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The Independent Commission for the Location of Victims’ Remains is investigating the disappearance of another man in the early 1970s.
Peter Wilson went missing from his west Belfast home and it is reported that he may have been abducted and murdered by the IRA.
A spokesman for the commission has confirmed that it has received a report of another case.
It is believed the commission has met with Mr Wilson’s family.
Friday’s Irish News said Mr Wilson had been 21 when he went missing from his home in the St James area in the west of the city.
It is understood that the investigation is in its very early stages.
The inclusion of Mr Wilson on the list of the Disappeared would bring to 14 the number of people abducted and murdered in secret by republicans, all but one of them by the IRA.
That organisation has publicly said it was involved in nine of the killings, but has not admitted its role in the others.
By Eoin English
October 30, 2009
THE skeletal remains of more than a thousand people have been recovered from what experts believe was one of the country’s largest medieval cemeteries.
The ancient bones have produced evidence of several suspected murders and one case of leprosy – an extremely rare occurrence in medieval times.
Osteoarchaeologist Carmelita Troy, of Headland Archaeology in Cork, said yesterday she has studied the ancient remains of nearly 1,300 individuals – adult males and females along with children – who were buried at the site at Ardreigh, Athy, in Co Kildare.
It is one of the largest skeleton assemblages in the country.
It is believed the site served as a huge regional cemetery for the south Kildare region from perhaps the 7th or 8th century, with classic Christian-style burials – bodies aligned west to east – taking place right up to the 1400s.
“Through the evidence gathered from the results of these excavations, it was clear Ardreigh was a highly significant medieval site, and one that can be considered to be of regional – and probably national importance,” a preliminary report on the site suggested.
While final reports and exact carbon-dating have yet to be completed, the Ardreigh skeleton find is already being compared to important cemeteries at the medieval cathedral at Ardfert in Co Kerry, the Mount Offaly cemetery in south Co Dublin and Ballyhanna in Co Donegal.
“The skeletons from Ardreigh give us an important insight into, and help us understand our national heritage and the people from whom we are descended,” Ms Troy said.
The site was discovered as part of the R417 Athy-Carlow road realignment scheme.
Initial inspections were carried out in 1999. Further excavations took place between 2000 and 2003 before work resumed in May 2007, concluding in April 2008.
Two neolithic axe heads, several sherds of neolithic pottery, a Bronze Age cremation pit, and defensive ditches that may date to early Christian times, were found.
But the site yielded vast amounts of Medieval material and the remains of some 1,300 people.
The bones were transported to Headland’s office in Cork for detailed study.
Ms Troy has spent the last year studying the bones and said while it has been hard work, it has been a fascinating project.
The remains include male and female adults, some aged between 45 and 60, teenagers, children and even some foetuses – one as young as 20 weeks.
Dozens of adult skeletons displayed signs of arthritis, which would not be uncommon.
However, one person was found buried face down with his hands positioned behind his back. The cause of death could not be established.
Ms Troy said the skulls of five adults had suffered sharp-implement injuries or blunt force trauma, possibly due to a blow from an axe.
One skeleton was found to have had a leg amputated, possibly for medical reasons.
She said the vast quantity of skeletons found at this site allows archaeologists to statistically compare the results with other major medieval sites, and draw conclusions in relation to population profiles, as well as the ages, sex and segregation of the people.
Her work on the project is nearing completion. Her final report will form part of the overall report on the site, which will determine where and how the bones will be stored.
29 October 2009
The Lord Mayor of Belfast, Councillor Naomi Long, and Peter Bunting, Assistant General Secretary of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, pictured at the new fountain in the courtyard of the City Hall
A NEW memorial dedicated to employees of Belfast City Council who lost their lives during the Troubles represents “new life and a new beginning”, the city’s Lord Mayor has said.
Naomi Long was speaking as she dedicated a fountain and five hornbeam trees erected in the courtyard of the City Hall in memory of around 30 council employees killed in the conflict.
The majority of the victims lost their lives going about their daily jobs between 1969 and 1999.
Addressing family members of the deceased at a special ceremony inside the confines of the Belfast landmark on Tuesday evening, the Lord Mayor said: “Tonight we must remember all these victims – ordinary men, from ordinary houses and streets, doing ordinary jobs.
“They were husbands, fathers, sons and brothers who went out to do a day’s work for the council and never came home.
“These men must never be forgotten. Let us honour their memory with dignity and solemnity and send our thoughts and prayers to all those who still bear the scars of those terrible events.”
Paying tribute to the resilience of the council workforce and to all those who made a contribution during difficult years, Ms Long also recognised the long road the city still had to take to secure lasting peace.
“We have to look forward together, to work and pull together for a shared and better future. A future built on sure foundations of respect and equality, truth and the freedom to be different.”
The memorial, which was installed during the recent multi-million refurbishment of the building, was the idea of an employee, who put it forward as part of a staff suggestion scheme.
The fountain was designed by landscape architects from the council’s Parks Service.
The full article contains 295 words and appears in n/a newspaper.
29 October 2009
THE Army has denied claims by republican group eirigi that it decided to withdraw a recruitment stand at the University of Ulster’s Magee campus because of protests by the group.
Eirigi has held a number of protests at recent Army events including at the Tall Ships Festival and a recruitment fair at the Europa Hotel in Belfast.
Spokesman Breandan MacCionnaith claimed: “British military recruiters have been embarrassed and humiliated by recent eirigi actions during their publicity stunts; this may also have been a factor in the decision to cancel the Derry recruitment stall.”
The Ministry of Defence refuted the eirigi claims and said the stall had been cancelled because it was not seen as a good use of resources.
A spokesman said: “The Armed Forces prides itself on the opportunities and scope for self improvement that a career in the military can offer to young people no matter what their background.
“However it was decided that due to finite resources and a poor response to previous careers days at Magee College that this year no recruiting team would attend.”
29 October 2009
THE Government has confirmed that it “stands ready” to make changes in parades management after a public row between the DUP and Sinn Fein on the future of the Parades Commission.
The comments came after Sinn Fein’s angry reaction to insistence from the DUP that parades management in Northern Ireland must be settled before policing and justice can be devolved.
First Minister Peter Robinson wants to see the Parades Commission scrapped altogether and told the House of Commons on Wednesday night that it was essential to find an agreed way forward on parading before devolution of policing and justice could take place.
He also accused Sinn Fein of blocking the publication of Lord Ashdown’s recommendations on parades, which is understood to say full responsibility for the matter should shift to the Assembly and local councils.
In the DUP-led debate in Westminster, the First Minister said: “To leave these (parading] issues unresolved and to devolve powers of policing and justice would plant a seed at the heart of government in Northern Ireland which I believe would be corrosive and divisive and which ultimately could in fact be the straw that breaks the camel’s back.”
But Sinn Fein’s John O’Dowd said Mr Robinson’s demand was an attempt to erect another obstacle after outstanding financial issues were resolved last week, when Prime Minister Gordon Brown unveiled a £1 billion package to support devolved justice.
“What the DUP are doing is corrupting the political process by bringing in yet another pre-condition,” said the Upper Bann Sinn Fein representative.
A Northern Ireland Office (NIO) spokesman said the Government “stands ready to introduce changes in relation to how parades in Northern Ireland are managed, where there is community agreement to do so”.
Meanwhile, TUV vice-chairman Keith Harbinson also slammed attempts to link the two issues.
There is “grave unease” within the Loyal Orders at the prospect of policing and justice being devolved to an executive where those who “continue to justify the murder of policemen and judges hold sway”, he said.
But an Orange Order spokesman said the organisation did not wish to comment on the row. “We are fully engaged with the Ashdown review and it’s now up to the politicians to take the matter forward,” he added.
SDLP leader Mark Durkan accused the DUP and Sinn Fein of politicising the issues. “The construction of the Parades Commission was all about making sure that we separated the highly charged wires of policing, parades and politics,” he said.
“It is important, in everybody’s interests, that we keep them separate.”
His party colleague Upper Bann MLA Dolores Kelly added that failure to protect the Parades Commission would put the possibility of an Orange parade on the Garvaghy Road on the agenda.
Breandán Mac Cionnaith from the Garvaghy Road Residents’ Coalition accused the DUP of playing the ‘Orange card’.
“The timing of the DUP’s present political offensive suggests that the DUP see the parades issue as some form of bargaining tool in the wider political arena,” he said.
But NIO Minister Paul Goggins told the House of Commons on Wednesday that the issues “might be devolved to Northern Ireland” and “that is the expectation and the basis on which we are working at the moment”.
27 Oct 09
DEATH: The isolated beach in Co Donegal where the body of Derry academic Mary Reid, inset, was found washed up in January 2003 PICTURE: Margaret McLaughlin
The INLA has denied it has any knowledge about the death of a woman who drowned six years ago. Mary Reid was a former leading member of the paramilitary group’s political wing, the IRSP.
The 49-year-old was found drowned at Doagh Island in Inishowen in north Donegal in January 2003.
A university lecturer at the time of her death, Ms Reid had been editor of the IRSP’s newspaper The Starry Plough in the 1970s.
Gardai concluded that the death of Ms Reid – originally from Pettigo in Co Donegal but who had been living in Derry – was either accidental or suicide.
Her family has always disputed this, and in 2005 were successful in having a new investigation opened.
According to the dead woman’s brother, Joseph Reid, the second investigation unearthed more questions than answers.
Following an INLA announcement earlier this month that it intends pursuing its aims by non-violent means, Mr Reid called on the group to reveal what it knows about his sister’s death.
“The gardai presumed suicide and did not call in the state pathologist,” he said.
“Only a basic postmortem was carried out. We don’t even know if the water in Mary’s lungs was sea water or fresh water,” he said.
“The last sighting of Mary was at 10.30am and her car was sighted an hour later at Doagh Island. Her body was found at 5.30pm.
“Where was she for those seven hours? When she was taken from the sea, her body was still warm but no temperature was taken.”
Mr Reid bases his belief that the INLA may have information on the fact that the IRSP has never demanded an inquiry into his sister’s death, despite her high profile within the movement.
But sources close to the paramilitary group have denied his claims.
“The INLA has no knowledge at all about Mary Reid’s death,” a source said.
The IRSP also said it had invited Mr Reid to a meeting to discuss his concerns but he did not attend.
Mr Reid said: “It’s fairly much the response I expected. The reason I didn’t attend the meeting was we discussed it as a family and the family wasn’t happy with me meeting the IRSP face to face.”
He pledged to continue his quest to find the “truth behind Mary’s death”.
“I’ll keep shaking the tree to see what falls out. I believe that someday the truth will come out,” Mr Reid said.
By Bimpe Archer
WOUNDED: Above, the remains of the police car in which Mark Elwood, Trevor Elliot, and Neville Grey were travelling on May 18 1984 when the IRA detonated a 1,000lb landmine. Mr Elwood suffered years of ill health after the attack
A FORMER police officer left partially blind and badly injured in an IRA bomb blast that killed two colleagues 25 years ago has died while on holiday in Cuba.
Mark Elwood is to be buried tomorrow after his body was flown back from the popular Caribbean tourist destination on Friday.
Results are still awaited from a postmortem examination but it is thought that Mr Elwood died from a heart attack. He suffered years of ill health after the attack on the Co Armagh border.
The 49-year-old was the only survivor when a 1,000lb landmine was detonated under a police car on May 18 1984.
The attack claimed the lives of RUC Reservist Trevor (Teddy) Elliott (29), a father-of-three from Tandragee, Co Armagh, and 25-year-old Neville Gray from Dromara, Co Down.
Mr Elliott was only a few days from leaving the force to set up a business in the building trade.
The device exploded as they passed over it on the Crossmaglen to Camlough road.
The vehicle was blown into a ditch by the blast that could be heard as far away as Newry.
The noise alerted an RUC patrol in nearby Crossmaglen who rushed to the scene.
Mr Elwood, originally from the Shankill Road in west Belfast, had to be cut from the vehicle when members of the Newry Fire Brigade detected signs of life.
He was taken to Daisy Hill Hospital, before being moved to the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast.
On the same day two British soldiers were killed and another died later as a result of injuries, after the IRA planted a booby trap bomb under their car in Enniskillen, Co Fermanagh.
The soldiers were off-duty at the time and had just competed in a fishing competition.
Mr Elwood’s family have asked that donations in lieu of flowers go to the Disabled Police Officers Association (DPOANI) that offered support as he struggled with his injuries.
Mr Elwood became an active member of the association, with many members expected to attend a service of thanksgiving at Cregagh Presbyterian Church, Belfast, that follows a committal service at Roselawn Crematorium at 10am.
“He was on holiday with his wife [Barbara] when he died,” Elaine Hampton, secretary of DPOANI, said.
“They were really only at the beginning of their holiday.
“There will be a huge turnout at the funeral.
“He was badly affected by what happened to him. It was only at the beginning of his career.
“He was nearly blind and suffered from lots of other injuries.”
28 October 2009
Image of Derry’s Bogside in 1960 found at Phil Mack
The unique history of Derry’s Bogside is to be explored and recorded in a new project funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund .
The Gasyard Development Trust has been awarded a grant of £24,700 for the project which will trace the roots of the area back to the days of St Columba, the Plantation of Ulster and the Siege of Derry.
Linda McKinney, from the Gasyard Development Trust, says the success of the project relies on the involvement of local people.
She says the project will involve documenting both the the physical history of the Bogside, including local churches, buildings and other sites of interest, and the intangible heritage which includes the personal memories, experiences and stories of members of the local community.
Examining the impact of emigration, sport, industrial heritage and the arts as well as major political events are key facets of the Bogside project.
Paul Mullan, Head of HLF Northern Ireland, said: “We are delighted to be involved in this project which will enable local people to take part in a guided exploration of their local environment in a meaningful and creative way. By telling the story of the Bogside, and placing its history in its full context, the project will increase understanding of the rich heritage of the area.”
If you would like to become involved in the project, contact Linda Mc Kinney at the Gasyard Centre on 028 71262812.
Newly released file shows IRA bombers had target list including MPs, lords and police officers, as well as cultural and military sites
28 October 2009
A death list and the names of potential bombing targets that included the British Museum, the National Gallery, the Tate Gallery and part of Buckingham Palace were found in a London flat occupied by the IRA’s Balcombe Street gang, according to a confidential Downing Street file released by the National Archives today.
The prime minister, Harold Wilson, asked for a copy of the death list found in an IRA bomb factory at Milton Grove, Stoke Newington, in December 1975 after the surrender of the Balcombe Street gang following a six-day siege.
The four-man IRA active service unit, made up of Hugh Doherty, Joe O’Connell, Eddie Butler and Henry Duggan, carried out a 14-month bombing campaign across London that involved 40 explosions and left 35 people dead, including the Guinness Book of Records co-founder and rightwing political activist Ross McWhirter.
Gerry Adams, Sinn Féin’s president, described the four men as “our Nelson Mandelas” when they were presented to the 1998 Sinn Féin Ard Fheis (annual conference) after their release from prison.
Their bombing campaign, which terrorised the capital, involved attacks on military targets including barracks, and establishment venues including restaurants. But the target list compiled by special branch from documents found at the Milton Grove flat suggest that they also had cultural targets within their sights.
“I understand from the Home Office that no single piece of paper was found, but scattered throughout the flat were several dossiers of paper, individual papers and a few files containing references to names, restaurants and army establishments with information on how to enter them,” Wilson’s principal private secretary, Nigel Wicks, told the prime minister.But The list also included functions such as the annual dinner of the Monday Club, a rightwing Tory pressure group, scheduled for 28 January at the Savoy hotel, and a Law Society dinner to be held on 8 January. A list of names of those who attended the memorial service for a former Metropolitan police commissioner, Sir John Waldron, and an Investors Bulletin seminar in 1975 was also found, along with the names of MPs, lords, military officers, police officers and other civilians.
The list of potential targets included Madam Tussauds; the GPO (Post Office) tower; Somerset House, in the Strand; the Law Courts, Strand; the National Gallery; the British Museum; the Queens Gallery, part of Buckingham Palace; HMS Discovery on the Thames; the stock exchange; the Royal Exchange; the Imperial War Museum; the National Maritime Museum; University College; the King George memorial gardens at Stanmore; and the Farnham Royal Nurseries.
The military bases listed included Kensington barracks, the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst, Biggin Hill aerodrome and the Royal Air Force club on Piccadilly.
There is also evidence that the IRA active service unit potentially targeted the BBC Crystal Palace transmitter, Wormwood Scrubs and Brixton prisons, and the prison service headquarters then in Eccleston Square, as well as power stations and water and sewage treatment plants.
The special branch report says that a plan of the area that includes New Scotland Yard was found, along with evidence of evening observations of the Met police headquarters. The Downing Street file does not include the actual list of names of those targeted. That is to remain secret for 70 years under exemptions under the Freedom of Information Act.
Wilson was asked by the Home Office to play down talk of it as a death list, saying it was a compilation of low-grade “intelligence” material found in the Milton Place flat. “We ask particularly that the contents of the list should not be divulged to any of those on it. The police will use their judgment whether any on the list need warning or protection. The list is supplied specifically in answer to the prime minister’s request, and I would be glad if it could be treated as SECRET AND PERSONAL.”
Wilson responded with a note on the file saying: “Obviously this is scrappy. Some of it seems to be out of date, eg [Sir Hugh] Wontner is down as lord mayor (he ceased 13 months ago). No doubt they will check to see how many are dead, or changed job or address – as a guide to the age of each piece of paper.”
Among the materials found at the flat was an Egon Ronay review of Waltons restaurant in Walton Street. The gang surrendered after they returned to attack Scotts restaurant in Mayfair for a second time.
A car chase across London ended with them holed up in a council flat in Balcombe Street behind Marylebone station with two hostages. A six-day stand-off ensued during which they demanded a helicopter to take them to Ireland. In the end the gang surrendered to face 23 years in British jails.
26 Oct 09
Police found a list of potential IRA bombing targets, including Buckingham Palace, during a raid in London in 1975, newly released files show.
Hundreds of names, including those of MPs and soldiers, was found in a flat used by the IRA’s Balcombe Street gang.
The four-man unit carried out a series of bombings and murders in the 1970s.
The list was found at a flat used by the gang as a bomb-making factory
National Archive files show that Prime Minister Harold Wilson was told about the police find, but he was told that it did not represent a “death list”.
The Balcombe Street gang – made up of Martin O’Connell, Edward Butler, Harry Duggan and Hugh Doherty – carried out a series of terrorist attacks, including the Guildford and Woolwich pub bombings in 1974, which killed seven people.
Another of their victims was broadcaster and co-founder of the Guinness Book of Records Ross McWhirter, who was shot dead outside his home on 27 November, 1975.
Shortly before the killing, Mr McWhirter had offered a reward of £50,000 for information leading to the arrest of those responsible for several IRA bombings.
He had also argued that all Irish people living in Britain should be made to register with their local police force.
The gang was captured by police on 12 December 1975 after a six-day siege at a flat in Balcombe Street, central London.
It was after this that officers came across the list in another flat in Stoke Newington, north London, which was used by them as bomb factory.
The list included major London tourist attractions such as the British Museum and Madame Tussauds, as well as sites including the Queen’s Gallery in Buckingham Palace, Sandhurst military academy and the Stock Exchange.
There were also a number of less well-known targets, including power stations and sewage works around the capital.
In addition, the material contained the dates and venues of some specific functions, such as events held by the Law Society and the Royal Welsh Fusiliers.
The original document handed to Mr Wilson was 86 pages long, but large sections have not been made public.
Among those excluded are 23 pages listing “MPs, Lords and other civilian personnel”, nine pages listing police officers and police premises and 35 pages listing military personnel.
In a covering letter to the document, Bill Innes, then private secretary at the Home Office, stressed that it was not a “death list”.
He wrote: “It is a compilation of a vast amount of low-grade ‘intelligence’ material found in the flat, which has yet to be assessed and evaluated, and no significance or meaning can be attached to any of the names on the list.”
Mr Wilson later added notes to that letter, remarking that the material was “scrappy” and pointing out that some of the details were out of date.
An extract from the letter shows some of the high-profile locations
He urged Scotland Yard to verify the information, writing: “No doubt they will check to see how many are dead, or changed jobs or address – as a guide to age of each piece of paper.”
The prime minister also drew a tick and wrote “Yes” alongside a request that the contents of the document should not be revealed to any of the people on it.
The Balcombe Street four were jailed for life in 1977, but were freed in 1999 under the Good Friday Agreement.
By Barry McCaffrey
The Prison Service last night confirmed that traces of a chemical used in Semtex explosives have been found in cells of republican inmates inside Maghaberry jail.
The explosive substance, which is described as a “component part” of Semtex, is understood to have been found after a specialist search team carried out swab tests on the cells of republicans being held at Rowe House inside the high-security prison.
A Prison Service spokesman confirmed that traces of the chemical had been discovered on a number of surfaces but said no explosives had been found, despite extensive searches carried out by the Immediate Reaction Force.
The discovery has caused serious concern among prison officers.
In the past republicans have used explosives to try to escape and to kill inside jails.
In 1991 UDA prisoner Robert Skey and UVF inmate Colin Caldwell died after an IRA bomb exploded behind a radiator inside Crumlin Road Prison in north Belfast.
In 1985 10 PIRA prisoners used explosives to try to break out of Portlaoise Prison in Co Laois.
Prison Officers Association spokes-man Finlay Spratt raised concerns that explosives had now been smuggled into the Co Antrim jail.
“I am aware that traces of Semtex have been found after forensic tests on cells inside the prison,” he said.
“Prison officers have no other choice but to carry out their duties as best they can but it is alarming to think that there may be Semtex in the jail.
“We don’t know if it has been smuggled in as part of a plan by dissident prisoners to escape or is going to be used to kill a prison officer or other prisoners.
“All we can do is hope that if there are explosives in Maghaberry that they are found as a matter of urgency.”
27 October 2009
The family of a Derry teenager shot dead by British soldiers in July 1972 have urged the Ministry of Defence (MoD) to co-operate fully with a new inquest into the killing.
Daniel Hegarty was shot dead by a soldier in Creggan during Operation Motorman.
After today’s preliminary hearing at Derry Courthouse, a statement on behalf of the Hegarty family was read out to the media.
Karen Brady – a niece of the deceased – said: “We welcome the opening of Daniel’s inquest today. We hope that all participants will co-operate fully in the proceedings. This includes the British Army who have already stated publicly that they would co-operate fully with any properly constituted enquiry into Daniel’s death.”
The statement – on behalf of Daniel Hegarty’s sisters Margaret Brady, Ann (Philomena) Conaghan and Catherine Devenney – added: “We now have a responsibility to have placed on public record the full and truthful circumstances of what happened to Daniel.”
The preliminary hearing was told that seven British soldiers may be called to give evidence in the inquest.
Northern Ireland’s Senior Coroner John Lecky – who will sit with a jury at the inquest – says he expects it to get underway early in June of next year.
He added that he would “feel obliged” to ensure the attendance of the soldiers involved and that risk assessments be carried out on any military personnel who seeks anonymity in giving evidence.
Mr Lecky requested maps, photographs and documents related to the case to be submitted by the MoD, the PSNI and the Historical Enquires Team.
He said enquires would also be made to the Director of Public Prosecutions on whether an “agreement” was made in 1972 between the then RUC Chief Constable and the Royal Military Police that the shooting should not be investigated by police.
“It strikes me that, if the agreement existed, then the DPP must have known about it,” he said.
Wednesday, 28 October 2009
Loyalist killer Torrens Knight was last night arrested and his release from prison suspended, the Northern Ireland Prison Service has said.
Knight was detained in Coleraine and sent back to jail to serve 12 life sentences for murders in 1993.
He was convicted earlier this month of assaulting two women at a bar in Coleraine but is appealing against the verdict.
Northern Ireland Secretary of State Shaun Woodward suspended the licence.
He said: “Arising from Torrens Knight’s conviction on two charges of assault and one of disorderly behaviour I have, following due consideration, suspended his ‘early’ release licence.
“His convictions last Thursday demonstrate that he has breached the terms of his life licence and that he presents a risk to the safety of others.”
Knight was a member of the UFF gang that burst into the Rising Sun bar in the Co Derry seaside town of Greysteel on Halloween in 1993 and opened fire on patrons.
The killings are always associated with the chilling “trick or treat” phrase shouted by one of the gunmen before they started shooting.
Knight was also convicted of the murders of four Catholic builders in an attack in the nearby town of Castlerock earlier that year.
Given 12 life sentences, he was released in 2000 as part of the historic Good Friday Agreement peace deal.
On Thursday he was found guilty of assaulting two sisters in a bar in Coleraine.
A district judge in Coleraine Magistrates Court convicted Knight of punching Caroline Nicholl to the ground and then kicking her before turning his fists on her sister Rosemary Sutherland inside the Blackthorn bar in the town last May.
Mr Woodward added: “I will not hesitate to act to suspend the licence of any prisoner who was released under the Sentences Act early release scheme, introduced following the signing of the Good Friday Agreement, if, by their actions, they prove they have become a danger to the public.”
27 Oct 09
A prominent republican charged with the Real IRA murders of two soldiers at an Army base in March is to seek bail.
Lurgan man Colin Duffy, 41, is one of two men charged with murdering Sappers Patrick Azimkar and Mark Quinsey outside Massereene barracks in Antrim.
He has been in custody since March when he was charged with murder.
Colin Duffy has been in custody since March
About 20 supporters were in court on Tuesday for his first bail application, which was adjourned and expected to be heard in the next few days.
The hearing had been due to be conducted in the High Court via video link with Maghaberry Prison.
A defence lawyer applied for an adjournment, saying he had expected a report on soil analysis to have been made available before the hearing began.
“Unfortunately, although the report will be finished today I have no oral indication of its finding,” he said.
He said police had been given an alternative address in the event of bail being granted.
The judge agreed to adjourn the application.
Mr Duffy is charged with two counts of murder, five counts of attempted murder and one count of possession of a firearm.
Mark Harbinson to appear in Northern Ireland court today over charges of possessing indecent images of children
Henry McDonald, Ireland correspondent
Tuesday 27 October 2009
A leading Ulster loyalist opponent of power sharing and the peace process will appear in a Northern Ireland court later today, charged with grooming a child for sex.
Mark Harbinson will also face charges of possessing indecent images of children. He was arrested in County Antrim yesterday morning and taken to Lisburn police station.
Harbinson, who is an Orangeman, has been a high-profile hardline loyalist who came to prominence during the Drumcree marching dispute in Portadown.
He once described the Orange Order’s stance at Drumcree when they were faced down by the security forces as “Ulster’s Alamo”.
In 1999, Harbinson was arrested and questioned over the theft of top-secret intelligence files from the British army’s headquarters in Northern Ireland. He has also been questioned in the past over assaults on a Catholic teenager in the village of Stoneyford, as well as an attack on a Sinn Féin councillor.
27 Oct 09
Some unionists perceive BBC Northern Ireland as having a republican bias, a DUP MP has claimed.
David Simpson was addressing a Northern Ireland Affairs Committee meeting at Stormont on the role of public service broadcasting in a devolved nation.
“There is a perception that the BBC in some ways is very biased when it comes to the nationalist or republican side of broadcasting,” he said.
BBC NI controller Peter Johnston said audience research did not support this.
Mr Simpson said “rightly or wrongly”, there was a perception among unionists about BBC bias.
“A journalist from the unionist community recently spoke to me and described the BBC in Belfast as the coldest media house for a unionist journalist that they had ever walked into – an experience more chilling than a greeting at a Sinn Fein press conference,” he said.
Mr Johnston said he could not comment on the experience of one individual.
“I have heard that perception portrayed by politicians primarily and some associated interest groups,” he said.
“We have done over many years huge amounts of audience research, and that is not what people believe in general.
“A core purpose of ours is impartiality and I have never seen any audience research evidence that this perception is shared more widely.”
The committee has been hearing a series of discussions about the role of public service broadcasting, digital switchover, the role of local news, current affairs and other programming, and the place of broadcasting in a devolved nation of the UK.
Ali Bracken, Crime Correspondent
October 25, 2009
MAJOR security concerns have arisen in the Grove area of Castlerea Prison as it is no longer controlled by the provisional IRA following the release of several political prisoners.
The killers of garda Jerry McCabe – Pearse McAuley and Kevin Walsh – were released in August and had been “ruling the roost” at the Grove prior to that.
In the past 12 months, several other political prisoners have been released from the jail. The Grove was once tightly controlled by IRA inmates, who did not permit drugs and controlled all violence. But several prisoners from the “normal prison population” are now being housed at the Grove and drug use has become widespread, as have acts of violence.
A prison source said there were security concerns for prison officers in the Grove area. McAuley and Walsh previously maintained a semblance of order among inmates and nothing happened “without their say so”. The Grove area of the prison is a low-security section where prisoners live in two-storey accommodation.
The two IRA prisoners lived in their own house, which would normally accommodate up to nine inmates.
“I suppose everyone had gotten used to the situation whereby the IRA controlled that area of the prison and they did keep order there. They were very anti-drugs, none were permitted at all. They ran a tight ship. Now they’ve gone and the dynamic has totally changed in the Grove,” said the source.
“It is going to have to be managed, we need to bring this situation under control.”
A prominent Belfast republican has said Special Branch officers followed him on holiday to Spain and attempted to recruit him as an agent, offering a huge sum of money if he informed on dissidents.
Paul Carson (44) from Ardoyne said he was pursued by two officers for over a mile in the Costa del Sol. He said he refused their requests and hurled abuse at them.
As dissident activity increases, the security services have massively stepped up their campaign to recruit informers. Last month, a member of the 32 County Sovereignty Movement, was approached while on holiday in Italy.
Carson, a former republican prisoner, claimed he was told money would be “no object” if he worked with them to prevent Oglaigh na hEireann, a Real IRA splinter group, from killing policemen. He said the same Special Branch officers had previously tried to recruit him last month in Belfast International Airport as he prepared to board a flight to Glasgow for a Celtic match.
“I was brought into a small room where these two plain-clothes guys questioned me about my involvement in opposing loyalist parades and in Concerned Families Against Drugs (a group which marches on alleged drug-dealers houses). They said I was well-respected in the area. They said dissidents were going to shoot a police officer coming from a community meeting and I could use my clout to stop it.”
Carson said he was asked to spy on Oglaigh na hEireann, the paramilitary group which last week tried to killed a police officer in Belfast with an under-car bomb and was responsible for leaving a 600lb bomb in Forkill, south Armagh, last month.
“I told the police I’d no such influence with dissidents and anybody claiming otherwise was a gobshite,” he said. Carson claimed the same Special Branch officers then approached him on 8 October when he was holidaying in the Grangeville Oasis apartments near Mijas on the Costa del Sol.
“They asked me to talk to them in a restaurant down the road, that nobody would know. I told them to f*** off.” Carson said the officers kept following him, shouting that they knew he’d carried out murders years ago for which he’d never been convicted.
Carson said he had immediately logged the attempts to recruit him,was pursuing the matter with his solicitor and would be contacting the Police Ombudsman. “It’s important to make these approaches public so the situation is crystal clear,” he said.
Monday, 26 October 2009
The Chief Constable has transferred more officers from desk bound duties to patrol duties following last week’s undercar bomb attack in East Belfast.
The move comes at a time when senior PSNI officers are describing the threat from dissident republicans as “severe”.
Matt Baggott confirmed the development when he met a DUP delegation on Friday and he told Peter Robinson that he may introduce agency staff to deal with office tasks to free up even more officers from administration duties in the coming weeks.
The grim scenario of increasingly sophisticated attacks by dissident republicans against police officers and their families has elevated the threat level above the post Massereene attack concerns.
Deputy Chief Constable Judith Gillespie confirmed the increased numbers involved in terrorist attacks when she revealed last week that it is
estimated that there are now 200 dissidents involved in units similar to the Provisionals’ four strong active service units.
Senior PSNI figures have admitted that there has been a worrying ‘slippage’ of experienced Provos from the Sinn Fein/IRA fold to the dissident groups in recent months.
This has been reflected in the sophisticated bomb found in Forkhill and last week’s deadly undercar bomb device which exploded in Kingsdale Park, a short distance from the PSNI HQ at Knock.
The PSNI is to buy a second helicopter to help in the fight against dissidents.
There is speculation that it will be another Eurocopter 145 which would be kitted out to ferry specialist units to tackle dissidents in border areas.
Some Policing Board members have been demanding another 145 to ferry units from Belfast to anywhere in the province within 20 minutes.
Delays before units could be deployed to recent incidents in Forkhill, Meigh and other areas around the border has starkly exposed the PSNI’s operational shortcomings.
The PSNI’s Eurocopter is crammed with state of the art electronic surveillance, communication and listening devices and monitors which takes up most of its cabin room.
Book claims national hero was ‘turned’ after 1916
By John Spain Books Editor
Monday October 26 2009
Eamon de Valera 1915 (Image from brianakira.wordpress.com)
A NEW book to be published next month makes the shocking claim that Eamon de Valera, the founding father of the nation, was under the control of the British.
The book, provocatively titled ‘England’s Greatest Spy: Eamon de Valera’, suggests that Dev was terrified of being executed after the Rising and was “turned” in exchange for his life. For some years afterwards, the book claims, Dev was under British control.
The 470-page hardback is published by Stacey International, a London publisher specialising in politics and history.
The author is retired US naval officer and historian John Turi from Princeton, New Jersey. He developed an interest in Irish history through his wife, who was born in Ireland. Turi has been researching his controversial book for a decade.
The case against de Valera by Turi is based firstly on a detailed analysis of Dev’s emotionally stunted formative years.
He claims Dev was rejected by everyone in his early life — his mysterious father in New York (in fact, Dev was probably illegitimate), his mother, his uncle in Ireland, who treated him coldly, even the Church, which rejected his ambitions for the priesthood because of his probable illegitimacy.
His miserable upbringing left Dev with an inadequate personality, Turi suggests, which made him susceptible to being influenced later on.
Turi is scathing about Dev’s erratic behaviour during the Rising, when he was in charge of the men at Boland’s Mill.
He stayed awake for days, became disorientated and issued confused, sometimes ridiculous, orders. “It was not just his tactics the men questioned,” Turi writes, “they questioned his sanity as well.”
Dev kept his men “sitting on their heels” while a short distance away at Mount Street Bridge eight Volunteers were trying to hold off hundreds of British soldiers.
In fact the men at Boland’s Mill played little or no part in the Easter Week fighting, Turi says, because Dev was so exhausted and fearful.
At the end of the week, when word reached Boland’s Mill of the surrender, Turi writes that de Valera “abandoned his men and slipped out of Boland’s at noon on the Sunday, taking with him a British prisoner . . . as his insurance against being shot before he could surrender”.
“De Valera the cowardly, incompetent, mentally unstable officer who deserted his troops was (later) repackaged as de Valera the lonely hero fighting valiantly against overwhelming odds.”
What followed was also suspicious, Turi says.
Dev later claimed that he was tried with a number of other men and sentenced to death.
Turi writes: “Not one of the men allegedly tried with de Valera ever confirmed that such a trial took place, and there is no trace in the British Public Record Office of any trial.”
He also quotes the flat denial by the army prosecuting officer, William Wylie, that de Valera had been tried.
Turi also considers Dev’s fragile mental state and tearful collapse at Richmond Barracks the night before he was taken to Kilmainham, to where condemned prisoners were sent.
All the events indicate that Dev was terrified of dying, Turi suggests, and that it would have been easy for the British intelligence officer Ivor Price to turn Dev into a British collaborator. Major Price was “skilled at manipulating weakness”.
Turi notes that Dev was the only one of four Dublin commandants not to be tried and executed.
He dismisses theories that Dev was spared because he was born in America or because the British realised that further executions would be a mistake; as others were executed later.
The only reasonable explanation, Turi claims, is that Dev was “turned”. In all, Turi sets forth a dozen instances of what he calls “de Valera’s machinations that aided and abetted British interests” to support this claim.
Some of this ‘evidence’ concerns Dev’s activities in the US after he was released from prison — which split the powerful Irish-American lobby.
Turi also says the British feared what Michael Collins might do in the North and used de Valera to engineer the situation that resulted in Collins’s death.
Turi also calls Irish neutrality during the World War II “a hoax on the Irish people and a major boon for English interests”.
His book, which ends with a call for a posthumous trial of de Valera, will be published in Ireland and Britain on November 30 and in the US next year.
– John Spain Books Editor