05 June 2006

Reiss set for talks to broker feud

Irelandclick

British Irish Rights Watch ask US Special Envoy to Ireland to help with Ballymurphy feud

By Ciarán Barnes

President Bush’s Special Envoy to Ireland has been asked to broker an end to a West Belfast feud that has claimed one life and left more than a dozen people injured.

The respected human rights group, British Irish Rights Watch (BIRW), has written to US government official Mitchell Reiss calling on him to use his influence to bring calm to the area.

The feud, centring on the Ballymurphy estate, involves two local families.
There had been a history of trouble involving both groups following an attack on Gerard Devlin two years ago.

In September 2005 Mr Devlin contacted Daily Ireland after being attacked with a pitchfork. He claimed a £10,000 bounty had been put on his head.
In February of this year the father-of-six was stabbed to death. Four men have been charged with his murder.

Following Mr Devlin’s death around a dozen homes belonging to members of another family in Ballymurphy were targeted in arson attacks.

A friend of the Devlins, 17-year-old Wayne McComb, was hit in the leg in a drive-by shooting.

A short time later another friend of the family, Jim Reynolds, was beaten with hammers as he lay in bed.

The Devlin family have claimed the investigation into Gerard’s murder has been hampered by PSNI Special Branch agents and their handlers. The Police Ombudsman is currently probing these allegations.

Some members of the other family involved in the feud recently moved to Spain in order to escape the violence.

In its latest monthly report, British Irish Rights Watch confirms it has written to Bush advisor Mitchell Reiss about the situation in Ballymurphy.

Director Jane Winter said, “BIRW’s prime concern is the apparent lack of any effective policing in Ballymurphy to bring the situation under control and prevent any further violence.

“Ballymurphy is a republican heartland in West Belfast,” she continued. “The PSNI’s ability to deliver effective policing there will be a test of the extent to which its attempts at reform have been successful.”

In an interview with Daily Ireland in March the West Belfast PSNI District Commander, David Boultwood, said there had been 150 incidents linked to the feud in the five weeks after Mr Devlin’s murder.

He said the feud had cost thousands of pounds to police and praised the work of Community Restorative Justice in trying to bring peace to the area.

Journalist:: Ciaran Barnes

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