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August 12, 2006

Bomb Alerts Close Dublin Belfast Rail Line

News About Ireland & The Irish

BB 08/12/06 Bomb Alerts Close Railway Line
BB 08/12/06 Petrol Bombs Thrown At Officers In Bogside
IN 08/12/06 Bogside Group Will Not Protest Apprentice March
SF 08/12/06 Calls To Mobilise For 25th Anniversary Of Hunger Strikes
SF 08/12/06 Adams: Harney Refuses To Meet SF re: Suicide Prevention
BB 08/12/06 'Don't Dwell On Past' Urges Police Chief
IN 08/12/06 Ex-Detectives Fear Probe Has Put Them In Danger
IN 08/12/06 Retention Of Diplock Trials Is Questioned
IN 08/12/06 Opin: Close Watch On Court System
IN 08/12/06 Opin: History Holds Answer To Britain’s Love Of Mayhem

(Poster's Note: If I headed an organization with the past of the RUC/PSNI, I definitely wouldn't want to "dwell" on it. Jay)


Bomb Alerts Close Railway Line

The main Belfast to Dublin railway line remains closed between Newry and Dundalk due to security alerts.

The dissident republican Real IRA said on Friday it had left two devices on the line.

The group also claimed responsibility for the firebomb attacks on stores in Newry earlier this week.

Firebombs destroyed JJB Sports and CarpetRight stores in the town whilst a TK Maxx store and MFI outlet were among those badly damaged on Wednesday.

The attacks are estimated to have caused damage worth hundreds of thousands of pounds.

Newry's SDLP mayor Michael Carr said: "The Real IRA should examine their motives.

"Their cause is not a blow for Ireland, but a blow against their own communities."

Ulster Unionist assembly member Danny Kennedy urged the government to ensure that all resources are given to the PSNI to "enable them to tackle this threat and root out those responsible".

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2006/08/12 09:50:18 GMT


Petrol Bombs Thrown At Officers

Dozens of petrol bombs have been thrown at police during a night of disturbances in Londonderry.

Two stolen cars, one of which was hijacked, were also burnt out at "free Derry Corner" in the Bogside area.

The trouble came as Apprentice Boys across Northern Ireland prepared to take part in their largest celebration of the year.

About 10,000 members and 130 bands will take part in the main demonstration in Derry on Saturday.

Police said 700 officers would be on duty. District Commander Richard Russell said he was very hopeful that the parade would pass off peacefully.

During the disturbances in the city, about 50 petrol bombs were thrown, said the PSNI.

The trouble took place late on Friday night and in the early hours of Saturday morning.

Superintendent Dave Hanna said it appeared to have been planned.

"The fact that petrol bombs appeared on the scene in such a short time - obviously someone had taken time to prepare for that eventuality," he said.

"My officers had no option but to respond into the area to deal with protecting property."

Earlier, the Apprentice Boys and the nationalist Bogside Residents' Group appealed for trouble-makers to stay away from the parades.

The first parade begins with 600 members of the local order, accompanied by six bands, making their way around the city's historic walls.

'Laid siege'

After the one-mile circuit, they will attend a wreath-laying ceremony at the Diamond.

Following a religious service in St Columb's Cathedral, there will be a re-enactment of the Siege of Derry.

The main parade gets underway at lunchtime with marchers and bands parading in and around the city centre.

District commander Richard Russell said: "There is still a risk of disorder from small elements, some of it deliberately stoked up and some more reacting to what happens on the day."

The Apprentice Boys parade commemorates the actions of Protestant Apprentice Boys who shut the city gates against the forces of the Catholic King James in December 1688.

King James laid siege to the city from December to August 1689 until the Protestant forces of King William of Orange relieved the city.

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2006/08/12 09:23:23 GMT


Bogside Group Will Not Protest Apprentice March

By Seamus McKinney

DERRY’S Bogside residents’ group will not protest against today’s Relief of Derry march by the Apprentice Boys.

Up to 15,000 Apprentice Boys are expected to take part in the march which has been virtually trouble-free in recent years.

Police have warned motorists to expect major traffic disruption during the parade.

Derry-based Apprentice Boys will start the parade with a march around the city’s walls before a church service at St Columb’s Cathedral at 10.30am.

Visiting members of the organisation will gather at Duke Street and Spencer Road in the Waterside from 10.30am and the main parade will start at 12.30pm. The parade will go across Craigavon Bridge upper deck, up Carlisle Road and into the Diamond, to Bishop Street and on to the Fountain. It will then move back through Wapping Lane and back to the Waterside along the top deck of Craigavon Bridge.

In the Waterside marchers will parade along Spencer Road and into Irish Street before dispersing at Dungiven Road. At 5pm Derry-based Apprentice Boys will march back to the Memorial Hall on the west bank.

Traffic diversions will be in place from 10.30am. Vehicles coming from Limavady are to be diverted at Caw with cityside-bound traffic using the Foyle Bridge. Cars travelling from Strabane are to be diverted at Newbuildings.

Meanwhile, there are a series of feeder parades with the most contentious in Castlederg where nationalists plan to protest.

Ferguson Crescent residents have applied to hold a morning protest and Lurganbuoy Road residents will follow suit in the evening.

In north Belfast the Apprentice Boys and Ardoyne residents reached an agreement ahead of today’s march. As part of the deal there will be no protest by nationalists when the parade takes place under an agreed format.


Ó Snodaigh Calls On Dublin To Mobilise For 25th Anniversary Of Hunger Strikes

Published: 12 August, 2006

Dublin Sinn Féin TD Aengus Ó Snodaigh has this morning announced details of Dublin’s participation in the 25th Anniversary Hunger Strike Commemoration which takes place in Belfast tomorrow. Speaking in Dublin this morning Deputy Ó Snodaigh said thousands of republicans from Dublin will travel to Belfast to pay tribute to ten brave men who paid the ultimate sacrifice in defiance of Margaret Thatcher’s policy of criminalisation of the struggle for Irish freedom.

He said, “This time twenty-five years ago Dublin, along with the rest of Ireland came to a standstill in the wake of the Hunger Strikes. Thousands of republicans from across Dublin remember with pride the pivotal role we played in the smash H-Block/Armagh campaigns in 1980 and 1981. We also remember with pride the ten brave men who made the ultimate sacrifice in defiance of Thatcher’s policy of criminalisation of the republican struggle. Many of the same Dublin republicans will travel, along with the thousands of younger republicans, to Belfast tomorrow to pay tribute to those men. I would encourage all Dublin republicans to mobilise for tomorrow’s commemoration.

“The Hunger strikes of 1981 was one the most defining moments in modern Irish history and the men who gave their lives will be remembered for generations to come. The names of the ten Hunger Strikers will go down in history alongside the likes of Theobald Wolfetone, Robert Emmet, Padraig Pearse, James Connolly, Terence McSwiney, Michael Gaughan and the many others who gave their lives for the cause of Irish freedom.” ENDS


Adams - Harney Has Refused To Meet Sinn Féin For The Past 14 Months To Discuss An All-Ireland Suicide Prevention Strategy

Published: 12 August, 2006

Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams has accused the Tánaiste and Minister for Health Mary Harney of 'consistently making excuses to avoid meeting Sinn Féin on the important and urgent issue of suicide and suicide prevention strategies.' The Sinn Féin leader's criticism follows a year long effort by him to have a meeting with Ms Harney to discuss the issue of suicide and the need for an all-Ireland suicide prevention strategy.

Mr. Adams said:

"In recent years Sinn Féin has worked closely with bereaved families, voluntary groups and statutory agencies, to discuss strategies and the need for resources to tackle the suicide issue.

In May 2005 I wrote to the Minister for Health Mary Harney seeking a meeting to discuss an all-Ireland co-ordinated approach to this problem. In the intervening 14 months three more letters were sent to the Minister and over a dozen calls were made to her departmental office. No progress was made on securing a meeting. Finally, several weeks ago I again wrote to the Minister. In a response received in recent days from her private secretary Ms Harney now says that due to diary commitments she is not in a position to meet me.

Diary commitments have not stopped her meeting other parties from the north on this issue.

This is unacceptable. There can be no justification the Minister's attitude.

In the last three years I have met all three British Ministers who have had responsibility for Health issues. In the last 14 months I have met two British Health Ministers, statutory agencies and others, including families, to discuss this issue, but Mary Harney refuses to meet me. Why? Is an Irish government Minister less concerned than a British Minister with the deaths of hundreds of Irish people, mainly young people, as a result of suicide?

The sad fact is that Ireland has the second highest incidence of suicide in Europe. There were 577 reported deaths by suicide across this island in the year 2003 to 2004. That death toll is greater than the number of people killed in traffic accidents in the same period. It is the biggest killer of young people in our country. According to a recent Joint Oireachtas Committee report there has been an alarming rise in the number of young people taking their lives. That makes suicide a national disaster. Our country urgently needs a national disaster plan.

I want to talk to the Minister about measures which can help save lives, provide resources to families and those at risk and co-ordinate the approach and resources of the two Health services on this island. It is time she overcame whatever problems she has and agreed to meet."ENDS


'Don't Dwell On Past' Urges Police Chief

By Mark Devenport

Political editor, BBC Northern Ireland

The Chief Constable, Sir Hugh Orde, recently walked into his office at police headquarters in Belfast to be greeted by a loud explosion.

Some of his colleagues hit the floor, whilst the "boss" started to dust off bits of ceiling that had peppered his uniform.

Was this the work of dissident republicans or maverick loyalists?

No - this is Northern Ireland 2006 and the guilty party was some seriously faulty wiring.

Sir Hugh aspires to a world where all explosions turn out to be accidents.

He takes heart from what has been, by Northern Ireland standards, a remarkably peaceful summer marching season.

That said, he thinks it's not realistic to expect the evolution to peaceful politics to be 100% perfect.

This week's firebombs at stores in Newry, County Down, served as a reminder that some people remain determined to turn the political clock back.

Speaking before a telephone admission from the dissident republican Real IRA that they were behind the Newry incendiary attacks, Sir Hugh told the BBC's Inside Politics programme he was keeping an open mind on whether the perpetrators were "dissident republicans" or "disaffected republicans".

Sir Hugh is well aware of the impact a report into past errors can have on officers currently serving

That fine distinction indicates Sir Hugh believes there may be individual followers of the Provisional IRA who are so unhappy with Sinn Fein's political direction that they could be tempted back into violence.

On the loyalist side, he welcomes the fact that the UDA appears to have avoided an open feud.

He indicates that the recent seizure of Powergell explosive was linked to the police response to the UDA feud, and was not part of a UVF cache.

Sir Hugh regards analogies between the murder of Robert McCartney and last month's murder in Tobermore of the Scottish man Ronald Mackie as valid.

In Mr Mackie's case it has been fear of the UVF, not the IRA, which has made some witnesses reluctant to come forward.

However, the chief constable did welcome statements by the UVF-linked Progressive Unionists urging people to co-operate with the police investigation.

With the potential for both witness and juror intimidation still a fact of Northern Ireland life, the chief constable backs the idea that - once the Diplock courts are abolished - judge-only trials should still be available in exceptional cases.

With some retired detectives arrested, then released, by the Police Ombudsman, Sir Hugh is bracing himself for the potential impact on his force of Nuala O'Loan's latest inquiry into allegations of collusion involving informers within the UVF.

Sir Hugh served in the Metropolitan police seven years ago when the Stephen Lawrence inquiry labelled the force "institutionally racist".

Therefore, he is well aware of the impact a report into past errors can have on officers currently serving.

He believes his job will be to differentiate between what he views as the best practice of the PSNI now and how the RUC Special Branch handled informers during the Troubles.

But the chief constable knows that the Police Ombudsman's findings are unlikely to make it any easier for him to sell his argument that instead of dwelling on the past the politicians and the public should look to the future so far as policing is concerned.

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2006/08/12 09:58:51 GMT


Ex-Detectives Fear Probe Has Put Them In Danger

By Barry McCaffrey

A former RUC detective who has alleged that Special Branch allowed informers to commit murder last night said he has been told his personal details are in the hands of the UVF.

Johnston Brown was speaking after being released without charge from questioning by Police Ombudsman officers investigating alleged attempts to pervert the course of justice.

The arrest of Mr Brown and his former colleague Trevor McIlwrath are connected to an ombudsman investigation into claims that former UVF leader Mark Haddock was allowed to commit a series of murders because he was a Special Branch agent.

The investigation is understood to relate to more than a dozen killings, including the murder of Raymond McCord jnr in 1997 and Catholic taxi driver Sharon McKenna in 1991. The former detectives have previously claimed they had enough evidence to charge Haddock with Ms McKenna’s murder in 1991 but were blocked by his Special Branch handlers.

However, Mr Brown last night insisted that he was not questioned about Raymond McCord’s murder during any of his four ombudsman interviews on Thursday. He was released without charge on Thursday night.

“At no time was I involved in the investigation of Raymond McCord’s murder in any way and I was not questioned about it by the ombudsman,” Mr Brown said.

“All of the questions put to me on Thursday related to evidence I had previously given to the ombudsman regarding the fact that Trevor McIlwrath and myself were blocked from charging Mark Haddock with Sharon McKenna’s murder.

“The ombudsman is trying to say that we should have arrested Haddock despite being warned off by Special Branch.

“Does anyone seriously believe that myself or Trevor McIlwrath would be around today if we had tried to move against Special Branch?

“You only have to look at what happened Sir John Stevens and John Stalker when they were seen to be getting too close to Special Branch activities in the early 1980s and 1990s.”

In 1986, former Greater Manchester Deputy Chief Constable John Stalker investigated allegations of a ‘shoot to kill’ policy in Northern Ireland.

He was removed from the inquiry after it was alleged that he was associated with a professional criminal.

The allegations were subsequently disproved.

In 1990 there was a mystery fire at the Stevens Inquiry team offices at Seapark RUC complex in Carrickfergus.

Lord Stevens later uncovered security force involvement in the arson attack.

Mr Brown said he believes his safety may be in jeopardy.

“There was a high-profile police search on my home with my car being taken away,” he said.

“People will say that there is no smoke without fire.

“Now graffiti has appeared on walls in the towns where Trevor McIlwrath and I live claiming we are ‘Protestant killers’.

“While the ombudsman was interviewing me on Thursday I was told that the UVF now has my home address.

“There is a real possibility that our safety has now been put in jeopardy and we will have to move homes again.”

Meanwhile, the father of UVF murder victim Raymond McCord met Police Ombudsman Nuala O’Loan yesterday.

Mr McCord challenged comments by PUP leader David Ervine that his son had been a convicted drug dealer.

“These allegations were made in the media before and they were proved to be totally untrue,” he said.

“My son was beaten by the UDA and in an effort to be protected by the UVF he agreed to bring cannabis from Scotland to Northern Ireland.

“But he never had the opportunity to defend himself because the UVF murdered him the week before he was due to appear in court.

“I am challenging David Ervine to say that the UVF’s murder of Raymond and countless other innocent Protestants was wrong.”


Retention Of Diplock Trials Is Questioned

By Claire Simpson

A top legal expert has questioned why non-jury trials will not be abolished in all cases under new British government plans.

Secretary of State Peter Hain has said ‘Diplock’ courts will become the “exception” in future, signalling the end to the era of the controversial paramilitary trials.

However, planned legislation will still allow some people to be tried before a judge without a jury – particularly when there is deemed to be a threat of jury intimidation.

Angela Hegarty from the University of Ulster last night asked why Northern Ireland still needed non-jury trials.

Ms Hegarty said the trials are not part of the legal system in Britain, despite growing concerns about international terrorism.

“Is there a need to retain these exceptional powers in Northern Ireland if there are no such powers in England, Scotland or Wales?” she said.

Ms Hegarty said there are already provisions to deal with jury intimidation under the government’s Criminal Justice Review.

She said that although the right to a jury trial is a “cornerstone of the common law system”, the entire trial procedure needed to be looked at to ensure fair trials.

And she said proposals to prevent defence teams from having access to jurors’ personal information may undermine the lawyers’ position.

Diplock trials were introduced as a ‘temporary’ measure in 1973 to deal with paramilitary violence without using internment.

The system has remained in place 33 years on, although the number of non-jury trials has fallen to around 60 each year compared with more than 300 in 1986.

The reforms have been criticised by the SDLP, which claims the government is only “pretending” to abolish Diplock courts.

North Belfast assembly member Alban Maginness said the changes did not go “nearly far enough”.

“Diplock courts are not being abolished,” he said.

“What the British government is actually attempting is pretending to abolish Diplock courts while at the same time creating a mechanism to keep them.”

But DUP assembly member Arlene Foster said Northern Ireland was not ready for the end of non-jury trials.

“Does anyone think for a second that the circumstances which originally made it necessary to have non-jury trials in terrorist cases do not still exist?” she said.

“With paramilitaries of all persuasions still very much engaged in terrorist and criminal activity and Northern Ireland being such a small jurisdiction, the danger of jurors being subjected to intimidation is a real one.”

Sinn Fein TD Aengus O Snodaigh said the proposals were “a step in the right direction” and appealed to the Irish government to abolish its Special Criminal Court, which deals with similar type cases to Diplock courts.

“The ending of the Special Criminal Court and the repeal against the Offences Against the State Act are required under strand three of the Good Friday Agreement which was endorsed by the vast majority of people on this island,” he said.


Opin: Close Watch On Court System

By Patrick Murphy

The British government’s decision to phase out no-jury Diplock courts in Northern Ireland is fully justified but still needs to be closely monitored.

Most of the factors which led to the introduction of the existing system, which involves judges delivering verdicts in trials with a perceived paramilitary connection, have faded away with the passage of time.

In the early days of the Troubles there was a very real prospect of jurors being identified and threatened – or even physically attacked – by illegal organisations.

While the possibility of this kind of intimidation cannot be completely ruled out today, there is every reason to believe that a phased return to jury trials in all but the most exceptional of cases is the appropriate way to proceed.

The Diplock structure, created in 1973, was potentially open to abuse and raised a wide range of concerns over human rights.

In particular, the idea that a Diplock judge who encountered prejudicial material during a trial only needed to issue a warning to himself before proceeding was verging on the bizarre.

However, it is also worth pointing out that the worst miscarriages of justice in UK legal history, including the scandals of the Birmingham Six and the Guildford Four, all took place before juries.

Judges in Northern Ireland were under enormous pressure during the ‘supergrass’ era but eventually insisted that the uncorro-borated evidence of paid informers would no longer be accepted.

It must also be remembered that judges, magistrates and their families were regularly and viciously targeted by paramilitary groups throughout this era.

A return to normality in every sense will be warmly welcomed, although the circum-stances in which a limited number of cases may still be staged without juries must be kept under constant review.

The priority must be to ensure that members of the public who find themselves involved in court cases, whether as defendants or jurors, receive fair and appropriate treatment on all occasions.


Opin: History Holds Answer To Britain’s Love Of Mayhem

By Patrick Murphy

Why, on the world stage, is Britain so keen on war, while Ireland is so committed to peace?

Tony Blair is waging war in Iraq and Afghanistan and he clearly sides with Israel in its war in Lebanon.

Bertie Ahern’s statements on that same conflict have been exceptionally well balanced, based on the experience of Irish troops having previously served there with the United Nations.

Every British prime minister since World War II has had troops fighting in some part of the world, including here.

No Irish taoiseach has ever contemplated war and Ireland has never invaded another country. (Jack Lynch could not even bring himself to ‘invade’ what the then Irish constitution said was part of his own country, during the events of August 1969 in Belfast and Derry.)

So why are the British now involved in so much mayhem in the world, while the Irish foster peace within it? The answer lies in history, culture and a man called Tony Blair.

The British have a long history of political violence – mainly in other countries. The Irish have had 800 years of violence, almost all of it in their own country. (The Fenians once invaded Canada from the USA in protest against Britain’s occupation of Ireland but that was more a statement of political romance than a practical military operation).

The difference in history between the two countries is obvious – one was a world power, the other was a colony. The change from colony to nation gave Ireland a confidence in itself and a respect for others. The decline of the empire simply put Britain into denial about its role in the world. Some of that denial still lingers in British foreign and domestic policy.

Britain’s failure to join the euro-zone is usually explained in economic terms but there is significant political opposition to the idea of abandoning the tradition of the Great British pound. The currency clash along the border illustrates the difference between Ireland’s and Britain’s attitudes to the rest of Europe.

This imperial culture still permeates much of British society. Their honours system, for example, is modelled on the concept of the empire. The Order of Britain or even the Order of the British People would be an appropriate award for its citizens.

But what they actually get is the Order of the British Empire (OBE). It is an interesting reflection on a supposedly multi-cultural Britain that its civil honours system glorifies a history of brutality, repression and exploitation against ethnic groups across the world. It is as if the US had an honours system named after slavery.

Central to this culture is Tony Blair himself. His desire to play an influential role in world affairs is understandable. What is difficult to comprehend is the type of role he has adopted. Instead of trying to make history, he has opted to ape history and he struts on the world stage like a modern colonial overlord. Not only is he leading the wrong political party, he is living in the wrong century.

(Labour prime minister Harold Wilson, refused to send British troops to support the US in Vietnam in the 1960s. He recognised Britain’s declining role in a changing world even then).

Today a thinking British statesman might be expected to act as a counter-balance to some of George Bush’s more fanciful ideas. That role has been left to the American people. More than half of them now think that invading Iraq was a mistake but Blair defends the decision. His claim of weapons of mass destruction was exposed as a lie and he offers conflicting explanations of why British troops are in Afghanistan.

At the same time his troops are poorly equipped for the job he has given them. They have suffered casualties through shortages of body armour, ineffective radios and a lack of basic medical supplies. If he has no respect for his own people, he is unlikely to have respect for others.

Irish political leaders are far from perfect. The corruption and scandals in Irish political life are an indication of something wrong at the core of the domestic administration. But in world affairs, Ireland has continually punched above its weight, playing a peace-keeping role for more than 40 years in various areas of conflict.

Unless Britain learns to play a similar role abroad, its multi-cultural society will continue to fragment at home.

While this problem in no way justifies the alleged events which led to this week’s delays at British airports, it does help to explain them.

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