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May 24, 2005

Hamill Inquiry Opens

News about Ireland & the Irish

SM 05/24/05 Inquiry Opens Into Loyalist Mob Killing
SF 05/24/05 IMC Report Has No Credibility
IO 05/24/05 IRA Still Active - IMC Report
IO 05/24/05 Criminal Activities By Paramilitaries 'Disturbing'- Govt


Inquiry Opens Into Loyalist Mob Killing

By Alan Erwin, PA

A public inquiry into the killing of a Catholic man by a loyalist mob
eight years ago opened today.

Robert Hamill, 25, was set upon as he walked home from a night out in
Portadown, Co Armagh, in April 1997 and died 11 days later in

Today, on the first day of the public probe into his death, chaired by
Sir Edwin Jowitt, it was revealed that the inquiry panel has secretly
scoured the town where loyalists struck.

Amid allegations that police just yards from the scene ignored the
attack, the panel will also examine the RUC Land Rover used by the
patrol under suspicion.

With up to 100 witnesses set to testify at the public inquiry, Sir
Edwin said the hearing will try to establish if police could have done
more to prevent the father-of-three's death.

Evidence will be studied to assess whether any failure or omission on
the part of officers to halt the attack, identify the killers or
properly investigate the murder was deliberate or negligent, the
retired High Court judge said.

He said: "We are very conscious of the many emotions to which the
death of Robert Hamill has given rise and we repeat that our
overriding concern in this inquiry will be to do all we can to
ascertain where the truth lies concerning the issues raised by our
terms of reference."

The Government agreed to set up a probe into the April 1997 killing
after the case was examined by former Canadian judge Peter Cory.

It was one of four murders in Northern Ireland where he found enough
evidence of collusion to warrant a public tribunal.

The hearing into the car bomb attack on solicitor Rosemary Nelson
opened last month.

An inquiry into the jailhouse assassination of loyalist paramilitary
leader Billy Wright is also due to begin this year.

And the shooting of Belfast lawyer Pat Finucane is to be examined as

Six men were accused of Mr Hamill's murder, but charges were dropped
against five of them. The sixth was acquitted of murder and sentenced
to four years for affray.

At the time of the attack the town was gripped by sectarian tensions
linked to the Drumcree marching dispute where the Orange Order were
demanding to parade on the nationalist Garvaghy Road.

Sir Edwin disclosed that he and his colleagues, the Rev Baroness
Richardson, a former moderator of the Free Churches Council of England
and Wales, and Sir John Evans, an ex-chief constable of Devon and
Cornwall, had carried out a scouting trip.

He told today's hearing at Craigavon Courthouse in Co Armagh: "To
prepare ourselves for the inquiry we visited Portadown on January 26
this year, when we walked around the streets forming the crossroads
where, or near to which, Robert Hamill received his injuries.

"We looked particularly at sight lines from various points. We also
drove out to the grounds of the rugby football club to see where they
lie in relation to the town centre.

"We did not announce our visit because we wished to see the site
without attracting attention or without distraction."

Sir Edwin added that the tribunal was intent on studying the police
vehicle located close to the attack.

"We shall also wish to see the Land Rover which was used on the night
in question, or one similar, to see what could be seen from it in
different locations and what could be heard inside it of what was
going on outside," he said.

"We are all comparative strangers to Northern Ireland and in
particular to Portadown and its ethos.

"I had never visited Northern Ireland until after my appointment to
this inquiry."

Mr Hamill's sister Diane led relatives into the court room for the
opening of the hearing today.

Representatives of the Committee for the Administration of Justice
(CAJ), and the British Irish Rights Watch were also present.


IMC Report Has No Credibility

Published: 24 May, 2005

Responding to the latest report by the IMC which was published today
in Belfast, Sinn Féin Assembly member for South Belfast Alex Maskey

"The IMC was set up at the behest of the unionists and is the tool of
the British securocrats. It operates outside the terms of the Good
Friday Agreement and has no positive role to play in the development
of the political process. It was created and has been used to
discriminate against Sinn Féin and our electorate.

"This report like the previous reports is based solely on the
information provided to the IMC by the securocrats. It like previous
reports has little or no credibility and is neither impartial, fair
nor balanced.

"Sinn Féin will continue to challenge the ongoing role of the IMC in
the political process and continue to vigorously oppose the sanctions
which have been imposed by the British government upon our electorate
in the wake of previous reports from this body." ENDS


IRA Still Active - IMC Report
2005-05-24 11:40:04+01

The IRA remains heavily involved in criminality and is still training
new members in how to use guns and handle bombs, according to an
independent report released today.

In its fifth study of loyalist and republican terror groups for the
British and Irish governments, the Independent Monitoring Commission
(IMC) welcomed Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams's appeal to the
Provisionals to abandon the armed struggle for a democratic

And the IMC said Mr Adams will have shown leadership of a "high order"
if he delivers an end to all illegal activity by the IRA.

The IMC's report said that in the wake of the murder of Belfast
father-of-two Robert McCartney and the raid on the Northern Bank,
people had several questions about Sinn Féin and the IRA's future.

The commission asked: "How does Sinn Féin now view the claim made by
PIRA (the Provisional IRA) to be the lawful government and
representative of the people of Ireland, north and south?

"Does the party seek power in Ireland, north and south, using
paramilitary muscle to back its participation in the political

"Does it ultimately intend to participate fully in democratic
politics, and to observe all the standards that requires, but to reach
that position maintaining for the time being some form of slimmed-down
military capability?

"Or is it now ready to ensure that PIRA ends all forms of illegal
activity and to engage wholeheartedly in democratic politics and in

"In his statement of April 6, as president of Sinn Féin, Gerry Adams
indicated views related to some of the considerations we have raised
earlier in this section and if he is able to develop this and to
deliver as he seems to have suggested, he will have demonstrated
leadership of a high order."

Despite welcoming Mr Adams's appeal, the IMC said the Provisional IRA
still had the ability to go back to a full-scale terror campaign if it
wanted to.

The report said the organisation was also heavily involved in criminal
enterprises such as fuel and tobacco smuggling and money laundering.

The commission confirmed that the Provisionals continued to recruit
and train new members "including in the use of firearms and

The report said: "At the end of September 2004, the police discovered
10,000 rounds of PIRA ammunition suitable for use in assault rifles,
of a type not previously found in Northern Ireland.

"This may have only been part of a larger consignment and it
demonstrates PIRA's continuing efforts to maintain its preparedness."

The IMC said intelligence it received had led them to believe:

:: Provisional IRA members were involved in the murder of Robert
McCartney. But it was not sanctioned by the leadership in advance and
it appeared the killers were acting on the instructions of a local

:: The organisation was involved in robberies such as December's
Northern Bank heist which used violence or the threat of violence;

:: PIRA members were behind an arson attack at a fuel depot in early

:: While the Provisionals allowed some people they had banished to
return to the republican Short Strand district in east Belfast after
the murder of Mr McCartney, there was no indication that other exiled
people could return to their homes in other parts of Northern Ireland;

:: The organisation carried out five shootings and six assaults since
August 2004.

The IMC is made up of former US Central Intelligence Agency deputy
director Richard Kerr, ex-Metropolitan Police anti-terrorist unit
chief John Grieve, retired Irish civil servant Joe Brosnan and the
former leader of Northern Ireland's cross community Alliance Party,
Lord Alderdice.

The commission was set up two years ago by the British and Irish
governments as a means of shaming loyalist and republican terror
groups into abandoning criminality and paramilitarism.

The Government has imposed sanctions twice on Sinn Féin, which is
hostile to the commission, as a result of IMC reports, denying them
Assembly funds.

Today's report was being studied closely by unionist and nationalist
opponents of Sinn Féin for indications as to whether the Provisional
movement is engaged in a process of abandoning the gun.

Republicans have been told the Provisional IRA must be wound down if
Sinn Féin is ever to sit in devolved government again.

Northern Ireland's largest party, the Rev Ian Paisley's Democratic
Unionists, have also urged the British government to stop waiting for
republicans to abandon the gun and press on with devolution in
Northern Ireland which freezes Sinn Féin out of ministerial posts.

A bid last year by British Prime Minister Tony Blair and Taoiseach
Bertie Ahern to secure a deal involving Sinn Féin and the DUP failed
when the Provisional IRA refused to give in to demands to allow its
disarmament programme to be photographed.


Criminal Activities By Paramilitaries 'Disturbing', Says Govt
2005-05-24 12:10:03+01

The latest report from the Independent Monitoring Commission (IMC)
paints a disturbing picture of continuing criminal activity by
republican and loyalist groups, the Government said today.

The report, which was completed in April but held until after the
British election, is the first since Sinn Féin's April 6 call on the
IRA to abandon its armed struggle and to pursue its goals exclusively
through democracy.

A Government statement said today: "The latest IMC Report presents a
disturbing picture in relation to the ongoing criminal activity of
paramilitary groups, both loyalist and republican."

However the Government said it stood firmly behind the Good Friday
Agreement as the only means to restore devolution and end all forms of
criminality for good.

"The Government remains committed to the goal of achieving an
inclusive settlement to the outstanding problems in Northern Ireland
as the only viable option for all sides.

"The Government continues to be satisfied that the full implementation
of the Good Friday Agreement is the best way of ensuring a peaceful
society and a stable political situation in Northern Ireland.

"Following the outcome of the recent elections, the Government will
continue to work with all of the parties to achieve that aim.

"However, once again, the findings of the Report underline the clear
need for the issue of paramilitarism, including all forms of criminal
activity, to be resolved satisfactorily for once and for all."

The statement added that the Irish Government appreciated the
diligence and hard work of the IMC in carrying out its work.
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