07 January 2006

Row over MLA's payment 'threats'

BBC


The power-sharing executive has been suspended since 2002

The NI secretary has been criticised for saying MLAs' payments may be stopped if no progress is made towards restoring devolution by the summer.

Peter Hain said he may halt salaries and allowances if there is no movement.

Alliance leader David Ford said it was a "cheap shot" whilst SDLP leader Mark Durkan called it a "flaky threat".

Ian Paisley Jnr, DUP, said unionists had "no appetite" to share power with republicans. Sinn Fein's Gerry Adams said the suspension was "not tenable".

Last month, Mr Hain said real movement was needed if assembly elections due in 2007 "are to have any meaning".

However, in an interview for BBC Radio Ulster's Inside Politics programme on Saturday, he said he may go even further.

Mr Hain said assembly members were getting "£32,000 salaries... to do a job which they won't take responsibility for doing".

"I'm not giving a particular month, but I am saying that if we haven't seen progress by the summer, the first decision I'm going to have to make is over continued payment of salaries and also allowances," he said.


Mr Hain said assembly members must take responsibility

David Ford refuted the criticism saying: "For the secretary of state to talk about MLAs 'refusing' to do the job for which they were elected is blatantly untrue.

"Alliance MLAs work to represent their constituents. We have attended every meeting to which ministers have invited us - and many more have been requested.

"We have put forward constructive and positive suggestions for getting the assembly up and running."

Mr Durkan said: "The SDLP don't need threats, lectures or hectoring from Peter Hain or anybody else.

"A clear sense of purpose and direction from the two governments would go a lot further than flaky threats from the secretary of state.

"The two governments should be putting it up to all the parties that the institutions will be restored, and parties will than have the opportunity and responsibility to show what they are up for."

Ian Paisley, jnr, said his party had put a number of proposals to the government to advance political development.

'Mothballs'

"There is no appetite within the unionist community for a power-sharing executive with Sinn Fein and the DUP," he said.

"Lets face the reality, Sinn Fein are not ready for democracy because they have proved themselves to eschew every democratic principle in the book."

Gerry Adams said his party had worked with both governments to try to get the political institutions revived.

"You can't have political institutions voted for by people on both states in this island being kept indefinitely in mothballs," he said.

"It is just not tenable that you have three years of suspension of what almost amounts to a farce. Either we have working institutions or we don't."

Northern Ireland's power-sharing executive collapsed in October 2002 following the arrests of three men over "Stormontgate".

In December 2003, the House of Lords agreed that assembly members would continue to receive a reduced salary of £31,817 a year as they had "representative" duties and constituency offices to run.

UDA unit stops demanding protection money

Daily Ireland

A decision by an Ulster Defence Association unit to stop demanding protection money from building contractors has led to renewed fears of a split within the organisation.
After meeting with local churchmen, UDA members in the loyalist Tigers Bay area of north Belfast have agreed to stop extorting money from construction firms.
The move came after builders refused to work in the deprived area, which is in the midst of a housing crisis.
Although welcomed by locals, the decision has infuriated the leadership of the north Belfast UDA, which is based in the Westland and Ballysillan areas.
Units from these estates are refusing to sign up to the non-extortion pact, prompting fears of a split with their Tiger’s Bay colleagues.
A senior loyalist source told Daily Ireland that the Westland and Ballysillan UDA were angry at the actions of the Tigers Bay unit.
The paramilitary said: “There is a lot of ill-feeling, the UDA in Ballysillan and the Westland feels Tigers Bay has gone out on a limb.
“But the Tigers Bay crowd has the support of the local community and because of this they are being allowed to go ahead, although the rivalry and anger remains.”
A spokesman for the Loyalist Commission said the non-extortion pact agreed by the Tigers Bay UDA was being mirrored in other parts of Belfast.
“There are other loyalist estates around the city where this is being copied,” he said.
“The UDA realises extortion just isn’t on any longer. Hopefully this will lead to the regeneration of Tigers Bay, one of the most socially and economically deprived areas in Northern Ireland.”
The UDA’s current north Belfast boss, Andre Shoukri, and his second-in-command, William John Boreland, are both currently behind bars facing extortion charges. Shoukri, from the Westland, and Boreland, who is from Ballysillan, have previous convictions for extortion.

Gun victim refused aid

Daily Ireland

By Connla Young

The PSNI has refused to support an application for compensation made by a victim of loyalist intimidation, it has emerged.
Co Antrim man Tommy O'Hara says that he has received no compensation for damage caused to his vehicle after he was stopped at an illegal loyalist road block in 2003. Controversy erupted last year after three men involved in the incident received a slap on the wrist from the courts for their part in the incident.
John McDonald (28) his brother Gary McDonald (22) and Stephen Maternaghan (23) all from Innishrush Road, Portglenone, Co Antrim, each received a suspended sentence in October 2005 after they admitted using a deactivated AK47 at a roadblock on the Twelfth of July 2003.
During the incident Mr O'Hara was stopped at the illegal check point and had a gun pointed at his head. The Co Antrim man says his vehicle was damaged during the incident which has left him traumatised. A car belonging to Mr O'Hara's son, Tommy Junior, was also damaged at the road block when he drove through it minutes before his father.
The loyalist trio later claimed they were protecting an Orange arch in the Innishrush which had previously been damaged in an arson attack. Earlier this week it emerged that the Court of Appeal will reconsider the lenient sentences handed down to the three loyalists next week.
In a letter sent by the PSNI to Mr O'Hara's legal representatives the PSNI said: “The Chief Constable is not of the opinion that the act to which you refer was committed maliciously by a person acting on behalf of, or in conjunction with an unlawful association, within the meaning of the Criminal Injuries (Northern Ireland) Order, 1988.”
The victim of the attack says he is disappointed that the PSNI do not view the incident as malicious.
“I haven't been compensated for the damage caused to my van nor the damage caused to my son's car. They are discussing this issue of a tougher sentence but that is not what concerns me in all this. I expected nothing more from British justice. I have lived here for 40 years and know how things work. I didn't ask for these people to be given a tougher sentence. As far as I'm concerned the men were found guilty, sentenced and the matter was closed. Sean Farren raised it again by demanding tougher sentencing, but he never called me, the victim of the attack, to see what I thought.
“Two and a half years later I am still waiting on compensation but the PSNI won't issue a certificate.”

Cave-in to UWC was never forgotten

Daily Ireland

**Via Newshound

Connla Young
6 December 2006

The death of former British secretary of state Merlyn Rees in London yesterday draws yet another line under one of the most turbulent periods in the North’s recent history.
Appointed as secretary of state in 1974 Rees’ hardline approach in dealing with the conflict led to great hardship in nationalist and republican areas as the British employed a three-pronged strategy of criminalisation, normalisation and Ulsterisation.
The attempt to criminalise republicans eventually led to two republican hunger strikes and the deaths of ten men in 1981.
Mr Rees oversaw affairs at Stormont in 1974 when loyalists were allowed to wreck the Sunningdale powersharing deal through the use and threat of mass violence during the Ulster Workers Strike. Rees’ capitulation led the SDLP in particular to hold a long-standing grudge against the former British soldier.
SDLP leader Mark Durkan said the former direct-rule minister would be remembered in Ireland for his poor handling of the political crisis faced at the time.
“While all who dealt with Merlyn Rees record him as being genial and nice, he is not generally remembered as a strong secretary of state. His lack of purpose let the Sunningdale Agreement go. He subsequently failed to assert the basic principles of power-sharing and North-South co-operation. His decisions in the security field sowed the seeds of later problems.
“Neither was his record as home secretary a distinguished one when it came to miscarriages of justice cases – such as the Guildford Four, Guiseppe Conlon and the Birmingham Six – and was even neglectful in political relations with the Irish government. I recognise that he was well regarded in the Labour party and British politics for his other political contributions and his gracious manner.”
Unionists in the North have fonder memories of the Welsh-born politician. Former UUP MP John Taylor described Rees as “balanced”.
“Merlyn Rees saw the right on both sides of the debate in Northern Ireland. Above all he had a tremendous love for Northern Ireland which he continued right through the years of his retirement in the House of Lords.
The DUP’s Peter Robinson offered his condolences to the dead politician’s family.
“Our thoughts are very much with his family circle at this time. Even after Merlyn Rees left his post in Northern Ireland he continued to keep an interest in the affairs of the province and would frequently while in the Lords come to the gallery to listen to Northern Ireland debates.”
Current direct-rule secretary of state Peter Hain said his predecessor worked “tirelessly” on behalf of people in the North.
“He was a proud Welshman and a hugely respected parliamentarian for over 40 years both in the House of Commons and the Lords. As secretary of state for Northern Ireland, he worked tirelessly to try to take Northern Ireland forward at a particularly difficult time in its history.”
After leaving the North in 1976, Rees returned to London to become home secretary. In 1992 he was made a life peer and changed his name by deed poll so he could be known as Lord Merlyn-Rees.
The 85-year-old died at St Thomas’ Hospital in Lambeth yesterday.

RTE anger at Laird's 'IRA' jibes

Belfast Telegraph

Senior broadcasters are Provo moles: Ulster peer

By Ashleigh Wallace
awallace@belfasttelegraph.co.uk
07 January 2006

RTE last night hit back at claims by an Ulster politician that the Republic's broadcaster was full of IRA sympathisers.

Lord Laird used parliamentary privilege in the House of Lords to make the allegations that two senior officials at the national broadcaster had what he described as "extreme republican" backgrounds.

The UUP peer claimed that "very senior officials" in RTE were IRA moles yet failed to make an official complaint against the station despite his public allegations.

But RTE said last night: "We cannot think who he could be referring to."

Alleging infiltration of the southern media by IRA and Sinn Fein, Lord Laird singled out the station for criticism.

"That much of the media is now infiltrated and influenced by Sinn Fein/IRA can be seen in the highly negative reaction in sections of the southern media, in particular the State broadcaster RTE, against the Minister for Justice, Michael McDowell, when he outed and denounced Frank Connolly...," Lord Laird said during a debate on the new anti-terrorism law for Northern Ireland.

"It is not a coincidence that instead of being lauded for his actions, the Minister for Justice of the Irish Republic found himself the subject of a campaign of vilification in the Irish media. The worst example of biased coverage has been that of RTE.

"In view of the past two weeks, perhaps it is time that two very senior RTE officials explained their extreme republican backgrounds," he added.

Last night, the Ulster Unionist peer remained unrepentant about the comments.

And he vowed to name the men "at the earliest opportunity."

He said: "Questions have to be asked about why RTE consistently takes a Sinn Fein/IRA attitude in their views and in particular about Michael McDowell.

"I've got to wait for an opportunity but I will name them in the House of Lords and I will talk about their backgrounds the first chance I get."

When asked about RTE's denials about the allegations, Lord Laird replied: "Well they would say that, wouldn't they?"

Stormont Assembly members 'may have salaries cut'

BreakingNews.ie

07/01/2006 - 12:02:46

Salaries paid to MLAs may be cut off unless progress is made towards restoring devolution by the summer, Northern Ireland Secretary Peter Hain said today.

Peter Hain said he may take the move to stop salaries and allowances if no real movement is made towards returning the Stormont Assembly.

The Northern Ireland Secretary said MLAs were getting £32,000 (€46,700) salaries for a job which they will not take responsibility for doing.

“I’m not giving a particular month, but I am saying that if we haven’t seen progress by the summer, the first decision I’m going to have to take is over continued payment of salaries and also allowances,” Mr Hain told BBC Radio Ulster’s Inside Politics programme.

“You have got more being paid in costs, in legitimate costs for staff, for the services they provide, for travel and subsistence and all the rest of it, as well £32,000 (€46,700) salaries for assembly members elected to a job which they won’t take responsibility for doing.”

In his New Year’s message, Mr Hain had warned there would be little point in having elections to an Assembly in 2007 if there was no meaningful devolution. He said unionists needed to know republicans were serious about their commitments to totally lawful means.

But he also acknowledged that nationalists wanted to know unionists were serious about sharing power on a genuinely equitable basis.

The Irish and British governments’ bid to revive devolution has been complicated in recent weeks by the dramatic collapse of a spying case against three men accused of intelligence gathering for republicans at Stormont in 2002 and the revelation that one of them, Sinn Féin official Denis Donaldson, was working as an agent for the British intelligence services within the party.

After the power-sharing executive collapsed in October 2002, the House of Lords agreed Assembly members would continue to receive a reduced salary of almost £32,000 (€46,700) as they held representative duties.

Bail on money laundering charge

BBC

An alleged loyalist paramilitary has appeared in court on charges linked to money laundering.

Lawrence Kincaid, 33, from Cogry Hill in Doagh, is charged with 34 offences between August 2003 and August 2005.

He denies 24 charges of entering into an arrangement to acquire criminal property and seven of obtaining services by deception.

He faces two counts of perverting the course of justice and one of obtaining money by deception. Bail was granted.

It is alleged that the accused used laundered criminal proceeds to buy a property at Cogry Hill, a diamond ring, motorbikes and cars, laptop computers and a holiday in the Maldives.

A detective told Belfast Magistrates Court he believed he could connect Mr Kincaid to the charges.

False accounting

He said he was objecting to bail because he believed Kincaid was "a member of a loyalist paramilitary organisation" and there was the potential for witness interference.

However, under cross-examination from the accused's solicitor, the detective conceded that Mr Kincaid had "given explanations" for having the money and the transactions and had also given an affidavit regarding items seized from him.

Resident Magistrate Ken Nixon released Mr Kincaid on his own bail of £5,000, with one surety of £5,000 and ordered him to surrender his passport and to sign at Ballyclare Police Station three times per week.

The accused is due to appear in court again on 3 February.

The charges are understood to follow a probe by the PSNI's Financial Investigation Unit.

Six other men are to appear at the same court on Tuesday charged with money laundering and false accounting.

06 January 2006

Remembering the Past: Irish Independent - a century supporting rich and powerful

An Phoblacht

BY SHANE Mac THOMÁIS

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Photo: Tony O' Reilly

On 3 January 1905, 101 years ago, the Irish Independent was launched by William Martin Murphy.

James Larkin once referred to Murphy as the "most foul and vicious blackguard that ever polluted any country... a capitalistic vampire".

During the 1913 Lockout, when the downtrodden workers of Dublin took to the streets for better conditions, Murphy used his paper to beat them into submission with a description of his workers as the "poor and have naught, but if they were rich tomorrow, debauchery would soon have them in poverty again".

The Irish Independent famously called for the execution of the leaders of the Easter Rising in 1916. It continued its anti-republican ways during the Tan War and in December 1919, a group of 20 IRA men destroyed the printing works of the paper.

The Independent naturally took the pro-Treaty side during the Civil War and at the fall of the Four Courts in 1922, it wrote: "To save a Republic that never existed in fact, a number of young men, partly blustering bullies, partly fanatics honest with the terrible honesty of a monomania, partly boys with no mind but for an escapade, broke away from the army of the nation, set themselves up as the directing force of the country, plunder and destroy, threaten and lie, uniting all their diverse qualities of bravado, unreason and irresponsibility to render any government impossible but theirs."

In 1924, the traditional conservative nationalist newspaper, the Freeman's Journal, merged with the Irish Independent. For the rest of its history, the Independent continued to peddle a virulently right-wing editorial line. It gave political allegiance to Cumann na nGaedhael and later Fine Gael. It urged Irish support for the fascist General Francisco Franco in the Spanish Civil War. On the 10 August 1936 the Independent told its readers that "nuns bodies were been thrown on the streets of Barcelona". Readers were informed that the fascist Blueshirt leader Eoin O'Duffy was to set up an Irish brigade to fight for Franco and "stop a workers republic, a farmers republic or any other form of republic in Spain".

In the 1970s, the Independent was taken over by Tony O'Reilly, a seller of baked beans, who was shaped in the mould of the papers first proprietor. Under O'Reilly's control, the paper was dumbed-down. It also became less politically aligned with Fine Gael. In the 1997 General Election, it endorsed Fianna Fáil under a front page editorial, entitled 'Its Payback Time'. The 'payback' referred to its chance of revenge for the refusal of the 'Rainbow Coalition' to allow O'Reilly who owned the Independent Newspapers to completely take over a rival newspaper, the Sunday Tribune and so achieve absolute dominance of the Irish newspaper industry.

Today, Independent News and Media holds a near monopoly on the Irish newspaper industry, particularly since the closure of the Irish Press Group in the early 1990s. After the closure of the Evening Press, the Independent's Evening Herald is now the capital city's only evening newspaper.

O'Reilly's endeavours in the interests of the rich and powerful and indeed British interests in Ireland have not gone without due recognition. He has received baubles from the English Queen for his efforts and likes to be addressed as 'Sir' Anthony O'Reilly by his coterie of fawning hacks. Today, O'Reilly's papers, particularly the Sunday Independent continue to pour forth anti-nationalist and anti-worker bile with no pretence of objectivity or balance. William Martin Murphy would be proud.

1975 State Papers - Partitionism and repression in the South

An Phoblacht

BY ROBBIE SMYTH

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Photo: Liam Cosgrave

Growth of 'secret state' in 26 Counties

The Fine Gael/Labour Cabinet were playing an increasingly high-stakes game in relation to the crisis in the Six Counties in 1975. State papers reveal that in the year after the Ulster Workers' Council strike and the collapse of the Sunningdale Power Sharing Government between the SDLP and UUP, Dublin's policy was one of allowing the IRA ceasefire to be undermined, while the North slid further into violence, with a massive increase in loyalist sectarian murders.

Fine Gael under the direction of Liam Cosgrave and Garret Fitzgerald, were determined that any resolution to the conflict had to be one that had no ramifications for the 26 Counties. Their ideal was a solution that was partitionist, empowered the SDLP and avoided a so-called 'Doomsday' scenario or support growing for Sinn Féin in the 26 Counties.

Underpinning all of these developments was the growing power of the secret state in the 26 Counties where, at the same time as the Garda Heavy Gang routinely intimidating and assaulting republicans and other radicals, Military Intelligence kept files on republicans, trade unionists, women's groups, members of the Labour Party and even former and current Cabinet Ministers. The secret state is still in evidence today as more than 30 documents were withheld from public view this week.

Don't mention the war

The plan for accommodating 100,000 refugees has already been highlighted, but though the Dublin Government were alert to the chaos that was possible in the Six Counties, they were also alert to the other angles.

Liam Cosgrave personally intervened in the plan which involved the purchase of a substantial amount of clothing, bedding and food. He halved the contingency plan to be one that could deal with 50,000 refugees to avoid "any significant degree of speculation about the purpose of the orders". The purchases would also help to "mitigate current employment" difficulties.

Cosgrave also ruled out asking the Red Cross for assistance to prevent any international view that Ireland was "in a state of war".

Fitzgeralds' Doomsday scenario

A study of cabinet papers in Britain and Ireland over the past week shows a web of contacts with the British Government dissembling and stalling not just in their dealings with republicans but also with unionists and the Irish Government. On these three fronts the British Government sent conflicting messages while at the same its dirty war was increasingly the dominant reality on the ground in the Six Counties.

The Dublin Government position at this time is perhaps best summed up in a report written by Garret Fitzgerald after a dinner meeting with the then British Foreign Secretary James Callaghan and Fianna Fáil leader Jack Lynch. Callaghan had been holidaying in Cork as was Fitzgerald and the three families had a dinner party on 23 August 1975.

Fitzgerald writes of his agreement with Lynch that there would be little progress in resolving the conflict in the coming years. Lynch and Fitzgerald were unwilling to let the 26-County Army intervene in the North to protect nationalists. They were worried that the inability of the government to protect nationalists would "threaten democratic government" in the 26 Counties. This would create a "vacuum throughout Ireland", which according to Fitzgerald would pose a danger to Britain and Northwest Europe, which could be exploited by the Soviet Union, China or Libya.

In Fitzgerald's world the problem was not that Irish citizens were being butchered on the streets of the Six Counties but the potential of China to destabilise the Dublin Government. He was even prepared to consider internment, a position he claims in his report that Lynch tentatively agreed to.

British double dealing

While Callaghan and Fitzgerald were chatting over dinner in West Cork, other British officials in the North, Dublin and in Britain were playing a much wider game.

The Dublin Government and unionist politicians feared the British Government was negotiating with the IRA, while at the same time they were attempting to have their own negotiations.

Callaghan admitted to Fitzgerald that he had not been attending meetings of the British Government's Sub Committee on Ireland. He could not even name the other members of the Committee. This left more Junior Ministers and more importantly civil servants a free hand to formulate policy on Ireland which seemed with hindsight to be one of generating as much confusion, mistrust and disagreement between the parties to the conflict as possible.

Unionists and the SDLP were being sent around the houses about pointless negotiations on coalition and power sharing which few unionists had any real stomach for, at the same time in talks with the Republican Movement the same officials were discussing the possibility of British military withdrawal from Ireland, while the Irish Government were being placated with promises that no negotiations were in fact taking place. Meanwhile, the counterinsurgency agenda in the North was emerging as de facto British policy in Ireland.

De Valera's funeral

The detail to which British officials in Ireland would report on Irish life and the underlying racism of those observations were found in one report on the funeral of former President Eamon de Valera.

A British Embassy official noted that: "The exclusive use of Latin and Irish at the Requiem Mass and burial service must have irritated not only some of the visitors but also many Irishmen who cannot speak their first official language."

The writer continues that that the rush of mourners into Glasnevin, who pushed through police cordons added "an Irish touch to the proceedings".

IRA rearming

The extent of the southern establishment's fears about the possible destabilisation of the 26 Counties is found in a secret Garda report written for Patrick Cooney, then Minister for Justice.

The rearmed IRA were going to provoke loyalists into "over reaction" and also stage "border incidents" that would involve the 26-County Army part of which the Gardaí claimed had been infiltrated by the IRA.

The Gardaí were also concerned about dispersing any refugees that arrived in the 26 Counties otherwise: "Towns such as Dundalk, Monaghan, Buncrana, etc, could all become shades of the Bogside, Ballymurphy or the Falls."

The secret state

Opening security files on the most innocuous of people seems to be a routine part of the work of Military Intelligence in 1975. Files were kept on Foreign Affairs Minister Conor Cruise O'Brien, the Michael McDowell of the mid-'70s and former Health Minister Noel Browne. Files were also kept on unions including the ICTU and the then Workers' Union of Ireland, the Marine Port and General Workers' Union and the National Union of Journalists.

Also under the spotlight were the Small Farmers' Defence Association and the Association of Combined Residents' Association, but perhaps the most chilling aspect of the intelligence surveillance was the fact that files were opened on eight fifth-year students who wrote to the Irish Times condemning executions in Spain of Basques and leftists in the last days of Franco's fascist regime.

The real unanswered question is who created the culture where such surveillance was part of the daily work of military intelligence, and has it now stopped? Could it be the same mentality, the same policies that held 30 papers back from public view this week?

Interview - Remember them and celebrate their lives

An Phoblacht

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Bik McFarlane, National Hunger Strike Commemoration Committee - click to view

"This year, the 25th anniversary of the 1981 Hunger Strike, is not just about remembering and commemorating the ten men who died it is about celebrating their lives.

"They were brave men whose courage and sacrifice should be celebrated in a positive way. Their bravery should be seen as something inspirational, especially in this new phase of struggle when we need to build on our continuing political progress."

So said Brendan 'Bik' McFarlane in an interview with An Phoblacht where he outlined the work of the National Hunger Strike Commemoration Committee in advance of the 25th anniversary of the 1980 and 1981 Hunger Strikes.

The North Belfast republican, who was the OC in command of republican POWs in the H-Blocks during the 1981 Hunger Strike, is a member of the committee tasked by the party to organise the year-long series of events to mark this year's anniversaries.

He was quick to point out that this year also sees the anniversaries of the deaths on hunger strike in English prisons of Michael Gaughan and Frank Stagg.

Gaughan died in Parkhurst Prison on June 3 1974 while Stagg died in Wakefield Prison on 12 February 1976.

According to McFarlane the first events of this year's celebrations will be mark Frank Stagg's death.

"We will start this year's calendar with two events marking the 30th anniversary of Frank's death. A mural, honouring Stagg and Gaughan, will be unveiled on the Falls Road in Belfast on Sunday 12 February.

"A commemoration is also organised for Wakefield Prison itself and we will have people travelling across to England for that."

McFarlane went on to point out that the Stagg commemoration falls on the day before the official launch The National Hunger Strike Commemoration Commit-tee's diary of events for the year.

"We decided on 13 February as the date for the official launch of this year's events because we wanted it to coincide with the Stagg commemoration. We saw it as a way of starting the year of commemoration with some momentum as we want to get all areas across Ireland focused on this coming year's events.

"It is important that we look back on the Hunger Strike period and see it in the context of the political developments of the last 25 years.

"And so given the developments in the struggle since last July we want our activists throughout the country to organise and use the Hunger Strike commemorations as a way of promoting republicanism and of educating people."

McFarlane pointed out that so many people have come to republicanism in the past number of years, and that young activists in particular may not be familiar with the events of 1980 and 1981 so it is crucial that we use the coming year as a way of educating and raising people's awareness of that period.

The former H-Block prisoner also pointed out the irony that because of media censorship and especially the Dublin Government's Section 31 policy which barred republicans from the airwaves people overseas knew more about what was going on in the H-Blocks than a lot of people in Ireland.

"Censorship, in Ireland, had a lot to do with that but there was also the ingrained anti-republicanism that was part and parcel of the 26 County political establishment. We are seeing all this being played out through the antics of the present Dublin Government and Michael McDowell in particular.

"So for those reasons it is important that we use this year's events to bring republican politics to a wider in this new phase of political struggle."

During his interview McFarlane spoke of a recent visit to the H-Blocks in the company of South African Intelligence Minister Ronnie Kasrils and his wife Eleanor who travelled to Ireland in October.

McFarlane explained how Kasrils spoke of how the 1981 Hunger Strikes had a profound effect on the consciousness of the people in South Africa, especially those involved in struggle against the Apartheid Regime.

"The visit with Ronnie Kasrils and his wife Eleanor — who escaped from prison in South Africa — was very moving and profound.

"We were standing in the cell where Bobby Sands died in the hospital wing and I related the story of my first visit back to the cell in the company of a Sinn Féin delegation including Gerry Adams.

"Gerry asked us to gather around the bed and reflect quietly on those ten courageous men who gave their lives for the freedom of our country in 1981.

"That moment brought back the deep sense of loss we all felt in the H-Blocks when Bobby died. It also reminded me of the determination of the other Hunger Strikers to continue in their struggle to defeat Thatcher and the British attempt to criminalise our struggle.

"Ronnie Kasrils then asked those of us who were with him to also gather around the bed. All those in the South African delegation were so moved by the experience and what I think it tells us, as Irish republicans, is that the Hunger Strike was such demonstration of our commitment to be free that it inspired people throughout the world.

"We need to take that inspiration and determination and ensure that this year not only commemorates but celebrates our will to be free, to make politics throughout this island and bring about the dream of national and social liberation that so many of our friends died for."

1975 State Papers - Collusion, sectarianism and unionist intrigue

An Phoblacht

BY LAURA FRIEL

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Click to view - Photo: Ian Paisley

Unionists swing right while murder stalks the streets

In many ways there's no revelation to challenge our understanding of the nature of the Orange state in official state papers released last week by the British Government. It's sectarian business as usual.

It was business as usual for the unionist paramilitaries who targeted two teenagers as they arrived for work on February 11 1974. Thomas Donaghy (16) and 18-year year old Margaret McErlean were shot dead outside a factory in Newtownabbey, North Belfast. Three other people in the car in which they were travelling were also wounded.

It was business as usual for the Newtownabbey RUC officers who, having been alerted to suspicious behaviour outside Abbey Meats, did nothing to thwart the sectarian gang's murderous intent. And it was probably business as usual for the NIO Under Secretary Frank Cooper when he ignored nationalist complaints of sectarian violence, RUC collusion with the UDA and the state's reluctance to protect the nationalist community.

Collusion

According to state papers released by the British Government under the 30-year rule the collusion of official state forces with unofficial unionist paramilitaries had been raised by the then West Belfast MP Gerry Fitt shortly after the Newtownabbey killings. The British Minister was informed that the RUC had been alerted to the loyalist attack half an hour before the shooting but only arrived at the scene five minutes after the teenagers had been fatally wounded.

It was not just a case of collusion by default, according to the documents, the question of unionist paramilitary 'sympathisers' operating within the RUC was also raised with the British Government.

An interim report by the Community Relations Commission claimed the British Army had admitted that there was a political decision not to intervene to protect Catholics in Rathcoole because of the risk of antagonising the loyalist majority. The British Army also conceded that there were a number of UDA sympathisers operating within the local RUC. Both admissions were suppressed and never appeared in the final CRC report.

Meanwhile, the NIO was urging the Dublin Government to arrest Martin McGuinness. Before its collapse at a meeting of the power-sharing executive in January 1974 Chief Minister Brian Faulkner reported on a meeting with Taoiseach Liam Cosgrave. "The Chief Minister made it clear to Mr Cosgrave that the apprehension of prominent IRA men like Martin McGuinness would do more to satisfy the Northern Ireland people than anything else."

Constitutional Convention

In May 1975 elections were held in the Six Counties for a promised Constitutional Convention set up by the British Labour Party to consider the possibility of a political agreement in the wake of the collapse of the power-sharing executive the year before.

In February 1975 following a promise by the then British Secretary of State Merlyn Rees to reduce British troop levels, phase out Internment and release internees, the IRA had extended its ceasefire indefinitely, further enhancing the potential for political progress. But once again unionist politicians used their power to thwart rather then secure political progress. The election secured a decisive victory for the anti-power sharing position of the United Ulster Unionist Coalition.

According state papers released by the 26-County Government the refusal of the UUUC to consider a voluntary coalition government with nationalists was orchestrated by DUP leader Ian Paisley and former British Cabinet Minister Enoch Powell.

The papers suggest Paisley initially accepted the idea of a voluntary coalition but changed his mind after he "saw the opportunity of capitalising on the fear and distrust that was growing up amongst unionist supporters". By playing on unionist fears and sectarianism Paisley believed he could create a political climate "form which to make a bid for the overall leadership of the UUUC".

According to the Dublin Government document a meeting of the UUUC called to discuss the possibility of a voluntary coalition "was dominated by Paisley, assisted by Enoch Powell", the then Unionist MP for South Down.

Powell "strongly influenced the Official Unionist delegation at the meeting by insisting that the British Government would demand an institutionalised agreement and would never accept a voluntary coalition".

A motion put to the meeting permanently excluding nationalist politicians from any future government was passed by 37 votes to one. UUUC deputy leader William Craig was faced with the public humiliation of publicly abandoning his own position and backing Paisley or by standing alone effectively abandoning the unionist position to the Paisleyites.

Craig misled by Paisley

Deputy leader of the UUUC and leader of Vanguard William Craig had been misled by Paisley into believing the DUP leader would support his position. Prior to the meeting Paisley had privately re-assured Craig that he accepted a voluntary coalition "was the only way forward".

Dumping Craig at the last minute allowed Paisley to emerge as the dominant voice of unionist opposition, destroying not only the possibility of a voluntary coalition but also the career of his political rival. After public humiliation at a series of meetings Craig resigned as the leader of Vanguard and from the deputy leadership of the UUUC.

According to an official note, "because of the weakness of the Official Unionists, he has moved into an almost impregnable position and many political commentators estimate that, if there were to be an election in the near future, Paisley would sweep the board".

Political expediency rather than integrity was already shaping the political career of a young David Trimble. A close colleague to William Craig, Trimble abandoned his leader to the fate Paisley had predetermined and abstained from the vote. According to the documents "the meeting left the loyalist coalition in disarray".

In 1975 the UVF were engaging in a sectarian killing spree attacking Catholics and Catholic-owned premises and including the notorious killing of three members of the Miami Showband in July.

The impact of unionist sectarian violence in the North led the Dublin Government to prepare contingency plans to transport 100,000 refugees from Belfast to the 26 Counties within four days. According to the documents up to 6,000 refugees would have been accommodated at Mosney Holiday Camp with an emergency headquarters in Dublin at the Customs House. The plans included the possibility of treating 1,000 seriously wounded people.

According to the documents plans to prepare for refugees fleeing south from sectarian pogroms in the North were curtailed by the then Taoiseach Liam Cosgrave who feared that any large-scale purchase of supplies in anticipation of refugees would undermine the secrecy of the plans. The government also ruled out asking the International Red Cross for assistance to prevent any perception that Ireland was "in a state of war".

Miss Good Cheer

Perhaps the most bizarre item in the state papers released last week was the proposal by British Government Ministers to get involved in a "post truce battle for hearts and minds", promoting a 'sunny side up' philosophy that became an integral part of British propaganda in subsequent years. We all remember the "Belfast is Buzzing" campaigns but in 1975 it was the year of "Miss Good Cheer".

On the cards were an Ulster festival, and good cheer sales in the shops with a "Miss Good Cheer" beauty contest. Also proposed was a series of concerts with Morecambe and Wise and Frank Sinatra touted as possible guests, who might it was thought give their services for free!

IRA New Year statement

An Phoblacht

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The leadership of Óglaigh na hÉireann sends New Year greetings to our friends and supporters at home and abroad. We send best wishes especially to republican prisoners and their families and we commend those presently working for their early release.

We salute the discipline and commitment of IRA Volunteers, particularly following the momentous decisions by the Army leadership this year.

We remain wedded to our republican objectives. We are confident that these objectives will be achieved.

We fully support and commend everyone working for these goals, especially our comrades in Sinn Féin.

We send greetings to the republican activist base which has been so steadfast in the face of severe provocations this last 12 months.

We appeal for continued unity and determination in the year ahead. We are mindful that 2006 marks the 25th anniversary of the Hunger Strikes and 90th anniversary of the Proclamation of the Republic in 1916.

We look forward to popular celebrations and commemorations of these events.

There is an onus on all political leaders to play their part in achieving the essential political progress desired by all the people of Ireland.

Signed,

P O Neill,

Irish Republican Publicity Bureau, Dublin.

SDLP Hits Out At Sinn Fein 'Super Council' Stance

Derry Journal

Friday 6th January 2006

A row has broken out between rival Derry nationalist parties over the shake up of local government structures with SDLP Councillor Helen Quigley criticising Sinn Fein over its policy on 'super councils.' In November last year the government announced a major revamp of local structures, which includes slashing the number of councils on the North from 26 to seven, a move supported by Sinn Fein but bitterly opposed by the SDLP.

SDLP councillor Helen Quigley who has been vociferous in criticism of the new set up, last night called on Sinn Fein to review its position on the issue. "Nationalists were stunned that Sinn Fein signed up to a deal that would let state killers off the hook. They are still puzzled that Sinn Fein is backing Peter Hain's plan to repatriation the North with seven supercouncils," she said. "Sinn Fein are not only isolated on backing the councils plan, they are divided as well. Many of their own members have no idea why they suddenly reversed their position and supported giving extra powers to super-councils with absolutely no guarantees that they won't turn into super-Ballymenas."

However, Sinn Fein's Gerry MacLochlainn reiterated his party's support for the seven council model arguing that increased power will 'empower communities' particularly in the North West, to drive forward economic development. Speaking today Colr. MacLochlainn refuted claims that his party was divided on the issue.

"Sinn Fein conducted extensive and lengthy consultation throughout our membership and support base and with local community and voluntary sector and business communities. The overwhelming support for larger councils with real power as opposed to local talking shops for powerless local politicians was made clear to us from all sectors," he said. "Sinn FÈin, with the support of other political parties in Derry, recently argued for effective cross-border cooperation and the development of all-Ireland approaches to tackle the problems faced by cancer patients in the North West and for an effective transport policy that would protect and expand the rail service to Derry and beyond to Donegal. The three proposed new councils that abut the border will provide local government structure able to link into the existing cross-border architecture to develop an effective regional strategy. This is an opportunity we should seize with enthusiasm." Colr. MacLochlainn added that the SDLP suggestion that the rejig amounts to a repatriation of the Six Counties was 'absurd.' "The Six Counties at the minute are divided into 26 councils and unless a party is seriously suggesting that local government is abolished altogether then the Six Counties will be divided into regional council areas," he said.

"The political geography and demographics won't change whatever number of councils there are. Councils located west of the Bann - however many - will continue to be majority Nationalist as will those east of the Bann with the exception of Belfast be Unionist dominated. This is particularly true of the 15 council model. "Coupled with the statutory equality and power-sharing provisions which will be part and parcel of this reform, the seven council model is the only one that ensures no council area will contain a minority community of less than 25 per cent."

He went on to claim that any party rejecting the seven council model was more concerned with protecting its local power base than driving Derry forward. "The SDLP needs to climb out of its defensive bunker and join with those of us intent on seizing this chance for Derry to take its rightful place as the regional hub of the North West," he said.

Protest over US military flights

BreakingNews.ie

06/01/2006 - 18:29:29

Dozens of anti-war protesters picketed the front doors of the Irish Aviation Authority in Dublin tonight over the continued use of Shannon airport by US military aircraft.

Amid allegations that 900 American soldiers are passing through the airport each day to and from Iraq, protest organiser and Pitstop Ploughshares activist Ciaron O’Reilly claimed Ireland was being dragged closer to the war.

“The Taoiseach Bertie Ahern’s ambiguous stance on the war is getting Ireland more and more involved with the conflict,” he said.

Anti-war protesters previously staged a sit-in at the Aviation Authority during the Ramadan festival in 2003. And in a bid to highlight the issue further a Peace Camp is to be re-established at Shannon Airport this weekend.

The debate has also escalated outside of Ireland, the Council of Europe added its voice to the debate today insisting Irish authorities should be allowed to inspect US war planes landing at the stopover.

The council came out in support of the Irish Human Rights Commission on the need to check for military weapons or the illegal movement of terror suspects en route to alleged CIA interrogation camps.

In a letter to the President of the IHRC, Maurice Manning, it backed the proposal that the Irish Government seeks an agreement from the US to allow inspections.

The use of Shannon by the US Air Force is to be raised at a meeting of Clare County Council in the coming weeks.

Local councillor Martin Conway said: “This is a widely-publicised issue and the rumours about weapons and torture prisoners are damaging the integrity and reputation of Shannon and the people Co Clare abroad.

“The Government is making enough money from the US stop-overs to pay for the deployment of Defence Forces personnel to carry out searches of the military aircraft.”

A trial involving five Pitstop Ploughshares protesters accused of causing millions of dollars of damage to US war planes at Shannon sensationally collapsed in November amid allegations the judge had links to President George Bush.

It was the second time the trial involving Mr O’Reilly had fallen apart in controversial circumstances.

The road to hell?

Irelandclick

Chaos and gridlock are expected to engulf North Belfast as work begins on the reconstruction of the Westlink and M2 motorway

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Westlink - click to view - photo from TNN

In less than two weeks work on upgrading the North’s busiest roads in one of the largest civil constructions seen here – the new Westlink – will begin.
The controversial work, criticised by environment groups for bringing more cars on to the roads, is expected to bring with it massive disruption over at least a three-year period.
Gridlock is expected on the already stretched roads system and huge traffic queues will affect close to half a million motorists each week, according to official estimates. Officials say commuters should add half an hour on to the journey times – critics say that is hopelessly optimistic.
Concerns have been raised as to what impact the traffic congestion will have on other main routes and surrounding residential areas in the North of the city. Carrickhill community stalwart Frank Dempsey expressed alarm over the impact of pollution and drivers using his community as a ‘rat-run’ to get across town.
“The traffic is going to back right up and you’ll have a knock-on effect the whole way across the Westlink, right across to the New Lodge,” he said.
“I am very worried about this, especially for the local kids who will be going to school in the mornings. How are they going to get across these main routes when the volume of traffic will be doubled?
“Commuters will begin to use areas like Carrickhill in the inner-city as short-cuts and it will be us who feel the full impact. These areas will become rat-runs, which is my big fear.”
Frank questioned whether enough thought had gone into the plans.
“Everyone agrees that something had to be done about the Westlink but it’s how you do it, and when you do it that’s the key. I don’t think enough thought has gone into the impact it will have on communities like Carrickhill. It’s bad enough now with the parking that is blocking these streets making it very difficult for emergency services to get in and out and for the roads to be cleaned. But what is it going to be like when you pile all this on top of it?” he asked.
The Westlink reconstruction will also affect hospital and emergency services in North and West Belfast and staff and patients travelling to the Royal Victoria Hospital.
Plans to widen the main arterial route have been in the pipeline for some time and the Department of Regional Development’s Roads Service has unveiled a strategy that it hopes will prevent the road network from collapsing into chaos and keep criticism to a minimum.
Anyone who has attempted to make their way into the city centre or across town via this route during rush hour knows the road is already congested. But environment groups say the answer is to improve public transport and not make roads bigger only to see them again become congested. The levels of traffic have now reached crisis level, with the Westlink resembling a huge car park at peak times, as the 65,000 cars that use it each day inevitably get clogged up.
So how does the government plan to alleviate this problem? The proposal is for the current two lanes in both directions on the Westlink to be expanded to three, running from Divis Street to the Blacks Road. The bridges at Stockman’s Lane will be replaced and in the most significant part of the plan, a three-lane underpass will be constructed at Broadway along with a partial underpass at Grosvenor Road. Bus lanes will be introduced at Broadway and Roden Street.
The Roads Service says the work will take up to three years and this is causing a great many people alarm, as it is likely traffic will be badly affected. That’s despite official assurances that two lanes will remain open in each direction at all times.
To make the upheaval as bearable as possible the Roads Service is combining old methods with new, to make sure drivers know at all times what is going on.
It has pledged to measure journey times through the roadworks and these will be constantly updated and put on display screens, to be displayed at key junctions.
Any road closures that will take place over the three years will be done so only after a week’s notice, to give drivers adequate time to arrange other routes. Travel and roadworks information will be provided in local newspapers and by radio, and through www.trafficwatchni.com.
The Roads Service has also invested in an information email system.
By signing up for active notification through www.roadsni.gov.uk/westlinktrafficalert, drivers will get up-to-the-minute reports on the road works in their inbox.
Refreshingly, Royal Victoria Hospital bosses have looked upon the problem as an opportunity, and this week announced their ‘Westlink Healthlink’ initiative to get staff to walk or cycle to and from work.
Divisional Manager for Roads Service, Joe Drew, said he understood the public concern, but due to the scale of the work that was going on, congestion was unavoidable.
“A civil engineering project of this scale, along with a very confined site, will undoubtedly cause disruption. Roads Service is fully aware of the importance of this road link to road users and is planning a range of measures to minimise any disruption as far as possible.
“The temporary traffic management strategy for the construction phase of M1 Westlink is based on the view that diversion of the 65,000 vehicles that use the road everyday is not a realistic alternative, as all the associated routes on this corridor are already at capacity in the peak hours.”
He said the road would remain open for the duration of the building works but parts would close at weekends.
“During the contract, measures to manage traffic through the site will include the maintenance of at least two traffic lanes in each direction during the works. The contractor will also be encouraged to work during off-peak times and the existing bus lane towards the city will also be maintained,” he said.

Journalist:: Evan Short

Guantanamo Bay force feeding raises painful memories for republicans

Irelandclick

Former prisoners of recent British penal history recall the trauma of torture and forced feeding, now happening to Muslim hunger strikers

January 11 marks the fourth anniversary of detainees being held in the US Military Detention Centre in Guantanamo Bay.
In what has become one of the most contentious issues surrounding the so-called war on terror, men and boys who were arrested by the US Army after the invasion of Afghanistan and labelled “unlawful combatants” were transferred to the camp in Cuba.
The UN special rapporteur on torture has revealed that there are allegations that Guantanamo hunger strikers are being force-fed in a cruel manner.
Manfred Nowak's comments came after it emerged that the number of detainees refusing food at the prison camp had more than doubled since December 25.
Some 84 inmates are now refusing food, according to the US military.
But a Pentagon official said there was no evidence that they had been treated in an inappropriate way.
Denied access to a judicial process and forced to live in what human rights groups have described as ‘dog kennels’ that offer little protection from the elements, prisoners, some believed to be as young as 13, have in the words of Amnesty International been involved in a “travesty of justice”.
Such shocking abuses bring back painful memories for New Lodge man Sam Millar. The former republican prisoner - now a major selling author - was the longest man on the blanket protest. He said watching the scenes from the horror camp were extremely distressing.
“When I look at what is going on in Guantanamo Bay and compare it with what happened to us, the parallels are frightening. It is worse than internment what is going on out there.”
Sam Millar believes the issue of Guantanamo goes beyond the question of Afghanistan.
“I think there should be absolute outrage at what’s going on, but for some reason it just doesn’t seem to be a big issue. The way it is portrayed as well, they make you become immune to it.”
He said he also fears for ordinary Americans, who he believes will suffer because of the country’s policies.
“The telephone transcripts that have been released of the prisoners on the phone would break your heart. I am afraid this will alienate ordinary Americans from the rest of the world because of what their government is doing,” he said.
In recent weeks, as we approach the fourth anniversary of the camp opening, chilling new reports have emerged that forced with a growing hunger strike campaign by the detainees, the military has instigated a new regime of force feeding.
Described by the US military as “providing appropriate nutrition through nasal tubes” the grim reality of force feeding was described in detail by Sinn Féin’s Gerry Kelly in an interview with the North Belfast News in 2004.
“They press their knuckles into your jaws and press in hard. The way they finally did force feed me was getting forceps and running them up and down my gums,” he said.
“I opened my mouth, but I was able to resist after that,” said the Sinn Féin man in the interview.
“Then they tried – there’s a part of your nose, like a membrane and it’s very tender - and they started on that. It’s hard to describe the pain. It’s like someone pushing a knitting needle into the side of your eye. As soon as I opened my mouth they put in this wooden bit with a hole in the middle for the tube. They rammed it between my teeth and then tied it with cord around my head.
“Then they got paraffin and forced it down the tube. The danger is that every time it happens you think you’re going to die. The only things that move are your eyes.
“They get a funnel and put the stuff down.”
Affidavits from the prisoners in Guantanamo describe how the torture victims vomited up “substantial amounts of blood” while being fed through their nose.
The US Military has denied that torture takes place in Guantanamo Bay and says there was not truth in the allegations.
However, by admitting to force feeding prisoners for republicans like Gerry Kelly, these words will have a hollow ring to them.

Journalist:: Evan Short

St Patrick’s Day event gets Council green light

Irelandclick

Áine McEntee reports from the chamber of Belfast City Council on the historic decision by the city fathers to fund a celebration of the Patron Saint of Ireland in the nation’s second city

5 January 2006

At Belfast City Council’s monthly council meeting last night (Wednesday) there was one item head and shoulders above the rest on the agenda – St Patrick’s Day.
And during the course of the long-winded debate, two councillors in particular knocked unionist arguments against holding an event, right in the head.
Unionist concerns mainly centred around how many stewards would secure the event, how much of a role the PSNI would play and their outrage that Irish Tricolours might be held aloft in the crowds.
North Belfast SDLP councillor Alban Maginness labelled the arguments ‘threadbare’.
“All we’ve heard tonight is nit-picking about security arrangements,” he said.
“The security arrangements are adequate. They are the same as with every other public event in the city. These are merely scarcely concealed arguments. Threadbare, and all they do is underline unionist hostility in a public manner towards anything related to St Patrick.”
But the DUP’s Sammy Wilson branded the plans a ‘recipe for disaster’ and claimed the logistics of staging such an event had not been properly thought through.
Addressing this point, Alban Maginness harked back to the Stormont Assembly days when Sammy Wilson also opposed planning a St Patrick’s Day event.
“One thing about Sammy Wilson is that he’s consistent,” Alban Maginness retorted.
In the same argument Sinn Féin councillor for West Belfast, Fra McCann, brought up the issue of the council funding the cleanup of loyalist bonfires - many brandishing paramilitary shows of strength and burning pollutant rubber tyres.
Several months ago in the chamber a fully-fledged row erupted over the council’s support of bonfires and its plans to extend a pilot programme last year throughout the city this coming Eleventh Night.
Cllr McCann also pointed out there was no effort by DUP councillors to address the flying of paramilitary emblems on the Twelfth of July.
“A while ago we had a bonfire discussion and there was no mention by the DUP about flags, bunting, slogans, effigies, posters, paramilitary acts, gunfire or anything to do with removing them.”
His colleague Michael Browne said unionists had turned the whole matter of celebrating St Patrick’s Day into a ‘sectarian onslaught against nationalists’.
“The council has a decision here to make, to either begin the centenary year on a sour note or make it a successful year to remember,” Cllr Browne argued.
Crucially three Alliance Party councillors got up to speak on the matter. Mervyn Jones said the two main unionist parties were putting forward ‘spurious’ objections while former Lord Mayor, Tom Ekin, said it was vital that the council took a step forward in getting the show running.
“I’ve taken a good deal of interest in this matter over the last couple of years and I’ve noticed a sea change in their (Protestant people’s) attitudes.
“They want to take part in an all-inclusive family event on St Patrick’s Day.
“We’ve got to take a step forward. Let’s stop sitting in the rut we’ve built for ourselves. Any more stalling on St Patrick’s Day and we will set good relations back even further,” he said.
The DUP’s Sammy Wilson, Nelson McCausland and new kid on the block Christopher Stalford continued to bite on the bit about security.
“It’s an issue that’s been around for a long time,” Nelson McCausland said.
PUP leader David Ervine was absent for the vote.
DUP councillor Christopher Stalford said afterwards that had the PUP man been present, and voted no the votes would have been tied.
In such cases the Lord Mayor’s second casting vote decides, and with the DUP’s Wallace Browne at the helm, plans to fund the event would have been sent into oblivion another year.

Journalist:: Áine McEntee

Father Troy book success is “good news for Holy Cross”

Irelandclick

The efforts to build a cross-community family centre in the grounds of Holy Cross received another major boost this week.
Only three weeks after the hugely successful Superdraw held in the Europa hotel, Fr Aidan Troy learned this week that the book he wrote recounting his experiences of the Holy Cross blockade had entered its second print run.
With all profits going to build the family centre, it’s yet more good news after the parish raised an estimated £70,000 in the pre-Christmas gala fundraising event.
Fr Troy told this week of his delight at the success of the book.
“It has done a second print so that’s a very good sign. I am very pleased as there is nothing worse than publishers saying they can’t move the first print. But the signs so far are very good.”
Four years on from the horrific scenes of little girls traumatised by loyalists on their way to school, Fr Troy thinks sales have been good because the legacy of Holy Cross will endure for many more years for so many people.
“I met a lot of people over Christmas and New Year who had read it, and it certainly provoked a lot of interest and a lot of questions.
“I have been approached by people who are asking me ‘why did I say that’, and ‘what did that mean,’ and generally there is a fair amount of interest, rather than people just saying it was nice.
“I think it’s still a very live story in a whole lot of ways and if by publishing the book it can help people to come to terms with it, then I am happy.
“Most of all I was pleased that I got a very good reaction from some of the parents who suffered in the incident.
“The parents were extremely positive and very content with it, something that meant a lot to me.”
Sarah Liddle from Currach Press who published Holy Cross: A Personal Experience, said she was pleased with how the book has so far performed.
“We are delighted that the book has done so well.
“A lot of work went into it and Fr Troy wanted to put across his point of view, so we are very pleased that the first print run has sold,” she said.
“We have the second print run finished and they will be distributed to shops in the next week.”

Journalist:: Evan Short

Talks over peaceline gate operations amid Westlink chaos

Irelandclick

Concerns have been raised that lives could be lost over ambulance and emergency services getting across the city with the forthcoming roadworks and restrictions on the Westlink.
A spokesperson for the Ambulance Service today confirmed that the issue of how ambulances would get in and out of North Belfast when the station at Broadway is covering colleagues in Ardoyne are currently under discussion.
Closures of the peaceline gates at Agnes Street, Northumberland Street and Townsend Street at teatime could mean a struggle for services to make their way across the city particularly during rush hour or at weekends when the Westlink is due to close altogether. In Belfast there are four ambulance stations covering North, south, east and west of the city. Although Ardoyne is dedicated to dealing with emergencies in the north of the city, on occasion, ambulances from the west are needed to provide cover and answer emergencies in case of sickness or absence of Ardoyne staff.
With all routes surrounding the Westlink predicted to become busier, the fear is that the speed in which emergencies can be reached will further decrease.
Fears that traffic chaos will prevent people from attending the RVH for appointments were also addressed yesterday when plans to reduce traffic congestion on the site were released.
The hospital has a staff of almost 7,000, a large number of whom live in North Belfast, and is likely to be one of the organisations most affected by the roadworks.
In an attempt to relieve some of the pressure that will be put on the the Westlink, staff are being encouraged to car share, take the bus or use new facilities for cyclists which are due to be opened in a few weeks time.
Patients and visitors are being asked to consider alternatives to bringing their cars on site. Some outpatient clinics may also be relocated.
A spokesperson for the Ambulance Service said: “The Ambulance Service is aware of the planned roadworks on the Westlink and the potential impact on our service.
“We are currently engaged with the relevant Department and contractors involved in the scheme.
“It is our intention to continue to operate from the ambulance station based in the grounds of the Royal Victoria Hospital.
“However, should the situation demand, we will examine all possibilities that will ensure a high standard of service is maintained throughout this period of major disruption, including other temporary dispatch points in the affected areas.”

Journalist:: Evan Short

Dismay at Whitewell surgery closure

Irelandclick

Residents on the Whitewell road are campaigning to save vital medical services after learning of the planned relocation of their doctors’ surgery.
Less than two years after the community was left without a Post Office on the Whitewell, residents have been left reeling again with news that Whitehouse Medical Practice will be moving from the bottom of the Whitewell to the Abbey Centre.
Local community worker Geraldine McKernon said the removal of the surgery would cause disruption for many patients.
“The Post Office has gone and now the surgery is to go. I would have to ask how are local pensioners going to get from this area over to the Abbey Centre, especially with the trouble we have with public transport? We are going to be left in this area with nothing at all. I fear for the residents, especially the pensioners because this is yet another vital service we are losing,” she said.
Angry at the loss of the Post Office, residents have vowed to fight to save the doctors’ surgery, and a petition has already received 400 signatures.
Deputy Mayor Pat Convery is supporting the residents’ campaign.
Sinn Féin councillor Tierna Cunningham also said that she was deeply concerned about the situation.
“As the local elected representative I wasn’t aware of any consultation process regarding the move and I am very alarmed,” she said.
“This move will affect the most vulnerable members of our society such as senior citizens and single parents.
“The Whitewell is an area of deprivation which requires many different levels of support, one of these being a healthcare centre so I would appeal to those who made the decision to rethink the move as it will be detrimental to the community.”
SDLP Deputy Lord Mayor of Belfast, Pat Convery, said he was against the relocation, and was seeking an urgent meeting with the practice manager to discuss the pending move.
Pat Convery said the planned relocation of the practice had come as a “great shock” to many in the local community as it is convenient for local patients.
“I have been inundated by residents asking what the medical practice is proposing, and there has been a community survey carried out which has been forwarded to me. I hope to pass it on to the board on behalf of the residents who signed it,” he said.
“The loss of the practice will seriously inconvenience many patients, especially older people and the parents of young children. It will also have a negative impact on other local businesses. It is adding to the further reduction of local services especially after the closure of the local post office last year.”
No one from Whitewell Medical Practice was available for comment.

Journalist:: Evan Short

Loyalist threat to Ardoyne soccer players

Irelandclick

Ardoyne Working Men’s Club are under threat by loyalists after reports of leaflets on Shankill calling for match violence

Loyalists have distributed leaflets threatening an Ardoyne football team due to play in the heart of the Shankill this weekend.
The PSNI has confirmed it is investigating reports of intimidation in connection with a soccer game scheduled for Saturday.
The leaflets call for crowds to turn out at the game between 66th Old Boys and Ardoyne Working Men’s Club.
However the Ardoyne players have vowed to turn up despite the threats to their Junior Shield fixture.
The North Belfast News learned of the leaflets this week which sources claimed were distributed by well known loyalists over the weekend in the Shankill and Woodvale areas.
The Hammer Complex is on Agnes Street on the Shankill and there are safety concerns for the Ardoyne team travelling into the staunch loyalist district.
Ardoyne Manager Stephen Mailey said the team had been made aware of the threat and was offered a PSNI escort to the game, but players had refused. He said he had voiced his worries about the game’s venue.
“I was disappointed that an alternative venue hasn’t been organised.
“I contacted the County Antrim board about this several weeks ago to find out if there was anything in the rulebooks about changing to a neutral venue – and the answer was no, you can’t get round it.
“If you don’t turn up you can get thrown out of the competition, fined, and put out of the league for a year, maybe two.
“I put the situation to the lads and they took a vote. They came back and said they didn’t want a police escort, they just wanted to carry on and play the game.”
The PSNI said they were aware of the reports but had no copies of intimidating leaflets.
“PSNI officers have discussed the game with both teams and the match will be policed accordingly,” a spokesman added.
The Junior Shield, which AWMC won in 2004 is governed by the County Antrim board and the teams are half-way through the season.
Secretary Brian Dumigan said they would be treating the match as normal.
“We’ll have an IFA assessor Malcolm Moffitt there, which is normal procedure as well as the Chairman of the Junior Shield league, Michael Wilson,” Brian Dumigan said.
“It’s a football game. Soccer should be a sporting game and it will be treated as normal.
“You enter it with the full knowledge that you could be playing anywhere in County Antrim.
“We informed the police of the information, and we’re quite confident that those who enjoy the game of football will make it a sporting event.”
PUP Shankill councillor Hugh Smyth and Independent Frank McCoubrey both said they were unaware of the leaflets.
“I haven’t heard anything about it,” said the PUP man.
“I would be disappointed if that was the case. We have certainly no information that the match is under threat.”
No one was available for comment from 66th Old Boys.


Journalist:: Áine McEntee

Victims’ body calls british army racist

Daily Ireland

Soldiers expelled for assault in England while Belfast victim’s murderers stay in army

Jarlath Kearney

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Kelly McBride - click to view

The family of Belfast teenager Peter McBride – murdered by the British army in September 1992 – have expressed anger after two Household Cavalry soldiers were expelled from the army following convictions for assault.
Kelly McBride, along with her family and supported by the Pat Finucane Centre, has spent 13 years campaigning for the army to discharge two soldiers who shot her 18-year-old brother in the back.
Instead, Scots Guardsmen James Fisher and Mark Wright were readmitted to the British army on the grounds of so-called “exceptional circumstances” after their early release from prison in 1998.
Both soldiers returned to active service and British prime minister Tony Blair has since described the case as an “internal employment matter” for the British army.
Despite Belfast High Court concluding on two separate occasions that there were no exceptional circumstances in the case, the British government has refused to intervene.
By contrast, the Ministry of Defence confirmed yesterday that two soldiers have been expelled by the British army after receiving convictions for actual bodily harm. The convictions related to an early morning affray in Norwich last July. No statement has yet been made about a third soldier who was also convicted in relation to the incident.
All of the soldiers received suspended sentences for their actions. Two of the trio previously spent time with their regiments in the North and in Bosnia.
“The decision to discharge is made by the commanding officer after a great deal of consideration. It may happen quite often that they are discharged, certainly for a crime such as this, but it is not necessarily a foregone conclusion,” a MoD spokesperson said yesterday.
Kelly McBride last night told Daily Ireland that the British army’s preferential treatment of her brother’s murderers stemmed from “a racist mentality”.
“These soldiers were discharged because the assault took place on their own home ground,” Ms McBride said.
“I am really shocked by this. There is a racist mentality involved because if my brother had been a local teenager killed over there [in England] I’m sure Fisher and Wright would have been discharged.
“It kind of grabs you by the heart that my brother’s life meant basically nothing because he was Irish, yet something like an assualt happens over there and the soldiers are discharged,” Ms McBride said.
The campaign for justice in Peter McBride’s case has received widespread cross-party and international support, including the backing of London Mayor Ken Livingstone.
In a statement to Daily Ireland last night, the British army’s press office in the North said: “We can’t discuss individual cases but MoD policy is quite clear. Where a soldier receives a custodial sentence, he or she will be discharged from the army unless there are exceptional circumstances, ie. Fisher and Wright.
“However, if a soldier receives a non-custodial sentence, ie. a suspended sentence, fine or probation, then the matter is referred back to his or her commanding officer who may decide to discharge the soldier depending on the circumstances of the particular case.”

Rees characterised by lack of resolve

Daily Ireland

Daily Ireland Editorial
Editor: Colin O’Carroll

Ironically, Merlyn Rees’s death in a London hospital at the age of 85 came hard on the heels of the release of government papers last week under the 30-year rule which suggest that he was far from the avuncular figure that his bookish appearance and diffident demeanour suggested.
In fact, Mr Rees was an enthusiastic proponent of a London policy which was characterised by double-cross and deceit and he was at the helm during a period when some historic opportunities for an honourable peace were squandered by British duplicity – notably the power-sharing Executive and the Feakle talks.
It was his failure to react decisively to the UWC strike of May 1974 which led to the collapse of the Executive and a dark and lengthy period of direct rule during which murder and mayhem filled the vacuum created by Rees’s refusal to face down the loyalist hard men.
It has been pointed out that he was the man who brought internment to an end towards the end of 1975. In fact, it had long been acknowledged by the British that internment had been a practical and political disaster and the only thing holding up the closure of the concentration camps was yet more British cynicism. On his arrival he was faced with an electorally emboldened unionist coalition in the shape of the United Ulster Unionist Council (UUUC) and any human concerns he may have had about the plight of the internees was superceded by a desire not to upset the unionists. Now, where have we heard that before?
A cack-handed and ultimately ill-fated attempt to launch a new political initiative in July, the Constitutional Convention, was to plunge the North deeper into the pit of despair, and after just seven months in office, SDLP deputy leader John Hume declared that Rees had “lost all credibility”. Perhaps his greatest failure, though, was in not grasping the opportunity presented by the February 1975 IRA ceasefire that emerged from the Co Clare talks. Brought about by intensive negotiations between churchmen and the IRA, the 1975 truce had the potential to defuse a conflict that was spiralling out of control. But carefully constructed agreements were undermined by British bad faith and in a matter of months the violence had returned.
In 1987, Rees told the House of Commons that he was “extremely worried” about reports that he had received about the extent and intent of British army undercover activity in the North during his term in office. It would have been nice if he’d shown a bit more interest 12 years earlier.
De mortuis nil nisi bonum – of the dead speak only good. Nationalists and republicans inevitably struggle to reflect warmly on the secretaries of state with which we have been saddled over the years. On a personal level, of course, we extend our condolences to his family, but on a political level, and in the light of what came immediately after him, perhaps the kindest thing to say about Merlyn Rees is that he was not Roy Mason.

Former secretary of state Rees was most dithering direct ruler

Daily Ireland

Labour man frittered away significant opportunity provided by IRA ceasefire

TOMMY McKEARNEY

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There was always something about Merlyn Rees that reminded one of the little lad who would wet his trousers when sent to play with the bigger boys. The difference, of course, is that while it’s right to pity the small, nervous mite trembling in the playground, no similar latitude can be extended to the ineptitudes of a man who accepted the power and responsibility that goes with high office.
Rees was appointed secretary of state for Northern Ireland on March 5, 1974 after having acted as Labour’s shadow spokesman with the same brief. Although it may be argued that his time in that office was one of the more difficult periods faced by any direct ruler, the reality is that his dithering incompetence ensured that not only was unionist dominance and intransigence reinforced by his capitulation to the Ulster Workers Council (UWC) strike but he frittered away a significant opportunity for progress provided by the IRA ceasefire of 1975.
Born in south Wales but educated at Harrow Weald Grammar School, Middlesex before graduating from the London School of Economics, Merlyn Rees was by any standard an educated man. He had the ability and background to ‘read himself’ quickly into the realities of northern Irish political life, yet nothing he did throughout his time here indicated any understanding of what was required.
Having ruled with absolute power for 50 years, it was always inevitable that after Stormont’s proroguing, unionism would make a bid to have the ancien régime restored. Discard the view that the UWC strike was caused by a proposed Council of Ireland or the SDLP’s alleged desire for a united Ireland. A majority within unionism was bluntly demanding a return to the days of a Protestant parliament for a Protestant people.
Any concession to this demand rendered normal democratic parliamentary politics in the six counties pointless and irrelevant. What option other than insurrection lay open to the excluded non-unionist population? Merlyn Rees, LSE graduate and experienced parliamentarian, must have known this when he weakly allowed the UWC dictate terms to him and his army in May 1974. Worse perhaps, by not acting decisively against the perpetrators of the Dublin/Monaghan bombings carried out in support of the putsch, he encouraged the practitioners of counter-revolutionary terror for years to come.
Amazingly, he was given another opportunity to do some good in Ireland when the IRA declared a ceasefire in January 1975. Instead of grabbing this chance and laying down the groundwork for a permanent settlement, Merlyn Rees listened to his hawkish advisers and sought to defeat the IRA. Rather than negotiating honestly, Rees permitted his civil servants to dissemble and prevaricate while all the time developing their Ulsterisation/Normalisation stratagem. This was the era when the misguided plan to criminalise Irish republicanism was hatched.
We now know that this mistaken tactic led directly to the brutal H-Block protest and the subsequent death on hunger strike of ten republicans. It is also possible to say that decisions taken then have contributed to the problems of the past three decades and indeed to the ongoing problems thrown up by the shortsighted unionist intransigence of the present day.
If Rees failed to do any significant good while in charge of the NIO, he was just as inept when installed as home secretary on his departure from Ireland. His time at the Home Office, if remembered at all, is recalled for his presiding over the attempted prosecution of investigative journalists by British Intelligence.
Merlyn Rees remained an MP until retiring from the Commons in 1992 and was shortly afterwards created a life peer, an honour that many believe came 30 years too late. In his defence though, it should be said that his incompetence probably suited the interests of the altogether tougher British ruling elite. He died yesterday, January 5, 2006. He was 85 years old.

BBC ‘revisionism’ charge

Daily Ireland

Relatives for Justice say programme was ‘grossly insensitive’ in papers coverage

Jarlath Kearney

BBC Northern Ireland has been heavily criticised by Relatives for Justice (RFJ) for alleged “gross insensitivity” in television coverage of the 1975 government papers.
RFJ represents scores of relatives and victims affected by state violence in the North. RFJ yesterday accused the BBC of adopting a “revisionist agenda” regarding the content of Cabinet Confidential broadcast on Wednesday night.
An RFJ spokesperson made the comments after receiving complaints from victims’ relatives who were upset by the coverage.
Wednesday’s BBC programme featured film footage and pop music from 1975, alongside commentary about the secret government papers made public under the 30-year rule.
Accusing the BBC of having “airbrushed out” the role of British soldiers and RUC in violence during 1975, RFJ said: “One would have forgiven for thinking that British state forces had killed no one.”
“Similarly a scene detailing the attack on the Miami Showband failed to state that members of the British army were involved in the killings. Given the amount of loyalist killings in which collusion is now evidenced, especially within the mid-Ulster murder triangle from 1975, the fact that the issue was not addressed in the overall context or that it didn’t even merit a mention is appalling.”
The RFJ spokesperson also accused the BBC of displaying “gross insensitivity” by accompanying footage of rescue services digging through bomb rubble with a song by The Eagles featuring the words ‘I swear I’m going to find you... I’ve been searching’.
“Our office received several calls from bereaved relatives who were very upset, some of whom we have been visiting and supporting throughout the day – their loved ones being killed in bomb explosions.
“The BBC as a public body has yet to be designated under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement of 1998 and the equality provisions which in effect would allow for a series of measures aimed at achieving a more equitable, balanced and representative public broadcasting body. Above all, such a move would allow for public accountability.
“It is in this context that the victims of British state violence, including state collusion, impact the least on the BBC news agendas.
“There needs to be a push on both designation and change at the BBC if it is ever to gain the confidence of the entire community as a fair and impartial broadcaster,” the RFJ spokesperson said
Responding to RFJ’s concerns, a BBC spokesperson told Daily Ireland: “The programme is restricted to covering the contents of the Cabinet papers of the time and is not intended to be an investigative programme about the events of 1975. The music chosen for Cabinet Confidential was generic to that year and was not intended in any way to be insensitive.”

Unionists' anger over IRA medal

BreakingNews.ie

06/01/2006 - 14:30:46

A police recruit wore a medal honouring the old IRA at a passing out parade in the North, it emerged today.

Ulster Unionists were outraged today that the Black and Tan medal, commemorating IRA members who fought British soldiers (known as the Black and Tans) during the 1917-21 campaign for Irish independence, was pinned to the chest of a graduate during a ceremony in November.

Fermanagh and South Tyrone Assembly member Tom Elliott claimed the wearing of the medal was offensive to police families who lost relatives following Provisional IRA attacks.

“It is frankly disgusting that a new recruit has been allowed to wear an IRA medal at a graduation ceremony for the PSNI,” the UUP Assembly member said.

“It is highly insensitive given the history of the Police and their respected role in holding the line against the IRA over many years here. It is also grossly insulting to the families of many policemen and women who were murdered or maimed by the IRA.

“I am calling on the PSNI to ensure that this situation never happens again. They must take action to ensure that medals worn are appropriate, legitimate and obviously not of a paramilitary or terrorist nature.”

'Slopping out' breach of rights

BBC

A former inmate's claim that "slopping out" breached the European Human Rights Convention has been upheld in the High Court in Belfast.

Justin John Martin, 33, from east Belfast, won a declaration that the Prison Service failed to adequately respect his right to private life.

Mr Martin said the lack of in-cell facilities was "degrading".

A claim for damages was dismissed, but the Service was ordered to pay his costs, estimated at more than £100,000.

During last month's 10-day hearing Mr Justice Girvan heard when prisoners at the County Londonderry jail were locked in their cells at night they had to use a chamber pot and "slop out" in the morning.

Mr Justice Girvan said he was satisfied the Prison Service did not set out to "deliberately humiliate or demean" prisoners and the failure of the system was a failure to appreciate the obligation to carry out a focused enquiry in regard to prisoners' human rights.

He said the effect of his judgement would be a review of all aspects of the current arrangements.

'Parliament misled'

Dismissing the claim for damages, the judge said there was no evidence Mr Martin had suffered from any ill-health as a result of the lack of hygiene.

He said that he could not lose sight of the financial consequences of even a modest award in view of the large number of prisoners going through Magilligan.

"The court must strike a balance between the rights of the individual and the public interest," he said.

"In the circumstances, the granting of declaratory relief represents a just satisfaction and adequate remedy for the plaintiff."

In the course of his written judgement, Mr Justice Girvan said Parliament had been misled when MPs were told that "slopping out" was no longer required in prisons in Northern Ireland and that chamberpots were used only for emergencies at Magilligan.

He said it was regrettable that no senior officer within the Prison Service was prepared to take responsibility for providing this erroneous information.

In a statement the Prison Service said it was "giving careful consideration" to the judgement.

Hain paves way for transfer of policing

Belfast Telegraph

By Chris Thornton
06 January 2006

The Government is about to lay the ground work for Northern Ireland to get its own Minister for policing and justice.

Legislation giving Secretary of State Peter Hain the power to transfer responsibility for justice to Stormont will go before Parliament next month.

Mr Hain will retain those powers until Stormont can be restored, but the new law will allow him to turn them over with the stroke of a pen.

Government sources say the "enabling legislation" will be accompanied by a discussion paper about what the transfer of powers will mean, such as the possible shape of a Stormont Department of Justice.

The move is seen as a crucial building block for efforts to restore power sharing at Stormont, because Sinn Fein says it will not consider support for the PSNI until they have a hand in policing powers.

Sinn Fein says it needs to see legislation and a specific time frame for handing over policing powers before it holds a special ard fheis to consider supporting the PSNI.

The Government is hoping to begin talks in the next few months about restoring Stormont.

A central part of those talks will be the shape of a Justice Ministry - especially since the DUP and Sinn Fein are unlikely to trust each other to run the department on their own.

When the power-sharing Executive was established by the Good Friday Agreement, policing and justice powers were left out of the functions handed over to the Belfast administration.

Those powers were retained by the NIO throughout the period of devolution, which collapsed in 2002.

Unionists have generally supported the idea of transferring powers to Belfast, but are extremely wary of ending up with a Justice Minister who has a history of IRA involvement.

How Airey Neave's plan for Ulster came true

Belfast Telegraph

Eric Waugh
06 January 2006

During the lovely crisp weather we had over Christmas, we took ourselves off one day, far from the smoke. We stopped for lunch at a country hotel in Co Antrim.

"Nice place," said my son-in-law, as he looked round the galleried hall. "But a bit chilly."

"Yes," I said. "That gas fire's a poor substitute for the big log fire they always used to have."

"You know it then? " said he.

"Yes," I said, "from long ago. Popular spot for functions. This is the place I first interviewed Margaret Thatcher."

In fact the interview in question was in the summer of 1978.

It was during James Callaghan's premiership and Mrs Thatcher was still Leader of the Opposition, getting to know the country which, within a matter of months, she would govern.

Behind the lady, as we sat down, hovered a figure in tweeds with a lively, well-fleshed face. He had a sheaf of papers in one hand and it was he who had ushered us into the empty bedroom where the camera was set up.

His name was Airey Middleton Sheffield Neave, DSO, OBE, MC, TD, MP, old Etonian and a lawyer. He was wounded while serving with the Artillery in France in 1940, was taken prisoner but, in 1942, escaped from the reputedly escape-proof Colditz Castle in Saxony, disguised as a German officer.

When he got back to London, Churchill put him in charge of MI9, the new security office which was to organise the escape lines from Germany and France along which 35,000 Allied aircrew travelled to freedom. The system worked - brilliantly - because Neave knew all the tricks.

After the war, Neave practised as a barrister - at one time in the same chambers as Margaret Thatcher; he won the Abingdon seat near Oxford in a by-election in 1953 and later attached himself to the Thatcher camp, using his cunning to destroy Heath after his election defeat in 1974, and to win for the lady the Conservative leadership.

As a reward Mrs Thatcher made him head of her private office and eventually Shadow Northern Ireland Secretary. His talents, though, were those he had developed in his distinguished wartime past: he was a plotter - and he was widely distrusted, even by many in his own party.

No doubt Mrs Thatcher felt his expertise in undercover work would fit him to take on the terrorists in Ulster. As such, he became a prime target for the wildest wing of the republican movement, the INLA, which is credited with placing the bomb in Neave's Vauxhall in the MPs' car park in the shadow of Big Ben, beneath the forecourt of Palace Yard.

When he drove his car up the ramp on March 30, 1979, the mercury in the tilt switch moved and activated the bomb. He died at once.

Inevitably, the nature of Neave's political ideas and his continuing close contact with the murky world of military intelligence led to speculation that the INLA murder had not been unassisted by sinister figures in the shadows. The CIA?

He was an unashamed integrationist and he made no secret of it.

His blueprint for Northern Ireland was anathema to Washington and to the Whitelaw wing in his own party. For Neave intended to resurrect the old machinery of local government by recreating the county councils.

They would have had restored the enhanced powers over schools, public health, housing, roads and other things they had lost. Otherwise Northern Ireland affairs would be represented at the centre in Westminster by its MPs and through the machinery of parliamentary committees. Stormont would have ceased to matter.

But neither major party at Westminster wanted integration. At bottom they were interested in means of divesting themselves of their Irish entanglement, not in devices which would cement it more firmly within the national structure.

So Neave's murder, however callous it may be to say it, was timely for many people other than the terrorists of the INLA. But Mrs Thatcher was cut to the quick and took the outrage very personally. Her own security was at once intensified.

Six years later she signed the Anglo-Irish Agreement she thought, rather naively, would yield meaningful security concessions from Dublin.

The ultimate irony is that at this moment Northern Ireland is to be governed in most essentials just as he would have proposed. The county councils are to be brought back, old powers restored.

Stormont is nowhere and decisions of moment are taken in the House of Commons. True, we do have our Direct Rule Ministers: but they are cardboard figures who come and go, knowing that their Stormont visits are but a diverting interlude, a taste of office they otherwise might not have enjoyed.

Neave, whose outfit provided the packs of cards for prisoners-of-war which, when dipped in water, revealed detailed maps of escape routes, and Monopoly and chess boards which contained tiny compasses, German marks and forged passes, might well have reckoned it his crowning coup.

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