21st August 2014
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over 'loyalist' murder bid
Two men have been arrested in connection with a shooting in north Belfast that police are linking to loyalist tensions.
The pair, aged 46 and 47, are being held on suspicion of attempted murder.
Police are also carrying out searches in the north Belfast and north Down areas.
The men were detained after a 44-year-old man was shot in upper thigh in an incident in the Carr's Glen area of the city on Wednesday night.
His injuries were not believed to be life threatening and he is currently recovering in hospital.
It comes just days after two cars were destroyed in an arson attack on the Limestone Road, while earlier this month a pipe bomb was thrown at a car parked in Duncairn Gardens.
There are reports a number of houses in the area have also been attacked in recent days.
PSNI Chief Constable George Hamilton said police are aware of heightened tensions within the area - and appealed for the community to support detectives in their investigations.
"There is clearly tension within loyalism that we would assess has resulted in the shooting last evening and it is a concern for us," Mr Hamilton told UTV.
"We will do what the police do - we will gather evidence and ask that the community support us. It is always a concern when firearms are used and people are injured."
Chief Superintendent Nigel Grimshaw, District Commander for North and West Belfast, added: "There is no justification for bringing violence of any sort on to the streets of North Belfast, or anywhere else for that matter.
"This type of incident adds nothing to communities, instead it can lead to fear, anxiety and tension.
"Detectives will continue to actively pursue this investigation to ensure that all those involved in carrying out this attack, are arrested and brought before the courts."
Wednesday night's shooting in the Wallasey Park area happened just after 10.10pm.
Two men were driving in the Carr's Glen area when something was thrown at their car. When they got out, one of them was shot in the leg.
North Belfast MP Nigel Dodds has condemned the shooting.
The DUP man said: "Any incident in which guns are used on our streets is a matter of huge concern.
"This incident is the latest in a series of attacks in north Belfast over recent weeks, including arson attacks, a pipe bomb attack and gun attacks.
"Not only is property being destroyed but clearly there is the real potential for the loss of life, whether of an intended target or of an involved person passing by. I condemn these attacks without reservation and without exception and I urge those responsible to bring them to an end."
Sinn Féin MLA Carál Ní Chuilín said: "This is the latest of in a series of incidents in north Belfast over recent weeks involving loyalists.
"The fact that someone has now been shot is a worrying development. The PSNI needs to all in its power to deal with those behind this cycle of violence."
Police have asked anyone who may
have witnessed this incident or who has any information to contact
detectives at Tennent Street on the non-emergency number 101.
Reynolds: Former Irish prime minister dies
Ireland's former prime minister Albert Reynolds has died at the age of 81.
He played a key role in advancing the Northern Ireland peace process, including the 1994 IRA ceasefire.
The Fianna Fáil politician, who was born in Rooskey in County Roscommon, led the party in two coalition governments.
He served as taoiseach (prime minister) for just under three years from February 1992 to December 1994.
On a biography on its website, Fianna Fáil said of Mr Reynolds: "Without a doubt his greatest achievement was in Northern Ireland and Anglo-Irish relations, signing the Downing Street Declaration in 1993.
"It was Reynolds' determination that gave impetus to the peace process and the establishment of an IRA ceasefire in 1994, followed shortly afterwards by a loyalist ceasefire.
"Albert Reynolds asked the defining question 'who is afraid of peace?'
"His determination brought about what had seemed impossible," the party added.
Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams paid tribute to Mr Reynolds on his Twitter account, saying he acted on Northern Ireland "when it mattered".
Northern Ireland's Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness, who is also from Sinn Féin, praised Mr Reynolds' contribution to the peace process.
Mr McGuiness tweeted: "Very sad to hear that former taoiseach Albert Reynolds has died. Deep sympathy to Kathleen and family. Albert was a peacemaker. #Appreciation."
Mr Reynolds became a member of Dáil Éireann (Irish Parliament) at the 1977 general election, when he was elected for the constituency of Longford/Westmeath.
As Irish minister for posts and telegraphs and minister for transport from 1979-81, he revolutionised the telecommunications system.
As minister for industry and energy in 1982, Mr Reynolds developed the National Grid, establishing the gas pipeline from Cork to Dublin.
He was minister for industry and commerce in 1987-88 and minister for finance, 1988-91.
Mr Reynolds was removed from the cabinet for challenging the leadership of his predecessor Charles Haughey in 1991.
However, he assumed the mantle of leadership shortly afterwards in a continuation of the coalition government with the Progressive Democrats.
At the beginning of 1993, Mr Reynolds was returned to office in coalition with the Labour Party.
In a dispute with coalition partners
the Labour Party, the government fell and Mr Reynolds resigned as
leader of Fianna Fáil and taoiseach in 1994.
crisis leaves Troubles’ victims ‘devastated’
Thousands of victims and survivors of the North’s “Troubles” are being left “out of pocket and unsupported” because of a new funding crisis.
It’s emerged that the Stormont run Victims and Survivors Service (VSS) has reduced its services to help victims of the conflict and their families.
Derry-based human rights group, the Pat Finucane Centre (PFC) - which works with scores of victims and their families - has branded the situation “scandalous”.
It’s understood a number of schemes provided by the VSS - including respite breaks and education and training - have been deferred due to budget cutbacks.
Paul O’Connor, of the PFC, says many families are “devastated” at the move.
He added: “It’s all the more shameful given that David Cameron can allocate billions of pounds to his government’s defence programme but, at the same time, can’t find the money to fund a programme aimed at assisting victims and survivors of the conflict.
“It’s an appalling and scandalous manner in which to treat people.”
Derry woman Marie Toland, whose husband John was murdered by loyalist paramilitaries in 1976, described the cutbacks as “shocking”.
“It once again underlines the reality that we are the forgotten people of the Troubles,” said the mother-of-seven.
“I have absolutely no confidence in the system as it currently stands. It seems that, once again, victims and survivors don’t matter.”
The VSS was established in 2012 as an “arm’s length” body of the Office of the First Minister and Deputy First Minister (OFMDFM) at Stormont.
It is responsible for administering
OFMDFM funding set aside specifically for victims and survivors.
lorry alert 'a hoax'
A security alert in Londonderry, which lasted for several hours on Wednesday, has ended with the object being declared a hoax.
It was triggered at about 12.30pm when masked men ordered a lorry driver to take a suspect object to Strand Road police station.
The vehicle was stopped in the Galliagh area while the driver was making a delivery to Ederowen Park.
Two men loaded a wheelie bin on board and told the driver it contained a bomb.
They ordered him to bring it to the PSNI station.
But the driver abandoned the lorry at Buncrana Road, which was partially closed due to construction work, and a nearby construction crew raised the alarm.
Staff at St Columb's College were advised to leave. People based at Springtown Industrial Estate were also moved out.
Following an examination by army bomb experts, the object was declared a hoax.
Chief Inspector Tony Callaghan said: "This security alert caused a great deal of inconvenience to the people of Derry, including those who work in businesses close to the scene and also those who travel along Buncrana Road and Springtown Road, both of which are major arterial routes.
"However we must all remember that despite the major inconvenience caused, this was undoubtedly a frightening experience for the lorry driver.
"Today a man was going about his normal day-to-day work when he was confronted by masked men and ordered to drive with what he was told was a bomb to the police station," the Foyle Area Commander continued.
"We have a range of policing operations in place and we will always seek to prevent these types of incidents."
"Information can be given to us in a variety of ways; by calling the detectives at Strand Road on the 101 number; by calling Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111; or by liaising through a community or civic representative.
"It is important that we get this information so that the people of Derry can continue to move forward and enjoy the enormous progress that this city has seen in recent years."
Sinn Féin MLA Raymond McCartney has condemned those responsible.
"This incident has brought widespread disruption to this area of the city and must be condemned.
"It was a very frightening experience for the driver of this vehicle, who was confronted by masked men and ordered to drive what he believed to be a bomb through the city," he continued.
"Those behind this incident showed no regard for the driver of the vehicle or the people of Derry.
"They are offering nothing to society and need to stop these actions immediately."
Alliance Policing Board member, Chris Lyttle MLA, said: "Those responsible for this attempted bomb attack have no regards for the lives of other people. I would condemn this attack in the strongest possible manner.
"There is no support for the actions of these individuals. The vast majority of the people of Northern Ireland have rejected violence and want to help build a shared and safer future for all.
"Those behind this attack are very dangerous individuals who must be urgently apprehended by the Police. I would urge anybody with any information about this incident to contact the PSNI," he concluded.
The Ulster Unionist Party's Foyle chairman, Ronnie McKeegan, said: "Once again masked men have set out to impose themselves on our city and in the process have created disruption to the daily lives of many innocent people, including businesses which have been forced to close and staff at St Columb's College who were preparing for tomorrow's GCSE results announcement.
"I understand the intended target was Strand Road Police Station, so the finger of suspicion must fall on those republicans wedded to violence who still have not got the message that their day is over."
SDLP Foyle MLA Colum Eastwood described those responsible as "cowards."
"Derry will not be dragged
back to the barbarity of the past by mindless thugs devoted to terror.
Our city has made tremendous strides towards a bright future and such
acts of attempted destruction will be viewed with utter revulsion
by all right thinking people."
reveals increase in bombings
The number of bombings in Northern Ireland last year was higher than a decade earlier, it was revealed.
However, the security situation has improved - with fewer deaths and shootings, according to the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI).
But with the threat from dissident republicans opposed to the peace process high, the force said 69 bombs exploded or were defused last year. Paramilitaries also used shootings and assaults to impose their form of "justice" in republican and loyalist areas.
Terry Spence, chairman of the Police Federation of Northern Ireland (PFNI), said: "We are determined that terrorism will not succeed but there is a quid pro quo here, the Government have to ensure that we have the resources and they are failing us."
A PSNI report said: "A significant threat still remains as evidenced by the increase in the number of bombing incidents in 2013/14 compared with 2004/05 and the continued use of paramilitary-style shootings and assaults."
Members of the security forces have been on high alert for some time, with extremists intensifying efforts to kill them.
In March, a bomb was found on a Co Tyrone golf course and an improvised mortar device was recovered in Belfast. Earlier that month, dissidents used a command wire to fire a mortar at a police Land Rover on the Falls Road in West Belfast.
No-one was injured in the attack, but as well as the police patrol, a car containing a Filipino family was caught up in the attack.
The dissident group calling itself the New IRA said it carried out the attack.
Two letter bombs were found at postal sorting offices in Lisburn and Londonderry on 7 March. Both were addressed to Maghaberry Prison, the largest jail in Northern Ireland.
On 13 December last year, a bomb in a sports bag exploded in Belfast's busy Cathedral Quarter. About 1,000 people were affected by the alert, including people out for Christmas dinners, pub-goers and children out to watch Christmas pantos
These statistics do not include s even letter bombs delivered to army careers offices in England which, according to Downing Street, bore the hallmarks of Northern Ireland-related terrorism.
According to the PSNI there were:
Paramilitaries carry out shootings and assaults, normally to the legs, as a form of vigilante justice in some deprived local communities.
There were 28 of these shootings and 42 assaults in 2013/14 compared to 93 shootings and 116 assaults in 2004/5. Republicans were responsible for most of the paramilitary-style shootings and loyalists were blamed in police figures for the majority of assaults.
Last year, 32 people were charged with terrorism offences compared to 77 in 2004/5.
There has been an increase in the amount of explosives seized during the last 12 months to 27 kg , a three-fold rise on the previous year, the statistics revealed. This is mainly due to one very large seizure in March in west Belfast.
The number of firearms recovered during that period has also increased to 63 but ammunition finds decreased to just under 4,000 rounds.
Mr Spence represents rank and file officers and has called for 1,000 extra police to be recruited to help fight the threat.
He said dissident republicans were sophisticated and a great cause of concern.
"The chief constable (George Hamilton) is on record as saying recently that the threat level remains at the upper point of severe, only a notch away from critical so it is a serious situation but I am not surprised by these statistics.
"The other worrying aspect is the resurgence of loyalist paramilitaries, in particular the Ulster Volunteer Force who have been particularly evident in east Belfast."
He said a peacetime force of more than 7,000 had been recommended but warned that the PSNI's numbers were significantly below that, despite renewed recruitment of several hundred new officers and with more public spending cuts to come.
Mr Spence added: "We are stretched.
"We are struggling to hold the line.
"It is very clear that unless
there is a realisation by the Justice Department and the Home Office
and the Treasury that we need more resources urgently and that there
should be no further cuts to the PSNI budget I am worried that ultimately
we won't be able to hold the line."
vote 'risks instability'
If Scotland votes Yes to independence it would prompt a crisis for Northern Ireland unionists and could spark political instability, an expert has said.
Generations of migration between the two countries have created close cultural and historical links. In places, the gap between the two coasts is hardly 20 miles.
Loyalists fly the Scottish saltire every summer during their pro-British marching season celebrating the 1690 victory of William of Orange over Catholic King James II during the Battle of the Boyne.
Professor Peter Shirlow is an academic specialising in conflict resolution at Queen's University Belfast (QUB) and said a Yes vote next month would be a shock to the whole body politic of the UK.
"It would be a point of instability, it would be a sense that we are moving in one direction, which is the break up of the UK, that would lead at some point to unification (with the Republic of Ireland).
"Sinn Fein would be energised by that, which would add more to fractures we have in Northern Ireland.
"We have a political institution which is not evolving, going from one crisis to the next. A Yes vote would most certainly be a crisis for unionism."
In the 1600s the Plantation of Ulster by English and Scots settlers created large swathes of largely pro-union Protestants in Northern Ireland, mainly but not exclusively concentrated in the eastern half of the country.
In the 1800s many Irish Catholics moved the other way due to industrialisation in Britain and famine at home. Belfast merchants had close economic ties with their counterparts across the Irish Sea.
Contemporary migrants are more likely to be students from Northern Ireland heading to Scottish universities. Large numbers of football fans regularly cross the water to watch Glasgow Rangers or Celtic.
Street violence in recent years has highlighted political and religious differences surrounding identity which still exist between unionist and nationalist communities in Northern Ireland.
Since the 1998 Good Friday peace agreement that ended IRA and loyalist violence, a devolved powersharing administration has been established at Stormont. Sinn Fein and the Democratic Unionists are the two largest parties.
Recently Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams said the political institutions faced their greatest crisis since 1998. Stormont F irst Minister Peter Robinson responded by warning that an impasse over welfare reform was the most likely issue to force a collapse of the five-party ministerial executive.
Professor Shirlow said both sides would be affected by a Scottish Yes vote.
"A Yes vote would be a shock to the whole body politic of the UK. Anything which is constitutional would be felt quite strongly here.
"Out of the four countries that make up the UK, it would be an issue here. This is not something that is on everyone's lips but if the vote goes Yes it might be."
Dr David Hume, director of services at the Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland, has noted thousands of the organisation's members will participate in a Scottish Orange Order march in Edinburgh shortly before the referendum.
He said: "We want Scotland to remain with us as part of the United Kingdom because we believe we have a better future together that way.
"We hope that the campaign for an independent Scotland does not succeed. We hope the people of Scotland say no to the proposal.
"The Union would be the poorer if Scotland were to leave the Union, and Scotland would be the poorer."
Earlier this year DUP MP Ian Paisley Jnr said a Yes vote would drive a wedge between people in Northern Ireland and encourage republicanism.
Sinn Fein Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness has also warned it is an issue which could be used to create divisions in the powersharing government.
He told Stormont's assembly: " I think all of us should resist the temptation to be drawn into something that will be decided elsewhere."
After 30 years of sectarian conflict, Northern Ireland has cemented a peace process which saw gunmen lay down arms and former sworn enemies enter into government together.
Yet disagreement over issues such as controversial parades, Irish or British flags and dealing with the toxic legacy of troubles deaths has polarised some within the two communities.
Both will be watching as Scotland
arrests in letter bombs probe
Four people have been arrested on suspicion of involvement in a spate of attempted dissident republican letter bomb attacks in Northern Ireland and England, including on a number of Armed Forces recruitment offices.
The two men, 35 and 46, and two women, 21 and 44, were detained in Londonderry and have been taken to the Police Service of Northern Ireland's (PSNI) Serious Crime Suite in Antrim.
They are being questioned by detectives investigating the sending of explosive devices to Armed Forces careers offices in Oxford, Brighton, Canterbury, Aldershot, Reading and Chatham and the Queensmere shopping centre in Slough in February.
In October last year dissident republicans opposed to the peace process were also blamed for sending a series of letter bombs to high profile political and security figures in Northern Ireland.
None of the devices detonated.
In the Northern Ireland attacks, one of the devices was sent to the seat of power sharing executive at Stormont Castle in Belfast addressed to Northern Ireland Secretary Theresa Villiers.
Another bomb was delivered to the offices of the Public Prosecution Service in Londonderry while two explosive packages - one addressed to then PSNI chief constable Matt Baggott and the other to one of his senior commanders - were intercepted at Royal Mail offices in Belfast and Lisburn.
The sending of bombs in the post marked the re-emergence of a terror tactic that was used by paramilitaries during the Troubles.
Since 2009, republican extremists intent on achieving a united Ireland by violent means have murdered two soldiers, two policemen and one prison officer in Northern Ireland, as well as carrying out numerous other attacks on security force targets.
The PSNI said its detectives had been liaising with officers from the South East Counter Terrorism Unit in England.
A PSNI spokesman said: "Police investigating a series of devices sent to addresses in Northern Ireland and England last year and earlier this year have arrested four people in Londonderry this morning.
"Two men aged 35 and 46, and two women aged 21 and 44, were arrested in the city and taken to the Serious Crime Suite at Antrim police station for interview.
"The investigation is being
led by detectives from PSNI Serious Crime Branch who have been working
in close liaison with officers from the South East Counter Terrorism
Unit in England."
that divide: 20 years after IRA declared military cessation Executive
parties are further from political ceasefire than ever
By Alex Kane
On September 2, 1994, just two days after the Provisional IRA had announced a "complete cessation of military operations", an opinion poll in the Belfast Telegraph indicated that 56% believed the ceasefire was the result of a 'secret deal having been done'.
Only 30% believed that the ceasefire was permanent.
Eighteen months later, on February 9, 1996, the ceasefire ended with a massive bomb at Canary Wharf. That bomb confirmed the belief of those who had argued that the original ceasefire had been a mere tactical ploy by both the IRA and Sinn Fein.
And yet on July 19, 1997, PIRA announced another "complete cessation of military operations", paving the way for Sinn Fein to sign up to the Mitchell Principles (six ground rules that included the disarmament of paramilitary organisations and a verifiable process of decommissioning) and enter the talks process.
Ceasefires are the vital component of any peace process and for the subsequent political/constitutional negotiation between opposing paramilitary spokespeople and political parties. Those who aren't convinced of the integrity of a ceasefire will not participate – which is why both the DUP and Robert McCartney's UKUP left the process.
The 1997 ceasefire was also the final collective admission by the IRA, loyalist paramilitaries and the various security/intelligence services (also, to a lesser extent, by most of the political parties) that this was an unwinnable war. There would be no clear winner, no stunning victory: the best they could hope for was some sort of deal they could all underwrite and promote as a 'this is as good as it gets' agreement.
But 'as good as it gets' turned out to be 'constructive ambiguity' followed by a destructive clarity, and then a nakedly sectarian us-and-them carve-up between the DUP and Sinn Fein in May 2007.
Which is where we stand now: more polarised than ever and, if opinion polls, pundits and anecdotal evidence are to be believed, more suspicious, intolerant and distrustful of 'themmuns' than ever before. Ironically, even those who hate the us-and-them approach to politics here seem to have just as much contempt for those who choose to vote for us-and-them parties.
So, why are we in this mess? How did the hoped-for conflict resolution morph into seemingly terminal conflict stalemate? What happened to the hope? What happened to the dare-to-believe-it-can-be-different moment on May 22, 1998, when 71% of us (on an 81% turnout) voted 'Yes' for the Belfast Agreement?
Well, it seems to me that there are two aspects to a ceasefire. The first is the obvious one – those with guns stop shooting each other. The second is less obvious, yet much more important in the long run – the political leadership of the various parties stop continuing the conflict by other, albeit less deadly, methods.
In other words, you need to start to look for the things that can bind you together in a common, shared future, rather than reminding each other of old wounds and horrors, some of them pre-dating the birth of any MLA or MP.
It means asking themselves why
they agreed to set up new political institutions in the first place.
What we have now is an Assembly, Executive, Programme for Government
and machinery for doing business together that is the result of negotiation
between all of the parties in that Executive.
In fairness, there is no need for political parties to like each other. There is no requirement for coalition partners to like each other – they play the cards that the electorate has dealt them.
But there is a requirement that they agree upon the rules of the game, including courtesy and etiquette. There is a requirement that there be a sense of collective responsibility and accountability. There is a requirement that they will, at the very least, try to deliver on the big ticket issues.
Let's face it, when just about every Executive member and party leader tries to grab a piece of the 'Rory glory', you know they're doing it because they've damn little else to shout about.
Now, then, here's the question that really needs answered: is there any electoral incentive for the political parties to agree a ceasefire? In other words, would they, collectively, be able to attract back old voters and win over new ones if they demonstrated the willingness and the ability to work together and govern together?
At this stage the answer would appear to be 'no'. The electoral evidence since 1998 indicates that the vast majority of those who do vote are voting for clearly defined unionist and republican parties.
Alliance is still in single-figure support, NI21 crashed and burned (and a poll weeks before its spectacular eve-of-election meltdown suggested its level of support had halved since its launch) and the political middle ground is still barren territory. The 'military' ceasefire came about because enough people accepted that a solution wasn't available that way.
A 'political' ceasefire would now require them to acknowledge that the present chaos could, more quickly than they imagine, result in the collapse of the institutions. But here's the bigger problem – at the heart of the political process remains the 'dreary steeples' reality that unionists and republicans still want different things.
Agreement – in the sense of both sides buying into the same settlement – seems impossible. Genuine co-operation is impossible. A political ceasefire is, I think, impossible, because this is still a battlefield.
In most senses, what we have is 'as good as it gets', or 'as good as it's going to get'. We may not be killing each other anymore, but we certainly don't care for each other any more than we did, either.
Alex Kane is a writer and
O’Carroll discovers British officer murdered his grandfather
Television star Brendan O’Carroll’s grandfather was killed during the War of Independence because his sons were members of the IRA.
The Mrs Brown’s Boys creator reacted angrily when he realised the death of Peter O’Carroll, which his family believed was the result of a drunken attack by the Black and Tans, was in fact a premeditated execution by British forces in Dublin.
The comedian takes an emotional journey through the murky night of his grandfather’s death on October 16, 1920, in the fourth episode of Who Do You Think You Are, due to be aired on BBC1 on August 28.
While he had hoped to learn the truth of his grandfather’s murder by taking part in the programme, he found himself faced with much more when a name and a photo of the man who killed him were revealed.
“That’s the last face my grandfather saw,” he says in the hour-long programme.
“Jesus, he’s some b*****d. You know, in my case, it’s personal and I would have liked to have seen someone taken to account for it.”
Beginning with just a newspaper cutting bearing the report of Peter O’Carroll’s death, the 58-year-old Dubliner was assisted by historians, professors and experts on the War of Independence to discover the truth of his family’s tragic loss in the city nearly 100 years ago.
Ultimately it is witness statements of IRA members involved in the war, recorded in the 1950s, that reveal the man responsible as Jocelyn Lee Hardy – an intelligence officer in the British auxiliaries and a ‘very hostile killer’.
The records show Peter O’Carroll had received a visit at his hardware store from British army officers, who claimed if his sons, who were members of the IRA, did not surrender at Dublin Castle by a given date he would be shot.
By refusing to hand his children over, he seemingly sealed his own fate.
“They didn’t see my granddad as a person, they saw him as a piece on a chess board,” says O’Carroll.
“People say all is fair in love and war; but I don’t think that is fair.”
He added: “I get the feeling he knew he was going to die that day. He wasn’t going to shop his sons under any circumstances.
“So it was a pretty dire
situation to be in; he went down to face what was going to be an inevitable
rejects drum beat appeal
The Parades Commission has rejected an appeal from a band that has been forbidden from playing music as it passes nationalist protestors in Rasharkin village this Friday evening.
A spokesman for the Ballymaconnelly Sons of Conquerors Flute Band told the News Letter yesterday that they would be lodging another appeal on the matter, but this time with differing evidence.
“We feel that being limited to a single drum beat as we pass protestors is without logic and creates tension, rather than letting the band concentrate on what it is supposed to do – play music,” he said.
TUV leader Jim Allister said the commission ruling appeared to break new ground, as up until now bands had only been limited to a single drum beat when passing places of worship, not protestors.
A Parades Commission spokeswoman said it considered a request to review the determination but concluded the grounds put forward did not justify a review.
“The commission may review
its final decision in light of any fresh information or representations
received,” she added.
upset at restricted parade in the north Antrim village of Rasharkin
A loyalist band parade through a mainly nationalist village this Friday night must start early with a restricted number of bands, the Parades Commission has ruled.
The Ballymaconnelly Sons of Conquerors Flute Band had wanted to bring 44 bands to its annual parade in the north Antrim village of Rasharkin.
However, only 25 will be allowed, and bands must only carry certain unfurled flags and only play single drumbeats while passing protesters, whose numbers have also been limited.
The parade had been planned for 8-10pm.
But the commission said it must start at 7pm and disperse by 9pm. Two groups – Rasharkin Residents' Collective and Rasharkin Residents' Association – applied for a total of 500 protesters at Main Street, but that has been limited to a total of 100.
A Ballymaconnelly Band statement said its plans "have been savaged by the quango that is the Parades Commission".
He added: "In spite of this
determination, the band will parade with dignity and decorum, as will
those we have invited to parade."
Justice Minister creates new terrorism offences to tackle dissident
Biggest crackdown since Omagh bomb
Three new terrorism offences are being created in the Republic of Ireland to combat dissident terrorists.
Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald published details of the new laws on Tuesday afternoon.
The move represents the most significant crackdown on home-grown terrorism by the Irish government since the highly successful package of measures introduced in the wake of the 1998 Omagh bombing.
That legislation led to the leader of the group responsible for the Omagh blast, Real IRA chief Michael McKevitt, being jailed for 20 years for the new offence of directing terrorism.
Mrs Fitzgerald has now secured Government approval to create three further offences, which will each carry a maximum sentence, if convicted on indictment, of ten years in jail and a substantial fine.
The proposed new offences are public provocation to commit a terrorist offence, recruitment for terrorism and training for terrorism. They will carry sentences of up to 10 years imprisonment.
Already this year, gardai seized an estimated €10m in partially forged banknotes in April, detected a large home-made bomb in Co Louth, which was destined for use against a security target in Northern Ireland, in May, and disrupted a Real IRA gun attack in Tallaght, Co Dublin, in June.
The provocation offence will apply to anyone who distributes or communicates a message to the public, with the intention of encouraging, directly or indirectly, a terrorist activity.
This would apply to dissident leaders who use public orations or interviews to incite others to break the law on behalf of groups like the New IRA Alliance, which incorporates the Real IRA; the Continuity IRA and OnH.
The second measure focuses on recruiting or attempting to recruit another to take part in terrorist activity or other offences contained in the post-Omagh Offences Against the State (Amendment) Act 1998.
The third offence involves providing instruction or training in the skills of making or using firearms or explosives, nuclear material, biological, chemical or prohibited weapons, knowing that the skills are intended to be used for the purpose of terrorist activity.
It also covers training in techniques or methods for terrorist use.
The minister said: "We stand with our European colleagues in doing everything in our power to ensure that there are no gaps in our law that can be exploited by those who would inflict terror and mayhem on innocent people at home or abroad.
"There can be no hiding place
in democratic society for those who encourage, recruit or train others
to carry out acts of terrorism and we must never relent in our determination
to use all resources at our disposal to root them out."
let them steal our history
By Des Dalton, Republican Sinn Féin President
The recent ceremony held in Glasnevin cemetery on July 31 marking the centenary of the beginning of the First World War - attended by representatives of both the 26-County State and the British State - was but part of a wider campaign designed to normalise British rule in Ireland by sanitising our history.
Within the media the cheerleaders are already in full voice. Joe Duffy, from his bully pulpit launched a scathing attack on Republican Sinn Féin and its protest held at Glasnevin. Duffy refused to engage with the issues and instead went on a rant describing the protesters as “yobs” and seemed fixated on their clothing for some bizarre reason known only to himself.
When I came on the air to talk about our protest and the issues underlying it on August 5, Duffy refused to allow any meaningful discussion or debate. At one point, when I put it to him that I didn’t come on to his programme to be lectured he said he would never lecture Republican Sinn Féin as he claimed he would be “afraid ”to. While refusing to engage with the ideas and ideology of the protest he was quite content to demonise an entire political organisation. Such tactics are as old as the hills.
In 1858 in West Cork a local newspaper editor wrote about the drilling and marching which Fenians in the Skibbereen area were engaging in. He called on the British colonial police to arrest the men. Jeremiah O’Donovan Rossa described the action of the editor as “felon setting”. (The ‘Treason Felony Act of 1848’ which remains in force, was used against the Young Irelanders and the Fenian Movement). Irish history was unkind to the ‘felon-setters’ of 1858 and all who assumed that role ever since.
Joe Duffy’s words and actions are merely a modern manifestation of this ignoble practice. Republicans should be aware that this type of felon-setting often precedes a wave of coercion.
A narrative is being crafted that places the First World War on the same plane as the 1916 Rising and attempts to incorporate it into our national story. This process involves sanitising our history to the point that it is denuded of any real meaning.
It is rarely I find myself in agreement with Ronan Fanning however I cannot but agree with his analysis of the process of “massaging history” that is being practiced by the political establishments: Writing in The Irish Times on August 16 Fanning states that what is happening is: “…the propagation of a bland, bloodless, bowdlerised and inaccurate hybrid of history, which if carried to extremes is more likely to provoke political outrage than to command intellectual respect, let alone consensus.”
An example of this is a listing in the National Museum at Collins Barracks in Dublin of all Irishmen killed between April 24 and May 12 1916. No distinction is made between those who died in arms opposing British rule in Ireland and those killed while serving in the ranks of the British army in the various theatres of the First World War.
Thus for example James Connolly is simply listed among other Irishmen killed while serving in the ranks of the British army on the same day. This is not only unhistorical but does a disservice to those trying to grapple with the complexities of this key period in our history. How are our young people expected to come to an understanding of their history if such a distorted and confused narrative is given to them by the National Museum?
By simply listing those killed without any context or explanation the whole period becomes a blur of militarism with nothing to distinguish those who died opposing imperialism from those who served in its ranks. Reading this list of names there is nothing to tell the visitor that James Connolly died facing a British army firing squad in defiance of empire and in defence of Irish national independence.
It is impossible to imagine any other self-respecting nation allowing its history to be diluted in such a manner. Such a way leads to the theft of any meaningful national narrative from this and future generations. Can you picture for instance France listing off the names of those who died in the Vichy forces or who collaborated with the German occupation alongside those who died in the French army or with the French Resistance? Would the United States honour those who served the British forces against the Revolutionary Continental Army?
All of this may be uncomfortable and does not fit into the new orthodoxy of the so-called peace process but it is our history nonetheless. We should not have to apologise for it.
Those Irishmen who died during the First World War were victims of a political class who viewed them as expendable. Many were economic conscripts forced by circumstances into the ranks of the British army while others were duped into believing that by volunteering to serve in the British army they would hasten the granting of Home Rule. The leaders of constitutional nationalism such as John Redmond enticed young men to sacrifice their lives so that they could prove that their nation was worthy of Home Rule.
This is a blood sacrifice we hear little about from the revisionist historians.
James Connolly was very clear about what was going on, in an article entitled ‘Tell the Truth: A Challenge to Mr Birrell’ published in The Irish Worker on November 28 1914 (Augustine Birrell was British Chief Secretary for Ireland from 1907 to 1916) Connolly boldly declares: “Let the truth be known! Count every corpse that the Empire requires us to pay for its victory; add up the total the wrecked human lives of the wounded soldiers, let us know the sum of the tears that the women and children must shed in oceans that Britannia might rule the waves and browbeat the nations.”
Unfortunately today we are instead being subjected to a nostalgia fest of militarism based on the myth of the “war for the freedom of small nations”. It is a revisiting of what Connolly described in 1914 as a “…carnival of English jingoism.” Connolly warned that the consequences of embracing this cult of empire would be: “…the abandonment of all the high hopes and holy aspirations that sanctified Irish history and made the sacrifices of the past the foundation of noble achievements in the future.”
That is exactly what is going on today. We are being asked to abandon the high ideals that inspired that revolutionary generation of a century ago and instead embrace the mythology of empire.
It is evident that in the decade of centenaries the political establishments of Leinster House, Stormont and Westminster are determined to draw a line under Irish history. By demonising and isolating Irish Republicanism and refusing it access to public debate they hope that it will simply fade from the public consciousness, robbed of historical or political legitimacy.
Joe Duffy’s column in The Irish Mail on Sunday the title refers to “our war dead”. The First World War was not our war; our war was fought here in Ireland for the freedom of Ireland.
The First World War was an imperialist slaughter in which sadly many our countrymen were caught up. They were victims of empire but alas they cannot be numbered among the pantheon of our patriot dead.
fails over Israeli boycott mayor
A vote of no confidence against the Sinn Féin Mayor of Newry and Mourne Council has been defeated, after he called for a boycott of Israeli goods by the district's businesses.
Unionists tabled the motion at the council's Monday night meeting calling for Councillor Dáire Hughes to apologise and step down from his position.
Last month, the Mayor sent out a letter urging shops in the area not to stock Israeli goods in response to the country's military actions in Gaza.
There have been growing protest calls for action across NI, with several demonstrations held inside and outside stores which stock Israeli goods.
Councillor Hughes had said the letter was his own "personal initiative" after he was asked for the information from his constituents.
UUP councillor David Taylor described the mayor's call for items to be listed, removed from sale and boycotted by retailers as "disturbing."
He said: "I am acutely aware of the differing views in terms of the complex political situation in the Middle East.
"However, I am extremely conscious, having been afforded the opportunity to serve as deputy mayor, that you are required to represent all the people of our district and therefore where possible stay above the normal rough and tumble of politics.
"Instead councillor Hughes has tarnished and compromised the position of first citizen of Newry and Mourne through his deliberate actions."
Cllr Taylor continued: "My unionist colleagues and I believe, given the significant controversy surrounding councillor Hughes' failure to act duly and appropriately as mayor, that he should offer an immediate apology or consider his position as First Citizen of Newry and Mourne."
Following the motion's defeat, Cllr Hughes said that he will continue to represent all citizens.
"This motion was politically motivated and was not representative of the views of the citizens of the Council, as tonight's vote has shown.
"It was also not about Gaza. This motion was tabled and supported by those who are opposed to Sinn Féin," he said.
"I will continue to represent all the people of Newry and Mourne District Council equally as mayor.
"I will also continue to
stand in solidarity with the people of Gaza and to call for a lasting
and verifiable ceasefire and an end to violence in the Middle East."
destroyed amid 'loyalist feud'
Two cars belonging to a community worker's family have been destroyed in an arson attack in north Belfast amid growing tensions in the area.
A Renault Scenic car and a Peugeot 107, both black, were set on fire after 3am on Monday on the Limestone Road.
The PSNI said the fires were started deliberately.
They belonged to community worker and mother-of-three Leanne Marshall and her student daughter Shelley.
Leanne said that she woke up in the early hours of the morning after hearing loud bangs.
"When I looked out the two cars had been set on fire," she said, adding that she didn't know why she had been targeted.
She described those responsible as "a disgrace," saying they had "no place in society."
Her daughter Shelley added: "I'm just shocked and appalled that it's happened, to be honest. It's just uncalled for.
"I was angry this morning but I think now I am just ashamed. This is the community I've lived in, grew up in."
It is believed the attacks are the result of a loyalist feud in the area.
Earlier this month, a pipe bomb was thrown at a parked car in the nearby Duncairn Gardens sparking a security alert.
Army bomb disposal experts, who attended the scene, declared the device to be viable. Police enquiries into this incident are ongoing.
John Howcroft, of the Ulster Political Research Group (UPRG) in north Belfast, denied that there is a loyalist feud in the area, but said the tensions were between communities and criminal elements.
He told UTV that Ms Marshall had been involved in community work in the Tigers Bay area for several years.
He said that she has "put so much into the community."
"She's involved in some of the most progressive work in the moving of this community forward including the opening of the Alexandra Park peace gate..."
He continued: "This is nothing to do with a feud. This is criminal elements opposed to the positive work that's going on within communities - that's why people like this are being targeted."
He said the perpetrators are "not loyalists and bring shame on the very word loyalist with attacks like these."
Investigating officers have appealed
for information and can be contacted on the non-emergency number 101.
attempt to gag Galloway is hypocritical
By Suzanne Breen, Sunday Life
The DUP wants a politician banned from addressing an Ulster Hall meeting because the MP is "irresponsible".
The speaker has a history of making controversial comments and it's feared that, in sensitive times, he could say something which would raise tensions and incite hatred.
How on earth is the DUP managing to keep a straight face on this one? Of all our political parties, it's the one with the least right to gag George Galloway.
When it comes to rabble rousing, inflammatory speeches, and raising the political temperature, its politicians could teach the Bradford West MP a thing or two.
It's not as if Galloway is planning to don a red beret and launch a shadowy group.
It was in the Ulster Hall where DUP leading lights, including Peter Robinson, queued up to speak at the launch of Ulster Resistance in 1986.
Galloway's comments about declaring Bradford "an Israel free-zone" in response to the onslaught in Gaza have secured heavy criticism.
So imagine the outrage had he said Israelis "breed like rabbits and multiply like vermin", to borrow the Rev Ian Paisley's phrase about Catholics in 1969.
Not that we have to go that far back to see the DUP's record in sensitive situations.
With gay men and women in Northern Ireland suffering widespread discrimination, Iris Robinson stepped in to say they were worse than paedophiles.
"There can be no viler act – apart from homosexuality and sodomy – than sexually abusing innocent children," she declared.
How can the DUP spring to the defence of Pastor McConnell, who has called Muslims "the spawn of the devil" and branded gays "perverts" but then denounce Galloway for far less incendiary comments?
Personally, I'm on the side of free speech for Pastor McConnell and George Galloway. Offensive opinions aren't hate crimes and the DUP should thank its lucky stars that's so because otherwise many of its members would be in big trouble.
The party has every right to picket Galloway next weekend but they've no right to censor him. And if they protest outside the Ulster Hall, they should perhaps take a peek inside too.
Because the Bradford West MP, even his fiercest detractors acknowledge, is one of the great orators of contemporary politics. His performances in public halls, the House of Commons, or BBC Question Time are always tours de force.
"Saturday Night With George
Galloway" is sold out. Who would predict the same were it 'Saturday
Night With Peter Robinson'?
of labelling pro-Palestine protesters unfairly
The DUP has been accused of labelling anyone who supports the people of Palestine as republicans.
Gerry Carroll, who was elected to the city's first super-council, was speaking after around 1,000 people gathered in Belfast in a show of solidarity with the people of Palestine.
The People Before Profit politician said the demonstration through Belfast on Saturday included people from many religious backgrounds.
Mr Carroll said: "There's been a conscious attempt to divide those who support Gaza by the DUP. But we want to make it clear that there are people from all different types of background who attend these marches, whether they are Catholic, Protestant, migrants or Islamic, and that's reflected in the crowd.
"The DUP are trying to paint it that anyone who supports Palestine is republican and that makes it difficult for anyone who doesn't have a political affiliation here and are just concerned about Palestine. They are pushing people away from Palestine and in effect supporting Israel."
In response, Belfast DUP councillor Tom Haire claimed that people who attend Gaza marches tended to come from nationalist areas. "To a certain point that appears to be true and I think there's a certain merit in what he [Mr Carroll] says," he added.
"If you look at where the
protests and boycotts have taken place they are all in nationalist
areas. I certainly would not be taking part in any such march that
mayor: Unionists to hold no confidence vote over Gaza letter
Unionists on Newry and Mourne District Council are to present a motion of no confidence in the Sinn Féin mayor at a council meeting on Monday night.
It comes after councillor Dáire Hughes wrote to traders in the area in July, asking them to consider not stocking Israeli goods.
Unionists said the mayor had no right to send the letter.
Newry and Mourne District Council said it was issued by an individual and had not been adopted by the council.
'Sinister in nature'
Ulster Unionist councillor David Taylor said Mr Hughes had failed to "act duly and appropriately" as mayor.
"I am acutely aware of the differing views in terms of the complex political situation in the Middle East," he said.
"The mayor took a decision to issue correspondence which can only be described as insulting and sinister in nature - without the consent or approval of council members - and this has subsequently led to him tainting the position of first citizen of our district."
In the letter, Mr Hughes also asked traders to provide a list of products they stocked from Israel to help customers to boycott Israeli goods.
Mr Hughes said he had no regrets about writing the letter and that he had "no intentions" of rescinding it.
Mr Taylor said there had been "considerable anger and concern" over the mayor's decision, and he was concerned it could damage the reputation of the district.
He called on Mr Hughes to offer
an immediate apology or consider stepping down from his role as mayor.
want clarity on IRA amnesty claims
The Irish government has privately denied there was an amnesty for IRA killers operating in the Republic for more than a decade.
But families and survivors of the worst single atrocity of the Troubles are demanding a public statement about claims by former justice minister Michael McDowell that a blind eye was turned to Provo fugitives.
A government official has told Margaret Urwin, of Justice for Forgotten, which is campaigning for the truth about the 1974 Dublin and Monaghan bombings, that various attempts were made to deal with the on-the-runs issue during the peace process.
In a letter, the Department of Justice civil servant said Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald was aware of Mr McDowell’s remarks but said the Garda will pursue any evidence in relation to Troubles-related offences.
The official says many attempts were made to strike a deal about fugitives but insists there is no question of an amnesty being in place in the Irish Republic.
But Ms Urwin is demanding a public statement from the Dublin government about the high-level claims.
“We are seeking definitive clarification about this,” she said.
“The person who made these remarks is not just some ordinary member of the public. It’s a former attorney general and a former minister for justice.
“This was a person who was right at the heart of government.”
Asked about the on-the-runs controversy in Northern Ireland and Britain, Mr McDowell said there was “a consensus” in the Republic dating back at least 14 years ago that the Garda would no longer be prosecuting historical cases.
He said: “In fact what happened in the Republic was that there was just a decision by the guards to use their resources to prevent current crime and current offences and not to go back over the IRA’s campaign of violence.”
Ms Urwin said Mr McDowell was at the heart of justice in the Republic – both as justice minister and attorney general, the state’s chief legal advisor – for eight years.
“He’s hardly likely to make these remarks unless there is some truth in them,” she said.
“We also note the absence of any public rebuttal of his remarks by the current government or indeed by his former colleagues who served alongside him in government.
“Nobody has come out publicly and said this was never the case.
“We would like to see a public statement being made by the government about this.”
Ms Urwin has written again to the Irish government asking if there was any unofficial arrangement with Garda chiefs about paramilitary fugitives as part of a deal to secure peace in the North.
Separately, Austin Stack, the son of Brian Stack who was the only prison officer murdered in the Republic during the conflict, said he will vigorously press one of the country’s most senior police chiefs about the claims this week.
Mr Stack, an assistant governor at Wheatfield Prison, is meeting with Garda assistant commissioner Derek Byrne about the investigation into the killing of his father, who died after being shot by the IRA in Dublin in 1983.
“We will be asking him was there some sort of agreement between the government and the Garda that historic cases would not be looked at again in order to protect the on-the-runs,” he said.
“We want to know exactly what was the Garda position on this.
“If (Mr) McDowell has said this, then there was obviously some sort of an agreement with Sinn Fein not to pursue historical cases.”
Mr Stack said gardai were annoyed when a long-standing arrest warrant for Gerard “Dickie” O’Neill – the alleged former head of the Provisional IRA in the South – was cancelled in court in 2006.
He has been living openly in Alicante in Spain.
The eight-year-old Garda warrant, which was regularly renewed, was cancelled after an application by the Director of Public Prosecutions to the Special Criminal Court.
O’Neill was suspected of being in charge of the IRA’s southern command in the mid-1990s when Detective Garda Jerry McCabe was murdered during a botched raid on a postal van at Adare, Co Limerick.
DUP MP Jeffrey Donaldson has written to Taoiseach Enda Kenny seeking a face-to-face meeting along with victims’ families about claims of a de facto amnesty in the Republic.
The letter has been acknowledged
and he is awaiting a further response, he said.
within days on unionists’ next step in ‘graduated response’:
The Secretary of State and DUP yesterday promised progress soon on the pan-unionist ‘graduated response’ against the Parades Commission – amid growing frustration over the matter among grassroots unionists.
At the start of July unionist leaders came together in a rare show of unity to plead for exclusively peaceful protests after the Parades Commission again stopped the Twelfth of July Orange parade returning past the Ardoyne shops in Belfast.
The DUP, UUP, TUV, PUP and UPRG issued a statement slamming the Haass talks process, and branded the Parades Commission “immune to reason” and of “rewarding threats of violence”.
They also called for a commission of inquiry into how it has handled the Ardoyne parade and promised a “graduated response” to the issue.
Yesterday a spokeswoman for Secretary of State Theresa Villiers said she met various political leaders recently “to discuss the potential for a new process on parades in north Belfast”.
“As she made clear at those meetings, the Secretary of State is taking this matter very seriously and is now reflecting further before making a decision on any next steps.”
A DUP spokesman said that a joint unionist statement “on the next stage of the graduated response will be issued in the coming days”.
He added: “The parties are awaiting the Secretary of State’s formal and detailed response to the commission proposal. This is the only positive proposal put forward to resolve this unfair and unacceptable situation.”
However, the TUV said that “given past weakening of robust stands, we totally understand growing impatience with the need for a demonstrable and effective ‘graduated response’, which leaves no one in doubt as to unionism’s determination to deliver on this key issue.
“If at any point TUV concludes that delivery is not intended and stances were merely to get past ‘the Twelfth’, then, we will not be slow to say so and act accordingly.”
The Orange Order said yesterday that it is still working with unionist leaders and that further steps to change the regulatory system for parades will be “unveiled in due course”.
A spokesman said: “We will be working on a timetable agreed by all the campaign partners in the unionist family. It is a vital part of this campaign that the broad coalition which has been formed moves forward together.”
There have been problems with the Parades Commission for 16 years, he said, and those who believe they will be resolved in 16 days or 16 weeks, “are not living in the real world”.
Isaac Andrews of west Belfast
UPRG said some were asking if there had been “a stalling tactic
to get us over the summer”? He said there had been growing anger
over a dissident republican parade in Belfast on August 10 and masked
men firing over the coffin of Tony Catney this week.
The solicitor for one of the Craigavon Two has said they are exploring options to take the case to the Supreme Court and the Criminal Case Review Commission.
Brendan McConville is serving a 25 year jail term and John Paul Wootton, a minimum of 14 years prison for the murder of Constable Stephen Carroll who was killed in Craigavon in 2009.
Wootton’s solicitor, John Finucane, son of murdered solicitor Pat Finucane told the audience at a West Belfast Feile event that there were issues over the prosecution’s evidence.
Mr Finuncane was on a panel discussion at the festival and said that future options include takig t he case to the Supreme Court and the Criminal Cases Review Commission.
“As someone who has had experience with campaigns, I think it’s very important.
“I think that never be put off by what political agenda or political muck up may be thrown at this campaign,” he said.
“A campaign will strengthen any legal avenue and and I have seen tha tpersonally in relation to my father’s case.”
Dublin based TD Clare Daly, who attended the men’s appeal hearing also spoke at the event.
“I was gong to say I am very happy to be here but obviously happy is the completely wrong word,” she said.
“I am actually boiling angry to be here having attended the appeal and listened to the evidence that was presented.
“I am glad to lend my support to the campaign and certainly to do what I can to secure justice fro the Craigavon Two.”
During the event, chaired by independent
Lisburn Councillor Angela Nelson, a video of Gerry Conlon, who died
earlier this year, talking about the case was played to the audience.
silence on Catney funeral unacceptable, says McNamee
Councillor Laura McNamee has hit out at Sinn Fein and the SDLP for failing to condemn the paramilitary-style funeral of convicted IRA killer Tony Catney.
The two Nationalist parties have remained silent since the funeral took place on Wednesday, amid reports of shots being fired and sightings of masked men walking the streets of West Belfast as part of the funeral possession.
Councillor McNamee said: "The show of so-called paramilitary strength at a funeral in West Belfast earlier this week produced images that are not part of our future and should never be witnessed on our streets.
"I am amazed that both Nationalist parties have opted to remain quiet on this. Both Sinn Fein and the SDLP talk the talk when it comes to creating a shared future, yet their silence on this issue speaks volumes. It now seems clear they are only interested in using the vision of a shared future when it suits their own objectives.
"With an official PSNI investigation underway the SDLP and Sinn Fein must outline why they have failed to outrightly condemn this incident.
"The Alliance Party does
not simply use rhetoric. We believe in a new Northern Ireland for
everyone, where people can live in a truly shared society free from
intimidation or fear. Scenes like this must be banished to our past
and Alliance will never stop in its bid to deliver the society everyone
in Northern Ireland deserves."
of Tony Catney
TPQ carries the eulogy of Tony Catney from republican prisoners in Roe House Maghaberry. It was delivered at Wednesday's funeral in Belfast by Paul Duffy
People assembled at the graveside
of Tony Catney hardly need an introduction to the life and times of
the man being laid to rest. There are so many dimensions to the life
just ended that it would be impossible to catalogue them or squeeze
them into some easy to deliver package. TC, as we all knew him, was
a republican gem, a rough diamond with sharp edges and a razor sharp
intellect to match.
For IRA prisoners TC will always occupy a central place in our minds. For a decade and a half he was one of us. His imprisonment had taken him through the North’s jails: Crumlin Road, Magilligan, the Cages of Long Kesh and then the H Blocks. Not content with just those four he managed to get himself into Maghaberry here for refusing to pay a fine, courtesy of a protest he had been involved in. This was shortly before he was diagnosed with the illness which eventually snatched him away from us all. When he left the prison it never left him. There is something poignant and hugely symbolic that TC should have died on the 9th of August, a day so central in the republican cultural memory, and which is steeped in imagery of the prisoner.
His experience of prison and its related issues were vast and he put them to good use. Shortly before his illness seized him from our midst he could be found in the visiting room of this very jail, attending to his friends. Today as he is laid to rest we seize him back and acknowledge his rightful place as a stalwart amongst, and great friend of, IRA prisoners.
When he was released after serving a life sentence for IRA activity TC took over the POW Department, working tirelessly to ensure that prisoners had the best possible conditions under the circumstances that prevailed. He also did his utmost to facilitate their integration back into all areas of the movement and their communities when they were released. He battled against the bureaucracies every time and everywhere their dead hand appeared trying to suffocate initiative or strangle different ideas.
Despite his serious misgivings about the direction that Sinn Fein was heading he remained within the party and the army, at all times trying to influence. He could wax critical of others who had left the movement before the possibilities for halting what he felt was the emasculation of republicanism were exhausted. But he never alienated them. While republicans were being marginalised for having spoken out against Sinn Fein policy he, at no small risk to himself, could be found engaging with those people, debating, assisting them and protecting them from the wrath of former colleagues.
After the first ceasefire 20 years ago this very month he was central to the formation of the short lived Bobby Sands Discussion Group which promoted ideas and valued critique and open discussion. He worked incessantly at improving Sinn Fein’s electoral fortunes, serving at times as one of the party’s key election directors. While heavily involved in electioneering he probably subscribed to the view that if god wanted us to vote he would have given us candidates worth voting for. And when he left the Movement he redirected his energies to breathing life into the building of republican alternatives.
TC was what we sometimes call a political animal. Politics defined him. Throughout his day he was consumed with it, discussing it, strategizing. While slowly dying he still found the time to travel within Ireland to see friends and discuss strategy. His was a life of unrelenting political activism. He was vociferous in his anti-imperialist perspective. A socialist, he worked on behalf of his local community against whoever dried to dump deprivation on it.
Nothing was too challenging for him. His sense of devilment loved a good barney, never feeling that a different opinion was a tazer that should be avoided at all costs.
His ideas found him friends but also made him enemies. He was the victim of discrimination in employment; he found himself smeared and marginalised. The whispering campaigns were ratcheted up to curb his influence. Yet he was never afraid to step outside the loop. His openness to new ideas, his willingness to criticise the views of others in a robust but fair manner opened many doors. Adversaries within the loyalist community came to respect him. Former prison staff who engaged him began to recognise in his character a voice of enlightenment that sought to illuminate dark penal places where equally dark regimes prevailed.
No mindless militarist, he nevertheless as a revolutionary never relinquished his belief in the strategic utility of armed force intelligently applied. He knew injustice, and campaigned against police repression, feeling the state in the North could not be reformed but could be merely reshaped so that it could be better positioned to neutralise any challenge to the system it perpetuated. He was concerned about the raft of draconian legislation and often used the term Repressive State Apparatus to refer to law enforcement agencies. He saw how the Diplock Courts continued to function and he was at the forefront of campaigns on behalf of the victims of miscarriages of justice, some of whom remain in here.
He will be missed by all of us. There can be no pretending that the vacuum left by his passing will be easily filled. How many have that combination of energy, intellect, strategic awareness, vision and communicative ability?
We, the IRA prisoners in the cells
of Maghaberry, have lost an esteemed friend, companion, comrade and
colleague. On the night of his death a one minute silence was observed
within these walls in memory of the man we cherished. When the cell
doors bang shut behind us tonight and we are alone with our thoughts,
he will take centre stage.
unmask dissidents at Tony Catney funeral, warn police
Police are reviewing footage gathered after eight masked men openly walked the streets of Belfast yesterday during a funeral with paramilitary trappings.
Eight masked men in military garb accompanied the coffin of convicted IRA murderer Tony TC Catney in west Belfast.
A number of prominent dissident republicans accompanied the coffin, including Brian Shivers, Breandan McConnaith and Ivor Bell.
It has also been reported that armed and masked dissident terrorists fired a volley of shots in memory of Catney in Belfast on Tuesday night.
A PSNI spokesman told the Belfast Telegraph they carried out a "low key policing operation" during the funeral and are currently reviewing the footage.
Even though the eight men were masked, police have on two previous occasions been able to secure a conviction after identifying masked culprits using cutting-edge technology.
Catney's funeral took place in the Suffolk area on Wednesday morning before making its way to Milltown Cemetery where Catney was buried in the republican plot.
North Belfast MLA Nelson McCausland called on police to investigate.
The DUP man also slammed comments by a priest at the funeral about how Catney "fought for justice for everyone".
"For a priest to make such comments effectively in support of terrorism is quite disgraceful," he said.
"By Tony Catney's actions in the past and his words in more recent times, he showed absolutely no regard for human rights or basic human decency."
Ulster Unionist Policing Board member Ross Hussey also condemned the paramilitary style funeral and questioned the PSNI over its apparent lack of action.
In the response seen by the Belfast Telegraph, a senior officer told Mr Hussey that they had between 35 and 45 officers deployed in relation to the funeral at various stages throughout the day.
Mr Hussey was assured that evidence had been gathered and footage will now be reviewed.
A PSNI spokesman told the Belfast Telegraph: "All available footage will be examined and where any criminal offences are detected, these will be pursued by police."
Wearing a mask does not prevent
police identifying an offender. Two men have been successfully convicted
after the PSNI used cutting-edge technology to identify them. In May
2013, Londonderry man Patrick John McDaid (43) was found to have managed
a meeting in support of the IRA. Tiernan Porter (21) was jailed last
year for a paramilitary-style shooting in west Belfast.
funeral comments disgraceful: McCausland
A priest’s comments at the funeral of former IRA terrorist Tony Catney have been described as ‘disgraceful’ by MLA Nelson McCausland.
He also called for a probe into the paramilitary display and the firing of weapons.
Catney, 55, from Belfast, was buried on Wednesday after dying of cancer.
Fr Aidan Brankin told mourners at the funeral in St Oliver Plunkett Church in Lenadoon that Mr Catney had fought for ‘justice for everyone’.
The high-profile republican, who was a member of Republican Network for Unity, was jailed in 1974 for the murder of 17-year-old Protestant Maurice Knowles and served 16 years in prison.
Mr McCausland said: “Mr Catney’s murder of a 17-year-old when he himself was just 16 was described as “cold-blooded” by a judge at the time.
“When released from prison he continued his IRA activities and was a supporter of recent murders by dissident terrorists.”
The North Belfast DUP MLA said the priest “will have undoubtedly been aware of Mr Catney’s past, his conviction for murder and his membership of a proscribed terrorist organisation when he said Tony Catney ‘fought for justice for everyone’.
“This was not someone who regretted their actions and then worked for the betterment of society. Instead Tony Catney was unrepentant about his past and about the use of terrorism.
“Does the priest in question believe Tony Catney was “fighting for justice” when he described the cold-blooded murders of David Black and Constable Ronan Kerr as ‘successful operations’?
“For a priest to make such comments effectively in support of terrorism is quite disgraceful.
“By Tony Catney’s actions in the past and his words in more recent times he showed absolutely no regard for human rights or basic human decency.”
Mr McCausland has called for police to probe other activities at the funeral.
He said: “In the funeral procession we saw masked men in full paramilitary uniforms which is clearly in breach of the law.
“Now there is also clear evidence of weapons being fired by balaclava-wearing terrorists. I look forward to hearing about a successful police investigation into these crimes and prosecutions following.”
Catney was arrested in 2009 following the Real ira murders of two soldiers at Massereene barracks but was freed without charge.
Catney Sharing His Political Thoughts
Excerpts from an interview with Tony Catney conducted Feb. 21, 2013 at his home in Belfast. The interviewer was Dr. Peter Trumbore, Associate Professor of Political Science, Oakland University. He made the following exchange public at this time in acknowledgement of Tony Catney's contribution to the public understanding of modern Irish republicanism.
What has and hasn’t changed under the peace process
“Ironically, and this is for me the saddest part of having to admit that I was an IRA volunteer engaged in armed struggle, it’s that what we have now today is not better than the quality of life that people had pre-1969. But it is better than when people were being killed on the streets. The history of the statelet called Northern Ireland has now been reduced not to the past 100 years but to the past 35 or 40 years.
So when you’re asking people, “Would you like it the way it was?” you know, people aren’t saying, would you like it the way it was in terms of the Orange State, they’re saying it in terms of the war years. And if you take the statistical analysis between the implementation of the state in 1968-69 and now, there is a higher demand for housing in 2013 than there was in 1969. There is more evidence of institutionalized bias in the development of housing in 2013 than there was in 1969. There is more unemployment in 2013 than there was in 1969.
Almost by every index that’s used. And then what you have to say is this: “OK, but everybody shares – you know, at least now there is equality in our deprivation.” And then you go through the statistics. As recently as yesterday we have the statistics showing that West Belfast is the fourth most deprived area in the whole of the United Kingdom.
So, admittance of that would at least allow you to start looking at what you have now on the basis of how it compares to the quality of life that you should expect in the 21st century. So we’ve already looked at the figures on child poverty, the recent statistic, but again went virtually by-the-by, is that if you live in West Belfast you will live on average eight years less than someone who lives in South Belfast. If you live in the ward of the Old Park in North Belfast you will live 20 years less than if you walk 500 yards past the Waterworks into the ward of Fort William in North Belfast because Fort William is an affluent area, the Old Park is a fairly destitute area.
All of those anomalies, disparities, and inequalities, irrespective of whether you are a green republican or an orange republican, should be abhorrent to anybody who claims that they want to live in a just equitable society.
But none of those things get taken into consideration. What gets taken into consideration? The gate in Alexander Park is now opened for eight hours a day. Now, it doesn’t matter if kids have rickets but the gate’s open, and it’s open for eight hours a day.
I just think that it is about the indicators that you use, but we just have a bunker society now who, because the prospect – and the prospect is always drummed up by those whose interests it best serves – the prospect of going back to bombs in the town and bodies in the street is so fresh and horrific in people’s minds that that is almost used as the big stick.
Falling out with the leadership of the Provisional Movement
“I was considered to be a fairly pivotal member of the IRA organizational team, which by and large was responsible for the organization that is now called Sinn Féin. So therefore I was well known in most of the areas, I was held in fairly high esteem in most of the areas. I had been quite happy to move about within the different organizational entities, arguing strongly that I was opposed to the Good Friday Agreement, that I was opposed to the Mitchell Principles, that I was opposed to the acts of decommissioning, and that I was opposed to the standing down of the IRA. And I put forward the argument that in my view it is quite all right for you, you, you, you, and you to say exactly the same thing, and to work against that. That’s not what’s called being a team player and adhering to team discipline.
That scared the life out of members of Sinn Féin because it was starting to strike a chord with people because they were looking at what was the peace process and they were going, “There is no quid pro quo here. I mean this is about surrender,” right? And no one wanted to use that term. No one would use the term that IRA had been defeated.
Now it’s commonplace for people to say. People, former IRA volunteers to say, yeah, we were defeated, and thankfully - and even though this isn’t done in a very, very vocal fashion - thankfully the degree of discipline, commitment, and maturity that those people showed while they were in the IRA has also demonstrated itself in the way in which they construct their arguments about the defeat of the IRA.
And they’ve been very, very clear that in 35 years of armed struggle, the membership of the IRA never let the leadership down once. Anything that the leadership asked for they got. They might not have got it to the degree or as quickly as they wanted but they got it to the best of the ability of the volunteers within the IRA. What happened from 1994 onwards was a failure of leadership not a failure of the IRA. It was a failure of the people who made the decisions as opposed to the people who were prepared to honour their commitment to the liberation of Ireland and were quite prepared to do it in a different fashion.
So the fork in the road for me was the 31st of August 1994 when as an IRA volunteer I was summoned to be given the briefing as to why there would be a ceasefire at 12:00 that night. And the guy doing it gave me the reasons why, and then foolishly enough asked for people’s opinions. So he asked my opinion and since I’m not usually very quiet, I wasn’t that particular evening. So he said, “Well, what’s your opinion?” and I said, “Well, I mean what is it you’re asking me for? Do you want my honest opinion about this or do you want me to say whether or not I support an army line?”
He says, “No, it’s
not about an army line, I want your opinion,” and I said, “My
opinion is this is all bollocks.” And I said:
And he says, “If you ever repeat that outside of this room,” that I’d be charged with treason. I said, “Right, so it wasn’t really my honest opinion you were after, you just really wanted me to agree with you.”
“No, no, no, I’m not saying that,” and I said, “Well then how can you say it’s fucking treasonous?” It was a stupid row what was or what wasn’t treason, but at that point then I was earmarked as someone who wasn’t on board with the leadership strategy.
Nothing could be further from the truth, for one simple reason. I could neither be on board or off board because I had absolutely no idea what the leadership strategy was. Because the leadership had no idea what their strategy was.
If someone had said to me, “Look, our purpose in doing this is to arrive at a point where we are getting rid of the IRA,” I would have argued strongly against it on the basis that the IRA shouldn’t be seen just as a military organization. When it’s seen just as a military organization then in the interest of peace you do need to get rid of it the way in which you would need to get rid of the British army.
But the IRA is not a conventional army. It is a volunteer army and it works on a completely different basis, and for me the IRA was the embryonic form of a vanguard party, very much in the theory or the theoretical paradigm of Lenin and that’s the way the IRA should be used. You have a cadre of people who had demonstrated their discipline, their loyalty, and their commitment, and for me you should keep that together. You shouldn’t throw that away. But, if you’re in a position where you actually fear that rather than embrace it, then I can see how it becomes a threat rather than an aid. For me that’s where it went for this particular leadership.
The role of leadership in the republican alternative
“A friend of mine constantly makes the point what is missing in the alternative camp is a charismatic leader. And as soon as he says that everybody smiles and goes, “Haven’t we already been there once? And are there not massive pitfalls in having a charismatic leader?”
There is the rawness of that because it’s hard for me to convey just how much faith people placed in that leadership; you know, how much the fact that Martin McGuinness can stand along with Hugh Orde and Peter Robinson and call IRA volunteers traitors; how much that rankled with people who would have laid down their life on the belief that Martin McGuinness will be there until the end because he was seen as so dedicated, so committed. And the same with Gerry Adams.
And people have in their head, well, if someone who was as highly motivated and as dedicated as those two people were to become the Ayatollah and everyone follows them, then that means you end up like lemmings jumping off the end of the cliff. They needed to stay away from him, you know. Now, in my opinion, people have knee-jerked to that to an extreme, and that will take a few years to pan out.
The role of militarism and armed groups today
“I think that the period when Irish republicans were going to make either physical progress or political capital out of pure militarism has completely closed down at this moment in time. But even within that, and maybe it’s because I was in the IRA, you like to see that anybody that is putting forward a militaristic view for Irish republicanism is actually doing it in some sort of coherent, competent, efficient fashion.
Three weeks or four weeks before the execution of two sapppers at Massereene, the Andersonstown News devoted their editorial column to explaining how dissidents weren’t true republicans, and they used two examples of true republicans. The two examples of true republicans that they used were Gerry Kelly and Raymond McCartney, and they named both in their editorial. And they were true republicans by virtue of the fact that both of them had killed people for the IRA. And how can you take a group claiming to be a militant republican group seriously if they can’t kill Brits or peelers, and how many Brits. That’s how bluntly they put it in the editorial. Three weeks later we have Massereene.
We have Martin McGuinness on the steps of Castle buildings pontificating about who had and who hadn’t the right to be Irish republicans. And the next week lo and behold the editorial of the Andersonstown News is not saying now by the standard that we set the people who carried out Massereene aren’t Irish republicans. Their name was dirty stinking dissidents killed two unarmed soldiers who were waiting to leave the country.
It is clear that the people who were responsible for Massereene, Ronan Kerr, David Black, and a number of other successful operations which they claimed is this new grouping of a realignment of the IRA.
I would say from the way in which they’ve conducted their business that they work on the view that this is not a period of revolution but this is a period of consolidation, and that in a period of consolidation, the cutting edge and what that means in real human terms of an armed organization like the IRA cannot be consigned to history, and that all they’re basically doing is keeping a benchmark as opposed to waging the war.
In the late ‘50s what you had was individual republicans who were sort of trying to keep the light of the good faith burning. This has been done in an organized fashion. Then the criticism will be because the benchmark, whether you like it or not, the benchmark that you will be judged by is the efficiency, the viciousness, the extremism or the cruelty of the Provisional IRA.
But, if for a second you wipe all of that out and begin with a blank canvas and turn around and talk about an armed organization, whether you agree with the objectives of it or not, who clearly define what their targets are and why they will be inflicting or attempting to inflict casualties on those targets, and that excludes the civilian population, ordinarily people would say that’s a good thing, you know. Okay, we don’t like to see policemen getting killed, but you know, they put the uniform on. There’s a price that comes with it. We don’t like to see British soldiers getting killed but they put the uniform on, there is a price that comes with it.
We now have the anomalous situation that because you aren’t killing enough British soldiers, and you haven’t done all of the things that people said the IRA were doing wrong, i.e., no warning bombs, proxy bombs, etc., etc., etc. All of that has been removed, and yet those people are still being criticized for what they either do or don’t do.
And what it means is if you turn around and say, for example, what shows that you’re effective as a competent military organization is that you can carry out operations towards your stated objective, or whether or not you can just cause mayhem. And if you adopt the line of well, the amount of mayhem that you cause is an indication of your prowess as a fighter then okay, the Provisional IRA stand head and shoulders above everyone else.
If you take it on the basis of the quality of the operations in terms of underscoring the political point as to why you’ve resorted to a means of last resort in the first place, you have to ask yourself which one of the two is better. So on the basis of that, right, you need to go back as far as Loughall for the last time that the Provisional IRA walked up to a barracks, occupied by armed members of the security forces, and took them on. Now, those two volunteers that walked up to Massereene had no way of knowing how much fire power there was behind that gate.
So in terms of the quality of the operation, Massereene, if you even ignore the disjuncture from 1994 and look at the history of the Provisional IRA, the operation that was conducted at Massereene was a very clinical, calculated, well conducted military operation, more so than most of the military operations that the IRA put out after 1983. After 1983 the standard of IRA operations was atrocious. The IRA relied more and more on bombings rather than on face-to-face encounters with the enemy forces.
This is the soft targets, you know, the off-duty as he’s going home, the local judge as he’s going to mass, those sort of things. What people mean when they say these people aren’t as efficient as the IRA, what they mean is they aren’t killing as many people as the IRA killed.
I can’t answer authoritatively for them, but what I’m saying is I don’t see the unfolding of a new political dynamic that has been spurred by the killing of two sappers. Or the killing of the PSNI constable, the maiming of another, or the killing of a screw.
Somebody who’s engaged in it may have a completely different view. They may see this as the embryonic, you know, 1969 for the IRA. I don’t know. I don’t see it, and I don’t see any new political dynamic coming out of it. Now, I have to say that much to my shock and surprise at the time, I remember senior people within Sinn Féin arguing in the early ‘90s, when I still had a head full of Frelimo and jail education, saying that the function of the struggle was to keep the flame of Irish resistance alive in the hope – not the expectation – in the hope that something would break. So it’s not a new idea.
For me, I remember a journalist asking me one time, “At what point should a military organization consider cease fire?” And I said, “The day before they begin the armed campaign,” because if anybody’s beginning an armed campaign just to carry it on then they’re a psychopath. You should already have in your head what way in which you want to end this before you begin it.
You know, and if it just comes down to a body count then unfortunately the people who are trying in their eagerness to rubbish anybody who doesn’t have a Sinn Féin view, what they are doing is creating a backdrop where sooner or later someone will respond to it and go, “Well, if it’s just down to dead bodies on the streets well then let’s create more dead bodies than the dissidents have been able to do up until now,” and it’s just a road of madness.
So, and it’s one of my fears, is that the longer what has now become the mainstream constitutional nationalists and republicans constantly harp on about how there is not enough death and destruction to actually take these people seriously, that they’re basically saying to those people, “See, until you start leaving more dead bodies on the street we’re not going to take you seriously.”
The line that violence doesn’t work is completely belied by the people who are telling you. I mean Martin McGuinness sitting telling me that violence doesn’t work just doesn’t cut the mustard. I mean short of that he would be a butcher or a mechanic. Gerry Adams telling me that the only reason he’s not still pulling pints in the Duke of York is because he turned his back on violence is so far removed from reality that it doesn’t even bear thinking about.
All of the cues that tell you
that violence does work are around you daily. To convince people that
violence doesn’t work then what you need to be able to do is
you need to be saying, “Here are the alternatives.” Now,
the alternatives will only be as good or as bad as you make them.
All we can do is point out where the roots are.”
Galloway Belfast gig at Ulster Hall sells out in wake of DUP furore
The controversial 'Saturday night with George Galloway' event in Belfast later this month has sold out after the Respect MP predicted DUP complaints would make tickets "sell like hotcakes".
A spokesman for the Ulster Hall confirmed to the Belfast Telegraph there are no tickets left for the August 23 gig.
Earlier this week the DUP group on Belfast City Council formally requested a review of the decision by council officers to grant the use of the Ulster Hall for the speaking engagement following recent comments the outspoken politician made at a public meeting in protest at the bloodshed in Gaza.
The DUP and other unionist politicians raised objections to the Belfast event, booked by a third party promoter, after Mr Galloway was filmed declaring Bradford an "Israel-free zone".
Mr Galloway is being investigated by West Yorkshire police over allegations of "incitement to hatred" over his Israel comments.
The Ulster Hall in Belfast city centre is no stranger to politics and controversy, and has a special place in unionist history.
The 155-year-old building played host to anti Home Rule rallies at the start of the 20th century.
In 1986, the paramilitary group Ulster Resistance was announced by the DUP at the hall in opposition to the Anglo-Irish Agreement. The rally was chaired by the Democratic Unionist Party member Sammy Wilson and addressed by party colleagues Ian Paisley, Peter Robinson and Ivan Foster.
In the 1990s, it became the scene of a series of meetings of the Ulster Unionist Council over the Good Friday Agreement. It also hosted a major Sinn Fein rally in 2002.