You are currently browsing the daily archive for 16 June 2008.

International Herald Tribune
The Associated Press
June 16, 2008

BELFAST, Northern Ireland: Irish Republican Army dissidents claimed responsibility Monday for trying to blow up a passing police patrol near the Northern Ireland border over the weekend.

The claim from the Continuity IRA faction came as U.S. President George W. Bush paid a whistlestop visit to Belfast.

Police confirmed that two officers suffered minor injuries when a bomb hidden under a small rural bridge near the border village of Rosslea, about 100 miles (160 kms) southwest of Belfast, partly detonated as the police car passed overhead.

The abortive attack happened Saturday, but police did not disclose most details until after the dissidents issued their claim of responsibility.

A police statement said officers and British army experts found “a substantial amount of homemade explosives” that had failed to detonate beneath the bridge. They also found a lengthy “command wire” leading from the bomb to a spot where IRA dissidents hid nearby, triggering the device as the police car passed.

Tom Elliott, a politician from the Ulster Unionist Party, which represents the British Protestant majority in Northern Ireland, said the Continuity IRA hoped to gain maximum attention for its continued existence by timing its statement to coincide with Bush’s visit.

“It is their way of getting noticed, their way of demonstrating their opposition to the peace process, and sending a message to the (pro-British) unionist people and indeed the whole world that they have not gone away,” Elliott said.

Several splinter groups continue to plot attacks in defiance of the IRA’s decisions in 2005 to disarm and renounce violence. The IRA killed 1,775 people during a failed 1970-97 campaign to force Northern Ireland out of the United Kingdom. The dissidents’ violence has caused little damage and virtually no deaths since 1998, when a car bomb killed 29 people in the town of Omagh — the deadliest blast from the entire conflict.

However, dissidents have increased their efforts to kill members of the Police Service of Northern Ireland in recent months. Two officers survived being struck with shotgun blasts at close range in November, and a police officer suffered serious wounds to his legs and back when a bomb exploded under his car last month.

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Belfast Telegraph
Monday 16, June 2008

Police in the North arrested one man last night following the first outbreak of violence for years at the interface between the Catholic Falls Road and the Protestant Shankill area of Belfast.

The violent clashes at the so-called ‘peace wall’ between the two communities forced the closure of the security gates on the only road between the Falls and Shankill.

A nationalist representative says bricks, bottles and lumps of wood were used as missiles after loyalists attacked a group of tourists.

He says a number of people were hurt on both sides before the police arrived.

By Claire McNeilly and David Young
Belfast Telegraph
Monday 16, June 2008

Human rights protesters have urged Northern Ireland’s politicians to tackle US President George Bush on the issue of prisoner treatment.

Amnesty International staged a demonstration in the city centre yesterday to voice their concerns about the detention of terror suspects without trial at Guantanamo Bay and the transfer of prisoners to other countries for interrogation, known as extraordinary rendition.

Further protests are expected today to coincide with his arrival in Northern Ireland, with police notified of two separate events.

The Bush Not Welcome group, which represents in excess of 100 people, have organised a protest at Stormont scheduled for 2.30pm.

Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph last night, group spokesman Paddy Meehan said it was an outrage for Northern Ireland’s politicians to have invited the US leader to the province: “Bush Not Welcome opposes Bush’s legacy in Iraq, his environmental crimes and his anti-worker policies,” said Mr Meehan.

“And we’re very angry the Assembly has invited him.”

Another demonstration, under the auspices of the Belfast Anti-War Movement has been planned at the City Hall at 12.30pm, ahead of Bush’s Belfast visit.

Amnesty has written to Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness asking them to raise the concerns when they talk to Mr Bush at Stormont.

By Chris Thornton
Belfast Telegraph
Monday 16, June 2008

Sexmtex nearly killed Emma Anthony. It did kill her father. Fred Anthony died because he was a cleaner in an RUC station and his entire family almost paid the same price in May, 1994, when an IRA bomb made with the deadly Czech explosive went off under their car.

Emma, aged three, was also expected to die. She spent a week in a coma, but made a recovery that doctors described as miraculous.

Fourteen years later, Emma Anthony is part of a major lawsuit designed to make the suppliers of the explosive pay for its brutal effects. Around 180 victims of the IRA are suing Libya in an American court, where it is possible to take lawsuits against state sponsors of terrorism.

But there are diplomatic ripples suggesting that avenue may not be open to them for long — and that’s why the case is due to be raised with George Bush today.

Libya’s intervention in the 1980s changed the face of the Troubles, by arming the IRA to such an extent that it was clear to British security chiefs that the Provos could continue a low-level campaign for a very long time.

Colonel Gadaffi, the Libyan leader, had helped arm the IRA in the seventies, but authorised new and major shipments after the US bombed his capital, Tripoli, in 1986 in response to a Berlin disco attack that killed two US servicemen. Because British bases were used for the bombings, Libya saw this as a way to strike back at the UK.

The shipments were exposed in 1987, when the Irish and French authorities intercepted the Eksund, a French vessel shipping more than 100 tonnes of weapons to the IRA.

But it was clear this wasn’t the first consignment. The Libyans had already delivered hundreds of weapons, including assault rifles and rocket launchers, and — crucially — tonnes and tonnes of Semtex. There was enough of the powerful explosive to keep IRA bombers at work for years.

Now times have changed. Earlier this year, Libyan officials made proposals to the American administration for resolving similar legal aftershocks from terror campaigns. Detailed talks took place in London a couple of weeks ago.

Since the invasion of Iraq, relations between the US and Libya have eased after decades of sometimes violent hostility. Libya voluntarily gave up details of a planned nuclear programme, some diplomatic relations have been re-established, and the Libyans have hopes of entering a full economic relationship with the US.

The lawsuits — covering terrorist activity that occurred mainly in the 1980s and can be traced back to the Libyans — are an obstacle. Most prominent among them is the Lockerbie case, where the Libyans are already liable for over $500 million in payments to victims of the bombing on Pan Am Flight 103.

The US wants them sorted before they will engage in full relations, such as a proposed visit to Libya by Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice before she leaves office with President Bush in January.

Both sides appear to want a settlement but victims are wary that will mean reduced payments for Libya.

Those involved in the Northern Ireland lawsuit further fear that a settlement will apply only to US citizens.

There are a small number of US citizens involved in the lawsuit, which allowed the case to be filed in a US court, but the vast majority of the plaintiffs are from Northern Ireland. They want President Bush to stand up for them as well.

By Ashleigh McDonald
Belfast Telegraph
Monday 16, June 2008

Police remained at the scene of a security alert on a border road last night following the discovery of a “suspicious object”.

The security operation was sparked on Saturday night following reports of a loud bang heard on Rellan Road close to Rosslea in Co Fermanagh.

Police attended the scene and closed the road and it is understood a Belfast newsroom also received a call from a man who used a recognised codeword, claiming to be speaking for the Real IRA.

The caller is believed to have stated that a landmine was left on the road with the intended target a passing police patrol.

Councillor Harold Andrews, who lives two miles from the scene of the security alert, said people on both sides of the community will be disgusted at the weekend’s events.

The Ulster Unionist revealed it was “generally recognised” there was a dissident republican element in south-east Fermanagh but said their actions had no place in today’s society.

Councillor Andrews said: “We’ve had no indication about what’s happening and how long the alert will be.

“I spoke to a family earlier who live around a quarter of a mile from the scene and they told me the area is still sealed off and I’ve seen a helicopter above the area.”

He added: “If it does turn out to be the work of dissident republicans, this is extremely regrettable as no one wants to go back to the way things were 15 to 20 years ago.

“I thought these types of actions were a thing of the past and I’m sure a vast majority of people on both sides of the community will be disgusted and upset at this type of behaviour.”

Councillor Andrews also spoke of the inconvenience caused to local residents as a result of the security operation.

A PSNI spokeswoman urged local people not to handle any unknown objects they may find in the area and report any suspicious activity to police.

She added: “There will be some disruption to the community during this operation which we will attempt to minimise so we’re asking for assistance, patience and co-operation during this time.”

By Gemma Murray
News Letter
16 June 2008

A terrorist landmine attack on two police officers near the Irish border has been described as “a deliberate attempt to murder the officers”.

The officers, travelling in a car crossing a bridge near the village of Rosslea on Saturday morning, were only slightly injured.


Police are investigating

Details about the attack was only released this afternoon as US President George Bush arrived in Northern Ireland on a brief visit for talks with First Minister Peter Robinson and the deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness.

The dissident republican group, Continuity IRA, claimed they were responsible.

Its understood the officers escaped cuts and bruises, but suffered hearing difficulties because of the noise and force of the blast at Rellan Road.

Police said it was a deliberate attempt to murder the officers who were carrying out inquiries in the area at the time.

The area had been cordoned off since Saturday while Army bomb disposal officers dealt with the device which consisted of a substantial amount of home made explosives and placed under a bridge with a command wire leading for a firing point some distance away.

Chief Superintendent Michael Skuce said: “This was a determined attempt to kill police officers in Fermanagh. The fact that it failed is something for which we should all give thanks.

“My officers were on duty in Rosslea in the early hours of Saturday morning, providing a service to the local community. They do so without fear or favour to everyone in our community.

“Their dedication to the community stands in sharp contrast to the depraved actions of those individuals who planned and carried out this attack.

“Those individuals, who operate under various flags of convenience to justify their misguided attempts to inflict death and injury, have nothing to offer anyone in our community.

BBC

The PSNI’s chief in County Fermanagh has condemned Saturday’s attempted landmine attack as “a determined attempt to kill police officers”.

The Continuity IRA admitted they tried to detonate the landmine as a police patrol passed on the Rellan Road near Rosslea.

Two police officers carrying out inquiries suffered minor injuries.

Chief Superintendent Michael Skuce condemned the actions of those responsible as “depraved”.

A loud bang was heard early on Saturday and a suspicious object was found a few hours later.

The PSNI said the device consisted of a substantial amount of home made explosives placed under a bridge with a command wire leading to a firing point some distance away.

Chief Superintendent Skuce said he was thankful the attack failed.

“My officers were on duty in Rosslea in the early hours of Saturday morning, providing a service to the local community.

“They do so without fear or favour to everyone in our community.

“Their dedication to the community stands in sharp contrast to the depraved actions of those individuals who planned and carried out this attack.

“Those individuals, who operate under various flags of convenience to justify their misguided attempts to inflict death and injury, have nothing to offer anyone in our community,” he said.

A security operation is continuing in the area.

Police have said that they will try to minimise disruption to the local community during it.

By Gemma Murray
News Letter
**Via Newshound
14 June 2008

AN ex-RUC officer who became one of Europe’s leading trauma consultants after surviving an IRA attack is to receive the OBE for his services to healthcare in Northern Ireland.

Dr Michael Charles Paterson was 24 when he lost both his arms and sustained serious leg injuries as the Land Rover he was travelling in through west Belfast in 1982 came under the IRA rocket-propelled grenade attack.


RUC LandRover

At the time, Mr Paterson had everything to live for and was only three weeks into married life.

However, that day was to change his life forever as he and two fellow RUC officers travelled through Suffolk.

The vehicle’s driver was killed, Michael’s arms were blown off and while the officer sitting in the back of the Land Rover survived the attack, “it affected him psychologically”.

Mr Paterson, 51, does not minimise his struggle over the years.

“The RPG killed the driver, blew my arms off, burned its way through my door and exploded outside, fortunately for me.

“Seven people were arrested afterwards but from what I understand no one served time for it.

“It has been a hard time over the years and a struggle in terms of physical challenges. Then there was study done and expertise gained in coping with trauma.”

The young Michael Paterson left school with two O levels.

“When I was injured I did not rate myself academically and the education system did not rate me either,” he said. “But I saw a psychologist at the time and he did a few assessments and told me I had the intellectual ability to go through university.”

He studied psychology at the University of Ulster and later did a doctorate in clinical psychology.

Now he helps people suffering the effects of post-traumatic stress and can use his own experience to help them.

“I have my own past experience and try and use it to help others I treat who have suffered trauma.

“After I lost my arms it was a trauma which became locked in the central nervous system. If I thought about it I had a tightening in the stomach.”

His speciality is Eye Movement Desentization and Reprocessing (EDRM) therapy. He said through its use he was freed from his trauma and his stomach tightening and images of a severed arm disappeared.

“Then in 2002 I helped set up a clinic with a psychiatrist specialising in treating trauma and all sorts of other referrals including anxiety, depression, phobias and personality disorders among others.

“I am delighted to receive this honour. I feel it recognises the challenges I have overcome to develop my expertise in helping people ease their distress which holds them back from living a fulfilled life.”

When asked how he now feels about his attackers, Mr Paterson said: “It is water under the bridge now and I have had to rebuild my life. Getting the OBE is a recognition of overcoming adversity, giving something back to humanity and helping other people overcome their trauma.

“Many years ago when I got my PhD I was asked if I forgave those who blew me up. I can say I have put the incident behind me and I have got on with my life.

News Letter
16 June 2008

ROSSLEA: The discovery of a suspicious device in Co Fermanagh has heightened community fear of a campaign of dissident republican attacks on border towns and villages, an Assembly member has claimed.

A police operation began after reports of a loud bang in the Rosslea area late on Friday night was still ongoing yesterday.

Officers remained on the scene at Rellan Road where a suspicious object was found after the initial incident was reported.

Some roads in the village have yet to be reopened.

Ulster Unionist MLA Tom Elliott said the community had been left suspicious of the republican movement and their motives.

He said: “This area of Fermanagh has suffered heinous terrorist activity during the past 40 years. Surely there is a need for these people to be allowed to enjoy some peace at this time?”

By Tom McGurk
Sunday Business Post
15 June 2008

With the Chuckle Brothers act off the political stage, the truth about the fractures and paralysis in the North’s Assembly is all too plain.

Last month, in preparation for the US investment conference in Belfast, the Stormont power-sharing Executive planned to publish a booklet to be distributed to every home in the North and to be given to every delegate at the conference. The high-quality colour booklet was intended to detail the progress that had been made since the ending of the Troubles and to extol the success of power-sharing.

In the end, the publication of the brochure had to be abandoned, with large costs to the taxpayer, because the DUP and Sinn Féin could not agree about the editorial – in particular the use of the Irish language in the publication – and whether to refer to Derry or Londonderry.

At the end of a week in which the DUP is claiming to hold the balance of power at Westminster – after its nine votes saved Gordon Brown’s 42-day terrorist detention bill – the North’s power-sharing Executive could hardly be described as the happiest of families. There’s no denying that the tension between the DUP and Sinn Féin is growing and, to many, the DUP performance in saving Brown may be bad news, given its likely effect on the balance of power at Stormont.

The Paisley era has ended, the Chuckle Brothers are now history, and the atmosphere within the power-sharing Executive led by Peter Robinson has been described by one insider as ‘‘dour and dire’’.

It began from the outset, when there were dark mutterings from an increasingly frustrated Sinn Féin last week about not supporting the nomination of Robinson as first minister until some progress had been made on what they called ‘‘the outstanding issues’’.

They were referring in particular to the Irish Language Bill (still in limbo), a replacement for the 11+ exam and the whole question of the transfer of policing powers from London.

In fact, an emergency meeting had to be called by Gordon Brown in London to head off a potential DUP/Sinn Féin falling-out. Such was the atmosphere at that meeting that Robinson launched a blistering attack on foreign affairs minister Micheál Martin – who had rushed over from Dublin – questioning his right to be there in the first place.

The outstanding issues, of course, effectively amount to almost every major political decision the power-sharing Assembly has been asked to agree on since it came into power last year. The political reality is that – for all the external miraculous nature of the DUP/Sinn Féin relationship – on the inside, fundamental disagreements have frozen the executive into a state of political paralysis.

For all of Paisley and McGuinness’s fine words, the Executive over which they presided could agree on almost nothing. Given the political ambitions for power-sharing and the task of restructuring the North, major decisions have to be made.

And while the day-to-day business of the Executive has been carried on reasonably effectively, long-term planning or major symbolic decisions are not happening.

The fact that four major policy decisions await unobtainable Executive approval reveals the unbridgeable political and cultural divisions that remain between the DUP and Sinn Féin. The agreement on the devolution of security and policing powers from London to the Executive is bitterly opposed by the DUP, dreading as it does that someday there could be a Sinn Féin minister in charge of the police at Stormont.

The row about whether to site the new national sports stadium at Long Kesh or in Belfast reveals DUP worries that it could become some sort of shrine to dead hunger strikers. The row about the replacement for the 11+ and the role of grammar schools cuts across the class issue between the two sides.

And perhaps most revealing of all is the DUP opposition to the Irish Language Bill. It is a measure of the DUP’s 17th century mentality that they should continue to oppose the growing Gaelscoil movement in the North. For some sad reason, the Irish language has always been anathema to them.

Until recently, the Paisley/McGuinness political roadshow dominated the headlines. The fact that power-sharing was increasingly looking like it had no clothes was obscured. Now Robinson is in charge and DUP politicians are looking over their shoulders at their former MEP Jim Allister, who is taking the familiar political road rightwards in opposition to power-sharing with Sinn Féin.

With the DUP now boosted by the remarkable result in the Commons vote last week, London and Dublin may be thinking that the summer holidays at Stormont can’t come quickly enough.

Nor will Allister go away. After an ugly loyalist mob ambushed a visit by President McAleese to a school in Co Derry last week, Allister’s comments left little doubt about where he stands. He said:

‘‘Considering the flagrant way she troops all over Northern Ireland, treating it as if it were her own, it will do no harm that today President McAleese met a grassroots protest in Coleraine.”

Some see Robinson’s recent suggestion that the DUP and the UUP might begin to look at ending the 40 year schism in unionism and create one unified, larger party in the future as evidence of DUP concern at the potential electoral threat of Allister’s Traditional Unionist Voice party two years down the road, at the next Assembly elections.

Meanwhile, frustration is building in Sinn Féin with the perception that the DUP is stymying real power-sharing within the Executive. It has left them in a difficult political place. The Sinn Féin experiment south of the border has stalled and, with their continued abstention from Westminster, Stormont has become their critical showcase.

There isn’t an immediate threat to power-sharing; one imagines that Robinson and the rest of the DUP ministers enjoy their status. But who can be really optimistic in the long term? The problem is that power-sharing requires levels of mutual cultural and political respect that are not in the DNA of the DUP. How do you simultaneously contain loyalist extremism while retaining mutual respect for your political partners?

After Paisley, the DUP is more liable to fragment: the potshots taken at Sinn Féin when it huffed and puffed before Robinson’s election may be an indication of what is to come. And with Blair and Ahern gone, there may no longer be any political ambulance service available if a Stormont crisis develops.

The summer holidays can’t come quickly enough for politicians north of the border.

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

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