17th June 2013
up with the TOM Latest News on Twitter:
world hope' - Obama
US President Barack Obama said the peace process in Northern Ireland gave the world hope, but "walls still stand" in the region.
Mr Obama's address called for young people to continue on the path to peace. Fifteen years after the Good Friday Agreement was signed, the US President described the region as a "blueprint" for other conflicted countries.
He said the desire for resolution in Northern Ireland united politicians in America, adding: "When peace was achieved here, it gave the entire world hope".
But Mr Obama said there is still work to do.
"There are walls that still stand, there are still many miles to go," he explained.
He called for a shared future, and for schools and towns to be integrated to promote respect and understanding, adding: "if we can't see each other, fear and resentment are allowed to happen, hearts harden".
"Peace is not just about politics," he said. "It's about attitudes, it's about a sense of empathy. It's about breaking down the divisions that we create for ourselves in our own hearts and minds, that we carry with us generation after generation."
Mr Obama addressed the young people in the audience, who he described as "the inheritor of a just and hard-earned peace".
He explained: "It's within your power to bring about change.
"Whether you are a good neighbour to someone from the other side of past battles, that's up to you. Whether you treat them with the dignity and respect they deserve, that's up to you.
"Whether you let your kids play with kids who attend a different church, that's your decision.
"Whether you take a stand against violence and hatred, and tell extremists on both sides that no matter how many times they attack the peace they will not succeed, that is in your hands.
"Whether you reach your own outstretched hand across dividing lines, across peace walls to build trust in a spirit of respect, that's up to you."
Mr Obama spoke of how keen he was to visit Belfast, following his trip to the Republic of Ireland two years ago.
He described Belfast now as "a different city" to the one visited by Bill Clinton in 1995. During his speech, Mr Obama referenced the MAC, the Lyric, the Waterfront, and the bustling Cathedral Quarter.
He even dropped in one of Belfast's most popular phrases to much applause from the audience.
While championing political advances in the region, the US President also spoke of challenges, saying that peace in NI had been tested "in the past 15 years, over the past year, it will continue to be tested".
But, he said when that happens, those in the region have a choice "whether to respond with the same bravery or whether you succumb to the worst instincts, those impulses that kept this great land divided for so long".
He added: "For peace to work we need to be reminded of its existence again and again and again.
"That's what we need from every young person in Northern Ireland. You must remind us of the possibility of peace.
"You have to remind us of hope again and again and again. Despite resistance, despite setbacks, despite hardship, despite tragedy. You have to remind us of the future, again and again and again," he added.
"To those who choose the path of peace I promise the United States of America will support you every step of the way, we will always be wind on your back."
Concluding his speech, Mr Obama said: "This little island, its best days are yet ahead."
Mr Obama was introduced by his wife, Michelle, as "someone who accompanied me here today, as I let him travel with me every now and then".
The First Lady said the young people in the Waterfront "might be some of the most important people we talk to on our visits"
"In a couple of decades you will be the ones in charge," she explained.
"You have the freedom of an open mind, a fresh perspective that can help you find solutions to age old problems.
"You've got to decide how you're going to use those advantages and opportunities"
Mrs Obama emphasised the need to work together, saying that though she and her husband did not come from privileged backgrounds growing up, they stayed true to their values of "honesty, hard work, a commitment to our education".
Schoolgirl Hannah Nelson had the chance of a lifetime, when she took to the stage at the Waterfront to introduce the First Lady.
The Methodist College pupil won a competition to deliver her inspirational message of permanent peace in Northern Ireland.
She said: "As a 16-year-old, I don't want to live in the past. I want to live for the future.
"I want to live in a country where it is not my religion that is important but my value as a person which is significant."
She called for her age group to be the focus of ensuring new relationships are built with people from different communities, and for NI to move away from its past.
"Our past, our future... it is all about time. It is in the present time that we really need to be responsible, accountable people and live to make a better future for ourselves," she added.
Following the event in the Waterfront
Hall, the First Lady will travel to Dublin, while President Barack
Obama makes his way to Fermanagh for the G8 summit at the Lough Erne
A security alert which closed part of the M2 ahead of the arrival of US President Barack Obama has ended.
The motorway was closed country bound between Greencastle and Sandyknowes on Monday morning.
The city bound motorway remained open, despite earlier travel warnings that it would shut between 8.15 and 9am.
Air Force One touched down at Belfast International Airport shortly after 8.30am on Monday.
President Obama then travel to
Belfast's Waterfront Hall to deliver a keynote address amid a heightened
security presence, before heading to Fermanagh for the G8 summit.
attacked in east Belfast
Police have come under attack from fireworks and bottles, after a crowd of up to 80 young people gathered in east Belfast.
The attacks happened in the Castlereagh Street area at around 9pm on Sunday.
A 39-year-old man was arrested on suspicion of disorderly behaviour and provocative conduct.
In a separate incident in the east of the city, a teenager was arrested by police investigating reports a petrol bomb had been thrown in Cluan Place.
The 15-year-old was detained on Sunday night and also questioned about attempted arson and possession of a class B drug.
It is not believed the attack
was sectarian. He has since been released pending further inquiries.
15th Anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement - Personal Reflections, Legacy & Reconciliation
Tuesday 18th June 2013
2013 marks the 15th Anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement. To mark this important occasion in Irish and British history, to celebrate its achievements and to address the issues of legacy and reconciliation, we invite you to join with us and hear from a panel of speakers representing political, Irish community and academic viewpoints.
Delighted to confirm our speakers so far for our event marking the 15th Anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement, with more speakers to still confirm:
It promises to be an informative and reflective evening of discussion and debate, hopefully we will see you there……
Organised by Cairde Na hEireann
Liverpool (Liverpool Friends of Ireland) - An Irish community organisation
supporting Irish re-unification, defending & promoting Irish community
rights and fighting racism/fascism and intolerance
City Hall's £700k chauffeur bill
Luxury trips, fine dining and even pedicures also add to taxpayers' tab
Belfast City Council spent more than £700,000 on chauffeuring the Lord Mayor and officials around in just four years, it can be revealed.
An investigation has discovered that when it comes to car travel, Belfast is second in the list of big-spending councils across the UK.
And the local authority spent £181,000 on foreign trips to 10 countries – including Israel, Italy and the US.
Belfast is just one UK authority in the spotlight in a new Channel 4 Dispatches investigation into how £440m of taxpayers money has been spent on everything from pedicures to golf lessons.
How Councils Waste Your Money reveals how council fatcats have spent a staggering sum on fleets of high-end vehicles as well as splashing out cash on five-star hotels, flowers, wine and Michelin Star restaurants.
Investigators found 246 chauffeur-driven cars are in use across the UK's councils, including 52 Jaguars, 24 BMWs, 17 Mercedes, three Bentleys and a Rolls Royce.
Belfast City Council runs a luxury BMW 7-series and spent £704,000 on driving council leaders and others between 2007-8 and 2011-12.
The programme's findings are based on hundreds of Freedom of Information requests, which offer a rare glimpse into how different UK councils spend ratepayers' money.
Last night, Jonathan Isaby, political director of the TaxPayers' Alliance, said Belfast residents will be angry to discover that their hard-earned cash has been spent on what some might consider unnecessary perks.
"People expect the council to concentrate on delivering essential frontline services, not running up an eye-wateringly large bill on overseas travel and chauffeur-driven cars for a few civic leaders," Mr Isaby told the Belfast Telegraph.
"This kind of waste has to be cut out, particularly at a time when budgets are so tight, so that resources can be spent on essential services and more money left in taxpayers' pockets. I dare say a few Belfast councillors will be watching Dispatches with a sense of nervous trepidation."
Last night, a spokeswoman for Belfast City Council told the Belfast Telegraph she was not in possession of all the relevant Freedom of Information data, so could not comment in detail.
"All expenditure is carefully scrutinised and major outlays, such as foreign travel, go through the political process before being approved," she added. Earlier this year, a Taxpayers' Alliance report revealed there are 28,754 local authority staff paid over £50,000 a year – which cost taxpayers £1.9bn in 2011-12.
The research, published in February,
indicates Northern Ireland was the only UK region to increase the
number of staff being paid more than £50,000 in that period.
nice work if you can get it
It may be that the G8 elephant will go into labour for three days only to produce a mouse. Or (less likely but possible) it may produce some agreement that will make the world a fairer place. But either way we know one thing: it will be a pain-free labour. The world's leaders will have every conceivable comfort. Their planes won't be the economy class you and I are used to. Their vehicles will be large and deep-cushioned beyond our imaginings. Their accommodation will have the very best that Fermanagh can produce: beds to sink into, spacious bathrooms, attractive lobby, haute cuisine food. Nothing but the best for our leaders.
But, er, why? Why do they need to have this level of luxury when tens of thousands, maybe millions in the West are struggling to get by, and in the developing world tens of millions are going to bed hungry and living in conditions unimaginably grim? Is it that the world's leaders won't be able to think straight if any material hardship - no, more than that - if there should be so much as a pea under the ten mattresses on which they snooze? I'll accept that they can't take public transport, check into an ordinary hotel, eat that hotel's ordinary fare, because if they did, they're so popular, somebody might try to kill them. But even you grant that they must meet and eat and sleep in secure conditions, why does it always have to be a ring of steel, at the centre of which is the very essence of gracious, groveling luxury?
Remember Animal Farm?
The pigs insisted that they needed more milk, better apples, nicer
beds than the other animals, because if they didn't have them, how
could they use their superior brain power and have it work for the
benefit of the other animals? Is that what the world leaders want
us to believe? Because the briefest of glances at how the world is
organised tells us they've made a right balls-up of things so far.
Maybe answering the question "Why all this luxury?" should
be first on their agenda tomorrow.
process is irreversible - even if progress is painfully slow
By Steven McCaffery
A top US political adviser who played a key role in launching the peace process has said it could take a further generation for it to truly take root and heal divisions in Northern Ireland.
Nancy Soderberg was President Bill Clinton’s expert on Irish politics during his first term in the White House in the early 1990s when his intervention helped bring the decades of violence to an end.
The former presidential adviser said international experience showed her that it takes two generations for a peace process to work fully – with Northern Ireland now halfway through the process, having delivered an “irreversible” end to violence but still striving to remove historic sectarian divisions.
She is officially opening an exhibition on the President’s role in the peace process at the Clinton Centre in Enniskillen, which is built on the site of the 1987 Remembrance Sunday bombing when the IRA killed 11 people in a horrific attack which itself fuelled demands for an end to the Troubles.
“I do not believe the peace process is reversible at this stage. And that is the big story. The violence has stopped,” she said.
“You have isolated unfortunate incidents but largely you have a devolved government up and running, you have the police force which used to be eight per cent Catholic, is now 30 per cent Catholic – so it is moving forward. It is dramatically different.”
She added however: “But I think it is painfully slow.”
This comes as others have questioned the failure so far of the power-sharing government at Stormont to tackle the sectarian divide, despite the recent launch of a strategy on building a shared future unveiled by the DUP and Sinn Féin.
Ms Soderberg said: "I have watched this for many years now and tend to find that the parties make it very, very difficult, more difficult than it should be, but they eventually get there.
“That’s the key story here. I would like to see more progress here. I would like to see the peace walls in Belfast gone. I would like to see more integration, less division, and the walls of bigotry disappearing, they still exist.
“As generations go on – it usually takes two generations, having worked around the world in peace processes – it takes one generation to get the institutions and the ideas moving, and then another one to really get the bigotry out of your heart.
“And so you are in the first generation.
“It takes a long time.
“I think the leaders that are in charge now lived through it and have raw experience where they both feel that they are victims – and they both were victims.
“They both bear responsibility for that victimhood but it’s there and it’s real.
“And so there is a nervousness about moving too quickly, that will take one more generation I think before – it will never completely disappear – but it will be less raw and less visible.”
A former US ambassador to the United Nations, her career began as an adviser to Ted Kennedy, a role which ensured she knew the key players in the Northern Ireland political scene. She sat on Bill Clinton’s National Security Council and became his senior adviser on Ireland.
She cites the Downing Street Declaration of December 1993, when the British and Irish governments mapped out their view of a path out of violence and political deadlock, as the moment when President Clinton saw his opportunity to get fully involved.
But a decision to offer Gerry Adams a visa in 1994 caused serious political tensions between Washington and London.
On entering the Clinton exhibition for the first time, Ms Soderberg was shocked to see a briefing note she had written for White House staff to explain their decision to issue the visa – a decision which she said not only divided the President and the Prime Minister, but also split the US administration where many believed the IRA was not serious about the promise of a ceasefire.
Pointing at the display case in the Clinton centre, she said: “Wait a minute, I wrote those! I remember these!”
She recalled the furore following the visa decision, which allowed Mr Adams to attend an Irish American event in the US while the IRA was still involved in violence, but which came amid hopes a ceasefire was close.
“It was difficult,” Ms Soderberg recalled.
“He [Gerry Adams] hadn’t gone quite as far as we had hoped and the consul general who had interviewed him said he didn’t unequivocally renounce violence – but we found some silver lining in the words that enabled us to move forward.”
She said of the White House notes, which acted as a guide for government representatives explaining their position: “Those were very carefully crafted talking points. I spent hours on those.”
In the document, Mr Adams is said to have affirmed “his desire to see an end to all violence”.
The former White House adviser said of the notes: "I think we sent them to the State Department to read, but I’m not sure they did.
“John Major didn’t take our call for a week.
“Those were very heady times.”
She said her contacts with Irish America and insights from John Hume – a leader that she said had never fully secured the praise he deserves for his pivotal role – led her to offer advice to the President that went against the “status quo” inside US government circles where she said the British view of the political situation held sway.
Britain was telling the US that “nothing was happening” within Irish republicanism, but she added “they were just flat wrong”.
But President Clinton was keen to find a way into the situation in a bid to boost the search for peace.
“The entire rest of the government, except for Jean Kennedy Smith, ambassador to Ireland, was against it, but the White House saw the possibilities,” she said.
“I still remember people from the State Department, the FBI, and the Justice Department yelling at me saying `How could you do that?’.”
She said it was hoped a ceasefire would follow the visa row which erupted in January 1994.
“By July I was beginning to think we had been snookered, but then in late August it [the ceasefire] happened.”
The former presidential aide, who is still an influential political strategist in the US, praised the role of all those who helped deliver the peace process, but said the exhibition is a testament to the work of President Clinton and his determination to play a positive role in ending the Troubles.
“Walking in here just makes me feel very proud to have been part of that effort and to have worked for a man who really helped so many lives here.
“Before he got involved there were 200-300 people a year dying and those people are walking around alive today – they don’t know who they are – but you know they are there.
“That’s a very powerful feeling.”
She insisted she believed the US remained ready to be directly involved in the continuing peace process.
“Oh yes, absolutely. The Americans will be there whenever they are needed.”
She said it was appropriate that today the key role go to the local parties, though a “little push” from America could occasionally help.
Ms Soderberg said she believed it was very important, and very useful for economic development, that the G8 was being held in Fermanagh this week and could showcase the success of the peace process.
But looking back, the moment when she believed peace was a possibility came when President Clinton and his wife Hillary visited Belfast in Christmas 1995, where they were greeted by thousands at city hall.
“That’s when we knew it was going to last – out in front of city hall, with Van Morrison playing.
‘You could just feel it. People came out in droves. They were voting with their feet – saying, `enough, stop it’ – you could just feel it.
“It was the most extraordinary night of my career in the White House.
“There were lots of bumps on the road. The ceasefire fell apart months later, but got put back together again and really it has held ever since.
“But that’s honestly when I knew. I looked out at that crowd – I actually walked around the crowd and just watched people and it was really powerful.
“That’s when I knew.”
International students from trouble spots around the world are attending a summer school at the Clinton centre in Enniskillen, which Ms Soderberg welcomed as a further legacy of the Clinton era and which she said was a powerful tool to help spread the success of the peace process overseas.
She said that the international world took hope from the success of Northern Ireland’s journey.
“What you find in peace processes around the world [is that] anyone who has gone through a divided society, particularly with violence, feels that their situation is unique.
“And I have seen this many times, where you bring people in and they hear about what the Irish went through and they say, `wait a minute, that’s exactly what we had happen’.
“And so you realise you’re
part of a human trend, not a local trend, and it gives you courage
that others have done it.”
security exclusion zone extended in Northern Ireland
Boats prohibited from entering six-mile stretch of Lough Erne in County Fermanagh, where world leaders are due to meet
An exclusion security zone around the picturesque lough where the G8 leaders are staying in County Fermanagh has been extended to a six-mile no-sail area.
With Black Hawk attack helicopters already deployed in the lakeland area to protect Barack Obama and the other G8 leaders, and a ring of steel erected to prevent demonstrators getting anywhere near the summit, the security forces in Northern Ireland are also intensifying pressure on dissident republicans.
A 26-year-old man has become the latest to be arrested after a series of detentions of suspected dissidents, including an American woman in Derry over the weekend.
In less than a week, up to seven people have been detained by the Police Service of Northern Ireland over dissident republican activities.
Boats and other craft will be prevented from entering a six-mile stretch of lower Lough Erne near Enniskillen.
The only traffic on the water will be ribs (rigid inflatable boats), speedboats and a tugboat used by the PSNI to secure entry points towards the Lough Erne hotel resort, where eight of the most powerful people in the world are staying.
Up to 7,000 police officers are on high alert in Northern Ireland, with an additional 900 gardai from the Republic of Ireland being drafted into the border region with Fermanagh.
A four-mile ring of steel with razor wire and fencing has been erected on the road to the Lough Erne hotel resort. Helicopters are patrolling the skies of Fermanagh and Belfast. About 260 temporary prison cells have been built in the ground of a vacant British army camp in Omagh, County Tyrone.
Aside from anti-capitalist radicals there has been intense pressure on republican dissident terror groups over the past two weeks. In the latest of a series of arrests across Northern Ireland, the PSNI revealed that a 26-year-old man had been detained in Strabane, County Tyrone, on Sunday morning. The suspect had been taken to the PSNI's serious crime suite in Antrim for questioning about dissident republican activities, the force said.
Amnesty International has denounced Northern Ireland's chief constable and its justice minister for failing to respond to concerns about security overkill surrounding the G8 summit, which begins on Monday afternoon.
With central Belfast and large parts of Fermanagh resembling an armed camp at the weekend as thousands of police officers were deployed to protect the world's leaders, Amnesty said that neither Matt Baggott, the head of the PSNI, nor the devolved justice minister, David Ford had addressed the human rights organisation's worries about the security lockdown in the province.
Speaking at an Amnesty protest on Sunday lunchtime outside Belfast's Waterfront Hall over the continued operation of the Guantánamo bay internment camp, the group's director in Northern Ireland, Patrick Corrigan, said: "Amnesty International has written to the chief constable and the Northern Ireland justice minister as well as the secretary of state, to seek assurances that there will not be over the top policing. We haven't received those assurances yet and yesterday [the protest march in Belfast] remained peaceful despite the police being out in force.
"We are disappointed that they have not responded but we got our message across on Saturday that despite a heavy security presence nobody at the anti-G8 march gave the police any real cause for worry."
Before Obama's Monday morning arrival in Belfast, actors on Sunday dressed in orange jump suits and wearing face masks depicted the plight of prisoners in Guantánamo bay at an Amnesty event.
"I think President Obama's
credibility to comment on issues of importance like peace and justice
in Northern Ireland, or anywhere in the world, is fundamentally undermined
by his continued inaction over Guantánamo bay," said Corrigan.
"On day one of his presidency he said it was a 'scar on the conscience
for America' and he would shut it. Four years on he still hasn't shut
Game and state sanctioned murder
This speech was delivered by Deputy Director Andrée Murphy to the Pat Finucane Centre and Bloody Sunday Trust International Human Rights Conference “Poisonous Legacies” on June 14th 2013
British state policies in the late 1980s until the ceasefire
Paul has given me the absolutely impossible task of summarising the policies of the British state in the 1980s and 1990s.
I am going to concentrate on one – that of collusion – the directing of paramilitary organisations by the state. But there are clearly other policies. Shoot to Kill; forced strip searching of women prisoners; the use of plastic bullets; political vetting; censorship and others. All inter connected and all equally important. However I have ten minutes and I have chosen to speak on collusion.
There has been a lot of scrutiny of this period and the British military policy of collusion at the time.
We have had incredible investigative journalism – John Ware in particular; Brian Rowan; Chris Moore. All vitally important to giving voice to the victims of the policies.
We have had a lot of official scrutiny. We have had 3 reports into collusion by Sir John Stevens, scrutiny from Judge Cory and of course the De Silva review which reported only last December. We have even had a British Prime Minister say yes collusion happened and he apologised.
This is a lot of attention. And a lot of process. And yet families do not recognise that as having been effective, and yet families will only express the words COVER UP.
On the other hand in civil society there is a weariness. Only last month there was a programme on UTV by Chris Moore and I saw tweets saying “Yeah yeah – heard it all before”. And they were from nationalists and republicans. What a journey from collusion being republican propaganda.
So, why the continued attention? Why the continued frustration? Why is collusion and state military policy featuring now in a conference on legacy?
Because we only have glimpses of what occurred – because the British Government renege on promises – because no one has been held accountable.
I want to take you on a journey that hopefully is not too much repetition for you all – but on a journey we have supported families with. And continue to support.
So much of what I will say will seem like a continuation to what Anne (Anne Cadwallader from the Pat Finucane Centre presented on policies of collusion in the 1970s) has explained – but there are differences.
1985 – this actually the year we can pinpoint.
In 1985 significant political changes occurred – the Anglo Irish Agreement was signed. For the first time there was acknowledgement by the British Government that there was a legitimate interest in the governance of the North of Ireland from the Irish Government. There was massive political opposition from unionism, but very little military activity from loyalism – 2 Catholics were killed by loyalism that year despite 100,000s of unionists being opposed to the Agreement.
However that political initiative failed. It did not deliver political stability, it did not defeat militant republicanism and the IRA campaign continued. Loyalism was back to killing in 1986 killing 15 people. Indeed RUC Special Branch documents highlight the failure of the Anglo Irish Agreement and relate it to the development of policy in relation to running agents.
So we see a change in British policy. More pointedly a change in British military policy.
Well maybe not a change – more of a development.
In 1985 at the same time as the political deals were being made Force Research Unit a generational development or mutant of Military Reconnaissance Force and also known as 14th Intelligence Unit set in place an importation of weaponry to loyalism.
The British army and Royal Ulster Constabulary were still determined to support illegal organisations and still handed out weaponry from barracks and forensic science laboratories – but this was an additional resource which was to see the development of capacity of loyalism. This was British Military Policy.
Ulster Defence Association with its pseudonym Ulster Freedom Fighters is now known to have been virtually taken over and run by Force Research Unit. In particular the agent Brian Nelson, its Chief Intelligence Officer.
In 1985, the year of the Agreement, Brian Nelson was sent, probably with UDA leader John McMichael, to then Apartheid South Africa. Their mission was to investigate the possible procurement of weaponry for the UDA.
In 1987, now that it was clear that the Anglo Irish Agreement had failed under the direction of Force Research Unit Brian Nelson completed the deal. A shipment of weapons landed from South Africa in January 1988.
That shipment included 206 VZ58 automatic assault weapons; 94 Browning 9mm pistols; 500 fragmentation grenades; 30,000 rounds of ammunition and 12 RPG rocket launchers.
These weapons’ arrival was announced to the public by the attack on the funerals of IRA volunteers Dan McCann Mairéad Farrell and Sean Savage, when Loyalist Michael Stone killed 3 mourners Caoimhin MacBradaigh; Thomas McErlean and John Murray in Milltown Cemetery in March 1988.
In the six years prior to the arrival of weaponry loyalists killed 71 people 49 of whom were in sectarian/political killings 62%. January 1988– 1st September 1994 loyalism killed 229 people – 207 of whom were in sectarian/political killings 90%.
In 1995 Relatives for Justice, Mark Thompson and Arthur Fegan, under death threat, compiled the full list of all those killed with these weapons in their publication “Collusion”.
For the first time in the conflict loyalist killing rates surpassed that of republicans.
But we are not merely talking about killing capacity in terms of hardware. Much more importantly we are talking about the directing and targeting of a population in an end game of conflict. I am about to talk about the policy of directing agents – a policy really well known now – but denied and denied by those that paid the money and directed the activity.
For a quick synopsis of what we recognise and know – In August 1988 Loughlin Maginn from Rathfriland County Down was killed by the UDA. The UDA in the statement claiming his murder said Mr Maginn was in the IRA. The family rejected this. In order to prove their claim the UDA produced a number of British army and RUC classified files of IRA suspects. Among the suspects was Loughlin Maginn. The files also contained details of other people subsequently murdered.
There is no doubt to the enormity of detailed information passed to all wings of military loyalism – In his recent report Desmond De Silva QC estimates that at least 85% of all intelligence used by loyalism was directly from either British Army, Intelligence or RUC Special Branch. We also know that following the files’ disclosure that John Stevens was sent to investigate what was happening.
What he discovered led to the arrest and conviction of that agent Brian Nelson. So much of we know about collusion results from the combination of Brian Nelson’s trial, Brian Nelson’s prison diaries, from investigative journalists examining the circumstances around these – and most importantly from the conclusions reached by Sir John Stevens’ independent reports into collusion. John Stevens’ reports and findings fill rooms. The extent of collusion or where it may have gone is contained there. There, in those files that are secret. Those files relate to hundreds of murders including that of human rights solicitor Patrick Finucane murdered by the UDA in 1989 with the full knowledge and direction of RUC Special Branch and British Military Intelligence.
Brian Nelson was arrested on 12th January 1990 by John Stevens team. He was charged with 10 murders, attempted murders and conspiracy to murder. All of these charges were reduced to a single conspiracy to murder charge. This followed a deal. A deal done in response to revelations in court from Brian Nelson’s Handler Colonel Gordon Kerr that Brian Nelson was paid a minimum of £200 per week by the British army, that the General Officer Commanding and the Commander of Land Forces and The Director of Military Intelligence, the RUC Chief Constable and the head of Special Branch all knew of the activities of Brian Nelson. The deal was done in response to a request for leniency from the British Secretary of Defence Tom King. The deal was done with the direction of the then British Attorney General Patrick Mayhew. The deal was done on Monday 3rd February 1992. The rooms of files contain all of the information that deal was designed to conceal.
And now why do we keep on about it – why do families keep on asking about it. Because it was not just Loughlin Maginn, not just Pat Finucane. It was many many more. Not just killed incidentally by the weapons imported. Not just contained in the montages Chris Moore saw.
The deaths that grew in number and savagery until the ceasefires in 1994 were all part of a plan. And in the absence of a full independent inquiry we are only able to take bits and pieces and put together an incomplete picture.
That picture is how the British Government, the British Military and RUC Special Branch worked together to ensure that while they talked peace to republicans, they attacked the republican nationalist community, terrorising and demoralising it. It was an end game of a conflict. It was end game policy. It was against their own law and against international law. And the reason we still go on about it is not only because we must know our history but because it has left monstrous unhealed scars. Scars that require the soothing of truth.
At 2.25pm on 5th February 1992 the UDA entered the Sean Grahams Bookmakers on the Ormeau Road. They fired indiscriminately into the tiny room that made up the bookmakers. Of 13 people in the Bookies 12 were shot. Six were killed, 7 injured. Jack Duffin 66; Willie McManus 54; Christie Doherty 52; Peter Magee 18 and James Kennedy 15. It was at the time a seemingly random, sickening sectarian attack. Another attack in a particularly awful week in a month of heightened conflict.
On the Monday Brian Nelson was given 10yrs, on Tuesday an off duty RUC member shot dead 3 men in the Falls Road Sinn Fein Centre. On Wednesday Chief Constable Hugh Annesley stood outside the Bookies stating that the situation was not out of control. Well for him that was right. It was all under control – but in a very different way to that presented to the media.
20 years later on their anniversary the 6 families and the injured of the Bookmakers Shop on the Ormeau Road outlined the journey of recovery of truth they had been on. Piecing together from different processes what actually occurred has brought together a picture very different from the idea of a random sectarian attack.
What do we know now?
That while Hugh Annesley was giving interviews to the media outside it was not RUC Scenes of Crime Officers inside – it was the British army’s Weapons Intelligence Section from Thiepval Barracks. This is even more interesting when we discover that the VZ58 weapon used had been used in to kill two Catholic men in Nth Belfast in 1988 and in an attempted murder the same year. Even more interesting that the weapon was “recovered by intelligence” by the RUC after the Bookies – and then destroyed.
The other weapon used – a 9mm Browning – didn’t come from South Africa. It was British army issue. It was “stolen” from Malone UDR barracks in 1989 by UDA agent Ken Barrett, passed to UDA agent William Stobie. Given to Special Branch by William Stobie. Handed back to the UDA by RUC Special Branch. A civilian in the then Police Authority handled it. It was used in December 1991 to kill Aidan Wallace in South Belfast. Then it was used in the Ormeau Rd Bookmakers. Then it was recovered at an RUC checkpoint in May 1992.
This gun forms part of the Stevens Inquiry – despite Special Branch claims that they had deactivated it in 1989 before they gave it back to the UDA – it was in perfect order in February 1992.
There were two men found with this gun – now cited as being used in 6 murders and 10 attempted murders. They walked away. One of them is the son of an RUC member.
The getaway cars from the Bookies were well recorded – so well recorded that they went through two security checkpoints and were followed by undercover RUC after the killings. One of the occupants Raymond Elder was arrested in one of the cars that night for a motoring offence – the car was not impounded. The records of the motoring offence have been lost.
Fibres, blood samples and residue from the getaway cars, when they were finally secured were all dismissed as of no use.
Remember Raymond Elder? He was later charged with the murders but these charges without explanation by the DPP. Another key suspect was never arrested. This same suspect is named as a suspect in the killing of Aidan Wallace.
This same suspect is believed to be a British army agent. Raymond Elder was killed by the IRA in July 1994.
Oh and John Stevens had included the Bookies as part of the recommended prosecution cases submitted to the DPP following his 3rd report. Prosecutions mysteriously dropped as not being in the public interest.
For those families this is like torture. It is piece of information followed by piece of information with no outcome and only frustration of their rights to truth and justice.
Let me put these killings into context that month did not only see an escalation in violence it also saw the publication of Sinn Féin’s document Towards a Lasting Peace. We now know that peace negotiations were underway.
Let me also refer to another killing on the Ormeau Road. I must as I feel that to concentrate on a mass murder without highlighting how individual murders are just as egregious would be disingenuous – It happened 2 years later. Not only were there secret negotiations between the IRA and the British Government, there was a public Joint Declaration between the Irish and British Governments and we found out John Hume was talking to Gerry Adams and negotiating peaceful pathways – this was a very public process towards ceasefires.
In April the IRA called a three day ceasefire as part of this landscaping. On April 14th 1994 Theresa Clinton a 33 year old mother of two young girls was putting the fireguard on her fire about to go to bed in her terraced house when she was shot through her window 16 times. She was in her bed clothes and as the window is on the street it was clear to any assailant it was a woman.
The RUC who visited that house picked up a piece of Theresa’s brain and put it in a jar on top of the television for her husband Jim, a Sinn Féin candidate, to find later.
Following the publication of De Silva it has become clear that Jim Clinton was a British security target for assassination.
It has equally become clear that in 1992, 1993 and 1994 the homes of republican activists and the female relatives of male republican activists were targeted for assassination attacks. It was a clear security tactic to demoralise the republican and nationalists community and isolate republicans and weaken them as they negotiated peace. Far from being stalemate it was a clear end game policy.
And how are we so clear? How are we sure we have not taken two and two and got state sanctioned murder?
Well some got told by the British army and the RUC. Some like Martin Mallon while under arrest they would target his wife, before attacking his home and killing his 80yr old aunt and wounding his mother.
And because the UVF and the UFF told us. In their statements. Written by agents of the British state. They told us their targets. They told us we were part of a pan nationalist front and all fair game. They gloated over our dead as legitimate targets. Sean Lavery killed in August 1993 in his own home. The son of Sinn Fein councillor Bobby Lavery. Theresa and Charles Fox the parents of IRA prisoner Paddy Fox. Kathleen OHagan 8 months pregnant with four young boys and the wife of Paddy an ex-republican prisoner. And many many more. End Game Military Strategy.
So no – the full story has not been told again and again. We have at most repeated glimpses of the full story. Isolated incidents of horror and savagery that together give us a picture of a policy that has not been accounted for. And a cursory apology without truth doesn’t cut it. In Derry they know that.
Collusion must be accounted for.
And I do not forget Stakeknife – Freddie Scappaticci. And I do not forget that all actors must account.We must have truth for all victims. For all those who suffered. I have focussed in 10mins on one strand of one actor to the conflict. And I do not diminish in any way anyone’s pain.
But I will say this. When the state makes the law and then breaks that law. And breaks international law the state must account. It must not hide behind its proxies. It must not hide behind the failure of local parties to agree ways forward on dealing with the past as if it is a neutral observer. It must account.
These scars will not heal without
truth. Our dead cry for out from their graves and our living sit by
Martin McGuinness is central to the survival of good DUP-Sinn Fein relations at Stormont, Peter Robinson has said.
In his first-ever interview with News Letter columnist Alex Kane – who for more than 30 years has been writing about Mr Robinson – the DUP leader said that “no one quite knows” if the DUP and Sinn Fein could maintain their relationship should Mr McGuinness be removed as Deputy First Minister.
Mr Robinson said of the former IRA commander who is now his Stormont Castle colleague: “I think undoubtedly he has no intention of going back to war.”
Mr Robinson said that it would have been “impossible” for him to have as positive a relationship with Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams.
Mr Robinson also appeared to repeat his criticism of the Executive’s massive press office operation, saying that the Executive had been “poor at putting out our own message”.
The First Minister also spoke of his brief resignation as DUP deputy leader in 1987, saying that it had been because he believed unionism should try to kill the Anglo-Irish Agreement by trying to “negotiate it out of existence”.
Mr Robinson also hinted that when he leaves politics he may enter business where he said that he would receive “a significantly more lucrative salary”.
Alex Kane-Peter Robinson interview; the full transcript
Alex Kane: I’d like to talk to you about Martin McGuinness and the nature of the relationship between you. Do you trust him? Do you think he’s sincere and committed to building a shared future, not only in Northern Ireland, but a genuine shared future between unionism and republicanism?
Peter Robinson: I suppose it’s worthwhile pointing out where I come from in terms of these kinds of issues. My entry into politics came as a result of a friend being killed by the IRA. Therefore I look across the chamber at people I recognize were involved in the murder of my friend--whether that’s because they were involved in that organization, or the leadership of that organization. That does make the relationship, obviously, much more difficult.
I have to say though, having reached a situation where we’re trying to bring peace and stability to Northern Ireland, and having dealt with a number of other Sinn Fein leaders, I think it would have been impossible to have the working relationship I have with Martin McGuinness with any of the others.
I think undoubtedly he has no intention of going back to war; he does genuinely want the process to work. I don’t minimize the fact that he wants it to work as a step towards a different goal than I would have. However I think I’m winning on that front because the clear evidence of the additional support for the Union is there; and a stable Northern Ireland is a Northern Ireland in which it will be much more easy to convince people to remain in the United Kingdom.
AK: You say that Martin McGuinness is serious, but there seems to be a suggestion in your answer that Sinn Fein collectively isn’t as serious. In other words, if he wasn’t there, if he wasn’t their lynchpin figure, would it be possible for the DUP and Sinn Fein to keep any relationship going?
PR: No one quite knows, because Sinn Fein takes the most unexpected decisions as to who their ministers would be, so there’s no saying, if Martin McGuinness wasn’t there, who they would bring forward. But, for instance, I cannot imagine that the process would have worked—or certainly would not have worked as well as it has (and I put that in inverted commas!)—if it had been Gerry Adams that had put himself forward as First Minister or Deputy First Minister.
AK: In terms of the ‘shared future” that everyone talks about—and you have talked about it in conference speeches—given what we have seen with the SpAds debate and the Maze ‘shrine’ controversy and the battle over how we even define the term ‘victim’ do you think there can be what anyone could credibly describe as a shared future? And when you use the phrase: when you talk about a shared future in Northern Ireland, what do you actually mean by that?
PR: Well, first of all, there is something of a difficulty in accepting a concept where we work together in government to govern Northern Ireland but we cannot agree on the past and we are not agreed on the ultimate future, for that obviously provides limitations on what you can do. But we are agreed that the future should be decided by democratic means alone. And on that basis I’m comfortable.
In terms of the shared future--I suppose it is the normalization of societal relationships that I’m talking about there. Where people can interact and there should not be distinctions in terms about where you can go and who you can play with on the basis of their religious or political background. So to some extent it’s a--I suppose you could call it an integrated future: where our schools could be integrated, where our social lives would be integrated, housing would be integrated. All of those things would happen.
I’m just a pragmatist in politics. I don’t think you can go from where we are to where we want to be in one step.
AK: Do you think that first step needs to come from the top: because some people would say that what happens at the bottom is reflective of what’s happening at the top. If the DUP and Sinn Fein seem to find it so difficult to get a working relationship—even a friendly relationship with each other—how can they ever produce legislation or a gameplan for the rest of us?
PR: Well I think you and a number of other commentators are unnecessarily harsh in terms of what has been achieved. We have made massive progress in Northern Ireland. We have working relationships. We have made significant changes to life in Northern Ireland. There are still faults. There are still imperfections. And very clearly there is progress that still has to be made. But don’t underestimate the fact that from where we have come there have been very significant strides forward and that should be an example to the rest of the community.
People diametrically opposed to each other in terms of background, culture and religion and political ideology can work together to a common agreed programme for government. Surely that is an example to the rest of the community that people should be trying to work together and trying to have a better understanding of each other?
AK: But if that is true—and maybe I am unnecessarily critical at times—then why does there appear to be such a disengagement from the Assembly by the electorate and the general public? And, more important, why does there seem to be no enthusiasm for people to come out and endorse what you say is happening? Do you not think it’s because they don’t see the point, that they may feel more polarized and that that’s what’s stopping them coming out?
PR: The voting percentages in Northern Ireland are better and certainly no worse than those elsewhere in the United Kingdom. To some extent the reduction in the number of people coming out is because it isn’t such a polarized issue anymore. We’re dealing with normal politics and social and economic policy.
I have to say that to some extent the way the press and the media deal with the Assembly is almost a self-fulfilling prophecy. If you have Stephen Nolan coming on every morning, taking whatever fault that he might find in the way the system operates and blowing it up to unrecognizable proportions, then quite clearly you do start to feed out a general message that the Assembly is not working and not doing anything. The reality is very different and even the people that are facilitating that type of debate know that it’s very different.
AK: You say that—and that’s the nature of the Nolan Show—but it’s also true that a lot of DUP MLAs and MPs go on that programme and most of their stuff is attack-dog stuff against Sinn Fein, the UUP, SDLP and Alliance. You seem to be wanting to have it both ways: you’re blaming the media for concentrating on the negativity, but at the same time your own MLAs are using the media to attack others—adding to the general perception that the parties really don’t get on.
PR: I could put twenty statements out about the positive things that the Assembly and Executive does and I would not get the coverage from those twenty statements as I would if I put out one statement attacking Sinn Fein or having some controversial issue raised. That’s the reality of life and we have to live with that reality. We do need more on the part of the Executive at being able to sell the positives of what we are doing and perhaps campaigning more on that basis, so that’s something we do have to look at. I don’t blame the media per se, because I think that we as an Executive have been poor at putting out our own message.
AK: Can I take you back a bit? At what point did you realise that you were going to have to share power with Sinn Fein and how difficult was it, when you personally realized the inevitability of it, to sell it to the DUP grassroots?
PR: It wasn’t so much that the DUP realized as that the electorate voted in a referendum for this system. We made it clear before—and I was arguing for a no vote—that should the Agreement be passed then there were some aspects of that Agreement could never be changed. It’s a fact of history that as soon as that system had been set up, even when it fell apart on three or four occasions, there were some elements that you were never going to be able to change and would be part of any future structure.
AK: But you make it sound that you endure rather than embrace this form of devolution—at the same time as you say that it isn’t as bad as the media makes out. Is that true—do you just endure it?
PR: The reality for us was that having to accept that power-sharing was going to be something that was going to be part of any future structure we were not going to accept the form of power-sharing that David Trimble had accepted. There had to be changes. There had to be changes in terms of the issue of decommissioning and support for the role of the police and the rule of law. In terms of their involvement in criminality, in terms of a more accountable system of government rather than ministers and departments taking their own decisions.
People laughed at us when we listed the main issues that had to be changed, particularly in terms of getting Sinn Fein to support policing and the rule of law. Yet one by one we got all of those changes. So while we accepted the principle of power-sharing we made sure that in power-sharing certain principles were going to be accepted. Because if we hadn’t, this system wouldn’t have worked and would have fallen apart just as the Trimble-led system did.
AK: You mentioned Trimble there. Looking back do you think maybe, given the circumstances of dealing with his divided party etc that you were too critical of him?
PR: I think we were critical, rightly so, of the kind of deal that he finally came forward with. Our criticism is borne out by the fact that we got the changes and have moved from a system that was incapable of providing stable government to one that does provide stable government—albeit short of perfection. I think we were right to be critical.
Of course our argument with David Trimble wasn’t anything to do with his courage as a leader taking forward proposals in spite of everything coming down around him--because it was a very difficult position to be in. But he had the wrong policy to start off with. I think if he had stuck out for a better deal there was a better deal to be had.
AK: Was there a possibility that had the DUP and UKUP stayed in the talks process in July 1997 it might have been possible to build in right from the start what you wanted, rather than to have a situation where the really bad things went in which you couldn’t deal with?
PR: I always look at that question from the other way. We had an agreement with David Trimble, Bob McCartney and ourselves that we would leave the talks at such a time as Sinn Fein were brought in unless they had met the criteria. David Trimble stayed in and we kept to our word. I think we would have been in a stronger position had we all come out and made sure that the changes were made at that stage. We can talk about these issues at an academic level but the reality is that we are where we are and I think Trimble has paid a high price for the fact that he didn’t deal with key issues that needed to be dealt with.
AK: In October 1987 you resigned as deputy leader of the DUP for three months. You’ve never really talked much about that. Some people say it was because you were pretty unhappy with the response of Ian Paisley and UUP leader James Molyneaux to the Task Force Report. (This was a joint UUP/DUP report in the aftermath of the 1985 Anglo-Irish Agreement written by Robinson and Harold McCusker and Frank Millar of the UUP). It has been suggested to me that you, Millar and McCusker were arguing that the unionist parties should engage with your political opponents and look at power-sharing structures: and that you were so miffed with the response of the leaders of both parties that you walked away.
PR: It wasn’t an issue of whether we would negotiate with our political opponents at that stage, but whether we would negotiate with Her Majesty’s government. I always took the view that if you wanted to bring down the Anglo-Irish Agreement (as it was at that stage) you either had to do it actively on the streets by way of a full-blooded campaign of opposition or else you have to negotiate it out of existence.
It became evident to me that we were moving past the stage where the activity on the street was likely to lever any change. In my view and in Harold’s and in Frank’s you negotiate from a position of strength not weakness so that meant that we needed to get into negotiations while there still was an active presence and protest on the streets in order to affect change, rather than for that to peter out and then for us to enter negotiations from a position of weakness.
AK: But you returned to your post as deputy leader…
PR: Yes, when they opened up discussions with the government.
AK: Was there any sense that in the next ten years, or even the 20 leading up to 2007, that unionism wasted its time: or maybe that you personally, out of frustration, ended up doing things that you didn’t particularly want to do---because you always knew that there had to be negotiations?
PR: One of the issues with leadership more generally is seeing that something needs to be done, knowing that it needs to be done, there will still be a time for being able to affect that change. And that’s down to convincing the community that those steps have to be taken: and the community obviously doesn’t all arrive at the same place at the same time so you need to be sure that there are sufficient people who recognize the need for that move before you take that move.
AK: How do you respond to the views of those in unionism and loyalism, over the past few months in particular, who have accused you of selling out and having become ‘another Trimble’?
PR: Well, I thought we had an election in 2011 and I thought that in that election all of the facts were known and that people knew we were in an all-party government with others. People knew what the relationship would be between the DUP and Sinn Fein, because we’d already been in government with them—so nobody was in any doubt about what they were voting for. And I came back here with the largest team that the DUP has ever had. Yes, of course there are people who are against what we are doing.
AK: Look, I accept all of that. But you personally, does it hurt when you hear the accusations of betrayal and the fact that some of them are now almost as vitriolic in their response to you as they were to Trimble, as they were to Faulkner. Do you take it personally?
PR: If you were to take these things personally you’d be looking for a different profession. I think if there is any annoyance it’s the nature of the arguments that are presented, the inaccuracies of the comments, the fact that you have, particularly in the social media, all sorts of tomfoolery and nonsense which is so far from reality and logic that it probably is better to press the delete button. It is long past the stage where I start personally having any reaction to those kinds of comments.
In politics you’ve got to know what you’re doing is right. If you felt that what you were doing was a bit shaky or something that was improper then quite clearly it would have an impact on you.
AK: So you are convinced that what you are doing is right? Right for unionism. Right for Northern Ireland.
PR: Yep. I have no doubt that while I can understand, particularly with victims, that they have great difficulty in coming to terms with the ability of Sinn Fein to be in government albeit because they have a democratic vote to put them there, the reality of course is that Northern Ireland has changed for the better.
I go out and about and I probably speak to more people than any other politician would. On the one hand I get the kind of comments you’re talking about—from people who support the TUV and PUP—but the overwhelming view out there of the community is that it is the right course to take. Of course there still has to be reform. Of course it still has to be improved and there are a lot of things that can and should be done—and in their time will be. But compare where we are now with where we were fifteen years ago. It’s obvious that this is the right course to take.
AK: In a speech last year you said—and I can’t remember the exact phrase—that you can’t write off those thousands of Catholics who are probably unionist and who are certainly not left wing. But do you think that you have made them feel excluded by your approach to the Unionist Forum and what seems like a circling of the wagons and a retreat to a comfort zone for ‘traditional’ unionism?
PR: I find it difficult when I hear this argument. The people who make the argument obviously equate the Union with Protestantism. If you were a Catholic why would you not want to embrace the Unionist Forum if that was your political outlook? What we need to do is get away from the kind of categorization of unionism as Protestantism. It is all-embracing. It should be open to all—not just from the Catholic community, but also from those who have no religious background or indeed some other religious background.
AK: But then why a Unionist Forum? In your speech at the Covenant Centenary Dinner in September 2012 you spoke about the creation of a Council for the Union—which would bring together all the pro-Union family. But it seems to me that there is a significant difference between something called a Council for the Union—which appears to be open to everyone—and another vehicle, a sort of kneejerk reaction vehicle called the Unionist Forum. You seem to think that there is no difference between the two?
PR: The Unionist Forum has been given a specific remit and it would be a remit which would be much more limited than the Council for the Union which I referred to. The Unionist Forum was born out of the fact that there were many people who believed that there were issues in the unionist community that were not being addressed. Now in some cases the issues were relating to the economic difficulties that various areas of the Province were facing: others were matters of identity.
None of them, I would have thought, were issues that were sectarian by their nature and the fact is that the unionist identity is strong in my view in 2012. But some of the issues needed to be addressed head on, such as how do we increase the vote for the Union are matters which we can cooperate with others and through the Forum proposals will come forward. If there are areas where there is greater deprivation then let’s address those and let’s see proposals too if there is educational under-attainment with a section of our community.
AK: Going back to what you said earlier about the falling turnout being a reflection of a sense of contentment that the feeling of polarization has gone. If you think that is true and that people are content enough not to vote then what do you say to the pro-Union community to get them to come out and increase the vote for the Union?
PR: If you’re asking the pro-Union family to come out in terms of remaining within the United Kingdom then that really only is directly relevant when it comes to an election on the basis of a referendum. In terms of social and economic policy it is vital in the context of, for instance the Assembly—which is based on the structure that it requires the First Minister to come from the largest political party represented in the Assembly—that if unionists want to have the maximum representation in the Assembly and Executive then they effectively have to vote for the parties that can bring representation to the Assembly and the First Minister’s Office. So to some extent the unionist identity gets further in that context: the more people that vote the stronger the unionist representation in the Assembly is.
AK: You talk about the need to maximize the unionist/pro-Union vote. But it still seems to be about constant division. Even 15 years after the Belfast Agreement unionism still seems prone to division. And every time another unionist voice emerges it’s not to talk about a collective, holistic approach to unionism but to have a dig at each other.
PR: There is an extent to which whether you take the propensity of Protestant churches to split and to form new institutions, whether you talk about the unionist parties and their propensity to do the same that it’s probably part of the character and nature of our community. However, there is a recognition I think on the part of the unionist community that they do need to have a strong solid bloc that can show unionist strength in the face of the republican agenda. Because no matter what level of agreement we might be able to reach within the Assembly there still is a republican agenda, there still is a unionist agenda, so people have to influence that and they can only influence that by voting for the largest party.
AK: Is there a role left for the UUP: and if there is, what is that role?
PR: I think there’s obviously a view within unionism that wants to have diversity and wants to have the offer of variety and to that extent I don’t seek to deny anyone the opportunity to vote for a candidate who has whatever the particular attributes the Ulster Unionists may have. The one thing I’m certain is the Ulster Unionist Party is past the phase where it will be seen as the voice of unionism in Northern Ireland. It will not be able to provide the kind of strong unionist bloc that is needed to be able to deal with the republican agenda. But we will work with the UUP and indeed with any other unionist party to further unionist ideals. But the system we have at the moment requires us to be able to have a large unionist presence in order to ensure that we have the maximum number of seats in the Executive and we hold the First Minister’s office.
AK: Is there a section of unionism which you don’t think you can get: a section of unionism which, for some reason, will only vote UUP. In terms of growth, electoral growth, how much further can the DUP go?
PR: I would have thought if you had been asking this question ten years ago you wouldn’t have assumed that we would have been able to get the centre ground of unionism to the extent that we have. And as the party is seen to become the party of government, the establishment party, a more mature party because of the government experience that it has, I think it will continue to grow and be attractive to the centre ground of unionism.
You know, I can’t tell you what the future will be, but looking into the future I would have thought that we would be able to hold the centre ground of unionism and we will certainly be making a concerted effort to work to ensure that we have a larger section of the working class unionist vote than we have at the present time.
AK: Is there anything you can look back on and say that you think you reacted too slowly, or the party reacted too slowly, or you knee-jerked too quickly, or you completely misread the mood of politics and other parties?
PR: Politicians would be displaying a lack of honesty if they were to look back over the years and couldn’t see something that they should have done differently. Everyone has made mistakes during the process. However, I do think that one of the biggest mistakes I would make would be in telling you which ones they were!
AK: You now find yourself—and I don’t mean this disrespectfully—locked at the hip to Martin McGuinness. There must be moments when you wonder if this is what it was all about and wonder was it all really worth it. Looking at your beliefs and passions of forty years ago was it really worth it all just to find yourself as First Minister, with someone like Martin McGuinness as your deputy?
PR: I don’t hold back from saying that if I was writing the script it would have been something different than it is at the present time. But again I said to you earlier that I am a pragmatic politician and politics is about dealing with the circumstances as they are and you shouldn’t detect from me anything in terms of being fed-up with politics per se.
I would admit to being very fed up at times with the processes around politics and the difficulty in getting decisions taken, the frustrations of coalitions more generally. I’m someone who, as soon as I have an idea which I think is worthwhile I want to see it implemented. In the world that I live in at the moment there’s a long long process that you have to go through before you can get something out the other end and that’s very frustrating.
AK: You’re at that stage in your political career when you must be looking back and thinking about your legacy?
PR: When I stand down from politics isn’t so much governed by the calendar as governed by the progress that we make on certain issues. There are certain things I want to see happen and I hope can happen while I’m still in leadership of the party. From the point of view of the Union I want to see the Union much more strongly cemented and that means cemented with support right across the community. We’re making good progress on that but I think the unionist community has to recognize that they need to be marketing the Union on a basis that makes it attractive to those outside the Protestant community and that’s something that I think we’ve all got a lot to do in the months and years ahead.
In terms of Northern Ireland, again there are reforms which are still needed within the process. I want to ensure that we do have stable political structures. When I came into office the papers were all writing up articles on a daily, weekly basis about how long the Assembly might survive. They were justified in writing them in my view at that stage because there were all sorts of difficulties that were being faced. But nobody’s talking about that now. Everyone recognizes that the Assembly is here and while we will undoubtedly have problems in the future none of them are seen to be so insurmountable that they are going to bring the structures down. But again I’d like to see further reform. I’d like the issue of Opposition dealt with and the aspects of the Assembly’s role that need to be improved.
I want the DUP to be in good, if not better shape than it is at the present time for such a handover. Some of those blogs you’re talking about talk about us as if we’re hanging onto office and power as something that’s just desirable and self-fulfilling. But the reality is that it’s hard work. There are a lot of easier things in life to be doing and I look for the moment when those three issues are in a line and that makes it easy to hand over. But it’s very much governed by the progress that’s made in those areas because those are the issues that I’d want at the end to be able to say “the Union is in a stronger place, Northern Ireland is more stable and the party is better than it’s ever been.”
AK: So you think that Northern Ireland is in a better place and that unionism is stronger because of what you’ve done?
PR: I certainly wouldn’t be indicating my contribution alone. A vast number of people have been involved in the process which has brought us to where we are today. But in terms of when I stand down how I will look at that contribution it’s whether we have reached the stage when there is a high level of stability on those three fronts.
AK: When you stand down I presume you will go to the House of Lords. Are there any great political issues, national or international, that you’d like to champion once you’re freed from local politics?
PR: The cause is still going to be Northern Ireland. It’s still going to be the Union.
AK: Even if it’s safe?
PR: Safe doesn’t mean that the issue can be forgotten about.
AK: Do you think it will ever be safe?
PR: There will always be people who will want to change the status of Northern Ireland and therefore the safety of the Union is an ongoing process. We have grown support for the Union very significantly over the last number of years, undoubtedly grown support for the Union; or at least grown support for the Union and a contentment of living within the Union--because the two aren’t exactly the same—to levels which in anybody’s book would indicate that the Union is safe. However there is still work to be done to consolidate that, to strengthen it, and that will be an ongoing job.
In terms of the House of Lords I’m not sure—maybe I might try my hand at something other than politics.
AK: Really! What would you do?
PR: When there was a lot of talk about the salaries of MLAs and so forth were I did make the comment that on two occasions over the last number of years I was given offers to go into private business at a significantly more lucrative salary than I’m getting at the present time. So for me politics isn’t about money. I would get much more money outside politics.
I can’t see my retirement being one where I sit with a blanket over my knees and watch cricket on television (enjoyable though that might be). I’d still want to be involved in projects and doing something that keeps my mind active. Rather that’s business or being a political commentator—who knows what the future holds.
AK: Basil McCrea and John McCallister—is there need for another party? A need for what they claim to be offering, a pluralist, moderate party. Are you not on that ground?
PR: I don’t think that they’re offering any product that’s unique, therefore it’s going to be very difficult for them to carve out a market for themselves. There are elements of their programme which might be more closely attuned with what the Alliance party is offering and other elements which are not that different from what the UUP is offering and indeed other elements which are not much different from what we are offering. There’s a very narrow part of the market that they’re trying to get. You do need to base a political party on having identifiable talent and effectively the DUP has sucked all of them in from the UUP, Conservatives and so on. We have an offering which goes well beyond what any other political party can provide.
AK: Enoch Powell told me that you had the most strategic brain in unionism in Northern Ireland. Do you think the DUP could have become the pragmatic, flexible party it became without you? Is your greatest contribution to the DUP and to unionism the fact that your planning and strategy underpinned every aspect of the party?
PR: One of the issues that has
most attended my political life is that when you’re dealing
with an issue you don’t just deal with it in terms of how it
will enter today’s market. You look and try and see how that
will effect you as you go down the road: in politics there are far
too many people who deal with problems in order to look at them how
it effects them today and I think that’s a big mistake. I see
it being made over and over again in the Assembly, something that’s
immediately popular to do without thinking of the consequences of
it. I think that it does require perhaps a bit further foresight on
the part of politicians if they aren’t to get themselves into
great difficulties in the years ahead.
set to attend anti-G8 march
At least 5,000 people are expected to attend an anti-G8 march in Northern Ireland on the eve of a meeting of world leaders in the region.
Environmentalists, trade unionists and other civil society activists will parade through Belfast city centre at lunchtime for what they bill as a march and festival for a fairer world.
US President Barack Obama is among the premiers arriving at the Lough Erne golf resort in Fermanagh for the two-day meeting starting on Monday.
A separate concert for the IF anti-food poverty campaign, spearheaded by charities working in the developing world, will be held in the city's Botanic Gardens in the afternoon with acts including indie rockers Two Door Cinema Club. The concert has been sold out, with around 8,000 people due to attend, organisers said.
Campaigners behind the city centre march said: "We believe that achieving social, economic and environmental justice must be central to political decision-making."
Environmentalists will carry a 100m-long "polluted" river during today's demonstration. Friends of the Earth will bear props representing the alleged damage done by a form of natural gas extraction known as fracking. The pressure group wants to stop potential drilling in rocks in Co Fermanagh near where the conference of world leaders is being held.
The Irish Congress of Trade Unions
has helped organise the parade and Amnesty International is also supporting
McDonald: Beneath the hype, the North remains divided
Bill Clinton and his wife Hilary became such frequent tourists to Belfast from the mid-1990s onwards that they named a suite after him in the Europa, which was once, pre the Sarajevo siege, the most bombed hotel in Europe.
saxophone-playing, cigar-sniffing, intern-chasing Democratic President's first trip to Northern Ireland, however, was to be the most groundbreaking and historically significant. At the end of November 1995, Mr Clinton came to put the seal on the peace process.
From all sides of the sectarian divide he received a rapturous welcome and enjoyed fawning local media coverage. Yet behind all the smiles, the praise of peace processors and promises of fresh US investment, many of the toxins of the Troubles had not been washed out of the North's body politic. Far from it.
The Provisional IRA was already debating whether or not to end its year-long cease-fire and did so just a few months later in the carnage and destruction of the Canary Wharf bomb. Meanwhile, the age-old poison that was always ready to bubble up to the surface even at a time of relative peace had still not been drawn: sectarianism.
Just three days before Air Force One touched down at Belfast International Airport, this writer was asked to do something professionally and morally monstrous.
On the morning of November 27, 1995, a 46-year-old Catholic man was found beaten to death at the side of Cliftonville Football Club's Solitude stadium. Norman Harley had been walking through the Waterworks park when two local loyalists beat him to death with an iron bar. Contrary to an erroneous report by one UK correspondent at the time, the pair involved were connected to the Ulster Defence Association from the nearby loyalist Westland estate. They were later among the first loyalist prisoners to be freed early due to the Good Friday Agreement.
On arrival at the murder scene, this author telephoned one of the most senior police officers in the city. He was in no doubt that the victim had been targeted simply because of his religious beliefs. This information prompted me to record a piece-to-camera for a news report.
I can still recall that it roughly went something like this: "It is a bitter irony that in the week that President Clinton is coming to Belfast to set the seal on the peace process, a man can still be killed in this city simply because of his religion . . ."
This segment of the report never made the television news that evening. A news executive objected to the piece-to-camera. He went as far as to say it was "inappropriate for the week it is". In other words, "inappropriate" to the happy-clappy coverage of the Clinton entourage arriving in town. As for Mr Harley, it seemed his death didn't amount to a hill of beans compared to the big presidential story.
Mr Harley and his tragic, senseless end has come back into memory of late as Belfast and Northern Ireland not only go into overdrive about the forthcoming G8 summit but also the prospect of President Barack Obama visiting the city. Because after the hype surrounding the Clintons' first triumphant roll into town nearly two decades ago, many of the problems that beset the peace process remain unsolved.
Northern Ireland is a much safer and stable place than it was during the fledgling years of the IRA and loyalist ceasefires.
But a short walk from where Mr Obama will tread this Monday is a corner of east Belfast where there is one separation wall protecting the Catholic enclave of the Short Strand from the larger Protestant Lower Newtonards Road; to another siege-within-a-siege, where the even tinier Cluan Place Protestant street has a wall around it to stop encroachment from their nationalist neighbours at the other end of the Short Strand.
Mr Obama will carry on the torch lit by Mr Clinton and seek to illuminate Northern Ireland as an example to other conflicts around the world.
But most of what he will say will
be simply rhetorical in the face of the complexity of other wars;
and also in relation to a society on this island that has still not
dealt with the structural/ancestral divisions that lie just beneath
plea to curb violent parades
The Parades Commission has called for talks between the Orange Order and nationalist residents to help prevent violence on the streets of Northern Ireland this summer.
The appeal comes ahead of the first potentially troublesome march in Belfast next week and in the wake of serious rioting and road blocks by loyalist protesters opposed to restrictions on flying the Union flag at Belfast City Hall.
The Commission, which was set up in 1997 to mediate and rule on proposed controversial processions, claimed disorder was not an inevitability.
"The Parades Commission asks everyone to step up to the plate. All of us, whether resident or parader, unionist, nationalist or other, has a positive contribution to make," a statement said.
"As Northern Ireland approaches the main parading season, the opportunity remains to prove that there is no inevitability to a narrative of discord over parading. Once again there is a window of opportunity to demonstrate a more mature approach to parading and related protests."
Earlier this week the Orange Order unveiled a series of measures which it claimed could reduce sectarian tensions. Its so-called "template for parading" focused on a flashpoint at St Patrick's Church, close to Belfast city centre, where seven police officers were injured during clashes last year but did not include plans for direct dialogue with residents' groups.
"The Commission welcomes some of the language and the commitment of the Order to respectful behaviour at interfaces and places of worship such as St Patrick's. Such commitments can apply to more than just one location and, if honoured, can set the tone for change. The general values and behaviour more commonplace outside Belfast need to apply in Belfast also," the Parades Commission statement said.
Last year police were pelted by petrol bombs, bricks and bottles during disturbances which flared after a parade past a north Belfast interface. However, a contentious parade passed through the Co Antrim village of Crumlin without incident when agreement was reached between the Orange Order and locals.
The Parades Commission said grassroots talks were essential to maintaining the peace.
It said: "Local dialogue
needs to happen. The Orange Order made it very clear in September
2012 that there is no blockage to local Lodges engaging with residents,
an approach which delivered results only last year in Crumlin. Creating
an expectation of dialogue and then failing to deliver may be an even
worse scenario than refusing dialogue in the first place."
play down G8 security fears
Protest disorder around the G8 summit in Northern Ireland will not be as significant as first feared, a senior police commander has predicted.
As a massive security operation is rolled out at the summit venue in Co Fermanagh and at other key sites in the region, Police Service of Northern Ireland Assistant Chief Constable Alistair Finlay has played down concerns of widespread violence.
Mr Finlay said intelligence indicated that “relatively small numbers” of troublemakers are intending to travel to Northern Ireland. He said recent unrest in Turkey had drawn some people from central Europe who might have otherwise been travelling to the G8. The officer said others had decided to make London the focus of their protest.
Mr Finlay warned that dissident republicans opposed to the Northern Ireland peace process could attempt a violent act to highlight their campaign, but said such a strike was unlikely at sites where security is high.
“My belief is it’s relatively small numbers would be wanting to cause trouble and the vast, vast sense of this is people wanting to protest peacefully,” said Mr Finlay.
“The vast majority of people are from Northern Ireland or the island of Ireland and they don’t want us being put on the map for the wrong reasons.”
Ahead of the summit, US president Barack Obama will deliver a keynote address in Belfast on Monday morning. Mr Finlay expressed doubts that dissident republicans would try to disrupt that event or others where security is ramped up.
“The sad reality is the dissidents are there, they will want to draw attention to themselves, but usually in a way that is targeting our people (PSNI officers) and will be away from where the essence of the strong security round an iconic figure like the president would be,” he said.
Police have said the security operation surrounding the summit at the five star Lough Erne Golf Resort is one of the biggest the UK has witnessed. Around 8,000 officers, 3,500 of whom have been called in from Britain, will be deployed on G8 duties over the weekend and through the summit on Monday and Tuesday.
Despite the relatively optimistic assessment about disorder, police have made 260 additional holding cells available in nearby Omagh, Co Tyrone, and in Belfast.
Sixteen judges are on standby to preside over special all-day courts to process a potential influx of arrested demonstrators.
A four-mile security wall has been erected around the resort, a seven-mile stretch of Lough Erne is being closed down and restrictions over air space are being introduced.
Mr Finlay rejected claims the security efforts were over the top.
“It’s prepared against the background of what was potentially likely for us,” he told Radio Ulster’s Stephen Nolan Show.
“I think we have seen in recent weeks some de-escalation around this. We know some people wanted to stay in London, and you saw the issues in London (G8 related arrests earlier this month). We know in Europe for example Turkey has drawn a number of people from central Europe and the areas into Turkey who might otherwise have considered coming here.”
He added: “We’ve got to be prepared and have all that equipment and facilities available to us.”
Two main protests are planned over the coming days - in Belfast on Saturday and Enniskillen, Co Fermanagh, on Monday evening. Mr Finlay said he anticipated around 5,000 people taking part in the Belfast event, with far fewer in Enniskillen.
The officer said an awareness-raising concert organised by charities and aid agencies in Belfast’s Botanic Gardens on Saturday would see around 1,000 people travel from Scotland and northern England.
Mr Finlay said the police assessment of the threat of disorder was based on “professional judgment” and contacts with police services across Europe and beyond.
judgment, assessment of intelligence, looking to see who is interested
in coming, who’s not interested in coming, and using that to
come to professional assessment ... based on previous experience,
what that might look like,” he said.
by Orange Order’s appeal to halt Maze centre
The DUP has said it is mystified following a plea by the Orange Order to halt a planned peace and reconciliation centre.
The party hit back, after the Orange Order called on DUP politicians not to proceed with the £18.1m Peace Building and Conflict Resolution Centre centre on the site of the former Maze prison.
The strongly-worded statement by the Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland — which described the project as “deeply flawed and ill conceived” — was addressed to all unionist politicians.
The Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) and hardline Traditional Unionist Voice (TUV) have also both voiced their opposition to the centre.
The Order warned that the project could deepen the trauma of Troubles victims, while “further the efforts of those who... wish to rewrite history”.
In April, DUP MLA Edwin Poots — who is understood to be a member of the Orange Order — said his party had made a “corporate decision” to get behind the redevelopment of the former Maze prison site.
Yesterday’s statement by the Orange Order is a blow for the DUP, which is closely linked to the institution.
“The party is mystified by the Orange Order statement,” the DUP said.
In a statement, the DUP claimed that a proposal in 2005 to build a peace centre at the Maze site was made by a panel led by unionist politicians and the Orange Order.
The party accused groups of falling victim to “scaremongering”.
In April, victims’ group coalition Innocent Victims United said it was considering launching a judicial review against the project.
The group threw its weight behind the Orange Order’s move yesterday.
The DUP has insisted that there
will be no narrative telling the stories of hunger strikers such as
Bobby Sands at the planned Peace Building and Conflict Resolution
Centre. The centre will be based on the site of the former Maze Prison,
near Lisburn. World-renowned architect Daniel Libeskind, has designed
the £18.1m centre.
Ulster - the G8 lockdown begins as Obama and Co head to Fermanagh
The single biggest security operation ever mounted in Northern Ireland has been stepped up to its highest level, three days before the world’s most powerful leaders arrive here for the G8 summit.
Thousands of police from across the UK are being deployed for a massive clampdown that will affect daily life across the province.
An impregnable ring of steel has been thrown around parts of Fermanagh, with hospitals, schools, transport services, airports and communities all facing disruption.
Belfast is expected to experience traffic chaos on Monday, as President Barack Obama jets into Aldergrove on Air Force One before travelling on to Lough Erne.
Regional Development Minister Danny Kennedy has warned motorists to travel into Belfast only if necessary on Monday morning.
Belfast Education and Library Board have confirmed many schools will open their doors early and provide breakfast for pupils.
In a memo, the Department of Education warned that the disruption could have a knock-on effect on exams.
All schools in the Belfast area have been told to make contingency plans, and post-primary schools have been advised to open their doors from 7am to pupils sitting GCSE and A-Level exams.
Meanwhile, the Western Health Trust has rescheduled some planned operations and outpatient appointments for the duration of the G8 summit.
PSNI district commander Chief Superintendent Pauline Shields said the G8 security operation across Fermanagh and Belfast is “the biggest operation that the Police Service of Northern Ireland has ever had to deal with”.
“(It is) probably as big as any police service throughout the UK would have dealt with,” Ms Shields said.
The luxurious Lough Erne Resort, which is hosting the G8, is now completely sealed. A four-mile long metal fence surrounds the complex, and razor wire has been laid out in fields and hedgerows around the five-star hotel.
Security checkpoints and guards — including covert patrols of armed Gurkhas — line the route to and around the resort.
Drivers permitted to pass through the towering metal fence have to abide by a 20mph speed limit, under the watchful gaze of security staff positioned every few yards along the Shore Road.
Any gaps in the fence allowing residents access to their homes are under round-the-clock guard.
A 30-tonne water cannon with a 9,000-litre capacity is already stationed on the Shore Road to the hotel, which closed at the beginning of the month.
A seven-mile stretch of Lough Erne will become off-limits in the coming days, to be patrolled by high-speed police boats. Divers will also sweep the waters around the resort.
More than 8,000 officers from across the UK are being deployed to protect the summit venue, and other key sites in Northern Ireland.
Another 3,500 ‘mutual aid’ officers from England, Scotland and Wales will work under PSNI commanders during the summit.
The police operation faces a two-pronged threat from radical anti-capitalist protesters and the ongoing campaign by dissident republicans.
More than 250 additional holding cells have been ringfenced for the G8 in Omagh and in Belfast, which will see a large G8 protest on Saturday.
Sixteen judges are also on standby, with special all-day courts ready to process demonstrators arrested during the summit.
Health authorities are warning
people to allow extra time for appointments — particularly in
Fermanagh, Belfast and the area around Belfast International Airport.
Order needs to show it means business in St Patrick's row
The Orange Order's 'comprehensive template' on marching past St Patrick's Catholic Church in Belfast's Donegall Street leaves a lot of blank spaces which badly need to be filled in before the marching starts later this month.
There are plans by the Executive to set up a committee to provide a solution to the parading issue, but the members have not been named and, even when they are, they will not report until the end of the year.
In the meantime, we have the marching season and we cannot afford it to go badly.
Friday week – June 21 – marks the first of eight parades past St Patrick's, the church which has been a flashpoint location since the Young Conway Volunteers band wheeled around it playing The Famine Song last year.
It is not just that the Orange Order doesn't give any undertaking to talk to residents' groups to reach an understanding in advance of the parade.
The Rev Mervyn Gibson, the grand chaplain, says that "isn't imminent", but doesn't rule it out. He should use his influence to move such talks up the agenda.
Yet, even leaving that aside, the plan has flaws. In three out of the eight parades only the lead band will be confined to playing hymns as they pass; the rest can play other tunes.
Even when hymns are played, they can have offensive lyrics attached. It happened in Ardoyne in 2011.
A band was supposed to be playing the hymn What a Friend We Have in Jesus. So far, so inoffensive.
But the tune was announced as 'Holy Mary' by a bandleader. A crowd of women chanted: "Holy Mary, I am dying. Just a word before I go. Set the Pope upon the table and stick a poker up his ****. Holy Mary, I am dying." The video was then posted by band supporters on YouTube.
This shows what happens when a band wants to push the envelope to make a point and to cause offence.
What was missing from the Orange Order's comprehensive template was a willingness to take responsibility for the situation and for the behaviour of its supporters.
It could have said – but didn't – that any band which didn't obey the guidelines, or which stretched them to behave offensively, would be punished.
It could have said that such a band would not be allowed to parade with any lodge in Belfast county for the next 12 months.
That would have been a courageous step to take and it would have sent a unmistakeable message of intent.
Instead, the statement bellyached about their alleged "ongoing humiliation and punishment by the Parades Commission". As if to underline the point, one of the men who presented the template was Billy Mawhinney, secretary of the order's Belfast county, as well as a senior Black Institution member, who publicly tore up a Parades Commission determination last August.
We need a peaceful marching season and the Orange Order says it wants one, insisting that "nobody has anything to fear by showing mutual respect".
It should show that it means business
with its new rules for bands, as it finds a way to meet residents'
and integration pact for Northern Ireland: building a prosperous and
Ambitious economic and integration package for Northern Ireland to be agreed ahead of G8
An ambitious package of economic and integration measures that will help lead to the removal of all “peace walls” in Northern Ireland within ten years will be agreed in Downing Street on Friday.
The First Minister and deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland will meet the Prime Minister, accompanied by the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, in Downing Street on Friday afternoon to agree the package that will help Northern Ireland maximise its full potential.
Alongside initiatives to encourage private sector investment and job creation in Northern Ireland, the First Minister and deputy First Minister have already committed to specific measures to break down barriers between sections of the community.
The economic package is expected to include:
The social cohesion package includes measures already announced by the First Minister and deputy First Minister:
It is also expected to include the potential for the UK government gifting Ministry of Defence houses and bases to be used for shared future projects.
The ambitious package of measures is designed to help move further towards a shared and prosperous Northern Ireland and is supported by the Irish government and the government of the United States.
This is a joint programme that requires both the government and executive to work imaginatively to help move further towards the shared and prosperous Northern Ireland that we want to see.
Prime Minister David Cameron said:
"Next week in Fermanagh, we will show the world an increasingly outward looking Northern Ireland, that is open for business and focusing on the steps it needs to take to succeed in the global race. This agreement is a symbol of our ambitious vision for Northern Ireland - a genuinely shared society that is fulfilling its economic potential and strengthening the foundations for peace, stability and prosperity for the future."
Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Theresa Villiers said:
"Northern Ireland has taken
great strides forward in recent years. Building on the political stability
that has been achieved, the government and the executive are committed
working together to rebalance the economy and build a genuinely shared
future. The Pact we have agreed today will reinforce progress on both
those objectives. It will help Northern Ireland to compete in the
global race for jobs and investment. And it will underpin our efforts
to tackle community divisions. Northern Ireland is already a great
place to live, visit and do business. This Pact will go further in
helping to fulfil its potential as a modern and dynamic part of the
protestors 'warned of consequences'
Police paved the way for future prosecution of Union flag protestors by issuing public warnings that they were taking part in illegal marches, the High Court has said.
On Thursday a judge was told loud hailers and signs were used to ensure demonstrators were aware of the potential consequences of their un-notified weekly procession into Belfast city centre.
Rejecting claims that senior officers were ignorant of the law and did nothing to intervene, counsel for the PSNI said announcements were made right from the start.
Tony McGleenan QC said: "Once that's done the path is clear for future investigative action."
The PSNI and Secretary of State Theresa Villiers are facing a legal challenge over marches from east Belfast staged every Saturday from December to February.
An unidentified resident in the nationalist Short Strand enclave claims his right to privacy was breached by demonstrations which passed close to his home and sometimes erupted into violence.
His legal team are seeking a declaration that the failure of police to stop demonstrators travelling along the route breached parading legislation.
Under the Public Processions Act, brought in after major disorder across Northern Ireland linked to the Drumcree dispute, notification of marches must be given to the Parades Commission.
Mr Justice Treacy heard claims that the police operation undermined parading laws by allowing the illegal marches to take place for up to three months.
Organisers and participants should have been arrested for criminal offences, according to the Short Strand man's lawyers.
The court was told that up to mid-March six people had been prosecuted.
But Mr McGleenan stressed how PSNI senior command was focused on operational policing decisions.
Officers took the "critical step" of ensuring protestors were informed no notification had been given to the Parades Commission, the court heard.
Had that not been done those involved could have claimed they were unaware of the situation.
Loud hailers were used and signs put up for those with hearing difficulties.
Asked when police first alerted demonstrators, Mr McGleenan said command logs show it was on 8 December as a crowd was heading down the Newtownards Road.
The judge noted that, if right, it showed police knew the processions were illegal and took steps to make that clear.
"It's the gateway to the criminal justice strategy," Mr McGleen replied.
"If you have done that and have video evidence it means those participating are vulnerable to prosecution, charge and possible successful conviction."
The barrister insisted there was no confusion among police about their powers.
It was put to him that the legislation removed from police the authority to ban parades, leaving them to deal with those whom fail to give notification.
Mr McGleenan responded: "Exactly.
It puts them in a position they certainly don't want to be in."
over sectarian clashes at Belfast G8 rally
There are fears extremists will hijack a G8 protest this weekend.
A shadowy group calling itself the Ulster Defence League, Belfast Division, issued a rallying call yesterday ahead of Saturday’s G8 protest.
An estimated 20,000 protesters will make their way from the Custom House Square to the City Hall, where speeches will be hosted ahead of next week’s G8 summit in Co Fermanagh.
Organisers, the Irish Congress of Trade Unions (Ictu), described the rally as an opportunity to voice opposition to some of the policies of the G8 countries.
However, concerns are mounting after the call by the little-known UDL to attend Saturday’s protest, to “counter... dissidents who (are) going to infiltrate” it.
A message posted on the group’s Facebook page called on supporters to attend a “big protest at Belfast City Hall on Saturday to counter... lefty’s, commy’s and the dissident’s (sic) who are going to infiltrate them”.
“So us Prod’s must be there to meet them head on!!” the message added.
Dissident republican group Eirigi, which has said it will be protesting at the G8 summit, is expected to attend Saturday’s protest in Belfast.
An Ictu spokesman said that everyone would be welcome at the event.
“I’m not going to say to anyone to stay away if they are coming in the right spirit,” he said. “Trade unions have worked with republicans and loyalists in improving good relations across Northern Ireland. But if they are wanting to cause trouble, then plainly they are not welcome.”
Kevin Doherty from Ictu said the group had been informed by loyalist sources that the Ulster Defence League has no links with the main loyalist groups.
“I understand they are separate to any of the loyalist organisations. I think the only links they have are to the flag protests,” Mr Doherty said. “We first became aware of them online two weeks ago, after the death of (murdered soldier) Lee Rigby,” he added.
The police have warned that, “to remain within the law, protesters should not block roads or prevent the free flow of vehicle or pedestrian traffic”.
However, Belfast councillor Jim Rodgers said there were serious concerns the G8 protest could descend into trouble amid shoppers and tourists in the city’s centre.
“Naturally, because these groups (Ulster Defence League Belfast division and Eirigi) are poles apa
Saturday’s G8 protest will start at Custom House Square shortly after noon. Protesters will march through Belfast’s centre to City Hall, where trade union leaders will give speeches until 2pm.
Organisers yesterday unveiled
a banner to be carried at the event, bearing the words, ‘Another
World Is Possible’.
pride at 'extraordinary' Fermanagh
Prime Minister David Cameron has said he is "really proud" that the G8 summit is being held in Northern Ireland.
Mr Cameron said: "Frankly, 10 years ago, 20 years ago, it would have been unthinkable to hold a G8 in Northern Ireland, in County Fermanagh.
"I'm really proud that we're taking the G8 there to showcase this extraordinary part of our country."
Leaders from eight of the world's most powerful countries gather at the Lough Erne resort on June 17-18.
Mr Cameron, who was speaking at a briefing for the foreign press, added: "Northern Ireland's prospects have been transformed by the peace process in the last 20 years, and I think we'll be able to show the world this is a modern and dynamic part of the United Kingdom.
"It's open for business, open for investment, a great place to visit.
"So I'm looking forward to welcoming the world there, an extraordinarily beautiful place but also with wonderfully talented people."
When asked if it would be safe enough for himself and other leaders to play golf or go fishing during the summit, Mr Cameron replied: "I think the issues around golf and fishing aren't so much to do with security as re-electability.
"But I think I'll be able to say to other members of the G8, and of course all of you... is make another trip and get back to Fermanagh and go and see the Giant's Causeway, go and see some of the amazing sites of Northern Ireland.
"I think it will be a great
showcase for this part of Northern Ireland that people don't know
very well - I hope the eyes of the world will have a good look and
like what they see."
centre could deepen trauma for Troubles victims, says Order
The construction of a peace centre on the site of the former Maze prison could further deepen the trauma for victims of the troubles, the Orange Order has claimed.
Around one in ten of those killed during the troubles were members of the Orange Order, the Grand Orange Lodge said, adding that they are concerned the Peace Building and Conflict Resolution Centre would make it more difficult for victims to come to terms with their grief and hurt.
“In our view the construction of this centre will inevitably further the efforts of those who effectively wish to rewrite history by equating the perpetrators of violence with those innocent victims,” said the statement.
“The development of this centre at this site may also actually deepen the trauma and prolong the healing process for those who suffered directly as a consequence of terrorism.
“Approximately one in ten of the people killed during the Troubles were members of the Orange Order. It is a painfully sad statistic that underlines just how much our Loyal Institution has suffered. As a large fraternal organisation we share, and continue to share, the pain of their families – the people they left behind.
“When Grand Master Edward Stevenson assumed the role two years ago he publicly pledged to pursue a victims-centred approach. Having lost 337 of our members as a result of republican violence, the Orange Institution will always stand up for the rights and entitlements of innocent victims.
“We would therefore call on all our Unionist elected representatives, even at this late stage, not to proceed with this flawed and fundamentally ill-conceived project.”
A rally organised by the UUP, TUV and UKIP in opposition to the project has been planned for Friday June 20 at Lisburn Orange Hall.
Concerns have been raised that
the centre will become a ‘shrine to terrorism’ but the
DUP and Sinn Fein, who support the plan, have strongly refuted this
parties urged to pull out of Unionist Forum
Fifteen groups which sprang out of the Union Flag protests have united to call on the UUP, TUV, UKIP and PUP to leave the Unionist Forum.
The groups — which span Northern Ireland from Antrim to Armagh to Garvagh — said that they believed the DUP-UUP organised forum had been “formed for the wrong reasons and had no intentions of tackling discontent within the unionist community in a real and genuine way”.
The groups, which include Ulster Protestant Voice, Portadown PUL Group and Carrickfergus United Loyalists, said that unionist leaders “are to blame” for the fact that over the last 15 years 90,000 unionists have stopped voting.
A statement from the groups said that the parties opposed to the Maze “peace centre” should withdraw and “stop assisting the DUP in putting sticky plasters over the real concerns in the unionist community”.
The TUV and PUP have been particularly
critical of the Unionist Forum — which they say was an attempt
to halt the protests — but have until now remained within the
McGuinness calls for peace on the streets ahead of G8 summit
Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness has urged anti G8 protesters to maintain peace on the streets.
He warned hardline anarchists intent on causing mayhem to stay away from legitimate demonstrations being held in Belfast and Enniskillen.
"I think all the people who come here from other parts of the world need to be very conscious that they are coming to a place that is no longer at conflict, to a country at peace. I would like them to respect our peace when they come.
"We certainly respect their right to come and articulate their views around issues that I feel equally strongly about such as world conflict, hunger, poverty, unfair taxation," he said.
A stark warning was also issued to dissident republicans who may seek to exploit the opportunity presented by the G8 to gain global publicity.
Mr McGuinness added: "I also say to people who are from here who might think that this is an opportunity to exploit (it) for their own interests, I believe they would be making a huge mistake because they run the very great risk of being confronted by peaceful protesters who want absolutely nothing to do with any violence or conflict on the streets."
Round-the-clock protection has been put on landmark properties across Belfast as the PSNI (Police Service of Northern Ireland) ramps up security measures ahead of the G8 summit on Monday and Tuesday.
A ring of steel has been erected around the luxurious Lough Erne complex where world leaders including US president Barack Obama, Russian president Vladimir Putin and German chancellor Angela Merkel will meet.
Roads in the area have been closed to traffic and vehicle check points have been set up close to the remote resort.
On Saturday, thousands of anti capitalist protesters are expected to take to the streets of Belfast to show their opposition to the G8 during a trade union rally.
Thousands more are expected to travel west to Enniskillen for another protest organised by Unite, the UK's biggest trade union and NIPSA which represents thousands of public sector workers in Northern Ireland on Monday night. Marchers will snake their way through the Co Fermanagh town towards the huge security fence which encircles the five-star hotel.
Shops, restaurants and multi-national banks are expected to shut or board up their fronts to protect premises if violence flares. Plastic sheeting has already been placed over stained glass windows at Belfast City Hall where marchers will converge on Saturday.
Queen's University has said it plans to close all of its buildings over the extended weekend amid fears they could be targeted by militants.
An additional 3,600 police officers have been drafted in from across the UK to provide back up for the 7,500 PSNI patrolling the streets.
Significant disruption is also expected with check points set up around Belfast International Airport from where the world leaders will arrive and depart.
Northern Ireland's First Minister Peter Robinson said he has confidence that the PSNI will be able to cope with any disorder.
"There are people, no matter where you would have this event in the world, who want to protest. If people want to protest the option is there. We encourage them to do so peacefully. If anybody is coming here to cause trouble then we look to the PSNI to deal with it. They are well experienced and equipped to do so.
"The PSNI have been dealing with these kind of issues for a very long period of time. There is a lot of experience in their ranks and they have obviously been augmented by officers from other police services. I have no doubt they will be able to deal with issues but I do not want to talk up the prospect of upheaval and violence. The police will do what they always do, they will prepare for the worst and hope for the best," the DUP leader said.
Political leaders hope the G8 will positively market Northern Ireland to a global audience and demonstrate the changes that have taken place since the signing of the Good Friday Agreement in 1998.
Mr Robinson added: "We are now in a new era in Northern Ireland. Put simply the Prime Minister would not have had the confidence to put the G8 in Northern Ireland if we had not had the transformation that we have had over the last number of years. It is in itself a signal that Northern Ireland is a new place, it has changed dramatically and there is a level of peace and stability which mirrors that which you would see in any other part of the democratic world."
Mr McGuinness said the significance of hosting the G8 in a former conflict zone would not be lost on the world leaders.
"It should not be lost on
the world leaders that they are coming to a country that is at peace
and has successfully managed to forge agreements which are widely
admired throughout the world. I would hope that they see us as a beacon
of hope for the resolution of other conflicts throughout the world,"
harass éirígí members/ seize anti-G8 posters
in clampdown on political opposition
Following the arrest and detention earlier this morning (Wednesday) of a member of the socialist republican party, éirígí, while putting up anti-G8 posters on Belfast’s Falls Road, the PSNI have now seized similar posters from other members of the party in the Andersonstown area of the city.
Commenting on these incidents, éirígi general secretary, Breandán Mac Cionnaith, said, “The arrest of a party member this morning followed by the harassment of other party members and the seizure of anti-G8 posters under ‘anti-terror’ legislation by the PSNI is a clear indication of the true nature of the intense security operation currently being deployed across the Six Counties.
“All of our party members who were subject to this PSNI operation today were engaged in legitimate political activity. They were breaking no laws and they were not engaged in any form of disruptive or other activity. Despite these facts, they were clearly targeted in a coordinated manner by several heavily armed PSNI units.
“It is clear that the PSNI is acting under strict political orders to suppress any form of political opposition against the forthcoming G8 summit in Fermanagh.
“Our members have been harassed, arrested and party literature seized in an attempt to prevent an alternative political message being presented to the public.
“Despite this harassment, our members intend to continue going about the same type of political activities which the PSNI now deem to be illegitimate.
Mac Cionnaith added, “The PSNI’s targeting of our members should send a clear warning out to other political parties of the left, to trade unionists and to community sector groups that what has previously been accepted as normal political activity is now being suppressed in the Six Counties.
“Although they may deny
it through their slick PR machines, the reality on the ground demonstrates
that the PSNI and the powers-that-be in the Six Counties are intent
on preventing citizens from exercising their rights to freedom of
speech, freedom of conscience and freedom to express a political opinion
in order to stifle opposition to the G8 summit.”
member becomes first victim of G8 clampdown
A member of the socialist republican party, éirígí, has become the first victim of the massive security clampdown being put into operation as a prelude for the G8 summit next week.
Pádraig Ó Meiscill was arrested beside the International Wall on the Falls Road in West Belfast this morning (Wednesday) and taken to Grosvenor Road barracks by the PSNI as he and another party member were erecting posters opposing the G8 summit.
éirígí’s general secretary, Breandán Mac Cionnaith, condemned the arrest and said, “Both party members were engaged in putting up posters calling for opposition to the G8. Such activity falls well within the scope of what the vast majority of people would consider to be legitimate and peaceful political activity.
“However, both members were accused by the PSNI of ‘causing criminal damage’ by erecting the posters. When both men challenged the PSNI personnel on the ludicrous reason for stopping and questioning them, the PSNI then stated that Pádraig, who is well-known as a Gaeilgeoir and Irish language activist, was being arrested and taken to Grosvenor Road barracks to have his identity checked.
“In recent days, the PSNI and others have sought to create an oppressive atmosphere of fear and intimidation ahead of the G8 conference in an attempt to stifle legitimate political protest. The entire buildup, with high profile policing operations, British military deployments, temporary prisons, round-the-clock special courts and airborne drones, is clearly designed to prevent any form of political dissent against the reactionary capitalist and imperialist policies of the G8 countries.
"Our party member was arrested as and he and others were trying to cut through that climate of intimidation by engaging in legitimate political activity aimed at sending a message to the general public that people are entitled to protest against the aims of the G8.
“That is clearly a message
which the PSNI are under strict orders to prevent being heard.”
'allowed illegal Belfast Union flag protests to go ahead'
Police allowed Union flag protesters to stage illegal marches into Belfast city centre every week for up to three months, the High Court heard today.
for a nationalist resident claimed all those involved in the un-notified parades should have been arrested for criminal offences.
The PSNI operation undermined laws put in place to govern public processions in Northern Ireland, a judge was told.
Legal proceedings have been brought over marches from east Belfast staged every Saturday from December until the end of February.
Violence flared on several occasions as participants heading for City Hall to protest at the decision to limit the flying of the Union flag passed the Catholic Short Strand enclave.
An unidentified man who lives in the area is seeking to judicially review both the PSNI and Secretary of State Theresa Villiers.
His legal team want a declaration that the failure of police to stop demonstrators travelling along the route breached parading legislation.
Under the Public Processions (NI) Act 1998, brought in after major disorder across Northern Ireland linked to the Drumcree dispute, notification of marches must be given to the Parades Commission.
The resident also claims his right to privacy was violated by the protests.
The Secretary of State has been drawn into the case due to her alleged failure to exercise powers to prohibit public processions.
Earlier in the proceedings an east Belfast woman who took part in the mass walks into the city centre was refused permission to intervene in the case.
Opening the Short Strand man's challenge, Karen Quinlivan QC said DVD footage shows PSNI Land Rovers at the front of the weekly marches, with more officers at the sides and rear.
She told Mr Justice Treacy that police were "effectively escorting protesters to City Hall".
Her contention was that the operation failed to either prevent an illegal parade or arrest those involved.
"Those people who participated in these parades to Belfast City Hall on those dates were guilty of criminal offences, aside from any associated disorder," she said.
Ms Quinlivan pointed out that responsibility for determinations on marches had passed from police to the Parades Commission.
The barrister claimed the Public Processions Act had been "fundamentally undermined... by the Chief Constable taking upon himself the role of deciding if the parades should take place".
She added: "Effectively police
enabled loyalist protesters to reinstate the situation which was in
place prior to the establishment of the Parades Commission."
of Ruairí Ó Bradaigh and the Feakle Peace talks of 1974
By Joe O'Muircheartaigh
RTÉ didn’t exactly cover itself in glory this past week when makes passing reference to the death of Ruairí Ó Bradaigh on the Drivetime programme.
It was agenda driven journalism when the interviewer Philip Boucher-Hayes interrogated Ó Brádaigh’s biographer about the life and times of the former Sinn Féin leader and chief of staff of the IRA.
Interrogation is fine – it’s good journalism in fact, and it’s true that Ó Brádaigh was in the shadow of the gunmen for most of his life, given his unreconstructed republicanism and his hardline stance.
This is all RTÉ and most other commentators have been interested in since Ó Brádaigh’s passing, with little or no mention made of his efforts in bringing about peace in Northern Ireland, efforts, that if given a chance may have brought about a cessation of violence nearly a quarter of a century before any Good Friday Agreement came into being.
It was all because of Feakle. A peace effort that was born in Feakle, but one that was effectively sabotaged by outside forces who railed against notion of negotiating with the IRA on the prospect of peace.
It was the Feakle Talks of December 1974 that took place in Smyth’s Village Hotel.
The talks were brought about because of a number of events in 1974. Violence had escalated at home and abroad that year – there were the Birmingham and Guilford bombings in Britain, the Dublin and Monaghan bombings, while the Sunningdale Agreement also collapsed.
This was the backdrop, with Ó Brádaigh saying in an interview with this reporter 30 years later “let’s put it on record, the fact is that everyone wants peace, but the difference is that different people have different terms”.
Ó Brádaigh and Dr Arthur Butler, the Bishop of Down and Connor were two of the major players who went to Feakle to try and bring about peace.
Ó Brádaigh was the former IRA operative involved in the border campaign, turned chief-of-staff of the IRA who became president of Sinn Féin in 1970.
“Feakle wasn’t a sudden thing – from the early ‘70s on we had meetings of all descriptions to deal with many shades of unionism. But Feakle came about when Rev William Arlow entered the scene. He was an ecumenist who was assistant secretary of the Irish Council of Churches,” revealed Ó Brádaigh.
Rev Arlow arranged a meeting that took place in north Donegal in September 1974, at which members of the IRA Ard Comhairle were present. Then came Feakle, after the venue was chosen by two of the churchmen involved, from their experience of having ministered in the county.
The Republican line-up at Feakle was a powerful one – headed by Ó Brádaigh, also present were Sinn Féin vice-president Máire Drumm and Daithí O’Connell of the IRA leadership.
Others from the military wing of republicanism were Billy McKee as well as Seamus Twomey, Kevin Mallon and JB O’Hagan, the three of whom had just escaped from Mountjoy Prison in a helicopter.
The churchmen were Dr Arthur Butler, Dr Jack Weir, Rev Eric Gallagher, Rev William Arlow, Dr Henry Morton and Rev Arthur McArthur, while Stanley Worrall, of the New Ulster Movement was also present.
The all landed in Feakle on December 9, with the talks beginning early the following day which was International Human Rights Day, which co-incided with former IRA chief-of-staff Sean McBride being presented with the Nobel Peace Prize.
Business was done at Feakle, with terms of a peace being thrashed out until the talks were raided on the back of a huge security operation that involved 60 members of the Special Branch, 120 uniformed Gardai and army.
The result of the talks was that
on December 22 the IRA announced a unilateral cease fire until January
This meant the IRA renewed its cease fire on January 2, while in February a bi-lateral truce on 12 points agreed between the IRA and the British government came into operation.
This truce lasted until September 23 – another direct dividend from Feakle.
“If the talks at Feakle had been allowed to continue,” said Ó Brádaigh in 2004, “the intervening 30 years could have been a lot different. It’s the great ‘what if’. Here we were getting to the heart of the thing with the people who had the say so.
“It was one of the most open discussions that I ever had because it wasn’t propagandising or barging at each other in public or soundbites. Feakle wasn’t given a chance – out attitude was that we were prepared to stay there for days. The clergy were the same,” he added.
There should have been some mention
of the above on the national broadcaster in the wake of Ó Brádaigh’s
supergrass back in court over ‘deal breach’
A loyalist supergrass who gave evidence in a failed attempt to prosecute the killers of a journalist in Northern Ireland is to face a judge over an alleged breach of his deal with the state.
Two other so-called assisting offenders who also received reduced jail terms, this time for giving evidence in a separate multimillion-pound loyalist murder trial, have also been accused of breaking their agreements, but they are not being referred to a court.
The decisions to refer Loyalist Volunteer Force paramilitary Neil Hyde but not to make Ulster Volunteer Force members and brothers Robert and Ian Stewart face a judge were announced by the Public Prosecution Service.
Hyde was given a heavily reduced term of three years, when facing a potential 18-year sentence, for 48 LVF offences after agreeing to become an assisting offender to the authorities investigating the 2001 murder of Sunday World reporter Martin O’Hagan in Lurgan, Co Armagh.
Earlier this year Director of Public Prosecutions Barra McGrory announced there would be no prosecutions mounted on the basis of Hyde’s evidence.
Mr McGrory claimed there was sufficient evidence to show Hyde breached his assisting offender agreement to give a truthful account of events and it was in the interests of justice to refer him to court.
A judge will decide whether he has broken his deal and, if so, will review the sentence he was offered.
The decision by the PPS to refer the case to court is understood to be the first under assisting offender legislation in the UK.
The PPS claims both Stewart brothers lied on the witness stand when giving evidence against 13 men accused of roles in the murder of Ulster Defence Association leader Tommy English in north Belfast in 2000.
Twelve of the accused were cleared of all charges with the trial judge criticising the brothers’ testimony as being “infected with lies”.
The brothers served only three years of life sentences after each struck an assisting offenders deal.
Explaining the decision not to refer them to court, the PPS said the Stewarts’ breaches of their agreements had no material impact on the outcome of the trial.
All three supergrasses are in
witness protection and have been given new identities.
shocking’ discovery on rubber bullets - Foyle MP
SDLP Foyle MP Mark Durkan has said that the ‘grossly shocking’ discovery of confidential papers revealing just how lethal rubber bullets could be confirms a calculated combination of ‘cynicism, malice and negligence’ on the part of the British government.
He said: “These papers confirm that the British government really knew just how unsafe, unreliable, injurious and lethal these weapons could be.
“Their stonewalling against the well-founded complaints and arguments about the nature and use of these bullets extended to deploying monetary compensation not in a spirit of redress and truth and acknowledgement but as a tool of cover-up.
“At one level, the victims of these bullets and their families have felt and suspected something of this order all along. At another level it is grossly shocking to find that cynical malevolence corroborated in government papers.
“It is not only victims and those who campaigned against these weapons who should be incensed by what has been revealed. Ministers, politicians in the North and in Britain, officials and commentators who retailed the false justification for these weapons and rebutted the genuine concerns should also now be incensed if they have any decency.”
Declassified confidential documents from the 1970s reveal that British officials not only knew rubber bullets could be lethal but that the testing of the weapon had taken place “in a shorter time than was ideal.”
The revelations are contained in a series of official papers relating to the compensation case of Derry man, Richard Moore, who was blinded by a rubber bullet fired by a British soldier in 1972. Richard was ten-years-old when he lost his sight.
The British Ministry of Defence (MoD) later settled the case with the Moore family out of court for £68,000 - a figure mentioned in the papers as a “rock bottom price.”
As revealed by the ‘Derry Journal’ this morning, the documentation was unearthed recently in London’s Public Records Office by Derry-based human rights group, the Pat Finucane Centre.
Correspondence between British officials appears to indicate that the authorities had been in such a hurry to develop ‘riot control weapons’ in the early 1970s that they rushed through the testing of rubber bullets.
The papers also reveal that officials feared Richard Moore’s legal team might seek disclosure of certain background documents detailing the safety of rubber bullets - reports that would reveal the weapon had not been adequately tested.
The city’s MP, Mark Durkan added: “This newly-corroborated truth and Richard Moore’s profoundly sincere, considerate and challenging response to it warrants proper address by the government of today.
“Through his work with Children
in Crossfire Richard has many friends in Parliament and I would hope
that they would join with me as his constituency MP in making sure
that this sordid syndrome of deceit, denial and deadly deployment
is duly reflected on the Parliamentary record.”
bullets: Army kept real dangers in NI hidden
Soldiers used rubber bullets in Northern Ireland at a time when they knew they were more dangerous than had been disclosed, a human rights group has said.
The details were found in declassified Ministry of Defence (MoD) papers, according to the Pat Finucane Centre.
They contain legal advice for the MoD to seek a settlement over a Londonderry boy blinded by a rubber bullet in 1972.
An MoD spokesman said lessons had been learned from the events of that period.
Richard Moore from Derry was blinded at the age of 10 when a soldier fired a rubber bullet into his face.
According to the Pat Finucane Centre, one document written in 1977 said a court case would expose the problems with the bullets and make it harder for the MoD to fight future cases involving rubber bullets.
The centre said this was because it did not want to discuss the bullets in open court.
The papers stated that further tests would reveal serious problems with the bullets, including that they were tested "in a shorter time than was ideal", that they "could be lethal" and that they "could and did cause serious injuries".
The MoD later settled the case with the Moore family out of court for £68,000.
Mr Moore, who is the director of the Derry-based charity, Children in Crossfire, said he had met the solder who shot him and they were friends.
But he added the recent information "makes me feel sad".
"I possibly would have been able to see today if these weapons hadn't been deployed on the streets," he said.
He said he realised that it was now a different era but said the use of rubber bullets was wrong.
"They shouldn't have brought them onto the streets. I'm alive to talk about it. There are children who are not alive to talk about it.
"It's not about me, you can't help feel that you were just a pawn in a bigger game, they were more concerned about the financial impact and the political impact."
Paul O'Connor from the Pat Finucane Centre said it was "evident" throughout the papers that the MoD were "very concerned" that if this went to court, and if Mr Moore's lawyer sought disclosure, a number of things would come to light.
"Firstly, that the rubber bullets were not properly tested before they were introduced, secondly that the ministry was aware that they were lethal and thirdly that they were aware that they caused serious injuries and they did cause serious injuries," he said.
In a statement, the MoD said it "greatly regrets that Mr Moore was blinded at such a young age as a result of this incident and our thoughts remain with all those who were killed or injured during that time - both military and civilian.
"Lessons have been learned following the tragic events of that period of conflict, and compensation payments have been made in recognition of that."
The papers indicated that a single round was fired because the lives of the soldiers were believed to be in danger, and for this reason the Ministry of Defence was not prepared to accept that the soldiers acted wrongly.
They also showed that there had been a discussion within the department about whether to settle the case for damages brought on Mr Moore's behalf, and that, as would have been expected, this included an assessment of the view of the court.
Rubber bullets were introduced as an alternative to the use of firearms when soldiers were faced with lethal threats during rioting in Northern Ireland during the Troubles.
They were replaced by plastic
baton rounds which were assessed as being less likely to cause lasting
Bullets: Truth Exposed
The Journal today reveals the extraordinary lengths the British government went to to ensure the shocking truth about rubber bullets remained under wraps.
Declassified confidential documents from the 1970s reveal that British officials not only knew rubber bullets could be lethal but that the testing of the weapon had taken place “in a shorter time than was ideal.”
The revelations are contained in a series of official papers relating to the compensation case of local man, Richard Moore, who was blinded by a rubber bullet fired by a British soldier in 1972. Richard was aged just ten years old when he lost his sight.
The British Ministry of Defence (MoD) later settled the case with the Moore family out of court for £68,000 - a figure mentioned in the papers as a “rock bottom price.”
The documentation was unearthed recently in London’s Public Records Office by the Derry-based Pat Finucane Centre.
Correspondence between British officials appears to indicate that the authorities had been in such a hurry to develop ‘riot control weapons’ in the early 1970s that they rushed through the testing of rubber bullets.
The papers also reveal that officials feared Richard Moore’s legal team might seek disclosure of certain background documents detailing the safety of rubber bullets - reports that would reveal the weapon had not been adequately tested.
One particularly damning document reveals that “... the Ministry was aware that it could be lethal” but that this was accepted “in order to give the Army a riot control weapon of lower lethality than the SLR [self-loading rifle] in the shortest possible time.”
Such a public revelation, the letter’s author acknowledges, could prove damaging.
Another document asks in relation to Mr. Moore’s case: “Would disclosure of these documents, and examination of an MOD witness in court, be so damaging to MOD interests that in your view the case should be settled at almost any cost?”
More documentation reads: “Now that we know that our documents relating to rubber bullets are all subject to discovery, [named MoD division] has no hesitation in recommending that we attempt to settle out of court. From earlier soundings, I believe that this view will now be shared by other MOD divisions.”
It continues: “If an attempt to settle is to be made, we should instruct out lawyers within 48 hours so that we can avoid, if possible, the production of documents.”
Richard Moore, founder of the Children in Crossfire charity, said he was “surprised and saddened” when informed of the content of the documents.
He said: “I was a 10-year-old boy blinded by a rubber bullet and to know that people at a government level tried to cover things up and withhold information is a shock.”
“The state has a responsibility to look after its citizens and its children. They have to be responsible, and, clearly, the state wasn’t taking responsibility here.”
“For me, personally, it’s over,” Mr. Moore added. “It doesn’t change how I feel, though. I have no anger, no hatred; I have dealt with the blindness and dealt with being shot. I hope this helps others affected by rubber bullets and, for them, I hope, somehow, this can begin a new process of honesty and openness that they deserve.”
In a statement this week, a spokesperson for the Ministry of Defence (MoD) said: “The MoD greatly regrets that Mr Moore was blinded at such a young age as a result of this incident and our thoughts remain with all those who were killed or injured during that time - both military and civilian.
“Lessons have been learned following the tragic events during that period of conflict and compensation payments have been made in recognition of that.”
Paul O’Connor, of the Pat Finucane Centre, said the discovery of the documents revealed the British government was “willing to pay almost any amount of tax-payers’ money and to go to almost any lengths” to ensure the truth about rubber bullets didn’t emerge.
“At every level, civil servants in different ministries colluded to ensure a 10 year-old boy was denied the truth,” Mr O’Connor said.
He believes the new evidence could have “significant implications” for other cases involving deaths and serious injuries arising from rubber bullets, including the case of another Derry man, Thomas Friel, who died, aged 21, after being struck on the head by a rubber bullet in May 1973.
The PFC says it now intends to
seek access to further withheld documents via Freedom of Information
Repeat Call for G8 Protests
With just under one week to go until the G8 summit, Cathaoirleach Éirígí, Brian Leeson, has called on people from across Ireland to join the anti-capitalist protests that will take place in Enniskillen next Monday (June 17).
Speaking from Dublin, Mr Leeson said: “The presence of the G8 in Ireland must be actively opposed by republicans, socialists and other progressives.
“By hosting the G8 summit in occupied Ireland, the British government are attempting to portray our country as a peaceful colony - a success story for modern day capitalism and imperialism.
“Like the visit of Elizabeth Windsor to the Twenty-Six Counties in 2011 or the naming of Derry as the 2013 ‘UK City of culture’, the hosting of the G8 in Ireland has to be seen in the context of the British government’s ‘normalisation’ strategy.
“For decades Britain has attempted to portray the relationship between Ireland and Britain as a normal one.
“Nothing could be further from the truth.
“Britain continues to occupy and claim jurisdiction over six Irish counties and enforces that occupation with 5,000 combat troops, 9,000 paramilitary police and hundreds of MI5 operatives and spies.
“For as long as British imperialism claims jurisdiction over any part of Ireland, the relationship between the people of these two islands will never be ‘normal’.
“Ireland, north and south, has been crippled by the failed policies of neo-liberalism and austerity. The G8 states effectively control both the EU and the IMF, institutions which have inflicted untold suffering on the peoples of not just Ireland, but Europe and beyond.
“Despite all of the spin to the contrary the G8 summit is in essence a planning meeting for the global ruling elite, a meeting that will result in further attacks on the rights and living conditions of working people everywhere.
“The world’s eyes will be on Enniskillen next week.
“Those who are organising the G8 summit hope to present an image of an Ireland at peace with the British occupation, with capitalism and with austerity.
“It is up to the people of this country to ensure that another image is presented to the world; the image of a people who are far from content; a people who are no longer willing to accept the diktats of the ruling elite of the G8 and the Troika; a people who are taking a stand against the austerity policies of Westminster, Leinster House and Stormont.
“I would encourage anyone
who is opposed to imperialism and capitalism, to occupation and exploitation,
to cutbacks and austerity, to environmental destruction and corporate
fascism to make their way to Enniskillen for 7pm next Monday and join
with us in sending a message to the G8 and the world – this
is Ireland and we do fight back!”
Féin comment on Orange Order statement
Commenting after meeting the Parades
Commission in Belfast this morning, Sinn Féin Assembly member
Gerry Kelly said he shared the hopes expressed in an Orange Order
statement that the marching season would be peaceful.
issues template for future parades
The Orange Order in Belfast has agreed on a template for future parades in an effort to ease tension during the marching season.
Following a meeting on Tuesday, the County Grand Orange Lodge of Belfast outlined its position.
"Along with our community, we wish to celebrate and commemorate our history peaceably and traditionally, we do not seek violence, indeed violence has no place in today's society," a statement said.
"Neither do we subscribe to the view that violence is inevitable this year, people have choices."
Last year tensions rose after a loyalist band was filmed playing a sectarian song and circling outside St Patrick's Catholic Church in Donegall Street in Belfast on 12 July.
It preceded a summer of violent clashes during the parading season.
The Orange Order in conjunction with the City of Belfast Grand Black Chapter has agreed that no part of any parade should stop outside the church, in an effort to create "an atmosphere of mutual respect".
"This template builds on actions already taken and the full explanation and unequivocal apology from the band concerned regarding that incident," the statement said.
"It has come about following lengthy conversations with our partners in the Belfast Parades Forum and wide consultation internally and externally with community groups; bands; PSNI; politicians and clergy."
A number of other measures including thwarting street drinking and facilitating any services taking place were agreed on.
Decisions were also made on conduct for bands passing the church in future parades, with instructions for only hymns to be played in some circumstances.
During the Twelfth parades, the Lodge said the "lead band will play a hymn".
A spokesperson explained that other bands can play other songs which should be "respectful".
"Nobody has anything to fear from showing mutual respect, but it is a two way process and a genuine apology for hurt cannot be continually rejected in favour of ongoing humiliation and punishment by the Parades Commission," the statement continued.
"The Protestant, Unionist,
Loyalist people do not want trouble in the capital city of Northern
Ireland, hence this comprehensive template is provided in a genuine
attempt to ensure there will be no surprises this summer and we can
all contribute to the peace, stability and economic success of the
The critically acclaimed book,
The McGurk’s Bar Bombing: Collusion, Cover-Up and a Campaign
for Truth, has sold out its first print run and has just been
released for download via Amazon’s
Website: The McGurk's Bar Massacre
ex-RUC on Maze
Former RUC officers speaking out against a conflict transformation centre at the old Maze prison is yet another reason for the plans to be scrapped, according to the Ulster Unionists.
At a meeting of the UUP executive, on the same day the News Letter carried the hard-hitting comments of the RUC George Cross Association, party leaders unanimously passed a resolution calling for the demolition of the former prison buildings.
As part of the wider Peace building and Conflict Resolution Centre (PbCRC) project, the former prison hospital and one of the H-Blocks are among a small number of buildings being retained.
On the same site, but not in the original prison buildings, there will be a centre designed to tell the story of prison inmates, the prison officers and the security forces.
Speaking in yesterday’s News Letter, members of the RUC GC Association’s central co-ordinating group said there should be no attempt to equate the community service of law enforcement with those who murdered civilians and security personnel alike without remorse – describing the Maze site as “the very antithesis of peace”.
The UUP motion was proposed by the party’s justice spokesman, Tom Elliott, and seconded by UUP treasurer, Mark Cosgrove.
Mr Cosgrove, a Newtownabbey councillor, said: “There is growing opposition to the Maze proposals from right across the community as evidenced by last week’s decision by all 10 branches of the RUC George Cross Association to oppose the siting of the conflict transformation centre at the Maze.
“I was proud to second the motion at the party’s executive meeting. Its unanimous endorsement is proof that the Ulster Unionist Party is corporately opposed to OFMdFM’s plans, which we believe will inevitably lead to the creation of a shrine to terror at the Maze.”
Cllr Cosgrove added: “It is still not too late for the First Minister to do what’s right.”
OFMDFM ministers have consistently denied the PbCRC will become a shrine to terrorists.