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News about the Irish & Irish American culture, music, news, sports. This is hosted by the Irish Aires radio show on KPFT-FM 90.1 in Houston, Texas (a Pacifica community radio station)
May 09, 2006
Don't Let This Happen Again Plead Murdered Boy's Family
Tragic Waste: Michael Mcilveen’s Uncle Says Farewell To His Nephew In Antrim Area Hospital Last Night PICTURE: Seamus Loughran
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News About Ireland & The Irish
IN 05/09/06 Don’t Let This Happen Again Plead Murdered Boy’s Family
BT 05/09/06 Now It's Murder
SF 05/09/06 Ballymena Murder Motivated By Anti-Catholic Hatred
BT 05/09/06 Streets Of Fear
DI 05/09/06 Tension And Disbelief On Estate’s Streets
BB 05/09/06 Murder Probe As Attacked Boy Dies
BN 05/09/06 Five Quizzed Over Schoolboy Murder
IN 05/09/06 Man Arrested After Body Is Identified
BB 05/09/06 Shooting Findings To Be Published
IN 05/09/06 Sir Hugh Challenged Over Burnt Clothing
BT 05/09/06 Village Set To Undergo A 'Mural Regeneration'
BT 05/09/06 Opin: Summer Fear Factor Must Be Disarmed
DI 05/09/06 Opin: Paying The Price Of Bitter Intolerance
IN 05/09/06 Opin: Hasten The Day When Councils Are Replaced
IN 05/09/06 Opin: Take Your Stormont Seats Now Or The Wallet Gets It
BT 05/09/06 Opin: Border Fuels The Good Life
IN 05/09/06 Opin: Time Will Judge Success Of IRA’s Search For Power
IN 05/09/06 Opin: Blanketmen Were Neither Christ-Like Or In Nazi Camp
IN 05/09/06 Opin: A Little Ask Of Those Who Have Endured The Most
IN 05/09/06 Opin: Blame Game Ends By Admitting Mistakes
DI 05/09/06 Opin: There’s A Sinister Hush Over Collusion Evidence
IN 05/09/06 Opin: Protagonists Need To Put Houses In Order
IN 05/09/06 Opin: Hub-Bub Over Illegals Is Reaching Crescendo
BN 05/09/06 Five Irish Beaches Fail To Meet Minimum EU Standards
BN 05/09/06 Ahern Has Third-Highest Salary Among EU Prime Ministers
Don’t Let This Happen Again Plead Murdered Boy’s Family
By Sharon O’Neill Chief Reporter
THE heartbroken family of murdered Catholic Michael
McIlveen (15) wanted this picture, taken minutes after he
died, published as a stark message of what sectarianism can
Michael lost his fight for life last night after being
savagely att-acked in Ballymena, Co Antrim, early on
Last night his life-support mach-ine was switched off.
His distraught family – mother Gina, his younger brother,
and two sisters – were at his bedside, inconsolable.
Michael’s uncle gently kissed his forehead – his nephew’s
bed in the intensive care unit of Antrim Area Hospital
surrounded by those who loved him.
It was screened off but such was the outpouring of grief
that other patients in the small ward were only too aware
that a mother had been robbed of a son on the cusp on
The teenager, who only last week proudly stood as godfather
to his sister’s new baby, was singled out for no other
reason than being a Catholic.
Desperate that no-one else suffers, his family last night
pleaded for an end to sectarianism.
Another uncle explained why the family wanted Michael’s
“We just want to show people out there what happens when
gangs on both sides roam about – this is the result,” he
“We want politicians, especially in Ballymena, to get their
fingers out and get something done be-fore somebody else is
“He was just 15, just 15. He was a quiet wee teenager. His
mother is devastated.
“He stood for his sister's baby last week. Now he is dead.
It is such a waste.”
Michael was battered by a gang – at least one brandishing a
baseball bat – just minutes after buying a takeaway pizza.
He was set upon outside a house in Granville Drive at
Despite being repeatedly beat-en, Michael managed to
struggle home, where the full extent of his injuries was
realised and he was rushed to hospital.
Last night four men and a juvenile were being quizzed by
One of the suspects is reported to have been a Catholic.
Now It's Murder
Two days after being savagely assaulted by a dozen bigoted
thugs, 15-year-old Michael McIlveen loses his fight for
By Emily Moulton and Debra Douglas
09 May 2006
Police have launched a murder inquiry following the death
of a Co Antrim teenager who was savagely beaten in a
sectarian attack in Ballymena at the weekend.
Michael McIlveen (15) from Dunvale was brutally attacked by
a gang of up to a dozen thugs during the early hours of
Sunday morning as he was on his way home from a pizza
parlour at about 12.30am.
It is understood the St Patrick's College student had been
chased by the gang after a row flared at the IMC cinema
complex in the town.
While police would not confirm how many people were
involved or the exact details of what happened to the 15-
year-old, his family claimed he was beaten with baseball
bats by a gang of at least a dozen attackers who also
jumped on his head.
Early yesterday evening his family, who were too distraught
to talk to the media, were maintaining a bedside vigil at
Antrim Area Hospital in the hope Michael might pull
It is understood the teenager received serious head
injuries in the attack and was on life support, but he lost
his battle for life at around 8pm last night.
Last night Ballymena Borough Council adjourned its regular
council meeting as a mark of respect to the McIlveen
Mayor Tommy Nicholl said he was deeply saddened by the news
of Michael's death and wanted to convey his deepest
sympathies to the family on behalf of the people in
Appeals for calm made in wake of murder
Mr Nicholl also called for both sections of the community
to remain calm and pledged his full support for the PSNI
"I am encouraging the PSNI to follow all lines of inquiries
in an effort to bring the perpetrators to justice," he
"I can only imagine the pain the McIlveens are going
through right now and I would encourage both sections of
the community to remain calm to show respect to the
Earlier yesterday DCU Commander Superintendent Terry
Shevlin said detectives were studying CCTV footage in a bid
to identify the gang members.
He said police were "quite clear that the motive for this
assault was of a sectarian nature" and joined local
politicians in appealing for calm and called on those with
influence to step in to prevent any further attacks.
He said: "I'm making a clear appeal to civic leaders,
community leaders and others with influence in the
Ballymena area to not only condemn this, which every
rightthinking person would do, but to exercise whatever
influence they can to prevent any retaliatory attacks that
would have another family in the position this family is
Four youths were being questioned about the incident last
It is thought one of them is Catholic.
A fifth youth was arrested late last night in connection
with the incident.
Ballymena Murder Motivated By Anti-Catholic Hatred
Published: 9 May, 2006
Sinn Fein Assembly member for North Antrim Philip McGuigan
has extended his deepest sympathies to the family of
Michael McIlveen who was brutally murdered in Ballymena by
a loyalist mob in a sectarian killing over the weekend.
Mr McGuigan said:
“I would wish to extend my deepest sympathies to the
McIlveen family at this time. This murder was unjustifiable
and was motivated entirely by sectarian hatred and bigotry.
“I was in Ballymena last night and there remains much anger
at the events of the weekend and indeed at the years of
discrimination and inequality which led directly to the
circumstances which gave rise to this horrific crime.
“The catholic community in Ballymena have as much right as
anyone else to live, worship and conduct business in that
town as any other group. Unfortunately there are those
within unionism in the town who have for decades sought to
demonise and discriminate against nationalists and
republicans in Ballymena.
“The local DUP controlled Council fail to share power with
nationalists and republicans. The local MP and leader of
the DUP Ian Paisley refuses to share power with
nationalists and republicans in an Executive. Ian Paisley
needs to reflect seriously on his position in the light of
this murder and reflect long and hard about the message he
is sending out to those within his community who engage in
this type of violent anti-Catholic hatred.” ENDS
Streets Of Fear
'It was only a matter of time before something like this
happened and I just pray there won't be any more bloodshed'
By Debra Douglas
09 May 2006
In recent years, the bustling town of Ballymena has been
plagued with sectarian attacks including a spate of petrol
and paint bombings last summer.
But last weekend, simmering tensions reached boiling point,
and a Catholic teenager was seriously injured in a brutal
attack. Last night Michael McIlveen died of his injuries.
According to Delia Close, an Independent member of
Ballymena's District Policing Partnership, the police had
warned about clashes between groups of young people last
Senior officers warned that if the community did not
address the issue, someone would lose their life. Now they
are dealing with the murder they feared would happen.
It seemed it was only a matter of time before an attack
ended with a tragic fatality.
Only a few weeks ago, a man sustained a punctured lung
after being stabbed during a serious sectarian incident
involving about 20 youths in a shopping centre in the town.
A 17-year-old was charged with disorderly behaviour and
assaulting the 16-year-old brother of the stabbing victim.
The court heard that during the week before the attack,
gangs of youths from both sections of the community "had
been roaming around".
A police officer told the court that on the Friday night
before the stabbing, a number of nationalists were arrested
after a loyalist was headbutted at Cameron's car park and
that loyalist youths "were out looking for retaliation" the
Several weeks later, and only yards away from where the
loyalist was headbutted, Michael McIlveen was set upon by a
gang following an altercation at a nearby cinema, and after
days hooked up to a life-support machine, he tragically
Hours after Michael was attacked, a 45-year-old man
suffered head wounds after being attacked in the Dunclug
area of Ballymena in what police believe was a linked
Locals passing the scene of the violent attack said they
weren't surprised by what happened.
Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph as a police helicopter
hovered above, one resident, who asked not to be named,
said: "It was only a matter of time before something like
this happened and I just pray there won't be any more
bloodshed on our streets. The police need to get to the
bottom of this and sort it out.
"Ballymena has got a reputation as a trouble spot now and
is it any wonder with things like this going on."
But the town's DUP Mayor, Tommy Nicholl, said efforts had
been made to try and prevent the simmering tensions
reaching the boiling point they now appear to be at.
"We have been concerned about the situation for some time
but, sadly, it has come to the point now where a teenager
has been killed," he said.
"Last summer, we had petrol bomb attacks on schools,
churches and other places and I decided through the Mayor's
initiative to look at some way of improving the situation.
"I have taken a number of steps, including bringing the
clergy together to see if they can exercise influence over
the local community along with the PSNI.
"I felt we were moving in the right direction. We're
getting the red, white and blue paint removed from the
kerbs in Harryville and the mural depicting paramilitary
groups has been removed as part of a good relations
"We are doing everything we can to deal with the issue of
sectarianism and try and eradicate it, but there is more to
"I want to bring the people of Ballymena together and have
a society where everybody respects one another's point of
Factions urged to 'draw back from the brink'
A Co Antrim community was last night urged to "draw back
from the brink" following the killing of a 15-year-old
schoolboy in a brutal sectarian attack.
As family and friends last night mourned the death of
Michael McIlveen, politicians on both sides of the
political divide in Ballymena called for calm.
The town's DUP Mayor, Tommy Nicholl, said it was vital
those with influence within the community did everything in
their power to resolve the current situation.
"I would say to anyone with influence over those people
concerned to get them to draw back from the brink, sit down
and consider what it is they are doing," he told the
North Antrim MP Ian Paisley labelled the attack on MIchael
as "horrific" and said "that those who have been
responsible for this must have the full rigour of the law
applied to them".
Ulster Unionist councillor James Currie called for a zero-
tolerance approach to all sectarian attacks.
"I offer my deepest sympathies to the family of this young
teenager," he said.
"I am confident that those responsible for this attack will
be brought to justice by the police. The police have been
active in their approach to halt such incidents and they
are doing a very good job in maintaining this to a minimum.
"There is no place for this type of behaviour within our
society and I hope that the police employ a zero-tolerance
approach to show others that these crimes will not be
Sinn Fein Assembly member Philip McGuigan said: "My
thoughts are with the family at this time.
"Tensions have been high in the town and have now escalated
to the point where a young man has been killed.
"Everyone has a part to play in ensuring these sort of
attacks are brought to an end for the good of all the
SDLP assembly member Declan O'Loan also said tensions had
been high recently.
"There's no point shirking the unpleasant fact that this
murder was a sectarian act of the most horrendous nature,"
Earlier yesterday, Secretary of State Peter Hain issued a
stern pledge to catch those responsible for the attack on
"This is an awful sectarianism which harks back to Northern
Ireland's dark and brutal past. We are going to work to
hunt down those responsible and make sure this kind of
thing does not happen again," he said.
Tension And Disbelief On Estate’s Streets
By Connla Young
Fear stalked the streets around the home of sectarian
attack victim Michael McIlveen yesterday as the 15-year-old
lost his battle for life in a Co Antrim hospital last
Family and friends of the Saint Patrick’s College pupil
held a vigil at his bedside since he was taken to Antrim
Area Hospital in the early hours of Sunday.
The teenager suffered serious head injuries during a
sectarian assault as he made his way through the centre of
Ballymena at 12.30am on Sunday.
Family members say he was beaten about the head with a
baseball bat while a gang of up to a dozen loyalist youths
jumped on his head.
The PSNI was treating the attack as attempted murder, but
that’s expected to be upgraded to a fully fledged murder
Tension has been high in the teenager’s home estate,
Dunclug, since the savage assault.
On Sunday night dozens of young men gathered on the streets
around Michael’s home after the PSNI flooded into the area.
The scene was very different yesterday morning as Dunclug
residents woke up to find that Michael had made it through
the night despite grim predictions from medical experts,
but any hope was dashed last night.
Shock, mixed with foreboding, has fuelled a sense of dread
in local residents
Empty streets gave an indication of the fear and gloom that
has descended on the district.
For years locals have complained that they are the target
of constant sectarian attacks, while elected
representatives warned that someone might be killed if the
Many Dunclug residents refused to put their names to
comments made to several media outlets yesterday.
One frightened resident said it was too dangerous to be
seen publicly condemning a brutal attack on an innocent
“People can’t use their names. If they do they will be
identified as a Catholic the next time they go into town.
That’s how bad it is,” she said.
Project manager at Dunclug Partnership Colum Best said the
community was filled by a sense of disbelief.
“People have a feeling that this is unbelievable, the whole
community is devastated,” he said.
The community development worker said there were concerns
locally about how local politicians have approached the
attack on Michael McIlveen.
“My concern is that there politicians who in a situation
like this are trying to score points about what should be
done and what isn’t being done.”
Murder Probe As Attacked Boy Dies
A 15-year-old boy who was attacked by a gang in County
Antrim has died in hospital from his injuries.
Michael McIlveen, a Catholic, was beaten with a baseball
bat in an alley in Ballymena, on Sunday. He died from his
injuries on Monday evening.
The police have begun a murder inquiry. Four men and a
juvenile are still being questioned about the sectarian
Ian Paisley Junior, DUP, said he hoped the family would be
comforted by the prayers and thoughts of local people.
"Yesterday, my father had the opportunity to speak with the
family, to pray with them and, indeed, to renew
acquaintance," he said.
"Some time ago, my father had actually helped them get a
house in the town. These things are very, very distressing
for the entire area and for the entire town and I hope that
some comfort can be found."
The teenager, from the Dunvale area of Ballymena, had been
on a life support machine at Antrim Area Hospital where his
family had been at his bedside.
Since the death of the youth, a large number of postings
have been made about the killing on a website chatroom used
by young people.
Many make accusations against others in the town over the
A police spokesman said they were aware of the website and
were monitoring it.
Northern Ireland Secretary Peter Hain said it was a
"sickening sectarian attack" which dragged Northern Ireland
"back to the dark days of the past".
"Those who are responsible for this murderous attack must
be brought to justice and anyone with any information must
bring it to the police," he said.
Michael's aunt told the BBC he had been working on Sunday
and had gone out to get a pizza. He was just leaving the
restaurant when he was attacked at Garfield Place at about
She said the attackers hit Michael with a baseball bat and
"jumped on his head". His friend escaped.
She believes he was targeted because he was a Catholic.
Michael managed to get home where the extent of his
injuries was realised by his mother.
The police district commander for Ballymena, Superintendent
Terry Shevlin, said the motive for the assault "was of a
He said there appeared to have been an initial
"altercation" at a cinema in the town, before the victim
was chased to the scene of the attack.
Mr Shevlin said police had increased patrolling in
Ballymena, but said the community had to do more to combat
Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2006/05/09 06:44:47 GMT
© BBC MMVI
Five Quizzed Over Schoolboy Murder
09/05/2006 - 08:46:44
Five people were today being questioned about the brutal
murder of a schoolboy savagely beaten in a sectarian attack
in the North.
Fifteen-year-old Catholic Michael McIlveen died in hospital
last night after being attacked at the weekend.
He was chased from an entertainment complex in Ballymena,
Co Antrim, just after midnight on Sunday after getting a
He was battered by a gang of thugs who cornered him in an
alleyway and allegedly used a baseball bat before stamping
on his head.
The full extent of his injuries was only discovered when he
managed to get home. He was taken from his home in the
Dunvale Estate to the Antrim Area Hospital, where his
family maintained a bedside vigil until his life-support
machine was switched off at 8pm last night.
Police chiefs in the town have confirmed they are treating
the attack as sectarian, and have urged public
representatives to help ease tensions and prevent
The assault has shocked Ballymena, a mainly Protestant town
plagued by sectarian tensions, which include frequent
clashes between rival gangs.
A 19-year-old man has already been charged with an attack
on another victim 24 hours after Michael, a pupil at St
Patrick’s High School, was beaten.
Local MP and Democratic Unionist Party leader Ian Paisley
today appealed for no reprisal for the murder.
He said: “As we move towards the marching season I would
appeal for calm. Any reprisal or upping the ante would
serve no purpose other than to make matters worse.
“I would call on all sides to pull back from the brink
before tragedy is multiplied by catastrophe.”
Mr Paisley, who has spoken to and prayed with the McIlveen
family, added: “This was a horrific attack that will be
condemned by all right-thinking and law-abiding people in
“Those responsible have nothing whatsoever to offer to the
people of the town and must face the full rigours of the
He appealed to those with any information to come forward
and help police bring to justice those responsible for the
Northern Secretary Peter Hain said he was appalled by the
killing and urged the public to give police their full
He said: “This was a sickening sectarian attack that has
taken the life of a teenager with his whole life in front
Mr Hain said the teenager’s family was grieving and his
thoughts were with them at this terrible time.
“Those who are responsible for this murderous attack must
be brought to justice, and anyone with information must
bring it to the police.
“Everyone will condemn this murder, which drags Northern
Ireland back to the dark days of the past,” he added.
Man Arrested After Body Is Identified
By Keith Bourke
A man has been arrested by police investigating the death
of a man whose body was found in a burnt-out car in north
The victim has been named locally as Mark Edens from
His friend Joe Hamilton, also from the Ligoniel area, was
also in the car and last night remained in a critical
condition at the Royal Victoria Hospital.
The burnt-out car was found at Cavehill Country Park on the
Upper Hightown Road at around 6am yesterday.
The body of Mr Edens, from Wolf Hill Avenue, was understood
to have been so badly charred that it took a police
forensic team until last night to identify the gender.
Police said the circumstances surrounding the death are
still being investigated.
A postmortem examination is ex-pected to take place later
While the details of what happened are still unclear, a
friend of both men last night said he believed that they
had driven out to the park in the early hours with another
The man, who did not want to be named, said their car may
have become stuck in the mud.
“(The other friend) got fed up and left the car and walked
home,” he said.
“Mark was asleep in the back seat and Joe was revving the
car trying to get it out of the mud. We don’t really know
what happened, but it sounds like the engine exploded.
“Mark and Joe were best friends – they knew each other
since they were kids. Everyone’s just in shock.”
SDLP North Belfast assembly member Alban Maginness said it
was a “shocking and disturbing discovery”.
“While information on what exactly happened is still vague,
we should all hope that the person who remains in hospital
pulls through,” he said.
“That person’s recovery may hold the key to uncovering
exactly what happened
“While the police continue to investigate the circumstances
around the incident it is imperative that anyone who may
have any information that may be of help should contact the
PSNI as soon as possible.”
Sinn Fein councillor Tierna Cunningham described the events
“I would like to offer my sympathy and condolences to the
family,” she said.
“I would really like to think that we can get to the bottom
of what has happened here.”
DUP North Belfast assembly member Nelson McCausland said:
“This was a horrific incident which the police are still
“It is still not clear how the death and serious injuries
“These were particularly terrible circumstances – my
sympathy goes out to the family of the person who died.
“My hopes are for a speedy recovery for the person
seriously injured,” Mr McCausland added.
Shooting Findings To Be Published
The findings of an investigation into the shooting of a
County Armagh teenager in July 1991 are due to be published
by the police ombudsman.
Alice McLoughlin, 16, died from a gunshot wound while in
the car of an off-duty police officer in Portadown.
Her family dispute an inquest finding which concluded that
the teenager shot herself.
The police officer said he had left his gun in the car when
he went to withdraw money from a cash machine.
However, her family has always said they did not believe
that their daughter had taken her own life.
They went to see the police ombudsman to outline their
concerns and a formal investigation was launched in
The family will meet Ombudsman Nuala O'Loan on Tuesday to
hear the outcome of that inquiry before the details are
Barry Bradbury, chairman of the Justice for Alice group,
said: "We're hoping the ombudsman's office can give us a
clear indication of what happened that night and recommend
that somebody should be brought to book.
"What we want is this to be reinvestigated by an outside
force because we believe the original investigation
contained serious flaws."
Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2006/05/09 07:42:52 GMT
© BBC MMVI
Sir Hugh Challenged Over Burnt Clothing
By Sharon O’Neill Chief Reporter
THE chief constable has been challenged over the revelation
that a Catholic murder victim’s clothing was destroyed by
The Irish News yesterday revealed that the clothes worn by
Gavin McShane (17), when he was shot dead by a UVF gunman
at Co Armagh taxi depot in 1994, had been burnt.
The reason given by police was that they were considered a
“health hazard”, and that such a practice was not unusual
during that time.
It is not clear when Mr McShane’s clothes were incinerated.
The development has raised questions as to exactly how many
unsolved murder probes have been compromised over the years
by the destruction of material which, given DNA advances,
may have gleaned clues to help catch killers.
Mr McShane’s friend, 17-year-old Shane McArdle, was also
shot in the depot and died later in hospital.
No-one has been brought to justice for the double sectarian
murder, which is to be re-investigated by the new
Historical Enquiries Team (HET).
Last night SDLP Newry and Armagh assembly member Dominic
Bradley said his party would be seeking answers from Chief
Constable Sir Hugh Orde.
“It is of grave concern that there appears to have been a
practice of destroying material that could have been of
forensic value,” he said.
“The SDLP will be asking the chief constable and Historical
Enquiries Team to confirm if they are aware of the number
of murders where materials have been destroyed and the
impact this has had on the investigations of these crimes.
“We will be also seeking confirmation, following the
fundamental overhaul of murder investigations [ordered in
2002]... that procedures and practices now exist to ensure
that valuable material cannot be lost or destroyed and is
kept... in a fit state for future forensic use.”
Clara Reilly of human rights group, Relatives for Justice
said: “Forensic evidence has been cited as the first and
foremost reason for the HET project – advances in forensic
science has led officers to believe cases may now be
“Victims of the conflict... have the right to know where
this evidence is, the extent of it, and its current state
of integrity. We are asking Mr Orde to make a statement on
this affair immediately.”
Village Set To Undergo A 'Mural Regeneration'
By Michael McHugh
09 May 2006
Loyalist murals are to be replaced by paintings of heroes
such as George Best.
The move to community-style street painting in the Village
area of Belfast will cover up a number of old paramilitary-
The Village was known for its murals of loyalist gunmen and
the move to cultural symbols has been hailed as a move to
regenerate the area.
Brian Reains from the Village Focus Group said the first of
the new murals was almost complete.
"At the minute we are replacing some of the UVF memorials
and we are putting new ones up in their place," he said.
"It will be people like George Best who will be pictured in
these. Belfast City Council have paid artists to come and
do these murals. We will be replacing three UVF murals and
around three or four UDA ones."
One example which Village artists hope to emulate involves
a caricature of David Healey's winning goal for Northern
Ireland against England last year. The mural was unveiled
on the Albert Bridge Road in east Belfast earlier this
Village councillors have greeted the move as a boost for
"Certainly I would welcome this, I am extremely pleased
that this has taken off in the Village," the DUP's Ruth
"Anything that enhances the area in this way has to be
welcomed with open arms and these community murals have
certainly gone a long way to making these areas look
better. It will welcome people into the area rather than
send out a negative message about the paramilitary
Loyalist paramilitaries have also begun a 'changing walls'
makeover operation in Mid-Ulster to remove images
Last March, murals honouring the LVF were obliterated in
parts of Portadown and Lurgan.
UVF tributes have also gone in an operation agreed by both
Opin: Summer fear factor must be disarmed
09 May 2006
Summer has barely begun, but already there are signs that
the temperature is rising across Northern Ireland, bringing
tragic consequences for some. A vicious attack on a 15-
year-old boy in Ballymena, resulting in life-threatening
injuries, is the kind of sectarian incident that is the
worst nightmare of every family.
One town now knows what can happen, when two youthful
communities regard each other as enemies, and everyone must
learn the lesson. Countless lives will forever be blighted
by a moment's madness, motivated by feelings that belong in
the dark ages, not the 21st century.
The victim was in a group that was confronted by a rival
gang and he was cornered for a savage beating. If a weapon
like a baseball bat was used, those taking part must have
known that someone could be killed. It is as serious as
that, for everyone involved.
Sectarian tensions have been high in Ballymena since a
spate of arson attacks last year, despite valiant attempts
to promote better community relations. The dreadful legacy
of the long-running siege of the Church of Our Lady at
Harryville lives on, though agreement has recently been
reached to paint out red, white and blue kerbstones and
Young people with too much time on their hands will look
for any form of excitement, so positive efforts must be
made to distract them. Every community should be asking
itself whether it has enough sporting or recreational
outlets, whether the laws on alcohol and drugs are being
applied and - most important - whether parents are
providing a good example, in the home, of how to live in
peace with people of a different religion or nationality.
Soon the bands will be out on the streets again, creating
fun for some but fear for others. As the build-up to the
Twelfth celebrations begins, and communities go their
separate ways, there is a special duty on everyone to
realise the evil that can be unleashed if young people set
out for mischief.
There is another reason why the summer of 2006 could be a
dangerous one for all concerned, unless police, community
leaders and politicians are on their guard. In a week's
time, all eyes will be on Stormont, where the long and
difficult job of restoring devolution, under a DUP-Sinn
Fein-led executive, will begin.
Hard words will be spoken and differences of opinion
exposed, but the politicians on both sides know there is no
alternative to power-sharing, if they are to re-establish
democracy in place of direct rule. They can set an example,
for their separate communities, that should make the
streets safer for everyone.
Opin: Paying The Price Of Bitter Intolerance
Editor: Colin O’Carroll
Yesterday’s unequivocal condemndation by Dr Ian Paisley of
the brutal sectarian attack in Ballymena which has left a
young Catholic fighting for his life is to be welcomed.
The swift move by the DUP leader to distance himself from
the loyalist gang behind the attack in the heart of his
constituency underlines the conviction of decent people
that there can be no quarter given those who wish to murder
their neighbours simply because they are of a different
In recent months, there has been an urgent debate over
racist attacks in Germany, where an Ethiopian-born German
citizen was nearly beaten to death, and in Russia where
fascists have been blamed for nine murders last month
alone. Sadly, the same urgency doesn’t appear to apply to
the continuing blight of sectarian attacks in the
heartlands of loyalism.
There have, for examples, been no statements in the British
House of Commons, in the wake of this latest attack, by the
politicians ostensibly responsible for the benighted six-
county statelet. Nor has there been any rush to convene a
special debate in the Dáil.
More’s the pity because any debate would look at cause and
effect. When the most horrific attacks are being carried
out by supporters of the extreme unionism as represented by
the DUP, that party, more than any other, must examine its
No one is suggesting for a moment that the Rev Paisley is
anything but resolutely opposed to sectarian attacks but
does his oft-stated belief that the Pope is the
“antichrist” not give succour to the hate-mongers within
his own constituency — no matter how often the DUP leader
insists he holds no animus towards ordinary Catholics? The
best way to draw the pus from the sectarian sores which
scar cities and towns in the North is for the DUP to bring
to a close its four-decade policy of refusing to sit down
and break bread with republicans.
Unfortunately, such a rapprochement seems a long way off.
At the weekend, DUP MP Nigel Dodds responded in the most
offensive terms to the dignified, private service which was
held in the H-block hospital to mark the 25th anniversary
of the death of Bobby Sands. The quiet ceremony at what
nationalists view as their “Wounded Knee” was blasted as “a
jamboree” by the MP for North Belfast. It appears that the
DUP isn’t just incapable of making peace with the living,
it can’t make peace with the dead either.
In face of such intransigence, nationalists should look
anew at their support for the unionist plan to place a
sports stadium on the former H-block site. If the DUP is to
mock and denigrate the H-block hospital — earmarked for a
peace and reconciliation centre — then nationalists should
scupper the (economically unsustainable) plan to put a
multi-sports complex, which will be of enormous benefit to
unionist Lisburn, on the site. In that way, unionists would
understand that there’s a price to be paid to intolerance.
Opin: Hasten The Day When Councils Are Replaced
The Thursday Column
By Jim Gibney
Last month unionist and Alliance Party councillors on
Belfast City Council combined to block a proposal from Sinn
Fein to install a window in the city hall in tribute to
James Connolly, one of the leaders of the 1916 Rising.
The SDLP supported Sinn Fein.
In the normal cut and thrust of local politics the outcome
of such a vote would be regarded as democracy in action.
In the six counties there is no such thing as ‘normal’
politics or ‘democracy’.
This year is a special year for Belfast City Council. The
city hall is 100 years old. It opened in 1906 when Ireland
was still united under the Crown, when partition was being
merely hinted at.
To mark the centenary the council is organising a number of
events. A centre piece of their year is a show case
exhibition in the city hall.
To understand the attitude of unionists to the Connolly
window visit the exhibition.
It is professional, informative and eye-catching. It is
also imbalanced and records primarily the history of
unionism in Belfast.
Nationalists are practically written out of the city’s
In a timeline from 1613 to 2006 royalty features
prominently as does the Covenant signing, the Somme,
Carson’s funeral, the protest against the Anglo-Irish
Agreement among many other unionist events.
The 1916 Rising, the 1920 Belfast pogroms against Catholics
and the hanging of Tom Williams in 1942 are ignored.
The insert for 1981 is about the first woman mayor elected.
Important though this is, there is no reference to the
deaths on hunger strike that year of Joe Mc Donnell and
Kieran Doherty, citizens of Belfast.
Belfast City Hall is home to the city council. It is also a
shrine to unionism and unionists who have dominated the
political life of the city for most of the last century.
Throughout the city hall there are many items of historical
interest on permanent show. Few have a direct connection
with nationalism or nationalists.
The mayor’s chain bears the inscription Eirin go Bragh,
portraits hang of mayors Alban Mc Guinness, Alec Maskey,
Martin Morgan, a famine window features as does a bust of
Mary Anne McCracken, brother of Henry Joy, a leader of the
The unionist and Alliance councillors colluding together
ensure the union flag flies over the city hall every day of
In 1998 Sinn Fein Councillor Tom Hartley produced two
reports revealing the extent of discrimination in the city
hall against nationalist councillors, Catholics and women
Unionist and Alliance councillors then voted to ensure
unionists held 93 per cent of committee chairs and 87 per
cent of vice-chairs.
Despite the council signing a fair employment undertaking
Catholics and women were significantly under-represented in
A campaign by Sinn Fein led to the council introducing the
d’Hondt system of proportionality ending unionist control
of chairs and vice-chairs.
A similar story of unionist domination and exclusion exists
in many of the councils across the six counties. Lisburn
Council is by far the worst discriminator. The union flag
flies all year round.
A portrait of Queen Elizabeth II is on display in the
The Irish language is refused official recognition.
Last year when Down won the all-Ireland minor football
championship the council refused to send a letter of
congratulations to the team.
Of the 30 children’s play parks across the council area one
is in nationalist Twinbrook.
The council refuses to build a play park in nationalist
Poleglass, the most deprived area in the borough.
At the request of Sinn Fein Councillor Paul Butler the
Equality Commission is investigating the council’s decision
to fly the union flag.
Unionists ban Sinn Fein councillors from official positions
on Ballymoney, Ballymena, Newtownabbey, Lisburn and
Ballymoney Council uses ratepayer’s money to fund Orange
The SDLP and Sinn Fein councillors are also banned by
Craigavon Council from the Southern Education and Library
It is a battle a day for nationalist councillors on
Speed the day when these councils will be replaced with the
proposed larger councils and councillor’s decisions
regulated by binding equality legislation.
Maybe then James Connolly will find his rightful place
inside Belfast’s city hall.
Opin: Take Your Stormont Seats Now Or The Wallet Gets It
By Newton Emerson
Peter Hain strenuously denies involvement in a cash-for-
peerages scandal currently rocking his Welsh dominion.
But that hasn’t stopped him flaunting a money-for-assembly-
seats policy here in Northern Ireland.
The secretary of state and his ministerial team are
offering politicians a blunt choice – take your seats in
Stormont or we’ll hit your voters in the wallet.
It is always refreshing to see old socialists come around
to the market mechanism but if this strategy works, then
The new assembly envisaged by both governments – and
anticipated by both main parties in the 2004 Comprehensive
Agreement – will have no power over our wallets whatsoever.
It will have some say in setting the regional rate,
although in practice this is largely determined by NIO
spending beyond its control.
But that is about as far as it goes. The assembly will have
no ability to vary income tax, unlike its Scottish
It will not be allowed to reduce corporation tax to emulate
the Republic. It will have no say at all over VAT or
Nor will it have any impact on the 25 per cent of the
population receiving benefits because it will have no role
in determining social security policy, even within a pre-
determined budget. What is most curious about this strange
state of affairs is that none of the parties seem remotely
bothered by it.
They didn’t request income tax varying powers during the
last Stormont assembly, although the Welsh assembly talks
of little else. They bang on and on about matters of
welfare, poverty and unemployment but never request the
powers to do anything about them.
It is not as if devolution doesn’t offer clear potential
with plentiful examples.
Allowing states to set welfare policy within federal
budgets has been hailed as the greatest success of Bill
Clinton’s presidency. Cross-border disparities in duty and
tax raise concerns for all our parties.
There is almost universal agreement that Northern Ireland
is over-subsidised to its own competitive disadvantage.
So why is there not even a murmur of agreement on demanding
fiscal powers – especially when a desperate British
government would probably hand them over?
The answer can only be that real power over real issues
might lead to an outbreak of real politics.
It is a mistake to think that any peace process protagonist
wants this to happen, because that would be the end of
their charmed existence – and that includes the NIO
mandarins currently steering us towards sectarian
If they could hit us in the wallet, DUP and Sinn Fein
policies might actually cause voters to cross tribal lines.
There are dramatic differences between the economic
philosophies of our two largest parties. In councils under
its control, the DUP makes a great virtue out of reducing
domestic rates and makes no apology for cutting services as
In the last Irish general election Sinn Fein advocated
raising income and corporation tax purely to redistribute
wealth (apart from its own, obviously) even though Dublin
runs a consistent budget surplus and literally cannot spend
its existing revenue fast enough.
However, the DUP will have far less control of the new
super-councils and Sinn Fein is generations way from
getting its hands on the Irish exchequer.
Stormont is their only real hope of enacting real policies
– and they won’t take it. Instead they have spent two years
arguing over the devolution of policing and justice – and
are now toying with the idea of splitting this portfolio up
between a unionist and a nationalist minister.
The implication of this behaviour is depressingly obvious.
Both parties want an assembly where ‘constitutional’
posturing reigns supreme, allowing them to concentrate on
wiping out their moderate rivals.
Then every election can become a straight choice between
those two metaphorical flag-bearing donkeys, because the
flag will be the only difference between them.
Equally transfixed on tribalism, the NIO is happy enough to
play along. As a result, Stormont will be doomed to
irrelevance even if it is ever resurrected.
Nationalist parties say they want no part of a ‘talking
shop’ assembly – but without power over our wallets, what
else can the assembly ever be?
As Peter Hain and his team of old socialists reflect on the
market mechanism, they might also care to notice that the
only revolution in history to have ever truly succeeded –
the American revolution – marched under the banner of ‘No
taxation without representation’.
If a political revolution is to come to Northern Ireland,
the reverse must also apply.
Opin: Border Fuels The Good Life
By Gail Walker
09 May 2006
At the end of a lengthy piece of reportage for the Mail on
Sunday colour supplement on whether South Armagh can ever
lay the Troubles to rest - to coincide with a Sky programme
he's presenting on the British Army - Colonel Tim Collins
(right) reaches a bleak conclusion.
For the Provos in Bandit Country "violence and mayhem are a
way of life. That energy cannot be dissipated in farming or
cultural activities. It is too nurtured, too ingrained.
"With the tacit approval of the governments in London and
Dublin, it is now channelled into crime."
Mr Collins goes on to quote a conversation a republican
acquaintance had with one of the local boyos, who had
declared: "You boys in Tyrone and Adams may have accepted
partition. We have not."
Fighting talk, eh?
Except, of course, they're all living off the border's very
existence and doing very nicely, thank you.
Now, anyone for a tanker of red diesel?
Opin: Time Will Judge Success Of IRA’s Search For Power
Were the hunger strikers martyrs, madmen or mere political
pawns? Twenty five years after the death of Bobby Sands may
not be sufficient time to fully consider the significance
of their actions but it does create sufficient space to
allow a more dispassionate analysis of one of the most
significant chapters in modern Irish history.
Despite recent disparaging remarks by some unionist
politicians and the insults heaped upon them at the time by
Mrs Thatcher, they were certainly not madmen. They saw
themselves as soldiers in a just war and they were prepared
to die for their beliefs. Their decision to die a slow and
agonising death conferred upon them a nobility which most
soldiers, friend and foe alike, would regard with dignity
Indeed there is a strong argument for regarding them as
martyrs – men who died for a principle. But how valid was
their principled belief that, because their struggle was
political, they deserved to be treated as political
Broadly speaking, their claim had substance. But since
Bobby Sands, for example, was imprisoned for blowing up a
furniture store, the inevitable question is – how political
is furniture? Such actions may not have been inspired by
criminal intent but can they really be classed as
In reality the Provisional IRA campaign consisted of acts
of violence, some of which might be deemed political
(launching mortars at Downing Street), some apolitical
(bombing furniture stores) and others downright dumb
(blowing up cross-border bridges to achieve Irish unity).
And then there were those which might reasonably be
regarded as criminal. Bloody Friday and the La Mon House
bombing, for example, may have been political in intent but
they were criminal in outcome. Although they were on a
different scale, were these events significantly different
in context from the British bombing of Dresden during the
Second World War?
The argument centres on whether, in a campaign of political
violence, all acts in pursuit of that campaign can be
legitimately regarded as political. There is merit in the
republican argument that their members were political
prisoners. But unlike previous IRA campaigns, the PIRA’s
concept of an ‘economic war’ meant attacking civilian
targets on a widespread basis for the first time. Civilian
casualties were inevitable.
Hence there is also merit in the view that many republican
activities – not necessarily those of the hunger strikers –
stretched the concept of political activity to breaking
point. Thus the martyrdom of the hunger strikers may have
rested on a less than solid principle – but that does not
take away from their courage and self-sacrifice.
There is no doubt that, in one sense, they were political
pawns. Having opened up a new front in the war against the
British they were, however, willing pawns. But questions
have recently been raised as to whether they were unwitting
pawns in the sense that the republican leadership actually
prolonged the hunger strikes for electoral gain.
The only people who know the truth are those who were
there. If it is the case – and there are conflicting
stories – then the hunger strikers did not die for
political status for IRA prisoners, they died for
politician status for the IRA leaders.
Such status was not necessarily wrong to die for – it is
what the leadership subsequently did with it which is
significant. Surprisingly, they used the biggest level of
support for republicanism since 1919 to lead their members
into Stormont. Out went the theory of the socialist
republic. In came green papers on Irish unity.
Like The Apprentice on television, those who could not keep
up with the pace of events were fired.
The hunger strikers were not unique in failing to have
their deaths achieve a united Ireland – no-one who has died
for Ireland has yet had their political ideals achieved.
(Indeed the best you can hope for in dying for Ireland is a
nice ballad in your memory.)
But the hunger strikers were different in one way. The
political application of their deaths has been to push a
united Ireland further away in the form of the Good Friday
The electoral impact of their deaths appears to mark the
point at which the PIRA reconsidered its armed struggle for
a united Ireland and opted instead to seek political power
within Northern Ireland. That may not have been what the
hunger strikers died for but that is what their deaths
It may take another 25 years to judge how successful that
search for power in Stormont turns out to be.
• James Kelly is away
Opin: Blanketmen Were Neither Christ-Like Or In Nazi Camp
By Susan McKay
At one of the many events organised to commemorate the 25th
anniversary of the 1981 Hunger Strike a prominent
republican who was imprisoned in Long Kesh at that time
said that it was just like Auschwitz – except there were no
Bobby Sands, the first of the hunger strikers to die,
compared himself with Christ, quoting the Bible – “no
greater love has any man than a man would lay down his life
for his friends” – to explain his decision to die to show
he was a prisoner of war and not a criminal.
There is no doubt that the regime in HMP Maze was brutal
and inhumane and that there were good arguments for
political status to be restored.
The prisoners who undertook the ‘no wash’ protest and then
the hunger strikes showed extraordinary dedication and
selflessness in pursuit of their cause. They suffered
appaling privations and 10 of them died horrible deaths.
But the comparison with the Nazi concentration camps is
wrong and offensive and the comparison with Christ is
questionable. The men, women and children who were
brutalised and killed in their millions by Hitler were
selected for this fate simply because, in most cases, they
Not because they murdered a young mother who was a census
collector or because they fire-bombed a hotel, incinerating
12 people at a dinner dance. The victims of these and many
other IRA attacks during this bloody phase of the Troubles
were innocent people doing ordinary things.
The IRA saw them as ‘legitimate targets’. Some of those
involved in the prison protests were convicted of their
You wouldn’t guess this from reading the accounts by ex-
prisoners of life in Long Kesh during this time nor from
books about Bobby Sands. These accounts seem almost
oblivious to the suffering the prisoners had caused as IRA
There is no indication that there was any serious
questioning of the tactics used in the armed struggle, no
sign of remorse for operations which left civilians dead or
One author notes that a prominent prisoner was considered
unsuitable for the hunger strike for propaganda reasons as
he had bombed a pub in a Protestant area but that is about
it. There isn’t even recognition that one of the reasons
many prison officers or ‘screws’ hated the prisoners with
such a cruel passion was because the IRA was murdering
their colleagues and intimidating their families.
No, it is all about the victimhood of the prisoners. They
are revered as martyrs. They sacrificed themselves. They
are heroes. The hunger strikers are like Pearse and
Connolly and the others who were executed in 1916, another
generation of our patriot dead. These were noble men, loyal
comrades. Wall murals emphasise the way the blanketmen
looked like Jesus and some show the hunger strikers being
To his credit, at one commemorative event at the weekend,
Martin McGuinness acknowledged that republicans had not
been the only ones to suffer.
He said he was thinking about all who died in the Troubles.
Gerry Adams referred to the 50 others who died during the
summer of 1981 – but he still kept the focus on deaths
which were the responsibility of the British, singling out
the three children killed by plastic bullets.
The republican movement has every right to reassert the
legitimacy of the struggle by its prisoners for political
status and to commemorate its dead and honour them. The DUP
used ugly and demeaning language when it described these
ceremonial events as a ‘jamboree’, just as in 1981, ‘We’ll
never forget you Jimmy Sands’, was painted on walls in
The hunger strikers didn’t commit suicide. Their deaths
made them victims of the Troubles, as those the IRA killed
The IRA’s 1987 massacre at the Cenotaph in Enniskillen was
particularly deplored because those murdered were civilians
engaged in a ceremony of commemoration.
Rejecting the DUP’s rage about the Hunger Strike
commemorations, Sinn Fein’s Michelle Gildernew pointed out
that when he was Lord Mayor of Belfast Alex Maskey laid a
wreath at the Cenotaph at City Hall. Yes, he did, and it
was one of the most important gestures made in the north in
But the 10 men who died in the H-blocks were not there just
because they were Catholics or because they had preached a
gospel of peace, love and understanding. Republicans should
acknowledge the terrible damage done by the recklessness of
the IRA’s campaign at that time while it remembers the
bravery of those who chose to die for Ireland.
Opin: A Little Ask Of Those Who Have Endured The Most
In the 25th anniversary of Hunger Strikes we have been
treated to a lot of fluffy, green tinted revisionism. I
remember in 1981, when as a pupil in lower sixth in Newry,
being emotionally supportive of the Hunger Strikes. Yet
even back then I could not see the reason for allowing nine
others to die following the death of their leader Bobby
Sands. I recall too the word coming through that one of the
families in south Armagh had decided to take the their son
off the Hunger Strike and the feeling of relief that at
least one family would be spared their son becoming a mere
statistic or notch on the belt of British securocrats.
That the hungers strikers were brave there is no doubt
because as Terence MacSwiney wrote: "victory is not won by
those who can inflict the most, but by those who can endure
the most." While the Hunger Strike actually failed as a
tactic, the hunger strikers' endurance ensured a lasting
change in Irish politics.
However in 1981, 107 other people died along with the 10
hunger strikers and like many of the latter their names are
not tripping of the tongues of the public. As usual the
majority of those killed that year were civilians and 74 of
those killed were murdered by republicans. They did not ask
to or chose to die, so where are their monuments or
The Hunger Strike is credited as being a turning point in
the futile republican policy of abstentionism. There is no
doubt that from that point onwards the ballot box was as an
important part of the Provisional armoury as the armalite.
Whether the deaths of the other nine were orchestrated by
Sinn Féin for political purposes as claimed by some
republicans such as Richard O' Rawe or as denied by others
like, Jim Gibney, will probably never be known; what is
known is that the British government had conceded to most
of their demands but by that time it was too late to make
any difference to the mindsets of those involved inside or
outside of the Maze. There is nothing in the known writings
of Sands or the other hunger strikers which would suggest
that had they known the end objective of their sacrifice
and the armed struggle would have been a power sharing
executive at Stormont with the DUP and the oversight of six
cross-border bodies that they would have been satisfied.
But we will never know because their political comrades,
who are older, wiser and more mature than they were in
1981, now do the interpreting for the 10 dead men. For the
families of the hunger strikers, I truly hope it is enough.
Despite the attempts by political provisionals to
immortalise the hunger strikers with plaques, murals and
speeches, one cannot help but feel that some in Sinn Féin
experience cold sweats when they dare to speak of 1981 as
perhaps they can sense their heroes squirming in their
graves as struggle clearly runs out of steam on the steps
of Stormont in 2006.
But 1981 was not just a turning point for the provisional
Sinn Féin movement, it was also the year that the DUP
became the largest party in local government in Northern
Ireland. What may have appeared then as a slow political
boiler has emerged as a political bunny boiler as the DUP
become the largest party in the north. Yet such has been
the tragedy of Northern Ireland where our successes are fed
off the fears and suspicions of the 'other' side.
Now in 2006 the two monolithic ideologies of nationalism
and unionism, represented as they are by their most
hardline proponents are coming face to face again, both as
irreconcilable as they were in 1981, only now there is
nowhere else to go. Back in 1981 things looked very bleak
and the only people who were really hurting were the
ordinary man and woman in the street with unemployment and
interest rates in double digits and the smell of sulphur on
In 2006, economically things look somewhat brighter with
low unemployment and a relatively high standard of living
but most of all we are all safer and more secure.
Our wish list from 1981 to live free from fear and at peace
has been largely granted.
We now want to be governed by all in the interests of all;
is that too much to ask from those who have endured the
Opin: Blame Game Ends By Admitting Mistakes
The Monday Column
By Roy Garland
So the DUP’s Jeffrey Donaldson has protested at this
paper’s “collusion” allegations claiming they were “just
wild claims that are not based on anything factual”.
His own experience has led him to conclude they were “utter
nonsense”. The UUP’s Michael Copeland joined the chorus
dismissing revelations as “sensationalist newspaper
allegations”. Adding: “The failures, if any, lie at the
door of British military intelligence.”
If this is the best unionist politicians can offer we are
indeed in a sorry plight. The allegations were low key and
to suggest they were “nonsense” is disingenuous.
It is surely time to acknowledge the truth that stares us
in the face and to stand up like men and women to be
counted. Unionists have an honourable tradition but one
that cannot be nourished by burying heads in sand when
confronted with every challenge.
During the 1960s and 1970s unionists believed they were
facing serious threats to their existence and so
paramilitary groupings were formed with a wink and nod from
certain politicians as they prepared for the expected
The decades following were characterised by violence and
death but eventually loyalists wised up to the strident
calls and determined that no longer would their blood – or
the blood of others – be shed in a self-perpetuating cycle
going nowhere. It was loyalists who called on politicians
to make peace and it was the politicians who failed. But
under David Trimble we almost succeeded – with loyalists in
Old shibboleths were resurrected and the age-old story of
sell-out was again heard across the land.
The will of the people waned and many turned again to
ancestral voices and broken reeds.
Many politicians lacked the moral courage and commonsense
to make peace after having fed their people on
misinformation including the myth of the easy solution.
Republicans have made unionists look stupid by
decommissioning and moving towards the final policing
We now approach another crisis due to the timidity and
myopia of many political representatives on both sides. UUP
leader Reg Empey some months ago said Unionists stood “for
inclusivity, tolerance and respect for all creeds, colour
and religions”. He quoted James Craig saying: “We are
prepared to work for the betterment of the people of
Ireland, not to quarrel, not to continue political strife”
and Edward Carson who urged: “A tolerance, a fairness and a
justice towards all classes and to all religions of the
Mr Empey also courageously acknowledged that young men had
been “encouraged to ‘fight’ for their country and take on
the IRA” and that “impressionable young men and women took
up the cudgels”. He didn’t say it but before they took up
the ‘cudgels’ they had to find them and they didn’t come up
the Lagan in a bubble. The UUP leader also regretted that
many are now dead, “others had their lives destroyed and in
turn destroyed the lives of many innocent victims”.
Crucially he acknowledged that, “political Unionism cannot
wash its hands of what happened 20 or 30 years ago”, and
that it now stands ready to “assist (the) transition to a
This kind of honesty was refreshing and much better than
persistently denying the obvious.
Naturally we fear the potential injustice of having to
carry the can for everyone but we must start the ball
rolling again by honestly admitting our part in what was a
horrendous tragedy. The victims are not confined to one or
other community nor are they found only in victims’ groups.
Some suffered more than others did and some are more
innocent than others are but as a community we have all
contributed to the suffering.
Twelve years ago loyalists offered “abject and true
remorse” and we must now show similar courage by accepting
our responsibilities. Those who still proclaim clean hands
are modern day Pharisees whose hypocrisy feeds
intransigence and discourages the faint hearted who fear to
acknowledge their past lest they be held solely to blame.
This maybe explains why republicans were slow to apologise
and decommission but greater risks could face future
generations if we collectively fail to deal with the mess
we helped to create.
Opin: There’s A Sinister Hush Over Collusion Evidence
There’s been a discovery of new evidence into collusion
between security forces and loyalist paramilitaries in the
North revealed over the past week.
The Pat Finucane Centre discovered documents at the Public
Records Office in London earlier this year while carrying
out joint research with Justice for the Forgotten, an
organisation which represents families of those killed in a
number of loyalist attacks in the Republic including the
Dublin and Monaghan bombings of 1974 and the Dublin bombing
During several days at the Public Records Office in January
this year the PFC uncovered a secret official intelligence
briefing titled ‘Subversion in the UDR’ and other
significant memos and papers.
The ‘Subversion’ report was prepared for the Joint
Intelligence Committee, the most senior committee of its
kind at Westminster, and came to a number of startling
conclusions about collusion in the UDR in the early ‘70s.
These include the estimate that up to 15 per cent of
members were loyalist paramilitaries and that the UDR was
the single largest source of stolen weaponry for loyalist
I expected a massive outcry in Dáil Eireann with
politicians calling the British government to account. I
also expected that our state broadcaster, RTE, would have
this as the top story of the day with extensive coverage
devoted to the issue on all our national stations.
Astonishingly this story, one of the biggest scandals to
hit these islands in recent years, confirming that the
British government was aware of large-scale collusion
between security forces and loyalist paramilitaries from as
early as 1973, did not even merit a mention on our main
radio or TV stations.
Furthermore, the silence from the government and main
political parties in Dáil Eireann was deafening.
How could this story, showing that Downing Street knew that
significant numbers of soldiers were linked to loyalist
paramilitaries as far back as 1972, be ignored?
Had for example a newspaper carried a story saying that
Sinn Féin were suspected of being involved in a bank
robbery or some other illegal activity one could guarantee
that people like justice minister Michael McDowell and
others would have been shouting from the rooftops.
Now here is a situation where clear and meticulously
documented evidence has been exposed on how those at the
very highest levels of power within the British
establishment were aware of collusion between security
forces and loyalist paramilitaries from a very early stage
in the Troubles and nearly a year before our capital city
was ripped apart by bombers, believed to be loyalist
paramilitaries, and no one says a word.
Michael McDowell when speaking at an Oireachtas hearing in
2004 said he believed there may have been collusion between
security forces in the North and the loyalists involved in
the Dublin and Monaghan bombings. So why is Mr. McDowell so
quiet now that he has been made aware of evidence backing
up his suspicions, after all he is very quick to attack and
practically destroy the lives of some people, such as Frank
Connolly, on little or no evidence.
For many these revelations come as no surprise, even the
fact that those at the very highest level of power in
London knew about it is something many have suspected for
The collusion file contains a detailed report on
‘Subversion in the UDR” including estimates that five to 15
per cent of Ulster Defence Regiment soldiers were linked to
loyalist groups, while intelligence documents show more
than 200 British army weapons were passed to loyalists,
stating that “the best source of weapons and only
significant source of modern weapons, for Protestant
extremist groups was the UDR”.
This is the first time evidence has come to light that
shows, not only the scale of collusion, but also that the
British government was aware of it at such an early stage.
Astonishingly, instead of doing something about it the
British government went on to increase the regiment’s role
and presence in many nationalist areas where tensions were
already very high.
Proof that these documents were forwarded to Downing Street
is abundantly clear with the inclusion of minutes of a
Whitehall meeting where Margaret Thatcher was briefed on
how security forces in Northern Ireland were “heavily
These minutes are from a meeting when the prime minister of
the time, Harold Wilson, and his secretary of state, Merlyn
Rees, briefed Margaret Thatcher as leader of the
A crucial section of the minutes, marked ‘confidential’,
reads: “The secretary of state said that he was more
worried by the current sectarian murders than by the
bombings in Belfast.”
This scandal shows how hypocrisy and disrespect for the
rule of law lies at the very heart of the British
establishment, with successive prime ministers not only
turning a blind eye to terrorist activists within the ranks
of their security forces but actually giving these state
terrorists even more power and opportunity to murder. So
much for claims by successive British prime ministers that
“we don’t do business with terrorists”- on the contrary
they not only did business with them but they actually
helped and facilitated them at British taxpayer’s expense
to commit crimes and take the lives of innocent people.
This matter is so serious that it merits not only the
attention of our own government but also the attention of
the international community. The British government should
be taken to the International court for its role in the
facilitation of war crimes.
The fact that state agents, paid for by the people to
protect the people, were allowed to collude with loyalist
to facilitate murder and attempted murder is outrageous.
Alan Brecknell, a researcher for the Pat Finucane Centre,
lost his father in a gun and bomb attack a bar in Co Armagh
Members of the UDR and RUC assisted loyalist paramilitaries
in this and many other attacks.
Commenting on the revelations Alan said, the importance of
these documents cannot be exaggerated.
Imagine for instance if it emerged that the US federal
government, including the President, were aware that the
National Guard was heavily infiltrated by the KKK, that up
to 15 per cent of guardsmen were also Klansmen and that the
National Guard was the single largest source of weapons for
the Klan and yet despite this the National Guard was put on
frontline duty in black communities during unrest.
This is what successive British prime ministers did. In
fact the role of this regiment was expanded.
State collusion with loyalist paramilitaries is a trend
that emulates campaigns by secret service campaigns in
other parts of the world, like Chile, Colombia, and even
the former apartheid South Africa.
In 1994 Amnesty International’s Head of Campaigns, Dan
Jones, addressed a conference at Conway Mill entitled
States under Threat – Collusion and Infiltration.
He said: “Most follow the South African model of counter
subversion – Get someone else to do your fighting”.
He said that in Guatemala, Amnesty had found evidence that
the secret service was arming the local village militia and
then passing on information about potential targets.
If something had been done at the start many lives could
have been saved including the victims of the Dublin and
Monaghan bombings of 1974 as well as the lives of
courageous solicitors like Pat Finucane and Rosemary
Ironic that this information has come to light as a result
of the efforts of the Pat Finucane Centre established in
memory of someone who died as a consequence of this
Why has the exposure of this outrageous scandal merited so
little attention and why is it being ignored by so many.
Our national media consider items such as the birth of
actor Tom Cruise’s baby worthy of primetime news space but
almost ignores a real national public security issue
touching the lives of so many Irish people. Our politicians
and government ministers who are constitutionally obliged
to protect our interests and our wellbeing seem to turn a
blind eye to the whole affair.
Opin: Protagonists Need To Put Houses In Order
The Tuesday Column
By Breidge Gadd
“Not bad for a wee lad from Onward Flute Band in Belfast
who used to march to Finaghy on the Twelfth” – the words of
Sir James Galway as he prepared to play for the Pope last
These words were the only beacon of light in an otherwise
deeply depressing week for Protestants. Even then, I
suppose there are still some who even today believe that
Sir James is betraying his heritage by setting foot in the
Vatican. Reverend Brian Kennaway’s recently launched book
certainly confirms a picture of modern bigotry and
begrudgery still rampant in Loyal Orders members.
Most damning by a long chalk has been this paper’s exposure
of the government knowledge, since the 1970s, at the
highest level, of collusion between security forces and
loyalist paramilitary organisations in the targeting and
murder of Catholics.
Those of us who lived through that period believed that
nothing would shock us but I was shocked last week by The
Irish News’ revelations. Although over the years there were
angry accusations from republican areas of systematic
collusion, law abiding Catholics dismissed the claims as
exaggerated. Few indeed would have given any credence to
the seemingly wild accusations that government ministers
and unionist politicians knew and condoned what was going
Well we were wrong: they did and they did nothing to stop
And what is most shocking of all, as Susan MacKay pointed
out in her article last week, is the deafening silence of
unionist politicians to these revelations. We wait to hear
the voice of the Protestant Churches on these matters.
In fact, while this archived material was being exposed in
this paper, bizarrely other media generally ignored it and
focused on analysing the impact of the hunger strike on the
civil conflict here and its contribution to the
continuation of violence. As usual we had the predictable
statements from a range of Protestants/unionists about
their surprise, indeed outrage that otherwise decent
Catholics supported the hunger strikers.
Talk about ignoring the elephant in the room.
If last week’s revelations taught us anything it was that
there were people from all sides in Northern Ireland with
blood on their hands. There were many, including British
government ministers, who proclaimed outrage at IRA
terrorism who also knew but said nothing about the
terrorist infiltration of HM forces for terrorists’ own
In fact, last week should also have taught us that there is
little room for self-righteous rants about who was to blame
for the deaths during 30 years of conflict. It was a dirty
nasty war from which none of the combatants emerges with
Given what we now know as fact, the old adage that those in
glasshouses should not throw stones must become the new
While there is a long way to go, I do believe that
republicans have started a painful process that will define
a future that genuinely includes those for and those
against the union with Britain.
I struggle to find the same sense of purpose in unionism.
Historical papers, Brian Kennaway’s book, the continuation
of intimidation of Catholics from their homes, still one-
off murders by loyalists, the supposed majority of
unionists now against the good Friday Agreement – all point
to a people resisting, (and some still being prepared to
use violence) the idea of sharing Northern Ireland with
their fellow republicans and nationalists. Last week’s
evidence in this paper showed that it was not only the IRA
who used terrorist tactics. It is time to put an end to the
fallacy that everyone else involved were passive victims.
If we have learned anything it is that all the
protagonists, not just the IRA, need to devote energy and
ingenuity to put their own house in order and to stop
blaming others for their woes.
Surely the time has come for Protestant leaders to be brave
and honest enough to acknowledge the wrongs their people
They must work to raise the game of the young Protestant
working class men who see the pinnacle of their ambition as
walking down Garvaghy Road. Their role model should be the
epic one of Jimmy Galway walking into and welcomed by the
Opin: Hub-Bub Over Illegals Is Reaching Crescendo
By Staff Reporter
The Statue of Liberty looks to the east and the morning
So does the front of the Empire State Building. Both are
enduring symbols of America’s faith in certain beliefs, not
least the catch-all principle called ‘freedom’.
Roughly between the two – the statue being in New York
harbour, the Empire State in mid-town Manhattan – a new
edifice is about to rise from the grave of the World Trade
It will be called the ‘Freedom Tower’ and measure a precise
1,776 feet from base to top of its spire.
After a lot of political, architectural and emotional
argument, work finally began on the Freedom Tower late last
But it was the old stager, the Empire State, that grabbed
the biggest headlines and this was not entirely due to the
fact that King Kong’s version of a swing set celebrated 75
years of soaring into the blue on Monday.
On the day the first trucks began rolling into the Freedom
Tower site – that being Thursday of last week – a man tried
to parachute off the top of the Empire State.
He was nabbed at the last second by security officers and
cops as he was about to leap from the 86th floor
observation deck, the spot where sleepy Tom Hanks finally
met a wide-awake Meg Ryan.
The Freedom Tower will, it seems, have a hard time
competing with this old warhorse, one that has survived
Hollywood’s depredations and real life calamities such as
the day in 1945 when a B-25 bomber crashed into the 79th
floor in dense fog, killing 14 people.
Coincidentally, this toll matched the number of
construction workers who died in the building of the
But back to the directional twist to this tale.
The Empire State Building’s frontage faces east simply
because it’s on the west side of Fifth Avenue.
Lady Liberty, who marks 120 years of holding up her lamp in
October, gazes east because that’s where the immigrants
were coming from when she was planted on her island back in
She is not necessarily immovable.
The technology could be brought to bear in order to turn
Liberty in another direction, say south, where the vast
majority of America’s immigrants come from today.
That’s not going to happen of course; this for reasons
beyond the mere technical.
The hopeful faces that stared up at the great lady from the
decks of early steamships were heading for official
immigration checkpoints – for the first few years at the
lower tip of Manhattan and, from 1894 onwards, on Ellis
Island which is just a seagull’s swoop or two from Liberty
The huddled masses yearning to be free were mostly admitted
to an America that still had lots of room and needed people
to fill its vast empty spaces.
With a population of roughly 300 million souls the US is a
far less spacious place today and it would seem a less
welcoming one for the huddled – at least when they arrive –
masses from the south.
There is no Statue of Liberty down on the border with
Mexico. Many Americans, indeed, want to see a fence along
this troubled frontier.
But despite the decidedly mixed welcome, the immigrants
Last Monday, the unwelcome huddled masses decided to test
Lady Liberty’s staying power in what was called ‘A Day
‘Without’ was a little misleading. The new masses, indeed,
made themselves glaringly obvious.
They boycotted work, allowed their kids to skip school,
went to churches, held vigils, rallied, marched and formed
human chains in cities from coast to coast.
The vast majority of the illegal and undocumented come from
the south. They are the people in the corner of Lady
Liberty’s eye, tugging at the sleeve of her great cloak. If
the lady could speak it would be interesting to hear what
she might say.
Instead there is Congress, talk radio, the internet, the
print media, television and the street.
The hub-bub over illegal immigration, and what should or
should not be done about it, has reached a crescendo in all
of them this month of May.
Before the month is out the US Senate is expected to
grapple with immigration reform yet again.
So will it be deal or no deal?
If no, Lady Liberty will seem increasingly marginalised as
she stares east, away from the drama now being played out
to the south of her raised and perhaps dimming lamp.
Five Irish Beaches Fail To Meet Minimum EU Standards
09/05/2006 - 08:29:51
The number of Irish beaches that pose a risk to public
health increased last year, according to the Environmental
Protection Agency (EPA).
In its annual report on the quality of bathing waters, the
agency said five beaches failed to meet minimum EU
standards in 2005, up from three the previous year.
The beaches in question are Merrion Strand (Dublin), Sutton
Burrow Beach (Dublin), Na Forbacha (Galway), Clifden
(Galway) and Ardmore (Waterford).
A total of 131 bathing areas are included in the EPA
report, 126 of which comply with EU standards.
This is down from 128 in 2004.
In all five cases, faecal coliforms were detected which
indicates the presence of human or animal sewage.
12 other beaches, in seven local authorities, also failed
the more stringent EU guide standards.
However, the EPA maintains that most bathing water in
Ireland is of a high standard and that this is mainly down
to the ongoing upgrading of wastewater treatment
96% comply with EU mandatory standards while 91% comply
with more stringent EU guide standards.
Top of the class in the annual assessment of seawater and
freshwater bathing areas were Donegal, Dún-
Laoghaire/Rathdown, Galway city, Louth, Mayo, Westmeath and
Wexford. Designated bathing sites in these areas complied
with all standards.
Gerard O' Leary, programme manager, EPA said: "The bathing
water quality in some areas has declined in recent years
and now does not meet the minimum standards. This trend
needs to be addressed".
"However, significant improvement in water quality at some
popular beaches near urban areas is evident in recent years
due to the provision of wastewater treatment facilities in
key locations," said Mr O' Leary.
The EPA report also said that water areas in Galway (Silver
Strand and Salthill) had under gone an improvement in
bathing water quality since 2003.
The report said that a major contributory factor to this
improvement was the commissioning of a new wastewater
treatment facility at Mutton Island close to Salthill in
Ahern Has Third-Highest Salary Among EU Prime Ministers
09/05/2006 - 08:01:00
The Taoiseach, Bertie Ahern, is reportedly receiving one of
the highest salaries of all European leaders.
Reports this morning said Mr Ahern's annual salary of
€252,000 was the third-highest among the prime ministers of
all 25 EU countries.
The reports said Britain's Tony Blair and Germany's Angela
Merkel were the only EU leaders receiving larger pay
packets than the Taoiseach.
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