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January 29, 2005

01/30/05 – LVF Linked to Attack

Overall Table of Contents
Table of Contents - Jan 2005

BB 01/30/05 LVF Linked To Taxi Depot Attack
GU 01/30/05 Gun Attack Escalates Loyalist Feud
SB 01/30/05 Let Them Put Up Or Shut Up
SB 01/30/05 Peace Process At Risk If US Turns On Sinn Fein
ST 01/30/05 Connolly’s Wife Says She Is Clueless Where He’s Gone
ST 01/30/05 Adams Defends McAleese With ‘Apartheid’ Claim
ST 01/30/05 Sinn Fein Faces Sanctions Over IRA Links To Bank Raid
ST 01/30/05 Opin: Frankenstein's Monster Is Almost Beyond Control
ST 01/30/05 Plastic Bullets Less Harmful
BB 01/30/05 1972: Army Kills 13 In Civil Rights Protest -V


LVF Linked To Taxi Depot Attack

A gun attack on a taxi depot in north Belfast is being linked to the Loyalist Volunteer Force.

Staff were in the depot on the Ballysillan Road when shots were fired at the front of the building at about 0450 GMT on Saturday.

No-one was injured. Police said a number of men were seen driving off.

A short time later, a car was found burning at Brae Hill Park in the Oldpark area.

It is understood that a feud between the LVF and the Ulster Volunteer Force has been simmering since before Christmas.

Since that time, people have been beaten and intimidated, and several taxis have been burnt out.

The latest attack was at Sunningdale Taxis on the corner of the Ballysillan Road and Ballysillan Park.

North Belfast DUP MP Nigel Dodds condemned the shooting.

"This vicious attack could easily have resulted in death or serious injury," he said.

Patrols stepped up

"It is bad enough that people's livelihoods, businesses and property are being destroyed. But someone will lose their life unless this all stops.

"The community want it stopped.

"I will continue to press government to ensure the police and security forces have whatever resources are needed at the present time to combat this violence."

There have been several calls for mediation between the two sides.

Police said they would continue to tackle paramilitary-linked organised crime in north Belfast.

Last week they more than doubled the numbers of officers patrolling the streets in response to the violence.

Police have appealed for witnesses to contact them at 028 9065 0222 or using Crimestoppers 0800 555111.

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2005/01/29 17:59:02 GMT


Gun Attack Escalates Loyalist Feud

Henry McDonald, Ireland editor
Sunday January 30, 2005
The Observer

The fourth inter-loyalist feud since the start of the century escalated this weekend after a gun attack in north Belfast.

The Loyalist Volunteer Force was blamed for a shooting in front of a taxi firm in the Sunningdale area shortly before 5am yesterday morning.

Last night the larger Ulster Volunteer Force vowed to retaliate in what has become known as the 'taxi wars' of the Greater Shankill.

A spokeswoman for the Police Service of Northern Ireland said a number of staff members narrowly escaped injury when the shots were fired through the window of Sunningdale Taxis.

She said eyewitnesses reported seeing a gold Proton car driving off seconds after the shots were fired. A gold Proton car was found burnt out in Brae Hill Park, in the lower Oldpark area of Belfast, a short time later.

It is understood that the gang responsible for the shooting travelled to Belfast from mid-Ulster where the LVF is strongest.

The 'taxi wars' centre on a cab firm owned by former UVF member and co-founder of the LVF, Jackie Mahood. His drivers and their cars have been the repeated targets of gun and arson attacks over the last fortnight.

The UVF, which has been behind the attacks on Call-A-Cab, is seeking to drive Mahood out of the Shankill and destroy his business. The terror group blames Mahood for the split inside their organisation in 1996 that gave rise to the LVF and its co-leader, the late Billy 'King Rat' Wright.

Although relations have improved between the large Ulster Defence Association and the UVF following their feud in 2000, the latter has never forgiven Mahood's defection. As one UVF commander put it: 'We have long memories and infinite patience.'

In response Mahood protests that he has retired from loyalist politics and simply wants to run his business free from intimidation and the threat of murder. His brother, Davy, was murdered by the UVF during their feud with the UDA.

An Ulster Unionist councillor on the Shankill Road appealed yesterday for an end to the feuding, which he predicted will end in deaths.

Councillor Chris McGimpsey said: 'These paramilitary groups should listen very carefully to what their own community is telling them. The people of the Greater Shankill want an end to all feuding and bloodshed because their area is still suffering the effects of the first feud of August 2000 between the UVF and UDA. The people these paramilitary groups claim to be defending do not want this kind of violence occurring on their streets. They are fed up with feuding and bloodletting.'

Meanwhile, Irish President Mary McAleese apologised yesterday for remarks she made during ceremonies to mark the 60th anniversary of Auschwitz's liberation. She caused outrage in the protestant community by comparing the Nazi's campaign to spread anti-semitism among young Germans to anti-Catholic attitudes taught by Protestants.

She admitted that her remarks had been 'very clumsy' and not meant to cause offence. Her comments in Poland were particularly embarrassing for UDA chief Jackie McDonald, who has built up a strong personal relationship with the president.


Let Them Put Up Or Shut Up

30 January 2005 By Paul T Colgan

Gerry Adams hopes the Taoiseach's full-frontal attack' on Sinn Fein last week will not become government policy.

If it does, it will be a signal that the government does not think the peace process can work in the short term, Adams tells Paul T Colgan

Q: How did your meeting with Tony Blair go?

A: Well, the meeting was presented in some sections of the media as if it was going to be a row.

We made it clear that if the British prime minister wanted a row then we could have a row. But I didn't think there was going to be a row and there wasn't a row no more, incidentally, than there was in the meeting between us and the Irish government.

What happened after the Irish government meeting was that the Minister for Justice [Michael McDowell] totally misrepresented the nature of that meeting when he said that Martin McGuinness and I had agreed to go off and reflect upon the government's insistence that we would deal with the issue of criminality. He was telling fibs.

Q: Ho do you respond to the McDowell's comments of recent days?

A: I'm more concerned that the Taoiseach appears to have bought into the Michael McDowell script.

Michael is as Michael is - he's an opportunist, he isn't best suited to the business of working out these matters because his focus is about either staying in this coalition or trying to get into the next coalition.

His anti-republicanism is famous, so my concern isn't as much about what Michael McDowell is saying, although I find it very offensive. It appears that he is taking the lead position for the government on the North, particularly since Brian Cowen shifted. That's my concern.

Q: What are the consequences of this shift for the peace process?

A: It's driven by short term and party political concerns. The government in Dublin may have taken a view that because of the state of unionism that it may not be possible to get a deal together between now and the next election, and therefore, why not beat up on Sinn Fein in the meantime? You've got to hand it to the Taoiseach, the day after a very close associate of his [Ray Burke] is sentenced to six months, when he should have been scrutinised over this whole affair - what did he do? He played a blinder.

This is all very entertaining in the short term if it wasn't so serious.

The reality is we want to work with the Taoiseach. He and we have been part of the greater effort to move the process on. If he attacks us we will robustly defend our position.

The failure of the initiatives last December and the attempt to criminalise republicans at the moment have made profound difficulties worse. And the stance of the government at the moment is not even aimed at trying to sort them out.

Q: Are you saying the government has taken its eye off the ball in terms of working on substantive issues?

A: Well, that appears to be the case. It appears the Taoiseach has gone for a full-frontal attack. I hope that is not going to become government policy because that will be a very, very firm signal that they don't think the process can work in the short term.

Q: How is your working relationship with Bertie Ahern?

A: We do business. I have acknowledged and commended his role in the process. There's always been differences between us. We would argue that the Irish government as a co-equal partner should be advancing the national interest like the British do in a very systematic way.

Q: But he has made very specific allegations about the Northern Bank raid against yourself and Martin McGuinness.

A: Yes, but he has been unable to back them up.

Q: Are you saying that he does not believe in what he is saying or that he is being misled?

A: You'll have to ask him. I think he made a considered statement to damage us. I don't think he should have made that statement; it is not true. And I think he has done himself, us and the process a disservice.

Can we live with that? Yes, because we have to; in a perfect world we wouldn't.

Q: Why shouldn't the IRA, like some commentators have suggested, now disband on its own terms so the republican movement would not find itself in this position?

A: All of those issues are matters for the IRA. I have to say, not about those commentators, but about our detractors who are saying the Sinn Fein leadership are playing footloose and fancy free with this process and that we're not sincere about it and we're being deceitful about it. Well if they think they can do a better job, let them come forward.

We're not in this for any other reason than to get all of these issues resolved. If anybody thinks that Michael McDowell can be trusted with this process, then let Michael step forward.

Also, there is some talk about credibility and so on - there's an election, it's in Ireland, it's in the North, it's a British general election but it's open to the PDs, Fine Gael, Labour and Fianna Fail. Let them have the courage to come and stand in West Belfast or West Tyrone or Mid-Ulster. Let them come forward and contest with Sinn Fein on their own party platform and let the people who have the vote have their decision and respect the mandate that's given to us. Let them put up or shut up.

Q: What's next for the process? When will you next meet with the government?

A: We did agree with the Taoiseach that when he concluded his round of meetings, including that with the British prime minister, that we would meet again.

That was totally misrepresented by the justice minister. It depends what the meeting's for. If they want to have a meeting to have a row, well, that's fair enough, but when the row is finished then the serious business of sorting this out will have to continue.


Peace Process At Risk If US Turns On Sinn Fein

30 January 2005 By Niall O'Dowd

We do not need them here. Such was the editorial judgment of the right-wing New York Sun newspaper concerning Sinn Fein leaders fund-raising or coming to the US for St Patrick's Day. The editorial also called them Irish criminals and called it especially grotesque if Gerry Adams met President Bush.

It was that kind of week for Sinn Fein in the US, rocked by the allegations that the Belfast bank raid was carried out by the IRA and Fearful that their access to the US could be curtailed or denied.

Despite the gloomy predictions Sinn Fein succeeded in their primary goal in the US, securing a commitment from the White House that the annual St Patrick's Day party and meetings would go ahead as scheduled - and would include them.

It was a close run thing. North Belfast Assembly member Gerry Kelly who travelled to the US with North American co-ordinator Rita O'Hare, did not get access to Mitchell Reiss, the special envoy to Ireland. It was a clear indication of White House displeasure at the turn of recent events.

Instead they met his deputy, Eric Greene, and two other diplomats in what was described as a tough session, with Greene in particular, very critical over the recent bank robbery and its fallout for Sinn Fein.

Kelly has offered a spirited defence of Sinn Fein in his meetings. He says the IRA statement that the organisation was not responsible was definitive and convincing. He expressed particular outrage at the notion that Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness knew of an impending bank raid.

He found much sympathy for the latter view in Irish America. Why on earth would Adams and McGuinness have taken such risks for peace if they knew of this event which threatened all they had worked for,'asked Frank Durkan of Americans for a New Irish Agenda and a well-known civil rights lawyer.

Durkan says that the crescendo of criticism of Adams and McGuinness won't help Sinn Fein in the US but that the government in Ireland needed to get a grip if those opposing the peace process were not to get the upper hand.

Greene and others made it clear to Kelly that Sinn Fein's credibility is at stake, not just in Ireland after the Taoiseach's strong attacks, but also in the US where the party has drawn enormous support and funding over the past ten years.

The criticism revived Fears that visas for Sinn Fein members and restrictions on fundraising could possibly be in the offing. Any return to such restrictions could have a profound impact on the peace process.

The reason Sinn Fein is worried is clear. Bertie Ahern is the only figure who comes near in stature to Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams among Irish American leaders, so when he speaks in such critical terms it has a major impact on the dynamic. Ahern's dedicated work over the years on the peace process and his get along manner' have ensured he is a popular figure in Washington and elsewhere.

The Irish government's position in effect, is the touchstone for most Irish American politicians. When Ahern turned his fire on Sinn Fein he created a lot of puzzlement and confusion among Irish American leaders.

Congressman James Walsh, a New York republican and head of the influential Friends of Ireland Group, told reporters that both Ahern and Gerry Adams had enormous integrity and influence and this new standoff between the two men had created a major hurdle that he hoped both parties would get over.

We hope this too will pass, Walsh stated, adding that it was urgent that the gap was bridged.

In the past Sinn Fein made its major gains in the US by being proactive rather than reactive.

The decision by the IRA to call their 1994 ceasefire marked a watershed in support for them in the States.

Leading Irish Americans believe it may well be that they need to consider something similar on this occasion to get the support base solid again.

However, it appears that the preferred option, of getting the IRA to disband may prove very difficult.

It is clear that Sinn Fein is still involved in a very broad and deep internal debate about which way to proceed.

Insiders confirm that any disbandment would lead to a number of hard-liners opting out with potentially dire consequences.

That may not be a risk the Republican leadership yet wants to take, despite all the current criticism.

Make no mistake, a split is still possible, said one Irish American who wished to remain anonymous.

Adams and McGuinness will move heaven and earth to avoid that - and they are right.


Connolly’s Wife In Cuba Says She Is Clueless Where He’s Gone

Regan Morris in Havana and Liam Clarke

THE Cuban wife of Niall Connolly, one of the Colombia Three fugitives, has said that he is not in Cuba and she has not heard from him since he went on the run last month.

After the three IRA suspects were sentenced in their absence to 17 years for aiding terrorists from the left-wing Farc group, it was speculated that they might have fled to Cuba, the communist state where Connolly had his base as Sinn Fein’s official representative in Latin America.

Connolly’s wife Odalys, a doctor, is living at the couple’s home in the beach-front city of Marianao, a prestigious residential area favoured by the American mafia before the Cuban revolution in the 1950s. It is about a 30-minute drive from central Havana and is home to many of the city’s business figures.

Asked about Connolly she said: “He is not here, he’s not in Cuba. I can’t give you any news about my husband, because I don’t know anything. I don’t know where he is.”

Earlier this month Interpol issued an alert in 182 countries for the Colombia Three. They are believed to have trained Farc guerrillas in the use of IRA mortars and to have tested fuel air explosives, deadly high-powered devices known as the “poor man’s atom bomb”, for the IRA and Eta, the Basque separatist group, in the Colombian jungle.

The three Irishmen were first acquitted at a trial 18 months ago. When they were released pending a prosecution appeal, they immediately fled the country. It is suspected that neighbouring Venezuela was their first port of call. After the appeal court reversed the verdict and found them guilty, Interpol warrants were issued and freelance bounty hunters were also asked by the Colombian authorities to find them.

Colombian diplomatic sources say it is unlikely that any of the three went to Cuba. Unlike Ireland, the country has an extradition treaty with Colombia and Fidel Castro’s government monitors the movements of foreign residents.

As an officially accredited Sinn Fein diplomatic representative in Cuba, Connolly lived a privileged life with his wife and two children.

Connolly, 41, a former teacher, also worked as a translator and travelled widely in Latin America, sometimes using a false passport in the name of David Bracken.

Their comfortable home has a walled garden and is protected by a security gate and “neighbourhood watch” type patrols.

After speaking to Odalys, a Sunday Times reporter was approached by a man with pitbull terriers who said it would be best to leave Connolly’s house alone.

Marianao, officially a separate city of 133,000 people, has one of the most pleasant climates in Cuba. It contains military installations and is also home to one of Cuba’s baseball teams and the national casino.

Last year Odalys lived for a time in Ireland, where she received treatment for cancer and took part in the campaign to free the Colombia Three. She met Christy Moore when he played at a fundraising event in Mother Redcaps pub in central Dublin and also attended a fundraising poetry reading at the Olympia theatre.


Adams Defends McAleese With ‘Apartheid’ Claim

Liam Clarke

GERRY ADAMS expressed a degree of support for Mary McAleese’s controversial Nazi comment about Northern Ireland before the Irish president apologised for it.

In a pre-recorded interview with the BBC, broadcast yesterday, the Sinn Fein president said Ian Paisley Jr’s reaction to McAleese’s remarks had been “well over the top”.

“The fact is that there is sectarianism in the north, it is a sectarian state. Those who proclaim ‘a Protestant parliament for a Protestant people’, those who discriminated against people on the basis of their religion,” Adams said.

“I don’t want to draw any comparisons with the Nazis or anyone else, but certainly there was a system of apartheid.”

McAleese has apologised for saying that people in Northern Ireland transmitted to their children “an irrational hatred of Catholics” in the same way as the Nazis gave their children an irrational hatred of Jews.

Unionists have welcomed the apology and the Orange Order, which had cancelled a planned meeting with the Irish president after her remarks, has indicated that it will reconsider.

David Trimble, the Ulster Unionist leader, said yesterday he was glad there had been an apology because the remarks were remarkably ill-judged.

“It is most unlike her to make a mistake of that nature, a mistake because it trivialises the experience of European Jewry and the Holocaust and also causes considerable offence in Northern Ireland,” he said.

Trimble added that he believed the Irish president should go further and acknowledge that religious prejudice in Northern Ireland was not the equivalent of the Nazi treatment of the Jews.

“I have known Mary for years and these are deeply disappointing comments,” he said.

“She should reflect on what she has said and consider withdrawing the image altogether.”

McAleese has admitted that her comments were “clumsy” and said that her critics, such as Paisley Jr who called her comments “irrational and insulting”, were “absolutely right”.

She said that she should have added “or Protestants” at the end of her comment to show that “sectarianism was a shared problem” and that Protestants as well as Catholics could be victims of religious hatred.

She denied that she had intended to make any link between Protestantism and Nazism. “That would be a dreadful assertion and, indeed, if anybody took that from it I should have to say that I would be very, very, very sorry indeed.”

Yesterday McAleese said she was pleased and relieved at “the generous reaction” to her apology, which was generally accepted by unionists. She hoped the bridge-building work she had undertaken had not been damaged by the row.

Ben Briscoe, a former Fianna Fail TD and a prominent member of Ireland’s Jewish community, said that he understood what the president was trying to say even if she had not put it very well. “Her choice of words was unfortunate,” he said.

“What she meant was that when people inculcate hatred in their children that is the sort of thing that can eventually lead to the Holocaust.”


Sinn Fein Faces Sanctions Over IRA Links To Bank Raid

Liam Clarke

THE International Monitoring Commission, the body that monitors the paramilitary ceasefires, is expected to say in a report due within two weeks that the IRA carried out the Northern Bank raid and to recommend sanctions against Sinn Fein.

The IMC has the power to recommend Sinn Fein’s suspension from a power sharing executive for up to a year. But a six-month suspension is one of the main options being considered by the commission, which met in Belfast two weeks ago.

If Sinn Fein is suspended, some British government officials think that there is the potential to free up the political process by allowing other parties to form an executive without republican involvement. This would require the support of the Irish government and the SDLP, which has not been forthcoming so far.

Sinn Fein could be readmitted after six months if the IMC judged that paramilitary and criminal activity had ceased, or it could be suspended for another six months. Although no decision will be taken until next week, this is one option being considered by the IMC.

This move would require the agreement of the SDLP to participate in the executive without Sinn Fein, something that has not so far been established. It would also require the active support of the Irish government. Such measures would be meaningless if no actual steps were taken by the other parties to share power.

The IMC is not officially due to issue another report until April, but it intends to bring that date forward in response to the crisis caused by the robbery. It did this following the IRA abduction of Bobby Tohill, a republican dissident.

The IMC will meet Bertie Ahern in Dublin this week for talks assessing the intelligence on the Northern Bank raid. Joe Brosnan, a former Irish civil servant, is an IMC member close to Irish government thinking, and he will want to gauge opinion in Dublin.

On Tuesday, the intelligence will again be assessed by Tony Blair and Bertie Ahern when the two leaders meet in Downing Street. They will be briefed by Hugh Orde, the PSNI chief constable, and Noel Conroy, the Garda commissioner.

Orde has already passed on the names of those he believes planned and carried out the robbery to the British government. The PSNI has a list of suspects and will carry our further searches and arrests in the near future. “It will happen when Andy Sproule, the senior investigating officer, judges the time to be right,” a senior British source said.

Short of suspending Sinn Fein from a power-sharing executive, there are few effective sanctions which can be applied against the party. The loss of Westminster allowances for its MPs is a possibility, but this is not regarded as an effective measure to take against a party that is believed to have profited from a robbery and ongoing criminal activities.

Suspending Sinn Fein from talking to the British and Irish governments is regarded as a poor option because it would close off the governments’ access to republicans and set back the chances of a resolution.

If power sharing cannot be restored, the Irish government is considering re-establishing the Forum for Peace and Reconciliation as a talking shop for Northern parties. The British government would also look at some way of making direct rule ministers more accountable to Northern Ireland politicians. Both governments would increase the role of cross-border bodies, which have been in “maintenance mode” since the suspension of the executive.


Opin: Liam Clarke: This Frankenstein's Monster Is Almost Beyond Control

What sort of sanction can you apply to a movement that has just stolen £26.5m (€38m) in a bank robbery while supposedly engaging in peace talks? The answer appears to be none. A cut in British parliamentary allowances will be about as effective as the measly fines imposed on millionaire footballers who misbehave.

And a cooling of relations with Bertie Ahern for a week or two is unlikely to cause any loss of sleep.

Just a month after the heist, Gerry Kelly, a convicted bomber and jail breaker, was given permission to enter fortress America. And, while Mitchell Reiss, the Bush administration’s point man on Northern Ireland, was not among the officials who met him, it was hardly a “shock and awe” punishment.

Later in the week at Chequers, Tony Blair’s country residence, Gerry Adams announced that he and the prime minister would be meeting “as equals”. Adams was probably being generous; Sinn Fein now has the advantage in its dealings with the two governments and can look forward to any showdown with a great deal of confidence.

The ace up their sleeve is the IRA, not an active, bombing IRA but an IRA that can radiate menace and stand outside the talks process. This has allowed Sinn Fein two bites at the cherry in every negotiation. When it comes to decommissioning, its leaders insist they cannot talk for the IRA and then, after the negotiations are complete, go through the charade of seeking its response.

That response generally falls short of what is needed or expected but since the IRA was not at the talks, it cannot be accused of bad faith. The position has been likened to a man with a dog he clearly owns walking beside him. He says it is not his dog but that he thinks it will respond well to food and a pat on the head. If it bites he says the food was not up to standard and the pat lacked sincerity. He advises that everybody, himself included, will be in danger if it is provoked.

That sort of tactic has brought republicans a long way and done severe damage to many of those who tried to help them manage the dog. The SDLP is in trouble and so are the Ulster Unionists. Ahern and Blair are also leaking credibility at a dangerous rate. They have given Sinn Fein special treatment because of the IRA and they have created a political monster.

We now have a party whose popularity only suffers at the margins when its allies rob banks and shoot people in the hands, a party that has been shown to lie consistently but that is beyond reproach. Much of this has come about because of the indulgence with which it has been treated by other parties in the past, an indulgence that has eroded public distrust of its intentions.

Last week in the Dail, Caoimhghin O Caolain, the Sinn Fein TD, accused Ahern of political opportunism, of playing electoral politics with the peace process by making an issue of IRA criminality. Ahern’s answer is worth quoting at length: “If I had wished to fight his party (Sinn Fein) in a party political way, I certainly would not have done what I have been doing in recent years, such as doing everything possible to bring his party into the centre by ignoring all kinds of things and by trying to convince the DUP recently and the UUP for years of the benefits of working with Sinn Fein.

“I have tried to convince them of the security of doing so. I have tried to convince Presidents Bush and Clinton and President Prodi and others to put money into Northern Ireland to help peace and reconciliation. Before we began taking those actions, the deputy’s party was a party with 2% support, but now it has a strong political mandate because people on all sides of this house, from the Labour party to Fine Gael to Fianna Fail to the Progressive Democrats to the Green party, all worked to try to bring Sinn Fein in.”

It was like Dr Frankenstein’s recounting of his generosity to the monster he could no longer control. Sinn Fein now has a huge mandate in Northern Ireland, it may even emerge from the next election as the largest party, and its strength is growing in the republic. It is generous to nobody; it gives nothing that is not in its own interests and, as a result, it has plenty of options.

Sinn Fein has also managed to get its ideas accepted. It has made such a shibboleth of “inclusivity” that a devolved government in Northern Ireland seems to be unthinkable without its involvement. “Exclusion”, even in the wake of robberies and shootings, is such a dirty word that the SDLP dare not form a coalition without Sinn Fein.

The result is that all parties will, unless the SDLP has a change of heart, be excluded from taking part in a power-sharing executive and the Northern Ireland assembly may be wound up. The point is that it is not as much of a punishment for Sinn Fein as the other parties.

There are three reasons for this. First, Sinn Fein can point to the failure to form an executive as evidence of the failure of Northern Ireland as a political unit, and claim to have been proved right all along.

Second, unlike the other parties, Sinn Fein can, as Adams said, deal with the governments as equals. The threat of the IRA, the threat of things going pear-shaped is always there and, if it was starting to ring a little hollow after all these years, it has been reinforced by the sophistication of the Northern Bank robbery.

The final reason is that Sinn Fein is far wealthier than the other parties and consequently better able to weather any loss of allowances and salaries from the assembly. Without the assembly, the UUP and SDLP political classes will drift back to non-political careers while Sinn Fein’s will continue to work in their advice centres.

Whichever way things turn out, Sinn Fein can play the situation to its advantage. The robbery has, in a sense, created new bargaining chips and if there is trouble over this summer’s marching season that will create yet more options.

In the Dail, Ahern spoke almost admiringly of the IRA’s ability to turn on and off punishment beatings to suit the political circumstance. “I give you full marks for discipline if nothing else,” he said.

The discipline can also be seen in the fact that, on the very day that the bank was raided, Jonathan Powell, Blair’s chief of staff, was in Belfast meeting republicans. He travelled home the next morning pleased by the increase in trust between the British government and the IRA.

As he now knows, the IRA was laughing all the way to the bank. It was Powell who Ahern was referring to when he said: “He (O Caolain) knows the official who deals with that matter and how let down that official is today.”

This is the same Jonathan Powell who laughed and joked with Martin McGuinness, in taped telephone calls, which were leaked, about unionists being asses but never thought for a moment that republicans saw British officials as asses too.

In the end there is not much the governments can do to punish Sinn Fein or diminish its political influence. The only people who can do that are the voters.


Plastic Bullets Less Harmful

Jan Battles

NEW plastic bullets introduced in Northern Ireland in 2001 have resulted in fewer head injuries but still cause potentially serious chest wounds, a study has found.

Doctors at Belfast’s Royal Victoria hospital examined the records of all those injured by the new baton rounds between May and August 2002 during the marching season.

That period includes disturbances at the Orange Order parade at Drumcree in July 2002, during which police fired three rounds of bullets. There was also rioting by loyalists in June in east Belfast, when 60 plastic baton rounds were discharged.

Patient records from all accident and emergency departments in Northern Ireland were analysed. Three — the Royal Victoria and Ulster hospitals in Belfast, and Craigavon Area hospital in Portadown — reported patients with injuries caused by plastic bullets.

There were 28 patients during the four-month period who had sustained injuries, three of whom were female. Seven required hospital admission and there were no deaths.

Almost a quarter (23%) had been hit in the upper chest. Guidelines from Britain’s Ministry of Defence say that the plastic bullets should be aimed at the lower part of the body, below the ribcage. Most injuries were to the upper or lower limbs (70%).

Nobody was injured in the head, face or neck compared with up to 41% of such wounds in previous studies of injuries caused by the old ammunition.

A new variation of the plastic baton gun and new ammunition was introduced during May 2001 after test firing concluded that it was safer than its predecessor.

Plastic baton rounds are intended to cause painful but not life-threatening injuries during riots or civil unrest.

Previous types of plastic bullets were controversial because they had proved to be lethal. Of the 14 deaths attributable to plastic baton rounds in Northern Ireland, all were the result of head or chest trauma.


View 11 minute video from Bloody Sunday:

1972: Army Kills 13 In Civil Rights Protest -V

British troops have opened fire on a crowd of demonstrators in the Bogside district of Londonderry, killing 13 civilians.

Seventeen more people, including one woman, were injured by gunfire. Another woman was knocked down by a speeding car.

The army said two soldiers had been hurt and up to 60 people arrested.

They just came in firing - there was no provocation whatsoever

Father Daly

It was by far the worst day of violence in this largely Roman Catholic city since the present crisis began in 1969.

Bogsiders said the troops opened fire on unarmed men - including one who had his arms up in surrender.

The trouble began as a civil rights procession, defying the Stormont ban on parades and marches, approached an Army barbed wire barricade.

The largely peaceful crowd of between 7,000 and 10,000 was marching in protest at the policy of internment without trial. Some of the younger demonstrators began shouting at the soldiers and chanting, "IRA, IRA".

A few bottles, broken paving stones, chair legs and heavy pieces of iron grating were thrown at the troops manning the barrier.

Stewards appealed for calm - but more missiles were thrown and the area behind the barricade was quickly strewn with broken glass and other debris.

The 1st Battalion, The Parachute Regiment, which had been standing by in case of trouble, sprang into action. Squads leapt over the barricades and chased the demonstrators.

The gates were opened and eight armoured vehicles went into the Bogside and the remaining demonstrators were quickly surrounded.

Army claims provocation

The army says it opened fire after being shot at first by two snipers in flats overlooking the street. It claims acid bombs were also thrown.

The gun battle lasted about 25 minutes.

Father Edward Daly, a Catholic priest, was caught on film helping to carry a teenager who had been fatally wounded, to safety.

He said: "They just came in firing. There was no provocation whatsoever.

"Most people had their backs to them when they opened fire."

Major General Robert Ford, Commander, Land Forces Northern Ireland, who was in charge of the operation, insisted his troops had been fired on first.

"There is absolutely no doubt at all that the Parachute battalion did not open up until they had been fired at," he said.

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