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31 July 2009
THE Claudy bombing has been often described as the “forgotten tragedy” of the Troubles but for Mary Hamilton the physical and emotional scars are all too raw.
“Every anniversary is a difficult time for all the people who were caught up in the bombs that day and the relatives left behind,” said the Londonderry councillor who still has shrapnel in her leg from one of three bombs detonated in the quiet village.
“Although it will be 37 years since this happened, I can still see clearly and vividly the images of the destruction and carnage. When you see scenes like that, you can never forget.
“I was one of the lucky ones who escaped with my life, but many of my friends and people I knew died that day – and still it seems we are no closer to justice.
“I knew the Eakin family, and it is just so sad that on this anniversary they will not be around to remember their daughter Kathryn – but I suppose Billy and Merle are with her now.
“My only fear is that many more relatives of the victims of Claudy will also go to their graves without ever seeing anyone brought before the courts for this atrocity. It is just a very, very sad situation. A lot of the relatives feel very helpless and frustrated with the various investigations.”
Speculation that a priest was involved in the bombing, which was never claimed by the IRA, had been circulating in Claudy soon after the explosions.
This was given further substance after a letter was sent seven years ago to Mrs Hamilton and the News Letter, purporting to come from a priest in England, to whom Fr James Chesney had allegedly confessed his involvement.
Although the letter was believed to have been fake, it had the effect of sparking off a new investigation in which evidence was found of a cover-up between the Government and Catholic Church leaders, with the priest’s part discussed by then Secretary of State William Whitelaw and Cardinal William Conway.
The Catholic church reassigned Fr Chesney from his parish in Desertmartin to Donegal where he died of cancer in 1980.
“There are still so many unanswered questions which need answers, and while many of us have managed to carry on with our lives, we will never rest properly until we get some of those answers,” said Cllr Hamilton. “We all need some closure.”
31 July 2009
THE parents of the youngest victim of the Claudy bombings passed away without ever recovering from the loss of their nine-year-old daughter.
Today marks the 37th anniversary of the IRA atrocity which claimed nine victims – five Catholics and four Protestants – but the search for justice which Billy and Merle Eakin desperately sought for their daughter Kathryn goes on.
“They just never recovered from what happened on that day, some of the other families were able to move on, but it just shattered the Eakin family,” said William Houston.
On the morning of July 31, 1972 three separate car bombs ripped through the Co Derry village which had, up until that point, been largely untouched by the Troubles.
Kathryn Eakin, a nine-year-old girl, was cleaning the window of her father’s shop when the no-warning bomb exploded, killing her instantly.
Mr Houston who has liaised with the victims’ families and helped organise the 25th and 30th anniversary events, said the Eakin couple continued to grieve for their daughter right up until their own deaths.
“It is particularly poignant that this is the first anniversary that will not be remembered by the parents of little Kathryn Eakin…both Billy and Merle Eakin died within six months of each other during the past year.
“Neither received the justice for the untimely death of their beloved Kathryn, that they sought so much and went to their own graves still grieving for the tragic loss of their beloved nine-year-old daughter.”
While no official event will be held today to mark the anniversary, William says many of the relatives still feel a deep sense of frustration with the failure to deliver justice.
“Time has been a great healer for some of the relatives, but for many others another year has now gone past without any justice or answers,” he said.
“Whatever the reasons for the lack of progress in the police investigation and the delay in the Police Ombudsman’s publication of their report, the continuing lack of progress does nothing to help the relatives of the dead and those who were injured to achieve justice.
“Perhaps it is now time for Martin McGuinness, who was effectively the commander of the Derry brigade of the IRA at the time, to follow his own advice given to others and provide as much information as he can to the PSNI in order that those who still carry the scars of that fateful Monday may find some comfort and see some, if not all, of those responsible convicted for the crimes they carried out in Claudy.”
A spokesperson for the PSNI’s Historical Enquiries Team refused to comment on the investigation into the Claudy bombing.
The Police Ombudsman did, however, said a public report into the atrocity, for which noone claimed responsibility, was being prepared.
“The Ombudsman investigation is now complete and we are in the process of preparing a public report,” said a spokesperson.
The victims were Kathryn Eakin, Protestant civilian, aged nine; James McClelland, Protestant civilian, aged 65; David Miller, Protestant civilian, aged 60; Elizabeth McElhinney, Catholic civilian, aged 59; Joseph McCloskey, Catholic civilian, aged 38; William Temple, Protestant civilian, aged 17; Rosemary McLaughlin, Catholic civilian, aged 51, died August 3 1972; Joseph Connolly, Catholic civilian, aged 15, died August 8, 1972; Arthur Hone, Protestant civilian, aged 40, died August 12, 1972.
A man held to be responsible for the Omagh bombing in a civil judgement has lost his High Court bid for freedom from a Northern Ireland jail.
Liam Campbell, 46, is in custody while Lithuanian authorities seek his extradition in connection with alleged arms offences.
His lawyers claimed his detention at Maghaberry jail was unlawful.
Campbell is to face extradition proceedings in Northern Ireland
Campbell, from Upper Faughart, Dundalk, was arrested in south Armagh in May 2009.
His lawyers failed on Friday to quash the decision to hold extradition proceedings in Belfast rather than Dublin.
After hearing the case, judges dismissed both applications and said they would give their reasons at a later date.
Lord Justice Higgins told the court they had decided to announce their decision within days of the hearing because Campbell’s potential liberty was at stake.
In June he was held to be responsible, along with three other men, for the Omagh bombing following a landmark civil action brought by relatives of some of the victims of the 1998 atrocity.
He was arrested in south Armagh in May after crossing the border to take his wife to work.
Dissident republicans have disrupted a District Policing Partnership (DPP) meeting in Derry.
At least thirty supporters threw stink bombs, blew whistles and chanted anti-PSNI slogans at the meeting in the Tower Hotel in the city.
The meeting between the local district policing partnership and the PSNI has been called off. No one was arrested.
Inspector John Burrows said the actions “overstepped the mark of a peaceful process”.
“This type of juvenile behaviour will not prevent police in Derry from doing their job,” he added.
The protest had been advertised on dissident republican websites.
A posting said it was planned by the 32 County Sovereignty Movement, in conjunction with other republican organisations, and was intended to highlight a “harassment campaign” campaign against republicans.
Anti-terrorism powers were due to be discussed at the meeting after there was almost 700 stop and search incidents in Derry in the last three months.
The Real IRA said it was responsible for sending bullets to police relatives working in a bank in Derry this week. They were sent in an envelope to employees at the Ulster Bank on the Culmore road last week.
By Allison Morris
THE British army knew within hours of the McGurk’s Bar massacre that the bomb had been placed outside the bar and that the innocent victims were not responsible for an alleged IRA ‘own goal’, a newly uncovered document proves.
The document, dated the day of the bombing, clearly states that the bomb – which claimed the lives of 15 people– exploded outside the building.
The confidential briefing note was presented to Harry Tuzo, then the British army’s general officer commanding, within hours of the bombing.
Following the UVF massacre of December 4 1971, both RUC and army intelligence services put out misinformation claiming the explosion had taken place from within the building, possibly as a result of an IRA bomb-making factory.
News of the document comes within days of a British government expression of regret to the family of Co Tyrone man Aidan McAnespie, shot dead as he walked through an army checkpoint 20 years ago.
Just days after the bombing an army memo was circulated claiming the bomb must have come from within the bar’s walls and was likely to have been carried by a customer.
This false version of events was later put before the House of Commons at the behest of senior army officers.
The injured and bereaved have never received an official apology from the British government but NIO minister Paul Goggins apologised last year for initial false reporting.
“Such perceptions and preconceived ideas should not have been allowed to cloud the evidence,” he said.
The bombing was also subject to a Historical Enquiries Team (HET) review of the initial investigation.
Ciaran Mac Airt, a grandson of McGurk’s Bar massacre victim Kitty Irvine, said the British government should apologise for the cover-up.
“What we have here is an official document viewed at the highest level confirming from the outset the British army were aware the bomb had been placed outside the bar,” he said.
“Despite this, within hours the black propaganda campaign swung into action in an attempt to sully the reputations of innocent victims and to divert attention away from the true culprits.
“Both MoD and RUC resources were directed not at tracing the bombers but instead channelled into a cover-up operation.
“I will be asking for the HET to re-examine their findings and call for a full and unequivocal apology from the British government admitting the very deliberate nature of the cover up.”
Thursday, 30 July 2009
The union flag has been left off the controversial national identity card in order to recognise the “identity rights” of Irish nationals living in Northern Ireland.
The final design of the identity card was unveiled today in London by Home Secretary Alan Johnson.
A Home Office statement said the ID card scheme must work in a way that “fully recognises the identity rights of the people of Northern Ireland as laid out in the Belfast Agreement”.
The Government went on to say it had “sought to design features which can reflect all parts of the United Kingdom, such as the inclusion of the shamrock to represent Ireland within the tactile feature, and we have sought to avoid symbols such as flags”.
Irish citizens living in Northern Ireland will be issued with a version of the identity card which will differ from that issued to British citizens.
The Home Office has also assured those who hold Irish nationality or dual citizenship that they will continue be able to apply for an Irish passport even though they are on the UK national identity register.
Speaking at St Pancras Station in central London, Mr Johnson said the card would provide people with a “safe and secure” way of proving their identity.
The cards will help combat identity fraud, enable the holder to travel to Europe without their passports and remove the hassle of using bank statements or gas bills to show who you are, he said.
Mr Johnson spoke as he set off for Manchester where the cards will become available later this year.
He said: “The identity card is a safe, secure and simple way for people to protect and prove their identity and to travel around Europe but leave their passport at home.
“Given the growing problem of ID fraud and the inconvenience of having to carry passports coupled with gas bills or six months worth of bank statements to prove identity, I believe the ID card will be welcomed as an important addition to the many plastic cards that most people already carry.”
On the front of each card is the holder’s name, picture, date of birth, sex and signature.
Like the UK passport, it also displays your nationality, where it was issued and when it expires.
A chip embedded in the back of the card holds a digital image of the holder’s face and two fingerprints.
The front of the card also displays the royal crest as well as the thistle, the rose, the shamrock and the daffodil to represent the four parts of the UK.
The cards will be made available across the north west of England early next year and across the country in 2011-12.
The Tories have pledged to scrap the scheme saying it is a waste of money.
Mr Johnson said the cards had widespread public support.
“Every time we ask the public ‘do you think this is a good step forward, they agree.
“This is a no-brainer.”
Last month the Home Office signalled a major climbdown on the cards, stating for the first time that they would never be made compulsory.
Plans to require 20,000 airport workers at Manchester and London City airports to carry cards were also dropped in the face of union opposition.
Critics say ID cards are unnecessary, expensive and an infringement of civil liberties.
The overall cost of the cards, biometric passports and the database to hold the personal information on is predicted at £5 billion over 10 years.
Figures released by the Tories today showed the Home Office has already spent £215 million on the scheme.
Shadow home secretary Chris Grayling said: “The Government has already wasted £200 million that we cannot afford.
“The scheme will cost hundreds of million pounds more, even if the cards are voluntary. It is time this scheme was completely scrapped. ”
He added: “Alan Johnson today launches a wing and a prayer scheme based on the hope that people across the North West will sign up for a glossy ID card, and send a message to their counterparts in other parts of the country that the ID card is the hottest property since Susan Boyle.”
Anyone who wants a card will pay to have their details collected by high street stores on top of the £30 cost of the card.
Once on the database, failure to keep your details up to date could lead to a fine of up to £1000.
Phil Booth, national co-ordinator of campaign group NO2ID said: “People should read the small print and avoid the con.
“This so-called voluntary scheme means a lifetime of fees and penalties and once you are on the database you never get off.”
Around 50,000 foreign nationals have been given their version of the ID card since the cards were introduced last year.
Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman Chris Huhne said: “It doesn’t matter how fancy the packaging is when the product is a colossal waste of money that achieves nothing.
“A designer piece of plastic is not going to combat identity fraud, crime or terrorism. This intrusive scheme should be scrapped immediately.”
A poll conducted by human rights campaign group Liberty found six out of 10 people said they were unlikely to volunteer for a card.
Only one in 10 said they would definitely apply for one, while a fifth said they probably would.
Pollsters found 77% said the UK had become a “surveillance society” and 68% said the Government and other public bodies already hold too much information about them.
Campaigns coordinator Sabina Frediani said the North West was being made an “ID card guinea pig”.
She said: “How many times can you re-design and re-launch this tired old policy?
“When will the Government realise that there is dwindling public support for a scheme that is as costly to our pockets as to our privacy and race relations?
“I am delighted to say that this damning poll shows that northerners are as sceptical of this ID nonsense as the rest of Britain.”
YouGov polled 1,731 adults across the UK earlier this week.
31 July 2009
REPORTS that a breakaway faction of the UDA decommissioned weapons earlier this week have been dismissed by a senior loyalist linked to the grouping.
The renegade south-east Antrim brigade of the UDA, believed to have more than 2,000 members, broke away from the mainstream UDA in 2005 after a series of internal disputes.
Political advisors for the paramilitary grouping, Beyond Conflict, which is headed by Newtownabbey councillor Tommy Kirkham, have been recognised by the British Government as a separate entity.
He told the News Letter that reports that weapons, explosives and ammunition were handed over for destruction in front of observers from the Independent International Commission on Decommissioning (IICD) were “untrue”.
“This is all nonsense,” said Mr Kirkham.
“There have been ongoing talks with the IICD for a number of years. But there is no foundation to the story.”
In 2007, the grouping is understood to have been engaged in a token act of decommissioning in which a small number of weapons were taken to Ballykinler Army base for destruction.
At the time, the group’s political advisors also denied that any act of decommissioning had taken place.
The Government has set a deadline of August for the loyalist handover to begin, after which immunity from prosecution will be withdrawn.
A loyalist source last night told the News Letter that he understood that the IICD’s head, General John de Chastelain, had come to the Province in recent days.
“I was told he was here and that he was extremely busy. And let’s be honest, what else would he be doing,” the source said.
“The south-east Antrim brigade have a lot of weapons, they got a lot of material from other brigades over the years, for safekeeping really.
“But if they don’t start to decommission before the end of July then they are past the deadline.”
General de Chastelain is understood to have visited Ulster twice this month to oversee decommissioning.
Last night a spokesman from the IICD said he could confirm General de Chastelain is now in the Province.
When asked if the south-east Antrim brigade had decommissioned weapons, he replied: “I cannot confirm it.”
General de Chastelain is to present a full report to Secretary of State Shaun Woodward next month.
In June, the UVF and the smaller Red Hand Commando announced they had now completed the decommissioning process.
The larger faction of the mainstream UDA also announced they had started the process with a “significant act”.
Conservative shadow secretary of state Owen Paterson met with General de Chastelain and other senior members of the IICD on Thursday.
Speaking after the meeting, Mr Paterson said: “I am very grateful for all their hard work and congratulated them on the recent loyalist decommissioning.
“This significant move justified our insistence on an August deadline.
“However, there are other loyalist groups who have yet to decommission and I have made it clear that time is running out for them.
“The existing legislation on decommissioning ends in February and everyone should be absolutely clear that after this date, we believe that anyone caught with illegal weapons should face the full force of the law.”
29 July 2009
THE vast majority of UDA members in the Ballymoney area are vigorously opposed to decommissioning, a source has told the Times.
Contradictory reports have been circulating in the media in recent weeks with some suggesting that North Antrim and Londonderry members will follow the lead set by Belfast and put weapons out of use, while others report a rift with the stance adopted by loyalists in Belfast.
The North Antrim and Londonderry Ulster Political Research Group’s refusal to engage in any further discussions with mainstream politicians as well as the PSNI, reflects the mood of the majority of UDA members, the source said.
“The potentially volatile situation in the likes of Rasharkin, the Fountain in Londonderry and other areas as well as the threat from Dissidents makes us more determined to hold on to what we have got.
“There is a strong view that loyalism has been sold out. We were created to defend our country and that’s the way it will stay at the present time,” the source said.
Many members of the UDA view the position taken by their Belfast colleagues, who subscribed to decommissioning in June, as in direct opposition to the majority thinking locally.
They feel they have been let down by unionism as well as the security forces and are urging that a number of issues are addressed.
“North Antrim and Londonderry may share the same ideology as elsewhere, but we are a long way of giving our full support to the Institutions.
“That day is a long way off,” he said.
However, according to another view on the decommissioning issue, while there is disillusionment with the current political structures amongst many loyalists, the presence of Sinn Fein in Government is a reality.
“We may be opposed to Sinn Fein taking up their seats at Stormont, but it is a fact that they are there and are there to stay.”
29 July 2009
THE OFFICE of the Police Ombudsman is currently preparing the public report into an alleged Claudy bomb cover-up – 37 years after the explosions which killed nine people in the Co Derry village.
This Friday, July 31, marks the sombre anniversary – and is the first of which will not be observed by tragic Merle and Billy Eakin, who passed away within weeks of each other in the past 12 months.
Their daughter Kathryn, just nine years old, was the youngest victim of the atrocity.
While the investigation into claims that the alleged role of Catholic priest in the bombings was covered up by the church and the Government has been completed, the finalisation of the public document could take weeks or even months.
Initially set for publication in 2007, the launch was delayed because of ‘new information coming to light’.
A spokesman for the Police Ombudsman said he could not provide a publication date for the long-awaited document.
“The investigation has been completed,” he said.
“However the office is now compiling the public document, which can be a long and detailed process.”
The spokesman said that by law, information including witness statements cannot be revealed to the public.
The investigation was sparked in 2002, when a letter purporting to be from a retired Roman Catholic priest, claimed that the late Father James Chesney had confessed his involvement in the murders in a private conversation.
Addressing survivors and relatives of the dead later that year, Assistant Chief Constable Sam Kincaid announced a review of the police investigation into the bombings.
Meanwhile the Police Ombudsman’s office also opened an investigation into claims that the then Prime Minister Willie Whitelaw and Catholic Primate of all Ireland, Cardinal Conway, had been made aware of Chesney’s possible involvement.
While he was questioned by Bishop Neil Farren, the matter was not taken further and the priest was moved to a remote parish in Malin, Donegal.
While a number of people were arrested in 2005 and several people have been questioned, no charges have been brought in connection with the bombings.
Claudy resident and unionist community worker William Houston has urged anyone with information on the bombings to come forward to police. He has also slammed the delay of the Ombudsman’s report.
“The Ombudsman’s office publication of their report into the 1972 RUC investigation of the bombings, which was due to have been issued in November 2007, has been delayed we are told, due to ‘new information having been received’. It is unknown when it might see the light of day!” he said.
“Nine people died that day, eight from the village and surrounding area and one from the neighbouring village of Donemana. It rained that Monday afternoon to wash the blood of over forty innocent people away. Whilst the then acting Chief of the IRA in the City of Londonderry now struts the political stage as our Deputy First Minister, nine people lie dead in their graves, killed in Claudy on the day a village died.”
By Maeve Connolly
SINN Fein and the SDLP have reacted angrily to the first minister’s claims that the Equality Commission is not representative of the community.
DUP leader Peter Robinson said only 34 per cent of its staff are Protestant and none of the 16 commissioners are “representative of mainstream unionism”.
Speaking after meeting the commission about his concerns Mr Robinson challenged the Secretary of State to address the perceived “unrepresentative” nature of the organisation.
Foyle Sinn Fein assembly member Martina Anderson said the first minister must accept that “all of the equality mechanisms and safeguards flow directly from the Good Friday Agreement” and are “in no way up for sale”.
“I accept the point that we must look at equal make-up and balance of many organisations,” she said.
“I put it to Peter Robinson that he take the same interest in the make-up and appointments within the senior civil service.
“As a former finance and personnel minister he had direct responsibility for the civil service and I am therefore certain he was aware of the imbalance within that organisation.”
The SDLP’s Alex Attwood described Mr Robinson’s comments as “reckless” and said they were intended to placate “small elements in unionism” at the expense of a larger grouping who are “fed up by such narrow politics”.
However, he said the DUP leader was also determined that justice powers be devolved on his terms.
“His strategy around devolution and justice to further unpick the institutions of the Good Friday Agreement is an attempt to see off Jim Allister,” Mr Attwood said.
Mr Robinson has urged the secretary of state to “begin to rectify the perception that the commission is totally biased against the pro-union community”.
“There are four commissioner posts to be filled in September.
“This is an opportunity for the secretary of state to address the shameful past legacy of this body.”
In response the Equality Commission said it had “clearly and publicly stated” its desire to have a workforce “whose composition more fully reflects the society in which we live”.
“As far as community background is concerned, the commission is doing everything that the law allows to increase successful applications from Protestants.
“That includes offering free, independent training on a religion-specific basis, exclusively for Protestants.
“This the first time that such a step has been taken by any employer in Northern Ireland.
“Like all employers, the commission is bound to make appointments only on merit.
“It cannot take into account anyone’s religious or political affiliations when offering a job or providing a service.”
The appointment of commissioners is up to the secretary of state, the spokesman said.
“It would be inappropriate to comment on such appointments while a recruitment competition is in progress,” he said.
North Belfast News
24th of July 2009
North Belfast MLA Gerry Kelly held a meeting in the heart of Ardoyne this week to discuss his party’s position over the July 12 rioting.
In the Crumlin Star on Tuesday night the Sinn Féin assemblyman, also Junior Minister in the Stormont Executive, stood up to critics in front of a 150 strong crowd.
In the aftermath of the trouble Gerry Kelly firmly blamed dissident republican groups such as Eirigi and the Real IRA for directing violence and encouraging youngsters to get involved.
The PSNI used water canons, plastic bullets and riot squads during the mayhem that swamped the area for three nights causing untold misery for local residents and businesses. Police came under gunfire during the trouble, which later seen a fully-loaded rifle handed into Father Gary Donegan of Holy Cross Church.
Pointing to the depth of anger in the community, Gerry Kelly said the Orange Order, who apply to walk past Catholic areas, as well as the Parades Commission, must be taken to task.
“People are clearly angry, and they’re angry about a number of things,” he said.
“They’re angry in the first instance that an Orange parade, an anti-Catholic parade is still being forced up through Mountainview, the Dales and Ardoyne. I hate people talking about Ardoyne shops because this is three different Catholic areas that this parade goes up through.
“They’re angry the Parades Commission is continuing to make decisions which allow Orange men to be as intransigent as they are, and then they’re angry at the police response, because the PSNI force the parades up, and because once those decisions are made the PSNI will always force those parades up.”
Repeating earlier claims that dissident groupings, such as the Real IRA, orchestrated the trouble, Gerry Kelly said there was no future in supporting such organisations.
“I think all the evidence is there and the actual weapon that was found – if you remember – was found in the entry where young Joseph Jones was beat to death.
“These organisations are -and if you look at where they are – they have no direction, and this is my fear, there is a young generation there that can be misled.
“The Continuity IRA has been in existence since 1986. It has done very little in that whole period.
“The Real IRA has been there since 1996 and it has done very little, it’s capable, they’re all capable if they have weapons, but they don’t have a strategy and killing in such circumstances is a hundred times worse than within a conflict.
“These organisations have been responsible for the killing in the last two to three years of eight people, of which five were Catholics – Eddie Burns, Joseph Jones, Emmet Shields in Derry, and two other Catholics in the Derry area as well, and then of course the two British soldiers and a policeman.
“Trying to create riots to fire shots is absolutely mad.
“Rioting is doing nothing except causing damage to our own area, I mean one of the shopkeepers told me that a number of shops were told to shut down from one of these small organisations and it’s the first time in 12 years anybody has told them to close down. That’s the difficulty, that’s the stuff we have to come back at.”
Northern Ireland’s Community Relations Council faces a tougher than ever challenge as both sectarian and racist violence flare up. But it is still determined to resolve conflict, says chief executive Duncan Morrow
Wednesday 29 July 2009
Workmen build a new section of Belfast’s peace wall between Shankhill and Falls Road. (Photograph: Niall Carson/PA)
The last few months have seen Northern Ireland catapulted back into the headlines for all the wrong reasons: terrorist killings, sectarian murder, racist intimidation and riots linked to Orange marches. For Duncan Morrow, the chief executive of the province’s Community Relations Council (CRC), it is all the more reason why his organisation should continue its work in quietly bridge building across divided communities.
In his office close to Belfast city centre, Morrow points to the youth of some of those who took part in the latest bout of sectarian violence, the rioting in north Belfast at the climax of the loyalist marching season. Some were not even born when the IRA and the loyalist paramilitaries called their ceasefires in 1994. The involvement of the children-of-the-ceasefires in petrol bombings, hijackings and shooting at police illuminates a fault line within the peace process, Morrow contends.
“The reality is that we have a political process that has put certain major changes in place, but we have not succeeded in closing down the big issues underlying it all, particularly sectarianism and how that is now leading into racism,” he says.
That was revealed in the ugly scenes of intimidation of more than 100 Roma people by racist gangs last month in south Belfast. The flight of most of those targeted back to Romania was “a minor victory” for racist groups, says Morrow, who believes the Roma should have been given more encouragement to stay.
But he denies that his organisation failed the Roma community, blaming instead wider societal divisions and the fact that sectarianism is still so “acceptable” that it can mutate into racism.
He is also scathing of a vogue media phrase: “racism is the new sectarianism”. It’s absurd, he says, because in June a Catholic man was kicked and beaten to death in Coleraine simply because of his religion.
Although careful not to denounce the powersharing government at Stormont, Morrow is unimpressed by the major parties’ inability to introduce a “shared future” plan that would encourage more social, economic and cultural mixing between Catholics and Protestants.
He says the recent murders and bigotry can be traced to territorial struggles still being acted out on the streets despite the peace process. “It’s because, built into Northern Ireland, there is still this notion that there are territories, that there are rival competing groups, that there is still Us and Them.”
Morrow’s passion for cross-community building was inspired by his father, a Presbyterian minister who co-founded a cross-community holiday retreat on the North Antrim coast. He remembers the Rev John Morrow imparting in him the importance of reaching out to all communities in Northern Ireland and credits him with passing on the negotiating skills and understanding he now uses to help resolve conflict and bring communities together.
He took up the baton in a schools movement in the 1980s that brought together Catholic and Protestant secondary pupils, and has since brokered all kinds of deals regarding parades and prisoners.
Yet, Morrow admits that the CRC can’t bring about an endgame to communal sectarian struggle. “The Community Relations Council can’t deliver peace, but our goal is to set in place at least some relationships on the ground that can make a difference, to create pilot schemes where there is integration that can then be picked up by others. We have also created communication where there was none before.”
The CRC funds and guides projects such as the Springfarm housing estate in Antrim Town, which is religiously and racially integrated, with 40% of its population Catholic, 40% Protestant and the remaining 20% of housing stock reserved for people from the new ethnic communities coming into Northern Ireland. It also supports schemes such as a mobile phone network along the sectarian interfaces of north and west Belfast. The phones are held by community leaders on both sides of the divide and are used to communicate with each other and the police. The network helps stop so-called recreational rioting mainly involving teenagers developing into full-scale sectarian strife.
While the unionist and nationalist parties share power in the devolved assembly, the physical divisions in Belfast are hardening. Morrow reveals a striking statistic from recent CRC-sponsored research: there are now 88 so-called “peace walls” in the city, separating working-class loyalist from republican areas. Ironically, the majority of these barriers were built after the ceasefires – in 1994 there were only 29 of them.
Paradoxically, some of these walls have now become must-see tourist attractions. A mini-industry of “terror tours” has sprung up over the last few years. The sight of foreign visitors having their pictures taken beside Berlin Wall-style barriers makes Morrow feel queasy. “It’s ghoulish. The walls went up because people didn’t feel safe and the tragedy is that, once they are up, people hardly imagine feeling safe without them. So we have a big issue about not just taking walls down but how to make people feel safe after all that we went through.”
He robustly defends the CRC’s £1.5m budget, which is mainly from the public purse. He says the cost of the organisation and its many on-the-ground projects is dwarfed by the millions spent not only on policing and physically keeping people apart, but also by the revenue lost when investors and tourists are put off every time a Northern Ireland story goes global.
After decades of experience, Morrow says the CRC is well placed to help increasingly divided communities in the north of England to build bridges across racial fault lines. He warns that there is a danger of replicating Northern Ireland’s mistakes unless divisions, particularly between Islamic communities and the white English working class, are addressed. A security response alone to the increasing radicalisation of Muslim youth in Britain, for instance, may only fan the flames and create further alienation, he says.
“The Northern Ireland outcome is that, having tried to resolve our problems through military means, we found those actions were the very things that provided the obstacle to getting on with each other. All sides have accepted there can be no military solution.”
A few hours after this interview, the Ardoyne area experienced a third night of rioting. Does Morrow feel like Sisyphus, forever pushing the boulder of communal solidarity and reconciliation up the hill, only to watch Northern Ireland’s peculiar sectarian gravity push it down again?
Forever the optimist, Morrow replies with a wry smile: “Well, you just have to keep the rock rolling upwards.”
Status Married with three children.
Education St Andrew’s College, Dublin; Methodist College, Belfast; The Queen’s College Oxford (PPE); Edinburgh University (PhD).
Career 2002-present: chief executive, Northern Ireland Community Relations Council; 1991-2002: lecturer in politics, University of Ulster; 1990-2002: co-director, Future Ways Project; 1987-91: research officer, Centre for the Study of Conflict, Coleraine.
Public life Northern Ireland parole commissioner; adviser to Strategic Review of Parading; Northern Ireland sentence review commissioner; ministerial working group on North Belfast; member of Northern Ireland Good Relations Panel; 2007-8: Crumlin Road/Girdwood Advisory Panel; 2001-2008: life sentence review commissioner.
Interests Reading, cycling, gardening, cooking.
By Suzanne McGonagle
Dissident republicans have caused more than 400 security alerts involving viable devices in the past two years.
More than 15 years after the main paramilitary ceasefires, the security forces are still having to deal with the dissident threat almost daily.
In the first six months of this year alone there were more than 130 dissident bomb, weapons or ammunition finds.
Figures obtained by The Irish News reveal that British army bomb disposal experts dealt with 724 real and hoax bomb alerts since July 2007 – an average of 30 every month.
More than 420 incidents are regarded as having had the potential to kill or seriously injure.
A key dissident tactic has been the use of hoax bomb alerts with 302 false alerts during the last two years.
One of the worst periods was in March of this year when bomb experts were called to 79 alerts.
Although 51 of these proved to be hoaxes, 28 involved viable devices.
That same month dissident republicans shot dead two soldiers and a police officer.
Chief Constable Sir Hugh Orde said that the threat posed by dissident republicans was the highest since he had taken up his post.
Co Fermanagh has been a key target for dissidents.
Dissident republicans were blamed for planting a roadside bomb near Wattlebridge in October last year.
In April a major security operation was launched after telephone calls purporting to be from the Real IRA claimed that devices had been abandoned along the border.
Fears that dissidents have moved into a new and more focused phase of attack were heightened earlier this year when a 300lb car bomb was discovered at Castlewellan, Co Down, in January.
The Real IRA targeted police officers several times last year.
In May police officer Ryan Crozier (27) escaped death when a booby-trap bomb exploded under his car close to Castlederg as he drove to work at Enniskillen police station.
In June two officers escaped injury when a landmine packed into creamery cans partially exploded as they passed it in Roslea, Co Fermanagh.
Assistant Chief Constable Alistair Finlay yesterday condemned the rise in dissident attacks.
“They place the lives of every man, woman and child in the area at risk,” he told The Irish News.
“Those responsible are totally reckless in their disregard for their neighbours and for people living in the other parts of the area where they occur. They show no regard for the lives of anyone, be it police officers or local people.”
UK police forces paid more than £6m in the past financial year to people with information on criminal activity, BBC 5 Live has discovered.
The Met Police spent most at £1.86m, followed by Greater Manchester Police at £329,497 and the Police Service of Northern Ireland at £299,000.
The Association of Chief Police Officers said the system was “vital in bringing offenders to justice”.
The figures emerged for the first time after a Freedom of Information request.
Individual police forces have refused to go into specific detail of how the money was spent, but say it was vital in tackling a whole range of criminal activity.
The forces with the largest bills for “covert human intelligence sources” – as informants are officially termed – include West Midlands Police, which spent £291,780 in 2008/9; Strathclyde, which paid out £221,598.24; and Northumbria, whose bill was 191,652.56.
The median figure for payouts by Kent Constabulary since 2001/2 was £222,578.
TOP TEN SPENDERS
Metropolitan Police: £1,863,074
Greater Manchester: £329,497
Police Service of Northern Ireland: £299,000
West Midlands: £291,780
Kent: £222,578 (Median over seven years)
South Yorkshire: £182,457
Thames Valley: £179,516
West Yorkshire: £170,475
One former superintendent who worked for more than 20 years as an informant handler told the BBC that most informers earned between £50 and £2,000 for information – though a select few had been paid more than £100,000 a year, for vital intelligence.
BBC 5 Live’s Gavin Lee said that although the total spent by the police is more than £6m, the true scale of the informer system across the security services is greater than this figure suggests.
Criminal informants can also be offered police help to reduce a potential prison sentence.
Patricia Gallan, Assistant Chief Constable of Merseyside Police and chairman of ACPO’s National Source Working Group, said the use of informants had proved essential in cases ranging from serious organised crime to burglary.
“Each force is audited on their use of informants and is subject to a robust annual inspection by the Office of Surveillance Commissioners to ensure compliance with the law,” she added.
“They are a valuable source of intelligence and their use is justifiable and proportionate when set against other police tactics.”
Republican SINN FÉIN Poblachtach
Press Release/Preas Ráiteas
RSF news – Republican Sinn Fein – http://rsf.ie
For immediate release
For confirmation contact:
Richard Walsh (Publicity Officer) on
07835 620 592 (Six Counties)
087 261 8603 (26-Counties)
PRISONERS MALTREATED IN MAGHABERRY
Last Sunday, a Republican Prisoner in Maghaberry Gaol (Brian McAllister) dislocated his shoulder. As he was in severe pain, he requested medical help. However, this request was initially refused. The prisoner was placed in a wheelchair and brought into a room. He was kept there for around an hour and warned that if he kept on complaining then a search squad would be sent in to sort him out.
Eventually a doctor was brought in. The doctor they sent, however, was an eye specialist and was therefore unable to help. After another three hours he was removed to a Belfast hospital.
Another prisoner (Damian McKenna) was recently due a legal visit. This was delayed for nearly two hours, and eventually he was permitted just five minutes to speak to his solicitor. The legal visit had been due to last for two hours. He was told that he would be charged with assault, and in total seven solicitors were escorted from the gaol.
Damian along with two others (Seán McConville and Gary Toman) have spent 27 months in Maghaberry Gaol awaiting trial.
Republican Sinn Féin demands and end to the vindictiveness on the part of the screws, and also an end to the all too common obscene lengths of remands without trial.
WE’VE teamed up with Dogs Trust’s Veterinary Director Chris Laurence to answer Irish News readers’ questions and dish out expert animal advice.
Q: I want to go on holiday for two weeks but I’ve got six pet fish I keep in a tank in my living room. Will I need a neighbour to check in on them or can they be left alone?
A: Leaving your fish without making proper arrangements for their care would be quite wrong. Fish need to be regularly cared for, just the same as any other pet.
They need regular feeding (unless it is very cold and they are in a garden pond) and the quality of the water in which they live needs to be monitored.
The Animal Welfare Act places a duty of care on any person who owns or looks after any animal – that includes fish. This duty means regular feeding, ensuring their living quarters meet their needs and prompt veterinary treatment if they are ill. If you ask your neighbour to look after your fish you must ensure that they know how to do so properly and where to get help if anything goes wrong.
To put a question to Chris about your pets or for more advice and information about dogs, from behaviour to health issues please email email@example.com
Dogs Trust is the UK’s largest dog welfare charity, caring for over 16,000 stray or abandoned dogs through its network of 17 Rehoming Centres across the UK every year.
By Andrea McKernon
A FEMALE dog’s life could be in danger after eight puppies were taken from her at birth and left hanging from a fence in west Belfast.
An urgent appeal has gone out asking the owner of the pedigree boxer dog who has been separated from her offspring to come forward and allow her to nurse the litter.
CARED FOR: Left, feeding time for one of the pups. The eight boxer pups who were abandoned in Belfast (PICTURE: Alan Lewis/Photopress)
The puppies were found in a bag hanging from a fence in the Poleglass area last week.
Residents handed them into Lisburn City Council which arranged for the puppies to be fed every four hours in a specialist round-the-clock facility.
It believed the mother and puppies were separated shortly after the birth.
However, the puppies are now a week old and in desperate need of their mother who is a brindle boxer dog.
The council’s Julie Casson said the case was a particularly heartbreaking one that needed action as quickly as possible.
“Mothers train their pups to go to the toilet, to aid their mental development and to train them for the outside world,” she said.
“Humans can do as much as they can, but ideally the pups need their mother.”
Ms Casson said the mother would be desperately searching for her puppies.
“The mother will be very distressed, she’ll be whining and looking for her pups,” Ms Casson said.
“There is also a serious health risk to her because she’ll still be producing milk so there is a very serious risk of infection as the milk builds up.
“We really need to reunite the mother with these very young pups.”
Anyone who knows of the mother’s whereabouts is asked to contact Lisburn Borough Council on 028 92 509 395.
28 July 2009
The SDLP have slammed postings on a right wing website attacking Nobel Peace Prize winner John Hume and other party colleagues.
The right wing Red Watch website features pictures of Mr Hume and other members of the party at demonstrations or events in the past.
It urges anyone with information about the ‘fenian reds, causing trouble’ or ‘freaks’ would be ‘gratefully received.’
‘Journal’ columnist and author, Eamon McCann, is also pictured on the website.
A spokesperson for the SDLP said: “We are very concerned that postings attacking John Hume and other party colleagues have appeared on this sinister website.
“Since this matter has been brought to our party’s attention, we have alerted the police who have informed us that they have been monitoring this website for a while now as this organisation appears to be engaged in hi-tech fascism.”
The party spokesperson branded those behind the website ‘lunatics’.
“The SDLP will not be deterred from standing up for the rights of others. We have faced down threats before and we will continue to do what is right as we strive to fight against racism, sectarianism and bigotry.”
28 July 2009
Dissident republicans are being blamed for sending a number of Ulster Bank employees bullets in the post.
The ammunition was accompanied by a threatening letter. The move has been branded ‘disturbing.’
The employees were said to be shocked when the ammunition was delivered to their workplace on Friday morning.
Police remarked: “We have seized a number of items for forensic examination. We never comment on issues relating to the security of any individual.
It’s been reported that the bullets were sent to staff who have relatives serving in the security forces.
SDLP Foyle MLA Mary Bradley says those responsible are “faceless cowards.”
“This is understandably a very disturbing case for those concerned and my first priority is the safety and wellbeing of those who have been targeted.
“To single out relatives of security force members in this manner is a throw back to the bad old days of the Troubles that the majority in this community had hoped we had left behind.”
A spokesperson for Ulster Bank declined to comment on the matter “at this time.”
28 July 2009
Hardline republicans in Derry are planning to stage a protest outside a meeting of the local District Policing Partnership on Friday.
The protest is being organised by the 32 County Sovereignty Movement (32CSM) and will take place on Butcher Street outside the Tower Hotel, where the meeting is to take place.
In a statement, the group said; “The 32CSM will be holding a protest outside the Tower Hotel at 1.45pm on Friday. It is being held to show our opposition to British policing in Ireland and against bodies like the DPP who are in place merely to give the impression of accountability while in reality providing cover for the human rights abusers that are part and parcel of the RUC/PSNI. We urge all republicans to attend to demonstrate their opposition to British policing in Ireland.”