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December 21, 2004

12/21/04 - Dissident Link To Arson Attacks

Monthly Table of Contents 12/04

BB 12/21/04 Dissident Link To Arson Attacks
BT 12/21/04 Legal Bid To Free Colombia Three Could Take Six Years
BT 12/21/04 Church Of Ireland: SF's IRA Links Obstacle To Peace
BT 12/21/04 Unionist Rivals Spar Over SF Role In New Stormont Deal
UT 12/21/04 Man Quizzed Over Postmaster Murder
UT 12/21/04 Millions Stolen From Belfast Bank
DJ 12/21/04 Memorial Quilt Unveiled To Bar Attack Victims
BT 12/21/04 First Step Towards Smoking Ban


Dissident Link To Arson Attacks

Dissident republicans have been linked to a wave of fire bombings
and police have warned there may be further attacks.

This follows the latest in a series of fires that destroyed a shop
in County Antrim overnight on Monday.

It was the fifth suspected firebomb incident in Northern Ireland
over the past three days.

The cause of the blaze at the Poundstretcher store in Newtownabbey
is still being investigated.

Assistant Chief Constable Peter Sheridan said dissident republicans
were probably behind what was an orchestrated series of fire-

He said the business community had been briefed on "search
strategies" in an effort to thwart the attacks.

ACC Sheridan said lives could have been lost in the incidents so
far and those behind the bombs had nothing to offer except job

"It is a possibility that there will be further attacks", he added.

Staff were inside the Poundstretcher store shortly before midnight
GMT on Monday when the fire broke out in the stationery section.

Fire Service 'stretched'

Assistant Divisional Fire Officer Isaac King said if this was
another in a series of firebomb attacks, then the fire service
could be stretched.

"We can't really say yet it is incendiaries, though going by the
trend it looks very much like that and if it does take off, it
could lead to a stretched brigade," he said.

Kieran Smyth from the shop workers' union, USDAW, said that those
behind the attacks were hurting working people.

"It's the employees that might be laid off... some of these
companies, one of these days, is going to say that enough is enough
and not rebuild," he said.

Meanwhile, key holders of large stores in Londonderry were asked to
return to their shops after an incendiary device partially exploded
on Monday.

The Homebase store in the Waterside was evacuated at about 2100
GMT, but only minor damage was caused.

The store is in the Crescent Link area of the city where a fire
broke out at a Carpet Right shop on Sunday. Police are still
investigating the cause of that blaze.

Mitchel McLaughlin, Sinn Fein, said if dissident republicans were
behind the firebomb attack in Londonderry they should "wise up" and
cease such activity immediately.


SDLP councillor Gerry Diver said: "Obviously it is a matter of
great concern, especially coming on the back of a fire which
completely destroyed the other store at Crescent Link.

Police have confirmed that a fire at the B&Q DIY store near Lisburn
was started by an incendiary device.

More than 100 firefighters were involved in tackling the blaze at
the warehouse in Sprucefield Retail Park on Sunday night.

There was extensive damage to the rug department and smoke damage
to the rest of the property.

At one stage 20 fire engines attended the blaze, which took eight
hours to bring under control.

Another viable incendiary device was found in a sports shop in
Newry, County Down, on Saturday.

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2004/12/21 13:34:21 GMT


Legal Bid To Free Colombia Three Could Take Six Years

By Tom Brady
21 December 2004

A legal campaign to overturn last week's Colombian court decision
to jail three Irish republicans for 17 years is expected to take up
to six years to complete, it was disclosed last night.

Lawyers for Jim Monaghan, Martin McCauley and Niall Connolly have
not yet decided which legal avenue to explore in their fight to
free the men.

Options include the Inter-American Commission for Human Rights,
which is the equivalent of the European Court of Human Rights, the
United Nations Commission or going back to the Colombian courts.

But the men's lawyers, Pedro Mihecha and Jose Luis Belasco,
admitted last night that whichever avenue they choose, it would
take between three and six years.

The head of the 'Bring Them Home' campaign, Sinn Fein's Caitriona
Ruane, said she still had no idea about the whereabouts of the men
or whether they had left Colombia.

She dismissed reports suggesting that the men had been on bail and
were due to sign in at police stations and said the only condition
attached to their release was to remain within the country.

The two lawyers accused the Colombian appeals court of being
discriminatory in assigning 32 pages of their 144-page judgment to
the arguments made by the prosecution and another 27 to the case
put forward by the magistrate while totally ignoring the defence

In Colombian law, they said, the court was obliged in an appeal to
award equal time to the submissions made by the magistrate, the
prosecution and the defence, and this had been ignored. The lawyers
also allege the court rejected the evidence of the defence's
forensic expert as well as the outcome of Colombian forensic tests,
which all proved negative.

Ms Ruane said that parallel to the legal fight, the campaigners
also planned to take the case of the three men before the European
Parliament in the coming weeks.

"This is a travesty of justice of international proportions," she

Meanwhile, former chairman of the Progressive Democrats, Senator
John Minihan yesterday called on Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams to
"climb down off the fence" and demand that the three men turn
themselves in and pursue legal avenues. He wondered if the men
would have returned to Colombia voluntarily if they had been
allowed to return to Ireland while awaiting the outcome of their

Senator Minihan accused Sinn Fein of being prepared to recognise
the court when the decision was in their favour but changing their
tune when the situation was reversed.

"We saw this in the recent Niall Binead case in the Special
Criminal Court in Dublin and we are witnessing it again now," he

"The only courts that Sinn Fein and the IRA recognise are the
kangaroo courts of south Armagh," Senator Minihan added.


Church Of Ireland: SF's IRA Links Named As The Real Obstacle To

By David Quinn
21 December 2004

Sinn Fein's links to the IRA's command structure and not
photographs of decommissioning are the real obstacle to peace in
the North, according to the Church of Ireland's weekly newspaper,
the Church of Ireland Gazette.

An editorial in the current issue describes the desire for
'closure' over the arms issue as "understandable", but says it is
"unthinkable that the modalities of decommissioning should be
allowed to deny us all a comprehensive political settlement."

The editoral states: "For our part, we are prepared to take the
word of General de Chastelain on the decommission process."

It continues: "However, while we are not so concerned about
published photographs of decommissioning, we have concerns about
any residual IRA command structure; if Sinn Fein were to be allied
to such a paramilitary structure, albeit unarmed, it would still be
a very difficult set of circumstances to square with truly
democratic politics."

The paper says that not only must paramilitary activity come to an
end, so must the paramilitary organisations themselves.

"We do not need any paramilitary organisations, republican or
loyalist, armed or unarmed, in this island."


Unionist Rivals Spar Over SF Role In Any New Stormont Deal

By Noel McAdam
21 December 2004

Two veteran Unionist heavyweights have fired their first salvos in
the battle for the vital seat of South Antrim in next year's likely
General Election.

Rival anti-Agreement candidates David Burnside for the Ulster
Unionists and William McCrea of the DUP launched the first verbal
attack of their latest campaign.

It is the third contest between the two parties over the seat in
recent years and will be a key test of the strength of the two

Sitting MP Mr Burnside warned that the DUP would be "duped and
fooled" if they go into government with Sinn Fein.

But Mr McCrea - who snatched the seat in a by-election only for
Burnside to win it back - said he would take no lectures from a
member of a party which put republicans in government.

Mr Burnside warned that unionist supporters in the constituency did
not want to see divisions within unionism coming to the fore again.

But he said DUP policy now appeared to be "very different" from
their position in the past.

"I do not trust Sinn Fein, I do not trust them in the Executive of
Northern Ireland, I do not think they are an honest political
movement or have left violence behind.

"I believe if the DUP does go into government with them they will
be duped and fooled. It is ironic that while I am now facing a pro-
Agreement DUP."

But Mr McCrea said: "David Burnside is in absolutely no position at
all to tell us of the IRA's terrorist and criminal activities. Was
Mr Burnside not aware of these facts in 1998 whenever he supported
the Belfast Agreement?"


Man Quizzed Over Postmaster Murder

A man was being questioned today in connection with the murder of a
retired postmaster in Northern Ireland.

The man, who was arrested last night, was being quizzed about the
death of Patrick McGrath, whose body was found at his home in
Coalisland, Co Tyrone.

Police believe the 75-year-old may have been smothered during a

Mr McGrath`s sister, Philomena, was also bludgeoned during the
suspected break-in that horrified the tight-knit community.

The spinster, who is "stable" in hospital, raised the alarm after
crawling through the house.

A post-mortem examination was being carried today as police
confirmed it was being treated as a murder inquiry at this stage.

They were hoping Ms McGrath would provide vital clues to aid their
hunt once she was well enough to talk.

Neighbours were stunned by the attack on Sunday at the property on
Killeen Crossroads where the brother and sister have lived all
their lives.

Family friend Jim Cavanagh, an SDLP councillor, said: "It`s a
dreadful atrocity to visit these two people.

"Until whoever was responsible is caught people here will be

Mid-Ulster Sinn Fein MP Martin McGuinness, who visited the scene,
said the attack was carried out by those "disconnected from

A police spokesman confirmed earlier that detectives were
investigating a possible burglary at the house.


Millions Stolen From Belfast Bank

Robbers have stolen millions of pounds from a bank in the centre of
Belfast, it was revealed today.

By:Press Association and UTV

The raiders went into a Northern Bank branch at the junction of
Wellington Street and Donegall Square after holding two members of
staff hostage in their homes.

As detectives from the Police Service of Northern Ireland`s new
Crime Operations Department launched a major investigation,
security sources disclosed the scale of the theft.

One confirmed millions had been taken from the vaults.

Some reports have placed the sum taken at £7 million while another
claimed it could be as much as £30 million.

The raid is thought to be the biggest of its kind ever in Northern

Police have not confirmed the exact amount and will only say at
this stage that it is a substantial amount.

A PSNI spokeswoman said: "Detectives are investigating the removal
of a substantial amount of cash from a bank in the Belfast area."

Police were first alerted to the robbery at around 11.45pm last

It is believed members of the gang took over the homes of senior
officials from the bank.

The homes are thought to have been in Dunmurry and Loughinisland,
County Down.

The crime operations team headed up by Assistant Chief Constable
Sam Kinkaid was immediately called in. Its officers specialise in
investigating serious and organised crime.

The branch targetted is thought to be the Northern`s main cash-
handling centre.

A spokesman for the bank confirmed a robbery had taken place.

"A theft has occurred at Northern Bank in Belfast, a wholly-owned
subsidiary of National Australia Bank.

"The theft is being investigated by the police in Northern Ireland
and we cannot discuss details at this stage.

"However, initial indications are that affected staff are safe -
this is our number one priority."

Democratic Unionist Policing Board member Ian Paisley Jnr said the
robbery underlined the mafia-style culture operating in Northern

The North Antrim Assembly member said: "This appears to be another
very serious crime in Northern Ireland.

"Although we do not have specific details about the amount of money
taken, we do know that there is more than one scene of crime and
that several families have been held hostage during this criminal

"The police as yet have not been able to say whether there is
paramilitary or non-paramilitary involvement.

"However this indicates the kind of mafia society we live in in
Northern Ireland.

"It is illustrated by the fact that a criminal gang can carry out
such an audacious raid like this."


Memorial Quilt Unveiled To Bar Attack Victims

Tuesday 21st December 2004

Last night the Mayor of Derry, Councillor Gerry O'hEara unveiled a
memorial quilt in honour of the five men who died in the loyalist
attack on Annie's Bar in Gobnascale in December 1972.

The quilt, which will be displayed in the bar, was made by the
victims group Cunamh to mark the 30th anniversary of the shooting.

The relatives of the dead were fully consulted about the design of
the quilt and took part in discussions as to where it should be

Last night's ceremony was attended by the relatives of the five men
who died and afterwards the were guests at a private ceremony in
the Mayor's Parlour at the Guildhall.

The five men died when loyalists launched a gun attack on Annie's
bar on December 20 1972.

It brought to the end a bloody year in Derry's history, one that
had begun with the Bloody Sunday massacre in January and finished
with the Waterside killings.

To this day no group has officially claimed responsibility for the
atrocity which was a defining moment in the history of the Top of
the Hill and the Waterside as a whole.

Those killed were Charles Moore, a 31-yearold Protestant nurse from
Spencer Road in the Waterside. He was married with two children and
his wife was expecting a third child when he was murdered.

Charles McCafferty, a 30-year-old Catholic factory worker from
Anderson Crescent at the Top of the Hill also died. He was married
with seven children, five of whom where from his wife's first

Bernard Kelly, a 26-year-old Catholic worker at the same factory as
Charles McCafferty. He had married and moved to Mimosa Court at Top
of the Hill only three months before he was killed. His wife was
expecting their first child at the time of his death.

Francis McCarron, a 58-year-old unemployed Catholic widower with
children from Strabane Old Road at Top of the Hill was also among
the dead. This was the second time that tragedy visited his family.
William Nash, the husband of one of his daughters, was killed on
Bloody Sunday.

Michael McGinley, from Anderson's Crescent at Top of the Hill, was
a 37-year-old married, Catholic worker at Molin's factory in Derry.

He had one seven-monthold daughter, whom he was playing with just
before he left his home for Annie's Bar on the night he was to die.


First Step Towards Smoking Ban

By Nigel Gould
21 December 2004

The Government today took the first step towards stamping out
smoking in public places across Northern Ireland.

Ulster people are being asked to consider one of three options,
including an outright ban on smoking in all enclosed public places
and workplaces - with an announcement expected at the end of March.

The smoking issue, which has raged for some time in the province,
is an integral part of a wide-ranging regional health strategy,
unveiled today by Health Minister, Angela Smith.

"It is time to stop looking over our shoulder and take action to
protect our population from the effects of other people's smoke,"
Mrs Smith said.

"The evidence is incontrovertible. Exposure to second hand smoke is
a serious health risk and can increase the chance of non-smokers
contracting lung cancer and heart disease by 25%."

The blueprint document is a 20-year vision of health and well-being
for Northern Ireland.

The plan addresses a number of issues including prevention of
illness, improving primary and community care areas of the health
service and specialist training for staff.

It also makes a whole range of recommendations to transform the
health of Ulster's population.

Staff from all fields of expertise will be encouraged to work
together in specialist teams while patients will be trained to
better manage illnesses such as diabetes and arthritis.

Already, the Department has sought the views of a number of
organisations, groups and 1,500 members of the Ulster public.

The document will be consulted on over the next three months and
the Department of Health says it wants to hear from a wide range of
groups but particularly from the general public.

Another option on the smoking debate to be considered is to
prohibit smoking in most enclosed public places and workplaces,
while still allowing smoking in some pubs and bars, other than
those preparing and serving food.

The third option is to forget about a ban and allow the Government
to support smoking cessation groups.

But Mrs Smith added: "I cannot emphasise enough how important this
decision is for the people of Northern Ireland."

Monthly Table of Contents 12/04
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