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December 26, 2004

12/26/04 – Colombians Accused of Intimidation

Monthly Table of Contents 12/04

IT 12/27/04 Colombians Accused Of Intimidation By Campaigners
IT 12/27/04 More Than £20m Of Raid's Haul Yet To Be Identified
DR 12/26/04 Probe As Loyalist Gang Case Collapses
IT 12/27/04 New Group Aims To Wipe Out Grey Squirrels
IT 12/27/04 16,000 Attend Leopardstown December Racing Festival
EX 12/26/04 Wren Boys Outing Puts Tradition On Parade


Colombians Accused Of Intimidation By Campaigners

Deaglán de Bréadún, Foreign Affairs Correspondent

A Sinn Féin member of the Northern Ireland Assembly has accused
the Colombian attorney general of trying to "bully and intimidate"
campaigners for the so-called "Colombia Three".

Ms Caitríona Ruane, MLA, is the spokeswoman for the Bring Them Home
Campaign which has been lobbying on behalf of James Monaghan (59),
Martin McCauley (42) and Niall Connolly (39) who are being sought
by the Colombian authorities to serve lengthy jail sentences
imposed for terrorist offences.

Ms Ruane was responding yesterday to Colombian media reports that
the attorney general, Mr Luis Camilo Osorio, had declared his
intention to investigate "organisations and people" who might have
collaborated in getting the three Irishmen out of the country.

Mr Osorio reportedly warned that "the full weight of the law" would
fall upon anyone involved in helping the three men to avoid
appearing before the Colombian judicial authorities.

He dismissed claims by Ms Ruane that he had violated the human
rights of the three Irishmen.

Ms Ruane said yesterday that she stood by her criticisms of Mr
Osorio's human rights record. "This latest statement is an attempt
to bully and intimidate, and the Bring Them Home Campaign will not
be bullied or intimidated," she said. The campaign would continue
to pursue its activities through political and legal channels.

"We are exploring all international legal options, such as the
Inter-American Commission, based in Washington, which is the
equivalent of the European Court of Human Rights, and we are also
looking at some legal options through the United Nations."

The three Irishmen were reported missing after a Colombian appeal
tribunal overturned the original not guilty verdict in the case and
imposed 17-year sentences and heavy fines for training the FARC in
bomb-making techniques. The Colombian authorities said the men had
left the country.

Asked yesterday if she knew the whereabouts of the three men, Ms
Ruane replied: "No, I don't." She added: "The last time I saw the
men was six-and-a-half months ago, after they left the jail." She
continued: "For their safety at that time, we agreed they would
have no contact with myself, the lawyers or the families."

Media reports that the men failed to fulfil a requirement to report
to the Colombian authorities shortly after they left La Modelo
Prison in Bogota were false, she said, as no such condition was
imposed upon them.

"The only condition on their liberty was that they couldn't leave
the country," she said.

She had heard there was an arrest warrant out for the men, but no
copy of this was ever given to their lawyers.

"For ten months, we had an open, public trial with media and
international observers present. In this trial, the judge found the
men innocent of the serious charge of training the FARC.

"Now, following meetings of three magistrates behind closed doors,
with no new witnesses called and no new evidence, we have 17-year
sentences imposed on the three men.

"This is a miscarriage of justice. The Irish Government know it:
their representative was there for the entire duration of the trial
and a senior diplomat was an alibi witness.

"I am glad the Irish Government is studying the judgment, because
they will see very clearly that this is a travesty of justice," Ms
Ruane said.

Meanwhile, there is speculation in some quarters that a minority
report on the trial may be issued by one of the three members of
the appeal tribunal, after the Colombian courts resume in mid-

© The Irish Times


More Than £20m Of Raid's Haul Yet To Be Identified

Dan Keenan Northern News Editor

Police investigating the £22 million robbery at the Belfast's
Northern Bank headquarters last week have issued serial numbers for
the stolen cash. The numbers relate to three batches of new
Northern Bank £10 notes stolen last Monday evening.

Det Supt Andy Sproule, the senior investigating officer in the
case, urged other banking institutions, retailers and members of
the public to look out for the notes.

The serial numbers are: BC 8500001, BC 8550000, BC 9100001, BC
9150000, BC 9350001 and BC 9400000.

However these notes are, according to the police, worth only £1.5
million, meaning that more than £20 million of the banknotes have
yet to be publicly identified. The PSNI has revealed the
proportions of notes issued by each of Northern Ireland's four main
retail banks. These are the only serial numbers issued to date.

The Northern may consider withdrawing all its banknotes currently
in circulation, estimated at some £300 million. This would
immediately identify any of the stolen Northern Bank notes if the
thieves try to introduce them gradually into circulation.

The PSNI has also released a photograph of the white 'box' van
which was used to transfer the huge cash haul from the Northern
Bank. The van, registration RCZ 6632, was captured on film by a
camera mounted in College Square East, just 200 metres from the
scene of the robbery near Belfast City Hall. The image was taken
shortly after 7 p.m. on Monday and the vehicle could have been
removing the first consignment of banknotes from the bank's cash

Police investigating the theft have raided the homes of leading
republicans in Belfast prompting fury from Sinn Féin. The party
president said the searches were conducted on the orders of
"securocrats" intent on causing political problems for the peace
process which is delicately poised following the publication of the
British-Irish Comprehensive Agreement in Belfast earlier this
month. The process remains stalled on the question of photographic
evidence of paramilitary decommissioning.

"This is a clearly orchestrated effort by the securocrats in the
British system who are intent on wrecking the peace process," said
Mr Gerry Adams. "Journalists were tipped off [ on Christmas Eve] in
advance of the raids taking place in order to maximise the negative
media spin surrounding them.

"There is widespread anger among nationalists and republicans at [
these] events. The objective of those who ordered these raids, and
the heavy-handed and aggressive manner in which they were carried
out, is deliberately intended to further de-stabilise the political

The searches were carried out in republican areas of Belfast and
included the homes of Mr John Trainor and Mr Eddie Copeland, a
well-known north Belfast republican.

No arrests were made and Mr Trainor has not commented. However, it
is reported that Mr Copeland said he is making a complaint to the
Police Ombudsman, Mrs Nuala O'Loan.

A crowd of up to 100 people attacked police as they carried out a
search in Ballymurphy in west Belfast. Five officers were injured
and two needed hospital treatment.

A north Belfast Assembly member, Ms Cathy Stanton, said on Friday:
"The PSNI delivered their Christmas message to the republican
community. Since early morning they have been systematically
raiding republicans' homes and also a number of small businesses.
These raids are continuing into the evening. No republican has been

She claimed that officers had damaged homes and vandalised
children's Christmas presents "all in the pursuit of a PR exercise
aimed at destabilising the peace process". "The Christmas Eve
operation, and its PR briefing beforehand, underline just how far
removed we still are from an acceptable policing service and must
come as an embarrassment to the SDLP who continue to provide the
political cover for this sort of policing," she added.

© The Irish Times


Probe As Terrorist Gang Case Collapses

Dec 27 2004

17 cleared of Loyalist plot

By Brian Mccartney

A PROBE has been launched into a multi million pound five year
undercover police operation that ended with 17 people cleared of
being terrorists.

Operation Kia involved Special Branch, the Drug Enforcement Agency
and Tayside Police.

It was set up to investigate claims that an extreme wing of the
outlawed Ulster Volunteer Force - the Red Hand Commando - were
operating in Scotland. But it failed to secure any convictions.

Alex Mitchell, 52, was cleared along with six others after a trial
at the High Court in Edinburgh which lasted 10 weeks and cost

Last night, he said: 'My family have been to hell and back. I would
never have believed it could have happen in Britain.'

Reporting restrictions were put in force because another 10 men and
women faced similar trials. Now those charges have all been dropped
and a total of 15 men and two women cleared.

Alex, his sons John, 35, Robert, 33, Alex, 17, and daughter
Christine Hunter, 22, were accused of being members of the

His wife Anne, 50, has refused to live in the family home in
Helmsdale Crescent, Dundee since September 26, 2002 - the day it
was raided.

Alex snr lost his finance job and John had to move to England for
work. Robert lost access visits to his son and his security
clearance to work as a night-club doorman.

Christine miscarried after officers burst into her home and
arrested her husband Kenneth Hunter, 38.

Alex, held in custody for 1124 days, said: 'It seems if you support
Rangers, play in a flute band, have CDs of loyalist songs or are a
member of the Orange Lodge you must be a Red Hand Commando. They
took everything with the remotest connection to Northern Ireland.'

Another accused, Ricky Ferguson, 42, of Bathgate, West Lothian,
said: 'My partner also lost the baby she had been carrying for five
months. We've split up now.'

Dundee was linked to the terror group after an armed raid on the
local Mains of Claverhouse pub to raise funds for the group. Five
local men were jailed for a total of 36 years for the raid last

A spokeswoman for Tayside Police said the inquiry into the collapse
of the case was not yet underway.


New Group Aims To Wipe Out Grey Squirrels

Seán Mac Connell, Agriculture Correspondent

An organisation which has pledged to wipe out grey squirrels to
protect the native red squirrel has been established in Ireland.

Mr Charles Dutton, a director of the European Squirrel Initiative,
told a forestry conference in Tullamore, Co Offaly, that grey
squirrels cause devastation to forests and woodland.

"Their habit of stripping the outer bark from the trunk and
branches of trees in order to eat the soft inner tissue results in
the growth of calluses and loss of timber quality," he said.

"In severe cases up to 25 per cent of the crop can be lost
completely, resulting in destruction of habitat and substantial
financial loss."

Another consequence of the spread of grey squirrels is the loss of
the native red species, he claimed. "Grey squirrels have forced red
squirrels out of most parts of Great Britain and are now making
real inroads into Ireland," said Mr Dutton. "While red squirrels
are able to live in harmony with woodland and native wildlife,
greys damage trees, deprive wildlife of food and raid birds' nests.
They also carry a disease, parapox virus, which is deadly to the

The American grey squirrel was first introduced into Ireland in
1911 at Castle Forbes in Co Longford. It now occupies some 30 per
cent of Ireland and the population is growing fast. In the north of
Ireland, efforts have been made to establish strongholds for the
red squirrels, but the conference was told that even these areas
have been infiltrated by greys.

Mr Michael Carey, a previous chief director of Coillte, described
the American interlopers as "tree rats".

Mr Dutton said the European Squirrel Initiative was a non-profit-
making company founded in 2002. It campaigns for the protection and
re-introduction of red squirrels throughout Europe.

© The Irish Times


ON TRACK: 16,000 Attend First Day Of Leopardstown December Racing

The air was as crisp as a new Northern Bank £50 note when the
Leopardstown December festival got under way yesterday, writes
Frank McNally.

Despite a thaw, the parade ring still bore traces of Dublin's white
Christmas. Conditions ensured plenty of customers for the hot beef
roll stands, and for the hot whiskey counter too.

Of hot money, however, there was no sign. This was an early
opportunity for anyone trying to launder cash from the Belfast bank
heist. But it was business as usual for track-side bookmakers, who
still displayed their "Bets in sterling paid in sterling" signs and
seemed unconcerned about the risk.

"No," laughed one when asked if there was a ban on large Northern
notes, "but we haven't seen them anyway."

The St Stephen's Day fixture is traditionally a bookies' benefit.
Freed from the threat of having to deal with large-scale money
laundering, turf accountants could concentrate on taking the once-
a-year punter to the cleaners, as usual. On the other hand, the
Holly and Ivy brigade was also swelled yesterday by significant
numbers of more seasoned horsey men.

The gang - if you'll pardon the expression - were all there. Former
taoiseach Albert Reynolds kept his tips to himself, except to
advise The Irish Times that a horse called "Dev" was running in the
next race (it lost its deposit). EU commissioner Charlie McCreevy
was just as cautious, noting he'd "had a look" at the favourite for
the big one and wasn't too confident. Junior finance minister Tom
Parlon liked the second-favourite, Mariah Rollins, but admitted,
"we're being very cagey".

Was the gang planning something? The governor of Mountjoy Prison,
John Lonergan - another knowing punter - seemed the right man to
ask. And confirming that he "wouldn't be backing horses just for
the fun of it", Mr Lonergan named Mariah Rollins as his banker of
the meeting.

But as if to remind us that there are no certainties in banking,
the contest before the big race was won by a no-hoper, from the
stable of Monaghan's leading - and perhaps only - horse-trainer,
Oliver Brady. Brady is a larger-than-life figure, and delivered his
now-customary rousing victory speech for to his small but growing
cult of admirers. "I'm from the county of the little hills and
hollows, but I can train them with the best," he declared, to
cheers. A punter shouted back: "You should have told us an hour

Fortunes were more mixed in the feature race. The smart money gang
got away with an undisclosed amount of cash when Mariah Rollins
won. But hot favourite Like a Butterfly brought a lot of flutters
down with her when pulling up, and was booed when she finally
trotted past the stands.

The crowd of 16,000 bet nearly €1.75 million on the day, at
the end of which the bookmakers' vaults looked as secure as ever.

© The Irish Times


Wren Boys Outing Puts Tradition On Parade

By Jim Morahan

IT just keeps getting better. Dublin 4's Wren Boys' Festival
yesterday lived up to its high expectations.

Ryan O'Donoghue Aherne, aged three, from Waterford was getting his
first taste, being paraded by proud grandad and chief whip for the
day Tom Aherne, from Clane, Co Kildare.

Lord Mayor Michael Conaghan, paying his official first visit to the
event, said traditions enrich and animate our lives. "And long may
they live," he declared to an appreciative cheer. "I am delighted I
was invited. It's all about having a bit of fun."

Tom Aherne's been at the centre of the Sandymount Wran (as they say
it) since its revival in 1985, when kindred spirits like Bob Ryan
and Con Howard launched the event, appropriately, in a pub.

In Gus Ryan's Sandymount House, Dublin musicians Cathal and Áine
Holland, Micheál Lacey and Gorey man Mick O'Brien got us off to a
perfect start.

After poetry readings and recitations it was time to take the show
from the snug pub to the Guinness rig across the street.

They picked up on the set dancing outside, spurred by the music and
dancers onstage, no doubt also encouraged by the day's chilly air.

Sandymount hosted groups from Uruguay and China for the first time.
Different they were, but they served to demonstrate the uniquely
Irish quality that is the Day of the Wren.

Monthly Table of Contents 12/04
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