04 February 2006

Young republicans in move to cut suicide rate


04/02/2006 - 16:21:00

Ogra Shinn Féin today called for an all-island approach to suicide awareness in a bid to reduce the alarming rate of deaths – the second highest in Europe.

With 577 people reported deaths by suicide in 2004, the youth wing of Sinn Féin said they were preparing to lobby the Irish and British governments to ensure that prevention policies receive the priority, funding and resources required.

Andrea O’Keane, Ogra Shinn Féin spokeswoman, said: “Suicide is the biggest killer of young people in Ireland therefore it is imperative that Ogra begin campaigning and disseminating information on this issue.

“Although statistics are strikingly high amongst young men, suicide transcends class, gender, and age, ethnic or religious background.”

Ms Keane said the campaign would focus on providing information, improving awareness and the demand for an all-Ireland approach.

Ireland has the second highest suicide rate in Europe with 577 reported deaths by suicide in 2004 – more than the number of people killed in road accidents - yet Government spend on mental health has fallen from 11% of Department of Health spending to 6.9% since 1997.

Young men are most at risk, in particular those living in areas of high social deprivation, and it is also estimated that every 45 minutes someone in Ireland attempts to die by suicide.

Sinn Féin is the latest party in the south to highlight the issue which hundreds of families have to deal with each year. Last May, Fine Gael launched a policy entitled urging people with mental problems or suffering from depression to speak to someone.

Addressing the Ogra Shinn Féin national conference, party president Gerry Adams said: “It is the biggest killer of young people in our country. That makes suicide a national disaster. Our country urgently needs a national plan to address this crisis.”

He went on: “Concern about suicide is greatest in local communities. Alongside the anguish of bereavement, there is a growing sense of burn-out.

“Families do not receive the support they need to cope with the strain of someone who is feeling suicidal, or with the aftermath of someone who takes his or her own life.

“Many other parents carry a sense of dread, worrying about the fate of their own children.”

Mr Adams added that he was awaiting a meeting with Tánaiste and health Minister Mary Harney to discuss possible ways of tackling suicide.

IMC would love to visit Catholic communities when the roads are better and electricity has been installed

Daily Ireland


Ninth report of the Independent Monitoring Commission. Presented to the Government of the United Kingdom and the Government of Ireland under articles 4 and 7 of the International Agreement establishing the Independent Monitoring Commission.
(It is our hope that most people reading this will take that ‘International Agreement’ bit to mean the Good Friday Agreement, even though we have nothing to do with the Good Friday Agreement.)
First of all we would like to say a few words in the most long-winded and pompous style imaginable in order to suggest to the average reader that we know what day it is. When in fact we don’t.
Actually we’re four old buffers who don’t know the difference between Ballymurphy and the Bogside, but it is our fervent hope that the public will be mightily impressed by our intellectual effervescence if we churn out a lot of guff like this. And this.
The governments have requested this additional report on the activities of the PIRA. Of course, PIRA is a secret organisation about which we know nothing, so the governments have very kindly agreed to let us speak to their people, who do know something about PIRA. We have now spoken to the governments’ people who have told us what they know about PIRA and that information we now duly present to the governments in this report the information that the governments’ people have told us.
As usual we will begin with a few embarrassingly wee paragraphs about how far we’ve come along the road to peace and how things have improved considerably since our last report, but not considerably enough.
In our last report we were criticised for patronising Catholics in our reference to places where the ‘culture of lawfulness’ does not obtain. It was not our intention to denigrate a particular community, but we would be foolish to ignore the reality that no one in west Belfast pays their TV licence and the coal they keep in the bath is in all likelihood smuggled. The sooner they adopt a culture of lawfulness the better. We suggest they take a look at leafy south Belfast where the lawyers and doctors all live and which has the highest crime rate in the country.
We urge the ordinary decent Catholic people of priest-ridden bandit districts like Ballylodge and Turf Murphy to stay in their cottages when there is unrest at the crossroads and not to vote for anyone with a funny Irish name.
We have noted a growing willingness to engage with the PSNI on the part of Catholics as they make their way to the dole or the snooker hall.
The more they do this, the less paramilitary groups will be able to exercise the community control to which they have for long been accustomed.
Granted, not one of us has ever set foot in the communities to which we are referring, but we hope in the future to be able to travel to such places when the roads are better and electricity is installed.
We turn now to PIRA and at the outset we want to welcome the very significant act of decommissioning that took place last year witnessed by a minister and a Romish priest.
Clearly this was a momentous event but it is our duty to state our sincerely held opinion the clerics were telling lies when they described what they had seen. The evidence that PIRA are still armed is overwhelming. We were standing outside Deane’s restaurant waiting for a taxi just after Christmas when we heard a bloke behind us remark that it was entirely possible that PIRA had kept some guns, although he wasn’t clear on the exact amount because, to be honest, he was absolutely bladdered.
And we have received entirely credible reports (printed first in the Sunday Times, Sunday Independent and Sunday Telegraph) that PIRA are still tooled-up and dangerous.
PIRA are still heavily involved in criminality. We ourselves visited a sweetie shop near the border which has collection boxes for Irish language schools beside their tills and which put ads in their windows for Gaelic sporting events.
We urge the Chief Constable to look into this very serious matter. A chap in Thiepval barracks called Nigel (green jumper with patches on the shoulders) told us this shop is a front for an international money-laundering ring stretching from Hong Kong to the Cayman Islands and back to Jonesboro.
The UDA and UVF continue to murder people for looking sideways at their members in pubs. Loyalist communities are awash with drugs. We commend those loyalist paramilitaries who are trying to steer their groups on to a more peaceful path (one is now living in Australia, the other one is expected to be taken off the ventilator later this year).
We note that the situation on the ground in loyalist areas is much improved since our last report – the number of murders has dropped by 0.4 per cent, arson attacks are down and in the past three months there were no deaths associated with the consumption of class A drugs.
Finally, we turn our attention to community workers who volunteer to mediate in disputes – clearly the single biggest danger to society extant today.
Community Restorative Justice is clearly the spawn of the devil and is tighly controlled by PIRA. We reject utterly the suggestion that such community workers might be shot dead by loyalist paramilitaries if we say they’re working for PIRA.
That is a mischievous suggestion and fails to reflect the huge strides being made by loyalist paramilitaries in moving away from violence, as evidenced by the UPRG statement last month (“Give us a few quid and we’ll think about easing up a bit.”).

Bomb at SF office ‘handled by RUC’

Daily Ireland

by Ciarán Barnes

A bomb that exploded outside a Sinn Féin office in Monaghan town in 1997 had been handled by both the British army and RUC before being planted, Daily Ireland can reveal.
Security sources confirmed yesterday that, after the bomb had been made in west Belfast’s Shankill Road, it was handed to a notorious Ulster Volunteer Force killer, who is also a long-standing police informer.
He gave the device to his RUC Criminal Investigation Department handler, who gave it to the British army.
According to security sources, the bomb was “disabled” before being returned to the CID detective, who gave it back to his UVF informer.
The paramilitary and two UVF colleagues from the loyalist Mount Vernon estate in north Belfast, who unbeknown to him were also both police informers, then made an uninterrupted 60-mile (97-kilometre) journey to Monaghan, where they planted the bomb.
On March 4, 1997, the 25 sticks of Powergel exploded, causing minor damage to the town’s Sinn Féin offices.
The explosives had been hidden inside a pink holdall. Believing the bag contained rubbish, Sinn Féin workers had moved the holdall on two occasions. Security sources told Daily Ireland the RUC had let the UVF gang carry out the attack in order to protect its three informers within the organisation.
They claimed that, because the British army had “disabled” the bomb, senior officers were confident the explosion would not result in lives being lost.
The Monaghan bombing is being investigated as part of a Police Ombudsman probe into attacks carried out by Special Branch UVF informers during the 1990s.
A spokesman for the Police Ombudsman’s office said: “Our investigation is wide-ranging and ongoing. At this stage, it would be inappropriate to comment on specific aspects.
Sinn Féin TD Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin, who was the target of the UVF gang, has called for a full public inquiry into the cross-border bomb attack.

Loyalists blamed for blast bomb on family

Belfast Telegraph

By Sarah Brett and Brendan McDaid
03 February 2006

A Derry man whose family home was targeted in an overnight blast bomb attack today said he believes loyalists were responsible.

James Poole, who has lived in his house at Benview in Coshquin for 45 years, said his wife's nerves were shattered since the midnight attack when the bedroom window was blown in by the blast.

Their 10-year-old daughter Ruth was asleep in the back of the house, near the border with Donegal, when the bomb exploded.

None of the family was injured in the incident.

He said: "I'm just shocked. I was in the front room watching the TV. I'd just taken the wife down a water bottle when there was a bright orange flash and then a bang. The windows were put in and then I saw a bolt on the floor.

"These people are all cowards. They came at night so as not to be seen. I've lived here for 45 years. I've been threatened by loyalists in the past, in August or September, one came up to the house and hit me a slap in the mouth.

"I'm not prepared to say why but it's just a dispute with somebody and they've gotten loyalists involved somehow."

Mr Poole told how his wife was partially protected by curtains when the bedroom window shattered.

Two large chunks of masonry were taken out of the wall.

A neighbour who was wakened by the blast said: "I was in bed and I just heard a loud bang. It was a scary experience. I didn't know what it was.

"There has been quite a lot of activity here ever since."

A spokesman for the PSNI said today: "A couple and a 10-year-old girl were in the house at the time, but there are no reports of any injuries.

"A motive for the incident has not yet been established."

Republican under threat from dissidents

Daily Ireland

**Via Newshound

by Ciarán Barnes

GardaÍ have warned a Co Kerry republican that his life is under threat from the Continuity IRA.
Detectives called to John O’Shea’s home in Ballylongford last week to warn him of the death threat.
They said he was being targeted by dissident republicans.
The 45-year-old is a former member of Republican Sinn Féin, the Continuity IRA’s political wing, who resigned in the summer.
Mr O’Shea quit after a dispute over funding for Continuity IRA prisoners jailed on Portlaoise’s E4 landing.
Last August, ten of the inmates resigned from the Continuity IRA complaining their families were not getting financial help from Republican Sinn Féin.
Their departure caused a major split in Continuity IRA and Republican Sinn Féin ranks with mass resignations throughout Ireland.
The entire Republican Sinn Féin cumann in Ballylongford left the party, joining the new Concerned Group for Republican Prisoners (CGRP).
Since joining the CGRP, Mr O’Shea says he has received threatening telephone calls from Continuity IRA members.
At Christmas, he was forced to change his home telephone number because of the frequency of the calls. Undeterred though, he continues to collect money for the families of inmates on E4.
Mr O’Shea told Daily Ireland that although worried by the death threats he has no plans to end his prisoner work. He said: “I’ve been part of the republican movement since I was 16 years-old and I’m not going to walk away now.
“I’m taking these latest threats seriously, but I will not allow the Continuity IRA to stop me working for the E4 prisoners.
“I am calling on those targeting me to leave me alone. I pose no threat to anyone.”

Finucane family to see Hain on probe

Belfast Telegraph

By Chris Thornton
03 February 2006

The family of Pat Finucane and Secretary of State Peter Hain will meet next week about the controversial terms for the inquiry into the solicitor's murder.

Mr Finucane's widow Geraldine and other family members will meet Mr Hain on Tuesday and testify before the Dail's foreign relations committee two days later.

The family and the Government are in dispute about the terms for holding the inquiry into collusion between Mr Finucane's UDA killers and the state.

Last week Mr Hain said that the inquiry will be held under the controversial Inquiries Act or there will be "none at all".

The family have campaigned for almost 17 years for an inquiry into the murder, but say they "can not take part in any inquiry set up under the Inquiries Act", arguing that it destroys the independence of the tribunal investigating the case.

The new law gives Ministers the power to withhold information.

"The truth of what happened and why is located in the secret corridors of Whitehall.

"The family cannot get involved in any inquiry in which the Ministers in charge of those very same corridors will be in charge of Pat's inquiry."

The family have led an international campaign to convince judges to refuse to take part in the inquiry under the present terms.

So far the Government has been unable to find a judge to take on the case.

The judges in charge of the Bloody Sunday Tribunal and retired Canadian Supreme Court Justice Peter Cory, who recommended the inquiry into the 1989 Finucane murder, have indicated that the conditions imposed by the Inquiries Act are unacceptable.

Mr Hain says the Act would guarantee the co-operation of MI5 agents in the collusion inquiry because it would protect their sources.

"It will enable the security services and police to give evidence in a frank way and help find the truth," he said.

USPCA van out of action after rock attack

Belfast Telegraph

By Fiona McIlwaine Biggins
04 February 2006

A USPCA vehicle was out of service for 24 hours this week after a boulder was thrown through the windscreen during a call in Belfast.

Around £300 worth of damage was caused to the van on Thursday afternoon while the animal welfare officer was away from it, helping the PSNI during a call to a house at Unity Flats in the city.

During a previous visit to the property a police officer had been bitten by the family's dog.

The USPCA had been called in to look after the pet during the follow-up call.

After completing the visit, they returned to find that a crowd had gathered around the vehicle and that the windscreen had been smashed with large rock.

However, when the police requested witnesses to the incident no one came forward.

A spokesperson for the USPCA said they believe that they were targeted because they were assisting the PSNI at the time.

"This has happened two or three times and as a charity focused on the welfare of animals we must now use some of our resources to foot the bill of around £300 to repair the damage to the vehicle.

"At one time we were seen as an impartial organisation, like the Ambulance or Fire Services.

"But social attitudes are changing to us all now."

The animal charity said it would like to see the culprits identified and made to pay for the damage they have caused.

Belfast Agreement is dead, says Robinson


04/02/2006 - 12:05:47

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usNorthern Ireland Secretary Peter Hain was today accused of acting like a spin doctor for the IRA.

In a hard-hitting attack on a range of political opponents in the North, Democratic Unionist deputy leader Peter Robinson told his annual conference in Belfast that the British government should be ashamed of how it handled concerns about ongoing IRA criminality, violence and allegations that they had held on to their weapons.

And with the party due to head into talks on Monday with the British government, the East Belfast MP dismissed nationalist claims that the only way forward was through the Good Friday Agreement. He told them: “Read my lips – the Belfast Agreement is dead.”

The DUP deputy leader said last Wednesday’s Independent Monitoring Commission report on paramilitary activity had shown that the IRA had still a very long way to go before republicans could democratise.

“Democracy cannot tolerate a situation where criminality is institutionalised at the heart of the state and that is exactly what would be done if we were to permit an organisation like Sinn Féin which is still seamlessly linked to paramilitary and criminal activity into government,” he said.

“It will not happen. But, in truth, I do not need to argue the case that Sinn Féin has not passed the entry test.

“Bertie Ahern has pronounced upon their fitness for government. He says he would not countenance having them in government in the Irish Republic. You can be certain that neither Tony Blair nor George Bush would consider sharing power with the Provos for a second.

“Let me give them a clear message: Don’t ask us to do something you would not do yourselves.”

The former Stormont Regional Development Minister noted it had taken 11 years from their first ceasefire for the IRA to carry out significant disarmament but he said it was also clear that their fingers could not be prised away from their weapons.

He continued: “Without there being even a single IMC report suggesting the IRA has given up its illegal activities it is quite simply preposterous and outrageous to expect unionists to move.

“The government should be ashamed of itself. Instead of piling pressure on republicans to make good their promises, Peter Hain has been acting as chief apologist and spin doctor for the IRA.

“He has attempted to dilute the exposure of their wrongdoing and spin the areas where the IMC reported any positive change.”

Adams demands restoration of devolution


04/02/2006 - 13:53:09

Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams today called for an end to the rhetoric surrounding the peace process, insisting devolution had to be restored within a short time-frame.

With all-party talks planned for Monday, Mr Adams said the Democratic Unionist Party had to be given the chance to voice their ideas and concerns and added that republicans were willing to listen attentively.

“This party stands ready to work with the DUP. We do so already in Councils across the North and we did in the Assembly when it functioned,” Mr Adams said.

“Each day British direct-rule Ministers take decisions on spending reviews, health, education, the environment, energy and other matters which adversely effect every citizen in the North and have a knock-on effect throughout the whole island.

“The DUP’s refusal to work with Sinn Féin in government is allowing this to continue.”

In an address to the national conference of Ogra Shinn Féin in Dublin, Mr Adams noted that a new round of talks would begin in earnest on Monday. And he said Sinn Féin would listen to the concerns and ideas of the DUP and the other parties.

“But the main objective of these talks has to be to end the suspension of the political institutions within a short time-frame,” the Sinn Féin leader insisted.

“The two governments have received that very clear message from us. Now is the time for the two governments to act. Rhetoric is not enough.”

Mr Adams made his comments as the DUP met in Belfast for their annual party conference. The Reverend Ian Paisley told delegates that the party would work with all democrats regardless of their background but not those with links to criminality and terror.

Challenged with Sinn Féin claims that the DUP was not interested in working with Catholic politicians in the North he said: “To those who say we will not work with our Roman Catholic fellow countrymen, let me say that we will work with all democrats, regardless of where they come from, but we will have no truck with those who pursue terror and criminality.”

Bronze Age man's burial site unearthed


The remains were uncovered on Rathlin Island

Human remains dating back almost 4,000 years have been uncovered on Rathlin Island off the County Antrim coast.

Senior archaeologists are investigating the remains of a man who could have been buried in the Bronze Age.

The skeleton was found in a crouched foetal-like position, which would indicate a cist burial in about 2000 BC.

The body was accompanied by a food vessel. The remains were uncovered on Monday on the north coast, close to Rathlin Island's only pub, during work.

Local people said they believe the bones are very old, and are similar to others which have been uncovered in the area over the years.

Declan Hurl, a senior archaeologist with the Department of Heritage and Environment and Dr Colin Breen from the Centre of Marine Archaeology at the University of Ulster, are investigating the find.

A spokesman for the Department of Environment stressed it was very early to give details but said this looked like a very significant discovery.

"What they (the archaeologists) are looking at is the possibility of an early Bronze Age site," he told the BBC News website.

"The find has just been identified in the past 24 hours. An initial report will determine whether the site can sustain excavation, given its precarious location," he said.

People have been sailing to Rathlin for thousands of years.

Other recent archaeological discoveries indicate the island may have been settled as early as 7000 BC, placing it among the oldest such sites in all of Ireland.

A Neolithic stone axe factory uncovered on the pistol-shaped island's western tip dates from at least 4000 BC.

No end insight for the other Irish war

Irish Examiner

By Harry McGee, Political Editor

WHEN you talk about the end of conflict, it depends what conflict you are talking about.

There is another war going on, the one that’s not being waged by diehard republican splinter groups or by drug-fuelled loyalist hoods.

No, this is a horse of a different colour. It’s the war on the ideological front. And for some of its generals, this war will never be over.

The film Magnolia has a recurring motif about outlandish coincidences.

One tells the story of the young man who decides to end it all by throwing himself off the roof of his apartment building.

At the same time, in the family apartment below, his parents are having a violent row.

His mother grabs a gun and shoots at the father but misses. The bullet passes through the window and kills the young man as he plummets towards the ground.

For some strange reason, I was reminded of that on Wednesday, when the International Monitoring Commission (IMC) report was published.

The IMC wasn’t yet ready to award any gold stars to the IRA. One of the negatives it dwelt on was money-laundering.

By a curious coincidence, the authorities on both sides of the Border chose that very day to make very public a series of raids they had carried out targeted at - you’ll never guess - IRA money-laundering.

Did Justice Minister Michael McDowell have anything to say about all that? Well, diligent reporters managed to coax a few words out of him.

“The good news from today’s story is that the battle to get those assets into safe hands and to deprive paramilitary and subversive people of their use for whatever purposes is ongoing and succeeding,” he said.

For some, the war will never be over. For McDowell and his predecessor in justice, John O’Donoghue, the republican movement will remain a threat to the State irrespective of its mode. The private army will remain the private army even if its arsenal is composed of ballot boxes and bulging war chests.

All of this shows up the internal imbalance in the Government’s response to republicanism and its journey away from violence.

Even a cursory study of the IMC report on Wednesday will have told you why Bertie Ahern and Tony Blair went to so much trouble the previous week.

You can’t expect everything to happen immediately, they said then. Look at the big picture - July 28 IRA statement and full decommissioning. You can’t deny that they weren’t significant, Blair said in his sugary-sincere way.

Preempting the IMC report did not fully soften its sting. The report was more negative than what Ahern and Blair had braced us for.

The IRA still held a “range of different kinds of weapons and ammunition” that should have been decommissioned, it surmised. It dwelt on money-laundering, on intelligence gathering, hinted that the Provos were exerting a sinister influence on community restorative justice programmes in some areas.

Ahern & Ahern did their best to gloss over these things. But the IMC itself did not seem as enthusiastic; John Alderdice pointedly said he was not as confident as John de Chastelain that the IRA had not retained guns.

And what were we to make of the CAB raids? Is the Government operating a dual strategy of simultaneously giving the IRA a slap on the back and a kick up the backside? Are the divergent approaches of the Aherns and McDowell all accommodated to coax republicans to peace, and tear them to pieces (morally and electorally)?

Yes, there needs to be accountability. And yes, republicans will have to fully embrace the democratic institutions and the rule of law. But what are people going to do about the big dark chasm that is the world of loyalist paramilitarism and criminality?

The most extraordinary - but seldom mentioned - statistics the IMC reports contain are those related to loyalist violence. There were zero republican shootings last Autumn. There were over 20 involving loyalists, who have carried out at least twice as many assaults as republicans since 2003.

Do the unionist parties, especially the DUP, have no responsibility at all in dealing with that crisis?

Or does the never ending ideological war have only enough room for one never-ending enemy of the people?

Bugging case goes to High Court


3 February 2006

Lawyers representing a solicitor held by police are to seek a judicial review of the circumstances of his arrest.

Limavady solicitor Manmohan Sandhu was arrested on Tuesday and is being held in Antrim police station over allegations of serious crime.

His lawyers claim police secretly taped conversations between him and clients.

The High Court will be asked to look at the legality of the bugging devices allegedly used to record confidential conversations at Antrim police station.

Detectives on Thursday successfully applied for another 48 hours to interview Mr Sandhu. The extension runs out at 1000 GMT on Saturday.

It is understood police will seek another extension at the High Court. This is likely to happen after the judicial hearing.

The Law Society, the body which represents the legal profession, is to take the case up with the chief constable.

Law Society chief executive John Bailie is to meet Hugh Orde in Belfast on Monday.

Mr Bailie said that the allegations of covert taping by police represented an "intrusion into the solicitor-client relationship".

"A client in these circumstances - who is arrested and in police custody, suspected of having committed a criminal offence - needs to be able to speak to his solicitor candidly," he said.

"It is the first occasion of which I am aware in Northern Ireland that there has been this kind of intrusion into the solicitor-client relationship".
John Bailie
Law Society chief executive

"The administration of justice requires that should happen: he needs to be guaranteed that it is kept confidential.

"I think also the reason why we are taking this so seriously is that it is the first occasion of which I am aware in Northern Ireland that there has been this kind of intrusion into the solicitor-client relationship."

Mr Sandhu's solicitor, Joe Rice, wrote to the Law Society to complain about how, he claims, the police gathered evidence by covertly taping confidential conversations.

Mr Rice alleges the conversations, allegedly taped at Antrim police station, led to Mr Sandhu being questioned about serious terrorist activity including membership of a loyalist paramilitary organisation.

'Sad day'

The letter from Mr Rice to the Law Society's chief executive also said: "It is a sad day for our criminal justice process that a solicitor cannot guarantee that his advices to his client in a police station may not be free from state interference."

He also stated: "I am sure you will share my concern that the right to confidentiality that must exist between solicitor and client has now been eradicated.

"This is a deliberate move by the authorities and no solicitor can at present guarantee his client that any pre-interview or indeed post-interview consultations at police stations in Northern Ireland are private and confidential."

Police refused to confirm or deny the identity of Mr Sandhu, but confirmed on Thursday they have been granted another 48 hours to question a man at Antrim police station.

Campaign on Rafferty killing goes Stateside

Irish Independent

Caitriona Palmer, in Washington

THE family of Joseph Rafferty, the Dubliner allegedly murdered by republican elements, are due to arrive in New York today in advance of a series of meetings with senior US politicians to call attention to the case and to bring his killer to justice.

Beginning on Monday in Washington DC, Mr Rafferty's relatives are scheduled to meet with a series of high profile political figures including Senators Hillary Clinton and Ted Kennedy.

The family is also due to meet with several Democratic and Republican members of the US House of Representatives, senior diplomats in the State Department in charge of Ireland and Irish embassy officials.

Rafferty, a 29-year-old father of one, was shot twice by a gunman as he left his home in Clonee, West Dublin in April 2005. His family allege that his killer is a known member of the IRA and that Sinn Fein officials are protecting his identity.

This campaign follows a similar effort by the family of Robert McCartney, the 33-year-old Catholic man stabbed to death outside a Belfast bar in January 2005 by alleged members of the IRA."We're not trying to bring down Sinn Fein," said Esther Uzell, a sister of Joe Rafferty, speaking on the eve of her US visit.

Holohan parents want killer summoned to the inquest

Irish Independent

Ralph Riegel

THE parents of slain schoolboy Robert Holohan have written to the Cork county coroner asking that his killer be summoned to appear at the inquest into his death.

The Holohans want Wayne O'Donoghue to answer the questions that have tortured them since his trial.

Majella Holohan has confirmed she wants to see O'Donoghue personally respond to a number of issues she raised at his sentencing hearing, and to be cross-examined by their solicitor. "We have questions that we want answered," she said.

O'Donoghue received a four-year prison sentence for the manslaughter of Robert on January 4 2005 after being acquitted of the boy's murder.

Robert died from asphyxia due to neck compression after being placed in a head-lock and caught by the throat by O'Donoghue.

The Holohan family last week wrote to the DPP pleading that what they claimed to be the undue leniency of the sentence be appealed.

Cork county coroner Frank O'Connell has said that no details of the inquest, either its date or the potential witnesses to be summoned, will be discussed until after the 28-day statutory appeals period expires.

That is on February 21, and, if there is no appeal against his sentence, Mr O'Connell will then liaise with the various interested parties about the date and running order.

O'Donoghue's solicitor, Frank Buttimer, last night said he had no further comment to make.

Mr Buttimer has already insisted that his client will do "everything humanly possible" to assist the inquest and the Holohan family.

However, he said that his client will refuse to attend the inquest if there is any question of his name being further blackened or if he is to be subjected to any attempted re-run of his trial.

Mr Buttimer stressed that this is not the function of such inquests, whose purpose is to record matters of fact such as the identity of the deceased, the place and time of death as well as the actual cause of death.

This is to allow the release of a death certificate to the family.

Mr Buttimer said he would find it "extraordinary" if his client was summoned to appear to the inquest in light of the detailed information already given to the original 10-day Central Criminal Court trial.

It remains unclear whether the State Pathologist, Dr Marie Cassidy, whose trial testimony was crucial, will be asked to offer evidence at the inquest.


Yesterday, Majella Holohan said the family's ordeal over the past two months has been "a living nightmare".

"You just have to keep it together for the kids (Emma and Harry).

"They have good days and bad days like myself. But you have to just keep going. There's nothing else you can do."

With her husband, Mark, she is trying to offer their two children as normal a life as possible in the circumstances. To that end, they are now in the process of selling their home and moving to another part of Midleton.

"There are just too many memories and reminders here in Ballyedmond."

Spain: Ban on Basque separatist party extended

World Socialist Web Site

By Paul Bond
4 February 2006

The Spanish High Court has renewed its legal ban on the Basque separatist party Batasuna. The decision prompted a demonstration in the Basque region called in defence of “civil and political rights.”

Batasuna, a parliamentary party calling for the formation of a Basque national state, was proscribed by the Supreme Court in 2003 on the grounds that it constituted the political wing of the armed group ETA (Euskadi ta Askatasuna—Basque Homeland and Freedom). Prior to the ban, Batasuna had received some 12 percent of the regional vote.

Although the party remains illegal, a previous court order prohibiting its activities had recently expired. Batasuna had called a rally in Barakaldo, near Bilbao, which it described as the party’s first national assembly since its proscription.

The presiding judge, Fernando Grande-Marlaska of the National Court, said that Batasuna had periodically been allowed to hold rallies and meetings since the ban. (A march in August was allowed to go ahead, for example, but along a different route from the one originally proposed.) But the judge said a congress called to elect a new executive committee would be going too far. Banning the proposed rally, he also extended the ban on Batasuna’s “public, private and institutional” activities for another two years. He described the organisation as “a structure controlled by the leaders of ETA.”

Police immediately moved to close down any remaining premises used by Batasuna. The party’s offices in Pamplona were sealed by police the day after the judgement. On January 19, some 20 police officers shut down premises in Donostia, which the party had used for press conferences.

Basque nationalists promptly called a demonstration outside the Bilbao Exhibition Centre in Barakaldo, where the rally was to have been held. The decision to allow the rally to proceed was taken by the regional government, a coalition of nationalist parties. The regional justice minister, Joseba Azkarraga, argued that Batasuna’s supporters should be allowed to express themselves. The other nationalist parties condemn ETA, but say that Batasuna will need to be included in any peace process. On the morning of the demonstration, the National Court ordered police to intervene if there were any chants or banners supporting ETA.

Reports of the attendance at the rally ranged from 8,000 according to El Pais, the daily paper closest to the PSOE government, to 20,000 cited by nationalist sources. The main speaker was Batasuna’s leader, Arnaldo Otegi. Other Batasuna leaders were also on the platform, along with Northern Ireland’s Sinn Fein parliamentary deputy, Aengus O’Snodaigh. Batasuna holds up the negotiations between the British government and the Irish republican movement as the model for the deal they wish to do with the Spanish state.

In his 13-minute speech, Otegi talked of new provocations and obstacles to the peace process in the Basque region. He again stressed the party’s determination to participate in any further discussion on the region’s status, saying that “a process which will provide solutions to the conflict” was within reach.

Otegi said more about this in a recent interview with Radio Euskadi. He appealed to the “good will” of all parties in the region to collaborate in the development of a regional plan, describing the ban on Batasuna as an attempt to disrupt the unofficial relations the party had forged with other nationalist parties in the region.

For the ruling Basque National Party (PNV), the initial composition of any Basque homeland would be the three Basque provinces in Spain. Batasuna (and ETA) have always insisted that it must also include the Basque province within France. In his radio interview, Otegi was at his most conciliatory towards the PNV. He said that he had met with the PNV’s Juan José Ibarretxe after Grande-Marlaska’s judgement, and that they had a common understanding of the intentions behind it.

In 2003, Ibarretxe put forward a plan for extending Basque autonomy. Otegi told Radio Euskadi that Ibarretxe faced “structural difficulties” in implementing a peace process because of his restriction to three territories. At the same time, though, Otegi said that Ibarretxe could “contribute importantly” to any plan, which would only be realised through the collaboration of “all parties” in the region.

Patxi Lopez, head of the Basque Socialist Party (PSE—the regional sister party of the ruling national PSOE), said that the only obstacle to peace was the continued existence of ETA. Its disbanding was a prerequisite for any talks with Batasuna, he said, and Otegi had missed an “excellent opportunity” to call on ETA to disarm.

Successive Spanish governments have continued to use the Basque region as a testing ground for undemocratic measures aimed at suppressing any domestic political unrest. The banning of Batasuna, which disenfranchised large sections of the Basque country, was the first time a political party had been outlawed in Spain since the end of the dictatorship of General Franco.

The banning of Batasuna was initially carried out by the right-wing Popular Party (PP) government of José Maria Aznar. The PP, now in opposition, had demanded the banning of the Batasuna meeting. After the rally, local PP leader Carmelo Barrio said that it had “served only to promote the ideals of ETA-Batasuna.” Urging greater intervention, he said that “the weakness of our leaders is directly proportional to the arrogance with which the terrorists and their supporters brandish their antidemocratic arguments.” The PP demanded an investigation into the rally, describing it as a front for ETA.

At the same time, the rightist public employees union Manos Limpias (Clean Hands) filed charges against local government officials for “consenting” to the rally in the face of Grande-Marlaska’s judgement. Also filing charges against the rally’s “chief protagonist,” Otegi, Manos Limpias demanded legal action from the public prosecutor, whose “mission is to promote justice in defence of legality... and the public interest.”

Such police and court powers, having been tested in the Basque region, will be used against the whole Spanish working class. Batasuna seeks to exploit this to justify their separatist agenda, which can only further the division of the Spanish working class along regional lines and strengthen the right wing.

PSOE Prime Minister José Luis Rodriguez Zapatero was in favour of letting the meeting go ahead and has already offered talks if ETA disarms. He too has learned from the way Britain’s Labour government has worked with Washington and Dublin to bring Sinn Fein into a devolved executive, in order to better police the Catholic population in Northern Ireland and ensure that the basic requirements of global investors for stability are met and cuts in government expenditure are pushed through.

Families' feud link to stab death


Gerard Devlin had been attacked before

A west Belfast father-of-five has been stabbed to death as he picked up his children for the weekend.

Gerard Devlin's death is being treated as murder by police. Two other men, both related to Mr Devlin, are being treated in hospital.

The fight involving several men at Whitecliffe Parade at about 1600 GMT is being linked to an ongoing feud between two families in the Ballymurphy area.

Mr Devlin had recently left the area because of the feud.

Mr Devlin's aunt, Bernadette O'Rawe, told the BBC that he had only returned to the area for 15 minutes to collect his children.

"He was making a new life for himself - he had moved out of the district. He came in tonight to take his kids out," he said.

The atmosphere remained tense in the area on Friday evening

Mr Devlin had been attacked a number of times before, including one assault when his throat was cut.

The atmosphere in the area remained tense on Friday evening, with some scuffles close to the police cordon.

A police spokesman said there was "nothing to suggest paramilitary involvement".

"The PSNI are appealing for support from the west Belfast community to help us gather the vital information we need to find the person responsible for this tragic incident," he added.

Sinn Fein assembly member Michael Ferguson said it had been a long-running feud.

"The Community Safety Network in the area, for its part, had worked with both families, and four days ago got an agreement that three people would leave," he said.

"Mr Devlin left and came back tonight to pick up his children, and he's now dead."

03 February 2006

PSNI won’t become representative of wider society in North until 2027

Daily Ireland

by Jarlath Kearney

PSNI statistics reveal that the force will not become representative of wider society in the North until at least 2027.
The projections are based on the current recruitment trends for the 9,409-strong force at January 1, 2006.
The present percentage of Catholics in the PSNI stands at just 16.39 per cent (1543 members).
It can also be revealed that only one officer from the Garda Síochána has taken part in a mutual personnel exchange – without police powers – with the PSNI since new protocols were exchanged between the Irish and British governments at Hillsborough a year ago.
The revelations emerged as PSNI Chief Constable Hugh Orde launched his force’s annual report in Belfast yesterday.
Figures obtained by Daily Ireland demonstrate that the PSNI is failing to implement the target of recruitment laid down by the Patten Commission report which emerged from the Good Friday Agreement.
Eight years after the agreement and six years after the introduction of the Police Act 2000, key elements of the Patten Commission’s recommendations on policing remain unfulfilled.
For instance, the Patten Commission recommended that the full-time Reserve should be disbanded, a recommendation which the PSNI has failed to fulfil.
The Patten Commission also recommended that the part-time Reserve could be significantly expanded to increase the rate of Catholic composition. Again, the PSNI has failed to progress this recommendation.
The PSNI Reserve (encompassing both full-time and part-time) accounts for 20 per cent of the force (1,890 members).
Since the reserve has historically been even worse in terms of its composition than the overall force (currently 5.9 per cent Catholic members), major changes to this element of the PSNI could impact rapidly on overall Catholic participation. However, both the PSNI and NIO have resisted implementing the Patten Commission recommendations in this regard.
The PSNI have been implementing the 50:50 recruitment programme at entry level which the Patten Commission recommended.
However, based on current recruitment trends, the PSNI is failing to meet the target for the number of Catholic police officers which the Patten Commission recommended by 2005 – namely 18.7 per cent.
By 2006, the commission said the number of Catholic police officers should be 20.6 per cent.
As the latest statistics demonstrate on January 1, 2006, the number of Catholic police officers in the PSNI is just 16.39 per cent.
Given that the number of PSNI members since 50:50 recruitment was introduced has increased at a rate of just 1.3 per cent annually, it would take over 20 years – until 2027 – for the force to achieve parity with current community representation across the North.
The Policing Board yesterday announced that it had, in principle, agreed to explore the possibility of recruiting civilians to patrol local areas with limited powers.
However, this suggestion – which has been put forward by the PSNI – does not correspond with the Patten Commission’s recommendation to significantly enlarge the part-time reserve in mainly nationalist areas.
Welcoming moves to introduce the new initiative of police community support officers, Policing Board chairperson, Des Rea, failed to address the PSNI’s failure to implement the Patten Commission’s recommendations.
“At today’s meetings, Board Members’ discussions also reflected the desire to meet and implement the requirements of the Patten Report in a way, which meets the needs of policing today, while taking account of developments in England & Wales: ensuring that the operational needs of the service are met; and guarding against any potential for PCSOs to become a route into policing for paramilitaries,” Mr Rea said.

200 cops have a criminal record

Daily Ireland

POLICE REPORT: No equality in PSNI recruitment until 2027

by Ciarán Barnes

- 148 constables, 19 sergeants, 28 full-time reservists and five part-time reservists
have a criminal record

- Police failing to implement recruitment targets laid down by Patten Commission
– only 16 per cent of force is Catholic

Two hundred officers currently serving in the PSNI have criminal convictions, Daily Ireland can reveal.
Northern Ireland Office (NIO) statistics show 19 sergeants, 148 constables, 28 full-time reserve officers and five part-time reserve officers have criminal records.
The figures came to light on the same day that Deputy Chief Constable Paul Leighton confirmed seven officers were convicted of drink-driving last year.
At a meeting of the Policing Board, he revealed a further 28 officers may be prosecuted for alcohol-related motoring offences. Mr Leighton claimed the prosecutions showed PSNI members are treated in the same manner as the public.
The statistics have alarmed politicians and policing board members worried at the high-levels of criminal convictions among members of the PSNI.
SDLP assemblyman John Dallat last night called for a review of the criteria used to decide whether officers with criminal convictions are retained.
He said: “Police officers are supposed to lead by example, but clearly in the cases of these 200 officers they have not.
Sinn Féin MLA Alex Maskey accused the PSNI of trying to cover up rates of criminal convictions among its officers.
He said: “It should come as no surprise that a culture of concealment has transported itself from the RUC to the PSNI.”
During yesterday’s Policing Board meeting, independent member Pauline McCabe questioned the disciplinary action taken against PSNI members convicted of drink-driving.
PSNI bosses have admitted that of the seven convicted only one was dismissed. Ms McCabe said: “Members were shocked we hadn’t taken a tougher line on these offenders.”
Confirming 200 members of the PSNI have criminal convictions, direct-rule minister, Shaun Woodward, said: “The majority of the offences concerned are traffic offences. People with serious or terrorist backgrounds are not considered to be suitable to serve in the police service.”
A PSNI spokesman said: “We are very clear on the regulations concerning standards to join the PSNI. The PSNI continue to adhere to the regulations determined by the legislation.”
Last week, police chiefs admitted a Co Down detective convicted of fraud is still in the pay of the PSNI. Charles Metcalfe was given a 12-month suspended sentence after admitting earning hundreds of pounds a day as a bodyguard in Iraq while on official sick leave at home.
In Belfast County Court on Tuesday, former PSNI officer Alan Leckey was found guilty of dangerous driving. The actions of the 40-year-old, who received a police pension after retiring on health grounds, were branded “disgraceful” by the judge.

Animal Rights Group Criticises Arts Council Funding For Animal Circuses


by Ciaran Long - Alliance For Animal Rights pagan_animal_liberation_front at hotmail dot com

Animal rights group, the Captive Animals Protection Society (CAPS) has strongly criticised the decision by the Arts Council to allocate120,000 euros to Irish circuses containing animal acts, and described it as “further state funding for animal abuse by this government”. CAPS Irish spokesperson Nuala Donlon is calling on the Arts Council to reconsider its decision in light of the serious concerns about animal welfare and public safety which surround such travelling menageries.

Animals in circuses suffer extreme deprivation and are subjected to physical abuse in their training routines, facts which have become public knowledge in recent years following several undercover operations.

Wild animals are particularly badly affected, travelling as they do thousands of miles every year in beast wagons and chained (in the case of elephants) and caged (other species) while circuses are on sites. According to Ms. Donlon “There is no way a travelling menagerie can provide such animals with the facilities required to fulfil even their most basic behavioural needs”.

The brutal nature of the training methods used by circuses has also been well exposed by now. The nature of these training methods is revealed by the tools of the trade. Whips are seen in the ring, but the use of screws hidden in the base of walking sticks, spikes concealed in tasselled sticks, and hotshots or electric shock devices has been documented.

And the Arts Council calls this art!!

In 2005 alone at least six people were injured, one of them critically, after being attacked by circus animals.

“Given our serious concerns for the welfare of circus animals, and the public safety issues which surround such travelling circuses, we call on the Arts council to take the humane decision and withdraw this funding”. – Nuala Donlon

For further information contact Nuala Donlon, Irish spokesperson, Captive Animals Protection Society, at 086 – 3985761

Related Link: http://www.captiveanimals.org/

Omagh suspect 'hid in bushes to escape arrest'


03/02/2006 - 18:04:56

An electrician accused of murdering 29 people in the Omagh bomb atrocity tried to escape arrest by hiding in bushes, a court heard today.

As Sean Hoey, 36, launched a new bid to be released on bail, prosecuting lawyers claimed he could flee across the border to the Republic of Ireland if freed.

Friends are prepared to lodge £50,000 (€73,285) in cash, a farm and land assurities that he would turn up for trial, Belfast Crown Court was told.

Hoey’s mother, Rita, would also hand over her total savings of £1,500 (€2,200) and put up the family home as reassurance.

But the Crown insisted there was a further risk of dissident republican terrorist attacks if the accused, of Molly Road, Jonesborough on the south Armagh border, was granted bail.

Gordon Kerr, QC, said: “That’s to be coupled with the fact that when police came to arrest him in September 2003 it is submitted that he tried to escape and was found in undergrowth some distance from his house by the police.”

Hoey faces a total of 58 charges relating to the August 1998 Omagh bomb massacre carried out by the Real IRA and a series of other terrorist strikes at around the same period across Northern Ireland.

The court was told he has already been in custody for 882 days, with his defence stressing that in England remanded suspects obtain an automatic right to bail after 112 days.

But Mr Kerr told the judge, Mr Justice Weir, that his main objection was the fear that Hoey, who is due to go on trial in September, would not surrender again to police.

“The accused comes from an area adjacent to the border in Jonesborough,” he said.

“He has connections to relatives on both sides of the border and he has a mobile occupation in the sense that he’s an electrician.

“We have a document that he was in fact working in the Republic of Ireland at a time not distant to his arrest.”

Mr Kerr added that evidence linking Hoey to the construction of bombs used at Omagh and in other towns showed these were devices all connected with rogue terrorist organisations.

“The evidence suggests he had a significant role in that activity and that at present dissident republican groupings are not, on my instruction, on ceasefire but are continuing to operate in a terrorist capacity.”

Dressed in a grey jacket and jeans, Hoey, who denied the charges against him, listened intently in the dock throughout the three-hour-long hearing, while some family members sat in the gallery behind him.

Seamus Treacy QC for the defence, told the court the accused had no relevant criminal record, either north or south of the Irish border.

“He’s a person who comes before the court with an unblemished character,” he insisted.

The QC also argued that Hoey had been arrested in September 1998 and again in June 1999 when he was held for up to seven days on both occasions.

He was questioned about the Omagh bombing both times but released, the barrister said.

Mr Treacy claimed his client would have realised that he was under police suspicion of involvement in the bombing and yet he did not try to flee the jurisdiction.

When police rearrested him in September 2003, it was at his own house, the court was told.

After the judge said being taken from under a bush was not a normal place to make an arrest, Mr Treacy reasoned that Hoey had already been held on twice at Gough Barracks and wasn’t looking forward to the prospect of another week there.

“That’s quite a different matter from suggesting this is a person that if he was granted bail wouldn’t turn up for his trial,” the QC said.

He added later: “My instruction was that he ran towards and was in the bush where he was apprehended.

“This was discussed during the course of interviews and he explained to police at the time.”

Mr Treacy also told the court his client had now been in custody for almost eight times the maximum permitted period before the automatic right to bail begins in England.

He added that Hoey was prepared to surrender his passport and agree to any residency requirements.

“There are also very substantial sureties available,” he said.

“One of the individuals is prepared to lodge a sum of up to £50,000. Another individual doesn’t have cash, but does have property, land and a farm. He’s prepared to obtain money on foot of that property.

“The applicant’s mother, Rita Hoey, doesn’t have much but has £1,500 in savings and there’s the parental home.

“They are prepared to do whatever is required to secure their son’s release.”

Mr Justice Weir, who had earlier told both sides that he represented up to 30 people injured in the Omagh bomb in criminal injury claims before he was appointed a judge, said he would decide on the application on Monday.

School closed in security alert


**Sure takes a lot of guts to terrorise school children

A pipe with wires protruding was left at the gates of the school

More than 700 pupils were sent home from a school on the outskirts of Belfast following a security alert.

The alert began at 0930 GMT on Friday at St Colm's High School, Twinbrook, when a pipe with wires on it was discovered close to the front gates.

Meanwhile, a clearing up operation is under way on the Antrim Road in north Belfast after a controlled explosion was carried out on a suspect car.

The vehicle was parked outside Antrim Road police station.

The alert followed a telephone bomb warning.

Houses in the area were evacuated as the security operation got under way.

'Swift response'

School principal at St Colm's High, Imelda Jordan, commended staff and pupils for their swift response and condemned those responsible.

"The children's parents sent them to school today believing they would be in our care and kept safe throughout the school day, I wasn't able to do that," she said.

"I had to send 700 children home without transport and without being able to contact their parents."

The device was later declared an elaborate hoax.

Local assembly members described those responsible as despicable.


Blast bomb

Near Derry, a couple and their 10-year-old daughter have escaped injury in a blast bomb attack at their home.

The attack happened at Benview Estate in Coshquin shortly after midnight.

Jimmy Poole who was in the house with his family at the time said it was a personal dispute with loyalists.

He said the attack was not political.

"They are all cowards. They won't come to your face. They come behind your back and do it. They won't come straight to your door," he said.

Sinn Fein condemned the attack. The party said loyalism needed to move away from violence.

"Our party's reaction is shock," said Councillor Billy Page.

"This is a very close knit community, a mixed community and a very elderly community around them. We totally condemn it."

The Poole family said they would not be intimidated out of their home.

Police investigating the attack said no motive had been established.

They have appealed for information.

Appeal Date Given As Cara Gunn Battles To Get Her Son Back

Derry Journal

Friday 3rd February 2006

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usCara Gunn, the Derry mum at the centre of a tug of love custody battle over her seven year old son Dylan, has been given a date for a appeal hearing on an earlier court decision to grant custody to the child's American father. Ms Gunn, who was forced to return to Florida with her daughter Laura in September 2003 in order to continue her custody battle, lost her case in December of that year, but has now been thrown a lifeline as her appeal date, to be heard by three judges, has been set for February 28.

Speaking to the 'Journal' last night Cara's mother Dolores Moore said her daughter, like herself, was 'afraid to get her hopes up'. "Cara has her up and down days but she is determined to return to Derry together with Dylan and Laura" she said. "I miss them all so much, it's really hard, especially missing out on Dylan growing up." Dolores added that while Cara's legal team have told her to be hopeful of a ruling in her favour, both women fear the worst. "Even if this hearing doesn't produce the result we are all hoping for we will continue to fight to bring Dylan home to Derry" she said. "It's heartbreaking talking to him on the phone, he keeps telling me he's coming over for a holiday. "I just wish it was all sorted out." The appeal hearing, which will examine evidence presented in the original case aimed at making sure statute was followed and that Dylan's best interests were at heart, will take place at Daytona Beach, Florida, at 10.00am US time on February 28.

Solicitors May Refuse PSNI Co-Operation

Derry Journal

Friday 3rd February 2006

The PRO of the Solicitors Criminal Bar Association, Derry man Pearse MacDermott, has said that solicitors in Derry and across the North may have to withdraw their co-operation from the PSNI if client/solicitor confidentiality cannot be guaranteed. He was speaking after it emerged that a Limavady solicitor, Mr. Johnny Sandhu, was being questioned by police about 'serious terrorist activity' and that the questioning was based on tapes made in Antrim police station when the solicitor was meeting with clients.
Mr. MacDermott said last night: "We are gravely concerned and angry that there appears to have been serious interference with client/solicitor confidentiality. "How can any client feel confidence in briefing their solicitor if they cannot be guaranteed that this conversation will remain private." He added: "Client/solicitor confidentiality is an integral part of protecting a client's rights under the law and if the police are going to breach it in this way then we will have to consider what action we can take." Mr. MacDermott added: "We have not yet decided what we can do about this situation but one option we will be considering is withdrawing our services from police stations until this matter is resolved.

"If we cannot meet our clients confident that this is not being recorded then we may have to simply refuse to meet with clients in the precincts of a police station." Following a court appearance where the PSNI applied for an extension of the time to hold Mr. Sandhu his solicitor Mr. Joe Rice complained about the taping of the conversations.
He said those conversations, allegedly taped at Antrim police station, led to Mr Sandhu being questioned about serious terrorist activity including membership of a loyalist paramilitary organisation. In a letter to the Law Society Mr. Rice complained about what had happened and said: "It is a sad day for our criminal justice process that a solicitor cannot guarantee that his advices to his client in a police station may not be free from state interference. "I am sure you will share my concern that the right to confidentiality that must exist between solicitor and client has now been eradicated. "This is a deliberate move by the authorities and no solicitor can at present guarantee his client that any preinterview or indeed post-interview consultations at police stations in Northern Ireland are private and confidential." It is also understood that the Law Society has demanded a meeting with Chief Constable Sir Hugh Orde over the arrest.

DUP to lobby for American support


Democratic Unionists may appoint a representative in the United States to put the party's case to opinion formers, the DUP leader has said.

On the eve of his party's annual conference in Belfast on Saturday, Ian Paisley said the time was right to lobby for support in America.

Mr Paisley also intends to accept an invitation to meet four US senators in Washington in March.

Sinn Fein and the Ulster Unionists have established strong links in America.

"About 100 years ago there were Ulster societies all over the place but they merged themselves into the country," Mr Paisley said.

"The Irish have never fully merged themselves. It is still Irish America. We need to address this issue.

'Right time'

"This is the time to do it because the present administration in Washington is more favourable than the Democrats," he said.

The DUP leader, who will be 80 years old in April, also insisted that he has never contemplated retiring from politics.

"If I were to give in at this stage, all my followers would be aghast," he said.

"They would be saying: 'The Big Man must know we are going to lose.' I just couldn't afford to do that," he said.

The Democratic Unionist Party became the largest party in Northern Ireland, after it captured nine Westminster seats in the 2005 election.

Father hits out at Channel 4 suicide stunt


The father of a North Belfast teenager who took his own life has blasted Channel 4 for showing a programme in which a man attempted to escape from hanging himself.

The stunt was carried out in the opening programme of a heavily trailed series called ‘Death Wish Live’ which has been running all week on Channel 4’s sister channel E4. Aired on Monday, the programme was called ‘Cheating the Gallows’, and the station’s publicity described how escapologist Jonathan Goodwin would be trying “to avoid being hung execution-style on live television.”

In the event, Goodwin had to be cut free by an assistant when he failed to free himself after 30 seconds. He said: “I was told it was dangerous and stupid and it turns out that the advice was right.” He was examined afterwards by paramedics and was said to be suffering from rope burns. Phlip McTaggart, whose son Philip hanged himself two years ago, said he was disgusted by the programme.
“It’s an absolute disgrace that people are making entertainment out of people who are depressed or unhappy or feeling down. You wouldn’t get away with it if it was cancer or some other sort of disease.”

“I was at a support group last night and some of those who were there had seen the programme and had to turn over because they were really very upset. I don’t think Channel 4 realise how sensitive an issue this really is. Talking on the basis of the island of Ireland where 600 people would take their lives each year, and even in England, Wales and Scotland where there is a very very high number of people taking their lives, this is such a sensitive issue that should not be made into entertainment.

“Any loss of a child under any circumstances is difficult enough, but when a parent loses a child through suicide it is more difficult because of the stigma that is attached to it and this type of programme is not doing anything to help break down the barriers. Making entertainment out of this is horrendous and to think that families would see this does not bear thinking about. Channel 4 should look at this again.”
Philip fears that the work of groups such as the suicide prevention group Pips will be put back because of the E4 show.

“There are groups like Pips who are out there working tirelessly to break down the barriers around this issue and then you are coming up against things like this that think someone trying to take their own life is entertainment. We will now be writing to Channel 4 about this and let them know how distasteful it was.”

No one from Channel 4 was available for comment.

Journalist:: Evan Short

Salary threat over Assembly 'paralysis'

Belfast Telegraph

03 February 2006

The average £85,000 going in salaries and allowances to Assembly politicians will not continue to be paid if the "state of paralysis" on the restoration of the institutions continues.

That was the warning issued in Dublin yesterday by Northern Secretary Peter Hain who said it was not a case of him "wielding a big stick" but of the people demanding that something was done.

Mr Hain said the total cost of the Assembly since it was suspended three years ago was £78m, adding: "We can't keep spending this money for nothing."

"It's not possible to have an Assembly elections in May 2007 when there is not an Assembly to elect representatives to," he added.

"No serious political figure in Northern Ireland disagrees with me on these points."

The Northern Secretary played down differences in the respective reports on IRA activity by the International Monitoring Commission (IMC) and the Independent International Commissioning on Decommissioning (IICD), headed by General John de Chastelain. "I don't see a real difference between them," he said. "I got exactly what I expected in the IMC report.

The bigger picture is that things have changed massively even in the past few months," he said.

Mr Hain said he accepted that Ian Paisley and the DUP would not be "galloping into Government tomorrow". But he said he did believe that there was "an appetite" to move things forward, adding that nobody believed the status quo was sustainable.

He felt that, like the other parties, Dr Paisley wanted to see the Assembly up and running again.

Mr Hain said that in next week's talks at Stormont, he looked forward to hearing the views of all the parties, including the DUP who had put forward a "very interesting" set of proposals. "2006 is a make or break year for Northern Ireland," he said.

Meanwhile, Taoiseach Bertie Ahern said he recognised there were still problems to be resolved before the Northern institutions could be restored.

Referring to the IMC findings, he said: "Obviously there are issues in the report where we would like to see no blips whatever.

"We don't want to see anything about references to arms or criminality or any such issues," he said.

Border station to be shut in Armagh

Belfast Telegraph

By Jonathan McCambridge
03 February 2006

One of the last remaining border outposts of the PSNI is to close, the Policing Board has confirmed.

The members of the board yesterday endorsed the Chief Constable's proposal to close the police station at Middletown in Co Armagh.

The heavily fortified barracks is in a staunchly nationalist area and its high security requirements make it a suitable candidate for closure, police believe.

The station has operated for some time on restricted opening hours and police have said that its closure would free up more officers on the ground.

Policing Board chairman Sir Desmond Rea said: "Having considered detailed information on the PSNI's consultation with the local community on the proposed closure, the plans for alternative policing arrangements for the Middletown area, and the views of Armagh District Policing Partnership and their consultation with the public, the board has decided to endorse the proposal.

"However, the closure of any police station is a sensitive issue. In this instance the board is pleased that the alternative policing measures being put in place will be of benefit to policing in the area.

"Both the board and Armagh DPP will observe developments closely in order to ensure that alternative arrangements set out in the commitment document will ensure that the people of Middletown are not disadvantaged in any way by this closure and that policing with the community continues to be the focus of the police in the area."

He added: "The board therefore believes that the closure of Middletown station will allow for more effective and efficient use of police resources."

The closure of the Middletown base is part of the PSNI Estates Strategy which plans for the construction of new police stations as well as the maintenance, upgrading and security review of existing stations.

The strategy also identified 61 stations for review and possible closure.

North Belfast policing: 30 cops raid a game of poker. Nobody looks for Martin


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The brother-in-law of a man who has been missing since New Year’s Day has spoken of the family’s disbelief at how the PSNI could spare over 30 officers to raid a poker club this week, but claim they lack resources to search for a missing man.

Martin Kelly (21) was last seen coming out of Pat’s Bar in Sailortown in the early hours of New Year’s Day and the family believe he fell into the water. Despite the family’s emotional appeals for the police to search the water, PSNI divers have only searched the water of the Docks for one hour. Paul Kelly said that has left the heartbroken family “frustrated” and “angry”.

“We have video evidence showing that he was last seen at the water’s edge – CCTV evidence – so we had a token gesture by the police two weeks ago when they went in for one hour and covered a strip of about seven metres out from the bank, but what we want now is a more extensive search of the lough,” said Paul Kelly.

“We are not only frustrated, we are angry because we believe that any missing person has the right to be found and to be honest we are actually disgusted, not with the individual police officers because those diving teams are amazing. We are just angry at the system.”

The weekend raid of the Cavendish Club in Corporation Street, which lies a short distance from where the family believe Martin went missing, has also caused a lot of hurt, with Paul Kelly questioning the actions of the PSNI in deploying so many officers to raid a poker club while making only a “token gesture” in the search for missing Martin.

“We were listening to the news in the other night and the police sent 30 officers in to close a poker club and yet we can’t get the resources to look for a body. Even when we fought with the police to go in they said there wasn’t enough evidence that Martin was in the water, even though the CCTV showed that the last place he was seen was at the water’s edge. Then they said they would actually need to see him jumping in before they could search. Then they told us that it was too dangerous to go in so they couldn’t search. We have had excuse after excuse, but with the pressure we put on them they eventually went in but they made a token gesture at going in.”

The Kelly family have secured the help of professional divers from throughout Ireland and say they hope to begin a search for Martin at the weekend. They have also hit out at the PSNI for refusing to allow their volunteers to help in searching the water.

“The Harbour Master in principle has no objection to the professional volunteer divers we have going in to work alongside the police as long as they are under the control of the police. However, the police will not accept any volunteers, professional or otherwise, to join them. This is for health and safety reasons, they say.”

This is another cause of frustration for the Kelly family.

“It’s wrong – we just feel it is totally wrong and that the system must be changed and the regulations must be changed to let these divers in. We have got 30 professional divers from the South of Ireland, from the Boyne diving club, the Dundalk diving club and the Mourne diving club – they are all professional divers who were involved in the search for Conor Bogues in Ardglass last week. They are the people who found the first body but even up there it was ridiculous because the police created a 100m diving zone that no one was allowed to search in and this was only lifted under public pressure.
“Sometimes people think that the word volunteer does not mean professional but these are professional divers who are underwater contractors and who have set up voluntary search and rescue services and the police will still not work with them. So this Saturday we are preparing ourselves for a dive by volunteers from the Republic of Ireland.”

Paul said he hoped there would not be a stand-off at the Docks this weekend.

“It is up to the PSNI. We hope that the PSNI won’t stop us and the Harbour Police won’t stop us going in the water but we will be there come what may.”

A spokesman for the PSNI said the search for a missing person could not be compared to a raid on an “illegal casino” but added that another water search was planned.

“Plans are being developed at the moment to commence a search at Belfast Harbour at the start of the week and this will be confirmed closer to the time. It is anticipated that an area of 300 metres on either side of the barrier at which CCTV showed a figure will be searched. The family will be kept informed at all times.”

Journalist:: Staff Journalist

Less than 1 in 4 key NIO staff Catholic

Sinn Féin

Published: 3 February, 2006

Sinn Féin Human Rights and Equality Spokesperson, Caitríona Ruane MLA has said that Sinn Fein will call for urgent action to address the huge under representation of Catholics with the core of the NIO and demand that the NIO along with a number of other organisations, including th4e BBC, is designated under Section 75 of the Equality legislation.

NIO Minister has revealed that only 155 out of 657 core departmental staff, dealing with issues including equality, criminal justice and security and political development, based in the north is Catholic. This represents just under 24% of personnel.

Ms Ruane said:

"Sinn Féin has consistently argued that the NIO, along with a number of other agencies and bodies, should be designated under section 75 of the equality provisions. These latest figures show that it a cold house for
Catholics. It is also unacceptable that the NIO refuses to monitor in detail the deployment of Catholics throughout the department and demonstrates the urgent need for the NIO to be designated.

"We will again be raising the issue of inequality across the civil service and the urgent need for effective monitoring and radical action to tackle the structural inequality and discriminatory practices, such as the ban on Irish nationals from key civil service posts, in the political negotiations.

"The NIO has huge power in the state and wields particular influence in the peace process. It is very worrying that the level of Catholic under representation is lower in the NIO than in any other government department." ENDS

West Belfast Gaeltacht Quarter has tremendous tourism potential - de Brún

Sinn Féin

Published: 3 February, 2006

Sinn Féin MEP Bairbre de Brún will meet with representatives of West Belfast based Irish Langauge Development Body Fobairt Feirste at their Falls Road offices 'An Nasc' later morning (11.00am) to receive an update on progress with plans for the development of a designated 'Gaeltacht Quarter' in West Belfast.

Fobairt Feirste has been working along with other Irish Language and Business interests in partnership with representatives of DCAL. DSD and DETI to progress the recommendation of the West Belfast and Greater Shankill Task Force for the creation of a Gaeltacht Quarter Development Board and the creation of a designated Gaeltacht Quarter centred on the Irish Language corridor on the Falls Road.

Speaking today Ms de Brún said:

"Today's briefing with Fobairt Feirste provides an opportunity to receive an update on developments for the Gaeltacht Quarter in the heart of West Belfast. The Irish language has been thriving in recent years across the city of Belfast. In spite of government neglect and indifference to the language both north and south, the Irish language community has worked hard to ensure the sustainability of the education system, cultural and economic sectors.

"The plans for the development of the Gaeltacht Quarter are both exciting and ambitious and are rooted in the recommendation of the Ministerial Task Force which recognised the unique regeneration opportunity presented by properly resourced development of the cultural cluster centred on the Falls Road into a designated Gaeltacht Quarter. Such a development would compliment the massive revival of the language and promote a self
contained area where language enthusiasts can live and work. It would also open up further employment opportunities for Irish speakers and is a unique selling point for the City of Belfast in terms of attracting visitors and potential investors to a vibrant and unique cultural quarter. The Gaeltacht Quarter would undoubtedly become a long term tourist and regeneration centre on the Falls Road.

"It is now essential that there is a strategic focus between local businesses, the Irish language sector, the relevant British government departments and Belfast City Council to prime-pump activity in the area and to the develop a comprehensive business case and development plan for the Gaeltacht Quarter.

"The recent decision to designate Irish as an official working language of the European Union is a testament to the tenacity of Irish language enthusiasts from across Ireland to influence European decision-making. A similar level of commitment to the Gaeltacht Quarter will ensure it comes to fruition and receives the support of the local community as well as that of government.

"I will be also looking to other European regions to look at similar cultural-based regeneration models with a view to facilitating linkages and partnerships and to seeing what lessons which can be learned from them." ENDS

Note to Editor:

Forbairt Feirste was established in 1994 to 'promote our cultural heritage through economic regeneration'. The organisation's main aim is 'the creation of jobs and new opportunities for Belfast's' Irish speaking community'.

Numbers fall as age and time take toll on Irish in UK

Irish Independent

Bernard Purcell
London Editor

BRITAIN'S Irish population is disappearing, according to official statistics.

The social phenomenon of returning emigrants, or their children, is not new but for the first time since records began the number of Irish people in Britain has gone into decline.

The trend appears set to continue as age and time takes toll on a generation of 1950s, and later, emigrants.

Historian Ultan Cowley, a member of the Irish Episcopal Commission for emigrants and author of The Men Who Built Britain, points out that 500,000 Irish moved to Britain in the years after World War Two.

In 1960 alone, emigrants' remittances amounted to Stg£15.5m, just half a million pounds short of the overall Irish education budget, he says. Between 1939-69, Stg£2.2bn was posted back to Ireland.

Some of those people, the pre-1953 workers who have no Irish National Insurance Contributions, now receive a partial State Pension.

As of 2004 there were just 12,000 people in Britain (and Northern Ireland) in receipt of such payments.

But the people who sent home those Postal Orders and sterling notes are dying and dead, returning home in their infirmity or seeing their adult children and adult grandchildren move to Ireland.

The Office of National Statistics has just recorded for the first time a downward trend in the numbers of Irish in England and Wales.

It is the first statistical phenomenon of a widely observed social and business trend.

In 1991 the Department of Foreign Affairs routinely assessed the number of Irish in Britain at 845,000 people with three million second and third generation.

Among those were 592,283 'Irish-born' Irish living in Britain. But by 2001 this had dropped to 494,850. Overall the 2001 Census recorded 632,000 Irish in England and Wales. This figure has been plummeting because of a combination of deaths over births and reverse migration.

The just published ONS figures show population growth but record an overall decline among those people officially categorised as 'White British' and 'White Irish'.

They show a net decrease of 19,000 or 1.5pc of Irish people between 2001 and 2003. Irish government statistics of the net inflow to Ireland in the last three years mean this trend has yet to peak. In the past, mortality was more than offset by a constant flow of new Irish into Britain but since 2000 the numbers migrating to Ireland have exceeded 20,000 a year. Since 2001, , at least 132,000 people moved to Ireland.

02 February 2006

NI: Civilian police plans 'likely to go through'


02/02/2006 - 19:28:29

The introduction of Police Community Support Officers in Northern Ireland moved a step closer tonight.

The uniformed civilian support staff have already been introduced in England and Wales amid some controversy.

After extensive debate in Belfast the Northern Ireland Policing Board has agreed in principle to the recruitment of PCSOs in the North.

They said their agreement was subject to there being “no variation between the vetting criteria for membership of the PCSO and those which govern regular police officers”.

Board chairman, Professor Sir Desmond Rea, said they were guarding against “any potential for PCSOs to become a route into policing for paramilitaries".

At the same time the Board agreed the rolling out of four new areas for the recruitment of more part time police officers following the evaluation of a pilot recruitment scheme of 159 officers on four other areas in 2003.

The Patten Report on the future of policing said the Part Time Police Reserve should be enlarged to 2,500 officers, with additional recruits to come from those areas in which there were few or no reservists at all.

Sir Desmond said that since the publication of Pattern there had been developments in the delivery of community policing, the deployment of part-time officers and the introduction in England and Wales of PCSOs.

He said PCSOs were a new initiative in policing and as part of the board’s discussions members had considered whether they would be suitable for the province.

Their decision to recruit more part-time officers went some way to giving police commanders an additional resource in the short term to meet community policing needs on the ground “while allowing the arrangements and legislation for the recruitment of PCSOs to be quickly progressed,” said Sir Desmond.



02/02/06 09:25 EST

Sinn Fein moved in the Dail (Irish Parliament) today to have the Independent Monitoring Commission disbanded.

A Bill was brought calling for the highly contentious Independent Monitoring Commission to be repealed just one day after the body was at the center of furious row over IRA weapons.

Sinn Fein`s Aengus O`Snodaigh said the commission was not as independent as its title suggested.

"It is quite clear to even the most narrow-minded of observers of the peace process that the so-called Independent Monitoring Commission is nothing of the sort," the Dublin South Central TD said.

"Its farcical report yesterday, which once again relies on anonymous and unsubstantiated allegations and innuendo from extremely suspect sources, is nothing more than a permit for prevarication, which the two governments foolishly handed rejectionist unionists and their fellow-travellers."

The IMC, which said the IRA was making progress towards transforming itself into a totally peaceful organisation, alleged in a report yesterday some members were still engaged in spying, money laundering and smuggling.

However, while offering no hard evidence whatsoever, the commission also said it had "received reports" that the IRA still had access to a range of guns despite completing its disarmament programme last fall.

There was no indication given that the quantities alleged involved were substantial, or that the alleged retained arms were kept with the approval of the IRA leadership or as part of a wider strategy to return to violence.

General John de Chastelain`s Independent International Commission on Decommissioning confirmed it had received information from security sources in Northern Ireland - believed to be the PSNI- that a range of IRA weapons and ammunition were not handed over to be destroyed last September.

However after consulting the Irish Republic`s police and the IRA, the disarmament body said it remained convinced that the IRA had destroyed all the weapons under its control in the organisation`s final act of arms decommissioning last September.

Senior Garda officers also insisted there was no intelligence suggesting any weapons had been retained.

Sinn Fein chief negotiator Martin McGuinness yesterday was incensed by the claims in the new assessment, alleging police loyal to the DUP were responsible for the claims.

Mr O`Snodaigh said the party had pointed out at the time the legislation was being passed that it would give legal effect to a body which those intent on frustrating the development of the peace process could use.

"This latest report has, as was the case with all the previous reports of this discredited body, unfortunately proved us right," he said, adding that more than ¬1.5 million (£1 million) per year had been spent by the Irish Government on the IMC since it was established in 2003.

Mr O`Snodaigh said it was in the interests of the peace process that the Irish Government adopt his Bill to repeal the legislation grounding the IMC.

Deputy Ó Snodaigh said, "It is quiet clear to even the most narrow-minded of observers of the peace process that the so-called Independent Monitoring Commission is nothing of the sort. Its farcical report yesterday, which once again relies on anonymous and unsubstantiated allegations and innuendo from extremely suspect sources, is nothing more than a permit for prevarication, which the two governments foolishly handed rejectionist unionists and their fellow- travellers."

"Sinn Féin pointed out at the time that the legislation was going through Leinster House to give legal effect to this body that it would be used and abused by those who are hell-bent on frustrating the development of the peace process. This latest report has, as was the case with all the previous reports of this discredited body, unfortunately proved us right."

"Sinn Féin has put before the Dáil today a Bill which would repeal the legislation that brought the body in to being and which provided it with its substantial funding from the Irish taxpayer. I am calling on the Government to adopt this Bill and put it to the House so that the collection of spooks and anti-republican cranks that make up the IMC can be disbanded immediately. In the interests of the peace process and in the re-establishment of the institutions it is crucial that this happens sooner rather than later," Deputy Ó Snodaigh said.

Also today, republican protesters disrupted a crucial meeting of the Northern Ireland Policing Board in Belfast.

As Chief Constable Sir Hugh Orde was about to give his assessment on the IMC report, half a dozen people stood up and demanded to know where the information came from.

Robert McClenaghan, of the group An Fhirinne, asked: "Who provided intelligence to the likes of the IMC? Is it the same Special Branch police, same military people and the same members of the NIO (Northern Ireland Office) who have been involved in collusion for the last 35 years?"

The protesters were escorted out of the public meeting by the PSNI, some of them shouting "political policing" as they left.

Lawyer's arrest 'breach of trust'


Mr Sandhu is a solicitor based in Limavady

The Law Society has demanded a meeting with Chief Constable Sir Hugh Orde over the arrest of a Limavady solicitor.

Manmohan Sandhu, 41, is being questioned at Antrim police station about serious terrorist activity.

His solicitor, Joe Rice, alleges police gathered evidence by covertly taping confidential conversations between Mr Sandhu and his clients.

Law Society chief executive John Bailie said it was an "intrusion into the solicitor-client relationship".

"A client in these circumstances - who is arrested and in police custody, suspected of having committed a criminal offence - needs to be able to speak to his solicitor candidly," he said.

"The administration of justice requires that should happen: he needs to be guaranteed that it is kept confidential.

"I think also the reason why we are taking this so seriously is that it is the first occasion I am aware of in Northern Ireland that there has been this kind of intrusion into the solicitor-client relationship."

Mr Rice wrote to the Law Society, the body representing the legal profession, to complain about how, he claims, the police gathered evidence in the case.

Mr Rice alleges the conversations, allegedly taped at Antrim police station, led to Mr Sandhu being questioned about serious terrorist activity including membership of a loyalist paramilitary organisation.

The letter from Mr Rice to the Law Society's chief executive also said: "It is a sad day for our criminal justice process that a solicitor cannot guarantee that his advices to his client in a police station may not be free from state interference."

He also states: "I am sure you will share my concern that the right to confidentiality that must exist between solicitor and client has now been eradicated.

"This is a deliberate move by the authorities and no solicitor can at present guarantee his client that any pre-interview or indeed post-interview consultations at police stations in Northern Ireland are private and confidential."

Police refused to confirm or deny the identity of Mr Sandhu on Thursday, but confirmed they have been granted another 48 hours to question a man at Antrim police station.

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