You are currently browsing the monthly archive for January 2009.
30 Jan 09
The jury trying two former IRA prisoners for an alleged blackmail plot against two businessmen have been sent home after failing to reach verdicts.
Ronald McCartney, 55, of Belfast, and Nick Mullen, 60, from west London, are said to have told each man to hand over £150,000 “or face the consequences”.
Both men deny two counts of conspiracy to blackmail, as does co-defendant Louis O’Hara, 43, of Loughton, Essex.
Ronald McCartney was convicted of attempted murder in 1976
The jury is expected to resume its deliberations on Monday.
The four-week trial at London’s Southwark Crown Court heard letters sent to the businessmen in early 2008 not only bore the Irish Gaelic for the IRA – Oglaigh na h-Eireann – but were signed with the organisation’s nom de guerre “P O’Neill”.
McCartney has previously served a sentence for attempting to murder three policeman in the mid-1970s, while Nick Mullen was once jailed for being a “quartermaster” for an IRA active service unit.
31 Jan 09
A 300lb car bomb has been found in County Down five days after a telephoned warning claimed a device had been left in Castlewellan village.
Police diverted traffic during the security alert in Castlewellan
Security forces discovered an abandoned car on Dublin Road on Saturday. Several controlled explosions were carried out on what police called “suspect items”.
It is thought the bomb was planted by dissident republicans who were trying to target the Ballykinler army base.
Supt Greg Blain said it could have caused “substantial… loss of life”.
“This is a large explosive device,” said Supt Blain, adding that its detonation would have caused “substantial damage and loss of life”.
Supt Blain said someone claiming to be a member of a dissident republican organisation had called a local newspaper to warn about the bomb.
We are not going back to the past – even if they are locked in it
Margaret Ritchie MLA
“They…abandoned it in an area close to local houses and schools, and then phoned through vague warnings about the locality and nature of the threat,” he said.
“They placed the lives of every man, woman and child in the area at risk.”
South Down Stormont Assembly member Margaret Ritchie said those behind the bomb deserved nothing but contempt from the community.
“For five days [people in the area] have been worried and suffered massive inconvenience, having to take long detours to get to work or bring children to school.
“Those who planted it should be in absolutely no doubt – we are not going back to the past, even if they are locked in it.”
31 Jan 09
A gang of masked youths armed with hammers and petrol bombs have hijacked a bus and set it alight in Craigavon.
The bus driver and passengers were ordered off the vehicle by the gang at about 1700 GMT on Saturday.
A police spokesperson said the vehicle was then set on fire.
They have asked motorists to avoid the Tullgally Road area. It is understood the incident happened between roundabouts near Drumbeg.
By Simon Doyle
All Catholic grammar schools are set to hold new entrance tests in place of the 11-plus after the executive failed to agree to proposals to ban academic selection.
A total of 25 Catholic schools, including the Newry grammar to which Caitriona Ruane sent one of her daughters, are expected within days to match plans by six others.
Such a move would be devastating for the education minister who wants to introduce a non-selective system.
Ms Ruane had intended introducing her own new temporary transfer test to give schools time to prepare for a complete ban on academic selection but needed legislation to do so.
She had hoped to discuss details of her proposals at a meeting of the executive yesterday but the issue did not make the agenda.
The minister, pictured, is now expected to revert to offering guidance to schools because of the urgency with which clarity on a new transfer system is required.
It is understood this guidance will not include an entrance-test option but focus on non-academic criteria.
The minister is expected to tell schools they should give first priority to “looked after” children and to accept a proportion of children entitled to free school meals.
While schools must “have regard to” any guidance issued by Ms Ruane they can ultimately introduce any admissions criteria they want.
Last year the Catholic Heads Association, which represents 31 grammars, complained of a “lack of direction and political progress” and recommended that schools use the transitional test proposed by Ms Ruane rather than introduce their own exams.
However, when St Michael’s College in Enniskillen followed Derry’s Lumen Christi in October by saying it would offer its own test it was predicted that more Catholic grammars would follow.
Since then four more have declared their hand – St Patrick’s, Downpatrick, Thornhill College in Derry, St Louis’ Grammar School, Ballymena and St Mary’s Grammar School, Magherafelt.
The 25 remaining members of the Catholic Heads Association were understood to have been waiting for the outcome of yesterday’s executive meeting before making a decision.
It is now expected they will follow the Lumen Christi lead and use a test devised by the National Foundation for Educational Research, which sets grammar school entrance tests in England.
It will consist of two ‘standardised reasoning’ papers which will probably be taken in the autumn.
Such testing was scrapped in the north about 15 years ago amid criticisms that children spent their time learning exam tricks.
20 Jan 09
HISTORIC SITE: Padraig Pearse, the wounded James Connolly, Thomas Clarke, Joseph Plunkett and Sean Mac Dermott staged their final stand at 16 Moore Street after tunnelling their way from the GPO a week after the 1916 Easter Rising rocked Dublin
A great grandson of a 1916 Easter Rising leader has made an appeal for help to Northern Ireland in a bid to safeguard a Dublin city centre building he argues played a key role in the rebellion.
Campaigners fear that 16 Moore Street – the final headquarters of the Provisional Government – could soon undergo irreversible alterations as part of €1.2 billion (£1bn) redevelopment plan for the city centre.
They reacted with dismay when Dublin City Council voted to sell 24 and 25 Moore Street last November to Longford-based developer Joe O’Reilly for €12 million (£11m).
The two buildings are part now part of the Carlton Development project with plans to transform the area by constructing new retail outlets, apartments and offices.
Jim Connolly-Heron – great grandson of James Connolly – last night urged the Northern Ireland public to voice their opposition to major construction work around what he said should be considered one of Ireland’s most precious heritage sites.
“If these plans go ahead it will effectively mean the demise of a national monument,” he said.
“There is a preservation order on 16 Moore Street which means the building should not be altered.
“We want people to write to An Bord Pleanala [the Republic’s planning authority] registering their objection to the proposal by way of an observation or submission by the February 17 deadline. They would also have to include a E50 (£45.50) fee.”
Mr Connolly-Heron has called on the authorities to ensure that the GPO, Moore Street and Henry Place be preserved as a historic quarter.
The National Graves Association (NGA), which maintains historic sites across Ireland, has backed the call from Mr Connolly-Heron.
NGA spokesman Matt Doyle – whose organisation has dubbed the building ‘the Irish Alamo’ – said campaigners were depending on individuals and groups with an interest in Irish heritage to get behind the campaign.
“If these buildings were in any other city in the world this precious monument would be preserved,” he said.
“The men and women of the Easter Rising took on the might of the British empire.
“With the 1916 centenary commemorations coming up its time for ordinary people to take on the might of the developers and Dublin City Council.”
Padraig Pearse, the wounded James Connolly, Thomas Clarke, Joseph Plunkett and Sean Mac Dermott staged their final stand at 16 Moore Street after tunnelling their way from the GPO a week after the 1916 Easter Rising rocked the city.
SIR Hugh Orde has settled a libel action brought over newspaper references to his supposed length of time fighting the IRA.
Independent News and Media (NI) issued an apology to the chief constable as part of the resolution announced in the High Court.
The publishers have also agreed to make a donation to a charity of Sir Hugh’s choice, lawyers confirmed.
The police chief had sued over a Belfast Telegraph column which appeared last June under the headline ‘Why such a Hugh and cry over al-Qaida?’
Reading an agreed statement to the court, David Ringland QC, for Sir Hugh said: “The article contained the words … ‘says this supposed veteran of 30 years of tackling the IRA…’.”
“The defendant unreservedly acknowledges that Sir Hugh Orde has not stated or suggested that he was a veteran of 30 years of tackling the IRA.”
Following the outcome the chief constable’s lawyer, David Craig of Johnsons Solicitors, said: “My client is very pleased to have received this full and categoric retraction and apology from the Belfast Telegraph, together with the payment to charity and settlement of legal costs.
“However, he remains very disappointed that he was so blatantly misquoted in such a manner in the first place.”
THE man who supplied the baseball bat used to bludgeon Ballymena schoolboy Michael McIlveen denied yesterday he had been asked to get it from his home just moments before the attack.
Christopher Francis Kerr (22), of Carnduff Drive in Ballymena, told Antrim Crown Court – where he and three others face charges of murdering the 15-year-old in May 2006 – that he “brought the bat out on my own free will”.
Mr Kerr, who claimed he and others were “horrified… shocked” that it had been used in the attack on the Catholic teenager, was being cross-examined on his third day in the witness box.
Questioned by John Orr QC, for the prosecution, Mr Kerr agreed it was “true” that “Michael McIlveen did nothing to deserve a beating of any description”.
But when asked if he “got the impression” others were waiting for him to arrive with the baseball bat before the attack, Mr Kerr rejected the suggestion, maintaining he got the weapon for his “own self-protection”.
At one stage trial judge Mr Justice Treacy reminded him he had told the court that after getting the bat from his home, he had walked down to the alleyway in which Michael was attacked.
Mr Kerr maintained that the others who had chased the schoolboy and a friend “weren’t waiting for me because they didn’t know I was getting the baseball bat”.
Mr Orr then put to Mr Kerr what he’d said in interviews with police when it was suggested that someone asked him to get the bat and he had replied: “I don’t really know”.
The defendant said he “wasn’t thinking straight at the time… that’s the way it came out”, before adding that he “brought the bat out on my own free will… no-one asked me”.
Mr Kerr further claimed that the answer came after a number of days of interviewing by police and that “my head was all over the place”.
When Mr Justice Treacy pointed out to Mr Kerr that the question had come from his own solicitor, and not police, he said that “it just came out like that. My Lord… my head wasn’t thinking straight. My Lord like, that’s the way it came out”.
The trial continues.
Police officers may have plotted to pervert the course of justice after an innocent mother-of-three was killed by a plastic bullet nearly 28 years ago, judges have heard.
Lawyers for the husband of Nora McCabe also claimed the RUC man who fired the fatal round intended to seriously or fatally wound her.
Mrs McCabe (33), pictured, died after being struck on the head by a baton round on the Falls Road in west Belfast in July 1981.
Her family have launched a legal challenge against decisions by the Director of Public Prosecutions not to charge anyone with her murder, or for perjury at her inquest.
They are also seeking leave to apply for a judicial review of the reasons given last year for the failure to prosecute over the death.
Claiming both the 1983 and 2008 decisions were irrational, illegal and wrong in law, Mr McCabe’s barrister, Barry Macdonald QC, told a Divisional Court panel that the application arose from one of the most notorious episodes of the Troubles.
A key part of the case centred on footage shot by a Canadian television crew who were in Belfast at the time to cover the hunger strikes.
The Public Prosecution Service claimed police assertions about general disorder and rioting in the area were borne out by the film, the court heard.
It was also stated that prosecutions were not brought because it was impossible to disprove police allegations that two petrol bombers were nearby when Mrs McCabe was shot.
The PPS took the view that a court could not be certain that the officer who fired the fatal plastic bullet – identified as Witness A – intended to kill or cause serious injury.
However, Mr Macdonald claimed the footage played in court proved the police depiction of rioting and disorder in the area was false.
He told the judges that after a civil action brought by Mr McCabe was settled, a statement was read out which “comprehensively destroyed” the evidence given by police at the inquest.
“It is clear that Mrs McCabe died as a result of injuries sustained when she was struck by a plastic bullet and that that plastic bullet was fired by a police officer, namely Witness A,’’ he said.
“Given the apparent similarities between some of the false evidence given by police officers it appears that there may have been a conspiracy between them aimed at perverting the course of justice.
“In those circumstances, and when the video and civilian evidence… are considered, a court could be satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that the police officer who fired at Mrs McCabe intended to kill her or seriously injure her.”
Lawyers for the PPS based their opposition to the application on the passage of time and how no new facts had emerged since 1983.
With judges hearing the case reserving their decision, Mr McCabe spoke outside the court about why he brought the case.
“For too long my children have had to live with the fact that no one was held responsible,” he said.
“There’s an emptiness, a void there and we cannot even begin to have closure until we get some form of explanation at least.”
By Barry McCaffrey
RETIRED Canadian judge Peter Cory was last night tipped to become the chairman of the proposed legacy commission after it emerged that he had been privately briefed on key parts of the Eames/ Bradley report before its publication.
INQUIRING MIND: Retired Canadian judge Peter Cory on a visit to Belfast two years ago to give a lecture on the Inquiries Act. Last night when asked he if he was disappointed that the British government was continuing to block an inquiry into the 1989 murder of solicitor Pat Finucane, Judge Cory said: “Anyone would be disappointed when something which they recommended to beinvestigated has not been acted upon but it is a matter for the British government and the Finucane family.” (PICTURE: Mal McCann)
On Wednesday former Church of Ireland Primate Lord Eames recommended the establishment of a commission to carry out a five-year investigation of Troubles-related killings.
It would take over Troubles-related murder investigations carried out at present by the Police Ombudsman and the Historical Enquiries Team.
Eames/Bradley recommended that the commission, which would have a £100 million budget, should be chaired by someone from outside Northern Ireland and who is recognised internationally for their independence.
It is understood that former Metropolitan Police Commissioner Lord Stevens has privately lobbied for Judge Cory to be appointed as the new commission chairman.
Lord Stevens, who in 2003 publicly acknowledged security force collusion in the 1989 murder of Pat Finucane, is thought to have acted as an intermediary between Eames/ Bradley and Judge Cory over the last 18 months.
It is understood he flew to Canada on a number of occasions to personally brief Judge Cory on the Eames/ Bradley report.
Informed sources last night suggested that former police ombudsman Dame Nuala O’Loan has already signalled that she is unwilling to be considered for a position on the commission.
Speaking from his home in Canada yesterday, Judge Cory confirmed that he had been briefed on the content of the Eames/Bradley report before its publication.
“I haven’t been approached by the governments to take up the role but if I was asked I would consider it an honour,” he said.
“I was sent part of the Eames/ Bradley report relating to issues of the legacy commission prior to its publication and have been told that the full report is now being forwarded to me. I will wait to read it in full.”
In 2002 Judge Cory was appointed by the British and Irish governments to investigate allegations of security- force collusion in the killings of Lurgan solicitor Rosemary Nelson, Portadown man Robert Hamill, LVF leader Billy Wright, RUC men Harry Breen and Bob Buchanan and Belfast solicitor Pat Finucane.
In 2004 he concluded that there was enough evidence of collusion to warrant public inquiries in all six killings. To date public inquiries into the murders of Mrs Nelson, Mr Hamill, Wright and RUC men Mr Buchanan and Mr Breen have all begun.
However the British government has consistently blocked an inquiry into Mr Finucane’s murder.
The Eames/Bradley report said that the decision as to whether a public inquiry should be held into Mr Finucane’s 1989 murder was a matter for the British government.
When asked whether he was disappointed that the government was continuing to block the inquiry Judge Cory said: “Anyone would be disappointed when something which they recommended to be investigated has not been acted upon but it is a matter for the British government and the Finucane family.
“I would hope that both sides could still find agreement.“
One of the most controversial issues contained in the Eames/Bradley report is the recommendation that all public inquiries should be brought to an end before a legacy commission is established next year.
The report said that the remote prospect of anyone being prosecuted in future for Troubles-related killings, means it would be more beneficial for any new legacy commission investigations to concentrate on
providing victims’ families with information about how their loved ones had died.
Mr Justice Cory said that he believed that a new emphasis on providing information to victims’ families was more realistic than any future prosecutions.
“I think it is probably correct to concentrate on providing information to the families, simply because the passage of time that has passed in many of these cases means it is less likely that a prosecution would be successful.
“It is not an easy issue and the victims’ families should come first in whatever is decided.”
Despite being 83 and the fact that the legacy commission is recommended to be in existence for five years, Judge Cory has insisted that he would still be prepared to take up the role of chairman, if asked.
“I would see it as the last challenge of my professional career,” he said.
“It would be a full time role and I would expect to live in Northern Ireland for the full five years.
“I see the Northern Ireland peace process as a shining example to the rest of the world of what can be achieved if people are prepared to work together and would be honoured to play my part if I’m asked.”
30 January 2009
A teenager involved in a chilling sectarian attack, which left a Derry civil servant in coma from which he will never recover, faces a sentence for up to 15 years.
Daryl Proctor (18), from the Fountain, was just shy of his 16th birthday when he and a crowd attacked a group of friends clearing up after a barbeque.
After the attack in the early hours of July 16, 2006, at Chapel Road, 32-year-old father-of-one Paul McCauley was left brain damaged.
Another friend Mark Lynch was knocked unconscious with a broken jaw while another, Gavin Mullan, escaped relatively unharmed despite someone standing over him saying “get him’ or ‘kick him”.
Proctor had been charged with the attempted murder of Mr McCauley before he admitted causing him and Mr Lynch grievous bodily harm with intent and attempting to cause GBH to Mr Mullan.
Outlining the prosecution case, Mr Ciaran Murphy QC said that Proctor’s guilty plea was accepted on the bases they “cannot say definitively” who caused the injuries to Mr McCauley.
“However, the defendant has accepted his guilt for the offence, charged as a participant in a joint enterprise to carryout this violent attack”.
Mr Murphy told trial judge Mr Justice Hart, who will pass sentence next week, that there were a number of aggravating features to the case.
“This was a premeditated attack involving a number of individuals who had to traverse an area of open land in the early hours of the morning to reach their victims.
“The attack was wholly unprovoked, and the only motivation was sectarianism.
” The focus of the attack was to the upper body and two of the victims had their heads stamped upon . . . this attack was executed in a chillingly calm manner.” He added that initially Proctor denied any involvement.
Mr Murphy said that Proctor, despite his subsequent plea had “shown no remorse, despite the knowledge of the condition of the victim.” He added: “the tragic consequences for Mr McCauley and his whole family have been cruelly devastating and life changing”.
The prosecution lawyer further revealed that Mr McCauley who needs care, 24 – 7 “remains in a minimally conscious state” and that for him, “there is no potential for any recovery”.
Defence QC Elish McDermott said that what happened to Mr McCauley was “unspeakable”. However, in mitigation she said that Proctor had pleaded guilty and as a result Mr McCauley’s family and the other injured parties did not have to “endure” a trial. The court would also have to consider Proctor’s age at the time, said Ms McDermott.
Saturday, 31 January 2009
A prison officer who knew a suspect in the murder of Robert Hamill asked him about the fatal attack while he was on remand in prison, the Hamill Inquiry heard yesterday.
William Leathem went to the same Tae Kwon Do club in Portadown as murder suspect Allister Hanvey and Robert Atkinson, a policeman accused of tipping Hanvey off to destroy clothing including a silver jacket worn on the night of the attack on Mr Hamill in April 1997.
A statement by Mr Leathem was shown in which he described speaking to Hanvey while at work in the Maze prison, where Hanvey was being held on remand. “What sort of f*****g idiot are you, did you or didn’t you?” Mr Leathem said.
According to Mr Leathem’s statement, Hanvey replied: “I don’t know why I did it.”
Mr Leathem said he asked Mr Atkinson shortly after the death of Mr Hamill if it was true that RUC men stayed in their vehicle during the violent confrontation in which Mr Hamill died.
“[Robert] said it was “rubbish”.
He said the four of them were in the Land Rover going up the other side of the street when they had seen a fight break out at the corner of Woodhouse Street.
“He said they went on up the town and came back down to where the fight was taking place. When they got to the scene of the fighting he saw Allister Hanvey standing back watching the fight. Robert told me that Allister was either drunk or high on drugs so he told him to ‘f*** off home out of the road’. Allister apparently stood and argued with Robert for a while.”
Mr Leathem said he was “100%” sure the conversation had taken place but Margaret Ann Dinsmore QC said her client, Mr Atkinson, was “adamant” it had not.
“You had knowledge that Allister was either drunk or high on drugs. It did not occur to you that that is information that you should perhaps have brought to the attention of the murder investigation?”
Mr Leathem said he wanted to “keep myself clean” because of his job.
Murder charges against Mr Hanvey and five others were eventually dropped. A charge of perverting the course of justice against Mr Atkinson was also dropped.
Julian Lyons, owner of Paranoid clothes shop in Portadown, said it was “possible” a silver Skanx jacket — like one seen on a suspect in the murder on the night of the attack — had been sold by the shop to Tracey Clarke, the girlfriend of Allister Hanvey.
“It was possible that Prince Charles came in and bought a pair of pink Lycra tights but I could not say that that was true,” Mr Lyons said.
Barra McGrory QC, counsel for the Hamill family, said: “But we are not talking about Prince Charles buying underwear. We are talking about a man being murdered in the street and we are talking about whether he [the person responsible] can be identified from a jacket he was wearing.”
29 Jan 09
The British government has warned loyalist paramilitaries that an extended decommissioning amnesty will be cut short if they fail to co-operate.
Northern Ireland Secretary of State Shaun Woodward has issued a warning to loyalists over weapons. (Photograph: Julien Behal/PA Wire)
Northern Ireland Secretary of State Shaun Woodward said if armed loyalist groups show no willingness to decommission their arsenal in the coming months then legislation that offers them effective immunity from prosecution for giving up their guns will end.
Mr Woodward had originally announced a 12-month extension to the current Decommissioning Order, which will come into effect next month. However, he has now pledged to annul that law after six months if loyalists fail to engage sufficiently with the International Independent Commission for Decommissioning (IICD).
The move follows pressure from the Northern Ireland Police Federation, which represents serving and retired officers in the region. It was unhappy with the decision to extend an amnesty that was first introduced in 1997.
While the IRA has put its arsenal out of use, groups such as the UDA and UVF remain armed despite being on ceasefire. Th Independent Monitoring Commission (IMC) has expressed concerns that some loyalists are now attempting to obtain more guns.
The renewed effort to persuade loyalists to disarm comes against the backdrop of an upsurge in violent activity by dissident republicans.
Police Federation chair Terry Spence said the governments had pandered to loyalists for long enough. “Both the Irish and British governments have, at various times over the past decade, been bluffed into renewing the legislation without seeing any reward for their patience,” he said.
Mr Spence said there was no appetite in the North for another extension to the amnesty. “Instead, the political and community consensus is that the so-called loyalist paramilitaries have had eleven years in which to complete, nevermind begin, decommissioning of weapons and munitions and that their stance is one of criminal defiance,” he said.
Friday, 30 January 2009
A witness to the murder of Robert Hamill told policemen who were visiting his father’s home that he “put the boot in” the night the 25-year-old was killed, the Hamill inquiry heard yesterday.
The inquiry was told that teenager Timothy Jameson had previously denied seeing the assault in Portadown |centre in the early hours of April 27, 1997.
The attack, during a confrontation between Protestant and Catholic gangs, was |carried out in view of a Land Rover in which four RUC |officers were sitting.
Retired RUC detective Edward Honeyford said he was ordered to interview teenager Timothy Jameson as a matter of urgency for the second time on May 9, 1997.
He had already carried out a short interview two days after the attack — but Mr Honeyford said he was not told the exact reasons why the interview was to be carried out so urgently.
The inquiry was shown an extract from a statement by Witness G — an officer whose anonymity is being protected — who described being at the house of Mr Jameson’s father Bobby, who did contract work for police, on May 9.
Witness G’s draft statement said that Mr Jameson told them he knew more than he had said in his first statement and that he had “put the boot in”.
“Timothy Jameson was quite calm and matter of fact when he told us about that,” Witness G’s statement read.
“He didn’t appear to be frivolous or bragging — he seemed to be serious.
“He was fully aware we were police officers and probably knew that we would report it.
“I am certain that Timothy Jameson did state that he had “put the boot in” to to us.”
Mr Honeyford, who left the police in 2002, said he had not been aware at the time of the nature of the information which had reached the officers. Had he known that there was a chance Mr Jameson was involved, he would have carried out the interview with him as a suspect and under caution.
But Mr Jameson eventually withdrew his statement and said the detective had “put words in his mouth”, which Mr Honeyford denied.
Jonathan Wright claimed in a statement, which was shown to the inquiry, that Mr Honeyford threatened him in an interview, telling him he would not be able go on holiday with his girlfriend and that his father, a clergyman, would be humiliated by his son’s name being linked to the case.
These allegations were “totally wrong,” Mr Honeyford said.
“I couldn’t tell that to a |witness. There would be |absolutely no point. If his father worked for the Church of Ireland, that’s the first I heard of it.”
Mr Honeyford is to resume evidence today.
Opposition to compensating families of the dead is at odds with the majority pragmatic enough to know peace needs compromise
By Mairtin O’Muilleoir on Northern Irish politics
29 January 2009
Like fanatical but dazed Japanese infantrymen, emerging from the steaming jungles of the Philippines long after the war was over to find a world at peace, the diehards of the unionist hard right staggered into the function room of the Europa hotel in Belfast yesterday as people sat quietly and prepared to discuss the landmark report into dealing with the legacy of the Troubles.
Catcalling and jeering, the loyalist zealots poured scorn on Lord Eames and Denis Bradley for daring to suggest that wounds can be healed and axes buried. The chief “crime” of the duo who headed the Consultative Group on the Past was that they refused to divide those bereaved in our 30-year dirty war into good victims (pro-British) and bad victims (pro-Irish).
And while the protesters represented no more than the recalcitrant rump of beleaguered unionism, their antics prompted the nervous nellies of the DUP into rejecting the 190-page report before most of them had got past the introduction.
And that’s a pity because privately the DUP, happily married in government to Sinn Féin, accepts not only that the war is over but that neither the unionists nor their British masters emerged as victors. And when you’ve no clear winner in the unhappy business of war, making peace requires compromise – and a thick skin. That’s why the families of the 11 nationalists mown down by marauding British soldiers in the Ballymurphy massacre of August 1971 – among them mothers, children and clergy – agreed to swallow hard today and accept that the perpetrators of that slaughter, if subsequently killed in action, are to be treated as equal in death to their loved ones.
And the good news is that, even though their voices weren’t heard above the lunchtime Sturm und Drang at the Europa, there are thousands of ordinary unionists grieving for their loved ones lost who also want desperately to make peace and move on. To use an Obama-ism, nationalists and unionists who suffered terribly in the years of warfare are extending the hand of friendship to each other even if the serial protesters continue to raise the clenched fist of the past.
Eventually even the most empire-fixated Japanese soldier emerged from his redoubt and went home. On today’s evidence, some our own fanatics are still in that jungle, still digging foxholes.
29 Jan 09
WORDS: Michelle Williamson, whose parents George and Gillian were killed in the 1993 Shankill Road bombing in Belfast, and Families Acting for Innocent Relatives group leader William Frazer exchange words with Danny Bradley, right, whose two brothers were killed by the British army in Co Derry. Mr Bradley’s brother Robbie died in January 1972 when an army vehicle knocked him down in Greysteel. Seamus Bradley was fatally wounded on July 31 1972 in the Creggan area of Derry city. (PICTURE: Hugh Russell)
PAYMENTS of €15,000 (£13,900) have already been made to the families of paramilitaries killed in the Republic during the Troubles, it emerged last night.
The Irish government has admitted that a scheme that offered “acknowledgment payments” to victims of the Troubles in the south in 2003 included some of the families of 27 paramilitaries.
The revelation came as victims confronted each other yesterday in a Belfast hotel when the Consultative Group on the Past launched its report, including the proposal that the families of all victims, including paramilitaries, be given a £12,000 payment funded by the taxpayer.
In June 2003 a £2 million Remembrance Fund was set up by then taoiseach Bertie Ahern to provide financial support to the families of 85 people in the Republic who had been killed or injured during the Troubles.
It has now emerged for the first time that the scheme’s criteria did not exclude the families of paramilitaries.
Ten IRA men, nine INLA members, three members of the republican splinter group Saor Eire and one member of the Real IRA were killed in the south.
On the loyalist side, one UVF man and a UDA member were killed trying to plant bombs in Co Donegal.
30 Jan 09
A leaked report on Jewish settlements in the West Bank shows that the Israeli government was complicit in illegal construction on land owned by Palestinians, an Israeli human rights group says.
Yesh Din said on Friday that the classsified information, compiled by the Israeli defence ministry, would allow it to help Palestinians sue the Israeli government for damages.
Michael Sfard, Yesh Din’s legal counsel, said the information was a “severe indictment” of Israel’s military and government.
Israeli authorities are “systematically violating international law and the property rights of Palestinian residents,” he said in a statement.
The information leaked to the group shows that in three out of every four settlements in the West Bank at least some of the construction was completed without proper permits, Israel’s Haaretz newspaper reported.
The daily said the database showed that, in more than 30 settlements, extensive construction of buildings and infrastructure like roads, schools, synagogues, and even police stations was carried out on private lands belonging to Palestinians.
In one settlement, Elon Moreh, 18 houses were built on private land, the reports says. In another, Efrat, a park and a synagogue were built on privateland, and in a third, Ariel, a college was built without legal approval.
Yesh Din said it would begin running advertisments in Palestinian newspapers to encourage people to take legal action, and will also offer legal counsel, the statement from the group said.
The database focuses on the 120 West bank settlements that have been authorised by the Israeli government since it occupied the territory in 1967. About 100 other unauthorised outposts have also been established by settlers.
The settlements are illegal under international law and the so-called “road map” setting the course for Israeli-Palestinian negotiations calls for a halt to their expansion.
There was no immediate comment from the Israeli government on the conclusions of the report.
I used the site search for SAOIRSE32 for this page containing many articles on Bloody Sunday.
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30 January 2009
The image of a distraught priest waving a white hankie as a young boy was carried away from the gun-fire has undoubtedly become one of the most enduring symbols of Bloody Sunday.
Thirty-seven years ago today, Jackie Duddy became the first fatality of Bloody Sunday when he was shot from behind as he fled advancing paratroopers.
As tragedy unfolded in Derry’s Bogside, a young Fr Edward Daly (now Bishop Daly) led a frantic group of men who tried desperately to carry the 17-year-old to safety. Today, thanks to photographs and television, millions of people all over the world recognise this harrowing scene. Now the bloodstained hankie Fr Daly waved so earnestly in truce has been donated to the archives of the Museum of Free Derry by the Duddy family.
Bishop Daly, who is now retired, remembers the day only too well: “Charlie Glen, Willie Barber and Liam Bradley, were carrying young Jackie up Harvey Street away from the Rossville Flats and when we got to Waterloo Street we laid him down on the pavement to wait for an ambulance. When the ambulance came, I pushed the hankie in under Jackie’s shirt to where he was bleeding, although I think he may have already died by then.”
The handkerchief later wound up in the hands of Jackie’s father, Willie Duddy, when it was returned from the hospital among his sons belongings. The delicate fabric still bears its tiny, neat label saying ‘Fr. Daly’, and its original owner recalled: “It was my mother who actually stitched my name onto the hankie because we had a shared laundry in the Cathedral. I think I was told the Duddy family still had the handkerchief at the anniversary Mass a year later, but I never actually saw it again until decades later, when Kay (Duddy) brought it to the Guildhall after I had given evidence to the Saville Inquiry. But I was so emotionally distressed that day I remember little about it.”
Bishop Daly still feels very strongly about this poignant item: “It’s an emotional subject for me, but I am glad it’s here. It tells an important part of the story here at the museum alongside so many other important reminders of that day,” he added.
Kay Duddy, Jackie’s sister, and custodian of the hankie for many years, feels equally as emotional about its tragic provenance. “My daddy kept the hankie all those years until his death in 1985 and since then I carry it with me all the time – it’s like a comfort blanket to me,” she revealed.
Kay had planned to give the handkerchief to the Museum of Free Derry for safekeeping this autumn, after families have received the final report into Bloody Sunday.
However, those plans were hastened when she almost lost the hankie to a would-be mugger in Galliagh.
“I was on my way to chapel recently and outside Moss Park a young thug tried to grab my handbag and my initial thought was: ‘Oh my God, Jackie’s hankie’s in that bag.’ I had planned to give it to the museum eventually, but that frightened me and so I decided it was best to hand it over now to keep it safe,” Kay added.
Sheer luck saved this artefact from being lost forever.
30 January 2009
The political wings of the Real IRA and INLA have denied making the death threats which a group has made to six young people in Creggan over the past fortnight.
The 32 County Sovereignty Movement (32CSM) and Irish Republican Socialist Party (IRSP) have also challenged the group behind the threats, Community Action Against Drugs (CAAD), to explain their actions.
The parents of two of the young people who received death threats recently have called for the threats to be lifted and for CAAD to explain the allegation they area making.
A spokesperson for the 32CSM – the political wing of the Real IRA – described the threats as “counter productive” and said they have “serious doubts” about the authenticity of group behind them.
“We have made strenuous efforts to make contact with this group about a number of concerns but on each occasion have drawn a blank. This leads us to have serious doubts about the authenticity and the motivation of this group,” the spokesperson said.
The 32CSM also urged for CAAD to get in touch with other republicans, “We appeal to this group to approach the republican movement in order to clear up this confusion.”
The IRSP also denied making the threats and said they are working with the families of those affected. “We are not aware who this group is and we would question their motives. They should make themselves known to other republicans and to the community they area claiming to protect.
“Young people who find themselves caught up in should be given the opportunity to come forward instead of facing threats like this. If any young people come forward to us they will be treated sensitively and confidentially,” a spokesperson said.
The trial has begun of a Dundalk man on charges relating to dissident republican activity dating back almost five years, following a legal challenge that ended up in the Republic’s highest court.
Barry O’Brien (35) has pleaded not guilty to membership of an unlawful organisation styling itself the Irish Republican Army on April 6 2004.
Gerard Clarke, prosecuting, yesterday told Dublin’s Special Criminal Court the case had first come before it in December 2004 but the defence had applied to the High Court for a judicial review challenging the jurisdiction of the court.
This was unsuccessful but on appeal the Supreme Court held that the Special Criminal Court did not have jurisdiction to proceed with the trial.
Mr Clarke said Mr O’Brien had been arrested on Holy Thursday and held for 15 hours before being charged.
The Supreme Court agreed that he had not been brought before the court “forthwith” as specified in legislation.
However, Mr Clarke said this word had been amended in the Criminal Justice Act of 2006 to “as soon as practicable”.
Mr Clarke said the court would hear the opinion evidence of a chief superintendent that Mr O’Brien was a member of an unlawful organisation and this would be corroborated by his failure to answer material questions during eight interviews after his arrest.
Ivana Bacik, representing Mr O’Brien, indicated that the defence would be challenging the jurisdiction of the court, Mr O’Brien’s arrest, a search warrant and the belief evidence of the chief superintendent.
The trial continues.