News about the Irish & Irish American culture, music, news, sports. This is hosted by the Irish Aires radio show on KPFT-FM 90.1 in Houston, Texas (a Pacifica community radio station)

February 12, 2005

02/12/05 – Apologies Won’t Bring Back The Missing Years

Table of Contents - Overall
Table of Contents – Feb 2005

SB 02/13/05 Apologies Won't Bring Back The Missing Years
TO 02/13/05 Comment: Liam Clarke: A Hollow Apology From Wrong Man
GU 02/12/05 Conlon: Muslims Are Irish Of Today
IO 02/12/05 Guildford Four's Conlon Praises SDLP Support
TO 02/13/05 Adams, Ferris, McGuinness ‘Approved Raid’
TO 02/13/05 Leading Article: Name And Shame Them
SB 02/13/05 IRA May Go Back On Road To Disbandment
GU 02/12/05 Sinn Fein 'Let Down' Nationalists, Says Durkan -V
UT 02/12/05 Derry Man Refused Bail
WT 02/12/05 Embassy Row: Ireland's Appeal
IO 02/12/05 Govt Denies Sinn Féin 'Freeze-Out' Claim
BT 02/12/05 Sinn Fein Blasted
SB 02/13/05 McCabe Killers Release ‘In Final Settlement’
BT 02/13/05 McAleese Told To Stay Away


Apologies Won't Bring Back The Missing Years

13 February 2005

There they were, ghosts from the past, still shuffling along like actors from an old drama in search of its denouement.

Gerry Conlon, Annie Maguire, Vincent and Patrick Maguire, the last players in perhaps the last act of the Guildford Four and the Maguire Seven dramas.

There they were, back on the evening news, making their slow progress past the cameramen on their way into the House of Commons.

Once more in the headlines, but this time the authorities were inviting them to meet the prime minister in his office behind speaker's chair, rather than the master of the rolls in Old Bailey Court number five.

There was Gerry, older and portlier than the trembling rake whose hand I had first been able to shake in the reception hall at the Old Bailey as he made his headlong plunge out the door to freedom in 1990 - with, I remember, a plastic bag of clothes and four LPs tucked under his arm. Not much in the way of possessions, after 14 years on the blocks.

There was Annie Maguire herself, once the alleged keeper of Sir Michael Havers' infamous “bomb factory'‘.

Annie, as always, looked her impeccable best, and I wondered had she come by tube yet again for the big day.

I remembered how she told me that, on the morning of the verdict in 1975, she took the tube to the Old Bailey, along with her two young wide-eyed and wondering sons. The Maguires were all so convinced that British justice would assert their innocence that they and their Kilburn neighbours had arranged a celebration party for that evening.

Instead, as night fell, Annie was being pumped full of tranquilisers in the hospital wing of Wandsworth.

Her two terrified children were locked up in a young offenders' unit.

Her husband Paddy, brother-in-law Giuseppe and their neighbour Pat O'Neill (who just happened to be in the house when the law arrived) were getting the time-honoured welcome from warders and inmates at Wormwood Scrubs: shoes banging on doors and urine in their breakfast after an all-night chorus of “What shall we do with the fucking bombers?”.

Back in Kilburn, the old Maguire house was abandoned like some ancient plague site. Annie's little daughter, now left behind, had to go to live with relatives.

Subsequently, the council couldn't find tenants to live there, and eventually the local vandals smashed the windows and doors, and wrecked all of Annie's furniture. People walking past would even cross the street to avoid passing the ‘bomb factory' that had became a wino-squat.

By now, poor Annie, inconsolable at the loss of her little daughter and sons, had been moved to the prison hospital at the concrete tomb that was Durham Prison.

In the cell next door was Myra Hindley.

There, Annie finally met some real IRA bombers when the convicted Gillespie sisters from Donegal came to her bedside.

“Get up out of that bed, Annie, and don't let them give you any more of those tranquilisers, or you will never survive,” they told her. “You'll die in prison.” She did get up, and she did survive.

And there too on the news was Annie's son, Patrick. Now on the edge of middle age, still waxing eloquently about that strange prison in the mind, from which victims of judicial miscarriage cannot ever escape.

After his father, mother and brother had been taken down,12-year-old Patrick was left alone in the dock. Seemingly, Judge Donaldson was confused and had forgotten to sentence him - understandably enough. I mean how many Maguires were there?

Uncertainly, Patrick looked at the warders ,who looked at the judge, and then suddenly Sir Michael Havers, prosecuting, was on his feet to ensure British justice was done. “What does a bomb look like, young man?’ he solemnly asked the child. Patrick's bomb-making knowledge had clearly been gleaned from technical manuals like the Dandy and the Beano.

He replied: “It was like a black ball with a long wire coming out of it.’' For that, he got five years, and went off to do his porridge, presumably with fellow subversives like Beryl the Peril and Desperate Dan.

Down below in the holding cells, the scene was unimaginable. Annie had collapsed on the floor. She was receiving first aid, and her sons were on a nearby bench.

Paddy, Giuseppe and Pat O'Neill, all shackled to each other, were trying to get their heads around the meaning of eight, 12 and 14 years. Upstairs, a triumphant Scotland Yard Bomb Squad were already briefing Fleet Street's best. They were solemnly trotting out the small print stuff that you can't really say in court but is food and drink to the crime correspondents.

Auntie Annie came in for special treatment. “Heartless, cold master-bomber.

“Imagine getting the kids to mix explosive in the kitchen. Gave lessons in the parlour.

“Can you bloody imagine, mate?”

As the big black vans with the wailing sirens were pulling away from the Old Bailey, the lurid profiles of an Oirish family of simian-faced 19th century bombers were pouring down the copy lines.

Given his poor health, Giuseppe's 12-year term was always going to be a life sentence. Dying from emphysema, he shuffled through various prisons in carpet-slippers, subsisting on Complan. He died in Hammersmith hospital in 1980, handcuffed to a special cage-like bed with two warders and an armed police officer plus dog to prevent him escaping.

In 1983, I wrote to Annie in Durham Prison, seeking permission to interview her two sons (who by then had been released) for a television documentary.

Broadcast in 1984 by ITV. Aunt Annie's Bomb Factory was one of the first bricks to come out of the wall.

Annie finally got out of prison in 1985, to begin the task of gathering up her scattered and broken family. Her husband, Patrick, died in 2002.LordHavers, Lord Donaldson and forensic scientist Sir John Yallop, whose risible TLC test could have locked up every cigarette-smoker in the land for “handling explosives'‘, are all dead. Gone to their eternal reward.

Was it miscarriage, or conspiracy to pervert, or both? I suspect the latter, but in the end, it didn't matter. Apparently, the punishment for both crimes is the same: a police promotion or a seat in the Lords. If we live long enough, we eventually see everything, even the prime minister having Aunt Annie of the bomb factory to tea and apologising in the Commons.


Comment: Liam Clarke: A Hollow Apology From The Wrong Man

Everything about the case of the Guildford Four and the Maguire Seven smacks of political expediency. They were convicted because the police were under pressure to get a result; they were freed when it became impossible to sustain a long-running cover-up; and last week’s apology by Tony Blair was also designed to meet political needs.

The saga started when Paul Hill, a young man in trouble with the IRA in Belfast, and his friend Gerry Conlon decided to get offside to London. Like many youngsters who gravitated towards big cities in the early 1970s, they drifted into a life of soft drugs, petty crime and rock’n’roll.

As they chilled out, Brian Keenan, one of the most formidable IRA strategists of the Troubles, put in motion IRA plans to blow London apart. His foot soldiers were Martin O’Connell, Eddie Butler, Harry Duggan and Hugh Doherty as well as at least one woman who was never caught. In the panic after sustained IRA attacks, Conlon and Hill were arrested.

After being beaten by police, Conlon “confessed”, implicating Carole Richardson and Paddy Amstrong, two young drifters like himself whom he had met in a squat in northwest London. He also named the Maguire Seven, his aunt Annie Maguire and her respectable, Tory-voting, north London Irish family. In his confession, Conlon said the bombs had been made up in Annie’s kitchen and she emerged as a terrorist mastermind.

When Maguire’s house was raided, Conlon’s father Giuseppe was present, having travelled from Ireland to help Gerry. He too was arrested and charged. From the start, the Maguire clan were unlikely terrorists.

Although Annie was from a nationalist area of Belfast, her husband was a former British soldier. She had a picture of the Queen hanging on her wall and was a regular at the local Conservative club. She has never shown the slightest sympathy with militant Irish republicanism.

The conviction of these people on bomb charges met a political need but had no effect on the IRA campaign, which continued to escalate. Fashionable areas of London were deserted at night and, in opinion polls, an unprecedented 64% of people said British troops should be withdrawn from Northern Ireland.

The terror only halted in December 1975 when the male members of Keenan’s gang were run to ground in a flat in Balcombe Street where they had held a family hostage for six days before giving themselves up.

At their trial, the Balcombe Street gang made a detailed statement from the dock in which they admitted the offences for which the Guildford Four had been convicted. They were able to point to forensic evidence linking them to the attacks allegedly carried out by the jailed innocents.

Despite this, the Guildford Four remained in jail for another 12 years until 1989 when, after a long political and media campaign, it was conceded that the confessions on which the original convictions had been based were fabricated by the police. It was also shown that the director of public prosecutions had suppressed forensic evidence. The verdict was too late for Giuseppe Conlon who had died in jail.

Acquittal and compensation were the real admission of fault by the state. It didn’t put things right — nothing can or will — but it carried far more weight than Blair’s apology which is why, perhaps, three of the Guildford Four didn’t turn up at Westminster to hear the historic statement.

Yet it is easy to see why Gerry Conlon craves additional closure. Even though his confession was forced out of him and later retracted, he doubtless feels guilt at playing a part in putting innocent friends and relatives behind bars. It is natural for him to seek ways to put things right with those who have been wronged.

Nobody could begrudge the Maguires and Conlon any comfort they might have taken from the apology; for them it was an acknowledgment on behalf of the British state that they had been innocent. They obviously hope that it will put the matter to rest once and for all.

But will it? When the BBC asked shoppers in Guildford whether they had found the apology convincing most of them said that smoke generally followed fire, just as they would have done before Blair opened his mouth. Others said they hoped it would help the peace process and offered no opinion as to guilt or innocence. The prime minister’s words were not taken as final, but as a political gesture, and it is easy to see why.

Blair had apologised for something for which he bore no responsibility and he could expect no adverse consequences and no criticism, either personal or political, as a result of it. It did not involve admitting that he was wrong about anything or that he had acted badly in any way.


Conlon: Muslims Are Irish Of Today

Henry McDonald
Sunday February 13, 2005
The Observer

Gerry Conlon - one of the Guildford Four - has compared the plight of British Muslims under suspicion since 9/11 to the way the Irish were treated during the IRA bombing campaigns of the mid-Seventies.

Conlon, who along with the ten other victims of one of Britain's worst miscarriages of justice received a public apology from Tony Blair last week, also said he would do all he could to help the freed Guantanamo Bay detainees.

'The atmosphere is just like 1974 and 1975 when we were wrongly sent to prison. The only difference is that the colour and the religion has changed,' he said.

He was speaking at the SDLP annual conference, which he used to thank the party for its support for the Conlon and Maguire families over the past 31 years.

Conlon revealed that he told his solicitor Gareth Peirce, who is also a lawyer for two of the recently freed Guantanamo detainees, that it would be hard for the men to re-integrate into society.

'The Guantanamo detainees will have to struggle against suspicion and hostility the way we did,' he said.

On Blair's apology last week, Conlon said: 'By making that TV appearance, and by giving us the letter, he has helped wipe away the stigma.'

He revealed that during their private talk with Blair in his rooms at the House of Commons, the Prime Minister was taken aback by what Patrick and Vincent Maguire told him.

'Patrick told Tony Blair that before his arrest he wanted to join the Royal Marines and, instead of being wrongly in prison, he would have been fighting for Britain in the Falklands. Vincent told him that he wanted to be a police officer in the Met, so he could have been patrolling London's streets,' Conlon said.

He said that the apology was important because even after their convictions were quashed in 1989 'we were still seen as guilty in the eyes of the establishment'.

Closure, Conlon said, would only come about for the Guildford Four and the Maguire Seven once they received the medical and counselling help promised by Blair during their meeting.

He repeated his calls for public apologies to be issued to all victims of miscarriages of justice since their release in 1989, including the Birmingham Six.


Guildford Four's Conlon Praises SDLP Support
2005-02-12 13:00:05+00

Guildford Four member Gerry Conlon today paid an emotional tribute to members of the SDLP for standing by him as he sought to clear his name.

In an address to the party's annual conference in Derry, Mr Conlon, who, on Wednesday, received a public apology from British Prime Minister Tony Blair, for his wrongful imprisonment, saluted senior SDLP figures for pressing for his, and his father, Guiseppe, to have their names cleared.

Gerry Conlon and Guiseppe Conlon were among 11 people arrested and wrongfully convicted of an IRA bombing campaign which killed five people in Guilford and also mounted attacks in Woolwich.

"I am indebted to Seamus Mallon as I am to John Hume for his fight for the Birmingham Six. It came down to SDLP leader Mark Durkan coming to see me after a nervous breakdown in October 2003.

"I cannot believe I am here to be able to talk to people who have worked tirelessly, not just for me, but my mother, my sister, all the McGuire family, and others. I know if my father was alive, my father would be telling people go out and do the right thing. Help the people who wanted to help you, help the people who want to make people's lives better."

On Wednesday, Tony Blair apologised on behalf of the British government before television cameras for the miscarriage of justice suffered by the Guilford Four and McGuire Seven.

The apology followed weeks of intense lobbying by the Conlon family, the McGuires, the SDLP and An Taoiseach Bertie Ahern.

A petition was also signed by thousands of people urging the British government to clear the family's name.

The Conlon's case was famously highlighted in the Oscar-nominated movie In The Name Of The Father, starring Daniel Day Lewis as Gerry, and Pete Postlethwaite as Guiseppe.

The film's director Jim Sheridan and Daniel Day Lewis supported the campaign.

Mr Conlon today reminded SDLP delegates that there were still other miscarriages of justice, not just in the North, but around the world.

"When I went to prison, I lost a bit of humanity because of the austerity of the prison and I saw the way I was treated," he said.

"In many ways, I was very lucky I had my da, Guiseppe, to guide me through dreadful times of bitterness and frustration. My father was a father who supported this party. I know if he got out before me, I would not have had to wait as long as I did.

"I see Seamus Mallon sitting there. He went to see me in prison and also the Birmingham Six. His was a single voice in the wilderness but it was a voice which kept echoing and rebounding."

Mr Conlon received a standing ovation before and after his speech.

He was led into the conference hall by veteran SDLP MPs Seamus Mallon and Eddie McGrady.

On the podium, he was embraced by SDLP leader Mark Durkan and Belfast councillor Margaret Walsh, who has been a close friend of his sister, Ann.

Former SDLP leader and Nobel Peace Prize winner John Hume, who had also pressed for the clearing of the Guilford Four and McGuire's Seven name, also welcomed Mr Conlon.

Councillor Walsh paid tribute to Guiseppe Conlon's wife, Sarah, who she compared to Mother Teresa.

"When I first heard of Guiseppe Conlon, I knew because I lived in the same area, that Guiseppe Conlon, the McGuires, and Guilford Four were never guilty of this crime," she said.

Recounting how Sarah Conlon had to travel to prison in different parts of England to see her husband and son, Councillor Walsh said she had shown great pride and dignity throughout the ordeal, which saw Guiseppe die while serving his sentence.

"She forgave and never forgot," Mrs Walsh said. "When people talk about Mother Teresa, I talk of Sarah Conlon in the same breath."


Adams, Ferris, McGuinness ‘Approved Raid’

Liam Clarke and Stephen O’Brien

SECURITY sources and Irish government officials have named Gerry Adams, Martin McGuinness and Martin Ferris as the Sinn Fein leaders who approved the £26.5m (€38.4m) Northern Bank robbery.

A report by the International Monitoring Committee (IMC) last week said “senior members, who are also senior members of PIRA, were involved in sanctioning the series of robberies” but stopped short of naming them.

However, police on both sides of the border and Irish government sources have confirmed that the three parliamentarians sit on the IRA’s ruling army council and were therefore involved in a collective decision to sanction the heist. The raid, the biggest in British or Irish history, was the last in a line of high-value robberies.

The seven-strong Army Council approves IRA strategies but leaves detailed planning to other bodies such as the general headquarters (GHQ) staff. Martin Lynch, the GHQ staff adjutant, is a former driver of Adams and McGuinness while its intelligence officer, Bobby Storey, is a close associate of the Sinn Fein leader.

The intelligence assessment is based on electronic surveillance, reports from informants and observations of meetings between Sinn Fein leaders and those who planned the robbery. Its broad conclusions were passed to senior American politicians by Dermot Ahern, the foreign minister.

The robberies referred to in the IMC report started with one of £1.2m in goods from a Makro retail outlet near Belfast last May. It was followed by a theft at an Iceland store in Strabane in September and the theft of £2m worth of cigarettes in Belfast in October. The Iceland and cigarette raids resembled the Northern Bank heist in that they involved the kidnapping of staff who were forced to assist.

Adams and McGuinness dismissed the report as “rubbish” and denied all involvement. Adams also denies ever having been a member of the IRA, while McGuinness says he left it in the early 1970s but is still bound by its “honour code”. The IRA denies the robbery.

The denials have been treated with scepticism even among northern nationalists. At the SDLP annual conference yesterday Mark Durkan, the party leader, was cheered for accusing Adams of lying about IRA criminality.

“To those who think the IRA don’t pull off robberies – they do. That’s what they were doing in Adare when they killed Garda Jerry McCabe,” Durkan said. “That’s what they were doing in Newry when they killed postal worker Frank Kerr. Each time Gerry denied. Each time Gerry lied. So Gerry, how can we believe you now? Why would we believe you over the taoiseach, who has done so much for the peace process?”


Leading Article: Name And Shame Them

The allegations that the Irish and British governments have made against the Sinn Fein leadership and the IRA must not be allowed to fade away. Gerry Adams, the Sinn Fein president, and his senior colleagues in the party stand accused of authorising the robbery of the Northern Bank in Belfast. The £26.5m (€38.4m) heist was more than a violent crime; it was a breathtaking and deeply cynical breach of trust. Bertie Ahern, the taoiseach, and Tony Blair, the prime minister, have been tireless in their efforts to negotiate a settlement in Northern Ireland, persuading and cajoling all parties to reach a workable solution. They now know they were betrayed by the very people for whom they took the most risks.

In his attempts to deflect blame, Adams has launched an assault on the institutions of democracy that he claims to want to join. He pours scorn on the governments, on the police forces of Northern Ireland and the republic, and on the International Monitoring Commission. Joe Brosnan, the former civil servant who was chosen for the IMC by the Irish government, says that he will resign if the allegations against Sinn Fein and the IRA are unfounded. John Grieve, the former deputy commissioner of the Metropolitan police, says that those who deny IRA involvement in the bank robbery “have some brass neck”.

The governments know that the IRA carried out the raid, and they know that it was authorised by an IRA leadership that overlaps with the Sinn Fein leadership. This time, Sinn Fein cannot be allowed to escape without sanction. Ahern and Blair must not blink, and they must not move on, until Sinn Fein faces the truth that it seeks to deny. There is no place for bank robbers in the government of Northern Ireland, no place for knee-cappers and racketeers.

Adams has called on the governments to arrest him if they have proof of his involvement in a crime. In time, when the painstaking process of compiling evidence against a secret organisation that intimidates witnesses and terrorises the community from which it springs, that may be possible. The governments should, however, take this opportunity to publish full details of the leadership of the Provisional IRA so that the public knows precisely which members of Sinn Fein are actively engaged in crime and terrorism.

Mary Harney, the tanaiste, has already named Martin Ferris, the Kerry TD and convicted gunrunner, as a member of the IRA’s army council. His continued presence in the Dail while directing crime is an affront to that parliament, to its members and to the people of the republic. His allegiance is not to the state, but to an organisation that believes itself to be above the law and to be the “supreme authority” on the island. It believes that shooting teenagers, robbing banks and wielding baseball bats is part and parcel of normal life. Ferris and his ilk do not believe that the murder of a member of the Garda Siochana is a crime, nor do they believe that it is a crime to kidnap a mother of 10 children, shoot her in the head and hide her body. Yet Ferris, Adams and Martin McGuinness, Sinn Fein’s chief negotiator, refuse to recognise that they can no longer lead a double life, that they can no longer wear their balaclavas and take part in political discourse.

The public, inevitably, will find the wrangling and name-calling wearisome, but politicians have a responsibility to defend democratic principles and to ensure that Sinn Fein does not succeed in so obscuring the truth that it escapes paying the price. Each time Adams attacks the governments, he is effectively attacking the people of the republic and of Northern Ireland.

His strategy is invidious. The two governments must not be swayed in their determination to enforce the rule of law and the rules of democracy. Their willingness, in the past, to turn a blind eye to Sinn Fein’s addiction to criminality has brought them to this crisis. They will only deepen it if they do not deal with it, now that their indulgence has been hurled back in their faces. Adams has thrown down the gauntlet: Ahern and Blair must pick it up.


IRA May Go Back On Road To Disbandment

13 February 2005 By Paul T Colgan

George Bernard Shaw once found himself seated next to an attractive lady at a dinner party. Shaw asked her: “Madam, would you go to bed with me for £10,000?”

The woman blushed and politely refused. Shaw then asked: “would you go to b ed with me for £50,000?” “Perhaps...” she replied.

“Well how if I were to give you £5?” he said.

“Sir, what do you take me for!” she answered furiously. “I thought we had already established what you are - we're merely haggling over the price,” he responded.

One Northern commentator relayed this anecdote after watching the Taoiseach in the Dáil last week, his point being that Bertie Ahern had not been overly concerned about past robberies, but when €38 million was stolen from the Northern Bank, he became concerned.

Ahern told TDs that the Irish and British governments had tolerated ongoing IRA activity since its ceasefire in 1994. “This was tolerated in order to move the process forward,’' Ahern said. “However, ten years on we cannot continue to do that.”

In relation to alleged IRA operations - the Makro, Strabane and Gallagher cigarette heists - last year he said: “We in this house took that coolly enough.”

Last week's Independent Monitoring Commission said that the IRA carried out the robberies with the sanction of senior Sinn Féin members.

When the current political crisis dies down, the core issues blocking progress in the North will still remain - the existence of the IRA and the DUP's refusal to sign up to power sharing.

Already, analysts of the republican movement are looking to the autumn and talking of unilateral IRA disarmament and disbandment.

The political strategy adopted by Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness, which has taken 15 years to build up, has as its core objective power sharing with unionists.

Given the fall-out from last December's failed talks and the subsequent Northern Bank job, the prospect of Sinn Féin going into executive government appears as far off as ever.

The DUP has said it will not return to talks until the IRA disbands. It will also demand up to a year to “verify'‘ that the IRA has been wound down.

Sinn Féin is in the doghouse. The SDLP, the government and the White House have abandoned it.

Republican sources have ruled out the possibility of a split in the IRA. Republican commentators, such as former Sinn Féin publicity officer Danny Morrison, have said only a fool would believe a return to violence would benefit the republican project.

Sources also dismiss talk of tensions within Sinn Féin and the IRA. “It's inconceivable that the ceasefire would be called off,” said one source.

Nationalist commentator and historian Brian Feeney believes the IRA is in fact contemplating disbandment on its own terms.

“The governments have said you have to go away and do this unilaterally. It won't happen before the Westminster elections, but there is no doubt it will happen. It's not a matter of principle but tactics,” he said.

Feeney believes that IRA disbandment is likely to occur before the next Dáil election when Sinn Féin could look to expand its representation.

Morrison said that while he had not heard any serious talk of unilateral action, it remained an option for the IRA. But he said everything depended on the DUP.

“It's an option, but why would the IRA throw away all its cards?” he said. “It comes down to the DUP. It could turn around and say it wasn't going to share power for another five years. As long as Ian Paisley remains DUP leader it will never share power with Catholics.”

The unprecedented pressure being exerted on Sinn Féin by the two governments stems from the belief that the IRA is on an irreversible path towards disbandment.

Hence, the speed with which the IRA statements of recent weeks were rejected. This newspaper reported as far back as last August that republicans were ready to strike a deal on IRA disbandment.

Ahern, said observers, would not play fast and loose with the Northern peace process unless he was assured that the IRA was seriously set to wind down. It is with this in mind, they say, that the current furore must be viewed.

Observers note that the IRA remains locked in to the Adams and McGuinness strategy.

Tommy McKearney, a former IRA prisoner, said he had no doubt that the republican leadership could have delivered IRA disbandment before Christmas. However, he believes the DUP's refusal to countenance this “unprecedented'‘ offer will have caused problems for the organisation.

“You have to consider the huge amount of work that was required within the wider republican community to get to such a point. Many people staked their moral authority and credibility on the whole thing,” he said.

“There is not a split but a debate going on. There is a recognition in the leadership of the need to part ways with the old-style armed struggle republicanism.

“When republicans promised that they were going to deliver major amounts of decommissioning I have no doubt that it could have been done.”


Sinn Féin criticised at SDLP conference - Declan McBennett reports as Mark Durkan accuses SF of only looking after its own interests in negotiations on the peace process

Sinn Fein 'Let Down' Nationalists, Says Durkan -V

Henry McDonald, Ireland editor
Sunday February 13, 2005
The Observer

The civil war within northern Irish nationalism intensified yesterday after SDLP leader Mark Durkan launched a blistering attack on Sinn Fein.

Durkan told his party's annual conference in Derry that 'no nationalist voted for bank robberies' - a clear swipe at the republican movement and its alleged involvement in December's record £26.5 million heist.

The bitterness between the two parties was clearly visible with republican protesters demonstrating outside the conference centre at Derry's City Hotel, angry at the SDLP linking the IRA and Sinn Fein to crime.

In his speech, Durkan claimed that during last autumn's negotiations aimed at restoring power sharing to Northern Ireland, Sinn Fein was not interested in standing up to the Democratic Unionists or promoting nationalists' interests. His assault on Sinn Fein, now the largest nationalist party in Northern Ireland, marks the end of an era of co-operation fostered by John Hume for more than a decade.

'It was about protecting the self-interest and self-image of the Provisional movement,' said Durkan. 'There's only one thing Sinn Fein are true to - their name. Sinn Fein means "ourselves". That's all they care about. That's who and what they negotiate for: "Themselves". So much for their Ireland of equals.'

He told delegates: 'The time has come for us to reclaim the good name of northern nationalism. To reclaim the Agreement. To restore the democratic institutions. To return to the path the Irish people chose.'

Mindful of the general election expected in less than four months and the challenge to the SDLP's Foyle seat from Sinn Fein, Durkan said: 'The reason we are in this crisis is because the Provisional movement has let down everybody who made leaps of faith in this process. So don't anyone think that the answer now is to ask us to make leaps of fiction.

'It angers me when Peter Robinson says that the nationalist community are voting to indulge paramilitarism and crime. It should anger and worry all nationalists when Sinn Fein's propaganda only goes to corroborate that misrepresentation of the good motives of the north's nationalists.'

On crime and the IRA, Durkan added: 'Democratic Ireland can tell you what a crime is. Holding families hostages is a crime. Murdering a policeman or a postman is a crime. Abducting a mother of 10, and disappearing her body for over 30 years is a crime. Denying her the dignity of a Christian burial is as criminal as it is cruel.'

Earlier the SDLP leader had revealed that during talks in Downing Street with Tony Blair last month, the Prime Minister asked him if his party would enter a vol untary coalition with unionists, excluding Sinn Fein from government in Belfast. But Durkan ruled out excluding Sinn Fein from any deal, warning that republicans would have used it to paint themselves as victims.

Just a few yards from the SDLP conference, Sinn Fein turned up at Derry's Guildhall to criticise their rivals. Martin McGuinness, Sinn Fein's chief negotiator, said: 'In reality today's remarks by Mark Durkan are an effort by him to make his party relevant going into the elections. The electorate have already spoken on this matter and ruled out exclusion and the abandonment of the Good Friday Agreement. Sinn Fein is confident they shall do this again.'


Derry Man Refused Bail

A man who denies possessing a semi-automatic pistol used in a loyalist murder bid was refused bail today.

Belfast High Court heard that a total of four finger prints belonging to 24-year-old Derry scaffolder Keith Charles Neely were found on the inside and outside of a plastic bag containing the gun and explosives.

Crown lawyer David Hopley told the court the gun and bombs were uncovered in a locked safe in a house in Lincoln Court in Derry, close to where Neely lives with his girlfriend.

He revealed that forensic tests carried out on the gun showed conclusively that it was used in the attempted murder of Robert Hutchinson last September.

The lawyer said that a group of four men fired a number of shots into the Cosy Inn Bar, hitting Mr Hutchinson twice before fleeing in a blue Ford Mondeo car, which was later found on fire in the irish Street estate.

Mr Hopley told Mr Justice Gillen that "at this time there was an on-going feud in the Londonderry area between the UVF and the UDA/UFF".

He added that on the day the gun and bombs were found, Darren Thompson was shot in the head at Woodburn Park in the Kilfennan area of the city.

He told the court that searches carried out by police on September 29 at the Lincoln Court house uncovered the .45 semi-automatic handgun, three incendiary devices, five nail bombs and a "quantity of bomb making equipment".

After the black bin bag containing the items was forensically examined and Neely`s finger prints were uncovered, he was arrested on February 8 but during police

questioning, he made mostly made no comment.

Neely denies charges of possessing the gun and bombs with intent to endanger life.

"Clearly the police feel there`s a real risk of this man, linked in the way that he is with these weapons, that he will engage in this feud in some way...and there`s a real risk, the police feel, of further offences being committed," said Mr Hopley.

Refusing the bail aplication, Mr Justice Gillen said there was "strong prima facie evidence" against Neely.

"This firearm was used in an attempted murderous attack on another person in the course of an ongoing simmering feud. I think there`s a real risk of him re-engaging in this feud and therefore I refuse the application," declared the judge.


Embassy Row: Ireland's Appeal

By James Morrison

Irish Foreign Minister Dermot Ahern this week appealed to the White House and Congress to help salvage the tattered Northern Ireland peace process, dealt a critical blow yesterday by a report that tied political supporters of the Irish Republican Army to a major bank robbery.

The report by the Independent Monitoring Commission, which oversees a cease-fire in Northern Ireland, said senior members of Sinn Fein, the political wing of the IRA, approved the Dec. 20 theft of $50 million at the headquarters of the Northern Bank in Belfast. The report pinned the robbery on IRA guerrillas and said Sinn Fein leaders knew of other robberies by the IRA last year.

Mr. Ahern, speaking at an Irish Embassy reception Wednesday evening, was worried that the report could further erode Washington's confidence in the peace process, which has been faltering for two years.

"I am here at a time that is absolutely critical for our peace process," he said. "I am here to impress on the power brokers of Washington to continue to be involved in the peace process."

Before he left Dublin, Mr. Ahern also was concerned that President Bush might decline to invite Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams to the annual White House St. Patrick's Day reception, while extending invitations to other political leaders of Northern Ireland.

At the embassy reception, Mr. Ahern said he had discussed the St. Patrick's Day celebration with Mitchell Reiss, the White House special envoy for Northern Ireland, and with members of Congress. Mr. Reiss had told him the decision is "still under review," Mr. Ahern said.

Asked whether he specifically had urged the administration to invite Mr. Adams, the foreign minister replied, "It is not for me to dictate to the White House whom to invite."

Mr. Ahern is scheduled to return to Washington for St. Patrick's Day with Prime Minister Bertie Ahern. (The two men are not related.)

The monitoring commission report could put pressure on the White House to refuse to allow Mr. Adams at the annual Irish-American reception.

The report said, "In our view Sinn Fein must bear its share of responsibility for all the incidents. Some of its senior members, who are also senior members of the IRA, were involved in sanctioning the series of robberies."

In Belfast, Mr. Adams dismissed the report as "rubbish."

The State Department earlier this week criticized the IRA for refusing to continue turning in its weapons, as required under the 1998 Good Friday accords that created the Northern Ireland Assembly and promoted power sharing between Catholic and Protestant political parties in the British province. The accords also provided for the Republic of Ireland to cooperate with the British government to promote peace in Northern Ireland.

Britain suspended the assembly two years ago, after reports of IRA spying on the executive branch of the government of Northern Ireland.

The IRA declared a cease-fire in 1997 after about 30 years of fighting to unite Northern Ireland with the Irish republic.


Govt Denies Sinn Féin 'Freeze-Out' Claim
2005-02-12 12:50:04+00

Downing Street today distanced itself from claims by SDLP leader Mark Durkan that it canvassed its party vigorously on forming a devolved executive in the North which would freeze out Sinn Féin.

As SDLP members attended their annual conference in Derry, Mark Durkan claimed British Prime Minister Tony Blair pushed him on the issue of entering a voluntary coalition with unionists during a meeting in January.

Mr Durkan said: "He pushed us very strongly in the direction of voluntary coalition or exclusion, call it what you will. He was quite prepared to accept those terms as being interchangeable."

The idea of a voluntary coalition at Stormont has been promoted by the Rev Ian Paisley's Democratic Unionists and the cross-community Alliance Party.

However, the SDLP has been loath to sign up to it.

A Downing Street spokesman said the British government did not have a fixed idea on the way forward for the North following the failure to revive power-sharing institutions and the political mess in the wake of December's £26.5m (€38m) Northern Bank robbery in Belfast.

"The government's position is that it has to explore all the options being put forward by the various parties," a Downing Street spokesman said.

"That does not mean it has decided on a particular one option."

Sinn Féin chief negotiator Martin McGuinness said Mr Durkan's comments were designed to make his party relevant ahead of forthcoming Westminster and local government elections.

"It has always been clear that it was the hope of the British government that the Good Friday Agreement would see the emergence of the Ulster Unionist Party and the SDLP as the dominant parties in any institution of arrangement," the Mid Ulster MP said.

The NIO (Northern Ireland Office) script had always preferred to SDLP and the UUP and they have been encouraged in this by Seamus Mallon and Eddie McGrady.

"In reality, today's remarks by Mark Durkan are an effort by him to make his party relevant going into the election.

"The Electorate has always spoken on this matter and Sinn Féin in confident they will do this again in the upcoming elections."


Sinn Fein Blasted

Party targeted in blistering attack at SDLP conference.

By Staff Reporter
12 February 2005

Sinn Fein was today accused of lacking the courage to sign up to new policing arrangements in Northern Ireland because the IRA was prospering from crime.

In a hard-hitting speech to his party's annual conference in Londonderry, nationalist SDLP Policing Board member Alex Attwood claimed his rivals had no credible policing agenda.

And he highlighted a series of comments from Sinn Fein chairman Mitchel McLaughlin on the £26.5m Northern Bank robbery, the Omagh bombing and the disappearance and murder of Belfast mother-of-10 Jean McConville as evidence of the republican movement's warped attitude to IRA crime.

"What does all this mean?", the West Belfast Assembly member asked.

"It means that the IRA view themselves as a lawful authority though they are a criminal gang. It means the IRA can steal and smuggle to fund their lifestyles, while others have to toil and struggle just to get by.

"It means that every IRA abuse of human rights can be justified, while everyone else is to be properly judged against international human rights standards. And it means that the IRA view all of this as the way things are and the way they intend things to be.

"The IRA continue to exist in order to fund republican activity and lifestyles, in order to exercise control over people and communities and in order to retain a terror capability, not to return to widespread violence but in order to influence London in a direction of the IRA's choosing.

"This is the IRA reality behind both the failed negotiations in December and the recent but overdue recognition of IRA criminal activities.

"This is a corruption of what democracy is meant to be. The more democratic nationalism hears and sees all of this, let the IRA understand the greater the resolve of democrats to resist all of this."

Sinn Fein will not take its seats on Northern Ireland's Policing Board and local District Policing Partnerships because it says police reforms in the province do not go far enough.

The SDLP has challenged this and taken its seats despite threats to, and intimidation of, its Policing Board and DPP members from both hardline and mainstream republican paramilitaries.

SDLP justice spokesman Alban Maginness, meanwhile, has called for a criminal assets bureau for both sides of the Irish border to be set up to hit the pockets of crime gangs and paramilitaries.

The North Belfast MLA told the conference: "This could be easily achieved by the fusion of the Assets Recovery Agency in the North and Criminal Assets Bureau in the South.

"It is time for the authorities, North and South, to create new mechanisms for depriving paramilitary criminals of their spoils."

Mr Maginness also urged "a thorough review" of anti-social behaviour orders here in 12 months time.

And party leader Mark Durkan was due to call for the reconvening of a forum involving political parties on both sides of the Irish border to achieve an end to IRA criminality.

The Foyle Assembly member was expected to tell republicans in his speech that criminal activity is simply playing into the hands of the DUP.


McCabe Killers Release ‘In Final Settlement’

13 February 2005 By Barry O'Kelly and Pat Leahy

The government will consider the release of the killers of Garda Jerry McCabe if renewed talks with the republican movement reach an advanced stage, according to senior government sources.

Despite Taoiseach Bertie Ahern's comments last week that the release of the men was “off the table'‘ and that he did “not see it coming back on the table either'‘, it is believed that the government will be prepared to consider the men's release in the context of a “final settlement'' deal.

A senior source described the release of the men as “a red-line issue for them [Republicans]” and said that for the government to say “never, ever, ever'' on the men's release would be tantamount to saying that negotiations could never be successful.

Separately, a source close to the IRA said that the release of the four men convicted of the manslaughter of McCabe was likely to resurface as a significant issue in future negotiations with the Irish and British governments.

“It's not off the table,” the source said.

Meanwhile, the Garda Special Branch has dramatically stepped up surveillance on members of the mainstream republican movement in the wake of the Northern Bank heist.

The Sunday Business Post has learned that both covert and overt Garda surveillance is being directed at current and former IRA members, and some Sinn Féin activists with alleged IRA links.

Among those under surveillance are Sinn Féin TDs Aengus Ó Snodaigh and Martin Ferris.

Republican sources criticised the monitoring as “over the top'‘ in some cases.

“I know some people who have been openly followed, people who haven't been doing anything,” an IRA source said. “A lot of it is discreet, but if you were involved in the movement, you'd spot it a mile away. This wouldn't have happened six months ago.”

Detectives conceded that surveillance had increased, but they refused to elaborate, other than to confirm that it was taking place as part of the biggest Special Branch investigation in at least six years.

“Yeah, it's happening...but it's a distance, they [republicans being watched] don't necessarily know when it's happening,” said a Special Branch detective.

But an IRA source said: “I was sitting in the car, and suddenly they pulled up beside me [in an unmarked Garda car] and they looked straight in, they made no pretence about what they were doing.”

In Co Louth, Sinn Féin is believed to have instructed party members who are being followed to log and report incidents to the Garda.


McAleese Told To Stay Away

By Ben Lowry

12 February 2005

Irish president Mary McAleese should abandon plans for a forthcoming visit to the loyalist Shankill area, a DUP MP said today.

Nigel Dodds, who represents north Belfast, released a joint statement with the UUP and PUP saying that it was not appropriate for the Irish President to go ahead with her plans in the wake of comments last month in which she said that children were taught to hate Catholics in the same way Nazis despised Jews, despite her later apology.

"I think the fact that all unionists have joined together should be taken as a very strong message that this is not the right time for the president to visit the Shankill because of the hurt and offence she caused," Mr Dodds told BBC Radio Ulster. "There needs to be a period of time for the damage to be undone."

Table of Contents - Overall
Table of Contents – Feb 2005
Comments: Post a Comment

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?