**Thank God the taxi driver stopped

Lucky to be alive - attempted murder in Whitewell
Machete attack happened at same place as murder of Gerard Lawlor

A teenager who was stabbed by Loyalists last Sunday is still in a critical condition after a man attacked him in a Shankill Butcher style attack with a large machete.
Doctors have told the 18-year-old from the Whitewell area of North Belfast that he is lucky to be alive as the knife, which was plunged upwards into his body hitting major organs on the way, narrowly missed his heart.
Surgeons at the Mater Hospital had to remove the young man’s spleen because of internal organ damage and they also had to tend to his lung, which was punctured, his pancreas as well as his bowels, which were damaged during the murder bid.
Over two years ago teenager Gerard Lawlor was murdered at exactly the same spot on Floral Road.
His killers have never been brought to justice, despite investigating PSNI officers knowing exactly who carried out his murder. His mother Sharon has said her heart and thoughts are with the victim’s family at this time.
“It’s absolutely crazy that this nearly happened again. People have a right to walk home.
“It really stunned me to find out that the attack happened at the same spot and the same time as my Gerard’s.
“It’s brought it all back to me. I just thought ‘My God, this can’t be happening again’.”
The PSNI is describing the attack as attempted murder and are currently examining CCTV footage.
The vehicle used in the attack was later found burned out at the Loughside Recreation Centre.
The teen, who had just come home from a holiday with friends in Tenerife on Saturday, was walking home from his friend’s house around midnight on Sunday when he was attacked.
The victim was too ill to speak but his father said that his son saw a young man walk towards him.
“He was wearing a cap and he had it pushed down over his eyes.
“My son said that he remembers thinking that he didn’t recognise him and that’s when he pulled a knife. He said it all happened so fast.
“A car then pulled up with his attacker’s mate in it and when a taxi driver pulled up to see what was happening, they drove off.
“That taxi man saved his life, I think, because if he hadn’t have pulled up, I think they would have finished him off.”
Glengormley parish priest Fr Dan Whyte has advised young teenagers in the area to be cautious when they are walking home.
He has also told them to always get a taxi home.
“This was a murder attempt. I hope these gangs will be apprehended by the police as quickly and efficiently as the bandsmen’s attackers were,” he said.

Spying lookout on Whitewell must be tackled – Sinn Féin

Sinn Féin councillor Danny Lavery has said he will be asking Belfast City Council to investigate the option of moving a barrier further on down the road that leads to Belfast Zoo.
The reasons for moving the barrier were highlighted to him by a number of constituents who said that loyalists were using the road as a viewpoint to lock onto potential Catholic targets walking down the Floral Road.
“Residents have contacted me to say that they have seen suspicious cars sitting on this road.
“They say that the barrier needs to be moved on down the road so that no cars can get a panoramic view of Floral and the Antrim Road junction.
“In fact one constituent of mine, who doesn’t want to be identified said that he witnessed a car sitting up there minutes before this young man was stabbed on Sunday,” Cllr Danny Lavery said.
“I will be making approaches to the council on this matter as a result.”
Danny Lavery said the attack on the 18-year-old youth was sectarian.
“Many people feared there would be a sectarian attack on a nationalist after a UDA show of strength in the Whitewell area during a parade on Saturday.
“Without a doubt this was a sectarian attack carried out by the UDA on a young nationalist in the Whitewell area.
“It was deliberate and premeditated. This young man is extremely lucky to be alive today.
“Unionist politicians and civic and community leaders need to do more to defuse tensions not just in the Whitewell area but throughout North Belfast where there has been an increase in UDA activity.
“We will talk to anybody if it brings trouble to an end.
“However, there is a trend where community workers in White City say they won’t talk because of such and such an attack.
“This is an excuse that we are getting tired of, because at the first sign of trouble, the need is even greater at that point for dialogue and could prevent further injuries and incidents.”

Families ‘pushed to the limit’

Whitewell Community worker Paul McKernon has said that Catholic families living in the lower Whitewell area are being pushed to the limit following an increase in sectarian attacks.
“Tensions have been running high in the area for the last month and even more so after several contentious loyalist and Orange parades were allowed to pass by Catholic homes,” said Paul McKernon.
“Loyalist community workers in the area are saying that we are not engaging in dialogue.
“That is untrue, we have made several efforts to begin dialogue but we have been knocked back each time we have been on the brink.
“As a result relations aren’t good and when there are so many Orange parades passing through here during the summer, and Nationalists just have one at Easter every year, you can tell people are losing their patience.”
Hitting out at allegations that nationalists hemmed in members of the Royal Black Perceptory at their Orange Hall in Greencastle a fortnight ago, the community worker said that not the entire story was told.
“There was no siege. I can tell you that straight off.
“People had free access to leave by using a lane beside the Orange Hall and they did leave, and the crowd, which had gathered there, did not attack them.
“It has to be said there was a crowd of Nationalists outside the hall, and the reason they were there was because Catholics had been attacked on the way to the Hall.”
UPRG representative John Montgomery said that supporters of the parade were angry that camcorders were being used by people standing at a new housing development, to film the parade.
“Camcorders are a big issue up here and someone just lashed out.
“It got a bit messy but the police stepped in and it was sorted out very quickly.
“I thought it went on for at least 15 minutes, but it was over in seconds.”
With other incidents such as mourners attending a funeral being attacked as they walked to St Gerard’s chapel on the Antrim Road was yet another reason for mounting tensions, Paul said the community was feeling persecuted.
“Things have been hotting up here for the last three weeks but we have tried to keep everyone calm.
“In fact when the parade was taking place in memory of Thomas McDonald last weekend, the Greencastle Community Empowerment Partnership organised a fun day at Mill Green.
“It was a mini-fun day and it was attended by nearly 200 people.
“They had a great time and it got people out of the Whitewell, which was blocked off for most of the day anyway.
“So we tried to do something positive and help the situation. But then the next night that young boy was attacked on Floral Road.
“There is no doubt that it was carried out in revenge for the loyalist bandsmen being attacked a couple of weeks ago.
“Stoning of cars has started again and it feels like we’re back to square one. Hopefully we’re not.”

SDLP calls for security camera on Floral Road

The SDLP has called for a security camera to be installed at the same spot where Gerard Lawlor was murdered two years ago and an 18-year-old Glengormley youth was left fighting for his life after a machete-wielding thug attacked him.
SDLP Councillor Pat Convery said the junction of the Floral Road and Antrim Road leading to the Catholic section of the Whitewell Road was a particularly secluded spot that needed tight surveillance.
“Once again there has been a vicious attack on a young man walking along the road,” said Pat Convery.
“I am deeply concerned for this man who remains ill in hospital and my thoughts are with him and his family at this difficult time.
“This was a particularly vicious attack, which can serve no purpose whatsoever.”
Pat Convery, who is also the deputy chairman of the North Belfast District Policing Partnership, said it was high time the PSNI brought an end to these attacks.
“There must be an end to these attacks and we have to get a grip on the lawlessness which continues to bring fear and tension to the local community.
“There has to be an increase in police patrols and where necessary, there must be consideration given to enhancing security measures such as CCTV in secluded spots such as this one.”
The councillor for the area added that his party were asking for a community forum to be set up in the area to facilitate dialogue.
“I and my colleagues want to participate in a facilitated forum to debate the issues relevant to the local community.
“If we are to find a way forward, that forum must have representatives of all political parties and community representatives if we are genuinely determined to tackle the issues locally.”

Council to discuss proposed whitewell community centre

The Community and Leisure Sub-Committee of Belfast City Council has been asked to consider constructing a Council-run community facility in the Whitewell area, possibly at Finlay Park.
Pat Convery made the proposal to the council at a meeting on Tuesday.
“There are limited community resources in the North Belfast area,” said the SDLP man.
“There is one Council-run community centre between Duncairn Gardens and the Whitewell area and that is in Duncairn Gardens.
“We need a facility to encourage people to participate in their communities,” he said.
The Council officers have agreed to seek costings and outline drawings for the proposal and will prepare a report for a future meeting.
Cllr Convery said that a purpose-built community centre would provide a much needed focus for the Whitewell area.
“This would be educational, vocational and recreational and contribute to the positive personal development of members of the local community.”

UPRG condemn attack but say tensions
are still simmering

UPRG representative for Whitewell John Montgomery has condemned a loyalist attack on a young man on Floral Road, which resulted in the victim fighting for his life in an intensive care ward.
The UPRG, which represents the UDA, said that the attack, which was to be condemned, had brought community relations to an all-time low.
“This attack has to be condemned,” John Montgomery said.
“But I think it’s an indication of how tense things are up here.
“It’s hard to imagine that someone would feel that angry that they would pick on isolated members of the public and attack them in this way.
“Something is going to have to be done up here to help this community.
“Frustrations are running high and since the stabbing the community representatives on our side, as well as the other side, have been out on the streets keeping an eye on things.
“Some of those teenagers are busting to get fighting you can tell and I don’t know how long we can contain it.
“Our jobs as community workers are becoming intolerable.
“We’re lucky that this incident and one with the bandsmen involved knives.
“At least with knives you can get patched up in hospital.”

MP calls for better policing in Whitewell

North Belfast MP Nigel Dodds has said greater police resources are needed for the Whitewell area following the latest stabbing incident in the area.
“The White City and Whitewell areas of North Belfast have seen continuing levels of intimidation and violence over the entire summer period,” said Nigel Dodds.
“Last weekend there was the stabbing of a number of bandsmen as they returned home and now we have this latest serious incident in which a young man has been viciously attacked.
“It is absolutely essential that the police get on top of the situation to provide protection for all in the area.
“I will be making strong representations to the police on this issue this week.”

Journalist:: Staff Reporter


Race Tension
UVF parade may be used to attack ethnic minorities

Right wing fanatics are planning to use a weekend South Belfast UVF march as cover to launch a fresh wave of attacks on ethnic minorities.

On Saturday 20 bands and 500 loyalists will march from Sandy Row into Donegall Pass in honour of murdered UVF man John Hanna.

The Donegall Road native was shot dead by republicans at his home in the area in 1991.

The massive parade – one that has no previous history – falls on the third anniversary of the September 11 Twin Towers attacks.

We can reveal that on Tuesday the PSNI warned ethnic minorities they could be targeted on the 9/11 anniversary by local extremists seeking racial revenge. The South Belfast UVF, who will be heavily represented at Saturday’s parade, have been the driving force behind the dramatic rise in racist attacks in the south of the city.

During the past year they have pipe-bombed and petrol-bombed ethnic homes and extorted cash from Asian businessmen. In April the UVF’s South Belfast commander was stood down by the organisation because of his refusal to call a halt to the racist attacks.

However, the attacks have continued.

The Anti-Racism Network’s Davy Carlin said he has received information fascists involved with paramilitaries could target the ethnic community at the weekend.

“Our information has been that some far right fascist organisations and other individuals, who are involved in paramilitary organisations, may use September 11 to attack members of the minority ethnic community - the most vulnerable members in society,” said Davy.

PUP leader David Ervine is another concerned by the threats.
“Although I can’t confirm it, the suggestion is that it may be around September 11,” he said.

“It’s clear that ethnic minorities have been warned by police. Those who work in congregated groups have been warned first, and that’s quite a worry.”

The organisers of Saturday’s loyalist march are the South Belfast Young Conquerors - a band that carries the standards of the UVF. Hours after their last march along the same route at the end of July drunken loyalists put a Donegall Pass family out of their home. This incident has added to the ethnic fears that fascists may infiltrate the parade.

Ironically, the John Hanna march will pass by the spot were the UVF attempted to kill a leading Donegall Road loyalist last week. Stephen Clarke was seriously injured after being shot three times in the upper body as he sat in a car outside Avenue Taxis on the Donegall Road.

Journalist:: Staff Reporter

Belfast Telegraph

Call for calm at flashpoint cemetery

By Jonathan McCambridge, Crime Correspondent
11 September 2004

LOYALISTS and nationalists both appealed for calm today ahead of a flashpoint cemetery service in Newtownabbey which has erupted in violence for the past four years.

Tensions in Glengormley are simmering ahead of the Catholic Blessing of the Graves ceremony in Carnmoney Cemetery tomorrow, with police expected to have a significant presence at the event.

Last year loyalists from the Rathcoole estate rioted near the cemetery and Catholic Priest Fr Dan Whyte received a death threat.

In previous years grave plots have been desecrated and a blast bomb has also been left near the site.

But following a series of meetings between the PUP, Ulster Political Research Group, SDLP and representatives of the Catholic Church, hopes are high that the event will pass off peacefully tomorrow.

Tommy Kirkham from the UPRG and Billy Hutchinson of the PUP released a joint statement in which they said there is "no excuse" for any trouble surrounding the event.

The two loyalist representatives have also attempted to dispel myths surrounding the event by sending youths from the Rathcoole estate for cultural awareness training.

They have also stressed that the cemetery will be kept open all day tomorrow for all denominations.

They added: "Whilst we support the right to peaceful protest, it is essential that such protests be carried out in a dignified manner at all times.

"We appreciate that the organisers of this year's service have moved the ceremony from June until September to facilitate further dialogue on the matter.

"We conclude by saying that it is our desire and the wish of the Protestant community in Rathcoole that Cemetery Sunday goes off peacefully."

The SDLP said they had met with police this week and had received assurances that a significant police presence would be available on the day should trouble break out.

Councillor Noreen McClelland said: "We welcome this statement and hope it is successful in reducing some of the tensions which have surrounded Cemetery Sunday in recent years.

"Hopefully the event, which is of great importance to many people, can pass off quietly and with dignity."


Loyalists 'come to SF for aid'

Maeve Connolly
Irish News

Some people living in loyalist areas of Belfast are seeking help from
Sinn Féin advice centres, the party has claimed.

The claims follow a report which quotes a Sandy Row community worker
as saying that some residents went to Sinn Féin's advice centre on
the Falls Road ahead of offices belonging to unionist

When contacted yesterday (Thursday), the community worker distanced
himself from the remarks and said local people had no need to seek
Sinn Féin's assistance.

However, West Belfast Sinn Féin assembly member Fra McCann claimed
the party's Falls Road office was regularly contacted by Protestant
people from all over Belfast.

"I have dealt with quite a number of constituency complaints from the
Sandy Row area for over 20 years and I still do," he said.

Mr McCann said the Falls Road and Sandy Row had similar problems and
as an elected representative he served everyone.

"Housing conditions in Sandy Row are as bad as on the Falls Road.
People still need help with the DSS (Department of Social Services)
as they do on the Falls Road," he said.

"They are areas of social deprivation and the problems across the
board are no different – housing, roads, power and lighting among

The Falls Road advice centre has "a good reputation", according to Mr

"The constituency office is contacted by people from Glencairn,
Shankill and as far away as Antrim.

"We deal with a fair number on a weekly basis."

Mr McCann added that the majority of Protestant people contacted the
party by phone, although some also visited in person.

"They would appreciate that it is difficult for us to go into the
area, so a lot of work is done over the phone," Mr McCann said.

"Then when we do successfully deal with a complaint, by word of mouth
it gets about, it has a knock-on effect."

South Belfast UUP assembly member Michael McGimpsey has his
constituency office in Sandy Row and he was reported yesterday as
rejecting claims that residents went to Sinn Féin.

He said a high volume of people came to his office and were helped.

September 11, 2004


RIRA unit 'small but deadly'

Roddy McGregor
Irish News

Derry's top police officer has warned that a "small but deadly" Real
IRA unit in the city could mount further attacks in the run-up to
next week's peace process talks in England.

Chief Superintendent Richard Russell said security measures in Derry,
including those relating to construction workers, had been reviewed
in the aftermath of Wednesday's gun attack on Strand Road Police

The dissident republican group has claimed responsibility for the
attack during which up to 30 high-velocity bullets were fired towards
the base from an adjacent street.

A number of civilian workmen working on an extension inside the base
dived for cover but were uninjured.

They returned to work within two hours of the shooting. The attack
was recorded on police CCTV cameras.

The Real IRA claimed that the shooting was aimed at the workers,
adding that there would be "no more warnings" to anyone supplying or
working at "crown force" bases.

The group was responsible for planting a booby-trap device which
killed Protestant civilian construction worker David Caldwell at a
Territorial Army base in the city in August 2002.

The same group is suspected of assembling a 1,200lb bomb intercepted
in Derry last summer, of planting a device at Shackleton Army
Barracks in Ballykelly in February, and of orchestrating a series of
attacks on District Policing Partnership members throughout the north

Wednesday's gun attack took place yards from a doctor's surgery and
two creche facilities on Bayview Terrace.

Mr Russell said he was not surprised that the Real IRA had carried
out an attack in the run-up to the "milestone" political talks in
Leeds Castle next week.

He said it was possible that the group may be planning other attacks
to coincide with the negotiations.

"I couldn't rule anything out. I think we will have to be aware that
it is possible that something else might happen before the 15th and
indeed after the 15th," he said.

Mr Russell said a core Real IRA group still posed a significant
threat to security in Derry.

"It is a relatively small group, but there is no doubt it is made up
of very determined terrorists," he said.

"They are a small but deadly group and they have proved that in the

Mr Russell said police would take whatever security measures were
necessary to protect police and the public, including civilian
construction workers employed at security bases.

"We need to be very watchful and vigilant all the time in relation to
the security of people going about their everyday business," he said.

September 11, 2004

Sunday Business Post - 2000/08/27


Sunday, August 27, 2000
By Tom McGurk

Provisional IRA man Patrick Magee was found guilty of bombing the Grand Hotel in Brighton during the Conservative Party conference in 1984. Five people died and Margaret Thatcher was lucky to escape. Magee talks for the first time about the event and about why he believes it was the correct political strategy.

'I was alone in the dock for sentencing for Brighton. Although arrested with four others in connection with the unrelated seaside bombing, I was the only one charged in connection with the Grand Hotel. And you could have heard a pin drop in the Old Bailey.

Of course I was concentrating on not showing any emotion, that would be a fatal weakness because they would know then that they had you. The judge suddenly looked at me and said 35 years. In a flash I did the calculation: I was now 35, I might be out when I was 70 and since my grandparents had averaged about 74 years, I calculated there that was at least four years of freedom at the end of all this."

Like most events in his extraordinary life Patrick Magee recalls this moment in considerable detail. In conversation every word is measured, each sentence comes out like it has been carefully polished. And he had plenty of time for polishing his thoughts: 14 years in all, much of it spent in the bleak concrete otherworldliness of British prisons' Special Secure Units (SSUs). A place where every night before bed you might assemble all the bits you were composed of and study each one of them carefully before putting them back where they hopefully belonged.

At one stage during his imprisonment, a Conservative home office minister arbitrarily raised the "minimum tariff" he would have to serve from 35 to "whole of life" (this was later reduced by Jack Straw to 50 years but only after a judicial review).

It was perhaps no more than he might have expected from a part of the British establishment which had almost been destroyed when the Grand Hotel in Brighton was bombed by the IRA. Magee went down for the most spectacular attack in a 30-year campaign, condemned to a lifetime in the SSUs.

Seven or eight men living in a concrete bunker the size of a tennis court with 24-hour surveillance, single cells, a pool table, a television and a tiny exercise yard with a grill across the top to prevent helicopter escape. When the sun shone during exercise hour you stepped on shadow after shadow of hundreds of small wire cages. Presumably from the God's eye view you would be looking down on a cage of humans. The accent was on sensory deprivation, a sort of prison storeroom where even the wildest plants wilted.

Moving from one prison SSU to another involved the creation of a cortege that was both a monument to his importance and to his captor's sense of epic proportionality, as handcuffed he would travel in a vast convoy of armour-plated cars with a helicopter hovering overhead. How strange to spend years trying to break the prisoner's spirit and then to give him such a royal procession every few years. The SSUs were so devoid of colour that years later, when he first saw the outside again, he remembers standing amazed and Adam-like at how green it all was.

He recalls it all now with a curious mixture of indifference, perhaps in recognition of the many who, after Brighton, would happily have seen him hanged. But this public enemy number one, in the aftermath of his arrest in Glasgow, suddenly began to realise how lucky he had been.

When his legal team showed him the MI5 and police special branch surveillance records that resulted in his arrest after he was followed from Carlisle railway station, he realised for the first time how extensively, and for how long, he had been tailed.

The records revealed something else that set his long years in prison in another context. As he puts it himself: "They were clearly surprised that when I met up with Peter Sherry [a republican from Co Tyrone] at Carlisle, we took the train north to Glasgow. They were expecting us down south -- in Metropolitan police land -- and I don't think they had arresting us in mind."

Magee believes that, had he travelled to London, he might quickly have met the same fate as befell the three IRA members cut down by the SAS in Gibraltar some years later. The police in Scotland played it by the book, however, and Magee sat silent during his seven-day long interrogation, refusing even to acknowledge the grudging praise from a police officer that "they were getting nowhere with him".

A generation on, were you to meet him on any train and strike up a conversation, you would presume that this quiet, soft-spoken and persistently serious man was a teacher or a researcher or even a former monk. It might take your breath away to discover that this 49-year-old bearded, ascetic man is both the Brighton bomber who nearly killed Margaret Thatcher, prime minister of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and Dr Patrick Magee PhD BA (first class hons) -- and a considerable authority on Irish post-colonial representations in popular fiction, as his thesis puts it.

As the five Grand Hotel dead were buried and the grievously injured tried to get on with the rest of their lives, and as the dimensions of such an act on the part of the IRA sank into the consciousness of all who played a part on the Irish stage, Magee closed his cell door and opened up his books. Like the surviving victims of Brighton, he also had to accept a new reality; he also had to get on with surviving the consequences of the Brighton bomb.

His position on the IRA campaign and the Brighton bombing is quietly articulated. He stresses that this interview will provide his personal opinions only and not the views of any other person or organisation. He will not speak about the planning and operation of Brighton.

While he was just one of a very large group, he was the only one who was publicly identified and punished for the attack. As he says himself: "Quite honestly it's too early to talk candidly about these events. There are the feelings of the victims to be taken into account and I wouldn't want to be giving any offence."

But he accepts both his part and his responsibilities for those that died or were maimed. What he will not accept is that the fingerprint on the registration card recovered from the hotel ruins that was used to convict him was his. "If that was my fingerprint, I didn't put it there."

At this stage it's not a plea about wrongful conviction, more an old habit of pointing out how creative Constable Plod can be.

"I regret the deaths at Brighton," he says. "I deeply regret that anybody had to lose their lives but at the time did the Tory ruling class expect to remain immune from what their frontline troops were doing to us? From the mid-1970s on, the two principal considerations for the British in dealing with the IRA were criminalisation and containment.

"In lieu of the capacity to wipe out the IRA, the long-term strategy was to depict us as criminals while containing the war within the North. As long as the war was kept in that context, they could sustain the years of attrition. But in the early 1980s we succeeded in destroying both strategies. The hunger strike destroyed the notion of criminalisation and the Brighton bombing destroyed the notion of containment.

"After Brighton, anything was possible and the British for the first time began to look very differently at us; even the IRA itself, I believe, began to fully accept the priority of the campaign in England."

Born into the small nationalist ghetto of the Markets in Belfast, it was almost inevitable, given the political tides of the late 1960s, that Magee would end up where he did. Irish history runs like a tide through his family. His grandfather joined the British Army and ended up as part of the famous Connaught Rangers' mutiny in Lucknow in India in 1920. The largely Irish-recruited regiment downed arms and refused to soldier in protest at Black and Tan atrocities back home. The mutineers were jailed and one of their number, Private James Daly of Tyrrellspass, Co Westmeath, was the last serving British soldier executed by firing squad for mutiny.

When his grandfather returned to Ireland, he joined the IRA in Belfast and ended up interned on the Argenta prison ship in Belfast Lough in the 1920s. His own father was trained as a boilermaker in the Belfast shipyards but when he completed his apprenticeship he was not offered a job.

Obviously his religion may have been a factor but at four years of age Magee found himself living in Norwich in England. He admits he was a difficult child. Leaving school at 13 he did the round of reform schools after a spell of teenage misdemeanours. He then broke from home, returned to Belfast in time to join the IRA and wound up interned in Long Kesh.

He recalls a surreal scene in 1971 when he walked for what seemed like miles along the Falls, past burnt-out houses and cars, clutching his suitcase. There was no turning back. According to security forces, he went back to England in the mid-1970s as part of the IRA's rebuilding there after the capture of what became known as the "Balcombe Street Gang".

He is not yet ready to speak about his time on active service there but from security sources it is possible to discern his paramilitary significance. Eight months after Brighton, he was captured along with an IRA unit in a flat in Glasgow. It was only when he was arraigned at the Old Bailey for the Brighton bombing that Magee's war became public.

Does he think about the victims? "I do," he says. "Frequently. When I was in prison one of them began a correspondence with me. I'm not prepared to compromise the privacy of that but we did briefly correspond over a period of time. I lost contact since my release but I think perhaps the time is now right to make contact again. I would envisage meeting this person too provided it didn't turn into a circus."

Why did the victim make contact? Magee reflects quietly for a moment and then adds that perhaps opening communication was part of the healing process.

And what about the reported anger of Norman Tebbit's wife, now permanently paralysed, when asked about his academic achievements?

"I understand that," he says. "Mrs Tebbit is entitled to her anger. But on a wider scale I must ask were the Tory classes in Britain completely oblivious to what they were inflicting on our communities? Did they never think that one day their turn might come?"

It is obvious that speaking about his victims is difficult for Magee but he is much more forthcoming on the wider political and strategic context of Brighton. He insists that it helped convince people that the war was winnable in England: most importantly, he defines "winnable" in political terms.

"By winnable I mean achieving the necessary level of political leverage and in my mind there is no doubt that the peace process is that political leverage. Until Brighton we were not being taken seriously by the British political establishment, we were trapped in the acceptable level of violence strategy and it's important to remember that the only way we could have lost this war was to be trapped in indefinitely fighting it."

Since the intention was to kill Mrs Thatcher, I ask him did he regret that she wasn't killed? "No," he says firmly.

In retrospect he now believes that it was better that they didn't. He explains that there's an argument that overkill can be counterproductive. The awareness that it could have been worse, he claims, actually gave the IRA more leverage than if they had killed her.

"It probably gave us more political leverage in the long run," he says. "In fact if half the British government had been killed, it might have been simply impossible for a generation for the British establishment to come to terms with us. But I will stop now because I don't want to get into a 'how many is it necessary to kill before they take us seriously scenario'. Let me make it clear, I think it's hugely regrettable that anyone had to die but equally I believe that the IRA actions over the last 30 years were justified. There was simply no other way".

But what about John Hume's scenario that all of the violence was unnecessary, that the civil rights campaign would have delivered on its own?

Yet again Magee's answer comes as a defiant justification of the IRA campaign. "Do you seriously think," he asks, "that without the armed struggle the unionists would have sat down with the SDLP and implemented an equality agenda? It's even hard enough winning rights now in the presence of this political agenda. Can you imagine if there wasn't the strength of Sinn Fein that constitutional nationalism, as we understand it, could have delivered that on its own? The military campaign was also about radicalising politics in the ghetto, and in many ways it was our own previous political failures that made that necessary too.

"Importantly, too, once nationalism itself couldn't exclude us then neither could the British and Irish political establishments. And in ways too, by reason of our initial political ineptitude, we were excluding ourselves as well."

Magee has emerged as a vigorous supporter of the peace process and he insists the military campaign was a priori a result of the intrinsic political failures of republicanism at the outset and that it was in itself only a part of a wider process to deliver political leverage for the inevitable entry into politics.

"The last 30 years has been a process where we gained or garnered political strength," he says. "In fact the military campaign facilitated that development. The hunger strike accelerated our political nexus; it began all this. It showed people how much could be achieved politically. Of course at the time we had the ballot box and armalite strategy, the halfway house so to speak, but that too was a transitional phase. If you look at Irish history, particularly the republican story, what defeated us in the past was lack of unity, especially between the soldiers and the politicians.

"This time around there is absolute determination to maintain that unity. The decommissioning scenario, for example, was intended to fragment this and it was a deeply frustrating brake on progress. But at the end of the day you had to carry your own support base. And if anything we are here today where we are because that task was carried out successfully. What we have done is to use time against an attritional backdrop to develop politically."

Ever a child of dramatic events, Magee was one of the first to profit from the peace process. On the day after the ceasefire was announced, as he sat in the SSU watching events unfold on television on the Falls Road, a prison officer entered the room. "He was smiling," says Magee. "'Get your things packed, Pat,' he said, 'you are going back to Ireland'."

Surreal to the end, Magee and other republican prisoners were handcuffed and flown to Belfast on a specially chartered aircraft with a huge armed security detail. On arrival the RUC loaded them into the back of a security van and drove them rather casually to Maghaberry Prison.

The time of his release, some 14 months ago, put huge pressure on the rewriting of his thesis. He knew once he got out it would be hugely difficult to concentrate on it. He now sees his life in terms of teaching or further study. His passion is books, and prison allowed him to develop huge powers of concentration. He is keener to talk about his status as an academic than his part as an activist. His PhD examined the impact on the popular novel of events in the North.

Magee explains that there have been about 500 popular novels over 30 years written out of the troubles, more than 50 of them by journalists.

"Many of them are household names: Gerald Seymour, Tom Clancy, even Robin Moore of The French Connection and Green Beret fame. Douglas Hurd, Chapman Pincher and hundreds of others tried their hand. My thesis looked at them as fictional representations of factual events. The IRA is always 'the big bad other' in a modern morality tale.

"In Seymour, for example, he pits the British and Irish protagonists against each other until at the end the British guy is always superior. In ways the books are more about deep-seated racist notions within the subtext of the British popular imagination than about understanding republicans."

'It struck me too that in terms of genre studies it's the old archetypal Wild West story being told all over again. The republicans are the Red Indians of course, and like the Red Indians they have no voice, they are not allowed to tell their story. But of course republicans are now writing their own fiction, people like Ronan Bennett and Danny Morrison."

But what does he think of contemporary Irish writers on the North? The late Brian Moore for example? Magee praises Moore's elegant style but finds him class-conscious, cold, detached and exhibiting the values of old nationalism.

In contrast he sings Seamus Deane's praises and what he calls his ability to break down myths to discover the past. "And that's something that we who have come out of the North are all presently engaged in doing."

What was his worst moment of all in the past 30 years? "My father's death in 1995," he says. "I had not seen a lot of him." The prison officer told him the news with the addendum that there was no prospect of parole to attend the funeral.

Magee took a judicial review over Michael Howard's refusal to grant compassionate parole but it failed. The IRA cessation was in place at the time but Howard was still taking a hard line.

But, as always, he showed them no emotion. "They are always looking for a weakness," he reflects, "and you must not show it to them. I was utterly shocked, actually physically affected in that the curious thing is that I seemed to slow down. I seemed to develop this infinite patience for small tasks. But my greatest consolation is that despite our not seeing each other for ten years when I was in prison, when I got a first class honours BA degree I sent him the parchment.

"He was dying at the time but at least he saw that part of me before he went. That was hugely important to me and I suspect to him as well. Incidentally, there were eight first class honours in that year's Open University BA results and two of them were republican prisoners." (The other was Mary McArdle).

On the day he was released he was determined to remain totally calm and take everything in. "I drove slowly through Belfast that day with my wife in the back of the car and we just held hands and said nothing. Nothing at all. I just wanted to be careful to take it all in, take every moment in. Belfast had changed and in ways it was a new landscape to me, but then everything changes."

At 49 Magee now begins the second half of an extraordinary life.

He seems undiminished by prison and it seems to have afforded him opportunities. He would like to teach but has no illusions about the problems that he would face with his record. He hopes that there will be an academic place for someone like him who has so much to tell and, one suspects, so much to give. His intellect is impressive and unusual in that it is honed out of remarkable experiences.

In that future he hopes violence is over forever and forcibly argues that with this process in place there is no part for it. He regrets the dissident republican approach and argues that they have misunderstood what the peace process has achieved.

Nor he argues is there any rationale in violence, particularly in the sort of political vacuum that could flow from their actions.

"Every generation of republicans has had to turn to violence, I would hope that now at last we can stand on our own feet and fight our corner politically. The potential is now there at last."

By way, perhaps, of a final flourish, he pauses and then looking directly at me says: "I have argued with you that the military campaign was necessary and equally now I would argue that it is no longer necessary. It's as simple as that. OK?"

Even from this short historical distance, it is evident that the dimensions of Brighton were understood better in the gut at the time and not the head. Were these the first of the big bangs before the door finally opened into our present landscape of possibility?

In this writer's imagination the dead on the Belfast street corners and the plastic bullet victims in the ghettos commingle with the Tory ruling class bloodied, screaming and frantic in their evening wear under collapsing Brighton chandeliers and stucco ceilings.

Sitting opposite me, the author of this revenge for the deaths of the hunger strikers gives the calm impression that he has long ago seen these ghastly images and that he has come to terms with his actions and their consequences. His discourse is logical but it is also cold and chilling.

His is one of the most extraordinary stories I have ever tried to write not least in recognising that for all its chameleon qualities it cannot have a happy ending for some who were involved in it. Even now certain chapters must remain unfinished until the passage of the years hopefully ameliorates the suffering and the pain; and there is much that Magee will not yet talk about.

But it is sufficient to recognise that this is the opening of a morality tale at the heart of the post-war debate about violence. It is also a saga about the savagery that can result when the British and the Irish resort to their base instincts. It is to be hoped that in its telling we will all learn never to be as foolish again.

Times Online



Peter Taylor on getting both sides of the Brighton bomb story

The BBC wanted to do a programme about the Brighton bomb to coincide with the run-up to the 20th anniversary. Peter Horrocks, the BBC’s head of current affairs, said to me after I’d done SAS: Embassy Siege for BBC Two that, if I could get some of the victims and Patrick Magee (the IRA man who planted the bomb) to talk about it, we would have an important programme.

Getting the interviews was not easy and was down to convincing the Tebbits, Lady Berry (whose husband was killed) and others that our intentions were honourable. A major problem was that one of the conditions on which Lord and Lady Tebbit and Lady Berry would take part was that they would not be in the same programme as Magee.

For 18 months Magee had refused to be interviewed for the programme, so at the time of doing the interviews with the victims the situation didn’t arise. To my surprise, he reconsidered and we had to deal with the problem of the conditions on which the Tebbits and Lady Berry (in particular) had agreed. We thought that the best way to resolve it was to do two separate programmes.

I knew it was still not going to be easy because they (the victims) might have thought that we had double-crossed them when we hadn’t, but ultimately they took it well.

The interviews themselves were really quite difficult and sensitive. My talk with Lady Berry is one of those interviews that one remembers — when she talked about how “I felt closer to God” while buried alive, it was astonishing. For somebody who is a shy person and who doesn’t speak politically to say that . . . it makes you think: “What would I have done in that situation?”

Also, I think that talking to the Tebbits, to my surprise, revealed a different level of understanding about them. It will challenge viewers’ perceptions about Norman Tebbit as the “Chingford skinhead”, because there are moments in the interview which reveal that Margaret wears the trousers in their household. For example, there’s an aside when Norman says, about returning from Lord McAlpine’s party (shortly before the bomb blast), that “I think it was around 11.30pm”, and Margaret says off-camera audibly it was “well after midnight”! I think it says something about her great strength and his.

As for Magee, the important thing was that I was heard to be asking the questions — the fact that he wouldn’t answer some will enable people to make up their own minds. He was slightly wary, and made it clear that he was not going to speak on behalf of the IRA and that he did not regard himself — as very few IRA men did — as a criminal.

I have never condoned terrorism, but what I’ve tried to do in 30-odd years of reporting it is to try to understand it. You start to understand it by understanding the people who carry out these acts.

It is not a soft interview with Magee — he is given the chance to say what he wants to say, but I also challenge what he says. I think one of the media’s prime functions is to show the audience in these contentious, sensitive areas things as they really are, why they are, rather than what people think they are because of the images that they have been presented by other parts of the media.

People remember the bombing because it was so dramatic; in a sense it’s a bit like the siege of the Iranian embassy or the Kennedy assassination. People gave a huge amount in these interviews, and coupled with the remarkable archive footage, it will show, I hope, that it wasn’t just something that happened — it’s something that killed people and changed people’s lives.

Interview by James Jackson. The Brighton Bomb, Tuesday, BBC One, 9pm; The Hunt for the Brighton Bomber, Tuesday, BBC One, 10.35pm


Brighton Bomber 'Would Do It Again'

By James Tapsfield, PA News
12:05pm (UK)

The terrorist who planted the Brighton Bomb which devastated the Conservative party conference nearly 20 years ago said today he would do the same again.

Convicted IRA killer Patrick Magee, who set the timer on the device that killed five people and injured 34 in October 1984, said the attack “made a contribution to the peace process”.

Next Tuesday it will be 20 years since the father-of-two checked into the Grand Hotel under the alias Roy Walsh and hid the bomb under a bath in room 629.

A judge recommended Magee should serve 35 years for eight life sentences when he was convicted of the bombing in September 1986.

He was released from the Maze Prison five years ago as part of the Good Friday Agreement and now lives in West Belfast with his family.

In an interview with the Brighton Argus published today, the republican said he regretted the loss of life from the bombing, but added: “We always look back with the benefit of hindsight to see if we would do things differently, and that is very true 20 years on.

“But I have to say I would have done it – I would have planted the bomb in the hotel.

“I still believe Brighton made a contribution to the peace process.”

He claimed that the attack was a “legitimate operation”.

“The intention was to target the British political establishment,” he said.

“I didn’t target Margaret Thatcher, the IRA did not target Thatcher. I was targeting the British establishment – it could just as easily have been a Labour government.”

Magee said his biggest concern had been for the safety of staff at the Grand.

“We did try to minimise the risk. We were more concerned about staff at the hotel.

“The operation was timed with a view of protecting the hotel.

“But I would not have been concerned about relatives of the Tories. At that time I would have seen them as part of the political establishment. Now I see them as innocents and I cannot justify that.”

Magee added that he was “sorry” for any innocent people who were caught up in the blast in the early hours of the morning on October 12, 1984.

“Any civilian that was caught up in the bombing, I do apologise. I am sorry, I do regret that.

“How could I not regret that Margaret Tebbit is in a wheelchair? I do regret that. Whatever I do will not bridge that gap.”

An Phoblacht

Troops Out Movement - 30 years campaigning for British withdrawal


There is a long and honourable tradition in Britain of opposition to the occupation of Ireland. It goes as far back as 1647 when the one of first political parties in England and early socialists, the Levellers, published The English Soldiers' Standard in which they set out their belief that Ireland should be free. Two years later, in 1649, a group of English soldiers, inspired by the Levellers, mutinied rather than go with Oliver Cromwell and his army and take part in the slaughter of Irish people. In their own pamphlet, The Soldiers' Demand, the group asked "What have we to do in Ireland, to fight and murder a people and a nation... which have done us no harm? We have waded too far in that crimson stream already of innocent and Christian blood."

Their defiance was costly. Pursued by Cromwell, the insurgents took shelter in Burford Church in Oxfordshire before being surrounded by his men. Their leaders were hauled out of the church and executed on the spot. Corporal Perkins, Private Church and Cornet Thompson are still commemorated each year at the very place where they were murdered by the Crown.

Opposition within Britain continued to ebb and flow through the succeeding centuries with, for example, strong support for the Fenian Movement in the north of England in the 1860s, through to the Home Rule Confederation of Great Britain in the 1870s and the Irish Volunteer Movement in 1913 (of which Michael Collins was a member during his time in London). After the 1916 Rising came the Irish Self-Determination League which numbered something like 40,000 members. And when Terence Macswiney died in Brixton Prison on 25 October 1920, tens of thousands lined the streets as his coffin passed by. When the conflict in the north erupted in the late 1960s, the Irish Civil Rights Solidarity Campaign was formed, quickly followed by the Anti-Internment League.

This organised opposition to Britain's presence in Ireland continues to this day through, for example, the Trade Union Movement, a small but dedicated number of MPs, and groups such as the Wolfe Tone Society and the Connolly Association. The backbone of the various resistance groupings has generally consisted of first and second generation Irish people, but there has always been a small stream English radicals, and people of other ethnic backgrounds, ready to take up the cause of Ireland.

By September 1973 some British left-wing radicals, trade unionists, Irish people living in Britain and many other ordinary people had managed to see something of the truth of what was happening in the North of Ireland through the fog of British Government propaganda. They were appalled at what they were seeing and they came together in London to form the Troops Out Movement. They were tapping into an almost unbroken tradition of resistance within Britain to the state's involvement in Ireland. In 1974 there was sufficient support for the group to be launched nationally, with branches throughout Britain. In October this year TOM celebrates its 30th year of opposition to the British presence in Ireland.

Like the Civil Rights Movement in the Six Counties, TOM's founders and earliest activists were also inspired by the contemporary political milieu. The Civil Rights Movement had swept like a tidal wave across America and anti-Vietnam war demonstrations had been an almost daily occurrence. Europe had seen student uprisings which were met with the sort of state brutality which was commonplace in the North of Ireland.

But it is worth remembering that for people living in Britain in the 1960s, '70s and '80s, particularly those without family or cultural ties to Ireland, making the leap from vague disquiet about the British Army in Ireland, to committed activism to get it out was no easy thing. So much militated against it. Irish history was not taught in schools, even as part of the history of the British Empire. There was social disapproval, apathy and, perhaps most crucially, lack of information. When Ireland was not being studiously ignored, it was being misrepresented. It was, for example, a given that the Republican Movement was, by definition, evil and its members psychopaths. Their cause was rarely, if ever, explained in anything other than the most crude and sectarian way and reaching any kind of understanding or knowledge of it required a determined and independent mind.

During that period, as anti-censorship activist and historian Liz Curtis chronicles, anyone who was interested in Ireland would have had to see through such apparently authoritative opinions as the historian RJ Cootes, who in 1972 wrote, "In 1969 bitter fighting broke out in the streets of Belfast and other northern towns. British troops were sent in to keep the peace, but longstanding religious differences could not be settled overnight".

Those of a less academic bent could rely on the Daily Mirror, which in 1969 informed its readership: "The Irish agree on one thing only. That is to go on arguing and fighting about a peace that has not existed in their history". Or they could consult the Sunday Times which in 1977, at precisely the time when the RUC was engaged in the practice of torturing prisoners, opined: "The notorious problem is how a civilised country can overpower uncivilised people without becoming less civilised in the process."

By 1981 this condition of self-delusion had reached such a level that Peregrine Worsthorne could, in absolute, po-faced seriousness, write the following sentence: "The English have every reason to feel proud of their country's recent record in Northern Ireland, since it sets the world a uniquely impressive example of altruistic service in the cause of peace. Nothing done by any other country in modern times so richly deserves the Nobel prize."

The unvarying message sent out by government and media since the beginning of the conflict has been, as Tony Benn has shrewdly observed, that Ireland is Britain's problem when of course the reality is that Britain is Ireland's problem. But then, as the historian J Bowyer-Bell equally shrewdly observed, "Perception is all". It was a philosophy keenly adopted by Frank Kitson who, in the classic of the time, Low Intensity Operations, stressed the need for the British military in Ireland to "dictate how others saw the essence of the conflict".

But there were then, as there are now, a few people in Britain who would not allow their understanding and view of the conflict to be controlled by either the government or the media. One of them was Aly Renwick, the British soldier who served for a short time in Ireland before becoming a political activist, writer and founder member of TOM. Another was Mary Pearson, another founder member of TOM who has remained an indefatigable campaigner every since.

Ever cheery, she is a familiar face in the North of Ireland, and in common with many of those who joined TOM in its infancy, recalls that it was the events of Bloody Sunday which finally motivated her to become involved in some way in Irish politics. Previously, she says, although she felt a sense of what she calls "emotional support" for the nationalist population, she had little understanding of the political situation, other than a firm belief that interment without trial was wrong.

"Bloody Sunday shocked me to the core" she says. "That armed soldiers would shoot unarmed people in cold blood. I was upset and angry about the British army acting 'in my name'."

The added insult to the deep injury was the handling of the situation by the media. "I watched the initial news flashes on TV" Mary recalls. "It was horrific and showed the raw reality of state murder. But by the evening news, the whole event was sanitised and the blame put on the unarmed protesters who were called bombers and gunmen. I remember crying with sheer anger at the role the media were playing".

Since then, she has worked tirelessly to inform the British people what their successive governments have been up to in Ireland. For their own part, successive British governments have also displayed a keen interest in TOM and its members, an interest quite out of proportion to the group's membership or indeed activities which have been unfailingly non-violent. It is something which has at times perplexed Mary.

"The government reaction to TOM has been quite strange" she says. "We have never been a mass organisation; even in the heydays of the seventies and eighties we never had more than a thousand members. Yet we have had quite serious harassment and infiltration over the years"

Indeed, she recalls being at a meeting some years ago at which Colin Wallace, the MI5 whistleblower who was framed by British intelligence for a murder he did not commit after he refused to take part in the dirty war in Ireland, said that TOM was the most infiltrated organisation in Britain. Whether or not this is still the case is anyone's guess, but the group has had some notable successes in influencing, for example, trade union policy, and Labour party policy during the latter's long days in opposition.

It has also been the case that opinion polls taken in Britain have consistently shown a majority of the public, whatever their political stripe, in favour of British military withdrawal from the north of Ireland, and for that TOM must take some of the credit.

This is despite the difficulties the group faced - indeed which any group which tried to present the conflict as something other than tribal infighting faced — in getting the message across.

"The mainstream media rarely takes us seriously" observes Mary ruefully. "In the past we have been labelled as 'terrorist supporters'. We seen to get the best publicity if one of our members is arrested or we are host to a prominent republican".

During the broadcasting ban on Sinn Féin, some of the "faint hearted" British media took some convincing that the ban did actually only apply to Sinn Fein itself and TOM had an even more difficult task than usual in persuading the media to hear their arguments.

Like other activists involved in opposition to the British Government, TOM's members have been regularly stopped when travelling to and from Ireland. In some cases, members were subjected to house raids by the police, usually after IRA activity in England, when police would comb through books, photographs and personal paperwork in an attempt to gather intelligence.

In 1983, Mary's house was raided and searched for, as the police put it, "explosive substances likely to cause criminal damage", although as Mary points out, had she actually been in possession of any such substances, the police would not have found them as they spent the entire time looking through her books, photos and letters.

She, like other members of TOM, is humbled to the point of embarrassment at the reception she has received over the years in the Six Counties and at the appreciation there of the work which the organisation has done.

"It is humbling when people in Ireland say 'but you're working in the belly of the beast' because we know the level of struggle in the nationalist community in the North and what they have suffered. Our work and difficulties are minuscule by comparison".

Although the group's fortunes have been in decline in recent years, particularly since the cessation, Mary is still certain about TOM's function.

"Our role is still to try and convince people living in England Scotland and Wales that Britain has no right to be in Ireland, should never have been in Ireland, and should get out immediately.

"The Peace Process and the Good Friday Agreement have had a dual effect on our work. Because there is more open discussion of Ireland now, it is much easier to raise the issues with people. We rarely get spat on or attacked in the street anymore, even though we still get threats from fascist organisations.

"However, we have found it more difficult to get people to become active on the issue as they think it all already happening. But I can promise the people in the North that we will continue to campaign for Britain to get out of Ireland and we will continue to expose the corruption and injustices whilst they still exist."

An Phoblacht





















An Phoblacht

Unionist claims of intimidation disputed: Driver saves life of stabbed youth

9 September 2004

On a hill just above the main turning into the nationalist enclave of Whitewell in North Belfast there's a security barrier leading into Belfast Zoo. Loyalists from the nearby White City have been seen sitting in cars at the barrier. From that vantage point it is easy to identify Catholics turning to walk the short distance from Floral Road into Whitewell.

Here the road is isolated, lined only by trees and obscured from homes in the Whitewell Estate by a sharp bend. This turning already has a history. It's the spot where Gerard Lawlor was shot dead by unionist paramilitaries in July 2002. Last Sunday when a passing driver saw a gang attacking a stricken teenager he immediately knew what was happening.

In an act of considerable courage, the driver stopped and challenged the gang. It was an act that certainly saved Joe McKernon's life. The gang fled, piling into a getaway car, later found abandoned and burnt out a short distance away at Loughside Recreation centre on the Shore Road. A few moments later a second driver stopped to assist the injured teenager whose only hope had been to alert passing traffic to his plight.

The two drivers tried to keep the seriously injured 18-year-old calm. It was immediately obvious to them how seriously the teenager had been injured. There were several abdominal stab wounds and a wound to the chest. One driver described seeing the victim's inner organs lying outside the wound. "They meant to kill," said a driver, "the fact that they were interrupted saved a life."

Joe was rushed to the Mater Hospital where he received emergency surgery first on one lung and later his bowels. His condition has been described as serious but stable. Local Priest Fr Whyte said the community was trying to get to grips with what had happened. "I cannot understand how anyone could do this," he said.

The attack followed heightening sectarian tension within the area that local people are linking to the current political talks. "Unionist paramilitaries always crank things up when there's political talks," said a Whitewell resident.

The atmosphere has not been enhanced by an increasing number of unionist parades. Most recently, the unionist paramilitary Whitewell Defenders Flute band organised a parade last Saturday. In an act of pure provocation, the self-styled Defenders invited 28 loyalist bands and 1,000 marchers to take part in a four-hour parade through the Whitewell area.

The parade commemorated the death of local teenager Thomas McDonald who was killed three years ago in controversial circumstances. McDonald was riding his bike when a car driven by a resident from the nationalist estate struck him. A local woman was charged and convicted in relation to the accident.

McDonald was knocked off his bike after the driver pursued him along a footpath after he had thrown a brick at her windscreen. The Catholic mother was jailed for two years for manslaughter.

At the time of his death McDonald had been a member of the Whitewell Defenders Flute band and a well-known member of a White City gang that regularly stoned cars travelling towards the nationalist Whitewell and Longlands areas.

Unionist commentators and media are linking the brutal sectarian attack by unionists against the Catholic teenager on Sunday to an earlier incident in which two unionist paramilitary bandsmen were stabbed. The bandsmen had taken part in an Orange commemoration in Sandy Row on Friday 27 August of the weekend before.

According to local people trouble flared in the early hours of Saturday morning 28 August between a number of nationalist teenagers and a larger group of unionist paramilitary bandsmen. A knife wielded by one of the bandsmen was taken off him by his intended victim who lashed out as a five-man gang kicked him to the ground. Two bandsmen were injured.

A few hours later unionists from White City attacked a Catholic funeral. The cortege was attacked by a mob wielding machetes in what the media described as a 'revenge' attack. The fact that an incident of the previous night involving a number of youths and drunken unionist bandsmen, following which there were a number of arrests, led to an attack on a Catholic funeral is indicative of a sectarian ethos in which "any taig will do".

A week later Catholic teenager Joe McKernon became another target in the UDA thirst for 'retaliation'. Whitewell community worker Paul McKernon has criticised the willingness of the media to repeat spurious attempts to justify the sectarian murder attempt by the UDA that almost resulted in his young relative's death.

"I was disappointed that when interviewed by the media John Montgomery failed to condemn the attack, he merely suggested it was inevitable," said McKernon. (Montgomery is a member of the UDA linked Ulster Political Research Group (UPRG)).

Paul McKernon said that despite the provocative nature of the unionist parade, nationalist community workers in Whitewell had taken measures to help ensure that the day passed off peacefully including taking many children and young people for a fun day away. "This community has endured three weekends of unionist parades," said McKernon.

Unionist claims of sectarian attacks against Protestant residents of White City have been rubbished by local people. Speaking to the Newsletter, Unionist Councillor Tommy Kirkham of the UPRG claimed that there had been "ongoing attacks" against Protestant residents in the area for several months.

"The intimidation and attacks are a deliberate attempt to drive Protestants from this area," Kirkham said.

But local Sinn Féin Councillor Danny Lavery insists that many unionist claims, often repeated in the media are spurious. A claim that a local Orange hall was "besieged" by nationalists in an "attack" which left women and children in the hall crying and distressed has been vigorously refuted.

"A small crowd of nationalists had gathered at some distance after unionists attending the parade attacked five residents in Catherine's Court but the Orange hall was not besieged, people in the hall had free access to the Whitewell Road and moved freely in and out of the hall. At 8.30pm those attending the hall walked down the Whitewell Road to waiting buses without incident," said Danny Lavery.


SAOIRSE Online Newsroom

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Michael Ryan, Limerick Republican Sinn Féin
September 6, 2004

The charging of a hundred euro for school heating to parents living in large housing estates where many are on low pay is creating a new "educational apartheid" the Limerick branch of Republican Sinn Féin stated today.

RSF spokesman Michael Ryan said that parents are already under enough financial strain from new uniforms and books without the education system imposing additional demands for money.

"The fact is that parents have already forked out hundreds of euro for new books and uniforms," said Mr. Ryan. "This demand for payments for school heating is the latest twist in extracting cash from hard pressed parents.

"In places like Ballynanty, Kileely and Moyross many parents are struggling to do their best for their children without the schools imposing these additional financial demands for heating.

"The schools are closed for the summer months so no heating is required but surely the State should adequately finance the schools without this 'educational blackmail' being levied on parents.

"It is a bit much to expect parents to pay for school heating when the politicians continually praise the high standards of Irish education. These escalating financial demands are creating a new 'educational apartheid' in estates where many parents are on low pay or working in basic community job schemes."

SAOIRSE Online Newsroom


Joe Lynch, Limerick Republican Sinn Féin
September 9, 2004

A call has been made on the Mayor of Limerick by the local branch of Republican Sinn Féin to boycott the visit to the city on Friday of the daughter of the Queen of England because of the role the British Crown has played in Ireland.

RSF Munster spokesman Joe Lynch said the visit by Princess Anne to the University of Limerick is an insult to the two mayors of the city who were murdered by British Crown forces.

"We are calling on the Mayor of Limerick Michael Hourigan to refuse to meet this representative of the British Crown - she is a Colonel in Chief of a British Army regiment and represents the British military machine," said Mr. Lynch.

"If the Mayor goes ahead and meets the daughter of the Queen of England in City Hall he will be in sight of the Strand where two Limerick Mayors were murdered by the British forces during the War of Independence.

"The fact that O'Callaghan Strand and Clancy Strand lining the River Shannon across from his office are named after two of his predecessors must surely register with Mayor Hourigan.

"However the record of Fine Gael in relation to licking so called royalty is appalling considering the lavish praise heaped on Prince Charles by John Bruton the former party leader.

"Now is the time for Fine Gael to take a stand against this attempt to normalise British rule in Ireland. It is all part of the process to pretend that partition no longer exists - but the fact is partition is being copper-fastened by events like these and we feel the Mayor should not take part in this charade."


Bush envoy to join talks

US special envoy Mitchell Reiss will join the talks

President Bush's special envoy to Northern Ireland will join intensive talks aimed at restoring devolved government to the province.
Mitchell Reiss will take part in the all-party discussions at Leeds Castle in Kent later this month, it emerged on Thursday.

The talks, aimed at resolving issues surrounding the deadlock over the IRA's continued existence and power-sharing at Stormont, will be chaired by the British and Irish prime ministers.

Northern Ireland Secretary Paul Murphy said on Wednesday that the talks would be the moment of decision for the peace process.

Mr Murphy told MPs that the government was not contemplating failure at the talks, which were a "crucial part of the process".

A week of intense activity aimed at generating movement in the Northern Ireland political situation should culminate in Mr Blair's Sedgefield constituency on Friday.

The prime minister is expected to meet Bertie Ahern to assess the chances of progress at the Leeds Castle talks.

The political institutions in Northern Ireland were suspended in October 2002 amid allegations of IRA intelligence gathering at the Northern Ireland Office.

The DUP and Sinn Fein have maintained high-level contacts with both governments over the summer.


Belfast Telegraph

We opened fire on police' - Real IRA

By Staff Reporter
09 September 2004

The Real IRA today admitted carrying out a gun attack on construction workers at the Strand Road police station in Londonderry.

In a statement, which was accompanied by a recognised codeword, the dissident group said that two of their members carrying assault rifles fired on the workers yesterday.

The statement said that "volunteers of Derry Brigade, Oglaigh na hEireann, drove into the centre of the city specifically to attack the workers".

The group referred to a previous statement released in the wake of a bomb attack on Shackleton army barracks in Ballykelly, Co Derry, in February of this year when it said that "no further warnings" would be issued to "anybody entering or supplying these bases" as they did so "at their own risk".

A lone gunman fired up to 30 shots from what is believed to have been an AK47 rifle at the station at 9.30am yesterday from the junction of Queen Street and Asylum Road.

Scores of people were walking through the area at the time but no one was hurt in the attack, which is believed to have been aimed at construction workers involved in building an extension to the station.

Several cars, however, were hit by bullets and police said it was a miracle no one was killed.

Among the vehicles hit was one owned by a doctor working in the area.

The gunman was seen getting into a maroon Cavalier car which was later found burnt out in the Brandywell area.

A police spokesman today urged anyone who saw the car, registration UIB 7209, in the city yesterday to contact investigating officers.

Sinn Fein MLA Raymond McCartney today called on dissident republicans to abandon their military campaign and develop a political strategy.

"This attack offers nothing to the creation of the new Ireland that republicans have striven for over many years," said Mr McCartney.

"Their campaign has no strategy to achieve a united Ireland and has no support within the vast majority of the republican base.

"In fact, their strategy plays directly into the hands of British securocrats who oppose change and who uses attacks like this to maintain the high level of military presence."

Irish Times

** Access gotten from Slugger O'Toole at its temporary address

Population over 4 million for first time since 1871

Carol Coulter and Cliff Taylor

A baby boom and a high level of immigration have lifted the population to more than four million, its highest since 1871, according to the Central Statistics Office.

There are now 4.04 million people living in the Republic, compared with 4.05 million in the 26 southern counties in 1871.

The population increased by almost 65,000 in the past year, due to an increasing birth rate and immigration. The CSO estimates that 62,000 babies were born last year, and 50,100 immigrants came here. When deaths and emigration are taken into account, the population increased by 64,900, or 1.6 per cent.

Immigration, while high by historical standards, has fallen for the second year running. The 50,100 who came last year compare with 66,900 two years ago.

Just over one-third of the immigrants were Irish people returning. Thirty-six per cent came from the pre-enlargement EU and the US, with 30 per cent from the rest of the world. The largest single group of immigrants other than returning Irish, 12 per cent of the total, came from the UK. The next-largest was the Chinese, at 9 per cent.

The survey also showed a continued growth in the concentration of population on the eastern seaboard, with the mid-eastern region growing by 2.9 per cent, while the mid-western region grew by only 1 per cent.

Rising population partly reflects growth in the economy, with separate CSO figures yesterday confirming that employment is continuing to increase. The number at work rose by 48,200 in the past year to 1.836 million. This meant that the number of people at work was more than 45 per cent of the population, a record level in recent history. The construction and services sectors are booming, but employment in hotels and restaurants is falling, and many areas of manufacturing industry remain under pressure.

Adjusting for normal seasonal trends, the figures show that total job numbers continued to increase into the second quarter of this year.

The most rapid jobs growth has been in the Border, Midlands and Western region, although this is being driven in part by the rapid growth of long-distance commuting to work in Dublin from counties such as Louth.

The CSO figures show a small increase in the unemployment rate to 4.6 per cent, although long-term unemployment continues to fall.

Yahoo! News

**Just happened upon this and am throwing it in FYI:


Thu Sep 9,10:34 AM
By LINDA A. JOHNSON, Associated Press Writer

A common antibiotic prescribed for 50 years to treat everything from strep throat to syphilis dramatically increases the risk of cardiac arrest, especially when taken with certain newer, popular drugs, a study found.

The study shows the need for continuing research on the safety of older medicines such as the widely prescribed drug, erythromycin, including how they interact with newer medicines, said researcher Wayne A. Ray, a professor of preventive medicine at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine in Nashville.

In patients taking erythromycin along with other drugs that increase its concentration in the blood, the risk of cardiac death was more than five times greater, Ray and his colleagues found. That translates to six deaths for every 10,000 people taking erythromycin for the typical two weeks while on the other drugs.

"This is an unacceptably high risk," Ray said.

Nobody realized the magnitude of the problem before, said Dr. Muhamed Saric, a cardiologist and director of the electrocardiology laboratory at University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey in Newark. "It was thought that erythromycin is a generally safe drug."

Most heart doctors knew erythromycin alone carried a slight risk because of some individual reports on patient deaths, mostly in people who took the drug intravenously. However, family doctors are less likely to know about it, Saric said.

This study, in Thursday's New England Journal of Medicine (news - web sites), was the first to systematically document the risk. It focused on much more commonly used erythromycin pills — usually sold as a generic — along with certain medicines for infections and calcium channel blockers for high blood pressure.

Ray said the danger seems to come from other drugs slowing the breakdown of erythromycin, which increases its concentration. At high levels it traps salt inside resting heart muscle cells, prolonging the time until the next heartbeat starts, and sometimes triggering an abnormal, potentially fatal, rhythm.

The findings show doctors should choose an alternative antibiotic, Ray said, at least when prescribing the drugs that interact. Amoxicillin, another popular antibiotic, showed no cardiac risk.

"There are other antibiotics that provide the same antimicrobial activity without building up in the blood the way erythromycin does," Ray said.

Ray's team of doctors and nurses spent years studying detailed medical records of 4,404 Medicaid patients from Tennessee who apparently died of cardiac arrest from 1988-93. The team confirmed 1,476 cases of cardiac arrest, then studied Medicaid's records of each patient's medication use.

Only a small number of patients had taken both erythromycin and any of the antibiotics or heart drugs carrying a risk.

Still, three of them died. Statistically, it was extremely unlikely those deaths were due to chance, according to Ray and other experts.

The deaths were in patients taking verapamil or diltiazem, both blood pressure drugs sold as generics and also under various brand names: Verelan and Isoptin for verapamil, Cardizem and Tiazac for diltiazem.

Other drugs posing a risk with erythromycin, Ray said, include the antibiotic clarithromycin, sold under the Biaxin brand; fluconazole, or Diflucan, for vaginal yeast infections; and the antifungal drugs ketoconazole (Nizoral) and itraconazole (Sporanox). Pills and injections of the drugs, but not topical forms, carry the risk.

"People may be taking these medications for years, and they develop a throat infection and someone gives them erythromycin, and that's it," Saric said.

The AIDS (news - web sites) drugs called protease inhibitors and grapefruit juice also should be avoided, Ray said, because they, too, can boost blood levels of erythromycin.

Erythromycin, in turn, boosts blood levels of verapamil and diltiazem, which slow heart rate, and thus can worsen abnormal rhythms, said American Heart Association (news - web sites) spokeswoman Dr. Nieca Goldberg. The findings show why people should keep a list of medications they take and share them with all their doctors, said Goldberg, chief of women's cardiac care at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City.

About 340,000 Americans die each year of cardiac arrest, also called sudden cardiac death, according to the heart association. The condition is caused by abnormal heart rhythm, usually when the heart begins beating too rapidly or too chaotically to efficiently pump blood.

Goldberg noted the once-blockbuster nonsedating allergy drug Seldane was taken off the market, in 1998, after reports linking it to sudden cardiac death due to the same types of abnormal heart rhythms.

Yahoo! News


Thu Sep 9, 2:06 AM ET
By BASSEM MROUE, Associated Press Writer

BAGHDAD, Iraq - While America mourns the deaths of more than 1,000 of its sons and daughters in the Iraq (news - web sites) campaign, far more Iraqis have died since the United States invaded in March 2003. No official, reliable figures exist, but private estimates range from 10,000 to 30,000 killed across the nation.

At Sheik Omar Clinic, a big book records 10,363 violent deaths in Baghdad and nearby towns alone since the war began last year — deaths caused by car bombs, clashes between Iraqis and coalition forces, mortar attacks, revenge killings and robberies.

The violent deaths recorded in the clinic's leather ledger come from only one of Iraq's 18 provinces and do not cover people who died in such flashpoint cities as Najaf, Karbala, Fallujah, Tikrit and Ramadi.

Iraqi dead include not only insurgents, police and soldiers but also civilians caught in crossfire, blown apart by explosives or shot by mistake — both by fellow Iraqis or by American soldiers and their multinational allies. And they include the victims of crime that has surged in the instability that followed the collapse of Saddam Hussein (news - web sites)'s regime.

Adding to the complexity of sorting out what has happened, the records that have been kept don't always say whether a death came in a combat situation or from some other cause.

The prospect of violent death is the latest burden for a people who suffered through decades of war and a brutal dictatorship under Saddam, whose regime has been accused by human rights groups of killing as many as 300,000 Iraqis it deemed enemies.

"During Saddam's days killings were silent. Now the killing is done openly and loudly," said Ghali Karim Hassan, who lost his 31-year-old son, Ghaidan, last April.

He said Ghaidan was killed in Najaf when a demonstration called by radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr led to a gunbattle with coalition troops, mainly Spaniards and Salvadorans. Ghaidan, who left a wife and three children, was one of 22 protesters killed.

In a country where the dead are often buried quickly without proper accounting by authorities, the real number of Iraqis whose lives were cut short in the Iraq conflict may never be known.

U.S. officials said they didn't have the resources to track civilian deaths during the U.S.-led occupation, which ended officially June 28. Iraq's central authorities also haven't reported comprehensive figures on civilian deaths — while record-keeping was meticulous under Saddam, the interim government didn't even begin trying to keep track until five months ago.

In a guerrilla war without front lines, where teenagers confront tanks with rocket-propelled grenades, establishing who was an innocent civilian and who was a legitimate combatant makes the process of compiling detailed figures on civilian deaths problematic.

"It is difficult to establish the right number of casualties," said a spokeswoman for Amnesty International, Nicole Choueiry. Her London-based human rights organization estimates more than 10,000 Iraqi civilians died in the first year of the conflict alone.

However, Amnesty's figure was based in part on media reports that often simply repeated claims of American and Iraqi officials. Iraq is as large as California and much of the country is too dangerous for independent teams to investigate more than a handful of death claims.

Iraq Body Count, a private group that bases its figures in part on reports by 40 media outlets, puts the number of civilian deaths since the conflict began at between 11,793 and 13,802.

Hazem al-Radini at the Human Rights Organization in Iraq said his group estimates the toll at more than 30,000 civilian deaths. He said the group didn't have any statistics and based the figure on reports by Iraqi news media.

Iraqi authorities have begun trying to determine overall death figures, though they face formidable problems. Insurgent groups are either reluctant to report death figures for security reasons or inflate them to win public sympathy. And some Iraqi families bury their dead quickly, without reporting them.

The Iraqi Health Ministry began tabulating civilian deaths in April, when heavy fighting broke out in Fallujah and Najaf. The ministry's figures indicate 2,956 civilians, including 125 children, died across the country "as the result of a military act" between April 5 and Aug. 31. Of those, 829 were in Baghdad, the ministry figures say.

In some cases, it is uncertain whether individuals were killed by insurgents or soldiers or were killed by criminals or rivals who used the turmoil of war as a cover for settling scores. And even in cases where the cause was known, records sometimes don't specify.

However, Iraqis argue, even those killed by criminals could be considered indirect victims of a war that destroyed Iraq's security services and brought a spike in crime.

"Our work here multiplied by at least 10 times compared to prewar periods," said Dr. Abdul-Razzak Abdul-Amir, head of the Baghdad coroner's office.

Yahoo! News


Thu Sep 9

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Chechen rebels, in a swift reply to a Russian bounty offer for their leaders, promised on Thursday to give $20 million to anyone helping them to capture President Vladimir Putin (news - web sites).

On Wednesday the government offered $10 million for information that would help track down the two main Chechen leaders, Aslan Maskhadov and Shamil Basayev.

"We offer an award of $20 million to countries, organizations or individuals who give the Chechen republic active help in detaining the war criminal Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin," said a statement on rebel Web sites.

It was signed by "the anti-terrorist center of the Chechen Republic," part of Maskhadov's unrecognized government.

The statement accuses Putin of launching war against Chechnya (news - web sites) and of being responsible for the school siege in the town of Beslan last week, when at least 326 people died in a battle as Russian forces moved in to free the 1,000 hostages.

"Putin is blamed for ... many planned actions to discredit the lawful national liberation struggle of the Chechen people against foreign aggression, including the organization of the bloody war against children and adults in Beslan," it said.

Maskhadov, a relative moderate among Chechen separatists who have been fighting Russia for 10 years, has denied involvement in the hostage-taking. Basayev is yet to comment, but experts say the attack showed all the signs of his leadership.


Majority of PSNI reserve to go

More than half of the PSNI's full-time reserve will be cut, Chief Constable Hugh Orde has decided.

Mr Orde officially announced his decision to keep 680 reservists out of almost 1,500 at a private meeting of the Policing Board on Thursday.

A spokesman for the Superintendents' Association said it would be seeking an urgent meeting with the chief constable.

The Police Federation Central Committee has passed a motion of no confidence in the chief constable.

The federation said it questioned Mr Orde's ability to exercise independence of judgement and said it could not understand why he rejected the professional advice of it and the Superintendents' Association.

"Given the commitment and sacrifice of the full-time reserve, no officer should be required to leave the service who does not wish to go," said the federation.

"The purpose of the Patten Report was to take politics out of policing. Today, the chief constable singularly failed in observing that keystone."

"There is every indication that they will maintain attacks on police patrols and stations."
Hugh Orde
Chief constable

Mr Orde said it was solely based on policing requirements and was one of his most challenging and difficult decisions as chief constable.

He said it was based on "an assessment of how we can deliver an effective frontline service in the environment in which we have to police".

He added: "It is an operational decision that takes the current security situation into account and I accept responsibility for it."

Mr Orde said dissident republican groups remained the "most significant threat to policing".

He added: "There is every indication that they will maintain attacks on police patrols and stations."

Opinion has been split between nationalists and unionists over the future of the full-time reserve.


Sinn Fein's Gerry Kelly said Mr Orde and the Policing Board had decided to ignore the Patten recommendation on the removal of the full-time reserve "and instead maintain the force at a substantial level for at least another three years".

"The Policing Board, with the support of the SDLP, have allowed this force to remain within the current policing structures. This is unacceptable," he said.

The Democratic Unionist Party's Sammy Wilson described the move as "a human and a policing tragedy".

"The decision by the chief constable to sack 800 officers represents a loss to everyone. We have the equivalent of a large factory in these redundancies."

The SDLP's Alex Attwood rejected claims that Northern Ireland would be left exposed to any future terrorist threat.

"The reason it's folly is that we have 9,200 police officers in the north at the moment. We already have two-and-a-half times more police officers proportionally than any other part of the UK and Ireland," he said.

"In parts of Belfast, the full-time reserve accounts for more than a third of police officers available for duty - in some rural areas too, they are an important part of the fight against crime."
David Liddington
Conservative NI spokesman

The Patten Commission recommended its disbandment, but DUP representatives told Mr Orde at a meeting on Monday that the PSNI could not afford to lose so many officers.

On Wednesday, the federation agreed a severance deal for its members in the full-time reserve.

Terry Spence, federation general secretary, said it was the best deal they could have got.

"We met with the Northern Ireland Office today - these have been very difficult negotiations which have been going on for some 18 months," he said.

'Lump sum'

He added: "It may not suit every single individual officer, in the way in which we hoped it would, but generally we believe the majority of our officers will be satisfied with what we have negotiated on their behalf.

"A significant number of officers will have an enhancement to their current pension... some officers will have a lump sum to the equivalent of £100,000."

Conservative Northern Ireland spokesman David Liddington said he was anxious about the impact of the cuts on front-line policing.

"In parts of Belfast, the full-time reserve accounts for more than a third of police officers available for duty. In some rural areas too, they are an important part of the fight against crime," he said.

The Patten Report planned a "peace-time" service of 7,500 regular officers and 2,500 part-timers.

The review of policing in Northern Ireland by former Hong Kong Governor Chris Patten was one of the key elements of the 1998 Good Friday Agreement.

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