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**Sent via email by Helen McClafferty
Gerry was taken to hospital yesterday, another [stent] put in, and he has been returned to prison. He is in a great deal of pain, tired and not feeling well. The doctors at the hospital said that he would have had another heart attack if he hadn’t been taken to hospital as soon as he was. The doctors are now attributing his poor health, heart wise, to the fact that he is not getting his heart medication on a consistent basis and they discovered that on occasion he was given the wrong medication. He is also suffering from lack of exercise, the proper diet, stress; and the unsanitary conditions within the prison is not helping his condition by any means. Gerry did say “the hospital staff was wonderful and treated him extremely well”. Upon Gerry’s departure, the staff wished him well and said they hoped he would be released soon. HAVE YOU WRITTEN TO SINN FEIN, OWEN PATERSON, DAVID CAMERON, DEMANDING THEY BE PRO-ACTIVE IN GETTING GERRY RELEASED ON A HUMANITARIAN BASIS ALONE, NOT TO MENTION HE HAS BEEN INCARCERATED ILLEGALLY?
Reach out to all the Human Rights organizations and ask them to be ‘pro-active’ in getting Gerry released due to serious health issue.
Please get busy. Thank you.
29 Sept 2011
The coffin of former UVF figure Gusty Spence is carried along the Shankill Road in Belfast for his funeral service. Mr Spence, a founder of the paramilitary group, died on Saturday aged 78. (Photograph: Cathal McNaughton/Reuters)
THE HEARTLAND of loyalist Belfast came to a standstill yesterday as more than 1,000 people turned out for the funeral of paramilitary godfather and peacemaker Gusty Spence.
Mr Spence (78), who died on Saturday after a long illness, founded the modern Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) in the 1960s.
The mourners included a range of political and civic figures who congregated in St Michael’s Church of Ireland Church on Craven Street off the Shankill Road for the service.
The coffin carried the regimental flag and beret of the Royal Ulster Rifles, in which Mr Spence served before his UVF days. RUR soldiers also formed a guard of honour as his remains were taken into the church. At the deceased’s request, there were no paramilitary trappings.
Ulster Unionist Assembly members Michael McGimpsey and Mike Nesbitt were among the mourners. Also there was Dawn Purvis, former leader of the Progressive Unionist Party, which is aligned with the UVF; and Jeanette Ervine, the widow of Ms Purvis’s predecessor as PUP leader, David Ervine.
Former chair of the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission Prof Monica McWilliams also attended.
Ulster Defence Association (UDA) “brigadier” Jackie McDonald and well-known UVF leaders were also among mourners.
In her eulogy, Ms Purvis said Mr Spence was “a man of war and a man of peace”.
“My experience of him was of the man once involved in violence but also absolutely dedicated to peace. He saw the need to talk to Sinn Féin and said we needed to bring them ‘to see the whites of their eyes and lock them into the democratic process’.
“He told me during peace talks to ‘beware of the super Prods’, a message that is still relevant. He also reminded me as a working class Protestant woman that I had as much right as anyone to be in Castle Buildings helping to negotiate the future of our country.” Ms Purvis added that the impact Mr Spence had on her was “life-changing”.
The coffin was adorned with flowers which spelled the word ‘granda’. A personal tribute was added by Mr Spence’s granddaughter, Louise, in her eulogy.
“A lot has been said about Gusty, some good, some not so good,” she told mourners.
“This is nothing new to the family. We knew who he was and who he wasn’t.”
Burial took place afterwards in Clandeboye Cemetery in Bangor, Co Down.
CAROL COULTER, Legal Affairs Editor
29 Sept 2011
ANALYSIS: DAVID NORRIS told RTÉ yesterday that he could not publish documents appealing for clemency for his former partner Ezra Nawi for legal reasons.
“I am absolutely restricted by questions of privacy,” he said. “I understand people’s interest but I’ve been told by my lawyers that these letters are subject to professional legal privilege and I’ve been told I cannot publish them.”
Nawi was convicted in 1997 of statutory rape of a 15-year-old boy.
There are two completely separate issues here, that of privacy and of professional legal privilege.
The reference to professional legal privilege is puzzling, as Norris also said the letters were written to senior politicians in Ireland and Israel.
Professional legal privilege attaches to correspondence between lawyers and clients, not between non-lawyers on a legal matter.
Professional legal privilege goes back to the 16th century and exists throughout the common law world. It is based on the assumption that people need skilled legal professionals when litigating or defending themselves.
Such representation can only work if the client is free to be totally frank with his or her legal adviser, without fear of disclosure.
Therefore, all communications between a solicitor or barrister and client are protected from disclosure, and the lawyer may not disclose their contents without the permission of the client.
The client may, of course, give permission for such disclosure.
The only exception to this is where the client discloses to the lawyer the intention to commit a crime.
Norris was not involved in the Nawi case and was not, as far as we know, the client of a solicitor or other lawyer in relation to it.
It is difficult to see, therefore, where professional legal privilege might arise, as the letters concerned are not between a lawyer and a client.
It is conceivable that Nawi asked his lawyer to contact Norris to encourage him to seek clemency on his behalf and authorising him to make disclosures to Norris about the case, in strict confidence and with the proviso that no one else received the disclosures.
Nawi’s correspondence with his solicitor would be covered by privilege, as any letter from the lawyer to Norris written on those terms.
It would, of course, be open to Nawi himself to lift this privilege. However, none of this would extend to letters written by Norris to third parties seeking an intervention or clemency.
The issue of privacy is quite different.
While the Constitution does not expressly guarantee a right of privacy, following the seminal case involving former Irish Times editor Geraldine Kennedy and fellow journalist Bruce Arnold, a person’s right to privacy in their private communications has been recognised as a constitutional right.
Norris is entitled to privacy in his private communications with other people.
If the purpose of such communications though was to seek clemency in a court of law, the matter would be in the public domain anyway and would, to that extent, not be private correspondence.
In addition, as the author of such letters, Norris can waive his right to privacy with regard to the correspondence.
The invocation of legal advice in this matter is not likely to make it go away.
**I wouldn’t either if I were him and attempting to defend the rapist of a 15 year old boy.
“Mr Norris withdrew for a time from the presidential race after it emerged he had appealed in 1997 for clemency for Ezra Nawi, who was convicted of statutory rape of a 15-year-old boy.” —Irish Times
Too bad he decided to come back.
**Click the link below to read the whole article
“…The IRA knew full well that when British intelligence wanted to infiltrate and advance agents inside their ranks they would sometimes use other agents to smooth their path. If McGuinness had allowed Hegarty back into the IRA knowing his past, then this made McGuinness a suspected British agent…”
By Donna Deeney
Wednesday, 28 September 2011
The wife of a Moroccan man has been ordered out of Strabane after defending her husband who was forced to flee the town following dissident threats.
Philomena Monaghan’s husband Yousef Rhasrane returned to Morocco last weekend and now she too is considering leaving her home and business after a warning letter was pushed through her letterbox.
Yousef was told by the PSNI last week that his life had been threatened by Republican Action Against Drugs (RAAD).
However, his wife has challenged the dissident republicans’ campaign of intimidation and asked them to provide evidence to back up the accusations.
Speaking to the North West Telegraph, Ms Monaghan said: “These faceless scum are saying my husband was dealing in drugs which is a total lie, so I am saying to them ‘show me your proof’ because I know they can’t because they have none.
“They tried to set him up last week by calling him out to pick up laundry and had he not noticed them and run off, they would have shot him in the street in front of my four-year-old grandson. But that wasn’t enough for them, now they are coming after me.”
Since her husband’s return to Morocco, Ms Monaghan has tried to carry on the laundry business, but she returned home on Monday to find a sinister letter written from newspaper cuttings ordering her to get out of Strabane.
Ms Monaghan explained: “It said ‘you better get out of the country or you will be put out like your man. There is no call going to anybody, Get Out.’
Strabane Area Commander chief inspector Andy Lemon insisted the dissidents are not in control of the town.
He said: “These are faceless thugs with their own warped agenda.
28 September 2011
Mairead Farrell, OC of the prisoners in Armagh jail, in her cell during the no-wash protest.
As part of an ongoing series to mark the 30th anniversary of the 1981 hunger strike, ‘Journal’ reporter Michael McMonagle spoke to MARIE DOHERTY, a former prisoner in Armagh jail, about her experiences both inside and outside of the prison and the legacy of the hunger strikes. The former prisoner will speak at a public event to mark the end of the hunger strike in the city on October 3rd.
The period of the hunger strikes left many enduring images but for one former prisoner from Derry, the sight of the sisters of Thomas McElwee carrying his coffin from his south Derry home is one she will never forget. Marie Doherty watched one of the most turbulent periods of recent Irish history, the hunger strikes, from both inside and outside prison.
Arrested in 1977, she served several years in Armagh women’s prison, where she took part in the prison protest during the first hunger strike, before being released in 1981, shortly before start of the second hunger strike, during which ten republicans died.
Marie went into prison as the protest by republican prisoners was escalating. “I was arrested in February 1977 and when I went into jail the political status had gone at that stage,” she said.
The former prisoner said she soon got an introduction to the brutality of the prison regime. “About six months after I was sentenced a shout went up one evening that there was chicken for dinner which was unusual because we never had chicken on a Tuesday. We all rushed down to the canteen and while we were there the screws moveds in and penned us in and others went to search the cells. A riot broke out and we were all locked up for three days continuously with no access to toilet or washing facilities. That was the start of the no wash protest.
“We were moved to A wing and many prisoners got beaten during the move. It was male screws who moved us and they were the one doing the beating. That is how it started,” she said.
Marie was to spend the next 14 months in A wing, including the period of the first hunger strike in 1980. “We had no access to radios but we had comms coming in and Fr Murray played a major role in bringing news into us. He was coming in two or three times a day at one point,” she explained.
The Derry woman said that when the first hunger strike began in December 1980 the women in Armagh knew the seriousness of the situation. “There was a very sombre mood in Armagh. Everybody acknowledged that when the hunger strike came about the possibility was there that someone was going to die. No one knew that there was going to be so many. We were in full support of the prisoners and we knew that we were all together,” she said.
Marie said the beginning of the hunger strike changed everything for the prisoners in Armagh. “Before that there were sing songs at night, storytelling, and people were learning Irish. That all stopped. There was a seriousness about the situation. Everyday we waited for news.
“We were locked up for 23 hours a day. It was quite a still sort of time. It was like we were in limbo. We wanted to know what was happening and we were waiting on news. Everybody was hoping.
“Everything centred around the hunger strike. We worked it so there was a visit coming into the wing every day so that news would be brought in. We got the news through Mairead Farell, our OC.
“We were allowed one letter a week and my father always wrote to me. He wouldn’t let anyone else write to me and he packed as much news as he could into that letter,” she said.
When the first hunger strike ended in December 1980, Marie said there was relief in Armagh that no-one had died but added that it was a short lived relief. “When it ended we started looking forward to Christmas and were relieved that no one lost their lives but it was so short lived. We realised very quickly that the prisoners’ demands would not be met and that the British had reneged on their committments.
“Within a day or two of the ending of the first hunger strike that there would have to be another one,” she said.
Marie explained that republican prisoners in Armagh had close links with the men in Long Kesh. “There wasn’t a woman in Armagh who wasn’t writing to at least one man in Long Kesh. I shared a cell with the fiancee of Tom McElwee for three years and it was awful watching her, knowing that he was going on hunger strike. We knew the first four who were going on and she knew at that stage that Tom’s name was on the list. For her it was not just being separated from him but she also knew what he was going through in Long Kesh.
“I remember the night before I got out in February 1981, just before the hunger strike started in March. They had a sing song for me because I was getting out and I remember sitting in the cell with her and talking and we just cried,” she said.
Marie was released just before the hunger strike began and threw herself into the campaign in support of the prisoners. “I remember hearing the news that Bobby Sands had died and I went up to Belfast for the funerals. After the funeral I wrote to my cell mate about the huge crowds and telling her that Thatcher could not ignore the will of the people,” she explained.
As the summer of 1981 continued, nine more hunger strikers died in Long Kesh and Marie, like many Derry republicans, travelled to their funerals. “I remember going to the funerals after they died. The thing that sticks out most in my mind was the funeral of Tom McElwee. I remember seeing his seven sisters carrying his coffin. That was the first time I had ever seen women carrying a coffin, it just wasn’t done back then. That sticks out in my mind. It was his sisters telling the world that they were proud of their brother and what he had done. When I think of Tom McElwee that is what I think of,” Marie said.
The Derry woman also said there was a sense of anger following the deaths of the ten hunger strikers. “When the hunger strike ended there was a real sense of anger. I was brought up not to use the word hate but I really hated Thatcher. The anger was not just directed against the British government but at all who had let them die,” she said.
Marie has not spoken publicly about the hunger strike since 1980 but will be addressing a commemoration on October 3rd organised by the ‘81 Committee to mark the end of the protest. “When Bobby Sands went on hunger strike he had a vision. It was a new phase in the struggle. The situation is we have now came out of that vision and is simply a different phase in the same struggle,” she said.
By Mike McKimm
28 Sept 2011
Some of the finest lighthouses in the world – and some of the oldest – stand guard around the rugged coast of Ireland.
They also mark the victory of rational thought over endless political shenanigans. But perhaps not for much longer.
St John’s Point lighthouse in County Down could be one of those under threat
Their future is now blighted by technology and finance.
The bean counters may have managed what bombs, bullets and bigotry failed to achieve.
In the past lighthouses around the coast of the UK and Ireland have been paid for from the General Lighthouse Fund (GLF).
The money for that is raised from light dues charged to ships that visit UK and Irish ports. It’s a sort of tax on shipping and has been around for centuries.
The agreement for common funding has lasted through wars, political division and even the Partition of Ireland.
Now, in an attempt to save a few million pounds sterling, the UK government has decided to end an arrangement that spans three centuries.
Financially the Republic of Ireland has been set adrift and told to find its own lighthouse funding. From 2016 it won’t get a share of the GLF but nor will it be expected to contribute to it. Hundreds of years of tradition and financial co-operation will come to an abrupt end.
Lighthouses around the Irish Sea are split between three authorities. Trinity House looks after England and Wales. The Northern Lighthouse Board looks after all the lights in Scotland and the Isle of Man. The Commissioners of Irish Lights (CIL) is in charge of all the lighthouses around Ireland, north and south.
All three go back a long way. Trinity House was set up with a royal charter in 1514. Northern Lighthouses and Irish Lights were set up by respective Acts of Parliament in 1786.
But it was almost a hundred years later before a proper funding agreement was reached when the General Lighthouse Fund evolved. Money collected from ships around the UK and Ireland was put in a kitty and then shared out pro rata.
That is the situation that still exists today. But the UK and Irish governments have now agreed that the funding arrangement will end in 2016. The UK say it’s to bring to an end the subsidies for Irish lighthouses. The Irish authorities claim there are no subsidies.
“There’s been no British taxpayers’ money supporting the GLF or Irish lighthouses,” says Captain Kieran O’Higgins, head of marine with the Commissioners of Irish Lights.
“But the Irish Exchequer does contribute a percentage of Irish tax receipts that contribute towards operating costs of Irish Lights in ROI.”
The argument is that the money from the Irish government made up the shortfall in Irish light dues. And this is the point of division. Ships pay their light dues (currently 41 pence a ton) when they visit Irish or UK ports.
As there are more ships visiting UK ports than Irish ports, more funding is raised in the UK. So the Irish government agreed to make up what was seen as the difference. But the UK government isn’t impressed.
Subsidy or not, Ireland has been metaphorically cut adrift and left to find its own funding after 2016. And there is a complication. Around a dozen lighthouses maintained by CIL are actually in Northern Ireland.
So the GLF must continue to cover the costs of running and looking after these. But who will do the work? The same people who always did it, the Commissioners of Irish Lights. It’s sort of an “as you were” arrangement.
After 2016 there will be no difference to the mariner, advises Kieran O’Higgins of CIL: “Post-2016, there is no intention to have any change in the system per se. It will still be administered in the same way except that the funding for the Republic of Ireland operations has to be raised here.”
Ship passing Haulbowline lighthouse off Carlingford Lighthouses, such as Haulbowline off Carlingford, have been a feature of the Irish coast for centuries
But the change comes at a very bad time for Ireland. Apart from its crippling fiscal situation, the Republic of Ireland also has to cope with the growing backlash from shipping owners who are challenging the need to pay light dues to any authority anywhere in the world.
Lighthouses, such as Haulbowline off Carlingford, have been a feature of the Irish coast for centuries
Ship owners almost exclusively use satellite technology to find their way about today. Lighthouses and flashing buoys are no longer part of their navigation systems. It’s claimed that massive light dues are driving bigger ships into foreign ports losing the UK (and Ireland) a sizeable sum each year.
And satellite technology is quickly appearing as a major hurdle for the future of lighthouses. It’s one they may not be able to clear. In the future most commercial vessels will be expected to have all the equipment on board to make electronic navigation the standard method of getting about on the high seas. Its known as e-Navigation.
The cost of the equipment will add to the ship owner’s annual bill. So why should they pay for lighthouses which are becoming little more than a curiosity for many seafarers? Others argue that the e-Navigation systems aren’t sufficiently robust yet and lighthouses will still be needed as a backup for some time.
But some key lighthouses around the UK have already been earmarked for closure. It simply doesn’t make sense to keep them lit or even maintain them. It may be the route that CIL will have to take in the near future.
There have been warning lights and beacons around the coast of Ireland for well over a millennium. Hook Head Lighthouse on the south coast of Ireland is one of the oldest lighthouses still working in Europe. It was built by the Normans in the 12th Century.
For 600 years before that local monks lit beacons on the site at night. There has been some form of warning light for mariners burning at Hook Head for over 1,500 years.
Politics and rebellion failed to extinguish it. Finance and technology may well succeed.
28 Sept 2011
Two men, both aged 22, have been arrested in connection with the attempted murder of a Derry civil servant five years ago.
Paul McCauley was attacked by a gang at a barbecue in the Waterside in Derry on 16 July 2006.
The men were arrested in the Waterside area on Wednesday morning.
They were taken to Strand Road police station for questioning. Another man, Daryl Proctor, is serving a 12-year term for grievous bodily harm.
Mr McCauley and his friends were at a barbecue at Chapel Road when the attack happened.
Mr McCauley was 30 at the time. He has never regained consciousness.
He suffered multiple injuries, including a brain haemorrhage and a fractured skull, when he and two friends were beaten by a gang of youths.
He had two heart attacks on the way to Altnagelvin Hospital. He remains in a coma. It is understood that he will require full-time care for the rest of his life.
27 Sep 2011
**The video clip is onsite
**Please also see these articles for further discussion of both the smear campaign against Gaddafi and the blatant falsifying of video footage:
• Ed Moloney’s article on the whole Gaddafi claim: Exposure exposed
The producers of ITV’s new investigative current affairs programme have come under fire after footage used in the documentary they described as an ‘IRA video from 1988’ was actually taken from a video game
Exposure: Gaddafi and the IRA, broadcast on September 26, was billed as the first of six documentaries “providing an in-depth, revealing focus on a range of powerful subjects”. It explored the flow of weapons and money from the Gaddafi regime to Irish Republican terrorists.
The hour-long documentary, produced by ITV studios included a video that it said showed terrorists shooting down a British army helicopter in 1988.
“With Gaddafi’s heavy machine guns, it was possible to shoot down a helicopter, as the terrorists’ own footage of 1988 shows,” the narrator, the actor Paul McGann, said.
“This was what the security forces feared most. It may have been a lucky hit, but for the army and crew, once was enough. No-one died in this attack but there were many other deadly arms to fear.”
However, fans of the military videogame ARMA 2, which released in 2009 and is set in a fictional post-Soviet country, spotted that the footage was in fact computer-generated.
The Game’s producer Bohemia were equally as surprised to discover gameplay from their publication had been used:
“It is very weird to see our game used this way, especially considering the journalists described a short film clearly made using our game Arma 2 as genuine IRA footage” said CEO Marek Spanel.
27 Sept 2011
One of the key witnesses at Belfast’s UVF supergrass trial has denied basing his court testimony on assumptions rather than clear recollection.
Robert Stewart was accused of placing some defendants at punishment beatings in 1996, because they were who he would normally have expected to be there.
Stewart, who is testifying against 14 men, denied the suggestion.
Nine defendants, including alleged former UVF leader Mark Haddock, are accused of murdering a rival loyalist.
UDA man Tommy English was shot dead in front of his family at his Newtownabbey home on Halloween night in 2000.
It also emerged on Tuesday that both Robert Stewart and his brother Ian had initially failed to mention key evidence against one of the men in the dock, Darren Moore.
Defence Counsel Charles Adair QC pointed out that Stewart failed to mention to police that Mr Moore was a passenger in a car during a reconnaissance of Mr English’s house on no less than 21 occasions, before remembering his presence on the 22nd.
Stewart also denied trying to blackmail parole commissioners into giving him an early release date from prison, by threatening not to give evidence.
He had told a police handler: “Get me out of here, or I’m not giving evidence.”
In court he said that was “just one of those silly things I said I shouldn’t have said.”
Both the UVF (Ulster Volunteer Force) and UDA (Ulster Defence Association) are loyalist paramilitary groups responsible for the murder of hundreds of people during the Troubles.
The trial is the biggest and most expensive to be held in Northern Ireland for many years.
The 14 defendants are being represented by 24 barristers and eight firms of solicitors and the trial is expected to last for 11 weeks.
The term supergrass was first used in Northern Ireland in the 1980s when a number of terrorist suspects were convicted on the evidence of former comrades.
26 Sept 2011
So-called supergrass Robert Stewart has been quizzed about his mental state at the time when he was questioned by police.
The 37-year-old returned to the witness box at Belfast Crown Court on Monday after being ill for several days.
He is giving evidence against 14 men in connection of a catalogue of UVF crimes, including the murder of Tommy English in 2000.
Stewart was reminded by defence QC Charles Adair that he had described himself as having “pixies running around in his head”, and Mr Adair said on another occasion Stewart had not been able to remember his own name.
Appealing to judge Mr Justice Gillen on how many times he should be questioned on the matter, Stewart said: “I don’t know what he wants me to say, but I’m not a head case, if that’s what he is implying”.
Stewart maintained that the various phrases were “just a comment” and meant nothing more, and that the authorities “seemed quite happy I was telling the truth”.
The self-confessed loyalist terrorist repeatedly told the court he had “no reason to lie” and that he was not “pretending… professing to be something I am not”, and accused Mr Adair of simply trying to “pick holes” in his evidence.
Stewart later told Mr Adair: “This is rubbish you are talking… it’s just a comment…. it doesn’t mean much”.
At one stage Mr Adair suggested there were two alternatives to the description Stewart used to describe his state of mind at the time – either he was deranged, or there was nothing wrong with him and he was using it as an excuse for the “gaping holes” in his evidence.
“That’s not correct,” said Stewart, “I was just being as truthful as I could”.
However, Mr Justice Gillen suggested a third alternative, that Stewart’s mental state at the time was affected by his past drug taking, but had since improved.
The Newtownabbey man is giving evidence against a total of 14 men, accusing nine of them of involvement in the murder of rival loyalist chief Tommy English in October 2000, amongst numerous other offences ranging from firearms offences to punishment attacks.
26 Sept 2011
The granddaughter of a woman who was killed by the UVF has said Gusty Spence was not a peacemaker.
Matilda Gould, a 74-year-old Protestant grandmother, was one of the first victims of Gusty Spence’s Shankill UVF gang back in 1966.
The UVF was responsible for the murders of hundreds of people during the Troubles
Her granddaughter, who asked not be named, told the Nolan Show that people should never forget the horrendous crimes committed by Spence.
The 78-year-old died in hospital at the weekend after a long illness.
“My granny was crippled with arthritis,” she said.
“She lived next door to a Catholic man who owned a pub next door.
“Her house was painted the same as the mans so my granny was in the house, my mummy was there and she left just an hour before the petrol bomb.
“They just threw it in through the window and that was it.
“She was just really burnt to a cinder. My mummy was just away an hour and she would have got it too.”
She said everybody in the Shankill knew her granny.
“They called her Tilly, and she helped everybody, she didn’t deserve what she got,” she said.
“Apparently there were four of them, Gusty Spence sanctioned it.
“All because it was a Catholic bar and my granny lived next door.”
She described Spence as a “bad man”.
“Who would do that to a 74-year-old crippled woman who crawled into the hall to try and get out?
“Her whole house was burnt and she lived for about six weeks.
“My grandmother had three skin grafts.”
She remembers going to visit her granny in hospital.
“You weren’t allowed in to see her unless you had all the gear on,” she said.
“It was absolutely horrendous. All you could see were the slits in her eyes, mouth and nose. She was all bandaged up.”
She finds it hard when the former loyalist leader is lauded as a man of peace.
“To me he’s not getting put on a pedestal,” she said.
“He’s not the Gusty Spence that everybody now is putting on a pedestal.
“It affected us very badly.
“It mad me feel mad, he wasn’t in the sixties, he wasn’t a peacemaker.
“When you go out and throw a petrol bomb through a widow’s window, you’re no peacemaker.”
She said it saddened her that her grandmother’s death had been largely forgotten.
“She is never mentioned because it happened at the start of the Troubles,” she said.
“Peter Ward is mentioned, maybe because Gusty Spence shot him.
“He is still the man who sanctioned my granny’s murder. He killed her, it’s as simple as that.
“I would just like people to know what he did. My granny suffered an awful death.”
Tuesday September 27 2011
Three men are being questioned by police in Northern Ireland after a bomb was discovered in a car.
Officers in Derry said a “viable device” was found in a vehicle in Buncrana Road on Monday afternoon.
A security alert was issued and explosive experts removed the device.
Three men, aged 46, 49 and 54, have been arrested over alleged dissident republican activity, a police spokeswoman said.
“Police in Derry can confirm that a suspicious object found in a car in Buncrana road is a viable device,” the spokeswoman said.
“The device has been recovered and will be taken away for further examination.”
Despite Sunday World’s naming of five LVF suspects and death threats against paper’s journalists, no one yet charged
25 Sept 2011
Martin O’Hagan, who worked for the Sunday World, was shot dead after leaving a pub in Lurgan, Northern Ireland, in 2001. (Photograph: PA)
A decade after Martin O’Hagan became the first reporter to be murdered by paramilitaries in the UK, his fellow journalists at Northern Ireland’s best-selling Sunday newspaper are still receiving death threats.
The latest threat to staff at the Sunday World came a few weeks ago when journalists were warned by sources in the loyalist community that the Ulster Volunteer Force planned to send a parcel bomb to their newsroom. In total, 50 threats have been officially recorded.
No one has been brought to justice for the murder of O’Hagan, which took place 10 years ago this week, a fact that Jim McDowell, editor of the Northern Ireland edition, claims would have sparked an international outcry if it had happened in Liverpool, Manchester or London.
“We feel like we have been fighting a lone battle for the last 10 years,” said McDowell.
Asked why there has been relatively little progress in the case, McDowell replied bluntly: “Informers – or as we call them in this part of the world, touts. State agents who are a protected species.”
O’Hagan was shot dead in front of his wife, Marie, on the night of 28 September 2001, after the couple had enjoyed an evening at a pub in Lurgan. The journalist had been spotted in the bar by a Loyalist Volunteer Force (LVF) sympathiser who phoned contacts in the terror group to say O’Hagan was in the pub. As the couple walked home after closing O’Hagan was ambushed and shot up to seven times while he tried to shield his wife from the bullets.
Attention focused on five members of the LVF, including two brothers: one allegedly fired the shots, the other allegedly drove the getaway car. The Sunday World has consistently named the five as the key suspects in the murder. This naming has brought further death threats and physical attacks on the paper’s journalists; LVF supporters assaulted McDowell outside Craigavon courthouse last year.
The murdered reporter’s friend, the Sunday World’s news editor, Richard Sullivan, says no one at the paper has escaped the death threats as it continues to expose the so-called ‘para-mafia’ in Northern Ireland – former terrorists who have moved into drug dealing and other “ordinary” crimes.
“There is not a single person in this building who either individually or collectively hasn’t escaped these 50 threats, all of which were relayed to us by the police,” Sullivan said.
McDowell and Sullivan are adamant that the gang responsible for O’Hagan’s death were – or still are – working for one of the security forces in Northern Ireland.
There is, however, one ray of light around what has otherwise been a dispiriting anniversary. A spokesperson for the Public Prosecution Service in Northern Ireland confirmed on Friday that one man will face charges in connection with O’Hagan’s murder.
And while reporters on the mainland are coming under greater pressure to betray sources and hand over information to the police, the organisation Index On Censorship says the O’Hagan case is a timely reminder of the dangerous conditions journalists operate in across Northern Ireland.
John Kampfner, chief executive of Index, describes the killing as “not just a low point in the Northern Ireland conflict but in the history of democracy, and a free press on these islands.”He added: “The failure to prosecute or properly investigate the Sunday World’s claims that state forces were involved in the killing is an embarrassment.”
25 Sept 2011
Gusty Spence (centre) pictured with loyalist political leaders in 1994
When Gusty Spence was given the task of announcing the loyalist ceasefires in 1994, there was a symmetry to his role.
In the 1960s, he had been a founding father of the modern UVF, an organisation which would subsequently murder hundreds of people, mainly innocent Catholic civilians.
Almost three decades later, he sat before the world’s media, telling them that the UVF and another loyalist organisation, the Ulster Defence Association, were going on ceasefire in response to the IRA’s cessation.
In his statement, he said that loyalists wished to express their “abject and true remorse” for their role in the Troubles.
A man who shared responsibility for starting the conflict was now taking a lead role in the first steps towards its conclusion.
Gusty Spence was born in 1933 in the loyalist heartland of the Shankill Road.
His father had been a member of the first incarnation of the UVF, who were formed to fight Home Rule and whose members would subsequently make an enormous contribution in the First World War.
Spence himself joined the military police before leaving due to ill-health in 1961.
UVF mural The UVF was responsible for the murders of hundreds of people during the Troubles
His account of how he became involved with the UVF begins in 1965 when he claimed to have been approached by two men, one of whom was an Ulster Unionist Party member of the Stormont parliament.
The UVF was responsible for the murders of hundreds of people during the Troubles
He said they told him the UVF was to be re-established and that they wanted him, because of his military experience, to play a role in it.
Despite the organisation’s claims of having declared war on the IRA, it was Catholic civilians who bore the brunt of its violence.
In June 1966, 28-year-old John Scullion became the first victim of the modern Troubles, when he was shot by the UVF in the Falls Road area.
Spence was one of three men arrested in connection with the killing but the charges were dropped.
Later the same year, 18-year Peter Ward, a Catholic barman, went for a drink in a pub on the Shankill Road – not an unusual course of action in the days before the Troubles fully flared.
Spence, who was in the bar and overheard Peter Ward’s conversation, was sentenced to life for shooting him dead as he left.
He spent the next 18 years in prison, apart from a brief hiatus in 1972 when he escaped after being given parole to attend his daughter’s wedding.
During his four months on the run, he donned dark sunglasses to give a statement to the media as the UVF’s commanding officer.
Once recaptured and back in prison, Spence is described as having realised that the Troubles would eventually have to end with a political settlement.
He encouraged his fellow UVF prisoners to think similarly and following his release from prison due to ill-health in 1984, he was credited with having a significant influence on the nascent political wing of the UVF, the Progressive Unionist Party.
Its charismatic leader David Ervine would later hold Spence up as his role model, as someone who was capable of having a more strategic vision of where loyalism was headed.
As part of that process, he re-examined his own identity, learning the Irish language and defining himself as an Ulster Irishman who was also British.
Gusty Spence In 2007, Gusty Spence announced that the UVF would decommission its weapons
Despite the dialogue within loyalism, the UVF continued its campaign of sectarian violence until 1994 when Spence issued the historic statement on behalf of the so-called Combined Loyalist Military Command.
Members of the UVF continued to be involved in sporadic violence in subsequent years but Spence’s support of the peace process was unwavering.
When the organisation announced in 2007 that it was decommissioning its weapons and would exist only as a civilianised organisation, Spence was again called upon to make the landmark statement.
As late as 2010, when members of the UVF were blamed for murdering a man near Spence’s childhood home on the Shankill Road, he again intervened, telling the BBC that the organisation should disband once and for all.
It was his last contribution in an era which he had helped to define.
Scotland on Sunday
25 Sept 2011
SECTARIAN offenders jailed under new offensive behaviour at football laws are being rehabilitated in prison as part of the Scottish Government’s bid to rid the game of religious hatred.
Ministers have backed a programme being run by the Iona Community, which challenges behaviour by encouraging inmates to discuss lyrics sung in sectarian songs and to understand the problems that sectarianism has caused in communities such as Northern Ireland.
The programme – successful piloted in Addiewell, Barlinnie, Kilmarnock, Glenochil and Greenock jails – focuses on language and attitudes within families in the hope of not only preventing reoffending but also stopping sectarianism being passed from parents to children.
The novel approach targeted 60 prisoners selected by prison chiefs because they had sectarian elements to their offending. Initial results reveal that two-thirds of the prisoners involved showed a “positive change” in attitudes on completing the programme.
The programme will now double in size. With tougher new laws on offensive behaviour at football matches expected to be passed by the Holyrood Parliament later this year, more sectarian offenders could be imprisoned.
The Iona Community, which was founded in Glasgow and Iona in 1938 as a Christian organisation working towards principles such as justice, peace and equality, designed and implemented the scheme.
Laura McAleese, the youth projector co-ordinator who leads the project, taking it into prisons and running the courses, said: “We’re predominantly talking about under-40 males. Although we started in the west of Scotland we’ve also had people from Edinburgh and Livingston.”
The course features six group sessions, with participants asked questions at the beginning and end of the course, such as: “Do you think you are sectarian?” or “Is there a need for change?”
Prisoners were also asked to score statements such as “I think it’s OK for someone to crack a sectarian joke – it’s part of life and it does no harm” on their acceptability, giving a rating from one to five.
This was used to rate their attitudes, with prisoners typically showing a 50 per cent improvement after the course.
Based on this success, the Scottish Government has awarded the project a further £42,000 in funding, allowing it to double in size.
McAleese said: “The first week is an introduction to sectarianism. We find out how much they know, what their attitudes are and which team they support.
“We generally find Rangers fans sit on one side (of the room] and Celtic fans on the other. We put flags up and prisoners sit under the flag they support.
“Then we ask them things about the flags. I might say that all flags should be banned from football games, or all national flags should be banned, and we discuss that.
“Or I’ll ask them how come you see Union Jack or Irish flags but you don’t see many Scottish flags flown.”
She added: “We look at the history of both clubs and ask why Catholics traditionally support Celtic, and Protestants support Rangers. A lot of them have got children themselves and it’s about looking at how they speak to their children and whether they are encouraging them to be sectarian.”
Prisoners also examine the lyrics of sectarian songs sung at matches. McAleese found many of the men had never really thought about the content.
The Scottish Parliament is currently debating the Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications Bill after a series of sectarianism-related incidents at Scottish Premier League grounds last season. Offenders could be jailed for up to five years.
Roseanna Cunningham, the minister for community safety, said the Iona Community initiative had already seen “positive results.
“Seventy per cent of offenders have shown a positive change in attitude after taking part in the programme and the initiative has been rolled out to other prisons across Scotland.
“We are clear that tougher legislation can only be one part of the solution and if we are to tackle sectarianism in Scotland we need wide-ranging actions right across society.”
25 Sept 2011
Former Ulster Volunteer Force leader Gusty Spence who has died aged 78. (Photograph: Paul Faith/PA Wire)
Former Ulster Volunteer Force leader Gusty Spence has died aged 78.
Mr Spence was a feared killer in the 1960s but later renounced violence and announced the 1994 Combined Loyalist Military Command ceasefire.
He was sentenced to life imprisonment for murder after his gang shot dead Catholic Peter Ward (18) and wounded two others as they left a pub on Malvern Street, Belfast, in 1966 as the Troubles were about to ignite. He served 18 years.
He became heavily involved in politics and was a key figure in the Progressive Unionist Party alongside figures like the late David Ervine.
On May 3 2007, he read out the statement by the UVF announcing that it would keep its weapons but put them beyond the reach of ordinary members.
He died in hospital.
Mr Spence was a former military policeman from the Shankill Road in Belfast whose father was a member of the original Ulster Volunteer Force, originally formed to defend Ulster against the danger of Home Rule, but which then lost thousands of men on the battlefield of the Somme.
The UVF was stood down at the end of the First World War, but Mr Spence helped re-invent it in 1966 when the UVF declared war on the IRA.
It was ordinary Catholics who were soon being targeted.
On June 11 1966, John Scullion, a 28-year old Catholic became the first victim of the Troubles when he was shot by the UVF in the Catholic Falls Road area, and died two weeks later.
Mr Spence was one of three men charged with the murder but the charges were dropped.
Later that month, Peter Ward was shot dead.
Mr Spence was sentenced to life in prison but escaped in July 1972 after being given six hours parole to attend his daughter’s wedding.
Days later he gave a television interview as the organisation’s commanding officer.
He was on-the-run for four months, during which time he re-organised the UVF, before he was arrested and sent back to prison, where he remained until December 1984.
It was during his time in the UVF compounds in the high-security Maze prison that Mr Spence began to seriously consider politics and he urged several figures who were to become integral to the UVF’s peace strategy to do the same.
The late David Ervine, who played a central role in persuading the UVF to declare its ceasefire in October 1994 and became the public voice of the armed group as leader of the Progressive Unionist Party, was one of those swayed by prison politics. He was to become a passionate supporter of the peace process.
Another was Billy Hutchinson, who served 15 years of a life sentence for murdering two Catholics, Edward Morgan and Michael Loughran, on the Falls Road in 1974.
A decade later, while serving his sentence, he helped establish secret contacts between the UVF and republicans inside and outside the jail. Hutchinson later joined Ervine in the PUP.
After his release from prison in December 1984 because of poor health, Mr Spence was a key figure in developing political thinking within the UVF.
In October 1994 he announced that the main loyalist paramilitary groups, the UVF and the Ulster Defence Association, were declaring ceasefires.
Mr Spence offered his “abject and true remorse” to the loved ones of all the innocent victims of the Troubles.
He has kept a low profile and been ill in recent years, but made the UVF statement in 2007 that weapons had been put beyond use.
His appearance at every crucial juncture in the UVF story – and the progression from sectarian killer to peacemaker – will be much debated as Northern Ireland considers how to deal with its troubled past.
Commenting on the death of Mr Spence, Sinn Féin MLA Gerry Kelly said many nationalists would remember him as central to the sectarianism that gave birth to the modern loyalist paramilitary.
“However he did dedicate himself to peace and reconciliation for much of his later life so he willl also be remembered as a major influence in drawing loyalism away from sectarian strife.
“Gusty Spence played a key role within loyalism in bringing the UVF and Red Hand Commando into the peace process and announcing their ceasefires in 1994. This valuable contribution allowed the peace process to develop further.
“On behalf of Sinn Féin I would wish to extend my condolences to his family at this time,” he said.
As a former member of Óglaigh na hÉireann makes a bid for Áras an Úachtaráin, ED MOLONEY examines Martin McGuinness’s paramilitary past and how it has informed his political success and role in the peace process
24 Sept 2011
**More photos onsite
‘FIXATION” IS A word that appears often when Martin McGuinness addresses the issue of whether he was a member of the IRA. It has figured three or four times in his language since Northern Ireland’s Deputy First Minister was unveiled as Sinn Féin’s candidate for the presidency, mostly in angry denunciations of the media or “West Brits” for daring to raise the question.
It also was his response to Edwin Glasgow QC when, in November 2003, the counsel for the Parachute Regiment at the Saville inquiry asked him when he had left the IRA, as he appeared to be suggesting he had from previous answers. “Here we go again,” replied McGuinness, “on another trawl through the Martin McGuinness fixation.”
1973 McGuinness being escorted to the Bridewell from the Special Criminal Court. (Photograph: Paddy Whelan)
If there is a fixation on his IRA membership, and in this regard Gerry Adams might wish to say he is not alone, it is because more than any other northern republican, McGuinness came to personify the IRA’s uncompromising commitment to armed struggle.
Few who were there can forget his electrifying speech in Dublin in November 1986 when Sinn Féin voted to drop abstentionism in Dáil Éireann. “I reject the notion,” he told a packed but silent Mansion House, “that entering Leinster House would mean an end to Sinn Féin’s unapologetic support for the right of Irish people to oppose in arms the British forces of occupation . . . Our position is clear and will never change. The war against British rule must continue until freedom is achieved.”
McGuinness’s speech probably won the debate that afternoon, made the resulting split a minor and manageable affair and set the IRA on the path to the peace process. That he was so effective was due not just to his stirring rhetoric but also to his special standing in the Provisional IRA.
It wasn’t just that the audience knew he was a skilled and determined northern commander of the IRA when he rose to his feet in the Mansion House but also that he was someone who had walked the IRA walk, and whose word could be trusted, unlike so many of his high-profile colleagues.
The Saville inquiry was able to conclude, for example, that McGuinness was “probably” armed with a Thompson sub-machine gun and “could not exclude the possibility” that he fired it. It is impossible to imagine any tribunal saying the same thing about Gerry Adams. So when McGuinness told the crowd in the Mansion House that the IRA’s war would continue, they were inclined to believe him in a way they wouldn’t have been if Adams had been speaking.
That image, honed by an ascetic lifestyle, an abhorrence of alcohol and a piercing blue-eyed stare, turned out to be one of the greatest assets of the peace process. The truth about the peace process is that in order to succeed, the IRA rank and file had to go down a road they ordinarily would have avoided. That task required constant reassurances from people they trusted that they were actually heading somewhere else.
Adams, who had never fired a shot in anger, was not the man for the job. But McGuinness was.
And so Adams and McGuinness became the Mutt and Jeff, the good cop/bad cop of the peace process. While Adams would smooth-talk John Hume, the British, Irish and American governments, and persuade them that his effort to end IRA violence was genuine, McGuinness’s task was to tell the IRA grassroots the very opposite, that the ceasefires were temporary and that armed struggle would be resumed if the goal of British withdrawal was not reached. “If Martin is for it, then so am I,” became the mantra in even the most diehard IRA redoubts of the North.
When the Troubles erupted in Derry in 1969, McGuinness was, like most of his contemporaries, a teenager more interested in playing football and chasing girls at the weekends. About the IRA, he once told an oral historian: “I had no real interest in it and it meant nothing to me.” If he had any political views they were, he said, “very pacifist and I agreed with at the time”.
But increasingly violent street clashes with British soldiers in the Bogside radicalised him as they did hundreds of his peers. He joined the Official IRA at first, the largest republican group in Derry, but when they failed to offer action he moved on to the then tiny Provisionals, whose numbers, he told the same researcher, struggled to reach double figures even by the time internment was introduced in August 1971.
But the mass arrest operation transformed its fortunes, and, as nationalist anger boiled over, the Derry Provos soon overtook the Officials in size and capacity for violence. Within a year, the Provisional IRA had killed nearly 30 soldiers, the commercial centre of Derry had been turned into a wasteland by IRA bombs, and McGuinness had been promoted to Derry commander, talent-spotted by Dáithí Ó Conaill, the IRA’s then adjutant general.
When the IRA negotiated a truce with the British in July 1972, McGuinness was chosen to join its Belfast leaders Gerry Adams and Ivor Bell on an IRA delegation flown to London for what turned out to be inconclusive talks with the then Northern Ireland secretary, William Whitelaw.
It was official recognition of his growing status and influence in the IRA, but McGuinness was already cultivating his image as a hardliner.
Earlier that year he had been interviewed by BBC reporter Tom Mangold and didn’t flinch when asked: “As the officer commanding the Derry part of the IRA Provisional operation, can you say whether the bombing is likely to stop in the near future?” He then appeared at a famous pre-truce press conference, hosted by chief of staff Seán Mac Stíofáin, looking every inch the determined, cold-eyed young gunman. Adams was not the first to employ McGuinness to soothe the rank and file.
The 1972 ceasefire would be the IRA’s high point. Within a month, enabled by Bloody Friday, the British invaded republican districts throughout the North and dismantled the no-go areas of the Bogside behind which McGuinness and his colleagues had been able to roam and plot unhindered. Like other IRA leaders from the area, he took refuge in Co Donegal.
The election of the Cosgrave coalition government in 1973 brought a sterner approach to the IRA on the southern side of the Border. McGuinness, arrested in a car carrying 113kg of explosives and almost 5,000 bullets, was convicted at the Special Criminal Court in Dublin, which sentenced him to six months. He told the court of his pride at being in the IRA: “We have fought against the killing of our people . . . I am a member of Óglaigh na hÉireann and very, very proud of it.”
He was rearrested in 1974, charged with IRA membership, convicted and once more imprisoned. An IRA comrade in Portlaoise jail remembers McGuinness, whose devotion to his religion was as intense as his politics, undressing in the cell to reveal a brown scapular around his neck. Catholic teaching says “whoever dies in this garment will not suffer everlasting fire”.
By the end of 1974, the IRA was on another ceasefire while its Belfast leaders, Gerry Adams, Brendan Hughes and Ivor Bell, were languishing in Long Kesh jail, outside Belfast. The ceasefire, which lasted for much of 1975, enervated the IRA, reducing it to a shadow of its former self and bringing it to the edge of defeat. The IRA’s approaching nemesis was the signal for a revolt by the Long Kesh Young Turks against the leadership of Billy McKee, Ruairí Ó Brádaigh and Dáithí Ó Conaill.
McGuinness was not directly part of the plot, according to contemporaries, but he did signal his support. When the rebels got out of jail and moved against the old leadership, McGuinness was part of the team. The rebels restructured the IRA and created a separate northern command, formalising the post-1969 reality, which was that the modern IRA was really a northern phenomenon.
Northern command became the IRA’s powerhouse, and in 1977 McGuinness was made the first northern commander with Adams as chief of staff and Bell as his deputy. The takeover of the IRA was complete but by February 1978 Adams was in jail, charged but later cleared of IRA membership in the wake of the La Mon hotel disaster, and McGuinness took his place. Only eight years after joining the IRA, he was its leader.
The Young Turks had promised that their ideas for new structures, allied with a left-wing political slant, would revive the IRA’s fortunes and enable it to fight a war of attrition to sap Britain’s will to stay in Northern Ireland. But with Adams now in jail, many IRA activists wondered whether McGuinness was the man to do the job.
On a sunny day in August 1979, all doubts were dispelled. Off the coast of Co Sligo, a remote-controlled IRA bomb claimed the lives of Lord Mountbatten and three of his boating party, while a few hours later in Warrenpoint, Co Down, 18 British paratroopers were slaughtered in a huge bomb ambush. The double IRA attack plunged the North into crisis and signalled the beginning of a new and bloody chapter in the Troubles.
But that day McGuinness’s name as a gifted and ruthless military leader was made, his commitment to armed struggle no longer in question.
His tenure as chief of staff was, however, a short one. Within two years the hunger strikes in Long Kesh propelled the Provisionals into electoral politics, and when McGuinness signalled his wish to stand for a seat in the 1982 Assembly election (which he won comfortably), his colleagues on the army council agreed but insisted that he give up the chief-of-staff job. He was, though, made chairman of the army council, the IRA’s point of diplomatic contact with government, a key post when the peace process got under way.
While the Provos were edging slowly into conventional politics, few in their ranks believed that winning elections was the way forward. McGuinness famously put this thought into words at the time: “We don’t believe that winning elections and winning any amount of votes will bring freedom. At the end of the day it will be the cutting edge of the IRA which will bring freedom.”
In 1985, the IRA and Col Muammar Gadafy of Libya made an extraordinary deal. Libya would supply enormous amounts of weapons and money if the IRA pledged to make Margaret Thatcher’s life unbearable. Soon boatloads of guns were sailing across the Mediterranean to the east coast of Ireland, and the IRA began making plans for a Tet-style offensive against Britain. To co-ordinate and implement the new plan, McGuinness was once again made northern commander.
McGuinness’s appointment signalled to the IRA base that the plan was serious. But the Libyan weapons began arriving in Ireland just as the still-secret peace process was born, as Gerry Adams, aided by Fr Alec Reid, reached out first to Charles Haughey and then to the British. In the midst of this secret diplomacy, the IRA’s military plans were shattered. The Eksund, the gun-running ship that was carrying the last and largest consignment of weapons, was intercepted, the element of surprise was lost and the Tet-style offensive was abandoned.
The loss of the Eksund effectively made the burgeoning peace process the only game in town for the IRA, and slowly it began to dominate. Just when McGuinness threw his cap into the peace-process ring is a matter of dispute. Some in the IRA say he was always Adams’s ally, others that he came to it only after the Eksund. That he played a crucial role in its development is, however, beyond dispute.
Under his leadership, northern command was allowed to vet every senior appointment in the IRA, and every planned operation. The former meant politically reliable personnel could be inserted into key positions, a vital tool in steering the IRA in desired directions. The latter led to internal accusations that northern command was manipulating IRA operations to undermine advocates of armed struggle and benefit the peace camp. But it also meant McGuinness and his closest colleagues were privy to some of the worst violence of the Troubles.
Among this was the Enniskillen bomb of 1987, which killed 11 Protestants attending a Remembrance Day service. The BBC journalist Peter Taylor reported in 2008 that his security sources had told him northern command, led by McGuinness, had authorised the bombing and that three days before it the Derry republican had been stopped by gardaí en route, Taylor said, to a briefing about the operation. But he added: “McGuinness told me that he had not been a member of northern command and he had no knowledge of Enniskillen.”
NORTHERN COMMAND ALSO authorised another notorious killing, that of the Derry man Patsy Gillespie, a canteen worker in a local British army barracks, in 1990. He was forced to drive a bomb-laden van to a checkpoint and was tied to the seat to ensure he couldn’t escape. The “human bomb” killed Gillespie and five British soldiers. When the tactic was repeated elsewhere, nationalist support for the IRA drained away, especially in Derry. McGuinness also denied any involvement, telling the BBC: “I wasn’t a member of the IRA when that happened.”
As the peace process accelerated, McGuinness’s role was twofold. His principal job was to assure the rank and file that there would be no sell-out, while within the leadership circle he worked to ensure the process moved forward and stayed on track.
When the Downing Street Declaration was unveiled in 1993, for example, his words were chosen to soothe an anxious IRA grassroots. The document would be “worthless”, he said, unless Britain’s private position was very different; anything short of a declaration of intent to withdraw by London would be “unacceptable” to the IRA. Furthermore, the rank and file would have the final say about a ceasefire; only an IRA convention could call one. But a few months later, McGuinness would table the proposal for the August 1994 ceasefire at an army-council meeting minus any mention of an IRA convention and without even a hint of withdrawal from the British.
It was the same with IRA decommissioning. To the rank and file he would give assurances not only that it would never happen but that unreasonable unionist and British insistence that it must happen would provide the excuse for the IRA to resume armed struggle. Yet it was McGuinness who carried the proposal for voluntary, secret decommissioning, the formula that eventually saw the IRA disarm completely, to George Mitchell.
In due course the IRA was taken so far down this road that there would be and could be no turning back. Without McGuinness it is very possible that this journey might not have happened at all or, at least, that it would have been a longer, bloodier and more difficult affair.
For reasons that defy understanding he, like Gerry Adams, has chosen denial rather than evasion when confronted with the question of his IRA membership. He told the Saville inquiry he had left the IRA in “the early part of the 1970s”, despite all the evidence to the contrary, when he simply could have refused to address the issue.
When the then minister for justice, Michael McDowell, accused him, in the wake of the Northern Bank robbery, of being a member of the seven-man army council, he did the same. “It’s not true,” he protested. “I reject it completely. What has alleged is totally and utterly false. I’m not a member of the IRA. I’m not a member of the IRA army council.”
His nomination as Sinn Féin’s candidate for the presidency has brought a rerun of the damaging, self-defeating denial strategy with an added pinch of irascibility at the media for their cheek. A cuter, cleverer strategy might have been to give an answer such as: “Well, if I did all you say I did and was all you say I was, then you should be thankful and shut up. For without that you would not now be living in an Ireland at peace.”
Sinn Féin statement
In response to an invitation from The Irish Times to address points made in this article, Sinn Féin made the following statement.
“Martin McGuinness has been a republican activist all of his life and a republican leader for more than 30 years.
“He has already said he left the IRA in the 1970s but of course he engaged with them after that with a view to bringing about peace and he succeeded.
“Martin stands for office on his record as a politician, a peacemaker, a patriot and a republican.
“Some will judge him on his past, some will judge him on his present and some will judge him on what he promises to achieve in the future.
“He has been part of bringing peace to the north and across Ireland, part of bringing national reconciliation to the Six Counties.
He has stood against those who would drag us back to the past. Our country’s history is replete with journeys like Martin’s. De Valera, Aiken, Lemass, Collins, Cosgrave and MacBride, to name a few, all travelled historic journeys also.”
By John Preston
23 Sept 2011
Book review: WHOSE SIDE ARE YOU ON? SPORT, THE TROUBLES AND ME BY TEDDY JAMIESON
Sport, we are constantly hearing, is a great leveller, a chance for people of different nationalities, creeds and classes to put aside their differences, however briefly. Except it doesn’t always work like that – especially not in Northern Ireland.
Back in 1990, the snooker player Dennis Taylor, a Roman Catholic, captained the Northern Irish team at the unglamorously named British Car Rental World Cup in Bournemouth. One of his team members was Alex ‘Hurricane’ Higgins, a Protestant. The night before the tournament, Taylor gathered everyone together for a team talk designed to foster a sense of common purpose.
Simply the Best: Manchester United star George
It didn’t go entirely according to plan. During the talk, Higgins rounded on Taylor and apparently said: ‘The next time you’re in Northern Ireland, I’ll have you shot’. Later on Higgins complained, indignantly, that he’d been misquoted and that what he’d actually said was the far less offensive – to his ears anyway – ‘I’d blow your brains out if I had a gun’.
Teddy Jamieson was six years old when the Troubles started. A Protestant, he grew up in Coleraine where Catholics and Protestants lived, pretty contentedly, side by side. As a boy, his two closest friends were Roman Catholics.
But as the Troubles deepened, so they began to touch on his life. His father joined the Ulster Defence Regiment, making himself a potential IRA target. Every morning, he would check the underside of his car for bombs: ‘Whenever he gave me a lift to school, I’d feel a tickle of fear every time the key turned in the ignition.’
It wasn’t long before the Troubles touched on sport, too. George Best, whose father was an Orangeman, received an IRA death threat in the late Sixties, saying he’d be shot during a Manchester United game.
Best insisted on playing and, as one of his fellow players recalled, never stayed in one place long enough for any gunman to line up his sights.
In 1972, the pentathlete Mary Peters won a gold medal at the Munich Olympics. On the night before leaving Belfast, she went out with a group of journalists where ‘she sank several gin and tonics, smoked a cigarette and told them she was going to Munich to take the gold’.
The Hurricane: Snooker player Alex Higgins prepares a shot
Within hours of her doing so, she too had received an IRA death threat. Other sportsmen and women suffered in different ways.
Northern Irish cyclist Noel Teggart was pulled from his bike by nationalist protesters at the same Olympics – they hid in a ditch and ambushed him as he went past.
Those who draw wry amusement from such things may care to note that the protestors got their dates mixed up and hid in the ditch 24 hours earlier than they needed to.
Yet at the same time, sport also straddled the nationalist divide.
The footballer Paddy Crerand recalls seeing news footage of youths throwing rocks at one another across a dividing wall in Belfast. Both sets of youths – Catholic and Protestant – were wearing Manchester United shirts.
And when Dennis Taylor beat Steve Davis to win the World Snooker Championship in 1985 – this after being eight frames down at one stage – he was surprised to receive a congratulatory message that had been smuggled out of the Maze Prison inside someone’s tooth. The message thanked him for his efforts ‘on behalf of all the Republican POWs’.
Periodically, sport did indeed prompt participants – as well as fans – to bury their differences.
A boxing coach called Gerry Storey, who would go on to discover future world featherweight champion Barry McGuigan, was asked by both Republican and Loyalist prisoners in the Maze if he’d give them boxing lessons.
Gold medalist: Mary Peters also received death threats
When Storey had problems getting equipment for the nationalists through the security system, the Loyalists sportingly suggested they could borrow theirs.
Yet every heartening glimmer seems to come trailing another cloud of gloom.
When Northern Ireland played the Republic of Ireland in a 1994 World Cup qualifier, the atmosphere inside the stadium was so poisonous that one of the Republic’s players, Alan McLoughlin, remembers feeling an immense sense of relief when he was sent on as a substitute – ‘the safest place to be was on the pitch’.
Not long before, the black South African footballer Owen da Gama had been signed up by Derry City. As he drove into the city for the first time, da Gama nervously asked the manager if there were any racial problems in Derry – to which the manager gave a very dry laugh and replied: ‘We’ve every other problem, but no racial problem.’
In many ways, the Eighties and Nineties were a golden era in Northern Irish sport – there was Taylor and Higgins, McGuigan, three-time Champion Jockey Richard Dunwoody and several others.
But for much of his early life, Jamieson was so appalled by what was going on there that he tried to pretend he had nothing to do with the place – at one time even passing himself off as a Scotsman. As well as being an account of how sport fared during the Troubles, Whose Side Are You On? traces Jamieson’s wildly ambivalent relationship with the country of his birth.
It’s certainly a rich stew, and no one could accuse him of not doing his research – he’s interviewed all the key personnel, except, for obvious reasons, Best and Higgins. But for all that the book lacks spark. Although there are some good stories, the bits in between tend to chug along in the same – pretty low – gear.
These days, everything in Northern Ireland has changed out of all recognition – something that prompts those with long memories to engage in some wry observations of their own.
Looking back on the time she received her death threat, Mary Peters says: ‘Obviously it was a Republican who made the phone call, but who is he and where is he now? He’s a nobody, isn’t he?’ After which, she pauses, gives a grin and adds: ‘But then, some of them are First Ministers.’