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31 Mar 2012
It is the first anniversary on Monday of the murder of the Catholic police officer Ronan Kerr, who died when a bomb exploded under his car in Omagh, County Tyrone.
The 25-year-old officer was targeted because he was a Catholic by dissident republicans who wanted to deter other people from his background joining the Police Service of Northern Ireland.
Nuala Kerr with pictures of her son Ronan who was murdered in April 2011
The PSNI was formed in 2001 following an overhaul of the old Royal Ulster Constabulary, with the aim of boosting recruitment among the Catholic community.
Ahead of the anniversary of Constable Kerr’s death, BBC Radio Ulster reporter Barbara Collins has been talking to Catholic officers about their experiences in the PSNI for a documentary being broadcast on Sunday.
One officer she spoke to did not want to give her full name, as being in the police means you have to remain constantly vigilant because your personal safety is at risk.
Deirdre is from the Republic of Ireland but has lived in Northern Ireland for 24 years.
Catholics and the police in NI
• Catholics were historically under-represented in the Royal Ulster Constabulary, making up about 8% of officers in 2001 when it became the PSNI.
• In order to redress this a new rule was introduced which meant 50% of all new recruits had to be from the Catholic community.
• It has boosted Catholic membership to almost 30% and both main nationalist parties, the SDLP and Sinn Fein, now fully support the police.
• However, dissident republicans still oppose the PSNI with officers targeted in both gun and bomb attacks.
She fulfilled her childhood ambition of joining the police eight years ago, but her family was not so encouraging.
“I didn’t tell my family about it until just before I was passing out, but they declined to attend,” she said.
“I have colleagues who have never told their families what they’re doing.”
Deirdre said it was hard at first to get used to the security precautions needed, but “it’s now just part of everything I do”.
“The children have always understood that they’re not to come outside the house until I’ve made sure the car is safe – they just think I’m checking that it’s working,” she said.
The detective constable said her colleagues all agree that the threat is greater to Catholic police officers, “because the dissidents don’t want any political progress”.
“They hate the fact that people of Northern Ireland are supporting the PSNI, and that Catholics are keen to join,” she said.
“It’s never going to stop me, and whenever they attack any of my colleagues, it just makes me more determined.”
• The Secret Policeman is broadcast on BBC Radio Ulster at 13:30 BST on 1 April, and will be available afterwards on the BBC iPlayer.
New 15% levy to subsidise rates relief for small businesses risks jobs and investment, say large retailers
31 Mar 2012
A so-called Tesco tax on large retailers starts in Northern Ireland this weekend.
The levy to subsidise rates relief for small businesses has been criticised by Sainsbury’s chief executive Justin King, among others, amid arguments that it unfairly targets the supermarket sector and could limit investment and cost jobs.
The Northern Ireland Retail Consortium, which represents large retailers, has said the levy is unfair and poses a risk to future investment. Ikea has said it could put hundreds of jobs at risk.
But the finance minister at Stormont, Sammy Wilson, said it represents a minuscule proportion of the giant retailers’ profits.
The charge will affect 76 large shops and raise £5m to fund a rates cut for small shops.
The levy will be made at a rate of 15%, not 20% as originally planned.
The tax is introduced on 1 April.
Remarks by Justice Minister Alan Shatter advising protestors against the household charge to “get a life” have been criticised by campaigners today.
Speaking as he entered the Fine Gael Ard Fheis last night Minister Shatter warned: “If you don’t pay it, you can be brought before the courts and fined.”
He strongly criticised Sinn Féin and Independent TDs who are opposing the controversial €100 charge.
“I think Sinn Féin and the promised protesters for tomorrow should just get a life,” he said, adding that “a mountain had been made out of a molehill” on the issue.
“When you’re a multi-millionaire lawyer, Minister, landlord, investor and property owner like Mr Shatter, then €100 certainly is a molehill,” said Ruth Coppinger of the Campaign Against Household & Water Taxes (CAHWT).
“However, for ordinary people in this country it is not.”
Ms Coppinger said Minister Shatter and his party colleages “have no concept of real life” in Ireland.
A protest against the household charge organised by the CAHWT will take place in Dublin today.
“This magnificent mass movement of around a million households is a statement on four years of austerity and is highly significant,” Ms Coppinger said.
“We call on people to protest today at 1pm at Parnell Square marching to the FG Ard Fheis against the arrogance and bullying by Fine Gael on this issue.”
Meanwhile officials said that as of 10am this morning, deadline day for payment of the €100 levy, some 650,068 householders had registered their properties.
31 Mar 2012
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Around 4,000 people who are opposed to the €100 Household Charge have gathered for a protest demonstration near the Convention Centre in central Dublin where Fine Gael is holding its Ard Fheis.
Two protesters attempted to push their way through a security cordon but were pushed back by gardai.
Leaders of the opposition campaign, including a number of TDs, will address the rally. People inside the Convention Centre have been told to move away from windows to avoid “antagonising the crowds”.
A near riot broke out during the protests when a Fine Gael delegate who resembled Phil Hogan tried to pass through the crowd.
The man was engulfed by angry protesters and jostled before gardai came to his rescue.
As they attempted to escort him from the area they were surrounded by screaming protesters, some of whom shouted “shame on you Hogan.”
The man was visibly shaken as he was put into a Garda squad car and driven away at speed.
Earlier a number of Fine Gael delegates who ventured through the crowd were also subject to verbal abuse.
Meanwhile, the Local Government Management Agency has said it has processed 650,000 payments for the Household Charge.
Included in this figure were nearly 12,000 properties for which waivers had been granted and 89,000 for which postal payments had been received.
1.6 million households are liable for the €100 charge. The Government has said it will not be extending the deadline.
In his opening address to the Fine Gael Ard Fheis last night, Enda Kenny appealed to people to pay the charge.
Also speaking last night, Minister for Justice Alan Shatter said that he thought Sinn Fein and the promised protesters should “get a life”.
In response, Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams accused the Government of being “in denial” about public opinion.
“Justice Minister Alan Shatter is telling us to get a life. He is obviously in denial about the kind of life this Government has imposed on the citizens struggling with austerity.
“Fine Gael and Labour are in denial about the social consequences of their Government’s policies.”
Mr Adams added: “The unemployed, the families whose loved ones have emigrated, the households in mortgage distress, those on hospitals trolleys and low and middle income households struggling to pay increasing bills and make ends meet will not be celebrating the Fine Gael Ard Fheis.”
Socialist Party Councillor Ruth Coppinger said Mr Shatter’s remarks were “typical of the arrogance displayed by this Government”.
The Household Charge may be paid at local authority offices today, or by postal application which will be accepted for processing into the early days of next week.
People may pay online until midnight tonight, but after midnight paying online will automatically involve a 10% surcharge along with 1% interest.
31 March 2012
Mary Ellen O’Doherty
A special annual award has been created in the United States in honour of the late Mary Ellen O’Doherty, a Derry woman often referred to as the ‘mother of civil rights.’
The inaugural O’Doherty Memorial Award will be presented at the Frank O’Neill Memorial Dinner which will be held in Chicago this summer.
The dinner is being held in memory of Frank O’Neill, an Irish born former prisoner who emigrated to Chicago, in recognition for his campaigning work on behalf of nationalists in the North. He was involved in many groups and became prominent as a leader of the Irish Freedom Committees in America.
Mrs O’Doherty, who died in 2007 in her 100th year, was heavily involved in republican activities for much of her adult life. Her husband, Harry, was a member of the Irish Volunteers and was the last surviving Derry veteran of the War of Independence.
She was also a strong advocate for the homeless of the city and supported the residents of Springtown Camp in their demands for better housing.
In the late 1960s she became involved in the Civil Rights movement and many of leaders of the movement were regular visitors to her home, where meetings were often held.
He son, Fionnbarra O Dochartaigh, was one of the founding members of the Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association in 1967.
Mrs O’Doherty’s involvement with the campaign in the late 1960s earned her the name, ‘Mother of Civil Rights.’
In her later years, she was named by Age Concern as the ‘Pensioner of the Year’ at an event in Derry’s Guildhall after being nominated by a panel of cross-community activists. She was also an honorary member of the Derry District No. 1 branch of the Ancient Order of Hibernians.
She was presented with a celtic cross by the Celtic Cross Awards Society, Boston, on her 99th birthday.
The O’Doherty Memorial Award will be presented annually to “an outstanding female who has actively shown their dedication to the cause of liberty, equality and fraternity in Ireland.”
31 Mar 2012
The new Titanic Belfast tourism project has opened to the public.
It was officially opened in a ribbon-cutting ceremony by the first and deputy first ministers.
Also attending is a 105-year-old Cyril Quigley who saw the Titanic being launched as a young child in 1911.
A limited number of on-the-day tickets are being sold and a queue of several dozen people waited for the opportunity to purchase. Most tickets have been sold online in advance.
Performing the ribbon-cutting, First Minister Peter Robinson said the complex was “a must-see attraction up with the best in the world” and was a symbol of a new era in Northern Ireland.
About 60 journalists from around the world attended the opening.
The complex cost £77m to construct – with most of the funding (£60m) coming from the public purse.
Based on projected visitor numbers, it is one of the most expensive buildings of its kind in Europe.
Visitors will be guided through nine exhibitions, spread over four storeys, charting the history of the Titanic from its construction in the nearby Harland & Wolff shipyard to its final resting place at the bottom of the Atlantic.
One thing tourists will not see though is the replica of the ship’s famous staircase. It has been incorporated into the banqueting hall on the upper floors and is not part of the tour.
It will only be on view to the more business-type guests who will attend sit-down functions on the two upper decks.
Entrance fees are £13.50 for an adult and £6.75 for a child. A family of four gets in for £34 and a family of five will pay £40.75. Parking is extra.
On Friday, First Minister Peter Robinson said the building was a celebration of the workmanship that led to Belfast being a world leader in shipbuilding.
The splendour of a first class cabin recreated The splendour of a first class cabin is recreated in the complex
Mr Robinson was asked on BBC Radio Ulster’s Evening Extra programme about the significance of Martin McGuinness standing beside him in shipyard surroundings that many Catholics previously regarded as hostile.
“I think it further demonstrates that we are indeed in a new era,” he said.
“There’s a new spirit in Northern Ireland, there’s a strong confidence for the people of Northern Ireland that they can move forward, that they can work towards prosperity.
“So I think it’s a sign of the times that people in Northern Ireland have now left the Troubles behind and they are wanting to see a bright future.”
Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness said: “It’s an absolutely stunning building and as I predicted in the United States last week, this would be a world news story and it certainly has been in the course of the last couple of days.
“At the time when we were taking our decision at the executive to pour something like £40m into this, some questions were asked, because of the history of it, if we should be doing this.
“I have to say I was always very much in favour of this, because this is our attempt to write a new history, to move forward in a positive and constructive way, a very inclusive way.”
Mr McGuinness said he had a “great stake” in the weekend’s events because his father’s uncle, Hugh Rooney, worked in the shipyard as a carpenter-joiner and helped with fitting out the Titanic in 1911.
“I’m very proud of that and I’m very proud of our family’s association with that event at that time,” he said.
31 Mar 2012
Strangford MLA Mike Nesbitt has been elected the new leader of the Ulster Unionist Party.
Mr Nesbitt, 54, defeated South Down assembly member John McCallister by 536 votes to 129 in the contest at the UUP annual general meeting in Belfast.
He said he wanted the UUP to become “the party of choice for every pro-union voter in Northern Ireland”.
“I want everyone in this country to get out of bed with a sense of purpose,” said the former broadcaster.
“I want this party to wake up with a sense of purpose.
“I want us to reach out to become the party of choice for every pro-union voter in Northern Ireland, including those who still say they want a united Ireland, but privately accept there is no longer a single reason not to enjoy their continued membership of the United Kingdom.”
John McCallister and Mike Nesbitt John McCallister received more than two-thirds fewer votes than Mike Nesbitt
At the centre of the campaign was whether to back Mr Nesbitt’s plan to remain part of the coalition Northern Ireland Executive and keep the party’s one ministerial position, or to go into opposition as favoured by Mr McCallister.
Mr Nesbitt takes over from Tom Elliott, who announced earlier this month he was standing down as leader after just 18 months in the job.
Mr Nesbitt is a former presenter of UTV news.
He began his career as a sports presenter at the BBC, and he anchored the flagship Good Morning Ulster radio programme for a number of years.
At UTV, he presented its evening news programme for 10 years before leaving in 2006. He became a Victims’ Commissioner in 2008.
He left the commission when he joined the UUP in 2010.
31 March 2012
Parents of children at St Mary’s School in Pomeroy, Co Tyrone, were shocked to see gay pornographic scenes on a screen in place of a Holy Communion presentation.
Father Martin McVeigh was about to host an advisory Powerpoint presentation for parents on the subject of their children’s imminent Holy Communion event last week but instead displayed shocking gay porn scenes.
It is believed among the 26 parents present, there was also an eight-year-old child at the meeting which came to a halt after the shocking images were shown. School Principal, Sean Devlin is said to have contacted the Armagh Archdiocese to inform them of the unpleasant event while the PSNI are investigating the incident but say on the basis of the evidence available, no crime had been committed.
Fr McVeigh said he was co-operating with police and that he had no knowledge of the offending material. Speaking to the Ulster Herald, Fr McVeigh said: “I don’t know how it happened but I know what happened. There are people making innuendoes who weren’t even there but in this day and age these stories grow.”
Archbishop of the Armagh Archdiocese, Cardinal Sean Brady, said the priest was “co-operating with an investigation of the matter.”
31 Mar 2012
WHEN IT comes to having thwarted Britain’s military ambitions, Michael Collins stills ranks among the most formidable.
The IRA leader, whose death took place 90 years ago this August, has come second in an online poll conducted by London’s National Army Museum to establish Britain’s greatest military foe.
He was eclipsed for the top spot by Turkish leader Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, who repelled the Allied advance at the Dardanelles in 1915, by only a few hundred votes.
The poll, which closed yesterday, ranked Ataturk as Britain’s public enemy number one, with 3,090 votes, followed closely by Collins on 2,787.
The Corkman was ranked ahead of military commanders such as Erwin Rommel, Napoleon Bonaparte and George Washington.
Collins waged a brutal guerrilla war against the British state and its so-called “proxies” in Ireland during the War of Independence.
His strategy of using “flying columns” – small bands of IRA volunteers tasked with ambushing various targets – is credited with dismantling the British intelligence network in Ireland.
The “Big Fella” was for a time the most wanted man in the British empire, with a reward of £10,000 (€360,000 in today’s money) offered for his capture.
A criminal card issued by British Intelligence during the War of Independence, which was recently unearthed, described him as the “Chief of IRA organiser of all ambushes and murders”.
With the bounty still on his head, Collins went to London with the other plenipotentiaries to negotiate the Anglo-Irish Treaty in 1921. He was killed the following year during the Civil War in the infamous Béal na mBláth ambush, one of the most controversial moments in Irish history.
The museum said the aim of the poll was to highlight the achievements of Britain’s most celebrated enemies, but also to draw attention to some of the country’s lesser-known adversaries.
Other commanders on the list include the German Paul von Lettow-Vorbeck, who led attacks on British positions in East Africa during the first World War. Also included are Ntshingwayo kaMahole, who commanded the Zulu rout of British forces in the battle of Isandlwana in 1879, and Tomoyuki Yamashita, who led the rapid Japanese invasion of Britain’s colony in Malaya and the capture of Singapore in 1941.
The top five military commanders in the poll will be represented by five historians who will speak at an event in the museum next month.
ANALYSIS: The PSNI sought to tell dissidents there is a price to pay for causing murder and despair
31 Mar 2012
SHORTLY AFTER Lord Justice Girvan convicted former Sinn Féin councillor Brendan McConville and John Paul Wootton of the murder of Constable Stephen Carroll, PSNI Assistant Chief Constable Drew Harris made a point of walking over to the chief prosecuting lawyer, Ciaran Murphy QC, to shake hands and congratulate him.
This was a big case that carried a big message, and Mr Harris’s gesture reflected the PSNI’s sense of satisfaction at the outcome, and also its sense of relief.
It was a big case too for the family of Constable Carroll. That was obvious in how his widow Kate emotionally embraced her son Shane in the public gallery of the court after the verdict was announced.
Ms Carroll said the case brought some closure, but there was a “long, long way to go yet because not everyone connected with Steve’s murder has been found guilty”.
This is undoubtedly true, because a considerable degree of planning went into the murder operation carried out by the Continuity IRA – and certainly more than two of its members were involved.
It’s not even clear that either McConville or Wootton fired the fatal shot from the AK 47 assault rifle on the night of March 9th, 2009, that killed 48-year-old Constable Carroll. But, said Lord Justice Girvan, while the evidence against the two men was circumstantial, the case was nonetheless “compelling” and they “were both intimately involved” in the murder.
Therefore there is some sense of release for the Carroll family, and a strong sense of professional achievement for the PSNI.
It was hugely important for the police that they put up a credible, thorough case against the defendants. This wasn’t just about the murder of Constable Stephen Carroll; it was about sending a message of intent to dissident republicans: while they could cause murder and despair, there would be a price to pay.
The dissidents have been involved in three high-profile murder attacks in the past three years. In January, Brian Shivers was convicted of the dissident murders in Antrim of British soldiers Patrick Azimkar and Mark Quinsey, which happened just two days before the murder of Constable Carroll. The other defendant, leading Lurgan republican Colin Duffy, walked free.
Of the four defendants in the two cases, three were convicted of murder, which indicates the investigators put together well-constructed, if imperfect, cases. The results must also have some effect in terms of prompting others to think twice before casting their lot with the nihilistic philosophy of the dissidents.
The third major killing was that of Constable Ronan Kerr, who died in an under-car bomb attack in Omagh on April 2nd last year. Nobody has been charged with his murder, but the PSNI is actively pursuing the case and hasn’t by any measure given up hope of yet bringing charges and achieving convictions.
Ms Carroll said she pitied the killers. “They haven’t achieved anything from when Steve was killed, from when Ronan Kerr was killed,” she said.
There are old-guard purist republicans on whom such a message will have absolutely no impact. But there must be others, mindful of a fairly strong “strike” rate by the police in terms of convictions, who will pause for thought when considering taking the dissident route.
Whatever about the involvement of a veteran republican such as McConville, who transferred from Sinn Féin to the dissidents when the Provisionals embraced the new dispensation, what motivated Wootton to get involved?
He was only 17 when Constable Carroll was murdered and would have had relatively little memory of the Troubles.
“A cop’s a cop,” was his brutal and simplistic view about it all. One wonders is he any wiser now, and does he recognise any truth in what Ms Carroll also said yesterday about the dissidents? “They have achieved nothing. They are fighting a losing battle. Why do they do it? No one wants it any more.”
31 Mar 2012
RUC suspicions that vital forensic evidence indicating a possible “firing point” for the Narrow Water bombing was destroyed by members of the Garda was disputed at the Smithwick Tribunal yesterday.
Two bombs were detonated at Narrow Water near Warrenpoint in Northern Ireland in August 1979.
They resulted in the largest single loss of life to the British army in the Troubles.
Eighteen soldiers and one tourist were killed and it was believed the bomb was detonated from across Carlingford Lough in the Republic. Former Garda forensic expert Det Sgt Patrick Ennis, who spent 30 years in the ballistics section, said gardaí had followed proper procedures during their search for evidence and had even visited each others’ forensic laboratories.
Mr Ennis said he searched the suspected sites where the IRA members were supposed to have hidden and had personally removed the forensic evidence for analysis.
The tribunal resumes on April 17th.
30 Mar 2012
The decision to close the stations follows cost saving plans announced by Justice Minister Alan Shatter in last December’s Budget.
The Department of Justice expects the closures will amount to a saving of €79m.
The Garda Representative Association has consistently opposed the move, claiming the station closures would “change the DNA of policing in Ireland.
Today, Age Action Ireland also expressed concerns over the closures, saying a growing sense of isolation and fear among the elderly will be added to, especially in rural areas.
Community leaders in Cloghane, Co Kerry, say the loss of their local garda barracks is a huge blow to the small community, having already lost a secondary school, parish priest and post office.
The stations affected are Corrandulla in Galway; Glenisland, Tourmakeady, Mulranny and Bellacorrik in Mayo; Loughglynn and Cootehall in Roscommon-Longford; Carrigaholt in Clare; Shanagolden and Doon in Limerick; Glenville in Cork North; Knocknagree, Ballyfeard, Goleen and Inchigeela in Cork West; Ballylongford, Moyvane and An Clochan in Kerry; Clontibret and Smithborough in Monaghan; Tullyvin in Cavan; Culdaff and Dunkineely in Donegal; Kiltyclogher, Bunnanadden and Drumkeeran in Sligo-Leitrim; Baldwinstown in Wexford; and Rush, Whitehall, Dalkey and Harcourt Terrace in Dublin.
March 30 2012
TWO men were convicted today of conspiring to assault Celtic manager Neil Lennon and other high profile supporters of the club in a parcel bomb plot.
Trevor Muirhead and Neil McKenzie sent devices they believed were capable of exploding to the football boss, former MSP Trish Godman and the late Paul McBride QC, as well as the republican organisation Cairde Na hEireann, in March and April last year.
McKenzie was also convicted of posting an item to Lennon at Celtic Park with the intention of making him believe it was likely to explode or ignite and cause injury or damage to property.
Muirhead was cleared of this charge after the jury returned a not proven verdict.
A jury of 11 women and four men took almost two and a half hours to find the pair guilty by majority verdict of the conspiracy to assault charge and McKenzie by unanimous verdict for sending another suspicious package to Lennon, following a five-week trial at the High Court in Glasgow.
Muirhead, 44, from Kilwinning, and McKenzie, 42, from Saltcoats, both Ayrshire, were originally accused of conspiring to murder their targets but the charge was thrown out yesterday due to insufficient evidence.
The pair had denied the charges against them.
The case against them centred on five suspicious packages, two of them addressed to Lennon, which were discovered last spring.
None of the devices sent were viable, the court heard, but prosecutors argued that both accused believed four of them were capable of exploding or igniting.
The first package found, which was intended for Mr Lennon at Glasgow’s Celtic Park, was described in court as a hoax nail bomb.
Royal Mail postman Andrew Brown, 27, said he became suspicious of a package he picked up from a postbox in Gladstone Road, Saltcoats, on Friday March 4 last year.
He said something about the heavy brown envelope “didn’t feel right”, so he alerted his supervisors when he got back to the Saltcoats sorting office in the town’s Chapelwell Street.
The building was evacuated and police set up a 100-metre cordon around it as specialist officers inspected the parcel. The device was found to contain 248 nails.
The discovery came hot on the heels of a much-publicised confrontation between Mr Lennon and now Rangers FC manager Ally McCoist at an Old Firm match.
Later that month a second parcel meant for the Celtic boss at the club’s training ground in Lennoxtown, East Dunbartonshire, came to light.
The brown padded envelope was intercepted at the Royal Mail sorting office in Kirkintilloch on March 26 last year when a postman spotted a nail protruding from it. It tested positive for peroxide, which can be used to make explosives.
Mr Lennon told the trial he had been left “very disturbed” after finding out he had been targeted.
But he was not the only one intended to receive suspicious packages.
Two days later, on March 28, a package delivered to Ms Godman’s constituency office in Bridge of Weir, Renfrewshire, sparked the evacuation of the building.
Jurors heard that liquid inside a plastic bottle within the package had tested positive for the explosive substance triacetone triperoxide.
Before the incident, Ms Godman, who was Labour MSP for West Renfrewshire, had worn a Celtic top to the Scottish Parliament as a “dare for charity” on the final day before Holyrood was due to dissolve, pending the elections.
On the same day as the package was delivered to the former MSP, a package destined for Cairde Na hEireann in Glasgow was in the postal system.
A postman had tried to deliver the package to the republican organisation at the Gallowgate on March 28.
After failed attempts to do so then and on the following day, it was sent to Royal Mail’s National Returns Centre in Belfast.
The package was X-rayed and found to contain nails, a watch component, a bottle and a wire. It was also said to hold potentially explosive peroxide.
The following month, a Royal Mail delivery driver found a suspicious package addressed to Mr McBride at the Advocates’ Library in Edinburgh, which contained a bottle of petrol.
It was collected from a postbox in Montgomery Terrace in Kilwinning on April 15 last year. It was found to contain nails and a wire.
Mr McBride was known to have represented Mr Lennon and Celtic.
The net soon closed in on Muirhead and McKenzie.
Police bugged McKenzie’s car in which a man identified as him was secretly recorded saying he had told someone how to make a bomb.
Further covert recordings from the car in May picked up male voices discussing “planting” something outside a police station.
A search of Muirhead’s house in Kilwinning in May last year uncovered petrol cans, a quantity of black wire and a bottle of cream peroxide. Other items found were an “oath of allegiance” to the Scottish Unionist Association, a Union flag and two flags featuring the Red Hand of Ulster.
A text message sent from a phone found at his home, referred to “our package”.
Muirhead said he had obtained peroxide and passed it on to McKenzie, adding that he was “terrified” of him.
“I know he’s got pure hatred and it seems to be aimed at Neil Lennon and anything to do with Celtic Football Club,” Muirhead told officers.
McKenzie admitted to police that he had constructed a “hoax bomb” posted to Mr Lennon at Celtic Park and said he had bought materials for other packages.
He said he was aware of how to make a bomb after seeing it on the 1980s TV show The A-Team.
Muirhead stared ahead of him in the dock after the verdicts were delivered.
McKenzie shook his head and appeared to mutter to himself.
Some family members burst into tears in the public gallery and left the court with their arms around each other.
The court heard that both men have “one or two convictions under the Road Traffic Act”.
Judge Lord Turnbull deferred sentence in the present case to Friday April 27 at the High Court in Glasgow.
Both accused, who have been in custody since May 13 last year, were remanded today before the sentencing hearing.
Lord Turnbull told the men: “You have been convicted of unusual but serious offences.
“Given that neither of you have been sentenced to a period of imprisonment in the past, before I could contemplate imposing such a sentence it would be necessary, in compliance with statutory procedure, to obtain a social inquiry report in respect of each of you.”
McKenzie nodded to supporters in the public gallery as he was led away to the cells.
The judge thanked the jurors for the “care and attention” they had shown during the lengthy trial.
30 Mar 2012
A 24-year-old loyalist who left a pipe bomb at the home of a cross-community worker in north Belfast has been jailed for 11 years.
The judge told Francis Paul McNally of Glenvarna Drive in Newtownabbey his actions were the exact opposite of everything Mary Kelly had worked for.
McNally was also ordered to serve an extra six years on licence when eventually released.
On 21 June 2010, he left a pipe bomb on Ms Kelly’s window sill.
The bomb, packed with broken Stanley knife blades, firework composition and pieces of a broken mirror, partially exploded.
It woke the occupant and when she investigated, she found there was a fire at the front of her house with the flames driving her back inside.
The Recorder of Belfast, Judge Tom Burgess, said McNally’s actions were “the exact opposite to everything” that she had done and strived for.
“While this defendant did not carry out this attack for a terrorist cause, nevertheless it had as its intent, an equally sinister objective based on sectarianism,” the judge said.
He praised Ms Kelly’s bravery and resilience, describing her as “a lady of the highest principles with the drive and determination to rid our society of those malign influences which have devastate so many lives”.
Pride of Britain
The court heard that her home had been the subject of a previous attack but despite that, she had continued in her cross-community work.
Ms Kelly received a Pride of Britain Award from the Daily Mirror in 2010 for this work.
It was as a result of the previous attack, which McNally was not associated with, that CCTV had been installed.
It was from this footage that McNally was identified and arrested.
During a search of his home, police uncovered paramilitary flags and other loyalist military paraphernalia.
The court heard that although not charged with membership of any illegal organisation, McNally “holds strong affiliations” and sympathies to such organisations.
Judge Burgess said it was clear from the reports, “that McNally was aggrieved at Ms Kelly’s involvement in, and devotion to, cross-community work”.
He added that a forensic examination of the “amateurish” half-exploded homemade bomb showed its contents, adding “the consequences would have been life threatening” if anyone had been close to it exploding.
He said that by attacking Ms Kelly’s home in this way, McNally had shown himself to be “only too willing to resort to violence”.
He further revealed that McNally has 50 previous criminal convictions.
Judge Burgess said these offences included aggravated burglary in May 2006, causing actual bodily harm in May 2010 just a month before the bombing attack, possessing an air gun and a knife in public in January 2010 and riot just 12 days before he attacked Ms Kelly’s home.
Judge Burgess said that having concluded McNally posed a “significant risk of causing serious harm to members of the public” he would be passing an extended sentence as as result of which, it would be up to the Parole Commissioners when to release him and under what supervised licence conditions.
30 Mar 2012
Constable Carroll was murdered after answering a 999 call
Constable Stephen Carroll, 48, was the first police officer to be killed in Northern Ireland since the formation of the PSNI.
He was shot dead after terrorists lured police to a call-out in Lismore Manor in Craigavon on the night of the 9 March 2009.
At the time the dissident republican group, the Continuity IRA, claimed they were responsible for the shooting.
Constable Carroll who was originally from the Republic of Ireland, but who had moved to England as a child, was a married man with a son and grandchildren who lived in the Banbridge area of County Down.
He had served in the police force for more than 24 years.
Former Sinn Fein councillor Brendan McConville, 40, of Glenholme Avenue, Craigavon, and John Paul Wootton, 20, of Collindale, Lurgan, were charged with his murder in May 2011.
They were also charged with possessing an AK47 assault rifle and ammunition allegedly used in the shooting at Lismore Manor.
John Paul Wootton also denied attempting to collect information on “a certain police constable” and his home address, likely to be of use to terrorists between January and March 2009.
The prosecution argued when the trial began in January that DNA and other evidence could link the two men to the Mr Carroll’s murder.
They claimed Mr Wootton’s car was parked close to the scene of the attack and drove off within minutes of the killing.
A prosecution barrister said that Mr McConville’s DNA was found on a brown jacket removed from the boot of the car and he claimed gun residue was also discovered on the coat.
A scientist told the court that DNA on three separate sites on a brown jacket found in the boot of Mr Wootton’s car had a one in a billion chance of belonging to anyone other than Mr McConville.
Despite Mr McConville’s protestations that he did not own the jacket, Faye Southam said that in her opinion “the findings are more likely to be obtained if he was the regular wearer of the jacket”.
Her evidence was rejected by defence lawyers who argued that the coat which had Mr McConville’s DNA on it, which was found in the alleged getaway car, could have been worn by up to five other people.
The prosecution’s key evidence against Mr McConville came from a man known only as Witness M, who told the court that he had been out walking his dog on the night of the murder, and saw Mr McConville at the scene of shooting – ”the firing point” – which was at waste ground to the back of the Lismore Manor Estate and around 50 metres from where Constable Carroll had parked his patrol car.
The prosecution said this was a clear case of recognition, that Witness M had known Mr McConville since he was young, recognised him, could describe what he was wearing and that they had even ”communicated with each other”.
The defence however described Witness M as a “Walter Mitty-type character who liked to tell tales”.
They say he lied to the court ”at least twice and maybe even three times” about issues with his eyesight, and that he had changed his account of what he claims to have seen that night on four separate occasions.
Constable Stephen Paul Carroll, 48, was from Banbridge Constable Stephen Carroll, 48, was the first police officer to be killed since the formation of the PSNI
The defence team had argued that the evidence was unfair to Mr McConville and should be thrown out, but the judge said, even if it was unfair, it was still admissible.
The prosecution alleged that the murder weapon, an AK-47 assault rifle from Eastern Europe, which was recovered by police from under an oil tank in a house in the Pinebank area of Craigavon, had been wrapped in the jacket when or shortly after it was fired.
They also alleged that gun residue was found on another coat discovered in a search of Mr McConville’s house at Glenholm Avenue, Craigavon.
However, an explosives expert strongly criticised the prosecution team.
The forensic scientist, who was a defence witness, said he has been constantly frustrated and found it very difficult to do his job due to the “shifting sands of the prosecution”.
He said they were inconsistent. The witness was especially critical of two forensic scientists who were prosecution witnesses and who had examined the murder weapon.
He said he was at a loss to understand why the gun had not been cleaned before it was test fired and that the lack of control in the experiments invalidated any results.
The scientist also told Belfast Crown Court that since 2006 the FBI has not used gunshot residue evidence in its cases due to the variability of results.
The court was also told that a special army intelligence unit had placed a GPS (global tracking system) into Mr Wootton’s car at some point prior to the shooting.
This, the prosecution argued, tracked the whereabouts of Mr Wootton’s car that night and showed the vehicle close to the scene at the time of the murder.
It also emerged that the tracking device was ”wiped”, and that data from the hours after the killing was lost.
Three soldiers gave evidence anonymously and failed to explain how the data was deleted from the device.
The court also heard that the army had been “very reluctant” to hand over the data from the device to the police, and that “negotiations involving the chief constable and maybe even above that level”, had taken place.
Eventually the army gave the data to detectives, but only after the PSNI had threatened to seize it under warrant.
Defence lawyers argued the prosecution case was weak and inconclusive and called for the trial to be stopped due to a lack of evidence.
They argued said “a jury must convict on substance rather than suspicion”, while the prosecution argued evidence was ”strong” and that the accused had “planned and participated in the killing”.
Defence QC Brendan Kelly for Mr McConville submitted that even if Witness M could put Mr McConville at the scene prior to the shooting, what evidence was there that he “was up to no good”.
Mr Kelly described the identification evidence as poor, and argued that a jury properly directed could not convict, unless there was supporting evidence, which he claimed the prosecution failed to produce.
Arthur Harvey QC, for Mr Wootton in opening his final submissions claimed there was a breakdown, a distortion in the forensic evidence, over a coat found in his car and the legal proofs absolutely essential to link it with the shooting and Mr Wootton.
30 Mar 2012
Constable Stephen Carroll was shot dead in March 2009
The widow of the first PSNI officer to be murdered has spoken of her “pity and disgust” for his killers.
Kate Carroll said that dissident republicans were “fighting a losing battle” against the peace process.
Brendan McConville, 40, of Glenholme Avenue, Craigavon, and John Paul Wootton, 20, of Collindale, Lurgan, were found guilty of Constable Stephen Carroll’s murder on Friday.
The 48-year-old was shot dead in Craigavon on 9 March 2009.
Mrs Carroll also said that her family and the PSNI would not rest until everyone involved in the murder of her husband was brought before the courts.
PSNI Chief Constable Matt Baggott praised the bravery of the Carroll family and also highlighted the “tenacity and perseverance” of his officers and the Public Prosecution Service in bringing a successful prosecution.
McConville and Wootton will be sentenced at a later date. The pair had maintained their innocence throughout the police investigation and trial.
Hearing the verdict in court, Mrs Carroll hugged her son Shane.
Brendan McConville Brendan McConville will be sentenced for the murder of Constable Carroll at a later date
Afterwards, she thanked the PSNI for “three years of tireless investigation and evidence gathering”.
“My life will never be the same again,” she said.
“I am happy that we have got this far but we have a long, long way to go yet.
“Not everyone connected with Steve’s murder has been found guilty.
“Justice has been done. I feel pity and disgust for them because we are trying to move on in Northern Ireland.
“I pity them more than anything else.”
Mrs Carroll also had a message for dissident republican terrorist groups.
“They haven’t achieved anything from when Steve was killed, from when Ronan Kerr was killed,” she said.
“They have achieved nothing. They are fighting a losing battle. Why do they do it? No one wants it anymore.”
Mr Baggott paid tribute to the murdered officer.
“Stevie Carroll was utterly committed, a servant to all and highly respected. Just a great police officer,” he said.
The PSNI chief constable complimented Mrs Carroll and her family on “their quiet dignity throughout the investigation and trial”.
“I want to thank all of my colleagues who have been involved in this investigation in securing these convictions for their tenacity and perseverence,” he added.
Mr Baggott also took the opportunity to appeal for anyone with information about terrorist of paramilitary activity to contact the police.
During his judgement, Lord Justice Girvan expressed his sympathies to Mrs Carroll. He took three weeks to assess the evidence ahead of delivering his reserved judgements.
He told Belfast Crown Court that McConville and Wootton were “active and committed supporters of a republican campaign of violence”.
Brendan McConville will be sentenced for the murder of Constable Carroll at a later date
He said the men were “intimately involved” in the planning of the murder of Constable Carroll.
The court heard that the evidence of Witness M was crucial in convicting the two men.
He had placed McConville at the scene of the murder on the night in question. He also saw Wootton’s car parked nearby and saw it leave shortly afterwards.
Mr Girvan said that Witness M’s evidence had never been contradicted and called the murder a “joint enterprise”.
The judge said that the killing was callous and cowardly. He said that Constable Carroll was shot dead simply because he was a police officer and his identity was irrelevant to his killers.
During the trial, Wootton’s mother – 39-year-old Sharon Wootton, of the same address as her son – pleaded guilty to obstructing the police investigation into the murder.
She admitted removing computer equipment from their house ahead of police searches.
By David Young
30 March 2012
Former Sinn Fein councillor Brendan McConville at Lisburn Magistrates Court. McConville, 40,was found guilty along with John Paul Wootton and jailed for life today for the murder of PSNI Constable Stephen Carroll.
Sitting quietly through monthly borough council meetings, Brendan McConville gave no hint of the murderous path he would ultimately follow.
The killer of Constable Stephen Carroll served one term on Craigavon council in the late 1990s as a Sinn Fein representative.
But his political career was not marked by vitriolic denunciations of British rule or the security forces.
His affiliation with Sinn Fein even surprised some, hailing as he did from a more moderate nationalist family background outside Lurgan.
One former colleague could hardly recall a single occasion when he rose in the council chamber to speak out on an issue.
“He was very quiet,” they said.
“Softly spoken, I would say mild mannered. When he was arrested I couldn’t believe it.” McConville, known to friends in Craigavon as ‘Yandi’, left the council under a cloud – it was rumoured he had a drink problem.
His parting with Sinn Fein came soon after. Mainstream republicanism’s decision to support the new look police service in 2007 was believed to be a key factor in him severing ties.
But no visible shift towards extremism followed.
“He wasn’t one for going on marches,” said a source.
“There were others you would see at the front of all those things, he wasn’t one of them.”
If the unemployed McConville was considered quiet prior to the murder, he certainly lived up to that billing when he was arrested.
He did not directly answer one police question during 43 interviews. His only utterance was in a pre-prepared statement denying any involvement in the Continuity IRA murder “I did not put the rifle to my shoulder and shoot Constable Carroll,” he insisted.
But forensic tests would prove he was involved.
A jacket owned by McConville was covered in gunshot residue. It is believed it was used to wrap up the AK47 assault rifle used to murder Con Carroll.
The garment had been found in the boot of his co-defendant’s car which was parked 250 metres from the murder scene at the time of the shooting.
A witness also told the court he had seen McConville in the area shortly before the attack.
Overweight and with ginger hair, the judge agreed that he was easy to pick out from a crowd.
When given the chance to offer an explanation during his trial, he refused, declining the opportunity to testify in his own defence.
Sporting a long ginger beard, the result of participation in a republican ‘no wash’ protest inside jail, he instead sat quietly in the dock, occasionally stroking his unkempt facial hair.
With the judge drawing an adverse inference from his failure to take the stand, ultimately his silence sealed his fate.
The softly spoken killer can now expect many more quiet days ahead as he contemplates his callous crime from a prison cell.
By David Young
30 March 2012
John Paul Wootton at Lisburn Magistrates Court. Wootton, 20,was found guilty along with Brendan McConville and jailed for life today for the murder of PSNI Constable Stephen Carroll.
John Paul Wootton at Lisburn Magistrates Court. Wootton, 20,was found guilty along with Brendan McConville and jailed for life today for the murder of PSNI Constable Stephen Carroll.
A teenager with a reputation for trouble, John Paul Wootton believed anybody wearing a police uniform was a murder target.
“A cop’s a cop,” he coldly declared when challenged by a friend that police officers did not deserve to die.
The judge described that exchange about another policeman, two weeks before he murdered Constable Stephen Carroll, as proof of the “evil and deluded” thinking of Wootton and his dissident republican cohorts.
Then 17, he had heard his friend was dating that policeman’s daughter and was demanding he revealed his address.
“I told him he didn’t deserve to be shot because he was a cop,” the un-named witness told the court. “That’s the sort of nonsense he would talk.”
The unemployed youth, who grew up in the peace process era and knew little of the Troubles, was already under Army surveillance when he killed Constable Carroll.
A military tracking device had been secretly attached to his Citroen Saxo in the period prior to the shooting – a clear indication he was on the watch list.
Data from the bug was not able to prevent the policeman’s shooting but it placed one of the prime suspects at the scene and proved he drove off just ten minutes after the fatal shot was fired.
Wootton was arrested within hours of the attack.
He refused to speak when first quizzed by detectives and remained obstinately silent through the course of 36 further police interviews.
When it came to his trial, Wootton, by then 20 and sporting a patchy ginger beard – the consequence of a no-wash protest inside Maghaberry jail – again declined to give his version of events when afforded his right to give evidence.
It was a disposition at odds with his customary demeanour in and around the republican Drumbeg estate in Craigavon.
“He was a bit of a mouth,” said one source. “Had a reputation as a real troublemaker. When trouble flared in Drumbeg, he was usually in the middle of it. A usual suspect at riots.”
The product of a broken home, Wootton was active in dissident republicanism from a young age.
But with youth came naivety about covering his tracks.
Pictures recovered from a mobile phone showed him dressed in paramilitary regalia and taking part in a so-called colour party.
A notepad found in his beloved gold Saxo revealed the minutes he had taken of dissident republican meetings – they suggested the staging of colour parties was a favourite pursuit.
During the trial, his 39-year-old mother Sharon Wootton, who he lived with in the Collingdale area of Lurgan, pleaded guilty to obstructing the police investigation into the murder by removing computer equipment from their home.
The hard drive provided further evidence of her son’s illegal activities.
A document related to a suspected terrorist support organisation – Craigavon Republican Youth – was recovered.
The group’s stated aim was to “assist the full removal of British occupation from Ireland and co-operate with all republican armies”.
The teenager clearly was prepared to extend his co-operation to murder.
Two men were found guilty and jailed for life today for the murder of a police officer shot dead by dissident republicans in Northern Ireland.
30 Mar 2012
(L-R) Brendan McConville and John Paul Wootton (Photo: PA)
Brendan McConville, 40, and John Paul Wootton, 20, were convicted by Lord Justice Paul Girvan at Belfast Crown Court for their part in the ambush of Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) Constable Stephen Carroll.
The officer, aged 48, from Banbridge, County Down, was the first policeman killed by Republican terrorists since the peace process reforms which saw the Royal Ulster Constabulary replaced by the new-look PSNI.
Responsibility for the attack was claimed by the Continuity IRA.
Some relatives wept as McConville, of Aldervale, Tully Gally, and Wootton, of Collingdale, Lurgan, County Armagh, heard the judge pass sentence at the end of a judgment which took more than two hours to deliver.
Constable Carroll’s widow Kate embraced her son Shane as the verdicts were read out.
Outside the courtroom she hugged her husband’s police colleagues who had helped to investigate his murder.
The judge described the killing of Constable Carroll as a “callous and cowardly crime”.
Wootton was also convicted of collecting information for the use of terrorism.
He was found guilty of trying to obtain the address of another policeman weeks before the murder.
Constable Carroll was shot dead two days after two British soldiers were murdered in a Real IRA gun attack outside their barracks in Antrim town.
He died of a single gunshot wound to the head sustained as he sat in an unmarked police car while colleagues attended a 999 call in the Lismore Manor area.
The prosecution claimed he was lured to his death.
A brick had been thrown through the window of a house in the private development an hour earlier, prompting the occupants to call the police.
Lord Justice Girvan took three weeks to assess the evidence ahead of delivering his reserved judgments.
During the trial, Wootton’s mother – 39-year-old Sharon Wootton, of the same address as her son – plead guilty to obstructing the police investigation into the murder.
She admitted removing computer equipment from their house ahead of police searches.
Kate Carroll told the Press Association outside court: “I’m very happy that this is all over.
“I’m so relieved. It’s been such an ordeal.
“I found the last two hours (as she listened to the judge delivering his verdict) extremely gruelling.”
By Eamonn McCann
Friday, 30 March 2012
Tragic story: ‘A Night to Remember’ showed proper reverence for the truth and those who died while Bruce Ismay saved himself
She was touted as the greatest transatlantic liner ever built, but didn’t make it across the Atlantic even once. If she had, we wouldn’t be marking her centenary now.
Eddie McIlwaine had it spot-on in Monday’s paper when he recalled his father and others who had watched the ship sail up Belfast Lough agreeing that, “If the fates had been kinder and she had never met the iceberg … she would now be just a dot in H & W history after being broken up in the knacker’s yard”.
Without the horrible deaths of 1,500 people then, the £90m project in east Belfast would never have been thought of. This is scarcely acknowledged in the hype of the grand opening.
There’s been little sense of the victims other than as extras in an epic adventure – certainly, no sign of rage against the incompetence, injustice and contempt for the poor which characterised the Titanic experience.
The narrative presented in the strangely beautiful ship-shape building will reflect the version of the story which has provided scenarios for such meretricious entertainments as James Cameron’s relentlessly uplifting movie.
In a past age, it proved possible to make a decent film of the Titanic story. Roy Ward Baker’s 1958 ‘A Night To Remember’, written by Eric Ambler and starring Kenneth More, Ronald Allen and Honor Blackman, showed proper reverence for truth and respect for the victims and was as moving as Cameron’s travesty was mawkish. But there’s progress for you.
We are told that the Belfast facility will bring in 400,000 visitors-a-year. In the Stormont speech in which she invited us all to “get on board”, Arlene Foster seemed to offer this figure as a fact, rather than an aspiration, much less a mad guess. I cannot read Ms Foster’s mind, but I’ll go for mad guess.
The deluge of publicity which has swamped the scheme will ensure that, initially at least, there will be long queues for the various attractions.
But in a year or two or five, as the hype fades and austerity bites deeper, will hundreds of thousands still part with their leisure dollars, or euros, or pounds, in exchange for dipping a toe into the Titanic disaster?
The ugly face of class society revealed in the story isn’t likely to pull in the punters, either.
It has long been acknowledged that the first, second and third-class status of the ship’s passengers reproduced the basic divisions in wider society and that these determined in large measure who was to live and who to die.
The Daily Herald of the time, edited by future Labour leader George Lansbury, was 100 years ahead of today’s carefully modulated narrative.
Four days after the ship went down, on April 18, 1912, Lansbury posed the relevant question: “Mr Bruce Ismay, chairman of the White Star Line, has been saved. Why is it that so few of the steerage passengers have been saved?”
On April 26, having pieced together accounts from survivors arriving back in Southampton, Lansbury streamed ‘Women and Children Last!’ across the top of the front page. The story below told that, of 266 first and second-class women and children, 20 were drowned. Of 255 women and children in steerage, 134, including 53 children, were drowned.
“Where were those 53 steerage children, Mr Ismay, when you saved yourself?” asked the paper. Referring to White Star’s latest profit figures, it continued: “They have paid 30% to their shareholders and they have sacrificed 51% of the steerage children.
“They have gone to sea criminally under-equipped with means of life-saving; they have neglected boat drill; they have filled their boats with cooks and valets, with pleasure gardens and luxurious lounges; they have done all this to get big profits and please the first-class passengers.
“And when the catastrophe came, they hastened to get their first-class passengers and their chairman safely away.”
When the Board of Trade appointed Lord Mersey to head an inquiry, the Herald didn’t hold back. An editorial recalled a case over which Mersey had presided in which a wealthy woman had been charged with cruelty to a child of the labouring class.
“The cruelty was undoubted, the infamy glaring. The sentence was nominal. The defendant was a woman of good station. A first-class passenger … What is likely to be Lord Mersey’s judgment here?”
Does the headline ‘Women and Children Last!’ feature anywhere in the Titanic Building? Is the question ‘Why Did They Die?’ explored?
In what type-size are the words ‘scandal’, ‘crime’ and ‘disgrace’ set? So many questions, so few answers.
The Daily Herald was sold to Rupert Murdoch in 1964. Five years later, it was renamed The Sun. More progress for you.