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May 09, 2007

Lords Rule on Hamill Police Evidence

News about Ireland & the Irish

IN 05/09/07 Lords Rule Over Police Evidence On Hamill
BB 05/09/07 DUP To Get 'Secret Intelligence'
BB 05/09/07 Officers Call For Past Probe Halt
IT 05/09/07 McGuinness In Vow Over'disappeared'
BB 05/10/07 NI Executive Holds First Meeting
BB 05/09/07 Assembly Return Bringing 180 Jobs
NS 05/10/07 Opin: Sounds Of Silence In N Ireland
NB 05/10/07 Paisley & McGuinness Together Via Photoshop


Lords Rule Over Police Evidence On Hamill

By Barry McCaffrey

The House of Lords will rule next week if 20 former police
officers will be allowed to give evidence anonymously at a public
inquiry into the murder of Portadown man Robert Hamill, who died
10 years ago this week after being beaten by a loyalist gang.

Father-of-three Mr Hamill (25) died in hospital on May 8 1997, 11
days after being beaten by a loyalist mob at Thomas Street in
Portadown town centre.

Police denied eyewitness claims that four RUC officers in a
nearby Land Rover had seen Mr Hamill being attacked but had
failed to intervene.

Six Portadown men were initially charged with the murder but the
charges against five were later dropped.

A sixth man stood trial but was acquitted of the murder charge
and sentenced to four years for affray.

The director of public prosecutions decided not to bring charges
against the police officers on duty that night for failure to
save Mr Hamill's life.

An inquest into Mr Hamill's death was later abandoned over fears
for the safety of civilian witnesses.

Three people, including a former RUC officer, were later charged
with perverting the course of justice after it emerged that a
telephone call had been made to the home of a Portadown loyalist
hours after the murder to warn him that he was a suspect.

However, those charges were later dropped after a key witness
failed to give evidence against the trio.

As a result of an internal police investigation a number of
officers were later disciplined in connection with the
investigation into the killing.

In 2004 retired Canadian judge Peter Cory recommended that a
public inquiry should be held into the events surrounding Mr
Hamill's murder.

That public inquiry opened in May 2005.

It was immediately adjourned but was expected to open later that

However, the inquiry has since been caught up in a legal wrangle
after it ruled that 20 serving and former police officers would
not be allowed anonymity when giving evidence.


DUP To Get 'Secret Intelligence'

The DUP has said it has been promised access to secret
intelligence on the IRA and loyalist paramilitaries from MI5 and
other security agencies.

The party has said the move will help it judge whether
republicans remain committed to peaceful means.

It has previously relied on the IMC to hold the IRA to account.

The move has been made possible by the appointment of two more
DUP members to the privy council, which gets secret briefings on
national security issues.

Peter Robinson and Jeffrey Donaldson are the new members of the
council, which is one of the oldest parts of government.

The party leader, Ian Paisley, is already a member.

The three DUP men will also be appointed members of a new
security committee being set up by the DUP at Stormont.

The party has said they have been told they will be entitled to
intelligence briefings by the security services.

SDLP leader Mark Durkan said appointments to the Privy Council
"should not be made on the basis of a party political

"This plan is not in the spirit of the events of yesterday," Mr
Durkan said.

"This step corroborates the concerns we have consistently
expressed about British Government plans for MI5 in Northern
Ireland including what was agreed at St Andrews (political

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2007/05/09 17:34:16 GMT


Officers Call For Past Probe Halt

Senior police officers have urged the government to "pause for
breath" in re-examining Northern Ireland's past.

The Superintendents' Association NI said there was currently a
hierarchy of victims based on political pressure.

It said inquiries and investigative teams established to probe
murders and wrongdoing had put a disproportionate focus on police

Anti-terrorist methods had been exposed and officers and
informants could be identified, the association added.

Association president Stephen Grange said reports and
investigations had been left open to misinterpretation and could
cause confidence in policing to be undermined.

"We have grave concerns about the present management and focus of
this process," Mr Grange told the association's annual general

"Quite simply the present arrangements are not working."

He said the government should call a halt to the process, consult
widely and create a public body to manage it in the best interest
of all victims.

"Only when such a body has been established and adequately
resourced, with all involved having a clear understanding and
expectation of what that body can deliver, can we properly
contend with and learn from the past - without inhibiting our
future opportunities."

'Political pressure'

Mr Grange said the investigation of aspects of the past seemed to
be motivated by political pressure.

"We have to abandon this hierarchy of victimhood based on
political pressure, ie the costly Bloody Sunday and Cory
inquiries, or the availability and willingness of a lavishly
financed body to investigate just one organisation in

In March, a group representing more than 3,000 retired police
officers published criticism of a Police Ombudsman's report into

The Retired Police Officers' Association, said a report by Nuala
O'Loan's office, which found Special Branch had colluded with UVF
members in north Belfast was riddled with basic errors of fact
and judgement.

They accused the ombudsman of misusing the word "collusion" in a
way which had led to it being used as "a political catchphrase".

Mrs O'Loan rejected the criticism.

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2007/05/09 16:02:36 GMT


McGuinness In Vow Over 'Disappeared'

Sinn Fein's Martin McGuinness pledged tonight to continue efforts
to end the suffering of families of IRA murder victims whose
bodies have never been found.

The Mid Ulster MP and new Northern Ireland Deputy First Minister
gave the commitment as he expressed his sorrow that one mother
had died without discovering where her son was buried.

Vera McVeigh, 82, suffered a major stroke last week and died in
Craigavon Area Hospital, Co Armagh. Her son Columba, 17, was
abducted in Dublin, murdered and secretly buried by the IRA in
1975. But despite a series of searches, including one which
lasted for two weeks near Emyvale, Co Monaghan, in 2003, his
remains were never recovered.

As he extended his sympathies to the McVeigh family, Mr
McGuinness said tonight: "Sinn Fein is entirely sympathetic to
the plight of the family and is continuing with our efforts to
bring closure for those families whose loved ones were killed by
the IRA in the 1970s.

"The McVeigh family have suffered a grave injustice."

Columba McVeigh is one of the so-called Disappeared - victims
murdered by the IRA, but whose bodies have never been located.

Mrs McVeigh met with the Rev Ian Paisley at her home in
Donaghmore, Co Tyrone, last November as part of her campaign to
have her son's body found. Another of her sons, Oliver, said:
"She wasn't afraid of dying, but there was only one thing she
ever wanted.

"The last eight or nine years certainly took their toll on my
mother, but she hung on in hope. She wanted Columba in the family
grave and then she'd be happy to follow him.

"But I wouldn't be her son if I didn't keep the campaign going.

"It will be more vigorous than ever. I just hope that the people
who refused to come forward to help, including some locals, are
proud of themselves."

Mr McGuinness also stressed how the forensic scientist brought in
to leading the search for the Disappeared, Geoff Knupfer, has
acknowledged the IRA's full co-operation in efforts to locate the
remains of those killed.

He added: "I want to repeat the call for anyone with information
about Columba McVeigh to bring it forward to me, to the family or
the Independent Commission for the Location of Victims' Remains."



NI Executive Holds First Meeting

The new power-sharing executive is set to meet for the first time
at Stormont in Belfast.

The ministers are expected to reaffirm that water charges will be
deferred for one year.

A range of other issues will also be discussed at the meeting,
including negotiations with the Treasury on a financial package.

The executive is understood to be dissatisfied with what is on
offer from Chancellor Gordon Brown.

The ministers will also discuss their priorities for government
and how resources will be spent. While the meeting has a
practical purpose, it is also hugely significant.

The DUP refused to join the other ministers at the Executive
table in the last administration.

This time the DUP will be at the table, along with Sinn Fein, the
Ulster Unionists and the SDLP.

The executive has agreed to allow cameras into the meeting to
capture what is likely to be another iconic image in the
political process.

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2007/05/10 01:04:48 GMT


Assembly Return Bringing 180 Jobs

Up to 180 new jobs are being created at the Stormont Assembly
following the restoration of devolution.

The jobs, due to be advertised on Thursday, are for staff to
support assembly committees.

Over the next two to three years around 380 posts will be filled
- that includes the 200 staff already employed at Parliament

The assembly website is listing, amongst other jobs, posts for
clerks and parliamentary reporters.

On Wednesday, a number of new ministers were busy fulfilling

Agriculture Minister Michelle Gildernew pulled on a pair of
wellington boots to tour a cattle farm at Greyabbey on the Ards

"Farmers, out of everybody, I believe, needed to see the end of
direct rule," she said.

"It was really important we got a local minister in place and
that they were able to hit the ground running on the issues that
were important.

"I will do everything in my power to improve the lot of farmers,
farming families and for rural communities."

Other politicians out and about included Social Development
Minister Margaret Ritchie who visited a housing construction site
in Belfast and Education Minister Catriona Ruane who toured four

Sports Minister Edwin Poots watched young people playing football
and basketball in north Belfast, whilst Enterprise Minister Nigel
Dodds opened a new robotics research centre at Magee College in

The first round-table meeting of the new executive is due to take
place on Thursday.

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2007/05/09 16:27:07 GMT


Comment: The Sounds Of Silence In Northern Ireland

Colum McCann

IT was summer 1975 when the chilling report filtered through to
our suburban Dublin kitchen: There'd been another killing in
Northern Ireland. Members of a well-known music group, the Miami
Showband, had been driving home to Dublin after a gig in County

They were stopped at a false checkpoint 48km south of Belfast by
members of the paramilitary Ulster Volunteer Force. As one of the
terrorists tried to plant a bomb in the back of the band's van,
it exploded. In the confusion, three of the musicians who had
been lined up along the side of the road were executed.

To a 10-year-old it was almost a glamorous massacre. The deaths
were easy enough to conjure up in the imagination. A country
road. The headlights spraying through the trees. The long-haired
musicians in the back of the van: bright-eyed, smoking, laughing.
The barrier across the road. The squeal of tyres. Shouting,
screaming, pleading.

The explosion. A trumpet going up in the air as if making a final
note to heaven. The brief moment of silence. The bullets sounding
out. And then another sort of silence altogether.

My mother was from the North, my father from the South. I wanted
desperately to know the "why" of Northern Ireland.

My father told me that the answer was simple - all the murderers,
hatemongers, bombers, were going to be herded onto a small
floating island, and they would be pushed out to sea, whereupon
they could kill one another for time immemorial. The rest of us,
he said, would be left in peace.

Visiting my mother's family farm in Derry, I hated the sight of
soldiers crouching in the hedges.

As I grew up and travelled, eventually to New York, I found that
trying to explain the politics of Northern Ireland to others was
nearly impossible. Whose God were these people fighting for? Why
did justice sound like another word for revenge? Who was that
distant child who wanted to travel north to a forest road and
search for a piece of trumpet?

I still manage each year to take my children to Northern Ireland
for a short holiday, but these days they are as likely to see as
many armed soldiers in Grand Central Terminal as I ever did on
the back roads of Derry. My children might ask me about the
complexities of SWAT teams on Wall Street, or why once a year
there are extra flowers in the window of the fire station off
Lexington Avenue.

One of the chores and joys of being a parent is answering
questions. The most difficult ones slide a hand through our
ribcages and turn our hearts a notch backwards, sometimes towards
our childhoods.

If I am to take any solace from the troubles in Northern Ireland
and the perplexing answers my own parents gave me, it is that -
on occasion and sometimes against all expectations - a certain
amount of endurance brings about a possibility of hope.

The questions about Northern Ireland are different this week. The
108-member assembly is entering a historic power-sharing
agreement between Sinn Fein and the Democratic Unionist Party.

The Democratic Unionist leader, the Reverend Ian Paisley, once
said that he would be ready for talks only "when you marry Christ
to Beelzebub". So what happened? Did he and Sinn Fein's Gerry
Adams just grow up?

Were they able to understand the terror of fathers and
grandfathers - that our children might one day become as bad, or
as conflicted, or as confused, as us?

Is the assembly's swearing-in ceremony the final, inevitable
triumph of reason over hatred?

Hardly. The victories of peace aren't as immediate as those of
war. It will be a long, rocky road. Parts of the North are still
separated by 15m-high "peace" walls. More than 90 per cent of
public housing is segregated, and research has shown that even 3-
year-olds still display sectarian instincts.

But in the aftermath of so many decades of violence, children are
out in East Belfast scrubbing the walls free of political
graffiti. Fierce enemies are shaking hands.

There is no greater moment in war than the end of it. As much as
anything, the move towards devolution is a glimmer of hope for
the rest of the world - if it can happen in Northern Ireland, it
can happen anywhere. Palestine. Sri Lanka. Iraq.

One of the reasons that centre holds is that no one politician,
or party, or popular figure is trying to own the peace.

It is an international agreement that owes as much to the vision
of political leaders as it does to the thousands of mothers and
fathers who have brokered it from the inside.

The questions of this generation of children are yet to be
shaped. With luck and vision, the "Why?" will be said with a
bewildered look backward rather than with a horrified glance

For a nation that has shouldered so much for so long, the
possibility of no more needless small white coffins is almost
answer enough. - NYT

Colum McCann is professor of creative writing at Hunter College
of New York's City University


Paisley And McGuinness Brought Together Via Miracle Of Photoshop

Northern Ireland awoke to a new era of peace this morning thanks
to the latest digital imaging techniques.

Utilising the latest Photoshop software, Tony Blair and Irish
Premier Bertie Ahern toiled into the early hours, cutting and
pasting images of DUP and Sinn Fein members together to create a
new power-sharing assembly at Stormont.

'Gosh,' admitted a bleary eyed Mr Blair, 'It's been a lot of hard
work, but the results speak for themselves.' Mr Blair added,
'Photoshop allows us to give the impression that these guys are
all in the same room at the same time, and getting on like a
house of fire. Of course if they were all in the room at the same
time then the House probably would be on fire, and we'd all be
running for cover.

In one image DUP leader and new First Minster Dr Ian Paisley is
seen grinning and doing bunny ears behind the head of Sinn Fein's
Martin McGuiness. In another photo, Sinn Fein President Gerry
Adams, is seen gazing up adoringly at Mr Paisley, who is also
pictured leading a conga-line of nationalist and republican MP's
across the floor of the House.

Mr Ahern, who got the software free with a laptop given to him at
Christmas said: 'The hardest bit was to avoid goofy stuff like
putting Ian's head on a naked woman's body, and finding a half-
decent picture of Martin was a nightmare. We asked McGuiness if
he had ever organized his own shoot and he went a bit red All we
said was 'We need to blow up Ian Paisley's head' and he mumbled
something about 'knowing some boys down in Fermanagh'.

The benefits of using photo software to aid the peace process
were first discovered when Loyalist Michael Stone attempted to
break into Stormont in November armed with a gun and a knife.
Clever use of digital technology managed to show Stone
brandishing a large bunch of flowers and a threatening a security
guard with a box of Black Magic.

Mr Blair today had nothing but praise for Adobe Photoshop
suggesting that the possibilities it offered were almost
limitless. However Adobe later issued a statement saying that any
attempts to put a picture of Gordon Brown smiling besides Tony
Blair might cause the software to crash resulting in permanent
damage to the computer.

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