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In Northern Ireland, dogs can be sentenced to death after a tape measure ‘proves’ they are a pit bull

Beverley Cuddy
Guardian – Comment is free
20 June 2012

‘Lennox was even an unofficial assistance dog for the family’s 11-year-old daughter Brooke, who is registered disabled’

Last week in Belfast, the highest court in the land rejected the final appeal for a pet dog called Lennox to be saved. Only an appeal on a point of law in the next four weeks – or a pardon – can save him now.

If Lennox was a human, Amnesty International would have him as a poster boy. He was an adorable puppy, as you can see from the photos. His owner, Caroline Barnes, a former vet nurse, thought he was probably a mix of American bulldog, labrador and staffie – as a crossbreed, she didn’t know how big he would grow. For his first five years, he was an adored family pet.

Then, one day in May 2010, he was placed on death row. He hasn’t been seen by his owners since. He had done nothing wrong. Under Northern Ireland law, it is illegal to own a dog that looks like a pit bull and they can only be saved from execution if a judge rules they are “satisfied that the dog will not be a danger to the public”. But this exemption is hardly ever used – to date, only one dog that I can find has survived being identified as a “pit bull type” in Northern Ireland.

In England, Scotland and Wales our unpopular and ineffective Dangerous Dogs Act was amended in 1997 to remove the mandatory death sentence for any dogs identified as pit bulls. Northern Ireland’s devolution meant they no longer followed our dog laws, and they had to wait until 2011 and the Dogs (Amendment) Act (Northern Ireland) 2011 for well-behaved pit bull types to be given even the slightest chance of avoiding a death sentence.
Lennox in his cell Lennox in his cell

And so it was that a tape measure “proved” Lennox was a pit bull, effectively sentencing him to death. The dog warden measured the length of his legs and the width of his muzzle. These dimensions and ratios could fit many dogs that are definitely not genetically a pit bull. For example, a pit bull is said to have a femur that is shorter than its tibia. The court does not have to prove that the dog is definitely a pit bull, the burden of proof is on the owner to prove that their dog is not.

Lennox in his cell

So was Lennox a danger to the public? He was always walked on a lead. The family’s garden was well fenced, so he never roamed. He had an up-to-date dog licence. He was neutered, insured and microchipped. He was even an unofficial assistance dog for the family’s 11-year-old daughter Brooke, who is registered disabled.

Three quite conflicting witnesses have reported on Lennox’s behaviour, the judge preferring the most negative views. The most positive was dismissed out of hand.

Lennox allegedly jumped up at one of the three dog wardens who took him away from his family. As the dog trainer Victoria Stilwell says: “If all dogs who jump up on strangers in their house were guilty of being dangerous dogs, there would not be many dogs left in homes.” But even the jumped-up jumping up charge is in dispute. I’m told by a family friend that Lennox actually tried to climb onto Caroline’s lap “like a little child” to get away from the dog wardens.

The dog wardens claimed in court that they had been warned by an unnamed man at the house that Lennox could “rip their head off”. That Lennox had lunged at one of them and hit her with his muzzle. The family deny these allegations – it’s a classic “he said, she said”. But before that day in 2010, the record shows that no one had ever complained about Lennox.

When 11-year-old Brooke first heard that her dog had been taken away she had a very serious asthma attack. For the last two years the family – who are new to being on the wrong side of the law – have devoted all their energies into fighting for Lennox’s life. Almost 150,000 people have now signed their petition – almost a quarter of the population of Belfast. Some more radical supporters have gone further, starting a “boycott Belfast” campaign to shame the city into action.

Stilwell is not the only dog expert to back the campaign to free Lennox. Jim Crosby is an ex-cop who has assessed more than 30 dogs that have actually killed people. No one else on earth has as much experience of dangerous dogs as him. He has told the Northern Ireland first minister, Peter Robinson, that he is willing to fly over to Northern Ireland to assess Lennox. He hasn’t yet had a reply, despite Robinson saying how much he disagrees with what is happening to Lennox.

Lennox has lost a lot of fur in the past two years

What does Crosby think about using a tape measure to assess whether a dog is dangerous? “I have seen dangerous dogs that looked like pit bulls, and like huskies, and rottweilers, and chihuahuas, and labradors … and on it goes. [Dangerous dogs] have as many faces as human killers. Yet they all have one thing in common: they have exhibited observed behaviour that shows they present a clear danger, or have behaved in a way that caused serious injury or death.

“I can’t honestly say that I would have given Lennox a clear pass; that I never know until after I work with a dog, one on one. But Lennox would have got a fair evaluation, documenting the behaviour seen and quantified, from square one. The size of his head would not have mattered – it would have been the size of his heart that counted.”

Being in Belfast city council’s “care” may have driven the poor dog mad (he has lost a lot of fur, almost certainly due to stress) in which case it could be seen as a merciful release to see him put to rest. But if there is even a chance that Lennox is still the same good dog that loved his family, that has pined for them these last two years. Surely Crosby should be allowed to apply his years of experience to Lennox’s case?

But the fact is, without an intervention from either the Queen or the secretary of state for Northern Ireland – or a last-minute point of law being found by the overworked legal aid team – Lennox will be killed within a month.

Belfast Telegraph
20 June 2012

The Government has told the families of 11 people killed by British troops in the case known as the Ballymurphy Massacre that there will be no independent investigation of the deaths.

The relatives slammed the decision of Northern Ireland Secretary of State Owen Paterson and pledged to continue their campaign.

The innocent civilians who died after being shot and beaten by members of the Parachute Regiment in 1971 included a mother of eight and a Catholic priest tending to the wounded.

The deaths occurred during a security operation in the Ballymurphy area of west Belfast that stretched across August 9-11 following the introduction of internment without trial.

Military claims at the time that the victims were armed republicans were discredited and the families have called for an examination of the true facts of the case – which has been linked to the killing of civilians by the same regiment on Bloody Sunday in Derry.

A spokesman for the families said they are “deeply disappointed” by Mr Paterson’s decision to turn down their request for an independent investigation.

“Mr Paterson, in his letter, has stated that it ‘would not be in the public interest’ that an Independent Investigation be established,” they said.

“We refute this assertion and believe that is clearly in the ‘public interest’ that the full facts relating to the circumstances of the deaths of our loved ones and the role of the British Parachute Regiment is fully established.

“This is especially so given the recent findings of Lord Saville in relation to the events of Bloody Sunday and the disclosure of official British Government documents which reveal evidence of immunity for British soldiers involved in the murder of innocent civilians.”

Northern Ireland’s Attorney General John Larkin has ordered that the inquests into the deaths be re-opened.

But the families rejected advice they said they received from Mr Paterson that other avenues were open to them, including the police Historical Enquiries Team (HET) which is examining murders from the Troubles.

The relatives said the HET’s handling of cases where soldiers were responsible for deaths had been criticised in a major report into its work.

The relatives said: “Although the families regard the re-opening of the inquests by the Attorney General as a very important step on our journey for truth, we believe that even a fully resourced and effective inquest will have limitations.

“It will be able to provide facts and gather crucial forensic, logistical and witness testimony evidence, but it will not be able to examines the causes, context and consequences of the massacre and answer so many of the questions that must be answered.

“We believe that only an independent investigation can facilitate the discovery of the facts and provide an accurate historical account of the events of August 1971 on the streets of Ballymurphy.”

They repeated a call for Prime Minister David Cameron to meet directly with the families.

The campaigners also asked for Irish premier Enda Kenny to back their cause, in the way he has publicly supported the family of solicitor Pat Finucane who was killed by loyalists acting in collusion with security forces.

By Michael Brennan
Independent.ie
20 June 2012

SINN Fein TDs are breaking Oireachtas rules by paying activists out of cash claimed for travel expenses.

Prominent frontbenchers have revealed that part of their expenses claims were diverted to pay additional staff.

Unspent travel expenses are supposed to be returned to the Oireachtas under rules introduced in 2010.

Yet in one case, Sinn Fein finance spokesman Pearse Doherty put €8,000 worth of unspent travel and accommodation expenses towards hiring part-time party workers.

Another frontbencher, foreign affairs spokesman Padraig Mac Lochlainn, also confirmed that he used unspent expenses in the same way. The revelation is likely to fuel calls for an unprecedented inquiry into how the party uses taxpayer funds.

Despite the admissions, Sinn Fein headquarters last night denied that its TDs were using unspent expenses in this way.

The practice of diverting expenses is just one part of a sophisticated money-raising machine being used to fuel the party’s expansion.

An Irish Independent investigation reveals for the first time how Sinn Fein relentlessly and efficiently uses the political funding system to maximum advantage here, in the North, at Westminster and in the US.

Our probe also reveals how:

– Sinn Fein officials monitor the bank accounts of each of the party’s 14 TD to ensure that they use part of their wages to hire constituency staff.

– Each TD only takes the annual industrial wage after tax — around €29,000 — from their €92,000-a-year salary.

The balance, which works out at around €18,000 after tax and pension levies, is used to pay for additional constituency staff.

– Over €250,000 was legally diverted in this way last year alone.

– The cash is given directly to staff, rather than the party, to get around donation limits.

– Sinn Fein is claiming costs of £460,000 (€568,000) from Westminster for staffing and running constituency offices in the North — even though its five MPs refuse to take their seats.

– Its fundraising efforts in the US outstrip all of the other parties combined, with $412,000 (€325,000) raised in the past six months alone.

But the revelations about the party’s use of Dail expenses are likely to cause the most controversy. Receipts have to be provided for some of these expenses — but not for travel or accommodation.

Two frontbenchers, Mr Doherty and Mr Mac Lochlainn, used some of their unspent travel and accommodation expenses to pay for hiring party workers in the past year.

Mr Doherty only spent €24,000 of the €33,000 that he received for travel and accommodation expenses last year.

He paid back €845.05 to the Oireachtas Commission, but that still left a surplus of around €8,000, which he put towards the wages of two extra Sinn Fein workers — both part-time — in his constituency.

“I personally do not keep all of the wages and expenses paid to me,” he said on his website. “You will also see that the remainder of the funds in the account after my wage and my real expenses are deducted is spent on part-time staff wages.”

Mr Mac Lochlainn also said that he used the “balance” of his travel expenses to pay the salary of an extra full-time constituency secretary in his offices in Letterkenny and Buncrana.

“We would employ an additional person. We try to take a person off the dole,” he said.

Despite the admissions made by both TDs, Sinn Fein issued a statement to the Irish Independent, insisting that the practice of diverting travel expenses to pay for party workers was “non-existent” and not party policy.

The Oireachtas Commission confirmed that the redirecting of travel expenses to pay staff wages was not permitted under rules introduced in 2010. TDs are supposed to return any unspent expenses.

However, it remains unclear what penalties Oireachtas officials can impose for breaches of the rules. It is understood that legal advice will be sought about what action can be taken in the event of a complaint.

News Letter
19 June 2012

CONTROVERSIAL victims’ campaigner Willie Frazer has revealed that up to five former IRA men have approached him to apologise for the murder of his father.

Willie’s father Bertie, a council worker and part-time UDR soldier, was murdered as he helped out on a friend’s farm near Whitecross in 1975. Two of his uncles and two cousins were also murdered by republicans, all of which contributed towards Willie becoming a vocal critic of Sinn Fein and the IRA.

He caused widespread anger recently for erroneously identifying an Italian tricolour flying at a primary school as an Irish tricolour and making remarks, which he later apologised for and withdrew.

Last year he also hit the headlines when he lodged complaints about children dressed as terrorists posing for photographs at an EU-funded community centre in south Armagh.

Widely viewed as a provocative figure in the midst of a ‘new’ Northern Ireland, yesterday he revealed that up to five IRA members have approached him privately to apologise for the murder of his father.

“They were IRA men, republicans,” he said. “But they were not involved in anything like Kingsmills. They were the type that were more on for attacking the Army. In fact the last one that approached me was only a few days ago.

“One day I stopped with my brother outside my parents’ first home and one man pulled up and was speaking to us. He knew we were Bertie Frazer’s sons. He was just chatting about how they all used to run around together.

“But the important words were that he said ‘Bertie should never have been shot’, that ‘it should never have happened’ and that ‘he was a good man’. Any of them that said it to me, I believe they meant it.”

He said the men that approached him were of his father’s generation, putting them approximately in their 70s.

“There have been four or five guys in the past two years,” he said. “These guys knew my dad personally and used to ceili in our house with him.

“They were IRA men but you could sit down and do business with them. In fact I believe an IRA man carried my father’s coffin.

“These were the type of men that you could hold your view and they could have theirs and you could still get on with life. But there is a different element of republicans that will not accept that – vicious republicans that are not even accepted by other republicans.

“It was the older generation of IRA men that warned my dad and others like him not to go into certain areas at certain times.”

And what if the men who killed his father approached him in the same way?

“If they were prepared to hand themselves in, I would accept their apology,” he said. It does not matter in his mind if they serve any jail time – “that is up to the system,” he said.

“As long as someone is held accountable. But to tell us to forget about it – that is not going to happen. It just creates more hurt and division.”

In February the News Letter carried reports from south Armagh peacemaker Ian Bothwell that a number of republicans who had engaged in “front-line activity” in that area are “seeking forgiveness for their past actions”.

UUP leader Mike Nesbitt said anyone in such a position should “hand themselves in” to their local police station.

In March Sinn Fein national chairperson, Declan Kearney, urged republicans to engage in “uncomfortable conversations” about their past and to recognise the healing influence of saying “sorry”. But the DUP has objected that such offers do not come with Sinn Fein accepting any responsibility for the IRA’s role in the Troubles.

News Letter
19 June 2012

A PUBLIC inquiry into the Omagh bombing would uncover “unnerving secrets” of security force failings, one of those bereaved by the atrocity said.

Michael Gallagher and other Omagh victims presented Northern Ireland Secretary of State Owen Paterson with a specially commissioned report claiming the atrocity could have been prevented.

The families campaigning for a cross-border inquiry will now seek meetings with the Chief Constable Matt Baggott and Justice Minister David Ford to brief them on the consultants’ report into the case.

Mr Gallagher said both the Republic and British governments would continue to face calls for a public inquiry and any refusal to respond positively to the new evidence would be brought to the courts.

Twenty-nine people, including a woman pregnant with twins, were murdered in the Real IRA atrocity in 1998.

Mr Gallagher said: “I think that the Government are going to have some difficulty with granting a public inquiry into Omagh because it will unearth some very unnerving secrets.

“But we feel, and we told the Secretary of State, that there will be uncomfortable truths for both the British and Irish governments.

“But that is nothing to what the families have had to suffer.

“We feel that Omagh should come to an end, I don’t take any comfort in standing here today in criticising the Government.

“I’d rather get on with our lives but the Government are the people that’s holding this process up.”

His comments came after a meeting with the Secretary of State at Hillsborough Castle.

The families said their report brought together all available evidence on the case and showed authorities on both sides of the border could have prevented the car bombing.

No one has been successfully criminally convicted of the attack in the Co Tyrone town.

Mr Gallagher, whose son Aidan was killed in the bombing, said families had yet to receive a response to requests for a meeting with Taoiseach Enda Kenny.

And while the content of their report cannot be made public for legal reasons, Mr Gallagher said the findings pointed to state failings over the attack. He described the meeting with the Secretary of State as constructive, but said Mr Paterson noted that the bombing was still under investigation.

Mr Gallagher said the existence of live investigations had not prevented the setting up of the Leveson inquiry into press standards.

He said: “We have waited 14 years. There are no reasons for this not happening.”

Mr Gallagher said the Secretary of State promised to examine the report.

And Christopher Stanley of the London-based human rights group British Irish Rights Watch, which is supporting the Omagh families, said his organisation would be pressing for a swift response from the Government.

“I think what we want at this point is a timescale from the Secretary of State, the ball is in his court. We can’t have this dragging on,” said Mr Stanley.

BBC
19 June 2012

Six men were shot dead as they watched a football match in Loughinisland in 1994

Relatives of six men shot dead in a County Down bar as they watched a football match have spoken of their pride that the Republic of Ireland team has paid tribute to the victims.

Six Catholics were shot dead by loyalists in Loughinisland as they watched the Republic of Ireland play Italy in the World Cup on 18 June 1994.

On Monday night, exactly 18 years later, Republic of Ireland players wore black arm bands as a mark of respect during their Euro 2012 match against Italy.

The men were killed when members of the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) walked into the Heights Bar and began shooting indiscriminately.

It was one of the worst atrocities of the Northern Ireland Troubles.

Bereaved relatives and friends gathered in the bar on Monday night and there was a minute’s silence as the teams lined up.

For many, it was a very emotional night.

Kevin Gordon, who walked in to the bar immediately after the shooting, said the six men had been innocent victims who had not been offending anyone.

He said the arm band tribute was a “very nice gesture”.

Pub landlord Hugh O’Toole said: “It is very emotional. You nearly break down thinking about it.”

Another fellow said: “It is a great honour for Loughinisland to be remembered.”

The six men who died were Adrian Rogan, 34, Patrick O’Hare, 35, Eamon Byrne, 39, Malcolm Jenkinson, 53, Daniel McCreanor 59, and Barney Greene, 87.

Adrian Rogan’s daughter, Emma, said she was proud that so many people had come out to remember the dead.
Hugh O’Toole spoke of the emotional of Monday night Hugh O’Toole spoke of the emotional of Monday night

Her mother, Clare, said she was “absolutely overwhelmed” by the support on Monday and during the memorial weekend, dedicated to the victims.

“As for the players wearing black arms bands, it’s such a tribute to the ones that died and those who were injured and indeed to the whole community, just to know that we haven’t been forgotten.”

Among the crowd were Protestant relatives of other UVF victims.

Paul McIlwaine whose son, David, was murdered by the UVF in in Tandragee 2000 said he supported the black arm bands being worn, despite objections from some loyalist leaders.

“I was reading comments from the UDA commander Jackie McDonald and I thought they were outrageous. It was an absolute disgrace. And it’s not the views of all the Protestant people and I wouldn’t associate with them at all.

“My wife and I felt we should come down in support. It’s great to see so many people standing together”

UEFA agreed to the commemoration last month after the Football Association of Ireland (FAI) made the request on behalf of the victims’ families.

In the years since the Loughinisland massacre, sixteen people have been arrested in connection with the attack but no-one has been convicted and there have been allegations of collusion between the UVF gang and the police.

Last June, a police ombudsman’s report into the killings concluded that the police failed to properly investigate the loyalist attack but it found insufficient evidence of security force collusion.

The Loughinisland families have rejected the findings of the report and have mounted a legal challenge to have Al Hutchinson’s findings quashed.

BBC
18 June 2012

The DPP wants the sentences of both men convicted of murdering Constable Stephen Carroll referred to the Court of Appeal for being unduly lenient.

Constable Carroll, 48, was shot dead in Craigavon in March 2009.

Brendan McConville, 40, of Glenholme Avenue, Craigavon, and John Paul Wootton, 20, of Collindale, Lurgan, were found guilty of the murder.

McConville was sentenced to a minimum of 25 years, while Wootton was told he must serve at least 14.

At the end of May it was revealed that Wootton’s sentence would be referred to the Court of Appeal, but there was no mention of McConville’s.

However, in a statement on Monday the Public Prosecution Service said: “The Director of Public Prosecutions, Barra McGrory QC, today confirmed that he has sought leave to refer the sentences imposed on both John Paul Wootton and Brendan McConville to the Court of Appeal on the ground that the sentences are unduly lenient.

“The director has exercised his powers under section 36 of the Criminal Justice Act 1988 (as amended by section 41 of the Justice (Northern Ireland) Act 2002).”

Minutes of 1972 meeting amount to ‘policy of impunity’ for aggression by British soldiers, say human rights groups

Owen Bowcott
Guardian
18 June 2012

The meeting between Northern Ireland secretary Willie Whitelaw and police and army leaders took place six months after Bloody Sunday. (Photograph: Robert White)

A secret memo that urged the army to shed its inhibitions in the “war” against the IRA and be “suitably indemnified” could prompt a fresh wave of legal action, lawyers in Northern Ireland have said.

The expression of enthusiasm for military action with apparent disregard for any legal consequences, at the height of the Troubles in July 1972, has surprised human rights groups, who are still pursuing justice for victims.

Released through the public records office in Belfast, the minutes record a meeting at Stormont Castle chaired by Willie Whitelaw, then Northern Ireland secretary. Also in attendance were the GOC (the most senior army officer in the province), Paul Channon MP, the deputy chief constable and senior civil servants.

The document, marked “secret”, has only recently come to the attention of campaign groups and lawyers who, in the wake of the inquiry into the Bloody Sunday massacre in Derry, have focused on re-examining killings by the security forces.

It was a pivotal moment in the Troubles. Gerry Adams, Martin McGuinness and other republican leaders had just returned from abortive face-to-face talks with Whitelaw at Channon’s home in Chelsea. That weekend fighting had broken out between troops and the IRA over the allocation of houses in west Belfast.

Dated Monday 10 July 1972, the three-page paper lists “conclusions” of a meeting immediately following the breakdown of the Provisional IRA’s two-week-long truce.

It notes that Whitelaw would reveal the existence of the clandestine talks, “put the blame for the ending of the ‘truce’ fairly and squarely on the Provisionals who must now take the consequences”, and “announce the government’s intention to carry on the war with the IRA with the utmost vigour”.

It added: “The GOC would see UDA [the loyalist paramilitary Ulster Defence Association] leaders and impress upon them that while their efforts as vigilantes in their own areas were acceptable, their presence in any riot or shooting situation could not be tolerated.”

In terms of military response, it ordered that: “The army should not be inhibited in its campaign by the threat of court proceedings and should therefore be suitably indemnified.”

Mark Thompson, director of Relatives for Justice, which campaigns on behalf of victims, said: “The discovery of this document indemnifying British soldiers from the threat of court proceedings whilst they took their ‘war’ to nationalist communities with the ‘utmost vigour’ is the first official documented evidence of a policy amounting to impunity.

“It is a clear amnesty being put in place for what would later occur, the inevitable loss of life. In 1972 the British army killed 79 people. Not one soldier was held to account for these killings.

“This document provides an important insight into the mindset of the British government and those directly involved in and responsible for ‘security’ and its policy development – a policy that went on to have disastrous consequences for our entire community. Many observers will view this document as sectarian in its outlook and strategic approach.

“Despite their involvement in sectarian murders, the UDA was not [at that time] a proscribed organisation. They were permitted to patrol areas and exist alongside the RUC and British army at a time when intelligence would have clearly shown the UDA to be involved in sectarian murders.”

That Sunday in July 1972, in fact, five people had been shot dead by republican paramilitaries, and six Catholics, including a priest, were killed by the British army.

Kevin Winters, a Belfast solicitor who represents relatives seeking justice, said: “It will lead to a request for the police’s historical enquiries team to re-examine all the army killings that they have looked at to date.

“The consequences of the document should permeate a lot of their investigations. It potentially strengthens grounds for fresh inquests. It could generate a huge amount of legal proceedings. If that was the mindset … it would be grounds for a series of [out of time] civil actions for unlawful killings.”

Paul O’Connor, of the Pat Finucane Centre in Derry, which also examines files from the period, said: “This document tells us something about the culture [at the time]. We deal with cases of people who were being kidnapped at UDA checkpoints and who were tortured and murdered. That ties in with allowing UDA members to join the Ulster Defence Regiment. It was the worst months of the Troubles.”

Herald.ie
June 18 2012

Stiffer sentences for the two killers of a police officer are being sought by the Northern Ireland director of public prosecutions.

Barra McGrory QC confirmed he had sought leave to refer the jail terms to the Court of Appeal on the grounds that they were “unduly lenient”.

The widow of Constable Stephen Carroll, 48, had earlier complained that the two dissident republicans convicted of her husband’s murder should have received longer sentences.

Brendan McConville, 41, must serve a minimum 25 years and John Paul Wootton, 21, 14 years for their part in the murder of Constable Carroll, who was shot in the back of the head by a gunman who fired through the window of his unmarked police car in Craigavon, Co Armagh in March 2009.

After they were jailed by Lord Justice Paul Girvan at Belfast Crown Court, Kate Carroll attacked the difference in sentencing between Northern Ireland and England where a police officer’s killer can receive 30 years.

She said: “It gives the message out that it is fine to kill a policeman here because you can get a rap on the knuckles. Justice has been done? Not for us it has not. Stephen is still in his grave.”

Mrs Carroll added: “It should be the same everywhere. You cannot make exceptions in one country. It is disgusting.”

Later the judge issued a statement saying the sentence he handed down to Wootton was within the existing guidelines, but he would support any move to reconsider them because of the need for a greater deterrent in such crimes.

Mr McGrory had already referred Wootton’s sentence to the Court of Appeal, but said that he had sought leave to refer both sentences on the ground they were “unduly lenient.”

News Letter
17 June 2012

THE families of 10 Protestants murdered in an IRA attack from the Republic have been promised a meeting by the Taoiseach after a year-long campaign.

In 1976 the IRA gunned down the 10 workmen by the side of the road at Kingsmills in south Armagh. The attack was planned and executed from the Republic and the killers sought safe haven there afterwards.

Stormont Minister Danny Kennedy said that he had approached Taoiseach Enda Kenny about the matter at a north-south ministerial meeting in Dublin yesterday, having also approached him about it in November.

“He agreed that as a means of progress we would have a meeting with a senior official in preparation for a meeting with Mr Kenny himself,” the senior UUP Assembly member said.

The Newry and Armagh representative was pleased “at long last” to have got an agreement to the meeting, having pursued the Irish prime minister for over a year with no success. He praised Mr Kenny’s “positive approach” to the issue yesterday, adding that the families and Taoiseach would likely meet “before the end of the summer”.

The Taoiseach has caused intense anger among unionists over the past year by repeatedly calling for an inquiry into the murder of Belfast lawyer Pat Finucane while avoiding any commitment on the Kingsmills families.

Mr Kennedy said the aim of meeting the Taoiseach was to seek “public recognition” for the “failure” of successive Irish governments since 1976 to “deal” with countless IRA attacks made from the Republic.

Fermanagh and Tyrone DUP MLA Arlene Foster welcomed the progress, adding that IRA victims from Fermanagh are also expected to meet the Taoiseach as part of the process.

“It is important that the role of the IRA in these types of border attacks is highlighted so that we do not just have a partial history of the Troubles,” she said.

Pastor Barrie Halliday, who is supporting the Kingsmills families, said they had been asking Dublin to facilitate a victims’ parade there to highlight their cause.

“The Finucane family don’t have to parade in London for recognition there,” he said. “So it appears Dublin is playing catch-up in giving equality to the Kingsmills families.”

Derry Journal
18 June 2012

A thought-provoking new community project, The Ethical and Shared Remembering Project, spearheaded by The Junction in Derry, will be launched at Derry’s Tower Hotel this coming Tuesday, June 19, at 12.30pm.

The Ethical and Shared Remembering Project was established as a means of exploring and constructing an ethical value base for the people of Ireland, based on the principles of an inclusive and fully integrated society. Addressing the decade 1912-1922 – a defining decade which shaped the Ireland of today – the Project seeks new discoveries and breakthroughs, as well as new ways of looking at old problems.

Maureen Hetherington, Director of The Junction, spoke to the ‘Sunday Journal’ about the importance of this innovative new project.

“We launched this initially in September 2010 with the realisation that we are coming into a decade of anniversaries of 1912-1922, a decade in our past that shaped the future of this island, such as the 1912 Signing of the Ulster Covenant, the Suffragette movement, the signing of the Proclamation, and the Great War and then the subsequent engagement of nationalists and unionists in that war.

“We want to examine that decade in our past and debunk some of the myths around it, looking at some of the unresolved issues from that decade that still exist today and see if we can find resolution from the past.”

Speaking of the issues that have emerged from our collective past experiences, Ms Hetherington went on: “One of the major issues was violence, then the violence from 1969 onwards, as well as sectarianism and gender inequality. Our literary culture is also important, and looking at the literature and how it shaped things is a big challenge, especially looking at writers who created and helped to perpetuate these difficulties.”

Ms Hetherington is in no doubt that the conflicts experienced between 1912-1922 have shaped future generations.

“The trauma of that time and the traumatic experiences of the recent conflict are obvious,” she says. “People still believe in the myths that were handed down through the generations and helped shape our society. We have romanticised violence and romanticised the memory and myth of the past. We’ve never really challenged or addressed the Church’s role in that decade of 1912-1922 were violence and God were both blessing the gun. The challenge today is what the church will do now when asked to commemorate that particular decade of our past.”

The project will now be developed into a training package for use by educators, trainers, facilitators, community development and community relations activists, faith groups and clergy, thanks to funding from the Columbanus Community Trust.

Drs Johnston McMaster and Cathy Higgins will spearhead the project which will be rolled out across Ireland over the next three years.

Two new publications; ‘Ethical and Shared Remembering: Resource and Information Booklet’ and ‘Signing the Covenant: But Which One?’ will be available at the Derry launch.

For more information, contact: The Junction on: 71 361942 or email: mhetherington@thejunction-ni.org.

All Welcome.

Derry Journal
18 June 2012

Two years ago this week, Geraldine Doherty stood shoulder to shoulder with fellow Bloody Sunday campaigners on the steps of the Guildhall and declared her uncle’s innocence to the world. Few could have realised how courageous a step this was as her uncle Gerald Donaghey was, in fact, the only person left with a ‘stain’ upon his character in the long-awaited Bloody Sunday Report…

Geraldine Doherty hopes it may re-open the debate surrounding her uncle’s case.

Gerald Donaghey

For 38 long years, Geraldine’s heartbroken mother Mary Doherty (nee Donaghey) had battled to clear her baby brother’s name. Mary had been to the forefront of the subsequent Bloody Sunday Justice Campaign, but sadly she would not live to see Gerald fully exonerated. Devastated by Lord Saville’s contentious ruling on her brother, Mary passed away just months after the report was published.

Geraldine still finds it difficult to talk about her mum and how much the cause meant to her. Indeed, a deeply personal account she penned in the new booklet conveys just how much the massacre of Bloody Sunday had impacted on all their lives.

“I really needed to get the human side across. I’m sure people still think to themselves ‘Gerald Donaghey – that’s the wee fella with the nail-bombs’ and they don’t know the whole story so that’s why this booklet is so important. I promised my mum I wouldn’t give up.”

Gerald Donaghey was just 17-years-old when he was murdered on Bloody Sunday. He had been on the civil rights march with two close friends, Donncha and Conal McFeely. Their lives would never be the same.

“When Gerald died, his best friend Donncha could see the pain and hurt of my mother and so, in a way, he tried to protect her and take over that brotherly role. You could see that close bond that existed between them. On the day the Bloody Sunday Report came out, Donncha was so heartbroken at the thought of my mother’s reaction, he couldn’t even speak.”

Gerald Donaghey had been adopted by the Donaghey family from an early age and his sister Mary loved him like no other. When tragedy suddenly struck their home, Mary became a surrogate mother too.

“My granny and granddad actually died within four weeks of each other when Gerald was only ten,” Geraldine reveals. “The wider family considered putting him back in the home and my mother flatly refused. No way, she said, he had to stay with her. So she took over the mothering role when she was only 19 years-old.”

Geraldine never had the opportunity to meet her uncle and namesake, having been born in 1973 one year after Bloody Sunday.

“It wasn’t until I was a bit older that I asked my mum why she always went out every January with a wreath and she told me I had an uncle who died on Bloody Sunday. I was probably eight or nine years-old then. I never met Gerald, but it’s all those wee stories my mother told me that I keep and cherish about how he was a loveable fella, really caring, and happy go-lucky. They were so close.”

Changing history

Mary Doherty had been one of the core campaigners during the Bloody Sunday Justice Campaign.

“Every week, Mickey McKinney would collect me and my mum and Kay Duddy to go to the campaign meetings in West End Park where we sat freezing around a wee heater wondering what we could do and coming up with ideas,” Geraldine recalls. “What I remember most now is the sheer perseverance of everyone. No matter how many knocks we got, we just got up and carried on – there was no stopping us.

“I don’t think any of us imagined we would get this far, though. It wasn’t until we got solicitors involved and the British Government announced we could have our inquiry and we thought, oh my God, this is it! This is history in the making. The day it was announced we all walked from the Trinity Hotel up the Strand Road together to let the people of Derry know. People in the crowd were saying ‘they’ve got their inquiry! They’ve got it!’” I’ll never forget the feeling and the buzz of that day.”

Despite the expansive Bloody Sunday Inquiry that was to span ten years and cost almost £200 million, Geraldine always harboured a fear that her uncle would be used as a scapegoat.

“I was never hopeful,” she says. “My mother always said that Gerald would be used as a fall-guy, as did Donncha and Conal McFeely, and they were right. They used him as a scapegoat just like we had always feared.”

By the time the Bloody Sunday report was published on 15 June 2010, Mary Doherty was 64 years-old and terminally ill. Geraldine attended the pre-read of the report in her mother’s place, accompanied by Gerald’s best friend, Donncha McFeely. Geraldine was terrified.

“I had gone in with Donncha because my mother just wasn’t strong enough to go,” she remembers. “She knew they would use him as a fall-guy. And she was right. It was bad enough the first time with Widgery [the 1972 report], but the second time was just soul-destroying. That day, Saville’s report killed my mother, it just destroyed her. You could literally see the fight had left her.”

Geraldine struggles to keep her tears back when recalling how her mother took the dreaded news.

“I looked at Patricia Coyle, the solicitor, and said to her ‘what about the nail-bombs’ and she just said, ‘no, Geraldine – but he has his declaration of innocence.’ I remember saying ‘how am I going to tell my mother this?’ I just didn’t know how I could break that news to her. Then mammy came up in the lift and I’ll never forget the moment when those lift doors opened – she just knew. She said ‘it’s not good’ and I put my arms around her and said, ‘mammy, it’s good and bad. He’s got his declaration of innocence but they left the nail-bombs. She was just heartbroken.”

Mary wanted to go home immediately, but first Geraldine had to face the 10,000 strong crowd waiting patiently outside.

“My mother told me to go out and do our part. It wouldn’t have been in our nature to put a dampener on that day or on the other families’ victory. She was so over the moon for the others.”

Few can imagine the courage it took for Geraldine to brave those jubilant crowds, but looking back, Geraldine doesn’t feel so brave.

“I was so nervous I froze, but I knew I had to do it. So I went out with all the others and said that Gerald had been declared innocent. It wouldn’t have been fair to mention the nail-bombs and nobody really knew at that stage about Saville’s ruling. We didn’t want to take the shine off so many others, so I said my part – not what I wanted to say in my heart – but at least that he was innocent.”

Geraldine and Donncha had prepared an earlier piece. “Our original statement said ‘This report does not say my uncle had nail-bombs only that he might have. The possibility that the nail-bombs were planted could not be eliminated by Saville. What the Saville Inquiry does say is that my uncle was murdered by Soldier G as he was trying to get away to safety from soldiers who had just murdered Jim Wray and William McKinney.’”

However, when she saw the euphoria outside, Geraldine left out any mention of the nail-bombs. It was the right thing to do.

“There was no way we were going to rain on everyone’s parade,” she says.

“I was just numb and wanted to get it all over with. I wanted to get my mother home. She did get comfort from Gerald’s declaration of innocence, but heartbroken about the nail-bombs, but she had so much respect for the other families she wouldn’t dream of ruining their day.

“That’s the kind of woman she was. Even when she was diagnosed with cancer she carried on, and I really believe it was the campaign that kept my mother going. She never complained once, she just got on with it. The doctor once told me that they couldn’t understand how my mother was still living, that she should have been dead three years ago, and I just knew it was the thought of Bloody Sunday and getting answers that had kept her going all that time.”

‘It destroyed her’

Mary Doherty’s heath declined rapidly after the report was published. “From that day on, you could see her going downhill,” Geraldine remembers.

“It just destroyed her and she was gone within five months of the report going out.

“The other families were actually in Westminster when the news came through that my mother had died and it was announced in Parliament that she had passed away. She would have been so honoured that they thought so highly of her to announce it there of all places.”

“Just before she died, she said to me ‘Geraldine you keep fighting, you get out there and make sure you get Gerald’s name cleared properly,’ and I promised my mother I would. She would have been so proud to see how many people came to the launch and who still believed in Gerald’s innocence. I’m just glad we have fulfilled our promise to her…”

Derry Journal
18 June 2012

The last two men to see Bloody Sunday victim Gerald Donaghey alive say they’re “astounded” that Lord Saville ignored their evidence and concluded the teenager was ‘probably’ armed with nail-bombs when shot.

Speaking at Friday’s launch of a booklet entitled ‘Gerald Donaghey: The Truth About the Planting of Nailbombs on Bloody Sunday’, Raymond Roganand Leo Young said they stood by their evidence to the Saville Inquiry that the 17-year-old didn’t have nail bombs when he was murdered in the Bogside in January 1972.

The booklet launched by the Bloody Sunday Trust examines all existing evidence and concludes that Saville’s 2010 ruling was “fundamentally flawed”. Mr. Rogan brought the dying teenager into his home before trying to take him to Altnagelvin Hospital accompanied by Mr. Young who, at that time, was unaware his own brother was also among the dead. However, the car was stopped by the British Army and all three were detained with Gerald Donaghey left to die alone. Photographs later emerged showing a sizable nailbomb in his pocket – one of four the British Army claimed to have found on him.

Raymond Rogan told the ‘Sunday Journal’: “I often wonder what I would say to Saville if I met him face to face because, despite all the evidence, he came to the conclusion that I must be some kind of an eejit or fool and that I would carry somebody with bombs in their pockets into my house where my kids were.

“I would love to confront him and ask, ‘am I a fool or devious or what?’ I still can’t believe that he could come to that conclusion, despite all the evidence.”

Mr Rogan welcomed the new Donaghey report and said he was hopeful the public would make up their own minds om whether or not nail-bombs had been planted.

“When the Saville Report was published, my first thought was that there was still unfinished business. It’s important for the wider world to look at the results of Saville’s assessment, examine all the evidence and draw their own conclusions.”

Leo Young says he has never forgotten about Gerald Donaghey. Before cradling the dying teen in the back seat of Rogan’s car, he had frantically searched the boy’s pockets in the hope of identifying him and he says he knows there was nothing in his pockets.

Mr Young still can’t accept Saville’s conclusions on Donaghey.

“They ignored the civilian witnesses ,” he said. “They basically called me a liar because I should have seen something that just wasn’t there. I always had faith in Saville but that particular case really upset me.

“I still find it very hard to accept that he would say Gerald ‘probably’ had bombs on him – it’s ridiculous. I hope his name is cleared for the sake of his niece, Geraldine and the family. I hope the truth will come out.”

BBC
18 June 2012

Relatives of victims of the 1998 Omagh bombing are to meet the Northern Ireland secretary later to continue their campaign for a public inquiry.

Twenty-nine people and unborn twins died in the Real IRA atrocity.

The families say they will give Owen Paterson new evidence that authorities on both sides of the border could have prevented the bombing.

No-one has been successfully criminally convicted of the bombing which devastated the County Tyrone town.

Michael Gallagher, whose son Aidan was killed in the bombing, said they had commissioned a London legal consultancy firm to “look at all the inquiries and investigations that had taken place on both sides of the border”.

‘Piecemeal’

“Up to this point, we have had a number of separate investigations looking at particular areas in a piecemeal fashion,” he said.

“What this report has done is filled in the gaps and pulled everything together.

“It leaves some very significant questions to be answered, and we believe the only way to do that is a cross-border public inquiry.”

Mr Gallagher said Taoiseach Enda Kenny had not yet responded to their repeated requests for a meeting.

“We think it’s very important because some of these failings have highlighted deficiencies in the investigation south of the border,” he said.

One of the report’s authors was Martin Bridger, who led the Police Ombudsman’s investigation into whether the bombing could have been prevented.

Mr Gallagher said there were “significant questions that need to be answered”.

“We have always believed there has been enough evidence to convict the people responsible for the Omagh bomb, and we want to know why that evidence was not followed up,” he said.

The report’s findings cannot be made public because some of its contents are legally sensitive, but they are seeking permission from a judge to publish it, he added.

BBC
16 June 2012

A series of events is taking place across Dublin on Saturday to mark Bloomsday in honour of one of Ireland’s most famous writers, James Joyce.

The city celebrates Bloomsday every year on 16 June in tribute to Leopold Bloom, a fictional character in Joyce’s groundbreaking novel, Ulysses.

Every year James Joyce’s native city celebrates his seminal work, Ulysses

The story follows an ordinary day in the life of Leopold Bloom as he made his way across Dublin on 16 June 1904.

This is the first Bloomsday since Joyce’s work passed out of copyright.

The author died in Switzerland in 1941 and for many years his estate strictly enforced its control over the re-publication of his works.

At the launch of Saturday’s celebrations in Dublin, the Irish President, Michael D Higgins, paid a warm tribute to James Joyce as one of the greatest writers Ireland has ever produced.

Banned

He described Ulysses as “a groundbreaking piece of work” which introduced a “new style of narration” to the novel genre and forced the reader to become an “active participator in the process as opposed to a passive onlooker”.

“No longer would we have the traditional all-seeing, dependable narrator of old style fiction who would tell us all we needed to know, requiring little thought or input from us, the reader,” Mr Higgins said.

Ulysses is widely regarded as one of the most important literary works of the 20th Century but when it was first published, it was viewed as obscene and was banned in the United States.

Joyce left Ireland in 1904 with his wife Nora Barnacle and only made four return visits to his homeland, the last of those in 1912.

The president said Joyce was one his country’s “most famous exiles” who had gone to live abroad because he “foresaw that the writing he wished to do would be difficult in Ireland”.

Mr Higgins added that Joyce’s seminal work still has relevance in the author’s native country.

“Although it was written at the commencement of the last century, Ulysses is a novel that resounds, in many ways, with a particular significance for early 21st Century Ireland, a country going through seismic change and not a little upheaval.”

Bloomsday has also been marked by a series of programmes on BBC Radio 4.

Irish Times
16 June 2012

Jonathan Swift’s letters at Sotheby’s

SOTHEBY’S IS to auction “important and extremely rare” Irish historical papers in London next month. Three volumes of original letters relating to the government of Ireland in the 18th century are estimated to make between £80,000 and £120,000 (€100,000-€150,000).

Many of the letters were written to Lionel Cranfield Sackville – the first duke of Dorset and lord lieutenant of Ireland – and shed light on the difficulties encountered by the British administration trying to govern the country.

Topics include: the emergence of Henry Grattan’s Irish Patriot Party; support in Ireland for the American Revolution; the lawlessness of Tipperary where “even the common operations of justice cannot be carried into execution”; and less weighty matters such as the complaint, by an archbishop, about the dreadful wine served in Dublin Castle.

Seven letters written by Jonathan Swift between 1732 and 1736, while he was dean of St Patrick’s Cathedral, are estimated at £40,000-£60,000 (€50,000-€70,000).

The papers of Sen James Douglas, including letters by Michael Collins relating to the drafting of the constitution of the Irish Free State and the proposed Divorce Bill of 1925, are estimated at £25,000-£35,000 (€30,000-€40,000). Douglas (1887-1954) was a Co Tyrone-born Quaker and businessman best-known for managing the Irish White Cross, a charity established during the War of Independence to distribute funds raised for “relief in Ireland” by sympathisers in the US. He was appointed by Michael Collins to draft the Irish Free State’s constitution and served a number of terms in Seanad Éireann.

The documents will go on view in Dublin on June 28th at Sotheby’s, 16 Molesworth Street, from 10.30am-4.30pm. The auction will take place in London on July 10th

Irish Times
16 June 2012

Brian McFadden: former republican prisoner who made great sacrifices for his beliefs

BRIAN McFADDEN, who has died in his native Derry, was a former republican prisoner who stood up to Republican Action Against Drugs (RAAD) and the Real IRA. He did so because he opposed injustice, from republicans as much as from the security forces.

Before his death, he had drawn up a message to RAAD to be read at his funeral: “Stand back and ask yourselves how such action could ever further Irish reunification; such actions serve only the nefarious forces of Partition.”

McFadden came from one of Derry’s most prominent republican families. His father, Barney, had been interned, spent a long period on remand and had been a Sinn Féin councillor. His mother Róisín (née Mellon) was also republican; several of her family had been imprisoned over the years. The family lived on Stanley’s Walk in the heart of the Bogside.

It was inevitable that he would be caught up in the upheavals of the early 1970s. He was interned and served long periods as a remand prisoner. In recent years, he became a “dissident”, disillusioned with the path taken by the mainstream republican movement. However, he opposed continued armed struggle: he strongly believed the IRA should have called a ceasefire long before 1994.

McFadden showed moral and physical courage when the Real IRA murdered former republican prisoner Kieran Doherty in February 2010. The murderers made unsubstantiated allegations against Doherty and McFadden was one of the first to go to show solidarity with the family.

As Doherty’s coffin was carried from their house, McFadden stepped forward and placed a Tricolour on it. The meaning was clear: Doherty was still part of the republican family, the Real IRA’s action was unjustifiable.

The dissident Republican Network for Unity expelled him for the gesture. In the aftermath, McFadden helped Derry Trades Council organise a protest against the murder.

Despite suffering terminal cancer, he campaigned against RAAD which had carried out punishment shootings on two of his nephews. Last month he spoke up against its attempts to extort money from a small businessman.

He also highlighted Derry’s drink and drugs problem, calling for a proper drugs detox centre after his son Emmet died of a drug overdose.

McFadden left St Joseph’s Secondary School at 15 and worked as a bricklayer. Physically he was a big man, straight and blunt in speech. He was highly respected in Derry’s republican community and over the years, he made great sacrifices for his beliefs.

Despite all the backbiting produced by division among republicans, nobody accused him of taking a political stance because he would materially gain from it.

He was predeceased by his daughter Christina, son Emmet, and brothers John and Eamonn. He is survived by his wife Martina; his daughters Kelly and Áine; his sons Bernard, Kevin, Séamus, Rory and Seán; and by his grandchildren.

Brian McFadden: born November 14th, 1953; died June 1st, 2012.

From: Infoshop News
16 June 2012

The 1916 proclamation, the manifesto of the 1916 rebels, states: “The Republic guarantees religious and civil liberty, equal rights and equal opportunities to all its citizens, and declares its resolve to pursue the happiness and prosperity of the whole nation and of all its parts, cherishing all the children of the nation equally, and oblivious of the differences carefully fostered by an alien government, which have divided a minority from the majority in the past.”

Torture, Murder & Exclusion: Ireland’s first 10 years of Independence

Irish Anarchist Review #5

The 1916 proclamation, the manifesto of the 1916 rebels, states: “The Republic guarantees religious and civil liberty, equal rights and equal opportunities to all its citizens, and declares its resolve to pursue the happiness and prosperity of the whole nation and of all its parts, cherishing all the children of the nation equally, and oblivious of the differences carefully fostered by an alien government, which have divided a minority from the majority in the past.”

These noble aspirations would become almost a bible of Irish Republican ideals and within six years, after the end of the War of Independence in 1922, a section of that movement had a chance to implement these ideals. However the society established after the war of independence “The Irish Free State” was a pale shadow of even the most modest interpretation of this document. Civil liberties were almost non existent, citizens were not equal, with women becoming second class while the poor were plunged further into destitution.

The early story of the Irish Free State is one of a dark authoritarian regime based on repression, discrimination and censorship where the elite of nationalist Ireland re-established control over a society that had teetered on the verge of revolution for years. Their deeply authoritarian attitude to politics was underscored by severe catholic morality which stifled culture and allowed no political debate or opposition of any kind. By 1937 the “The Irish Free State” had created a society that had betrayed the ideals of what many had set out to achieve two decades earlier.

Over two articles Fin Dwyer will examine the path which saw revolutionary Ireland descend into conservative authoritarianism, first looking at the establishment of the state through the civil war and its aftermath and then, in the next issue, looking at its social programme in the later 20’s and 1930’s

War of Independence and Revolution

Within a few years of the 1916 rebellion the Irish Republican movement found itself transformed from a relatively marginal group to being one of the key political forces in early 20th century Ireland…

>>CONTINUE READING ARTICLE

BBC
14 June 2012

Chief Supt Harry Breen and Supt Bob Buchanan were murdered in 1989

A Banbridge solicitor has been accused at a tribunal of trying to promote evidence to “frame” a former garda.

A barrister for Owen Corrigan accused John McBurney of “travelling the highways and byways of Northern Ireland to recruit and coach witnesses” to give negative evidence against his client.

Mr McBurney is representing Chief Supt Harry Breen’s family at the Smithwick tribunal.

He said he deeply resented the allegation and wanted it withdrawn.

The tribunal is investigating allegations of Garda collusion in the IRA murders of Chief Supt Breen and Supt Bob Buchanan in March 1989.

They were shot dead in an ambush as they returned from a meeting in Dundalk Garda station.

The complaint against Mr McBurney was made by barrister Jim O’Callaghan – who is representing Owen Corrigan – during Thursday morning’s proceedings.

Mr McBurney said he had made no secret of his attempts to encourage witnesses from outside the jurisdiction to give evidence, though sadly many had not.

Tribunal chairman Peter Smithwick said the observations made by Mr O’Callaghan were “rather harsh” and that it was “going too far” to say he had coached witnesses.

The exchange came following evidence given by a former customs officer in Belfast, identified only as Witness M, who had a discussion with Mr McBurney prior to agreeing to appear before the tribunal.

Witness M recalled a Christmas gathering in Newry police station attended by Owen Corrigan.

Anti-smuggling operation

He said the former garda sergeant was pointed out to him by an RUC colleague who warned him that Mr Corrigan was leaking information.

Witness M was due to meet with Harry Breen the day after his murder on 21 March, 1989 to discuss Operation Amazing – a multi-agency anti-smuggling operation.

As part of that operation, the farm of leading republican Thomas ‘slab’ Murphy was to be targeted and Harry Breen had been sent to Dundalk Garda station on the day of his murder to discuss the matter with gardai.

A record of a high level security meeting concerned with Slab Murphy’s farm shown to the tribunal described him as a smuggler who had been conducting his “illicit business” for some years.

It said he had “thwarted concerted attempts” to tackle smuggling and that additional legislation was needed along with co-operation from the south to “remove Murphy from the map”.

When the Republic play Italy at Euro 2012 it will be a chance for all of us to reflect on our past and its victims, says Trevor Ringland

Trevor Ringland
Belfast Telegraph
15 June 2012

In common with many others on this island, I remember well June 18, 1994. The Republic of Ireland’s win over Italy in the World Cup was fantastic and gave all of us a tremendous boost. All of us that is, except those who walked into the Heights Bar in Loughinisland and sprayed it with bullets killing six people and seriously wounding five others.

As news of this atrocity filtered through I remember sitting in my kitchen in tears at the thought of such devastation to the lives of so many.

So it is appropriate that, as the Republic of Ireland are playing Italy in Euro 2012 on the same date 18 years later, the Irish players, together with the rest of us, remember the tragedy of those lives destroyed by that evil and horrendous act.

As we do so it is also important we recognise that the same date brings back memories of loved ones lost to others as a consequence of the breakdown in our society during the madness of what we call our Troubles.

As part of the group tasked with developing and promoting a Day of Reflection (June 21 each year) with Healing Through Remembering, one of the statistics highlighted by our research was that there was no single day in the calendar year that someone did not die as a result of the conflict emanating out of Northern Ireland.

The book Lost Lives records that as well as those murdered in Loughinisland on June 18, 1994, there were others in different years:

• 1972: three soldiers of the Gordon Highlanders, Arthur McMillan, Colin Leslie and Ian Mark Mutch were killed by an IRA bomb planted in a house near Lurgan.

• 1974: John Harrison Forsythe, a police officer was killed by an IRA bomb near Lurgan.

• 1976: Robert Craven was killed by a UVF bomb in Conway’s Bar on the Shore Road in Belfast.

• 1982: Albert White, a former member of the RUC was shot by the IRA in Newry.

• 1985: William Robert Gilliland, a police officer died as a result of an IRA landmine explosion in Fermanagh.

As we look to the future and work to ensure that we never again revisit those dark days, it is appropriate that the Republic of Ireland football team remember those who lost their lives and coupled with the memory of all those for whom June 18 is also a day of sadness together with the waste of life of so many others who died as a result of the Troubles.

We cannot undo the past but we can ensure that we do not repeat it. The counter to what happened that night is the building of relationships. It is of paramount importance that we take every opportunity to do so.

The action of the FAI over the eligibility of players has had the effect of alienating a significant number of Northern Ireland football fans, such as me, from the team.

So as my contribution to building a shared future in Northern Ireland and on this island, made in memory of those murdered in Loughinisland in 1994 and on this island I will support the Republic of Ireland in Euro 2012 (as well as England, as my English nephews and nieces would never forgive me if I did otherwise) and I would encourage all Northern Ireland football fans to do the same.

After all, some things are more important that football.

We cannot undo the damage that was done to too many in our society but we can make sure that it never happens again and that we never revisit the horrors of the decades of violence.

There are a number of challenges that we can meet to ensure that we build a shared and better future for all, where people work together for their mutual benefit.

We can develop an inclusive sense of identity; we can bring out the Christianity in our religion; we can promote constructive1 politics, and we can tackle the socio-economic factors and divided structures that blight our society.

Bobby Sands mural photo
Ní neart go cur le chéile

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