You are currently browsing the monthly archive for April 2012.
29 Apr 2012
Fianna Fáil Micheal Martin leader today launched a strongly-worded attack on Sinn Féin and its role in the Troubles.
Mr Martin said he was glad Sinn Féin had, at last, recognised that the Irish people would make their decisions based solely on the ballot box and not the Armalite.
“But it took them too long to realise this and it caused immense human suffering,” he added. “In contrast, we in this true republican movement can be proud of the role Fianna Fáil played in espousing peace and unity.”
Speaking today at Fianna Fáil’s annual 1916 commemoration in Arbour Hill, in Dublin, Mr Martin said the search for the bodies of the Disappeared in the Northern conflict was deservedly well known and well supported. However, he said it was also just the tip of the iceberg in terms of Provisional IRA “barbarity”.
“Just today, for example, 29th April, there are seven families mourning the anniversary of a loved one cut down in their prime by those claiming a link with the patriots buried here,” he added.
Mr Martin said it was incorrect and historically dishonest to equate in any way the heroes who fought for Ireland freedom in 1916, and in the subsequent War of Independence, with the actions of the Provisional IRA.
He said the terrorist campaign waged in the North was not a clean fight.
“It was dirty and nasty,” Mr Martin added. “It cost thousands of lives and did untold damage.”
28 Apr 2012
THE IRISH Prison Service is to introduce a new gratuity regime to reward inmates for good behaviour while penalising those who are disruptive or refuse to engage with rehabilitative services.
The scheme centres on the €2.35 daily allowance to which all inmates are entitled. The prison authorities are anxious to use that as leverage to make prisoners more compliant and engage more meaningfully with drug treatment, education and other services.
The project is being introduced under reforms by the new director general of the Irish Prison Service, Michael Donnellan.
Under the current system, all prisoners receive a daily allowance to buy supplies while in prison. All are entitled to the gratuity. However, a three-tier system is being introduced under which prisoners can earn more money or lose it.
Every prisoner will be paid a flat rate of €1.70 per day. They can increase that to €2.20 per day if they are compliant and do not break any prison regulations. For those who work with the prison – in cleaning or maintenance duties – another €1 will be paid, bringing their daily allowance to €3.20.
A prisoner’s eligibility to be placed on the enhanced scheme will also be judged on their record in engaging with drug or alcohol treatment programmes and educational services. Foreign prisoners will be offered Skype calls home.
Those who come to the attention of the authorities or do not meaningfully engage with the rehabilitative services will have their allowance cut to 95 cent. They will have very little to buy cigarettes and newspapers, for example.
The prison authorities are also planning to take 15 cent from all prisoners’ allowances towards the cost of the televisions in their cells and the calls they are entitled to make to family or loved ones.
Mr Donnellan told the annual conference of the Prison Officers’ Association that the new scheme would deliver annual savings in the region of €430,000.
“We want to encourage prisoners to join the programmes, the education, the supports, take the drug counselling so we can create a safer society.”
He rejected suggestions by the association that prisoners who broke items such as televisions were not punished and the items were simply replaced. Mr Donnellan said this was because the prison service had to be fair.
N Ireland boundry map
THESE are the boundaries for Northern Ireland’s 11 new “super councils” which in three years should replace the Province’s 26 local authorities.
The project has been bedevilled with rows and delays but SDLP Environment Minister Alex Attwood insists he is committed to taking the reorganisation forward – despite personally opposing the 11-council model that the DUP and Sinn Fein have told him to implement.
On Tuesday, Mr Attwood took the first formal step to cutting the size of local government by laying the draft Local Government (Boundaries) Order before the Assembly.
The environment minister said: “I believe in radical reform. This extends to across public policy in Northern Ireland. It includes councils.”
On Tuesday, the political body which is overseeing the reforms – the Regional Transition Committee, made up of a single political representative from each of the new council areas and chaired by Mr Attwood – met for the first time.
After the meeting Sinn Fein Mayor of Newry Charlie Casey claimed that it had been “frustrating” due to the “ridiculously slow progress” of reform.
Elections to the 11 new “super councils” are expected to take place on the same day as the 2014 European poll.
April 28 2012
A high-profile Irish priest censured by the Vatican for his writings has warned that the creation of a “veil of secrecy” worked against efforts to prevent clerical child abuse.
Father Brian D’Arcy, a broadcaster and newspaper columnist, said he had not challenged church doctrine but was censured for articles on a number of issues, including criticism of the church response to sex abuse scandals.
The priest, from Enniskillen, Co Fermanagh, who is a regular broadcaster on BBC Radio 2 and Radio Ulster and writes a religious column for the Dublin-based Sunday World newspaper, was censured by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
Father D’Arcy, 67, said he was told 14 months ago of the disciplinary action which means he must submit his writings and broadcasts to an official censor. News of the episode only emerged publicly over recent days. He said the sanction was prompted over a complaint about a headline on an article he had written, a letter on homosexuality he had published in his column, plus his fierce criticism of the church’s handling of child abuse scandals in Ireland.
He said: “One of them was that I was critical of the Vatican, in particular the Pope, about views on how the sexual abuse of children should be handled, and that I seemed to be pointing that all the blame was going back to Rome,” he said. “Now I never said all the blame was going back to Rome, but if we’re honest about it, I think some must go back to Rome. And that is a sort of self-obvious fact. How can anybody be criticised for saying a self-obvious fact?
“I must also take responsibility as a man who lived through this – and in some cases lived with men who abused and didn’t see it – God you know, that’s what keeps me awake at night now I have to say. This is where the secrecy, the non-questioning mind – and therefore anybody that speaks out at all is bound to be silenced or gagged, or whatever word you want to use, censured is the word I prefer – if you go back to that, no matter what other structures you put up around the protection of children, it won’t work.
“Any system depends on the integrity of the person carrying out the system. And if the person carrying out the system is afraid to talk about ‘that, or that, or question why about that’, then the secrecy veil comes in again, and children will not be protected.”
He added: “I speak strongly about this and I will make no apologies. I don’t mean it to be an offence to anybody when I say this, but if people expect me, who was abused twice in my life, to be silent about issues and about the protection of children, I can’t do that.”
Father D’Arcy, a member of the Passionist Order, who has also criticised mandatory celibacy for priests, spoke out in an interview on Ireland’s RTE radio. Messages sent to the Marian Finucane radio show were mainly in support of the priest, but one member of the public left a message asking if Father D’Arcy had forgotten his duty of obedience to the Catholic Church.
The clergyman recalled what he said was the “greatest sin” of his life, when as a novice he was ordered by a superior to cut down 20 cherry trees because the senior figure did not like them. But the trainee priest was challenged the next day by the gardener who was upset by the destruction, since he had planted the trees 15 years before. Father D’Arcy said: “I was obedient to the letter, and committed a sin. Obedience is not blind.”
April 29 2012
**How convenient that the laptop got ‘stolen’, and isn’t moving pervy priests around like musical chairs what the Catholic church always does, rather than uncover and deal with the problem? What a travesty this is.
The priest at the centre of a stand-off over the accidental showing of pornographic images at a presentation to parents in a Co Tyrone primary school is to leave the area.
Parish Priest of Pomeroy Father Martin McVeigh announced his decision following a row that has brewed for weeks after parents were outraged when the indecent images of men were screened as the clergyman began a PowerPoint presentation in preparation for their children’s First Holy Communion.
The priest, as well as Catholic primate Cardinal Sean Brady, issued statements where Fr McVeigh denied being responsible for the images, and said he destroyed the memory stick carrying the pictures because he was shocked in the aftermath of the incident.
Both Catholic church figures said he will leave the parish and take a break from his work, though the cardinal said the priest would return to the Diocese at some future date.
The cardinal said computers at the parish were examined as part of an inquiry and no inappropriate images were found, but a laptop stolen from the church in the aftermath of the incident had not been examined.
Fr McVeigh said: “I deeply regret my failure to check, in advance, my presentation. I had no knowledge of any offending imagery existing in it. After the images were inadvertently shown, I immediately removed the memory stick from the laptop. In my shock and upset and in my concern to ensure that the images would never be shown again, I destroyed it later that evening.”
His statement to parishioners added: “I appreciate that the incident was very serious in nature and caused much anxiety and distress, particularly to those who were present on the evening in question and I apologise unreservedly for the hurt caused.”
Cardinal Brady said the incident had caused “concern and offence to those who were present”.
He added: “Since that time the diocese has undertaken an investigation into two computers in the sacristy as well as computer equipment both in the parish office and in the Parochial House used by Father McVeigh. These have been forensically examined by an independent technical expert and no inappropriate imagery has been found.
“However an additional laptop, which was located in the sacristy, was stolen in the period following the March 26 meeting with parents. This stolen laptop did not form part of the technical examination and its theft was reported to the PSNI (Police Service of Northern Ireland).”
27 April 2012
A veteran civil rights activist is calling for support for a weekend rally protesting against the activities of Republican Action Against Drugs (RAAD).
Dermie McClenaghan, who was a leading light in the civil rights movement in Derry in the 1960s, says people should “turn out in large numbers” for Saturday’s rally at Guildhall Square (3 p.m.)
He said: “RAAD’s defiance is related directly to what they consider is either support for them or apathy among the the Derry public as regards what they are and what they do.
“It is difficult to imagine the extremes to which it would go if it felt it had a ‘free hand’ altogether. It is up to the people of the city to tell them that they do not. Indifference to the activity of RAAD is interpreted by it as permission and, thus, support for it.
“It is aware that the issue of drug abuse is an emotive one and so it attaches itself to that issue. If it was a sincere and caring organisation and truly interested in the welfare of people, it would by now realise that the problem of drug abuse and other problems that working class people have to put up with are deeply rooted in the nature of the society in which we live. It is that reality it should be focusing on rather than reducing the problem to the behaviour of individuals. By doing this it is dealing with the consequences rather than the causes.”
Mr. McClenaghan says that “not in a million years” will RAAD prevent the abuse of drugs.
“If it continues with its activities, it will drive drug activity underground where it will flourish in conditions more suitable to its needs. RAAD must stop what it is doing. It is wrong. It must consider the dehumanising effect its activities are having on the young people in the city. Stop maiming and killing working class people. Stop reducing the problem to the weakness of, and behaviour of, working class people. Look at the causes of the behaviour of working class people. Stop maiming and killing them.”
27 Apr 2012
The families of two men brutally murdered five years ago in Belfast say they are alarmed at reports surfacing this week that indicate British Intelligence services may be protecting the murderers. Eddie Burns was found shot dead at the Bog Meadows on March 12, 2007. A short time later Joe Jones was found in an alleyway in North Belfast – he had suffered horrific head injuries likened to the work of the Shankill Butchers.
In 2009, Gerard Mackin from West Belfast was jailed for life for the murder of Mr Burns. But the Dublin Court of Criminal Appeal ordered a retrial, which collapsed after a witness refused to testify, saying he was under threat from paramilitaries.
Nobody has been held accountable for the deaths and this week reports surfaced alleging that a key suspect in the murders is currently on a crime spree, carrying out robberies and tiger kidnappings in Belfast but remains “untouchable” because he is in fact a British agent.
“If this man or others is being protected by the British Intelligence services it comes as no shock to us,” Joe’s brother Peter Jones told the Andersonstown News.
“We have been trying for more than five years to get to the truth about the vicious murders of Joe and his friend Eddie Burns. It seems to us that the killers of Eddie and Joe are being given a free hand to do what they like.”
Eddie Burns’ mother, Kathleen Burns, said the families plan to speak to both the police and the Public Prosecution Service about the allegations that have been made.
“We will be raising this issue at a meeting with the PPS and senior members of the PSNI,” she said.
“If the intelligence services are protecting any of the people involved in the brutal murders of Eddie and Joe, then they have lost the plot.
“It doesn’t stack up for us or other ordinary people if thugs are immune from prosecution from crimes as serious as murder, tiger kidnappings, robbery and extortion.”
28 Apr 2012
Police have said that the bomb found at the border near Newry contained 600 pounds of explosives and was fully primed.
The device, which had been placed in an abandoned van on the Fathom Line, was discovered on Thursday.
It was made safe on Friday evening.
Ch Supt Alasdair Robinson said the bomb was as twice as big as the bomb that exploded outside Newry courthouse two years ago.
He said it could have caused death and massive destruction. He also rejected criticism that motorists had been able to drive past the bomb and said police had closed a main cross-border road in a very short time.
The Fathom Line was closed for 24 hours while the police and Army dealt with the alert.
Ulster Unionist MLA for the area, Danny Kennedy said if the bomb had exploded it would have caused serious destruction.
“It had the potential to cause lethal damage. A 600 lbs device at the road side waiting for a police patrol. It is just unthinkable.”
On Thursday, the SDLP MLA for Newry and Armagh, Dominic Bradley, said a member of the public had reported the discovery of a suspicious vehicle to police.
It had been abandoned with its engine running.
Dissident republican paramilitaries have been blamed for a number of bomb attacks in the city in recent years.
Earlier this month, a bomb was found near the Cloghogue roundabout in Newry, just off the main Belfast to Dublin dual carriageway.
Police said the device contained a significant amount of explosives and had the potential to kill.
It was also made safe by army bomb experts.
28 Apr 2012
Police have found a number of guns and ammunition during an operation in north Belfast to combat dissident republican terrorism.
Army bomb experts were also sent to the area and officers in white forensic suits carried out searches on a patch of derelict land.
A number of houses in Ardglen Place were evacuated during the operation which began on Friday evening.
A PSNI spokesperson said the operation has now ended.
The recovered weapons have been taken away for forensic examination.
The PSNI District Commander for north and west Belfast, Chief Superintendent George Clarke, said the actions of police had “undoubtedly thwarted the attempts of criminals to inflict death, injury and misery on the community of north Belfast.”
“Police are determined to work to protect the communities from these threats and would appeal for the public’s continued assistance and co-operation,” he said.
But ex-RUC man tells tribunal he wasn’t alarmed by revelation
28 Apr 2012
A former Special Branch officer has told the Smithwick Tribunal that he was not greatly concerned about an intelligence report sent to him which indicated that a Garda Sergeant was “helping out the IRA”.
The retired Detective Chief Inspector told the Tribunal that he received an SB50 form in June 1985 and sent it to police headquarters in Belfast marked “no downward dissemination”.
The witness who was referred to only as ‘Officer X’ said that the report had been compiled by two Special Branch officers working in the Newry area and had come from a “medium grade” source.
The SB50 form which the Tribunal has been seeking from the PSNI’s archive for years, stated “Owen Corrigan, a Sergeant in Garda Special Branch in Dundalk, is helping out the IRA.”
It continued: “Corrigan is keeping both the boys and the organisation well-informed and, he lets the boys know what the security forces in the North are doing when he can”.
The heavily redacted document pointed out that at the time there was “a Sergeant Owen Corrigan attached to the Garda Special Branch stationed in Dundalk” and recommended that Corrigan’s name be recorded on a ‘White slip’, a document used to indicate the first report of a person’s alleged involvement with any subversive organisation.
The retired officer said that as far as he was aware the SB50 form brought to the Tribunal this week was the only official document ever created, that he was aware of, mentioning alleged collusion between a Garda and the IRA.
But the officer who served in Special Branch in the Newry area between 1981 and 1985 said that he was not overly concerned about dealing with Garda Corrigan.
Witness X said he forwarded the report to Police Headquarters in Belfast but felt at the time it was something that he did not have “to give too much attention to”.
He said he continued to personally meet with Detective Sergeant Corrigan at Dundalk Garda Station after he processed the SB50 warning to Police Headquarters and on one occasion was advised not to return to visit the Garda officer at Dundalk.
”There was one particular evening that I went to Dundalk to see Detective Sergeant Corrigan about matters concerning the border area, and, whenever we had finished our business, he advised me to wait until he checked to see if the coast was clear for me to leave.
“He went down into the entrance area of the station, came back up, and advised me to hang on a while because there was certain people in from Belfast that would probably know me, and I waited until they had left the building.
“Then — whenever he came back, he said, I don’t think it would be wise for you to be coming back to this place again. If we have anything to discuss in future, we will meet either up north or further south, Ardee, Collon, Drogheda, just don’t come back to this place again”, Witness X said.
The retired officer said that thereafter he was wary of travelling to Dundalk Garda station. Like murdered Superintendent Bob Buchanan, Witness X said that it had been his practice to travel to Dundalk in his own car, mostly alone but sometimes with another RUC officer.
Superintendent Bob Buchanan and Chief Superintendent Harry Breen were murdered by the IRA in March 1989 almost four years after the SB50 intelligence report was passed to Special Branch Headquarters in Belfast.
The Smithwick Tribunal was set up to investigate the murders of Superintendent Bob Buchanan and Chief Superintendent Harry Breen, two of the most senior RUC members to be murdered during The Troubles. They were ambushed after a meeting at Dundalk Garda Station in 1989. Chief Supt Breen and his driver Supt Buchanan left their Newry headquarters for what they thought was a routine meeting. But the pair never returned. Later in the day, as they drove back across the border near Jonesborough, Co Armagh, the two senior RUC officers were ambushed in an IRA gun attack.
By Steven McCaffery
Saturday, 28 April 2012
Police have discovered two bombs following separate security alerts in Belfast and Newry.
The explosives were described as “viable devices” and were found in Belfast and near the Irish border.
Police said the dissident republicans suspected of being behind at least one of the bombs had shown a “callous disregard” for the public.
This comes after police investigating the activity of dissidents opposed to the peace process found guns and ammunition in a separate search operation in Belfast yesterday.
The first bomb alert began in the Fathom Line area of the border town of Newry after an abandoned car was found on Thursday evening.
Police confirmed overnight that a “viable explosive device” was found in the vehicle.
It was made safe by army bomb experts.
Police also said a viable device was found under a parked car in the Ballygomartin Road area of north Belfast.
Chief Inspector Ian Campbell said several homes had to be evacuated while the security operation was carried out late last night.
He said: “Those responsible for this have shown callous disregard for members of the public.
“The operation resulted in the evacuation of up to 80 people, including families with young children and elderly residents, for several hours.”
He added: “The finger of suspicion points towards dissident republican terrorists and I appeal to anyone with information to come forward to police.”
Meanwhile, in the aftermath of last night’s weapons find, Chief Superintendent George Clarke, District Commander for North and West Belfast, said the police had succeeded in combating activity by the dissident groups.
“The actions of police have undoubtedly thwarted the attempts of criminals to inflict death, injury and misery on the community of north Belfast,” he said.
“Police are determined to protect communities from these threats.”
Police said a number of weapons had been seized, but no further details were available on the arms find.
Mr Clarke appealed for the public’s continuing assistance in combating dissident activities.
27 Apr 2012
One of the most controversial events of the War of Independence, one of the bloodiest sectarian massacres, when 18 people – all but one of them Protestant – were killed in west Cork in April 1922, will be debated at a public event in Cork city this weekend.
Dr John M Regan, who teaches Irish and British history at the University of Dundee, will deliver a lecture, The Bandon Massacre Revisited, in which he will examine the controversial interpretation of the events by the late Prof Peter Hart, who wrote a history of the IRA in west Cork.
A group of professional historians will participate in the debate.
Members of various faith groups from around Cork have also been invited to attend the event, which is open to the general public.
It is being organised by Dunlaoí Teoranta at the Imperial Hotel tomorrow at 2.30pm.
27 April 2012
Denis Donaldson, standing third in from left, next to Bobby Sands
The family of murdered Sinn Fein spy Denis Donaldson is preparing to take legal action against the Irish government to force the state to hold an inquest into his death, it has been reported.
Yesterday, an inquest into Donaldson’s death was adjourned in Letterkenny for the ninth time.
In 2006, Donaldson — a former leading Sinn Fein figure who confessed to being a British agent in December 2005 — was murdered in his rural cottage near Glenties in Co Donegal.
Yesterday, Donegal Coroner Dr Denis McCauley heard that the latest adjournment was being sought to complete a file for submission.
The Donaldson family is not happy about the delay.
It is understood the family now plans to take legal action against the Irish state under the European Convention on Human Rights in the relation to the delays.
By Steven McCaffery
27 April 2012
Allegations of security force collusion in a high-profile killing carried out by loyalist paramilitaries in Northern Ireland are to be investigated after a dramatic twist in the case yesterday.
Coroner John Leckey started inquest proceedings into the 1990 shooting of former republican prisoner Sam Marshall, only weeks after he effectively shelved the decision by ruling the case should first be probed by the Police Ombudsman.
The latest move came after lawyers for the bereaved family produced a letter from the ombudsman’s office confirming it was unable to examine such cases – which Mr Leckey said clashed with advice he was given by the ombudsman’s office at last month’s initial hearing.
The Sam Marshall killing recently hit the headlines after a review of the case revealed that eight undercover troops where at the murder scene in Lurgan, Co Armagh, at the time of the attack.
The family’s lawyer Mark Mulholland QC told Mr Leckey that investigations revealed that both troops and police were involved in the surveillance operation that was tracking Mr Marshall when gunmen from the loyalist Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) jumped from a car and fired 49 shots from automatic rifles.
Mr Mulholland said: “This was all somehow not within the sight or hearing of any of the individuals who were on the ground.”
He told the hearing in Belfast that the Marshall family alleged security force collusion in the killing.
The relatives, who were gathered in the court, had secured a letter from the ombudsman confirming the police watchdog was unable to investigate the army and was unable to force former or retired police officers to give evidence, which lawyers said barred any effective scrutiny of the new revelations in the Marshall case.
Mr Leckey said he would now begin the process of seeking disclosure of information from the security forces.
“There are three things then,” said the coroner, “disclosure from the chief constable, disclosure from the MoD (Ministry of Defence) and an interrogation of the Stevens archive to see what it contains.”
Mr Marshall’s sister Fra McCaughey said the family had been disappointed by the coroner’s initial decision to await an investigation by the ombudsman, but they welcomed the steps now being taken to begin inquest proceedings.
“It is a lift for the family,” she said. “We are getting somewhere now hopefully.”
Mr Marshall, 31, was killed in a hail of automatic gunfire by the UVF minutes after he and two other republicans left a police station where the trio had signed bail forms on charges of possession of ammunition.
The republicans claimed the pre-arranged time for their bail signing was known only to themselves, their lawyers and police.
The presence nearby of a red Maestro car, later found to be a military intelligence vehicle, fuelled the claims at the time of a security force role in the killing.
However a recent review by the police Historical Enquiries Team (HET) revived the controversy when it revealed the unmarked car was one of six security force vehicles in a major surveillance operation involving eight armed undercover soldiers who were reporting to a commanding officer at a remote location.
At least eight officers from the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) Special Branch are also believed to have been involved in the operation.
The loyalist killers launched the attack within yards of armed undercover troops who were following the republicans on foot.
The gunmen escaped, but the HET investigators said there was no evidence of state collusion with the killers.
Mr Mulholland said the Marshall family believed that security forces did collude in the killing and wanted the issue examined at an inquest.
Mr Leckey asked for a letter from the family outlining their concerns.
The coroner said he had learned at last month’s hearing that a murder trial had been held in 1992, but the Marshall legal team, which included solicitor Padraigin Drinan, said the trial concerned two men who were linked to stealing the car that was used as the gang’s getaway vehicle. The gunmen have never been identified.
Last year the police ombudsman’s office, which probes complaints against officers, was hit by a damning report on its handling of historic cases and agreed to a freeze on investigating murders from the Troubles until reforms are implemented.
A legal representative for the ombudsman’s office told the preliminary hearing held last month that it faced financial barriers to investigating historic cases, but hoped those would be resolved soon and a plan to review all historic cases within six years could be implemented.
The two republicans who survived the Marshall murder included Colin Duffy, who was acquitted in January of murdering two soldiers at Massereene army base in Antrim.
The HET review of the Marshall murder found two of the undercover soldiers followed the republicans on foot and were within 50-100 yards of the attack, although the troops said they did not see the killing in which the gunmen fired 49 shots.
The UVF killers’ guns are believed to have been used in four other murders and an attempted murder.
Similar weapons are linked to seven further killings and four attempted murders in 1988/89.
By Noel McAdam
27 April 2012
First Minister Peter Robinson has suggested Martin McGuinness should give evidence to the Smithwick Tribunal over allegations he ordered ‘human bomb’ attacks during the Troubles.
The DUP leader said that given Sinn Fein demands for an international Truth Commission it would be a “good first step” if his Stormont counterpart went to the Dublin inquiry into alleged Garda collusion with the IRA.
But he added the evidence would only have political implications for the power-sharing administration if it could be held up in a court. Mr Robinson also admitted he has not discussed the barrage of allegations with the Deputy First Minister.
Ex-spy Ian Hurst told the tribunal earlier this week that Mr McGuinness, Sinn Fein’s deputy leader, authorised human bomb attacks.
In an interview with UTV, Mr Robinson said: “If people have committed crimes then they’re answerable, no matter what their position, and if there’s evidence and it’s brought forward then it’s up to due process to determine.”
By Claire O’Sullivan and Ann Cahill
Friday, April 27, 2012
**Mandatory reporting should have been the law ages ago.
Justice Minister Alan Shatter reiterated that everyone, including priests, were obliged to report child sex abuse and other offences, including white collar crime, to the gardaí, even if they hear about it in the confessional.
The minister described the issue as a media obsession and said priests had been obliged to provide gardaí with information about a whole series of crimes since the 1998 Offences Against the State Amendment Act.
Nobody had raised any question about this or the 2011 Criminal Justice Act that placed the same obligation on the whole community, including priests, to assist gardaí with information.
The confessional was a diversion from the real issue, which had nothing to do with the confessional but with the fact that sexual abuse of children by clergy had been known about by religious orders and leaders as a result of parents, victims and others telling them, outside of the confessional.
“It was reported but covered up. And in the future it will be illegal for anyone across the community to do so,” he said.
The legislation was about more than clerical abuse but was also designed to deal with the more prevalent cases of child abuse within families.
“This is a mammoth piece of legislation of great importance,” he said, adding that the obligation to report information about it to gardaí should not have been excluded from the original 1998 law.
Meanwhile, an organisation has said it’s a ‘red herring’ to focus on the seal of the confessional when discussing the statutory reporting of child abuse, as such an obligation would be impossible to monitor, according to the Irish Association of Catholic Priests (ACP).
The ACP yesterday reiterated that priests would never pass on information shared in the confessional as, during ordination, they take an oath ensuring total confidentiality.
Anyhow, any such mandatory reporting by priests would be “unenforceable”, said Fr Brendan Hoban.
“There are only the two people in confessional, the priest and the confessor. So who could enforce this rule? Secondly, the dynamic of confession is that you don’t know the identity of the person. You only hear the voice. Are you supposed to run out and take down their car registration?
“The second thing is that these type of confessions don’t happen. There has never been any indication that such confessions have been made to a priest. So I don’t think this is an issue at all,” he said.
The row over the seal of confession erupted again when Mr Shatter published legislation on Wednesday that will make it a criminal offence for a person to fail to disclose information to gardaí that would assist in prosecuting a person who commits a serious offence against a child or vulnerable adult.
Under the legislation, anyone failing to pass on information could face up to 10 years in jail.
Mr Shatter warned that any defences published in the new laws would not protect priests from prosecution for failing to pass on information obtained during confession.
His draft legislation, which is due to be introduced later this year, also provoked a response from one of the Dublin Archdiocese’s auxiliary bishops, Raymond Field, who said: “The seal of the confessional is inviolable as far as I am concerned, and that’s the end of the matter.”
Meanwhile, the Irish Association of Social Workers (IASW) has said that it “doesn’t have enough staff to cope with its current workload, never mind with the increased demand once mandatory reporting is introduced”.
IASW president Ineke Durville said: “People are not coping at all at the moment. Yes, on paper we got 260 new posts as part of the Ryan Report implementation plan, but at the same time, people retiring, on maternity leave and sick leave are not being replaced.
“We also fear that because there will be this renewed emphasis on child protection because of mandatory reporting, resources will be taken from early intervention and it is this early intervention that stops a welfare care becoming a crisis case. We are operating as a fire brigade service as it is and that, we would imagine, will increase even further.”
24 Apr 2012
Pat Finucane was murdered at his Belfast home by Loyalists in 1989
Potential cross-examination of David Cameron about the refusal to order a public inquiry into the murder of Belfast solicitor Pat Finucane is being thwarted, the High Court has heard.
An affidavit from the Prime Minister’s private secretary blocks any chance of questioning him about claims he told the lawyer’s widow Geraldine that others around Downing Street would not allow a full independent probe, a judge was told.
Lawyers for Mrs Finucane are to seek an order striking out the “hearsay” statement that Mr Cameron denies making the comments.
It was also alleged that a sham consultation process was undertaken when the decision not to hold an inquiry had been pre-determined.
With papers in the case now to be served on the Irish Government, next month’s scheduled hearing of the challenge has been put back.
Mr Finucane was gunned down at his north Belfast home by the Loyalists in 1989.
His family have campaigned for a full independent inquiry and believed they were set to achieve that when they went to Downing Street to meet the Prime Minister last October.
Instead, they were shocked to be told that a review, conducted by a senior lawyer, rather than an inquiry would take place.
In an affidavit filed as part of their legal challenge, Mrs Finucane claimed the family was treated “cruelly”.
According to her, the only explanation for the apparent change of mind was the intervention of a person or persons unknown.
She alleged: “This view was supported by a comment made by the Prime Minister during the meeting when he said ‘It is true that the previous administration could not deliver a public inquiry and neither can we.
“There are people in buildings all around here who won’t let it happen’.”
It was revealed on Tuesday, however, that a senior official has averred that Mr Cameron instructed him that he did not use the words alleged.
Barry Macdonald QC, for the Finucanes, told the court his clients have a record of the meeting but no minutes have been made available from the British Government.
Because the affidavit was not by the Prime Minister himself, he cannot be questioned on its contents.
Mr Macdonald said: “We essentially will be suggesting this hearsay averment is a device to avoid the possibility of the Prime Minister being subjected to cross-examination on that issue.”
Mrs Finucane was in court as her barrister further contended that the decision not to hold a public inquiry was taken months before the October meeting.
“It’s going to be our suggestion that this consultation process was essentially a sham and the decision had been pre-determined.”
Paul McLaughlin, for the British Government, confirmed he would need to take instructions on the points raised.
The case, which was due to be heard in May, was listed for a further review in June.
Meanwhile, Sir Desmond De Silva’s review of the killing is continuing as he plans to report back by the end of the year.
Northern Ireland Secretary of State Owen Paterson has said he believes that the De Silva analysis is the best mechanism available to get to the truth of what happened in the case.
24 Apr 2012
NORTHERN IRELAND Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness authorised the killings of two RUC officers in March 1989, it was claimed at the Smithwick Tribunal yesterday.
Former British intelligence officer Ian Hurst – otherwise known as Martin Ingram – claimed the intention of the IRA operation in which the two RUC officers were killed, was to abduct them, interrogate them, remove papers they were expected to be carrying and to ultimately execute them.
Chief Supt Harry Breen and Supt Bob Buchanan were killed in an IRA ambush in south Armagh in March 1989, minutes after leaving a meeting in Dundalk Garda station in Co Louth. They were the most senior RUC officers to be killed in the Troubles.
The tribunal is inquiring into suggestions that members of the Garda in Dundalk colluded with the IRA in the killings.
Mr Hurst who has been given permission by the British Ministry of Defence to give evidence to the tribunal, asserted that the killings involved up to 60 IRA volunteers and supporters and the operation “was authorised at [the IRA’s] Northern command. Mr McGuinness was involved”.
He also said Mr McGuinness was “OC Northern command”, the senior IRA officer in Northern Ireland at the time.
He said he was given this information by his senior officer, known only as “Witness 82”, whose evidence is expected to also be read into the record this week.
Mr Hurst was a member of the British army’s intelligence service force research unit for three years from 1982, before he was transferred to the Ministry of Defence Middle East desk in London. While in the research unit he said he was aware of up to 10 military intelligence source reports which named Det Sgt Owen Corrigan of Dundalk Garda station as a man who had provided information to the IRA.
Some of this information was useful in organising the killings, according to the reports, he told the tribunal.
Mr Hurst also named former Sgt Leo Colton as another officer in Dundalk who was known to pass information to the IRA. He said both gardaí were described in intelligence reports as “rogue” gardaí.
He said Dundalk was referred to in Northern intelligence services as “Dodge City” and a “rat-infested hole” as it was a place where on-the-run republicans went for rest and recuperation. Others were Bundoran and Ballyshannon he said. Dundalk was also the place where the IRA’s internal security unit was based, he said.
Mr Hurst said he was aware of a call to his army unit late one evening from an RUC police officer who said he had in custody an “Alfredo Scappaticci” who had been involved in a drink-driving incident. Mr Hurst said Scappaticci was seeking the protection of the intelligence services, and used a code corresponding to the codename “Stakeknife”. He also said his superior, Witness 82, had subsequently confirmed that Stakeknife and Scappaticci were one and the same.
Mr Hurst asserted that information provided by Mr Corrigan to the IRA had been channelled through Scappaticci, who in turn channelled it to British intelligence through his own handler Witness 82. “Scappaticci was effectively the conduit for information, in other words as the handler of Mr Corrigan.”
Sinn Féin in a statement yesterday evening said: “Martin McGuinness totally rejects these allegations.”
A party spokesman questioned the bona fides of Mr Hurst. “Judge Smithwick has already been critical of the quality and nature of the evidence provided to his tribunal by the British state,” he said.
“This individual who uses a variety of names including Martin Ingram has no credibility. By his own admission he is part of a British security apparatus which played a very negative and malign role in the conflict, including widespread involvement in collusion,” he added.
25 April 2012
UNIONISTS yesterday united in calling on Martin McGuinness to own up to what he did while in the IRA.
However, an attempt by TUV leader Jim Allister to question First Minister Peter Robinson on the floor of the Assembly about his view of the allegations was quickly halted by Sinn Fein MLA Francie Molloy.
Mr Molloy — who was voted into the new position of “principal deputy speaker” by the DUP and Sinn Fein last year — was in the Speaker’s chair for the half-hour of First Minister’s Questions.
Although the Smithwick Tribunal claims only referred to the surname of the deputy first minister, unionists quickly demanded explanations.
Mr Allister tried to raise the allegations as a supplementary question to one about the social investment fund, arguing they were much more serious than what was being discussed. However, Mr Molloy refused to allow the question because it was “not relevant” to business at that point.
Later, in a statement released by the DUP, East Derry MP Gregory Campbell listed a series of facts about Mr McGuinness’ links to the IRA.
Mr Campbell said that in March he asked Mr McGuinness to reveal the “activities he was involved in” and that the Smithwick evidence was “yet another reason why he must do so”.
Mr Campbell said: “If Mr McGuinness wants to deal with the past, he should have no problem in owning up to his activities so as to help bring closure for the victims of those crimes. So far, he and others in Sinn Fein have failed to do so.”
Mr Campbell added: “While we’re all committed to moving Northern Ireland forward, the deputy first minister should come clean on his involvement in the past.”
Ulster Unionist leader Mike Nesbitt said: “This evidence raises a number of very serious questions which need to be answered today by the deputy first minister. He owes it to the families of the murdered officers and the wider public to give full and honest disclosure of his knowledge of the murders.”
Mr Allister said that in “any normal democracy” the allegation from a judicial tribunal that the deputy first minister had authorised murders “would provoke immediate debate in the local legislature and demands for removal from office of such a person”.
He added: “Yet today, though McGuinness was named at the Smithwick Tribunal as having authorised the murder plot in which senior police officers Breen and Buchanan died, Stormont slumbers on immune from the obvious implications.”
Mr Allister said those “who installed the provo commander in office sit in embarrassed silence when I attempt to raise the issue”.
The North Antrim MLA said that it was “most serious evidence” as it dealt with a period when Mr McGuinness claimed to have left the IRA.
He said: “Instead of him now being arrested and questioned, as he ought to be, his protected status prevails, because the so-called process is now more important than truth or justice.”
25 Apr 2012
SF CAMPAIGN LAUNCH: SINN FÉIN leader Gerry Adams has depicted supporters of the European fiscal compact treaty as Thatcherite and Reaganite right-wingers.
He said yesterday that the choice facing the Irish public in the referendum on May 31st was between austerity and growth.
Proponents of the treaty, he said, were coming from “a Thatcherite and Reaganite right-wing conservative ideological position”. The Louth deputy was speaking at the launch of the party’s campaign to urge a No vote on polling day. A pamphlet, Austerity isn’t working, was also launched by the party.
Speaking at the National Gallery, Mr Adams argued that if Ireland ratified the treaty, it would mean the handover of powers “to unelected officials and bureaucrats in the EU Commission”.
He said that providing a stimulus to create jobs was at the heart of Sinn Féin’s approach. “You cannot cut your way out of recession . . . There is no jobs stimulus in the Government’s strategy.”
He also dismissed as “rubbish” Fine Gael, Labour and Fianna Fáil arguments that Ireland will not be in a position to access emergency funding if the treaty is rejected.
He claimed that the emergency fund, the European Stability Mechanism (ESM), needed to be given a legal basis in EU treaties.
In order to do that, all 27 member states had to ratify it. That is not due to be done until after the referendum. He suggested that Ireland could exercise its veto on the ESM. While a Sinn Féin strategist accepted it would be a difficult course of action to take, it was argued that there was “no way” the EU would deny emergency funding to a state.
Asked how the party proposed to find funding in the event of a No vote and a second bailout, he said it would come from “current sources”, a reference to the EU-ECB-IMF troika.