Irish Republican News · January 3, 2008
[Irish Republican News]

[Irish Republican News]
IRISH REPUBLICAN NEWS: 2007 - Year in Review
2007 - Year in Review

A look back at the main news events of the year that was.

JANUARY

A report by the Police Ombudsman concludes that RUC/PSNI Special Branch police officers colluded in at least 18 murders in the North of Ireland between 1990 and 2003.

Special Branch officers also gave killers immunity up to late 2006 and O’Loan finds they could not have done so “without the knowledge and support at the highest levels of the RUC and PSNI”.

Veteran republicans John Kelly and Brendan Hughes write a statement alleging that Sinn Féin had tried to prevent proper debate on policing.

Despite the claims, Sinn Féin makes a historic decision at a special ard fheis in Dublin to back the north’s policing structures.

Taoiseach Bertie Ahern described the vote as a landmark decision that opened the way to the restoration of power sharing.

PUP leader David Ervine died of a heart attack.

FEBRUARY

The British Union Jack is flown at Croke Park for the first time and ‘God Save the Queen’ played following a change in the GAA’s rules to allow foreign sports at its grounds.

Republican Sinn Féin announced that it would stand abstentionist candidates in the Belfast assembly elections, while independent republicans are declared in five constituencies.

MARCH

Voters went to the polls on March 7 in an election whose outcome would shape a new power-sharing executive.

The DUP emerged as the biggest party with 36 seats in the 108-seat assembly, an increase of six seats. Sinn Féin gained an additional four seats to finish the strongest nationalist party with 28.

The UUP, the largest party in the first power-sharing executive, lost nine seats, giving it a total of just 18, while the SDLP dropped two to 16.

The Green Party gained its first assembly seat while former North Down MP and UKUP leader Robert McCartney lost out and quit politics.

The parents of a 16-year-old boy had his life saved by a taxi driver who confronted loyalist thugs who were beating him with an iron bar. George Cairns was attacked in north Belfast less than 24 hours after riots between loyalists and nationalists.

The British government was urged to halt helicopter flights in and out of Crossmaglen army base after a crash close to homes. Six police and British army personnel were injured when the Lynx helicopter came down in bad weather.

Later in the month pictures of Ian Paisley and Gerry Adams were flashed around the world after the pair held their firstever meeting in the members’ dining room at Parliament Buildings, Stormont.

Although there were no handshakes the meeting paved the way for an agreement on power-sharing.

APRIL

A high profile media campaign is launched to consolidate the peace process and the new power-sharing deal. The process sees a public handshake at Farmleigh House in Dublin between DUP leader Ian Paisley and the 26-County Taoiseach, Bertie Ahern.

Two members of the British Crown forces are found to be involved in an intelligence gathering operation to obtain the personal data of nationalists from the PSNI police computer system and pass them to a unionist paramilitary death-squad.

Sinn Féin political adviser Breandan Mac Cionnaith, who rose to prominence during the Drumcree dispute, resigned from the party amid speculation that he did not agree with its strategy.

MAY

The Six Counties launched a new political initiative on May 8 with the restoration of devolved, power-sharing government -- this time led by Ian Paisley of the DUP and Sinn Féin’s Martin McGuinness.

In the 26 Counties, Bertie Ahern returns to government despite an ongoing scandal at the Mahon Tribunal about undeclared payments he received from businessmen when he was Minister for Finance.

Ahern is forced to seek a deal with the Green Party to stay in power, while Sinn Féin is overlooked after losing one seat in the Dublin parliament. The Progressive Democrats’ Michael McDowell loses his seat and quits politics.

Former British army chief of staff Mike Jackson said he had “no doubt that innocent people were shot” on Bloody Sunday. The General, a former adjutant with the Parachute Regiment, had previously insisted those killed on Bloody Sunday were gunmen.

JUNE

Files on infamous unionist paramilitary leader Billy ‘King Rat’ Wright have been deliberately destroyed or ‘lost’, an inquiry into his murder was told. Other inquiries into collusion -- the Hamill, Nelson and Finucane inquiries -- remain on hold.

Millionaire MP Shaun Woodward became the new British secretary of state for the North, although Mr Woodward, the husband of supermarket heir-ess Camilla Sainsbury, said he would not get an extra salary.

In the South, the Green Party’s new Environment minister John Gormley declares he is powerless to reverse the decision after the outgoing Environment Minister Dick Roche approves the M3 motorway through Tara in his final act as Minister.

The Crown Prosecution Service controversially rules out action against police and soldiers suspected of involvement in collusion arising out of the three separate investigations carried out by London police chief John Stevens.

Relatives of five men killed in a UDA gun attack at the Sean Graham bookmakers in south Belfast in 1992 said they would launch a civil action after a decision that no police officer would face prosecution - despite the RUC having provided the murder gang with its weapons.

Republican prisoners at Maghaberry Prison refuse meals in a protest for the recognition of political status.

JULY

Fears grow of an escalation in unionist paramilitary feuding after rival UDA factions clash in Carrickfergus, County Antrim, and a member of the PSNI is shot in the back amid violent confrontations.

The British Army ceases to provide routine military support to Crown force policing operations in the Six Counties.

AUGUST

Social development minister Margaret Ritchie announces that a controversial 1.2 million pound grant for the UDA will be scrapped in 60 days unless the UDA starts to decommission its weapons.

The threat to funding for the UDA’s so-called ‘Conflict Transformation Initiative’, follows serious UDA violence in Bangor, County Down.

There is anger in the west of the country at a decision to axe Aer Lingus’ service from Shannon Airport as it relocates some services, including the airport’s connection to London Heathrow, to Belfast.

SEPTEMBER

The British Army retract a 35-year-old claim that fifteen-year-old Daniel Hegarty, shot dead by a soldier in Derry on the morning of Operation Motorman, was a “terrorist”.

The DUP comes under pressure after environment minister Arlene Foster announces she is set to grant planning permission for a controversial new Giant’s Causeway visitors centre being planned by a party colleague.

OCTOBER

The PSNI attacks a crowd of nationalists in Derry city centre in some of the worst street conflict in the city in years.

Crisis hits the Six-County executive over SDLP minster Margaret Ritchie’s decision to stop funding for the UDA, with the minister pledging to fight any attempt to censure her.

The executive is split in a row over whether Ms Ritchie breached the ministerial code in making her announcement.

The family of south Armagh man Paul Quinn, who was beaten to death in County Monaghan, blame the IRA for his murder. Sinn Féin point the blame at a feud betweeen rival gangs of smugglers.

The south east Antrim ‘brigade’ of the UDA is meanwhile reported to have made an act of decommissioning, while the mainstream UDA suggests a major statement will be made at Remembrance Sunday commemorations in November.

The British government moves to introduce new high-tech immigration controls, apparently ending the ‘Common Travel Area’ which has covered both Ireland and Britain since before partition.

NOVEMBER

The ‘Real IRA’ claims responsiblity for shooting two members of the PSNI in Derry and Dungannon, County Tyrone and a grenade-style bomb in Newry, County Armagh.

Leading republican Thomas ‘Slab’ Murphy is arrested on tax-evasion charges.

The UDA is urged to decommission its weapons after using Remembrance Sunday ceremonies to announce the disbandment of its ‘military wing’. It states only that it is putting its weapons “beyond use”, without decommissioning.

Sinn Féin assembly member Francie Molloy accuses the DUP of “abusing parliamentary privilege to chase headlines” after being named as an IRA agent.

DUP MP David Simpson claims in at the Westminster parliament in London that Mr Molloy worked as an informer at the height of the conflict.

The European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg rules that evidence of British Crown force collusion in the murder of eight men in South Armagh in the 1970s had not properly been investigated.

DECEMBER

Doubts are cast about a new republican armed group calling itself the ‘Irish Republican Liberation Army’.

Education minister Caitriona Ruane confirms the final 11-plus test should take place in 2008, with pupils themselves then making key decisions about post-primary paths at the age of 14.

Almost a decade after the 1998 Omagh bomb, south Armagh man Sean Hoey is cleared of involvement when a judge casts doubt on DNA evidence and says some police were guilty of a “deliberate and calculated deception”.

© 2008 Irish Republican News