29th July 2014
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for rethink on hunger strike parade
A victims group is calling for Sinn Féin to re-think plans for a hunger strike commemoration march in County Fermanagh scheduled to take place this weekend.
The village of Derrylin witnessed several IRA killings during the Troubles and there is concern that the march will cause widespread offence.
Sinn Féin, however, have said the event - which is expected to attract thousands of people - will be dignified.
The South East Fermanagh Foundation, which represents victims, is meeting the Parades Commission on Tuesday to discuss its determination.
Kenny Donaldson is from the group, he said: "There is a great deal of concern among families of the bereaved in the Derrylin community and also the law abiding community.
"The event will amount to
a glorification of terrorism and people are very exercised that, in
an area that has suffered greatly over the years during the Troubles,
this type of event should come to their doorstep."
Derry: Heated meeting at Pilots Row over museum plans
A heated debate concerning future plans for the Museum of Free Derry took place in Pilots Row community centre over the weekend.
Last Friday night’s meeting on plans to revamp the Museum of Free Derry began with a presentation from civil rights campaigner Vincent Coyle. The presentation showed that new plans were submitted to the Planning Office on December 23, 2013 and differed from the original plans mooted in 2010.
Mr Coyle said that he welcomed the museum but that he regarded the entire environment in the Bogside as a monument to the civil rights and conflict period and on that basis it was unacceptable that new plans would see the civil rights mural beside the museum obscured.
Other issues of concern put forward by Vincent Coyle and Bogside residents centred on the removal of a ramp to flats at Glenfada Park on which marchers on Bloody Sunday took shelter from British Army bullets and the possible exclusion of a local shop, in the area since the 1980s.
It also emerged that to date £500,000 given by the Heritage Lottery Fund has been spent bringing the plans to the stage there are at now.
The at times, ill tempered meeting, heard an accusation from the floor that Mr Coyle was ‘cherry picking’ aspects of the development to complain about. But, Vincent Coyle with reference to the preservation of the ramp said: “I’ll die before I’ll let a digger drive through that memory.”
Liam Wray, brother of Jim Wray who was shot dead on Bloody Sunday told the meeting:” I was there on Bloody Sunday and used that ramp for cover. Where it is possible to keep these things intact in relation to Bloody Sunday then they should be. Other countries do their best to preserve these these type of artefacts and so should we.”
Newly appointed Chair of the Bloody Sunday Trust, Julieanne Campbell responded by saying that the ramp was included in the plan in 2010 but a recent opportunity to select an option for a green space at the front of the museum was taken in an effort to make it “ a world class museum.”
“We did consult. We did publicise this. We are trying to do something here for the entire community. I am here to listen not to be attacked,” she continued.
However, residents of the area claimed that there had been no wider consultation on the museum.
One woman said: “I’ve been a resident of Rossville Street for 22 years. I’ve never been invited to anything to with Bloody Sunday. We have buses coming up the street and unloading tourists at 8am and we’ve never been consulted.”
Adrian Kerr, Manager of the Museum of Free Derry addressed the concerns of a local shop owner who fears the new plans will see him loose his livelihood and assured him he was included in the plans.
“There were a number of options and there were hard to deal with because of funding. We understand it isn’t ideal, it is the best we can do given the constraints.”
One audience member, Danny Bradley, also asked the representatives of the Bloody Sunday Trust if they were aware of or had discussed the possibility of a memorial garden for the museum which would include remembrance plans for the British soldiers and RUC members killed in the conflict.
Responding, Adrian Kerr said: “It’s at the idea stage. The talks are about something that may happen in the future but we haven’t got to the point of discussing who would be included.”
At the conclusion, the members of the Bloody Sunday Trust withdrew from the meeting with the Chair Julieann Campbell stating that the meeting was “getting us nowhere” and that anyone with concerns was welcome to contact the Trust.
Before the meeting disbanded Vincent Coyle asked for a show of hands on the basis of retaining the original plans listed in 2010. The majority of people raised their hands in favour of the proposition.
Earlier in the proceedings, Julieann
Campbell had said: “We can go back again and look at the plans
to see if it can be changed but it may jeopardise the entire plan.”
a death and some unanswered questions
First, a man is dead, so our thoughts and prayers should be with his family. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam – May he rest in peace.
The man in this case was 68-year-old Oswald Bradley, who drowned while trying to remove two Irish tricolours from an island near Bessbrook. Prior to the Irish flags a Union flag had been placed there, and today’s news suggests that Oswald may have intended to remove the Irish tricolours and replace them with a Union flag once again. The Irish flags had been there for some time and several groups, including Sinn Féin, had called for them to be removed, since they were likely to prove divisive in a mixed community and raise tensions.
There are a few loose threads in this story that haven’t been tied up by anyone from any of the political parties, or for that matter by the police. Is it a fact that there was a Union flag in place before it was taken down and replaced by two Irish tricolours? Because if there was, it seems likely that its presence would have promoted division and tension, as did the Irish flags. Why has no one pointed this out – or was there never a Union flag there in the first place? And if there was, why did politicians not speak up?
Danny Kennedy of the Ulster Unionist Party was on BBC Radio Ulster/ Raidio Uladh this morning speaking up. When it was pointed out to him that among others, Sinn Féin had called several days ago for the removal of the tricolours, he conceded that this was true but that “unfortunately their words had not been matched by action”. Is Danny suggesting that Sinn Féin should attend to matters affecting community relations in the Bessbrook area? If the Irish tricolours were having a divisive effect, which seems likely, surely it was the job of the PSNI to get into a boat, sail to the island and remove the flags? Just as they should remove all flags of all kinds from trees, lamp-posts, bonfires and other inappropriate places which merely degrade the flags in question.
The final point that appears unclear is whether Oswald Bradley intended to replace the Irish flags with a Union flag. If he didn’t intend to do so, he was performing the police’s work for them and it cost him his life. If he was carrying a Union flag with which to replace the Irish flags, his death is all the more poignant, in that he believed a deed which would add to divisions between people in the ares was worth risking and in the end losing his life for.
The flag hysteria, everyone said,
would end eventually with someone losing his or her life. Few can
have imagined it would occur in the manner it did.
loyalist drowns trying to remove Irish flags from Armagh island
Ozzy Bradley, an anti-IRA campaigner, died in Bessbrook Pond during attempt to take down Irish tricolours
An Ulster loyalist anti-IRA campaigner drowned on Monday evening after trying to remove two Irish tricolours from an island on a pond in south Armagh.
Victims' group Families Acting for Innocent Relatives (Fair) have confirmed that one of its members Ozzy Bradley died in Bessbrook pond.
He had been trying to remove the two Irish flags from the island in the religiously mixed village near the border with the Republic.
Willie Frazer, Fair's founder, said: "Ozzy, who worked tirelessly for victims in the area, attempted to remove two Irish tricolours from an island in the town's pond. The two Irish tricolours had been reported and indeed they should have been removed but were not.
"Regrettably Ozzy was then forced into taking matters into his own hands and tragically died as a consequence."
The presence of the Irish emblems had caused controversy in the village that used to be home to the British army's main helicopter base in south Armagh during the Troubles. At one time Bessbrook was the largest heliport in Europe due to daily military traffic.
Among others who called for the flags to be removed in the interest of lowering community tension was Sinn Féin.
The two flags were erected last week after someone had replaced the union flag that previously had been flying on top of the small island.
Dominic Bradley, the Bessbrook-born nationalist member for the Northern Ireland Assembly, expressed his condolences to the Bradley family.
Sinn Féin's Mickey Brady
also offered his sympathy to the family of the deceased. He said:
"The terrible news at the loss of a life at Bessbrook pond is
tragic. A family is grieving tonight and a community is in shock."
Fein Derry office in arson attack says McCartney
There has been an arson attack on a Sinn Féin office in Londonderry.
It happened at Eastway Road in the Creggan area on Sunday night. The fire service said they were called shortly before midnight.
The fire was brought under control quickly and damage was confined to one part of the building.
Sinn Féin assembly member Raymond McCartney condemned the attack, saying it was "an attempt to attack the democratic process".
He added: "This arson attack tonight will not stop us working for the people of this city.
"It will be business as usual
for Derry Sinn Féin, continuing to serve the people of the
city and the wider north west."
Billy Hutchinson: ideas for parades needs our agreement
Loyalist leader Billy Hutchinson says any new parades initiative will only be worthwhile if there is a compromise with the loyalist community.
Belfast councillor and PUP leader was speaking days after the meeting between the combined unionist leadership and the Secretary of State.
A Sinn Fein delegation also met Theresa Villiers last Tuesday – part of talks over the year-long marching standoff in north Belfast.
"She [Ms Villiers] might do something but it depends on what it is," Mr Hutchinson told the Belfast Telegraph.
"It will only be worthwhile if it helps resolve the issue. It has to recognise culture. There has to be some compromise."
The councillor attended last Tuesday's meeting with a unionist delegation including First Minister Peter Robinson and Ulster Unionist leader Mike Nesbitt.
"This is her [Ms Villier's] opportunity to deal with the issue and to make sure that we can deal with the rest of the past," Mr Hutchinson said.
Observers believe Ms Villiers
is considering an initiative, but stress it must not undermine the
Lord Kilclooney under fire as he attacks Israel’s blitz on Gaza
A former deputy leader of the Ulster Unionist Party has come under fire from some unionists after attacking Israel’s bombardment of Gaza as “dreadful”.
Lord Kilclooney’s remarks came as a 24-hour ceasefire between Israel and Hamas broke down yesterday with the resumption of rocket fire.
More than 1,060 Palestinians, mostly civilians, have died in the recent three-week offensive, compared to 43 Israeli soldiers and two Israeli civilians. Questions are growing as to whether Israel is guilty of war crimes.
In an unusual statement from a unionist, the former deputy leader of the party’s Assembly group also said he had been “amazed” by the adoption of the Israeli flag in some loyalist areas of Northern Ireland.
“I often think they haven’t seen the reality of what is happening there,” said Lord Kilclooney.
“I am not an authority on war crime, but what does concern me are the civilians, women and children, who are being slaughtered. It is the slaughter of the innocents. It’s dreadful what Israel has been doing.”
But the former Strangford MP also argued Hamas could “score diplomatically” by recognising the state of Israel’s right to exist, as many other Palestinians do. “The situation on the ground in the West Bank, in Gaza and in east Jerusalem is terrible. It has to be seen to be believed,” he told the BBC’s Sunday Sequence programme.
“I believe that Israel has every right to exist, that its security must be guaranteed, but at the same time that Hamas would score diplomatically if they would agree that Israel had that right to exist. That would begin the negotiations that would lead to a lasting peace.”
Lord Kilclooney said the issue of recognition has strong resonance in Ireland.
He said for decades the Republic refused to recognise Northern Ireland but did so following the 1998 Belfast Agreement and that now there is “great co-operation” between Belfast and Dublin.
The DUP’s Mervyn Storey said, however: “I would take a different view.
“It is awful what is happening and terrible to see such an unfortunate loss of life, but Israel has a right to defend itself against the Hamas terrorist organisation.
“It has to be remembered that Hamas has said it wants to see Israel wiped off the face of the Earth. There is no doubt there is a correlation between the activities of terrorist organisations such as Hamas and the IRA.”
And Progressive Unionist leader Billy Hutchinson said: “We should not be blaming one side or the other. It has to be remembered also that the IRA were in training camps with the Palestine Liberation Organisation and others in the 1970s and when people wave Palestinian flags it gets a reaction. But it is not a clear-cut issue.”
The comments of local politicians came less than 24 hours after more than 500 people took part in a march in Belfast in protest against Israeli actions in Gaza.
Protesters including trade union
Unison walked from Botanic Gardens in south Belfast to the US Consulate
on Saturday afternoon. In Londonderry, scores of protesters lay down
on Shipquay Street in the city centre in a pro-Gaza demonstration.
Sands' agent Owen Carron speaks at hunger strike event
One of the most high profile of the so-called On The Runs has spoken at a republican hunger strike commemoration.
Owen Carron organised Bobby Sands' election campaign. He was elected as MP for Fermanagh South Tyrone following Sands' death in 1981.
He spoke at the event commemorating the 33rd anniversary of the hunger strikes in the Republic of Ireland on Friday.
Mr Carron fled Northern Ireland in 1986 after being charged with possession of an AK47 rifle.
It is understood that he has not sought a "letter of assurance" that could allow him to return to Northern Ireland and that the PSNI investigation is still open.
The controversy over letters issued to other On The Runs resulted in an inquiry led by Lady Justice Hallett.
She concluded the letters were not an amnesty and the scheme was lawful, but there were "significant systemic failures" in how it operated.
At an event in Ballyconnell, County Cavan, in the Republic of Ireland on Friday evening, Mr Carron referred to the 29 years he has spent living in exile in County Leitrim after leaving Fermanagh.
He told the audience of about 200 people including several Sinn Féin MLAs, that it was hard for him to speak about the hunger strikes as it was an intensely emotional time as well as a watershed period in history.
The republican hunger strikes began on 1 March 1981 following the government's decision to treat IRA prisoners as ordinary criminals, refusing their demands to be treated as prisoners of war.
Ten men would eventually die in the hunger strike at the Maze prison. Bobby Sands was the first to die. It was a period of huge community tension - some 60 civilians, police and soldiers died in the violence which accompanied the seven-month campaign.
Mr Carron said he first met Bobby Sands when he was 30 days into the hunger strike in the prison hospital.
He said: "It never, ever crossed his mind in any of our conversations that he should stop. He always knew that he would die, and perhaps that one other would die as well before the British would move".
He said the prisoners won a huge moral victory, and gave birth to Sinn Féin as a radical party.
The event marked the launch of the 33rd National Hunger Strike Commemoration that will culminate in a parade in Derrylin, County Fermanagh, on 3 August which, organisers say, will attract 10,000 people.
Unionists have criticised the commemoration as insensitive.
Ulster Unionist MLA Tom Elliott said: "They should show some compassion for the IRA's victims and realise the hurt and upset their hunger strike march is causing and also the negative impact on community relations.
"In this small area of Northern Ireland the IRA murdered, among others, a farmer and his wife while watching TV, a school bus driver while collecting primary school children at a school, and a primary school teacher while at his place of work where he taught children.
"The fact that the march will go past the spot where the IRA shot Jimmy Graham on a school bus as he was taking children to the swimming pool will cause more anguish and pain for his long suffering family.
"Now republicans intend to
pile more pain on them. Instead of glorifying terrorists and criminals,
Sinn Fein and the organisers of this march should show some compassion
for the victims. Violence was wrong then and it is wrong now."
Dublin’s ‘secret IRA amnesty’: solicitor
A solicitor who has represented victims of cross-border Troubles murders has called on Dublin to investigate a former tanaiste’s claim that there has been a secret amnesty for key IRA figures.
John McBurney, who most recently represented the family of murdered RUC chief superintendent Harry Breen, said that the claim by Michael McDowell, a former attorney general and justice minister, had to be rigorously examined.
Last year the Smithwick Tribunal in Dublin found that there had been Garda collusion in the 1989 murder of Mr Breen and his colleague, superintendent Bob Buchanan.
Last week Mr McDowell told the Press Association that after the Belfast Agreement “generally speaking there was a consensus in the Republic that the police would no longer be prosecuting historical cases”.
Mr McDowell – who has been a fierce critic of Sinn Fein – also said that around the year 2000 he had suggested that the UK use Royal pardons for a handful of “household names” suspected of IRA activities who were deemed critical to peace efforts.
Mr McBurney, who is also First Minister Peter Robinson’s solicitor, told the News Letter that there was deep concern among victims of terrorism at the comments.
Mr McBurney said that the Republic now needed to follow the example of the UK – which set up several inquiries earlier this year once the ‘comfort letters’ to IRA fugitives were made public – by instigating an inquiry into Mr McDowell’s claims.
“I have a concern to see fully probed the remarks made by Mr McDowell ... indicating that there was a decision which was clearly kept secret,” he said.
“It wasn’t just under the radar – this seems to have been a secret decision to not pursue historical crimes, particularly in relation to certain named individuals and that discussions were even engaged with in respect of the Royal Prerogative of Mercy for some or all of those named individuals.
“Is there going to be a review – judge-led or otherwise – into what has now been exposed in that regard? In other words, was there a secret Republic of Ireland list?”
Mr McBurney questioned whether such a “secret arrangement at such a high level” had an impact on extradition requests, terrorist investigations and whether any ‘comfort letters’ had been issued by Dublin.
The solicitor also questioned
whether any of the 2,500 Garda tapes – which secretly recorded
calls to and from Garda stations from the 1980s until last year –
contain references to individuals who could not be prosecuted.
left at Carrickfergus Alliance office
A shotgun cartridge has been found in a plastic box tied to the lock of an Alliance Party constituency office in Carrickfergus, County Antrim.
It was found at the office in West Street on Friday morning.
Alliance East Antrim assembly member Stewart Dickson said his party would not be intimidated.
"This is yet another senseless attack on the hardworking Alliance team in East Antrim," he said.
"There is absolutely no justification for this level of intimidation and there should be no place in our society for those who wish to spread fear and intimidation."
Police said they responded to a report of a suspicious object at the office and the object was later removed and after further examination it was found to be a shotgun cartridge.
Last week, there was a hoax bomb alert at an Alliance office in east Belfast.
There have been a number of attacks
on Alliance properties following a Belfast City Council vote in December
2012 restricting the flying of the union flag at the City Hall.
silence on ministerial code in wake of McCausland finding
The Stormont department which runs the Executive is unable to say who enforces the ministerial code.
The Office of the First Minister and Deputy First Minister (OFMDFM) has failed to respond to a News Letter request for clarity on who rules on potential breaches.
It is understood that others who have recently attempted to establish who enforces the code have also encountered difficulties.
The issue comes to light after a cross-party Stormont committee ruled that Social Development Minister had deliberately misled the Assembly about his meeting with a firm that has links to the DUP.
The code incorporates the seven principles of public life.
The ruling that Mr McCausland deliberately misled MLAs — something he denies — would appear to raise questions about whether the minister has broken the sixth principle of public life that “holders of public office should be truthful”.
On Wednesday, the News Letter asked OFMDFM one question — who decides whether the ministerial code has been broken? A press officer phoned back to say that it may be the Assembly. However, the Assembly made clear that was not the case, as the code was an Executive matter.
Yesterday the News Letter reminded OFMDFM that the query had not been answered. By last night, our call had not been returned.
It is common for OFMDFM to simply ignore media requests when Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness cannot agree on an answer. It is unclear whether that is what lies behind this latest refusal to answer a simple question.
The DUP has dismissed the Committee for Social Development’s 1,000-page report into one of the allegations made against Mr McCausland in a BBC Spotlight programme last year. DUP MP Sammy Wilson has described the report — which found that Mr McCausland had altered documentation to conceal the fact that he had met with the company — as “a discredited political witch-hunt and a waste of time and money”.
But last night the former veteran Stormont minister Lord Empey said that he believed any Stormont minister could ask the Attorney General to examine the case.
The former Ulster Unionist minister said that he believed that they would be able to ask the Attorney General, John Larkin QC, to look at Mr McCausland’s conduct and advise them whether, if they were to be accused of what he was accused of, they would be in breach of the code.
The peer said that he believed
the chairman of the DSD committee, Alex Maskey, could also probably
ask the Attorney General for a verdict on the minister’s conduct.
encourage hatred and have no one object
We know what people think of politicians. As a group they’re down there with journalists and lawyers. But how about the other way round? How do politicians regard the public.?
Well, there’s the famous comment of one Dick Tuck, after having been defeated by none other than Richard Nixon: “The people have spoken…the bastards”. In a sense it’s natural that politicians should be fearful of and resent the people, since the people are their bosses. It’s easy for us the public to forget that. We employ them, we pay them.
But sometimes politicians are so fearful, they play to the lowest common denominator. There’s a recent report in The Ballymoney Times, for example, where a unionist councillor is rightly expressing his outrage that a union flag was taken down, stolen from a pole in the area (No, Virginia, there’s no mention of whether it was a street-light pole or a flag-pole, but you can probably guess). He calls on the Sinn Féin councillors in the area to condemn such actions. Which is a bit like a goal-keeper placing a ball on the penalty spot and then going round behind the goal to have an energy drink and a sit-down.
Both Daithi McKay and Philip McGuigan of Sinn Féin do as requested. They condemn the theft of the union flag, an act which it was claimed had heightened tensions in the town.
Here’s McGuigan: “I have no difficulty speaking out against the removal of a flag in Finvoy or anywhere else for that matter. No one should be engaging in any activity anywhere in this Borough with the intention of causing offence, raising tensions, or fuelling sectarianism.”
And here’s McKay: “Hate crime from any quarter must be condemned outright. The attack on Ballycastle Orange Hall does not represent the people that live there.”
But they both go on to show that local councillors are failing to show leadership. Tyres were burnt, election posters of Sinn Féin councillors were burnt, the Irish tricolour was burnt on bonfires in the area. Yet the police took no action and the councillors, according to McKay and McGuigan, kept schtum. The Sinn Féin councillors – rightly – condemn these actions as hate crimes: they engender a hatred of the people whose image is burnt, and they show contempt for the people who see the tricolour as their national flag.
Did the unionist councillors know what was happening? You betcha. Did they denounce these nasty, hate-encouraging actions? Not on your life. Were someone unfamiliar with our twisted little story to be told that the police knew in advance these crimes were to be committed but did nothing about them, they would scarcely believe it. Blatant sectarianism, nasty coat-trailing and the cops do nothing? Hardly credible. Just as it’s hardly credible that a councillor would get upset over a stolen Union flag and yet feel no call to speak out against illegal tyre-burning, poster burning of local republican councillors and the burning of the national flag of Ireland. Why didn’t they speak out? Very probably because they figure it’s better to pander to the lowest common denominator rather than risk alienating a few knuckle-dragger votes at the next local election.
None of the Ballymoney councillors,
to the best of my knowledge, is French. But they might well feel a
sense of identity with the words of the 19th-century French democrat
Alexandre Auguste Ledru-Rollin: ”There go the people –
I must follow them, for I am their leader.”
Féin call to remove Tricolour
The Sinn Féin Mayor of Newry and Mourne Council has urged those responsible for putting up two Irish Tricolours in the Bessbrook area to take them down.
Councillor Dáire Hughes said placing the flags on a tree in a pond in the village was a sign of "disrespect and dishonour" to the emblem.
He said: "Whilst Sinn Féin acknowledge that there are occasions when it is understandable that our national flag is displayed and flown, the manner in which these particular flags are displayed is a cause for concern.
"The erection of the national flag in places like trees in the middle of a pond is effectively dishonouring it, and also neither at any time should it be used to impose, intimidate or disrespect.
"I share the belief of most that our national flag should at all times command the highest degree of respect."
The Sinn Féin councillor said the issue of flags and emblems needed to be addressed.
He added: "We need to respect the right of all citizens to celebrate one's culture and identity in an acceptable manner, while recognising and respecting the perceptions of those who may view such displays as overtly sectarian, intimidating and indeed threatening in nature.
"Failure to do so, perpetuates division and instability.
"Sinn Féin is committed to proactively work with the republican/nationalist community to develop agreed protocols around flags, symbols and emblems with our unionist/loyalist neighbours."
for return of 1916 Tricolour from Imperial War Museum
An Irish (sic – Limerick) councillor has called on London’s Imperial War Museum to return a Tricolour, taken from the city in 1916, in time for the 100th anniversary of the Easter Rising.
Sinn Féin’s Maurice Quinlivan has written to the museum’s director Diane Lees to request the return of the flag, which was captured by British Forces of the 4th Battalion of the Leinster Regiment in Limerick on May 6, 1916 following the Easter Rising in Dublin.
“It would be fitting if the flag was returned to Limerick in time for the 100th anniversary of the 1916 Easter Rising which will be a very important event both in Limerick and nationally,” Councillor Quinlivan said.
“Many events will take place across Ireland and the world to commemorate this hugely important event which gave birth to the free Irish nation. This flag should be returned to form a centrepiece of Limerick’s centenary commemoration in 2016.”
Cllr Quinlivan said he was currently awaiting a response from the Imperial War Museum.
“I have also contacted a number of groups and individuals in London to encourage them to make representations to the Imperial War Museum for the return of the flag,” he added.
“I look forward to the flag being returned to Limerick where it rightfully belongs and where it will serve as a tribute to those who sacrificed their lives and liberty for our freedom.”