Thursday, December 29, 2005

Letter from Ireland: British block road to peace

Irish Independent:

Sir - The pretentious stance by the PSNI exposed the British evasion and skill in deceit and will be seen by the nationalist community as a further obstacle and hindrance to the search for a peaceful solution.

The trauma of the last 35 years has led many people on this island and in the United Kingdom to believe that Northern Ireland has failed as a political entity, and to recognise that democracy and its usual application cannot exist in a fundamentally artificial unit.

While the situation moved nearer the brink in Northern Ireland, we have the further spectacle of the British Government's bankrupt and inept policy.

In Northern Ireland where the Westminster writ is also supposed to run, we see the effect this has on the nationalist community: it is similar to that of an irresistible force meeting an immovable object.

Either the immovable object moves on this position, or the irrestible search for a solution becomes submerged in the rising tide of despair, and in turn degenerates into terrorism.

In this case the immovable object consists of those whose self-interest economically and politically lies in perpetuating a system whose ideologies are rigid and out of date.

Powerful entrenched interests are involved which obliterate reason, ignore justice, confound world opinion and dull any responsible inclination towards reconciliation.

Strange bedfellows can be thrown together in just such circumstances. Those who subscribe to the idea that democracy must use the methods of the enemies of democracy to defend it are the death knell of freedom.

Michae J Stokes,
Willington Green,
Dublin 6W

Unfortunately, the British seem likely to continue pursuing their bankrupt and inept policy for the foreseeable future.

All the signs point to another year of strong economic growth for Ireland

Niamh Hennessy:

Rossa: Let us put the Irish economy in the context of the euro area: fastest economic growth, lowest unemployment rate, healthiest government finances.

Another year of strong economic growth is in prospect in 2006.

Philip: We see two key themes. Firstly, ECB rates will rise to 2.5%, but despite the higher interest burden for Irish households, factors such as the SSIA monies and labour earnings growth mean this should not prove overly cumbersome.

Secondly, consumer spending will be the main driver of the economy, helped by high rates of employment growth. It is this growth in domestic demand (GDP less volatile trade flows) that will fuel another strong year for the Irish economy, with growth of 5.6% expected in 2006.

Shane: Despite many gloomy permutations, the balance of probability is that the Irish economy will remain on a steady and sturdy growth path over the next number of years.

Rossa: We forecast that GNP will expand by 5%, driven by buoyant consumer spending. Next year will be characterised by another healthy gain in employment, thousands more new houses and a reduction in saving by households as Special Savings Investment Account (SSIA) funds are released from next May.

Philip: This year is likely to be the 14th consecutive year in which Ireland has outperformed the EU-15 average in terms of growth, with GDP expected to increase by some 5%.

Shane: Economic growth will continue to be strong in 2006, with GNP projected to increase about 5%. This puts Ireland amongst the fastest growing economies in the eurozone. Unlike much of the growth during the Celtic Tiger era, our current economic strength is home grown.

SFA expects 5% growth in 2006

Small firms body issues optimistic outlook for 2006

SSIAs ‘set to fuel consumer boom’

SDLP: Closer north-south economic co-operation needed

Catholic Ireland has turned economically Protestant

A lesson in French is a lesson for Ireland

Brian Feeney:

A new book on twentieth century French history was published last July. Written by British historian Ron Kedward, it's called La Vie en Bleu and examines not just the events of French history in the last century, but the changing attitudes of the French people to La France and to their own history.

The book's last section, Issues of Identity 1960-2000, raises a lot of questions relevant to places beyond France. Here, for example.

French people have been obsessed with memories of major cataclysmic events that hit the country in the twentieth century: two disastrous wars, occupation, loss of empire and more besides. The memories you choose to dwell on and how you interpret them define the way you see the place you live in. France's great hero General de Gaulle, president in the 1960s, carefully constructed a myth of Resistance and Liberation as the defining features of twentieth century French history.

For people of de Gaulle's age that 'official' myth provided an honourable and justifiable explanation of the major event of their lives. It wasn't true but it was comforting and reassuring. The fact is that despite 'Allo 'Allo and its jolly conspiracies against comic Nazi occupiers, most French people played no part at all in the Resistance which, as an organisation itself, played little part in the Liberation: before 1944, to all intents and purposes, it was invisible.

In 1968 de Gaulle was turfed out and a new generation began to construct its own history, first looking at France's recent ignominious departure from Algeria, led by de Gaulle, then backwards to the defeat in Vietnam, then back again to examine what their parents had, or in most cases, had not done in the war. This picking at old scabs their parents had healed produced much pain and acrimony. There were attempts to ban some films and TV programmes about the Second World War and the behaviour of French troops in Algeria in the 1950s.

As Kedward points out, the French concentration on memory was "neither neutral nor innocent". On the one hand it was all about denying responsibility and on the other about recrimination. It's the same here. Since the IRA ceasefire in 1994, but especially since the Good Friday Agreement, a huge industry, largely funded by the British administration here, has burgeoned around victimology and its twin nemesis, truth and reconciliation.

We have a sea of victims' groups. We have 'professional victims who make a living out of it from official funding, dredging up the past, appearing on TV, travelling to speaking engagements, 'reacting' to every move the British government makes in political development. We have semi-official groups. We have victims' groups for republicans, for loyalists, for relatives of security forces, for specific major incidents. We have self-appointed, untrained, but not unpaid, victims counsellors. We have groups demanding inquiries into particular incidents, others into the behaviour of whole groups of state forces. We have a victims' minister and a victims' commissioner.

Many of them want a 'truth and reconciliation' commission. They propose various models ranging from South Africa's to Chile's, even though none of them worked satisfactorily. In fact, a commission, if ever one were established here, would be about neither truth nor reconciliation. The purpose would be to blame 'the other side' and 'prove' your side was right. There, yah see, told ya. That's why it'll never happen. Besides, how could the British administration set one up without admitting, as they've just done in the OTR bill, that they were part of the conflict?

What's going on here is each side's attempt to stamp its seal of approval on the past 40 years, and it is 40, for next year is the anniversary of the UVF bringing the gun back into Irish politics when Gusty Spence's gang murdered John Scullion and Peter Ward. Next year is also the twenty-fifth anniversary of the hunger strikes and the ninetieth anniversary of the 1916 Easter Rising.

No unionist will choose to dwell on any of those events as a way to define the place they live in, whereas, of course, for nationalists north and south they are exactly what they will point to. Unionists instead will concentrate on 'innocent' victims while denying responsibility for anything that happened since 1966.

‘Blair the betrayer’

British trying to pervert Nelson probe

Shredding the truth about informers

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Democracy undermined by securocrats' meddling

Tom McGurk:

On St Patrick's Day 2002, hundreds of files on police informers and the codenames of scores of Special Branch officers were stolen from the headquarters of the Police Service of Northern Ireland's (PSNI) Special Branch at Castlereagh Police Station.

The authorities were astonished that the raid had occurred in a security complex that was among the most heavily guarded places in the North. Access to the complex was carefully controlled and vetted.

The immediate result of the raid was that more than 100 PSNI officers were forced to move home at a cost of millions of pounds to taxpayers. Large numbers of police informers who suspected that their details had been uncovered also quietly fled their homes.

At the time, the IRA was blamed for the raid, but it denied involvement. Sinn Féin claimed it had been organised by rogue elements in the security forces who wanted to collapse the Northern Assembly and end the party's role in government.

And it nearly did. But it has now emerged that the PSNI's chief suspect in the case, a New York-born chef named Larry Zaitschek, was a close contact of former senior Sinn Féin member Denis Donaldson, who was recently unmasked as a British agent.

In the mid-1990s, Donaldson was working for Sinn Féin in the US and befriended Zaitschek whose now-estranged wife came from Belfast. Zaitschek later came to live in Belfast with his wife and got a job as a chef at Castlereagh.

After the robbery, Zaitschek suddenly disappeared back to the US. The PSNI has indicated that he will be arrested if he returns to the North; however, no extradition proceedings have yet been issued.

Seven months later, in October 2002, the PSNI raid on the Stormontgate ‘spy ring' finally resulted in the collapse of the Assembly and power-sharing. On that day, even though Sinn Féin had more than 20 offices at Stormont, only Donaldson's office was raided by the police.

With Donaldson's cover now finally blown, the Castlereagh files robbery clearly requires some explaining.

For a start, how could Zaitschek get such a job, given the security clearance required to work in the nerve centre of police intelligence and his links with Donaldson and Sinn Féin?

Were Donaldson's handlers alerted to Zaitschek's links? And if they were aware of his links, could it be that Donaldson and Zaitschek were only bit players in a raid on Castlereagh initiated by Donaldson's own handlers?

And if these handlers were members of the PSNI's Special Branch, why were they raiding their own offices? Even worse, if Donaldson's handlers were MI5 agents, why were they organising a raid on the PSNI's Special Branch files?

No files have subsequently turned up, nor has anyone ever been charged with the theft. One wonders where they are now?

For what it's worth, Donaldson has now said that there was no spy ring at Stormont and that it was all a Special Branch fit-up.

What has emerged, however, is a credible explanation for the refusal of the North's Public Prosecution Service to continue with the trial of Donaldson and his two co-accused in connection with the raid.

The British authorities may have been concerned that Donaldson was going to break his cover at the trial and reveal what he knew about the raid, while simultaneously denying the existence of the Stormont spy ring.

There has been considerable evidence that, since the peace process began, relations between the old RUC's Special Branch and British intelligence services have approached something akin to open warfare.

Had Donaldson used his trial to break his cover and open up this vista, the implications would have been enormous.

Historically, many Special Branch officers have been bitterly opposed to any peace process with their Republican enemies. Some even felt that they would be prosecuted at a later stage for their activities during the Troubles.

Others found the ongoing investigations into matters such as the Pat Finucane and Rosemary Nelson murders and the Dublin/Monaghan bombings deeply unsettling.

Apparently, some fear prosecution so much that they have relocated to Spain, which has complex extradition requirements.

Was this the reason for the British government's sudden addition to its recent ‘on the runs' legislation, which granted an amnesty to the security forces?

But above all, the winding-up of the RUC and the early retirement of many Branch members, left large numbers of them deeply embittered.

Given the extraordinary nature of recent events, is it too fantastic to consider the Castlereagh raid and Stormontgate as evidence of a private feud within the British security forces? Was Castlereagh actually about embarrassing the Special Branch and was Stormontgate the Branch's revenge?

Nobody can know for certain but yet again, the whole farrago raises the old question about political control - or lack of it - over British security and intelligence forces. For Dublin, these matters are very grave. How on earth can anyone conduct serious political business with a government that is either deeply duplicitous or, even worse, doesn't know what its ‘political' police are doing?

When the Stormontgate trial collapsed, the Taoiseach understandably said that he had no idea what was going on and neither, I suspect, do many of us.

But there is one thing going on that we all recognise and that is that, once again - as with the collapse of power-sharing back in 1974 – the North's political future is being guided by agencies that are neither political nor democratically elected.

That is simply unacceptable and London needs to be publicly told so.

Street protest over spyring

Hard to grasp enormity of events

Behind the murk of spooks and spies

Outrageous sabotage, but no-one wants to know

The Spy Won’t Harm Sinn Fein

Whatever you believe, believe nothing

Republicans emerged victorious in tragic and glorious times

Friday, December 23, 2005

Ireland reports strong economic growth

Business Week:

Ireland's economy is maintaining a Europe-leading pace of growth thanks in part to strong consumer spending and a continuing construction boom, the government's Central Statistics Office reported Thursday.

Its report said gross national product, or GNP, grew an annual 7.0 percent in the third quarter of 2005, compared to the same July-September quarter of 2004. It said gross domestic product, or GDP, grew 4.8 percent.

Ireland is currently rated the second-wealthiest country in the 25-nation European Union, behind only Luxembourg, thanks to the past decade of economic expansion driven by heavy investment by high-tech multinationals, particularly in the computer and pharmaceutical industries.

However, economists consider GNP a better measure of Ireland's indigenous economic health than GDP, which includes the economic activities reported by more than 500 foreign multinationals with operations in Ireland. Much of those companies' profits are shipped to banks overseas.

The report said consumer spending rose 6.5 percent in the third quarter of 2005 compared to the same period last year, while capital investment -- including the government's expanding program of building toll motorways and other infrastructure -- rose 7.7 percent.

Thursday's growth figures were the highest recorded since the first quarter of 2004, when GNP and GDP growth was measured at 7.5 percent and 6.9 percent, respectively.

Economy grew by 4.8% in third quarter

Hullabaloo over Donaldson and Connolly has nothing to do with national security

Jude Collins:

Breathtaking – that’s the only word. I normally approach political life with a healthy cynicism, at the back of my mind the deathless words of Jeremy Paxman: ‘Why is this lying bastard lying to me?’ But this past week has still left me empty of breath.

I’m not talking about the revelation that Denis Donaldson was a spy. It may be hard to grasp how Donaldson lived as he did for 20 years and why he lived as he did. The notion that the ranks of Sinn Féin should contain a long-term informer (and for God’s sake stop saying ‘informant’, would you, Hugh!) is easily comprehended – could have been predicted, even.

As Damien Kiberd pointed out on this page earlier this week, the men who executed Robert Emmet were spies. The supergrass trials of the 1980s are still fresh in the minds of many, and the stale smell of people like Sean O’Callaghan still lingers in the nostrils. To be surprised that a Denis Donaldson could exist is to be starry-eyed. Prostitution is the oldest profession, treachery a close second.

What is puzzling is what status Denis Donaldson held within the republican movement. Some reports – many, in fact – have him as director of communications in the Sinn Féin offices at Stormont, privy to every important republican decision and strategy for the past ten years or more. I find that hard to believe.

I met Denis Donaldson on two occasions, the first when I went to Stormont to interview Gerry Adams some eight years ago, the second about four years later when I interviewed Martin McGuinness. On both occasions, having cleared security, I was left waiting at the bottom of the stairs while word was sent to the Sinn Féin offices; and on both occasions it was the small, friendly figure of Denis Donaldson who came down, greeted me and brought me up. That done, he disappared until it was time to see me back to the main door again.

Now maybe Sinn Féin is different, but in any other organisation I’ve visited – the Orange Order, the Ulster Unionists, the BBC – the person who comes down and greets the guests and brings them up to their appointment is invariably a junior member – a gofer, a runner. That was the impression I got of Denis Donaldson on both occasions. But hey, maybe I misread the signals. Or maybe Sinn Féin were playing a merry prank on me, leading me to see Denis as less important than he was. Or maybe the spy rose through the office hierarchy at some speed over the last four years or so. But I doubt it. So when I read of him as being a top Sinn Féin person and the huge damage his treachery will do to that party, I remember the little man who brought me up the Stormont stairs.

No, it’s not Donaldson’s existence that’s breathtaking; rather it’s the reaction to it.

Consider the facts. In 2002 a boots-and-baseball-caps PSNI raid takes place at Stormont, a republican spy-ring at the heart of government is announced, and the elected government of this constipated corner of Ireland is collapsed on the grounds that republicans have been pretending to engage in politics while in fact engaged in spying. They are a shower of no-goods, the institutions must fall.

Spin forward to 2005. Now we discover that far from there being a republican spy-ring at the heart of government, there really was a British spy-ring at the heart of government. Rather than republicans spying on the British, it’s been the other way round all the time. While pretending to engage in politics, the British government has in fact been engaged in spying.

What is the reaction to this among other political parties and many sections of the media? Do they give republicans an apology for the unfounded bad things that were said about them and is the all-clear given for the re-establishment of the institutions? Hah. Perish the thought, my little one. What we have is Ian Og Paisley addressing the microphones and declaring that this has set back ANY prospect of a restoration of the power-sharing institutions, since it shows that republicans are not to be trusted. Reg Empey says me too on that one. Mark Durkan says me too, ah… too.

Eh? Am I hearing aright? Breathtakingly, it seems so.

It’s not just politicians. Hugh Orde, head of the same PSNI that thundered into Stormont to expose the non-existent spy-ring – Hugh comes on TV and says wait a minute, we can’t say if Donaldson was or was not a spy, mum’s the word, company policy and all that. But we can say we the PSNI, found hundreds and hundreds of documents, transcripts of private phone calls including Bush chatting to Blair, details of prison officers’ lives – God knows what. It was very very serious, Hugh says. We had to spend millions moving people to new safe addresses. There was a republican spy-ring, Hugh says these documents were found in a house in west Belfast. You must decide which you trust. Hugh says my word as the chief constable of the PSNI, or a bunch of lying republican paddies. All right, he didn’t say the last bit about the paddies. But he looks so neat and white-collared, with his hair freshly-combed after another long run in the Mournes or maybe at that PSNI sports club where they found the Northern Bank money – he looks so respectable, you think he might have something. If hundreds of documents were found in somebody’s house in west Belfast, that does look like republicans were doing a bit of spying, doesn’t it?

But whoa. Steady. Hold on. Did you say in somebody’s house, Hugh? So could you maybe tell us, Chief Constable, in whose house in west Belfast these hundreds of documents were found? Er um, cor blimey, well stone the crows and would you Adam and Eve it, they found these documents in DENIS DONALDSON’S HOUSE in west Belfast!

Well now. Either Hugh Orde believes what he is saying, that finding confidential documents in the home of a British spy proves there was a republican spy-ring, in which case the dimmest Constable Plod would look like Einstein beside him; or the Chief Constable doesn’t believe what he’s saying, in which case he has a view of the intelligence of his listeners which is breathtaking in its contempt.

I’ll tell you what the whole Donaldson thing is about. And the Frank Connolly thing. And the hullabaloo about the drafting of the on-the-runs bill. Nothing to do with national security, north or south. Nothing to do with ending criminality. Nothing to do with developing trust between the parties. The tripartite commotion has one determined purpose: to damage a successful political party called Sinn Féin, preferably mortally.


The Soldier, The Spy, the U.S. Connection

An Appalling Vista in North

People are disgusted with PSNI, says CRJ

Half-truths and spin from Orde

Was O’Loan in dark over spy?

No one’s asking ‘what really happened?’

Proconsul doesn't sound like a man in charge

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

More anti-republican nonsense from the McCartney sisters

Brian Walker:

THE McCartney sisters have urged Tony Blair to challenge Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness to reveal what they're doing to bring their brother Robert's murderers to justice.

Almost a year since Robert McCartney was stabbed to death outside Magennis's bar in May Street, two of his sisters, Catherine and Paula, accompanied by their friend Sinead Commander, spent half an hour with the Prime Minister.

As Catherine put it afterwards standing beside the No 10 Christmas tree, the first aim was to persuade the Prime Minister to put real pressure on Sinn Fein to break down the wall of silence.

And two, "to dispel the notion that the people involved were rogue elements of the IRA or dissidents. They weren't. They are people very much embraced by republicanism."

The long road to Downing Street took in a handshake at the White House from President Bush on St Patrick's Day and a second visit to Washington last month, an appearance at the Sinn Fein Ard Fheis, visits to the European Parliament and to the Taoiseach and many awards.

The IRA already told the sisters who killed their brother and even offered to execute the killers for them. If that is what the sisters consider being "embraced by republicanism" then I am sure that it is an embrace that most of us can do without. The sisters seem to be unable to accept the fact that their fifteen minutes of fame are over and will do anything to try to prolong it.

Irish women have the highest fertility rate in the European Union

Ireland Online:

Women in Ireland have more children than their counterparts in any other EU country, according to figures published today by the Central Statistics Office.

The CSO said figures from 2003 showed Irish women were having an average of just under two children in their lifetime, compared to an EU average of almost 1.5.

It also said almost one-third of births in 2003 were outside of marriage, but for women having their first child, this figure increased to 43%.

Irish fertility rates highest in EU

Stormontgate exposes the grip that espionage, double dealing and dirty tricks still maintains on the North of Ireland

Niall Stanage:

When George Bush gets caught spying, at least he admits it. The British state and its agencies in Northern Ireland do not display even that limited degree of candour. The revelation that a British spy was the central figure in an episode that brought down Northern Ireland's devolved administration has been met with evasions and dissembling. Peter Hain, the secretary of state for Northern Ireland, told Jonathan Dimbleby on his ITV show that the so-called Stormontgate affair was "turbulent". But he failed to answer any of the fundamental questions that it has raised.

The story has sparked doubt, confusion and rampant speculation; some hard facts are worth emphasising. In October 2002, about 20 police officers raided Sinn Féin's offices at Stormont, which houses the Northern Ireland assembly. The raid was part of a series of operations that, it was claimed, uncovered a republican spy ring. The IRA, it was alleged, had garnered confidential information that could be used to target prison wardens, police officers and others. Four people were charged, but that dropped to three. When the case finally came to court less than a fortnight ago, the prosecution declined to offer any evidence. The three were acquitted.
Last Friday, a bombshell dropped. The key figure in the trio, Denis Donaldson, who was Sinn Féin's head of administration at Stormont, owned up to a double life. He said that he had been a paid agent of British intelligence and Northern Ireland Special Branch since the 80s. His exposure turned the accepted version of events on its head. As things stand, the only proven spying operation at Stormont was run by forces of the state. And a paid agent of the state had been pivotal in the unravelling of a democratically elected administration. It is hard to imagine a graver scenario.

The government has sought to ameliorate the fiasco by claiming that the original police operation did indeed uncover stolen documents and that the Stormont raid was given a clean bill of health by Nuala O'Loan, the police ombudswoman. Neither assertion counters the idea that Donaldson could have acted as an agent provocateur.

Reaction to the disclosure of Donaldson's role demonstrates the hypocrisy that pervades Northern Ireland politics. When blame for spying was being placed at the republicans' door, the mainstream press denounced Gerry Adams and his allies. David Trimble, the Ulster Unionist leader at the time, proclaimed that he did not need to wait for due process because "the smoking gun was now evident"; the alleged conspiracy was "10 times worse than Watergate".

Where is that outrage now? Who seeks to put Donaldson's handlers in the dock for their disdain for democratic principles? Trimble, who resigned last May, now struggles to lay the blame anywhere but where it belongs. "There is a spin going on here, and the spin is going on because actually it's the republican movement that's in a crisis," he mused on Saturday.

There is no doubt that the Donaldson affair has left republicans reeling. Rumours of another "tout" are rife, and the moderate SDLP has called on Adams to resign as Sinn Féin leader. But the most important aspect is the light it casts on the dark heart of Northern Ireland. It shows that factions in the security forces, so keen to condemn others for subversion, have continued to act nefariously to advance their agenda and that of their political allies, as they did throughout the Troubles.

The Stormont raid took place at an amazingly fortunate moment for the Ulster Unionists. Many believed that Trimble was already planning a withdrawal from the devolved executive under pressure from hardliners. The conundrum Unionists faced was how to bale out without having to shoulder the blame for collapsing Northern Ireland's government - then allegations about the spy ring surfaced. Bill Lowry, who was head of Belfast's Special Branch, left the force only weeks after the raid. He later turned up as a guest speaker at a meeting of Ian Paisley's DUP, where he reportedly described Sinn Féin as the "devil incarnate" and warned that if unionists were to lie down "with dogs", they would "get up with fleas".

Espionage, double dealing and dirty tricks have been rife on all sides in Northern Ireland for years. The murder of the Belfast solicitor Pat Finucane in 1989 is only the most infamous case in which very credible allegations of collusion between loyalist killers and the security forces have been levelled. The peace process did not bring an end to the dirty war. Paramilitaries and police continued intelligence gathering. The late Mo Mowlam authorised the bugging of a car being used by Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness. The most recent revelations make clear why Sinn Féin continues to be reticent about endorsing new policing arrangements in Northern Ireland.

Back in 1999, Tony Blair insisted that "there can no longer be a Northern Ireland based on anything but the principles of justice, fairness and equality". Some members of his security forces evidently had other ideas.


Having watched his friend Bobby Sands die an agonising death – for a principle, what force could have turned him?

Be guided by principle

Truth from British wouldn’t go amiss


Republicans should insist that Blair and Hain unmask informers as a prelude to any future talks

Monday, December 19, 2005

It all leads somewhere... but not to an assembly

Brian Feeney:

Well, now we know. There was at least one spying operation at Stormont, but it was a British one. Unfortunately that's the only fact we do know. As the British proconsul and his administration twist and turn to try to find a plausible explanation for the fiasco into which MI5 and the police sucked the courts, the prosecution service and the future of political institutions here, the playwright Harold Pinter's words in his Nobel prize acceptance speech last week are relevant.

"The majority of politicians, on the evidence available to us, are interested not in truth but in power and in the maintenance of power. To maintain that power it is essential that people remain in ignorance, that they live in ignorance of the truth, even the truth of their own lives. What surrounds us, therefore, is a vast tapestry of lies, upon which we feed."

What else can we deduce from the tapestry of lies?

First, if Denis Donaldson was a British agent, then the case that brought down Stormont was always going to collapse. He was hardly going to go to jail to oblige his handlers, happy as they might have been to sacrifice him.

Secondly, the PSNI stunt at Stormont was just that. The police had already made arrests that morning and seized the documents they were to present as evidence.

We now know the police knew there was no incriminating material in the Sinn Féin office they raided. That's why they only lifted two disks off a desk-top and came out again. They didn't search the office. Besides, there were several Sinn Féin offices at Stormont. They only raided Denis Donaldson's.

Yesterday's (Friday) new information raises many more questions than answers.

Did the PSNI and MI5 use Donaldson as an agent provocateur and, if so, to what extent?

Did they use him to feed certain files to Sinn Féin? Did they plant certain inaccurate material for him to pass on?

To what extent were they trying to steer Sinn Féin's political agenda, its reaction to certain political developments, by passing selected information?

We don't know. Nor does Sinn Féin. They have no means of knowing what Donaldson told them was accurate or truthful. Neither would he.

No wonder Gerry Adams is raging. It's a huge embarrassment for republicans.

Naturally they will try to minimise Donaldson's role in the movement. They point out he was not on the ard chomhairle, not on their negotiating team and so on.

However, it's impossible to get round the awkward fact that he was their head of administration at Stormont and would have seen documentation of a very sensitive nature passing across his desk.

There's not much the British would not have known about Sinn Féin's plans. It's OK for the British to spy on Sinn Féin but not for Sinn Féin to spy on the British.

Another difficult question for Sinn Féin. How many more traitors in their midst? How were the police sure enough that Donaldson was going to be exposed to tell him earlier this week? Have they someone in, or senior to, the republican investigating team?

More serious questions. Did the proconsul for the time being, John Reid, know MI5 were running a spying operation against Sinn Féin? Did the director of intelligence and security at the NIO? If so, did he tell Reid? If not, why not?

If Reid knew, why did he let the police bring down the powersharing executive when there was never any chance of bringing a successful prosecution?

If he didn't know, then the security services are running the north and deciding the fate of its political institutions.

One other item you can be pretty sure of is that Tony Blair didn't know. Otherwise, why would he have knocked his brains out trying to cobble an executive together and keep the glue sticking if he was aware his security services were going to wreck all his work? Why didn't he know?

Finally, do you think Hugh Orde would have kept our present proconsul informed and if not, why not? All of which makes the Policing Board look like an expensive charade.

What does it do for the odds on an executive in 2006? Who does that suit? Not nationalists.

Orde On the Spot

Friday, December 16, 2005

Sinn Féin expels British agent in Stormont row

Ireland Online:

A top republican was thrown out of Sinn Féin tonight after its leader Gerry Adams alleged he was working as a British agent.

Denis Donaldson, 55, the party’s former head of administration, was expelled after an investigation by the leadership.

Eight days after he and two other men were cleared of spying charges inside Stormont, Sinn Féin announced he had been told to quit last night.

A statement from Mr Adams said: “The collapse of the power sharing government was blamed on allegations of a Sinn Féin spy ring at Stormont.

“The fact is that there was no Sinn Féin spy ring at Stormont.

“The fact is that this was a carefully constructed lie created by the Special Branch in order to cause maximum political impact.

“The fact is that the collapse of the political institutions was a direct result of the actions of some of those who run the intelligence and policing system of the British.

“The fact is that the key person at the centre of those events was a Sinn Féin member who was a British agent.

“This is entirely the responsibility of the British Government.”

A Police Service of Northern Ireland spokesman said: ``Police do not confirm or deny whether an individual is or was an informant.''

In October 2002, Mr Donaldson, his son-in-law Ciaran Kearney and civil servant William Mackessy were arrested on suspicion of operating a spy ring at Stormont.

Police Land Rovers raided Sinn Féin’s offices at Stormont in scenes which resulted in the then Northern Ireland Secretary John Reid suspending devolution in Northern Ireland in an attempt to stave off a unionist walkout from the power sharing executive.

Eight days ago, the Public Prosecution Service announced it was no longer pursuing a case against the three men because it was not in the public interest.

Sinn Féin said the decision to drop the charges against the men was proof that the Stormontgate raids were part of a political policing operation.

British Prime Minister Tony Blair, Attorney General Lord Goldsmith and Northern Ireland Secretary Peter Hain have faced demands from unionists and moderate nationalists in recent days for a Parliamentary statement explaining why the Public Prosecution Service withdrew the case.

Following separate meetings with Lord Goldsmith on Wesdnesday, the Rev Ian Paisley’s Democratic Unionists, the nationalist SDLP and Ulster Unionists complained that he stonewalled them when they asked what the public interest was.

Sinn Féin leader Mr Adams was due to hold a press conference later at Dublin’s Gresham Hotel following the decision to expel Mr Donaldson.

Republicans were left reeling today by the claims against Mr Donaldson, a popular figure within Sinn Féin.

As the head of Sinn Féin’s administration at Stormont at the time of the spy ring allegations in October 2002, he was a familiar face around Parliament Buildings.

During devolution, he would have come into contact with other political parties on a day to day basis, popping in and out of their offices.

In May 2003, the Republican Movement was also stunned when it was claimed west Belfast man Freddie Scappaticci was one of the British Army’s most valued intelligence agents, Stakeknife.

Mr Scappaticci strenuously denied the claims at a press conference.

In his statement today, Mr Adams criticised the use of informers and agents by the Police Service of Northern Ireland.

The West Belfast MP said: “What is clear is that there are those within the PSNI and the intelligence agencies who are a law unto themselves, who use informers, spies and agents and who are operating to their own agenda with no accountability.

“They are manipulating the situation for their own narrow ends. They have sought to undermine Sinn Féin and are working against the implementation of the Good Friday Agreement which is the publicly stated policy of the British and Irish Governments.

“The British Prime Minister and the Taoiseach have to wake up to this reality.”

Mr Adams said Sinn Féin had alerted the British and Irish Governments to the negative role in the peace process being played out by elements within the British system.

He continued: “If Britain’s war is over then the British Prime Minister needs to come to terms with the fact that he has to end the activities of the securocrats.

“This entire episode underlines the need for an end to political policing. That, and defending the Good Friday Agreement remains the focus of Sinn Féin.”

Unionists said tonight they were astonished by the expulsion.

DUP MP Jeffrey Donaldson said: “This has certainly given an added twist to the entire Stormontgate scandal, and confirms our view that the reasons the court decided not to prosecute was because to do so would have compromised an agent of the state and sensitive security documents.

“It also raises the question that the decision not to proceed was politically motivated.”

Mr Mackessy, one of the three men cleared of the spying charges, once worked as a security man at the offices of Sir Reg Empey, then a minister in the powersharing executive at Stormont.

Sir Reg, now leader of the Ulster Unionist Party, said tonight he would be seeking an urgent meeting with Government officials.

Director of Public Prosecutions Sir Alasdair Fraser has declined to comment on the affair

But Sir Reg said: “If this was the person who was being protected by the DPP, then there is no reason why these prosecutions cannot proceed.

“It actually debunks the claims by Sinn Féin there was no spy ring operating inside Stormont, when in fact there was.”

The Northern Ireland office strongly rejected Mr Adams' claims.

In a statement, it said: “We completely reject any allegation that the police operation in October 2002 was for any reason other than to prevent paramilitary intelligence gathering.

“The fact remains that a huge number of stolen documents were recovered by the police.

“As a result of the recovery of these documents, a large number of people had to be warned.

“We are not going to comment on the specifics of the case or these allegations.

“In terms of the dropping of the prosecution, that was a matter for the independent prosecuting authorities and there was no political interference whatsoever in that decision.”

Tonight the SDLP called on the British government to come clean on the affair.

The party’s deputy leader and south Belfast MP Dr Alasdair McDonnell said there was a distinct possibility Denis Donaldson was being used as a scapegoat to cover someone else.

He said: “We can now understand why Gerry Adams was so eager to move on from this affair last week, but fortunately the media and others didn’t let him and continued to ask questions.

“It is time for Sinn Féin to stop trying to cover up for the past and for themselves, as they are doing with the On-The-Run deal. Now that the truth is coming out we hope they will also face up to the truth of the Stakeknife affair and admit who knew what and when.

“There is now deep scepticism about what goes on in elements of the British Government and the provisinal leadership. The British government cannot retain credibility and continue to duck behind smokescreens called public interest.”

At a press conference in Dublin, Mr Adams said Denis Donaldson had admitted to being a paid British agent for the past 20 years.

Mr Donaldson had approached the party’s six county cuige chairman Declan Kerney after being warned by the PSNI he was going to be outed and his life was in danger.

At a subsequent meeting with Mr Kerney and another Sinn Féin official, Leo Green, he admitted to being a British agent and was expelled from the party.

Asked if he suspected there had been an informer, Mr Adams said: “I was very, very suspicious and some of us were very suspicious when the events of 2002 unfolded, when we saw this hugely-orchestrated operation at Stormont because we knew there was no Sinn Féin spy ring at Stormont.

“More recently, when this case collapsed, when the British did not prosecute, that suspicion was deepened,” he said.

“I had suspicions that there was somebody wrong within this – I had no specific suspicions about Denis Donaldson.”

Mr Adams said he would be talking by telephone to both British Prime Minister Tony Blair and Taoiseach Berti Ahern to brief them on the situation.

He added: “I would be shocked if for one moment I thought that the British Prime Minister was part of any plot to take down a power-sharing executive he had spent a considerable amount of time, along with the rest of us, putting in place.”

Instead, he said, he had an informed suspicion the situation had been engineered by elements within British intelligence in Northern Ireland.

“My view is that that element who actually orchestrated the raid on Stormont and brought down the power-sharing executive were not satisfied with the fact this whole thing collapsed, and were about outing him and about creating another crisis in the peace process,” he said.

Mr Adams said he believed those elements wanted to see Mr Donaldson run away or be taken into protective custody with the blame laid at the door of republicans.

The Sinn Féin President said it was hard to know what the impact of these latest events would have on the peace process.

The question could not be answered until it was known if the British had started to tackle those within the system who were opposed to the Good Friday Agreement.

He said Mr Donaldson was currently with his solicitor.

Unfortunately there are likely to be even more traitors lurking within the Irish republican movement doing the work of their British colonial masters.

Sinn Fein Not Surprised Confidence In PSNI Is Dipping

Ulster Unionist Party worried about "brain drain"

BBC News:

The "brain drain" which sees many young people leave Northern Ireland to study and find jobs elsewhere must be reversed, the UUP has urged.

The party said more student places should be available at local further education colleges and universities.

It is launching a new policy aimed at ensuring talented students stay in NI.

Earlier this year, University of Ulster chancellor Sir Richard Nichols said 75% of the 14,000 who study in Great Britain did not return.

Sir Richard said Northern Ireland was "haemorrhaging" thousands of talented graduates each year.

He said the province was the only UK region with a fixed ceiling on the numbers that could be admitted to the two local universities.

UUP leader Sir Reg Empey said there were 10,000 fewer university places in NI than there were students.

"Our concern is that we are having a lot of very bright students going across the water to university, because they have no choice in many cases," he told BBC News.

"But a very high proportion of those - at least two-thirds - are not coming back.

"It is good to have a flow of people going away and getting new ideas and coming back.

"The problem is that other regions - Scotland, Wales, the north-east of England and many of the states in the US - have strong policies to try and bring those students back with their expertise.

"Unfortunately, at the moment Northern Ireland doesn't have such a policy."

The fact that it is the UUP who are complaining about this "brain drain" seems to indicate that it largely involves the British colonial population. If this is the case then let the "brain drain" continue.

DPP intent on continuing with old practice

Brian Feeney:

Stormontgate is not the first time the DPP and the British attorney-general have decided not to proceed with a prosecution. Far from it.

Indeed, public dissatisfaction with the arrogant and condescending approach of the DPP's and attorney-general's offices was what led to the Criminal Justice Review (CRJ) recommending in 2000 that the DPP provide "as full an explanation as is possible without prejudicing the interests of justice or the public interest".

As you see, that was about as weak a recommendation as you could devise. The CRJ added that the DPP's "presumption should shift towards giving reasons where appropriate".

Really radical stuff eh?

Even so, it was too much for the British administration here, which accepted the CRJ's proposals 'with qualifications'. In other words, there was going to be no change. Last week confirmed that.

There was another reason for the CRJ's interest in the prosecution service.

For decades the old DPP's office had worked hand-in-glove with the RUC, with the Special Branch being very much the hand in the glove.

In fact nationalists regarded the DPP's office and its strange decisions as evidence that it was pretty much the RUC's puppet. Hence the demand in the Good Friday Agreement for a truly open, independent prosecution service.

Judging from the reaction of both unionist and nationalist politicians last week it seems what we have is a case of plus ca change. The DPP decides what the public interest is but won't tell anyone else or explain why and that's that.

What did the prosecution lawyer's cryptic reference to the public interest and human rights legislation mean? The evidence, if you can use that word in connexion with this case, seems to be the following.

The solicitor for the 'Stormont 3' heard that there was a secret PSNI operation called Torsion going on for most of 2002.

The suggestion is that as part of Operation Torsion an agent acting for the PSNI or MI5 secretly entered private premises and spirited away documents which might later have been presented as evidence. These documents were then returned to the private premises.

The solicitor applied last February for material referring to Operation Torsion to be revealed. The Crown applied for, wait for it, a Public Interest Immunity Certificate to prevent this material being released to the defence. In short they were arguing that it was not in the public interest to reveal it. Geddit?

Now, regardless of claims that the security services were protecting the identity of an agent within the IRA or anywhere else, the simple fact is that, as every first-year law student knows, if evidence has been taken away and returned 'the chain' has been broken.

Such documents are worthless as evidence because they could have been added to, subtracted from or otherwise tampered with.

Human Rights legislation and the Police and Criminal Evidence Order require disclosure of such information to the defence. Had that been done the case against the Stormont 3 would have instantly collapsed.

It seems therefore that the security services and PSNI in 2002 were continuing their old practices of bugging and burgling without regard to changes in legislation introduced in the 1990s. The wonderful shiny new PSNI had ruined the case for the prosecution.

Of course we'll never know the details because the DPP seems intent on continuing the old practice of claiming to act in the public interest without revealing to anyone what the public interest is.

Does the public not have a right to know if the security services wrecked the case by tampering with evidence?

Now that the case ended in acquittal, why is it a secret if they did?

What conclusion can we draw from this morass? It's quite simple. The sooner the legislation to devolve powers over justice and policing to locally-elected people which Sinn Féin is demanding is passed the better. It's promised for March.

The legislation should also include provision for a local attorney-general who is answerable to an assembly or a minister of justice.

Without such machinery the DPP here can thumb his nose at local politicians while his boss the British attorney-general can ignore them.

That machinery is SF's price for supporting the PSNI.

Paisley and McDowell have arrogantly placed themselves on a moral height above the law

PSNI plans for troop support is condemned

Bank arrest man’s PSNI son

Thursday, December 15, 2005

McDowell should resign

Irish Echo:

Many Irish Americans are shocked at the recent behavior of Ireland's Minister for Justice Michael McDowell.

McDowell has pursued what amounts to a vendetta against Frank Connolly, the executive director of an independent watchdog group established with the backing of Irish-American industrialist Chuck Feeney, the Center for Public Inquiry.

In September, McDowell browbeat reluctant police officers to travel to Colombia, where, as they had originally feared, they found no information useful enough to make a case against anyone.

Last week, he used parliamentary privilege to make allegations against Connolly that the authorities had already determined would not stand up in court. Then he selected documents that formed part of the confidential Garda investigation, and slipped them to a favored journalist.

In doing all of this, McDowell abused his power, undermined the police and the judicial system, victimized an Irish citizen and succeeded in persuading Feeney into withdrawing funding -- at least temporarily -- from a useful independent watchdog.

Defending his actions, McDowell claimed that, although not a single charge has been made against Connolly, the man was part of a labyrinthine IRA conspiracy involving leftist guerillas in Colombia, narcotics, forged passport applications, and "tens of millions of euros."

McDowell's said he was legally permitted to behave in this fashion solely because of his own belief in these claims, and that they represented a major threat to the security of the Irish state.

However, as even the usually-hawkish Fine Gael party has pointed out, no such threat exists; the IRA has long stood itself down, and the CPI's reports have proved, if anything, a little dull.

This means that either McDowell is a fantasist cowering before a non-existent bogey-man or a unionist-leaning blusterer who attempted to deceive the Dáil with a post-facto justification for carrying out a political with-hunt.

The taoiseach, Bertie Ahern, should decide which -- either way, he is unfit to hold office.

To the rescue?

Legislation 'lets loyalists off the hook'

William Graham:

The Northern Ireland (Offences) Bill which deals with on the runs is based on "outrageous double standards" – SDLP deputy leader Alasdair McDonnell said yesterday (Tuesday).

Speaking at Westminster where he moved for amendments to the bill Dr McDonnell said the legislation lets loyalist paramilitaries off the hook without decommissioning.

Dr McDonnell said that once the governments started putting real pressure on the IRA they decommissioned and committed to end all activity.

He asked: "But what of loyalists? They have not decommissioned a single bullet. They have not ended their activity. The Independent Monitoring Commission confirms that they are up to their necks in drug dealing, intimidation and racketeering.

"Under a 2003 Hillsborough side deal between the British government and Sinn Féin – and the legislation which implements it – loyalists are entitled to go free without so much as decommissioning a single bullet or committing to end all their criminal activities.

"In fact, all that the bill requires for a paramilitary organisation to benefit is that the Secretary of State has to recognise their ceasefires. What crimes they are up to don't matter."

Dr McDonnell complained that even the definition of a ceasefire is flexible. He recalled that just this year the UVF murdered four people, without the Secretary of State specifying the paramilitary group.

"It was only when they then shot at the police that he moved to act.

"The IRA had to decommission and commit to end all activity to benefit. Why does the government think that loyalists should not have to do likewise? Or were loyalists simply overlooked when this legislation was being drafted?" he asked.

The South Belfast MP said it was difficult to convey in words the anger that this double standard on loyalism creates.

Durkan admits no secret deal over ‘on the runs’

DUP shun Dalai Lama

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Google confirms 600 jobs for Ireland


Internet giant Google has confirmed it is to create over 600 jobs in Ireland over the next two to three years.

The IDA-backed announcement was reported by Business World yesterday and was officially announced by Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment Micheal Martin, and Google's European Director of Online Sales & Operations John Herlihy today.

Google's Irish operation, set up in 2003, is the multinational's headquarters for its European, Middle Eastern and African activities and is its largest base outside the US. The company employs over 800 people throughout Europe.

The expansion of the operation will bring to 1,000 the total employed by the company in Ireland and is being seen as a significant boost for the Government and the IDA.

In order to accommodate the extra staff, the company has signed a lease for a further 100,000 square feet beside its current facility on Barrow Street in Dublin 4.

Speaking at the announcement today, Mr Martin said that Google will become, in a very short period of time, one of the most substantial business support integration and development operations in Ireland.

"This decision yet again demonstrates that Ireland is by far and away the primary location for the digital media industry in Europe and second only to Silicon Valley in the US," he said.

Mr Herlihy said that basing Google's European operations in Dublin had "proven to be a great decision."

"We have found that the quality of the Irish workforce has enabled us to improve our products and services in a way that has proven to be highly beneficial for our customers, both users and advertisers," he added.

Google Ireland had a turnover of E603 million in 2004.

Google expanding European base in Ireland

Google announces over 600 new jobs at European headquarters in Dublin Ireland

Monday, December 12, 2005

Scotland is in the grip of a land grab as hundreds of farmers from the north of Ireland snap up swathes of cheap property

Jonathan Lessware:

A number of farmers are preparing to cross the Irish Sea and join their countrymen, who already own half the farms in some parts of Dumfries and Galloway.

Land in Scotland sells for as little as £3,000 an acre, less than a third of the price of comparable land in Ulster. Scottish farms are so popular with Irish farmers that one property lawyer claims 95% of his clients are from Ulster.

Another agency, ATM Property Services, which buys Scottish farms for Irish farmers, said it has £30m ready to invest in Scotland and 150 farmers on its waiting lists.

According to the National Farmers’ Union (NFU) Scotland, the Irish invasion has spread from the southwest of Scotland, with increasing numbers buying on the east coast.

Savills, the estate agent, said that 30% of the farms sold in the northeast of Scotland this year have been to Ulster farmers. One farm near Stranraer, which sold last week, had 33 prospective buyers of whom 28 were Ulstermen.

Robin Spence, vice-chairman of NFU Scotland in Dumfries and Galloway, said soaring demand for Scottish farms among Ulster farmers is down to simple economics.

“Generally speaking they will sell a small farm in Ireland and come and buy a bigger farm with us, which makes them a lot more viable,” he said. “There’s a section of road between Lockerbie and Dumfries where every second farm has an Irish owner.”

The trend is being fuelled by an exodus of Scots dairy farmers who have seen their incomes plummet. “We have seen a huge number leaving in the past few years because the price of milk to farmers is 18p, when it’s 56p in a supermarket,” added Spence.

Richard Huston of ATM, the Armagh-based property agent, said that Irish farmers had a more optimistic outlook on the future of the industry than their Scots counterparts.

Earlier this year 100 farmers had expressed an interest in buying a property in Scotland when the firm set up a stand at the Balmoral Show in Belfast.

Fred Connolly, 42, bought a farm near Moffat, in Dumfries and Galloway, after deciding to leave Northern Ireland with his wife and two children.

“The Irish prices were three times that of Scotland,” he said. “I sold part of a farm in Ulster and was able to move over. The farmers in Northern Ireland have to work very hard. The farms are much smaller and there is no scope to expand.

“It’s still not easy in Scotland but it’s a good life.”

Connolly’s brother has also settled on a Scottish farm.

One Scots farmer who recently sold his farm near Stranraer, but did not want to be named, said he was selling up because he had nobody to pass the farm on to. “I’m a reluctant seller but I feel I still have a few years in me to try something else,” he said. “The changes in agriculture, such as the supermarkets price differential, are not going to change so I’ve decided to get out.”

David Hall, of Dale & Marshall, an agricultural law firm based in Galston, Ayrshire, said: “Of all the farms we have bought this year, I have not bought one for a Scot.

They have all been from Northern Ireland.”

Let us hope that these migrating farmers are from the British colonial population and not from the indigenous Irish one. The more British colonists that leave the Six Counties, the sooner British colonial rule in Ireland can be brought to an end.

Small increase in Scottish land but supply still short

The PSNI and the threat to peace in the north of Ireland

Daily Ireland:

Jane Kearney has a message for PSNI Chief Constable Hugh Orde: “If he wants to know where the real threat to peace in the North of Ireland is, then he need look no further than his own force.”

At around 7am on Friday, October 4, 2002, the PSNI put Mrs Kearney’s husband, Ciarán, into a Land Rover and took him away for three months before he was released on bail.

At around the same time on the same day, the same force put Mrs Kearney’s father, Denis Donaldson, into a Land Rover and took him away for precisely the same length of time until he too was released on bail.

Ciarán Kearney and Denis Donaldson, alongside Billy Mackessy, were both charged with possessing information that could be useful to terrorists.

On Thursday of this week, the three men were found not guilty on all counts by direction of Justice Hart in Belfast Crown Court.

Two other people charged in the interim with alleged associated offences previously had all the charges against them dropped.

While much of the focus has been on unfounded PSNI allegations against the three men about a so-called ‘Stormont spy-ring’, few have attempted to understand the immense personal impact of the PSNI’s actions over the past three years against one wide family circle.

Speaking to Daily Ireland last night, Jane Kearney gave a lucid account of the turmoil experienced as a result of her family’s treatment by the PSNI and prosecuting authorities. Her mother Alice Donaldson outlined the personal impact on the health and well-being of innocent people torn apart from their loved ones more than three years ago.

“This entire episode started for us at 5 o’clock one Friday morning, when armed men, hyped-up and highly aggressive, shouting and banging, wearing masks and black boiler suits smashed their way in to our house and placed us under room arrest – with no regard whatsoever for the presence of two small children who were terrified,” Mrs Kearney said.

“We were all in shock and I remember asking if I could phone my parents to get them over to help us, at which stage the peelers started laughing. But I picked up the phone anyway and mammy answered and I told her the peelers were raiding the house and she said they’re raiding here too. I couldn’t believe what was happening.”

Mrs Donaldson only remembers the PSNI invading her house “like a herd of cattle” and then receiving her daughter’s helpless phone call.

“I couldn’t take it in. I was in shock. I know they placed us under room arrest and that’s about all I can remember from the raid,” Mrs Donaldson said.

Almost simultaneously, father and husband were arrested by the PSNI and taken away. Mother and daughter were “left devastated, trying to cope with a completely unreal situation”, Mrs Kearney said.

At the same time, the PSNI raided Sinn Féin’s offices at Parliament Buildings.

Over the following 48 hours, the media published the names, addresses, ages, and personal backgrounds of all those arrested. Unsubstantiated and untrue allegations about the raids and arrests littered the media like confetti both before and after charges were preferred.

After Denis Donaldson was charged on Sunday, October 6, 2002, his daughter answered her front door the following day to find an English journalist who called her by name. She shut the door in his face, only to open it a few hours later to another PSNI raiding party.

“They came back on the Monday afternoon, and maybe because the girls were at school and they didn’t need me to hold it together, I was more physically upset. At the time of the second raid, Mammy had been put on sedatives by the doctor and was sleeping up the stairs in my house. We just couldn’t believe it,” Mrs Kearney said.

“I remember, in particular, someone coming in supposedly to take carpet fibre samples, yet they weren’t wearing any gloves and there was no attempt to avoid cross-contamination. They took most of Ciarán’s clothes.”

Mrs Donaldson said the PSNI “were grasping at straws to try and keep Ciarán”.

“They didn’t get any evidence during the first raid and they didn’t get any during the second raid, yet they still held him for seven days before charging him. I couldn’t believe it. It was terrible.”

After being remanded to Maghaberry Prison, both Ciarán Kearney and Denis Donaldson were kept apart, prevented from even sharing a cell for over a month.

Their families were deeply concerned that the presence of loyalists and criminals put their lives in danger.

While trying to manage prison visits in a co-ordinated way, the families faced consistent and disruptive harassment from prison warders.

Subsequent High Court bail applications were “a sham”, Mrs Kearney said.

“The PSNI approach was about sullying the reputations of my husband and my father with some of the most bizzare and untrue allegations you could ever imagine. Denis was made out to be Bin Laden’s man in Ireland and Ciarán was supposed to have spoken at a major public meeting in America. It was ludicrous, but also highly dangerous because untrue allegations were being made and then carried verbatim by the media to justify the so-callled ‘spy-ring’ fantasy.”

Mrs Donaldson was too ill to attend any of the bail applications but she hit out at the “vindictiveness” shown against her husband and son-in-law. Despite both men being eventually released after three months under the terms of the European Convention on Human Rights, they had to wait exactly three more years to have their long-held assertions of innocence vindicated by Justice Hart on Thursday.

“There was absolutely nothing to it apart from dirty tricks and underhand political policing by Special Branch. They had no evidence, yet turned our lives upside down for over three years. And despite the direction of ‘not guilty’, there are still people trying to cast a shadow over their innocence,” Mrs Donaldson said.

Mrs Kearney said the families are still waiting to get large amounts of personal belonging back from the PSNI.

“Ciarán’s father, Oliver, was in very poor health before the arrests and afterwards he deteriorated rapidly. It had a terrible effect on him and he died a few months after Ciarán got out on bail.

“The real examination now must be about Operation Torsion and political policing. If they can tear down a government and wreck lives once, they can do it again.

“These people think they are a law unto themselves,” Mrs Kearney said.

Sections of media condemned for ‘deliberate disinformation’

Murdered men's family seek Ahern meeting over 'collusion'

Chief murder suspect is Special Branch informant

PSNI muscle used in coup d’état: the same old story…

DDP keen to keep a lid on raid case – SF

Rewriting the Irish Conflict

Official refuses to answer in Irish

What was Operation Torsion?

Stormont ‘spyring’ saga happily over

NI economy shows pick-up but still weak

Friday, December 09, 2005

Victims of loyalists complain of McCartney media bias

Irish Independent:

CATHOLIC victims of loyalist death squads complained of a "media bias" in favour of the family of Robert McCartney yesterday, writes Conor Sweeney.

In Brussels to launch a campaign to get an international inquiry into loyalist murders, the group Relatives for Justice said their voices are being ignored.

"If it's not an IRA victim, no one wants to know. If it's not one of the McCartney sisters speaking, the media aren't interested," claimed Robert McClenaghan, whose grandfather was killed in a bar bomb attack in 1971. The group is also seeking to highlight alleged collusion by British intelligence services.

Mr McClenaghan rejected the suggestion the campaign was being used by Sinn Fein for its own political ends, arguing it was the only party prepared to take an interest.

He said he would like to build a broader coalition with Protestant victims, but they "don't want to know" as soon as he raises questions about collusion between the PSNI and loyalist paramilitaries.

Independent Newspapers coverage was directly criticised by Hugh Jordan, the father of IRA member Pearse Jordan, whom Hugh believes was killed by loyalist death squads in November 1992 while driving his car.

He said false claims that his son had bomb equipment were released by the RUC immediately after the killing, but were later shown to be untrue.

On the road to recognition

‘Admit wrong-doing’

Family's Herculean efforts for justice go on

Pearse Jordan shooting

European Court finds Britain guilty of human rights violations in Ireland

Who killed our loved ones?

Patten report flawed

Sharp eye needed on bank arrests

Daily Ireland:

And so the farce goes on. The latest round of arrests in the investigation into the Northern Bank robbery have seen media-friendly raids in all parts of Belfast as well as in those well-known republican redoubts of Castlereagh and Carrickfergus.

All those arrested, with the exception of Northern Bank employee and robbery victim Chris Ward, have been released with nary a word of apology.

Similarly, there has been no explanation forthcoming from the PSNI for the offensive search of Casement Park or the raid on the home of the chairman of the Celtic supporters club that had Mr Ward as a member.

Making little of the PSNI’s efforts is a dangerous game for the suspicion is that, as the force’s efforts turn to sand, the PSNI’s determination to charge Chris Ward with something… with anything… mounts.

Today, Mr Ward holds the dubious honour of having been held longer in custody for questioning than any other suspect over the past 30 years.

Are we really to believe that he is a greater threat to the common weal than the Ulster Defence Association’s brigadiers of bling, who usually spend shorter periods on remand than Mr Ward has now spent under interrogation?

Or that Hugh Orde believes Mr Ward really is the “Mr Big”, the “inside man” who masterminded the Northern Bank heist?

Those close to Chris Ward say there is zero possibility that he had any involvement in the Northern Bank heist other than as a frightened victim carrying out the orders of the robbery gang.

Others in the PSNI, of course, suggest otherwise. After all, he supports Glasgow Celtic, works part-time in a GAA club and even once knew a man who voted for Sinn Féin! Pretty much an open-and-shut case then!

Alasdair McDonnell, the SDLP MP for south Belfast, has given the PSNI fair warning that its reputation, for what it is worth, is going down the toilet.

Those words of advice are unlikely to be heeded by secretary of state Peter Hain.

That is why the news that the Human Rights Commission is keeping a sharp eye on the detention of Chris Ward is to be welcomed.

However, much more must be done to stop further assaults on the already fragile human-rights defences in the North.

Irish America needs to be mobilised and the Irish government needs to speak out. The alternative is to allow the PSNI to drag society back when it should be moving forward.

PSNI defend raids

Stormont case - Ruling ends claims of spying ring

Irish Examiner:

In Belfast Crown Court yesterday, during a surprise and unscheduled hearing, charges were quietly dropped against three men arrested, over an alleged IRA spy ring at Stormont.

When the three were dramatically arrested in a police raid on Sinn Féin offices, three years ago, it was sufficient to result in a political row that led to the collapse of the Northern Executive.

Mr Justice Hart was informed that the DPP was offering no further evidence in the case, which saw the three charged, collectively, on seven counts of possessing and collecting information useful to terrorists.

This was the ultimate corollary to a case began to unravel in February last year, when charges of possessing documents originating from the Northern Ireland Office were thrown out by the court.

It is impossible to disagree with SF’s chief negotiator Martin McGuinness that this “shameful episode” is proof that there was never a spy ring at Stormont.

The prosecution of the case, however, has had enormous political repercussions and also seriously contributed to a souring of relations towards Sinn Féin.

In effect, the Assembly was suspended and the affairs of the North seriously retarded by a spurious case.

Of course, the whole "spy ring" was concocted by the British to give David Trimble an excuse to avoid dealing with Sinn Fein. Let us hope that people remember this the next time the British make some allegation against Irish republicans.

SF vents fury as ‘spy-ring’ three acquitted

Stormont spy ring trial collapses

Stormont conspiracy theories continue

'Spy' trio held 'to save Trimble'

Spy case 'a lot of grief for no prosecutions'

McGuinness Fury Over 'Spy Ring' Claims

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

A man accused of running brothels in Belfast is a former SDLP council election candidate

Ciarán Barnes:

Dominic Marsella, from Chichester Avenue in the north of the city, appeared in Belfast Magistrates’ Court yesterday charged with two counts of controlled prostitution and one of trafficking people.

The PSNI shut down suspected brothels he had allegedly been running at the Lucas Building on Ormeau Avenue and Margarita Plaza on Adelaide Street on September 24. A defence solicitor said all the charges would be contested.

The case was adjourned until January 9, with Mr Marsella released on continuing £1,000 bail. At a previous court appearance on October 17, a police officer said he could connect the accused to the charges.

In the 1997 local government elections, Mr Marsella stood unsuccessfully for the SDLP in the Castlereagh Central ward of Castlereagh borough council.

It was the first time the party fielded a candidate in the area, with the 57-year-old polling 224 votes.

After his failed election attempt he drifted away from politics to concentrate on teaching languages in different schools in the Belfast and south east Antrim areas.

A spokeswoman for the North Eastern Education and Library Board confirmed he had been an employee.

She said he had taught English as an additional language at schools in the board area until being made redundant on May 31. Mr Marsella refused to speak to the press as he left court with his solicitor.

A spokeswoman for the SDLP confirmed he had been a council candidate, but that his party membership had lapsed “years ago”.

It is British state forces who shouldn't get an amnesty

NI Office Want 'Orange-Friendly' Parades Body - Says Durkan