Second day of rail alert
The alerts caused widespread roads disruption
A security alert on a railway line is continuing for a second day after a pipe bomb fitted with a timer was found in east Belfast.
The device was found at Sydenham in east Belfast on Friday, while a second object found on the tracks was declared a hoax.
The Belfast to Bangor line was closed for most of Friday and remains closed on Saturday. However, the Sydenham bypass is open.
It was one of a number of security alerts which caused widespread travel problems for commuters in the greater Belfast area on Friday.
A bus transfer has been operating between Bangor and Central Station in Belfast.
Soldier ordered out of NI after joining loyalist band
24/09/2004 - 14:27:00
A British soldier has been given 10 days to get out of Northern Ireland after he joined a loyalist flute band, it was revealed today.
The Royal Irish Regiment corporal is under orders to return to his battalion in the Scottish Highlands.
UK military chiefs fear he could be exposed to paramilitaries if he stays at his base near Belfast. He cannot be named for security reasons, but the 39-year-old’s wife claimed they were being victimised over bullying allegations.
British counter intelligence officers were called in, however, after the soldier and his teenage son both joined the flute band in Lisburn, Co Antrim, earlier this year.
Ulster Defence Association men are suspected by the military of being among its members.
British army headquarters in Northern Ireland told the family they must rejoin their battalion in Inverness by the end of next week.
UDA Link To Violence Upsurge
Friday 24th September 2004
A Derry family of six say they will have to leave their Waterside home after it was attacked by pipe bombers linked to the UDA.
The device was discovered by the mother-offour on the bonnet of the family car as she reversed it out of the driveway of her Milltown Crescent home at around 9.45 a.m. on Wednesday.
With her in the car at the time was her ninemonthold daughter. Army technical officers immediately rushed to the scene where they carried out a controlled explosion on the device.
The area was also cordoned off and a number of houses evacuated.
Police later described the device as "viable" and said it could have exploded at any time.
Local people were linking the incident to a shooting which took place nearby just days before.
In that incident, a man was wounded in a gun attack at the Cosy Inn Bar on Church Brae on Saturday night.
Following the shooting, loyalists played down reports of a feud.
Indeed, the political representatives of both the UVF and UDA insisted relations between the groups in the city "had never been better."
However, sources revealed this week that rival loyalists in the locale were "definitely at each other's throats." "While it may not be sanctioned by the leaderships of these particular organisations, something bad is going on," said the source. "If it isn't sorted out, it is inevitable that someone will be killed."
Still visibly shaken by her ordeal, the young mother - who asked not to be named - said: "I'm still finding it difficult to take this in. I have no idea why we are being targeted. We have no enemies. We get on with everyone.
"But to target a baby really defies logic. These people must have know that it was my car that they placed this device on and that I use it every day to ferry my kids about."
The woman said she first became aware of the device on the bonnet of her car as she reversed it out of her driveway.
"I just panicked, jumped out of the car with the engine still running, grabbed the baby and ran to the neighbours where I phoned the police."
She also revealed that it isn't the first time her home has been targeted.
"On August 15 last, our door was kicked in and our roof damaged. Bottles have also been thrown at the house."
The woman insisted she and her family could never return to their home of seven years.
Her angry husband blasted those behind the attack.
"Do these scumbags not realise that they could have killed by wife and baby daughter. They are the lowest of the low. They're scum, absolute scum. To deliberately target infants is pathetic."
The man insisted there was no reason why his family should be targeted.
He also maintained that his family were "caught in the middle" of a "row" between opposing groups.
"I have nothing to do with any paramilitary groupings," he said. "My family and I are entirely innocent. We're simply caught in the middle here. We're a soft target. If they think they are getting at certain people by targeting me and my family then they are wrong."
One local resident called on the political representatives of loyalism to "come clean" on the issue.
"It's ridiculous to see a situation where Protestants are attacking fellow Protestants," she said. "These people may say there is no feud, but we know better. Who do they think they're fooling?"
It's believed that, as a result of ongoing tensions in the district, police and army patrols are to be stepped up in the Tullyally and Drumahoe areas.
Pipe bomb found on track
The alerts caused widespread roads disruption
A pipe bomb fitted with a timer has been found on the railway line at Sydenham in east Belfast.
A second device found on the tracks was declared a hoax. The line is still closed, but the Sydenham bypass is open.
Security alerts on Friday caused widespread travel problems for commuters in the greater Belfast area.
Assistant Chief Constable Duncan McCausland said those who left the devices had "disregarded" the risks to human life and property.
Suspect devices at Holywood and Sydenham forced the closure of the Belfast to Bangor railway line and the police closed part of the busy Sydenham bypass to motorists heading into the city.
The alert at Holywood was later declared a hoax.
An earlier alert on the line at Whitehead in County Antrim was found to be a hoax.
A security alert on the railway line at Lambeg also caused problems, but was later declared a hoax.
Army bomb disposal experts checked for explosive devices at the various alerts.
"Clearly, we can't put our staff or passengers at risk and we have to take these things seriously."
There were no trains from Hilden, Lambeg, Derriaghy, Dunmurry or Finaghy. Passengers were taken by bus into Belfast from Bangor.
Passengers on the cross-border Enterprise service were bussed to Newry to board the train to Dublin, however the line has now reopened.
Ciaran Rogan of the transport company, Translink, said it had been a difficult morning for commuters.
"Clearly, transport of any sort is a fairly soft touch when it comes to phoning in these alerts," he said.
Passengers were bussed between train stations
"But really, we can't take any risks. History has shown us that one in 10 alerts we receive are actual packages or actual devices.
"Clearly, we can't put our staff or passengers at risk and we have to take these things seriously."
Meanwhile, Army technical officers examined a suspicious object found at the rear of a property at Portlee Walk in Antrim. It was later declared a hoax.
Concern as Shoukri breaks bail terms
By Staff Reporter
23 September 2004
A High Court judge today expressed concern that leading loyalist Ihab Shoukri was not arrested by police after breaching a condition of his bail to stay out of Belfast.
Shoukri (30), from Alliance Road, north Belfast, has been out on bail since last December on charges of a loyalist feud murder and membership of the UFF.
The murder charge was dropped last month.
And today the Crown was due to apply to have Shoukri's bail revoked after he was seen by police in Belfast last week in breach of his bail.
But Crown lawyer, David Hopley, said his instructions were not to proceed with the revocation application.
Mr Justice Coghlin asked why and was told by Mr Hopley: "I have not spoken to the police officer so I cannot tell you."
Asked by the judge why Shoukri had not been arrested as new legislation demanded, Mr Hopley said: "There are certain things I am not at liberty to go into at the moment."
Mr Justice Coghlin said he did not think it right to interrogate counsel, but added: "I am left with a residual concern about this matter. This is a public court."
Shoukri, who was in court with a packed bag in case he was sent back to jail, was due to apply for his bail conditions to be varied.
But Mr Hopley said Shoukri's lawyers had withdrawn the application and had given an undertaking not to renew it before his preliminary inquiry due to be held on October 22.
Outside the court Shoukri said: "The only reason I wanted my bail conditions varied is that I want to see my family on a regular basis, including my brother Andre whom I have not seen for almost a year."
The Tricolour Riots
On the evening of the 28 September 1964, 40 years ago, a detachment of the RUC, acting on the direct instruction of Brian McConnell, then Minister of Home Affairs, attacked the Divis Street headquarters of the Republican Party (Sinn Féin had been outlawed that year) in West Belfast. Their perilous mission was to remove an Irish Tricolour.
This took place during a general election for Westminster. Republicans had nominated Liam McMillan to contest in West Belfast.
McConnell, under pressure from Paisley and other unionists, held a conference of his senior RUC officers on Monday morning and ordered that the tricolour flown at Liam McMillan's headquarters be removed. Under the flags and emblems display act of 1954, it was an offence to display the tricolour anywhere in the Six Counties.
On the night of the 28th, when it became known that the RUC were coming to seize the flag, more than 2,000 republican supporters blocked the roadway. Scores of RUC were rushed to the scene in armoured cars. The RUC, though heavily armed with sten-guns, rifles, revolvers, and riot batons, were made to look ridiculous by groups of children, who ran about with miniature tricolour stickers, which they stuck on walls and police cars.
The RUC, using pickaxes, smashed down the doors of the Republican headquarters and took the flag. They carried it away through a hail of stones and to the prolonged jeers of the people.
On 29 September, at 2 o'clock, the RUC cleared Divis Street to make way for an armoured car. Their new perilous mission was to seize a new replacement tricolour. The armoured car stopped outside the Republican headquarters, eight policemen emerged and began another attack with crowbars and pickaxes. They failed to break down the door, but one of them smashed the window, reached in and pulled out the second tricolour.
By Wednesday, news of the events in Divis Street had spread throughout the media. Belfast began attracting television reporters and newspaper men from all around the world. That night, thousands of republicans, armed with petrol bombs, sticks, stones and rotten vegetables, gathered outside their headquarters to defend their identity and their flag. A battle began at eleven o'clock, when the RUC tried to disperse them.
The television cameras were there to record all that happened. For the first time ever, people in many parts of the world were able to watch a sectarian police force in action.
When the republicans indicated that they would stand their ground, 50 RUC men, who had been held in reserve in the small streets between Falls Road and Shankill Road, were deployed but the republicans, in accordance with a pre-arranged strategy, drove them back.
By midnight, the police had succeeded in sealing off Divis Street and dispersing the crowd but 30 people, including at least 18 members of the RUC, had been injured.
One week later, on 5 October, republicans carried the tricolour, at the head of a parade of 5,000 people who marched from Beechmount on Falls Road, through Divis Street, to an election rally near Smithfield. RUC men lined the whole route but made no attempt to seize the flag.
Call to ban CS Spray
Sinn Féin in Derry is calling for the controversial CS Spray employed by the PSNI to be banned.
Councillor Paul Fleming made the call after a young nationalist, Gareth Coyle, was deliberately sprayed in the face with the weapon by the PSNI earlier this month.
The Catholic man spent two hours in hospital receiving treatment to his face and throat after he was sprayed with the CS Incapacitant Spray as he walked in the Strand Road area.
The young man said that he had become separated from his girlfriend as they tried to avoid a fight that was going on among some men who had just left a local nightclub. "I was walking towards Great James Street when the PSNI jumped from a landrover and suddenly without warning sprayed me."
According to the young man no one was attacking the PSNI at the time.
Fleming accused the PSNI of using the spray as a first option rather than a protective one when addressing confrontations in the city.
"This young man was never stopped, questioned, cautioned or arrested by the PSNI for any offence, yet he received injuries that required hospital treatment," she said. "The PSNI seemed determined to use this spray on every occasion in Derry. In the past number of weeks, we have received numerous reports from members of the public about the PSNI misusing this spray. It is now time for it to be banned."
PSNI coerce teenager to inform
Photo: Sinn Féin North Belfast Councillor Carál Ní Chuilín
Sinn Féin North Belfast Councillor Carál Ní Chuilín has disclosed to An Phoblacht that the PSNI are attempting to coerce a 16-year-old boy into becoming an informer.
According to the Sinn Féin politician, the PSNI told the youth they would drop charges he is facing if he gave them information about a relative who was arrested in connection with the killing of a so-called dissident republican.
The teenager from North Belfast was involved in an incident last year in which a bus window was broken, but recently he says he has been harassed by the PSNI.
Ní Chuilín said the boy was arrested and beaten by members of the PSNI on Saturday night 11 September and taken to Antrim Road PSNI Barracks, where he was told that all charges against him would be dropped in return for information.
Speaking to An Phoblacht, Ní Chuilín said that the boy's mother died two years ago and it is scandalous for the PSNI to put pressure on the boy to inform.
"The young boy will be meeting with his solicitor and is intending to take out an anti-harassment order against the PSNI in order to prevent further harassment."
P. MICHAEL O’SULLIVAN, AWARD WINNING PHOTOJOURNALIST
September 22, 2004 (Chicago)
Chicago mourns photojournalist P. Michael O’Sullivan, nationally
recognized for a daringly close-up style of documenting social and
political unrest in urban America during the 1960’s and 70’s. O’Sullivan
passed away on Sunday, September 19, 2004 in the Hospice Unit at Lincoln
Park Hospital, Chicago, Illinois after a short and valiant battle with
Patrick Michael Sean Brian O’Sullivan was born April 15, 1940 in
Jackson, Jackson County, Michigan the son of Emmett Michael and Freda
(Atchison) O’Sullivan, both deceased.
Mr. O’Sullivan attended grade school, Jackson High School, and Jackson
Community College. After college he moved to Chicago, Illinois to live
with his sister, Phyllis, and her family. There began his life long
love of the city of Chicago.
Following in the O’Sullivan family tradition, Mr. O’Sullivan enlisted in
the U.S. Army, serving in the 82nd. Airborne. After his Army years he
returned to Chicago and began his career in photography.
Michael learned his craft from his mentor, Mickey Pallas of Pallas Photo
Co. Like his idol Robert Capa, whose photographic documentation of the
Spanish Civil War remains a classic among photojournalists, O’Sullivan
quickly earned a reputation for courage and grace under fire. Like
Capa, he did it the hard way; behind the lines, without regard for self,
pursuing the one elusive image that, once captured, would most
eloquently tell the story behind the violence, looting, and burning of
In his first major assignment, the Detroit riots, his photograph was
chosen from among thousands to be on the cover of Life Magazine.
Mr. O’Sullivan worked on over 350 assignments for national and
international, including Time, Life, Business Week, Fortune, Newsweek,
Paris Match, The London Daily Express, The Chicago Tribune, and the
Chicago Sun Times.
He received over 25 awards for his photographic work, from both the New
York and Chicago Art Directors Clubs, and the American Institute of
Graphic Arts and Communicating Arts. His work included 25 cover stories,
including the Life cover on the Detroit riots and twelve Business Week
covers.. But it was exclusive action photographs and interviews with
Irish Republican Army (IRA) leaders, soldiers, and their families over
several years that became his passion. Profoundly affected by the
injustice he witnessed on what has come to be known as “Bloody Sunday,”
O’Sullivan dedicated himself to the Republican cause. His proudest
achievement was the publication of his book, “Patriot Graves, Resistance
in Ireland”, Follet.
In 1982 O’Sullivan crashed his motorcycle in a near fatal accident. He
endured many months of hospitalization, therapy, and rehabilitation.
Shortly after the accident a group of loving and compassionate friends
held several benefits to help cover O’Sullivan’s medical expenses. For
over 20 years these friends contributed to a trust fund to assist
Michael in an independent living situation. Walking with a cane,
wearing his black eye patch, pony tail, and a black beret, O’Sullivan
was a familiar figure on the streets of Old Town and the near north side
as he took his daily walks for lunch or dinner in one of the
neighborhood restaurants. Although no longer able to work at his career
he never left home without his camera around his neck. He greeted
friends with a smile, a raised fist, and a hearty “Boy, Boy”.
In his 23 year struggle to overcome his many disabilities Michael taught
us so much about love, perseverance, courage, and compassion. For those
of us who loved him he was our hero.
O’Sullivan is survived by his wife, Victoria (Oltean), a son, Sean
Michael, a daughter, Siobhan (Sean) Harvey, and 4 grandchildren,
Eleanor, Devlin, Donovan, and Emilia, all of Chicago.
Also survived by 2 brothers, Robert (Lucille) Kirkpatrick of Sesser, IL.
and Terrance D. O’Sullivan of Ann Arbor, MI. 2 sisters, Phyllis (Carl)
Corona of Glen Ellyn, IL. and Susan (Mike) Callahan of Detroit, MI., and
numerous nephews, nieces, and friends.
A memorial service and celebration of life will be held on at Saturday,
Sept.25, 4:30 to 10:00 PM at the Irish American Heritage Center, 4626 N.
Knox Ave. Chicago, IL Phone 773-282-7035
Family and friends are invited to attend and share in memories of
TERMS OF FINUCANE INQUIRY CRITICISED
09/23/04 14:31 EST
A British government-sanctioned inquiry into the murder of Pat Finucane was criticised tonight by the Belfast attorney's family after it emerged it would mostly be held in private.
Northern Ireland Secretary Mr Paul Murphy gave the inquiry the go-ahead, insisting it would be independent.
But because he claimed the inquiry would deal with sensitive matters of 'national security', he said much of it would be held in private.
The Finucane family claimed in a statement that the British government had conceded that the truth should emerge about the solicitor's murder.
But they said the establishment of an inquiry was not the end of the matter because it was not a public inquiry. "We have been asking for the truth to emerge for the last 15 years," they said.
"There is no need for new legislation to protect the public interest or national security because the current law caters for this. "Special legislation when it is needed can only mean that rather than the truth emerging, what will emerge is cover-up and lies."
Mr Finucane's son Michael claimed it appeared, contrary to Mr Murphy's claims, that the inquiry would be government-controlled.
"Effectively what we are looking at is an inquiry which is going to be established by government, accountable to government but probably controlled and restricted by government. Until we get to ask the Prime Minister some questions about what exactly his government proposes to do, we can't endorse or agree to co-operate with any form of inquiry. We simply do not know what form of inquiry this is," he added.
Earlier the British government gave the go-ahead for a judicial inquiry into the controversial 1989 murder of solicitor Pat Finucane.
Murphy confirmed new legislation would be introduced allowing an inquiry into allegations that members of the Royal Ulster Constabulary and British army intelligence colluded with loyalists in the killing.
He said: "Legislation is needed, however, to provide the tribunal with the powers of the four other inquiries in Northern Ireland - Bloody Sunday, Rosemary Nelson, Robert Hamill and Billy Wright. Because this case deals with issues of national security, much of the proceedings will have to take place in private. Details will be made clear when the legislation emerges but I would suspect much of it will be in private but some may also be in public, to the extent that it can be held in public."
"Obviously that depends on the legislation and on the tribunal itself."
Mr Murphy said: "The inquiry will be independent with probably a High Court judge appointed. This legislation will, he claimed, allow the inquiry "take place speedily and effectively and in a way that takes into account the public interest, including the requirements of national security".
He said the prosecution of loyalist paramilitary Ken Barrett had opened the way for the British government to establish the inquiry. The Northern Ireland Secretary added further prosecutions might yet result from the Stevens investigation into the murder of Mr Finucane.
Mr Finucane was shot fourteen times in front of his family by loyalist Ulster Defence Association gunmen in his north Belfast home.
Earlier this year, the British government confirmed retired Canadian judge Peter Cory recommended a public inquiry into claims that members of British army intelligence and the Royal Ulster Constabulary helped Ulster Defence Association gunmen to kill the lawyer.
Mr Finucane had represented many paramilitary suspects as a solicitor in a number of high-profile cases.
But London refused to act on Judge Cory's recommendation using the pretext of ongoing legal proceedings.
Last week, Mr Barrett (41) admitted his role in the shooting and was sentenced at Belfast Crown Court to life imprisonment. He is expected to be released early under the Belfast Agreement.
Commenting on today's announcement of an inquiry, SDLP Leader Mark Durkan said: "Tony Blair promised and Judge Cory recommended a public inquiry. But this is not what the Secretary of State announced today. There already is legislation to allow for a public inquiry with all the necessary safeguards. There is no need for new legislation - unless the British Government wants to put in place blanket restrictions to conceal the truth."
"The Finucane murder raises fundamental concerns about collusion and cover up. These issues cannot be addressed by an inquiry which itself could be shrouded in collusion and cover up. The SDLP has never had a meeting at which the issue of a public inquiry into the murder of Pat Finucane has not been raised. We pressed Tony Blair on this at Leeds Castle. We will continue to press on for the public inquiry that the Finucane family were promised and that the public demands," Durkan said.
Go-ahead for Finucane inquiry
Pat Finucane was shot dead by loyalist paramilitaries
An inquiry is to be set up into the murder of Belfast solicitor Pat Finucane, the British Government has said.
It said a tribunal would be tasked with uncovering the full facts of what happened in north Belfast in 1989 and would be given all of the powers and resources to fulfil that task.
The government said because of the requirements of national security it would be necessary to hold the inquiry on the basis of new legislation to be introduced shortly.
The killing was one of the most controversial of the 30 years of the Troubles in Northern Ireland, mainly because of the allegations of collusion between loyalist paramilitaries and members of the security forces.
Mr Finucane, 39, was shot dead in front of his family at his home by the loyalist Ulster Defence Association.
Details of an inquiry into his murder were given by Northern Ireland Secretary Paul Murphy in London on Thursday.
He said the government was determined that where there were allegations of collusion, "the truth should emerge".
He pointed out that the government had delayed making any announcement on any inquiry, until criminal proceedings had been completed.
Mr Murphy added: "The government has taken into account the exceptional concerns about this case.
"Against that background, the government has concluded that steps should now be taken to enable the establishment of an inquiry into the death of Pat Finucane."
The secretary of state said that it was possible that further prosecutions might result from the Steven's investigation into the murder.
Mr Finucane's brother Martin said: "We have just received a letter and statement from Paul Murphy.
"The family will now consult and consider the detail of his response and will make a statement shortly."
In the past few days, concerns had been expressed by those pressing for the inquiry that there would be an attempt to hold part of it in private.
Loyalist Ken Barrett, 41, was sentenced at Belfast Crown Court to life for the 1989 murder last week.
Retired Canadian Judge Peter Cory was appointed by the British and Irish Governments to examine allegations of collusion surrounding the Finucane and other controversial killings.
He recommended a public inquiry into Mr Finucane's death.
Ken Barrett admitted the murder of Mr Finucane in the kitchen of his family home in north Belfast in February 1989.
However, he could be freed within months under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement.
He was the first person to be charged with the solicitor's murder.
The Finucane family said they were not particularly interested in convictions, and that Barrett's guilty plea served to conceal the truth that could only emerge at a public inquiry.
Boycott the hoods
A Lower Falls MLA is calling on local businesses and community groups to turn their backs on anti-social families that he says are behind the upsurge of crime in the district.
Residents of the Lower Falls were subjected to another weekend of terror after teenage hoods went on the rampage, burning stolen cars and destroying property.
Elderly residents of Albert Street and Servia Street were prisoners in their own homes as young thugs – some as young as seven - ran riot in the street over the weekend.
Local Sinn Féin MLA Fra McCann says the community knows who the ringleaders are and that people are sick and tired of living in fear. He’s now calling on local shops, businesses, community groups, clubs and pubs to isolate the culprits by refusing to have anything to do with them.
“I would call on local shops to refuse to serve these people, pubs and clubs to close their doors and refuse their custom and businesses and community groups to say no more will we put up with this behaviour that is destroying the fabric of our society,” he said. “In recent years there has been a number of problem families transferred from elsewhere into the Lower Falls. What we see now in the Albert Street area is the knock-on effect of that policy. There is also a number of ‘home-grown’ thugs, brought up around here, who have nothing but destruction on their minds.”
Cllr McCann said that the names and faces of the culprits are well known and he further claimed that many of them had been recruited by the PSNI as low-level informers.
“The Lower Falls has always been a close, tight-knit community, and now people have simply had enough. We know who the culprits are, we know that the PSNI use them as informers and are happy to stand back and watch them wreak havoc, and we know the statutory agencies – although keen to make the right noises – have done nothing to help. The only answer is for the community to turn their backs on these people once and for all, let them know we will not be terrorised. Local people have tried to integrate these thugs into our community, we have called on their parents to exercise control and at every turn the door has been slammed in our face.
“I would say rather than sink to these people’s level, simply turn your back and let them know that they are not welcome. If they have nothing to offer our community then the community should offer them nothing in return.”
Journalist:: Allison Morris
Key Special Branch role identified by Watchdog"
The Andersonstown News has been told that one of the PSNI’s most prominent detectives, Chief Superintendent Phil Wright, is in charge of the ‘Tasking and Co-ordinating Group’ (TCG) for Special Branch.
The Police Oversight Commissioner, Al Hutchinson, made the disclosure during an in-depth interview following the publication of his 11th progress report on the implementation of the Patten recommendations.
It is believed to be the first time that Detective Chief Superintendent Wright’s current role in co-ordinating the activities of Special Branch (now known as C3) has been formally identified.
Over the past decade, Chief Superintendent Wright has risen to prominence in connection with a string of high-profile cases against mainstream republicans.
He is currently the most senior detective in the North and plays a central role in advising on the targets and priorities for investigations by the controversial Special Branch/Major Investigation Team (MIT – formerly known as REMIT).
The Force Level TCG – in which Chief Supt Wright now plays a lead role – is a key development within the PSNI’s newly established Crime Operations Department (COD).
As well as highlighting Chief Supt Wright’s current role, the Oversight Commissioner also explained that he had personally observed the TCG for Special Branch in session.
“Actually, I did attend one of those meetings, sat in and observed the Tasking and Co-ordinating Group as well, that is one where Phil Wright is in charge there. It’s chaired by the ACC.
“I was there one time and I observed an interaction and it looked fine to me, but I don’t know what happened the next day, but there is a co-ordinating group,” explained Mr Hutchinson.
In his report the Oversight Commissioner found that Special Branch’s staffing levels have only reduced by 17 per cent in the last five years – a figure which contrasts starkly with claims by some members of the Policing Board that Special Branch is down by 50 per cent.
And Mr Hutchinson also stated that the PSNI “has not provided” key statistics to him in relation to the way Special Branch allocates and uses its resources.
A key focus of Al Hutchinson’s report related to the number of Catholics in the PSNI’s civilian workforce which has risen from just 12.3 per cent of the total to 14.4 per cent in the last five years.
Meanwhile, the Policing Board also published its annual report this week, which revealed that the level of Catholic participation in the PSNI sat at just 11.9 per cent on January 1, 2004 – substantially behind the timetable laid down by Patten of 13.5 per cent by March 2004.
The SDLP’s Policing spokesperson, Alex Attwood, welcomed the report of the Policing Oversight Commissioner, stating that “it is proof positive of the pace of policing change”.
“All of this confirms that the SDLP called policing right and Sinn Féin keep getting it wrong. The SDLP also strongly agrees with the Oversight Commissioner’s concerns over the continued threat to DPP members, the need to make police and DPPs work even better, increasing civilianisation and reducing sickness, and the recent delay in registration of notifiable interests,” said Mr Attwood.
However, Sinn Féin’s Policing spokesperson, Gerry Kelly, said that more work is still needed before a new beginning to policing is achieved.
“The transfer of policing and justice powers is crucial to this.
“To have the new beginning to policing promised by the Patten report there must be maximum transfer of powers.
“Sinn Féin again put the vital issue of the transfer of powers on policing and justice at the centre of the Leeds Castle negotiations.
“It is our view that we will achieve our goals on policing and justice and that the tenure of both the oversight commissioner on policing and the oversight commissioner of criminal justice should be extended to complete the job.
“We don’t have accountable policing. We don’t have representative policing. As events this summer in Ardoyne and Lurgan proved, the problem of political policing remains,” said Mr Kelly.
Journalist:: Jarlath Kearney
SF rejects DUP's Assembly demands
23/09/2004 - 09:24:34
Democratic Unionist Party attempts to constrain power-sharing ministers will only result in key decisions in Northern Ireland becoming more partisan, it was claimed today.
As the Taoiseach Bertie Ahern and British Prime Minister Tony Blair considered their next move after talks on power-sharing in Northern Ireland stalled, Sinn Féin defended the decision of former Stormont Health Minister, Bairbre de Brun, to close a south Belfast maternity hospital during the last period of devolution.
The DUP has cited Ms de Brun’s decision, which was opposed by the Assembly’s Health Committee and a majority of MLAs, as a reason why it wants a mechanism to overturn unpopular ministerial decisions in a future executive.
However, Sinn Féin’s John O’Dowd insisted the decision in January 2000 to close the Jubilee Maternity Hospital and locate a new maternity hospital in the Royal Victoria Hospital in Ms de Brun’s west Belfast constituency was based on sound medical evidence.
The Upper Bann MLA said: “Bairbre de Brun took the decision based on clinical evidence and the needs of mothers and babies.
“The decision to place the new maternity hospital on the Royal Victoria site was the right decision that was supported by the majority of health professionals and organisations.
“Bairbre also took the decision to site the new regional cancer centre on the City Hospital site – is anyone now saying that that this was the wrong decision?”
Sinn Féin’s health spokesman claimed political opposition to her decision was born either out of party politics or constituency politics.
Two days of talks aimed at restoring devolution derailed last night as nationalists rejected DUP and Alliance Party demands for more ministerial accountability in a future power-sharing executive.
The SDLP and Sinn Féin resisted proposals which would have seen ministers in a power-sharing executive being able to challenge cabinet colleagues’ decisions.
They also rejected suggestions Assembly members should have the means to overturn unpopular ministerial decisions, exercise more control over the Executive’s dealings with the Irish Government and change the system for voting First and Deputy First Ministers.
The failure to reach a deal on future power-sharing has also meant the breakthrough secured on IRA disarmament and future paramilitary activity at last week’s Leeds Castle talks in Kent remains on hold.
NI talks break up in acrimony
Talks aimed at brokering a compromise over power-sharing in Northern Ireland have broken up in acrimony.
The political parties and the British and Irish governments held negotiations at Stormont in an effort to conclude a deal which would see the restoration of the assembly.
However, they broke up on Wednesday without agreement, with the Democratic Unionist Party and two nationalist parties blaming each other.
The key sticking points include the election of first and deputy first ministers, the powers of ministers and north-south arrangements.
Northern Ireland Secretary Paul Murphy and Irish Minister of State Tom Kitt are to brief the British and Irish Prime Ministers, Tony Blair and Bertie Ahern, on the situation.
The two governments are also going to reflect on whether it would be helpful for them to table a paper on the way forward.
On the second day of post Leeds Castle talks, the parties were trying to achieve consensus on changes to the institutions.
Earlier, the DUP tabled a paper on issues such as greater accountability for ministers. However, nationalists were concerned about a unionist veto.
The party wanted more control over Belfast-Dublin relations.
BBC NI political correspondent Martina Purdy said nationalists were uneasy about a second government document which had been leaked to the BBC.
It was entitled "Accountability - Strand Two" and covered north-south relations.
It caused annoyance in nationalist circles at Stormont as it proposed more ministerial accountability over joint policy initiatives with the Irish Government.
Sinn Fein said it had "major concerns" about the proposals, a senior SDLP source warned that it could lead to "abuse, delay and bureaucracy" and the Ulster Unionists also criticised the proposals.
DUP deputy leader Peter Robinson rejected suggestions by the nationalist parties that the two governments were helping the DUP to attack the Agreement.
The parties failed to reach agreement during talks at Leeds Castle in Kent last weekend over DUP demands for changes to the institutions.
One of the main problems to emerge from the talks was how the DUP and Sinn Fein would work together in a power-sharing government.
However, two and a half days of talks in Kent appeared to bring closer a solution to ending IRA activity and decommissioning its weapons.
The BBC obtained a government blueprint on Tuesday suggesting how to tackle issues of concern to unionists and nationalists.
Under the government's proposal, ministers would be subject to a ministerial code where they would have to take decisions that fell outside the agreed programme for government to the executive for scrutiny.
The political institutions in Northern Ireland were suspended in October 2002 amid allegations of IRA intelligence gathering at the Northern Ireland Office.
Ireland counts the cost of drinking
Wednesday September 22, 06:18 PM
DUBLIN (Reuters) - Binge drinking, hangovers and drink-driving cost Ireland 2.65 billion euros (1.8 billion pounds) last year, according to government advisors outlining proposals to address the country's alcohol problems.
"We need to change the cultural attitude to alcohol ..," said Health Minister Micheal Martin on Wednesday.
Responding to a report by Ireland's Strategic Task Force on Alcohol (STFA), Martin said in a statement that the harm caused by alcohol had become a top public health issue.
As the world's second biggest consumer of beer behind the Czech Republic, Ireland sacrificed 2.6 percent of gross national product last year as society paid the price for healthcare, road accidents, crime and absence from work due to alcohol.
The STFA, which estimates that the average adult spent 1,942 euros (1,325 pounds) on alcohol last year, proposed a range of measures.
Higher taxes, greater public awareness, limiting the number of outlets supplying alcohol and reducing the exposure of children to alcohol advertising were among the recommendations, as were controls on promotion at sporting events.
"Alcohol sports sponsorship links masculinity, alcohol and sport," the government advisors said in their 65-page report.
"Alcohol advertising promotes and reinforces positive attitudes about drinking and portrays drinking as fun, glamorous and risk free," they added, pointing out that research showed children were strongly attracted to alcohol advertising.
Ireland, famous for its pubs, had the highest level of binge drinkers in a study of seven European countries, with 58 percent of drinking outings turning into binge sessions among men. For women the rate was 30 percent, the task force said.
To combat drink driving, estimated to be a factor in 40 percent of road deaths last year, the government was advised to introduce random breath tests and to cut the amount drivers can legally drink.
DUP works on new devolution plan
21/09/2004 - 6:50:54 PM
The Democratic Unionists were tonight working on a new plan to bring devolution back to Northern Ireland as parties remained deadlocked over power sharing arrangements.
DUP deputy leader Peter Robinson and his negotiators were working through the night on a paper which will be presented during talks at Stormont tomorrow after British and Irish Government proposals failed to sway parties.
With the parties divided over the issues of ministerial accountability to the Assembly and the operation of cross border bodies, Mr Robinson insisted the DUP wanted to resolve the current problems.
“The community out there wants to see matters resolved,” the East Belfast MP said.
“We want to see matters resolved and the governments seem to share our view.
“Again I say what I said to you yesterday, we are not in the business of getting some temporary quick fix. We are in the business of getting something that is stable and lasting.
“I think that is far more important to the people of Northern Ireland.”
British Prime Minister Tony Blair and Taoiseach Bertie Ahern believe they made significant progress at talks in Kent last week on two of the issues which have dogged the political process since power sharing was suspended two years ago: IRA disarmament and an end to all paramilitary activity.
It is hoped the IRA will announce soon more weapons decommissioning moves which will be carried out in a more transparent way to satisfy unionists and with a clear timetable.
Unionists also want the Provisionals to declare their war is over and they are ending all paramilitary and criminal activity.
The main stumbling block remains the operation of the political institutions, with the DUP anxious to ensure when devolution returns individual ministers will be unable to disregard the views of the Assembly and cabinet colleagues when making decisions.
The governments proposed a ministerial code which would be endorsed by the Assembly and cover agreed categories of ministerial decisions which would require collective cabinet approval.
They also suggested unpopular ministerial decisions could be challenged through a petition of concern to the Assembly within seven days.
Where a decision failed to secure the backing of a majority of unionists and a majority of nationalists, it would be referred back to the executive for further consideration within seven days.
The minister would then have to decide whether to alter his or her decision or proceed as originally proposed.
Mr Robinson indicated tonight the DUP was not convinced by the Government’s formula.
He responded: “We will, of course, after we have met the political parties and the British government overnight, produce our own paper which will be our best understanding of what might be possible in light of the meetings we have had.
“I think if the problem can be resolved by a process of the Assembly or a combination of the Assembly and the Executive, we’re content, but I am not convinced yet that they are at a point where they have presented us with a proposal that meets that criteria.”
The nationalist SDLP also expressed grave reservations, accusing the DUP of trying to impose unionist majority rule.
SDLP leader Mark Durkan repeated that his party would not tolerate changes which would undermine the Good Friday Agreement.
Party sources also denounced the Government’s plan as “a recipe for deadlock”.
Mr Durkan said: “What we are not going to do is be put in a situation where people are saying to us: ’Be reasonable, the IRA are going to give up all of their arms. You are going to have to give up some of your position’.
“’You have to give up some of your position on Strand One of the Agreement. You have to give up some of your position on Strand Two’.
“The IRA should never have had their arms in the first place. Our positions on Strand One and Strand Two go to the core of our principles.
“They are issues we negotiated into the Agreement in 1998 and we would not have had an agreement had those features not been in it.”
A senior Sinn Féin source was also not impressed, accusing the DUP of trying to limit its ministers.
Little To Offer, Nowhere To Go
Tuesday 21st September 2004
Given its record, does the DUP really expect us to believe that it can deliver for all the people of Northern Ireland -Catholic and Protestant?
Despite the DUP's declared opposition to the Good Friday Agreement, the party's Assembly members and its ministers have been happy to avail of the opportunities provided for by the deal.
For instance, DUP members took part in all Assembly committees, no matter who was involved.
In addition, DUP ministers, while not attending Executive meetings, corresponded with the Executive seeking approval for various members.
If the DUP can sit with other Assembly members in committees and can correspond with the Executive and meet with some Executive ministers, how can the party honestly say it does not countenance the Agreement?
The DUP's stand is hypocritical and is becoming increasingly seen as such.
DUP Assembly members know that the public wants the Agreement to work. They themselves have shown by their actions that they, too, want it to work. But still they are unable to find the words to say this openly and clearly.
If the DUP is really opposed to the Agreement, then its members should not have participated in committees, should not have taken ministerial positions and should have severed all contact with the Executive. This would have been the honest approach.
The time has come for the DUP to speak sincerely and stop pretending to be opposed to the Good Friday Agreement.
It is time the DUP began working all aspects of the Agreement as fully as everyone else. In fact, it is time for the DUP to be straight with its electorate.
The future lies with those who support the Good Friday Agreement and the benefits it can bring to all sections of society in the North.
The people of Northern Ireland are now demanding that all political leaders play their full part in making the new institutions work.
Anti-Agreement unionist politicians have little to offer and nowhere to go.
Each and every strategy that they have peddled to date has had a defined purpose in mind - to destroy the power-sharing institutions and shatter the peace process.
Unionist politicians need to learn from their own history. Every time they have rejected a reasonable accommodation they have only narrowed their own options.
The 'No' men of Unionism are deliberately misleading their supporters. They claim they can retain some parts of the Agreement while scrapping others such as inclusivity.
However, what they seem to forget is that the Agreement comes as a package. It is only by working together that we can truly overcome the deep divisions in our society.
After all, if unionist and nationalist politicians are unable to work together, how can we expect unionist and nationalist people to live together?
**Glad we finally got it sorted about what's important and what's not
Provo old boys will surrender arms but not name
THE PROVISIONAL IRA is being allowed to retain its name after disarmament to prevent the republican mantle being taken over by renegades.
The Irish and British governments fear that Provisional disbandment would create a vacuum that would be filled by one of the main dissident groups and increase the likelihood of violence on the streets again.
Instead it is expected that the IRA will remain as a disciplined organisation which has abandoned its paramilitary and criminal activities but will be allowed to act as an old comrades' association that could issue statements and hold commemorative events.
The belief is that the leadership of such an organisation would prevent disaffected members from returning to violence and would keep the main body of the republican movement united behind its push for a political rather than a paramilitary solution.
The alternative - total disbandment of the Provisionals - opens up the possibility of large-scale defections to either the Real IRA or the Continuity IRA and the emergence of a new campaign of violence on both sides of the Border and in Britain, funded from quarters that were traditionally loyal to the Provisionals.
But the governments are insisting that transforming themselves into an old comrades' outfit must mean full disarmament and an end to all paramilitary activities.
Negotiators came away from the Leeds Castle talks in Kent at the weekend in the belief that such a scenario was now on the table, with the republican movement willing to make a major act of decommissioning shortly by agreeing to provide proof of how much of the arsenal has been destroyed and set out a timetable for the removal of the rest of the weaponry from circulation.
Speculation continued to increase in Belfast last night that an IRA statement pushing forward the peace process was imminent, but observers in Dublin and London were more cautious after studying the demands laid down by all participants in the talks - in particular, the Democratic Unionist Party.
The DUP's insistence on the right to a majority veto on actions taken by individual ministers could frustrate the efforts that have been made in recent weeks to negotiate a deal on key republican sticking points.
One source said last night: "Every piece that is needed to put the deal together under the terms laid out in the Good Friday Agreement is on the table. But nobody knows if and when those pieces will be moved into the right positions to form the deal. One wrong move and it could fall apart."
Talks to resolve the outstanding issues will resume at Stormont today.
FBI data sought in bid to free Indian activist
By PHIL FAIRBANKS and MARK SOMMER
Leonard Peltier's nearly 30-year quest for freedom brought his defense team
to a Buffalo courtroom Monday seeking FBI documents it believes could lead
to a new trial for the nationally known Indian activist convicted of murder.
Peltier, sentenced to two terms of life imprisonment in the 1975 shooting
deaths of two FBI agents in South Dakota, wants a local judge to order the
release of 15 pages of documents, part of a nationwide effort aimed at
proving that he was railroaded by the FBI.
Long championed as a "political prisoner" by groups such as Amnesty
International, Peltier is a member of the American Indian Movement. In the
eyes of the federal government, he is a brutal killer who should never go
"The FBI is hellbent on blocking the disclosure of this information and
keeping Leonard Peltier in jail for the rest of his natural life," Michael
Kuzma, a Buffalo lawyer and a member of Peltier's defense team, said in
At issue before U.S. District Judge William M. Skretny, who reserved
decision Monday, are 15 pages of documents the FBI has withheld since 1975
on grounds of national security and protection of confidential sources.
Peltier was not in court Monday, but his attorney argued that the FBI is
withholding documents in order to cover up its misconduct, an allegation
the government denies.
"The FBI has acted in good faith in the processing of all these requests,"
Preeya M. Noronha, a U.S. Justice Department attorney, told Skretny.
"There's no evidence that anything improper was done."
Skretny took issue with Noronha's contention, reminding her that two
federal appeals courts have criticized the FBI's conduct in the Peltier
case. One panel of judges said the government's decision to withhold and
intimidate witnesses should be "condemned."
Peltier, who contends that he was framed by the government, has spent the
last several years seeking FBI documents through the Freedom of Information
Act. Earlier this year, the government acknowledged that more than 142,000
pages of documents pertaining to his case were never turned over to his
The catalyst for the Buffalo case is a heavily excised 1975 Teletype
message from the Buffalo office of the FBI to then-FBI Director Clarence M.
Kuzma said the Teletype message indicates that a New York informant was
trying to infiltrate Peltier's defense effort. Kelley later testified that
the government used informants against the American Indian Movement, or AIM.
Peltier's attorneys learned of the Teletype message after a FOIA request
and a subsequent lawsuit against the FBI's Buffalo office pried loose 797
pages of documents - some partially blacked out - containing telex
messages, articles, letters and other memorandums.
"It appears a Buffalo source was trying to infiltrate the defense team in
1975," Kuzma said during an interview before the trial. "If we can show
that had a destructive role or impact on the defense or the attorney-client
relationship, it could blow the case open."
The FBI tells a far different story.
Nearly 30 years after FBI Special Agents Jack R. Coler and Ronald A.
Williams were killed at the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota,
the agency insists that Peltier is guilty.
"I stand behind the review of the (U.S.) Supreme Court that he is a
convicted murderer," said Peter J. Ahearn, special agent in charge of the
FBI's Buffalo office.
Ahearn said he has continued to review material on the case through the
years and has found no reason to believe that Peltier was innocent.
Among FBI agents, it is a case that evokes great passion. Four years ago,
about 500 active and retired agents held a march outside the White House to
dissuade President Bill Clinton from granting clemency to Peltier. That
view was echoed by then-FBI Director Louis J. Freeh in a public letter to
Despite the FBI's strong stance against a new trial, Peltier's lead
attorney said the information they seek could have a potentially explosive
impact on the case.
"It would be grounds for a new trial, one which we'd relish because we know
they couldn't prove Leonard did it," said Barry Bachrach. "It could even be
grounds for an outright reversal."
Allan Jamieson, a Cayuga Indian who lives in Buffalo and has tried to raise
public awareness about Peltier, agrees. He sees the case as a symbol of the
injustices committed by the U.S. government against Native Americans.
He also wonders why information regarding Peltier can still be considered a
matter of national security nearly 30 years later.
"I don't understand how this information can be perceived as a threat at
this point in time," Jamieson said.
Peltier, 60, is serving his two terms of life in prison at Leavenworth
Federal Penitentiary in Kansas.
IRA now 'willing to disarm' by end of the year
20 Sept 2004
The IRA has effectively promised to put all its weaponry beyond use
by the turn of the year in return for firm DUP commitments to share
power with Sinn Féin, authoritative Irish sources have confirmed.
Gerry Moriarty and Frank Millar report.
At talks in Leeds Castle, the Taoiseach, Mr Ahern, and the British
Prime Minister, Mr Tony Blair, outlined to the parties a sequence of
gestures by which the IRA could act to demonstrate its peaceful
intentions, talks insiders said. This could involve the IRA:
Issuing a "strong" statement saying it was decommissioning and ending
Following the statement with a major act of decommissioning;
Issuing a timetable of imminent acts of decommissioning.
The IRA may allow an act of decommissioning to be photographed to
help establish in a persuasive way the extent of the disarmament,
according to sources.
If a comprehensive deal can be worked out in the coming weeks,
sources believe the IRA would respond radically and positively and in
a manner that could convince "ordinary people" that its campaign of
violence was at an end. The disarmament would take place through Gen
John de Chastelain's decommissioning body.
There is huge sensitivity about what might happen in the coming days
and weeks. DUP sources refused to confirm the possibility of a visual
aspect to decommissioning with one senior figure warning that how
media reports were presented could wreck the possibility of a
historic deal. "The last thing we want is stories saying the DUP is
demanding this or that from the IRA because that's the one sure way
of ensuring it won't happen. We're being careful here," he said.
Other DUP sources said any emergent IRA text would be scrutinised for
evidence or ambiguity to challenge the belief of Mr Blair and Mr
Ahern that they can resolve what they described on Saturday as "the
issues to do with ending paramilitary activity and putting weapons
Republican sources would not elaborate on what the IRA was prepared
to do. But other informed sources said there was a real chance that
this time Gen de Chastelain would be believed by unionists when he
gave details about further IRA disarmament.
The governments and the parties viewed as highly significant the
measured and in many ways positive tone of comments from the DUP
leader, the Rev Ian Paisley, after the talks ended on Saturday.
He said he would not be "bluffed" by the IRA but indicated a
willingness to test its sincerity. He added: "I believe that a golden
opportunity has been available to realise a stable and entirely
peaceful future and I told the Prime Minister that in some respects
we have never been closer to solving the problems that have plagued
us for decades."
Mr Tom Kitt, the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, and Northern
Secretary Mr Paul Murphy meet the parties at Stormont tomorrow to try
to resolve remaining procedural issues. The main stumbling block is
devising a system of ministerial accountability acceptable to pro-
Belfast Agreement parties and the DUP.
DUP MP Mr Jeffrey Donaldson told The Irish Times that the Prime
Minister and Taoiseach had been unable to provide specific assurances
about the timetable for the completion of IRA decommissioning, or
about the DUP's required "visual aspect" to the verification process.
Mr Donaldson confirmed that an important issue in the continuing
negotiation concerns the future status of the IRA. Mr Donaldson said
his party had pressed Mr Blair and Mr Ahern on the issue. "We asked
for clarity about their intention to stand down their private army
and whether after that they would form some sort of Old Comrades
Association. But we still haven't got an answer to that," he said.
© The Irish Times
SDLP to rethink position on united Ireland?
SOURCE CLAIMS CHASM WIDENING BETWEEN ‘NATIONALISTS’ AND ‘SOCIAL DEMOCRATS’
Well-placed sources have revealed that a crisis of identity is looming inside the SDLP.
Sources within the SDLP have revealed to the Andersonstown News that discussions are being held internally on whether to drop the objective of an united Ireland in their policy.
The party’s website contains the quote: “The SDLP is 100 per cent for a united Ireland. The SDLP is 100 per cent for the Good Friday Agreement.”
However, our sources have indicated that the chasm between the ‘nationalist’ and ‘social democrat’ wings of the party is getting wider.
“There are ongoing discussions taking place at this moment within the party at committee level on this issue,” the source said.
“They are debating whether to drop the policy of aiming for a united Ireland and, in its place, maybe go for the idea of a ‘united island’. I think it’s a way of trying to access more middle-class, rural unionist pockets in order to boost electoral strength. But there is no way that politicians who stand in strongly nationalist areas will ever accept that. No way.”
The SDLP have suffered electoral reverses in recent months, most notably with Sinn Féin topping the polls at both the European and Westminster elections.
With former Lord Mayor Martin Morgan calling it a day and the news that South Down assembly member PJ Bradley will run on a Fianna Fáil ticket in future elections, it appears that the party is, at the very least, haemorrhaging popular candidates.
PJ Bradley said that he believed that Fianna Fáil will merge with the Northern party and that he would run for Fianna Fáil in future British elections. With over 5,000 votes, PJ Bradley’s personal poll was the second largest of any SDLP candidate in last November’s Assembly elections.
It is expected that his possible defection could spark off a flurry of activity resulting in many more candidates standing on the FF ticket in the next parliamentary elections.
The SDLP was formed on August 21, 1970, by six Stormont MPs and one Senator who represented a variety of Nationalist, Republican and Labour parties. Drawing on these roots the party established itself as left of centre and became a member of the Socialist Group in the European Parliament.
After Mark Durkan took over the reins of the party in 2001 the party tried to shake off its old-school look and embrace a new ‘post-nationalist format’.
“This is not working,” the source said.
“The party is in serious difficulties. It is undergoing an identity crisis.”
Journalist:: Staff Reporter
Loyalist's £1.5m assets seized
Johnston's luxury home will be sold off
An order was granted as a result of an agreed settlement with the representatives of Jim Johnston's estate.
Johnston, 45, a member of the loyalist paramilitary Red Hand Commando, was shot dead in the driveway of his home in Crawfordsburn, County Down in May 2003.
The revenge killing was part of a bitter feud between rival loyalist factions.
The High Court moved followed an application by the Assets Recovery Agency.
The agency has been granted the first civil recovery order in the UK to exceed £1 million.
It was granted by Mr Justice Coghlin under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 in the High Court in Belfast on Monday.
Assets valued at between £1.2m and £1.25m have been forfeited.
These include Johnston's former luxury home in Crawfordsburn, seven properties in Northern Ireland, a holiday home in County Sligo and a commercial premises in Belfast.
The agency said there "was also a significant investment portfolio".
'Very visible reminder'
Its assistant director, Alan McQuillan, said it was an important landmark for the agency and its partners in the fight against organised crime.
"PSNI referred this case to the agency and have worked closely with us to provide the information needed to convince the High Court that the assets should be forfeited," he said.
"This result serves clear notice on criminals that the extensive powers under the Proceeds of Crime Act are effective in taking the profit out of crime.
"The outcome of this case is a very visible reminder to everyone in the community that there is no hiding place for ill-gotten gains. Working with its partners, ARA will exercise its powers firmly and fairly to ensure that, increasingly, crime does not pay."
The High Court has appointed a trustee to take possession of the recovered property and liquidate it.
The proceeds will be recycled into crime fighting initiatives, said the agency.
Johnston's widow and partner will each retain a small house from the estate - representing a net transfer of approximately £90,000.
Home Secretary David Blunkett said he was pleased with the judgement.
"Measures we have passed will at last stop criminals from benefiting from their crimes," he said.
"Last year saw a record of £54.5m taken from criminals, an increase of £7.5m on the previous year and further proof that the Proceeds of Crime Act, passed two years ago, is hitting criminals where it hurts."
Secretary of State Paul Murphy said the ruling "is sending out a clear message that crime does not pay and that there is no hiding place for ill-gotten gains".
**Be sure to read this
Get On With It
Dolours Price • 14 September 2004
I have had a premonition. I know what is going to happen in Leeds Castle. Usual suspects, gather to dance around one and other, side step, forward, back, swing that partner round. They won't be wearing cowboy boots or jangling spurs, no, it is more than a premonition. I know what is going to happen in Leeds Castle.
For ten years now the Provisional Sinn Fein party have been standing with its hands up, but yet will not speak the the words, "We surrender". Not this time, not in the leafy ambience of Leeds Castle.
'Uncompromising to the hilt'
By Mark Simpson
BBC Ireland correspondent
Just when Tony Blair thought his week couldn't get any worse, along came the DUP leader Ian Paisley.
Paisley wants to renegotiate the Good Friday Agreement
Never mind Batman at the palace, there was the Big Man at the castle.
Ian Paisley revels in his Big Man nickname. It's a reference to his large frame, and booming voice.
Ok, so he's not as big as he used to be, but he certainly cast a large shadow over the three days of negotiations at Leeds Castle.
One of the main reasons there was no agreement was down to him and the party he has led for more three decades. The deal on offer didn't meet DUP standards.
One leading party member summed up the mood: "If the IRA are saying 'we will give you a few guns if you take the Good Friday Agreement' then the answer is no."
But was it only a few guns? The impression others were giving was that the IRA may be prepared to give them all up, perhaps by Christmas. And what is more, there would be peaceful words to match the ground-breaking deeds.
As one nationalist politician put it: "The DUP had the chance to win the big prize, and turned their noses up at it." So what issue wrecked the deal?
It seems it wasn't the paramilitaries, but the politics... a dispute over the power-sharing arrangements for any new assembly at Stormont.
The DUP took part in the last assembly (which collapsed two years ago) but they didn't like the rule book - the Good Friday Agreement.
In fact, since that deal was signed six years ago, Ian Paisley has fought every election on the basis that he wanted to smash the old Agreement and negotiate a new one.
David Trimble said the core of the agreement was unscathed
The problem is, all the other parties in Northern Ireland are quite happy with that deal. So if there is going to be breakthrough in the next few months, there's going to have to be some fancy footwork - a deal that one side can say is a new agreement, while the others say is simply an improved version of the old one.
It's easier said than done. But the parties will continue to make an effort. The talks roadshow now moves from Kent to Stormont with renewed negotiations between the parties and the British and Irish governments next week.
Tony Blair will not be there. He has a few others things on his plate - Iraq, the controversy over the hunting ban, the Commons security crisis and the pre-election annual Labour Party conference.
We're told, however, that Mr Blair will zoom into Belfast at short notice if he feels the negotiations are near to completion. All the parties say they want a deal - including the leaders of Sinn Fein and the DUP.
Peace by Christmas? Only if the talks process produces some real-life super heroes.
DUP 'will listen to ideas'
The DUP remains "optimistic" as efforts continue to restore devolution in Northern Ireland, the party's deputy leader has said.
Peter Robinson was speaking after the parties failed to reach agreement during three days of negotiations at Leeds Castle in Kent.
The talks were seen as the most important since the negotiations leading up to the Good Friday Agreement in 1998 and aimed to resolve issues surrounding the deadlock over the IRA's continued existence and power-sharing at Stormont.
Prime Minister Tony Blair said afterwards that he believed the issue of ending paramilitary activity and putting weapons beyond use could be resolved.
However, one of the main sticking points to emerge from the talks was how the DUP and Sinn Fein would work together in a power-sharing government.
The DUP wants ministers in a future Executive to be subject to greater controls by assembly members - Sinn Fein fears the unionist majority at Stormont might use such powers to block any important decisions their ministers take.
Further talks will be held at Stormont on Tuesday aimed at resolving these matters, and Mr Robinson said he was "on the optimistic side of this equation".
He told a news conference on Monday: "The DUP does not have any emotional capital tied up in any particular mechanism."
Mr Robinson said while his party thought their way was the best way, they would listen to ideas from other parties.
He stressed the DUP was not looking for a return to majority rule, and said he was "pained" by some reports that party leader Ian Paisley had stood in the way of a deal at Leeds Castle.
As Mr Robinson was clarifying his party's position, other political leaders were briefing party members about the talks.
Ulster Unionist leader David Trimble said once issues surrounding paramilitarism were resolved, "second-order" matters such as assembly structures could be as well.
"If the paramilitary issues are resolved, I don't believe that even the most die-hard member of the DUP can stand out against the popular demand to see progress," he added.
Earlier on Monday, Northern Ireland Secretary Paul Murphy gave an upbeat assessment of the talks, saying that the political parties genuinely wanted to reach an agreement.
"What I want to emphasise is that the talks at the weekend did not fail," he said.
"We didn't complete them and we need to finalise them, but we went a long way."
Sinn Fein sources said huge gaps still remained.
While there is agreement in principle on the issues of devolution of policing and justice, no time frame or structures have been agreed.
Mr Blair wants these gaps to be closed within weeks.
On Saturday, the British and Irish governments put forward proposals at Leeds Castle which they regarded as an "acceptable compromise" to the DUP's demands for changes to the Good Friday Agreement.
It was understood progress had been made on a form of words which would see an end to IRA activity and the completion of decommissioning by Christmas, but the parties had not actually seen a text.
On Monday, Taoiseach Bertie Ahern said it should be known soon whether the outstanding issues from the Leeds Castle talks were "technical issues" that could be sorted out easily, or issues to do with majority rule that would be more difficult to resolve.
The political institutions in Northern Ireland were suspended in October 2002 amid allegations of IRA intelligence gathering at the Northern Ireland Office.
Leaders fear DUP demands will halt Provo disarmament moves
DEMANDS by Ian Paisley's DUP could scupper a deal for full IRA disarmament.
That is the fear of the Irish and British governments in the wake of talks at Leeds Castle in Kent.
The DUP wants changes in the Good Friday Agreement which Sinn Fein sees as an attempt to reimpose unionist majority rule at Stormont.
It wants to give the assembly power to restrict the actions of other ministers in matters such as cross-border relations. This would amount to giving the DUP, as the majority party, the power of veto.
The governments will now try to convince the DUP to back off from this approach, which has also met with disapproval from the SDLP, the Alliance Party, and the UUP.
Three days of talks at Leeds Castle ended in disappointment for Taoiseach Bertie Ahern and Prime Minister Tony Blair for the third time in 18 months.
But the leaders said the parties were "close" to agreeing the handful of issues separating them.
Mr Ahern said: "We have made progress on the key issues that have created the deficits of confidence over the past, including paramilitarism, arms decommissioning, and policing.
"We now have the real prospect of securing acts of completion that we have been seeking over the last few years."
Prime Minister Tony Blair added: "I can't believe that this set of institutional issues is going to destroy what otherwise I think would be a very good deal. I think it is important that any institutional structure we agree holds very firm to the basic fairness and equilibrium set out in the Good Friday Agreement."
Foreign Minister Brian Cowen yesterday emphasised the need for "partnership and equality politics" and said it was "just not credible" to ordinary people that politicians might "walk away just as we are about to bring about a transformation in politics".
Meanwhile, church leaders expressed disappointment that a deal had not been reached, with Archbishop Sean Brady saying compromise was needed.
The Moderator of the Presbyterian Church, Rev Ken Newell, said a great opportunity had been missed to close down the IRA for good. "They need to clarify why they did not reel this opportunity in."
Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams said the problem was "essentially about elements of political unionism and their failure or reticence to embrace a process of change".
"One party did not negotiate, one party did not talk to the rest of us, so therein you have some sense of where all of this is," he said as the talks ended.
But DUP MP Jeffrey Donaldson said yesterday his party would engage "constructively" in the Stormont talks and added: "We will only get one chance at this, and if it takes a little extra time to get it right, then that is worth doing."
Ulster Unionist Party leader David Trimble said they had to find out if the DUP wanted to "wreck" the Agreement, but he was "optimistic" because since the Assembly elections people who had formerly been opponents of the process seemed to be "buying into it".
The discussions of recent days, he said, had accelerated that, as there had been "no movement away from the fundamentals".
SDLP leader Mark Durkan said it seemed to many that the DUP was trying to "retro-fit" majority rule on to the Agreement.
Some observers believe the DUP refused to sign up to the deal simply because it needed to look "tough", and will agree a settlement within the next few weeks providing it receives at least cosmetic changes to the operation of the assembly - a key demand of its 2003 election manifesto.
Gene McKenna and
Bernard Purcell in Kent
'More must be done for Derry's Irish speakers'
An Irish language organisation in Derry has called on the government
and businesses in the city to do more to facilitate Irish speakers.
Seosamh O Coinne, spokesman for An Gaelaras, said latest census
figures showed that around 15,000 people in Derry spoke Irish.
With that figure "increasing continuously", Mr O Coinne claimed both
the public and private sectors needed to do more to meet the needs of
Irish speakers in the Derry area.
"At An Gaelaras alone there are approximately 100 students learning
Irish on a full-time basis, five days a week," he said.
"There are approximately 60 learning Irish at night classes, not
forgetting people are learning Irish at other classes in the city as
well as the increasing number of young people studying Irish at
school or taught through the medium of Irish."
Mr O Coinne said the government had obligations to cater for Irish
speakers under the European Charter for Regional and Minority
He also called on the private sector to take steps to facilitate
September 19, 2004
**Remember the details of this story when Barrett applies for early release
Poyntzpass killers cry foul
19 September 2004
TWO LVF killers - serving life for a notorious double murder - are poised to take legal action if UFF hitman Ken Barrett is granted early release.
Barrett, 41, who pleaded guilty last week to the 1989 murder of solicitor Pat Finucane, is expected to be freed within months, even though he was ordered to serve a minimum of 22 years.
The ex-police informer is expected to apply to the Life Sentence Review Body for early release, under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement.
But if he succeeds, LVF killers Stephen McClean and Noel McCready - who have been refused early release - say they will mount a High Court action.
The pair were jailed on a series of terror charges, including the chilling double murder of friends, Philip Allen, 34, and Damien Trainor, 25, in Poyntzpass, in March, 1998.
McClean and McCready have been told they do not qualify for early release, because the Government does not recognise the LVF ceasefire.
The killings took place just weeks before the signing of the Belfast Agreement.
But in October 2001, the then Secretary of State, John Reid declared the ceasefires of both the UDA/UFF and the LVF to be over, and 're-specified' both groups.
It meant that a convicted prisoner would not benefit from the generous remission on sentences, laid down in the Agreement.
Last night, a family source said both McClean and McCready would seek a judicial review of the NIO decision to keep them in Maghaberry, should Ken Barrett be released from prison.
"The NIO has cited the non-recognition of the LVF ceasefire as the reason not to release Noel McCready and Stephen McClean," said the family member.
"However, they haven't recognised the UDA ceasefire since October 2001, so how can Barrett qualify for early release?"
It is understood the LVF prisoners have instructed their legal teams to take action in the Belfast High Court if UFF gunman Barrett is freed within months.
Finucane killer on the move
Cell in English prison for Barrett
By Alan Murray
19 September 2004
SELF-CONFESSED loyalist hitman, Ken Barrett, is expected to be moved to an English jail tonight.
The Prison Service was last night keeping the whereabouts of solicitor Pat Finucane's killer a closely guarded secret.
But, his solicitor told Sunday Life, that he expected his client would be moved out of Northern Ireland, this weekend.
Prison Service sources said Barrett's prison location was known only at Governor level staff, at Maghaberry Prison.
Barrett's solicitor, Joe Rice was expecting to meet him yesterday morning, but it is understood he was advised not to travel by a governor at the jail, because his client might not be there.
Mr Rice said yesterday: "I can confirm that my client has lodged an application to be considered to be included in the early release scheme, by the Life Sentence Review Commissioners.
"And, I also expect that Ken Barrett will be relocated to a prison in England, before Monday morning."
Barrett has declined to make any comment about why he pleaded guilty to the charge of murdering Belfast solicitor, Patrick Finucane, in 1989.
The only hint of doubt concerning his role in the infamous killing given in court, on Thursday, was when his barrister said, that the Crown would have had difficulty in proving that Barrett had actually discharged any of the bullets fired at Pat Finucane.
Loyalist and RUC intelligence reports suggest that two other members of the UDA entered the Finucane home and killed the prominent solicitor.
It is understood that Barrett gave little information to his legal team about his role in the killing, before Thursday's appearance in court for sentencing.
The judge noted that Barrett's lawyer had no express instructions to indicate any regret on behalf of his client. There is speculation, in UDA circles, that Barrett has made an 'arrangement' with the Stevens Inquiry team, or, the government to receive a new identity, after his release next spring, in return for agreeing to give evidence before an inquiry into Pat Finucane's murder.
Meanwhile, UDA sources continue to deride Barrett's own confessions to being a gunman. They insist that Barrett, a police informer, ran a club and was a low level figure in the organisation.
Loyalists at war: How guns handover was spiked
Adapted by Ciaran McGuigan from 'UDA: Inside the Heart of Loyalist Terror'
19 September 2004
BRITAIN'S top cop scuppered advanced plans for a major act of UDA decommissioning, when he swooped on six suspects in the Pat Finucane murder hunt.
Sir John Stevens' move against six UDA men suspected of involvement in the 1989 murder of the solicitor, destroyed a plan hatched by cutthroat killer John White and UFF terror godfather Johnny Adair, to out-manoeuvre Sinn Fein over weapons.
White claimed that he had almost succeeded in persuading the organisation he helped turn into a killing machine, back in 1972-73, into destroying some of its weapons, before the IRA acted on its arms.
What blocked the UDA being the first terrorist group to give up weapons, was the ongoing fallout from the murder of Pat Finucane.
Since 1989, the Finucane family had campaigned vigorously for an independent inquiry into the solicitor's assassination.
In January 2000, the reactivated Stevens Inquiry had confirmed that it had identified six loyalists as the main suspects for Finucane's murder, and their details had since been sent to the Director of Public Prosecutions, along with forensic evidence linking them to the killing.
White's sidekick, Johnny Adair, was in favour of handing over weapons, but was adamant that a move against any of the men would scupper any chance of the UDA decommissioning.
And there was more: "If any of those men, whether it's one of them or all six, are arrested and charged, then you can kiss goodnight to the peace process from our point of view," he said.
The arrest of the six UDA men, including the organisation's leader in the Highfield area, Eric McKee, coincided with the emergence of a scandal across the Atlantic involving the IRA.
The Provos had been caught buying scores of handguns, in Florida gun shops.
The operation was eventually thwarted by the FBI, and several Provisionals, including west Belfast man Connor Claxton, were arrested and charged.
The gun-running route had already provided the IRA with up to 100 weapons with no forensic history.
One of the 'clean' guns was used to assassinate Real IRA man, Joe O'Connor, in 1999.
Despite the indisputable fact that the IRA 'army council' had sanctioned the Florida arms-buying spree, no penalties were imposed on Sinn Fein.
When Adair and his cronies looked at the IRA getting away with clear breaches of good faith, they thought to themselves that they could do the same.
What compounded their anger, was that their colleagues in west Belfast were more vulnerable to arrest over crimes committed before Good Friday 1998, than IRA members were for committing crimes since then.
The UDA came extremely close to publicly decommissioning a large amount of weaponry, in early 2000.
Adair had spoken to 'quartermasters' about the guns and explosives selected for destruction. White had laid out plans to invite the world's media to an undisclosed location, where the weapons would either be handed over to - or destroyed in front of - a representative from John de Chastelain's office.
But the arrest of the six Finucane suspects allowed 'inner council' sceptics, such as John Gregg, to scuttle the initiative.
The past crimes of the Troubles - specifically the Finucane murder legacy - had effectively scuppered a chance to move forward.
Loyalists at war: Sacrificed
Army spooks pointed UFF killers away from top Provo spy and onto innocent grandad...and their original target was NOT Scap!
19 September 2004
THE man named as the British agent 'Stakeknife' was NOT the original target of the UDA hit squad that murdered pensioner Francisco Notarantonio, in his west Belfast home in 1987.
Freddie Scappaticci's name WAS on a hit-list provided by double agent Brian Nelson to the killers in the UDA's west Belfast battalion.
But a second man, believed to be the IRA's 'officer commanding' in Belfast, was the one to be murdered, before Nelson's Army handlers directed them away from their target, and towards the innocent grandfather.
Senior figures in the UDA and UVF have dismissed claims Scappaticci was the man the intelligence chiefs in the Army's Force Research Unit (FRU) were trying to protect, by setting up Notarantonio.
They have since concluded that the senior IRA man, whom they had under surveillance at the time, and who was to be targeted before Brian Nelson provided "intelligence" on Notarantonio, was an agent every bit as important as Stakeknife.
In Springmartin, a small Protestant estate on high ground overlooking the republican Springhill and Ballymartin, the UDA and UVF shared the keys to a flat.
They used the apartment to spy into the heart of the republican areas, and it was from there they carried out a surveillance operation against a senior member of the IRA's Belfast brigade in 1987, only to have Army agent Brian Nelson point them away from the IRA operative, and onto Francisco Notarantonio.
Later, in response to demands for a public inquiry into collusion, the UDA in west Belfast hinted it had information that could blow the cover of one of the British state's most important agents inside the IRA.
Both it and the UVF believed - incorrectly, as it turned out - that they knew the identity of the British agent codenamed Stakeknife, involved in the murky incident in 1987 when the UDA decided to kill a senior IRA member living in the Springhill estate, upon whom it and the UVF had been spying, but was steered instead towards ex-IRA prisoner Notarantonio by its west Belfast intelligence officer, Brian Nelson, who was working on the instructions of his Army handlers.
In 2003, when former FRU soldier 'Martin Ingram' said Stakeknife, the ex-head of the IRA's internal security squad, was none other than Freddie Scappaticci, the UDA and UVF men involved in the Springhill plot were flummoxed.
Scappaticci had never lived in Springhill, and, at the time of the loyalist surveillance, was across the border in Dundalk.
The loyalists have since concluded that the other target, saved by Brian Nelson, was an agent working in the highest ranks of the IRA's Belfast brigade.
One of the authors' loyalist sources refused to name the senior IRA man, on whom it had been spying at the time.
But from the geography of the area, the people living in the Springhill area, and their roles in the IRA, the authors and Sunday Life believe they know the identity of the man, a top Provo bomber.