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Belfast Telegraph
Friday, 19 January 2007

Architects are planning a new landmark building for Belfast city centre to rival U2’s bid for Ireland’s tallest building.

Plans have been submitted for the £90m Aurora building which will stand 37 storeys high on Great Victoria Street, at the corner of Ventry Street.

But the £90m development will still fall 21 metres short of the tower the Irish rock supergroup is planning for Dublin. U2 Tower’s shoulder parapet will be 100 metres above street level. However it will be crowned with U2’s recording studio to give it a total height of 130 metres.

Vertigo: Aurora will rival U2 tower. An artist’s impression of the Aurora building planned for Great Victoria Street in Belfast. The skyscraper will stand at 109m

The 109-metre Aurora building will house 291 luxury apartments, a residents’ gym, 24-hour concierge, valet parking and 7,000sq ft of prime commercial space including an exclusive restaurant.

The ambitious new development will also create 300 jobs during its two-year construction.

And if the plans are approved, the first apartments could be for sale 18 months from now, with the development complete by 2010.

Designed by internationally acclaimed HKR Architects, a key aspect of Aurora will be its energy efficient design features and a specially-commissioned roof-top light feature which simulates the northern lights at night.

Developer McAlister Holdings hopes the sky will be the limit, with Aurora becoming an iconic city landmark.

Mervyn McAlister, managing director of McAlister Holdings, said: ” Aurora will set a new benchmark for residential and commercial development in the city centre.

“It will be recognised as the most exciting and innovative scheme of its type ever built in Northern Ireland. Its construction, when seen alongside schemes such as Victoria Square, Bedford Square and the Obel Building, reflects the growing confidence of Belfast moving forward into the future.”

And the developers foresee the apartments being snapped up by the province’s high-fliers who want to be within walking distance of the places they work and play in.

There are 146 car parking spaces available (50% of the requirement), but the developers say it is all part of the concept to get people out of the car.

And if it is the high life for you, the top two floors have been left just in case a well-heeled buyer wants to have the entire floor for a possible penthouse – with some of the best views in Belfast.

No prices have been set yet for an apartment, but with one bedroom apartments in the city centre currently selling from £175,000, prospective owners will probably have to pay a premium.

Simon Brien, from the Eric Cairns Partnership who will handle the apartment sales, described Aurora as one of Northern Ireland’s most “exciting and inspirational” developments.

He added: “The market for high quality residential accommodation in the city centre is very strong and Aurora will certainly attract huge levels of interest.”

Dave Pennick, president of Belfast Chamber of Trade and Commerce praised the plan, adding the developers have chosen a good location. He said: “Belfast has come an awful long way in a very short time.

“Aurora is a very brave statement and it is up to the planners and what their vision is for Belfast.”

And he urged them to take a ” leap of faith”.

After meeting the developers, the DUP’s East Antrim MP Sammy Wilson said the Aurora building would be a major and prestigious development for the city.

“This planned development, along with others, will be an impressive landmark building in the city and represents an air of confidence about the economic future for Belfast in particular, and Northern Ireland in general,” he said.

“Obviously there will be local concerns which developers will need to address, but I am pleased that during my discussions this morning the representative from the developers seemed more than willing to meet with local people and officers of Belfast City Council to address their issues and listen to their views.

“Hopefully the application will be given a fair wind by the planning system and building will be able to commence quickly.

“If the target set in the Regional Development Strategy of building 60% of new houses in the urban footprint is to be met then developments of this nature have to be achieved and approved.”

The Aurora building and U2 Towers are a long way off topping Taipei 101 in Taiwan which has 101 storeys and stands at 508 metres.

Petronas Towers 1 and 2 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, form the world’s second tallest building with 88 storeys at 452 metres high.

Sears Tower in Chicago is the fourth tallest building with 110 storeys at 442 metres high and Jin Mao Building in Shanghai is fifth with 88 storeys at 421 metres.

New York’s Empire State Building ranks ninth with 102 storeys at 381 metres and the Trump Building on Fifth Avenue stands 283 metres high.

Henry McDonald in Belfast
Friday October 31 2008 14.23 GMT

Sinn Féin and the British army united today to try and quell sectarian tensions around the first major military parade through Belfast city centre.

The Sinn Féin minister Gerry Kelly announced that the party’s protest against a march by troops returning from Iraq and Afghanistan would be rerouted.

Kelly said Sinn Féin’s demonstration would be in “visual range” of the army march on Sunday. The party’s protest would stop at the bottom of the Grosvenor Road, an arterial route into republican west Belfast, he said.

The announcement came a few hours after the head of the British army in Northern Ireland said an RAF flypast planned for the parade would be cancelled.

The Guardian has learned that republicans opposed to power sharing and Sinn Féin’s peace strategy will still try to disrupt the parade.

The apparent deal came as Sinn Féin and the Democratic Unionists continued talks behind closed doors to restore the power-sharing executive at Stormont.

The Guardian has learned that the DUP and Sinn Féin began discussions yesterday that lasted until 2am today. Although the parade was discussed, the main focus of the talks was on the devolution of policing and justice powers to the Northern Ireland Assembly.

Sources close to the talks said the parties were “very close to a deal” that would see the centrist, non-sectarian Alliance Party run a new policing and justice ministry as a compromise.

Dissident republicans opposed to the peace process told the Guardian they would ignore Sinn Féin’s decision to alter their protest and would still picket the British army march.

All police leave in Northern Ireland has been cancelled this weekend as the security forces plan to monitor the rallies and demonstrations that have the potential to destabilise the peace process.

At noon on Sunday thousands are taking to the streets of Belfast city centre to cheer soldiers returning from service in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Speaking at Sinn Féin’s west Belfast headquarters yesterday, Kelly said: “We needed a change to radically de-escalate the situation. Others are trying to hijack that situation.”

The former IRA member, a Maze prison escapee, stressed that the party would have a “dignified protest” entirely separate from dissident groups. Kelly denied there had been a deal involving Sinn Féin and the British army.

His remarks came a few hours after the army announced changes to its parade.

Major General Chris Brown, the head of the British army in Northern Ireland, said: “We have taken a number of measures to ensure that our thanksgiving parade does not increase the potential for friction … all on the parade will be unarmed and the musical repertoire will reflect the tri-service nature of this event, including regimental tunes, as well as the fact that it is happening on a Sunday.

“As a further measure I have decided there will be no flypast. This further underpins our appreciation of the sensitivities surrounding this element of the parade.”

Unionists criticised the army’s move as pandering to Sinn Féin. The Ulster Unionist deputy leader, Danny Kennedy, said: “I feel the hands of the Northern Ireland Office or Whitehall simply trying to pander to elements that will never be satisfied. People who are opposed to this will always be opposed to this.”

Dissident protests are being organised by Eirig, a group of disgruntled Sinn Féin activists, and the Irish Republican Socialist party.

Loyalist paramilitary sources told the Guardian last weekend that the anti-army protests were “potentially disastrous”. Both loyalist terror groups, the Ulster Volunteer Force and the Ulster Defence Association, have instructed their members to turn up in support of the homecoming parade for British troops.

One senior UVF member said yesterday that anger among unionists over republican protests had not been as strong since the Anglo-Irish agreement was signed in the mid-1980s. In 1986 tens of thousands of unionists turned up outside Belfast city hall to protest against the accord giving the Dublin government more say in the running of Northern Ireland.

The loyalist leader pointed to one of the Sinn Féin speakers at the now re-routed protest, the Derry Assembly member Martina Anderson whom Gerry Adams had appointed as the party’s outreach officer to unionists.

“So much for her ‘outreach’ to unionists when she is addressing a protest many in my community will see as provocative and insulting,” the UVF commander said.


A former leading Belfast loyalist, linked by the police ombudsman to over a dozen murders, has lost his fight to stop the media photographing him.

Mark Haddock, from Mount Vernon, wanted a media blackout on his new identity when he leaves prison early next year.

The alleged informer is serving a 10-year sentence

He is serving a 10-year sentence for attacking a nightclub doorman.

Haddock is still seeking bans on the publication of his new address as well as his proposed change of name, claiming that he is under death threat.

He was screened from public view in the High Court on Friday when Mr Justice Deeny ruled that there had not been a material alteration in his appearance to justify Haddock’s claim for a publicity ban.

The BBC, UTV and Irish News had opposed Haddock’s move for secrecy.


By Erin Hutcheon
Derry Journal
31 October 2008

A Derry man who was shot in a Bogside bookie’s shop on Wednesday evening, last night sent a clear message to his attackers: “I’m no dealer.”

Shaun Ryan (35), was shot twice in both legs during a punishment-style shooting at Ladbrokes betting shop in Meenan Square.

The father of three has since undergone surgery at Altnagelvin Hospital.
Speaking exclusively to the ‘Journal’ from his hospital bed, Shaun Ryan and his wife Deborah described his attackers as “scumbags.”

“It’s a vendetta,”said Shaun. “I don’t sell drugs, I did sell years ago, but now I’ve stopped.”

He said be believed the gunmen came after him because he was seen driving around in a new car and it was assumed he had money.

“I bought that car on higher purchase with my father,” he said. “I was going to use it to start taxi-ing.”

Still visibly shaken from his ordeal, Mr Ryan said the attack had been devastating for his wife and family.

“The people who did this are scum of the earth,” he said. “I wouldn’t wish this on any family, just weeks before Christmas.”

Although it had been feared he could lose a leg, doctors were able to remove the bullets from Shaun Ryan’s kneecaps. However, it could be months before he’s able to walk again.

Just after 9pm on Wednesday night two masked men armed with a shotgun entered Ladbrokes on Meenan Square and demanded that customers lie on the floor. The men singled out Shaun Ryan and shot him in both legs.
Witnesses said Mr Ryan’s injuries were so severe the ground was saturated in blood.

The attackers then made their escape hijacking a silver Vauxhall Vectra at Dove Gardens. The car was later found burned out at Creggan Heights.
Yesterday Mr. Ryan’s sister Marguerite, visibly shaken, broke down in tears as she visited the scene of the shooting.

“We have no idea why Shaun has been targeted like this,” she said.
Family friend SDLP Councillor John Tierney condemned the shooting.: “Shaun could have lost a leg,” he said. “These so-called punishment shootings are barbaric. Once people go out with a loaded gun, no one knows what will happen next.”

Sinn Féin MLA Raymond McCartney says those who carried out the shooting have “nothing to offer the community.”

Donal McCarthy from Ladbrokes said his staff had been traumatised by the shooting and added that they will be reviewing their security arrangements.

Police have appealed for anyone with information to come forward. The number to ring is 08456008000 or crimestoppers on 0800555111.

By Conor Sharkey
Ulster Herald
**Via Newshound

Castlederg Young Loyalists Flute Band has been forced to remove material from its website amid fears it could spark violence at this weekend’s RIR homecoming parade in Belfast.

Thousands of well wishers are expected to converge on Belfast this Sunday to mark the return of Royal Irish Regiment soldiers who have just completed a six-month deployment in Helmand province in Afghanistan. Strong support is also anticipated for a republican counter-demonstration set to go ahead around the same time.

Fears that the display could lead to a head-on collision between loyalists and republicans have been growing in recent days. On Monday, the DUP accused Sinn Fein of behaving recklessly over the parade. The DUP in turn were accused of conducting an “offensive coat trailing exercise”.

Locally, division over the RIR homecoming has also started to bubble to the surface. Castlederg Young Loyalists Flute Band has vowed to travel to Belfast to show its support for the returning soldiers. Meanwhile the local branch of Ogra Shinn Fein says it too will travel to demonstrate on behalf of families bereaved “as a result of state murder”.

And earlier this week, potentially inciteful postings started to appear on the website of the Derg Young Loyalists Flute Band. One, posted under the name ‘Ex RIR’ reads, “I will be there and will bring as many as possible to show our boys support. Everyone reading this please pass it on and post it on loyalist sites and guestbooks and show these scumbag republicans up”. A second posting, apparantly predicting trouble at Sunday’s march, urged, “We could not be with our soldiers in Afghanistan but we can protect them in Belfast”.

Yesterday, the UH made band master Trevor Donnell aware of the potentially inflammatory material and it was subsequently removed. Mr Donnell added that the message in no way reflected the overall feeling within the ranks of the band.

“The reason we are supporting the parade is because a young fellow out there is a former band member. Messages like ‘republican scumbags’ are not the general feeling among the band and the material has now been removed. We see this as more of a thanksgiving parade rather than triumphalist and the last thing we want is for it be marred by any violence,” he said.

Meanwhile, Ogra Shinn Fein’s national organiser Barry McColgan welcomed the decision to remove the postings, adding that their counter-demonstration was in no way about stirring up trouble.

“Of course the decision to remove this from the website has to be welcomed. But what we are doing is turning out to show our opposition to the illegal occupation by the British both here and in Iraq. This type of homecoming parade can’t even go ahead in England because of the opposition to the war in Iraq but it is alright to have it over here. It seems crazy.

“As far as we are concerned, this will be a peaceful and dignified protest against state murder and collusion and any violence on the day would take away from that,” Mr McColgan said.

Ulster Herald
**Via Newshound

THE PSNI has increased patrols in the Omagh town area in response to dissident republican death threats to local police officers.

Tensions are currently high following a number of attacks on police officers in Tyrone and Fermanagh in recent months.

Chief Constable Hugh Orde has already admitted that dissident activity is as high now as at any time during the Troubles and this week a police spokesperson revealed to the UlsterHerald that the PSNI is taking every measure possible to ensure the safety of local police officers and civilians.

The police spokesperson said, “While we do not comment on the security of individuals, whether they be police officers or other members of the community, when we become aware of a threat to them, we take appropriate action.

“It is worth remembering that there is a substantial threat to police officers and others from dissident republicans. In particular, they have made serious attempts to murder officers over the past year.

“We are taking steps to counter the threats and people throughout Tyrone and Fermanagh will have noticed increased police activity. We ask for their patience and understanding and we also appeal for all with information about those behind the threats to give that information to us.”

Local Sinn Féin councillor and DPP member, Declan McAleer unequivocally condemned the murder threats.

He said, “The people who are engaged in this behaviour are operating without any mandate and have no support whatsoever within this community. I’m not certain whose agenda they are working to, but I completely condemn such threats and am calling on whoever is responsible to withdraw these immediately.”

Cllr Tom Buchanan, West Tyrone DUP MLA and NI Policing Board member, expressed his concern that police have had to step up their level of activity in the Omagh area.

He said, “It is a real concern when dissident republicans are creating a threat to both police officers and to people in the local area. This is a small minority of people that are intent on murdering police personnel.

“I commend the police for increasing their presence in an area where they feel this republican threat is. However, I think the police must receive the full backing of all the political parties at this time to take whatever force or action required to stamp out this type of activity.”

News Letter
31 October 2008

A SINN Fein delegation has had a meeting with the Parades Commission and is set to hold a press conference to make a statement about the Belfast homecoming parade.

There is speculation that the party may announce that it is to scale down its protest in response to a series of concessions by the Ministry of Defence.

A Sinn Fein spokesperson refused to comment on the reasoning for the hastily arranged press conference.

This morning the MoD announced that it was cancelling the planned RAF flypast and that none of the soldiers would be armed.

The MoD has already said that the Royal Irish Regiment’s regimental march, Killaloe, will not be played on Sunday and regimental colours will not be carried.

The moves have been made in an attempt to quell violence fears at the event being held on Sunday to welcome troops home after serving in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Sinn Fein have organised a counter protest and there is expected to be a high level security presence as protestors and well-wishers come into close proximity.

But three of the party’s MLAs – Gerry Kelly, Jennifer McCann and Paul Maskey – have called a press conference for noon today at the party’s Sevastopol Street Offices on the Falls Road, where they will make a statement about the parade.

Major General Chris Brown said the decision had been made to cancel the flyover to ensure the parade “does not increase the potential for friction”.

Mr Brown also confirmed that no weapons will be deployed by soldiers and regimental tunes will not be played by the Royal Irish band leading the homecoming parade through the city centre.

“This further underpins our appreciation of the sensitivities surrounding this element of the parade,” he said.

Ulster Unionist parades spokesman Michael Copeland – a former UDR soldier – accused the military hierarchy of bending over backwards to placate dissident elements.

The UUP councillor described the move as, “capitulation to the unstated requirements of those who have set themselves up in opposition to this expression of Britishness”.

“The military hierarchy, in bending over backwards to accommodate this dissent, are in danger of breaking the hearts of those who consider themselves proud to be British, whether they are service personnel or civilians,” Mr Copeland added.

By Brendan McDaid
Belfast Telegraph
Friday, 31 October 2008

DISPARATE groups of Republicans including anti and pro-Agreement groups, the IRSP and the 32 County Sovereignty Movement, are to discuss merging their political objectives at a meeting in the North West next week.

The wide spectral of Republican parties and individuals with differing views are set to gather at the Tower Hotel in Derry city centre next Friday to thrash out a common agenda at the launch of a Republican Network for Unity.

In a statement issued today, the Irish Republican Socialist Party Derry branch said they “fully endorse” and support the project.

A spokesman said: “The IRSP have been involved in ongoing discussions on how to best move the Republican project forward in the current political climate.

“As such, with our partners in the Republican Network for Unity and the 32 County Sovereignty Movement, we are happy to participate in the launch of the Irish Republican Forum for Unity Project and see it as an exciting and timely intervention.

“We would urge all those who are unhappy at the current state of affairs and who want to see republicanism to once again prosper to lend their support to this broad-based initiative and to attend the debate next Friday night in the Tower Hotel.”

A spokesman for the organisers of the event said today: “Over the past ten years — since the signing of the Good Friday agreement — Irish Republicans have witnessed a dramatic change in the manner in which the struggle for National Liberation and the establishment of a 32-county Republic has been waged.

“To say that not all Republicans agree with, nor comprehend how such changes are leading to the establishment of a 32-county democratic socialist republic, is to point out the obvious, and is evidenced by the large number of groups that now exist with the stated aim of establishing such a republic.

“There are those for whom the local British assembly represents the best route forward, while for others the very existence of a local assembly stands as a bulwark against National Sovereignty and as such hinders, not helps, the struggle for National Liberation.

“Still others are so frustrated by the lack of progress or a clear strategic way forward or a unity of purpose that they have given up on the Republican struggle ever arriving at its revolutionary objective.”

He added: “In short, the Republican vision, as eloquently articulated in the Proclamation of 1916, appears to be distorted by divisions and lack of agreement around core Republican positions.

“That being the case, a number of Republicans feel that ten years on from the signing of the Good Friday Agreement, the time is appropriate for Republicans to review where the Republican struggle stands and how best we can collectively pursue the sentiments expressed in the Proclamation.

“Such a review needs to address not only were we stand in relation to core Republican beliefs but also how we attempt to be pro-active on those beliefs within the Republican tradition. This is vital to ensure that we move our core aims beyond the aspirational and into the attainable.”

He added: “Towards this end all views should be encouraged and given equal weight using the rule of thumb that at this juncture it is of equal importance to consider where we, individually and collectively, are going to as where we are coming from.”

The spokesman said that within the forum, all issues of importance to Republicans can be openly discussed with the intention that the ideas generated will be taken back to existing organisations for the purpose of focussing political activity to achieve more definitive results.

“In this way,” he added, “Republicans can begin to address the areas of division that have been created due to lack of open, frank and democratic discussion and begin the process of establishing an agreed Republican agenda rather than Republicans merely responding to a series of ‘contrived’ crises.”

Other similar meetings are to be staged across Ireland in the forthcoming weeks.


Three members of staff at a west Belfast restorative justice scheme have received death threats from dissident republicans.
Community Restorative Justice Ireland director (CRJI) Jim Auld said a local media outlet told them of the threat.
He said they were targeted because his staff co-operated with the police.
“Everybody in this community has been up in arms about the level of crime and criminal activity that is occurring within it,” he said.
“And yet these people who are saying that they are protectors of the people are threatening us,” he said.
He said that the police have been contacted in relation to the threat.
He said CRJI had been involved in 1,500 cases across Northern Ireland last year and called on those behind the threat to withdraw it.
“We have supported the victims of crime to deal with their issues in a variety of ways,” he said.
“All we want now is to get on with the work that staff and practitioners have been doing to great effect.”

Irish News
**Via Newshound

A bomb left outside the home of a Derry man targeted by the Real IRA last month partially exploded, writes Seamus McKinney.

The bomb was found outside the house of a 26-year-old man at Transallagh near the Co Donegal border village of St Johnston around 10pm on Monday.

The victim, who is originally from nearby Creggan in Derry, was shot by the Real IRA last month.

He was ambushed by up to four masked men as he pulled up at his home on the night of September 25.

He was shot in the neck but managed to drive off.

The gang abducted his girlfriend who had got out of the car to open the gates to his home. The couple’s pet dog was also shot in the attack and later died.

While no group has claimed responsibility for the latest attack, security sources believe it was also the work of the Real IRA.

The area around the house remained sealed off throughout Monday night while six families forced to spend the night away from home.

An Irish army technical officer from Athlone barracks arrived at the scene early yesterday and made the device safe.

The security alert was eventually lifted after gardai completed a search for a possible secondary device.

Gardai later revealed that the device consisted of a pipe bomb attached to a five-gallon drum of petrol. The pipe bomb exploded but failed to ignite the petrol.

St Johnston parish priest Mgr Dan Carr said parishioners were shocked by the attack.

“It is a very quiet, peaceful, country district and people go about their business and they would never have been exposed to this type of behaviour before,” he said.

“It’s obviously very disconcerting for them.

News Letter
30 October 2008

THERE will be no review of the Parades Commission decision to hold either the Royal Irish Regiment homecoming parade nor related protests, the body has confirmed.

The organisation has said there are “not sufficient grounds” for a review – and has called on anyone coming into Belfast on Sunday to “respect the city and its population”.

Speaking earlier, the body’s chairman Roger Poole said: “We have been asked to review our decisions, but in fact there are very narrow grounds upon which we can review decisions and in this instance the Commission did not deem that there were sufficient grounds for a review.

“We would ask that those who intend to come to the city on Sunday review their own positions and redouble their efforts to take tension out of this issue in advance of the parade.

“Belfast deserves a peaceful weekend and the citizens and traders in the city are entitled to a trouble free day. Anyone intent of causing or contributing to civil unrest should stay away.”

Mr Poole said that it was “not helpful” that various political and community leaders were continuing to call for either the homecoming parade or the legally notified protest, to be banned.

“Now is the time for an effort to be made to reduce rather than heighten tension around this parade and protest,” he continued.

“There is an onus on those political and community leaders in a position of influence to demonstrate leadership between now and Sunday through their words, their actions and their commitment to non violent actions.”

Belfast Telegraph
Thursday, 30 October 2008

The Prime Minister has appealed for calm on the streets of Belfast this Sunday when republicans will protest against a homecoming parade for troops returning from Afghanistan.

Gordon Brown appealed for a “peaceful Sunday” during Question Time in the House of Commons yesterday amid concerns of heightened tensions at the weekend.

DUP leader Peter Robinson has been ferocious in his criticism of republican plans to protest, claiming they have made it even more difficult to break the deadlock that means Stormont’s executive has not meet since June.

Sinn Fein has said it will stage a peaceful protest, but dissident republican groups are to hold separate demonstrations, while unionist politicians have urged the public to come out to support the Royal Irish troops.

During question time in the Commons yesterday the DUP leader told the Prime Minister Sinn Fein had heightened tension across Northern Ireland with its “preposterous” decision.

“Would you join with me in welcoming a decision by the Army to organise a homecoming parade in the city of Belfast?” he said.

“Would you recognise that the troops, who have performed so well and so bravely in Iraq and Afghanistan from Northern Ireland come from both sections of our community?

“It becomes all the more preposterous the decision taken by Sinn Fein to run a counter parade and protest which has heightened tensions in Northern Ireland as a whole.

“Would you join with me in urging people in Northern Ireland to ensure that we have a peaceful Sunday, that everyone has due respect for the role that has been played by our brave troops, particularly in Iraq and Afghanistan?

“Will you urge everyone to do nothing to drag us back to the bad old days?”

Mr Brown told MPs: “I want every Sunday to be a peaceful Sunday in Northern Ireland.

“I want us to work together to make sure that we can undertake the remaining stages of devolution that makes possible stability for the longer term.

“But I also agree with you that our troops, our Armed Forces, deserve the support of every community from which they come.

“Where there have been parades in different cities and towns in this country, not only have they been peaceful but large numbers of people have turned out because they want to give support to our troops and show that they have the confidence of the British people.”

But a spokesman for Sinn Fein said: “The British Ministry of Defence has organised and filed for this parade.

“Belfast is not like any other part of what he (Mr Brown) calls the United Kingdom. It is not as British as Finchley.”

The Sinn Fein spokesman said many people had suffered at the hands of British troops in Ireland.

“They are opposed to this coat-trailing exercise,” he said.

Earlier Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams said: “I very publicly want to acknowledge that the families of the soldiers involved are pleased to see their loved ones return from a dangerous situation. This is very understandable and acceptable.

“But the decision by the British Ministry of Defence to organise a military parade through Belfast city centre is totally unacceptable.”

A breakaway republican group opposed to Sinn Fein’s policies and its support for policing has said it will also stage a demonstration on Sunday.

A spokesman for the group Eirigi — Irish for “rise up” —called for supporters to turn out in large numbers to oppose the parade.

Belfast Telegraph
Wednesday, 29 October 2008

The deaths of three policemen killed by an IRA landmine in Northern Ireland are set to be re-examined after new evidence was uncovered in a classified report, it was revealed today.

A coroner in Belfast has requested that fresh inquests are held into the killings of Royal Ulster Constabulary officers John Quinn, Allan McCloy and Paul Hamilton in October 1982.

The three died instantly when a remotely detonated bomb buried in a roadside culvert near Lurgan, Co Armagh, exploded as they passed in their armoured police car.

Coroner John Leckey said confidential reports he had seen contained significant information that was not available when an original inquest into the deaths was held in 1983.

He was given permission to view the documents as part of his probe into six alleged “shoot-to-kill” operations carried out by the RUC in the Co Armagh area in the weeks after the murders of the three officers.

The top secret reports were compiled by former Greater Manchester Police Deputy Chief Constable John Stalker and Sir Colin Sampson of the West Yorkshire Police.

Mr Leckey said while he did not have the power to establish new inquests he would be asking the Attorney General to do so.

“I will ask him to direct that new inquests are held on the basis of the additional and new evidence,” he said.

The coroner would not indicate the nature of the evidence he had seen but his move will undoubtedly fuel existing speculation as to a possible link between the “shoot-to-kill” deaths and the landmine killings and, indeed, whether or not the attack on the officers could have been prevented.

In 1984 Mr Stalker was commissioned to conduct an external investigation into the six RUC shootings after claims that the officers involved had deliberately set out to kill.

Sir Colin completed his work after Mr Stalker was removed from the role over a matter unrelated to the inquiry.

Their findings have never been made public.

The “shoot to kill” allegations refer to three separate incidents in late 1982:

• The shooting dead of IRA men Gervaise McKerr, Eugene Toman and John Burns in Lurgan on November 11, 1982.
• The shooting of Catholic teenager Michael Tighe near Craigavon on November 24, 1982.
• The killings of INLA suspects Seamus Grew and Roddy Carroll near Armagh city on December 12, 1982.

In the wake of these deaths there were claims that Mr Burns and Mr Toman had been suspected of involvement in the landmine attack on the RUC officers.

Mr Leckey has requested that Police Service of Northern Ireland Chief Constable Sir Hugh Orde now release the Sampson and Stalker reports to the court so that inquests into the six killings can finally get under way after years of delay.

“I am satisfied that in general terms the Stalker and Sampson reports are relevant for inquest purposes,” he said.

“Without doubt further evidence did come to light as a consequence of the investigation undertaken.”

Mr Leckey revealed that recent changes to the legal framework would enable him to broaden the remit of the inquests beyond trying to establish simply when and how the victims died.

He explained that the eventual verdicts may take “a variety of forms and no longer must it be an anodyne, brief, neutral, factual statement”.

The coroner said he also had the power to compel anyone suspected of being involved in the deaths to give evidence, though he noted they would not be obliged to answer questions that might incriminate them.

After the hearing in Belfast’s coroner’s court Mark Thompson, a spokesman for Relatives for Justice – a victims’ group that represents some of the relatives of those killed in the alleged “shoot to kill” incidents – called on the chief constable to release the reports.

“We’re in a new political environment,” he said.

“There’s a new landscape, it’s 20-odd years later, the families deserve to know the truth and that means providing the information to the court.”

Mr Thompson said the coroner’s decision to call for new inquests into the deaths of the RUC officers left many unanswered questions.

“Obviously this is speculative at this stage, but one would question has he (Mr Leckey) seen information that would incline him or deem it necessary or appropriate to now re-examine those killings on the basis of information that possibly the killings may have been prevented,” he said.

“Those families (of the policemen) too now find themselves in the midst of this, embroiled in this whole incident in which they too will want to know the truth, and they are entitled to the truth and the public are entitled to the truth.

“So the onus is on the chief constable to do the right thing – this boil needs to be lanced, the families don’t want to wait another 20 years for answers.”

Sir Hugh is currently assessing whether or not to reclassify the Stalker and Sampson reports from their current respective status of ‘secret’ and ‘top secret’.

Mr Leckey is also investigating the death of IRA man Pearse Jordan who was shot dead by the RUC in disputed circumstances after a car collision on the Falls Road, Belfast in 1992.

That inquest has also been held up over the release of confidential documents.

Belfast Telegraph
29 Oct 2008

The SDLP in Belfast is asking the Parades Commission to think again about allowing the British Army to march through the city centre on Sunday and Sinn Fein to protest against it.

Three other illegal republican protests are being planned against the troop homecoming parade from Iraq and Afghanistan, while loyalists are also mobilising to support it.

Alex Attwood of the SDLP said that a review is needed to avoid potential disaster amid the escalating tensions.

Belfast Telegraph
29 Oct 2008

Families of people killed by British soldiers during the Troubles have urged the Army to call off a contentious parade for troops returning from Afghanistan.

Fears are mounting that Sunday’s homecoming event for Royal Irish Regiment in Belfast could be a potential flashpoint with both Sinn Fein and anti-peace process republicans organising separate protest marches.

Clara Reilly, of the United Campaign Against Plastic Bullets, a group representing relatives of those killed and injured by the weapon, said the event should be held in private. “It should be a dignified civic reception or church service. Holding a march through the city centre is insensitive, divisive and indeed sectarian,” she added.

Irish News
**Via Newshound

THE lives of a dozen ex-soldiers would face increased risk if they are named at the inquiry into the murder of solicitor Rosemary Nelson, three judges were told yesterday.

The former members of the Royal Irish Regiment are appealing against a judgement in July dismissing their fight to remain anonymous.

They have claimed they would be targeted by dissident republicans if their identities become known.

Their lawyer Jonathan Swift told the Court of Appeal in Belfast that they had taken huge precautions to ensure that knowledge of their service in the RIR was confined to as few people as possible.

“The steps they have taken to date have been successful but each of them believes that the removal of anonymity would increase the risk to their life,” Mr Swift said.

The Rosemary Nelson inquiry was set up to probe allegations of security-force collusion in the loyalist assassination of the 40-year-old Catholic mother-of-three who was killed by a car bomb outside her home in Lurgan, Co Armagh, in 1999.

None of the ex-soldiers will be called to give evidence but will provide witness statements which means their names would appear in the book of evidence and on the inquiry website.

Mr Swift said the witness statements related to routine army patrols in the Lurgan area on the day Mrs Nelson was murdered.

A general risk assessment put the threat against the ex-soldiers as moderate but he submitted: “The tribunal was not entitled to take into consideration an assessment of the nature of the evidence in order to reach a conclusion that the risk to the appellants was reduced.”

James Eadie QC, for the inquiry, said it was a matter for the three-strong panel to work out the scale of risk to the ex-soldiers and their finding was that it was at the very low end.

“They were not under the same scale of risk as the Bloody Sunday soldiers,” he said.

“In that case, the decision to grant anonymity turned on the nature of the objective risk they faced.”

Arguing that public inquiries had to be conducted with a degree of openness to allay public concerns, Mr Eadie said a balance had to be struck between the level of objective risk and a desire to ensure that those contributing to the inquiry did so in public.

Judgement was reserved by the Lord Chief Justice Sir Brian Kerr and Lord Justices Girvan and Higgins.

Sir Brian said that as the inquiry was in session they would endeavour to deliver a prompt judgement.

By Ciarán Barnes
Belfast Media
**Via Newshound
Andersonstown News Monday

A West Belfast man sentenced to 11 years in prison last week for his role in a botched armed robbery was part of a dissident republican plot to blow up a city centre building.

Paul Donnelly, from Colinview Street, was shot by police as he ran along Upper Queen Street in November 2002 after leaving a bomb outside the motor tax office.

The 29-year-old was arrested by undercover cops and later sentenced to five years in jail for possession of explosives.

Last Tuesday Donnelly was jailed for a further 11 years for his role in the botched armed robbery of a Securicor van on the Falls Road in March 2007. He also pleaded guilty to stealing a car from a Glengormley showroom that was used as the robbers’ getaway vehicle.

Unlike his first stint behind bars, Donnelly is not serving his latest sentence on the republican wing.

He is being held among the ordinary prison population at Maghaberry after falling out with his former dissident pals.

“Even while he was on remand awaiting sentencing Donnelly was being held with the regular prisoners,” said a prison source.

“He’s fallen out with the dissidents, and hasn’t even bothered applying to go onto their wing.

“Even while he was on remand awaiting sentencing Donnelly was being held with the regular prisoners.”

By Ciarán Barnes
Belfast Media
Andersonstown News Monday

A West Belfast man sentenced to 11 years in prison last week for his role in a botched armed robbery was part of a dissident republican plot to blow up a city centre building.

Paul Donnelly, from Colinview Street, was shot by police as he ran along Upper Queen Street in November 2002 after leaving a bomb outside the motor tax office.

The 29-year-old was arrested by undercover cops and later sentenced to five years in jail for possession of explosives.

Last Tuesday Donnelly was jailed for a further 11 years for his role in the botched armed robbery of a Securicor van on the Falls Road in March 2007. He also pleaded guilty to stealing a car from a Glengormley showroom that was used as the robbers’ getaway vehicle.

Unlike his first stint behind bars, Donnelly is not serving his latest sentence on the republican wing.

He is being held among the ordinary prison population at Maghaberry after falling out with his former dissident pals.

“Even while he was on remand awaiting sentencing Donnelly was being held with the regular prisoners,” said a prison source.

“He’s fallen out with the dissidents, and hasn’t even bothered applying to go onto their wing.

“Even while he was on remand awaiting sentencing Donnelly was being held with the regular prisoners.”

Belfast Media
South Belfast News
by Alana Fearon

Forty years of history on display in the Linen Hall Political Collection including Gusty Spence’s reading material and the IRA comm that ended the 1981 Hunger Strikes

The great and the good assembled in an upstairs room of Belfast’s oldest library lasts week to celebrate and pay homage to the world famous Northern Ireland Political Collection.

Exactly 40 years ago, the 300,000 piece collection had its humble beginnings with a civil rights leaflet in a Belfast bar and since then the collection has travelled the globe enthralling and wowing audiences across three continents.

Safely displayed back at its Fountain Street home, the collection sent the same shivers down the spines of all those gathered in Linenhall Library last week to celebrate the landmark 40th anniversary of the invaluable collection.

Saluting every librarian past and present who “set-up, fought for and nurtured the collection”, its current librarian, Yvonne Murphy said the vast display had been fired by the passion to tell the complete story of the north’s “tumultuous” past.

Yvonne was herself one of the young librarians who “boldly went where no librarian had gone before”, crossing the barricades to collect every piece of the Troubles they could get their eager hands on.

From those early leaflets, posters, badges and stickers of four decades ago has emerged a unique international resource unmatched anywhere in the world.

The historical items – which include Gusty Spence’s reading material while in the Crumlin Gaol and the Republican “comm” which ended the Hunger Strikes in 1981 – chart the often painful history of the 30 year conflict. From the Civil Rights marches of 1969, through internment, into the ceasefire of 1975, the jails crisis, the Anglo-Irish Agreement, collusion, the infamous strip searches to the 1994 ceasefire and the Good Friday Agreement in 1998, all is covered in this fascinating collection.

Open to library members and the general public, the world famous collection even caught the eye of Holywood heartthrob Brad Pitt when he was researching his role for the 1997 blockbuster The Devil’s Own.

But the collection has expanded impressively since then, notably three years ago when current Belfast Mayor Tom Hartley donated more than 3,000 items from his personal Troubles collection.

“A conflict generates a colossal amount of information and it is amazing to see it all safeguarded in the city’s most iconic library,” Tom said.

“The librarians of this unique collection are the guardians of something very precious for the city and every single item needs to be protected accordingly.

“What is perhaps most unique about this vast political archive is that it is open and accessible to everyone, regardless of their background or agenda.

“It offers so much about us, about where we have come from and the past four decades of Irish history and it’s an honour to be here to celebrate its 40th birthday.”

Looking forward to another 40 years, Yvonne Murphy said she enjoyed every minute of her privileged position.

“There is no other collection anywhere in the world of a local conflict and I am deeply honoured to be chief guardian of our pieces of history,” she told our reporter.

“So many have contributed and so many have come to view it and we are all looking forward to what the next four decades will bring.

“This huge collection tells our community’s story over forty years but it’s not just about visual sign posts it’s a collective memory of what is at times a very deep hurt.

“Most importantly of all it’s a complete story and that is what our 40th anniversary celebrations were all about.”

Running alongside the launch of the Northern Ireland Political Collection birthday celebrations is the award-winning Troubled Images Exhibition, another world famous collection of art inspired by the traumatic events of the Troubles.

“Political though not necessarily party political”, the collection includes 70 of the most memorable posters of the last 40 years as well as “startling” images including one from former Loyalist prisoner Michael Stone’s collection.

Belfast Media
Andersonstown News Monday
by Roisin McManus

Director of Relatives for Justice (RFJ) Mark Thompson has described the wearing of poppies by PSNI officers in West Belfast as “repugnant and offensive”.

Mark contacted the Andersonstown News on Thursday morning after he saw two PSNI officers on the Falls Road wearing poppies on their hats.

“The poppy is a political statement and therefore should be prohibited from the workplace – this is especially the case concerning public servants such as the PSNI,” said Mark.

“The wearing of the poppy to ‘commemorate and honour’ the British army by members of the PSNI in West Belfast is repugnant and offensive to the vast majority of people within our community given the role of the British army. It is a throwback to the days of the RUC that appears to be alive and well within the PSNI,” he added.

“Those PSNI members sporting poppies, including their superior officers, are all very well aware of the symbolism and contentious nature of this issue yet the provocative wearing of the poppy continues year in year out,” said the RFJ Director.

“It’s time for decisive action on the part of the PSNI chiefs – remove the poppies or remove from West Belfast those who refuse to remove their poppies. Don’t hide behind legislation and flags and emblems acts. The challenge is yours and the people of West Belfast, and elsewhere throughout this statelet, will watch this space,” he added.

Mark said that there are those who will seek to equate the poppy with the wearing of shamrock.

“One commemorates death and destruction by an imperialist military force, the other is a celebration of a patron saint who brought Christianity to Ireland,” he said.

“The archaic legislation equating the poppy with the shamrock needs to be addressed and replaced.

“It facilitates unionists to lord it over their nationalist counterparts within the workplace and that’s precisely the motivation of the PSNI in wearing poppies within our communities. Equality and neutrality must become the norm until the legislation is addressed,” he added.

A spokeswoman for the PSNI said: “Poppies may be worn with decorum and at the appropriate period, in accordance with Equality Commission guidelines.”

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