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February 16, 2005

02/16/05 - Shotgun Attack On McDowell's Holiday Home

Table of Contents - Overall
Table of Contents – Feb 2005
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BT 02/16/05 Shotgun Attack On McDowell's Holiday Home
UT 02/16/05 Pub Brawl Murder Mystery Deepens
BB 02/16/05 Call To Sinn Fein Over Killers
BT 02/16/05 Councils 'Must Not Stand Still During Deadlock'
UT 02/16/05 Trimble: Recall Assembly, Ditch Sinn Fein
BT 02/16/05 Vigil Is Held Over Fatal 'Hit-And-Run'
BT 02/16/05 Compromise Move On St Pat's Day Carnival


Shotgun Attack On Irish Justice Minister's Holiday Home

By Tom Brady
16 February 2005

Security on the Republic's Justice Minister Michael McDowell and his family has been increased following a shotgun attack on his partly-built holiday home.

A blast shattered the french windows of the minister's planned rural retreat near Rooskey, in CoRoscommon.

A Garda technical bureau team has recovered a number of shotgun pellets from the scene during a detailed examination of the scene.

Last night security sources said the incident was being treated seriously and protection for Mr McDowell, his wife Professor Niamh Brennan and family had already been stepped up.

Senior Garda officers said they were also reviewing security arrangements for the house which is set in a remote beauty spot at Lavagh, a couple of miles outside Rooskey, and overlooking a tributary lake feeding the river Shannon.

The mystery shooting incident took place at the weekend but was not discovered until workmen turned up at the site on Monday morning.

Investigating gardai said there was no evidence to suggest an organised subversive involvement in the shooting but pointed out that inquiries had not been completed.

But one source said it was unlikely to have been a random attack as the culprit had to travel over rough terrain to reach the site and added: "It does not appear to have been a casual shooting."

A Department of Justice spokeswoman said last night that in line with the precedent set by his predecessor, Mr McDowell would not comment on his personal security.

A Garda spokesman confirmed they were investigating reports of criminal damage at the house in Rooskey.

Mr McDowell has been an outspoken critic of the Provisional IRA's involvement in criminality for the past couple of years, and a series of hard-hitting attacks on the movement's participation in punishment shootings, robberies, smuggling and intimidation has provoked fury among leading republican figures.

The minister is now the principal "hate" figure for the Provisionals and has clashed repeatedly with them since it emerged in December that they were refusing to sign up to an end in criminality as part of a peace deal.

Last year the Rooskey holiday home was at the centre of a planning controversy after Roscommon County Council claimed that the planned development was not compliant with the planning laws.

But the High Court ruled in the minister's favour and cleared the way for the completion of the split-level development.

During the hearing it was stated that damage estimated to cost €100,000 had been caused to the unfinished house by the elements as a result of the planning delays.

After the ruling Mr McDowell said it was very satisfying "to have my legal rights upheld but also slightly frustrating to have to go this far".


Pub Brawl Murder Mystery Deepens

The CCTV footage mystery surrounding a Belfast pub brawl murder deepened today after it emerged that cameras were not operating when the killers struck.

By:Press Association

Detectives probing the alleged IRA gang stabbing of Robert McCartney, 33, have seized up to 30 security tapes from a city centre bar where trouble first flared.

A slot machine was also removed as part of the inquiry.

Even though the victim, a forklift driver, was battered and knifed after he left Magennis`s bar, it had been suspected that crucial film was seized by republicans in a cover-up operation.

The Police Service of Northern Ireland has refused to say whether the CCTV images were available.

A PSNI spokeswoman confirmed today: "One of the lines of inquiry we are following at the moment is that there was a tape in the machine."

But sources close to the investigation disclosed that equipment used to monitor the premises was not recording when the deadly row flared on January 30.

The latest twist came as Mr McCartney`s family prepared to meet the US Consul General in Belfast, Dean Pittman.

They want President George Bush`s Government to intervene as they seek to force the killers to be brought to justice.

The McCartney`s believe the gang who murdered the father of two has been protected, and witnesses intimidated.

Although police have questioned seven men, including a top IRA man, no-one has yet been charged.

As the family`s campaign has intensified, so has the political pressure on Sinn Fein.

With rival nationalist SDLP leader Mark Durkan pledging to raise the case with Mr Bush`s Northern Ireland aide during a transatlantic trip this week, Irish prime minister Bertie Ahern warned the attack had more serious consequences than December`s Northern Bank heist, also blamed on the IRA.

Republicans have now come out heavily against the murderers, claiming they would have no part in hiding the killers and that the family deserved to see them captured.

Sinn Fein MLA Gerry Kelly said: "I don`t care who was involved in this horrible killing.

"Had I been anywhere near where this terrible killing took place, I would immediately have gone to the family and made a statement of what happened there.

"Let me be clear, there will be no cover up. Sinn Fein people will not be involved in covering up this action."

The McCartneys, who met Mr Kelly yesterday, now believe Sinn Fein is sincere.

But one of the victim`s sister, Paula McCartney, said: "We need to be more convinced they will be handed over.

"It`s not in Sinn Fein`s interests to cover this up and they seem just as eager as us to get the people who did this."


Call To Sinn Fein Over Killers

Sinn Fein must use all its influence to make sure the killers of Robert McCartney "have nowhere to hide", his family has said.

Mr McCartney, 33, was murdered in Belfast two weeks ago.

His family has said republicans were pressuring witnesses not to talk about the murder.

However, they welcomed "belated comments" by Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams appealing for people to give information on the killing.

The McCartney family said they had a good meeting with the UN consul Dean Pittman in Belfast and said he had pledged to raise the case at higher levels in the US administration.

The murder victim's sister Claire McCartney said: "We are in full agreement that those involved did not 'act like republicans or on behalf of republicans'.

"However, the call for those with information to go to a solicitor, priest or ourselves raises questions such as what would this achieve? Would this bring Robert's murderers to justice? Would this secure convictions?

"We call upon Sinn Fein to bring all its influence to bear on those who have the power to ensure that these individuals are left with nowhere to hide.

"We are aware of Sinn Fein's policy on the police, but Sinn Fein, as other political parties, are capable of not being seen to take a certain course of action.

"These individuals must face justice if we are to move on from Robert's death. The community needs to feel safe and free also from these psychopaths."

Lines of inquiry

Mr Adams joined appeals for people to give information about the killing.

He says if people do not feel comfortable talking to the police they should pass on information to the family or a solicitor.

However, SDLP MLA Alban Maginness, a barrister, said it was nonsense for Sinn Fein to suggest this as lawyers were bound by confidentiality.

"They are trying to evade or to avoid telling police what actually happened and they want people to really enter into this quasi legal charade," he said.

The police have said almost 500 lines of inquiry were being followed by detectives investigating the murder.

They also said a large quantity of CCTV pictures were being examined.

However, detectives have refused to comment on claims that a tape was missing from the bar where the fight took place.

The murder weapon has not yet been found.

United States consul general Dean Pittman is meeting members of Mr McCartney's family on Wednesday.

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2005/02/16 11:48:48 GMT


Councils 'Must Not Stand Still During Deadlock'

By Noel McAdam
16 February 2005

Local government in Northern Ireland must not stand still despite the political crisis over devolution, a conference heard today.

With the future of the present 26 councils in the melting pot, councillors gathered in Limavady to debate the future shape, size and role of local authorities.

DUP and Sinn Fein, SDLP and Ulster Unionist representatives combined as the Government prepared to unveil its latest proposals on public administration in Northern Ireland next month.

As revealed in the Belfast Telegraph last week, the Northern Ireland Local Government Association (NILGA) has suggested the current 26 councils could be cut to around 15 - well short of the Government's apparent preference for less than 10.

NILGA chairman Francie Molloy said, however: "We must ensure that the maximum power is returned to local government, transferred from the quangoes into democratic accountability.

"All of this was supposed to be taking place in the context of devolution but we do not believe local government should stand still because there is no Assembly working."

The association has demanded increased powers, including both area and community planning, housing and education - with a suggestion school premises could be employed for wider public use.

The launch of the public administration review was also hit by the suspension of Stormont two and a half years ago.


Trimble: Recall Assembly, Ditch Sinn Fein

Ulster Unionist leader David Trimble today urged the British Government to recall the Northern Ireland Assembly to set in motion the system for excluding Sinn Fein from government in the province.

By:Press Association

Mr Trimble has written to the British Prime Minister Tony Blair calling for action to be announced when Secretary of State Paul Murphy makes a statement to the House of Commons next week on the Independent Monitoring Commission Report which highlighted Sinn Fein`s involvement in the £26.5 million Northern Bank robbery.

The report urged financial sanction against Sinn Fein and said had the Assembly not been in suspension it would have recommended Sinn Fein`s exclusion from power.

Speaking at a press conference in Belfast Mr Trimble said legislation enacted in 2003 laid down clearly how such exclusion could, even now, be organised.

He said the British Government should announce the recall of the Assembly and put a motion before members calling for Sinn Fein`s exclusion.

If the Assembly failed to pass the motion the British Government should then use its own powers to exclude Sinn Fein and allow the other parties to continue without them.

Mr Trimble said he was concerned at the reaction to the IMC report and the belief that it was something without teeth. That was not right he said.

He insisted: "The teeth are in this process and have to be used. If the Secretary of State does not announce that next Wednesday then I think huge damage will be done to his credibility, the Government`s credibility and the process as a whole," said Mr Trimble.

He said the British Government had "quite savage, quite significant" powers to act.

He said he was travelling to London to lobby for action later today and tomorrow would be in Dublin lobbying politicians there for support.

Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern said his government remains determined to get the political parties in Northern Ireland to sign up to the elements of last December`s aborted peace process deal.

Bertie Ahern

Mr Ahern told the Irish parliament: "I believe that we have to continue on to get the elements of the agreement of last December, which had been worked on over a period of two years, and get people to accept those and try to build up a trust and confidence.

But he added: "It`s difficult."

Speaking during Prime Minister Questions, he explained: "We have identified what the outstanding issues are. There is an enormous understanding by the people of what those issues are. But whether there is total support for their elimination or not remains a question."


Vigil Is Held Over Fatal 'Hit-And-Run'

Calls go out for information on father's death

By Deborah McAleese
16 February 2005

The family of a father-of-three killed in an apparent hit-and-run incident was today anxiously waiting for witnesses to contact them with information over how he was killed.

Posters appealing for witnesses to contact the family, either directly or anonymously were put up at the scene of Stephen Montgomery's death yesterday.

The 34-year-old's body was discovered in Jamaica Road in the Ardoyne area at around 3am on Sunday.

A post-mortem examination revealed that his injuries were similar to those suffered by someone who was hit by a car but police have not yet confirmed how he died.

A vigil in memory of Mr Montgomery was attended by a large group of family and friends last night.

A one minute's silence was held and prayers were said for the victim and his family.

Holy Cross priest Father Gary Donegan said that until the facts are known it is difficult to comment on the situation.

"We need to come together as a community.

"At this time of pain and hurt for the family we need time for people to think and reflect," Fr Donegan added.


Compromise Move On St Pat's Day Carnival

By Marie Foy
16 February 2005

Belfast City Council has agreed a compromise with the organisers of the St Patrick's Day Carnival Committee, Alliance councillor Naomi Long has said.

The compromise, proposed by Alliance, means that while no direct funding will be provided, the council will work closely with the committee to facilitate aspects of the event.

Ms Long said: "Our position on St Patrick's Day has been consistent from the outset - we want to see an outdoor event which the entire community can participate in and feel ownership of."

She added: "This year's event does not happen in a vacuum. There is a legacy created by previous parades and last year's parade, in particular. The membership of the committee has recently changed, and we have seen a more positive engagement over the last month, which we welcome.

"However, in such a short time it has not been possible for them to deliver enough actual progress."

The East Belfast MLA said more than good intentions were needed.

She hoped co-operation could be developed over the next year and lead the way to a truly inclusive council-funded event in 2006.

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Table of Contents – Feb 2005
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