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31 Jan 2011
IRISH ACTIVISTS taking part in a Gaza-bound aid flotilla on March 30th have bought a vessel that can carry 25 passengers. Sinn Féin TD Aengus Ó Snodaigh and Sinn Féin Derry City Councilor Gerry Mac Lochlainn will be on board the aid flotilla with other political figures and personalities.
A thousand people from across the world are expected be be taking part in the flotilla.
Committee members are due to meet in Madrid next week to finalise plans for the voyage.
Dr Fintan Lane of the Free Gaza Movement and the Ireland-Palestine Solidarity Campaign told The Irish Times that the boat, which is docked at a Mediterranean port, is Irish-owned.
International flotilla committee members are due to meet in Madrid next week to finalize plans for the voyage.
Shane Dillon, the skipper of one of the aid flotilla vessels stormed by Israeli commandos last May, will captain the Irish ship.
January 31 2011
Relatives of people killed and injured on Bloody Sunday have called for those responsible to be prosecuted.
There is enough evidence and a public interest in court proceedings, said lawyers for 20 families affected by the deaths in Londonderry.
On Sunday, thousands of people took part in what is expected to be the last march to commemorate the 1972 shootings. It was the first mass demonstration since the Saville Report last year exonerated 14 people killed by British Paratroopers who opened fire on a civil rights march through the city.
A spokesman for Madden and Finucane Solicitors said: “Following careful consideration of Lord Saville’s report and its implications, we have submitted detailed representations to the Public Prosecution Service (PPS) requesting that those responsible for the murders and attempted murders on Bloody Sunday be prosecuted in court.
“It is clear to us that the evidential and public interest tests for bringing prosecutions have been satisfied.” He added: “Our submissions have also been forwarded to the Crown Prosecution Service in England in respect of the perjury committed by the soldiers when giving their evidence to the tribunal whilst in London.”
The Saville Report, which took 12 years to complete at a cost of £195 million, is heavily critical of the Army and found that soldiers killed people without justification.
The inquiry concluded that none of the victims was armed, that soldiers gave no warnings before opening fire and that the shootings were a “catastrophe” for Northern Ireland, leading to increased violence in subsequent years.
The 5,000-page report is based on testimony from 921 witnesses, 2,500 written statements and 60 volumes of written evidence.
None of the witnesses was granted blanket immunity from prosecution. All were immune from prosecution on the grounds of self-incrimination – but there was no immunity for perjury. This meant that the evidence given by a witness could not be used against them in any future legal proceedings.
However, this does not rule out prosecutions against a witness in a broader sense, especially if the evidence against them is supplied by a third party or other witness.
31 Jan 2011
The Government is set to delay publication of an inquiry into how police handled the sectarian murder of Robert Hamill.
Secretary of State Owen Paterson said the public inquiry’s report, which was expected to be released within weeks, had to be shelved following the recent decision to proceed with prosecutions against three people, including a former police officer, in connection with the case.
Mr Hamill, 25, was beaten to death by a loyalist mob in the predominantly Protestant town of Portadown, Co Armagh, in 1997 as he walked home after a night out with friends.
Controversy has focused on allegations that armed police at the scene failed to intervene to prevent the attack and that the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) subsequently mishandled the investigation.
No one has been convicted of the murder of the father-of-three.
Mr Paterson said the man’s family had agreed to the delay under the circumstances. He also announced, however, that lawyers from the Northern Ireland Office and the Police Service of Northern Ireland will begin legal checks on the report to ensure its contents do not pose a threat to an individual or to national security.
In a written ministerial statement released at Westminster, Mr Paterson said: “The House will be aware of the announcement made by the Public Prosecution Service (PPS) on December 21, 2010.
“In that statement, the PPS confirmed that, following a review of all the available evidence including that given to the Hamill Tribunal, it concluded that the test for prosecution is met in respect of two persons for an offence of conspiracy to pervert the course of justice and one person for an offence of doing an act with intent to pervert the course of justice.
“As I informed the House in my written statement of December 16, 2010, the Hamill Inquiry intends to complete its report by the end of February.
“It remains my intention to publish the report as soon as practicable, but in light of the legal proceedings against these three individuals, I have decided not to publish the inquiry’s report until the legal proceedings have concluded; to do so would certainly jeopardise these individuals’ right to a fair trial.
“I understand from the inquiry that it is also the family’s wish that the legal proceedings are not prejudiced by the publication of the report. In the meantime, I am exploring ways of ensuring that the report is safely and securely stored between its completion and its publication.
“Once the legal proceedings have concluded and the inquiry’s report is delivered to me, I am responsible for its publication. In anticipation of this, I have asked a small team of officials to commence the checking of the inquiry’s report in relation to human rights and national security matters.”
He said that under human rights legislation, he was obliged to carry out a review of the inquiry’s report.
Mr Paterson added: “I have established a small team to assist me in carrying out this necessary exercise. The team will be formed of the Northern Ireland Office’s principal legal adviser and an adviser from the Police Service of Northern Ireland.
“This team will be granted access to the report under strict terms of confidentiality and for the sole purpose of carrying out the necessary checks, and they will report directly to me alone.”
Mr Paterson added: “I understand that the report will be made available for checking today.”
The Secretary of State said he wanted to publish the report in its entirety but would discuss any redactions to the text with the inquiry chair.
“It is not possible to estimate how long the legal proceedings against the three individuals will take. I assure the House that once they have concluded, I intend to publish the report as soon as possible. Once a timetable for publication becomes clear, I will update the House accordingly.”
By Brian Rowan
29 Jan 2011
The vehicle which carried the main bomb, sitting on the Antrim Road
The dissident terror group Oglaigh na hEireann has revealed more details on the deadly double-ambush it planned in north Belfast.
And this newspaper now has more information on the desperate scramble for information, which prompted police to contact a key link-man in a so-called ‘back channel’ leading to the dissident leadership.
In a week-long security operation two devices were discovered.
• The first, a shrapnel bomb, was abandoned last Sunday after dissidents aborted a planned |ambush on police.
• The second, an Irish army grenade linked to a trip-wire hidden in undergrowth, was not |discovered until Thursday.
Now, full details of the plot are emerging.
Last Sunday the bombers came close to triggering a shrapnel |device as police responded to a call for help at a movie rental store on the Antrim Road.
From a vantage point the terrorists watched as the officers arrived and stood very close to the bomb — attached to a command wire and firing pack just yards away.
But the bombers were forced to abort the planned attack when a woman approached the police.
The presence of the woman, understood to live in Ardoyne, may well have saved the lives of the officers.
Oglaigh na hEireann claims to have disarmed the deadly device by “unhooking” the firing pack and removing it from the scene.
In a follow-up security operation after several “vague” telephoned bomb warnings, the PSNI turned to the secret back channel to try to pinpoint the precise |location of the device.
This newspaper understands that on Tuesday they approached a man — a key link in a hidden communications channel involving go-betweens, the dissident groups, British and Irish government officials and the police.
That same day, the link man met a senior Oglaigh na hEireann leader in Belfast — a member of the group’s so-called Army |Council. This newspaper understands he was given an exact location for the bomb — detail |described as “X marks the spot”, and that information was then passed to the PSNI.
The next day, Wednesday, police confirmed the bomb had been found.
But Oglaigh na hEireann did not disclose information on the second device — the Irish army grenade.
“The game was still on,” one source commented — a deadly game with a killing mission.
That grenade had a specific purpose.
Had the first bomb been detonated, and had the bombers been pursued at the scene, the trip-wire device was designed to catch the security forces in a second ambush.
A similar Irish army grenade was used in a previous planned booby-trap attack at a PSNI station at Crumlin in County Antrim.
Oglaigh na hEireann is now considered the most dangerous of the dissident groups — and there are grave concerns about how it is building its expertise and capacity.
31 Jan 2011
Marchers in Derry mark the 39th anniversary of Bloody Sunday. (Photo: George Jackson)
IN ONE of the largest demonstrations ever seen in Derry, tens of thousands of marchers have marked the 39th anniversary of Bloody Sunday by completing the original march route to the city’s Guildhall.
Fourteen people were shot dead by the British army on January 30th, 1972 as they rallied against internment without trial. Another 13 were shot and injured.
The commemoration is intended to be the last such rally following the publication of the Saville report on June 15th last year which overturned the original investigation by Lord Widgery and exonerated the dead and injured.
However, some of the victims’ relatives broke away from the main demonstration. Relatives of William Nash, rallied at Free Derry corner, a short distance from the scene of the shootings by the Parachute Regiment, and vowed they would return every year. Linda Nash denied the relatives were split, insisting that there was a range of opinions among 27 different families.
The march was headed by relatives who carried a large banner with the word “vindicated”.
Pictures of the victims, also bearing the claim, were carried. Behind them were thousands of supporters from Derry and beyond as well as republican organisations and representatives of international conflicts from Palestine to the Basque region.
The procession took about 45 minutes to pass the junction of William Street and Rossville Street where the previous commemoration marches diverted to protest at the scene of the killings.
This time, the march continued to Guildhall Square where they were welcomed by a platform party led by John Kelly, a key spokesman of the families. Alongside him where Foyle MP and former SDLP leader Mark Durkan and Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams. Also present were representatives of the Ballymurphy campaign, which is seeking exoneration of those shot dead by the same parachute regiment in west Belfast in August 1971.
Addressing the good-humoured crowd in Guildhall Square, Mr Adams said Bloody Sunday was a turning point in Irish history. The Saville report had overturned the Widgery findings which, Mr Adams said, “had tried to blame the marchers, tried to blame the IRA and tried to blame everyone except the British army”.
He commended British prime minister David Cameron for apologising in parliament to the people of Derry but contradicted his claim that the shootings did not define the British army’s presence in the city. “Bloody Sunday is the defining story of the British army in Ireland,” he said.
Calling for the truth to be established in relation to the Ballymurphy killings and other disputed cases, he appealed for an independent, international commission.
Mark Durkan described the rally as “possibly the last march, but not the last stand” in relation to truth and justice.
He said the Saville report was detailed in relation to the victims’ innocence, but light in relation to responsibility and demanded a “proper follow up” which would establish “full responsibility”.
Click on the picture to go to 11 Sixty Nine:
39th ANNIVERSARY OF ‘BLOODY SUNDAY’ – DUBLIN GPO PICKET,
SATURDAY 29TH JANUARY 2011: BRIEF REPORT AND PHOTOGRAPHS.
By Julieann Campbell
28 January 2011
Tens of thousands of people are expected to converge on Derry this Sunday for the city’s last-ever Bloody Sunday march.
Exactly 39 years – to the very day – relatives of those killed and wounded will join campaigners and supporters from all over Ireland and beyond to retrace the route taken on that cold crisp day of January 30, 1972 – a day that started off with an air of possibility and ended in chaos, bloodshed and murder.
Relatives Jean Hegarty and John Kelly prepare for the last-ever Bloody Sunday memorial march this Sunday (Photo: Stephen Latimer)
This Sunday’s widely-publicised commemoration march has been declared the last ever, dedicated as a ‘Thank You’ to the people of Derry and beyond for continuing support, help and encouragement over the course of the families’ decades long campaign for truth and justice.
Adding further symbolism, the route will lead to the heart of the city -the Guildhall – the intended destination of 1972’s original ill- fated march.
Scores of visitors are expected to travel over from England, Scotland, and as far away as the USA and Canada to be part of this historic occasion.
Chairing the rally this Sunday will be relative and campaigner John Kelly, and speakers will include Sinn Fein’s Gerry Adams, SDLP MP Mark Durkan, a representative of the Ballymurphy Families from Belfast, and Gerry Duddy, brother of Jackie Duddy who died on Bloody Sunday. Renowned singer Frances Black will bring proceedings to a close.
Few can forget the scenes of joy and elation on June 15 last year as thousands gathered in the Guildhall Square to hear the findings of Saville’s 12-year investigation into the 1972 killings. A media circus descended on the city, with over 500 media personnel arriving from all corners of the globe.
In his unprecedented address to Parliament, British Prime Minister David Cameron publicly apologised for the events of Bloody Sunday, describing them as both “unjustified and unjustifiable.” On June 15, 2010, the history books were re-written.
A series of events will take place this weekend to celebrate the remarkable Bloody Sunday Justice Campaign and all they collectively achieved. There’s a special celebration event at Derry’s Guildhall tonight, Friday, bringing together many of the unsung heroes of the Bloody Sunday Justice Campaign.
Sunday’s annual Wreath Laying Ceremony and Prayer Service will take place at the Bloody Sunday Monument at 11am, while those attending the last ever Bloody Sunday March and Rally are asked to assemble at the Creggan Shops at 2.30pm on Sunday afternoon.
25 January 2011
A former senior member of the Provisional IRA has described claims that self styled Republican Action Against Drugs is ‘mostly ex-PIRA members as “a joke.”
The source also said people living and working in Creggan are doing so in fear of the group, claiming many young people have been forced to leave Derry by the vigilante gang.
Claims were also made that Creggan is “like a pressure cooker at the moment and it is only a matter of time before the situation results in large scale bloodshed on the streets of the Estate.
“As for RAAD being mostly ex-PIRA that’s a joke. They are made up from people who, when the war was on hid and some others who are easily led. They answer to no- one yet hold whole communities to ransom.”
The letter also alleges that “some of their members have been known to deal in the past.”
The situation on the estate is certainly tense.
Anecdotal evidence in Creggan suggests the group are now targetting those it accuses of low level anti-social behaviour rather than its original stated aim of addressing drug dealers.
The Journal has learned that the group has kidnapped and interogated several young men in ‘intelligence’ operations.
The Journal has spoken to some of the men involved. They describe being punched, threatened with guns, execution and ‘six packs.’
Understandably none of the men, some of whom are still in their teens, wish to be identified. All of them deny being drug dealers.
A six pack is two bullet wounds each to the ankles, knees and elbows, a punishment described as “sadistic” by the former IRA man.
In a letter to the Journal the former Volunteer claims RAAD have managed something that the British Army and RUC failed to do.
“This group has put the fear into our areas something the Brits and RUC couldn’t do. Let the people best capable of dealing with it (Drugs problems) get on with it. Make the PSNI/RUC do their work.”
Last year alone RAAD was responsible for more than 20 shootings and bombings across Derry. On more than one occassion the goup claimed to have “confiscated substantial” amounts of drugs from dealers.
In his letter the former activist asks RAAD where has the money and drugs confiscated from dealers gone?
“What happens to the drugs and money that is being taken off these dealers? RAAD should take a hard look at themselves.”
The author also claims that bar staff in the area “are too scared to speak out” after intimidation by members of RAAD.
“They are holding the entire area to ransom,” the former senior Provo said.
29 January 2011
ENVIRONMENT minister Edwin Poots has claimed that Irish republicanism had been “well and truly tamed” and that a united Ireland was firmly off the agenda thanks to the efforts the DUP.
Speaking at the party’s annual dinner in Craigavon Civic Centre, Mr Poots said: “Republicans have failed to achieve any of their strategic goals towards Irish unity. Irish republicanism has been tamed and Northern Ireland is a more successful part of the United Kingdom.
“People who spent years trying to destroy the infrastructure of the country are now arguing for more investment. The 30-plus years of armed republican insurrection against the State was a complete waste of time, effort and human life.”
He added that Northern Ireland reached another milestone of change this week “when Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams was elevated by HM Treasury to a new position under the Crown. I congratulate him on his elevation to The Crown Steward and Bailiff of the Manor of Northstead”.
“He emigrates to the Irish Republic with his goal of a united Ireland further away than ever. A united Ireland is off the agenda thanks to the efforts of this party.”
He concluded: “We have achieved much, but there is much more still to do. I know that with the continuing support of the community we can make Northern Ireland the very best part of the United Kingdom.”
29 Ja 2011
The decision to end the annual Bloody Sunday march in Derry has been criticised by a relative of the of the victims.
Thirteen people died when British paratroopers opened fire on a civil rights march in Derry in January 1972. A fourteenth died later.
March organisers had said that the last march would take place this Sunday.
A march traditionally takes place in Derry each year to mark the anniversary of Bloody Sunday
Kate Nash, whose brother William was killed on Bloody Sunday, said she felt the move was “very premature”.
A statement signed by the majority of the families said the march was no longer necessary after the Saville Report exonerated the dead and wounded.
Ms Nash, however, said she did not understand how the decision came about to end the commemoration march.
“It was dropped on us like a ton of bricks, completely unexpectedly. Who decided the march should end and why?” she said.
“The people of Derry were not afforded the opportunity of having an opinion about this and I feel they should have had.
“They have supported this march for 39 years and I think the least that could have been done was to get their opinion on it.
“The only purpose I can see in this is that it’s an annual embarrassment to the British government about what they did.”
Tony Doherty, whose father Paddy was also killed on Bloody Sunday, said he supported the ending of the march.
“There has been much debate about this within families and others in the city of Derry,” he said.
“Coming up to the 39th anniversary. the families met twice about this because we were obviously aware that there were differences of opinion.
“The vast majority of the families felt that what we had brought about, what we had achieved on 15 June, with the Saville Report as an exoneration, with the words of David Cameron, with apology and accepting political responsibility for the atrocity of Bloody Sunday, that it was now time for us all to consider moving on.”
Thousands of people are expected to take part in the final march on Sunday.
A number of options are now being considered to mark future anniversaries, including an annual gathering of remembrance at the Bloody Sunday monument, a remembrance Mass, a human rights weekend and an annual Bloody Sunday lecture.
26 Jan 2011
REPUBLICAN NETWORK for UNITY (RNU) Ard Chomhairle member, CARL REILLY has criticised a sinister attempt to blackmail Ardoyne Republican, Martin Óg Meehan.
Mr. Reilly said; “Last Friday afternoon, senior RNU Activist Martin Óg Meehan was violently assaulted by the RUC/PSNI. This attack comes at a time when Republican Activists and their families have seen a significant increase in violent arrests, unwarranted raids and intimidation.
After being brutally forced into handcuffs and leg restraints, Martin Óg was taken to Antrim Road Barracks in Belfast. During which time, he was brought to an ‘interview room’ where two Special Branch men were awaiting. The Spooks ‘notified’ the former Political Prisoner that a Loyalist killer Gang had been actively tracking his movements for sometime.
The British Intelligence Agents alleged that they would end the targeting, if Mr. Meehan ‘helped’ jail three Belfast Republicans, whom they named. They further claimed that the North Belfast Republican would receive a ‘substantial financial reward’ if he agreed to ‘cooperate’. However, if he refused they would pass on his details to the gang”.
Mr. Reilly concluded; “It is no secret that British Crown Forces have directed the murderous activities of Loyalist paramilitaries for over a generation. The menacing threat to the RNU member shines a light on collusion between the rebranded RUC, MI5 and Loyalists.
The Republican Network for Unity reiterates our call to those Nationalist and Republican members of constabulary boards and district partnerships that their refusal to condemn abhorrent tactics is touted as approval for British repression and injustice”.
In recent months, éirígí in Newry has been to the fore in exposing and opposing the unchanged nature of British policing in occupied Ireland.
As a result, party activists and supporters in the area have been at the receiving end of PSNI assaults, intimidation, stop and searches, house raids, threats and provocation.
Activists have highlighted this harassment by organising protests and leaflet drops, erecting banners, stickers and posters and actively challenging the PSNI on the streets when they are engaged in such behaviour.
One example in particular is indicative of the level of harassment the PSNI has been engaged in over the last few months. éirígí in Newry were recently contacted by a local republican who was concerned at the amount of unwanted attention he has been receiving at the hands of the British police force.
The victim has been stopped and searched no less than 62 times over a period of just 7 months by the PSNI, using various forms of repressive British legislation.
He has been stopped 36 times under the so-called Justice and Security Act, during which he was searched for “wireless apparatus, transmitters and munitions”, while he has also been stopped 26 times under the British government’s ‘Terrorism Act’.
On one occasion, the man’s 14-year-old child was also stopped under Section 43 of the ‘Terrorism Act’. All of these incidents have occurred while the local republican has been going about his normal, daily business.
As well as being stopped and searched on a regular basis, he has also had his house targeted in a dawn raid, with the PSNI presenting a warrant claiming to be searching for firearms. Not surprisingly, nothing was found.
The latest incident in a litany of politically-inspired harassment occurred on Saturday [January 22] when the victim was stopped an astonishing three times in a two and-a-half hour period in the Kiln Street, Mill Street and Sugar Island areas of Newry.
The day previous he had been stopped in the city centre, where he was given a generic contact card instead of the written record the PSNI is required to fill out during instances of stop and search. The card advised the recipient to contact the local barracks for a full record of the harassment. It is possible the PSNI is now using this procedure in an attempt to isolate republicans in the confines of a barracks.
Rúnaí ginearálta éirígí Breandán Mac Cionnaith said: “While it’s astonishing that so much harassment is being directed towards a single individual, there are many more republicans in the Newry area and across the Six Counties who are suffering persecution at the hands of the PSNI.
“Is this the ‘new beginning’ to policing we were promised? Is this the civic, accountable police service the establishment parties desperately tried to sell to working class nationalist communities?”
Mac Cionnaith added: “While the PSNI’s cheerleaders tell us there are only ‘a few bad apples’ within the ranks of the force, it is situations like this man’s that rubbish their claims. It is clear that the PSNI is accountable to no-one other than the British government whose presence in Ireland it is duty bound to protect.
“The British police force in Ireland was rotten to the core when it was called the RIC, it was rotten to the core when it was called the RUC and it is rotten to the core under its current guise of the PSNI.
“It’s time for people to take a stand and make our voices heard loud and clear that we will not sit back and let these pro-British paramilitaries continue with their repressive actions. Those in positions of responsibility should withdraw their support for the PSNI and stand by the people they claim to represent rather than silently watching them being, once again, labelled a suspect community.
“éirígí will continue with its Different Name, Same Aim campaign in an effort to highlight the unacceptable nature of the PSNI.
“We commend the Newry republican in question for remaining steadfast in the face of this intimidation and we encourage anyone who is suffering similar treatment to contact a local éirígí activist and to have the incidents logged with their solicitor.
“éirígí will stand shoulder to shoulder with the victims of Crown Forces harassment. All those with an interest in human rights should do likewise.”
28 January 2011
THE army defused a second device yesterday which was found at the back of a scout hall in north Belfast, it emerged last night.
Two bombs were found and made safe by army technical officers on the Antrim Road during a security alert which saw a vital chunk of one of the city’s main thoroughfares cordoned off for three days and two nights.
One hundred families were evacuated from their homes. By late last night all had been able to return to their homes and the Antrim Road re-opened.
Police have been treating the area as a major crime scene.
Speaking last night, Chief Constable Matt Baggott vowed to catch those behind it.
He told reporters at the scene that those who planted the two devices “had the same recklessness as those who brought about the Omagh atrocity”.
“The intention of those behind the bombs was to maim and kill in a busy residential area,” he said.
“There were hundreds of people who could have been very badly hurt and killed by this device in a busy residential area, where we have children, where we have people going about their normal business.
“People who simply want to get on with their job.
“I assure people that there will be a relentless investigation, I am determined that we will bring these people to justice.”
The chief constable also issued a plea for information about the bombers.
He thanked the public for their support but said he now needed “tangible information”.
“I’ve been out in the community and everyone I meet wants to support policing. Nobody wants to see another Omagh,” he said.
“This is not an army occupation. We are simply the police.
“Someone somewhere knows exactly who is behind this but we need to have tangible information to catch them.”
Chief Superintendent Mark Hamilton told reporters that the second device had been found at the back of a scout hall at around 2.30pm yesterday.
He described it as a viable device. He said he could not reveal the weight of either of the devices yet but described one of them as “quite a bit larger than the other”.
“I believe that police were lured here and the intention was to murder my officers,” he said.
“I would like to commend the army technical officers for their bravery in dealing with a complex and complicated device.”
Chief Supt Hamilton said the security operation had been a “slow, methodical, painstaking process”.
“I wouldn’t have taken the steps I have taken if I didn’t believe there was an enormous risk, firstly to members of the public and then to my staff,” he said.
“There’s been people in this community who have deliberately planted a bomb in this area and their only purpose was to murder people.
“Then you add to that the recklessness of leaving a device in an unstable condition which could have exploded.”
The alert, which is close to Antrim Road police station, began after a series of calls claiming to be from dissident republican group Oglaigh na hEireann.
North Belfast DUP MP Nigel Dodds has slammed those responsible for the bomb plot.
“The past few days have been a stark reminder of the sort of callous terrorism which blighted Northern Ireland for too many years,” he said.
“What started as a vague bomb warning became a suspect device requiring the evacuation of dozens of families and now we know the full extent of an apparent bomb trap designed to kill or maim police officers responding in the line of duty to a reported incident.
“After not being detonated, this explosive device was left beside a busy thoroughfare for two full days, passed by thousands of motorists and pedestrians including many children and school pupils, before the security forces were properly notified.
“Many people are now feeling shocked and upset that they were so close to this bomb abandoned by reckless terrorists.
“It is a huge relief that no-one was hurt. However many families had to leave their homes and many businesses lost vital trade over the three days of this security operation.”
Mr Dodds paid tribute to the work of the security forces.
“We are indebted to our security forces for their professional and thorough response whilst under the threat of secondary devices,” he said.
“This incident has only served to reinforce opposition from across the entire community to the warped logic of those who wish to return our country to the futile violence and bloodshed of the past.
“Their terrorism must be condemned not because it has virtually no support but because it is wrong and evil and seeks to inflict death and injury on members of our society.
“Collectively we must reinforce our determination not to be cowed by terrorists. In seeking to cause death and destruction, they also destroy whatever cause or purpose they seek to advance.
“They must be met with total opposition.
“I urge anyone with any knowledge or suspicion of who is responsible for this so-called dissident terrorism to pass that information on to the police.
“In so doing they will save others from the terrible consequences of future acts of violence.”
SDLP MLA Alban Maginness said that he hasn’t met anyone who has “any sympathy or any support” for the perpetrators.
“It is an outrageous attack on the whole community and these people that have carried it out ought to be, and I think are being, condemned by the vast majority of the community here in north Belfast,” he said.
“They claim that they want to unite Ireland – well they are not and they cannot through violence do that and we know that from the past.”
Meanwhile as police were drafted in from across the province to help with the security operation, the chief constable said negotiations over the police budget are currently ongoing involving police, the Treasury at Whitehall and the Department of Justice.
“Those conversations are taking place,” he told reporters last night.
“But I am not going to go into much detail on that because they are sensitive matters.”
Earlier at a separate press conference yesterday morning following a meeting with the chief constable, Policing Board cember Jimmy Spratt also indicated that negotiations are ongoing with regard to the PSNI’s budget.
He said he believes it is essential the PSNI have a sufficient budget to allow them to carry out the level of service that they need to.
Last November Mr Baggott made a plea to the Northern Ireland Executive not to cut his budget.
With a severe level of threat from dissidents, Mr Baggott warned that this is not the time to be cutting police resources and said that the force has faced enough cuts over the past decade.
By Ciara Quinn
24th of January 2011
A vital and much-loved children’s playgroup in the heart of Turf Lodge is facing imminent closure due to lack of funding.
Holy Trinity Pre-School Playgroup has been at the heart of local pre-school provision for 30 years, but it’s been informed that its yearly budget has been drastically cut by the Belfast Trust and unless they can make up a £9,000-plus deficit by the end of March it will be left with no option but to close – leaving children and parents high and dry.
Parents Maureen and Owen Fallon, whose daughter Eimear attends the playgroup, said families are deeply saddened by the news.
“It is very sad to hear of the forced closure due to lack of funding. There are not many playgroups remaining in this area and we, like many other parents, have given our commitment to fight for its survival,” said Maureen.
“My three-year-old daughter has attended the playgroup since September and it has afforded her an excellent opportunity to grow and develop within a structured environment. We have seen Eimear’s confidence soar and she has really developed socially over the past number of months.
“This playgroup is important to the local community, families have used it for decades. As parents we call on those with any influence to assist us in securing the future of the playgroup.”
Cathy Dobbin, mother of one-year-old Aidan, had planned on enrolling her son at the playgroup. “He will miss out on so many chances to interact with other children and it’s sad for both the parents and children,” she said.
“My mother- and father-in-law, Mary and Michael Dobbin, have been voluntary treasurers at the playgroup for many years and have devoted a lot of personal time and effort to the school. They were involved in the funding to get a new playground for the kids and they introduced most of their grandchildren to the playgroup and the kids have loved it.
“Now that we have a one-year-old son we are very disappointed that he’s going to miss out on the chance of attending the playgroup, the trips to farms and other places, the brilliant teachers and the great facilities. It’s such a waste of a very popular amenity in Turf Lodge,” she added.
Supervisor Rosaleen Finnegan, who has been with the playgroup for 22 years, said she is “praying for a miracle”.
“Following a meeting with our board members I was informed that there is no longer funds to sustain the service that our playgroup offers in Turf Lodge. To keep the playgroup operational the annual expenses, including staff pay and general upkeep, is a total of £12,500,” she said.
“From the end of March, which is less than two months away, this will be reduced to £3,000, which makes it impossible to cover the costs of running a playgroup and we will be left no other option but to close unless we can make up the £9,500 deficit.
“We have been here for the past 30 years. I’ve been here 22 years and for the past ten been supervisor. We have the facilities for up to 16 children aged between three and four. We play a vital role in this community and for parents especially. Every year we have a waiting list for children to attend us which further highlights the need for our playgroup and to close it would be a complete loss to the area,” she said.
“Our playgroup is an introduction for these young children to schooling and over the years I have witnessed the benefits it has had on preparing them for the older nursery school. Most of our children have come from socially deprived families and subsequently there is a higher incidence of behavioural problems.
“When the children first start our playgroup many of them have separation anxiety from their parents and aren’t used to interacting with other children and several of them also have poorly developed speech, which often leads to frustration and temper tantrums. Our playschool provides them with an environment for a few hours every day where they can learn to mix with other children preparing them for the jump into primary school.”
Such is Rosaleen’s dedication to the playgroup that if the closure goes ahead she is prepared to come in and work voluntarily to see the school year out.
“They can’t even give us until the end of June. I’m just devastated, not just for myself but for the staff and the children. We have such a nurturing environment here, but we don’t know where to turn and we don’t know of anyone who can help us. I don’t want the children’s routine upset and I don’t want to have to leave what we have built up. I know so many orgainsations’ budgets have been cut – we really are praying for a miracle now.”
A spokesperson for the Belfast Trust told the Andersonstown News the Trust intends to meet with the playgroup as soon as possible to discuss the issue of future funding.
By Scott Jamison
South Belfast News
24th of January 2011
The South Belfast-based survivors of institutional abuse group are to meet with a Vatican panel investigating child abuse in Ireland, the SBN can exclusively reveal.
Representatives from the Survivors and Victims of Institutional Abuse in Northern Ireland organisation, led by Lower Ormeau woman Margaret McGuckin, will meet the Apostolic Visitation in Armagh on Friday after a request by the group.
The Vatican panel, which was established by Pope Benedict last March to look at how far religious orders in Ireland had strayed from rules to curb clerical abuse, is led by Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor, the retired archbishop of Westminster, and features other senior members of the clergy. It held a series of public talks on the subject in Armagh last week.
Margaret said she would go “armed with the truth” to the meeting later this week.
“I have sent two letters regarding our situation to the pope but as yet have received no reply. So I will bring them to this meeting and show them to the cardinal.
“I could send more to Rome, but I’ll likely get no response. So I will go the meeting in Armagh and put a human face on the victims of abuse, so they can see what we went through.
“I will tell them the truth of what happened to us. That is the biggest weapon we have.”
However, she said she had debated whether to go to the meeting at all.
“I didn’t hold out much hope in the first place, because it’s the church investigating itself. So we talked about how worthwhile an experience it would be.
“The fact there was no communication from them until we decided to request a meeting said it all.
“But as a group we decided it would be worth it just to get our point across in person, because we felt we would be letting them off easily otherwise.”
Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor said his main responsibility on his visit to Ireland would be to listen to victims of abuse.
“I am making myself available to meet and listen to people who may wish to see me and, most especially, anyone who has been a victim of clerical abuse, and their families.
“I am also anxious to listen to priests, religious and lay people of the Archdiocese.
“This Visitation will, I hope, build on what has already been accomplished with regard to the safeguarding of children and, I pray, be experienced as a real mark of the Holy Father’s pastoral care and outreach to all the people of Ireland.”
By Gráinne McWilliams
27th of January 2011
THE PSNI have issued a fresh appeal for information about four unsolved murders that took place in West Belfast in the earlier part of the last decade.
Detectives in the PSNI’s Serious Crime Branch are currently trying to identify “new investigative opportunities” into the deaths of Michael Callaghan, Dominic McManus, Joseph O’Connor and Kevin McAlorum.
Michael Callaghan, from Pollard Close off the Springfield Road, was 39 years old when he was stabbed to death at a party in Norglen Parade on March 13, 2000. No-one has ever been charged in connection with the murder of the father-of-five.
Dominic Gerard McManus, from Quadrant Place in Divis, was found stabbed to death in an alleyway at nearby Devonshire Close on January 30, 2001. Three men appeared in court in relation to the 33-year-old’s death but no-one was ever convicted.
Joseph O’Connor and Kevin Patrick McAlorum were both allegedly shot dead by republican paramilitaries.
Real IRA member Joseph O’Connor (26) was shot at close range – almost certainly by the IRA – while sitting in a parked car In Whitecliff Parade in Ballymurphy on October 13, 2000.
Kevin Patrick McAlorum (31) was shot and killed, most likely by the INLA, while leaving his daughter off at Oakwood Integrated Primary School in Derriaghy on June 3, 2004.
Mr McAlorum was jailed in 1997 for possession of a loaded gun and released three years later under the Good Friday Agreement. He was in the frame for the murder of INLA leader Gino Gallagher in 1996.
“A number of historic, unsolved murders are currently with a team of detectives within the serious crime branch with a view to identifying new investigative opportunities which could lead to bringing the perpetrators before the courts,” said a police spokesperson.
“The PSNI would appeal to the public to come forward and speak to police about the murders of Michael O’Callaghan, Joseph O’Connor, Dominic McManus and Kevin McAlorum. Your information, no matter how insignificant it may seem, could lead to a murder conviction and ultimately begin the healing process for their grieving families.”
West Belfast MLA Paul Maskey appealed for local people to come forward with information on the murders.
“A renewed appeal on any death that hasn’t been solved is always welcome,” said the Sinn Féin MLA.“Anyone with information should come forward as we need to ensure that the PSNI are doing everything they can to bring those responsible to justice.”
27th of January 2011
IRISH socialist republican party éirígí will be putting candidates forward in the upcoming local council elections.
The decision was made yesterday during a vote at the party’s Ard Fheis in An Chultúrlann on the Falls Road, which was attended by over 200 party delegates from across Ireland.
Speakers included representatives from the Ireland-Palestine Solidarity Committee, the Latin American Solidarity Centre, the Independent Workers’ Union, FEE, as well as éirígí Chairperson Brian Leeson and General Secretary Breandán Mac Cionnaith.
Messages of solidarity were also sent by the Cuban Ambassador to Ireland, Teresita Trujillo, and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.
Speaking at the Ard Fheis, Mr Mac Cionnaith said: “It is significant that éirígí is holding its Ard Fheis in Belfast. The birth of Irish republicanism was announced in June 1795 on Cavehill above the city by Wolfe Tone, Henry Joy McCracken, Thomas Russell, Samuel Neilsen and a number of other United Irishmen.
“Today, the struggle against partition and for Irish independence and reunification continues to be a 32-county one. Equally, the struggle against economic injustice and for socialism in Ireland must also be a 32-county one.”
Meanwhile, two West Belfast éirígí members have been convicted in Dublin on charges related to a protest over the economy in Dublin.
John McCusker and Pádraig Ó Meiscill were convicted of public order offences last week in relation to a peaceful protest which took place last May against the Fianna Fáil/Green Party coalition’s bail-out of the Anglo-Irish Bank.
The men face sentencing tomorrow (Tuesday) in Dublin and both will be appealing the convictions.
éirígí Chairman Brian Leeson described as “farcical” the fact that the first convictions secured by the state in relation to the financial meltdown at Anglo-Irish Bank were peaceful protesters, not the bankers and politicians who, he says, caused the meltdown and subsequent catastrophic economic collapse.
“Today saw the first convictions connected to the collapse of the public banking sector and the government’s criminal bail-out of them,” said Mr Leeson.
“However, those convicted were not the bankers, developers and politicians whose greed and corruption brought about that collapse and bankrupted the public finances, but two activists engaged in an entirely peaceful protest who went to the aid of four of their colleagues who had been assaulted by Gardaí.”
By Gemma Burns
North Belfast News
The disparity between the arrest and charges rate for the Rathcoole riots and Ardoyne riots last year should be “questioned and carefully monitored” according to a leading policing and justice academic.
Senior law lecturer at the University of Ulster, Dr Mary O’Rawe was commenting after figures obtained by the North Belfast News showed that 63 people were arrested and 52 charged in relation to the Ardoyne riots in July last year compared to just six arrests and one person charged following the Rathcoole disturbances in October.
Another 19 people were charged in nationalist areas of Belfast in rioting connected to the Ardoyne disturbances.
Dr O’Rawe said although it would be “too simplistic” to say the PSNI are more forceful in one area compared to another, there are clearly questions to be answered to allay public perceptions regarding the differences between the two.
“On the face of it there is an obvious disparity and it would warrant further investigation,” she said,
“Something doesn’t seem right, but it would be too easy to say in one case they are dealing with Catholics and in one they are dealing with Protestants. However, where some public order incidents give rise to deployment of baton rounds and water cannons and are followed by large numbers of arrests, while other incidents do not, I do think there are questions there that should be asked and monitored by the Policing Board.”
The academic, who specialises in policing and justice issues, said that learning from any differences between the two approaches should be taken on board by the PSNI to influence operational decisions they may make in the future.
“These questions are always more complex than soundbite answers allow for – but it is important that seeming disparities are picked up on and carefully monitored in terms of ensuring post-operation accountability for operational decisions taken and to ensure that learning from these kinds of things is taken forward to inform future policing strategies and tactics,” she said.
The Ardoyne riots occurred in July last year following an Orange Order parade through the area which brought three nights of violence to the district. Officers were attacked with blast bombs, petrol bombs, bricks and other missiles and they responded with baton rounds and water cannons.
The Rathcoole rioting erupted after a series of raids in the area as part of Operation Stafford, the successor to Operation Ballast, which looks into the activities of the UVF in North Belfast. Several cars and two buses were burned out during riots outside the Rathcoole estate over a two-day period. A bus driver was assaulted and removed from his vehicle and a female bus driver was dragged from her vehicle during the trouble.
Responding to the differences between the figures earlier this month, a PSNI spokeswoman defended arrest and charge rates saying the Rathcoole riots were “spontaneous” and therefore it was unfair to compare the two.
The spokeswoman insisted they are treating the two riot with “the utmost seriousness” with teams of detectives working to bring those involved to justice.
“However, the reality is that these were different public order situations and it would be unfair and unbalanced to make direct comparisons between the two,” she said.
“The Rathcoole incidents were of a spontaneous nature and followed a number of searches related to a police investigation into serious crime. The disorder was in a very limited geographic location and was made up of, for the most part, vehicles being set alight by a small group of people within a larger crowd in the area.
“There were no injuries to police. This is not to minimise what happened – as the local community clearly suffered from the disorder and disruption – but to put it in context.”
The spokeswoman said this cannot be compared to the riots in Ardoyne.
“Ardoyne, on the other hand, was a large-scale planned police operation, including a very large evidence-gathering operation. Given the history of the situation, large-scale public order was anticipated and prepared for,” she said.
“In the event, officers faced a very large number of people involved in serious disorder in the shape of sustained violence over four days. One officer, who had a breeze blocked dropped onto her head, was seriously injured. Over 80 officers in total were injured.”
Dr O’Rawe pointed out that although there is clearly merit in the police response in terms of the differences between the two operations there are still other relevant questions about how the two situations were handled.
“Some of what they are saying is clearly correct in terms of not being too quick to compare like with like when the incidents had their own distinct features – the mention of number of officers injured is interesting in the context of answering the specific question as to why arrests followed or not in each situation,” she said.
“Is the implication that officer, as opposed to civilian, injury is a particular motivating factor for arrest?
“No mention is made of the bus driver who had his nose broken in Rathcoole, or civilians injured in Ardoyne. The PSNI response also raises clear questions requiring to be answered around how so many police officers came to be injured in Ardoyne and what that might say, not just about the ferocity of the situation (which is clearly an important factor) but about the appropriateness of the policing operation as a whole and at particular stages in terms of keeping people safe, officers and civilians alike.”
A team of 20 officers trawled through hundreds of hours of CCTV footage and thousands of photographs of the Ardoyne riots and then released images of those they wished to speak to, many of whom were under 18 years of age.
No images of the Rathcoole were ever released to the public.
The policing and justice academic said this should not raise the question of why images of Rathcoole youths were not released, but why any CCTV images of children were released in the first place.
“I don’t think the PSNI should have released any images at all in this fashion. Calling for Rathcoole to be like Ardoyne would be like calling for equality of brutality or for inappropriate responses to be further used to criminalise other young people.
“If you start calling for parity on the basis of religious make up, the danger is that you go down a draconian route. I don’t think any CCTV footage should have been released as it was, because with children under 18 it is highly problematic. The Policing Board needs to be asking the questions and receiving the answers.”
Dr O’Rawe added that the two riot situations (and others) bring into focus post-conflict policing in the North and how the recommendations of the Patten report, which looked at the future of policing, were or were not adopted.
“All of this, of course, begs the more fundamental question as to how successful state police responses to fraught and dangerous public events can ever be,” she said,
“And makes it all the more unfortunate that the more radical transformative aspects of Patten were allowed to founder by continuing to privilege, fund and focus on the public police as opposed to developing a much more holistic and transformative conversation as to what exactly policing is and how best money can be spent to make and keep our society safe.”
By Paul Ainsworth
PRESCHOOL children and primary school pupils from West Belfast have taken part in a groundbreaking initiative that teaches kids to respect cultural differences.
Children from St Oliver Plunkett’s Preschool Playgroup joined Primary One and Two pupils at the event held in the Ulster Hall, for the launch of the Media Initiative for Children Respecting Difference Programme.
Designed to teach youngsters to respect cultural and social differences, and combat the fostering of sectarianism, the event saw a visit from Stormont Junior Ministers Gerry Kelly and Robin Newton, who were joined by over 300 people from the political, educational and community relations sectors.
The report launched at the event was written by Queen’s University’s Dr Paul Connolly.
Siobhan Fitzpatrick, Chief Executive Officer of Early Years – the organisation for young children who developed the Media Initiative explained: “Young people pick up negative attitudes so easily. We know that neurologically the imprint of these attitudes and emotions can begin at an early age.
“What the evidence of this research shows is that with children as young as three, this form of approach can have an impact on preventing the adoption of sectarian attitudes.
“We are delighted with the positive findings of the research. It’s the accumulation of years of work, and it’s an important platform from which we can continue to develop tools for tackling segregation, discrimination and separation in our society.”
The Media Initiative found robust evidence that the scheme had improved young children’s awareness and attitudes towards cultural differences. The research relied on one of the largest ever trials of its type internationally and involved 74 pre-school settings across the North and border counties.
The aunt of Real IRA murder victim Kieran Doherty, has said she does not know why she was arrested in connection with the killing.
Mr Doherty, who had been a Real IRA member, was abducted and shot dead by the group in Londonderry last year.
Priscilla Doherty was released without charge after being arrested along with a man on Tuesday. He was also released without charge.
The 40-year-old said she had nothing to do with the murder.
“Kieran was to me my wee brother – the two of us looked out for each other,” she said.
“When I was in the cell I had to see a doctor and the doctor had to give me diazepam and I’m on anti-depressants since Kieran’s death.
“I asked them ‘why am I here?’ A policeman came into the cell and said ‘why do you think you’re here?’ I said ‘you tell me’. I said ‘I don’t understand why I’m sitting in this cell’.”
The body of 31-year-old Mr Doherty, who had a two-year-old daughter, was found on Braehead Road, near the Irish border in February 2010.