2nd March 2015
McLaughlin to accept Commonwealth Parliamentary Association role
Sinn Féin's Mitchel McLaughlin has announced he will take up the position of President of the NI Assembly Branch of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association (CPA).
The Assembly Speaker says support for the Commonwealth is not part of his personal politics.
However, he said he wanted his approach during his time as Speaker to be about "respect".
He did not comment on whether Ireland should become part of the Commonwealth.
"In upholding the independence and impartiality of the Speaker, my approach during my time in office is going to be one of respect," he added.
"Involvement in the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association has naturally not been part of my political life in the past.
"However, I will represent all sides of the House as any Speaker should and I intend to respect and acknowledge the culture and traditions of all sides of the assembly chamber.
"Taking up this position
is a first step in demonstrating that approach. I look forward to
hosting next week's event to mark Commonwealth Day and its theme of
encouraging youth participation in our democratic system."
appeal in case of alleged loyalist facing 212 charges
Counsel for Gary Haggarty seeking unedited transcripts of his statements to police
An alleged former Ulster Volunteer Force commander facing 212 charges “can’t make head nor tail” of a huge body of redacted prosecution papers, a Belfast court has heard.
Gary Haggarty’s lawyers claimed proceedings which began five and a half years ago could be hit by further delays unless unedited papers are disclosed to them. They want full access to transcripts from his interviews to detectives investigating a campaign of killings, murder plots and other paramilitary crime. Mr Haggarty’s evidence is key to a murder case against two Belfast men accused of killing two Catholics.
As legal moves to establish if the 43-year-old will stand trial continue, his barrister challenged a policy based on not detailing any suspected criminality of other loyalists or police Special Branch officers.
Fiona Doherty QC told Belfast Magistrates’ Court: “We have constantly raised concerns over the way this case has been dealt with and the material disclosed to us is redacted to the extent we can’t make head nor tail of it.”
Although Mr Haggarty’s address was given as c/o the Police Service of Northern Ireland, he is believed to be living at a secret location in England. He did not appear for the brief court hearing.
About 10,000 pages of evidence have been amassed in the case against him - much of it believed to be based on his own police interviews.
Back in January 2010 he agreed to become an assisting offender under the terms of the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act (SOCPA).
A list of the charges against him reveals the scale of the prosecution.
The alleged offences span a 16-year period between 1991 and 2007. Preliminary enquiry proceedings to establish if Mr Haggarty will stand trial have been repeatedly put on hold as his legal team battles to gain full access to the interview material.
At one stage he also failed in a High Court bid to force the PSNI to hand over the tapes.
During that case he was said to have disclosed his own criminal conduct and made allegations about police wrongdoing. Ms Doherty told District Judge Fiona Bagnall on Monday that one solution involves using ciphers for names in the transcripts.
Those could then be cross-referenced to help establish details. But the barrister claimed the process has so far only been completed on two out of 15 Lever Arch files in the case.
“I could be standing here this time next year saying the same thing,” she said.
A Public Prosecution Service lawyer stressed, however, that it was just as anxious to secure progress.
Listing the case for a further review, Judge Bagnall suggested that a senior prosecutor should attend. She acknowledged the proceedings were “unique and complicated”, but added: “The bottom line is this case has got to get on in a meaningful timeframe.”
Meanwhile, a lawyer for two Belfast men charged with murdering two Catholic workmen questioned why their proposed trials must wait until Mr Haggarty is dealt with.
James Smyth (48), and Mark Campbell (43), are jointly accused the double killing of Gary Convie and Eamon Fox in May 1994. The victims were gunned down as they sat eating lunch in a car at a building site on Belfast’s North Queen Street.
Mr Smyth, from Forthriver Link,
and Mr Campbell, of Canning Place, are further charged with attempting
to murder a third man, Donal Laverty, in the same attack.
At previous hearings defence lawyers claimed the allegations are based on evidence from Mr Haggarty.
In court on Monday, John Greer, solicitor for Mr Smyth and Mr Campbell, continued his opposition to their cases being put on hold.
Mr Greer argued: “There’s
no statutory reason in the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act
that says an assisting offender has to be dealt with before a trial.”
for ban after McCreesh Park naming
Proposed legislation to ban the naming of public facilities after people convicted of terror offences is being put out for public consultation.
It comes after the controversial naming of a children’s play park in Newry after IRA hunger striker Raymond McCreesh.
UUP MLA Tom Elliott is to introduce the private members bill at Stormont on Monday.
"Today I am commencing a consultation process which is the first step to introducing legislation which prohibits publicly funded facilities or entities being named after anyone who has been convicted of a terrorist related offence or membership of a proscribed organisation,” he said.
"For years Sinn Féin and other groups have been glorifying terrorists who were responsible for some of the most brutal murders in Northern Ireland.
“Such actions only serve to polarise and divide communities as well as having a hugely negative effect on the victims and the families of victims, who were created by those who are being glorified.”
In February, Newry and Mourne District Council voted for the park to retain the name McCreesh Park.
Last year, the Equality Commission found that the council failed to comply with its own equality scheme.
The naming took place before the council adopted an equality scheme, but when this happened in December 2012, the council voted in favour of retaining the name.
The commission said the council failed to take into account the implications of the decision on the Protestant and unionist community.
Tom Elliott continued: "Legislation would introduce clarity and certainty for local councils, Government departments and agencies, and create uniformity across NI.
“Failure to introduce legislation will simply prolong the current situation where naming decisions can negatively affect community relations and risk further division along political and religious lines.”
The consultation runs for six
weeks until 13 April.
besmirch republican cause’ – Adams
Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams said those engaged in criminal activity in border areas are harming the republican movement after a pipe bomb attack in south Armagh which left a man badly injured.
Gerry Adams called on the community to stand up to criminal gangs in the south Armagh and north Louth areas and for the PSNI to be given the resources needed to tackle them.
Mr Adams said: “In recent years the criminal gangs have grown bolder and more dangerous and better organised.
“They were responsible for the deaths of Garda Adrian Donohoe and Paul Quinn and Keith Rogers; the shooting of Michael Bellew and the brutal beatings of others and last week’s attempted murder of Francis McCabe junior.”
The Sinn Féin president was speaking at an annual commemoration for IRA volunteers Brendan Burns and Brendan Moley on Sunday.
The two men were killed in 1988 by a bomb they were transporting.
The Sinn Féin leader said: “Irish republicans are not involved in criminal actions along the border or indeed anywhere else.
“No republican is involved in fuel laundering or the destruction of our environment through the dumping of toxic sludge.
“No republican is engaged in smuggling tobacco or any other product.
“No republican is stealing farm equipment or animals.
“Those who are involved in these actions are criminals.”
Francis McCabe junior was injured when a pipe bomb exploded as he tried to remove a poster from a lamppost in Crossmaglen on Wednesday.
He was left with serious injuries to his hands and face and could lose an eye.
Mr Adams continued: “Those who placed the bomb didn’t care who they killed.
“Their intention was to intimidate and terrorise and coerce those in south Armagh who have been taking a stand against the criminal gangs.
“The vast majority of people in south Armagh support Sinn Féin.
“An even greater number support the peace process.
“The citizens of this state deserve and demand a proper policing service.”
Mr Adams urged anyone with information to pass it on to police, or others who could pass the message on.
He added: “But the PSNI also has a challenge to meet.
“It must demonstrate that it can police fairly and effectively and that they do support citizens who oppose criminality.
“I have met senior PSNI figures and senior gardaí on the actions of the criminal gangs. But actions and delivery are key.
“If the PSNI or An Garda Síochána require more resources to tackle this problem, then those resources must be made available to them.
“We need to see greater co-operation between An Garda Siochána and the PSNI and other justice and policing agencies.”
Martin McGuinness is to raise the issue of cross-border policing with the Taoiseach and the PSNI, Mr Adams said.
“We need to stand by our neighbours. We need to ensure that the PSNI do the job they’re paid to do," said the Louth TD.
“I would urge the community, including the GAA and community groups and bodies, to come together and stand up for south Armagh.
“Let’s make a stand
warns against displays of Irishness
A St Patrick’s Day parade in Scotland is facing cancellation because it could be attacked by loyalists, according to reports this week.
The St Patrick’s Day parade next month in Glasgow is being opposed because of official “nervousness” about the response of loyalists and the anti-Catholic Orange Order.
The “nervousness” is contained in a report drawn up by the British/Irish Parliamentary Assembly (BIPA), which has controversially urged that symbols of Irishness in Scotland be suppressed over fears of a sectarian response.
BIPA is comprised of parliamentarians from both the Dublin, London and Edinburgh parliaments, as well as members of the Welsh and Stormont Assemblies.
Its draft report warned that symbols of Irishness could be “demonised by sectarianism”. It revealed that at least two Irish centers in Scotland have been burned down in sectarian attacks, and suggested the centers were at fault for exhibiting excessive Irishness.
Some Irish community organisations were regarded as “troublemakers”, it said, and Irish songs and symbols were “contentious”.
A committee of members produced the document, but it was not adopted by the full Assembly after some Scottish members said that it was inflammatory -- to unionists.
Mary Scanlon, a Scottish Conservative and Unionist, objected to labelling the Irish in Scotland as a minority, which she claimed was “divisive”.
“I am a unionist for the UK. We have just come out of the most divisive election ever in the history of my time in Scotland,” she said.
Labour MP for Paisley and Renfrewshire North Jim Sheridan said the Irish should not be regarded as a minority and insisted public money must not be spent on a St Patrick’s Day march in Glasgow.
“People need to look forward,
move forward and think of a modern Scotland and stop living in the
past,” he said.
I do like teddy bears - and people keep giving me rubber ducks' -
Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams has said his Twitter followers “keep giving” him rubber ducks in response to his jocular tweets.
The political leader, known for his whimsical style on Twitter, has said his teddy bear had baked a cake for Northern Ireland first minister Peter Robinson and tweeted a photograph of four luminous rubber ducks he'd received as a present.
He has responded to the ongoing bemusement regarding his eccentric Twitter account in an interview with The Irish Daily Star.
“I did see a one-legged dog. And I do like teddy bears. People keep giving me rubber ducks. I have a grandchild who now says to me, ‘Not another duck!’”
Ted, Gerry’s teddy bear, has been a frequent theme of the Adams’ Twitter account.
Adams also said he sports a beard simply because he can’t shave.
“I can’t shave. It is not that I don’t shave, I just can’t shave.”
Adams, who is fiercely critical of the political system in Leinster House and slammed it as “dysfunctional”, says however, that he doesn’t take himself too seriously.
“I argue with conviction about an issue I am convinced of but I would like to think that I don’t take myself too seriously.”
Adams' latest tweet refers to
him having pizza on the way home, before a restful sleep.
inquests to be halted after the money runs out
Senior coroner John Leckey says there's not enough money to appoint investigators
Inquests into deaths during the conflict in Northern Ireland will be halted because no money is available to appoint investigators, the senior coroner said.
Senior coroner John Leckey wants to employ specialists to hunt for information about killings during 30 years of violence.
But Stormont's justice minister has been aware of the problem for years and the PSNI has said nobody is available to undertake the task, a Belfast preliminary hearing of an inquest into one of the deaths was told.
Mr Leckey said: "The effect of this is that this and other inquests will come to a halt."
He presided over a preliminary hearing of an inquest into the loyalist shooting of Seamus Patrick Dillon in December 1997.
Mr Dillon, 45, a former paramilitary prisoner and father-of-three from Stewartstown, Co Tyrone, was killed hours after Loyalist Volunteer Force (LVF) leader Billy Wright was gunned down inside the Maze prison and it was seen as a revenge strike by the loyalist's associates.
An inquest into Mr Dillon's death had been scheduled to start last November. A gun used in the murder of the hotel doorman has been linked to other terrorist atrocities, previous hearings at the coroner's court have heard.
Before Christmas Northern Ireland politicians signed the cross-party Stormont House Agreement which envisaged a new independent body to take forward investigations into outstanding Troubles-related deaths.
PSNI chief constable George Hamilton has said it could be two years before it starts work because legislation has to be passed.
A lawyer for the chief constable wrote to the coroner's service earlier this year and said the PSNI was unable to assist with re-interviewing a number of individuals who would be interested parties in the Dillon inquest.
The coroner's service does not have any investigating officers.
Barrister for the coroner Gerry McAlinden QC said: "The situation is at an impasse, the logjam is with the Executive to properly resource your office to ensure that your investigations can proceed and that these long-overdue inquests can be heard."
Mr Leckey said he was not unsympathetic to the police's position.
"We have wanted our own coroner's investigators who would be able to undertake that task. It is preferable to have our own rather than ask an agency such as the PSNI which has other resource difficulties to do something for us."
In the Dillon case the coroner is seeking to have a potential witness interviewed who says his car was taken.
Mr McAlinden said: "This car was used in the killing."
He has been refused legal aid to appear at the inquest, the lawyer added.
"It really does leave us in a situation where in order to deal properly with the circumstances of the death of Mr Dillon it is quite clear that some further investigation and statement-taking is required but at present the facilities to conduct that investigation don't exist and short of significant effort being put into this issue by the Executive, by the appropriate minister in the Executive, I cannot see how this particular problem will be resolved in the short term.
"There are a series of other inquests where investigating officers are necessary, simply the resources are not there to enable you to do so.
"The (Justice) Department was made aware of what was needed some years ago."
Mark Mulholland, barrister for the Dillon family, expressed grave concern.
"It is of utmost necessity
that we seek to keep some form of momentum on this process."
murder: Durkan meets Finucanes over public inquiry call
SDLP Foyle MP Mark Durkan has met the widow and son of murdered Belfast solicitor Pat Finucane at Westminster this week to discuss how the issue of a full public inquiry into the 1989 killing could be taken forward in the aftermath of May’s General Election.
Mr Durkan, who held a private meeting with Geraldine and John Finucane after attending this week’s parliamentary event commemorating the 26th anniversary of the murder, said:
“This parliamentary event was a good meeting of MPs and peers which included strong presentations by John Finucane, former Police Ombudsman Nuala O’Loan and Geraldine Finucane.
“During the event, I highlighted a previous meeting I had with Tony Blair in which he described the contents of government files on the murder of Pat Finucane as ‘scary’.
“However, 26 years on, all the levels and layers of collusion in this case have yet to be uncovered, and the fight for truth and justice continues.
“I met Geraldine and John afterwards to discuss how the issue of a full public inquiry could be taken forward and made more prominent on the agenda of an incoming government.
“I also welcome this week’s
commitment given to the family by shadow Secretary of State Ivan Lewis
that a full public inquiry into the murder of Pat Finucane would take
place under a Labour government – especially given that former
Labour Secretaries have not followed through on this before.”
to take tapes battle to Supreme Court
A former loyalist prisoner has lost his latest legal bid to stop police accessing interviews he gave to an American university project - but the tapes are to remain under lock and key pending an appeal to the Supreme Court.
Judges at the Court of Appeal rejected Winston "Winkie" Rea's claims that the material should not be handed over to detectives investigating murder and other paramilitary crimes because it would breach his right to privacy.
However, they also ordered the Boston College recordings should not be disclosed pending the outcome of a planned Supreme Court challenge to their decision.
The tapes will remain in secure storage at the Royal Courts of Justice in Belfast until Rea's final legal options are exhausted.
PSNI detectives had been in court ready to take possession of them in the same bag in which they were brought back from the United States.
Rea was among dozens of loyalists and republicans who provided testimonies to Boston College researchers compiling an oral history of the Northern Ireland conflict.
Interviews were given on the understanding that tapes would not be made public until after their deaths.
But those assurances were dealt a blow in 2013 when detectives investigating the abduction and murder of Belfast mother-of-10 Jean McConville back in 1972 secured the transcripts of former IRA woman Dolours Price's account.
That material was handed over following court battles on both sides of the Atlantic.
Rea, a son-in-law of the late UVF leader Gusty Spence, claimed a subpoena for his tapes was unlawful and unspecific.
During judicial review proceedings the court was told an investigation has been launched into serious crimes stretching from the 70s to the late 90s.
The alleged offences include murder, directing terrorism, membership of a proscribed organisation and robbery.
An international request for the tapes said police have information that Rea was a member of the Red Hand Commando whose interviews would assist investigations into those crimes.
Earlier this month a High Court judge threw out his challenge after holding that the legal test for seeking the material had been met.
Following that verdict two PSNI detectives boarded a flight to Boston to collect the recordings.
But with their flight mid-Atlantic Rea's legal team secured a last-minute order restraining any handover while they contested the ruling.
In the appeal hearing counsel for the loyalist argued that prosecuting authorities were acting on a hunch rather than any firm knowledge that the tapes contain information relevant to any investigation.
He also claimed the request, made under the Crime (International Co-operation) Act, breached Rea's right to privacy under European law.
However, a barrister representing the Public Prosecution Service claimed Rea had no reasonable expectation of privacy around what he told the Boston researchers.
The three judges hearing the appeal agreed to lift the injunction so that PSNI officers travelling back from Boston could bring the unopened tapes with them.
The material was to be deposited with the American Consulate and remain on American territory until a decision is given in the appeal.
Those arrangements were then changed so that the sealed container was taken to be guarded by senior officers at the courts.
Delivering judgment in the appeal on Friday, Lord Justice Coghlin said: "Even on the assumption that the issue of the International Letter of Request may have infringed the applicant's right to privacy, we are entirely satisfied that any such interference was in accordance with law and necessary in the interests of prevention of crime.
"Accordingly, the application will be dismissed."
Following the verdict Rea's barrister, Ronan Lavery QC, confirmed plans to go to the Supreme Court in London and sought an order for the tapes to remain out of police hands until then.
Resisting his application counsel for the PSNI, Tony McGleenan QC, argued that it would further delay efforts to solve serious crime.
He said: "The detectives are ready in the building to receive the tapes.
"Although Lord Justice Coghlin acknowledged there are victims seeking a resolution, he ruled that the recordings should not be handed over yet.
"There will be an order that
the materials are not disclosed to the PSNI, and be kept where they
are at the minute in a secure place in this building."
term for man caught with bomb
A west Belfast man was given an 11-year jail term on Friday after he was “caught red-handed’’ with a ready to deploy bomb concealed inside a holdall.
Connor Hughes, 23, of Altan Close, Dunmurry, had pleaded guilty at Belfast Crown Court to a single charge of possessing a blast bomb type device with intent to endanger life after he was arrested during an intelligence-led police operation last year.
Passing sentence, Judge Gordon Kerr QC said yesterday: “It is proper when sentencing to have an element of deterrence in that sentence to send out a clear message that terrorist-related activity which continues to disrupt the stability of society will not be tolerated.”
Following sentencing, the PSNI welcomed the prison term handed down and said the actions of police in intercepting Hughes “had undoubtedly saved lives’’.
During a hearing before the court earlier this week, a Crown prosecutor said that Hughes was stopped by police at the junction of the Glen Road and Shaw Road on March 27, 2014.
Hughes was carrying a holdall, and when it was searched the bag was found to contain “a number of wires and what was thought to be a firing pack”.
Officers immediately suspected this to be an improvised explosive device (IED) and Hughes was arrested under the Terrorism Act.
The prosecutor also said it was the Crown’s case that the device was believed to be “a roadside bomb which would have been deployed against soft-skin vehicles or security forces in the open”.
Hughes, the court heard, was in possession of a fully constructed IED which was ready to be deployed and a “potentially deadly device.”
Defence barrister Arthur Harvey QC said his client - who came before the court with a clear criminal record - had spent time in Australia but came back as he was homesick. The barrister added: “He returned, and during this short period he became connected with these particular offences.”
Judge Kerr QC told the court: “This was clearly a terrorist-related device which by means of a command wire was designed to allow the operator to choose the target and also allowed time to attach the command wire and cause the optimum damage and injury.
“I consider the appropriate sentence to be one of 11 years.’’
However, Judge Kerr QC said he did not find Hughes would pose any danger to society following his release after serving half of his sentence in custody.
The remaining five-and-a-half
years of the sentence will be spent on supervised licence.
gives business speech in west Belfast
First Minister Peter Robinson is delivering a speech at an event organised by the business community in west Belfast.
The DUP leader is the keynote speaker at the Kennedy Centre on the Falls Road on Friday morning.
The event is being chaired by Sinn Féin MP for the area Paul Maskey, who has welcomed Peter Robinson’s attendance as “historic”.
Mr Maskey said: “Your presence here sends a very important message to all the people of this area.
“It will be seen correctly, in my view, as an important gesture of recognition and acceptance of the importance of the people of this constituency to the Executive at its highest level and on two fronts: political and business.”
Enterprise Minister Arlene Foster
and south Belfast MLA Máirtín Ó'Muilleoir are
also attending the event.
UVF ‘committed to ceasefire’ – Villiers
Secretary of State Theresa Villiers has said the Government believes the main loyalist paramilitary outfits are still committed to their ceasefires – despite linked individuals being involved in "serious criminality".
Ms Villiers was updating Parliament on the security situation in Northern Ireland.
She said: “As in previous reporting periods, there are individuals associated with loyalist paramilitary groups that are involved in serious criminality.
“However, overall, we continue to assess that the collective leaderships of the principal loyalist paramilitary groups, the Ulster Defence Association and the Ulster Volunteer Force, remain committed to their ceasefires.”
Ms Villiers added that in-fighting between loyalist organisations has “persisted” in recent months and remains “a concern for the wider community”.
Meanwhile, the secretary of state went on to cover the situation with republican inmates at Maghaberry prison.
Earlier this month a protest took place at Roe House.
“Dissident republican prisoners in Maghaberry continue to threaten, and to try to intimidate, staff and contractors as they seek to carry out their work,” continued Ms Villiers.
“This Government fully supports the Department of Justice and the Northern Ireland Prison Service as they respond to this wholly unacceptable activity and I pay tribute to all prison officers for the difficult job that they carry out.”
Theresa Villiers said there were 22 national security attacks in 2014 and one so far in 2015, with prison, police and Army officers among the main targets.
The overall security threat in
NI remains as ‘severe’.
warns of ongoing ‘severe’ threat from dissidents
PSNI investigating booby-trap bomb incident in Armagh which left Sinn Féin supporter injured
The threat from dissident republicans remains severe in Northern Ireland but moderate in Britain, the Northern Secretary Theresa Villiers has informed Westminster.
Ms Villiers provided the British parliament with the latest MI5 assessment of the dissident threat on Thursday a day after the latest suspected dissident attack left a young south Armagh man seriously injured.
Francis McCabe junior suffered face and chest injuries when a booby-trap bomb exploded as he was taking down a poster on Wednesday morning from a pole close to his home in Crossmaglen.
The attack relates to continuing tensions in south Armagh between Sinn Féin and its supporters and members of dissident groups. Dissidents have been putting up posters accusing some Sinn Féin supporters of being “informers” because they are cooperating with the PSNI.
Local Sinn Féin MP Conor Murphy accused those responsible for the bomb of attempted murder. He said the poster was placed on the pole in the premeditated expectation that someone would take it down, thus triggering the booby-trap bomb. Mr Murphy called on the police to act against the dissidents before “someone is killed”.
The PSNI has now cordoned off the scene of the explosion with a number of roads around the area also closed. “Police are working to deal with the risk to the public whilst minimising disruption where possible and are grateful for the continued co-operation of the public,” said PSNI Inspector Lorraine Dobson.
Sinn Féin Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness said on Thursday that the bombing was carried out by “criminals masquerading as republicans” and was “an attack on the peace process and an attempt to intimidate the entire community of south Armagh and north Louth”.
“The attack has followed a campaign of intimidation in the south Armagh area against people in the community who have taken huge personal risks advocating accountable policing with the community,” said Mr McGuinness.
The attack happened as Ms Villiers was preparing to inform the British parliament on Thursday of the level of the dissident threat.
Attack ‘highly likely’
She said it was “severe” in Northern Ireland which means an attack is “highly likely” and “moderate” in Britain meaning “an attack is possible but not likely”.
Ms Villiers said there were 22 “national security” or serious dissident attacks in 2014 while there has been one so far this year. “PSNI and prison officers as well as members of the armed forces continue to be the principal targets for dissident republican terrorists and the threat to life persists,” she said.
“A number of these violent groupings continue to attack, or aspire to carry out attacks, including the so-called ‘new’ IRA, Óglaigh na hÉireann and factions of the Continuity IRA,” added the Northern Secretary.
She said that in addition to more serious incidents dissidents were also engaged in other activity including “brutal punishment shootings as a means to try to exert fear and control within local communities”.
Dissidents are also heavily involved in criminality and this latest evaluation of their threat came after British Revenue and Customs searched a vehicle in south Armagh on Tuesday and recovered raw leaf tobacco worth an estimated £236,000 in lost duty and taxes.
Earlier this month, 12 tonnes of unprocessed tobacco worth an estimated £2 million in lost revenue was seized in an unconnected operation in Armagh.
Ms Villiers said that although “risks endure” the PSNI, MI5 and the Garda continued to disrupt dissident activity and had had a number of notable successes against these groups. She referred to incidents such as the arrest of 15 men in Newry last November, the discovery of a weapons hide in Co Fermanagh last October, and the uncovering of an arms cache in Dublin.
She added: “The close working relationship between PSNI and AGS (An Garda Síochána), and their joint efforts both North and South of the Border, has led to considerable success in combating the threat from dissident republican terrorists over the last six months. I am confident that both police services will do all that they can to build on this through 2015 as they make progress with a number of ongoing investigations.”
Ms Villiers said that “with
every attack that is mounted and the many more that are foiled, the
PSNI and its security partners become more knowledgeable, resilient
and able to tackle the threat and bring perpetrators to justice”.
Frazer: Dublin victims’ parade won’t be repeat of 2006
Victims’ campaigner Willie Frazer is planning to take four bands and around 300 people to march through Dublin on March 28.
The Families Acting for Innocent Victims’ spokesman told of his plans as he revealed he also expects to meet Gardai in Dublin on March 4 “to firm up plans for our planned parade”.
Mr Frazer told of his plans for another Dublin march for victims – in protest at the Irish government’s failure to cooperate with an inquest into the 1976 IRA Kingsmills massacre – which he claims the Garda has agreed to “in principle”.
The FAIR spokesman – whose father and three other relatives were murdered by the IRA in south Armagh – said he would be part of a six-person delegation including fellow FAIR member Pastor Barrie Halliday and victims’ relatives from the Kingsmills atrocity and the Shankill bomb.
When asked about the proposed meeting a Garda spokeswoman said she would “never confirm if we were having a meeting with anyone”.
Mr Frazer said he had already met with Gardai, earlier this month, to initiate plans for the 2015 Dublin rally.
“We met a couple of weeks ago,” said Mr Frazer. “In principle they (Gardai) agreed.”
In 2006, a Love Ulster march ended with a riot in Dublin city centre when around 300 protestors clashed with Gardaí.
Fourteen people, including six Gardaí, were treated in hospital and 41 people were arrested.
Mr Frazer said this march would not be a repeat of what happened in 2006.
After news of the 2015 march emerged, Dublin city councillor Jim O’Callaghan of Fianna Fail called for the parade to be cancelled.
Mr Frazer said: “We will have to keep the numbers down as more people want to go than can.
“There are ones from Enniskillen, the Shankill bomb and other atrocities who want to go.
“People are just sickened.
“This Amnesty International report which came out today (Wednesday) put the final nail in the coffin for us I think.
“You would think the only person responsible for it (collusion) was the British Government, but the people who suffered the most were the Protestant people living in border areas.”
Mr Frazer said victims were going to parade in Dublin to “demand justice, equality and respect for our culture”.
“But they could solve this by simply coming up to the mark and giving the information we ask for,” he said. “And what is holding them back? I don’t think we are unrealistic in what we are asking for and we are not going to be mucked about any longer.”
He said initial plans hope to
see the parade go from O’Connell Street to Leinster House, on
father calls for Scappaticci probe
A man whose son was murdered by the IRA in 1993 has called on Freddie Scappaticci to be investigated for his alleged involvement in the killing.
Frank Mulhern's solicitor Kevin Winters, who is representing a number of victims' families in civil cases against the alleged Army agent, the Ministry of Defence and the Chief Constable, is urging more people to come forward.
Joe Mulhern was just 22 years old when he was abducted by the IRA.
He was accused of passing information to Special Branch, interrogated for 10 days, shot and his body dumped near Castlederg, Co Tyrone.
No-one has ever been charged or convicted of the murder.
Six weeks after he was buried his father Frank – who first spoke to UTV’s Insight programme in 2013 – said Freddie Scappaticci, who at the time was alleged to be a senior member of the IRA's internal security unit, told him about his son's murder.
Frank Mulhern said: “I asked him again how he died and Scap said that the first shot had hit my son in the back of the neck and he told the guy whoever shot him to shoot him again, so the second shot hit him on the back of the head and apparently that’s what killed him.”
Scappaticci was named in 2003 as the highest ranking Army agent working inside the IRA, a claim he consistently denies.
Frank Mulhern is convinced the security forces could have saved his son but chose to protect their spy codenamed ‘stakeknife’.
“It’s about time Scap was brought to court and that’s all I really want,” he said.
Frank Mulhern, together with a number of other families, are now taking a civil action against Freddie Scappaticci, the Ministry of Defence and the Chief Constable.
Their solicitor Kevin Winters believes all the abductions and killings allegedly linked to Scappaticci, along with the role of the state in protecting the agent from prosecution, need to be fully investigated.
Frank Mulhern continued: “The PSNI have files which could solve a lot of these murders but for one reason or another they’re not acting on them, probably because Freddie Scappaticci is involved.
“I say my prayers at night and one of the prayers includes Scap, that he is brought to court and charged or whatever. I mean all I want is my day in court with Freddie Scappaticci – I want absolutely nothing else.”
The PSNI said it would not be
making any comment.
in suspected dissident booby-trap bomb attack
Sinn Féin accuses ‘gangs masquerading as republicans’ of attempted murder
Sinn Féin has accused dissident republicans in south Armagh of “attempted murder” after the son of a party activist was injured on Wednesday in an apparent booby-trap bomb attack.
The man was injured as he was taking down a poster from a pole close to his home about two miles from Crossmaglen.
He sustained injuries to his chest and face and, according to local Sinn Féin MP Conor Murphy.
There are fears the man may lose an eye.
He was brought to Daisy Hill Hospital in Newry and then transferred to the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast for specialised face and eye treatment.
The attack, Sinn Féin sources say, relates to continuing tensions in the area among party members and supporters and some local dissidents understood to be linked to the group Óglaigh na hÉireann.
Sinn Féin has characterised those responsible as members of criminal gangs involved in fuel laundering and other activity.
Some of the posters have accused some local Sinn Féin people as being “informers”. According to Sinn Féin this is because of the party’s support for the PSNI.
A number of people have been threatened by this group in recent weeks and months including Mr Murphy and the father of the man who was injured in the attack.
Mr Murphy said that the poster was placed near the injured man’s home in the premeditated knowledge that he or one of his family would act to remove it.
“Over recent months criminal gangs masquerading as republicans have threatened the family of the young man injured. Police recently visited the family and told them there was a threat from this group,” he said.
“Now these people have attempted to kill a member of the family with a device placed close to their home.
“In recent months death threats have also been made against a number of Sinn Féin activists, including myself.”
Mr Murphy added: “Let me be absolutely clear: this was the work of a gang of criminals and I unreservedly condemn this latest cowardly action. These thugs are opposed to the peace process and opposed to policing because of their involvement in organised crime.”
He said that he and Sinn Féin Assembly members Megan Fearon and Gerry Kelly recently met senior PSNI officers to demand that action be taken against the suspected perpetrators.
The Newry and Armagh MP said he understood that there were security concerns for police operating in south Armagh but nonetheless the PSNI had a duty to clamp down on those responsible.
“The threats have now escalated
to what is clearly an attempt to murder people in the community opposed
to their criminal activities. It’s well past time for the PSNI
to act before someone is killed,” Mr Murphy said.
calls Stormont House Agreement ” an insult” as Labour
promises a Pat Finucane inquiry
By Brian Walker
Amnesty International are not alone in finding the resources allocated in the Stormont house Agreement inadequate for dealing with the past. At a meeting of RightsWatch in Westminster last night, the first Police Ombudsman Baroness Nuala O’Loan was scathing, describing the allocation of £150 million over 5 years to deal with all the issues of the past, as “a joke and an insult to the people of Northern Ireland.” The Historical Investigations Unit was “totally inadequate”. She also said Attorney General John Larkin had got it “ profoundly wrong” to believe that little evidence remained and that police investigations should cease in favour of a de facto amnesty. “I believe that many cases would have been solved if the will had been there.”
She took the broad view of collusion, meaning not only direct involvement but turning a blind eye, encouraging illegal acts and conducting sham investigations. The argument was: “We needed to infiltrate organisations to get informants and then protect the informants. Informants who confessed were not prosecuted. Suspects had one long sham interview and then released. Interviewers did not complete records. Collusion between paramilitaries and the State operated through all paramilitary organisations.”
I asked the Sinn Fein MP Pat Doherty if it would help if former IRA members came forward to give evidence of collusion. He welcomed the idea if appropriate arrangements could be made for the security forces to come forward. Lady O’Loan retorted that it was safe to say that knowing it wouldn’t happen” Mr Doherty replied : “If the former IRA were given immunity they would not be found wanting”. And so we go round in circles.
The meeting was called to review latest moves in the long campaign for a public inquiry into the murder of solicitor Pat Finucane in 1989. It was attended by his widow Geraldine and son John who was 8 years old when his father was murdered. MI5 are believed to be a major obstacle to holding a public inquiry. Mark Durkan MP told how when he asked Tony Blair at Weston Park why the delay in holding a PI the PM grimaced and rolled his eyes – twice. Jane Winter the former director of Rights Watch attended the Downing St meeting with Mrs Finucane when David Cameron told them he was setting up the de Silva review not a PI. She repeated the account she gave to the Detail When challenged Mr Cameron said, “ Look, the last administration couldn’t deliver an inquiry in your husband’s case and neither can we. Because there are people all around this place, [10 Downing Street], who won’t let it happen.” Ms Winter said that as the Prime Minister made the admission he raised a finger and made a circular motion in the air”
A judicial review of the decision not to hold a PI is due in May.
Rights Watch said that earlier
in the day the Labour shadow secretary of state Ivan Lewis had given
“ a cast iron guarantee” that Labour in government would
set up a PI. This was greeted with some scepticism by the SDLP MPs
and the Sinn Fein MP present. Baroness Helena Kennedy ( a Labour peer)
said Labour was often beguiled by the secret world and authoritarian
when in government. Lawyers present said that a PI into Finucane wouldn’t
be anything like as lengthy of the Bloody Sunday inquiry. The issues
had been scoped by de Silva and an inquiry would not run on endlessly.
Party gives Pat Finucane family a 'cast-iron guarantee' of public
The shadow Secretary of State has given the family of murdered Belfast solicitor Pat Finucane a "cast-iron guarantee" that a public inquiry into his killing would take place under a Labour government.
Ivan Lewis met Mr Finucane's widow Geraldine and son John yesterday.
John Finucane took to Twitter following the meeting to share his thoughts.
"Positive meeting with Ivan Lewis, who confirmed a full inquiry remains a Labour Party commitment," he wrote.
On February 12, 1989, the human rights lawyer was shot dead in front of his wife and three children at their home in north Belfast.
Last night, at an event in the House of Lords hosted by Baroness Helena Kennedy, John Finucane reminded those in attendance that Downing Street had broken the commitment made to a full public inquiry in the 2001 Weston Park Agreement.
Baroness Nuala O'Loan, Yasmine Ahmed from Rights Watch UK and Geraldine Finucane also addressed the event.
Sinn Fein MP Pat Doherty commended
the Finucane family "for their dignity and courage in pursuing
truth and justice".
International: NI 'still not dealing with troubled past'
Northern Ireland is still not dealing properly with issues relating to its troubled past, according to a new report by Amnesty International.
It described the structures currently in place to address the legacy of the Troubles as an "inadequate system of patchwork measures".
It criticised the government's refusal to hold public inquiries into high-profile cases like the 1998 Omagh bomb.
It said the Stormont House Agreement had left "many unanswered questions".
The concerns were raised in Amnesty International's latest annual report, which examines the state of human rights across the world.
The Northern Ireland section of the report focused on the latest political developments in dealing with Troubles-related crime and continuing campaigns for inquiries into the Omagh bomb and the 1989 murder of Belfast solicitor, Pat Finucane.
Amnesty's Northern Ireland programme director, Patrick Corrigan, said: "Victims of Northern Ireland's conflict continue to suffer the consequences of a fragmented and partial approach to investigating past human rights abuses."
"The Historic Enquiries Team has been replaced by the Legacy Investigative Branch of the PSNI, but has inherited many of the same public concerns about its independence.
"Meanwhile the Stormont House Agreement leaves so many unanswered questions about timeframes, financing and disclosure of evidence, that victims have been left uncertain as to its merits and left waiting for draft legislation to emerge in London, Belfast and Dublin," Mr Corrigan said.
The political deal was struck after weeks of intense negotiations between the five biggest parties and Stormont and the British and Irish governments.
The agreement failed to address issues like flags and parades, but the legacy of the Troubles was one area where progress had been made.
The parties agreed to set up a
new dedicated police team to investigate unsolved Troubles murders,
after its predecessor, the Historic Enquiries Team (HET) was undermined
by a report that found it investigated state killings with less rigour
than those carried out by civilians.
you always wanted to know about the DUP, but were afraid to ask
The co-author of a book based on the first DUP membership survey offers a sharp analysis of its findings
By Jonathan Tonge
It was an unlikely deal, confounding sceptics who said the party of “never, never, never” would not enter a pact with historic enemies. Yet the DUP came to an agreement with academics. The outcome was the first membership survey of a party traditionally suspicious of outsiders. The Democratic Unionist Party: From Protest to Power asks DUP members what they think of that other deal, at St Andrews, in 2006. Perhaps more importantly, it finds out who belongs to the DUP – and why?
The study shows how politicised Protestantism underpins the membership of unionism’s dominant party. Ninety per cent believe there is prejudice against Protestants: 80 per cent attend church regularly; three-quarters do not want abortion legalised; two-thirds believe “homosexuality is wrong”. A majority would prefer their children to attend a school with children of only the same religion; most would “mind a lot” if a close relative was to marry someone of a different religion. Asked the extent to which “faith and church should influence the party” on a 0 (not at all) to 10 (maximum) scale, members gave a 6.8 score. Would any democratic European party score higher? Party leader and First Minister Peter Robinson scores “faith” at 10, whilst arguing clearly that the DUP should not be the creature of one church. Robinson’s private secretary, Paul Girvan MLA, insists that “if you use the Ten Commandments, you can formulate almost every law you need”.
So Richard Dawkins won’t be applying for DUP membership anytime soon. Yet it would be a mistake to assume the DUP is fossilised. The party is changing, but those alterations have yet to fully surface and there is little point looking for spring whilst still in January. The Free Presbyterian Church – whose adherents offer much of the religious militancy – still provides the largest single denomination (31 per cent) of members. This is a remarkable statistic given that the church founded by Ian Paisley forms less than 1 per cent of Northern Ireland’s population. Yet the Free Presbyterian section is in sharp decline. Few have joined in the last two decades and hardly any since the St Andrews Agreement, which caused that church so much soul-searching.
Instead, decidedly non-Free Presbyterian defectors from the Ulster Unionist Party – social liberals in relative terms (although this asks something of the term “relative”) – provided a big influx of members in the turmoil of the post-Good Friday Agreement years. Amounting to one-quarter of the DUP’s current membership, the ex-UUP contingent escaped the chaos of David Trimble’s party in search of strong leadership, party unity, electoral safety (history may be kinder to Trimble than were the electors of Upper Bann) and a better deal for unionists. They got all four. In constitutional terms, what they attained in 2006 was barely different from the supposed “sell-out” of 1998, but this time with important policing issues now nailed (ie Sinn Féin now supporting the police service of the country they co-governed) and the Provisional IRA already gone.
For a party once opposed to powersharing, DUP members are fairly enthusiastic about the new political dispensation. As one eyebrow-raiser, a majority believe that the DUP and Sinn Féin are “co-operating well” in the Assembly. Obviously it helps when you are the largest party in that arrangement. Some old habits die hard. Less than one-quarter of members support the (anodyne) North-South bodies and more than four-fifths believe the Irish Government should have “no say at all” on the North. Notwithstanding the one big win in 2006, only a minority believe that Sinn Féin’s presence on policing boards has been beneficial. Most members believe Northern Ireland’s place in the UK has been secured but only a minority believe lasting peace has been achieved.
Given the dramatic upheaval in electoral fortunes within unionism, could the DUP itself be vulnerable to rapid decline? Given the party’s strengths of a highly active base, support for party policy and considerable brand loyalty, this seems unlikely. But how does it grow? Optimistically, some MLAs believe the party (0.6 per cent Catholic membership – single car needed) can expand by appealing to religiously conservative Catholics. Arguing that the SDLP and Sinn Féin cannot represent such voters, the former Stormont minister Edwin Poots argues “there is an educated, conservative Catholic vote out there which the DUP is probably best placed to pick up”. Yet fishing for religiously conservative Catholics is to cast a line for an improbable catch in increasingly thinly-stocked waters.
The more mainstream DUP view is that, whilst support from Catholic backers of the Union is a welcome bonus, the party needs to maximise appeal across the broadest Unionist spectrum. In a system which institutionalises and manages communal division, episodic sectarian grandstanding is permissible. Given that more than half of the DUP’s elected representatives are members of the Orange Order, further battles over parading rights seem inevitable. A pragmatic wing (one-third of members) supports compromises with nationalist residents as a pre-condition for parades. Communal rallying may be a necessary but insufficient condition for continuing electoral success. It also requires accompaniment by governing competence and progress to win the intra-unionist contest. More women – only 28 per cent of DUP members – might also help.
Many unionists have declined to support any unionist party in recent decades (check the shocking constituency turnout figures) and there is, just possibly, a middle-class electorate looking with mild interest at the newly-modernised UUP, showing some signs of revival under Mike Nesbitt.
Unionist unity may assist both parties in resisting the seemingly inevitable march of Sinn Féin to top party in the North. Four-fifths of the DUP membership wants unionist electoral alliances and a large majority give lower preference votes to UUP candidates.
The benign view of the UUP contrasts with the opprobrium towards the ghost of the DUP past, in the form of the Traditional Unionist Voice under Jim Allister: “There isn’t a positive bone in his body. He was born for opposition,” insists Robinson.
With a close Westminster election looming, the prize of holding the balance of power is a possibility for Robinson’s party. If David Cameron needs to call, that should not present undue problems for the First Minister; half of his party members feel closest to the Conservatives of the main British parties, compared to only one in 14 members backing Ed Miliband’s Labour.
From the centre of Clontibret to the heart of Westminster takes nearly three decades by the long route.
Jonathan Tonge is Professor of Politics at the University of
Liverpool. The Democratic Unionist Party: From Protest to
Power, by Jonathan Tonge, Maire Braniff, Thomas Hennessey,
James McAuley and Sophie Whiting, is published by Oxford University
and colleagues pay tribute to ‘inspirational’ Pam Brighton
Warm tributes have been paid to the theatre director Pam Brighton, who passed away on Sunday.
Originally from Bradford, Pam co-founded the Dubbeljoint theatre company with Marie Jones in 1991. Director of landmark works such as Binlids, Murphy’s Law, A Night in November and Stones in His Pocket, her work received international acclaim and recognition.
Writer Laurence McKeown said Pam would be remembered for putting her craft before fame and fortune.
“She lived her life according to her personal politics and put integrity before money — to her cost, financially, but not in terms of the friends she ultimately made who will remember her for her courage and conviction and for putting community, before fame and fortune,” he said.
Brassneck theatre company artistic director Tony Devlin said her passing was a sad day for the theatre community in Belfast “and right across Ireland as we mourn the loss of one of its biggest and most influential characters.”
He added: “If Dubbeljoint theatre company was a rollercoaster, then Pam Brighton was the fairground operator. Over the many successful years at the helm of that pioneering institution, there were plenty of ups, many downs, countless highs and a copious amount of lows.
“I can safely say that, having been a proud graduate – or survivor – of the Dubbeljoint rollercoaster, the ups and highs far outweighed the downs and lows – and Pam Brighton was responsible for them all.
“When Pam called the shots, everyone complied.
It was, after all, for the greater good and Pam gave so much for the greater good while asking for so little in return. She created incredibly exciting and thought-provoking, moving, professional, quality, inspiring, challenging and ultimately entertaining theatre.”
Tony said Pam leaves behind “a beautifully coloured, brilliantly inspirational and wonderfully inspiring legacy of work will be spoken of and fondly remembered for generations”. He continued: “I hope that through our own company, which emerged and grew out of Dubbeljoint, that we can continue Pam’s and Dubbeljoint’s legacy in keeping the wheels on that rollercoaster turning, now that the fairground operator has exited stage left.
“I’m sure that somewhere right now Pam is conspiring, imagining and creating some magnificent piece of theatre along with her two great friends and artistic colleagues, Brian Moore and Brian Campbell – geniuses all.
“And if I know Pam, God himself may only be getting a cameo role. She will be missed by many. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam dhílis.”
Pam Brighton’s funeral will take place on Wednesday, February 25, leaving Healy’s Funeral Home at 2.15pm before making its way to Roselawn Cemetery for 3.30pm.