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29 April 2010
Hidden rivers flowing under Belfast’s streets will soon be heard above ground with the launch of a new arts project.
Resounding Rivers will draw attention to historically important Belfast rivers, which now flow underground.
The Farset river pictured here in 1830, is now buried underneath Belfast’s streets
Six city centre installations will be placed above or near to the rivers’ previous routes, and project the sound of water sources onto the streets.
Sonic artist Matt Green said this represents “the past flowing through the present”.
The sound projections will highlight the routes of the Blackstaff and Farset rivers, now constricted to large pipes running beneath Belfast, some big enough to take a bus.
The projections will also reveal the changed shape of the Lagan, which is still a prominent feature of the city, but used to be much wider.
Locations in Northern Ireland with similar water features to those previously found in Belfast were visited and recorded by the artist.
The installations will feature these recordings, revealing what the city’s buried rivers and waterways might once have sounded like.
‘Built over and hidden’
Mr Green, an artist based at the Sonic Arts Research Centre at Queen’s University Belfast, wants to draw attention to the role the rivers played in the development of Belfast.
The Blackstaff and the Farset historically determined much of the city’s layout.
Belfast grew up around the narrowest bridging point of the Farset river, where High Street is today.
The Farset provided a fresh water supply, and the Lagan and Blackstaff rivers provided access to water transport routes.
The artist said: “The names of our streets – Bank Street, Bridge Street, Skipper Street – allude to the importance of waterways in the development of the city.
“But today, they are culverted and diverted, built over and hidden, and in only a few places are we aware of the presence of water in the cityscape.”
Resounding Rivers will be launched on Thursday 6 May, and the six installations will remain at their city centre sites until 5 June.
By David Young
Thursday, 29 April 2010
The PSNI Chief Constable has said he regretted that his officers did not reach the scene of a car bomb before it exploded but refused to criticise the commanders who decided to hold back.
Residents in the south Armagh town of Newtownhamilton have accused the police of abandoning them last week when they failed to evacuate the area prior to the dissident republican blast, leaving local fire officers to clear nearby houses.
Last Thursday night’s car bomb detonated 50 minutes after a hospital received a telephone warning from the perpetrators — who also fired a volley of shots as they abandoned the vehicle.
Two people, including a woman in her 80s, sustained minor injuries.
Police, who didn’t arrive until 10 minutes after the bomb went off, held back amid fears of a secondary booby trap or gun attack.
In the wake of the incident, First Minister Peter Robinson expressed concern at the police response.
“The public expects the police to be there when there are difficulties that have to be faced,” said the DUP leader.
“Anybody who is living in Northern Ireland will want to take very seriously the experienced view of someone who is representing policemen on the ground.
“If the Chief Constable requires additional resources and he has not got them on the ground then there are other alternatives for back up that we can use.”
Chief Constable Matt Baggott said he understood local people’s concern but claimed there could have been further injuries or even fatalities if the police had rushed into a waiting trap.
“I have absolute sympathy with their reaction,” he said.
“A bomb went off and the police weren’t there and you can’t move away from that, so I have absolute sympathy.
“All I ask for is for some understanding of the huge dilemmas faced by local commanders which was if we rush in too early we may have a greater loss of life of police and public than if we take a measured approach to it.
“And they are the very, very real decisions they have to make in a very short space of time.
“They make those decisions day in day out. Clearly on this occasion it was regrettable that the police weren’t there.”
By Noel McAdam
Thursday, 29 April 2010
Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams has been warned that dissident terrorists are determined to kill him and other senior republicans.
After receiving his fifth formal notification from police in almost as many months, the outgoing West Belfast MP said the level of threat against him appeared to be increasing.
“They’re trying to kill us. I got notice just last week of the increased threat level against me,” he said yesterday.
“And I know that others in our leadership — from Martin McGuinness through to other representatives — are under very, very serious threat.”
The latest warning came less than a month after Northern Ireland Office Minister Paul Goggins disclosed the threat level against Adams is substantial, with an attack “a strong possibility”.
In January he was informed of a separate threat from the loyalist Orange Volunteers splinter group.
Mr Adams has said he takes all threats seriously but will not allow them to deter him from carrying out his work as an elected representative.
And he added yesterday: “The way to defeat them is by doing what we’re doing, is by challenging them, is by giving people a peaceful and democratic way forward, and is by seeking popular support for that.” The comments came as he also claimed increasing numbers of unionists privately view a united Ireland as “inevitable” — and many look forward to it. Launching his party’s election manifesto yesterday, Mr Adams admitted he had been unable to persuade a single unionist to publicly support the call for Irish unity.
But he added: “I could point to numerous unionists who privately believe Irish unity is inevitable and many unionists who are looking forward to that.”
Unionists, including the DUP, were now attending meetings of the north/south institutions regularly which was the best way of working towards unity, on a day to day basis, Mr Adams added.
Focusing on the core issue of the Northern Ireland election campaign in the last week — the prospect of spending cuts which the DUP warned could cost 2,000 jobs — Mr Adams appealed to all parties to form a united front to argue for an increase in the Government’s block grant to Northern Ireland.
Mr Adams said he had no preference between a Conservative or a Labour Government because “whoever is in power there does not govern in our interests”.
But he argued there has been “quite a significant shift”, with more people interested in the Assembly than in Westminster politics because “they have more say” over devolution.
By Linda Stewart
Thursday, 29 April 2010
This oak tree, which is situated in Belfast’s Belvoir Forest Park, is believed to be the oldest in Ireland
It’s lived through the Plantation of Ulster, the 1798 Rebellion and the loss of the Titanic.
And the oldest tree in Ireland is also a bit of a city slicker after making its home in Belvoir Forest in the heart of south Belfast.
Of course, when this oak was just a seedling in 1642 it was all countryside as far as the eye could see, apart from a small settlement in the marshy ford where the River Lagan met the River Farset.
The discovery that Belvoir Forest harbours some of the oldest documented oaks in Ireland was one of the landmark achievements of the long-running Forest of Belfast initiative which is due to be wound up towards the end of this year.
Eighteen years after the initiative was founded, Dr Ben Simon has taken voluntary redundancy and will oversee the final few projects before the Forest of Belfast bows out. He says the committee has agreed that the Forest of Belfast has now done all it can, especially as other organisations are now doing much of the same work.
The Forest of Belfast has seen the city landscape transformed into a greener, brighter place since the dark days of the Troubles, with 200,000 trees planted across parks, playing fields, streets, schools and factories and along roads and river verges.
“Nobody talked about biodiversity when I set up the job — now everybody is talking about it,” Dr Simon says.
“Tree planting has really transformed the look of the city and it’s been great to see all that energy going into tree planting. I drive along streets and see trees still flourishing and saying I planted that one and that one. It’s very rewarding. I hope the community groups we worked with feel they were making Belfast a more attractive place for people to live.
“As part of our work we did research. We discovered, during a survey of veteran trees at Belvoir, that it included some of the oldest trees identified anywhere in Ireland. The oldest dated back to 1642.
“These are native oaks that live right next to Belfast and they were the oldest trees anywhere in Ireland.”
Dr Simon says people started talking about improving the environment in Belfast in the 1970s, and by the 1980s, ground-breaking organisations, such as Conservation Volunteers Northern Ireland and Ulster Wildlife Trust, started creating greener spaces.
“The environmental movement had started up and we were about grabbing hold of that momentum and trying to co-ordinate the tree planting efforts across Belfast,” he said.
“At one time, street trees were the responsibility of the Belfast Corporation, which was in charge of the whole of Belfast — hospitals, school, roads, bins and so on, but after the Troubles started everything changed and a lot of the functions were taken over by other organisations.
“Street trees got totally forgotten about as you had Roads Service engineers who built bridges and laid tarmac and worried about the traffic flow but didn’t have any expertise or interest in trees.”
But that grassroots approach had tiny community groups across the city planting trees and caring for them as they matured, and the face of Belfast is completely different now as a result.
“If you do your shopping around the city centre, there are trees pretty much everywhere in the city centre now — also on the Shore Road, Antrim Road, Grosvenor Road, Falls Road and Shankill Road — all those major arterial routes,” Dr Simon said.
“They really do link up the parks and open spaces and create green corridors which is fantastic, particular at this time of year when the leaves all start to come out.
“They transform the city — it’s a fantastic job and it’s great whenever you get local communities involved.
“There’s a sense of ownership and people realise the trees belong to them and want to keep them and look after them into the future.”
The organisation’s formula of working with small community groups to improve local areas has been overtaken by a decline in the number of community groups, he said— one of the reasons why Forest of Belfast is folding.
“The action on the ground is decreasing but maybe that’s part of the process of creating a new future for Northern Ireland.”
What has happened in its lifetime
368 years ago: Tree seedling appears, one year after the 1641 Rebellion is quelled
219 years ago: Society of United Irishmen is formed
212 years ago: 1798 Rebellion took place
149 years ago: Harland & Wolff shipyard founded
122 years ago: Belfast granted city status by Queen Victoria
104 years ago: Belfast City Hall completed
101 years ago: RMS Titanic’s keel laid
96 years ago: Outbreak of First World War
78 years ago: Parliament Building at Stormont built
68 years ago: 200 German Luftwaffe bombers attack the city in the Belfast Blitz
41 years ago: The Troubles erupt with sectarian rioting in Belfast
12 years ago: Good Friday Agreement
David Sharrock, Ireland Correspondent
27 April 2010
The alleged former chief of staff of the Provisional IRA was remanded on bail yesterday over charges of tax evasion.
Thomas “Slab” Murphy appeared before Dublin’s Special Criminal Court over nine charges first brought against him almost two-and-a-half years ago.
Mr Murphy is taking legal action against the authorities in the Republic of Ireland because the charges he faces are to be dealt with by the non-jury Special Criminal Court.
The court usually deals with terrorism-related offences, but the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) has the discretion to decide if an ordinary court is inadequate to deal with a case.
Mr Murphy, who has already lost one legal challenge to the Special Criminal Court trial, is bringing a second High Court challenge over the case.
Tony McGillicuddy, the barrister for the 60-year-old farmer, told the court that progress had been made in the challenge as papers were served on the state on Monday.
Mr Justice Paul Butler, presiding, replied: “I wouldn’t call that progress.” But he granted an adjournment until July 30.
Mr Murphy, from Ballybinaby, Hackballscross, Co Louth, is also attempting to have the conditions of his bail altered, from having to sign on at a police station three times to twice a week.
The court said it would accept an affidavit from one of his independent sureties, who was not present in court because of ill health. The application was adjourned until Wednesday next week.
Tuesday, 27 April 2010
Religious division in Northern Ireland costs the average household £1,000 a year, the Alliance party has claimed.
The bill for duplicating the public services required to provide separately for Protestant and Catholic communities is in excess of a £1 billion per annum, according to party leader David Ford.
With cuts in UK public expenditure inevitable after the Westminster election, Mr Ford said Northern Ireland could no longer afford to waste money on perpetuating segregation.
Outlining his party`s manifesto in east Belfast, Stormont`s new Justice Minister conceded long-standing divisions could not be broken down instantly, but pledged that his party would prioritise the problem, focusing on shared housing initiatives and promoting integrated education.
“The key issues that Alliance has been emphasising, particularly in the face of what will almost certainly be some cuts in government expenditure across the UK whoever wins the election, is that we cannot sustain the costs associated with a divided society in Northern Ireland,” said Mr Ford.
“We have to deal with those, not that we can cure them instantly but if we don`t start addressing the cost of division we won`t use such funding as we do get from Westminster adequately and I don`t think any other party is seriously addressing that point.”
On top of the pledge to tackle sectarianism, Mr Ford set out a series of other key Alliance manifesto promises.
They include creating tens of thousands of jobs with the implementation of a ‘Green New Deal’ based on sustainability energy and renewables, pressing Whitehall for tax varying powers to be given to Stormont in order to cut the rate of business/corporation tax. and extending the national minimum wage to 16-year-olds.
The act formed a crucial part of the Northern Ireland peace deal. To tamper with it would be wrong and invite unnecessary discord
Comment is Free – The Guardian
Tuesday 27 April 2010
When political parties talk about the future of the Human Rights Act and a proposed United Kingdom bill of rights coupled with responsibilities, bemusement is perhaps the kindest way to describe the initial reaction of many people in the wake of the debate in Northern Ireland.
The decision to give domestic effect to the European convention on human rights took place over a decade ago. In Northern Ireland, the negotiators to the Good Friday agreement made sure that this was included. They even went to the trouble of having the government of the UK agree to incorporate the convention through an international treaty with the government of the Republic of Ireland on the basis of a quid pro quo. When some people claim in 2010 that the decision to give the convention domestic effect was the product of a so-called “chattering class”, they need to be reminded that the convention – and subsequently the Human Rights Act – were crucial parts of a peace accord.
The Good Friday agreement was subject to widespread public deliberation in Northern Ireland, with copies of the document sent to every household. This treaty, which included the proposed incorporation of the convention, was also widely debated and subsequently endorsed in the Republic of Ireland. Finally, the agreement was overwhelmingly agreed in Northern Ireland through a referendum under the watchful gaze of the international community: the same community that now lauds Northern Ireland as an exemplar of how violent conflict can be successfully resolved.
A decade after the discussion ended, with stable government restored in Northern Ireland, we are being invited to reconsider what the foundational document for protecting human rights in the United Kingdom ought to be and what it might include. Proposals to amend the Human Rights Act have created a sense of particular unease among those concerned to preserve and maintain the fragile constitutional balances that have been painstakingly put in place.
In Northern Ireland, the Human Rights Act has been accepted as a foundational document, and since 1998 the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission has been busy, not trying to get rid of it or replace it, but attempting to build upon it. The judiciary have been using the legislation effectively, developing a cohesive domestic jurisprudence. A large amount of public money has been spent on training both the legal profession in the application of the act, and the public authorities in compliance with the act.
The suggestion that, post-general election, an overhaul of the act is desirable defies logic, and the idea that we should throw in a vague and ill-defined discourse on responsibilities for good measure is puzzling. Add to this the notion that reopening a debate will somehow help us in defining British values, and what we are left with are more bitter and divisive clashes, not less. Let me explain why.
Before the recent arrival of the UK debate, if you had mentioned human rights at the Northern Ireland assembly you would probably have received an opinion, but not on the proposed repeal of the act. What you would have got instead was an opinion on our own homegrown proposals – a bill of rights for Northern Ireland, reflecting our particular circumstances, and supplementing the convention.
I realise this statement could, admittedly, appear to be parochialism run rampant or an example of the worst excesses of devolution. But it would be wrong to draw this conclusion. Northern Ireland has not suddenly become cut off from the rest of the United Kingdom. It is just that devolution, as is the case in Scotland and Wales, enables us to consider our own context. The context is one of both British and Irish nationalities, not the agenda of those advocating a reform of the act.
The Human Rights Act is central to the constitutional DNA of the UK. It underpins the devolution settlements while simultaneously elucidating the common values of the constituent nations. It also provides a necessary platform from which the sense of autonomy that devolution brings can be further built upon. The importance of this dual understanding cannot be overstated in a part of the UK where identity politics have often gone hand in hand with sectarian conflict.
For anyone who wishes to consider tampering with the act, a strong message must be sent out. Nowhere in the world has the repeal of existing human rights protections been a starting point for discussing a proposed bill of rights. The UK, particularly given its constitutional complexities, should not attempt to set such an unedifying precedent. The Human Rights Act 1998 must be defended and built upon as part of further progress in the promotion and protection of human rights within and across all jurisdictions. To do otherwise, from a Northern Ireland perspective, is to invite an unnecessary and unwelcome discord.
Three men have been arrested in Derry in connection with an assault in the city in July 2006.
Paul McCauley sustained permanent brain damage after he was beaten up by a mob at a barbecue in the Waterside area.
Doctors say his life expectancy is between 10 and 15 years. He is expected to remain in a vegetative state.
In April, the PSNI said they were going to review the investigation. Only one of the gang, 19-year-old Daryl Proctor, has ever been brought to justice.
On 16 July 2006, Paul McCauley was at a barbecue in Chapel Road in Derry. It was a farewell party for a friend who was heading off to teach abroad.
Paul was standing around a bonfire with two other friends, Mark Lynch and Gavin Mullin when they were attacked by a gang.
They were knocked to the ground and repeatedly kicked and stamped on. Part of Paul’s skull was crushed when his head was stamped on.
In 2009 Proctor pleaded guilty to grievous bodily harm with intent and was sentenced to 12 years in a young offenders centre.
POLICE have been left red faced after a key piece of evidence believed to be linked to the Newtownhamilton bomb disappeared.
The car thought to be used as a getaway car was found burnt out in Meigh on Thursday night.
However, unnamed individuals removed the car from the Ballintemple Road scene at about 7pm on Friday before police had a chance to examine it.
It was recovered by police 16 hours later in the Newry area on Saturday morning and it was confirmed yesterday (Monday) that forensic tests are ongoing on the vehicle.
POLICE justified the delay in responding to the abandoned vehicle by saying the car could have been a ‘lure’ to attack responding officers.
The incident bears the hallmarks of a similar case when a car, thought to be used by dissidents to flee Newry Courthouse after the car bomb in March, again disappeared. The burnt car vehicle lay on the roadside in Dromintee for two days before it went missing.
Police confirmed they are working to establish a link with the car to the Thursday’s bomb. The statement said concerns over a possible ambush meant “officers were unable to respond as fully or as quickly as they would have wished”.
It acknowledged the police operation was cautious given the severe threat levels: “Because the safety of officers and the public is a priority for the PSNI, some situations may have to be dealt with cautiously due to the significant threat from dissident republican criminals, who have shown their determination to kill officers. The public will understand that the primary target for dissident republicans is police officers.
“It is unfortunate these measures have to be considered but that is the reality of policing where a small minority of people are determined to bring us back to the dark days of the past.”
28 April 2010
FORMER BBC sports journalist Jerome Quinn has accused his former employer of trying to exclude GAA sports from an annual award.
He was sacked by the corporation last year in relation to postings he had made on an internet discussion board concerning his then manager Shane Glynn, sports editor of BBC Northern Ireland.
However, representing himself at an industrial tribunal yesterday, Mr Quinn strongly denied claims that he was linked to alleged online threats made to Mr Glynn and said his dismissal had been “wrong and out of all proportion” to an “error” he had committed.
He also told the tribunal that while organising the 2008 BBC Sports Personality of the Year Award, he had met with two of the four judges, David Seaton and Jackie Fullerton, as he had not been able to meet the other two at that time.
However, he claimed it was clear after the meeting that Mr Fullerton was not happy. While Mr Quinn favoured a Tyrone GAA player who later won many awards, he said it was “very clear the GAA should not have a chance of winning against a Ryder Cup player or an Olympic athlete” based on how the meeting had gone.
Ten minutes after the meeting he received an email from his line manager querying the make-up of the panel and asking when “we” would be meeting to choose the winner. He claimed that either this was “a remarkable coincidence” or that Mr Fullerton had contacted his manager about the matter.
Mr Quinn said that Mr Glynn asked to be added to the judging panel, replacing a long-time BBC producer of GAA sports, Margaret O’Hare.
“My initial reaction was Mr Fullerton and Mr Glynn were discussing this and felt if Ms O’Hare was not there, there was less chance of GAA winning,” Mr Quinn said.
“It looked like he was trying to remove her for this reason.”
Mr Quinn said he had been organising the panel for years with no queries and that his procedures were approved by colleagues in London and in line with regional policy.
He suggested adding Mr Glynn to the panel as well as Ms O’Hare, but said Mr Glynn insisted this would make the panel too unwieldy.
“He was trying to keep Ms O’Hare out and Jackie Fullerton in,” Mr Quinn said.
He then added that he had been advised by colleagues in London that he should not have met with two of the judges on their own at the start of the process, so he started to form a fresh panel.
Mr Quinn also said he had been given 101 rota shifts in 2008, which he argued was unusual in that he was jointly the most senior BBC sports broadcast journalist.
More junior reporters in the department were given little or no early morning shifts in comparison, he said.
Although he had been heavily involved in the BBC’s GAA coverage for 17 years, he said a management review had decided to take him away entirely from coverage of the sport, something which had not applied to any other reporter.
He had also been taken to account for using the term “in the north” in a radio bulletin, but he had emailed senior BBC manager Mike Edgar to assure him that he had not intended any political connotation with the term.
Mr Quinn said that Mr Glynn accused him of “using too much GAA” on a radio bulletin, when there had been breaking GAA stories. But Mr Quinn outlined several other bulletins from around the same period which were 95 per cent soccer, along with some rugby.
He added that Mr Glynn had “admitted he did not ever say to another reporter that there was too much soccer or rugby” in another bulletin.
He also referred to what he said was the first complaint Mr Glynn had made about him. It related to an internet discussion board on sport which Mr Quinn had been taking part in.
He said a photograph of Mr Glynn was posted followed by comments which Mr Glynn alleged were threatening.
Although his manager had claimed he was directly involved, Mr Quinn denied this strenuously.
And although it was not used as grounds for his dismissal, Mr Quinn felt this had unfairly coloured the preliminary investigation against him.
28 April 2010
THERE are fears over the potential for violent clashes in Belfast this weekend after it emerged that a republican hunger strike march will parade along a main shopping street and past the lower Shankill.
Hundreds of republicans and five flute bands are expected to take to the streets of the city centre for the parade, which has been entitled “The Commemoration for Ireland’s 22 Dead Hunger Strikers”.
It will start at 2pm on Sunday at the University of Ulster building on York Street and travel along Donegall Street, Royal Avenue – past the point where UDR soldiers James Cummings and Frederick Starret were killed by a remote control IRA bomb in February 1988, before passing the bottom of the Shankill Road on its way to Divis Street and the Falls Road.
The News Letter reported that the memorial wreaths, placed following an Orange parade, to the murdered UDR soldiers were vandalised last month.
Residents from Brown Square, off Peter’s Hill, whose homes the parade will pass, are planning to hold a protest.
The parade is seen by many residents as provocative as it will pass a spot where the first riots of the Troubles broke out in 1969.
The DUP have said they are meeting with the Parades Commission today to voice their disquiet over the parade.
West Belfast candidate William Humphrey, who will be part of the delegation, said there are “serious concerns” in the area.
“This parade has raised a lot of issues and we plan to raise these with the Parades Commission,” he said.
Shankill community worker Gerald Solinas said tensions have been raised in recent weeks, with rumours circulating around the area.
He claimed the group organising the parade are connected to dissident republicans.
“There are AK47s on the drums associated with dissident republicans walking past a church playing republican songs,” he told the News Letter.
“People in this Brown Square area have had some grief in the past from parades like this.”
But the Independent Hunger Strike Commemoration Committee, who are organising the march, have denied claims the event could raise tensions
and lead to violence.
A website for the group says it is made up of “former political prisoners, H Block activists, aligned and non-aligned republicans who wish to commemorate the 22 Irish republicans and socialists who gave their lives on hunger strike in the struggle for Irish freedom and independence in the 20th century”.
A spokesman said there will be no party political speeches or party banners/flags carried.
“Only black flags and photographs of the hunger strikers are to be carried,” he said.
“Our parade will be entirely peaceful.”
PSNI Chief Constable Matt Baggott may delay the phasing-out of its full-time reserve because of the escalation in the threat from dissident republicans.
More than 200 officers due to begin resettlement training in June could be asked to stay on for nine months.
Mr Baggott said in November he would press ahead with plans to phase out the full-time reserve by March 2011.
Part of the severance package included a nine-month resettlement training programme to help them find new jobs.
It is estimated that keeping the officers on would cost around £6m.
There are 100 officers currently taking part in that programme and the final 227 members of the reserve are due to join it in June to prepare them for losing their jobs in March next year.
It is understood the chief constable may ask them to defer their training for nine months and remain on duty until next March.
Sources said that postponing the phasing-out of the reserve is one of a number of options being considered to address the escalating dissident threat.
‘Change of gear’
The DUP’s Ian Paisley jnr said the chief constable had shown he could adapt to the security situation.
“Modern policing requires the chief of police and his top team to be flexible and they’ve shown flexibility in this,” he said.
“There’s been a change of gear by dissident republicans therefore there’s been a response and an ability to adapt to those changing circumstances.”
However, Sinn Fein’s Alex Maskey said the the reserve was not be kept on longer than envisaged.
“The full-time reserve are not being kept on any longer than what was previously agreed, so they will be gone, finished, part of the past by March 2011 and that’s good news,” he said.
“There is no delay as to when this element of the PSNI is actually wrapped up.”
The SDLP’s Alex Attwood also said people should appreciate that the move does not mean the full-time reserve is being retained indefinitely.
“There is a security situation and the response to that security situation isn’t ultimately going to be determined by whether the full-time reserve stays for another nine months or not,” he said.
“It will be determined by how many people across this island assist the Garda and and the PSNI with information in respect to what the dissidents are doing.”
Ulster Unionist Billy Armstong said his party had suggested the move to the chief constable towards the end of last year.
“If you lived in mid-Ulster, you would know that the dissident threat was at a high rate and he accepted that dissident (activity) was on the increase and this has come through, that the dissidents have increased their attacks in the last six months,” he said.
“With the high threat of dissidents we need men with expertise – full-time reserve men do have that expertise.”
The police ombudsman is to investigate claims by a west Belfast teenager that police had asked him to plant weapons on a neighbour’s property.
The man told the Irish News that while under arrest for shoplifting, officers said they would drop the charges if he monitored a number of people.
He also said they wanted him to join a dissident republican group and plant a gun and explosives.
Police Ombudsman Al Hutchinson said the claims must be investigated
The paper said he made the claims after being taken captive by dissidents.
The group calling itself Ogaigh na hEireann was identified by the paper as the dissident group.
It said he was abducted by the group over the weekend, before being freed on Monday after “admitting his covert activities”.
His story was reported in the paper on Tuesday.
The teenager said he was also asked by police to plant a gun in a car and Semtex explosives in a shed.
He told the paper police threatened to lay false criminal charges against him if he refused.
Police Ombudsman Al Hutchinson said: “The allegations made by this young man are that at several levels police attempted to pervert the course of justice.
“The police actions must be investigated fully.
“If people are to have confidence in the criminal justice system they must be assured that the police are not above the law,” he said.
Tuesday April 27 2010
Millions of pounds are being wasted because of the Northern Ireland Executive deadlock over education, the Assembly has heard.
The five governing education and library boards are still in place because Education Minister Caitriona Ruane is unable to gain cabinet consent for replacing them with one organisation.
The DUP is opposed to the Education and Skills Authority (ESA) because it is unhappy with the treatment of controlled schools, attended mostly by Protestant children.
Sinn Fein MLA Mitchel McLaughlin said: “I find the attitude to ESA to be inexplicable and unconscionable. Quite clearly the establishment of ESA would release many, many millions of pounds that can be used and is absolutely necessary in terms of the education sector.
“If there are issues it is not beyond the genius of the parties and the members in this house to find solutions – rather than look at problems we should be looking for solutions.”
The ESA was due to take over the functions of the education and library boards and other bodies like the Catholic Council for Maintained Schools (CCMS) on 1 January this year.
It is planned that ESA will be the future employer for all school staff.
The single body is to replace the five education and library boards in Northern Ireland and four other bodies including the Council for the Curriculum, Examinations and Assessment (CCEA) and the CCMS.
The chief officers of the boards have complained strongly to the Department of Education about the ongoing uncertainty. All employers have been told not to appoint new staff.
Mr McLaughlin added people complaining about the duplication of bodies should be helping the minister in replacing “wasteful” boards rather than obstructing her.
By Alan Murray
Wednesday, 28 April 2010
Justice Minister David Ford will not be able to authorise the secret monitoring of telephone conversations, the Belfast Telegraph can reveal.
Senior officials from the new Justice Department have confirmed that the Alliance Party leader will not have sight of applications to monitor phones or renew or review ongoing phonetapping operations in Northern Ireland.
The task will remain the sole responsibility of the Secretary of State or, in some instances, the Home Secretary or Justice Minister in London.
Despite speculation that Mr Ford would assume responsibility for the signing of warrants to monitor local telephones in the fight against terrorism, officials at his ministry said the practice of monitoring phones remained “a reserved matter”.
Date: April 27th, 2010
Author: Carl Reilly
Contact: Martin Óg Meehan – PRO
The REPUBLICAN NETWORK for UNITY (RNU) Belfast Chairperson, CARL REILLY has strongly criticised the use of a vulnerable teenager as a paid Informant by the RUC/PSNI in West Belfast.
“Once again the re-branded RUC has destroyed its carefully contrived façade of normal civil policing by manipulating a young person to become an Informer and spearhead a British dirty tricks campaign in an attempt to whip up anti-republican hysteria in Belfast.
Throughout the recent conflict the RUC and MI5 blackmailed scores of agents to undermine working-class communities and the Republican struggle. In this instance, Thomas Boyle has admitted the political Police demanded that he monitor and report the activities of named Belfast Republicans. He was also encouraged to plant explosives and a firearm at the behest of his handlers. Which begs the question just how many Republicans have been incarcerated as a result of ‘evidence’ planted?
This disturbing affair highlights the nefarious tactics used by Crown Forces to set up Irish Republicans for arrest, imprisonment or worse. These abuses perpetrated by the RUC/PSNI must be investigated by Human Rights Groups and Politicians.
Given the above revelations, the Republican Network for Unity ask the Nationalists and Republicans to re-examine their support for the re-branded RUC. As it is clear they are not capable of the changes many believed were possible.
RNU encourage anyone blackmailed or exploited by the RUC/PSNI or MI5 to contact a Priest, CRJ or us and seek help”.
Judicial Review of killing of Nora McCabe exposes lies and DPP failure to prosecute senior officers for perjury
Speaking after this morning’s judgement by the Belfast High Court Jim McCabe, the husband of Nora McCabe killed by a plastic bullet fired by an RUC patrol July 9th 1981, said;
‘The official account of the murder of Nora was that there was rioting at the time, that there were burning vehicles, barricades, and that the RUC patrol from which the fatal shot was fired was under attack from petrol bombers. This morning’s judgement has stated that this was not the case when Nora was shot.
‘We have always known that those responsible for Nora’s murder lied in order to cover-up their actions and seek some sort of warped justification for shooting Nora. Today that lie stands exposed and the record is set straight publicly lest there exist any doubt from any quarter.
‘In this regard myself and three children feel absolutely vindicated in initiating legal action which has been crucially important in determining this truth.
‘We have always believed that there should have been prosecutions concerning Nora’s murder and for all those RUC members who perjured themselves.
‘The failure of the then DPP, Alastair Fraser (now Sir Alastair Fraser) who oversaw the case, to prosecute those responsible for Nora’s murder has always been a source of great distress and upset to our family – effectively justice was denied and deliberate lies permitted to prevail for which he must be ultimately responsible.
‘The court stated that there was no doubt amongst DPP/PPS officers that there existed significant factual conflicts between the evidence of a number of police officers and the events as recorded by the Canadian film crew who were present at the time of the shooting.
‘The judgement clearly said that consideration should have been given to the offence of perjury. It is precisely because of this failure that no one person/s were charged with Nora’s murder.To have pursued those who perjured themselves was to open up the case to further scrutiny and thus lift the lid on what was obviously a cover-up involving senior RUC officers.
It is our considered view that a systemic cover-up took place across the RUC and then DPP concerning the murder of an innocent mother of three.
‘In terms of the ‘delay’ in taking the case we do not accept the reasoning of the judgement. People need to be fully mindful of the political environment and implications of such a case being taken during the period of the 1980’s and 90’s. It is our firm belief that any attempted action would not have been granted relief in the then circumstances. This too must also bear in mind the failure by the DPP to disclose information concerning their decision-making not to prosecute at the time.
‘In some senses we were able to avail of video evidence that recorded the events leading up to and after Nora’s murder and challenge the lies. Many other families experienced similar policies of misinformation concerning the murders of their loved ones yet are unable to legally overturn these ‘official’ lies – hopefully today they too can take some comfort from this judgement in that the most senior RUC officer in West Belfast at the time, and who was present with the officer who murdered Nora, lied about the what actually took place. This was a pattern that we know was repeated time and time again in many other murders by the RUC. Setting right this wrong is important for everyone.’ENDS
A copy of the full judgement will be available tomorrow – anyone interested in obtaining a copy can contact RFJ or Mr. Fearghal Shiels of Madden & Finucane Solicitors
27 April 2010
A PRISON protest by wardens which soured relations on the wings has ended, it has been revealed.
The long-running dispute with managers followed the disciplining of some prison officers after a prisoner committed suicide under their care.
An independent three-member panel is to be appointed to hear appeals from the affected staff.
Finlay Spratt, chairman of the Prison Officers Association (POA), said he believes the process will be “fair” and he will accept the outcome.
“It was always my hope for better industrial relations but where you get a management hell-bent on coming to an agreement with the association and breaking every agreement, they made that difficult.”
Colin Bell, 34, died at Maghaberry jail in July 2008. He was on suicide watch at the time and was meant to be monitored every 15 minutes.
However, some officers who were supposed to be supervising him were watching television.
An inspection team appointed by the Government recommended a number of changes to the prison regime last year. Another independent review highlighted shortcomings in a disciplinary process that led to 10 prison officers being recommended for dismissal.
The officers were investigated following the death. Three senior officers were demoted, two resigned, and cases against five officers were thrown out.
The 10 officers recommended for dismissal are appealing against the ruling. The review did not conclude that the punishments were wrong.
The resulting “withdrawal of goodwill” by the POA ended on April 9 after Northern Ireland Secretary Shaun Woodward sought a court injunction against the POA, an application which was adjourned on April 1 when the POA agreed to suspend the work to rule.
Justice Minister David Ford said: “The withdrawal of goodwill by the Prison Officers Association ended on April 9.
“The dispute related to the handling of disciplinary cases and NIPS management and the POA have agreed to appoint an Independent Appeal Panel to hear the appeals in these cases.”
27 April 2010
POLICE lost a second dissident republican getaway car which disappeared after officers left it for two days without examination, it has emerged.
The PSNI have faced criticism after the burnt out vehicle, which was abandoned in south Armagh after last Thursday’s car bomb attack on Newtownhamilton police station, was removed without their knowledge.
Last night the PSNI confirmed that they received a report that a vehicle was on fire in the area of Ballintemple Road, Meigh, just before 11pm on April 22.
In the statement, a PSNI spokesman said the following day officers made inquiries to establish if the vehicle was linked to the Newtownhamilton bomb attack.
“Shortly before 6.50pm on Friday (April 23], police learned that the vehicle had been removed. Police took steps to recover the vehicle and the vehicle was secured in the Newry area at around 11.30am on April 24.”
The PSNI spokesman added that due to concerns that the vehicle may have been set alight to lure police into the area to attack them, officers were unable to respond “as fully or as quickly as they would have wished”.
“Because the safety of officers and the public is a priority for the PSNI, some situations may have to be dealt with cautiously due to the significant threat from dissident republican criminals, who have shown their determination to kill officers,” he said.
“The public will understand that the primary target for dissident republicans is police officers.
“Police are committed to investigating the Newtownhamilton bomb attack but we have an overriding responsibility to protect and preserve life – and that includes the lives of our own officers.”
Earlier, victims’ campaigner Willie Frazer said he came across the burnt remains of a car at the foot of Slieve Gullion mountain, close to the village of Meigh, less than an hour after the Newtownhamilton bomb exploded.
Speaking to the News Letter, Mr Frazer said: “I understand that police may have been concerned about going near the car because of a device or an ambush – and the life of an officer has to take priority – but the law has to be upheld.
“That car was a crime scene, the same as any other, and they left it for two days.”
He added: “If something like this happened in any other part of the UK then heads would roll, but it seems like the law doesn’t apply to south Armagh.”
This is the second dissident getaway vehicle to have been misplaced this year.
Following the bomb attack carried out at Newry courthouse in February, a burnt out getaway car was moved from its original location by “unknown persons” within the 48 hours it took for police to recover the vehicle.
When the car was found again, police said it was “subsequently recovered for further investigation”.