EC to take legal action over Sellafield
04 September 2004
By Geoff Meade
THE European Commission is to take legal action against the British Government over "unacceptable failings" in dealing with nuclear waste at the Sellafield plant in Cumbria.
The commission is convinced Sellafield's operator, British Nuclear Fuels (BNFL), is meeting EU standards for tackling nuclear waste. However, the dispute is over verification of the safety of spent nuclear fuel currently stored in a 'pond' at the Sellafield site.
Fine Gael MEP, Avril Doyle Avril Doyle said the commission's move was "a long time coming".
"At last the EU Commission has accepted the concern voiced by the Irish people and others in relation to the hazardous irradiated fuel storage area," she said.
She said British Nuclear Fuels had failed to grant proper access to EU inspectors with the most recent incident occurring last June. "It is now high time to back up censure with legal action," she added.
The situation at Sellafield was "unacceptable", said Loyola de Palacio, commission vice-president responsible for Energy and Transport. "This problem has been known for a long time, but no concrete initiative has been taken by the operator to rectify it. The situation had therefore become untenable for the commission."
The British Government acknowledges the problems of accounting precisely for the waste, but ministers are annoyed the commission is pursuing BNFL using rules designed to ensure nuclear waste does not get into the wrong hands.
A British Government spokesman said: "The Government has already set up a decommissioning agency to clean up at Sellafield.
"There is no suggestion of any leakage. What we are talking about is verifying the exact scale of nuclear material waste deposited in a pond many many years ago. We know where it is, and we have been analysing with the Commission how best to deal with it for several years. But we will not be rushed into any action not in line with the imperatives of public and environmental safety," he said.
**This is the 'Ireland of Equals'
EVICTED DEERPARK FAMILIES SLAM EXEC OVER PAYMENTS
This time last year dozens of Catholic families had to leave their homes in Deerpark under a hail of abuse and a stream of death threats.
Loyalist paramilitaries orchestrated a mass campaign of intimidation against their homes, which to this day still lie empty.
Last week the last of ten Protestant families left their homes in Torrens Court.
They claimed that republicans intimidated them out of their homes.
Today the Housing Executive confirmed that the residents of Torrens were paid an undisclosed amount of money to help move.
Speculation that the families were each given thousands of pounds was rubbished by a spokeswoman for the Housing Executive who said that the figure was a gross exaggeration.
“A standard payment was made to the residents of Torrens who moved recently, to cover their removal costs.
“This payment was fully in line with the HE’s policies and procedures.”
One woman who left her home in Deerpark on September 3, 2003 after her windows and doors were smashed said she was outraged by the news.
“This is just pure discrimination.
“Me and many others who had to leave their homes in Deerpark received no assistance from the Housing Executive in terms of where we should go after we were intimidated out of our homes or money to help with moving,” said the woman who wished to remain anonymous.
“When we left we had nowhere to go and we were told to go to a hostel.
“That would have split up the family so we didn’t do that.
“A friend of ours said we could sleep on the floor so we did that until we found somewhere more permanent.
“I can’t understand why they are making a difference between us. It’s so unfair.”
Another family, this time a newly married couple, have yet to sell their home in Deerpark.
They were evicted from their home in Deerpark one week before they were due to get married and to this day, are still paying a mortgage for a house they do not, and cannot live in.
“We think the house is going to get repossessed,” the man said.
“But we have no choice, we are snowed under with repayments.
“We tried to move in again six months ago but the police came up to us and told us there was death threats made against us.
“They told us to leave and not come back.
“We are in debt and danger and now you hear that families in Torrens are getting money. It’s just not fair.
“We need help just as much as they do.”
Journalist:: Áine McEntee
Man ‘homeless’ after loyalist break in
A New Lodge man and his neighbours have been left dazed and fearful after masked men stormed his flat on Monday night.
Seamus, who does not want to be fully identified for fear of reprisals, was at his mother’s house when the break-in occurred.
He returned the following morning to find his Carlisle Parade flat ransacked and devastated.
According to eyewitnesses, the masked men, who shouted out that they were members of the Loyalist Volunteer Force, broke into the flat around 11.30pm.
As the other residents in the block cowered in fear, the masked thugs kicked the door in and proceeded to lay waste to the living room with baseball bats. They left soon after in a silver car, which was waiting outside and they were seen driving towards the Antrim Road.
“I’m absolutely shocked. They’ve left a real mess here and smashed up everything and took my mail.
“I can’t believe that these people forced their way into my home.”
Seamus believes the break-in was a case of mistaken identity.
“The worst thing is that there’s no way that I can move back now. I haven’t been back since the break in and I don’t feel safe here anymore.
“I don’t care whether it was mistaken identity or not, it has ruined my life and now I feel homeless.”
Speaking from her North Belfast constituency office, Sinn Féin councillor Carál Ní Chuilín was scathing in her condemnation.
“The situation is bad. As well as Seamus, I’ve had another terrified resident in my office today saying that she wants to move out now,” said the councillor.
“We all know that this is not the first time that residents there have been intimidated in this way.
“For the LVF to be able to come into the New Lodge like this is disgraceful and I would be appealing to anybody with political influence to exert some control over this kind of thing.”
And she called on the Housing Executive to provide adequate safety provision for the residents at Carlisle Parade, which is one of the few blocks in the area not to have close-circuit television cameras installed.
She also demanded that measures be taken to help residents be re-housed swiftly if need be.
Responding to the situation, a Housing Executive spokesperson said that they had done all in their power to help Seamus including offering him temporary accommodation while “circumstances were investigated”.
She added that the property had now been secured and that, “CCTV is not provided in mid-rise accommodation; however as part of our concierge roll out, all seven multi-storey blocks in the New Lodge have been provided with CCTV.”
Journalist:: Staff Reporter
SINN FÉIN CONDEMN SHORE ROAD ATTACK
Sinn Féin Councillor for North Belfast, Danny Lavery, slammed last Friday night’s sectarian attack on a group of bandsmen on the Shore Road.
“What happened on Friday is clearly wrong and those perpetrating these acts need to know that there is no justification whatsoever for what occurred,” said Cllr Lavery.
“There is no excuse for sectarianism in whatever form it manifests itself and from whatever community it arises out of.
“Those who carried out such attacks do not represent the nationalist community in any shape or form and the vast majority of the community would stand against such attacks.”
Councillor Lavery appealed for calm in the days ahead and stressed that, “there needs to be further work carried out to end sectarianism in our society.”
“Unfortunately if anything this attack serves to highlight the need that all parties should not be deflected from the efforts to ease interface tensions that are ongoing in the area.”
SDLP councillor Pat Convery unreservedly condemned the assaults.
“This is sectarianism in its worst form. It is intolerable that such bigotry and hatred should continue to exist, particularly in an area that has seen its people suffer too much for too long.
Journalist:: Staff Reporter
Call for barracks to close
Sinn Féin Councillor for North Belfast Carál Ní Chuilín has called for the closure of North Queen Street PSNI station.
Citing housing reasons, the councillor stressed that the four acres of land the near-empty station sits upon, could be better used if it was handed over to the community.
“Currently the station is used on a severely reduced level and is not even open to the public. Anyone who contacts the station is referred to Antrim Road or Tennent Street stations,” Carál Ní Chuilín said.
“The housing waiting lists in North Belfast are sky high and you find people are waiting for years to get anywhere.
“Currently there are over 1,700 people waiting to be housed, and 83 per cent of those are Catholic.
“Considering the existing situation and the significant development of land for much-needed housing around the station. The waste of space for a part-time station, that is in operation only for a few hours a day, is absurd.
“The site, which could provide much needed social housing and facilities such as playgrounds, would go some way to alleviating the local community’s housing shortage and lack of amenities.
“It should be handed over to the community without delay. There is absolutely no justification for keeping this station open.”
The PSNI refused to comment on the station’s future.
Journalist:: Áine McEntee
Graffiti daubed on boy's memorial
The scene of Thomas McDonald's death
Graffiti has been daubed on a wall in north Belfast mocking the controversial death of a Protestant boy three years ago.
The words, on a wall at the Shore Road, were quickly painted out by residents of the nationalist Bawnmore estate on Saturday morning.
They said that they found it offensive.
Thomas McDonald, 16, was struck by a car as he rode his bicycle along Whitewell Road in September 2001.
The Protestant youth was knocked from his bike by a Catholic woman's car when she chased him along a footpath after he had thrown a brick at her windscreen.
The County Antrim mother of six was sentenced to two years in prison for Mr McDonald's manslaughter - Alison McKeown, 33, admitted killing him by dangerous driving but denied murdering him.
Thomas McDonald was killed followed rioting between rival loyalist and nationalist crowds at the Whitewell interface.
McKeown's defence counsel had argued that although it had been a rash and dangerous act, it had been carried out in the heat of the moment.
One of those who objected to the graffiti which was discovered on Saturday was a man whose memorial to his stepson was destroyed during the week.
He blamed loyalists for that attack but said both were wrong.
The Whitewelll road was cordoned off on Saturday while a band parade was held in memory of Thomas McDonald.
There was a heavy police presence in the area.
Bullet 'addressed to Adams'
A bullet intercepted in the post on Wednesday was addressed to the home of Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams, the party has said.
Another bullet was actually delivered to the home of west Belfast councillor Paul Maskey, Sinn Fein MLA Conor Murphy said on Saturday.
A total of 12 envelopes, each containing a bullet, were addressed to Sinn Fein councillors.
Staff at the Royal Mail sorting office in Mallusk, outside Belfast, raised the alarm after finding the suspicious packages.
They were taken away by police for scientific examination.
Mr Murphy said that the act, in conjunction with the forklift truck attack on a bar in north Belfast on Friday by loyalist paramilitaries, the Red Hand Defenders, showed that a violent campaign was being intensified.
"Unionist politicians will no doubt continue to focus their attentions on the silent guns of the IRA while ignoring and, in some cases, justifying ongoing unionist paramilitary attacks on the nationalist community," Mr Murphy said.
"The hypocrisy of their position is both breathtaking and indeed insulting."
The view from ...
Friday September 3, 2004
With the 10th anniversary of the IRA ceasefire this week, the Irish press reflected on the past decade in Northern Ireland and on the prospects for this month's series of talks, to be held at Leeds Castle in Kent, aimed at restoring the Stormont institutions.
The Sunday Business Post was typically candid: "Ireland's unionist community has, of course, spent the past decade trying desperately to avoid inclusive negotiations and above all, the inclusive, power-sharing government that would flow from it."
Referring to Gerry Adams' recent statement that "republicans need to be prepared to remove [the IRA and the issue of IRA arms] as an excuse" for unionists to use, the paper warned the Sinn Féin president not to "believe that if and when the IRA formally stands itself down, unionists will suddenly be happy to share power with nationalists. Unfortunately a significant number of unionists are quite simply anti-Catholic bigots. For many, the entire North itself is like an Orange march - the whole point is to keep the Fenians down."
As unionists "would rather have direct rule from Westminster" than share power with nationalists, the Sunday Business Post called for a "mechanism ... to ensure that if the North's institutions collapse, they are automatically replaced by something that intransigent unionists would see as worse than sharing power with nationalists. This ... should be the focus of the Irish government at the talks."
The Star was more upbeat. "The [Democratic Unionist party's] old guard are on the way out, leaving a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for change. Both the DUP and Sinn Féin must change their tunes and start seeing each other in a new light. And all sides must get the message that failure this time is not an option," noted the paper. But the Irish Times was cautious as ever, warning that the "difficulties involved are immense and it may not be possible to overcome them at the September conference".
The success or failure of the peace process impinges on Ireland's image abroad, a concern that featured in commentary on other events this week. The defrocked Irish priest Cornelius Horan's violent intervention in the men's marathon at the Olympics was, not surprisingly, the subject of acute discomfiture in Ireland. The attack by the kilt-wearing Kerryman on the then race leader, Vanderlei de Lima, "made us cringe with embarrassment", said the Irish Independent, which noted one of the priest's brothers went as far as comparing the incident to his parents' deaths. A caller to the Liveline phone-in show on RTE Radio One reckoned Mr Horan was "probably the most hated man in Ireland". Mr Horan was on the other line and refused to apologise for his stunt, which was intended "to draw attention to the Bible".
The Evening Herald tried to soothe the pain of national embarrassment. "As a nation we can't be held responsible for the actions of a man obviously suffering from some sort of mental infirmity."
Overseas perceptions of Ireland were also cited by the Irish Independent in its reaction to the announcement by the Football Association of Ireland (FAI) that it was dispensing with the shamrock in its logo. The paper saw fit to devote an editorial to this development. "What have people got against the shamrock?" it wondered, alluding to previous attempts by the national airline and the tourism board to abandon the trefoil-leafed plant. "The FAI claims the new logo 'represents the very essence of Irish football - inclusive of all who enjoy the game'. Are they suggesting that the shamrock, as traditionally depicted, is somehow alienating or exclusive?"
The paper also considered whether the aversion to the shamrock could be explained by "a cultural cringe towards anything associated with Ireland from before the Celtic Tiger? Overseas the shamrock is an instantly recognisable symbol of Ireland, one that conjures up images of a friendly and hospitable country. Why would anyone want to get rid of that?"
In the Sunday Tribune, Diarmuid Doyle also devoted his column to the subject. "The ditching of the shamrock is little more than part of a continuing process in which Ireland is being robbed of its unique character," he argued. "The new logo means nothing and says nothing and exists only as a means to, once again, change the Irish jersey and milk hundreds of thousands of euros from Irish fans ... As a symbol of greed and avarice, the new shamrockless logo is perfect."
Irish lawyer in bid to impeach Blair
by Tom Griffin
3 September 2004
A leading Irish human rights lawyer has been recruited by MPs planning to impeach Tony Blair over the war in Iraq.
Professor Conor Gearty, a colleague of the Prime Minister’s wife Cherie Booth QC at top law firm Matrix Chambers, will draw up charges and advise on parliamentary procedure
A cross-party group of MPs last week published a report claiming that there was sufficient evidence and legal precedent
“Today a number of MPs, including myself, are declaring our intention to bring a Commons' motion of impeachment against the prime minister in relation to the invasion of Iraq,” Plaid Cymru MP Adam Price said at the launch of the document. “This is the first time in more than 150 years that such a motion has been brought against a minister of the crown, and it is clearly not an undertaking we enter into lightly.”
“One MP is all it takes to make the accusation of high crimes and misdemeanours against a public official for an impeachment process to begin. Once an MP has presented his or her evidence of misconduct to the Commons in a debate, and if a majority of elected members agree there is a case to answer, a committee of MPs is established to draw up articles of impeachment, which will list each charge individually. The case goes before the Lords.”
Although the practise of impeachment is well known in the United States, where an unsuccessful attempt was made to use it against former President Bill Clinton, it has not been used in Britain since 1848, and some have viewed it as obsolete.
Nevertheless, the impeachment plan has won backing from Plaid Cymru, the SNP and Conservative and from Liberal Democrat backbenchers. Leading human rights solicitor Phil Shiner has instructed Matrix barristers Conor Gearty and Rabinder Singh on behalf of the group.
"This is no joke or gimmick, as New Labour would like to suggest,” Mr Shiner said.
"It is a highly professional job that we are taking very seriously. Neither Rabinder Singh, Conor Gearty nor myself would be putting time into this if we thought it was just a stunt.
"Those who have suggested that impeachment is not still part of the Parliamentary process are talking nonsense. There is a clear distinction between a procedure that has not been used for a long time and one that has actually been abolished. The Foreign Office made it clear in a submission to a House of Lords Select Committee in 1997 that primary legislation would be needed to abolish impeachment. Our view is that there is a compelling case that the Prime Minister was involved in deception."
Professor Gearty is a well-known expert on terrorism, civil liberties and human rights law. As well as being a founder member of Matrix Chambers, he is Professor of Human Rights Law at the London School of Economics.
By Richard Ayton and Oliver Bullough
BESLAN, Russia (Reuters) - More than 200 people -- dozens of them children -- have been killed and hundreds wounded in a bloody schoolyard battle that Russian troops blamed on Chechen hostage-takers.
Terrified children, some naked and others with bloodied faces, ran screaming for safety on Friday after a 53-hour ordeal at the hands of gunmen with bombs strapped to their waists. Machinegun fire rattled out and helicopters clattered overhead.
The Russian military was quoted by Itar-Tass news agency late on Friday as saying all resistance had been quelled at the school but it was still hunting for three gunmen. Amid the chaos, a top official said some children were still being held.
Burly soldiers grabbed the fleeing children and rushed them to waiting medics. Some had blood streaming from wounds.
"I smashed the window to get out," one boy with a bandaged hand told Russian television. "People were running in all directions ... (The guerrillas) were shooting from the roof."
The children, many stripped to their underwear after two days without food or drink in stiflingly hot and crowded conditions, gulped down bottles of water and waited in a daze for relatives as gunfire crackled round them.
CONFUSION AND CARNAGE
Official details and figures fluctuated amid the confusion and carnage in Beslan in the North Ossetia region bordering troubled Chechnya, where Moscow has faced a decade-old revolt.
"More than 200 people died as a result of shooting by the gunmen or from wounds received as a result of explosions set off by the gunmen," a Health Ministry source in North Ossetia was quoted as saying by the Interfax news agency.
Russian media said 860 pupils attended Middle School No.1. Their number may have been swollen to around 1,500 by parents and relatives attending a first-day ceremony traditional in Russian schools.
The Emergencies Ministry said 704 people, including 259 children, were in hospital. Many of the wounded were being treated in mobile hospitals set up by authorities.
Bullet holes riddled the red brick walls of the school and smoke rose from the collapsed roof of the gymnasium.
Six bodies lay covered with white sheets near the school gates, one the almost naked corpse of a girl of around 16.
Russian authorities said they had been forced into an unplanned rescue operation when the hostage-takers opened fire on fleeing children.
Moments before the battle erupted, officials said they had sent a vehicle to fetch the bodies of people killed in Wednesday's seizure of the school.
"No military action was planned. We were planning further talks," said Valery Andreyev, regional head of Russia's FSB security service.
RUSSIA SAYS 10 ARABS KILLED
Andreyev said 10 Arabs had been among about 20 gunmen killed, adding fuel to Russia's contention that Chechen rebels are backed by foreign Islamic militants.
Some officials suggested an al Qaeda financing link to the gunmen.
Russian President Vladimir Putin came to power in 2000 on a promise to restore order in Chechnya after years of violent rebellion and hostage-takings similar to the one in Beslan.
A total of 129 hostages and 41 rebels were killed when Putin sent in troops to overpower Chechen rebels who seized a Moscow theatre in 2002. But violence in the region and elsewhere in Russia has raged on.
World leaders sent messages of support and sympathy to Russia, although many have questioned Moscow's human rights record in an often bloody campaign against Chechen rebels seeking independence for their region.
"This is yet another grim reminder of the lengths to which terrorists will go to threaten the civilised world," U.S. President George W. Bush told a rally in West Allis, Wisconsin, where he was campaigning for re-election.
"We stand with the people of Russia."
GUNMEN SPLIT UP
Russian media said the fleeing gunmen split up after escaping from the school.
Tass quoted the Russian military as saying three of the gunmen had been captured.
Alexander Dzasokhov, president of North Ossetia, said the gunmen had demanded an independent Chechnya, the first clear link between them and a decade-long separatist rebellion in the neighbouring province.
Attacks linked to Chechen separatists have surged in the past few weeks as Chechnya elected a head for its pro-Moscow administration to replace an assassinated predecessor.
Last week, suicide bombers were blamed for the near-simultaneous crash of two passenger planes in which 90 people died. This week, in central Moscow, a suicide bomber blew herself up, killing nine people.
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'CHRISTMAS' BOMBING SECRETS MAY BE TOLD
Campaigners hope that a report due to be published by Justice Henry
Barron early next year will pave the way for a public inquiry into
the 1975 Dundalk bombing.
Former Supreme Court judge Justice Henry Barron is expected to
publish his report into the 1975 Dundalk bombing by the New Year.
The report is seen by campaigners as the first step towards a full
public inquiry into an attack that remains shrouded in secrecy.
Dundalk was seen as a hotbed of republican sympathy in 1975.
It is believed that the loyalist Red Hand Commando group targeted the
Co Louth town to teach republicans a lesson, that their presence
could be felt anywhere in the Republic.
The south was still reeling from the loyalist car bomb attacks in
Dublin and Monaghan in May the previous year. Thirty-three people, as
well as an unborn baby, were killed and hundreds were injured in the
Months earlier, three CIE workers had also died in two separate
blasts in Dublin city centre.
Loyalists struck again at 6.22pm on Friday December 19 1975, when a
car bomb exploded outside Kay's Tavern in Crowe Street in Dundalk.
More than 20 people were injured – some sufffering from serious burns
and shrapnel wounds.
Hugh Watters (60), a tailor, is believed to have left his shop to
deliver suits and clothing to people in the pub. He died instantly in
Jack Rooney (61), a retired fireman working as a lorry driver, was
walking down the street across from the pub when he also suffered
massive injuries in the explosion.
Mr Rooney, who frequently cycled and was in excellent health, lived
for three days before losing his battle for life because of shrapnel
injuries. He was buried on Christmas Eve.
Both families have told how they received no offers of counselling or
support from authorities in the days and weeks after the bombing.
Mr Rooney's daughter, Maura McKeever, who had married shortly before
the attack, told the Irish News that the family was never visited by
gardai or given updates on the investigation.
No-one has ever been charged in connection with the blast.
Ms McKeever, who was aged 23 at the time of the explosion, said the
autopsy into the men's deaths on January 15 1976 took just half an
hour to conclude.
"There is no way that they could have had all the necessary
information at the time of the inquest," she said.
"My father was buried on Christmas Eve, businesses were closed during
the Christmas holiday. How could there have been enough information
to hold an inquest? We were in an awful state of shock, so everything
In the years that followed, the families learned nothing about the
Garda investigation or whether investigating officers were close to
identifying and arresting those behind the attack.
The Red Hand Commando had claimed responsibility within days of the
It later emerged that the bombers were based in Portadown, Co Armagh
and were widely suspected of having acted in collusion with British
Five months later the Red Hand Commando struck again in Dundalk,
abducting and murdering forestry worker Seamus Ludlow (47), after
they had failed to locate their original target, a Co Louth-based IRA
The Ludlow murder remains unsolved officially, although the names of
four suspects have been in the public domain for some time.
In his book Dublin-Monaghan Bombings and the Murder Triangle, author
Joe Tiernan claimed that two of the men responsible for the Dundalk
bombing were dead and they may have been responsible for around 150
Catholic murders during the 1970s and 80s.
Mr Tiernan also claimed that while researching the book he was told
by a senior garda that the RUC had refused to help investigators
trace the vehicle used to carry the bomb.
The families of Jack Rooney and Hugh Watters have consistently called
on the Irish government to set up a public inquiry to establish the
facts surrounding the bombing and the subsequent Garda investigation.
Ms McKeever said the families were prompted to begin their campaign
after realising that the state was determined to forget the men's
"What happened was always in our minds, but it took us a long time to
realise that no-one was doing anything. I thought that as a citizen
of this state the gardai would fully investigate my father's death,
but that obviously wasn't happening," she said.
"We believe the only way to handle this is to have a full public
inquiry where witnesses would be compelled to give evidence. These
people (the bombers) are still walking around. When they planted the
bomb they knew they would kill innocent people, but didn't care. We
The relatives hope that Justice Barron will be able to answer some of
their questions when his findings are published.
In his report on the attacks in Dublin and Monaghan, published last
December, the judge found there were "grounds for suspecting that the
bombers may have had assistance from members of the (British)
security forces, but any collusion between the UVF bombers and the
security forces remains a matter of inference".
The government fell short of establishing a public inquiry into the
1974 atrocity, but the families of the two Dundalk victims remain
hopeful that they may still get the justice they demand.
September 3, 2004
PSNI criticised over drink-driving strategy
Brendan Clarke, of Community Restorative Justice, reveals his thoughts on the PSNI’s approach to road safety in Nationalist areas.
The spate of deathdriving that terrorised the community of North Belfast last weekend appears to be acceptable; acceptable that is to the PSNI.
Deathdrivers ran amok in Ardoyne on Friday and Saturday night and well into Sunday morning, unchecked and ignored by the PSNI who were present in the community while this activity jeopardised both people and property in the community.
Local people stood and watched as these deathdrivers hurtled their way for hours around the streets of Ardoyne.
We have long witnessed the refusal of the PSNI, and their predecessors in the RUC, to deal with crimes of this nature as long as it is occurring in Nationalist communities.
The PSNI and the NIO are continually espousing the merits of the new Anti-social-behavioural-orders, merits that are questionable at the very least to those of us within the community that have even the most rudimentary grasp of the concept of civil rights and liberty, yet they are barefaced in their refusal to arrest or prosecute these criminals plaguing our communities.
We have all known for years that the simple reason for this is that these individuals are groomed and cultivated by special branch to supply information on members of their own communities in return for immunity from prosecution.
It seems that these individuals are allowed to terrorise our community until they eventually kill someone.
The blame for these activities cannot be laid at the door of social deprivation, teenage angst or anything else, the fact of the matter is that their activity is allowed, condoned and even encouraged by elements within the police service that have a vested interest in the information they can buy, coerce and solicit from these disaffected individuals.
More often than not these deathdrivers are presently excluded from our communities, having exhausted every help and opportunity presented to them from the community, yet they are still at liberty to come in where they are not welcome and endanger our lives and property.
We can only wonder would this be the case in other areas that are not largely nationalist in their make up?
The formal legal system continually bandy words like law, criminality, justice and zero-tolerance but obviously they have different definitions when utilised within the nationalist community.
Through the process of Community Restorative Justice we are constantly dealing with offenders that have caused hurt and pain within their own community for years, but when we look at them in detail, they have only minor criminal records and no involvement from probation services or any such impediment on their activities.
It only adds fuel to the whole Policing debate, how are we expected to endorse a police service that is so glaringly and deliberately negligent in how it appraises what constitutes criminality within our community.
Journalist:: Staff Reporter
PROTEST PLANNED FOR PETER'S ANNIVERSARY
The 12th anniversary of murdered teenager Peter McBride will be marked by a protest held outside Girdwood barracks on Friday.
The protest, which begins at noon on Friday September 3 outside the Duncairn Avenue entrance of the barracks.
“John Spellar refuses to accept a court of law decision that soldiers Wright and Fisher were guilty of the murder of Peter McBride,” Paul O’Connor from the Pat Finucane Centre said.
“Not only that, but he treated the McBride family with contempt and disdain.
“A petition has been signed by community and human rights groups in Derry and Belfast against Spellar and we hope that he understands his position on this Direct Rule government is untenable to the majority of right-thinking people.”
The family of Peter McBride have recently received support from five US senators who have backed their campaign to end a contract given to Timothy Spicer former commander of the British Army unit that included Fisher and Wright who killed Peter Mc Bride in 1992 on September 4.
Presidential Candidate John Kerry, Senators Teddy Kennedy, Hilary Clinton, Chris Dodd and Charles Schumer have all lent their support to the Irish National Caucus campaign.
“Peter’s anniversary is this coming Saturday and it is comforting to see such high-profile support from the US,” Jean McBride said.
“We are awaiting judgement from the courts in the battle to have Wright and Fisher kicked out of the British Army and it’s great to see that our family is not alone.
“Even the US presidential candidate John Kerry, has taken this on board and spoken out against this contract.
“Surely some day soon justice will be done."
Getting behind the campaign in North Belfast is SDLP Justice Spokesperson Alban Maginness.
“In my view Spicer is unfit to hold any position in which he might ever have charge of people with guns in their hands. Two of his men shot Peter McBride in the back.
“They were convicted of murder, but Spicer objected to them even having to answer for their crime. Now, they are pointing guns at Iraqis.
“Even at this late stage, the British government could recover a shred of decency by drumming these murderers out of the army and offering an apology to the McBride family for the disdainful way they have been treated over the years.”
Journalist:: Staff Reporter
Murder Victim Peter McBride
CONVICTED MURDERERS STILL IN THE BRITISH ARMY
Convicted murderers, Scots Guardsmen Wright and Fisher
In Belfast on 4th September 1992 the British Army stopped 18-year-old father of two Peter McBride. An identity check showed that he was not wanted and a body search found him unarmed. Peter McBride panicked and ran away from the soldiers. Scots Guardsmen Mark Wright and James Fisher chased him, shot him in the back and killed him.
“These guys presumably didn't think they were going to go out and kill on that day.
It doesn't indicate that they are pathological killers.
They committed murder, but in a particular set of circumstances.”
British Ministry of Defence spokesperson - www.irelandclick.com 26/04/04
The Murder Scene
In February 1995 the two soldiers were convicted of murder and sentenced to life imprisonment. In September 1998 they were released from prison under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement. On 3rd November 1998 an Army Board, including General Mike Jackson (of Bloody Sunday notoriety) and John Spellar (current Northern Ireland Minister who is responsible for human rights) decided they could continue to serve in the army under an “exceptional reasons” clause. This was justified by the Army Board coming to the conclusion that the Scots Guardsmen had committed an “error of judgement”.
General Sir Michael Jackson
Northern Ireland Minister John Spellar
Other members of Her Majesty’s Crown Forces found guilty of crimes such as football related violence, public order offences, drug abuse and cheating on television game shows have been dismissed from the British Army. Since 1995 (the year that Mark Wright and James Fisher were convicted of the murder of Peter McBride) approximately 1,500 British Army soldiers have been dismissed for failing random drug tests. It seems that Tony Blair and the British Armed Forces don’t place the judicially proven murder of a young Irish father of two on their list of ‘dismissible offences’.
If you are concerned that convicted murderers should be allowed to continue to serve in the British Army, please take action.
The Right Honourable Geoffrey Hoon MP
Secretary of State for Defence
Ministry of Defence
London SW1A 2HB
General telephone enquiries to the MoD: +44 (0)870 607 4455
Adam Ingram MP
Minister of State for Armed Forces
Ministry of Defence
London SW1A 2HB
General telephone enquiries to the MoD: +44 (0)870 607 4455
John Spellar MP
Minister of State for Northern Ireland
London SW1P 4PN
Your own MP at:
The House of Commons
London SW1A 0AA
Telephone via the House of Commons switchboard:
+44 (0)20 7219 3000
Fax by E-mail via: www.faxyourmp.com
A full list of MP addresses can be found at:
Tony Blair's E-mail is:
Bertie Ahern's E-mail is:
The Irish Embassy's London E-mail is:
Let the British Army know how you feel:
The Army Personnel Centre
65 Brown Street
Glasgow G2 8EX
Tel: +44 (0)141 224 3509 /10/ 11/ 12/ 13/ 14/ 15
The Army Recruiting Group
From the Pat Finucane Centre 23rd September 2003:
The Armed Forces Minister Adam Ingram, has admitted that Lance Corporal James Fisher, one of two Scots Guards convicted of the murder of Peter McBride, was promoted while an Army Board was still considering the fate of the guardsmen. The admission came in a letter to the Pat Finucane Centre received on the day of the Brent East By-election. A PFC spokesperson has described the news as “clear evidence that the MoD subverted a court ruling and improperly influenced the Army Board."
British Armed Forces Minister Adam Ingram
The spokesman continued “A Belfast court ordered the Ministry of Defence and then Armed Forces Minister John Spellar to reconsider the original decision to retain the two guardsmen. As a result a second Army Board was appointed chaired by Armed Forces Minister John Spellar. In October 2000, while the Board deliberated on the case, Fisher was promoted. A month later, in November 2000 it was announced that the second Army Board had again decided that Wright and Fisher could remain in the British Army. The final meeting of the Board was held on 8th November, several weeks after the promotion. This promotion was clearly an attempt to subvert a court ruling that had overturned the original Army Board decision in favour of the guardsmen. It is also clear that the MoD, while John Spellar was Armed Forces Minister, withheld the fact of this promotion and more importantly the timing, from the legal team representing Jean McBride and sought to exert improper influence on the Army Board."
Jean McBride commented, “John Spellar was the Armed Forces Minister when an employee convicted of murder was promoted and while a court ordered tribunal, which he sat on, was reconsidering the decision to even employ that person. Where are the demands for an inquiry and resignations? Instead Spellar is appointed Minister for Human Rights. This totally vindicates the position taken by the Mayor of Belfast Martin Morgan who is boycotting Spellar’s office.”
Blair Stance on McBride Army Killers 'evasive'
Irish News 3rd November 2003
Tony Blair has described the retention in the British army of the convicted murderers of a Belfast teenager as an “internal employment matter” in a letter to SDLP leader Mark Durkan.
The prime minister was responding to criticism from Mr Durkan over the army's failure to discharge Scots Guardsmen James Fisher and Mark Wright while sacking an officer who cheated on a television gameshow.
The soldiers were admitted back into the army after serving a jail sentence for the murder of 18-year-old Peter McBride in 1992.
Mr Durkan contrasted this treatment to a decision to discharge Major Charles Ingram after he was found guilty of cheating on the ITV programme Who Wants to be a Millionaire.
“The message sent is clear. Whereas the British army takes cheating on a gameshow seriously, the same is not true of murdering Northern Ireland civilians,” Mr Durkan said in a letter to Mr Blair.
The SDLP leader further pointed to a ruling by the Northern Ireland Court of Appeal declaring that the army had been wrong to allow Wright and Fisher to remain as soldiers “because of the exceptional circumstances” surrounding Mr McBride's death.
The appeal judges did not formally recommend the discharge of the officers.
However, Mr Durkan criticised the failure of the Ministry of Defence (MOD) to take any action following the judgment.
“It is outrageous for a public authority to ignore a court declaration of illegality in this way,” he said.
In response, in a letter seen by the Irish News, Mr Blair said the MoD and army authorities would “take into account the full implication of the judges' serious concerns in the handling of future retention cases”.
He went on to say: “In your letter you also seek to draw a parallel between the army's handling of the Fisher and Wright case and the case of the major who was convicted of fraud following an appearance on a television gameshow.
“Both cases were internal employment matters for the army and both were dealt with in accordance with the appropriate procedure, but the details, context and circumstances of each are not comparable.”
Speaking after a meeting with the McBride family on Saturday, Mr Durkan accused the prime minister of being “evasive” over the issue.
“Tony Blair argues that the cases are not comparable. That is true. Murder on the streets of Belfast is much worse. So why is cheating on a TV programme taken more seriously?” he said.
“Nor is it tenable for Tony Blair to pretend that this is simply an internal employment matter. It is a matter of grave public concern and basic human rights.”
Developments in Peter Mc Bride case
Fresh challenge over soldiers
BBC 6th December 2003
The mother of a Belfast teenager murdered by two soldiers in 1992 has been given the go-ahead to press for a third legal bid to get them thrown out of the Army.
Jean McBride was granted leave in the High Court in Belfast on Friday to apply for a judicial review of the Army's decision to retain the two soldiers.
Her son Peter, 18, was shot dead after being stopped and searched by the soldiers while they were on patrol near his home in the New Lodge area of north Belfast on 4 September, 1992.
Scots Guards Mark Wright and James Fisher were sentenced to life for murder in 1995, but three years later were released from prison and allowed to rejoin their regiment.
The McBride family have been campaigning to have Fisher and Wright expelled from the Army.
Last June, the Court of Appeal ruled that the Army was wrong not to discharge them.
Mrs McBride's latest court bid is challenging the decision by the Armed Forces Minister not to review the soldiers' status in the light of the 2-1 majority decision in the appeal court.
In his reserved decision on Friday, Mr Justice Reginald Weir said an arguable case had been made and therefore he was granting leave but added that he was not expressing any view about the ultimate outcome of the application.
The hearing was adjourned until 23 January.
In December 1998 an Army Board decided that Wright & Fisher could remain in the Army due to "exceptional reasons".
In September 1999 a Belfast court overturned the Army Board decision and ordered the MoD to reconsider the retention of the two convicted murderers.
Throughout the summer of 2000 a second Army Board, which included the then Armed Forces Minister John Spellar and Commander in Chief of Land Forces General Mike Jackson (of Bloody Sunday notoriety) held a series of hearings to determine whether Wright & Fisher should be dismissed.
In October 2000, while the Army Board was deliberating, Fisher was promoted.
On 24th November 2000 the Army Board again ruled that there were ‘exceptional reasons’ justifying retention of the guardsmen.
In June 2003 the Northern Ireland Court of Appeal ruled that there were no ‘exceptional reasons’ justifying retention.
In August 2003 Armed Forces Minister Adam Ingram revealed for the first time in a letter to the Pat Finucane Centre that Fisher had been promoted.
In September 2003 Ingram admitted that the promotion occurred in October 2000 while the Army Board was deliberating on the case.
What Can You Do?
* Organise pickets, vigils and delegations to MP's
* Flood MOD/Army Recruitment Offices/MP's by telephone, fax's and E-mails
* Call radio talk shows
* Write letters to newspapers
* Create a petition calling for the dismissal of Guardsmen Wright and Fisher
* Propose a motion at meetings of any Trade Union, Labour Party, Community Group or Society you are a member of
* Join the Troops Out Movement
Forklift attack on public house
The forklift was smashed into the front of the building
Customers in a Belfast public house have escaped injury after a building site forklift truck was driven into a wall of the building.
The attack occurred on the Crumlin Road, in the north of the city, shortly before 0100 BST on Friday.
People in the Thirty-two Degrees North bar managed to get out uninjured.
Sinn Fein is blaming loyalists for the attack, which took place in a nationalist area.
Windows were smashed and some structural damage was caused to the building when the telescopic forklift hit the pub.
"This was a well organised plan to cause as much death and damage as they possibly could."
A fire started but was quickly put out.
A motive for the attack is not clear, the police said.
Sinn Fein councillor Margaret McClenaghan, who visited the scene, said it was a sectarian attack.
"It was attempted murder on the staff and the customers of that pub," she said.
"It was carried out by the UDA. There have been many attacks over the last few weeks in different areas across the north of the city.
"This was the most serious and it is by the grace of God that nobody was killed there last night."
Ms McClenaghan said the perpetrators had managed to pull steel sheets off the front of the forklift to get access to the cab.
"The bucket part of the digger was packed with slates and burning wood. There was also a very strong smell of petrol.
"When that impacted on the building, the steel shutter of the bar was wrecked.
"There were at least 50 to 60 adults at Twaddell Avenue who began throwing missiles towards the bar," she said.
SDLP councillor Martin Morgan condemned the attack and urged people not to retaliate.
"I have no doubt that the loyalist hooligans responsible for this attack set out to heighten tensions in the area between the two communities," he said.
"I am calling for people in my community to remain calm in the face of this aggression and to remain vigilant."
Province's computers hit by scam
By Ben Lowry
02 September 2004
An Internet scam that is often operated by gangs in West Africa has led to huge bills for some computer users in Northern Ireland.
The problem was raised with BT officials yesterday by a delegation of DUP MLAs, who urged the telecoms giant to stop paying the fraudsters.
British Telecom admits there is a problem with the scam, which is triggered by a pop-up window which appears on an Internet user's computer screen. When trying to close the box down, the user may inadvertently activate a premium rate telephone call.
A BT spokeswoman said: "We have been bringing this to people's attention, offering free premium rate call barring. We are advising people to install firewalls and virus protection software to prevent this happening.
"Once we find out that a site is illegal or fraudulent, it is shut down immediately."
She said that broadband users were less likely to be affected.
South Down MLA Jim Wells, who led the delegation that included his party colleagues Peter Weir and Edwin Poots, said more than 1,200 people in Northern Ireland had received inflated phone bills as a result of the scam, after being connected to lines costing up to £1.50 a minute.
Mr Wells said: "BT were very open and honest about the problem. They have said they close down any premium rate number that is found to be fraudulent but they will still pay over all the money taken from its customers up until that point.
"They must stop paying these gangsters, not merely close their sites down. They must stop paying funds that have already been accumulated."
Mr Wells said that some of his constituents were facing bills of over £200 for Internet premium rate calls they never intended to make.
He said that some of the fraudsters were abandoning premium rate numbers and adopting international numbers, which can be just as expensive but are more difficult to monitor.
PROCESS REACHING POINT OF DECISION - MURPHY
09/02/04 12:20 EST
Northern Ireland's peace process is reaching a point of decision, Northern Ireland Secretary of State Paul Murphy has said.
Mr Murphy was speaking this afternoon after a second day of talks at Stormont which have been concentrating on issues arising out of a review of the Good Friday Agreement.
The talks are aimed at paving the way for more intensive negotiations chaired by the British and Irish premiers later this month.
Mr Murphy said the present talks were "very serious, important and crucial" - and were capable of achieving a resolution.
He said the point of the talks was to implement the Agreement, and rejected any notion the British government was prepared to let go of the fundamentals of the deal.
Irish Foreign Minister Brian Cowen said no-one was seeking to fudge the issues, and agreed a resolution was possible on issues such as the IRA, decommissioning and policing.
Mr Cowen said the political process was at a "critical" point and the parties would need to use the next two weeks to prepare themselves.
Mr Murphy and Mr Cowen are also expected to host more talks next week.
Sinn Fein's chief negotiator Martin McGuinness said he was "looking forward" to going into government with the DUP.
Mr McGuinness told a news conference at Stormont that his party was determined to "do the business" at the intensive talks later this month.
He said they had been told in "private discussions" that the DUP wanted to make a deal, and that they had to recognise the new political reality.
"If they want to be in government, they are only going to be in government with Sinn Fein," he added.
DUP leader Ian Paisley demanded that Tony Blair must "keep his promise" about bringing an end to the IRA and decommissioning all weapons.
Mr Paisley said the British prime minister "carried the burden of guilt on his shoulder" and promised to "nail" Mr Blair on the issue at the intensive talks later this month.
At one point, Mr Paisley said Sinn Fein would have to become a new party. He also said Sinn Fein should not be at the negotiating table while the IRA existed and remained armed.
Mr Paisley said this was a matter which Mr Blair must address. He added that "there is going to be no sell out".
SDLP leader Mark Durkan said devolution could only be restored in a "confident and lasting manner" by "full and final resolution of the two crux issues which caused suspension, ongoing paramilitary activity and failure to work the power sharing institutions".
The governments hope the negotiations, believed to be planned for Leeds Castle in Kent later this month, will pave the way for a return to devolution.
A spokesman for Tony Blair said on Tuesday he believed there was a "shared agenda" between the parties which could lead to a deal.
The Ulster Unionist leader, David Trimble, has not been at Stormont for the talks as he is at the Republican Party convention in New York.
The Ulster Unionists withdrew from the review of the Agreement, saying the focus should be on ending paramilitarism, but they have now indicated they will take a full part in the main talks.
ROVE'S IRA - AL QAEDA ANALOGY INVOKES WRATH OF IRISH AMERICA
09/02/04 11:57 EST
President George Bush's chief strategist, Karl Rove, has invoked the wrath of Irish America by comparing the IRA to al-Qaeda.
During an interview with Associated Press about the war on international terrorism, Mr Rove said: "This is going to be more like the conflict in Northern Ireland, where the Brits fought terrorism, and there's no sort of peace accord with al-Qaeda saying, 'we surrender'."
Fr. Sean McManus of the Irish National Caucus said the comments were a sign of the "anti- Irish Catholic elements in the Republican Party".
Fr. McManus said: "Karl Rove's recent statement comparing the IRA to al-Qaeda is, above all else, stupid, but it also may reveal the true colors of some anti-Irish Catholic elements in the Republican Party."
"While there has always been many fine leaders in the GOP (Republican Party) with excellent records on Irish affairs, there has also been - as a matter of historical fact - a strong anti-Irish Catholic element, the 'no Pope here', crowd," he said.
"President Bush must immediately repudiate Rove's anti-Irish Catholic bigotry."
UUP leader Mr David Trimble, who is attending the Republican National Convention in New York as a guest of the International Democrat Union, said he was confused by the comment.
"I'm not altogether clear about what exactly he's getting at," he said. "Al-Qaeda is quite a different terrorist organisation to those in Northern Ireland. It's perfectly reasonable, I suppose, to draw some parallel in that the war on terror will probably take a long time just like it did in Northern Ireland, if that's what he meant," he told the Washington Post.
A spokesman for Democratic presidential contender, John Kerry, rebuked Rove for the clumsy analogy.
"Karl Rove’s comments to AP today suggest there was no peace accord between the British and the IRA. We’d like to inform Mr. Rove that in April 1998, the Good Friday Agreement, negotiated by Senator George Mitchell, with the tireless assistance of President Clinton, was in fact a peace accord. Unfortunately these comments are very unhelpful to the current peace process and come on the very day critical talks designed to lead to the restoration of the Northern Ireland Assembly and a devolved government are commencing. I guess we now know why the president has failed to engage in the peace process for the last four years."
"This comment also demonstrates once again the Bush administration’s fundamental misunderstanding of the threat posed by al Qaeda and likeminded groups who seek to destroy our entire way of life. We deserve a leader who understands the threats we face and has a real strategy to fight them," the Kerry spokesperson said.
Thanks to the IRA
BY JIM GIBNEY
WHEN historians turn their minds to writing up the history of the conflict over the last 30-odd years, one date more than any other will shine out like a beacon across this expanse of time.
That date is 31 August 1994, the day the IRA announced a "complete cessation" of military operations.
This week marks the tenth anniversary of the IRA's announcement, an occasion which, understandably, has led to commentary and analysis in the media — not as much as you would have expected, given the significance of the occasion, but enough to instill a sense of reflection across Irish society.
In my view, 31 August 1994 will be seen as the most important date in over a century of our country's turbulent history.
There are many people entitled to be praised for the efforts they put into helping to bring about the IRA's cessation and the media and political establishment have done so.
I have no difficulty with that: John Hume, Albert Reynolds, Bill Clinton are rightly praised. I would like to add one other public but discreet figure to that list to be warmly acknowledged, Fr Alec Reid.
But the point of me writing today is to thank and praise from the bottom of my heart the leadership of the IRA, the Army Council.
Without them where would we be today? Would it have mattered who in the political establishment lined up calling for an IRA cessation? Would they have secured one? I don't think so.
No, the real praise must go to an unknown group of people who will never step up to the podium to receive the accolade they are most definitely entitled to — a group of people who were prepared to listen to Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness and then take their own counsel.
You will never see their names in print or in the history books. Their secrecy must be maintained to preserve the integrity of the organisation, which they lead, the IRA.
But that doesn't stop and shouldn't stop people giving them their place and recognising the mould-breaking nature of the decision they took.
When everything is rounded up, it was the Army Council who made the difference.
Commentators have estimated that at least one thousand people are alive who would otherwise have died in the conflict over the last ten years had the IRA not taken the massive decision they took.
This is reason alone to be thankful the IRA leadership took the decision they did.
There is no doubt that the prisons in Ireland and Britain would have been packed with young republican activists.
We can be certain that some republican prisoners in jail in Britain would be entering their 30th year behind bars, with no sign of release, as the establishment extracted its pound of flesh.
The resistance and the repression would have impacted on nationalist areas on a scale similar to the previous 25 years.
All of this and more, much more, has been avoided due to the IRA's wisdom.
Ten years on from that momentous turning point, it would be a mistake to believe that the cessation was inevitable. There was nothing inevitable about it.
And why should it have been? Why would the leadership of the IRA step outside hundreds of years of armed resistance to British occupation? Why would they put at risk a struggle which had claimed hundreds of its Volunteers' lives; had seen thousands of them go to jail; had seen a society in the Six Counties at war with itself over a generation.
There was little incentive for the IRA leadership to move. There was more incentive for Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness to stay their hand and await moves from the British Government.
Republican leaders, more than any other generation over the last 40 years, knew what they were touching when they broached the question of an IRA cessation.
They had the bad experience of previous ceasefires in 1972 and 1974-'75, especially the latter, when the British Government took advantage of the IRA's willingness to talk peace and tried to defeat them.
Many republicans believe the roots of the Hunger Strike, which claimed ten men's lives, were sown during these years, as criminalisation and the H-Blocks emerged from this period.
It was this experience which led the IRA to declare annually for over 20 years at Easter that there would never be another ceasefire.
The context within which the leadership thought things through in 1994 was fraught with danger. The subsequent departure of senior IRA figures from the IRA in 1997 is an indication of the volatility of the times.
Tom Hartley and I were given the responsibility of travelling around the North in the autumn of 1994 promoting the cessation at Sinn Féin meetings.
Republicans were in shock. They were angry. They were not prepared for the IRA's decision. How could they be? This was strictly a matter for a small group of people to decide.
The certainty of armed struggle had been removed and most people, unsure of the future, were at sea. They dug deep into their loyalty to the leadership and suspended their doubts to allow events to unfold.
They were tough times but also times of great opportunity.
The sight of Gerry Adams, John Hume and Albert Reynolds shaking hands on the steps of Government Buildings in Dublin was powerful.
No matter what else happened from that point onwards, and many great and unforeseen things have happened, I was confident, standing out of sight of the cameras with Rita O'Hare observing the handshake. I was confident that the dynamic of the Peace Process would mean that the northern Catholic and nationalist people would never again be abandoned by the Dublin Government or establishment and I was confident that Gerry Adams and Sinn Féin would do their utmost to make sure of this.
That alone was a tremendous achievement.
It is not my intention to trace the extent of the progress that has been made over the last ten years. It has been immeasurable and more is yet to come as we steer our way towards a united Ireland.
But for all of this, let me again thank the Army Council of the IRA.
The decade of the Peace Process
Photo: Gerry Adams and supporters after the 1994 cessation announcement
On 1 September 1994, An Phoblacht's front page carried a statement from the leadership of Óglaigh na hÉireann calling for republicans to Seize the moment for peace. The historic statement announced a cessation after 25 years of armed struggle by the IRA and marked the beginning of the Peace Process.
On this, the tenth anniversary of the cessation, An Phoblacht's JOANNE CORCORAN maps out the significant milestones that led to the Army's decisive initiative and looks at some of the key events that have followed in the ten years since.
The publication of Gerry Adams' 1986 book, The Politics of Irish Freedom; the subsequent production of A Scenario for Peace in May 1987; the 1988 Sinn Féin/SDLP talks; the publication of a Pathway to Peace; and the 1992 launch of Towards a Lasting Peace, were all crucial steps taken by republicans in the lead-up to the events of 1994.
However, it was the 1993 Hume/Adams talks that marked the most substantial milestone in the Peace Process.
Those talks and the resulting Irish Peace Initiative broke through the failure of the Brooke/Mayhew talks, which had begun in 1990 and collapsed a year later.
The initial reaction to the disclosure in April 1993 of renewed meetings between Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams and SDLP leader John Hume was far from positive. Fine Gael leader John Bruton described the first statement from the two party leaders as "little more than a propaganda front".
The then leader of Democratic Left, Proinsias De Rossa, described the talks as a monumental error of judgement, saying the claim to national self-determination was a "dangerous self-delusion".
In the weeks after the Hume/Adams April statement, Sinn Féin increased its vote in the Six-County local elections by over 10,000, winning 51 seats and securing a greater share of the vote (23%) in Belfast City Council than any other party.
Martin McGuinness, speaking at Bodenstown, said: "I reiterate that the republican demand for a British withdrawal is not aimed at unionists. It is a demand that the people of Ireland, including Protestants, be allowed to control our own destiny and shape a society which is pluralist and reflective of the diversity of all our people."
An Irish-American delegation led by Bruce Morrison visited Ireland and met Sinn Féin representatives.
On 25 September, Adams and Hume announced they were suspending their talks having "agreed to forward a report on the decision reached to date to Dublin for consideration".
The publication of the second statement generated intense media and political speculation. It was clear that the two party leaders had agreed a significant initiative designed to secure widespread support for an all-inclusive Peace Process.
Their statement was greeted with the usual negativity from unionists.
Óglaigh na hÉireann issued a statement welcoming the Hume/Adams Initiative. The statement said: "Our Volunteers, our supporters, have a vested interest in seeking a just and lasting peace in Ireland."
The British Government admitted it had been involved in meetings with Sinn Féin between 1991 and 1993.
A third Hume/Adams statement called on the British Government to "respond positively and quickly" to the "opportunity for peace".
The Downing Street Declaration was launched by Albert Reynolds and John Major. The declaration affirmed the right of the people of the Six Counties to self-determination and also stated that Ireland would be united, if a majority of the Six Counties population were in favour of such a move. It also pledged the governments to seek a peaceful constitutional settlement and said that parties linked with paramilitaries could take part in discussions on the North's future, if all paramilitary activity stopped.
Within hours it became clear the two governments had different interpretations of the document. When Sinn Féin sought clarification, John Major said: "There was nothing more to tell".
Sinn Féin initiated a public consultation process through a series of peace commissions, asking the general public to give its response to the Declaration. Adams slammed John Major's refusal to clarify the Declaration.
On 15 January, an Irish Independent poll found that 74% of people in the 26 Counties favoured a united Ireland.
The Dublin Government allowed Section 31 of the Broadcasting Act to lapse, ending 22 years of direct political censorship. The legislation was not repealed, however, and the undemocratic power to censor by Ministerial order remains in situ to this day.
Bill Clinton gave Gerry Adams a visa to visit the United States. The Sinn Féin leader's subsequent visit to the US, opposed by the British Government, internationalised the issue of conflict resolution in Ireland.
Óglaigh na hÉireann announced a three-day suspension of offensive military operations in a move to reflect its "willingness to be positive and flexible".
The British Government responded to Sinn Féin's 20 questions
The UVF killed six nationalists and wounded five others, as they watched Ireland play Italy in the World Cup at O'Toole's bar in Loughinisland, Co.Down. An Phoblacht revealed that the total number of attacks by loyalists on bars and clubs since 1971 amounted to 80, with almost 160 people killed.
Sinn Féin delegates and party members met in Letterkenny to democratically discuss and endorse the Ard Chomhairle's response to the Downing Street Declaration.
On 31 August, the IRA released a statement announcing a cessation of all activities from midnight.
Gerry Adams pledged in conjunction with John Hume and the then Taoiseach Albert Reynolds the party's total commitment to democratic and peaceful methods of resolving political problems. The three leaders shared an historic handshake.
The British removed the broadcasting ban on Sinn Féin.
Sinn Féin held an internal conference in Dublin to discuss developments. The Forum for Peace and Reconciliation opened in Dublin Castle.
Gerry Adams made an appearance on the Late Late Show and had his offer to shake Gay Byrne's hand rejected.
The Combined Loyalist Military Command announced a cessation.
The Fianna Fáil/Labour coalition in the 26 Counties collapsed. The Fine Gael-led coalition under John Bruton that followed was seen as a stumbling block to the process.
The first official meeting was held between British Government officials and Sinn Féin. The government claimed decommissioning was an obstacle to progress, but would not answer Sinn Féin's questions about demilitarisation. Sinn Féin produced a demilitarisation map, detailing the massive number of British military posts in Ireland.
John Major and John Bruton launched their 'Framework' document, which included plans for a Six-County Assembly.
Sinn Féin pulled out of talks with the British Government, after the British introduced the issue of decommissioning. The party said the subject had not been on the table when the IRA called their cessation.
Residents of the Lower Ormeau Road were hemmed into their area as the RUC forced an Orange Order march down the road.
US President Bill Clinton shook Gerry Adams' hand in a Falls Road cafe during his first visit to Belfast.
The head of the International Body on Decommissioning, former US Senator George Mitchell, invited submissions on arms decommissioning from all parties.
The Mitchell report was published, laying down six principles of non-violence for entry into all-party talks.
The IRA ended its cessation with the bombing of Canary Wharf after the British Government failed to live up to its commitments. Sinn Féin had engaged positively with the International Body on Decommissioning in 1995 and 1996 in an attempt to resolve the impasse, and despite the bad faith of the Major government (Major demanded a statement of surrender from the IRA), used all its influence to sustain the first cessation for a full 17 months, until the rejection by Major of the report of the International Body on Decommissioning.
Sinn Féin was turned away from a consultative process organised by the two governments.
In the Six-County Forum elections to all-party talks, Sinn Féin polled a record vote.
Sinn Féin was barred from the opening of inter-party talks.
Garda Jerry McCabe was killed in an IRA raid on a post office in Adare. Five IRA activists were arrested and imprisoned.
The IRA bombed the British Headquarters in Ireland, Thiepval Barracks in Lisburn.
Results in the British General Election put Labour Party leader Tony Blair into 10 Downing Street and returned Gerry Adams and party colleague, Martin McGuinness, as MPs.
Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin was elected TD for Cavan/ Monaghan. A Fianna Fáil/Progressive Democrats government was formed in the 26 Counties, with Bertie Ahern taking over as Taoiseach.
Blair visited the North and gave the go ahead for exploratory contacts between government officials and Sinn Féin.
On 21 July, the IRA announced its second cessation in three years. Sinn Féin had undertaken a number of political initiatives to bring about this cessation. British Secretary of State Mo Mowlam said she would monitor activity over the following six weeks to decide if Sinn Féin would be admitted to all-party talks scheduled for 15 September.
Violence on the Garvaghy Road brought a renewed call for a proper policing service in the Six Counties and an end to Orange Order parades being forced through nationalist areas.
An international decommissioning body was set up to deal with the weapons issue.
Sinn Féin signed up to the Mitchell Principles and entered all party-talks. The Ulster Unionists joined the talks, but the DUP stayed away.
The UUP's Ken Maginnis rejected the hand of friendship from Gerry Adams at multi-party talks in Stormont, and accused the British Labour government of bringing "murderers to the table of democracy".
Adams and McGuinness met Blair for the first time at Stormont Castle buildings.
The Good Friday Agreement was signed, with Sinn Féin members endorsing it at the party's Ard Fheis in Dublin on 18/19 April.
After securing party support for the Good Friday Agreement, Sinn Féin campaigned for it in both referendums. Despite the risk of destabilising its own constituency, the party sought and secured support to amend its constitution to remove a 75-year-old ban on members taking seats in any Northern Assembly. The IRA also worked constructively and in good faith with the Independent Commission on Decommissioning.
The people of Ireland, in referenda North and South, voted overwhelmingly in favour of the Good Friday Agreement.
On 1 July, David Trimble was elected First Minister and Séamus Mallon Deputy First Minister of the new Northern Assembly. David Trimble then sought to have Sinn Féin excluded from the Executive. The summer passed with no Executive formed.
The Orange Order began its siege at Drumcree and the three Quinn children were burnt alive in their Ballymoney home by loyalist arsonists.
Dissident republicans bombed Omagh town centre, killing 29 people.
The 31 October deadline for completion of a programme of work and the establishment of the Shadow Executive and the Shadow Ministerial Council was not met. A different mechanism was established.
Agreement on these matters was reached on 2 December. The UUP reneged on this agreement on 3 December, then agreed again on 18 December but then deferred any movement and attempted to re-negotiate.
The British Government promised to trigger the d'Hondt Principles (allocating power in the Assembly in accordance with the strength of support for a party), but failed to do so.
Instead, on 1 April in the Hillsborough Declaration — an attempt to further meet UUP demands — the two governments made proposals on the Executive and on the issue of decommissioning which were outside the terms of the Agreement.
One year after the signing of the Agreement, no progress had been made.
On 14 May in Downing Street, agreement was reached between the two governments, the UUP and Sinn Féin to establish the Shadow Executive the following week. The UUP reneged on this the following day.
Sinn Féin made massive gains in the local elections in the 26 Counties and raised its European vote.
The Way Forward statement by the two governments was issued at Castle Buildings on 14 July. This was subsequently developed unilaterally by the British Government into draft legislation tabled on 12 July, which was outside the terms of the Agreement. On 15 July, David Trimble once again failed to establish the Executive. Séamus Mallon resigned.
On 24 July, against this difficult backdrop, the Sinn Féin negotiating team reported to the Ard Chomhairle on the preliminary discussions with Senator Mitchell and the British Government in respect of a review.
The IRA blamed the British Government's continuous capitulation to the unionist veto for the political crisis.
The Patten report on policing was published. It met with stringent resistance from unionists, but was seen by republicans as the bare minimum of what was needed to be done to fix policing in the Six Counties.
On 15 November, the Mitchell Review concluded with proposals that:
• the institutions would be established;
• the decommissioning issue would be dealt with by General de Chastelain and the Independent International Commission on Decommissioning.
On 27 November, a meeting of the Ulster Unionist Council created a new precondition and a new false deadline on the issue of decommissioning.
Then on 29 November, almost 20 months after the Good Friday Agreement, the Northern Executive was finally established.
On 13 December the inaugural meeting of the all-Ireland Ministerial Council was held in Armagh and six all-Ireland implementation bodies were established.
On 11 February, Secretary of State Peter Mandelson unilaterally suspended the political institutions, at the behest of unionism. This was despite the fact that a new and significant proposition to resolve the arms issue had been laid on the table.
The two governments published a joint statement agreeing to re-establish the institutions and to implement the outstanding aspects of the Good Friday Agreement.
On Saturday 6 May the IRA issued a statement stating that it would "initiate a process that will completely and verifiably put IRA arms beyond use".
On 30 May, power was restored to the political institutions including the Assembly, Executive and all-Ireland bodies.
Further calls were made by republicans for British demilitarisation.
The IRA announced it had re-established contact with the Commission on Decommissioning and that a number of its dumps have been inspected. In October, the dumps were re-inspected.
The IRA detailed the commitments it expected the British Government to fulfil to create the context for a process of putting weapons beyond use. These included "the implementation of Patten; to progressively take all the necessary steps to demilitarise the situation; to deal with matters relating to human rights, equality and justice; to resolve issues which remain outstanding at this stage in the development of the Peace Process".
Further talks at Hillsborough failed to provide a breakthrough on the restoration of Sinn Féin Ministers' attendance at North-South Ministerial Council meetings, which was being blocked by David Trimble. The IRA announced it had decided to enter into further discussions with the IICD and General de Chastelain confirmed its re-engagement.
The Stevens' team, investigating the murder of Patrick Finucane, was forced to quit its offices at an RUC complex in Carrickfergus, after they were burned down in suspicious circumstances.
Trimble threatened to resign as First Minister on 1 July if the IRA had not begun decommissioning by then. Meanwhile, two international inspectors confirmed they had carried out a third inspection of the arms dumps and that the weapons remained unused. The IRA responded to Trimble's threats, reminding him they had met the decommissioning body four times since March.
Sinn Féin had four MPs elected in the Westminster election, Gerry Adams, Martin McGuinness, Pat Doherty and Michelle Gildernew.
In a briefing with An Phoblacht, the IRA said it had honoured all its commitments made in the seven years since the cessation, and said that the arms issue would not be resolved through ultimatums.
Talks at Weston Park ended with government officials sent away to draw up a package on policing, demilitarisation, the stability of the political institutions and decommissioning.
The two governments published proposals on police reform and demilitarisation designed to create the context sought by the IRA for decommissioning to take place.
The IICD announced that the IRA had proposed a method to put its weapons beyond use. The IRA confirmed this two days later.
Trimble again claimed the statement was not enough and the Assembly was suspended for one day by Northern Secretary John Reid.
It was restored on 12 August, giving a further six-week period for an agreement to be found.
Catholic schoolchildren and their mothers came under attack from loyalist thugs in north Belfast as they tried to make their way to Holy Cross school. The 'protest' against the children of Ardoyne walking to school continued for some time, and the world looked on horrified.
Unionists used the 11 September bombings in America as another excuse not to talk to Sinn Féin.
The IRA said it would intensify its engagement with the IICD.
The UUP tabled a motion to exclude Sinn Féin from the Executive, claiming the IRA had failed to decommission.
Following the defeat of this motion, the UUP Ministers withdrew from the Executive. Gerry Adams announced he and Martin McGuinness had asked the IRA to move on decommissioning and this was followed by a statement form the IRA saying it had implemented proposals to put arms completely and verifiably beyond use.
The RUC was renamed the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI). Trimble was re-elected First Minister of the Assembly.
A break-in at the Special Branch office in Castlereagh was blamed on republicans.
The IRA made another move to put a quantity of arms beyond use, described by General de Chasteain as "substantial". The IRA denied any involvement in the Castlereagh break-in.
Five Sinn Féin TDs were elected and the Fianna Fáil/PD coalition was returned to power.
Alex Maskey was elected Mayor of Belfast.
The IRA apologised to families of non-combatants killed during the conflict.
The IRA restated its commitment to the Peace Process in an exclusive interview with An Phoblacht. However, it said, "sections of the British military and its intelligence agencies, including the Special Branch, are still at war".
The trial of the Colombia Three — Niall Connolly, Martin McCauley and Jim Monaghan - arrested in August 2001, began.
The Assembly was suspended after the PSNI stormed into Sinn Féin offices in the Executive and claimed they had found intelligence dossiers. Subsequently, the serious charges of intelligence gathering against the one woman and three men arrested at Stormont would be dropped.
On 31 October, the IRA suspended contact with the IICD. The army said that unacceptable and untenable ultimatums had been placed on them, while the British Government had not kept its own commitments.
The two governments came forward with a Joint Declaration, which agreed to move forward on some of the promises not followed through after the Agreement. However, the document also proposed the setting up of the Independent Monitoring Commission to monitor paramilitary activities, a body outside the terms of the Agreement. Republicans rightly feared it would be used against them.
In this month also, the recommendations of the Stevens' Report were published, although not the report itself, proving that there was institutional collusion between the British state and loyalists throughout the conflict. Sinn Féin's Alex Maskey pointed out the report was only the tip of the iceberg.
The Assembly elections were postponed by the British Government.
Judge Peter Cory delivered his reports to the two governments into eight controversial killings during the conflict.
The UUP backed out of a series of choreographed moves designed to get the Assembly up and running again. Following significant gestures on arms by the IRA and a statement reiterating the army's complete commitment to peace, Gerry Adams made a ground-breaking statement on the Peace Process. At the last minute, Trimble refused to accept the gesture or live up to his side of the deal and the two governments failed to push him, despite republicans fulfilling their side of the bargain.
Sinn Féin became the largest nationalist party in the Six Counties, winning 24 seats in the Assembly elections to the SDLP's 18. The DUP become the largest unionist party, taking 30 seats.
The 26-County Government published its sections of the Cory Report.
The Independent Monitoring Commission came into effect. Judge Cory made it public that he had recommended public inquiries into the cases investigated in his report.
The British Government finally published censored versions of its sections of the Cory Report and agreed to set up inquiries into the deaths of Rosemary Nelson, Robert Hamill and Billy Wright, but cited the ongoing investigation into the Patrick Finucane case as reason not to establish an inquiry into his death.
The Colombia Three were found innocent on charges of training left-wing Guerrillas in Colombia.
The IMC claimed the IRA was still active and imposed financial sanctions on Sinn Féin. Adams slammed the Dublin Government for going along with the IMC.
In European elections across the country and local elections in the South, Sinn Féin got two MEPs elected and its largest number of councillors (126) ever.
All-party talks were announced for September.
"A means to an end, not an end in itself"
Within hours of the IRA's announcement of a cessation, reactions began to flood in from all quarters. Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams immediately saluted the army's "bold and courageous decision".
"Anglo-Irish relationships have reached an historic crossroads. The people of Ireland have waited too long for our freedom — we can wait no longer," he said.
"The freedom struggle is not over. We are in a new area of struggle.
"We must develop an irreversible momentum for change which will move the British Government away from the failed policies of the past."
The then Taoiseach, Fianna Fáil's Albert Reynolds, said: "I believe this morning's IRA statement was made in good faith, and that its strong tradition of discipline will positively contribute to this result. Let 1 September 1994 go into the annals as one of the most important dates in Irish history." Reynolds added that the government was prepared to, "without delay", recognise Sinn Féin's mandate.
Chairperson of the Irish National Congress, Robert Ballagh, with great foresight, said: "Today's decision by republicans must be viewed constructively and built upon as a means to an end, not an end in itself.
"It is absolutely essential that all sides move this process forward."
Relatives for Justice, a group representing the families of people killed and injured by British violence, welcomed the announcement, saying they sincerely hoped that peace would see an end to their long quest for justice and truth.
"Future cooperation between all parties concerned depends on trust," the group stated. "Therefore we call upon the British Government to come clean on such vexed questions as collusion and shoot-to-kill."
The then UUP leader, James Molyneaux, said everyone would be pleased if the IRA intended a permanent end to violence, but the DUP leader, the Rev Ian Paisley, warned of "civil war".
The British Prime Minister at the time, John Major, welcomed the move but said Sinn Féin should make clear the cessation was permanent. The SDLP leader, John Hume, criticised such "nitpicking".
British broadcasters pressed for removal of the media restrictions on Sinn Féin. US President Bill Clinton congratulated all those who had brought about the decision. The president of the European Commission, Jacques Delors, said he would propose additional EU aid to the Six Counties.
IRA cessation statement
31 August 1994
Recognising the potential of the current situation and in order to enhance the democratic peace process and underline our definitive commitment to its success, the leadership of Oglaigh na hÉireann have decided that as of midnight, Wednesday, 31 August, there will a complete cessation of military operations. All our units have been instructed accordingly.
At this historic crossroads the leadership of Oglaigh na hÉireann salutes and commends our volunteers, other activists, our supporters and the political prisoners who have sustained this struggle against all odds for the past 25 years. Your courage, determination and sacrifices have demonstrated that the spirit of freedom and the desire for peace based on a just and lasting settlement cannot be crushed. We remember all those who have died for Irish freedom and we reiterate our commitment to our republican objectives.
Our struggle has seen many gains and advances made by nationalists and for the democratic position. We believe that the opportunity to create a just and lasting settlement has been created. We are therefore entering into a new situation in a spirit of determination and confidence: determined that the injustices which created the conflict will be removed and confident in the strength and justice of our struggle to achieve this.
We note that the Downing Street Declaration is not a solution, nor was it presented as such by its authors. A solution will only be found as a result of inclusive negotiations. Others, not least the British government, have a duty to face up to their responsibilities. It is our desire to significantly contribute to the creation of a climate which will encourage this. We urge everyone to approach this new situation with energy, determination and patience.
Irish Republican Publicity Bureau