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RSF.ie
31 Dec 2010

The clarion voice of Irish Republicanism will be heard

Irish Republicans face into 2011 eager to take up the challenges of the coming year.
Recognising that the struggle against imperialism is both political and economic Republican Sinn Féin must provide the revolutionary leadership the current situation demands.

Republican Sinn Féin is the only political organisation with a clearly thought out alternative to the “carnival of reaction” resulting from partition. ÉIRE NUA and SAOL NUA are based on the principles of All-Ireland political and economic democracy and are capable of making the All-Ireland Republic of 1916 a reality for all of the Irish people.

The clarion voice of Irish Republicanism must make itself heard above the chorus of protest arising from the present political and economic crisis. In the coming months we will present a fresh initiative based on the historic “right of the people of Ireland to the ownership of Ireland”.

Taking our stand on the rock of the All-Ireland Republic Republican Sinn Féin will continue to resist all attempts to normalise British rule in Ireland. A visit to any part of Ireland by the Queen of England – claiming style and title of Queen of Great Britain and Northern Ireland (sic) – will be actively opposed by Irish Republicans.
With James Connolly we hold to the “creed that England has no right in Ireland, never had any right in Ireland, never can have any right in Ireland”.

We take this opportunity to extend New Year greetings to the Irish Republican prisoners in Maghaberry and Portlaoise prisons. We salute their steadfast loyalty and service rendered to the cause of a free Ireland. We pledge our continued commitment to ensuring their voice is heard in 2011.

The struggle for an Ireland free of the shackles of British imperialism and trans-national capitalism will continue and Republican Sinn Féin will once more take its place in the vanguard of that fight.

An Phoblact Abú

Críoch/Ends

Republican Sinn Fein

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Indymedia.ie
31 Dec 2010

The REPUBLICAN NETWORK FOR UNITY (RNU) Chairperson/Cathaoirleach, DANNY MCBREARTY sends New Year greetings to Irish Political prisoners and their families.

Mr. McBrearty expressed; “Solidarity with all Republican Parties and groups who share our common commitment to a re-united Ireland and our common analysis that the Stormont administration is not a transition to our objective but a British imperialist trap to prevent us from achieving it.

During the past year, the British Prime Minister reminded us of Britain’s true intentions in Ireland when he alluded to a new 25 year plan to rebrand the Six Counties that will make us more profitable for the British Crown. That rebranding has already begun with lethal cuts implemented by the Stormont partners will bring us little comfort.

Despite the illusion of ‘peace’, repression continues in British occupied Ireland which is conducted with zeal and rubber stamped by the Crown Constabulary Boards. Regardless of oppression, republican resistance to British policing remains unbroken.

In the coming year, R.N.U. will be honoring the Hunger Strikers by venerating the principles for which they fought and died for. We will also highlight any attempts to misuse their memory. Nearly thirty years on, Republican prisoners are still struggling against the failed policy of criminalization.

Early in the New Year, the Republican Network for Unity will be formally contacting and discussing with like-minded groups, the forthcoming elections with a view to see if agreement can be reached to advance core Irish Republican objectives”.

The R.N.U. Cathaoirleach concluded his statement; “RNU is gratified by our growing numbers and we will strive to politically oppose Britain’s futile intervention in Irish affairs. Athbhlain Faoi Mhaise Daoibh”.

• Related Link: http://www.republicannetwork.ie

Belfast Telegraph

Fianna Fail wanted the Royal Hospital Kilmainham dedicated as a national memorial to Eamon de Valera.

The party’s Ard Comhairle wrote to two Taoisigh, Jack Lynch and Charles Haughey, in August 1979 and again in May 1980, asking for their views on a commemoration.

State papers from both years revealed Fianna Fail’s de Valera Committee urged Mr Haughey to consider the Kilmainham site.

Fianna Fail wanted the Royal Hospital Kilmainham dedicated as a national memorial to Eamon de Valera

A letter from the late Seamus Brennan, Senator and the party’s general secretary at the time, said the site would have to undergo some necessary changes to form a fitting memorial.

“It could be named as the Eamon de Valera Conference Centre and should have erected in the Square (or Plaza), a non-denominational chapel or church devoted to peace and reconciliation, using materials from each of the four provinces, and perhaps, from each of the EEC countries,” he wrote.

“The Committee think that the use of this building as a memorial for de Valera would be particularly suitable in view of his stature as an international statesman and the recognition as such he earned throughout Europe.”

The Royal Hospital Kilmainham was being used at the time for Government’s centre for EEC meetings.

Mr Haughey acknowledged the idea but there is no evidence in the State file that it was taken any further.

The Royal Hospital Kilmainham is now a conference centre and home to the Irish Museum of Modern Art (Imma).

Belfast Telegraph
31 Dec 2010

A loyalist leader heaped praise on Charles Haughey for his stand against the Provisional IRA, newly-declassified documents have revealed.

UDA chief Andy Tyrie personally wrote to the Taoiseach in December 1980 to thank him for his efforts in saving the lives of “countless Ulstermen and women”.

Mr Tyrie’s letter, held in Irish state papers from 1980, said Mr Haughey’s efforts to prevent arms smuggling across the border helped ensure loyalist paramilitaries would not target the Republic.

“I am sure you realise that by seeking out and preventing the incessant flow of weapons and explosives into Ulster, you are effectively ensuring that loyalist organisations will not seek vengeance in the Republic,” the UDA chief wrote.

“I have admired your determination and I note that your period in office is underlined by your attitude towards terrorism, and its defeat.”

The loyalist told Mr Haughey he felt he had taken a more proactive role than any other Taoiseach to thwart paramilitary activity.

“Yours is a difficult job, and there are times when you feel that you stand alone, but you possess the strength of character typical of Ulster stock,” he wrote. Mr Haughey’s parents, Sarah and Sean, were from Swatragh, Co Derry.

Other declassified documents have also revealed that an influential priest accused the Irish ambassador to the US of trying to thwart attempts to raise the case of the Birmingham Six.

Fr Denis Faul wrote to Ambassador Sean Donlon, and copied it to Foreign Affairs Minister Brian Lenihan, claiming he was interfering in efforts to highlight the miscarriage of justice.

In a letter dated November 25, 1979, and released for the first time, the priest alleges Mr Donlon tried to stop a Congressman raising the case.

Fr Faul said it had been intimated that the ambassador tried to thwart Congressman Hamilton Fish Junior from pursuing interest in the Birmingham Six.

“The allegation that you were working against us in this matter and trying to thwart our efforts to obtain justice has caused us deep distress,” he wrote.

Fr Faul accused the envoy of the “attempted denigration” of Fr Murray and alleged he had quoted the Grand Master of the Orange Order Martyn Smyth and former SDLP leader Gerry Fitt.

In a cover letter to Mr Lenihan, Fr Faul said he hoped the ambassador “will cease thwarting our efforts in the cause of justice and peace in the north of Ireland”.

But Mr Lenihan hit back, insisting he had full confidence in Mr Donlon.

News Letter
30 December 2010

CONOR Murphy should resign over the “shambolic” response to the emergency water situation, TUV leader Jim Allister has said.

The regional development minister has presided over a situation, unprecedented in recent memory, which would lead to the removal of the responsible minister in any other jurisdiction, Mr Allister said.

But yesterday Mr Murphy insisted that he had nothing to answer for and said that the crisis was largely the fault of the weather.

Mr Allister said: “If the present shambolic response to the water crisis had occurred under direct rule both Sinn Fein and the DUP would have been jumping up and down in furious condemnation, with no adjective strong enough to lambast those in charge.

“It was self-evident that the hard frost would be followed by a huge thaw, yet minister Murphy failed to ensure NIW would have enough staff available to even answer the phones.”

Mr Allister said that such an “elementary failure” demonstrated that Mr Murphy was “not up to the job”.

“Making adequate preparation for foreseeable events is basic to good government. Yet, he will pay no price for his incompetence because in Northern Ireland we do not have an accountable democracy, but rule by a cabal of incompetents.”

The former MEP compared Mr Murphy’s position with that of the Scottish transport minister who resigned earlier this month for failing to adequately prepare for the heavy snowfall in recent weeks.

However, the TUV leader said that the “iniquity of mandatory coalition” meant that Mr Murphy was unlikely to face any such sanction. He claimed that government ministries “are held as party fiefdoms immune from the normal rules of democracy. Without even an Opposition allowed in Stormont, those who have delivered bad government will carry on unaffected, safe in the cocoon that is mandatory coalition.”

And Mr Allister, who earlier this year attacked the DRD minister for his controversial sacking of four non-executive NI Water directors, said that his handling of NIW had been “abysmal”.

“First, in his eagerness to get his own placemen in position, he bungled in to sack directors for following the auditing pattern of DRD,” said Mr Allister. Now, he added, when NI Water had failed under the new team the best he could do was “wheel out McGuinness to bolster him”.

“Meanwhile, households, farms and businesses across the province suffer for his failure to provide the basic service of water.”

Speaking to the media outside NI Water headquarters in Belfast yesterday, Mr Murphy defended his position.

Asked whether he needed to take responsibility for the inadequate response to the crisis, he said: “No, I don’t think that is the case.

“There was a completely different situation in Scotland (with the snow) where people’s lives were put in danger by a failure to prepare.

“It’s not good enough that we’re facing this situation but it is as a consequence of unprecedented weather, not as a consequence of human failure, systemic failure here.”

BBC

The families of those killed and wounded on Bloody Sunday have said next month’s anniversary march will be a public thank you to the people of Derry.

It will be the first march since the Saville Report found the dead and wounded innocent.

Some relatives have said it will be the last ever commemoration march.

But Kate Nash, whose brother William was killed on Bloody Sunday, said she believed it would continue.

“I think it will go on as long as people have the will to walk.

“The Bloody Sunday march has always served as a great beacon of hope for the families, and it’s something I will sadly miss.

“I think the march is a great medium for other injustices.

“However I realise that 38 years is a long time, so maybe it is time.”

News Letter
30 December 2010

Photo from Telegraph.co.uk

THOUSANDS of local Glasgow Rangers fans will pay their respects this weekend as they mark the 40th anniversary of the Ibrox disaster.

A large contingent of Ulster-based supporters are expected to be in attendance at the famous stadium to honour the 66 people – including an eight-year-old boy – who lost their lives following a derby match against Celtic.

The tragedy occurred on January 2, 1971 at the end of the Old Firm game when fans were crushed on stairway 13 as thousands were leaving the ground.

Poignantly, Rangers face Celtic in a league match at the same venue on Sunday afternoon when a minute’s silence will be held before kick-off and both teams will wear black armbands.

The teams will be led out by John Greig, who captained Rangers in the 1971 derby, and Billy McNeill, the Celtic captain on that day.

A separate memorial service will also be held at the stadium on Monday which will be attended by relatives of the deceased and supporters.

Rangers fan John McGivern, who is originally from Rathcoole, has designed a memorial flag which he hopes will be displayed at Ibrox on both occasions.

Based in Liverpool for the past seven years, the Ulsterman’s tribute also incorporates the 96 Liverpool supporters who lost their lives in the similarly tragic 1989 Hillsborough disaster.

Hillsborough support workers John McGivern, Sue Roberts and Margaret Aspinall with a memorial flag.

The secretary of the newly-formed Hillsborough Ibrox Memorial Group, containing both Rangers and Liverpool fans, said it was important for ordinary supporters to remember those who lost their lives in such circumstances.

“They should never be forgotten – 66 people were killed at Ibrox and 96 lost their lives at Hillsborough,” he said.

“At the end of the day they went to see a football match and they never came home again.

“The Rangers supporters assembly are hoping to display our flag at the game and then we are taking it to the memorial service the next day.”

Despite the historic rivalry between the Glasgow clubs, Mr McGivern hoped both sets of supporters would be respectful on Sunday.

He said: “I just hope the minute’s silence gets the respect it is due in memory of the people who lost their lives.”

A spokesman for the Sandy Row Rangers supporters’ club in Belfast said a large number of members would make the trip to Glasgow at the weekend.

He added that the club plans to mark the anniversary internally on Sunday.

Former Rangers defender Sandy Jardine said the tragedy lives with every player who played that day.

He said: “I remember every single detail. I remember walking to the edge of the tunnel and seeing all the bodies behind the goal and the huge amounts of ambulances. By then there were eight people dead.

“It was a very, very sad day and something that will stay with me for the rest of my life.”

By Paul Ainsworth
Andersonstown News
30th of December 2010

CASES involving young people have been the number one issue facing Community Restorative Justice Ireland (CRJI) staff across the North over the past year, it has been revealed.

The organisation’s seven offices, which include three in the West Belfast area, deal with a wide range of issues on a day-to-day basis, and from December 2009 to November this year, a total of 1,831 cases were handled by CRJI teams, with “youth-related” issues dominating their workload. 370 youth cases were dealt with – 201 of these in Derry, 36 in the Colin area, 20 in Andersonstown, and 18 in the Falls area.

Meanwhile, people living under specific threat from paramilitaries and criminals was the second most common type of case recorded over the year, with 332 issues resolved.

In Andersonstown, the top complaint that brought locals to the door of the CRJI office was “neighbourhood disputes”, while incidents of individual threat came in second.

Crime

Noise-related problems also saw residents seeking help in Andersonstown.

Meanwhile, in the Falls area, threatening behaviour against individuals and families was the most prevalent problem, while other issues faced by the local CRJI office included incidents of harassment.

In Colin, which takes in Twinbrook and Poleglass, neighbourhood disputes were central in 49 cases – the most prevalent problem in the area – while issues between landlords and tenants were also high on the agenda here. Colin also logged the most cases of vandalism dealt with by CRJI across their seven offices.

Jane Young, Project Co-ordinator for Colin, described some of the breakthroughs in reducing crime in the area over the last year, including the removal of deadly weapons and drugs from the streets.

“CRJI in Colin have highlighted the issue of knife crime and young people,” she said.

“This initiative resulted in a number of weapons being handed in to our projects by parents, which were given directly to the PSNI for disposal. Through media coverage, CRJI highlighted the issue of substance misuse. This initiative also led to a significant amount of drugs being given to our project, which were also handed over to the police.”

Shadow

In Andersonstown, Teresa Clarke explained how the organisation helped families living in the shadow of drug-dealers reclaim their area by facilitating summits between different agencies.

“We met with residents affected by a family dealing drugs from their home and on the street,” she said.

“The impact on this community was assaults, a shooting incident, people leaving their homes, and youths gathering to take drugs and alcohol. Families were threatened if they made any complaints.

“We facilitated a meeting between the residents, the PSNI, housing associations, Belfast City Council, Social Services, a local councillor and the Area Youth Project. A plan of action was agreed to clean the area and instil a sense of empowerment into the residents, to take ownership of their area and begin to deal with the issues they faced. We offered support to resident and their families, some of whom were referred to counselling and other agencies.”

Burglars

One of the key themes for 2011 in Andersonstown is protecting homes from burglars, and the local CRJI are issuing information and anti-burglary devices to a number of residents who were unable to attend a recent event which highlighted the problem.

Meanwhile, the Falls staff successfully “closed” a total of 117 cases during the year, and are currently preparing to move to a bigger and more convenient office on the Springfield Road in the New Year.

Falls Co-ordinator Tommy Farrell said along with the more common complaints received by CRJI staff, the Falls team were also confronted with a more sensitive issue over the last 12 months.

“We have had a number of people accessing the Falls office in relation to suicidal thoughts and we have referred clients to West Belfast Suicide Awareness and a local counselling project,” he said.

“Meanwhile, CRJI in the Falls continue to implement safety measures to prevent crime and anti-social behaviour, while we regularly liaise with a number of community groups in the Falls, and we are proud to be an integral part of our community.”

By Gemma Burns
Andersonstown News
Thursday 30th of December 2010

A protest was held at MI5’s headquarters in the North this week by family and supporters of murdered West Belfast solicitor Pat Finucane, calling for files on the controversial killing to be handed over.

The West Belfast solicitor’s brother Seamus, alongside MEP Bairbre De Brún and members of collusion campaign group An Fhírinne, gathered outside Palace Barracks in Holywood on Monday to make their appeal.

Earlier this month it was revealed in US Embassy cables published by WikilLeaks that former head of MI5 Eliza Manningham Buller was prepared to hand over their files on the father-of-three in 2005. The leak was the first time the Finucane family were made aware M15 held files on the murder.

Pat Finucane was shot 14 times in front of his wife and three children as they sat down to Sunday dinner in February 1989.

Since the 39-year old’s murder, his family have been campaigning for the truth behind the killing and have travelled all over the world highlighting their belief the state colluded in his murder and calling for a full, independent public inquiry.

Speaking outside Palace Barracks, Seamus Finucane said although the family were encouraged to learn MI5 were prepared to release the files they remained “open-minded” as to whether full disclosure would ever be made.

“On the back of the Saville Inquiry (into Bloody Sunday) we feel that the British government eventually did get it right,” he said. “That indicates to us they take the issue of truth and justice seriously and are prepared to deal with the issue holistically.

“But we have been waiting 20 years and continue to remain open-minded.

“There have been so many let-downs in the past. We just want the files to be released so we can finally get to the truth.”

An Fhirinne spokesman Robert McClenaghan said he believed it was “no coincidence” the offer to release the files was made in 2005, before the Inquiries Act was passed, which allows the British government to block scrutiny of their actions.

“This offer was made in the same month the Inquiries Act was passed. To me it is no coincidence the offer was made round the same time,” he said, “The family need to get to the truth with a full, public and independent inquiry and these files need released now.”

By Francesca Ryan
Andersonstown News
30th of December 2010

Photo of Carol Ann Kelly’s mural and tribute from CRAZYFENIAN’s Republican Murals Belfast (Album 1)

Moving tributes have been paid to the mother of plastic bullet victim Carol Ann Kelly. Eileen Kelly died on Saturday night at Lagan Valley Hospital after taking ill at her home in Twinbrook.

She was surrounded by her family when she passed on and was buried at the City Cemetery alongside her children Carol Ann, who was just 12 when she was shot dead by the British army in 1981, and Jim, who died in 2006.

Speaking to the Andersonstown News, the 73-year-old’s daughters Kate and Susan said the death has left a massive hole in the family.

“My mummy had fought long enough and had been through so much and she is now with Carol Ann and Jim and that’s where she wanted to be,” said Susan.

“As an only child herself, my mummy absolutely lived for her kids and when Carol Ann died, and then Jim, a part of her died with them. She mourned Carol Ann from the day she was taken, but still she was a great person, a strong person and an incredible mother.”

Kate says her mother was always dedicated to the campaign to see the eradication of plastic bullets.

“She was passionate about it,” she said. “My mummy did all she could for the campaign as long as she could, but then her health began to wane. She left us so quickly, it was so unexpected despite her health issues.

“We know that given the choice she wouldn’t have left us at Christmas, but she was tired and she had to go.”

Both Kate and Susan sent their thanks to those who sent well wishes and helped make sure the funeral passed off well.

“Sinn Féin and some people in the community gritted and cleared the roads for the funeral, we cannot thank them enough, it was very much appreciated,” said Kate.

Clara Reilly of the United Campaign Against Plastic Bullets described Eileen as a “stalwart”.

“We are deeply saddened by the death of Eileen Kelly,” she said. “She was a stalwart in the fight to have plastic bullets banned after her own daughter was one of the beautiful children killed by these lethal weapons.

“Her death is a great loss to the campaign and everyone here passes on their sympathies to the Kelly family.

“Eileen will be greatly missed not only by her family and friends but by those who continue the struggle to see plastic bullets outlawed.”

Sinn Féin Councillor Angela Nelson also paid tribute to the mother-of-eleven.

“Eileen was as solid an individual as you could ever meet. She carried the death of her child with her for the past thirty years in a dignified manner. Her death is a loss for the community as well as to her family and we pass on our sympathies to the entire family,” she added.

BBC
30 Dec 2010

Government classified files from 1980 released this week by the Public Record office in Belfast detail the attempt of the Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams to escape from prison in the 1970s.

The file, dealing with “Escapes and attempted escapes from custody” by republican and loyalist prisoners in the 1970s includes an incident report dated 26 July 1974 on Mr Adams.

The republican leader had been arrested the previous summer at a Belfast house and was being interned without trial.

An official recorded tersely that “Gerry Adams, detainee, attempted to escape by switching with his visitor” at the Maze Prison, near Lisburn.

The report, penned immediately after the event, noted that “both visitor and detainee are locked in the cells. Other female visitors are being held pending police inquiries.”

For his escape attempt, Mr Adams was subsequently sentenced to 18 months’ imprisonment.

BBC
30 Dec 2010

The escalation of the “dirty protest” in Northern Ireland jails dominates the release of 1980 classified files from the Public Record Office in Belfast.

There are a series of strongly-worded complaints to the Conservative Secretary of State, Humphrey Atkins from an Independent Nationalist MP.

The escalation of the “dirty protest” dominates the files

On July 7 1979, Independent Nationalist MP for Fermanagh-South Tyrone Frank Maguire wrote to Mr Atkins.

He was concerned about 40 republican women prisoners in Armagh Jail.

“There are only two baths and a shower for 40 prisoners… It is indecent that male authorities should decide that women should only be allowed to use the toilet once during lock-up,” he said.

“This breaks international standards.”

He complained of restrictions on prison food, alleging that “the girls have to make tea-bags from their tights.”

‘Tragedy and trouble’

Urging an early solution, the MP said that the situation was aggravated within the prisons by the failure of the government to negotiate which had “led to tragedy and trouble in the general community”.

Mr Maguire also wrote to Mr Atkins on 18 September 1979 about the alleged ill-treatment of republican prisoners in the H-Blocks at the Maze Prison.

He claimed a group of prisoners were beaten in the cells while two inmates, including Anthony McIntyre – well known as a critic of the current Sinn Fein leadership – were beaten in punishment cells.

Mr Maguire threatened to have the complaints “read into the record of the United States Congress” if action was not taken. Significantly, parts of the MP’s letter to the NIO is blacked out because it named prison officers.

In a note on the file a senior official, A K Templeton commented that Frank Maguire’s letter bore “all the intemperate hallmarks of Fr Denis Faul,” the outspoken Dungannon priest and civil rights activist.

The MP’s allegations of brutality were investigated by the governor of the Maze, S C Hilditch who reported on 4 October that minor injuries had been sustained by prisoners when a number of them had resisted an official search.

In the case of McIntyre, his injuries were sustained when he refused to undergo a bath, a requirement for an impending court appearance in his case.

Meanwhile, the sheer length of the hair and beards of those involved in the ‘dirty protest’ concerned the authorities in 1980. While officials felt this posed a security risk, it was decided that to cut the protesters’ hair by force would breach medical policy.

The releases also reveal that the Thatcher government made a determined effort to undermine the prison protest by sending ministerial letters to the next of kin of each protesting prisoner in March 1980.

‘Serious split’

The letter from Prisons Minister Michael Alison stressed that the government had offered the protesters the option of exercising in sports-type gear.

As the dirty protest escalated into a hunger strike in October 1980, the files reveal a serious split in the Board of Visitors of the Maze Prison on the hunger-strikers’ demand to wear civilian clothing which threatened to embarrass Mrs Thatcher.

At a fractious meeting on 12 November 1980, members voted 10-9 in favour of this concession with one member declaring that the matter had been allowed “to run for too long” and that “not allowing prisoners to wear their own clothes took away from their integrity.”

At the same time, the NIO believed that a loyalist hunger-strike launched at the same time was ‘a purely opportunist move’ that lacked conviction.

On 17 December 1980, the DUP leader Ian Paisley phoned to arrange a meeting between officials and “UDA representatives” to discuss “humanitarian matters”.

An official, RA Harrington felt it “interesting that (Mr Paisley) appears to speak for the UDA”.

However, the NIO was sceptical about the UDA prisoners’ preparedness to sacrifice their lives for their cause.

On 11 December 1980, another official, AR Templeton drew Minister Allison’s attention to an intercepted letter from WJ Mullan, the leader of the loyalist hunger-strike in which he stated that there was “no way we are going to die” .

The official added: “This shows how little intention the loyalists have of carrying out their hunger strike to any serious length.”

BBC
30 Dec 2010

Historian Dr Eamon Phoenix reveals some of the details contained in classified government files from 1980 which have been released under the 30-year rule.

YEAR DOMINATED BY ‘DIRTY PROTEST’

The year, 1980, was dominated by the escalation of the ‘Dirty Protest’ against the removal of Special Category status from republican prisoners at the Maze Prison.

From 1 March 1976, newly sentenced IRA prisoners refused to wear jail clothing, wrapping themselves in blankets instead.

The “blanket protest” was extended in April 1978, when prisoners in the so-called H-Blocks in the Maze prison began refusing to wash or slop out.

By May 1980, it had spread to Armagh Women’s Jail. In June, Kieran Nugent, the first ‘blanket protester’ was released amid republican jubilation.
The ‘Dirty Protest’ was over the removal of Special Category status at the Maze prison The ‘Dirty Protest’ was over the removal of Special Category status at the Maze prison

The protest concerned the British government which took the unusual step in March of writing to the prisoners’ next of kin in an effort to defuse the crisis.

The ‘Dirty Protest’ was over the removal of Special Category status at the Maze prison

The government drew some comfort from the ruling of the European Commission on Human Rights (ECHR) that the “Dirty Protest” was “self-inflicted” and that Special Category status was not justified. The Commission did, however, accuse the British government of inflexibility.

On 27 October, the prison protest escalated dangerously with the launch of a hunger strike by seven republican H-Block prisoners, demanding the right to wear their own clothes.

On 18 December, the protest was dramatically called off following an appeal by Cardinal O Fiaich and hints – unconfirmed – that the government had promised concessions.

In fact, this was rejected by Atkins, paving the way for a second, fatal hunger strike involving Bobby Sands and his comrades in 1981.

VIOLENCE CONTINUES

Violence continued at a low level during the year. In January three UDR men were killed by an IRA booby-trap bomb while the organisation assassinated a British army colonel in Germany in February.

Loyalist paramilitaries were also active, assassinating two leading IRSP activists, Dr Miriam Daly and Ronnie Bunting, the son of the former loyalist leader, Major Ronald Bunting amid claims of security force collusion.

By the end of the year 76 people had died as a result of the Troubles which showed no sign of ending.

NORTHERN IRELAND IS UK’S POOREST REGION

As unemployment reached 13%, a poverty survey revealed that Northern Ireland was the UK’s poorest region. In March an NIO Minister, Hugh Rossi voiced his shock to colleagues at the high level of deprivation, accompanied by ‘a distasteful military presence,’ in Ardoyne which he ascribed to “60 years of official neglect”.

THATCHER, HAUGHEY AND THE TEAPOT SUMMIT

The year also saw a growing rapport between the new Taoiseach, Charles Haughey and Margaret Thatcher culminating in the famous ‘Teapot Summit’ in Dublin on 8 December 1980 at which it was agreed to examine ‘the totality of relationships’ between Britain and Ireland.

1980 saw a growing rapport between Margaret Thatcher and Charles Haughey

FEELING THE PINCH OF PUBLIC SPENDING CUTS

The year, 1980, saw Northern Ireland begin to feel the effects of public spending cuts under the new Tory government of Margaret Thatcher and her Northern Ireland Secretary of State, Humphrey Atkins.

Mrs Thatcher called a ‘constitutional conference’ in January on the possibility of restoring devolution at Stormont.

It was attended by the DUP, SDLP and Alliance but the Ulster Unionists, influenced by the integrationist Enoch Powell, boycotted the talks which ended dismally in July. In private discussions with Atkins, the SDLP leader, John Hume stressed the need to address the ‘three strands’ of the problem.

Belfast Telegraph
30 Dec 2010

Former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher’s government privately signalled that it would not stand in the way of a united Ireland a year after sweeping to power.

State files released for the first time show the reputedly hardline Conservative administration told Dublin it had a greater interest in Northern Ireland than London.

But the then Secretary of State Humphrey Atkins confided in Foreign Affairs Minister Brian Lenihan that “there would be an explosion” if it emerged they were making plans towards reunification.

“One step would have to be taken at a time,” he said, according to government notes of a meeting between the two on April 15, 1980.

“There was ‘no way’ he could go round promoting Irish unity. This was simply not possible. That was not to say however that it was something that the British Government would stand in the way of – but it could not promote it.”

Mr Atkins insisted that persuasion was needed to remove genuine Protestant fears and apprehensions.

The previously classified notes of the meeting in Dublin show Mr Atkins – considered by many an uncompromising Tory – advised then Taoiseach Charles Haughey on the apparent British position.

“The Secretary of State indicated that he had said to the Taoiseach that the Irish Government’s interest in Northern Ireland was greater than any other party except of course the people of Northern Ireland,” the notes reveal.

A year later Mrs Thatcher memorably remarked that “Northern Ireland is as British as Finchley.”

The documents released from the Taoiseach’s office, under the 30-year rule, show the Irish Government was already pushing for a three-strand resolution focusing on North/South and British/Irish dimensions, as well as cross-community relations within the North. The model would eventually form the basis of the Good Friday Agreement 18 years later.

Belfast Telegraph
28 Dec 2010

Sinn Fein’s political enemies in Northern Ireland have urged voters in the Republic to shun the party in the forthcoming General Election.

The leader of the nationalist SDLP Margaret Ritchie said she had no wish to interfere in the poll, before launching a blistering attack on republicans, branding Sinn Fein a party of “division”.

Her comments came ahead of the Republic’s General Election expected to be called for March or April, while her party will take on Sinn Fein in polls north of the border in May.

Over the last decade the SDLP, which has seen Sinn Fein replace it as the dominant nationalist voice in Northern Ireland, had discussed a possible merger with Fianna Fail, while the SDLP also has links to the Labour party in the Republic.

But while Ms Ritchie ruled out pacts with any southern party since she became SDLP leader earlier this year, she has stepped up her attack on Sinn Fein.

“We in the SDLP want good relations with the three main parties, and we would not be telling anybody how they should vote in this particular election, ” she said. “But what I would say to them is they will not gain any further comfort, or they will not gain any further, shall we say, legs up the ladder, if they are going to be voting for sectarian politics and the politics of division through Sinn Fein.”

The south is set for a General Election early next year, while the the SDLP and Sinn Fein will go head-to-head in Assembly elections and council elections planned for May in the north.

Sinn Fein, which has five TDs following the success of Pearse Doherty in the Donegal South West by-election in November, has been tipped to make gains in the Republic with voters expected to punish Fianna Fail in the wake of the International Monetary Fund bailout.

A Sinn Fein spokesperson said: “What nonsense from Margaret Ritchie, a woman whose party claim to be republican, tells us she doesn’t want to ‘intrude’ on Irish politics. This shows clearly their continued partitionist view and that they still wish to retain their cosy links with the parties who have caused the current economic crisis.

“Perhaps if Margaret had the courage of her convictions her party would join with us in engaging in national politics for the betterment of people’s lives as opposed to trying to score cheap, silly points against Sinn Fein.”

By Declan Varley
Galway Advertiser
December 30, 2010.

Tributes have been paid to Professor Kevin Boyle— a founder of the Irish Centre for Human Rights at NUI, Galway — who died this week.

Professor Boyle, who was originally from Newry, Co Down, is regarded as one of Ireland’s and the UK’s leading human rights academics.

The late Prof Kevin Boyle

He was one of the inspirational figures behind the original civil rights movement which sought progress and democratic reform in the North through peaceful means.

Galway West TD Michael D Higgins said that Prof Boyle was an inspiration who was respected the world over.

“His courageous leadership in the human rights movement has placed so many in Ireland in his debt. Kevin Boyle was a champion of civil and human rights for more than forty years. He was one of the inspirational figures behind the original civil rights movement which sought progress and democratic reform in Northern Ireland through peaceful means.

”I had the great privilege of working with Kevin Boyle as a colleague in NUIG where he was an inspiring figure and teacher on the importance of human rights in law.

”His background in sociology meant that his interdisciplinary contribution was original, generous and ground breaking.

”On his move to Essex he retained all his connections with colleagues in Ireland and went on to serve as advisor to President Mary Robinson during her period as United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.

”Those of us who knew him personally will feel the loss of a warm friend with a great sense of humour and enormous courage in bearing his illness.

Belfast Telegraph
30 Dec 2010

The Pope wrote to Margaret Thatcher about his “deep” concerns for republican inmates on hunger strike in the Maze Prison, previously secret papers have showed.

Pope John Paul II urged the former prime minister to “consider personally” solutions to the crisis in which seven IRA inmates deliberately starved themselves at the notorious Northern Ireland jail in the hope of winning prisoner-of-war status.

The personal message from John Paul II reads: “I am receiving disturbing news about the tension in the Maze Prison in Northern Ireland, where a number of prisoners have begun a hunger strike.”

He continued: “I am aware that the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Mr Atkins, has already been asked to examine the problem and to seek possible solutions.

“In the spirit of the call for peace and reconciliation which I made at Drogheda during my pastoral visit to Ireland last year, I would express my deep concern about the tragic consequences which the agitation could have for the prisoners themselves and also the possible grave repercussions upon the whole situation in Northern Ireland.

“I would ask you to consider personally possible solutions in order to avoid irreversible consequences that could perhaps prove irreparable.”

The letter was made public as part of a release of previously secret Government papers from 1980 held by the National Archives in Kew, London.

The origins of the protest lay in the 1976 decision by the British Government to treat newly convicted IRA prisoners as ordinary criminals rather than political prisoners.

The removal of “special category” status was extended to all paramilitary prisoners in March 1980.

Seven republican prisoners went on hunger strike in October 1980 in response. They were joined in the following month by 23 more.

By Declan Varley
Galway Advertiser
December 30, 2010.

Tributes have been paid to Professor Kevin Boyle— a founder of the Irish Centre for Human Rights at NUI, Galway — who died this week.

Professor Boyle, who was originally from Newry, Co Down, is regarded as one of Ireland’s and the UK’s leading human rights academics.

The late Prof Kevin Boyle

He was one of the inspirational figures behind the original civil rights movement which sought progress and democratic reform in the North through peaceful means.

Galway West TD Michael D Higgins said that Prof Boyle was an inspiration who was respected the world over.

“His courageous leadership in the human rights movement has placed so many in Ireland in his debt. Kevin Boyle was a champion of civil and human rights for more than forty years. He was one of the inspirational figures behind the original civil rights movement which sought progress and democratic reform in Northern Ireland through peaceful means.

”I had the great privilege of working with Kevin Boyle as a colleague in NUIG where he was an inspiring figure and teacher on the importance of human rights in law.

”His background in sociology meant that his interdisciplinary contribution was original, generous and ground breaking.

”On his move to Essex he retained all his connections with colleagues in Ireland and went on to serve as advisor to President Mary Robinson during her period as United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.

”Those of us who knew him personally will feel the loss of a warm friend with a great sense of humour and enormous courage in bearing his illness.

Herald.ie
December 29 2010

An old RAF reconnaissance plane is being rebuilt on the site of a former top security jail in Northern Ireland where it was once called in to help check for IRA escape tunnels.

Volunteers from the Ulster Aviation Society are reassembling the aircraft at the former Maze Prison at Long Kesh, near Lisburn, Co Antrim.

After nearly 50 years flying into war zones all over the world, it was dismantled at an airfield in England and shipped back across the Irish Sea.

The Canberra PR9 was one of 23 manufactured by Shorts at Queen’s Island, east Belfast, where they first took to the skies heaving with surveillance equipment.

Operational flights included reconnaissance missions in Iraq, central America, central Africa, Kosovo and, as recently as three years ago, Afghanistan.

Now a Second World War hangar at the same place is being used to provide cover for reconstructing the plane which has a 70ft long fuselage weighing almost two and a half tonnes.

The project is being headed up by Ray Burrows, a former air traffic controller and vice chairman of the society, which paid £10,000 for the plane.

It will be several more months however before the restoration process, backed by vital Heritage Lottery funding, is completed.

Ernie Cromie, the society’s chairman said: “It has taken months and months to get to this stage and I’d imagine it will take as long again to piece everything back together. It’s a major logistical exercise and a long drawn-out process. It’s been very difficult, especially getting the engine out.”

The plane brought back to Northern Ireland can never fly again because of a crack in the main wing spar, but is set to become a spectacular new addition to the Ulster Aviation Collection which includes aircraft such as Wessex and Alouette helicopters, Shorts Tucano, Shorts 330, Vampire, Seahawk, Buccaneer and a Second World War Wildcat which was salvaged from Portmore Lough, near Craigavon, Co Armagh.

Scotland sends 160,000 litres of bottled water as GPs warn of public health emergency

Henry McDonald
Guardian
29 Dec 2010

As tankers shuttled between distribution centres and thousands of people in Northern Ireland steeled themselves for another night without drinking water or flushing toilets, some in the 400-strong queue that snaked out of the Avoniel leisure centre in north Belfast were beginning to thirst for more than just water.

“Those at the top of that company should fall on their swords for this,” said John Crossan, who had been without water for almost a week.

“Heads will have to roll for this,” agreed Glyn Roberts from the Northern Ireland Independent Retail Trade Association. “Why on earth is Northern Ireland the only part of the UK where there has been this massive disruption since the thaw?”

Up to 40,000 homes were today reported to be without water in Northern Ireland. A sudden thaw after arctic conditions has burst thousands of pipes and let reservoirs run dry.

Doctors are worried about the effect on public health. “This is becoming a really serious emergency,” said Dr John McMahon, a GP who had been without water in his home in Rostrevor for seven days. Peter Maguire, another County Down doctor, was of the same mind. “This really is now a public health emergency,” said the Newry GP. “We need water and we need it for the sake of public health. People with young families have not been able to flush toilets and wash themselves, never mind get access to drinking water.”

What did he make of Northern Ireland Water’s response to the crisis? “Shambolic.”

As the Scottish government offered to provide 160,000 litres of bottled water today, Northern Ireland’s deputy first minister, Martin McGuinness, said he felt “absolutely let down” by Northern Ireland Water.

Seventeen emergency water stations have now been set up across the north, from Derry in the north-west to Rostrevor in the south-east, but people are still struggling to cope.

Supermarkets and shops have been swamped with customers trying to buy bottled water. A spokesperson for Sainsbury’s said its stores in Forestside in south Belfast, Sprucefield near Lisburn and its west Belfast store had all run out of bottled water.

Geoff McKay, manager of Dunne’s Stores in Belfast’s Park Centre, also said there has been a huge demand for water. “We have one and two litre bottles still in stock, but there is not an awful lot left. Hopefully we will be getting six-packs but I’m not sure when they will be delivered.”

Tesco’s store in Royal Avenue, Belfast’s main shopping street, said it ran out of bottled water on Tuesday afternoon.

Among the casualties of the thaw and the water supply problems that followed was a children’s fun farm in County Tyrone. Barrontop Fun Farm near Donemana said their animal shed, gift shop and toilet had been flooded. The farm had already lost business due to the snow, with 800 cancellations during December.

A spokesperson for Northern Ireland Water said today that all annual leave for its staff had now been cancelled and all employees are at work. The head of the company’s networks said: “We’re putting more water into the distribution systems than we have before, but the situation is worse than I have ever seen it. The vast majority of the leaks seem to be on private property, so we’re urging customers to keep an eye out for leaking taps.”

But the company could not confirm last night if they will have households and businesses reconnected by tomorrow.

“We are hoping to minimise it as far as possible – the term we are using is a few more days,” said the company’s head of customer services, Liam Mulholland.

“We have people on the ground in every area. This has affected the whole province. The scale of the situation is unprecedented,” he added.

Northern Ireland’s environment minister, Edwin Poots, also rounded on the water company. “Everyone knew that whenever the thaw came there was going to be big problems with water, so I think that there was a lack of preparation by Northern Ireland Water, particularly in the issue of communication.”

Poots and fellow ministers in the power-sharing coalition were having crisis talks with the company today.

McGuinness also suggested that customers cut off from their water supplies could be entitled to compensation. “I think there will be a willingness on behalf of the executive to ensure that the most deserving cases are supported financially,” he said.

Belfast city council opened all its leisure centres tonight to distribute water. In all but two, people were also being given the option of using the showers. Some of the centres outside of Belfast, including Coleraine and Ballycastle, were open until 10pm.

In the meantime, people were doing what they could to get by.

One Belfast resident said she had filled a garden container with snow to use for flushing the toilet, adding that the nearest drinking water distribution centre had initially been five miles away. “That’s fine for us, because we have a car, but not everyone does,” she said.

“I’ve bought paper plates to save on washing up and we’re having sandwiches tonight so that we can save the water we would have used for potatoes,” she said. “It’s one of those things: you don’t appreciate it until you don’t have it.”

Bobby Sands mural photo
Ní neart go cur le chéile

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