20th April 2014
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commemorations face PSNI harassment
Colour party uniforms belonging to Republican Sinn Fein due to be used during an annual Easter commemoration in Lurgan this Saturday have been seized during police raids in Craigavon.
It is understood as many as 18 uniforms were taken from a house in the Drumbeg estate last week. The uniforms were bought to replace two sets previously taken by the PSNI and they are regularly used during events organised by the traditional republican party.
The same set of uniforms is believed to have been used by a guard of honour at the funeral of Co Donegal republican Joe O’Neill who died last year.
The items recovered included trousers, jumpers, boots, scarves and berets.
While it is not clear why they were seized it is understood a number of people arrested in the north armagh area recently have been questioned about images that appeared in a calendar produced by republican Sinn Fein. RSF spokesman Martin Duffy condemned the PSNI operation, claiming it was “heavy handed.”
“This happens the same time every year when republican Sinn Fein is holding a commemoration,” he said.
“It’s just harassment to try and stop it but they won’t stop it.”
Sinn Féin in Omagh has also condemned the PSNI after a party activist was arrested and another cautioned while promoting the sale of the Easter Lily in the town.
The Easter Lily is traditionally worn by Irish republicans to remember Ireland’s Patriot Dead and to commemorate the 1916 Easter Rising.
It is understood that the incident happened on Wednesday night at Gortmore Park in the town.
The chairperson of the town council, Sinn Fein’s Marty McColgan, condemed the police action, which he described as “retrograde political policing”.
“We have the crazy situation, where I officially launched the Easter Lily in the Council Offices yesterday, yet today the PSNI are arresting and cautioning republicans for promoting it.
“Following a long litany of complaints against the PSNI in Omagh, this latest action will further reinforce the collapse of public confidence in the PSNI locally.
“We will be challenging the PSNI to ensure that political policing like this is ended. We will be raising this incident through our Policing Board members.”
Meanwhile, the organisers of an independent republican Easter commemoration march have been ordered by the Parades Commission not to play music in a nationalist district of north Belfast - although a loyalist parade in the same area has been cleared to do so just two days later.
The republican parade, which is organised by Carrick Hill Friends of Erin go Bragh Flute Band, is due to take place through the nationalist district at 2.15pm on Easter Saturday.
Organisers reacted angrily last night after it emerged that no restrictions have been placed on a loyalist band taking part in an Apprentice Boys parade along Clifton Street on Easter Monday.
Parade organiser Emanuel Conway described the Parades Commission decision as “illogical” and confirmed the Parades Commission will be asked to carry out a review.
“The parade will not be touching on any interface but according to the Parades Commission they received oral representations which, we must assume led to this decision being made,” he said.
“The members of the Parades Commission must be ignorant of the geography of the area.
“The road which is Carrick Hill is a populated area with houses and flats/apartments on both sides of the road.
“The determination therefore would make it illegal for anyone to come out of their home to await or follow the band.”
North Belfast Sinn Fein councillor JJ Magee hit out at the ruling.
“This determination makes no sense. This parade is by some of the residents of Carrick hill and is not being held by people from outside the area as is the case with loyal order parades,” he said.
“The parade should not be restricted in this way as it is non- contentious and the determination is illogical.”
Dundalk says no
And Sinn Fein has been ordered by Dundalk Town Council to remove Irish tricolour flag erected in the town’s main square. The council wrote to the party after members had put up flags in Market Square in preparation for Sunday’s commemoration of the 1916 Easter Rising.
Sinn Fein counillor Kevin Meenan criticised the stance of the council, describing it as “mental.”
He said that every year members of the local commemoration committee put up several flags along a route that takes marchers from the square to the republican monument at St Patrick’s Cemetery.
The march takes place on Easter Sunday afternoon and the flags are removed by the evening of Easter Monday.
Mr Meenan said that on foot of the council’s communication, flags were removed from the square but the others were left flying.
“People are just wondering
why our national flag had to be taken down at all. This is a flag
that causes no offence to anybody down here [in the 26 Counties],”
Crossan murder: 26-year-old man arrested
Police in Northern Ireland have arrested a 26-year-old man over the murder of former dissident republican leader Tommy Crossan.
Mr Crossan, 43, was shot dead at a fuel depot off Springfield Road in west Belfast.
The killing of the former senior member of the Continuity IRA was condemned by Northern Ireland's first and deputy first ministers.
The suspect was arrested in west Belfast.
Mr Crossan was killed just after 17:00 BST on Friday.
It is believed he had been expelled
from the Continuity IRA some years ago after falling out with other
Fail attacks plans for royals to join 1916 celebrations
Fianna Fail has hit out at the Government's plans to invite the British royal family to the 1916 Rising centenary celebrations.
Senior party member Billy Kelleher branded the decision to invite Prince Charles and Camilla for the 100-year commemoration as "superficial" and "done without thought".
Mr Kelleher said decisions on who should attend the "most significant event in recent Irish history" should not be made without the consultation of all political parties.
"I think before we start issuing invitations on a casual basis, almost without thought, we should sit down as a parliament, and as a people, and discuss it," he said.
Mr Kelleher said he "cringed" when he read reports that the Government was hoping to invite Prince Charles and Camilla to the centenary celebrations in 2016.
"It is nothing against the British monarchy, but the primary purpose of this commemoration is to celebrate the 1916 Rising," he added.
"There are a lot of complexities in Irish history and before we start inviting heads of state from around the world, let's have our own discussion."
The 'Sunday Independent' revealed that the Government was keen to have Charles, heir to the throne, and the Duchess of Cornwall take part in the celebration of the declaration of the Irish Republic. There is also a suggestion the darlings of the British media, William and Kate, could also attend.
Eamon Gilmore first mentioned the Coalition's intention to invite the British royal family and the UK government to the commemorations in September last year.
During President Michael D Higgins's state visit to Britain, Queen Elizabeth implied the monarchy would attend the commemorations.
Speaking at a banquet in Windsor Castle, she said: "My family and my government will stand alongside you, Mr President, and your ministers, throughout the anniversaries of the war and of the events that led to the creation of the Irish Free State."
Taoiseach Enda Kenny was quick to welcome the queen's comments and said the Government would "work out" how a royal visit would factor into the commemorations.
However, he said some of the commemorative events were "quite sensitive" and should be dealt with properly.
Mr Gilmore was more forceful in his comments, saying the British and Irish Government were "very conscious that we should do this together".
Historian Diarmaid Ferriter criticised the Government for inviting the royals without first consulting the expert advisory group it established to advise on the 1916 celebrations.
Writing in the Irish Independent, Mr Ferriter, who is on the advisory panel, said a distinction should be made "between history and current politics".
"Having royals at the table of all the State's commemorations will begin to look like the State desires some kind of British approval, which smacks of a post-colonial inferiority complex," he added.
President Higgins's state visit to Britain was seen as a major milestone in Anglo-Irish relations and followed Queen Elizabeth's trip to Ireland in 2011.
Former president Mary McAleese was instrumental in building ties between the two nations. Ms McAleese, along with President Higgins, is likely to play a role in the Easter Rising celebration in two years.
However, there are doubts over whether the Coalition will still be in Government when the commemorations take place.
In 2016, Easter falls early in
March and a general election is due to take place in the same month.
Crossan: Dissident republican's killing condemned
Northern Ireland's first and deputy first ministers have condemned the west Belfast killing of a prominent dissident republican.
Tommy Crossan, 43, was shot dead at a fuel depot off the Springfield Road.
Once a senior figure in the Continuity IRA, it is believed Mr Crossan had been expelled some years ago after falling out with other dissidents.
Detectives are examining the possibility that dissidents were involved in the shooting.
It happened just after 17:00 BST on Friday when the area was busy with people.
A red BMW car was found on fire nearby. It is thought three gunmen carried out the attack.
A local priest gave the last rites to Mr Crossan.
First Minister Peter Robinson warned that murder "can never be justified in any circumstances" as he urged those with information to come forward.
He said: "The small minority of people who want to continue terrorising the community need to understand that they will not be allowed to drag Northern Ireland back to the dark days of the past.
"They must be hunted down and brought to justice."
Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness said those responsible for Mr Crossan's death "are criminals and will further no cause through this shooting."
He added: "Dialogue not destruction is the way forward and while there may be a small minority of people who are trying to promote division and heighten tensions, let's be very clear, they will fail.
"The peace process is rock solid and all right thinking people across the community oppose and reject the actions of the people behind this murder."
Northern Ireland Secretary of State Theresa Villiers said she condemned "this brutal murder which has left a family bereaved".
David Ford, Northern Ireland's justice minister, said: "Those responsible for this cowardly act will be pursued by the authorities and I would urge anyone with information to pass it to the police."
Belfast's lord mayor, Máirtin
Ó Muilleoir of Sinn Fein, tweeted: "Shame on those who
bring death to Belfast streets at Eastertide. They represent no-one
but themselves and have no place in our great city."
Crossan: Dissident republican shot dead in west Belfast
A prominent dissident republican has been shot dead in west Belfast.
Tommy Crossan was shot at a fuel depot off the Springfield Road. It is understood he was shot several times.
Mr Crossan was once a senior figure in the Continuity IRA. It is believed he had been expelled from the group some years ago after falling out with other dissidents.
It is also understood that he had been informed that threats had been made against his life.
The attack happened late on Friday afternoon when the area was busy with people. A local priest gave the last rites.
A red BMW car was later found on fire at Beechmount Grove close to the scene of the attack.
A section of the Springfield Road, between the Falls Road and Elswick Street, has been closed to traffic.
'Sense of shock'
Colin Keenan, a councillor for the nationalist Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP), said it was a horrific scene, with the dead man lying in the grounds of the industrial estate and exposed to view from surrounding residents' windows.
Relatives at the scene are devastated, he added.
Mr Keenan said: "I condemn this murder completely and in doing so I reflect the view of all of the community.
"There is a real sense of shock that this has happened.
"We have long hoped that the shadow of death had been lifted from west Belfast.
"Today's event is a terrible, tragic reminder of the violent conflict of the past."
Sinn Féin MLA for West Belfast, Jennifer McCann, said: "This killing was in broad daylight in a very busy part of the Springfield Road.
"Those behind it had no consideration for anyone in this community except themselves and their own criminal agenda.
"This community does not want them. They need to listen to this community, stop these senseless actions and go away."
David Ford, Northern Ireland's justice minister, said the murder should be condemned by all.
Mr Ford said: "I condemn this appalling crime and offer my sympathies to the family.
"Those responsible for this cowardly act will be pursued by the authorities and I would urge anyone with information to pass it to the police."
Belfast's lord mayor, Máirtin Ó Muilleoir of Sinn Fein, tweeted: "Shame on those who bring death to Belfast streets at Eastertide. They represent no-one but themselves and have no place in our great city."
A member of the Policing Board said the shooting "was a sad night for Belfast".
The Alliance Party's Chris Lyttle said: "We had all hoped we had left this type of violent behaviour firmly in the past and my thoughts are with the victim's family and friends and the wider community as they come to terms with this shocking incident."
A Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) spokesman said: "Police are investigating a fatal shooting in the Springfield Road area of west Belfast this afternoon.
"One man has been shot dead
in the vicinity of the Peter Pan centre."
to sue police and state over loyalist murder of Dinny Mullen in Moy
The daughter of an SDLP activist who was murdered by loyalist gunmen outside Moy nearly 40 years ago, has launched High Court proceedings against the Chief Constable of the PSNI, the Ministry of Defence and the Secretary of State.
Denis, or ‘Dinny’ Mullen as he was known, died in a hail of gunfire at the home he shared with his wife Olive and two young children.
Mr Mullen had recently been appointed to the post of Ambulance Controller at South Tyrone Hospital, and was a well known SDLP activist who campaigned for civil rights along with his wife.
His daughter, Denise, and representatives of another Mid Ulster family, have served High Court Writs on the authorities, alleging that the British government and its agencies, “facilitated or otherwise sanctioned ‘collusion’” in the murders of their loved ones by the notorious Glenanne Gang.
The loyalist murder gang has been associated with the killings of up to 120 people in a terrorist spree which spanned a five year period in the late 1970s across Mid Ulster.
The family of Aughamullan man, Patrick Falls, who died in a gun attack on Falls’ Bar on November 20, 1974, is also pursuing legal action, which is being taken on their behalf by KRW Law Human Rights Lawyers.
Kevin Winters, KRW Law spokesman, explained: “A total of 32 families have agreed to take part in the mass litigation which will allege that the British Government and its agencies, the Police, the military and the Northern Ireland Office facilitated or otherwise sanctioned ‘collusion’.
“The law suits lodged in the High Court in Belfast claim damages for personal injuries, distress and post traumatic stress by reason of misfeasance in public office, negligence, assault, battery, conspiracy to perform an individual act and breach of statutory duty.”
According to the families’ lawyer, “The failure of the PSNI to sanction an overarching, thematic HET Report linking all of the atrocities together and the recent collapse of the Haass proposals on The Past has left many families with little alternative but to take legal action”.
The test civil action has been
supported by some findings made by the Historical Enquiries Team (HET)
together with archive researching by the Pat Finucane Centre (PFC)
as set out in Lethal Allies - British Collusion in Ireland, concluded
the legal representative.
away the mush and gush of the State visit
By Eamonn McCann
Opinion: Irish elite were celebrating their acceptance into a particular layer of society
‘Oh Irish men forget the past/ And think of the day that’s coming fast/When we will all be civilised/Neat and clean and well-advised/Won’t Mother England be surprised/Whack fol the diddle all the di do day.”
The day dawned last week and thank god we didn’t let ourselves down. Spick and span and all at ease in the knowledge that anybody who sniggered at the sight of us would instantly be anathematised as a backwoodsperson and an opponent of peace. The thought surely popped into others’ minds, too: why don’t we break entirely with the attitudes of the olden days and get down on our knees?
Is there anywhere else on Earth where splicing a quail’s egg with Queen Elizabeth can be seen as a symbol of leaving quaint habits behind? There are places, of course, where she is regarded as the newsworthy head of a celebrity family or a tourist attraction or a harmless reminder of an imagined past. But a banquet in the gilded surrounding of Windsor Castle as a cutting-edge event? Dear god.
There is an island in the south Pacific whose people adhere to a cargo cult and – so it’s said – regard the queen’s husband as a god. We are not there yet, but it’s early days.
Gush and mush
As gush and mush engulfed the land last week, Prof Roy Foster surfaced to give us his expert opinion that relations between the British and Irish ruling classes were now so intimate as to be “nearly as good as sex”. What sad, limited lives some of these academics lead.
Michael O’Leary found himself in a spot of bother a couple of weeks back for making a joke about having sex with the queen. Extremely offensive, spluttered specialists in etiquette. But some of us found the remark among the least offensive of O’Leary’s oeuvre, certainly less offensive than Foster’s sleeveen intervention. A matter of taste, I suppose.
Actually, the professor didn’t use the phrase “ruling class”. Far too old-fashioned when dealing with the House of Windsor. But, objectively as we used to say, that’s what his words meant.
The propaganda that came pulsing through the media for the duration of the visit told that the meeting between the queen and President Michael D Higgins and Martin McGuinness will have facilitated reconciliation between the British and Irish people. But the vast majority of us have no need of the queen’s involvement to achieve reconciliation with our British neighbours. Like many others once corralled within the empire we have long managed to combine a distaste for imperial power with congenial friendship towards the British people.
Cementing relations between the peoples of these islands is not what the “monstrous stupidity” was about. It was about the Irish elite celebrating their acceptance into a layer of society they have long wanted to be part of. They believe they have now been liberated from any need to pretend dislike for the flummery and pomp which deep down – not all that deep, as a matter of fact – they have envied and aspired to. In this sense at least, the feast in the castle was truly historic.
One lesson to be learned from “the hideous, revolting and vulgar tomfoolery” (English republican William Morris again) is that nationalists, irrespective of how long they fight or at what cost, are merely applying for membership of the club. It is well to recall that Sinn Féin founder Arthur Griffith thought it demeaning to the nation that while Britain, France, Germany, etc, had colonial possessions to plunder, distressful Ireland remained empty-handed.
It has been an implicit demand of nationalism down the decades that Irish people should not be exploited by foreigners when there are Irish people available to do the job themselves, a perspective summed up in the phrase – which de Valera never said, but should have – that “labour must wait”.
‘See the Conquering Hero Comes’
Which brings us to the threat of a royal presence at ceremonies marking the centenary of the Rising. It’s said Prince Charles will be the family’s representative. Would it be practical for McNamara’s Band to make a comeback for the occasion? McCarthy on the old bassoon while Doyle the pipes will play? Hennessy Tennessee tootling the flute? They might greet the commander-in-chief of the Parachute Regiment as he waves his way along O’Connell Street with a rousing rendition of See the Conquering Hero Comes. Makes your heart swell just to think on it.
Rejecting the pleas of Dublin business people and parliamentary leaders in 1911 that all should welcome George V so as to consolidate the prospect of Home Rule, James Connolly observed the British royal family “has been notorious in history for the revolting nature of its crimes, murder, treachery, adultery, incest, theft, perjury – every crime known to man.” (Why he had adultery in there I don’t know.)
Wouldn’t get away with saying
the like of that these days, would he? Whack fol the diddle all the
di do day.
of fake notes seized after major sting on dissidents
Police in the Republic of Ireland have seized up to €20m in counterfeit cash following a big operation against dissident republican associates.
Officers found the fake notes when they raided a lock-up premises in the Baldoyle area of north county Dublin yesterday.
They arrested a 52-year-old man from Coolock, following searches in the Coolock and Artane areas and he was being held for questioning last night.
He is detained at Coolock garda station under section 4 of the Republic's Criminal Justice Act and can be held without charge for up to 24 hours, excluding rest periods.
During the searches carried out by the Garda Special Branch, printing and computer equipment was also found.
One officer said last night: "This is a huge haul and the seizure has prevented a lot of damage being done financially around the country. The forgery operation appears to have been well planned and it produced sophisticated counterfeit notes.
"These searches follow very detailed intelligence gathering by officers over the past couple of months," he added.
The garda raid followed an investigation in February when gardai smashed a major "fund raising" plan by the dissidents.
That resulted in the seizure of more than €2m in counterfeit money, most of it found at a printing press in a rented premises located between Clonee and Summerhill in county Meath.
Gardai initially seized fake notes, worth €20,000, in an operation at North Circular Road in Dublin.
But the Meath search revealed four boxes, with each containing €500,000 worth of counterfeit €50 notes, in various forms of completion.
Officers recovered a total of €110,000 in completed notes, which were described as very high quality fakes.
They differed from genuine notes in the watermarks, which had been superimposed on the fakes rather than embedded in them during their manufacture.
The full extent of the dissident scheme was emerging last night as detectives counted the number of notes found in the latest search. Gardai said they were concerned that notes of that quality were being manufactured.
One officer said: "To the untrained eye, they would pass quite easily, particularly if they were being distributed in pubs or nightclubs where money is exchanged very quickly.
"We're asking business people, in particular, to check their stock of €50 notes and look at what money they have.
"If they come across any suspicious notes, they should contact the gardai immediately," he added.
Gardai pointed out that if large amounts of the money had been flushed into circulation nationally, they could have damaged the reputation of the State and financially disadvantaged those, who had inadvertently taken receipt of the notes.
In the county Meath premises,
gardai also seized two large industrial sized printing presses along
with a cutting machine to carve out single notes from overall blocks
of four, and computers to impose the graphics on the notes.
is a beacon of hope’ in terms of reconciliation – McGuinness
Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness has said his visit to Windsor Castle last week sends a clear message to unionists in the North that “things have to change.”
Mr McGuinness attended a state banquet, hosted by Queen Elizabeth, as part of the state visit by President Michael D. Higgins, the first such visit by an Irish head of State to Britain.
In doing so, he became the first republican leader to attend a royal event in Britain and took part, along with other guests, in a toast to the Queen.
His attendance at the banquet attracted international media attention and images of Mr McGuinness at the event were carried by news outlets around the world.
The senior Sinn Féin leader acknowledged his presence at the event may have been difficult for some, including nationalists and republicans, to understand but insisted it represented a significant step towards reconciliation.
“We can talk about peace and reconciliation and there is a lot of talk but it is not just about words; it is about deeds and trying to do things which will contribute to the consolidation of the peace process and the change process,” he said.
“I represented a challenge for nationalists and republicans. I never underestimated that challenge for people, many of whom have very legitimate opinions about the past and about Britain’s involvement in the conflict here but the decision I made to attend was intended to make further contributions in a spirit of generosity to the consolidation of peace in this country,” he added.
Mr McGuinness said the image of the Tricolour flying alongside the Union flag in Windsor was particularly striking. “It really makes an impression when you go into the town of Windsor and see Tricolours festooning the lampposts on a equal basis with the union flag. It was quite obvious that great efforts were made to make people feel welcome on the basis of equality, not superiority,” he said. The Sinn Féin leader said he hopes the visit will improve community relations.
“Meeting Queen Elizabeth was not just an act of reconciliation, it was an opportunity for me to reach out the hand of friendship, through her, to the unionist community in the North.
“Queen Elizabeth is not my queen but she is queen to people who regard themselves as British and I have to respect that reality but President Higgins is my president and I believe his words, alongside those of Queen Elizabeth, amount to something very significant.
The Deputy First Minister said unionists now have a duty to make similar strides towards reconciliation. “For me, the biggest message that comes out of the events of last week was how it was handled from a British perspective sends a very clear message to unionist politicians and to pro-British organisations such as the Orange Order that things have to change and change dramatically in terms of recognising the validity of the traditions I represent and President Higgins represents, those of Irish nationalism and republicanism.
“The starkness of the imagery of those flags, the flags of the Irish people and the British people adorning the streets of Windsor sends a clear message to people about where we need to go in the future and the need for equality,” he said.
Mr McGuinness said unionists in Derry are already taking postive steps towards reconciliation and described the city as a “beacon of hope” for others.
“There is still progress to be made but in this city we have been doing well. I say that as another initiative is forthcoming from the Loyalist Bands Forum, a group who I think contributed in a very mature and positive way to the success of Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann and the events of last year in the city. I am tremendously encouraged by the reiteration of their position that they want to continue to do that and I know they are going to be involved in the Pan Celtic Festival next week. All of that warms my heart.
“The people of this city stand as a very clear example of how the future needs to unfold. I think Derry is a beacon of hope. I think that others ignore at their peril the huge progress that has been made in this city.
“One of the legacies of last year has been a real reaching out to other communities in Derry. The response from young people in particular to events such as the tattoo, the Fleadh, One Big Weekend, was fantastic,” he said.
Mr McGuinness said he is continually encouraged by the positivity of young people and said it challenges political leaders. “My going to Windsor was as much for the young people as it was for anyone else because I recognise that I have a duty and responsibilty to give leadership to those people.
“Last year I was struck day after day at all the events by young people who were effectively saying to me ‘you have my future in your hands and you can move forward in a positive and constructive way or you can move forward in a spirt of negativity.’ I am not interested in being negative. I am not interested in being a no man. I am only interested in delivering for all of the people, the people who vote for my party and those who don’t and if that means taking risks for peace then I am prepared to take those risks,” he said.
He also said responsible leadership can help deliver employment for young people and suggested Derry may be in line for a jobs boost. “There is a real opportunity to attract foreign direct investment and to support our own business community. That is one of the reasons I went on the Japanese trip with Peter Robinson which secured almost 200 jobs at Fujitsu. I am confident that as a result of our last visit to the west coast of the United States that there will be more good news for Derry in the course of the coming weeks and months,” he said.
The republican leader also predicted
“significant gains” for Sinn Féin the upcoming
elections. “Across Ireland in the European elections we have
a very real prospect of winning four seats which would be extraordinary
but it is absolutely achievable. At local government level here in
the city and across the island we can confidently predict very substantial
gains for Sinn Féin,” he said.
for Justice statement re T Villiers
Relatives for Justice Director Mark Thompson said;
"Theresa Villiers’ comments expose a purely self-serving political approach to the past that seeks to divert and shield the British government from its legal obligations concerning State violence and collusion.
"The propaganda myth that the State is only responsible for 10 percent of all killings throws up two key points; it ignores totally the reality of collusion that when factored into the equation accounts for the State being culpable for approximately a third of all killings. And that is only what we know at this point without a truth process.
"Secondly there has been no proper accounting for State violence and collusion and all those affected by this violence live with the legacy of denial where impunity continues.
"This past number of weeks demonstrates that the agenda of an old guard approach within the PSNI, NIO and DOJ is very much alive concerning the past – an agenda that continually pursues non-State actors to the conflict whist continuing to protect their own within State forces. This is unacceptable.
"Families have repeatedly asked why there has been no arrests of British soldiers involved in Bloody Sunday, MRF or former Special Branch involved in collusion and murder. This stands in stark contrast to other arrests.
"Within the PSNI there exists a Legacy Unit that is staffed and run by former RUC Special Branch officers who were rehired after retiring with generous severance packages and who are unaccountable to the Police Ombudsman. This Legacy Unit determines all matters concerning the past. We also have a Chief Constable who has totally abdicated his responsibilities by facilitating an RUC agenda within the PSNI concerning the past. It is in this vacuum that former Special Branch and spooks control and determine how the past is policed.
"Villiers statement must be viewed in this context.
"The only thing Theresa Villiers
got right was that there should be an accountable process to deal
with the past. However, from her comments it appears she may be of
the understanding that doesn’t apply to her government.”
slammed after arrest and caution for promoting Easter Lily
Sinn Féin has slammed the PSNI after a party activist was arrested and another cautioned as they carried out the annual promotion of the Easter Lily in Omagh.
The incident happened on Wednesday night, 16 April, in Gortmore Park in the town.
First introduced by Cumann na mBan in 1925, the Easter Lily has since been worn by Irish Republicans every year to remember Ireland’s Patriot Dead.
Omagh Council Chairperson Marty McColgan said,
“I condemn the arrest and caution of two Sinn Féin activists for promoting the Easter Lily, particularly the heavy-handed manner in which the arrest took place. This is retrograde political policing at its worst. And it must end immediately.
“We have the crazy situation, where I officially launched the Easter Lily in the Council Offices yesterday, yet today the PSNI are arresting and cautioning republicans for promoting it.
“Following a long litany of complaints against the PSNI in Omagh, this latest action will further reinforce the collapse of public confidence in the PSNI locally.
“We will be challenging the PSNI to ensure that political policing like this is ended. We will be raising this incident through our Policing Board members.
“And Sinn Féin MLAs will be meeting with new PSNI District Commander Kevin Dunwoody next week and this incident will be top of the agenda.
“The activists in question
also plan to file a complaint with the Police Ombudsman. And Sinn
Féin councillors will be challenging the PSNI area commander
to get on top of what seems to be a break down in discipline of their
officers on the ground.”
referendum could lead to ‘instability’ in the North, says
Government’s risk assessment also warns a British exit from the EU could impact relations between Ireland and Britain
A Government assessment of risks facing the State has warned that the looming referendum on Scotland’s membership of the United Kingdom could lead to an “element of instability” in Northern Ireland.
Although there is no detailed examination of the matter in a draft National Risk Assessment report, the reference to the September referendum stands as a rare public acknowledgement by the Government that the poll could have adverse implications for Ireland.
“The outcome of the Scottish referendum on independence could introduce an element of instability into Northern Ireland,” it said.
The Government’s usual stance on the referendum is to say the question is a matter for the Scottish people only. It typically avoids entering detailed debate on implications for Ireland should Scotland leave the UK.
British exit from EU
The risk assessment document,
published last night, also warns that a British exit from the EU could
have an adverse impact on relations between Ireland and Britain.
The publication of the risk report is part of an effort to identify financial and non- financial risks to the State so prevention and mitigation measures can be introduced.
The 16-page document identifies a series of economic, environmental, geopolitical, societal and technological risks, but it says each risk is being addressed through policies and actions in Government departments and agencies.
On economic matters, the document
identifies risks related to debt sustainability, weaker than expected
economic growth, a re-emergence of the euro-zone debt crisis, vulnerabilities
in the banking system and the importance of multinationals in Ireland.
fails to get bail conditions relaxed for election canvass
Victims’ campaigner Willie Frazer has failed in a bid to have his bail conditions relaxed to allow him to canvass as an election candidate.
As a result of an ongoing, flag protest-related court case against Mr Frazer, he is prevented from attending any loyalist protest or Orange Order gatherings.
The Markethill man is considering an invitation to stand as the Protestant Coalition candidate for East Belfast at the local council elections in May, and claims the decision at Belfast Magistrates Court on Wednesday breaches his human rights.
Mr Frazer said the ban effectively
prevented him from distributing election material to large numbers
of potential voters at loyalist gatherings. He is expected to appeal
the decision in the High Court next week.
following Fintona alert
Two men arrested following a security alert in Co Tyrone have been charged with theft.
The charges come after a security alert on the Corbally Road in Fintona.
Officers stopped a van in the early hours of Tuesday morning and following examinations by army bomb disposal experts, police said a substantial amount of fertiliser was found.
The men, aged 33 and 45, are to appear in court next month charged with theft and going equipped.
As is usual procedure all charges
will be reviewed by the Public Prosecution Service.
released over McConville murder
A woman who was arrested in Belfast in connection with the 1972 abduction and murder of widow and mother-of-10 Jean McConville has been released.
Mrs McConville was kidnapped from her flat in the Divis area of west Belfast in December 1972 and shot by the IRA.
The 37-year-old's body was not recovered until years later, when it when it was found on a beach in Co Louth in August 2003.
On Wednesday morning, detectives from Serious Crime Branch detained a 57-year-old woman in west Belfast.
After being questioned at Antrim
police station, she was released pending a report to the PPS.
bomb accused Seamus Daly 'sought for five years'
An Irish republican accused of murdering 29 people in the Omagh bomb atrocity was sought by police for five years, Belfast High Court has heard.
Seamus Daly lived "under the radar" near the Irish border before he was arrested at a retail centre car park in Newry, County Down, prosecutors said.
It was confirmed charges were brought based on a review of available evidence rather than any new material.
Mr Daly was refused bail at a hearing on Wednesday.
The case against him centres on telephone analysis allegedly linking him to the outrage.
A former business associate who said he spoke to him on a mobile believed to have been used by the bomb team is a "pivotal" prosecution witness, a judge was told.
Mr Daly faces 29 counts of murder over the August 1998 Real IRA attack.
The 43-year-old bricklayer, originally from Culloville, County Monaghan, but now residing in Jonesborough, County Armagh, also faces counts of causing the explosion in Omagh and possession of a bomb in the County Tyrone market town with intent to endanger life or property.
He is further charged with conspiring to cause an explosion and having explosives with intent in connection with a separate dissident republican bomb plot in Lisburn, County Antrim, in April that year.
No one has ever been convicted in connection with the massacre at Omagh.
But Mr Daly, who has a previous conviction in the Republic of Ireland for IRA membership, has already been found liable for the bombing in a landmark civil action taken by victims' families.
The court heard that a man named Denis O'Connor claims Daly phoned him on the day of the attack using a mobile suspected of having travelled into Omagh on the bomb run.
Cell-site analysis also allegedly links him to the earlier bomb incident at Lisburn involving a similar modus operandi and warnings.
Asked by the judge if any of the information was new, prosecution counsel confirmed it was already known to police.
She contended, however, that there had been difficulties in locating Mr Daly before he was detained on 7 April.
He gave police a false name - believed to be that of his brother - and incorrect address.
Opposing bail, the lawyer said the chance to arrest him only emerged when he left his home.
"Police believe he has been residing in that address, almost keeping under the radar," she said.
Questioned on how long detectives had been looking for him, she replied: "Police would say in the region of five years."
No comment to questions
Throughout four days of interviews Mr Daly made no comment to all questions.
In a pre-prepared statement, he denied being a member of the IRA or any involvement in either the Lisburn attempted bombing or the attack on Omagh, whose 29 victims included the mother of unborn twins.
Defence counsel argued that the case against his client is too weak for criminal charges.
"There's been no additional evidence in 14 years," he said.
"It has been undoubtedly analysed and undoubtedly conclusions reached (previously) that there was insufficient evidence. Nothing has changed from that."
Rejecting any suggestion that the accused had been evading the authorities, the barrister said he has been in Northern Ireland for nearly three years.
"He's just been living a normal family life at that location," he added.
However, the judge said the prosecution had established a reasonable suspicion against Mr Daly.
He said he was refusing bail due
to the twin risks the accused may commit other serious offences or
‘insensitive to thousands of victims’
The north's Victims Commissioner has accused Britain’s secretary in the six counties of displaying insensitivity over the legacy of the most recent phase of conflict in Ireland.
Theresa Villiers suggested most people did not wake up worrying about the past and called for “proportionate” focus on wrongdoing by republicans and loyalists rather than the police as part of future measures to heal divisions.
Commissioner Kathryn Stone cautioned politicians against adopting a simplistic view as she announced she is to take up a post in England.
She said Ms Villiers’ comments were: “Insensitive to thousands of victims and survivors who do wake up every morning living with the legacy of the past and fearing what new trauma is around the corner.
“Victims and survivors have given politicians a brave, dignified and progressive lead on what we need to do to address the very real and difficult issue of dealing with the past.
“I believe consistent acknowledgement of that effort and sensitivity to their feelings in any public debate should be part of a new political sense.”
Ms Stone said good intentions could be derailed if only lip service was paid to victims and survivors’ sensitivities.
She added: “Putting victims
and survivors first should not just be political rhetoric but should
be as fundamental a thought process as applying racial, gender or
religious equality to any policy statements.”
Commissioner Kathryn Stone leaving job
NI Victims' Commissioner Kathryn Stone is leaving her job at the end of June to take up a post in England.
Ms Stone has been commissioner since September 2012. She was formerly chief executive of Voice UK, a national learning disability charity.
She was awarded an OBE in 2007 for her services to people with learning disabilities.
The first and deputy first ministers thanked her for her "service to all victims".
"She has been tireless in her efforts to ensure people, families and groups were afforded a quality service, in acknowledging the legacy of the past and in building a better future," they said.
"Since Kathryn took up the post in September 2012 there have been considerable developments in the sector particularly the recent independent assessment of the Victims and Survivors Service.
"We remain committed to ensuring that the advice and recommendations brought to us by Kathryn are implemented."
It is not yet known what her new job in England is.
In October 2013, Ms Stone said she has "no hesitation at all in condemning all acts of violence" amid controversy over her stance on paramilitaries.
It followed an interview she did
with the News Letter in which she refused to be drawn on whether she
believed the IRA and UVF were terrorists.
arrested over McConville murder
A woman has been arrested in Belfast in connection with the 1972 abduction and murder of widow and mother-of-10 Jean McConville.
Mrs McConville was kidnapped from her flat in the Divis area of west Belfast in December 1972 and shot by the IRA.
The 37-year-old's body was not recovered until years later, when it when it was found on a beach in Co Louth in August 2003.
On Wednesday morning, detectives from Serious Crime Branch detained a 57-year-old woman in west Belfast.
The suspect has been taken to the Serious Crime Suite at Antrim police station for questioning.
There are no further details.
say McGuinness should stay away from Easter commemorations
Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness should not attend republican Easter graveside commemorations, former IRA blanketman Anthony McIntyre has claimed.
Mr McIntyre, a former life prisoner and chief researcher in the Boston College project, said: “I just don’t see what place a British micro-minister has at the graves of dead republicans.”
Backing earlier calls by Republican Sinn Fein for mainstream republicans to stay away from Easter graveside commemorations, after Mr McGuinness accepted an invitation to attend a state banquet last week in Windsor Castle and toasted the Queen, Mr McIntyre added: “I would endorse the sentiment of RSF.
“Mr McGuinness is calling for people who carry on the tradition of those in the graves as he stands beside the leader of British unionism and the leader of the British police.
“That doesn’t mean that any armed campaign is right. I think it is wrong as I said before.”
Former IRA man Tommy Gorman said he had “no interest” in calls by Republican Sinn Fein for mainstream republicans not to attend Easter commemorations.
“I am not interested in this biting from the trenches,” he said.
“What one says I would take with a pinch of salt and what the other one says I would take with a pinch of salt.
“If McGuinness was a republican it would be different. But this man is not a republican.”
A statement from the hardline republican grouping – and signed by Republican Sinn Fein Newry and south Armagh – which was published in a weekly newspaper, said it was directed towards “the Provos and their leader Martin McGuinness”.
It read: “Stay away from the graves of our departed Irish republican volunteers. Your presence and that of your ‘dressed-up’ Brit-loving leader is a contamination of the sacred places where the hunger strikers and other patriots rest.”
Republican Sinn Fein was formed in 1986 after a split in Sinn Fein, with some members protesting at the decision to allow members to take their seats in Dail Eireann.
Republican Sinn Fein refuses to
reject the use of political violence and has been linked to the Continuity
Irish Republican Army and Oglaigh na hEireann (ONH).
Villiers: a lover of balance
What is Teresa Villiers for? Why, that’s easy. The British Secretary of State for Northern Ireland exists so that she can make statements like this one:
“At least with a new process, agreed by Northern Ireland’s political leaders, there is scope to write in from the start the need for an objective balance and with proper weight and a proportionate focus on the wrongdoing of paramilitaries…rather than the almost exclusive concentration on the activities of the state which characterises so many of the processes currently under way.”
I expect you noted the key phrases there – “agreed by Northern Ireland’s political leaders”, “objective balance” , “wrongdoing of paramilitaries”, “rather than the almost exclusive concentration on the activities of the state”.
Right. Let’s take them in order, shall we?
“Agreed by Norther Ireland’s political leaders”. Well I suppose Teresa should know better than us what our political leaders have agreed to or will agree to, but listening to Gerry Kelly on BBC Raidio Uladh/Radio Ulster this morning, it didn’t sound very much as if he was in agreement with the Villiers view. In fact he seemed to be saying that while republican paramilitaries had spent a total of hundreds, maybe thousands of years in prison, the agents of the state and ‘security’ forces had near enough walked free.
“Objective balance”. I don’t think any of us, except the most bone-headed bigot, would disagree with that. In other words, when looking at the past, we shouldn’t allow our wish to protect this side or that side to interfere with the presentation of what really happened.
But look what Teresa then comes up with: the “wrongdoing of paramilitaries…rather than the almost exclusive concentration on the activities of the state”. To paraphrase: there’s far too much attention to the bad things the state and its agents did and not nearly enough on the paramilitaries. Well now. All I can say is, tell that to the Finucane family. Or the people of Ballymurphy. Or the victims of the Dublin/Monaghan bombs. Or the dozens of families listed in Anne Cadwallader’s book Lethal Allies. Again and again, there are clear signs that the state was involved in the killing of totally innocent people. But if you’ve heard Teresa or other British state representatives addressing these vile injustices, then you’ve better hearing than me.
The fact is, there’s been considerable emphasis on the ‘activities of the state’ for the very good reason that the state has stonewalled every attempt to get to the bottom of what happened – and that includes Bloody Sunday in Derry. So is Teresa telling the victims in such cases that they’re getting too much attention? They’d say they were getting too little justice – in fact none at all.
The British Secretary of State’s
statement isn’t any thing new, really. Instead of being totally
appalled that the state forces, paid out of our pockets to protect
citizens, has instead killed them, she is now telling us to stop harping
on about their misdeeds. Bend an ear, Teresa: all killing of innocent
people is cruel and barbarous, but when such acts are perpetrated
by the law’s custodians it clearly deserves maximum attention.
What you’re calling for is less. But maybe I’m forgetting
you are the British Secretary of State.
Villiers: Fresh approach to NI past 'vital'
Any new process to examine NI's past must have a more "proportionate focus on the wrongdoing of paramilitaries" and less on the activities of the state, the secretary of state has said.
Theresa Villiers said the need for a fresh approach was "vital", as the past was placing a major burden on the policing and justice system.
She was speaking in Belfast on Wednesday.
Ms Villiers also called for agreement on parading and flags.
"At least with a new process, agreed by Northern Ireland's political leaders, there is scope to write in, from the start, the need for an objective balance and with proper weight and a proportionate focus on the wrongdoing of paramilitaries... rather than the almost exclusive concentration on the activities of the state which characterises so many of the processes currently under way," she said.
Ms Villiers also said any new process which examined the past must be "balanced, transparent and accountable".
"There are, of course, some who believe that the best way to deal with the past is to forget it," she said.
"I understand that sentiment... but as the On the Run controversy has demonstrated, I don't believe that's a viable option."
Ms Villiers also believes there is an urgent need to find a way to deal with the past that garners cross-community support.
"The need for a fresh approach on the past is becoming ever more vital because of the increasing pressure the status quo is placing on Northern Ireland's institutions... with inquests, cases in Strasbourg, freedom of information requests and Troubles-related investigations by the police and police ombudsman," she said.
She said a lack of consensus on the past was having a huge knock-on effect, both politically and economically.
"All this is placing a major burden on the policing and justice system with a recent Criminal Justice Inspection report estimating that the Northern Ireland Executive now spends over £30m a year on legacy issues," she said.
In a wide-ranging address, Ms Villiers also said an agreement on flags, parading and the past would send a powerful global message about the ability of local politicians to find solutions.
"I also believe that agreement on the Haass agenda could free up the space for politicians to focus more on other issues that are critical to our future... such as rebalancing the economy, reforming the public sector and building a genuinely shared future," she said.
The secretary of state also criticised Sinn Féin and the SDLP over their stance regarding the National Crime Agency.
The agency does not operate in Northern Ireland in the same way as the rest of the UK.
Last year, Sinn Féin and the SDLP blocked a move to give it powers to carry out police operations and recruit agents.
Ms Villiers said it was "deeply regrettable that, despite months of talks and a real willingness by (Stormont justice minister) David Ford and the Home Office to be flexible, some parties remain opposed to the assembly legislation.
"That means Northern Ireland's ability to fight some of the most despicable crimes is weakened."
The secretary of state also warned
that unless there is local agreement on welfare reform, the executive
would face a bill that will be costly.
Villiers says Northern Ireland's chief constable will run crime agency
The Northern Ireland secretary also said there would be no more amnesties for IRA members on the run, after John Downey
Northern Ireland's chief constable will control the National Crime Agency (NCA) if nationalist parties agree to its deployment in the region, the secretary of state has said.
In a pre-Easter message, the Northern Ireland secretary, Theresa Villiers, also pledged that there would be no amnesties for any more IRA members "on the run" after the freeing of the IRA Hyde Park bomb suspect, John Downey, in February when he produced a "comfort letter" from Tony Blair's government assuring him and others they would not be prosecuted for their crimes.
Speaking in Belfast, Villiers revealed that the power-sharing government at Stormont spends more than £30 million a year on unresolved matters relating to the past conflict.
On nationalist opposition to the NCA operating in Northern Ireland, she said: "To me, it is deeply regrettable that despite months of talks and a real willingness by David Ford (Northern Ireland's justice minister) and the Home Office to be flexible … some parties remain opposed to the legislation needed to allow the NCA to operate with its full range of powers here. That means Northern Ireland's ability to fight some of the most despicable crimes is weakened.
"Be in no doubt, it may have 'national' in its name but the UK government completely accepts the crucial importance of ensuring that NCA's operations in Northern Ireland are fully consistent with the devolution settlement.
"That's why the home secretary has agreed a number of significant changes to provide the necessary assurance and guarantee the primacy of the chief constable."
If the NCA were allowed to operate in Northern Ireland it would be the only region of the UK where a chief constable would control it. Sinn Fein signed up to support policing as long as the police service would be subject to democratic scrutiny and accountability. However, MI5 has the leading role in counter-terrorism in Northern Ireland and is only accountable to the government in London.
On the debacle caused by the Downey case, Villiers said the inquiry headed up by Lady Hallett should be allowed to run its course. "But I'd like to reiterate one point. This government does not believe in amnesties," she said.
"We believe in the rule of law … and that people who committed terrorist crimes must face the consequences if the evidence exists to prosecute. And if at any point when we inherited this scheme in May 2010 we had believed that it amounted to an amnesty we would have stopped it immediately."
Villiers also referred to crimes allegedly committed by members of the security forces during the Troubles.
"We have been and we will continue to be willing to take responsibility where state agencies have acted wrongly … but the misdeeds of the few should never be allowed to tarnish the heroism of the many."
The Northern Ireland secretary
said the disjointed approach to dealing with crimes dating from the
Troubles was putting an enormous burden on policing and poisoning
the political process. She called for a new way of dealing with issues
outstanding from the conflict.
Villiers: Stormont could fall if it cannot evolve and embody a normal
The Secretary of State has warned that the future of Stormont is in danger unless it can evolve into a system which accommodates an official opposition.
Theresa Villiers presented the change as being part of a move towards "the politics of delivery".
Under the Good Friday and St Andrews agreements, all our major parties share power and there is no speaking or other rights for opposition parties, as there is in Westminster or the Dail.
"Let me be clear... power-sharing and inclusivity are enshrined in the Belfast Agreement... and the Government is not going to undermine any of those principles," Ms Villiers will tell an audience made up of representatives of the four main Churches today.
In a keynote address entitled Moving Politics Forward, she is set to argue that the system can change without abandoning the principle of cross-community power-sharing. She warned that unless it adapted, it could fall.
"Political institutions the world over adapt and change. As the founding father of modern Conservatism... the Irishman Edmund Burke... once put it: 'A State without the means of change is without means of preservation'. And there are inherent weaknesses in a system in which it is very difficult to remove one's rulers by voting and to choose a viable alternative," she stated.
However, Ms Villiers insists that parties must agree a way forward. The coalition Government in London would not take the decision for them.
"This Government is clear that we would welcome moves that facilitate a more normal system at Stormont that allows for formal opposition, so long as a way can be found to do this which is consistent with power-sharing and inclusivity.
"But we also believe that if or how this happens really has to be primarily for parties in the Assembly to take forward, not least because it is so firmly within the Assembly's competence to deal with those matters that might characterise an opposition."
This is one of a number of challenges which she sees lying ahead. Others include implementing welfare reform and extending the National Crime Agency, a UK-wide body which tackles organised crime, to Northern Ireland. Without it, "Northern Ireland's ability to fight some of the most despicable crimes is weakened," she said.
She pointed out that Executive spends £30 million a year on "legacy issues". This, she said, placed a heavy burden on the police, and absorbed the energy of politicians, such as Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness.
"As we approach another marching season there is no doubt that an agreement on the way forward on flags, parading and the past even in outline would send a powerful global message about the ability of Northern Ireland's politicians to find solutions even to the most divisive of issues," she said.
She added that it would also "free up the space for politicians to focus more on other issues that are critical to our future such as rebalancing the economy, reforming the public sector and building a genuinely shared future."
Executive posts at Stormont are
given out under the d'Hondt system, a mathematical formula designed
to ensure that all major parties have a share in ministerial office
and nobody is excluded. The two big parties each have an effective
veto on decision-making. This can lead to stand-offs and blocking
tactics. For instance, agreement hasn't yet been reached on welfare
reform or the use of the Maze site, as well as flags, parading and
Rising: Eoin MacNeill's 'stop' order is sold for 30,000 euros
A 98-year-old document that was intended to stop a rebellion against British rule in Ireland has been sold at auction for 30,000 euros (£24,800).
It was handwritten by Eoin MacNeill, the commander of the Irish Volunteers, in a late-minute attempt to stop the 1916 Easter Rising.
The rebellion began on 24 April 1916 but ended after six days of fighting, and most of its leaders were executed.
The document was sold by Adam's Auctioneers in Dublin on Tuesday.
MacNeill's 11-word countermand is considered to be one of the most important documents in Irish history.
The handwritten order reads: "Volunteers completely deceived. All orders for tomorrow, Sunday, are completely cancelled."
The rebellion had been due to begin on Easter Sunday 1916, but MacNeill's order caused confusion among the rebel forces and their insurrection was delayed until the following day.
The brief, violent rebellion cost the lives of 450 people - more than half of whom were civilians - and resulted in widespread destruction of much of the Irish capital's inner city.
The Easter Rising was defeated by the British forces within days, but the execution of 15 rebel leaders who survived the fighting roused public sympathy for their cause.
The event is widely viewed as the catalyst for the Irish War of Independence two years later, which was followed by the partition of Ireland and the establishment of an Irish free state.
MacNeill's handwritten countermand, the only known copy in private ownership, was put up for sale in Dublin, as the main attraction in a collection entitled 800 Years of Irish Political, Literary and Military History.
The order was expected to sell for between 30,000 euros (£24,800) and 50,000 euros (£41,000) and the sale was agreed at the lower estimate.
Last month, Kieran O'Boyle from Adam's Auctioneers said the document had "changed the immediate course of Irish history to a significant degree".
He added that "with the exception of the Proclamation itself, it is probably the most important and influential document of the period of the rising".
The Irish Volunteers had been planning to hold peaceful manoeuvres on Easter Sunday 1916.
However, MacNeill found out that a group in the organisation, led by Padraig Pearse, had secret plans for an armed rising against the British.
When MacNeill tried to countermand this, the result was chaos and confusion, especially in areas remote from Dublin, where local commanders could not establish what was going on.
Consequently, there was no rising in Cork or Limerick.
The Irish government is planning
a major commemoration of the Easter Rising to mark the centenary in
found in Fintona alert van
Police have discovered a substantial amount of 'fertiliser' inside a Transit van which sparked a security alert when it was stopped overnight in Fintona.
Two men aged 33 and 45 were arrested and are being questioned over the discovery.
The alert, which has been taking place in the Corbally Road area, has now ended and a small number of families who were evacuated have been allowed to return home.
Police said the materials found inside the van have been taken away for testing.
A spokesperson added: "A substantial quantity of material, believed to be fertiliser, has been removed from a Transit van which was stopped by police shortly before two o'clock this morning.
"The material has been taken away for detailed examination."
The two men who were arrested are in custody at the Serious Crime Suite at Antrim police station, meanwhile the last remaining roads which were closed in Fintona are to re-open soon.
A spokesperson continued: "Police apologise for any inconvenience and thank the community for their patience and support. We understand the disruption these operations can cause to the community but emphasise that the operation was necessary to keep people safe.
"Police enquiries are continuing."
marching season jail warning
A Belfast judge has warned that the courts will hand out "stiffer custodial sentences" if there is further public disorder during this summer's marching season.
Belfast Recorder Judge David McFarland sounded the warning while jailing James Harding for eight months for rioting last summer.
Harding, of Lawnbrook Avenue, off the Shankill Road in west Belfast, had pleaded guilty to a single charge of riotous assembly on 12 July, 2013.
Sentencing the 30-year-old to a further eight months on licence after his release, Judge McFarland said: "You and the public have to be aware that the courts are taking a firm view in relation to this type of offending and it has to stop.
"There has been pleas by politicians but they have been ignored.
"The courts have taken on the role of giving out determinate sentences for such offences.
"If this does not work this year, then you and others like you, who come before a court will receive stiffer custodial sentences," added Judge McFarland.
Prosecuting solicitor John O'Neill told Belfast Crown Court that serious public disorder erupted on the Woodvale Road and Twaddell Avenue on the Twelfth of July after an Orange Order feeder parade was prevented by police from returning to the Ligoniel district past the flashpoint Ardoyne shops.
"Police lines came under attack with ceremonial swords, fireworks, masonry, stones and bottles," Mr O'Neill told Judge McFarland.
"In total 57 petrol bombs were thrown at police. Water cannon and accentuating energy projectile (AEP) were deployed.
"Twenty police officers were injured with five being hospitalised."
The court heard police evidence gatherers were on duty with video and still cameras to capture those involved in the rioting.
Mr O'Neill said Harding was present at the riot for around half an hour and during that period he threw three bottles at police lines.
He added: "The defendant was seen with a scarf or a flag over his face.
"He is seen crouching down behind a wheelie bin and throwing a missile at police.
"He remained at the scene and is seen pushing the bin forward and throwing another bottle at police.
"He appeared to have been using the wheelie bin as a shield."
Harding was arrested at his home on November 4, 2013 and during questioning admitted throwing a number of bottles at police.
The court heard he told police: "I am sorry. It was a stupid thing to do."
Defence barrister Finbar Lavery said Harding was a vulnerable person, who was easily led by others, and suffered from depression, anxiety and epilepsy.
"He has expressed remorse and knows what he did was wrong," said Mr Lavery.
"He does understand the difference between right and wrong."
He added that an ordinary person would have walked away from the riot.
"But given his particular low intellect and his extreme vulnerability, he might not have had the ability or sense to do that. And that is going to cost him dearly," added Mr Lavery.
Sentencing Harding to 16 months,
with half in custody and half on licence, Judge McFarland told him:
"You have to take responsibility not only for your own actions
but also for the actions of others as a collective within that group
who were rioting."
relative against plan to invite royals
Relatives of those who died in 1916 are unhappy with proposals that members of the British royal family are to be invited to the centenary commemoration.
Queen Elizabeth II herself indicated that members of her family may attend the memorial, in her speech during President Michael D Higgins' state visit.
Taoiseach Enda Kenny said he was "very pleased" by her comments and would like to see a visit by the Queen.
He said it was the Government's intention – where appropriate – to invite members of the royal family to attend commemorations and it would be consulting with "authentic historians" on "the best way to do these things".
Historian Diarmaid Ferriter, who is a member of an advisory committee to the Government on the 1916 commemoration, yesterday questioned the "appropriateness and the wisdom" of the move.
"Will it mean that in 2016 the big focus and the big story will be the royal presence in Dublin?" he asked.
"I wonder whether we need any royals. I'm not making a political point here, I'm speaking as a historian and I don't want the history to get lost."
Now James Connolly Heron, great-grandson of James Connolly, has said the royal family should stay away, saying the ceremony outside the GPO in Dublin will be in memory of all those who died and "their dream remains unfulfilled".
He also said that since Queen Elizabeth is "titular head of the British Army", he does not believe it would be appropriate for her to attend.
"I presume there will be guests and ambassadors from all over the world and in that sense if the British government were to be represented we could not object, but that would be different from a member of the royal family.
Mr Connolly added that the Taoiseach
"might want to liaise with the descendants of the executed leaders
in relation to what is an unprecedented proposal".
Black members fined over parade past St Patrick's Church
Five members of the Royal Black Institution have been found guilty of failing to comply with conditions imposed by the Parades Commission.
A judge at Belfast Magistrates Court fined the men £150 each.
The charges relate to a ban on music being played as a parade passed St Patrick's Church in Donegall Street in Belfast in August 2012.
Although the five were not band members they were convicted of joint enterprise with those who played the tunes.
A district judge said: "Those who are responsible and hold office in an organisation have a responsibility to ensure those who take part in parades do so lawfully."
The defendants were Belfast men Thomas Foster, 60, of Woodvale Avenue; William Mawhinney, 67, of Ainsworth Avenue; Alan McIntosh, 60, of Kilcoole Park; Raymond Samuel Spiers, 56, from the Castlereagh Road; and Brian Kerr, 42, from Fairview Avenue in Newtownabbey.
A defence solicitor told the court that the men had all been members of the Royal Black Institution for many years and that there was no evidence they had been involved in "bad behaviour" during the parade.
The judge said: "The defendants might not like the legislation, but it is not for them to pick and choose what parts of the law to comply with."
A sixth defendant, 55-year-old Thomas Edward Hefferon from Derrycoole Way in Newtownabbey, was acquitted.
The judge said he accepted Mr
Hefferon was "ignorant" of the terms of the Parades Commission
Robinson: I am hopeful for a deal on parades by the summer
Peter Robinson is hoping for wider agreement on parading before the summer.
Whatever happens, he is urging all involved to obey the decisions of the Parades Commission.
Asked if he would support the PSNI in tackling parading disorder from whichever side it came, he was unequivocal.
Last year he criticised some police tactics against loyalist protesters and was critical of some Parades Commission determinations.
"The police have a job to do," the First Minister said. "They have to carry out their role, which is to ensure that people act in accordance with whatever decisions are taken by the Parades Commission."
However, he added: "I just hope that if we can get some wider agreements before the summer that might improve the atmosphere so that we can have the parades in a context where it is more likely to be peaceful. Then everybody can enjoy themselves.
"I think we have to continue to work on those issues. Parades, in my view, are one of the three areas that should not be impossible to resolve."
The three issues referred to are flags, parading and the past.
They were the subject of talks led by Richard Haass and Dr Meghan O'Sullivan (right), two former American diplomats, last year.
The talks ended without agreement but Mr Robinson remains hopeful of progress. He said: "Since the departure of Richard Haass and Meghan O'Sullivan we have continued to make progress. We met earlier on this week and we dealt with a number of papers we had received from experts on legal matters.
"I haven't given up on that process. I want to see us resolve it."
That meeting was between the Executive parties with the exception of the UUP, which pulled out of talks. Mr Robinson said he wanted progress because "I haven't given up on it because the status quo is not satisfactory to me or, I believe, to anybody else".
He said that, where agreement wasn't reached, people should obey the new five-member Parades Commission, which was appointed last December.
He said: "People will have no choice. The new Parades Commission will operate and would be operating no matter what agreements had been reached with Richard Haass.
"The new Parades Commission
is the stopgap until we get an alternative, so its decisions will
have to be obeyed. We may not like the Parades Commission, we may
not like its rulings, but when it takes a decision it has the force
Robinson: Why Gerry Adams is at the heart of my problems with Sinn
Peter Robinson has blamed Gerry Adams for the problems he has working with Sinn Fein in Northern Ireland.
The DUP leader spoke in unprecedented detail about the difficulties he experiences working with the republican party in an interview with the Belfast Telegraph.
The First Minister claimed that Sinn Fein was unwilling to take decisions on tough issues like welfare reform because Mr Adams, its leader, was opposed to similar measures in the Dail.
He branded Mr Adams' policies as "crankery".
"It is clear that Adams believes getting support in the south is more important than getting support here in Northern Ireland.
"He believes that the south should have primacy, and that means we are unable to take sensible decisions in Government in case it conflicts with the crankery they indulge in while in opposition in the Irish Republic," Mr Robinson stated.
Mr Adams is TD for Louth and is not a member of the Assembly, but the Sinn Fein ard chomhairle, of which he is a member, has to sign off on all major decisions on Northern Ireland as well as the Republic. In the past Sinn Fein has denied that this involves any conflict.
Speaking in Belfast on Saturday, Mr Adams said the party was united in its opposition to austerity north and south.
Mr Robinson disagrees.
He told the Belfast Telegraph: "I believe that there is something of a tussle going on within Sinn Fein.
"There are those who are committed to operating within the new arrangements and the new era, but there are others who seem to want to drag us back."
He added: "This is the most difficult issue that we face. Sinn Fein is represented in Government in Northern Ireland and is in opposition in the south, and it seems to have difficulty coming to terms with the different roles that involves."
Despite these disagreements Mr Robinson believes that the power-sharing administration is secure.
"I don't think they have any inclination to move out of Government in Northern Ireland, but it is slowing down the process of decision taking to such an extent that it is not helpful in Northern Ireland," he claimed.
He added: "If you look at issues like welfare reform, education, other issues where decisions presented themselves that were obvious, that had to be taken, but they are not taking them because of the impact they might have down south."
He claimed he worked well with Martin McGuinness, the Sinn Fein Deputy First Minister, on issues where Mr Adams's input was not required.
"If you look at the areas where it doesn't conflict with Sinn Fein's agenda in the south, areas such as getting investment into Northern Ireland, we are very good at it.
"We probably are better than any of our predecessors in terms of bringing jobs into Northern Ireland" he said.
He predicted that big jobs announcements would be made in the next few weeks and that these had flowed from co-operation between Sinn Fein and the DUP.
"There are a number of very significant announcements coming and that indicates that when we work together on those kinds of issues it has a real and fruitful outcome for Northern Ireland.
"That is what makes it so debilitating that we can't get decisions taken in other areas because of the conflict between the Dail and the Assembly," Mr Robinson stated.
Yesterday, though, Sinn Fein accused the DUP of "political intransigence".
Daithi McKay, the Sinn Fein education
spokesman, said the decision to block the Education and Skills Authority,
which would have streamlined the province's education system, had
cost the taxpayer £17 million in wasted development costs.
in Fintona, County Tyrone, as van sparks bomb alert
Police have arrested two men and bomb disposal officers are examining the van the pair were travelling in after it was stopped in County Tyrone.
Officers stopped the van on Corbally Road, Fintona, and detained the two men shortly before 02:00 BST.
About five houses have been evacuated. A fertiliser sower has been removed from the van.
Part of the Corbally Road remains closed. The Tatttymoyle Road has been re-opened.
BBC Northern Ireland reporter Julian Fowler is at the scene.
He said: "The white van is stopped on the road with the rear doors open.
"Army technical officers are using two robots to look inside.
"Witnesses have described being woken about 02:30 BST and seeing flares lighting up the surrounding fields.
"They report seeing large
numbers of heavily armed police officers in the area. Later, they
say, a police helicopter and plane flew over the scene."
victim Teresa Clinton's family to sue government
The family of a Catholic woman shot dead by loyalists 20 years ago are to sue the government for alleged collusion in her murder.
Teresa Clinton was killed in a UDA gun attack on her south Belfast home in April 1994.
Lawyers for her widower, Jim, said High Court writs have been issued against the Ministry of Defence and the PSNI.
They claim damages for misfeasance, negligence, breach of statutory duty and conspiracy to injury.
Mrs Clinton, 34, was watching television when gunmen smashed a window at her house off the lower Ormeau Road and opened fire.
Her children were in the house when she was killed.
Although Mr Clinton, a former Sinn Féin election candidate, was not present, it is believed he was the UDA gang's target.
A report into the assassination of Belfast solicitor Pat Finucane is said to back this up.
The legal action will centre on whether military intelligence knew and, if so, what was done to warn the family.
Mr Clinton has said he would consent to an amnesty for those who pulled the trigger.
But he said he wanted to know who was allegedly responsible within the British state for creating a climate that allowed the killers to operate.
His lawyer, Kevin Winters, gave further details on the lawsuit.
Mr Winters said: "The De Silva report into the killing of Pat Finucane provides official confirmation for the first time that the security forces knew Jim Clinton was targeted.
"It points to clear evidence of collusion between elements of the state and paramilitaries.
"That in turn allows us to
make the necessary discovery applications through the courts."
takes legal action
A Lurgan man who is one of Sinn Fein’s most senior figures is taking a case against the party for discrimination and unfair dismissal.
Leo Green was Sinn Fein’s political director at Stormont until his shock departure ahead of February’s Ard Fheis.
Reports that he had left were rubbished at the time with the party insisting that the former hunger striker had renewed his membership just a month earlier.
But it was confirmed this week that Mr Green is taking an unprecedented employment case.
He is suing on grounds of discrimination for holding a political opinion, unfair dismissal and breach of contract.
The revelation is expected to cause embarrassment to Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness who was in England this week for a state banquet hosted by Queen Elizabeth for Irish President Michael D Higgins.
Mr Green (61) was regarded as a key player in Sinn Fein’s Stormont set-up since the signing of the Good Friday Agreement. Described by government insiders as the party’s ‘chief executive’ he worked as a special adviser to former health minister Bairbre de Brun before joining Martin McGuinness’ staff.
He was jailed in the late 1970s for the murder of a police officer and spent 53 days on hunger strike in 1980. His brother John Francis (27) was shot by loyalists in Co Monaghan in 1975 while on the run, having escaped from Long Kesh two years earlier in the clothing of a third brother Fr Gerrard Green.
At the time of Leo Green’s
departure one newspaper linked his departure to his opposition to
bomb pensioner seeks review of IRA's 'comfort letters'
A bid for the first judicial review into the handing out of almost 200 'comfort letters' to on-the-run terrorists has been launched.
Elizabeth Morrison (79) – who lost three members of her family in the Shankill bomb just two days after her husband died – filed papers challenging the controversial scheme at Belfast High Court on Friday. One of the victims – Mrs Morrison's son Michael – was buying a wreath for his father James' funeral when he was killed, leaving two children orphaned.
She has taken the case to try and secure court orders to cancel the on-the-run (OTR) scheme and discover whether anyone suspected of the Shankill bomb has received one of these comfort letters.
In February, it emerged the Northern Ireland Office (NIO) had handed out 187 letters to on-the-run terrorists, telling them they were no longer wanted by the authorities.
Most of these letters were issued at the request of Sinn Fein, while a small number were requested by the Northern Ireland Prison Service and the Irish government.
The letters came to light earlier this year when Donegal man John Downey was cleared at the Old Bailey in London of taking part in the 1982 Hyde Park bomb. He had been the recipient of one of the letters.
There was widespread political outrage and the NIO announced an investigation into the scheme.
A media report in the days after the Downey judgment claimed one of the Shankill bombing suspects had been handed a comfort letter. The north Belfast man is understood to have fled Northern Ireland shortly after the 1993 attack. However, it is believed he returned in 2007, after Sinn Fein secured him a letter from the authorities.
Mrs Morrison's legal team has written to the NIO inquiring about this report.
The NIO responded with a letter, which the Belfast Telegraph has been told included an expression of sympathy from the Secretary of State over what had happened.
However, the NIO refused to confirm a Shankill bomb suspect was among those who received comfort letters, because of the Data Protection Act and also because it has a duty under Article 2 of the European Convention of Human Rights to protect the individual's life.
Because of this letter, Mrs Morrison filed for a judicial review of the administrative scheme run by the NIO. She has asked for an order from the court to quash the decision of the Secretary of State to establish the OTR scheme, to quash the operation of the scheme and to quash any letters that were sent out.
Mrs Morrison is also seeking a declaration from the High Court that any letters sent under the scheme are unlawful, as well as disclosure of documents from the scheme of anyone suspected of involvement of the Shankill bomb who may have received one of these letters.
The 79-year-old lost her husband James the day before the Shankill bomb. Her son Michael (27) had been on the Shankill Road on October 23, 1993 to buy a wreath for his father's funeral when he was killed with his partner Evelyn Baird (27) and their daughter Michelle (7). The bomb left their nine-year-old boy and six-week-old baby girl orphaned.