication of my own personal reputation, and that of my company, by the trial judge in relation to the malicious and unfounded allegations made by Peter Robinson in the privileged confines of the House of Commons some time ago.”

Belfast Telegraph
By Lesley-Anne Henry
Monday, January 28, 2008

Mural artists from both sides of Ulster’s political divide have been given the go-ahead to show off their skills in Liverpool.

East Belfast loyalist Mark Ervine, son of the late PUP leader David Ervine, and republican ex-prisoner Danny Devenny have been granted £10,000 to paint murals of Merseyside’s most famous sons — The Beatles.

The unlikely duo are part of the Liverpool Mural Project which has been awarded the cash by the Liverpool Culture Company to mark this year’s Capital of Culture status.

They plan to paint a timeline history of The Beatles on an outside wall of the famous Picket music venue on Jordan Street in the heart of the Liverpool’s cultural district.

The mural will chart The Beatles’ rise from wannabes to a worldwide phenomenon, with painting expected to start in March.

The Liverpool Culture Company had initially rejected the project because it was not deemed “edgy enough”.

But after an 18-month campaign backed by politicians on both sides of the Irish Sea, the Culture Company changed their minds.

Mark, who was responsible for the New Dawn mural on Belfast’s Newtownards Road, said: “We are really pleased. We have been campaigning for this for about 18 months.

“We were initially told it didn’t have enough edge — but how much more edge can you get? We are well pleased to get the funding.”

Danny Devenny, who served time in Long Kesh, is renowned for painting murals across north and west Belfast — including the famous Falls Road Bobby Sands work.

He said: “We are over the moon about it. The boys from Liverpool are coming over on February 9 to plan when we are going to head over there to start.

“Our plan is to do a timeline history of The Beatles and possibly a couple of other murals. “We are hoping to bring three or four artists from here over as well as a number of musicians so that it is more than just a visual event.”

The artists also hope to involve school children and community groups from Liverpool. The idea came about after Liverpudlians Gregory Brennan and Peter Morrison took a black taxi tour of Belfast’s murals.

Originally it was planned to paint 12 murals — based on Beatles album covers — but that figure was reduced.

By Chris Thornton
28 January 2008
Belfast Telegraph

A serving MI5 officer will be first witness to testify as the Billy Wright Inquiry resumes today.

Witness DO1 is one of three members of the Security Service who will appear at the tribunal.

All three will be anonymous and screened from the public when they give evidence in Banbridge’s courthouse. In his application for anonymity, one of the agents said some of his closest friends are not even aware he works for MI5.

The three agents are expected to be asked about intelligence, including perceived threats against Wright, around the time the LVF leader was murdered.

Wright was shot dead in December 1997 by three INLA inmates who were housed in the same H Block of the prison. Last week, in a report detailing the PSNI’s inability to produce some evidence, the Inquiry revealed that a police informer was suspected of smuggling a gun to one of Wright’s killers, Christopher ‘Crip’ McWilliams, in prison sometime before the murder.

The PSNI told the inquiry the Special Branch agent is dead.

The inquiry’s report detailed other major gaps in intelligence, including reports on the surveillance of known INLA leaders who were suspected of the plot.

But the report thanked MI5 for its cooperation in resolving a logjam about evidence. The Security Service, along with the Army, had been seeking a restriction notice to prevent some documents being made public, while the in quiry was reluctant to do so.

They reached a compromise in which the evidence will be summarised and the original documents will not be produced.

The three MI5 agents had their applications for anonymity granted by the inquiry earlier this month. They will only be identified as DO1 — for “desk officer” — DO2 and HAG.

Billy’s dad, David Wright, did not raise any objections to the screening. He is known to be anxious to avoid any further delays in the inquiry, which is already running behind schedule.

The inquiry had been plagued by significant gaps in the documentary evidence, including the destruction of thousands of prison files. The Maze security files on Wright and two of his killers are among the missing documents.

The file on the third killer, John Glennon, was found by the inquiry among other prison documents. It contained the handwritten note saying a named Maghaberry prisoner was responsible for smuggling a gun to McWilliams.

The inquiry later matched his name to a list of informants supplied by the PSNI. It is not clear if the gun was one of the weapons used to kill Wright. McWilliams actually managed to breach high security twice in 1997 to produce guns in prison. On the first occasion, he took a prison officer hostage in Maghaberry, eight months before the Wright murder.

Finance Minister Peter Robinson is due to appear before the inquiry next week. He is being called because he revealed in Parliament in 2003 that he had been sent photocopies of the police file on Wright’s murder — one of the documents that the inquiry had trouble acquiring from the PSNI.

Derry Journal
25 January 2008

A Derry woman says she has been refused an army pension because she and her partner were not married when he died in a Real IRA bomb blast in the city’s Waterside.


David Caldwell

Father-of-three David Caldwell, a former UDR soldier, died after picking up a lunchbox packed with explosives at a TA base on the Limavady Road almost six years ago.

His long-term partner Mavis McFaul says the Ministry of Defence has told her she does not qualify for his pension. She insists she is struggling to get by on income support.

“It’s terrible. I’m sitting here in the house and I’ve a mortgage over my head and all I’m getting is £79 a week,” she said. “That’s what I have to live on, to pay for oil and groceries for me and the wee girl.”
Derry MP Mark Durkan, who has taken up the case, is urging the MoD to act with sensitivity.

“Here is a woman and a daughter who have lost someone in a terrible atrocity,” he said. “The issue that the MoD would be relying on will appear to them to be grossly insensitive and almost a bit of a ‘gotcha clause’ where they’re looking for an excuse not to pay.”

BBC

DUP leader Ian Paisley has been asked to stay away from a memorial service for the victims of an IRA bombing.


Twelve people were killed and many more badly burned on 17 February 1978

Relatives of some victims of the La Mon Hotel attack have requested the First Minister does not attend a 30th anniversary commemoration.

A Sunday newspaper said some of those injured in the IRA attack were unhappy with the DUP’s relationship with Sinn Fein at Stormont.

Twelve people were killed and many more badly burned on 17 February 1978.

The bomb turned the small country hotel, east of Belfast, into a raging inferno.

‘Different opinions’

The DUP’s Jeffery Donaldson said the party respected the victim’s feelings.

“Dr Paisley will only go where he is invited, of course,” he said.

“I understand, and we understand, the sensitivities around all of this, and we recognise that there are victims who feel that what is happening at Stormont is difficult for them to accept.

“There are others who support it, and many of them will be at Stormont tomorrow to endorse what is happening.

“So there are different views and different opinions, and we respect that.”

All those who died in the bombing were attending the annual dinner dance of the Irish Collie Club. Three of them were married couples and seven were women.

They were all Protestants and included a reservist in the Royal Ulster Constabulary.

Billy McDowell, who was badly injured in the attack, told the Dublin-based Sunday Tribune newspaper that Mr Paisley’s relationship with Sinn Fein in the executive made him feel sick.

“Paisley should stay away from our commemoration,” he told the paper.

The commemorative event is being held in Castlereagh Borough Council offices on February 17.

Other senior members of the DUP, which has a majority on the council, are expected to attend.

Sunday Life
By Stephen Breen
Sunday, January 27, 2008

The killer of north Belfast schoolboy Thomas Devlin could soon face charges over the brutal murder.

Sunday Life can reveal that police told the teenager’s parents, Penny and Jim, last week that a file on the case has been sent to the Public Prosecution Service.

The 15-year-old victim’s parents have also written to the PPS to request a meeting over their son’s case.

Evidence gathered from the two-and-a-half year probe is aimed at the chief suspect and his accomplice.

We have also learned the chief suspect was out on bail on an assault charge at the time of the murder.

But the PPS will also examine evidence which police hope will lead to charges against five people who have been accused of with holding information over the killing.

A senior police source told Sunday Life that one of those accused of withholding information is UVF double-killer Billy Hutchinson.

The senior loyalist was quizzed by cops about the murder last year, but later released.

Thomas’ parents last night welcomed the police’s decision to forward evidence to the PPS.

Said Ms Holloway: “The police have been very proactive since

Thomas’ murder and this is a significant development in our fight for justice.

“We’re pleased the police have forwarded a file on the alleged killer and his accomplice, but also on the people who have not come forward with information since 2005.

“We hope the killer and his accomplice will face murder charges and the people who protected them charged with withholding information.

“As arbiters of justice, the PPS has to demonstrate it is no longer acceptable for people to withhold evidence in a crime as serious as the murder of a child.

“We are dealing with the murder of a 15-year-old schoolboy and the PPS has to take on board the human rights of the victims. The decision on our son’s case now rests with them.”

Sunday Life know the names of the alleged killer and his thug pal, but cannot publish them for legal reasons.

One man has already appeared in court charged with the attempted grievous bodily harm of Thomas’ friend.

Sunday Life’s £10,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of anyone who was involved in the killing remains in place.

Thomas was stabbed five times in the back while walking with friends, close to his home on the Somerton Road, on August 10, 2005.

sbreen@belfasttelegraph.co.uk

Sunday Life
By Stephen Breen
Sunday 27, January 2008

Mum-of-two who fears for her family’s lives after her husband was accused of being a security forces spy, terrified Tish Murray spoke out last night to rubbish claims that her husband Paddy was an MI5 agent.

Police have warned the family that Murray — a well-known dissident re publican — is under a Real IRA death threat.

Tish has offered to meet the terror group’s leadership to talk about the tout claims.

The Co Antrim woman has also challenged the Real IRA to produce evidence that her husband is an agent.

The allegations were first made against Murray last October.

This is the first time his 38-year-old wife has spoken about her fears for her family.

Murray is due to be jailed next month after he pleaded guilty to attacking Antrim man Kevin Gillen in 2005.

The ex-IRA man was initially charged with kidnap, but those charges were lat er dropped.

Said Tish: “This has been going on for about four months now and

I’ve just had enough. We can’t go on living like this.

“If these people have evidence that Paddy is an informer then why don’t they produce it?

“My husband has never been an agent. I’ll meet these people on my own turf anytime.

“Paddy has been on remand since 2005 so how can he be near anyone to provide information?

“The only thing he is guilty of is of being a lifelong republican.

“The police told us that the Real IRA were going to abduct, interrogate and then shoot Paddy because they believed he was an agent.

“It’s not fair my two kids’ lives being put in danger because of groundless allegations.

“We used to live in fear of the loyalists but now we’re under threat from people who claim to defend the nationalist people.”

Murray — who was once involved in a heated row with IRA legend Martin Meehan — is now in hiding in the Irish Republic.

Mrs Murray claimed her husband has vowed to end his association with dissi dent republicans after his release from prison.

She added: “I’ve told Paddy that when he gets out of jail that’s the end of it. I can’t go on leading this type of life.

“He has assured me that he is walking away from everything and how he just wants to lead as normal a life as possible.

“We want to remain in Antrim but how can we do this if we have a death threat hanging over us?

“The only reason the kidnap charge was dropped was because of lack of evidence.

“If Paddy was being protected then why did I have to go out and buy two (CCTV security) cameras? Where is the support from the security forces?

“It’s now up to the Real IRA to say something.”

sbreen@belfasttelegraph.co.uk

BBC
26 January 2008

Hundreds of people have taken part in a parade in Glasgow to remember the victims of Bloody Sunday.


Hundreds of people took part in the march through Glasgow

The Cairde Na hEireann (Friends of Ireland) procession also attracted more than 100 counter-demonstrators.

A Strathclyde Police spokeswoman said that five arrests had been made for breach of the peace, but there were no major problems.

The parade remembers 14 civilians shot dead by British troops during a march in Derry on 30 January, 1972.

Saturday’s event saw about 350 people make their way from Blythswood Square to the city’s Kelvingrove Park, where a rally was held.

Francis McAdam, a spokesman for the marchers, said the police had been wrong to refuse them permission to walk through the city centre.

“We’re disappointed that Strathclyde Police have given in to mob rule,” he said.

“We’ve got the right to march peacefully, the same as the Orange Order, the same as anyone.

“Cairde Na hEireann will be applying for that same route again in the future – every other organisation is allowed to march through Glasgow city centre apart from ourselves – and we see that as anti-Irish racism.”

Last year’s parade went ahead peacefully, but in 2006 protesters tried to clash with those taking part.

Troubles relative’s hunger strike
Belfast Telegraph
By Brendan McDaid
25 January 2008

A man whose brother was shot dead during Operation Motorman has begun a hunger strike in protest over the treatment of families bereaved during the Troubles.

Derry man Danny Bradley said he was prepared to die unless measures were taken to ensure transparency and accountability were implemented as part of a truth commission.

He also called for proper compensation to be paid directly to families affected for the suffering over the past four decades.

The 51-year-old’s brother Seamus was one of two teenage boys shot and killed by soldiers in July 1972, after the Army invaded Derry’s No Go areas during Operation Motorman. The 19-year-old was unarmed when he was shot in Bishop’s Field in Creggan.

The PSNI’s Historical Enquiries Team has confirmed it will review Mr Bradley’s death “in the near future”.

But he criticised the Consultative Group on the Past’s current consultation on the Troubles, saying it did not go far or deep enough to satisfy the families of all those killed.

Mr Bradley said questions remained unanswered over his brother’s death and those of thousands of others killed during the Troubles. He said: “What I want is for the British government to take responsibility for what they did to my family – those who sent the troops in on Operation Motorman. No-one can be above the law.”

Criticising the Consultative Group, which is co-chaired by former vice-chairman of the Policing Board, Denis Bradley and former Archbishop of Armagh, Lord Eames, Mr Bradley claimed: “The Good Friday Agreement stipulated that the British and Irish governments should take joint responsibility for such matters as setting up such a group, half and half.

“Yet the Irish government have had no involvement in this. It has been brought about by the British government. The consultative group have basically had just a week of speaking with victims’ relatives in public meetings and 10 days of meeting with victims’ groups.

“At the end of their consultation they have until this summer to compile their report which will then go to the British government, who can say ‘this is what we are doing; we have done our bit’. It basically shuts the door,” he claimed.

Mr Bradley added that bereaved families deserved the chance to have their loved ones’ deaths investigated more fully.

“If the victims are forgotten the anger and bitterness will go on,” he said.

A spokesman for the Consultative Group on the past said: “The Group began its public consultation in September last year.

“In the five months since then they have met and listened to hundreds of people, including many victims and survivors.

“A submission has been received from Mr Bradley, who also spoke at last week’s public meeting (in Derry). His views will be carefully considered along with all other submissions as the Group begins the difficult task of writing the report.

“The issue of its independence was raised and discussed at the meeting in St Columb’s Park House. The Group has listened to the concerns raised and would ask everyone to judge them on their final report.”

Irish Times
25 January 2008

Northern Ireland is to have four victims commissioners after the Rev Ian Paisley and Martin McGuinness ditched a plan to appoint just one, it was disclosed today.

It is understood the sister of an IRA man shot dead by the SAS and the widow of a policeman gunned down in Belfast have been offered posts on a panel which will represent families who lost relatives during 35 years of bloodshed.

The power-sharing executive in Belfast had originally wanted a single commissioner on a £65,000-a-year salary but after a recruitment process which dragged on for almost a year, the First and Deputy First Ministers decided to settle for four.

Ulster Unionist deputy leader Danny Kennedy, who chairs the Assembly committee scrutinising Mr Paisley and Mr McGuinness, claimed the decision to appoint four commissioners showed there was clear political deadlock.

“Due to the manner in which this announcement was leaked people will now be scrutinising the individuals named to identify political allegiances,” he said. “This is a bad start to their term of appointment. The fact that there are four commissioners also indicates a clear carve-up between the DUP and Sinn Fein.”

Authoritative Stormont sources said the four commissioners, whose appointments will be confirmed in the Assembly on Monday, will be:

– Bertha McDougal whose police reservist husband Lindsay was gunned down by the Irish National Liberation Army in Belfast city centre in 1981. She previously served as the Interim Victims Commissioner, making recommendations last year. However her appointment by former Northern Ireland Secretary Peter Hain was deemed improper and politically motivated by a High Court judge when it was challenged in the courts,

– Patricia McBride, whose brother Tony was one of two IRA members killed along with a member of SAS near the Irish border in Co Fermanagh in 1984.

– Brendan McAllister, the director of Mediation Northern Ireland, who was involved in efforts to resolve the Drumcree marching dispute between members of the Protestant Orange Order and nationalists.

– Mike Nesbitt, a former television news anchorman and public relations consultant, who has worked for Ulster Television and the BBC.

Stormont sources said the commission members will all receive £65,000 and will agree among themselves who will chair their meetings. The deputy leader of the cross-community Alliance Party Naomi Long claimed the decision to appoint four commissioners showed the First and Deputy First Ministers were unable to make important decisions.

“This is a damaging fudge. How is this arrangement going to work?” she asked.

“The work carried out by a Victims Commissioner is extremely important and I fear that the First and Deputy First Minister’s actions might lead to the ridicule of this vital role.

“Why were four people appointed, when every one of them would have been capable of doing the job single-handedly?”

Democratic Unionist MP Jeffrey Donaldson said the arrangement would be good for victims and their families. “During the process it was felt the victims sector should be given proper recognition,” the Lagan Valley MP said.

“So if there’s a Parades Commission with seven people on it, an Equality Commission and Human Rights Commission with several commissioners on them, why should victims not be given equal status? “The reaction of Danny Kennedy just shows how far he is out of the loop. He and Naomi Long are wrong.

“This was about the First and Deputy First Ministers trying to get this issue right for victims and bringing about changes which will benefit the victims sector for many years to come.”

Teach Dáithí Ó Conaill, 223 Parnell Street, Dublin 1, Ireland
Phone: +353-1-872 9747; FAX: +353-1-872 9757; e-mail: saoirse@iol.ie
Date: 18 Aibreán / April 2005

Internet resources maintained by SAOIRSE-Irish Freedom

http://saoirse.rr.nu

In this issue:

1. RSF election seminar held in Dublin
2. RSF oppose agenda of GAA management
3. Panel to advise on UVF murders
4. Role of agents in Brit political policing
5. Victim’s son points finger at Paisley
6. Wright inquiry delays blamed on RUC/PSNI
7. RUC/PSNI patrols armed with second lethal weapon
8. Keyes witness to loyalist murder refuses to come out of hiding
9. McCord promises bombshell book
10. Patient whose files leaked to LVF ‘disgusted’ at hospital

1. RSF ELECTION SEMINAR HELD IN DUBLIN

The National Election Directorate of Republican Sinn Féin held a seminar on Saturday, January 19 in Dublin. National Publicity Officer, Richard Walsh, said that there was considerable representation from each of the four Provinces.

He added: “Electoral strategy for the June 2009 local elections in the 26-Counties was discussed, and Selection Conventions are due to take place in all areas contesting these during the first half of this year.

“Republican Sinn Féin is also exploring the possibility of contesting future local elections within the Six Occupied Counties.

“We condemn unreservedly the anti-democratic activities of the 26-County State, whose Special Branch detectives were seen attempting to eavesdrop on our deliberations.”

2. RSF OPPOSE AGENDA OF GAA MANAGEMENT

At a meeting of Comhairle Uladh (Ulster RSF Executive) in Monaghan on Sunday, 20th January, delegates roundly condemned the pro-British agenda of senior GAA officials.

Publicity Officer, Richard Walsh, said:
“GAA President Nicky Brennan welcomed Stormont Minister Edwin Poots to Pairc Esler in Newry, but he refused to meet the President of Republican Sinn Féin, Ruairí Ó Brádaigh, when he handed in a letter of protest highlighting our concerns before the Ireland-England Rugby match in Croke Park.

“Mr. Poots showed his complete disregard for our National Anthem, Amhrán na bhFiann, having arrived deliberately late. He has since expressed the view that the playing of Amhrán na bhFiann before our National games should be scrapped, and called for stadia named in honour of Ireland’s Patriot Dead to be restyled.

“We had warned previously that Cumann Lúthchleas Gael would be pressurised into accepting these changes, and ending the flying of the National Flag, but were accused of scaremongering. However, the agenda of the current GAA management is clear for all those who wish to see it.

“Representatives of the Joe Conway/Willie Stewart Cumann, Newry, made it clear that they would have picketed Pairc Esler had they known that this visit – which forms part of the agenda to normalise English rule in Ireland – was to take place.”

3. PANEL TO ADVISE ON UVF MURDERS

A SPECIAL advisory panel made up of civilians and human rights experts is being set up by the Six-County Historical Enquiries Team who are reinvestigating murders linked to the Mount Vernon UVF.

The idea for the group came in the wake of former British Police Ombudsman Nuala O’Loan’s explosive report into the 1997 UVF murder of Raymond McCord Junior which confirmed the British colonial police had colluded with loyalists.
Her January 2007 report into the activities of the notorious Mount Vernon UVF revealed how a brutal gang of loyalist informers were responsible for more than 15 murders.

Her report also outlined how the feared unit and its leader, British agent Mark Haddock, were being protected by the RUC Special Branch during their reign of terror.
The team setting up the panel involves legal professionals, human rights groups British Irish Rights Watch and the Pat Finucane Centre, representatives of non-governmental organisations, HET staff and Raymond McCord Senior.
The idea for such a panel, it’s understood, sprang from a similar group set up by British police after the racist murder of black teenager Stephen Lawrence in South London when confidence between ethnic minorities and the force was at an all time low.
Stephen Lawrence was stabbed while waiting for a bus in 1993. An inquiry into the original police investigations, published in 1999, famously concluded that the force was “institutionally racist”.

Raymond McCord said the panel is designed to encourage anyone with information or the relatives of victims to come forward.
“The group has been set up to scrutinise the HET’s work, so basically we can turn around and ask questions if we’re not happy with anything.
“If any families, relatives or victims in North Belfast want to discuss their loss and are concerned about their case so far, they can contact me through this paper. I don’t care if they’re victims of IRA, UVF or UDA or the security forces. I’ll gladly sit down with any family.”

A spokeswoman for the HET said: “The HET team decided to set up a panel which would give an extra level of assurance to families in particular. It’s in the process of being formed, will be balanced in composition and it’s hoped will be an asset both to the families and to the investigation team.”

4. ROLE OF AGENTS IN BRIT POLITICAL POLICING

In an article in the Sunday Life newspaper on January 21, journalist Brian Rowan posed questions regarding the part played by British agents within Loyalists death squads and the Provisionals in directing those organisations and in shaping policy during the so-called peace process.

“The agent has been part of the loyalist paramilitary world and leadership for years – a key figure on what the UVF calls its Command Staff.

“This is the top tier of the organisation, a handful of men, living on or originally from the Shankill Road in Belfast. And it is where the decisions are made, war and peace, life or death. The agent has been part of all of that – for some decades hugely influential in the decision-making and direction of this organisation and the associated Red Hand Commando.

“In May last year the Command Staff produced an endgame statement – all recruitment, military training and targeting was ceased, intelligence information ‘rendered obsolete’, active service units ‘deactivated’ – but that leadership, of which the agent is a part, could not deliver decommissioning.

“Instead, all ‘ordnance’, meaning weapons, was ‘put beyond reach’, but not beyond use. Why then is this issue of agents and their roles so relevant now? Why, when the war is over? The relevance and significance has to do with the work of the Eames-Bradley Consultative Group on the Past.

“In the coming week, it will end its public consultation – and begin to consider the private contacts it needs to engage in, including with the loyalist and republican (sic) leaderships. ‘Ultimately they will have to (speak to them),’one source said.

“But speak to whom? Could it be those who have been agents and paramilitary leaders; the men who have been both? How will they contribute to and influence any narrative on the past? And who will influence their contributions and any input they might make?

“These are some of the questions after the war, all part of the unfinished business. The source who revealed the UVF leader as a CHIS (covert human intelligence source) has detailed knowledge of the world of the Special Branch and its informers.
He is the same source who disclosed the agent role of one of the UDA’s Belfast brigadiers – a man who still sits on that organisation’s inner council leadership.
That informer, and others ‘close’ to the paramilitary brigadiers allowed the Special Branch to ‘lead’ meetings of the inner council, the intelligence source told me.
This same source was behind the revelation that John White was an informer, and he knew the spy roles of Denis Donaldson, Freddie Scappaticci and Mark Haddock, and in some cases he knew the handlers.

“He claimed Haddock ‘saved lives’, that he was ‘too good to let go’. This is the same Mark Haddock later described as a ‘serial killer’ at the end of a protracted investigation by the Police Ombudsman. It was during that probe that the intelligence source told me that the investigation ‘could take them through to ‘——‘.
He was talking about the man at the top of the UVF – that leader who is still part of that organisation’s Command Staff. To protect my source, I do not want to give details of the date of that conversation, but it was many years after the original ceasefire and long after the Good Friday Agreement.

In another conversation he told me the information the UVF leader provided was ‘mainly political’. This raises another issue and another question. That agent was one of the principal decision makers in the UVF’s war, yet in his relationship with the Special Branch the information he was providing was ‘mainly political’.
What was he not telling?

I was told the ‘same (handler) team’ had been ‘running him for a long time’.
And that the Special Branch had “influenced” a move within the UVF to expel one of its most prominent leaders. Sunday Life knows the identity of that man but at this time is not publishing his name.

These are little insights into a murky world. When you tread on this ground you intrude in the world of National Security. It is considered trespassing. But the secrets are spilling out, one by one.

The intelligence source quoted here met many of the agents – but not the man at the top of the UVF.

He was ‘very nervous’, which is why that same Special Branch team had been with him for so long. And, even after the Scappaticci and Donaldson revelations, my source told me the main IRA (sic) agent in Belfast had not yet been exposed. There is more to come, but how will it all fit onto the pages – however big – of that Eames-Bradley report when it is written? How will they report that dirty war?”

5. VICTIM’S SON POINTS FINGER AT PAISLEY

IN THE hierarchy of blame for deaths during the war in the Six Counties Stormont First Minister Ian Paisley ranks higher than “some average Joe who planted a bomb”, the son of a UVF victim has said.

Psychology lecturer Jude Whyte was voicing his support for an amnesty for those who still have not been tried for killings carried out during the war in the Six-Counties.
His mother Margaret Whyte was killed in a 1984 loyalist bomb attack on her family’s University Street home.

“If I knew the person who was responsible I wouldn’t do anything about it, I wouldn’t contact the police or any of the authorities,” he said.“I think it is important to draw a line under what happened. I think there should be an amnesty and a truth commission.
There is nothing to be gained from further legal or court proceedings.”
Jude Whyte was incensed after he was cut off while making a point about the Ian Paisley during BBC radio’s Good Morning Ulster on January 8.

“They rang me and asked me to make a comment, I wouldn’t have made a comment otherwise,” he said.“Then, as I was speaking about Ian Paisley, they cut me off. There was no explanation. There was no reason to cut me off. I have had lots of messages about it this morning from people listening.”

Jude Whyte said it was easy but not fair to attribute blame to those who carried out the physical acts of violence.“It is hypocrisy to blame some average Joe that went and planted a bomb,” he said.“To me he is so far down the food chain..

“I remember as a student being in Bucknahill in Ballymena in 1981 and seeing Ian Paisley standing in a field speaking surrounded by 500 men holding legally-held arms.
“I remember him standing on the Springfield Road with Reg Empey and said (about a disputed march) ‘A fire has been lit that may never be extinguished’.”

The recent release of 1977 Cabinet papers revealed discussions, that Ian Paisley was “associated with paramilitaries” and that he might be arrested for conspiracy, took place among senior Stormont officials.

The remarks about Paisley were made during a meeting between senior Six-County Northern Ireland Office (NIO) and Stormont civil servants during the United Ulster Action Council strike of May 1977. The minutes said: “It was pointed out; however, that the person responsible [Ian Paisley] was associated with and had the support of the Protestant paramilitaries and it was queried whether he ought not to be held for conspiracy.” The hope was expressed that when the strike ended there would be no question of a formula being devised “to allow Mr Paisley off the hook”.

Jude Whyte has called for Robin Eames and Denis Bradley to move swiftly on a decision on how to deal with the legacy of the war in the Six Counties. “They need to either hold their hands up and say they have found no common ground or set up a truth commission with very clear limits on length and what it is looking at,” Jude Whyte said. “We don’t want another long drawn out inquiry like Bloody Sunday.”

6. WRIGHT INQUIRY DELAYS BLAMED ON RUC/PSNI

ON JANUARY 21 Scottish Law Lord Ranald MacLean, who heads a panel investigating the death of LVF leader Billy Wright, used a brief hearing to release a detailed and lengthy paper highly critical of the RUC/PSNI for its continued failure to hand over documents requested by the panel.

It made clear it did not necessarily believe the reasons the RUC/PSNI gave for not producing the documents asked for. the inquiry panel looking into the murder of LVF chief Billy Wright. MacLean announced he would start hearing evidence on Jan 28.

Hearings have been suspended since last September, in part because the inquiry says the RUC/PSNI has failed to hand over intelligence material they believe the British colonial police have in their possession.

Missing documents have hampered the inquiry for more than two years. In November 2006, the inquiry held special hearings that revealed the Six-County Prison Service lost intelligence files about Wright and his killers and destroyed thousands of other records from Long Kesh.

He said last year that “outstanding gaps are in the intelligence information that we think exists and is not being produced”.

The RUC/PSNI has told the inquiry panel that it has conducted multiple searches of its records and they believe they have handed over all the available material. They said record keeping was poor at the time of Wright’s murder and documents were scattered over 41 different locations.

In October, the RUC/PSNI submitted a special report to the inquiry by retired RUC Assistant Chief Constable Sam Kinkaid, indicating all the efforts put in to recovering documents. But the inquiry panel said it “has not led to the production of specific intelligence documents that have been sought by the inquiry.”

The inquiry has indicated problems with every British intelligence agency from which it has sought material.

Meanwhile a laptop computer containing confidential information has been stolen from the London offices of a barrister involved in the public inquiry.
The computer contained details of a number of people in the Six Counties, who are now being notified of the theft.

The Six-County NIO said it was informed during the weekend of January 19/20that the computer had been taken from the private chambers of the lawyer representing the Six-County Prison Service at the inquiry.

A statement said: “The laptop stolen from the barrister’s chambers contained confidential and legally privileged information in connection with the inquiry, including some details about a number of individuals in Northern Ireland.

“Those individuals are being notified and the potential implications of the theft are being assessed with them, in consultation with the Crown Solicitor’s Office and the PSNI.”

The Billy Wright Inquiry and the Six-County Information Commissioner have also been informed. Wright, the 37-year-old leader of the loyalist Volunteer Force, was shot dead inside the Maze Prison in December 1997 by members of the Irish National Liberation Army.

The public inquiry into the murder of Wright was one of several set up by the British Government in 2004 amid allegations of British State collusion in the deaths.

The theft of the computer was revealed as the inquiry sat in public for the first time since last autumn.

7. RUC/PSNI PATROLS ARMED WITH SECOND LETHAL WEAPON

A North Belfast victims’ campaigner has expressed “massive fears” over British colonial police moves to begin Taser training – a move which he says will see “trigger happy” members reboot a policy of aggressive British policing.
With CS Spray used “willy-nilly” in North Belfast, in fact 28 incidences from January to September last year, JJ Magee of Relatives for Justice fears the launch this week of Tasers across the Six Counties could see “shocking” Taser-related Canadian deaths mirrored in the Six Counties.

In October and November alone four people died after being shot by the 50,000 volt stun-guns in Canada, the most high profile death captured on home video and broadcast nationally, sparking a massive outcry surrounding the safety of Tasers.
In all, Canadian authorities have recorded a total 18 Taser-related deaths since their introduction in 2003 and JJ Magee fears that their deployment to RUC/PSNI Specialist Operations Branch will be a “dark and negative” step back in time.

Despite British colonial police assurances that, out of the 425 times Tasers have been fired in Britain in the last five years, “a serious incident has been brought to a safe conclusion with no death or serious injury to the police or members of the public”, JJ Magee has concerns Taser-related deaths will replace the 17 plastic bullet killings across the Six Counties throughout the Troubles.
“All I can say is that I have massive reservations about the introduction of Tasers to officers here,” he said.
“You only need to look at the statistics in America and Canada to understand how dangerous these weapons are.

“I thought we were supposed to be moving away from aggressive policing but instead we seem to be moving back in time.
“In North Belfast especially officers have been very quick to pull out their CS Spray and things can only get worse when Tasers hit the streets.”
At the end of November 2007, the United Nations Committee Against Torture concluded that the use of the electric pulse Taser constitutes a “form of torture” and “can even provoke death”.

The manufacturers themselves, Taser International, have admitted in a training bulletin that repeated blasts of a Taser can “impair breathing and respiration”.
It is also reported police officers in at least five US states have filed lawsuits against Taser International claiming they suffered serious injuries after being shocked with the 50,000 volt stun-guns during training classes.

There have been more than 100 Taser-related deaths worldwide in recent years. The RUC/PSNI commenced training in the use of Taser as part of a pilot scheme.

8. KEYES WITNESS TO LOYALIST MURDER REFUSES TO COME OUT OF HIDING

A CRUCIAL witness to the prison killing of loyalist getaway driver David Keyes is refusing to come out of hiding to give evidence at an inquest into the LVF man’s murder.

David Patterson was visited by the RUC/PSNI who travelled to a secret address in England to inform him that Six-County head coroner John Leckey is seeking his testimony.

Keyes was found hanging in his cell in the LVF wing of the Long Kesh just days after being remanded in connection with the shocking sectarian murders of Co Armagh men Damien Trainor (25) and Philip Allen (34).

The two friends, one Protestant, the other Catholic, died when gunmen opened fire on customers at the Railway Bar in Poyntzpass in March 1998. A convicted drug dealer, Keyes (27) had been suspected of cooperating with the RUC/PSNI by directing them to the spot where the guns used to kill the friends had been concealed.

He was tortured before being strangled and hanged by a bed sheet from a cell window.

Lurgan loyalist Robin King and Ralph Mcphillips from Lisburn in Co Antrim, who had been serving sentences on the LVF wing, were charged with the murder. Patterson originally agreed to give evidence against his former associates.

However, the case against the accused dramatically collapsed after he refused to continue with his testimony. No-one has ever been convicted.

Patterson was spirited out of the Six Counties to serve out the rest of his sentence in a Scottish jail before starting a new life in England.

In September last year coroner John Leckey, at a preliminary inquest into the prisoner’s death, ordered all LVF inmates on the wing at the time to give evidence.

But Patterson said he will not cooperate.

“I have a new life and a family in England and have turned my back on the past,” he said. “I’ve a job and a family and there is no way I’m coming back to Northern Ireland to put my life at risk – at the end of the day it’ll not help anyone and there is no good can come of it.”

Stephen McClean and Noel McCready, both still behind bars in Maghaberry prison for the Poyntz-pass killings, are also expected to be called. McClean was recently approved for release by the Six-County life sentence review commission but remained in jail after the British Six-County secretary of state challenged the decision.

He is appealing the move but along with McCready could be called to give video link evidence. “I haven’t been in any trouble in years. I have a family and a life here and have no intention of returning to put myself in danger,” Patterson said.“I can’t see the point of coming out of safety for an inquest that will achieve nothing at the end of the day.”

9. MCCORD PROMISES BOMBSHELL BOOK

AN explosive book on one of the most controversial murders of the Troubles is set to be published later this year.
The book – Justice For Raymond – highlights campaigning Raymond McCord’s 10-year fight to bring his son’s killers to justice
The former RAF man, also called Raymond, was murdered in November, 1997 by the notorious Mount Vernon UVF unit.
Since then, the murder-victim’s father has defied numerous death-threats to fight a high-profile campaign in a bid to see the killers and their RUC/PSNI Special Branch handlers in court.
Although the book concentrates on McCord’s fight for justice, it will also:
* focus on the issue of British state collusion;
* highlight former British Police Ombudsman Nuala O’Loan’s report into the murder, and;
* reveal the names of loyalist killers who were also British colonial police informers.
McCord believes his book will send “shockwaves” across the Six-Counties.
He said: “The book is now completed and it’s just with the lawyers at the minute.
“It will only be a matter of a few months now before it’s out.
“I think people will find the book quite revealing because it proves that collusion did take place between senior Special Branch officers and top UVF members.
“I think there will be a lot of worried people out there when the book comes out.
“Names will be mentioned in the book and all the issues surrounding Raymond’s case in the last 10 years will be explored.
“But I have also highlighted other murders which the UVF in Mount Vernon were involved in and I genuinely think people will be shocked at the amount of collusion that went on during the Troubles.”
It’s also believed a film could be made after the publication of the book.
The book – co-written by leading Belfast investigative journalist John Cassidy – is due to be published by Gill & Macmillan in May.

10. PATIENT WHOSE FILES LEAKED TO LVF ‘DISGUSTED’ AT HOSPITAL

A PATIENT who discovered his medical files may have been leaked by a hospital worker to a loyalist death squad has said he is “disgusted” at the hospital’s handling of the case.

Confidential information concerning 10 patients at Craigavon area hospital is alleged to have been passed on to the LVF by a woman employee, who was sacked in 2007. A second hospital worker has been disciplined following an internal investigation.

The British colonial police have confirmed that two women were questioned in relation to “the leaking of medical information” and that a file is being prepared for the Six-County Public Prosecution Service. It is understood that the medical files contained details about patients who had been attacked by the LVF.

One of the affected said he only became aware of the case following an article on a chatroom website. He contacted the hospital and learned that two files relating to himself and his son may have been illegally accessed by the former woman employee.

He has taken legal action on the grounds that his personal security and privacy were breached. “I was disgusted with the hospital to be honest as I thought they would have got in touch with me to tell me what had happened,” he said.

“Instead I had to get a solicitor and go to them myself when all sorts of rumours started flying around the town. Surely there should be stricter controls in place so this information isn’t so ‘loose’ and cannot be accessed by so many people.

“This is private and personal information. If someone had cancer for example and wanted to keep it to themselves – suddenly, this hospital worker can access these details and tell whoever they want.”

It is understood the nine other patients are taking legal action on similar grounds.

A spokeswoman for the Southern Health and Social Care Trust, which has responsibility for Craigavon area hospital, said it could not comment on individual patients or staff involved in the case for legal reasons.

She also declined to comment on what procedures are in place in relation to informing patients if they are at risk of potential breaches of personal information. However, she confirmed that an investigation has been carried out into allegations of a “serious breach” of patient confidentiality.

“The trust takes any allegations of this nature extremely seriously as maintaining the integrity and privacy of all patients is paramount,” she said.

By BRYAN COLL
Thursday, Jan. 24, 2008
TIME

To grasp the extent of Belfast’s tourism appeal during the three decades of the “Troubles,” one only had to visit the Europa. Its status as the world’s most bombed hotel underlined the fact that, for over 30 years, Northern Ireland’s capital was a tourism desert. Today, Belfast’s hostelries are packed with visitors as the city reaps the rewards of political stability. But as Northern Ireland’s politics change for the better, Belfast is going through an image crisis. No longer defined by bomb blasts and sectarian strife, the city is reaching for new, peaceful symbols. And it’s settled on a rather unlikely choice. Two clues: Celine Dion and an iceberg.


An artist’s sketch of the proposed Titanic Signature Project, in Belfast, Northern Ireland.

To the uninformed, history’s most famous maritime disaster may seem an odd choice for a city looking to put its tragic past behind it, but Belfast stakes a strong claim to the Titanic. After all, it was in the Harland and Wolff shipyard on the city’s Queen’s Island that the iconic liner was designed, built and launched. And the now rusting shipyard is the proposed site of the “Titanic Quarter,” a shiny new residential and business district on the edge of Belfast Lough. The 185-acre development is the biggest regeneration project in Northern Ireland’s history and would be the largest waterfront redevelopment in Europe. Its centerpiece would be the Titanic Signature Project (TSP), a tourist facility dedicated to the ship’s construction. Developers estimate the TSP will draw 400,000 visitors each year, which would make it Northern Ireland’s most popular urban attraction.

The memory of the ill-fated ship is being asked to do more than bring in tourists, however. “It’s all to do with breaking down barriers”, says Brian Ambrose, Chairman of the Titanic Foundation, the company overseeing the TSP. “We want to change Belfast’s image abroad with a landmark building, but also restore local pride”. The Titanic Quarter’s promotional literature describes the ship as the pinnacle moment of Belfast’s industrial heyday — when it was launched in 1911, it was the largest moveable man-made object on the planet. The fact that this achievement was soon eclipsed by tragedy — the elephant in the room of this $3 billion development — has little place in the Titanic Quarter’s rendering of the tale. “She was alright when she left here,” reads one of the T-shirts for sale on the Titanic Trail boat cruise.

“For decades, the Titanic was a taboo topic”, says Una Reilly, chairman of the Belfast Titanic Society, during a tour of the TSP site. “There was almost a sense of shame that it had been built here”. But Reilly, whose grandfather worked as a riveter on the Titanic, is convinced that this ghost from Belfast’s past is the perfect vehicle for the city’s future. “The Titanic was at the cutting edge of technology when she was built. That’s the kind of innovation Belfast should be striving for today”.

But winning acceptance of Titanic as a badge of honor for all of Belfast faces an all-too-familiar hurdle. Few symbols are regarded neutral in a city where neighborhoods, education and even sports are still segregated along Catholic-Protestant lines. Many Catholics see Belfast shipbuilding as an exclusively Protestant industry, in which discrimination was endemic. In one notorious incident back in July 1920, a Protestant mob drove Catholic employees out of the Harland and Wolff shipyard, beating them with sticks. Fifty years later, as Northern Ireland’s Troubles were dawning, only 400 of the shipyard’s 10,000 employees were Catholic. That’s one blot on the Titanic legacy developers know can’t be erased by a T-shirt.

It’s the perceived airbrushing of the less heroic elements of the Titanic story that has left some locals unconvinced. For them, the Titanic Quarter is as much a developers’ dream as a civic endeavor. “The Titanic is of such importance to the city and to Western culture”, says Belfast-born Bill Neill, Professor of Spatial Planning at Aberdeen University, “but this vapid project represents a whitewashed history. [The developers] are inventing a past that never existed”.

“We have to say more than just ‘the Troubles are over’ “, contends Titanic Foundation Chairman Brian Ambrose. “The Titanic is a worldwide brand with a unique link to Belfast. We’re not going to scale this project down.” But before the project sets sail, it has some tricky financial waters to navigate. The Signature Project’s bid for just under $50m in funding from the U.K. National Lottery was beaten out by rival contenders last October. If the project is to be completed by the 2011 deadline — the centenary of the Titanic’s launch — those missing millions, just under a third of the TSP’s estimated cost, will have to be gathered at a rate of knots, largely from Northern Ireland’s private sector. “Belfast people can be hard to impress”, says Ambrose. “But the TSP will rival the best attractions in the world. After 30 years of bad press, that’s a huge step for this city”.

Belfast Telegraph

Police to probe donations to former Ulster Secretary

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Northern Ireland’s former Secretary of State, Peter Hain, has resigned from the Cabinet as police began a probe into £103,000 in donations to his deputy leadership campaign.

The Work and Pensions Secretary and Secretary of State for Wales said he had taken the move to “clear my name” after the Electoral Commission, investigating whether he had broken electoral law, referred the matter to police before lunchtime.

Mr Hain telephoned Prime Minister Gordon Brown at 11.30am after being informed by the Electoral Commission that it was referring the case to the Metropolitan Police.

It is understood Mr Hain offered his resignation at that point “without hesitation” and it was swiftly accepted by Mr Brown.

Minutes later the commission publicly announced it was referring the case involving his campaign cash to the police. Mr Hain confirmed his resignation in a statement.

Mr Hain said: “In view of the Electoral Commission decision today, I will be resigning to clear my name and I will be making a statement shortly.”

Downing Street said: “Peter Hain has made his statement. The Prime Minister has accepted Peter Hain’s resignation. There will be an exchange of letters in due course.”

The Electoral Commission said: “On November 29, 2007, Peter Hain MP informed the Electoral Commission that he had not fully reported to the commission donations he had received for his Labour Party deputy leadership campaign.

“Mr Hain has since met with the commission and provided additional information about donations he received. The Electoral Commission has undertaken a thorough review of this information.

“Following discussions with the Metropolitan Police Service and the Crown Prosecution Service, the Electoral Commission has now referred matters to the Metropolitan Police for them to consider whether an investigation should commence.”

The Met confirmed it had launched an investigation.

“We can confirm that the Met has today received a formal referral from the Electoral Commission in connection with potential offences under the Political Parties and Referendums Act 2000 regarding donations received,” a spokeswoman said.

“An investigation will now begin by detectives from the Specialist and Economic Crime Command.”

Mr Hain quit amid news of the latest police investigation involving Labour and donations.

Police are already probing proxy donations to Labour of more than £600,000 from north east property developer David Abrahams, which Mr Brown has said were “unlawful” and not properly declared.

That case has already claimed the resignation of Labour’s general secretary, Peter Watts.

Mr Brown had fought to keep Mr Hain, declaring him to be a “great” minister doing a “good job” on welfare reform.

But as the affair dragged on, support ebbed away.

Confirmation of the police probe was the final straw.

Shadow work secretary Chris Grayling said: “Peter Hain’s resignation was inevitable and the right thing to do.”

BBC
24 Jan 2008

Fenian, hun, taig and jaffa are among the terms outlawed for police officers in a pamphlet which outlines to them how to avoid causing offence.

The Guide to Appropriate Language has various categories of words and suggests acceptable alternatives.

Religion, minority ethnic communities, gay people, women and transsexuals are among the linguistic issues covered.

Chief Constable Sir Hugh Orde says in his foreword that using the right language “sends an important message”.

“It is essential that we take a lead in using language that does not exclude colleagues or members of the community, does not stereotype and always shows a wholehearted commitment to supporting our Equal Opportunities Policy,” said Sir Hugh.

Catholics should not be called fenians, taigs, chucks or spongers, while Protestants should not be referred to as huns, black, prods or jaffas, the booklet says.

‘It is intended to help avoid the unintentional offence caused by unthinking use of language and to improve relationships between officers, staff and across the whole community.’
–PSNI Guide to Appropriate Language

There is one exception to the use of fenian, but it is probably rarely used.

“It may be perfectly acceptable to use it in an appropriate historical context, for example, if referring to the Fenian Brotherhood,” it says.

Officers are advised that if a witness uses language which is not politically correct, they should use speech marks to attribute this when taking a statement.

Terms which could be used by Life on Mars’ 1970s old-school cop DCI Gene Hunt are also banned when referring to the gay community.

When it comes to older members of the population, police should not call them geriatric, old codgers or say someone is “just like an aul’ woman”.

“Old can carry connotations of being worn-out and of little further use. It can also be used as a term of abuse,” says the booklet.

The booklet is “intended to help avoid the unintentional offence caused by unthinking use of language and to improve relationships between officers, staff and across the whole community”.

Bobby Sands mural photo
Ní neart go cur le chéile

Calendar

January 2008
S M T W T F S
« Dec   Feb »
 12345
6789101112
13141516171819
20212223242526
2728293031  

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