You are currently browsing the daily archive for 14 March 2009.

Daily Mail
14 March 09

Masked gangs attacked police with petrol bombs tonight in the wake of the arrest of a high-profile republican over the murder of two soldiers in Northern Ireland.

Former IRA prisoner Colin Duffy, 41, has broken away from mainstream republicans and criticised Sinn Fein’s decision to back the new Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI).

Under attack: Masked youths pelt police with petrol bombs following the arrest of Colin Duffy

Following his arrest, gangs have taken to the streets near his home in Lurgan, Co Armagh, and police were pelted with stones before petrol bombs were hurled a PSNI vehicles.

Duffy was one of three men arrested this morning by police probing the murders of Patrick Azimkar, 21, and Mark Quinsey, 23, who were gunned down by the dissident republican Real IRA as they collected pizzas at the gates of Massereene Barracks in Antrim last Saturday night.

A tense stand-off developed in Lurgan tonight, with youths forming makeshift barricades to block the railway lines in the town.

Duffy and two other men, aged 21 and 32, were arrested in police raids this morning in Lurgan and Bellaghy, Co Londonderry.

All three were being questioned at Antrim police station tonight.

Colin Duffy, seen at an anti-British Army homecoming parade in Belfast, is one of the three men arrested by police probing the murder of two soldiers in Northern Ireland

Duffy came to prominence in the 1990s after he was acquitted of the murder of a soldier when it emerged that a key witness against him was a loyalist paramilitary.

He was later arrested over the subsequent murder of two police constables, but the case collapsed.

His solicitor, Rosemary Nelson, received threats after representing him in court and she was murdered in a loyalist car bomb attack at her Lurgan home in 1999.

Her death is now the subject of a high-profile public inquiry.

Police teams in forensic suits carried out extensive searches of Duffy’s house on a private estate in Lurgan today.

The two soldiers were killed in the Real IRA ambush at their barracks hours before they were to fly to Afghanistan.

Two other soldiers and two pizza delivery men were wounded in the attack.

Detectives are examining CCTV footage from the area around the barracks and also what is believed to be the gunmen’s getaway car which was found abandoned seven miles from the scene of the murders.

The green Vauxhall Cavalier, registration TDZ 7309, had been bought two weeks earlier.

It is understood the gunmen had tried to burn the car, but it had not ignited.

The claim has led to speculation that the vehicle’s discovery may have provided police with opportunities to obtain forensic evidence.

The two young soldiers were the first to be murdered in Northern Ireland in 12 years. Lance Bombardier Stephen Restorick was killed by an IRA sniper in 1997.

Police are also questioning three people over the murder of Police Constable Stephen Carroll, 48, who was killed by gunmen from the Continuity IRA in an attack launched in Craigavon, Co Armagh, on Monday night.

His funeral yesterday was attended by senior officers, politicians and leaders from across the community.

The Continuity IRA and the Real IRA are dissident republican groups which broke away from mainstream republicanism in opposition to the peace process.

They rejected the decision of the mainstream IRA to end violence, decommission weapons and follow purely peaceful means to pursue republican political goals.

Duffy is a member of the republican protest group Eirigi, which has not supported the new police service, but which insists it is a peaceful pressure group.

He attracted criticism last year when serious rioting in the Lurgan area led to attacks on police, which he failed to condemn.

After police came under gun and petrol-bomb attack during two days of rioting, he said the episodes were a symptom of a section of the nationalist community refusing to accept the PSNI.

But in the wake of the murder of the soldiers in Antrim and of Pc Carroll in the Lurgan/Craigavon area, Duffy and the Eirigi group were challenged to condemn the killings.

Eirigi, which is Irish for “rise up”, released a statement in response to the pressure, claiming it did not support violent groups.

Earlier this week it said: “Eirigi is an open, independent, democratic political party which is not aligned to, or supportive of, any armed organisation.”

But it added: “While supporting the right of any people to defend themselves from imperial aggression, Eirigi does not believe that the conditions exist at this time for a successful armed struggle against the British occupation.

“As can be seen from the recent attacks on Britain’s Armed Forces, it is clear that not all republicans agree on how the British occupation should be resisted at this time.

“Those who carried out those attacks are best placed to explain their own rationale.”

The Eirigi group includes Breandan Mac Cionnaith, who was unavailable for comment today, but who came to prominence in the 1990s as the leader of the nationalist Garvaghy Road Residents Coalition which opposed Orange Order parades through the Catholic enclave in Portadown, Co Armagh.

He resigned from Sinn Fein in protest over its decision to back the new police service, but has in the past said Eirigi is a purely political group.

Police searching Duffy’s house came under attack today from youths who hurled missiles at officers.

Bricks littered the scene this afternoon as the police searches continued.

The PSNI activity came after politicians from all sides united against the dissident republican murders.

Earlier this week First Minister and Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) leader Peter Robinson reaffirmed his party’s commitment to the power-sharing government at Stormont.

And Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness, of Sinn Fein, branded the killers criminals and traitors who had defied the expressed wishes of the people of Ireland to support the political structures born out of the Good Friday Agreement.

Both political leaders are in the United States and will meet President Barack Obama on Tuesday in Washington as part of St Patrick’s Day events.

Today, Ulster Unionist leader Sir Reg Empey said: “It is in no-one’s interests to drag Northern Ireland back to the past and it is in no-one’s interests that fear and instability become the hallmarks by which the rest of the world recognises us.”

News Letter
14 March 2009

THREE men have been arrested in connection with the murder of two soldiers in the Real IRA outrage last weekend. The men aged 41, 32 and 21, were arrested in the Lurgan and Bellaghy areas. They are currently being questioned at Antrim police station.

Sappers Mark Quinsey, 23, from Birmingham and Patrick Azimkar, 21, from Wood Green, London, were shot dead at the base on 7 March.

Four other people, including two pizza delivery men, were injured.

The soldiers were attacked after coming out of the base to collect pizzas they had ordered.

As they did so, two gunmen in a car parked nearby opened fire with semi-automatic rifles.

The dissident republican group, the Real IRA, said it carried out the attack.

The soldiers, from 25 Field Squadron of 38 Engineer Regiment, were murdered just hours before they were to have been deployed in Afghanistan.

By Paul Thompson
Daily Mail
**Via Newshound
13th March 2009

An American businessman has been accused of funding the Real IRA by masterminding a cigarette smuggling ring that has netted them hundreds of thousands of pounds.

The case highlights the criminal activities which underpin the funding of terrorism in Northern Ireland.

Roman Vidal, 57, arranged for shipments of millions of cigarettes from Panama to Dublin where they were collected by contacts linked to the terror group.

The Real IRA has claimed responsibility for the murder of two British soldiers in Antrim on Saturday.

Mark Quinsey, 23, from Birmingham, and Patrick Azimkar, 21, from north London were gunned down as they waited by a pizza delivery car.

The killings have sparked fears of a resurgence in terror attacks as well as widespread revulsion at the return to violence.

Vidal is accused of sending two massive shipments of cigarettes to Ireland which were sold on the ‘black market’ at a fraction of the cost of other cigarettes.

U.S. customs agents told a Miami court they were able to trace the shipments, hidden under wood flooring and insulation material, to gangs linked to the Real IRA.

Officials calculate the criminals avoided paying over £1.5million in taxes on the first shipment alone.

Special agent Robert Manzanares said: ‘During the course of the investigation, evidence has indicated that some of these associates were connected to the group the Real IRA.’

He said inquiries were continuing in Ireland, both north and south of the border.

The smuggling operation was revealed for the first time after Vidal appeared in court following a three-year investigation.

According to court documents Vidal fronted a Miami-based freight company that imported millions of cigarettes from Panama.

The illegal contraband was hidden under wood flooring and insulation material in freighters that arrived at the Port of Miami.

The shipments were later sent to Dublin with layer upon layer of wood hiding containers packed with cigarettes.

When Vidal’s Irish contacts picked up the cargo of they only paid £2,100 in tariffs, according to court documents.

Customs officials in the U.S said they avoided paying over £1.5million in taxes.

The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency (ICE) said Vidal made his first shipment in December 2005.

Over 350,000 packets of 20 were in the shipment.

A year ago Vidal arranged for another shipment of six million cigarettes to be delivered to Dublin with the contraband hidden this time concealed under insulation material.

It was not known how many shipments were made in total, but on the evidence of those two alone, the court was told, it was likely the Real IRA made hundreds of thousands, possibly millions, of pounds.

According to court documents as agents dug into Vidal’s criminal enterprise, they learned that he worked for ‘a criminal organisation that has associates operating in Spain, Ireland, and other European countries as well as in the Southern District of Florida.’

The investigation into Vidal began after a tip off to U.S. customs agents.

They began monitoring his business and secretly checking his shipments from Panama.

Undercover agents noticed that Vidal had bought large supplies of hardwood flooring in the Miami area.

Agents tracked the vessels to Dublin where authorities were able to follow the trail to the Real IRA.

Vidal has been charged with four counts of federal wire and mail fraud.

He pleaded not guilty and was placed under house arrest following a brief court appearance.

It was a shock to hear Gerry Kelly, a former Adjutant General of the IRA, calling on republicans to give information to the police about the shooting of two British soldiers.

By Liam Clarke
11 Mar 2009

Kelly is the sort of republican hero that ballads are written about. As an IRA veteran he ticks all the boxes. He bombed the Old Bailey in 1973, endured a 207 day hunger strike during which he was repeatedly force fed and he led the mass break out from the Maze in 1983.

His laconic account of how he shot a prison officer in the face during the break is a popular “turn” in republican social clubs. Punters like to chuckle over the true story of how he asked Dutch police to forward a container full of arms and explosives to the IRA before he was extradited from Amsterdam.

“It is quite extraordinary to hear Gerry calling for information to be given to the police about republican attacks on the crown forces. There were people shot for a lot less than that” said Richard O’Rawe, a former IRA prisoner who acted as a Sinn Fein spokesman during the Provisional IRA’s campaign.

Kelly is now a junior minister at Stormont and his language was later echoed by Martin McGuinness, Northern Ireland’s Deputy First Minister. This week he stood shoulder to shoulder with Sir Hugh Orde, the PSNI Chief Constable, Shaun Woodward, the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, and Peter Robinson, the First Minister and leader of the DUP. He not only extended his sympathy to the families for dead soldiers but pledged unequivocal support to the investigation into their murders.

This has already been compared to the day in 1922 when Michael Collins borrowed heavy artillery from the British forces in order to bombard his former IRA comrades making their last stand in Dublin’s Four Courts.

This volte face is an overwhelmingly positive development which bodes well for the stability of the political institutions in Northern Ireland. Later this week, McGuinness may attend the funeral of a PSNI officer murdered by republicans. If the republican leadership delivers on its commitment to assist the police, then unionists will soon feel confident enough to deliver on the devolution of policing powers.

However, there are dangers. When it calls for information to be fed to the police and for the British army to be left unmolested, Sinn Fein is vacating political ground which the dissidents will attempt to fill with bodies.

The number of die hards trained and willing to take up arms is somewhere between 60 and 80 with two or three times that number prepared to play back up roles, like hiding weapons.

Republicans work on the old Russian revolutionary maxim “the worse the better”; they count on a feeling of grievance and repression to act as their recruiting sergeant. The Provisional IRA built the support it needed to sustain its campaign through unpopular security force actions such as the Bloody Sunday and mass internment.

Now the dissidents will, as Sinn Fein and the PSNI have both pointed out, hope to to bring troops back on the streets. They hope for a heavy handed military response to shatter the contented normality which, as they see it, is sapping the will of nationalists to resist British rule. The police have a thin to walk as they attempt to provide effective security against a determined terrorist threat and handing their enemies a propaganda advantage.

Rival leaderships compete and conspire for the allegiance of this rump of murderous fanatics. There are at least two Real IRAs; there is a Continuity IRA (CIRA) from which Oglaigh na hEireann (Irish for IRA), split away from in 2006. Other micro groups cluster around family or smuggling networks along the border.

These gangs now have access to military explosives and automatic weapons. Only an extensive covert intelligence effort has curbed their appetite for murder. 60 per cent of MI5’s electronic surveillance operations are targeted at them, along with 15 per cent of its manpower. The Gardai in the Republic also devote huge resources to infiltrating dissident terrorist networks.

The Massereene attack shows that RIRA in Antrim has regrouped after its alleged former leader was accused of being an informer and fled the country. A murder squad has now been established which, since it was not caught, has not yet been fully compromised. The fact that it is composed of ruthless and efficient gunmen, unafraid to get out of a car in front of an army base and shoot soldiers, will attract recruits.

On Monday evening CIRA staked its claim to leadership by shooting a policeman. Unless they can be disrupted by timely intelligence there will be further moves in this deadly game. If there is a winner, the dissidents will be able to form a single command structure to launch a more ambitious campaign, with attacks eventually being launched in Britain and on politicians.

It is now in Sinn Fein’s interest as much as anyone else’s to make sure that never happens.

By John Cooney
Saturday March 14 2009

The Catholic Primate has encouraged young people in Northern Ireland to give serious consideration to “the noble vocation” of becoming police officers.

Speaking at the opening of St Patrick’s College in Dungannon, Co Tyrone, Cardinal Sean Brady said: “Whatever section of the community you are from, we need courageous police women and men who will protect our society.”

Cardinal Brady again condemned last week’s dissident republican murderers of two British Army officers and police constable Stephen Carroll.

“Those who deliberately set out to murder or to maim others commit a grave offence against God.

“The recent murder of Constable Stephen Carroll in Craigavon on Monday evening was an evil, odious and cowardly attack,” he said.

By Ralph Riegel
Saturday March 14 2009

THE businessman charged with laundering Northern Bank robbery cash insisted a senior garda told him he would not face criminal charges if he co-operated — and that gardai would even intervene with the Criminal Assets Bureau (CAB) on his behalf.

Timothy ‘Ted’ Cunningham yesterday insisted that £3m seized at his home by gardai was received from Bulgarian businessmen for an Offaly gravel pit — and that the Bulgarians were now holding him personally liable for the frozen cash.

The revelation came on the 36th day of Mr Cunningham’s Cork Circuit Criminal Court trial. Mr Cunningham, of Farran, Co Cork, denies charges of money-laundering some of the proceeds of the Northern Bank robbery in December 2004.

The eight-week trial has heard that more than £2.3m in cash was discovered by gardai in the locked basement cupboard at Mr Cunningham’s Farran house in February 2005. Yesterday, Mr Cunningham claimed that a senior garda, Det Supt Tony Quilter, assured him he would not face criminal charges if he co-operated fully with the garda investigation.

The defendant claimed that, after he was released from garda custody following his arrest in February 2005, he received a total of 40 telephone calls from gardai.

“He (the garda) said that the only concern that I would have is a Revenue Commissioners tax liability,” Mr Cunningham said. “He (the garda) would have a word with the people in CAB — that CAB were now my revenue inspectors.”

Mr Cunningham insisted that the £3m he received was from Bulgarian businessmen for a gravel pit at Shinrone, Co Offaly, and that he received the cash between October 2004 and February 2005 in six separate payments, in amounts of between £200,000 to £800,000.

He confirmed that the Shinrone pit has since been sold to a Kildare firm, and that the Bulgarians effectively got nothing for their £3m. “They are (now) holding me personally responsible for the money they gave me,” he said.

State prosecutor Tom O’Connell said there wasn’t “a screed of paper” to prove the Bulgarian gravel pit deal.

The trial — which is expected to last until Easter — continues on Monday.

– Ralph Riegel


The government has ruled out holding talks with dissident republicans following the murders of two soldiers and a policeman.

Catholic priest Father Aidan Troy suggested dialogue with the factions could “prevent future loss of life”.

However, Northern Ireland Security Minister Paul Goggins said dissidents had no role to play in politics.

“There is a political process in Northern Ireland and those who believe in democracy have joined it,” he said.

“Dissident republicans have singularly failed to join it, they are trying to undermine it.

“In fact, it’s the very success of it which they are seeking to undermine and attack.”

Fr Troy said channels of communication could be opened in order to “say this is absolutely, unconditionally wrong.”

“There isn’t going to be any appeasement in this approach but if it saves one other grieving family, and even if people were to pour scorn on me today, I don’t mind that,” he said.

Last Saturday, the Real IRA shot dead Sappers Mark Quinsey, 23, from Birmingham, and Patrick Azimkar, 21, from London, at Masserene barracks in Antrim as they accepted a pizza delivery.

Four men were also injured in the attack.

Two days later, the Continuity IRA murdered Constable Stephen Carroll in Craigavon.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

A reprieve from deportation expires next week for a Wallington man from Northern Ireland whose fight to stay in the United States generated private bills in Congress.

Malachy McAllister, 51, got a stay of deportation in late 2007 after U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., introduced a private relief bill to give him and his two grown children permanent U.S. residency.

The Department of Homeland Security has sought to deport the construction-business owner for his involvement in a 1981 wounding of a Royal Ulster constabulary officer in Northern Ireland.

The bill never made it out of the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration, and the stay is set to expire on Monday, said Olga Alvarez, a spokeswoman for Menendez.

But Alvarez said Menendez may reintroduce the bill and added that the senator’s office has asked DHS to defer deportation.

U.S. Rep. Steve Rothman, a Fair Lawn Democrat who in the past has expressed support for McAllister and also introduced a private bill in the House, said in a written statement:

“I have been in regular touch with the Department of Homeland Security, and am working with them now. Based on those conversations with DHS, I believe Malachy McAllister is in no immediate threat of deportation.”

McAllister said that until a final decision is made on his case, “there’ll always be a dark cloud over you, where something can happen.”

But he said he is hopeful that, at least, a private bill will be reintroduced, giving him another stay of deportation.

“That’s another year of being off the radar,” he said.

McAllister, who served prison time in Northern Ireland for acting as a lookout in the shooting, has argued that it occurred during a civil war. At the time, he belonged to a paramilitary group opposing British rule in Northern Ireland. He has said he fears persecution if forced to return there.


Irish News

CCTV images which show a murder suspect buying the sledgehammer used by the gang accused of killing loyalist paramilitary leader Tommy English have been obtained by detectives, the High Court heard yesterday.

Prosecutors revealed that the anti-terrorist branch at Scotland Yard has supplied five still photographs to the investigation team.

They claim the man depicted in the intelligence clips gathered from a hardware store is David ‘Reggie’ Miller – one of 11 men accused in connection with Mr English’s murder in October 2000.

Details were disclosed as Miller (37) and John Bond (42), both from Mount Vernon in north Belfast, were refused bail.

Both men have been charged with murdering Mr English – a leading UDA figure – and with membership of the rival UVF.

They deny the alleged offences and claim to have alibis.

During their application to be released it emerged that photos have been sent to the Historical Enquiries Team (HET).

Crown counsel Sheena Mahaffey confirmed they were in intelligence format and showed the purchase of a sledgehammer from a shop in the New Mossley estate on the northern outskirts of Belfast.

“The prosecution case is that the person in the five photographs is believed to be the applicant Miller,” she said.

Mrs Mahaffey also revealed that HET detectives will be meeting with experts in England next week to analyse the images.

Mr English (40) was gunned down in front of his wife at their home on the Ballyduff estate just outside north Belfast during a bloody UDA-UVF feud which claimed seven lives.

Charges were brought against the suspects – who also included alleged police agent Mark Haddock – following evidence supplied by Newtownabbey brothers David Stewart (38) and Robert Stewart (34) who have pleaded guilty to aiding and abetting in the killing. The court was told that hours before he was shot a meeting was held in the New Mossley estate to plan the murder.

Instructions were allegedly given to get a sledge hammer to break into the victim’s home – although it was not used as the backdoor was open – and white spirit to burn a taxi hijacked by the gang involved.

Miller’s barrister Mark Farrell said the defence had been taken aback by the production of CCTV stills. He claimed the images were far from clear as they only showed a quarter or third of a face side-on.

Mrs Mahaffey, who opposed bail due to the risk of witness interference, also disclosed that one person has come forward to police in relation to the other alleged attacks since the suspects were remanded in custody.

Refusing to release Miller and Bond, Mr Justice McLaughlin set out how it was alleged they were in the “higher echelons” of the murder conspiracy, although neither was said to have been part of the team who carried out the killing.

Irish News

Controversial plans to deal with the legacy of the Troubles are to be examined by a group of Westminster MPs, it was announced yesterday.

Future treatment of victims and the impact on investigators probing more than 3,000 unresolved past murders will be considered, the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee said.

The Eames/Bradley report, which contained the emotive proposal to pay £12,000 to all those bereaved during the conflict, including the relatives of dead paramilitaries, is to be scrutinised.

Secretary of State Shaun Woodward is expected to give evidence on April 1 but has already ruled out the special payment.

The committee, chaired by Conservative MP Sir Patrick Cormack, has heard evidence from report authors Lord Robin Eames and Denis Bradley.

The publication of the report in Belfast sparked angry protests from relatives opposed to comparing victims with paramilitaries.

Irish News

THE pale pink facade of the Crumlin Road Court house did little to soften its ferocious reputation after a grim 150-year history of sentencing men and women to long spells in prison, writes Rebecca Black.

A large number of prominent politicians

were among those who lost their freedom in the complex including former first minister and DUP leader Ian Paisley, as well as Sinn Fein junior minister Gerry Kelly and regional development minister Conor Murphy.

The complex, which consisted of seven courtrooms, saw some of the most seismic trials in Irish history from partition through to the Troubles.

Completed in 1850, it was designed by Sir Charles Lanyon, the architect behind the Queen’s University Belfast, as well as the city’s Central Library and the Customs House.

Among those convicted at the first sitting of the court was one Mary Morough for the theft of a towel belonging to Thomas Russell.

She was “to be imprisoned for four months and kept at hard labour”.

Prisoners were transported to the dock by a tunnel which ran under the road from Crumlin Road Jail.

It is estimated that 25,000 prisoners made that dark journey during the Troubles.

Some of those sentenced at the court included loyalist killer Michael Stone and UDA leader Johnny Adair. Lenny Murphy and the Shankill Butchers gang stood trial there in the late 1970s.

However, perhaps most associated with the courthouse were the supergrass trials in which paramilitaries gave evidence to put their former comrades behind bars.

They started with the arrest of republican Christopher Black in 1981 who, after securing assurances that he would have protection from prosecution, gave statements which led to 38 arrests and sentences totalling more than 4,000 years in prison.

By the end of 1982, 25 more ‘supergrasses’ had surfaced contributing to the arrests of more than 600 people from the Provisional IRA, the INLA and the UVF.

Republican Jim Bryson sensationally escaped from the courthouse in 1973. Using a gun smuggled to him the previous night, he overpowered four warders and made off wearing one of their uniforms.

A leading republican who took part in the 1983 mass break-out from the Maze Prison was the last man to walk free from the courthouse in June 1998.

Bobby Storey was acquitted of unlawful possession of documents and possessing information useful to terrorists.

Although another blaze threatened the building in February 2004 no significant damage was done.

Irish News

A HARDLINE republican group opposed to Sinn Fein’s position on policing has said it does not believe that the conditions exist at this time for an armed struggle.

The statement from eirigi came after leading Co Armagh republican Colin Duffy was challenged to publicly condemn the murder of PSNI officer Stephen Carroll.

The former IRA prisoner has acted as a spokesman for eirigi, which formed in 2006.

Another prominent member is Breandan Mac Cionnaith, a former Sinn Fein councillor in Portadown and a spokesman for Garvaghy Road residents in the Drumcree dispute.

Last August when police came under gun, blast and petrol-bomb attacks during two days of rioting in the Drumbeg area of Lurgan, Mr Duffy said the incidents were a “symptom” of nationalists’ refusal to accept the PSNI.

He was acquitted on appeal of the murder of a UDR man and had two other murder charges dropped.

Traditional Unionist Voice leader Jim Allister MEP had challenged the group to condemn the murder of Constable Carroll.

“They’re the people who have agitated and encouraged hatred against the PSNI in the Craigavon area so the public has a right to know now what these individuals think of this dastardly murder,” he said.

In a statement Mr Mac Cionnaith said: “eirigi is an open, independent, democratic political party which is not aligned to, or supportive of, any armed organisation.”

“While supporting the right of any people to defend themselves from imperial aggression, eirigi does not believe that the conditions exist at this time for a successful armed struggle against the British occupation.

“As can be seen from the recent attacks on Britain’s armed forces it is clear that not all republicans agree on how the British occupation should be resisted at this time.”

“Those who carried out those attacks are best placed to explain their own rationale.”

By Diana Rusk
Irish News

A FORMER Sinn Fein councillor is one of two men being quizzed by police about the murder of Constable Stephen Carroll.

Police were last night granted more time to question Brendan McConville and a 17-year-old boy, who cannot be named for legal reasons, about Monday night’s fatal shooting in Craigavon, Co Armagh.

The pair, who are being held at Antrim Serious Crime Suite, can now be questioned for a further five days.

Brendan McConville (37), from the Lurgan area of Co Armagh, sat on Craigavon Borough Council for one term from 1993 to 1997 but has since left the party.

Last year he was given a suspended sentence when he appeared in court on ammunition charges.

It is understood that police have arrested him before in relation to dissident republican activity in the area.

Last May McConville walked free from court after admitting possessing ammunition in suspicious circumstances.

During the case in Craigavon Court police said they found a number of component parts of a firearm and six rounds of live ammunition at a house he was staying at in September 2007.

A judge sentenced him to two suspended prison terms for the offences after McConville said he found the items in a plastic bag and had taken them for novelty value.

He was sentenced to nine months in prison, suspended for three years, and fined £300.

Court papers had given his address as Glenholme Park in Lurgan but it is understood he was arrested on Tuesday at an address in the Taghnevan area of the town around 600 yards from the murder scene.

Shortly afterwards a 17-year-old youth was arrested in dramatic scenes captured by television cameras in the Ardowen estate next to where Constable Carroll (48) was shot dead.

Yesterday police were granted an extra five days to continue to question the pair, who can now be held until Tuesday evening.

Details of his arrest came as the Constable Carroll’s widow made an emotional appeal for an end to the recent violence.

Kate Carroll said her only wish was that her husband had not died in vain.

“I hope these people just realise that we only get one chance at life – that a piece of land is a piece of land and at the end of the day, my husband is just going to get six foot by six foot.”

Requiem Mass for Constable Carroll will be celebrated at St Ther-ese Church in the couple’s home town of Banbridge today with interment at St Patrick’s Cemetery in Dromore afterwards.

Yesterday the remains of the two young soldiers who were killed on Saturday – Mark Quinsey (23) and Cengiz Azimkar (21) – were formally handed over to family representatives after a memorial service at Massereene barracks in Antrim.

Their funerals are expected to take place in England next week.

Martin Fletcher
March 14, 2009

As the tourist bus wound along Shankill and Falls roads in West Belfast and sightseers photographed the sites of past atrocities, the guide noted a chicken restaurant. “There’s no more UDA, UVF, UFF or IRA but there’s KFC on the right. These days it will do you more damage.”

The point was clear. Terrorists may have murdered two soldiers and a policeman this week but the Troubles are over. They are history, not current affairs. Belfast has moved on.

In the 11 years since the Good Friday agreement was approved by men who were still too hostile to shake hands, the city’s transformation has been astounding. Gone are the Army’s watchtowers, armoured Land Rovers, soldiers and coiled razor wire. Today, pumped up by billions of pounds of investment, Belfast is bursting with smart new bars, boutiques, clubs, restaurants, offices and apartment blocks.

This once grim and joyless city now boasts a 10,000-seat indoor stadium and a giant Ferris wheel, which rotates slowly over City Hall. Where the much bombed Europa hotel once stood alone, there is a plethora of four- and five-star hotels, including the Merchant, which sells a £750 cocktail, and the £20 million Fitzwilliam that opened on Thursday and offers a penthouse suite for £1,500 a night.

St George’s market and other architectural gems from Belfast’s Victorian past have been beautifully restored. The city now has affected Parisian-style “quarters” with landscaped plazas. There are the chic Cathedral Quarter and the high-tech Titanic Quarter, which is emerging on an industrial wasteland where the Lagan river meets Belfast Lough. For 90 years after the Titanic sank in 1912, Belfast played down that it built the ship: at a time when the city was resisting Home Rule the Titanic was supposed to be a symbol of Protestant prowess and its sinking was a terrible blow. Today there are Titanic tours, festivals, films and exhibitions — even a Thai Tanic restaurant. “These are the benefits of peace,” said Gerry Blain, a customer service assistant, as he stood in the glass dome atop Victoria Square, a £460 million shopping development in the centre.

For the first time in memory there is net migration into Northern Ireland. Students no longer flee the Province the moment they graduate. Once the most insular of cities, where Chinese restaurant owners were the only outsiders and — the joke goes — Jews had to say if they were Protestant Jews or Catholic ones, Belfast is now full of foreigners and a favourite destination for weekend breaks.

There are direct flights from numerous European cities. Irish numberplates, once suicidal in Belfast, are now common as shoppers from the Republic flock north to take advantage of the weak pound. Lonely Planet calls Belfast a “must-see” and Frommer’s lists it alongside Washington, Istanbul and Cape Town as one of the top destinations this year.

The physical transformation has been matched by changes in attitude almost as remarkable, at least among the political hierarchy. The story of this week has not only been the murders, but the response: the astonishing sight of Martin McGuinness standing beside Peter Robinson, the Unionist First Minister, and Sir Hugh Orde, Northern Ireland’s police chief, and asking republicans to inform on the “traitors” responsible, an act that warranted death when he was an IRA commander. Or of Jackie McDonald, leader of Northern Ireland’s largest loyalist paramilitary organisation, saying that loyalists and republicans had to watch out for each other in the face of the terrorist threat.

It would be an exaggeration to say that Belfast and Northern Ireland have achieved normality. Ninety per cent of the Province’s public housing remains segregated and only 20,000 of its 324,000 schoolchildren attend integrated schools. Bitter arguments persist over who were victims and who perpetrators of the Troubles. Even now few Falls Road Catholics dare walk up the Protestant Shankill or vice versa. “I haven’t got the bottle to do that yet,” said Joe, 30, a Catholic barman whose house overlooks the monstrous steel wall dividing the Falls from the Shankill. A survey by the Institute for Conflict Research discovered that half the 41 official “peace lines” — barriers — dividing Belfast’s Catholic and Protestant communities had been built or extended since the late 1990s, and The Times found little appetite for their removal. “I wouldn’t feel safe if it came down.I like it the way it is,” said Colleen McGrattan, 36, a Falls Road resident.

There is not yet a true peace, according to Michael Wardlow, chief executive of the Northern Ireland Council for Integrated Education. “The compromise has been coexistence. It’s equal but separate. We have a truce.”

While it was always unrealistic to expect that generations of hatred and bitterness would vanish overnight, there has certainly been incremental progress. Hundreds of voluntary groups are working to bridge the sectarian divide and everyone agrees that the atmosphere is far more relaxed.

The ubiquitous murals that were once declarations of paramilitary intent are becoming attractions with cultural or historical themes. One in East Belfast even depicts David Healy’s winning goal from Northern Ireland’s famous victory against England in 2005. The paramilitary emblems and graffiti have mostly disappeared: today’s graffiti declares “Regeneration not Gentrification” or “No water tax”. Tattooed hard men have gone soft, retired with beer bellies, and nobody regrets their passing, except that petty crime has soared in the absence of punishment beatings. “We get yobs running about stealing cars and motorbikes, setting them on fire, drinking, selling drugs. Before they were too scared to do anything,” complained Bertie Atkinson, 57, who lives off the Shankill Road. Behind him smoke billowed from the derelict Crumlin Road courthouse, almost certainly set ablaze by young hoodlums.

There are still plenty of minor sectarian incidents — 1,584 last year, according to the police, and roughly an attack a week on sectarian targets such as Orange Order halls or Gaelic sports clubs — but there have been no bombings and only one sectarian murder in the past three years. The old passions are largely spent. The heat has gone out of the conflict and former paramilitaries now telephone each other across the peace lines to defuse potential trouble.

People relate anecdotes that were once unthinkable. Glen Darragh, 30, said that he was recently trained by former IRA men to be a bouncer at a Shankill bar. A Catholic flower shop owner called Stephen said that last July he drove past a loyalist bonfire celebrating the victory of the Protestant King William over the Catholic King James in 1690 and his 12 and 13-year-old children asked: “Can we have one too?” He added: “My kids don’t know anything. The distance we’ve come is phenomenal.”

Nothing is entirely predictable in Northern Ireland but the murders appear to have strengthened, not weakened, the peace process. The Province has united in revulsion. Mainstream republican leaders stood with their Unionist counterparts, allies against a common enemy. There has been no loyalist retaliation. “It now has massively widespread support. It’s very, very solidly in place,” Paul Bew, Professor of Irish politics at Queen’s University, said of the political settlement.

Barring further attacks, the cost will be largely economic. Headlines around the world told potential visitors and investors that violence had returned to Northern Ireland, and Belfast’s hotels were already reporting cancellations. At a time of recession, and with European regeneration funds drying up, that could be enough to stall the city’s stunning renaissance.

Ex-IRA man’s journey from streetfighter to government angers dissident republicans

Owen Bowcott
The Guardian
Saturday 14 March 2009

He began as a trainee butcher, dodged British army bullets while a Bogside streetfighter, led the IRA into power-sharing governments and now travels the world as a peacemaker.

Martin McGuinness’s incredible odyssey rounded another landmark this week when Northern Ireland’s deputy first minister stood shoulder to shoulder with the chief constable and called republican dissidents “traitors to Ireland”. These people, he said,”… have betrayed the political desires, hopes and aspirations of all of the people who live on this island.”

The denunciation, accepted by mainstream republicans and applauded by unionists, has left a number of former fellow travellers indignant.

The 32 County Sovereignty Movement, the political wing of the Real IRA, criticised McGuinness’s denunciation. It declared: “This British strategy has now reached its pinnacle with a Provisional Sinn Féin leader standing at Stormont, under the British flag, as a minister of the British crown, calling IRA volunteers ‘traitors’ for continuing to resist British occupation.”

An activist with dissident sympathies said: “He has prostituted every republican cause that has been adopted since [the uprising of] 1798. He has moved away from every part of Sinn Féin’s policy that has anything to do with a united Ireland.”

Today McGuinness, who is a keen fisherman, chess player and poet, is in the US trying to drum up investment for the province.

Next Tuesday on St Patrick’s Day, he and Peter Robinson, the first minister, will be guests of Barack Obama at the White House.

The ever affable McGuinness, who has earned the trust of prime ministers, spymasters and terrorist leaders, has grown accustomed to defusing accusations of hypocrisy.

The extraordinary ideological route march undertaken by Sinn Féin and McGuinness is not unique in Ireland’s immediate history. There are precedents, some more bloodstained than others. Condemning the murder of police officers and soldiers is not an easy stance for someone who previously sanctioned identical outrages.

The Belfast-based Irish News dubbed McGuinness’s use of the word “traitor” as a De Valera moment – a reference to the former Irish prime minister who fought against the state during the civil war but in power interned hundreds of onetime IRA colleagues.

“[Sinn Féin] knows there is only one option going forward and that is to face down these militants by supporting the legitimate forces of law and order,” said Tom Kelly, a columnist and former member of the Northern Ireland Policing Board.

Such a conversion ought not to be such a surprise: McGuinness’s self-discipline, religious observance, family-centred life and aversion to drunkenness would suggest the instincts of a social conservative. Last year he deplored the prevalence of boozing on TV soaps.

An early school leaver, the young Derry teenager abandoned his apprenticeship in the meat trade for action on the streets of the Bogside.

The Stormont government’s repression of the civil rights movement encouraged him to join the IRA.

By 1971, he was being described – at the age of 21 – as the commander of “Free Derry”. Within the movement he had a reputation for taking care to avoid civilian casualties and cancelling operations if there was a risk. He avoided internment but was convicted in the Irish Republic of terrorism offences.

His cell was said to have been scrupulously tidy, decorated only with saints’ medals. Fellow republican inmates recall him as a ferocious football player in the exercise yard.

In the run-up to the peace process, McGuiness was the point of contact in Sinn Féin’s secret negotiations, via MI6, with the government.

He and his wife, Bernie, have four children, two girls and two boys. Although his government office is in East Belfast, he returns to the family home in Derry at night.

When appointed deputy first minister in 2007, his mother, Peggy, sat proudly in the gallery at Stormont watching history unfold and her son being sworn into office.

The mood of ebullient co-operation generated by McGuinness and the octogenarian Ian Paisley – until then diehard enemies – amazed Northern Ireland and earned them the nickname the Chuckle Brothers. When the Democratic Unionist party leader stood down, McGuinness handed him a framed, handwritten poem of his own about a sea trout.

Relations with Robinson, who replaced Paisley last summer, were initially frosty but thawed after agreement on the transfer of policing powers to the province. For his skill in transforming the conflict, McGuinness has been recruited to spur along peace processes in Sri Lanka, Iraq and the Basque country.

He and Gerry Adams, the president of Sinn Féin, have been painstaking – critics would say overly cautious – in ensuring the movement did not suffer a major split during the gradual switch from physical force republicanism to democratic participation. A Presbyterian minister described it as “turning the Titanic in a bathtub”.

Avoiding the type of fratricidal split that characterised the separation of the Provisional IRA from the Official IRA in the early 1970s has been a prime consideration.

In republican South Armagh this week there was little criticism of McGuinness’s choice of language. The road to Crossmaglen is dotted with plaques and placards in honour of fallen IRA volunteers. What is missing from is the massive British army watchtowers that once glowered down from every hilltop; they have been removed by the peace process.

“The vast majority of the ones around here don’t want to go back to that,” remarked Patrick McGeeney, a taxi driver waiting in the town square. “You don’t want to see soldiers walking around pointing their guns at you.”

A young woman said she agreed with McGuinness’s call: “The killings were disgraceful. There was no need for it. People have put it behind them. It’s the past.”

Another woman out shopping said: “I’m a very staunch republican but it was lovely to see Martin McGuinness and Peter Robinson standing together.”

But Jim McAllister, a former local Sinn Féin councillor who once shared platforms with McGuinness and has now left the party, was disturbed by the phrase “traitors to Ireland”. “I’m finding people are puzzled,” he said, “that it’s a step too far … given Mr McGuinness’s past. It may rebound on him.

“Considering his history, who the hell is he that he can decide what’s right and what’s wrong? I don’t think it puts him in danger, but it may put his philosophy in danger. If the dissidents’ intention was to draw Adams and McGuinness closer [to the unionists] they may have succeeded beyond their dreams.”

One activist who described himself as an “anti-agreement socialist republican”, voiced similar anger. “McGuinness launched a vitriolic attack on his own community while standing next to Peter Robinson and a policeman wearing a foreign uniform,” he said. “You can’t call anybody worse … than a tout [informer] or a traitor.”

In West Belfast, a Sinn Féin spokesman was dismissive: “Everyone one is using strong language against [the dissidents]. We’ve called them counter-revolutionaries. Republicans are across that line a long time already.”

By Liam Heylin
Saturday, March 14, 2009

The man accused of money-laundering denied telling gardaí he was ever in fear of Phil Flynn, the former chairman of Bank of Scotland (Ireland).

Cunningham said he went along with what was suggested to him by gardaí, in particular, Detective Chief Superintendent Tony Quilter, Detective Sergeant Gerry McCarthy and Detective Garda Jim Fitzgerald. “I tried on the first day to tell the truth but it was like shouting up a down-pipe,” Cunningham said.

He said after his release from two days in custody in February 2005 Det Chief Sup Quilter wanted him to meet with Phil Flynn, former chairman of Bank of Scotland (Ireland) and find out his reaction to what had happened. He met Phil Flynn in the midlands the day after his release and later met Det Chief Supt Quilter at Midleton Park Hotel. “I just said Phil was concerned for me.”

Asked about Det Chief Supt Quilter’s evidence that Cunningham told him he was in fear of Phil Flynn, Cunningham said yesterday: “If I was afraid of Phil Flynn why would I have gone to the midlands to meet him… He is a director of Chesterton (the finance company of which Cunningham was also a director).”

News Letter
14 March 2009

ONE of the suspects being questioned over Const Carroll’s murder is a 37-year-old former Sinn Fein councillor, it was claimed yesterday.

Brendan McConville, from Glenholme Park in Lurgan, was elected to Craigavon Borough Council in 1993 with 1,261 votes, serving on the council until 1997 but has now left the party.

According to the Irish News, Mr McConville was arrested on Tuesday at an address in the Taghnevan area of Lurgan, about 600 yards from the scene of Const Carroll’s murder.

Less than a year ago Mr McConville was convicted of illegally possessing a weapon and ammunition in suspicious circumstances.

Last May he admitted two offences at a hearing at Craigavon Magistrates Court and was sentenced to nine months in prison as well as being fined £300.

However, the sentence was suspended, meaning that he would only go to jail if convicted of another offence.

The court was told that the Lurgan man was found in possession of six .22 rifle cartridges in suspicious circumstances.

A concurrent three-month term, also suspended for three years, was imposed for having the ammunition without holding a firearms certificate.

During the hearing, Mr McConville told the court that parts of a firearm discovered when police raided a property at Aldervale could not be assembled to form a gun as the barrel was missing.

The 17-year-old arrested on the same day as Mr McConville, who is also being held at Antrim’s serious crime suite, cannot be named for legal reasons.

On Thursday a magistrate granted police another five days to question the pair.

Bobby Sands mural photo
Ní neart go cur le chéile


March 2009
« Feb   Apr »

A note about Archives

For March-Sept. 2007 click here:

March - Sept 2007

All other months and years are below.

'So venceremos, beidh bua againn eigin lá eigin. Sealadaigh abú.' --Bobby Sands