22 April 2006

Shourkris are police agents: Adair

Belfast Telegraph

Ex-loyalist boss in new vow to return

22 April 2006

Free Image Hosting at www.ImageShack.usThe Shoukri brothers were today branded Special Branch agents by exiled Johnny Adair as the former loyalist boss vowed to return to Belfast from exile in Scotland. (Andre on right - click to view)

His comments come as speculation mounts that Andre and Ihab Shoukri, who have been accused of disobeying the leadership's order to cease drug dealing, are to be ousted by the outlawed paramilitary organisation.

And according to Adair, who fled Ulster three years ago after the murder of South East Antrim UDA chief John Gregg, time is running out for the Shoukris as UDA members "can see them for the fakes they are".

Insisting that UDA attitudes towards him have thawed, making a return to Ulster in the future a very real possibility, he told a daily newspaper: "I have always said one day I would return to Belfast.

"I always saw what happened to me like a large iceberg. Every day, week and month that iceberg has thawed and it is now no more than an ice cube.

"Look at the people who plotted against me, where are they now? Dead or in jail, they have one by one shown their true colours.

"The Shoukri brothers are paying the price, they last three years and now they have been uncovered for the frauds they always were. I always said the Shoukris were Special Branch."

Adair and his supporters were forced to flee his Shankill power base, firstly to Scotland and then Bolton, after his 'C Company' faction shot dead John Gregg.

Former allies in the LVF also disowned him because of the Gregg murder.

However, Adair insisted he will return to Belfast and continued his defiant attack on the Shoukri brothers: "I believe they were groomed by Special Branch to infiltrate the UDA and cause dissent. They had their way for a while but now real loyalists can see them for the fakes they are.

"Andre Shoukri has gambled more than £800,000 of UDA money, that is a disgrace."

Ever faithful in life and in death...Ulster's own Greyfriars Bobby

Belfast Telegraph

Alsatian Ben pines by owner's graveside

By Fiona McIlwaine Biggins and Eimear O'Hagan
22 April 2006

An Ulster cemetery has had an unusual mourner visiting a grave over recent weeks - Ulster's own version of the famous Greyfriars Bobby.

Ben, a 12-year-old Alsatian dog, has been found on a number of occasions "crying" at the grave of his beloved owner, Lily, in Our Lady's Cemetery in Newtownabbey.

Peter McAtamney explained that his wife Lily and Ben had been inseparable and since she died in February the dog has literally been "wrecked by grief".

He said his wife was devoted to the dog and now Ben was having problems adjusting to life without her.

"We've had him since he was a six weeks. When he was born no one would take him because he was such a big, strong puppy, people thought there was something wrong with him. But we took him and I'm so glad, because he's been the best dog you could ever wish for.

"Once my wife took a fall in the yard behind the house and he bent his head down and she took hold of his collar, and he helped her up and helped her to the back door.

"She loved him - she used to take him to bed with her. When he came into the bedroom, I got thrown out! She'd even get up in the middle of the night to make him wee snacks. I would tell her she was spoiling him and she would tell me to mind my own business!"

Three days after Mrs Mc Atamney was buried, Ben went missing.

The 70-year-old widower revealed: "Ben got out of his pen and we couldn't find him. I thought he might have gone to the graveyard and I asked my home help, Maureen McNinch, to have a look. She found him on the grave, he was whimpering and was tearful.

"I think he knew where Lily was buried because at the funeral he saw people coming and going between the house and the cemetery, and he just put two and two together and worked out that's where she was. He's a very intelligent dog."

With Ben continuing to pine for his late owner, Mr McAtamney is keeping a close eye on him.

"He'd go to the grave every day if he was allowed to but I've locked the gates now to stop him going because it's not safe for him to be running around the roads.

"He's coming round a bit now and he's getting a lot of love and attention from me which I think is what he needs."

Sharon Hatt from The Dog's Trust said: "This truly goes to show that dogs really are man's best friend. There is no substitute for the companionship found when you own a dog and this highlights that the bond really is so deep."

The legendary tale of Greyfriars Bobby recalls how the Skye terrier visited his dead master's grave in Edinburgh every day for 14 years.

Garda reserve a waste of time and money

Irish Examiner


PLANS for an unpaid, part-time garda reserve force seem ridiculous in a country where fear of criminals is now palpable.

For some reason the country is now breeding criminals who impose no limits on their activities. If lives have to be taken in a robbery, or if people have to be seriously injured, then that is what happens.

This cannot be allowed to continue.

But what do we get by way of protection?

The Government plans to recruit around 900 volunteers into the reserve by September to carry out policing duties in the presence of uniformed gardaí.

This proposal is an ill-conceived half measure that won’t work.

We are told the reserve will be a supporting force and not a replacement for gardaí.

Is this not a cheap, stop-gap way of covering up failures to provide serving gardaí with adequate communications and protective clothing, such as anti-shot jackets worn by most other police forces when dealing with public order situations?

The reserve proposal is all about policing on the cheap.

It would seem that the Minister for Justice, Michael McDowell, does not want to pay for recruiting and training the extra gardaí required.

But he should realise before it’s too late that spending money on part-time reservists is a joke.

Cllr Noel Collins
‘St Jude’s’
Co Cork

Man in court after explosives find


22/04/2006 - 10:58:40

A man appeared before magistrates in the North today on charges connected with an explosives find in Lurgan, Co Armagh earlier this week.

Craigavon Magistrates Court was told that Daire McKenna, 22, from Lurgan Tarry in Lurgan, made no reply when charged with possessing explosives with intent to endanger life, on April 19.

The court was also told that the charge related to the discovery of an explosive substance, an ammonium nitrate based fertiliser and sugar mix.

When the discovery was made at a breaker’s yard on the Antrim Road in Lurgan on Wednesday, it was claimed that the component would have made a 250lb car bomb.

Under questioning from McKenna’s solicitor, Paula Collins, a detective sergeant confirmed that police could not guarantee that when the accused was questioned at Antrim Police Station the consultation rooms were not bugged.

The dispute over the consultation rooms has been taken to Belfast High Court and will be the subject of a judicial review on Monday.

The detective sergeant also confirmed that Miss Collins had advised her client not to comment during the police interview because he was not able to avail himself of effective legal advice because of the concerns that the consultation rooms in the station were bugged.

However, he also said police had advised McKenna fully of his legal rights and the inferences which could be drawn from making no comment.

McKenna was remanded in custody to appear before magistrates in Craigavon next Thursday.

His solicitor said he could make a bail application over the coming days in the High Court.

Hollywood, Broadway... Belfast?


Lord Attenborough and Pete Postlethwaite on location

It is not every day you get three Academy Award winners in the same street, but it is all the more noteworthy when that street is a terrace row in north Belfast.

A movie about a wartime American airman's lost ring has brought the Hollywood camera crews to Fortwilliam.

And some lucky residents have found the making of the film, Closing The Ring, an enriching experience in more ways than one.

Local children taking part as extras are earning £55 a day.

The friendly invasion, headed by Oscar winner Lord Attenborough, has seen Fortwilliam Parade become 1940s Pound Street, at least for the duration of filming.

Dickie, as he is affectionately known to his cast, is directing the romantic drama inspired by a real-life wartime tragedy on the Cavehill above Fortwilliam.

Fortwilliam Parade temporarily becomes Pound Street

Closing the Ring is said to be costing more than £11m and the star is another Oscar winner, Hollywood legend Shirley MacLaine.

The drama begins in 1942 when an American B-17 bomber crashed into the Cavehill while returning to its Northern Ireland base.

The story centres on a gunner in the plane's dying wish to have a gold ring returned to his girlfriend in America.

The film is set in Belfast and North Carolina.

Ms MacLaine plays the gunner's lover, Ethel, to whom the ring is returned 50 years later.

Lord Attenborough has assembled a top notch cast.

The film concerns a B-17 gunner's dying wish

As well as Shirley MacLaine, the list includes Pete Postlethwaite, Christopher Plummer, Brenda Fricker and Mischa Barton.

Residents watched fascinated as a derelict pharmacy was tranformed into an old-fashioned corner shop.

Others, recruited as extras, played a more active role.

One family returned from holiday to find "blood-stained soldiers" outside their front door.

Far from being put out by the hustle and bustle of film-making, residents say they are enjoying themselves.

"Everybody is just happy because you're getting a film on your doorstep," said one.

One of the children, asked what she was going to do with her £55, said: "I'm getting a bike."

Another said she would buy a DVD player - perhaps to watch Closing the Ring?

Yesterday in history: 'Guildford Four' man cleared of IRA murder


21 April 1994

One of the Guildford Four, Paul Hill, has won his appeal against a conviction for an IRA murder in Northern Ireland.

Paul Hill's conviction for pub bombings was quashed in 1989

The Appeal Court in Belfast ruled his conviction for the 1974 murder of former soldier Brian Shaw was unsafe.

Mr Hill confessed to the murder of Mr Shaw to detectives from the Royal Ulster Constabulary while being held at Guildford police station over two pub bombings in which 21 people died.

But the three appeal court judges ruled his confession was obtained improperly.

They said it may have been induced by a Surrey police officer pointing a gun at him.

But they also indicated they believed many of Mr Hill's allegations of ill-treatment were untrue.

Five years ago the behaviour of Surrey police officers also led to Paul Hill and three others being cleared of the Guildford and Woolwich pub bombings.

The quashing of the conviction for Brian Shaw's murder means Mr Hill may now receive up to half a million pounds in compensation for the years he spent in jail.

Among those in court with Mr Hill were his wife Courtney, daughter of the late Robert Kennedy and his mother-in-law, Ethel Kennedy.

"I've been in limbo for a long time. I didn't wait for 17 years to be told I was innocent of this, I always knew I was innocent of this," Mr Hill told reporters after the judgement.

Events in Guildford police station had led to a "travesty of justice" for both Mr Shaw and the bombing victims and those wrongfully imprisoned, Mr Hill added.

Brian Shaw's widow, Maureen Hall, who was also in court said her family was disappointed by the verdict.

She said: "We have to live with this decision, but we do not have to agree with it. Brian Shaw was the real innocent victim in this case.''

In Context

In July 1994 a report into the case of the Guildford Four by former judge Sir John May said the miscarriage of justice was due to "individual failings" and not weaknesses in the system.

In July 2000 UK Prime Minister Tony Blair became the first senior politician to apologise to the Guildford Four.

In a letter, sent to Paul Hill's wife, Mr Blair said: "There were miscarriages of justice in your husband's case, and the cases of those convicted with him. I am very sorry indeed that this should have happened."

The case of the Guildford Four was one of several high-profile cases of miscarriage of justice in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

On 9 February 2005 Prime Minister Tony Blair issued a public apology to the Guildford Four and the Maguire Seven for the miscarriages of justice they had suffered.

He said: "I am very sorry that they were subject to such an ordeal and such an injustice.

"They deserve to be completely and publicly exonerated."

Concern Expressed At Conditions On Maghaberry Segregated Wing

Sinn Féin

Published: 21 April, 2006

Sinn Féin Assembly member for Fermanagh and South Tyrone Thomas O‚Reilly has expressed his concern at the conditions being experienced by those prisoners being held in the segregated wing in Maghaberry. Mr O'Reilly's remarks come after he was contacted by the families of some of those currently being held on the republican wing in the prison.

Mr O'Reilly said:

"In August 2003 Sinn Féin made it clear to the British government that the practice of forced integration which they were attempting to operate within Maghaberry was flawed and doomed to failure. Shortly after this the British government did introduce a segregated section within Maghaberry to house republican prisoners in the face of opposition from the Prison Officers Association.

"Unfortunately it appears that the regime being imposed on those being held in the segregated wing differs greatly from the other parts of the prison. I have been contacted by a number of families of those being held in Maghaberry concerned about the repressive nature of the regime in operation in the segregated wing and problems arising on visits especially with the use of a sniffer dog which has led to a number of visits being cancelled as they were about to commence.

"I have been given numerous accounts of persistent strip searching, petty regulations and difficulties accessing adequate education facilities. There is a firm belief that the men being held there are pawns in a wider battle between the prison administration, the NIO and the Prison Officers Association, the latter of which certainly resists prisoners held in segregated conditions being given equal and fair treatment.

"There must be a realisation that all prisoners have the right to be treated in a humane fashion regardless of their political or religious affiliation and that conflict within the prison system is in nobody's interest."ENDS

Garda Commissioner apologises to Orde


21/04/2006 - 20:49:45

The Garda Commissioner has tonight apologised to the Northern Chief Constable regarding the Denis Donaldson murder investigation.

Detectives had travelled north to interview journalists but failed to inform police there.

A statement issued by the Garda Síochana tonight says due to an oversight it had been assumed advance notice of the visit was given to the PSNI.

It has been confirmed Commissioner Conroy has explained the position to Hugh Orde and apologised.

Former Republican Denis Donaldson was murdered in Glenties, county Donegal after admitting to being a British spy.

21 April 2006

Northern Ireland's divided classrooms are changing


There's more to integrated schools than putting Catholics and Protestants together, says Bob Osborne

Thursday April 20, 2006
The Guardian

Like many simple descriptions, Polly Toynbee's statement that Northern Ireland's schools are religiously segregated and remain that way against parental wishes captures some of the reality, but also masks shifting circumstances (This is a clash of civilisations - between reason and superstition, April 14).

About 6% of the NI school population is in integrated schools, but some complex patterns are emerging. Hence, while the overwhelming majority of those attending and teaching in Catholic schools (owned by the Catholic authorities but fully funded by the state) are Catholic, a large proportion of non-Catholic schools are in fact state-owned and funded, with only a residual involvement of the Protestant churches.

True these are de facto Protestant schools, with the majority of teachers and pupils being Protestant - however, many of the large Protestant grammar schools, especially in the greater Belfast area, record rising proportions of Catholic students. Approximately 15% of Catholics are now educated outside Catholic schools. Moreover, state nursery schools record 31% of their pupils being Catholic, whereas Catholic nursery schools are 97% Catholic.

But Northern Ireland doesn't just divide by religion. Over 30% of pupils are educated in single-sex schools, including primary schools. These divisions - together with the creation of Irish-language schools, the retention of academic selection, and the growing integrated sector - mean that Northern Ireland probably has at least 40% more post-primary schools compared with comparable areas, in terms of pupil numbers, in England, Scotland or Wales.

However, the tectonic plates are shifting. Demographic decline in pupil numbers means that there will be a huge drop in the number of schools through closure and amalgamation. Creating new, integrated schools in these circumstances is a costly option. Far better to create the sharing of facilities and shared campuses between existing schools as part of rationalisation, as has happened in parts of Scotland.

Northern Ireland's Equality Commission has called for the restriction and ultimate abolition of the anomalous exemption from fair employment law which permits religious discrimination in the recruitment of teachers. A single equality bill promised over five years ago offers that opportunity.

Calling for more integrated schools might seem obvious to external commentators, but ignoring the economic and demographic context also raises the issue: what is an integrated school? Is it one which fosters a conscious debate about the sectarian and political divisions in Northern Ireland, or one where "the war" and all its consequences are deliberately never mentioned?

Recent research shows that both types of school exist in the integrated sector. No teachers are trained to teach in integrated schools. Surely it is appropriate to think about what we would expect an integrated school to do -beyond merely having Catholics and Protestants under the same roof?

· Bob Osborne is director of the Social and Policy Research Institute, University of Ulster.

IMC presents latest report to governments


21 April 2006 18:12

The Independent Monitoring Commission has presented its latest assessment of paramilitary action in Northern Ireland to the British and Irish governments.

The report will be discussed at a cabinet meeting in Dublin on Tuesday and then presented in Westminster next Wednesday and published that day.

It deals with paramilitary activities up to the start of February and does not cover the murder of Denis Donaldson in Donegal.

Both the Dublin and London governments believe the IMC's assessment of IRA activities will be the most positive to date.

The timing of the report is significant, with the Northern Ireland Assembly in Stormont set to re-open on 15 May, with parties obliged to agree on a power-sharing administration by 24 November.

In its last report, the IMC raised concerns about continuing republican involvement in criminality and intelligence gathering.

'Today's Ireland does not flow from 1916'-- Ó Brádaigh at GPO


"The Easter Rising of 1916 brought about the birth of the world-wide anti-colonial movement, caused the renaissance of idealism in Ireland and broke the imperial myth that the Irish people could not resist English occupation in arms," said Ruairí Ó Brádaigh, President of Republican Sinn Féin."

He was speaking at a 90th anniversary rally outside Dublin's GPO to mark the actual calendar date of the Rising on April 22.

"On this weekend 90 years ago the alternative of the historic Irish nation 'taking her place among the nations of the earth' as a sovereign, independent Republic, as opposed to a partitioned Home Rule partnership in managing the British Empire was asserted defiantly before the world.

Every Easter since 1916, faithful Republicans have commemorated and celebrated this historic action, have distributed the Easter Lily, brought out in its present form by Cumann na mBan in 1925, and have worn it proudly in memory of the men and women of Easter Week and all, in every generation, who have died for Irish freedom.

They have done this in good times and in bad, have had their commemorations banned and attacked by British and 26-County forces, have had the carrying publicly of the national flag prohibited and have suffered imprisonment for insisting in honouring 1916.

On the other hand, the 26-County State has ignored and neglected any public homage to 1916 for more than a generation - for 35 years. Some would hold that in withdrawing such recognition for a long period of that nature it has forfeited all right to be associated with the deeds of the men and women of that period.

Those in charge in the 26 Counties have gone on record as saying that they neglected 1916 in order to deny any support to those resisting British rule in the 26 Counties. In that way, they have admitted the direct connection between 1916 and continuing efforts to end British occupation in Ireland.

The Proclamation of the All-Ireland Republic first read in this historic spot, and signed and sealed by the leaders of the Rising in their own blood, declared 'the right of the Irish people to the ownership of Ireland' to be sovereign and indefeasible'. That right could not 'ever be extinguished except by the destruction of the Irish people'.

This Irish charter of liberty guaranteed 'civil and religious liberty, equal rights and equal opportunities to all citizens', yet one in seven children in the State were in consistent poverty according to the Central Statistics Office (2003). More than one fifth of the population were functionally illiterate.

The English government still rules the Six Occupied Counties and two-thirds of the laws in the other 26 Counties are enacted by the EU in Brussels. All this is very far from the situation visualised in the Proclamation.

The Ireland of today did not flow from the Rising of 1916, but from the denial of the Proclamation and of the First (All-Ireland) Dáil by an Act of the British Parliament, the Government of Ireland Act 1920.

The public auctioning of items associated with the Rising and its leaders is in keeping with the failure to fulfil the ideals of that time.

History teaches us that the active struggle to end English rule here will continue. It will end in due course, but the work of liberation will go on.

The alternative to the failed Stormont Agreement of eight years ago lies in the ÉIRE NUA programme for a new federation of the four historic provinces. This will provide for the distribution of power and decision-making naturally, according to local majorities, among nationalists and unionists alike.

'Protestant, Catholic and Dissenter' can be united on the basis of such a programme, with mutual respect and full access to self-government by all communities. Such a situation would be in keeping with the ideals and guarantees of the 1916 Proclamation."


Man remanded on machinegun charge


A 34-year-old man has been in court charged with having an Uzi sub-machinegun in east Belfast on Wednesday.

Ronald Alexander Hoy, from Ganton Park, Tullycarnet, Dundonald, was charged with having the weapon and 21 bullets with intent to endanger life.

A detective constable told Belfast Magistrates Court believed he could connect the defendant with the charges.

Mr Hoy was remanded in custody to appear again by videolink on 19 May.

Roche faces court battle over Tara

Daily Ireland

By Ed Carty

Campaigners battling to re-route the M3 motorway away from the Hill of Tara yesterday served environment minister Dick Roche with notice of a Supreme Court challenge.
Lawyer Vincent Salafia said he was appealing a High Court ruling clearing the way for the road, which would snake its way through the ancient capital of Ireland’s kings.
He said he was hopeful the government would try to appease voters ahead of next year’s election by doing a U-turn.
“While the case is proceeding logically to the Supreme Court, and Europe if necessary, we are still hoping for a political decision by the authorities to review the situation and consider rerouting the Tara section of motorway,” he said.
“With an election coming up, the government is acutely aware that 70 per cent of people surveyed nationally in 2005 said they wanted the motorway rerouted away from Tara.”
Formal written notice of the Supreme Court action was handed yesterday to Mr Roche, Attorney General Rory Brady, Meath County Council and the National Roads Authority.
Mr Salafia lost his High Court challenge to the M3 last May. He claimed that the National Monuments Act 2004 was unconstitutional because it did not pass the test laid out by the judge Mary Laffoy in the M50/Carrickmines Castle case.
She recognised the constitutional imperative on the state to protect the national heritage.
The act, introduced by then minister Martin Cullen, gave the minister sole discretion in deciding whether any archaeological site was a national monument and whether it could be demolished.
Mr Salafia has described as unconstitutional the directions given by the minister for the excavation of 38 archaeological sites along the route chosen by Meath County Council and the National Roads Authority.
High Court judge Thomas Smyth rejected Mr Salafia’s claims.
The campaigner is now taking his battle to have the M3 re-routed to the Supreme Court on the grounds that he has standing, as a citizen of Ireland, to take the case.
He will assert that he did not delay in taking legal action, initiating his judicial review of the minister’s directions within eight weeks of them being given last May.
No date has been fixed for the hearing but it will be several months away, possibly in the autumn.

Stabbed in vicious sectarian attack

Daily Ireland

By Connla Young

A County Antrim man has spoken of the moment he thought he was going to die after being seriously injured in a vicious sectarian knife attack last weekend.
Kirk McCaughern says he was terrified that he would lose his life after being stabbed in the back by a knife-wielding loyalist in a Ballymena shopping centre last Saturday.
The 20-year-old and his older brother Leslie were set upon by up to 20 loyalist youths after an altercation in the town’s flagship shopping centre. Last night the unemployed Ballymena man said he believed his attackers were trying to kill him and warned Catholic youths to avoid entering Ballymena town centre.
During the attack, Mr McCaughern was stabbed in the right side of the back which resulted in a punctured lung and damaged liver.
Mr McCaughern says he was stabbed during an altercation with a group of loyalists youths in the town’s busy Tower shopping centre just after lunchtime on Saturday.
During the assault the number of attackers rose to around 20 people. It was only after the attack was ended that Mr McCaughern realised he had been stabbed.
Speaking from his Ballymena home last night, the shaken stab victim recounted the assault which he says almost claimed his life.
“I though that I was going to die. People kept telling me I would be alright and that it wasn’t that bad but there were times I thought it might be over. I could feel pain and when they put tubes into my chest. I did panic a bit. They could have killed me and I think they were trying to kill me. As soon as we walked in they shouted ‘there’s the fenians’. This is the second time I have been attacked like this in the past four years.
In recent weeks sectarian tensions in Ballymena have been rising. A number of loyalist and nationalists flags erected across the town in recent weeks have raised simmering tensions.
Last year the PSNI was forced to mount a major operation to protect Catholic churches and schools in the Ballymena district after several were fire bombed. A number of Catholic families were also forced to flee their homes in nearby Ahoghill after they were targeted in loyalist arson attacks.
Mr McCaughern’s mother Anne Marie says parents in the area are worried by the knife attack on her son.
“I would ask the question as to why it took the police 20 minutes to turn up to help my son in the middle of Ballymena in broad daylight? I would also ask has CCTV footage been seized from the shopping centre, the individual shops and the street? Can someone walk in there, stab someone else and it’s a case of see no evil, hear no evil?”
A spokesperson for the PSNI confirmed that “CCTV footage has been studied”.
Aspokeswoman for the Tower Centre in Ballymena refused to comment on reports that managers were ordered not to co-operate with a PSNI investigation into the knife attack by an anonymous telephone caller.

Loyalist getting bail for funeral


A man accused of a loyalist feud murder has been granted bail to attend the funeral of his brother-in-law, who died in a road accident.

William "Mo" Courtney, 42, of Glencairn Pass, Belfast, will be allowed out of Maghaberry prison for eight hours on compassionate reasons on Monday.

Mr Courtney has denied murdering Alan McCullough, 21, in May 2003. High Court judge Mr Justice Gillen said he felt Mr Courtney's wife needed "proper support at this time".

He said compassionate bail was normally granted only where there was a very close family connection, but would make an exception in this case.

1981: Lest we forget


West recalls memories of hunger strikes in run-up to Sands' anniversary

by Francesca Ryan

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usSunday past saw republicans across the world pay homage to the leaders of the 1916 Rising on the 90th anniversary of the rebellion.

The sacrifice of the hunger strikers was also remembered in public orations given on Sunday including the lengthy speech given by Gerry Adams at the republican plot in Milltown Cemetery where the three Belfast hunger strikers are buried.

During his speech, the West Belfast MP slammed the British government for “cruelly and cynically allowing ten of our comrades to die" and accused the Irish government of letting the hunger strikers and their families down.

Mr Adams then called on republicans to “tell a new generation of Irish republicans the story of 1981 alongside the history of 1916."

As 25th anniversary commemorations to remember the hunger strikers continue, the Andersonstown News took to the Kennedy Centre to ask locals to share their memories of the dark days of 1981.

“I vividly remember the rioting that took place throughout the hunger strike," said Andersonstown's Brian McCullagh.

“You could feel the tension in the air, you could really feel it hanging over the whole of West Belfast.

“I was living in Twinbrook at the time and the whole estate was united in outrage and grief when Bobby Sands and the rest of the boys died.

“By the time he died, it wasn't a surprise but it was very sad.

“We all knew Thatcher was going to let them die but it was still a shock when it actually happened.

“It was sad that we had to go that far to get the five demands."

Brian's wife, Liz McCullagh, said the deaths were unnecessary and laid the blame solely at the door of Thatcher and the British government.

“The rest of the world recognised the boys as prisoners of war as did a lot of the British people, but it was the British government that wouldn't recognise their POW status and it was the British government that let them die."

Andersonstown's Pauline O'Neill was busy rearing her family at the time but recalls her memories of that sad era in Irish history.

“I remember the rioting, it was a constant thing, every day there was something going on and people were getting hurt.

“I was bringing up a young family then and was constantly worrying about them. I would never let them out in case anything would happen to them, it was a depressing time."

Falls Road man Pat Clarke was a friend of Joe McDonnell's family, he says his sympathy lies with the families of the hunger strikers just as much today as it did in 1981.

“Joe's mother was born in the same street as me and his brother worked with me for years.

“I knew Joe quite well and knew of Bobby, they were extremely dedicated lads.

“I remember being at the funerals of all three Belfast hunger strikers and there was a really tense atmosphere.

“I remember as clear as day the guard of honour waiting to fire a volley of shots over the coffins, the place was silent, they were well organised funerals."

Pat said that looking back, it was hard to believe that the hunger strikes happened and he hopes that nothing similar ever happens again.

“It was a tough time and I dread to think it could happen again.

“I still feel sad for the families, everyone gets on with their lives but the relatives are the ones that have to live with the tragic loss forever."

Frank Maginn remembers the whole place being in disarray and he's not convinced that we have advanced too far politically since 1981.

“Utter disruption, that's how I would describe it," said the Ladybrook man.
“People were sad, angry and frustrated and showed their outrage by rioting on the streets.

“I was living in Lenadoon at the time and I remember there was no transport, if you wanted to get to work, you had to walk.

“When you think about it, here we are 30 years on and there isn't any real change.

“I admit there have been some achievements but, despite the efforts, we haven't moved on that much, there certainly hasn't been any change in my circumstances."

Joesphine O'Neill from Turf Lodge made a point to get to the funerals of the hunger strikers, those in Belfast and beyond.

“It was a terribly sad time for people living in estates across West Belfast.
“There was non-stop rioting almost every other day and an overwhelming sense of sadness.

“I was busy rearing my kids but I made sure I got to the funerals of the three Belfast hunger strikers and some of those in the country."

Josephine is one of the many who still harbour resentment and anger at Margaret Thatcher for letting the young men die.

“People were so angry with Thatcher, they still are.

“I'll tell you one thing, she'll never die in her bed for the way she let those young fellas die."

Journalist:: Francesca Ryan

Remembering the Past: McNeela and D'Arcy

An Phoblacht


Image Hosted by ImageShack.us
Photo: Seán McNeela and Tony D'Arcy

When Seán Russell was appointed IRA Chief of Staff in 1938 he immediately appointed Seán McNeela OC England and Tony D'Arcy OC Western Command.

After a few months of intense activity preparing for a bombing campaign in England, McNeela was arrested and sentenced to nine months imprisonment. He returned to Ireland in 1939 and was appointed IRA Director of Publicity and produced a weekly paper entitled War News.

McNeela was arrested three weeks later with members of the Radio Broadcast Staff and imprisoned in Mountjoy jail. He was Officer Commanding of the prisoners from February 1940, sharing a cell with Tony D'Arcy who had been arrested at a GHQ meeting in 40 Parnell Square in Dublin. D'Arcy was serving a three month sentence for refusing to account for his movements or give his name and address when he was arrested.

A crisis developed in the prison when Nicky Doherty, of Julianstown, County Meath was sentenced to five years penal servitude. Instead of being transferred to Arbour Hill, where other republican prisoners had political status, Doherty was lodged in the criminal section of Mountjoy.

McNeela, as OC of the republican prisoners requested Doherty's transfer to Arbour Hill. The request was ignored. McNeela and his prison council decided to launch a hunger strike until the demand was accepted.

Four men joined McNeela and D'Arcy on huinger strike. They were Tomás Mac Curtáin, of Cork, the only son of the martyred Lord Mayor. Jack Plunkett of Dublin, son of Count Plunkett and brother of Joseph Mary Plunkett, Tommy Grogan of Drogheda and Michael Traynor of Belfast, later Ard-Rúnaí of Sinn Féin.

Seven days into the hunger strike Special Branch detectives came to take McNeela for trial before the Special Criminal Court. McNeela refused to go and barricades were erected in D-Wing.

In the riot that ensued the Special Branch and Dublin Metrpolitian Police were deployed in force against the prisoners.

D'Arcy was rendered unconcious by blows from a baton and McNeela was pummeled by blow after blow. The wounds received by McNeela and D'Arcy never healed.

McNeela was taken away that evening and tried and sentenced by the Special Court. He was charged with 'conspiracy to usurp a function of Government' and sentenced to two years. He was running a pirate radio station when arrested.

On the eve of St Patrick's Day all six hunger strikers were removed to St Bricin's military hospital.

On the 54th night of the hunger strike, Tony D'Arcy cried out "Seán I'm dying". Seán replied: "I'm coming Tony". The other prisoners appealed to McNeela not to get out of bed as he was very weak and they felt it would kill him but D'Arcy's cry concerned him and he staggered across the room to his comrade. Later that night D'Arcy was taken out to a private ward.

Tony D'Arcy, IRA Volunteer from Headford, County Galway died the following night.

The day following D'Arcy's removal from the ward, Seán McNeela's uncle, Mick Kilroy, the Fianna Fáil TD, came to see him. He attacked Seán for "daring to embarrass de Valera" the "heaven-sent leader" by such action and demanded that Mcneela give up his hunger strike at once. McNeela ordered him out of the room.

The next day April 19 Seán McNeela, the IRA Volunteer from Ballycroy, County Mayo, died.

An IRA order to end the hunger strike was sent to the prison on the day before by GHQ but word had not got in in time to save McNeela.

In the third week of April 1940, 66 years ago, Irish republicans Seán McNeela and Tony D'Arcy died on hunger strike.

An Phoblacht

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>>April 20 issue

Ireland's War of Independence: The chilling story of the Black and Tans


Ben & Jerry's decision to give their latest flavour of ice-cream the same name as Churchill's notorious army has provoked howls of protest. David McKittrick describes the force's reign of terror against Irish nationalists

21 April 2006 03:39

To practically the whole world it may seem like a harmless, cheerfully cutesie name for a new American ice-cream flavour, just adopted by the popular manufacturer Ben & Jerry's.

But some Irish-Americans have given the "Black and Tan" flavour a reception that is cold to the point of frigidity, complaining of its associations with one of the most notorious forces ever seen in Ireland.

The Vermont-based company, unaware of origins of the name, based the new flavour on a drink that uses stout. The ice-cream launched in the US this month but it is now debatable whether Ireland will get a taste.

It is difficult to know whether the arrival of Black and Tan flavour ice-cream could cause controversy and outcry in Ireland, but it would certainly generate a great deal of conversation and debate.

Although the Black and Tans force was deployed for only a couple of years, from 1920 to 1922, nationalist Ireland still associates it with murder, brutality, massacre and indiscipline in the years leading to southern Ireland's independence.

In this instance, its reputation is not based on any republican propaganda and exaggeration, since there is no dispute that "the Tans" killed and destroyed on a large scale. Nor did they make any secret of their ferocious reprisals. When a Tan was killed in Cork, they burnt down more than 300 buildings in the city centre and afterwards proudly pinned pieces of burnt cork to their caps.

A British Labour Party commission reported that it felt feelings of shame at witnessing the "insolent swagger" of the Tans, whom they described as "rough, brutal, abusive and distinctly the worse for liquor".

Another observer reported: "They had neither religion nor morals, they used foul language, they had the old soldier's talent for dodging and scrounging, called the Irish 'natives', associated with low company, stole from each other, sneered at the customs of the country and drank to excess."

The Catholic cardinal of the day called them "a horde of savages, some of them simply brigands, burglars and thieves". Similar denunciations came from within the armed forces, their commander, General Frank Crozier resigned in 1921 because they had been "used to murder, rob, loot, and burn up the innocent because they could not catch the few guilty on the run".

None of this, clearly, conveys anything of the light-hearted images of fun and enjoyment which ice-cream manufacturers would wish to convey to their customers.

The Black and Tans were created after the First World War by Winston Churchill and other ministers who were faced with a increasing tide of violence from the IRA, which had launched a campaign to drive Britain out of Ireland.

This is known as the War of Independence, though republicans took to calling it the "Tan War". With the IRA inflicting heavy casualties on the Royal Irish Constabulary, killing more than 50 of its officers, London created new forces to cope with republican insurrection. They were part of a hurriedly constructed counter-insurgency apparatus which included the existing police force, the regular army, secret service detachments and two completely new forces, the Auxiliaries and the Black and Tans.

In the years that followed, all these groups were deployed against republican rebels, but the particularly violent behaviour of the Tans, together with their striking nickname, has meant that the blame for most of the misbehaviour has stuck to them.

The nickname arose entirely accidentally, and is usually traced back to a well-known pack of Limerick foxhounds which had that title. As members of the new force poured into Ireland there were not enough uniforms to go round, so they were originally dressed in a motley mixture of army khaki and police tunics.

Irish women, it is said, jeered at them as Black and Tans. Their irregular ensembles served to emphasise that, although they were technically part of the Irish police, they disregarded all normal policing procedures, and committed almost casual murders. Most of them were Great War veterans who answered an advertising campaign in Britain for men willing to face "a rough and dangerous task". With unemployment high, there were many ready to join for pay of 10 shillings a day plus board and lodging. Pay for a British Army private soldier was little more than a shilling a day.

The recruits, many hardened by trench warfare, were given only a few months' training before being despatched to Ireland, supposedly to act as policemen but in fact to provide military steel. In Ireland, they faced a very different type of war. The IRA waged guerrilla warfare, with hit-and-run tactics, attacks on isolated police barracks and deadly ambushes in territory which was unfamiliar to the Tans. All the security forces found this an extremely frustrating type of conflict but the Tans in particular quickly abandoned the normal rules and conduct of war.

They were in any case explicitly instructed to step outside the law, one police divisional commander instructing his men in a speech: "If a police barracks is burnt then the best house in the locality is to be commandeered, the occupants thrown into the gutter. Let them die there; the more the merrier."

He instructed them to shout "Hands up" at civilians, and to shoot anyone who did not immediately obey. He added: "Innocent persons may be shot, but that cannot be helped, and you are bound to get the right parties some time. The more you shoot, the better I will like you, and I assure you no policeman will get into trouble for shooting any man."

The old-style policemen did not care for the Tans, one saying years later: "The Black and Tans were all English and Scotch people; very rough, effing and blinding and boozing and all." A British Army officer complained to a general: "We are importing crowds of undisciplined men who are just terrorising the country."

Not all of the almost 10,000 Tans scattered around Ireland were guilty of atrocities; some were actually liked. But many felt free, as individuals or as units, to go far beyond the substantial degree of licence they had been officially granted.

Tans were reportedly among those who took part in "Bloody Sunday", an incident which followed the assassinations of a large number of suspected members of the British secret service in Dublin. Hours after these killings, security forces opened fire at a Gaelic football match in the city, causing 12 deaths and wounding scores.

In other cases, homes and businesses, particularly creameries, were burnt by the Tans. In the town of Balbriggan near Dublin, the IRA killing of a police officer led to severe reprisals: two republican suspects were shot dead, and 19 houses and various buildings were torched.

There were hundreds of reports of misbehaviour on a smaller scale. The late Lord Longford wrote of Tans torturing captured republicans, "cutting out the tongue of one, the nose of another, the heart of another and battering in the skull of a fourth".

The government at first turned a blind eye to such incidents. Field Marshal Sir Henry Wilson described a conversation with Churchill: "I warned him again that those Black and Tans who are committing very indiscriminate reprisals will play the devil in Ireland, but he won't listen or agree."

The security forces, the Field Marshal said, "marked down certain Sinn Feiners as in their opinion actual murderers or instigators and then coolly went and shot them without question or trial. Winston saw very little harm in this but it horrifies me".

Pressure on the government to end the activities mounted steadily, the Archbishop of Canterbury warning Lloyd George: "You do not cast out Beelzebub by Beelzebub."

Churchill's wife Clementine joined in the chorus of protest, asking him to end the reprisals and adding: "It always makes me unhappy and disappointed when I see you inclined to take for granted the rough, iron-fisted 'Hunnish' way will prevail."

Later, Churchill openly acknowledged the excesses of the Black and Tans, admitting in the House of Commons: "It was quite impossible to prevent the police and military making reprisals on their own account."

Ministers pondered on whether they should officially endorse reprisals, and persisted in believing that the oppressive tactics of the Tans and other forces were on the point of delivering victory. Lloyd George famously boasted that he "had murder by the throat".

But on top of everything, the harsh methods of the Tans did not even work, and certainly did not defeat the IRA.

Professor Roy Foster wrote of the Tans: "They behaved more like independent mercenaries; their brutal regime followed the IRA's policy of killing policemen, and was taken by many to vindicate it."

The historian, Peter Hart, agreed. "It was astoundingly counter-productive. The militarised police formed their own death squads and regularly engaged in reprisals against civilians. IRA violence only increased."

Despite the battering which all this inflicted on the image of Britain at home and abroad, the continuing IRA campaign eventually led Lloyd George to seek talks with the republicans, which led to British withdrawal.

In a little-known historical footnote, some of the Black and Tans were transferred to Palestine where, under much stricter discipline, their performance was judged a success.

But in Ireland older folk still relate with a shiver what the Tans did in their little village or town, the name and reputation of the force continuing to resound throughout history.

The name of the Black and Tans thus lives on to the present day, and can still be heard from the lips of republican orators driving home their ancient messages of British iniquity and Irish victimhood.

The phrase can in other words still generate much heat, so much heat, perhaps, that an ice-cream company may think twice about associating its cool product with a topic that can still raise the temperature in Ireland.

Come Out Ye Black and Tans

I was born on a Dublin street where the Royal drums do beat
And the loving English feet they tramped all over us,
And each and every night when me father'd come home tight
He'd invite the neighbors outside with this chorus:


Oh, come out you Black and Tans,
Come out and fight me like a man
Show your wife how you won medals down in Flanders
Tell them how the IRA
Made you run like hell away,
From the green and lovely lanes in Killashandra.

Come let me hear you tell
How you slammed the great Pernell,
When you fought them well and truly persecuted,
Where are the smears and jeers
That you bravely let us hear
When our heroes of '16 were executed.

Come tell us how you slew
Those brave Arabs two by two
Like the Zulus, they had spears and bows and arrows,
How you bravely slew each one
With your 16-pounder gun
And you frightened them poor natives to their marrow.

The day is coming fast
And the time is here at last,
When each yeoman will be cast aside before us,
And if there be a need
Sure my kids will sing, "Godspeed!"
With a verse or two of Steven Beehan's chorus.

--Come Out Ye Black and Tans. By Dominic Behan (1929-89)--

Search in Down in connection with robbery


20/04/2006 - 19:01:25

Police in the North carried out a search today in connection with the £26.5m (€38.3m) Northern Bank robbery.

The Police Service of Northern Ireland said the search was carried out in Ballynahinch, Co Down, this morning.

It is understood it was sparked as a result of a forensic examination of an evidential sample taken during the investigation.

The December 2004 Northern Bank robbery in Belfast city centre was the biggest heist in the history of the UK until February’s £53m (€76.6m) raid on the Securitas depot in Kent.

PSNI Chief Constable Hugh Orde accused the Provisional IRA of carrying out the Northern Bank raid, although this was denied by the organisation.

Bomb-plot suspects challenge lack of assurances


20/04/2006 - 19:29:38

Three men being held over a suspected terrorism bomb-making plot tonight won the right to challenge police refusal to give assurances that their conversations with solicitors were not being secretly taped.

They were granted leave to apply for a judicial review at the Northern Ireland High Court after their case was initially rejected.

The men, among four arrested by police who seized 250 pounds of home-made explosives during a raid on a breakers yard in Lurgan, Co Armagh, on Wednesday, were taken to the Serious Crime Suite in Antrim.

But after a solicitor was covertly recorded during meetings with loyalist paramilitary suspects at the same anti-terrorist holding centre, the men’s legal representatives wanted guarantees that the same tactics were not being used.

No assurances were given and, with the men able to be held for up to seven days under the Terrorism Act, the High Court in Belfast sat until 2am today as lawyers lodged their first judicial review application.

Following the refusal of Mr Justice Higgins, the men’s QC, Barry Macdonald, told an appeal hearing before two other judges that the situation was both unfair and unreasonable.

He said: “The failure to provide such an assurance or undertaking is contrary to the Terrorism Act and incompatible with the applicants’ rights under Article Six of the European Convention.”

Mr Macdonald also alluded to the case of Manmohan Sandhu, a County Derry solicitor who denies charges of attempting to incite a murder and perverting the course of justice.

He was accused in February after conversations with his clients were secretly recorded at Antrim.

“It’s a matter of public knowledge that client consultations at this particular police station where the applicants are being detained have previously been the subject of covert surveillance,” Mr Macdonald said.

A court was told that when the men’s solicitor, James Glynn, sought guarantees, a custody sergeant handed him a piece of paper with a typed statement which read: “It’s not our policy to discuss confidential matters and no inference should be drawn from this.”

That drew a derisory assessment from Mr Justice Weir, one of the judges sitting on the appeal hearing.

“The piece of paper handed out by police was a masterpiece of non-statement,” he said.

The authority to tape suspects’ conversations without their knowledge can be granted under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 once an application has been made to a High Court judge.

Gerald Simpson QC, for the Police Service of Northern Ireland, argued that if the application succeeded then the legislation could be rendered meaningless.

“The right of a solicitor or client cannot stand before the right of police investigating a crime,” he insisted.

After a three-hour hearing, Mr Justice Weir and his colleague Mr Justice Gillen concluded that the applicants had an arguable case.

Although they granted leave, with the case to be heard again on Monday, they refused a request by Mr Macdonald to suspend police interviews with the suspects until the outcome of the review.

Mr Justice Gillen said: “It’s our view that the extent to which these applicants answer questions in the course of their interviews in light of any advice their solicitor considers proper to give is a matter entirely for these applicants.”

Man arrested after Uzi seized


20/04/2006 - 20:36:11

An Uzi sub-machine gun was seized in Belfast when police stopped a taxi after a tip-off, it was revealed tonight.

The weapon was discovered after police received a report from a member of the public about the vehicle’s passenger who had left a city centre bar at about 11.30pm yesterday.

A short time later the taxi was stopped by police in the Newtownards Road area of east Belfast and the Uzi was recovered, said a Police Service spokeswoman.

One man was arrested and remains in custody.

During a follow up search at an address in the loyalist Tullycarnet area of east Belfast a quantity of ammunition was discovered.

PSNI removing barricade attacked


The material was found during police searches

Police have been attacked with petrol bombs as they tried to remove barricades from the railway line in Lurgan, County Armagh.

A number of people gathered in the Bells Row area after a hijacked van was driven onto the line and set on fire earlier on Thursday.

Police have now left the area and say they are talking to community representatives.

The Antrim Road in the town is closed and the railway line is also shut.

Earlier on Thursday, more searches were carried out in the town following the discovery of a bomb police have linked to dissident republicans. There were no arrests. Explosives

Four people are still being questioned about the discovery of components for the 250lb car bomb - found in the Antrim Road area - on Wednesday.

The men, aged 22, 26, 36, and 46, are being held under the Terrorism Act.

Police linked the find to dissident republican paramilitaries and said a bomb attack would have been imminent.

Officers also came under attack from youths during Wednesday's security operation.

Dissident republicans are opposed to the Northern Ireland peace process.

They have been blamed for a number of attacks and attempted attacks on the security forces over recent years.

20 April 2006

Decomissioned Provos thrown on scrap heap


>>Audio clip of Brendan Hughes (BBC)

(by Suzanne Breen, Sunday Tribune)

Image Hosted by ImageShack.us"Welcome to my cell," says ex-IRA prisoner, Brendan Hughes, as he opens the door of his tiny, threadbare flat on the Falls Road. "Sometimes, I've sat here crying for a week. I think of all my comrades' suffering and I don't even want to go out. You never really leave prison."

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usHughes killed and saw his friends die too. A former 'officer commanding' the Belfast Brigade, he's a living legend among republicans. Small and swarthy with a mop of black hair, he was known as 'the Dark'.

His bombs reduced the city to rubble; his gun battles with the British entered republican folklore; he spent 13 years in jail and 53 days on hunger-strike. His best friend was Gerry Adams. Hughes, 57, now lives on disability benefit in Divis Tower – the only part of the flats' complex not bulldozed.

Over the past 35 years, around 15,000 republicans have been imprisoned on both sides of the Border. On release, those close to the Sinn Féin leadership usually fare best. A minority secure paid community jobs; the rest are employed in IRA owned or supporting bars and taxi-depots.

While some ex-prisoners start businesses independently, the IRA gives others businesses to run. But many former prisoners who – for personal or political reasons – are outside the loop, face greater difficulties.

Last week, an ex-IRA prisoner was one of three men charged in connection with the hijacking of a vodka lorry in Co Meath. Former security force members and prison officers received generous retirement and redundancy payments from the state. "We were decommissioned with nothing," says Hughes. "IRA men and women, who gave everything to this struggle, got poverty, premature death, and mental problems in return."

It's the untold story of the Troubles, he claims: "People stay quiet out of loyalty to the movement." Money never mattered to him, he says: "I was offered £50,000 to become an informer. I told them £50 million wouldn't sway me. But it's hard to see ex-prisoners destitute when the leadership are so wealthy and have holiday homes."

Hughes mentions Kieran Nugent, the first IRA man on the Blanket protest in Long Kesh. "Kieran died in 2000. They called him a 'river rat' because he spent his last days drinking by the river in Poleglass.

"Why didn't somebody in the movement not see he'd problems and help him? He was the bravest of the brave. The screws ordered him to wear the prison uniform and he replied, 'You'll have to nail it to my back.'"

Research suggests a third of prisoners suffer broken relationships. Hughes had a baby daughter and his wife was pregnant with their son when he was arrested. "My wife became involved with another man while I was in prison. The lads inside told me to give her a hard time.

"I called her to the jail and told her there was no problem – she was young and deserved a bit of happiness. She always said the war was my number one priority and she was right. I was selfish. I neglected my family. When I got out of jail, I went to her house and shook her partner's hand." Hughes is close to his grown-up daughter but has no relationship with his son.

He was released from prison without skills or qualifications. He began labouring. "A big west Belfast contractor paid us £20 a day. I tried to organise a strike but the other ex-POWs were so desperate, they wouldn't agree. One of the bosses said 'Brendan, we'll give you £25 a day but don't tell the others'.

"I told him to stick it up his arse, and I never went back. I wrote an article about it for 'Republican News' but it was heavily censored. People we'd fought for exploited us, and the movement let them." Hughes never considered crime – "I'm not a thief" – but doesn't blame those who do "so long as they target only big business".

Prison left him with arthritis and weakened his immune system. He's had pneumonia and heart problems, and suffers depression. "After jail, no-one mentioned counselling. I'd to arrange it myself. They say I've post-traumatic stress. The hunger-strikers' faces are always before me."

He speaks of dislocation after jail: "Everything was different. I went for a walk, just to be on my own. The old streets were gone and I got lost in the new streets. A man had to bring me home. Everything was noisy. I hate crowds. I only go to the pub in the afternoon when it's quiet."

Pictures of Che Guevara – laughing, smoking, drinking coffee – dot the living-room. "My brother is taking me to Cuba. The revolution improved ordinary people's lives there. It was a waste of time here."

Beneath a picture of the Sacred Heart, is a photo of two tanned, smiling young men in Long Kesh, arms around each other – Hughes and Adams. "I loved Gerry. I don't anymore, but I keep the photos to remind me of the good times."

Willie Gallagher from Strabane joined the Fianna at 13. Two years later he joined the IRA – "I lied about my age". At 15, he was arrested with a gun. He spent 18 of his next 20 years in jail.

"I don't feel I lost out because I'd no life to lose. I was the youngest in jail and my comrades spoilt me rotten. I remember digging a tunnel for an escape and thinking it a great adventure." By now, Gallagher was with the INLA.

"At 20, he embarked on a 50-day hunger-strike after beatings by prison officers: "I lost my eyesight. It took me 18 months to recover. Then, I watched the 10 hunger-strikers die. Such brutality damaged me emotionally. I left jail at 25 and wasn't interested in a normal life. I was full of bitterness. There was no point in killing Brits in ones and twos – I wanted to kill lots of them.

"I planted a no-warning bomb in a pub the security forces frequented. Then I went home, got washed and headed into town. Twenty people could have been killed and it wouldn't have fizzed on me." No-one died but 30 people were injured.

Gallagher went back to jail. His first marriage broke up when he was inside but he remarried within a year of his 1993 release. "My heart never hardened in my personal life, but my reputation means my wife's friends think I'm aggressive. 'Would Willie hit you?' they ask."

Compared to other prisoners, Gallagher, 48, is lucky. His wife owned her own home – they now have two children – and he secured a paid community job. It's also harder for those whose don't come from a republican family, "but my brothers were involved – two did 10 years – so I'd a lot of support."

He runs a prisoners' group, Teach na Failte. Funding has been suspended pending an official investigation amidst allegations of criminality which the group denies.

Gallagher has been arrested and questioned following a bank robbery in Strabane. The getaway car was bought under the name Robin Banks. "I wasn't involved but if ex-prisoners were, good luck to them. I've no problem with cigarette or alcohol heists either. People who made enormous sacrifices in jail were left with nothing.

"I know one guy who was very fit and always training before he went into jail but he turned to drink and drugs on release and was found dead at 40. If former political prisoners' records were expunged, they'd have far better employment opportunities and life wouldn't be so hard for many." Gallagher has no doubts about his own past: "It's better to fight and lose than not to fight at all."

Tommy McKearney from the Moy, Co Tyrone, served 16 years for a UDR man's murder. One of his brothers was shot dead by the SAS, and another brother and an uncle were killed by loyalists while he was in jail.

"When I got out my father took me to see my brothers' graves. But what struck me was the graves of the post-mistress and the baker. I couldn't believe all the changes in our small community. The world had moved on without me. Many prisoners feel lost for so long."

McKearney now runs Expac, a Monaghan-based group for ex-prisoners in Border areas. "There's no ideal time to go to jail, but it's probably best in your mid-20s. Jail stunts teenagers' emotional development and prison is very hard in your 40s or 50s because you realise how little time is left.

"Serving more than four years affects people. They start to lose contact with the outside world and all but close relatives. After 10, they're institutionalised. It's like marathon runners 'hitting the wall'. After a certain distance, the battle gets too much physically and psychologically."

Ex-prisoners often feel their relatives are strangers and they left their real 'family' in jail. Those who were single when they went to jail, then "play catch-up" with children and mortgages in their 40s and 50s, McKearney says. "At retirement time, when life should be easing, they're up to their necks in mortgages and debt."

The situation has improved since the ceasefire, but ex-prisoners still face employment discrimination, he says. They're officially barred from civil-service jobs and unofficially from many others. "How many become teachers or journalists?" McKearney asks. "I mightn't reasonably expect to be able to join the gardai but I think I should be eligible for a job as local librarian."

Even if ex-prisoners slip through the door, "it's just like with women – there's a glass ceiling". Neither the Equality Authority nor the North's Equality Commission recognise ex-prisoners as a vulnerable group, he says. "An employer can bin an ex-prisoner's application form, admit it, and the law provides no protection."

Low-paid jobs are no better: "A supermarket can draw up a list of 20 candidates for shelf-stackers and cashiers. Its head of security, an ex-Special Branch man, says 'get rid of numbers one and seven'."

The Special Branch also visit employers, demanding ex-prisoners are sacked, he says. "I was labouring and they ordered my boss to get rid of me. He told them to get lost, but 99% of employers wouldn't be so principled."

Still, it's easier in Border areas than in parts of country where there's hostility to republicanism and a smaller black/illegal economy. Ex-prisoners are usually barred from the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, where many would like to begin new lives.

Anthony McIntyre, who served 18 years imprisonment, says: "I laugh when I hear about an 'IRA pension plan'. The IRA offered me a Christmas loan and nothing else when I was released. I'd two kids and, I'm not ashamed to say, I had to shop-lift to feed and clothe them."

Today, Brendan Hughes won't attend any 1916 parade but he'll privately pay tribute at the IRA Belfast Brigade monument. "I keep wondering 'what it was all about?'" he says. "The doctors tell me not to drink but I do. It eases the pain, it doesn't kill it." A picture of the hunger-strikers hangs in Hughes' hallway. 'Soldiers of our past, heroes of our future', it says. Somehow, it doesn't seem that way.

April 20, 2006

This article appears in the April 16, 2006 edition of the Sunday Tribune.

15 trials collapsed by witness intimidation

Daily Ireland

by Ciarán Barnes

Intimidation of witnesses has led to the collapse of more than a dozen crown court trials in the North during the last six months.
Between September 2005 and February 2006, a total of 15 trials, an average of one per week, broke down after key witnesses failed to show on the day.
The figures, released by the Department for Constitutional Affairs, have led to calls for stiffer jail terms for those found guilty of intimidation.
SDLP assembly member John Dallat said it was “extremely frustrating” to see so many cases collapse.
“Greater attention needs to be put on dealing with people involved in intimidation, especially of witnesses,” said the East Derry MLA.
“They are effectively undermining the essence of democracy and deserve lengthy prison sentences. Unfortunately, it seems that in this part of the world intimidation is a fact of life.”
Last summer, it emerged that a woman with key information about the 2003 murder of west Belfast loyalist Alan ‘Bucky’ McCullough was offered £10,000 to keep her mouth shut. She later withdrew statements she had made to the PSNI linking senior Ulster Defence Association (UDA) figures to the killing.
Following the December 2004 Northern Bank robbery, the Irish Bank Officials Association (IBOA) finance union claimed bank employees caught up in terrifying armed raids were afraid to testify because of intimidation from criminal gangs.
At the beginning of 2004, extortion charges against a leading south Belfast loyalist were dropped following Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) intimidation of ethnic minorities in the area. The star witness in the trial was a Chinese businessman who later fled Ireland.
The same month relatives of pub doorman Trevor Gowdy, who was badly beaten by a UVF gang in December 2002, had their home in Limavady, Co Derry, pipe bombed.
The attack was viewed as an attempt to discourage Mr Gowdy from taking the stand.
In 2003, a PSNI detective told an inquest into the murder of Co Antrim man William Cairns that “fear and intimidation” prevented witnesses giving evidence against the gang who beat and shot him.

Decomissioned Provos thrown on scrap heap


The pit bull terrier arrived in Dublin via Frankfurt

A pit bull terrier which the USPCA believes was involved in dog fighting has been seized from the home of a County Tyrone sportsman.

A solicitor for Tyrone GAA player Ger Cavlan confirmed that the animal was removed from his house in Dungannon on Wednesday night.

The animal charity said the dog had been tracked on flights from Finland through Frankfurt and then into Dublin.

The house search was carried out by police and the USPCA.

A number of other items were also seized during the operation.

The USPCA said a vet had examined the male dog and found its injuries were consistent with wounds inflicted during dog fighting.

The dog arrived in Dublin travelling on a pet passport, which said the dog's name was Cannonball and its owner was in Finland.

The USPCA also said documents relating to dog fighting had been found at Mr Cavlan's home.

The charity's Stephen Philpot said: "We decided to seize the dog due to facial injuries it had.

"Our vets have confirmed for us that this is an animal which they would class as a fighting dog under the terms of the Dangerous Dog Act.

"They've also confirmed the animal has injuries to its face, throat and ears and teeth, which would suggest those injuries are consistent with a dog used in organised dog fighting."

The USPCA has said they are also extremely concerned about the safety of three other pit bulls which they believe had been in the house.

In a statement, Mr Cavlan's solicitor, Christopher Rafferty, said the dog did not belong to his client and he was only looking after it.

He added that dog-fighting was a sport which Mr Cavlan did not condone and did not participate in.

He also said Mr Cavlan had not been charged, interviewed, nor asked to comment by the police.

It has been illegal to own pit bull terriers in Northern Ireland since 1976 as they are a proscribed breed under the Dangerous Dogs Act.

However, it is still legal to keep the breed in the Republic of Ireland.

Will of the people 'will thwart dissidents'


20/04/2006 - 13:24:37

Dissident republicans who are intent on causing death and destruction in the North will be thwarted by police and the will of the people, it was claimed today.

Minister for Justice Michael McDowell warned that a small group of fanatics wouldn’t derail the peace process, which has overwhelming public support.

His warning came as the PSNI continued to question four men in connection with yesterday’s discovery of bomb components in Lurgan, Co Armagh.

Officers believe dissident republican paramilitaries were constructing the 200-pound device for an imminent attack.

Mr McDowell told reporters at a Garda graduation ceremony in Templemore, Co Tipperary: “There are two main dissident Republican groups, and both of them are attempting to disrupt the peace process and to somehow blow it off course.

“They are also intent on creating death and destruction in Northern Ireland.

“They believe in some mad way that this will advance the cause of united Ireland.

“All of this will be forlorn because the will of the people is far stronger than any wishes of a small group of fanatics.”

He praised the work of the PSNI and the Garda Síochána, who he said had foiled bombing attempts in the past.

Four men, aged between 22 and 46, were arrested following yesterday’s surveillance-led police bust on a breaker’s yard on the Antrim Road.

Mr McDowell estimated that the Continuity IRA and the Real IRA had up to 200 members each.

Policing devolution bid 'futile' without agreement


20/04/2006 - 14:43:43

Ministers were today warned that legislating for the devolution of policing and justice in the North was futile without prior agreement between the parties.

The SDLP’s Mark Durkan said it made more sense for parties to reach a consensus and for the British government then to legislate on “known outcomes”.

He was referring to a raft of provisions for devolved justice and policing in the the wide-ranging Northern Ireland (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill.

During committee stage debate, the Foyle MP said the measures fell “somewhere between a figment and a fig leaf” and were mere “furniture arrangement” rather than a substantial move towards devolving the functions.

He told MPs: “We have already some of the folly and indeed the futility of legislating for all sorts of potential options, only for them to turn out not to be needed and maybe even to subsequently be withdrawn or overturned by other legislation.”

He added: “We are being asked to deal with parts of this bill which are essentially somewhere between a figment and a fig leaf.

“All these sections are in this bill to create a pretence that this bill is actually securing as a fact the devolution of justice and policing so that Sinn Féin can then pretend there has been some significant new gain, some significant new development, so that they can then modify their position on policing and their language on policing.”

Mr Durkan continued: “The fact is the power to devolve justice and policing already exists. It’s there in the 1998 act. This is only giving us options in terms of the furniture arrangement for the devolution of justice and policing. It does not take us substantively onto the devolution of justice and policing.”

He said some of the proposals could delay delivery of the devolution of justice and policing because mechanisms in the bill would effectively give Sinn Féin “a multiple lock on any prospect of the transfer of justice and policing and also give them locks on who can be appointed to that post”.

The bill also includes provisions on electoral registration and political donations.

Other measures include an extension to the amnesty period for arms decommissioning and changes in the energy sector.

North 'will remain nuclear-free'


20/04/2006 - 18:30:56

Northern Secretary Peter Hain tonight ruled out the prospect of a nuclear power station being built in the North.

As Derry councillors listened to a proposal from businessman Robert Andrews to build a plant in the city, the British government moved to destroy any notion that the North would lose its status as a nuclear-free region.

A government spokesman said: “The Secretary of State has already made it clear that nuclear power is not going to happen in Northern Ireland.

“It would be ultimately his decision, even though we have no expectation that Derry Council would want to go down this route in this case.”

Mr Andrews is proposing a plant that could generate about 2,000 megawatt hours.

To generate the same amount of power using wind, he claimed, there would need to be 300,000 wind farms throughout Ireland.

The businessman claimed the construction of a nuclear power plant in Derry would meet the North’s energy needs and provide 500 stable jobs.

He told BBC Radio Ulster: “I believe from a technical point of view that it is safe, it is efficient, it is very profitable.

“For example, if a nuclear power station were in Derry, it would produce 500 permanent jobs.

"Nuclear power stations last 60 years, so that’s 500 jobs for 60 years.”

The plan was rejected by SDLP members on Derry City Council and by the Green Party in the North.

SDLP councillor Helen Quigley said: “Any moves to assess or propose possible nuclear sites in Northern Ireland would be unacceptable to the Irish people, who have for years supported the campaign for the closure of the Sellafield nuclear plant.”

Green Party activist Peter Doran also claimed the siting of a nuclear plant in Derry would place people living in the city at greater risk from an international terrorist attack.

The British government’s statement will be welcomed by a group of councils on both sides of the border, which expressed concerns yesterday about proposals to build a new generation of power stations in England, Scotland and Wales.

The All-Ireland Nuclear Free Local Authorities Forum urged Prime Minister Tony Blair to bin the proposal and also sought a guarantee that no nuclear plant would be built in the North.

SDLP Assembly member Margaret Ritchie, who is a member of the All-Ireland Nuclear Free Local Authorities Forum, welcomed the British government’s statement.

The South Down MLA said: “I strongly welcome the Secretary of State’s categoric reassurance that a nuclear plant will never be built in Northern Ireland.

“We have already seen the mistakes and errors that have been made at Sellafield and would not want to see those repeated on this side of the Irish Sea.

“The forum wants to see an end to the reprocessing of nuclear waste at Sellafield and the transportation of waste in the Irish Sea. We would like to see the full decommissioning of buildings at Sellafield, and we are firmly against plans for a new generation of power stations across Britain.

“We would urge Mr Hain to impress on his cabinet colleagues the need to ensure there are no new nuclear power stations built in England, Scotland and Wales. We would like him to impress on them to pursue renewable energy sources instead, like he is doing in Northern Ireland.”

Peter Doran, of the Green Party in the North, welcomed the statement. He said: “We recognise Peter Hain has shown a personal and deep commitment to renewable energy, an agenda he shares with the Green Party.

“We are happy he is the gatekeeper in Northern Ireland at a time when mavericks in Derry are advocating nuclear power.”

Government sets out assembly plan


The NI Assembly has been suspended since October 2002
Emergency legislation to enable the Northern Ireland Assembly to be recalled on 15 May has been published by the government.

It imposes an "immovable deadline" of 24 November in place for forming a power-sharing executive.

The government also confirmed the next assembly elections would be postponed until May 2008 if the executive is restored by this date.

The legislation is expected to become law by 8 May.

Failure to elect a first and deputy first minister by the November deadline would mean that assembly member's pay would end the following day.

The assembly would then be dissolved in May next year, or earlier if the secretary of state decides.

Speaking on Thursday, Northern Ireland Secretary Peter Hain said: "We have reached the point where the parties must decide how they want Northern Ireland governed.

"They can have devolved government restored and an end to locally unaccountable direct rule.

"But if this opportunity is not taken then the assembly will cease to meet, MLA salaries and allowances will stop and the May 2007 election will be indefinitely postponed.

"The bill sets an immovable deadline of 24 November, 2006 for getting back to devolution.

"Otherwise, as the prime minister and taoiseach have said, we will have to move on. We are aiming for success.

"We are determined to do all we can to get back to devolved institutions but it is for the parties to make it happen."

'Partnership arrangements'

Earlier this month, Northern Ireland's politicians were told by the British and Irish governments that the assembly would be recalled on 15 May.

They were also given the 24 November deadline for establishing the executive, with parties being given six weeks to elect an executive.

If that fails, the 108 members get a further 12 weeks to try to form a multi-party devolved government. If that attempt fails, salaries will stop.

The British and Irish governments would then work on partnership arrangements to implement the Good Friday Agreement.

Closing the assembly, if attempts to revive it fail, is expected to cost hundreds of thousands of pounds.

On Wednesday, the BBC learned that if the assembly ceases in November, the government is prepared to hand members up to £1.7m to cover their expenses.

All 108 assembly members will be in line for a winding-up allowance of as much as £16,000 each.

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

Three men accused of being implicated in it were later acquitted.

Easter lily ban faces challenge


A prison rule banning inmates from wearing Easter lilies is being challenged in court.

The High Court in Belfast has granted leave for a judicial review of the ban.

The judge also ordered the governor of Maghaberry prison to suspend a punishment given to a prisoner for wearing a lily on Easter Sunday.

Terrence McCafferty, who is serving a 12-year sentence for a bombing, had been sentenced to three days in a punishment unit.

It is expected that the rest of the case will be heard next month.

Saville Inquiry delay angers families

Daily Ireland

by Eamonn Houston

Relatives of the Bloody Sunday victims last night described the delay in the publication of the Saville report into the 1972 shootings as ‘ridiculous’.
Families of those killed and wounded on Bloody Sunday called on the Saville Inquiry to give an indication of when the final report will be published.
The Saville Inquiry was set up eight years ago to re-examine the events of January 30, 1972, when 13 people were shot dead during a civil rights demonstration in Derry. Another man died from his injuries a few months later.
The inquiry completed its proceedings 18 months ago after hearing the evidence of over 900 witnesses. The final report was due to be published last summer.
However, it has been delayed and a spokesperson for the inquiry yesterday said they could not guarantee that it would be published before the end of the year.
John Kelly, whose 17-year-old brother Michael was among those killed on Bloody Sunday, last night said that it was “ridiculous” that the families have not been given a timescale for the publication of the report.
“Almost two years down the line no one is telling us anything,” said Mr Kelly.
“I think that the inquiry should come out with some form of statement letting us know when we can expect the final report. We have been living in limbo for one and a half years and we think that we are entitled to know what’s happening.”
A spokesperson for the inquiry said: “There are no further updates. The work is currently in preparation and there is a large quantity of material. Under the remit of the inquiry, the report will go to the secretary of state when it is finalised.”
A spokesman for the Northern Ireland Office yesterday said that it could make no comment on the matter until the report is in the hands of the British secretary of state.
Mr Kelly said the final report should be given to the victims’ families first.

He's IRAte


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SONGS OF FREEDOM: Shane Coleman performs "Grace" on the tin whistle to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the Irish Hunger Strike.

What happens when an Irishman visiting Philly refuses to turn spy?

by Jenna Portnoy
20-26 April 2006

Shane Coleman hadn't visited his friends and family in the United States in a decade, so four days before St. Patrick's Day, he boarded a plane in his native Northern Ireland.

During Coleman's 11-day vacation, City Councilman Jack Kelly invited him to play "Grace" on the tin whistle at City Council's recognition of the 25th anniversary of the Irish Hunger Strike. Coleman's only concern as he approached the podium was whether the beers he had at Finnigan's Wake the night before would affect his performance. (They didn't.)

"Everything was 100 percent, brilliant," the 29-year-old father of two says in a thick brogue.

He spent the rest of the trip sightseeing and was ready to return when he got the phone call.

On the line, he says, was a U.S. Customs agent asking him to arrive early at Newark International Airport to address a problem with his visa. "When immigration wants to talk to you," he explains, "it's not good because it could jeopardize you coming into the country again."

He got to the airport early and met a female agent who took him into a backroom while another agent escorted his girlfriend and son to check-in. Coleman says the woman asked him whether he was involved in any terrorist activities—he had indicated "no" on a form—and questioned him about his assault on a police officer in Ireland seven years ago.

At this point, Coleman says, he still wasn't panicked: "I just thought I was doing my duty," so he wouldn't have trouble returning to the U.S.

The woman left the room and returned with two men.

"How's it going, Shane?" said the first, who had an English accent. "By my accent you can surely tell where I'm from."

"You're obviously Scotland Yard," Coleman replied.

"No, MI5."

He immediately recognized the tactic. British intelligence officers wanted to recruit him to spy on the Irish Republican Army, a paramilitary organization dedicated to ending British rule in Northern Ireland.

"Fancy meeting you guys over here," Coleman said, sitting back and preparing for a long haul.

The men told him they flew to the airport just to see him, as if he should consider the meeting a special privilege. They knew he quit his job as a subcontractor for a courier company two weeks earlier, even though Coleman hadn't yet registered with the government as unemployed.

"Clearly they've been watching me a long time," he says. They went on to say he has some "associates" they were interested in and mentioned the name of a friend he plays Gaelic football with. "They're telling me I'm in a good position to get in on some stuff."

As the two-hour long meeting wore on, Coleman says they offered him money and asked if he wanted to go back to New York, or even Hawaii, to think it over.

"I know where this conversation is going and I'm not interested," Coleman said, insisting he was not and has never been involved with a paramilitary group.

"We know you're not stupid," said the second man, who had an Irish accent. "The pot's overflowing."

They gave him a phone number to use in case he changed his mind or ended up in a "tight spot." Coleman told them he works five days a week and plays football two or three days. "On that schedule I couldn't imagine anything that would jeopardize my liberty," he says, "unless somebody sets me up."

Still, the men said they could get him off the hook in case he was arrested for something serious.

He again refused to cooperate and they eventually let him go home.

It was difficult to find officials who'd corroborate Coleman's version of events.

Calls to the airport were referred to Customs and Border Protection, which referred questions to the Immigration and Customs Enforcement press office, under the Department of Homeland Security, which did not return messages. One CBP spokeswoman asked for the name of the federal agent who first contacted Coleman, and said, "Without a name, I can't substantiate anything." Finally, Lorraine Turner, a spokeswoman for the British Consulate-General in New York said, "We don't comment on security issues."

Coleman, however, didn't want to stay quiet. Once back in Ireland, he heard that a former member of the IRA-linked Sinn Féin party recently exposed as a British spy was found shot dead. He decided to tell the Daily Ireland newspaper about his ordeal. "I'm not scared," he says, "because the more you expose them the more chance they won't come after you."

Recounting the incident during a cell-phone interview last week, he said taking the agents' bait "would never cross my mind. I see myself as an Irishman all my life and you can't all of a sudden stop being an Irishman and start working for British intelligence and betray your people."

Considering the close relationship between President Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair, Coleman says he believes American agents are assisting the MI5. "Whenever you think of America, or even Philadelphia, and the amount of Irish people who live here, and all the work Irish people have done for America, it just seems like a betrayal," he says.

Paul Doris, the Philly-based national director of Irish Northern Aid, an organization that supports a united Ireland, places blame squarely on British shoulders. "I don't think anyone has anything to fear of the American government," he says. "It's just the British; they can have their claws in anywhere."

Upon getting the news, City Councilman Kelly sent letters to U.S. Sens. Rick Santorum and Arlen Specter, making them aware of Coleman's situation. He hopes someone will perform an inquiry.

"We should be telling any foreign country, 'When people are visiting our country, we're not going to allow you to harass or intimidate or interview them. We're not going to be part of it,'" he says.

Doris encourages others who have experienced anything similar to come forward. "Most people in Ireland understand what the British are up to," he says, "and they'll go to any distance to undermine what progress we've made."

Meanwhile, in his rural home of Ardboe, Coleman is back playing football. And, he's applying for another visa so he can visit again this summer, while realizing that might not be possible:

"I would say my chances of getting back in aren't good."

Three held over Lockhart murder freed


20 April 2006 11:13

Three men who were questioned by police in Northern Ireland about a loyalist paramilitary murder have been freed without charge.

The men were arrested yesterday by detectives investigating the killing of 25-year-old Jason Lockhart in east Belfast last July.

Mr Lockhart was gunned down while at the wheel of a lorry on the lower Newtownards Road.

His killing was blamed on the UVF.

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