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February 18, 2005

02/18/05 - Ahern Aide Linked To Firm In Cash Haul Probe

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Table of Contents - Overall
Table of Contents – Feb 2005

BT 02/18/05 Ahern Aide Linked To Firm In Cash Haul Probe
BB 02/18/05 Special Branch 'Blocked Evidence'
BT 02/18/05 Derry Link To Laundering Investigation
UT 02/18/05 Bertie Ahern On SF Exclusion
SM 02/18/05 Adams Again Denies Sinn Fein Involvement In Bank Raid
IO 02/18/05 Sinn Féin Members Questioned In Money-Laundering Probe
BT 02/18/05 Garda Test Notes For Heist Link
DJ 02/18/05 IRA Damaging Sinn Fein In US – Durkan
BT 02/18/05 Garda Money-Trail Arrests Pile Pressure On Sinn Fein
CR 02/18/05 Opin: Mea Culpa
BG 02/18/05 Opin: No To The IRA
BT 02/18/05 Brave Family Shatters Silence Of Lambs To The Slaughter
DJ 02/18/05 Opin: 'We Were Shown Up'

RT 02/18/05 7 Held In Probe Into Money Laundering –V(7)

7 Held In Probe Into Money Laundering & Subversives - Paschal Sheehy, Southern Editor, reports on the seizure of £2.3m sterling in Co Cork

Paschal Sheehy reveals documentation has also been seized in follow-up searches in Co Cork

Paul Reynolds, Crime Correspondent, looks ahead to a news conference by Garda Commissioner Noel Conroy

Charlie Bird, Chief News Correspondent, reports that Phil Flynn, the former trade union leader, is linked to the company at the centre of the garda investigation

Watch the report outlining Justice Minister Michael McDowell's comments on the Provisional IRA movement

Tommie Gorman, Northern Editor, gauges political reaction in NI to the developments in Counties Cork and Dublin

Taoiseach Bertie Ahern congratulates gardaí involved in the raids


Ahern Aide Linked To Firm In Cash Haul Probe

18 February 2005

One of Taoiseach Bertie Ahern's most trusted troubleshooters is linked to a Cork-based finance company at the centre of the investigation into the money seized yesterday by gardai.

Banker Phil Flynn is a director in Chesterton Finance, the money-lending company whose other two directors are being questioned by detectives about yesterday's seizure of cash in Co Cork.

Last night, Mr Flynn was trying to contact Irene Johnstone (53), and Ted Cunningham (56), both directors of Chesterton, who were helping gardai with their inquiries.

Mr Flynn, the current chairman of the Bank of Scotland (Ireland), said last night he has been a director of Chesterton Finance for six months.

He said: "I know Chesterton is clean. I had it checked out before I became a director six months ago."

Mr Flynn, who is a former vice-president of Sinn Fein and a current director of the recently launched Daily Ireland newspaper, said he had been trying to get in touch with Ms Johnstone and Mr Cunningham but could not get a reply from their telephones.

Mr Flynn said: "Chesterton is not a big operation, it does short-term lending to people who can't get a loan elsewhere. The company lends against an asset and loans up to half of the asset's value. It (Chesterton) is a small company. At any time it has just one to two million out on loan."

Mr Flynn was drafted in by the Government to sort out the debacle that followed the decision to decentralise civil and public servants.

And as a freelance consultant he has been parachuted in to deal with a series of industrial relations disputes for the coalition.

The Taoiseach is known to trust Mr Flynn's advice and he has been asked to deal with a number of very sensitive issues for Bertie Ahern.

Ted Cunningham and Irene Johnstone, who sit on the board of Chesterton Finance with Mr Flynn, are also directors of another company, Finance & Legal Clients Ltd.

It is understood both companies have been involved in several property deals.

Mr Cunningham told Gay Byrne on the Late Late Show some years ago that banks were overcharging and set up an association to assist families in financial matters.


Special Branch 'Blocked Evidence'

Special Branch withheld information from detectives investigating a murder 15 years ago in Newry, County Down, the NI Police Ombudsman has found.

However, it was found there was no evidence the police colluded in the 1990 shooting of Eoin Morley.

His family alleged police colluded in the murder to provoke a republican feud between the IRA and the IPLO.

Nuala O'Loan's office said they found no evidence that the RUC had instigated the murder or knew who carried it out.

The family had alleged the RUC knew who was responsible but had sought to protect that person.

Significant failings

The ombudsman's office found significant failings in the murder inquiry, with Special Branch withholding information which may have had some relevance.

Mr Morley, 23, was shot dead in the Derrybeg area of Newry, County Down, on Easter Sunday, 15 April 1990.

The killing came amid tensions between the IRA and the Irish People's Liberation Organisation, a splinter republican terror faction.

Mrs O'Loan said no disciplinary action could be taken because the officers involved were either retired or through a lack of evidence against those still serving in the police.

Speaking on Friday, Mrs O'Loan said things which should have been done were not.

"I cannot criticise the investigator for not using the intelligence if the investigator is not given it," she said.

In a statement, the Police Service of Northern Ireland said there had been wide-ranging reforms since then, ensuring better sharing of information in the future.

The PSNI replaced the old Royal Ulster Constabulary as part of wide-ranging reforms of policing in Northern Ireland, recommended in the Patten Report.

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2005/02/18 12:27:04 GMT


Derry Link To Laundering Investigation

By Paddy McGuffin and Sarah Brett
18 February 2005

Raids carried out by police in Londonderry's Waterside last night were linked to a series of arrests in the Republic following a probe into money laundering.

Police carried out a series of raids last night on premises in the largely nationalist Top of the Hill area.

The searches came after gardai in Cork and Dublin made a number of arrests yesterday in connection with an alleged money laundering ring that saw more than £2m seized in Cork, including £60,000 of Northern Bank notes.

Police are today trying to establish whether they are linked to the £26.5m robbery before Christmas.

Two Derry men, both from the Waterside, were among those arrested in Dublin when Gardai challenged them at Heuston Station, where 90,000 euros were also seized.

Last night's raids took place at around 10pm.

While declining to specify the exact nature of the operation, a PSNI spokes- man today confirmed that the searches had been carried out in relation to "serious crime".

And he confirmed it was part of an operation carried out in co-operation with the Garda Siochana.

It is understood that a crowd gathered as the Waterside raids were conducted and that some stones were thrown.

Sinn Fein councillor Paul Fleming said he was aware that raids had taken place but was not prepared to comment further at this stage.

Meanwhile SDLP councillor Martin Reilly said that he was not aware of the searches carried out in the Top of the Hill area last night.

The searches came as top PSNI officers prepared to travel to Dublin where gardai are investigating possible links between yesterday's arrests and the Northern Bank robbery.

A quantity of Northern Bank notes was seized as a result of the arrests in Cork yesterday; however, gardai have stressed that this does not necessarily indicate a link to the Northern Bank robbery at this stage.

A spokesman for the force described the operation as "part of an ongoing operation into subversion" and money laundering.

A PSNI spokesman said it was "too early to say at this stage if any of the money found was connected to the Northern Bank robbery."

He added, however, that the two forces were in close contact on the issue.


Bertie Ahern On SF Exclusion

Although the republican movement is suspected of being involved in the money laundering operation, Bertie Ahern today insisted that Sinn Fein would not be excluded from the Northern Ireland peace process.

Speaking to reporters, he said: "The gardai operation is ongoing and I don`t want to comment on the detail.

"It is a national operation and on the face of it it is a very major money laundering operation.

"We had 30 years of exclusion in Northern Ireland and all we ended up with was thousands of people killed and maimed."

Asked if he felt justified in blaming the Northern Bank robbery on the IRA with prior Sinn Fein knowledge, Mr Ahern said: "I wouldn`t have said what I said if I hadn`t been given the advice I was given."


Adams Again Denies Sinn Fein Involvement In Bank Raid

Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams repeated his denials today of any involvement by his party in the Northern Bank robbery.

We are not bank robbers,” Adams said during a visit to the Basque region of Spain, where he was promoting the Spanish edition of his autobiography.

“The robbery of the bank is a setback we shall overcome. There are always difficulties in a peace process,” said Adams, who made political waves earlier this week when he said “maybe I’m wrong” to accept IRA denials of involvement in the robbery.


Sinn Féin Members Questioned In Money-Laundering Probe

18/02/2005 - 07:04:51

Detectives were continuing to question two Sinn Féin members today as part of an investigation into possible IRA links to a major money-laundering operation.

Senior officers from Belfast travelled to Dublin as the investigation, which has already involved 100 gardaí, intensified.

The two Sinn Féin members were among six men and a woman detained in Dublin and Co Cork in the last two days.

More than £2m (€2.9m) was seized but police in Belfast could not confirm that any of the money was part of the £26.5m (€38.4m) stolen from the Northern Bank just before Christmas.

The Sinn Féin leadership said they were not prepared to make any comment on the cross-border inquiry.

But politicians from all the main parties in Dublin and Belfast said that any republican involvement in the money-laundering operation could have catastrophic consequences for the already crisis-hit peace process in the North.

One of the Sinn Féin members arrested is believed to be a former elected representative.

Democratic Unionist Party Assembly Member Ian Paisley Jnr claimed that Sinn Féin and the IRA had been caught red-handed in the massive money laundering operation.

Mr Paisley, a member of the Northern Ireland Policing Board, added: “If any of the money can be directly traced to the Northern Bank robbery, then it will clearly show Sinn Féin/IRA up for the liars and criminals we know them to be.”

Two men were arrested in Cork on Wednesday night – one in Douglas and one in Passage West – and around £60,000 (€86,850) in Northern Bank notes was recovered.

A man and a woman were arrested yesterday morning in the Farran area close to Cork City and, it is understood, up to £2m (€2.9m) sterling in cash was recovered.

Three men – one from Cork and two who are believed to be from Derry – were arrested close to Dublin's Heuston station on Wednesday night as part of the same investigation. More than €90,000 was seized in this operation.

A financier and his wife are believed to be among those being questioned by detectives.

All those arrested are being held under Section 30 of the Offences against the State Act at garda stations across Cork and Dublin.

A garda spokesman said all seven can be held for up to 72 hours before they have to be charged or released.

He said the operation was on-going and further searches were underway in separate locations in Leinster.

A Police Service of Northern Ireland spokeswoman said they were continuing to work actively with the Gardaí in connection with the December 20 Northern Bank robbery.

“It is too early to say at this stage if any of the money found was connected to the Northern Bank robbery, but both forces are in contact,” she said.

A spokesman for Minister for Justice Michael McDowell said that he was aware of the arrests and was being continuously updated on developments.

Northern Ireland Assistant Chief Constable Sam Kincaid, who is in overall charge of the investigation into the Northern Bank robbery, was in Dublin yesterday for talks with senior detectives, where the raid was discussed.

Detective Superintendent Andy Sproule, who is heading the day-to-day operation of the investigation, was also on his way to Dublin today.

Around £26.5m (€38m) sterling was stolen from the Northern Bank in Belfast last December in a raid that has been blamed on the Provisional IRA. But the IRA has repeatedly denied involvement.

Sinn Féin said it was not prepared to comment on the arrests until further information emerged.

“Over the last four weeks we have seen people rush to judgment time and time again,” a spokesman said.

“We would urge people to exercise caution on this occasion and allow the truth to come out.”

Politicians from all the main opposition parties called on Sinn Féin to make an immediate statement on the arrests as the dramatic events unfolded.


Garda Test Notes For Heist Link

Londonderry raids tied to £2.3m seizure

By Jonathan McCambridge
18 February 2005

Garda technical experts were today due to carry out tests on notes seized during a series of raids to discover if they are linked to the Northern Bank robbery.

Irish police are continuing to question six men and a woman arrested in a planned operation against money laundering and illegal fund-raising by the IRA in the Republic.

It emerged today that police in the Waterside area of Londonderry last night carried out further raids as part of the same investigation.

Sinn Fein is facing unprecedented political pressure amid suspicions the IRA is linked to one of the biggest money laundering operations ever uncovered on either side of the border.

The seven were arrested in Cork and Dublin in a series of searches in which more than £2.3m was seized, including £60,000 in notes from the Northern Bank.

Detectives are examining a possible link with the £26.5m robbery at the Northern Bank before Christmas - the world's biggest cash bank robbery.

Senior garda officers said the full extent of the racket had yet to be revealed and warned it could have a major impact on the business community south of the border as well as consequences for republicans.

Detectives have admitted it was likely that at least some of the money came from the Belfast haul, although they said the laundering racket is much wider and extends beyond the Provisionals.

One of the men being questioned is former Sinn Fein councillor for east Cork, Tom Hanlon (37).

It is also understood that another two of the arrested men are from the Gobnascale area of Londonderry.

PSNI last night carried out raids in the Waterside area of Derry linked to the arrests in the Republic, searching premises in the Top of the Hill area.

A PSNI spokesman today confirmed that the searches had been carried out in relation to "serious crime" as part of an operation carried out in co-operation with the Garda Siochana.

It is understood that a crowd gathered as the Waterside raids were conducted and that some stones were thrown.

PSNI Assistant Chief Constable, Sam Kinkaid, was in Dublin yesterday for meetings with senior Garda officers.

It is understood that Detective Superintendent Andy Sproule, the officer in charge of the Northern Bank investigation, will travel to Dublin today to meet with the Garda.

Sinn Fein has urged people to demonstrate caution over the arrests, but unionists claimed republicans should now be frozen out of the political process.

Meanwhile, it has emerged that one of Bertie Ahern's most trusted troubleshooters is linked to a Cork-based finance company at the centre of the money laundering probe.

Banker Phil Flynn is a director in Chesterton Finance, a money-lending company whose other two directors are being questioned by detectives about the cash seizures.

Mr Flynn, the current director of the Bank of Scotland (Ireland) and a director of the recently launched Daily Ireland newspaper, told the Irish Independent he had been trying to contact Irene Johnston (53) and Ted Cunningham (56), who are helping police with inquiries.

Mr Flynn, a former vice-president of Sinn Fein, said: "I know Chesterton is clean. I had it checked out before I became a director six months ago."


IRA Damaging Sinn Fein In US - Durkan

Friday 18th February 2005

Ongoing IRA "criminal" activity is not only damaging Sinn Fein's image in the US but has raised serious concerns about the peace process as a whole, SDLP leader Mark Durkan has claimed.

After meeting in Washington with US President George Bush's special envoy on Northern Ireland, Ambassador Mitchell Reiss, Mr Durkan said he believed the North's parties would not be invited to St Patrick's Day celebrations at the White House this year due to recent alleged IRA operations.

However he was at pains to stress that in the discussion with Mr Reiss they had not discussed the annual St Patrick's Day event hosted by President Bush.

"My interest is not in whether we are invited to the White House or not. My main concern is how we get the political institutions in Northern Ireland back up and running," he said.

Mr Durkan was accompanied to Washington by SDLP Deputy Leader, Dr Alastair McDonnell and former leader, John Hume.

A reception was being held in Mr Hume's honour, recognising his work for peace ahead of his retirement from the House of Commons as the MP for Foyle since 1983.

The delegation also met former New York Senator Hillary Clinton and Senator Edward Kennedy.

Mr Durkan said his sense from his visit to the US was that the Bush administration was loathe to have Northern Ireland parties involved in St Patrick's Day celebrations this year.

However he said he did not believe the US Government, having worked so hard to assist the parties in talks to revive the Stormont Assembly and end paramilitarism, wanted to be in a position of having to exclude just one party because of setbacks in the process.

"It would be my impression that they do not want to get in a position where they are excluding some parties from events and inviting others," the SDLP leader said.

"They are very conscious that that would be interpreted as the US administration backing exclusion."

Mr Durkan said alleged ongoing IRA activity such as December's £26.5 million Northern Bank raid in Belfast and the murder of 33-year-old Robert McCartney outside a bar were making people on both sides of the Atlantic uncomfortable.

"People do not like the sense that they are being asked to turn a blind eye or to minimalise what has happened," the former Stormont Deputy First Minister said.

"These incidents raise issues for them as strong supporters of the Agreement and the process and they feel that they cannot afford there to be any ambiguity.

"The ambivalence of Sinn Fein on these issues ends up becoming everybody else's ambiguity in the process and people here in the United States and back home don't like that."

Mr Durkan said he had had positive discussions with both Senator Clinton and Ambassador Reiss.

His discussion with President Bush's envoy had also covered the SDLP's proposal that in the event of the Assembly being unable to set up an inclusive power-sharing government at Stormont, civic administrators drawn from the voluntary sector, business and trade unionists, should be asked to step in to run the province's eleven government departments.

"He was very aware that we are pushing for the implementation of as much of the Agreement as possible while others are less committed to the Agreement's inclusive democratic arrangements and he responded quite positively to our proposals," he said.


Garda Money-Trail Arrests Pile Pressure On Sinn Fein

By Tom Brady and Brian Dowling
18 February 2005

Sinn Fein's leadership was reeling last night after the IRA was implicated in what is likely to be the biggest money laundering racket ever uncovered on either side of the Border.

The discovery of more than ?3.9m in sterling and euros led to the arrest of seven people, including a Sinn Fein political activist, and a spate of searches of the offices and homes of several professional people.

Senior garda officers said last night the full extent of the racket had yet to be revealed and warned it could have a major impact on the business community as well as its republican consequences.

A definite link between the confiscated money and the Belfast bank robbery last December has not yet been established.

But detectives admitted it was likely that at least some of the money came from the Belfast haul, although they said the laundering racket is much wider and extends beyond the Provisionals.

A former Sinn Fein candidate and election agent was among seven people being held last night after raids in Dublin and Cork.

Further searches were carried out on business premises and houses in the two cities and also in Dundalk, Killucan, Co Westmeath, and Swords.

The garda investigations, which predate the Belfast robbery, were focussed on a Cork-based finance house, Chesterton Finance Co Ltd, that is suspected of providing the money laundering facility for a range of groups with paramilitary and criminal connections.

If the link with the Provisionals is confirmed, it will have devastating political consequences for the Sinn Fein leadership.

One of the men arrested in Cork was Tom Hanlon, a former candidate for Sinn Fein in the General Election in 2002 in Cork South Central and the election agent for the party in last June's European elections.

A statement from Sinn Fein said it was aware of reports regarding arrests in Cork and Dublin and speculation that it is linked to the Northern Bank Robbery. It added: "Sinn Fein's position on this robbery is clear. Over the last four weeks we have seen people rush to judgment time and time again. We would urge people to exercise caution on this occasion and allow the truth to come out. Sinn Fein has no further information about these arrests and we will wait to see how events unfold before we comment further."

The bulk of the money was seized by members of the Criminal Assets Bureau and the Garda Bureau of Fraud Investigation from the home of a financier at Farran, ten miles outside Cork.

The money, estimated to be at least £2.4m stashed in holdall bags and held in a safe in the basement of the house, was made up of English and Northern sterling notes. In a follow-up operation the financier and his female partner were arrested.

In another search in Douglas in Cork, gardai found a further £60,000 sterling and two other men were arrested separately.

On Wednesday night, detectives in Dublin stopped two men who had arrived from Derry with a bag containing over ?90,000. It is alleged they were handing over the cash to a man who had been placed under surveillance after he arrived in Dublin from Cork.

And late last night, another £175,000 sterling was seized by gardai in a further search operation in Cork city.


Opin: Mea Culpa

By Steve Hansen
Published: Friday, February 11, 2005

In an important motion towards the peace process in Northern Ireland, Prime Minister Tony Blair personally apologized for the wrongful incarceration of eleven Irish citizens for bombings that occurred in English pubs thirty years ago. Blair acknowledged the miscarriage of justice and offered condolences to the victims and their families in a brief television statement. Blair met with some of the prisoners to offer a personal apology on behalf of the state. This acknowledgement of the errors of the British government should go a long way to encouraging the peace process between the Irish and British, that has experienced a downturn as of late.

Four of the prisoners- the so-called "Guildford Four"- achieved international recognition when their wrongful imprisonment was used as the basis for the 1993 film "In the Name of the Father." The Guildford Four and The Maguire Seven were blamed for a series of bombings that took place in bars in the southern English towns of Guildford and Woolwich, in 1974. British appeals courts overturned the convictions of the Four in 1989, and the Seven in 1991, citing falsified evidence and confessions that were coerced. "I am very sorry that they were subject to such an ordeal and such an injustice," Blair said Tuesday. "They deserve to be completely and publicly exonerated." Gerry Conlon, the best-known of the Guildford Four, whose father died in prison while serving his sentence in 1980, said the families were delighted with the apology. "Tony Blair has healed rifts, he is helping to heal wounds. It's a day I never thought would come," he said.

The apology comes at an important time in the peace process, which has essentially come to a halt following an initial investigation into a Northern Bank raid in which the robbers made off with 26.5 million pounds. The Independent Monitoring Commission's full report is expected to be released this week, naming the IRA as the most likely culprits in the theft. The IRA has denied responsibility for the act, while its political wing, Sinn Fein is expecting a governmental response. Sinn Fein assembly member Gerry Kelly has called on the Irish Prime Minister to intercede and block any sanctions the party may receive following the robbery.

Unfortunately, this event has created a serious disturbance in the once civil peace negotiations. Where once the IRA was willing to engage in disarmament, they now look unfavorably upon concessions, replacing progress with more ominous sentiments. In a recently released statement to the British and Irish governments, the IRA advised the respective nations to "not underestimate the seriousness of the situation." These terse commands reflect the unfortunate turns that have marked the peace process as of late. Recently, the attempts at peace have seen failures on both sides. The IRA has consistently stated in the past year that it is willing and able to get rid of all its weapons, yet continues to find excuses to avoid following through on these claims. The British and Irish governments have become inflexible and quick to blame the IRA for any criminality in the United Kingdom. Trust me when I say that I do not know if the IRA is behind the Northern Bank robbery, but to have such preliminary conclusions accepted so rapidly seems hasty to me. These feelings of distrust and uncertainty are ingrained in both sides so well, it makes peace difficult.

Hopefully, the actions of Prime Minister Blair and the British government will work to improve the tenuous relations, and find some middle ground in the peace process. There are many committed people working on both sides to find some sort of accord, and the heartfelt apologies and recognition of injustice can only help to motivate them to work harder to keep the people in Ireland and England safe.


Opin: No To The IRA

From: The Boston Globe
Saturday, February 19, 2005

The Irish Republican Army, far from vanishing into history, is recreating itself from a paramilitary force into a brutal criminal gang. Sinn Fein, its political affiliate, should have no place at the White House this St. Patrick's Day.

Neither should the other Northern Ireland political parties. Excessive demands by the Democratic Unionists, the largest grouping in the North, have paralyzed the peace process. The White House reception, an annual event begun by Bill Clinton, should be reserved for a St. Patrick's Day when the 1998 Good Friday Agreement has truly been implemented. George W. Bush will announce his decision about a reception early next month.

The latest IRA atrocity occurred two weeks ago at a pub in downtown Belfast. Robert McCartney, a Catholic supporter of Sinn Fein, was having a drink with a friend when they got into an argument with a group of IRA thugs. They knifed him to death and nearly did the same to his companion.

Based on press reports, everyone familiar with the IRA chain of command knows the identity of the ringleader, but the IRA gang ensured that no witnesses would be available to the police by threatening the 70 patrons in the pub. This was not an officially sanctioned operation, but the IRA, by not insisting that the culprits surrender themselves, is complicit in the coverup. The IRA needs to help bring these killers to justice.

The murder, coming so soon after the $50 million Northern Bank robbery in December, which was widely ascribed to the IRA, points up the need for Sinn Fein to end its symbiotic relationship with this armed gang. They are so closely entwined that the IRA will have to give up its arsenal and declare itself disbanded before doubters in Northern Ireland believe that Sinn Fein is committed to peace.

The IRA was on the verge of making a major disarmament move in December to restore the Northern Ireland government, in stasis because of unionist refusal to deal with Sinn Fein. Ian Paisley, leader of the Democratic Unionists, quashed the initiative by demanding that photographs be taken of the event. Eyewitness accounts by a Catholic and a Protestant clergyman, a condition accepted by the IRA, would not have been enough.

Voters in Northern Ireland should send a strong message of disapproval to both the Democratic Unionists and Sinn Fein during the next British parliamentary elections, widely expected to be called in May. Until then, the United States, Britain and the Irish government should quietly prod Sinn Fein's leaders to tell the IRA that it must give up its weapons and stop breaking the law. A festive reception is out of place when all the IRA has on offer is crime and death.


Brave Family Shatters Silence Of The Lambs To The Slaughter

By Lindy McDowell
18 February 2005

Whatever you say, say nothing, when you talk about you-know-what. For if you know who should hear you, you know what you'll get...

Tommy Sands' ironic little song about the accepted wisdom of keeping your mouth shut and your head down was written at the height of the Troubles.

But you hear its echo all the time. You hear it when watch the news or read the papers.

You hear it in the coy reluctance of local interviewees to say what they really mean - even if, as they assure us, the dogs in the street know what they're talking about.

You hear it, above all, in the silence of so many, many victims of the Troubles whose stories have never been told because, even now, years after the event, they live in terror of the repercussions of speaking out.

And it's because we are used to such silence that it makes headlines when someone finally breaks it.

The family of Robert McCartney have shattered the silence in a big way.

Driven by a desire to get justice for a man universally described as good and decent, Robert's partner and sisters defied the IRA this week to call for help in bringing his murderers to justice.

And because of the immense respect in which the man himself was so widely held, the entire local community has backed their stand.

The result - the IRA has now been forced to issue a statement attempting to distance itself from the killers.

Would it be too much to hope that this "people's revolt" of the Short Strand might be the start of a movement that leads, not just to the IRA being forced from off the backs of one community, but to a wider rebellion against all Northern Ireland's parasitical paramilitary outfits?

Those who speak for the paramilitaries certainly seem rattled.

A few weeks back I mentioned how 2005 was turning into a bit of an annus horribilis for Sinn Fein. That was before the McCartney killing eclipsed even the Northern Bank raid in the eyes of those of us who believe the taking of life is a greater crime than the thieving of £26.5m. (Those who view the lynch murder of Jean McConville as "wrong but not a crime" may see it differently.)

This week Sinn Fein's Jim Gibney, who comes from the Short Strand, was batting back against charges of IRA criminality in a column in the Irish News.

"When the British Prime Minister and the Taoiseach and the unionists and the SDLP point the finger at the IRA and Gerry Adams and say 'criminal' the people look at them and say 'What planet are they on?'" Jim opined.

The fact that the people are increasingly saying nothing of the sort might suggest it's Jim who's operating in a parallel universe.

In his defence of the IRA, he recalled his own childhood, and his arrival as a small boy in Short Strand along with the rest of his family, on his father's coal lorry.

Professor Liam Kennedy coined the acronym MOPE - Most Oppressed People Ever - to sum up the republican sense of victimhood. And in telling his story, Jim does not disappoint. Mississippi Burning gets the inevitable mention.

In Jim's telling it's the old sectarian story where the Prods are, as ever, the baddies who get all the rights, the privileges, the jobs, the flag waving opportunities....

What Jim does not explain, and what the republican version of history never can explain is, how come, if Prods had all these enormous advantages, some of them were living, as Jim admits, in the same mixed street as himself?

If Prods ate all the economic pies so to speak, how come so very, very many of us grew up in the very same conditions as our supposedly oppressed neighbours?

(For the record, Jim, where I come from, anybody whose da had a coal lorry was definitely middle class.)

In describing how "the modern IRA was born" Gibney goes on to provide a gloriously cloying account of how "I watched teenagers and young men carrying rifles bigger than themselves to the street corner... "

Now, I am no expert on weaponry. But assuming the average rifle would be around say, 4ft - we're talking either American civil war long rifles here or a band of midgets.

And that's the big problem with argument's like Jim's. No sense of proportion. For what the paramilitary whingers cannot do is justify a single one of their heinous murders in the 30-plus years of the Troubles.

Republican and loyalist groups both like to promote the idea of a clash between the Protestant and Catholic communities in Northern Ireland.

It's a clash of two communities all right.

But not the Protestant versus Catholic one they want us to think.

It's the clash between us, the decent people from all sides who find ourselves pitted against them, the yobs, yahoos and assorted paramilitaries, both republican and loyalist who have wreaked such misery in our land.

For, give or take a sunbed shade or two, what is there between any of them?

The so-called defenders on both sides have fed off other people's suffering to establish their own extremely profitable empires.

It's not just in loyalist areas but in republican areas too, that they strut around, flaunting their well-padded wallets, their holiday homes, their big cars and their flash lifestyles.

In their respective areas they have the power to decide who lives and who dies - and, as in the case of the killing of Robert McCartney, who is protected from facing the music.

Our only defence against this? To do what the McCartney family have done. To speak out against it.

Or, to paraphrase the man, whatever you say, say something.


Opin: 'We Were Shown Up'

Friday 18th February 2005

Sir - I feel I must put pen to paper after witnessing the BBC Television "Question Time" programme that went out last Thursday, 10th February and was broadcast from Belfast.

The panel was made up of Mark Durkan of the SDLP, David Trimble of the UUP, Jeoffrey Donaldson of the DUP and Martin McGuinness of Sinn Fein, the Secretary of State, Paul Murphy and the man with the unenviable task of chairing the programme, David Dimbleby.

Now before I say anything, is it me or is there a sustained campaign to blame the Sinn Fein for everything?

Call me sceptical but then what's the BBC's motto? Something about nations and broadcasting. Not the announcers commenting on whether or not we would get straight answers. George Orwell's 1984 and Newspeak spring to mind.

Anyway what was that shambles of an exchange on the programme all about? Is this how our public representatives conduct themselves?

Mark Durkan catcalling to Martin McGuinness "That's a lie, that's a lie" as he went into a fit of rage. David Dimbleby had to threaten to cancel the programme in order to call order. If I could use a Derryism it was the "politics of the corner boys" - if you are having difficulty with a point roar and shout.

It was embarrassing to watch and to listen to. If I could use any other Derryism, "We (The Derry People) were showed up for life hi". David Dimbleby said there were 8 million people watching it. Thank God that was all with adult representatives acting in such a manner.

Then we had David Trimble, a trained legal mind (he wrote a book about housing law in Northern Ireland you know) so ungraciously begrudging the Guildford Four and the Maguire family of the long overdue apology from the British Prime Minister, Tony Blair. Those poor beings just happened to be the wrong paddies in the wrong place at the wrong time. Innocent people with proof of their innocence.

So much for a First Minister of all the people of Northern Ireland.

Then we had Jeoffrey Donaldson of the DUP talking about "real victims" and appearing like the victim of his own interpretation of the past and being a victim locked in that mindset.

Paul Murphy looked like some sort of embarrassed fiancee whose in-laws and family didn't get on as he declared his Welshness. Once could not help but draw comparisons with the other Welsh Director Ruler Roy Mason who, a former aide in a political journal lambasted at his double standards in how he dealt with the firemen's strike in England and the UWC strike here. He remarked how Mason was bemused by the naivety of Northern Nationalists.

As for Martin Mc Guinness, he had everything thrown at him but the kitchen sink with some sections of the audience joining in and catcalling at him as he tried to answer some of the questions. Honestly, at one time I think the only people who were not shouting were the camera crew.

Is this how we want to be perceived? I think not. Perhaps we could convince David Dimbleby to come over and chair the talks process as he did so well on the programme.

No, but seriously boys, as they say in Derry "wise up and catch yourselves on" and get back around the table and move this process on. The public on both sides of the border deserve better. We are all too long in the tooth to swallow that old claptrap that went on the Dimbleby programme.

Yours sincerely
Michael Campbell MA
Peace and Conflict Studies.

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