You are currently browsing the monthly archive for May 2008.

Belfast Telegraph
Friday 30, May 2008

An inquest into the death of a former INLA member who died from multiple injuries after he was struck by an Army vehicle during rioting in Londonderry almost 12 years ago, was told that two key military witnesses to the incident have ignored legal requests for them to come forward to give evidence.

Daniel Moran, who was a private in the 1st Battalion The Highlanders, was the driver of the Saxon personnel carrier which struck Dermot McShane (36) during disturbances in Little James Street on July 13, 1996.

Coroner Brian Sherrard was told Mr Moran was the only soldier in the Saxon and had driven the vehicle against Army procedures. Mr Sherrard said he had written a letter to police in the jurisdiction where Mr Moran lives asking them to deliver it to him. The police handed the letter to Mr Moran, but so far he has failed to respond.

The other military witness who has not heeded the ruling is Simon Crane. He was a captain in the 1st Battalion The Highlanders and was the second most senior Army officer deployed in Derry on the night Mr McShane was killed.

The Coroner said the former captain had not responded to his summons to attend the inquest, so he has issued a subpoena which will be served on him through the High Court.

The inquest continues.

By Brian Hutton
Belfast Telegraph
Friday 30, May 2008

One of the men accused of the Omagh bomb gave selective explanations for suspected explosive materials found at his home, a court has heard.

Liam Campbell also denied a diary and mobile phone recovered in the raid belonged to him, a detective said.

The convicted terrorist and four other men are being sued by six families who believe they were responsible for the blast which killed 29 people, injuring hundreds more.

Det Garda Anthony Hearty said Campbell adopted a “no response” and “no reply” attitude to interrogation, and gave selective explanations to some of the exhibits recovered from his home which were shown to him under questioning.

The investigating officer said Campbell first denied any knowledge of tubing — similar to that used by the Real IRA for improvised bombs — found at his home, but later claimed he got it at a scrap yard to be used for petrol and diesel.

The accused said he bought disposable face masks in Jonesboro, Co Armagh days before his arrest to be used for weeding his garden, according to the detective.

Asked about walkie talkies and a CB radio he made no reply, but when pressed about insulating tape, similar to that used for improvised bombs, he denied ownership.

“His reply was: ‘That tape is not mine’,” Det Garda Hearty told the hearing, sitting at the District Court in central Dublin.

Michael McKevitt, the alleged leader of the Real IRA; Campbell, said to be his number two; Colm Murphy; Seamus McKenna and Seamus Daly all deny any involvement in the massacre in the Co Tyrone town on a busy Saturday afternoon in August 1998.

Det Garda Hearty told the civil case that tubing, tape, a CB radio, walkie talkies, face masks and gloves were recovered during the search of Campbell’s home at Upper Faughart, Dundalk in March 2000. The co-defendant was arrested at the scene under the Republic’s Offences Against the State Act, and questioned about being a member of the Real IRA. The accused insisted other items seized, including a mobile phone, did not belong to him.

“That’s not my diary, I’ve never seen the phone before,” it is alleged he said.

Det Garda Hearty added: “He was offered the opportunity to deny he was a member of the IRA and made no reply.”

Belfast Telegraph
Thursday 29, May 2008

A team of officers from the PSNI investigating the murder of Capt Robert Nairac, will fly to Britain to question former SAS chiefs, it emerged yesterday.

The detectives will meet the former officers at various locations in England and Scotland, including Hereford, the headquarters of the SAS.

Among those expected to be interviewed is General Sir Michael Rose, who commanded the SAS at the Iranian embassy siege in London in 1980, and during the 1982 Falklands war.

Gen Rose, who commanded G Squadron of the SAS when Nairac was operating in south Armagh, eventually became Adjutant General, the No2 in the British Army before retiring.

Another officer to be questioned is Col Clive Fairweather, who was at one time Gen Rose’s second-in-command of the SAS, and who was Nairac’s boss when he was kidnapped and murdered by an IRA gang.

The PSNI Major Incident Team recently took over investigation from the Historical Inquiries Team, which had already interviewed several people involved with the Grenadier Guards officer.

Captain Nairac, who was posing as a member of the Official IRA, was abducted from a pub in Drumintee, south Armagh, in May 1977, by at least seven men and severely beaten before being driven across the Irish border and beaten again. He was then murdered.

Two years after his death he was awarded a posthumous George Cross, second only to Britain’s highest gallantry decoration, the Victoria Cross.

It is believed the Queen herself demanded Nairac’s gallantry be recognised.

At the time of his death he was working as a military intelligence liaison officer with the army brigade responsible for security in south Armagh, liaising with the Army, police and special forces units operating in the area.

Last week, 57-year-old Kevin Crilly from Jonesborough in Co Armagh appeared in court in Newry on charges connected with Capt Nairac’s disappearance.

The police are also trying to extradite two other men from America whom they believe can help with their inquiries.

One detective said: “We are having to look at this whole murder with fresh eyes.

“We have greater resources and manpower than the HIT and we have a senior officer in charge who has had great success recently re-investigating old crimes, including murder.

“There are several people no longer around who thought they had got away with murder and other serious crimes until we caught up with them.

“We need to talk to these SAS people because we need to know exactly what was happening on the ground in that very dangerous area back then.

He added: “We shall re-visit their statements and re-interview them in case anything new surfaces.

“There have been many changes to investigations and the way evidence is gathered and has become admissible in the years since Capt Nairac’s murder.”

Although Capt Nairac’s parents have died, the detectives have been keeping the murdered officer’s two sisters up to date with their investigation.

One of their aims is to try to discover where the IRA gang buried his body. It is believed to have been placed in a shallow grave, then moved to another location near the border.

It is understood that former IRA men are to be interviewed and if any clues on the whereabouts of the body are unearthed, a search will be ordered.

One of the former SAS officers on the police list said yesterday: “I am sure we will all do everything we can to help the police.

“Neither we, nor the regiment, has anything to hide. Although he was not a member of the SAS he worked with us and we all feel it is time his body was returned to his family for a Christian burial.

“Robert faced a terribly brutal death and if there are more people out there who took part in this then it is our duty to help the police bring them to justice before the courts.”

The police are also believed to be planning to meet former members of the shadowy 14 Intelligence Company, the ‘hush-hush’ unit which shadowed many terrorists with whom Nairac also had close links.

A former commanding officer of the unit said: “There have been suggestions that he was one of ours, or in the SAS. He was in neither, but we will help the police in any way we can.”

GERRY MORIARTY, Northern Editor
Irish Times
**Via Newshound
30 May 2008

ELEMENTS OF the British state acted outside the law during the Troubles and it could even be affirmed that the state allowed innocent people to die, the Eames- Bradley consultative group on the past has reported.

The group made clear at a Belfast press conference yesterday that not only must republicans and loyalists own up to the death, destruction and grief they caused during the conflict but that the British security forces and its intelligence services must do likewise.

The heads of the group, the former Church of Ireland primate Lord (Robin) Eames and former policing board vice-chairman Denis Bradley, in a lengthy progress report, spoke of how many unionists blamed the Republic for “turning a blind eye” to the actions of the IRA and other republican groups.

In a passage delivered by Lord Eames, he said unionists had great difficulty coming to terms with the fact that the British state “not only sought to be an honest broker during the conflict but also played a combative role and, in this context, sometimes went beyond their own rules of engagement”.

“This is one of the critical issues facing us as a group, difficult as it may be for some in our society to hear, that elements of the state, on some occasions, acted outside the law and through handling of intelligence it could even be said innocent people were allowed to die.

“We cannot ignore that, in fact, the state sometimes acted illegally. If we are to move out of the past in a healthy way, then the state itself needs to acknowledge its full and complex role in the last 40 years,” said Lord Eames.

“Having to confront the state about acknowledging its wrongdoing must not take away from the majority of men and women in the RUC and UDR/RIR who did their duty and suffered appallingly and unjustly as a result.”

Lord Eames and Mr Bradley later this year are due to issue their recommendations on how to address the legacy of the past in Northern Ireland.

At the press conference they were uncompromising in insisting that the British and Irish governments and the paramilitaries face difficult challenges in assisting this process.

Their work is being frustrated by the refusal so far of the IRA to deal with Eames-Bradley, notwithstanding that the British intelligence service and members of the Stevens teams, examining allegations of British state collusion with loyalist paramilitaries, have spoken to the group.

The consultative group, however, has not given up on the IRA agreeing to a meeting. The UVF had “open and frank” discussions with the Eames-Bradley group earlier this year but the UDA has not agreed to talk to group. The group nonetheless hopes for progress too in this area.

Lord Eames and Mr Bradley said one of the resonating themes they heard from unionists was that the Irish State “turned a blind eye when republicans carried out attacks in Border areas and fled back South”, and that some unionists believed the Irish government “helped organise and arm the IRA in the early 1970s”.

Belfast Telegraph
By Ashleigh McDonald
Friday 30, May 2008

A witness giving evidence in the trial of murdered father-of-two Robert McCartney has revealed he decided to “tell the truth” to police after being given “clearance” from the IRA.

Ed Gowdy (40), from the Short Strand area of Belfast, also revealed he ” can’t remember 90%” of what happened the evening his friend was killed.

He told Belfast Crown Court he had been socialising with a group of men, including Mr McCartney and Brendan Devine, in Magennis’ bar on January 30 2005.

Following a brawl inside the bar during which Mr Devine had his throat cut, the row spilled onto the street and Mr McCartney was beaten and stabbed. He was found lying in a pool of blood at nearby Cromac Street and despite being rushed to hospital, he died the following morning.

Terence Davison (51) has been charged with the murder and with causing an affray. Two other men — James McCormick (47) and 39-year old Joseph Fitzpatrick — have also been charged with affray, while Fitzpatrick faces an additional charge of assaulting Mr Gowdy. All three accused deny the charges.

Under cross-examination by defence barrister Patrick Lyttle QC, who is representing Fitzpatrick, Mr Gowdy was asked about inconsistencies and varying versions of events he gave to police about the circumstances leading to the murder.

Mr Gowdy revealed he was initially reluctant to provide information due to what he believed was paramilitary involvement.

He told the court that following the killing, IRA members called to his house on several occasions to discuss what he had seen and what he would be telling police. He said: “As soon as I got clearance from the IRA, I made a statement to police.”

The statement in question — which was not the first statement he provided — was made in March 05 and was, he claimed, “the truth”.

During cross-examination by McCormick’s barrister Eilish McDermott QC he admitted that due to his alcohol intake on January 30 — over 10 pints of cider — he couldn’t remember 90% of what happened.

The 10% he could remember placed all three defendants in a crowd which he claimed was armed with sticks and bottles, included IRA members and which followed Mr McCartney and Mr Devine down Market Street.

He was also asked about an interview he gave to The Mirror in the wake of his friend’s murder.

He told a reporter that when the fight broke out in Magennis’, both he and Mr McCartney tried to get a badly wounded Mr Devine out of the premises.

Ms McDermott pointed out various inconsistencies between what he told police, what he told the newspaper and the evidence he had given in the trial about what happened in the bar.

She accused Mr Gowdy of exaggerating his role in the brawl, telling him ” you wanted to make yourself out to be the hero of the hour”.

Denying this, Mr Gowdy said: “I was told to tell the truth in court, the Daily Mirror is a totally different thing.”

BBC
29 May 2008

A friend of Robert McCartney, who is a witness at his murder trial, has said he was visited by representatives of the IRA within days of the killing.

Mr McCartney, 33, was beaten and stabbed to death outside a Belfast bar on 30 January 2005.

Ed Gowdy told Belfast Crown court he was told not to co-operate with police.

However, he said weeks later, an IRA army council representative told him he could talk to detectives. He then made a full statement on 10 March 2005.

Mr Gowdy, who was with Mr McCartney on the night he was killed, said his statements before that date had contained lies because he feared retribution from the IRA.

But under cross-examination, Mr Gowdy said he could not remember 90% of what had happened on the night and agreed he had been very drunk at the time.

Terence Davison, 51, of Stanfield Place, Belfast, denies murder.

Mr Davison is also accused of affray as are James McCormick, 39, and Joseph Gerard Emmanuel Fitzpatrick, 47.

Mr Fitzpatrick is further charged with an assault on another of Mr Cartney’s friends.

The trial continues.

BBC

The soldier driving the Army personnel carrier that killed Dermot McShane in July 1996 was responsible for his death, a police officer has said.

Dermot McShane, 36, a former INLA man, was run over during one of the worst weekends of rioting in Derry.

Police inspector Neil Graham said he ordered Private Daniel Moran to ram a metal skip which rioters were rolling towards police.

Instead, it rammed a wooden hoarding Mr McShane was sheltering behind.

Private Moran has refused to give evidence to the inquest.

The inquest, which began on Tuesday, continues at Bishop Street courthouse in Derry.

Belfast Telegraph
Thursday 29, May 2008

Robert McCartney’s best friend has revealed he saw a group of around ten men armed with sticks and bottles following Mr McCartney and another man down a side street on the night of his murder.

Edward Gowdy (40) was giving evidence at the trial of Terence Davison (51) who is accused of stabbing Mr McCartney to death on January 30, 2005 in Belfast. Davison denies the murder and a further charge of causing an affray.

Giving evidence yesterday from behind a screen to conceal his identity, Mr Gowdy said he was amongst a group of men socialising with Mr McCartney (33) in Magennis’ bar in the hours prior to the murder.

Mr Gowdy recalled a “noise and commotion” inside the bar at around 10.30pm. He told Belfast Crown Court: “I can remember a lot of shouting, blood everywhere and people effing and blinding at each other.”

It quickly emerged that Mr McCartney’s friend Brendan Devine had been injured in the fight and was bleeding from a wound to his neck.

The witness said: “I started ushering him up Market Street to get him away.”

He said that as Mr McCartney and Mr Devine were “half way up Market Street” he saw “a crowd of people” walking after them.

Mr Gowdy claimed there were 10 to 12 men — one of whom he identified as Mr Davison.

He said that when he approached the men he was “cracked across the face” with a stick wielded by 39-year-old Joseph Fitzpatrick, who is facing a charge of assaulting Mr Gowdy and of causing an affray on the same date. Mr Fitzpatrick, who Mr Gowdy knew as a doorman at Magennis’, denies both charges.

The trial continues.

BBC

The state must admit to illegal activity which led to the deaths of innocent people, the consultative group on the past has said.


Lord Eames and Denis Bradley co-chair the body

Lord Eames said the security forces had on occasion acted outside the law.

He and co-chair Denis Bradley have outlined key areas that need to be addressed if NI is to move forward.

Lord Eames said that “through handling of intelligence it could even be said innocent people were allowed to die”.

Lord Robin Eames and Denis Bradley will deliver a formal report in the summer to the secretary of state, including a number of recommendations.

The group have held a series of public meetings around Northern Ireland to get different perspectives on how to deal with the past.

Would the republican community like to have to tell an ageing mother that her martyred son was actually an informer?
Denis Bradley

Lord Eames said what many had great difficulty in coming to terms with was that “the state not only sought to be an honest broker during the conflict but also played a combative role and, in this context, sometimes went beyond their own rules of engagement”.

He added: “We cannot ignore that, in fact, the state sometimes acted illegally.”

“If we are to move out of the past in a healthy way then the state itself needs to acknowledge its full and complex role in the last 40 years.”

‘Reconciliation elusive’

The group’s final report would make suggestions on how that could be done, he said.

Mr Bradley said intelligence gathering and using informers was almost inevitable and had saved lives and stopped atrocities.

However, he added: “The scale of the use of informers throughout the conflict corroded the fabric of our communities and the constant pressure now exerted for information about informers to be revealed only serves to further undermine the well being of communities to a degree that could be poisonous.

“Would the republican community like to have to tell an ageing mother that her martyred son was actually an informer? That is what full disclosure could mean.”

He said the group was committed to addressing the legacy of the past “in a way that will promote a greater goal of reconciliation within and between our people”.

“We recognise that reconciliation remains an elusive and contested concept.

“For some of us this will mean being reconciled to the fact that our future is together, that we do share the land and its resources and a common sense of belonging to this place.”

The group said victims may not be able to get justice in the courts because of the passage of time and lack of evidence.

It called on republicans and loyalists to declare that the violence of the past would never happen again.

Sinn Fein said it had boycotted the event because of what it described as the group’s failure to invite republican victims’ groups.

However, a spokesman for the Consultative Group said it had not invited any victims’ groups to the event for fear of missing someone out.

Derry Journal

The officer in charge of policing in Derry on the night a thirty six year old local man was crushed to death by a British army personnel carrier twelve years ago, told an Inquest yesterday that he believed some of the officers under his command would be burnt to death.


Dermot McShane

Retired Supt. Derek Brown was giving evidence on the second day of the Inquest into the death of Dermot McShane, a separated man from Hollymount Park in the Waterside area of the city, who died on July 13, 1996 in Altnagelvin Hospital hours after he’d been run over by an eleven tonne Saxon vehicle during a weekend of rioting close to the city centre.

The Inquest was told that during disturbances in Derry linked to Orange Order parades in Drumcree and in Portadown, 1,200 petrol bombs were thrown at the security forces by rioters.

Mr. Brown told the jury that the rioting “was without doubt” one of the most ferocious riot situations that has ever occurred in this city.

“The police then did not have the fire retardant equipment available nowadays and there was a serious danger that police officers would be burnt alive”, he told Coroner Brian Sherrard.

“The violence that weekend was just horrendous. I just couldn’t put it into words”, he added.

Mr. Brown said that because of Loyalist violence in Drumcree and in Portadown, officers under his command had been deployed to those areas with the result that police resouces in Derry were down to a minimum.

He said there had been neither an anticipation nor intelligence reports to indicate the extent of trouble which took place in Derry on the weekend of July 11, 12 and 13, 1996.

He said he had to call in officers who were scheduled to go on leave, officers who were normally deployed to clerical duties and reinforcements from Co. Fermanagh and that the police strategy over that weekend was re-active rather than proactive.

Mr. Brown described his decision to call in the British army as “a backward step because I didn’t know what their capabilities in public order situations were and because they used a different radio channel to that used by the police”.

Asked why he had not deployed snatch squads into the scene of the Little James Street to arrest rioters, Mr. Brown said that would not have been possible.

“There was no chance of arresting anyone in that situation because it was much too dangerous and the police and army could not be exposed to running into a crowd trying to arrest someone. That was just not practical. The police vehicles were being struck by petrol bombs and in those circumstances the police officers were trying to protect themselves and increasing the distance between themselves and the petrol bombers. In those circumstances running down the street to arrest someone was never an option”, he said.

Mr. Brown said it was not his intention that the Saxon personnel carrier which crushed Mr. McShane to death should ever have been used for barricade removal purposes. It was, he said, positioned on police lines purely as a defensive measure.

Meanwhile the officer in charge of the seventy-five British soldiers deployed during the rioting said there was total confusion on the night Mr. McShane was killed.

“Lt. Col. Kieran Potts who was then officer commanding the First Battalion The Highlanders, said when he arrived at the scene of the rioting in Little James Street he saw up to 1,500 rioters throwing missiles at the police.

“I saw a Saxon pulling out and being driven towards a barricade in Little James Street. The crowd behind the barricade were attacking police lines. They were throwing petrol bombs, bricks and iron bars.

“Twenty troops followed the Saxon. I followed them. I saw someone lying on the ground clutching his face. I saw two police officers rendering him medical assistance. The soldiers contained the rioters who continued to throw bricks and petrol bombs”, he said.

“On the night in question I cannot emphasise enough how confusing the situation was. There was a lot of people shouting orders, it was dark, there were petrol bombers virtually beside us and a lot of orders were being passed by various levels of command”, he said.

The Inquest continues.

BBC

A man described as one of Robert McCartney’s best friends, who was with him on the day he was killed, has been giving evidence at his murder trial.

Mr McCartney, 33, was beaten and stabbed to death outside a Belfast bar on 30 January 2005.

Edward Gowdy had been drinking with the victim in Magennis’s bar in the city centre.

During cross examination, he admitted lying to police because of a perceived paramilitary involvement in the murder.

Giving evidence from behind a curtain, he said that because of the area where he lived, he “didn’t know the situation at the time, what I could say or what I couldn’t say”.

He said he went back into the bar and finished his drink and later received a text message from his wife saying Mr McCartney was “in a bad way”.
Edward Gowdy

Asked why he did not intervene when he saw his “great friend” and Brendan Devine being followed down Market Street by a group of men, he claimed they were armed.

When asked “did you have no worries for them at all? Why did you do nothing about it?”, Mr Gowdy replied: “The reason why is that the IRA don’t usually kill people on the street. They would do it the next day.”

He added he was told by a man at the scene “we will sort him (Brendan Devine) tomorrow.”

Earlier, Mr Gowdy said a fight broke out inside shortly after 2230 GMT and there was “a lot of blood and mayhem”.

He said the next thing he remembered was standing outside the bar with Robert McCartney and another friend, Brendan Devine, who was covered in blood.

He said the three of them had then walked along a side street and he noticed a group of men following them, some of whom were carrying bottles and sticks.

Mr Gowdy said he went to talk to them and was hit across the face with a stick and told to leave the area.

He said he went back into the bar and finished his drink and later received a text message from his wife saying Mr McCartney was “in a bad way”.

Mr Gowdy said he went to the Royal Victoria Hospital where Mr McCartney later died.

The trial, at Belfast Crown Court, continues.

BBC

A man described as one of Robert McCartney’s best friends, who was with him on the day he was killed, has been giving evidence at his murder trial.


Mr McCartney was killed outside Magennis’s bar

Mr McCartney, 33, was beaten and stabbed to death outside a Belfast bar on 30 January 2005.

Edward Gowdy had been drinking with the victim in Magennis’s bar in the city centre.

He said a fight broke out inside shortly after 2230 GMT and there was “a lot of blood and mayhem”.

Giving evidence from behind a curtain, he said the next thing he remembered was standing outside the bar with Robert McCartney and another friend, Brendan Devine, who was covered in blood.

He said the three of them had then walked along a side street and he noticed a group of men following them, some of whom were carrying bottles and sticks.

Mr Gowdy said he went to talk to them and was hit across the face with a stick and told to leave the area.

He said he went back into the bar and finished his drink and later received a text message from his wife saying Mr McCartney was “in a bad way”.

Mr Gowdy said he went to the Royal Victoria Hospital where Mr McCartney later died.

The trial, at Belfast Crown Court, continues.

Derry Journal
28 May 2008

Increased nationalist support for the police in Derry is boosting the battle against dissident republicans.
Trust in the PSNI is growing in traditional republican hotbeds such as Creggan, the Bogside and Brandywell areas, according to the city’s police chief.

Foyle Area Commander Chris Yates has told the ‘Journal’ that the strengthening relationship between the police and the local community will help stamp out the threat from dissident republican paramilitary groups and their criminal enterprises.

“Gaining trust is what community policing is all about and that helps marginalise these groups and let them know that there isn’t widespread support for them,” he said.

He added that the response to community policing teams in Derry’s republican areas has been “increasingly positive”.

Assistant Chief Constable Judith Gillespie added that the police would not be deterred from their community beats, despite several attempts on officers’ lives in recent times – including the shooting of Bogside native Constable Jim Doherty last November.

“Just a couple of days after the officer was shot we had officers back on cycle and foot patrol in the city centre – that is evidence of our determination not to let dissident republican activity knock us back in any way in policing the community. The more we are out on patrol and accessible to the public – just saying hello to people – the more likely we are to instill confidence in people.”

Award

Chief Superintendent Yates and Assistant Chief Constable Judith Gillespie made their comments after the community policing team for Creggan, Rosemount, Ballymagroarty and Hazelbank was awarded the gong for community policing team of the year.

BBC
26 May 2008

**Video onsite

Artist Steve McQueen’s debut film Hunger – about IRA hunger striker Bobby Sands’ final days – has won the Camera d’Or prize at the Cannes Film Festival.

The award, given out each year to first-time film-makers, was given to McQueen by US actor Dennis Hopper.

“The film is about people in a situation of extreme pressure and what people do and what we do,” McQueen told the festival’s closing ceremony.

Hunger stars Michael Fassbender as Sands, who died aged 27 in 1981.


Michael Fassbender as Bobby Sands in Hunger

‘There was this man called Bobby Sands whose image appeared on TV with a number underneath it.’
Steve McQueen

The actor had to go on a medically-supervised diet to portray Sands, who refused food for 66 days in the Maze prison in a bid to be recognised as a political prisoner.

The film does not yet have a UK release date.

An earlier film on Sands’ life, Some Mother’s Son, caused controversy when it screened in Cannes in 1996.

Director McQueen, who won the Turner Prize in 1999 for a collection of films which included a Buster Keaton-style silent movie stunt, told the BBC earlier this month he was inspired by the memory of seeing Sands on TV news bulletins when he was 11.

“There was this man called Bobby Sands whose image appeared on TV with a number underneath it,” he recalled.

One scene features a conversation between Sands and a Catholic priest about the decision to go on hunger strike.

Filmed in one continuous 10-minute take, it was shot on the first day of filming in Northern Ireland and took Fassbender and co-star Liam Cunningham four attempts to complete.

Hunger was co-written by Irish playwright Enda Walsh and co-funded by Northern Ireland Screen and the Broadcasting Commission of Ireland.

The Irish government’s arts minister Martin Cullen said it was the third year in a row that an Irish-backed film had been successful at Cannes.

He added: “Following the success of The Wind that Shakes the Barley and Garage, this Camera D’Or will keep Irish film practitioners in the world’s eye for the foreseeable future.

“This film covers a very turbulent part of our history with an unadorned reality and reminds us of how far we have come as an island in the last quarter century.”

—————————

Hunger’s forceful look at Ireland

By Razia Iqbal
Entertainment reporter, BBC News, in Cannes
BBC

British movie Hunger has opened at the Cannes Film Festival to positive reviews.

Directed by Turner Prize-winning artist Steve McQueen, it takes an uncompromising look at the last six weeks in the life of IRA hunger striker Bobby Sands.

For six weeks in 1981, Sands went without food in an action initiated to demand special status.

IRA prisoners wanted to be treated as political prisoners, not criminals.

The demand was given short shrift by Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, who said there was “no such thing as political murder, political bombing or political violence”.

“There is only criminal murder, criminal bombing and criminal violence.”

After 66 days without food, Sands died at the Maze prison in Northern Ireland at the age of 27.

A terse statement from the Northern Ireland Office read: “Mr Robert Sands, a prisoner in the Maze, died today at 1:17am.”

Attended by his family, he had been in a coma for 48 hours before being pronounced dead by medical staff.

Struggle

His story, which had dominated papers and news bulletins for two months, stuck firmly in the mind of an 11-year-old living in West London.

That child was McQueen, who went on to win the Turner Prize in 1999, beating Tracey Emin and her notorious stained, unmade bed.


Hunger opened the Un Certain Regard section at this year’s festival

The artist and film-maker says he never forgot the story of the Republican prisoner’s struggle.

“There was this man called Bobby Sands whose image appeared on TV with a number underneath it,” he recalls.

Now McQueen has turned the story into a film, his first feature, that opened the Un Certain Regard section of the Cannes Film Festival on Thursday night.

One scene in the film is likely to dominate people’s minds – a conversation between Sands and a Catholic priest about the decision to go on hunger strike.

Filmed in one continuous 10- minute take, it was shot on the first day of filming in Northern Ireland and took actors Michael Fassbender and Liam Cunningham four attempts to complete.

McQueen likens the interplay of these two key characters to Jimmy Connors and John McEnroe’s legendary Wimbledon finals of the same era.

Director Steve McQueen in action on the set of Hunger

Unsettling

“The audience was sat there not knowing which side to go with, not knowing who was going to have the advantage or disadvantage.

“They, in some ways, would be involved in the conversation just as much as the characters were.”


Liam McMahon (below right) plays another hunger striker in the film

As the film reaches its conclusion, the audience’s experience becomes more and more unsettling.

Shots of Sands’ skeletal figure, ravaged by hunger and covered in sores, are some of the most challenging in recent memory.

Fassbender went on a medically monitored crash diet to film the scenes, much to the horror of those around him.

“After I started putting weight back on, my doctor told me that the last time I’d been in, the receptionist came up to him and said ‘he’s really ill isn’t he? He’s dying of cancer or something,'” he recalls.

“It was weird, because I was kind of happy when I heard that.”

By focusing so heavily on the story of Sands and his fellow hunger strikers, the film is likely to face accusations of being partisan.

McQueen, though, says that is “not his point”, adding he is interested in the “dilemma” of people using their bodies as a political weapon.

Tensions

“As a film-maker, what one wants to do is raise those sorts of questions,” he says.

“The universal subject which I’m interested in is someone who, in order to be heard, doesn’t eat.”


Sands died at the Maze prison in Northern Ireland in May 1981

Fassbender agrees there are modern parallels to Sands’ story in Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay.

The idea of using the body as a political weapon, meanwhile, has been used to devastating effect in the Middle East, London and New York.

But he hopes the film will not renew old tensions in Northern Ireland.

“There’s a fantastic atmosphere up there at the moment,” says the actor, whose mother comes from the coastal town of Larne in Country Antrim.

“It’s really on the road to mending all those years of strife and troubles.”

While tackling such a weighty subject might have proved daunting for many first-time directors, McQueen enjoyed the challenge.

“Sometimes its great to be that little bit naïve in what you do, the reason being you have no fear,” he says.

Additional reporting by Mark Savage.

BBC

Women who contracted mesothelioma from washing their husband’s asbestos work clothes are to be entitled to compensation under a new Bill.


Mesothelioma most often affects the lining of the lungs

Social Development Minister Margaret Ritchie has introduced a mesothelioma compensation Bill to Stormont. It passed its second stage on Tuesday.

Between 40 and 50 people die annually from the disease in Northern Ireland.

Ms Richie said the bill was breaking new ground by extending payments to all sufferers.

“I will give early access to a lump sum payable within weeks of diagnosis,” she said.

“This means sufferers will get compensation while they can still benefit from it during the final months of their lives.”

Hundreds of former workers in shipyards and other heavy industries have died from asbestos related diseases.

Under the new Bill it will not be necessary to prove an occupational or causal link to access compensation.

This means that wives who contracted mesothelioma from washing their husband’s asbestos work clothes or the children who played with these overalls are to benefit, as will people who lived near factories that used asbestos.

Malignant mesothelioma is a signal tumour of asbestos exposure and can follow exposure by 25 to 40 years.

The cancer which attacks the body’s protective lining of most of the body’s internal organs (mesothelium) reduces life expectancy to an average of nine months.

Belfast Telegraph
Wednesday 28, May 2008

The trial of Michael Stone has heard he wrote a letter to the Belfast Telegraph declaring that “my primary targets” are Gerry Adams and Martin ‘the fisherman’ McGuinness.

In the almost identical letters read out at his Belfast Crown Court trial, sent to the Belfast Telegraph and London Evening Standard, 53-year-old Stone writes that he will be in one of two positions: in police custody “with the events surrounding my arrest ensuring that I spend the rest of my natural life in prison” or “that I am deceased”.

The letters continue: “The latter in all probability as I don’t intend withdrawing from my mission as I did on the 16th of March 1988, when as now a freelance-dissident loyalist paramilitary I set out to assassinate the irish Republican war criminals Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness.

“I pen these details to ensure that there is no confusion as to the objective of my mission.”

Stone, of no fixed address, denies attempting to murder Mr Adams and Mr McGuinness as well as 12 other charges of possessing nail and pipe bombs with intent, possessing three knives, an axe and a garrotte and having an imitation firearm with intent to commit an offence.

Armed with an imitation gun, knives, a hatchet, nail bombs and pipe bombs, Stone tried to storm Parliament Buildings on November 24 2006 when the offices of the First and Deputy First Minister were to be designated.

However, Stone claims the incident was part of a performance art plan.

In the three-page letter, written in block capitals, Stone denounces the Sinn Fein leadership as “despots” and as “sectarian bigots unworthy to hold political power in any form of democracy in Northern Ireland – NEVER, NEVER, NEVER”.

In an apparent address to what Stone describes as “the great and good, the pious and self-righteous to whom Ulster’s Troubles have been ‘a nice little earner’”, he tells them to think before they “queue up for your ten-second condemnation of my actions” and adds: “Condemn me if you are willing to die for your political beliefs, your country for Ulster – if not, put up or shut up”.

He continues: “To my former loyalist comrades, those men and women who put their lives on the line in defence of Ulster – keep your powder dry”.

Stone concludes the letter “not a round, not an ounce, lose the golf balls, long live Ulster” and signs in his own name with a finger print in ink beside his signature.

However, the letters also have a further two pages, where Stone outlines his apparent plan and the “equipment” he intends to use.

In what appears to be an inventory, he writes: “1 x replica handgun (to bluff my way past the two security guards stationed at a desk behind a walk-through metal detector)

“1 x large ‘flash-bang’ device (device to be ignited in the centre of the large hall. Warning given.

“7 x nail bombs ,3 x knives, 1 x axe, 1 x garrotte, body armour vest.”

Stone adds: “I’m outgunned, but I wouldn’t have it any other way – for God and Ulster” and he signs this portion of the letter “Flint”.

Contained within the last two pages was a claim that he intended to use the ‘flash-bang’ device to “create panic and confusion” so that he could “move down the long corridor on my left towards the debating chamber and the two targets”. The document says that if they were not in the chamber, “I will proceed through the large hall and make my way to the Sinn Fein office which is located on the first floor”.

The court has already heard that the letter sent to the Belfast Telegraph was seized by police in December 2006 and was held in an exhibit file until recently, while the letter sent to the Evening Standard was not recovered until two weeks ago.

Under cross examination from defence QC Arthur Harvey, Detective Constable Cord said he had “no idea at all” why the lead concerning the letters was not followed up, given that Stone mentioned them during police interviews.

The lawyer revealed to the court that the name ‘Flint’ came from a film in which James Coburn played a “spoof” agent, and he put it to the officer that “in other words, it’s an indication that this is a spoof”. DC Cord replied: “I can’t answer that.”

Later, the court heard that during two police interviews, Stone maintained his claims that he had “two men — two targets” and also that he was “willing to die for what I believe in”.

At the very outset of his first interview, Stone tells officers he was acting alone as a “dissident loyalist” and that in going to Stormont he went to “specifically assasinate Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness” and to disrupt the start of what he described as a “bastardisation of a government”.

He goes onto detail how he got to Stormont “on public transport”, how it took him almost two hours to walk up to the building itself, and how a guard disturbed him spraying graffiti on the walls.

Reading from the transcript of the interviews, Detective Constable Leslie Murray said Stone told officers he had the ‘flash bang’ device to cause confusion and was carrying the knife which he intended to use to “cut their throats — it was personal”.

He told police he was wearing a bullet proof vest because “I was counting that they (Adams and McGuinness) had to book their personal firearms in somewhere” and because inflicting a head-shot is more difficult than “shooting pieces of paper” at the gun range.

Maintaining that he was acting alone, Stone claimed that “to be honest, if the UDA had known I was up to anything, I would be in a skip”, and he told police that although he had no problem with their backing the peace process, “I find it unacceptable that war criminals will hold positions like the last time”.

Referring to the last attempted devolved government, Stone said: “Trimble was running it… he never told me to take action”, but then added that “Ian Paisley told me my whole life the balloon has gone up, it’s war, it’s this, it’s that, and like a gullible young man, I believed him, but I couldn’t believe he would share power with the shinners”.

“I’m very political you know,” declared Stone, “I’m not the f***** village idiot.”

The trial continues.

BBC

A bomb left at a shop in Belfast city centre partially exploded during the night, police have said.


The device partially exploded in the store

Army bomb experts were sent to JJB Sports on Royal Avenue on Tuesday morning after the device was discovered.

Chief Inspector Trevor O’Neill said it was still too early to say who was behind the attack.

“It does not bear thinking about what might have happened if it had detonated when the store was full,” he said.

Mr O’Neill also urged business owners and their staff to be on the look out for suspicious objects.

“Devices can be left in garments, soft furnishings, and upholstery, anywhere that can catch fire easily or be concealed within other boxes or packages,” he said.

Police have appealed for anyone with information concerning the incident to contact them.

Derry Journal
27 May 2008

A Waterside man, who was viciously beaten by a gang, believes he was attacked for speaking out about his murdered son.

Gilbert Thompson – whose son Darren was shot dead in a loyalist feud in 2004 – was set upon in broad daylight and savagely beaten as he made his to his way to a local cricket club to watch a pool competition on May 15.

Gilbert Thompson in Altnagelvin Hospital today

Mr. Thompson (45) from the Brigade area, sustained serious injuries in the assault – including a torn spleen, broken ribs and fractures to his back, cheekbone and nose – is expected to be remain in Altnagelvin Hospital for some time.

Mr.Thompson last night told the ‘Journal’ that he believed he was attacked because he asked questions over the killing of his 22 year-old son. Darren Thompson was found lying on the roadside at Woodburn Park in the Waterside with a bullet wound to his head in September 2004.
Two men were jailed last November in connection with the killing although no one has been convicted of the murder which had been blamed on the UDA.

On New Year’s Day past Mr. Thompson came in contact with a man who supported the two jailed men during their court appearance and challenged him to disclose why his son had been murdered.

Darren Thompson

“I didn’t strike him or anything, I just reached for him but was pulled back. I wanted to know why my son Darren was killed almost four years ago. That might have been why I was assaulted.”

He added: “I believe I was singled out because of the way they took me out in that alleyway. I’d been watched and I’d been singled out, I don’t know why.”

All Mr. Thompson recalled of the attack was being “kicked and punched”. “The next thing I remember is a man and woman phoning the ambulence for me.”

He said that the further trauma for his family was “devastating”.

“It hs really scared me now, I can’t say anything. My family is scared. I hope that something like this will never happen again. I’d just like to know why they did this to me – I can hardly breath now and I don’t know why they have done this.”

Derry Journal
27 May 2008

THE SAS planned to kidnap Martin McGuinness in Derry and drown him in the Atlantic, it’s been claimed.
An alleged plan to send the future Deputy First Minister to a watery grave was detailed in the ‘Sunday World’. It was also claimed in the newspaper that former Chief Superintendent Sam Donnelly – the ex head of special branch in Derry and liaison officer between the RUC and SAS – had blocked the alleged assassination attempt.

A retired security force officer, quoted in the article, said: “It was in the mid 1980s. Two SAS officers – one with the rank of major who had been operating undercover in the Bogside and Creggan areas of Derry – approached Sam Donnelly and asked him to consider the proposal. At the time Martin was in charge of the IRA Northern Command and he had also been chief of staff.

“The SAS men told Sam they wanted to snatch McGuinness and quickly transport him by car to a Rigid Inflatable Boat (RIB) waiting a few hundred yards away on the River Foyle.

“The plan was that as the RIB raced towards the mouth of the river and into Lough Foyle and Atlantic, SAS men would tie heavy weights to shackled IRA man who was to remain conscious throughout the operation.

“Once the boat reached Greencastle and Inishowen Head, McGuinness was to be told what was going to happen to him – he was going to be thrown overboard, never to be seen again.”

However, the source said that when Donnelly was told that six SAS operatives knew of the plan, he replied “too many” before turning it down. “Either way Sam Donnelly saved Martin McGuinness’s life,” the source added.

Sam Donnelly was buried in Portrush earlier this month.

By Lisa Smyth
Belfast Telegraph
Tuesday 27, May 2008

Fares for black taxis in Belfast are due to increase by up to 19% causing further misery for hard-pressed householders.

As the cost of living continues to spiral, the Department of Environment has confirmed that Arlene Foster has agreed to fare increases for black taxis between 13% and 19%.

However, a spokesman from the Department said a date has not been set for the new fares to come into effect.

He said: “The Environment Committee cleared the proposed fares increase on May 8 and a submission has been submitted by the Department to the Minister to approve the necessary amendments to the regulations.”

Sinn Fein MLA Alex Maskey, a former member of the environment committee, said the proposed hike will hit the most needy.

The black taxis are often used by people with no car for shopping trips or transporting children with prams, he said.

Mr Maskey said: “We are concerned at every rise because in virtually every single public service costs are going up and people are looking at a rocky economic future.

“I am well aware of the high usage of taxis in a lot of areas, a lot of people depend on them.”

The Belfast Public Hire Taxi Association has defended the rise, blaming it on hikes in the price of fuel from 91p per litre to £1.23 per litre — representing an increase of between 35 and 41% — since the last fare rise.

Bobby Sands mural photo
Ní neart go cur le chéile

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