10 December 2005

Lobby group to help illegal Irish in US

RTE

10 December 2005 15:19

A new independent lobbying organisation has been set up in the United States to secure working visas for an estimated 25,000 illegal Irish immigrants.

The Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform is currently meeting in New York.

Earlier this month, US President George W Bush laid out his blueprint for immigration reform.


Proposals have also been published by Republican Senators John Kyl and John Cornyn.

The Dáil has officially backed plans by Democratic Senator Ted Kennedy and Republican John McCain.

It is likely that elements of all three will go into legislation aimed at tackling the biggest immigration problem the US has ever faced.

There are estimated to be 11 million undocumented workers in the US, amongst them an estimated 25,000 Irish.

The Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform pulls together prominent Irish American businessmen along with former Congressman Bruce Morrison, author of the Morrison Visas, and publisher Niall O'Dowd.

Its aim is to ensure that Irish immigrants do not get left behind in any deal which may emerge.

It is expected that immigration reform will become one of the biggest domestic issues on President Bush's agenda next year.

How planespotters turned into the scourge of the CIA


Guardian

**See also CIA rendition flights,
Seized, held, tortured: six tell same tale and CIA torture jet

Gerard Seenan and Giles Tremlett
Saturday December 10, 2005
The Guardian



Paul last saw the Gulfstream V about 18 months ago. He comes down to Glasgow airport's planespotters' club most days. He had not seen the plane before so he marked the serial number down in his book. At the time, he did not think there was anything unusual about the Gulfstream being ushered to a stand away from public view, one that could not be seen from the airport terminal or the club's prime view.

But that flight this week was at the centre of a transatlantic row that saw the prime minister being put on the spot on the floor of the House of Commons and the US secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice, forced on the defensive during a visit to Europe. The Gulfstream V has been identified as having been used by the CIA for "extraordinary renditions" - abducting terror suspects and taking them to secret prisons around the world where they may be tortured.

The recording of flights by spotters like Paul from places as far afield as Bournemouth and Karachi has unintentionally played a significant role in helping journalists and human rights groups expose the scale of the CIA's renditions system. But his impact on such international intrigue largely passes Paul by. "It's not the CIA bit that interests us. You don't even know who owns the plane when you take down the serial number," he said, already distracted as something comes in to land through the grey drizzle. "You keep accurate logs, for your own records."

At the door of the shabby end terrace which houses the Glasgow Airport Aviation Enthusiasts Club, Paul is considering how his hobby got him tangled in such a complex web. "We know now that these planes are run by the CIA, but it's not something we set out to know," he said. "I have seen the planes land in daytime and I've seen them land at nighttime. You never see anyone get off them. Most of the time they are just coming in to refuel, but the ones coming in at night you would expect to see people getting off. But you don't - at least, I never have."

Broadly, planespotters fall into three categories: those who like to take serial numbers, those who like to take photographs, and those who indulge in both.

About 40 miles away, on a mound exposed to wind and rain near the freight terminals of Prestwick airport, Stephen, lugging a lens more commonly used by paparazzi lurking in the undergrowth, is setting up a tripod waiting to see what will land today.

He knows it won't be as exciting as July, when the planes of G8 leaders and their secret service entourages landed at Prestwick, but he's hoping for a good day.

"It's my day off, so I've come over to Prestwick, but I'll go to Glasgow and Edinburgh as well," he said. "I do it mostly for myself - it's been a passion since I was child - but I'll post good photographs on websites too."

Stephen clicks the shutter. He doesn't think this one will make airliners.net, his favourite planespotting website. But he'll add it to the collection of hundreds of other plane photographs.

Despite the particular eccentricity of planespotting - and the obvious capacity for fun-poking - it is not a pastime limited to Britain. In Spain town planner Josep Manchado is part of a small group who gather with their long lenses and foil-wrapped sandwiches at Majorca's Son Sant Joan airport.

In January last year Mr Manchado saw a Boeing 737 on the airport tarmac. He pressed his camera shutter button while speculating idly that some US millionaire was in town. Then he put the picture of the Boeing (tail fin number N313P) on airliners.net, and forgot about it.

Within a few days Mr Manchado starting getting strange calls and emails. They came from the US and from Sweden. "People were asking me questions about the plane. They obviously weren't all planespotters because they were asking questions that people who know about planes don't ask," he said.

Activists and journalists had become interested in the rendition flights. There were also, however, strange calls. "One man wanted to buy up all the photos. He eventually sent me a form in which he asked for everything, including my home address. I didn't give it to him and I never heard from him again," he said.

Months later, he got a call from Germany's ZDF television. A man called Khalid El-Masri had come to them claiming he had been kidnapped by the CIA from Macedonia, bundled onto a plane and taken off to a prison many hours away. Several months later, after allegedly being tortured, he was flown back and dropped in Albania.

One of the planes thought to be involved was one Mr Manchado had photographed. It was believed that it had flown on to Macedonia that very same day. With the photo in their hand, ZDF reporters were able to persuade Skopje flight control to give them a printout of the flight plan. The aircraft had gone from Palma to Skopje and from there to Baghdad and Kabul. Mr El-Masri's story, convincingly told but difficult to believe, fitted.

For those prepared to sift through the endless information complied by planespotters and posted on websites, there are many more clues to the CIA's activities to be found. In Ireland peace campaigners have turned themselves into planespotters.

At Shannon airport Tim Hourigan uses a scanner that allows him to see what air traffic control sees, and he, and other activists, religiously note down the numbers of landing planes. Then, using a combination of Federal Airport Authority Records and planespotting websites, they can track the movements of intelligence planes across the world. "It is a tedious job looking through hundreds of pictures of planes," says Mr Hourigan, who is not a planespotting enthusiast. "But it allows you to confirm and expose the activities of the CIA and our own government."

The planespotters have been given first names only, as they asked not to be identified.


Man charged over M50 bomb

BreakingNews.ie

10/12/2005 - 16:01:31

A Dublin man appeared at a special sitting of the Special Criminal Court today in connection with the discovery of a bomb in a car at the Westlink toll bridge on Thursday night.

Martin O’Rourke (aged 22), of Sheepmore Grove, Blanchardstown was charge with the unlawful possession of an improvised explosive device at the Westlink Toll Plaza, Castleknock on Devember 8.

He was also charged with membership of an unlawful organisation styling itself the Irish Republican Army, otherwise Oglaigh na hEireann, otherwise the IRA on the same date.

Detective Garda Brian Cagney of the Special Detective Unit gave evidence of arresting O’ Rourke at Clondalkin Garda Station. The court remanded O’ Rourke in custody until Tuesday next.

Website promotes rights of children

Belfast Telegraph

By Michelle Grogan
newsdesk@belfasttelegraph.co.uk
10 December 2005

THE world's first interactive website promoting the human rights of children was being showcased at the Guildhall in Derry today.

Its aim is to promote children's rights and tell young people about them in a way that they can understand.

The project launch - said to be the first of its kind anywhere in the world - is part of an event celebrating National Human Rights Day.

Developed by children for children, www.knowurrights.org is a result of a partnership between Derry Children's Commission, Save the Children and The Nerve Centre.

Funding and expertise as a global children's rights organisation has been provided by Save the Children.


Equality body slammed by both DUP and Sinn Fein

Belfast Telegraph

Equally angry on two fronts

10 December 2005

THE Equality Commission has come under fire from unionists and republicans over its findings on the religious make-up of Northern Ireland's public and private sector workforces.

Chief commissioner Bob Collins was accused by Sinn Fein of underplaying Catholic disadvantage in his organisation's latest report.

But he was also accused by the DUP of being too slow to address the under-representation of Protestants.

According to the Equality Commission's 15th annual report on the religious composition of the monitored workforce in 2004, the proportions of Protestants and Roman Catholics were 57.7% and 42.3% respectively. This matched the proportions of Protestants and Catholics available for work which was 57.3% and 42.7% respectively.

Protestant employment in the public sector increased by 2.3% during the year (2,283 employees), while the number of Catholics rose by 5.9% (4,284).

The number of Protestants employed in the private sector fell by 0.6% during the year - a net loss of 1,019 employees. Catholics increased their share of jobs by 1.3% overall, a net gain of 1,595 employees.

Mr Collins said it was important to understand the context in which the changes in the workforce had occurred. He said: "During 2004, a growth of Protestant employment in the public sector was offset by a decline in private sector jobs, most notably in manufacturing industry, where Protestants were traditionally strongly represented."

Sinn Fein Assembly member Catriona Ruane said that while there was disadvantage in both the Protestant and Catholic communities, these problems had to be dealt with on the basis of need.

"The fact remains that across every single indicator of disadvantage and multiple disadvantage Catholics fair far worse," the South Down MLA added.

"Sinn Fein's greatest concern is that this is part of a wider agenda driven by the civil service and unionist politicians to rewrite history and, just as seriously, to default on existing equality commitments."

The DUP's Gregory Campbell said the commission was much too slow in coming forward with pro-active measures to combat the under-representation of Protestants, particularly in the public sector.

The East Londonderry MP said: "Over a period of many years this area of concern has been raised with them, the figures for recruitment across the public sector demonstrate the nature of the problem, what has not happened, however, is the Commission showing Northern Ireland people what they intend to do to about it.

"It is totally unacceptable that this report mentions the issue they spent so many years denying the existence thereof, and when they do refer to the problem, they attempt to rationalise it rather than dealing with it.

"They must bring forward solutions for those public sector bodies where they have categorical proof of the scale of the problem affecting Protestant under-representation."

Legal battle over jail 'slopping out'

Belfast Telegraph

By Deborah McAleese
newsdesk@belfasttelegraph.co.uk
10 December 2005

A HIGH Court judge is considering whether to award compensation to Ulster prisoners for being forced to "slop out."

During a two-week legal battle, the first of its kind in Northern Ireland, it was alleged in court that the Prison Service had abused the human rights of inmates at Magilligan Prison by not providing in-cell toilets or washing facilities in the prison's H-block.

At the end of final submissions yesterday, Mr Justice Girvan reserved judgment to re-examine the evidence.

The court heard claims that slopping out occurs on a daily basis in the prison, despite Parliamentary reassurance last year by former Secretary of State Ian Pearson that daily slopping out of cells is no longer required in any prisons in Northern Ireland.

If the case is successful, many of the province's most notorious criminals could receive thousands of pounds in compensation for their "degrading" and "humiliating" treatment.

The proceedings were taken by Belfast burglar Justin John Martin, who spent nine months in the prison last year.

Martin, who is currently in Maghaberry Prison, told the court that he was kept in "distressing and humiliating conditions" with only a chamber pot for a toilet and nowhere to wash his hands.

He claimed that if a prison officer was unable to open a cell during lock-up, prisoners had to use a chamber pot as a toilet. This was later emptied in a large basin when the cells were re-opened.

Martin's solicitor, Garrett Greene, from McCann & McCann Solicitors, said: "Prisoners are in custody as punishment for crimes against society and in order to be rehabilitated back into the community. This does not mean they should also be humiliated and not have access to basic tenets of human rights and dignity."

However, lawyers for the Prison Service argued that slopping out was not normal practice.

Just days after the legal action was launched last week, all cells in H-block were provided with wash basins.

The practice of slopping-out was banned in English prisons in 1996.

Last year, the Criminal Justice Inspector in Northern Ireland, Kit Chivers, ordered the prison service to implement a wide range of operational changes within Magilligan Prison to improve conditions for prisoners.

A landmark ruling on slopping out was made in Scotland in February. Now, anybody who has to slop out their cells every morning has the potential to sue the Scottish Executive under the European Convention on Human Rights.

Stormontgate row rages on

Belfast Telegraph

Politicians demand answers over fiasco

By Deborah McAleese
newsdesk@belfasttelegraph.co.uk
10 December 2005

NATIONALIST and unionist politicians have furiously told the Government that it must "come clean" over the collapse of the Stormont spy ring case.

They demanded clarification from the Attorney General Lord Goldsmith and the Director of Public Prosecutions over the case, which led to the suspension of Stormont Assembly and Executive three years ago.

A judge at Belfast Crown Court on Thursday acquitted Sinn Fein official Denis Donaldson, his son-in-law Ciaran Kearney and civil servant William Mackessy after the Public Prosecution Service said it would offer no further evidence.

The three men were arrested in October, 2002 at the time of a police raid on Sinn Fein's offices at Stormont.

SDLP MLA Alex Attwood urged the PSNI to publicly explain its involvement in the case and its feelings on the decision to acquit the men.

He said: "This case suggests the bad decisions and bad standards that existed around previous decisions in shoot-to-kill, Nelson and Stobie, and still endure. The Attorney-General cannot run for cover. Answers are needed."

DUP leader Ian Paisley said he was "amazed" that the Secretary of State Peter Hain was "not most anxious to meet with the public representatives who have very serious concerns" over the decision not to proceed with prosecutions in this case.

Mr Paisley said: "I believe that this is an attempt to conceal something so serious that even one of the guarantors of the agreement, (Bertie) Ahern, admits to bewilderment and recalls that there was such evidence at the discovery of the spy-ring that could not be challenged. Talk about a cover-up."

UUP leader Sir Reg Empey said: "The public is left in limbo, with a cloud of suspicion hanging over the case."

He said that Dr Paisley was "gradually learning that the abuse he and his party have heaped on the Ulster Unionists now applies to himself".

"It is not as easy as he thought to prevent a determined government from doing its own thing with republicans."

Taoiseach Bertie Ahern expressed bafflement over the collapse of the case. Speaking after talks with Tony Blair in Downing Street yesterday, he said: "This brought down the institutions and created huge grief for me and for the Prime Minister. We had hundreds of troops descending on the Stormont building for what we were told at the time was irrefutable evidence. It vanished yesterday with no prosecutions. It was a lot of grief for no prosecutions. I think it is all very interesting and I don't quite understand."



Oppose the Extradition of Sean Garland

www.dannymorrison.ie

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Danny Morrison


In his presidential address to the ard fheis of the Workers Party in October Sean Garland taunted the Republican Movement three times when he claimed that by decommissioning its arms the IRA had surrendered. However, his tirade was delivered by Des O’Hagan because Garland himself was in custody having been arrested the previous night at a Belfast restaurant by the PSNI on foot of a US extradition warrant.

The warrant alleges that Garland was in conspiracy with English criminals (who were subsequently convicted and jailed) and the North Korean communist government, and that he used his Workers’ Party position as a front and Official IRA Volunteers as a conduit, to circulate up to a million dollars of counterfeit US currency. Known as superdollars the currency is believed to be printed on highly sophisticated machines by the North Korean government and are of such quality that they often deceive experts.

Last year, BBC’s Panorama, using secret recordings and police undercover footage, did an expose of the counterfeiting cartel which was first discovered twelve years ago when North Korean diplomats - the only people allowed to travel outside the state - were caught passing on the superdollars.

The programme, quoting General Vladimir Uskov of the Russian Interior Police, claimed that Sean Garland had regularly visited the North Korean Embassy in Moscow and that this was the distribution centre for the counterfeit money. However, all of the evidence presented on Panorama was circumstantial.

The programme showed that Terence Silcock, who was sentenced to six years, was a regular visitor to Dublin (booking return flights - but returning by ferry), that he and Garland were in Moscow at the same time and that Silcock telephoned Garland’s mobile number from his Moscow hotel.

One of the gang, Hugh Todd, ‘the Irish courier’ alleged to have brought the dollars from Dublin to Birmingham for distribution and laundering through David Levin, a Russian criminal, told police his boss was called “Sean… He’s a communist, he has communist beliefs which is what the old IRA is.” He also said: “He’s old school … he’s the Colonel-in-Chief of the IRA.”

Garland was arrested in Belfast and was subsequently granted £10,000 bail provided he stayed at the Downpatrick home of Des O’Hagan. His bail conditions were later amended to allow the 71-year-old, who suffers from diabetes, to leave the jurisdiction and go to Navan for medical treatment, near his home.

Last week Garland failed to appear in Belfast court and a warrant was issued for his arrest.

It was either the height of stupidity or cockiness - having been named in Worcester Crown Court and on British television as one of the major players in the conspiracy, and knowing that a US investigation was on his trail - for Sean Garland to have come to Belfast to attend his party’s ard fheis. Maybe cockiness – after all, at the height of the conflict senior Workers Party members often seemed immune from arrest and were certainly bosom drinking pals of RUC detectives and leading figures in the UVF.

Garland has said that he has skipped bail on the grounds that Britain’s extradition treaty with the USA is “grossly unjust” and that in a US court he would not get justice. Clearly, the US authorities, who had the warrant for six months and could have issued it in the South, waited until Garland was in the North and subject to the UK-US Extradition Treaty Act. That act has lower standards of proof than the agreement between Ireland and the US and does not require the requesting country to make a prima facie case.

Undoubtedly, Garland would not receive justice in a US court – neither a fair trial nor in terms of the sentence imposed were he found guilty.

The Irish authorities could now face extradition requests from Britain to have Garland returned to the North or from the USA for his extradition which will certainly force all the political parties in the South to declare their stance. His defence will be relying on the political exception clause even though this has been virtually whittled away over the years in cases involving Irish republicans.

Since his arrest the Workers Party has launched an anti-extradition campaign, which has attracted support from many who never expressed their opposition to extradition in the past.

As a young man Garland was a courageous IRA Volunteer who took part in the Brookeborough raid in 1957 when his comrades Sean South and Feargal O’Hanlon were killed. He became a Marxist in the 1960s and after the split was a leading member of the Sticks.

The first republican killed in a feud was at the hands of the Sticks – IRA Volunteer Charlie Hughes in 1971. When the Sticks split again in 1974 the first republican killed in their feud with the emergent Irish Republican Socialist Party was also at their hands – Hugh Ferguson in 1975.

The Workers Party, which started out as Official Sinn Fein, was run by a bitter, twisted leadership. The group continued to be armed, continued with its paramilitary activities, whilst recognising, supporting and calling upon people to cooperate with the RUC. Its leadership was indulged by the state, certainly in the North. The party supported the broadcasting ban in the North and supported (if not ran) state censorship through Section 31 in the South; opposed political status for prisoners and the hunger strike; demonised Sinn Fein; and supported the extradition of Irish republicans from the southern jurisdiction to the North and to Britain, Holland, Belgium, France and Germany. Indeed, Garland’s predecessor as president of the party, Proinsias De Rossa, in May 1990, asked the Minister for Justice in the Dail, “if he intends taking any steps to reassure public opinion in Northern Ireland that persons suspected of serious offences there will not find refuge in the Republic.”

How ironic.

Internationally, the Workers Party supported Stalinism in the USSR, Soviet imperialism and various dictatorships – including, of course, North Korea where Kim Jong Il’s Superdollar Publications is based. It suffered more splits in the 1990s and in 1998 it split again with a new organisation, a lot closer to original republican sentiment, emerging and exorcising itself of much of the party’s shameful past.

Sean Garland has no chance of getting justice in the USA and it is on that basis – not out of sympathy for the man or his party – that his extradition should be opposed and resisted. Party spokesperson, John Lowry, pompously claimed that the arrest was “politically motivated. It was designed because the Workers Party stand opposed to the war in Iraq, we stand opposed to the policies of the US administration.”

I hadn’t realised how towering and influential a figure Sean Garland was in the anti-war movement.

Perhaps at some stage we could theoretically debate whether the organised distribution of counterfeit USA dollars is in certain circumstances a legitimate, revolutionary act – something akin to robbing a bank without actually going into the bank – or is in all circumstances a criminal act.

Now, who would like to kick off that debate! The not-so-busy Independent Monitoring Commission?


09 December 2005

What was Operation Torsion?

Daily Ireland

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Police leave after raiding Sinn Fein office at Stormont

The only detailed account about Operation Torsion is contained in a book by the BBC’s Security Editor Brian Rowan.
Although he first exposed the existence of Operation Torsion in BBC news reports on November 12, 2002, Mr Rowan printed a much more detailed version in his book, An Armed Peace, which was published in September 2003.
According to Brian Rowan, the raids on October 4, 2002, took place only after Special Branch tapped phones, installed listening and tracking devices, engaged in widespread surveillance, relied upon the role of an agent, covertly broke into unidentified private premises, and even handled, removed and replaced evidence – supposedly central to the prosecutions.
Despite all of the defendants now being declared innocent and with the allegation of a so-called ‘Stormont spy-ring’ in tatters, the information revealed by Brian Rowan about Special Branch’s activities leaves many unanswered questions.
Mr Rowan’s version of Operation Torsion suggested that a plan was hatched by the PSNI after the apparent burglary at Castlereagh Special Branch offices on St Patrick’s Day, 2002.
According to Mr Rowan, within days of the apparent Castlereagh burglary, the so-called “security assessment” shifted emphasis from investigating the “inside job” theory to focussing on blaming the IRA’s alleged ‘Director of Intelligence’.
Mr Rowan referred to this figure as a “West Belfast man with a big republican reputation”. After this person was arrested amid widespread allegations of media leaks, along with five others on March 30, 2002 – the PSNI released him without charge. Republicans called the arrests a “propaganda exercise” and a “fishing expedition”. One man was subsequently convicted on unrelated charges.
Mr Rowan alleged that Operation Torsion was then conceived by the PSNI and subsequently managed by Belfast Special Branch Head, Chief Superintendent Bill Lowry, who allowed it to “breathe” in the hope that “the IRA Director of Intelligence would walk into his surveillance net”.
“Seven months before the public revelations of alleged IRA intelligence-gathering inside Castle Buildings, the Special Branch had been embarrassed by all that had happened inside Castlereagh. But Operation Torsion had allowed Lowry an opportunity to return the serve on the IRA and he did so, he claims, against the wishes of the British security services,” Mr Rowan wrote.
With confirmation yesterday that the remaining defendants have been found not guilty, significant questions still remain about Operation Torsion.

Continuity IRA link suspected in M50 alert

RTE

09 December 2005 17:10

Gardaí investigating the discovery of an explosive device in a car on the M50 motorway in Dublin last night believe it may be linked to a campaign by the Continuity IRA against drug dealers in Dublin city.

The bomb was discovered when gardaí stopped and searched the vehicle travelling northbound near the West Link Toll Plaza shortly after 10pm.

When gardaí confronted the driver of the car, he jumped out and warned them that there was a bomb in the car and that it was primed.

An Army Explosives Ordance Disposal team was called in following the discovery of the device and a controlled explosion was carried out.

A 24-year-old man was arrested at the scene while a 56-year-old man was arrested later in Ronanstown. Both men were being held at Clondalkin Garda Station.

A section of the motorway between the Blanchardstown and Palmerstown exits was closed for four hours while the operation was continuing.

Staff unaware of operation: NTR director

The managing director of National Toll Roads, Kyran Hurley, said tollbooth staff did not know in advance about last night's garda operation at the West Link Toll Plaza.

There were ten staff manning the plaza at the time of the incident.

However, speaking on RTÉ Radio's Morning Ireland, Mr Hurley said staff are used to incidents at a minor level in the lanes and are trained in how to handle these incidents.

He said there was no undue concern amongst staff at that incident, and the evacuation of staff happened in accordance with a normal fire drill exercise.

Thousands show solidarity with Irish Ferries workers

BreakingNews.ie

09/12/2005 - 16:57:07

Tens of thousands of employees today turned out to protest in solidarity with Irish Ferries workers who are fighting attempts by the company to replace them with cheaper foreign labour.

Gardaí put the number of marchers in central Dublin at around 40,000, while Congress President Peter McLoone said 80,000 to 100,000 had turned up, with people still leaving Parnell Square as the first groups reached the end of the march at Merrion Square.

Thousands also turned out for marches across the country for the national day of protest.

Union leaders called on the Government to protect the Irish people from a race to the bottom in wages, which they said was happening as a result of increasing numbers of foreign workers being employed at below the going rates.

But the march, led by a Congress banner which read ’Equal Rights for All Workers’, was not against migrant workers, they insisted.

Mr McLoone said: “This is a day of national protest in support of the workers at Irish Ferries, but also a demonstration that wants to send a very clear message to Government that we do not want a society that is founded on injustice, blackguardism, and the exploitation of workers.”

He said the day of protest had received messages of support from the international trade union movement including the TUC and the Latvian trade union conference, and he gave a special welcome to Ryanair pilots who had turned out to march in their uniforms.

The general secretary of Congress – which called for the demonstration – David Begg said the protesters had a fundamental message to deliver.

“There is a threshold of decency below which the Irish people will not accept anyone being dragged, no matter where they come from,” he said.

“Any person who has not spent the last six months on Mars must know that in every part of this country there’s exploitation.”

Mr Begg said the dispute at Irish Ferries was leading the country in a race to the bottom, which would have a devastating impact on Irish society as a whole.

And he said the rest of Europe was watching closely events in Ireland, because what was happening in the state was also occurring in other countries such as Sweden and Finland.

SIPTU general president Jack O’Connor criticised the Government for using what he described as the rhetoric of social partnership at home, while obstructing measures to protect Irish workers on the European stage.

Although the march, supported by all the unions under the Congress banner, addressed the broader question of employees’ rights, the focus remained on the Irish Ferries workers who are protesting at the company’s attempts to replace 543 workers with foreign agency staff.

The meeting in Merrion Square at the end of the march was addressed by negotiators from Siptu – the union representing the protesting seafarers - Patricia King and Paul Smyth, who called on the Government to prevent the re-flagging of Irish Ferries vessels to avoid Irish labour laws.

The centre of Dublin ground to a halt for the duration of the march, with services on public transport suspended so workers could join the protest.

Real IRA chief's appeal dismissed

BBC


Michael McKevitt sought to discredit a vital witness

Former Real IRA leader Michael McKevitt has failed to have his conviction overturned in the Irish Republic's Court of Criminal Appeal.

McKevitt was sentenced to 20 years in 2003 for directing terrorism and membership of an illegal organisation.

His lawyers had sought to have his conviction quashed by challenging the credibility of David Rupert, the main prosecution witness.

Mr Rupert was a secret agent for the FBI and the British secret service.

Explosion

McKevitt, 54, from Blackrock, County Louth, was the first person to be convicted in the Republic for the offence which was introduced after the 1998 Real IRA bomb attack in Omagh.

The explosion claimed the lives of 29 people, including a woman pregnant with twins.

He also received a six years concurrent prison sentence for membership of an illegal organisation which the court said was the Real IRA.

Mr Rupert was reported to have infiltrated the Real IRA and attended Real IRA Army Council meetings where McKevitt was present.


Robbery accused released on bail

BBC



The first person to be charged in connection with the Northern Bank robbery has been released on bail.

Dominic McEvoy, 23, from Mullandra Park in Kilcoo, faces two counts of false imprisonment and one of robbery in connection with the £26.5m raid.

Mr McEvoy was granted High Court bail on condition that he report to police twice daily and does not leave Northern Ireland.

Two south Down businessmen each provided sureties of £50,000.

Employee

Earlier this month Mr McEvoy's lawyer said his client had been prevented from making a bail application "because the authorites were withholding vital information".

Mr McEvoy was charged after his DNA was allegedly found at the Loughinisland home of a bank employee who had been held hostage.

The robbery at the bank's Northern Ireland headquarters at Donegall Square West in central Belfast, took place just before Christmas last year.

Of the 11 people questioned to date in connection with the robbery, three have appeared in court.

'Spy' trio held 'to save Trimble'

BBC


Denis Donaldson said the charges were "politically motivated"

A man cleared of charges linked to an alleged IRA spy ring at Stormont has said he was arrested in a campaign to save David Trimble's political career.

Sinn Fein's Denis Donaldson, son-in-law Ciaran Kearney along with William Mackessy had a total of seven charges against them dropped on Thursday.

Mr Donaldson said his charges were dropped due to the prosecution's "self interest". He may now sue the police.

He said there was no spy ring and the charges were "politically-inspired".

"There was no spy ring at Stormont. There never was," he said.

"The fact that the media was here on the morning that our offices (at Stormont) was raided testifies to that.

"It was part of a Save Dave (Trimble) campaign initially and it was also designed to bring down the (power-sharing) institutions, which it did."

Mr Donaldson was speaking as he and the other two men returned to Stormont in the company of leading Sinn Fein officials, including party leader Gerry Adams.

The three were arrested following a police raid on Sinn Fein's offices at Parliament Buildings on 4 October 2002, when documents and computer discs were seized.


Police raided Sinn Fein offices at Stormont

The arrests led to the power-sharing executive at Stormont being suspended, after the DUP and Ulster Unionists, led at that time by Mr Trimble, threatened to collapse the executive with resignations.

Mr Donaldson, who was Sinn Fein's head of administration at Stormont, and Mr Kearney were subsequently accused of having documents likely to be of use to terrorists.

Mr Mackessy was charged with collecting information on the security forces.

However, at an unlisted hearing at Belfast Crown Court, the three were told all charges were being dropped after the prosecution offered no evidence "in the public interest".

Mr Donaldson said they were now consulting legal representatives about what course of action they could follow in connnection with the arrests.

Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams said the collapse of the case once again underlined the need to "face up" to elements within the PSNI who, he claimed, were opposed to political progress.

He said: "The raid on this building, the raid on the Sinn Fein offices, was conducted in a glare of publicity.

'No comment'

"I think that has very clearly become a pattern, a pattern of political policing.

"Our certain view, and we said this at the time, is that there are elements within the Special Branch, within the old RUC, some of whom are active today in the PSNI, who continue to be at war with Irish republicans, who are opposed to the peace process."

The Public Prosecution Service said it would be making no further statement in relation to the decision to drop the charges.

A spokesman would not respond to allegations that the service had bowed to political pressure.

He would not clarify what it regarded as the nature of the public interest which led to the charges being dropped.


Stormont charges 'were to save Trimble's career'

BreakingNews

09/12/2005 - 12:03:07

A Sinn Féin official who had charges dropped against him over a republican spy ring at Stormont claimed today that police arrested him as part of a campaign to save David Trimble’s political career.

Denis Donaldson, who with Ciaran Kearney and William Mackessy had charges dropped at Belfast Crown Court yesterday, said he was not surprised at the decision to drop the case against them.

“I wasn’t surprised because we weren’t guilty,” said Mr Donaldson, Sinn Féin’s head of administration at Stormont at the time of the arrests in 2002.

“There was no spy ring at Stormont. There never was.

“What it all added up to was politically-inspired charges which should never have been brought.

“The fact that the media was here on the morning that our offices (at Stormont) was raided testifies to that.

“It was part of a Save Dave (Trimble) campaign initially and it was also designed to bring down the (power-sharing) institutions, which it did.”

Mr Donaldson, 55, of Altnamonagh Crescent in West Belfast, and his son-in-law Mr Kearney, 34, of Commedagh Drive, were charged with having information which was likely to be of use to terrorists.

Civil servant William Mackessy, 47, from Wolfend Way in North Belfast, was also charged.

But in a dramatic development yesterday, the prosecutor told Belfast Crown Court that it was withdrawing all evidence against the men and a prosecution was no longer in the public interest.

With no evidence against them, Mr Justice Hart ruled that all three should be found not guilty.

Mr Donaldson, Mr Kearney and Mr Mackessy joined Sinn Féin MPs Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness at Stormont today and were also joined by East Derry Assembly member Francie Brolly who was released last week after being questioned by the Police Service of Northern Ireland about a triple IRA car bomb attack on the village of Claudy which killed nine people.


Ruling due on McKevitt appeal against RIRA conviction

BreakingNews.ie

09/12/2005 - 07:46:53

The Court of Criminal Appeal is due to deliver judgement today on Michael McKevitt's challenge to his conviction for leading the Real IRA.

The 54-year-old, from Blackrock, Co Louth, was jailed for 20 years by the non-jury Special Criminal Court in August 2003 after being found guilty of directing the activities of an illegal organisation.

His appeal centres on the reliability of evidence given by the chief prosecution witness, FBI agent David Rupert, who claimed he infiltrated the Real IRA.

Mr McKevitt's lawyers have argued that his testimony cannot be trusted because he was a lifelong criminal who had been paid by around €2m by the US and British intelligence agencies.

Two held as car bomb intercepted

BBC



Two men are being questioned following the discovery of a suspected dissident republican bomb in a car near Dublin.

The device was found about 2230 GMT on Thursday when Irish police stopped a car at the Westlink toll plaza of the M50 motorway surrounding the city.

A controlled explosion was carried out on the lunchbox-type device which included a timer and metal components. Police later confirmed it was a bomb.

A man was arrested at the scene and a second man was arrested on Friday.

It is understood the vehicle was stopped as part of an ongoing garda operation, involving the Special Branch and members of the elite Emergency Response Unit.

The bomb had been hidden in a baby seat in the car.

BBC Northern Ireland's Dublin correspondent, Shane Harrison, said: "Security sources say that they believe the device found in the car was constructed by the Continuity IRA.

"It may have been on its way to the west Dublin suburb of Blanchardstown for possible use in a criminal gang feud.

"It's believed that some of the detectives involved in the operation may have been keeping an eye on suspected Continuity IRA extortion rackets in the west Dublin area."

Both men who were arrested are being questioned at Clondalkin garda station.

They can be held for up to 72 hours before they are either charged or released.


President & Queen in historic North meeting

RTE

08 December 2005 22:31

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President Mary McAleese met Queen Elizabeth II in Hillsborough in Co Down today.

The President described as a 'cordial, friendly chat' with the monarch.

It was the first such meeting between a President and a British monarch to take place in Ireland.

Queen Elizabeth and her husband, the Duke of Edinburgh, arrived in Northern Ireland last night and undertook a series of engagements today.

Since she was elected President in 1997, Mrs McAleese has met the Queen on three occasions, twice in London and in 1998 at a ceremony in Belgium to officially open the Messines Peace Park.

Paisley demands Hain meeting after 'spy ring' acquittals

BreakingNews.ie

08/12/2005 - 17:39:42

Northern Ireland Secretary Peter Hain faced demands tonight from the Rev Ian Paisley for a meeting over the dropping of charges against three men accused of operating a republican spy ring at Stormont.

In an unexpected move, prosecutors told Belfast Crown Court it was no longer in the public interest to pursue a case against Sinn Féin’s head of administration Denis Donaldson, his son-in-law Ciaran Kearney and civil servant William Mackessy.

The arrests of the three men led to the suspension of devolution in Northern Ireland in October 2002 by the British government and the reimposition of direct rule from Westminster which remains to this day.

While Sinn Féin claimed the dropping of charges showed allegations of a spy ring were concocted to bring down power sharing institutions, Mr Paisley alleged the decision was taken because it was politically expedient.

The Democratic Unionist leader said: “The right thinking people of Ulster will be totally flabbergasted at the decision taken to drop all prosecutions on the IRA spy ring at Stormont because after a three year delay it has been decided that it is not in the public interest.

“I have asked for an urgent meeting with the Secretary of State and hope to talk to the Prime Minister in the near future.”

Mr Donaldson, 55, and his 34-year-old son-in-law, Mr Kearney had been accused of having documents of use to terrorists.

A third man, 47-year-old civil servant William Mackessy, was charged with collecting information on the security forces.

The Police Service of Northern Ireland was criticised by Sinn Féin at the time of the arrests for carrying out a high profile raid on their offices at Stormont.

In a statement, the PSNI today said it noted and understood the reasons given by the Public Prosecution Service for the withdrawal of charges and it believed the three men were entitled to the presumption of innocence.

The police insisted the Provisional IRA was actively involved in the systematic gathering of information and targeting of individuals.

“Police investigated that activity and a police operation led to the recovery of thousands of sensitive documents which had been removed from government offices,” the statement said.

“A large number of people were subsequently warned about threats to them.

“That police investigation has concluded. There are no further lines of inquiry and no individuals are being sought by the police.”

The Northern Ireland Office said the dropping of the charges was solely a matter for the prosecutors but it noted the PSNI’s insistence that the IRA was involved in intelligence gathering and that documents were recovered.

“It is also a matter of record that it was the actions of paramilitaries in gathering and removing these documents and the damage that was done to political confidences as a result that led to the suspension of the Northern Ireland Assembly,” the NIO said.

“The Government is determined that confidence will be rebuilt and that devolved Government in Northern Ireland will be restored. It will continue to work tirelessly to achieve that goal.”

A statement issued through Mr Donaldson and Mr Mackessy’s solicitors, Madden and Finucane, said their clients were victims of a plot by elements within the police to subvert the peace process.

Mr Kearney’s solicitors, Kevin Winters and Co, said: “There can be no suggestion that Mr Kearney is technically not guilty. He was and remains completely innocent of any allegation.

“The case, such as it was, and the so-called ‘evidence’ to justify it remains unchanged from October 2002.

“This case achieved its political aim and the prosecution today closed it but there remains some major concerns which will be pursued in another forum.”

Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams, who will hold a press conference with the men tomorrow at Stormont, claimed the operation which led to their arrests was the most blatant example of political policing.

The West Belfast MP said: “Faceless securocrats subverted the democratic wishes of the electorate north and south who voted for the Good Friday Agreement.

“The collapse of this case should now focus attention on to the Special Branch and those responsible for planning, carrying out and authorising this entire operation.”

08 December 2005

New cards profile women republicans: Mná na hÉireann - Unfinished Revolution

An Phoblacht

BY JOANNE CORCORAN

With Sinn Féin's Céad Bliain year coming to a close the party has produced a set of limited edition cards honouring republican women. The Mná na hÉireann — Unfinished Revolution cards, which resemble playing cards, show photos of women from 1798 through to the present day who have contributed to the cause of Irish freedom, accompanied by their biographies.

Caitríona Ruane, who took charge of the Céad Bliain Committee in 2004 says she got the idea for the cards after a trip to America. "I was in the US a couple of years ago and picked up two sets of cards produced by the Library of Congress, paying tribute to great African-Americans and 'Women who Dare'," she told An Phoblacht this week.

"A while after that, myself and Mary Lou McDonald organised a women's conference in Down and used the women's cards as discussion points for speakers. Following that conference we thought the card idea would provide an excellent vehicle to honour some of the republican women who have given so much to the cause over the last few centuries."

Carol Jackson of the Céad Bliain Committee was responsible for the production of the cards, with An Phoblacht providing most of the photographs of the women from the paper's extensive archives.

Volume One is due to be launched by Gerry Adams and Caitríona Ruane on 12 December at 12pm in the Culturlánn in West Belfast. A launch with Mary Lou McDonald in Dublin will take place at a later date.

Among the 48 women honoured in the first volume are Síghle Humphreys (1899-1994), who participated in the Civil War, and spent the rest of her life fighting for republican causes; Sheena Campbell (1962-1992), who was instrumental in developing Sinn Féin's electoral strategy until she was murdered by the UVF; Máire Comerford (1893-1982), a prominent member of the Anti-Partition League; Kathleen Largey (1943-1979), a ballad singer who invested her time in prisoner welfare and Annie-Mary Burke Gildernew (1918-1998), a life-long republican best known for the squat in 9 Kinnaird Park, Caledon, Tyrone, which eventually led to the first civil rights march.

"Some of the women we have honoured are very well-known, like Máire Drumm, Mairéad Farrell and Countess Markievicz," Ruane says. "But there are many there, like Sidney Gifford Czira, Ethel Lynch, Bridie Dolan and Anne Parker, who were incredible women and committed republicans, but probably aren't spoken about as much as they should be. These cards are about reclaiming those women and letting people know what they did."

Ruane is aware that 48 cards aren't sufficient to honour all the women who have fought for republicanism and says this is why the party hopes to produce more volumes in the coming years.

The cards can be purchased from the Sinn Féin bookshop for £10/€15 in the run-up to Christmas and will make ideal keepsakes from the Sinn Féin Céad Bliain year.


Interview - Radical plan for language revival outlined: Irish is central to republican struggle


An Phoblacht

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Photo: Seánna Walsh

Last July the face and voice of Seánna Walsh conveyed the dramatic announcement of the formal ending of the IRA's armed campaign. Beamed across the globe, media commentators agreed on one thing — that the IRA's choice was appropriate.

Séanna Walsh served over 21 years as a republican prisoner of war in both the cages and H-Blocks of Long Kesh. He was among the first republicans to go 'on the blanket' after his arrest in 1976, the year that the British Labour Government began it policy of attempting to criminalise IRA prisoners.

Séanna was a friend and cellmate of Bobby Sands, the Officer Commanding in the H-Blocks and the first of the Hunger Strikers who died in 1981.

Since his release Séanna has played a key role in working with Sinn Féin's negotiating team. Recently he was appointed as Head of the party's Cultural Department.

Here, Séanna and Fearghal Mac Ionnrachtaigh, another member of the party's re-organised and revitalised Cultural Department, spoke to An Phoblacht about the role of Irish in the republican struggle and the departments ambitious and radical plans.

An Phoblacht: What initially sparked your interest in the Irish language?

Séanna: I first got an interest in Irish in primary school and developed it at secondary school. I was in Loch an Iúir Gaeltacht in Donegal when Internment erupted across the North. Within 18 months I found myself in prison, in the Cages of Long Kesh. I dived into the language with a passion. It was clear to me at a fairly early stage that the Irish language was much more than a medium of communication, that wrapped up in it was the history of conflict and dispossession, genocide and emigration.

How important is the restoration of Irish language to republican objectives?

Fearghal: Republican objectives are underpinned by three defining strands — the political, the socio-economic and the cultural. The cultural aspect of our struggle was elevated by radical language revivalists like Pádraig Mac Piarais. He placed the cultural struggle within the confines of the wider national struggle when he stated that a free Ireland must not only be free but Gaelic speaking while a Gaelic speaking Ireland must not only be Gaelic speaking but free also.

Just as the revival efforts of the Gaelic League provided the dynamic for the Irish revolution in the last century, we believe that in the new dispensation, a rejuvenated and determined Republican Movement can utilise the language to such an extent that it can characterise our struggle in the new millennium.

The consequences of the colonial legacy of Anglicisation created a false sense of identity that relegates the language to that of an icon. The current process of nation building requires a detailed strategy that involves the construction of a decolonised identity to which the repossession of the Irish language is central.

In the Algerian Revolutionary, Frantz Fanon stressed that the colonialised must first ask the question, 'In reality, Who am I?' in order to re-define their national identity.

A process of decolonialisation demands that the language transcends its current symbolic status in order to achieve meaningful status and full rights for all its users. There is an onus on republicans to place a greater emphasis on the protection and promotion of the language amongst the Irish people through empowering and inspiring the learning and speaking of Irish.

In the era of globalisation, the Irish language, in surviving and flourishing can provide a link to our past and symbolise the ability of the weak and the small to survive in struggle with the strong and the big.

Our involvement in the redefinition of Irish identity will make it a liberating one which gives all of those who live on this island, irrespective of age, creed, class or political outlook, ownership of the Irish language in a rights-based society built on equality and justice.

Séanna, you are well known as one of the longest-serving republican prisoners, but you are also synonymous with the Gaelicisation of the H-Blocks. Describe the importance of the language, in your experience, to imprisoned republicans.

Séanna: In the cages of Long Kesh and during the Blanket Protest the Irish language, as it had done previously in Irish prisons, became a mainstay of republican prisoner development and resistance.

During the Blanket, we had nothing but our bodies to use as a weapon of protest, and we utilised the Irish language as a symbolic and practical means of resistance.

It legitimised our sense of cultural distinctiveness and gave us strength to 11; Snodaigh were dragged off to Leinster House.

We managed to organise the annual Slógadh events which were fairly successful, in Rath Cairn, Dún Chaoin and Gaoth Dobhair.

We have kept the momentum going on our Foras na Gaeilge project and helped in having Gráinne Mhic Ghéidigh elected in the Údarás elections.

We ensured that the issue of the Irish language has stayed on the negotiations agenda with both governments.

We supported and were involved in the 'Stádas' campaign but we have not been as active on the ground among language activists as we should have been. We have identified a number of campaigning issues, North and South, and we will be seeking to organise and mobilise around them in the coming year.

The most interesting aspect of our reinvigorated Roinn a' Chultúir will be our project to turn Sinn Féin from an English speaking party, which is fairly good on the language question, to a bilingual party involved in all areas of radical language development and promotion.

We intend to have a series of language awareness weekends, a sort of Slógadh for English speakers. This to be backed up by a series of language classes for all our major spokespersons and office workers. We will then focus on activists at cumann level. Any programme we put together will be organic and flexible, so that it can develop in different ways and at a different pace from area to area.

Séanna has spoken about the Gaelicisation of the party as a central part of the departments plans, what inspired this?

Fearghal: The initial impetus derived from a visit to the Basque Country where a group of us met with a team of cultural activists within Herri Batasuna who succeeded in developing a radical programme of language acquisition within their movement.

In 1991, Batasuna successfully implemented a five-year plan that involved all party members learning to write and speak their native language, Euskara. In the Basque Country, the leadership shown by Batasuna on this issue became the catalyst for a resurgence of national culture and identity amongst the Basque people.

Batasuna has transformed into a bilingual party and has since moved to the position where all party business is now conducted in Basque. The original five-year plan took seven years and having attained bi-lingual status they continued to develop it over the years since.

A consequence of the Batasuna strategy has been that the other political parties in the region have moved to adopt their language policies to ensure they are not left behind on the issue.

Similarly, by providing positive leadership on the language issue, republicans can become the driving force in the process of building a new Ireland. This approach has proved successful in regard to the pro-active direction given by Sinn Féin on Irish unity.

The party's stated aim of, 'creating a bilingual society at every level' is dependent first on the creation of a bilingual movement that can vigorously pursue this objective. Reviving Irish with the aim of creating a bilingual society is a daunting challenge. However, the purpose of building a New Ireland is to respond positively to daunting challenges.

How does the party intend to implement a 'radical programme of language acquisition' for republican activists?

Feargal: The battle for hearts and minds has been identified as the key first step in the Gaelicisation strategy. A cultural awareness/education program is currently being developed with the aim of convincing activists about the importance of the language in the struggle to achieve our political objectives. It will centre upon the historical legacy of cultural oppression and colonialisation, and motivate activists on the need to reinforce our sense of national identity through the restoration of the language. It will make up part of the Education Departments' induction programme for new members.

The program will be summarised as a day-long seminar with presentations, discussions and workshops to be launched in the New Year at Irish language residentials, organised in each province. These will be modelled on the annual Slogadh but will appeal to both Irish speaking and non-Irish speaking activists. Various intensive language courses of different levels will be piloted in conjunction with a cultural awareness focus.

We also aim to target personnel in each Cúige who can identify potential teachers throughout the country to be trained in the delivery of intensive language courses.

We will provide intensive training courses for potential Irish teachers and have sought the advice of language acquisition experts to aid in designing specific courses for party activists. The five-year plan will require people, funding, time and commitment. It will require leadership, participation and endorsement.

Our longer term objective is to deliver the cultural awareness program followed by intensive language courses to all existing activists throughout the country creating a bilingual party, fully educated and re-focused on the centrality of the Irish language and culture to our project of nation building.

In light of its ambitious nature of the plan, has the party leadership been encouraged by it?

What we intend to do is unlike anything that's ever been tried before in this country. We intend to put in place classes for our broad membership, but also a one-to-one programme with leadership spokespeople. We want to see a situation in the short to medium term where our main spokespersons are able to talk about their specialist area of interest in both Irish and English, it doesn't matter if it's policing, the Peace Process, agriculture or human rights.

We intend to bring a radical, staged approach to our work with Foras na Gaeilge and Údarás na Gaeltachta. We've got to ensure that we don't fall into the trap set by civil servants and bureaucrats, that we don't become just administrators of government funds. We've got to ensure that we bring our vision of creating a bilingual society in the short-term into being on this island.

As regards the Údarás, we are still on a learning curve. Gráinne is very eager and committed and knows the type of Ireland she and we want to create. With practical, on the ground help and assistance, we are confident of providing a first-class service from a first-class Údarás representative.

How successful has Sinn Féin been in promoting the language and do you envisage the language playing a prominent role in the party's agenda in the time ahead?

Séanna: Sinn Féin has a consistent record on Irish and successfully held the British Government to account on a range of commitments made during negotiations. Amongst other achievements, Sinn Féin was instrumental in the establishment of the cross-border language body Foras na Gaeilge and the formation of Comhairle na Gaelscolaíochta and Iontaobhas na Gaelscolaíochta which have revolutionised the development of the Irish medium sector in the Six Counties.

While recognising our achievements on Irish language issues as commendable, especially compared to the indifferent approach of all other nationalist political parties in Ireland, Sinn Féin aims to develop from being a party which campaigns on Irish language issues to a party that epitomises the struggle for repossession of the language.

Similarly, the successful growth of the Irish-medium education sector cannot be overestimated. This was recently emphasised by Séanna who stated that, 'we have worked tirelessly to ensure that Irish-medium education is put on a firm foundation and built upon throughout the North. It is now time to look at all the adults across the country who would like to be able to speak it but haven't got around to it.'

In the words of the late republican and language activist, Mairtín Ó Cadhain: 'The Irish language is the reconquest of Ireland — the reconquest of Ireland is the salvation of Irish'


PSNI raids - GAA grounded targeted

An Phoblacht

Casement Park raided

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PSNI raiding Casement Park

PSNI raids in West Belfast last week connected with last year's Northern Bank robbery caused anger in nationalist circles, especially as one of the premises targeted was Antrim GAA's Casement Park headquarters.

The raids, which come at a sensitive time for the GAA, have caused even more people to question the wisdom of the organisation's decision to lift Rule 21 and allow members of the British forces play Gaelic games.

The home of Aidan Digney, a member of the West Belfast Glasgow Celtic supporters' club, Eire go Bragh, was also raided.

Both raids were carried out on Friday 2 December just hours after the PSNI were granted a 60-hour extension to hold and question 24-year-old Chris Ward, the Northern Bank employee arrested last Tuesday 29 November.

And reacting to the latest raids Sinn Féin Assembly member Michael Ferguson accused the PSNI of returning to, "1970s style policing".

"Overkill"

On Friday a large number of PSNI and up to 15 Land Rovers stormed into Casement Park on the Andersonstown Road in West Belfast at approximately 7am. They told staff that the raid was part of an ongoing investigation into "organised terrorist crime". The raiders took files and documents relating to wages and accounts including cheque books.

Confirming that Chris Ward worked part time in Casement Park Social Club, Gerry McClory, Vice Chair of the County Antrim Board, said there was something something sinister about the approach.

"It was complete overkill. It was an attempt to discredit our members. We have nothing to hide and have assisted the PSNI with their inquiries. Do you think we have £26 million hidden in the changing rooms?"

President of the GAA, Séan Kelly said: "We know what the PSNI are doing. Even if it is coincidental, we are not happy. It is too much. GAA supporters across the country aren't going to be influenced by such actions by the PSNI."

The GAA have said they will be reporting the matter at the "highest level to the Dublin Government".

'70s style policing

Meanwhile, a man whose home was raided by the PSNI on Friday 2 December in connection with the 2004 Christmas bank robbery has described the raid as "nonsensical".

Aidan Digney who is a member of Eire go Bragh CSC, the same club as Chris Ward, was speaking after six PSNI vehicles arrived to search his West Belfast home.

"They told me they were there in relation to the robbery and asked whether I had any money or walkie talkies in the house that they should know about."

Digney said he, his wife and children were put in the kitchen of his Poleglass home while the PSNI carried out searches.

West Belfast Assembly member Michael Ferguson said the PSNI raid was reminiscent of the interrogations of the 1970s.

"This is symptomatic of the Castlereagh interrogations that took place in the depths of the conflict. These raids are designed to put immoral pressure on Chris Ward and criminalise this young man who has always maintained his innocence."


Someone to learn from: Frank McCourt discusses days as 'Teacher Man'

The Advocate

By Ray Hogan
Staff Writer

Published December 8 2005

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In his first two days as a public school teacher in 1958, Frank McCourt ate a sandwich off the floor and told the class that in Ireland, boys went out with sheep instead of girls.

His style remained original and irreverent throughout the next 30 years he spent teaching at five schools in New York City. He would encourage students to recite recipes as poems, hold international food festivals in Stuyvesant Park and allow the notorious beatnik junkie Herbert Hunke into the classroom to borrow money.

He recounts these stories and more in "Teacher Man," the final book in a trilogy of memoirs that began with "Angela's Ashes" in 1996. In the book's prologue, he writes "If I hadn't written 'Angela's Ashes' I would have died begging, 'Just one more year, God, just one more year because this book is the one thing I want to do in my life, what's left of it.' "

On Saturday, he will speak and sign copies of "Teacher Man" (Scribner) at the Greenwich Library in a program sponsored by Just Books and the Friends Selective Eye Series.

McCourt taught from 1958 until the late 1980s in a career that began at the McKee Vocational and Technical High School on Staten Island and ended at the prestigious Stuyvesant High School in Greenwich Village.

Although he went against educational protocol of the era, McCourt tried to find creative ways to play to his students' interests. At the start of his tenure, McCourt is a man unsure of what teaching entails and ends as a teacher who has sparked the imaginations and impulses of some of New York's brightest young minds and diamonds-in-the-rough. At a recent lecture in Los Angeles, the moderator asked how many of his former students were in the audience. There were more than a dozen.

"It was the unpredictability of it that they liked," McCourt says of his unorthodox approach. "They didn't know which way I was going to jump. If they challenged me, I challenged them right back. I had to find my own style."

"Angela's Ashes" made McCourt an overnight sensation in the literary world. In the book, the Brooklyn-born author recounts growing up poor in Limerick, Ireland. " 'Tis" (1999) chronicles his life as a young man in New York. "Teacher Man" covers the longest time frame and ends with a student suggesting he write a book.

He didn't set out to lay out his life in three parts.

"I would have been very happy to finish one book. That was my ambition, my dream," he says. "I finished that and said you have to tell the story of your immigration. After that, I have to do a teaching book. I don't know what's next, not a memoir."

For a man who describes himself at middle-age as "waving without knowing what I was waving at," McCourt found his second act in 1996 with "Angela's Ashes." It immediately catapulted him to the upper crust of American literature.

"It was a wonderful book, but a once-in-a-lifetime thing when all the forces came together," says Larry Kirwan, singer of Irish rock band Black 47 and author of "Liverpool Fantasy" and "Green Suede Shoes: An Irish-American Odyssey." "And that's what you need for a blockbuster. All his life he had been around writers and probably felt it a bit. All of a sudden he's, as he said, 'the chief mc'."

McCourt admits his debut at age 66 propelled him to a new level -- from school teacher to toast of the town. Suddenly, he was being approached by people on the street who wanted his autograph because they saw him on television but didn't remember what he did. "People looked at you in a way that they never looked at you when you were a teacher," he says. "It was the magic of television, and that's what was startling. Thankfully, I had developed some self-confidence. I realized that after the 30 years (teaching) American adolescents, I could have handled the Spanish Inquisition."

McCourt brings the same elan to the written page as he did to the classroom. He recalls events that occurred more than 30 years ago with the same excitement and ear for patois as if they happened yesterday. Like those he grew up with in Ireland, he's a natural storyteller who can spin the events of an average day into something worth retelling.

Kirwan recalls killing hangovers by spending afternoons with critics such as Lester Bangs and Nick Tosches at McCourt's brother Malachy's the Bells of Hell bar in the West Village in the mid-1970s. One day at the bar, which Kirwan remembers being inhabited by those too young for -- or banned from -- the more literary Lion's Head, a parade of teenagers came in escorted by McCourt. "They were very respectful. He comes in, points to us and says, 'So you want to be writers?'ÉÊHe brought them in to take the romance out of it."

The author admits his methods might have seemed at odds with the educational establishment of the times. He also knew his profession was competing with the emerging times.

"I was always looking for new ways of exciting them about poetry and short stories," McCourt says. "I was aware of the fact that they would go home and watch television. We were competing with that in a sense. I wanted to bury that with the excitement of the classroom."

McCourt traces his love of language to growing up poor in Ireland. Without the benefit of even radio, he and his family and friends had to occupy their time by telling stories. McCourt says his father, whose alcoholism was documented in "Angela's Ashes," could take the name of a neighbor and turn it into the greatest tale ever told. Among his friends, the young McCourt heard yarns about fathers being great gunmen for the Irish Republican Army.

"In the pubs, it was talk, talk," he says. "There was a deep satisfaction that we had out of talking and a deep respect for the language. That kind of facility of language is surely disappearing."

He is not sure he would want to teach if he were a young man today. During his career, he became hip to students' endless resourcefulness in excuses and cheating, but forging a sick note was often the worst of it. Today, he says, ask students to write a report and a quick Google search will offer them dozens.

"This book has a wide and limited appeal," he says. "Teachers are interested in it but people are confused as to what's going on in the world of schools. No one knows what to make of No Child Left Behind. The question is what is it all about? What are schools for? It's an assembly line now. Stick a tag on them to show they've passed certain tests."


Adams - Collapse Of Stormont Case exposes political policing agenda

Sinn Féin

Published: 8 December, 2005
Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams MP said that the not guilty verdicts in the case against three people charged in relation to what was dubbed 'Stormontgate' prove conclusively what Sinn Féin have been saying all along
about the case.

Mr Adams said:

"This operation was a blatant example of political policing aimed at collapsing the political institutions.

"Faceless securocrats subverted the democratic wishes of the electorate north and south who voted for the Good Friday Agreement.

"The collapse of this case should now focus attention onto the Special Branch and those responsible for planning, carrying out and authorising this entire operation.

"Their activities have continued unabated since then to the detriment of the conflict resolution process, including of course the arrest last week of respect Sinn Fein Assembly member Francie Brolly in a Special Branch smear
operation." ENDS

IRA member freed on bail

BreakingNews.ie

08/12/2005 - 13:07:16

A Dublin Sinn Féin member who was jailed for four years for IRA membership was freed on bail by the Court of Criminal Appeal today pending the outcome of a legal challenge to anti terrorist legislation.

The court freed Niall Binead on his own bond of €1,000 and two independent sureties of €10,000 each. It also ordered him to sign on twice a week at Crumlin Garda Sation, to surrender his passport and not to associate with anyone convicted of a scheduled offence.

Ms Justice Fidelma Macken said the court was satisfied that having regard to the changed circumstances in which Binead will not get an early appeal and in which the Supreme Court will hear legal arguments which will affect the appeal it was justified to grant bail to Binead.

Binead (aged 36), of Faughart Road, Crumlin was jailed for four years by the Special Criminal Court last year after he was convicted of membership of an illegal organisation on October 10, 2002. His co accused, Kenneth Donohoe (aged 27), of Sundale Ave, Mountain View , Tallaght, was freed on bail by the Court of Criminal Appeal last month.

During their trial the court heard that gardaí found a list of TD's - including three former Justice Ministers - at Binead's home. Binead is a former secretary of a south Dublin Sinn Féin cumann and was a close associate of Sinn Féin TD for Dublin South Central Aengus O'Snodaigh.

The Court of Criminal Appeal adjourned an appeal by the two men against their convictions last month after hearing that a challenge has been allowed to the Supreme Court on legal issues in another case which are similar to issues in their appeal.

The challenge before the Supreme Court is against the current practice whereby the defence is unable to challenge through cross examination the basis of a Garda Chief Superintendent's belief that someone is a member of an illegal organisation.

The Supreme Court has allowed an appeal on whether the right to a fair trial under Article 38 of the Constitution has been infringed by not allowing the defence to challenge the basis of the Chief
Superintendent's belief. The Supreme Court is expected to hear the appeal early in the New Year.

'Stormont spying' case collapses

BBC


Police raided Sinn Fein offices at Stormont

Three Belfast men at the centre of an alleged IRA spying incident at Stormont have been acquitted of all charges.

The men, whose arrests led to the collapse of the power-sharing executive in 2002, claimed the case against them had been politically motivated.

At an unlisted hearing at Belfast Crown Court, Ciaran Kearney, William Mackessy and Sinn Fein's Denis Donaldson were told all charges were being dropped.

The prosecution offered no evidence "in the public interest".

The three were arrested following a police raid on Sinn Fein's offices at Parliament Buildings on 5 October 2002, when documents and computer discs were seized.

They were subsequently charged with a total of seven offences.

Mr Donaldson, 55, from Aitnamonagh Crescent who was Sinn Fein's head of administration at Stormont, and his son-in-law Mr Kearney, 34, of Commedagh Drive had been accused of having documents likely to be of use to terrorists.

Mr Mackessy, 47, from Wolfend Way was charged with collecting information on the security forces.


Denis Donaldson was Sinn Fein's head of administration at Stormont

However, on Thursday, Prosecuting QC Gordon Kerr told Mr Justice Hart that the Director of the Public Prosecution Services was offering no further evidence in their case.

Mr Kerr told the court that directions as to prosecutions were kept under "continuing review".

"The director has concluded that having regard to the materials placed before him and his duties as a public authority under the Human Rights Act 1998 that the prosecution for the offences in relation to the accused are no longer in the public interest."

Mr Justice Hart said that the proper course of action was to return verdicts of not guilty and told the men they were "free to go".

Afterwards, Mr Donaldson said the "charges should never have been brought".

"It is a prosecution that should never have been brought."
Ciaran Shields
Solicitor


"It was political policing and political charges and the fact that we were acquitted today proves that," he said.

Mr Mackessy said he felt "disgusted with the British government for bringing charges".

Solicitor Ciaran Shields who represented Mr Donaldson and Mr Mackessy, said they felt they were "victims of a political operation by elements within the security forces who deliberately used their position to hamper political progress in this country".

'Sensitive documents'

"This case had huge implications, not just for our clients and their families but for the community as a whole in the sense that these arrests led to the collapse of the power-sharing executive," he said.

The solicitor claimed they had learned of a Special Branch operation known as Operation Torsion, which was "designed to incriminate republicans".

However, Mr Shields added that its details did not feature in any of the documents given to them by the DPP.

In a statement, the PSNI said the men were entitled to the presumption of innocence.


The government is determined that confidence will be rebuilt and that devolved government in Northern Ireland will be restored

Northern Ireland Office

"The background to this case is that a paramilitary organisation, namely the Provisional IRA, was actively involved in the systematic gathering of information and targeting of individuals," it said.

"Police investigated that activity and a police operation led to the recovery of thousands of sensitive documents which had been removed from government offices.

"A large number of people were subsequently warned about threats to them."

The PSNI said its investigation into the matter had now concluded.

The Northern Ireland Office said the case was "solely a matter for the prosecuting authorities and not for the NIO".

"It is also a matter of record that it was the actions of paramilitaries in gathering and removing these documents and the damage that was done to political confidences as a result that led to the suspension of the NI Assembly," said a spokesman.

"The government is determined that confidence will be rebuilt and that devolved government in Northern Ireland will be restored. It will continue to work tirelessly to achieve that goal."

Following the arrests, the Reverend Ian Paisley's Democratic Unionists and the Ulster Unionists, led at that time by then First Minister David Trimble, threatened to collapse the executive with resignations.

The British government then suspended devolution in the province, embarking on direct rule for the last three years.


Court withdraws terrorism charges

BBC

A man arrested as part of the Northern Bank robbery investigation has had the charges against him dropped.

Peter Kelly, 30, from Drumboniff Road, Newry, had been charged with collecting and recording information likely to be of use to terrorists.

The charges related to his job as a BT technician seconded to the Department of Finance and Personnel at Stormont.

It had been claimed computers seized at his workplace contained details of civil servants and prison staff.

At his first court appearance a police inspector claimed the computer equipment contained the details of 36,000 civil servants, including 3,300 working for the police and 70 prison staff.

'Never charged'

After the charges were withdrawn at Belfast Magistrates Court, Mr Kelly's solicitor, Niall Murphy, said there had been "no justification to link his client's name to the bank robbery".

"He was never charged with any offence in connection with the robbery," Mr Murphy said.

"The information that he accessed was freely available to many other people in his workplace."

The solicitor said Mr Kelly would be pursuing his case with the Police Ombudsman and would issue proceedings against the chief constable and any other relevant party for malicious prosecution.


‘Twas the night before Christmas - by Squinter

Irelandclick.com

Squinter takes a festive look at the original Christmas rhyme and gives it a twist, West Belfast style

‘Twas the night before Christmas and all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse.

But out in the driveway a baseball-capped hood
Was stood by my car and up to no good.

A screwdriver he placed in the lock of the Ford
And in no time at all the engine had roared.

The children who should have been snug in their beds
Were necking the cider and out of their heads.

While I tried to take a nice winter’s nap
The smicks at the corner put on gangsta rap.

So I jumped in a black hack and went to see Pete,
A cousin of mine who lives off Albert Street.

The driver was smoking so I sat in the back
When suddenly I felt a tremendous big whack.

The fella behind us had braked far too late
By the look of him he’d had a few over the eight.

The women beside me in jammies and slippers
Gave me the name of their lawyer, ‘he’s great with the whippers.’

I started to walk, it was cold but quite fine
Then nipped into the boozer for a glass of mulled wine.
Inside was a typical Christmas pub scene
The beep and the buzz of the poker machine

The juke box playing a Cliff Richard song
With four drunken pool players singing along.

I drank up for I knew I’d a long way to go
And hadn’t got far when it started to snow.

My face was soon frozen, my two feet quite numb
When before me appeared a young girl and her chum.

‘Hi mister,’ she said, ‘could you give us a light?’
And under that streetlamp I got quite a fright.

Her face was bright orange, her hands they were blue
And on the back of the right one was an ‘Anto’ tattoo.

I muttered ‘no, sorry’ and went on my way
And her chum said she thought I was definitely gay.

A roar and a blur and I dived to the right
As a kid on a quad emerged from the night.

Now wet and dirty and thoroughly depressed
Cursing my luck and clearly distressed

I turned the next corner and what did I find
But a gang of street drinkers with mischief in mind.

Blue bags, blue bottles and boxes of beer
Those boozers perked up when they saw me appear.

I thought it best to cross over the street
When they all crossed too I went white as a sheet.

I took to my heels with the smicks on my tail
And soon was caught up by the gang’s alpha male.

He jumped on my back and we fell in the snow
And as I struggled I thought, what a cat way to go.

But suddenly I spied a big white Land Rover
And as quick as it started the trouble was over.

The top Trevor asked if I wanted a lift
As he picked me out of that chilly snowdrift.

I said I was grateful that he’d helped me out
But I don’t want the neighbours to call me a tout.

So I pulled out my mobile to phone up a cab
But I’d used all my credit on too much oul’ gab.

Then what to my wondering eyes should appear
But Santa, a sleigh and eight big reindeer.

As Santa stroked Rudolf and petted his fur
Big Trevor asked, is this your vehicle sir?

Poor Santa looked kind of resigned to his fate
When Trevor discovered his tax out of date.

And St Nicholas tested the big cop’s endurance
When he said he’d forgotten to renew his insurance.

And then for the kids Christmas died a sad death
When the coppers smelt Smirnoff upon Santa’s breath.

As Santa was thrown in the back of the Jeep
With his beard all atremble he started to weep.

And I heard him exclaim as he looked back at me
‘Collusion’s not an illusion and SS RUC!’

I trudged home in anger with thoughts dark and dire
Got changed and then took my old seat by the fire.

I made a hot whiskey with lemon and lime
And watched Home Alone for the 48th time.

And as midnight Mass bells pealed soft in the night
I nodded off thinking that Christmas is shite.


PSNI defend raids

Irelandclick.com

PSNI Assistant Chief Constable Paul Leighton yesterday defended his organisation's high-profile investigation of the Northern Bank robbery - including last Friday's controversial raid at Casement Park in Co Antrim.

Mr Leighton was speaking at a full meeting of the North's Policing Board after further allegations that a "senior intelligence officer" leaked information about the investigation to BBC journalist Brian Rowan.

Top Antrim GAA official Gerry McClory accused the PSNI of "playing with words" about the circumstances of the Casement Park raid.

Claiming that a "community impact assessment" was conducted during the preparations for the raid, ACC Paul Leighton also alleged that a briefing was given to GAA officials as the raid began.

"As we approach the anniversary, a 24 year-old male has now been charged with robbery," Mr Leighton said.

"His detention period was extended beyond seven days for the first time in Northern Ireland, the first time such powers have been used.

"The use of these powers was a reflection of the seriousness and the complexity of the investigation, and his detention was reviewed by two judges and a high court judge, all confirming the legality of the application.

"As part of that investigation, and linked to the arrest and charge of this person, a search of Casement Park took place. A full community impact assessment was conducted during the planning of the operation.

"In planning the resourcing for the operation, the fewest possible resources were committed commensurate with the task.
Officers of the club were contacted as the search began and part of the briefing they were given included the information and the likely duration of the task," Mr Leighton said.

However Antrim GAA vice-chair Gerry McClory accused the PSNI of "talking codswallop" and "playing with words".

Criticising the PSNI's overall approach to the Casement Park raid, Mr McClory continued, "They didn't consult the GAA about any community impact assessment. There was no briefing given to officials.

"He is playing with words. I am giving you facts. They arrived in force to search Casement Park at seven o'clock in the morning, moving from the side of the road over to the gates at around nine when the groundsman arrived, and then they started searching after that.

"Neither the county chairman, the county secretary, the county treasurer or myself as acting chairman of Casement Park Social Club were given any pre-notice of the raid.

"I got a call from one of the voluntary staff to say the PSNI were there to raid and as I was travelling to Casement I got a call from Chief Inspector Peter Farrar to tell me there was going to be a search.

"While the officer in charge of the search was courteous and provided the basis for the raid, the question remains why they could not have done this differently," Mr McClory said.

"We had nothing to hide and would have had no difficulty co-operating, as we did so earlier in the year when they came to Casement about the same investigation.

"They talk about community impact assessment, but they haven't even bothered to consider the impact this incident could have on attracting community and business sponsors to Casement Park," Mr McClory said.


Journalist:: Staff Reporter

Ward claims PSNI set-up over heist

Irelandclick.com

Image Hosted by ImageShack.us
Chris Ward

West Belfast Northern Bank employee Chris Ward has claimed he has been set up by the PSNI after being charged with the £26.5 million robbery at the bank last year.

Ward (24) from Colinmill in Poleglass is charged with robbing the Northern Bank of £26.5 million or thereabouts on 20 December 2004 and that a firearm was used to commit the offence.

He was charged after eight days of questioning during which he took part in 50 interviews.

The PSNI have admitted that the case against Ward is based on circumstantial evidence and that surveillance equipment was placed in his Belfast home and in holiday accommodation in Fuerteventura.

Chris Ward appeared at Belfast Magistrates Court yesterday (Wednesday).

When charged with the offence at Antrim PSNI station in the early hours of Wednesday, the West Belfast man protested his innocence saying; "Police have bugged my house, a holiday in Spain, went through all my phone records, my bank accounts, hounded my friends - even going as far as Australia - and have tortured me in an attempt to frame me with the Northern Bank robbery.

"Police have failed in all of these counts. They have held me longer than the hostage takers who seized me last year and indeed have held me in a police station for longer than anyone in the history of the North of Ireland."

At the short hearing yesterday the defendant, dressed in a T-shirt and jeans, spoke only to confirm that he understood the charges.

Ward’s family including his father Gerry, mother Rose and older brother Gerard, who were taken hostage during the robbery, were in court to hear the charge read. Mrs. Ward broke down in tears during the hearing.

Detective Inspector Sean Wright from the PSNI said that he believed he could connect Ward to the charge.

Niall Murphy from Kevin Winters solicitors defending, asked the Detective Inspector to confirm that his client had no criminal record, had told police that he was going on holiday, had no known history of violence and had repeatedly denied being involved in the robbery and that the case against Ward was circumstantial. Continued from front...

The PSNI officer confirmed that this was all correct and said that there were four main strands of the investigation including Ward’s actions on 18 and 19 December, his actions on 20 December, his ongoing witness account and his work rota.
The PSNI are alleging that Ward manipulated the work rota in order to create a window of opportunity.

"There are four main thrusts of this investigation," said Detective Inspector Wright.

"This is an ongoing investigation, while Mr Ward has been charged the investigation continues," he added.
Mr Murphy said that he would be applying for High Court bail for Ward in the very near future.

Ward was remanded in custody to appear at Belfast Magistrates Court via video link on 4 January.


Journalist:: Roisin McManus


Police bugged £26m bank heist suspect

Belfast Telegraph

**From yesterday

PSNI trying to frame me, says accused

By Chris Thornton
07 December 2005

Police bugged Northern Bank employee Chris Ward on holiday in Spain while building the case that brought him to court today charged with stealing £26.5 million.

Details of the extensive police operation against the bank official were revealed when Ward appeared at Belfast Magistrates Court this morning as the second man accused of carrying out the heist.

The bank worker denies taking part in the robbery - which has been blamed on the IRA - and in a statement read out in court he accused police of attempting to "frame me".

Ward did not speak during today's hearing, but signalled to his family in the public gallery to keep their chins up.

The 24-year-old carried the first million pounds out of the bank during the December 20 robbery while his family was being held hostage.

He and another official, Kevin McMullan, then loaded more than £25m in cash for robbers to drive away in a lorry, making it the biggest cash robbery in UK history. Mr McMullan's wife was held hostage during the robbery.

The court heard today that police believe Ward manipulated the bank's work rota to create "a window of opportunity" for the robbery.

His solicitor, Niall Murphy, said in court that Ward drew up the rota four days before the robbery, and alleged that neither his client nor Mr McMullan had been originally scheduled to work on the day of the heist.

Detective Inspector Sean Wright confirmed during the hearing that police used "intrusive surveillance" while Ward was on holiday in Spain.

The court also heard that Ward was interviewed 50 times in the last eight days - with ten of those interviews concentrating on his own bank account.

Ward also alleged that police bugged his home at Colinmill, Poleglass, although that was not confirmed during the hearing.

The detective inspector told the court that when he charged Ward with the robbery at one o'clock this morning, the bank worker replied: "Police had bugged my house, the holiday in Spain, went through all my phone records, my bank accounts, hounded my friends, even going as far as Australia, and have tortured my family in an attempt to frame me with the Northern Bank robbery."

He said police "have held me longer than the hostage takers who seized me last year".

Detective Inspector Wright said the case against Ward is circumstantial.

Mr Murphy told the court: "My client denies absolutely this offence and, such as it is, the police case in its entirety."

Magistrate Ken Nixon remanded Ward into custody until January 4.

Another man, 23-year-old builder Dominic McEvoy from Kilcoo, Co Down, was charged with the robbery last month.

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