You are currently browsing the monthly archive for September 2008.
By Louise Cullen
Mobile police stations are becoming a more common sight in our rural towns and villages, as police stations are closed and new ways of policing adopted.
But is it the answer, when there’s an increased threat from dissident republicans?
In Fermanagh, where officers have come under attack recently, a mobile station has been on the road for almost two years.
Noel Kilpatrick, the officer in charge of the mobile station, says it has been well received in the county.
Plenty of people know Noel and his Thursday co-worker, Lynn, by name and it is not long before people are stopping by to say hello or report a concern.
One man calls in to tell the officers about cars parked along the road near a junction and after taking the details, Noel arranges to call him back to let him know what action is being taken.
“It’s like bringing the old way of policing back to the villages if you like, the village bobby back on the beat,” he said.
At our next stop, in the border village of Belleek, Sergeant Scott Fallis who is in charge of north Fermanagh, says that is the way it should be.
With more station closures ahead for the police estate in Fermanagh, he believes changes in policing make the service more efficient.
“The more people you speak to, it’s not bricks-and-mortar that they’re looking for.
“Sure, they’re apprehensive about police stations closing, but it’s because they think the station goes, then the police will not be focussed round that area.
“And I think it’s a challenge to us to address that and allay their fears by showing them that we can still be in the area when there’s no building there and that we can be just as effective if not more.”
But while some local people welcome the mobile station’s visits, others say it is too easy a target, with an increased dissident republican threat in border regions.
Additional security precautions are taken and Noel says they are all aware of the risk.
“Obviously, if you’re going to be bringing policing to the villages on a regular basis, you have to try and keep the times the same, but you just have to be very conscious of where you park and make sure everything’s quite safe round you.
“We have always been security-conscious anyway but you just have to be that bit more diligent.”
In the afternoon, we travel to the village of Lisbellaw, where Noel and Lynn have time to set up vehicle checkpoints at each end of the village.
The police station here closed in 2005, but Lynn believes the mobile unit fills the gap well.
“We can offer most facilities that the big police station can, or we’ll arrange with them to come back with such-and-such a form next week or if they live in the village, we just go to their house and help them. They really do trust us now.”
The mobile unit went on the road in November 2006, after six police stations were closed throughout Fermanagh.
Another four are being considered for closure.
Noel says the mobile station has proved a viable alternative to bricks-and-mortar buildings.
“It’s been quite successful. A lot of the villages now, if you aren’t there, they’re asking questions as to where the mobile station has been.
“We don’t always have callers every day, but we always are a presence in the village if people require us.”
A decision on the future of the stations in Belcoo, Belleek, Kesh and Newtownbutler is expected next month.
Islamic Republic News Agency
Sept 29, 2008
Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams is calling for the setting up of an independent and international truth commission as the best way for reconciliation in Northern Ireland.
State killing, collusion and the impact on victims of all armed groups must be dealt with to overcome conflict, Adams said. Key to the success of such a commission is the ‘full co-operation by all relevant parties’, he said.
His call comes as consultative groups are reporting to Britain’s Northern Ireland Secretary Shaun Woodward with a number of recommendations on the 30-year conflict’s legacy to probe the best way forward.
In an article for the Irish republican An Phoblacht, the Sinn Fein leader said that many victim groups in Ireland were looking at the possibility of establishing an Independent International Truth Commission (IITC).
“Sinn Fein has now met many of these groups and we have concluded that the establishment of an IITC is the best way of taking this issue forward,” he said.
“Clearly the willingness of individuals to voluntarily participate will be greatly enhanced if the Commission is seen to be independent, have an international dimension and be fair and equitable,” Adams argued.
He said that there was ‘understandable concern’ at the UK government’s commitment to a truth recovery process, citing officials refusing to hand over files about the 1989 killing of human rights lawyer Pat Finucane, where there was alleged security force involvement.
The leader of Northern Ireland’s second biggest party also accused Britain of obstructing the Saville Inquiry into the Bloody Sunday killing of civil rights campaigners by soldiers in Derry in January 1972.
“Brushing it under the carpet, revising our history to exorcise the role of the British state in fomenting and prolonging conflict in our country, is in no one’s interest — especially the families,” Adams said.
“But we believe that as society seeks to leave conflict behind and to move forward there is a requirement that all of us address the tragic human consequences of the past,” he added.
30 September 2008
A Sinn Féin councillor has hit out at those responsible for daubing graffiti on the Derry Walls and warned that it could jeopardise plans to have the historic ramparts designated as a world heritage site.
Councillor Peter Anderson made the comments after slogans supporting four republicans currently held on remand in Portlaoise prison were painted on the Walls in huge letters at the weekend.
“It does not enhance the reputation of Derry as a tourist destination,” he said. “The Walls are internationally known and people flock from all corners of the world to see them. At the moment we are trying to secure a huge funding package for the walls, which could run into millions of pounds, in order to preserve and protect them, and this definitely does not help that process. Hopefully those responsible will realise that,” he added.
A spokesperson for Derry City Council explained that it has spoke to the custodians of the Walls, the Environmental Heritage Service (EHS), who have given Council permission to instruct the approved contractor to have the graffiti removed.
The recent BBC programme about the escape of prisoners in 1983 caused, as we might expect, a lot of admiration and a lot of anger.
The issues at the time were very clear. The courts had been subverted by the Diplock system, torture had become routine, judges were admitting evidence which should not have been admitted. In other words, men and women were in prison who had not been proved to have done anything against the law – the courts, constructed and subverted as they were, had become incompetent to prove it even if the people concerned had in fact broken laws.
Therefore, they were unjustly condemned, unjustly imprisoned, so trying to escape was not only normal but justified. That was the argument of onlookers then, that is the argument now. If the state subverts its own laws and justice system, then it can expect extraordinary reactions like well organised prison escapes. Putting people in prison without due process and cause is the primary injustice, not the escapes.
Those who make this case will be condemned, of course. But it is strictly in accord with moral beliefs even of bodies who often err on the side of strictness, church theologians for example. This is quite apart from the insistence of those concerned that they were soldiers involved in a war against bad government, soldiers who believed they had as much right to escape as any German or British prisoners of war. The refusal of a government to admit they had this status is irrelevant. Prisoners act according to their own view of reality, not to that of governments, especially hostile ones.
Two of the men who escaped in 1983 got to Holland and had to face extradition in a court there. That court case in the Hague must have been one of the most complete statements of the situation in Ireland ever given in public, because it described the situation not only from the point of view of social, economic and historical fact, but from a military point of view as well. At the end of one day’s court session some of the reporters present were amazed. “What,” they asked, “Are these two men, Gerry Kelly and Bik McFarlane doing in this court? They are soldiers, this is no place for them….” The court heard arguments about the morality of escape – under normal British justice systems in Ireland it was difficult to ensure justice, under the political and Diplock systems impossible. Courts in Ireland through political interference had become incompetent.
Today people’s anger and pride in this massive escape have not become less.
Whatever the intentions of the BBC – after all, it is a British state agency – it may perhaps have helped bring to the surface what many people hoped would stay under it. Changes have to be made . Some of those changes will hurt. And everyone has a place and must be involved. That is the way after every armed conflict. It can only help if we talk openly and honourably about it. Other countries had to face similar realities after the second world war.
Some realities were so painful that they could have caused civil wars, in France for example where opponents had to cooperate in economics, education and justice. The need to find a way of living decently became uppermost. And, whether people liked them or not, workable political solutions just had to follow.
The stalemate in the North has developed into a very serious situation, Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams warned today.
Mr Adams made his comments after he held private talks with Secretary of State Shaun Woodward at Stormont.
The Sinn Féin leader called for action to end the deadlock, but his remarks come amid fears that an Executive meeting planned for Thursday may not go ahead.
The Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) and Sinn Féin dominate the Northern Ireland Executive and their dispute over a series of issues including the transfer of policing and justice powers from Westminster has blocked cabinet meetings since June.
Tonight Mr Adams said: “We are in a very, very serious situation at this time, all of us, all of the MLAs and more particularly those people who are looking to us for leadership to deal with the range of issues.
“We are going into the winter – whether it’s dealing with fuel poverty, whether it’s dealing with the hike in the energy costs… there isn’t a weekend passes now where somebody isn’t killed as a result of criminality or violence, (there is) the whole need for community safety.
“And the fact that the people here who have been duly elected aren’t even permitted, are denied the right, to bring forward legislation to deal with issues which constituents are concerned about.
“So we are in a very serious situation.”
The St Andrews Agreement set May this year as a target date for the devolution of policing powers to the Assembly, but the DUP has said it is not bound by any timetable.
The parties have agreed on the format of any new justice ministry and have decided someone outside their ranks will take the post.
But while unionists and the nationalist SDLP want Executive business to continue while the policing deal is negotiated, Sinn Fein wants a range of issues important to the party included in any Executive agenda.
Mr Adams said his party wanted to see partnership government where issues important to both unionists and nationalists are dealt with.
Asked if the British and Irish Governments may have to move in to help settle the dispute, the Sinn Fein president expressed hopes that the parties at Stormont could yet agree a deal.
“These matters are all better worked out by people here, but I come back to the St Andrews Agreement.
“It is an international agreement. We have the ridiculous situation where the senior party in these institutions deny that they support or that they are any part of the St Andrews Agreement.
“I am just very, very concerned at the attitude of some of the players here, I am very, very concerned at some of the recent utterances.
“I am very, very concerned that the core which has brought us all as a people to where we are at this point is being eroded by some elements who don’t believe in partnership.
“You don’t have to agree with the other person’s point of view in order to go into government with them, especially when you are coming out of conflict.
“You don’t even have to like the other person, but what you do have to do is build a shared future based upon broad principles.”
The Northern Ireland Executive has not met since June, but last week the two parties agreed to use special powers to allow First Minister and DUP leader Peter Robinson and Sinn Féin’s Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness to attend a meeting of the British Irish Council in Scotland.
But there are doubts whether enough progress has been made to give the green light to an Executive meeting planned for Thursday and a high-profile meeting of ministers from Northern Ireland and the Republic planned for Friday.
The meeting of the North-South Ministerial Council (NSMC) is part of the architecture of the Good Friday Agreement that is more important to nationalists than unionists.
Asked if this week’s Executive meeting might yet be cancelled, thereby throwing the NSMC meeting into doubt, Mr Adams said: “I don’t want to speculate. The fact is, there is time to agree an agenda.”
28 Sept 2008
A clergyman forced out of Limavady in the 1980s will not be granted the freedom of the borough, after unionist councillors defeated a motion.
Reverend David Armstrong left the town after a backlash from within his Presbyterian church over his decision to shake hands with a Catholic priest.
He received loyalist death threats over his Christmas message of goodwill to Catholic counterpart Fr Kevin Mullen.
The vote for the SDLP motion was 8-6, but a two-thirds majority was needed.
After leaving the town, Mr Armstrong retrained as an Anglican minister and is now based at a Church of Ireland parish in County Cork.
29 Sept 2008
The bank manager whose wife was held hostage in the £26.5m Northern Bank robbery has said he felt the men holding them “were murderers”.
Giving evidence at Belfast Crown Court for the fifth day, Kevin McMullan described the gang as “very cold”.
“I don’t know if it’s the right thing to say but I felt these men were murderers, they didn’t care,” he said.
His colleague Chris Ward, 26, from Colinmill, Poleglass, denies being the ‘inside man’ for the robbery.
Under cross examination from defence Mr McMullan confirmed the gang had told him he would have to be a “fantastic actor” during the robbery.
“They told me I was going to have to be the boss, do anything it took to make this happen, that I would have to be a fantastic actor and anything they wanted me to do I would have to work around to make sure it happened,” he said.
Mr Ward, a former supervisor in the Northern Bank Cash Centre, denies involvement in the robbery and two charges of abducting Mr McMullan and his wife Karyn.
The trial continues.
29 Sept 2008
The Michael McIlveen murder trial has heard a witness was “happy to blacken the name” of one of the defendants.
Witness Liam Phillips had told the jury he and his friend were chased by up to 30 Protestant youths before the Catholic teenager was killed.
Michael McIlveen died after being attacked by a gang in May 2006
A lawyer for Christopher Kerr, 22, of Carnduff Drive, said his client had become a hate figure “for changing his allegiance” to join a Protestant gang.
“I’ve no reason to blacken his name,” replied Mr Phillips.
Mr Kerr’s lawyer told the jury his client had moved out of the Dunclug area of Ballymena after an assault in a Catholic area of the town in April 2005 left him hospitalised.
He put it to the witness that his client “was public enemy number one because he had changed sides”, a claim rejected by Mr Phillips.
The defence barrister also told Antrim Crown Court that around the time of the schoolboy’s killing, tensions were high between Catholic and Protestant youths in Ballymena.
He said social networking websites were being used to exchange “abusive and insulting language”, and the two sides were going online to organise fights in car parks in the town.
‘Leader of the pack’
Mr Phillips told the police during a videotaped interview, which has already been played to the court, that Mr Kerr was “the leader of the pack” during the initial chase from the cinema to the alleyway.
He said he remembered the accused being there because he was wearing a Rangers baseball cap.
The defence lawyer put it to Mr Phillips: “You were just agreeing with the officer and saying the first thing that came into your head.
“That’s an exaggeration and you are happy to put public enemy number one at the forefront of this crowd when in fact he was nothing of the sort.”
The witness replied “no.”
Denying that he discussed what he saw with another witness, Mr Phillips said: “We don’t want to talk about it – it hurts too much to talk about it.”
Five people deny murdering Michael McIlveen on 8 May, 2006.
A 20-year-old has already pleaded guilty to the murder and is awaiting sentence.
The case continues.
Rumours of defections from Sinn Fein over ‘spread of lawlessness’
By JIM CUSACK
Sunday September 28 2008
SECTIONS of the IRA appear to have reformed as rumours abound of defections from Sinn Fein in the wake of growing disenchantment in traditional republican areas over the spread of drugs and lawlessness, according to well-placed republican sources.
Reports from Tyrone say that former Provisional IRA members banded together and were responsible for the expulsion of nine suspected drug dealers from Dungannon in the past two weeks.
In a well-planned operation, the houses of the nine alleged drug dealers were visited by armed men who ordered all the occupants to leave the town and never return, the sources said. The town’s police station was closed at the time because of a bomb scare.
The incident was not reported but has been confirmed by reliable local sources. One said it was an “East Tyrone operation”, referring to the East Tyrone brigade of the IRA.
The operation in Dungannon was said to be a response to the stabbing to death of local man Eamon Hughes, a former republican. Mr Hughes was killed by youths on September 12 as he walked home from his daughter’s 18th birthday party. The expulsions of the alleged drug dealers took place two nights later.
Local people said that the town has been swamped with drugs, including heroin, in the past year and that people’s lives were being made a misery by the violent and disruptive behaviour of young drug takers.
According to sources in Dublin, the IRA has also moved against the Irish National Liberation Army which has been recruiting and has carried out at least four murders in the past year. The INLA has been kidnapping and extorting “protection” money from drug dealers in the North and in Dublin.
Republican sources said that the INLA demanded the drug dealers pay them €40,000 or be assassinated. However, the INLA has also run up against the IRA in Dublin and it is understood that two weeks ago a delegation of IRA figures met the INLA leadership and insisted it “deals” with one of its members who had threatened an IRA man in prison.
The IRA was supposed to have disbanded and decommissioned its weapons two years ago, but apparently it has held on to some weapons. An improvised rocket, manufactured 15 years ago while the IRA campaign was still going, was used to attack PSNI officers near Rosslea, in Fermanagh, in June.
The historic decision of the DUP to form a government at Stormont with Sinn Fein was dependent on the IRA disbanding and decommissioning its weapons in tandem with Sinn Fein supporting the PSNI. The IRA was also supposed to have given up punishment beatings and shootings and forced expulsions of people from nationalist areas.
Security sources in the North said that last month’s rioting in Craigavon was orchestrated by former IRA figures. During the second of two nights of disturbances in the Tullygally and Drumbeg estates, sniper fire was directed at PSNI officers. Six police officers were injured in the violence, on August 24 and 25, during which pipe bombs and petrol bombs were thrown. Security sources said they believed the trouble was orchestrated by the former “North Armagh Brigade” of the IRA. Other rioting in Belfast and Derry over the summer was also blamed on “dissident” elements intent on damaging the power-sharing Assembly at Stormont, which is due to take over police and justice powers devolved from Westminster this year.
What is not clear, the sources say, is whether the re-emerging IRA is under the control of its former Army Council leadership, which included Martin McGuinness, Gerry Adams and Martin Ferris, or whether it has a new leadership. Sources in the North said it certainly seemed that the IRA was re-emerging in areas where it had a traditional stronghold, mainly in response to widespread drug dealing and parallel increases in criminality.
The sources added that there was a great deal of confusion surrounding what was happening in the Sinn Fein-allied wing of the IRA but that former members had left in recent months, though numbers are not yet clear.
The decision by the party leadership to soften its socialist position on economic and what are termed “core” republican issues has led to resignations and defections to a group called Eirigi. Eirigi started life two years ago in Dublin when it is said about 30 members of Sinn Fein, including key electoral workers, left. The group has now spread to the North attracting members in west Belfast and other centres including north Armagh.
– JIM CUSACK
By Gareth Gordon
The head of the Orange Order has revealed he has been in communication with the Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams.
He made the disclosure at a meeting of the Grand Lodge in the Republic on Saturday.
Gerry Adams wrote to the Orange Grand Master Roberts Saulters some months ago requesting information on the Order.
Mr Saulters said he had replied, sending Mr Adams some literature on the traditions of the institution.
Mr Adams wrote back confirming he had received Mr Saulters correspondence.
The exchange was confirmed by an Orange Order spokesman, however sources said it is unlikely to lead, at this stage, to a meeting between the Grand Lodge and Mr Adams.
In June it was revealed that three senior Orangemen from Portadown had met Gerry Adams and an aide. An exchange that was criticised by the Grand Lodge.
The meeting of the Grand Lodge in County Cavan on Saturday was the first in the Republic since partition, another sign of changing times for the institution.
26 September 2008
PETER Robinson set a new tone for the debate on policing and justice, when he said “it will” be devolved to Stormont.
In a key speech, which will be picked over in detail by republicans, and in London and Dublin, the DUP leader said those who thought his party was opposed to the transfer of law and order powers from Westminster “just don’t get it”.
Unionists, he argued, had historically demanded local control of policing responsibility.
And, he insisted, it was “a (DUP] manifesto commitment and a unionist ideal” to see this happen.
But, as he edged forward his supporters, the wider unionist community and the political process, he stressed once more that only when “essential conditions have been met” and “public confidence” is there, will the devolution of the powers actually occur.
“We will not be pushed or bullied on this matter,” he said. “Our terms are unalterable.”
The First Minister was addressing a dinner in Fermanagh, where DUP members were in celebratory mood, after the Enniskillen by-election victory of Arlene Foster.
He was speaking, too, ahead of what looks increasingly like a crucial week for the survival of devolution.
His party and Sinn Fein need to find a way through their current deadlock before a scheduled Executive meeting next Thursday and a North-South Ministerial Council meeting the following day.
After republicans agreed not to block Northern Ireland ministers participating in a British-Irish Council meeting in Scotland yesterday, the Robinson speech had the look of a choreography emerging.
A reciprocal gesture – albeit just the slightest of steps.
He sent a message to republicanism – of “we do want to do the policing deal” – which eased the tension around talks.
But he also had words of assurance for uncertain unionists.
“We will take our decision based on content, not the calendar,” he said.
Crucially, though, he underlined. “We want devolution to take place, and it will. Those who believe the DUP does not favour any form of policing and justice devolution just don’t get it,” he said.
“It was our great unionist forefathers who first argued to get these powers into Stormont and a later generation of unionists who opposed them being removed. I want to see the return of policing and justice functions to Stormont – but, importantly, and as our manifesto clearly states, providing such powers are not placed in the hands of any Sinn Fein minister.
“But only when the essential conditions have been met. The other key condition for us is attaining support and confidence from the community in the structures and in those who will operate them.”
In a signal that he may be gearing up for an internal unionist debate – the party has spoken of consulting its grassroots before any decision – Mr Robinson also said “there are many misconceptions about what the devolution of policing and justice actually means”.
These range from who the minister would be right through to what powers the minister would actually have, he said.
“That is why we must ensure all the outstanding issues are satisfactorily resolved,” he added – presumably in order to have the internal argument based on concrete facts.
“Our 2007 election manifesto made it very clear that the DUP would not support a Sinn Fein minister exercising control over policing and justice functions in the foreseeable future. A justice minister must be able to command widespread community support,” he said.
In a week where Secretary of State Shaun Woodward reset his sights by speaking of devolving policing powers within 12 months, the First Minister made no suggestion he was suddenly rushing to sign up to Sinn Fein’s biggest wish.
But he said his party has already made strides in “agreeing the context for devolution” – having settled on a single justice ministry for instance.
If the process is now to move forward he called for the blockade of the Executive to be lifted because “I do not respond well to threats”.
And he told Sinn Fein its “harmful obstruction of Executive business is eroding confidence”, so it would be better to restore good governance to the Province rather than languishing in stalemate.
Finally, to unionists, he urged them to be confident.
And he highlighted Gordon Brown’s recent appearance at Stormont as a warning that the collapse of the institutions and a return to direct rule was not in their interests.
He said the Prime Minister came “riding over the hill to parrot Sinn Fein policy and implement a republican agenda”. “Direct rule is Dublin rule,” he said.
The deputy first minister has said there is no point in having an Executive meeting if it is a charade.
Martin McGuinness said the DUP were unable to come to terms with partnership government.
First Minister Peter Robinson has said it is imperative that the Executive should meet as planned on Thursday.
“I don’t have to do anything to help the situation. I’m ready to go now. I want the Executive to meet, there is a lot of business for it to do,” he said.
Speaking at a DUP function in Lisnaskea on Friday, Peter Robinson said he and his party were ready to work and that the Executive had been held hostage to Sinn Féin’s demands on policing.
“What we need to do now is not to blockade the Executive but to use the agreed processes and seek to reach agreement, and build confidence in the community for this to take place,” he said.
“There is one certainty – Sinn Féin’s harmful obstruction of Executive business is eroding confidence not only in devolving new powers but in the devolution we have already achieved.”
Talking to the BBC’s Inside Politics programme on Saturday, Mr McGuinness accused Mr Robinson of failing the partnership test.
“Whenever the DUP come into government with Sinn Fein they should be under no illusions whatsoever,” he said.
“If it is not on the basis of partnership then it isn’t going to work.”
Mr McGuinness also said the first minister had refused to issue a joint statement congratulating the Tyrone senior team on their All-Ireland win last weekend.
“We had the ludicrous situation during the summer where there was a proposition that a joint wreath would be laid by the first and deputy first ministers at the commemoration in Omagh and the DUP refused to participate in that,” he said.
“These are important pointers to the difficulties the DUP face in coming to terms with the whole issue of engaging in a partnership government based on equality.”
By Victor Gordon
Saturday, 27 September 2008
A district council in Co Armagh is spending too much to help Orangemen ‘spend a penny’, a Sinn Fein councillor has claimed.
Cllr Mary Doyle from Armagh City and District Council wants the £10,000 set aside for portable public loos each year to be re-routed to other council facilities. The main drain on the toilet flush fund is the County Armagh annual Twelfth demonstration, with seven of the county’s 11 district situated within the area served by the Armagh council.
The county demonstration is alternated among the 11 Orange districts in County Armagh each year, the other four being in the Craigavon Borough Council area (Portadown and Lurgan) and in Newry and Mourne (Bessbrook and Newtownhamilton).
Said Ms Doyle: “I raised the issue with the council this week and discovered there isn’t really a policy on providing portable loos. It seems to date from a cosy arrangement some years ago between council officers and the organisers of parades. Most of the money goes on Orange demonstrations and loyalist band parades and this is disproportionate to the nationalist and republican section of the population.”
It is understood that the county demonstrations require at least 50 portable toilets and these are provided and serviced by private companies with Armagh council providing the finance. The seven Orange district falling within the council area are – Richhill, Tandragee, Loughgall, Armagh, Killyleagh, Markethill and Keady.
A spokesman for the County Armagh Grand Lodge said: “We understand that Armagh council finances the portable toilets and we appreciate that. We also believe that portable loos are provided for events like the Tandragee 100 and the St Patrick’s Day parade in Armagh city, but it’s up to each individual Orange district what arrangements are made.
“Newry and Mourne District Council has always been very co-operative in the Bessbrook and Newtownhamilton demonstrations and that is deeply appreciated. We understand that Craigavon Borough Council does not pay for portable toilets.”
This was confirmed by a spokesman for the Portadown District who said: “We have to organise and pay for them ourselves, and we do that through a private company. It’s a specialised service and it’s done very expertly, but the council pays no part.”
A spokeswoman for Armagh and City and District Council confirmed that Ms Doyle had asked for a policy to be established on the provision of portable toilets and this would evolve in due course.
Armagh City and District Council will be amalgamated with Craigavon and Banbridge councils in 2011 to form the new Armagh City and Bann District Council.
September 26 2008
The Northern Ireland Executive has been held hostage to Sinn Fein’s demands on policing, Peter Robinson said tonight.
Republicans have issued threats and eroded confidence in the power-sharing devolution so far achieved, the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) leader claimed.
The Executive has not met for more than three months after Sinn Fein boycotted it over lack of progress towards handing policing responsibilities to a local minister.
Mr Robinson told a meeting in Fermanagh: “Having agreed the context for devolution and having agreed the mechanism through which progress could be made, you will know how disappointed we were when, instead of engaging in this process, threats were issued and the Executive was held hostage on the issue.
“I do not respond well to threats.”
The First Minister said he would not be pushed or bullied into moving on policing and added that such powers would not be placed in the hands of a Sinn Fein minister.
“What we need to do now is not to blockade the Executive but to use the agreed processes and seek to reach agreement and build confidence in the community for this to take place.
“There is one certainty – Sinn Fein’s harmful obstruction of Executive business is eroding confidence not only in devolving new powers but in the devolution we have already achieved.”
26 Sept 2008
Provisional IRA men at the funeral of IRA hunger striker Bobby Sands
The 1981 election of IRA hunger striker Bobby Sands as MP remains a sore point for Protestants in County Fermanagh, a new study has claimed.
The Church of Ireland report interviewed Protestants living in the Clogher Diocese about the Troubles.
It has recommended more be done to deal with the legacy of pain in the area’s Protestant community.
It said the community felt it was being wiped out during the Troubles and remains uncertain of the future.
Some of those interviewed pointed to a fragile peace between the minority Protestant population in Fermanagh (35%) and the majority Catholic population (65%), but warned a neighbourliness based on delicate compromises avoided addressing difficult and unresolved issues of power, hurt and history.
Bobby Sands was elected as an MP in 1981 while in the Maze prison
“The question of whether or not there had been a concerted campaign of ‘ethnic cleansing’ in the border regions was for most interviewees an accepted fact,” the report said.
The report added: “What was in no doubt was the vicious finality and painful legacy visited upon the few and observed from a distance by the many.”
The study was funded by the Irish government and the International Fund for Ireland to help develop Protestant communities in cross-border areas.
The church report found elements of political history remained a sore point.
In 1981, IRA prisoner Bobby Sands led a hunger strike that eventually saw 10 republicans die in the Maze prison.
The decision to stand Sands as a candidate in a by-election for the Fermanagh/South-Tyrone Westminster seat provided an outlet for nationalists who were sympathetic to the hunger strike and angry at the refusal of the then Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher to negotiate a settlement.
But the Protestant community saw the vote as support for an IRA terrorist.
Sands received 52% of the vote against (unionist candidate) Harry West’s 48%.
‘Purging of Protestants’
“Many Protestants and unionists saw it, both then and now, as a clear and unambiguous vote of support for the retention of the ‘armed struggle’ and the purging of Protestants from the land,” the report said.
“They couldn’t understand it then and they still can’t. The collective ‘nailing of the colours to the mast’ was stark and shocking, but made things very clear – whatever about our previous neighbourliness, whatever about our friendly and co-operative arrangements, all of that is now over.”
The report revealed a complex picture where personal grief and anger have become intertwined with the history of the Troubles.
But the report added: “A number of lay people reported that they had a strong sense that their Roman Catholic neighbours did not approve of or support the campaign of terror and violence that the IRA waged against the border Protestant people but that they suspected that their neighbours were unable to communicate as much or reach out a hand of friendship for fear of possible repercussions.”
The report points to a further gulf in understanding when it tackles the issue of nationalist unease at Protestant neighbours joining the B-Specials police reserve and, later, the Ulster Defence Regiment.
Some contributors suggest the motive was often economic, with rural Protestant families keen to earn the extra money offered by part-time security force jobs.
But the report said dialogue was crucial and suggested using the 400th anniversary of the Plantation of Ulster next year “to creatively raise and proactively seek to address some of the historical legacy issues”.
26 September 2008
A GAA clubhouse in Co Down has been substantially damaged in an early morning blaze.
Emergency services attended the outbreak at St John’s clubhouse at Drumnaquoile, near Castlewellan on Friday.
The building has suffered extensive damage.
A police spokeswoman confirmed the incident was being treated as arson and that police were appealing for information.
SDLP MLA Eamonn O’Neill, who lives in Castlewellan, said everyone associated with the club was calling for “no retaliation”.
He added: “What I fear is that this attack is a taunt designed to provoke a response. It is clearly a sectarian attack.”
The incident could potentially be linked, he said, to a recent daubing of IRA graffiti on a nearby Orange Hall. “That incident got an enormous amount of publicity and this attack might be as a result of that,” he said.
DUP MLA Jim Wells said the communities of south Down “needed to be very careful they do not get into a tit-for-tat” series of attacks.
“There have recently been a series of such attacks on properties on both sides of the community in south Down,” he said. “It is unusual for them to be on Catholic properties though, the vast majority of them have been on Protestant churches and Orange Halls.”
Jacqui McMullan from the club told the BBC “hundreds of thousands of pounds worth” of damage had been caused.
“We had refurbishing done, equipment and a lot of valuable trophies,” she said.
“On Sunday we are going to play a junior championship final in Newry so this is a big day coming up. Now we have been set back a bit.”
26 September 2008
PETER Robinson and Martin McGuinness are attending a summit in Scotland, despite an underlying political crisis.
The First and Deputy First Ministers are taking part in a meeting of the British-Irish Council in Edinburgh.
It had been feared the gathering would have to be postponed as it is necessary for the power-sharing Executive to agree the meeting, but it has not met formally for over three months.
However, First Minister Peter Robinson and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness agreed a special “urgent procedures” measure allowing ministers to approve the trip to Edinburgh and the agenda of the meeting at Hopetoun House, outside the Scottish capital.
The DUP and Sinn Fein are at loggerheads over the devolution of policing and justice powers, with the latter refusing to attend Executive meetings until the issue is resolved.
Leaders from Northern Ireland, England, Scotland, Scotland, Wales, the Channel Islands, the Isle of Man and the Republic are expected to discuss setting up a permanent BIC secretariat in the UK.
26 Sept 2008
The PSNI were attacked with fireworks and other missiles in Belfast last night after they were called to deal with a bomb alert that was later declared to be a hoax.
Security forces told families to stay at the rear of their homes after a suspicious device was discovered at the junction of Forthriver Drive and Forthriver Crescent in north Belfast at around 9pm.
Youths attacked police officers at the scene before community leaders in the area worked to quell the disturbances.
Army technical experts carried out a controlled explosion on the device before the security alert was lifted after 11pm.
The device was declared to be a hoax, while there were no reports of serious injuries.
Please go to the latest edition of the Irish Democrat for some interesting historical reviews:
25 Sept 2008
One of Derry’s best-known solicitors, Claude Wilton, has died.
The 89-year-old died in Altnagelvin hospital on Wednesday after a short illness.
Claude Wilton, far right, in white, on the 1968 Duke Street march. (Pic courtesy Derry Journal)
He was a prominent member of the civil rights movement in the city, and was well-known in sporting circles, especially football and cricket.
His friend and fellow civil rights campaigner, Ivan Cooper, said he was “a man of great distinction” who was “legendary” in Derry.
He was a solicitor, he represented the poor, he represented the underprivileged.
“I don’t think anyone could ever imagine how legendary he is in this city,” he said.
SDLP Assembly member Pat Ramsey paid tribute to Mr Wilton as “a legal representative who greatly respected by and dedicated to the people”.