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Belfast Media
28 Nov 2008

Local history expert and North Belfast News columnist Joe Baker held a hugely successful three-day exhibition about war-torn Belfast in the 1940s in the Freemason’s city centre headquarters last week.

Formally opened by Freemason and former District Grand King of Antrim 102-year old, Cyril Quigley, the exhibition offered history enthusiasts the chance to discover more about what life was like at the height of World War 2. On display were hundreds of photographs ranging from wedding snaps through to the total destruction caused during the Luftwaffe Blitz in which over 200 German bombers targeted Belfast.

Also on display were full page newspaper reports on the Belfast Blitz as well as war time propaganda posters both British and German.

“This was a horrific time for many and this exhibition shows the horror of the bombings in Belfast” Joe said.

“We did a lot of research to get the show ready and a big part of our efforts went towards wiping out myths people have about the Blitz in 1941 such as the Germans bombed the Waterworks by mistake because they thought it was the docks.

“The Germans didn’t get it wrong, they did it to destroy the water supply so that when they returned with firebombs there would be no water to put the fires out.”

The Glenravel Local History Project have become extremely well-known for their in-depth research and work in promoting Belfast’s local and factual history.

This latest exhibition took nearly a year to research and features posters from the Imperial War Museum in London and posters from Berlin.

It is the second display in a sequence of three shows, chronicling life in Belfast in the 30s, 40s and 50s.

Joe is now researching material for life in 1950s Belfast and has issued an appeal for any old photographs of life at the time.

Joe and the Glenravel Local History Project will also be running two Horrible History tours tours on Wednesday 3rd December and Thursday 11th December. The tour begins at 6.30pm at Clifton Street Graveyard, Henry Place and finishes inside the abandoned Belfast prison on the Crumlin Road at 9pm. It is not for the faint hearted and is definitely not suitable for children.

At the previous tour on 31st October, Joe says ‘paranormal behaviour’ was caught on camera and other events remain unexplained. Watch the video presentation and see for yourself at

The cost per person is £10 payable when booking.

To book your place call 9074 2255 and ask for Joe Baker.

David Sharrock, Ireland Correspondent
Times Online
27 Nov 2008

An Irish republican terrorist group has threatened to murder any Catholic community workers found to be co-operating with the police.

The warning has been made by the Continuity IRA, a splinter group of the Provisional IRA, and echoes the campaign waged against people working with the security forces during the 1980s when builders and cleaners were targeted.

It also comes at a time when the threat from so-called dissident republicans has never been higher, according to the independent body that monitors paramilitary activity in Northern Ireland for British and Irish governments.

The Continuity IRA (CIRA) statement was handed to a priest and said that the group would regard any Catholics working in community initiatives involving the police as legitimate targets.

The threat singled out workers from the Ashton Centre in the New Lodge and the Wolfhill Community Centre in Ligoniel, both in North Belfast, where the Continuity IRA is trying to increase its influence. Police officers are finding increasing acceptance in predominantly Catholic areas and have visited the two centres as part of their outreach work.The two groups employ more than a hundred staff, with dozens of young people and pensioners taking part in a range of activities in the centres every day.

Extra security was introduced yesterday to protect more than a hundred children who attend the Ashton Centre’s three nursery groups every day. Similarly, security measures are expected to protect a mother-and-toddler group due to meet today at the Wolfhill Centre.

The Continuity IRA statement said: “These groups such as the Ashton Centre and Wolfhill Centre are not only putting themselves at risk but also their staff.” Claiming that the threat was in response to police harassment of republicans, it said: “There will be no second warning, this threat will only be lifted when the harassment of innocent civilians stops.”

North Belfast was a hotbed of paramilitary activity during the worst of the Troubles, with its patchwork of Protestant and Catholic districts vulnerable to opportunistic hit-and-run attacks.

During the Holy Cross primary school dispute in 2001, when children walked to school under police escort, loyalist paramilitaries threatened to kill Catholic teachers and postal workers in North Belfast.

In July the Continuity IRA threatened to kill Customs & Revenue staff and workers at the Northern Ireland Vehicle Licensing Authority, after accusing them of collaborating with the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI), which has an increasing number of Catholic officers.

Gerry Kelly, a Sinn Fein assembly member and former escaper from the Maze prison, said: “Literally every community group in North Belfast is under threat. These people cannot accept progress. They are threatening children and pensioners. They have no support and no political direction.”

Alban Maginness, a Social and Democratic Labour Party councillor in North Belfast, said that the threat was “dangerously ludicrous”. He said: “It is a measure of the success that the PSNI is having in nationalist communities that the CIRA has reacted in such a hostile and intimidating manner against those engaged in genuine community work.

“These community groups have given great service for many years and do not deserve to be intimidated by unelected, self-appointed bully boys.”

Continuity IRA ‘horrified’ by feud killing and ruled out intimidation

John Mooney
Times Online
**Via Newshound
30 November 2008

A REPUBLICAN terrorist group promised not to harm or intimidate a witness who agreed to testify against one of its members in a murder trial, because it was “horrified and embarrassed” by the killing.

The Continuity IRA (CIRA), which has threatened to murder Catholics who cooperate with the police, instructed its members not to harm Damien O’Neill.

O’Neill had agreed to give evidence against Gerard Mackin, a dissident terrorist convicted in Dublin last week of murdering Edward Burns, 35, another republican dissident, during a feud in Belfast last year.

Mackin, a 26-year-old CIRA member from Whiterock in west Belfast, fled to Dublin after killing Burns in March 2007.

He opted to stand trial in Dublin under the terms of a law that allows suspects to be tried in the republic for offences committed in Britain or Northern Ireland rather than face extradition.

Gardai and the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) had offered to protect O’Neill, who was shot by Mackin after he witnessed the murder of Burns.

However, police were told that the CIRA leadership had given an undertaking not to harm the witness. O’Neill’s evidence subsequently led to Mackin’s conviction on Friday.

Mackin denied murdering Burns, a 36-year-old father of five, whose body was dumped in a car park in west Belfast. He had been shot in the head.

Another CIRA member, Joseph Jones, 38, was murdered on the same night. He was beaten to death and was barely recognisable when his body was found in Ardoyne. Nobody has been charged over his death.

O’Neill told detectives that Mackin had abducted Burns in a car and then “just walked over and shot Eddie [Burns] in the back of the head”.

Burns, whom the CIRA had suspected of trying to form a breakaway group, had begged for mercy before being shot.

O’Neill said he grabbed the gun and ran away, but Mackin chased him and he tripped. Mackin then shot him in the arm and neck before the gun jammed.

O’Neill managed to stagger to the road where a taxi stopped and took him to hospital.

Burns’s murder provoked outrage among republicans. The CIRA, one of two paramilitary groups not on ceasefire, eventually bowed to public pressure and decided not to intimidate O’Neill if he cooperated with the investigation.

“CIRA’s army council wanted to ‘court marshal’ Mackin but decided to let the police investigation proceed unhindered”, according to a security source.

Gardai later arrested Mackin in Dublin. O’Neill told them he would testify against Mackin but would not travel to Dublin.

The prosecution arranged for the Special Criminal Court to sit in Belfast to hear his evidence.

Mackin is the first person to be convicted by the Special Criminal Court in Dublin for a murder committed in Northern Ireland.

News Letter
29 November 2008

PRISON officers have been warned to vary their routes to and from work because of the threat from dissident republicans.

A motive has been posted on staff boards in Maghaberry jail as fears grow of Real IRA and Continuity IRA attacks.

Finlay Spratt, chairman of the Prison Officers Association, said they had been asked to be “careful and vigilant” by management of the Prison Service.

“We have always been under threat from republicans and from the end of the campaign of the PIRA we have been under continued threat from dissident republicans,” he said.

“Their threat was renewed again this week. It is a worrying time for prison officers who are easy targets – and it is a chaep publicity stunt for dissident republicans.

“we had hopes after the ceasefire that everyone had moved on but these dissidents are not able to move anywhere.”

30 Nov 2008

Police are taking longer to respond to emergency calls because of the threat of attacks from dissident republicans, the chief constable has said.

Sir Hugh Orde said that in some areas police were having to use armoured vehicles for their own safety.

“These are not people that have some political objective,” he said.

“These people are criminals. They are using a flag of convenience, for want of a better description, to peddle death and mayhem in Northern Ireland.”

Sir Hugh said the dissidents just wanted “to carry on their criminal activities”.

“These are not freedom fighters, so-called,” he said.

Drug dealing tout lured son to death: mum

By Ciaran McGuigan
Sunday Life
Sunday, 30 November 2008

Yehia (Yuk) Shoukri and his brother Andre (right), carry the coffin of their brother Ihab from Holy Trinty Church in North Belfast

A grieving mum — who watched Ihab Shoukri drive her son to his brutal murder — believes the junkie former UDA brigadier escaped justice when he suffered a suspected drugs overdose.

Barbara McCullough has no doubt about the role Ihab Shoukri played in the loyalist feud murder of her son Alan, luring him to his violent death.

And she remains angry that he was never jailed for the horrific murder.

When Mrs McCullough last saw her son Alan in May 2003 he was driving away from her Denmark Street home in a car with Shoukri and UDA brigadier Mo Courtney.

A week later his body was found dumped in a shallow grave on the outskirts of Belfast.

He had been shot in the head, murdered by the UDA in revenge for siding with Johnny Adair in the bloody loyalist feud that saw Adair’s ‘C’ Company flee to England.

Although Ihab Shoukri had been charged with McCullough’s murder, the charge was later dropped.

His partner in the killing, Courtney, eventually pleaded guilty to manslaughter during a third murder trial.

Terror godfather Shoukri died in the early hours of last Sunday after collapsing while watching Ricky Hatton’s world championship fight at a house in Newtownabbey. It’s suspected that his addictions to prescription drugs and cocaine contributed to his death.

When she heard of the death last week of the man she believes was responsible for her son’s murder, Barbara McCullough felt no sympathy.

Said Mrs McCullough: “He escaped justice while he was alive and now he will never be brought to justice for what he did to Alan.

“I can still remember that day that they came for him.

“They were sitting there in the car, just in the bay across the street. It was the two of them and Alan got in the back seat.

“I was making the tea when the phone rang and it was Mo Courtney asking Alan if he was ready. He replied, ‘I’ll just get my coat’.

“I could hear his (Courtney) voice telling Alan to get in the car.

“We never saw him again.

“The same two men, Ihab and Mo Courtney, had Alan out the week before at Corr’s Corner for a meal.

“It was just to suck him in and put him off his guard.”

Mrs McCullough — whose UDA commander husband William ‘Bucky’ McCullough was murdered by the INLA in 1981 — feels no sympathy for Shoukri.

“His family is going through what we went through and his mother now knows what I felt like as a mother losing a son,” she said.

She believes that he had been working for years as a police informant.

“There’s always a bit of hope that his role in Alan’s murder will come out yet. It’s always after people die when it comes out what they were actually doing while still alive,” she added.

“When you look back at Jimmy Craig and Tucker Lyttle it was only after they died that it came out they were police informers.

“It won’t bring Alan back, but the truth might give us rest if we ever get it… we can only hope.

“There are other families that he has made suffer.

“There are all those families of kids down the Shore Road he sold drugs to and whose lives he ruined.

“If that was Ihab’s life, then it wasn’t much of a life.”

Shoukri was buried last Thursday. His funeral in north Belfast — for which his brother Andre was allowed out of jail — was delayed after it was the target of a hoax security alert.

Belfast Telegraph
Sunday, 30 November 2008

Northern Ireland’s First and Deputy First Ministers will press US business leaders for greater investment during a four-day visit to America.

Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness will attend the Fortune 500 dinner in Washington DC today with chief executives from some of the most successful companies.

Later in the week they meet mayor of New York Michael Bloomberg and New York city comptroller William C Thompson Jnr.

Mr Robinson said: “This is a very important week for Northern Ireland, over the next few days the Deputy First Minister and I will be meeting with the higher echelons of corporate America.

“We will be delivering the message that despite the global economic downturn that Northern Ireland remains very much open for business.”

He said the Northern Ireland Executive was determined to deliver a vibrant and dynamic economy.

“This trip forms part of our overall objective of ensuring that the damage caused to Northern Ireland by the current economic crisis is kept to a minimum,” he added.

In May US captains of industry visited Northern Ireland to learn of the investment opportunities. Around 150 business leaders representing 90 companies attended the events.

Despite the economic downturn, the falling value of sterling against the dollar could be used to attract funds from across the Atlantic.

Four New York city pension funds are to invest a total of 150 million in the Emerald Infrastructure Development Fund in Northern Ireland.

Mr McGuinness said: “This visit to the US allows us to build on the many relationships and friendships that were established during that (US/NI) conference and establish new opportunities with the leading 500 American companies.”

“The economy remains at the centre of the Executive’s programme and one of the main reasons we are here this week is to remind American companies that we can provide an excellent opportunity for those who want to access the EU market.”

Irish Times
30 Nov 2008

Half of all families in Northern Ireland could be living in fuel poverty, it was claimed today.

The high cost of domestic heating has left people facing a bleak and miserable Christmas, Save the Children added.

The fuel poverty rate among families with children in Ulster is one of the highest in the developed world.

Christine Liddell, professor of psychology at the University of Ulster, who drew up the report, The Impact of Fuel Poverty on Children , said: “The fuel poverty rate among families with children here is one of the highest in the developed world.

“Indeed, when compared to other UK regional areas, Northern Ireland has significantly higher rates. Lone parent families are hardest-hit.

“The human cost for families living in fuel poverty is high.”

The worst affected areas were Belfast and Fermanagh.

For infants, it means a 30 per cent greater risk of being admitted to hospital — and for older children, living in a fuel-poor home increases their vulnerability to respiratory problems.

Adolescents living in cold and damp households are at greater risk of mental health problems.

“Save the Children’s main focus in Northern Ireland is to end child poverty and we are concerned that nearly one in three children is living in poverty,” said Anne Moore, a spokeswoman for the charity.

Irish News
**Via Newshound

A member of the INLA who rammed a Garda car in Dundalk has been jailed for four years.

Paul Kelly (45), of Cedarwood Park, Cox’s Demesne in the Co Louth town, pleaded guilty to membership of the paramilitary organisation.

Detective Superintendent Diarmuid O’Sullivan told Dublin’s Special Criminal Court that the defendant had been seen driving a black Volkswagen Passat during a Garda surveillance operation on December 20 last year.

When members of the emergency response unit tried to stop the vehicle and blocked the road with a patrol car with its blue lights flashing, Kelly rammed the Garda car.

The father-of-five and his passenger were arrested and when the Passat’s boot was searched gardai found a large number of stolen Garda uniforms.

There were six Garda tunics, seven pairs of trousers, two Garda caps, two Garda ties and a fluorescent jacket, all taken from the homes of officers in Waterford and Dublin.

Gardai also found two black bomber jackets with the words “Republican Socialist Movement Dundalk”, two bulletproof vests and an extendable baton.

Mr Justice Paul Butler said Kelly was “clearly an active member of the INLA”.

The judge said the court must take into account that the maximum sentence for membership of an illegal organisation was now eight years and Kelly had expressed no remorse or any indication as to his future conduct.

Belfast Telegraph
Friday, 28 November 2008

A former RUC officer whose arms were amputated after an IRA rocket attack over 25 years ago received an OBE today.

Dr Michael Paterson, 51, has been recognised for his work as a clinical psychologist and contribution to healthcare in Northern Ireland.

Dr Paterson has become an expert at helping victims of trauma leave behind their disturbing memories and rebuild their lives.

He was handed his honour at Buckingham Palace today.

“I’m thrilled to be at the palace to receive my award and have really enjoyed the very special occasion as I’ve been able to share it with my wife Hazel and two of my children, Natalie (21) and Byron (11).”

Dr Paterson is an expert in Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing, a psychological therapy.

He was in a police car in 1981 when the IRA launched a rocket attack on the vehicle at Suffolk Road, Belfast. Colleague Alex Beck was killed.

He now lives in Belfast working as a clinical psychologist.

By Aine McEntee
Belfast Media
**Via Newshound

The united forces of North Belfast have come out fighting this week against death threats issued to local community workers by the Continuity IRA.

Local people and colleagues of workers in both the Ashton and Wolfhill centres – who were singled out in the statement – have been angered and disgusted by the threats against all North Belfast community groups who work with the PSNI.

A major campaign to have the Continuity IRA threat lifted will kick off in earnest tomorrow with a huge rally near Yorkgate.

The Continuity IRA’s statement released on Tuesday said, “any community organisation in north Belfast who deal with PSNI will be under threat. These groups such as the Ashton Centre and Wolfhill Centre are not only putting themselves at risk but also their staff.”

The statement claimed the threat was issued as a result of police harrasment of republicans in North Belfast over the past six weeks and said there would be “no second warning”.

Director of the 174 Trust Bill Shaw described the threat as “crazy”. His cross-community centre hosted the first North Belfast DPP meeting last week and recently unveiled the results of a policing survey carried out in the New Lodge area attended by a high ranking PSNI officer.

“It’s just crazy,” said Bill. “Elderly people are scared stiff, they want to feel free to phone the police if they’re feeling threatened so to me, this threat is against them as well.”

Bill Shaw said he was angry about the threat as society, as a whole was trying to move forward together towards “something like normality after 30 years of war and conflict”.

“Here is a group that want to drag us into the past. We’re not going to stand for it and any right thinking person would not stand for it,” he added.

At an event last night (Wednesday) honouring interface workers in North Belfast, the Lord Mayor of Belfast called on the dissident republicans to withdraw their threat and called on the community to show their support for their threatened workers.

“The community has to make its voice heard on this and I’m sure they will,” said Tom Hartley.

“These people represent no one, they have no base of support in the area, they are anonymous, whereas community workers are known by all, and work for all. This threat should be unreservedly condemned and withdrawn immediately.”

Vice chair of the Ligoniel Improvement Association (LIA) Tommy Kelly said staff were genuinely worried.

“On behalf of the LIA all I can say is we will continue to work with any statutory body for the betterment of the people,” he said.

The Ashton Centre said it too would not be stopped from carrying out its work and insisted the threats be lifted.

“What we want is the unconditional withdrawal of the threats,” John Loughran said.

Staff believe the threats are credible but it won’t stop them from carrying out their duties, he added.

“We will not be diverted from our mission of building a vibrant and confident North Belfast community. We want to keep a sense of normality, you can’t do any more than that, and people are trying their best.”

Director of the award winning peace and reconciliation centre Intercomm Liam Maskey slammed the threat as “a disgrace”.

“We have been used to suppression for so many years but we are trying to build a new shared peaceful Ireland now and we are not going to lie down with people who don’t have a mandate or people who don’t say where they’re from but claim to represent the people,” he said.

“They have announced war on this community and we won’t stand for it.”

It’s not the first time the Ashton Centre has come under threat. In July 2001 it came under gun attack from loyalists who opened fire on the creche, miraculously no one was injured.

This week extra security was introduced to protect more than a hundred children who attend the Ashton Centre’s three nursery groups every day. Similarly, security measures were enforced to protect a mother and toddler group at the Wolfhill Centre.

North Belfast has suffered disruption in recent months with several bomb alerts in recent months and another two in Stanhope Street and Victoria Parade discovered this week.

In July the Continuity IRA threatened to kill Customs and Revenue staff and workers at the Northern Ireland Vehicle Licensing Authority, after accusing them of collaborating with the PSNI, which has an increasing number of Catholic officers.

This threat against North Belfast workers comes at a time when the threat from so-called dissident republicans has never been higher, according to the Independent Monitoring Committee.


A former IRA man and Maze prison escapee who has been living in the US for nearly 25 years has been denied the right to remain in the country.

Pol Brennan’s lawyer was notified of the decision yesterday. A spokeswoman for the immigration courts says the order was issued on Wednesday.

The 55-year-old was taken into custody in Texas in January after the Border Patrol noticed he had an expired work permit.

Brennan has testified that he transported what he believed were explosives for the IRA on six occasions.

He was arrested in 1976, escaped from the Maze in 1983, and fled to the US. He has been living in San Francisco.

His lawyer says he did not know whether Brennan wanted to appeal.

Brennan had asked for political asylum or permanent residency.

**I dun much like the derisive tone of this article, but I am including it for the information.

By Simon Kuper
Financial Times
November 29 2008

It’s a sunny Sunday afternoon in Protestant Belfast, and a former Loyalist terrorist is showing us around his neighbourhood. We admire the monuments to victims of Republican murders, and the retired terrorist tells us about dragging a dead man out of a bombed shop, but just as you visit Venice for the canals, you come to Belfast for murals. Here on the Protestant side, most glorify British soldiers of world war one and Loyalist killers, often in the same picture.

But suddenly, on a street corner, looms a piece of excellent unintentional camp: a wall-sized mural of the late Queen Mother (Loyalists revere the British royal family), complete with the phrase, “She had a soldier’s heart”. Her 101-year-old face beams at passing tour buses.

You feel you have wandered into the lost chapter of PJ O’Rourke in Holidays in Hell, though even O’Rourke didn’t imagine a tourism joint venture between Republican and Loyalist ex-murderers. Yet “hell” isn’t the word for this afternoon. You leave the Shankill Road and its Catholic twin, the Falls Road, feeling strangely envious.

Everyone these days reveres “folk art” and “community”. These neighbourhoods have it. And they’ve worked out how to cash in on it.

In 1998 the Good Friday Agreement largely ended the 30 years of “Troubles” between Northern Ireland’s Catholics and Protestants. The Falls and Shankill Roads went from intermittent civil war to being merely drab working-class streets in Britain’s poorest region. Released prisoners on both sides were sitting around unemployed, with no more people to bomb. Quickly, they found their unique selling point. Michael Culbert, a friendly grey-haired Republican tour guide in suit and tie, says: “We noticed quite a lot of tourists walking up and down the Falls Road looking at murals etcetera.” The murals were giant propaganda cartoons painted during the Troubles. Typically they glorified either today’s killers or their forebears. Horrendous as they are, they are also a quintessentially Northern Irish form of folk art. And so ex-prisoners such as Culbert – who politely explains that he spent nearly 16 years in prison “charged with killing members of the British armed forces” – set up tours.

Academics came, backpackers, Japanese tour groups who had never heard of Northern Ireland, as well as earnest NGO-types who wanted to learn how to end conflicts. “We have a niche. We see there is a market,” says William “Plum” Smith, a Loyalist tour guide who admits to having served 10 years in prison for “attempted murder”. The tours might seem odd, Smith admits, but, “You have the ovens at the death camps, tourists at Robben Island. Tourism has the future.”

It turned out that tourists wanted to see both Republican and Loyalist areas. So ex-prisoners on both sides teamed up. Smith, who once went into a Catholic neighbourhood intending to murder somebody, now visits the Falls Road regularly to discuss tours. He says, “We have plans for training together, for evaluation together. The ground rules are set: we tell our story, they tell their story. The benefits are for both communities.”

When I asked Culbert about this, he chuckled: “We employ, on a part-time basis, Loyalist ex-prisoners. And why not? They’re entitled to employment.” Does Culbert still detest them now they are colleagues? “When you get to know more about people, and get to know their story, you start to empathise. I still think their political analysis isn’t correct. I think they’ve been totally conned by the British government. They want to be British, but the British don’t want them.”

From the Boyne to Best

The first mural in Belfast is thought to have gone up in 1908, a Loyalist painting of William of Orange’s defeat of the Catholics at the Battle of the Boyne in 1690 (which in this province, where history never fades, feels like five minutes ago).

From the late 1970s, murals began appearing as part of the Troubles. “If literacy isn’t your forte – working-class areas in Belfast have always thrown up mural artists,” says the Republican tour guide Michael Culbert.

Now the murals are becoming an international fashion. Last year, the Bogside Artists of Derry got themselves invited to the Smithsonian Folk Life Festival in Washington, where they painted a mural of Martin Luther King by the Washington Mall. Legions of academics study Northern Ireland’s muralists.

Recently some have been trying to get the muralists to paint pretty things instead of killers. There are subsidies for those who oblige. Murals of the late Northern Irish footballer George Best have duly gone up on both sides. And in the Shankill Road there is a decidedly non-violent mural of The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe. The book’s author, CS Lewis, was a Belfast boy.

Our tour this Sunday starts beside a tattoo parlour on the Loyalist Shankill Road. The little two-storey houses are interspersed with Protestant churches. Above our heads are murals of gunmen in balaclavas. Yet the effect is not gloomy. Most locals who walk past greet our tour guide, partly because ex-prisoners are as famous as pop stars in these neighbourhoods, but partly because everyone here knows each other. In Shankill people leave their back doors open, says our guide. The street is a sort of shared living-room, which the “community” – for once a meaningful word – has decorated itself, with murals.

Shankill once had about 75,000 inhabitants. Now only about a third that number remain, as slums have been cleared and some people who became middle-class during Northern Ireland’s newly ended economic boom have moved out. There is the telltale spaciousness of a place where few newcomers want to move in. But the people who have stayed have made this a home.

Our guide walks us to the “peace wall” that separates the Shankill and Falls neighbourhoods. It is as ugly as the Berlin Wall, but quite a bit higher. “What we could do with,” says the guide, “is a Banksy to paint this.”

It’s true: walking through these neighbourhoods you are constantly reminded of the British graffiti artist. Banksy, whose murals often go up secretly overnight, has become an international superstar and something of a role model for Northern Ireland’s muralists. Some of them are now getting paid, “and quite right too”, says Culbert. Who had ever thought there would be money in Troubles propaganda?

Our Loyalist guide leaves us by a crossing next to the wall and walks off. Suddenly a Republican guide materialises beside us. We have changed hands. The Republican walks us past the Catholic terraced houses that border the peace wall. Meshes cover their back windows, just in case anyone chucks something over the wall, but in the back yards are signs of domesticity: a trampoline, a child’s car seat.

Walking into the Falls neighbourhood, the first thing that strikes you is that it’s exactly the same as Shankill: murals, memorials, churches, poor people in football shirts. “Oh yeah, one place is a mirror image of the other,” agrees Smith. As in Shankill, some smart new homes have gone up lately.

Just like our Loyalist guide, the Republican one veers between angry propaganda – it’s all the other side’s fault – and pious wishes for peace. On these tours, explains Culbert later, “we never indicate that we are neutral”. A British ambassador in our group listens impassively to the Republican line. Not long ago someone in his job could have been killed here.

There is one thing the Falls Road has that Shankill doesn’t: the Solidarity Wall, a row of murals that celebrate various foreign groups that Republicans identify with. The Cubans are there, beside a mocking caricature of George Bush, and a repainting of Picasso’s Guernica to cheer on the Basque separatists.

A short walk away is the Republican answer to the Queen Mum: a mural of Bobby Sands, the Republican hunger-striker who died in a British prison in 1981. The painting, on the side of the Sinn Fein office, depicts Sands with the long hair and soulful face of a Romantic poet. He is saying, “Our revenge will be the laughter of our children.” Our guide tells us lovingly about “Bobby”. In fact, both guides we had could recite from memory paeans to every martyr on their side, even ordinary people killed in 1920.

Maddening as the guides are, you can ask them anything, and their tour is the most memorable I’ve been on anywhere. If only they had realised 40 years ago that the Troubles work much better as tourism.

Simon Kuper is the FT’s sports columnist



On the Republican side: Coiste Belfast Political Tours, 10 Beechmount Avenue, Belfast, BT12 7NA. Tel: +44 (0)28 9020 0770

On the Loyalist side: Ex Prisoners Interpretative Centre, 33a Woodvale Road, Belfast, BT13 3BN. Tel: +44 (0)28 9074 8922

28 Nov 2008

China has executed a scientist accused of spying for Taiwan.

Wo Weihan’s family had appealed for clemency, saying that the scientist was tortured into admitting that he was a spy. He was sentenced last year.

Ran Chen says her father was tortured into making a false confession.

The 59-year-old man, who ran his own medical research company in Beijing, was arrested in early 2005.

Among other things, he was convicted of passing Chinese military secrets to Taiwan, which China considers a renegade province.

Court documents said he spied for an organisation called The Grand Alliance for the Reunification of China under the Three Principles of the People between 1989 and 2003.

This group is under the auspices of Taiwan’s new ruling party, the Kuomintang, according to China.

His daughter, Ran Chen, who holds an Austrian passport, said her father’s death had been confirmed by the Austrian embassy in Beijing.

Mr Wo’s family alleged that he had been denied access to a lawyer for a year.

A spokeswoman for the United States’ embassy in Beijing condemned the execution.

Susan Stevenson told the AFP news agency that the US was “deeply disturbed and dismayed”.

The European Union also voiced its indignation, saying the execution seriously undermined the spirit of trust and mutual respect between the EU and China.

The execution will heighten tensions between China and the EU, says the BBC’s Oana Lungescu in Brussels, coming on the same day EU officials raised his case at a meeting on human rights with their Chinese counterparts.

Earlier in the week, Beijing postponed its annual summit with the bloc in protest against plans by EU leaders to meet the Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama.

28 Nov 2008

A jigsaw mural inspired by work by children in interface schools has been officially unveiled in east Belfast.

Pupils from St Matthews Primary and Beechfield Primary worked together on the project.

Children from both sides of the interface worked on the mural

The mural, which is on the Albertbridge Road, was painted by artists Mark Ervine and Danny Devenny.

Community workers in the area said they were concerned by the rise in sectarian clashes between youths in the area.

The work on the mural was initiated by Belfast Conflict Resolution Consortium and supported by the Community Relations Council.

“The children and their parents made this happen” Maureen Blacklaw, principal of Beechfield Primary School, said.

“It’s great to have such a visible sign of the goodwill and creativity that is here and the shared determination to create a new future together.”

“The mural sends out a message about belief in our communities and hope for the future,” Roisin Heath of Short Strand Community Forum said.

“It shows what can be done when people get the support to make good ideas a reality.”

By Adrian Mullan
Ulster Herald
**Via Newshound

INTELLIGENCE Services sabotaged the Omagh Bomb case against Sean Hoey by tampering with key evidential exhibits, according a relative of one of the 31 people killed in the atrocity.

Carol Radford, a sister of Alan Radford who was murdered in the blast, claims the investigation has been ‘a farce’ and a ‘waste of money’ from the start because both governments were protecting the mass murderers for their own political ends.

She said she bore no ill will towards the police or towards the, now retired, senior police officer in charge of the inquiry, Norman Baxter. “The police had their hands tied. The political situation interfered with justice for Omagh.”

“That investigation never had a chance. We are now living with appeasement even though our families have been massacred. Omagh has now been put in the archive boxes. But they murdered my brother and I’m not going to let them walk away from that. The people who did it are being protected, it’s disgusting that they can get away with it.

“As far as I’m concerned there never was an investigation. It was like baking a cake without using flour – it’s not going to succeed. But we’ll keep banging on about it.”

She continued, “There was so much intelligence before the attack, and we’re not relying on the Panorama programme. David Rupert, (the FBI operative who infiltrated the real IRA) said in April that Omagh was going to be attacked. He was sending thousands of e-mails saying so.”

She went on to say that a check-point at Aughnacloy that had been removed a short time after the signing of the Good Friday Agreement, would have detected the car.

“There were 12 Real-IRA attacks from January to August 1998. They (The authorities) allowed it to happen. I can’t believe that it couldn’t have been stopped.

“It’s a joke among the families that the Real IRA have so many informers. These people are feeding through so much information, it could have been prevented, but our families have been sacrificed and the governments gave us false hope.”

Carol said that Intelligence services had tampered with evidence in the Hoey trial. She said that a timing power unit from another incident, with strong DNA on it, was sent for analysis to Birmingham in good order but when it came back it had a big ball of black tape sticking to it. She said other exhibits went missing and bags supposed to contain evidence were turning up empty.

“There were too many mistakes, intelligence services overdid it with their tampering and it’s unforgivable. They always say, we ‘mustn’t take the blame off the perpetrators.’ I know who planted the bomb in that car. If these people (intelligence services) are going to protect the perpetrators I’m going to have to go after the protector.

“My brother was murdered. If a paedophile had murdered my brother I wouldn’t have to justify myself.”

Belfast Telegraph
Thursday, 27 November 2008

Ihab Shoukri’s death will not make any difference to loyalist paramilitaries. As Brian Rowan reports, they are still run by gangsters unprepared to let go of their guns

There is a spotlight once more on what we call loyalism — and on its different and many leaderships. The sudden death of Ihab Shoukri — once a paramilitary ‘brigadier’ — has made people look again at the UDA, but not just at that organisation.

They will look at the UVF also — and at all of the unfinished business.

At the weekend, First Minister and DUP leader Peter Robinson spoke of private assurances from the republican leadership ‘that the IRA is out of business for good and isn’t going to return’.

A republican speaking to this newspaper put it this way: “The IRA has gone — that’s the short answer to it.”

There is no similar short answer when it comes to the loyalist groups.

You get longer answers and assessments on the pages of the most recent report of the Independent Monitoring Commission.

The ‘split’ in the UDA — that Ihab Shoukri was part of — continues to hamper that organisation and its structure, six ‘brigades’, six different leaders and all with different agendas hamper it also.

In the words of the IMC it “makes it difficult to drive through change”.

“Despite this, most elements of the leadership continued to seek to downsize the organisation, encouraged members to report crime to the police, engaged constructively in interface issues and showed a determination to avoid inter-community conflict,” the Commission wrote.

All of that is positive, but it is only part of the story, only part of the IMC script.

“Some individual members attempted to manufacture a pipe bomb and some — including at a senior level — indicated an interest in acquiring weapons … In some parts of the UDA recruitment continued,” the report read.

Both the UDA and the UVF were still attempting to identify suspected informers ? and paramilitary leadership structures “remain in place”.

It could not be said that the loyalists are ‘out of business for good’.

Ihab Shoukri and his brother Andre were part of a post-ceasefire leadership, along with others including the murdered UDA leader in east Belfast, Jim Gray.

Johnny Adair on his release from jail after the Good Friday Agreement was also part of that paramilitary inner council, with John Gregg (later murdered), Jackie McDonald and Billy McFarland.

McDonald and McFarland are the only survivors in today’s UDA leadership. They are not an Adams and McGuinness equivalent.

Loyalists have found it difficult, if not impossible, to follow a leader.

Look at how the political leadership of Gary McMichael and Davy Adams was dumped and John White given a role — White a convicted killer, an associate of Adair, a drug dealer and Special Branch informer in Belfast.

The more you look at the loyalist organisations the more you come to conclude that they cannot be delivered into the peace process — not all of them and all their parts and people.

A culture of crime grew up under the Shoukris, Adair and Gray on one side and Mark Haddock and others in the UVF part of that loyalist world. And there are too many loyalists who cannot live without a UVF or a UDA.

Those organisations give them their status, their power, their money and their way of living.

The loyalists are not killing Catholics — not now, but there are those who are strangling their own communities and destroying young people and young lives with drugs.

Yes, the UDA inner council and the UVF command staff have delivered significant change, but they cannot deliver everything that is asked for in a peace process.

There are loyalists who will resist decommissioning for their own selfish needs, who cannot live without guns and the money of drugs and crime. They were not part of Ulster’s war, but are the so-called ‘ceasefire soldiers’.

Ihab Shoukri, who is now dead, was part of that picture.

Andersonstown News Thursday
27 Nov 2008
By Joe Diamond

MEMBERS of the Belfast National Graves Association (BNGA) have located and restored the lost grave of a local IRA volunteer which had lain unmarked for almost 90 years.

The organisation, which maintains republican graves and memorials throughout the city, found the grave of Freddie Fox with help from staff at Milltown Cemetery and dedicated a new headstone to the dead volunteer.

Freddie was shot in August 1921 while on an intelligence-gathering operation against the notorious RIC murder gang which went on to murder six members of the McMahon family and their lodger in North Belfast in 1922. He later died in hospital, aged just 19.

Liam Shannon, Chairperson of the BNGA, said although Freddie was born in Lisburn, he eventually moved to Durham Street in the lower Falls area and joined ‘B’ Company, Ist Battalion, IRA.

“On August 6, 1921 Freddie and a comrade, Frank Crummy, were sent out to shadow a police official, who was suspected of being a member of the murder gang which operated during curfew hours,” explained Liam.

“A policeman came across them unexpectedly and Freddie Fox was seriously injured in the course of the shooting.

“The policeman was wounded in the leg, and Frank Crummy managed to escape, but was arrested later. Freddie was taken to the Royal Victoria Hospital under a heavy police guard, but died nine days later, on August 15, 1921. He was buried in Milltown, and his grave lay unmarked ever since,” added Liam. “We’re proud to have been involved in marking his resting place.”


DUP Assembly-member Ian Paisley Jr could be jailed if he refuses to comply with any High Court order to reveal the identity of a prison officer who told him about an alleged file destruction policy.

Mr Justice Gillen set out the potential consequences as he ruled that legal proceedings brought by the inquiry into loyalist leader Billy Wright`s murder were civil rather than criminal.

Lawyers for the tribunal chaired by Lord MacLean have gone to court in an attempt to compel Mr Paisley to co-operate with its requests for the officer`s name.

The North Antrim MLA has so far insisted he will not identify the man who supplied him with information which he then passed on to David Wright, father of the assassinated LVF chief.

Mr Paisley said he was told of an alleged policy within the Northern Ireland Prison Service to destroy a large number of files as an emergency due to data protection legislation.

It was suggested that up to 5,600 files were destroyed shortly after Wright, 37, was shot dead by republicans inside the Maze Jail in December 1997.

Mr Paisley said details were given to him in confidence by a senior prison officer who approached him last June while he was still a Junior Minister at Stormont.

With the information regarded as relevant to the public inquiry into claims of British security force collusion in the killing, he decided the most appropriate action was to pass it on to David Wright.

The High Court application, brought under Section 36 of the Inquiries Act which deals with enforcement issues, is believed to be the first of its kind to be made in the UK.

During a preliminary debate over how to characterise the proceedings John Larkin QC, for the Inquiry, argued that they were civil.

Backing this view, Mr Justice Gillen said the focus was on obtaining the information rather than on the punishment.

Although the judge emphasised that he had an entirely open mind about how the case will be ultimately determined, he said if any enforcement steps were taken and failed to secure compliance the dual nature of civil contempt will come into play”.

“At that stage the High Court will have a very substantial interest in seeing that any order it makes must be upheld – if necessary by committal to prison for contempt. But that stage is far from being reached at this point and in my view is not the primary purpose of Section 36.”

Mr Justice Gillen added: “It seems to me that if an order requiring compliance is made by the High Court it may well carry sufficient status to secure adherence by a publicly elected official who is, it may be assumed, committed to upholding the rule of law even if he disagrees with it in a particular instance.”

Derry Journal
25 November 2008

Around one hundred people took part in a commemoration march on Sunday to mark the 30th anniversary of the death of IRA volunteer Patsy Duffy.

Mr. Duffy was shot dead by the SAS as he went to check on an arms dump in a house in Maureen Avenue in November 1978.

The march, which was organised by the 32 County Sovereignty Movement and the Duffy family, began at the Brandywell grotto and made its way to the Republican Plot in the City Cemetery.

A number of PSNI landrovers accompanied the parade and marchers were told they were taking part in an illegal parade before it set off.

In the cemetery, wreaths were laid on behalf of the 32 County Sovereignty Movement (32CSM), the Duffy family, and Oglaigh na h’Éireann. The main oration was given by Marian Price, the national secretary of the 32CSM, who told the crowd that the republican movement is being rebuilt.

“Republicanism is alive and well and it’s the only ideology and plan for Ireland that hasn’t been tried and it was time that it was put into action. We are beginning to rebuild the republican movement and from here it’s onwards and upwards,” she said.

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