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Latest News

21st September 2014




On this day...

  • 1795 - Battle of the Diamond led to founding of Orange Order
  • 1881 - Senior commander of Irish Volunteers in Easter Rising, Éamonn Ceannt, born

 


 

"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

 

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Final nail in the coffin for the demilitarisation narrative
Republican Network for Unity 21/09/14

Far away from the escalating crisis at Stormont, at the entrance of Lough Foyle we are once again about to witness a military operation involving the marching boots and bloody rifles of murderers that we were told had packed up and left in 2007.

Many of us asserted that the only thing that changed was the name and tempo of the British campaign in Ireland, it went from ‘Operation Banner’ which flatly came to an end in 2007 to ‘Operation Helvitic’ which began two weeks after the former ended.

Operation Helvitic is the so-called demilitarisation of the Six Counties. It involves 5,000 armed British soldiers ready and waiting to quell any social disruption, and provide strategic, intelligence and military training to those on the front line of British rule in Ireland – the PSNI.

Two things which are particularly concerning about this training exercise. Firstly, Irish nature reserves and beauty spots are being used for a sinister agenda, the macho posturing of the British army will learn the techniques of their predecessors to terrorise a civilian population in the next Imperialist adventure that Capitalism dictates.

Secondly, what is quite disturbing for the Republican community is the occupational nature of this operation. Because of the GFA, various British regiments are free to flex their muscles in the Six Counties whenever they see fit, this is reflective of their latest campaign in Ireland – which has the same goals and aspirations as those previous, and that is to maintain the British occupation in the North-East of Ireland.

The narrative that the people of Ireland were fed in 1998 is in direct conflict with the reality of the situation. We were informed the British were in a process of withdrawal, that we would have a complete demilitarisation of the North and the British had no ‘strategic interest’ in the Six Counties, however the so called Lt. Col Monroe has well and truly put the last nail in the coffin of the Stormonteers narrative when he asserted: “We’re here for the foreseeable future.”

 

 

 

Taoiseach must engage urgently with Cameron on North – Adams
Sinn Féin 21/09/14

Sinn Féin Leader Gerry Adams TD has called on Taoiseach Enda Kenny to engage directly with British Prime Minister David Cameron in relation to the political impasse in the North.

Speaking in Dublin today to a delegation of Irish-American supporters of Sinn Féin and in advance of a trip to the United States where he will attend the Clinton Global initiative, Gerry Adams said:

“Now that the Scottish Independence referendum is over, I am calling on the Taoiseach to engage directly, as a matter of urgency, with British Prime Minister David Cameron in relation to the political impasse in the North which has resulted from the failure of unionist leaders to honour agreements reached.

“The refusal of Downing St to fulfil its obligations, which has contributed directly to the current difficulties, highlights the urgent need for the Taoiseach to hold the British Government to account.

“The Irish Government is co-guarantor of the Good Friday Agreement and subsequent agreements. The Taoiseach needs to be a champion for the Good Friday Agreement and the peace process.

“I believe that negotiations should be convened immediately by the two governments with the support and assistance of the US administration.

“The context for this must be the Good Friday Agreement which the Irish people democratically endorsed.

“In any negotiations Sinn Féin will defend that agreement and the all-Ireland and power-sharing institutions.”

 

 

 

Scottish referendum: Robinson rejects border poll call
News Letter 19/09/14

Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness has called for a border poll on Irish unity.

He said things would never be the same again for Scotland or elsewhere following the referendum.

The senior republican added: “It showed that it is possible to discuss important constitutional issues in a spirit of respect for all sides. I believe we could do that without opening up divisions which would be detrimental to the institutions.”

But DUP leader and First Minister Peter Robinson has rejected the suggestion and said a poll is not necessary.

He added: “More and more people in Northern Ireland want to maintain the status quo.”

Nationalists across Ireland maintained a low profile during the Scottish independence campaign. However, slogans went up in west Belfast and Londonderry supporting a yes vote in recent days.

Secretary of State Theresa Villiers can call a border poll at any time, according to the 1998 Good Friday Agreement .

Mr Robinson said ministers in Northern Ireland need to show competence in dealing with existing powers as Westminster considers devolving more. He said: “The Prime Minister and the other party leaders have indicated that they want to see an element of fairness in how funding is distributed across the United Kingdom and that the Barnett formula (for deciding funding) would be retained.

“Both of those pledges may not always represent the same thing and whilst there will have to be an investigation as to how funding is developed I would be one of those unwilling to stray too far into the renegotiation of the Barnett formula.”

He said there was no point in giving the ministerial Executive at Stormont more powers over finances if ministers were not capable of taking decisions.

Slashing corporation tax could reduce reliance on public spending and raise wages in the private sector, but at a huge cost to Stormont’s budget.

Ms Villiers said: “Detailed technical work has been under way for some months on how a devolved corporation tax regime might operate in Northern Ireland.

“The UK Government will be looking carefully at whether devolution can go ahead and we are committed to announcing a decision on this by the Autumn Statement.”

 

 

 

Coroner in request for Pat Finucane documents
Belfast Telegraph 19/09/14

A coroner's bid for information from an official review of the Pat Finucane murder is being considered by the Government, an inquest has been told.

It involves the death of Gerard Slane (27), a father-of-three shot by the UDA at his home at Waterville Street, west Belfast, in 1988.

Prime Minister David Cameron ordered a review by Sir Desmond de Silva into the murder of solicitor Mr Finucane, which also touched on the Slane case.

The Slane family's solicitor has said previous probes into alleged security force collusion with loyalists, including the De Silva report, had already revealed material.

Coroner Suzanne Anderson's office wrote earlier this year to the Northern Ireland Office and Cabinet Office about De Silva and an earlier probe into collusion carried out by Judge Peter Cory, barrister Ronan Daly said.

He represents the coroner and told the Belfast preliminary hearing no substantive reply had yet been received. The agencies had replied that the Crown Solicitors' Office would respond on their behalf.

Retired Canadian judge Cory carried out separate investigations into alleged collusion which led to public inquiries.

 

 

 

Government destroyed Stalker Sampson files weeks before 'Shoot to Kill' inquest was due to open
The Detail 19/09/14

By Barry McCaffrey

Top secret files relating to the killing of nine men in Co Armagh more than 30 years ago were destroyed by the British government just weeks before an inquest into the deaths was due to begin, The Detail can reveal.

In the mid 1980s two senior British police detectives, John Stalker and Colin Sampson, were each asked to investigate a series of incidents which resulted in the killing of three RUC officers and weeks later six unarmed nationalists.

RUC officers Sean Quinn, Alan McCloy and Paul Hamilton were killed by an IRA landmine near Lurgan in October 1982.

Within weeks Gervaise McKerr, Sean Burns, Eugene Toman, Seamus Grew, Roddy Carroll and 17 year-old Michael Tighe were all shot dead by the RUC’s Special Support Unit (SSU) in a series of controversial shootings in Co Armagh.

All but Michael Tighe were members of republican paramilitary organisations; however none were armed at the time they were killed.

The incidents became known as the ‘Shoot to Kill’ deaths after one of the RUC officers involved admitted that official claims that the men had been killed after driving through security force checkpoints were untrue.

In 1984 then Greater Manchester Deputy Chief Constable John Stalker began to investigate the killings.

Weeks before he was due to publish his report in 1986 he was removed from the investigation and replaced by Colin Sampson.

Despite a 30 year campaign by the families of those killed for an inquest into the deaths, the Stalker/Sampson reports have never been made public.

The files compiled by Stalker and Sampson are understood to be crucial to the inquest’s ability to investigate the events surrounding the killings.

Northern Ireland Senior Coroner John Leckey had hoped to open an inquest into the deaths in April 2013.

However The Detail has now obtained official government correspondence confirming that Stalker/Sampson files were destroyed last February, just weeks before the inquest was due to open.

The Cornoners’ Office was not informed until July of this year that the files had been destroyed.

The correspondence does not make it clear how many files relating to Stalker/Sampson were destroyed or which government departments, which include the Ministry of Defence and MI5, may have been responsible for the destruction of the files.

The Treasury is responsible for providing legal advice to all government departments in England and Wales.

In a letter to the Northern Ireland Coroner’s Office on 7 July this year, in his role as senior legal adviser the Treasury’s Permanent Secretary Sir Nicholas MacPherson, advised that in 2013 his department had undertaken a review to transfer records it held to the National Archive.

Sir Nicholas wrote: “As part of this review, in February 2013 a number of file series were destroyed whilst others were preserved.

“Files relating to the Stalker/Sampson inquests were within one of the file series that was destroyed.”

In a response to Sir Nicholas three days later, the Coroners’ Office wrote:

“The Senior Coroner is concerned to learn that as part of the review carried out by your department last year, files relating to the Stalker/Sampson series of inquests were destroyed.

“Can you please advise why this decision was taken, at a point in time when it would have been clear on the basis of any initial inquiry, that the Stalker Sampson series of inquests was in process? On what basis was it deemed that this file series should not be retained? Additionally, can you please identify the particular file series and the specific files which were destroyed?”

The Coroner’s Office has now requested disclosure of all the relevant paperwork relating to who was involved in the decision to destroy the Stalker/Sampson files.

Mr Leckey’s legal representatives have also written to the Crown’s Solicitor’s Office, which provides legal advice on Northern Ireland issues to all government departments in Whitehall, to ask if other files relating to the ‘Shoot to Kill’ inquests have also been destroyed and to instruct that any remaining files should now be safely retained for disclosure to the inquest.

The letter states: “In order that we may be apprised of any wider or additional destruction of files relating to these inquests, can you please take instructions from the departments and agencies for whom you act, as to whether any such files have been destroyed.

“Can you also make the departments and agencies aware that all documentation and materials of potential relevance to this series of inquests are to be preserved and processed in accordance with the ongoing disclosure process.”

News that Stalker/Sampson files have been destroyed comes as newly appointed Deputy Chief Constable Drew Harris is due to appear before Senior Coroner John Leckey on Monday to explain the PSNI delays in disclosing relevant intelligence material to the court.

Earlier this summer The Detail revealed correspondence in which Mr Leckey warned that the inquests may not be able to proceed if there is insufficient disclosure of state files.

The Senior Coroner warned the British government that a continuing failure to adequately resource inquests into historic Troubles killings could leave it in breach of international law.

 

 

 

Army exercise biggest in Northern Ireland since before The Troubles
BBC News 19/09/14

The biggest military training exercise to be held in Northern Ireland since before the Troubles is being held in the north west next week.

About 500 soldiers are taking part, in areas including Binevenagh mountain and Magilligan in County Londonderry.

Lieutenant Colonel Matt Monroe, who commands the Royal Scots Borderers said it was a "really important" exercise.

"This is about preparing them for potential operational service overseas," he said.

"It's definitely a really momentous occasion in the sense that it's a really important and potentially hugely beneficial exercise that we're looking forward to very much.

"From a security perspective, it would have been really difficult to have run this exercise during Operation Banner [the British army's operation in Northern Ireland from August 1969 to July 2007].

"It's right to do it now, because we face an uncertain future, there's a tremendous amount going on in the world so it's important that our soldiers are prepared appropriately and well."

'Military skills competition'

Lt Col Monroe said while 500 soldiers were taking part in what he described as a military skills competition, not all of them would be involved at the same time.

He said local people should not be alarmed if they see large numbers of soldiers in their area.

"It's possible that they will see our exercising troops," he said.

"They shouldn't be concerned and our advice to the civilian population who could see these exercising soldiers is to simply go about their normal everyday routine lives."

He said the regiment had been received well since coming to Northern Ireland.

"In the eight or nine weeks that we've been in Northern Ireland we've been tremendously well looked after, the local community have been hugely enthusiastic, very kind to us and we're really optimistic about the rest of the time we will spend in Northern Ireland," he said.

"We're here for the foreseeable future."

 

 

 

Scottish Referendum: ‘This discussion has only just begun’ - McGuinness
Derry Journal 19/09/14

Northern Ireland’s Deputy First Minister has said the victory of the ‘No’ campaign in Scotland’s Independence Referendum marked only the beginning of a discussion on the future of the United Kingdom.

Speaking in Derry this morning, Sinn Fein’s Martin McGuinness said: “This does not signal the end of the debate - but rather the beginning of a wider discussion.”

Mr McGuinness described the level of engagement of the Scottish electorate as a “tremendous achievement” adding: “To see 45% of people vote yes, after being subjected to a fear campaign, has ensured that things will never be the same again in Scotland and elsewhere.”

He said it was clear that British Prime Minister David Cameron was aware that enormous change is now needed adding: “If Scotland are now going to look into constitutional change and more devolved powers then we here have to be very much in that mix as well.

“I think it is important now that we speak to our colleagues not only in Scotland but also in Wales. The only way forward now is with a united voice which has at its heart the best interests of all our people.”

In terms of the challenges ahead for the Stormont assembly, Mr McGuinness said the finger of blame had to be pointed squarely at David Cameron and the Conservative Government.

“Since this government has come into power, we have seen a gutting of our block grant for the last four years and there will be further pain ahead through 2015-16 and as far ahead as 2020.”

He said that while there existed problems within the DUP which had led to a stalemate on issues relating to the past, flags and parades, both himself and First Minister Peter Robinson were united in wanting to tackle the budget crisis facing the Northern Ireland Assembly.

 

 

 

Call for border poll in next Assembly
UTV News 19/09/14

Sinn Féin has said there should be a border poll in the next Assembly session in the wake of the Scottish independence referendum result.

North Belfast MLA, Gerry Kelly, made the call on the U105 Frank Mitchell Phone In.

The tone of the campaign in Scotland, the Assembly member said, had shown that a similar ballot could take place across the region.

He said: "The Union has changed forever, it would be hard to argue, credibly, otherwise.

"Scotland is to get more powers over taxing spending and welfare, already there have been voices from Wales saying they want more and we have been arguing for these type of powers in the north for a considerable period of time.

"But now, we should head toward a border poll which was covered in the Good Friday Agreement.

"Let's test it out, there may be people who are afraid of it, but the opportunity is there for it to be done."

He continued: "We watched them in Holyrood from both sides arguing it out.

"The result came, it was accepted, it is a democratic verdict.

"So that's where we are heading and we are saying we want a vote in the next Assembly session."

The republican also said that if the Assembly stood with a united voice more powers could be secured for the Executive from the Westminster administration.

He added: "Unionists must not be afraid, they want less not more but we can't just accept what the Treasury say and if we did that we would be much further on.

"We need to go into talks now on the basis we will come out on the other side with a resolution and there can be compromises.

"There are many issues, so any negotiation with the British government will be interesting."

 

 

 

Wait for reply on murder probe plea
Belfast Telegraph 18/09/14

A coroner's bid for information from an official review of the Pat Finucane murder is being considered by the Government, an inquest was told.

It involves the death of Gerard Slane, 27, a father-of-three shot by the Ulster Defence Association (UDA) at his home at Waterville Street, west Belfast, in 1988.

Prime Minister David Cameron ordered a review by Sir Desmond de Silva into the death of murdered solicitor Mr Finucane, which also touched on the Slane case.

The Slane family's solicitor has said previous probes into alleged security force collusion with loyalists, including the De Silva report, had already revealed material.

Coroner Suzanne Anderson's office wrote earlier this year to the Northern Ireland Office and Cabinet Office about De Silva and an earlier probe into collusion carried out by Judge Peter Cory, barrister Ronan Daly said.

He represents the coroner and told the Belfast preliminary hearing no substantive reply had yet been received. The agencies had replied that the Crown Solicitors' Office would respond on their behalf.

Retired Canadian judge Cory carried out separate investigations into alleged collusion which led to public inquiries.

 

 

 

Parading inquiry would reward negative unionism - Kelly
Sinn Féin 18/09/14

Sinn Féin MLA Gerry Kelly today said that Sinn Féin is firmly opposed to the proposal for an inquiry into parading in north Belfast.

Gerry Kelly said:

“If Theresa Villiers wants to encourage dialogue on parading then the last thing she should do is to reward unionist, loyalist and Orange negativity and intransigence by giving in to their ultimatum for an inquiry into parading in north Belfast.

"The Parades Commission is the legally constituted body tasked with the work of adjudicating on contentious parades. Experience shows us that the only effective way to resolve these issues is through a process of meaningful dialogue.

"Sinn Féin is for dialogue, both at local and at political levels.

"But unionist leaders have rejected dialogue. They rejected the Haass/O'Sullivan proposals for dealing with parades and other contentious issues and they walked out of the party leaders’ process which was attempting to address these same vexed issues.

"Instead the pan-Unionist alliance emerged based on a negative and anti-agreement agenda and on the basis of a one-sided ultimatum which takes no account of nationalist and republican perspectives.

"It would be entirely counter-productive for the British government to reward this negativity.”

 

 

 

United unionists outline next phase of ‘graduated response’
News Letter 17/09/14

Unionists have united to outline the next phase of their ‘graduated response’ to frustration over political progress.

In a statement on behalf of the DUP, UUP, TUV, UKIP, PUP and UPRG West Belfast, they said there were questions for the Secretary of State to answer over a Commission of Inquiry to look at parading issues.

The statement said: “When the graduated response was announced it was stated what would shape the next steps:

‘The response of the Secretary of State to the positive proposal of this Commission of Inquiry will dictate the nature and timing of those actions.’

“Unionism has displayed patience since then but if the Commission is to complete its work in 2014 an answer is required.

“We regret that there has not been a more responsible and positive response from the nationalist/republican leadership. They should not fear attempts to resolve difficult disputes.

“As the political institutions have returned from their summer breaks, we will now take the campaign to each Council, the Assembly, Parliament and the European Parliament.”

It goes on to say: “Over the summer months we have continued to meet and work to progress and build our unity of purpose. Unionism remains united in its commitment to the Ligoniel brethren and bands.

“The political and community campaign will continue until they are able to exercise the basic right of parading to and from their local Orange Hall.”

 

 

 

Government ‘keen to resolve peace process issues’
News Letter 17/09/14

The Government has said it is very keen to resolve outstanding Northern Ireland peace process issues.

Secretary of State Theresa Villiers met Sinn Fein Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness and nationalist SDLP leader Alasdair McDonnell for separate discussions on Wednesday.

Disagreement between power-sharing partners over issues like welfare reform, controversial parades and flags and dealing with the legacy of violence has threatened the devolved coalition at Stormont, political leaders have warned.

Mr McGuinness has said he expected wide-ranging negotiations involving the British and Irish governments would take place soon. He supported a reduction in the size of the Assembly to show politicians are prepared to accept part of the pain caused by budget cuts.

An official source said: “She (Ms Villiers) wants to hear from all the parties first and is very clear that there has to be agreement on all sides.

“London or Dublin involvement is not considered a substitute for local decision making.

“Government is very keen to resolve these issues.”

First Minister Peter Robinson said the mandatory coalition led by the DUP and Sinn Fein was no longer fit for purpose.

In a dramatic intervention, the DUP leader called for a second take on the 2006 St Andrews Agreement that paved the way for the return of devolution in May 2007, when then DUP leader Ian Paisley and Mr McGuinness became First and Deputy First Ministers.

Mr Robinson said the St Andrews Agreement – which included an elaborate system of checks, allowed one party to block changes and provided no significant opposition – was only a short-term solution and called for renewed negotiations involving the British Government as well as smaller parties not currently on the five-party Executive.

Mr Robinson also said the Executive could not continue to operate if there was no agreement on welfare reform.

Ms Villiers has been engaged in political meetings on the back of Mr Robinson’s suggestions, discussing the potential for new party talks. She is also keen on a resumption of negotiations on dealing with controversial parades, flags and dealing with the legacy of past violence which broke down at the end of last year.

Ms Villiers met UUP leader Mike Nesbitt recently.

 

 

 

Sinn Fein told to apologise for row as Drew Harris appointed new PSNI Deputy Chief Constable
Belfast Telegraph 17/09/14

Members of the Policing Board have demanded that Sinn Fein apologises for casting doubt over the selection process used to appoint Drew Harris as the PSNI's new Deputy Chief Constable.

Mr Harris – who sanctioned the arrest of Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams as part of the investigation into the murder of Belfast woman Jean McConville – was yesterday chosen by the Policing Board to replace Judith Gillespie, who retired in March.

Only two candidates – Mr Harris and his fellow Assistant Chief Constable Will Kerr – had applied for the post.

The appointment process was thrown into uncertainty on Monday when Sinn Fein Policing Board member Caitriona Ruane withdrew from the selection panel. She claimed that the process may have been compromised and demanded a new recruitment process. Sinn Fein yesterday refused to explain why it believed the process may have been flawed, but said it would support Mr Harris in his new postition

DUP Policing Board member Jonathan Craig accused Sinn Fein of playing games and said the party "does not want to be seen supporting the man who arrested their party leader".

"I'm struggling to hear anyone explain what the procedural problem is.

"There is a hidden agenda here. Caitriona Ruane needs to explain her actions to the board and apologise to the board for making public statements while a process was taking place," he added.

SDLP board member Dolores Kelly branded Ms Ruane's actions "irresponsible and reprehensible".

"I think Sinn Fein should apologise to both candidates who were caught up in this and to the panel members whose integrity was questioned by her remarks," Ms Kelly added.

The DUP's David McIlveen, who was a member of the interview panel that recommended the appointment of Mr Harris, said: "I think a message was sent out by Sinn Fein – if you are a police officer and you sign an arrest warrant of any member within Sinn Fein, as Deputy Chief Constable Drew Harris did, then your prospects of promotion, as far as Sinn Fein is concerned, are considerably limited."

Sinn Fein board member Gerry Kelly said Ms Ruane had raised concerns over the selection process with him, but he stressed that it had nothing to do with the two candidates.

"We will be working with Drew Harris... we support law and order.

"We support the (PSNI's) senior executive team.

"We are there with them to support and to be critical. That is what the Policing Board is there for," Mr Kelly said.

Justice Minister David Ford approved the selection panel's recommendation to appoint Mr Harris after seeking assurances from the Policing Board chair and chief executive about the selection process. Mr Harris, a married father-of-four, has been a police officer for three decades

When he was criticised by Sinn Fein for his involvement in the arrest of Mr Adams, former Chief Constable Matt Baggott praised him as one of the most professional officers he had worked with and who had "saved many lives".

His father Alwyn Harris, a superintendent in the RUC, was killed by an IRA bomb in October 1989.

The Semtex device placed under his car exploded as he was on his way to church from his home in Lisburn.

His wife, who was with him, escaped with minor injuries.

Profile

Drew Harris, who has 30 years' experience within the police, was an Assistant Chief Constable, responsible for the PSNI's Crime Operations Department, before his appointment as Deputy Chief Constable. His portfolio includes Organised Crime, Major Investigation Team and Intelligence Branch.

 

 

 

Sinn Fein police stance questioned
Belfast Telegraph 16/09/14

Sinn Fein has been accused of failing to support a senior police appointment because of the arrest of Gerry Adams.

Drew Harris was named deputy chief constable of the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) today.

Sinn Fein withdrew from the selection panel, believing the process was compromised, but their partners in government the Democratic Unionists claimed republicans acted because the former assistant chief constable investigated allegations against their party leader.

The party president was questioned for four days earlier this year by detectives about the 1972 murder of Belfast mother-of-10 Jean McConville and other alleged links with the IRA. He was not charged.

DUP representative Jonathan Craig said: "Their only beef was that this man as a police officer carried out his duty and investigated allegations against their leader.

"They cannot pick and choose, you either support the rule of law and order or you don't."

This is the latest in a series of disputes between Northern Ireland's two largest political parties at a time of fragility in the devolved powersharing administration. Sinn Fein support for the police was central to the re-establishment of devolved institutions in 2007.

Since then the party has participated fully in a range of scrutiny mechanisms at local and regional levels. Full powers over policing and justice have been devolved from London to Belfast.

The Policing Board which includes elected members appoints senior members of the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) and holds the force to account. On Tuesday it named Mr Harris to become the second most senior officer in the force.

He was appointed despite Sinn Fein withdrawing from the selection panel.

Sinn Fein said it withdrew not out of concern about the candidates but about the recruitment process. Board member Caitriona Ruane called for a fresh recruitment competition.

She said: "It is the integrity of the process which is most important in my view.

"I want to make it clear that none of my concerns reflect in any way on either of the two senior officers involved. They are clearly not at fault here."

Only two candidates applied after the post became vacant when Judith Gillespie stepped down in March, assistant chief constable Will Kerr and Mr Harris.

A Board statement has said the process was not compromised.

As assistant chief constable Mr Harris was responsible for crime operations, a portfolio which included organised crime, major investigations and intelligence.

The PSNI has said he is recognised as a UK expert in dealing with high risk covert policing operations. He is also recognised as expert in dealing with critical incidents.

Mr Harris was appointed in February 2013 as a high level expert to a European Parliament Committee reporting on organised crime and corruption.

According to the PSNI, he has held the Association of Chief Police Officers hate crime portfolio for eight years, leading efforts to improve the criminal justice response to victims, detection rates and data collection.

The senior officer has also spearheaded PSNI initiatives for the management of sex offenders and the introduction of Public Protection Units.

Policing Board chair and chair of the appointment panel Anne Connolly said: "I am delighted to confirm that ACC Harris is the new deputy chief constable of the PSNI.

"He brings immense experience and knowledge of policing to the job and will have a key role in supporting the chief constable and colleagues in leading the PSNI forward."

Stormont justice minister David Ford said: "Drew brings a wealth of experience to the role with over 30 years of service as well as an understanding of policing in Northern Ireland and the challenges facing the PSNI.

"This is a significant time for the PSNI with a new leadership team in place and the two top posts filled within a matter of months. I look forward to working with the chief constable, deputy chief constable and senior team to continue to build a safer Northern Ireland with a police service that has the confidence of the entire community."

 

 

 

Police Service of Northern Ireland appoints a new Deputy Chief Constable
RTÉ News 16/09/14

The Northern Ireland Policing Board has appointed the head of its Serious Crime Division, Drew Harris, to the No 2 position in the PSNI.

The new Deputy Chief Constable was one of two internal candidates who applied for the vacancy.

Yesterday, a Sinn Fein member of the policing board, Caitríona Ruane, withdrew from the selection panel, claiming the recruitment process may be flawed.

This claim was rejected by other board members.

In his role as a PSNI Assistant Chief Constable, Drew Harris, gave evidence to the Smithwick Tribunal in Dublin.

His father, RUC Superintendant Alwyn Harris, died from injuries received when the IRA placed a bomb under his car in 1989 and his mother was injured in that attack at a housing estate in Lisburn.

The other candidate interviewed for the vacancy was Assistant Chief Constable Will Kerr.

 

 

 

Would a tight No vote in Scotland best suit Sinn Féin?
The Irish Times 16/09/14

A No could help the party woo middle-class voters, says Queen’s professor

“This is a Rubicon,” says Prof John Brewer of Queen’s University, Belfast. “Irrespective of a Yes or a No vote in the Scottish independence referendum, the United Kingdom as an identity, as a unit, never will be the same again. That is because the London-centrism of the UK economy and polity has been challenged.”

Prof Brewer, who during the summer ran a seminar at Queen’s on the implications of the referendum, provides an interesting overview on what the referendum may mean for Northern Ireland, for Ireland generally and, more particularly, for Sinn Féin.

Some of the views of this native of the English-Welsh border area may seem counter-intuitive but on closer inspection they carry an interesting logic. For instance, one would expect that the best result for Sinn Féin’s ambitions would be Scotland exiting the United Kingdom.

Such a result – the orthodox thinking goes – would rattle unionists, strengthen republican confidence in its tiocfaidh-ár-lá aspiration and boost Gerry Adams’s call for a Border poll on a united Ireland.

But, contrariwise, Prof Brewer argues that a fairly tight No vote would better suit Sinn Féin than a Yes result.

Prof Brewer, who is professor of post-conflict studies at Queen’s, says that a Yes vote would lead to the devolution of greater power to Wales and to Northern Ireland. “But I think a marginal No vote will have exactly the same political implications. A marginal No vote is going to cause the London-centric, Westminster- bubble politicians to devolve greater powers.”

Expanding on why he believes a marginal No would suit Sinn Féin’s “long game” objectives, he says it’s all to do with the party’s need to attract a middle-class vote, both in the North and the South.

Four out of five jobs in Northern Ireland, he adds, are funded by the British public exchequer. “You are talking about teachers, civil servants, police officers, fire officers, the lot . . . that is a huge, huge distorted economy. It is that fact that gives us what is colloquially known as Catholic economic unionists, the Catholic middle class.”

He believes both middle-class Catholics and Protestants in Northern Ireland know there could be a lot to lose by the fracturing of the UK.

Cosmopolitan lifestyle “They know that the British exchequer – the British taxpayer – funds their very, very attractive cosmopolitan lifestyle. Look at what we have got in Belfast. Two opera houses – the Grand Opera House and the Waterfront – eight or nine theatres, a world class orchestra, riverside apartments and cafes, brilliant restaurants – it is an exceedingly cosmopolitan lifestyle. There are many Catholics and Protestants who have bought into that cosmopolitanism.”

This is an important constituency, he says, and it does not want to lose these benefits. He adds that he focuses on the importance of the middle classes because Sinn Féin already has mopped up much of the working-class nationalist and republican vote in the North and that its expansion and continued success on both sides of the Border demands it reaches out to this vital bloc of voters.

“This comes back to the rise of the Catholic middle class in Northern Ireland. Sinn Féin have succeeded because they have convinced middle-class Catholics to vote Sinn Féin. They have recognised that violence puts off middle-class Catholics from voting Sinn Féin. They also recognise pushing the rhetoric of a united Ireland puts middle-class Catholics off voting Sinn Féin,” he says.

While this view clashes with Gerry Adams’s repeated calls for a Border poll, Prof Brewer believes there is a measure of political gamesmanship to these demands. “Being so politically astute, Sinn Féin have to realise that a Yes vote in the Scottish referendum will require them to up the stakes on a united Ireland. That runs the risk of alienating middle-class Catholics.”

The trick now is to persuade the Southern middle class to vote Sinn Féin, he continues. Such persuasion may hinge on Sinn Féin demonstrating by example in Northern Ireland that it could be a party of government in the Republic.

Extra power

“Sinn Féin has yet to establish itself as a credible alternative government in the South. They have not yet made the transition but they have made that transition in the North.

“One of the problems Sinn Féin faces is that the South does not want a united Ireland. People might want it emotionally after a Guinness on a Friday night but they don’t want it politically and they don’t want it economically. They don’t want to inherit a completely dysfunctional economy; they don’t want to inherit a July Twelfth parading problem.”

He notes too how with the rise of the Catholic population it is perfectly possible that in some forthcoming Assembly election that Sinn Féin rather than the DUP could be the majority party with the right to appoint a Sinn Féin first minister.

“Being in government, perhaps even having a First Minister, will demonstrate to voters in the South that it can be a responsible government and I think that will have huge implications for the way people in the South view Sinn Féin.”

But Prof Brewer acknowledges the fly in the ointment here: that such are the tensions between the DUP and Sinn Féin in the Northern Executive, that such is the gridlock over issues such as welfare reform, parades, the past and flags that no sensible government would offer additional “devo-max” powers to Stormont. “You can’t give greater powers to dysfunctional politicians,” he says.

But, equally, he argues that the prospect of extra power could be the incentive that spurs Northern politicians to return to a properly functioning Northern Executive. “The message from the governments has to be: if you want corporation tax at the same rate as the South, if you want devolution max well then sort yourselves out, agree parading, agree all the difficult legacy issues,” says Prof Brewer.

A tight result, he adds, could also create the conditions where the British and Irish governments would start pressurising the Northern parties, particularly the DUP and Sinn Féin, to strike a workable compromise.

 

 

 

Loyalists apply for parade in Belfast city centre
Belfast Telegraph 16/09/14

Loyalists are set to cause disruption in the heart of Belfast with another Saturday afternoon demonstration.

A group calling itself Loyal People's Protest claimed that it expects 5,000 to take part in next month's event. However, the same group organised a similar parade last December which drew a crowd of just 300, although it had predicted 10,000.

The parade, due to take place on October 4, will include 10 loyalist bands, according to organisers.

A notification given to the Parades Commission said those taking part will set off from Belfast City Hall at 2pm.

They then plan to march along Donegall Place, High Street, Queen's Square, Queen Elizabeth Bridge, Middlepath Street, Newtownards Road, Templemore Avenue, Albertbridge Road, finishing at Cluan Place.

Traders voiced frustration at a series of similar events held in the months after the decision by Belfast City Council to restrict the number of days the Union flag is flown above City Hall. The Parades Commission is due to rule on the demonstration tomorrow.

 

 

 

No apology for Reavey
Newry Democrat 15/09/14

A man wrongly accused of masterminding the Kingsmill massacre by Ian Paisley has hit out at the late DUP leader for never offering an apology.

Mr Paisley used parliamentary privilege in the House of Commons in 1999 to name Whitecross man Eugene Reavey as a leading republican and accuse him of involvement in organising the shooting of 10 Protestant workmen at Kingsmill.

The Reavey family spent the last 15 years trying to force a public retraction from the former First Minister, whose allegation was refuted by the Historical Enquiries Team (HET) in 2010 as "totally inaccurate".

Mr Reavey's mother, Sadie, passed away last year without receiving an apology from Mr Paisley.

Reacting to Mr Paisley's death on Friday, Mr Reavey told the Democrat: "The disappointment was tempered by the fact that my mother has passed on and the deal with Paisley wasn't as important to me now as it was when my mother was alive. She had a lot to suffer in her life. People talk about Paisley being a great family man, well my mother was a great family woman.

“But Paisley's family was intact up to now - ours wasn't. The fact that he could inflict so much misery on a family and had a chance to apologise to my family and chose not to, that's the bit I found difficult to deal with."

Mr Reavey's three brothers - John Martin, aged 24, Brian, 22, and Anthony, 17, - were shot by loyalists at their Whitecross home in January 1976.

John Martin and Brian died at the scene, while Anthony died a number of weeks later from his injuries.

The following night 10 Protestant workmen were killed when their work van was stopped less than two miles from the Reavey home and were lined up against the van and shot dead.

Mr Reavey was travelling to Newry with other family members to collect the bodies of John Martin and Brian when they came across the aftermath of the Kingsmill atrocity.
When he was named by Mr Paisley as one of the men behind the attack, the accusation was quickly dismissed by the then RUC boss Ronnie Flanagan and again later by the HET.

“Paisley's claim was 23 years after Kingsmill," he said. "There had never been any suggestion that I was involved with any paramilitary groups. I used to meet the people affected by Kingsmill from time to time, but Paisley's accusations changed a lot of people's attitudes. But I was quite happy to deal with that."

Mr Reavey revealed to the Democrat that he was once invited to Stormont to meet Mr Paisley for what the Reavey family believed was going to be the apology they had long waited for, but they were told minutes before the meeting that Mr Paisley could not meet the family following advice from his legal team.

“It was a journey wasted," said Mr Reavey. "We had given him a guarantee that we were not interested in legal proceedings against him and I was prepared to put that in writing to him if there was a chance that he would apologise to my mother. I was strong enough and resourceful enough to stand up for myself.

“But my mother reared a big family - there were eight boys and four girls - and I didn't think it was right that, after she suffered such a loss through the murder of my three brothers, that this bully boy would come along and say the things he said. And when he was challenged about it, he was a coward."

Meanwhile, Newry and Armagh MLA Dominic Bradley has said that the death of Mr Paisley marks the end of an era for a specific brand of politics in the north.

The SDLP representative also criticised the former First Minister for his refusal to apologise to the Reavey family.

He said: "My own dealings with him centre around attempts to elicit a retraction of the statement he made in the House of Commons impugning the good name of Eugene Reavey and others. Alas, Mr Paisley unfortunately did not have the good grace to respond - he completely ignored my correspondence.

"It would be heartless to ignore the feelings of his family at this time of bereavement for them but it behoves all of us to be realistic and truthful in our analysis of past events.

“One would have to say that the hope is that Ian Paisley's passing closes the door on an era of negative and bombastic politics which contributed very little to progress here."

 

 

 

Full extent of PSNI cuts revealed
UTV News 15/09/14

The full extent of cuts facing the PSNI was revealed by UTV Live Tonight in a confidential document obtained by the programme.

In it, worst case scenarios have been laid out by the force's Chief Constable George Hamilton.

If the budget is slashed, there will be job losses with police officers being pulled off the frontline to fill the gap, the current level of neighbourhood policing would be unsustainable, and the Historical Enquiries Team could be wound up.

Proposed cuts could exceed £80m.

The document compiled by the Mr Hamilton has been sent to those whose influence may prove vital - the Department of Justice and the NI Secretary of State Theresa Villiers.

Mr Hamilton does not hold back about the enormity or inevitability of what could be in store.

The impact for the rest of the financial year (2014/15) is broken down to cover three scenarios.

Proposed cuts of 3% or £22m:

  • could hurt police training
  • result in less visible patrolling
  • impact on the Historical Enquiries Team and other legacy cases

Proposed cuts of 4% or £29m:

  • civilian staff would go
  • police operations could be hit

By this stage the HET would only have an administrative function.

Proposed cuts of 5% or £37m:

  • live investigations would be affected
  • as well as civilians, temporary workers would also be axed

There is concern police officers could be pulled from frontline duties to fill the gap.

Jonathan Craig, DUP Policing Board member, said: "I think this is the biggest challenge to face policing in Northern Ireland, I suppose, since the whole deal on Patton itself.

"This will, from a management point of view, be incredibly difficult for the Chief Constable to handle."

The PSNI will have to scale back even more, starting from April next year - with possible savings of up to £55m and that doesn't include an estimated shortfall.

If that happens, the current level of neighbourhood policing would be unsustainable, the HET would be wound up, and there would be no recruitment of civilians or new officers.

In fact, there could be more job losses.

But, the Chief Constable argues in the document that this would be "undeliverable".

The impact on tackling all sorts of criminality is apparent and that is a major worry given that crime has already increased in the last two years.

Police operate with a budget of £1.2bn a year, but a large chunk of that is eaten up by pay and pensions.

Other policing board members are also strongly opposed to these large-scale savings and will make that clear at a meeting with Justice Minister David Ford later this week.

SDLP MLA Dolores Kelly said: "I fear that we make some of the cuts in the wrong places, I do think that the risk to vulnerable people could be increased and I fear public confidence in policing delivery and morale with the police service will reach a critical point."

 

 

 

Allegation of ‘compromised’ hiring of PSNI deputy rejected
News Letter 15/09/14

The Policing Board has said denied the suggestion that its process to hire a new senior officer is “compromised”.

Sinn Fein MLA Caitríona Ruane today announced she was withdrawing from the nine-strong Policing Board panel to select a new Deputy Chief Constable and called for a fresh recruitment process to begin.

The South Down MLA said in a statement: “I removed myself from the panel for selection of a deputy chief constable because I believe that the process may have been compromised.

“In light of the need for absolute transparency in all public appointments and to protect the Policing Board’s integrity I believe the best course of action would be to begin a new recruitment process”.

Pressed on what she means by “compromised”, the Sinn Fein press office declined to offer any further comment or explanation.

The Policing Board said later this evening: “The recruitment competition has been subject to extensive independent oversight and scrutiny at all stages.

“Any suggestion that the process may have been compromised is firmly rejected”.

It added that the remaining board members have in fact chosen a new Deputy Chief Constable.

His or her name may become known tomorrow, although the Justice Minister needs to approve the process first.

Ms Ruane was one of four political appointments to the selection panel, drawn from Policing Board members.

Five are independent, and the others come from the SDLP, UUP and DUP (Alliance declined to put forward a panel member).

The process aims to find a successor to former deputy Judith Gillespie, who announced she was standing down in March.

Shortly after 9pm tonight, Ms Ruane issued another statement saying that she had told the Policing Board of her concerns in writing on Friday.

She restated her call for a fresh hiring process to begin, adding: “I want to make it clear that none of my concerns reflect in any way on either of the two senior officers involved. They are clearly not at fault here.”

It had previously been reported that only two officers had applied for the post.

 

 

 

Carthy calls on EU to assist re-engagement of Irish Peace Process
Sinn Féin 15/09/14

Sinn Féin MEP, Matt Carthy, this evening (Monday), called on the European Union to play a role in encouraging political unionism as well as the Irish and British governments to re-engage in the Irish Peace Process.

Speaking in the Parliament chamber in Strasbourg, the Midlands North west representative said:

“August the 31st last marked the 20th anniversary of the IRA cessation, a pivotal moment in the Irish Peace Process. Despite early setbacks an inclusive talks process led to the historic Good Friday Agreement which created the space for those of very different aspirations, including Irish republicans, to strive for these through peaceful means.

“It was this inclusive dialogue that led to meaningful progress.

“In recent times the principle of engaging in such dialogue has been found wanting within political unionism and both the Irish government, but especially the British government, have largely disengaged from the process.

“EU institutions, which have supported the Irish Peace Process, need to be aware that flag protests, the breakdown of the Haass negotiations and the walk-out by Unionists from all-party talks some weeks ago threaten the political institutions that underpin the Peace Process in Ireland.

“I ask people here to encourage political unionism and the Irish & British governments to re-engage in meaningful all-party talks to ensure that all outstanding elements of the Good Friday and subsequent agreements are implemented in full so that the Irish Peace process can continue to provide an example to conflicts around the world.”

 

 

 

Paisley Buried
TOM News 15/09/14

Ian Paisley was buried today.

 

 

 

Coroner slams NIO and Gardai on Kingsmills massacre
News Letter 15/09/14

A coroner has hit out at the Northern Ireland Office and the Gardai Commissioner for failing to disclose information on the Kingsmills massacre.

The IRA shot dead ten textile workers by the side of a road near Bessbrook in 1976 after flagging down the minibus they were travelling home from work in.

At a preliminary hearing in Belfast today lawyers for relatives of the victims expressed deep concern about ongoing delays in holding a proper inquest into the deaths.

Coroner John Lecky repeatedly expressed frustration with the Northern Ireland Office (NIO) after a letter was read out in which it cited numerous legal reasons why it could not name the suspects in the case.

However Mr Lecky repeatedly asserted that he was not asking for the names, but insisted he was entitled to “a simple yes or no answer” as to whether any of the suspects hold so-called ‘On-The-Run comfort letters’ which critics have described as a system of amnesty.

One barrister for the families said the NIO letter was “worthy of Sir Humprhrey” from the Yes Minister comedy series, because he said it was answering a question they never had asked.

It was as “plain as a pikestaff” that the families had not asked the NIO for names of suspects, but rather just confirmation if any of them are in receipt of ‘comfort letters’, he said.

Mr Leckey also expressed concern at the lack of cooperation in the case from the Gardai Commissioner, concluding that the only was to resolve the matter was for him to travel to Dublin to meet the commissioner face-to-face.

However the families were relieved today that Mr Leckey was able to set a date for the inquest to formally begin, 3 June 2015.

Speaking after the hearing, massacre survivor Alan Black told the News Letter that it was important to know if the authorities were protecting anyone (see video above).

Ahead of today’s hearing, relatives of one of those murdered released a strong letter accusing the authorities of attempting to bury the truth about the massacre.

The chief constable of the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) is addressing major funding cuts and proposed prioritising keeping people safe today over addressing the legacy of the past. Many historical inquests into conflict deaths which rely on security force information could be affected, including those concerning Kingsmill.

Relatives of one of the Kingsmill victims, John McConville, said in the letter: “As we know from many current issues, future generations will be fully justified in criticising their forebears for having attempted to bury the truth, no matter how toxic or uncomfortable the truth might be.”

They have written to Stormont’s justice minister David Ford, senior coroner John Leckey and the PSNI rejecting financial reasons for delay.

Funds dedicated to investigating the past could be reduced as a consequence of implementing potential budget cuts of £88 million, chief constable George Hamilton has said.

He argued his priority was keeping the public safe now.

Inquests into more than 70 killings during the Troubles have still to be concluded, owing to delays that are causing anger among relatives of the dead and raising concerns about the ability of coroners’ courts to cope with the conflict’s legacy.

Records show the Kingsmill killers asked all occupants of the vehicle what religion they were. The only Catholic worker was ordered away from the scene and the 11 remaining workmates shot. One survived, despite being shot 18 times.

Injured Alan Black is a key witness and is approaching his 71st birthday.

The McConville family statement said: “Surviving such an atrocity and being told that the delay is down to money is, in his own words, just not acceptable and causes further trauma for all concerned.

“Politicians cannot stand on the sidelines on this funding matter and we call for all those who oppose historic injustice to put pressure on minister Ford to provide the necessary immediate funding and allow a date to be set for a full substantial hearing into the murder of our brother, his colleagues and the attempted murder of Mr Black.”

Today relatives attended the third preliminary hearing of the inquest at Belfast’s coroner’s court. No date had been fixed for a full hearing until today and family members had said the delay was re-traumatising them.

“Unfortunately our conclusion leads us to believe that the delay is an intentional inbuilt strategy to conveniently allow us all to lose interest and just slowly disappear off the scene.

“But we will not lose interest or just conveniently disappear, no matter how inconvenient that is.”

No-one has been convicted of the murders.

McConville family solicitor Kevin Winters said: “The letter couldn’t be any more timely - coming as it does within days of the chief constable saying resources are limited.

“The recent rulings on delayed inquests have not impacted at all in terms of increasing speed and resourcing of inquests.

“This particular case is unique because we have a key eye witness to the killings and yet little or no prospect of a pending hearing.

“This family and many others who find themselves in the same position are left increasingly distressed.”

The PSNI dedicates significant resources to investigating historic Troubles killings using a team of independent detectives and to meeting its obligations to provide information to other legacy investigations, such as those undertaken by the at times overstretched coroner’s service.

The work of the Historical Enquiries Team, established to review more than 3,000 Troubles killings, has been held up following a critical report.

Efforts brokered by former US diplomat Dr Richard Haass to reach a compromise between members of Northern Ireland’s power-sharing government on dealing with the past ended without agreement at the end of last year.

 

 

 

SF member quits panel to choose new top PSNI officer
News Letter 15/09/14

The Sinn Fein member of the panel set up to choose a new PSNI deputy chief constable has quit – in mysterious circumstances.

Caitríona Ruane today announced she was withdrawing from the nine-strong panel and called for a fresh recruitment process to begin, saying the current one seems like it could be “compromised”.

The South Down MLA said in a statement: “I removed myself from the panel for selection of a deputy chief constable because I believe that the process may have been compromised.

“In light of the need for absolute transparency in all public appointments and to protect the Policing Board’s integrity I believe the best course of action would be to begin a new recruitment process”.

Pressed on what she means by “compromised”, the Sinn Fein press office declined to offer any further comment or explanation.

A spokesman for the PSNI also said that they did not know the details of what she was referring to either.

The Policing Board said a statement may be forthcoming on the subject, but at time of writing it could not comment.

However, it said at the moment, the process remains live.

Ms Ruane was one of four political appointments to the selection panel, drawn from Policing Board members.

Five are independent, and the others come from the SDLP, UUP and DUP (Alliance declined to put forward a panel member).

The process aims to find a successor to former deputy Judith Gillespie, who announced she was standing down in March.

There is no timeframe to appoint a replacement.