13 May 2006

Unionist sectarianism - 'all sides' to blame is the unionist refrain


Indymedia.ie

By James Reilly
May 13, 2006 22:09

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Michael's mother Gina McIlveen outside her home in Ballymena

Click on the photo to view and read article


'Something has got to be done to stop this madness'

Indymedia.ie

**Thanks to the poster for this so the rest of us without expensive subscriptions to the Irish Times can read it

By Susan McKay
Saturday May 13, 2006 21:55
Irish Times

The killing of Ballymena teenager Michael McIlveen is evidence of the deep-rooted sectarianism that is infecting a new generation, reports Susan McKay

Gina McIlveen had her own experience of sectarian violence before she lost her 15-year-old son, Michael, to it this week. Last Christmas, she and her 16-year-old daughter, Jodie, who was heavily pregnant, were in the Tower Shopping Centre in Ballymena.

"This girl was following us around and she came over and she said: 'I'll kick that Fenian baby out of you.' She went for me outside Santa's grotto and then this man ran out and cracked my face with his fist and broke my nose," she says.

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Catholics are victims of 90% of sectarian attacks

"I knew him. I went to the police. It was all on the CCTV cameras. They questioned him and he blamed his girlfriend. The police told me my life could be at risk if I proceeded with the case and they couldn't offer me 24-hour protection. I was scared because of who he was and I let it go. Then in March this year, Michael was attacked up the Cushendall Road. His mouth was ripped. I wanted to go to the police but he said: 'Don't, mummy, what did they do for you?' "

Late last Saturday night, Michael and friends encountered a group of young men at a takeaway in Ballymena. He was pursued and later beaten up against a wall in a car-park in the town centre. He managed to run more than a mile to his home before collapsing. He died in Antrim Hospital on Monday night.

Gina breaks down.

"I am hurt and heartbroken. I don't think I'll ever get over it," she says. "Me and my son were very, very close. There is not one person in this town could say anything against Michael. He was just a happy-go-lucky child. He was a brilliant kid and I'm going to really miss him."

Michael McIlveen was popular. Nearly all the children and teenagers in the Catholic parts of Ballymena are wearing Celtic shirts now with his nickname "Micky-bo" printed on them. Hundreds of them turned up at a candlelit vigil outside his home in the Dunvale Estate on Wednesday night.

One little boy had a Micky-bo Rangers shirt on. Big teenage boys let tears stream down their faces. Girls clung to each other, giggling one moment, sobbing the next. Michael's music was being played from his house, including the Tracey Chapman line, "Take a fast car and keep on driving . . ."

But Michael loved Ballymena.

"He was born here, and after we moved to Stranraer in Scotland they all broke their hearts to get back," Gina says. "So we came back. I put in for a transfer to Antrim last year but Michael was against it. 'Why would we leave Ballymena?' he said. 'All our friends are here.' "

The photographs on the shrine the family has erected outside the house show Micky-bo's brief life, from chubby baby to boy playing combat games - and one of him beaming as he gets kissed on both cheeks by two blonde girls.

"That's Michael with two wee girls from Ballykeel," says Gina. Ballykeel is a Protestant estate.

"I wouldn't be bitter towards Protestants," adds Gina, a single mother of four whose devotion to her children is mentioned by many who know her. "I have had great support this last two days from people from both communities. There has been people here from the Shankill Road in Belfast. Even Ian Paisley phoned. But something has got to be done to stop this madness."

The Irish News carried an unbearably moving photograph taken moments after Michael died. The tubes of the life-support machine are still on his face. His uncle is kissing his forehead, while other family members have placed their hands lovingly on his chest. The family requested that the photograph be published once and then put away.

"We just want to show people out there what happens when gangs on both sides roam about," a family member told the paper. "This is the result."

Last summer, the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) was criticised for being slow to define as sectarian a spate of violent attacks against Catholic homes in the villages around Ballymena. After the attack on Michael McIlveen, the PSNI Chief Constable, Sir Hugh Orde, spoke about young people of a new generation getting caught up in sectarian violence, which was, he said, a "two-way thing". The DUP leader, and local MP, the Rev Ian Paisley, condemned the murder and called on "all sides to pull back from the brink".

This is no equal match, however. Sinn Féin councillor Philip McGuigan says that 90 per cent of the sectarian attacks in the town are by Protestants and SDLP councillor Declan O'Loan agrees that the overwhelming majority of attacks are on Catholics.

"There is a disaffected element of young Catholics who fight back," O'Loan says. The web-pages of the online teenage chatroom, Bebo, were last week full of threats of revenge for the murder of Micky-bo from some of his mates, along the lines of: "Did u c da pepers da day nice big pic of michael on it the next pic we will be cing will b urs u we scummy bastard hope u rote in hell!!!!"

On the streets of the neighbouring Dunclug estate, a startling number of young people approached at random by The Irish Times have stories of violence. They say loyalists send them threatening text messages and don't bother to conceal their numbers.

"Two weeks ago I got jumped in the field there at the top of the estate. They sliced me with a knife," says a boy holding a pit-bull terrier on a lead. He pulls up his Celtic shirt to show an angry criss-cross of cuts across his stomach. "That same night, two Catholics were attacked at a cash machine. You are always watching your back. We go about in groups because it isn't safe to go alone or in twos. Then we get hassled by the police for being a gang."

He feels safer when the dog is with him.

"Aye, he'd rip their arm off," he says.

Paul, who is 20, has a scarred face and a bent nose.

"Me and my mates were walking home and a car stopped," he says. "The door opened and we heard them shouting about Fenian bastards, so we started to run. It was a trap. There was another car ahead and six of them jumped out. I got hit with a wheel brace and kicked and left unconscious. My mates got help and they caught one of the 'huns' and hit him with a bit of a skirting board and left his eye hanging out. What goes around comes around." He shrugs. "My da gets called a Fenian bastard because he lives here - and he's a Protestant."

An eight-year-old girl and her mother are leaving flowers at the shrine against the black stone wall where Michael McIlveen was attacked. She goes to school in Harryville, which used to have a large Catholic population until loyalist intimidation pushed them out in the 1970s. "A Protestant hit me when I was coming out of school," she says. "But I've Protestant friends too."

They call the loyalists the "yoofers" (from the name for the UDA's killers, the Ulster Freedom Fighters or UFF) and the "huns".

"Huns are brought up like that," says a boy with a miraculous medal round his neck and earrings. "They're all in loyalist bands and it is tradition for them to hate Catholics. I go to a mixed army cadets scheme and I have Protestant friends and some of them are the best mates ever. They hate the yoofers too."

Last year, a judge sent a man to jail for 16 years for the attempted murder of Michael Reid in Ballymena in 2003.

"As the tide of terrorism abates, sectarianism re-emerges, oozing forth again to corrupt another generation," said Mr Justice Coghlin.

Reid, a Catholic, was visiting a house in Harryville when he was beaten so viciously that in the end he pretended to be dead. He heard his attackers discussing how to dispose of his body by sawing it to pieces. He managed to escape and was rescued by the police.

It emerged that the convicted man had served time for taking part in the notorious loyalist blockade of Harryville's Catholic church. During the lengthy protest, about the re-routing of Orange parades, a mob shouted sectarian abuse and threats at Mass-goers and people were beaten up in their homes. A preacher told the mob that this was the "ancient battle between the true church, Protestantism, and the Whore and the Beast and Baal worshippers within Catholicism". Ian Paisley was criticised for failing to show support for his Catholic constituents.

Until recently, the church was overlooked by a massive UDA mural. After mediation, the "owners" of the mural agreed to replace it with a scroll about Ulster Scots. Money was provided through the scheme initiated by the President's husband, Martin McAleese. Loyalists now claim that nationalists reneged on their part of the deal by putting up tricolours in Dunclug again.

"These guys know how to sound good," says one Protestant Ballymena community worker. "But I wonder if giving them money is the answer."

The Ulster Political Research Group, which advises the UDA on political matters, condemned Michael McIlveen's murder, while urging Sinn Féin and the SDLP to combat an "evil, evil campaign" in the nationalist community. It is assumed that this is a reference to the existence in Dunclug of a small number of Real IRA sympathisers. The UUP, the DUP and the Orange Order also condemned the murder.

The SDLP and Sinn Féin have welcomed unionist condemnations, but are also demanding action. They say Catholics are treated as second-class citizens in Ballymena, where they make up 20 per cent of the population. They point out that the DUP holds all the positions of power within the town council and refuses to share them. When an SDLP councillor died last year, the DUP refused to allow the party to co-opt another councillor and insisted on a by-election, which the DUP won.

At a council meeting earlier this month, Declan O'Loan accused the DUP of refusing to fund GAA clubs which work with hundreds of young people. Philip McGuigan points out that most of Ballymena's shops and facilities are on the Protestant southside of the River Braid, while most Catholics live on the northside.

Last year, a local DUP representative protested about the British Christmas stamp because it showed a Madonna and child. A "good relations" policy tentatively launched by the Mayor, Tommy Nicholl, was opposed by some DUP councillors and has not made much progress, according to nationalists. This week Paisley denounced "those attempting to use this tragedy as a political football".

Jeremy Gardner, a youth pastor with the Presbyterian church, was involved last year in showing solidarity with beleaguered Catholics by, among other things, helping to remove sectarian graffiti from the church at Harryville. He says there is a new openness in communication between community activists, but acknowledges an upsurge in attacks on young Catholics.

"Michael's death is part of something from a deep core. I think this comes down to an identity problem in the Protestant community," he says. "Young loyalists still have the warlike mentality of Protestants versus Catholics. They go about in gangs, just like in the 1970s. That needs to change. At the same time, unionists need to acknowledge that loyalism is part of unionism."

One young loyalist defined himself on Bebo in these terms: "Hate all taigs Put one in the bck of there heads scum of da earth." He listed his musical taste as "uda", his sports as "rangers fc". Under the heading, "scared of" he wrote "nuthin".

A UUP councillor said last week of the loyalist gangs: "The sooner these creatures are taken out of society and away from the majority of law-abiding people in the town, the better."

At St Patrick's College, where Michael McIlveen was a student, principal Catherine Magee and her staff are struggling to support students who are deeply upset while facing their exams.

"We are trying to create a sense of normality in a very abnormal situation," she says. "Michael was a lovely boy and he is a terrible loss to all of us. Our biggest challenge is to give these young people a sense of purpose and the future. A lot of them are saying: 'What does anything matter now that Michael's gone?' "

SF anger at Unionist moves over assembly

BN.ie

13/05/2006 - 21:06:53

Sinn Féin tonight branded the Ulster Unionist Party as hypocrites for recruiting the loyalist Progressive Unionist Party to join its Assembly grouping at Stormont.

The move by PUP leader David Ervine gives the UUP group 25 Assembly members which means it will be able to claim three ministries in a future Stormont executive.

Sinn Féin still have 24 MLAs and will only be eligible for two ministries.

Sinn Féin general secretary Mitchel McLaughlin described the UUP’s recruitment of Mr Ervine as breathtaking hypocrisy because it had refused to engage with his party over its links to the IRA.

“The UUP repeatedly brought down the political institutions on the issue of IRA decommissioning. Yet, in an attempt to obtain an extra minister in a new Assembly, they are seeking to have the PUP leader join their Stormont group when the UVF has refused outright to decommission and continues to engage in sectarian, racist and internecine violence, ” he said.

“It is David Ervine’s democratic right to join any group he wishes. But the UUP attempts to recruit David Ervine underlined Unionist ambivalence towards loyalist violence in the starkest terms possible. The double standards of the UUP are breath taking.”

Prior to the decision of the PUP executive today, the Ulster Unionists would have only been entitled to two ministries as opposed to three for Sinn Féin.

The development came as Northern Ireland’s 108 Assembly members prepare to gather at Stormont on Monday for the first time since they were elected in November 2003.

The PUP’s decision was confirmed by the party’s chairperson Dawn Purvis.

“The PUP took this decision after wide consultation,” the Northern Ireland Policing Board member said.

“It was discussed at length and it was a collective decision.

“It is felt that by forming a group, that will give the unionist community a much-needed boost.”

Mr Ervine, who represents East Belfast in the Assembly, will become part of the Ulster Unionist Party Assembly Group but he will not become a UUP member.

As things currently stand in the Assembly, the Reverend Ian Paisley’s Democratic Unionists have 32 Assembly members and are the largest group at Stormont.

They will be entitled to the post of Stormont First Minister and to three ministries.

It had been thought last year that the DUP would have been able to claim four ministries but those plans were set back when their Newry and Armagh MLA Paul Berry was suspended following allegations about his private life.

Mr Berry will sit in the Assembly on Monday as an independent unionist.

Sinn Féin had hoped to have gained a ministry following Mr Berry’s suspension but will now, if things stand, be entitled to the Deputy First Minister’s post and two cabinet portfolios.

The nationalist SDLP will be entitled to two ministries in any future executive.

The Northern Ireland Assembly will gather on Monday without a power sharing executive or devolution in place.

The chamber last sat in October 2002 when a row over allegations that republicans operated a spy ring forced the British government to suspend devolution.

Since then, there have been three failed attempts to establish a multi-party government.

The Reverend Ian Paisley’s DUP has also in that time overtaken the Ulster Unionists and become Northern Ireland’s largest party.

But with the IRA last year announcing an end to its armed campaign and completing its disarmament programme, British Prime Minister Tony Blair and Taoiseach Bertie Ahern are hopeful that an executive can be formed this year.

In a roadmap for devolution unveiled last month, the two premiers announced that they would ask Assembly members to initially try and set up an executive six weeks from next Monday.

But with expectations low about the formation of an executive before the summer, both leaders have given the Assembly an ultimate deadline of November 24 to achieve power sharing.

If that deadline is not met, both governments have warned that they will have to enter into partnership arrangements in the absence of devolution, enhancing cross-border links in Ireland.

The DUP has insisted it will not simply go into a devolved government with Sinn Féin because of the November 24 deadline.

Deputy leader Peter Robinson has insisted that the party will only contemplate such a move if it is convinced that the IRA has ended paramilitary and criminal activity for good.

Ulster Unionist leader Sir Reg Empey said as a result of Mr Ervine’s decision unionists would be punching their full weight at the Assembly for the first time since it was established in 1998.

“Unionists will be taking positions back from Sinn Féin,” he said.

“None of this will matter, of course, unless the conditions are created that will lead to the restoration of devolution.

“That is why we have tabled a proposal for the creation of a restoration of devolution committee at Stormont so that we can establish if the conditions can be created for progress or not.”

SF must back PSNI for power: Paisley


Belfast Telegraph


Warning as Assembly gets ready

By Kathryn Torney
ktorney@belfasttelegraph.co.uk
13 May 2006

Sinn Fein must support the PSNI as part of any deal to restore a power-sharing government to Northern Ireland, insists DUP leader Ian Paisley.

Mr Paisley issued his warning today, just two days before the Assembly returns to Stormont.

In an interview in the Irish Times, he said: "The talks have no future until everyone who's going to be in the government of Northern Ireland is a complete and total supporter of the police."

In the interview he also kept the door open to an eventual partnership administration with Sinn Fein.

But he suggested that people "should not worry" about the November deadline set by the British and Irish governments and rejected the idea that his decisions might be motivated by a desire to spend the final years of his political career as First Minister.

"I'm not interested in office," Mr Paisley said. "Do you think I have come to 80 years of age to sell my soul? No, I'm not. What I'm interested in is to have a broad base of democracy on which we build, and then, come hell or high water, that edifice is going to stand."

He acknowledged that there would be tough negotiations ahead and that "a true democracy" at Stormont would require significant changes to the Belfast Agreement.

Asked if he understood that many Catholics would find it difficult, if not repugnant, to wake one morning and find him First Minister, he laughingly replied: "I think I wouldn't be the unionist I am if they didn't. I have said that personally to Bertie Ahern and his whole cabinet when I met them.

"I said, 'You are bound to be against me because I am against you. We're not sitting here in friendship or ecumenical kisses... we're sitting here because we are opponents on a vital issue."

Memorial to dead republicans shot in Tan War to be unveiled

Daily Ireland

This article states that this Sunday is the date; however, at >>Indymedia.ie there is a long article with photo giving the ceremony date as the 21st of May, Sunday after next.
For confirmation contact Des Long on (061) 343314


by Ciarán Barnes

A memorial to two Limerick men murdered by the British army is to be unveiled on Sunday.
A plaque commemorating Michael Blake and James O’Neill is to be mounted at the Cross of Grange on the main road between Limerick and Tipperary.
The Black and Tans shot the men dead in 1920.
No one was ever charged with killing them.
Limerick City Council removed the original memorial to the men from the Cross of Grange during road works in the area.
It gathered dust in a council office until local historian Des Long found it, with the help of Limerick city councillor Eddie Wade.
Following a request from the men, the council agreed to put a new memorial in its place.
The main speaker at Sunday’s unveiling will be Séamus Ó Súilleabháin. His family played a major role in the Tan War in Limerick.
Historian Tom Toomey will address the gathering on the events leading up to the killing of the men. A wreath will be laid by Joe Lynch, chairman of Limerick Republican Graves.
The ceremony will take place at the Cross of the Grange on the main road between Limerick and Tipperary at the junction with the road to Cappamore.
Des Long has asked those attending to assemble at the crossroads before marching to the spot where the men were murdered for the 3pm plaque unveiling.
“We would like to invite the general public to attend and to hear the address by Tom Toomey, who at present is researching and writing a history of the Limerick IRA during the War of Independence,” he said.

RIRA leader in Armagh quits

Daily Ireland

by Ciarán Barnes

The Real IRA’s leader in south Armagh has quit the organisation in the wake of a foiled cigarette-smuggling operation in Spain.
The Newry-based paramilitary, who is an experienced bomb maker, is said to be disillusioned at the Real IRA’s failure to step up its military campaign.
Last night, other leading members of the organisation were openly questioning the leadership, most of whom are locked up in Portlaiose prison in Co Laois.
“From their cells, they have promised a military campaign but there is nothing happening,” said one dissident republican.
The latest blow to the Real IRA came when Spanish police apprehended a consignment of bootleg cigarettes worth more than €1 million (£685,000). Two men were arrested in connection with the find.
Hardliners in the Real IRA were shocked to learn that the seized container contained no weapons or ammunition.
This has led some to claim that the Real IRA, under its current leadership, is more interested in making money from smuggling cigarettes than in mounting a military campaign against the British presence in Ireland.
“Some prisoners in Maghaberry are already openly questioning the leadership, and it will not be long before there is a split. Already there are talks with some senior figures in the Continuity IRA, and defections to the organisation cannot be ruled out,” the source said.
The Continuity IRA is reorganising in parts of the North. Security services on both sides of border have predicted a step up in the group’s campaign.
Last month, a 113-kilogram car bomb assembled by the organisation was discovered in Lurgan, Co Armagh. Two men have been charged in connection with the find. The intended target of the bomb is believed to have been Lurgan PSNI station.
In a statement released to Daily Ireland, the Continuity IRA said it would target England’s Queen Elizabeth if she went ahead with a visit to Ireland next year. Both the Garda and PSNI fear that those disillusioned with the Real IRA will defect to the Continuity IRA and increase the latter organisation’s capability to launch military operations.

Sick children in Eurodisney trip

BreakingNews.ie

13/05/2006 - 09:05:55

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usSome 42 sick youngsters from the south west were today heading to EuroDisney Paris on a trip organisers say is just what the doctor ordered.

The children from Kerry, Cork city and county and Tipperary, many of whom have spent time in hospital this year, will travel to France for the weekend.

Breda Chandler, chairwoman for the Cork city hospitals children’s club, revealed around 5,000 children are treated each year at Cork University Hospital.

“While their stay is usually relatively short – two-and-a-half-days on average – children are usually only brought to hospital when they are very sick,” she said.

“Going to EuroDisney is just what the doctor ordered for many of them, especially those who have had a particularly difficult year.

“A trip like this is a real boost for them, a chance to show them that although they’ve been sick, that they can still have lots of fun.”

The money for the break was raised by the children’s Club and the Kinsale & District Lion’s Club.

This annual EuroDisney trip will include not only sick children from Cork University Hospital, but also from the Cork Association for the Deaf, the Mercy University Hospital and the South Infirmary Victoria University Hospital.

“We’re delighted that this event is expanding to include more children than in previous years,” said event co-ordinator John Looney.

Sick children in Eurodisney trip

BreakingNews.ie

13/05/2006 - 09:05:55

Some 42 sick youngsters from the south west were today heading to EuroDisney Paris on a trip organisers say is just what the doctor ordered.

The children from Kerry, Cork city and county and Tipperary, many of whom have spent time in hospital this year, will travel to France for the weekend.

Breda Chandler, chairwoman for the Cork city hospitals children’s club, revealed around 5,000 children are treated each year at Cork University Hospital.

“While their stay is usually relatively short – two-and-a-half-days on average – children are usually only brought to hospital when they are very sick,” she said.

“Going to EuroDisney is just what the doctor ordered for many of them, especially those who have had a particularly difficult year.

“A trip like this is a real boost for them, a chance to show them that although they’ve been sick, that they can still have lots of fun.”

The money for the break was raised by the children’s Club and the Kinsale & District Lion’s Club.

This annual EuroDisney trip will include not only sick children from Cork University Hospital, but also from the Cork Association for the Deaf, the Mercy University Hospital and the South Infirmary Victoria University Hospital.

“We’re delighted that this event is expanding to include more children than in previous years,” said event co-ordinator John Looney.

Unionist move robs Sinn Féin of ministry

BN.ie

13/05/2006 - 13:15:16

Sinn Féin today faced the prospect of losing a ministerial post in Northern Ireland’s next devolved government after a senior loyalist Assembly member agreed to join the Ulster Unionist group at Stormont.

As Northern Ireland’s 108 Assembly members prepared to gather at Stormont on Monday for the first time since they were elected in November 2003, the Progressive Unionist Party announced their leader David Ervine would form a group with Sir Reg Empey’s Ulster Unionists.

The move would give the new group 25 Assembly members while Sinn Féin will have 24.

And it will result in the Ulster Unionists being able to claim three ministries in a future Stormont executive, with Sinn Féin getting just two.

Prior to the decision of the PUP executive today, the Ulster Unionists would have only been entitled to two ministries as opposed to three for Sinn Féin.

The decision was confirmed by the PUP's chairperson Dawn Purvis.

“The PUP took this decision after wide consultation,” the Northern Ireland Policing Board member said.

“It was discussed at length and it was a collective decision.

“It is felt that by forming a group, that will give the unionist community a much-needed boost.”

Mr Ervine, who represents East Belfast in the Assembly, will become part of the Ulster Unionist Party Assembly Group.

However, he will not become a UUP member.

As things currently stand in the Assembly, the Reverend Ian Paisley’s Democratic Unionists have 32 Assembly members and are the largest group at Stormont.

They will be entitled to the post of Stormont First Minister and to three ministries.

It had been thought last year that the DUP would have been able to claim four ministries but those plans were set back when their Newry and Armagh MLA Paul Berry was suspended following allegations about his private life.

Mr Berry will sit in the Assembly on Monday as an independent unionist.

Sinn Féin had hoped to have gained a ministry following Mr Berry’s suspension but will now, if things stand, be entitled to the Deputy First Minister’s post and two cabinet portfolios.

The nationalist SDLP will be entitled to two ministries in any future executive.

Bid to dump Order from parades body

Belfast Telegraph

Legal challenge to Orangemen opens

13 May 2006

Northern Ireland Secretary Peter Hain can remove two Orange Order members from the Parades Commission if they fail to do their job properly, a court was told yesterday.

Mr Hain's decision to appoint two Portadown Orangemen to the body which rules on contentious Orange parades - including the annual Drumcree parade in Portadown - was being challenged in the High Court.

A judicial review was launched in the name of a Garvaghy Road resident, which Orangemen have been banned from parading down.

Lawyers acting for Joe Duffy sought to have the appointment of the Orangemen quashed.

David Burrows, a one-time Order District Master, and fellow Portadown Orangeman and DUP member Donald MacKay were appointed to the Parades Commission in November.

Launching a legal bid to remove the pair, Barry MacDonald, QC, expressed incredulity at the appointment of 'two prominent members of the Orange Lodge that for ten years has been a part of the single most contentious parade in Northern Ireland, namely Drumcree'.

Mr MacDonald said: "Neither could conceivably be regarded as impartial or unaffected."

Nobody from nationalist residents' groups opposing Orange parades was appointed.

A Government report ahead of the reconstitution of the Commission read: "It goes without saying that the members of the parade's commission would have to be impartial."

Defending the procedure, Bernard McCloskey, QC, insisted there were safety measures in place against any conflict of interest.

Mr Hain had 'the power to remove the individuals from office in the event of either of them failing to comply with the terms of their employment', said Mr McCloskey.

The hearing was adjourned until Monday.

Ervine to join UUP assembly group

BBC


The NI Assembly is being recalled on Monday

Progressive Unionist Party leader David Ervine is expected to join the Ulster Unionist group when the Northern Ireland Assembly is recalled on Monday.

It is understood an official approach was made to him on Friday.

The PUP executive is currently holding talks and Mr Ervine will remain its leader.

However, the move could mean the UUP receiving an extra ministerial post if there is agreement and the d'Hondt formula is put into operation.

The d'Hondt method is a highest averages method for allocating seats.

Northern Ireland's 108 assembly members will gather on Monday for the first time since they were elected in November 2003.

The political parties will then have six weeks to elect an executive.

If the parties fail to do so, they will get a further 12 weeks to try to form a multi-party devolved government. It that attempt fails, their salaries will be stopped.

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

The deputy leader of the DUP, Peter Robinson, said his party's consultation of the unionist community on whether to share power with republicans could begin in the autumn.

He said the Independent Monitoring Commission would need to conclude that the IRA had ended all paramilitary and criminal activity.

Mr Robinson said too many grey areas still existed to begin any consultation now.

He said "there would be no point in going to the community" because "grey areas can't be allowed to exist".

"We are on the ground so we have a fair idea what people's thinking is," he told BBC Radio Ulster's Inside Politics programme.

"We want to give them that wider opportunity, that the prime minister flagged up, that people have to be satisfied.

"We will give them that opportunity, presumably some time around October or November."

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

A court case arising from the allegations later collapsed.

H3 - The film of the H-Block Struggle

An Phoblacht

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usTo commemorate the 25th anniversary of the 1981 Hunger Strike, the film H3 will be re-released with a week long launch at Newry Omniplex 12-18 May. Co-written by former H-Block prisoner Brian Campbell and former Hunger Striker Laurence McKeown, the film brings to life the unbelievable existence of the blanketmen - the horrific conditions of damp, filthy cells with walls smattered in shit, the inadequate diet and casual brutality.

In these conditions young men in their early twenties, cold, hungry, and naked except for a blanket, padded their cells barefoot but with a confidence in their political convictions. Surreal images such as these capture the remarkable defiance of those political prisoners who refused to bow to Britain's policy of criminalisation.

Although H3 portrays a horrific period in the republican struggle, it also shows the camaraderie, the craic and sing songs, the yarns and black humour. It stands as a remarkable testament to the triumph of humanity, friendship, solidarity and courage over the British Government's crude efforts to break men who were political prisoners.

In 2001 H3 premiered at The Galway Film Festival to critical acclaim. One film critic wrote, "H3 is a cry from the heart that transcends the party political to embrace the truly human." The Irish Times described it as, "An accomplished, emotionally powerful drama." And actor Martin Sheen (Apocalypse Now) remarked that H3 is, "A great film".

In 2002 H3 won the award for best screenplay at the Avanca Film Festival in Portugal in addition to the prestigious Gold Rosa Camuna Award from the Bergamo Film Meeting (Italy).

Anyone interested in having the film screened in their local cinema should approach venue managers to make arrangements and then contact Brendan (Bik) McFarlane of the 1981 25th Anniversary Committee on 02890 740817 to obtain a film reel.

Leonard Peltier: Over 30 years in jail

An Phoblacht

Justice denied

Native American Leonard Peltier has languished in prison for three decades for an offence which even US courts have said he was wrongly convicted. Here GERI TIMMONS tells the story of how Peltier has been persecuted for defending his land and people.

4 May 2006

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usOn a humid summer morning on 26 June 1975, on the Jumping Bull's ranch, a young group of women were busy preparing food for the children and men. Some were sleeping, others were moving around the camp doing light chores. The night before there had been a thunderstorm and it caused some disruption of the tents, so many were up all night re-establishing camp. Leonard Peltier lay in his tent listening to the sounds of children playing and women chatting as they cooked the morning breakfast. In the distance he heard gunfire but brushed it off thinking it was probably hunters. But the sounds grew closer and he realized that they were under attack.

Peltier rushed from his tent, snatched up his rifle and ran vigorously to the little green house and realized that Grandma and Grandpa Jumping Bull had gone to Rapid City for the day. Past the house, he saw Joe "Killsright" Stuntz lying dead on the ground shot between the eyes.

He headed back across the field, he heard the children crying and saw a shining new car speeding onto the property, still shooting at three young natives in a red pick up. He followed in pursuit of the others and returned the fire in self-defence.

As Peltier headed down the hill, he encountered Bob Robideau and Dino Butler coming up. They returned to camp. Once the dust had cleared the group realised that the two in the shiny car were in fact FBI agents, Ronald Williams and Jack R. Coler, at that moment the world stood still. All knew they would be hunted down and murdered by law enforcement in retaliation for this. They would never be able to explain that it was self-defence. Everyone gathered together to say a short prayer to the Great Spirit asking for protection, for Joe's journey into the spirit world and for the two dead agents, as the FBI and the Tribal Police surrounded the property.

Background

The violence that surrounded the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation did not start on this day. It was part of a history of corruption and murder for years. Dick Wilson, then tribal chairman and his paid assassins, the Goons (their self proclaimed name), wanted to assimilate the people into the world of capitalism and making themselves rich, by selling tribal land to the US Government. The Government wanted to strip the land of its uranium deposits; the traditionalist natives were strongly opposed.

On 27 February 1973, a group called the American Indian Movement (AIM), seized control of Wounded Knee. The occupation was in protest at Dick Wilson's sanctioned government. Two people were killed during the 71-day occupation, 12 were wounded, including two marshals, and approximately 1,200 were arrested. AIM placed the issues of Native American rights under an international spotlight.

The murder rate however grew. Dick Wilson's goons with the help of the FBI, created a reign of terror on the traditionalists that resided on the Pine Ridge Reservation and the American Indian Movement. There were over 60 unsolved murders, with Pine Ridge rating the highest murder rate per capita in the nation; the police agencies did not seem interested in solving them.

The largest manhunt in the history of the United States was engaged against members of the American Indian Movement. Leonard Peltier was labeled public enemy number one, with the accompanying order to shoot on sight. Even though the FBI stated that there were over 40 natives involved in the shoot out, only Bob Robideau, Dino Butler and Leonard Peltier were held for trial after capture.

Leonard Peltier fled to Canada. Meanwhile Dino Butler and Bob Robideau were arrested at different locations and stood trial while Leonard fought extradition. Robideau and Butler were found not guilty by reason of self-defence. This infuriated the FBI and they swore the next trial would be different.

Trial

Under extreme duress at the hands of the FBI a mentally ill native woman gave three inconsistent affidavits stating she was at the Jumping Bull ranch, also was the girlfriend of Peltier and she saw him shoot the two agents. She has since recanted, stating the FBI forced her into making the statements. The damage however had already been done; Peltier was now in the United States. The Canadian government upon learning the truth behind these false affidavits demanded the return of Peltier. These demands fell on deaf ears.

A ballistics expert at Peltier's trial said he had a clear match for the weapon that shot the agents. This stemmed from a shell casing found at the crime scene. Later, through the release of documents it was learned that the expert lied and fabricated the evidence to ensure a conviction. The federal court verbally reprimanded him for professional misconduct. US Marshals sequestered the jury, implying the American Indian Movement was trying to harm them. Periodic sweeps were done in the courtroom and the judge's chambers, once again to give the impression of implied threat. On 18 April 1977, after six hours of deliberation, the jury returned a verdict of guilty. On June 1, 1977, Judge Paul Benson sentenced Peltier to two consecutive life sentences for the deaths of FBI agents Williams and Coler.

Leonard Peltier has continuously denied the murder of the two FBI agents. The 8th Circuit Court of Appeals found that Peltier might have been acquitted had the FBI not withheld valuable evidence. A new trial however was denied due to a legal technicality. Judge Heaney, presiding over the appellant hearing, has expressed his support for Peltier's release.

The 10th Circuit Court stated: "Much of the government conduct on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation and in the prosecution of Mr. Peltier is to be condemned. The government withheld evidence. It coerced witnesses. These facts are undisputed. But [this] is a question we have no authority to review."

Barry Bachrach, Peltier's lead counsel has asked "If the Judicial Branch has no authority to review outrageous government conduct, then, who does? If the Judicial Branch continues to acknowledge that Mr. Peltier's due process rights were violated, but claims it has no authority to rectify it, then who does?"

Widespread support

Amnesty International has declared Peltier a political prisoner and demanded his release. His Holiness, The Dalai Lama, Archbishop Desmond Tutu and countless other luminaries have expressed their support for Peltier publicly.

US Prosecutor Lynn Crooks has clearly admitted: "We can't prove who shot those agents". Peltier is still held in captivity within the prison system. On 12 September, 2005, Leonard Peltier saw his 61st birthday pass behind the rolling wire and 20 foot high walls at Lewisburg Federal Prison. He has been incarcerated over 30 years for defending his people and his land. The government is relentless in their continued effort to keep him locked away like a caged animal. It has been proven the FBI lied, fabricated the evidence and coerced the witnesses. When will they be held accountable for their past transgressions. The native community awaits the day that this country recognizes the great wrong this government has done. We are asking for all people to unite in solidarity, joining our campaign for freedom, it is time for Leonard Peltier to come home!

• For more information please visit the web site at http://www.leonardpeltier.org/ or write info@leonardpeltier.org

Show your solidarity by writing to Leonard Peltier:

Leonard Peltier # 89637-132

USP LEWISBURG , P.O. BOX 1000 , LEWISBURG, PA 17837

_________

• PUBLIC MEETING

4pm Saturday 13 May

Sandino's Bar, Water St., Derry. Organised by Pat Finucane Centre

End of an era as sugar factory closes

Irish Examiner

By Ray Ryan, Agribusiness Correspondent
13 May 2006

THE 80-year-old Irish sugar industry was brought to an end yesterday when Greencore closed the country’s last remaining processing plant in Mallow, Co Cork.

A radical reform of the sugar regime by the European Union led to the closure of one of the State’s foundation industries.

It had linked workers, farmers and local communities — both rural and urban — in economic and social wedlock over the years.

The closure of the Mallow plant will result in the loss of €100 million a year to the national economy and will affect the livelihoods of up to 5,000 people in one way or another.

A total of 324 employees were made redundant and 3,700 farmers no longer have a sugar processing outlet for their beet.

The closure will also impact on road and rail hauliers, agricultural contractors and other service providers. Most of the workers, who departed from the plant yesterday, were still worried about their redundancy package, according to their union officials.

SIPTU branch secretary and worker director Liam Lucey, along with Pat Guilfoyle, TEEU regional secretary, accused the company of not honouring a Labour Court recommendation on redundancy.

They called on Agriculture and Food Minister Mary Coughlan to intervene, urged the Labour Court to revisit the issue and indicated that the workers will continue to report for work until the issue is resolved.

But the company said the redundancy package was full and fair and that it has also made a range of career support services available to staff, which were widely taken up.

Ms Coughlan and Enterprise Minister Micheál Martin said in a statement last night it was extraordinary that Greencore seems to be stalling on the implementation of the Labour Court recommendation.

Labour TD Joe Sherlock, who worked at the factory for 18 years, said the State must consider the purchase of the plant following Greencore’s announcement that it is not interested in developing bio-ethanol production at the factory.

Mr Sherlock said Ms Coughlan has failed the people of Mallow by not securing the plant’s future.

Senator Paul Bradford, (FG) said the blame for the death of the sugar industry lies squarely with Ms Coughlan and the Government. A viable alternative energy policy rooted in the use of bio-fuels must be developed and Fine Gael has the plan to do it, he said.

Green Party deputy leader Mary White said the Government could have seized the opportunity to turn Ireland’s closing sugar industry into a profitable and much needed bio-fuel industry — but had inexplicably failed to do so.

Derry puts cannons back in place

Guardian

Owen Bowcott
Saturday May 13, 2006

Free Image Hosting at www.ImageShack.usDecommissioning weapons may be the political imperative for Northern Ireland, but Derry yesterday took delivery of a battery of cannons, including a ship's gun carriage, and hoisted them on to the city's fortified walls.

Derry's walls from the Guildhall Square - click photo to go to Derry photo site

The last batch of restored culverins, falconets, minions, sakers and demi-cannons, dating back to 1590, were formally handed over to complete a conservation programme preserving the defences which held out against successive Irish and Jacobite armies.

The ceremony in the Guildhall Square marking the occasion was an opportunity for civic leaders to commemorate historic ties with the City of London at a time when they are intent on shedding the nominal link. Derry city council, controlled by nationalist and republican parties, wants the city to revert to the ancient name of Derry instead of Londonderry - the title it acquired in 1610 when King James I granted trading companies from the City of London the rights to a settlement.

The turbulent history of Derry/Londonderry has cast a long shadow, reinforcing centuries of sectarian division.

The cannons are being restored for "tourism purposes" only, insisted Mark Lusby, an economic development officer with the council.

12 May 2006

Undertakers on centre stage in hunger strike hijack outrage

Daily Ireland

Two brothers found themselves in the middle of a melee bringing the body of Francis Hughes home

By Connla Young

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Click on the image to view the Quicktime movie clip

When Tommy McCusker and his brother Danny climbed into their old-style Vauxhall hearse on a warm May morning in 1981 there was nothing routine about the job that lay ahead although both men had undertaken a similar task many times before.
Within hours the brothers, who ran a small funeral directing service in the County Derry town of Magherafelt, would take centre stage in an emotional drama played out in front of a global audience.
Earlier in that week of unprecedented turmoil and tragedy, they had been asked by the family of hunger striker Francis Hughes to return his remains to their Scribe Road home, outside Bellaghy.
Now the brothers were keeping their promise to the Hughes family who, just a day before, had watched their son and brother die after 59 days on hunger strike in the hospital wing of Long Kesh prison.
An iconic figure, Hughes differed from the poet and writer Bobby Sands who died just seven days earlier. A dedicated combatant rather than a philosopher, Big Frank let his actions as an activist do the talking for him. As in life so it was in death. When the time arrived to bring his remains home Hughes would be pitched into one last battle. Little did brothers Tommy and Danny McCusker know that they would find themselves standing with him on this, his final battlefront.
The events that were to change the brothers’ lives began when they arrived at a Belfast suburb to collect the remains of the hunger striker. In a petty gesture, Hughes’ body was taken to Forster Green mortuary in the loyalist Belvoir estate on the outskirts of Belfast. It was there that that the McCusker brothers removed Hughes’s body to their hearse for the sombre journey home.
Within minutes of setting off the RUC attempted to hijack the hearse, which was being driven by Danny. In an instant the McCusker brothers were to become the last line of defence for the Hughes family.
Until now, Tommy McCusker has never spoken of the violent events that catapulted him and his brother Danny - who died in 1984 - onto the world stage.
On speaking out now, 25 years after the event, he says: “I am doing this to set the record straight for my brother Danny and myself. During Frank’s funeral the RUC put out several erroneous statements. They said we deviated from the agreed route. I want to clear Danny’s name and mine.
“Danny and I were assaulted and it was all captured ,by an American TV crew. But there were no prosecutions, they behaved just like it never happened. Our case got a lot of media coverage at the time.”
TV footage of what happened on Hughes’ final journey home has never been seen in Ireland or Britain. The local networks refuse to air it, but a passing news crew from the American network, ABC, captured the dramatic scene as the McCusker brothers refused to surrender the remains of Francis Hughes to the RUC.
Tommy McCusker has vivid memories of the incident on the Newtownbreda Road during which he and Danny were beaten by RUC men determined to take control of their vehicle and the body of the South Derry hero.
“Suddenly armed RUC piled out of their Land Rovers shouting ‘get out, get out’ and that they were ‘taking the body and hearse over’. Before I could get the door locked the RUC roughly pulled me out and stood me up. I said “not bloody likely that you’ll take over from us’.
“They were trying to get in the driver’s door to Danny. I managed to jump back in but was unable to get the door closed. The RUC men manhandled me, pulled me b y my legs and threw me onto the side of the road. A member of the cortege ran in to try and help me but was pushed away.”
While Tommy put up his own stiff resistance, his brother Danny, who had a heart complaint, was being viciously beaten by a number of RUC men while struggling to stay in the hearse.
“I got up quickly and pushed some of the RUC out of my path because Danny needed my help. I told the RUC that I needed to get to my brother because he had a bad heart. The RUC man replied ‘what the f**k do we care?’
“Danny was holding on to the steering wheel and bracing his shoulder against the door pillar as the RUC tried to grab at him through the window. To stop them taking control of the hearse he put the keys into his mouth.
“They pulled out his hair, scraped his face and neck and punched him. The force of the blows knocked the keys out of Danny’s mouth.”
Despite the violent onslaught, the dogged resistance of the battered brothers, coupled with the arrival of the American camera crew, eventually put paid to the RUC’s brutal tactics.
“When I finally got back in the hearse to Danny he was lying exhausted across the seat, dazed, bruised and in a bad way. I wanted to send for an ambulance but Danny refused saying, ‘I’m taking Francis Hughes home to the Scribe Road’”.
Originally the Hughes cortege was to be driven through west Belfast where thousands of mourners had gathered to pay their respects
However after consultation with the Hughes family and the RUC it was agreed the cortege would make its way directly to the M2 and on to Toome where thousands of people had gathered to accompany Francis Hughes across the River Bann, back into South Derry for the last time.
Tommy asked Owen Carron to act as a witness before he, Danny and the senior republican set off in the hearse once more for South Derry.
However as the cortege neared the end of the M2 the RUC made an attempt to divert the hearse away from Toome, causing the McCusker brothers to bring it to a halt a second time.
“The RUC jumped out again and asked us what we were doing. I said we were promised a straight run through to Toomebridge. They replied that the route had been changed on the way down but I said we were still going to Toomebridge.
“The RUC man answered ‘we’ll soon leave the body in Bellaghy for you’. He blew a whistle and a Land Rover reversed alongside the hearse. We stayed where we were.”
As reports of the second hijacking attempt swept through the carefully marshalled lines of mourners waiting to pay their respects in Toome, news that Pope John Paul II had been shot in Rome by a would-be assassin left many in a state of stunned bewilderment.
Almost immediately the heavens opened to compound the misery felt on the narrow streets of the County Antrim village.
Further down the road and after another round of protracted negotiations Tommy and his brother Danny agreed to a request by the family of Francis Hughes to follow the RUC to his home.
The chosen route followed by the RUC brought the brothers through every loyalist enclave and town between the M2 motorway and the hunger striker’s home.
Twenty-five years after those tumultuous events of May 1981 the emotion felt by Tommy is raw although both he and his brother fulfilled their duties that day.
“The hearse was damaged by people throwing missiles at the various point of the route but our duty to the Hughes family was to bring Francis home to the Scribe Road.
“That is what we did.”

To Remember Francis Hughes

Indymedia.ie

Drimnagh Black Flag Vigil


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Sean MacDiarmada


**As today also marks the execution of another rebel, I would like to reprint this post from last year about Sean MacDiarmada

Irelandclick.com

Uncovering another Belfast revolutionary
Secret local history of 1916 hero


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Sean MacDiarmada

It has been well documented that Irish socialist James Connolly lived in Belfast prior to his participation and subsequent death in the 1916 Rising. Little, however, has been written about his compatriot, Sean MacDiarmada, who also dwelt in the city before his execution in 1916 – until now, that is.

Belfast author Gerard McAtasney has undertaken the less travelled path to write a book on one of the signatories of the Proclamation who hasn't received as much coverage as his fellow patriots including Patrick Pearse and the aforementioned James Connolly.

Sean MacDiarmada was born in County Leitrim in 1883 and in his youth worked as a gardener and tram conductor at home and in Edinburgh. However, it was in Belfast that he was sworn into the Irish Republican Brotherhood which started him off on his relatively short but highly significant journey through Irish politics.

“Sean took a teacher’s exam called the King’s Scholarship Exam. He failed it and seemed to be at a loose end which led him to go to Belfast in late 1905. He got a job working on the trams in Belfast and may have lived in Hannahstown for a while, but it is certain that he ended up in Butler Street in Ardoyne which was close to the tram depot,” explained Gerard McAtasney.

In Belfast, Sean MacDiarmada joined the Ancient Order of Hibernians which was closely associated with the Irish Parliamentary Party. Whilst the AOH were then considered to be the custodians of Irish nationalism, MacDiarmada did not remain a member of the Order for long.

Soon after settling in Belfast he joined the local branch of the Gaelic League and became a fine Irish speaker. It was in the Gaelic League that he came into contact with such men as Denis McCullough and Bulmer Hobson, who were then leading the secret republican organisation, the IRB, and working through an open political organisation called Cumann na nGael, an advanced political movement which advocated republicanism and was founded by Arthur Griffith.

“Denis McCullough from the Grosvenor Road and Bulmer Hobson from Holywood were at that time reorganising the IRB which had essentially become a drinking club,” added Gerard.

“They made it their job to purge the useless members of the Brotherhood and recruit new members who were keen to further the republican cause. It was these two men who established the Dungannon Clubs, named in memory of the 1782 volunteers who had sworn allegiance to Dungannon.”

The original Dungannon Clubs were organised after the Convention at Dungannon in February 1782 at which the Irish volunteers demanded – and were subsequently granted – legislative independence for Ireland.
“McCullough and Hobson would travel around Ulster giving speeches, it would have been at one of the speeches that Sean MacDiarmada would first have encountered them.

“In early 1906 he joined the Dungannon Clubs himself and his personal charm, sincerity and his capacity for hard work made him the obvious choice for the IRB who employed him as a full-time organiser.”

MacDiarmada would travel mainly through Counties Antrim and Down, organising and giving speeches. He made an impact right away and became a very active member.
“The first time the public would have become aware of MacDiarmada would have been after his debut speech which he gave in Clonard Street in June 1906, from then on his name was on secret police files until his death in 1916.”

By 1907, after the amalgamation of the Dungannon Clubs and Cumann na nGael to form the Sinn Féin League, MacDiarmada became the Sinn Féin organiser in Ulster and then the Director of Elections in a North Leitrim by-election.

“This was the first time that Sinn Féin involved themselves in a British election. The hard work that MacDiarmada put in was recognised and put his profile on the national stage. Through this, he lost his Belfast base and moved to Dublin in 1908.”

In the capital MacDiarmada developed a close friendship with Thomas Clarke and became one of the founding members of the Irish Volunteers in 1913 and was Secretary of the Supreme Council of the IRB. He was a member of the Military Council and member of the Provisional Government.

Sean MacDiarmada fought in the GPO in 1916 where he was attached to the headquarters staff under James Connolly. It was MacDiarmada who read Padraig Pearse’s letter of surrender to those in the GPO. He was subsequently executed on May 12, 1916 – the same day as James Connolly.

Gerard took six years to research and complete the book, he studied files on Mac Diarmada kept in Ireland, England and the US.

“Ironically, much of the information came from secret British files made available in the 1960s and court martial papers from the English National Archives made available in 1998. These are not available in Ireland,” said Gerard.

So, why did he choose Sean MacDiarmada when most authors hone in on the more famous faces of the 1916 Rising?

“Due to my close family connections with Leitrim, I had written several books on the area in relation to the famine, but it was a publisher who approached me to write this one about Sean who was from Leitrim. I was more than happy to do so.

“MacDiarmada's spell in Belfast was crucial to the formation of his Irish republican outlook, it was here at the young age of 22 that he first became involved in Irish politics. He reigned supreme in reactivating old Fenian clubs of republicanism and setting up new IRB branches throughout Belfast and the surrounding areas.

“The influence that Belfast, which was then considered the cradle of republicanism, had on Sean MacDiarmada can not be understated.”

• Sean MacDiarmada, The Mind of the Revolution is available in most bookshops priced £15.

Family’s 33 year fight for justice continues

Irelandclick

Ann Marie McDowell is calling for a reinvestigation of the murder of her 12-year-old brother, Anthony

**See also Relatives For Justice

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usA sister of the youngest person to be shot dead by the British army in Ardoyne has demanded the incident be reinvestigated, 33 years after his death.
Twelve-year-old Anthony (Tony) McDowell was travelling in a car with his uncle Michael in Ardoyne having returned from visiting relatives in Craigavon when British army soldiers opened fire on the vehicle, fatally wounding Anthony.
No one was ever brought to justice and Ann Marie McDowell believes that a cover up took place that denied her family justice.
“At the time daddy brought the British army to court over the shooting but the judge didn’t want to know. What we want now is another investigation and to hear what justification the British army are saying they had to shoot a 12-year-old boy.
“Tony was the youngest person to die in the district and 33 years later our family have still had no justice. We want to see the case reopened – he was only a child and the Para’s shot him. Whoever did this has to be brought to justice,” she said.
Supporting the McDowell family in their calls for a new investigation is the Ardoyne Commemoration Project (ACP). Tom Holland from the group believes the British government has a lot of questions to answer.
“Anthony Mc Dowell was one of five Ardoyne residents murdered by the British army's Parachute Regiment over a two-month period between March and May 1973 and it is clear from the facts that this particular regiment was sent into Ardoyne with an objective to intimidate, frighten, terrorise, and murder people.
“Anthony Mc Dowell was the youngest Ardoyne victim during the conflict, 12 years of age.
“Not only did the British army murder him but it then proceeded to deny that its members killed him, they arrested his uncle who was in the vehicle they fired on, claimed that Anthony and his uncle had fired at the British army, blamed the IRA for firing the shots that killed Anthony and attacked the family home firing rubber bullets later that night,” said Tom Holland.
“This was a clear case of the British army acting with impunity.
“Like the other four killings they were responsible for during this two-month period, the British army knew it was answerable to no one.”
“No soldiers were arrested, questioned, charged or convicted for their actions. The police failed to properly investigate any of these killings, the judiciary failed to properly probe the circumstances and the politicians failed to assist the families to have access to the truth surrounding their loved one's deaths.”
The ACP reject claims from the British establishment that such actions were carried out by individuals who were not acting under orders.
“This was not a case of a few ‘rotten apples' or occasional ‘mistakes'. This was British security policy being played out on the streets of Ardoyne.”
Tom Holland said the British government had never acknowledged its role in the conflict.
“The British state killed more than 1,500 people, both directly and indirectly through its collusion with unionist paramilitaries.
“Justice for the family of Anthony McDowell means the British government telling the truth surrounding the murder of their loved one.
“The McDowell family deserve nothing less than our total support in their quest for the truth.”

Journalist:: Evan Short

Teenage girls arrested over sectarian death threats

Irish Examiner

12/05/2006 - 5:13:06 PM

Two girls were arrested today over alleged death threats made against a young friend of murdered schoolboy Michael McIlveen.

The pair, both 15, were questioned following complaints that a girl had been targeted in Ballymena, Co Antrim, where sectarian tensions have been on a knife-edge.

The alleged victim, aged 16, was threatened because her parents are of mixed religion, her mother claimed.

Police were told she was confronted by two girls, backed by a crowd of youths carrying Gaelic hurley sticks, as she boarded a bus home from school.

Her mother said: “They were battering on the window saying to her ‘You’re next, you’re dead’.

“She was hysterical and my 13-year-old son who was with her was hysterical.”

The Police Service of Northern Ireland later confirmed two 15-year-old girls had been arrested and interviewed.

“They have been released pending police reports,” a spokesman added.

The alleged victim’s family, who do not want to be named, are Protestants who once lived in the town’s strongly Catholic Dunclug estate.

They moved to Scotland in a bid to escape the twin threat of sectarianism and drugs which has bedevilled Ballymena.

When ill-health forced the mother to return with her four children three years ago, they moved into the loyalist Ballykeel area.

Her daughter, a GCSE student at Dunclug High School, maintained friendships with Catholics and was regularly in the company of Michael.

She was devastated when the 15-year-old Catholic died on Monday after a gang beat him with baseball bats. Five teenagers have been charged with the murder.

“She was distraught after Michael died. I had to stay up with her all that night,” the girl’s mother said.

“Her Catholic grandmother gave her a candle and she brought it round to our home and lit it for that wee boy.

“They used to joke about. She once wore his Celtic top and he had on her Rangers necklace for a laugh.

She is friendly with both sides of the community and that’s why we think she was singled out – because they know she has a Protestant mum and a Catholic dad.

“She used to get called a ‘Half a Jaffa’ around Dunclug because she’s from a mixed relationship – only Orange in the middle.”

The woman, a retail manager, said her traumatised daughter has been given permission by the school to only come in for GCSE examinations.

“They have assured me they can guarantee her safety when she’s on school premises, but they want her grandfather to escort her in and collect her when each exam finishes,” she said.

“Do people think this is what Michael’s mother would want? Another innocent child receiving death threats?

“My daughter has done nothing and I don’t want to be living in fear.

“But there’s a really horrible atmosphere in Ballymena. With me working in the town centre you can feel it.”

Police said extra patrols have been put on the streets of the town in a bid to prevent further attacks.

“We are paying particular attention to places were young people would congregate,” the spokesman said.

Ian Paisley Jr, Democratic Unionist MLA for North Antrim, backed police moves against anyone heightening fear in the town.

He said: “Hopefully swift action will deter other people from going down the road of threatening and intimidating.

“I have had several reports from Protestants in fear that one of their children is going to be next.”

And Ken Wilkinson of the loyalist Progressive Unionists, offered to hold talks with any community representatives in the area.

“There’s veiled threats that after this young man’s funeral Protestants are going to be evicted from the top of the town,” he claimed.

“That wouldn’t help anybody, and before anyone else loses their life people need to have a clear head and sit down together.”

Union to back film about Irish rebel

Irish Examiner

12/05/2006 - 1:07:18 PM

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usIreland’s largest trade union is to help fund a film about one of the rebels executed following the uprising against British rule in 1916, it announced today.

SIPTU will support the movie about James Connolly, a union leader, who commanded the Republican headquarters at the GPO in Dublin during the Easter Rising.

A badly injured Connolly – the then Acting General Secretary of SIPTU’s predecessor, the Irish Transport and General Workers’ Union – was strapped to a chair and executed by a British Army firing squad 90 years ago today.

The film starring Scottish actor Peter Mullan as Connolly and Patrick Bergin as his co-founder of the Irish Labour Party, James Larkin, will be directed by Adrian Dunbar and produced by Rascal Films.

SIPTU’s National Executive Council said the exact size of its investment would be determined after further meetings with the producers.

The union’s General Secretary Joe O’Flynn made the announcement at a ceremony to mark the 90th anniversary of Connolly’s death on May 12, 1916.

“James Connolly was passionately committed to organising workers,” he said.

“The cause of labour is the cause of Ireland,” he wrote. “The cause of Ireland is the cause of labour. They cannot be dissevered.”

Connolly is revered in Ireland as one of the seven signatories of the Proclamation of Independence and one of the founders of the Republic.


He famously told followers the odds were a thousand to one against them as he led a few hundred rebels into battle against thousands of British troops.

After being badly wounded during the fighting, Connolly was court-martialled and taken by ambulance to Kilmainham Prison where he was carried on a stretcher to a courtyard, tied to a chair and shot by a firing squad.

Mr O’Flynn said Connolly and his colleagues in the Irish Citizen Army were prepared to lay down their lives for the freedom of the Irish people and workers.

“Today we acknowledge his sacrifice. We reflect on his legacy – the vision of a people free from want, free from impoverishment and free from exploitation,” he said.

“And as we recognise that major social deficits continue amid this unprecedented economic boom, we rededicate ourselves to work for the elimination of exploitation by organising workers to stand together to assert their rights to share fully in the fruits of this prosperity.”

Despite its military failure, the Easter Rising is seen as a significant stepping-stone to the eventual creation of the Irish Republic.

Surviving officers of the uprising went on to organise the Irish War of Independence from 1919-1921 which resulted in the Anglo-Irish Treaty of 1921 and independence for 26 of Ireland’s 32 counties.

APPOINTMENT OF ORANGEMEN TO PARADES COMMISSION CHALLENGED

IAIS

05/12/06 09:37 EST

The appointment of two Orangemen to the Parades Commission, which rules on contentious Orange parades in Northern Ireland, has been challenged in the High Court in Belfast.

A resident of the nationalist Garvaghy Road in Portadown which has been at the center of Drumcree parade`s dispute for the past decade, is seeking to overturn Northern Ireland Secretary Peter Hain`s appointment of the two Orangemen last November.

Mr Hain appointed David Burrows, a prominent Portadown Orangeman, and one time District Master in the organisation, and Donald MacKay, a fellow Portadown member of the Orange Order, who is also a member of the Royal Black Institution and the Democratic Unionist party.

However Britain's Northern Ireland Secretary of State did not appoint any member of the nationalist resident groups who have been campaigning against Orange parades through their districts.

At a judicial review hearing Barry MacDonald, QC, for the Garvaghy resident Joe Duffy expressed incredulity at the appointment of what he called "two prominent members of the Orange lodge that for 10-years has been a part of the single most contentious parade in Northern Ireland, namely Drumcree."

Mr MacDonald said: "Neither could conceivably be regarded as impartial or unaffected."

And he told Mr Justice Morgan that in the absence from anyone from the resident`s side of parade disputes, "we say the composition of the commission is not representative of the community."

He questioned whether the decision by the government had been mistaken or calculated.

Mr MacDonald said a report to the government on the parades issue prior to the appointment of new Parade Commission members had declared: "It goes without saying that the members of the Parade`s Commission would have to be impartial."

He said the Secretary of State had agreed that members of the commission were required to be impartial.

He questioned how Mr Hain and his advisors could have considered the two men selected to join the seven-member commission as impartial.

The Northern Ireland Office, he said, had contacted the leaders of the main political parties in Northern Ireland, the main churches and the three marching orders seeking to drum up applicants for the commission.

However he said the Northern Ireland office did not contact other interested parties or community groups on nationalist areas, he said.

The QC said when Mr Burrows and Mr MacKay applied and went through the appointment process they had freely listed their Orange Order credentials.

He said: "It beggars belief," that within the Northern Ireland Office "they did not identify either of these applicants to have either a real conflict of interest or a perceived conflict of interest."

He said it appeared from documentation provided to the court by the government that the men`s Orange Order background was "looked at not as a potential problem but a real asset".

Unfortunately, he said, there was no written documentation or minutes about the meeting at which Mr Hain and his then security minister Shaun Woodward made the appointment decision.

He said that meant there was no explanation of whether Mr Hain considered there to have been a real or perceived conflict of interest himself.

Nevertheless he said: "By any standards this was a decision that must be quashed."

Martin McGuinness urges support for Francis Hughes events

Sinn Féin

Published: 12 May, 2006

Sinn Féin MP for Mid-Ulster Martin McGuinness today urged people to attend the weekend events to commemorate the sacrifice of legendary IRA Volunteer Francis Hughes who died this day 25 years ago on Hunger Strike in the H-Blocks of Long Kesh.

Mr McGuinness said:

"Twenty five years ago today Francis Hughes one of the most fearless and courageous IRA Volunteers to emerge out of the current phase in the Republican Struggle lost his life after 59 days on Hunger Strike in Long Kesh.

"The sacrifice of Francis Hughes and the other H-Block Hunger Strikers remains with all of us to this day. I remember travelling to Bellaghy to give the oration at the graveside of Francis Hughes. I recall the RUC disrupting the funeral. I also recall the dignity displayed by the Hughes family and by those republicans from throughout Ireland and beyond who had gathered in South Derry in the face of their provocation.

"On Sunday twenty five years on I will travel to Bellaghy graveyard to join again with the Hughes family as the MP for Mid-Ulster. Our struggle has changed greatly since the difficult summer of 1981 but we remain committed to our republican goals and we remain committed to delivering the sort of society which is demanded by the sacrifice of the Hunger Strikers.

"I would encourage people to get involved in the events this weekend and indeed throughout the year as we seek to remember our comrades who died in 1981 and build the sort of Ireland which is peaceful, free, united and democratic." ENDS

Denis Donaldson death 'inevitable' - says former Derry spy

Derry Journal

12 May 2006

WILLIE CARLIN admits a "shiver ran down his spine" when news broke of the murder of high-ranking Sinn Fein official Denis Donaldson.
Speaking to the 'Journal' this week, the 58-year-old - who claims to have infiltrated the republican movement in Derry in the 1970s and 80s - says Mr. Donaldon's death was, in his opinion, "inevitable".
Carlin, who worked as a community worker in the Gobnascale area of the city, says that, while his "heart goes out to" Mr. Donaldson's grieving family, he believes the Belfast man was "very foolish" to ever believe he wasn't in danger.
Denis Donaldson, insists Carlin, "signed his own death warrant" as soon as he admitted working for RUC Special Branch.
He is also in no doubt that republicans were responsible for his death.
"As far as I'm concerned, it was definitely a member(s) of the republican movement that murdered Denis Donaldson," he said.
"Whether or not it was officially sanctioned by the leadership is an entirely different question altogether and one that is less easy to answer.
"However, I think it is fairly true to say that Denis Donaldson's death - terrible as it was - played into the hands of many people."
The IRA insists it had "no involvement whatsoever" in Mr. Donaldson's death.
Carlin, a former British Army soldier, claims to have advanced through the ranks of Sinn Fein to become the party's "Treasurer" in Derry city in the early 1980s.
He also says he was informed his reports to his "handlers" in British intelligence "went straight up to Cabinet level and that Mrs. Thatcher checked my information."
Carlin was eventually forced to flee the city in March 1985 when his "cover" was blown to the IRA.
This week, he told the 'Journal' that Denis Donaldson's murder was unavoidable.
Denis Donaldson - who was shot dead in Co. Donegal last month - was expelled from Sinn Fein last December after admitting he was a paid British spy for 20 years.
In a statement to the press in December 2005, Mr. Donaldson - Sinn Fein's head of administration at Stormont before his 2002 arrest over alleged spying led to its collapse - confirmed that he had been a British agent at the time of the raid and he apologised to his "former comrades" and family.
"I was recruited in the 1980s after compromising myself during a vulnerable time in my life," he said. "Since then, I have worked for British intelligence and the (Police] Special Branch," he told the press conference.
It was this admission of working for Special Branch, says Willie Carlin, that sealed Denis Donaldson's fate.
"The moment he said that he had worked for Special Branch, that was it," says Carlin.
"From that minute on he was in the firing line and by not getting out but, instead, living openly in Donegal, he was setting himself up for what eventually happened."
Mr. Carlin claims Mr. Donaldson was "offered resettlement" but turned it down because of "assurances he was given".
He said: "Most people know what an assurance from the IRA entails - a bullet in the head.
"Given his admission of working for Special Branch - who, let's remember are despised with a passion among republicans - no-one, no matter how senior they may be in the movement - would have been able to guarantee Denis his safety.
"As someone with such historic ties with republicanism - and no doubt fully aware of what it was capable of - I still can't get my head around the fact that Denis Donaldson decided to live so openly in Donegal.
"It was dreadful what happened to him but he was, in my opinion, very foolish to think that he could get on with his life given what he admitted to."

Derry prisoner denied visit to dying brother

Derry Journal

12 May 2006

Tony Burke is in the last seven months of his sentence at Magilligan and applied for compassionate parole to see his brother who is critically ill in Altnagelvin. It is the fourth member of Tony Burke's family to be in this situation.
Earlier this week he was told that he had been refused parole and when contacted by the 'Journal' the Prison Service said the patient was not critical. However, yesterday the Prison Service admitted that the patient was critical and that they were considering Tony Burke's case again.
Yesterday afternoon the Prison Service then offered the prisoner a visit with his brother escorted by two Prison Officers. However the Prison Service then said they could not get any volunteers so Tony Burke would not get the visit. However, yesterday evening Mr. Burke himself contacted this paper to say he had told by some prison officers in Magilligan that they had not even been asked if they were prepared to volunteer.
Two years ago the prisoner was released to see his dying sister and returned 24 late. Since then he has been denied compassionate parole, despite the deaths of two sisters and a brother.
Last night his solicitor, Mr. Johnny Sandhu, said it was 'an absolute disgrace' the way that this prisoner was being treated. He told the 'Journal': "I have instigated a judicial review of the decision to refuse Tony Burke parole.
"This is the fourth family member who is dying and he has been refused parole in every case since he returned 24 late on one occasion. I think the idea of seeking volunteers is also a disgrace as I would see through it if they were being asked to go into a dangerous area but Altnagelvin Hospital is hardly that dangerous."
Sinn Fein MLA Mitchel McLaughlin also hit out at the decision to refuse Tony Burke parole. He said: "It is ridiculous that prison officers can refuse to escort a prisoner to the bedside of a dying relative.
"There is no reason whatsoever that this man cannot be brought to the hospital by someone to see his brother."
Critically ill
Last night the Prison Service said: "The Prison Service can confirm that Mr Burke made an application for compassionate temporary release to visit a critically ill relative.
"In assessing such applications the Service must carefully consider a number of factors including the risk to the public and the possibility of the individual re-offending or absconding. This must be measured against the needs of the prisoner
"After careful consideration the decision has been taken on this occasion to refuse Mr Burke compassionate temporary release.
"It should be pointed out that Mr Burke absconded in August 2004 after being granted a period of compassionate temporary release to attend the funeral of a family member. He was on that occasion accompanied by his solicitor."

Row over SDLP 'joining debates'

BBC

The SDLP has been accused of sending out mixed messages on its attitude to the Northern Ireland Assembly, which reconvenes next week.

The party indicated on Thursday it would initially take part in debates, despite reservations about the assembly meeting ahead of devolution.

Sinn Fein MP Conor Murphy claimed the SDLP would be taking part in a "sham".

The SDLP's Alban Maginness said they were using the opportunity to "test" the government.

"We have an opportunity here to politically test the secretary of state - to put him on his mettle and deliver for the people of Northern Ireland," he said.

The assembly is due to debate economic matters on Tuesday.

Debates

Mr Murphy said that his party would only be at the assembly "for the business of establishing a power-sharing government".

"Anything else is a waste of time and an attempt by powerless politicians to justify their salaries and allowances," he said.

On Thursday SDLP leader Mark Durkan said his party would base its participation in debates on how ministers responded to the assembly.

However, he added that it was not the "assembly envisaged by the Good Friday Agreement."

The Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams said that his party would not be participating in the discussion of issues such as education reform water charges, health and rates increases because "that would be pointless".

Northern Ireland's 108 assembly members will gather on Monday for the first time since they were elected in November 2003.

How low can it go?

Daily Ireland

Ballymena DUP councillor’s comments on murdered teenager cause outrage - ‘As a Catholic, he [Michael McIlveen] won’t get into heaven. Catholics are not accepted into heaven’ - DUP Councillor Roy Gillespie

by Ciarán Barnes

A Democratic Unionist Party councillor in Ballymena has sparked outrage after he claimed that a Catholic murdered in a sectarian attack in the town “will not get into heaven” because of his religious beliefs.
As the family of Michael McIlveen prepare to bury the 15-year-old, DUP politician Roy Gillespie said he would not attend Monday’s funeral because it is being held in a Catholic church.
Mr Gillespie, a Protestant evangelical, made his comments after the McIlveen family invited Ian Paisley, the DUP leader and North Antrim MP, to the funeral.
Mr Paisley, the leader of the Free Presbyterian church and a staunch opponent of Catholicism, has yet to respond to the offer.
If Mr Paisley does attend, he will face fierce criticism from within his own church, particularly from hardliners such as Mr Gillespie.
Speaking to Daily Ireland yesterday, Mr Gillespie said his party leader had to decide for himself whether to attend the teenager’s funeral.
The borough councillor said: “I won’t be going to the funeral. Stepping foot in a Catholic church is against my religious beliefs.
“The Pope is the Antichrist and is the head of the Catholic church, which is not a true church or faith. I’m not going to listen to Mass in a Catholic church. I don’t care if it’s at a funeral, wedding or whatever else.”
Mr Gillespie said he prayed that Catholics would be saved. He said that, if Catholics did not repent before they died, they “will not get into heaven”.
“As a Catholic, he [Michael McIlveen] won’t get into heaven unless he has been saved. If he did not repent before he died and asked the Lord into his heart, he will not get into heaven. Catholics are not accepted into heaven.”
Mr Gillespie’s comments sparked a furious response from politicians angry at the timing of his remarks.
North Antrim Sinn Féin assembly member Philip McGuigan said: “Mr Gillespie’s sentiments are disgraceful, especially as they come so soon after a 15-year-old was murdered as a result of sectarian bigotry.
“This is the kind of attitude that causes others to carry out attacks fuelled by religious hatred. There is no excuse for these comments.”
Ballymena SDLP councillor Declan O’Loan described Mr Gillespie’s comments as unfortunate.
“There has been a wave of emotion and sympathy towards the McIlveen family. For anyone to say something that is not of this accord is very out of order indeed,” he said.
“This is not a positive contribution to good community relations in Ballymena.”
Inviting Mr Paisley to the funeral, Michael’s uncle Francis McIlveen said: “I would like him to be there. He was the first one to ring me at the hospital. He is the MP for the area and, to me, he has the right to be there.
“It doesn’t matter what anybody else says, it is what we want. If he wants to come, then he is more than welcome.”
Organisers of a loyalist band parade that is scheduled to pass the spot where Michael McIlveen was murdered are understood to be in talks aimed at postponing the march.
The Ballykeel Loyal Sons of Ulster originally planned to march through Ballymena on May 20.
Churchmen in the town have asked the band to postpone the parade to ease tension.
Sinn Féin yesterday cancelled its north Antrim hunger strike commemorations to help improve community relations.

Border Fox says war over

Newshound

(by Suzanne Breen, Sunday Tribune)

The Border Fox, Dessie O'Hare, believes the days of 'armed struggle' are over and wants to be left in peace to rebuild his life after release from prison.

O'Hare, who has been granted extended temporary release from Castlerea prison by the Department of Justice, is unable to give media interviews until he is permanently freed.

However, Eddie McGarrigle of the INLA prisoners' group, Teach na Failte, said: "Dessie O'Hare has spent 25 of the last 26 years in jail. While he is not a pacifist, he is saying that the days of armed struggle are over.

"He has been telling that to republicans he has been meeting in the North in recent days. He has no interest in any armed campaign." O'Hare, 50, has served 19 years imprisonment for the abduction and mutilation of Dublin dentist, John O'Grady, in 1987.

O'Grady's fingertips were cut off with a hammer and chisel and left in Carlow cathedral as a warning when the ransom was not paid. When asked if O'Hare regretted the brutality, McGarrigle said: "If Dessie O'Hare is making an apology to the O'Grady family it will be done in private and certainly not in a glare of publicity.

"I wouldn't in any way attempt to justify Dessie O'Hare's actions but in conflict terrible things happen. Is what he did any worse than another republican who went up behind a policeman, married with a couple of kids, and put a bullet in the back of his head?"

Last weekend, the media arrived outside the house in Newtownhamilton, south Armagh, where O'Hare's wife Clare and two children live. Willie Frazer of the republican victims' group, Families Acting for Innocent Relatives (FAIR), also sat visited the house where O'Hare was reportedly staying.

Frazer and unionist politicians are demanding O'Hare be arrested and charged in the North with a litany of crimes they say he committed in the 1970s and early 80s.

Frazer has lodged a complaint about the failure to arrest O'Hare with Police Ombudsman, Nuala O'Loan. Unionist peer, Lord Laird, has also raised the issue in the House of Lords.

May 12, 2006
________________

This article appeared in the May 7, 2006 edition of the Sunday Tribune.

IRA members' appeal attempt fails

BN.ie

12/05/2006 - 11:09:38

The Court of Criminal Appeal has dismissed on appeals by five Dublin men, described by a Garda Chief Superintendent as members of the Dublin Brigade of the Provisional IRA, against their convictions for membership of an illegal organisation.

The men were each jailed for four years at the Special Criminal Court on February 21 last year for membership of an illegal organisation styling itself the Irish Republican Army, otherwise Oglaigh na hEireann, otherwise the IRA on October 11, 2002.

They are Thomas Gilson (25), of Bawnlea Avenue, Jobstown, Tallaght; Patrick Brennan (42), of Lindisfarne Avenue, Clondalkin; Sean O' Donnell (33), of Castle Drive, Sandymount; John Troy (26), of Donard Ave and Stephen Birney (32), of Conquerhill Road, Clontarf.

After conviction, Chief Superintendent Peter Maguire told the SCC that all the men were members of the Provisional IRA, were attached to that organisation's Dublin Brigade and were answerable directly to its leadership.

The men had appealed on the grounds that the belief evidence of Detective Chief Superintendent Philip Kelly should not have been admitted in evidence and there was no corroboration of that belief
evidence.

The men's lawyers also challenged the jurisdiction of the Special Criminal Court to try them.

Dismissing the appeals today Mr Justice Adrian Hardiman, presiding at the three judge court, said that the court had concluded that the challenge to the jurisdiction of the court was "without merit". The court also found that the belief evidence of Detective Chief Supt Kelly was "amply corroborated" by other evidence in the case.

During the 24-day trial, the court heard the men were arrested after an off duty Special Branch detective, Detective Garda Michael Masterson, noticed suspicious activity around three vehicles - a Nissan Almera car, a Nissan Micra car and a van.

The court heard gardaí recovered a large quantity of of Sinn Féin posters, including election posters for Sinn Féin TD Mr Aengus O Snodaigh, from the Nissan Almera car in which they also found a stun gun, a CS gas canister, a blue flashing light and a beacon.

Gardaí also found two pick axe handles, a lump hammer, three portable radios , cable ties, balaclavas and fake Garda jacket in the van. Four of the men were found seated on the floor of the van and two of them, Gilson and O' Donnell, were dressed in fake Garda uniforms, the trial was told.

Chief Superintendent Philip Kelly, the head of the Garda Special Branch, told the trial that he believed each man was a member of an unlawful organisation.

Today in history: FRANCIS HUGHES DIES ON HUNGER STRIKE


12 May 1981

Irish Hunger Strike 1981

Free Image Hosting at www.ImageShack.usFrancis Hughes: A determined and totally fearless soldier

Read Francis' biography >>here



Photo from CAIN - click to view

______________________________________

IRSM.org

Francis Hughes: Scourge of the UDR

June 1981

The name of Francis Hughes will surely continue to stick in the throats of British military and political hawks.

Unlike many of those who make the ultimate sacrifice Francis Hughes had already become a legend in his own lifetime and amongst his own people as one of the most capable guerrilla fighters Ireland has produced in the long war against British Imperialism.

Having put Francis Hughes "safely away" in 1978 the British assumed that his name would no longer strike terror in their own hearts and a chord in the minds of people in South Derry.

Free Image Hosting at www.ImageShack.us
'Francis caught' - click to view

The British were exultant at his arrest following a gun battle in which Francis and a comrade killed an SAS man and wounded another. Despite an awesome wound he refused to answer his interrogators who later described him as "totally uncooperative". After the usual mockery of a Diplock trial British soldiers felt slightly more relaxed in South Derry and surrounding areas. Very foolish of them of course but then the British military mind has never understood the collective spirit of solidarity engendered by individually brilliant revolutionary soldiers like Francis Hughes.

And brilliant he was. His exploits are legion and legendary spreading through areas of Tyrone, Derry and Antrim. They are too numerous to recount here. Suffice it to say that all the normal cliches like dedication, bravery, military skill and the like are inadequate to describe a man who caused the British military machine as much grief as most guerrilla fighters from Tom Barry, Michael Collins and through to the modern breed of fighters.

One or two examples of his coolness and ingenuity would make even Collins look like a novice. The night he was surrounded by British soldiers in one of the numerous "safe houses" in his area of operation he simply grabbed his rifle and weaved his way through the tightening circle stopping occasionally to mumble a few familiar words with the professionals of the British Army whose perception of the "stupid Irish" has often been a weapon in our favour. He got away then as on many other occasions.

Behind his folk hero status in South Derry, however, lies the fairly typical story of a young Irish man who was not allowed to grow up normally in the artificial police state called Northern Ireland. It was not for want of trying.

Showing an aptitude for history and woodwork at school he started an apprenticeship as a painter and decorator at the age of 16 years which he completed shortly before becoming a full time revolutionary. Shortly after he became a painter he and a friend receive a brutal beating from British soldiers on a lonely country road one night. The experience was to prove more painful to the Brits than Francis himself over the next few years.

Responsible for more attacks on British forces than the combined strength of many other units put together he became the "most wanted man" in the Six Counties. So feared was he that his comrades recalled recently in Republican News one UDR patrol recognised him once at a checkpoint but fearful (wisely) of a shoot-out they waved him through.

Francis Hughes is now doubly famous and revered. His hunger strike to the death was just the ultimate proof, if any were needed, that his determination and actions in the field were inspired by a profound political motivation.

If the entire body of self-seekers now scrambling to retain their seats in the Dail possessed between them just a portion of the guts and conviction that Francis showed there might not be the need for the ending of many young Irish lives.

_______________________________________________________________


BBC ON THIS DAY

Second IRA protester dies in jail

12 May 1981

Play >>news video

A second IRA hunger striker, 25-year-old Francis Hughes, has starved to death in the Maze Prison near Lisburn in County Antrim.

His death comes a week after the death of Bobby Sands on 5 May, the first to die in a republican campaign for political status to be granted to IRA prisoners.


"His blood is on Margaret Thatcher's hands."
Francis Hughes' brother Oliver


Hughes began refusing food and medical attention a week after Sands began his hunger strike on 1 March. He lapsed into unconsciousness and died at 1743BST today.

As news of his death spread in Catholic areas of Belfast and Derry, women clanged dustbin lids and young men stoned army vehicles, threw petrol bombs and hijacked lorries.

Hughes' brother, Oliver, blamed the Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher for his death. Speaking from his hometown of Bellaghy he said: "Margaret Thatcher and the British Government have murdered my brother and his blood is on Margaret Thatcher's hands."

The condition of two other hunger strikers at the Maze, Raymond McCreesh and Patrick O'Hara, continues to deteriorate.

Their five demands include: the right to wear their own clothes, refrain from prison work, associate freely with other Republican prisoners, to have visits and parcels once a week and the right to have lost remission on sentences restored.

'Absolute fanatic'

Security forces have said Hughes was "an absolute fanatic whose name stood for murder and nothing else". A spokesman went on to describe him as "as vicious a man as you could meet, a ruthless killer who thrived on what he was doing".

His republican colleagues hailed him as "fearless and active".

Four years ago, Hughes became a wanted man after the home of a policeman was blown up in County Tyrone. No-one was hurt but Hughes' fingerprints were found on adhesive tape used on the bomb.

In March 1978 he was finally caught after a gun battle at Bellaghy and eventually sentenced to a total of 83 years in prison for his six-year-long career as an IRA gunman and bomber.

The government is refusing to grant any of the hunger strikers' demands. Mrs Thatcher says they are a cover for gaining political status, a special category denied paramilitaries in the Maze since 1976.

In Context

The Maze Prison was initially run along the lines of a prisoner-of-war camp, segregated according to paramilitary allegiance with military-style command structures.

In March 1976 the British government ended special category status - which had accorded the prisoners political recognition - and started to treat paramilitary offenders as ordinary criminals.

The jail became the focus of intense international scrutiny between 1976 and 1981 when Republican inmates fought for political status, initially through the "blanket" and "dirty" protests.

Their campaign culminated in two hunger strikes.

During the second in 1981, 10 Republicans, led by Bobby Sands, starved themselves to death and 64 civilians, police and soldiers died in violence directly attributable to the hunger strikes.

Three days after the hunger strikes came to an end on 3 October, the Ulster Secretary James Prior negotiated a package of concessions for the Maze prisoners - much to the fury of the loyalist community.

He met two of the prisoners' demands - the right to wear their own clothes and the restoration of 50% of lost remission for those who obeyed prison rules for three months.

___________________________________________________________


Irish Northern Aid

**The following extracts are taken from INA's online book of the Hunger Strikes.
The beginning of the book is >>here


The Man From Tamlaghtduff

Free Image Hosting at www.ImageShack.us

Detail of Francis from Derry mural (image from CAIN)

On Sunday, the 15th of March, 1981, Bobby was joined on hunger strike by one of the greatest heroes of the conflict, Francis Hughes, of South Derry. He was captured after a intense fire fight with the SAS almost two years previously to the day. Francis lead the British army on a wild and bloody ride for years in his home land of South Derry that usually ended with Brit casualties and with Francis slipping through, around or behind hostile lines of soldiers. He was one with the hills. Taking in the odds never seemed to be part of his calculations when engaging the Brits. Sometimes he simply attacked whole squads arrayed to capture or kill him, turning an aggressive British operation into a full retreat. Francis Hughes was a legend. He was 23 years of age when he was captured; he was 25 when he died. Chisty Moore wrote a popular song about Francis, "The Boy From Tamlaghtduff:"

The Boy form Tamlaghtduff

As I walked through the Glenshane Pass I heard a young girl mourn
'The boy form Tamlaghtduff 'she cried 'is two years dead and gone'
How my heart is torn apart this young man to lose
Oh I'll never see the likes again of my young Francis Hughes

For many years his exploits were a thorn in Englands side
The hills and glens became his home there he used to hide
Once when they surrounded him he quietly slipped away
Like a fox he went to ground and kept the dogs at bay

Moving round the countryside he often made the news
But they could never lay their hands on my brave Francis Hughes
Finally they wounded him and captured him at last
From the countryside he loved they took him to Belfast

Oh from Musgrave Park to the Crumlin Road and then to an H-Block cell
He went straight on the blanket then on hungerstrike as well
His will to win they could never break no matter what they tried
He fought them every day he lived and he fought them as he died

As I walked through the Glenshane Pass I heard a young girl mourn
'The boy form Tamlaghtduff 'she cried 'is two years dead and gone'
How my heart is torn apart this young man to lose
Oh I'll never see the likes again of my young Francis Hughes

~Lyrics from >>eirefirst.com


Francis Hughes Is Taken To Hospital: "Victory to the IRA!"

Around this time, on his 25th day without food, Frances Hughes was taken to the prison hospital in weakened condition. He was taken away from the wing by an escort of 6 prison warders. One was plenty to control Frank at that time, yet it was a form of harassment and mockery to surround him like that. It was also a left-handed complement of sorts: that Francis Hughes was so feared that, even though hardly able to stand, he wasn’t trusted to go without a battle. He was our Superman. Perhaps he would yet attack his tormentors even now, break out of the H-Blocks, leap the perimeter walls in a bound, back into the hills and hollows of South Derry where he would again attack the British army at will. He would escape his captors only in death, but they would still learn to fear him. They would always fear him.

Before he left the wing, he whipped the Blanketmen into a frenzy of support --a wild, righteous joy that a person might experience once or twice in a lifetime, if lucky. He didn’t need it to prepare himself to die. No. He did it for them. He raised his crutch [he was still crippled by the bullet wounds he received during his capture and abuse in prison] high over his head and shouted to the men and banged on their cells as he passed: "Victory to the IRA!" The men shouted back and hammered on their cell doors. "Tiocfaidh ar la! Victory to the Blanketmen!," Francis Hughes bellowed as they took him to the hospital. It would be the last they would see of Francis Hughes, but they never would forget him.

The Blanketmen’s thoughts turn to Frank Hughes

As the men inside the H-Blocks honored Bobby’s memory, it was also impossible not to think about Frank, dying himself in the prison hospital, and Patsy and Raymond as well. The two weeks lead time between Bobby and Francis Hughes going on hunger strike now seemed like a good idea. But was enough to save his life?

The Legend of Frank Hughes

I knew an Irish American whose name just happened to be Francis Hughes. He was traveling through the north during the late 70s and gave his name upon request at Brit checkpoint. He could see the soldiers’ irises dilating into pinheads at the sound of the hated words: "Francis Hughes". The man almost had a heart attack. What was he supposed to say when asked for his name? He headed south. Fast. Such was the fear and hatred that Brit crown forces learned to have for even the sound of the name of Francis Hughes.

Tamlaghtduff and the Hughes Family

The Hughes’ ancestral family had managed a living on country farmland near Bellaghy, South Co. Derry, in a place called Tamlaghtduff for as long as anyone remembered. Joseph and Margaret Hughes had a large family to raise, four boys and six girls. Joe was known to be of Republican sympathy, but that was all. Actually, Frank’s father, Joe, fought with the IRA in the ‘20s, but was quiet about all of that, having enough to do keeping a dozen human beings and a number of animal beings alive to talk about past struggles. Life was a struggle, but a good one. They had enough, neither rich nor poor.

Nonetheless, the RUC, British army, and particularly the British army regiment recruited locally among Unionists and Loyalists -- the Ulster Defense Regiment, targeted the Hughes boys for abuse and surveillance.

For Frank, the "troubles" begin at fifteen

The struggle in the north first impacted Frank Hughes as a 15-year-old school boy. One cold morning the RUC and Brit army raided the Hughes family home with rifles and guns drawn, broke into the room that Frank shared with his older brother Oliver, and dragged Oliver away to an internment camp where, without trial or due process, he served 8 months "behind the wire." Oliver had a clip of ammunition in the pocket of the jacket his mother insisted he wear against the cold as they took him off. Luckily, he found a moment to fling it unnoticed into the dark Irish morning. He had plans to be married in 10 days.
The turning point: "I’ll get my own back..."

When Frank turned 17, he was beaten badly by a UDR patrol while returning home from a dance. He hid the fact from his family, but the pain was so bad that his father, Joe, finally got the truth out of him. Joe told him to report the incident to the RUC and go to a doctor. Frank replied, "I’ll get my own back in my own time." He would do better than that.

No one really knows how many of the British crown forces were killed by the hand of Francis Hughes; the "official" count is thirty. But there was never a sense of revenge, Francis always thought of himself as a soldier for Ireland and wore full military gear when operating. In 1973, he and a group of young neighbors joined the Provisional IRA after a brief stint with the "Officials", which they left to form their own fighting group they called the "Independents".

Frank’s leadership and technical skill was apparent. He was deadly with a weapon and probably invented, clearly perfected, a deadly booby-trap bomb constructed with a clothespin, a piece of stick, and some fishing line that he connected to an explosive device.

Always on the attack

But his greatest assets as a fighting man was his calmness, courage, and desire to engage the enemy at all times. He was fearless. One IRA leader said, "He was the sort of man who would shoot up a few policemen on his way to a meeting to plan our next attack on the police."

Once Frank was trapped upstairs in a safe house surrounded by a Brit patrol. When an officer entered the house and confronted the scared witless owner, Frank, wearing his typical combat jacket and bristling with weaponry, came down the stairs and walked calmly passed the officer saying, "Nothing inside." And off he went into the night.

Another incident that displayed Frank’s coolness under pressure was when he and two armed comrades were stopped by a Brit army patrol in an isolated area. He told the officer that they were taking "a shortcut" and was amazingly waved on through. When they were well passed the check point, the other two were horrified as Frank turned back and asked the Brit officer if he had a light. He calmly strode back and lit his cigarette. Little did the Brits know that they had just lit a fag for the most dangerous man in Ireland.

Another time he hitched a ride from a friend. Unfortunately, Frank was carrying with him a very considerable rifle. They ended up driving right into a check-point on a road too narrow to turn around on. Frank said, "Keep driving" and explained that he would smash the windshield and open fire. The friend was naturally petrified at the prospect and Frank so calm about it. A Brit soldier aimed his rifle at the two; the driver raised his shaking hands high. Frank saluted the soldier, who for some reason, panic or befuddlement, waved them through. There was no way that soldier didn’t see Frank’s riffle butt prepared to smash the window. No problem for Frank one way or the other.

The Moneymore escape

It was obvious Frank’s readiness to fight gave him the edge. Another incident would catapult him to the top of Britain’s "most wanted" list. On April 8th ‘77, four RUC men were on routine patrol when the VW Frank and two other IRA men were driving in pulled onto the road to Magherafelt [in South Derry] forcing the RUC car to brake. They drove after Francis’ car and motioned to the driver to pull over, expecting to give the "boys" a lecture on reckless driving. The VW jammed on its brakes and the RUC overshot them before stopping. The VW attempted a U-turn only to end up in a roadside ditch. Frank and his comrades jumped out and opened fire on the RUC men who were themselves flying out the doors of their vehicle. A Constable Sheehan was hit immediately and was knocked back into the vehicle. Constable MaCracken took a fatal hit. More RUC were now converging on the scene as the three escaped through the fields. An RUC car answering the call for support came upon three men jogging towards them in a field next to a quarry near Moneymore. Frank engaged the RUC in a covering firefight before joining his comrades who had leapt over a fence and began running through the open quarry. There they could be easily picked off by the RUC who were perfectly located. But the men, lead by Hughes, took turns covering each other by firing upon the RUC position. They did this so perfectly, each firing and falling back in turn, 4 or 5 yards apart, that the RUC never got a clear shot, although they fired away ineffectively, more interested in keeping their heads down.

The RUC and Brit army poured in reinforcements in pursuit of the men, who took cover in a small clump of bushes in the middle of an open field hoping that the obviousness of the spot would cause the Brits not to bother with it. Instead, the Brits set up a command post on the spot, yards away from Frank and his men. Unbelievably, they were undetected and made a break for it as night fell -- using the same "leaps and bounds" military cover technique they had used earlier.

Word quickly spread through the north, Frank Hughes did it again!

"Most wanted terrorist"

The British army and RUC were so impressed with Francis’ military ability, as evidenced by the classic cover tactics employed in the Moneymore escape, that his photo was circulated on posters all over the Six Counties. Frank was now "the most wanted terrorist" in Ireland. Frank had a different "most wanted terrorist list" in his head: Britain’s crown forces in his Country.

Capture, Interrogation, and Death on Hunger Strike

People generally had the wrong idea of Frank Hughes. He certainly wasn’t an ideologue and he certainly had a powerful, pure belief in the Republican struggle. He was brave beyond brave and hated that his country and its people were terrorized and enslaved, and no one knows how many British crown forces he either killed or had a hand in killing, but he hated killing. He really hated what he felt he had to do.

"For God’s sake, I don’t want to be shooting them."

Particularly, he hated having to kill British soldiers. He told his brother Mick, "They’re just kids. For God’s sake, I don’t want to be shooting them. I want them to bloody go home in the morning."

"Do you know that I hate what I’m doing?" he told his brother, "I really hate it. But I’m going to keep doing it -- that’s the funny thing about it. Tomorrow night I might blow up ten of them. I hope I do. But, Jesus, I hate doing it. It’s just that I don’t know any other way."

He was taught by his father, Joe, not to be bigoted against Protestants or anyone. The Ulster Defense Regiment was a locally recruited, overwhelmingly Protestant British army regiment. Once he burst in with his gun drawn on a UDR man and told him to say his prayers before meeting his end. While he waited, the man begged for his life, saying he left the UDR. Francis walked away, because he couldn’t be sure. It turned out the man had just left the regiment.

A field near Maghera

Frank and a comrade, heavily armed, rifles at the ready, moved silently through a field near Maghera on a dark, cold night. Frank wore a black beret, combat jacket with the word "Ireland" on the arm. They walked right into a hidden, two-man SAS surveillance post. The SAS men thought they were dealing with UDR soldiers and called out softly that they were SAS. The two IRA men backed up and made the black night light up from the flashes of fire from Frank’s M-14 Garand and the other’s Armalite. The first burst ripped into Corporal David Jones, who was killed. The second SAS man was hit but managed to fire 26 wild shots into the dark. Frank’s companion was wounded, but Frank was hit badly, the bullet smashing through his thigh bone. Survival to fight another day was the only goal now.

Frank ordered his comrade to escape, while he tried to put distance between himself and the engagement scene. He crawled through a number of fields, negotiating barbed wire fences and ditches, his leg was in agony and he was loosing a lot of blood with each movement. His leg was so badly smashed, at one point he lay in a cold, wet ditch with his left leg hinged straight up over his head. It was barely attacked to his body, the bone protruding from the skin. It took him over an hour to agonizingly maneuver it underneath him again. But he kept crawling. He knew the SAS would execute him if captured.

Frank’s capture, St Patrick’s Day: "Up the Provos"

He was found nearly unconscious by regular British army soldiers who had saturated the area. It was March 17, St. Patrick’s Day, 1978. He refused to tell them who he was. Brit forces or every ilk converged on the spot. "You’re Hughes," said one RUC man who recognized him from photos. "Look, you have a gun there, Why don’t you shoot me? I’m not afraid to die."

They were all over him now, but he refused to tell them anything. He cursed them as more gathered, knowing they had the great Francis Hughes where they wanted him. "Why don’t you put a bullet through my head, and finish me right?" he told them amid a torrent of more curses.

He was lifted onto a stretcher and just before being put into an ambulance, he raised himself up so that the Brit soldiers and RUC could both hear and see him, and shouted at the top of his lungs, "Up the Provos!"

Five days & nights of interrogation

When Frank recovered from two operations to repair his destroyed thigh, an inch and a half of his bone was removed, and his hip, which had to be held together with a steel pin, he was off to Castlereagh for interrogation. There, he drove his interrogators mad.

His ordeal, and there’s, began on January 24th, 1979. He refused to eat or drink for fear of being drugged into a confession, a justified fear. All through the days and nights, through team after interrogation team of repetitive questions and trick after trick, Frank alternated curses with feigned smiles. Even after days of constant stress and not eating or drinking, he held his own. More than his own.

"How did you come to be shot?" they might say. "I don’t talk to strangers," says Frank. Or, "I’ll have to talk to my solicitor about that," when offered a Polo mint. Once they took him into the corridor to stretch his leg after a long interrogation session, "How do you feel?" he was asked. He smiled and said, "You’ll have to ask my doctor about that." He called them everything from "f_ckers" to "whores" to worse or alternatively would just smile at them, but would always say nothing only to ask to speak to his solicitor. They brought in every known big shot RUC/Brit interrogation genius.

"Do you reckon?"

The Detective Chief Superintendent, Bill Mooney, then took his chances. He told Francis, after a long lecture about what would happen to him if he didn’t talk, that they had evidence to connect him to serious offenses. Francis burped in his face, smiled, and said: "Do you reckon?" Mooney, the big, hard RUC man, couldn’t believe what he just witnessed. He gave Frank another lecture, this time about bad manners. Frank laughed and repeated, "Do you reckon?" Mooney was red, white and blue with indignation, but before leaving had to tell Frank that he better think about the seriousness of his situation. Frank was delighted to respond in mock seriousness to the retreating Detective Chief Superintendent, "Is that a question?"

At 10 P.M. on 29 January, after 5 days and nights of intense interrogation, most of which without food or water and having been deprived of the advise of his lawyer well beyond the legal 48 hours, the British torture/interrogation machine ground to a halt and spat out, with good riddance, Francis Hughes.

"Hughes beats them all"

One of the Detective Inspectors involved in the interrogation took aside Kevin Agnew, Frank’s solicitor, and told him, "We’ve had many tough men here. But Hughes beats them all."

He was convicted soon after of the murder of Corporal Jones and causing an explosion at Tamlaught in ‘77 and was sentenced to life plus twenty years.

"Bootsie"

He was called "Francie" in Long Kesh or "Bootsie" due to the built-up boot that he had to ware because of his leg. He used a crutch on wing changes or visits, but had to hobble about his cell. His leg wouldn’t bend.

He had a good voice and like to participate in singsongs and was famous for telling stories of the countryside about "wee folk" and Irish mythology.

He volunteered for the ‘80 hunger strike and was in the group that joined towards the end -- Bobby was concerned that he wouldn’t come off even if order. Of course, he volunteered for the second hunger strike.

Frank was a direct man. He got a comm out to his brother Oliver: "It’s just a small note to tell you that I will be going on the hunger strike ..." On 28 February, he celebrated his 25 birthday. His mother and aunt came to visit him. After teasing and complementing his mother Margaret on her beautiful new outfit, who wanted to look good for her son, he said, "I’ve something to tell you. There’s another hunger strike starting - there’s a fellow on it tomorrow and I’ll be starting it too." There were tears, but not much to say.
Francis begins his hunger strike 15 days after Bobby

He began his hunger strike on 15 March, 15 days after Bobby. He gave a speech out of the cell door to the men in the wing. He told them he wanted to be in the front line of the war. He said he sometimes regretted not holding onto his M14 for a final shootout on the night before he captured, rather than trying to escape, but that he was glad to have gone on the blanket and now he would use the weapon he now had -- hunger strike -- to the end if necessary.

He told them if he died, that they should listen for the sound of his crutch tapping down the corridors of the cell blocks. It would be Frank Hughes keeping an eye on his comrades.

"I’m Noreen, Francis’ sister."

He wasn’t moved to the prison hospital until the 26th day. On 8 May, his mother Margaret visited him and he complemented her on her new hair-do. But he could barely make her out, he was nearly blind. On 11 May, his father Joe visited him and asked, "Do you see me, Francis?" Frank said he could see the general shape but not his father’s face. Joe told him that he wasn’t too bad yet, but Frank replied, "Ah, now, tomorrow or Wednesday will see the finish of it."

At 5:30 P.M., Tuesday 12 May 1981, his sister Noreen, a nurse, took his wrist and couldn’t feel a pulse.

On the fifty-ninth day of hunger strike, Francis Hughes, a legend in Ireland’s long struggle, took his place next to Bobby Sands.

Noreen walked numbly down the hall to where Raymond and Patsy were sitting in wheelchairs. She took both their hands in hers. "I’m Noreen, Francis’ sister. I just want to tell you Francis has died."

Francis Hughes' Tortured & Glorious Funeral: RUC attack Undertakers, Hughes Family; hijack hearse

Frank Hughes died on the 59th day of his hunger strike on 12 May 1981. He was an Irish legend, and a soldier, and was to be buried as such. But the RUC had something else in mind.

The McCusker undertakers of Magherafelt, South Derry, had been contracted by the Hughes family to handle the details of the wake and funeral preparations.

At 5 PM Thomas and Danny McCusker received Frank's coffin from the mortuary in Belfast and brought it to the their hearse. Frank's parents drove behind the hearse in his sister Noreen's VW and other family and friends followed. The agreement was that the funeral cortege was to travel behind RUC landrovers through West Belfast on the way to the M-2 highway to Toomebridge and then on to the Hughes' family home near Bellaghy. Along the Falls Rd. in West Belfast, thousands of supporters had gathered through the day to honor one of the greatest Irish heroes of all time - a legend at only 25 years of age.

As they left the mortuary, the cortege had to pass the Protestant Belvoir estate where it was met with hostile loyalist crowds carrying anti-republican banners and shouting abuse at the family and Frank's remains. As the cortege was about to continue on the schedules route through sympathetic crowds, armed RUC attempted to hijack the procession. They unilaterally decided to take the body directly to Bellaghy. They stopped the hearse and ordered the McCusker brothers out; they were taking over from here. "Not Bloody likely," Thomas McCusker said. Danny was driving and refused to hand over the vehicle, saying that they were in charge. RUC thugs pulled Thomas out of the hearse by the legs and threw him onto the road, ripping his suit in the process. Other "police" attacked members of the mourning family as they entered the fray from the following cars. Danny McCusker was beaten through the driver's window as he attempted to hide the keys in his mouth. He resisted by putting his shoulder against the door, but the RUC got at him through the window and pulled at his hair and ears, ripping his clothing.

US film crew saves the day

They tried to remove the coffin from the back of the hearse. Frank's aging father, Joe, tried to prevent them but was punched and beaten away. The women were near hysteria as fists and batons flew. Jimmy Drumm and Owen Carron of Sinn Fein were injured in the battle over Frank's coffin.

At the critical moment, after 20 minutes of mayhem, a US film crew happened upon the scene and began filming. The RUC moved away but insisted that the family take the body directly onto the M-2. The family reluctantly agreed. The procession moved uneventfully to Toomebridge.

But it wasn't over. The RUC insisted again on taking over the hearse. They made the Hughes family drive directly to Bellaghy, while they took the hearse through heavily loyalist towns like Randalstown and Portglenone. The Hughes family were harassed by the RUC the entire way at every crossroad. Worse, they were concerned about what the RUC would do to Frank's body. They had threatened to throw Frank's remains into the River Bann.

Feared in death as in life

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Click photo to view - Go to Larkspirit's Scenes from the funerals

People thronged to the Hughes' home for the wake and for the funeral. Even those nationalists not supportive of Francis' IRA activities, came out in numbers because of the disgraceful behavior of the RUC in desecrating the dead. And of course Frank had a legion of supporters and friends throughout Ireland. The roads and countryside around the family home overflowed into the hills, fields and glens as they escorted the brave Francis Hughes to his final resting place. Except for this. Francis Hughes never went away. He told the boys in the H-Blocks, listen for the sound of his crutch on lonely days in lonely cells or whenever they needed him. He would be always be there to watch over them.

FRANCIS HUGHES 1956 - 1981

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