10 September 2005

Several injured in North disturbances


10 September 2005 22:08

Several police officers and at least two civilians have been injured, during violent disturbances in north and west Belfast this evening.

One civilian is understood to have received serious injuries when a blast bomb exploded, while the other received a gunshot wound when rioters fired on police.

Plastic bullets and water canon were deployed by the security forces.

The violence erupted after the Orange Order's controversial Whiterock parade passed through the contested route.

The Parades Commission had banned Orangemen from using Workman Avenue which is close to a nationalist area of the Springfield road.

Hundreds of loyalists began rioting after the march followed a new route through a former factory site.

Traffic around the city was disrupted during the afternoon as protesters supporting the marchers blocked the roadway for a time.

Earlier, the Sinn Féin leader, Gerry Adams, appealed for calm. The Taoiseach, Bertie Ahern, also called for a peaceful demonstration.

While Sir Reg Empey of the Ulster Unionists described the decision to allow the re-routing as unsatisfactory.

Explosions and shots at West Belfast parade

BreakingNews.ie: Explosions and shots at West Belfast parade

10/09/2005 - 18:08:00

Violence has escalated at the Orange Order march in West Belfast after loyalists opened fire on police with automated weapons.

Blast and petrol bombs have also been thrown, and at least three police officers have been injured.

There are reports that plastic bullets have also been fired during the rioting in the West Circular Road area.

Elsewhere, vehicles have been set on fire on the Ardoyne Road and North Queen's Street.

Trouble flared as marchers passed the Springfield Road area, where today's parade was re-routed.

Civilian shot in loyalist rioting


Officers injured as shots fired


Riot police kept residents and marchers apart

Shots have been fired at police and blast bombs thrown during loyalist rioting surrounding a controversial Orange Order parade in Belfast.

Water canon and plastic bullets have been used against petrol bombers who attacked police and soldiers. Four officers were reported injured.

The security forces came under sustained attack by several hundred rioters on West Circular Road.

Cars were hijacked and set on fire on Ardoyne Road and North Queen Street.

Protests linked to the Orange Order's re-routed Whiterock parade caused severe traffic disruption in the city.

In North Queen Street, police came under attack.

Earlier, a number of children were left badly shocked after a bus driving along the street was hit with bottles and stones.

A window was smashed and one passenger said some people on board panicked and were screaming in terror.

"It's hard to tell for sure whether anyone's hurt because so many people panicked and got off the bus. They were screaming and yelling," he said.

"It was obvious to me that a number of the children were in shock."

Several roads were blocked in what a DUP councillor said was "disgust" over a ban on the parade.

The march was barred from going through security gates on the Springfield Road, and had to use a former factory site.

There was a major police and Army presence in the area. Screens were erected in front of houses.

Almost 100 people blocked off three lanes of traffic behind Belfast City Hall.

Some of the protesters had their face covered with scarves, others were wearing hoods. The police closed the road for a time, before the crowd moved to Shaftesbury Square.

Another group of protesters tried to block the Albert Bridge in east Belfast. They were attacked by residents in the Short Strand.

The tension was defused by police who are currently in riot gear keeping both sides apart.

Orangeman Raymond Speers explained the reason for the protest.

"In the grand scale of things, just to disrupt traffic is not a heinous crime when you look back over the years of history in Northern Ireland," he said.

"It's frustration of Protestant people as to what they can do to have their ordinary voice heard. We just feel so frustrated that there is a cultural veto through the Parades Commission for the republican/nationalist community."

Sinn Fein councillor Fra McCann said the trouble could have been avoided if the Orangemen had talked to Springfield Road residents.

'Loyalist paramilitaries'

Following earlier protests, the Grosvenor Road and Westlink are now open. However, part of the Albertbridge Road and Shaftesbury Square remain closed.

Meanwhile, a van has also been hijacked at Ohio Street, but recovered a short time later. No-one was injured.

On Friday night, a senior police officer said he feared loyalist paramilitaries could cause trouble at the march.

Assistant Chief Constable Duncan McCausland appealed to community representatives to prevent tensions rising at the parade.

After a request by unionists on Friday, the Parades Commission reviewed its ruling on the Whiterock Parade, but did not change it.

It was re-routed by the Parades Commission through the former Mackies site instead of Workman Avenue, off the mainly nationalist Springfield Road.

There was a heavy security presence for the parade

A feeder march on "a non-contentious part" of the road was allowed by the commission.

In a statement, the Belfast County Grand Orange Lodge said "in spite of all the risks taken," the Orangemen were "faced with a further attempt to humiliate and suppress their culture".

It said nationalist and republicans would come to understand that "exercising a cultural veto" through their "Parades Commission puppets" would not be allowed to continue "without consequences".

DUP leader Ian Paisley and the UUP's Sir Reg Empey met Chief Constable Sir Hugh Orde about the parade route.

They submitted what they said was new evidence to the Parades Commission, asking the body to review its decision, but their request was refused.

The Orange Order first shelved the re-routed parade in June, which had been opposed by nationalist Springfield Road residents. It was re-scheduled for Saturday, but again restricted.

In its determination on the march, the Parades Commission cited "a possible adverse effect on community relations" if the march was allowed on the Order's preferred route.

The Parades Commission was set up in 1997 to make decisions on whether or not restrictions should be imposed on controversial parades during Northern Ireland's marching season.

Man critical after attack by gang


A man is in a critical condition in hospital after being attacked by a gang of up to 10 men in east Belfast.

The 29-year-old, believed to be a Catholic, was discovered lying on a river walkway at the junction of the Albertbridge Road and Short Strand.

He had sustained a head injury and was given emergency treatment at the scene.

The gang, wearing peach, pink, or yellow tops, were all seen running up the Ravenhill Road. A sectarian motive has not been ruled out for the attack.

The police said they did not know at this stage why the man was singled out.

Witnesses are being urged to contact the police.

Sinn Fein assembly member Alex Maskey said he believed the victim was attacked because he was Catholic.

"There is no doubt that these incidents do rise in the number, and very often the intensity, depending on what the current political situation is," he said.

"Belfast this week has been caught up in a whole series of protests and there has been a lot of political controversy over these parades.

"I have no doubt that that in some way goes on to inflame others at grass-roots level and to carry out such attacks."

Ulster Unionist councillor Jim Rodgers condemned the attack which he described as "savage and horrendous".

"I hope and pray that the man will make a full recovery. There have been several similar incidents in this area over many years and I call on the police to step up patrols," he said.

'People will definitely die'


Guantanamo inmates resolute in 2nd month of hunger strike - 13 are being force-fed - to protest conditions

September 10, 2005

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Scores or even hundreds of inmates at the U.S. military base in Guantanamo Bay are entering the second month of a hunger strike that has led to the hospitalization of at least 15 prisoners, the Pentagon and defense lawyers said Friday.

Many detainees and their lawyers believe some of those fasting may starve to death to protest conditions at the controversial military outpost in Cuba. Thirteen inmates are being force-fed intravenously.

"People will definitely die," detainee Binyam Mohammed, an Ethiopian-born British resident, said in one of several statements from inmates that defense lawyers recently declassified.

"Bobby Sands petitioned the British government to stop the illegitimate internment of Irishmen without trial," Mohammed continued in reference to a famous Irish Republican Army inmate who died during a hunger strike in a British prison in 1981. "Nobody should believe for one moment that my brothers here have less courage."

The hunger strike is the fifth among the foreign-born Muslim inmates at Guantanamo, all but four of whom are being held indefinitely without charges as part of the U.S. war on terror. The protest is likely to fuel further controversy over the base, which has been accused of denying inmates due process and subjecting them to physical and emotional abuse.

The Pentagon denied any wrongdoing and said in a statement that it is "constantly looking for ways to improve conditions" for detainees.

"The United States operates a safe, humane and professional detention operation at Guantanamo," said Navy Lt. Commander Alvin Pexico, a Pentagon spokesman. He described the base's legal procedures for detainees - which defense lawyers are barred from attending - as "appropriate."

According to base spokesman Sgt. Justin Behrens, 89 of Guantanamo's 505 inmates are on the current fast, which began Aug. 8. Behrens said 15 inmates were hospitalized and are in stable condition. The Pentagon defines a hunger strike as missing nine meals over 72 hours.

Defense attorneys said more than 200 inmates are fasting but some are accepting small amounts of liquid or occasional meals to prolong the strike.

Prisoners are demanding trials in U.S. courts, as well as such improvements as better food, bottled drinking water, more reading materials and greater religious freedoms.

"It's a dire situation because the military is refusing reasonable negotiation," said Clive Stafford Smith, a prominent British attorney representing several detainees. "It is incredible that the U.S. government is denying these inmates fair trials even if the alternative is that they could die of starvation." He said the military refused to let him see one fasting client and threatened to arrest him for being a hunger-strike ringleader - which he denies - when he was visiting Guantanamo in mid-August.

More than 200 prisoners participated in the June-July hunger strike and about 50 had to be fed intravenously, according to the Center for Constitutional Rights, a New York-based civil rights group. Behrens said 68 inmates participated.

In declassified statements, detainees said they'd halted the previous fast after Guantanamo officials promised improved conditions. They said they resumed the hunger strike after some improvements didn't materialize and more inmates were beaten or subjected to psychological abuse. Guantanamo officials denied those allegations but refused to answer repeated queries on what they promised or provided.

The detainees' statements paint a scene of gruesome desperation during the previous hunger strike, with prisoners vomiting blood or collapsing in their cells.

"Many more people have fallen unconscious. ... More are taken to hospital," wrote detainee Omar Deghayes, a Libyan-born British resident, adding that he felt "like dead" from fasting. " ... I think things are getting worse and it will go out of control," he added.

The military has not declassified most detainees' statements about the current strike.

Parade security operation begins


A major security operation is under way ahead of the re-routed Whiterock parade in Belfast.

The city's most senior police officer has said he fears loyalist paramilitaries may cause trouble at the march.

Marchers are barred from going through security gates on Springfield Road.

Meanwhile, a van has been hijacked in north Belfast. It was taken at Ohio Street, but recovered a short time later. No-one was injured.

After a request by unionists on Friday, the Parades Commission reviewed its ruling on the Whiterock Parade, but did not change it.

Assistant Chief Constable Duncan McCausland appealed to community representatives to prevent tensions rising at the Orange Order parade.

"I am concerned tomorrow may bring some disorder, but I am also hopeful that common sense will prevail," he said.

It was re-routed by the Parades Commission through the former Mackies site instead of Workman Avenue, off the mainly nationalist Springfield Road.

A feeder march on "a non-contentious part" of the road has been allowed by the commission.

Mr McCausland said their role was to police the commission's determination but that tensions surrounding the parade have "no policing solution".

On Friday, Springfield Road at Lanark Way was closed for a time as loyalists protested the re-routing for a third day.

In a statement, the Belfast County Grand Orange Lodge said "in spite of all the risks taken," the Orangemen were "faced with a further attempt to humiliate and suppress their culture".

It said nationalist and republicans would come to understand that "exercising a cultural veto" through their "Parades Commission puppets" would not be allowed to continue "without consequences".

DUP leader Ian Paisley and the UUP's Sir Reg Empey have met with Chief Constable Sir Hugh Orde about the parade route.

Dr Uprichard said the commission's ruling should be abided

They submitted what they said was new evidence to the Parades Commission, asking the body to review its decision, but their request was refused.

Presbyterian Moderator Dr Harry Prichard has urged both marchers and protesters to abide by the commission's ruling.

"I understand that there are many concerns and worries about freedom to express culture, to achieve justice and equality and about human rights," he said.

Earlier, Sean Paul O'Hare from the Springfield Residents Group said tension in the area was high.

"People need to take a step back. They need to look, in terms of their language and they need to appeal for calm," he said.

The Orange Order first shelved the re-routed parade in June, which had been opposed by nationalist Springfield Road residents. It was re-scheduled for Saturday, but again restricted.

In its determination on the march, the Parades Commission cited "a possible adverse effect on community relations" if the march was allowed on the Order's preferred route.

The Parades Commission was set up in 1997 to make decisions on whether or not restrictions should be imposed on controversial parades during Northern Ireland's marching season.

Remembering the Past - Mass escape from the Curragh

An Phoblacht

By Shane Mac Thomais

On the 8 September 1921, 84 years ago, one of the most daring and successful IRA prison breaks took place.

In 1921 over 1,300 IRA Volunteers were imprisoned in the Curragh Camp, County Kildare. The camp was sprawled over ten acres and the men were housed in 60 wooden army huts arranged in four rows, designated A,B,C and D. The compound was rectangular and entirely enclosed by barbed wire fences and at each corner of the compound stood a high tower on which machine guns were mounted and manned 24 hours a day. Powerful searchlights swept continuously once darkness fell, making sure no prisoner was out of his hut at night.

The British believed it was impossible to escape from the camp and prior to September 1921 all attempts had ended in failure. One potential escaper concealed himself in a laundry van only to be discovered at the main gate, while another hid in a latrine until lights out and crept towards the wire only to find himself looking down the barrel of a guard's rifle.

After many foiled escapes, the prisoners decided that if it wasn't possible to go out through the wire, they would have to go under it. A first tunnel was started in April 1921, mined with the blood sweat and tears of Jim Brady and Jim Gavin. It was discovered by a squadron of the King's Own Scottish Borderers when they received a tip off from one of the numerous stoolpigeons they had placed in the camp under the guise of prisoners.

After the discovery of the first tunnel, further escapes were postponed until after the Truce was announced on 11 July 1921. This time, two tunnels were started. The first was known as the Dublin Brigade tunnel, as most of those who worked on it were from Dublin. The second tunnel, mined by the men of the West of Ireland and a few men from Tullamore, was a smaller unshored boring known as the Tullamore tunnel or rabbit burrow.

Both tunnels were dug inch by agonising inch. The tools they used were a screwdriver and table knives they had stolen from the dining hall. The only ventilation came from the entrance of the tunnel and consequently, the atmosphere at the workface was foul. The IRA men worked on grimly hour by hour, enduring the fetid smell of damp earth in complete darkness for eleven days until they were close to exhausted. Excess soil from the tunnel was taken out in pillowcases and scattered from pockets into the soil of the camp and lookouts were posted to watch out for guards who might hear the digging under ground.

On 5 September British troops of the East Sussex Regiment began to unload timber and barbed wire at the perimeter fence and word went around the camp that a second camp was about to be made in the direct line of the tunnels. It became imperative for one of the tunnels to reach the outside perimeter as soon as possible. The Tullamore tunnel was chosen as it was more advanced. Onwards thence in a million, a military patrol had approached the tower just as the escapers had begun to cut the wire. The officer in charge of the patrol thought the challenge was directed at him and the sentry in the tower thought that the sound he had heard came from the patrol.

Brady and Galvin continued to cut the wire and then returned to the hut to tell the other escapers how to get out of the camp. Over 50 made good their escape. By the time most of them had reached the wire, a thick fog covered the Curragh. The next morning, a roll call was called at 7am and an immediate large scale search was mounted but to no avail, as none of the escapers were ever captured.

Derry and Antrim republican dead to be honoured

An Phoblacht

The new republican Garden of Remembrance at Gulladuff in County Derry will be the scene of a major historical commemorative event this coming Saturday (today) when plaques inscribed with the names of the republican dead from Counties Derry and Antrim will be unveiled.

According to Magherafelt Sinn Féin Councillor and former political prisoner Ian Milne, Saturday's commemoration will become an annual commemorative event.

Milne went on to explain that the new plaques in the Garden of Remembrance will have a full and comprehensive list of republican activists from the United Irishmen to the Fenians to Volunteers from the Tan War and Civil War and up to and including the fallen heroes of this current phase of Ireland's struggle for independence.

"Great strides have been made within Counties Derry and Antrim in recent times with the huge increase in the Sinn Féin vote in both counties. Coupled with this we have established a vibrant constituency service in Dunloy and built a magnificent new republican centre in South Derry. Activists have obtained all this as a direct result of the struggle and sacrifices made by republican activists and Volunteers over the generations," said Milne.

Calling for a large attendance at Saturday's unveiling, Milne said: "It is important that republicans from the Southeast Antrim and South Derry areas turn out in large numbers for this unveiling to show our political enemies that we are united and as purposeful as ever in our struggle to establish the independent Ireland so many died fighting for."

The commemoration parade will commence at St Mary's Church, Lavey at 7.45pm on Saturday 10 September and proceed to the Garden of Remembrance, Gulladuff. Refreshments will be served in the nearby Republican Centre.

Omagh case funding was 'unlawful'


Michael McKevitt challenged the partial funding of the civil case

A government award of £700,000 to help fund the Omagh families' civil case against those suspected of the bombing was unlawful, the High Court has ruled.

The payment was authorised by the Lord Chancellor in a civil action claiming compensation of £14m.

His decision was challenged by Real IRA leader Michael McKevitt, one of the five defendants in the case.

The Real IRA has been blamed for carrying out the attack in 1998, which killed 29 people.

In his ruling, Mr Justice Coghlin said the payment was unlawful because the Lord Chancellor had no legal power to order the Legal Services Commission, formerly the Legal Aid Department, to fund the Omagh relatives.

A lawyer for the Lord Chancellor said he would revoke his order and would look at other ways of legally providing financial assistance and would change the law if necessary.

The court was told lawyers had already incurred costs of over £400,000.

However, Judge Coghlin said that as the money had been spent in good faith he would not order repayment.

McKevitt is currently serving a 20-year sentence in Portlaoise prison for running the Real IRA.

He and four other people in the Republic of Ireland - Seamus Daly, Seamus McKenna, Liam Campbell and Colm Murphy - are being sued by the families of those killed in the atrocity.

McKevitt had a claim for £1m in legal aid to fight the case turned down.

Today in history: Bomb blasts rock central London


10 September 1973

The King's Cross bomb shattered glass in the old booking hall

Scotland Yard is hunting a teenage suspect after two bombs at mainline stations injured 13 people and brought chaos to central London.

The first explosion at King's Cross - which injured five people - occurred seconds after a witness saw a youth throw a bag into a booking hall.

Fifty minutes later a second blast rocked a snack bar at Euston station, injuring a further eight people.

No group has yet said it planted the bombs, but police have said the 2-3 lb (0.9-1.4 kg) bombs were typical of IRA manufacture.

The King's Cross bomb - which exploded without any warning at 1224 BST - shattered glass throughout the old booking hall and hurled a baggage trolley several feet through the air.

"I saw a flash and suddenly people were being thrown through the air - it was a terrible mess, they were bleeding and screaming," a witness said.

The second explosion occurred just minutes after the Press Association received a telephoned warning from a man with an Irish accent, and the police had very little time to clear the station.

The manageress of the Euston bar targeted by the bombers said officers ran up and down the platforms with loudhailers telling everybody to get out.

"About three minutes after we heard 'bomb scare!' the blast went off," she said.

Scotland Yard said it received more than one hundred hoax telephone calls throughout the day and was forced to evacuate three other London stations.

Officers have issued a photofit picture of the 5 ft 2 in tall, 15-17 year-old they wish to question about the King's Cross explosion.

In Context

The IRA said they were behind the explosions which came during one of their sustained periods of activity in England.

Two days before, on 8 September, there were bombs in Manchester city centre and at Victoria station in London.

And forty-eight hours later further blasts in the country's capital rocked Oxford Street and Sloane Square.

The IRA's 1970s bombing campaign in England began soon after Bloody Sunday in 1972 and ended after the Balcombe Street siege in December 1975.

Severed head of Nelson's statue returns to Dublin


By David McKittrick, Ireland Correspondent
10 September 2005 00:37

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The granite head of Horatio Nelson, severed from its statue by a republican bomb almost 40 years ago, has gone on show at a new home in Dublin.

In 1966, his statue was toppled from Nelson's Pillar, the 120ft column which had stood for 150 years in Dublin's main street as one of the city's most prominent landmarks.

Interest has grown rapidly recently in Nelson as the bicentenary of his victory over the French at Trafalgar approaches next month. Most of the 13ft statue has long disappeared, but the head has been kept at several venues. It has now been put on display in Dublin City Archive, near its original location in O'Connell Street.

Its destruction was regarded at the time as something of a nocturnal jape by IRA members acting individually, and probably not with the sanction of the organisation.

No one was killed or injured and damage to property other than the pillar was minimal. The remaining stump was blown up by the Irish army, local traders complaining that the second explosion had caused more damage than the first.

An even larger monument to another British hero of Napoleonic times stands in Dublin's Phoenix Park, the largest obelisk of Europe, in memory of the Duke of Wellington.

Although massive, it is almost lost in the park's sprawling acres. It is made of solid granite and is not prominently labelled as a memorial to Wellington. Its sheer size may have helped protect it.

Less formidable statues have not been so fortunate. In the 1920s, a statue of King William III was blown up; in 1937, King George II's memorial was dynamited and others were destroyed in the 1950s. After Nelson's pillar was destroyed, much debate followed on how to replace it, but it was not until two years ago that a stainless steel spire, 130 metres high, was erected on the site. The pillar had stood in the city centre since 1808, surviving the huge damage to the street caused by the Easter rising of 1916.

Several years ago, a republican, Liam Sutcliffe, then 70, claimed he had blown up the pillar. He said: "I was having a drink with an old friend at the time. The 1916 rising was being marked with functions and dinners and the campaign was fizzled out. We thought the rising should be marked with something a bit more dramatic. So I said we should remove it." He was arrested but no charges were brought.

09 September 2005

UVF riots expose PSNI double standards

An Phoblacht

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Photo: Unionist youths riot

THE PSNI came under increasing political pressure this week after their apparent reluctance to confront continuing violence by unionist paramilitaries. In the face of serious rioting orchestrated by the UVF, PSNI officers remained in their vehicles rather than challenge the rioters. Commenting, Sinn Féin's Gerry Kelly compared the eagerness with which the PSNI deployed water cannon against North Belfast nationalists "within seconds of one golf ball being thrown" to the hours of unchallenged serious rioting by unionists.

Violence erupted onto the streets of Belfast on Monday around noon, following a number of raids in the Greater Shankill area after UVF gunmen appeared in the Shankill. The unionist paramilitary show of strength took place during a march in honour of sectarian killer and UVF member Brian Robinson at the weekend.

Four hours of rioting followed the arrest of a man in the Woodvale area after the discovery of a gun linked to a unionist paramilitary display that had accompanied Saturday's parade. A mob of over 100 youths pelted the PSNI with stones and petrol bombs in Disraeli Street, Parkview Terrace and Cambrai Street. Fire engines called to the scene were also attacked.

Vehicles were hijacked and set alight during rioting that lasted several hours. One hijacked vehicle, a Coca-Cola lorry, was looted before being burnt out. A gang of masked rioters smashed the lorry open and began to distribute the drink. Teenagers running with armloads of coke bottles and mineral water were seen passing the booty to adults who deposited the goods in houses and car boots.

Monday's violence was the third major incident to occur in the area within three days, including a riot involving a 50-strong mob in Enfield Street on Saturday night. The PSNI defended their lack of action, claiming that their decision not to deploy plastic bullets and water cannon (the latter was used eventually on one occasion) followed talks with community representatives.

The violence is being seen as orchestrated by the UVF in an effort to thwart further raids and arrests. Media reports claimed that teenagers were being actively encouraged to riot after receiving text messages on their mobile phones urging them to take part in further rioting.

Unionist paramilitaries have been blamed for a number of shootings at the weekend, including the shooting of two 21-year-old men in Tynan Drive on the outskirts of North Belfast and a similar gun attack the previous night in the Areema Drive area of Dunmurry.

Man remanded over McCartney murder


09 September 2005 14:32

A man accused of murdering the Belfast man, Robert McCartney, outside a pub in the city last January has been remanded on bail.

Terrence Davidson, who is 49 and from Stainfield Place in the Markets area of Belfast, will appear again before Belfast Magistrates Court in November.

He was released earlier this month on bail, but ordered to have no contact with the McCartney family.

Mr McCartney died after he was stabbed and beaten outside Magennis's Bar in Belfast city centre on 30 January.

Since the killing, Mr McCartney's sisters and his fiancée, Bridgeen Hagans, have maintained that IRA members were involved and have campaigned for the killers to be brought to justice.

PSNI appeals for calm at contentious Belfast march


09/09/2005 - 13:39:53

The PSNI has appealed for calm at a contentious Orange Order parade in Belfast tomorrow.

The march was originally due to go ahead in June, but was postponed when the Parades Commission banned it from the nationalist Springfield Road.

Orangmen are now planning to hold the march tomorrow, but the commission has insisted that the restrictions imposed in June must still be honoured.

Unionists and loyalists have reacted angrily to the decision and there are growing fears that paramilitaries will use the occasion to engage in street violence.

PSNI assistant chief constable Duncan McCausland said today that the police would be enforcing the commission's ruling, rejecting claims by DUP leader Ian Paisley that his officers would not be able to handle the situation.

Mr McCausland urged loyalist paramilitaries to stay away from the march and called on unionist political, community and church leaders to use their influence to prevent violence.

UK govt funding for Omagh case halted


09/09/2005 - 15:50:11

British government funding to help the Omagh families take civil action against those they believe were responsible for the Real IRA bomb which killed 29 people has been put on hold, a court was told today.

The Northern Ireland High Court heard that Lord Chancellor Lord Falconer accepted a judgment last month that he had overstepped his powers and the mechanism for providing some £800,000 (€1.18m) to help the civil action was unlawful.

At a resumed hearing Judge Mr Justice Coghlin was told by Bernard McCloskey, QC, the Lord Chancellor accepted the court’s judgment and acknowledged that he must deal with the court’s concerns.

Mr McCloskey said the Lord Chancellor would do so by revoking his direction to the Legal Services Commission – under which the money was paid – within 14 days.

The Lord Chancellor also pledged the LSC would make no further payments to the families over the coming 14 days, said Mr McCloskey.

Sums in excess of £400,000 (€592,000) have already been handed over by the LSC to help pay for the legal preparation of the civil action.

There was no suggestion in court that money already paid would have to be returned or the remainder would not be paid eventually.

The Lord Chancellor will look at ways of introducing new legislation to legalise the payments to meet the judgment of the court, said Mr McCloskey.

He added: “That is going to require some reflection and may require some consultation and liaison with other government ministers.”

The judge said he was grateful for the time the Lord Chancellor had taken to deal with the issue.

He said he was satisfied with the undertakings given on behalf of the Lord Chancellor and there was therefore no need for him to make an order declaring the Access to Justice Order passed in 2003 – under which the money was paid - unlawful.

The legal action was started by convicted Real IRA godfather Michael McKevitt - one of those facing the civil action.

He challenged the legality of the British government aiding the Omagh families financially while he was refused legal aid to contest their action.

McKevitt had initially been granted legal aid to fight the civil action but it was revoked after he was jailed in the Republic of Ireland on Real IRA changes.

McKevitt, 54, from Blackrock, Co Louth, and four others – Seamus Daly, Seamus McKenna, Liam Campbell and Colm Murphy – are being sued for £14m (€20m) by the Omagh families.

Two churches daubed with graffiti


Two Catholic churches in County Down have been daubed with sectarian graffiti.

St Patrick's Church, Dromore Street, and St Teresa's Church, Scarva Road, in Banbridge, were both targeted in the overnight attack.

Council workers have spent the morning attempting to clean off the slogans. It is understood both churches were targeted by hoax bombers last year.

Superintendent Mervyn Waddell said he was "disgusted" at the attack.

"Families have enjoyed good community relations for years and we will not let a small minority ruin that," he said.

"Those responsible have not only caused unnecessary upset to the local clergy and parishioners, but have also shown disrespect for their own community."

Whiterock parade tension volatile: DUP

Belfast Telegraph

By Chris Thornton
09 September 2005

Tomorrow's controversial Orange parade in west Belfast is becoming increasingly volatile, DUP leader Ian Paisley said today as he continued to try overturning the Parades Commission decision to reroute the march.

Mr Paisley was expecting to meet Chief Constable Sir Hugh Orde today to discuss policing the Whiterock Parade after the Commission said it would not review its decision to divert the postponed march.

Mr Paisley and UUP leader Sir Reg Empey spoke jointly to Secretary of State Peter Hain by video link yesterday, but Mr Hain told the unionist chiefs that he does not have the power to change the Commission's ruling.

The Commission also defended its decision to reroute the parade, saying it had only been diverted by 100 metres.

The march was originally scheduled to take place in June, but the Orange Order decided to postpone the parade - eventually pushing the marching season into extra time - when the Commission would not approve their original route.

Instead the Orangemen applied to march tomorrow. But the Commission stuck to its original ruling, which keeps marchers off part of the Springfield Road.

Instead of entering the road from Workman's Avenue, the Commission said the marchers should go through the former Mackie's site.

The Commission also said bands would be permitted to play tunes on the Springfield Road, a relaxation of previous conditions.

After yesterday's discussions with unionist leaders, Mr Hain said he has "no legal authority in this situation to change the decision of the Parades Commission.

"I am legally bound to respect their independence," he added.

Death toll shock

Daily Ireland

Jarlath Kearney

More people in the North took their lives through suicide than were killed during thirty-five years of political conflict, Daily Ireland can reveal.
According to shocking new figures released by the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency, a total of 4,451 people died through suicide between 1969 and 2002 in the North.
Sinn Féin president and West Belfast MP Gerry Adams obtained the figures through the North’s freedom of information provisions.
The revelations come as health minister and Tánaiste Mary Harney prepares to launch a so-called “national strategy for action on suicide prevention” in Dublin this morning. Despite being billed as a “national strategy”, the new ten-year plan stops at the Border and only covers the 26 counties.
In the North, after months of sustained public pressure NIO health minister Shaun Woodward commissioned a new suicide prevention strategy to be completed by the autumn. The NIO strategy is only expected to cover the six counties.
A wide variety of political representatives and community activists from across Ireland – alongside relatives of those who have taken their own lives – have highlighted the need for an integrated all-Ireland approach to tackle the issue of suicide.
In 2004, a total of 584 recorded deaths across Ireland were attributed to suicide. Since the start of 2005, a disproportionately high number of suicides have taken place in deprived areas of north and west Belfast.
Speaking to Daily Ireland last night, Mr Adams said:
“With World Suicide Awareness Day this Saturday, the official statistics which have now been disclosed make a compelling case – which I have been making for some time – for suicide prevention to become a strategic priority for the health departments in Belfast and Dublin.
“It is a measure of the human cost of suicide in Ireland that more people in the six counties have taken their own lives through suicide than were killed during the conflict since 1969. That does not even take into account the hidden trauma of families bereaved and those who have survived suicide.
“The official statistics also reveal that during the last decade, more people in the North of Ireland have died as a result of suicide than from road accidents. While the efforts to reduce road accidents – including the resources invested by govenrment agencies in this work – is creditable, it begs the question why suicide prevention does not merit the same or greater resources.”
Mr Adams said that the current moves by health departments in Belfast and Dublin to devise separate suicide prevention strategies only happened after “intense lobbying by relatives and campaign groups”. He said the strategies will be judged on their merits.
“In particular, we will examine closely whether the necessary resources are made available and how this strategy is likely to impact on suicide prevention across the entire island,” Mr Adams said.
When reporting statistics on suicide, NISRA states that it is conventional “to combine cases where the cause of death is classified as ‘suicide and self-inflicted injury’ and cases where the cause of death is classified as ‘undetermined intent’”. However, even when “suicide and self-inflicted injury” deaths between 1969 and 2002 are examined in isolation, the alarming total still stands at 3,595.

Today in history: Report urges sweeping reform of RUC


09 September 1999

Badge should change, says report

The Royal Ulster Constabulary should undergo wholesale reform, a report published by the Police Review Commission has recommended.

Report chairman Chris Patten acknowledged some of the recommendations would be difficult to accept by the police force at the frontline of terror in Northern Ireland.

Among the proposals of the commission were the suggestions the RUC change their name to the "Police Force of Northern Ireland" and adopt a new oath and badge.

The reforms, intended to make the police force more acceptable to all people in Northern Ireland, received the approval in principle of the British government but a mixed reaction from the RUC itself.

Northern Ireland Secretary Mo Mowlam said "Mr Patten has put together a report that gives hope for a better policing system."

'Shoddy piece of work'

But a member of the senior RUC officers union, told the BBC that while it welcomed many of the reforms it disagreed strongly with others.

Chief superintendent Hugh Wallace said they were "disappointed and hurt in relation to the change in the name and symbolism".

Ulster Unionist leader David Trimble also objected to the proposed name change and called the Patten Report the "most shoddy piece of work I have seen".

The mostly nationalist Social Democratic and Labour Party broadly welcomed the report, but a spokeswoman for Sinn Fein said it did not go far enough and said the police force should be disbanded.

Mr Patten said the RUC needed to be transformed but not disbanded and memorials to murdered colleagues should remain.

"But the greatest memorial of all will be a peaceful Northern Ireland with agreed institutions - including an agreed police service," he said.

In Context

An act implementing many of the recommended changes was passed by the UK Parliament in November 2000.

The RUC changed its name to the Police Force of Northern Ireland on 4 November 2001.

The uniform and badge were changed in March 2002 and the first recruits of the new service graduated on 5 April 2002.

Key Recommendations

Change of name to "Northern Ireland Police Force"
New oath and badge
Force cut from 13,000 to 8,000 officers
Raise level of Catholic recruits from 8% to 30%
The Police Authority to be replaced with a Police Board which would include Sinn Fein
All changes to be scrutinized by an international commissioner

08 September 2005

The Project Gutenberg eBook of The Open Secret Of Ireland, by T. M. Kettle.

Project Gutenberg

" Undoubtedly, one of the main sources of the Anglo-Irish difficulty has been mutual misunderstanding, generating mutual mistrust and hatred. But the root of the difficulty goes deeper. It is to be sought in the system of misgovernment and oppression which successive generations of British rulers have imposed upon what, with cruel irony, British historians and statesmen have been wont to call "the sister country." This is the real "open secret" of Ireland, a secret that all who run may read, and the effective bearing of which is: that tyranny begets hatred, and that freedom and justice are the only sure foundations of contentment and goodwill between nations."

>>Read the book online

Whiterock march re-routing stands


A contentious Orange Order parade in west Belfast will not go through security gates in an interface area, the Parades Commission has again said.

The commission said it would not review the ruling on the Whiterock parade because there was no new information.

But it said it would now allow a feeder march on the Springfield Road at "a non-contentious part".

DUP leader Ian Paisley said the issue "could be the spark which kindles a fire there would be no putting out".

Mr Paisley, speaking after holding talks about the parade with Secretary of State Peter Hain, said it was "the most worrying situation he had faced for a very long time".

Both he and the Ulster Unionist leader, Sir Reg Empey, said they had been disappointed by Mr Hain's response.

They said the situation was now in his hands and that they also hope to speak to the Chief Constable, Sir Hugh Orde.

The Orange Order shelved the re-routed parade in June. It was re-scheduled for Saturday but again restricted.

Loyalists blocked roads in north and west Belfast in protest at the decision for the second day.

The Springfield Road was blocked at Dunboyne Park, as was the Ballygomartin Road at the Springmartin Road.

The Crumlin Road was also closed between Hillview Street and Cambria Street.

On Thursday morning, up to 30 people blocked part of the Springfield Road for about 90 minutes.

Protesters say daily blockades will continue until their preferred route of Workman Avenue rather than through the former Mackies factory site is allowed.


Springfield Road was also blocked twice on Wednesday. There have been a series of protests on the Springfield Road over the last few days by loyalists angry at the decision to re-route the parade.

The initial parade planned for June had been opposed by nationalist Springfield Road residents.

In its determination on the march, the Parades Commission cited "a possible adverse effect on community relations" if the march was allowed on the Order's preferred route.

The Parades Commission was set up in 1997 to make decisions on whether or not restrictions should be imposed on controversial parades during Northern Ireland's marching season.

The unionist leaders held talks with Mr Hain via video link at Stormont because Mr Hain is in England.

They were joined at the talks by senior Orangemen and North Belfast MP Nigel Dodds.

Loyalist murder accused on trial


A 36-year-old Portadown man has gone on trial at Belfast Crown Court accused of 64 charges relating to LVF terrorist activity over an eight-year period.

The court heard that William James Fulton, of Queen's Walk, denied the charges, which include three murders and nine attempted murders.

Three co-accused also deny charges relating to terrorist activity.

A Crown lawyer alleged that the defendants had been secretly recorded confessing to an undercover detective.

Mr Fulton is accused of murdering Elizabeth O'Neill, Catholic council worker Adrian Lamph and Catholic taxi driver Michael McGoldrick.

Muriel Gibson, 55, from Clos Trevithick, Cambourne in Cornwall, denied a total of 11 charges including the murder Mr Lamph, possessing guns and explosives, membership of the LVF and withholding information.

Her two daughters Rain Landry, 28, of the same address denies charges relating to explosives, arson and having a petrol bomb, while Talutha Landry, 31, from Penrose Park in Portleven, Cornwall, denies two charges relating to firearms.

All of the charges against the four are alleged to have taken place between 14 December 1991 and 30 September 1999.

During police questioning both Mr Fulton and Ms Gibson claimed they had been "bragging" in an effort to impress the undercover police officers.

The trial continues.

Jeffrey’s home from home... Colombia

Daily Ireland


By Danny Morrison

Free Image Hosting at www.ImageShack.us
Click to view - Photo by Tracey Eaton of protest in Bogota by people whose relatives were slain by paramilitary groups

In July the IRA declared an end to its armed struggle and is about to re-engage with General de Chastelain’s decommissioning body. Up and down the country Catholic schools, churches and houses are being attacked and burnt. A mini civil war rages between loyalist paramilitaries, resulting in violent deaths, demoralising and depressing working-class loyalist districts. Masked gunmen parade the streets in ‘shows of strength’; there is rioting, looting and burning on the Shankill. In Lisburn a number of mothers have accused the PSNI of inaction and threaten to picket the homes of drug pushers who are destroying the lives of their children.
Meanwhile, the MP for that area, DUP convert Jeffrey Donaldson, is 5000 miles away, having cocoa with the Vice-President of Colombia, Francisco Santos.
Jeffrey has been joined by members of the South Armagh-based victims group FAIR (Families Acting for Innocent Relatives). They plan to meet senior politicians, security and intelligence experts. Jeffrey’s visit is part of a campaign to have the Colombian Three returned to and imprisoned in Bogotá. If the Irish government doesn’t send them back then Jeffrey and the DUP have a pretext for not engaging in talks.
FAIR spokesperson Willie Frazer said that they hoped to form a worldwide network of terror victims.
According to Human Rights Watch, there is major collusion between the Colombian Army’s 18 brigades and right-wing paramilitary death squads. Half of the brigades have clear links to paramilitary groups. Jeffrey and Willie have made no mention of plans to meet the victims of the military, despite its involvement in the murder of students, trade unionists and peasants’ representatives or families acting for their innocent relatives.
Eight years ago paramilitaries working closely with the military entered the hamlet of San José de Apartadó in northwest Colombia and closed down its market, accusing the people of having fed FARC guerrillas. They picked out four elected members of the hamlet’s co-operative, killed them and threw their bodies into a shallow grave.
In response the following Easter the community declared itself a Comunidad de Paz, a Community of Peace, in front of a delegation which included members of Pax Christi International and Dutch parliamentarians. The villagers declared that they would: not participate in the war in direct or indirect form; not carry arms; not manipulate or give information to any of the parties involved in armed conflict; not ask any of the parties to solve conflicts; but that, each one commits him/herself to search for a peaceful solution and to a dialogue for solving the conflict of the country.
In later years, 35 of the villagers were killed: 33 by the paramilitaries, and two by FARC.
Last February the Colombian military entered the area one morning. They boasted to villagers that they had just killed three guerrillas.
They held six families for five days without food, dug two graves and threatened to kill and bury everyone once they received the go-ahead.
Earlier, several miles away, soldiers, presumably of the same unit, abducted the leader of the peace community, Luis Eduardo Guerra (who had lectured in the US about his work for peace), his 11-year-old son Deiner Andres, and his girlfriend Beyanira Areiza Guzman.
They shot the three in a field.
The following day other villagers found a shallow grave containing other victims of the army, some of whom had been mutilated.
The dead were: two-year-old Santiago Tuberquia Munoz; her six-year-old sister, Natalia Andrea; their mother and father, Sandra and Alfonso; and a friend, Alejandro Perez Cuiles.
The only military that had been in the area were soldiers of the XVII Brigade’s 33 Battalion.
Human Rights Watch appealed to the Colombian government, the Attorney-General and the Public Prosecutor for the removal of the Brigade but their appeals fell on deaf ears. Three weeks ago the US government resumed military aid to Colombia which had been suspended following the assassination last year of three trade unionists.
Vice President Francisco Santos, whom Jeffrey is meeting, described the three as terrorists who had opened fire on the army.
Colombia accounts for 75 per cent of trade union killings in the world (94 in 2004 alone).
Later, when it emerged that the three unarmed men had been taken from bed, taken into the street and executed, Santos was called upon to resign but refused and remains in office, drinking cocoa with Jeffrey Donaldson as I write.
President Alvaro Uribe once described human rights NGOs as “political agitators in the service of terrorism, cowards who wrap themselves in the banner of human rights”. When I read that I was reminded of that infamous speech by another parliamentarian, Douglas Hogg of the British Home Office. Speaking after meeting senior RUC officers in 1989, Hogg accused some lawyers of being “unduly sympathetic to the cause of the IRA.”
Four weeks later Pat Finucane was assassinated in what was clearly an act of collusion between state intelligence services and loyalist paramilitaries.
Come to think of it, Colombia must seem like a home from home for the delegation.
Jeffrey and Willie have been well used to all that “propaganda” against the “Security Forces” and talk of “shoot-to-kill” and “collusion”.
And the fact that there are “victims” on one side and one side only. “Ours”.


Danny Morrison is a regular media commentator on Irish politics. He is the author of three novels and three works of non-fiction.

Shrine to suicide victims inspired children's commissioner


08/09/2005 - 13:18:19

Northern Ireland's Children’s Commissioner today told how a street corner shrine to lost lives made him appreciate the scale of the North’s suicide problem.

Nigel Williams recalled a poignant trip to north Belfast where he stood before a collage of tributes and said it inspired him to address the issue as a matter of urgency.

On a tour of the area a youth worker pointed out homes were young people had taken their own lives or had practised self-harm.

Mr Williams said: “It was just a litany of horrific stories, all in a very small area.

“Then we got the end of the street and there was a little shrine to those young people who had lost their lives.

“Their pictures were there and there were candles.

“If anything needed to bring home to us the the importance of more work being necessary on this issue, that certainly did.”

The commissioner recalled the emotional trip at the Belfast launch of the Message to the Minister campaign.

The initiative is designed to encourage young people to express their views on the subject to Health Minister Shaun Woodward via the NICCY (Northern Ireland Commissioner for Children and Young People) website.

A total of 150 young people took their lives in the North last year.

But although suicide levels across the North stand at around an average of eight per 100,000 population, in north and west Belfast the figure has soared to 18.

The commissioner said his office had been directly involved in a number of tragic cases involving young people who were feeling suicidal but there was insufficient psychiatric provisions and nowhere safe for them go.

On the challenges faced by his team, he added: “At times it has been an incredible struggle and fight simply because there is not enough provision.

“It’s not that those on the other end of the phone, working in health and social services, don’t want to help.

“It’s just that they don’t have sufficient resources, sufficient beds, sufficient people to respond to all the needs that young people have when they are desperate.”

Messages to the minister – who has appointed a suicide task force – can be sent by clicking on a link on www.niccy.org

Green paint thrown at church hall


A sectarian motive is not being ruled out for a paint attack on a Protestant church hall in Ballymena, police say.

A coffee jar filled with green paint was thrown at Leymore Mission Hall at Ballymoney Road in Ballymena.

The damage was discovered at about 0800 BST on Thursday.

The attack is the latest in a series of incidents on Catholic and Protestant homes and buildings in the Ballymena area in recent months.

Thirty police officers have been involved in a fresh security operation intended to prevent sectarian attacks.

Operation Striker covered 50 Catholic-owned properties, churches, schools and GAA sports grounds last week.

Vehicle checkpoints were set up in Ballymena, Ahoghill and Portglenone while mobile patrols covered other locations.

The leaders of the four main churches in Northern Ireland have issued a statement describing the present level of violence on the streets as "totally unacceptable".

In their statement issued on Wednesday, Catholic Archbishop Sean Brady, Church of Ireland Primate Archbishop Robin Eames, Presbyterian Church leader the Reverend Harry Uprichard and Methodist leader the Reverend Desmond Bain said they condemned "any words or actions which caused danger to anyone because of their religious or political identity".

"Attacks from any source on churches, schools, halls, homes, the elderly and the young cannot be justified, excused or accepted," the church leaders said.

"Apart from their criminality such actions are immoral."

Police said between 1 March and 31 August, there were 42 recorded incidents, 28 against Catholics and 14 against Protestants.

DUP will talk to republicans: SF


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Speaking on the Falls Road yesterday Sinn Féin chief negotiator Martin McGuinness insisted that the Democratic Unionist Party will talk directly with republicans.

Mr McGuinness was speaking as Sinn Féin launched a major rally headlined ‘Make Partition History’, which is scheduled to take place on Saturday, September 24 in Dublin. Addressing a Belfast news conference, the Mid-Ulster MP predicted that the coming months will be “vitally, critically important” for the peace process.

Mr McGuinness also urged unionist political leaders to speak out strongly against ongoing paramilitary violence which is emanating from the unionist community.

Asked about the negative reaction of unionists following the IRA’s decision to end its armed campaign, Mr McGuinness commented: “On the republican side we understand our responsibilities in terms of how we convince people in our community that violence is not the way forward and that the peace process is the best way forward.

“I think that the instability is more related to the internal dynamics of unionism and the concerns that unionists have about their future, concerns that can be allayed by decisive leadership, by courageous leadership from unionist leaders,” Mr McGuinness said.

“What I’m saying is very clear and I think very, very important. We as Irish republicans are only interested in moving forward to a united Ireland by peaceful and democratic means.

“Now, that appears to frighten some unionist leaders.

“I think that they need to overcome their fears and the best way to overcome their fears is to engage with republican leaders about the future and the only way we can do that – and the peace process proves it – is by dialogue.

“The coming weeks are going to be vitally, critically important. I think the coming weeks will provide an opportunity for Ian Paisley to reassess where he’s coming from and to give much more enlightened and courageous leadership to unionists at this time,” Mr McGuinness said.

Notably, Mr McGuinness compared the current political period with the years before the 1994 IRA ceasefire, during which the British government had secretly engaged in private talks with the Sinn Féin leadership through senior officials.
Calling for republicans across Ireland to attend the ‘Make Partition History’ rally on September 24, Mr McGuinness said, “Sinn Féin are encouraging people from all walks of life to come along and enjoy the Carnival and Rally on September 24 to show that the desire and demand for Irish unity amongst the ordinary Irish people is as strong today as it ever was.

“Our goal is the reunification of our country and an end to British jurisdiction in it. We are confident it will be realised.”

Journalist:: Jarlath Kearney

Loyalists bring West Belfast to a standstill while cops look on


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A continuing Orange Order protest on the Springfield Road was described yesterday as “an absolute outrage” by a West Belfast Policing Partnership member.

Marie Kane, who is the only West Belfast resident who sits on the WBPP, said she was “hugely disappointed” by the failure of the PSNI to disperse the crowd which gathered at rush hour yesterday morning and evening.

Many Springfield Road residents were unable to travel to work yesterday morning because of the blockage, while many of their children were prevented from going to school at the normal time. Other residents of West Belfast also suffered as the protest had a knock-on effect throughout the North and West of the city. Marie described the situation as “absolute bedlam”.

“The situation is deplorable,” she added.

In an unusual twist, the Orange Order contacted local Protestant schools in West Belfast earlier in the week to warn them to avoid the chaos by closing early yesterday, today and tomorrow.

A member of staff at Springfield Primary confirmed that a note had been received and that the school would close early, but the principal was not available for comment.

Marie Kane went on: “This clear attack on Catholic children is disgusting. What have they done to the Orange Order? My 14-year-old daughter was unable to get to school this morning, but they contacted Protestant schools to ensure they weren’t affected. It’s a sad reflection on these people.”

It has also emerged that patients needing medical attention were also affected by the blockage.

In a statement to staff, the North and West Belfast Health and Social Services Trust warned: “In the event of disruption in some parts of North and West Belfast staff have been asked to ensure as far as possible services are maintained, and staff report if they have any difficulties gaining access to areas. Staff are reminded that during civil disturbances they should ensure they do not put themselves at an unacceptable risk and are cautious when undertaking duties in non-daylight hours."

The PSNI told protesters that they were causing an illegal blockade and asked them to move, but they refused. The loyalist protests are in relation to restrictions on an Orange parade this weekend. The Orange Order postponed its Whiterock parade in June after being barred from Workman Avenue and told to go through the former Mackies factory site.

The parade has been re-scheduled for Saturday but has also been restricted. The protesters say daily blockades would continue until Orangemen get their preferred route.

Seán Paul O’Hare, spokesperson for the Springfield Road Residents’ Association, said the action of the Orange Order was a huge letdown. The residents group met with the North and West Parades Forum earlier this year in what residents thought was a constructive meeting. “There were further discussions planned for September,” explained Seán Paul.

“We’re disappointed that instead of people sitting around a table in dialogue, we now have another road blockage. It doesn’t bode well, and residents groups are appealing for calm.”

Seán Paul suggested that community leaders need to take responsibility and resolve the situation. “The people who live on the Springfield Road have a right to live in peace,” he said. “We would appeal to people to abide by the decision of the Parades Commission and would call for the North and West Parades Forum to re-enter into dialogue with Springfield Road residents.”

Sinn Féin councillor Tom Hartley accused the loyalist protesters of trying to heighten sectarian tensions.

“The chaos created this morning was designed to heighten tensions in the Springfield Road area,” he said. “The ongoing tension and stress this imposes upon the nationalist community on the Springfield Road and the stress it imposes on community relations is unacceptable and should be removed. It is an attempt to try and overturn the ruling of the Parades Commission.”

Reiterating Seán Paul’s appeal for dialogue, he added: “If the Orange Order want to march through areas where the local community does not want them then at the very least they have an obligation to enter into meaningful discussion. Threatening host communities and raising tensions in interface areas is not the way forward.”

SDLP councillor Tim Attwood said, “The hypocrisy of those responsible for organising and taking part in this road block is breathtaking.

“The mentality seems to be that it is a crime to reroute an Orange parade even though the decision is in the best interests of the community but it is perfectly fine to expect the people travelling from across the North to seek an alternative route to work on a Wednesday morning. The protest is wrong and only further damages the cause that these people are purporting to represent.”

Journalist:: Laura McDaid

Schoolkids abused by seven-year-old racists


Two pupils from a West Belfast primary school have been left shaken and distraught after the most recent in a series of racial assaults climaxed in a vicious attack outside their home in Short Strand.

The pupils of Holy Trinity Primary School in Turf Lodge, Shade Fairley (8) and her brother Patrick (10), have suffered continual abuse since moving from London four years ago, says their mother, Ann, originally from Ballymurphy, who returned home to Belfast in the hope of providing her children with a stable and loving atmosphere to grow up in.

However, deeply angered and disappointed by the continual attacks being inflicted on her mixed-race son and daughter, by children as young as seven, Ann penned a letter to the Andersonstown News about the events of the most recent attack, just last Thursday.

“Who teaches a seven-year-old to call others niggers?” wrote Ann. “The onslaught began with spittle, stones and sticks, but they used these, along with their fists and their feet with such ferocity to beat my children.

“My children stood tall and my heart sank,” she continued. “I confronted my children’s attackers but the profanities, the stones and the chanting continued, ‘Niggers, Niggers!’ My presence did not make them relent and nothing I said made any difference.

“We were forced to retreat, into our house. My son’s face was pale and my daughter’s face was crimson. They stared at each other, their beautiful, round, pale brown faces reflected in one another; a small comfort: they were not alone – they were two.”

Visibly moved by the memory of the attack, Ann admits that she and her children held each other and cried after the assault, and explains her motivation for writing the letter.

“Nobody in our street said anything about it, it was like nobody saw anything, but then, it was the same story the time before, and the time before that, and the time before that. This has happened more times than I can count and it needs to be highlighted. I don’t want my children to be tolerated, I want them to be accepted.”

Raised in what she describes as a socialist family in Ballymurphy “with beliefs of absolute humanitarianism”, Ann says she has brought her children up with the same beliefs, but in contrast, experienced “a vocabulary of hatred instilled into the children who were involved in the attack.”

“In the workplace we would hope that some provision in employment legislation would at least go some way in attempting to address the racist abuse of adults, but what will protect my children from the torrent of racist abuse they are subjected to by children who are less than four feet tall? These abusers use and understand the language of 40-year-old racists, the only thing they’re missing are white cone-shaped hats,” continued Ann.

Claiming that racial attacks are not confined to the actions of thugs in loyalist areas, Ann adds that a radical approach to the problem is desperately needed before Belfast witnesses “a heart-breaking, vile, deplorable racist murder, like that in Liverpool this summer.”

Commenting on the attacks, which are said to be on the rise in Belfast, a spokesperson for the Anti-Racism Network, Flair Campbell, said, “Racism knows no borders and transcends across all sectors and class lines but it seems to be more pronounced in working class communities. It’s only through community and political leadership that racism can be tackled. WARN [West Against Racism Network] calls for that leadership to be shown and we will be in touch with the family to offer our support.”

Frank Brennan of CRJ in the Short Strand added his condemnation of the incident and said, “We condemn any abuse whether it be of a sectarian or racist nature on any individual or family who may be vulnerable to such anti-social attacks. We will do all we can to ensure that this stops forthwith and I will be contacting Ann and speaking to the parents of any of the children involved who can be identified to stop this abuse.”

Journalist:: Ciara McGuigan

Battle site experts meet at Boyne


08/09/2005 - 07:05:59

Experts on world battle sites gather at the Battle of the Boyne in Co Louth today for a special workshop.

The event will draw site managers from Gettysburg in the US, Culloden in Scotland, Waterloo and Flanders in Belgium and Hastings and Bosworth in Britain.

Information and expertise will be shared at the workshop which is hosted by Irish Foreign Affairs Minster and local TD, Dermot Ahern.

Mr Ahern said: “All these tragic locations that have shaped history. We can learn from their experience of developing these sites which, in a sense, stand as monuments to a bloody past that should never be repeated.

“I have no doubt that once opened the Boyne battle site will prove to be one of Ireland's major visitor attractions.”

Mr Ahern will also formally launch the development plan for the Boyne site which was purchased by the state in 2000 and has been open to the public since 2002.

A full planning application will be lodged with Meath County Council next month seeking permission to build a visitor exhibition centre and other facilities.

Sinn Féin accuses loyalists of attacking


08/09/2005 - 08:22:17

Sinn Fein has accused loyalists in Belfast of attacking two "interface workers" who were trying to prevent violence in the west of the city last night.

Party spokesman Tom Hartley claimed the two men tried to prevent around 50 loyalists from entering a tense area when they were punched and kicked by the gang.

Loyalists in west Belfast have been engaged in serious street violence in recent days and also blocked a road in the area yesterday to protest at the re-routing of an Orange Order parade.

Celebrations follow historic win


David Healy celebrates his golden goal

Celebrations went on late into the night after Northern Ireland's historic 1-0 win over England.

Motorists drove through the centre of Belfast sounding their horns and the sound of cheering could be heard in the streets long after the match finished.

It was the first time that Northern Ireland had beaten England in Belfast for 78 years.

Police praised the fans' behaviour with no trouble reported before, during or after the match. No arrests were made.

Late into the night, fans were toasting the golden goal by Leeds striker David Healy which turned football form on its head.

However, speaking on BBC Radio Ulster on Thursday, Healy remained modest about his goalscoring achievement.

Fans were praised by police following the match

"It's one of those where you get your head down, hit it as hard and low as you can, and thankfully it went in," he said.

"I was hoping it was going to go in, but when you actually see it hitting the back of the net, that's when you know you've done something special.

"I'm sure I'll take a lot of credit today, but there were 11 warriors out there last night."

Celebrations may be a little louder in the County Down village of Killyleagh, which is Healy's home town.

Local councillor Eddie Rea said he was going to try to get Down District Council to invite Healy and the rest of the team for a civic reception.

He pointed out that the last Northern Ireland man to score against England back in 1980, Terry Cochrane, was also a native of the town.

Northern Ireland manager Lawrie Sanchez put the shock 1-0 World Cup qualifier victory over England down to the belief of his players.

David Healy paid tribute to the '11 warriors' playing for N Ireland

"I said to them it was about belief to win - when they went out one or two did not believe but by half-time I believed it," he said.

"We were magnificent in the second half and the best team won."

Sanchez said the Group Six success surpassed his FA Cup heroics with Wimbledon and Wycombe Wanderers.

"This has got to top it - for a small nation in world footballing terms to beat a team of the calibre of England, and their best team," he said.

"The fans were also magnificent and we played with an extra man - they raised the team, they believed in the team and the team gave it back in bundles."

Ulster Unionist leader Sir Reg Empey said it was a "spectacular and well deserved win", DUP leader Ian Paisley said Northern Ireland had shown they could "beat the best", and Alliance Party sports spokesman Michael Long said the fans had "showed the positive side of local football".

Second day of city parade protest


Up to 30 people have blocked part of the Springfield Road in west Belfast in protest at the re-routing of an Orange parade through the Whiterock area.

The Order had shelved its re-routed parade in June. It was re-scheduled for Saturday but again restricted.

The road was blocked from 0800 BST and remained closed for about 90 minutes.

Protesters say daily blockades will continue until their preferred route of Workman Avenue rather than through the former Mackies factory site is allowed.

Springfield Road was also blocked twice on Wednesday.

The initial parade planned for June had been opposed by nationalist Springfield Road residents.

In its determination on the march, the Parades Commission cited "a possible adverse effect on community relations" if the march was allowed on the Order's preferred route.

The Parades Commission was set up in 1997 to make decisions on whether or not restrictions should be imposed on controversial parades during Northern Ireland's marching season.

Today in history: Real IRA announce ceasefire


08 September 1998

The dissident republican group behind Northern Ireland's worst atrocity has declared its violence at an end.

The Real IRA - which planted a car bomb that killed 29 people in Omagh less than a month ago - announced their "complete cessation" of violence at 0200 BST.

It followed a conference of the breakaway group's council on Monday night in County Louth. Police were instructed to allow the seven members to meet without fear of arrest.

The ceasefire was given a cautious welcome by the Irish and British Governments.

But UK Prime Minister Tony Blair said the killers behind the Omagh bombing would still be brought to justice and would receive no amnesty.

In the County Tyrone town - where the damage caused by the bomb on 15 August is still very much in evidence - there were mixed feelings about the announcement.

"I hope they're honest and being truthful with what they're saying," said one man.

Another resident told the BBC: "I think they're a bit late - it doesn't mean a lot to the people here, anyway."

The self-styled Real IRA had announced a "suspension" of military activities three days after the bombing.

Since then they have been under intense pressure from the Irish Government and the Provisional IRA to announce a full ceasefire.

Northern Ireland's Deputy First Speaker Seaumus Mallon said the splinter group had finally realised that bloodshed was unacceptable.

"They have got the message from the community and from the two governments - the threat of violence or use of violence will simply not be tolerated again on this island", he said.

In Context

Despite the ceasefire the Real IRA continued to train and organise.

In February 2000 they were linked to a failed bomb attack explosion at Shackleton Barracks at Ballykelly, County Derry.

They are also suspected of carrying out several attacks in London in 2000 and 2001 - including the bombing of BBC Television Centre in west London.

The only person to have been charged (as of 10 May 2005) in connection with the Omagh bomb is father-of-four Colm Murphy, 49.

In January 2002 he was sentenced to 14 years for conspiring to cause the explosion. **See THIS UPDATE on Colm Murphy's re-trial.

**See UPDATE concerning the Omagh case against Sean Gerard Hoey, 35, from Jonesborough.


Irish American Information Service

09/07/05 08:26 EST

Northern Ireland Secretary Peter Hain today said he would not be rushed into any 'quick-fix' judgments on the loyalist Ulster Volunteer Force's ceasefire. As he prepared to meet nationalist SDLP politicians, their leader Martin Durkan said the failure of the British Government to declare the UVF ceasefire invalid, after a bloody summer which has seen the organisation kill four people in Belfast, was unacceptable.

Mr Durkan said at Stormont Castle, where his party also met Northern Ireland Office Security Minister Shaun Woodward, that there was no need for Mr Hain to wait for a report, which he received yesterday from the Independent Monitoring Commission, to stop recognising the UVF ceasefire.

"They have been literally getting away with murder this summer," the Foyle MP said.

However Mr Hain said his first priority was to end all violence.

"My concern is to stop the murder and this awful violence which has just stained communities in Belfast and elsewhere. You do not necessarily do that by quick procedural fixes."

The UVF has waged a vendetta against the rival Loyalist Volunteer Force in Belfast, claiming the lives of four men.

In recent days, masked loyalists have also been involved in disturbances in the Shankill area of the city.

Lorries were hijacked and burnt and police vehicles attacked following PSNI raids prompted by a UVF show of strength in the Woodvale area on Saturday.

According to well-placed sources, the Independent Monitoring Commission's special report has blamed the UVF for recent killings.

The IMC presented the British and Irish governments with its report on the UVF-Loyalist Volunteer Force feud yesterday as violence and serious tensions around loyalist paramilitary activity continues to increase.

The UVF is also accused by police and politicians of orchestrating serious rioting in north Belfast that was triggered by the arrest of one man and the seizure of a UVF machine gun on Monday.

The weapon, said to be of a Sten-gun type, and other UVF material were seized following a "show of strength" by the UVF in north Belfast on Saturday.

The trouble flared as tensions mount about this Saturday's postponed Orange Order Whiterock parade in west Belfast. It was due to be held in late June but Orangemen held a protest march along the Shankill instead after they were banned from parading onto the nationalist Springfield Road through Workman Avenue.

The Parades Commission ruled that the Orangemen could march on to the Springfield Road through the old Mackies site, but they said this was unacceptable. The commission has held to this decision for Saturday, which has raised concern that loyalist paramilitaries could try to exploit the parade by further rioting or even attempting to trigger interface violence.

The IMC cannot specifically instruct Mr Hain to "specify" the UVF, ie rule its ceasefire is no longer intact. "But it will be perfectly clear from the IMC report that it blames the UVF for the recent killings," said one senior source last night.

"There will be nothing surprising in the report," the source added.

Make Partition History

Sinn Féin

Published: 7 September, 2005

Sinn Féin Chief Negotiator, Mid Ulster MP Martin McGuinness MLA speaking at the unveiling of a 'Make Partition History' campaign banner outside the Sinn Féin Sevastopol Street Office on the Falls Road has said that the national rally on September 24th will give people from across Ireland the opportunity to make a very strong statement in support of Irish unity.

Mr McGuinness said:

"On Saturday 24th September a Rally for Irish unity will take place in Dublin. Following the end of the IRA's historic initiative an opportunity has been created for us to build on the increasing momentum for Irish unity and to rally the Irish people behind the slogan, Make Partition History. It is an opportunity we should not miss.

"Sinn Féin are encouraging people from all walks of life to come along and enjoy the Carnival and Rally on September 24 to show that the desire and demand for Irish unity amongst the ordinary Irish people is as strong today as it ever was.

"Our goal is the reunification of our country and an end to British jurisdiction in it. We are confident it will be realised.

"The campaign to 'Make Partition History' is also about building the momentum for an Ireland that is different from the rip-off Ireland and dodgy dealings of successive Irish governments and the discrimination and stalemate of northern politics. It is about the demand for a future that rejects the negatives politics of selfish interest where everyone is valued equally and has an equal place in our society." ENDS

Sinn Féin demands that Michael McDowell clarify his approach to juvenile justice

Sinn Féin

Published: 7 September, 2005

The Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform presented proposals today for additions to the Criminal Justice Bill, which Sinn Féin spokesperson on Justice, Aengus Ó Snodaigh said, "amounted to a turnaround in the governments approach to children."

According to Deputy Ó Snodaigh, "the Minister plans to lower the age of criminal responsibility and to introduce Anti-Social Behaviour Orders. The net effect of this will be to widen the criminalisation of children.

"Under the Minister's proposals the principle of restorative justice which underpins and is enshrined in the Childrens Act 2001 would be replaced by a penal approach. The Minister must now clarify his approach to juvenile justice. The Ministers proposals would also require sizeable resources yet the government has already failed to fully resource and implement the existing provisions of the Children's Act.

"In 1996 the United Nations Committee reporting on Ireland expressed concern at the low age limits in this jurisdiction. Following this the government made a commitment to raise the age of criminal responsibility to 12 years. Provision for this was made in the Children Act 2001. The States own recent report responding to the earlier UN reprimand points to the provision in the Children Act for raising the age of criminal responsibility to 12 years as progress. The State's report fails of course to mention the Ministers intention to lower that commitment to 10 years and 7 for serious crimes. The Minister appears hell bent on following a poor British example rather than looking to some of our more progressive European neighbours." ENDS

Indonesian boy returns to mother's house


07 September 2005 22:20

Indonesian child welfare authorities have confirmed that four-year-old Tristan Dowse has left a state-run children's home in Jakarta and gone to live with his natural mother, Suryiani.

The news was relayed to Ann McElhinney, the investigative journalist who reunited mother and son, as captured in the RTÉ documentary, The search for Tristan's Mum.

The programme was broadcast on RTÉ One last night.

Tristan became the centre of media attention in Ireland earlier this year after Irishman Joe Dowse and his wife Lala returned him to an orphanage in Jakarta after he was in their care for two years.

Ms McElhinney said she is delighted that mother and child will be together rather than having Tristan readopted by strangers.

She said Indonesian authorities had employed the services of a child psychologist to assess what was best for Tristan's future.

07 September 2005

Bullets sent to home

Daily Ireland

Connla Young

A Protestant man has had two bullets delivered to his home after helping a Catholic neighbour at the centre of a sectarian campaign of intimidation in Co Antrim.
It is understood the Protestant man received the bullets after foiling a petrol bomb attack on the home of Catholic woman Kathleen McCaughey who was forced to flee her Ahoghill home by loyalists in July.
Speaking to Daily Ireland last night, Mrs McCaughey confirmed that her neighbour was determined to leave the area after the incident, which was not reported to the PSNI.
“I received no help from the UUP or DUP or anyone living near me except for this man and this is how he has been treated. People around me were warned not to help.”
News of the threat comes as the erection of sectarian posters in a Co Antrim town threatening Catholic residents has been compared to the actions of the Ku Klux Klan in the US.
The posters, which appeared throughout the village of Ahoghill, near Ballymena, last weekend, threatened to put an “end to republican, nationalist and Roman influences within our community”.
Tension among Catholic residents living in the loyalist town is rising ahead of a 30-band loyalist parade scheduled to take place tonight.
In the past two months, three Catholic families have been forced to flee Ahoghill after their homes were targeted in paint and petrol bomb attacks.
The poster, which carries the heading ‘statement by the loyalist people of Ahoghill’, accuses the British government of pandering to “republican demands” and says: “The time has come to end all capitulation and raise awareness of the imbalance shown to republican groups”.
Sinn Féin MLA for north Antrim Philip McGuigan described the development as “sinister”.
He said: “It is a statement one would imagine coming from the likes of the Ku Klux Klan.
“It is completely unacceptable that the perpetrators of the ethnic cleansing of Ahoghill should attempt to find excuses for themselves and their actions.
“One wonders how many people living in Ahoghill agree with the sentiments in the posters.”
Since the beginning of July there have been several dozen attacks on Catholic owned properties in the wider Ballymena area.
In total, five Catholic churches and a number of schools have been targeted by paint and fire bombers.
Last week the PSNI was forced to mount an armed guard at the gates of several Catholic churches and schools in the area over heightened fears of loyalist attack.
The recently erected loyalist posters are being seen by many as an attempt to intimidate the remaining few Catholics left in the staunchly loyalist village.
The poster also refers to a recent dissident republican statement threatening action unless the attacks on Catholic homes are halted. In a sinister turn the poster warns: “They would need to consider the consequences for all outlying areas if as much as one family in Ahoghill is targeted by these renegades. We will defend our culture in Ahoghill no matter what cost this incurs and reserve the right to be proactive in doing so.”
DUP Ballymena councillor Roy Gillespie, who lives close to Ahoghill, says he hasn’t seen the poster.
“I’ll wait until I have seen it before I comment but I will say this, I would not do unto others as I would not have done unto myself - I would treat other people as I would like to be treated.”
The poster threat comes after unionist politicians threw out a Sinn Féin motion condemning recent violence in the Ballymena area and calling for a council-sponsored forum to be set up in a bid to tackle the scourge of sectarianism in the borough.
A spokesperson for the PSNI said it had not received any reports about the posters.

Irish no longer necessary to join Gardaí


07/09/2005 - 15:39:38

The Government today announced changes in the recruitment procedures of trainee gardaí.

The Irish language will become an option rather than a compulsory requirement. Candidates wishing to enter the force must have a Leaving Certificate qualification or its equivalent in two languages. One of these two languages must be Irish or English.

The Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, Michael McDowell said the changes were being made to open recruitment to ethnic communities wishing to join the force.

Non-nationals wishing to join the Gardaí will have to be legally resident in Ireland for five years before joining, while EU nationals will now be eligible to join.

Ballad of the Rossport five

Belfast Telegraph

It is David versus Goliath as residents of Mayo try to halt Shell's efforts to bring Ireland's gas ashore. They say the oil giant's plans are unsafe - and five protesters are now in jail. David McKittrick reports

07 September 2005

"Come all ye who love liberty, and listen to my tale,
Concerning honest Rossport men, now languishing in jail,
Because they stood up for their rights,
and would not bend the knee,
To the mighty Shell - who can go to hell,
if they won't go out to sea!"

The men held in Ireland's Cloverhill prison now have not only their own title - the Rossport Five - but their own ballad as well, which lauds their gallantry and decries the energy giant Shell as an "ignoble predator".

Energy development can often generate controversy but the issue of a new gas pipeline in north Mayo, a beautiful and unspoilt part of Ireland's western seaboard, has turned into a bitter and protracted struggle.

On one side is the Irish government and Shell, who are both intent on making the most of a large underground gasfield 40 miles off the Co Mayo coast.

The Corrib field is 237 million years old and lies more than 3,000 metres beneath the seabed. Its discovery in 1996 was welcomed as a significant new source of energy, and the government happily struck deals with Shell and other companies for its exploitation.

In international terms the field is classified as small to medium, but since this means it contains a bit under one trillion cubic feet of gas it was seen as a highly welcome addition to Irish resources.

Detailed and complex plans for bringing the gas ashore were drawn up, all subject to government approval and various stages of planning permission. There was plenty time for local consultation. Yet somewhere along the line the whole process went pear-shaped, in a classic example of how an enterprise can be favoured by cosmopolitan Dublin yet can arouse opposition in the rural west.

The government was content with Shell's plans but people around Rossport, where the pipeline is to come ashore from the Atlantic, lodged strenuous objections. They claimed Shell was riding roughshod over their wishes, ruining the landscape and installing a dangerously experimental new system. All of this is strongly denied by Shell, which insisted it was adhering to the most rigorous standards of safety and co-operating closely with the Dublin authorities.

Now a determined pressure group has sprung up, campaigning at home and abroad for support in what it characterises as a David and Goliath struggle. The most determined of all are the Rossport Five, the local men who have been jailed indefinitely for contempt of court over their opposition to Shell's plans. Yesterday they spent their 70th day behind bars.

As the morass deepened all work on the project has ceased. The five would be released if they purged their contempt and promised not to interfere with work on the pipeline, but they have refused to do so. The anti-pipeline campaign has a credible set of martyrs in the five, Micheal O'Seighin, Vincent McGrath, his brother Philip, Willie Corduff and Brendan Philbin. These are, by universal consent, not born troublemakers: three of them are small farmers, living on bogland, while two are retired teachers.

A man who visited one of them in jail said: "I knew I was in the presence of somebody who had backbone. That is a scarce commodity and when somebody stands up like that we all have a responsibility to stand with them. "

Their campaign has won the support of others who agitate in other fields. One contributor at a Dublin protest meeting enthused: "It's good to see everybody from every left-wing and liberal group in Dublin here."

But the five are no serial malcontents: they are viewed as principled stalwart country men, described by one local as "really very strong people, men of great character, part of a community revolt against Shell" .

Rossport is one of those areas, to be found in the west of Ireland, where dramatic views and spectacular beaches exist off the usual tourist trail. In the words of Brid O'Seighin, daughter of one of the imprisoned men: " It's an isolated part of north Mayo, quiet and rural, not visited by many tourists - or indeed by many politicians either for that matter. It's a beautiful part of the country with clean, sweeping beaches.

"I love living there. Everything was absolutely grand until Shell arrived, that was five years ago. Shell moved in with jeeps and trucks and diggers and all the destruction started."

Any such project is bound to have an effect on the environment, especially in such an idyllically unspoilt area. The exacerbating factor in north Mayo, however, is that most in the area believe it will receive no particular advantage from the project, even though it has an overall costing of €900m (£610m).

The gas is scheduled to run through the area to an onshore refinery where it will be processed and then run through to the national grid. Campaigners claim the refinery will provide only a handful of jobs, and that gas in Mayo will be no cheaper than anywhere else in the country. "There is absolutely no local or regional benefit," insisted a campaigner. " We get all of the trouble and no advantages."

Shell presents the project as being of strategic national importance to the overall Irish economy. It describes it as one of the largest-ever private inward investments in the country, with the potential to supply 60 per cent of Irish gas needs.

But the sharpest and most acute issue of the campaign is that of risk. In most cases, the gas from undersea fields is refined and treated at sea or at the shoreline before being piped inland. In the case of the Corrib field the refinery is to be sited six miles inland.The authorities have given Shell permission to run its pipeline across the property of several dozen landowners. Most have consented, though some say they regret doing so.

Te Rossport Five went to jail in June for refusing to stop breaching a court order restraining the obstruction of the work. They claimed the pipeline was designed to take pressures of 345 bar, which is about four times as high as a normal gas supply line.

In addition to pressure, the five maintain that untreated gas straight from the sea is more dangerous than refined gas, claiming there have been lethal explosions in other countries.

One of the five told the court the pipeline was 70 metres from his home and he was "living in fear" for his safety. Another said he was stressed and not sleeping at night. Shell took out orders for their committal, and they have been in prison ever since.

The protesters have founded the Shell to Sea campaign, highlighting the demand that the company should treat the gas before piping it ashore. Perhaps that would defuse the controversy but it would also cost Shell millions, and the company is set against the idea.

Shell argues that safety standards are high, a spokesman saying yesterday that the pipeline would be three times as thick as others and, though it could, it would never carry pressures as high as 345 bar. He added: " What matters in terms of pipeline safety is how well designed, constructed, operated and maintained the pipeline is. It is designed and will be built and operated to world-class standards."

The campaigners face a formidable array of forces, most obviously the partnership between the Irish government and Shell. Very large sums of money are at stake. Yet their crusade has produced deep historical resonances for many Irish people. One of its first rallies, for instance, was in Castlebar, where a century and a quarter ago, the Land League was formed to take on landlords. "I hadn't expected it," said a local man interested in history, "but the speakers made a surprising number of references to the league."

The campaign has also, whether consciously or not, taken on a significance which has lifted it from a local issue centring on safety and the environment to a much wider stand. A woman who visited one of the five men said he told her: "This is much bigger than us being in prison and it's not about us getting out of prison. It's about what kind of country we want to live in."

The woman proclaimed to a rally: "This touches on everything from environment, health and safety to political corruption and the whole question of democracy. They are the burning issues that people are constantly coming up against in this country."

The campaign is certainly tapping into some existing concerns. Although the Fianna Fail party is the most popular in the Irish Republic and heads the present government, some of its major figures have been tainted by previous corruption scandals. A previous energy minister, Ray Burke, has served time behind bars for personal corruption. There is absolutely no evidence linking Shell and corruption, but there is a generalised Irish distrust of multinationals.

The campaign received a boost in recent months when it was revealed that consultants brought in by the government were not independent, as had been claimed, and in fact had connections with Shell. Criticisms of the juxtaposition of the party and the company draw much applause at the protest meetings, for example when Brid O'Seighin lambasts "the state-corporate two-step". Another campaigner, Maura Harrington, raised laughs when she asked: "Would you buy a high-pressure gas pipeline from that crowd?"

Relations between the Rossport campaign and Shell are now terrible. Either the five men or the company could make moves that might start to defuse the dispute but much pride is involved. Contributions at meetings are peppered with indignation, with Shell and the authorities blamed not just for alleged risks and physical damage but also for their allegedly insulting conduct of the whole affair. One campaigner said: "It's the insult to the people of north Mayo, an insult to people and place," said one campaigner. " It shows the disrespect they have for the men of the area."

Shell adopted a conciliatory tone yesterday. "We want to see the men out of prison and returned to their families," said a company spokesman. "We are greatly concerned that they have been totally misled about the safety of the pipeline and while their fears are real, the basis for them is not.

"We believe that what is needed most at this time is calm and reasoned dialogue between Shell and the landowners. We would like to use such an opportunity to put all the facts before them.

"It's a difficult situation for all, especially for the families of the men; we are all trying hard to find a solution," he added.

The campaign has generated much support but has not actually swept the country and has yet to put Shell under enough pressure to force a climbdown. But it has been a public relations setback for the company, and for the moment work has been stopped. The dispute will not be easily settled, for an agreed outcome will need to reconcile commercial concerns and the determined stance of men who have become the pride of Mayo.

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