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Latest News

29th May 2015




On this day...

  • 1650 - Oliver Cromwell left Ireland
  • 1798 - Battle of Three Rock Mountain
  • 1896 - Irish Socialist Republican Party founded

 


 

"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

 

 

 

In Northern Ireland, not every murder is treated the same
The Conversation 29/05/15

By John Brewer

A BBC Panorama programme about state killings in Northern Ireland did not reveal much more than most local people already knew, but it told a lot more people in Great Britain what they did not know at all.

The programme alleged that the British Army and the Royal Ulster Constabulary Special Branch knew that their informers, within both the Provisional IRA and Loyalist paramilitary organisations, were involved in murders but did nothing to stop them. Protecting informers to glean more information was the higher gain. Some of these murders were of other security force personnel but they were mostly innocent civilians – and the bulk of them were Catholics.

The disgusting but rather popular idea that there is a victim hierarchy is shattered by these revelations. The distinction made between victim and victim-maker that has stymied the award of pensions to those injured in the Troubles because Unionist politicians could not stomach giving money to perpetrators of violence, now collapses.

Who now is the victim-maker? The bomber and gunman or their security-force handler who did nothing to prevent murder?

The Panorama allegations of collusion pose are another challenge to the dismissive and flippant response of many Unionists, who have denied similar allegations made in the past. We can anticipate they will be dismissed again.

I am confident in this prediction because one of the features of the peace process is a moral recalibration that results in only selective condemnation. This has stooped so low as to distort the meaning of justice in Northern Ireland.

Justice past and present

Justice is one of the key principles on which to build a better future. Not the only one – there is also the need for fairness, equality of opportunity, hope, social betterment and the alleviation of human need and want – but justice is amongst the keystones. But justice looks backwards as much as forwards; it is about dealing with past injustices as well as making improvements for the future.

This means justice is much broader than merely its criminal applications. It is is not just about prosecuting past criminal wrongs; it is about ensuring that past wrongs are not repeated. And the wrongs that need to be avoided are not only criminal acts; they are all previous social, political, cultural and economic practices which ended up in people being treated as second-class citizens, without regard to their common dignity as human beings.

With this approach, justice is truly blind. All people are of equal worth. All people have equal dignity. All people should be treated fairly. No one is above the law and no one deserves less justice than anyone else.

Justice, sadly, can also be one-eyed, when only some people’s rights to justice are accorded privilege, or when some people’s injustices get attention and other’s injustices are forgotten. When we pursue only some people’s past wrongs, or only some kinds of past wrongs and not other kinds of past wrongs. When this happens, justice is no basis on which to build a better future; it is merely a way to use the past selectively.

Same crime, different outcome

Let me cite just one example of the different treatment accorded to the murder of two innocent mothers. Everyone in the UK has heard of Jean McConville. She was a mother of ten, abducted and murdered by the Provisional IRA in 1972. It is a case used to highlight the inhumanity of the IRA. Gerry Adams was arrested and released without charge over his alleged involvement.

But who is Joan Connolly? She was a mother of eight shot by the Parachute Regiment in the unprovoked killing of 11 civilians in Ballymurphy in West Belfast in 1971. The secretary of state for Northern Ireland has refused an enquiry into these murders. Justice for these two mothers is not equal.

This is the true significance of the Panorama allegations. State or state-sponsored killings are looked at differently. But when those who make the law break the law, there is no law – and when there is no law, there is no morality. When justice is unjust, morality itself is undermined. Justice that is one-eyed is no justice at all.

 

 

 

Villiers calls Stormont Agreement review meeting
UTV News 29/05/15

Northern Ireland Secretary of State Theresa Villiers has invited party leaders to a meeting next week to review the Stormont House Agreement.

Ms Villiers has written to the leaders about the meeting of the Stormont House Agreement Review Group at Stormont House on Tuesday afternoon.

The Irish Government will participate in accordance with their responsibilities under the three stranded approach, she said.

The meeting has been called in the wake of a deepening crisis over the devolved administration’s finances.

On Thursday, the Executive failed to agree a way forward on the budget.

It was after the Welfare Reform Bill was blocked on Tuesday by Sinn Féin, the SDLP and the Green Party's Steven Agnew.

Failure to find agreement on welfare reforms could collapse Northern Ireand’s power-sharing institutions, which are being hit by Treasury penalties for the non-implementation of the long-delayed proposed legislation.

Welfare reform had been part of the Stormont House Agreement in December, however, Sinn Féin withdrew its support for the bill in March.

The party said it had concerns over protection for benefits claimants, but the DUP said it was the best deal possible in the circumstances and accused nationalists of backtracking.

The devolution of corporation tax powers and new structures to address the legacy of the Troubles are also at risk.

Following the Executive meeting, Finance Minister Arlene Foster called for an urgent meeting with Treasury officials, while Sinn Féin called for all-party talks with Prime Minister David Cameron.

Earlier in the week, the Secretary of State said she did not want to take control of welfare but may have to consider it amid the current political crisis.

 

 

 

Robinson back home after 'heart attack'
UTV News 29/05/15

First Minister Peter Robinson has tweeted to say he has been discharged from hospital and is back home following his illness.

Mr Robinson, who has been First Minister of Northern Ireland since 2008, was brought by ambulance to the Ulster Hospital at around 9am on Monday.

He was then moved to the RVH, where he underwent a procedure.

Well-wishers including Prime Minister David Cameron, deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness and representatives of the other NI parties have tweeted messages of support for Mr Robinson.

Meanwhile the DUP has said it has no plans to appoint an acting First Minister while he recovers.

 

 

 

Pearse McCauley facing new charge and life imprisonment
The Anglo-Celt 29/05/15

Prominent Republican Pearse McCauley (50) was yesterday morning (Thursday, May 28) charged with an additional offence against his estranged wife and former Sinn Féin councillor that carries with it a maximum prison term of life.

Mr McCauley with an address listed as Apartment 2, Block 1, Ballyconnell, Co Cavan, was accused by Inspector Seamus Boyle of Section 4 of the Non-Fatal Offences Against the Person's Act, which reads: "A person who intentionally or recklessly causes serious harm to another shall be guilty of an offence."

He is accused of committing the offence at Keelderry, Kilnaleck, Co Cavan, on Christmas Eve of last year with Pauline Tully the alleged injured party.

He appeared before Cavan District Court's Judge James Faughnan and only spoke - "yes" - to confirm that he understood his alibi warning.

He is also charged with assaulting Ms Tully, causing her harm on the same occasion.

In addition, he is charged with threatening to kill or cause serious harm to her brother, Thomas Tully and with threatening to kill or cause serious harm to a neighbour, Seamus Leddy, again, on December 24.

He was also served with the Book of Evidence from Sgt Michael Fitzpatrick of Kilnaleck Garda Station and his case was remanded in custody to Castlerea Prison to the next sitting of Cavan Circuit Court in June.

 

 

 

Murder weapon discovered in Imperial War Museum display
BBC News 28/05/15

An assault rifle used in seven unsolved murders has been discovered on public display at the Imperial War Museum.

BBC Panorama has learned that investigators re-examining paramilitary murders in Northern Ireland found the gun on display in an exhibit on the Troubles.

The families of the murder victims had previously been told by the police that they had disposed of the weapon.

A senior officer says the Police Service of Northern Ireland fully supports an investigation into its history.

Forensic tests conducted in the 1990s showed the rifle was one of two weapons used in an attack on a Belfast betting shop in 1992.

Five Catholics, including a 15-year-old boy, were killed in the attack on the Ormeau Road by Protestant paramilitaries.

'Disposed of'

The rifle has also been linked to the unsolved murders of two other men in 1988.

The weapon was originally recovered by the police in 1992, but officers from the Historical Enquiries Team (HET) were unable to locate the gun when they reopened the unsolved murder cases.

Families were told that the VZ58 rifle had been officially "disposed of", but investigators from Northern Ireland's Police Ombudsman's team found the gun at the museum and have sent it for further tests.

Assistant Chief Constable Will Kerr said the Police Service of Northern Ireland would fully support the ombudsman investigation.

"I have been made aware that investigators from the Police Ombudsman's office have recovered a weapon on loan from police in Northern Ireland to the Imperial War Museum in London as part of a permanent exhibition relating to 'the Troubles'. In the interests of public confidence and transparency, I accept that it merits further investigation."

A spokeswoman for the Imperial War Museum (IWM) said it was given the gun by the Royal Ulster Constabulary Weapons and Explosives Research Centre.

"IWM believes that we provide an appropriate context for the display of items used in conflict. This object has always been displayed in the context of a wider story which sets it against other items from both sides of the Northern Ireland conflict."

She said the museum was told that the weapons it received could have been used in "specific events", but it wasn't given any details of what those events were.

The museum is now working with the police ombudsman to try to work out whether there are any other weapons from unsolved murders in its collection.

Billy McManus, whose father Willie was killed in the betting shop shooting, says the murder weapon should never have been treated as a museum exhibit.

'Just don't care'

He said: "I am absolutely shocked that a gun connected with so many deaths was there on display for anyone to come and see at the Imperial War Museum in London. It should be here in a secure place so that it can be used for ballistics.

"Why would somebody let something so important be shipped to England to be put on display? What does that say about their treatment of the case? They just don't care."

The families of those killed at the bookmakers have long believed that the security forces colluded in the attack.

Earlier police investigations have already established that the second murder weapon - a hand gun - was given to the paramilitaries by a soldier at an army barracks.

An informant in the terror group later handed the gun in to his police handlers. The police claim they deactivated it before giving it back to their agent, but the pistol was working when it was used in the attack on the Belfast betting shop.

Panorama: Britain's Secret Terror Deals, is available via BBC iPlayer.

 

 

 

Amnesty demands action over BBC findings on Northern Ireland killings
The Guardian 28/05/15

Amnesty International has called for an investigation into claims on BBC1’s Panorama programme that agents inside Ulster loyalist and republican terror groups were able to kill and target victims with impunity during the Northern Ireland Troubles.

Lady Nuala O’Loan, the former police ombudsman in the region, branded informers who were allowed to commit crimes including murder while in the pay of the British state as “serial killers”.

The BBC programme on Thursday night alleged that in many instances the security forces – RUC special branch, military intelligence and MI5 – helped cover up killings carried out by their agents.

O’Loan said the state allowed their agents to kill. “They were running informants and they were using them.

“Their argument was that by so doing they were saving lives, but hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of people died because those people were not brought to justice and weren’t stopped in their tracks,” she said. “Many of them were killers and some of them were serial killers.”

Commenting on these latest allegations of collusion between paramilitary organisations and their security force handlers, Patrick Corrigan, Amnesty International’s programme director for Northern Ireland, said: “The breadth and depth of collusion being alleged here is truly disturbing.

“Killing people targeted by the state, using intelligence provided by the state and shooting them with guns provided by the state – if all this is proven, we’re not talking about a security policy, we’re talking about a murder policy.

“There must now be a full, independent investigation into the scale of the policy where the police, army and MI5 worked with illegal paramilitary groups, resulting in the deaths of perhaps hundreds of people.”

The programme, Britain’s Secret Terror Deals, focused on links between the RUC, army and MI5 with the Ulster Defence Association and the Ulster Volunteer Force, but also explored allegations from the families of those killed by the IRA that in some cases those involved in murdering their loved ones were informers for the British state.

Panorama’s reporter Darragh MacIntyre also revealed that an AK47 assault rifle used in a sectarian massacre of Catholics in 1992 ended up in an exhibition at the Imperial War Museum in London to mark the carnage of the Troubles.

The weapon was used in the UDA killing of five Catholics in a betting shop on the Lower Ormeau Road in Belfast.

The police ombudsman has confirmed that the assault rifle has since been removed from the museum for forensic scientific examination. It has been linked to other UDA murders during the conflict.

 

 

 

Panorama exposé of collusion and State terror: PSNI Chief Constable in Denial
Relatives For Justice 28/05/15

Statement

“The revelation in tonight’s Panorama that one of the guns used in the Sean Graham’s Bookmakers attack on the Ormeau Road, on February 5th 1992, which killed 5 people and injured several others, was on public display at the Imperial War Museum in London until recently is absolutely shocking.

“It’s beyond being crass and insensitive – it’s downright sick and adds insult to injury in what is already a grave injustice yet to be addressed.

“Despite learning of this several months ago from the Police Ombudsman there still is a deep sense of disbelief, shock and understandable anger. Families and survivors of the attack are struggling to come to terms with this latest information.

“Special Branch and MI5 agent Brian Nelson provided the weapons used by the UDA in the attack.

“The RUC, the PSNI and the HET all told the families that this particular weapon, a Czechoslovakian manufactured 7.62 x 39 mm VZ58P automatic assault rifle modelled on the AK47, had been destroyed and no longer existed.

“The weapon was part of a large consignment of similar rifles and munitions imported into the north in the late 1980’s by the British army’s Force Research Unit’s (FRU) key agent Brian Nelson, who had been secreted into the UDA in order for the intelligence agencies to more effectively target and kill people.

“Relatives For Justice tracked the use of these weapons and in 1995 published an extensive report detailing 229 killings involving collusion, including the use of these imported weapons.

“We have had a string of recent revelations from the misinformation of the shadowy Special Branch controlled group, the Weapons & Explosives Research Centre (WREC), at the Roseanne Mallon inquest concerning ballistics and weapons used in numerous murders and attacks across East Tyrone and North Armagh involving collusion - including up to 60 cases being investigated by the Police Ombudsman - potentially involving the role of WERC that also involves killings of members of the RUC and British army through collusion with agents within republicanism.

“There have been consistent revelations about structured collusion at the judicial review by the Finucane family of the failure by the UK government to hold the inquiry as promised at Weston Park and through the judicial review of the PSNI refusal to provide the thematic report into the activities of the Glenanne Gang.

“We’ve also had the writ served on the architect of collusion, General Sir Frank Kitson, by 88-year-old Mary Heenan’s whose husband Paddy was murdered by Military Reaction Force (MRF) agent and British soldier Albert ‘Ginger’ Baker. Baker too was secreted into the UDA by the military to direct killings.

“The Panorama exposé of State terror, widespread collusion, and agents involved in murders has already seen a knee-jerk reaction by PSNI Chief Constable George Hamilton in the media prior to the programme even being screened.

“On the back of several television programmes exposing serious collusion (Spotlight re: Gary Heggarty and the Mount Vernon UVF, Spotlight on WERC, and tonight’s Panorama) the Chief Constable has basically dismissed the evidence and defended the role of the RUC and the use of agents.

“George Hamilton has made some promising comments about addressing the past but this intervention is way off the mark and is as equally insulting and insensitive as the display of one of the murder weapons.

“The only response is to have an independent inquiry into collusion.”

 

 

 

Peter Robinson gets bowl of fruit from Martin McGuinness during hospital visit
News Letter 28/05/15

Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness has visited First minister Peter Robinson in hospital.

Mr Robinson, 66, was taken to the Ulster Hospital, Dundonald, on Monday morning after he suffered a suspected heart attack.

He was transferred to the Royal Victoria Hospital where he underwent a procedure.

Mr McGuinness said he took Mr Robinson a bowl of fruit during his visit on Wednesday night.

"It was my bowl of fruit, because I hadn't eaten anything all day yesterday, so I sacrificed that in the interests of the first minister's health," he joked.

The deputy first minister said: "But hopefully he's on the mend, I would hope he will be out of hospital very shortly.

"I'm not going to speak about his physical condition. I think, knowing Peter, he will talk to the media about that whenever he's able to do so and I'll leave that to him.

"But I obviously felt it was important to go and see him and wish him well and his family well."

 

 

 

PSNI boss questions claims on scale of Troubles collusion killings
BBC News 28/05/15

Northern Ireland's top police officer has questioned a claim that there were "hundreds and hundreds" of deaths as a result of security force collusion.

Chief Constable George Hamilton said he was "surprised" at the claim by former Police Ombudsman Baroness Nuala O'Loan.

She said some paramilitary informants recruited by the security forces during the Troubles were "serial killers".

Mr Hamilton questioned her assessment of the "scale" of killings and said informers saved "thousands of lives".

However, the PSNI Chief Constable added that during the Troubles, there were "no rules" governing how security force handlers dealt with paramilitary agents.

'Impunity'

Baroness O'Loan's remarks are to be broadcast on Thursday night, as part of a BBC Panorama programme examining the extent of security force collusion with paramilitary agents during decades of violence in Northern Ireland.

She told Panorama that the police and Army allowed informers to commit crime, up to and including murder, with "impunity".

"They were running informants and they were using them. Their argument was that by so doing they were saving lives, but hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of people died because those people were not brought to justice and weren't stopped in their tracks," she said.

Baroness O'Loan added: "Many of them were killers and some of them were serial killers."

'No hiding'

However, the PSNI Chief Constable took issue with her remarks.

Speaking on the BBC's Nolan Show, Mr Hamilton said: "My understanding is that there were hundreds if not thousands of lives saved through the work of informants and police and, in those days, Army working with those informants. I'm not saying that everything that was done was done to the standards of today."

Referring to Baroness O'Loan's claim that the security forces operated outside the rules, the Chief Constable said: "I would challenge that, it's not actually accurate. There were no rules."

He added: "There was no regulatory framework for handling of informants at that time. That's not an excuse by the way, it's just simple a statement of fact."

However, he said that there was "no hiding place" for anyone who operated outside the law.

He said it was the PSNI's job to investigate crime "no matter how long ago", and added it was the Police Ombudsman's responsibility to investigate allegations that members of the security forces broke the law.

Mr Hamilton said that since the introduction of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers (RIPA) Act 2000, the conduct of covert operations by UK security forces is heavily regulated and scrutinised.

 

 

 

Did the UK state collude with NI paramilitary killers?
BBC News 28/05/15

British security forces had thousands of agents and informants working inside paramilitary groups in Northern Ireland, a BBC Panorama investigation has discovered.

The undercover operatives were recruited by the army, MI5 and Special Branch and many were involved in criminality and murder.

Lord Stevens, who led three government investigations into the security forces in Northern Ireland, has revealed the scale of the counter-intelligence operation for the first time.

The government says collusion with paramilitaries should never happen and the government has apologised where it did.

Lord Stevens, a former commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, told BBC Panorama that thousands of agents and informants were recruited during the Troubles.

He says they created mayhem in Northern Ireland and that just one of the agents - Brian Nelson - may be linked to "dozens and dozens" of murders.

Nelson, who was a paid army agent, provided assassination targets for the three main Loyalist paramilitary groups - the Ulster Freedom Fighters, the Ulster Volunteer Force and the Red Hand Commando.

During his investigations in Northern Ireland, Lord Stevens and his team arrested 210 paramilitary suspects. He says that 207 of them were agents or informants for the state.

Baroness Nuala O'Loan, who was Northern Ireland's first police ombudsman, also found evidence that state agents were involved in murder.

'Sensitive material'

She tells Panorama that the security forces failed to control their undercover operatives: "They were running informants and their argument was that they were saving lives, but hundreds and hundreds of people died because these people were not brought to justice.

"There was impunity really for these people to go on committing their crimes. Many of them were killers, some were serial killers."

One Special Branch agent in North Belfast has been linked to 20 murders. Mark Haddock, who ran one of the Ulster Volunteer Force's most notorious terror gangs, was paid at least £79,000 for his work as a police agent.

The police ombudsman of Northern Ireland is currently investigating 60 murder cases where the state has been accused of involvement.

These investigations were delayed because the police refused to hand over crucial evidence to the ombudsman.

But following a court challenge last year, the new Chief Constable George Hamilton agreed to hand over the intelligence files.

He told the programme that he's willing to work with the ombudsman, but the information needs to be handled carefully.

"There is a need to understand the sheer magnitude of what we are dealing with. We are talking about rooms full of material.

"Some of it is very sensitive, some of which if it is released in the wrong circumstances would be outside of legislation, some of it if released in the wrong circumstances could put lives at risk."

The government says that the vast majority of those who served in the security forces did so with distinction. It says collusion with paramilitaries should never happen and the government has apologised where it did.

Panorama: Britain's Secret Terror Deals is on BBC One at 2100 BST on Thursday 28 May 2015 and available later via BBC iPlayer.

 

 

 

Sinn Fein chief Martin McGuinness visits Peter Robinson in hospital
Belfast Telegraph 28/05/15

First Minister Peter Robinson has been visited in hospital by his deputy Martin McGuinness.

The DUP leader took ill suddenly early on Monday morning and is believed to have suffered a heart attack.

It is understood that Mr Robinson's condition has since stabilised after he had a stent fitted.

On Tuesday night he was visited by senior figures within the DUP and briefed on the latest row concerning the proposed reforms to the welfare system.

It is no secret that the relationship between the First Minister and his deputy is not as warm as the one that developed between his predecessor Ian Paisley and Mr McGuinness.

However, it can be revealed that Mr McGuinness has been in frequent contact with Mr Robinson during his illness, by phone and also in person. Last night Sinn Fein confirmed that not only has Mr McGuinness been in contact with Mr Robinson by phone, but he has also been in person to visit him at the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast.

Both share a love of football, and banter about the rivalry between the two top Premiership teams they support.

Speaking in Stormont on Monday, Mr McGuinness himself dispelled the tension rumours.

"In terms of my relationship with Peter, nothing could be further from the truth... I think that he has made a major contribution to the progress that we have made over the past eight years," he told the Assembly.

"It is cause of great concern that someone like him should be hospitalised."

The DUP has not appointed a temporary replacement to stand in for Mr Robinson as he recovers.

DUP deputy leader Nigel Dodds said the party has not taken any decision yet in that regard.

Colleagues have reported that Mr Robinson is in good form in hospital and appears to be recovering well, although he may remain in hospital for a few more days.

 

 

 

Military Covenant: Nationalists reject DUP veterans call
BBC News 27/05/15

Sinn Féin and the SDLP have criticised a DUP call to change the law in Northern Ireland to make it possible for seriously injured military veterans to get priority medical treatment.

DUP MP Jeffrey Donaldson told the BBC's Spotlight programme the government must ensure veterans get the care they need.

The Military Covenant is a government promise to look after former members of the armed forces and their families.

It is a promise many veterans in Northern Ireland say has been broken.

'Trauma'

As a result of the covenant, veterans in Great Britain are entitled to some form of priority medical treatment, but that is not the case in Northern Ireland.

Mr Donaldson, a former UDR soldier, said the Westminster government should amend equality laws introduced as part of the Good Friday Agreement.

"There are instances where veterans should get priority treatment because of the circumstances in which they sustained their injuries," said the DUP MP.

"We believe that if we have men and women returning from operational deployment who have either mental or physical trauma, that they should be treated at their point of need, that they should not be expected to wait around for months on end for that treatment.

"After all, war is instantaneous."

The MP rejects claims that such a move would give former soldiers and other military personnel an unfair advantage.

"What's fair about putting on a uniform and going out to serve your country and, and being caught in an improvised explosive device and losing both your arms and both your legs? There's nothing fair about that," he said.

'Hurtful hierarchy'

But nationalists and republicans have said they will oppose any move to change what they regard as a key part of the Good Friday Agreement.

Sinn Féin's Martina Anderson told Spotlight any amendment would be unacceptable.

"To think that anyone would suggest after the hurt and the pain that the British government and the British army has caused in this society, that they should be in some way elevated in their position, that they should get preferential treatment, I don't think that is sending out a good message, that we should have another hurtful hierarchy here," she said.

The SDLP is also opposed to any change. The party supported changing the law to make it possible to increase the number of Catholic police officers, but will not support any move to give military veterans priority treatment.

Deputy leader Dolores Kelly said: "Many people, particularly in the nationalist community, would have bitter memories of the armed forces and their behaviour here in the north and in some respects they already have had privileged positions as very few of them have gone to jail for their misdeeds.

"We don't believe that privileged positions should be given to any one group of victims."

 

 

 

North crisis as Assembly votes down welfare deal
Irish Examiner 27/05/15

Northern Ireland’s faltering power-sharing Executive has lurched towards another crisis after the Assembly voted down a bid to implement welfare reforms in the region.

The fall of the already long-delayed proposed legislation, prompted by Sinn Féin and SDLP opposition, leaves the stumbling administration facing a budgetary black hole estimated at around £600m (€848m).

Unless political leaders can agree a lasting deal on welfare in the coming days and weeks, there is the very real prospect of a senior civil servant stepping in to take over departmental spends later in the summer, under tight financial constraints.

Such a scenario, where the parties are effectively relieved of spending responsibility, would undoubtedly increase the chances of one of the main partners in the Executive — the DUP and Sinn Féin — walking away and collapsing the institutions.

In the absence of any local accommodation, the Democratic Unionists have suggested another alternative option — namely, the UK government stepping in to implement welfare legislation.

 

 

 

First Minister in ‘jovial’ mood in hospital
News Letter 27/05/15

Peter Robinson is said to be in good spirits in the wake of his suspected heart attack.

The first minister, 66, spent another night in hospital on Tuesday night, with a party spokesman adding he could end up staying for a couple more days.

Two top party figures – chairman Lord Morrow and former South Antrim MP William McCrea – went to see him on Tuesday.

Lord Morrow told the News Letter: “We found him in good spirits, and talking, and actually quite jovial. We just went in to shake his hand and wish him well.

“And I must say that I was at an event yesterday [Monday] and I was amazed at the number of people that came over to me and inquired about Peter, and sent their best regards and well wishes to him. He’s in good form.”

When it comes to Mr Robinson possibly staying in hospital for a few more days, Lord Morrow said: “Maybe if he had his way he’d be out now with us. But I think he should just take a wee rest.”

The DUP said that a temporary first minister was not being appointed in Mr Robinson’s absence.

His deputy Nigel Dodds said they had a strong team to progress any negotiations about the future of the badly-split devolved power-sharing government.

 

 

 

Cahill urges SF to clarify issues over accused’s defence
Irish Examiner 27/05/15

Rape victim Mairia Cahill has urged Sinn Féin to clarify whether four people linked to the party were prepared to defend her attacker if the charges went to trial, after the issue was flagged in an independent review of the case.

The Belfast woman put the question to the party last night despite officials claiming the revelation is “not an issue for Sinn Féin”, and amid attempts to distance the party from what its president, Gerry Adams, has argued is a family matter.

Last Friday, Northern Ireland’s director of public prosecutions published the long-awaited Keir Starmer report into how its judicial system handled accusations by Ms Cahill and two others against Martin Morris, who was identified in the report and previously named in the Dáil as a senior pr