01 April 2006

Controversy casts doubt on Omagh witness

Belfast Telegraph

By Michael McHugh
newsdesk@belfasttelegraph.co.uk
01 April 2006

The credibility of a key witness in the Omagh bomb probe was questioned yesterday following legal proceedings in Dublin.

Former Special Branch Garda Detective Sergeant John White is at the centre of a public row in the Republic after he was forced to change his story on the alleged intimidation of a suspect. The controversy may cast a shadow over his evidence in the Omagh case.

Det Sgt White was the handler for former Real IRA informer and car thief Paddy Dixon. He claims he passed on information to senior officers about the dangers of a bombing - information not acted on in the days before the August 1998 blast.

Det Sgt White first made his revelations about Omagh to Police Ombudsman Nuala O'Loan in 2001 during her probe into the police investigation of the bombing.

A team with the Justice Department found the claims to be without basis.

The awkward publicity for Det Sgt White came after he made a statement to the Morris Tribunal in Dublin admitting to verbally abusing two suspects in a murder investigation in 1996, after years of denials.

Fresh Garda probe into Ludlow murder slammed

Belfast Telegraph

Move 'stalling exercise to avoid public inquiry'

By Michael McHugh
newsdesk@belfasttelegraph.co.uk
01 April 2006

The decision to reopen Garda files into the Troubles murder of Seamus Ludlow is a "stalling exercise" to delay a public inquiry, relatives of the victim said last night.

Jimmy Sharkey, a nephew of the Co Louth loyalist murder victim, has downplayed the chances of securing convictions after police chiefs announced a fresh investigation on Thursday.

The move follows recommendations made in a report by the Irish Parliament's Justice Committee, which was highly critical of the way police handled the original probe.

Elected representatives found the family was treated in an "unsatisfactory manner" by police and forensic material collected at the scene had been lost.

Mr Ludlow was shot dead in May 1976 near his Dundalk home, allegedly by north Down loyalists who were interviewed by the PSNI but never faced questioning by gardai.

Mr Sharkey said: "This is a stalling exercise and I would say that they have not got a chance of securing convictions.

"In 1998, when the suspects were arrested by the RUC, senior detectives told me that there was little chance of prosecutions unless new evidence came to the fore.

"I believe that this will just hold up things and we won't be able to have a public inquiry for a number of years."

This week's sub-committee report to the Justice Department, ordered after an earlier probe by retired Supreme Court Justice Henry Barron, recommended a Commission of Inquiry be set up to look at issues including collusion between loyalists and the Northern Ireland authorities, as well as the police investigation.

Family members reacted with anger to the development and continue to campaign for a full public inquiry.

In inviting Garda detectives to re-examine the case, the committee report stated: "The sub-committee notes that developments in statutory mutual assistance have occurred with significant legislative changes.

"It is also noted that there are now formal structures in place to ensure the speedy and secure communication of sensitive intelligence and that dedicated liaison officers have been appointed between An Garda Siochana and the PSNI.

"It should be possible for the Garda to receive assistance from the PSNI."

A Garda spokesman declined to comment. The senior officer appointed to head the review will look at investigation files and work closely with the PSNI.

Calls have come for a team like the PSNI's Historic Enquiries Team to be set up in the Republic to probe Troubles murders.

Mo' Courtney trial delayed

Belfast Telegraph

01 April 2006

The murder trial of alleged UDA commander William 'Mo' Courtney was yesterday adjourned until September.

Both prosecution and defence QCs told Belfast Crown Court they agreed the "best course of conduct" would be to adjourn the trial and begin again in the first week of the new term.

Courtney (42), from Fernhill Heights in Belfast, denies murdering Alan 'Bucky' McCullough, a former associate of deposed terror boss Johnny 'Mad Dog' Adair, on May 28 2003 and of being a member of the UDA and UFF.

Mo' Courtney trial delayed

Belfast Telegraph

01 April 2006

The murder trial of alleged UDA commander William 'Mo' Courtney was yesterday adjourned until September.

Both prosecution and defence QCs told Belfast Crown Court they agreed the "best course of conduct" would be to adjourn the trial and begin again in the first week of the new term.

Courtney (42), from Fernhill Heights in Belfast, denies murdering Alan 'Bucky' McCullough, a former associate of deposed terror boss Johnny 'Mad Dog' Adair, on May 28 2003 and of being a member of the UDA and UFF.

Operation Banner to End in North

Irish Abroad

**Via Newshound

By Brendan Anderson

OPERATION Banner, the code name for the British Army’s support role for the police in the North, is to come to an end next year. Lasting 35 years, the operation is the longest in British military history.

The end of Operation Banner, on August 1, 2007, marks another step in the painfully slow process of British demilitarization, or “normalization” as politicians prefer to call it. After that date, the British military presence in the North will have been returned to “peace-time” garrison levels.

News of the end of Operation Banner came as the British published the final timetable for the withdrawal of troops and the decommissioning of army bases and watch towers across the six northern counties. The move follows the destruction by the IRA of its arms dumps and the standing-down of its activists.

Following previous acts of normalization, there are now 9,000 British soldiers in the North, down from around 30,000 at the height of the Irish Troubles. That figure will be further reduced throughout the coming year after which 5,000 troops will be retained for garrison duties.

Among the bases still to be closed is the army barracks at Bessbrook, Co. Armagh, once believed to be the busiest heliport in Europe.

During the IRA campaign, soldiers were virtually prisoners in the base and could only venture out in large patrols. The roads were believed to have been too dangerous for military vehicles and all supplies were air-lifted into the base by helicopter.

Unionist politicians complained that the IRA was so active in the area that even the base’s garbage was taken out by chopper.

Residents of the strongly Republican village of Crossmaglen in south Armagh were heartened by the news Tuesday that soldiers are to be withdrawn from the local police station where they have been based for the duration of the troubles.

Tensions in the village were permanently high partly due to the take-over of a section of the Crossmaglen Rangers GAA pitch by the British Army. Media photographers often had a field day during matches which produced bizarre shots of a huge helicopter rising just yards from footballers who completely ignored the intrusion.

The five remaining watch towers in south Armagh, another source of irritation to residents, are due to be demolished within the next 16 months.

Mahon Road Barracks in Portadown, the base used by soldiers and police during the Drumcree Orange march stand-offs, is due to be closed by next January. Overall, the number of bases in the North will be reduced by August 2007 from around 40 to 14.

Conor Murphy, Sinn Fein MP for Newry and Armagh, welcomed Tuesday’s time-table and said demilitarization had been a key element of his party’s discussions with the British government.

“We have consistently called for the British government to produce a comprehensive strategy to achieve the demilitarization of our society. I welcomed the start that the British government made last year to the demilitarization process and I hope that today’s moves advance that process further. I now want to see the job completed as quickly as possible,” he said.

UDA mural removed in landmark NI initiative

RTÉ

01 April 2006 14:02


Ballymena, Co Antrim: railings repainted in community gesture

A ground breaking cross-community initiative is taking place this morning in Ballymena.

A UDA mural close to the Catholic Church at Harryville is being replaced with an Ulster Scots mural and loyalist markings around the chapel are being removed.

A group of local Presbyterian young people painted out red, white and blue paint on railings in the area of the church.

The move was another ecumenical gesture helping to transform the area where loyalists protests were staged nine years ago as people went to Mass.

New 'British FBI' will have more than 100 officers based abroad



Rosie Cowan, crime correspondent
Saturday April 1, 2006
The Guardian

Up to 140 British crime fighters will be based abroad working for Britain's new equivalent of the FBI - the Serious and Organised Crime Agency (Soca) - which officially opens it doors on Monday morning.

The unprecedented scale of international collaboration is part of a drive to globalise the fight against organised crime, intercepting people traffickers and drug smugglers in the countries they pass through to reach Britain, the new chief of Soca, Sir Stephen Lander told the Guardian.

Some of Soca's staff overseas will be carrying out intelligence duties, others will work with local authorities in places like Afghanistan and Colombia, where heroin and cocaine production are rife. Others will be embedded in foreign law enforcement agencies, which will reciprocate with officers in the UK.

"We think we will have the second largest law enforcement overseas network in the world, second only to the US DEA [Drug Enforcement Agency]," the former M15 chief explained.

Many of the 140 being sent overseas will go to the US, where some are already with the DEA, others to eastern Europe, from where traffickers procure thousands of women each year to work in the sex trade around the world.

"We're doing a lot of work with the Balkans and eastern Europe as regards trafficked women and labourers and we want to work with the transit countries to see what we can do to stop them being moved through," said Bill Hughes, Soca's director, who previously headed the National Crime Squad. "Globalisation, the internet and cheap travel have made it so much easier to conduct the business of crime at one remove. We can't operate in isolation, we have to build up alliances in other countries."

The international strategy epitomises the new holistic approach to crime fighting by Soca, which will merge the National Crime Squad, National Criminal Intelligence Service, parts of Customs and Immigration, civilian computer and financial experts, and police officers seconded from forces throughout the UK. Crime cartels cost the UK £40bn a year. Soca will be able to use a range of methods, including asset stripping and other regulatory tools, as well as targeting crooked officers and lawyers.

"You can slice this any number of ways," said Sir Stephen. "Who are the kingpins and main profiteers? How do they do business? Do they rely on corrupt police officers or solicitors? We've constructed an organisation that allows us to cross-target a range of things and we've been doing a lot to ensure Soca is more than a sum of its parts."

Organised crime, he said, was all about making profit and combating it required a cool, corporate-minded approach. "It's about making the UK as unattractive a business proposition as possible for criminals, disrupting their activities, putting them out of business and reducing market opportunities."

"In the past, we tended to think the case ended when the cell door slammed shut," said Mr Hughes. "Of course it doesn't, it's about bringing down the whole structure. There will be people who will go to prison for a long time, but for others out there there may be a quicker way to put them out of business. In some cases, a stroke of the regulatory pen could avoid a criminal taskforce chasing its tail forever."

While Soca's work will be boosted by some new criminal justice measures, such as US-type informer plea bargains, Sir Stephen insisted: "We haven't got a load of new powers, we're simply an extra layer pulling together existing resources and levering others.

"We will consult as to how leads will be pursued, who is best placed to pursue them and in what type of operation, and if appropriate, hand cases over to other agencies." Mr Hughes quoted US president Harry Truman: "It is amazing what you can accomplish if you do not care who gets the credit."

Mural removed near protest church

BBC


Geoffrey Calderwood (right) and Andy Conner at the UDA mural

A loyalist paramilitary mural close to a Catholic church in County Antrim which was the scene of weekly protests in the 1990s has been removed.

The UDA mural near the Church of Our Lady at Harryville in Ballymena was taken down after cross-community talks.

It has replaced by an Ulster Scots mural featuring symbols such as a shamrock and Red Hand of Ulster.

Tricolours were removed from the north end of Ballymena in a deal brokered by Harryville Ulster Scots Society.

Youth workers also painted out red, white and blue paint from railings around Harryville church.

Harryville priest Fr Paul Symonds was present for the official Ulster-Scots mural unveiling on Saturday.

He has been working closely with the Ulster-Scots group and he has welcomed the replacement of the UDA image for a "non-militaristic mural".

"This is very positive for the area and it is a great gesture," he said.

Geoff Calderwood, chairman of Harryville Ulster Scots Society, welcomed the Harryville scheme saying: "We think it is great for the area."

March objections

The church was the scene of loyalist protests and sporadic trouble over the past few years.

There was a series of loyalist attacks on the church last year, including paint attacks and grafitti.

Loyalist protesters mounted a weekly picket outside the Harryville church during Saturday evening Mass between September 1996 and May 1998.

The protests were called off shortly after the Good Friday Agreement received 71% support in a referendum.

The picket was mounted because of loyalist anger over nationalist objections to a march by the Protestant Orange Order through nearby Dunloy.

Loyalist cash boost 'not enough'

BBC


DUP say there has been inequality in loyalist areas

A £30m cash injection expected to be announced for deprived loyalist areas is not good enough, a leading Progressive Unionist figure has said.

An official government announcement on the issue is expected next week.

Dawn Purvis said she believed more funds were needed to tackle deprivation in loyalist inner-city areas.

She said: "£30m over three years, I regard it as not enough. It's for vulnerable communities that have been neglected over the last 35 years."

Ms Purvis was recently appointed as an independent member of the new Policing Board, which comes into effect on Saturday.

Sources have told the BBC that the package of economic assistance for deprived loyalist areas should be between £25-35m.

Some sources within unionism have expressed disappointment at the sum, given the recent cuts in areas such as education in Belfast.

However, other loyalist sources said they saw the initiative as a challenge and would work with whatever money was provided for areas such as skills and training, housing and urban regeneration.

In January this year, NIO Minister David Hanson said the plan would focus on how government could empower working class Protestant communities to tackle deprivation.

It was drawn up following concerns that policies were not making the intended impact in loyalist districts.

On Friday, DUP assembly member Nelson McCausland said the announcement was significant as it was recognition of disadvantage in loyalist areas.

"Republicans and nationalists often attempt to deny that there is a problem and even some people in the voluntary sector attempt to deny that there is a problem," he told BBC News.

'Deprivation'

"For decades, unionist communities have suffered inequality and disadvantage... there will have to be institutional and structural changes."

However, Ulster Unionist leader Sir Reg Empey said he was not happy with the package.

"I think the minister is trying his best to put a package together to deal with deprivation in a number of areas - primarily loyalist areas - but not exclusively," he said.

"But the problem is that this is a cross-government issue. A couple of days ago, the Belfast Education and Library Board cut £6.5m out of its budget - a very high percentage of that cut will apply in loyalist areas.

"Given that educational under-achievement in the worst 15 wards in Northern Ireland - 13 are in loyalist wards - how can you fix a situation in a loyalist area when one government department is taking money out while another is putting it in?"

DUP delegation travels to the US to meet politicians


BN.ie


01/04/2006 - 08:29:08

A DUP delegation is travelling to the United States today to meet a number of leading politicians.

The group, which is being led by Peter Robinson, is hoping to broaden the understanding of unionism in the US and convince key figures that the DUP wants to become a party of government.

In Washington the delegation will meet Ted Kennedy, Hilary Clinton, Chris Dodd and highly influential Republican Jim Walsh.

When it travels to New York on Wednesday, Peter Robinson will speak at a function hosted by Bill Flynn, a US businessman who has played a significant role in the peace process.

Garda Reserve to go ahead, despite opposition


BN.ie


01/04/2006 - 09:02:55

Garda Commissioner Noel Conroy has declared that the Garda Reserve will go ahead, despite strong opposition from Garda representative bodies.

Commissioner Conroy, in his first public comment on the issue, said he was in favour of any measures that would enhance policing, and he believed the reserve force to be one such measure.

"The legislators have legislated. We must comply with the legislation. The elected politicians have made a decision that the reserve will be recruited and that's what is going to happen. Anything that improves the service to the community, I'm all for it, and I feel this will improve the service."

Minister for Justice Michael McDowell said gardaí risked "self-destruction" in the eyes of the public if permanent members embarked on a policy of non-cooperation with reservists.

Ten days ago the general secretary of the Garda Representative Association (GRA), PJ Stone, made an unprecedented attack on Commissioner Conroy, accusing him of lacking leadership on the reserve force issue.

He said he would expect reservists to play a full part in policing, such as intervening in armed robberies.

However, the primary role of the reservists would be in community policing.

31 March 2006

NATIONALIST PARTIES WILL NOT ACCEPT DEVOLUTION-LITE

IAIS

03/31/06 13:29 EST

The Irish and British governments were today accused of allowing themselves to be bullied by the Rev Ian Paisley's Democratic Unionists into diluting the Belfast Agreement.

The allegation was made by Sinn Fein's chief negotiator Martin McGuinness as officials in London and Dublin finalised the roadmap for restoring devolution in Northern Ireland which will be unveiled by British Prime Minister Tony Blair and Taoiseach Bertie Ahern next Thursday.

It is believed the two leaders will confirm during their visit to Armagh the Assembly will be recalled in May.

However the parties are expected to be given a November 24th deadline to agree to the formation of a devolved government.

But with speculation mounting that the Assembly will be given some kind of role, the governments were warned today by Mr McGuinness that Sinn Fein would not tolerate anything which watered down the 1998 Agreement.

"We are deeply concerned at the approach of the two governments," the Mid Ulster MP said.

"Rather than defend the Agreement by standing up to unionist rejectionists, the two governments are allowing the DUP to bully them into diluting the Agreement. This is mistake and we have told the two governments this. We remain in close and constant contact with both the Taoiseach and the British Prime Minster."

"Our focus is on defending the integrity of the Good Friday Agreement. Anything less than that is unacceptable to Sinn Fein."

Sinn Fein and the nationalist SDLP have been highly critical of suggestions that the Assembly could sit for months ahead of the formation of an executive.

The DUP has insisted it will not be bound by any deadline imposed by the governments and will only base a decision on whether to form an executive on the basis of evidence that the IRA has ended all alleged criminality and paramilitarism.

The two governments were also warned today by nationalist SDLP deputy leader Dr Alasdair McDonnell his party was not interested in an Assembly which amounted to a DUP inspired talking shop.

But he also blamed Sinn Fein for the governments' proposals.

Vandals desecrate memorial to Holohan

Irish Examiner

31 March 2006
By Sean O'Riordan

A SHRINE dedicated to the memory of schoolboy Robert Holohan has been desecrated.
Gardaí yesterday confirmed the memorial, which is at the spot where 11-year-old's body was found in Inch, Co Cork, was vandalised.

A senior garda spokesman said Robert's family was devastated by the news.

Gardaí searched the area yesterday after getting a tip-off from a member of the public. They are satisfied the attack was deliberate. However, they are not aware of any motive.

They found a metal cross put up by the landowner was missing along with pictures of Robert and some of his toys.

"We discovered some of the toys thrown into the nearby valley and others items scattered around the general area," the garda spokesman said.

He described the vandalism as "a particularly vile and despicable act" and added that they had evidence the shrine was intact on Tuesday afternoon.

They believe it was attacked between Tuesday night and yesterday morning. Last night most of the shrine had been restored.

Robert disappeared from his home in Midleton on January 4, 2005. Following intensive searches his body was discovered, eight days later and nine miles away, at Inch Strand. The discovery was made possible using mobile phone triangulation techniques.

Gardaí closed the remote site for four days while they carried out a detailed technical examination. When it was reopened to the public on January 16, 2005, the shrine was erected by family members and friends. Dozens of flowers were also left at the scene by strangers shocked by the killing.

A garda spokesman said: "Nothing has ever happened to this shrine before. We are very anxious to contact anybody who was in the area of Inch Strand between Tuesday night and Thursday morning and who may have seen anything suspicious."

He said anybody with information should contact Midleton garda station at (021) 4621550.

Robert's next door neighbour, Wayne O'Donoghue, pleaded guilty last January to his manslaughter.

He given a four-year sentence at a special sitting of the Central Criminal Court in Ennis.

However, on February 20 the Director of Public Prosecutions lodged an appeal against the leniency of sentence.

It is understood the DPP laid out six separate grounds for the appeal.

Family calls for McCabe inquest to be reopened

Irelandclick

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usThe brother of an IRA volunteer shot dead by a British army sniper in Ardoyne has called for the inquest into his death to be reopened on the 33rd anniversary of his killing.

Photo and further explanation of this case from >>Relatives For Justice

Pat McCabe (17) was making his way along Etna Drive on March 27, 1973 when a British army soldier who was positioned in Flax Street Mill shot him in the back.
At the time Pat McCabe was on active service and was armed but his brother Gerard has said there was no way the British Soldier could have known this as he shot the his brother from behind. He also believes that because Pat was subsequently identified as an IRA volunteer it was used as an excuse to cover up what really happened.
The dead man’s brother along with the Ardoyne Commemoration Project has demanded that the case been looked into again.
“We have asked the British for the inquest papers from the inquiry for four years and they will not hand them over.
“Pat was walking along Etna drive when he was shot in the back by a soldier who had fired from Flax Street Mill. He said in the investigation that he was trying to shoot another man Pat was walking with.
“He said he took aim on the other man but Pat walked into the line and got shot instead.”
Gerard says this is proof that a shoot-to-kill policy was in operation from the earliest days of the conflict.
“Pat was on active service at the time and he was armed – he had a pistol tucked into his belt - but there is no way the British soldier could have known this.”
“Pat’s death was put down to ‘misadventure’ and because he was an IRA member we have been stripped of any possibility of justice.
“We are calling for Pat’s inquest to be reopened.”
Tom Holland from the Ardoyne Commemoration Project, which deals with victims’ issues, has echoed the McCabe family’s calls for justice.
“What we have here is that the British government have never acknowledged their role in the conflict. They have never accepted that their security forces acted with impunity and they are in denial over their shoot-to-kill policy.
“The notion that the British government and its security agencies were neutral or merely law enforcers is false – they were a clearly established armed combatant who had strategies, policies and tactics that designed to kill, just as republicans and unionist paramilitaries had.
“The family of Pat McCabe may never receive the truth about the killing of their loved one and they may never hear the British government publicly acknowledge shoot to kill,” said Tom Holland.
“However their quest is ongoing and their struggle is legitimate and deserves to be recognised as part of the wider debate about whether or not there should be a truth recovery process.”

Journalist:: Evan Short

Five years for crash deaths man




Three children were knocked down on Belfast's Springfield Road

A west Belfast man found guilty of killing two children by dangerous driving has been jailed for five years.

Wayne Johnston, 44, formerly from the Highfield estate, was convicted by a jury at Belfast Crown Court.

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usImage Hosted by ImageShack.us
Emma Lynch and Christopher Shaw

He was accused of killing Christopher Shaw, 11, and Emma Lynch, 8, on the Springfield Road in December 2003.

Johnston was also found guilty of causing grievous bodily injury by dangerous driving to Christopher's brother, Darren, then 13.

The children had been out walking their dog when Johnston lost control of his car which mounted the pavement and knocked them over.

During the two week trial, witnesses said they saw Johnston's car swerve into oncoming traffic and onto the pavement before the fatal impact.

They said his vehicle uprooted a traffic light and dragged it up the road where he crashed into the back of a parked vehicle.

Johnston had claimed he suffered a "blackout" due to a coughing fit after lighting a cigarette in the moments before the crash.

The judge said on Friday that Johnston should have considered the possibility that such a coughing fit might have happened.

Christopher died shortly after the accident while family friend Emma lived for a few days on a life support machine at the Royal Victoria Hospital.

Christopher's brother Darren, who is now 15-years-old, suffered a fractured skull as well as cuts and bruises.

Tooled to the teeth

Irelandclick

Concerns over PSNI weaponry arsenal as water cannon ‘showcase’ takes place

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usHoly Cross Priest Fr Aidan Troy has described the PSNI water cannon arsenal as “very, very dangerous” ahead of a “showcase” demonstration today in Antrim.
The high profile PR exercise to display their water cannon to other police forces in Ireland and Britain was expected to take place in Steeple barracks.
Those attending, including the Police Ombudsman Nuala O’Loan and representatives of An Garda Síochána, are to be given a demonstration of the equipment and how it can be used in riot situations.
Fr Troy, who last summer was pelted with water when a powerful water cannon was deployed by the PSNI to quell riots on the Twelfth in Ardoyne, today questioned the use of the cannon.
“I would be very, very sceptical of making too much out of the efficiency and the effectiveness of water cannon because they really mark a failure of dialogue and good community relations. And while I recognise that perhaps in dire situations there may be a need for them I have seen them used in situations where they really did more harm than good
“While some security experts might say they are necessary, having been on the end of a water cannon I can say that it’s not pleasant and I think it can be very very dangerous.”
It comes during a week that the PSNI also announced that it was seeking to add yet more weaponry to their already extensive arsenal, with electric Taser guns the latest device to be sought by the force. This request has alarmed human rights groups and nationalist political parties who have united against the plans.
Clara Reilly from Relatives for Justice, who has led campaigns against the use of plastic bullets said she feared that the weapon would turn out to be yet another lethal option for the PSNI.
“We would have great concerns about them (Tasers) just as the Children’s Law society and Amnesty International have had, because of their record of having killed so many people where they have been used.
“The PSNI should be concentrating on taking more schooling in human rights and how to respect other people’s human rights rather than going down this militaristic route.”
North Belfast MLA Gerry Kelly also questioned why the PSNI needed yet more weapons.
“In March 2003 the Human Rights Commission supported the findings of research into plastic bullets and alternatives being proposed, and recommended that the PSNI not be equipped with any type of electroshock weaponry.
“The reality is that despite calls for plastic bullets to be banned, thousands of new potentially lethal devices have been purchased and now they are seeking to obtain these equally controversial weapons.”
Confirming to the North Belfast News that the Taser weapon would not be replacing any current weaponry but would be used as an addition to current equipment, a PSNI spokeswoman said that the trial of 12 devices was due to begin soon.
“Taser has been approved by the home office for use by Police forces in England and Wales. The Chief Constable is considering its introduction in a pilot capacity to a limited number of specialist firearms officers to provide an addition to our range of less lethal options.
“This is in line with Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) policy and Her Majesty’s Inspectorate (HMI) recommendations. The police service has briefed a number of statutory agencies as part of a wider consultation exercise on Taser before the Chief Constable makes a decision on its introduction.
“If the Chief Constable goes ahead and makes that decision there is only going to be 12 Tasers introduced as part of the pilot,” she said.

Journalist:: Evan Short

Pit bulls suffer woof justice at hands of Trevors

Daily Ireland

Robin Livingstone
31/03/2006

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usDogs have played a big part in my life. Not pit bulls, needless to say. I leave the pit bulls, the mastiffs and the various you-looking-at-me-mate mutts to the baseball cap brigade who seem to favour psycho-chic these days.
Sixteen shots the Trevors fired at the two pit bulls that killed Boomer, the collie pup that had the misfortune to appear on the scene just as Rocky and Tyson decided that they were a little peckish. Sixteen shots. That seems excessive, even for west Belfast. It suggests that Trevors who fired the shots weren’t up close, otherwise they’d have been able to dispatch the pit bulls in the blink of an eye, given that the top of that fearsome breed’s head is the width of a coffee table.
If I was Boomer’s distraught owner I’d request an independent autopsy. Two Trevors firing 16 shots at three dogs rolling around on the ground? I’m betting it wasn’t just the perps who got shot. And I’d get Nuala O’Loan on the job – I know her, she’d do the right thing in the blink of an eye.
“Trevor, I want your gun and your badge, you’re finished in this town. The lab report says Boomer took one of your slugs in the gut.”
Might get a public inquiry out of it as well.
What is it with the Trevors and animals anyway? I’ve written before about Phoebe the chimp up at Belfast Zoo who nipped out for a cup of tea and a smoke one morning without a permission slip. Zoo staff tried and failed to return her to the monkey house and in desperation called in the PSNI. At Dublin Zoo they’d have called the Fire Service, but this is Belfast and it’s our experience that high-calibre weaponry is an excellent means of getting your way. So the Trevors fired a burst from a Heckler & Koch over poor Phoebe’s head. And sure enough, she’s now safely back in her cage. Fair enough, she’s on 80 Marlboros a day instead of five, addicted to Prozac and Diazepam, has two counselling sessions a day and curls up in a ball when she sees men in uniform, but that was still a result as far as the Trevors are concerned.
Then there was Buttercup who was being led down the ramp from a death truck at an abattoir in Coleraine when she made an inspiring but ultimately futile dash for freedom. Cornered in a supermarket car park, a PSNI marksman was called in and as an exhausted Buttercup stood breathing heavily among the trolleys, pondering her next move, she was dispatched with a standard Nato 7.62 between those big brown eyes.
And now the pit bulls. Granted, fighting dogs with teeth like a great white and a bite like a saltwater crocodile aren’t as endearing as a chimp in a sailor’s outfit or a dairy cow with big eyelashes. But somebody, somewhere loved Rocky and Tyson. Somebody took time to feed live cats to them every day and inject them with steroids. Somebody took time to stitch and disinfect their wounds after dog fights up the country. And somebody put the harnesses on and took them out for a walk every day. I’m sorry, I think I’m going to cry...
The family Livingstone only ever owned one dog – Hector, a shambling, shedding black-and-white collie-labrador cross who disappeared one day and never came back.
Somebody told us later that he’d been shot by a farmer on the Black Mountain for worrying sheep. Being just a boy and unschooled in the ways of the country at that stage, I thought that meant he’d been telling them that their feed ration had been cut. But no, his sheepdog instincts had kicked in enough for him to know that he was supposed to run in the direction of sheep, but not enough to know that he was supposed to do it in a non-threatening way.
Not that you ever actually needed your own dog in Lenadoon. 6.30am of a bright summer morning and half a dozen of us would make our way through the estate in the direction of the Belfast hills to spend the day chasing rabbits and tickling trout, and a rag-tag band of mongrels and half-breeds would excitedly follow us, not barking, but whimpering with excitement and anticipation. If I close my eyes I can see those dogs still, and I can even put a name to all the faces. In our estate back then there wasn’t a Rover or Lady or Rex or Shep or Trixie to be found because even the pooches were conscripted in the war against the Brits. In our street alone lived Saoirse, Rebel, Oglach, Kesh, Provo, Fian and Sticky (there was always one). And the Brits prosecuted the war against those dogs every bit as ruthlessly as they fought the Ra.
The trouble was that blokes from Manchester and Liverpool used to take the barking and snarling personally, whereas postmen and insurance men viewed it as an occupational hazard. And so in the dark of night, with faces blackened and lampposts shot out, the soldiers would return to lob mercury sausages into the gardens of the fiercest dogs, which would die a slow and painful death. At least old Hector went quickly.
No volleys were fired over those martyred mutts’ coffins, no inspirational words were spoken at their gravesides. Instead, they were wrapped in a blanket and buried without fuss on the banks of the Half Moon Lake. War graves, I think it’s fair to call them, except none of them was ever marked.
And when next the foot patrols would pass, the street would be that little bit quieter and the smirk on the face of the patrol leader would be that little bit broader. Dark days indeed.
Maybe it’s time we started demanding a little bit of, ah, woof and justice.

Over watching the detectives

Daily Ireland

In his final interview before retiring as vice-chairpman of the North’s Policing Board this week, Denis Bradley spoke with Jarlath Kearney

Jarlath Kearney
31/03/2006

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Photo: Denis Bradley (click to view)

DI: Is Martin McGuinness’ phone currently bugged by Special Branch?
DB: I would be very surprised if it was, but I wouldn’t see any reason why it should be and if it is, I think that it should be very deeply inquired into as to why the hell Martin McGuinness’ phone should be bugged by the Special Branch. I would think that was an horrendous situation to be.
DI: And the reason I ask, of course, is because there is a precedent, as you know.
DB: There is a precedent for everything in Northern Ireland. I think that the Sinn Féin statement is a very valid one, when it says when are the British going to stop their war too because we have stopped ours. My only problem with it is that Sinn Féin have access to the Prime Minister on a daily basis, so why ask me is their phone bugged when they have total access to the Prime Minister?
DI: The point is that on the last occasion in which it emerged publicly that Martin McGuinness’ phone was bugged, the conversations were in fact conversations with 10 Downing Street. Now that happened on the Policing Board’s watch.
DB: It also happened on Martin McGuinness’ watch. I think that you are giving the Policing Board an import which is way beyond its brief in this point of view, that all things have to be post-hoc as opposed to pre-hoc. Things are made accountable post, not prior. Otherwise what you do is that you run the organisation and that’s the job of the chief constable and people like that. But to answer your question, I don’t do this victim stuff. Sinn Féin are probably more critically powerful in their access than any other political party are. We have authority post, if something is wrong then you come to us and you say that’s the piece of evidence, we have mechanisms to deal with that.
DI: A Special Branch officer called Peter Adamson was charged with offences in relation to the alleged leaking of transcripts of Martin McGuinness’ phone calls. The charges were withdrawn by the Director of Public Prosecutions last autumn on the basis that it was not ‘in the public interest’ to proceed. Did the Policing Board investigate, analyse, assess or inquire in any way whatsoever about that situation?
DB: Well why would the Policing Board inquire about something that the DPP decided to do?
DI: Why did the Policing Board then attempt to deal with the issue of the Stormont case which collapsed ‘in the public interest’ and people were declared not guilty by verdict of the Crown Court? The Policing Board then made extensive comment about that – you and Des Rea – at a press briefing in Belfast. Why did you do that?
DB: You’re the first person who has asked me to comment upon this one, right, nobody asked me to comment on this, on one that I’m not well-briefed on and I don’t know that much about, but if you had asked me I would have certainly went looking to find out. But you didn’t ask and nobody else asked. But on the second one, everybody was asking, right? So you cannot blame me for not commenting on something which I wasn’t asked about and which you’re post-haste asking and coming down the road asking me about and kind of making into something.
DI: In the view of some it is as big a public interest issue that a Member of Parliament’s phone and his conversations with the secretary of state and 10 Downing Street would be bugged by a PSNI Special Branch which then leaks them to the media, while at the same time the Policing Board doesn’t consider the issue to be of sufficient public interest to make comment or inquiry.
DB: Well I told you, you’re the first person to ask me the question. And Martin didn’t come to me because if he had I would have dealt with it. I would have opened up the issue. He didn’t come to me with it and I didn’t know about it. So I mean the real point here is engagement, the real point here is engagement.
DI: So should Martin McGuinness be engaging as a member of the Policing Board if – and you’re not in a position to say and neither is he presumably – his phone is still bugged by the PSNI Special Branch?
DB: What I’m saying is that if it is, I think it should be inquired into and seen to and dealt with.
DI: How could he join the Policing Board if post-hoc, as you described it, two years from now, further transcripts emerged of conversations that he is currently having with Peter Hain or Jonathan Powell or Tony Blair?
DB: Well, Labour governments have discovered that intelligence at times did things that they weren’t supposed to do, right? It has happened within the south of Ireland not all that long ago. It didn’t collapse governments, right, people dealt with it and got on with it and made people accountable for it. That’s the way you deal with these types of situations.
DI: Who made the PSNI Special Branch accountable for the leaks that took place on the watch of Hugh Orde and the Policing Board?
DB: Well you’re saying that they actually happened. So you’re asking me about something I know nothing about, that nobody informed me of, nobody asked me a question about, that nobody actually brought to my attention. The difficulty about the Sinn Féin argument is that we will join policing when it is perfect according to our definition. Now they then began to discover, correctly so in my opinion, that devolution of policing and justice powers was a fundamental issue, not necessarily to policing but to good governance of policing.
DI: One of the issues which the Policing Board manifestly can’t control is the issue of MI5 receiving primacy over intelligence-gathering in Ireland.
DB: The board can’t solve it but the political parties can solve it and I think that the best definition is coming at this moment in time from the SDLP because they split national security into two situations – one is Irish national security and the other is British national security, and I think that is a very valid analysis.
DI: So you agree then that MI5 does have a role to play in Ireland vis-a-vis so-called international terrorism?
DB: I will tell you this and Sinn Féin will come to this because they can’t go to any other position, no government in the world will give away its own national security. But what it should be giving away within Northern Ireland is national security within the island of Ireland. That’s the issue, it won’t give away its own national security, and we have to live, we all have to mature into the situation, because Britain, while its here, will take an interest in its own national security out of that island, or the part of the island in which it has a place.
DI: So this is fundamentally an issue of sovereignty?
DB: Of course its about political sovereignty. That’s what it was always about.
DI: Hugh Orde specifically stated on the BBC that loyalists in general are not a threat to national security and that republicans in general are a threat to national security. Do you agree with that?
DB: I don’t agree with Hugh Orde’s position on this. I actually side with the SDLP on this that the police should continue to hold national security as they do at this moment in time on the island of Ireland, I agree with that.
DI: Do you accept that a better model is that those powers should be vested with a locally accountable minister of justice?
DB: I have no difficulty with any of that except that I think you are not analysing the situation properly at all and I don’t think you’re grasping the situation because governments hold onto their national security. Neither of the two governments, in no matter what model you create, will give up their own national security issue. There are still dark rooms but there are not as many of them and there is a little bit more scrutiny, but the scrutiny will always reside in the parliament of that country and should not reside on a Policing Board. We were handed a situation from the British government that it was a done deal and Sinn Féin in my opinion didn’t protest enough. I’m saying its carries dangers. I am not saying it’s fundamental. I’m saying it carries dangers and it should be properly explored. But I don’t think it is fundamental. I think that the danger as I see it is that a force without a force, which is the British model, is not necessarily conducive to a post-conflict situation, where sovereignty is still the disputed territory.
DI: You acknowledge that the PSNI and MI5 currently have a ‘relationship’. You’ve acknowledged that.
DB: Of course I have.
DI: Many observers regard that relationship in the Tasking and Co-ordinating Group as effectively a force beyond a force, because there has been very little public accountability of any of the actions emanating from that relationship over the past four years. Do you accept that?
DB: We were never tasked by the politicians to sort out the relationship between MI5 and the internal workings of the police. Nobody ever tasked the Policing Board with that, neither should they because that’s the politicians’ role. I think it is healthier that dark rooms disappear and that things come out into the open as much as they can. The role of the Policing Board is not to work out politics and I think that part of the republican argument is that it invested far too much expectation in something that is only a construct of proper politics and which gives a chance and an opportunity to achieve a greater oversight of policing than we had up to now.
DI: Hugh Orde in March 2003, during your period as vice-chair, talked about people within his organisation who wanted him to fail. Where have those people gone? Or are they still there? Or do you know?
DB: There are people within every organisation that wish somebody to fail. We also unfortunately, still to a degree, because the politicians have failed to get their act together, end up in a situation where some of the politics flow into policing, so the kind of clear water that we were promised by the politicians in the Good Friday Agreement was never provided.
DI: Is there a case, which republicans refer to, for labelling police who flow into politics as political detectives?
DB: Culturally I think there was a greater onus on Sinn Féin to actually lift more of the burden by taking their place on the Policing Board and holding Hugh Orde to account and having the type of questions that you’re directing at me, directed at them because why didn’t they lift part of this burden and expect people like me to kind of hold ground which I was only partially capable of ever holding.
DI: Is that not a victim approach that you eschewed earlier on?
DB: No, it’s a reality statement, it’s a reality check on this situation. I don’t feel a victim, I just feel a bit saddened by it. I think it was a wrong tactic. I disagreed with it.
DI: Do you accept Sinn Féin’s argument now that, number one, there are still in some influential positions within the PSNI ‘political detectives’, and number two, that devolution is now fundamental to securing maximum community confidence in the police?
DB: I think that is put in a fashion which is a completely Sinn Féin question, because it bears no reality to reality.
DI: So there aren’t political detectives?
DB: No, I didn’t say that. Let me finish the thing. Everything that happens is political. And when a very prominent Sinn Féin person becomes a police officer, I don’t expect him to change his heart, nor his culture, but what I expect him to do and what I would demand if I was still on the Policing Board is that he police with neutrality and with the best interests of all the people at heart. That’s what I mean by that the politics now flow into policing because those questions are asked because we don’t have an assembly, we don’t have an agreed executive.
DI: Yes but in fairness, Denis, republicans currently analyse a set of individuals within the PSNI as political detectives because they, in fact, conspired to bring down the assembly that you’re actually talking about.
DB: Well, you use the word conspire, I don’t think they conspired at all.
DI: But that’s why republicans talk about political detectives.
DB: No, they didn’t conspire. I think they made a mess of it. That’s been acknowledged by the chief constable and I certainly thought they made a mess of it and said so at the time. That’s why I think that analysis is not good enough. You see as republicans – and I talk about myself as a republican – we need to get past this. But if you begin to actually say he did that or she did that because he comes from the unionist tradition therefore it has to be a political position and therefore he has to be a political detective, we will never in true republican definitions move past where we’re at. Sinn Féin have had the experience of knowing more about change than probably any other entity within the North over the last 10 years. They have handled it extremely well except mainly on this one issue which I think they got wrong, because they politicised policing. If anyone politicised policing they politicised it by actually saying that we’ll only do it when it’s perfect according to our view. They politicised policing by saying, that’s one we will not touch with a barge pole.
DI: Patten came about because policing was political...
DB: No, hold on...
DI: That’s why Patten came about.
DB: Everything is political if you want to use that definition.
DI: Policing is fundamental to the maintenance of the status quo. That’s why it so serious for republicans.
DB: It is so serious for republicans and it’s the one that they didn’t engage with. To be fair to them, they said we will do that through legislation. If they don’t find a way of the policing to do that, then the only thing we’re left with is what is now being described in vague terms as joint management. And the rest of Ireland, which they now have a big stake in politically, will be left saying that there is one of the political parties here who doesn’t support policing within part of the island until they get some kind of devolved situation which might not happen for the next 20 years. Now that is not a political position I would advise anybody to take up.

This interview has been edited down because of space restrictions.

Daily Ireland Editorial: Empey talks move exposes hypocrisy

Daily Ireland

Editor: Colin O’Carroll
31/03/2006

The recent announcement by the leader of the Ulster Unionist Party, Reg Empey, that he has been meeting loyalist paramilitary leaders since the autumn of 2005 came as a surprise to some, but for other UUP-watchers it was very much par for the course.
Down through the darkest years of the Troubles the then main unionist party held a hard line about talks with the IRA. That line was that talks were out of the question and that a military victory had to be ruthlessly pursued.
In January 1988, John Hume began talks with Gerry Adams which would eventually lead to the IRA cessation of 1994. The howls of protest that went up were ear-splitting in their intensity. Because the IRA campaign was in full tilt and blood was being spilt on the streets, the UUP accused John Hume and the SDLP of ‘giving in to the terrorists’ and the invective levelled at the SDLP leader was withering in its intensity.
Today the UDA and the UVF continue to murder each other over sordid drug and territory disputes, they are fully armed and active and show no signs of laying down their weapons. Yet Mr Empey sees continuing loyalist violence as no bar to a seat at the table with the UUP. The unionist parties, he said, “had a special responsibility to persuade the loyalist paramilitaries to commit to purely peaceful means”.
The benign view of all this would go something like this. Well, it took them a long time to learn the lesson of Hume-Adams, but better late than never and good luck to the unionist parties in their attempts to wean the UDA and the UVF off the drugs and guns.
Incredibly, the main unionist party continues to refuse to have any dealings with Sinn Féin; it refuses to acknowledge the most basic personal courtesies, it talks to republicans through a third party and, crucially, it continues to rule out the speedy return of the power-sharing executive and assembly. The benign view of that would go something like this. Ah, but the DUP have always taken a harder line than the UUP and at least they’re being consistent.
Except of course that the DUP wouldn’t know consistency if it jumped up and bit them on the nose. The party is on the brink of entering into talks with the UDA and the UVF without any prior commitment being given by the loyalist paramilitaries in regard to guns and violence. The excuse for parleying with men in balaclavas while refusing to have anything to do with the North’s largest nationalist parties is that while the DUP might, just might, have some influence over the UDA and the UVF, it has none over ‘Sinn Féin/IRA’. This is the same party that damned John Hume as a fellow traveller for doing almost 20 years ago what they’re proposing to do now. Except John Hume at that time, by his own admission, would have talked to anyone and anybody, republican or loyalist. The DUP position now, in essence, is that talks with armed groups are not governed by morality, by right or by wrong, but by practicality and realpolitik. Perhaps somewhere in there is a glimmer of hope.

Garda/RUC ‘co-operation on cover-up’

Daily Ireland

Relatives of loyalist victim say independent inquiry’s conclusion adds weight to their belief that a policy of co-operation existed between forces that Garda chiefs tried to hide

by Ciarán Barnes
31/03/2006

The Taoiseach has come under pressure to reveal whether gardaí had been ordered not to actively pursue the loyalist killers of Irish citizens in the 1970s.
Relatives of Séamus Ludlow, who was murdered by loyalists in 1976, and the families of those killed in the 1974 Dublin and Monaghan bombings have told Daily Ireland that such a policy existed.
They said yesterday that the findings of the Independent Commission of Inquiry into Mr Ludlow’s murder had added weight to their claims.
In its report published on Wednesday, the commission detailed cases of cross-border co-operation between the Garda Síochána and the RUC.
Judge Henry Barron, who published a report on the Ludlow murder last November, was not made aware of these cases.
The commission’s report says that, in February 1973 following a train robbery in Dundalk, three gardaí interviewed suspects at Springfield Road RUC station in west Belfast.
In March 1976, two months before the Ludlow killing, Garda detectives questioned a man believed to have been involved in a robbery at Belfast’s Musgrave Park Hospital.
The gardaí also let the RUC use facilities in the South to interview Irish citizens. In 1975, the RUC questioned the Belfast man Pat Livingstone in Dundalk Garda station about a killing in the North.
It is clear that, for at least three years prior to Mr Ludlow’s murder, gardaí had been co-operating regularly with the RUC.
The family of Mr Ludlow have described as “ridiculous” the claims that the killers of their relative were not pursued because gardaí feared that the IRA would attack them for co-operating with the RUC.
Mr Ludlow’s nephew Jimmy Sharkey said: “The findings of the commission in relation to co-operation between the Garda and RUC make a mockery of Judge Barron’s ruling.
“I firmly believe the Irish government had a policy in place at the time not to pursue loyalists or members of the British army involved in the murder and attempted murders of Southerners.
“The Irish government didn’t want to upset the British so they didn’t go after the men who murdered Séamus.
“But my uncle’s case wasn’t isolated. Why were the loyalists who blew up Castleblayney, Dundalk, Dublin and Monaghan not pursued? There are hundreds of grieving families who deserve answers.” Margaret Urwin — secretary of the Justice for the Forgotten group, which represents those bereaved or injured as a result of the 1970s Dublin and Monaghan bombings — said: “For the Garda to claim they didn’t co-operate with the RUC in pursuing loyalist killers because of fear of IRA attacks is nonsense. They were working hand in glove for years.”
Yesterday a senior Garda officer was appointed to re-examine the investigation into the Ludlow murder.

'We won't tolerate abuse of tricolour' - Derry Republicans

Derry Journal

31 March 2006

REPUBLICANS IN Derry have warned they will not tolerate the erection of the Irish tricolour to promote sectarianism in the city.
The statement was issued following the erection of the Irish national flag near interface areas in recent weeks.
Speaking on behalf of the 'Derry republican family', Derry City Councillor Peter Anderson hit out at the "willy nilly" erection of flags in acts of hatred as an abuse of the tricolour and all it stands for.
"People putting up flags on every flagpole at interface zones and painting kerbstones green white and gold is an absolute disgrace," he told the 'Journal'.
"Republicans are probably guilty of it in the past but after all these years we realise that it is not the way forward.
"Our flag has been used in recent weeks near interface areas as a means of promoting sectarianism - something the republican family in Derry will not tolerate and we are working tirelessly towards convincing the misguided individuals involved that they should desist from it."
He added that in relation to flags and emblems the Good Friday Agreement was very clear.
"It demanded that symbols and emblems are used in a manner which promotes mutual respect rather than division.
"It is our view that all flags should be flown on proper flagpoles and displayed only on dates to mark significant historical occasions and cultural events of local and national interest."
The comments were made after a number of complaints to Sinn Fein in the city about the activity.
In one particular incident in the Bogside's Westland Street, a car carrying an elderly person narrowly escaped being hit when a large lump of wood - heavily studded with nails and being used to fly a tricolour - came loose from a telegraph pole and plummeted to the ground.
"Luckily for this elderly member of our community the large piece of wood missed," said Colr. Anderson.
Senior Derry republicans have hit out at the "inappropriate" manner in which the Irish tricolour is erected and left to deteriorate into rags, the councillor explained.
"It is neither environmentally friendly, nor a dignified means of expressing national identity."
He said that, as the 90th anniversary of the Easter Rising approaches, republicans are "mindful" that young people might believe that erecting flags is the right thing to do to commemorate the event.
But he added: "Erecting flags is only one of the many ways we now have to remind us of the sacrifices of the past, but abusing our national flag by hanging it on any old lamp post should now be left in the past.
Sinn Fein have recommended the approach taken by residents of Mullaghmore, Co. Tyrone as "the way forward".
The majority of residents there came to agreement that communities and groups wishing to hoist the national flag should take the time to do a "befitting job" by erecting proper flagpoles in central, specially constructed areas.
"Good leadership was shown by consulting with other estates in their area and coming up with an alternative way of fostering greater respect for our national flag and other symbols of our Irish identity," Colr. Anderson said.

Stay clear of Rosemount barracks


Derry Journal


31 March 2006

Resdents will oppose any moves by private developers to muscle in on the Rosemount Barracks when it is vacated by the British Army.
The comments were made as local people welcomed confirmation from the British Army that Rosemount security tower will be demolished next year.
The levelling of the tower will bring to an end the campaign to remove the facility which has lasted more than 12 years.
Campaign spokes-man, Cecil Hutcheon told the 'Journal' that a commitment has already been given by the PSNI that the barracks will be handed back to the community after it is made redundant.
However, a number of major developers are believed to have expressed an interest in acquiring the site, a situation that Mr. Hutcheon has warned will never be allowed to materialise.
""We've heard of a few developers who intend to try and make a killing on the site but we say 'over our dead bodies'," "he said.
""We are totally opposed to any private developers coming in to build some kind of monstrosity after our years of campaigning to have the site vacated,"" he added.
Radical proposals
However, residents have welcomed radical proposals announced last December by Rosemount Resource Centre and Creggan Enterprises Limited for the two acre site.
They include the construction of a health centre, sheltered accom-modation, a satellite ambulance base, youth facilities and training facilities, as well as the creation of many jobs for the local community, where employment has been scarce for years.
Meanwhile, Tues-day's announcement by Defence Minister Mr. Adam Ingram also included plans for the dismantling of the Masonic base at Bishop street by July 2007.
The headquarters of the 8th infantry at Shackelton Barracks in Ballykelly is also to disband and hand over responsibility to the Thiepval Barracks in Lisburn.
Sinn Fein Derry City councillor, Paul Fleming said his party remains sceptical about any timetable announced by the British Army.
He said the people of Derry would believe the plans to dismantle the Masonic base at Bishop Street and the PSNI watchtower at Rosemount ""when they see it done"".
""This is just a regurgitation of the announcement made by the Secretary of State 18 months ago and again a number of months before that.""

Ulster air crash that inspired a Hollywood epic

Belfast Telegraph

True story behind movie recalled by eyewitness William

By Maureen Coleman
31 March 2006

A county Antrim pensioner, who was a fireman during the Second World War, has recalled how a plane crash on Cavehill inspired a Hollywood movie.

Production on the star-studded Closing the Ring began in Belfast last week, under the direction of Lord Attenborough.

The film is based on a true story about a US B-57 bomber plane which crashed into Cavehill in 1944, killing all 10 men on board.

A ring belonging to one of the gunners was found at the scene and sparked a long journey to find the fiancee of the man to whom it belonged.

The film stars Mischa Barton, Shirley MacLaine and Pete Postlethwaite.

Islandmagee man William Norris (82) was one of the fire crew called out to the devastating scene of the plane crash 62 years ago.

Up to 10 firefighters from Whitla Street reached the scene above Ben Madigan Park, but discovered that no-one had survived the crash.

Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph, Mr Norris said: "I still remember that day well. It was rather foggy and the plane had come down over Belfast Lough, crashing just above what is now Ben Madigan Park," he said.

"There was nothing we could do for the men on board. The fire was very much ablaze when we got there and it was our job to control the fuel tanks in the wings and keep them from bursting.

"We were told there were 10 men on the plane but an eleventh one was found, who was supposedly a vagabond who was sleeping rough. He was never identified.

"It was a very sad day but because it was war-time the tragedy wasn't as well known as it would have been today."

Mr Norris said that the Hollywood version of events was slightly different from what actually happened on the day.

"Well, the film tells of a dying man giving the ring to someone and asking him to track down his fiancee back home, but that's not what happened.

"They were all dead, but there were a lot of kids around at the time and one found the ring.

"It was years later that he actually managed to track down the man's widow and return the ring to her.

"But it's a lovely story and hopefully the movie will show that," added Mr Norris.

INLA hands over drugs seized from cocaine ring

Belfast Telegraph

By Brendan McDaid
31 March 2006

The INLA yesterday issued a warning to drug dealers in Derry after claiming to have broken up a cocaine ring and handing a haul of drugs over to a priest.

Members of the paramilitary organisation dressed in balaclavas carried out the raids in the Galliagh area of the city on Wednesday night.

Police have confirmed they are now in possession of the drugs which they said were passed on to them by a third party.

In a statement issued through the Irish Republican Socialist Party, the INLA said: "The Derry Brigade of the Irish National Liberation Army can confirm that our volunteers were this week involved in an operation to smash a North West-based crime gang concerned with the supply and distribution of Class A drugs.

"During this operation volunteers recovered a substantial amount of cocaine estimated to be worth thousands of pounds.

"These drugs were then handed in to a priest in St Joseph's parish in Galliagh."

A priest at St Joseph's parochial house said he had no comment.

The INLA spokesman continued with a warning to drug dealers in Derry to make themselves known.

He said: "The Irish National Liberation Army view the sale and distribution of these dangerous and highly addictive drugs with serious concern, and we take this opportunity to warn all others involved in this trade to come forward and make themselves available to any member of the Irish Republican Socialist movement.

"The Irish National Liberation Army will not allow the working class people of this city to be used as cannon fodder by these criminals whose only concern is profit by whatever means available to them."

A Foyle PSNI spokesman said enquiries are continuing.

UVF extend talks on stand-down

Belfast Telegraph

By Brian Rowan
31 March 2006

The paramilitary debate on the future of the Ulster Volunteer Force is to be taken into Scotland and England in the next few weeks.

Loyalist leaders are extending their consultation process. Favoured options are thought be a "rolling stand-down" of the organisation, sources have indicated.

A final decision on the future of the UVF, and the closely-linked Red Hand Commando, is not expected for several months.

That means the UVF will not use this year's 90th anniversary of the Battle of the Somme to announce the outcome of its internal debate.

There had been speculation that an announcement would be linked to the July 1 anniversary.

The original UVF was formed in 1912 and, four years later, its members fought with the 36th (Ulster) Division at the Somme.

Informed sources have dismissed the speculation about an anniversary announcement. They say that suggestion is wrong.

At this stage of the consultation, a date has not been fixed for any announcement. The talking is continuing inside the two loyalist organisations.

Key meetings have still to happen - both inside and outside Northern Ireland.

That talking will take members of the loyalist paramilitary leaderships into Scotland and England in the near future.

The theme of the debate is "transformation", and after these latest discussions, "executive" or leadership decisions will be taken.

Complete disbandment has been ruled out, but there are suggestions of a "rolling stand-down" - that the UVF and Red Hand Commando will disappear in some sort of phased process.

There is nothing to suggest that arms decommissioning is imminent.

The debate is entering its most critical phase with the marching season just around the corner and with a great deal of uncertainty about the political future here.

The British and Irish governments are expected to reveal their proposals soon. But recent comments about an "inter-governmental approach" if an Executive is not restored at Stormont is causing considerable concern inside the loyalist paramilitary organisations.

The leader of the PUP, David Ervine, whose party has political links to the UVF and Red Hand Commando, said loyalists are clearly concerned about what he called "the joint-authority Plan B".

"Let's not go there," he said.

In recent days, loyalist concerns on this issue have been expressed in private contacts on both sides on the border.

Empey challenges British govt on policing deal

BN.ie

31/03/2006 - 12:10:21

Ulster Unionist leader Reg Empey challenged the British government today to reveal any secret deal with republicans on policing.

With his party still to declare if it will take its seats on the reformed authority that scrutinises the force, he warned that a full answer to his allegations could be critical.

The new Policing Board will meet for the first time next week, but the involvement of the UUP’s two representatives, MLAs Danny Kennedy and Fred Cobain, is not yet guaranteed.

The party was incensed when Northern Secretary Peter Hain reconstituted the body with political members outnumbered by independents, claiming it had become an unelected quango.

Empey suspects it may be part of a strategy to smooth Sinn Féin’s passage onto the 19-member authority once the party ends its boycott of Northern policing arrangements.

He refused to be drawn on whether his party would quit in protest, but demanded immediate answers.

“We believe there has been some deal done, probably last summer and probably involving the government and Sinn Féin,” he said.

“At this stage we haven’t been advised of that and we want to know (about it).

“We have had no rational explanation from the secretary of state why he's changed the goalposts, and done so in a manner without any consultation with the people who have been loyal partners in the policing process.

“We find it intolerable and that’s one of the key things we have to consider.”

Northern Ireland Assembly ‘to convene in May’

BN.ie

30/03/2006 - 23:37:10


Ireland and Britain plan to convene the Northern Ireland Assembly in May in a long-awaited push to revive joint administration in the north, political representatives said today.

In Dublin, Taoiseach Bertie Ahern briefed delegations from three Northern parties about a new Anglo-Irish plan for reviving power-sharing.

The Taoiseach and British Prime Minister Tony Blair are expected to make it public next week.

Politicians departing from Government Buildings headquarters said both leaders planned to convene the 108-member assembly – the body with the power to elect, or block, an administration – in mid-May.

These politicians, speaking to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity, said the Anglo-Irish plan calls for the assembly to convene in mid-May, but then be suspended within six weeks for a summer negotiating session.

They said the assembly would convene again in the autumn, face suspension for more negotiations, before a deadline of November 24 for a decision on whether an administration could be elected.

The assembly has been mothballed since October 2002 when a previous coalition collapsed amid an IRA spying scandal.

Catholic leaders complained that the Anglo-Irish plan would give too much power to Ian Paisley’s Democratic Unionist Party, the largest unionist party in the north. Paisley has insisted for years that he will not share power with Sinn Féin until the IRA disappears.

The IRA last year renounced violence for political purposes and handed over its weapons stockpiles to disarmament officials, but Paisley says the IRA also must disband and Sinn Féin accept the authority of Northern Ireland’s police force.

30 March 2006

Assembly members set for recall

BBC


Assembly members are to be recalled to Stormont

The deadline for efforts to restore the Northern Ireland Assembly has been set for 24 November, political sources have told the BBC.

The date emerged after Taoiseach Bertie Ahern held talks with Sinn Fein, the SDLP and the Alliance Party in Dublin.

Assembly members are to be called to Stormont on 15 May for a six-week period to try to form an executive.

An emergency bill is also expected to be put through Westminster to change some of the Stormont rules.

BBC Northern Ireland political editor Mark Devenport said the assembly would break for summer before being recalled in September for 12 weeks until the end of November.

He also said the political parties have been told the British and Irish governments are considering holding more talks at a stately home during the summer recess to deal with outstanding problems.

News of the deadline followed a series of talks between the Irish premier and some of Northern Ireland's political parties in Dublin on Thursday.

Political progress

Speaking before the meeting, Sinn Fein's Martin McGuinness said his party would tell the taoiseach that the DUP must not be allowed to delay political progress.

"The DUP are standing in splendid isolation," he said.

"Everybody else is demanding the restoration of the institutions."

Speaking after meeting with Mr Ahern, SDLP leader Mark Durkan said his party has some concerns about the two government's proposals for restoring devolution.

He said his party wanted to encourage the direction the two governments were travelling in, but was concerned about the detail which, he said, fell short of the Good Friday Agreement.

After his party's talks with Mr Ahern, Alliance leader David Ford said it was important that the two governments stayed engaged and did not leave it to Northern Ireland's politicians.


Bertie Ahern met with a number of NI's political parties

"The key issue is that the two governments build on issues like a shared future and stop just managing division," he said.

Earlier this month, Mr Ahern told the BBC a Northern Ireland Assembly may operate for some months without an executive.

Mr Ahern said the aim was to have a fully functioning assembly with an executive as envisaged under the Good Friday Agreement.

However, he said a deadlock over the formation of that executive should not stop the assembly from operating while there is work for it to do.

Meanwhile, sources have also told the BBC that next week's package of economic assistance for deprived loyalist areas should amount to about £30m.

Some sources within unionism have expressed disappointment at the sum, given the recent cuts in areas such as education in Belfast.

However, other loyalist sources said they see the initiative as a challenge and will work with whatever money is provided for areas such as skills and training, housing and urban regeneration.

Devolved government at Stormont was suspended in October 2002 following allegations of a republican spy ring at the Northern Ireland Office.

However, doubt was cast on that after a senior Sinn Fein official acquitted of involvement said he had been a British agent for 20 years and that there was no spy ring.

Garda re-open Ludlow murder case

BBC


Mr Justice Barron criticised the 1976 Ludlow murder investigation

The investigation into the murder of County Louth man Seamus Ludlow 30 years ago is to be re-opened, Irish police have said.

The move follows an Irish parliamentary report on Wednesday which called for the case to be re-investigated.

Mr Ludlow was shot in May 1976 after hitching a lift near his home in Dundalk. At that time gardai blamed his murder on the IRA.

The Ludlow family has said it wants an independent report into the killing.

They also want allegations of possible collusion between some gardai and loyalist paramilitaries examined.

In November 2005, a judicial report conducted in the Irish Republic named four loyalists suspected of the killing.

The report's author, Mr Justice Barron, criticised the garda investigation into the murder.

He said gardai had failed to question four Northern Ireland suspects named in the report because the RUC might have demanded reciprocal rights in the Irish Republic.

Arrests

In October 2005, an inquest into the 47-year-old forestry worker's killing was told that in 1998, the RUC arrested and questioned four men from County Down.

Two of them independently gave evidence of how and where the murder was committed.

However, the Director of Public Prosecutions in Northern Ireland decided not to press charges.

The inquest was also told that in 1979, Irish police had the names and addresses of the same four men but Garda Headquarters did not allow the investigating officers to proceed.

Mr Justice Barron, a retired judge, said it was important to view these matters in the context that the period between 1976-1980 was "one of huge turmoil".

Writer John McGahern dies suddenly aged 72

BN.ie

30/03/2006 - 13:47:14

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usThe award-winning novelist and playwright John McGahern has died in hospital in Dublin at the age of 72.

McGahern, who was regarded as Ireland's finest living writer, is understood to have died suddenly this afternoon following a battle with cancer.

He was born in Dublin in 1934, but grew up and spent most of his life in Co Leitrim.

In 1990, his best-known novel, Amongst Women, was short-listed for the Booker Prize.

His most recent novel, That They May Face the Rising Sun, was published in 2001 and was nominated for the IMPAC award.

McGahern was a member of Aosdana and has won a string of accolades, including the Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres and the Prix Etranger Ecureuil.

He has also taught at universities in the United States, Canada, England, and Ireland.

----------------------

Literary Encyclopedia

John McGahern

Novelist.
Active 1963- in Dublin, Republic of Ireland, England, Britain, Spain, Europe, North America


The novelist, short-story writer and playwright John McGahern was born in Dublin, Republic of Ireland, as one of five children. McGahern was raised in counties Leitrim and Roscommon, educated at St Patrick’s College, Drumcondra and University College Dublin, and later worked as a primary schoolteacher in Clontarf, Dublin (1955-64). His first novel, The Barracks, appeared in 1963. His second, The Dark (1965), provoked great controversy and was banned under Ireland’s censorship legislation. After writing this novel McGahern was dismissed from his teaching post without explanation and left Ireland for London, where he worked as a labourer, teacher and book reviewer. In 1970 he purchased a small property in County Leitrim which became his home in 1974, the year his third novel, The Leavetaking, appeared. His fourth, The Pornographer, appeared five years later and Amongst Women was published to widespread critical acclaim in 1990. McGahern taught as various British and North American universities throughout the 1970s and 1980s and received an honorary doctorate from Trinity College, Dublin in 1991, the year his play, The Power of Darkness, was premiered at the Abbey Theatre, Dublin. His Collected Stories was published in 1992.

Liam Harte, University of Manchester
Published 08 March 2001


-------------------------

Cleveland Plain Dealer

First memoir is powerful tale of dark Ireland

Tuesday, March 14, 2006
John Dicker

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usJohn McGahern is the greatest Irish writer you've never heard of. His novels - "Amongst Women," "The Barracks" and "The Leavetaking" - paint a very dark yet oddly affectionate portrait of Irish family life in the mid-20th century.

In his first memoir, "All Will Be Well," the author calls the Ireland of his youth a "theocracy in all but name." If anyone can say this without risking hyperbole, it's McGahern, whose books were banned in Ireland from the outset of his career in the early 1960s through the end of the 1970s.

When the government censored McGahern's 1964 novel "The Dark," a bishop saw fit to remove the author from his teaching job. When he turned to his union for support, its members only piled on, telling him "If it was just the auld book, maybe - maybe - we might have been able to do something for you, but with marrying this foreign [read: non-Catholic] woman, you have turned yourself into a hopeless case entirely."

"All Will Be Well" is a departure for McGahern. His motives for turning to memoir are unclear -- perhaps to record a way of life, perhaps to pay tribute to his mother, who died when he was 9, or perhaps to commit a sort of literary patricide against his abusive father. Whatever the reasons, this is indeed a wonderful book.

An ex-IRA man who found a career in the new Irish state's police force, Frank McGahern was self-serving, profoundly stingy and quick to violence. Through surviving letters and his own lucid recollections, McGahern reveals a father whose cruelty was nearly limitless. Even more than the regular beatings, the mundane acts of meanness stand out.

Upon receiving the monthly grocery bill, for example, he'd line up his seven children and read them a complete and mortifying account of everything they'd eaten. Here he is cutting off the butter: "Once four pounds is crossed you can all go and eat dry bread."

Writing well may be the revenge of some, but McGahern indulges no triumphant anger in these pages. His tone is mainly abject astonishment. Readers match him in being astonished that he came through. The boy took comfort in church rituals -- where his father was forced to concede to a higher authority -- rowing a boat in a small river and in books that became keys to life's possibilities.

Of course, luck played an important hand. If not for his father's need for approval from a local Protestant family, McGahern would've been sent to clerk at a Dublin hardware store instead of completing his education. His own good fortune is never lost on McGahern, who came of age in the 1950s when more Irish people emigrated than any other decade that century. "I had become one of the privileged few who had escaped the trains and the cattle boats and was allowed to work in my own country," he writes.

"All Will Be Well" is a dark book about a time and a place when patriarchs, policemen and especially priests were not questioned. In this place and time -- counties Leitrim and Roscommon in the midcentury -- feelings were barely processed, much less discussed. Life, though simple, could be lonely, cold and violent. This book's happy enough ending says much about the mystery of resiliency:

"It is from those days that I take the belief that the best of life is lived quietly," McGahern writes, "where nothing happens but our calm journey through the day, where change is imperceptible and the precious life is everything."

Remembering 1981: From a nationalist ghetto to the battlefield of H-Block

An Phoblacht

The Birth of a Republican

The folllowing is a slightly edited version of a semi-autobiographical article by Bobby Sands, first published anonomously in Republican News on 16 December 1978. It was reprinted in An Phoblacht/Republican News on 4 April 1981 when Bobby was 35 days on hunger strike.

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usFrom my earliest years I recall my mother speaking of the troubled times that occurred during her childhood. Often she spoke of internment on prison ships, of gun attacks and death, and of early morning raids when one lay listening with pounding heart to the heavy clattering of boots on the cobblestone streets, and as a new day broke peaked carefully out the window to see a neighbour being taken away by the Specials.

Although I never really understood what internment was, or who the Specials were, I grew to regard them as symbols of evil. Nor could I understand when my mother spoke of Connolloy and the 1916 Rising, and of how he and his comrades fought and were subsequently executed - a fate suffered by so many Irish rebels in my mother's stories.

When the television arrived, my mother's stories were replaced by what it had to offer. I became more confused as "the baddies" in my mother's tales were also the heroes on the TV. The British army always fought for 'the right side' and the police were always the 'good guys'. Both were to be heroised and imitated in childhood play.

At school I learned history, but it was always English History and English historical triumphs in Ireland and elsewhere . I often wondered why I was never taught the history of my own country and when my sister, a year younger than myself, began to learn the Gaelic language at school I envied her. Occasionally nearing the end of my school days I received a few scant lessons in Irish history. For this, from a republican-minded teacher who taught me, I was indeed grateful.

I recall my mother also speaking of the 'good old days'. But of all her marvellous stories I could never remember any good times and I often thought to myself 'thank God' I was not a boy in those times because by then - having left school - life to me seemed enormous and wonderful.

Starting work, although frightening at first, became alright, especially with the reward at the end of the week. Dances and clothes, girls and a few shillings to spend, opened up a whole new world for me. I suppose at that time I would have worked all week, as money seemed to matter more than anything else.

Change

Then came 1968 and my life began to change. Gradually the news changed. Regularly I noticed the Specials, whom I now knew as the B Specials, attacking and baton-charging the crowds of people who all of a sudden began marching on the streets.

From the talk in the house and my mother shaking her fist at the TV screen, I knew that they were our people who were on the receiving end. My sympathies and feelings really became aroused after watching the scenes at Burntollet. That imprinted on my mind like a scar, and for the first time I took a real interest in what was going on. I became angry.

It was now 1969 and events moved faster as August hit our area like a hurricane. The whole world exploded and my own little world just crumbled around me. The TV did not have to tell the story now, for it was on my own doorstep. Belfast was in flames, as our districts, our humble homes were burnt. The Specials came at the head of the RUC and the Orange hordes, right into the heart of our streets, burning, looting, shooting and murdering.

There was no one to save us, except 'the boys' as my father called the men who defended our district with a handful of old guns.

As the unfamiliar sound of gunfire was still echoing there soon appeared alien figures, voices and faces, in the form of British Soldiers on our streets. But no longer did I think of them as my childhood 'good guys', for their presence alone was food for thought.

Before I could work out the solution it was answered for me, in the form of early morning raids, and I remembered my mother's stories of previous troubled times. For now my heart pounded at the heavy clatter of the soldiers' boots in the early morning stillness and I carefully peaked from behind the drawn curtains to watch the neighbours door being kicked in, and the fathers and sons being dragged out by the hair and being flung in the backs of sinister looking armoured cars. This was followed by blatant murder, the shooting dead of our people on the streets and in cold blood. The curfew came and went taking more of our peoples lives.

IRA

Every time I turned a corner I was met by the now all too familiar sight of homes being wrecked and people being lifted. The city was in uproar, bombings became more regular, as did gun battles, as 'the boys'- the IRA, hit back at the Brits.

The TV now showed endless gun battles and bombings. The people had risen and were fighting back, and my mother, in her newly found spirit of resistance, hurled encouragement at the TV shouting, give it to them boys!

Easter 1971 came, and the name on everyone's lips was 'the Provos', the peoples army, the backbone of nationalist resistance.

I was now past my 18th year, and fed up with rioting. No matter how much I tried, or how many stones I threw I could never beat them - the Brits always came back.

I had seen too many homes wrecked, fathers and sons arrested, friends murdered, gas, shootings, blood, most of it my own people's.

At 18-and-a-half I joined the Provos. My mother wept with pride and joy as I went out to confront the imperial might of an empire with an M1 carbine and enough hate to topple the world. To my surprise, my schoolday friends and neighbours became my comrades in the war. I soon became much more aware about the whole national liberation struggle, as I came to regard what I used to term the 'troubles'.

Things were not easy for a Volunteer in the Irish Republican Army. Already I was being harassed and twice was lifted, questioned, and brutalised but I survived both of these trials.

Then came another hurricane, internment. Many of my comrades disappeared - interned. Many of my innocent neighbours met the same fate. Others weren't so lucky, they were just murdered.

My life now centred around sleepless nights and standby, dodging the Brits, and calming nerves to go out on operations.

But the people stood by us. The people not only opened their doors to us to lend us a helping hand, but they opened their hearts to us, and I soon learned that without the people we could not survive and I knew I owed them everything.

1972 came and went and I spent what was to be my last Christmas at home for quite some time. The Brits never let up. No mercy was shown, as testified by the atrocity of Bloody Sunday in Derry. But we continued to fight back, as did my jailed comrades who embarked on a long hunger strike to gain recognition as political prisoners.

Political status was won just before the first, but short-lived, truce of 1972. During this truce the IRA braced itself for the forthcoming massive Operation Motorman, which came and went, taking with it the barricades.

Jail

The liberation struggle forged ahead, but then came personal disaster - I was captured. It was the Autumn of '72. I was charged and for the first time I faced jail. I was 19-and-a-half, but I had no alternative but to face up to the hardship that lay before me.

Given the stark corruptness of the judicial system, I refused to recognise the court. I ended up sentenced in a barbed wire cage where I spent three-and-a-half years as a Prisoner of War with 'special category status'.

I did not waste my time. I did not allow the rigours of prison life to change my revolutionary determination an inch. I educated and trained myself both in political and military matters, as did my comrades.

In 1976 when I was released, I was not broken. In fact I was more determined in the fight for national liberation. I reported back to my local IRA unit and threw myself back into the struggle.

Quite a lot of things had changed. Belfast had changed. Some parts of the ghettoes had completely disappeared and others were in the process of being removed. The war was still forging ahead, although tactics and strategy had changed.

At first I found it a little bit hard to adjust, but I settled in to the run of things, and at the grand old age of 23, I got married.

Life wasn't bad, but there were still a lot of things that had not changed, such as the presence of armed British troops on our street and the oppression of our people. The liberation struggle was now seven years old, and had braved a second and mistakenly prolonged cease-fire. The British government was now seeking to Ulsterise the war, which included criminalisation of the IRA and attempted normalisation of the situation. The struggle had to be kept going. Thus, six months after I was released, disaster fell a second time as I bombed my way back into jail!

With my wife four months pregnant, the shock of capture, seven days of hell in Castlereagh, a quick court appearance and remand, and the return to a cold damp cell, nearly destroyed me. It took every ounce of the revolutionary spirit left in me to stand up to it.

Jail, although not new to me, was really bad, worse than the first time. Things had changed enormously since the withdrawal of special status. Both republican and loyalist prisoners were housed in the same wing.

The greater part of each day was spent locked up in a cell. The screws, many of whom I knew to be cowering cowards, now went in gangs into the cells of republicans to dish out unmerciful beatings. This was to be the pattern all the way along the road to criminalisation- torture, and more torture, to break our spirit of resistance.

I was meant to change from being a revolutionary freedom fighter to a criminal at the stroke of a political pen, reinforced by inhumanities of the most brutal nature.

Already Kieran Nugent and several more republican POW's had begun the blanket protest for the restoration of political status. They refused to wear prison garb or do prison work.

After many weekly remand court appearances the time finally arrived, 11 months after my arrest, and I was in Diplock court. In two hours I was swiftly found guilty, and my comrades and I sentenced to 15 years. Once again I had refused to recognise the farcical judicial system.

As they led us from the courthouse, my mother, defiant as ever, stood up in the gallery and shook the air with a cry of 'they'll never break you boys', and my wife, from somewhere behind her, with tear-filled eyes, braved a smile of encouragement at me. At least, I thought, she has our child. Now that I was in jail, our daughter would provide her with company and maybe help ease the loneliness which she knew only to well.

The next day I became a blanket man, and there I was, sitting on the cold floor, naked, with only a blanket around me in an empty cell.

H-Blocks

The days were long and lonely. Sudden and total deprivation of such basic human necessities as exercise and fresh air, association with other people, my own clothes, and things like radio, cigarettes and a host of other things made life very hard. At first, as always, I adapted. But, as time wore on, I came face to face with an old friend, depression, which on many occasions consumed me and swallowed me into its darkest depths. From home, only the occasional letter got past the prison censor.

Gradually my appearance and psychical health began to change drastically. My eyes, shrunken, glassy, piercing and surrounded by pale, yellowish skin, were frightening. I had grown a beard, and like my comrades, resembled a living corpse. The blinding migraine headaches, which started slowly, became a daily occurrence, and owing to no exercise I became seized with muscular pains.

In the H-Blocks, beatings, long periods in punishment cells, starvation diets, torture, were commonplace.

20 March 1978 and we completed the full circle of deprivation and suffering. As an attempt to highlight our intolerable plight, we embarked upon a dirt strike, refusing to wash, shower, clean out our cells, or empty the filthy chamber pots.

The H-Blocks became battlefields in which the republican spirit of resistance met head-on all the inhumanities that Britain could perpetrate. Inevitably the lid of silence on the H-Blocks blew sky high, revealing the atrocities inside.

The battlefield became worse, our cells turning into disease-infested tombs with piles of decaying rubbish, and maggots, fleas and flies rampant. The nauseating smell of urine and the stink of our bodies and cells made our surroundings resemble a pigsty.

The screws, keeping up the incessant torture, hosed us down, sprayed us with strong disinfectant, ransacked our cells, forcibly bathed us, and tortured us to the brink of insanity. Blood and tears fell upon the battlefield - all of it ours. But we refused to yield.

The republican spirit prevailed and as I sit here in the same conditions and the continuing torture in H-Block 5, I am proud, although psychically wrecked, mentally exhausted, and scarred deep with hatred and anger.

I am proud because my comrades and I have met, fought and repelled a monster, and we will continue to do so. We will never allow ourselves to be crimialised, nor our people either. Grief stricken and oppressed, the men and women of no property have risen. A risen people, marching in thousands on the streets in defiance and rage at the imperial oppressor, the mass murderer, and torturer. The spirit of Irish freedom is in every one of them and I am really proud.

I was only a working class boy from a Nationalist ghetto, but it is repression which creates the revolutionary spirit of freedom. I shall not settle until I achieve the liberation of my country, until Ireland becomes a sovereign, independent socialist republic.

We the risen people, shall turn tragedy into triumph. We shall bear forth a nation!

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