You are currently browsing the monthly archive for March 2010.
Wednesday, 31 March 2010
First Minister Peter Robinson is facing increasing pressure to explain why he failed to declare land on the House of Commons register he bought for £5 from a property developer friend.
Last night it emerged the DUP leader had bought the strip of access land from the late property tycoon Fred Fraser for just £5 in 2005, then subsequently sold it for the same price to another developer some 18 months later.
The deal allowed Mr Robinson and his wife Iris to sell part of their back garden for almost £460,000. But he never included the strip, located 50 metres from the back garden of their Gransha Road home, on the Westminster register. The land was the gateway to a proposed housing scheme which included their garden. He is also under pressure to explain why he did not declare a potential conflict of interest when the planning application for the scheme went before Castlereagh Borough Council for consideration.
In a statement the DUP defended its leader saying the sale of the strip to Bloomfield Developments was not essential for access to the housing scheme in east Belfast.
The party said there were no tax implications for the First Minister and his wife because the couple did not profit from the sale.
“The sliver of land was bought for £5 and sold for £5, a fact that has never been hidden, and Mr Robinson derived no financial benefit whatsoever from the transaction. There were a number of other access possibilities and the sliver of land was not essential for access,” the statement said.
According to the BBC, a professional valuation carried out on its behalf put the strip’s value at around £75,000 when the Robinsons obtained it, and at least £220,000 when they sold it. While they made no profit, the BBC said tax experts believed Customs and Revenue could use market values on the sale instead of the £5 they bought it and sold it for.
This, the BBC claimed, potentially exposes the Robinsons to a tax bill of thousands of pounds.
But the party accused the media of conducting a “smear campaign” against its leader.
“It is difficult to escape the conclusion that this is yet another example of the ongoing BBC smear campaign against DUP leader Peter Robinson. In January they made groundless allegations against him in the Spotlight Programme and now they seek to smear him further by innuendo and inference,” the statement said.
Earlier this year revelations about Mrs Robinson’s business dealings on behalf of her toyboy lover led to Mr Robinson temporarily stepping aside as First Minister. His wife, the former Strangford MP, was forced to quit the seat and her party after she failed to declare her financial interest in a £50,000 loan she helped secure for her lover Kirk McCambley.
Fred Fraser was one of two developers who provided the then teenager with £25,000 to help him set up a cafe in south Belfast.
Mrs Robinson, who attempted suicide when her husband discovered the affair and is in acute psychiatric care, did not declare her interest to ex-colleagues on Castlereagh council, who awarded the cafe contract to Mr McCambley. She is currently the subject of a police investigation.
30 March 2010
Details have been announced for the various republican commemoration events to mark the anniversary of the Easter Rising.
There will be four events in total over the Easter weekend as each republican group stages its event.
The IRSP will hold a wreath-laying ceremony at the republican socialist plot in the City Cemetery on Saturday at 2pm.
Republican Sinn Féin will hold its commemoration at 12noon on Sunday in the republican plot at the City Cemetery.
The Republican Network for Unity will hold its Easter Rising commemoration, which is being organised by the Derry Independent Republican Graves Association, on Sunday at 12.30pm with a march from the Creggan Shops to the republican monument in the City Cemetery.
The main commemoration march, organised by Sinn Féin, will take place on Sunday afternoon at 2.30pm.
It will assemble at the bottom of Westland Street and make its way to the republican plot in the City Cemetery, where Foyle Sinn Féin MLA Martina Anderson will deliver the main oration.
The 32 County Sovereignty Movement will hold its commemoration the following day on Easter Monday at 2pm.
Those wishing to attend are asked to gather at the cemetery gates for a short march to the republican monument.
30 March 2010
Republican Action Against Drugs (RAAD) have claimed responsibility for two weekend pipe bomb attacks on vehicles in the Creggan area.
The group said it left two devices in vehicles in High Park and Carrickreagh Gardens, Creggan, on Sunday night. One of the devices which was left in a van parked at High Park exploded around 10.30pm, setting fire to the vehicle. It is thought the device in Carrickreagh Gardens exploded a short time later.
Claiming responsibility for the attacks, RAAD said; “This should be seen as a final warning.”
The attack was condemned by Creggan Sinn Féin Councillor Kevin Campbell who said: “This was detonated in a built-up area and could have caused serious injury to anyone in the vicinity of the blast at that time,” he said.
Colr. Campbell also appealed to those responsible for the attack, saying; “These type of attacks need to stop.”
A spokesperson for the PSNI said; “Police attended a report of a van on fire in the High Park area around 10.30pm on Sunday 28th. Inquiries suggest that a pipe bomb type device may have been thrown into the vehicle. Anyone who saw suspicious activity in the area last night is asked to contact detectives at Strand Road on 0845 600 8000.
Alternatively information can be passed on anonymously through the ‘Crimestoppers’ charity on freephone 0800 555 111.”
Meanwhile, RAAD also claimed responsibility for leaving a bomb outside a so-called ‘head shop’ in Letterkenny on Sunday night. The device was later made safe by explosive experts from the Irish Defence Forces. The vigilante group said its “Donegal unit” left a “timed device” outside the shop. “This is the owner’s first and only warning,” the group said.
RAAD also said its members fired a shot at a house in Dungiven. They added that they “arrested” a person in the town who later “gave an undertaking to cease his activity immediately.”
30 March 2010
With the long-awaited Saville Report nearing publication, it is important to remember the real stories behind the victims of Bloody Sunday.
Each of those who died on January 30, 1972, had busy lives, girlfriends, hobbies and families whose lives were torn apart forever by Bloody Sunday.
In this feature – a touching portrait of the victims’ lives before that tragic day – we are introduced to a photographer, a golfer, a student, a prankster, and ten other boys and men who we learn are very much like our own fathers, sons, brothers and friends.
You can pause each photo by clicking on the pause/stop button on the bottom left corner of the time bar
The chief constable, Matt Baggott, has said he will be seeking extra resources from Stormont to enable the Historical Enquiries Team to progress its work.
Mr Baggott said he wanted to extend the life of HET in order to tackle the volume of cases.
“My ambition is to keep it going for another three years because that’s what victims want and are entitled to.
“I will be looking to ensure we can sustain this, which will be an issue for the devolved administration.”
However a Victims’ Commissioner has criticised the chief constable over plans to disband the HET.
But Mr Baggott said a line has to be drawn under the work of the HET within the next three years.
Victims’ Commissioner Patricia MacBride said that is unacceptable and she is now seeking a meeting with the chief constable.
SDLP MLA Alex Attwood has also criticised the move, but the DUP’s Ian Paisley Junior has supported it.
Ms MacBride said her “biggest concern” was Mr Baggott’s statement that it was hoped to have resolved “as far as we can” the outstanding investigations.
“So does that mean after three years we are just going to stop and whatever hasn’t been done won’t be done?” she said.
“The first thing I did, when I got into my office, was to contact the chief constable’s office and request an urgent meeting.”
The specialist police team was set up in 2005 to re-examine 3,269 murders from the Troubles.
It was estimated that the team would need six years to complete the task. However, work has yet to begin on more than 1,300 cases.
Professor Monica McWilliams of the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission said there should be no “artificial deadline” imposed on the process of investigations “which would be unfair to the families of the victims and would reduce the standard of protection for human rights”.
Mr Attwood, who was a member of the policing board when the HET was established, said he was surprised the chief constable had made the announcement without consulting the board.
“I think on an issue like dealing with the past, given the sensitivity, given the very good work that the UUP and DUP did with the SDLP and the police in bringing about the formation of the HET, I think there was a better way for this sort of announcement to be made,” he said.
Mr Attwood also voiced concern that the team’s work could be completed within three years and objected to an “arbitrary time frame” being established to deal with issues of the past.
Board member Ian Paisley Junior, said the chief constable had an operational requirement to manage the police services and the board had an operational responsibility to “hold him to account, not to tell him what to do”.
“He is setting a target which is in line with what the policing board asked him to do which is to clear historical cases by 2013,” he said.
“So I really don’t know what all the excitement is about, because the chief constable has been told that money is not infinite, it is finite.”
Mr Baggott said there had to be a point when a line was drawn under historic investigations so police could focus resources on the present and future.
Last year, one of the team’s highest profile case files, involving allegations of collusion between a loyalist murder gang and the police in north Belfast, was expanded and moved back under the remit of the PSNI.
In an interview with the Press Association, Mr Baggott responded to criticism from victims’ relatives who were unhappy with PSNI detectives investigating cases involving alleged collusion.
He said the move was necessary to cope with the scale of the operation and that the various oversight bodies would ensure impartiality.
“I am full of praise for the Historical Enquiries Team and quite understand the concerns of victims that they want to see success, and so do I,” he said.
“But the best place to do that now is to move some of these complex investigations back into the remit of the PSNI with the right oversight.”
By Adrian Rutherford and Steven McCaffery
Tuesday, 30 March 2010
Gerry Adams last night denied allegations that he was involved in the murder of Jean McConville as pressure continued to mount on the Sinn Fein president.
Mr Adams again insisted he had never been a member of the IRA, claiming the renewed accusations had been made by disgruntled republicans opposed to his party’s peace strategy.
It followed claims from the late republican Brendan ‘Darkie’ Hughes that Mr Adams was the IRA chief who ordered the 1972 execution of Mrs McConville, a mother-of-10 from west Belfast.
Mr Hughes claimed he never carried out a major operation without a nod from Mr Adams.
But the Sinn Fein leader has strongly denied the claims, which are carried in a book by veteran journalist Ed Moloney.
“I reject absolutely any accusation that I had any hand or part in the killing and disappearing of Jean McConville or in any of the other allegations,” Mr Adams said in a statement.
Mrs McConville was one of nine people abducted and secretly buried by the IRA in the 1970s. Four have never been recovered.
“The issue of the disappeared is a terrible legacy of the conflict,” Mr Adams added.
“A grievous wrong has been done to these families. Republicans working with the Commission (to locate the bodies of the Disappeared) have being trying to right this wrong for some years.
“The proposal to do this was initiated by me after I was approached by some of the families involved.”
Mr Adams said the allegations could be traced back to republicans opposed to Sinn Fein’s peace strategy.
“I knew Brendan Hughes well,” he added. “He wasn’t well and hadn’t been for a very long time, including during the time he did these interviews.
“He also carried with him an enormous sense of guilt over events surrounding the first (IRA) hunger strike. However, that is no excuse for his involvement in this book. Brendan also opposed the IRA cessations and the peace process. That was his right.
“The fact is that the decisions taken collectively by republicans in recent years have improved the quality of life for people across this island, have ensured the growth of republican politics and created a new and dynamic context in which republicans have the potential to achieve our primary goal of Irish reunification and independence.
“Brendan could and should have been part of this. For a mixture of reasons he wasn’t.”
But Mr Adams, while denying membership of the IRA, added: “I reject any suggestion that I have ever sought to distance myself from the IRA.”
Tuesday, 30 March 2010
First Minister Peter Robinson faces a major expenses blow after it was announced that MPs are to be barred from claiming expenses for second homes and will be limited to employing no more than one family member.
The move will affect Mr Robinson, whose second home in London is paid for by the taxpayer.
Mr Robinson has also employed his daughter, Rebekah, as his office manager and private secretary, while his son, Gareth, is his parliamentary assistant.
The new expenses scheme for the House of Commons drawn up by the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (Ipsa) will come into effect immediately after the general election and will allow MPs only to claim for rented accommodation.
MPs will not be eligible for accommodation expenses if any part of their constituency is within 20 miles of Westminster or inside a 60-minute commute by public transport.
In a a tersely-worded email to a member of the public defending his expenses claims last May, Mr Robinson said: “I make no apology for employing my own family and those who are the family of friends.
“I have been an elected representative for more than 30 years and have worked through the conflict that our society has faced. Those who work in my office know where I am and when I will attend meetings and events. I am not prepared to employ by open competition.
“My life depends on those who I have around me but, even if it were not so, there are distinct advantages in employing those who are completely loyal and in tune with the position I adopt.”
Launching the new system in Westminster yesterday, Ipsa chairman Sir Ian Kennedy said the maximum MPs will be allowed to claim for accommodation and constituency office costs each year will be cut from £56,915 to £40,957 for MPs outside the London area and from £40,192 to £26,915 for those in and around the capital.
Sir Ian said: “The new system is fair, workable and transparent. It will enable MPs to carry out the job we ask them to do and will provide reassurance and value for money to the tax-paying public.
“No longer will MPs benefit from a slack allowances system. This system brings MPs’ expenses into line with those in most other areas of life.
“Expenses will be reimbursed only for legitimate costs, backed up by receipts.”
28 March 2010
The first time he set eyes on Gerry Adams, Brendan Hughes was impressed. It was 1970 and Adams was at the corner of a street in west Belfast directing rioters. “He certainly stuck out as a leader because he was able to control and direct,” Hughes recalled. “I can’t remember if he threw anything, but he certainly directed everybody else to do it.”
A few weeks later, Hughes and an IRA team were walking up the Falls Road into Ballymurphy to give armed back-up to rioters. “But Gerry directed us to this house and ordered us not to leave it,” Hughes said. “So we sat there all night… busting to get into the action, to shoot British soldiers. Gerry wanted to keep the rioting going. He didn’t want any gunfire.”
Gerry Adams and Brendan Hughes
Together, in the Belfast of 1970-3, they made a formidable team. Different in key ways, Adams and Hughes dovetailed perfectly, the product of their partnership being death and destruction. Adams was the strategist and thinker, Hughes the man of action and organiser. If Adams was the one who knew how to make the best snowballs, Hughes was better at throwing them.
The partnership deepened when both were imprisoned in Long Kesh, strengthened by their joint detestation of an IRA leadership they viewed as naive and dishonestly defeatist. “I shared a cubicle with him,” Hughes recalled, “when I was reading Che Guevara and Fidel Castro speeches, he was saying his rosary.”
Nightly they conspired to confound their common enemies, and they were intimate enough that Hughes was let in on the secret meaning of the “Brownie” byline that Adams used to promote his subversive views in An Phoblacht, the republican newspaper. Their break came when the time arrived for compromise. Hughes was affected as much by how it was all done as what was done: the deliberate running down of the IRA, the tolerance of informers and corruption, the lies, stealth and deception that he detected and, most of all, Adams’s denial of IRA membership.
The Sinn Fein leader’s refusal to acknowledge his IRA history was, in Hughes’s mind, the ultimate disavowal of their friendship. In 2001 and 2002 he gave a series of interviews to a researcher at Boston College putting the record straight. Hughes doesn’t give that as the reason for breaking the IRA’s rule of omerta, but it is clear that it was never far from his mind, a metaphor that conjoined personal and political betrayal.
IT WAS his swarthy looks that led to British troops coining his nickname, The Dark. But for years they had no photographs of him, just an idea of what he looked like.
“When I went on the run in 1970, my father destroyed every photograph of me in the house, so any time the British army raided, which was often, there were none to be found,” he said. During a stint in the merchant navy, Hughes never got a tattoo, again on his father’s advice. “It was a common thing for seamen to have tattoos and many a time I sat in a tattooist’s in Europe or the Far East, with other people, [but] I never ever got one because I always remembered my father telling me ‘it’s an identifiable mark’, and this was long before I went on the run. He must have had a premonition.” On joining the IRA’s D Company in Belfast at the outbreak of the Troubles, Hughes was soon in the thick of it. In June 1970, an army helicopter announced over loudhailers that the Lower Falls Road was under curfew and anyone found on the streets would be shot.
“There was 11 of us at that time in D Company and we were told that we were going to break the curfew,” Hughes recalled. “We made our way to Cyprus Street and split into two groups. But before we got to the top, the British had moved into the area and opened up. We took cover in houses and continued to fire at the British who were in the corner of Varna Gap. The gun battle lasted five, maybe six, minutes.”
Finding himself out of ammunition, Hughes took shelter in a house. It turned out that the owner was Giuseppe Conlon, whose son Gerry was later wrongly convicted for bombing Guildford. The reason he and Paul Hill, another member of the Guildford Four, were in England in the first place was because they had been run out of Belfast by Hughes.
“Conlon and Paul Hill were two young criminals,” he claimed. “It was actually me who ordered them out of the country. Both had spent a short time in Fianna Eireann, the young IRA. But when they were put out [of the Fianna], they were breaking into people’s houses, breaking their meters open and stealing the money. They were both ordered out or they would be shot.”
Giuseppe Conlon was not a republican, although years later, in Britain visiting his son, he was arrested and convicted of bomb-making. He died in prison in 1980 before his name was cleared. “The man was not involved in anything. But the night of the curfew, 99% of the people on the Falls Road would have been sympathetic to us,” Hughes said. “The whole area had been saturated by British troops; they began to kick in doors.”
The IRA leader had two hand grenades and asked Conlon where he could hide them. “Giuseppe brought me out to the back and I hid the two blast bombs on the roof of his shed, came back in and we sat down. We worked out a plan and this is ironic. Giuseppe would claim to be my father and I would be Gerry Conlon. That was in the event of the Brits coming in. So, I took my coat off, washed my hands, cleaned up a bit and Giuseppe made tea.
“There was this eerie silence; the only noise was a helicopter hovering overhead. Then we heard the doors getting kicked in. I was just sitting waiting my turn. Fortunately it didn’t come. We sat up the whole night, myself and Giuseppe, waiting.” Three days they waited until finally they heard the sound of people shouting, “The curfew’s over, come out, the curfew’s over.”
THE IRA has admitted killing nine people and burying them in secret graves between 1972 and 1978. The disappearances started not long after Adams was released from Long Kesh internment camp and around the time that he became the Belfast brigade commander. Most of those killed in Ireland were allegedly spies or informers working for the British.
Hughes was a witness and participant in some of the events that led to these disappearances, and in his interviews with Boston College, he confirmed that a special unit, several of whose members were active in the bombing campaign in Britain, took some victims to their deaths, and that the unit was established by and, ultimately, responsible to Adams. “They were always Gerry’s squad — I had no control,” he claimed.
Hughes says the IRA has been lying about how many people were disappeared. One of the names omitted from a list given to the authorities was the first person killed in this way. An IRA member, like most of the disappeared, his “crime” was not treachery, but the attempted murder of an IRA colleague for reasons of love or lust.
Joe Linskey was a senior figure, the Belfast brigade’s intelligence officer. He had been conducting a lengthy affair with the wife of an IRA colleague and apparently decided that only her husband’s death could ensure the survival of the liaison. One evening in June 1972, the cuckolded husband answered a knock at his door and was shot in the doorway as he held a child in his arms. Probably because of that, the shot was poorly aimed and not fatal. Linskey was court-martialled and vanished.
The disappearance of Jean McConville has assumed a dark status because of her wretched circumstances. She was a widow struggling to bring up 10 children, the oldest a hospitalised daughter of 20 who died not long after her mother’s disappearance, and the youngest six-year-old twin boys. She was a Protestant who had married a Catholic ex-soldier, converted to his religion, lived in east Belfast until loyalists intimidated the family out of their home and ended up in Divis Flats, perhaps the most squalid and dangerous public-housing estate in Europe at the time.
One night, some time between the last two days of November 1972 and December 7, masked men and women took her away from her flat, delivered her to a crowd of up to 20 people, who were armed and wearing balaclavas, and she vanished. Her surviving nine children were separated and six were admitted to care.
In August 2003, a walker discovered McConville’s remains on Shelling Hill beach in Co Louth, some distance from the spot identified by the IRA. A storm the previous spring had washed away part of a car park and roadway constructed on top of her unmarked grave. Eventually erosion exposed her body. An autopsy established that she had been killed by a single gunshot fired into the back of her head. Hughes said he handled McConville’s initial questioning by the IRA and took the first decisions on how to deal with her case. When the IRA was told that McConville had a radio transmitter, they searched her flat and discovered it. “I sent… a squad over to the house to check it out and there was a transmitter,” Hughes claimed. “We arrested her, interrogated her, and she told [us] what she was doing.”
Hughes says he confiscated the transmitter — given to her by an army handler — and that McConville admitted working for the army. Because she was a woman, she was set free with a warning not to do it again.
“A few weeks later, I’m not sure again how the information came about, another transmitter was put into her house,” he said. “She was still co-operating with the British; getting paid to pass on information. The special squad was brought into operation then. She was arrested again and taken away.” On the vexed questions of who decided to disappear her and why, Hughes alleges there was a dispute between Adams and his deputy, Ivor Bell, about whether to hide her body or to leave it in a public place, with Adams advocating her disappearance. The reason for hiding her body, he said, was because she was a woman. Adams prevailed and, Hughes alleged, gave the order for her to be taken away and buried.
It is evident that Hughes decided to makes these claims because of his anger at Adams’s efforts to distance himself from the IRA and various decisions that caused the loss of human life.
“I knew she was being executed. I didn’t know she was going to be buried… or ‘disappeared’ as they call it now,” he said. “I know one particular person on the Belfast brigade at the time, Ivor [Bell], argued for [her] to be shot, yes, but to be left on the street. Because to take her away and bury her would serve no purpose, people wouldn’t know.
“Looking back on it now, what happened to her… was wrong. I mean, she deserved to be executed, because she was an informer and she put other people’s lives at risk. There was only one man who gave the order for that woman to be executed. That man is now the head of Sinn Fein… I did not give the order to execute that woman — he did…”
ON Sunday, 3 June 1973, IRA internees housed in Cage 5 of Long Kesh made a gruesome discovery: from a wall heater in a room used for recreation hung the lifeless body of one of their comrades, Patrick Crawford, 22, from west Belfast, known to everyone as Paddy Joe. His death was regarded then, and ever since, as a suicide, with the prison authorities making a speedy assertion that “foul play was not suspected”.
That Sunday, IRA internees had taken part in a march and parade to commemorate comrades who had been killed in the Troubles, and so the huts in Cage 5 had seemingly been emptied of their occupants at the time of Crawford’s death. When the parade ended, Crawford’s body was discovered by other internees, or at least that is what the story was.
Crawford was an orphan, brought up by nuns in Nazareth House in south Belfast after being abandoned by his mother. By the time of his death Crawford was, his autopsy report said, of “strong, muscular build”, 6ft tall and healthy. He was wear-ing a blue T-shirt, a green V-necked pullover and a pair of denims, in the back pocket of which was a plastic comb. A police inspector said that his body was hanging by a linen rope, apparently torn from a mattress cover lying on the floor nearby, fixed to an iron strut that was attached to the wall of the hut, 10ft from the floor. Directly underneath the strut were two plastic chairs with boot marks on one of them and nearby a steel locker lying on its side.
The police surmised that Crawford had placed one of the chairs on top of the locker and climbed up to secure the linen rope to the strut. In his interviews with Boston College, Hughes revealed that the IRA killed Crawford by hanging him, supposedly because he was working as an informer. Hughes was convinced that his only crime was to break during police interrogation. He believes that the order came into the jail from Adams, the IRA’s Belfast commander at the time.
“He broke during interrogation and then gave intelligence and information to his interrogators. He was then interned and he was put in Cage 5. He was executed by the IRA in the prison; he was hanged,” Hughes said. “And the order was given by Gerry Adams… I believed for a long time that it was Ivor [Bell], but it wasn’t.
“There was no purpose to it. The only reason that you execute someone is [to set] an example and a deterrent to others. To hang someone who broke and then deny it and say he hanged himself was brutal, brutal murder.”
He admitted not being present at the Belfast brigade staff meeting that discussed Crawford’s fate and had believed that Bell, Adams’s deputy, sent in the order. But when he discussed the matter with Bell some years later, Hughes says he was told that it was Adams who had issued it.
Former IRA members interviewed by the researcher Anthony McIntyre, who spoke on condition of anonymity, added disconcerting detail to the story of Crawford’s death. The hanging was accompanied by a macabre ceremonial: a black cloth was draped over the improvised steps from which young Crawford was pitched into eternity and his wrists were taped behind his back. Afterwards the cloth, a vital piece of evidence, was removed.
They also say that he went meekly to his death. Crawford was a strong young man and could have fought his executioners – and by so doing could have created enough forensic evidence to cast doubt on the suicide theory — but for reasons still unfathomable, he chose not to resist.
Four men helped to hang Crawford. One of them was Harry Burns, known as Big Harry to his friends, a prominent Belfast IRA man who was related by marriage to Adams. During the hanging a group of internees inadvertently burst into the hut and saw everything. Afterwards the word spread among other inmates. “Prisoners were simply told he had taken his own life. But people knew, although they did not talk,” one of the sources told McIntyre.
Gerry McCann was a fellow orphan and resident at the same time as Crawford in Nazareth. “Paddy Joe was one of the older boys and he would be like a protector for me,” he said. McCann had suspicions “from day one” that Paddy Joe had been killed in Long Kesh: “My gut feeling was that he had been taken out.”
Now the manager of a golf club in Belfast, in January 2008, McCann contacted Adams via the Sinn Fein website to ask for a meeting. On March 7, he and the Sinn Fein president met at the party’s offices on the Falls Road.
While Adams’s role in ordering Crawford’s killing is open to question, there seems little doubt that the Belfast brigade staff did play a central part. But McCann met a wall of denial. “The meeting was very cordial,” he recalled. “I gave him a working document with questions. Was Paddy Joe an IRA volunteer, which I knew he was? Adams said he wasn’t. I didn’t believe he took his own life and I told Gerry that. His reply was that under no circumstances was he killed by his own people.”
Adams told McCann that he wasn’t in Long Kesh at that time and had no personal experience of the event, but he would try to contact people who were and they might be able to tell him more. Nothing happened for five months. McCann contacted Sinn Fein to ask when Adams would deliver on his promise. After that he got a second meeting, this time with Bobby Storey, who was a 17-year-old internee in Cage 6, next door to Crawford’s, in June 1973. Storey denied any IRA hand in Crawford’s death. “Under no circumstances could this tragedy be attached to the movement or any inmates,” he said.
SINN FEIN’S entry into electoral politics after the 1981 hunger strikes was accompanied by persistent allegations from across the political spectrum that its impressive performance was due in no small measure to an extensive vote-stealing effort. Hughes has admitted he ran the personation campaign for Adams’s first re-election bid to the House of Commons in 1987 and did the same in the 1989 council poll, each time stealing “massive” numbers of votes. Adams held on to his Westminster seat and his success might well have been due to Hughes’s efforts, since the gap to his SDLP rival, Joe Hendron, was about 2,000 votes.
“I worked on the elections out of Connolly House [Sinn Fein’s offices]. I was the main person in charge of personation,” Hughes said. “I organised busloads, carloads; I’d a fleet of taxis at my disposal to bring people to the polling booths.
“I did this right after I got out of prison. I hear unionists complaining about it all the time; they’re right, it was massive. I was the impersonation master. I did it from my house, from Connolly House, from the Sinn Fein centre on the Falls Road. I had loads of dead people, babies’ names, babies who weren’t born, babies who were in the graveyard; they all voted. And that’s how we got to the position that we’re in now.”
Hughes likens this political work to getting 100 people to push a boat that is stuck in the sand, and then the boat sails off leaving the helpers on the beach. That was how he came to feel about Sinn Fein as he watched its electoral success and Adams become an international peacemaker.
“That’s the way I feel; the boat is away, sailing on the high seas. The poor people that launched [the boat are] left behind sitting in the muck and the dirt and the sand.”
In an ambush at Loughall in May 1987, eight members of the IRA were shot dead by the SAS. Hughes believed the operation proceeded without proper intelligence, organisation or training. “I remember arguing against operations [like this] going ahead,” he said. “I sat in a house in Donegal along with Martin McGuinness and the rest of the GHQ staff where they were planning this major upsurge in the campaign; we were going to go in and take over [British] army billets and so forth, major operations involving major weapons.
“[Colonel] Gaddafi had come on board. Shipments of weapons came in [from Libya], all the money was there. What was lacking was the training, but there was this sort of bullish attitude from people like McGuinness to push ahead with these operations. I argued against them. But this push seemed to be coming from the top; [from] army council people like Joe Cahill.”
Later, when he saw how the peace process unfolded, Hughes began to suspect that operations like Loughall might have been sabotage — set-ups by peacemakers in the republican movement to remove militant hardliners who might be obstacles to the compromises that lay ahead. “I suspect now because of the situation that we’re in, that there might have been intent as well, to bring about a disaster,” he said.
“It’s because I’m so suspicious of the people in positions of power now that [it] leads me to think that there’s a possibility there was collusion there. I don’t know — it may be fair, it may be unfair.”
He was also left with a lingering suspicion about the hunger strikes, that there was more to the republican agenda than just getting the prisoners’ five demands. “I believe that [there were] purely political reasons to keep the thing going,” said Hughes, who led the failed 1980 hunger strike. “I believe that was the reason why the leadership on the outside did not intervene, because of the street protests that were taking place, because of the political party that Sinn Fein was building. I think that was outside’s foremost priority.”
When Hughes agreed to take on the security-department brief in the 1980s, he unwittingly began a journey that was to end in disillusionment with the IRA and flight from Belfast. He suspected that a blind eye was being turned to corruption on the part of well-connected activists and that the republican leadership was not willing to do much about it. There was, he believed, no IRA member in Belfast that he could trust any more, so widespread was corruption within the organisation. When he tackled Adams about it, he was told he was paranoid.
After that he left Belfast for Dublin, and when eventually he returned to the city of his birth, he had cut all his ties to the Provisional IRA. “The people I had trusted with my life I couldn’t trust any more. Gerry Adams I couldn’t trust; I knew there were robberies taking place; I knew people were getting immunity from arrest; I knew there were touts; I knew there was corruption.
LAST RESPECTS: Sinn Fein councillor Fra McCann and party president Gerry Adams help carry the coffin of veteran republican Brendan Hughes from St Peter’s Cathedral in west Belfast yesterday. Mourners lined streets along the route taken by the cortege in the lower Falls area PICTURE: Hugh Russell
“[Adams’s response] was that there might be a wee bit of fiddling going on, but not [on] the sort of scale I was alleging.”
Hughes ended up deeply disillusioned, believing that the Provisional IRA was not led by its rank and file. “This is a movement led by the nose by a leadership that refuses to let go, and anyone who objects to it, anyone who has an alternative, is either ridiculed, degraded, shot or put out of the game altogether.”
More than anything else, he was disillusioned with Adams. “I find it so difficult to come to terms [with] the fact that this man has turned his back on everything that we ever did… I never carried out a major operation without the okay or the order from Gerry. And for him to sit in his plush office in Westminster or Stormont or wherever and deny it, I mean, it’s like Hitler denying that there was ever a Holocaust.
“I don’t know where it ends, once you get into [a] position where you start denying that you ever were what you were. It’s a lie and to continue telling lies and to deny his whole life…”
Extracted from Voices from the Grave — Two Men’s War in Ireland by Ed Moloney, to be published by Faber on March 31 at £14.99
The Sunday Times
March 28, 2010
Brendan “darkie” Hughes, a former commander of the IRA in Belfast, has claimed posthumously that Gerry Adams ordered the killing and burial of Jean McConville, the mother-of-10 shot dead by the IRA in 1972. He also suggested that Adams gave the order for the Provisional IRA to hang one of its own members in Long Kesh in June 1973 after the 22-year-old cracked under police questioning.
Hughes also boasted that he personally ran a personation campaign for Adams’s election as MP in west Belfast in 1987, and again in the council elections of 1989, stealing a “massive” number of votes.
The claims were made in a series of interviews Hughes gave to a researcher for Boston College in 2001 and 2002. He agreed to speak on condition that the material would not be published until after his death.
“I find it so difficult to come to terms [with] the fact that this man has turned his back on everything that we ever did,” Hughes said in an interview before he died in 2008.
“I never carried out a major [IRA] operation without the okay or the order from Gerry [Adams]. And for him to sit in his plush office in Westminster or Stormont or wherever and deny it, I mean it’s like Hitler denying that there was ever a Holocaust.”
Hughes’s interviews are contained in a new book, Voices From The Grave by journalist Ed Moloney, which is serialised exclusively in today’s Sunday Times.
Adams, the Sinn Fein president, has denied any involvement in the killing of McConville and being a member of the IRA. Asked last month if he was aware that the widowed Belfast woman was to be murdered and her body dumped, he said “No”.
Hughes revealed that he was deeply involved in the affair, one of the most high-profile killings of the Troubles. He said his unit found an army transmitter in McConville’s flat in Divis. Her family insists that the widow was not an informer, and that she was shot for going to the assistance of an injured soldier.
“She was an informer; she had a transmitter in her house. The British supplied the transmitter [to watch] the movements of IRA volunteers around Divis Flats at that time,” Hughes said. “I sent a squad over to the house to check it out and there was a transmitter. We retrieved [it], arrested her, took her away, interrogated her, and she told [us] what she was doing.”
Hughes said he wasn’t “on the scene at the time”, but insisted that his unit took possession of the transmitter and, because she was a woman, released McConville with a warning. He claimed that within a few weeks another army transmitter had been put in McConville’s flat.
“She was still co-operating with the British . . . getting paid by the British to pass on information. The squad was brought into operation then,” he said. “And she was arrested again and taken away.”
Hughes said he knew McConville was to be “executed” but didn’t know whether she was to be “disappeared” or her body left on the street. He claimed Ivor Bell, another IRA leader, argued for the body to be dumped in public, but was over-ruled.
“There was only one man who gave the order for that woman to be executed,” he said. “That man is now the head of Sinn Fein. I did not give the order to execute that woman — he did. And yet he went to see [McConville’s] kids to promise an investigation into her death.
“[Bell] argued, ‘if you are going to kill her, put her on the street. What’s the sense of killing her and burying her if no-one knows what she was killed for?’ ”
Asked if Adams had rejected this logic, Hughes replied: “He rejected it.” And ordered her to be disappeared, the interviewer asked. “To be buried. She was an informer.”
Hughes accused the Sinn Fein leader of getting into a position where he had to deny all of his IRA past. “It . . . appears that way,
Monday March 29 2010
Gerry Adams played a key role in the IRA, according to Brendan Hughes. In the interviews in his book, he provides a chronology of Mr Adams’s IRA career:
• Soon after the Troubles started in the autumn of 1969, Gerry Adams becomes leader of his local IRA group in Ballymurphy in Belfast. He organises the Ballymurphy riots, defying Billy McKee, then the IRA Belfast commander.
• Mr Adams becomes part of Belfast Brigade staff.
• Mr Adams is interned but then released to take part in ceasefire talks with the British.
• He becomes adjutant of the Belfast Brigade.
• He becomes Belfast Brigade commander.
• He forms IRA ‘Unknowns’ cell, responsible for the murder and removal of alleged informers — the so-called “disappeared” — including Jean McConville.
• London bombings are carried out by the Belfast Brigade of which Adams is commander. Both he and Mr Hughes are interned — Mr Hughes escapes from Long Kesh and becomes Belfast commander.
• Mr Adams is released from jail and eventually reappointed Belfast Brigade commander.
• He becomes Adjutant General of the IRA, joins the IRA army council and becomes IRA Chief of Staff.
• Martin McGuinness becomes Chief of Staff when Mr Adams is arrested. He is later released and becomes Adjutant General, second-in-command to Mr McGuinness.
29 March 2010
Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams has been accused in a new book of ordering the killing and burial of Belfast mother-of-10 Jean McConville in 1972.
The claims were made by a former IRA commander in Belfast, Brendan Hughes who died in 2008.
The allegations, which Mr Adams has always denied appear in journalist Ed Moloney’s book “Voices from the Grave”.
Jean McConville was abducted and murdered in 1972
A Sinn Fein spokesperson said the allegation was “not new” and that Mr Adams had consistently denied it.
“In the last years of his life Brendan Hughes was very ill and he publicly disagreed with the strategy being pursued by republicans,” the spokesman said.
“Other former republican activists involved in this project have a malign agenda and have been opposed to Sinn Fein’s peace strategy from the outset.”
But Mr Maloney said that what Brendan Hughes had done, in giving the interviews was to tell “the unvarnished truth” which was “unprecedented” for a former IRA commander.
The IRA has admitted killing and burying Jean McConville, whose body was only found in 2003.
Gerry Adams and Brendan Hughes were interned in the Maze
The allegations against Mr Adams, and others, were made in a series of interviews Mr Hughes gave to a researcher for Boston College in 2001 and 2002. He spoke on condition that the material would not be published until after his death.
Jean McConville, 37, lived with her children in Belfast in the early 1970s.
She was taken from her Divis home by IRA members after being accused of being an informer. She was interrogated, shot and secretly buried in County Louth in the Republic of Ireland.
Her family have rejected claims that she was an informer. In 2006 an investigation by Police Ombudsman Nuala O’Loan found no evidence that Mrs McConville had passed information to the security forces.
In the book, extracts of which were published in the Sunday Times, Mr Hughes said that an Army transmitter was removed from her flat by an IRA team.
23 March 2010
Foyle Sinn Féin MLA Raymond McCartney has encouraged local republicans to wear an Easter lily over the next few weeks.
Mr McCartney made his appeal at the launch of the annual Easter lily campaign by the Derry Republican Graves Association at the weekend.
The Foyle MLA was joined by his Assembly colleague Martina Anderson and members of Ógra Shinn Féin for the launch at the republican monument on Lecky Road.
“The Easter Lily is an emblem of unity between the different traditions within the nation as well as the heroism of those who sacrificed so much in 1916. Today in 2010 it symbolises the possibility of unity, equality and prosperity for all the peoples of the island,” he said.
Mr McCartney said lilies will be on sale over the next two weeks.
“I would encourage as many people as possible to wear the lily to remember with pride our friends and comrades who have given their lives in pursuit of our republican ideals and goals. The annual distribution of the lilies will take place over the next two weekends,” he said.
Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness will launch the campaign at Stormont later today. Speaking ahead of the launch, Mr McGuinness said; “I would call on people to honour Ireland’s dead this Easter season by wearing their Lily with pride.”
Meanwhile, Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams will be the main speaker at a public meeting in Derry next month. Announcing the event, Mr McCartney said; ”I can confirm that the meeting will take place in Derry in the next few weeks as part of the Sinn Féin leadership tour. The final details are still being worked out. It’s all part of our policy of engaging directly with the public.”
Please read this article if you use Facebook, and then go to your privacy settings and make sure you do not have ‘everyone’ checked off as a choice. The trouble with Facebook is that some of the settings are redundant, so you need to click on every link and review your permissions, including what your friends can share about you and the small link at the bottom of the page which brings up applications settings for notes, photos (again), videos and etc. There is just a maze of links, and unless you make them semi-private for just you and your friends, your personal information is not safe.
23 March 2010
Leading Derry dissident republican Gary Donnelly has ended his week-long hunger strike following his return to the republican wing in Maghaberry prison.
The 38 year-old, a prominent member of the 32 County Sovereignty Movement (32CSM), had been refusing food since Friday March 12th after he was moved from the republican wing in the prison and placed in isolation when he was told his life was under threat from the Real IRA.
The Derry republican ended his protest fast on Thursday night when he returned to the republican landing.
The 32CSM in Derry have said: “The events of the past week and Gary’s return to the wing smashes any illusion that may remain surrounding the bogus threats against republicans which we are convinced eminated from elements of British intelligence and their dirty tricks department.”
The spokesperson also said the situation inside the prison is still volatile. “Whilst we are relieved that Gary has been returned to his comrades we are increasingly mindful of the conditions of all republican prisoners which are becoming more and more intolerable by the day.
“Republican prisoners are routinely strip searched, have visits denied, and have been denied association and basic human rights. When challenged the British prison officials conveniently cite staff shortages as an excuse, however, there are no staff shortages when it comes to brutalising prisoners,” he said.
Republican sources have indicated that Donnelly’s return to the republican landing will not signal an end to the protests of prisoners in the jail.
23 March 2010
A Civil Rights veteran forced out of his Derry home by Friday’s Real IRA bomb hoaxes only hours after undergoing surgery, has branded those behind the security alerts as “pathetic”.
Despite undergoing surgery to remove a cataract on Thursday, Eamon Melaugh, a leading figure in the 1968 Civil Rights campaign, was among more than 40 residents forced to evacuate Alexander House during Friday morning’s bomb hoax at Bishop Street.
Speaking to the ‘Journal’ yesterday, the Civil Rights campaigner and leading charity worker, described the actions of those behind the bomb hoaxes as an “outrage.”
Both Alexander House’s independent living unit and the frail and elderly unit were evacuated by staff during the security alert. Residents were taken to Abbey House until being allowed to return to their home.
“These thugs forced some very vulnerable people out of their home, people who have done nothing to deserve this. What they did is an outrage, both callous and cruel in the extreme,” Mr Melaugh says.
“What these so called freedom fighters did to people here in Alexander House, to the frail and the elderly, really is pathetic. That they would stoop to forcing these people out of their home at that time of the morning is an indication of their warped mentality,” he said.
Mr Melaugh says the Real IRA’s actions were rooted in “futility”.
“I want to add my voice to the growing condemnation, even though it seems they are impervious to the pleas. We are coming up to an election, why don’t they test their message, why don’t they go before the people?” he said.
“I’m calling on people in the city to ostracise these people,” he added.
The Real IRA bomb hoaxes saw schools, medical centres and local businesses close for the entire day while areas around Strand Road, Madam’s Bank Road, Bishop Street and Craigavon Bridge were sealed off as army technical officers carried out a number of controlled explosions.
25 March 2010
Ireland’s leading UFO researcher says Derry’s ancient history may be behind the surge in sightings of mystery lights in the city’s skies.
Betty Meyler, President of the UFO Society of Ireland, says energy levels derived from megalithic sites around the city – such as the ancient burial fort at Grianan or the recently discovered souterrain close to Newbuildings – may be attracting the celestial objects to the city.
Are ancient sites like Grianan attracting strange phenomenon to the North West?
The ‘Journal’ has been inundated with accounts of strange phenomenon over Derry since first reporting a suspected meteor shower on March 6.
Over the past three weeks more and more people have come forward claiming to report two distinct phenomenon.
A number of reports centre around a cluster of lights described as bright orange/red in colour and moving in formation.
Other accounts describe a single traffic light red, noiseless light that moves at incredible speed and has the ability to shoot straight upwards and out of sight.
Ms Meyler says the mysterious lights are indeed UFOs.
She says Derry is not alone in experiencing an increase in UFO activity in recent weeks.
“I myself have had an upsurge of sightings in the south recently, and can give no logical explanation for it – except perhaps to say that people are looking upward more than they used to,” she told the ‘Journal’ this week.
She says remnants of Derry’s ancient past – the city is known to have been inhabited long before the founding of a monastery in the 6th century – may be the focus of the UFO activity.
“I would say that Derry would attract UFOs as it would be an area of very high energy given the number of megalithic sites and cathedrals etc that abound in the area,” she said.
But Gloria Heather Dixon, investigations coordinator for the British UFO Research Association ( BUFORA) believes the Derry sightings have a more down to earth explanation.
“I have no doubt whatsoever that a majority of these reports over Derry are Chinese sky lanterns. Descriptions that are given in the various accounts are most certainly absolutely indicative of these lanterns.
“They are the biggest culprit for sighting reports to BUFORA running at about 60% of all sighting reports to us,” she said.
25 March 2010
Wolfe Tones’ songwriter Brian Warfield has urged a Derry man to appeal a suspended prison sentence he received for playing the band’s music during an Orange Order parade – and said he will stand up in court in his defence.
Speaking to the ‘Journal’, Warfield said he has made contact with the man, who earlier this month was sentenced to three months in prison, suspended for 18 months, for playing the Wolfe Tones in his car while driving past supporters of a Twelfth parade in Derry last July.
Warfield says they will meet again prior to the band’s gig in Derry’s Millennium Forum next Thursday night.
“This sentence is an absolute disgrace. I first heard about it when I was in America and thought it was a joke,” the songwriter said.
“This young lad now has a criminal record that will keep him out of America and Australia. This is very serious and I have told him he needs to appeal. It is an absolute farce. There is a peace deal now, people need to see that there is justice. This is a bad signal of the justice system.
“I am totally appalled that this young man has been criminalised. For the judge to hand down this sentence and to have made the remarks he did shows he knows nothing about the Wolfe Tones.”
The Wolfe Tone said he is willing to back the Derry man in any way.
“I have told him of the serious implications and urged him to appeal. What he does next is up to him but we will support him in any way we can. I will stand up in court if needs be.”
He said there’s a long history of attempts to criminalise Irish music and the Derry man’s sentence has made the justice system here a ” laughing stock” in other parts of the world.
“Going back through the centuries there have been countless attempts to criminalise Irish music, but we believed and hoped things would be different in the 21st century. This should not be accepted. I spoke to politicians in America, to judges out there, and to them this has made the system the laughing stock of the world.”
The Wolfe Tones play the Millennium Forum in Derry on Thursday, April 1.
26 March 2010
The family of a Bloody Sunday victim say they have given up all hope of the truth into the 1972 massacre ever being acknowledged.
The family of William Nash (19) is furious that British Ministry of Defence (MoD) lawyers are allowed to see Lord Saville’s report before the families of the victims and wounded.
Kate Nash, a sister of the deceased, said: “Our hope of the truth emerging is completely gone as a result of this latest manoeuvre. National Security is a cloak to avoid awkward truths and to maintain secrecy.”
Not only was William Nash fatally wounded on Bloody Sunday but his father, Alex, was shot and wounded as he tried to make his way to his son’s body lying close to a rubble barricade across Rossville Street.
Kate Nash told the ‘Journal’: “After years of constant British Army threats and intimidation, following decades of campaigning, ten years of the tribunal, time away from our families when the Inquiry sat in London, we have now lost the hope which fuelled our campaign.”
Another sister Linda Nash added: “This is shaping up to be Widgery II. We don’t want or need another tainted document. We have lived with lies for the past 38 years and we are now preparing to die with them. These decisions have led us to consider walking away from the whole thing. Despite almost being at the end of the process, this decision calls into question the whole integrity of the Inquiry.”
“The families have fallen at the last hurdle,” added Kate. “While we remain united with all the victims, our family is hurt, angry and, once again, left feeling powerless with this latest decision. Alliance Party leader David Ford referred to this tribunal – which our family never asked for – as pointless; we now feel the last 12 years of our lives have been pointless.”
The family say they take particular issue with a letter sent by the Bloody Sunday Trust to NI Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Shaun Woodward, agreeing to the security review.
Linda Nash said: “We always objected to negotiating with Shaun Woodward on the release of the report. Our aims have always been the same – to exonerate those killed, to repudiate the allegations and to have those guilty of the murder prosecuted. We have been steadfast in what we want and we remain so.”
The Nash family wrote directly to Lord Saville expressing “deep concerns” about what they described as “side deals.” In their letter, they told Lord Saville: “We have never asked for anything more than a level playing field, our quest remains the same – truth and justice for the dead and wounded of Bloody Sunday.
“The family to speak for themselves or through their legal representatives only,” added Kate.
The Nash family is also angry that only one member of each family will be allowed to see the report before its publication.
Linda Roddy said: “Do we have to choose one person from a family of 12 to go to this ‘reading lock-in.’ We need to support each other. Who do we send in?”
Kate Nash added: “Do they fear mass hysteria when the report is published? Is this a way of trying to control that?”
The family also claimed that Foyle MP Mark Durkan has been removed from correspondence from the Secretary of State. “He is our MP, the only one who can raise questions in the House of Commons. What sense does it make to cut him out of the loop now?”
26 March 2010
Relatives of two IRA men shot dead by SAS soldiers are to go before the UK’s highest court as part of a legal battle over inquests into the killings.
Senior judges have granted leave for lawyers representing the families of Dessie Grew and Martin McCaughey to take their case to the Supreme Court.
Their decision has been described as a major development with “profound implications” for nearly 20 inquests.
Grew, 37, and McCaughey, 23, were gunned down near Loughgall in 1990.
It is believed the building at Lislasley, County Armagh, they were killed outside had been under surveillance. Three AK47 assault rifles were found nearby afterwards.
Legal papers in the judicial review application claim four soldiers fired 72 rounds at the two men, with autopsy reports showing Grew sustained 48 wounds while McCaughey was shot by 10 bullets.
Their deaths, part of a series of shootings which led to allegations of a shoot-to-kill policy by the security forces, are to be reinvestigated by detectives from the Historical Enquiries Team.
That new probe may not be completed until the end of 2010, raising concerns that the oldest outstanding inquest in Northern Ireland could be put back further.
Lawyers for the two IRA men’s families claimed the failure to hold a prompt inquest breached their right to life under European legislation.
They also contended that it flouted domestic law requirements for a tribunal to be set up to examine the deaths as soon as possible.
The case centred on an apparent conflict between a House of Lords ruling that the right to life has no retrospective powers prior to the Human Rights Act coming into effect in Britain in 2000, and an alternative decision of the European Court of Human Rights in a Slovenian case.
A High Court judge rejected one part of the families’ application by siding with the House of Lords interpretation.
However, dealing with the domestic law arguments, he granted leave to seek a judicial review due to the “inordinate delay” in holding an inquest.
Lawyers for the families appealed his ruling on the right to life point.
Judges in the Court of Appeal on Friday dismissed their challenge – a decision anticipated by the families’ legal representatives.
However, they were then granted leave to take the matter directly to the Supreme Court.
Solicitor Fearghal Shiels of Madden and Finucane, the firm representing the families, emphasised the importance of the outcome.
He said: “This is a highly significant development which may have profound implications not only for this inquest, but for other old inquests, numbering almost 20, where the death pre-dates the coming into force domestically of the European Convention on Human Rights.
“The Supreme Court will now have the opportunity to consider the proper legal framework within which these contentious inquests shall be conducted.”
By LAURIE GOODSTEIN
March 24, 2010
**Links and photos onsite
Top Vatican officials — including the future Pope Benedict XVI — did not defrock a priest who molested as many as 200 deaf boys, even though several American bishops repeatedly warned them that failure to act on the matter could embarrass the church, according to church files newly unearthed as part of a lawsuit.
The internal correspondence from bishops in Wisconsin directly to Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the future pope, shows that while church officials tussled over whether the priest should be dismissed, their highest priority was protecting the church from scandal.
The documents emerge as Pope Benedict is facing other accusations that he and direct subordinates often did not alert civilian authorities or discipline priests involved in sexual abuse when he served as an archbishop in Germany and as the Vatican’s chief doctrinal enforcer.
The Wisconsin case involved an American priest, the Rev. Lawrence C. Murphy, who worked at a renowned school for deaf children from 1950 to 1974. But it is only one of thousands of cases forwarded over decades by bishops to the Vatican office called the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, led from 1981 to 2005 by Cardinal Ratzinger. It is still the office that decides whether accused priests should be given full canonical trials and defrocked.
In 1996, Cardinal Ratzinger failed to respond to two letters about the case from Rembert G. Weakland, Milwaukee’s archbishop at the time. After eight months, the second in command at the doctrinal office, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, now the Vatican’s secretary of state, instructed the Wisconsin bishops to begin a secret canonical trial that could lead to Father Murphy’s dismissal.
But Cardinal Bertone halted the process after Father Murphy personally wrote to Cardinal Ratzinger protesting that he should not be put on trial because he had already repented and was in poor health and that the case was beyond the church’s own statute of limitations.
“I simply want to live out the time that I have left in the dignity of my priesthood,” Father Murphy wrote near the end of his life to Cardinal Ratzinger. “I ask your kind assistance in this matter.” The files contain no response from Cardinal Ratzinger.
The New York Times obtained the documents, which the church fought to keep secret, from Jeff Anderson and Mike Finnegan, the lawyers for five men who have brought four lawsuits against the Archdiocese of Milwaukee. The documents include letters between bishops and the Vatican, victims’ affidavits, the handwritten notes of an expert on sexual disorders who interviewed Father Murphy and minutes of a final meeting on the case at the Vatican.
Father Murphy not only was never tried or disciplined by the church’s own justice system, but also got a pass from the police and prosecutors who ignored reports from his victims, according to the documents and interviews with victims. Three successive archbishops in Wisconsin were told that Father Murphy was sexually abusing children, the documents show, but never reported it to criminal or civil authorities.
Instead of being disciplined, Father Murphy was quietly moved by Archbishop William E. Cousins of Milwaukee to the Diocese of Superior in northern Wisconsin in 1974, where he spent his last 24 years working freely with children in parishes, schools and, as one lawsuit charges, a juvenile detention center. He died in 1998, still a priest.
Even as the pope himself in a recent letter to Irish Catholics has emphasized the need to cooperate with civil justice in abuse cases, the correspondence seems to indicate that the Vatican’s insistence on secrecy has often impeded such cooperation. At the same time, the officials’ reluctance to defrock a sex abuser shows that on a doctrinal level, the Vatican has tended to view the matter in terms of sin and repentance more than crime and punishment.
The Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, was shown the documents and was asked to respond to questions about the case. He provided a statement saying that Father Murphy had certainly violated “particularly vulnerable” children and the law, and that it was a “tragic case.” But he pointed out that the Vatican was not forwarded the case until 1996, years after civil authorities had investigated the case and dropped it.
Father Lombardi emphasized that neither the Code of Canon Law nor the Vatican norms issued in 1962, which instruct bishops to conduct canonical investigations and trials in secret, prohibited church officials from reporting child abuse to civil authorities. He did not address why that had never happened in this case.
As to why Father Murphy was never defrocked, he said that “the Code of Canon Law does not envision automatic penalties.” He said that Father Murphy’s poor health and the lack of more recent accusations against him were factors in the decision.
The Vatican’s inaction is not unusual. Only 20 percent of the 3,000 accused priests whose cases went to the church’s doctrinal office between 2001 and 2010 were given full church trials, and only some of those were defrocked, according to a recent interview in an Italian newspaper with Msgr. Charles J. Scicluna, the chief internal prosecutor at that office. An additional 10 percent were defrocked immediately. Ten percent left voluntarily. But a majority — 60 percent — faced other “administrative and disciplinary provisions,” Monsignor Scicluna said, like being prohibited from celebrating Mass.
To many, Father Murphy appeared to be a saint: a hearing man gifted at communicating in American Sign Language and an effective fund-raiser for deaf causes. A priest of the Milwaukee Archdiocese, he started as a teacher at St. John’s School for the Deaf, in St. Francis, in 1950. He was promoted to run the school in 1963 even though students had disclosed to church officials in the 1950s that he was a predator.
Victims give similar accounts of Father Murphy’s pulling down their pants and touching them in his office, his car, his mother’s country house, on class excursions and fund-raising trips and in their dormitory beds at night. Arthur Budzinski said he was first molested when he went to Father Murphy for confession when he was about 12, in 1960.
“If he was a real mean guy, I would have stayed away,” said Mr. Budzinski, now 61, who worked for years as a journeyman printer. “But he was so friendly, and so nice and understanding. I knew he was wrong, but I couldn’t really believe it.”
Mr. Budzinski and a group of other deaf former students spent more than 30 years trying to raise the alarm, including passing out leaflets outside the Milwaukee cathedral. Mr. Budzinski’s friend Gary Smith said in an interview that Father Murphy molested him 50 or 60 times, starting at age 12. By the time he graduated from high school at St. John’s, Mr. Smith said, “I was a very, very angry man.”
In 1993, with complaints about Father Murphy landing on his desk, Archbishop Weakland hired a social worker specializing in treating sexual offenders to evaluate him. After four days of interviews, the social worker said that Father Murphy had admitted his acts, had probably molested about 200 boys and felt no remorse.
However, it was not until 1996 that Archbishop Weakland tried to have Father Murphy defrocked. The reason, he wrote to Cardinal Ratzinger, was to defuse the anger among the deaf and restore their trust in the church. He wrote that since he had become aware that “solicitation in the confessional might be part of the situation,” the case belonged at the doctrinal office.
With no response from Cardinal Ratzinger, Archbishop Weakland wrote a different Vatican office in March 1997 saying the matter was urgent because a lawyer was preparing to sue, the case could become public and “true scandal in the future seems very possible.”
Recently some bishops have argued that the 1962 norms dictating secret disciplinary procedures have long fallen out of use. But it is clear from these documents that in 1997, they were still in force.
But the effort to dismiss Father Murphy came to a sudden halt after the priest appealed to Cardinal Ratzinger for leniency.
In an interview, Archbishop Weakland said that he recalled a final meeting at the Vatican in May 1998 in which he failed to persuade Cardinal Bertone and other doctrinal officials to grant a canonical trial to defrock Father Murphy. (In 2002, Archbishop Weakland resigned after it became public that he had an affair with a man and used church money to pay him a settlement.)
Archbishop Weakland said this week in an interview, “The evidence was so complete, and so extensive that I thought he should be reduced to the lay state, and also that that would bring a certain amount of peace in the deaf community.”
Father Murphy died four months later at age 72 and was buried in his priestly vestments. Archbishop Weakland wrote a last letter to Cardinal Bertone explaining his regret that Father Murphy’s family had disobeyed the archbishop’s instructions that the funeral be small and private, and the coffin kept closed.
“In spite of these difficulties,” Archbishop Weakland wrote, “we are still hoping we can avoid undue publicity that would be negative toward the church.”
Rachel Donadio contributed reporting from Rome.