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15 Nov 2012

NI’s senior coroner John Leckey (l) said Mr Larkin (r) may have exceeded his powers

Inquests ordered by NI Attorney General John Larkin into 14 controversial killings have been suspended.

Northern Ireland’s senior coroner John Leckey said Mr Larkin may have exceeded his powers by ordering the hearings.

They include the death of Francis Rowntree, 11, who was hit by a rubber bullet fired by a soldier in 1972.

A preliminary hearing into the circumstances of his death was due to begin in Belfast on Thursday.

Mr Leckey, however, announced that the hearing and a number of other inquests were being adjourned because of potential national security concerns.

He told the court the attorney general may have overstretched his powers and may not have had the legal authority to order the new inquests.

The coroner has referred the matter to Northern Ireland Secretary of State Teresa Villiers as national security issues were not devolved to the assembly and remain a matter for the Northern Ireland Office.

‘Very upset’

The family of Francis Rowntree said they were considering seeking a judicial review of Mr Leckey’s decision to suspend the inquest.

The Rowntree’s family solicitor, Padraig O Muirigh, said: “The decision by the attorney general in June 2012 to direct a fresh inquest was a significant step forward for the Rowntree families’ quest for truth.

“The family are very upset by the decision of the coroner to suspend the inquest.

“They have waited 40 years to have a proper inquest into the death of their loved one and this development is a step backwards for them.”

Francis Rowntree was 11 when he was shot in April 1972 by a soldier from the Royal Anglian Regiment as he played with friends at the Divis Flats complex in Belfast.

He died four days later from his injuries.

The other adjourned preliminary hearing due to begin on Thursday concerned the loyalist murder of Gerard Slane 24 years ago.

Mr Slane, a 27-year-old father of three, was shot dead by the loyalist Ulster Defence Association (UDA) at his home at Waterville Street, west Belfast, in September 1988.

His murder led to allegations of collusion between loyalist paramilitaries and the security forces.

…Believe me, I know what I’m talking about.

James Rhodes
01 Nov 2012

James Rhodes is a concert pianist and has made television programmes for the BBC and Sky Arts. He tours extensively and has recorded three albums for Signum and Warner Brothers. His website is and he is on YouTube at

Yet another bloody article about Jimmy Savile. We read more and more about the horrors that went on and the now incontestable fact that others knew it was happening, and we get all shouty and indignant. It reveals the irksome, irritating side of Twitter, the tabloid press, self-published blogs and the loud, chatty guy in the pub. The moral high ground. The furious bleating and self-righteousness of the whiter-than-white populace.

The outcry will not do any good at all. How many times since “Never again” has it happened again? Using words like “molest” and “abuse” runs utterly counter to the horror of child rape. As do the prison sentences handed down upon conviction. You can serve longer in prison for saying “I’m going to kill you” (maximum sentence 10 years) than you can for having sex with your three-year-old daughter (maximum sentence seven years). Newspapers happily show pictures of 14-year-old girls sunbathing and use sexual language to describe them while at the same time appearing indignant and appalled at the crimes of Savile, Glitter et al.

The culture of celebrity has the same shroud of secrecy, power and authority as the Church. Why on earth should we be surprised at sexual abuse going on in those circles? The only thing that surprises me is that people actually seem surprised. In any environment where there is power, there will be an abuse of that power.

When I was at school I was sexually abused. Let me clarify: I was serially raped when I was a child, between the ages of five and 10. At least one other teacher knew it was happening and even after voicing their concerns to the relevant authorities within the school, nothing was done and the horrors continued. (Over two decades later, and only after a statement from both me and another teacher, did the police arrest and charge the rapist with 10 counts of buggery – at the time of arrest he was a part-time boxing coach for boys under 10.)

We read about things like this and we think “how awful” and then get on with eating our cornflakes, but no one really wants to look beneath the surface. The physical act of rape is just the beginning – each time it happened I seemed to leave a little bit of myself behind with him until it felt like there was pretty much nothing left of me that was real. And those bits do not seem to come back over time. What goes too often unreported and unexamined and unacknowledged is the legacy that is left with the victim.

Self-harm. Depression. Drug and alcohol abuse. Reparative surgery. OCD. Dissociation. Inability to maintain functional relationships. Marital breakdowns. Being forcefully institutionalised. Hallucinations (auditory and visual). Hypervigilance. PTSD. Sexual shame and confusion. Anorexia and other eating disorders. These are just a few of my symptoms (for want of a better word) of chronic sexual abuse. They have all been a part of my life in the very recent past and the abuse I went through was 30 years ago. I am not saying that these things are the inevitable result of my experience; I imagine that some people can go through similar experiences and emerge largely unscathed. What I am saying is that if living life is the equivalent of running a marathon, then sexual abuse in childhood has the net effect of removing one of your legs and adding a backpack of bricks on the starting line.

I don’t want to be writing about things like this. I don’t want to deal with the inevitable feelings of shame and exposure that will come from it. And I don’t want to deal with the accusations of using my back story to flog albums, being full of self-pity, attention-seeking or whatever other madness will no doubt end up in the comments below. But neither do I want to have to keep quiet, or even worse, feel as if I should keep quiet, when there is so much about our culture (which is in many ways so incredibly evolved) that allows, endorses, encourages and revels in the sexual abuse of children. Paedophilia has acquired a grim, vaguely titillating, car-crash fascination that the press have jumped all over.

We simply cannot on the one hand have sexualised images of children on billboards and magazines, underwear for six-year-olds with pictures of cherries on them, “school disco” themed nights at bars and community service sentences for downloading “indecent” images (indecent? Saying “shit” in church is indecent – this is abominable), and on the other hand regard the Savile story with abject horror. It just does not equate. This is not about censoring what the press can write (typical example from one tabloid: “She’s still only 15, but Chloë Moretz … The strawberry blonde stepped out with a male friend in a cute Fifties-style powder blue sleeveless collared shirt which she tied at her waist – revealing just a hint of her midriff”). or what pictures they can publish. It is about protecting minors who do not have a voice, who are not capable of understanding certain matters and who cannot protect themselves.

This has all been said before. And nothing has really changed. We forget (who would want to remember this stuff?), we think shouting loudly will absolve our collective guilt and change things for the better, we point fingers and form lynch mobs. We paint “paedo scum” on convicted (or suspected) paedophiles’ homes. And yet what we need to do is open our eyes fully and simply not tolerate this, rather like we’ve done and continue to do so effectively with homophobia and racism. We need to look at providing more visible therapy for both victims, perpetrators and those who have urges that threaten to make them perpetrators. We need to overhaul sentencing guidelines and start tackling the issues with more clarity and integrity. Whatever it takes for as long as it takes needs to be the guiding principle here, because otherwise we will, to use a well-worn but apposite phrase, simply continue the cycle of abuse.
November 02 2012

Padraic Wilson, pictured in 1999

A former IRA leader in the Maze prison in Northern Ireland has been remanded into custody on charges linked to a police investigation into a murder outside a Belfast bar.

Padraic Wilson was accused of IRA membership and addressing a meeting encouraging support for the organisation.

A detective told Belfast Magistrates’ Court that Wilson, 53, took part in a meeting with the sisters of Robert McCartney, 33, who was stabbed to death outside the pub in 2005. The court was told police were not connecting him to the murder.

Wilson was the leader of IRA prisoners in the Maze in the late 1990s. He was remanded in custody after police expressed fears the political manager would intimidate witnesses, a claim denied by his lawyer Peter Madden. A detective told the court: “The police objections to bail are based on our concerns of interference with witnesses and reoffending.”

He said it is alleged that at the time the offences took place in 2005, the accused, a married father-of-two from Hamill Park in Andersonstown, west Belfast, was reported to be a member of the IRA’s ruling army council.

“He still holds a significant position of influence within portions of the community and because of that we have concerns that there would be interference with witnesses,” the policeman said.

He said six witness statements had been received from Mr McCartney’s sisters and former partner accusing him of involvement in an IRA internal investigation following the murder of Mr McCartney.

The detective said: “It is alleged that Mr Wilson and an unidentified person met with the family in their capacity as members of the IRA and as representatives of the Army Council of the IRA. That role was carrying out an internal investigation into the murder. It is alleged that at least two meetings were held with members of the family and Mr Wilson.”

The detective said the McCartney family were able to identify Wilson recently through internet research and recognised him as he person who took the lead in addressing the meetings. He said: “This is an unusual case and it certainly would be our belief that Mr Wilson would have the ability to influence things and that is something which will be difficult to manage.”

Wilson, who wore a checked shirt, spoke only to confirm he understood the charges. Magistrate Fiona Bagnall remanded him in custody to November 30.

Joe Nocera
NY Time – OP ED
29 Oct 2012
**live links onsite

Mark Thompson, former BBC director-general who seems to have memory problems concerning paedophile Jimmy Savile (Photo: Richard Saker)

There are, to start with, the obvious business challenges: like all newspaper companies, the Times Company has struggled financially as the Internet has eroded its traditional revenue sources. Its third-quarter results, announced on Thursday, were typical: It reported a 9 percent drop in advertising revenues and an 85 percent decline in net income compared with the same period in 2011. Its battered stock price tumbled another 22 percent.

Then there is the Sulzberger family, which controls the Times Company. Arthur Sulzberger Jr., is both the company’s chairman and the publisher of the flagship newspaper. Seven other family members work at The Times. No chief executive can expect to be able to make decisions independent of the Sulzbergers. The previous C.E.O., Janet Robinson, left abruptly in December, amid speculation that her relationship with Sulzberger had become strained.

So it was with no small relief that, after a lengthy search, Sulzberger announced in mid-August that Mark Thompson, the departing director general of the BBC, had agreed to take the job. Although the BBC has a radically different business model from The Times — it gets most of its money from an annual fee levied on every British television watcher — his tenure as the BBC’s boss included an international expansion and strong digital growth, two areas where The Times could use his skills.

Thompson is scheduled to start his new job on Nov. 12. His nameplate is already on his office door. He is getting to know Times employees. Yet, since early October, all anybody has asked about Thompson are those two most damning of questions: what did he know, and when did he know it?

The questions are being asked, of course, in the wake of an enormous sexual abuse scandal that has engulfed the BBC. At its center is Jimmy Savile, who for three decades was one of the BBC’s best-known personalities, his television shows aimed at the teenage set. He has also been accused of being an incorrigible pedophile; the number of young girls he is said to have molested could run into the hundreds. Although he stopped being a BBC regular in the mid-1990s, his enduring fame was such that when he died last fall, people in his hometown of Leeds lined the streets to mourn his passing.

Soon after his death, a BBC current affairs program called “Newsnight” began an investigation into Savile’s sexual proclivities. Yet despite getting at least one woman on tape who said she had been molested by Savile, the piece was killed. Then, earlier this month, a BBC competitor, ITV, ran a devastating exposé of Savile. The ITV investigation raised subsequent questions about whether the BBC had covered up Savile’s wrongdoing.

Plainly, the answer is yes. What is far less certain is how high the cover-up went. Thompson first said that he never heard the rumors about Savile, and that he didn’t learn about the “Newsnight” program until after it was canceled. Given the byzantine nature of the BBC bureaucracy, these are plausible denials.

Here is where it gets a little less plausible. Thompson now says that at a cocktail party last December, a BBC reporter said to him, “You must be worried about the ‘Newsnight’ investigation into Jimmy Savile.” Soon thereafter, Thompson asked his underlings about the investigation and was told that it had been killed — for journalistic reasons. He claims to have inquired no further, not even to ask what the investigation was about.

A few months later, the news broke in the British press that the BBC had, as The Daily Mail put it in a headline, “shelved Jimmy Savile sex abuse investigation ‘to protect its own reputation.’ ” Given the seriousness of sexual abuse allegations — look at what it did to Penn State — you would think that Thompson and his underlings would immediately want to get to the bottom of it. But, again, they did nothing. Thompson winds up appearing willfully ignorant, and it makes you wonder what kind of an organization the BBC was when Thompson was running it — and what kind of leader he was. It also makes you wonder what kind of chief executive he’d be at The Times.

Arthur Sulzberger is in a difficult spot. He believes strongly that he’s got the executive he needs to lead The Times to the promised land of healthy profits again. Although he declined to be interviewed for this column, he appears to have accepted Thompson’s insistence that he knew nothing about the explosive allegations that became public literally 50 days after he accepted the Times job. Sulzberger is backing his man unreservedly.

For the sake of Times employees — not to mention the readers who want to see a vibrant New York Times Company — let’s hope his faith in Thompson is warranted. Otherwise, the BBC won’t be the only organization being asked tough questions about its judgment.
November 2, 2012

BELFAST, Northern Ireland (AP) — Padraic Wilson, an official in the Irish nationalist Sinn Fein party, has been charged with Irish Republican Army membership in a case that highlights a pivotal unsolved murder, the 2005 stabbing of a Catholic civilian outside a Belfast pub.

The victim’s sisters complained the IRA covered up evidence and received White House backing, embarrassing Sinn Fein and spurring the major IRA faction, the Provisionals, to renounce violence and disarm that year.

But nobody has been convicted of killing Robert McCartney. His sisters, however, have told police that Padraic Wilson was one of two IRA officials who met them about the murder.

In Friday’s Belfast court appearance Wilson was charged with membership in an outlawed organization and organizing IRA meetings. His lawyers rejected the charge, and Sinn Fein demanded his immediate release.

By Steven Swinford and Sam Marsden
02 Nov 2012

**Video onsite

A senior political figure has threatened to sue the BBC after claims that one of its flagship news programmes planned to out him as a paedophile.

The BBC yesterday refused to comment about a Newsnight investigation into the man, which is currently with the corporation’s lawyers.

However Iain Overton, editor of the London-base Bureau of Investigation, claimed yesterday morning: “We’ve got a Newsnight out tonight about a very senior political figure who is a paedophile”.

Michael Crick, a former Newsnight presenter and now a political correspondent with Channel 4 News, later said: “[A] ‘senior political figure’ due to be accused tonight by BBC of being paedophile denies allegations and tells me he’ll issue a libel writ agains the BBC.”

Details of the investigation, which is due to be broadcast tonight, emerged after the corporation was accused of covering up allegations that Jimmy Savile abused children.

Last year, Newsnight was due to broadcast a programme detailing some of the allegations against Savile but pulled the programme shortly before a tribute show to the presenter was broadcast

Peter Rippon, the Newsnight Editor, stepped aside last month shortly before being publically critised by George Entwistle, the Director General of the BBC.

Mr Entwistle said he had made “inaccurate or incomplete statements” about the Savile scandal.

Tom Watson, the Labour MP, told the Commons last month that there was “clear intelligence” linking a former aide at Number 10 to a notorious group of sex offenders. He said the aide was linked to the conviction of Peter Righton, a child pornography smuggler who was convicted in the early 1990s.

He said: “The evidence used to convict paedophile Peter Righton, if it still exists, contains clear intelligence of a widespread paedophile ring.

“One of its members boasts of his links to a senior aide of a former prime minister who says he could smuggle indecent images of children from abroad.

“The leads were not followed up, but if the file still exists I want to ensure that the Metropolitan Police secure the evidence, re-examine it and investigate clear intelligence suggesting a powerful paedophile network linked to Parliament and No 10.”

On Thursday Freddie Starr, the comedian, was arrested by detectives from the Jimmy Savile sexual abuse investigation team. Mr Starr, 69, was questioned about a claim he tried to molest a 14-year-old girl in Savile’s BBC dresssing room in the 1970s. He has strenuously denied the allegation.
2 Nov 2012

Colin Duffy

A dissident republican has been arrested in connection with the murder of a long-serving prison officer and Orange Order member who was gunned down in a motorway ambush.

Colin Duffy, 44 and a second man were detained by officers in Lurgan, Co Armagh.

Duffy, 44, was acquitted by a judge in Belfast earlier this year of the murders of two soldiers shot dead by dissident republicans outside Massereene military barracks in Antrim in March 2009.

The second man is aged 31. Both men were taken for questioning by detectives at Antrim.

Married father-of-two David Black, 52, was shot several times from a car that pulled up alongside his on the M1 near Lurgan, Co Armagh, as he drove to work at Maghaberry jail yesterday morning.

Colleagues said Mr Black, from Cookstown, Co Tyrone, had been actively considering retirement after more than 30 years’ service. He was a long-standing member of the Orange Order in Cookstown.

Stormont First Minister Peter Robinson last night branded the culprits “flat-earth fanatics living in the dark ages, spewing out hatred from every pore”.

Grand Master of the Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland Edward Stevenson said he was the 337th member of the organisation to be murdered by terrorists since 1969.

“His professionalism throughout the worst of the Troubles and beyond is in stark contrast to the cowardly and faceless terrorists who today have left a wife without her husband and two children without their father,” he said.

Forensic officers search the scene on the M1 motorway where prison officer David Black (inset) was shot as he drove near the town of Lurgan, Northern Ireland (Photo: Reuters/Pacemaker)

“Our thoughts and prayers are with David’s wife, Yvonne, his children, Kyle and Kyra, and wider family circle at this deeply traumatic time.

“They can be assured that the Orange fraternity will rally around them in their hour of need.”

Prime Minister David Cameron joined political leaders on both sides of the Irish border in condemning what he said was a “brutal murder”.

He said: “These killers will not succeed in denying the people of Northern Ireland the peaceful, shared future they so desperately want.”

After being shot, Mr Black’s black Audi A4 veered off the road and crashed into a deep drainage ditch.

Police have blamed dissident republicans opposed to the peace process.

The violent extremists have been engaged in a long-running protest campaign against conditions inside HMP Maghaberry in Co Antrim – Northern Ireland’s only maximum-security prison.

Ministers from the Northern Ireland Executive and the Irish Republic’s government will discuss the murder at a North South Ministerial Council meeting in Armagh today, according to the BBC.

Stormont Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness insisted the murder would not destabilise the peace process.

“Our community stands absolutely four-square and united against the activities of these groups,” he said.

Mr Black has become the 30th prison officer killed in Northern Ireland since 1974, though the first for almost 20 years.

He was driving on the motorway between Portadown and Lurgan at about 7.30am when a dark blue Toyota Camry, with a Dublin registration, pulled alongside and several shots were fired.

Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) Assistant Chief Constable Drew Harris said dissidents had been actively targeting prison officers.

He indicated the gunshots, not the crash, had been the cause of death, adding: “Mr Black appears to have sustained very serious and probably fatal gunshot wounds. The motive behind this is sheer terror.”

The Toyota believed to have been used in the attack – registration 94 D 50997 – was later found burnt-out in the Inglewood area of Lurgan, Co Armagh – a town with strong pockets of dissident support.

Mr Black’s service stretched back as far as the 1981 IRA hunger strike inside the Maze prison when 10 republicans starved themselves to death.

PSNI Chief Constable Matt Baggott said it was a “completely senseless attack” that “demonstrated the recklessness and ruthlessness and sheer dangerousness of those who oppose peace and are dedicated to taking us back to those dark days of the past”.

Prison Service director-general Sue McAllister said Mr Black had expressed interest in an early retirement scheme but his departure date had not been set.

She vowed the officer’s colleagues would not be bowed by the attack.

Northern Ireland Secretary Theresa Villiers branded the attack on Mr Black “cowardly and evil”.

“Like his colleagues across the Prison Service, he was dedicated to serving the whole community in Northern Ireland,” she said.

“This is in stark contrast to the people responsible for this despicable crime.”

Irish Prime Minister, Taoiseach Enda Kenny, said the murder was “deeply disturbing”.

“I utterly condemn the actions of those who carried it out and their scant regard for human life,” he said while on an official visit to Berlin.

Mr Kenny added: “Those who committed this brutal act will rightly be condemned by all civilised and right-thinking people on this island who utterly reject such hideous and mindless violence.”

By Suzanne Breen
Belfast Telegraph
Friday, 2 November 2012

Robert McCartney and son

A senior Sinn Fein member and former Provisional IRA leader has been arrested in connection with the murder of Robert McCartney.

The 53-year-old west Belfast man, who is a well-known figure in mainstream republican circles, was taken to Antrim serious crime suite for questioning by detectives.

The arrest will be a major embarrassment for Sinn Fein. The prominent republican has held several senior positions in the Provisional movement, including in the Maze prison where he was serving a life sentence.

When he was granted early release under the Good Friday Agreement, he was greeted at the prison gates by Sinn Fein politician Gerry Kelly, who described him as “a close friend” and praised his leadership role. The republican was convicted in early 1990s of possessing explosives and conspiracy to murder.

Sources said the man’s arrest follows substantial new detailed information given to the PSNI recently.

No-one has been convicted for the murder of Mr McCartney, a father-of-two from the Short Strand, who was beaten and stabbed to death outside Magennis’s bar in Belfast city centre in January 2005.

Three men were charged in connection with the killing: Terry Davison with murder, and Jim McCormick and Joe Fitzpatrick with causing an affray. But they were all acquitted in 2008. Robert McCartney’s sister Paula last night said: “Our family welcomes the latest arrest but is treating it with caution. However, we hope that, after all these years, we secure justice for Robert who was so brutally murdered by the IRA.”

Robert McCartney (33) was killed after trying to help his friend, Brendan Devine, who had become involved in a row in Magennis’s. It was alleged that the IRA’s Belfast commander ordered the murder after the argument.

As well as a fatal stab wound to the stomach, Mr McCartney suffered a broken nose and arm and leg injuries.

The McCartneys claim that the IRA forensically cleaned the pub to hide all evidence.

Mr McCartney’s five sisters and his partner, Bridgeen Hagans, waged a campaign to bring his killers to justice.

Bobby Sands mural photo
Ní neart go cur le chéile


November 2012
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