21 January 2006

Historical cases let friends reminisce over good old days

Daily Ireland

Comment

21/01/2006

Image Hosted by ImageShack.us

I’m all for the Trevors investigating cold cases. The Historical Enquiries Team has started looking into murders that took place during the Troubles and that remained unsolved.

The team hasn’t wasted any time getting down to work. In fact, it has already completed its first interview of a suspect, which went very well, as this transcript shows.

Serious Crime Suite, Antrim Barracks, Friday, January 20. Interviewing officer: Detective Superinspector Trevor Simpson-Gibson. Suspect: Sammy “Knuckles” McClurg, alleged UDA brigadier and Shankill Road community worker.

Gibson: Interview begins 4.22pm. Just for the record, could you state your full name and address, please.

McClurg: Feck sake, Gibber. Are you joking or what? You weren’t asking me my name when we were in Fuengirola in July, and you knew my address when you called up for a game of poker on Saturday night.

Gibson: Ahem, yes, well… maybe we’d better skip that bit. I have here a picture of a Catholic man murdered in his bed by the UDA in July 1993. Have you seen this man before?

McClurg: Yes, you’ve got me bang to rights on that one.

Gibson: When and where did you see him?

McClurg: First time was when you gave me that picture a week before we whacked him. First time in the flesh was when you pointed him out to me when you drove me past his house.

Gibson: Look, Sammy… I mean, Mr McClurg, let’s just remember that this is all being taped. Fair enough? Now, where were you on the night of July 18, 1993?

McClurg: In the PSNI social club with you. Night at the Races, remember? You got pissed and got up on the table and sang The Billy Boys.

Gibson: What about later on, around 1.30am?

McClurg: Hmm, let’s see. Oh yes, we went and nicked a Vauxhall and decided to top yer man there in the picture. You weren’t with us, though. I can remember that clearly.

Gibson: Great, you’ll swear to that in court, won’t you?

McClurg: Certainly will. I wouldn’t tell lies about you Gibber. You were in the scout car in front of us.

Gibson: Let me ask you now about the shooting itself. We’ve been reviewing fingerprints found on a Smith and Wesson .38 that we recovered during a raid on a house in the Shankill three days after the murder. What would you say if I told you that we have now identified those fingerprints as yours?

McClurg: I’d say that’s very likely seeing as how you gave it to me in the bogs in the social club that night. You might find yours on it too.

Gibson: We’ve been speaking to a witness who will say that he saw you burning the getaway car and running off with a gun in your hand and wearing a balaclava.

McClurg: That nosey wee bastard in No 32, wasn’t it?

Gibson: Yes, but don’t you be going round there and annoying him now.

McClurg: You know me, Gibber.

Gibson: Yes, now, let me see… I want you now to look at this picture. It’s a still from a video of two masked men sitting at a desk with a Union jack tablecloth and two handguns. The men are reading out a statement claiming responsibility for the murder and warning of more attacks. That’s you on the right, isn’t it, Mr McClurg?

McClurg: Of course it is, Gibber, and that’s you on the left. Look at your big ears sticking out, ye blurt ye, and you didn’t even bother to take off your glasses.

Gibson: I’m looking at an intelligence file on you and, according to this, you killed your first Catholic for the UDA in September 1977.

McClurg: I deny that. I reject that completely.

Gibson: You do, eh?

McClurg: Bloody right I do. That was a UDR job. I didn’t join the UDA for another 18 months.

Gibson: How can you be so sure?

McClurg: Because you swore me in, Gibber, and then we went to your brother’s caravan in Portrush and got millered for the weekend. Happy days or what?

Gibson: I want to ask you now about how your standard of living fits in with the fact that you’re a voluntary community worker and you sign on the dole. Do you deny that you have a condo in South Beach, Miami?

McClurg: Now wouldn’t that be stupid, Gibber, when I lent it to you and Pamela for a fortnight last month?

Gibson: I have before me a portfolio of properties that you own in south Belfast, north Down, Donegal and Dublin.

McClurg: I know you have. I faxed it to you when you asked me the other night if I’d anywhere nice you could go for Easter.

Gibson: What about the Lamborghini, the Rolls-Royce, the his and hers Mitsubishi Shoguns, the Honda Fireblade and the Jet Skis?

McClurg: You do look good in the Roller, Gibber. I can’t deny it. If you’re asking me where I got them, it was by selling Long Kesh hankies. You know it, Gibber. You’ve got one framed above your fireplace. Beside the Michael Stone picture.

Gibson: I have here in front of me a sworn statement from a well-known builder who claims that you met him in a hut on a building site on the Shankill and demanded money from him with menaces. Do you want me to read out what you said you’d do if he didn’t give you a grand a week?

McClurg: That I’d send you round to sort him out?

Gibson: No, you said that you’d break his legs and shoot his workers.

McClurg: See, that’s where you’re wrong, Gibber. I said I’d shoot his legs and burn his workers. What is this, amateur hour?

Gibson: Mr McClurg, I must warn you that, with the information that we have gathered up to now and on the basis of what I’ve heard here today, I will be recommending that you be brought in again and questioned further about these matters.

McClurg: Bring your boss in the next time. I want to talk to him about an investment opportunity in Cyprus.

Gibson: Interview terminated 5.11pm.

McClurg: Thank feck for that. Fancy a quick one in the Black and Decker Arms, Gibber?


Belfast City Hall may see tribute in stained glass to James Connolly

Daily Ireland

By Ciarán Barnes

21/01/2006

A stained-glass window commemorating the life of Easter Rising leader James Connolly could be erected in Belfast’s City Hall.
The city council’s policy and resources committee is preparing a report on the proposal and a series of others to commemorate the 1916 Rising, all made by Sinn Féin.
The party has agreed to back plans by unionists to stage a series of events to commemorate the 90th anniversary of the Battle of the Somme, in which thousands of Belfast men lost their lives. In return, Sinn Féin councillors have asked unionists not to oppose the Easter Rising commemoration plans.
Before moving to Dublin, James Connolly played a key role in the formation of trade unions in Belfast and the development of workers’ rights. Sinn Féin councillor Fra McCann said that, for this alone, he should be honoured in City Hall.
“James Connolly was a champion of the rights of all workers in Belfast,” said Mr McCann.
“He worked for people across the religious and class divide, and he firmly believed too that the way to improve the rights of workers was through British disengagement and the unification of Ireland. As a man who made a great contribution to Belfast, he deserves be honoured in the City Hall.”
A plaque marking Connolly’s stay in the city is mounted at the front of his old home on the Falls Road in west Belfast.
If a stained-glass window commemorating his achievements is fitted in City Hall, this would be the first monument to a republican to go up in the famous building, which celebrates its centenary this year.
Last April, an image of Theobald Wolfe Tone, one of the leaders of the United Irish rebellion of 1898, was included in a portrait of former SDLP mayor Martin Morgan. The inclusion of the Protestant republican leader angered hardline unionists, who called for the painting to be removed.

‘No confidence’ in team

Daily Ireland

By Connla Young

21/01/2006


British soldiers opened fire on the car Meehan and Maguire were travelling in - BBC photo from >this story

The daughter of a woman murdered almost 35 years ago by the British army has said she has no faith that her killers will be brought to justice by the Historical Enquiries Team.
Margaret Kennedy’s mother Maura Meehan was shot dead along with the mother’s 19-year-old sister Dorothy Maguire as they travelled in the back of a car at Cape Street near west Belfast’s Falls Road in October 1971.
The women were travelling in the back of a car during a period of severe unrest. Local people had warned that British troops were entering nationalist areas of Belfast. No one has ever been convicted of the killings.
Mrs Kennedy said her family continued to demand justice despite the passage of time.
The west Belfast woman was just nine years old when her mother and aunt were murdered. She said she believed the inquiries team would not deliver the truth for her family.
“All we want is truth and justice. If these people were independent and not part of the PSNI, I would have more confidence but this is about the British government investigating themselves.
“The Historical Enquiries Team are part of the PSNI and that says it all.
“If there was an independent body brought in, with no connections to the British government, then that would be a different matter.
“The British government hasn’t been too interested in revealing the truth to us or pursuing justice over the past 35 years, so why would they start now? This is a poor replacement for the real thing.”
At the time the two women were killed, the British army claimed that soldiers had been fired on from the car in which the women were travelling. This claim was later discredited.
Mrs Kennedy said the pain of her family’s loss remained vivid to this day.
“I was nine when my mother and aunt were murdered, and I remember it like it was today.
“Unfortunately it’s just close family members that remember what happened and that’s because there has been so many murdered over the years,” she said.
“Should I live to be 150, the loss will stay with me.
“My mother was 30 years old and had four children when she was murdered.
“As the only girl in the house, from that day on I became a mother.
“My father Jim died just 18 years later at 48 with a broken heart.
“Nobody has ever been convicted of the murder of my mother and aunt.
“If these people come to me, I will politely tell them that I have no confidence in them to bring my mother’s British army murderers to justice.”
Mark Thompson of the Belfast-based group Relatives for Justice repeated his call for an independent international inquiry.
“They have got the idea right and this goes halfway but they can’t allow people who are responsible for the government to investigate its activities,” he said.

Gardaí criticise justice minister

Daily Ireland

21/01/2006

Justice minister Michael McDowell is “hoodwinking” the public into accepting a police force that is not properly trained, the Garda Representative Association (GRA) warned yesterday.
PJ Stone of the association said Mr McDowell’s plans for a 4,000-strong unpaid volunteer Garda reserve force was a smokescreen to disguise the failure to equip and resource the Garda force properly.
“This is a smokescreen, as far as we are concerned, in relation to a force that is not being properly resourced.
“There are members of the force going out on duty, and the feedback from our annual general meetings is that they are actually concerned for their own safety, and the best response from this minister is to introduce a reserve force,” Mr Stone said.
“The reality on the ground, even taking into account the numbers of people being introduced into the force, is that there are simply not enough members of the force to be detailed for duty.”
He said Mr McDowell’s response to bring in a reserve force was an admission there were not enough fully qualified members of the Garda to do the job.
Mr Stone said Mr McDowell was trying to “hoodwink” the general public into accepting a force that was not properly trained.
Mr McDowell had earlier called on Garda associations – including the Association of Garda Superintendents – to back him over plans for a 4,000-strong volunteer Garda reserve force.
The minister claimed the force had to change in order to prosper.

Certificates for translators

Daily Ireland

by Ciarán O’Neill

21/01/2006

The first ever accreditation system for Irish-English translators was launched in Dublin yesterday.
A panel of trained translators will be created through the initiative. They will be available to do translation work for organisations within the public and private sectors.
Foras na Gaeilge set up the new system at the request of Gaeltacht affairs minister Éamon Ó Cuív.
Established in 1999 as part of the Good Friday Agreement, Foras na Gaeilge is responsible for encouraging the use of the Irish language in the Republic and the North.
Speaking at yesterday’s launch, Foras na Gaeilge chief executive Seosamh Mac Donncha said linguistic challenges were increasing as the Irish language continued to evolve.
“The enactment of the Official Languages Act and the increased popularity experienced by the Irish language in recent times has placed a greater need for translators,” he said.
“This innovative accreditation system will ensure high standards in the translation industry while safeguarding the reputation of competent translators.
“The system is primarily for the benefit of individual translators and aims to make a panel of accredited translators available to the public sector.
“The system will ensure a professional translation service of the highest standard.”
Mr Mac Donncha said his organisation was delighted to be involved with this pioneering system for the Irish-English translation sector.
“The standard of translation is already high in Ireland, with the majority of translators being very dedicated to the language. An accreditation system will help ensure standards are met,” he said.
The new initiative will include an accreditation certificate. This will be awarded to translators who reach a level of excellence.
As a first step in testing the standard, an examination will be held in February 2006 and at regular intervals subsequently.
A panel of accredited translators will be established and will be available to the public and private sectors by May 2006.

McKevitts clarify conviction period

Daily Ireland

21/01/2006

The relatives of Michael McKevitt, who was convicted of directing the Real IRA, have told Daily Ireland that the 55-year-old’s conviction did not cover the time of the Omagh bombing.
The clarification followed a story in Thursday’s Daily Ireland in which we revealed that relatives of the Omagh bombing victims were seeking a meeting with the head of MI5.
In a statement released to Daily Ireland, the McKevitt and Sands families said: “It was reported in Daily Ireland (Thursday, January 19 edition) that Michael McKevitt was ‘convicted of directing terrorism at the time of Omagh’. This is factually inaccurate.
“Unfortunately, this is not the first time the media have carried false and misleading reports about Michael. Therefore we feel it is necessary for us to clarify. The period that Michael was convicted of was September 1999 to October 2000 — over a year later than the date of the bombing.”

Comments on ‘killing’ spark row

Daily Ireland

By Ciarán Barnes

21/01/2006

An SDLP assembly member has been branded “insensitive” after he described a west Belfast suicide as a “killing”.
On Thursday evening, Shankill Road man Joseph Croft blasted himself with a shotgun.
He died in hospital several hours later.
The 22-year-old is believed to have shot himself after breaking up with his girlfriend.
Yesterday afternoon, Belfast West SDLP assembly member Alex Attwood released a statement on the incident in which he “condemned” the “Shankill killing”.
Mr Attwood want on to refer to it as a “terrible thing”, “shocking”, and a “horrendous event”.
Shankill community workers immediately condemned the SDLP man’s description of the events. They accused him of making political capital out of the situation.
Chris McGimpsey, a former Ulster Unionist Party councillor for the area, said Mr Attwood should get his facts right.
“This was not a feud killing. It had absolutely nothing to do with any paramilitary organisation.
“The SDLP is trying to make capital out of what is a tragic situation.
“This young lad died by his own hand.
“Politicians should be expressing condolences at this time instead of making clearly political statements,” he said.
Mr Attwood was unavailable for further comment.
Democratic Unionist Party assembly member Diane Dodds, who represents the Shankill area, offered her condolences to the Croft family.
“I am sorry to hear that a family finds itself grieving today and my thoughts go out to them,” she said.
Friends of Mr Croft told how his former partner, thought to be in her late teens, was devastated by what had happened.
One said yesterday: “They had fallen out and she moved back in with her family.
“Joe phoned her last night and said he was going to shoot himself.
“She got her stepfather to go round to his house, and they think he was still alive when they arrived.”

Bail is granted to leading loyalist

Daily Ireland

By Ciarán Barnes

21/01/2006

A leading north Belfast loyalist was bailed yesterday despite PSNI chiefs warning his return to the streets could spark violence.
As part of his £5,000 (€7,290) bail conditions Mark Haddock, who is charged with attempting to murder pub doorman Trevor Gowdy, has been barred from entering the council areas of Belfast, Newtownabbey, Carrick, Larne, Ards, North Down and Lisburn.
He is to reside at a secret address, has to surrender his expired passport, report twice daily to police, observe a 7pm curfew and an alcohol ban.
Opposing bail in Belfast’s Crown Court, PSNI Detective Inspector James Templeton predicted the loyalist would “instigate or be the victim of violence” if released.
Mr Templeton said the PSNI’s Assistant Chief Constable, Sam Kinkaid shared this view, revealing he had spoken with him by telephone about the loyalist on Thursday.
Despite these concerns Judge Anthony Hart agreed to Mr Haddock’s bail, based mainly on the fact that the accused has been remanded in custody on the charges since August 2003.
Until his release yesterday the 36-year-old had currently been the longest-serving remand prisoner in the North.
His return to the streets sparked immediate fears of a fresh outbreak of internal loyalist feuding.
Up until his jailing in August 2003, Mark Haddock was one of the most high-profile loyalists in the Mount Vernon area of north Belfast – an Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) stronghold.
During his time in prison the north Belfast man has been plagued by rumours that he is a PSNI informer.
The informer claims have led to speculation that he could targeted for murder.
During his time in prison he received a number of death threats and spent months in isolation for his own protection.
The attempted murder charges Haddock faces relate to an attack on former boxing champion Trevor Gowdy outside a social club on the outskirts of north Belfast in December 2002.
Mr Gowdy was beaten with cudgels and stabbed repeatedly and left for dead.
Traces of Haddock’s blood were found at the scene. Defence lawyers claimed the accused had found Mr Gowdy outside the club and was trying to help him.
His trial began last November but was adjourned after Mr Gowdy was deemed emotionally unfit to give evidence.
Currently undergoing psychiatric treatment, Mr Gowdy is expected to be fit to return to the witness box in May.
In court yesterday Mark Haddock’s legal team revealed that when the trial resumes they will seek leave to have the prosecution stayed.
Darren Moore, a close friend of the accused, who was also charged with attempting to murder Mr Gowdy, successfully applied to have the prosecution case against him stayed.

Hogg confronted over MI5 killing

Daily Ireland

21/01/2006

Former Conservative Home office minister Douglas Hogg has admitted he was privately briefed by RUC Special Branch on multiple occasions in the run up to the murder of Belfast solicitor Pat Finucane.
Douglas Hogg QC made the startling comments during a trip to Belfast this week to act as legal representative at the inquest into the death a British intelligence soldier, shot during a training exercise at Ballykinlar army base.
Members of anti-collusion group An Fhírinne and the murdered solicitor’s son John yesterday confronted the Tory MP about his comments as the inquest into the death of 42-year-old Warrant Officer Harry White came to a close.
Just weeks before the 1989 murder of Belfast solicitor Pat Finucane the Conservative MP told the House of Commons that some solicitors in the North were “unduly sympathetic” to the cause of the IRA.
He later went on to become a member of Margaret Thatcher’s cabinet.
His comments in the House of Commons were investigated by John Stevens during his report into alleged collusion between security forces and loyalist paramilitaries.
In reference to his questioning by the Stevens team, Douglas Hogg revealed this week that he had had so many meetings about Pat Finucane it would have been “impossible for me to remember them all”.
Mr Stevens later concluded that Mr Hogg’s comments had “not been justified” when the then minister made them during a Commons debate on anti-terrorism legislation on January 17, 1989.
Pat Finucane was gunned down by loyalists in his north Belfast home on February 12, 1989. Douglas Hogg, who was a Home Office junior minister at the time, later said he had made the comments after a briefing by RUC members.
During a break in the inquest proceedings this week, he admitted that he had been unable to recall the dates and times of the secret RUC briefings when asked by John Stevens because the meetings had been so frequent.
The former minister added that he had had to refer back to his parliamentary diaries to confirm the details of his meetings with RUC Special Branch.
The Tory MP was this week acting as Queen’s Counsel for the family of the late sergeant Harry White, who was fatally wounded during a live-fire exercise at Ballykinler army base.
As coroner David Hunter yesterday concluded his judgment on Mr White’s death, protesters holding pictures of Pat Finucane confronted Douglas Hogg.
The MP for Sleaford and North Hykeham looked shocked and stunned as the protesters called out: “What about justice for Pat Finucane?” and “Do you still stand by your comments?” from the public gallery of the Old Town Hall courthouse in Belfast.
Court officials led Mr Hogg out a back door of the courthouse.
Speaking outside the court, Pat Finucane’s son John said it was time for the Conservative MP to come clean about his private meetings with RUC Special Branch in the run up to the Belfast solicitor’s murder.
“We have never been given answers by Douglas Hogg about his briefings with the RUC,” said John Finucane.
“He has never apologised or even recognised the impact that his comments had and the distress they caused my family.
“I think it says a lot about his lack of remorse that he is willing to come to Belfast and practise law in the very place where a solicitor was killed following his inflammatory comments.”

Sri Lanka 'can learn from Irish peace'

Aljazeera.Net

Wednesday 18 January 2006, 18:28 Makka Time, 15:28 GMT

Image Hosted by ImageShack.us
McGuinness was once a senior member of the IRA

Sri Lanka can learn from the Northern Irish peace process as it tries to avoid a return to civil war, a former senior member of the Irish Republican Army (IRA) has said.

Martin McGuinness, now a negotiator in the Sinn Fein political party, was asked by a local pro-peace group to visit Sri Lanka after a string of attacks by suspected Tamil Tiger rebel on government troops raised fears that a 2002 truce might fail.

"Just travelling around the streets here, what do I see on every street I go? I see policemen, soldiers, checkpoints. It just reminds me of what life was like in the north of Ireland over 10 years ago", he told Reuters in an interview in Colombo, Sri Lanka's capital.

"Now, thankfully, we've moved away from all that. It was over a period of time people came to the assessment there had to be a political solution to the conflict."

In July, the IRA - responsible for half the 3600 deaths caused by bombs and shootings during the "troubles" as it fought for a united Ireland and an end to British rule - said it was downing its arms after 1990s ceasefires and a 1998 peace accord.

"The IRA have said ... that it's over now to the politicians -- it's their responsibility to sort it out," said McGuinness, who says he was once a senior member of the IRA but is now solely with their political ally, Sinn Fein.

"They've effectively left the stage and it's our duty and our responsibility to now tie up the pieces."

Military stalemate

Image Hosted by ImageShack.us
LTTE supremo Prabhakaran only rarely appears in public

A power-sharing provincial government in which Sinn Fein and Unionist parties that want to remain part of Britain would sit together has been on ice since 2002, hampered by deep distrust between the two sides, but while some communal violence has continued paramilitary attacks have largely ceased.

The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) - whose two-decade-long fight for a separate homeland for the Island’s Tamils has seen over 64,000 dead on both sides - also say they want peace and deny recent attacks, but few believe them and analysts say the rebels have used the ceasefire to rearm and prepare again for war.

But McGuinness said just as both the IRA and the British Army had eventually realised they could not defeat each other militarily, the LTTE's fight for a homeland could not be won in battle.

"My assessment is that the Sri Lankan Army will never defeat the Tamil Tigers and the Tamil Tigers will never defeat the Sri Lankan Army," he said. "So what's the next step? It has to be a negotiated settlement. It's very stark."

Vemue for talks

Face-to-face meetings between Tony Blair, the British prime minister and Gerry Adams, the Sinn Fein leader, had been key to the 1998 Good Friday agreement, he said, and direct contact between Mahinda Rajapakse, the Sri Lankan president and Velupillai Prabhakaran, the LTTE leader, might also help.

But with the shadowy guerrilla leader only rarely appearing in public and leaving the task of carrying out overseas negotiations to others, few see a meeting as likely. So far, the two sides cannot agree a venue for talks.

"Any hang-up that people may have about the venue for talks ... should be quickly dispelled," he said, saying early Sinn Fein visits to Downing Street had been like going into the lion's den. "These things have to be done and people have to take risks for peace if there is to be any risk of success."

Reuters

Retired police 'escape probes'

Belfast Telegraph

By Michael McHugh
20 January 2006

Former police officers are escaping investigation by the Police Ombudsman's office because they have retired, human rights lobbyists claimed today.

The legal loophole allows retired officers to refuse co-operation with Nuala O'Loan's office and has been highlighted as the stream of complaints about Troubles incidents continues.

Jane Winter from the British/Irish Rights Watch pressure group said the matter needed to be pursued.

"Many of the incidents which the Ombudsman investigated are looking at cases which are very old and involve retired officers," she said.

"At the minute these officers are retired and are beyond the reach of the Ombudsman's office."

Hogg is challenged on Finucane stance

Belfast Telegraph

Protest group demands answer

By Andrea Clements
21 January 2006

A former Tory minister has been heckled in a Belfast courtroom by an anti-collusion group demanding to know whether he stands over controversial comments he made before the death of Pat Finucane.

Douglas Hogg, QC, was in Northern Ireland yesterday to represent the widow of a soldier, Michael White, at his inquest when members of AnFhirinne (Irish for Truth) held up placards of the murdered solicitor and asked the barrister to outline his stance.

The group says it is wrong that the former Home Office minister sought justice for the White family after stating in the House of Commons in January 1989 during a debate over the prevention of Terrorism Act that some lawyers in Northern Ireland were unduly sympathetic to the IRA.

Mr Finucane was shot dead the following month.

Members of the campaign group AnFhirinne shouted: "Do you remember a statement in the House of Commons about some solicitors being unduly sympathetic (to the IRA)?

"Do you still stand by those remarks, Mr Hogg?"

But the MP, who was a Home Office minister in 1989, made no reply as he left by a rear door.

Former Scotland Yard chief Sir John Stevens, who investigated allegations that the security forces collaborated with Ulster Defence Association killers, found that Mr Hogg had been compromised by RUC officers who briefed him before his statement.

But relatives of Mr Finucane, who insist police were involved in the plot, remain incensed by what was said.

His son John, a trainee solicitor, said that he was appalled at Mr Hogg's court visit to Belfast.

"He has treated my family with complete disdain and he has never offered an apology.

"My father was an officer of court in this jurisdiction and I find it galling that Mr Hogg was over here practising.

"Hopefully he will have to face a full and an independent public inquiry where he will have to account for what was said."

AnFhirinne spokesman Robert McClenaghan said his group's protest, which had not started until official legal proceedings had been completed, had been peaceful.

"We were highlighting in particular the death of Pat Finucane and hundreds of cases of collusion at the highest British government level."

DUP to reveal talks blueprint

Belfast Telegraph

By Noel McAdam
21 January 2006

DUP leader Ian Paisley is to table his party's devolution blueprint with Tony Blair next week, it was confirmed last night.

A DUP delegation is due to meet Mr Blair at Downing Street on Tuesday afternoon to outline its proposals which fall short of a fully-fledged Executive and have already been rebuffed by Sinn Fein and the SDLP.

Under the plan it is understood Assembly members would be allowed to scrutinise decisions by Direct Rule Ministers and have some role in relation to Northern Ireland legislation.

Mr Paisley said his party's paper, entitled 'Facing Reality ... The Best way Forward' is a realistic way of ensuring "the foundation of good government".

Meanwhile, Sinn Fein leaders were due to meet in Dublin today to debate their strategy to attempt to ensure "substantive progress" over the next few months.

Joined by a number of activists, the party's executive (ard chomhairle) was also involved in involved in electoral preparations, both north and south, and a national recruitment campaign.

It has also emerged Ulster Unionists have submitted their own blueprint urging Mr Blair to set a date for recall of the Assembly in the next six months - and amend legislation so members can vote on structures short of full devolution.

Their envisaged interim arrangements at Stormont, which would then be collapsed for the next Assembly election in May next year, include an Assembly with legislative functions - dealing with Northern Ireland Bills, for example - rather than becoming another "talking shop".

In what it is calling "modular devolution", the party argues the Government is going to have to make a judgment call on whether a return of the Stormont Executive is likely.

Sinn Féin calls for end to political deadlock

BreakingNews.ie

21/01/2006 - 12:32:31

Sinn Féin today called for an end to the deadlock in Northern Ireland politics and said it was time the DUP joined the party in Government at Stormont.

Gerry Adams described the current impasse as farcical and warned that the political institutions and the Good Friday Agreement faced a decisive year.

The Sinn Féin President said the IRA’s decision to end its armed struggle had created the conditions to move the peace process forward and end British Direct Rule in the province.

Mr Adams said: “Sinn Féin is ready for progress and ready for the challenge of serving in Government with the DUP.

“We have told the Governments that republican initiatives have created new conditions for progress and that the onus is now on them to advance the process and re-establish the political institutions.”

The West Belfast MP said it was unacceptable that the current assembly, which was elected in November 2003, had never met.

Mr Adams added: “The stalemate cannot continue.

“There needs to be a genuine effort to end it in the months ahead.

“2006 will be a make-or-break year for the institutions and the Good Friday Agreement.”

Special meeting of the Sinn Féin leadership to take place in Dublin this weekend

Sinn Féin

Published: 20 January, 2006

A special meeting of the Sinn Féin leadership is taking place in the Regency Hotel in Dublin this weekend.

The party's Ard Chomhairle, along with key activists from across the island, are coming together to agree the party's key priorities and work programme for the coming year. This will include electoral preparations, north and south, a national recruitment campaign and a series of initiatives to challenge the inadequacies of the Irish government's social and economic policies.

The party leadership will also discuss the current state of the peace process and the party's strategy for ensuring that substantive progress is made in the next few months.

Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams will be available to talk to the media at 12 noon tomorrow, Saturday 21th January, at the Regency Hotel, Swords Road, Dublin 9.

Allegations of IRA moles in RTE and Govt. offices

Southern Star

DO you know that RTÉ has two senior executives who are also members of the IRA? Or that there are 200 IRA moles in Government departments up to and including the Taoiseach's office? Or that three lecturers in a Dublin college for journalism are poisoning the minds of young people with Sinn Féin propaganda?

Certainly Johnny Laird, a Unionist peer, believes such to be the case and before Christmas, under the protection of parliamentary privilege, said so in the British House of Lords. Laird, who goes under the amusing title of Lord Laird, has a reputation for making slanderous allegations against people with whom he disagrees, knowing that House of Lords privilege ensures that those who are publicly abused have no recourse to protect their reputation.

He has previously named journalists and academics as "republican sympathisers" and made a string of other allegations against leading members of Sinn Féin. He says he bases his remarks on information supplied by the Gardaí and clearly enjoys the cushion of parliamentary privilege, a procedure that he used when he targeted Frank Connolly's Public Inquiry Centre as a “Sinn Féin intelligence gathering operation”. He did that some time before our own Justice Minister destroyed in a cowardly fashion Connolly's livelihood and reputation, also with the assistance of the comfort blanket of parliamentary rights.

Under House of Lords and Oireachtas privilege, individuals who are pilloried by public representatives in the Dáil or Westminster cannot resort to legal action to clear their names although it is considered bad constitutional precedent to identify people without serious corroborating evidence.

Amazingly, the Unionist Peer of the British Realm claims the proof for his assertion that RTÉ has been infiltrated by "extreme republican sympathisers" lies in the highly negative reaction by sections of the media, in particular RTÉ, against the Minister for Justice, Michael McDowell. "It is not a coincidence", he said, "that instead of being lauded for his anti-republican speeches, Minister McDowell has found himself the subject of vilification in the Irish media."

A bemused RTÉ said they did not know who Laird was referring to, or what incidents he was using as alleged corroborative evidence. It suggested that if he had a problem he should contact the Broadcasting Complaints Commission. In response, Laird vowed to name the RTÉ men in the House of Lords the first chance he got.

Interestingly, while most sections of the Irish media considered his attack on RTÉ as the ravings of a loony lord, the Sunday Independent published Laird's comments in full, even going so far as to repeat the names of the three lecturers he slandered – a move that may or may not have had something to do with the fact that he is a public relations consultant for Independent Newspapers!

For someone who can't stand anything with a republican tinge Laird, a former advisor to David Trimble, has no problem accepting money from Irish republicans; from Minister Éamon Ó Cuív, in particular. From 1998 to 2004 he fronted the Ulster-Scots Agency, an organisation he set up to promote the Ulster-Scots 'language'. The agency is funded by grants from the Northern Ireland Department of Culture and Ó Cuív's Department of Gaeltacht Affairs and has a budget of over two million euros, a quarter of which comes from the Irish government.

Oddly enough, no one had heard of the Scots-Ulster 'language' before Laird resurrected it in 1998, although linguists argued that something approximating a Scottish dialect was known to exist in darkest Antrim but that it had absolutely nothing in common with Scots Gaelic. They described it as a kind of 'make it up as you go-along' jargon – or as a civil servant in Ó Cuív’s department sarcastically told this scribe: "it’s English spoken with a Ballymena accent, drunken Prod gibberish".

In 2004 Laird resigned from the Ulster-Scots Agency shortly before British government auditors sharply criticised it for excessive spending on entertainment, ‘research’ into Orange lodges in Ghana and for ‘festive events’ during the marching season. Its budget was cut by £600,000, prompting Laird to complain that the British and Irish governments were betraying Protestant culture. He defended his own bill of £692 for taxis to Dublin as due to a concern about his personal security which he linked to his practice of wearing a kilt!

Some years ago Hugh Oram wrote a book about Irish newspapers. In it, newspapers like Sir Anto's organ, the Sunday Independent, were seen through rose-tinted glasses. He presented a cheerful, fair-minded world in which hacks were renowned for their meticulous care with news and comment as they documented Ireland's cultural, political and social progress – light years away from the Sindo's scurrilous depiction of the lady injured in the car crash that killed Liam Lawlor as a "prostitute".

One wonders what Mr. Oram now thinks of the onslaught on the new newspaper, Daily Ireland, not yet a year old. The Sindo sneered at it for daring to call itself a 'national newspaper'; for its 'whingeing editorials', its absence of 'government' advertising, its ‘low’ circulation; and for the fact that its readers, staff and directors were people with a nationalist interest. (Even before the newspaper ever hit the streets Minister for Justice McDowell, a former writer for the Sunday Independent, described Daily Ireland as a "Nazi rag").

Hardly fair comment! But then, maybe the Sindo believes its Sunday morning readers are in such a state of lazy collapse that they don't take seriously anything it says about Daily Ireland, or indeed about anything at all. Mr Oram refers to a comment made by a Sindo editor, Aengus Fanning – that if you can get a laugh out of a reader, it's worth 2,000 words. That comic philosophy, it seems, still prevails.

Oh dear! The Blueshirts are in the wars. The party's policy of allowing one vote per member to select election candidates has led to fears that bogus members are being registered – people seen once at an election convention and never again. The practice is known as 'convention stuffing' and is designed to assist candidates who are up against the long established party faithful. What concerns Fine Gael elder lemons is that voting power is falling into the hands of gougers who have been in the party for only a few months. That, they complain, is very, very undemocratic.

And then, there's the revelation that Fine Gael has been dangling the begging bowl under the noses of National Toll Roads, Cement Roadstone Holdings (the gang building Israel's evil apartheid wall), Treasury Holdings, an assortment of builders, property speculators and Musgraves, owners of SuperValu and Centra chains.

No conflict of interest at all in seeking donations from such captains of industry, says the Rip-Off Ireland party, even though it earlier accused National Toll Roads of making massive profits – "NTR takes all the gain and the public takes all the pain"; or that the profits of Cement Roadstone Holdings were extracted in a way that was both "anti- competitive and anti-consumer". Accepting cash from them is simply politics, Enda Kenny style. Another word might be hypocrisy!

IRA leak 'does not match reality'

BBC


Peter Hain said everyone awaited the IMC report

A leak from a confidential Policing Board meeting over IRA activity bears "little resemblance" to reality, the NI secretary has said.

Peter Hain was speaking for the first time about the row involving Security Minister Shaun Woodward and the board.

It follows the refusal of a senior PSNI officer to accept Mr Woodward's view that the IRA as an organisation was no longer involved in crime.

But Mr Hain told the BBC everyone was now waiting for the IMC's assessment.

The Independent Monitoring Commission is due to report early next month.

"We cannot rely on leaks from the Police Board without any record of what was actually said," he said.

"The leaks bear very little resemblance, if any, to what I understand actually occurred there.

"What is very clear is that the chief constable, his chief investigating officers, my security minister and myself are all at one in awaiting the outcome of the Independent Monitoring Commission report which will make as assessment.

"Then we will all be able to form a judgement."

The Policing Board remains at odds with Mr Woodward.

A police briefing to the board said the IRA was involved in organised crime, but last month Mr Woodward said the IRA is no longer involved in such activity.

Mr Woodward wrote to the board and said there was a distinction between the actions of individuals and the "intention of organisations".

Board chairman Desmond Rea said this did not address the board's concerns.

On Thursday, Sir Hugh Orde defended Assistant Chief Constable Sam Kinkaid's assessment of IRA involvement in organised crime.

20 January 2006

NATIONALIST VICTIMS GROUPS SCEPTICAL ON $52 MILLION INQUIRY TEAM

IAIS

01/20/06 08:58 EST

More than 3,000 unsolved murders in Northern Ireland are to be re-examined as part of a GBP £30 million ($52 million) specialist police team looking into the past, it emerged today.

Dave Cox, who is heading the Historical Enquiries Team, said his officers would reopen the files on 3,268 cases during the Troubles and would try and achieve the best resolution for victims` families.

But nationalist victims` groups An Fhirinne said the families of people killed as a result of collusion between loyalists and the security forces doubted the enquiry team could ever get to the truth of what happened to their relatives.

"We believe our relatives were murdered by British agents, including members of RUC/PSNI Special Branch," said spokesman Robert McClenaghan.

"Those RUC/PSNI members who organised, equipped and ran the unionist death squads are now being asked to furnish the HET with information, evidence and witnesses about hundreds of unsolved murders they themselves were involved in."

"Those accused of murder are being asked to reinvestigate themselves. That is why the HET will fail to get to the truth about collusion. Only an independent, international inquiry will have the authority and confidence of victims` families to get to the truth about collusion and State murder."

But Mr Cox claimed a number of republican victims` groups had already engaged with his team.

"We have met a number of republican families and, through the good offices of some of the non-governmental organisations who represent them and their solicitors, we have spoken to them," he said.

"We have established, I think, a good rapport in certain cases. There are always going to be people who won`t trust us. It is our job to try and build that trust and hopefully the examples of cases where it has worked will lead other families to come forward."

Sinn Fein`s victims spokesman Philip McGuigan and Mark Thompson, of the nationalist victims` group Relatives for Justice, also voiced doubts about the Historical Enquiries Team.

Mr McGuigan, an Assembly member for North Antrim, argued: "However much this scheme is dressed up, it is still an internal unit of the PSNI, and is very much the case of the state investigating the state."

"The PSNI record to date in cases of state murder has been one of cover-up and concealment."

Mr McGuigan said his community was also hugely sceptical of the British Government`s commitment to truth, justice or dealing with the past, and the HET did nothing to address that.

Mr Thompson said the HET was a limited police and criminal justice initiative aimed at addressing the past in absence of a proper non-punitive truth recovery process.

"It will, by definition, not address the nature, causes and extent of the conflict," he said.

"The fact that it is a police investigation may prove problematic in the long-term with possible prosecutions. But, more importantly, the very same institutions that were at the heart of the conflict as protagonists are undertaking this initiative and are answerable to Peter Hain. It is not independent. As a result, we fail to see how such an approach can be compatible with international human rights investigative standards, in particular Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights and the Human Rights Act 1998," Mr. Thompson said.

A total of £24.3 million has been ring fenced for the police unit and a further £7.3 million for forensic scientists using modern techniques to help solve the cold cases.

The Historical Enquiries Team will begin its work on Monday, focusing on an initial batch of 100 cases and are examining all the unsolved murders in chronological order. The first case dates back to April 1969.

Mr Cox, a former retired Metropolitan Police commander, said: "I do not for a moment underestimate the complexity of this challenge or the potential emotional stress for relatives associated with revisiting these tragic events. That is why families will sit at the very heart of our investigations and that is why our primary objective will be to work with them to achieve some measure of resolution for them."

Originally it had been estimated that there were 2,000 unsolved murders.

However, the enquiries team are looking into 3,268 deaths because while in some cases one person may have been convicted, there are other suspects who avoided arrest.

Families will be consulted by the team on whether they want to proceed with the prosecutions or if there can be any other form of resolution.

A total of 84 staff have been recruited.

Retired police officers formally in the Royal Ulster Constabulary will be involved as well as a mixture of retired and seconded officers from English, Scottish and Welsh forces.

A helpdesk will be operational at the team`s Sprucefield headquarters outside Lisburn for families.

The idea of the historical enquiries team was first floated by Northern Ireland Chief Constable Sir Hugh Orde in September 2004.

Mr Cox said that when a family wanted a prosecution and the evidence existed, the team would pursue it in the courts.

SDLP policing spokesperson Alex Attwood claimed the Historical Enquiries Team, which hopes to clear its list of cold cases within six years, was a brave initiative and a good idea.

"The HET is a big initiative - it will be judged and should judge itself on whether it, without fear or favor, looks at all killings - loyalist, republican and state," the West Belfast Assembly member said.

"The SDLP hope the leadership of the HET will do this. We believe it will. The HET has a strong leadership and procedures and must ensure that all agencies, particularly the British Army, comply or are forced to comply with its investigations. Unlike the Hain/Adams attempt to bury the past through the on-the-run/state killers proposals, the HET attempts to tell the truth, identify those responsible for deaths and help bring closure and healing."

"These are the right principles to deal with the past - not the shoddy approach of Hain/Adams."

Northern Ireland Secretary Peter Hain said the launch of the team was an important step towards a new future in the North.

"We will never forget those who lost their lives as a result of the Troubles," he insisted.

"Nor will we forget those who continue to mourn these losses and who have to live with the consequences on a daily basis. The Government, through the provision of additional funding to set up the Historical Enquiries Team, is committed to addressing unanswered questions for as many families of victims as possible."

"I do not under-estimate the challenges that lie ahead for the team in investigating this complex and sensitive work. I believe the efforts in meeting these challenges will be of vital importance as we continue to move the peace process forward and assist those who have been most directly affected to reach some understanding and closure on the past."

Irwin Montgommery, chairman of the Police Federation for Northern Ireland, also welcomed the launch of the review team and hoped for progress on unsolved cases.

"While our expectation of what the review will achieve has to be tempered with the realism of impact of the passage of time and the unavailability for one reason or another of witnesses, the review team`s work is a clear signal that crime cannot be allowed to go unacknowledged even if, at times, it will be inadequately punished," he said.

"DNA may uncover new evidence and witnesses may feel more secure about coming forward. I hope that those who think that they have got away with past atrocities will now start to look over their shoulders and realise that justice may catch up with them after all."

Party wants model government vote

BBC

By Mark Devenport
BBC NI political editor

The Ulster Unionist Party has suggested to the government the rules of the Stormont Assembly should be changed to enable members to vote for their preferred temporary alternative models of government.

Senior party sources say this would require fresh legislation which should include a so-called "sunset clause" to ensure a temporary system would end in May 2007, when the next assembly elections are due to take place.

It is understood the party's preferred Plan B would give assembly members the right to scrutinise laws related to Northern Ireland and also give them financial powers related to the budget of Northern Ireland departments.

UUP sources say that if a reconvened assembly could not form a full power-sharing executive, then it should have the opportunity to vote on their proposals or the ideas of any of the other parties.

The Ulster Unionists are not the only party to have suggested alternative arrangements for refloating the Northern Ireland Assembly.

The SDLP has proposed appointing unelected "civic administrators" who could run local government departments instead of direct rule ministers.

The DUP is due to hand Tony Blair a 16-page document next Tuesday with its latest idea.

"Facing Reality" is understood to suggest a two stage process in which the assembly could be brought back with lesser powers; full devolution could follow once the parties were confident that all sides were committed to peaceful politics.

Sinn Fein has consistently argued that such "halfway house" ideas were not consistent with the Good Friday Agreement.

However, a senior UUP source argued that it was dangerous to let the current vacuum continue. The source said it was "humiliating and embarrassing" for Northern Ireland politicians to continue to be kept by the taxpayer, whilst a talking shop assembly was not an option.

Modular devolution

The source said the current process had "no focus, no deadline and no reason to take risks" and local politicians were merely spectators as the economic reality changed around them.

Although the UUP acknowledges that other parties may object to their ideas, the party source said the assembly should be given a role because "trust will only be built when you work together, you can't build trust at long range".

The UUP call their idea "modular devolution".

Apart from scrutinising laws and budgets, they envisage a role for assembly members in the meetings of north-south and east-west institutions.

The UUP believe that if the idea is given a fair wind, Westminster could amend the current Stormont rules by the summer, or by September at the very latest.

The inclusion of a "sunset clause" is designed to reassure nationalists who will suspect that unionists want to set up an alternative form of government, then never allow the old power-sharing executive to be restored.

'Sunday' Poster Doesn't Breach Anonymity Ruling

Derry Journal

Friday 20th January 2006

The Saville Inquiry says a decision to use the photographs of two soldiers in this year's commemoration poster does NOT breach an anonymity ruling. The poster - a popular collectors item --features a photograph of Britain's top army officer, General Sir Mike Jackson, who was a captain when he served with the Parachute Regiment in Derry on January 30, 1972.

However, the poster also includes images - taken in 1972 - of two unidentified soldiers who were in the city on Bloody Sunday. The Saville tribunal had ruled that no pictures could be published of those soldiers granted anonymity while giving evidence. However, a spokesperson for the Inquiry says that, as the pictures included on the poster have previously been in the public domain - and as they are not accompanied by the soldiers' names - there has been no infringement of the ruling. John Kelly, whose brother, Michael, was among those shot dead on Bloody Sunday, believes the poster "contains a very powerful message."

"In my opinion, it sums up the very essence of this year's commemorative programme which is entitled: 'towards justice'. "For far too long these people have remained hidden. It is time that the people of Derry saw them, as it were, in the flesh."

'I Thought Long And Hard About It'

Derry Journal

Friday 20th January 2006

Shankill relative Alan McBride has revealed that he had to think "long and hard" before accepting an invitation to deliver this year's Bloody Sunday memorial lecture in Derry. Mr. McBride - whose wife Sharon was among ten people killed in the 1993 IRA bombing of Frizzell's fish shop - was confirmed this week as the main speaker at the January 27 event in the Guildhall.

Mr. McBride yesterday attended a seminar organised by republican ex-prisoners to discuss proposals for a museum on the site of the former Long Kesh prison. The Belfast man - who, during the 1990s, followed Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams around the world demanding an explanation for the Shankill Road atrocity --admitted to being "surprised" at receiving the invitation to speak at this year's 34th anniversary event. "I must say I was a bit surprised to receive the invitation because I think I'm the first person from my background to be asked to do this. I am nervous about it but also looking forward to it. It will be challenging for both me and my audience.

"I admit I did have to think long and hard about it before I accepted. In fact, it took me a few days to make up my mind. But I concluded that if there is a right time to do this, then it is now." Mr. McBride is hoping for a "good reception" from the audience at the event.

"I'll be saying things republicans may not want to hear," he said. "I haven't softened my opinions or views on the IRA and I will be taking the opportunity to challenge republicans." Mr. McBride said he had no plans to attend the annual commemorative march - which takes place on Sunday, January 29. But, he added: "This does not mean that I do not support the rights of the victims' families to look for justice."

Derry Men's Jobless Rate Twice NI Average

Derry Journal

Friday 20th January 2006

The number of men out of work in the Derry City Council area is more than double that of the Northern Ireland average. The latest unemployment figures reveal that 7.8 per cent of the Council area's males (of working age) are without jobs.

Across the North, this figure stands at 3.8 per cent. Meanwhile, the number of females out of work in the Derry area is also higher than the average for across the North. In the Derry Council area, 2.2 per cent of females of working age are out of work while across the North this figure stands at 1.2%. It's a similar situation in Strabane where 6.7 per cent of males of working age are without jobs. In Limavady, 3.8 per cent of males of working age are without work --mirroring the Northern Ireland average.

Meanwhile, the overall jobless figures confirm that Derry and Strabane continue to top the unemployment league table. According to the new government figures published this week, seasonally adjusted figures for December showed 27,199 people in Northern Ireland (2.6% of the workforce) claiming benefit. The new figures reveal that, in the Derry City Council area, 5.1% of people of working age were out of work. 2,651 (7.8%) men and 717 (2.2%) women were without jobs in the local council area.

This marks a drop of just 20 on the previous month's figures and a decrease of 33 in the past 12 months. Strabane, meanwhile, remains in second place in the jobless chart. 1,124 people - 844 men and 280 women - were out of work in the Strabane area.

NIO Enterprise Minister, Angela Smith, commenting on the latest labour market figures, says: "The Northern Ireland labour market is continuing to perform well. Unemployment levels remain below the UK average and employment has increased by 2.9% during the last year. "The positive results by our production and service sector industries also indicate that the Northern Ireland economy is performing well. "The annual growth in output levels for both the production and service sector industries is significantly higher than the UK equivalent. This shows that NI companies are continuing to rise to the challenge and are producing encouraging results in the face of difficult trading conditions.

"Through the implementation of the Economic Vision we will continue to encourage firms to develop new products and services, to seize business opportunities as they arise and to avail of the new technologies and infrastructure that are now available."

The changing face of employment issues in North Belfast

Irelandclick

The Mater Hospital is involved in a new initiative that tailor trains people out of work for posts that suffer a staffing shortfall at the hospital due to lack of local expertise. The new project has cross-party support.

Each year statistics are produced that show the extent of unemployment and deprivation in the North, with the data produced pored over by government experts who pledge to work hard to make sure things improve.

The rate of progress can often be very slow, and as initiatives and programmes get bogged down in bureaucracy and political wrangling, the situation on the ground changes little for the ordinary person, who still face problems such as lack of employment and poverty.

Under these circumstances, people in deprived areas in North Belfast on both sides of the community will be forgiven for not getting too excited to know that members of the North Belfast Partnership Board met with Direct Rule minister Angela Smith in Belfast Castle this week, to announce yet another employment initiative. This time, however, a radical new approach to these problems could signal a breakthrough that both the British government and all the local political parties are confident will benefit everyone in the community.

Called the Equal Employability Access Project (EAP), it’s the first initiative of its kind that seeks to solve a range of problems in the North Belfast area through interaction between the North and West Belfast Trust and a range of employment agencies.

The theory behind the project is that the Mater Hospital, a major employer in the area, which faces constant skills shortages will train prospective employees and tailor that training to the hospital’s needs.

Under the terms of the EAP those people who are out of work would be given support and encouragement to build up the confidence to apply for these jobs, and if they are successful, will then get training once in the position to fulfil the needs of the hospital.

The benefits of the system are clear to see. Not only are jobs being created in the local community, but also one of the community’s main resources, the local hospital, is operating with sufficient staff and therefore providing a better service to local patients.

Speaking at the launch of the EAP Angela Smith said everyone in North Belfast would see the positive knock on effects of the programme.

“This project will not only benefit those who gain employment through the scheme and the Mater Hospital, but also their communities who can only gain from having higher employment. “This project is a demonstration of how we can join up different parts of the public sector, to create better public services and at the same time create good quality employment opportunities for the people of North Belfast.”

An issue that has dogged employment schemes in the past has been the question of how sustainable the jobs being created are. Over the years a raft of initiatives have been introduced which did little more than cook the employment figures and place the unemployed in temporary jobs with little or not prospects.

Angela Smith says the fact that the Mater Hospital is the primary source of employment will ensure the jobs are sustainable.

“In the past we have often used the voluntary and community sector as a basis to create employment, but this hasn’t always been sustainable. I am delighted to see the Mater Hospital interested in this process, and seeing how they can use their employment opportunities for the benefit of people in their area.

“They know that if they can get local people, with local understanding and good skills they will have a stable labour force, able to provide high quality services.”

The minister went on to say she would be following the scheme’s progress with interest and said the plan was to roll it out in other areas.

Director of Human Resources at the Trust and chair of the EAP, Eamonn Molloy, also emphasised that the scheme would offer viable employment, acknowledging that any post would have to be competitive and offer good conditions to those who are recruited.

“We understand that when the person improves their confidence and is ready to enter the job market there is choice out there, but we are confident that the jobs we have available will be attractive. “We have developed a DVD which explains the opportunities available in the health service to unskilled long-term unemployed people.

“We hope that by using this medium we can convince people that a future in the health service is worthwhile,” he said.

Sinn Féin councillor for Oldpark, Carál Ní Chuilín, is joint chair of the North Belfast Partnership Board and she sought to allay fears that the unemployed will be forced into unsuitable work.

“The EAP is about growing the confidence of people and creating community empowerment. “My party would never back a scheme that forced people into work when they were not ready,” she said.

“If someone does take part in the six week job preparation and personal development programme, and does not feel ready for employment, then they will not be forced into work.”

Cllr Ní Chuilín said the scheme was a very good way of improving confidence, and added it was good news for North Belfast.

“The project is very rewarding and through devices like the DVD it can spread understanding about what the options are to those who are unemployed so that we can get them back into work when they are ready.”

DUP Councillor Ian Crozier is the other joint chair of the North Belfast Partnership Board. He echoed Cllr Ní Chuilín’s support, praising the scheme and the benefits it will provide for North Belfast.
“This is about using the Mater to help employment and I hope that it is a success,” he said.

“Although you may come in at a basic level, there is opportunity to get promoted and this is to be welcomed.

“There is funding there from Europe to help make this a success and the trade unions are also involved so along with the other support and training, there is recourse to meaningful employment.”

Journalist:: Evan Short

Daniel’s killers are ‘agents’

Irelandclick

North Belfast MLA Alban Maginness has told the North Belfast News that allegations that the murderers of Daniel McColgan are being protected because they are police informers are deeply disturbing and must be investigated.
Last week Fr Dan Whyte said it was believed the loyalist killers of the 21-year-old Catholic postman have escaped justice because they are police informants.
Speaking on the fourth anniversary of the murder of Daniel McColgan, Fr Dan Whyte described as “appalling” reports that the gunmen are being protected by elements within the PSNI.
Daniel McColgan was shot dead on January 12, 2002, as he went to work in a mail sorting office in the loyalist Rathcoole estate.
The Red Hand Defenders, a cover name for the UDA, said it carried out the killing.
Within days of the murder, the names of two senior loyalists from south-east Antrim were being linked to the murder. One of them, now the UDA’s leader in the area, is reported to be a Special Branch informant.
Fr Whyte, from St Mary’s on the Hill parish in Glengormley where two other victims of the UDA were shot dead in recent years, said the feeling in the community is that the killers are being shielded.
“The names of the people who murdered Daniel are known among this community, that’s the feeling around here,” he said.
“The other common understanding is that the police know who was involved in the killing but they have not been touched because they are in positions as informants.
“These are the genuine concerns my parishioners have. It is absolutely appalling that the guys who did this are walking the same streets. They have committed murder, yet nothing has been done.”
Alban Maginness said the St Bernard’s priest’s statement had aired the widely held belief that Daniel McColgan was murdered by well-known members of the Rathcoole UDA.
“This is an extremely serious allegation, and I will be contacting Fr Whyte to follow up on it.
“It must be taken seriously. We do know that there was a pattern of protecting UVF killers involved in the murder of Raymond McCord and at least nine other cases.
“We need to make sure the same was not the case with the UDA, which was responsible for a spate of murders close to Rathcoole around the time that Daniel was killed,” he said.
“The SDLP will raise these concerns at the Policing Board.
“We will also be contacting the McColgan family to hear their views.”
A spokesman for the PSNI said 12 people have been arrested in connection with the murder but there have been no charges. He said detectives remain resolute in their determination to bring the father-of-one’s killers to justice.
Daniel McColgan was one of four young men murdered by loyalists in south-east Antrim during a 12-month period between July 2001-02.
The others killed were Ciaran Cummings, Gavin Brett and Gerard Lawlor. The PSNI has yet to charge anyone in connection with these deaths.

Journalist:: Staff Journalist

Newtownabbey Council urged to deal with the Traveller issue

Irelandclick

Sinn Féin’s Briege Meehan has called on Newtownabbey Council to deal with the issue of Travellers after the Housing Executive wrote to the Council stating their wish to lease land to develop a transit site in the borough.
Since a change of legislation in 2003, the Housing Executive has assumed responsibility for the provision of transits sites for Travellers. It has identified the need for the development of five sites throughout the North, including the Greater Belfast area, which includes Newtownabbey.
Cllr Meehan urged the Council to consider providing land.
“To avoid the unnecessary hassle of illegal Travellers camps in every council area, and particularly Newtownabbey, we have a duty under the Good Friday Agreement to provide a transit site so that the Travelling community can be facilitated, and put in a situation whereby the hassle of illegal parking is avoided,” she said.
“These sites will ensure that the Travelling community and local residents do not come to loggerheads over the issue.”
Acknowledging the sensitivities surrounding the issue, Cllr Meehan said any site would have to secure the backing of both the Travellers and local residents.
“As yet there have been no sites earmarked but any site would have to be acceptable to the residents, the Council and the Housing Executive. But the bottom line is that the Housing Executive has an obligation to provide a transit site in the borough.”
But DUP councillor Jackie Mann, who sits on the Travellers issues committee, refused to be drawn on the transit site proposal.
“We don’t have land to use for Travellers. There is no land that I know of and it is something that I would have to discuss. To accommodate them you have to convert the land, put in stand pipes and toilets, but I am not saying I would object to it and I am not saying I wouldn’t. I don’t know.”
Derek Hanway from Traveller support group, An Munia Tober, said it was essential transit sites were developed in the Greater Belfast area.
“We have had examples over the last 12 to 18 months of Travellers being victimised in the public eye for illegal encamping and that is because there has been no access to transit sites across the North, so we would support the Housing Executive efforts to facilitate at least five transit sites across the North of Ireland.
He added: “Lord Rooker has said that he will not bring into effect the illegal encampment order until five transit sites are provided and it’s really crucial that we have those as soon as possible and councils like Newtownabbey have to live up to this responsibility.”

Journalist:: Evan Short

Stormontgate fiasco cost £9m

Belfast Telegraph

Demands for answers over spending of taxpayer cash

By Noel McAdam
20 January 2006

A total of 451 prison officers were forced to move home in Northern Ireland as a result of the Stormontgate spy ring scandal, it emerged last night.

And the total cost of the hundreds of re-locations to the public purse was more than £9m, the Government disclosed. Direct Rule Minister Lord Rooker also revealed that the associated security measures brought the total costs up to £24.6m.

The figures added fuel last night to demands for a full Parliamentary debate as the political controversy refused to fade away.

Ulster Unionist peer Lord Rogan said: "It is inconceivable that a scandal that cost taxpayers millions in any other part of Government would not be properly investigated or even debated at a Parliamentary level."

In a Parliamentary answer to the UU party president, Lord Rooker said that a total of 451 prison officers were moved under the Assisted Home Removal Scheme at a total expenditure of £9,387,279.

The Minister, whose brief includes finance and personnel, said that the overall expenditure on the Prison Service security measures amounted to £24.46m.

Lord Rogan said: "The Stormontgate fiasco will not go away despite the numerous attempts by the Government to sweep it under the carpet and then move on.

"The astronomical costs to taxpayers of this episode demands further investigation and explanation.

"The bill for the relocation of prison officers and associated security measures (of) over £24m....is just the tip of the iceberg.

"Under the circumstances and given Lord Rooker's reply, I call on the Government to instigate a proper Parliamentary debate. The public deserve answers."

His call came after DUP MP Nigel Dodds also demanded the Government provide full disclosure rather than "dribs and drabs of information".

"The Government's whole handling of this episode has been abysmal," he said. "The Government needs to start giving straight answers to straight questions about 'Stormontgate' and tell us the whole truth," he said.

How I sneaked Adair back into the Shankill: film maker Donal

Belfast Telegraph

By Clare Regan
20 January 2006

Investigative journalist Donal McIntyre told today how he sneaked exiled former UDA commander Johnny Adair back into the Shankill in the dead of night just a few weeks ago.

The award-winning filmmaker revealed details of the documentary he is currently making with the ousted loyalist terror boss.

The producer and director was reluctant to give away the most fascinating revelations from his adventures following 'Mad Dog's' efforts to settle in the Scottish town of Troon where he is living after his release from prison.

But McIntyre did reveal that some of the filming, which has been taking place over the last four months, did take place in Northern Ireland.

"We returned to Belfast with Johnny Adair a couple of days before the New Year. He took us back to some of his old haunts and safe houses in the Shankill area when there was no-one around," he said.

"We went to within yards of the homes of men who want to kill him. For Johnny, it was quite a scary experience. It wasn't really as frightening for us, we had taken all the usual safety precautions."

McIntyre said he asked to do the documentary because of a fascination with Adair's reputation.

"Politically, Northern Ireland politics does not ignite my fire. But the thing I am interested in is people who live on the edge. Adair is a major figure from the loyalist side. He's a character and I was fascinated by that."

The journalist said he would be making no judgment on the terrorist and would let viewers make their own decisions. Filming is to go on for another six weeks and it is hoped the programme will be broadcast sometime in April.

"There will be an expected dance between the image that Adair wants to portray and the best that we can get out of him," he added.

"We make no moral judgment. We just follow him and take a measure of the man. We tell the truth."

McIntyre will next be seen on our screens with the two-part documentary, A Gangster's Funeral, which will broadcast on Channel Five this Monday and on January 30.

The programme revisits Dominic Noonan in Manchester - a gay, Urdu speaking criminal who has spent half his life in jail.

"We catch up with him as he faces trial on charges of kidnapping and torture and deals with the consequences of his brother's murder," McIntyre added.

"It gives you an idea of the kind of approach that we take to these documentaries. Like Adair, he's a fascinating man who lives on the edge."

New PSNI team to investigate unsolved North murders

BreakingNews.ie

20/01/2006 - 12:13:47

The PSNI has put together a team of detectives to investigate more than 3,000 unsolved murders committed during the Troubles in the North.

The 100-strong Historical Inquiries Team has been asked to use scientific advances and new forensics techniques in an effort to achieve a breakthrough in solving the cases.

The PSNI is hoping the move will solve a number of murders, but even if it does not, families will be given whatever new information can be gleaned.

Three thousand, two hundred murders committed in the 30 years after 1968 are due to be reinvestigated as part of the initiative.

Man dead after shooting in city

BBC

A 22-year-old man who was injured in a shooting incident in west Belfast has died in hospital.

The shooting happened at about 1945 GMT on Thursday in the Wilton Street area of the loyalist Shankill Road.

The victim was taken to the Royal Victoria Hospital where his injuries were described as serious. However, police said on Friday that he had died.

An investigation is under way to try to establish the exact circumstances of the shooting.

Murder cases sent to appeal court

BBC

A Sinn Fein assembly member and a Derry journalist have had their convictions for murder referred to the Court of Appeal.

Raymond McCartney and Eamonn MacDermott were convicted in 1979 of the murder of RUC detective constable Patrick McNulty.

Mr McCartney was also convicted of murdering DuPont managing director Jeffrey Agate the same year.

The appeals are not expected to come before the courts until next year.

Both men denied any involvement in the murders and said they were brutalised in police custody and that confessions were fabricated.

Detective Constable McNulty was shot by the IRA as he left his car for servicing at a garage on Strand Road in the city.

A week later, Mr Agate was shot dead by the IRA outside his Talbot Park home.

Mr McCartney spent 17 years in prison. During that time he became the IRA's officer commanding in the Maze and spent 53 days on hunger strike.

Eamonn MacDermott spent 15 years in prison and has worked for the Derry Journal for the last ten years.

Both men took their convictions to the Criminal Cases Review Commission four years ago.

Police vow over Republican march

BBC


The Republican march marks Bloody Sunday

Police in Glasgow have warned troublemakers to stay away from this weekend's Republican parade.

About 300 protesters tried to clash with marchers in last year's Bloody Sunday commemoration parade.

Strathclyde Police Assistant Chief Constable Kevin Smith said the racist, sectarian and paramilitary abuse was unacceptable.

The parade by Cairde na hEireann (Friends of Ireland) is due to start at 0930 GMT on Saturday.

Parade reforms were proposed after a review by ex-police chief Sir John Orr.

Parades can be blocked if there have been offensive chants, threatening or drunken behaviour, or marchers expressing support for paramilitary organisations.

Mr Smith said police would crack down on any troublemakers who tried to replicate last year's clashes, which led to three arrests.

"Unfortunately, the parade last year was a difficult one with a significant number of counter protesters, many of whom were clearly intent on attacking and disrupting the parade," said Mr Smith.

"To be perfectly frank, many of those involved in the procession and many of those who came to protest about it did not come out with any great credit.

"Racist, sectarian and paramilitary abuse being hurled was the norm, with a number of bottles and other missiles being thrown, only adding to the difficulties."

'Important date'

He added: "There is a simple message here. If you come to take part in the procession or to protest, do so peacefully and lawfully."

Jim Slaven, of Cairde na hEireann, said: "We expect the march to be peaceful and we believe that all participants will conduct themselves with dignity and respect for the victims of Bloody Sunday.

"This is a very important date in the Irish community's calendar in Scotland."

A spokesman for Glasogw City Council said: "We granted permission for the event after careful consideration of our policy on public processions."

Flags and emblems

Ian Wilson, Grand Master of the Orange Lodge in Scotland, said his organisation was not involved in last year's trouble and had no intention of counter-protesting at the march.

"The parade is legal and while we are out of sympathy with the political aspirations of a Republican march, this is a democracy and they are entitled to express their view lawfully," he said.

"Counter-demonstrators are also entitled to protest but it has to be peaceful. What happened last year was a disgrace.

"I would encourage the police to be more robust in dealing with some of the paramilitary flags and emblems which were being illegally flaunted by Republican marchers last year."

Sinn Féin insists special branch spy ‘is safe at home’

Irish Examiner

By Dan McGinn
20/01/06

A FORMER Sinn Féin election worker who admitted spying on his colleagues is safe at home, the party claimed last night.

Sean Lavelle, from Donagh in Lisnaskea, Co Fermanagh, confessed to being a special branch agent since 1980 in a statement issued through his solicitor.

His move came after Gerry Adams predicted more spying allegations would surface in the party after last month’s unmasking of its head of administration at Stormont Denis Donaldson as a British agent.

But while Mr Donaldson has stayed away from his native Belfast, Mr Lavelle was assured by Sinn Féin Assembly member Tom O’Reilly that he was safe living at home.

In his statement, Mr Lavelle said he was pressured into becoming a Special Branch agent after he was arrested in 1980.

“I deeply regret my activities and the hurt which they have caused to my family and to my community,” he said.

Sinn Féin played down Mr Lavelle’s significance, claiming he had been an election worker but was no longer a party member.

Republicans have faced a barrage of allegations since Mr Donaldson last month confessed his role as a British agent for more than 20 years. The 55-year-old, was arrested by police in October 2002, along with his son-in-law Ciaran Kearney and civil servant William Mackessy, on accusations that they operated a spy ring at Stormont which went to the heart of former Northern Secretary John Reid’s office.

After a three-year legal battle, charges against the three men were dropped at Belfast Crown Court last month, with prosecutors insisting it was no longer in the public interest to pursue the case.

In a further stunning twist, Mr Adams announced a week later he had expelled Mr Donaldson from the party for spying on his colleagues.

Belfast has been rife with rumours since then about more spies in republican ranks. Several senior republicans have been warned by police that they are suspected of being agents and, although none has publicly rejected the allegations, it is clear republicans are bracing themselves for more claims.

Man 'serious' after city shooting

BBC

A 22-year-old man has been taken to hospital following a shooting incident in west Belfast, the police have said.

A Police Service of Northern Ireland spokesman said the incident happened at 1945 GMT in the Wilton Street area of the loyalist Shankill Road.

The victim is said to be in a serious condition in hospital.

It is understood that the man has been taken for treatment to the Royal Victoria Hospital. Police are investigating the shooting.

19 January 2006

Murphy attacks SDLP

:::u.tv:::

THURSDAY 19/01/2006 15:59:54

The SDLP was today accused of encouraging unionists in Northern Ireland to believe they could water down the Good Friday Agreement.

By:Press Association

Image Hosted by ImageShack.us

In the build-up to political talks expected next month, Sinn Fein MP Conor Murphy called on his rivals to withdraw their May 2004 proposals for civic administrators to run government departments until devolution returned.

The Newry and Armagh MP argued: "When the SDLP first published their proposals for British Government-appointed commissioners to run the 10 departments instead of locally-elected and accountable politicians, as demanded by the Agreement, they gave succour to those rejectionist unionists who wished to move away from the power-sharing core of the Agreement.

"This was a deeply flawed strategy and is one which is completely unacceptable to the vast majority of nationalists and republicans who voted for the Good Friday Agreement.

"Despite the encouragement given by the SDLP to those seeking to rewrite the Agreement, Sinn Fein successfully defended the principles which underpin the Agreement in the discussions in late 2004.

"Recently it seems that the SDLP are once again naively repeating the mistakes they have made in the past.

"They have opened up communication with the unionist parties in advance of planned talks chaired by the two governments on proposals which are less than that demanded by the Agreement.

"Once again they are giving encouragement to those within unionism who believe they can dilute or subvert the rights and entitlements demanded by the people across Ireland who voted for the Agreement in 1998."

With the British and Irish Governments planning an intensive push to restore devolution on the back of the latest report on paramilitary activity by the Independent Monitoring Commission, the Rev Ian Paisley`s Democratic Unionists this week ruled out the likelihood in the foreseeable future of power-sharing featuring Sinn Fein.

The party, however, confirmed it was planning to table a 16 page document advocating phased devolution - giving the country`s 108 Assembly members some role short of forming their own multi-party executive.

The Ulster Unionists are also believed to be putting together their own proposals.

In May 2004, SDLP leader Mark Durkan proposed 10 leaders from business, trade unions and community life should be nominated by both the British and Irish Governments to run the devolved government departments.

The panel would have to be approved by Assembly members on a cross-community vote at Stormont and would cease their work once MLAs were able to nominate their own multi-party executive.

The plan was slated by Sinn Fein, unionists and other parties.

Mr Murphy said today that, as the lead nationalist party, Sinn Fein would resolutely defend the Agreement and its power-sharing and cross-border institutions.

"Unlike the SDLP we will not settle for less," he said.

"The SDLP now need to make it clear that their proposals for commissioners have been binned and that they are prepared to join with the rest of nationalist and republican opinion on the island and defend the Good Friday Agreement."

The SDLP`s Dominic Bradley claimed there appeared to be confusion and contradiction at the highest levels of Sinn Fein, which could be exploited by anti-Agreement unionists in the forthcoming negotiations.

The Newry and Armagh MLA said: "Yesterday at a press conference, the Sinn Fein president said `what more is there to negotiate about? The negotiations are done. What more is there to negotiate about? We have had seven years, eight years, nine years, 10 years of negotiations. What we now need to see is delivery of all of the agreements that were reached, crystallised in the Good Friday Agreement`.

"On the same day in a statement issued to the press Conor Murphy said, `Sinn Fein will not countenance settling for less that the Agreement in any future talks or negotiations`.

"What`s going on? The Sinn Fein president says he is not up for negotiations and a Sinn Fein MP looks forward to negotiations.

"This sends out even more worrying signals to nationalism when it is recalled that only nine months ago Sinn Fein went to the ballot boxes talking about the need for `intensive political negotiations`, Mitchel McLaughlin on April 23, 2005.

"The DUP must be laughing all the way to the bank. The Sinn Fein leadership is sending out signs of weariness and weakness.

"The DUP must be thinking that they can cause further damage to nationalism and the Good Friday Agreement and the British, apparently already deeply embedded within the Provisional Movement, must be looking forward to concessions being handed to the DUP."

Mr Bradley said his party made no apology for calling for a date to restore the political institutions nor would it withdraw its proposal to allow civic administrators to run the government departments temporarily.

"That means ending suspension and getting the North South agenda working again in full," he said.

"If Conor Murphy is against this, then he is for suspension and continued British Direct Rule. Is Sinn Fein`s policy now `Brits In`?"

Accusing Gerry Adams` party of inconsistency, the SDLP Assembly member recalled how in October 2001 Sinn Fein advocated British ministers taking Ulster Unionist seats on the executive if David Trimble`s ministers resigned.

He also accused Sinn Fein of secretly renegotiating the Good Friday Agreement with the DUP in the December 2004 talks, with measures to exclude the SDLP from government.

"These are the damning facts of Sinn Fein`s record, and
no amount of spin can hide them," Mr Bradley said.

"It is time for Sinn Fein to back the Agreement and the SDLP`s strategy for getting it all implemented. That is the only way forward.

"But perhaps Conor could clear up one important question for the Irish people: do Sinn Fein back the Good Friday Agreement as overwhelmingly endorsed by the majority of people on the island or do they still back the failed and farcical comprehensive agreement negotiated with the DUP?

"That`s the question Sinn Fein needs to answer. Perhaps Conor would be better served clearing that up rather than confusing himself even more than he already is."

Cancellation of vetting services highlights need for all-Ireland approach to child protection services

Sinn Féin

Published: 19 January, 2006

Sinn Féin spokesperson on Health and Children Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD has asked the Minister for Justice Michael McDowell if he has been given a reason by the British authorities for their decision to cancel the service formerly provided to An Garda Síochána of vetting British or Six County residents who have applied to work with children in this State. Sinn Féin’s Six Counties spokesperson on children Sue Ramsey said the decision highlights the urgent need for an all-Ireland approach to child protection services.

Deputy Ó Caoláin said, “News of this decision has come as a shock to all those who work with children and to those who work in the child protection services.

“There is a lot of confusion surrounding this decision; no reason has been given for the withdrawal of this vital service and nobody has any idea what steps are being taken to replace this service or to seek a reversal of the decision.

“I have put a written question to Justice Minister Michael McDowell seeking answers to all of these questions and will continue to seek the re-establishment of these services in the very near future.

“This decision highlights the need for Garda vetting to be made available to cover all adults working with substantial access to children including the voluntary sector. In practice only health service executive employees are currently covered.

Sinn Féin spokesperson on Children in the Six Counties Sue Ramsey said, “The cancellation of these vital vetting services is a major setback to the child protection services in this country.

“This is a worrying situation for everybody throughout this country. It effectively means that someone who abuses a child on one side of the border can, after serving his or her sentence, move to the other side of the border and apply for a job working with children with no chance of being found out.

“This highlights the urgent need for an all-Ireland approach to child protection services.” ENDS

IRA man lashes out over visa 'hurdles'

The Australian

Rick Wallace
January 20, 2006

FORMER IRA commander and convicted murderer Tommy McKearney has accused the Australian Government of taking sides in the conflict over Northern Ireland after he withdrew a visa application to visit Australia.

An angry Mr McKearney, who planned to visit Tasmania to address a prisons conference, released a statement yesterday accusing immigration officials of placing "enormous and unnecessary" hurdles in his path.

"Protracted demands for police records by their immigration officials indicates that the Australian authorities still hold the view that the Irish conflict was an illicit conspiracy, rather than a widely supported insurrection against British misrule in Northern Ireland," the former IRA hardman said.

"It is unfortunate that the Australian public will not now have the opportunity to hear from those of us who can testify to the futility of governments attempting to address political issues via a security response.

"Personally, I would have liked to visit your beautiful country, not to mention seeing a place where once my captors also held so many other Irish republicans. That this will not now happen is a pity but it won't persuade me to change my political opinions." Mr McKearney and several other speakers who have spent time in prison were locked in a struggle with immigration authorities to secure visas in time for the International Conference on Penal Abolition next month.

Legislation gives authorities the right to refuse a visa to anyone who has been in prison for more than a year, although there is a power of discretion.

Mr McKearney spent 16 years in the Long Kesh prison near Belfast for the murder of part-time soldier Stanley Adams during the Troubles.

Mr McKearney, now project director for an ex-prisoners' support group, was one of a number of foreign speakers at the conference, which is calling for the complete abolition of prisons.

Conference organisers Justice Action, an Australian prisoners' support group, has accused the Government of dragging its heels on visa applications for Mr McKearney and fellow Irish republican activist Brenda Murphy, as well as Canadian professor Bob Gaucher. A spokesman for the Immigration Department said Mr McKearney had been advised of the criteria for entry and had been asked to provide "additional information" to assist his application.

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?