You are currently browsing the monthly archive for July 2011.
Sunday 31 July 2011
Dissident republicans in Derry have claimed there has been an upsurge in searches of their families’ homes.
The claim was made after a number of search operation in recent days, including one on Beechwood Avenue yesterday morning.
A public meeting was held in Creggan last week organised by a number of community groups to highlight the concerns of people in the area about police tactics, particularly around searches.
A spokesperson for the 32 County Sovereignty Movement said he believes there has been an increase in searches since the meeting and claimed it is a deliberate tactic by the PSNI.
A spokesperson for Creggan Neighbourhood Partnership said: “It is very evident that there is a lot of anger and resentment simmering beneath the surface in Creggan as a result of certain police tactics and activities.
“But what seems to concern those being targeted by the police stop and search techniques is an apparent indifference within the community generally, and on the part of local politicians and community organisations, including those with a specific human rights remit.”
Police say they were “delayed” in attending an Orange Order parade in Portadown, which may have breached a Parades Commission determination.
28 July 2011
Sinn Féin MLA John O’Dowd said Orangemen marched from Drumcree Church towards the nationalist Ballyoran estate on Wednesday night and only turned back when police arrived at the scene.
The organisation has been banned for years from parading through the district.
Mr O’Dowd condemned the Order for its actions and said: “There was no PSNI presence at the church – the Orange Order seemed to take this as a signal to take part in an illegal parade down Garvaghy Road.”
In a statement released on Thursday morning, the PSNI’s Area Commander Chief Inspector Anthony McNally responded by saying: “Enquiries are now underway into this incident and at this stage we are working to establish whether the Commission’s determination was breached.”
The statement continued: “Police have a responsibility to ensure that Parade Commission determinations are adhered to.
“Unfortunately, we were delayed in attending the parade last night, however everyone has a responsibility to uphold the law and anyone who breaks the law must be held accountable.
“Every member of the community in Portadown also has a responsibility to contribute to their community and ensure that it is inclusive and peaceful and that everyone’s beliefs and rights are respected.”
A spokesman for the Order said it would be making no comment until it knew the full facts of what happened.
By Michael McHugh and Steven McCaffery
Friday July 29 2011
Northern Ireland’s most senior police officer yesterday defended his force’s actions after Sinn Fein criticised arrests linked to the murder of one of his men.
Constable Ronan Kerr (25) was killed when a booby-trap bomb exploded under his car outside his home in Omagh, Co Tyrone, on April 2.
Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness questioned the detention of a 22-year-old man in Coalisland, Co Tyrone, who has since been released. The former suspect’s lawyer claimed there was insufficient evidence.
Chief Constable Matt Baggott said: “The investigation into the murder of Ronan Kerr, and other very serious associated crimes, is complex and will take considerable time.
“My assurance is that the investigation will remain methodical and relentless and will continue to be absolutely impartial and completely free of political influence.”
Mr Kerr’s death prompted cross-community sympathy.
Sinn Fein has supported the police service and takes an active role in its oversight. But yesterday, Mr McGuinness voiced some of his fiercest criticism of the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) for many years.
He said: “The young man who was arrested and subsequently released was in the USA at the time of that murder and was in no way involved in it.
“People are in no doubt where I stand in relation to the killers of Ronan Kerr. However, the arrest and release of this young man raises very serious questions about the quality of the current PSNI investigation.”
Detectives arrested five men ranging in age from 22 to 46 on Tuesday and later released them.
Padraig O Muirigh, lawyer for the man whose arrest prompted Mr McGuinness’s outburst, said: “The arrest appears to have been made on dubious intelligence and without any evidential basis.”
Sat Jul 30 2011
MORE than £370 million has been paid to police officers over the last 11 years in early retirement packages, but some are being re-hired by the PSNI, the News Letter can reveal.
The payments, made under the Patten scheme which transformed the RUC into the PSNI, have been made to 4,318 officers who have now left the force.
That works out at an average of £86,687 per officer, although some have received less and some substantially more.
And it is understood that there are other significant “hidden costs” of the Patten scheme, which came to an end earlier this year after more than a decade.
Those involve pension top-up payments for officers who left before having worked sufficient years to receive a full police pension and also the costs of paying recruitment agencies to re-hire some of the officers who were paid to leave.
The figures, released under the Freedom of Information Act, show that the biggest single year for officers leaving the police was 2001-2002 — the second year in which the Patten severance payments were available.
In that year, more than £47 million was paid to 754 officers, including 124 members of the Full-Time Reserve.
In the years following the restoration of devolution in 2007, the numbers of police officers leaving the PSNI under Patten was fairly consistent, with between 350 and 430 individuals opting to retire early under Patten in each year since then.
One retired RUC officer, who asked not to be named, said that despite such large sums being paid out “the Patten experiment failed in transforming the police in Northern Ireland into a new effective and representative service”.
“In reality, the community has suffered from the drain in experience, particularly within the investigative and intelligence areas,” the former policeman said.
“To counter this, many officers made redundant were immediately re-employed at additional public expense. The number of police officers declined whilst the number of civilian employees increased in parallel.
“Numerous officers have been re-employed over the years through a recruitment agency on temporary contracts, which side-stepped the 50:50 rule.
“Now that the 50:50 rule has gone, officers are being re-employed directly. A significant number of senior officers who obtained severance in the past year are now back in full-time jobs.”
He claimed that while official figures indicate that about 30 per cent of PSNI officers are from a Roman Catholic background, the percentage of Catholics within the combined police and civilian staff was much lower.
A PSNI spokeswoman said: “The police service can confirm that out of over 4,000 police officers that have left under voluntary severance, 62 have been successful in gaining permanent re-employment in a civilian capacity through open competition. This should be taken in the context of the current permanent staff total which is 2,526.”
Sat Jul 30 2011
THE body which represents the vast majority of PSNI officers has said that there was anger within the ranks over deputy first minister Martin McGuinness’s interference in a live police investigation.
The Police Federation said that officers objected to Mr McGuinness’s public attack on the PSNI for arresting individuals in Coalisland earlier this week as part of their investigations into the murder of police constable Ronan Kerr.
Mr McGuinness said that he knew that one of the men arrested was “completely innocent”. Taking to the airwaves on Thursday morning, the former IRA commander warned that “innocent people” from nationalist communities “should not be arrested in this fashion”.
Mr McGuinness appeared to take credit for the men’s release, saying that he found it “quite strange that within a very short period of this young man, who was completely innocent, being released after representations by myself, that the other four people who were also arrested were released”.
Ulster Unionist leader Tom Elliott said that he was deeply concerned at Mr McGuinness’s inference that people arrested in a murder investigation were released because he had phoned “someone very, very senior in the PSNI”.
Yesterday Police Federation chairman Terry Spence said that he had received calls from officers expressing anger at this “blatant political interference”.
“Sinn Fein have to understand that the police has to be supported across the board and if they have an issue then correct forum is the Policing Board, not to talk about live investigations,” he said.
However, Mr Spence welcomed the “robust” response to Mr McGuinness’s intervention from chief constable Matt Baggott.
Although using more diplomatic language than Mr Spence, the chief constable made clear to Mr McGuinness that his comments were out of order.
In a statement released by the chief constable on Thursday, he said that his officers’ investigations would continue to be “absolutely methodical and completely free from political influence”. He made clear that the investigation to date had been conducted with “professionalism” and that there had been “progress”.
Meanwhile, two of the men arrested by the PSNI earlier this week have said that they will take legal action over their arrest.
Publican Declan McNally, whose home and business were targeted in dawn raids, told the Irish News that the move had caused “untold damage” to his reputation and the father of Brian Campbell, 23, said he did not know why his son, who was working in the US when Constable Kerr was murdered, was arrested.
29 July 2011
A 31-year-old chef convicted of posting a menacing message about DUP MP Gregory Campbell on Facebook has been fined £500 and given a suspended jail term.
Darryl O’Donnell a father of two from Derry, posted that Mr Campbell “should get a bullet in the head”.
It followed comments attributed to Mr Campbell in June of last year about the Saville report into Bloody Sunday.
O’Donnell was given a five month jail sentence suspended for three years.
In his sentencing at Derry Magistrates Court, District Judge Barney McElholm said Mr Campbell was entitled to state his opinion whether or not people agreed with what he said.
The district judge said O’Donnell’s comments were menacing and offensive and should not have been posted on Facebook.
He said O’Donnell who has 22 previous convictions, 11 of them for public order offences, did not come before the court with clean hands.
‘Engage his brain’
Mr McElholm imposed another five month suspended sentence consecutively on O’Donnell plus a £200 fine when he admitted committing disorderly behaviour at Guildhall Square on 19 May.
Mr McElholm said when Mr O’Donnell opened his mouth he did not seem to engage his brain first and said that only for the fact that he had recently got a job he would be going to jail.
Following his Facebook sentencing O’Donnell said he was glad it was all over but added he had no regrets.
Commenting on the sentencing, Mr Campbell said: “I reported the comments to the police because of their menacing and threatening nature.
“Just as it is wrong to make such menacing comments against an individual using traditional communication tools it is equally wrong to make the comments through new media.”
29 July 2011
The headstone will go up in Belfast City Cemetery
A teenager thought to have been the first victim of the Titanic has finally been given a headstone on his grave.
Samuel Scott, 15, fractured his skull whilst working on the ship in 1910. His body has since lain in an unmarked grave in Belfast City Cemetery.
However, a new headstone was unveiled there on Saturday as part of the Feile an Phobail festival.
A new children’s book, Spirit Of The Titanic, used the teenager as its main character.
The book, published earlier this year, follows the boy’s ghost as it haunts the decks of the ship during its voyage.
Saturday 30 July 2011
The Ministry of Defence has confirmed it will not be gifting any of the former army barracks in Ballykelly back to the community, the ‘Journal’ can reveal.
The mammoth site, which covers more than 700 acres, was vacated by the army in 2008.
Earlier this year, it went on the market and Ballykelly residents called for some of the former barracks to be given to the community instead of bieng sold to the highest bidder.
In a statement to the ‘Journal’, an MoD spokesperson said: “It is neither proper nor possible to re-open gifting arrangements and, in any event, there is no further money available for any concessions.”
SDLP Councillor, Gerry Mullan said: “This is a slap in the face to the people of Ballykelly.
“Because of the inconvenience and how they suffered over the years, it would only have been proper and fitting for the MoD to consider leaving some legacy for the local people out of gratitude and respect,” he said.
“Ballykelly opened its doors and school to the army and their children and this would have been a mark of respect to give something back to the community.
“It is a disgrace.”
Ballykelly Community and Youth Association have campaigned for a small building on the Shackleton site.
Currently the Association operates from a small pre-fabricated hut on the outskirts of the village.
Reacting to the news, Chairperson Tina McCloskey said: “We are really, really disappointed more than anytthing.
“We really did think the MoD would give something back to the community.
“We weren’t looking for anything massive, just one small building. Ballykelly accommodated the army for so many years and, really, we are gutted by the news.
“Talk to anyone in Ballykelly and they will all say the same. The MoD should give something back to the village.”
Mrs. McCloskey added: “We really felt we deserved something in return for the all the years they were here.”
The MoD refused to reveal how much interest there was in the sale.
“The disposal process is ongoing, therefore it would be inappropriate to speculate on levels of interest.
“Informal tenders are due in on 5th August,” said the spokesperson.
Blogger hosted loyalist and ex-neo Nazi Nick Greger at Malta summit
29 July 2011
Nick Greger (left) with Johnny Adair
Norwegian mass murderer Anders Breivik has been linked to exiled loyalist chief Johnny ‘Mad Dog’ Adair.
The connection emerged following scrutiny of Breivik’s links to Briton Paul Ray who writes a blog under the name Lionheart.
Ray has denied meeting the Norwegian gunman but admitted that he may have drawn “inspiration” from his writings.
Ray played host to Johnny ‘Mad Dog’ Adair – a former leader of the UDA’s notorious ‘C company’ on Belfast’s Shankill Road – in Malta last February.
He is also friends with Nick Greger, a German known as ‘Nazi Nick’ who describes himself as a “former neo-Nazi leader”.
Adair, Ray and Greger appear together on a YouTube video titled ‘The Gathering’.
The film shows the three men visiting churches around Malta, cut together with footage of loyalist terrorists and Mr Greger with a Kalashnikov.
It has been widely reported that in postings Breivik made on British nationalist websites and in the manifesto released before the attacks he refers to a “mentor”.
Parallels have since been drawn with Ray, who leads an anti-Islam Knights Templar movement, but he strongly denies having anything to do with the attacks.
In his manifesto, the Norwegian guman Breivik claims allegiance to a resurrected version of the Knights Templar, a medieval formation of Christian soldiers who waged brutal battle against Islam. The Oslo killer claims he attended the founding meeting of the ‘Knights Templar Europe’ explaining that he “joined the session after visiting one of the initial facilitators, a Serbian Crusader Commander and war hero, in Monrovia, Liberia.”
In his 1,500-page document Breivik wrote that his ‘assigned mentor’ at the London meeting was “referred to as Richard (the Lionhearted).”
Ray said he was not at the 2002 London meeting that Breivik describes in his manifesto.
Referring to the right-wing British group the English Defence League, Breivik added: “I wonder sometimes if one of the EDL founders was one of the co-founders of [the Knights Templar], I guess I’ll never know for sure.”
Ray, who the Associated Press located in Malta, where he now lives, confirmed the existence of a loose group of anti-Islamic extremists inspired by the Knights Templar.
The 35-year-old Briton often, who was a founding member of the EDL, espouses views similar to Breivik’s on his anti-Muslim blog. The blog’s title is a reference to King Richard I of England, who led Christian crusades in the 12th century and was known as Richard the Lionheart.
Ray has other similarities with the “mentor” in the Norwegian killer’s manifesto, chiefly that the anti-Muslim group he leads is called The Ancient Order of the Templar Knights.
Ray suggested the group had no formal structure, and he refused to name any members or indicate how many members it has. He said he condemned Breivik’s attacks in Norway.
“It’s an idea,” Ray said. “It’s not like it’s a massive organization. It’s a belief.”
Ray condemned the murder of 76 people in twin attacks in Oslo and Utoya on Friday as an act of “pure evil”.
Ray, 35, told The Times: “I am being implicated as his (Breivik’s) mentor. I definitely could have been his inspiration. It looks like that. But what he did was pure evil. I could never use what he has done to further my own beliefs. What he has done does not equate to anything I am involved in.”
Breivik, 32, claims he committed Friday’s massacre as the order’s first blow in an apocalyptic war against Muslims, immigrants and leftists to prevent what he believes is an Islamic attempt to take over Western Europe. In his manifesto he says he is a member of a new order of the Knights Templar.
The European police agency Europol said it is investigating links between Breivik and right-wing groups in Europe.
A task force was set up shortly after the Norway attacks to help in the probe but a Europol spokesman said British police would also join the task force.
Excerpt from Anders Breivik’s manifesto
“I am the Norwegian delegate to the founding meeting in London, England and ordinated as the 8th Justiciar Knight for the PCCTS, Knights Templar Europe. I joined the session after visiting one of the initial facilitators, a Serbian Crusader Commander and war hero, in Monrovia, Liberia.
“Certain long term tasks are delegated and I am one of two who are asked to create a compendium based on the information I have acquired from the other founders during our sessions. Our primary objective is to develop PCCTS, Knights Templar into becoming the foremost conservative revolutionary movement in Western Europe the next few decades.
“This in relation to developing a new type of European nationalism referred to as Crusader Nationalism. This new political denomination of nationalism will become the foremost counterweight to National Socialism and other cultural conservative political denominations, on the cultural right wing.
“Everyone is using code names; mine is Sigurd (the Crusader) while my assigned mentor is referred to as Richard (the Lionhearted). I believe Im the youngest one here.”
Friday 29 July 2011 12:37
Sinn Féin Foyle MLA and former Hunger Striker Raymond McCartney will be the main speaker at a march in Park tonight from 7.30pm in memory of Kevin Lynch who died on the 1981 Hunger Strike.
The march will assemble beside St. Mary’s Chapel, Altinure before proceeding to the memorial stone in Park Village which was unveiled in 2009 in memory of Kevin Lynch
Raymond McCartney said: “Kevin was just 20 years of age when he entered Long Kesh and immediately joined the Blanket protest. As a young man growing up in Dungiven, Kevin was known as a happy-go-lucky lad with a love of life and an outstanding ability as a sportsman. He excelled at both hurling and football, representing club and county with distinction.”
Other events this weekend include a parade in Dungiven at 2pm, starting from Dungiven Castle. The Sinn Fein office in Dungiven will be open from 10am until 9pm on Saturday for a museum display, and again on Sunday from 10am until 4pm. A vigil will take place on Monday at 8pm at the Kevin Lynch Monument in Dungiven.
27 July 2011
The High Court has heard prisoners at Maghaberry jail are being denied family visits because they refuse to pledge not to resume their dirty protest afterwards.
Lawyers for inmates claimed the undertaking was being sought before they could shower and see relatives.
A judge has ordered more details on the allegation after counsel for the Prison Service said it was the first he had heard of it.
William Wong and Michael Johnston have mounted a legal challenge over the denial of legal and family visits.
Both men are being held in the separated regime in Roe House where dissident republicans have been staging a protest over conditions.
Maghaberry chiefs have stopped their access to visits due to health and safety concerns for staff, other inmates and the public.
Johnston, 28, from the New Lodge, north Belfast is on remand charged with possession of timer power units.
Wong, 22, and formerly of Dalton Close, Armagh, was jailed earlier this month for a minimum five years for having a pipe bomb.
Their lawyers claim the prohibition breaches their rights under the European Convention on Human Rights.
With leave to seek a judicial review already granted, the case returned to court on Wednesday for an update on steps taken by prison authorities to facilitate contact.
Tony McGleenan, for the Prison Service, said a video-link facility for legal consultations is to be installed in Roe House by Friday.
A separate phone line will also be provided, he confirmed.
Mr McGleenan stressed: “If the prisoners are co-operative with health and safety concerns there is no prohibition on visits.
“There is no punishment or adjudication in place. There are steps the prisoners can take if they wish to see (their relatives).”
Johnston’s barrister, Sean Devine, argued that the prisoners were not opposed to taking a shower before visits.
He said: “It seems as though the visit is conditional upon the prisoner in question coming off the protest, which they are not prepared to do.”
Counsel for Wong made the same claim, and also alleged that a 16-minute telephone conversation between his client and lawyer was cut off because he was accused of taking too long and restricting the access of other inmates.
The judge hearing the challenge is still to decide whether to press ahead with an urgent full hearing.
Adjourning the case until next week, Mr Justice Weatherup directed the Prison Service to provide an affidavit in an attempt to clear up the disputed claims.
He said: “I need to know the answer as to the factual issue of whether or not there are restrictions being imposed on the time used on legal telephone conferencing.
“Secondly, there is the factual dispute about whether or not it is a condition of people attending family visits who want to shower, that they do not go back on protest. That they give an undertaking.”
28 July 2011
THE LATE Supt Bob Buchanan “was really setting himself up” by repeatedly driving across the Border in his own car, a former assistant Garda commissioner told the Smithwick Tribunal yesterday.
Ned O’Dea, who prepared a report on the murders of Supt Buchanan and fellow RUC officer Chief Supt Harry Breen after the killings, said he would not have dreamt of behaving in the way Supt Buchanan did.
The tribunal is inquiring into suggestions of collusion between members of the Garda, or other employees of the State, in the fatal shooting of the two RUC officers on March 20th, 1989.
Mr O’Dea said Supt Buchanan had driven back and forth across the Border in his own car repeatedly without changing plates or taking proper precautions. He said the IRA did not need anyone to tell it about his movements.
“They would have known from their own resources,” he said.
He told the tribunal he had uncovered an IRA file on himself which included details of his family, his car and even his golf handicap.
Mr O’Dea also defended retired Det Sgt Owen Corrigan, who was accused by former MI5 agent Peter Keeley of being an IRA mole. He said Mr Corrigan was a brave officer in Dundalk.
“There is no way, I believe, he would tip off the IRA,” he said. “I have no doubt in my mind as to his loyalty to the force.”
Justin Dillon SC, for the tribunal, highlighted minutes of a government meeting in the wake of the killings when then minister for justice Gerard Collins said he would commission a report on the deaths.
He also noted Mr Collins had a report going into that meeting, but the tribunal had so far been unable to find it.
He said Mr Collins might be able to help them with that, although he had not yet been able to give evidence.
Mr Dillon questioned Mr O’Dea about the report he produced for the government in which he concluded there was no leak from Dundalk Garda station.
Mr Dillon suggested the report was not comprehensive but Mr O’Dea denied that.
Under cross-examination, he also denied the report was a whitewash.
Earlier yesterday, retired Det Sgt Tom Fox, who had called a key witness a “spacer” last week, said he had got the wrong man.
Mr Fox had said MI5 agent Peter Keeley was regarded as “a spacer” and that he was “a person who could not be trusted”.
Mr Keeley had alleged Mr Corrigan had passed information on to the IRA that led to the murder of two RUC officers.
Yesterday, after he was shown a photograph of Mr Keeley, who used the pseudonym Kevin Fulton when he spoke to journalists, Mr Fox said he was not the person he had been referring to.
“I never saw that man in my life,” he told Judge Peter Smithwick.
Tribunal hearings will resume on September 1st.
Northern Ireland’s Sinn Féin deputy first minister defends suspect, saying arrest after killing was for publicity purposes
Thursday 28 July 2011
Northern Ireland’s Sinn Féin deputy first minister has criticised the handling of a police investigation into murdered Catholic policeman Ronan Kerr.
Martin McGuinness hit out at the arrest of a 22-year-old Coalisland man whom he described as “completely innocent”. McGuinness said the man’s arrest in the County Tyrone town had caused anger in the community.
His remarks are bound to put him at odds with Peter Robinson, the Democratic Unionist first minister of Northern Ireland. Robinson and the DUP’s key demand for Sinn Féin’s entry into power-sharing government back in 2006 was that the republican party fully support policing and the judicial system in Northern Ireland.
The 22-year-old was part one of five men detained under the Terrorism Act earlier this week although all have since been released. A 23-year-old woman remains in custody and is being questioned by detectives at the Police Service of Northern Ireland’s (PSNI) serious crimes suite in Antrim.
McGuinness said the 22-year-old was had been taken from his home in the “full blaze of publicity” but the PSNI said they had a duty to carry out their inquiries.
“This was according to the police a major operation, it was described as such by the media and there was extensive media attention placed on homes and on business premises,” the deputy first minister said.
“From speaking to the family of the young man and the local community, it is obvious to me that we are dealing with a situation where a young man who was completely innocent, and who was in fact, in the USA at the time of the killing of Ronan Kerr.”
The Sinn Féin MP for Mid Ulster said it was very important within nationalist and republican communities that innocent people and people who are clearly seen to be innocent “should not be arrested in this fashion”.
“I do find it quite strange that within a very short period of this young man, who was completely innocent, being released after representations by myself, that the other four people who were also arrested were released,” he said.
“They were basically held just over one day. That doesn’t say to me that this was a serious attempt to find those who were responsible for the killing of Ronan Kerr.”
McGuinness added that he supported the police in their attempts to find those responsible for Kerr’s murder, but he still criticised their investigation.
By Amanda Poole
28 July 2011
The Orange Order is refuting claims by the Garvaghy Road Residents Coalition (GRRC) that it took part in an illegal parade last night.
A GRRC statement claimed more than 30 members of the Portadown LOL No1 were able to make their way from Drumcree Church to the edge of the nearby nationalist Ballyoran estate after police had failed to turn up.
The GRRC said the PSNI only arrived when residents started to emerge from their homes. The group said it believed both the PSNI and the Orange Order had hoped to draw nationalist residents into a confrontation.
A spokesman for the Orange Order said the police arrived late but there was “no enticement” and “no illegal” parade took place.
He added: “This was the second in a series of Wednesday night protests in order to highlight the inconsistency of the Parades Commission in dealing with this dispute. Like any other Sunday protest, it was made to the PSNI, and the brethren dispersed.
“A few men went up to the head of the road and that was where the police were coming out. They told us we weren’t allowed to proceed and we headed back to the church.”
A statement from the Grand Orange Order Lodge of Ireland said: “We are making no comment until we find out all the facts.”
A PSNI spokesman said police received reports of possible breaches of the Parades Commission determination.
“Police are investigating the circumstances,” he added.
The GRCC called on the Parades Commission to “ask for a clear explanation as to why the PSNI choose to ignore or enforce a legally binding determination tonight in Portadown”.
By Noel McAdam
Thursday, 28 July 2011
Sinn Fein has attempted to set up a face-to-face meeting between the sister of an IRA murder victim and Stormont Minister Caral Ni Chuilin.
But Ann Travers, who is demanding the removal of the minister’s special adviser Mary McArdle over her involvement in her sister Mary’s murder, has rebuffed the approach.
Ms McArdle was imprisoned for her role in the Provisional’s attack on Magistrate Tom Travers and his family more than 25 years ago – in which Mrs Travers’ sister Mary was killed – but freed under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement.
The offer of a one-to-one meeting was made before it emerged – as revealed in yesterday’s Belfast Telegraph – that Mrs Travers has suffered a miscarriage.
The suggestion from Sinn Fein was made through a local priest but Mrs Travers said she saw little point unless the party was prepared to take some action in relation to Ms McArdle, who has voiced her regret for the killing in 1984.
Culture Arts and Leisure Minister Ms Ni Chuilin made no comment but Sinn Fein confirmed the move and said the offer still stands. Mrs Travers, however, said she was also concerned the offer was about the party being seen to be doing something, but was told Ms Ni Chuilin wanted to meet her “woman to woman”.
The mother-of-five also hit back at comments by deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness in a Belfast Telegraph interview in which he said: “If people think that Mary McArdle was appointed simply to annoy people or cause antagonism, nothing could be further from the truth.”
And she also wanted to respond to Ms McArdle’s article in the Andersonstown News in which she said in taking up the post she was fully aware that her past might be brought up by sections of the media.
Mrs Travers argued: “Why do Sinn Fein not consider victims when making appointments? If this appointment had been made in any other country and had caused the amount of emotion and hurt that it has, someone would be sacked by now.
“If Martin McGuinness and his colleagues were aware that this appointment would cause upset then questions must be asked.
“Are they so full of their own self-worth that they no longer consider the public that they serve or those victims whom they dis-empowered during the Troubles and continue to do so today in 2011 when they are ignored?”
Sinn Fein has pledged to oppose “discriminatory” security vetting in the aftermath of the controversial appointment of Mary McArdle as special adviser to Culture Minister Caral Ni Chuilin. The party insisted: “Security vetting has been used in the past to make positions in government, including those in the senior civil service, the preserve of one section of the community.” But Finance Minister Sammy Wilson, tasked with drawing up new guidelines – which still to be agreed by the Executive – said ministers should have to justify decisions in choosing individuals. Ms McArdle was convicted of the IRA murder of Mary Travers.
By Gerard Cunningham
Thursday, 28 July 2011
A retired Irish detective who said an MI5 agent was “unreliable” and “a spacer” has told the Smithwick tribunal that the man he was talking about was not Peter Keeley, the British agent also known as ‘Kevin Fulton’.
Garda sergeant Tom Fox clarified his evidence from last Friday when he was shown a photograph of Mr Keeley at the tribunal.
The image, taken from a website, was supplied to the tribunal by lawyers representing Belfast republican Freddie Scappaticci.
“I can confirm to you that I never saw that man in my life,” Mr Fox told the inquiry.
The ex-detective said the man he had referred to in his evidence was a Mr McCann, who he had believed was also Mr Keeley. Inquiries at the social welfare office in Dundalk after Mr McCann left the area had revealed that no person of that name was signing on, he said, although Mr McCann had been seen regularly at the office.
Mr Fox also said a man known as ‘Mooch’ Blair was well-known to gardai in Dundalk.
Counsel for Mr Keeley said Mr Blair was “a well-known subversive”, and his client often drove Mr Blair in Dundalk.
In response to a question from counsel for retired detective sergeant Owen Corrigan, the tribunal was told that his real name was Peter Keeley, and this was the name he operated under while working as an MI5 British agent.
The tribunal heard that ‘Kevin Fulton’ was a pseudonym invented by a journalist when Mr Keeley gave interviews about the Omagh bombing and allegations that Mr Corrigan was an IRA “mole”.
Mr Corrigan has described the allegation as a “monstrous lie”.
The tribunal is examining claims of garda collusion in the deaths of RUC chief superintendent Harry Breen and superintendent Bob Buchanan as they returned from a meeting in Dundalk garda station in March 1989.
Retired assistant commissioner Edward O’Dea was sent to Dundalk in the days following the murder of the two RUC officers to investigate how the meeting was set up and who knew about it.
“I did a complete report, I sent it to the commissioner. It didn’t come back to me,” Mr O’Dea said.
In the report, Mr O’Dea concluded that no leak about the meeting came from within An Garda Siochana.
Mr O’Dea said that Buchanan “was really setting himself up” by travelling regularly to Garda stations in his own car without changing licence plates. And he said there was “no way” former Det Sgt Owen Corrigan would tip off the IRA. “I have no doubt in my mind as to his loyalty to the force.”
The tribunal resumes in September.
Tuesday 26 July 2011 11:24
Dissident republicans staged a 72 hour fast at Free Derry Corner over the weekend in support of the campaign to have terminally ill prisoner Brendan Lillis released.
Several tents were pitched at Free Derry Corner on Thursday evening and the republican protesters remained there until Monday morning.
Although several prominent members of the 32 County Sovereignty Movement (32CSM) took part in the protest, and flags supporting that organisation were flown the organisers said it was “an independent camp.”
A spokesperson for the organisers said; “A Brendan Lillis hunger camp was set up on Thursday in response to the intransigence of the British Government and Stormont puppet David Ford in letting an interned prisoner starve to death.
“Brendan Lillis may have only days to live and is totally reliant on others for basic needs. He has been in a prone position on a hospital bed for over 600 days.
“Healthwise he has deteriorated to under 5 and a half stone and is incapable of moving due to a debilitating spinal condition which has fused together the bones in his back.”
The spokesperson also compared the situation to 1981 when ten republican prisoners died on hunger strike in Long Kesh. “British intransigence in 1981 meant 10 men starving themselves to death for better conditions for Irish Republicans in British gaols.
“30 years on an Irish man who hasn’t a choice finds himself being effectively starved to death by the British Government’s apathy towards anyone who could be construed as an Irish Republican.”
Five men have been arrested and a major search operation is under way across Northern Ireland over the murder of police officer Ronan Kerr.
The 25-year-old Catholic policeman was killed when a bomb exploded under his car in Omagh on 2 April.
About 200 officers are currently involved in seven searches in Coalisland, Toomebridge, Bellaghy and Ballyronan. Police have searched residential and commercial premises, including a pub.
The five men, aged from 22 to 46, were arrested under the Terrorism Act.
In Toomebridge, County Antrim, there is a heavy police presence with three police Land Rovers, armed police, two police cars and a police van at a pub on the Hillhead Road.
In Coalisland, a car was removed to be searched and there is a heavy police presence with landrovers on the outskirts of the town.
Before Tuesday’s operation, a total of 33 searches had been conducted in connection with the murder in Northern Ireland, the Republic of Ireland and Scotland.
The latest police investigation is being led by detectives from the Serious Crime Branch.
All five men have been taken to Antrim police station for questioning.
Police said clothing, mobile phones, computers and cars had all been seized for forensic analysis.
Detective Superintendent Raymond Murray said: “Our determination to pursue every possible line of enquiry remains undiminished.
“The investigation is progressing and police have been encouraged by the support and assistance which has been forthcoming from across the community.”
He appealed for patience and cooperation as the police operation continued.
Police said a £50,000 reward remains on offer for information leading to the arrest and conviction of those responsible for Constable Kerr’s murder.
Constable Kerr, who joined the police in May 2010, is the second officer to have been killed since the Royal Ulster Constabulary became the PSNI in 2001.
Dissident republicans were blamed for the murder.
The Northern Ireland Ombudsman has expressed concern that the independence and powers of his office could be eroded.
Tom Frawley investigates complaints that public bodies have not acted properly or fairly.
He said he feared that the role of his office could be diminished by new legislation.
In the last year, complaints about maladministration in Northern Ireland reached an eight-year high.
Mr Frawley said he would like to like to have the range of powers that the Ombudsman in the Republic has.
“She doesn’t use it extensively. She uses it very, very sparingly, but also very powerfully,” he said.
“The example, that some listeners may be aware of, is where she looked at how the support comfort funds that are spent in old people’s homes in the republic were being misused by public bodies.”
“As a result, she made a recommendation that has resulted in more than a billion Euro being restored to families who were disadvantaged.
“Currently, I can only look at an issue if a complaint has been made about it. What I want to be able to do is, if that’s a series or a pattern or a trend of complaints, to be able to say that’s something I want to look at more proactively.”
A man who denies he was a senior IRA member, and an informer, has been granted extended legal representation at the Smithwick Tribunal in Dublin.
The tribunal is investigating allegations of Garda collusion in the murder of two senior RUC officers.
Freddie Scappaticci denies being the agent in the IRA known as Stakeknife.
However, his legal team has been given the right of representation on occasions when that agent’s name is mentioned in tribunal proceedings.
Judge Peter Smithwick said this was because the public may identify Mr Scappaticci with Stakeknife.
The judge said there were three allegations made against Mr Scappaticci with relevance to the tribunal.
One is that he was the agent Stakeknife working within the IRA on behalf of the British security services; the second that he was the handler of Garda Owen Corrigan alleged to have colluded with the IRA and lastly that he was involved in the abduction and murder of Tom Oliver in County Louth.
The tribunal is investigating the deaths of Chief Superintendent Harry Breen and Superintendent Bob Buchanan
The senior police officers were shot dead in an IRA ambush in south Armagh after meeting Irish police in Dundalk in March 1989.
Garda Owen Corrigan was named as an IRA source by DUP MP Jeffrey Donaldson in the House of Commons in 2000.
Last week Mr Corrigan told the tribunal that “nothing was further from his own ethos and beliefs”.
He said it was “an absolute disgrace to avail of parliamentary privilege for his (Mr Donaldson’s) own ulterior motive”.