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Irish News
29/06/09

ONE of Ireland’s most vandalised statues which commemorates a former IRA chief of staff has been fitted with sensor alarms and a tracking device.

The statue of Sean Russell which stands in Dublin’s Fairview Park has been attacked on several occasions due to a perceived link he had with Nazi Germany.

An original statue made of stone has been replaced by a bronze version which was unveiled in the park yesterday.

Russell died off the west coast of Ireland on board a German U-boat in 1940.

Photo and another article: >>Herald.ie

Critics have maintained he had links with the Nazi’s but supporters claim the trips Russell took to the Soviet Union, Germany and America in the 1920s and 30s were to search for weapons for the IRA.

Four years ago a self-styled anti-fascist decapitated the statue as he felt Russell “looked to Hitler for political and military support in the IRA’s quest to reunify Ireland at the bayonets of the Gestapo”.

The right hand was also removed in an attack while the entire right arm was broken off in a separate act of vandalism by a right-wing group who believed Russell was giving a communist salute

A new bronze version – which is harder to vandalise – was unveiled in Fairview Park yesterday and was commissioned by the National Graves Association.

It is protected by a motion sensor which will trigger a series of alarms if anyone tries to tamper with it. There is also a tracking device in the head.

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By Simon Doyle Education Correspondent
Irish News
29/06/09

Groundbreaking research carried out by academics from Queen’s University has demonstrated the underlying advantages of Irish-medium education.

A study by Dr Judith Wylie and Dr Gerry Mulhern from Queen’s School of Psychology indicated there were significant advantages to children educated in Irish-medium schools.

Aside from cultural and social benefits of bilingualism, the research showed there were real cognitive gains from being fluent in two languages.

The research -– the first of its kind involving the Irish-medium sector -–looked at short-term memory and working memory performance in primary school children.

“Short memory and working memory are centrally important in all learning, indeed everyday tasks such as reading, reasoning and mental arithmetic rely heavily on these processes,” Dr Wylie said.

“Using standardised tests of verbal and visual memory, our research compared groups of children from Irish-medium schools with children from the more usual English-only schools in Northern Ireland.”

Results indicated that children who attended Irish-medium schools significantly outperformed those from the English-medium sector.

On average, eight-year-old and 10-year-old children from Irish-medium schools were found to outperform children of a similar age from English-only schools.

However, the most dramatic finding was that eight-year-old Irish-medium children performed at least as well as, and in several areas better than, 10-year-olds from English-only schools.

Dr Reamai Mathers from Iontaobhas na Gaelscolaiochta, the trust fund for the sector, welcomed the findings.

“This groundbreaking work adds further evidence to the increasingly indisputable body of good science that shows that children who are educated in Irish-medium schools are not only receiving the benefit of two languages but are also receiving tangible educational advantages,” he said.

Earlier this year, Key Stage 2 assessments (Primary 7), which focuses on the areas of English and maths, demonstrated that for the last three years

attainment in Irish-medium education had been higher than the Northern Ireland average.

“What the Queen’s research provides is a deeper insight into the mechanisms at work in the superior performance by Irish-medium children when compared to the more usual English language schools,” Dr Mathers said.

“This research is another affirmation for our schools not only in their role in the revival of our indigenous language but, because of the deep functional mental processes involved in bilingualism, their role as centres of excellence in education.

“Irish-medium education is providing children with the highest levels of attainment. Indeed, so compelling is this educational case, that the argument for the ongoing and increased support for the sector at nursery, primary and post-primary level is more compelling than ever.”

By Barry McCaffrey
Irish News
29/06/09

General John de Chastelain this morning confirms that he has witnessed a ‘major’ UVF decommissioning.

In a statement issued after midnight General de Chastelain said that he had witnessed the UVF and Red Hand Commando destroying weapons including arms, ammunition, explosives and explosive devices.

“The leaderships of both organisations have advised us that the weapons and materials put beyond use in our presence include all the arms under their control,” he said.

The statement came less than 24 hours after the Canadian general confirmed he had witnessed a “significant” act of UDA/UFF decommissioning.

However, he also confirmed that the loyalist group has so far failed to destroy all its weapons.

“This is a significant move and we look forward to completing the process of putting all UDA/UFF arms beyond use at an early opportunity,” the general said.

On Saturday UVF interlocutor Billy Hutchinson said that it had put its weapons “totally and irreversibly beyond use”.

“The government and the Dublin government and the executive have no excuses, loyalist weapons have been put beyond use,” he said.

The UDA confirmed that it had begun decommissioning but has failed to say when the process would be completed.

Secretary of State Shawn Woodward described loyalist decommissioning as “bold and courageous”.

First Minister Peter Robinson said: “I believe they have taken the right step, both for their own communities and for Northern Ireland as a whole.”

Sinn Fein’s Gerry Kelly said that nationalists remained sceptical.

“It is a long time coming,” he said.

“People will be glad if it has occurred.’’

SDLP leader Mark Durkan welcomed the UVF’s complete decommissioning but called on the UDA to follow suit.

“The sooner that this happens, the better for everyone in the north.”

BBC

The widow of Kevin McDaid has appealed for an Orange parade near where he was killed not to be used as an excuse for “further sectarianism or division”.

The Somme remembrance parade takes place in Coleraine, County Derry, on Wednesday.

Mr McDaid, a Catholic, was murdered and his friend, Damian Fleming, critically injured in an attack by a loyalist mob.

Kevin McDaid was murdered in Coleraine in May

In a statement Evelyn McDaid said they did not want any “protest in our family’s name”.

Killowen Orange Lodge has voluntarily moved the parade away from the spot where Mr McDaid was murdered.

Music will be restricted voluntarily and supporters will not be allowed into the contentious area. No alcohol will be allowed.

Union flags erected close to the murder spot have also been removed.

Tensions

Mr McDaid was killed by a loyalist mob which invaded the largely Catholic area just after Rangers beat Celtic to the Scottish Premiership title.

Ten people have so far been charged in connection with the death, six with murder.

In a statement issued through her solicitors, Mrs McDaid asked that the site where her husband died should not be disrespected or desecrated by anyone, nor used as a monument to, or flashpoint for, sectarianism.

The mother of four said: “We express the sincerely-held hope that this forthcoming parade passes off peacefully and without incident.

“We are a family drawn from the Protestant and Catholic communities. We have been raised to respect all traditions within our community and would appeal for dignity and calm at this difficult time.”

The family requested to be allowed to grieve in peace, she said.

“We do not desire that any protest should be carried out in our family’s name. We made this statement in order to appeal for calm given recent tensions in the area,” she added.

“Kevin’s murder should not be allowed, or be used as an excuse, to breed further sectarianism or division within our community.”

By Deborah McAleese
Belfast Telegraph
Tuesday, 30 June 2009

The man who was almost beaten to death by the loyalist mob who murdered Catholic cross-community worker Kevin McDaid has said he believes it should have been him who died and not the father-of-four.

In an interview with the Belfast Telegraph, Damien Fleming has spoken for the first time about the night of sectarian violence in Coleraine which shocked people across Northern Ireland when he was left for dead. He told of his feelings of guilt and sorrow that his lifelong friend was killed trying to save him.

“I’ve been told Kevin was trying to save me. I don’t know what to say to his wife Evelyn. I cracked up when I heard he was dead. I sat and cried. Someone told me while I was still in hospital. The nurse told me they thought I might have a relapse because I was so upset.

“If Kevin hadn’t come around (to help me) he would still be living. He had a family. He should have left me there. He was a dedicated family man. I feel very very down about what happened to Kevin.”

Mr Fleming, who has just been released from hospital, said: “I was reared with Kevin McDaid. We knew each other since we were young boys. I ran about with him, went to school with him, played football with him. He is my second cousin. Kevin was always helping the community. He would have done anything for you. He used to organise things like fishing for the young ones here to try and keep them out of bother. He was a real family man. He shouldn’t have died that night. It should have been me.

“I went to his grave the other day with my sister. It really upset me. Seeing his grave brought it back.”

Mr Fleming said he is feeling very vulnerable being back in the Heights estate where the attack took place and is now looking to move to another area.

Mr Fleming’s solicitor, Garrett Greene, from McCann and McCann Solicitors, said that his client has appealed for calm in the area and would like anyone with information about the attack to come forward to police.

At the sound of his home phone ringing Damien Fleming jerked nervously in his armchair. “I’m feeling a bit jumpy. I didn’t want to leave the hospital — I felt safe there,” he said.

“I’m finding it hard being out. I don’t really like talking about what happened and I feel nervous about what might happen to me. People keep asking me how I am. But how are you supposed to feel after being almost beaten to death and your friend killed trying to help you?”

Mr Fleming looks frail and the scars and bruises inflicted on his face and body during the vicious attack by a loyalist mob just yards from his home on May 24 are clearly visible. He was left in a critical condition in hospital with serious head injuries and it was feared he would not pull through.

But one month after the attack he has finally been released from hospital and is now trying to piece his life back together.

“The nurses all told me I was lucky to be alive. They called me the miracle man. A police officer told me he had been in the police for 30 years and had seen many things and he said there must have been someone looking out for me. I was like the elephant man, my head was so swollen. I am very, very lucky to be alive,” he told the Belfast Telegraph.

Unconsciously touching a bandage on his throat which covers an insertion that doctors were forced to make to help him breath Mr Fleming said: “They (the doctors) cut a hole in my throat because I couldn’t speak or breath and they had to give me a pencil and note pad to communicate. I was able to write down the names of the people I saw attacking me.

“I know who they are and I know their families and I have to walk past their families if I go out because we all live so close.”

The 46-year-old kept the blinds in the front living room of his Somerset Drive home firmly closed. Outside, just yards away, is the spot where he and Mr McDaid appear to have been picked at random by the loyalist mob who rampaged through the Catholic estate after Rangers won the Scottish Premiership.

Nodding towards the window Mr Fleming said quietly: “It happened just across the way. I can’t really say too much about what happened because the police are investigating it but I was walking towards my home when I saw them and heard one say ‘there’s one of the fenian b******s there’. I felt punches. As I was down I heard one saying ‘keep at him’. After a length of time I was out cold.

“I don’t know why they did that to me. To be honest with you, it was any Catholic they were after that night. I was the first one they saw and Kevin maybe thought he was doing me a good turn. I’ve been told he was trying to save me. I don’t know what to say to his wife Evelyn. I cracked up when I heard he was dead. I sat and cried. Someone told me while I was still in hospital. The nurse told me they thought I might have a relapse because I was so upset. If Kevin hadn’t come around (to help me) he would still be living. He had a family. He should have left me there. He was a dedicated family man. I feel very very down about what happened to Kevin.”

Pointing out the window to the house across the road where Mr McDaid had lived with his family, Mr Fleming rubbed his eyes and shook his head slowly.

“I was reared with Kevin McDaid. We knew each other since we were young boys. I ran about with him, went to school with him, played football with him. He is my second cousin. Kevin was always helping the community, he would have done anything for you. He used to organise things like fishing for the young ones here to try and keep them out of bother. He was a real family man. He shouldn’t have died that night, It should have been me. I went to his grave the other day with my sister. It really upset me, seeing his grave brought it back.”

Lying beside his armchair a small bundle of newspapers with stories about the May 24 attacks look almost untouched.

“I can’t really bring myself to read them much, I find it hard,” Mr Fleming said.

“Physically I am still sore and get light-headed. I nearly fell a couple of times because I get dizzy. I am supposed to be going for rehabilitation and to the clinic but I’m not walking those roads. You don’t know who could pull up beside me or what they could do.

“I have told police I just want out of the area. I don’t want to go out. I don’t feel safe. When I came out of the hospital my family wanted me to stay with them but why bring bother to their door?

My niece stayed here the other night but I think she was scared and I don’t want to put them through that.”

The Heights area of Coleraine, where the nationalist and loyalist communities live in close proximity, has seen a lot of sectarian trouble and hatred over the years. Tensions were heightened yet again last week after a number of loyalist flags were erected close to the spot of the attacks on Mr McDaid and Mr Fleming.

“I don’t care about the flags, they’re not going to do me any harm. I just want people to stop all this. I don’t want to see anyone else hurt or dead. Poor Kevin should not be lying in that grave. This really has to stop,” Mr Fleming said.

UVF and Red Hand Commando have put all arms beyond use, body overseeing Northern Ireland disarmament confirms

Henry McDonald, Ireland correspondent
Guardian
Monday 29 June 2009

The international body overseeing the destruction of terrorist arms in Northern Ireland confirmed today that it had witnessed two loyalist terror groups put their arms beyond use.

General John de Chastelain’s Independent International Commission on Decommissioning said the Ulster Volunteer Force and Red Hand Commando had disarmed.

The commission also said it had observed some of the Ulster Defence Association’s weapons being decommissioned.

At the weekend the leadership of the UVF and Red Hand said it had decommissioned all guns and explosives under its control. The UDA also said it was preparing to put all its arsenal beyond use.

A spokesman for the commission said it could confirm it had witnessed a major decommissioning event involving arms, ammunition, explosives and explosive devices belonging to the UVF and Red Hand Commando.

“The leaderships of both organisations have advised us that the weapons and material put beyond use in our presence include all the arms under their control.”

The Northern Ireland secretary, Shaun Woodward, said the confirmation of loyalist decommissioning was “a cause for real celebration”.

He added: “What the people of Northern Ireland want is these illegal weapons taken off the street. These acts confirmed by General John de Chastelain are very significant and I think it’s a big moment in Northern Ireland.”

The US secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, welcomed the move as a “courageous step” and praised unionist politicians for making it possible.

The UVF decommissioning took place under the watch of three independent observers representing three governments – the United States, the UK and the Republic of Ireland – as well as officials from the commission.

A rebel faction of the UDA in South East Antrim has said it is also ready to decommission its weapons and is expected to move towards disarmament shortly.

BBC
29 June 09

It has been confirmed that Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness will be meeting the prime minister at Downing Street on Tuesday.

On Monday, Mr McGuinness said he would travel to London with First Minister Peter Robinson, but a DUP spokesman said they had no record of the meeting.

Martin McGuinness will meet with the PM at Downing Street

Mr McGuinness will now travel to London alone and meet Gordon Brown to discuss policing and justice.

It will be the second time he has met with Mr Brown in the last fortnight.

BN.ie
24/06/2009

The Special Criminal Court has reserved judgment in the trial of three men accused of INLA membership who were arrested during a garda investigation into a plot to kidnap a Cork businessman.

The court heard closing defence submissions today and Mr Justice Paul Butler, presiding, said the court would give its judgment at a later date.

The three men were arrested in February last year by gardaí investigating a plot to kidnap a Cork businessman.

Edward McGarrigle (aged 43), Melmont Gardens, Strabane, Co Tyrone, Neil Myles (aged 54), of no fixed abode, and John McCrossan (aged 47), Ballycoleman Estate, Strabane, Co Tyrone have pleaded not guilty to membership the INLA on February 22 last year.

It is the prosecution’s case that the four men were involved in a plot to commit a crime at the home of a Cork businessman.

Assistant Commissioner Kevin Ludlow told the trial that he believed Myles was an INLA member while Detective Chief Superintendent Philip Kelly said he believed that McGarrigle and McCrossan were INLA members.

The prosecution case is also based on sightings of the accused meeting on different occasions in Cork and Dublin when they were under surveillance by the gardaí.

Irish Times
24 June 09

AUTHOR AND historian Tim Pat Coogan told the Special Criminal Court in Dublin yesterday that the IRA and the INLA have “little time for each other”.

Mr Coogan said that at times the two organisations would be “daggers drawn” and despite the ceasefire there were still personal animosities between them.

The author of a definitive history of the IRA said the paramilitary world was “dangerous and conspiratorial”.

He was giving evidence as an independent expert in the trial of three men who have denied membership of the INLA last year.

The three men were arrested in February last year by gardaí investigating a plot to kidnap a Cork businessman. Edward McGarrigle (43), Melmont Gardens, Strabane, Co Tyrone, Neil Myles (54), of no fixed abode, and John McCrossan (47), Ballycoleman Estate, Strabane, Co Tyrone, have pleaded not guilty to membership of the INLA on February 22nd last year.

It is the prosecution’s case that the three men were involved in a plot to commit a crime at the home of a Cork businessman.

Mr Coogan told Mr McGarrigle’s counsel Brendan Nix SC that people in paramilitary organisations would be aware of “the players” in other organisations.

He said they would have extensive knowledge of each other’s movements. Closing submissions in the trial will continue today.

Last night I imported all the entries from my BOBBY SANDS journal to another location as well so that now there are 3 complete sites for the files – Lj, Blogspot and now Dreamwidth.org. The new site is located here:

http://marcella.dreamwidth.org

The other two being:

http://marcella32.livejournal.com

http://marcella32.blogspot.com

There are no ads on the Dreamwidth site. I am still constructing the layout. If you have anything to contribute from your own history, files or memories, I would be most thankful to be able to include it.

Thank you,
micheailin

BBC
29 June 09

A loyalist jailed for the murder of Portadown grandmother Elizabeth O’Neill is to take his legal battle against the conviction to the House of Lords.

Guilty verdicts for a series of crimes for which Jim Fulton, 40, is serving a minimum 25-year prison sentence were upheld by the Court of Appeal in June.

On Monday it agreed to certify a legal question on which he will now try to base a fresh challenge.

Fulton was a leader of the Loyalist Volunteer Force

Mrs O’Neill died in a pipe bomb attack at her Portadown home in 1999.

Fulton, from Portadown, was jailed in January 2007 after being convicted of 48 terrorist offences, including seven attempted murders and directing terrorism.

He was also found guilty of involvement in the murder of Mrs O’Neill.

Fulton was arrested after an undercover police operation and covert surveillance was used to secure recorded confessions from him when he moved to Cornwall in 2000 to began working for what he thought was a crime gang.

His lawyers argued that the taped admissions should not have been allowed in evidence against him.

Despite quashing four of the convictions, the Court of Appeal held that police tricking a defendant into incriminating himself did not render that material inadmissible.

They rejected defence claims that Fulton was subservient to others in the crime gang who paid his wages and supplied drink and drugs.

Fulton’s legal team returned before the same three-judge panel on Monday to seek leave to go before the Law Lords.

Their request was centred on a legal point alleging that the 21-month covert operation involving a fictitious criminal enterprise designed to allow Fulton to incriminate himself, was the equivalent of an interrogation which breached his right to a fair trial and flouted the Police and Criminal Evidence legislation.

Following submissions, Lord Justice Girvan said the judges had agreed to certify the question posed by the defence.

Fulton’s lawyers will now seek leave from the House of Lords to contest the Court of Appeal ruling.

His barrister, Michael Turner QC, also agreed to a Crown request for police tapes to be returned once “all potential remedies are exhausted”.

BBC
29 June 09

Northern’s Ireland only assembly member from an ethnic minority said she has been notified of a threat to her life.

In the assembly on Monday Alliance MLA Anna Lo said police warned her at the weekend that her home may be attacked.

Anna Lo said she had received hate mail in recent weeks

Ms Lo, originally from Hong Kong, has lived in Belfast for over 30 years and represents a constituency in the south of the city.

Earlier this month attacks on the Romanian community in the area forced more than 100 people from their homes.

Ms Lo said she had received some hate mail in recent weeks and will step up her security following an anonymous call to the PSNI on Saturday.

“I’m not going to be deterred by these people,” she said.

“If they think that they can stop me from speaking out against them or speaking for the vulnerable people, new ethnic minority communities or migrant workers they are mistaken.”

News Letter
28 June 2009

THIS is the full statement issued on Saturday by the Ulster Defence Association confirming it has started to decommission its weapons:

Today is a milestone in the history of Loyalism, and Northern Ireland.

We came together to protect our communities and fought a long war to defend them against Republican violence.

The struggle has ended. Peace and democracy have been secured and the need for armed resistance has gone. Consequently we are putting our arsenal of weaponry permanently beyond use.

This is a courageous and unprecedented move that is part of a wider transition from conflict to peace. This process was initiated in autumn 2008 when the Combined Loyalist Military Command was reconvened to address the outstanding issue of Loyalist military material. As a result of those discussions, all constituent parts agreed to set in place the internal arrangements necessary to begin the disarmament process.

As a result we have held a series of meetings with General John de Chastelain and his team who have witnessed an act of decommissioning. This process will be completed within the previously notified timescale. By carrying out this act we are helping to build a new and better Northern Ireland where conflict is a thing of the past.

In this important moment in our history we wish to pay tribute to the courage and fortitude of our comrades and communities.

To those who have died, we salute you and forever treasure your memory.

To those who have lost loved ones, we share your grief.

To those who have been injured or imprisoned, we thank you for your sacrifice.

The dark days are now behind us and it is time to move on. There is no place for guns and violence in the new society we are building. It is time to work for a better future.

Many Loyalist areas suffer high levels of deprivation and poverty, and we have a commitment to the communities that we have defended all these years. We will work with our people to build stronger and better communities so that our children and our children’s children can enjoy peace and prosperity.

We are proud of our past and we rejoice in the new found peace, stability and democracy which we helped to secure. We look forward to playing our part in building a better Northern Ireland.

As John McMichael stated before his untimely death: “There is no section of this divided Ulster community which is totally innocent or indeed totally guilty, totally right or totally wrong. We all share the responsibility for creating the situation, either by deed or by acquiescence. Therefore we must share the responsibility for finding a settlement and share the responsibility of maintaining good government.”

Quis Separabit

News Letter
28 June 2009

THE leadership of the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) and the Red Hand Commando (RHC) paramilitary groups have confirmed they have decommissioned their weapons.

The statement in full:

The leadership of the Ulster Volunteer Force and Red Hand Commando today confirms it has completed the process of rendering ordnance totally, and irreversibly, beyond use.

This process was initiated in autumn 2008 when the Combined Loyalist Military Command was reconvened to address the outstanding issue of Loyalist military material. As a result of those discussions, all constituent parts agreed to set in place the internal arrangements necessary to begin the disarmament process.

In March 2009, all preparations were suspended following the attacks on UK citizens at Masserene Barracks and Craigavon. Assurances were sought from the Government, and from the Irish Government, that those responsible, in whatever jurisdiction, would be vigorously pursued and the failures of 1969 would not be revisited upon our community. Only when forthright assurances were given, and it became clear that they would be honoured, did our process resume.

Across every operational area in Northern Ireland and in all regions of Great Britain; in conjunction with the Independent International Commission on Decommissioning; in the presence of independent international witnesses and consistent with the modalities and schemes agreed upon by our interlocutor; the Ulster Volunteer Force and Red Hand Commando have now concluded that process.

We have done so to further augment the establishment of accountable democratic governance in this region of the United Kingdom; to remove the pretext that Loyalist weaponry is an obstacle to the development of our communities and to compound our legacy of integrity to the peace process.

We believe the significance and substance of our actions will satisfy the above objectives.

For God and Ulster.

Captain William Johnston; Adjutant.

News Letter
29 June 2009

NEWS that loyalist arms have been put beyond use was given a warm welcome across the board from politicians and church men.

The move by the UVF and start made to the process by the UDA came ahead of Secretary of State Shaun Woodward’s August deadline for significant progress on loyalist arms.

Mr Woodward described the announcement as the “culmination of a long and difficult process” for the UVF.

“The leadership of the UVF and RHC have taken a bold and courageous decision for peace.

“For those who have doubted the political process it is proof that the politics works, and that guns have no place in a normal society.

“I also welcome the movement by the UDA that they have started to decommission their weapons. I would encourage them to continue their engagement with the IICD and complete decommissioning as soon as possible.”

DUP Leader and First Minister Peter Robinson said loyalists have “taken the right step”.

“I am delighted that the UVF and RHC have rendered all of their weapons totally and irreversibly beyond use. It is also encouraging that the UDA have commenced the process of decommissioning. Taken together, this is a significant and historic milestone for Northern Ireland,” he said.

“This decommissioning decision also comes at a crucial time for policing in Northern Ireland. Now that the loyalist paramilitaries have put their weaponry beyond use, the police will be able to focus their counter-terrorism policies on dissident republicans and the threat they pose.”

Conservative shadow Secretary of State Owen Paterson said the news was “a massive step forward in the normalisation of life in Northern Ireland.”

“It will be greatly welcomed by the communities that have been so badly affected by the violence of armed groups,” he said.

Presbyterian Moderator The Rev Dr Stafford Carson also welcomed the decommissioning moves.

“The confirmation of the decommissioning of their weapons by the UVF and Red Hand Commando and the significant start made by the UDA is to be welcomed,” he said.

“I hope that this will give everyone the confidence to commit themselves totally to the political process by which we can build a community where everyone has a part to play and a part in our shared and peaceful future together.”

Irish President Mary McAleese described it as “a very important step in building and consolidating peace in Northern Ireland”.

“In order to build on this important and welcome progress, we encourage those who have not yet completed the process to do so in co-operation with the IICD.”

Ulster Unionist leader Sir Reg Empey said he welcomed the statements from both the UVF/RHC and the UDA but described them as “long overdue”.

“We look forward to further action from the UDA, followed by a change in the mindset in loyalist areas, which, along with deprived nationalist areas, have not benefited from the peace process to the extent that we would like,” he said.

Alliance leader David Ford described it as a “very positive development”.

“These moves lift a massive weight of every person in Northern Ireland and in doing so allows people to continue to move forward to a better future,” he said.

“Communities who have suffered at the hands of these groups will be reassured that it appears that they have decommissioned fully.
“We now need to see the UDA doing the same as quickly as possible.”

SDLP leader and Foyle MP Mark Durkan said the sooner the UDA completed their decommissioning, the better.

“The news that the UVF and Red Hand Commando have put their weapons beyond use is very much welcome and is long overdue.
“The paramilitaries must stop all their illegal activities and end their malign inference in their communities without delay.”

US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton last night welcomed the statements made over the weekend, which she said “underscore the remarkable progress that has taken place in Northern Ireland over the years”.

“All parties agree, as the people of Northern Ireland do, that the only way forward is through peace and reconciliation, and not through violence. Peter Robinson and other unionist leaders should be commended for their efforts in convincing these groups to take this courageous step. Leaders on all sides deserve our praise for their continued commitment to moving the process forward.

“The United States remains engaged in order to support Northern Ireland in its progress towards a future of peace and prosperity.”

News Letter
29 June 2009

THE body overseeing decommissioning has confirmed the UVF and Red Hand Commando have given up their weaponry.

In a statement, the Independent International Commission on Decommissioning (IICD) said the leaderships of both organisations have advised them that the weapons and material put beyond use in their presence “include all the arms under their control”.

“The IICD can confirm it has witnessed a major decommissioning event involving arms, ammunition, explosives and explosive devices belonging to the Ulster Volunteer Force and the Red Hand Commando.”

The IICD is due to give a written report on decommissioning to the two Governments at the end of August.

The statement comes as the Rev Harold Good, a former president of the Methodist Church of Ireland and one of the two independent witnesses to IRA decommissioning, said loyalist decommissioning has “put in place the last block of the foundation on which we can now build the peace process”.

The retired cleric was invited along to the historic UVF Press conference in East Belfast Mission.

He said he was not a witness to the process – but that he understood there were three unnamed witnesses, one from the US, one from the mainland and one from the Republic of Ireland.

“I found the Press conference in east Belfast very encouraging to hear and to feel the spirit of those people who made the statements.

“There was no ambiguity about their statements.”

Mr Good said the public now need to acknowledge how difficult it was for paramilitary leaders to bring their organisations to this stage.
“I accept without doubt the integrity of the statement we heard from the UVF and RHC and the UDA have made it clear that decommissioning is still a work in progess.” He said the statements signalled “hugely important days for Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland”.

“They are saying the gun has gone out of Irish politics and their war is over.

“There will be those who question the decommissioning process and it is up to them to put their questions to General de Chastelain who will be making a statement on the process very soon.”

Traditional Unionist Voice leader Jim Allister said he has concerns the loyalist decommissioning would be “to the same extent as that of the IRA’s”.

He said: “Any decommissioning is welcome but it must be close and complete.

“The nature of decommissioning is secretive and not open to public scrutiny. For that reason there are always question marks.”

Mr Allister said he “does not have a lot of confidence with loyalist decommissioning as with the IRA the Government bent over backwards to cover up for them.”

“They still are,” he added. “For example the Government refused to give a history of the weapons used in the Antrim and Craigavon murders to save political embarrassment.”

News Letter
29 June 2009

ORANGEMEN have criticised the policing of the Whiterock parade in north Belfast on Saturday.

Marchers were left waiting for an hour at the contentious Workman Avenue Gate on the peaceline after two security alerts along the route of the parade.

Nationalist protestors climbed up the peace wall and waved an Irish tricolour before throwing bottles and golf balls at the 50 Orangemen who were eventually allowed through to the mainly nationalist enclave on the Springfield Road.

DUP deputy leader and North Belfast MP Nigel Dodds said the PSNI “should have been more proactive in preventing this behaviour which went on for over half an hour and should also have done more earlier to ensure the disruption to the parade was prevented”.

The Whiterock parade has been the focus of tensions between marchers and nationalist residents of the Springfield Road in recent years, with the Parades Commission placing restrictions on the route.

This year it had been agreed that 50 Orangemen without a band could parade through the gate to the mainly nationalist Springfield Road while the rest of the parade of Shankill District lodges and bands took an alternative route through the former Mackies site.

Earlier in the day, police had received a warning about suspicious objects left on the Springfield and West Circular roads, close to the route of the parade.

After examination by Army Technical Officers they were declared “elaborate hoaxes”.

Mr Dodds described the protest as “the ugly face of republican fascism”.

“As the District officers moved through Workman Avenue gate I saw a number of bottles and golf balls being thrown at them,” he said.

“Orangemen behaved in a dignified and totally peaceful way showing no provocation and engaging in no retaliation.

“The police need to understand that if protests cannot be held without ongoing abuse and violence then they need to be taking more definite steps to protect innocent people going about their lawful business.”

Chairman of Belfast District Policing Partnership DUP Councillor Christopher Stalford said: “The DPP will have serious questions to ask about the policing operation.”

District Commander for North and West Belfast Chief Superintendent Mark Hamilton said: “A large scale policing operation was implemented at this year’s Whiterock parade to ensure the safety of all participants.

“Police officers on the ground worked tirelessly to deliver a policing service that was appropriate and proportionate to the circumstances.
“We recognise the deep concerns expressed to us during the security alert and are grateful to politicians and community leaders for all their efforts in reducing community tensions.

“The PSNI remains committed to working with all interested parties to improve policing in north and west Belfast and in particular to reduce the potential for any disorder at parades in the district.”

Meanwhile Sinn Fein MLA Fra McCann said the Springfield Road residents had wanted a peaceful protest.

“The longer the thing went on the more, the possibility there was of some type of trouble breaking out, but again only because of the good work of local residents and local stewards they were able to keep that at bay,” he said.

“Bottles and stones don’t serve any purpose at all. There were children at 11 and 12 years of age doing that.”

BBC

The size of the police service in Northern Ireland is no longer sustainable, the chairman of the Policing Board has said.

Barry Gilligan said further cutbacks must be examined.

He said unpopular moves, such as closing more stations, needed to be considered for the PSNI to deliver effective policing on a reduced budget.

Chief Constable Sir Hugh Orde confirmed last week the full-time police reserve would be phased out by March 2011.

The Police Federation, the union that represents police officers in Northern Ireland, reacted with dismay, saying it was premature at a time when the dissident threat is at its highest.

The perception seems to be that closing a police station means less policing, whereas closure of a police station in many cases can mean more policing and better policing.

However, Mr Gilligan said further changes were on the way.

“The reality is, and a lot of people don’t like to hear it, we have more police officers per head of the population than anywhere else in Europe and we have more real estate and police stations than any other comparable police service – and that is not sustainable,” he said.

Mr Gilligan took over from Sir Desmond Rea at the start of June as chairman of the Policing Board, which holds the PSNI to account.

He said board members would have to examine difficult issues when they meet in August to discuss the future of the PSNI estate.

“The message has to be got across that closing a police station is not about lessening the police service, it’s about policing a community in a different way,” he said.

“But the perception seems to be that closing a police station means less policing, whereas closure of a police station in many cases can mean more policing and better policing.”

‘Inflexible’

He added: We have an issue about the number of officers who are on the front line – we still have an issue about jobs being done by police officers that could be as effectively done by civilians, in turn releasing those officers to the front line. So there’s room for better use of resources.”

He said that, while the PSNI’s budget allocation of £1.2bn a year was relatively generous compared to other forces, it was inflexible, in that the majority of money went on wages and pensions.

He predicted the job of managing the budget would become increasingly difficult once policing and justice powers were devolved to Stormont and the PSNI had to compete with other Executive departments for funding.

“I’ll tell you one thing for sure – we won’t be getting any more. The budget won’t go up, in my view,” he said.

BBC

The Environment Minister, Sammy Wilson, has asked officials to consider if he could revoke the listed building status of structures at the old Maze prison.

The former jail’s hospital and part of the H-blocks are currently listed.

Mr Wilson told the assembly he has asked the NI Environment Agency to carry out “a further review of the listing and potential for delisting.”

Sinn Fein’s Paul Butler described the move as “mere publicity seeking” by the minister.

More than £350,000 has been spent on maintaining buildings

Mr Butler had asked why a review was taking place given that the structures meet the requirements of the law regarding listed buildings.

Mr Wilson agreed that the decision to list structures at the Maze was taken only after a detailed examination of the architectural and historic significance of the site and buildings had been carried out.

However, he said “as a result of previous concerns expressed on this issue” he has asked the Northern Ireland Environment Agency to “carry out a further review of the listing and potential for delisting on this site.”

Bluster

He continued: “I believe it is appropriate that the concerns expressed by the public and some members of this Assembly, subsequent to the protection of these structures by the agency, are seen to have been considered seriously.”

Some unionists are unhappy about the listing of the Maze structures, believing they have the potential to become a “shrine” to republican hunger strikers who died in the jail in 1981.

Republicans argue the jail is an important part of Irish history and would like the site to become a conflict transformation centre.

Mr Butler said there was little chance delisting will happen.

“The reality is that Mr Wilson’s predecessor as Environment Minister had already requested and received that same advice,” he said.

“It is worth noting that Sammy is running against the Office of the First and deputy First Minister, who actually own the site, and therefore his own party leader, who on the 8th April 2009 recognised the historic significance of this site.”

TUV leader Jim Allister described Mr Wilson’s comments on delisting as “nothing but bluster.”

“Two consecutive DUP Environment Ministers have stood over the questionable decision and therefore given the proponents of the Maze ammunition to fight any moves to reverse it,” he said.

A development corporation is to be set up to look at what to do with the former jail site after Sports Minister Gregory Campbell decided not to build a multi-sports stadium there earlier this year.

More than £350,000 has been spent maintaining the listed buildings on the site the former Maze prison over the last four years.

The high-security prison, built to house paramilitary prisoners during the Troubles, was closed in 2000.

BBC

The High Court has been told that Ian Paisley Jr appears to want to go to jail over his refusal to reveal a source to the Billy Wright Inquiry.

Mr Paisley has refused to name a prison officer who, he claims, gave him information about the destruction of Prison Service files at the Maze jail.

John Larkin QC said the inquiry did not want the politician jailed.

He said “brandishing custody before Mr Paisley appears to be like brandishing a whip before Max Mosley”.

Max Mosley, the president of world motorsport, was revealed as a participant in sado-masochistic sex games by a tabloid newspaper.

Monday’s High Court hearing is considering what sanctions to take against Mr Paisley for his continued defiance of the ruling that he should reveal the name.

In June 2007, Mr Paisley wrote to Billy Wright’s father with information that the Northern Ireland Prison Service had employed people to destroy about 5,600 files shortly after his son was shot at the Maze Prison.

Ruin

Mr Paisley had said he was told of an alleged policy within the prison service to destroy a large number of files as an emergency due to data protection legislation.

He said this information, which was provided by a “senior prison officer”, claimed that the decision to destroy the files was “taken at the top”.

Mr Larkin, appearing for the inquiry, said jailing the DUP man would be ineffective and too costly to the public purse.

Mr Paisley’s barrister Joseph Aiken said his client had already suffered a huge financial penalty in excess of £35,000, for the earlier part of the court proceedings alone.

He said perhaps contrary to public perceptions Mr Paisley had a modest financial position.

On Sunday Mr Paisley said the case could lead him into “financial ruin.”

Mr Aiken also told the court Mr Paisley had made two attempts to be released from his bond of confidentiality but permission had been declined.

The Judge Mr Justice Gillen hopes to deliver his decision on what to do with Mr Paisley on Tuesday or Wednesday.

Bobby Sands mural photo
Ní neart go cur le chéile

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