Irish Republican News · December 29, 2003
[Irish Republican News]

[Irish Republican News]
IRISH REPUBLICAN NEWS: Review of the Year 2003
Review of the Year 2003

JANUARY

In January, only 48 hours into the new year, the ongoing loyalist feud claimed another victim, Roy Green. The associate of ousted UDA leader Johnny Adair was gunned down as he left a bar in south Belfast.

The annual release of government documents under the 30-years-rule dominated the news. They revealed how Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams was involved in talks with the British government as far back as 1972.

As the loyalist feud escalated, Johnny Adair was put back behind bars by British Secretary of State Paul Murphy, who revoked his early release licence for the second time.

FEBRUARY

But that did not prevent the murders in February of UDA `brigadier' John Gregg and fellow UDA man Robert Carson, gunned down as they sat in a taxi in Belfast.

In a dramatic twist, the family of Johnny Adair and his remaining supporters fled the Lower Shankill to seek sanctuary in Scotland.

MARCH

Republican dissidents admitted responsibility for an attempted bombing of Laganside courthouse. The device failed to go off.

Two high-profile court cases were brought to an end in March. Former loyalist ``supergrass'' Clifford McKeown was found guilty of the vicious sectarian killing in 1996 of Catholic taxi driver Michael McGoldrick.

Hopes were high for a breakthrough in the peace process as Tony Blair and Bertie Ahern met for talks. However that optimism proved ill-founded and assembly elections were postponed - for the first time.

Sinn Féin held its Ard Fheis at the end of the month. Gerry Adams told the crowd that he could envisage ``a future without the IRA''.

APRIL

US President George Bush made a surprise visit to Ireland in April and was greeted with anti-war protests.

John Stevens's eagerly awaited report into collusion was published. He concluded that there was collusion between elements of the RUC Special Branch and British Army and loyalist paramilitaries.

Former British agent Brian Nelson was reported to have died in mysterious circumstances. For the last twelve years, Nelson was at the centre of allegations that British forces had directed and colluded with loyalist paramilitaries.

MAY

Chances of a political deal faded further in May, with Sinn Féin declaring that ``the paper chase is over'', and the British government postponing the elections indefinitely as the peace process entered a new period of uncertainty.

Newspapers identified alleged IRA double agent `Stakeknife' as west Belfast man Freddie Scappaticci. He denies the claims.

The father of Armagh man Gareth O'Connor blamed the IRA for the disappearance of his 24-year-old son.

Self-confessed UDA killer Ken Barrett was charged with the murder of Catholic solicitor Pat Finucane.

JUNE

Alex Maskey's reign as Mayor of Belfast ended in June, and was replaced by SDLP councillor Martin Morgan.

A massive 1200lb bomb constructed by republican dissidents was intercepted in the Derry area.

The body of Alan McCullough, a 21-year-old loyalist, was found by workmen in Mallusk. The UDA admitted responsibility for his murder.

David Trimble saw off another challenge from anti-agreement unionist Jeffrey Donaldson. Mr Trimble won by 56 per cent of the vote in a head-to-head battle with his Lagan Valley opponent.

JULY

Trouble flared at a notorious interface in north Belfast during an Orange Order parade. A tense stand-off developed between marchers and residents, sparking fears for the coming parade season.

But it was a relatively quiet July, with litte trouble on the Twelfth.

Sinn Féin former Lord Mayor Alex Maskey slammed DUP leader Ian Paisley's calls for the IRA to disband as ``farcical''.

AUGUST

`Real IRA' leader Michael McKevitt was convicted of directing terrorism. He was sentenced to 20 years in prison.

Danny McGurk was shot dead at his west Belfast home in an attack blamed on a dispute with dissident republicans.

The body of `disappeared' woman Jean McConville was found after a dig in County Louth. The family of the woman, killed by the IRA, simply said their wish was now to ``bury our mother in peace''.

SEPTEMBER

Pupils and staff at a north Belfast school were left shocked after a terrifying sectarian attack. Loyalists torched staff cars at Our Lady of Mercy girls school in the loyalist Ballysillan area.

Catholic priest Fr Dan Whyte, left, received a death threat from loyalists on the eve of Cemetery Sunday. Fr Whyte, parish priest of St Mary On The Hill in Glengormley, said he refused to be intimidated.

Three members of District Policing Boards in the north resigned after the `Real IRA' threatened all DPP members as ``legitimate targets''.

OCTOBER

Hopes of a major breakthrough in the peace process were dashed after the dramatic collapse of a highly choreographed sequence of political movements.

First, fresh assembly elections were called. Then Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams came close to a declaration that the `war is over'. Then the IRA carried out its largest act so far of decommissioning, in an verified by the IICD arms body. But UUP leader David Trimble delcmared he was not satisified with the `transparency' of the arms move, and brought the sequence to a halt. He refused to give his support to a return to power sharing. The Irish and British governments then refused to make promised moves on the full implementation of the 1998 Good Friday Agreement.

However the Assembly election was finally alloweed to proceed, and so a downbeat campaign got underway. A lowlight occurred when leading members of the DUP and UUP got into a public slanging match in Donegall Street.

NOVEMBER

The DUP emerged from the assembly elections as the largest party, winning 30 seats. The UUP held their ground at 27 seats while on the other side of the house Sinn Féin increased their representation from 18 to 24. The SDLP were the big losers, dropping six seats to finish with 18. Hopes for progress were put on hold.

The Alliance Party held their six seats while David Ervine was the sole PUP representative. Robert McCartney was returned for the UKUP as well as hospitals campaigner Kieran Deeny in West Tyrone.

Meanwhile 21-year-old Catholic man James McMahon was murdered by loyalists in Lisburn.

Sinn Féin's Martin McGuinness gave evidence to the Saville Inquiry about his knowledge of Bloody Sunday. A media circus ensued.

DECEMBER

The party executive of the UUP issued an ultimatum to dissident MP Jeffrey Donaldson to toe the party line. Mr Donaldson responded by resigning from the party.

In Dublin, the Barron report concluded that there was probably collusion between British Crown forces and loyalists in the Dublin and Monaghan bombings of 1974. He also criticised the Dublin government of the day for being disinterested in the atrocities.

© 2003 Irish Republican News