Friday, April 27, 2007

Justice that works would be a step forward

Brian Feeney:

It's now exactly four years since the Stevens Inquiry presented its report to the British administration here.

The public, in whose interest the inquiry was supposedly carried out, got a summary of a bit of the report which amounted to a fraction of one per cent of what we're told was in excess of 3,000 pages.

Stevens released enough information for us to know that collusion between the security forces and loyalist terrorist groups was routine, endemic and systemic.

He stopped short of saying it was institutional but certainly among sections of the British army and RUC Special Branch, it was.

Stevens was mainly concerned with events surrounding the killing of Pat Finucane but he ran a couple of other inquiries as a result of which we know that there was also a different kind of collusion with republicans, particularly members of the IRA.

Stevens submitted a file to the prosecution service here, or perhaps it should be called 'the non-prosecution service', because four years after receiving the file with Stevens's recommendations the outcome is zilch, nathin' – which is pretty much par for the course from the non-prosecution service when it comes to sensitive matters. True, it could be said that prosecutions could prejudice the outcome of any inquiry into the Finucane killing but since the British government have taken steps to ensure there is not going to be one, that argument falls down. Besides, the British administration used to say there could not be an inquiry because it might prejudice a prosecution.

Anyway, it is all to do with events nearly 20 years ago, so what?

Fair enough, except that there's not much evidence to show anything has changed.

For example, we are told to hold ourselves in readiness for a UVF statement saying their war is over or some such grandiose nonsense. We're also told they're keeping their guns. We know the UDA has no intention of packing in its activities or of handing over or destroying any weaponry.

Yet not a week goes by without the exploits of publicly-named UDA leaders being described in drooling detail in the Sunday press.

The UDA is supposed to be illegal, its ceasefire is not recognised, it is engaged in extortion, racketeering and drug-dealing but its acknowledged gang boss, unrepentant convicted extortionist Jackie McDonald, is an honoured guest at public occasions and an occasional golfing partner of President McAleese's husband.

To what end? At every opportunity he states the UDA will not give up its weaponry.

It is also taken for granted that the leadership of the UDA is collectively employed as agents of MI5, Special Branch and military intelligence. Why not? They always have been.

It is widely accepted that the overall UVF leader for many years has also been on the take from British intelligence of various stripes, perhaps even simultaneously.

Of course they know where he lives on the Shankill and that his organisation has been responsible for the deaths of many loyalists in recent years, long after the UVF ceasefire was announced.

What do the authorities do with all this knowledge? Precisely nothing. What is the point of it? Did they prevent the death of a single member of the LVF in 2005?

On the contrary, no-one in the UVF has been arrested or charged with directing terrorism.

On a monthly basis we watch the laughable revolving door policy of the courts and non-prosecution service as senior and publicly infamous UDA men are charged and released on bail or just released to terrorise their own communities – for it is those communities which have always borne the brunt of loyalist gangsterism.

The disgraceful stance of the British administration here is perhaps understandable considering the trouble they have taken to sustain loyalist terrorist groups over the years – especially supplying their favourite terrorist group, the UDA, with modern weaponry in the 1980s.

Now, instead of supplying loyalists with superfluous weaponry, the NIO has managed to persuade visiting British ministers that the best way to sustain their loyalist friends is to designate a front organisation for them to receive public money up front.

The incoming executive can stop their money and should, instantly. The first real evidence of change will be a justice system that jails them.

Unilateral initiative could help marching impasse

UVF statement 'worthless' says mother

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

A top British loyalist has sensationally been named as the killer of Irish Catholic lawyer Pat Finucane by the Stevens Inquiry

Martin Breen:

William 'Mo' Courtney, who was recently jailed for killing Johnny Adair's henchman Alan McCullough, has been accused in a court document of being one of the two gunmen who shot the lawyer in 1989.

The claims about Ulster's most controversial murder are made by Detective Chief Inspector Graham Taylor, of the Metropolitan Police, who is the senior investigating officer in the Finucane murder.

The top cop, who runs the team set up by Lord Stevens to probe collusion between security force members and loyalist terrorists, reveals the information comes from a highly-placed UDA mole.

In a sworn affidavit filed in a Belfast court, he alleged that Courtney and another man, who we can only identify as R, were the triggermen.

DCI Taylor said: "The investigation team have in their possession information that Courtney and R were the gunmen in the Finucane murder.

"However, this information is not admissible as the source is not willing to testify as a witness."

The top cop also claims he has information that Johnny 'Mad Dog' Adair hijacked the car used in the killing.

The affidavit from DCI Taylor has never been read out in court and was part of other proceedings brought by the Stevens Inquiry to obtain documents for its investigation.

We have obtained the document from a source not involved in the Stevens Inquiry or Crown Prosecution Service.

This is the first time the inquiry has identified any of those it believes killed the lawyer at his North Belfast home.

It is now thought the same claims will be aired in the coming years at the public inquiry to be held into the murder and into allegations that the British Army's secretive Force Research Unit colluded with the UDA.

Army agent Brian Nelson, who died three years ago, provided the UDA with the intelligence needed to target Mr Finucane. Nelson insisted that he kept his handlers fully-briefed on the Finucane plot but they ignored his warnings.

Eventually, his undercover work was exposed and in 1992 he was jailed for 10 years on five counts of conspiracy to murder.

Amazingly, the affidavit doesn't name one of the gunmen as Ken Barrett — the man who was convicted of the murder after he boasted that HE shot Mr Finucane.

Last year the News of the World tracked down ex-RUC Special Branch agent Barrett to a sleepy English seaside town on his release from jail after serving two years of a life sentence for the killing.

In an interview with Courtney in Maghaberry jail, we put it to him that the police believed he killed Mr Finucane.

Courtney admitted he was a suspect and that he had DNA samples taken, but he protested his innocence. "I didn't do it," he told us.

The 43-year-old, a former lieutenant of Adair before defecting during the 2003 UDA feud, was jailed for eight years last month after admitting to the manslaughter of 21-year-old Alan McCullough.

McCullough was shot dead in May, 2003, after returning home to Belfast from Bolton where he had been holed up with Adair's family and friends.

His body was found in a shallow grave on the outskirts of Belfast.

In 1991 Courtney was jailed for seven years for his role in a UDA armed robbery. When Adair was first returned to prison five years ago for breaching his licence, Courtney was pictured menacingly aiming an imaginary rifle at a police officer in the street.

He has spoken openly about his involvement in the UDA in the past.

UVF spy ring had dossiers on 116 people

O’Loan should look at state role in McGurk’s bombing

Loyalists must leave the stage

Jimmy McKenna and his killer gang

Delay on collusion charges 'inexcusable'

Friday, April 20, 2007

The Neo-Nazi website, 'Redwatch', has published pictures of local members of Ógra Sinn Féin

Anton McCabe:

Redwatch's motto is "Remember places, traitors' faces, they'll all pay for their crimes." Its founder was expelled from the far-right British National Party for being too extreme. Redwatch is linked to paramilitary Nazi group Combat 18, which in turn has links with the LVF.

West Tyrone Ógra has said they will not be intimidated. Spokesperson Barry McColgan said they had hoped the days of political intimidation were over.

"We hoped we were moving towards a situation where Ógra members, like members of any political grouping, should be able to operate in any area they wish without intimidation," McColgan said.

"We were photographed at a march outside the BBC offices in Belfast, which was organised in protest at against the media's portrayal of events in the Middle East last summer."

"The march was organised by the Anti-War Movement in conjunction with the Ireland-Palestine Solidarity Campaign and the Friends of Palestine society at QUB.

"We won't be deterred; in fact it will make us more resilient.

"We are getting stronger, more young people are joining Ógra and more people are voting for Sinn Féin.

If the might of the British war machine and its death squads couldn't deter republicanism then neither will a website representing a minority, fascist view."

Matthew Collins from Anti-Fascist magazine Searchlight has studied the far right for years.

"Redwatch is dangerous and sinister," he said.

"People put on the site have been attacked and have been harassed.

"Combat 18 has set up this idea of leaderless resistance. They themselves don't organize attacks. They'll set out a menu on the internet."

Collins said Redwatch was international, with similar sites in several other countries.

"If your face is on Redwatch, you must be doing something right," he said.

Call to ditch loyalist funding plan

Parades appointment is 'helpful'

Neal Leads Bipartisan Delegation to Ireland

RUC conduct unacceptable

Court told of city parade rioting

Disastrous nomination is latest UUP mistake

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Red hair gene more common in Celtic areas such as Ireland, Scotland, Wales and regions of south west England

Spirit India:

A study funded by the Wellcome Trust and aimed at developing a genetic map of Britain has begun to shed light on how the ancient populations of Britain – the Celts, Anglo Saxons and Vikings – moved into and across the country. Initial findings, presented in the Channel 4 series Face of Britain, support the notion that the Viking invasion of Britain was predominantly from Danish Vikings, with particularly Orkney being invaded by Norse Vikings.

Volunteers from across the UK have been donating samples of their blood to help scientists at the University of Oxford study genetic differences, known as genetic variation. Some of this variation contributes to inherited differences in susceptibility to many common diseases, such as cancer and heart disease.

Working with researchers across the country, Professor Walter Bodmer and colleagues have already collected some 1,500 samples from volunteers and are looking to more than double that figure. In particular, they are interested in collecting blood samples from volunteers living in rural areas whose four grandparents were born in the same location, within a radius of approximately 30 miles.

"Our aim is to characterise the genetic make-up of the British population and relate this to the historical and archaeological evidence," says Professor Bodmer. "We are collecting samples from people in rural areas with all four grand parents from the same area so as to avoid the recent mixing up of populations in urban areas and to reach back in time as far as possible.

"Our samples will provide a valuable control for studies on disease susceptibility which depend on comparing the frequency of genetic markers in disease groups with that in control groups. If we are able to eliminate genetic markers linked to geography rather than disease, then we should be able to minimise the risk of finding spurious associations."

The researchers have already carried out some analysis of the samples they have already collected and will be presenting their initial results on Face of Britain. By studying the Y chromosomes from their male volunteers, the researchers have been able to show where the Viking invasions of Britain originated. One variant of the Y chromosome, known as M17, is found in 20% of people from Norway, but is very rare elsewhere in Western Europe. However, in the Orkney Islands, almost one in three men have this variant, supporting the belief that Norse Vikings settled there. In contrast, the M17 variant is not found in areas where the Danish Vikings settled, suggesting that Norse and Danish Vikings were significantly different.

In other findings to be presented in the series, the researchers have found that two rare versions of the gene MC1R occur with a much higher frequency in areas where the Celts were settled than where the Anglo Saxons settled. These rare versions of the gene, found predominantly in Scotland, Wales, Ireland and regions of south west England, are associated with red hair.

Genetic differences between Britain and Ireland

Red hair is most common in Ireland

Gene geography: Do you have Viking ancestry in your DNA?

Celtic ancestry, HLA phenotype and increased risk of skin cancer

Why Did the Anglo-Saxons Not Become More British?

Fianna Fáil says the Irish economy will grow at an annual rate of 4.5% over the next 5 years

Finfacts Team:

Fianna Fáil has launched its economic policy for the next five years, which the party says will lead to a debt free nation.

Their policy document Protecting Prosperity, The Next Steps Forward was launched by Taoiseach Bertie Ahern and Minister for Finance Brian Cowen. (The FF website had not been updated with launch material at time of this news report.)

The document, which outlines how the party will fund many of its election promises, is designed to bring Ireland close to a zero net debt in five years time.

Fianna Fáil says it can achieve economic growth of 4.5% annually over the next five years if it is re-elected to power. Public spending is forecast to grow at a 6% annual rate compared with 12% currently.

The party also said it could increase employment by 2.5% per annum.

Central Bank issues optimistic outlook for Irish economy

The Department of Education has come under fire over a document seeming to compare British loyalist terrorist groups to children's charities

BBC News:

The UDA and UVF were described as "voluntary organisations" and bracketed with Barnados and the NSPCC.

The document is a note of a meeting between a group of principals and senior figures in the department.

Dolores Kelly (SDLP) said it was outrageous. The department there was a "mistake" in drafting the minutes.

Ms Kelly, whose party has accused the department of "illegal sectarian discrimination" through an action plan which allegedly favours Protestant neighbourhoods for additional funding, said she was stunned.

"It beggars belief that anybody would compare the UDA and UVF with Barnardo's and the NSPCC," she said.

"Indeed it beggars belief that the UDA and UVF would be asked to help contribute to a plan to help children's education.

"It is, at the same time, ludicrous and insulting. "

The comparison was made in minutes of a meeting between school principals in Protestant areas of north and west Belfast, the chief executive of the city's education and library board and a deputy permanent secretary at the Department of Education.

Called as part of Renewing Communities, the government's response to a taskforce report on working-class Protestant communities, it lists a series of actions needed to develop service delivery integration.

One point states: "Maintain/establish good working relationships with voluntary organisations (Barnardo's, NSPCC, UDA, UVF)."

SF warned not to barter away residents' rights

Our day comes as festival boldly goes where no festival has gone before

Monday, April 09, 2007

Don't count on peace in the north of Ireland just yet

Andrew Greeley:

Ireland finally made it big in the American media last week. It was on the front page of The New York Times Newspaper (as Jimmy Breslin calls it) and on the evening news for three minutes. Protestants and Catholics had made peace in Northern Ireland.

The heads of both warring political factions sat at a table and made statements about political cooperation. In their weirdly different accents, both the Rev. Ian Paisley and Gerry Adams invoked the name of God.

Finally a conflict that went back to Oliver Cromwell had come to an end. It was as though two of Nigeria's tribes had at last made peace in a conflict the American media could not expect their consumers to understand.

The conflict in fact dated back to the time not of Cromwell, but of Elizabeth I, who had "planted" the first lowland Scottish colony in Ulster with the goal of eliminating the "savage" local Catholics. Moreover, this was not the first such announcement of peace.

The scene, with different characters, had been performed several times since the original Good Friday agreement in 1998. It was different this time in two respects: Adams and Paisley represent the extremes of Catholic and Protestant sentiment; and the British and Irish governments were willing to pour major subsidies into Northern Ireland to help it catch up with the prosperity of the rest of the island.

Also, if the two parties are not able to form a coalition government, the newly elected Assembly would be prorogued and its members would no longer be able to collect their salaries for doing nothing. Anyone who has studied the history, even the very recent history, of Northern Ireland can only cross his fingers and hope this agreement will hold.

It would be wise for Americans to understand the history of the rump state of Northern Ireland as racial, with religion a symbol of race. Ireland is the only country in Western Europe with a foreign colony imposed on it, a colony with gerrymandered boundaries that permit a minority in the whole island to impose its will on the part of the majority group that lives within its artificial boundaries.

The descendents of the Protestant genocidal colonizers believe as self-evident that they are morally, intellectually and humanly superior to the descendents of the Catholics who were not quite eliminated. It is very difficult for them to accept any agreement that constrains them to share power with Catholics, just as whites in the American South found it so difficult to share power with the racially inferior blacks.

Paisley is very sensitive to the emotions of his hard-line constituents. He knows he must humiliate the Catholics by cooking up new requirements, added to the substance of the Good Friday agreement, to prove their good faith.

You really can't trust Catholics, you know. Nor can you permit them to take over your country without forcing them to jump repeatedly through hoops.

The Ulster Protestants share this conviction of the racial inferiority of the Catholic Irish -- slovenly, ignorant, superstitious, lazy and responsible for all their problems -- with a substantial proportion of the population of Great Britain. There are not many people left in the world the English can feel superior to, so it's a good thing the Irish are still around. That the standard of living, as measured by per capita gross national product, in Ireland is the highest in Europe (save perhaps for Norway) and higher than that of England has yet to penetrate English consciousness.

The small print in the recent agreement is that power-sharing will begin only after two months. That gives Paisley and his allies time to discover the Catholics are still violating some of the conditions for power-sharing, new conditions they will have dreamed up. The history of the past 10 years of negotiations in Northern Ireland has been a story of "just one more thing you have to do," thus establishing that the Protestants are still in charge.

The security agencies of the British government have cooperated with this stalling process. They raided the Sinn Fein party's offices in the Ulster Parliament and removed carloads of "evidence" that Sinn Fein was back working with the IRA. The evidence oddly disappeared. Then the Ulster police blamed a big bank robbery on the IRA, though they never did get around to arresting any suspects.

It would be unwise to bet against more of such delaying tactics before May 21.

Bombs: a damning report

Former head of civil service says united Ireland may be better for northerners

Friday, April 06, 2007

Tánaiste: Every reason to believe collusion between the British security forces and some of those responsible for the Dublin and Monaghan bombings

RTE News:

The Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Michael McDowell, has said there was 'every reason' to believe there was involvement at some level between security force personnel in Northern Ireland and some of those responsible for the Dublin and Monaghan bombings.

Meanwhile, the Justice for the Forgotten Group, which represents many of the families of those killed or injured in the attacks, has urged some gardai to consider their position in the wake of the MacEntee report, published yesterday.

Mr MacEntee concluded that most of the Garda files on the investigation had disappeared.

Church ads blast Paisley decision

North Set for U.S. Money?

Thursday, April 05, 2007

The people have spoken in the north of Ireland, like it or not

Brian Feeney:

It was Mark Twain who coined the phrase "The people have spoken – the bastards". Some attribute the remark to Dick Tuck, a Democratic Party dirty tricks specialist who said it when asked for his reaction after he lost a California state senate primary in 1964.

Whoever said it first, it's a refrain that has been on the lips of many of the members of the defeated parties in our recent assembly election.

Obviously the people couldn't care less what the SDLP or the UUP did in 1973, 1985 or 1997. That only matters to long-suffering members of those parties. Voters are concerned with the realities of 2007 and 2008. All of that you'd expect.

What is astonishing is that there are still commentators who can't accept that Sinn Féin and the DUP are carrying out the wishes of the voters.

Ruth 'Deadly' Edwards, the clairvoyant Kevin Myers and the venerable Conor Cruise O'Brien have all been railing against last week's events.

O'Brien, who has been completely wrong on everything to do with the north for more than a generation and who even supported Bob McCartney's vanishing party to prove how wrong he could be, predicted just over a week ago that there would be no agreement between SF and the DUP, indeed that there could not ever be. To be fair, he was writing before the events of Monday week ago.

It's the other two who are truly astonishing. They were writing after the events.

Edwards has accepted that there has been a sea change, that Paisley has done a volte-face and therefore compares him to tricky Bertie Ahern who spun around within a fortnight. First he castigated Fine Gael and Labour for engaging in 'auction' politics and then shamelessly outbid them in his own ard fheis speech.

Nevertheless, she can't accept that Paisley has done what his voters voted for, which is surely a step ahead of Ahern who is promising the voters something they didn't ask for and, on Ahern's previous record, won't get.

Poor old Ruth: all her heroes have failed or failed her – Trimble, the Orange Order and now Paisley. Still, at least she acknowledges that things have changed even though she finds it impossible to eat crow.

The most amazing of the trio is Myers who, writing the day after the event, can't believe it, insists that the famous deal on March 26 was 'an exercise in mutual delusion'.

He thinks May 8 is another final deadline which like all other 'final deadlines' will endlessly shift. He says that 'May 8 now shimmers before us as the last-ever date for the restoration of political institutions. I believe that that date is as likely to see a joint government between Sinn Féin and the DUP as it is to see Dana become world heavyweight wrestling champion.'

The one aspect all three of these writers have in common is their disgust with the form the peace process has taken since the day and hour it began. They strained might and main since the early nineties to prevent any accommodation with the republican movement.

There used to be a fourth member of this cabal, Eoghan Harris, but he has fallen by the wayside.

Harris, who was originally vehemently opposed to the Hume-Adams dialogue, has belatedly come to realise that the accommodation between republicans and loyalists that has taken place is what the people of the north have wanted.

Now, as the parties who will form the executive here amicably allocate the departments a month early and the new ministers prepare to read themselves in, what will Myers, Edwards and O'Brien do as they watch their vitriolic campaigns of nearly 20 years disintegrate in ashes?

The answer is very simple. They will blame the people who voted for Sinn Féin and the DUP. Obviously the voters know no better than to support these dreadful people who will be running the north. In all those years it has never occurred to any of these writers that their position has been fundamentally anti-democratic, that they have consistently opposed the shifts that have taken place in the north in the last generation as evidenced in every election. They seem to agree with Mark Twain and Dick Tuck.

UDA rules out imminent disarmament

'Too soon to judge' UDA on crime

Irish Inquiry Faults Handling of Day of Attacks in 1974

Garda apology for investigation into atrocity demanded

SDLP’s dossier of amazing history of loyalist sentences

Hot flushes and delusions

De Brún welcomes Euro rap for British on Irish language

Northern economy needs boost

Comment: Executive has tough economic choices

More speak Irish in the North than speak Chinese

Questions raised over sword-wielding Orangeman

War Peace, what is it good for?