September 29, 2003

Election date `crucial' for endgame talks

The setting of a date for elections to the Belfast Assembly is crucial if Sinn Féin is to make any approach to the IRA regarding the latest talks in the peace process, party negotiator Martin McGuinness has said.

`Investigation' into murder never took place

The family of a County Tyrone nationalist councillor murdered in 1974 was lied to by the RUC police when they were told the killing had been re-investigated in 1993, it has emerged.

Hope and History, by Gerry Adams

In his new book, `Hope and History: Making Peace in Ireland', Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams looks back at two decades of peace efforts.

Parties set out stalls

The Ulster Unionist leader David Trimble is seeking ``visible arms decommissioning'' from the IRA in the negotiations on a new peace deal.

Sinn Féin and the Raj

In a corner of India lies the grave of a soldier who led an Irish mutiny.

Death of Proinsias Mac Aonghusa

The death has taken place of Proinsias Mac Aonghusa, a former broadcaster and writer and a key figure in the Irish language movement.

Attacks on schools continue

A pipe-bomb was left at the gates of a Catholic school in north Belfast over the weekend.

Edward Said - a fountain of humanity

We mourn with greatest sadness the death today of Professor Edward W. Said.

Ahern worries mount over TD scandals

Michael Collins TD has announced that he is to resign from the Fianna Fáil Parliamentary Party following revelations that he is on a list of over 400 tax defaulters.

September 25, 2003

Talks continue to restore Assembly

Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams and Ulster Unionist leader David Trimble are meeting again today as part of a `network' of exchanges aimed at reviving the Good Friday Agreement.

Protests over policing in Strabane

The first meeting of Strabane's District Policing Partnership (DPP) was adjourned twice last night due to a protest by dissident republicans.

Finucane 'shot 22 times'

A loyalist accused of murdering Belfast defence lawyer Pat Finucane in 1989 admitted that he was 'massacred' in a taped confession, a court was told today.

Court hears how PSNI interferes with forensic evidence

Sinn Féin's Pat Doherty MP said it is ``remarkable'' that the British Secretary of State Paul Murphy has not made any comment on PSNI interference with the work of the Forensic Science Agency.

Seeking a debate on truth and reconciliation

Sinn Féin yesterday unveiled a new discussion document aimed at encouraging debate on how society could address past events during the conflict.

Colombia, the paranoid state

The plight of the three Irishmen on trial in Colombia for allegedly assisting left-wing guerrillas must be analysed in light of how the judicial system in that country has been perverted by right-wing paranoia which seems to pervade every aspect of life in that war-torn society.

General recalled as soldiers express Bloody Sunday `elation'

The Bloody Sunday inquiry has continued this week with testimony from a series of former British soldiers who have shown no remorse for their killings on January 30, 1972. Today also saw news that their captain, now British Army General Mike Jackson, is to be recalled to explain discrepancies in his evidence.

Dublin bin tax row spreads

The bin tax dispute is set to spread across county Dublin, with Dun Laoghaire/Rathdown County Council due to also stop collecting bins from householders who have not paid waste charges.

September 23, 2003

Twelve arrests after huge bin tax protest

A crowd of up to five thousand marched on Mountjoy Prison last night demanding the release of the jailed TD, Joe Higgins, and his colleague, Clare Daly.

Killer British soldier promoted during investigation

Britain's Armed Forces Minister, Adam Ingram, has admitted that one of two soldiers convicted of the murder of Belfast teenager Peter McBride was promoted while an Army Board was still said to be considering the dismissal of the soldiers from the military.

Schools targeted for sectarian attack

A fire which has devastated an Irish Language pre-school in Belfast is the latest in an escalating series of sectarian attacks on schools across the North of Ireland.

Interview with Caitriona Ruane

Caitriona Ruane of the Bring Them Home Campaign works on behalf of the Colombia 3, three Irishmen held in jail for over three years while on trial for aiding rebels in Colombia's civil war.

Election tension mounts as talks continue

Politicians in the North of Ireland are bracing themselves for an election as the search continues in Belfast for a breakthrough to revive the 1998 Good Friday Agreement.

10-day-old child caught in petrol bomb attack

A 10-day-old child escaped injury at the weekend after the homes of four Catholic families in Newtownabbey were petrol bombed.

The Armed Peace

The Armed Peace - Life and death after the Ceasefires
By Brian `Barney' Rowan
Mainstream Publishing
£15.99 h/b

Of all the possible titles that Barney Rowan could have chosen for his second book about the peace process, `The Armed Peace: Life and death after the Cease-fires', the phrase, `armed peace' is a good summary of what exists in the Six Counties today.

Play the European card

By Fr Des Wilson

It is difficult to see how democratic people can make any further concessions to the British government or its Irish representatives.

September 21, 2003

TD jailed after bin charge protest

An Irish parliamentarian has been jailed for a month over the escalating protests against the bin tax in Dublin.

Soldiers hostile to Bloody Sunday questions

The Bloody Sunday inquiry heard evidence last week from the soldier in command of the unit believed to have been responsible for killing up to eleven people on Bloody Sunday and wounding a further seven.

'Lost decade' for tackling poverty

A new Combat Poverty report published this week by Trinity College Dublin academic Virpi Timonen shows that we have a "low tax, low spend" policy when it comes to tackling poverty and disadvantage in Ireland. It means that the chances of redistributing wealth from the rich to the poor in Ireland are "relatively low".

Keeping their names ever green

Senior republicans joined at the weekend to commemorate one of the most famous events of the conflict, the 1983 escape from the H-Blocks of Long Kesh. On Friday night in Letterkenny, Gerry Kelly, Bobby Storey and Brendan ``Bik'' McFarlane reconstructed Europe's biggest jail break since the second world war in a gathering of over a thousand republicans.

On September 25, 1983, IRA PoWs took over a block in the H-Blocks and held it for nearly two hours, allowing 38 prisoners to escape.

The reconstruction involved video screens, maps and photographs, and anecdotal personal accounts of participants.

In typical republican style, black humour was the order of the day. But the importance of the escape, following the loss of ten republicans in the 1981 humger strikes, was lost on no-one.

There was a particular tribute to those who assisted the escape but who stayed behind and did not participate. ``They are the forgotten ones but they all played a part just as much as we did," said Bobby Storey.

The escape plan depended on the use of a `hobby' shop, where the prisoners were allowed to make harps and other craft items to sell on the outside.

One prisoner was told to make a wooden gun with a wooden silencer. ``Of course, it wooden work,'' said Storey. But the gun did play an important role, he pointed out, as Kelly wielded it to gain control of the van that would be used for the escape.

The planning was ad hoc, he said. Those chosen to escape were not even told until just beforehand. The prisoners identified the wardens who would be on duty on the morning of the escape so the uniforms they took off them would fit. The escape began at a signal from Storey.

``There were 30 of us on the block and only three of them, so that part was easy. We told them they were under arrest and we took it from there,'' he said.

Storey described how the prisoners gained control of a tally lodge just 30ft away from a British Army watchtower. A soldier looked on as the prisoners fought with wardens who had just come on duty.

``He must have been the stupidest of all the Brits they ever sent over here,'' Storey joked. ``He thought we were arguing about a football match or something.''

The screen behind the stage, which had been showing diagrams of the prison, switched to images of farmhouses and rivers as it was explained that although 19 prisoners were immediately recaptured, others escaped across fields.

``We were lying in a drain. Someone had seen us and there were RUC and army everywhere,'' Storey said. ``They were so close we could hear them talking. One said, `If I ever get my hands on Storey, I'll kill him' so it wasn't a great incentive to give myself up.

``Eventually they spotted us and ordered us out. It was the Lagan for God's sake and we couldn't swim so that was the scariest bit of the whole lot.''

Storey was pragmatic about the prisoners' motivation for the escape. ``I would love to say we realised its political significance but really all we were looking for was to get back to the struggle,'' he said.

The trio finished by thanking everyone connected with the escape, and there were presentations to the relatives of those who had died.

Joyful commemoration of famous jail-break

Senior republicans joined at the weekend to commemorate one of the most famous events of the conflict, the 1983 escape from the H-Blocks of Long Kesh.

How high are the flames?

If the images of unionist protest outside Carnmoney cemetery can tell us one thing it's this; anti-Catholic bigotry is not confined to the UDA and UVF paramilitaries. In the Irish News, the photographs show two inoffensive elderly Catholic women, one carrying an offering of flowers, being confronted by unionist protestors.

Speculation mounts on new peace deal

Adams seeks `inclusive' united Ireland

A dramatic political breakthrough in the North could be imminent as Sinn Féin and representatives of the Irish and British governments are engaged in a series of meetings this weekend.

Attorney General calls for Finucane inquiry

The 26-County attorney general, Rory Brady, has told a lawyers' conference in the United States that it would be "inconceivable" if the British government did not institute a public judicial inquiry into the assassination of Belfast solicitor Pat Finucane.

September 18, 2003

Seanad reform proposals debated

The upper house of the Dublin parliament is undemocratic and elitist, according to Sinn Fein's leader in the Dail [the parliament's lower house] has claimed.

Human Rights Commission crisis puts investment at risk

Sinn Fein spokesperson on Equality and Human Rights, Bairbre de Brun, has expressed concern that the approach of the Human Rights Commission to fair employment and parity of esteem could put future investment in the North at risk.

Elections failure `could signal end for agreement'

In the wake of the UDA campaign to drive Catholic residents from the Deerpark Road in North Belfast, unionist paramilitary activity has increased across the Six Counties. A group calling itself the Loyalist Action Force issued a death threat against Glengormley priest Fr Dan Whyte. The group is more than likely a bogus cover name for the UDA.

A journalist working for the North Belfast News has been told that he was under threat from the UDA and bombs were planted at Catholic schools in Dungiven in County Derry. On at least three occasions, Catholics have been lucky to escape with their lives from loyalist gangs.

And in an act of sickening sectarian hatred, Catholics attending a Blessing of the Graves devotion in Carnmoney were subjected to vicious barracking by up to 200 loyalists.

ATTACK OUTSIDE SCHOOL

An 18 year old pupil at St Gabriel's Secondary school, in North Belfast, was attacked by loyalists as he and a friend made their way home on Tuesday afternoon 16 September.

The Catholic sixth form pupils had just left the school and were walking along Hesketh Road when two loyalists jumped from behind bushes and attacked the two students with a lump of wood with nails in it.

One of the youths had his two front teeth knocked out and suffered a puncture wound to his bottom lip.

The two attackers ran off along Hesketh Road towards the loyalist Glenbryn estate.

A relation of the injured youth told how teachers from St Gabriel's always stand at Hesketh Road to protect pupils from sectarian attacks but the two students got out of school early which left them vulnerable to the attack.

"They were just walking along Hesketh Road and as they came to a corner house two loyalists jumped out from behind a hedge and slammed the lump of wood into the boy's face. There was blood everywhere. Michael had his two front teeth knocked straight out and he has a hole in his bottom lip caused by a nail that was in to the plank".

Sinn Fein councillor Margaret McClenaghan condemned the sectarian attack on the youths saying that loyalists are intent on stirring up further sectarian trouble.

CATHOLIC LUCKY TO ESCAPE DEATH

Nationalists have been warned to be vigilant when travelling through the loyalist West Circular and Ballygomartin Roads in Belfast after a loyalist mob tried to abduct the occupants of two cars in separate sectarian attacks last week.

In the first attack on Thursday 11 September at around 7.30pm three nationalists in a car had stopped at the traffic lights at the junction of the two roads, which is a main thoroughfare through West Belfast, when a group of loyalists ran over to the car and began attacking it with sticks and bottles.

The young nationalist driver of the vehicle, who was wearing a Celtic top, tried to evade his assailants but crashed into a car in front and stalled the car.

The Catholic youth got out of the car and tried to escape but the loyalist mob caught up with him and attacked him with a heavy metal chain. They stole the young mans mobile phone and gold bracelet before a car travelling towards the Springfield Road stopped and rescued the terrified youth.

The two other passengers managed to escape their attackers.

The driver of the car who rescued the youth said that the young boy was lucky to escape with his life.

"I was driving home when I saw the incident and the young lad being beaten by a loyalist mob. There were about 10 of them but some started to use mobile phones and suddenly three cars appeared on the scene. We stopped and pulled the youth into the car before driving out of the area. The young man was terrified".

The woman added, "God knows what they would have done to the lad if we hadn't come along at the right time".

Then Friday 12 September at 9.30pm a car carrying three nationalists, one of whom was wearing a County Antrim GAA shirt, was attacked at the same traffic lights by around 20 to 30 loyalists.

The occupants managed to escape their attackers.

Sinn Fein councillor Margaret McClenaghan has warned nationalists travelling from West to North Belfast to be very vigilant after these attacks.

"It seems to be that loyalists are watching vehicles travelling along the West Circular Road and any hint whatsoever that the occupants of the cars are Catholics they are using their mobile phones to summon gangs of loyalists to attack the cars at the traffic lights".

McClenaghan added that loyalists have been seen circling the area in cars looking out for intended targets.

"Nationalists should be very careful when travelling through these areas. "This young lad is very lucky to be alive, people should be vigilant at all times when travelling through this area".

DEERPARK HOMES ATTACKED AGAIN

meanwhile, Catholics in the Deerpark Road road area of North Belfast are recoevering after coming under attack for the third week running.

On Sunday 14 September at around 10.30pm, loyalists drove into the Deerpark Road in North Belfast in a red car. The driver of the car slowed down and two men got out of a car and threw bricks at two houses, breaking windows in both houses.

In one of the attacks a missile was thrown with such force that it embedded itself in a wall.

One of the occupants of the homes, who wishes to remain anonymous told how she saw the car drive into the Deerpark Road with its lights out.

"It was very suspicious as all its light were turned off. Two loyalists got out while the driver of the red car parked further up the street with the engine running. They got bricks from a building site beside our homes and threw them at the windows. They then ran and got back into the car and drove off towards the loyalist Torrens area.".

The woman told how her 13 year old daughter was terrified as the brick came through the double glazing at the front of the house.

"The glass was everywhere, my foot got cut as I tried to get out of the way. I have a 6 year old son with special needs and I'm thankful he slept through the attack but my daughter was petrified".

The woman said her husband chased the car but they made good their escape, driving past the massive Oldpark PSNI barracks.

North Belfast Sinn Fein councillor Margaret McClenaghan described the sectarian attack as a blatant act designed to instil fear into the Catholic residents of the Deerpark area.

"These are premeditated attacks orchestrated by well known unionist paramilitaries from the Glenbryn area. Everyone in the area knows who is carrying out these sectarian attacks but still the PSNI do nothing about them".

McClenaghan called on all political and community leaders from the Protestant community to condemn the attacks.

Below is a list of the recent loyalist activity:

  • A Catholic man is lucky to be alive after he was struck on the head with a hatchet by a gang of Shankill loyalists, as he walked home along Carrick Hill in the early hours of Sunday 7 September.
  • On Wednesday 10 September loyalists daubed sectarian graffiti on the front of St Mary's Catholic chapel in Glengormley. The slogan KAT (Kill all Taigs) was painted across the doors of the church on the Carnmoney Road.
  • In Derry last week, the UDA threatened to take action against what it described as 'known republicans' in the Waterside area. The warning was issued in a statement released by the Ulster Political Research Group and comes on the back of a press conference last month when the UPRG warned that the UDA ceasefire in Derry was coming under strain.
  • On Thursday 11 September, loyalists attacked cars at the West Circular and Ballygomartin Roads in Belfast. A young driver, targeted for wearing a Celtic top, was assaulted and robbed but narrowly escaped being abducted. On Friday 12 September a car carrying three nationalists, one wearing a County Antrim GAA shirt, was attacked at the same traffic lights by around 20 to 30 loyalists, but they managed to escape unscathed.
  • On Friday 12 September, members of the PSNI visited the offices of the North Belfast News to warn a journalist with the paper that his life is under threat from unionist paramilitaries. The journalist, who wishes to remain anonymous, said he would not be intimidated out of his job. The threat came as a result of the newspaper's decision to publish a photograph of the man named as the new North Belfast brigadier of the UDA.
  • Just hours before Cemetery Sunday devotions at Carnmoney on Sunday 14 September, Glengormley priest Father Dan White was warned his life was under threat from the Loyalist Action Force, a cover name used by the UDA. During proceedings, loyalist protesters blew horns and whistles outside the gates in an attempt to disrupt the blessing of the graves ceremony.
  • On Sunday 14 September, a number of Catholic graves were desecrated at St Patrick's Church cemetery, Ballyargan, in Scarva, County Down, the latest sectarian attack at a graveyard. Eight graves had headstones broken and flowers and wreaths were strewn about the grounds.
  • On Sunday also, loyalists attacked Catholics homes in the Deerpark Road area of North Belfast for the third week running.
  • British Army bomb disposal experts made safe two devices found at Catholic schools in Limavady and Dungiven on Monday 15 September. Unionist paramilitaries had left the devices at St Patrick's High School, Dungiven, and St Mary's High School in Limavady, just ten miles away. Both devices were found to contain explosives but no detonators.

Unionist paramilitaries intensify attacks

In the wake of the UDA campaign to drive Catholic residents from the Deerpark Road in North Belfast, unionist paramilitary activity has increased across the Six Counties.

Ex-prisoners dismiss Donaldson criticism

In his attempts to be seen as the most hardline of hardline unionists, Ulster Unionist MP Jeffrey Donaldson has gone on the offensive over this coming Friday's commemoration of the 20th anniversary of the 1983 H Block in Donegal.

Dissidents arrested over police board intimidation

Four men and a woman were arrested early this morning in Strabane, County Tyrone, in connection with attacks against nationalist members of local policing boards.

British govenment to defy document ruling

The British government and the PSNI police are set to defy a coroner's ruling that they hand over unedited documentation relating to the killings of ten County Tyrone nationalists during the 1990s. After a delay of two years and 12 preliminary hearings, when the British Ministry of Defence (MoD) and the PSNI refused to produce all relevant material, coroner Roger McLernon has now ordered the MoD and PSNI to produce all intelligence documents relevant to the killings within 21 days so the inquests of Roseanne Mallon, Jack and Kevin McKearney and of seven IRA Volunteers can go ahead.

Direct rule a disaster

Direct Rule is a disaster - we have part time Direct Rule Ministers with remits over multiple departmental responsibilities and have neither the time, even if they possessed the hunger, to bring forward major initiatives to better the lot of people here. Apart from attempting to use the absence of the Assembly to push Water Charges and other revenue raising measures for the Exchequer, no one can be in any doubt that the Direct Rule Ministers are merely going through the motions.

September 15, 2003

US support sought as Colombia 3 ruling awaited

The Colombia Three ordeal may be brought to a close this month, with a verdict from the trial judge due any day now.

Talks intensify for deal to restore peace process

The Irish Prime Minister, Taoiseach Bertie Ahern, meets the Ulster Unionist leader David Trimble, for talks today in the latest round of talks aimed at rescuing the peace process and the 1998 Good Friday Agreement.

Police board threats blamed on dissidents

Sinn Fein has dismissed suggestions that mainstream republicans are behind threats against nationalist district policing board members.

MI5 takeover bodes badly for policing

Speculation that `intelligence gathering'in the Six Counties will, in the near future, be handed over by the PSNI Special Branch to their superiors in MI5 offers no assurance that the policy of collusion that has operated in the state for the last two decades - and been sanctioned at the highest levels - will be abandoned.

H-Block escape event criticised

A historic event to mark the 20th anniversary of the 1983 H-Block escape has become the subject of controversy today.

Govt popularity falls, Sinn Fein support surges

A poll in Saturday's Irish Independent has show that the current Irish Government's popularity is and that Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams is now the most popular party leader in the 26 Counties.

Mourners attacked at church service

A mob of up to 200 loyalists disrupted a Catholic church service at a cemetery on the outskirts of Belfast on Sunday afternoon and later threw bricks and stones at service-goers.

September 13, 2003

Robert Emmet - Enigmatic revolutionary

Historian RUAN O'DONNELL assesses the real significance of one of Ireland's most iconic and misunderstood national heroes, the United Irishman Robert Emmet, who was executed 200 years ago in the wake of the failure of the 1803 Rising

McGuinness refutes Bloody Sunday allegations

Sinn Fein negotiator Martin Mc Guinness has again refuted allegations regarding IRA activity on Bloody Sunday following claims directed towards him personally.

Loyalists bomb pensioner over testimony

Loyalist paramilitaries bombed a pensioner's home in County Antrim in an attempt to frighten a key witness out of testifying at a court trial.

Govt `dozing' as 1,000 jobs go East

3Com in Dublin, which currently employs 700, is to close its manufacturing facility and retain just 50 jobs in research and development.

RUC questioned over Rosemary Nelson killing

Two former RUC police members have been questioned over allegations that they threatened the life of the Lurgan defence lawyer Rosemary Nelson and may have colluded in her death.

Catholic man survives sectarian hatchet attack

A Catholic man was left for dead after being struck on the head with a hatchet by a gang of Shankill Road loyalists, as he walked home along Carrick Hill in the early hours of Sunday morning.

Business as Usual

The Laffoy resignation is symptomatic of a widespread malaise in the tribunals - that of corruption, arrogance and unresponsiveness - writes PAUL O'CONNOR.

British Army General forced to make new statement

As the Bloody Sunday Inquiry resumed at the Methodist Central Hall in Westminster this week, it emerged that the British Army's most senior officer, General Sir Mike Jackson, has had to make a new statement to the Bloody Sunday inquiry.

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