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27 July 2012
Ch Supt Harry Breen and Supt Bob Buchanan were murdered in 1989
The families of two murdered RUC officers want a full investigation following the revelation of key intelligence documents at a tribunal.
Chief Supt Harry Breen and Supt Bob Buchanan were shot dead in an 1989 IRA ambush in south Armagh.
The Smithwick Tribunal is investigating alleged Garda collusion in the murders.
This week it heard previously undisclosed intelligence that a “Garda officer now retired” gave the IRA information about the officers.
Chief Supt Breen and Supt Buchanan were murdered shortly after leaving Dundalk Garda station.
The collusion allegations have been focused on three former Irish police (Garda) detective sergeants in Dundalk – Owen Corrigan, Leo Colton and Finbarr Hickey.
However, the intelligence material put forward by the Police Service of Northern Ireland earlier this week cited a fourth Garda officer not previously investigated by the tribunal
In a statement, the family of Supt Buchanan welcomed the introduction of the evidence following their initial “dismay and concern that the PSNI had withheld vital intelligence material for up to seven years”.
The family said the intelligence material “confirms that collusion involving members of An Garda Siochana did exist” and called on the Garda commissioner to investigate “all members of his organisation who may have colluded” in the murders.
The Buchanan family also appealed to the chief constable of the PSNI to re-visit the unsolved murders, “with an examination of all intelligence and evidence available”.
Chief Supt Harry Breen and Supt Bob Buchanan were the most senior RUC officers to be murdered during the Troubles.
In a statement the Breen family said that “from wherever” the intelligence had emerged “it needs to be urgently probed and assessed at this crucial juncture”.
25 July 2012
The existence of previously undisclosed PSNI intelligence documents which claim a member of An Garda Síochána in Dundalk passed information to the IRA was revealed at the Smithwick Tribunal today.
PSNI Det Chief Supt Roy McComb said the PSNI and British security services had decided to reveal the existence of five new documents, which had been compiled during the course of the tribunal’s inquiries.
The tribunal is inquiring into allegations of Garda and IRA collusion in the murders of two RUC officers chief Supt Harry Breen and supt Bob Buchanan in March 1989.
Mr McComb provided summaries of the new intelligence documents to the tribunal and said the originals were being retained on the grounds of British national security.
Four of the summaries claimed a member of Dundalk gardai passed information to the IRA. The fifth said a Dundalk garda named as Jim Lane had repeatedly warned of inappropriate relationships between members of the IRA and Dundalk sergeants Leo Colton, Finbarr Hickey and Det Sgt Owen Corrigan.
While the first two documents made reference to “a detective” member of the Garda in Dundalk who was said to be passing information to the IRA, Mr McComb’s summary said the detective officer was “not publicly associated with the Smithwick Tribunal”.
Document three referred to separate information that “a senior” member of the Garda in Dundalk provided information to assist the IRA in the 1989 murders of the RUC officers.
Document four referred to “additional information” that a member of Dundalk Garda provided information which “enabled” the murders of the two RUC officers.
Under cross examination by Michael Durack SC for An Garda Síochána, Mr McComb said he was “not in a position” to say why the information had not been provided to the tribunal before its closing stages.
Mr McComb acknowledged an original decision had been taken by somebody unknown “not to share” the information contained in the documents. He had become aware of it in the last few days, he said.
Jim O’Callaghan SC for Mr Corrigan told the tribunal it was clear from the summaries of documents one and two that the PSNI and or the British security services had “exculpatory” information about his client’s alleged involvement in the murders of Mr Breen and Mr Buchanan, and had decided at least initially not to share it.
He said the tribunal had spent about 100 days discussing a previous piece of police service intelligence, which he said had been described as “tittle tattle”, which named his client. But he said here was intelligence described by the security services as “accurate and reliable” which was exculpatory to his client and it had been withheld.
25 July 2012
Suicide rates in Northern Ireland have doubled since the signing of the Good Friday peace agreement in 1998, new research has revealed.
Queen’s University in Belfast found suicide levels have soared since the end of the Troubles, though the deaths are occurring among those who grew up during the worst years of violence.
Social upheaval was said to have caused “mass medication” through anti-depressants, alcohol and illegal drug use, while aggression that was once widespread in the divided society has become more internalised.
The overall rate of suicide in Northern Ireland doubled in the decade following the Good Friday agreement, rising from 8.6 per 100,000 of the population in 1998 to 16 per 100,000 by 2010. Researchers also found that levels of self-harm in Derry far exceeded the rates detected in other major cities in Britain and the Irish Republic.
Professor Mike Tomlinson said suicide prevention strategies in Northern Ireland are failing to combat the rise, and said they could be targeting the wrong age groups.
“The rise in suicide rates in the decade from 1998 to 2008 coincide with the move from conflict to peace in Northern Ireland,” he said. “The increase in suicide rates can be attributed to a complex range of social and psychological factors. These include the growth in social isolation, poor mental health arising from the experience of conflict, and the greater political stability of the past decade.”
He added: “The transition to peace means that cultures of externalised aggression are no longer socially approved or politically acceptable. Violence and aggression have become more internalised instead.
“We seem to have adjusted to peace by means of mass medication with anti-depressants, alcohol and non-prescription drugs, the consumption of which has risen dramatically in the period of peace.”
His research, which examined death registration data over the last 40 years, found that the highest suicide rate is for men aged 35-44 (41 per 100,000 by 2010), followed closely by the 25-34 and 45-54 age groups.
The findings showed that children who grew up in the worst years of violence between 1969 and 1977-78 are the group which now has the highest suicide rates and the most rapidly increasing rates of all age groups.
By Mary Regan
July 21, 2012
It was one of the darkest chapters in the history of the State and now a memorial called Journey of Light will be built to remember survivors and victims of clerical sex abuse.
Based beside the historical Garden of Remembrance in Dublin, it will feature steel plates to symbolise industrial schools where abuse took place, with water cascading over to represent the healing process.
The State’s apology will be inscribed in the wall, in both English and Irish, at child’s eye level and separately in Braille on a bronze plaque.
The design, by Studio Negri, and Hennessy & Associates, was chosen from 32 entries and announced yesterday by Ruairi Quinn, the education minister.
He said it will serve as “a constant reminder that we must never let such horrendous crimes against children happen again”.
The memorial, he said, “will act as a testimony to one of the darkest chapters in our State’s history and what we collectively as a society allow to happen to vulnerable children”.
Christine Buckley, who has spent years seeking justice for abuse victims, said she suggested the memorial during the Ryan Commission hearings into clerical abuse.
She said the fact that the Ryan report recommended its construction demonstrates that the voices of victims had been listened to.
“I can’t wait to bring my children and I can’t wait, if I have grandchildren, to bring them there,” Ms Buckley said.
“You don’t even have to go down the road of talking about the horrors. It will be there, the apology, it’s in stone, and I think it’s terribly, terribly important for the healing process.”
Not all survivors were as happy with the memorial.
John Kelly, of Survivors of Child Abuse, believes the initiative is premature and insensitive to former residents of the Magdalene laundries who have not been included in the redress scheme.
Mr Quinn said an inquiry to examine the State’s role in alleged abuse in the laundries will have concluded by the time the memorial is built.
“These matters are being looked at. But I don’t think, quite frankly, that we should await that process for this project to commence,” Mr Quinn said.
He criticised the lack of progress being made by the Church orders in meeting their contribution to compensation for victims, which is expected to reach €1.5bn. “It is very slow and it is very unsatisfactory,” he said.
While Mr Quinn said the Government has “no wish to bankrupt” religious orders, “they do own substantial educational and health infrastructure. And they could hand over the title deeds of that infrastructure so that the State would be the ultimate owner of them.”
Planning permission for the memorial will be submitted in September, and is expected to take two years to build at a cost of €500,000.
By Jennifer O’Leary
20 July 2012
The Smithwick Tribunal has heard details of a British intelligence document suggesting a “senior Catholic RUC officer” was the “likely source of collusion” in the murders of two RUC officers.
They were returning to NI from a meeting at Dundalk Garda station.
The tribunal is investigating allegations of Irish police collusion.
A section of a partially redacted intelligence briefing document for the secretary of state, dated 15 August 2002, was read into the tribunal record.
“What seems to have inspired…..to speak out was……almost divulging in front of……and…..at the parliamentary party meeting, information she had given to ……..a year ago that the likely source of collusion in the Buchanan and Breen case was a “senior Catholic RUC officer”.
“She did not have any more specific information, about the individual’s identity but had been sufficiently impressed by the evidence that she had sought and failed to persuade……not to include the case on the Weston Park list.”
The identity of the person making the recommendation in the briefing document not to include the cases of Mr Breen and Mr Buchanan on the Weston Park list was not made public.
The document continued that “She feared the consequences for the PSNI if the story was to emerge from a review and had talked……..down when he had come so close to blurting it out.”
The chairman of the tribunal, Judge Peter Smithwick, was told that the tribunal had been aware of the document “for some time”.
“Not a shred of evidence has emerged to support the document,” said Justin Dillon, counsel for the tribunal.
The existence of the document was first mentioned on Friday morning by counsel for the Garda Commissioner, Michael Durack, during his cross examination of former Garda Owen Corrigan.
“Were you ever aware of a 2002 document that said the leak came from the RUC?” asked Mr Durack.
“No,” said Mr Corrigan, “I was never aware of that”.
Mr Corrigan, who denies all allegations of collusion, is one of three former garda under the spotlight at the tribunal.
The former detective sergeant earlier this week admitted that he failed to pass on intelligence he learned in the wake of the IRA ambush in which the RUC officers were killed.
On Friday he told the Tribunal that he could “not see any reason” why he would not have told anyone about such intelligence.
“I can’t categorically say that I didn’t pass anything on, I have difficulties with my health, but I can’t see any reason why I wouldn’t pass on anything to them,” he said.
Mr Corrigan also denied an allegation that he was passing information to the IRA saying that “God knows I had enough to do to look after a mad place like Dundalk.”
The allegation was contained in a 1985 RUC Special Branch intelligence document, entitled SB50, the details of which have only been heard during a private session of the Tribunal.
Judge Peter Smithwick said he would take arguments about whether the intelligence document would be read into the public record next week.
Jim O’Callaghan, counsel for Owen Corrigan, said it was “absolutely essential” for his client that details regarding the security grading of the intelligance document should not be redacted.
“If the PSNI is objecting on grounds of national security it has to be substantiated with evidence,” he said.
Mark Robinson, counsel for the PSNI, replied that the Tribunal was “not the Owen Corrigan show” and said Judge Smithwick would be the “final arbiter” of the document.
The Tribunal continues next week.
21 July 2012
Emergency service workers at Oxford Street in Belfast in the aftermath of explosions on July 21st, 1972. (Photograph: PA)
POLITICIANS AND religious leaders have been remembering the Bloody Friday bombings carried out in Belfast 40 years ago on Friday, July 21st, 1972.
A succession of more than 20 timed Provisional IRA bombs exploded around the city. In just over an hour, nine people were killed and 130 people were injured, including 77 women and children. Six people were killed by a car bomb at Oxford Street bus station, and three died after a bomb went off at a shopping centre on the Cavehill Road.
The IRA claimed it had sent sufficient warnings of the attacks and accused the security forces of deliberately ignoring some of them. The security forces and emergency services were stretched to the limit by the number of bombs and bomb warnings, which caused widespread chaos and panic.
The city’s Royal Victoria Hospital was inundated with victims badly injured by flying glass and debris from the powerful blasts.
Robin Hogg, a local, has spoken out for the first time of his memories of the day. He was shopping with a friend, 14-year-old Stephen Parker, on the Cavehill Road when one of the bombs went off. Mr Hogg escaped unhurt but Stephen was killed. He said: “It’s something that I do not think I really have ever got over. I vividly remember that day, the shock of it.”
On Thursday, DUP deputy leader Nigel Dodds tabled a House of Commons motion to commemorate the 40th anniversary. He said Bloody Friday was “one of the most horrific days in our history”, adding the attack was aimed “not at any military or security target but at the ordinary people of Belfast”. In the motion, he said “justice demands that those in the republican movement and Sinn Féin leadership with information should even now come forward to provide truth and closure for the victims”.
Afterwards, he said “there has been a great deal of talk about reconciliation amongst some republicans but an important first step must be that those who were involved in this terrible atrocity might come clean and admit their role”.
Those involved should step forward with information, and explain why ordinary people were put at risk, said Mr Dodds.
Acknowledging Northern Ireland could now look forward to a better future, Mr Dodds said “we must not forget the horrors which were visited upon Belfast and other parts of Northern Ireland by those who were intent on wreaking havoc on our society”.
The Rev Kenneth Lindsay, president of the Methodist Church in Ireland, said many victims still bore the scars of the atrocity.
12 July 2012
This is the leaked video as viewed on Youtube
The story of the seizure of Lennox, a Belfast dog killed under the United Kingdom’s Dangerous Dog Act, captured emotions across the world.
Lennox was condemned to die because he looked like a “pit bull type” dog, and consequently, the Belfast City Council asserted that he had to be destroyed to protect the public. However, a video which has just surfaced seems to contradict the Belfast City Council’s description of Lennox as “a dangerous dog”.
The dog was removed from his family’s home by Belfast dog wardens who, although Lennox was registered as a “bulldog”, and had no history of aggression or complaints, took the dog anyway. Lennox was subsequently sentenced to die because his appearance met the standard physical measurements which were deemed indicative of “a dangerous dog”, under the 1991 Dangerous Dog Act.
This video, dated March 15, 2011, allegedly shows Lennox being tested for temperament by David Ryan, a dog behavior expert hired by the Barnes family to assess the dog.
His owners, the Barnes family, fought in the courts for two years to save their pet’s life – a battle which they ultimately lost on July 11, 2012, when Lennox was put to sleep by Belfast authorities.
Facing worldwide outrage, the Belfast City Council insisted they had no choice; Lennox was so dangerous, they alleged that, in the interests of public safety, they were forced to euthanize him. In fact, they said, the dog was so vicious that they could not allow him to be re-homed; not even with celebrity dog trainer, Victoria Stilwell.
Now a video has surfaced on Facebook which reportedly shows Lennox, on a leash, being tested for temperament. The leash is held by a woman alleged to be Sandie Lightfoot, the dog warden responsible for the chain of events that led to Lennox’s murder. The man in the video is reportedly David Ryans, a dog behavior expert hired by the family to do an assessment of Lennox without any prejudice. Ryans was one of two dog behavior experts who examined Lennox, and who both testified to the court that the dog showed no sign of aggression.
In the video, the dog is relaxed and friendly. He sits on command, and waits for a treat. Several times, he attempts to lick both people in a visibly friendly and playful manner.
The video is dated March 15, 2011. This is long after both Lightfoot and the Belfast City Council had alleged that Lennox was aggressive towards people. The video shows no signs of aggression. Moreover, Lightfoot, who by this time certainly had interacted with Lennox several times, shows no nervousness at being around the dog, at all.
Many questions have been raised about Lenox’s case. The decision of the Belfast City Council to press forward with his execution, when they had other, viable options available to them, is perplexing. Their resolute decision to turn a deaf ear to the pleas of the world to spare Lennox’s life, and to refuse to allow the family to see their pet – not even once – in the two years they held Lennox has garnered Belfast nothing but bad publicity and ill-will.
This video, which appears to contradict the Council’s rationale for putting an innocent family pet to death, will only add to the growing chorus of voices demanding answers.
Wednesday, 11 July 2012
Lennox, killed by Belfast City Council for looking like himself – and nothing else
Lennox, the dog at the centre of an international campaign to stop a Northern Ireland council from putting him to sleep, has been destroyed.
The dog’s heartbroken owner, Caroline Barnes, said her teenage daughter Brooke had been denied the chance to say a final farewell.
“We had told Brooke that even if we don’t win (the case), she can still see Lennox, have her last pictures with him and say goodbye,” said Ms Barnes.
“To then have to tell her that no, that is not happening, it has been extremely unfair.”
The family has been told the dog’s body will not be returned but they will receive his ashes.
Last night Lennox supporters staged a protest in Spain, following similar rallies in New York and Serbia.
Ms Barnes said: “We can draw a bit of comfort from all of the brilliant friends that we have made.”
The family pet was put down this morning after the expiry of a midnight deadline for legal appeals.
Campaigners claim to have 200,000 signatures supporting a reprieve and emotions were running high.
A Belfast City Council spokesman said: “Lennox, an illegal pit-bull terrier type, has been humanely put to sleep. This was in accordance with the Order of the County Court which was affirmed by the Northern Ireland Court of Appeal.
“Whilst there is an exemption scheme to which dogs of this type (pit-bull terrier type) may be admitted as an alternative to destruction, there were no such measures that could be applied in this case that would address the concerns relating to public safety. The Council’s expert described the dog as one of the most unpredictable and dangerous dogs he had come across.
“Over the past two years, Council officials have been subjected to a sustained campaign of abuse including threats of violence and death threats. The Council has been in ongoing contact with the PSNI in relation to that.
“The Council regrets that the court action was necessary but would emphasise that the safety of the public remains its key priority.”
Lennox was impounded by Belfast City Council’s dog wardens in 2010.
In June, Northern Ireland’s most senior judges rejected Caroline Barnes’ legal bid to overturn an order for the destruction of her pet.
Ms Barnes, who is disabled, and her family insisted that Lennox was not dangerous, and while it was not clear exactly what breed he was, pit bulls and dogs like them are illegal in Northern Ireland.
Two lower courts had already ruled that the dog should be put down.
The dog was seized by Belfast City Council dog wardens in May 2010. He was assessed to be a danger to the public and subsequently ordered to be put down.
A former Metropolitan Police dog handler claimed the dog represented a danger due to his unpredictability.
Ms Barnes, 35, had accepted her pet was a pit-bull type, but claimed there had been a failure to properly consider a possible exemption scheme.
Her battle for Lennox became an international campaign to save his life. It went “viral” on social media websites and attracted tens of thousands of well-wishers.
Well-known people including boxer Lennox Lewis and Assembly First Minister Peter Robinson were among those who used Twitter to call for the dog to be spared.
Please click the red link to the Examiner article for instructions on how to send emails requesting a pardon for Lennox, the Belfast dog condemned to death and due to be executed tomorrow because he ‘looks’ a certain way: