15 October 2005

'Catholics forced to live in squalor


(Bimpe Fatogun, Irish News)

The assertion that Catholics were treated "like animals" by the unionist ascendancy may be extreme but it is not a million miles from the truth, according to one Protestant civil rights activist.

Ivan Cooper emerged as one of the major figures of the 1960s civil rights movement.

A Co Derry Protestant, Mr Cooper was initially a grateful recipient of employment discrimination.

"I can remember whenever I was first approached about employment as a young executive in the shirt industry," he said.

"It wasn't advertised but I was approached simply because I was a Protestant.

"What they didn't know was how my political outlook would develop over the years."

The trade union activist went on to become a Stormont MP was an early advocate for equality for all.

"Derry was probably the Achilles heel situation in that nearly one third of it's population had a proportional majority on the council," he said.

"The difficulty was because of the lack of universal franchise. The vote was tied to houses, they just simply didn't build any houses for the Catholic population.

"In parts of Derry, [Catholics] were living in the likes of Springtown Camp on the edge of the city."

Springtown Camp was a former US army base, vacated in 1945 by GIs and left to house Catholics families who made their homes in the discarded Nissan huts.

"There were extremely high infant mortality rates and people living in absolute squalor.

"There were terrible housing conditions but they wouldn't build houses because that would have created imbalance in the council.

"You had men standing on street corners with no chance of employment opportunities."

He said as far as he is concerned there was clear bias against Catholics in the north in the 1960s and before.

"Father Reid didn't put it very well, but the essence of what he was saying was absolutely correct. Even in 2005 unionism hasn't accepted the mistakes of the past.

"As far as I'm concerned it was an unfortunate remark, but I could understand that he said it when he was faced with provocation."

UUP representative Esmond Birnie said on the contrary unionists are aware that

there was some discrimination in the past against Catholics.

However, he questioned the scale of such bias.

"It is very important to draw a distinction between what an individual might do and what may be done as a deliberate state policy," Dr Birnie said.

"There were bad-minded individuals but it is an exaggeration to say the province had some sort of apartheid system."

He pointed out that there was a one-man-one-vote system for Stormont and Westminster elections at the time, claiming that the criteria for council elections discriminated against working-class Protestants as much as working-class Catholics.

"To say what happened in the past was like the treatment of blacks in South Africa is to downplay the extent of that evil. The same is true of Nazi Germany.

"Anyone who draws such comparisons clearly doesn't know their own history or the history of central Europe in the mid-21st century."

However, historian Eamonn Phoenix said the 1969 Cameron Report into "injustices in Northern Ireland" found the government guilty of such charges.

He also pointed out that Stormont prime ministers and cabinet ministers had made sectarian calls-to-arms in parliament.

"Sir Basil Brooke, then a cabinet minister who went on to become prime minister, gave a speech telling people not to employ Roman Catholics, saying he hadn't 'one about the place (his lands)'," Dr Phoenix said.

"Nationalists felt they were treated as second class citizens from the inception of the state in 1921 until 1972."

October 15, 2005

This article appeared first in the October 14, 2005 edition of the Irish News.

Terrifying attack on girl

Daily Ireland

By Aine McEntee

A 15-year-old girl from north Belfast has said she thought she was going to die after she was savagely set upon by two women as she walked home from school.
Our Lady of Mercy girls’ school pupil Catherine Hamilton was walking home along the Ligoniel Road in north Belfast after school on Thursday when two women hurled sectarian abuse at her and trailed her into a garden.
The women, described as being in their 40s, pulled Ms Hamilton’s hair back and struck her on the face and nose, causing her to bleed.
“I thought they were going to kill me,” the schoolgirl said.
“They said you don’t have the right to walk through here – we don’t walk through Ligoniel.”
The 15-year-old girl’s attackers then tried to throw her over a fence and into another garden. The teenager managed to escape and a neighbour spotted her on the Ligoniel Road covered in blood and took her home.
While the attack was taking place, a crowd of women and children had gathered to watch.
Ms Hamilton’s stepmother Geraldine Bloomer praised her daughter’s courage in managing to break free of her attackers.
“If she hadn’t have managed to get away, I think they would have killed her. I really do,” Mrs Bloomer said.
“Nobody can believe it, that two grown women could do this.
“Catherine’s been left really terrified by this. She won’t go out on her own and she hasn’t slept a wink since it happened. It’s getting to the stage when you’d be afraid to send your child to school.”
Principal of Our Lady of Mercy girls’ school, Peter Daly, said the school was appalled at the attack.
He also said it wasn’t the first time a pupil had been attacked.
“The school deplores any sort of attack on school girls. It is terrible. But this is a fact of life in some areas, particularly up there at an interface area.
“There has been a number of incidents over the years, due to the position of the school. They’re not common but when they do happen, they are very upsetting for not only the victim but the whole school as well.”
A spokesperson for the PSNI said they were investigating the assault of a 15-year-old girl in Springvale Gardens on Thursday.
“She received a number of injuries, which are not life threatening. We are still investigating to find out if the incident was sectarian. We believe a number of females was involved.
“We are appealing for witnesses to come forward.”

Kangaroo court jibe sparks fury

Daily Ireland

By Jarlath Kearney

Community Restorative Justice volunteers have hit back at SDLP Policing Board member Eddie McGrady after he likened many of the projects to kangaroo courts.

The MP for South Down accused the projects of engaging in “intimidation” to set up an alternative and unaccountable policing service in the North. Community Restorative Justice Ireland director Jim Auld called the SDLP position “totally hypocritical”.
Mr McGrady told BBC radio yesterday that Community Restorative Justice projects “are in many, many cases an element of kangaroo court”.
“In South Down and elsewhere, the particularly Sinn Féin political party has been engaged in setting up committees in communities gathered throughout the constituency, quite frankly as a basis of an alternative to the Police Service of Northern Ireland and also I would argue very strongly as a measure of sustaining an element of control over the local community.
“Sometimes they result in punishments. I think, if one was to probe into lots of communities throughout Northern Ireland, they would find that particularly the young people are suffering from this type of intimidation, which is a total denial of their basic human rights and justice… they have a network and they’ve a headquarters. I mean, this is the extent that the organisation has got to,” Mr McGrady said.
The SDLP man said he was in favour of Community Restorative Justice work but that the scheme “has to be under the jurisdiction, as it were, of the judicial system”.
An outraged Jim Auld of CRJ responded: “I offered, on a number of occasions, a position to the SDLP policing spokesperson Alex Attwood on the CRJ board of directors.
“Similar offers were made to Sinn Féin and a number of other agencies and people from within the nationalist community because we recognise that CRJ gets its strength from the breadth and depth of the people in that community. Thankfully, we have the vast majority of those people supportive of CRJ.
“The standards that we use are equivalent and compliant with the international standards agreed on restorative justice in the Vienna Convention. The training that all staff in CRJ — including employees and volunteers — receive are nationally accredited training programmes. We are local people working in local areas.
“As well as that, we have offered our entire organisation to be inspected by the Criminal Justice Inspectorate, and we are currently in talks with the NIO to get agreement on protocols where we can work alongside the other institutions of the state. Those talks are ongoing but haven’t yet been agreed. We feel we have done everything in our power to include as many people in the community as possible in our projects, and the SDLP problem is that they have excluded themselves from this worthwhile and valuable initiative. It is totally hypocritical,” Mr Auld said.
Sinn Féin South Down assembly member Caitríona Ruane described Mr McGrady’s attack as “a smokescreen because the SDLP was presented with the choice of continuing to fight for a new beginning to policing or accepting less, and they accepted less”.
“They know they have done wrong, and the communities are very clear that they [the SDLP] have failed in terms of negotiating.
“Eddie McGrady’s misrepresentation of CRJ is part of that smokescreen. CRJ has been subject to evaluation from groups like the Department of Social Development and, in local neighbourhoods, the Housing Executive and other groups like the Probation Board accept and approve of CRJ’s efforts.
“What we’re saying is that we need a policing service that is accountable and representative, which we don’t have at the moment, and that we also have Community Restorative Justice. The two are very, very different,” she said.

Taxi stoned by kids aged eight

Belfast Telegraph

Livelihoods are being put at risk by these attacks

By Brian Hutton
15 October 2005

A TAXI driver targeted by brick-throwing children in Belfast last night warned that people's livelihoods are under threat from the attackers.

The driver, who does not want to be named, said he will have to pay out around £1,000 for damage caused to his cab during a recent incident.

He was travelling past Stewart Street in the Markets area of the city when he claims up to 15 youngsters emerged throwing bricks at him in a unprovoked onslaught.

The man claims children as young as eight years old were deliberately singling out taxi firms from the east of the city.

"I cannot afford to fix my car at the moment and will have to continue working as it is," he said. "I cannot go through my insurance company because my premium would then go through the roof and I would be out of business.

"I was told I can claim from the Northern Ireland Office, but as far as I'm concerned it's a waste of time.

"It would take me up to three years to get any of the money.

"The bottom line is that it will have to come out of my own pocket."

He warned that, if the attacks continue, it is only a matter of time before he or one of his colleagues loses their business. "If there were any customers in the back of my car at the time of the incident they could have put in a claim against me and I would be off the road.

"That would be my livelihood lost," he said.

The taxi driver alleged similar incidents have been happening sporadically for the past four weeks and he accused police of "passing the buck" over the issue.

"I stopped a police Land Rover afterwards on Castlereagh Street. They said it wasn't their area. I ended up going to Strandtown Police Station. I filled in a form for damages and went back a few days later to make a full statement but was told I didn't need to because they have CCTV footage."

It is understood that a second taxi driver reported a similar stone-throwing incident. A police spokesman confirmed that two incidents were reported to them and that a record was taken of both.

PUP 'must deal with UVF killing'

Belfast Telegraph

Funding from Stormont hinges on outcome

By Chris Thornton, Political Correspondent
15 October 2005

THE PUP conference today to discuss its links with the UVF should be used to "confront the issue of UVF violence once and for all", the SDLP said last night.

With the UVF ceasefire no longer recognised by the Government, the party's funding at Stormont could hinge on the outcome of the closed door meeting in Belfast.

The loyalist party was due to discuss their UVF contacts just prior to the release of a new Independent Monitoring Commission report on the state of paramilitary activities.

The UVF has been repeatedly cited by the ceasefire watchdog for engaging in violence - including the ongoing feud with the LVF - and other crime.

On Thursday, the Secretary of State said he is still deciding whether to keep cutting off the party's Assembly allowance.

He told MPs: "There remains outstanding the question whether a financial penalty should be imposed on the Progressive Unionist party following the recommendation made to me earlier in the year by the IMC.

"I intend to watch developments carefully over the next few months," he said.

SDLP Assembly member Alban Maginness said: "From the point of view of the wider community, the PUP really only needs one item on its agenda this weekend: UVF murder.

"Whether we are going through a lull in their vendetta against the LVF or actually seeing the end of it, we cannot live indefinitely under the active threat of murder.

"The UVF also has questions to answer on the orchestrated violence at the Whiterock parade and the activities of its units and members in north Antrim.

"The choice is very clear. The PUP has a positive role to play - if the UVF abandons violence. Either the PUP can lead this particular section of the loyalist community towards peaceful democratic goals, or the commanders in the shadows can lead their members on a road which will lead inevitably to jail."

The PUP said it was not making any comment on the meeting.

Hooked on 'bloodthirsty thuggery'

Belfast Telegraph

Jonathan McCambridge examines the UVF's links with criminality and terror

By Jonathan McCambridge, Crime Correspondent
15 October 2005

FOUR men gunned down over the summer as part of a bitter paramilitary feud has focused the public's attention directly on the "bloodthirsty thuggery" of the UVF.

Long before the Government removed recognition of the terror group's ceasefire it had become apparent the UVF was funding its activities through criminality and trying to wipe out its enemies through the use of terror and intimidation.

While the UVF's feud with the LVF has festered ever since Billy Wright left the fold to form the splinter terror group, hostilities deteriorated this summer into murderous internecine warfare.

The summer months saw the murders of Jameson Lockhart, Craig McCausland, Stephen Paul and Michael Green - all shot dead by the UVF.

Their members were also responsible for the forced departure of a number of LVF members from Garnerville and numerous shootings and explosive attacks.

When police attempted to crack down on a UVF show of strength in north Belfast, it resulted in several hours of serious street disorder in September.

UVF men were also responsible for much of the rioting which flared after Whiterock, including firing live rounds at the security forces.

This, combined with the IMC slamming the UVF's "bloodthirsty thuggery", led the Government to finally declare the group's ceasefire defunct.

The Red Hand Commando - which is closely linked to the UVF - has been blamed for protests at a Catholic prayer service in Carnmoney Cemetery where protesters threatened to dig up the dead.

As well as terror tactics, the UVF is also involved in organised crime to fill its coffers.

The UVF's main source of income is extortion, particularly of the building trade, believed to be endemic in east Belfast.

Sectarian thugs hit football matches

Belfast Telegraph

15 October 2005

A BALLYMENA soccer league was in turmoil today after two matches were cancelled because of sectarian tensions with fears about the presence of paramilitaries on the sidelines.

Brian Montgomery, secretary of the Ballymena Saturday Morning League, said the police told him the UDA was intent on being present at a match involving a mainly Catholic team in loyalist Harryville.

Because of fears for the safety of players the fixture, due to have started at 10.15am, was cancelled. Another match, involving two teams seen as being mainly Protestant, at Dunfane Playing Fields in a part of the town with a Catholic majority, was also called off after reports that republicans were set to gather there.

Now an emergency meeting of Saturday Morning League officials is to be held this week in an attempt to get assurances that football matches can go ahead in peace in all districts.

Sources have said that if that doesn't happen the future of the league is on the line.

Last season republicans attacked players during a match involving Demesne Star and Woodside at Dunfane leading to the match being abandoned and afterwards Broadway Celtic needed police protection at a game in Ahoghill after a loyalist crowd turned up.

In recent years Dale Farm were thrown out of the league after loyalists caused difficulties during matches in Harryville involving Broadway Celtic and a team from Ardoyne.

Brian Montgomery said he was angry and sad at the latest developments.

"It is sickening what is happening. We managed to get through the worst of the Troubles without this sort of tit-for-tat situation coming to the league but in recent years it has reared its head.

"We were worried about Broadway Celtic's first match of the season in Harryville due to have been played today and when we spoke to the police about it they said the UDA were going to be present so a decision was taken to cancel the game between Harryville Homers and Broadway.

"At the same time we heard that a crowd was perhaps intent on causing more bother at the Demesne v Woodside match which suffered last season, so we decided to call that off too.

"People need to decide what is the best way forward for football in Ballymena," said Mr Montgomery.

In May a youth team from the mainly Catholic village of Carnlough pulled out of a Ballymena league after their minibus was attacked following a match in the mainly loyalist Ballykeel estate in Ballymena.

Away from football, the Ballymena area was the scene of a wave of sectarian attacks over the summer which took place amid a background of community tension surrounding band parades.

Today in history: UDR men jailed for Showband killings


15 October 1976

Last picture of the Miami Showband, summer 1975

Two men from the Ulster Defence Regiment (UDR) have each been jailed for 35 years in connection with the murders of members of the Miami Showband.

The UDR soldiers were members of the outlawed paramilitary organisation the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF).

Imposing the longest life sentences in Northern Ireland history, the judge said "killings like the Miami Showband must be stopped."

Thomas Raymond Crozier and Rodney Shane McDowell, both from Lurgan, Co Armagh, were sentenced for their part in a UVF ambush when three members of the cabaret band were shot dead.

Players were returning from a gig in Belfast in July 1975 when their minibus was flagged down near Newry at what appeared to be a military roadblock.

Two terrorists were killed by their own bomb as they tried to plant it in the back of the band's van. Three of the players were then summarily executed.

Police said they were dismayed that the gang of UVF militants had also been locally recruited into the British Army's UDR.

In court the judge said the death penalty would have been imposed had it not been recently abolished.

"A few years ago the question of mere imprisonment would not have arisen."

Harsh sentences

He said he was imposing more severe sentences because lesser penalties had had little effect.

Speaking from Dublin about how the ordeal affected him, a surviving band member, Des 'Lee' McAlea, said he would not be returning to Northern Ireland.

"Life goes on and I have to make my own life now unfortunately...Our happiest days playing in the band were in Northern Ireland."

But he added: "Sometime in the future if the situation in Northern Ireland should get better, we could sit down and talk about going back."

In Context

The Miami Showband was one of the most popular touring cabaret bands from the Republic of Ireland.

It transpired that the UVF, a Loyalist paramilitary group, were attempting to frame the band as members of the IRA by planting a bomb in their minivan.

Two UVF men died when the bomb they were trying to plant exploded prematurely. The remaining gunmen opened fire on the players. Tony Geraghty, Fran O'Toole and Brian McCoy died at the scene.

Republicans have accused the British government of complicity in the Miami Showband ambush.

Such a link has never been proven in this particular instance, but the 1990 Stevens Inquiry into collusion between security forces and loyalist paramilitaries concluded there was evidence in other cases.

'Pressure' for UVF to follow IRA


David Ervine's party is linked to the UVF and Red Hand Commando

The Progressive Unionist Party is holding its annual conference amid speculation that it is engaged in a debate about its future.

Unusually, the party is refusing to allow journalists to attend.

It is thought the party is attempting to persuade the UVF to follow the IRA's move to follow a purely political path.

The party, led by David Ervine, has refused to comment on speculation it could end its links with the UVF if it fails to leave violence behind.

The PUP is also linked to Red Hand Commando.

In July, Northern Ireland Secretary Peter Hain withheld the party's assembly allowances for another year.

The decision followed the latest report from ceasefire watchdog, the Independent Monitoring Commission (IMC).

In September, the IMC blamed the UVF for five murders and 15 attempted murders as part of its feud with the LVF.

Mediation attempts

A special report said the LVF carried out two murder bids, but their violence was mainly a response to UVF attacks.

Its report on the loyalist feud led NI Secretary Peter Hain to declare the UVF ceasefire had broken down.

The IMC said it had noted statements by the Progressive Unionist Party indicating that they could not stop the feud, but said the party could not have it both ways.

They must disassociate themselves from the UVF or accept the consequences, it said.

Meanwhile, a Presbyterian minister, who has been talking to the leaders of the UVF and the LVF, said he was hopeful of a breakthrough in efforts to end the feud.

The Reverend Mervyn Gibson, who sits on the Loyalist Commission, told the BBC's Inside Politics programme on Saturday that attempts to mediate were "still continuing".

Vatican in sex abuse cover-up

Irish Independent

THE VATICAN was aware of a dark catalogue of child sex abuse in Ferns for nearly 40 years.

The searing revelation that the highest levels in Rome knew of the litany of shame will rock the Church.

But an inquiry into clerical misconduct in the diocese has found that not only did they know of the scandal, they did nothing to stop it.

The Irish Independent has learned that the report highlights staggering inaction by the Church, several departments of state and the gardai.

In one case a priest sexually assaulted 10 girls on the altar of his church.

The paralysis by those in authority enabled widespread assaults to continue.

The number of priests cited in the findings runs into double figures.

Evidence of a shattering saga of systematic abuse of boys at St Peter's College in Wexford town has also emerged.

Similar abuse took place at several other parishes within the diocese.

The Government-backed report is the result of the first-ever investigation by the State into how the Catholic Church managed cases of child sexual abuse.

It will show that abusers were left in charge of children and will present substantial evidence of previously unreported incidents of abuse.

The vast majority of priests within Ferns are known to have been beyond reproach.

The fallout from the findings has thrown a pall of sadness over the diocese.

One of the most shocking offenders was Fr Jim Grennan. He sexually assaulted 10 girls on the altar of the local church in Monageer, Co Wexford.

The South Eastern Health Board examined the girls and confirmed in writing to Bishop Brendan Comiskey that there was a case to answer.

There was a Garda investigation but victims statements went missing and astonishingly the DPP was never informed of the case.


However, it is understood that many within the Church were simply overwhelmed by the scale of the problem.

The gardai are strongly criticised for their handling of the Grennan case in the inquiry report.

But in other cases they were found to have acted appropriately and professionally.

Reports on the Grennan investigation went to the health board and the Department of Education but it was generally seen as a local issue and left to the authorities in Ferns.

The report makes recommendations for changes in child protection codes and other legislation.

Despite the horrific revelations, it is believed highly unlikely that any members of the diocesan hierarchy will be prosecuted as a result of the negligence.

The legal opinion is that no existing legislation provides for prosecutions.

The inquiry, under the chairmanship of judge Frank Murphy, interviewed over 200 witnesses.

What emerged was a devastating picture of the level of abuse in the diocese from the 1960s onwards.

And despite claims of contrition on the part of the Catholic Church, inquiry chairman Judge Frank Murphy says that he sometimes came up against a brick wall in his investigations.

The report is critical of the lack of co-operation from the Church at most stages of the inquiry.


Other cases investigated by Judge Murphy include Fr Sean Fortune, who committed suicide in 1999, Fr Donal Collins and Fr James Doyle, both of whom were convicted of child abuse, and Monsignor Michael Ledwith, President of St Patrick's College, Maynooth.

The file is expected to go to Health Minister Mary Harney early next week and she will pass it on to the Attorney General.

A Government minister, possibly Brian Lenihan, is to be appointed to oversee the public response to the revelations.

The intention is to publish the document before the end of the week.

But one of the most surprising findings is that the Vatican was aware of the abuse.

The report highlights the level of communication that existed between the Church and the State authorities, how much they knew and how little they did.

It shows the degree to which the Church put Canon Law above the law of the land.

At present, there is no statutory obligation on a bishop - or anyone else - to relay a complaint or a suspicion of child abuse to the State; whereas Church law contains rigorous rules and sanctions.

Such crimes may be tried by an ecclesiastical court in Rome.

They are given the status of "pontifical secret". This means that they are dealt with in the strictest confidentiality.

Canon Law sets a statute of limitations of 10 years from the age of 18, not - as civil law accepts - from the time the victim becomes aware that a crime has been committed.

Yet there is evidence from both Ireland and the US that the Vatican was aware of specific allegations over very many years yet failed to remove the abusing priests.

The Murphy inquiry was set by the then Health Minister, Micheal Martin, in 2003 following the resignation of Ferns Bishop Brendan Comiskey.

Sarah Murphy

This date in history: Maze prison goes up in flames


15-16 October 1974

The Long Kesh Maze Prison the night of 15 October

Three prison staff are being treated in hospital after rioting prisoners set fire to the Long Kesh Maze prison near Belfast.

More than 130 prisoners were injured in the trouble - nine needed hospital treatment. One officer is being treated for a suspected fractured skull.

Troops were brought in to quell the violence but much of the camp, which houses 1500 convicted prisoners and internees, has been destroyed.

Overnight, flames were visible along the whole length of the camp from a distance of several miles.

Violence broke out when prison officers were attacked by inmates in a republican compound yesterday at around 1800GMT.

Governor of the Maze, Robert Truesdale, said the army unit controlling the outside perimeter was sent in as soon as fighting broke out.

Reports say republican inmates set fire to their living quarters as troops were called in. Loyalist prisoners are also said to have been involved although this has not been confirmed.

The fire is understood to have started in compound 13 which then spread to at least 20 or 30 other compounds.

Witnesses described how helicopters and army lorries brought in more troop reinforcements to take back control of the prison.

Other helicopters hovered over neighbouring fields and lanes to prevent any breakouts.

Police say fire engines were obstructed from entering because of the ferocity of the rioting inside.

Earlier today the authorities claimed to have regained control of the camp and were restoring order after almost a whole night of rioting.

Extent of damage

Damage to the prison is substantial with a number of prison buildings and most of the prisoners' living huts completely destroyed.

No explanation has yet been provided for the riots, but both loyalist and republican inmates had recently been protesting over living conditions.

During the night, news of the fighting spread to communities in Belfast. Catholic crowds appeared on the streets in the Ardoyne and Ballymacarrett districts and several hundred uniformed UDA men marched in protestant Ballygomartin.

Northern Ireland Secretary Merlyn Rees has made a statement seeking to dispel rumours that prisoners had been killed, and condemned those seeking to "foment disorder" in the streets with false allegations.

In Context

The riots spread that day to other prisons in Belfast. Women prisoners held the governor of Armagh Prison hostage.

At the Maze, four guard dogs were burned to death. Many buildings including the prison hospital and a new kitchen facility were destroyed.

The first internees in the Maze arrived in 1971, and were accommodated in segregated compounds, in Long Kesh Detention Centre, in huts rather than cells.

The prison's population consisted almost entirely of prisoners who had been convicted of terrorist offences and who had claimed affiliation to paramilitary organisations.

The Maze closed in September 2000, after prisoners were released under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement.

The Burning of Long Kesh

An Phoblacht

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Photo: Starting top left: Hugh O'Hara, Paddy Mulvenna, Fr. Martin Kelly, Leo Morgan, Brendan Davidson, Manuel Duffy, Peter McCauley, Seán McLoughlin, Joe Doherty, Eddie Larkin, Billy Kelly, Mickey Loughran, Seamus Drain, Seamie Darragh, Kieran Rooney

This Saturday 15 October, marks the 31st anniversary of the burning of Long Kesh camp by republican POWs. In an article originally published in the November 1994 issue of Captive Voice, a magazine produced by republican POWs, former prisoner JOE DOHERTY from North Belfast recalls that historic act of resistance.

We cannot reflect on the 1974 burning of Long Kesh without first understanding the circumstances and conditions of the camp, its historic origins as a prison camp — first for internees in 1971 and later on for political status prisoners (special category) — and the overall political situation both inside and outside the prison.

Long Kesh encapsulated the historical prison conflict from the early internment days, the political status phase, and to the H-Block Hunger Strikes of the early 1980s. Britain's renaming of Long Kesh as the Maze served to show their embarrassment internationally. But to nationalists, Long Kesh represents the endurance, struggle and spirit of republicanism over several generations.

Long Kesh was once an RAF airfield, 12 miles south of Belfast. In the post-World War II days, teenagers flocked to its dance hall. British policy makers soon turned the disused airfields and music halls into what reporters would later call a WWII POW-style prison camp: tin hunts, barbed wire, watch towers, guard dogs. In 1971, Stormont Primer Brian Faulkner and British Army chiefs soon filled the secretly constructed corrugated tin huts with hundreds of Irish nationalists — the victims of internment without trial.

Meanwhile, in Belfast's Crumlin Road Prison, republicans were reaping victory from their 1972 hunger strikes for political status. Soon, hundreds of political prisoners convicted through the special courts were being moved to five cages (compounds) at Long Kesh camp adjacent to the internees' camp.

Command structures

The republican cages were soon structured along military lines, each cage representing a battalion company, and a camp battalion staff to direct camp policy. Republicans organised communication lines, escape committees, military training, political lectures and debates and instilled unitary discipline across the camp. While each cage/company staff was in direct contact with the local guard unit, the camp staff dealt directly with the head of the British prison regime, reviewing and confronting the regime on camp conditions.

From its earliest days, Long Kesh was deemed uninhabitable for human beings. International human rights organisations such as the Red Cross protested at the conditions. Even an agricultural report deemed the same huts unfit for farm stock. The huts were damp, underheated, rodent and insect-ridden and grossly overcrowded. Food was becoming a critical issue and was deemed cold and undernourishing. The system of food supply was archaic and inadequate for the number of men and the huge layout of the camp. There was literally no laundry facility in the cages.

Demands, protests and hunger

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Soon, the republican camp command, along with the camp staff of the internment phase of the camp, were pressing the prison regime for fundamental changes. Even the small number of loyalists (held in separate cages) joined republicans in a campaign to force change.

The republican camp command handed over a 20-point condition paper to the regime, which included the issues of compassionate parole, British Army searches in the internment phase, visiting, the general structural improvements in the huts and the issue of prison food. The prison regime were negative in their approach.

After months of failed dialogue, republicans were forced into passive action. By mid 1974, bedding was thrown over the wire fences. The prison food containers soon followed. The regime reacted by stopping all incoming parcels. This forced republicans down to four rounds of bread per day, as bread was the only food accepted.

After months of semi-starvation, republicans were preparing for direct physical confrontation. All personal property was sent out to families as the camp braced itself for the pending threat of riots and destruction. Each republican company area prepared riot-style squads and medic teams, drilling in Red Alert exercises, assembling in the yards in military formation, as the whole battalion made ready to move at any one signal.

The spark

The regime did eventually respond to some of the demands, which enabled the camp to come off the protest. But there was a continued tense relationship between the republicans and the prison regime. Eventually this came to head in October 1974. Cage 13 was the spark that lit the fire, literally speaking. A local incident between the republican cage commander and the local guard staff drew fists and batons alike. A mini-scuffle erupted. For reasons beyond imagination, the prison guards evacuated the camp and handed over control of the camp to the British Army, who took control of phase perimeters.

At first the situation was confusing, as each cage sought information from across the camp. No guards were at their posts and the movements of troops could be heard in the distance. This was in violation of the agreement banning British Army incursions into the camp.

The semaphore flag system was in full swing, as both internment and political status phases of the camp sought information and direction. Individual cages took evasive action and sent men over the wire of their cages to scout around. They reported back that all guards were gone and that the British Army had control of the internal post phones.

The line was drawn and the camp moved into action. Smoke and fire were seen far off in Cage 13. Soon the Red Alert alarms and signals were sent out across the camp. The riot drills we had so diligently practiced for months were now coming into play, as each man moved into his position, rushing to put on prepared riot gear and ready-made shields and riot sticks. In hindsight, it is difficult to really understand the reasons for the order. But the war cry went up: Burn the Camp!

Camp ablaze

The darkness of the night soon turned a bright amber red, as hundreds of republicans burned every hut and structure they could lay their hands on. The fires could be seen as far afield as Belfast itself (nine miles distant). No sooner was the place alight than each particular company command was given orders to move into defensive positions around the camp.

The battalion command took up control of the two football pitches situated in the centre of the camp. Soon both internees and political status prisoners met up on the pitches. Some of the internee cages were trapped down camp and were cut off. But the remaining dozen companies of men moved into assigned positions. Republicans awaited orders.

As the camp burned around us, the republican command waited on the British Army to make their move. There was no sign of any movement from the British side. The British Army chiefs realised that it would be futile to enter with such a formidably organised (however crudely equipped) republican force in wait. They waited until dawn to make their move, as thousands of troops were flown into the area for the encounter.

Meanwhile, choppers flew the whole night, harassing the republicans below with hundreds of dropped canisters of CR gas. The whole place was saturated with fire, smoke and gas.

Republicans waited for dawn. It must be noted that CR gas was never used or tested before and this was subsequently covered up by the British. A stream of Ministry of Defence medical teams were sent in to do tests on men the following year — nothing has ever been published.

Attack at dawn

As the fires smouldered and the night faded, the dawn air was cold and dew lay like a damp blanket over the camp. The excited spirit that was so prevalent during the night of fires and war cries was fading too.

The stark reality was settling in, as hundreds of weary republicans were called into position. Formations were set up in relation to the best defence of the pitches. Soon the misty, hidden winter sun had risen and all were on their feet.

The British Army were approached for negotiations. When we captured the prison hospital many non-republicans were taken captive. An offer was made to hand them over. The British Army would not negotiate. They were set on capturing the camp.

The choppers flying in formation over the camp indicated the British Army's first move. CR gas canisters were fired from fixed positions across the perimeter, as out of the gassed mist came thousands of heavily-geared troops, steel helmets, visors, gasmasks, riot sticks and rubber bullet guns. It was an impressive khaki wall of force. It was a starkly cold sight. They were organised and moved at a determined centurion pace.

Soon, all hell broke loose, as the choppers searched out targets on the ground and the troops inched forward, firing rubber bullets and gas. A Saracen armoured troop carrier roamed the place, knocking down all fortified barricades.

The battle lasted most of the early morning. Many small pockets of republicans were cut off and captured by snatch squads. British Army personnel, too, were captured, Gas continued and rubber bullets penetrated the makeshift shields, plunging into heads and bodies.

Last stand

Republicans were forced back, foot by foot, under the massive weight of superior numbers. The British cut off the run-back to the top end of the camp, a prepared escape route out of the pitches. While several hundred men escaped, the remaining 300 were trapped. Huddled into the corner of the pitch, subdued, the mountain of crushed bodies awaited the final assault.

There was one last rush of troops, firing every gas and rubber bullet gun they could muster. The air was so thick with gas that no one could see any possible escape. Batons were thumped across any head that could be seen and rubber bullet guns were fired into selected faces. Blood and vomit were everywhere. Coughed screams were ignored about the victorious and revenge-filled screams of British troops. Several men were seriously injured in this attack, sustaining broken limbs and the loss of eyes.

The bloodletting over, the remaining conscious republicans were dragged and beaten to the surrounding wire, each individually beaten and spreadeagled against the wire. And there they stood spreadeagled for the next eight hours; those who dared to fall were again beaten.

Meanwhile, the top end of the camp had fallen. The whole camp was now secured and in the control of the British Army. Where are they going to put us, we wondered? Nothing stood in the cages, not a stick or brick.

After routine beating sessions and forced marches back into the cages, the British suddenly pulled out, leaving republicans to fend for themselves. Although injured, cold and hungry the republicans pulled together, quickly organising a system of shelter for the night under the rain. Morale was high. The following day, squads of men set about tearing at what was left of the mass of rubble for any wood or tin sheeting construct a shantytown. A mancover was pulled up to create a crude toilet. Sanitation had to be secure, no matter how the conditions were.

This was to be home for the following months. Soon, among the rubble, republicans organised a system for bathing and sharing whatever water they could procure. The badly injured among the men were confined to a special makeshift hut. Republican structures maintained a continuing mode of disciplined resistance and unity.

• Postscript; During that shantytown era, internees in Cage 5, using fallen rubble as a cover, set to tunnel under the main perimeter. On the night of 6 November 1974, republican POWs made their way out under the cover of darkness. Alerted, the British Army post opened up on the escaping men. While three escaped, Volunteer Hugh Coney from Coalisland, County Tyrone, was shot dead.

While Long Kesh burned, other republican commands in Magilligan, Armagh and Crumlin Road Prisons rose to the occasion. They tell their own similar stories.

By Christmas 1974, republicans were relocated in a new phase. A new campaign was under way to better the conditions.

The following year, while the camp settled into normality and as internment was being phased out, a new construction was under way beyond the bottom perimeter of the camp. This was not the accustomed corrugated tin sheets but a mass of prefab concrete sections edging outwards, taking a strange 'H' shape.

Yet again, there entered another phase of republican POW resistance, fought by many of those who took part in the night of 15 October, the night Long Kesh burned for the world to see. Again, the resistance of republicans would prevail.


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Christy Keenan from the Short Strand in Belfast was in cage 18. Serving seven years for possession of weapons, he was in charge of communications between his cage and the other cages where republican POWs, both internees and sentenced, were being held.

"The tension in the camp was building up throughout the day," he recalls. "There had been a row in the visits and the screws wanted to take those involved out of cage 13 for punishment and the camp staff refused to send the men out.

"Semaphore messages were going up and down the camp all day before the order came through to burn the camp."

The POWs had been training for such an inevitability. "We were ordered to put together a survival kit with some food and a sharp instrument for protection. We were also in training over obstacle courses to get our fitness levels as high as possible."

"At about 8pm the order was given. Everything was piled up in the middle of the huts and we doused it with the highly flammable floor polish we were issued with and ignited it," says Keenan. "After we torched the huts we went over the wire and formed into our separate companies and marched towards the football pitches."

As the huts went up in flames the prisoners, armed with bed ends, brush shafts and any other makeshift weapon they could get their hands on, awaited the inevitable assault by the British Army.

At dawn the next day, Keenan recalls, the British Army initially used the ploy of asking for negotiations with the camp staff. "Paul 'Dingus' Magee, the camp adjutant, went to talk to a British Army major at the gate at the internees' end of the camp and the Brits tried to snatch him. As this was happening, the British Army moved in behind us. They used Saracen armoured cars to smash through the fences and stormed the pitches."

Like Joe, Christy recalls the injuries received by the men and the choking CR gas that was used against the prisoners to help subdue what had been a spirited battle against all the odds.

"The CR gas was dropped similar to a cluster bomb," remembers Christy. "A large container hit the ground and the small canisters were scattered about, clouding the whole pitch area in gas.

"Gradually, the British Army regained control of the camp and rounded us all up and we were spreadeagled against the fences".

Keenan also recalls the injuries inflicted and remembers that some British soldiers, serving in Belfast, went in search of prisoners they knew and beat them up in revenge attacks.

14 October 2005

Arkinson family ask PSNI to resume searches for Arlene

Daily Ireland

Zoe Tunney

The family of missing Tyrone teenager Arlene Arkinson yesterday called on the PSNI to resume searching for her body.
The 15-year-old went missing near her home in Castlederg after returning from a disco in Co Donegal in August 1994.
The family have also demanded a public inquiry into the police handling of the case after a television documentary exposed the full extent to which the RUC and PSNI botched the investigation into her murder.
Members of the Arkinson family met with Minister of State at the Northern Ireland Office, David Hanson, yesterday. The minister said he was looking into the details of the documentary and promised to pass on the family’s request for a public inquiry to the relevant government ministers.
The Police Ombudsman, Nuala O’Loan, has also said her office will now begin an investigation into the police handling of the case.
A spokesperson for her office said: “We have received a complaint about the police investigation into the handling of the Arlene Arkinson case and we are now investigating that complaint.”
The Arkinson family said they are “disgusted” by the details of the police handling of their sister’s murder and have called on the police to find her body.
“They could have destroyed any hope we had of finding Arlene’s body, never mind her killer,” said Arlene’s sister Kathleen. “We blame the police for everything we have been put through for the past 11 years.
“But after what we have seen we will never give up now,” she added.
Last month, Robert Howard originally from Wolfhill in Co Laois was acquitted of the murder of Arlene Arkinson.
The convicted child killer is already serving a life sentence for the murder of 15-year-old schoolgirl, Hannah Williams, and has a criminal record which spans over 40 years which includes rape and sexual assault.
However, during his trial for Arlene’s murder, the PSNI decided not to allow the details of his past to be mentioned in court. An ex-detective is to be questioned about documents relating to the investigation which he allegedly held onto even after he retired from duty.
Robert Howard is now also wanted for questioning by gardaí over the disappearance of a number of women in the south.
The Arkinson family have consulted their solicitors with regard to getting a public inquiry into the police handling of the case.
Kathleen Arkinson said the family want the police to begin fresh searches for Arlene’s body.
“We want them to start looking again. No matter what it takes to find Arlene’s body the PSNI must do it.
“They owe us that much at least and we owe it to Arlene.”

UUP threaten Police Board boycott


Ulster Unionists will not serve on a new Policing Board under the terms announced by the secretary of state, party leader Sir Reg Empey has said.

NI Secretary Peter Hain said he wants a reconstituted board to take over next April.

He indicated if Sinn Fein did not join he would give their two seats to independent nationalists.

Sir Reg said this was unacceptable and would turn the board, which holds the PSNI to account, into a "quango".

"The Policing Board has been engaged in good work," he said.

"It should continue to be accountable and democratically controlled.

"Instead we are facing the reality of a Policing Board which is made up of a majority that does not represent the voting intentions of the public.


"This is a crisis in the making. We will not serve on a quango."

On Thursday, Mr Hain told the House of Commons the d'Hondt formula would be used to appoint members in April next year.

Mr Hain said this would mean 4 DUP members, 2 SDLP, 2 UUP and 2 Sinn Fein. But he said Sinn Fein had "expressed no intention" of joining the board.

The DUP had called for the board to be reconstituted to reflect the party's success in the 2003 assembly elections.

Mr Hain said: "I accepted the arguments... that the DUP was in an unfair situation and that the present composition of the board - its political section - did not reflect the last assembly elections."

He added: "It is vital that community balance is maintained. I don't know if Sinn Fein are going to come onto the board.

"They have expressed no intention of doing so, but if they want to get involved in devolved government... they will have to take their responsibilities for policing seriously, including going on the board."

SDLP Policing Board member Alex Attwood said his party had also been told that Sinn Fein's seats on the new board would go to nationalists if they were not taken up.

Hain in pledge over fugitive concerns

Belfast Telegraph

By Chris Thornton
14 October 2005

Secretary of State Peter Hain has said the Government will address concerns that the £30m review of Troubles murders could be undermined by legislation over IRA fugitives.

East Antrim MP Sammy Wilson raised fears that upcoming legislation to deal with "on the runs" (OTRs) could provide a loophole for anyone accused of old murders.

The PSNI is conducting a "cold case" review of some 1,800 unsolved murders.

The OTR legislation - expected to be introduced later this month - will allow a number of wanted IRA suspects to return to Northern Ireland without the possibility of going to prison.

The DUP have said the proposals amount to an amnesty, while the Conservatives have said they will lead opposition in the Lords if suspects are not subject to a licence that could see them returned to prison.

Mr Hain said in the House of Commons yesterday that there will be mechanisms for bringing those suspects to prison if they are believed to have become involved in crime.

But Mr Wilson said the legislation could have "serious implications" for the cold case review.

"Will those whose evidence is being gathered during review be exempt from prosecution or will they simply have to skip across the border for a few days to qualify for the conditions of this legislation?" he said.

"The families who eagerly await the reopening of loved ones' cases will be shattered, if even when evidence is found to enable prosecution of their loved ones' murderers, the Secretary of State then grants them an exemption from prosecution."

Mr Hain said: "The proposition is not an amnesty because that would mean people who committed offences would in advance be released for ever from being punished for them."

He added: "Cold cases being reviewed by the Chief Constable and his officers will lead to people being charged, if evidence exists.

"If such people come under OTR legislation, they will be subject to the appropriate judicial process, so there is no question of being let off the hook."

Mr Hain said the OTR controversy was a good example of why "the process of ending violence is difficult".

British Need To Make Statement On Eric Anderson Affair

Sinn Féin

Published: 14 October, 2005

Sinn Féin MP for West Tyrone Pat Doherty has demanded that the British government make a statement on the activities of former Special Branchman Eric Anderson. Mr Doherty said that he is 'stunned' that neither Security
Minister Shaun Woodward nor his boss Peter Hain have made any comment on the Eric Anderson affair before now.

Mr Doherty said:

"It is now well over 24 hours since former Special Branchman Eric Anderson admitted on camera to stealing confidential files relating to murder investigations in a bid to frustrate the work of the Police Ombudsman.

"I am stunned given the gravity of the matters exposed that neither security Minister Shaun Woodward nor his boss Peter Hain have yet to make any public comment on what can only be described as a developing scandal.

"Nationalists and republicans have long known about the destructive role being played by the RUC old guard both inside and outside the current policing structures. Nationalists and republicans know only too well the
role of Special Branch in passing confidential files onto loyalist death squads in the past.
"The British government and the PSNI need to realise that this issue is not going away. Eric Anderson has admitted involvement in serious criminal activity. The response of the British government and its agencies to this matter is an acid test of their commitment to the process and their commitment to tackling malign influences who have up until now had a free reign to try and undermine efforts to consolidate and advance the peace process." ENDS

Club chairman loses weapon appeal


A west Belfast club chairman's links with IRA members was sufficient reason for not allowing him to have a firearm, Appeal Court judges have ruled.

Liam Shannon of the Irish Republican Felons' Club had a shotgun certificate, but it was revoked after he applied to have it extended to a .22 rifle.

His appeal to the secretary of state was dismissed after police said he "associates with members of the PIRA".

On Friday, the decision not to grant a review of that ruling was upheld.

Mr Shannon had originally been granted the shotgun certificate after he became a member of a clay pigeon club.

Lord Justice Nicholson said that Provisional IRA members had recently been involved in crimes including murder and robbery.

"It would be naive to suppose the chairman of the Felons' Club is unaware that a number of his associates must be actively involved in these activities.

"This is not to suggest he condones their activities. But, inevitably, he may be liable to pressures placed on him to make any firearms legitimately held by him available to them."

Unionist war of words


North Belfast Unionist MLAs have started a war of words over so-called ‘concessions to republicans’.
UUP MLA Fred Cobain has warned that if people thought the protestant community was de-stabilised at the moment, government plans and proposals would make it worse.
“With IRA decommissioning apparently over Republicans will get to the sweetshop again. If people think the protestant community is de-stabilised at the minute some of the proposals being put forward by government will make it worse.
"We can expect movement shortly on On The Runs (OTRs) and it is being suggested that people might not even have to face a tribunal. The C8 cases may be targeted as well.
“With new forensic technologies some of those who may be facing charges could be offered immunity certificates.
"Another big issue for the public is the perverse situation where former or serving police officers may face charges while terrorists walk free.
"Unionists were told that the conveyor belt of concessions had come to an end under the DUP. This is not the case. In the months ahead we can expect many more by government to placate Republicans.”
The DUP’s Nelson McCausland hit back at his UUP counterpart and blamed the Ulster Unionists for causing the problem in the first place.
“At last it has dawned on Fred Cobain that the unionist community is unhappy with concessions given to republicans.
“It’s a pity the Ulster Unionist Party didn’t realise this fact whenever they signed up to the concessions that continue to work their way through the system.
“No matter what Fred Cobain might say, the DUP’s approach to Republican concessions differs massively from that taken by the Ulster Unionist Party.
“While the DUP has resisted and opposed every giveaway to republicans, the UUP, during its tenure, signed up to the very concessions to Sinn Féin/IRA that Fred Cobain now objects to.
“The UUP are in no position to lecture anyone on concessions.
“From the Belfast Agreement to the Joint Declaration, the UUP’s fingerprints are all over every concession to Sinn Féin/IRA.”
Sinn Fein’s Gerry Kelly urged the Unionists to stop bickering.
"Instead of complaining and attempting to score cheap political points about what Republicans are doing they need to work out what they need to do for their own communities.
“They need to get their act together in terms of facing down sectarian attacks, the loyalist paramilitaries control of areas and the use of loyalist guns that are still there and being used.”

Journalist:: Staff Reporter

Interface attacks increase


Despite the intervention of community workers, politicians and conflict resolution experts, the number of attacks on Catholic homes in North Belfast interface areas continue to grow. Two weeks ago the North Belfast News exclusively revealed that over 350 attacks had taken place between January and September this year. Now reports of an increase in both the veracity and relentlessness of the attacks are emerging...

Missile attack on residents of Oldpark estate

Residents of Rosevale Street just of Rosapenna Street have told of the constant barrage of missiles being thrown over the 60ft high wall and fence, which separates their homes from the Lower Oldpark Estate.
Kathleen McDonald, who has lived in the street for over 20 years, says the homes were “under sustained attack’ for the whole of last weekend.
“It started about six o’clock on Friday evening and carried on right through until Sunday evening.
“The PSNI were called but as they came down our street with the sirens blaring the stone throwers disappeared.
“Everything from screwdrivers and stones to fireworks have been hurled at us.
“You would think that they would not be able to get stuff over the big wall but they must be using catapults or something.
“Our house backs on to the wall but they are actually managing to get it right across to houses on the other side of the street.
“We really are in fear of something more serious being thrown over. I live here with my 20-year-old daughter Katrina who is about to have a baby any day now.
“The nursery was planned for the back of the house now we have to move it to the front and redecorate.”
Roisin and Phillip Rooney live next door to the McDonalds with their two children, including a three-month-old, have had their windows broken and have also suffered from the attacks.
Roisin told North Belfast News.
“We are getting really scared now.
“The constant barrage over the weekend terrified our eldest child.
“Two of our back room windows have been broken a couple of times.
“Some of the houses have had grills fitted and we will reluctantly have to consider doing the same although this seems to be giving in to the thugs. We want to live in peace and not behind high fences and bars on our windows.”

Siege in Catherine Court

Catherine Court, a small new development of about 30 houses at the bottom of the Whitewell Road, has become a living hell for the residents who moved into it just over a year ago.
Since around Easter this year the residents of the tidy little enclave have been living under siege conditions.
Gangs of young thugs have been using an alleyway, which runs from the loyalist Graymount estate to launch a barrage of attacks both physical and verbal on the residents and their cars and properties.
The attacks have escalated in recent weeks with heavy duty fireworks being launched at the homes.
Roisin Loy, whose home has borne the brunt of the nightly onslaught has appealed to have gates fitted to the alleyway to repel the attackers.
Recognising the need for the Graymount community to use the alley for excess to the shops, which include a Post Office and a Chemist, the mother-of-three young children said: “The erection of alley-gates would help stop these attacks.
“The hoods who come from as far away as Mount Vernon use it as a ‘rat run’ to mount the onslaught.
“We do not want a no-go area created for the good residents of Graymount. There are a lot of elderly folk who depend on the shops here, particularly the Chemist.
“If the gates were fitted and locked every night around six o’clock it would go a long way to stopping these attacks before someone is seriously hurt.”
Sinn Féin Councillor for Castle Ward, Tierna Cunningham, has visited the residents and is backing their claim for the gates to be fitted.
“The sectarian attacks against the small development of Catherine Court in Whitewell must be brought to an end immediately.
“People have a right to live free from sectarian harassment and attacks and clearly this isn’t happening. The residents are only trying to get on with their lives and to live in peace.
“Sinn Féin have held consultation with local residents in light of ongoing attacks and on the back of this we will be meeting with the NIO in a bid to get a secure gateway constructed on the small pathway.
“This would be similar to other gates across North Belfast that are opened during the day but closed at night time
“Unionists leaders also need to play their part.
“They need to come out strongly against these attacks and use whatever influence they have to help put an end to them.”

Journalist:: Alex Crumlin



Bomb's devastation - BBC photo

• Police Ombudsman meets families with view to probing RUC investigation
• Taoiseach to send Foreign Affairs representative to meet with relatives
• Murders to come under historical inquiries team on conflict-related deaths

Relatives of those killed in the McGurk’s bombing have met with the Police Ombudsman with a view to probing the original RUC investigation into what was the worst atrocity of the conflict before the Omagh bomb.
The Ombudsman has confirmed a meeting took place recently with some relatives with a view to looking into the circumstances surrounding the bombing 34 years ago. It is one of a number of possible developments in relation to the atrocity that have been gathering pace recently, the North Belfast News has learned.
Taoiseach Bertie Ahern will next week send a representative from the Department of Foreign Affairs in Dublin to the Victims and Survivors Trust in West Belfast to meet with some of the relatives about the continuing controversy over the outrage.
And it is believed the multiple murders will come under the new PSNI historical inquiries team looking into conflict-related deaths.
Some 15 people – including two children were butchered in the loyalist attack on McGurk’s Bar on December 4, 1971.
Relatives have been fighting to uncover the truth about the bombing after only one man was ever convicted for his part in the slaughter.
The North Belfast News understands the man convicted, Robert James Campbell, may form part of any possible Police Ombudsman probe into the identities of the other bombers.
Officers acting on behalf of Nuala O’Loan’s office will also wish to establish if Campbell told the RUC the names of his accomplices in his confession statements at the time.
Until recently the PSNI said that an investigation had taken place and that a man had been convicted of the McGurk’s outrage.
But yesterday a spokeswoman from the PSNI said its new historical inquiries team, with funding of £30 million announced by Paul Murphy earlier this year would “review all deaths” attributed to the conflict “between 1968 and 1998”.
Before Campbell’s conviction, the bombing had been blamed as an IRA own goal by British officials and a Stormont unionist minister maintaining the IRA was making a bomb on the premises when it went off.
Explosive experts from official British sources announced in the immediate aftermath of the explosion that the bomb had gone off inside the bar despite first reports from eyewitnesses who said it had gone off in the doorway and had been left there by a man.
Relatives say statements insisting the bomb was the work of IRA bomb makers branded their innocent relatives culpable.
Alex McLaughlin, whose father Thomas was killed in the explosion in North Queen Street, said he was encouraged by the new developments and a possible probe of the conduct of the RUC investigation at the time.
“For years when we mentioned the bombing it was always thrown back at us that it was an IRA own goal.
That stuck even after Campbell was convicted. We have never received an acknowledgement from the British government that its statements were wrong and we’ve never received an apology,” he said.
“We don’t want to be dragging this up all the time, but we want to know if Campbell told the RUC who his accomplices were and if so why they weren’t brought to justice. Then I can let my father rest in peace.”
A spokesman for the Police Ombudsman’s office said: “We met with relatives of some of some of the victims of the McGurk’s Bar bombing.
“They expressed concerns about the circumstances of the bombing and the subsequent investigation. We are now looking at those concerns and carrying out some initial research into the issues raised.”

Journalist:: Andrea McKernon

Defunct assembly runs up a £70m bill for taxpayers

Belfast Telegraph

By Noel McAdam
14 October 2005

The mothballed Stormont Assembly has cost taxpayers more than £70m since it last met three years ago, it can be revealed today.

New statistics show the total cost of the Assembly operation from its suspension on October 14, 2002, stands at £71m.

The exact total worked out to the last penny - £71,040,712.54 - runs up to September 30 last.

The largest slice of the three-year bill - £30.7m - is made up of the salaries and allowances paid to the 108 Assembly members.

But close behind is the cost of the Assembly secretariat - £25.8m - which continues despite suspension.

The remainder - £14.5m - comes under general capital costs, including property, accommodation and business services.

Year on year, the salary and allowances costs of the Assembly are continuing to increase, the figures obtained from the Northern Ireland Office, reveal.

In the first full financial year after the last Assembly was suspended, from April, 2003 to March, 2004, the total salaries/allowances cost was given as £10,102,376.

By the next financial year, from April to March this year, the total had increased to £10,415,731.

Yet the total running cost for the Assembly overall went down across the two financial years, from £21m in 2003-4 to £20.4m in 2004-5.

The cost revelations come amid fears the current Assembly, elected in May, 2003, may pass into history without having a single sitting.

Some Government officials privately fear it could take until the next Assembly election, May, 2007, before a devolution deal involving the DUP and Sinn Fein can be achieved.

Yet Secretary of State Peter Hain has given no hint he could put the Assembly into abeyance - and there is no clamour from civic society for it to go.

The new figures come just over a month after it emerged that during the year 2001-2, when the Assembly was fully functioning, the salaries and expenses paid to members came to £10.1m.

During the following financial year - in which the suspension of devolution took place - MLAs were paid a total of £10.2m. It also emerged travel expenses claimed by members added up to £524,176 and allowances paid to Assembly members for the running and staffing of their offices cost £4,636,069.

Family of woman murdered by UDA appeal for information

Belfast Telegraph

Protestant girl beaten to death 18 years ago

By Ashleigh Wallace
14 October 2005

The family of a Protestant woman beaten to death by a UDA gang 18 years ago have renewed their appeal for information on her brutal death.

Lorraine McCausland, from Glencairn in the greater Shankill area of Belfast, was 23 when her semi-naked body was found in a stream behind a community centre in Ballysillan.

She left behind two young sons: five-year-old Stewart and his two-year-old brother Craig.

And in a cruel twist, Craig McCausland - a father-of-one from the Woodvale area - was shot dead in his girlfriend's home earlier this year.

Since Craig's murder, his grieving family have launched a website aimed at getting justice both for the 20-year-old and his mother Lorraine.

Nicola McIlvenny, Craig's cousin, said: "Although the website is about getting justice for Craig, it's also a chance for people who knew Lorraine to leave posts and speak out about what happened to her.

"The Police Ombudsman has been investigating her death for around a year-and-a-half and we are trying to get the case reopened."

Snatched lizard could die without his courgettes

Belfast Telegraph

By Marie Foy
14 October 2005

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Google says they look something like this

An unusual pet lizard - which can grow to up to 3-ft - has been snatched from a Co Antrim shop- and its owner is worried about its welfare.

Lee-Ann McCormick (23), from Larne, says that her Egyptian Uromastyx needs a lot of tender loving care.

And she is anxious to get her 18cm, charcoal grey, pet back to make sure it is properly looked after.

The lizard was swiped from a tank in the Family Petz Store in the town's Main Street a few weeks ago and nothing has been heard since.

"I bought the lizard as a partner for my other lizard, called Tortie because his face looks like a tortoise.

"But they didn't get on and when my boyfriend had to have an operation I couldn't look after him, both lizards and my five cats as well, Lee-Ann said.

"I asked the shop, where my boyfriend works part-time, if they could keep the lizard for me for a while but it was stolen one Saturday afternoon. It looks like someone came into the shop and took it.

And Lee-Ann is worried that without specialist care the lizard could die.

"They are vegetarians and need the right food, like courgettes and snap peas.

"They need to be kept in really high temperatures during the day and have lots of ultra-violet light."

Anyone who can help with the return of the lizard should call 028 2827 8931.

DUP warns against devolution 'incentives'


14/10/2005 - 11:08:13

The Democratic Unionists will not be bought off into going into a devolved government simply on the back of gaining peerages and extra seats on the North’s Policing Board, a senior member warned today.

East Londonderry MP Gregory Campbell said the DUP would still require the underlying problems in the province for the unionist community to be addressed.

The former Stormont Regional Development Minister said: “It may be the case that important issues like numerical changes to the DUP’s under-representation on the Policing Board and the House of Lords are easiest to address for the Government.

“It could also be the case that they naively believe a number of DUP elected representatives offered positions to which we are entitled might be an incentive towards hastening a return to devolved government. The latter is a fallacy that has to be dealt a fatal blow.

“If we were to be offered five times the number we are likely to get of members of the House of Lords, the underlying issues remain to be addressed.”

Northern Ireland Secretary Peter Hain yesterday announced plans to reconstitute the Policing Board next April, which will mean the DUP will increase its representation from three to four.

The British government is also expected to announce soon the first DUP peers, with Eileen Paisley, wife of the Rev Ian Paisley, among those being tipped.

These moves are being interpreted as British recognition of the change in political climate in the North since the 2003 Stormont Election, which has seen the DUP become the largest party.

However, Mr Paisley’s party has also presented Downing Street with a 64-page document of issues it feels will need to be addressed before they can contemplate reviving devolved government.

Among the issues the DUP has demanded is a generous severance and training package for Royal Irish Regiment soldiers affected by demilitarisation plans which will axe its three Northern Ireland based battalions, changes to the Parades Commission, and a financial package to revitalise working-class Protestant neighbourhoods.

Mr Campbell said today: “Our society in Northern Ireland has reached a level of almost inherent bias against unionism.

“It is this bias that needs tackling, culture, employment, education, minority Protestant recruitment to the police, EU funding are just a few of the areas that need resolving, not just agreeing to have them addressed.

“Important and justifiable as any additional appointments might be to the Policing Board, and to the House of Lords if they come, they do not even begin to address the disadvantage and marginalisation felt by our community.

“It is when measures are implemented which make a difference that political progress becomes a realistic and lasting proposition, rather than belatedly making up numbers for the largest political party in Northern Ireland.”

Security alert 'elaborate hoax'


Army bomb disposal experts examined a suspicious object
A security alert in County Armagh has ended and been declared an "elaborate hoax".

Army bomb disposal experts had been called to examine a suspicious object on Tandragee's Main Street shortly before 0500 BST on Friday.

It was discovered following a telephoned warning.

A controlled explosion was carried out on the object and a number of families were moved from their homes during the alert.

Fógraí Báis: Brian Campbell 1960 - 2005

An Phoblacht

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Brian Campbell received a presentation a week ago for his role as a former editor of An Phoblacht

Brian Campbell was not one to make a dramatic entrance. Not the one at the meeting who raised his hand repeatedly to restate what the three speakers before him had just said. But he was the one you spoke to afterwards to see what thoughts he had on taking the project forward because he was sure to have them. And not just thoughts but notes too, because for Brian a pen and notebook were an essential element of dress.

We worked together on several creative projects over the years, in prison and later on the outside. When the poetry workshops began in the H-Blocks in 1987 Brian was an eager participant and compiled a small collection of poems entitled, Scairt Amach (Shout Out). In 1989 we founded An Glór Gafa (the Captive Voice) and Brian became its first editor, establishing it as a quality magazine, produced entirely by republican prisoners. It continued to be published until just prior to the jail being closed in 2000.

Before he left prison Brian compiled and co-edited, Nor Meekly Serve My Time: the H-Block Struggle 1976-1981, containing the accounts of 28 prisoners involved in the Blanket Protest and Hunger Strikes. After release we continued to collaborate on projects; H3, the feature film about the Hunger Strike; and two dramas, The Laughter of our Children and A Cold House, both staged by Dubbeljoint. Brian also produced his own works; Des, on the life of Father Des Wilson; and Voyage of no Return, again both staged by Dubblejoint. His play for radio, Tiger Leaping Gorge, was broadcast on BBC Radio 4 and last weekend he was completing his latest play for Dubbeljoint.

For Brian there was always a project and one of his greatest strengths lay in his capacity to not only envision the end goal but have the practical ability to realise it. No project was too large. The longest journey begins with a single step and for Brian that first step was to jot down a few notes, even just words and phrases that would later be worked and reworked into a political strategy, a press release, a play, a film, or just a simple poem.

Bobby Sands wrote once "The Men of Arts have lost their Hearts". Well, Brian never lost his. He had a huge heart that beat strongly — until it stopped suddenly last Saturday morning. For Brian there was no distinction between art and politics. Each was the other and his application of both was seamless. For him, art existed in the real world. It was all around him. He didn't have to invent it or distort reality to create it. "What is more dramatic than the lives of people in struggle," he would say.

And yet he could never be pigeon-holed as a mere propagandist churning out empty rhetoric, something he despised as much as redundant words or worn out clichés. For Brian, each word had a reason for being on the page and was backed up with a passionate set of beliefs. There was no place in his world for verbal republicanism of the 'wrap the green flag round me' brand. For Brian, republicanism had to be about putting food on the table of the hungry, providing education for the young, proper hospital and medical facilities for the ill, an end to discrimination regardless of who it was directed, at and the creation of a society of equals. It had to be about the here and now as well as the future.

And that's what he worked towards. From 1996-'99, as Editor of An Phoblacht, he brought to the paper his precision as an editor, his interest in not just the local but the global, and his concern for personal and social commentary as well as the political. From 1998 he worked locally in Newry and South Armagh as part of the strategy team to build Sinn Féin in the area. His greatest satisfaction was in seeing Conor Murphy, a close personal friend and someone for whom he had the greatest respect, elected as MP for the area.

And just as he interweaved his politics with his art so too he reflected both in his personal, home, and social life. He always had time for words with a friend, for his favourite sport, football, and his local team, the Mitchels, who he helped train and manage. And through all of his activities be a devoted father to his children, Niall and Mairéad and a committed and loving husband to his wife and partner in life, Gráinne.

Brian was not one to make a dramatic entrance but his departure last Saturday was felt across the entire country and further afield because Brian grew on you; grew on you until one day you suddenly realise he is not just important to you; he has become an important part of you.

Unlike writing, life does not give us the chance for a rewrite, a second or third draft. It's as it is on the page. Brian certainly filled those pages during his all too brief life and left a testament to the richness of republicanism and to what can be achieved. He was a poet, writer, playwright, IRA Volunteer, political prisoner, political activist, friend, partner, husband, father, and valued member of the community.

We will miss you a chara but we are richer because you were with us for a time.

Laurence McKeown

Who is Alan McQuillan?

An Phoblacht

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Alan McQuillan - the Assistant Director of ARA, previously a senior RUC Special Branch officer


The ARA operates in both Britain and the North of Ireland. The Assistant Director of the ARA, a former senior RUC Special Branch officer and PSNI Deputy Chief Constable, Alan McQuillan is no stranger to political controversy. In 2002 he was caught out after he claimed republicans were planning to bring mayhem to the streets of North Belfast. McQuillan claimed: "Violence was planned on a major scale at a protest in Ardoyne as the Orange marchers passed through the area."

Press briefings about an imaginary republican threat helped to defuse adverse coverage against the decision to push through an Orange parade through a nationalist area despite weeks of anti-Catholic violence by Orange supporters. During a press conference, McQuillan's Assistant Chief Constable Colin Taylor produced metal spikes he described as a cache of lethal missiles and weaponry uncovered during raids in Ardoyne. The spikes had been "specifically made to injure members of the security forces", said Taylor.

Unfortunately for McQuillan and Taylor a vigilant International Observer had photographed the British Army removing security spikes from a rooftop earlier that day. Similar security barriers appear on rooftops throughout Belfast.

Four years earlier while in charge of the RUC in Derry, McQuillan had made similar allegations during an eve of march press conference during which he claimed republicans in the Bogside were manufacturing petrol bombs and planning a riot.

McQuillan also played a key role in the notorious Stormontgate raid that brought down the power-sharing institutions of 2002. As Assistant Chief Constable McQuillan oversaw Operation Torsion for the PSNI high command. Lines of armoured vehicles and PSNI officers in full riot gear provided perfect film footage for the selectively briefed waiting media. Torsion was specifically timed to coincide with political events and had profound political consequences. Commenting on the Manchester raids Sunday Business Post journalist Paul T Colgan said that the ARA actions had provided Ian Paisley with "more wriggle room".

The ARA had provided Paisley with "some much needed breathing space", said Colgan. In his response to the IICD report on IRA decommissioning Paisley had been exposed as "playing silly beggars" but courtesy of the ARA "in a single bound he was free".

"The fact that they [the raids] happened when Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness were in Downing Street only reinforces their contention that the raids were politically motivated," says Colgan. "Regardless of whether any prosecutions arise from last week's raids the political impact caused by such action cannot be underestimated."

13 October 2005

Police Board to be reconstituted


The Policing Board holds the PSNI to account

The Northern Ireland Policing Board will be reconstituted next year, the secretary of state has said.

Peter Hain told the House of Commons the d'Hondt formula would be used to appoint members in April next year.

Mr Hain said this would mean 4 DUP members, 2 SDLP, 2 UUP and 2 Sinn Fein. But he said Sinn Fein had "expressed no intention" of joining the board.

The DUP had called for the board to be reconstituted to reflect the party's success in the 2003 assembly elections.

Mr Hain said: "I accepted the arguments... that the DUP was in an unfair situation and that the present composition of the board - its political section - did not reflect the last assembly elections."

He added: "It is vital that community balance is maintained. I don't know if Sinn Fein are going to come onto the board.

"They have expressed no intention of doing so, but if they want to get involved in devolved government... they will have to take their responsibilities for policing seriously, including going on the board."

"Unlike the SDLP we did not jump too early on to a policing board which is unable to hold the PSNI to account."
Michelle Gildernew
Sinn Fein

DUP leader Ian Paisley said he welcomed the decision to reconstitute the board.

The current members had made a valuable contribution in dealing with thorny issues on policing, he said.

"I trust that the minister will not reduce the number of political appointees at this particular time."

Amending legislation

SDLP Policing Board member Alex Attwood said his party had reservations about the reconstitution of the board before the return of devolution.

However, the West Belfast assembly member said his party had also been told that Sinn Fein's seats on the new board would go to nationalists if they were not taken up.

"This means that the Patten agenda is strong and secure and the numbers for change on the board will increase," he said.

"The Policing Board has stood strong for Patten and stood strong for change. With increased nationalist representation that will continue to be the case.

"The DUP attempt to use the board as a sword against Patten and the chief constable has not succeeded."

Ulster Unionist Party Policing Board member Fred Cobain said the DUP had "negotiated away the unionist majority on the board".


"So much for DUP negotiating skills. In their haste and greed to have a DUP majority on the board they have helped the government agenda to facilitate Sinn Fein's entry to the board by stripping away its unionists majority," he said.

Sinn Fein MP Michelle Gildernew said the government had given a commitment to bring forward further amending legislation next year and her party needed to see the detail of that.

"Unlike the SDLP we did not jump too early on to a policing board which is unable to hold the PSNI to account and went on to ratify the purchase of new plastic bullets in direct conflict with previous public commitments from that party," she said.

Meanwhile, the secretary of state said when the legislation for on-the-run paramilitaries was ready, MPs could scrutinise it and make any necessary amendments.

"This is not an amnesty. An amnesty would mean that, as it were, in advance people who committed offences were released ever from the obligation of being punished for those offences... they will be subject to the process of the law."

Priest's apology for 'unionist Nazi' outburst falls on deaf ears


13/10/2005 - 17:47:34

The Catholic priest at the centre of a political storm after comparing Northern unionists to Nazis was deeply contrite, but still under fire, tonight.

Fr Alec Reid, one of the churchmen who witnessed IRA decommissioning last month, apologised profusely for his ill-chosen words.

He was condemned on all sides, particularly by unionists, and even by Northern Secretary Peter Hain on the floor of the House of Commons.

Challenged by Democratic Unionist MP Sammy Wilson to admonish the Redemptorist priest, Mr Hain responded: “Although Fr Alec Reid has apparently apologised for those remarks, of course I condemn what he said.”

Ulster Unionist Party leader Reg Empey said Fr Reid had destroyed confidence in the decommissioning process. “How can the word of somebody using that sort of language be taken seriously?” he asked.

The apologetic priest said he lost it in the heat of the moment during angry exchanges at a public meeting on IRA weapons decommissioning in a Belfast church last night.

Fr Reid said: “I was deeply provoked and offended by comments, many comments, about my church, my integrity and Clonard Monastery.

“In the heat of the moment I lost my temper and I deeply regret what I said. I have the highest regard for unionists and I regard them as a gifted people”.

During clashes with some audience members at the Fitzroy Presbyterian Church hall he blurted out: “The reality is that the nationalist community in Northern Ireland were treated almost like animals by the unionist community.

“They were not treated like human beings. It was like the Nazis’ treatment of the Jews.”

Fr Reid said today what he had been trying to say was that nationalists had not been given the respect they were due by unionists. “I didn’t put it very well,” he conceded.

Fr Reid added: “It was not the type of language I should have used and I regret using it. I regret very much hurting the feelings of anyone and I would like to apologise completely.

“I would like, if it were possible, to meet everyone I have offended – and I am sure I have offended people in the nationalist community as well – and apologise to them directly and allow them to express how they feel about what I said.”

William Frazer, of the victims group Families Acting for Innocent Relatives, who claim Protestants were butchered by Catholics during the Troubles, walked out of the public meeting in disgust after Fr Reid’s comments.

He refused to accept the apology. “He is trying to backtrack. Of course he would apologise after it all took place. Given the situation he is in, he had no other choice.”

It is the second time in a matter of months the Nazi accusation has been thrown at unionists.

President Mary McAleese was forced to apologise after making her comments in a radio interview marking the 60th anniversary of the Holocaust.

The Belfast-born President said Protestants had raised their children to hate Catholics in much the same way as Nazis had instilled a hatred of the Jews.

She was later forced to cancel a visit to the loyalist Shankill Road during a cross-border trip.

DUP MP Nigel Dodds said Fr Reid’s comments were far more offensive that those of the President.

“By branding an entire community as Nazis and slandering Protestants as treating Catholics like animals is outrageous.

“Thousands of Protestants volunteered to fight the Nazis and their descendants and the entire Protestant community have every right to receive a total unequivocal apology without weasel words of excuses about provocation.

“If unionists were to make similar remarks, they would be threatened with prosecution for inciting hatred. It is no defence to claim provocation.”

Mr Empey said he had been “absolutely appalled and deeply shocked” by the priest.

He said it was extremely sad he had damaged the community’s confidence in the decommissioning process.

“I am convinced that a lot of decommissioning did take place, but Fr Reid has fundamentally undermined the very work he was part of.

“With comments like that it is extremely difficult for this province to move forward.

“Decommissioning weapons is one thing, decommissioning mindsets is another.”

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