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Friday 28, March 2008 – 12:16]
By Ciaran Mcguigan
Four BBC staff have been rocked by death threats from dissident republicans after Gardai busted a suspected Real IRA show of strength.
The four journalists working for the Beeb’s flagship current affairs programmes were among 11 people arrested during swoops in Co Donegal last Sunday.
The television journalists – a senior producer and three on-screen reporters – were believed to be in Donegal to film part of a Panorama programme to mark the 10th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement.
The segment would have highlighted the continuing threat posed by dissident republican groups bent on bringing down Stormont’s Executive.
It’s understood that they were also compiling reports for BBC Northern Ireland’s Spotlight programme.
They were travelling near the border with three other men at about 3am last Sunday when officers from the Garda’s heavily-armed Emergency Response Unit swooped.
Another four men were arrested during another Garda operation in Bridgend later the same day.
The journalists spent a day being quizzed by detectives at Letterkenny Garda station before being released late on Sunday night.
It’s understood that they have since been warned that their lives are at risk from dissident republicans, with sources in the north west confirming this. A spokeswoman for the BBC last night declined to make any comment about the threats, or to go into further details about the incident.
She said: “As we have made clear from the outset, our four journalists were working with the full authority of the BBC in compliance with strict editorial guidelines, which include the protection of sources.
“We continue to believe the matter which they were working on is of significant public interest. All four are experienced, rigorous journalists” .
The Real IRA has targeted the BBC before. One man was injured and extensive damage caused when a bomb exploded near of Broadcasting House in London in March 2001.
Following last week’s security operation, Garda sources have confirmed they seized a video tape containing footage of Real IRA gunmen brandishing AK-47 assault rifles and other weapons. But Sunday Life understands that the weapons used to make the propaganda tape slipped through the Garda net and have not been recovered since.
Fears are now growing that they could be used to repeat the sick murder bids on off-duty cops that the terror gang was behind late last year.
The Real IRA bragged that it had been behind the horrific gun attack on Catholic off-duty cop Jim Doherty as he left his son at school near the Bogside area of Londonderry in November. The 43-year-old only survived the attack because the gunman’s weapon jammed.
Despite bleeding heavily, the injured cop was able to drive himself to nearby Strand Road barracks and was transferred to Altnagelvin Hospital.
Just days later the Real IRA tried to murder another off duty cop in Co Tyrone. Paul Musgrave was shot a number of times in the arm as he stopped at traffic lights just minutes after leaving work.
And last month Chief Constable Sir Hugh Orde put his officers on high alert, fearing dissidents were about to strike again.
DUP MP Gregory Campbell last night demanded to know how the gang’s guns had been missed by Gardai in Donegal.
“We would have to be careful because we do not know the precise circumstances regarding the operation,” said the East Londonderry MP.
“But as a general rule I think that every policing operation should be aimed at two things; to ensure that the personnel involved are detained and that they recover whatever weaponry might have been involved.
“If weapons were not got, then I would hope people in Donegal and the Republic will be asking questions about that.
“Given the history of that organisation, it be a great worry that these weapons were still in circulation.”
Mr Campbell also condemned the threats issued against the journalists.
“(These threats) reinforce the fact that there should be public co-operation in both the Republic and Northern Ireland to bring these people, and all those associated with them, before the courts.”
Four men – all with addresses in Londonderry – appeared at a special sitting of the Special Criminal Court in Dublin last Tuesday accused of membership of an illegal organisation in relation to the swoops.
Gary Donnelly (38) from Kildrum Gardens, Michael Gallagher (28) of Sackville Court, Martin Francis O’Neill of Colmcille Court and Patrick John McDaid (39) of Marlborough Street are charged with membership of an illegal organisation on March 16.
Gardai told the court that, when cautioned, Gallagher and McDaid denied IRA membership while Donnelly and O’Neill made no reply.
All four men were remanded in custody. They are due back in court on Tuesday, when they are expected to apply for bail.
COPS believe the INLA is now bigger than the IRA in Dublin and has turned to drugs crime.
A series of pipe-bomb attacks — the latest on Tuesday morning in Pimlico in the south inner city -– has been linked to a so-called active service INLA unit in the city and is believed to have been prompted by an escalation of a drugs territorial war between rival gangs.
The leader of one gang, a 27-year-old with major international drugs connections, twice recently escaped with his life in two assassination bids.
Following the second attempt to murder him almost three weeks ago an underworld contract was put out on the life of the 34-year-old INLA leader of the rival gang.
He has been warned by undercover cops that he is a murder target. He is wanted in Britain for questioning about the murder of an English soldier.
Cops believe the two gangs are responsible for several murders in the past year as the INLA stepped up its campaign of shootings, intimidation and pipe-bomb attacks in a bid to take over lucrative drugs markets.
Grenades and improvised pipe-bombs are now so widely available in the city that they are being sold between gangsters for as little as $550 compared to $2,300 a year ago.
Detectives have expressed alarm about the sheer quantity of devices now available and say it is far easier to source a pipe-bomb than a firearm.
All four devices used in recent attacks are believed to have been part of the same cache hidden somewhere in central south Dublin.
By Alana Fearon
The Parades Commission has held its hands up and admitted “it could have done things a bit better” after a North Belfast residents group were left out of eleventh hour march talks.
A commission spokesman blamed “logistical and time constraints” for its failure to consult the Ardoyne Parades Dialogue Group (APDG) over last minute changes to the Easter Monday Apprentice Boys parade past Ardoyne.
Despite an original determination banning supporters from the march, nationalist residents were outraged when up to 20 loyalist supporters accompanied two lodges and a band down past the Crumlin Road interface. Residents, who had staged a 30-strong counter protest to the march, were further enraged by a banner commemorating UVF men Sam Rockett and William Hanna which was carried in the parade and by sectarian remarks made by marchers.
Although he admitted the commission has not yet sat down with parade monitors to record complaints and breaches from Monday’s early morning parade, a spokesman confirmed this would be a priority in the coming weeks.
“The commission has held its hands up and admitted things could have been done better before Monday’s parade,” the spokesman said.
“We were really up against it and time and logistical constraints made things difficult but we are committed to ensuring dialogue continues.
“In general Monday morning’s parade passed off peacefully and we would hope that would be a precursor to the forthcoming marching season.
“Although we have not actually sat down with our monitors yet to formally record breaches, this is something which will be factored into our meetings in coming weeks.”
Speaking after a specially-organised meeting with the Parades Commission one day after the parade took place, APDG spokesman Joe Marley said he did not see the commission as a “neutral broker” in the dispute.
“We have been treated as nothing more than second-class citizens in this whole dispute,” Mr Marley said.
“Obviously we would like to see dialogue resume with the North and West Belfast Parades Forum but as it stands we do not feel we have been treated fairly or evenly by the commission.
“We want to continue dialogue which we hope will bear fruit but the commission has to ensure all parties start off on a level playing field.”
Friday 28, March 2008
“I did not facilitate meetings between Sinn Fein and the DUP last year. ” This is the email sent on behalf of a journalist on November 18 2005. It contained a response to questions I had sent him about suggested meetings involving the DUP and Sinn Fein.
“As a journalist, working in a competitive, dangerous environment, I talk to people from all sides, all the time. I will never reveal sources in relation to my work. My position on that principle will not change,” the email continued.
I was not expecting him to discuss his sources with me – nor did I ask him to do so.
My questions were put because I had been told of contacts between the DUP and Sinn Fein during the negotiations of 2004 – and of the role of a journalist.
It is the same backchannel that Tony Blair’s former chief of staff Jonathan Powell makes numerous references to in his recently published book – Great Hatred, Little Room – Making Peace In Northern Ireland.
In his writing, Powell reveals that Gerry Adams told him about his party’s contacts with the DUP – something Powell said the British already knew about, including that the contact “passed through a journalist”.
This happened in the early part of 2004.
Email sent to reporter Brian Rowan from the DUP’s Timothy Johnston
Powell has considerable detail on the backchannel, much of which confirms what I was told in 2005.
One of my sources told me that the Irish Government was reporting details of the contacts to the British Government in the course of 2004.
And two sources confirmed the role of a journalist in those contacts – sources whose information I had depended on in crucial moments of the peace process.
On Friday October 14, 2005, I put the suggestion of the contacts to senior members of both Sinn Fein and the DUP.
In one meeting I got blank looks and in the other, I recorded in my notes, ” big denials”.
Timothy Johnston put the DUP’s position to me in writing on November 21, 2005:
“With reference to your email I have already told you that no such meetings took place,” he wrote.
“The position of the Democratic Unionist Party in relation to dealings with Sinn Fein has always been clear and unambiguous,” he continued.
“The party was not and is not involved in negotiations/meetings with Sinn Fein.
“The party leadership have not at any time sanctioned or had knowledge of any meetings at any level between anyone from Sinn Fein and anyone from the DUP or anyone acting on behalf of either or both.
“As no such meetings took place the rest of your questions are not relevant,” he wrote.
The email also warned: “The party, or any members named, would not hesitate to take action through the courts and/or press/media regulatory bodies as appropriate in order to correct any inaccuracies which may appear and will use this and other previously sent correspondence as an indication of prior warning having been given.”
On that same date, another source said there had been meetings in 2004, they involved “senior figures” on both sides and that the contacts were about “demonstrating seriousness” in relation to the negotiations of that period.
Sinn Fein’s written response to my questions read: “This story, like so many others at key points in the peace process, emanates from sources who are opposed to the peace process and is designed to create difficulties.
“Sinn Fein does not intend to engage in this negative agenda which is about undermining the search for agreement.”
Details on the contacts did not emerge from sources that could in any way be described as anti-peace process.
The Taoiseach’s Office in the Republic was also careful how it responded.
“In the ten years that the Taoiseach has been involved in the peace process a great number of people and parties have assisted in terms of progressing issues in Northern Ireland. It has not been our position to comment on these matters.”
Jonathan Powell has now written in some detail on this matter – and he writes with considerable authority.
It reminds me of the IRA-British Government backchannel denied for so long but exposed in an explosion of information in late 1993.
The lesson of that period is to be careful what you deny.
Sir Patrick Mayhew (now Lord Mayhew) ended up looking like a fool.
If republicans have been involved in something of this nature, then there will be a paper trail – a note of who said what, the messages that passed between the two, the who, what, when and where of all of this.
Certainly there are more questions to be answered as a result of Jonathan Powell’s book.
He is a key witness in all of this – in the claim and counter claim.
In his book he writes about the role of Martin McGuinness in a process of secret or private contacts.
As I recently wrote in this newspaper, I was told of that role in 2005 – that McGuinness and his senior adviser Aidan McAteer were both involved.
The involvement of those two men says a lot – says that republicans took seriously the contacts.
It does not suggest that they believed they were involved in some maverick or freelance exercise – or that they were involved with junior players.
McGuinness, in all the heat and importance of that negotiation back in 2004, would not have shared a proposed Army Council text unless he knew who he was sharing it with and for what purpose.
Why, some ask, would you need a backchannel if the two sides were negotiating through the British and Irish Governments?
There is a simple answer – better to hear it from the horse’s mouth.
I suppose, if you were in the DUP’s shoes, better to hear it from Martin McGuinness than Jonathan Powell, better to be sure.
Powell has also said there was a journalist intermediary.
The DUP at its most senior level is insisting that its first direct meeting with Sinn Fein was in March 2007 – on a weekend and just before the Paisley/ Adams news conference of Monday March 26.
Peter Robinson, Nigel Dodds and Ian Paisley junior were involved in those talks – in their first meetings with Sinn Fein and Martin McGuinness.
But if Jonathan Powell is right and my sources are right – there were other contacts before then, much, much earlier.
Not involving the individuals named above – but others.
I can understand what was in it for both sides – the importance of hearing positions directly outlined, and not having to depend solely on third party assessments.
The danger in all of this is that the denial continues and the truth emerges.
Jonathan Powell has put a political cat among the pigeons.
MLAs refute any kind of dealings
“There was no backchannel to Sinn Fein at all, not at any point (before March last year). There is plenty of evidence that was the case, with Sinn Fein coming out of Downing Street drawing different conclusions from us about what the Government was saying.
“The meeting he (Mr Powell) is referring to was when three of us (Mr Robinson, Nigel Dodds and Ian Paisley Jnr) were sanctioned by the party executive to meet Sinn Fein on (Saturday) March 24.
“Up until that day we had never had any meeting. I had never spoken to Sinn Fein, never met Sinn Fein, until that day.”
“I am emphatically saying there was no direct contact between our party and Sinn Fein. Mr Powell is endeavouring to sell more copies of his book and in doing so has made this and other allegations. There is a straight forward way for him to make this stand up and that is for him to name the person or persons he is talking about.
“He has already shown that he is prepared to name names as he has alleged that David Trimble was involved in redrafting IRA statements so why can he not do the same with this allegation? If he does that, the person he is alleging made contact with Sinn Fein can come forward and defend themselves. I am confident that what he is inferring did not take place at all.”
28 March 2008
Sunday Life can reveal Jamie McAllister – whose dad Malachy is facing a battle to remain in his adopted country – was sent home last month.
Although the 29-year-old has relatives in Belfast, he has been staying with pals in Dublin over fears he would be targeted by loyalist extremists.
The Belfast-born man was arrested by officials from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and told that he was being deported.
He was then dressed in a stranger’s clothing and given $20 before he was chained and escorted on to the plane by US federal marshals.
Like his father, Jamie McAllister had been reporting monthly to the DHS in New Jersey since December 2003, under an order of supervision.
He was denied political asylum because of an offence he committed when he was a teenager.
It’s understood he was cautioned, but not jailed for possessing a ” controlled substance”.
The deportee had been living in the US for the last 20 years after his family fled Belfast when their home was raked with bullets by a Red Hand Commando terror gang.
Mr McAllister, who was forced to leave his wife Noelle behind, is now trying to re-build his life on this side of the Atlantic.
However, it’s still not clear if the local man intends to fight against the decision.
Speaking to Sunday Life in New York, McAllister Family Campaign for Justice spokeswoman Carol Russell condemned the decision.
Said Ms Russell: “Now in his late twenties, Jamie’s youthful mistake has condemned him to deportation to a country which he, as a small boy, fled with his family under fire from loyalist paramilitaries.
“Jamie has known no life other than that of a typical American boy growing up in a New Jersey neighbourhood surrounded by his siblings, parents and a supportive Irish-American community.
“Although he is married to a US citizen, his fate was sealed. He also lived through the long legal battle his parents fought to gain political asylum for the entire family.
“Our campaign for justice has always stood firmly on the cornerstone of keeping together this close-knit family that fled from Belfast’s violent past, taking our cue from Article 16 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
“But now the family must endure further tragedy as they are separated by an ocean from a son, brother and husband to whom they were not even permitted to say farewell.”
She added: “Clearly, the DHS is moved little by any such humanitarian concerns.
The young man’s grandmother, Ellen, also hit out at the US authorities to deport her grandson.
Added Mrs McAllister: “We are all just devastated and can’t believe this has happened to Jamie. The only thing he has known for the last 20 years is America. This decision is so unfair.
“They have taken a hard-working man away from his wife and family, and we think they have done this just to get back at Malachy.
“We will give him all the support we can and he’s now just trying to work through the red tape so he can get some work.”
27 March 2008
Unionists have reacted with fury to the news that a former IRA man is to join Fermanagh District Policing Partnership.
UUP MLA Tom Elliott says questions need to be answered about former IRA leader Sean Lynch’s appointment to the Fermanagh DPP, given his background.
The Sinn Fein member was jailed for 12 years for attempting to bomb an Army patrol and survived an SAS ambush.
Mr Elliott said: “Let’s remember that just a decade ago that this member was a leader in the IRA in the Maze prison.
“What I want to know is, is he totally committed to Northern Ireland, is he totally committed to the betterment of the Province and the betterment of policing in Northern Ireland?
“And has he left the IRA or is he still a member? I think these are questions that need to be answered.”
DUP MLA Arlene Foster responded to the appointment of Sean Lynch to the Fermanagh District Policing Partnership by saying “it is a difficult decision for me personally but criticism from the UUP on this matter stinks of hypocrisy.”
Mrs Foster said:”The appointment of Sean Lynch to the DPP does not erase his history.
“Some people may be in the business of revisionism but that is not the case with the DUP.
“Sean Lynch was a terrorist and deserved his prison sentence for his evil deeds.
“Decisions such as this are difficult to swallow as we are all too aware of the past of some of the individuals involved but we must recognise the change in republicans’ attitude to the police.
“Sinn Fein’s decision to abandon their long held belief of opposition to the police is welcome and I recognise that Sinn Fein participation on DPPs is a by-product of that decision.
Sinn Fein P
olicing Board member Alex Maskey said that republicans are as entitled as anyone else to be appointed as independent members of the local District Policing Partnerships.
He said: “All candidates were approved by their local councils. There was a rigorous appointments process based on merit and representativeness carried out by the councils and the Policing Board. All candidates were appointed by the Policing Board after meeting the criteria laid down. Appointments were made that reflected the composition of the local council areas in a number of ways including community background, achieving a balance of men and women and age.
“Republicans are as entitled as anyone else to be appointed as independent members of the local District Policing Partnerships. The DPP’s will be more representative now than at any other time in the past. This is a development that people should welcome.”
26 March 2008
By Philip Bradfield
The DUP has marked the first anniversary of its devolution deal with Sinn Fein by predicting the end of the IRA Army Council this year.
Today marks a year to the day since Ian Paisley and Gerry Adams agreed to go into devolved government on May 8.
Last night both parties looked back positively on what they had achieved.
Asked how he now viewed the past year, DUP MP and Junior Minister Jeffrey Donaldson said that much progress had been made.
“We have established stability for our political institutions and local politicians are getting down to the business of providing good government,” he said.
“While there is still a long way to go we have completed together a Programme for Government and a Budget which will deliver an improved economic situation for everyone in Northern Ireland.”
Although the work was not complete, keeping government in local hands was in everyone’s interest, he said.
“There are still unresolved issues, for example, the continued existence of the IRA Army Council.
“But we are confident that these wil
l be resolved and well bedded in before the end of 2008.”
Mr Donaldson said that the historic deal between the two party leaders had substantially raised the stock of Northern Ireland internationally, which it was hoped could be built on during the planned international investment conference in May.
He said his party realised that many people have real concerns about power-sharing but that hopefully Northern Ireland had now moved away from its “terrible” past.
Sinn Fein Junior Minister Gerry Kelly had a similar analysis but did not mention the IRA Army Council.
Mr Kelly said both parties had made significant progress “despite the fact that people said the DUP and Sinn Fein would never do the deal”.
He noted that the parties had dealt with water rates and the Review of Public Administration.
Mr Kelly added: “We expect further progress to be made in the coming 12 months.”
By Robbie Smyth
27 March 2008
AS THE Strategic Review into Parading in the North raises the possibility of a new code of conduct for loyalist and republican bands An Phoblacht interviews a veteran band organiser and asks what is the future for republican flute bands today.
BY THE TIME you read this, the Belfast Martyrs Republican Flute Band will be gathering for one of its twice-weekly practice sessions. Over the Easter weekend, the band played at seven different events, travelling from Roddy McCorley’s in West Belfast to other commemorations in the city and as a far south as Meath.
Bill Groves, one of the Martyrs’ organisers and a member of different bands for 20 years, spoke to An Phoblacht last weekend for half an hour in the middle of a busy touring schedule that would put some of the world’s so-called hard-working rock bands to shame as the Belfast Martyrs are young, unpaid volunteers, giving up their free time week in, week out. They are not just playing at commemorations and a host of local community events but can be the hub of the republican community and are also perhaps the most visible face of republicanism on the streets today.
Bill jokes that some of the band members were jaded, not from the hectic schedule of the Easter events but from a weekend also spent putting up bunting, flags and posters for the Belfast Easter commemorations – and leafleting too!
Forming a band is not cheap. When I ask why, the answer is simple. Flutes come at £70 to £100 a time. A piping band has to find over £600 for each set of pipes. Then comes the drums: £400 for a new drum and up to £600 for a bass drum. That’s not counting the uniforms, which can run to £350. And don’t overlook finding somewhere to practice. Finally, there is transport (the Belfast Martyrs meet their own expenses), not jets or luxury limousines but hiring a bus to entertain us at Bodenstown last year cost them £400.
There are just 20 republican flute bands in Ireland; 20 years ago there was nearly double that. “The wider republican movement has taken the bands for granted,” Bill Groves says, explaining that the amount of work the bands put in is outstanding and bands will travel the length of the country to facilitate republican events, commemorations, rallies, marches, festivals and so on. Despite this, it often comes across that the organisers are doing the band a favour rather than the opposite being the case. If you have been to a commemoration or rally, it is the band that provides the backbone to these events, which without flutes and drums would be anaemic, drab affairs.
There are not enough bands in Ireland, according to Groves, who tells An Phoblacht of the range of positive spin-offs that come from having a successful local band in your community. The bands, he says, create “a positive social circle, which takes members away from the temptation of anti-social behaviour and creates a sense of shared camaraderie”.
Band members who are often part of Ógra or Sinn Féin view themselves as playing an integral part in modern republican activism. Band members have “an intense pride in what they do and constantly strive for perfection in their performances”.
One thing that is clear about the republican flute bands is how they have changed and developed along with republican struggle. Most of the bands playing now have origins that map the last phase of the struggle, starting up in the 1970s, 1980s and even more recently. A very few have links back to the Hibernians but most are new entities borne out of the more recent conflict. Bill Groves says, “Bands are always changing: as the politics changed, we changed,” and he cites examples of the names of bands changing, the uniforms and, most crucially, the musical influences that spread across a diverse range of sources going from the Irish Brigade to Simon and Garfunkel!
Now with a strategic review into parades as part of the Good Friday Agreement, republican bands are working to move again, in a way that will grow bands as part of Sinn Féin’s development across the island. Talks on forming a band alliance have been underway to find a common ground to develop republican bands in all areas through simple co-operation on accessing funding and other forms of assistance.
The question of the uniforms and other symbols on drums has been raised in the unionist community so I ask Bill about the origins of the uniforms in republican flute bands. He said that, in the 1970s and 1980s, young republicans looked up to the IRA in a romantic vision of the soldier in struggle and that the evolving fashion of camouflage trousers, boots, beret and sunglasses were a relatively cheap option when it came to bands short on funding and from poverty-stricken neighbourhoods creating a uniform. “But if we are engaging with loyalism and want them to change, we have to change too.”
“Without bands,” Bill says, “the commemorations will lose some of their impact and other events will lose some of the energy that republicanism should be about. And so we need to build on the strength and wealth of experience that is out there right now. We still need to give young people a role in republicanism and the flute bands are the starting point for this.”
Though small in numbers across the island, the band movement is still vibrant. A quick internet search will show any number of performances on YouTube. Then there are band websites – Éire Nua’s being very slick – and then there are an endless amount of Bebo, MySpace and Facebook pages with photos and videos of band members proud of their band identity and affiliation.
Throughout the interview, Bill Groves returns to two themes: the positive role bands can play in the lives of the young members and the communities they come from, and his core message that, ‘We need bands more than ever.’
27 March 2008
BRIAN KEENAN joined the IRA in 1968. In the intervening 40 years he became one of the IRA’s foremost strategists and a thorn in the side of British imperialism.
Shortly after joining the IRA, Brian went on the run and spent the next 25 years living apart from his wife, Chrissie, his children and his grandchildren.
He served 16 years in various jails across England in Special Secure Units (SSUs).
His pivotal role in the struggle was recognised last month when he was among the honourees at this year’s Le Chéile celebration.
Photo: Brian receives award at the recent Le Chéile event in Dublin
Ahead of that honour, Brian spoke to JIM GIBNEY for the first time publicly about his life as a husband and father of six children, as an IRA activist, his years in jails in England and the influences that shaped his early life.
This is the first instalment of a three-part feature where Brian Keenan tells us, in his own words, what has driven one of the most formidable foes the might of the British state has ever faced.BRIAN KEENAN was born on Belfast’s New Lodge Road in 1941 into a family of six children.
His family home was hit by a Luftwaffe bomb during the blitz on Belfast during the Second World War and the family was evacuated to South Derry, where the young Brian started primary school before returning to Belfast when the Second World War was over.
For the entire Second World War his father, Harry, joined the fight against Hitler as a member of the British Royal Air Force. He was based in England at Packlington RAF Bomber Command Base aerodrome, from where the RAF ran regular bombing raids on Germany and Nazi-occupied Europe.
During the war his mother Jean raised the family on her own.
His father rarely spoke about his years in the RAF or the war despite being awarded a commendation for bravery when he saved the crew of a bomb-laden airplane which had crash landed on take-off. The King of England also acknowledged his bravery in a quotation in the London Gazette.
Brian’s father and a comrade waded knee-deep through thousands of gallons of aviation fuel, pulled the stunned crew from the stricken aircraft and dragged them from a potential inferno and almost certain death.
It took Brian many years to understand his father’s motivation in joining the RAF. His father had joined the boys’ RAF service at 15 in 1924. It was a way out of poverty for the teenager like thousands of other Irish men before him.
In time, and after many heated rows, Brian came to realise that his father was “a man of integrity, a courageous man, a man of his times, who did things according to his lights. He was a clever man, educated at Harding Street School.”
One of life’s interesting twists of fate is that Packlington aerodrome became the site on which Full Sutton Prison was built. Brian’s father would have walked the base on duty. Brian himself walked the same terrain as a political prisoner. He was a prisoner in Full Sutton. Both their feet traversed the same piece of ground separated by nearly 40 years of time and two different types of war entirely.
When the Second World War was over, Brian’s father returned to Belfast and the Keenan family set up home on Belfast’s West Circular Road.
Belfast in the 1940s was a tough place for people rearing a family. Work and money were scarce and service in the British forces was of little benefit to those coming home to poverty.
From a very young age Brian carried a hurl with him as often as he could.
“In my youth, republicanism did not come into it. I was always nationally minded. I played hurling as a teenager.”
The hurl was also a magnet for the attention of sectarian bigots on the Shankill and Springfield roads, which Brian had to pass through on his way to school or training at the GAA’s Corrigan Park on the Falls Road. He was often attacked.
As he was growing up he experienced at first-hand the sectarianism that was prevalent for Belfast Catholics.
“Sectarianism was a way of life. Sectarian tension was always there. It didn’t stop you going about Belfast but you were always aware that you could end up in a fist-fight if you travelled too far from the safety of your home streets.”
It was this sectarianism that led a loyalist mob to the door of his family home to drive his mother and father out of their house at the onset of ‘The Troubles’ in 1969.
It was also the first time Brian Keenan carried a gun. With other armed IRA Volunteers, he arrived to protect his family and bring them to safety.
Brian was angry and wanted to burn his parents’ house to the ground. The previous week, his grandmother had died and his father had had a heart attack and was in hospital. His mother told him very firmly: “If you touch a brick of that house, you’re no son of mine!”
Brian’s mother’s generosity was absent from the family whose house the Keenans got. Self-proclaimed Christians, they destroyed as much of the house as they could before they left.
Sectarianism was not confined to the streets of Belfast. It was also in the workplace where Brian, in his first-ever job, personally experienced “second-class citizenship”.
It was while working as an apprentice electronics engineer that Brian joined the Electrical Trade Union (ETU), one of the more radical unions of the time. He was 16.
“I first became acutely aware that I was regarded and treated as a second-class citizen when I started work. I was an apprentice engineer. Engineering was the preserve of Protestants. From day one I was made to feel second class. In those days you kept your head down. You were lucky to have a job and you wanted to keep it.”
In 1958, Brian moved to England to escape the sectarian harassment he was experiencing in work.
He continued his apprenticeship in Luton in a firm which made guided missiles and it was there he met trade unionists involved in the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND). They refused to build missiles designed for offensive purposes but built defensive missiles.
His involvement in trade unionism deepened and he attended his first union convention as a delegate when he was just 17.
While in the Luton factory and the ETU his class consciousness began to take shape and it was from this point onwards that he analysed politics through a “class prism”.
He is not sure where his interest in class politics came from. There were no members of his family who were staunch trade unionists, although his father was active in housing issues on the West Circular Road and was chairperson of the local tenants’ association in the early 1950s when few others had such an interest.
He thinks he may have acquired his early social conscience from his dad’s involvement in local community politics.
While in England, in 1960, Brian married Chrissie. He moved back to Belfast in 1963 where he continued his involvement with the ETU and trade union politics.
“From a young age my political outlook was shaped by my interest in trade unions. My brother was in the boiler-makers’ union.”
Brian got a class perspective on politics from his involvement in union work, strikes and working conditions.
The two big influences on him were the GAA and trade unionism. His uncle was in the IRA in the 1920s so that probably had a bearing as well.
“There were no overt republican politics in my house as I was growing up.
“In fact, I remember having a row with my mother when she found a copy of The United Irishman beneath my mattress. I had bought the paper at a GAA match in Thurles.”
By the time Brian was 21 his political outlook was formed. He was very much on the left wing of politics and has stayed there to this day. By 21 he had read Connolly’s works and Mellows’ writings.
“To me, republicanism is an ideology which should be firmly fixed socially and economically.
“To me, the enemy was capitalism and the system of exploitation.
“To me, the national question was always a class question.
“Most republicans see it in terms of British troops occupying the North. I see it in those terms as well but I also apply a socialist analysis.
“From 17 I was reading something or other. One of the first books was The Ragged Trousered Philanthropist, The War of the Flea, Small is Beautiful, and I read about the Buddhist approach to economics.
“I was against nationalism and I was critical of republicans in the Movement in the late 1960s/early seventies who limited their politics to nationalism.
“I don’t believe there is any form of benign nationalism. And I’m not speaking about people who are proud of their country, nor am I speaking about the positive role national liberation movements play in bringing about social and economic change.
“Looking back on the 1930s and 1940s, I could understand the difficulties that republicans like Peadar O’Donnell, George Gilmore and Frank Ryan had with right-wing people in Óglaigh na hÉireann.
“Over the years I met a lot of republicans from the ‘40s. I don’t want to be cruel to them because they were good people. They kept the struggle going in difficult times. But they relied too much on the politics of the gun.
“Their vision was a united Ireland, plain and simple. It didn’t matter on whose terms as along as it was a united Ireland.
“In the 1960s, the IRA was not an organisation working-class people could identify with.
“They were secretive, in many cases elitist, and, in some cases, family driven. It was almost hereditary to be in the Movement. It was organised around a number of well-known families in Belfast.
“Most republicans did not understand working-class and related politics. They were organised for a different purpose.
“Their focus was on independence and the politics which revolved around this. Class politics did not interest the most of them.
“Republicans, by their nature, were part of a conspiratorial movement.
“Republicans and the IRA made little impact on the plight of working-class people in Belfast.
“Some republicans labelled me a communist because of my trade union involvement. That annoyed me because people did not know what they were talking about. I was primarily interested in class politics and couldn’t understand why republicans would approve of non-unionised labour and being associated with people who owned firms that paid less than the union rates.
“My experience in trade union politics was drawn on by the IRA in 1966. I was asked to prepare a document for the Army Convention. I used a document I worked on for trade unionists in England called the Red Arrow Agreement. I gave that to one of the IRA’s leaders in Belfast. I don’t know what happened to it.”
Brian was active in workers’ rights campaigns. He trained people in his flat in Turf Lodge in this area.
“I was involved in organising a number of strikes. I got a reputation as a militant trade unionist and was blacklisted by my union, the ETU. I couldn’t get work. I had six children. It was a hard time. There was not a lot of money about.
“I got a job in Grundig on the management side of things. I built up a good relationship with the trades unions.”
While a foreman at Grundig’s, a German firm in Belfast, Brian experienced the hidden system of preferential treatment which was commonplace and which ensured discrimination in favour of Protestants in the workplace.
He supervised an applicant seeking a job as an engineer only to discover the applicant knew nothing about engineering. When Brian refused to employ him the interviewee said to him: “Have you not been told? This is all arranged.”
Brian promptly showed him the door only to be approached by one of the other foremen at the factory seeking an explanation for his actions. The applicant was a ‘B’ Special.
It was this hidden system of discrimination which relied on family connections, home address, and school name that ensured Protestants received preferential treatment.
This, and the more obvious discrimination practised by the sectarian, Six-County state, saw Brian Keenan propelled into becoming active in the Civil Rights Movement and to joining the Irish Republican Army. Things would never be the same again.
• NEXT WEEK: From civil rights to armed struggle
27 March 2008
A former IRA leader is to join Fermanagh District Policing Partnership (DPP).
Sean Lynch, who was jailed for 12 years for attempting to bomb an Army patrol, survived an SAS ambush.
The appointment has angered Ulster Unionist councillor and MLA Tom Elliott.
“Let’s remember that just a decade ago that this member was a leader of the IRA in the Maze prison,” said Mr Elliott.
“What I want to know is is he totally committed to Northern Ireland, is he totally committed to the betterment of the province and the betterment of policing in Northern Ireland?
“And has he left the IRA or is he still a member? I think these are questions that need to be answered.”
However, Sinn Fein’s ALex Maskey defended the party’s decision.
“Republicans are as entitled as anyone else to be appointed as independent members of the local district policing partnerships,” he said.
District policing partnerships are made up of councillors and members of the local community, who work alongside the Police Service of Northern Ireland’s 29 District Command Units in trying to meet local community policing needs.
By Colin O’Carroll
24 March 2008
THE daughter of a man killed in an IRA bomb attack by Frank ‘Bap’ McGreevy, who died after being savagely beaten just over a week ago, says she forgave the bomber and feels pity for his family.
Jean Morrison, whose father John Smiley, 55, died in the blast at the Klondyke Bar on Sandy Row in south Belfast in January 1976, said that despite forgiving her father’s killers, she wanted the victims of the numerous tragedies of the Troubles to be remembered.
Mrs Morrison, who still lives in Sandy Row, told a Sunday newspaper that she held no hatred or spite against her father’s killer, but felt that he and others had been forgotten.
“That man suffered a bad death, but so did my daddy.”
She said she felt for the McGreevy family. It was the people left behind who had to carry on, she said, and her family was still dealing with the grief over her father’s murder.
“It is the people who are left behind who have to carry the burden, and we are still carrying that burden of tragedy and sorrow and grief.”
McGreevy was convicted of murder and other offences after the Klondyke bar attack during one of the bloodiest years of the Troubles.
Many people were also left seriously injured, including a barmaid who lost an eye.
She later gave evidence against McGreevy, but was said to have never fully recovered from the attack and died three years later.
The bomber served 17 years in prison before being released in the early 1990s.
Frank McGreevy, 51, died after being beaten at his home in Ross Street in the lower Falls area of west Belfast on Saturday, March 15.
He was discovered lying injured by his 15-year-old son, Francis. He was taken to hospital and put on a life support machine, but died on Tuesday.
He has another son, Tiernan, aged nine.
Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams gave a eulogy at his funeral on Saturday.
The coffin was draped in an Irish tricolour and had a beret and gloves placed on top, indicating his membership of the IRA.
Mr Adams told mourners at the funeral at St Peter’s C
athedral that Mr McGreevy was a well-known and well-respected figure in the area who he had known since the early 1970s.
“I never for a moment thought that I would be standing here on Easter Saturday morning giving an oration at the graveside of Bap McGreevy,” he said.
“He loved his clan. He loved music. He loved Celtic. He was extremely proud of his two sons. Those who murdered him have no concept of any of this.
“His terrible death has created a storm.”
Mr McGreevy’s killing and the subsequent community anger at the attack echo the murder of another man in west Belfast last year.
Greengrocer Harry Holland died after being stabbed with a screwdriver when he confronted teenagers trying to steal his car from outside the family home in Andersonstown.
Thomas Valliday, 20, who handed himself into police following the attack on Mr McGreevy, has been charged with his murder.
25 March 2008
Four Derry men charged with IRA membership have been remanded in custody by the Special Criminal Court today.
Thirty-eight-year-old Gary Donnelly, with an address at Kildrum Gardens, 28-year-old Michael Gallagher, from Sackville Court, Martin Francis O’Neill, of Colmcille Court, and 39-year-old Patrick John McDaid, from Marlborough Street, all from Derry city, are charged with membership of an unlawful organisation styling itself the Irish Republican Army, on March 16th.
They were arrested during a garda operation into the activities of dissident republicans in Co Donegal.
The case will be mentioned again in four weeks.
25 March 2008
By Linda Pressly
BBC Radio 4’s Law In Action looks at how organisations with their roots in the Troubles still have a role in Northern Ireland’s justice system.
Margaret did not report the incident to the police
“I’ve come because some people have come to the door with guns demanding money, and I haven’t got the money to give them.”
Margaret – who did not want to be identified – was anxious and tearful. She was one of the first to appear at the offices of Community Restorative Justice Ireland (CRJ) on the Twinbrook Estate, a Catholic area of West Belfast, that morning.
Margaret did not consider calling the police after she and her family were threatened by those two armed men.
Like many in this part of Belfast, she is deeply mistrustful of the police. Instead, Margaret rang Jim McCarthy – one of the leading lights of CRJ.
CRJ and its counterparts in the Protestant community were organisations founded in the early 1990s – a non-violent response to punishment beatings and shootings.
They began to deal with criminal and anti-social behaviour at a time when normal policing was almost absent.
These days CRJ deals with everything from neighbour disputes and anti-social behaviour to domestic violence and more serious crimes.
The two men who appeared at Margaret’s door demanding £10,000 claimed to be from a Republican group.
Jim McCarthy is a former Republican prisoner who works for CRJ
Jim McCarthy is well connected, and one of several former Republican prisoners who work for CRJ. He checked the men’s claims with his contacts.
They were false. Margaret was relieved because anyone on the wrong side of organisations like the IRA still faces ostracism in the Catholic community.
Jim McCarthy thought the family was singled out for extortion because Margaret’s partner Barry once had a run-in with republicans years ago.
“They know that Margaret and Barry won’t go to the police,” he said. “They think that Barry wouldn’t come to us either because of the conflict he had with Republicans 20 years ago.
So these men see the family as an easy touch – here’s money that can be extorted and it won’t be reported.”
Jim McCarthy tried to persuade Margaret to report the men to the police. She refused.
“I don’t have any involvement with the police, and I don’t want to,” she said.
While Margaret and Jim McCarthy talked in the front office, in the kitchen at the back the other CRJ workers were chatting with a visitor.
A police officer, Sgt Peter Brannigan from Lisburn Area Command, discussed some of the other on-going cases at CRJ over a cup of tea.
It is only since Sinn Fein signed up to support the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) last year that Sgt Brannigan has had a formal relationship with CRJ.
“If you look at what’s been achieved in a short space of time it’s nothing short of impressive,” he said.
According to Sgt Brannigan, in the last year CRJ has brought a significant number of cases to the police. CRJ workers have also accompanied officers to victims’ homes to give them the confidence to make a statement.
But some within the Nationalist community are suspicious of CRJ. Two and a half years ago Bernadette O’Rawe’s nephew was called to a meeting at a CRJ office after he was involved in a local dispute. She says her nephew was coerced.
“It’s a well-known fact that many people in CRJ come from IRA backgrounds. And people in the community see a bit of muscle there. People are still frightened of the IRA; there’s no doubt about that.”
At the Twinbrook office, Jim McCarthy denied CRJ uses coercion to get results.
He and Sgt Brannigan swapped notes on Margaret’s story. But unless she was willing to make a statement, there was no case. Jim McCarthy insisted that any information that came his way about the two armed men would go straight to the police.
Generations of mistrust
CRJ has been criticised for being selective about the information it gives to the police about crime.
This is something Northern Ireland’s Chief Inspector of Criminal Justice, Kit Chivers, will be addressing.
He is currently inspecting CRJ with a view to accrediting it, and bringing it under the auspices of the criminal justice system. Similar Protestant organisations in Northern Ireland have already been accredited.
Margaret left CRJ’s Twinbrook office that morning feeling safer. Jim McCarthy had arranged for a number of well-known Republicans to drop in on her family at home. They hoped these public visits would scare away the extortionists.
In Nationalist communities, the PSNI is confronting generations of mistrust that hardened through decades of the Troubles.
Margaret felt it was only CRJ that offered her any kind of recourse to justice. And until people like her decide to report crime to the police, the justice gap in Northern Ireland will remain.
Monday, 24 March 2008 22:16
Police in Derry came under attack this afternoon by a crowd of up to 70 people following what is believed to have been a dissident republican parade.
A PSNI spokesman said the trouble began when they attempted to speak to the organisers of what was believed to be an illegal parade in the cemetery area.
Petrol bombs, stones, bottles, and paint containers are reported to have been thrown at police.
Two teenagers, aged 15 and 16, were arrested and more than 40 petrol bombs were recovered.
It came after a quiet start to the loyalist marching season earlier today, when members of the Apprentice Boys of Derry gathered in Richhill, Co Armagh.
A small but contentious feeder parade in North Belfast this morning passed off without incident.
The small police presence in and around Ardoyne was a major contrast to some previous years. The number of nationalist protestors, around two dozen, was also reduced.
Around 20 members of the Apprentice Boys of Derry accompanied by one band walked along Crumlin Road on their way to a parade in Belfast city centre.
In accordance with a Parades Commission ruling, only a hymn was played by the band as they passed along the controversial section of the route.
The Belfast members then travelled to Richhill in Co Armagh where the main Apprentice Boys of Derry demonstration is being held.
The Parades Commission chairman Roger Poole said last week he hoped the Easter period would be respected on all sides. He called on all those involved in parades this Easter to set a positive tone for the year ahead.
Sunday, 23 March 2008
Nationalists and republicans have been staging Easter Rising commemorations
Irish President Mary McAleese inspects troops outside the GPO
Thousands of people lined Dublin’s O’Connell Street for a military parade, including an Irish Air Corps fly-past.
The ceremony was attended by Irish President Mary McAleese and taoiseach Bertie Ahern, along with Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness.
The events mark the attempt in 1916 to seize Dublin from British imperial forces. The rebellion was put down with many ringleaders captured and executed.
In the early 1970s, during the Troubles in Northern Ireland, the military parades were stopped and Dublin’s official commemorations became more low-key before being brought back in 2006 upon the 90th anniversary.
Heavy fighting took place in central Dublin in 1916
Thousands of people turned out for the Dublin parade, which included a wreath-laying ceremony, military marching bands and a fly-past salute.
The centrepiece of the event was a reading of the proclamation, as read out in Easter 1916 by rising figurehead Padraig Pearse at the General Post Office.
The SDLP’s Margaret Ritchie and Alasdair McDonnell were also at the Dublin event.
It was one of more than 100 commemorations being held, including some organised by Sinn Féin.
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Jim Murphy Apr. 24th 1974
Paul Best Feb. 18th 1976
Colm Mulgrew June 5th 1976
Derek Highstead July 16th 1976
Noel Jenkinson Oct. 9th 1976
Maire Drumm Oct. 28th 1976
Seán Ó Conaill Oct. 1st 1977
Peter Corrigan Oct. 25th 1982
Jeff McKenna Nov. 8th 1982
Paddy Brady Nov. 16th 1984
John Davey Feb. 14th 1989
Tommy Casey Oct. 26th 1990
Sam Marshall Mar. 7th 1990
Eddie Fullerton May 24th 1991
Pádraig O Seanacháin Aug. 12th 1991
Tommy Donaghy Aug. 16th 1991
Bernard O’Hagan Sept. 16th 1991
Pat McBride Feb. 4th 1992
Paddy Loughran Feb. 4th 1992
Danny Cassidy Apr. 2nd 1992
Sheena Campbell Oct. 16th 1992
Malachy Carey Dec 12th 1992
Peter Gallagher Mar. 24th 1993
Alan Lundy May 1st 1993
Pat McGeown Oct. 1st 1996
2008 Republican Roll of Remembrance
• Vol. Jim O’Hanlon, Belfast
• Vol. Terry Toolan, Belfast
• Vol. Jackie Mooney, Belfast
• Vol. Michael Neil, Belfast
• Vol. John Joe Martin, Leitrim
• Vol. Colm Mulvihill, Leitrim
• Cathy McGartland, Belfast
(Cumann na gCailíní)
• Vol. Gerry McKiernan, Armagh
• Vol. Paddy Mulligan, Lisnaslea
• Vol. Jimmy Connolly, Fermanagh
• Vol. Stevie Scullion, Belfast
• Vol. Jackie McCartan, Belfast
• Vol. James E McKenna, Roslea
• Vol. Charlie McGlade, Dublin
• Vo.l Joe Buckley, Dublin
• Vol. John Joe McGirl, Leitrim
• Vol. Bridie O’Neill, Belfast
• Vol. Liam McDonagh, Belfast
• Vol. Tim McGarry, Donegal
• Vol. Liam Mullholland, Belfast
• Vol. Francie McGirl, Leitrim
• Vol. Packie Duffy, Monaghan
• Vol. Tim Daly, Monaghan
• Vol. Damien McFadden, Donegal
• Vol. Mick Sheehan, Dublin
• Vol. Bob Smith, Dublin
• Vol. Paddy McManus, Belfast
• Vol. Rita McGlynn, Dublin
• Vol. Mick Murray, Dublin
• Vol. Terry Clarke, Belfast
• Vol. Seán Rehill, Leitrim
• Vol. Gary Toner, Armagh
• Vol. Patrick Rooney, Roslea
• Vol. Tom Cahill, Belfast
• Vol. JB O’Hagan, Lurgan
• Vol. Jimmy Drumm, Belfast
• Vol. Barney McFadden, Derry
• Vol. Paddy O’Hagan, Tyrone
• Vol. Johnny Copeland, Belfast
• Vol. Danny O’Hagan, Belfast
• Vol. Barney McKenna, Belfast
• Vol. Seán Campbell, Tyrone
• Vol. Anne McCoy, Toome
• Fian Neil McCrory, Belfast
• Vol. Eddie Brophy, Belfast
• Vol. Seán O’Neill, Belfast
• Vol. Kathleen Thompson, Belfast
• Vol. Kathleen Carmichael, Belfast
• Vol. Con McHugh, Belfast
• Vol. Paddy Mullan, Derry
• Vol. Jim Friel, Derry
• Vol. Harry McCartney, Armagh
• Vol. Joe Cahill, Belfast
• Vol. Marie Wright, Belfast
• Vol. Hugh Duffy, Derry
• Vol. Liam Casey, South Derry
• Vol. Raymond Wilkinson, Belfast
• Alfie Hannaway, Belfast
• Tony Curry, Belfast
• Mary Hughes, Belfast, Sinn Féin
• Joe Ennis, Cavan, Sinn Féin
• Jackie Callaghan, Belfast, Sinn Féin
• John Huddleston, Belfast, Sinn Féin
• Pat O’Hare, Belfast, Sinn Féin
• Margaret McKenna, South Derry, Sinn Féin
• Gerry Loughran, Monaghan, Sinn Féin
• Harry Crawford, Belfast
• Mary McGreevy, Belfast
• Geraldine McMahon, Belfast
• Paddy Shanahan, Dublin
• Gerry Campbell, Belfast
• Gonne Carmichael, Belfast
• David Thompson, Belfast, Sinn Féin
• Joe McGilloway, Derry, Sinn Féin
• Matt Devlin, Tyrone, Sinn Féin
• Brendan Dorris, Tyrone, Sinn Féin
• Vol. Daithí Forde, Wexford
• Vol. Kevin Fallon, Leitrim
• Philip McDonald, Monaghan
• Vol. Francie Caraher, South Armagh
• Vol. Kevin Caherty, South Armagh
• Brian Campbell, Newry
• Vol. Siobhán O’Hanlon Belfast
• Vol. Eileen Hickey Belfast
• Vol. Billy Reid Belfast
• Vol. Robert Murphy Belfast
• Vol. Gerald Fearon South Armagh
• Vol. Liam Farrelly South Armagh
• Vol. Jackie McGrane Dundalk
• Vol. Eamonn McCann Lurgan
• Vol. Eugene McMahon Fermanagh
• Vol. Cathal Quinn Tyrone
• Patsy McMahon, Tyrone, Sinn Féin
• Barney McAleer, Tyrone, Sinn Féin
• Michael Ferguson, Belfast, Sinn Féin
• Mary McGuigan, Ardoyne
• Sally Kearney, Turf Lodge
• Geordie Shannon, Turf Lodge
• Volunteer Martin Meehan (Belfast)
• Volunteer Owen McCaughey (Tyrone)
• Volunteer Mickey McAnespie (Tyrone)
• Benny Connolly (Dublin)
• Brian O’Gorman (Dublin)
• Jim Hyland (Laois)
An Phoblacht 20/3/2008
On this the 92nd Anniversary of the 1916 Rising, the leadership of Óglaigh na hÉireann extends solidarity to the families of our patriot dead.
We remember, with pride, our comrades from every generation who have given their lives for the cause of Irish freedom and independence.
We extend solidarity to our imprisoned comrades and their families.
This year marks a number of important anniversaries in the republican calendar. We applaud those across the country who have organised in their local areas to commemorate these events.
When we gather to honour our patriot dead, we do so to celebrate their lives and to recommit ourselves to achieving our republican objectives.
We are proud of our patriot dead and we are proud of their families.
Our task and that of all Irish republicans is to shape the future through our commitment to achieving our goal of a united Ireland.
Since 28 July 2005 IRA Volunteers are playing a positive role in the new phase of our struggle. You have entered into this with energy and vigour. We commend this work and appeal to everyone to continue until we achieve our objectives.
The ideals and principles enshrined in the Proclamation of 1916 remain as relevant today as they ever were.
We have proven that together, in unity and with comradeship, we can advance our struggle. Let us rededicate ourselves to that goal.
Ar an lá seo, an 92ú bliain de Chomóradh Éirí Amach na Cásca 1916 tugann ceannairacht Óglaigh na hÉireann dlúthphairtíocht do chlanna ár mairtírigh.
Cuimhnímid le bród ar ár gcuid comrádaithe ó gach glúin a d’éag ar son saoirse agus neamhspleachais na hÉireann.
Tugaimid dlúthphairtíocht dár gcomrádaithe i ngeibhinn agus dá gclanna.
Sonraíonn an bhliain seo roinnt ócáidí comóradh a bhí tabhachtach san fhéilire phoblachtach. Molaimid iad siud ar fud na tíre a d’eagraigh imeachtaí ina gceantair áitiúla.
Nuair a chruinnímid le chéile le hómos a thabhairt d’ár gcomrádaithe marbh déanaimid seo chun saolta na ndaoine seo a cheiliúradh agus chun sinn féin a tiomnú d’ár gcuspóirí poblachtacha.
Tá muid bródúil as ár laochra marbh agus bródúil as a gclanna.
‘S é an tasc atá romhainn agus atá roimh gach phoblachtánach ná an todhchaí a mhúnlú tríd an tiomantas atá againn le baint amach an sprioc ‘s againn d’Éire Aontaithe.
Tá Ógláigh d’en IRA ag imirt róil dearfach sa treimhse úr seo d’en streachtailt ó bhí 28ú Iúil 2005 ann.
Tá sibh i ndiaidh bheith páirteach ann le brí agus fuinneamh. Treaslaímid sibhse san obair seo agus guímid ar gach duine leanúint leis an obair go mbainfidh muid amach ár gcuid spriocanna.
Tá na hidéil agus na prionsabail cumhdaithe san Fhorógra 1916 chomh bainteach leis an saol atá inniu ann ná mar a bhí siad riamh.
Tá muid i ndiaidh taispeaint le chéile, in aontas agus le comrádachas gur féidir an streachailt s’againn a bhrú chun tosaigh. Atiomnaímís sinn féin d’en chuspóir sin.
Irish Republican Publicity Bureau,
Thursday, March 20, 2008
Irish President Mary McAleese was at the centre of another political storm last night – sparked by comments she made about a potential visit to the Republic by the Queen.
The Queen inadvertently walked into the latest row sparked by remarks from Mrs McAleese, who was forced to cancel a trip to Belfast four years ago even though she apologised for suggesting children in the province had been taught to hate Catholics in the same way Nazis learned to despise Jews.
Though the two heads of state appear to have made significant progress towards a Dublin visit – which would be the first by a reigning British monarch since partition in 1921 – Mrs McAleese said yesterday it could not happen until devolution is complete.
And she made clear that she meant when the devolution of policing and justice responsibilities takes place.
“I think the day is significantly closer,” said Mrs McAleese after meeting the Queen.
“We know that it is dependent on the completion of devolution, which hopefully will not be too far away. That means the return of policing and criminal justice responsibility to the Executive in Northern Ireland.
“We had hoped that would be May. Now we are not entirely sure what the time scale is. We hope it will keep closely to the timetable. When that is done, when devolution is completed, I think then anything is possible.”
Mrs McAleese said she thought it unlikely that a visit would take place this year, but she hoped one could take place “sooner rather than later.”
Outraged unionists last night slammed the President’s statement and warned it would prove counterproductive for the policing and justice hand-over.
Ulster Unionist leader Sir Reg Empey said he was angered by the statement which he said would be interpreted as pressuring unionists over policing and justice, which had been the “most sensitive issue” over the past 30 years.
And the DUP’s Stephen Moutray said it seemed almost every statement by Mrs McAleese actively sought “to antagonise the unionist population.”
On the issue of the Queen visiting Dublin, however, Mrs McAleese three years ago revealed the British and Irish Governments were agreed it should take place and that the timing would be for them to decide.
But speaking after a Cooperation North venture in London with the Queen, she also said it would be depended on the “successful development” of the political process in Northern Ireland “over time.”
Mrs McAleese, who is expected to be present again today at the first Royal Maundy Thursday money to be distributed in Northern Ireland, is known to be in regular contact with UDA chief Jackie McDonald, who has played golf with her husband, and to have supported several loyalist projects.
But Mr Empey last night argued: “I cannot fathom what this is designed to achieve and why there is all this pressure over this issue, which is even being linked into the economic conference in May. It is only likely to prove counter-productive.”
There was no immediate SDLP reaction but Sinn Fein Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness warned: “…if we can’t reach agreement, we are going to be in big trouble.”
Eye of Newt…
By Newton Emerson
What difference would devolved policing and justice powers have made for Frank McGreevy, who was fatally assaulted in his West Belfast home? Potentially a great deal. In fact, the proposed powers would easily allow our elected politicians to save lives.
Official proposals for devolved policing and justice powers were first published two years ago in an NIO discussion paper attached to the enabling legislation. This is the paper that was finally debated last week by the assembly and executive review committee, following an eight-month inquiry and consultation period.
The debate was reported as a failure because the parties failed to agree on a timetable. However, they broadly agreed on the nature of the devolved powers so timing is really all that is at stake. From the contents of the discussion paper, the inquiry and the debate it is possible to be quite precise on what powers will be available once the timing issue is resolved.
Youth custody and probation are key areas for delivering justice to West Belfast and other areas like it. Thomas Valliday, the 20-year-old man who handed himself in for questioning after the attack on Frank McGreevy, had been unlawfully at large from Hydebank Wood young offender’s centre for two weeks. One of the youths charged with the murder last year of West Belfast grocer Harry Holland had also just been released from youth custody, which should have meant probationary supervision.
Under the proposals for devolved policing and justice powers, a new ministerial department would have full control over the prison service, the probation board and the youth justice agency. The minister would appoint senior staff and determine policy. The assembly could legislate to change the structure and functions of these bodies and it could also bring in new offences and penalties. In short, Stormont could completely transform the approach to juvenile and youth offending.
Unfortunately, Sinn Fein has made it easy for the DUP to stall the devolution of these powers through its stance on the murders of Robert McCartney and Paul Quinn. The murder of Dennis Donaldson, while less of an issue with the electorate, is a matter of more concern within political circles because of what it suggests about the status and capability of the IRA. It must also be noted that Mr McGreevy was himself convicted of an IRA murder and republican eulogies about his character ring rather hollow alongside republican complaints about crime.
Nevertheless, Sinn Fein could still outflank the DUP on this issue by calling its bluff as the law and order party. Is Jeffrey Donaldson really prepared to let the Shinners paint him, accurately, as the man who lets hoods off the hook? The problem for Sinn Fein is that this tactic would call its own bluff as the human rights party. Is Gerry Kelly really prepared to let the human rights industry paint him as the man who locks up poor disadvantaged children?
The good news for Mr Kelly is that this accusation will not be accurate and it will not be made by the DUP. Devolution proposals have stated from the outset that neither the justice minister nor the assembly can take any action or pass any legislation which contravenes the European Convention on Human Rights. All boards and agencies within the new ministerial department must comply fully with the Human Rights Act while the department and every organisation within it will be automatically covered by the statutory equality provisions of the Good Friday Agreement.
Nothing in these rights and provisions would prevent a new minister from tightening up youth justice policy, which is why the local human rights industry is currently trying to replace them with a Bill of Rights that raises the age of
criminal responsibility to 18 and effectively abolishes youth and female custody. It is a scenario that places Sinn Fein and the human rights industry on a collision course. But crime in republican areas has placed Sinn Fein and its own electorate on a collision course so the only course ahead is clear.
Sinn Fein must distance itself from a taxpayer-funded human rights industry which has exceeded its remit and assumed a role that rightly belongs to our elected representatives. The fact that Sinn Fein would be able to sell this move to the DUP as a compromise is merely an added bonus.
20 March 2008
An unprecedented attack was launched today on the Sinn Féin president, Gerry Adams, in a west Belfast newspaper normally known to be fiercely loyal to the area’s MP and the republican movement.
“Squinter”, a columnist with the pro-Sinn Féin Andersonstown News, said that Adams is in part to blame for an upsurge in crime within the republican-dominated constituency.
The charge is significant because the paper has been a strong supporter of Adams and his political project for decades.
In the column, “Squinter”, who is in fact the brother of a Provisional IRA icon, criticised Adams for failing to tackle the crime issue in west Belfast.
Commenting on the murder last year of local shopkeeper Harry Holland and latterly the killing of ex-IRA prisoner Frank McGreevy last weekend, “Squinter” wrote: “Who’s to blame for the failure to press home the Harry Holland momentum? Gerry Adams is to blame, that’s who.
“He’s not the only one to blame, of course. But Gerry Adams is the MP, has been for 20 years. He’s supposed to know how to marshal and direct; he’s supposed to give us the ideas and the leadership; he’s supposed to make things better.
“When he asks for, and gets, our votes he accepts a host of very onerous responsibilities, and the most basic of those responsibilities is to make his constituency a good place for decent people to live and for parents to bring up their families. In that he has failed terribly.”
The republican writer who has been a strong supporter of Adams and Sinn Féin in the past said the west Belfast MP should “shoulder his share of the blame for the mess we’re in and stop blaming everybody else”.
He said: “Squinter has to say that he has never heard Adams accepting any responsibility for the fact that large parts of his constituency are no-go areas.”
In language unthinkable of the pro-republican newspaper even a year ago, “Squinter” described Adams as the “Oprah Winfrey of Irish-America” adding that come the next election he will “stay in the house in solidarity with those w ho are staying in their homes simply because they’re afraid to leave”.