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February 07, 2005

02/07/05 – UDA Probes Churchwoman Attacks

Overall Table of Contents
Table of Contents – Feb 2005

SL 02/06/05 UDA Probes Churchwoman Attacks
SL 02/06/05 Mother Of UVF Hit-List Teen Talks Of Fleeing
BT 02/07/05 SF Calls For Dublin Action On Sanctions
SL 02/06/05 Heist Fallout 'Could Split IRA Command'
BT 02/07/05 Catholics In PSNI Double
IO 02/07/05 Judges Reject Omagh Families' Documents Bid –V
RE 02/07/05 Man Arrested In Omagh Bomb Inquiry
UT 02/07/05 Police Probe 500 Leads In Pub Brawl Murder
BT 02/07/05 Agency Chief Laird Spent £260 On A Taxi
IO 02/07/05 Foreign Minister Begins US Visit
DM 02/07/05 Gareth Peirce Says Torture Destroys Human Rights -A –V
PL 02/07/05 Vivacious Woman Was Active In Community

“Murder not sanctioned by paramilitaries', says PSNI -VO


UDA Probes Churchwoman Attacks

By Stephen Breen
07 February 2005

LOYALIST godfathers have launched a probe into a series of attacks on a churchwoman who claims she's on a UDA hit-list.

The investigation was ordered after a car belonging to Ruth Petticrew was petrol-bombed outside her east Belfast home last month.

Ms Petticrew, who runs a ministry in the Shankill, claims she's been subjected to a campaign of terror, for providing pastoral care to the family of murdered loyalist Alan McCullough.

Feud victim McCullough - a former ally of Johnny Adair - was shot in retaliation for the killing of terrorist leader John 'Grug' Gregg.

Ms Petticrew also claims she has received verbal death deaths from members of the UDA.

Said a senior loyalist source: "The 'brigadiers' are determined to get to the bottom of this because the recent attack against Ms Petticrew was not sanctioned.

"There is also heavy influence on the UDA from the UPRG, because this is the sort of activity they are trying to take the UDA away from.

"The UDA feels the attacks on Ms Petticrew may be the work of rivals trying to pin the blame on them.

"The UDA will come down hard on whoever was responsible for this attack, and they are also set to issue warnings to their members to keep away from Ms Petticrew."

Ms Petticrew was unavailable for comment, but recently spoke about the threats against her.

She said: "It was after Alan McCullough's killing that I was intimidated, and death threats were made verbally by elements of the UDA.

"Three things were said - that my car was going to be destroyed, my property damaged, and my life would be taken.

"These guys mean business. They crossed boundaries to come into east Belfast and do this.

"But I will not be intimidated. I have worked in this community for 14 years and I will not be put off by these tactics."


Mother Of UVF Hit-List Teen Talks Of Fleeing

By Stephen Breen
07 February 2005

THE worried mum of a 15-year-old girl on a UVF hit-list was last night set to quit Ulster.

Margaret Cromie - whose daughter, Kerrie, was targeted after she identified two gunmen who tried to kill her - told Sunday Life that moving her young family to a secret location in England, was now a "serious option".

Said Margaret: "Our backs are against the wall because of this whole thing.

"I may have to move from Northern Ireland.

"Why would anyone want to kill a teenager?

"My daughter is no paramilitary and my family have never had any paramilitary links."

The mum-of-four claims fleeing the province is just one of a number options she is considering as her family comes to terms with their nightmare.

Sunday Life revealed last week how terrified Kerrie has been forced to wear a bullet-proof vest after she was warned that loyalist terrorists were planning to kill her.

The terrorists are determined to silence the teenager after she survived a previous murder-bid - and vowed to give evidence against the gunmen.

Sunday Life met Kerrie and her mum after they decided to go public about their nightmare.

The teenager said the threat against her has nothing to do with the latest feud in north and west Belfast, between the UVF and LVF.

Although Margaret claims that she was told last week that Kerrie was safe by a senior PUP member, she is still "deeply concerned" about her family's safety.

She claims she was given the assurance over the telephone, but wants to meet a senior PUP representative in person to discuss the threat against her daughter.

Speaking to us from a secret location last night, Margaret said she now fears exile may be the only alternative left to her.

She said: "My daughter has been the target of two shootings, my son was also shot at and it's clear my family are not safe.

"I can't even send my young son, Darryl, to school because of all this and he has now been offered home tuition.

"We are still in shock because of this whole nightmare.

"I am seriously considering moving out of Northern Ireland to protect my children."

She added: "The PUP tell me my daughter is safe and not under threat.

"But, if she is,then why won't they meet me in a neutral venue, like the City Hall to discuss this?

Lagan Valley DUP MP Jeffrey Donaldson also hit out at the threat against the Cromie family.

Said Mr Donaldson: "I am very concerned about the well-being of this family and I have no doubt that they are under threat.

"They have been unable to return to their family home and I am currently trying to get them temporary accommodation."


SF Calls For Dublin Action On Sanctions

By Noel McAdam
07 February 2005

Sinn Fein has urged the Irish Government to withdraw its representative from the Independent Monitoring Commission if it calls for more sanctions on republicans.

Sinn Fein negotiator Gerry Kelly said it was Dublin's only option if its opposition to sanctions "was anything more than just talk".

The demand, likely to fall on deaf ears, came as the governments were set this week to attempt to pick up contacts with the parties.

Against a barrage of rhetoric - Gerry Adams advising the Governments to "get their heads out of their asses for a start" - any hope for significant progress this year has all but dissipated.

Yet Dublin has still made clear it would maintain contact despite the implicit threat of last week's twin IRA statements.

But the Republic's Minister of State Brian Lenihan accused Sinn Fein of "milking the peace process for all it is worth".

"We have these improper direct threats from the IRA. Sinn Fein take their line from the Army Council and not from the people who gave them a mandate," he said.

Mr Kelly, however, asked if the next IMC report demands sanctions would the Irish Government remove its representative and repeal the legislation giving rise to the Commission.

Speaking yesterday, he said: "This is the only option available to them if their opposition to discrimination and sanctions is to be anything more than talk."

The Republic's Justice Minister Michael McDowell again made clear, however, Dublin has set its face against sanctions.

"Anything that could assist them (Sinn Fein) to characterise themselves as victims in a process where they are in fact causing all the major problems for themselves, is in our view counter-productive," he said.


Heist Fallout 'Could Split IRA Command'

07 February 2005

LAST week's IRA statement that decommissioning is "off the table" is strategic rather than terminal, senior republicans said last night.

But high-ranking Belfast republicans still believe the Northern Bank heist row could split the IRA command.

They insist that - although highly-placed Provos may have been involved - the £26.5m robbery was NOT sanctioned.

Army council "politicos" are said to be "hopping mad".

Some are even said to suspect British Intelligence manipulation of republicans involved in the heist - aimed at sabotaging the IRA's credibility and keeping Sinn Fein out in the political cold.

Said one Belfast republican: "It's unrealistic to believe that six men and a woman know everything that's going on in the IRA. Senior OCs on the ground have more direct power than some bigwig army council outsider."


Catholics In PSNI Double

By Nevin Farrell
07 February 2005

The number of Catholics in the PSNI has almost doubled in the last seven years, according to new figures revealed by a senior SDLP politician today.

Ballymena SDLP councillor Declan O'Loan - a member of Ballymena District Policing Partnership - says a briefing to members in his area revealed the number of Catholics now stands at 16.3%.

That is almost double the number of Catholics - 8.3% - who were in the RUC in 1998.

The previous most recent published figures were in October last year when the Northern Ireland Office revealed there was 15.92% Catholic police membership.

The police have a target of 18.5% Catholic officers by March 2006 and 30% in 2011.

According to the 2001 census, Catholics make up 43.8% of the Northern Ireland population.


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Judges Reject Omagh Families' Documents Bid -V

07/02/2005 - 11:48:08

An application by Omagh bomb victims’ families for access to State documents as part of their compensation claim against the alleged terrorists was rejected today at Dublin’s Special Criminal Court.

The three-judge panel said in a written judgment that it did not have jurisdiction to agree to release trial transcripts, books of evidence and statements related to the 1998 atrocity.

A total of 29 people were killed when a car bomb was detonated in Omagh town centre in August 1998.

The civil action is seeking aggravated damages and individual claims from five suspected Real IRA members alleged to have carried out the bombing.

In their ruling today, the Special Criminal Court judges said: “Having considered the arguments advanced and the law as we see it applying to this request and being conscious of the anxiety of the applicants in relation to this issue, the court is unable to make the direction requested by reason of lack of jurisdiction and therefore refuses to accede to the application.”


Man Arrested In Omagh Bomb Inquiry

February 8, 2005

A man was being questioned by police investigating the 1998 Omagh bombing, the bloodiest attack in 30 years of violence in Northern Ireland.

"Detectives from the PSNI (Police Service of Northern Ireland) Omagh inquiry team have arrested a 34-year-old man in relation to serious terrorist offences," a police spokeswoman said. She was unable to give further details.

The man, from Dundalk in the Irish Republic, was arrested in Newry, just across the border in British-ruled Northern Ireland, in the early this morning.

Twenty-nine people were killed and 200 injured when the Real IRA, a splinter faction opposed to the ceasefire called by the mainstream Irish Republican Army in 1997, detonated a 225 kg car bomb in the market town of Omagh in August 1998.

No one has yet been charged with murder over the attack, although a man is currently awaiting trial accused of possessing the timer power unit used to detonate the device.

The only person so far jailed in connection with Omagh, Dundalk publican Colm Murphy, had his conviction quashed by a Dublin appeal court last month and is facing a retrial.

Frustrated at the slow pace of the investigation, relatives of some of the victims are suing five men who they blame for the attack in a landmark civil action.



Police Probe 500 Leads In Pub Brawl Murder

Detectives investigating a pub brawl murder in Belfast have established nearly 500 lines of inquiry, it emerged today.

By:Press Association

Hours of CCTV footage have also been studied as police search for clues to who stabbed 33-year-old Robert McCartney.

Their investigation has already provoked outrage among republicans resentful at house searches in parts of the city.

A number of officers were injured after being stoned by youths during their inquiries.

Even though seven men have been arrested, no one has been charged with the killing.

Mr McCartney, a father-of-two from the Short Strand district in east Belfast, was attacked after a row flared in a city centre bar last Sunday. He died later in hospital.

Amid suspicion that republicans carried out the attack, Chief Inspector Kevin Dunwoody, the detective in charge of the investigation, insisted no group plotted the murder.

"At the minute we believe there`s nothing to suggest this was carried out by any organisation in pursuance of its organisational aims or objectives."

He also refused to comment on reports that a security video tape from the bar went missing before police could study it.

He added: "We have actually seized quite a considerable amount of CCTV from the bar and surrounding premises.

"There`s possibly a suggestion that CCTV may not have been there in the first place."

The investigation team also want to track down a dark blue car and a silver Corsa vehicle believed to have been in the Bridge Street and Cromac Street at the time of the killing.

"Just under 500 lines of inquiry (have been established) as of this morning," he revealed.

"It`s the murder of an innocent person.

"No matter what happened nobody had the right to do what they did to Robert McCartney."


Agency Chief Laird Spent £260 On A Taxi
...but rail fare to Dublin costs only £59

By David Gordon
07 February 2005

Northern Ireland peer Lord Laird was today at the centre of fresh revelations about Ulster-Scots Agency spending as details of hefty taxpayer-funded taxi bills were made public for the first time.

The veteran UUP politician has denied any responsibility for his travel costs as agency chairman in 2000 and 2001.

The bills included taxi fares of £240 and £260 for Belfast to Dublin return trips and £272.50 for a Co Derry journey.

A total of £2,505 was spent on taxis over 10 months during this period.

Lord Laird today said he had not been responsible for the agency's accounts.

The present-day price of a standard first class return rail ticket from Belfast to Dublin starts at £59.

The agency's taxi bill figures date back to its fledgling years and predate the introduction of tighter controls following a 2001 internal audit report.

Lord Laird was chairman of the Ulster-Scots Agency up to April 2004. The costs of his official taxi journeys have been released following a Freedom of Information request by the Belfast Telegraph.

Agency records include details of a £240 bill incurred on May 10, 2001, when Lord Laird travelled from Belfast to Dublin for a meeting.

A Belfast taxi firm drove him to Dublin and waited in the city to take him home again.

The same company also took Lord Laird to Dublin in February 2001 on official business and brought him home the next day, at a total cost of £260.

This £260 fare formed part of a £692.50 outlay on taxi trips for the chairman in the space of 10 days, including a £272.50 bill for a return journey to Campsie, Derry and Raphoe.

Lord Laird today said responsibility for agency expenditure in this period rested with its then acting chief executive and accounting officer John Hegarty and the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure (DCAL).

He stated: "I had no ability to approve these things or not. I was not the accounting officer. I just said to somebody how do I get down to Dublin and a taxi was organised for me.

"I know nothing about the figures, they are nothing to do with me. If there's any issue, it should be taken up with DCAL. We got no guidance from DCAL."

Lord Laird also stated that he was the "whistleblower" who triggered the 2001 audit by complaining in writing to DCAL.

The peer defended some of his taxi use on personal security grounds, linked to his practice of wearing a kilt for functions.

"Am I going to turn up somewhere, get out of a car and walk half a mile to a function wearing a kilt? That would be drawing attention to me," he said.

Lord Laird resigned as Ulster-Scots Agency chairman last year, claiming its funding was being squeezed.

The organisation's past chief executive John Hegarty could not be contacted for comment.

A DCAL spokesman today said the acting chief was issued with a memorandum in 1999 outlining accountability requirements.

"Travel and hospitality costs incurred by the agency since its establishment in 1999 were the subject of an audit commissioned by DCAL in April 2001.

"This resulted in a significant tightening up of financial controls within the agency," he stated.

The Ulster-Scots Agency today blamed "inadequate staffing" for the lack of a travel policy in its early years.

"These expenses would not be incurred today as the agency recommends the use of public transport and/or private/official cars, along with the use of taxis on appropriate occasions only, for business travel," a spokeswoman said.

Trips at centre of storm

August 17, 2000: Pick up from Dublin Airport, following collection of mail from Lord Laird's Belfast home - £120.

February 16/17, 2001: Trip to Dublin for discussions with Ireland Fund and return journey the following day - £260.

February 25, 2001: Return trip from Belfast to Campsie, Derry and Raphoe - £272.50.

May 4, 2001: Belfast to Newry for Highland Fling ball event and return - £125.

May 10, 2001: Return trip to Dublin for meeting with Ulster-Scots Agency's southern board members - £240.


Foreign Minister Begins US Visit
2005-02-07 08:00:10+00

Minister for Foreign Affairs Dermot Ahern is to begin a five-day visit to the United States today.

Mr Ahern's first stop is New York, where he is due to meet UN secretary general Kofi Annan before travelling on the Washington to meet senior officials from the Bush administration and the US Congress.

The minister is also due to meet representatives of the Irish-American community and other immigrant groups during the visit.



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EXCLUSIVE: British Human Rights Lawyer Gareth Peirce Says Torture "Is The Recipe For The Destruction" Of International Human Rights -A -V

In a Democracy Now! exclusive, we speak with leading British human rights lawyer, Gareth Peirce. She is the lawyer for two of the four British citizens recently released from Guantanamo Bay and has represented the Birmingham Six and Guilford Four. Actress Emma Thompson played her character in the movie "In the Name of the Father." In a rare interview, Peirce says that Guantanamo Bay is evidence of "an appalling chasm...for the whole of our society morally to have fallen into." [includes rush transcript]

A federal judge ruled Monday that the military tribunals set up by the Pentagon to determine the status of men and women held at Guantanamo Bay are unconstitutional in nature since they don't allow detainees access to lawyers or to evidence against them.

More than 540 men and women from 42 countries are still being held at Guntanamo. The judge wrote the war-on-terror cannot "negate the existence of the most basic fundamental rights for which the people of this country have fought and died for well over two hundred years."

The ruling comes a week after four British citizens were released without charge from Guantanamo after nearly 3 years in custody. They are now suing the US government for tens of millions of dollars in damages. The four are: Moazzam Begg, Feroz Abbasi, Martin Mubanga and Richard Belmar.

On Democracy Now!, we have covered these cases extensively, particularly that of Moazzam Begg. He was detained in Pakistan in 2001 and was imprisoned without charge or trial in Guanatanmo after being transferred there from a base in Afghanistan. For nearly two years, he had no contact with fellow prisoners, denied access to daylight and kept in seclusion

In a 25-page testimony written while in solitary confinement, Begg accuses the US of threatening his family, killing his fellow detainees and interrogating him more than 250 times. The testimony was obtained by the London Independent. Begg said his interrogation included being shackled and dragged, having a "suffocating hood" placed on his head and being struck on the head several times.

Gareth Peirce is the attorney for Moazzam Begg as well as Richard Belmar. Peirce is one of the leading human rights lawyers in Britian. She represented the Birmingham Six and Guilford Four as well as the three other British citizens released from Guantanamo last year known as the "Tipton Three". Actress Emma Thompson played her character in the movie "In the Name of the Father."

This past weekend, I was in England and Ireland as part of the international "Exception to the Rulers" book tour. I had the rare opportunity to sit down with Gareth Peirce in her home for an extended conversation.

Gareth Peirce, British human rights lawyer.


Vivacious Woman Was Active In Community

MaryJane Berry

By Karen Zapf
Monday, February 7, 2005

MaryJane Berry was the life of the party, whether it was a function of the Daughters of Erin fraternal organization in which she was a member or a family gathering.

"She was vivacious and fun-loving," her son-in-law, Joe Plichta said Sunday. "She liked to have a good time."

MaryJane Berry of Ross Township, Allegheny County, formerly of Pittsburgh's North Side, died Saturday, Feb. 5, 2005, at the Manor Care Nursing Home in Ross Township. Maureen Plichta said her mother died from complications of pulmonary dysfunction and diabetes. She was 77.

MaryJane Berry grew up on the North Side, graduating from Oliver High School in 1945. She worked at department stores Downtown, and later in the human resources department in Allegheny County.

John F. Berry and MaryJane were married in 1950, Maureen Plichta said.

"She had a date with another fellow, but he didn't have a car," Maureen Plichta said. "My dad had a car, so he got the date with my mom."

They were married for 38 years before John Berry's death in 1988.

Maureen Plichta said her father, like her mother, died on the eve of a Super Bowl -- Super Bowl XXII.

"My niece said that mom and dad are probably having a party together today (Sunday) in heaven," Maureen Plichta said.

MaryJane Berry was named North Sider of the Year for Observatory Hill in 1988 for her neighborhood activities.

"She was very actively involved in the political scene," said Joe Plichta. She was active as a Democratic committee woman in the 26th Ward.

Mrs. Berry's membership in the Daughters of Erin, a Catholic women's organization also known as the Ladies Ancient Order of Hibernians, provided many opportunities for community service and socializing.

"We circled all around the north and south (of Ireland) for 12 days," said Fran O'Toole, 74, of Mt. Lebanon, Allegheny County, a member of the Daughters of Erin who roomed with Mrs. Berry on a trip to Ireland in 1992. "She was a lot of fun."

O'Toole also said she will miss Mrs. Berry when she marches in the annual St. Patrick's Day parade Downtown on March 12.

"She was a wonderful person," O'Toole said.

Mrs. Berry was predeceased by her parents, Louis and Jane Cookson Schaefer and her husband, John F. Berry.

Mrs. Berry is survived by three daughters, Jacqueline Musgrave and her husband, Bob, of Ross Township; Kathleen Long and her husband, Marty, of Etna, Allegheny County; and Maureen Plichta and her husband Joe, of McCandless, Allegheny County; two brothers, Bradley Schaefer of Bradford Woods and James Schaefer; and 11 grandchildren.

Friends will be received from 2 to 4 and 7 to 9 p.m. today at the Devlin Funeral Home, 806 Perry Highway, Ross Township. A Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated at 10 a.m. Tuesday in St. Teresa of Avila Church, Ross Township. Interment will follow in North Side Catholic Cemetery.

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