16 April 2005

BBC - History

War and Peace

The Belfast Blitz 1941

The aftermath of the Blitz in Belfast ©

On the evening of Easter Tuesday, 15 April 1941, 180 German bombers attacked Belfast and continued for several hours, dropping a total of 203 metric tons of bombs and 800 firebomb canisters on the city. All contact with a squadron of Hurricanes was lost and the Luftwaffe did not sustain a single loss. At the height of the raid a message was sent to de Valera by railway telegraph to send help. He agreed immediately and fire engines sped northwards. About a thousand people were killed. No city, save London, suffered more loss of life in one night's raid on the United Kingdom.

The Germans returned on the night of 4-5 May and inflicted devastating damage on the city's industries, but the loss of life was less than before since so many citizens had fled to the countryside. Sir Wilfred Spender estimated that 100,000 people had left the city before the second raid, and this figure rose to 220,000 by the end of May 1941. A month later Hitler began his invasion of Russia along a 900-mile front, and the Germans did not return to Northern Ireland. Because of its geographical position, Northern Ireland played a crucial role in the protection of convoys and Derry became the biggest anti-submarine base in the Atlantic.


McCartneys join families of other murder victims

16/04/2005 - 18:45:30

The sisters of the murdered Belfast man, Robert McCartney, are backing the families of two other murdered men in their quests for justice.

They have rallied with the relations of Mark Robinson and Jimmy McGinley, who were both allegedly killed by IRA members.

Over 200 people attended the rally in Derry.

The sisters have been the subjects of intimidation threats by republicans while handing out leaflets in the Short Strand area of Belfast.


Child escapes attempted abduction

A child has escaped from an apparent abduction attempt in Coleraine.

The 12-year-old boy was walking along the Cloyfin Road towards the Ballysally Road at about 1400 BST when a man in a silver saloon car pulled up beside him.

The man, who claimed to be a taxi driver, offered him a free lift home, which the boy declined.

The man then approached him for a second time and offered him sweets. When the boy again declined the man verbally abused him and drove off.

The man is described as having brown hair, thinning on top, a goatee beard and a long thin face.

He is believed to have been wearing a brown jumper.

Inspector Andy Lemon said the boy had done exactly the right thing.

"We would urge all parents or guardians to remind young people that they should never talk or go with strangers," Mr Lemon said.

Police want anyone who witnessed the incident, or can help them identify the car or the driver, to contact them on 028 70344122.


Croke Park opened to other sports

Croke Park is one of the finest stadiums in Europe

The Gaelic Athletic Association has taken an historic decision to allow Croke Park to be opened to soccer and rugby on a temporary basis.

Saturday's GAA Congress proposal was passed by 227 votes to 97.

The decision now opens the door to the Ireland rugby team and Republic of Ireland soccer side playing at the Dublin stadium.

There had the prospect of the teams being forced to play in Britain because of the redevelopment of Lansdowne Road.

The motion required a two-thirds majority to get through which translated to a figure of 217.

Therefore, the Sligo county board motion had 10 votes to spare.

The Sligo proposal called for Croke Park to be available to be "leased or hired" during the duration of the Lansdowne Road redevelopment.

Under the Sligo motion, Rule 42 will return to the GAA's statute book once the Lansdowne Road development is completed.

The redevelopment of Lansdowne Road, which is scheduled to begin later this year, is expected to take at least three years.

Prior to Saturday's vote, a number of delegates spoke out strongly against the proposal.

GAA president Sean Kelly supported the historic change

Ulster GAA president Micheal Greenan made an impassioned plea calling for the status quo to remain.

Cavan and Donegal were the only Ulster counties to vote in favour of allowing football and rugby to play at HQ, while all six of the northern counties were against any change.

In the other main business of the day, Kilkenny man Nicky Brennan defeated Christy Cooney in the GAA presidential election.

Brennan won the vote by 171 to 154 and he will assume the presidency after next year's Congress.

The Kilkenny man had favoured the opening of Croke Park to other sports while Cooney was against the historic move.

As regards other motions, Congress decided on Saturday morning to dispense with the clean pick-up which has been in operation during the Allianz National Football League.

It will remain in force for the rest of the National League but will then be dropped from the rules.

After the conclusion of the NFL, goalkeepers will continue to have the option of using a tee for kickouts.

Congress also decided to set-up a new arbitration body which, it is hoped, will reduce the likelihood of players using the courts to overturn disciplinary decisions.

The new Central Appeals Committee, which will officially come into existence after next year's Congress, will have a chairman and one representative from each province.

An American friend just sent me this email she received from a woman named Jane who works to save animals from suffering. These are some links you can use to help add your voice in protest against the seal slaughter off eastern Canada. As with any tragedy, you may think that the little you can do will mean nothing, but strength is in numbers, and it cannot hurt to let it be known that you are standing up for what is right. Many times people and organisations are coerced into doing the right thing because so many people speak out against them.

From the email:

First, go to http://www.seashepherd.org/ Click on Seal Hunts and look for the What you can do link. There is a lot of information here, whom to write, what to say, email addresses and etc.

Next, go to www.ifaw.org. Click on Speak Out Against Seal Hunt. Next, click on Take Action. This will take you to a page where you can write a letter and add your voice to the over 9,000 already there.

Also, go to www.protectseals.org and sign the Pledge.

The most important thing you can do is 'ask others'. Get as many people as you can to take a few minutes out of their day to speak out. It may do no good at all....but then again, miracles happen every day.

Daily Ireland

Bonfire sites claim risk

Image Hosted by ImageShack.us

District councils that make public land available to loyalists for bonfires are risking paying out huge compensation claims, legal experts warned yesterday.
The warning came after Belfast City Council agreed to hand over eight green-field sites and provide grants of up to £2,500 (€3,700) to loyalists wishing to celebrate July 12.
Bonfire site schemes similar to that introduced in Belfast currently operate in Coleraine and Ballymena.
Every bonfire burned on public land throughout the North is illegal, making it impossible for anyone injured at a bonfire to claim compensation.
However, with councils in Belfast, Coleraine and Ballymena now facilitating bonfires there is a legal argument that local government could be held responsible for injuries sustained by a person at a bonfire site.
North Belfast SDLP councillor and barrister Alban Maginness said: “There is an arguable case that councils could be deemed responsible for any injuries that occur at these bonfire sites.
“That would obviously have a major financial impact and I would urge the legal teams at various councils to consider this very carefully.
“In Belfast’s case, I would prefer we take out insurance to protect against any eventuality.”
Sinn Féin Assemblyman Fra McCann is another who insists councils operating bonfire schemes are leaving themselves open to a flood of compensation cases.
“The councils are going to have to be extremely careful,” he said. “If anyone is injured at a bonfire site, and then claims compensation, ratepayers could be forced to fork out thousands of pounds.”
The eight sites in Belfast earmarked for the council bonfire scheme are at Mount Vernon, Westland, Pitt Park, Inverary, Highfield, Sunningdale, Annadale and Taughmonagh.
A spokeswoman for Belfast City Council said: “It is incorrect to say that the council is making these sites available. These are sites that have traditionally been used for bonfires.
“The council does not accept that its involvement in developing a strategy with other statutory agencies and engaging with the local community in that process has any implications for its position in the context of liability for personal injury.”
The spokeswoman also admitted the council is currently embroiled in a legal dispute over an accident attributable to a bonfire site on council property.
Last year more than £1 million of taxpayers’ cash was spent dealing with problems caused by bonfires. This figure takes into account emergency services, clean-up and damage to the environment costs.
On July 12, 2004, the fire brigade had to attend 327 emergency calls related to bonfires, more than three times the amount of calls they have to deal with on a normal night.

Sinn Féin

Council backed Lough Foyle Ferry Company not paying workers minimum wage - Sinn Féin councillors demands answer

Published: 16 April, 2005

Sinn Féin Donegal County Councillor, Pádraig Mac Lochlainn and Limavady Borough Councillor, Anne Brolly have said they will be demanding answers as to how Lough Foyle Ferry Company subsidised by both councils has not been paying some of its staff the legal minimum wage. Cllr Mac Lochlainn has been informed that some staff working on the Magilligan/ Greencastle Ferry are receiving a wage of €5.60 per hour or €210 for an average 37.5 hour week, which is well below the legal minimum wage of €7 per hour in the 26 counties. The Lough Foyle Ferry Company is subsidised €108,000 by Donegal County Council and £55,000 by Limavady Borough Council per annum in a joint cross border tourism initiative to operate the Magilligan/ Greencastle Ferry.

Cllr Mac Lochlainn said:

"I have to say that as an elected member of Donegal County Council, I am extremely concerned at information I have received that this company, subsidised to the tune of €208,000 per annum by Donegal County Council to operate the Magilligan/ Greencastle Ferry and the Buncrana/ Rathmullan Ferry are currently not paying some of their workers the minimum wage. If my information is correct, then it is nothing short of an absolute disgrace. Particularly in the context of figures that Donegal County Council were presented with, outlining the great success of the Ferry so far. Failure by employers to pay their employees the minimum wage is nothing short of exploitation and we in Sinn Féin will not condone exploitation.

"I will now be asking the County Manager, Michael McLoone to immediately undertake an investigation in to this situation. My party colleague, Cllr Anne Brolly will be taking a similar initiative in Limavady Borough Council. If the allegations prove correct, then they must have serious repercussions for the company involved. At the very least, I will be demanding that all staff employed by the company immediately receive the minimum wage and then the increase to €7.65 per hour in May. As well as this, I will be demanding that any staff that have not received the minimum wage to date will be paid all the backdated wages owed to them before one more penny of tax payers money is given to this company.

"We will also be calling for a review of both Donegal County Council's and Limavady Borough Council's funding criteria to ensure that any business receiving subsidies is checked on its employment procedures in relation to paying the legal minimum wage required in each jurisdiction.

"I would also call on any workers who suspect that they are not being paid the legal minimum wage to immediately contact any of our elected representatives with their complaint."ENDS


Parents of seriously ill tot make plea for donors

16/04/2005 - 09:20:00

The parents of a desperately ill toddler who needs a life-saving double liver and bowel transplant have issued a plea for organ donors.

15-month-old Aaron Brady from Lucan, Co Dublin is battling a rare condition whereby he was born with his bowels and part of his stomach outside his body.

His parents, 29-year-old Scott Brady and 26-year-old Debbie Barry, are now pleading with parents whose children have died to remember that donated vital organs can save the lives of others.

Daily Ireland

Concern at new inquiry

Image Hosted by ImageShack.us

Serious concerns have been expressed about the British government’s inquiry into the murder of Co Armagh solicitor Rosemary Nelson, scheduled to open in Craigavon Civic Centre on Tuesday morning.
Mrs Nelson acted for a range of high-profile clients, including the Garvaghy Road Residents Coalition. She was killed outside her Lurgan home after a loyalist booby-trap bomb exploded under her car on March 15, 1999.
The murder followed years of official intimidation against Mrs Nelson, emanating from the RUC and British forces. Her killing subsequently increased widespread complaints of collusion.
Daily Ireland has learned that the inquiry has not yet contacted several of Mrs Nelson’s personal friends and prominent human-rights activists in whom she confided information about threats and intimidation.
Belfast solicitor Pádraigín Drinan, one of Mrs Nelson’s closest professional colleagues, yesterday claimed that the British government’s decision to establish an inquiry under the terms of the Police Act 1998 could present major obstacles to the search for truth.
Section 44 of the Police Act permits the secretary of state to establish an inquiry “into any matter connected with policing”.
It also vests the secretary of state with power to restrict the public nature of the inquiry — and its outcome — “so far as appears to him consistent with the public interest”.
The inquiry’s terms of reference were announced earlier this year but have recently been amended to include reference to the role of the British army and other state agencies.
This inclusion came about after pressure from a number of human-rights organisations and non-governmental organisations.
However, Ms Drinan has argued that there is still a range of concerns linked with the overarching framework of the inquiry.
“What needs to be looked at is the actual powers of the inquiry, which are set out in section 44 of the Police Act — which immediately restricts and limits the powers to investigate only those matters ‘connected with policing’,” Ms Drinan said.
“Accordingly, in my opinion, it doesn’t really matter that the British government has changed the terms of reference to include the army and other state agencies. They can only investigate any matter connected with policing.
“Therefore, if it is alleged that there was collusion between the RIR and loyalists, how is that connected with policing?
“If it is alleged that someone in the NIO refused Rosemary protection prior to her death, how is that connected with policing?
“Apart from that, if indications are given that the hearings will be in public, how can that be assured when the secretary of state, a party to the proceedings, can direct that the hearings be in private? It is the secretary of state who has the power under legislation, not the inquiry,” Ms Drinan said.
She said the legal representatives of Mrs Nelson’s family were restricted from even questioning witnesses
Ms Drinan asked: “What sort of inquiry is it when you aren’t allowed to ask questions? [Judge Peter] Cory got it right.
“How can someone party to the proceedings, in this case the secretary of state, be the person who has overall legislative control of the inquiry?”


Adams accuses minister of election interference

16/04/2005 - 11:55:14

Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams today accused the Foreign Affairs Minister Dermot Ahern of interfering in the Westminster election campaign in Northern Ireland.

Mr Adams said he has made a formal written complaint to the Irish Government over the minister visiting Eddie McGrady of the SDLP in his south Down constituency earlier this week.

A spokesman for Mr Ahern said: “Gerry Adams and the provisional leadership at the current time have a lot of serious issues to address as distinct from whether Dermot Ahern visited south Down.”

He added: “Dermot Ahern as Minister for Foreign Affairs visited in a long standing arrangement and he has every intention of continuing his visits to the North.”

Mr Adams rejected any explanations from the Government that Mr Ahern was simply fulfilling a long-standing engagement.

“It’s obviously intervention and not just by Fianna Fáil but by the Government,” Mr Adams told BBC radio.

“I have protested formally to the Government over this. Now it is no surprise, at every single election, Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael, the PDs and the Labour Party have all come and campaigned on behalf of the SDLP.

“They’ve been in most of the constituencies. So that’s par for the course.”

However, he added: “What is new is that a minister would come in, as Dermot Ahern did, and I think he made a mistake and that he overstepped his responsibility.”

Meanwhile, Irish Labour Party leader Pat Rabbitte joined SDLP head Mark Durkan in Derry today to urge voters to ensure the politician takes a seat in the forthcoming British general election.

Both politicians told the people of Derry that a vote for SDLP meant choosing a party that was determined the Good Friday Agreement would be implemented in full.

“A vote for the SDLP keeps on the positive pressure that has moved the IRA more in the last seven weeks than in the last seven years,” the Foyle Westminster candidate said.

“It is a vote for decent peace, real progress and the whole Agreement. It is a stronger vote for a party that is stronger on the right issues, for the right reasons.”

Mr Rabbitte joined the politician on the campaign trail at the Verbal Arts Centre in Derry as both parties belong to the Party of European Socialists.

Mr Durkan said the Labour leader stands strong with the SDLP for both Irish democracy and social justice.

He added: “We share a determination that the Good Friday Agreement will be implemented in full, so that we can get on with the work of delivering on jobs, healthcare, education and the environment – the issues that really matter to people across our island.”

He warned that politics will remain stuck in a rut if people stay home and do not vote.


**SDLP helps unionists fund 11th night bonfires

DUP delight at bonfire green light - £2.5k each for eight ‘pilot’ bonfire sites

North Belfast DUP councillor Ian Crozier has said that he is delighted that attempts to block a city hall funding scheme for 11th night bonfires failed at this week’s monthly council meeting.
Controversy had loomed over the pilot scheme over recent months which proposed to give eight bonfires £2500 each, on top of nearly £20,000 to retain the services of intermediary group Groundwork who work with loyalist communities on the ground.
The plans had evoked scathing criticism from the St Patrick’s Day Carnival Committee who had been rejected in their funding application by Unionist and Alliance councillors for what they see as a failure to treat both communities equally.
On Monday, Sinn Féin’s Fra McCann opposed the bonfire plans and suggested the plans go back to committee.
Party colleague Paul Maskey pointed out that the Director of Client Services had yet to answer in full all of Sinn Féin’s concerns about the details of the programme, including safety and legal queries.
However when the vote was taken it was with four SDLP abstention votes, including North Belfast councillor Alban Maginness’ vote, that the programme was carried: 13 for, 16 against and four abstentions. Speaking from Brussels today (Thursday) the MLA confirmed his party did abstain en bloc.
“Sinn Féin councillors tried to block the scheme out of sour grapes because they failed in their bid to secure funding for the St Patrick’s Day Carnival,” said Alban Maginness.
Ian Crozier said he was delighted with the decision.
The pilot scheme will now make resources available at eight bonfire sites, including Shore Crescent, Mount Vernon, Westland and Sunningdale in the north of the city.
Projects undertaken to date include the provision of hard standing for bonfire sites and storage facilities for materials.
“Groups in unionist communities across the city have shown considerable leadership in seeking to improve the way in which 11th night bonfires are managed,” Ian Crozier said.
“It would have been totally wrong for Belfast City Council to throw all of their hard work back in their faces.
“Government agencies worked for years to help the nationalist community to transform their August bonfires into major community events – millions of pounds have been invested in things like the West Belfast Festival. Unionist councillors are simply working to redress the balance.”
Sinn Féin councillor for Oldpark Margaret McClenaghan said she was disappointed by the decision.
“The SDLP have shown a complete lack of leadership and vision on this issue,” said Margaret McClenaghan.
“Through consultation with statutory bodies we drew up 11 concerns, many of which remain unanswered.
“Some of these concerns address financial responsibility of the city hall, control of site and environmental issues which were not answered in their entirety.
“The SDLP knew this clearly from the debate yet refused through their non-voting to have this taken back to committee until satisfactory answers were given.”

Journalist:: Staff Reporter


**I'm sure if the PISSNI wanted to break down the door and raid this house, they would have found it quickly enough.


As a house was being burgled three times during broad daylight, the PSNI were busy trying to find the Somerton Road on map!

North Belfast DUP councillor Ian Crozier has branded the PSNI’s handling of a recent burglary incident in his constituency as farcical and demanded an investigation by the Police Ombudsman Nuala O’Loan.
During the incident which took place a fortnight ago a house in the Somerton Road area was broken into by a gang of youths three times in a matter of a few hours in broad daylight.
On each occasion, a neighbour saw the youths and telephoned the PSNI at Tennant Street.
On each occasion, they failed to turn up.
When the witness called for a third time, they asked why the PSNI had not yet appeared, and were told that the police at Tennant Street had been unable to find the Somerton Road on a map.
According to the North Belfast Councillor, the PSNI eventually arrived more than two hours after they had first been called and went to the wrong house.
“When the eyewitness explained to me what had happened, I was absolutely appalled,” Ian Crozier said.
“I am sure that all right-thinking people will regard the police response to this incident as absolutely unacceptable and this is why I have written to Nuala O’Loan and asked her to look into it.
“What makes matters worse is that this incident came only a month after police took more than two hours to respond to the mugging of a pensioner in the same area and assured local people that it wouldn’t happen again.”
Recently, residents from the Ashfield, Queen Victoria Gardens and Somerton area have been trying to combat crime and anti-social behaviour in their neighbourhood.
The campaign was stepped up after a 76-year-old woman was assaulted during a burglary in which her car was stolen in October 2003.
“Local residents are to be commended for their positive approach to dealing with problems in their area, however morale will not be helped by the police consistently letting them down like this,” Ian Crozier said.
The PSNI says it was unable to comment on to matter due to the involvement of the Police Ombudsman.

Journalist:: Áine McEntee

Daily Ireland

Robinson as safe as houses

From the rolling Castlereagh Hills at one end, to the sprawling glass-fronted development of Belfast’s Laganside at the other, the parliamentary constituency of East Belfast has been represented by the same MP for 26 years.
Despite his stranglehold, however, the DUP’s 56-year-old Peter Robinson doesn’t quite have an overall majority – which, in itself, indicates the diverse nature of the area.
East Belfast may have lost its beachhead of anti-Catholic discrimination with the demise of the Harland and Wolff shipyard but it is dotted with wealthy districts populated by unionist civil servants, top judges and senior PSNI members, and it boasts Belfast City Airport, the Stormont Castle estate, the Titanic Quarter and the PSNI’s Knock headquarters among its key landmarks.
However, significant areas of loyalist and republican working class deprivation also blight the constituency.
Despite firm support within the unionist community from his constituency activism, Mr Robinson still fails to secure the confidence of the republican enclave of Short Strand.
A reputedly hardline politician, as the DUP’s deputy leader Mr Robinson has long played second-fiddle to the towering leadership of Ian Paisley.
But it is the deputy leader of the UUP, Reg Empey, who once again looks most likely to take second place in the forthcoming parliamentary contest.
Speaking yesterday Mr Robinson said his electoral objective is about focusing “on the threat to democracy” posed by Sinn Féin.
“It is clear that only the DUP can defeat Sinn Féin and ensure that republicans do not top the poll in Northern Ireland,” Mr Robinson said.
Concentrating directly on constituency matters, the UUP’s Reg Empey called for an urgent regeneration plan in East Belfast – particularly inner city areas.
“We’re the only part of Belfast where there are large tracts of land which are suitable for housing but which have not yet been built upon, despite growing demand for social housing,” Mr Empey said.
He also hinted that some revised form of Assembly structure – excluding Sinn Féin – could be established after the elections.
With good tactical voting and the bounce of a nine per cent rise in the 2003 Assembly elections he still argues he could take the seat.
One candidate who admits she won’t be elected is Sinn Féin’s Deborah Devenny. But the prominent Short Strand community worker said that her campaign must be seen as part of Sinn Féin’s overall “winning team” strategy.
“People need to remember that they’re voting for the only nationalist party who will work consistently to deliver a lasting peace and that this will involve fresh negotiations in the near future where republicans need a strong mandate,” Ms Devenny said.
SDLP candidate Mary Muldoon said that her campaign is focused specifically on “trying to bring communities together”.
“The key issue in East Belfast is Robinson has been there for a long time and I think it’s time he got a bit of a bloody nose – metaphorically speaking, of course,” Ms Muldoon said.
Another candidate building bridges in this election is the Alliance Party’s Naomi Long.
A serving Belfast city councillor, Ms Long said if “people can get a single candidate behind which they can unite, then Peter Robinson could be beaten.
“I believe that as a representative of the Alliance Party, we have the only opportunity for constituents from across the community to unite in opposition to the divisive politics the DUP represent,” Ms Long said.
Unlike previous elections, the PUP’s long-serving and popular leader David Ervine is not contesting East Belfast.
However, his 3,000 votes are unlikely to swing the outcome away from Peter Robinson.


Christian taxi firm closes down

Windows were broken at Pastor Jack McKee's home

A Christian taxi firm set up in the Shankill area of Belfast has closed down.

It was established earlier this year by Pastor Jack McKee and the New Life Fellowship church.

Earlier this week, windows in his home were smashed and his car was destroyed by a petrol bomb.

At the time, Pastor McKee said he had no doubt that this was linked to the firm. The pastor said he had brought jobs to the area with his company.

In a statement issued on Saturday, the firm said: "Due to further concerns expressed by the PSNI and for the sake of our drivers and their families, we the leadership of New Life Fellowship took the decision to close Liberty taxis.

"We will continue to promote and practice the Christian message of love and forgiveness and to pray for all who live and work within the Shankill community and our neighbouring communities."

Pastor McKee and his family were in bed when the attack on his home happened.

He said he saw three men running away, although he believes five or six may have been involved.

The police said they did not comment on the personal security of any individual.

However, a spokesman said if the PSNI believed a person needed to review their personal security they would always take steps to inform them.


Man accused over terrorist items

A 23-year-old man has been remanded in custody after being charged with having articles of use to terrorists.

Ian Alexander Kane, of Clougher Court, Bushmills, is accused of having a case containing two kilos of chemical powder which could be used in terrorist acts.

Mr Kane, who appeared at Ballymena Magistrates Court, is also accused of having a blank firing pistol.

The charges follow a number of house searches in Bushmills on Thursday. The accused made no reply to the charges.

No explosives were found during the search operation, which police said was linked to loyalist paramilitary activity.

However, officers are believed to have recovered a chemical substance they say could be used in bomb-making.

Other items, including a balaclava and combat-style clothing, were allegedly found.

Mr Kane is to appear before Coleraine Magistrates Court by video-link in three weeks time.

Belfast Telegraph

Crash 'copter pilot who drank wine is banned from flying

By Brendan McDaid
16 April 2005

An army pilot who admitted drinking wine just hours before ploughing into Lough Foyle has been banned from flying.

A military aircraft accident summary, obtained by the Telegraph, reveals that the pilot recalled drinking "about one to two glasses of wine" at a social function less than four hours before the crash.

The report also found that both the pilot and his passenger - who sustained serious injuries in the crash - were in civilian clothing.

It also says that no authorisation or brief for the flight to take place had been issued.

The two crew were able to free themselves from the Gazelle aircraft after it crashed in shallow water, 200 metres off the coast in the early hours of July 19, 2002.

The Army has confirmed that the AcComd (aircraft commander) pilot in charge of a helicopter, which was returning to the Ballykelly Army base, has now been court-martialled.

Speaking from Army headquarters in Lisburn, a spokesman said: "I can confirm that a pilot was court-martialled and disciplined as a result of this incident.

"The pilot concerned was permanently grounded and banned."

The report concludes: "The primary cause of the accident was determined as human factors, in that the AcComd suffered Type 1 spatial disorientation.

"This was due to a lack of attention to the external visual cues, and to the flight instruments, while distracted, fatigued and probably under the influence of alcohol."

A number of safety recommendations have now been made in the report.

DUP MP Gregory Campbell, who had raised questions over delays in the investigation at Westminster, yesterday said that he intended to ensure that recommendations in the report in light if the incident, were adhered to.

"It is my intention to pursue this matter, as, given the conclusions and what could have happened in the Limavady/Ballykelly area if the aircraft had come down in a populated area, it is imperative that every possible step is taken to prevent any reoccurrence," Mr Campbell said.

Belfast Telegraph

Searches are part of probe into money

By Jonathan McCambridge, Crime Correspondent
16 April 2005

Searches at the home of a UUP MLA are part of the same police operation which has seen the arrests of a deposed UDA figure and one of Belfast's leading estate agents.

Detectives removed a computer, bank statements, credit cards and mobile phones from the Gilnahirk Road home of Michael Copeland - a former chairman of Castlereagh District Policing Partnership.

They also visited his office at the headquarters of Castlereagh District Council and his Assembly office on the Albertbridge Road.

A police spokeswoman confirmed the searches were part of the major ongoing PSNI operation against an alleged money laundering ring.

She said: "As part of our investigation into money laundering police have carried out a number of searches in east Belfast and Castlereagh.

"Two Production Orders have been executed under the Proceeds of Crime Act in the Castlereagh and North Down areas."

The past fortnight has seen several raids by police investigating alleged money laundering.

Former Ulster Defence Association godfather, Jim Gray (47), was the first to be arrested - just days after he was ousted as one of the six so-called ruling "brigadiers" at the helm of the paramilitary group.

The flamboyant loyalist has been charged with possessing and concealing criminal property.

His girlfriend , 34-year-old Sharon Moss has also been charged with 16 counts of money laundering.

Prominent Belfast estate agent, Philip Johnston (39) - who runs a chain of six branches in the city - has also been charged with involvement in money laundering.

They have all denied the charges.

15 April 2005

Sinn Féin

Unionist Parties Pressed Over UUP Raid Response

Published: 15 April, 2005

East Belfast Sinn Féin Representative Deborah Devenny this afternoon contrasted the approach of unionist politicians to the raid on the UUP offices in Castlereagh with their approach to the raid on the Sinn Féin Offices in Stormont.

Ms Devenny said:

"When the Sinn Féin Offices in Stormont were raided the PSNI had briefed the media in advance to ensure maximum publicity and senior Special Branch figures including the DUPs Bill Lowry briefed selected members of the media on the operation.

"Today the offices of the UUP were raided in Castlereagh Council and the home of a senior elected representative was also raided as part of an investigation into money laundering. Correctly no media were informed until a fter the raid was completed. As republicans well know the fact that the PSNI raid a home or office does not imply any guilt. However what is stark is the approach to this news by the unionist political parties.

"In the wake of the Stormont raids despite the fact that nobody has been convicted of any offence and many of the original charges have since been dropped, the UUP collapsed the political institutions and the DUP made false allegation after false allegation accusing republicans of criminality and spying.

"It will seem to many within the broad nationalist community that an entirely different approach has been adopted today by the political leaders of unionism in the wake of these raids." ENDS

Sinn Féin

Gerry Adams responds to request from Dr. Kieran Deeny

Published: 15 April, 2005

Sinn Féin yesterday received an e-mail communication from the Independent Assembly member Kieran Deeny requesting that the Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams withdraw the West Tyrone MP Pat Doherty from the forthcoming election to allow Dr Deeny a free run in the election.

Mr Adams today responded to Dr. Deeny and the text of this letter is below.

15 April 05
Kieran Deeney
Constituency Office
51 Market Street
Omagh BT78 1EL

Kieran a chara

Thank you for your letter of 13 April 05. You ask that Sinn Fein stand aside in west Tyrone to allow you to contest the election as an independent. I see no reason why we should do that. If you want to be elected as MP for West Tyrone then you should go forward on the same basis as all other candidates.

You ask that I withdraw the Sinn Fein candidate and outgoing MP, Pat Doherty. You should be aware that, even if I wanted to do this - and I don't - Pat has been duly selected by an election convention and ratified by the Ard Chomhairle of our party. I have no authority to overturn this process.

You also know that Sinn Fein, led by Pat Doherty, has a record of solid campaigning on the issue of hospital services in Tyrone. You have been on joint delegations along with Pat and local MLA Barry McElduff to meet with the British Health Minister on this issue.

We have brought forward unified proposals on how to bridge the gap on acute service provision in Tyrone. Along with other parties and individuals Sinn Féin has set aside political differences to lobby along with the other six West Tyrone MLAs for a bridging of the 'Tyrone Gap'.

The issue of hospital services in Tyrone is a major priority for Pat Doherty. So also are efforts to rebuild the peace process, advance the all-Ireland agenda and continuing work on the wide range of other social and economic issues which Pat has campaigned on over the past number of years.

Sinn Fein provides an unrivalled constituency service for the people of West Tyrone, with two full time constituency offices in Omagh and Strabane and we offer effective political representation at all levels in the constituency.

This level of service for the people cannot be provided by an independent single candidate. Neither can you hope to take up a ministerial position on the Executive when the political institutions are put in place once again. For all these reasons you should throw your weight behind Pat Doherty's campaign.

Sinn Fein have an obligation to the people of West Tyrone who have put us into a leadership role in the constituency to once again offer them the choice of voting for our party on 5th May. If the people decide once again to put their faith in Pat Doherty then I am sure that Pat and my other colleagues in West Tyrone will look forward to continuing to work with you to address the issue of health provision and of course the other issues which matter to people in that area.

Good luck

Gerry Adams MP

Belfast Telegraph

Bar murder question for SF
'How many members were in pub?'

By Chris Thornton
15 April 2005

Sinn Fein were told today to own up to how many members of their party were in Magennis's bar on the night Robert McCartney was murdered.

SDLP deputy leader Alasdair McDonnell made the call after it emerged that Sinn Fein members made up more than a tenth of the 70 people in the bar when IRA members took part in the fatal attack on Mr McCartney and a friend.

A handful of people have resigned from Sinn Fein as a result of their suspensions over their murder, the party has confirmed.

A Sinn Fein spokesman has said that "one or two" people had left the party after being suspended pending the investigation into the attack, although information released by Sinn Fein indicates at least three have resigned.

Six Sinn Fein members remain in suspension, the party said.

That means more than a tenth of the 70-strong crowd in the Magennis's Whiskey Cafe when the attack began were Sinn Fein members at the time.

But a party spokesman said it was not known how many of its members were in the bar.

Dr McDonnell said it is now incumbent on Sinn Fein to say how many of its members were in the bar.

"They need to let us know exactly how many people in the bar were members of Sinn Fein," he said.

Yesterday it emerged that the party's two intended council candidates who were in the bar on January 30, the night of the killing, have been placed among those suspended.

Sinn Fein Councillor Joe O'Donnell said Deirdre Hargey and Cora Groogan were not included in the party's final list of council candidates because "anyone suspended cannot stand as a candidate".

Those two were not among the seven people initially suspended by the party on March 3.

Ms Hargey spoke at the party's ard fheis on March 5, two days after the suspensions were announced.

Sinn Fein had intended to run her as a council candidate in South Belfast, while Ms Groogan was reportedly meant to run in Castlereagh.

The two women were not among the seven names of party members in the bar passed to Sinn Fein by the McCartney family. Paula McCartney, one of the murder victim's sisters, said the family only learned on Wednesday that Ms Hargey, who works for the Markets Development Association, had been suspended. Their suspensions are at least the eighth and ninth confirmed by the party, suggesting at least three people have left Sinn Fein.

Former Sinn Fein councillor Sean Hayes was also later revealed to be in the bar. His name was not among the seven passed to Sinn Fein by the McCartneys, but Sinn Fein have not indicated whether he has been suspended.

Both Ms Groogan and Ms Hargey have reportedly made statements about events around the killing to their solicitors. Those statements were then passed to the Police Ombudsman, who passed them to the PSNI. Police sources have indicated that those statements have little or no evidential value, indicating that they do not deal with the murder. The McCartneys say Ms Groogan gave a fuller account of events in the presence of a taxi driver on the night of the murder.

Meanwhile, the McCartneys say they intend to go ahead with a vigil at the scene of the murder on Sunday at 3pm, in spite of threats made to them on Wednesday.

The sisters of Mr McCartney and his fiancee, Bridgeen Hagans, said they were distributing leaflets about the vigil in the Short Strand area of Belfast on Wednesday.

Belfast Telegraph

Prison wrong to restrict Irish language: judge

By David Gordon
15 April 2005

A judge has ruled that a republican prisoner's human rights were breached by a restriction on the use of the Irish language in jail craft works.

Maghaberry Prison inmate Conor Casey launched his High Court judicial review battle after some of his drawings were confiscated at the high security jail near Lisburn.

His legal team argued that Prison Service rules on craft works contravened the European Convention of Human Rights.

The guidelines on crafts made in cells state that the "use of any language other than English will be restricted to a simple readily understood inscription".

They also warn that items which do not comply with this restriction "may not be allowed out of the prison".

High Court judge Mr Justice Deeny concluded that this rule was unlawful, as it breached the right to freedom of expression under the European Convention.

Paramilitary inmates at Maghaberry are permitted, as a jail privilege, to produce craftworks in their own cells, for circulation by supporters in the outside world.

Materials required for the artistic work may be supplied by the Governor or purchased from the prison tuck shop.

In his ruling, Mr Justice Deeny referred to evidence given by a prison governor, Ian Johnston.

Mr Johnston stated that the jail employs one or more persons who can translate Irish.

This showed that the prison was in a position to translate more than a "simple readily understood inscription" within its own "reasonable resources", the judge said.

The governor also stated in his evidence that he would not have confiscated two items that were taken from inmate Conor Casey - drawings of the General Post Office in Dublin during the 1916 Rising and the emblem of the County Tyrone Gaelic Athletic Association, which included a few words in Irish.

The judge said Mr Johnston's acknowledgement "does appear to indicate that at times the policy is either ambiguous or is misinterpreted by some prison officers".

Mr Justice Deeny concluded his ruling by suggesting that the rules should state: "The use of language which cannot readily be understood by the application of the prison's current resources will not be permitted."


Money laundering probe police raid UUP offices

15/04/2005 - 15:52:32

Ulster Unionist MLA Michael Copeland

Ulster Unionist Party offices were raided today as part of a continuing police investigation into money laundering.

The party office inside the Castlereagh Borough Council office was visited.

A party spokesman said computer equipment and paper files were removed.

The home of Ulster Unionist MLA Michael Copeland - also a member of castlereagh Council - was also raided by the police, party sources said.

A Police Service spokesman said: “As part of our investigation into money laundering police have carried out a number of searches in east Belfast and Castlereagh.

“Two Production Orders have been executed under the Proceeds of Crime Act in the Castlereagh and North Down areas.”

There have been a series of raids and arrests in east Belfast and its outskirts in the past fortnight as part of the police money laundering investigation.

Former Ulster Defence Association “godfather”, Jim Gray, 47, was the first to be arrested – just days after he was ousted as one of six so-called ruling “brigadiers”.

The flamboyant loyalist has been accused of possessing and concealing criminal property.

His girlfriend, 34-year-old Sharon Moss, has also been charged with 16 counts of money laundering.

A prominent Belfast estate agent, Philip Johnston, 39, – who runs a chain of six branches – was also charged of involvement in money laundering by the same team of detectives who charged Gray.

Daily Ireland

McCartneys’ ‘hostile crowd’ claims rejected

The Short Strand residents involved in an exchange of words with the McCartney family on Wednesday afternoon have described as “rubbish" media reports that a dozen people were involved.
Reports in yesterday’s media said a dozen republicans surrounded the McCartney sisters as they handed out leaflets appealing for information about their brother Robert’s murder.
Robert McCartney was killed outside Magennis's Bar on 30 January in a row with republicans.
Paula McCartney said the crowd gathered and “screamed abuse" at the family.
She also said one of the crowd had threatened to put her out of the area and senior republicans were among the crowd.
However, Short Strand resident Mary King, who was involved in the incident, said only four people were involved – herself, her sister and two children.
“These reports are completely false," she said.
“The only people there was me, my sister and two kids. My sister was handed a leaflet by the McCartneys and she let it drop to the ground, as is her choice.
“As soon as that happened the McCartneys started shouting abuse and one of them behaved really aggressively. They were shouting and swearing at us and then my son came and told us to leave it.
“I couldn’t believe it when I read there was a dozen people there and that threats had been made. Words were exchanged for sure, but that was it and it came from both sides.
“You can take it from me, I was there and I know what exactly what happened. There was no crowd of men, no senior republicans or otherwise.”
However, Paula McCartney maintained yesterday that a “hostile crowd gathered" and that insults about her dead brother triggered the row.
“They started calling Robert a coward and said the men who killed him were real men. They are fascists, we told them they should be ashamed of themselves. The men joined in and starting shouting sexual abuse at us. It was a disgrace, we are going through enough without this sort of behaviour.”


South Editorial

Taking the heart out of a community

The news that Belvoir Library is to fall under the axe of the South Eastern Library Board has rightly infuriated residents of the already under-resourced estate.

In this Playstation age parents and teachers struggle to lure children away from the front of a television and get them interested in using their imagination and extending their vocabulary through the world of books.

A library is more than just a place to pick up a holiday read. They also supply internet services that are widely used by children whose families find it impossible to keep up with the costs of modern technology that is not just required but expected in this modern age.

The money saved by shutting not just Belvoir but three other libraries including Dunmurry cannot compare to the massive negative effect that these closures will have on the communities that rely on them.

A library helps to shape a community from the pensioners who pop in several times a week for a chat and a book to help alleviate their loneliness to the avid young bookworm with a thirst for knowledge and the young student, struggling to achieve their full potential.

Books such as the Harry Potter series helped reintroduce our children and young people to the magical literary world. However just when we should be celebrating this revival instead the South Eastern Board are preparing to close the door in the faces of our children.

Building a community is no easy task in areas where resources have been stripped, anti-social behaviour soars, the elderly are left to fend for themselves, lonely and isolated. Only by saving our vital services can we begin to form friendships and a community spirit that ensures areas such as Belvoir, that have suffered from poor infrastructure for years, can claw their way back.

The accountants and number crunchers who are silently plotting to close our libraries need to get out of their ivory towers and visit the very places they are planning to close and see just what the effects of their decisions will have on future generations.


Belvoir Library is set to close

by Victoria McMahon

Despite claims by the South Eastern Board that no decision has been made on the future of Belvoir Library an internal memo leaked to the South Belfast News has confirmed that the service, in the already under-resourced estate, is to be axed as part of widespread cutbacks

According to an internal memo obtained by the SBN, circulated to NIPSA staff involved in discussions with the Board, Belvoir branch is amongst four other libraries named on a list and it was warned, "there may be others."

Tullycarnet, Braniel, Gilnahirk and Dunmurry were the other library branches named in the memo.

Despite receiving a 7 per cent rise in their budget for the forthcoming year from DCAL (Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure) the South Eastern Board has estimated a shortfall of £430,000. It is understood the cash will be found by closing the five libraries named.

The memo detailed that following meetings between Nipsa Branch 518 committee reps and senior management of the Board, "It is intended there will be branch closures as part of an internal review undertaken by Library senior management."

As news of the decision spread infuriated Belvoir residents have been meeting to discuss what action can be taken.

"Belvoir is easy pickings," said Brian Dunwoody, Secretary of the area’s Community Association. "The local community will be fighting this tooth and nail. The general impression is very black for the library and we will not be waiting for the Board to make their decision public in June. This is a real blow to the heart of the community here."

Mr Dunwoody said he is calling for face-to-face meetings between the Board and local people to put their views across in the hope of reversing the decision.

"I don’t think they have thought about this decision at all. It’s no use saying for us to go to the nearest library up the road if Belvoir closes because there is no direct transport to it. How can children and pensioners get to it?” he asked.

Beth Porter, Chief Librarian for the South Eastern Board confirmed that despite the increase in the Board’s budget there would be a cash shortfall. She said she could not confirm which libraries would be closing. She confirmed the Board is not able to sustain all 25 libraries on their budget, as £430,000 must be found for stock.

"We [the Board] have nothing on paper. NISPA have drawn their own conclusions on the matter."

She added, "But we can’t sustain everything as it is now."
Ms Porter said the increase in their budget had been ‘wiped out’ by increased staffing costs.

"We need to find about £430,000 for the stock budget. The effect on staff budgets is inevitable and will have some effect on our ability to keep all libraries open," she confirmed. “We are faced with difficult decisions. No matter what way you look at it, it comes back to the number of libraries. We are in a very grave position."

The Nipsa memo reaffirms the situation as it also states "relocation of staff in branches and library headquarters is inevitable".

Belvoir resident Gordon Davis said, "To keep the library opened would cost buttons. The whole estate here uses it. I was there five, 10 minutes ago and it was filled with a lot of pensioners. School kids come in after school and here the story telling it is always bunged with kids."

According to the Belvoir resident the facilities at the library helped him get on to the ‘Bridge to Employment’ programme and he is hopeful for employment in the future. “It would be such a loss," he said.

South Belfast MLA Esmond Birnie said, "It’s a bad decision and I hope it can be reconsidered."

The UUP candidate for Balmoral added, "One in five adults are functionally illiterate in Northern Ireland and that’s just at the moment. Obviously shutting libraries near communities with various degrees of social deprivation is going in the wrong direction.

"One of the strengths of Belvoir Library is that it has a high usage by the people in the area so it seems perverse that they are closing a library in an area that uses and needs its services."

According to the UUP MLA staff at Belvoir library have been warned their positions are under threat.

Journalist:: Staff Reporter


Number of police agents in terror groups 'declining'

15/04/2005 - 12:08:50

Around a quarter of police agents operating in Northern Ireland’s paramilitaries have been deactivated, a nationalist member of the Policing Board claimed today.

During a lunch of a nationalist SDLP document outlining six steps to crack down on loyalist paramilitaries, West Belfast Assembly member Alex Attwood claimed headway was being made in the fight against both loyalist and republican organised crime.

Mr Attwood said: “I think that recent events across the North (of Ireland) demonstrate that the PSNI (the Police Service of Northern Ireland) under the leadership of Hugh Orde is now beginning to tackle, pursue and prosecute those involved in organised crime, both loyalist and republican.

“Recent events in the courts and the in the public domain are firm proof and the surest evidence that that is beginning to change.

“The fact that the SDLP also drove a review of police agents over the last year arising from various reports including Stevens (an investigation into allegations of collusion between the security forces and loyalist paramilitaries by former Metropolitan Police Commissioner, Sir John Stevens) and the fact that it is my understanding that in or around 25% of police agents have been closed down or deactivated is proof that the policing culture of the past is being replaced by a better culture now and in the future.

“The SDLP, through the Policing Board and every other means available to us, will ensure that never again you have a Brian Nelson case, you never again will have a situation where loyalist agents involved in fierce criminality have any relationship with the forces of law and justice within the state.”


Probe into police station rape claim

15/04/2005 - 11:43:12

A claim that a police officer raped a junior colleague in a Belfast police station is being investigated by the Police Service of Northern Ireland, it was learned today.

The female officer is understood to have made the allegation against a superior officer following an incident in recent weeks at a station in the east of the city.

A PSNI spokeswoman confirmed: “The police are investigating an allegation of a serious sexual assault in the Castlereagh area.”

PSNI Chief Constable Hugh Orde is being kept informed about the investigation into the alleged rape, which is understood to have occurred after an evening event at a police station.

Irish Independent

**Via News Hound

McDowell accuses Ferris of IRA links

15 April 2005

SINN Fein TD Martin Ferris and Justice Minister Michael McDowell clashed in the Dail yesterday with the minister claiming Mr Ferris was a member of the Army Council of the IRA.

It occurred during a debate on the Garda Siochana Bill as Mr Ferris was making his contribution and setting out his party's views on policing.

Mr Ferris said Sinn Fein aspired to establishing an all-Ireland police service that was among the best in the world. They were ambitious to create real security in their communities and had positive policy alternatives to offer, he said.

And he added: "I will defend absolutely my right, and that of each Sinn Fein deputy, to speak on this bill and the issue of policing."Mr Ferris referred to a member of Sinn Fein, the late John O'Shea, whose family wanted an independent investigation into the circumstances of his death.

"Is it because he is a member of Sinn Fein that his family was denied that," Mr Ferris said to the minister. He said people elected him and the other Sinn Fein members and Mr McDowell had no right to treat them as second-class citizens.

Mr McDowell added: "I have a right to point out that people like the deputy got elected under false pretences. The deputy never told the people that he was a member of the Army Council."

Mr Ferris said the minister had abused his office in denying Sinn Fein a response to the case he referred to. The debate on the Bill continues.

Geraldine Collins


Car device was 'crude but viable'

The civic centre was staging a performance of a musical

A bomb left near a crowded civic centre "had the potential to cause serious injury or worse," police in County Antrim have warned.

The "crude but viable" device was left in a car outside Lisburn's Lagan Valley Island Civic Centre.

About 350 cast and audience members at a performance of the musical Carousel by a local theatre group had to leave following an anonymous phoned warning.

Army bomb experts dismantled the device and removed it for further examination.

The alert began at about 2010 BST on Thursday when police were warned that a bomb would explode in 25 minutes.

The area remained cordoned off until 0830 BST on Friday.


Police have appealed for anyone who may have witnessed suspicious activity to contact them.

Condemning the attack, Chief Superintendent Ken Henning said it had "the potential to cause serious injury or worse to any member of the public at the centre".

He said the bombers had nothing to offer the people of Lisburn apart from "inconvenience, disruption and the potential to maim and kill".

He added: "It's an absolute disgrace."

One of those moved from the building, Patricia Carleton, said it was "most unfortunate".

"My two grand-daughters are involved in the show," she said.

"They just had to leave all their clothes, as had all the cast."

Roy McIlwrath of Lisnagarvey Operatic Society which was putting on the show, said they were half-way through the performance when the alarm was raised.

"It was a bitterly cold night and the cast, as you would expect, were out in costume, including about 16 young people appearing in the show," he said.

"Some of them were out in their bare feet, with very little on but the costumes they were wearing - it became a priority to look after them."


Police seize bomb-making equipment

15/04/2005 - 07:38:10

Bomb-making equipment has been seized during raids in Northern Ireland, police said today.

The find was made when a number of houses in the Co Antrim village of Bushmills were searched last night.

Police said the operation was part of an ongoing investigation into the activities of loyalist paramilitaries in the area.

No explosives were found but officers took away substances which, when mixed together, would be explosive, said the spokesman.

A blank firing pistol and other items which could be of use to terrorists, including balaclavas and combat-style, clothing were also seized.

No arrests were made during the operation.

An Phoblacht

UDA internal feud escalates

Image Hosted by ImageShack.us
Andre Shoukri

Sources close to the UDA are warning of an internal power struggle within the loyalist paramilitary organisation.

East Belfast UDA boss Jim Gray was ousted from his position last week and there is now speculation that UDA leaders in North and West Belfast, Andre Shoukri (pictured) and Jim Spence, are also under threat.

Reports say that South Belfast UDA leader Jackie McDonald is vying for overall control of the organisation. The convicted extortionist is attempting to control the entire UDA, which has been traditionally split into six brigades areas, North, South, West and East Belfast, South Antrim and Derry/North Antrim.

Shoukri has been accused of skimming money from UDA funds to pay for his gambling habit, while Spence has been accused of being a Special Branch agent.

Spence incurred the wrath of rank-and-file members of the West Belfast UDA when he stood down a number of longstanding members in 2003.

However, attempts to oust 26-year-old Shoukri in the north of the city could be difficult, as he has the backing of young hardliners in the Tigers Bay, Westland and Ballysillan areas.

Meanwhile, former East Belfast brigadier Gray appeared at Banbridge Magistrates Court on Saturday charged with possession of criminal property and concealment of criminal property, contrary to the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002.

The court was told that, when arrested outside Loughbrickland on Friday, Gray had in his possession a Northern Bank draft for €10,000 and £2,720 and €270 in notes.

When charged on the first count, Gray replied that he could account for all the possessions found on him, but said he did not understand the second charge.

Magistrate Paul Copeland remanded him in custody to re-appear before Banbridge Magistrate Court by video link on Thursday.

An Phoblacht

McNeela and Darcy die on hunger strike - Remembering the Past

In the third week of April 1940, 65 years ago, Seán McNeela and Tony Darcy died on hunger strike.

"When Seán Russell became Chief of Staff of the IRA in 1938, he immediately appointed Seán McNeela as OC (Officer in Command) England and Tony Darcy as OC of the Western Command.

After a few months of tense activity preparing for the forthcoming bombing campaign, Seán McNeela was arrested and sentenced to nine months imprisonment. He returned to Ireland in 1939 and was appointed Director of Publicity and started to produce a weekly internal newspaper called War News. Seán was arrested three weeks later with members of the IRA's Radio Broadcast Staff and imprisoned in Mountjoy Jail. He was OC of the prisoners from February 1940 and shared a cell with Tony Darcy, who had been arrested at a GHQ meeting in 40 Parnell Square in Dublin. Darcy was serving a three-month sentence for refusing to either account for his movements or give his name and address when he was arrested.

A crisis developed in the prison when Nicky Doherty, of Julianstown, County Meath, was sentenced to five years penal servitude. Instead of being transferred to Arbour Hill (where other republican prisoners had political status), he was lodged in the criminal section of Mountjoy.

Seán, as OC of republican prisoners, met the governor of the jail and requested that Nicky be transferred to Arbour Hill on the grounds that he was a political prisoner. The request was ignored.

Seán and his prison council met to consider the situation: it was decided they would go on hunger strike until the demand was accepted.

Four men volunteered to go on hunger strike with McNeela and Darcy. They were Tomás Mac Curtáin, Cork (only son of the martyred Lord Mayor); Jack Plunkett, Dublin (son of Count Plunkett and brother of Joseph Mary Plunkett); Tommy Grogan, Drogheda, County Louth; and Michael Traynor, Belfast (later Ard-Rúnaí of Sinn Féin).

Seven days after the commencement of the hunger strike, Special Branch officers came to take Seán to Collins Barracks for trial before the Special Court. Seán refused to go. They told him they'd take him by force. A hasty meeting of the prison council was held to decide on how to resist.

Barricades were hastily erected in the D Wing of the jail. Beds, tables and mattresses were piled on top of each other and general preparations were made to resist the removal of Seán, their OC.

A large contingent of the Gardaí arrived, together with the Special Branch at full strength. The Gardaí charged the barricades with batons; the Special Branch men kept to the rear and looked on while the Gardaí were forced to retire by prisoners armed with chair legs.

The most effective weapon possessed by the prisoners was a quantity of lime, liquefied by some Mayo men and flung in the faces of the charging Gardaí. It was reminiscent of the evictions of the Land League days.

Finally, the fire hydrants were brought into use and the force of the water from the hoses broke down everything before them. The barricade was toppled and the prisoners, drenched to the skin, could not resist the pressure of the water; they were forced to take cover in the cells.

Tony Darcy and Seán McNeela got into a cell and closed the door. After a few minutes it was burst open and in rushed about five Gardaí. Tony, standing under the window facing the door, raised his hand but was silenced by a blow of a baton across the face that felled him senseless. Seán was beaten across the cell. Blood teemed from his face and head. These wounds on Seán and Tony never healed until they died.

Seán was taken away that evening and tried and sentenced by the Special Court. He was charged with" conspiracy to usurp a function of government" and sentenced to two years. He had been running a pirate radio station when arrested.

On the eve of St Patrick's Day, all six hunger strikers were removed to St Bricin's Military Hospital.

On the 54th night of the strike, Tony Darcy cried out, "Seán, I'm dying". Seán replied, "I'm coming, Tony". The other prisoners appealed to Seán not to get out of bed as he was very weak and they felt it would kill him but Tony's cry pierced Seán's heart and he got up and staggered across the room to his friend and comrade.

Later that night, Tony was taken out to a private ward. The IRA Volunteer from Headford, County Galway, died the following night.

The day following Tony's removal from the ward, Seán's uncle, Mick Kilroy, a Fianna Fáil TD, came to see him.

Alas, he didn't come to give a kinsman's help, but attacked Seán for "daring to embarrass de Valera" the "heaven-sent leader" by such action and demanded that he give up his hunger strike at once. Seán ordered him out of the room.

The next day, 19 April, Seán McNeela, IRA Volunteer from Ballycroy, County Mayo, died.

The strike had been called off the day before by the IRA's GHQ but word had not got into the prison in time to save Seán.

• On Sunday 17 April at 3pm, Galway Sinn Féin will commemorate the sacrifice of Tony Darcy and Seán McNeela at the Donagh Patrick Cemetery. The speaker will be former Hunger Striker, now Derry MLA, Raymond McCartney.


Centre is evacuated in bomb alert

Army bomb experts have been called to the scene

About 350 people have been moved out of a civic centre in County Antrim because of a security alert.

The Lagan Valley Island Civic Centre in Lisburn has been evacuated while an Army bomb disposal team examines a suspect vehicle.

Chief superintendent Ken Henning said an anonymous call was received at 2010 BST, saying a vehicle with a bomb on board was at the back of the centre.

The caller said the bomb was due to explode in 25 minutes.

Mr Henning said police officers subsequently observed a package in the back of a white car.

"We had a number of events in the civic centre tonight and all of those people had to be evacuated out into the cold, which is an absolute disgrace," he said.

"This whole place has been completely disrupted."

The alert happened during a performance of Carousel by a local theatre group.

One of those moved from the building, Patricia Carleton, said it was "most unfortunate".

"My two grand-daughters are involved in the show," she said.

"They just had to leave all their clothes, as had all the cast."

14 April 2005

Irish Democrat

The Real Chief

Peter Berresford Ellis reviews The Real Chief: Liam Lynch, Meda Ryan, Mercier Press, (new edition, 2005), ISBN 1-85635-460-1, €15.95 pbk

Free Image Hosting at www.ImageShack.us
click for full view

LIAM LYNCH (1893-1923) from Co. Limerick, has been much overlooked by modern Irish historians and, even when noticed, he has been often scathingly dismissed as merely a `gunman'. Among republican historiographers, he has been eclipsed by the exploits of Tom Barry or Ernie O'Malley.

But Lynch, as commander of Cork No 2 Brigade, was one of the farsighted guerrilla leaders whose activities in the south-west of Ireland during the War of Independence were to force England to the negotiating table.

He is perhaps best remembered for his capture of Brigadier C.H.T. Lucas, commanding the 16th Infantry Brigade at Fermoy, and two of his colonels. The professionalism of that exploit and the courtesy with which he treated his prisoners earned praise from no less a person than General Lucas himself. The general's troops, however, ran amok in the area, destroying property and injuring innocent bystanders when news of the brigadier's capture reached them.

Lynch stood firmly for the republic. His most famous quote was: "We have declared for an Irish Republic, and will not live under any other law". Florence O'Donoghue used that for the title of his study of Lynch and the period No Other Law (1954) which remained the only work fully acknowledging Lynch until Dr Ryan.

As the country moved towards civil war in 1922, the majority of the former republican forces elected Lynch as Chief of Staff of the republican forces at a Dublin convention. When the `Provisional Government' with borrowed British artillery, opened fire on the republican positions in Dublin, and the civil war became a fact, Lynch assumed command of his old division, the 1st Southern Division.

As the new government was able to recruit and arm, not from their old comrades in the republican forces, but from the disbanded Irish regiments of the British army, it soon became clear that the republican forces, initially outnumbering the Provisional government forces, were themselves outnumbered and outgunned. As the pro-Treaty forces moved into Cork, Lynch ordered his field army to split into small irregular units or flying columns.

But the forces of the `Provisional Government' were unstoppable.

Meda Ryan's biography, with the aid of Lynch's personal letters and other documents, traces the life of one of Ireland's most devoted sons who put in abeyance his own life - he was engaged to be married and had it postponed until an end of the hostilities - to serve the country.

The author shows that Lynch was not the narrow fanatic that he has been painted by some modern commentators but that he initially sought to avoid a civil war. At the same time he was unwavering in his effort to achieve a thirty-two country republic rather than a broken, partitioned land which, he well knew, would only lead to future bloodshed through subsequent generations until the country was eventually reunified and independent.

He gave his life in that cause in April, 1923, when forces of the 'Provisional Government' shot him dead as he made his way to a meeting of the Republican executive at which a discussion to the end of the war was scheduled.

This is an essential book, one they clears up the speculation whether Lynch was assassinated by fellow republicans who wanted to surrender to the 'Provisional Government' or whether he was shot after being taken prisoner. Meda Ryan examines and presents the evidence, which should finally end such speculation.

Once again, Meda Ryan, as in her book on Tom Barry, has done a great service and secured her reputation as one of the most important historians of the turbulent years of 1916-23. She has demonstrated that there is still much we have to learn about this crucial period in Irish history.


Sellafield dangers 'could last 150 years'

14/04/2005 - 18:45:23

Free Image Hosting at www.ImageShack.us
click for full view

Dangers posed by the Sellafield nuclear plant could threaten Ireland for the next 150 years, it was claimed today.

With the site winding down operations the Radiological Protection Institute of Ireland warned discharge levels of radioactive waste would increase during decommissioning.

But Dr Ann McGarry, RPII chief executive, said the possibility of an accident was small.

“We spent considerable time during the visit discussing accident scenarios and the implications for Ireland of any significant release of radioactivity,” Dr McGarry said.

“Our overall impression was that a good start had been made, but that the scale of decommissioning works to be undertaken would present very real challenges to both the operators and regulators for many years to come.”

An RPII report on the future of Sellafield found that decommissioning and final site remediation of the 700 acre site could run until 2150.

Dr McGarry said potential contamination in Ireland in the wake of a serious accident or incident at Sellafield could force authorities to step in to reduce contamination in the foodchain.

And the RPII noted challenges facing British Nuclear Fuels Limited should not be underestimated.

The cost of clean-up and decommissioning could hit £150m (€220m) a year until 2020, the group claimed.

Sellafield, originally known as Windscale, and only 12 miles from the Irish coast, was built in the late 1940s and first generated electricity with its Calder Hall reactor in 1956.

However, controversy soon reigned after a fire broke out in a chimney the following year spreading radioactivity across the Cumbrian countryside.

At the time, it was the world’s worst nuclear accident and is still regarded as Britain’s most severe.

Nowadays the site includes a mixed oxide (Mox) plant. Built in 1997, it processes waste from other countries’ nuclear power plants, making the material reusable.

But it also produces vast quantities of waste water and high-level nuclear waste which has to be kept far away from humans for 250,000 years.

And Dr McGarry said BNFL had shown a greater focus on dealing with waste from the closure of other nuclear plants across the UK and on managing their own legacy wastes.

The RPII report followed a visit from the RPII last September to see first hand the facilities at Sellafield, security issues however were outside the scope of the trip.

Dick Roche, Environment Minister, said improved talks had led to increased access for Irish officials to the site.

But he warned the dangers would not disappear overnight.

“British nuclear safety, and in particular the activities at Sellafield, have long been a cause of concern for Ireland, and the RPII report shows that this is not going to change in the medium term,” the minister said.

The main activities at the site now involve the storage and reprocessing of spent nuclear fuel, the storage of plutonium and uranium, the fabrication of mixed oxide fuel and decommissioning activities.

The RPII report noted shutting down the plant would cause unspecified radioactive discharges.

It also revealed there were no commitments to a guaranteed reduction in discharges.

The RPII said the scope and extent of the terrorist threat assessments undertaken for BNFL were not known. Officials said they were seriously concerned about the lack of information.

The group did however discuss on-site and off-site emergency arrangements with BNFL staff and Cumbria County Council officials.

Indymedia Ireland

Australian Beauty Facing Indonesian Firing Squad

Free Image Hosting at www.ImageShack.us
click to view

For rest of story and to join petition to save Shapelle please click here.

Daily Ireland

Loyalists petrol bomb Belfast hotel

Free Image Hosting at www.ImageShack.us
click to view

A petrol bomb attack on a Belfast hotel which forced the evacuation of 150 guests yesterday has been blamed on loyalist paramilitaries.
A PSNI source said detectives are working on the theory that the attack was carried out by individual members of a loyalist group in south Belfast.
Five petrol bombs were thrown at the Days Hotel in Hope Street at around 4am yesterday.
Damage was caused to the front and side of the hotel.
Smoke travelled to the third, fourth and fifth floors of the hotel, which is situated close to the loyalist Sandy Row area.
Fire Officer Harry Dawson said it was a very serious situation.
“There were five petrol bombs in total thrown at Days Hotel, directed to the back of the hotel, convenient to the oil tank and basement area,” he said.
Panicked guests were quickly evacuated from the hotel.
“Police do not believe the attack was carried out on behalf of any loyalist organisation," the PSNI source said.
“However, we are working on the theory that individuals connected to paramilitaries may have been involved."
Loyalist paramilitaries have been behind a series of racist attacks in south Belfast including distributing racist leaflets and petrol-bombing homes.
Progressive Unionist Party leader David Ervine said he didn’t know who was behind the petrol bombing, but said it was a “shocking and stupid attack".
“This is an incredibly nearsighted and unbelievably stupid attack," said Mr Ervine. “I cannot work out the motives of the people involved but whoever they are, they are morons.
“This could have cost lives and it sends out an appalling message to visitors.”
The hotel owner, Lord Rana, said immediately after the attack he did not believe loyalists were responsible.
However, he called on the PSNI to get on top of the situation.
“It is more annoying than worrying – the security situation needs to be dealt with by the PSNI," he said.
“In Sandy Row we are the only company who have made a major investment, who have helped to regenerate the area and have created more employment in that area.
“It is more a community issue. Community leaders and people living in the area – they need to look at the whole situation and deal with it," he said.
“We could deal with the situation. We could reconsider our future plans and decide if we really want to invest in that area or not," he said.
The Belfast Visitor and Convention Bureau (BVCB) said such attacks hinder their work.
“While such events don't help, BVCB is confident that by continuing its promotional strategy we will be able to attract visitors,” said a spokesman.


DUP ‘making it harder for SF to secure IRA stand-down’

14/04/2005 - 13:20:37

Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams has accused the Democratic Unionist Party of making it harder to persuade the IRA to stand down.

Speaking in Belfast this morning, Mr Adams said hardline comments from DUP members were hampering his efforts to get the organisation to commit to exclusively peaceful means.

DUP deputy leader Peter Robinson has said it might take a generation before his party agrees to share power with Sinn Féin.

Mr Adams said he accepted that such comments were election-related, but said they made his task considerably more difficult.

RTE News

Student remanded over Holohan death

14 April 2005 14:24

Wayne O'Donoghue

An engineering student charged with the manslaughter of 11-year-old Robert Holohan in Midleton, Co Cork last January, has been remanded in custody for a week.

However, Judge Michael Patwell has warned that if the State seeks a further extension, he will want to hear the reasons for the delay from an official in the Office for the Director of Public Prosecutions, or from the garda in charge of the investigation.

20-year-old Wayne O'Donoghue will be back in court again next week.

Robert's body was discovered near Inch Strand in east Cork eight days after he disappeared.

A post mortem examination showed that he died of asphyxiation.

Daily Ireland

Crews under fire

The British government was yesterday accused of underplaying more than 1,000 attacks on the North’s firefighters during the past three years.
Bricks, bottles and missiles are thrown at fire crews even as they fight fires and ambushes have also been set for firefighters, according to new research carried out for the Fire Brigade’s Union (FBU).
Other attacks include scaffolding poles being thrown through windscreens of fire engines, crews being attacked with concrete blocks, bricks and bottles, being shot at, spat at, equipment tampered with or stolen, direct physical assaults on fire crews, and equipment being urinated on.
The research also found there are 40 attacks on fire crews in the North and in Britain every week and the problem is getting worse.
The FBU claims that under-reporting of attacks means that the figure could be as much as three times higher.
Official figures from the North reveal there were 1,200 attacks on crews in the last three years, with serious concerns that the problem is being underplayed.
Jim Barbour, NI FBU representative, hit out at the North’s Health and Public Safety Minister, Angela Smith for lacking the commitment to resolve the problem.
“This research is clear evidence that the attacks on firefighters is a very serious problem, not just in Northern Ireland, but across the UK,” he said. “The research also shows that senior management, the British government and the media are brushing this serious issue under the carpet. A young boy died in Scotland during an attack on a fire crew a few weeks ago but that was underplayed by the press.”
“The FBU carried out this research to highlight the true extent of the problem across the UK, given the ineptitude of Direct Rule Ministers in Northern Ireland,” said Jim Barbour.
“We need more than crocodile tears from Angela Smyth to solve this problem and I think it’s an absolute disgrace the FBU had to pay for its own research to highlight the issue.”
FBU general secretary Andy Gilchrist said the number and ferocity of the attacks on firefighters appears to be getting worse.
“These attacks are inexcusable and must not be tolerated. It can never be part of anyone’s job to get a brick or bottle in the head or to be spat at. The causes appear complex and we need more than knee-jerk reaction headlines calling for ‘crackdowns’. There is no quick-fix solution but we need to start with a properly resourced, national strategy rather than it being left to cash-strapped local fire services,” Mr Gilchrist said.
However, Angela Smith has described the accusations that the British government is playing down the number of attacks on firefighters as “blatantly untrue”.
She urged firefighters to make sure all attacks were brought to the attention of the authorities.
“If that is the case, I really would urge those firefighters who report the cases to make sure that the reports are accurate, because the report themselves come from firefighters out on the ground.
“They report them to headquarters and I get the figures from them.”


Uncovering another Belfast revolutionary
Secret local history of 1916 hero

Image Hosted by ImageShack.us
Sean MacDiarmada

It has been well documented that Irish socialist James Connolly lived in Belfast prior to his participation and subsequent death in the 1916 Rising. Little, however, has been written about his compatriot, Sean MacDiarmada, who also dwelt in the city before his execution in 1916 – until now, that is.

Belfast author Gerard McAtasney has undertaken the less travelled path to write a book on one of the signatories of the Proclamation who hasn't received as much coverage as his fellow patriots including Patrick Pearse and the aforementioned James Connolly.

Sean MacDiarmada was born in County Leitrim in 1883 and in his youth worked as a gardener and tram conductor at home and in Edinburgh. However, it was in Belfast that he was sworn into the Irish Republican Brotherhood which started him off on his relatively short but highly significant journey through Irish politics.

“Sean took a teacher’s exam called the King’s Scholarship Exam. He failed it and seemed to be at a loose end which led him to go to Belfast in late 1905. He got a job working on the trams in Belfast and may have lived in Hannahstown for a while, but it is certain that he ended up in Butler Street in Ardoyne which was close to the tram depot,” explained Gerard McAtasney.

In Belfast, Sean MacDiarmada joined the Ancient Order of Hibernians which was closely associated with the Irish Parliamentary Party. Whilst the AOH were then considered to be the custodians of Irish nationalism, MacDiarmada did not remain a member of the Order for long.

Soon after settling in Belfast he joined the local branch of the Gaelic League and became a fine Irish speaker. It was in the Gaelic League that he came into contact with such men as Denis McCullough and Bulmer Hobson, who were then leading the secret republican organisation, the IRB, and working through an open political organisation called Cumann na nGael, an advanced political movement which advocated republicanism and was founded by Arthur Griffith.

“Denis McCullough from the Grosvenor Road and Bulmer Hobson from Holywood were at that time reorganising the IRB which had essentially become a drinking club,” added Gerard.

“They made it their job to purge the useless members of the Brotherhood and recruit new members who were keen to further the republican cause. It was these two men who established the Dungannon Clubs, named in memory of the 1782 volunteers who had sworn allegiance to Dungannon.”

The original Dungannon Clubs were organised after the Convention at Dungannon in February 1782 at which the Irish volunteers demanded – and were subsequently granted – legislative independence for Ireland.
“McCullough and Hobson would travel around Ulster giving speeches, it would have been at one of the speeches that Sean MacDiarmada would first have encountered them.

“In early 1906 he joined the Dungannon Clubs himself and his personal charm, sincerity and his capacity for hard work made him the obvious choice for the IRB who employed him as a full-time organiser.”

MacDiarmada would travel mainly through Counties Antrim and Down, organising and giving speeches. He made an impact right away and became a very active member.
“The first time the public would have become aware of MacDiarmada would have been after his debut speech which he gave in Clonard Street in June 1906, from then on his name was on secret police files until his death in 1916.”

By 1907, after the amalgamation of the Dungannon Clubs and Cumann na nGael to form the Sinn Féin League, MacDiarmada became the Sinn Féin organiser in Ulster and then the Director of Elections in a North Leitrim by-election.

“This was the first time that Sinn Féin involved themselves in a British election. The hard work that MacDiarmada put in was recognised and put his profile on the national stage. Through this, he lost his Belfast base and moved to Dublin in 1908.”

In the capital MacDiarmada developed a close friendship with Thomas Clarke and became one of the founding members of the Irish Volunteers in 1913 and was Secretary of the Supreme Council of the IRB. He was a member of the Military Council and member of the Provisional Government.

Sean MacDiarmada fought in the GPO in 1916 where he was attached to the headquarters staff under James Connolly. It was MacDiarmada who read Padraig Pearse’s letter of surrender to those in the GPO. He was subsequently executed on May 12, 1916 – the same day as James Connolly.
Gerard took six years to research and complete the book, he studied files on Mac Diarmada kept in Ireland, England and the US.

“Ironically, much of the information came from secret British files made available in the 1960s and court martial papers from the English National Archives made available in 1998. These are not available in Ireland,” said Gerard.

So, why did he choose Sean MacDiarmada when most authors hone in on the more famous faces of the 1916 Rising?

“Due to my close family connections with Leitrim, I had written several books on the area in relation to the famine, but it was a publisher who approached me to write this one about Sean who was from Leitrim. I was more than happy to do so.

“MacDiarmada's spell in Belfast was crucial to the formation of his Irish republican outlook, it was here at the young age of 22 that he first became involved in Irish politics. He reigned supreme in reactivating old Fenian clubs of republicanism and setting up new IRB branches throughout Belfast and the surrounding areas.

“The influence that Belfast, which was then considered the cradle of republicanism, had on Sean MacDiarmada can not be understated.”

• Sean MacDiarmada, The Mind of the Revolution is available in most bookshops priced £15.

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?