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Derry Journal
10 May 2012

Derry Genealogy Centre, which helps both locals and visitors trace their family history, has moved to Foyle Valley Railway Museum on Derry’s Foyle Road.

Previously based at the Harbour Museum, Derry Genealogy Centre has created an invaluable database of over one million records, dating from 1642 to 1922, which were extracted from the major civil and church registers of the city and county of Derry.

This database contains the bulk of pre-1922 civil birth and marriage registers, the early baptismal and marriage registers of 85 churches and gravestone inscriptions from 117 graveyards. You can now access this database online at

As the search facility on this website is very flexible it means that researchers should be able to determine if any entries of interest to their family history are held on this database.

Visitors and locals alike are welcome, at no charge, to forward any queries they may have concerning their family history to the genealogist, Brian Mitchell, who has been involved in local, family and emigration research in the wider Derry area since 1982; by contacting him in person at the Foyle Valley Railway Museum Museum, by telephone on: 71. 365151 ext. 8254, or by emailing Brian at:

In addition a series of information sheets on major Irish record sources can be viewed on Derry City Council’s website at:

Brian, a regular contributor to the ‘Derry Journal’, is an accredited member of the Association of Professional Genealogists in Ireland (M.A.P.G.I.) and the author of a number of Irish genealogy reference books such as A New Genealogical Atlas of Ireland, A Guide to Irish Parish Registers, Irish Passenger Lists 1847-1871, and Genealogy at a glance: Irish Genealogy Research.


Derry Journal
10 May 2012

A new mural painted by Derry’s Bogside Artists in Slovenia, is to be unveiled by His Holiness The Dalai Lama later this month.

The new work in Maribor, the European City of Culture 2012, will form part of the centrepiece of its forthcoming cultural festival.

Situated outside the Slovenian National Theatre, the piece is to be officially unveiled on May 17.

The Bogside Artists themselves have been busy of late, having just recently returned from a trip to the USA.

Artist Tom Kelly said the trio were looking forward to meeting His Holiness The Dalai Lama.

“We see this as an honour for the people of Derry,” he said.


Fresh evidence that police could have intercepted the Omagh bombers before they committed the atrocity has been uncovered in a new independent inquiry, victims’ relatives have claimed.

Bereaved families who commissioned the report said it has identified “hard proof” that officers on both sides of the Irish border were involved in a live operation on the day of the attack.

Twenty-nine people, including a woman pregnant with twins, were killed when the Real IRA bomb ripped through the Co Tyrone market town on August 15 1998.

The family campaigners have previously demanded a cross-border inquiry into whether the authorities in Northern Ireland and in the Republic of Ireland could have done more to prevent the bombing.

Relatives who commissioned the report met Northern Ireland Secretary Owen Paterson in Belfast today ahead of presenting the final version to the UK Government next month.

Michael Gallagher, whose 21-year-old son Aiden was murdered in the attack, said the meeting was “hot and heavy”.

“We told him we have evidence that there was a live police operation going on on August 15 that could have intercepted the bombers,” he said.

“This is new evidence that hasn’t been made public before.”

He added: “We also have evidence that public officials lied to the general public about the Omagh bombing.

“We will be producing all of that evidence to him on June 18.”

Mr Gallagher said he would not be outlining full details of the evidence unearthed until the report had been passed to the Government.

The Omagh Support and Self Help Group commissioned the report from a group of London-based consultants who have interviewed key figures associated with the case.

The consultants have also examined material already compiled on the bombing.

The documentation includes police reports from both sides of the Irish border, a probe carried out by the Police Ombudsman in Northern Ireland, plus a government-sponsored review of how intelligence on the attack was handled.

The relatives also secured disclosure of other documents linked to the case.

10 May 2012

The PSNI needs to improve its crime detection rates, according to the chairman of the Policing Board.

Brian Rea said the police’s annual crime statistics “show some improvement in a number of areas, but in others the PSNI have not met targets set”.

Mr Rea said he was pleased the level of overall crime was at its lowest, with fewer incidents of anti-social behaviour and burglaries.

He said improved detection rates would “contribute to community confidence”.

Mr Rea said the board, which holds the PSNI to account, had “recently expressed major concern around the police response to punishment attacks and the need to improve clearance rates”.

According to PSNI figures published on Thursday, 2011/12 saw the lowest level of crime in Northern Ireland for 14 years and the lowest level of anti-social behaviour in six years.

Crime across Northern Ireland fell by 1.6%, from 105,040 offences in 2010/11 to 103,389 offences in 2011/12.

Anti-social behaviour dropped by 12,763 incidents in the last year, the lowest level recorded by the PSNI since this method of recording was introduced across the UK in 2006/7.

Road deaths were at their lowest level since 1931, and burglary also fell to its lowest levels since 1998/99.

Chief Constable Matt Baggott said: “I am pleased to report that crime is at its lowest level in 14 years, which is encouraging news.

“This should be seen alongside increasing levels of confidence in policing.

“Together these show that policing, with increasing support, is having an impact on a more positive future.”

10 May 2012

Carson’s signature was the first on the covenant

Mystery surrounds the whereabouts of the historic first page of the Ulster Covenant signed by Sir Edward Carson at Belfast City Hall.

Preparations are underway to celebrate the centenary in September of the signing.

More than 470,000 men signed the oath. Women signed the the declaration, an accompanying promise of support.

However, the collection, held by the Public Records Office, does not include the page signed on camera by Carson.

Sir Edward put pen to paper on 28 September 1912, the first of ten unionist grandees to put their names to a pledge to resist what they called “the threatened calamity” of Home Rule for Ireland by “all means which may be found necessary”.

The moment of defiance of the Westminster government was captured for posterity by both photographers and an early cinema cameraman.
Carson signing the covenant Sir Edward Carson was the first to sign the covenant pledging to resist home rule for Ireland

The vast majority of those signatures are contained in dozens of boxes donated by the Ulster Unionist Council to the Northern Ireland Public Record Office in 1959.

However, the original page one of the covenant with its ten signatures appears to be missing.

Photographs exist of the page and there are also images of a souvenir parchment signed by Carson alone.

The Public Record Office told the BBC it has never held the first page signed by Sir Edward on a table which is now kept in the council chamber in Belfast City Hall.

It believes the Ulster Unionist Council held on to the front page and had it on display in their old offices in Glengall Street in central Belfast for many years.

However, the Ulster Unionists said they could not verify this.

The party no longer has an office in Glengall Street – it is currently based in east Belfast.

A UUP spokesman told me the party had deposited historic records with the Public Record Office in good faith, and was concerned and annoyed about the question mark over the whereabouts of the first page.

I met up with local historian Henry Bell in the Public Record Office reading room to get his take on the significance of the missing page.
Carson’s signature was the first on the covenant Carson’s signature was the first on the covenant

The history and politics lecturer told me that it was no coincidence that “the number one signature on the very first sheet in the very first folder was by Edward Carson.

“They had focussed in on Carson as the symbol of unionism and Ulster’s resistance, so his signature would be the moment to start the whole process and I find it absolutely amazing that we are not looking at his signature in front of us,” Mr Bell said.

He said that “to look at the actual signature would be absolutely wonderful” and he would love to see it discovered and put on display in time for the centenary.

Perhaps someone has the document and doesn’t realise its significance.

Or could it be taking pride of place on someone’s wall, without the knowledge of either the Public Record Office or the modern day UUP?

With the calendar ticking down to the 100th anniversary in September, the hunt for the covenant’s first page looks increasingly urgent.

Just like their forebears, unionists may have to employ “all means which may be found necessary” to turn up the missing heirloom.

• If you know where it is let me know via Twitter @markdevenport.

10 May 2012

Terrorist charges have been dismissed against four prominent republicans, including Marian Price, over an Easter commemoration parade in Derry.

They were all charged in connection with a demonstration last year in the City Cemetery during which a masked man made threats against the PSNI.

Price was said to be too ill to attend the hearing.

She remains in custody charged in connection with the murders of two soldiers at Massereene Barracks.

Price was due to appear at Derry Magistrates Court alongside Patrick McDaid, of Beechwood Avenue, Frank Quigley of Elmwood Road and Marvin Canning of Glendara.

Mr Canning is a brother-in-law of Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness.

After being told that preliminary inquiry papers were still not ready, District Judge Barney McElholm released her three co-accused as there was no evidence before him.

He said everyone was entitled to a fair trial within a reasonable period of time and he had seen cases involving complicated forensics which had taken less time than this.

A prosecution barrister requested a two-week adjournment to allow the papers to be finalised but the judge said he would not allow any further adjournments.

The judge said that while Price’s case was slightly different, the three men could be released from custody.

Price was jailed for the IRA bombing of the Old Bailey in London in 1973. Secretary of State Owen Paterson revoked her release from prison on licence almost a year ago.

She denies providing property for the purposes of terrorism, a charge related to the murders of Sappers Patrick Azimkar and Mark Quinsey at Massereene barracks in March 2009.

Price’s lawyer said a new bid to free her would be made. He claimed the case against her over the Derry incident had been “a central plank” in Mr Patterson’s decision.

Bobby Sands mural photo
Ní neart go cur le chéile


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