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Latest News

18th December 2014




On this day...

  • 1883 - 'Invincible' Joseph Poole hanged
  • 1980 - Hunger strike suspended following British guarantees

 


 

"Believing that the British Government has no right in Ireland ...

... never had any right in Ireland, and never can have any right in Ireland. The presence in any one generation of Irishmen - of even a respectable minority -
ready to die to affirm that truth makes that government forever a usurpation and a crime against human progress."

 

 

" ..... I am a casualty of a perennial war that is being fought between the oppressed Irish people and an alien,
oppressive, unwanted regime that refuses to withdraw from our land.

"I believe and stand by the God-given right of the Irish nation to sovereign independence,
and the right of any Irishman or woman to assert this right in armed revolution. That is why I am incarcerated, naked and tortured."

 

 

 

Latest News and the Week in Review

 

 

 

David Cameron 'did not leave NI talks early for wife's birthday party'
BBC News 18/12/14

Downing Street has rejected suggestions that the prime minister left talks in Northern Ireland early last week so he could attend his wife's birthday party.

The Labour party has claimed David Cameron has "serious questions to answer" about his "abrupt departure".

Mr Cameron flew to Northern Ireland last Thursday for all-party talks but left on Friday morning without a deal.

However, a Downing Street spokesperson utterly rejected claims that the move was in any way connected to the party.

'Ibiza-style rave'

Mr Cameron's wife, Samantha, celebrated her birthday at the prime minister's country residence at Chequers last Friday night.

Labour has described the event as an Ibiza-style "rave" party.

The Daily Mail reported that several celebrities had been invited, including the actress Helena Bonham-Carter, the comedian Harry Enfield, and the Top Gear presenter Jeremy Clarkson.

Shadow Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Ivan Lewis said: "I have no problem with David Cameron attending a family celebration.

"However, his unwillingness to remain in Northern Ireland for a longer period in order to broker progress, caused serious concern at the time."

'Fragile time'

The political talks in Belfast are aimed at resolving outstanding disputes over flags, parades, the legacy of the Troubles and welfare reform.

Mr Lewis added "This is an incredibly fragile time for political stability in Northern Ireland and the prime minister had a duty to either stay the course or visit at a time when he could give the situation his fullest attention.

"He now has serious questions to answer about whether he was less than truthful about his reasons for an abrupt departure, which made an already fraught situation worse."

'Joint decision'

However, the Downing Street spokesperson said Mr Cameron's decision to leave the talks was made jointly with Irish Prime Minister (Taoiseach) Enda Kenny.

They added it was made solely on the outcome of the talks up to that point, and on the situation that confronted both prime ministers.

Mr Cameron returned to England after Northern Ireland's five biggest political parties rejected his offer of a new financial package to address Stormont's current budget difficulties.

 

 

 

‘Drumcree protests over if we walk Garvaghy Road once more’
Portadown Times 18/12/14

The long-running dispute over the Drumcree parade will be “over for good” if the march is allowed to proceed one more time down Garvaghy Road.

A well-placed Orange source told the Portadown Times that Portadown District No 1 would draw a line under the dispute and not apply in future years to march back into Portadown via the contentious route.

It is the latest move in a dispute that started in world-headline violence in 1998, and has moved into an era where the weekly protest at The Hill is barely noticed.

Sunday saw an increase in interest with the 6,000-day milestone passed, but overall attention has been minimal in recent years.

The source said, “We have lodged a protest every Sunday since we were banned from returning via the traditional route.

“Those protests will continue until the Parade Commission shows an interest and lets us complete the walk in to Portadown.

“But there is a realisation that such a parade would be the end of the matter.”

He added, “We have done our utmost to set up initial talks with the GRRC (Garvaghy Road Residents’ Coalition).

“But they are showing no interest in trying to improve community relations in the town – especially at a time when £6m is being spent on the public park off the Garvaghy Road.

“Their elected political representatives are trying to convince the town’s Protestant population that the park will be a shared space, but we can’t even march past it.

“Most people from the Protestant community haven’t set foot in the park for 40 years. We are a divided town and a solution to Drumcree would be a step in the right direction.”

It is also understood that moves are currently being made to set up a round-table discussion between both sides, and District Master Darryl Hewitt alluded to this during his speech on Sunday. But he refused to comment on the ‘final parade’ issue, simply saying that the District had been doing its utmost since October 2006 to effect talks.

“The GRRC has been totally negative and the Parades Commission inaction is encouraging them, even though the stated policy of the commission is to reward those who try to resolve these disputes,” Mr Hewitt added.

The GRRC replied that the Orange protests had become a non-event. Spokesman Breandan Mac Cionnaith simply said it was time to move on. “It doesn’t register in Garvaghy Road anymore,” he added.

The Parades Commission said disputes were best resolved at local level “with numerous interventions having taken place over Drumcree”.

There have been overtures from Orangemen to persuade unionist councillors involved in the park facelift to take up their case for round-table talks to start.

 

 

 

Body of man shot by army in Belfast to be exhumed
News Letter 18/12/14

The body of a man shot dead by soldiers in Belfast over 40 years ago is to be exhumed, a coroner has ruled.

Joseph Murphy was injured during an incident now known as the “Ballymurphy massacre” in August 1971 and died 13 days later in hospital. Nine others were also killed.

Coroner Jim Kitson told a preliminary hearing in Belfast an exhumation order had been granted because of the “exceptional circumstances” of the case. Mr Kitson said: “I conclude that an order is necessary.”

The family believe Mr Murphy was shot at a military barracks after being injured and that a bullet may still be lodged in his leg.

The coroner said if he had not ordered the exhumation the family would “forever be left wondering if an important piece of evidence” had been missed.

Mr Kitson added: “They have waited more than 40 years. They are entitled to expect that the investigation will be conducted with rigour.”

Relatives of Mr Murphy wept as the ruling was given during a sitting at the city centre Laganside court complex.

Outside, his daughter, Janet Donnelly, who was eight years old at the time of his death, spoke of her relief.

She said: “I am shaking. I am glad that he (the coroner) made the right decision. I think it was the right decision. As the coroner said, we have waited over 40 years. My father always said he was shot inside the Army barracks.

“Hopefully, if we can retrieve this bullet, we can move forward.

“My father stated from his hospital bed that he was shot into his open wound. There was only one entrance wound and an exit wound.

“The HET (Historical Enquiries Team) uncovered new information to say there was a second bullet in my father’s body. So, we just want to know, where did it come from?”

Mr Murphy, a father-of-12, was among 10 people killed during the Army operation which saw soldiers storm republican strongholds in west Belfast to arrest IRA suspects following the introduction of the controversial state policy of internment without trial.

Other victims during the three days of shooting included a Catholic priest and a mother-of-eight.

Relatives have long campaigned for an acknowledgement that their loved ones were wrongfully killed.

The new inquest was ordered by Northern Ireland’s Attorney General John Larkin in 2011. That move came after a cold case review of the deaths by the Police Service of Northern Ireland’s Historical Enquiries Team (HET).

As well as those shot dead in Ballymurphy, another man died of a heart attack following an alleged violent confrontation with soldiers. The new inquest only covers the deaths caused by gunfire.

Ms Donnelly added: “My father was just an ordinary father, an ordinary husband who just lived for his family.

“That night he went out and never came home.”

John Teggart, a spokesman for the Ballymurphy families campaign group, described it as a “good day”.

He said: “Most importantly it is a good day for the Murphy case and the Murphy family. But, it is also a good day for the campaign. It shows we can get results through the coroner’s court even though it is under-funded and being attacked by the British Government and the parties who are signing up to scrapping the inquests.”

Meanwhile, calls were also made for the coroner to summon a representative from the Ministry of Defence (MoD) to explain delays in the disclosure process.

The court heard that personnel files belonging to eight soldiers were ready for final checks by the Coroner’s Service before being disseminated to legal teams for the families.

But Karen Quinlivan QC, representing some of the next of kin, said the MoD had questions to answer about “inadequate” resources.

She said: “There is no indication that they have taken steps to resource themselves to deal with the scale of the task.

“The MoD allocation of resources is inadequate. Somebody should be made available to explain what is happening.”

Ms Quinlivan also raised concerns about the disclosure of documents from the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) to the inquest.

However, a barrister for the military said the focus of the inquiry should be directed on the way forward, not on what has happened in the past.

Peter Coll said: “The MoD disclosure process is largely now complete.

“However it has been arrived at, we’ve arrived at it, in relation to the MoD.

“I hope that won’t be taken as me trying to be difficult. I am not.”

Issues around the scope of the inquest were also discussed during the hearing.

The case has been adjourned until February 6 2015.

 

 

 

Belfast Tesco store security alert 'elaborate hoax'
Belfast Telegraph 18/12/14

A security alert which saw shoppers evacuated from a Tesco Extra store in south Belfast has been declared an 'elaborate hoax'.

The Army bomb squad dealt with a suspicious object that was found on the site on Newtownbreda Road.

Inspector Martin Trainor confirmed that army bomb experts inspected a suspicious object and declared it an elaborate hoax.

The Belvoir Road and Newtownbreda Road and nearby Tesco store have since been re-opened.

 

 

 

Bellaghy alert declared a hoax
UTV News 18/12/14

A security alert close to an Orange Hall in the Co Londonderry village of Bellaghy, has been declared a hoax.

A suspicious object was discovered close to Ballymacombs Orange Hall in the Ballynease Road area on Thursday morning.

The army bomb squad examined the item and declared it a hoax.

The operation has now ended and all roads have been re-opened.

UUP Mid Ulster MLA Sandra Overend has condemned those who left the device.

"If anyone has a political grievance or an alternative viewpoint, they should pursue it through the democratic process and seek support from the electorate to bring about change. Violence or the threat of violence, is not the answer," she said.

 

 

 

Bomb alerts in Belfast and Bellaghy
BBC News 18/12/14

Separate security alerts are under way in south Belfast and in Bellaghy, County Londonderry, following the discovery of suspicious objects.

In south Belfast, police have evacuated the Tesco store at Newtownbreda and bomb disposal experts are at the scene.

Belvoir Road has been closed, as has part of the Newtownbreda Road between Beechill Road and Tesco roundabout.

In County Londonderry, bomb disposal officers have been called to the Ballynease Road area of Bellaghy.

It has been closed between Tamlaghduff Park and Ballyscullion Lane.

Diversions are currently in place.

 

 

 

PSNI: Three arrests in police investigation into ‘violent dissident activity’
Derry Journal 18/12/14

Detectives from Serious Crime Branch investigating violent dissident terrorist activity in Derry have arrested three men in the city this morning.

Detective Chief Inspector Michael Harvey said the men, who are aged 20, 42 and 49 were arrested in police operations on the cityside and have been taken to the Serious Crime Suite at Antrim police station.

A number of properties have been searched and vehicles seized for forensic examination.

 

 

 

Two remanded over terror charges
UTV News 18/12/14

Two men have been remanded in custody on terrorism charges as part of a wider operation into dissident republican activity in Newry.

Terence Marks, 54, from Parkhead Crescent in Newry and Kevin Heaney, aged 41, from Mourne View Park appeared at Newry Magistrates' Court on Thursday.

Both men were charged with belonging to a proscribed organisation.

Kevin Heaney is further accused of receiving instruction or training in the use of explosives devices, while Marks is accused of conspiring to cause an explosion.

A detective sergeant told the court she could connect the pair to the charges.

Last month the police raided a house in Ardcarn Park in Newry, as part of a major investigation into dissident republican activity.

It emerged in court that the house had been bugged by MI5 for three months.

Eight men have already been charged with a range of terrorist offences based on this evidence. The defendants were remanded in custody to appear again by videolink on 7 January.

 

 

 

Gerry Adams says prime minister's intervention was not 'serious effort'
BBC News 18/12/14

The Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams has said last week's intervention in the Stormont talks by the British and Irish prime ministers was not "a serious effort".

Writing on his blog, Mr Adams says David Cameron and Enda Kenny left the political process "in a worse state than when they came".

He also described the two prime ministers as "the architects to the talks debacle".

The talks resumed on Thursday morning.

The five main parties are at Stormont House to try and find agreement over finance, welfare reform and other unresolved issues.

Mr Adams said Martin McGuinness and Sinn Féin's negotiators are working hard to find solutions, but Secretary of State Theresa Villiers "has stuck to the script which blames the north's parties for the crisis".

Mr Adams said that without a "different economic and fiscal model" the political process would not work.

There is no sign of the parties bridging their differences over the budget and welfare reform.

It is unclear whether the discussions will end on Thursday or continue on Friday.

However, the Commons is due to break for its Christmas recess at around 17:00 GMT.

 

 

 

NI talks to resume amid little progress
BBC News 18/12/14

Cross-party talks are due to resume at Stormont on Thursday, with few signs of the parties resolving their differences over budget and welfare reform.

Some of the negotiators have said they believe Thursday's discussions could be the last before Christmas.

Previously, the government had warned that if there was no deal before Christmas, there would be little chance of making progress in the new year.

Discussions between the parties lasted until nearly 22:00 GMT on Wednesday.

However, there appeared to be little evidence of progress on the key financial issues.

'Major problems'

The Ulster Unionists submitted a 24-point paper looking for some more welfare reform flexibilities.

But Sinn Féin apparently stuck rigidly to its own 11-point paper that essentially rejects all the proposed Westminster welfare changes.

The parties are expected to resume discussions at about 10:00 GMT on Thursday.

But some negotiators told the BBC that they privately believe the talks could be winding to a close.

They added that no deal could spell major problems for Stormont's future budgetary process and the stability of Northern Ireland's power-sharing executive.

 

 

 

Gardai foil dissident fire bomb campaign against Northern Ireland stores in run-up to Christmas
Belfast Telegraph 18/12/14

Gardai foiled a plot by dissident Republicans to launch a pre-Christmas fire-bomb campaign on major stores in Northern Ireland.

The anti-terrorist Special Detective Unit (SDU) seized a number of fire bombs when they swooped on three well-known IRA figures in Co Louth on Tuesday afternoon.

Security sources say that the "sophisticated and elaborate" devices were intended for use in major shopping malls across Northern Ireland in a bid to disrupt the Christmas shopping season.

A senior security source said: "These are a completely new type of incendiary device which we have not seen before - they are quite sophisticated and elaborate.

"We can only assume they were intended for use against major stores in places like Belfast to cause as much disruption as possible.

"It is clear that they (the dissidents) were working on the design for some time and this is a big blow to them," the source added.

Three senior Republicans were still in Garda custody last night after they were arrested by the Emergency Response Unit as part of a planned operation in Ardee and Mullingar.

Two of the men were arrested when the car they were driving was intercepted about 10km south of Ardee on Tuesday afternoon.

It is understood that the occupants were on their way to deliver two sets of fire bombs to Northern Ireland.

They were being questioned at Drogheda garda station.

Around the same time, detectives also arrested a third man at a house in Mullingar, where the devices had been collected earlier. The third man, who is aged in his 50s, is suspected of being an experienced bomb maker who had worked for the Provos during the Troubles.

Sources say that the dissident, who has never been caught before, designed the devices seized by gardai.

Initially, it was thought that the dissidents were planning an attack on the PSNI before gardai discovered that the improvised explosive devices were sophisticated fire bombs.

It is understood that the arrests and seizure followed a lengthy surveillance operation by the SDU and the National Surveillance Unit (NSU) in the Republic and the PSNI in the Northern Ireland.

Gardai have enjoyed significant success in targeting the various dissident groups which amalgamated as the IRA around the time that Dublin Real IRA gang boss Alan Ryan was murdered.

 

 

 

Remembering the Past: The last of the Invincibles
TOM News 18/12/14 (An Phoblacht 18/12/08)

By Mícheál Mac Donncha

The Irish National Invincibles were an off-shoot of the Irish Republican Brotherhood and were active in Dublin in the early 1880s. They were a conspiratorial group that sought to destabilise British rule in Ireland by assassinating leading figures in the Dublin Castle regime.

The Land League had been founded in 1879 and the subsequent Land War was a bitter struggle of tenant farmers against landlords in which the landlords were backed by all the forces of the British crown, including the Castle government and the Royal Irish Constabulary. There were thousands of evictions and mass emigration from Ireland. Supporters of the Land League engaged in many forms of resistance, including destroying landlord property and, in some cases, attacking landlords themselves.

British government repression reached a new level in January 1881 when the Chief Secretary for Ireland William Forster introduced a Coercion Bill to crush the Land League. In 1881 over 17,000 families were evicted from their homes.

In October 1881 Charles Stuart Parnell and other Land League leaders were arrested and jailed. Sometime that same month the Irish National Invincibles were formed. Forster had become the object of intense hostility in Ireland and the Invincibles made several unsuccessful attempts to assassinate him. He had to travel with an escort of armed, mounted police. One of those who supplied intelligence to the Invincibles was the cab driver James ‘Skin the Goat’ Fitzharris who had access to Dublin Castle. Another Invincible, James Carey, explained at his trial why he joined:

“When I became a member of the Invincibles, it was with the object of serving my country. Ireland was in a very bad state. We were just after a famine and there was a lot of coercion at the time. The popular leaders were in prison and the rights of free speech taken away, and it was in despair in getting any change by constitutional means.”

This background to the Phoenix Park assassinations by the Invincibles is seldom given. In October 1881 two women were killed by the RIC at a demonstration in Belmullet. On 5 May 1882 in Ballina, County Mayo, the RIC opened fire with buckshot on a crowd of boys and girls following a band. One boy was killed and other children were injured. The following day the Phoenix Park assassinations took place, not as a direct retaliation for Ballina but as a direct consequence of the repressive regime then in force in Ireland.

It was on the afternoon of 6 May 1882 that Permanent Under Secretary Thomas Henry Burke and Chief Secretary Lord Frederick Cavendish were accosted in the Phoenix Park and killed with surgical knives. There was a massive mobilisation by Dublin Castle and enormous political pressure for arrests and convictions.

Among the hundreds arrested were James Fitzharris and James Carey. Fitzharris spurned all threats and inducements to inform but Carey succumbed and was paid £10,000 and given passage to South Africa with his family. The Invincibles Joe Brady, Michael Fagan, Thomas Caffrey, Dan Curley and Tim Kelly were hanged in Kilmainham Jail in Dublin between 14 May and 4 June 1883. Others, including Fitzharris, received long prison terms.

Carey was shot dead on the ship bringing him to South Africa by Patrick O’Donnell of County Donegal. O’Donnell was returned for trial to London and executed in Newgate on 17 December 1883.

Another of those who refused to inform was Joseph Poole, a Dublin tailor. He was arrested and charged with the killing of an alleged informer, John Kenny, who was found shot dead under the railway arch at Seville Place in July 1882. Poole was convicted and sentenced to death. When sentence was passed Poole called for a cheer for the Irish Republic.

Three of Joseph’s Poole’s brothers Christy, Vincent and Patrick and his nephew John fought in 1916 as members of the Irish Citizen Army.

Joseph Poole, the last of the Invincibles, was executed in Richmond Prison, Dublin, on 18 December 1883, 125 years ago this week.

 

 

 

Widow to sue police chief and MoD
UTV News 17/12/14

The widow of a factory worker killed by loyalist paramilitaries more than 40 years ago is to sue to the PSNI Chief Constable and Ministry of Defence.

Margaret Campbell claims the police and Army colluded to protect the UVF gunman who shot her husband Patrick Campbell in their Banbridge home in 1973.

No one has ever been convicted of the sectarian killing, believed to have been carried out by the notorious Glenanne gang.

The father-of-three worked in the Down Shoes Factory in Banbridge, where is it understood he had a political row with Robin Jackson, a member of the UVF terror group linked to around 120 murders in Counties Armagh and Tyrone over a five-year period in the 1970s.

He is believed to be the man who gunned down Mr Campbell and is alleged to have been an agent for the RUC Special Branch.

Mrs Campbell and their 10-year-old daughter Donna narrowly escaped the gunfire at the house on Cline Walk.

"When the guns went off my legs collapsed. I crawled up against a radiator and Pat came down on top of me," she said.

"The bullets blew a hole in [Donna's] bedroom door and they were embedded in the headboard of her bed. If she had got up she would have been dead too."

Despite Jackson being singled out by Mrs Campbell in a police identity parade three times, it was ruled there was insufficient evident to secure a conviction.

Jackson, a former UDR soldier later dubbed the Jackal, died in 1998 aged 50.

An investigation by the Historical Enquiries Team found that Robin Jackson's "later notoriety, with the benefit of hindsight, raises suspicions about his involvement and gives rise to the concerns expressed by the family".

Mrs Campbell said: "We feel the RUC failed our family and the families of all those that Jackson went on to kill. Further we believe that a significant number of RUC officers knowingly used Jackson as an agent for two decades, aware of his role in multiple murders.

"Our motivation in taking this civil case against the chief constable of the PSNI (as corporately responsible for the wrongs we suffered) is to highlight the RUC's failure to properly handle Jackson's case and their subsequent unethical and collusive role in handling him as an agent.

"Pat was not just a victim of sectarian murder. He was a trade unionist, worker, father and husband of high standing within his community who deserved to live to see his children grow up and the birth of his grandchildren. Nothing can ever put that right."

Mrs Campbell is seeking damages for sustained distress because of the failings of both the PSNI/RUC and the MoD including negligence, conspiracy and misfeasance in public office.

Solicitor Kevin Winters, who is representing the family, said: "The civil action being taken by Margaret Campbell on behalf of her family against the PSNI and the MoD is an important development in their movement towards closure, truth, justice and accountability regarding the murder of Pat Campbell in 1973.

"The litigation will expose the level of collusion which was evident in the activities of the RUC, the UDR and other state agents in the Armagh and Tyrone areas over a significant number of years and the level of impunity that was permitted and encouraged."

 

 

 

600 interface incidents since April
Belfast Telegraph 16/12/14

More than 600 interface incidents have been recorded in Northern Ireland since April, police said.

Assaults, intimidation, petrol bombings and anti-social behaviour made up most of the cases, which include divided parts of Belfast, according to PSNI chief superintendent Nigel Grimshaw.

He said officers wanted to spend less time dealing with problems connected to the flashpoints and more on everyday policing.

"Despite our progress there are still too many incidents happening that have a consequence for everybody."

He said it impacted on the community and wider policing.

"I am required to put resources to deal with those incidents but those resources could be doing other things."

He said police were dealing with the realities of financial austerity and tight budgets.

Millions are spent policing the area surrounding the loyalist encampment in North Belfast which is protesting against restrictions on a July 12 parade past Ardoyne.

Recently a barrier dividing communities at a notorious interface in east Belfast was created for use during times of tension.

Justice Minister David Ford has said the net structure in the grounds of St Matthew's Catholic church on the lower Newtownards Road was not a new peace wall and envisaged that it would be retracted for most of the year.

The installation of the new security measure at the interface between the nationalist Short Strand and loyalist Newtownards Road areas comes at a time when the Stormont Executive has publicly committed to removing permanent barriers separating Catholic and Protestant neighbourhoods within 10 years.

The area around St Matthew's has been the scene of violent clashes in recent years, with residents on both sides claiming they live in fear of attack from missiles.

Mr Ford has said the best way to keep people safe is to build connections between communities rather than barriers and reduce the number of interfaces remains a priority.

"Significant progress has been made by community groups and statutory agencies, by working together to reduce these structures.

"Indeed we have been able to reduce the number of DoJ (Department of Justice) structures from 59 to 53 since devolution (of justice powers)."

The Together: Building A United Community Executive document sets an ambitious target to remove peace walls by 2023.

Community Relations Council chair Peter Osborne said: "Politicians and civil society have made enormous progress in the last 20 years.

"We are a different society in 2014 compared to 1994, and we do need to acknowledge the progress especially in the context of the bitter conflict from which this society has emerged.

"But we do need a step change in how take forward the political and peace processes and how we tackle division. Them and Us attitudes still determine how we approach too many issues including in interface areas."

He said interface barriers were often located in areas that for decades have been amongst the most disadvantaged communities.

"These statistics don't seem to change and we must better understand, and act on, the link between the financial and social cost of division, and sustained social and economic disadvantage.

"Reintegrating communities at the front line of conflict, violence and inequality, back in to the mainstream of civic life must be at the centre of this step change and strategy."

 

 

 

McGuinness rejects Taoiseach's claim as laughable
Sinn Féin 16/12/14

Sinn Féin MLA Martin McGuinness has rejected a claim that Gerry Adams attempted to block a deal during last week's talks as laughable.

Mr McGuinness said;

"The statement today by the Taoiseach is a threadbare attempt to excuse his failure and ineptitude in this process.

"Not only is it completely untrue, it is laughable.

"Sinn Féin is at one on standing by the agreements, standing by the institutions and standing up for the most vulnerable in our society, north and south.

"The joint paper tabled by the British and Irish governments allowed the British government to renege on key commitments including the inquiry into the state sponsored murder of Pat Finucane and an Irish Language Act.

"The Irish government also abandoned the demand for full disclosure on the Dublin/Monaghan bombings and an inquiry into the massacre of civilians in Ballymurphy by the British government.

"I am proud to be part of the Sinn Féin team seeking to reach agreement however this task is made all the more difficult due to the failures of the current Irish government."

 

 

 

Taoiseach says Adams ‘won’t let’ McGuinness do North deal
The Irish Times 16/12/14

Sinn Féin leader accuses Enda Kenny of ‘acquiescing’ to British government

Northern Ireland Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness wanted to do a deal on the North but Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams “won’t let him”, Taoiseach Enda Kenny has claimed.

During heated exchanges at leaders’ questions Mr Adams claimed the Taoiseach had signed up to a paper that did not mention Acht na Gaeilge, or a Bill of Rights and “which acquiesces to the British government on the use of British national security interests and which also seeks to close down Article Two compliant interests”.

But Mr Kenny accused him of not having the courage to “face up to your political responsibility and do what you have to do” on welfare reform.

He said to the Sinn Féin leader: “We put together a political paper on which agreement can be reached if you had the courage to face it down Deputy Adams.”

He suggested he could say to Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness: “You have responsibilities.”

Mr Kenny added: “He wants to do a deal but you won’t let him.”

In a sharp Dáil row over the failure to reach agreement during the Northern Ireland talks last week, Mr Adams said Mr Kenny was “a player” and not a junior partner. Agreement could be reached but “not on a purely British or Unionist agenda. Irish national interests have to be upheld”.

A Civic Forum in the North did not exist, nor did a Bill of Rights or an all island charter of rights and there was no joint North-South committee of the two human rights commissions in place.

He said there was no compliance with the European charter for regional or minority languages in place and an Irish language Act did not exist.

Mr Adams said these propositions were hard won over many years and the the Government “cannot be allowed to acquiesce or dilute these”.

He also said that in the Taoiseach’s presence British prime minister David Cameron told Mr Adams that “he would not be establishing an inquiry into the killing of human rights lawyer Pat Finucane as he’s obliged to do under the Weston Park agreement. Taoiseach you sat silently. Not one word did you utter on that issue.”

But rounding on the Sinn Féin leader, the Taoiseach said: “The fundamental issues is that that executive and the assembly sought responsibilty for devolved authority and got it in respect of welfare reform, in respect of pensions and child support.”

He told Mr Adams: “But you are afraid to face the music and make a choice in respect of welfare reform. So you’re putting off the long day here.”

Mr Kenny insisted: “The paper presented in which I had a central part to play from the Irish Government’s point of view did include a direct and specific passage about the Irish language and about Scot’s Gaelic.”

He told Mr Adams there was significant movement “in respect of the historic investigative unit”.

When the chairperson of the unit was appointed by the two governments he would be able to receive “even the most sensitive documentation from the British government and agencies of the British government , which includes issues like Ballymurphy, and which will include in my view other elements of what not have been produced in respect of Finucane”.

He said the Irish Government would continue to support Northern Ireland. That will amount to €500 million over the next number of years and the British prime minister in his discussions with the First and Deputy First Minister, said: “I’m giving you extra capacity to have access to spending power of almost €1 billion and you said that this was ham-fisted and amateurish and was the worst kind of discussions you were involved in, in all your years.”

 

 

 

NI talks: Nine new public bodies proposed in draft agreement
BBC News 16/12/14

At least nine new public bodies could be established if the political talks involving the British and Irish governments and the Northern Ireland Executive parties succeed.

The details are contained in the draft agreement presented to the five executive parties by the two governments.

The paper which has been seen by the BBC suggests the establishment of a Flags, Identity, Culture and Tradition Commission.

It would take 18 months to report and would consist of 15 members, with seven being appointed by the Executive parties.

The remaining eight members would be drawn from outside government. This new body would look at the flying of flags and also examine the broader issues of culture, identity and tradition.

On the controversial issue of parading, a number of new bodies are proposed including the establishment of the Office for Parades and Related Protests.

Parades

This would examine mainly non-contentious parades and protests and would have an administrative function.

Another agency suggested, the Public Events Adjudication Authority, would regulate parades and it would be established through legislation in the Assembly.

It would consist of seven members including a chair and would be charged with making legally binding determinations relating to parades.

With relation to the past, a series of new bodies have been suggested. These ideas were first mooted during inter-party discussions in 2013 chaired by the former US diplomat Richard Haass.

The paper suggests the establishment of an Oral History Archive which would provide an arena for people to share their experiences of the Troubles. The archive would be independent and free from political interference.

As part of the archive, a research project would be established to produce a timeline and analysis of the Troubles. It would report within 12 months.

Legislation is also planned to introduce a Historical Investigations Unit (HIU) which would examine deaths relating to the Troubles.

It would take on outstanding work from the Historical Enquiries Team (HET) and the legacy work of the Police Ombudsman.

This new body will have full policing powers, and the document states the "HIU should aim to complete its work within five years of its establishment".

The British government says it would "make disclosure to the chairperson", but says measures may need to be taken that will not put individuals at risk or "damage national security".

Another body that would examine the past is a new Independent Commission on Information Retrieval. Known as ICIR, it will be led by four members and would exist to help victims and survivors who want to seek and receive information about the death of their next of kin.

ICIR would not disclose information it receives to law enforcement or intelligence agencies.

However, the document presented to the local parties states that "no individual who provides information to the body will be immune from prosecution for any crime committed should the required evidential test be satisfied by other means".

Reconciliation

In order to oversee the issue of information recovery and the archives, an Implementation and Reconciliation Group would be established.

The document states that promoting reconciliation would be at the heart of this group's work.

The paper presented to the executive parties also states that "it is important that civic voices are heard and civic views are considered in relation to key social, cultural and economic issues".

The paper states that a "new engagement model could help deliver this goal".

This could mean the establishment of a new Civic Forum by June 2015.

The document also details that an Equality and Good Relations Commission would be established that could provide the secretariat to the civic advisory panel.

A new north-south body has also been proposed, which would bring together representatives from civic society.

This forum would have joint chairs appointed by the executive and the Irish government.

 

 

 

Gerry Adams advises Sinead O'Connor to report allegations of molestation by Sinn Fein member to gardai
Irish Independent 16/12/14

Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams has advised Sinead O'Connor to report allegations she was molested by a now deceased Sinn Fein member to gardai.

Ms O'Connor made the claim in a letter to IRA abuse victim Mairia Cahil, which was published in the Sunday Independent after the singer applied to join Sinn Fein last week.

“I myself was repeatedly sexually molested as a child in the 1970s by a member of Sinn Fein,” Ms O’Connor said.

“And I am certain I was not the only victim of that man, who is now dead,” she added.

Speaking at a press conference to today, Mr Adams said: “She needs to go to An Garda Siochana if she hasn't already done so. That's all we can beseech anyone to do that makes such allegation.”

Mr Adams said Ms O’Connor application to join his party is still a “work in progress”.

In her letter to Mairia Cahil, the Nothing Compares 2 U singer claimed she joined Sinn Fein because she wanted to reframe “what it means to be a republican”.

“The very fact it is considered appalling to join Sinn Fein is why the elders should step down and is also why new people should join,” she said.

 

 

 

Padraic Wilson denies IRA membership charge
BBC News 16/12/14

A west Belfast man has denied charges of addressing meetings on behalf of the IRA and belonging to the terror group.

The case against Padraic Conner Wilson, 55, from Hamill Park, Andersonstown, will be reviewed in the new year.

Mr Wilson pleaded not guilty to four charges at his arraignment before Belfast Crown Court on Tuesday.

It was alleged that the two sets of charges were committed on differing dates from 1 January to 31 March, 2005.

Two of the charges accused him of having "addressed a meeting and the purpose of his address was to encourage support for a proscribed organisation, namely, the Irish Republican Army, or to further its activities''.

The other two charges alleged that at the time he was either a member of the IRA, or professed to be a member of the proscribed organisation.

No details surrounding the charges were given to the court during the short hearing.

 

 

 

Stormont opposition plans outlined to Northern Ireland parties
BBC News 16/12/14

Arrangements for a Stormont opposition could be put in place as early as March 2015, according to the government paper given to the parties last week.

The paper proposes that parties "which would be entitled to ministerial positions in the executive, but choose not to take them up" should be "recognised as an official opposition".

They would receive financial and research assistance.

This would be taken from within the existing assembly budget.

The new opposition would also get "designated speaking rights including the opportunity to ask questions and table business" in the assembly chamber.

The move towards an opposition is one of a number of institutional changes suggested in the Heads of Agreement paper circulated by the UK and Irish governments the night before David Cameron and Enda Kenny left the Stormont House summit.

 

 

 

NI talks: Political parties continue discussions
BBC News 16/12/14

Further discussions are due to take place among Northern Ireland's political parties on Tuesday.

The talks are aimed at resolving outstanding disputes over flags, parades, the legacy of the Troubles and welfare reform.

The discussions come after a financial package for the Northern Ireland Executive was rejected by Stormont.

Talks involving the British and Irish governments and the parties will formally recommence on Wednesday.

David Cameron flew to Belfast last Thursday for all-party talks but left on Friday morning without a deal.

On Monday, two former Northern Ireland secretaries of state expressed concern about the prime minister's handling of last week's political talks in Belfast.

Peter Hain told the House of Commons he was astonished that Mr Cameron had left the talks as soon as he did.

Successful conclusion

Paul Murphy advised the current Secretary of State, Theresa Villiers, to persuade Mr Cameron to return to Northern Ireland quickly.

She defended the prime minister and said he had not walked away.

She said Mr Cameron followed the process with the greatest attention because he cares about Northern Ireland and wants to see a successful conclusion.

Ms Villiers said the prime minister and his Irish counterpart, Enda Kenny, had made an assessment there was no chance of a deal on Friday, because some of the parties were not prepared to move on key issues and that, in particular, Sinn Féin would not move on welfare reform.

This week has been billed by the Northern Ireland Secretary as a crunch time for cross-party talks in Belfast and she said she believes a pre-Christmas deal is crucial.

She is concerned that unless a deal is agreed this week, the House of Commons will run out of parliamentary time to give the Northern Ireland Executive corporation tax powers before the 2015 general election.

 

 

 

Garda ‘engaged’ on Kingsmills inquest
News Letter 15/12/14

The Garda has challenged claims that it is failing to cooperate with the Belfast inquest into the 1976 Kingsmills massacre in south Armagh.

In October barrister Neil Rafferty, acting for some of the victims, told a preliminary inquest that he was “quite simply shocked” after hearing that the Garda had supplied no more than acknowledgements to the Belfast Coroners Service about the attack despite repeated requests over six months. He said the IRA had launched the attack from Co Louth.

On December 10 the News Letter asked the Garda if its commissioner had yet begun to release information requested by the Belfast coroner. Two days later a Garda spokesman replied, saying that “An Garda Síochána has and continues to engage with the Coroner’s Service for Northern Ireland in this matter, with a view to cooperating with their requests as far as is possible”.

Last week the News Letter revealed that two of the suspects in the massacre were recipients of Government on-the-run comfort letters, one of them now deceased. DUP MP David Simpson who sits on the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee which is investigating the OTR row, said he is now pressing for the Government to release at least the name of the deceased suspect.

 

 

 

SDLP: Victims ‘see right through’ SF on IRA’s role
News Letter 15/12/14

Terror victims will “see right through” Sinn Fein’s view that what the IRA did during the Troubles “cannot be verified”, the SDLP says of ongoing Stormont talks.

Commenting on the British-Irish proposals to resolve the talks impasse, SDLP talks negotiator Alex Attwood MLA said that its contents are well short of what is needed.

“The British-Irish Heads of Agreement is well short – on the past, on resources, on parades and on the many elements that could see politics stride forward not stumble on,” he said.

“The past cannot be dealt with by closing inquest doors and unpicking Haass/O’Sullivan. Too much of what some propose is to address the past in too little time with too little resources and too little accountability. Victims will see through any such approach.

“London and Sinn Fein continue to duck and dive on the truth of the past. One uses national security to suppress the truth. The other claims that what the IRA did or did not do cannot be verified. Both are about denying the truth of the past.

“As things stand, an outcome that does not free up North-South, is not decisive on language and people’s rights, parks parades, fails to address the levels of need and the needs of transition from conflict and is not unambiguously victim- first is well short of what is needed.”

Political talks aiming to resolve major logjams at Stormont are due to resume tomorrow after breaking up without agreement on Friday.

Last year, the main political parties worked hard right up until December 31 under former US diplomat Richard Haass to try and resolve tensions over flags, parades and dealing with the past.

While the atmosphere and media scrutiny of progress 12 months ago was intense, there is a marked contrast this year.

Expectations from unionist sources in 2014 appear to be lower, there is less sense of urgency and there is a consensus that all stakeholders concerned will not be missing Christmas this year to try and narrow the gaps – even though this year sees arguably much bigger and more immediate.

The fact that Prime Minister David Cameron and Irish premier Enda Kenny left the talks earlier than expected on Friday underlines the fact that there is no agreement in sight on financial issues, which are seen by Downing Street and all the parties as the lynchpin of the current talks.

Even though there are now unofficially only five days left to resolve the issues before the talks break up for parties’ 2015 election battles, it is understood there are no formal talks taking place today.

Instead it is understood that First Minister Peter Robinson and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness will travel to London today for a meeting of the Joint Ministerial Committee, which includes the UK, Scottish, Welsh and Northern Ireland governments. Mr Cameron and Mr Kenny are both expected to attend.

 

 

 

Sinead O'Connor seeks talks with Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams
Belfast Telegraph 15/12/14

Sinn Fein recruit is keen to discuss 'new country' and 'a private matter'

New high profile Sinn Fein recruit Sinead O'Connor is seeking a meeting with party leader Gerry Adams to discuss the "creation of a new country" and "a private matter".

The singer was speaking after Mr Adams welcomed her into the party's fold - but as long as she passes Sinn Fein's "probationary period".

The outspoken musician, who has been 'ordained' as a female bishop, and who formally applied to join Sinn Fein last week, said: "I would not expect to be treated differently to any other applicant.

"I am also aware that one doesn't get to quickly meet with the leaders of a party one has just applied to join.

"I have been blasting my mouth off in the hope that doing so might help me to more quickly meet privately with Gerry Adams to discuss two matters, one of which is the specific reason I've publicly given for wanting to join Sinn Fein, which is the creation of a new country. I would love a meeting as soon as possible."

O'Connor said the second subject she wanted to discuss with Mr Adams is "a personal one", but stressed this is not a matter she has spoken about to date.

The singer said she is "ecstatic" to be considered for membership, and added she believes terrorism made the Irish people afraid to be republicans.

"I do not support the use of terrorism under any circumstances. I absolutely condemn all acts of terrorism, past, present or future.

"I also absolutely condemn the carrying out or covering up of sexual crimes," the singer said.

Last week she called on the "elders of Sinn Fein" to make the "supreme sacrifice and step down."

Yesterday, she said, "To me, it's more practical to join Sinn Fein and ask elders to leave than it is not to join at all.

"It's about reframing what it is to be a republican in 2014."

Yesterday, Mr Adams said: "Everyone is entitled to their opinions.

"I am a big admirer of Sinead O'Connor, going back a very, very long time."

The singer has long been a controversial figure, inciting outrage with comments about child abuse in the Catholic Church and particularly when she tore up a picture of the then pope John Paul II live on US television.

In the late 1990s, Bishop Michael Cox of the Irish Orthodox Catholic and Apostolic Church (an Independent Catholic group not in communion with the Catholic Church) ordained O'Connor as a priest.

The Catholic Church considers ordination of women to be invalid and asserts that a person attempting the sacrament of ordination upon a woman incurs excommunication.

 

 

 

'I was abused by SF member' - O'Connor
UTV News 14/12/14

Singer Sinead O'Connor has claimed she was sexually abused by a Sinn Féin member as a child in the 1970s.

O'Connor was explaining her decision to join the party in an open letter to Mairia Cahill, who has claimed she was abused as a teenager by an IRA member and subjected to an IRA investigation into her account.

She also alleged that Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams knew about the abuse claims, but the Louth TD has denied there was any cover up by the party.

The 'Nothing Compares 2 U' star explained that "she had not changed her personality overnight" and that the first thing she had done after joining was call for senior members associated with covering up alleged offences to stand down.

She continued: "May I also point out that I myself was repeatedly sexually molested as a child in the 1970s by a member of Sinn Féin.

"And I am certain I was not the only victim of that man, who is now dead."

She said her decision to join Sinn Féin was in the same vein as becoming a priest, which she said, did not deter her from challenging the Catholic Church on matters of clerical abuse.

"My joining Sinn Féin is the same statement," O'Connor commented.

"The very fact it is considered appalling to join Sinn Féin is why the elders should step down and is also why new people should join.

"I assure you that as upset as you are with me for applying to join, so are many members (because of my criticism of the elders) and many other people from other communities.

"I think it is more practical to join and say the elders should leave than not to join."

West Belfast woman Mairia Cahill, who said she felt like she had "been kicked" at the news the singer had joined Sinn Féin, also spoke to the paper after speaking to O'Connor.

"It's been a tough few months and I imagined someone like Sinead would stand up for those victims of abuse that SF, in my opinion, treated shamefully," she wrote in the Sunday Independent.

"I know now after speaking to her that she intends to do that, though I am still mystified at how she is going to reconcile the issue in her head as she strives to make a difference from within.

"Sinead is not known for keeping her mouth shut. Sinn Féin are not known for their advocacy of free thinking. It's bound to end in tears. I hope she doesn't get hurt along the way."

 

 

 

‘The conditions do not exist for a return to violence’
Derry Journal 14/12/14

By Eamon Sweeney

Once upon a time Martin Galvin was the international poster boy for the Provisional republican movement.

In the 1980s Galvin became the publicity director of NORAID, an Irish-American group based in New York charged with fund raising for republican prisoners. However, the American, British and Irish administrations continually accused the organisation of siphoning off NORAID finances in order to buy weapons for the IRA; an accusation always denied by both Galvin and Sinn Fein.

Born in 1950, Galvin is the product of an Irish American background and qualified as a lawyer. By the 1980s, he was involved with publishing ‘The Irish People’, a New York newspaper associated with Irish republicans. In that period as a result of a speech he gave, deemed to endorse terrorism, the British administration banned him from entering Northern Ireland.

On August 9, 1984, he came across the border into Derry to speak at an anti-internment rally in defiance of the ban. Three days later on August 12, he went to Belfast to speak at another gathering. As the RUC moved into arrest Galvin, trouble broke out with the police firing plastic bullets into the crowd. Many were injured, but one 22-year-old man, Sean Downes was struck at close range and died. In 1989, after defying the ban again, Galvin was arrested and deported.

As the 1990s dawned a rift developed between Martin Galvin and the movement he had become the international face of. The emerging peace process was deemed by the New Yorker as a betrayal of republican ideals and also maintained that the decision by the IRA to open up its arms dumps for destruction was an act of ‘surrender’. He was a poster boy for Sinn Fein no longer.

Last week, Martin Galvin returned to Derry again. This time however it was in the comfortable surroundings of the City Hotel-a place far removed from the tension filled streets of the Bogside and Creggan three decades ago.

Asked if he is now linked to any Irish republican grouping, Mr Galvin told the Journal: “I am affiliated to a lot of groups and I would give a lot of advice, but I am independent of them.”

His latest visit to Ireland he said, was to attend a commemoration of former IRA man Liam Ryan, who was a friend of Martin Galvin’s when he lived in America. Liam Ryan had returned to his native Ardboe after a period in America and bought a local bar. But in November, 1989 he was shot dead at the bar by the UVF.

His decision to come to Derry on this visit he said was to meet with some members of the Bloody Sunday families who are aghast at the cancellation of the re-investigation of the murders that took place on January 30, 1972 because of a supposed lack of funding.

“It would appear to me, that when it comes cases like that of Gerry McGeough and Ivor Bell there is plenty of money available within the British justice system. Yet, when it comes to the case of Bloody Sunday there isn’t any. And, some of the families are naturally very concerned about that. It is a policy of impunity. Gerry McGeough and Ivor Bell have spent time in jail. None of those responsible for murder on Bloody Sunday have even stepped inside a court dock. Once former British soldiers or RUC men come into the frame, there is no further progress,” said Galvin.

“The Saville Inquiry was a part of the Peace Process. Its conclusion of ‘unjustifiable killing’ is simply another term for murder. The undeclared British policy of impunity is a lot stronger than any ‘On The Run Letter’ ever issued,” he continued.

“My friend Liam Ryan was warned that he would be dead before Christmas of 1989. His dream was to return to Ireland from America and buy the Battery Bar in Ardboe, which he did. But when he phoned me and started talking about going back to America I knew he was under serious threat. When he was murdered the British forces that had been saturating the area suddenly disappeared. The murder was claimed by the UVF, but there is no doubt the British state colluded in this. Collusion is not a myth. There was no follow-up investigation, because the British were responsible, there was no investigation at all.”

“My point is that they tell the Bloody Sunday families that this and that is going to happen, but it never does. It is nothing more than a succession of drip feed promises. If the police investigation was serious, then they would make arrests. Look at this in the round. The soldiers of the Parachute Regiment that murdered people on Bloody Sunday were also involved in the Ballymurphy Massacre. The same guys were on the beach at Magilligan the week before Bloody Sunday. Then we witnessed the Widgery whitewash. Saville went on record as saying that he believed some witnesses had committed perjury during his inquiry. So there (is) impunity for perjury and for murder on the British side.”

But, what prompted Galvin to become involved in the politics of Ireland whilst growing many thousands of miles away?

He said: “I first came to Ireland in 1965 and toured around the North. Then, things changed quickly after British troops came in in 1969. Then came internment and after that Bloody Sunday. I had known Liam Ryan as I said, this was personal to me. It wasn’t just in Irish history books. I knew people who were being jailed, shot down. The more I visited, the more determined I became to try my best for those being denied justice and freedom. I came back to the North in 1983, I was banned in 1984. I saw what was going on and I and many others became more involved.”

The Journal then asked Mr Galvin why he baulked at the Good Friday Agreement and departed from his association with Sinn Fein?

He replied: “My concern, my fear is that what we are getting is not a path to a united Ireland. It is a mechanism whereby all the injustices will be bargained away. It is an opportunity to nail shut the door of a united Ireland. The British don’t have to deal with it. They have unionists such as Gregory Campbell who can do it for them, who says he will defeat a republican ‘wish list’. This system cannot defeat the injustice of the DUP veto. There will be no dealing with the past unless the DUP agree for example.

“I was close to many in Sinn Fein for a long period of time. I believe they accepted something in good faith. But, 16 years after the Agreement it is time to assess the situation again. Have the promises that were made been fulfilled? Sinn Fein are not the first group in Irish history to do this. This is not a criticism of Sinn Fein, it is a criticism of those who have acted in bad faith.

“There has been too much suffered by too many, for too long to walk away now and accept things as they are. The ongoing inter-party negotiations are being controlled by the British. They will simply use their control over finance to force a deal down that will deliver justice for no one.”

However, if his analysis is correct and the current stasis in politics here leaves a political vacuum resulting in mass disaffection, the Journal asked Martin Galvin if he believes this will see a return to republican violence and if so would he support that?

“The circumstances are not there for a return to violence. I am not advocating that. Jim Allister is the tail that wags the DUP dog. The DUP can’t move forward because he will point it out. Look at issues such as the centre at Long Kesh, the row over the Irish Language Act for example. I believe the way forward is centre politics on independents who will not make promises that fall short of republican values.”

But what, the Journal asked, is the likelihood of a project like having wide ranging appeal?

Mr Galvin replied: “Many said years ago that Sinn Fein would never be able to compete electorally with the SDLP. That changed. I think that eventually a republican alternative will attract large numbers. The recent commemoration for Liam Ryan was an independent one and attracted a substantial number of people. They are coming forward and are laying down strong republican values.

“That has to be built upon just like Sinn Fein did it. They are people in this city who used to laugh at the notion that they (Sinn Fein) could get elected. Then years later there were many in Sinn Fein who wanted to believe that the 1998 agreement was a better deal than it actually was. But, that agreement has nailed the door shut on justice and I think an alternative can be built on that.”

 

 

 

Northern Ireland talks set to resume next week
BBC News 13/12/14

Talks between Northern Ireland's political parties are to resume on Tuesday, it is understood.

On Friday, Prime Minister David Cameron and Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny left Northern Ireland without securing a deal.

The outstanding issues include the budget, welfare reform and dealing with the legacy of the Troubles.

The DUP and Sinn Féin said no deadline had been set but a solution would require hard work from all parties.

"If we can't get agreement, particularly on the public finances, I think we have a real problem here," the DUP's Jeffrey Donaldson said.

"The first minister has made clear that it will be very difficult for the executive to limp on in those circumstances and to deliver good government for Northern Ireland.

"So, we're not contemplating failure, we really need to get agreement on these important issues."

Sinn Féin's Gerry Kelly said: "The deal that should have been done, should have been done in the last few days.

"Though I wish I could tell you I was hopeful, I can tell you that we will work hard to see if that will occur.

"But unless the British prime minister changes his attitude and that ideological doctrine of cuts no matter what, then I think we are in difficulty."

Following talks on Thursday evening and Friday morning, both the DUP and Sinn Féin said the financial package put forward by Mr Cameron was not adequate.

Mr Cameron said it would have given the executive "financial firepower" of up to £1bn.

However, the Northern Ireland parties said the package did not represent new money.

 

 

 

David Cameron labelled 'an amateur' as Northern Ireland peace talks end in failure
The Telegraph 12/12/14

The Prime Minister said he was confident an agreement would be reached by the deadline of Christmas Eve but it has not happened

David Cameron's efforts to save the Northern Ireland peace talks have ended in humiliating failure after the parties abandoned the discussions and labelled him an amateur.

The Prime Minister had unexpectedly stayed overnight in Belfast in an 11th hour bid to resolve the dispute, but was forced to leave the Province without a deal.

Insisting "good progress" had been made," Mr Cameron said he was confident an agreement would be reached by the deadline of Christmas Eve.

The parties are deadlocked over issues including the flying of flags in Northern Ireland and the Government's welfare reforms.

Gerry Adams, the Sinn Fein leader, said Downing Street's handling of the discussions had been the most amateurish he had experienced.

The Prime Minister had offered Northern Ireland a £1 billion "peace dividend," but said it would only be available if the parties could agree a deal.

The offer was described as "derisory" by some of the parties, who also oppose the introduction of the Coalition's welfare policy, which Martin McGuinness, the Sinn Fein Deputy First Minister said was imposing "austerity" on the region.

Mr Adams sent a tweet on Friday morning saying: “2 Govts exiting after most amateurish ham fisted episode I have ever been involved in.”

The legacy of the Northern Ireland troubles and the toxic dispute over the parade season were also under discussion by the five parties.

Ironically, the talks brought the usually contentious Sinn Fein and DUP together in criticism of the financial offer, with Peter Robinson, the First Minister, saying it failed to address Northern Ireland's particular needs.

Mr Robinson said the Prime Minister "must do more" and warned the Stormont would collapse if the deal could not be done.

 

 

 

Deal not yet possible – Cameron
UTV News 12/12/14

Prime Minister David Cameron has said progress has been made on the all-party talks, but a deal has not yet been possible.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny and David Cameron left the talks just after 9am on Friday.

They said a comprehensive document had been left with the Executive parties for further negotiations to take place.

Mr Cameron said agreement was needed on all the issues and that he had offered the Executive potential spending powers of close to £1bn over the next five years.

David Cameron said "good work" had been done over the issues of flags, parades and the past, however, the budget was the sticking point.

He said: "A deal is possible, the parties have done a lot of good work.

"The real work needs to be done is to make sure the budget of the Northern Executive is sustainable and works.

"So intensive work needs to be done by the parties on that issue."

Mr Cameron said a financial package was available for the Executive but there needed to be agreement.

The Conservative leader added: "That sort of financial help is on the table if the politicians here locally can agree the issues of flags, parades and the past and set their own budget in a way that is sustainable.

"If they do those things, I stand ready, the UK taxpayer stands ready to help.

"But it has to be help on the basis that those issues are settled.

"It wouldn't be right and it wouldn't last, it wouldn't work if I was to come here and offer financial assistance when there isn't a deal that actually properly addresses these issues which I think for too long have been left unaddressed."

First Minister Peter Robinson said he and the parties would continue their talks.

He said they would not just end because the Prime Minister had to leave.

He added: "The negotiations seriously underestimated the task in hand.

"The process will continue, there is a job of work to do. The absence of the Prime Minister does not bring the work to end.

"It is the responsibility of parties to get job done."

He said the Prime Minister needed to go further on the deal being offered.

He added: "I don't believe we sufficiently challenged the Prime Minister on what his bottom line is.

"We didn't do that because we have ourselves not been able to come to agreement - namely on matter of welfare reform.

"After the talks we are still unaware of Sinn Féin's final position on the issue."

The DUP leader said the talks would resume again.

He said: "We have to reach agreement, but in the current climate it is essential we do not squander money."

Deputy First Minster Martin McGuinness said he was "distinctly underwhelmed" by the package offered by the Prime Minister.

He said the offer was not new money and was instead existing funds.

He said: "None of us - not any of the parties - believed this was a realistic financial package."

He added: "We have approached this in a positive and constructive mind.

"Unfortunately during the course of this - despite what the Prime Minister has said - there was no credible financial package to allow us to tackle the austerity agenda imposed by the British government.

"We won't give up and believe we still have a major contribution to make and work is still to be done."

 

 

 

Hooded men case was used to justify CIA torture: Memo
Belfast Telegraph 12/12/14

Aggressive interrogation techniques deployed against detainees in Northern Ireland during the Troubles were used by the Bush administration to justify the torture of al-Qaida suspects.

A 1978 European judgment which cleared Britain of torture in the case of the so-called hooded men was seen as giving the go-ahead for "a wide array of acts that constitute cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment or punishments, but do not amount to torture", White House memos have shown.

In 2002 a memo from the assistant attorney-general to the president's counsel said the United States could view the ruling as permission under international law for "an aggressive interpretation as to what amounts to torture".

The European ruling cleared Britain of torture in a move described by President Bush's lawyers as a "leading" case "explicating the differences between torture and cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment".

"Careful attention to this case is worthwhile," the memo added.

A 528-page document released by the Senate Intelligence Committee earlier this week included graphic details of the barbarism and inhumane treatment of detainees at "black site" prisons around the world.

Ordered by President George W Bush to tackle Islamist militants in the wake of the 9/11 attacks in 2001, the CIA programme's use of extreme interrogation techniques - regarded by many to be torture - was found by the report not to have saved a single life.

There are fresh demands for the Westminster Government to launch a full, investigation into allegations it sanctioned the torture of some internees during the Troubles.

The calls, led by Amnesty International, come after the government in the Republic referred the case of the hooded men back to the European court last week. The case centres on 14 Catholic men who were interned - detained indefinitely without trial - in 1971 who said they were subjected to torture methods including hooding, being held in stress positions, exposure to white noise, sleep and food deprivation as well as beatings.

The men were hooded and flown by helicopter to a secret location, later revealed as an Army camp at Ballykelly.

They were also dangled out of the helicopter and told they were high in the air, although they were close to the ground.

No-one was ever convicted of wrongdoing.

Ten of the hooded men gathered at Belfast's Stormont Hotel for a private meeting with Thomas Hammarberg, who investigated internment abuses for Amnesty International in 1971.

The 10 were Paddy Joe McClean, Francie McGuigan, Kevin Hannaway, Liam Shannon, Jim Auld, Joe Clarke, Gerry McKerr, Michael Donnelly, Patrick McNally and Brian Turley. Relatives of some who have since died were also in attendance.

Yesterday former vice president Dick Cheney said that Mr Bush was "fully informed" about CIA interrogation techniques condemned in the Senate report.

Background

The UN and human rights groups have called for the prosecution of US officials involved in what a Senate report called the "brutal" CIA interrogation of al-Qaida suspects. A top UN human rights envoy said there had been a "clear policy orchestrated". The CIA has defended its actions in the years after the 9/11 attacks on the US, saying they saved lives. President Obama said it was now time to move on.

 

 

 

PSNI to review plans to award medal to staff with over three years' service
BBC News 12/12/14

The Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) has said it is reviewing plans to award service medals to staff.

It had originally intended to present the medal to all officers and support staff who had served more than three years.

The medals were to be issued to commemorate the first 10 years of the formation of the force.

The cost of going ahead with presenting the medal would have been more than £300,000.

Last year, the PSNI confirmed that plans for the medal had been submitted to the Department of Justice for consideration.

But when the anticipated cost of £320,000 emerged, the cost of the plan to award the medal became controversial.

Now, in the context of large scale cuts to the policing budget, there has been a rethink.

The PSNI has said it is now reviewing its proposal to award the service medal to police personnel and staff.

A spokesperson for the department of justice said: "The department is aware that PSNI are reviewing the proposal for a medal."