You are currently browsing the monthly archive for May 2010.
THE wife and brother of a leading Lurgan republican have been banned from visiting him in prison, it’s been claimed.
Colin Duffy was informed both his wife, Martine, and brother, Paul, were banned from visiting him in Maghaberry Prison. According to Colin Duffy’s campaign group no reason was given for the ban.
The Prison Service said concerns had been expressed about the behaviour of visitors to Mr Duffy, prompting a report to prison headquarters.
The Friends of Colin Duffy have strongly criticised the decision by the Prison Service.
In a statement, a spokesperson for the campaign group said: “No reasons were given for this arbitrary banning order.
“It is our understanding that the Duffy family are presently taking urgent legal advice with a view to challenging the prison authorities’ prohibition of visits by immediate family members. We expect that such a challenge will be mounted through the courts in the coming days.
“This banning of family members from prison visits represents a serious breach of a prisoner’s human and civil rights.
“This latest oppressive and provocative move by the authorities at Maghaberry Prison is clearly designed to increase tensions both inside and outside the jail. It also represents a pre-meditated escalation by the prison authorities of their efforts to break the resolve of republican POWs in the ongoing campaign to achieve freedom of association and end to strip searches.
“It is patently obvious that the prison authorities and, indeed, David Ford, as so-called Justice minister, are permitting the unionist-dominated Prison Officers Association with its a long history of acting as ‘a force within a sectarian force’ to dictate conditions within Maghaberry Prison.
“We fully condemn this deliberate provocation and targeting of prisoners’ families, and call on all those interested in upholding human and civil rights to demand that this latest authoritarian and oppressive measure be immediately rescinded.”
A Prison Service spokesperson said: “Following a domestic visit to Mr Colin Duffy, a remand prisoner at Maghaberry prison, last weekend concerns were expressed about the behaviour of a number of visitors towards staff.
“These individuals have been written to by the prison, advising them that a full report on the incident will be sent to Prison Service headquarters, who will make a decision on whether or not to impose visiting restrictions.
“In determining if or not restrictions will be imposed, the human rights of the prisoner, especially in respect of Article 8, will be taken into consideration.
“Headquarters are awaiting the report from the prison and no decision has yet been taken in relation to the incident.”
There is concern that illegal weapons are still available, the leader of the Progressive Unionist Party has said.
Dawn Purvis, whose party has links to the UVF, was speaking following the murder of Bobby Moffett.
Mr Moffett, 43, who was believed to have strong connections with the UVF, was shot dead on Friday by two masked gunmen on Belfast’s Shankill Road.
Two men, aged 31 and 25, are still in custody being questioned by police about the killing.
Ms Purvis said the UVF had made clear they had destroyed all weapons under their control and the killing could have serious consequences.
She said: “The UVF in their decommissioning statement last year had made clear that they had destroyed everything that was under their control.
“Now, if individuals have held on to weapons, then they know the consequences of that because the decommissioning legislation fell in February and anyone caught with any weapons is liable to the full force of the law.”
At least two masked gunmen wearing fluorescent jackets shot Mr Moffett at the corner of Conway Street and the Shankill Road, and he died in hospital.
Police do not believe the shooting was sectarian. There is speculation that Mr Moffett may have been involved in a fight with a member of the UVF in recent days – but this may have been a personal dispute rather than anything to do with the organisation.
In a statement, the police said it was “a cold-blooded, ruthless killing”.
“It is a chilling reminder of a violent past that everyone in the community hoped we had left behind,” they added.
The gunmen were seen running off along nearby Conway Street.
28 May 2010
Former first minister of Northern Ireland Ian Paisley has been made a peer in the Dissolution Honours List.
He was among more than 50 senior figures elevated to the House of Lords on Friday.
Responding to the announcement, First Minister Peter Robinson said the recognition was “well-deserved”.
He said: “For some four decades, Dr Paisley represented the people of North Antrim with distinction.”
“He is a giant of politics in Northern Ireland and throughout the United Kingdom,” he added.
Dr Paisley will join his wife Eileen, who was made a baroness in 2006, in the House of Lords.
Also awarded peerages on Friday were former Tory leader Michael Howard, former deputy prime minister John Prescott, former Northern Ireland Secretary of State John Reid and the former Defence Secretary Des Browne.
Dissolution Honours Lists are made at the end of every Parliament and allow outgoing prime ministers to reward colleagues.
Two held over Shankill murder
Monday, 31 May 2010
A 35-year-old man who was arrested by police investigating the murder of Bobby Moffett on Belfast’s Shankill Road has been released unconditionally.
The man was arrested in the Belfast area on Sunday night, a police spokesperson said.
Two other men are being questioned over the killing.
The pair, aged 25 and 31, were also detained in the Belfast area on Sunday afternoon.
A 49-year-old man arrested on Saturday has been released.
Mr Moffett, 43, was shot in the face and chest by two masked gun men in broad daylight on Friday.
He was taken to hospital but died a short time later.
Floral tributes have been laid outside Westkirk Church, just metres from where the 43-year-old was gunned down.
The killing happened outside the Northern Bank building at lunchtime, while the street was packed with shoppers and children.
The anger in the community is palpable, with one woman telling UTV about the moment she witnessed the killing.
“Total shock in the community,” she said.
“I saw him lying in the road and I will never forget the look of that man’s face – never. It is just total shock … terrible.”
She added that it was very shocking for everyone on the street to see, including women and children, and described the victim as a “family man”.
“He was a family man, yes – stood up for his family and loved them very much.
“All the fella did was keep himself to himself.”
It is believed Mr Moffett was a member of the Red Hand Commando and his killing has been linked to a personal dispute involving elements of the UVF.
“Bobby Moffett was shot dead, but the whole community felt the impact of that,” Pastor Jack McKee, from the New Life City Church, told UTV.
“It’s like the Shankill bomb all over again – there were individuals who sadly lost their lives, but the whole community felt the impact of what happened.
“People are angry, they are angry at the paramilitary group that’s behind this and they may well be in denial, but they have been in denial for the last forty years anyhow so they have got good at that.”
He added: “People are angry and I would be asking those who are angry and are thinking of doing something in retaliation not to because that only increases the anger and the hurt and pain in the community.”
Hundreds of people turned out on Sunday evening at a vigil for the murdered man.
Messages left on the numerous bunches of flowers revealed a mixture of anger and grief at the shock killing, carried out at point blank range by two gunmen.
Police have described the shooting as “a cold-blooded, ruthless killing”.
Monday May 31 2010
Eight Irish people were travelling on a flotilla of aid ships where 15 people were reportedly shot dead today by Israeli commandos.
Michael Martin, Foreign Affairs Minister, said consular officials were working to confirm the safety of Irish people caught up in the incident.
“I am gravely concerned at the reports emerging of the storming of a Turkish ship this morning by Israeli commandos,” the minister said.
“My department is seeking to establish the full facts of what has occurred and confirm the safety of the eight Irish nationals who sailed with the Turkish-led flotilla.
“The reports of up to 15 people killed and 50 injured, if confirmed, would constitute a totally unacceptable response by the Israeli military to what was a humanitarian mission attempting to deliver much needed supplies to the people of Gaza.”
The flotilla, which had been warned it would not be allowed to pass an Israeli sea blockade, was carrying about 10,000 tonnes of aid and about 800 passengers on eight ships.
It is understood the Turkish Mavi Marmara ship, from the pro-Islamic aid group IHH, and Free Gaza’s Challenger 1 were intercepted by Israeli Navy ships in international waters, 80 miles off the coast of Gaza.
Three Irish people, Dr Fintan Lane, Fiachra O Luain and Shane Dillon were on board the Challenger 1 which had travelled from Cyprus in the first wave of the flotilla.
The Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign (IPSC) said it has not been able to contact any of its members on the ships.
Dr David Landy, IPSC chairman, accused Israel of breaching international law.
“The fact that Israel would allow its forces to kill and wound international human rights activists shows the world once again that Israeli is a rogue state that acts with impunity,” he claimed.
The Irish owned vessel, the Rachel Corrie, is part of the convoy.
Footage on the internet appeared to show a video of pandemonium on board the Mavi Marmara, with activists in orange lifejackets running around as others tried to help a colleague lying on the deck.
The Turkish website also showed an Israeli helicopter flying overhead and Israeli warships nearby.
The IPSC has planned a demonstration in Dublin tonight from O’Connell Street to the Israeli embassy in Ballsbridge.
Speakers at the protest will include Sinn Fein TD Aengus O Snodaigh and Chris Andrews, Fianna Fail TD, who were refused access to the flotilla by the Cypriot authorities and had to abandon plans to travel with aid workers.
Mr O Snodaigh called on Mr Martin to expel the Israeli Ambassador to Ireland.
“It looks as though this cold and calculated attack took place in international waters, in breach of all international maritime laws. There must be action from the international community,” the Dublin TD said.
He added: “At all stage of preparations to join the flotilla the organisers reiterated non-violent and peaceful resistance to any boarding by Israeli army. The Israelis had nothing to fear from this flotilla.
“My thoughts are with the families of those who died. They were courageous men and women as was each and every person on the flotilla.”
30 May 2010
A MORTAR-STYLE attack on a Derry police station has been condemned as an assault on the local community.
The device was fired from the back of a car towards Derry’s Strand Road station shortly after midnight on Saturday.
Nobody was injured in the incident but nearby residents, including a number of elderly people, were evacuated from their homes.
Chief Superintendent Stephen Martin, District Commander, said such attacks should be condemned by everyone in society.
“Attacks such as this are an attack on the local community and the good people of Derry,” he said. “This incident resulted in local people, including the elderly residents of a nearby Fold, being evacuated for a considerable time.
“Had this device exploded when it struck the station wall or veered off course, innocent people in the immediate area could have been killed or seriously injured.”
The Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) said it is believed the device was fired from the back of a Vauxhall Cavalier parked in Queen Street.
It struck the perimeter wall of the station and fell to the ground without exploding.
Roads around the station were closed to traffic to allow army bomb disposal experts to examine the car.
Northern Ireland Justice Minister David Ford said it was a senseless attack. “Those who carried this out refuse to accept the will of the vast majority of people across this island,” he said. “They will not succeed.”
Prosecutions must follow the publication of the Saville report, a solicitor has said.
Greg McCartney, who represents the family of one of the victims of Bloody Sunday, said anyone found responsible for the killings should be prosecuted.
The Bloody Sunday Inquiry heard evidence from more than 900 people
Mr McCartney who was present throughout the Saville Inquiry said he expected a finding of unlawful killing.
“I would be somewhat surprised if a finding tantamount to criminal culpability is not made,” he said.
“I acted for the family of James Wray and it was quite clear from the evidence that the tribunal had, that this man was shot in the back twice.
“And a least one of the bullets was administered when he was lying on the ground defenceless.”
‘Rule of law’
Last week it was announced the report from the Saville Inquiry would be published on 15 June.
The inquiry by Lord Saville opened at the Guildhall in 1998 and heard evidence from more than 900 people.
The inquiry finished hearing evidence in 2004, with the report initially due for publication the following year.
Mr McCartney said the Wray family felt the “rule of law must be applied and applied equally to all citizens of the United Kingdom and the north of Ireland”.
“We have Catholic priests being prosecuted 50 years after the event, Nazi war criminals are still being brought to book,” he said.
“I don’t see the distinction, unless we say the British Army is immune from the rule of law.”
During the Saville Inquiry it emerged that four soldiers had admitted entering Glenfada Park, where James Wray was killed, and firing shots.
“If there is criminal culpability there it is incumbent on the authorities to investigate that culpability and to leave the matter to a jury,” said Mr McCartney.
Thirteen people died after paratroopers opened fire during a civil rights march in Londonderry on 30 January 1972.
May 31, 2010
Up to 16 people have been killed when Israeli naval commandos boarded aid ships bound for the Gaza Strip, meeting resistance from pro-Palestinian activists, Israel’s Channel 10 television said.
The six-ship convoy carrying aid for Palestinians and led by a Turkish vessel with 600 people on board set sail for Gaza from international waters off Cyprus on Sunday in defiance of an Israeli-led blockade of the territory.
The flotilla was organised by pro-Palestinian groups and a Turkish human rights organisation. (AFP: Free Gaza Movement)
There was no immediate comment from Israel, where public radio quoted an unnamed Arab journalist aboard a ship as saying the navy intercepted the activists and that shooting was heard.
Vice premier Silvan Shalom told Israel Radio that Israeli forces would issue a report soon.
“As far as we know IDF (Israeli military) commandos descended on the boat from helicopters and took it over,” said Mary Hughes Thompson, a spokeswoman for the Free Gaza Movement, which was behind the convoy.
An Israeli religious medical service, ZAKA, said seven people had been admitted to hospital in Haifa, Israel’s main naval base, one of them in a serious condition.
Turkey says it has “strongly protested” against Israel’s military action.
“[The interception on the convoy] is unacceptable … Israel will have to endure the consequences of this behaviour,” the foreign ministry said in a statement.
It said Ankara had called Israel’s ambassador to the ministry.
Israeli officials said overnight the navy told the activists by radio to turn back toward Cyprus or head for the Israeli port of Ashdod to unload the 10,000 tonnes of aid, which Israel would then transfer to the Palestinians in the Hamas-run Gaza Strip.
The convoy set off in international waters off Cyprus on Sunday in defiance of an Israeli-led blockade of Gaza.
The flotilla was organised by pro-Palestinian groups and a Turkish human rights organisation.
Turkey had urged Israel to allow it safe passage and said the 10,000 tonnes of aid was humanitarian.
Israel had said it would prevent the convoy from reaching Gaza.
Egypt and Israel tightened a blockade on Gaza after Hamas took over the territory in 2007.
Israel launched a devastating military offensive in Gaza in December 2008 with the aim of halting daily rocket fire towards its cities.
Most of the 1.5 million Palestinians living in Gaza rely on aid, blaming Israel for imposing restrictions on the amount and type of goods it allows into the territory.
The United Nations and Western powers have urged Israel to ease its restrictions to prevent a humanitarian crisis. They have been urging Israel to let in concrete and steel to allow for post-war reconstruction.
Israel denies there is a humanitarian crisis in Gaza, saying food, medicine and medical equipment are allowed in regularly.
It says the restrictions are necessary to prevent weapons and materials that could be used to make them from reaching Hamas.
By Vincent Kearney
28 May 2010
**In this article Sinn Féin sounds like a puppet master. Note Maskey’s statement…
Sinn Fein has warned it will review its level of co-operation with police if the chief constable does not resolve a dispute with a former Catholic priest.
Kevin Kennedy was forced to resign from a civilian job with the policing board because he failed a security check.
He has been a civil servant for over 25 years and has no criminal record.
Mr Kennedy is suing the PSNI after being told he could not work for the board because of information the police said they had about his brother.
Mr Kennedy was appointed as a policy and research officer with the Policing Board in 2004.
Just two weeks later the former Catholic priest was told to resign or be sacked because he had failed the security clearance check.
Last month, he failed in a legal bid to get access to the intelligence documents on which the police based their security assessment.
During the court hearing, it was revealed that the board was told Mr Kennedy failed the vetting because of historical and recent intelligence regarding his brother, Dermot, which was assessed as reliable and accurate.
The court was told the intelligence was highly senstive and a matter of national security.
Six years on, Kevin Kennedy is suing PSNI Chief Constable Matt Baggott for damages – and Sinn Fein has called on Mr Baggott to act to resolve this.
Sinn Fein, which joined the policing board three years ago after a long internal debate, has warned that it may withdraw co-operation with the police in nationalist areas if the matter is not resolved quickly.
Alex Maskey, Sinn Fein, said: “What we bring is the co-operation of tens of thousands of people and that should not be squandered.
“I presume it won’t be, but it is down to the chief constable to make sure people we represent understand that we have moved into a new era.
“Cases like this are examples of how we have not yet finalised the work of ending political policing, and we have got to do that.”
The policing board and the PSNI have said they cannot comment on the issue as it is the subject of ongoing legal action.
It is likely to be raised during a meeting of the policing board next week.
Sinn Fein is not threatening to withdraw from the policing board over this issue, but withdrawing cooperation from the police in nationalist areas would have serious implications for a relations that has taken a long time to build.
By Tom Brady
Saturday May 29 2010
Hotlines are to be set up between An Garda Siochana and the PSNI to boost police co-operation in the fight against terrorism along the Border.
The ground-breaking move has been given the go-ahead by the Irish and British governments.
It means adapting telecommunication systems to allow the Garda Tetra radio system to become compatable with the PSNI Barracuda network.
As a result of the changes, gardai on the ground in border divisions will be able to make secure and confidential telephone contact with their counterparts in the North.
The hotlines are expected to be very beneficial in joint operations against dissident republican groups or where suspects are on the move on cross-border roads.
The new initiative will be discussed at a security summit to be held in Dublin on Wednesday afternoon between Justice Minister Dermot Ahern and the new Northern Secretary, Owen Paterson.
Mr Ahern said it was important that what he called the inter-operability of telecommunications should be fine-tuned to facilitate immediate contact between the forces on the ground.
He also disclosed that multi-agency checkpoints will be carried out on border roads by gardai, Revenue officers, Customs and Excise officials and representatives from the Social Welfare.
These would be mirrored by their counterparts on other roads on the northern side of the Border.
The aim of the expanded checkpoints was to tactically disrupt the movements and operations of criminal as well as subversive gangs, he added.
Special joint undercover operations, that were planned some weeks ago by the security advisers, have already swung into action and are targeting key activists in the main dissident outfits.
Surveillance and intelligence gathering by gardai played a major role in the discovery last weekend of a key dissident bomb-engineering depot outside Dundalk and the seizure of two adapted cylinders, which were being converted into mortars.
Garda technical experts and their counterparts in the PSNI are exchanging ballistic information to determine whether a mortar to be used in an attack on a PSNI station at Keady, south Armagh, and the bomb used in the attack on Newry courthouse, were also linked to the Dundalk find.
Mr Ahern said yesterday that there had been concerns about potential policy changes on the North by a Conservative-led government in the UK, in view of the party’s links before the general election with the Ulster Unionist Party.
But he said that he had been reassured by Mr Paterson that there would be no change in policy on the North and the new British government was fully behind the developments that had taken place in the peace process.
Meanwhile, Garda Commissioner Fachtna Murphy, his security supremo, Deputy Commissioner Martin Callinan, and PSNI Chief Constable Matt Baggott and his advisers will also be involved in Wednesday’s talks on a series of fresh measures to be undertaken to step up the war on the dissidents.
The date for the summit was set on Thursday night when Mr Ahern met Mr Paterson for the first time since the latter’s appointment for discussions in Dundalk, Co Louth.
Foreign Minister Micheal Martin is also likely to attend the summit.
Friday May 28 2010
A man has been arrested by police investigating the murder of a top loyalist on a packed Belfast shopping street.
Bobby Moffett, understood to be a member of the Red Hand Commando (RHC) group, was gunned down on Belfast’s Shankill Road in front of dozens of shocked bystanders, including young children, in a merciless lunchtime attack reminiscent of the dark days of the Troubles.
Bobby Moffett, 44, was gunned down on Belfast’s Shankill Road in front of dozens of shocked bystanders
The man, 40, was arrested on Friday night and is being held at the PSNI’s serious crime suite in Antrim.
Mr Moffett, 44, was shot a number of times in the face by two masked gunmen in an attack that has been blamed on renegade elements within the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) – a mainstream paramilitary group with historic ties to the RHCs.
It is understood the murder was linked to a personal dispute.
Police described the murder as “a cold-blooded, ruthless killing”.
29 May 2010
The SAS killing of a 20-year-old joiner at an IRA arms dump is to be re-examined in one of two inquests ordered by Northern Ireland’s new attorney general.
John Larkin has directed the Coroners Service to hold another hearing into the shooting of Francis Bradley near Toomebridge, Co Antrim, in 1986.
In his first week in post, the government’s legal adviser has also requested an examination of the death of 34-year-old Terri Moore, who died in childbirth at Antrim Area Hospital in December 2007.
Coroners originally decided not to hold an inquest into the Ballymena woman’s death.
Mr Larkin is Northern Ireland’s first attorney general in almost 40 years. He was appointed following the devolution of policing powers from London to Stormont.
29 May 2010
AN inquiry has criticised the removal of a photographic montage of victims of the Poppy Day bombing from Enniskillen fire station.
The Northern Ireland Ombudsman said that the action by the NI fire and rescue service three years ago was ‘maladministration’.
DUP minister Arlene Foster demanded that it be replaced immediately and she is setting up a meeting with the province’s fire chief “to have this disgraceful decision reversed as soon as possible and a full apology made”.
Last night the NIFRS apologised for hurt caused, but said no decision had been made on reinstating the pictures.
Mrs Foster said that the montage “was on the wall for 19 years until September 2007, causing no offence, no controversy.”
She said there then an anonymous phone call one afternoon and it was removed “within the hour”.
However, the NI Fire and Rescue (NIFRS) insisted it was not the decision of an individual, but by the organisation’s board, and the montage was replaced by a picture of the scene of devastation that November day in 1987.
Mrs Foster added: “The Ombudsman found that there was no consultation with the fire officers at the station over the removal of the picture, which depicts the faces and names of those brutally murdered.
“In October 2007, I asked the Equality Commission under FOI (Freedom of Information) to indicate if NIFRS had sought their advice before removing the tribute. They hadn’t.
“The Ombudsman has subsequently found that the process which led to the NIFRS decision to remove the montage to have been maladministration.
“Following the removal of the picture, a member of the public reported NIFRS to the Northern Ireland Ombudsman through an official complaint in February 2008.
“As well as finding the NIFRS were guilty of maladministration, the Ombudsman stated that an apology should be issued by NIFRS.”
In his report, the Ombudsman said: “An uncorroborated complaint alone from an anonymous caller was not sufficient to warrant the literally immediate removal of the montage. I therefore find the NIFRS decision to remove the montage was maladministration.”
A statement from the NIFRS said: “We accept the findings of the commissioner for complaints that maladministration was applied to our decision.
“We are sorry for any hurt or anxiety caused by our actions in reaching this decision.
“We are pleased that the commissioner accepts that we did not act with any improper motive during our decision-making process.
“The NIFRS Board will now consider the report and give its recommendations on the content.”
29 May 2010
ONE of Ulster’s last-known Dunkirk veterans was “a soldier until the very end”, mourners at his funeral heard yesterday.
Ninety-year-old William McNamee, who lost his long battle with cancer last Saturday, was laid to rest yesterday on the 70th anniversary of the Dunkirk rescue, following a memorial service in Belfast’s St Anne’s Cathedral.
Floral tributes, poppy wreaths, a Union flag and Army colours draped his coffin as a lone piper played the veteran’s coffin into the cathedral.
Mr McNamee, who was known as Billy, was one of 338,000 soldiers rescued from the beaches at Dunkirk in May 1940, during what was arguably the most famous rescue operation in the history of British warfare.
Addressing mourners – including Mr McNamee’s six children, 20 grandchildren and 14 great-grandchildren – Dean Houston McKelvey said the war hero had led a “long and eventful life”.
Mr McKelvey said: “It is poignant that on the 70th anniversary of Dunkirk, we should pay tribute that 70 years ago Billy McNamee was on that beach.
“Billy, and men like him, know only too well the pain, the loss and the fear that war can bring.”
Mr McNamee made several trips back to Dunkirk throughout the years, visiting for the final time last year after he was given the news that his cancer was terminal.
Born on July 11, 1919 on Belfast’s Sandy Row, Mr McNamee was the 11th of 14 children.
Of Mr McNamee’s younger years, Dean McKelvey said: “He was a boisterous child and liked to play pranks in school, he was always joking around.”
When in his teens, Mr McNamee moved to Templepatrick to deliver coal and firewood and would regularly send money back to his mother in Belfast, who was now widowed.
Mr McNamee then volunteered with his two brothers Hugh and James to join the 1st Battalion of the Royal Irish Fusiliers.
Dean McKelvey said: “He knew that war was inevitable and knew what that would mean, but he was still prepared to sacrifice his life for his country.”
As a member of the British Expeditionary Force, the then 20-year-old was among the first troops from the allied forces to enter France at the start of the Second World War.
Encountering fierce resistance and an onslaught from the German enemy, Mr McNamee and his fellow brave soldiers were forced to retreat from the Belgian border to the French beaches at Dunkirk in May 1940.
Mr McNamee is believed to have been evacuated from Dunkirk beach in a small fishing boat. Up to 5,000 troops perished.
Not deterred, Mr McNamee continued his active service and was transferred to North Africa, before moving to Italy for the remainder of the war.
Mr McNamee came home to Belfast in 1946 and married Isabella Sproule, working in her family’s chicken farm.
“These weren’t easy times but Billy was a hard-working man.
He grew up in poverty-stricken times but he was resilient and gave himself to his family,” said Dean McKelvey.
The congregation then heard that Mr McNamee suffered a serious accident in the 1970s which left him contemplating the rest of his life in a wheelchair, before losing wife Isabella in 1977.
Mr McKelvey said: “In another sign of his character, he threw the wheelchair away and walked with crutches.
“His discipline as a soldier was still there in later years – he was up and ready at 6.30am every morning.
“Billy was a soldier to the very end – even following his cancer diagnosis which he bore with the same resilience.”
Mr McNamee’s grandson Mark, a former member of the Royal Irish Regiment, wore parade dress to read a poem in tribute to his grandfather.
Speaking to the News Letter after the service, Mr McNamee’s son Stephen said his father had always been modest about his heroic efforts at Dunkirk.
“He did speak about it, but he would always tell us the funnier side of the stories – he would always try to put some humour into it,” he said.
“He was a hero, but he was very modest about it. I think that was just the case with the men of that generation – they showed true resilience.”
05/28/10 15:02 EST
A pipe bomb type device has exploded damaging the front of a Sinn Fein office in Castlewellan, Co Down.
The device was thrown at the property on the Circular Road at around 3am this morning local time.
Police said British army bomb experts dealt with what is believed to be a partially or fully exploded pipe-bomb type device.
Sinn Fein MLA for South Down Caitríona Ruane has condemned the attack.
“This attack is not just an attack on our party but on the community who use this office as a vital resource for information and assistance. This attack has caused considerable damage and has put our office staff and members of the public at great risk.”
“Given that Friday is used by MLA’s as a specific constituency day I have no doubt those responsible for this attack were aware of that, which makes this all the more malicious and even more dangerous.”
SDLP Down Councillor Eamonn O’Neill branded the attack as a totally reckless and deplorable act.
“This attack is senseless and I completely condemn it. It is an attack of the entire community and we will not stand for it. What is particularly worrying is the fact that the office in question is located on the busy Circular Road and such an attack places members of the public from the locality at risk.”
“It is simply deplorable and I urge anybody with information on this attack to contact the PSNI immediately.”
Please do your bit to help protect our History and email/write to John Gormley today and ask him to Save Moore Street. He has the power to stop its destruction.
Please see a sample letter below which you are welcome to copy and email/post to him.
We must do this now before its too late.
Save Moore Street Dublin
To: Mr John Gormley
Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government
27th May 2010
I am writing to urge you to stop the proposed development of the Moore Street area of Dublin City Centre as proposed by the developer Mr J O’Reilly: Chartered Land.
I am sure you are aware that the Moore Street terrace, numbers 10-25 was where GPO garrison evacuated to and from where the Provisional government held their last meeting and eventually surrendered.
I understand that Nos 14-17 inc Moore Street are already a National Monument and yet somehow the developer has secured approval to effectively demolish the monument (keeping just the facades) to make way for yet another shopping centre and more apartments.
Instead, this area should be developed into a Historical Quarter for Dublin City Centre. Look at the success of Kilmainham Gaol, and yet in the 1960s it too was scheduled for demolition and only rescued by concerned citizens. The Moore Street terrace and surrounding lanes and buildings could be just as successful. The 100th Anniversary of the 1916 Rising is now 6 short years away. Protecting its integrity and respecting our history is crucial. Preserving the terrace and renovating it would be an appropriate and important tribute. It could also serve as an educational resource and tourist attraction, as opposed to a shopping centre of which there are already too many.
As Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government you have regularly promoted the merits of creating green jobs, eco-tourism and that reducing our carbon footprint is the way forward. On 14/05/09 at Wicklow Mountain National Park you stated “it shows the Government commitment to investing in sustainable eco-tourism which is a vital component in promoting our economic fortunes”.
Minister Dick Roche stated “The State must use every protective weapon in its statutory arsenal to protect a building of such immense historical significance. In the decade leading up to the centenary celebrations of the 1916 Rising it would be unconscionable for the Government not to close any potential legal loophole which might result in the loss or destruction of a national monument such as No. 16 Moore Street to future generations”.
It is my belief that these buildings are too important to be demolished. We have made mistakes in the past (Wood Quay/ Georgian Dublin etc). If we do not protect Moore Street, what sort of legacy will we leave to future generations and what judgement will you receive from them?
There are no excuses for its destruction. You must say NO to this proposal. You have the power to stop it. Once this important piece of our history is gone, it’s gone forever.
Friday, 28 May 2010
The scene where a man shot on the Shankill Road
The murder of loyalist Bobby Moffat on Belfast’s Shankill Road has sparked fears tonight of another bloody internal feud between rival gangs.
Moffat, understood to be a member of the Red Hand Commando (RHC) terror group, was gunned down on Belfast’s Shankill Road in front of dozens of shocked bystanders, including young children, in a merciless lunchtime attack reminiscent of the dark days of the Troubles.
The 44-year-old was shot a number of times in the face by two masked gunmen in an assassination that has been blamed on renegade elements within the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) – a mainstream paramilitary group with historic ties to the RHCs.
While the murder will spark concerns of a tit-for-tat retaliatory strike, it is unlikely to destabilise the wider political process, with the shooting understood to be linked to a personal dispute.
The gun attack comes less than a year after the UVF leadership declared it had decommissioned all weapons under its control.
Police described the murder as “a cold-blooded, ruthless killing”.
“It is a chilling reminder of a violent past that everyone in the community hoped we had left behind,” said a Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) spokesman.
“Police are following a number of definite lines of inquiry and will work with determination and professionalism to catch the killers.”
The Shankill Road, a broad thoroughfare linking the city centre with the north west of Belfast, was the scene of much bloodshed during the Troubles and since the ceasefires of the 1990s has witnessed a number of killings linked to turf wars between loyalist paramilitary groups.
Ulster Unionist Party member Bill Manwaring arrived at the scene, yards from a loyalist mural, and tried to offer first aid to the victim.
He said the dead man had suffered severe injuries to his face and hand, and added: “By the time I had arrived, it had already happened. Some colleagues were helping put him in the recovery position.
“The injuries were horrific and young children were on the street when this happened.”
He added: “We had 40 years of this area suffering from this kind of activity and there is no reason for this. It is unacceptable.”
A local resident who witnessed the shooting said: “I thought it was a car backfiring. I heard about four shots and saw the gunmen standing in the middle of the road wearing balaclavas and orange tops.
“I saw the bloke lying there. I think he was shot in the head or the face.”
He said the gunmen ran off through nearby Conway Street and escaped from the scene, which was by then packed with members of the public.
“The area was very busy,” he said. “People came running out from the shops, the place was black with people.”
Bandages and a spot of blood on the road marked where the victim fell and where paramedics tried to save his life.
A double-decker bus was parked inside the police cordon, while people looked on from nearby bookmakers and bars.
The shooting took place close to a packed Jobs and Benefits Office, where staff continued their work despite the police operation around them. They issued cheques at the gate of the building to ensure local people got their benefits over the bank holiday weekend.
Stormont social development minister and West Belfast AM Alex Attwood said bystanders were in deep shock.
“It is a terrible deed, a terrible thing has happened today that a person has been murdered,” said the SDLP representative.
“It has happened on the Shankill Road in broad daylight in front of local people. The people will be traumatised and we have to express our sympathy and urge people to keep calm and not rush to judgment.”
North Belfast MP Nigel Dodds condemned the murder.
The DUP representative said: “Everyone will have been shocked and horrified by this incident where someone has been murdered in broad daylight.
“No-one has the right to take the life of another human being and we all want to ensure that Northern Ireland continues to move away from times when reports such as this were all too common.
“The police are working to establish the full facts surrounding what has happened and to bring those responsible to justice.
“I would hope that anyone who was in the area and who might have seen anything which could be of help to the police will pass that information on.”
Northern Ireland Justice Minister David Ford condemned the murder and said: “This cold-blooded murder in broad daylight will shock people across Northern Ireland.
“Those who carried out this killing are to be condemned and anyone with any information should bring it to the police.”
Paul Maskey, Sinn Fein Assembly member for West Belfast, said: “Whatever the circumstances surrounding this shooting or whoever was involved in it, this should not have happened and it is now crucial that the PSNI are given every assistance from the community in that area to apprehend those responsible.
“People in the Shankill, in common with communities across west Belfast and elsewhere, want to be able to go about their everyday lives free from the threat of this sort of violence.”
Northern Ireland Secretary of State Owen Paterson tonight condemned the shooting.
“To murder this man was an evil act but to do it in the middle of the day, on a busy road full of local people going about their normal business, only adds to the horror and the sense of shock and revulsion,” he said.
“Anyone who could carry out such a barbaric act is a threat to the whole community.”
Mr Paterson urged anyone with information to contact the police without delay.
26 May 2010
The body that monitors paramilitary activity in Northern Ireland has again warned that dissident republicans are highly active and pose a serious threat, but stressed that they don’t have the capacity for the campaign of violence mounted by the Provisional IRA.
The Independent Monitoring Commission also appears to accept that it might be time for it to be decommissioned, BBC NI Home Affairs correspondent Vincent Kearney reports.
For much of its history, IMC reports were scrutinised for what they said about the activities of the Provisional IRA. In the latest report, the organisation merits just two paragraphs.
The focus on Wednesday, as in other recent reports, was the activities of dissident republicans.
The latest assessment doesn’t contain any surprises, and in many ways simply states the obvious.
It reflects the police view that dissidents remain highly active and pose a serious threat, with the Real and Continuity IRA continuing to recruit and train new members, trying to acquire weapons, and targeting potential victims.
But the IMC also goes out of its way to draw a distinction between the abilities and capacity of dissidents and the level of threat posed by the Provisional IRA.
The commission says dissidents don’t enjoy significant local or international support, and don’t have “comparable resources in terms of personnel, money, organisation and cohesion, or range of weaponry and expertise.”
One of the IMC members, John Grieve, is a former head of the anti-terrorist branch in London and spent much of his time combatting IRA violence. He had this to say when asked to characterise the nature of the current threat:
“It’s horrible and it’s ghastly for the victims.
“I’m not underplaying that part of it, but in terms of the temper, scale, range, resources, skills and ability, these people are nowhere near what the Provisional IRA could put together. They are just not in the same league at all.”
Strong and possibly provocative words, but the commission says they are an accurate reflection of the current situation.
Turning to the Provisional IRA, the IMC says the situation hasn’t changed since its last report six months ago.
It says the organisation “has maintained its political course in the period under review and… will continue to do so”.
As for the main loyalist groups, the report notes that neither the UDA or the UVF have been involved in any acts of terrorism, but says some members of the organisations have remained involved in a range of criminal activity.
Significantly, the commission also signals that it doesn’t believe all of the UDA’s weapons have been decommissioned, stating that “the delivery may have been uneven”.
The IMC gave a similar verdict on UVF decommissioning last year.
While the 23rd report by the IMC details the activities of paramilitary groups, its continuing activities are also being questioned. Sinn Fein, long-standing opponents of the commission, have again called for it to be abolished.
The commission was set up in a very different political and security climate and was tasked with overseeing the winding-down of the Provisional IRA and loyalist paramilitaries.
Now that the main groups have decommissioned their weapons, or most of them, and renounced violence, is it now time for the IMC itself to be decommissioned?
Since it was established seven years ago, it has cost almost £7m to run, with the bill shared by the British and Irish governments.
I asked John Grieve if he believed it was time to call it a day.
He said he understands why the issue would be raised at a time of cuts in public spending, and seems to have some sympathy with the view that it may be time for the commission to be consigned to the history books.
“The joy of living in a democracy is that the governments make that decision, but I listen with interest, and some sympathy, to people who were thinking about whether we should still be here,” he says.
The IMC is due to publish its next report in six months. Whether it will still be around this time next year is far from clear.
27 May 2010
ANALYSIS: Arrests are on the rise North and South, but that is no reason for complacency, writes GERRY MORIARTY
JUST READING news and court reports in this paper will tell you that the Garda, the PSNI and MI5 are enjoying some success in tackling the dissident republican paramilitary threat. This time last year there were an estimated 80-100 dissidents serving prison sentences on both sides of the Border. That number is growing.
The bomb factory uncovered in Co Louth on Saturday and the two arrests demonstrated that, as respective justice ministers Dermot Ahern and David Ford asserted, there is genuine co-operation between the security and intelligence services operating on this island.
It is clear, too, by the numbers of people being arrested and charged – and there was a further high-profile charging of an alleged dissident in Newry court yesterday – that there is reasonable if not considerable penetration of the dissident groupings.
Joe Brosnan of the Independent Monitoring Commission, a former chief civil servant in the Republic’s Department of Justice, acknowledged those achievements yesterday at the publication of the IMC’s 23rd report. Another commissioner, John Grieve, a former senior officer in the London Metropolitan Police, said that there were more alleged dissidents arrested and charged so far this year than in the whole of last year in the North and South.
But, as usual, the proviso was that there could be no cause for complacency. Bottom line, as Brosnan also acknowledged, the dissidents remained “highly active and dangerous”. And in the past 12 months they have been at their most menacing. They don’t have any political purchase, but they’re not seeking any. Their purpose is to undermine the political process. They killed two British soldiers and a PSNI officer in March last year and their concentration is on killing more.
Last year Terry Spence, head of the North’s Police Federation, the PSNI’s representative body, said had the dissident republicans succeeded to “maximum effect” with their gun, bomb, rocket and mortar attacks 40 police officers would have been killed over the previous 12 months.
The dissidents remain focused on killing police officers. They murdered Constable Stephen Carroll in Craigavon, Co Armagh, in March last year while in January Constable Peadar Heffron, a Catholic, GAA player and Irish speaker, was badly injured in a car bombing, an attack that resulted in the amputation of his right leg.
The IMC report covers the six months from September to February this year, and does not include the car bomb attack close to the MI5 building and British army base in Holywood, Co Down, last month. But in that six months the Real IRA alone was involved in 16 attacks on police officers, PSNI premises or those associated with or related to the officers.
There is a new dispensation that is settling down well in Northern Ireland but the dissidents are consciously trying to shake its political foundations. A number of real and hoax bomb and gun attacks, particularly in areas such as south Armagh, have resulted in public criticism of the dissidents, but also of the police.
People have expressed annoyance, sometimes outrage, that the police have been slow in responding to some alerts. Last month it fell to the local fire service to cordon off the area and evacuate vulnerable people because it took so long for the police to arrive at a bomb scene outside Newtownhamilton PSNI station in south Armagh.
Commissioner Grieve said it was a dilemma for the police but it was proper that they be cautious. Dissidents were often seeking to lure police officers to such scenes. The dissidents were causing problems on two fronts: endangering police officers and also putting them on the back foot by causing them to be so cautious in some situations that it could lead to public disaffection.
Overall Grieve and Brosnan were at pains neither to over- or under-emphasise the threat. Certainly, as Grieve said, they “were not in the same league at all” in terms of the death and damage that the Provisional IRA caused. But regardless of the growing numbers of dissidents serving in Irish prisons, it was also clear that they could attract recruits to carry on the violence.
By Anne Madden
Friday, 28 May 2010
Much of Belfast’s housing is along sectarian lines
New housing developments in Northern Ireland should aim for complete integration of Catholics and Protestants — that is the bold vision set out in a major report published today.
Integrated housing is trumpeted as the key ingredient for a peaceful and prosperous future for Northern Ireland, leaving peacelines and sectarian ghettoes in the past.
The challenging report by the Independent Commission on the Future for Housing in Northern Ireland calls for a 10-year strategy to end the religious ghettoisation of housing that was perpetuated by the Troubles.
But while 80% of people have said they would prefer to live in a mixed-religion neighbourhood, the reality is that public housing estates became more segregated through 30 years of conflict.
Over 90% of public housing is segregated on religious grounds, with the most polarised estates having more than 80% of one community.
According to the Northern Ireland Housing Executive, estates became more segregated between 1971 and 1991, with little change in trends between 1991 and 2001.
A total of 30 housing areas are being built under the Shared Neighbourhood Programme by the Housing Executive and Department for Social Development.
The commission spent a year examining housing in Northern Ireland and has made 150 recommendations, including ideas for integrating communities. It recommends:
• Clear targets and timescales for integrating people with different religious beliefs and different incomes.
• Government should publish an annual statement of progress on integration which includes religious and income mix. Organisations from across the public, private and voluntary sectors should submit data and information to inform the statement.
• The NIHE and housing associations continue to undertake shared housing projects when development opportunities arise, not least on ‘neutral’ sites, and those vacated by public bodies, including the Ministry of Defence and the PSNI.
Ahead of the report’s launch at a conference of housing professionals in Newcastle, Co Down, Lord Best, chair of the commission, said: “This report is a free gift to the new Social Development Minister Alex Attwood — a resource of ideas for Government and planners to draw on. We don’t expect change overnight but over a period of time you can expect housing to play its part in bringing people together.
“It is about the opportunities that exist with building new houses on neutral sites. Of course people want to feel safe and secure, but they also want to live in mixed areas.”
Mr Attwood said he welcomed the commission’s report. “Work has already started on many of the issues highlighted, however there are some new recommendations that I need to consider in the context of my own priorities for housing,” the minister said.
“I too strongly believe in my predecessor’s goal of striving to promote a shared future for all and I will be no less determined to seek practical and safe solutions to our segregated housing.”
In the report, Lord Best states Northern Ireland’s housing could become an “exemplar for Great Britain”.
“Our vision is for the long haul: building on today’s foundations and the undoubted opportunities now apparent, we believe Northern Ireland’s housing could well become an exemplar for Great Britain,” he said.
Paddy Gray, Professor of Housing at the University of Ulster and co-organiser of the conference, said: “Unfortunately, many of our communities are segregated in terms of religion, both the physical structures and also by behaviour. While forced integration is not an option, choice and encouragement should be given to those who want to live together.”
He added: “The report provides imagination and new direction and provides ways to encourage integrated living.”
Facts that reveal living apart is still a way of life
• Over 90% of public housing in Northern Ireland is segregated along religious lines.
• Despite the peace process, estates were found to be just as segregated in 2001 as in 1991.
• The Northern Ireland Life and Times Survey in 2008 found 80% of people would prefer to live in a mixed-religion neighbourhood.
• In terms of favouring more mixing or more separation where people live, 41% wanted much more mixing, 40% wanted a bit more and 15% wanted to keep things as they are.
• The vast majority of respondents in both Catholic and Protestant traditions (81% and 72% respectively) to a 2006 survey stated that on least three occasions they had not sought a job in an area dominated by the ‘other’ community.
• A total of 30 housing areas are being built under the Shared Neighbourhood Programme by the Housing Executive and Department for Social Development. When complete this will cover 22,500 households, comprising almost 70,000 people.