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March 30, 2005

UVF Blamed for McCord Death Threat

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Table of Contents - Overall
Table of Contents – Mar 2005

News about Ireland & the Irish

BT 03/30/05
UVF Blamed For McCord Death Threat
IO 03/30/05 UDA Ousts Leader
BT 03/30/05 Holy Cross Kids Facing Site Eviction
DI 03/30/05 Strengthen Hand Of Sinn Féin’
BT 03/30/05 Conference To Probe North-South Bodies
BT 03/30/05 Petrol Bomb Thrown At PSNI
BT 03/30/05 Terrified Show Kids Caught In Riot Hell
BT 03/30/05 A Mother's Struggle Over A Death Wall Of Silence
SP 03/30/05 Everyone Loves A Parade? Tell That To The Organizers
BB 03/30/05 Film Explores Bonfire Comradeship


UVF Blamed For McCord Death Threat

By David Gordon
30 March 2005

A father campaigning to expose his son's UVF killers today revealed that he has been warned of another threat to his life.

Raymond McCord was ironically warned of the plot last night after visiting the family of Robert McCartney, the Short Strand man stabbed to death by republicans.

He said he was visited by police at his home and told that "individuals" in north Belfast are planning an attack on him.

"I have no doubt UVF members are behind this. I have had about 12 other threat warnings.

"I had just met with the McCartney family at their home to discuss their case and voice my support for their campaign for justice," he said.

"They are fighting the same battle as I am - against paramilitaries."

Mr McCord's 22-year-old son Raymond was beaten to death by a UVF gang in 1997.

He has alleged that the murder was carried out on the orders of a high-level police informer.

Police Ombudsman Nuala O'Loan is conducting a major probe into his claims and is due to publish her findings later this year.

Mr McCord today issued a defiant message to those behind the latest threat.

"They are not going to stop the truth coming out. Mrs O'Loan's report is going to be published and I believe it will vindicate what I have been saying."

Mr McCord also challenged the PUP, the UVF's political wing, about the threat.

PUP leader David Ervine, who is out of the country at present, today said: "Raymond McCord is the most written-about parent in the world, in a country where over 3,500 people died.

"I just can't see the logic or the rationale why the UVF would want to do anything to Raymond McCord.

"This situation has been going on for a very, very long time."


UDA Ousts Leader

30/03/2005 - 13:33:12

Ulster Defence Association leader Jim Gray has been ousted by the paramilitary organisation, it was revealed today.

Gray was one of six brigadiers running Northern Ireland’s largest loyalist grouping. The flamboyantly dressed 43-year-old, who survived an assassination attempt two-and-a- half years ago, was in charge of the UDA’s East Belfast unit.

But a statement issued to the Press Association today confirmed he had been deposed.

It said: “As from 12.30pm March 30, 2005, the Ulster Defence Association has stood down the current leadership of the East Belfast UDA until further notice.

“To dispel any confusion, the East Belfast UDA are now under the direct command of the Inner Council.”


Holy Cross Kids Facing Site Eviction

Families may have to leave caravan park

By Clare Weir
30 March 2005

Traumatised children who endured the Holy Cross school protest and a victim of Bloody Sunday are among holidaymakers who could be forced off a popular caravan site, according to campaigners.

Up to 50 people, including many from Northern Ireland, gathered at the Lifford offices of Donegal County Council yesterday to protest against the proposals to remove up to 150 vans from sites in the Downings area.

The sites were deemed illegal by a judge at the Circuit Court last week on foot of proceedings brought by the council, because they had no planning permission, even though families had been staying there for over a decade.

One group has set up the Atlantic View Caravan Owners' Committee and yesterday members, accompanied by a number of children, picketed a full meeting of council in Lifford, waving placards and demanding the council reverses its decision.

As things stand, the owners were informed on St Patrick's Day that they will face jail if the caravans are not removed by the end of April.

A statement released by the group yesterday said that all of the families had been holidaying in the Downings area for generations.

"Many come from built-up areas where to allow them to play outdoors would be detrimental to their health and safety," the statement said.

"We have families who bring their children here for respite from the Holy Cross school situation and also foster families who benefit from the unique Gaeltacht cultural experience."

There are approximately 120 families using the Atlantic View site, with some saying they feel like "the oppressed Irish facing eviction in the 1800s".

They say that they have come across evidence which contradicts Donegal County Council's claims that the site did not exist prior to 1994.

These include satellite image maps showing mobile homes in 1993 and 1995, letters from the Garda proving ownership of the site and statements from caravan suppliers showing they sold vans to the owner of the site from the late 1980s.

One owner is also prepared to make a sworn affidavit claiming he has been on site since 1992.

Michael Bradley, who was shot and injured on Bloody Sunday, said he was one of a large number of people who is set to lose his "place of comfort" should the eviction go ahead.

"This place has been my haven, it is a special place and I would hate to lose it," he said.

Another resident, Toby Wilder, said that people had spent thousands on their vans and that removal would be "impossible".

"There are 153 mobiles here and some are more than ten years old," he said.


Strengthen Hand Of Sinn Féin’

An Easter parade in north Belfast heard calls for nationalists to increase Sinn Féin’s mandate in May’s expected Westminster elections.

Sinn Féin councillor Carál Ní Chuilín told a crowd of around 800 people in the New Lodge area that, although strategy and tactics change, republican principles are unchanged.

“Sinn Féin is actively campaigning for the Irish government to bring forward a paper on Irish unity.

“We are just six weeks away from an election and we are calling on nationalists and republicans to come out and do all they can to maximise our vote.

“It is essential that, in future negotiations, Sinn Féin’s hand is strengthened further and everyone can play a role in ensuring that will happen.”

The north Belfast councillor told the crowd that republicans would resist attempts to criminalise them.

“The leaders of the 1916 Rising were branded as criminals. The political prisoners in the 1970s and 1980s were branded as criminals, and ten men died to show that republicans are not criminal.

“We will not allow our struggle to be criminalised by enemies who fear Sinn Féin and our increased vote.

“That is another reason why people need to maximise our vote in May.” Ms Ní Chuilín said rejectionists in the Democratic Unionist Party had been allowed to scupper a historic deal with republicans in December.

“Ian Paisley did his best to make sure that the deal would not go ahead, and he did that with the support of the British and Irish governments,” she said.

Ms Ní Chuilín condemned the British government’s attempts to thwart a public inquiry into the murder of human-rights lawyer Pat Finucane.

She said many people in north Belfast had first-hand experience of state collusion with loyalists.

“People here have suffered massively at the hands of the British state and loyalist death squads.

“The courage and fortitude of people here has been an example to us all,” she said.


Conference To Probe North-South Bodies

By Noel McAdam
30 March 2005

A major conference next month is to focus on the on-going work of the North-South bodies despite the absence of devolved government.

The annual Institute for Irish-British Studies (IBIS) conference will examine how the six implementation bodies can proceed "in the context of long-term suspension of the devolved instittutions".

It comes after the Government disclosed spending £22m on cross-border work in the first 18 months after the Assembly was suspended in October, 2002.

The bill - which does not include the Irish government's share of the costs - for two of the bodies set up under the Good Friday Agreement almost doubled over two financial years.

The Office of the First and Deputy First Minister said the increased expenditure was due to work agreed before suspension.

The DUP and Ulster Unionists condemned the costs and argued that the North-South machinery be made more accountable.

The gathering on April 29 will involve a "stocktaking" of the functions of the bodies and ask:

What have been the principal difficulties?

How have they been overcome, and

How does each body assesses their contribution to the issues.

The IBIS Newsletter said the conference will also address how the bodies are to proceed under long-term suspension.

The overall costs total for 2002-03, including the six months prior to suspension, and all of 2003-4 is almost £32m - giving the £22m total for the post-suspension period


Petrol Bomb Thrown At PSNI

By Andrea Clements
30 March 2005

A petrol bomb was thrown at police responding to trouble between loyalist and republican groups in the Albertbridge Road area of Belfast last night.

The disturbance flared at about 9pm when about 40 loyalists disembarking a train at Central Station had bricks and bottles thrown at them by a crowd of up to 100 in Stewart Street, according to Ulster Unionist councillor Jim Rodgers.

"As a member of the South Belfast District Policing Partnership I condemn this," he said. "There are far too many incidents emanating from the Markets area.

"I understand some people were hurt tonight but no-one required hospital treatment".

Meanwhile, republicans claimed a Catholic youth had been attacked in the area.

SDLP councillor Pat McCarthy said: "The Markets area has a high proportion of young people and there is no place for them to go. We need a youth centre there."

A PSNI spokesman said: "Police were alerted to a public disturbance in the Albertbridge Road area. A crowd gathered and a petrol bomb was thrown at officers as well as stones and other missiles."

Traffic was diverted away from the Albertbridge Road between East Bridge Street and Cromac Street for a period.


Terrified Show Kids Caught In Riot Hell

Families in cars attacked by 30-strong gang

By Jonathan McCambridge
30 March 2005

Terrified children leaving the Scooby Doo stage show at the Waterfront Hall came under attack from a mob of stone-throwing youths during Belfast disturbances.

A mother of two small boys has described the moment when her car and other vehicles were pelted by a 30-strong gang as her family was leaving a stage version of the famous cartoon.

Police were also targeted during the disturbances in the nationalist Markets area last night after a crowd gathered and attacked them with a petrol bomb, stones and other missiles.

Sinn Fein has claimed that the disturbance began after a Catholic 14-year-old boy from the area was attacked by loyalists and police failed to arrest the attackers.

However, police today said the alleged assault happened at the Lagan Lookout and was not linked to the Markets disturbances.

Traffic had to be diverted away from the Albertbridge Road area during the public disturbance which began at 8.50pm yesterday.

At the time the Albertbridge Road was busy with cars leaving the Scooby Doo show.

A Belfast mother, who did not wish to give her name, said: "I had just left the car park and was going to drive up past Central Station towards home; but when I got on to the road traffic was at a standstill, there was a car blocking the road.

"Then I saw this gang of about 30 young ones, they were not any older than 11 or 12, running out of the Markets. They all had their faces covered with hoods and were throwing stones and anything else they could get their hands on.

"My boys are only five and three, they were in the back of the car. I told them to get down when the stones started hitting the car - they were scared and shaken up and did not understand what was going on.

"I do not think they were aiming at the cars, they were just throwing randomly but there were a lot of cars hit.

"After a few minutes we were able to get through but there was debris all over the road. It is terrifying when you see a gang coming at you like that and they were all so young."

Laganbank Sinn Fein election hopeful, Deirdre Hargey, said the trouble started after police did not make any arrests after a child was attacked on East Bridge Street.

She said: "This action has now resulted in a very volatile situation locally. People within the Markets are very angry at this assault and the failure of the PSNI to intervene to stop the assault or arrest the loyalist gang responsible."

A police spokesman responded: "Shortly before 8.50pm last night police received a report that a 14-year-old boy had been assaulted at the Lagan Lookout Bridge. Officers responded to the report immediately and details of the incident were taken. The boy sustained cuts to his nose and bruising to his eyes.

"Initial inquiries suggest that the assault was not linked to a disturbance in the East Bridge Street and Stewart Street areas ongoing at the time. The incident is being investigated."


A Mother's Struggle Over A Death Wall Of Silence

30 March 2005

Stephen Montgomery was found on an Ardoyne street with serious injuries early one morning in February. He died later in hospital. Police say it was a hit-and-run. His family insist he was assaulted just yards away from a popular club, then run over deliberately by up to four cars. So far, few witnesses have come forward despite the fact dozens of revellers were in the area at the time. Stephen's family tell Mary Fitzgerald why they believe a conspiracy of silence is preventing his killers being brought to justice

Josephine Milnes didn't know what to do during the long days that followed her son's death. So she started to write.

Her son Stephen had been found on Jamaica Road in Ardoyne in the early hours of a Sunday morning in February, his body crushed. Still conscious, he died hours later in hospital. A hit-and-run, police said. A tragic accident, some locals muttered to themselves. But that wasn't enough for Josephine and her family, still raw with grief after the death of her husband, Thomas, following a short illness only 36 hours before.

They had noticed what appeared to be knuckle marks on Stephen's face, a split lip and a black eye rising through the waxy pallor as he lay in his coffin - injuries, the family say, prove the 34-year-old was beaten before being hit deliberately by a car and then driven over by up to three other cars. But no-one came forward. No-one had seen anything. No-one from the tightly knit Ardoyne community where Josephine had grown-up, married and reared her family approached her with anything more than condolences.

Josephine started to write, condensing all her grief, frustration and anger into a deeply personal letter. Neatly typed over two pages, it outlined her appeal to "the ordinary, decent people of Ardoyne, the Bone, the Lodge, the Markets" to help find her son's killers.

She railed against the crime that had seeped into the area in recent years. "We are in the grip of thugs, of drug dealers, of joyriders, of hoods, and we are afraid to stand up for fear we will be targeted next," she wrote. "Whatever happened to our Ardoyne pride, to our sense of justice, to our ability to keep this community on its feet instead of on its knees?"

The next paragraph was scathing, a thinly veiled rounding on Sinn Fein.

"Why can't they stop the thugs who roam our streets and terrorise us??I think we all know the answer to that one. Shame on them. They have left us without protection and without justice. They only respond to our needs when they want our vote in the ballot box to keep them in charge."

Days after Josephine dropped copies of the appeal through every letterbox in the area, Gerry Kelly, Sinn Fein's North Belfast Assembly member, came knocking on her door. "He said he took exception to what I had written," Josephine snorts bitterly.

The letter, together with the numerous posters headlined 'Murder!' that Josephine put up throughout Ardoyne caused a slight shift.

"My appeal touched a lot of people, plus everyone knew our Stephen so things started moving a little" she says, sitting in her neat terraced home surrounded by her sons, her grandchildren and Stephen's partner Julie-Ann.

People came forward but not in the way the family expected.

"We've had people coming to us saying that Stephen was beaten, that they saw him being beaten. We've been told the names of the people who assaulted him," explains Josephine's son Sean. "But when we ask them to come forward to get justice they say no and say they're afraid. Whatever or whoever they're afraid of, they don't want any mention of their names or the fact they've been talking to us."

Stephen had been drinking at the popular Jamaica Inn the night he died and was found just yards from the bar shortly before closing time. Few witnesses have come forward, despite the fact dozens of people would have been milling around at the time.

Father Gary Donegan from the nearby Holy Cross Church concurs with the post-mortem report that said Stephen's injuries were consistent with a hit and run incident. "It would seem that his death was the tragic result of other people drink driving or drug taking," he says. "I think, at the end of the day, this will come out as a straightforward horrific accident that was caused by loutish and irresponsible people."

The family insist, however, that Stephen's death and what followed was anything but straightforward.

Soon after Josephine's appeal circulated, callers claiming to be from the Red Hand Commando and the Red Hand Defenders said they were responsible. The family immediately dismissed both calls as a hoax. Officials from the Anglo-Irish Secretariat in Belfast intervened, checking out the veracity of the claims with the leadership of both the UDA and the UVF. Both groups denied responsibility.

The claims were just an attempt to muddy the waters, Sean believes. The family say they know the people responsible for Stephen's death. They know the names, know they are aged between 16 and early 20s and come from within the local community, from Oldpark and the Bone. "These people are well-known scumbags," Jacqueline says, adding that friends and relatives of those responsible have been intimidating witnesses in recent weeks.

Neither she nor her family wants what has passed for justice in Ardoyne in the past - a beating for those responsible or two shots in the legs down an alleyway. But they want answers and cannot understand why that is proving so difficult in a community Jacqueline describes as being like a family. "We look after our own here, we always have," she says.

Sean agrees. "Ten years ago, if something like this had happened in this district, someone would have been found for it. If a person gets a kicking round here, there's usually someone going around asking who did it. My brother gets killed in cold blood in the middle of the street and there's nothing.

"Where are these people who claimed to be our protectors for so many years, who claimed to be the people to go to, the people who could get things done? They could do something about this; they could find out who killed my brother. We're not looking for revenge, we just want answers and we know there are people in our community who have the resources to get those answers."

Three men and two women have been questioned and released by police investigating the incident. Some were held for more than 24 hours. Three are understood to be from Ardoyne and two from the Markets area.

"A lot of the statements we've got so far have been along the lines of, 'I was in the area and I didn't see anything,'" says Inspector Gavin Kirkpatrick.

"We've heard the rumours too but no-one has been able to substantiate any of the allegations regarding possible assault or anything else. All the evidence we have available to us now and from the outset indicates a hit-and-run collision."

The family, aware that locals are unwilling to go to the police, have pleaded for those with information to approach priests at Holy Cross Church or family members.

The lack of anything concrete so far has led them to believe that something is being covered up or someone is being protected. Much of their ire is directed towards the party some of them supported in the past - Sinn Fein.

"Four days after Stephen died, this house was crawling with Sinn Fein people asking me what are the police saying, what are the police saying," says Josephine. "It struck me then that the whole thing stank to high heaven and I said it. I said it looked like a cover-up. Within 10 minutes they were able to organise a car and a driver to bring a girl to my house. It turned out she had spent the final moments with Stephen before he was taken to hospital. How come they hadn't brought this girl forward before? The whole thing stinks".

Many local people feel the same, adds Sean. "So many ordinary people have come into this house to pay their respects, telling us this is a cover-up, this is ridiculous and asking what's Sinn Fein doing about it. I believe, like many others, that Sinn Fein could get us answers but that's not happening."

Local Sinn Fein representatives, however, argue that they have done everything they can.

"We have given as much assistance as we can. We have met the family on several occasions and have done as much as is humanly possible to help them," says Margaret McClenaghan, a councillor for the area.

The family are also losing patience with the police investigation and are planning to take it up with the Police Ombudsman. One of their complaints centres on the fact officers failed to remove Stephen's jacket from the scene, leaving it there until his brother found it the next day.

For now, though, they keep four posters, each with a black and white photograph of Stephen, pinned to their front door. The same photograph stares from front doors and windows all along the street.

They smile at the irony that the only people they feel have helped them so far are those in the Anglo-Irish Secretariat and the loyalists who confirmed the initial claims of responsibility to be false.

"We'd like to thank those people who found out for us that those claims were rubbish. They have been the only ones to help us in any way," says Sean.

Meanwhile, Julie-Ann struggles to explain to Stephen (6) and Tiarnan (2) what has happened to their father.

"It's hard enough trying to tell the kids why their daddy is gone but we have to face every day knowing that the people who did this are still walking the streets near to where we live," she says. "It's not knowing that is the worst. Not knowing what happened to Stephen that night. I know it won't bring him back but at least if I knew, then I would be able to grieve properly.

"Anything is better than this wall of silence."


Everyone Loves A Parade? Try Telling That To The Organizers

By Susan Paynter

Seattle Post-Intelligencer Columnist

Before the (next) parade passes by, let's pause to salute the hardest-working wretches in the processional biz.

It doesn't matter if it's the 17th of May Norwegian Constitution Day parade coming soon to Ballard, or this summer's downtown Seafair whang-dang-doodle July 30th, or whatever promenade comes after.

Face it: The volunteer organizers of any community parade have a job that makes you envy the elephant scoopers.

Certainly, after this month's St. Patrick's Day unpleasantness and its aftermath in the press, John Keane of Seattle's Irish Heritage Club is one of those who is bleeding something more sanguine than green beer.

On the upside, it was the biggest St. Pat parade ever, in Seattle. Almost 1,600 citizens marched while thousands stamped and cheered.

Still, there's no use denying that many were incited to fury at the sight of the mayor of Lisburn, Northern Ireland, who provoked audience and organizers alike by waving a Union flag like a bloody shirt.

The idea behind this invitation and all previous ones was to tighten ties of commerce and comradeship between Seattle and Ireland by inviting Lisburn mayors, Irish ambassadors, government ministers and officials from Galway, Derry and environs.

But, the instant that Lisburn's mayor hinted he might carry a symbol that is next to a swastika or a rebel flag in impact, the mayor was told in writing and in person "no dice."

But he doesn't want to mount a parade that becomes famous for squelching freedom of speech, Keane told me in the aftermath. Still, the next time someone is set on carrying a symbol of pain in the parade, he'd rather just cancel the whole damn thing.

His hope for common sense ran down the drain the day before the St. Pat parade when publicity made it painfully clear that the mayor's goal was to stir up trouble. And that the parade committee's chief aim would be to minimize the publicity the man was after.

Afterward, hundreds of e-mails blamed the parade committee for not censoring the provocateur by snatching the symbol from his grip. "But this is a public parade on a public right of way," Keane told me wearily.

"There are always groups in parades that offend people with their messages," he said.

In the past, people whined about the banners of the Committee for Truth and Justice in Ireland, The Seattle Irish Gay and Lesbian Association, or Noraid, the Saints of Seattle.

Some even complained about Highland dancers in the parade, because they're Scottish, not Irish.

Since then, all those groups have been absorbed, and almost without notice.

But this flagrant flag drew unprecedented abuse "from a few bigots," Keane said. "There is no other way to describe them." One person called the Heritage Club president, who is also a Presbyterian minister originally from Belfast, "a Protestant bastard."

"It's ridiculous. Nobody on the committee gets paid. And we're not interested in fighting anyone," Keane said. "We don't want to be like Boston or New York."

Still licking wounds, Keane and the other volunteers are finding it tough to regroup in time for the Irish "football" and hurling telecast gatherings they'll soon host Sunday mornings at 6 a.m. Or the Bloomsday event in June. "I do get kind of worn down," Keane said, adding that an attorney has volunteered to look into legal ways the parade can bar a rerun of this year's Union flag fiasco.

Frankly, Keane doesn't see how.

The folks at the Sons of Norway Hall and the Ballard Chamber of Commerce can relate. They still wince recalling the year of the "bloody Jesus," when the Potter's House church had an unpleasant surprise for the processional. Instead of a float, its entrants included a man dressed as Jesus who frightened the children by marching covered in gore and carrying a huge cross while being beaten by men in Roman costume.

Then there were the 1997 and 2000 Seafair Parades that nearly were torpedoed by the explosive reactions to the nuke-powered Trident submarines and other weaponry that showed up on the waterfront in time for the event.

The bitterly disputed "symbols of death," evoked such evil among peace protesters, the Seafair pirates appeared almost angelic in comparison. And few even remembered to object to the earsplitting Blue Angels practicing overhead.

Before the next parade passes by, the fact to savor is this: Outside of the Magic Kingdom or Macy's Thanksgiving inflatables, parades are worth watching partly because they are unpredictable.

And, behind all those banners, and even behind the elephants, is a small, beleaguered band of volunteers knocking themselves out just to bring you something to wave at.

Susan Paynter's column appears Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Call her at 206-448-8392 or send e-mail to


Film Explores Bonfire Comradeship

The comradeship around the eleventh night loyalist tradition of the bonfire is explored in a BBC documentary.

It was filmed in Belfast's Springmartin Estate, where unemployment is estimated at about 70%.

The Bonfire tells the story of the area in the run up to the flames on the eve of the 12 July parades.

The parades commemorate Protestant Prince William of Orange's 1690 Battle of the Boyne victory over Catholic King James II.

Springmartin - as far up the Shankill as you can get - is home to 160 families, many single parent.

It is a predominantly loyalist community, with time on its hands.

Filmed over several months in 2004, the hour-long documentary depicts how life within a 200sq ft radius is overshadowed by the collection and protection of the towering pile of wood and tyres on the estate green.

The need to get involved is described by a local father, Frank.

"At a certain time, the body clock inside, it tells you it's near bonfire time," he said.

"I don't know if it is something that's bred into you, but it is that natural instinct to get friends together, to gather wood in preparation for the eleventh night."

Gathering the wood takes time, effort and a van. The bonfire gang, with members aged four to 18, build huts, friendships and a sense of pride.

The older community looks on with interest, monitoring the quality of the furniture discarded and nostalgic for days before pallets and tyres.

The film shows the extraordinary life of ordinary people, filmmaker Ian Kirk-Smith said.

"This is a portrait of a working class community and its many acts of small kindnesses.

"The subject of the film is the bonfire and through it we explore a sense of belonging, of identity, of place. This could be the story of any estate across the UK or Ireland."

The Bonfire - Wednesday 30 March, 2005, 2240 BST, BBC ONE Northern Ireland.

Story from BBC NEWS:

Published: 2005/03/30 08:52:55 GMT


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