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April 24, 2007

EU President To State Stormont Support

News about Ireland & the Irish

BB 04/24/07 Barroso To State Stormont Support
BB 04/24/07 Police Probe Collusion Leak Claim
IN 04/24/07 IMC To Release Its 15th Report In Dublin
IN 04/24/07 ‘Youths Live In Sectarian Past’
IN 04/24/07 Opin: No Role For Loyalist Gunmen In Power-Sharing
ID 04/24/07 Opin: Censorship Complementing Cover Up
BB 04/24/07 Oil Spill Threatens Nature Haven


Barroso To State Stormont Support

European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso will visit
Northern Ireland next Tuesday to underpin EU support for

Mr Barroso is expected to meet first and deputy first ministers
designate, Ian Paisley and Martin McGuinness.

He will also hold talks with Secretary of State Peter Hain.

Politicians are expected to lobby Mr Barroso for continued
financial support for the peace process and to discuss other
forms of co-operation.

Devolution is due to return to Northern Ireland on 8 May
following an agreement by the DUP and Sinn Fein.

The President of the European Commission will visit Northern
Ireland on his way back from the United States where he will be
attending a European/US summit.

BBC Northern Ireland political editor Mark Devenport said: "The
visit by the former Portugese prime minister is being seen as the
European Union's way of signalling its political backing for the
new executive.

"Ian Paisley and Martin McGuinness are likely to emphasise the
need for continuing financial support from Brussels. "

It is understood Mr Barroso's commission is on the verge of
approving a series of new programmes which should benefit
Northern Ireland and areas south of the border.

The various funds will amount to nearly œ600m over the next six
years - that's roughly half the amount spent in Northern Ireland
over the past six years.

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2007/04/24 13:04:49 GMT


Police Probe Collusion Leak Claim

Vincent Kearney
Home affairs correspondent

Police are investigating claims staff working for the Police
Ombudsman have broken the law by leaking sensitive security
information to journalists.

The allegations concern Nuala O'Loan's report on collusion
earlier this year.

Her report found Special Branch had colluded with UVF members in
north Belfast who killed up to 16 people.

The Retired Police Officers' Association has claimed highly
confidential details of the investigation were leaked to

The association, which rejected the report, wrote to Chief
Constable Sir Hugh Orde earlier this month alleging that staff
working for Mrs O'Loan leaked details to journalists - including
the names of police officers under investigation - long before
the findings were published.

They said that breaches legal restrictions on the disclosure of

Police have now launched a preliminary inquiry into the

It is understood that senior officers have spoken to the
Ombudsman and asked for her response.

In a statement, Mrs O'Loan said she rejected any suggestion that
her staff have broken the law.

In March the RPA, which represents more than 3,000 retired police
officers, criticised her report as "error riddled" and demanded
she apologise.

Mrs O'Loan refused, saying her report was "soundly evidence
based" and that she was standing by it.

She found UVF members in north Belfast committed murders and
other serious crimes while working as informers for Special

The report found that Special Branch officers had given the
killers immunity.

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2007/04/24 16:59:10 GMT


IMC To Release Its 15th Report In Dublin

By William Graham

The Independent Monitoring Commission's 15th report, which covers
the activities of paramilitary groups, is due to be released at a
press conference in Dublin tomorrow.

IMC reports are usually published at press conferences in Belfast
but a spokesman would only say that a Dublin venue had been

this time for "operational reasons".

The last IMC report was published in March and dealt largely with
security normalisation but a section did reaffirm that the IRA is
firmly committed to the political path and its operational
structures have been disbanded.

Regarding loyalist paramilitaries the last report said they are
actively engaged in violence and other forms of serious crime but
there was evidence of senior figures seeking to lead the
organisations away from crime although their impact so far has
been limited and patchy.


'Youths Live In Sectarian Past'

By Seamus McKinney

NATIONALIST youths responsible for a petrol bomb attack on
Protestant homes in Derry have been urged to end sectarian
attacks. A device was thrown at the Irish Street/ Gobnascale
interface at 8pm on Sunday. Youths from both sides also threw
stones but no injuries were reported.

Former Sinn Fein Derry mayor Lynn Fleming described the attack as

"completely reprehensible" and said she feared such "sectarian
hate crimes" were increasing.

"At a time when communities are striving to cement peace and
encourage reconciliation it would appear that there is a small
minority intent on living in the past. They can have no place in
our society and those involved should hang their heads in shame,"
she said.


Opin: No Role For Loyalist Gunmen In New Power-Sharing Society

By Staff Reporter

What is most sinister about the death threats against Mark
Thompson and more than a 100 others is not that they emanated
from the UVF, though that is worrying. It is that the sources of
the information which led the loyalist paramilitaries to target
the potential victims were within the PSNI and the RIR.

This shows that collusion between elements of the security forces
and loyalist paramilitaries is alive and well. These sorts of
thing are called 'spy rings' if they appear to involve
republicans. It should have inspired strong statements from,
among others, the secretary of state and the chief constable -
but it has not.

It did inspire new PUP leader Dawn Purvis to intervene in a way
that showed a disappointing lack of political judgement. No
sooner was the news out that the PSNI had warned Thompson and
others that they should consider themselves seriously at risk
from the UVF, than Purvis went on radio and TV with assurances
that the UVF wasn't involved and there was no risk at all.

It has long been apparent that the UVF has a take it or leave it
attitude to the political advice offered by the PUP. The late
David Ervine was at times hopelessly compromised by its
indefensible paramilitary activities. Purvis should not make
herself its hostage. And if, as she claimed, the police had
spoken with her, why were they telling her one thing and Thompson

We have all been enjoying the sweet symbolism of recent weeks,
the joint statements from Martin McGuinness and Ian Paisley,
Bertie Ahern and Paisley shaking hands in Dublin - and the big
smiles of the Republic's transport minister and Paisley as the
former came to Wrightbus in Ballymena to announce a huge
investment in the company by the Irish government.

Were the bullets hidden in the drawer in the office even as the
dignitaries posed in the foyer for the cameras? They were found a
few days later and Wrightbus called in the PSNI. The ammunition
was found along with some of the information which led police to
issue their warnings.

Manager Darren Richardson has since been charged with UVF
membership - which he denies - and with having information which
could be useful to terrorists. He told police he had been given
information by a serving RIR soldier - whom he named - and by
another man.

It has since emerged that this was Aaron Hill, who worked in the
PSNI's crime management unit and who has been charged in relation
to illegally accessing confidential information from police
computers. The alleged offences began in 2002 and continued until
earlier this month. The soldier has not been charged.

Researchers at Relatives for Justice have discovered that Hill
and Richardson were in the past involved in a loyalist flute band
which boasts of its historical connections with the UVF. As Mark
Thompson wryly put it: "Would the PSNI's vetting procedures let
someone through who was in a band called the Ballymurphy

It is highly probable that there are those within the security
forces, or recently retired from them, and their friends in the
UVF who are alarmed by excellent investigative work currently
being undertaken by Relatives for Justice.

The human rights group has recently become involved in several
cases in which the victims of loyalist murders were Protestants.

Unionist politicians in particular continue to resist the
evidence about collusion but it will continue to emerge. These
recent events provide yet more evidence that the spotlight the
police ombudsman shone on the activities of the UVF in north
Belfast during one phase of the Troubles, needs to be shone on
loyalist activities elsewhere, at other times - including the

We have been led to expect a statement from the UVF this week
announcing that it won't decommission its weapons but it promises
not to use them. The UDA has said something similar and has
nonetheless, disgracefully, been promised government money,
supposedly to wean it off paramilitarism. The LVF, we are told,
has stopped talking to General de Chastelain. These are
dangerous, volatile people and they have guns.

The fact that the PSNI made arrests on this occasion is to be
welcomed. However, British and Irish Rights Watch has written to
Tony Blair warning him that if he doesn't face up to collusion he
will be remembered for that failure. There is no role for
loyalist paramilitaries in our brave new powersharing society and
the special relationship they have enjoyed with the security
forces must not protect them.


Opin: Censorship Complementing Cover Up

Censorship may suit the state, but it's a disaster for society
Anthony McIntyre

Despite progress in the peace process, security forces in
Northern Ireland are still stifling freedom of information,
writes Anthony McIntyre

Ever since Peter Brooke, as Northern Ireland Secretary of State,
made his 1990 statement that Britain had no selfish strategic
interest for remaining in Ireland most people have come to accept
that Brooke called it pretty much as it was. Northern Irish
unionism rather than any imperialist imperative on the part of
the British state was what ensured the continuation of partition.

Enter MI5. That situation now demands some reappraisal. With the
new MI5 building at Hollywood, County Down, designed to monitor
and combat 'international terrorism' the British state now has a
long term strategic interest in keeping the North within the UK.
Having a security service as the fulcrum on which long term
political strategy turns is not without considerable consequences
for human rights.

This becomes all the more pronounced in the wake of the Northern
Ireland's policing Ombudsman Nuala O'Loan's damming report on
collusion between RUC Special Branch and loyalist murder gangs.
Special Branch emerged from that report looking pretty
indistinguishable from the terrorist gang, whose murder campaign
it was complicit.

The lesson is simple - those who police society from the shadows
are often more shadowy and sinister than the forces they seek to
monitor. They are therefore to be trusted only reluctantly and
always in the wake of a serious health and safety check which
pronounces them fit for democratic purpose.

One crucial body whose task it is in democratic society to
perform such health and safety checks, the press, is now being
forced on the back foot by a state eager to curb the prowess of
the press and enhance the powers of the security services. The
recently drafted Policing (Miscellaneous Provisions) Northern
Ireland Order allows PSNI personnel to seize notes and electronic
records for up to 96 hours. Claiming that new powers are needed
because of "the increasingly sophisticated nature of serious
crime" the Northern Ireland police guided by the intelligence
agencies will now be able to mount surgical strikes aimed at
heading off at the pass any journalistic investigation into the
activities of the security agencies. The irony of course is that
the body most recently exposed as having being up to its neck in
terrorism was a crucial element in the British state security
apparatus, RUC Special Branch. It is a matter of public record
how abusive the security services are whatever their guise. Why
increase their scope for abuse?

This move comes at a time when documentation is either, depending
on whose ox is being gored, a crucial asset or liability being
fought over by contesting sides. MI5 currently want their
documents back from the Stevens team, whose task it has been for
the best part of two decades to investigate collusion between the
security services and armed groups in the island of Ireland. The
new legislation currently being proposed will allow the same
agencies to pervert the course of justice. It is to curb
journalists from publishing their findings and also to intimidate
whistleblowers and other sources from providing journalists with
the much needed information that would lift the lid on nefarious
state activities.

There is of course nothing new about this. The British state has
been involved in numerous cover ups since it sent its troops onto
Northern Irish streets in 1969. In 1972 Prime Minister Edward
Heath set the parameters for justice when he told Lord Widgery on
the eve of his inquiry into the bloody Sunday killings to be
mindful that the war being waged by the British had a propaganda
dimension. Widgery duly obliged and his name has been synonymous
with whitewash ever since.

The former Greater Manchester Chief Constable, John Stalker,
almost had his career destroyed in the 1980s when he began to
investigate RUC shoot to kill operations which were carried out
at the behest of the intelligence agencies. Canadian Judge Peter
Cory, who in recent years investigated security service
collusion, was reportedly furious with the British government's
tardy and obstructive approach to his findings and

In other cases, including the 2005 trial of the MI5 agent Denis
Donaldson, prosecutions were aborted or alternatively, Public
Immunity Certificates were issued by the British state in a bid
to ensure that knowledge about informers did not come to public
attention. Arguably this was less rooted in concern for the
welfare of informers than it was in the need to shield from
democratic scrutiny the fact that information received that could
have prevented death was in fact not acted upon. This issue is at
the heart of concerns over the role of MI5 in relation to the
1998 Real IRA bombing of Omagh town which produced massive
civilian casualties.

If democratic scrutiny is to have any currency in Northern
Ireland, an unhindered press is a necessity rather than something
to be doled out or withdrawn in accordance with the self serving
interests of the government of the day. Censorship complementing
cover ups might suit the state; it is disastrous for society.

Anthony McIntyre is editor of online journal the Blanket



Oil Spill Threatens Nature Haven

About 8,000 litres of red diesel have been spilled into a County
Londonderry lake, prompting fears of an environmental disaster.

A specialist clean-up company is working to stem the flow of the
oil into Lough Beg near Bellaghy.

The area is a nature reserve and has been designated by the
government as of special scientific interest.

The lake is known for its wildlife and is used by migrating birds
in Spring and Autumn to rest and feed.

The Environment and Heritage Service is investigating the spill
into a tributary of the lough.

A police helicopter spotted the oil spill as it was flying over
the lake and informed the EHS.

Government officers confirmed that they have identified the
source and are trying to prevent more oil from reaching the

The specialist company is attempting to quickly prevent further
oil pollution and to initiate a clean up.

"The Strand" on the west shore of Lough Beg is a large expanse of
wet grassland that is flooded each winter and which has never
been agriculturally improved.

The nature reserve, with Church Island as its focal point,
comprises 300 acres of this habitat.

In spring and autumn, migrating birds on their way through may
pause on their journey to rest and feed. Black-tailed Godwit,
Green Sandpiper, Wood Sandpiper, Greenshank and Knot are seen
every year.

Many rare plants including Pennyroyal and the Irish Ladies'
Tresses orchid share this habitat with the birds.

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2007/04/24 12:56:40 GMT

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