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Thursday, 30 June 2011
The mother of murdered policeman Ronan Kerr has received an academic excellence award that her son attained as a new recruit.
Nuala Kerr was presented with his certificate in policing with commendation by actor and University of Ulster chancellor James Nesbitt at Belfast’s Waterfront Hall.
Constable Kerr was only weeks out of training when he was killed in a dissident republican booby-trap car bomb outside his home in Omagh, Co Tyrone, in March.
As a Catholic and Gaelic games enthusiast, the young policeman was targeted by the extremists in a bid to scare off other nationalists from joining the new-look police service.
In the wake of his murder his mother won praise the world over for her heartfelt plea to young Catholics not to be put off signing up to serve the community.
Along with family members, she travelled from Tyrone to receive her son’s higher education certificate, which he completed through the University of Ulster during his PSNI training.
Handing over the parchment, actor Nesbitt paid tribute to the courage of the Kerr family in the aftermath of the murder.
“Ronan was a dedicated and conscientious student, respected by staff and students alike,” he said. “We hope very much that this presentation today may bring some small comfort and help people remember Ronan’s many achievements in his short life. Our thoughts are with you always.”
Visibly emotional, Mrs Kerr thanked the university for the gesture as she received the award.
The family intend to establish a trust fund in Ronan’s memory in the near future.
The booby-trap bomb that killed the 25-year-old was made up of 500g of high explosives and was planted just yards from the Omagh half-marathon route in the Co Tyrone town by dissident republicans.
It was placed inside a plastic box which had been attached under his car.
The GAA and PSNI held an unprecedented joint guard of honour for Constable Kerr at his funeral in Beragh, Co Tyrone. It was attended by political leaders from across Ireland including Northern Ireland First Minister Peter Robinson.
29 June 2011
Talks between prison authorities and dissident republican prisoners are being held in a bid to resolve the strip-search issue in Maghaberry jail.
The prison service said it was committed to dialogue with prisoners to address issues of concern.
Lurgan republican Colin Duffy, who is remanded on murder charges, did not appear at his bail hearing on Tuesday.
His lawyer said he had not been brought from the prison “on foot” of the issue of full body searches.
The lawyer asked for the bail application to be adjourned until August.
Prison authorities and republican prisoners also held talks on the strip search issue last year.
A prisons spokesperson said on Wednesday: “The Northern Ireland Prison Service remains committed to the full implementation of the agreement reached last August regarding Roe House and is committed to dialogue with prisoners so that issues of concern can be addressed.
“The prison service has a duty of care to prisoners, staff and the wider public and must take every precaution to ensure that illicit items are not smuggled into or out of prisons.
“There is a requirement on all prisoners leaving and entering prisons in Great Britain and Northern Ireland to undergo a full body search.”
29 June 2011
Police have clarified that there are no plans for a review into the Kingsmills massacre to see if charges could be brought against those involved in the murders.
It had been previously indicated that such a move would be taken, in the wake of a report into the case published last week.
Relatives of those killed met on Wednesday to discuss how to progress their pursuit of justice. They have already demanded a public inquiry following the Historical Enquiries Team report into the atrocity.
The report found the IRA, who claimed to be on ceasefire at the time, was behind what was one of the worst atrocities of the Troubles – under the cover name of the South Armagh Republican Action Force.
The men were shot dead on their way home from work in the south Armagh village after being ambushed by 11 gunmen on 5 January 1976.
They were forced at gunpoint to reveal their religion. They were lined up, flasks and lunchboxes still in their hands, and shot dead. One man hit 18 times survived.
The report found the weapons used by the gunmen could be linked to up to 100 other killings, included the murders of RUC Chief Superintendent Harold Breen and Superintendent Raymond Buchanan in South Armagh in 1989.
The families of those murdered at Kingsmills feel they are still a long way from justice. Jean Lemmon’s husband Joseph was one of those killed.
“I miss my husband, he was the best man going,” she said.
“I want to see them (those responsible) put in jail, because I lost a good man, my two girls lost a good father.”
The report found the Kingsmills massacre was a “direct response” to the shootings of three members of the Reavey family in Whitecross days earlier.
Eugene Reavey lost his three brothers in the UVF shooting in January 1976. After the attack, his father called for no retaliation.
“Unfortunately it fell on deaf ears, he said if his sons by their deaths saved any others, they would not have died in vain, but unfortunately no one was listening,” Mr Reavey said.
“Whether there was a plan or not, the murder of my brothers was a catalyst to the murders of these people at Kingsmills.
29 June 2011
A high-ranking garda was informed of death threats against an RUC officer up to a year before he was killed in an IRA ambush.
Superintendent Bob Buchanan was murdered along with colleague Chief Superintendent Harry Breen near the Irish border after a meeting at Dundalk Garda Station in March 1989.
Retired Garda Chief Superintendent Tom Curran, based in Monaghan town at the time, told the Smithwick Tribunal in Dublin he wrote to the Assistant Commissioner in charge of crime and security in Garda Headquarters about a threat against Mr Buchanan’s life between March and October 1988.
“At one stage in my service in Monaghan when, during Bob Buchanan’s time there, I was speaking to a man who I believed was a member of the IRA and he told me that Bob Buchanan was going to be shot,” said Mr Curran.
“The words he used was ‘there’s a fella crossing the border there to see you and he is going to be shot’.
“You’re never sure about the validity of stories like that from informers but it was a serious matter as far as I was concerned to I wrote direct to crime and security giving that information.”
Mr Curran said he believed the Assistant Commissioner in charge at the time was Eugene Crowley, who has since died, but said he thought a Michael Diffley handled security reports.
The tribunal heard the document has never been located and that Mr Diffley has said any report would have been acted on.
The retired garda revealed he also never informed his chief superintendent in Monaghan at the time as he did not want the report read in his station, and did not quiz Garda headquarters after Mr Buchanan’s killing.
Mr Curran, who said he got to know his RUC counterpart as a friend after Mr Buchanan visited his station up to three times a week, admitted he never told the officer about the IRA threat.
“I didn’t want him to get the impression we were trying to prevent him from coming over,” said Mr Curran.
The tribunal, established in 2005, is investigating allegations that Garda officers in the Republic or a civilian working in the force colluded with the IRA in the murders.
Mr Breen and Mr Buchanan were two of the highest-ranking RUC officers killed in the Troubles.
29 June 2011
A former IRA man jailed for the attempted murder of an off-duty UDR soldier 30 years ago should be freed under a special pardon granted by the Queen, the High Court has heard.
Lawyers for Gerry McGeough have launched a judicial review in a bid to obtain a Royal Prerogative of Mercy.
The 52-year-old, from Dungannon, County Tyrone, is serving a 20-year sentence for shooting Samuel Brush.
Mr Brush, a postman at the time, was attacked near Aughnacloy in June 1981.
McGeough was convicted of his attempted murder, possession of a firearm and ammunition, and IRA membership.
His barrister argued on Wednesday that he should now be granted the special mercy warrant to ensure equal treatment with other convicted terrorists who have benefited from it.
It was claimed that it would be unlawful to draw a distinction because McGeough was previously jailed abroad.
He was held for four years in German prisons for alleged attacks against the British Army in Europe during the 1980s.
McGeough was later extradited to the United States and imprisoned for three years in connection with weapons offences.
Under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement he is expected to be released in two years time following his conviction for the attack on Mr Brush.
His legal team contend that the time he spent behind bars abroad should count towards that period.
Barrister Sean Devine argued that McGeough was in an indistinguishable position from others who have received the Royal Prerogative of Mercy.
He told the court: “It’s slightly distasteful on one view, but that’s the problem with the Good Friday Agreement.
“That’s the outworkings of any political agreement.”
Mr Devine added: “Although he has had on any view a good result in the sense he was convicted of serious offences and will only have to serve two years for it, that’s not the only issue here.”
After hearing arguments the judge reserved his decision on whether to grant leave to seek a judicial review.
Mr Justice Treacy said he would give his verdict next week after considering counsels’ submissions.
By Liam Clarke
Wednesday, 29 June 2011
Rank and file PSNI officers will today call for a crackdown on the UVF.
The Police Federation of Northern Ireland is calling for prisoners who have been released but who become involved in street violence to be sent back to jail and others involved in UVF activity to be charged with membership of an illegal organisation.
The call will be made by Terry Spence, the chairman of the Police Federation of Northern Ireland, in a hard-hitting speech at the organisation’s annual conference.
His audience will include Owen Paterson, the Secretary of State, and David Ford, the Justice Minister, who will reply to the chairman’s speech.
Mr Spence will give voice to widespread outrage among his members that the UVF was able to stir up sectarian conflict and strain police resources in east Belfast last week.
The loyalist terrorist group, which is supposed to have decommissioned its weapons, also opened fire on police officers in an attempt to kill them.
He will also refer to the threat posed by republican dissidents who also became involved in east Belfast violence.
Mr Spence will tell the conference: “The PSNI is having success against the terrorists, especially through our close working co-operation with An Garda Siochana. Thanks to their magnificent efforts, over 170 people from both sides of the border have been arrested for terrorist offences over the past 12 months.”
However, many police believe loyalists are exploiting the dissident threat for their own end.
“Now we also need to make headway against the unrepentant loyalists who think that dissident activity is their local opportunity for more criminality.
“Last week demonstrated that the loyalist paramilitaries are intent on making life as difficult as they can for their local communities and for the police service.
“UVF attacks on their nationalist neighbours resulted in dissident and UVF gunmen making murderous attacks on police officers and civilians.”
He will also say: “If being a proscribed organisation is to mean anything then action must be taken. The behaviour of the UVF demands that active members released under the Belfast Agreement on licence should be recalled to prison by the Secretary of State.”
Story so far
Trouble at the Short Strand interface last Monday and Tuesday has been described as the worst in the area in a decade. Police have said the violence was orchestrated by the UVF and both loyalists and republicans fired shots. A photographer was shot in the leg by a dissident republican gunman and police Land Rovers came under sustained attack
28 June 2011
The organisation responsible for finding the remains of the “disappeared” of the Northern Ireland troubles have announced details of a search in the Republic of Ireland.
Remains are to be exhumed from a church graveyard near Scotstown, County Monaghan.
Columba McVeigh disappeared in 1975
Previous digs in the search for Columba McVeigh have taken place nearby.
Mr McVeigh,17, from Donaghmore, County Tyrone, was abducted and murdered by the IRA in 1975.
North Monaghan coroner, Dr Martin Watters, confirmed he authorised the exhumation from a named grave in a cemetery next to a church in Urbleshanny.
“In the recent past I gave the go ahead for an exhumation to identify the remains within that grave,” he said.
“It was an official grave within the graveyard.”
An Irish police spokesman said detectives and officials in the Independent Commission for the Location of Victims’ Remains (ICLVR) received information about a body buried in a grave where another set of remains is interred.
“The purpose of the exhumation is to carry out a forensic examination to establish if a victim that comes within the remit of the Commission was buried at this location,” the spokesman said.
State pathologist Professor Marie Cassidy, ICLVR staff and scientists were all on site for the exhumation.
The Irish police spokesman said that subsequent forensic examination of the remains would take some time.
Despite extensive searches in County Monaghan, Mr McVeigh’s remains have yet to be found.
His mother had campaigned tirelessly on her son’s case before her death in 2007.
ICLVR has overseen the discovery of seven bodies and numerous searches since it was set up in 1999 to locate those murdered and buried in secret graves by republican paramilitaries during the troubles.
By Noel McAdam
Tuesday, 28 June 2011
PSNI Chief Constable Matt Baggott has become part of the “cover-up” over the Loughinisland massacre, the Assembly has been told.
Former Executive minister Caitriona Ruane said “by protecting agents” the police chief “is now unwittingly or wittingly part of the cover-up”.
Six men were shot dead when two UVF gunmen opened fire in a rural bar in Co Down in June 1994 as patrons watched the Republic of Ireland play Italy in the World Cup.
In a special debate just four days after Police Ombudsman Al Hutchinson’s controversial report into the killings, Ms Ruane said the families of the Loughinisland victims had not got justice and had been failed “at every level” by the State.
“They have been failed by the RUC, the PSNI and now by the Police Ombudsman. Despite the fact that the getaway car, the murder weapons, the balaclavas – one containing a hair follicle – gloves and boilersuits were found, no one was ever charged,” the South Down MLA said.
In response to Ms Ruane, the PSNI reiterated its statement apologising for the lack of consistent police communication with the families and a lack of consistent focus in the investigation identified in the Hutchinson report, and stressed it remained committed “to apprehending those responsible for these murders”.
PACEMAKER BELFAST- MARCH 1989 PF SCENE OF SHOOTING OF SENIOR RUC OFFICERS, BOB BUCHANAN SUPERINTENDANT AND HARRY BREEN CHEIF SUPERINTENDANT NEAR JONESBOROUGH ON THE SOUTH ARMAGH BORDER. 297/89/C
Mon Jun 27 2011
THERE were up to 400 members of the Provisional IRA and other terrorist groups living in Dundalk at the time two RUC officers were murdered in an ambush linked to claims of collusion between republicans and gardai.
Former garda special branch detective Joe Flanagan made the claim while giving evidence to the Smithwick Tribunal on Friday.
He said their names were ‘listed’ by gardai, which meant they noted details such as what these people were up to, who they were meeting and their cars.
The Dublin-based tribunal is probing allegations that members of the Garda colluded with the IRA in the murder of the two most senior RUC men to be killed during the Troubles.
Chief supt Harry Breen and supt Bob Buchanan had been returning to Northern Ireland following a meeting at Dundalk Garda Station when they ran into an IRA ambush on the Edenappa Road on March 20, 1989.
DUP MP Jeffrey Donaldson named former garda sargeant Owen Corrigan in the House of Commons in 2000 as being a “rogue Garda officer”.
Mr Donaldson is currently seeking legal advice about giving evidence to the tribunal.
Mr Corrigan’s barrister, Jim O’Callaghan, told the tribunal that his client regarded allegations that he had somehow been involved with the IRA as a “monstrous lie”.
Two Garda witnesses on Friday – Mr Flanagan and retired detective Jim Lane – agreed that Mr Corrigan had been on the frontline in the fight against the IRA.
Both witnesses worked in the same detective unit based in Dundalk Garda Station, which was led by Mr Corrigan.
They told the tribunal that they believed former detective sergeant Mr Corrigan had been treated shamefully in being named as a spy for the IRA within Dundalk Garda Station.
“I do not believe the allegations. I’ve known Owen Corrigan a lifetime,” said Mr Lane.
Mr Corrigan “had stood up to them [the IRA]”, he added.
Mr Flanagan said Mr Corrigan and others had endured severe harassment at the hands of the IRA, and it was “shameful” Mr Corrigan “was tarnished in this way”.
He said up to 400 members of illegal paramilitary organisations were listed by gardai as operating in Dundalk in the 1980s, and the large number of subversives made the town a “difficult and dangerous place” for frontline gardai, who he said were frequently harassed in public, along with members of their families.
Homes belonging to a number of gardai including garda David Shannon and Det Sgt James Green were burned; at least one, unnamed, uniformed garda was wounded by terrorists in a shooting incident; and Mr Corrigan was assaulted in a public house, the tribunal was told.
Mr Flanagan also told the tribunal he had been shot at by paramilitaries as he gave hot pursuit close to the border.
Both men said they had no evidence any officer in Dundalk Garda Station was a secret mole for the IRA.
On Thursday the tribunal heard that murdered RUC supt Buchanan lingered in Dundalk Garda Station the day he was killed, exchanging pleasantries and accepting good wishes on his imminent promotion and transfer out of the area.
Dundalk has fared badly in the tribunal so far with a former RUC officer describing it as a “cowboy town” two weeks ago while he was giving evidence.
The former RUC assistant chief constable for Rural East, known to the tribunal only as witness 18, told judge Smithwick “Dundalk was known as a cowboy town. There were quite a number of members of subversive organisations on the run that were staying in and about Dundalk”.
While another former inspector in the border area labelled it as “dangerous” for Northern Ireland police and said it was “the sort of place that when you pulled up at traffic lights, an armed IRA man could be in any of the cars around you”.
The public hearings will continue tomorrow.
By Donna Deeney
Thursday, 23 June 2011
Almost a year since the publication of the Police Ombudsman’s report into the Claudy bombing, the brother of the youngest victim has called for greater powers to be given to bodies investigating historical crimes.
Mark Eakin’s sister, Kathryn, was just nine years old when she was killed along with eight other people when three car bombs exploded without warning in the village.
As part of his fight for justice, Mr Eakin wants access to the Irish Republic to be given to officers conducting the investigation into the Claudy bombing.
Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph, he said: “We have cross-border co-operation on everything now as well as international co-operation.
“I know there are people living in the Irish Republic who have knowledge about what happened in Claudy on July 1972, but the PSNI have no access to them.
“There is some co-operation between the Garda and the PSNI but it is limited and does not allow officers from one jurisdiction to interview or question people outside of their own particular jurisdiction.
“The border was used to great advantage by those hiding from the law here and that is still the case — but I think it is time that advantage was taken from them and they discovered there is no safe haven for them.
“The people with the best knowledge of any case are those who are directly involved with the investigation, so it makes sense that questioning important figures in that investigation is not handed over to a third party.”
The Police Ombudsman, Al Hutchinson, published his findings of the original investigation into the atrocity last year. It concluded that the police, the Catholic Church and the state covered up Father James Chesney’s suspected role in the atrocity. No action was taken against Fr Chesney who died in Donegal in 1980.
Mr Eakin says there has been too much emphasis on Fr Chesney and he wants all available information made known.
“Fr Chesney’s move into the Irish Republic is a case in point of what I am saying about the border being used but I believe he was a convenient focus because he is long dead,” he said.
“If the police were able to travel to America and interview someone there about Claudy I don’t see why they cannot travel across our own border.
“My main concern is getting justice for the victims of Claudy but I know there are so many others who are in the exact same boat as us.”
Claudy is a village with a mixed Protestant and Catholic population, six miles south-east of Londonderry. Nine people were killed after three car bombs exploded on July 31, 1972. The victims were from both communities; the youngest was nine-year-old Kathryn Eakin and the oldest was 65-year-old James McClelland, who was killed when the third bomb exploded, as he helped the injured. No organisation claimed responsibility, but the IRA were assumed to be behind them.
Detectives swoop on explosives factory hidden in farmhouse
By Tom Brady
Monday June 27 2011
Gardai have foiled plans by dissident republicans to mount a series of bomb attacks in Northern Ireland.
After a major intelligence-gathering operation, detectives from the Special Branch swooped on a farmhouse, which had been converted into a bomb-making factory by the renegade republicans.
Anti-terrorist officers said last night they believed the explosives were being made for the Oglaigh na hEireann faction, which is led by a close associate of jailed Real IRA founder Michael McKevitt.
Officers found more than 200kg of ground fertiliser, which was being readied for use in a huge bomb.
They also discovered an improvised mortar bomb, which contained some homemade explosive but was not primed for immediate use, and a metal launcher tube.
The fertiliser had been put into a number of bags but had not been mixed with the other components necessary to turn them into bombs.
Gardai said last night that the material was likely to have been used for a series of mortar attacks on security force targets in the North but said it could also have been readied for a massive bomb attack.
Inquiries were under way last night to establish if the find was linked to another bomb component find at the M1 motorway in Co Louth a couple of months ago.
The latest find was made during a search of a farmhouse and outhouses near the Border at Hackballscross, Co Louth, on Saturday.
Gardai arrested two men in their 50s at the scene.
They were being held for questioning last night at Balbriggan and Drogheda garda stations. This brings the number of suspected dissidents arrested by the gardai to eight during a six-day period.
The other six — suspected members of the rival faction of the Real IRA — were arrested following another lengthy garda operation against subversives operating in the border region.
The bomb-making find came after detailed inquiries by the Special Branch in Co Louth and they were backed up on Saturday by the Emergency Response Unit, personnel from the crime and security branch and local gardai in Louth and Meath.
After the bomb components were uncovered, gardai called in an Army bomb disposal team, who spent more than six hours at the scene before declaring it safe.
The arrests were made as part of Operation Designer, which has been under way for the past two years.
27 June 2011
A loyalist paramilitary group is threatening to create “a Short Strand situation” in a posh North Down town.
The Red Hand Commando says its members and supporters will riot on the streets of Bangor if a list of demands aren’t met by North Down Council.
Loyalists opened fire on police and nationalists and left a trail of destruction in severe disturbances in the Short Strand last week.
Now the Red Hand Commando is warning it could do the same in Bangor, the tourist jewel in the crown on Ulster’s gold coast. The paramiltaries are also threatening to attack Catholic homes in the Brunswick Road are of the town.
Sectarian violence is rare in Bangor and police chiefs are gravely worried by the threats. A small but deadly paramilitary group, the Red Hand Commando is closely linked to the UVF.
On Tuesday night, loyalists and their bands will march on North Down Council offices. They will then hold a rally where speakers will lambast the DUP-controlled council for “betraying the loyalist community”.
They’re accusing the council of mismanaging European peace money which has meant that community projects to help women and children in loyalist estates have been starved of cash. The Special EU programmes body has expressed concern to the council about the managing of funds in the area.
The protestors are also claiming that the politicians at Stormont are ignoring loyalist voices. “Enough is enough,” said one loyalist source.
The Red Hand Commando and UVF elements are supporting the march. The UVF’s Shankill-based leadership is deeply worried that the situation could spiral out of control. It’s trying to stop its North Down and East Belfast members from taking part.
Loyalist ex-prisoners and community activists from Bangor’s Kilcooley, Bloomfield, and Whitehill estates have pledged to attend the rally.
Loyalists have already upped the ante in Bangor in advance of the Twelfth by erecting Union Jacks and Northern Ireland flags along the sea-front.
A loyalist contingent also entered the middle-class Bangor West area and put up flags there in a move which has troubled residents, many of whom are professionals.
In recent years, Bangor has been free of such sectarian shows with only carnival-type bunting discretely displayed by the Orange Order. Issuing a chilling threat, one loyalist source said: “We wont be ignored.
“There wont be rioting in loyalist areas, any trouble will be on the main streets of the town. The council will have to deal with that.
“Loyalists could march into Brunswick Road and you’d see Catholics, their houses and cars attacked. Make no mistake about it, this is a very volatile situation. We could easily have a repeat of what happened in the Short Strand.”
Although small, the Red Hand Commando was behind many gruesome murders and bombings during the Troubles. In 1974, it went on a no-warning bombing spree, planting devices in 14 Catholic owned pubs in a fortnight, killing one man and injuring 100 people.
The paramilitary group killed former Sinn Féin vice-president Maire Drumm two years later. She was shot dead by gunmen dressed as doctors in Belfast’s Mater hospital where she was receiving treatment for an eye problem.
In the 1990s, the Red Hand Commando was responsible for seven murders, including those of Catholic and Protestant civilians and fellow loyalists.
Wider loyalist anger in Bangor has been growing in recent weeks. The majority of loyalist communities have pulled out of the council-controlled bonfire schemes.
Seven out of 12 local bonfire committees have vowed to organise their own Eleventh night celebrations. They’re refusing to comply with council regulations on the gathering of bonfire material and the burning of certain items which causes toxic fumes and pollution.
June 27, 2011
This article appeared in the June 26, 2011 edition of the Sunday World.
By Francesca Ryan
20th of June 2011
A West Belfast man has told the Andersonstown News he is being harassed by MI5.
Alex McCrory says he is regularly harassed by the PSNI, having been stopped and searched up to 24 times this year alone. But he claims things have taken a more sinister turn with calls from MI5 now being made to his home.
The Sliabh Dubh ex-prisoner says he is growing concerned for the safety of his family after his son was mentioned by name in one of the phone calls.
“There have been four calls in total,” said Alex. “The first was a year and a half ago and was made to my mobile, the man told me to save his number. When I asked who he was, he described himself as ‘a friend in need’ and that he would be in touch. The same thing happened again soon after.
“Nothing more came of it until three months ago when a call was made to my house phone, it was from a man with an upper class English accent calling himself Harry. He described himself as a person working for MI5 and said he was keen to meet me. I told him to get stuffed and hung up.
“Then last Thursday during a stop and search, my son witnessed me getting into an altercation with the cops. Later that afternoon I get a call from this person Harry saying he wanted to speak to me about my son, he said my son is at a vulnerable age and they he could look out for him. I again told him to get stuffed.
“I view this as a veiled threat, an attempt to apply pressure on me, to recruit me, using my son as bait.”
Mr McCrory says that was has happened to him is just “the tip of the iceberg”.
“This is happening to people across the six counties,” he said. “I think it is important that MI5 are exposed publicly so people are made aware of what is happening here.
“My advice to anyone on the receiving end of this type of harassment is to speak to your family, a solicitor and the press.”
The Andersonstown News contacted the British Home Office about the claims and received a standard reply.
“The security services operate within the law,” said a Home Office spokeswoman. “If anyone feels they have been unfairly treated, there is a clear procedure for asking an independent commissioner (who is a senior judge) to review any complaint. Please vis it http://www.ipt-uk.com/ for more information.”
THE family of a man whose killing is being investigated by the Historical Enquiries Team (HET) say the probe is probably their last chance of finding out the truth.
Jimmy Marks (43) was ferrying passengers in a minibus to Portadown, Bleary and Waringstown when it was ambushed by masked gunmen in Gilford on August 1, 1975.
The married father-of-two was travelling from a bingo session at St Patrick’s Hall in Banbridge when the vehicle was indiscriminately hit by gunfire on the Portadown Road.
The Ballydougan man was shot twice in the head and died in hospital six months later.
One of his passengers, Bleary pensioner and father-of-12 Joseph Toland, (78), who was sitting beside Jimmy, died instantly while five others were wounded including two Portadown women, Eva Quinn and Eileen Sheehy.
Despite a fresh appeal in 1980, no-one was ever charged with the double murder and now the HET is revisiting the incident.
Jimmy’s brother, Gilford man Michael Marks, fervently believes that someone locally may have information “however small, however insignificant they may believe it to be” that could be crucial in shedding light on the horrific incident.
“We just want the truth. We don’t want recrimination. Over the years we’ve heard this and that. I haven’t leaned one way or the other, there has been so many rumours over the years, and now I just want closure,” he said.
A police investigation at the time concluded the Provisional IRA were behind the attack due to the weapons used, which were the type favoured by the group.
Officers were also convinced the gunmen mistook Mr Marks’ red-and-white Ford minibus for a police vehicle. During the 1970s it was a common sight to see RUC officers travelling in grey-coloured Ford minibuses, the same model as Mr Marks’.
However, the shooting took place at 11.20pm in darkness when only the headlines of the vehicle could have been seen – one detail which the Marks family feel may cast doubt on the direction the police investigation took.
It was also widely speculated that the notorious loyalist Glenanne Gang may have been responsible, although this has never been substantiated.
“For me it may as well have happened yesterday. I’ve never forgotten. I often hear people in similar situations, say, ‘Oh I can’t remember’. Well I can’t understand that. I have walked up and down that road (where Jimmy was shot) many a time and I always think of him,” said Mr Marks.
“He was a quiet man but he enjoyed a bit of craic. Jimmy was good natured as well and he got on well with everyone; he didn’t care about anybody’s religion.”
The shocking ‘murder triangle’ incident remained forgotten by the wider public until the 30th anniversary when the Pat Finucane Centre, a human rights organisation established in memory of the murdered solicitor, brought it to the attention of the HET.
Michael’s daughter, Martina says the probe offers the greatest hope for the family to uncover the circumstances surrounding her uncle’s death.
“It’s a case of now or never. Maybe around the 20th anniversary people may have felt uncomfortable coming forward but now the climate’s right for it to happen. There’s bound to be someone out there who knows something,” she explained.
Mr Marks revealed that his family came close to suffering a second tragedy on August 1, 1975. His mother, Mary, was on the minibus and had just been dropped off close to her Gilford home when moments later she heard gun shots.
“That was particularly hard for her to deal with and she died in 1988 not knowing why Jimmy died,” sawid Michael.
The family stresses that anyone with information can remain anonymous and should contact a member of the clergy, the Samaritans, Crimestoppers or the Pat Finucane Centre.
“The HET report is due out later this year and we want to make sure that the team has all the information it needs,” explained Martina. “A green Mini was spotted close to the shooting and it was rumoured that a black vehicle was seen on the Lurgan Road close to the Gate Lodge.
“A band parade had also took place in Gilford earlier that evening so the area would’ve been busier than normal. We would like anyone who may have seen either vehicle to come forward.”
Michael added, “We just need the truth and that’s what we want. Some of the passengers of the minibus are still alive and it would be good if they came forward as well.”
27 June 2011
THE BODY that rules on contentious marches in the North is to meet the First Minister and Deputy First Minister at Stormont tomorrow in advance of the climax of the marching season.
The talks between the Parades Commission and Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness may include discussion about last week’s serious rioting in east Belfast, which scarred the area for two consecutive nights and resulted in the shooting of three people as UVF and dissident republican gunmen returned to the streets.
Saturday’s annual Whiterock parade, which sparked serious trouble in previous years, passed off peacefully. However, further sensitive parades are looming, including this Friday’s “mini Twelfth” in east Belfast, and the Drumcree church parade in Portadown, Co Armagh.
A commission spokesman told The Irish Times the talks with Mr Robinson and Mr McGuinness were planned in advance of last week’s trouble in the Short Strand area of Belfast, which was described as the worst in a decade.
It is more likely the discussions will include the plan drawn up for the future of parading by the First Minister and Deputy First Minister last year, which were rejected by the Orange Order last July.
The situation has been one of stalemate between the Stormont Executive and the marching orders ever since. The Robinson-McGuinness proposals would have spelled the end of the Parades Commission in favour of a new mechanism. But, following rejection by the loyal orders, a new commission was named in January with a three-year remit.
The commission confirmed last night it has been consulting the main political parties and the public through a series of seven outreach meetings. Chairman Peter Osborne told BBC Northern Ireland he hoped the Orange Order would end its policy of refusing to engage with his organisation.
“I don’t think it does a service to the Orange institution that they don’t talk to everybody and they don’t engage with us. I think increasingly within the Orange family, I think people are frustrated at that and certainly the engagement we have with Orange institutions, with Orange parading organisations, would suggest that,” he said.
The Robinson-McGuinness proposals were drawn up after work by a six-strong team. It was agreed as part of the deal in Hillsborough last year securing the devolution of policing and justice powers.
27 June 2011
OPINION: The Government and the Northern Ireland Executive will be urged today to agree a common charter of rights for all citizens, North and South, writes MONICA McWILLIAMS
THE NORTHERN Ireland Human Rights Commission and Irish Human Rights Commission will today fulfil their joint mandate from the Belfast Agreement by producing advice on a charter of rights for the island of Ireland.
The two human rights commissions present their advice to the UK and Irish governments and the leaders of the political parties North and South. It is our view that a document of this sort has the potential to help change relationships and build on the legacy of visionary leadership as embodied by Kader Asmal.
By agreeing such a document, political representatives, now and in the years ahead, could provide a vital reassurance that basic human rights are non-negotiable and that they will be guaranteed regardless of where we find ourselves on this island.
In order to complete this vital piece of work the two commissions undertook a comprehensive study of the human rights protections existing in both jurisdictions. We identified the human rights standards that Northern Ireland and the Republic are obliged to satisfy through their political agreements as well as the European Convention on Human Rights. Our advice on a charter sets out the rights that are protected and are common to both sides of the Border.
The commissions agree that a charter of rights is workable in law and would build upon the existing commitments to fundamental rights by both governments. Having an equal sense of human rights protections in Ireland and Northern Ireland was first envisaged in the Belfast Agreement and reaffirmed in the St Andrews Agreement. So the charter provides an opportunity for all the political parties to restate their commitment to an equivalency of rights and to lay the foundations for the protection of people on this island.
The charter can be used as a further opportunity for the two governments to restate their commitment to human rights and, as such, would be an important step in underpinning the peace process. It would seek to recognise and accept the conflicted history of the island and help to ensure that the mistakes of the past are not revisited. A restatement of these rights would demonstrate to people in the North and the Republic that human rights are central to their domestic, political and legal processes. To have a single document which outlines and reaffirms these principles could provide the kind of security which is not determined by geographical position.
A charter should not be confused with the Bill of Rights for Northern Ireland, which has a separate mandate and purpose under the Belfast Agreement. The form which a charter would take will be a political decision and one which the commissions cannot make. We have proposed the existing common standards as the minimum framework so that the decision to raise the bar of human rights protection will ultimately be determined by political will.
It falls to the political parties, guided by the two governments, to take this advice forward and the two commissions are asking that they approach this issue with open minds. During a time of economic uncertainty and political transition, it is key that opportunities are taken to build a brighter future by securing fundamental rights for all.
Monica McWilliams is Northern Ireland Chief Commissioner for Human Rights. She and Maurice Manning, president of the Irish Human Rights Commission, will launch their report this morning
The disturbances in Belfast last week were not the result of spontaneous working class loyalist anger but the decisions of individuals who use the threat of violence to get their way
26 June 2011
Loyalist rioters use fire bombs on police officers in east Belfast, Northern Ireland, last Wednesday. (Photograph: Peter Morrison/AP)
Explosions ripped across Belfast Lough on Sunday afternoon, creating vibrations in the air and apprehension on the faces of some of those who had gathered to watch the battle.
Just a 10-minute stroll from the Short Strand, hundreds of people looked on as two rival factions jeered and snarled at one another before the final confrontation, when hand-to-hand fighting finally broke out.
But this was not a re-enactment of the sectarian disorder that turned a small corner of east Belfast into a war zone less than a week earlier.
Yes, the “combatants” in this conflict were re-enacting struggles from another era – albeit one that belonged to the piratical adventures of the 18th and 19th centuries. They were observing a sham fight between two pirate ships as part of the Belfast Maritime Festival.
The throngs that had flocked to the river Lagan on Sunday were far greater than the numbers involved in real life street fighting at the edge of the Catholic enclave of Short Strand last Monday and Tuesday.
The fact that the spectators at the mock pirate battle vastly outnumbered the rioters on the nearby Newtownards and Mount Pottinger roads last week illuminated something important about post-ceasefire, post-Troubles Belfast.
For a start, the actual violence – amplified in the international media due to the wounding of a respected press photographer – was confined to a small corner of a city that otherwise appears to be trying to move on from its troubled past.
Of course for the residents of the Short Strand, who were the main victims of the loyalist-originated violence, the assaults on their homes were terrifying and traumatic.
Once again, those living in this small Catholic/nationalist redoubt, surrounded by larger loyalist communities, found themselves vulnerable and in peril.
Nonetheless, the violent scenes need to be placed in some perspective, not only in terms of scale and comparison with other conflicts and not just because the trouble did not represent most of what goes on in Northern Ireland these days.
Many media commentators, some London-based, some local, who spend little time on the ground in places like the Lower Newtownards Road or Short Strand, bought into the line that this latest conflagration was the result of spontaneous working class loyalist anger.
They argued that, because loyalist paramilitaries had no representation in the Stormont parliament or that because socioeconomic or educational attainment was low in poor Protestant areas around eastern Belfast, these communities suddenly erupted in anger.
In doing so, the commentators swallowed a fairy tale as faux as the make-believe pirate battles on Sunday.
Returning from a short break in the west of Ireland, I bumped into a resident of the Short Strand on the Dublin to Belfast train last Friday morning. She is a woman I have known for more than 30 years, who has no love for republican paramilitaries or wants, in any way, to see a return to violence.
Over the two and a half hour journey north, she explained in grim detail how her home in one end of the Short Strand district was attacked while her daughter’s house was subjected, simultaneously, to a similar bombardment in another part of the area.
She explained that the sortie began with military precision around 9pm on Monday, that all of those who attacked their homes were wearing surgical gloves, masks and combat uniforms, that they arrived with wheelie bins stuffed with bricks, bottles and other missiles, and that the entire attack appeared to be well organised.
The evidence from other Short Strand residents tells a similar tale, and suggests that the entire incursion was well planned and carefully executed. In addition, it is known that the Ulster Volunteer Force’s East Belfast battalion was behind the initial invasion of the Catholic area.
The man heading up that unit has been in dispute not only with the UVF’s “national” leadership on the Shankill Road but also with the police, who are investigating how he amassed such a large personal fortune.
Within 48 hours of the trouble, this so-called commander had attained a number of goals. He had forced the Stormont administration into sending senior civil servants to loyalist community representatives with a view to setting up an economic programme for their areas.
He had flexed his muscles, and those of his men, and enhanced his street fighting reputation. This was evident on Friday evening, when I attended a band parade on the Newtownards Road, held principally to commemorate the IRA murder of two Protestants in 1970.
Most of the locals on the Protestant/loyalist side of the loyalist were full of praise for the UVF’s actions, which they perceived – rightly or wrongly – as being the correct response to alleged republican attacks from the Short Strand.
All the above suggests one important factor that most commentators missed in their analysis of why east Belfast ignited last week: human agency.
The disturbances on the streets underneath the shadow of the giant yellow shipyard cranes that dominate Belfast Lough were due to the decisions of individuals, electorally unimportant individuals who nevertheless use violence or the threat of violence to get their way.
They used the one critical faultline that still lies just below the surface in places like the Short Strand/Newtownards Road – sectarianism.
They cynically manipulated that underlying sense of fear and loathing that holds back these working class redoubts from moving on with the rest of society. Only when the power bases of these manipulators are undermined, challenged or confronted can these communities hope to move on.
On one side of the Newtownards Road stands St Matthew’s Catholic church, which was – not for the first time – a repeated target of the UVF-controlled rioters last Monday and Tuesday night.
Inside the church, there is a memorial on stained glass to a relative of mine. It commemorates the sectarian murder of my paternal grandfather’s brother, who was beaten and stabbed to death by a loyalist mob very close by during the Troubles. To be precise: the Troubles that erupted way back in 1921.
Henry McDonald is co-author of UVF: The Endgame.
By Gemma Burns
North Belfast News
27th of June 2011
Questions are being asked about the effectiveness of the Social Services in North Belfast after children as young as five years old were at the scene of last Friday’s riot following the Tour of the North parade.
Interface workers who patrolled in the area until the trouble eased off said they came across young children who were in the firing line as bottles, bricks and stones were thrown between both sides.
The Parades Commission banned the Orange Order feeder parade from passing nationalist homes on the Crumlin Road. Tensions first began to rise on Thursday afternoon after loyalists attempted to gain access to the Crumlin Road to hold a white line picket on the stretch of road they wee banned from marching through.
The tensions carried over until Friday and the violence flared later in the evening when the trouble escalated after the march.
Interface workers said the number of young children on the scene is a worrying development and called on Social Services to be taking action in the area. Multi agency meetings are held in North Belfast on a regular basis where community workers, politicians, police and agencies such as the Housing Executive, Belfast City Council, Youth Justice Agency and Social Services are invited to attend.
Interface worker Malachy Mulgrew said the Social Services are some of the “worst” attendees at the meetings.
“There is a massive gap in statutory provision in the area and this need to be looked at,” he said.
“The Social Services are one of the worst at coming to meetings and taking action. There were kids there on Friday as young as five and there was a large number as young as ten years old.
“They were putting themselves in danger and Social Services were nowhere to be seen.”
Last year a top social worker told the North Belfast News that children caught up in trtouble on the interfaces would be taken into care if they were found to be at risk.
Rab McCallum, also an interface worker, said Social Services need to be aware of what is happening in the riot situations and taking the appropriate action to protect the safety of the children
“The Youth Justice Agency attended the scene on Friday night to assist us and we are grateful for that, they are doing what they can and Social Services need to do the same,’ he said.
“However it’s not just them, the parents need to be asking themselves what are they doing when their children are at risk at a riot.”
A spokesman for Belfast Health and Social Care Trust defended their role.
“Belfast Trust engages with community, voluntary and statutory across Greater Belfast in relation to potential child care issues at interface areas,” he said.
“This work is carried on throughout the year and involves engagement with community representatives, youth workers and individual families to try and address some of the problems which can occur to young people. The Trust is always happy to meet with individuals and organisations to address any concerns they may have.”
By Francesca Ryan
27th of June 2011
The SHOT which injured a West Belfast press photographer during rioting in the Short Strand on Tuesday night was fired by republican dissidents, police believe.
Niall Carson was hit on Tuesday night as he took shelter behind a PSNI Land Rover with other photographers and journalists as missiles were flung from both sides of the East Belfast interface.
Niall, a former Andersonstown News photographer, was shot from behind, the bullet entering his mid-right thigh and exiting the front, luckily without hitting the bone. The Lenadoon man made his own way to a nearby police car where he informed police that he had been shot and asked for an ambulance.
Coherent and lucid at all times, he was able to telephone his mother from the ambulance to inform his family of what had happened and to assure them that his injuries were not life-threatening. Niall underwent surgery yesterday morning (Wednesday) at the RVH and returned to his family’s Lenadoon home in the afternoon, but will be will be walking with the aid of a stick until the wound heals.
“He’s been chatting away to family, friends and colleagues,” Niall’s relieved father Kevin told the Andersonstown News. “Things could have been a lot worse and we will be relieved to get him home. He’s been told he’ll have to stay in Belfast for around 10 days while his treatment continues.”
Niall was injured during a second night of rioting in the area. Violence broke out at the interface of the lower Newtownards Road and Mountpottinger Road on both Monday and Tuesday night. A total of 14 shots were fired on both nights from both sides of the divide while the PSNI used plastic bullets and water cannon to break up the mobs. Other missiles hurled included petrol bombs, fireworks, bricks, stones, golf balls and smoke bombs, while many homes were damaged during the disorder.
Assistant Chief Constable Alistair Finlay said the PSNI will carry out investigations to discern if the photographer was the intended target.
“We’ll have the opportunity throughout Wednesday to do the analysis in working to investigate what is the attempted murder of the journalist, or indeed whoever was the intended target,” he said.
“It would be odd to target a journalist in this particular way, but it would not be odd to target police officers and there were police resources round about where those journalists were standing.”
According to politicians, police and residents of the Short Strand area, the trouble was orchestrated by the UVF.
Several incensed Short Strand residents contacted the Andersonstown News this week to give their assessment. One man, whose brother is in hospital with a brain injury, said the trouble he witnessed was worse than that of the ‘siege of Short Strand’ a decade ago.
“My brother was hit on the head with a concrete breezeblock, his skull was fractured and that resulted in his brain being punctured. He is in the Royal and they are waiting for the swelling to go down before they can operate. The amount of loyalists I saw in the area was frightening, they were wearing balaclavas and surgical gloves. Kids don’t run around like that, that’s a UVF mob.
“It would be odd to target a journalist in this particular way, but it would not be odd to target police officers and there were police resources round about where those journalists were standing.”
“It was worse than the siege of Short Strand, we thought this type of thing was over and done with.”
Another Short Strand man said there is “no peace process” in the area.
“This has been brewing for months,” he said. “The UVF are making their presence known here with the new murals, the graffiti they wrote on the shuttered Belvoir Bar warning people it was not for sale and the snide comments made to Catholics shopping on the Newtownards Road ominously warning them of a ‘good summer’. They should’ve been arrested weeks ago but they are a law on to themselves.
“There is a growing resentment of the police here for mishandling this situation, they sat back and let it get this far and now the residents are paying the price. I voted for Sinn Féin but we are fed up that nothing is being done, there is no peace process over here in the Short Strand.”
Sinn Féin’s Alex Maskey said he believes the PSNI could have responded more effectively to the trouble.
“What happened was a well-planned and orchestrated attack on the Catholic community in the Short Strand by the UVF,” he said. “The activities of the UVF in East Belfast have been giving people cause for concern for some time. These have been well documented in the media by a variety of commentators. There has been a marked increase in UVF flag flying, the painting of new paramilitary murals and significant agitation around Loyal Order parades. This has caused deep unease within both communities in East Belfast.
“This manifested itself with a premeditated violent attack by over 100 masked UVF men on the community of Short Strand.
“It is my clear view that the PSNI could and should have responded better. And I think with the power of hindsight senior officers may well agree with this view.
“Let us act now to make sure yesterday’s UVF actions are not allowed to set the agenda for the summer months in the city of Belfast.”
Talks are continuing across the divide between the area’s community and political leaders in an attempt to defuse tensions.
By Ciara Quinn
27th of June 2011
A LOCAL man is asking members of the public to help him in his efforts to discover the truth surrounding the killing of his father nearly 40 years ago by the British army.
Stan Carberry from Andersonstown was just eight years old when his father, IRA volunteer Stanislaus (34), also known to family and friends as Stan, was killed on November 13, 1972.
Speaking to the Andersonstown News at the offices of victims’ group Relatives for Justice, Stan said his family would welcome any new, fresh information that could throw light on his father’s death.
“My family have been contacted by the Historical Enquiries Team but it appears that very little remains of the original investigation file,” said Stan. “There hasn’t been a proper investigation up to this point and in fact the HET when they first got in contact with my family had got the wrong date for when my father was killed. Their letter stated October, 1972 – my father was killed in November, 1972. Details like these are of the utmost importance and are crucial to get right in the first place.”
Stan Carberry was driving a car along the Falls Road when the vehicle was fired upon by the British army and crashed outside the West Club. He was shot dead as he exited the vehicle.
“Reports in the newspapers at the time are confusing, with one saying he was shot in disputed circumstances and that shots had been fired at the soldiers,” said Stan. “But we believe that the soldiers opened fire without being provoked and we need people who were on the road at this time to come forward to the RFJ offices.”
RFJ legal caseworker Shauna Carberry [no relation], who is working closely with the Carberry family, pointed out that the HET are merely carrying out a review of the files and not an in-depth examination of the shooting.
“The HET do not meet the requirements for independence and do not appear to be meeting the standards required under Article Two of the European Convention on Human Rights,” she said.
“It is clear in many cases that they have not made proper efforts to trace perpetrators within the British army, they have not spoken with civilian witnesses who have been identified to them, and they are providing reports to families that are wholly inadequate.”
Shauna said that the Carberry family are particularly keen to speak to a woman who spoke to the press at the time stating that no gunfire had come from the vehicle being driven by Stan Carberry.
“People from the community spoke out about the shooting, stating that the British army version of events was incorrect and that no fire had come from the vehicle. We would like to hear from them.”
Stan spoke of how important the help and support of RFJ have been to his family in their search for the facts behind the controversial killing.
“We wouldn’t have had a clue about the issues surrounding my father’s death if it weren’t for the help of Shauna and the people here at RFJ. Our family need closure in relation to our father’s death.
“Any information anybody might have about what happened on November 13, 1972 could help us. It would be very much appreciated by our entire family.”
Anyone who may have information is asked to telephone RFJ on 90 220100 and speak with Shauna or Paul. All information will be treated in the strictest confidence, say RFJ.