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28 Jan 2013
The anniversary march was the first since the PSNI said it was opening a new investigation into Bloody Sunday
Up to 3,000 people have attended a march in Derry to mark the 41st anniversary of Bloody Sunday, when 14 civilians were killed after British army paratroopers opened fired on a civil rights demonstration in the Bogside area.
At Free Derry Corner the crowds were addressed by Bernadette McAliskey, who had been the main speaker at the Bloody Sunday rally in 1972.
This was the first commemoration in Derry since the PSNI confirmed last month that it is opening what it says will be a lengthy and complex investigation into the events of 1972.
That decision by the police followed the Saville Public Inquiry into Bloody Sunday and after an apology was given to the victims and their families by British Prime Minister David Cameron in the House of Commons.
Earlier, on the other side of Derry city, several hundred people attended a loyalist protest linked to the ongoing Union flag controversy.
This weekend also marks the 8th anniversary of the killing of Robert McCartney.
He was an innocent man who was attacked when attempting to intervene in a row in a Belfast bar.
The clientele there include a group who had earlier attended a Bloody Sunday commemoration in Derry.
Nobody has ever been brought to justice for Mr McCartney’s murder.
By Brendan McDaid
24 May 2012
Claims that a new vigilante group has been set up to target drug dealers in Derry’s loyalist areas are causing fear in the Protestant community, a politician has said.
A DUP councillor has passed on to the police a letter he received claiming to be from a vigilante group calling itself ‘Prods Against Drugs’ (PAD).
PAD claimed that it was aware of the names and addresses of “scumbag” drug dealers in the Newbuildings, Tullyally and Drumahoe areas and threatened to “shoot or kneecap” them within 48 hours if they did not desist from their activities.
Councillor Gary Middleton found the letter attached to his car windscreen when he arrived home on Saturday evening.
He said the letter had sparked widespread anxiety among residents in the Waterside.
The alarming development follows a bloody campaign waged by deadly vigilante group Republican Action Against Drugs (RAAD) in nationalist areas of Derry
Mr Middleton said: “We do not want to see a replica of what has gone on in nationalist areas.”
Anyone with information is asked to contact 0800 600 8000.
15 May 2012
The death of IRA volunteers in the early 1970s “republicanised Derry,” according to Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness.
Mr McGuinness made the remark at a commemoration held in the city on Sunday evening to mark the 40th anniversary of the death of IRA volunteer John Starrs.
The 19 year-old was shot dead by British soldiers on an IRA operation in Chamberlain Street on May 13 1972.
Despite heavy rain, a crowd of more than 300 republicans gathered at the Bogside and Brandywell republican monument for Sunday night’s commemoration. Members of the Starrs family were also in attendance.
Former members of the 19 year-old’s IRA unit, including well known Derry republican Gerry Doherty, who was also wounded during the incident in May 1972, made a presentation to the Starrs family.
Mr McGuinness was the main speaker at the commemoration and described Mr Starrs as “the bravest of the brave.”
He said that the events of Bloody Sunday had driven the Brandywell teenager towards the IRA. “When that happened John Starrs was in the army in the South. He could have easily lived his life comfortably and went on to do many things in his life but he was not prepared to do that. He was prepared to give up all the opportunities that would have been presented to him. He came back to his own city. He came back to the Brandywell and joined the 1st battalion of the Derry brigade of Oglaigh na h’Eireann,” he said.
Mr McGuinness said the military training of John Starrs was a boost to the IRA at that time.
“It was not an experienced army, nothing could be further from the truth. We were all young people who had taken enough and decided we had the right to stand against the forces of occupation and the right to fight back.
“For John Starrs to come back an experienced soldier was a major boost to the IRA in this city. He was someone who was held in high esteem,” he said.
Mr McGuinness said the killing of IRA members like John Starrs changed opinion in Derry. “A city that was Nationalist and Catholic, over the course of the years by dint of the sacrifices made by people like John Starrs and the Derry brigade of Oglaigh na h’Eireann, became republicanised in a way it was never republicanised in the past,” he said.
The Deputy First Minister also paid tribute to the late Rosie Carlin from Creggan who died last week and was buried on Sunday. Mr McGuinness described her as “a lifelong supporter of the IRA, Sinn Fein and all things republican.”
13 May 2012
Republican vigilantes conducting a campaign of shootings and beatings have in the past year forced more than 200 young men out of Derry, which will become Britain’s City of Culture in 2013, the Guardian can reveal.
At least 85 men have been shot over the same period in “punishment” attacks by Republican Action Against Drugs (RAAD), according to police figures.
In some instances those targeted, mostly in their teens or early 20s, have been forced to turn up with a parent or relative for a pre-arranged appointment to be wounded for alleged drug dealing and other supposed crimes.
Martin McGuinness, the Provisional IRA ex-chief of staff turned deputy first minister of Northern Ireland, made an unprecedented move calling on the public in his native city to inform on the republican paramilitaries responsible. Figures from community organisations in Derry mediating between RAAD, the Real IRA and the victims show up to four men are being forced out of the city every week.
As Derry prepares to be the UK’s City of Culture, the families of those under attack, including the mother of a RAAD victim who was murdered in February, say they are existing “in a city of fear”.
Derry-based John Lindsay, author of “No Dope Here”, a new book on the violence, who has shown his research to the Guardian, said: “On average there are about four young men being forced out of the city by RAAD and other vigilante groups per week.
“The figures are being recorded by at least two community groups who are called into liaise between the organisations and the men.
“There are, on a conservative basis, more than 200 who were put out of Derry over the last 12 months. They are going to places as diverse as Belfast, Armagh, Dublin and of course England, anywhere where they have friends or relatives to flee to. And they are told if they don’t leave they will be shot or even killed.”
The vigilante campaign turned murderous last February when RAAD gunmen shot dead a former Derry boxer, Andrew Allen, 24, just across the border in a relative’s house in Co Donegal. His family say hardline republicans were so affronted when he stood up to them that they decided to kill him. Allen’s mother, Donna Smith, said the peace process no longer meant anything to her or her family.
“How can they call this the City of Culture when they (RAAD) are going around butchering children? Something has to be done, it has to be stopped before another family is sitting in the situation that we are in: me without a son, my other children without a brother and two small children without a father.”
There have been several demonstrations against the attacks, including one last month. Just before, an 18-year-old was shot in both legs.
Although some RAAD members are ex-IRA members who supported the end of its “war” against Britain and declined to join the anti-peace process Real IRA, McGuinness has issued his sternest condemnation yet of the vigilante campaign.
He said: “I think it is quite obvious the community is beginning to rise up against this and as a result of that it is quite clear that RAAD are about to make the biggest mistake of their lives. They are about to bite off more than they can chew because if the community in Derry turns against you then you are going absolutely nowhere.
“And I think they (RAAD) do need to be going somewhere and they need to be going to prison. And I would hope as a result of the rise in opposition to the activities of RAAD that people will come forward to give all the information they have about this group.”
McGuinness, the Provisional IRA’s second-in-command in the city on Bloody Sunday, described the republican vigilantes as “the new oppressors of the people of Derry”.
The police have vowed to prosecute those responsible. However, there have been no prosecutions for the “punishment” attacks” and no one has been charged in connection with Allen’s murder.
7 May 2012
Protestants and Catholics in Derry are being encouraged to take part in a number of events designed to foster good relations.
Workers and volunteers in the city are being invited to free training courses and dialogue events like conflict resolution for Community Relations Week 2012, from May 14-19.
Sue Divin, Derry City Council Community Relations Officer, told the Londonderry Sentinel: “We aim to ensure our training and dialogues are innovative, creative, relevant and interesting in their approach – no prior knowledge is needed.”
Discussions entitled ‘No Offence But?’ and ‘Deep Breaths, Small Steps’ are interactive dialogues and based on real case studies.
Alternatively the ‘Let’s Talk Sectarianism’ talk promises to be a lively and frank discussion. For more information visit www.derrycity.gov.uk/GoodRelations.
The Museum of Free Derry in the Bogside neighborhood
DERRY, Northern Ireland – Anguished screams, mournful wails, and fear-filled cries greet visitors to the Museum of Free Derry. This small, emotionally powerful museum chronicles the city’s role in The Troubles, as presented by those who lived in the Bogside neighborhood and experienced the conflicts, riots, and marches conducted in the name of civil rights.
For the residents of Bogside, a Catholic, working-class neighborhood, Bloody Sunday, Jan. 30, 1972, is a day that lives in infamy. About 15,000 people were reported to have marched in an anti-internment rally that day, and 27 were shot and 14 killed when British soldiers began shooting. The museum is sited at the heart of the worst violence.
“This is my story and my brother Michael’s story,’’ says John Kelly, the museum’s education and outreach officer. “Michael was the youngest of all to die on Bloody Sunday. He died for civil rights.’’ It’s impossible to ignore the recorded-live audio playing in the background, and, inside, the real-time video capturing the violence. Equally disturbing are the exhibits, comprising artifacts in their original state such as the blood-stained banner carried during the march and the hatred-filled letters received by the families after it.
Outside the museum are 13 murals, painted on the sides of neighborhood buildings. Most pay homage to the violent history and Bogside’s heroes; one envisions a bright future.
• Bloody Sunday Centre 55 Glenfada Park, 011-44-28-7136-0880, www.museumoffreederry.org, $4.70 adults.
30 April 2012
The mother of RAAD murder victim Andrew Allen told hundreds of people in Derry’s Guildhall Square on Saturday that Derry didn’t deserve to be called the City of Culture and said it would be more appropriate to give it the title ‘city of murderers’.
Donna Allen was speaking at a rally organised by campaign group ‘RAAD’ not in our name. The protest was organised after a death threat was delivered to local businessman Raymond Coyle at his business in the city earlier this week.
RAAD are also being blamed for the shooting of an 18-year-old who was shot in both knees in Creggan on Thursday evening after his mother was ordered to deliver him to a specific location.
Raymond Coyle’s family were also present at the rally. His sister-in-law Geraldine told protesters her brother-in-law had been demonised by the vigilante republican group and that his character had been taken away.
She said: “Raymond Coyle is a 54-year-old man who has worked hard all his life. He is a law abiding, anti-violence family man with three teenage children. He comes from a staunch republican family and his parents Johnny and Suzie Coyle spent their lives defending people here during the Troubles.
“Raymond is an ordinary decent human being and a socialist who has always stood up when he has seen human rights being abused. He became more prominent after the murder of Andrew Allen and because of that on Monday past the PSNI were sent to his shop by RAAD to warn him that he would be executed.
“He cannot defend himself so we are demanding that this threat is withdrawn,” she added.
Donna Allen, whose son Andrew was shot dead at his home in Buncrana in February, slammed RAAD members calling them “a gang of thugs” who were carrying out a “campaign of genocide” against the young men of Derry.
Mrs. Allen said: “First we had death threats, then murder and now shoot to order. For 40 years the people of this city fought for what is right and just, against the guns and the army. Myself and Andrew’s family will not sit back and Andrew’s children Lochlann and Katie will rise up in the next generation to get justice for their father,” she said.
Veteran civil rights campaigner Bernadette McAliskey was also among those who addressed the crowd along with SDLP MLA Colum Eastwood, local Trade Unionist Liam Gallagher and Michael Cooper who spoke on behalf of Sinn Fein.
Organiser Colm Bryce said: “No one wants to be here like this but we have to show our opposition to this killing and exiling.
21 April 2012
Construction workers at the Creevagh Hospital in 1941-42. (Copyright: Base One Museum/NARA)
Local history buffs are calling on Derry people to share their memories for a new museum commemorating the United States naval base in the city.
This years marks the 70th anniversary of the commissioning of ‘Base One Europe’ – the official name of the local naval operation.
1942 also saw the arrival of US Marines to provide protection for the base – the Americans’ largest in Europe during World War II.
A community group dedicated to preserving Derry’s links with both the US Navy and US Marine Corps is now appealing for people with stories, photographs and artefacts to come forward.
The US Navy and Marine Corps Beech Hill Friendship Association is establishing a museum room and archive at the Beech Hill Country House Hotel at Ardmore on the outskirts of the city.
Later this year, trails will be created within the grounds of the hotel which will reveal the remains of one of the main accommodation camps which served Base One Europe.
Between 1941 and 1945, thousands of civilian workers from Derry and Donegal helped both in the construction of Base One Europe and in its operation.
Researchers with the Association now wish to collect memories from those workers and their families to ensure this part of our local heritage is properly preserved for future generations.
The new museum and archive will be officially opened in November of this year with a symposium to be held along with the Royal Navy in May.
The US naval operating base in Derry consisted of sites right across the district. They included a repair base at Fort George, an ammunition dump at Fincairn Glen and a hospital at Creevagh. Oil supplies and stores were delivered at Lisahally and accommodation was largely split between two camps at Ardmore and Springtown.
During the Second World War, Derry provided a hugely important base for the US Navy and Marine Corps.
But exactly how pivotal a part the city played in the Allied victory remained a secret until just recently.
More than 5,000 documents – which ever since 1945 have been marked top secret and kept under lock and key in Washington – are being declassified for the new museum at the Beech Hill Hotel.
The woodland area around the Beech Hill played host to Base One Europe during the war when some 500 marines were stationed there.
A wealth of information, not just on the day to day running of the camp but of letters to and from servicemen, are being released by the US military.
The North’s Department of Agriculture and Rural Development has made a grant of £93,909 towards the cost of the museum.
One of the driving forces behind the campaign to have the military release the up until now classified material from the Beech Hill camp is American broadcaster Mary Pat Kelly.
“It started for me in 1976 when I was working for Good Morning America,” she explained. “Through them, I came to Derry to do a documentary and, at the time, it was all about the political situation whereas I wanted to tell the story of the people here instead.
“That’s when I found out that there were 300,000 Americans who had come through here during the war and I knew that I had something that Americans were going to be interested in. Through another connection, I was working with the US Marine Corps and most people think that they were only in the Pacific during the war, but instead I found out that they had a base here. I’ve met with some of them and they have such wonderful stories to tell.”
Last year, American Deputy Consul General to Northern Ireland Kevin Roland attended an event at the Beech Hill.
He said he was astonished to discover the importance of the Derry base to the Marine Corps during the Second World War.
He said: “The museum here of this kind will be a boon to any amateur historian and I’m sure to many, many people who had family serving in this part of the world during the war. It’s also part of the rich fabric of Derry’s history.”
Bob Hope, Al Jolson and First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt all visited the servicemen based there.
Anyone who wishes to contribute to the project should contact Mark Lusby at the Holywell Trust at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Tel: 07713 566719.
THE Progressive Unionist Party (PUP) have challenged the PSNI over its refusal to confirm or deny whether it holds information in relation to alleged Provisional IRA activity in Derry.
PUP concerns centre on a story run in the Londonderry Sentinel in September 2010 when people in the Gobnascale district claimed that identifiable members of the mainstream republican movement threatened local youths with handguns that they then fired in an attempt to deter them from building a bonfire in the district in August 2010.
At the time locals said that around 20 masked men appeared in the Campion Court area having disembarked from a white van. They began to remove materials intended for use at a bonfire before being challenged by local youths.
The vehicle that ferried the masked men was later abandoned causing a security alert in the district during which some homes were evacuated.
One 15-year-old girl challenged by the masked assailants said at the time that she was left terrified by the incident.
“One of the men grabbed me by the throat and had a gun in his hand. I couldn’t breath. It was really scary,” she said.
It was then claimed that as police arrived into the area the men removed their masks to blend in with local people, causing them to be identified as members of the mainstream republican movement. This view was backed by dissident republican groupings.
The Londonderry Sentinel subsequently launched a Freedom of Information (FoI) request to the PSNI about Provisional IRA activity in the city. The request centred on all reports, emails and memos sent to or sent by the PSNI or within the PSNI which make mention of the Provisional IRA being involved in criminal activity of any sort within G District from July 1, 2010 to July 28, 2011.
After an initial denial to grant the requested information, the Sentinel requested an internal review, citing that disclosing the information was in the public interest. But, the PSNI review did not find in the newspaper’s favour citing amongst other sections of the FoI Act that matters of national security outweigh the public interest.
However, PUP leader Billy Hutchinson has now voiced “serious concerns” on this decision and says his party plans to raise the issue with the PSNI Chief Constable and the Police Ombudsman.
Mr Hutchinson said: “A newspaper in Londonderry has stated that mainstream republicans were allegedly involved in an incident where 20 masked men chased youths from a bonfire in the city and shots were fired. A Freedom of Information request for information on criminal activity by the Provisional IRA in the city was refused, as was the appeal.
“This raises a number of important issues, particularly at a time when mainstream republicans were taking seats on new Police and Community Safety Partnerships,” he said.
The PUP leader continued by arguing that if the PSNI is to be open and accountable then its decisions must also be transparent.
Mr Hutchinson said: “I’m confused as to why the PSNI don’t feel they can share this information with the public.
“The public has a right to know if the Provisional IRA are engaging in criminal activity, particularly if Sinn Fein are in government. The release of this information is most certainly in the public interest and I would ask who is being protected by the PSNI stance, and most importantly,why?”
The PUP leader urged other unionist parties to also ask questions.
“The attitude of the PSNI towards this issue is in stark contrast to their attitude towards the loyalist community, where they will act on scurrilous claims by dubious witnesses, as evidenced in the recent super grass trial,” he claimed.
“They seem to have no problem wasting an estimated £10 million on the cost of this trial, yet they can’t be open and transparent about a simple FoI request.”
10 Apr 2012
The DUP is calling on the police to explain why no attempt was made to stop a dissident republican rally in Derry from taking place.
Six people were arrested and released without charge following the Easter Monday commemoration at City Cemetery, which was addressed by a masked spokesman for the Real IRA.
He read out a statement pledging that the organisation would continue its campaign of violence against the police and army in Northern Ireland.
The PSNI made no attempt to make arrests during the commemoration, with no officers visible on the ground – although they did monitor events from a helicopter hovering overhead.
It was only when the event ended that police took action, arresting six people who were taken to Antrim Serious Crime Suite for questioning.
Gregory Campbell, the DUP’s spokesman on security issues, told UTV the police need to adopt a more serious approach.
He said: “I think that unless we see some sort of response now in terms of further arrests, unless we see that leading to a non-repeat of this, then we have got to have a different approach.”
However, police said they “took the decision to run a low-key operational response” at the 32 County Sovereignty Movement commemoration.
Local area commander Chief Inspector Gary Eaton said: “Any alleged breaches of criminal law reported to police or coming to our attention will be rigorously and thoroughly investigated.
“The PSNI work to ensure that all their actions are appropriate, proportionate and lawful. Our priorities are to protect the public, preserve public order, uphold the human rights of all and gather evidence of any wrong-doing.”
Several hundred dissident republican supporters watched as the colour party marched to the cemetery on Monday, where wreaths were laid.
The spokesman, dressed in a balaclava and black combat gear, said Óglaigh na hÉireann would continue to attack “Crown forces” and “British interests and infrastructure”.
His words were met with applause by the crowd.
Police have appealed for anyone with information to come forward.
2 April 2012
A new state-of-the-art cross-community facility designed to promote reconciliation has been launched at Cityview Park in Derry’s Waterside.
The three-story 15,000 square foot Shared Future Centre is located at the interface between the mainly nationalist Top of the Hill community and the mainly unionist Irish Street community.
It will give access to training services and employment opportunities to both communities as well as engendering physical and economic regeneration in an area of high unemployment.
The Centre first opened its doors in January 2012 and already enjoys 80% occupancy with a diverse range of tenants.
Among those who’ve taken up residency are Derry City Council’s Good Relations and Sports Development Departments, Foyle Down’s Syndrome Trust, Waterside Neighbourhood Renewal Partnership and Customised Training Services.
The Waterside Development Trust and its city-based sister organisation, the Inner City Trust, provided £1 million of funding towards the project. The balance of £602,420 was provided by the International Fund for Ireland (IFI).
Speaking at Friday’s official launch, Dr Adrian Johnston, Chairman of the International Fund for Ireland, said: “The Fund’s investment is designed to provide the opportunity for people to come together in a shared space which nurtures respect, encourages openness and breaks down physical and mental barriers so that they can move forward with shared purpose and understanding.
“It brings together the key components of employment, job creation and cross-community collaboration. As I understand it, these are three very important ingredients in the peace making process and, in the long term, will ensure sustainability. Only then will we see real and lasting change in the community that will benefit both the current and future generations.”
Also speaking at the official opening was the Right Reverend Dr James Mehaffey, retired Church of Ireland Bishop of Derry and Raphoe and Chairman of the Inner City Trust, who likened the Shared Future Centre to the recently constructed Peace Bridge.
“It is more, much more than just a bridge,” he said. “Like this building, it is shared space, bringing people together, narrowing the divide that has traditionally been Cityside/Waterside, Catholic/Protestant, Us and Them. It is my hope that, like the Peace Bridge, this Centre will become a unifying force, a physical structure that yields social and economic benefits for the local community.”
Pat Walsh, Chairman of the Waterside Development Trust, added: “Ten years ago, Waterside Development Trust opened Glendermott Valley Business Park, which is also located in an interface area.
“At the time, some said that, while they admired our optimism, they didn’t hold much hope for the success of the project. But we had a vision and were prepared to take the risk – in partnership, of course with the local community.
“That risk has paid real dividends and broke new ground in cross community reconciliation.
“ Today this building represents another step in this city’s journey towards that vision.”
Republicans and loyalists trade accusations over trouble that erupted after match between Derry City and Linfield
21 Mar 2012
An investigation is under way into how a football match degenerated into a sectarian riot in Derry.
Republicans and loyalists have clashed over how the trouble outside Derry City’s Brandywell stadium erupted.
A Sinn Féin councillor in the city said residents living nearby were subjected to an “unprovoked attack” by supporters of the Belfast side Linfield after the game on Tuesday night.
The councillor, Patricia Logue, said local people had to endure a “sectarian rampage” after Linfield lost to Derry City 3-1 in the Irish cross-border Setanta Cup competition.
“They verbally abused the residents and the community activists who were around the area at the time. They threw bottles, bricks and bottles filled with urine and stones over the fence at the residents,” she said.
Witnesses said a small number of Linfield fans had smashed windows at private houses near the Derry ground.
The Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) said a number of missiles had been thrown during the match, with one arrest made in relation to the disorder.
The PSNI also confirmed a number of homes had been attacked and that missiles had been thrown at buses as they travelled along the Letterkenny Road, with damage caused to two buses. A segregation wall at Southend Park is believed to have been damaged as fans left the stadium, the PSNI added.
Derry City’s director, Tony O’Doherty, said another club director, Martin Mullan, had been forced to flee after trying to intervene with rival supporters.
“You could see Martin literally had to run for his life,” he said last night.
“It was a scandalous situation and one I never hope to see again at a football ground. I want to stress that was a number of Linfield fans; it was not all the Linfield fans. Some of the Linfield fans are going home on those buses absolutely disgusted.”
The leader of the Progressive Unionist party and Linfield fan Billy Hutchinson said he had been on a bus that had been targeted by people chanting “sectarian slogans”.
Hutchinson said: “Whenever we were coming out there were a number of people behind the PSNI riot squads chanting sectarian slogans and they attacked the buses with ballbearings and bricks. This one was hit and there was a pensioner sitting at the window who was very lucky he wasn’t hit.”
An elaborate security operation took place before the game with Linfield fans not allowed into the stadium until moments before kick-off. Linfield’s core support is among Belfast’s Protestant working class, particularly in the south of the city and in the loyalist heartland of the Shankill Road. Derry City’s Brandywell ground is situated in the predominantly nationalist side of the river Foyle.
22 March 2012
An aviation enthusiast believes he may have an explanation for the mystery night time noises that have been plaguing the north west over recent months.
Last month the ‘Journal’ first reported that scores of people in Derry are being kept awake by unexplained activity in the night sky – and the noise it creates.
SDLP MLA Pat Ramsey, who has revealed a letter he wrote to the north’s Secretary of State in relation to the noises has since been passed to the MOD, and has vowed to get to the bottom of the mystery.
He said if it is caused by police or military activity then the authorities must offer an explanation.
And then last week, the ‘Journal’ revealed people in Limavady were also being plagued by the “relentless and disturbing buzzing noise.”
Now north west aviation enthusiast Norman Thorpe says he might have an explanation.
Mr Thorpe says an aircraft he has spotted, albeit not “on a clear night, with a good lens”, could be an unmanned British reconnaissance aircraft used as part of defence company Thales UK’s ‘Watchkeeper project’.
“It could well be a Watchkeeper reconnaissance aircraft used quite often in Iraq and Afghanistan. That is one possibility. I saw it myself a while ago, at night-time, but I haven’t seen it since.
“I am waiting for a very clear night and a good lens to have a look at it to say for sure, but it flies so high up that it makes it very difficult to see. It could well be one of those surveillance planes.
“A Watchkeeper is a long narrow thing, and there is a propeller on it, which would explain the buzzing or droning sounds.”
Have you heard the noise? Let us know your experience below…(go onsite to comment)
Wednesday marks the 40th anniversary of the deaths of two Derry IRA volunteers who were shot dead by the British army in the Bogside in March 1972.
Their relatives, friends, and former comrades will gather in the Gasyard Wednesday evening to celebrate their lives. MICHAEL MCMONAGLE looks at the deaths and funerals of Colm Keenan and Eugene McGillan…
13 March 2012
The fortieth anniversaries of the shooting of two young Derry IRA men will be remembered in the city Wednesday evening.
19 year-old Colm Keenan and 18 year-old Eugene McGillan were shot dead by British soldiers in the Dove Gardens area of the Bogside on March 14, 1972. A gun battle was taking place between the IRA and the British Army at the time but the IRA, as well as a number of civilian eyewitnesses, have always maintained that both men were unarmed when they were killed.
Colm Keenan, a son of veteran Derry republican, Sean Keenan, was described as a lieutenant in the Derry brigade of the IRA at the time of his killing. He was also a close personal friend of Martin McGuinness.
Their shootings took place in the last day of the Widgery Tribunal into the events of Bloody Sunday and it was claimed at the Saville Inquiry by a former British Army intelligence officer that a group of military lawyers joined the troops on patrol in the Bogside that night and were involved in the gun battle.
Three British soldiers were also wounded during the gun battle.
The British account of the shooting incident said that troops were fired on from the junction of Elmwood Road and Stanley’s Walk and that one of them was hit in the chest and thigh. The soldiers also claimed they came under heavy machine gun fire from Maureen Square and two more soldiers were wounded. The British army said soldiers returned fire and were relieved by reinforcements in armoured personnel carriers.
The two young IRA men were taken into houses in the area after they had been shot. Local residents who attempted to assist the wounded teenagers insisted that neither was armed.
The funerals of both IRA men were held under what was described at the time as “one of the strictest security operations mounted in Derry since the Troubles began.”
Colm Keenan was buried with full military honours and his funeral was attended by more than 8,000 people while Eugene McGillan’s funeral was private.
Sean Keenan was released from Long Kesh, where he was interned at the time, to attend his son’s funeral.
Despite the increased security, which included a ring of RUC and military checkpoints being thrown up around the Bogside and Creggan, IRA Chief of Staff, Sean MacStiofan, and leading Belfast provisional Martin Meehan, managed to get into Derry for the funeral of Colm Keenan.
Mac Stiofan was introduced to deliver the oration by Martin Meehan, who described him as the Provisional IRA Chief of Staff.
In his oration, the IRA Chief of Staff, at the time one of the most wanted men in Ireland, paid tribute to the two Derry teenagers.
“Two more revolutionary soldiers have given their lives for their people. Just a few weeks ago 13 sons of Derry were shot dead and this week we mourn the deaths of two more. Next week, maybe next month, who knows who will be next?” he said.
He also said that only when Ireland as a whole country had peace could a proper tribute be paid to the men who died.
A representative of the Derry Command of the Provisional IRA also delivered an oration.
Speaking to reporters in the City Cemetery, Mr MacStiofan said the pair were two fine young men who were an outstanding example to all revolutionaries for their dedication to the cause of Irish freedom. Their death does not surprise me, as the best and the bravest are the first to fall.”
Colm Keenan’s coffin was flanked by an IRA guard of honour made of up men wearing black berets and green combat jackets. The honour guard included Martin McGuinness who is now the Deputy First Minister.
30 members of Cumann na mBan, dressed in uniform, and 15 members of Na Fianna Eireann also took part in the guard of honour. A volley of shots was fired over the coffin in the cemetery.
Following the deaths of the two men, the Provisional IRA in Derry released a statement paying tribute to them.
“They were two of the finest members of the Provisional IRA in the Derry area. They were close comrades and their deaths are deeply regretted by all those who are now proud to say they once served with them.
“They were brutally gunned down in cold blood,” the organisation said.
The Derry comhairle ceantair of Sinn Féin said; “After sustaining heavy losses the British chose to take their revenge on two unarmed men.
“We in Sinn Féin share in the grief and sorrow of their loved ones and friends and yet we feel proud, proud that we were associated with these true patriots of Ireland and proud that they, at such an early age, were regarded as so great a threat to the might of the British army that they were shot down in cold blood on the streets of their beloved Derry.
“Never as long as we have men of the calibre of Colm and Eugene will England ever conquer the Gaels.”
Eugene McGillan was a refrigeration engineer with a local firm where his foreman was Mitchel McLaughlin, later a Sinn Féin MLA. He often spent his weekends driving his work van to Long Kesh to take relatives to visit men who were interned. His last words before he died were ‘How’s Goodly?,’ a nickname he had given Colm Keenan.
To mark the anniversaries, the Bogside and Brandywell Monument Committee will hold a commemoration at the Lecky Road republican monument, opposite the Gasyard Centre, at 7pm Wednesday evening. They have appealed for as many people as possible to attend the commemoration event.
8 Mar 2012
A vigilante group known as Republican Action Against Drugs is being blamed for shooting two men in Derry – just hours after hundreds attended a rally protesting against RAAD.
The two victims, who are teenage cousins, were summoned to Gartan Square in Derry’s Bogside at about 11pm on Wednesday night for what was essentially a punishment shooting by appointment.
They arrived knowing what was about to happen.
One young man was shot in both ankles, the other in one leg. Both were taken to hospital, where their conditions are not believed to be life-threatening.
The gun attack came in answer to a rally in the Creggan Estate, which was called after RAAD issued a threat against four young men – including the two who were later to become victims of the shooting.
The mother of another of those threatened said her family is living in fear.
“I’m afraid that they’re going to come through the door and I have children here,” she said.
“People are afraid to stand up – we all have to get together. This has to be sorted out.”
Local politicians have united condemning such vigilantism and have called for RAAD to disband.
The group recently admitted to being behind the murder of Andrew Allen – a 24-year-old father-of-two originally from the Waterside, who was shot dead in his home near Buncrana last month.
Sinn Féin Foyle MLA Raymond McCartney said, despite the group’s name, the actions of the vigilantes were nothing to do with either drugs or republicanism.
“This is about flexing muscles following an altercation between young people and individuals identified as having connections to these vigilantes,” he said.
“It is about intimidating the youth in our communities. We now have the situation where mothers are being asked to bring their sons to locations to be shot by appointment.
“Well, Derry mothers will not be intimidated and they sent a strong, clear message from the rally in Creggan on Wednesday night and the protest in the Top of the Hill last month following the murder of Andrew Allen.”
SDLP Foyle MLA Pat Ramsey has called for anyone with information to contact the police as a matter of urgency.
He added: “I cannot stress enough how fed up the people of Derry are with attacks like these and we will be tireless in our campaign against the thugs who carried out last night’s shootings.”
Investigating officers have appealed for witnesses to the shootings to come forward.
Irish Daily Star
5 Mar 2012
Could Derry schoolboy Gordon Gallagher been saved if security force touts within the Provos had been doing their jobs properly in 1973?
Instead, a nine-year-old child with his whole life in front of him to enjoy was dispatched into eternity.
For four decades, the Provos tried to blame the British Army for activating the landmine which murdered Gordon.
Then, in a dramatic turnaround, the IRA finally admitted responsibility a matter of days ago for this wee lad’s brutal killing.
But the IRA’s admission has only served to open another can of worms concerning the so-called ‘Dirty War’ in the North between the security forces and terrorist gangs.
A well-placed republican source is adamant a senior Provo at the time of Gordon’s murder was an informer and would have given the green light for the planting of the landmine which killed the schoolboy.
Why did the tout not give the precise location of the landmine? Why did his handlers not act sooner on that information? More importantly, could Gordon’s horrific death been avoided?
And equally significantly, how many others died in the Troubles either to protect the identity of well-placed touts, or because information from those touts was not processed soon enough?
According to my republican source, the senior IRA figure who ordered the landmine attack had already been unmasked as an informer before internment was introduced in 1971.
However, because no IRA members had been killed, arrested, or weapons lost as a result of the tout’s information, the informer did not face the usual fate of being murdered or becoming one of the Disappeared.
The republican source told me: “When internment came, each person was brought individually before the Brits and given the offer that their jail term would be dictated by the amount of co-operation they gave.
“Everyone was given this offer, but the meeting would only last a few minutes if you refused the offer.”
The source emphasised the person who was later to become a senior figure in the Co Derry IRA and who oversaw the landmine attack which killed young Gordon was with the security forces “for hours, not minutes”.
A message was smuggled to the IRA leadership that this individual – who is now dead – was continuing to inform. My source said this warning was ignored by the Provo leadership.
“I was told there was not enough evidence to warrant an inquiry,” added the source.
Instead of placing this tout at arm’s length, the IRA leadership actually promoted him to a senior rank within the movement in 1972.
A year later, Gordon died in the blast at his Creggan home. The republican source also described the senior IRA man who oversaw the landmine attack as “the Derry equivalent of Denis Donaldson. He was a big time informer”.
Donaldson had been the head of Sinn Féin’s Stormont administration before being unmasked as a long-term British agent. He was eventually murdered at an isolated cottage in Donegal by dissident republicans.
The source also alleged that not all the cash raised through robberies went into the IRA’s coffers to run the terror organisation. Some was secretly given to the families of victims as so-called ‘compensation’, he claimed.
Makes you wonder what the IRA did with all the millions of pounds it got from the Northern Bank heist?
On one hand, the IRA admitting it killed wee Gordon may bring some closure to the family, but it also opens another chapter in the conflict – how many other informers are to be ‘outed’ in the Dirty War?
March 6, 2012
This article appeared in the March 5, 2012 edition of the Irish Daily Star.
1 March 2012
A new resource guide featuring case studies of successful cross-border and cross-community projects has been launched in Derry.
‘The Community Work Approach to Peace Building’ guide was unveiled at the city’s Playhouse Theatre.
Co-ordinated by the Community Workers’ Co-operative Donegal Network (DCWC), the guide has been designed to showcase the conflict resolution work that has been achieved by groups within the local community sector.
Denise Gallanagh-Wood, Chairperson of the Community Workers’ Co-operative, said: “We encourage all who participate in any activity that encourages peace building and development of community to be brave and take the risks that could make the difference for them and their communities.
“The theorists and peace builders we have quoted in the resource guide are not people who played safe.
“They are the people who stood up and out for change.
“They said and did something different. They are the ones we remember – the ones who guide us on this journey we take.”
Available from the Community Workers’ Co-operative website – www.cwc.ie – the resource guide explores the relationship between those involved in community work and those involved in peace building.
One of the projects featured in the guide is the Derry-based ‘Theatre of Witness’ project which works with individuals who have suffered extreme trauma, as a result of the conflict, to create a performance whereby they re-tell their own stories.
Another local project is the Derry-based ‘Gateway to Protestant Participation’ which has been designed to address issues of marginalisation and sectarianism within the Protestant community.
As part of the initiative, 30 different Protestant groups were recruited to a Capacity Building Programme, with each participating group given £6,000 to deliver a community development initiative for their local community.
Support has also been provided to help 15 existing Protestant community leaders complete an accredited community development diploma, in order to enhance their own community development skills.
By Sean McLaughlin
25 February 2012
Foyle Street Urban Park in the late 1980s – Joan Walsh-Smith’s award winning ‘City People’ sculpture can be seen on the perimeter wall on left of picture.
**See more photos here: www.smithsculptors.com
If you can remember Foyle Street Urban Park – with its impressive water fountain, domed bandstand and landscaped greens – then you’re sure to recall the 30 foot long sculpture which formed part of its perimeter wall, writes Sean McLaughlin.
City People’, as the artwork was known, was the brainchild of Joan Walsh and Charles Smith – two young Irish sculptors who, in the early 1970s, were working on their first ever major public art project.
The husband-and-wife team – living in Australia since the mid-1980s where they operate their own studio – are now regarded as among the world’s premier sculptors.
Their work – which is on display around the world – is so highly regarded that they were awarded the Australian Prime Minister’s Federal Centenary Medal in 2001.
However, it was back in the early 1970s that the young couple’s ‘City People’ project scooped top prize in the Arts Council of Northern Ireland’s prestigious ‘Art in Context’ competition.
The 30 foot long sculpture of interlocking lines and shapes carved in high relief would go on to form the focal point of the newly-developed urban park at Foyle Street.
So proud are the Irish couple of their Derry sculpture that it’s featured on their website – www.smithsculptors.com – alongside their more famous projects.
But, believe it not, the Smiths’ website is the only place where ‘City People’ still exists as it was unceremoniously bulldozed to make way for a car park.
As part of a radical redevelopment project at Foyle Street in the mid-1990s, ‘City People’ was simply torn down. It’s understood no effort was made to either relocate it or remove it and preserve it.
All that’s left of the sculpture is documentation and a few photographs.
It was just a few months ago that Joan Walsh-Smith queried the whereabouts of the sculpture after trying to locate it on Google street maps.
She says that, when she realised that Foyle Street had been redeveloped, she assumed her artwork had been relocated elsewhere.
Now, following an inquiry from the ‘Derry Journal’, Derry City Council has confirmed that ‘City people’ was “decommissioned” – a technical term for demolished.
Joan Walsh-Smith is, understandably, gobsmacked at the revelation: “I’m shocked and appalled to discover that my prize-winning major artwork has been ‘demolished’, evidently to make way for urban development,” she told the ‘Journal’.
“We were never consulted on any change to the site or the status or plans for my sculpture. No attempt was made, to our knowledge, to contact us. Certainly Derry City Council have not confirmed that they have done so. Even though we were living in Perth at this time, any correspondence to our old address in Ireland would have been forwarded to us.”
Mrs. Walsh-Smith, who has outlined her dismay in a letter to Derry City Council chief executive Sharon O’Connor, believes the decision to demolish the sculpture – while taken some time ago – is all the more alarming given Derry’s designation as City of Culture 2013.
She also insists that, contrary to claims by Derry City Council, her work was not “site specific.”
“Effectively, a ‘site specific artwork’ could not be placed anywhere other than where it was specifically designed for. This sculpture was not designed, ever, for Foyle Street Urban Park – or anywhere else in Derry for that matter. It was a ‘generic work’ in its own right which won a competition based on the concept of artworks which could be sited anywhere in a suitable urban context.
“The adjudicators had to find, with the collaboration of the artists, a suitable site somewhere in Northern Ireland. This took approximately 6-9 years and, eventually, Foyle Street Urban Park was suggested to me as a possible location. Ultimately, it was my decision, as the artist, to agree to this site.”
Mrs. Walsh-Smith also refutes claims that, when the Foyle Street site no longer became viable, the sculpture, in effect, became defunct with it.
“As the artist, I fully accept that, in the contemporary world, artworks inevitably have to be moved from time to time.
“However, this does not mean that they have to be destroyed which I consider to be a stupendous act of cultural vandalism.
“In fact, I would like to know who made this decision and upon what grounds was it made?”
She also rejects suggestions that the sculpture could not have been removed and relocated to another location without damaging it.
“The sculpture was comprised of segments of reinforced concrete 150 mm thick which is virtually indestructible. The only criteria for demolition that we can ascertain, technically, is cost which begs the question: how much is a public artwork worth?”
In her letter to Derry City Council, Mrs. Smith has asked that her sculpture be reinstated in the city.
“I believe this can quite easily be achieved from the moulds which are available in perfect condition.”
A spokesperson for Derry City Council explained that it had to undertake extensive research to determine the “current position” of the art piece.
The Council spokesperson added that it had informed Mrs. Smith that the ‘City People’ artwork was decommissioned following the redevelopment of the former Foyle Street Urban Park in the mid-1990s.
“The decision to decommission the artwork was made following an extensive assessment of the site where it was advised that it could not be removed without being damaged,” said the spokesperson
“Derry City Council fully acknowledges the important role the ‘City People’ artwork played in the city.
“The work is well documented and is held within the significant archive of the city’s rich history of the commissioning of temporary and major fixed public art. It is unfortunate that this piece of work was decommissioned and demolished and we fully acknowledge that, during its time, it served the public life of the city.
“The Council continues to demonstrate a civic commitment to public art and fully acknowledges the significance of celebrating art and culture as it prepares for becoming the first UK City of Culture in 2013.”
Meanwhile, a spokesperson for the Arts Council for Northern Ireland – which commissioned Joan Smith’s ‘City People’ sculpture as part of an Arts Council scheme in the 1970s – said: “The Arts Council would always want to safeguard pieces of public art and to ensure that the lifespan of any art commissioned through us justifies our initial funding investment.
“This work, jointly commissioned with Derry City Council, would already have satisfied these terms when it was removed from its site in the 1990s as part of the Foyle Street redevelopment by Derry City Council. The Arts Council is not aware of its current location.”
15 February 2012
Almost 6000 people are on the dole in Derry – the highest figure since August 1998.
New figures released today show that a total of 5998 are currently receiving unemployment related benefits in the city.
The unemployment rate in Derry (8.4% of the working age population) is more than double that of the rate in Antrim, Ards, Ballymena and North Down.
Across the north the number of unemployment benefit claimants increased by 600.
Enterprise minister Arlene Foster said: “This increase in claimants was the largest for several months and emphasises that there is still work to do in order to move on from the impact of the economic downturn.”
By Sean McLaughlin
Monday 13 February 2012
The early days of the Troubles affected the lives of thousands of Derry people as they attempted to get on with their daily routines in a society fast spiralling out of control, writes SEAN McLAUGHLIN.
View the picture special by clicking here
To the outside world, Northern Ireland, in 1970, was quickly becoming known as a place that time had left behind. It represented all that was negative, unacceptable and contradictory.
Of course, this image was, in many respects, quite wrong.
As these photographs from the 1970 archives of the ‘Derry Journal’ show, while confrontation was never far from the surface, life – for better or worse – still continued beyond the barricades.
As the 1960s bled into the 1970s, tensions between the two communities were running high and relations between nationalists and the security forces were deteriorating with every day.
The honeymoon period which the British Army had enjoyed since their arrival in the city in August 1969 was rapidly ending as, more and more, they came to be seen as an occupying force.
However, 1970 wasn’t all doom and gloom. It was, of course, the year in which a teenager from the Rossville Flats shot to stardom by winning the Eurovision Song Contest.
In March of that year, Rosemary Brown – or, Dana, as she was to become better known – wowed both judges and audience at the RAI Congrescentrum in Amsterdam with her rendition of ‘All Kinds of Everything’. The song became a million-seller and the singer an international star.
All in all, 1970 was a turning point in Northern Ireland.
Not only was the IRA splitting in two – into the Officials and the more militant Provisionals – Ian Paisley was elected to Westminster on a fundamentalist ticket, opposing the “soft” approach by Unionists like Terence O’Neill.
It was also the year in which the SDLP was formed out of the civil rights movement, spearheaded by charismatic young Derry man John Hume; 1970 also saw the notorious ‘B’ Specials replaced by the Ulster Defence Regiment (UDR).
However, given the explosion of political violence about to erupt across the North – peaking in 1972 when nearly 500 people, just over half of them civilians, lost their lives – in retrospect, 1970 could be said to mark the calm before the storm.
As the photographs in this special supplement testify, the story of Derry in 1970 really was ‘A Tale of Two Cities’: while the TV cameras focused on a society tearing itself apart, there was another world out there – one in which ordinary people lived their lives, albeit, in extraordinary circumstances.
These unique images bring Derry’s past to life in a way that written records alone cannot. You come face-to-face with people from the past and wonder where they came from, where they went and what their story is.
It is a fascinating and evocative journey through our recent past.