23 April 2006

Cusack's Sunday Independent 'exclusives'

Village Magazine

**Via Newshound

by Scott Millar and Vincent Browne
Thursday, April 13, 2006

On 2 April the Sunday Independent led with the headline "Exposed: SF's secret plan to stir up unrest". The article was written by Jim Cusack, who writes for the newspaper on security issues. According to an exchange with Jim Cusack on Monday 10 April (this was after a commentary in last week's Village on that Sunday Independent article) he stated the article was based on an internal Sinn Féin document, the annual report of the Six County Executive of the party. However, nothing in the document suggested any intention to "stir up unrest". We asked Jim Cusack how the document substantiated his claim that there was a Sinn Féin plan to "stir up" unrest. He refused to answer our question.

He followed that 2 April story up with another front page piece on 9 April under the headline: "Provos hired hitman to kill Donaldson". The headline (for which we presume Jim Cusack was not responsible) left casual readers to infer that the murder of Donal Donaldson, the self-confessed republican "spy", was authorised by the IRA leadership in clear breach of its commitment to engage henceforth in purely political and democratic activities.

In fact the article was based solely on anonymous Garda sources (or source?) and, far from suggesting that the IRA leadership had been responsible for the murder, the suggestion was that it was dissidents within the organisation, acting in defiance of the leadership.

The article was replete with claims based unvaryingly on anonymous sources and amounting to no more than speculation.

Well into the article in the turn over on to page two, there was the following: "The Donaldson murder could have serious consequences for the IRA leadership's plans, which the Sunday Independent has learned, propose to turn the IRA into a quasi-political force on Catholic areas in the North and even in the Republic".

He offers not a single piece of evidence or substantiation for this extraordinary claim. However he goes on to write: "Sinn Féin has drawn up a blueprint, seen by this paper. For what is termed 'community safety partnerships'." The article goes on to claim: "Sinn Féin's community service partnerships are being set up to try to ensure that Catholics in the North do not co-operate with the legitimate police groups. They are likely to set up similar operations in the Republic, initially in Co Donegal, as a prelude to trying to spread this 'alternative' policing. Sinn Féin does not recognise the Garda Síochána or the Defence Forces".

The community services partnerships are being sponsored by the Northern Ireland Office (website: www.communitysafetyni.gov.uk). Sinn Féin's engagement with them is seen as a prelude to the party's acceptance of the PSNI and to taking its place on the police authority. Sinn Féin has openly recognised An Garda Síochána and has cooperated with it openly in the South.

The document from which Jim Cusack quotes is an annual report of the Six County Executive of Sinn Féin and is the document which he showed to us at Village. Nothing in the document suggests any subversive intent of any sort. It deals solely with positions Sinn Féin might take on a variety of issues and on positions the party representatives on various public bodies.

Jim Cusack goes on to quote from the document (and this conveys its overall flavour): "A clear policy on tackling crime and community safety issues needs to be developed and articulated by our spokespersons, for example, community restorative justice, befriending services for the elderly, youth outreach, road safety awareness and traffic calming initiatives and community-based prevention/intervention programmes in drug, alcohol and solvent abuse."

He follows this up with a final paragraph: "Gardaí believe that Sinn Féin is intent on extending its 'community' policing ideas to the Republic." Again he offers no substantial for this claim, other than the reference to the anonymous Garda source.

On 26 February the paper confidently stated in its front page article: "Hardcore republicans spent weeks orchestrating yesterday's Dublin riots which saw 14 Gardaí and civilians – including RTÉ's Charlie Bird – injured... Hundreds of highly organised republican demonstrators – including members of Sinn Féin and dissident groupings – descended on the capital." No evidence emerged then or since to suggest Sinn Féin members played any part in those riots.

On the same front page, Jim Cusack condemned Garda management for not heeding a warning of trouble. The warning, he claimed, was an article in the Republican Sinn Féin weekly Soirse which had called on readers to "Oppose the Loyalist March".

On 29 January, Jim Cusack was already heralding Republican attempts at community policing as a major threat to the security of the state. To such an extend that these 'plans' were legitimate cover for Michael McDowell's Garda reserve. His front page story stated: "Fears of IRA plans to set up 'community' policing groups in the Republic are believed to be behind the Government's decision to push ahead with the controversial Garda voluntary reserve force". Once more anonymous Government and Garda sources were cited, along with an anonymous GRA source.

On 18 December "Garda sources" disclosed to the Sunday Independent that "A prominent Sinn Féin figure in the Republic, and two other members of Gerry Adams's inner circle, are being described as the second, third and fourth moles at the top of the IRA who passed key intelligence to the Garda and the police in the North". This "exclusive" followed the outing of Denis Donaldson – none of the other "spies" have yet emerged.

On 21 August another Cusack front-page stated "Tony Blair has refused to deny claims that Phil Flynn, a close associate of the Taoiseach, has visited No 10 Downing Street". Phil Flynn has denied ever visiting Downing Street.

On 14 March 2004, following the al Qaida attacks in Madrid, Cusack wrote an article stating: "The Real IRA – the group responsible for the Omagh atrocity – is believed to have passed on information about mobile phone-controlled bombs identical to those that exploded in Madrid's train system on Thursday". This was not only to ETA, a group which it latter transpired had no links to that atrocity, but "dissident republicans are also blamed for passing the technology on to Middle Eastern groups who have been using the same devices to attack American soldiers and police in Iraq".

Again, more of "it is believed", "it is understood", no identified sources. p

(We emailed Jim Cusack with this article prior to publication to permit him to make a response.)

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