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31st October 2014

On this day...

  • 1973 - Séamus Twomey, JB O'Hagan and Kevin Mallon airlifted to freedom in Mountjoy Helicopter Escape



"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




East Belfast violence: 'It's over a decade into the peace process and we're still being attacked nightly'
Belfast Telegraph 31/10/14

Their homes are on the front line of a nasty and potentially deadly street battle being fought by rival factions on a nightly basis.

Since Sunday, tensions in east Belfast have soared with five police officers and a number of teenage boys injured in the disturbances.

Petrol and paint bombs have been thrown across the interface every evening, with homes on either side bombarded.

Many of those who live in the shadow of the towering so-called peace-line are young families, with parents currently too afraid to allow their children to play in the street.

The remnants of four nights of sustained attacks were obvious both in Bryson Street and Thistle Court yesterday.

Residents in both areas told of their desperation for the trouble to end, accusing outsiders of hijacking the situation.

And they were universal in their appeal for police to do more to catch those responsible.

A man from Bryson Street said: "I've been reared in Short Strand and Bryson Street and it is genuinely frightening.

"Stress levels are very, very high. You can't leave your home through your front door. You feel trapped. I called police seven times last night. They took over an hour to respond."

A woman who lives in the same street added: "We were severely under attack last night and I couldn't get back to my own home. We're crying out for help. I think the police need to up their game. It's nightly attacks of bricks and bottles.

"We're all at our wits' end. We own our homes, we don't have the option to move."

Another said: "There are masked men involved in this. We can see them. It's not just kids. This is beyond anti-social behaviour. Last night they told us 'this is just the start of it'."

Objects were reportedly thrown from both sides yesterday morning, with council workers said to have narrowly avoided being struck while working in Thistle Court.

The residents said they felt they had been abandoned and hit out at unionist MLAs and MPs they said had failed to support them.

They formed their own group for those living on the unionist side of the divide, the Interface Residents Initiative.

A woman told this newspaper: "We're supposedly well over a decade into a peace process and our only desire is to raise our families in a peaceful and secure environment. We're being prevented from doing that with daily and nightly attacks on our homes.

"Our community feels isolated and literally under siege. We are not political, we are simply a group of parents who want to raise our families in peace."

A young father added: "Nobody is standing up for residents that's why they formed their own group. The police won't speak to us. They want to find a solution but that will never happen until they actually speak to the residents who are being attacked."




Haass proposals rejected by unionists are still on the table, says new envoy
News Letter 30/10/14

The Haass proposals are still likely to be the basis for any agreement over flags, parades and the legacy of the Troubles, Gary Hart has said.

The new US envoy said that Richard Haass, who unlike him did not have the US government’s express backing as he was invited by the local parties, had been “disappointed” at the failure of his talks.

“It seems to me from what I can tell that the working platform...[of] the Haass proposals are still in fact on the table; or at least the starting point for discussions where you get to that pillar or basket of issues,” he said.

“I for one wouldn’t rule out the possibility that minds might change and people might say ‘we’ve thought it over and maybe it’s the best arrangement we can reach’.

“I don’t think there’s much interest on anyone’s part in throwing it out the window and starting all over again because there was too much energy — intellectual and otherwise — went into that and there are only so many ways to skin the cat.

“I think Richard came up with about the best way to do so under the circumstances.”

When asked if his comments about unionists possibly changing their minds on the Haass proposals was based on his meetings with Peter Robinson and Mike Nesbitt, Sen Hart said: “I don’t know whether mood has changed on the DUP’s part, or Sinn Fein’s part. The difficulty for an outsider coming here is how inter-related some of these issues are and how people will say ‘look, we’re willing to concede perhaps against our interests or desire on parades if we can get you to agree on welfare reform’.”

But Sen Hart said that he had been involved in many discussions with Russians “which make this look very simple”. And he added that he believed the issue of parades was “negotiable” if there were concessions elsewhere.




Jean McConville murder: 73-year-old man who was arrested is released
BBC News 30/10/14

A 73-year-old man arrested in Dunmurry, on the outskirts of Belfast, in connection with the murder of Jean McConville, has been released unconditionally.

Mrs McConville, 37, a widow and mother of 10, was abducted in December 1972 from her flat in the Divis area of west Belfast and shot by the IRA.

Her body was recovered from a beach in County Louth in 2003.

The man had been taken to the serious crime suite at Antrim police station.




British government must face responsibilities on the past – McGuinness
Sinn Féin 30/10/14

Martin McGuinness MLA has said the British government must face up to its responsibilities on dealing with the past.

Speaking to relatives of victims of state violence at Stormont ahead of a human rights conference in Belfast next Thursday 6th November, which will be attended by the European Council's Nils Muiznieks, Mr McGuinness said;

"This has been a particularly difficult year for many families from across this society seeking truth and justice about the death of their loved ones.

"We have witnessed families being denied an inquiry into the Ballymurphy massacre, the inaction of the PSNI to investigate the actions Military Reaction Force, the call for a public inquiry into the deaths of 18 people at the hands of loyalists in Mid Ulster, the PSNI refusal to co-operate with the Gerard Lawlor inquest, the ongoing refusal to honour their commitment to hold an inquiry into the murder of Pat Finucane and the destruction of documents relating to shoot-to-kill deaths just weeks before an inquest was due to begin.

"All of this is rooted in the British government's failure to honour its Article 2 Right to Life obligations. It is clear that the British government fears the truth.

"We in Sinn Féin will not tolerate the British government seeking to rewrite their role in the conflict.

"There are many differing perspectives on the causes of the past conflict, what happened and who was responsible. We are up for a comprehensive discussion about the nature, causes and consequences of conflict. The question is, is the British government?

"In all of our deliberations we have sought to put the needs of victims first."




Voice analyst enlisted in Bell case
UTV News 30/10/14

A voice analyst has been enlisted in the case of a veteran republican accused of aiding and abetting the murder of Disappeared victim Jean McConville, a court has heard.

Prosecutors revealed an expert report is being sought as Ivor Bell's lawyer claimed he is being treated unfairly compared to British soldiers who opened fire on Bloody Sunday.

In a scathing attack on the evidence used to charge his client, Peter Corrigan said: "In our view it doesn't amount to a row of beans and is totally inadmissible."

Mrs McConville, a mother-of-ten, was seized by the IRA from her Divis Flats home in west Belfast in 1972, shot dead and then secretly buried.

Bell, 77, from Ramoan Gardens in the Andersonstown district of the city, was arrested in March and charged with paramilitary membership and aiding and abetting the murder.

The case against him centres on an interview he allegedly gave to US researchers from Boston College who interviewed several former paramilitaries about their roles in the Northern Ireland conflict.

Although transcripts were not to be published until after the deaths of those who took part, last year a US court ordered the tapes should be handed over to PSNI detectives investigating Mrs McConville's killing.

It is alleged that Bell is one of the Boston interviewees, given the title Z, who spoke about the circumstances surrounding the decision to abduct her.

The accused - who is currently on bail - denies any role in events surrounding the murder, claiming he was not even in the city at the time.

Bell appeared before Belfast Magistrates' Court on Thursday for an update in proceedings against him.

A Public Prosecution Service (PPS) lawyer revealed that a voice analysis report has been requested.

She added that senior counsel has been asked to study the case and provide an opinion. But Mr Corrigan argued that it was "untenable" for PPS to have yet to make a decision on whether to continue with the prosecution.

As well as challenging the need to bring in a voice expert, he described his client as an elderly man facing the stress of being charged with conflict-related offences.

According to the solicitor resource constraints have impacted on the PSNI's ability to properly investigate other episodes from the Troubles.

He cited the Bloody Sunday case where British troops killed 13 civil rights marchers in Lodnonderry, and the activities of the loyalist Glenanne gang.

"My client is entitled to be treated equally before the law," Mr Corrigan insisted.

"If he's treated in some way differently from the soldiers on Bloody Sunday... it's something we intend to put forward as part of an application: why is Ivor Bell and why is everybody not being treated equally for conflict-related offences?"

However, District Judge Fiona Bagnall agreed to a PPS request to adjourn the case for six weeks.

"If there are 10 Lever Arch files, with the best will in the world you have to give senior counsel time to review them," she said.

"I appreciate the frustration for Mr Bell in this, but we are where we are. This just takes time."

Bell was released on continuing bail to return to court in December.




PSNI retreat in Newry after attack
UTV News 30/10/14

PSNI officers on a call out in Newry have had to retreat after being attacked by youths with bricks.

The officers were visiting two elderly victims of theft when the incident happened in The Meadow on Wednesday.

Newry & Armagh MLA Mickey Brady said that he shares the concern of many over the attack.

"The PSNI reported that after being attacked by youths with bricks and with no other resources available they withdrew from the area rather than risk injury or damage to people and their property.

"This incident has caused great concern and anger amongst most local residents. The people of this area are entitled to law and order and those intent on causing trouble have nothing to offer the community."




Two officers injured amid disorder
UTV News 30/10/14

Two police officers have been injured after disorder broke out in east Belfast for the fourth consecutive night.

They were injured after being struck with masonry. One was treated in hospital for a head injury and later released. The second officer sustained an injury to his arm.

Crowds gathered in the areas of the Castlereagh Street, Templemore Avenue, Thistle Court, Tamery Pass, Madrid Street and Bryson Street at various times throughout the Wednesday evening, police said.

Fireworks, bottles, petrol bombs and other missiles were thrown at police.

Missiles were thrown across the interface at Thistle Court and Bryson Street.

Police also recovered dozens of bottles and rubble in the area.

Chief Superintendent Nigel Grimshaw said that local homes had been targeted.

"Additional police resources have been deployed in the area in order to increase visibility and to act as a deterrent to individuals who may be considering orchestrating any attack."

“This police presence has also sought where possible to identify people involved and where there is evidence of an offence, we will take action to bring these offenders before the courts.”
Chief Superintendent Nigel Grimshaw

"Police are committed to protecting the people of East Belfast despite the attempts of this small minority who are intent on causing trouble but it is important to recognise the resolution to this issue is not solely a policing one."

He said that the support from the local community, local representatives is needed and that parents need to ensure that they are aware of the whereabouts of their children.

"Do not let them become involved in this mindless disorder."

Chief Superintendent Nigel Grimshaw added: "We will continue to work with local representatives and partner agencies to find resolutions to interface issues and to help ease tensions.

"We recognise people within this community are working very hard to deal with these issues and that it is only a small minority of people involved in incidents."

He added that police are extremely keen to hear from anyone who may have any information about any of the disorder.




Jean McConville murder: 73-year-old man arrested in Dunmurry
BBC News 30/10/14

Police have arrested a 73-year-old man in Dunmurry, on the outskirts of Belfast, in connection with the murder of Jean McConville.

Mrs McConville, 37 a widow and mother of 10, was abducted in December 1972 from her flat in the Divis area of west Belfast and shot by the IRA.

Her body was recovered from a beach in County Louth in 2003.

The man has been taken to the serious crime suite at Antrim police station for questioning.




Omagh bomb intelligence 'withheld'
UTV News 30/10/14

RUC Special Branch withheld some information from detectives investigating the Omagh bombing which killed 29 people in 1998, a Police Ombudsman investigation has found.

Intelligence officers did not provide phone numbers due to their interpretation of the law at that time and although this could not have prevented the Real IRA attack, it did detract vital resources from the initial police investigation, the report stated.

Twenty-nine people were killed, including a woman pregnant with twins, when a car bomb exploded among shoppers on a busy Saturday afternoon in the Co Tyrone town on 15 August 1998.

The Ombudsman's office, which independently investigates police work, launched an inquiry after a report by a group of MPs outlined remaining questions surrounding the bombing.

In March 2010, the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee called for a new investigation into whether intelligence relating to those suspected of the bombing was passed on to detectives investigating it and if not, why not.

The then PSNI Chief Constable Matt Baggott called for the Ombudsman to review a number of specific matters concerning how RUC Special Branch handled its intelligence and its relationship with Government Communication Headquarters - a Government body which deals with intelligence and security matters.

The latest investigation focused on certain intelligence obtained between 15 August and 9 September 1998, held by police.

Police Ombudsman investigators spoke to a range of witnesses, including Sir Peter Gibson - the then UK Intelligence Services Commissioner, to serving and retired police officers and to officials from other Government agencies.

They also looked at a substantial amount of 'intelligence' and investigative material.

"I believe we had unfettered and unrestricted access to all the relevant documentation held by the PSNI," said Dr Maguire.

Dr Maguire said the investigation found no evidence police had information which, if acted upon, could have prevented the Omagh bombing.

His investigation identified a number of occasions when information was shared with the detectives investigating the bombing.

Special Branch provided detectives with details of public telephone kiosks from which the bomb warning calls were made and the identities of people who were suspected to have been involved in the bombing.

However, the Police Ombudsman established that Special Branch did have information - telephone numbers - which were not passed to the detectives.

“The consequence was that the police investigation was required to invest substantial resources in analysing related records, resources that might well have been better utilised at that early stage of the inquiry.”
Police Ombudsman Dr Michael Maguire

Dr Maguire concluded that Special Branch had acted 'cautiously' in not disclosing all the intelligence available to the team investigating the Omagh bombing.

"I am satisfied this action was as a result of the interpretation by Special Branch of both what Sir Peter's report called 'the strict conditions imposed by GCHQ' on the RUC and the legislative framework which prevailed at the time and which, for all intents and purposes, is still in place, albeit in a different legislative form."

"The view held by the relevant police officers was a reasonable one in the circumstances," he said.

No one has ever been convicted of murder at Omagh, but in April 43-year-old Seamus Daly, from Culloville, Co Monaghan, was arrested and charged with the murders which he denies.

Previously relatives of some of the victims brought a landmark civil action against five men they claimed were responsible.

Four of the five men were ordered to pay more than £1.5m in damages to the victims' families in a civil case.

Families have been trying to overturn a decision by the Secretary of State Theresa Villiers not to hold a public inquiry into the bombing. Ms Villiers said last year that there were insufficient grounds to justify a further inquiry, and that the Police Ombudsman probe was the best way to address any outstanding issues.

The Omagh Support & Self Help Group, who met with the Ombudsman ahead of the report's publication, said the latest investigation "does very little to answer the questions remaining".

"Ultimately, what is clear is that we as families have another report into Omagh focusing on a very narrow remit," a statement said.

"The Secretary of State said this report was the best way to address any outstanding issues and it is now very clear that she is wrong.

"We will now press ahead with our application to judicially review her decision so that a full public inquiry is established to answer all the questions that remain."




Gary Hart to meet First Minister Peter Robinson on second day of talks
BBC News 30/10/14

The American envoy to inter-party talks, Gary Hart, is to have another round of talks in Belfast later.

The former US senator is to meet the Irish and British governments and the First Minister Peter Robinson.

On Wednesday, he met Sinn Féin, the SDLP, the UUP and the Alliance Party,.

Mr Hart is in Northern Ireland to assist local parties in their attempts to deal with outstanding political issues, including flags, parades, the past.

Appointed by US secretary of state John Kerry, Mr Hart will also try to assist with the issue of welfare reform.

Sinn Féin MLA Jennifer McCann said Wednesday's meeting with Mr Hart was "positive and constructive".

"US support and involvement has been of crucial importance at various stages in the development of the peace and political processes," she said.

SDLP leader Alasdair McDonnell said his party had a "good meeting" with Mr Hart.

Following his meeting with Mr Hart, the Ulster Unionist leader Mike Nesbitt said the inter-party talks were at a "very early stage", but that the UUP had spent a "pleasant hour" with the former US senator discussing "some of the issues".

Earlier, Mr Hart promised to "listen closely" in his first meetings in the new round of talks.




Second hoax at Alliance MP's office
UTV News 30/10/14

A security alert at the east Belfast constituency office of Alliance MP Naomi Long has ended, with police declaring the suspect object a hoax.

It was found in the Newtownards Road office at around 10pm on Wednesday. The road was closed between the Holywood Road and Grampian Avenue.

Army bomb experts were sent to the area to examine the object.

The Newtownards Road reopened to traffic shortly before 1am on Thursday morning.

East Belfast Alliance representative Naomi Long condemned the bomb scare, which she said follows an earlier threat on the office on Monday night which was also deemed a hoax.

"This incident is yet another senseless attack on the whole community, with the business and residential life of the local area again subjected to unnecessary disruption," she said.

"While we are still gathering all the information around this latest discovery, I would ask anyone with information to contact the PSNI immediately.

"This is the second threat we have received in east Belfast this week, but the message is clear - those who continue to engage in bully-style tactics to target the Alliance Party will never deter us from delivering the shared future everyone in East Belfast deserves."




‘Real’ LVF threaten RNU activists
Republican Network for Unity 29/10/14

Republican Network for Unity have been informed that North Belfast Republicans Martin Óg Meehan and Sammy Cusick have received death threats from a group calling itself the ‘Real’ LVF.

The RUC/PSNI whose MI5 master’s have set up, facilitated and controlled pro-union death squads in the past, called at both activist’s homes on Wednesday night (28th October) to inform them that they had information that the ‘Real’ LVF would make an attempt on their lives within the next 48 hours.

Both men have been Republican activists most of their adult lives. Martin Óg Meehan is RNU’s national secretary and Sammy Cusick is the chairman of his local Cumann. Both men work incredibly hard for their community.

This is a disturbing revelation that comes at a time when RNU’s activity level in the North of the City has significantly increased. While both men will take the threat seriously, it will not deter them from the sterling community and Republican activism both men are consistently engaged in.

Martin Óg Meehan has commented:

‘Once again reactionary Loyalism has raised its ugly head in order to issue a death threat to myself and my friend Sammy. This is not a new phenomenon, with Loyalists often issuing death threats when they fear Republicanism may be on the rise, in order to quell the hard work of Republican activists.

‘Republican Network for Unity will not be deterred from attempting to improve the lives of every individual on this island. No amount of Loyalists threats will arrest the progression and growth of our movement. ‘

RNU call on the community within North Belfast and beyond to show support and solidarity with both men in defiance of pro-state reactionaries who have no goal other than to strike fear into working class communities.




Sinn Féin councillor says party 'should do all it can' for Mairia Cahill
Breaking News.ie 29/10/14

Sinn Féin councillor Eoin Ó Broin has said that if there is anything else the party can do in relation to Mairia Cahill, they need to do it.

The Belfast woman has alleged she was raped by a republican, and forced to face her abuser in a kangaroo court.

She has also made allegations against Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams over how he handled her case, which he has denied.

"None of us have blind faith, whether it's in Gerry or any of the other Sinn Féin people who have been named during the course of this story," said Ó Broin, a member of South Dublin County Council and of the Sinn Féin Ard Comhairle.

"We're all trying to deal with this as best we can. That doesn't mean that we deal with it perfectly or it doesn't mean that people don't make mistakes - and it doesn't mean that Mairia Cahill...is not right to be angry with us.

"I think if there anything else Sinn Féin could do, we need to do it."




Guardian Column On Mairia Cahill Flawed By Lack Of Disclosure
The Broken Elbow 29/10/14

The sun rises each morning and sets each evening and with the same certainty whenever Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams is in trouble Guardian columnist Roy Greenslade can be relied upon to come riding to the rescue.

So has it been in the wake of the Mairia Cahill scandal. Today, Guardian readers, or at least those of them able to navigate that paper’s new impenetrable website, woke up to see another Greenslade apologia for Sinn Fein featured in the paper’s Comment section entitled ‘BBC programme on IRA rape allegations flawed by lack of political balance’.

The thrust of his complaint was that because the BBC Spotlight programme on the Mairia Cahill affair had failed to mention that she had briefly been a member of the republican dissident group RNU (membership fifteen plus the chairman’s dog) all her allegations re her rape, the cover-up and her interaction with Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams should be taken with a pinch of salt.

Translated this means the following: only people who are signed up supporters of the peace process and Sinn Fein’s role in it are entitled to criticise/scrutinise either Gerry Adams or Sinn Fein and/or to allege that their rape a) happened, b) was covered up by SF and the IRA and c) the leader of that party insinuated that the victim enjoyed the experience.

And since supporters of Sinn Fein and the peace process are unlikely to think, never mind utter such unkind thoughts everyone should keep their mouths shut. Therefore by definition anyone who does speak out must be an enemy of peace and the process which brought it about, i.e. Sinn Fein’s part in it and should be ignored.

The resulting silence in the media, the absence of any probe into Sinn Fein and the IRA’s more seedy secrets, especially in the past, is exactly what the Provos and people like Roy Greenslade want. The cudgel”enemy of the peace process” has been used in an effort to silence journalism about a party and political leadership that is in government in one part of Ireland and may soon be in the other part.

A political party with a controversial past, that has allegations against it that might make Richard Nixon blush, that is on the cusp of real power in the South (as opposed to the Lilliputian state North of the Border) is exactly the sort of party that should be scrutinised by the media.

Ask an awkward question of Sinn Fein or the IRA, highlight an unfortunate fact or unearth an embarrassing secret from the past and the reporter who does that immediately gets accused of being “an enemy of peace” and the effect at the least is to intimidate others into silence. That is what Roy Greenslade is doing in his column today.

Doubtless when or if Gerry Adams becomes Tanaiste in Dublin the same weapon will be used to gag anyone in the media brave or foolish enough to question the new coalition government’s policies, especially the U-turns it will doubtless perform.

But coming back to Roy Greenslade. He complains about the lack of political balance in the BBC’s reportage of Mairia Cahill. What about his lack of political disclosure? What about the Guardian‘s failure to acknowledge that when their columnist writes eloquent defences of Sinn Fein and its leader he is not exactly neutral, that he has, in fact, a record of association with that organisation every bit as damning as Mairia Cahill’s with RNU.

Back at the time of the Gibraltar shootings in 1988, Greenslade was a regular contributor to the Provo paper An Phoblacht-Republican News. How do we know that? Well his now Guardian colleague Nick Davies disclosed this nugget in a book called Flat Earth News. According to Davies, Greenslade was managing editor (news) at the Sunday Times at the time but in his spare time and unknown to his editor at the Times, contributed to AP-RN under the pseudonym George King.

Nowadays Greenslade is a professor of journalism at the City University of London. I wonder if any of his lectures cover the subject of the ethical conflict caused when a journalist misleads his employer and his regular readers by penning articles in a political journal under a false by-line?

The links don’t end there. In March 2012, the Independent‘s Stephen Glover put Greenslade’s Provo associations under a microscope and came up with this:

The connections endure. Last June (2011), Mr Greenslade spoke at a Sinn Fein conference in London on the 30th anniversary of the hunger strikes, and he wrote an article on the same subject for An Phoblacht . He has had a house in County Donegal for many years. One friend is Pat Doherty, from 1988 until 2009 vice president of Sinn Fein, who has been named as a former member of the IRA Army Council.

In fact Pat Doherty was for many years the IRA’s Director of Intelligence and Brendan Hughes, who spoke about this for his Boston College interviews was his deputy.

And there was more to come. When convicted IRA member John Downey walked free from a court in London earlier this year after charges of carrying out the Hyde Park bombing had been dropped because of promises made under the ‘On The Run’ scheme, it was revealed that Greenslade had put up surety for Downey’s bail.

In explanation he told the Irish Post in Britain:

“I do not believe in neutrality,” the professor said. “All of my lectures stress that claims towards neutrality and impartiality and objectivity are bogus.”

And while he now tells his students about his republican views, he admitted that “for a long period, during the war, I was not transparent”.

And this is the guy who dares criticise the BBC for lack of balance!?

It is about time that the Guardian faced up to its Roy Greenslade problem and brought transparency to his columns. The fact is that when it comes to Sinn Fein, Gerry Adams or anything to do with the Troubles or peace in Northern Ireland this guy has a dog in the fight which he never tells his readers about.

Isn’t it about time that Guardian editor, Alan Rusbridger moved to protect his readers’ interests and insisted that a health warning accompany Greenslade’s articles on Ireland. Something like: This writer is not neutral about Sinn Fein or Gerry Adams, in fact he supports them.

That would do nicely.




BBC programme on IRA rape allegations flawed by lack of political balance
Nuzhound 29/10/14 (The Guardian)

Greenslade Blog

A BBC programme provoked controversy across Ireland by accusing the IRA of trying to force a woman to keep quiet about being raped by one of its members.

The Spotlight programme, made by BBC Northern Ireland and screened on 14 October, resulted in severe political embarrassment for Sinn Féin, especially for its president, Gerry Adams.

But the programme itself is now under fire. It is claimed that the makers failed to take account of the fact that the woman, Maria (aka Maíria) Cahill, was a leading member of a dissident republican organisation with an anti-Sinn Féin agenda.

It is further claimed that she remained a Sinn Féin supporter for many years after the alleged rape and only sought to go public with her sexual abuse allegations after she had turned against the organisation for political reasons.

Critics suggest that Spotlight's presenter and producer were too willing to accept Cahill's story and did not point to countervailing evidence.

That is not to say that she was not raped. Nor does it negate her view that the IRA handled her complaint clumsily and insensitively.

But in Northern Ireland, where almost every aspect of life has a political context, it does mean that vital information was denied to viewers.

This lack of balance resulted in the Cahill story being accepted at face value across Ireland, where Adams and his party were forced on to the back foot as they tried to defend and explain the IRA's actions.

Cahill claimed she spoke to Adams about the matter, thereby implicating him in some sort of cover-up. He has strenuously denied the quote she attributed to him.

Cahill's central claim is that, at the age of 16 in 1997, she was sexually abused by an IRA member. After these claims emerged in public, she was then subjected to a series of "interrogations" by the IRA that amounted to a "kangaroo court" and included a face-to-face meeting with her alleged abuser.

She was persuaded, she said, not to go to the police (then the RUC) but many years later did make a formal complaint to the new Northern Ireland police force, the PSNI.

The alleged rapist denied the allegations. He and four other people were charged but all were acquitted when Cahill decided not to give evidence.

Cahill was born into a staunch republican family. Her great-uncle was Joe Cahill, who helped in the 1969 formation of the Provisional IRA.

Some four years after she was interviewed by the IRA about her allegations she canvassed for Sinn Féin in the assembly elections in November 2003 and also wrote for the party's newspaper, An Phoblacht, in July 2004.

But Cahill split from Sinn Féin in 2007 at a time when the party agreed to recognise the PSNI, and the Irish edition of the Mail on Sunday revealed two days ago that she then joined the Republican Network for Unity (RNU), a dissident group formed specifically in opposition to Sinn Féin's support for the PSNI.

She rose high enough in the organisation to be listed as the Belfast secretary of the RNU's governing council, and was seen on a picket line in November 2009 demonstrating against Sinn Féin meeting the PSNI.

I asked BBC Northern Ireland a series of questions as to why Spotlight had failed to report on Cahill's membership of an anti-Sinn Féin organisation, which was surely relevant.

None of my specific questions were answered. Instead, the BBC issued a lengthy statement saying that it stood by "a significant piece" of investigative journalism, which was "in the public interest."

It conceded that Spotlight did not seek to establish the truth of Cahill's rape allegations, but investigated her "treatment by the republican movement and in particular her account of how, as a very young woman who said she had been abused, she had been made to meet her alleged perpetrator."

It did address the fact she continued to work with Sinn Féin for some time after the alleged abuse and she was asked if, in speaking out, it was her intention to damage the party, which she denied.

The BBC said Cahill "contests the allegation that she is a dissident" and that her membership of the RNU was "extremely brief". (Cahill has stated separately that she was "national secretary of RNU for a period of a few hours in 2010").

The BBC concluded: "Spotlight spent a great deal of time researching and corroborating Ms Cahill's story. As we stated in the programme, we carried out a series of interviews with her, in which she gave a consistent account."

But the feeling lingers that the programme was flawed by being overly one-sided. Cahill's political stance should have been explored more fully.




SF distanced itself from 'Nelis' blog comments
Nuzhound 29/10/14 (Irish News)

Sinn Féin has distanced it-self from comments questioning Mairia Cahill's abuse allegations which appeared to come from a former leading member of the party.

Claims that Ms Cahill had a "year-long liaison" with the man she accused of raping her were posted online by 'Mary Nelis'.

Mary Nelis is a former Sinn Féin councillor in Derry, who also served for six years as an assembly member and has been described as honorary president of the party in the city.

The comments are at odds with the party leadership, which has dissociated itself from the apparent endorsement by a senior republican of another blog claiming Ms Cahill was involved in a consensual relationship with the man she said raped her.

Sinn Féin did not confirm or deny yesterday if its former Foyle representative was responsible for the remarks.

However, a spokesman said: "All those within Sinn Féin who have dealt with Maíria believe that she is a victim of abuse.

"We are conscious that a young woman is at the centre of this controversy. Abuse is wrong. It cannot and must not be tolerated."

Ms Cahill (33) waived her right to anonymity to publicly claim she was raped and abused as a 16-year-old in 1997 by a suspected IRA member and later interrogated by an IRA 'kangaroo court'.

The man she accused of abusing her, Martin Morris, was acquitted this year after Ms Cahill withdrew her evidence.

Sinn Féin's deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald last week condemned an anonymous blog that wrongly claimed Ms Cahill was above the age of consent in 1997 and therefore in a "consensual relationship".

The north's age of consent was 17 at the time of the alleged abuse and did not change to 16 until 2009.

Ms Cahill challenged Seamus Finucane - who she claims headed up an IRA investigation into her allegations, but was also acquitted in court - after he apparently endorsed the blog on Facebook.

Ms McDonald responded by saying the blog was "shameful" and its endorsement by anybody was wrong.

The latest comments were posted in response to a blog entry by political commentator Jude Collins. Writing after an appearance on RTE's Prime Time, Mr Collins wrote that "to the best of my knowledge no evidence has yet been adduced to support Ms Cahill's claims".

A contributor named Mary Nelis wrote: "Well said Jude. No evidence... No-one knows what happened unless they were present during this year-long liaison between Cahill and Morris.

"It would be realistic to suspect that the intelligences services know but as in the case of Kincora, they will maintain their political silence, in the knowledge that the establishment politicians, north and south will do the dirty talking for them, whilst ignoring Kincora and all the other political scandals useful to maintaining the status quo."




US envoy Gary Hart to hold first NI inter-party talks
RTÉ News 29/10/14

US envoy Gary Hart is to hold his first meetings in the new round of inter-party talks in Northern Ireland today.

The talks are aimed at resolving difficulties among the five parties in the Stormont government.

Mr Hart has said no-one underestimates the complexities facing political leaders in the North and that he will 'listen closely' to them.

He was appointed by US Secretary of State John Kerry last week to offer support to the parties.

Mr Hart is scheduled to meet the SDLP at noon, then the Ulster Unionists, followed by the Alliance Party.

He will speak to Martin McGuinness in his role as deputy first minister and as a senior member of Sinn Féin.

He is also due to meet Foreign Minister Charlie Flanagan and Northern Ireland Secretary, Theresa Villiers.




East Belfast: Homes damaged in Short Strand
BBC News 28/10/14

Homes have been damaged in east Belfast, during a third night of disturbances.

Windows of two houses in the Short Strand area were broken at about 18:05 GMT on Tuesday.

A woman in her 70s was treated for shock after the attack at her home. Police believe the windows were smashed by youths throwing stones at them.

Ch Insp David Moore has asked parents to ensure they are aware of the whereabouts of their children.

Sinn Féin councillor Niall Ó Donnghaile called for calm.

"This is yet more evidence of the fallout from the ongoing orchestrated attacks taking place in east Belfast," he said.

"I want to repeat that all incidents at the interface in east Belfast should end now and residents there should be left to live in peace."

On Monday, a teenage boy was treated in hospital after suffering head injuries near the Albertbridge Road.

Police said petrol bombs and missiles were thrown in disturbances throughout the evening in the Castlereagh Street area. A police officer sustained an arm injury in the disorder.

On Sunday, an officer was injured after police were attacked by about 60 youths near Castlereagh Street.




Maíria Cahill allegations: Sir Keir Starmer to review prosecution cases
BBC News 28/10/14

Sir Keir Starmer, a former director of public prosecutions for England and Wales, is to lead a review of three cases linked to Maíria Cahill.

The Belfast woman told BBC Northern Ireland's Spotlight programme she was raped as a teenager and claimed the IRA helped to cover up her alleged abuse.

Five people accused in connection with the cases were all acquitted.

Days after the broadcast, Northern Ireland's Public Prosecution Service announced the independent review.

'Interlinked cases'

Sir Keir is a leading human rights lawyer who served as head of the Crown Prosecution Service and director of public prosecutions for England and Wales from 2008-2013.

Prior to that role, he spent five years working as human rights adviser to the Northern Ireland Policing Board.

Northern Ireland's Director of Public Prosecutions, Barra McGrory, said Sir Keir will "conduct an independent review of the prosecutorial systems and processes in relation to three interlinked cases involving sex abuse and terrorist-related charges".

Mr McGrory said: "These cases have been the subject of much public commentary with significant concerns raised.

"I consider that it is right to have an independent review to maintain and build public confidence in the criminal justice system and in particular the Public Prosecution Service."

Sir Keir said: "I am very pleased to have been asked to lead this review. I have been privileged to have spent considerable time in Northern Ireland and have a tremendous respect for its people.

"I will approach this important task with rigorous independence and an open mind."

Consistently denied

The cases to be reviewed involve the prosecution of Martin Morris, Padraic Wilson, Seamus Finucane, Briege Wright, and Agnes McCrory, (known as Maura).

All five accused were found not guilty when Ms Cahill withdrew her evidence.

Mr Morris has consistently denied raping or sexually abusing Ms Cahill in 1997, and earlier this year he was acquitted of all charges against him, including a charge of IRA membership.

Four others who Ms Cahill accused of helping to cover up her alleged abuse - Mr Wilson, Mr Finucane, Ms Wright, and Ms McCrory - were also acquitted of IRA membership and other offences in May this year.

'Media onslaught'

Last week, a solicitor acting for those four individuals issued a statement reiterating that his clients had been found not guilty by a court.

He said his clients had been subjected to an "unprecedented media onslaught" since the Spotlight programme was broadcast and claimed their acquittals "have been either ignored or devalued".

Sir Keir is expected to complete the review by spring 2015.




Family want new probe body
Derry Journal 28/10/14

The family of a Derry schoolboy killed by a plastic bullet 30 years ago have written to the British government urging it to set up a new body to carry out historical investigations.

Eleven-year-old Stephen McConomy was playing with friends in the Bogside in April 1982 when he was shot in the head by a British soldier.

The soldier, from the Royal Anglian Regiment, claimed he fired the shot by accident and was never prosecuted.

His death was investigated by the Historical Enquiries Team (HET) - which was reviewing killings during the Troubles - but it is now set to close because of budget cuts.

Stephen’s brother, Emmett, has written a letter to Northern Ireland Secretary of State Teresa Villiers in which he says: “I strongly believe that you, the government, have a duty to put in place a body that will investigate what happened to my brother - a child.”

“Why would your government not want to investigate what happened to a child at the hand of one of your employees?”

Emmett McConomy claimed the “shelving” of the HET occurred just as investigators were about to interview the soldier who fired the shot responsible for his brother’s death.

In his letter to Ms. Villiers, he adds: “The HET wasn’t perfect but it was something that was finding out answers.”

Mr. McConomy said his brother’s death was “child abuse carried out by the state”.




US Envoy Gary Hart to 'listen closely' to NI parties
BBC News 28/10/14

US envoy Gary Hart has promised to "listen closely" in his first meetings in the new round of inter-party talks in Northern Ireland on Wednesday.

Speaking ahead of the talks, Mr Hart said no-one underestimated the complexities facing NI leaders.

Mr Hart said many questioned whether the institutions could emerge from the "current political stagnation".

The current talks are aimed at resolving difficulties among the five parties in the Stormont government.

Mr Hart said Northern Ireland had made a "remarkable journey" in the past 20 years.

There had been major political, economic, and social successes, he said.

"The United States provided political, economic and social support throughout this period.

"In coordination with Secretary Kerry, we will determine how the United States can use its good offices to help the parties find a path that will allow compromise and renewed progress," he said.

"Working together, the parties can give Northern Ireland the stable, prosperous, and shared future its people deserve."

Mr Hart was appointed by US Secretary of State John Kerry last week to offer support to the parties.

Like the Haass talks that ended without a deal last December, the negotiators are considering the problems of flags, parades and the legacy of the Troubles.

They will also examine changes to the way the assembly and executive work.

Mr Hart is scheduled to meet the SDLP at noon on Wednesday, then the Ulster Unionists, followed by the Alliance Party.

He will speak to Martin McGuinness in his role as deputy first minister and as a senior member of Sinn Féin.

He is also due to meet Northern Ireland Secretary Theresa Villiers.

Last week, the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) dismissed claims by Sinn Féin that the party was not engaged in the talks process.

It stayed away from the opening session of the talks on 16 October, with its party leader, Northern Ireland First Minister Peter Robinson, describing it as a "circus" arranged for the cameras.

The DUP had objected to negotiating with the Irish government about Northern Ireland's internal affairs.

The party met Ms Villiers, but, so far, has not taken part in round-table talks.




Jim Wells brands west Belfast people as lawbreaking skinheads in first gaffe as Health Minister
Belfast Telegraph 28/10/14

Health Minister Jim Wells has been criticised after branding west Belfast people as lawbreaking skinheads.

The DUP minister suggested that the smoking ban was the only rule that some had obeyed in their life.

He referred to west Belfast men as being six foot tall, with skinhead haircuts, tattoos and earrings.

The comments came during an appearance before the Assembly’s health committee.

West Belfast MP Paul Maskey said Mr Wells had negatively stereotyped people from the area and should say sorry.

Mr Maskey said: “These comments are absolutely shocking and must be withdrawn immediately.

“Jim Wells has painted the people of West Belfast in a totally negative light with this outrageous stereotype.

“He also characterised people in west Belfast as lawbreakers.

“He needs to publicly apologise for these grossly offensive remarks.”

Mr Wells made the comments when he appeared before the committee last Wednesday, however, they only came to light when a transcript of the meeting was posted on the Assembly’s website yesterday.

He was referring to the introduction of the smoking ban in 2007.

Mr Wells said: “The classic example is — I have said this before in the Assembly — if you go to a hard-bitten social club in west Belfast tonight, you will see six-foot tall men with skinhead haircuts, tattoos and earrings standing outside in the rain smoking, and this is probably the only law that they have obeyed in their life.

“Why? Because they respect the law that says you smoke outside in the street rather than in a pub or a restaurant. Adherence to this has been almost 100%.”

Committee chairperson Maeve McLaughlin warned Mr Wells he was running the risk of stereotyping every person in west Belfast.

Mr Wells replied: “Only those standing outside drinking clubs at midnight.”

Later, he said he meant the phrase “rather facetiously”.

“My comment would apply to any working, Rangers or Celtic pub or loyalist club anywhere in Northern Ireland. I was not particularly homing in on west Belfast,” he added.

“I was trying to make the point that the adherence of every community in Northern Ireland to the smoking ban has been almost 100%, and that is to be applauded.

“I was not trying to denigrate the people of west Belfast in any way.”

However, Mr Maskey accused Mr Wells of being disparaging to working class people.

“These remarks highlight Jim Wells’ prejudices, not only against people in west Belfast, but against working class communities everywhere,” he added.

“He also made disparaging remarks about what he described as lifestyle choices of working class communities.

“Instead of casting aspersions on entire communities, the health minister would be better suited tackling health inequalities.”

Mr Wells was contacted for comment but did not respond.

However, DUP MLA Gordon Dunne, who also sits on the health committee, defended the minister.

“Paul Maskey’s outrage, a week after this particular committee meeting took place, is in contrast to the stance taken by the Sinn Fein members present on the day,” he said.

“Mr Maskey’s replacement in the Assembly for West Belfast, Rosaleen McCorley, is also a member of the committee and was present.

“Not only was she silent about this supposed insult, but was silent for the entire meeting.

“Whether it’s Paul Maskey’s fake outrage or Rosaleen McCorley’s complete disinterest, they are both demonstrations of how Sinn Fein have failed West Belfast.

This is not the first time that comments from Jim Wells have caused controversy.

In August 2012 Mr Wells sparked an angry row after claiming rape victims should not be allowed to abort an unborn child, and should instead consider handing their baby over for adoption.

He also caused controversy after texting the organiser of the Belfast Pride parade who had invited him to the event. Mr Wells said he found those taking part to be “repugnant” and did not want to be associated with them.




Mairia Cahill tells Gerry Adams: Go away and hang your head in shame
Breaking News.ie 28/10/14

Mairia Cahill says Gerry Adams needs to clarify if alleged sex abusers were moved out of the North's jurisdiction by the Republican movement.

She says the "dogs in the street" know that people were moved into the Republic and England from the North.

Ms Cahill says the Sinn Féin president should "hang his head in shame" for the way he has handled her case.

She made a direct appeal to Deputy Adams today.

"I think at this point, you just need to tell the truth, because of this, and you have rightly pointed out that you're a father and a grandfather, if this happened to one of your children, your son or any of your grandchildren, you would be absolutely beside yourself in turmoil," she said.

"And you know the effect it had on me and my family.

"And I think you need to go away and hang your head in shame and have a think about it.

"And those people who are protecting you by just blindly putting their faith in you as a leader also need to go away and give their heads a shake."




Two injured amid east Belfast disorder
UTV News 28/10/14

The PSNI has confirmed that they dealt with "pockets of disorder" in parts of east Belfast on Monday night.

A number of missiles and fireworks were thrown at police. One arrest was made and two people - a PSNI officer and a teenage boy - were injured.

In Templemore Avenue, a number of petrol bombs were thrown at officers, however, police said that they failed to ignite properly and no damage was caused.

A PSNI statement said: "At various times from around 7pm onwards crowds of youths gathered in Castlereagh Street, Woodstock Link, Albertbridge Road and Templemore Avenue."

A teenage boy was taken to hospital for treatment to a head injury.

"At this time it is not known how he sustained the injury however it is believed to have occurred in the Albertbridge Road area shortly after 7pm.

"Police also received reports of stones, bottles and other missiles being thrown in both directions across the fences at the interface causing some damage to homes on both sides and a vehicle in Bryson Street was hit with a paint bomb."

One PSNI officer received an injury to his arm and one man was arrested for disorder offences in the vicinity of Paxton Street.

Chief Inspector David Moore said: "Police officers came under attack yet again last night and local homes have been damaged. We need to get away from disorder becoming a nightly event. People in this area, no matter what community they come from, do not want it.

"Police have been working closely with community reps to find workable solutions and we will continue to do so."




Declan chosen as Sinn Fein Westminster candidate
Antrim Times 28/10/14

Sinn Fein national chairperson Declan Kearney has been chosen as the party’s South Antrim candidate in next year’s Westminster elections.

The Antrim man was selected at last week’s party convention.

A party spokesperson said: “South Antrim Sinn Féin welcomes Declan Kearney’s nomination for selection. Declan brings not only a wealth of experience but also a knowledge of, and passion for an area where he was born and bred, and where he retains strong family ties.

“We are confident that Declan Kearney will help drive the growing strength of Sinn Féin in the South Antrim constituency.”

Speaking after his selection, Mr Kearney said republicans have no confidence in the British government’s commitment to the political process.

“Theresa Villiers has repeatedly restated this British government’s pro-unionism,” Mr Kearney said.

He added: “She has recently represented her role in the current talks as that of a facilitator rather than a talks participant.

“The DUP have been allowed to dictate the British government’s approach to these talks. Peter Robinson has set down preconditions on welfare cuts, parading and the participation of the Irish government.

“British Government pandering to unionist intransigence damages the political process; undermines the Good Friday and other Agreements’ process and principles; and strengthens the unionist anti-Agreement axis.

“Republicans have no confidence in the commitment of the British Government to the political process.

“Without an agreed workplan the current talks are not credible. They will not succeed if this British Government refuses to accept its co-equal obligations to uphold the GFA, and implement the elements of all extant agreements.

“This British Government should be part of a pro-Agreement axis, and it is not. While that remains the case its political agenda will be set by extremists.

“Pro-Agreement politics and democratic imperatives should have primacy.”




Gregory Campbell: Council’s new name ‘own goal’ by nationalists
News Letter 28/10/14

Nationalists who over-ruled a compromise name for a new supercouncil have “scored a major own goal”, said an MP.

Gregory Campbell, DUP representative for East Londonderry, hit out at the decision to confirm the new name of the north-west authority as “Derry City and Strabane District Council” instead of “Foyle District Council”.

By rejecting the more conciliatory option, nationalists had shown themselves guilty of exactly the “majority rule”-style approach they have always accused unionists of exhibiting, he said.

He told the News Letter: “Unionists across Northern Ireland will see that when nationalists get the majority, they may talk about accommodation and may use words like power-sharing and reaching across the divide and all the cliches...

“But when push comes to shove and they had an opportunity to put that into practice, they decided simply to go with majority rule.”

He said although nationalist councillors had got their way, it was ultimately a “Pyrrhic victory” because of the lesson unionists would take from the move.

The decision was made last week at a shadow meeting of the new authority’s councillors in Londonderry’s Guildhall.




Ardoyne parade: UUP denies SDLP claim of 'secret deal'
BBC News 27/10/14

The Ulster Unionist Party has denied that unionists are "crafting secret deals" over the Ardoyne parade dispute in north Belfast.

SDLP MLA Alban Maginness claimed unionist politicians were "circulating papers amongst themselves" on deals to resolve the Orange Order march dispute.

But Ulster Unionist Party leader Mike Nesbitt dismissed the SDLP allegation.

Earlier this month, the government agreed to set up a panel to examine the 15-month deadlock over the march.

'Self-serving plot'

Since July 2013, the Ardoyne parade row has been the subject of nightly unionist protests in north Belfast which, to date, has cost more than £12m to police.

The dispute centres on applications by Ligoniel Orange Lodge to march along a stretch of Belfast's Crumlin Road that separates nationalist and unionist communities.

For the past two summers, the lodge has been refused permission to hold the return leg of its annual 12 July parade along part of the route.

In a statement on Monday, Mr Maginness said: "I understand, from the comments of the leader of the Ulster Unionist Party Mike Nesbitt, that unionists are circulating papers amongst themselves and crafting secret deals on how the Ardoyne parading dispute will be resolved.

"Let me tell them now that if their plan is to concoct another self-serving plot to get their own way on parading, then they are wasting their time," the North Belfast MLA added.

'Incredibly sensitive'

Mr Maginness told the BBC that he had not seen the paper but claimed that Mr Nesbitt had described it as a "unionist document".

"I am given to believe that, in fact, there are some contacts between the NIO (Northern Ireland Office) and the unionist parties on this issue," the SDLP MLA said.

Mr Maginness warned that the Ardoyne dispute was an "incredibly sensitive issue" and any secret deal could "inflame" the situation.

"Any solution to Ardoyne has to be open and transparent, it cannot be on the basis of a secret deal between the unionist parties and the secretary of state."

However, Mr Nesbitt told the BBC: "There is no secret deal in Ardoyne.

'Over the line'

"What there is, is a proposal from the secretary of state to set up a panel - the very thing that the Belfast Telegraph, not unionists, called for - which also recognises the difficulties that the Parades Commission feel about the wider implications of making determinations in north Belfast," the UUP leader said.

"There are meetings to try and get the panel over the line and get this inquiry up and running and that is the beginning, the middle and the end of what's happening."

At the beginning of October, Northern Ireland Secretary Theresa Villiers announced she was setting up a panel of academics and other community figures to examine the Ardoyne dispute.

The move was in response to unionist leaders, who three months earlier had demanded an inquiry into the issue, after the Parades Commission banned the return leg of the Orange Order march for the second year in a row.

Nationalist and republican politicians objected to the panel, saying it undermined the work of the Parades Commission.

In response to Mr Maginness's remarks, a spokeswoman for the NIO said they were not aware of any secret document.




Youths attack police in east Belfast
UTV News 27/10/14

An officer was hurt on Sunday when around 60 young people attacked police in east Belfast.

Police said a large group of young people gathered in the Castlereagh Street area shortly after 7pm.

Area Commander Chief Inspector David Moore said: "Given the proximity to an interface area and concerns that were expressed by local residents, local neighbourhood policing officers deployed in the area.

"These officers then became the subject of attack. A range of missiles including bricks, blocks and bottles were thrown at the officers."

CI Moore said that a local neighbourhood sergeant's shoulder was injured and the windscreen of one of the police land rovers was also smashed.

"This behaviour is totally unacceptable and a police investigation has begun to identify youths involved," he added.

Police have made 60 arrests for interface-related disorder since April.




DUP still not in talks process – Murphy
Sinn Féin 27/10/14

Sinn Féin MP Conor Murphy said this morning that three weeks into preparatory talks we still have no credible talks process.

Conor Murphy said:

“The First and Deputy First Minister and their advisors do meet on regular basis on a range of issues.

“But as we enter the third week of the preparatory talks which the the DUP called for they have yet to attend a plenary and have had no meetings with Sinn Féin as part of the current talks process.

“A plenary should be convened immediately to start a credible talks process.

“Last week Sinn Féin circulated a paper proposing agenda items to the other parties and the two governments.

“Despite this we are in the third week of preparatory talks and we still have no agenda, no timetable, no programme of work or no structure for chairing.”




Maíria Cahill confirms she was in dissident republican political group but opposed violence
The Detail 26/10/14

Maíria Cahill, who has demanded Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams’ resign over an alleged cover-up of her rape and subsequent interrogation by the IRA, has confirmed she briefly held a senior role in a dissident republican political group.

In documentation from 2010 that allegedly came from an ard chomhairle meeting of the Republican Network for Unity (RNU) obtained by The Detail, Ms Cahill was named as Secretary of the political organisation, which since then has been linked to the dissident paramilitary faction Óglaigh na hÉireann (ONH).

There is no allegation linking Ms Cahill to violent or illegal activity, but more than 24 hours after questions were sent to her by The Detail, Ms Cahill released a statement confirming she held the role but rejected any allegation of support for violence.

She said: "I was indeed the National Secretary of RNU – for a period of a few hours in 2010, until I resigned the position.

“I did continue to attend a series of meetings for a period of a few months.

“I was opposed to ‘outside influences’, in what was a perfectly legal pressure group, and was extremely vocal in this regard.

“Indeed, this was the reason that I left. I am on record consistently as being opposed to illegal armed actions.”

She added: "I have never denied my involvement, even though I have long moved on from involvement in any political activism.

“I did not hide it from the BBC Spotlight makers, and have been open and upfront about all of my experiences in life.

“There was nothing illegal about RNU. It was not involved in any armed action.

“It was a long time after I left the group, that they were publicly associated with supporting one particular grouping.

“My opposition to violence has been consistent throughout my life, even, though some people might find this strange, when I was in Sinn Féin.”

There has been widespread public sympathy for Ms Cahill following the harrowing accounts she has given of the personal trauma she said began in 1997.

The BBC was contacted by The Detail but was unable to comment on her case tonight.

Her abuse allegations, however, are not affected by the emergence of her former RNU membership, which the documents date as coming more than a decade later.

But her previous connections to the RNU have not featured in the huge political furore that her case has sparked.

Senior figures including Taoiseach Enda Kenny, Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin, and Northern Ireland’s DUP First Minister Peter Robinson, have all been highly critical of Sinn Féin and in particular its leader Gerry Adams.

The Republican Network for Unity group is a strident opponent of Sinn Féin, but it has previously claimed it is not a formal political wing for the paramilitary ONH. In 2011 the RNU did however reportedly issue a statement sending “comradely greetings” to the armed dissident republican group.

The ONH dissident group is violently opposed to the peace process and is responsible for a string of gun and bomb attacks. Government reports linked it to the infamous January 2010 booby-trap that seriously wounded Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) officer Peadar Heffron.

RNU statements spell out the group’s opposition to the Sinn Féin strategy.

A press release issued by the RNU in February 2009 brands police “the corrupt and ineffectual RUC/PSNI” and hits out at the justice system and the “Crown ‘selective’ prosecution services”.

Ms Cahill is seen as coming from a strong republican background and was related to Joe Cahill who was one of the founders of the Provisional IRA.

But she said tonight she has always opposed violence. She also said she did not oppose new policing arrangements in Northern Ireland.

“To say that I am opposed to the police in Northern Ireland is equally ridiculous.

“I completely support the rule of law and order, North and South.

“The proof of this is that I made criminal complaints in 2007, and 2009 in relation to two matters concerning me.

“I also acted to call police in my role as a community worker in Belfast – and crucially, I attended a meeting with a solicitor and a barrister in 2009 to give information in relation to a suspected republican money laundering operation in West Belfast.

“I have continued to work alongside them in matters of community policing.

“I did not, as has been suggested by Sinn Féin, leave the party over their stance on policing.”

She added: "I left the party as a card carrying member in 2001. I did work on three by-elections in years afterwards as a favour to a friend who was within the organisation.

“I continued to sit with Sinn Féin members – and with members of other political parties on various community organisations.”

Ms Cahill has said that in 1997, aged 16, she suffered abuse and rape over 12 months by a man she believed was an IRA member.

She said the IRA subsequently investigated the case and forced her to face the man in early 2000.

Ms Cahill later reported her allegations to the police and trials were planned.

But those alleged to have been involved in the IRA inquiry, and the alleged rapist, were acquitted after Ms Cahill withdrew her evidence.

In a subsequent television account of her experiences, Ms Cahill detailed her allegations against the republican movement.

She further claimed that in a separate meeting with Gerry Adams to discuss her case, the Sinn Féin president said of sex abusers: “sometimes they’re that manipulative, that the people who have been abused actually enjoy it”.

Mr Adams has denied the claim.

The Sinn Féin leader addressed a party event in Belfast on Saturday where he again commented on Ms Cahill’s case, but also attacked his political critics.

The Sinn Féin President said: "While I am very mindful of the trauma she has suffered, I and the others she has named reject these allegations.

“These allegations have been seized upon in the most cynical, calculated and opportunistic way by our political opponents.”

Such comments have been persistently rejected by the political parties that have criticised Mr Adams.

Sinn Féin’s political opponents have insisted the allegations of abuse against republicans, together with claims that other people may have been abused, are of the utmost public importance.

Sinn Féin has urged anyone with information on any such incidents to go to the police.

Ms Cahill tonight said the RNU link was being used to smear her.

She said: “I believe that this story has been deliberately circulated by people whose only desire is to draw attention away from the fact that, when IRA/SF learned that I had been raped by a senior republican volunteer, they forced me into a brutal investigation against my will before engaging in a systematic cover up to silence me and members of my family.”

She said people opposed to her public campaign to highlight her experiences “are trying to paint me as some sort of dangerous Dissident with a capital D who supports criminal organisations such as Real IRA and Continuity IRA in order to tarnish my credibility. I reject all such groups root and branch and will swiftly take legal action should anyone wishing to allege or imply that I have any support for violence. I absolutely do not”.

Ms Cahill said: “I would not, nor could not lend my support to any illegal organisation. It is not relevant to my own sexual abuse, nor my forced investigation into that abuse – nor my forced confrontation by the IRA into that either.”

She said her previous political affiliations were irrelevant to the allegations she has made.

“Simply. I was abused. An illegal internal investigation was conducted into that abuse. I was forced to attend a confrontation by the IRA as a traumatised 18 year old in a room with my rapist.”

She cited a series of online rumours about her case which she rejected as a continued bid to undermine her campaign.

She added: “And I won’t be silenced because of it.”




SF councillor calls on Adams to reveal information
RTÉ News 26/10/14

A Sinn Féin Councillor has echoed the Government's call for Sinn Féin Leader Gerry Adams to reveal information, if he has any, about the expulsion of alleged sex offenders from Northern Ireland.

Speaking to RTÉ's This Week South Dublin County Councillor for Clondalkin Eoin Ó Broin said: "If I had information about any of this at any time during my 20 years as a Sinn Féin activist, I would have brought that forward.

"Anyone with any information should reveal that to the relevant authorities."

He was responding to remarks made earlier on the programme by Minister of State at the Department of Finance Simon Harris who called for Mr Adams to explain references to alleged sex abusers being expelled in a blog written last Sunday.

The Fine Gael TD for Wicklow/East Carlow said: "There are allegations out there that the IRA moved people from one jurisdiction to the next.

"Gerry Adams is the leader of the republican movement, we need to know, and it’s crucially important for the protection of our children, were child abusers moved from Northern Ireland into the Republic?

"Were they moved, does Gerry Adams have any knowledge ... we need to know what Gerry Adams knows".

Mr Harris said Mr Adams has gone into “victim mode”, as if he is the victim here and "won’t answer the questions".

Mr Adams wrote in his Léargas blog last week that: "The IRA on occasion shot alleged sex offenders or expelled them".

Referring to calls made by Taoiseach Enda Kenny during the week for Mr Adams to reveal any knowledge of child abusers from Northern Ireland being moved south of the border, Mr Adams told supporters in Belfast yesterday that he had "no knowledge of the claims the Taoiseach was making".

Earlier two Fianna Fáil and Sinn Féin front bench TDs disagreed sharply about statements made by Belfast woman Mairia Cahill who alleges she was raped by a member of the IRA in the 1990s.

Regarding the allegation that she was raped by a member of the IRA, the Sinn Fein spokesman on Health, Caoimghin O Caolain, said there seemed to be a consensus across the board that something of that order did happen.

In an interview on RTÉ’s The Week In Politics, Mr Ó Caolain said, however, that he did not know if Ms Cahill was confronted by her alleged attacker in an IRA court, as she contends.

Fianna Fáil spokesman on Transport, Tourism and Sport Timmy Dooley questioned how Mr Ó Caolain could accept one element of Ms Cahill's contention - that she was raped - but not the other - that she had been made to confront her alleged attacker by the IRA.

Speaking on RTÉ’s This Week Mr Harris said: "Gerry Adams tells us he wasn’t a member of the IRA, he attends an awful lot of IRA funerals and gives an awful lot if IRA orations and apologises for an awful lot of IRA activity, but tells us he has nothing to do with it."




Tony Taylor on the ongoing situation in Maghaberry
Republican Network for Unity 26/10/14

A piece written by RNU Ard Comhairle member and recently released Cogús POW Tony Taylor

At the outset I would like to take this occasion to articulate our gratefulness for all your past and continuing work to keep the ongoing attempts to criminalise Republican POWs in the public domain. As all of you are aware life within Maghaberry prison for our POWs are at an all-time low as a result of the systematic vindictive, malevolent penal measures of the prison administration and David Fords failures to live up to their pledges made in the August 12th Agreement 2010.

Republican prisoners continue to suffer habitual forced stripped searches [state rape] at the hands of up to 1/2 dozen of the prison riot team. They forcibly and excruciatingly take hold of both arms and wrists extending them backwards and upwards while placing both in unbearable painful locks, at the same time others elatedly look on as the prisoners are then dropped to their knees whilst another member of the gang kneels in front of them and proceeds to rip open the buttons of their jeans pulling them to the knees and proceeding to replicate this process with the prisoners’ under pants probing round this general area. Following this degrading and humiliating process the prisoners are thrown to the ground at which point their trousers and underpants, socks shoes are ripped from the body and individually searched while prisoners lay cold and violated.

At all times throughout this process the two other screws continue to have both arms and wrists in the locks, as another thug [screw] has a hold of the head. Underpants and trousers are then replaced then prisoner’s tea-shirt thrown on their backs. Prior to leaving the room both screws that have a hold of arms and wrists, pull them backwards and upwards as far as they can go in the direction of the ceiling then dropping them suddenly with the intention of causing as much pain and discomfort as they conceivably can before withdrawing from the holding cell.

Although this is just an insight into what our prisoners have to tolerate on an almost daily basis, there remains an unrelenting, unyielding defiance that these policies of criminalisation and humiliation will by no means succeed, for as we know from Republican history [our jail struggles], neither prisoners, families, or the wider Republican communities will ever allow these British anachronistic policies of yesteryear to criminalise or break the spirit or moral of Republican POWs.

As we recognise these polices failed with the Blanket men, Hunger strikers and countless others down through the years, and I firmly believe with the calibre of Cogús prisoners on Roe 3 have the strength and support of families and wider Republican communities, making it inevitable that criminalisation will undoubtedly fail again as Cogús prisoners will accept nothing short of political status for Republican prisoners imprisoned as a consequence off the current political struggle in Ireland.

I would as a final point like to use this occasion along with Republican POWs incarcerated inside Maghaberry prison to appeal to ex-Republican prisoners and everyone within the wider Republican family to come out along with RNU members and prisoners families to draw attention to, and support all Republicans in spite of your political allegiances, as this is purely a humanitarian issue within the prison to end the ill-treatment and attempted criminalisation of Republican political prisoners on Roe House and the subsequent criminalisation of their families.

Signed Tony Taylor ex Republican POW.




Irish polls suggest little change in Sinn Féin support
BBC News 26/10/14

The first opinion polls to be published in the Republic of Ireland since allegations were made by Belfast woman Maíria Cahill suggest the claims made little impact on Sinn Féin's support.

The Red C/Sunday Business Post poll has the party down three percentage points to 20%. That is within the poll's margin of error (+/- 3%).

The same poll suggests support for the main governing party, Fine Gael, is down by two percentage points.

A second poll, conducted by Behaviours and Attitudes for the Sunday Times, has Sinn Féin support unchanged at 19%.

Ms Cahill says she was raped as a teenager by a suspected IRA member and later interrogated by the IRA who covered up what happened.

Earlier this month she waived her right to anonymity to speak to BBC Northern Ireland's Spotlight programme.

She said that in 1997, when she was 16, she was subjected to a 12-month cycle of sexual abuse, including rape, by a man who was believed to be a member of the IRA.

Ms Cahill described how the IRA questioned her repeatedly, often several nights a week, for months about the abuse allegations, before summoning her to a meeting with her alleged abuser in early 2000.

She later went to the police and several people were charged but the case was dropped after Ms Cahill withdrew her evidence.

Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams has apologised to sex abuse victims he said were "let down" by the IRA during the Troubles.

Mr Adams, who is a member of the Irish parliament, said the IRA had sought to deal with some cases of abuse when asked to do so by families and victims.

He has faced strong criticism from other Irish political parties and the Dublin media.




Adams tells Taoiseach action not point-scoring needed for victims
Sinn Féin 25/10/14

Below is the speech delivered by Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams in the Balmoral Hotel this morning:

“The allegations of Maíria Cahill have been at the centre of the media and political system North and South, in recent times.

Nobody doubts that Maíria has been through great distress. I have never doubted that she suffered abuse. And like every citizen she is fully entitled to truth and justice.

Over the course of the past week Maíria Cahill has made serious allegations against myself and named Sinn Féin members.

While I am very mindful of the trauma she has suffered I and the others she has named reject those allegations.

The allegations made by Maíria Cahill have been seized upon in the most cynical, calculated and opportunistic way by our political opponents.

Their aim has little to do with helping victims of abuse, but everything to do with furthering their own narrow political agendas.

The serious and sensitive issues of abuse should be dealt with in a victim-centred way by the appropriate authorities. Instead they have been politicised in the Dáil, the Assembly chamber and in the media.

I am very conscious that a young woman is at the centre of this controversy.

So, let me be very, very clear. Abuse is wrong. It cannot and must not be tolerated.

Let me be equally clear. Sinn Féin has not engaged in any cover-up of abuse at any level of this party.

This accusation is a vile slur on thousands of decent, upstanding republican people right across this island.

Those Sinn Féin members to whom Maíria Cahill spoke, have said that they believed that she had been a victim of abuse, and that she had suffered trauma.

They assure me that they did all that they could to support her.

That is what I did also.

The Taoiseach, the Fianna Fail Leader and some media commentators have also tried to draw comparisons between the actions of Sinn Féin representatives in this case and that of the Catholic Church in dealing with abuse allegations.

A cursory examination of the facts gives the lie to that ridiculous assertion.

The Church hierarchy and the State presided over institutional abuse for decades.

It was a systemic and deliberate practice.

In stark contrast Sinn Féin has encouraged victims to speak out.

All the Sinn Féin memebers who spoke to Mairia Cahill acted in good faith to support her.

They advised her to speak to her family, to seek counselling or to approach social services.

Her uncle Joe Cahill at my request asked her to go to the RUC.

Now even Joe is shamefully depicted as a sex abuser by some of the media. This has been deeply hurtful to his wife Annie, their children and grandchildren.

Whose agenda is served by this despicable rubbish?

Some sections of the media and in particular the Independent Group, have taken these allegations against Sinn Féin, added to them, and reported them as fact.

They speculate with ill-concealed glee about how much damage this controversy will do to me and Sinn Féin.

While rightfully criticising the idea of 'kangaroo courts', they have set themselves up as judge and jury on this issue.

This is not journalism in the normal sense but a campaign with a clear political agenda.

This society is still emerging from decades of conflict.

That conflict caused widespread hurt and suffering, as did the absence of the structures and institutions which are the norm in peaceful democratic societies.

There are many legacy issues arising from the conflict. Sinn Féin accepts our responsibility to help bring about the resolution of these issues. That is not our responsibility alone. The Governments and others must deal with the past also.

Victims include a wider category than those killed or injured.

They include those badly served or mistreated by the forces of the state, or by armed groups including the IRA.

How the various protagonists dealt with the issue of sexual abuse is clearly one of the legacy issues which needs to be resolved as part of the necessary business of dealing with the past.

However there is an onus on us all to meet the needs of victims of abuse and the concerns of the community in the here and now. To do what we can today.

To the maximum extent that this can be dealt with now, it should be dealt with.

I have already set out the circumstances in which the IRA sought to deal with some cases of abuse when asked to do so by families and victims.

I have acknowledged that while IRA volunteers were acting in good faith, the IRA was not equipped to deal with these difficult matters.

But the clock cannot be turned back. Sinn Féin cannot change what happened in the past.

But we can acknowledge failure.

That is what I have done.

Everyone, including us, has a duty to ensure that the mistakes of the past are not repeated.

That is not the responsibility only of Sinn Fein.

IRA actions failed victims of abuse. As Uacharáin Shinn Féin I have acknowledged that. I am sorry for that. And I apologise for that.

This week in the Dáil, the Taoiseach disgracefully twisted and sought to misrepresent what I have said on this issue.

He and the Fianna Fáil leader have shown a callous disregard for the facts as they turned the Dáil chamber into an episode of reality television.

Neither the Taoiseach nor the Fianna Fáil leader has ever sought to meet with me to address the false allegations that they have levelled against me and others in Sinn Féin.

Instead they have rushed into media with their vindictive claims.

Mr Kenny and Mr Martin have done the very thing they accuse Republicans of. They have set aside the judicial process and the rights of citizens before the law. They have ignored the acquittal of those they have accused.

The Taoiseach has claimed that sexual abusers were ‘moved’ – his words, not mine - to “Dublin, Donegal, Louth”.

The Taoiseach has repeatedly claimed that he has knowledge of alleged child abusers from the North but living in the South.

He says that others have given him information identifying these alleged child abusers. He has raised alarm and concern on this issue.

Has the Taoiseach gone to the Gardaí with this information? Has he insisted that those who gave him this information go to the Gardaí?

If not why not?

It is up to the Gardaí or the PSNI to investigate and to prosecute anyone they suspect of child abuse, irrespective of who they are, where they come from or what organisation they may belong to.

I have no knowledge of the claims that the Taoiseach is making.

I have already called on anyone who has any information whatsoever about any case of sexual abuse to come forward to the authorities North or South.

They will have the full support of Sinn Féin in so doing.

No one should be living in fear and no child should be at risk.

I am calling on any former IRA Volunteers, who may have any information about any allegations of sexual abuse to pass this on to the appropriate authorities.

That is, the PSNI, An Garda Siochána, Social Services, the HSE or any of the advocacy groups or helplines which deal with sexual abuse cases.

This could also be done through any of the statutory and voluntary organisations which offer confidential 24 hour helplines.

These agencies are properly equipped to pursue these matters.

Secrecy has surrounded abuse in Ireland.

It was taboo to discuss, and some victims were very fearful to disclose.

The only way to face this problem is to support victims, and to empower them to speak out.

Republicans are reflective of wider Irish society. Abusers can be found in all walks of life. Any abuser within republicanism, has done grievous wrongs to their victims and sullied our cause.

But they are not in any way representative of the thousands, or tens of thousands of republican activists who served the republican cause in the ranks of the IRA, and Sinn Féin.

They are not representative of the tens of thousands of republican prisoners who served hard time for the republican cause.

Or of our Patriot dead.

There are republican families in every parish in Ireland.

Good men and women who have kept in faith in hard times.

There are ten thousand citizens in the ranks of Sinn Féin today representing hundreds of thousands of republican voters the length and breadth of this island.

The politicisation of this issue by An Taoiseach and the Fiánna Fail Leader comes at a time when we present a real alternative to the conservative parties that have failed citizens since Partition.

When challenged by me in the Dáil, Mr Kenny conceded that there are many decent people in Sinn Féin.

Let me tell you Taoiseach, we don’t need you to tell us that.

We know that.

We also know that we are not part of any conspiracy to protect child abusers or to cover up abuse.

So the difficult issues raised by Mairia Cahill must be addressed.

But there are processes for doing this. They should be applied and respected.

Let us be clear this is not achievable by exploiting her story in a blatant effort to demonise Sinn Féin.”




NI is today like ‘normal garrison’, says MoD
News Letter 25/10/14

Official figures reveal just how steeply the number of troops in the Province has declined in recent years.

The MoD’s statistics department gives a tally of how many members of the military are based in the UK and internationally, and its most recent batch of data – covering July 2014 – shows that Northern Ireland had 1,830 regular personnel stationed in it.

This is lower than Wales (2,560), far below Scotland (10,390), and also lower than all English regions except the north-east.

In June 2004, regular personnel in the Province had numbered 7,690 – meaning there has been cut of 5,860 compared to a decade ago.

The News Letter reveals the figures amid calls by the DUP for a bomb disposal base to be set up in north-west Northern Ireland,

Operation Banner, the long-running security campaign covering the Troubles era, ended in July 2007.

That same month, the MoD recorded 4,480 personnel in the Province.

Then the same time the following year, after Banner had formally drawn to a close, the number stood at 2,950.

Ken Johnston, chief press officer for the MoD in the Province, said that the bulk of the 1,800-or-so regular troops now in Northern Ireland are part of 38 Irish Brigade, headquartered at Thiepval.

The brigade offers training for overseas deployments.

Their numbers can fluctuate throughout the year.

In addition, he said there are around 2,000 reservists.

A political agreement was put in place that, after Operation Banner, there would be no more than 5,000 troops stationed in the Province.

Asked about the idea of increasing troop levels in Northern Ireland, Mr Johnston said: “We’re a normal garrison... We certainly provide specialist support to the police when they want it. Really the questions have to be asked not of the Army. [It is a case of] what do police require?”

Yesterday, the DUP’s East Londonderry MP Gregory Campbell said that in just five months last year, the Army was called to deal with more than 160 bomb alerts in Northern Ireland – many of them in the north-west.

He said in a statement: “Consideration should be given to having a secure base for an Army bomb disposal unit in the North West to respond speedily to potential bomb attacks.”