If you want it...

Happy Christmas (War is Over)

John Lennon

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So this is Christmas
And what have you done
Another year over
And a new one just begun
Ans so this is Christmas
I hope you have fun
The near and the dear one
The old and the young

A very merry Christmas
And a happy New Year
Let's hope it's a good one
Without any fear
And so this is Christmas
For weak and for strong
For rich and the poor ones
The world is so wrong
And so happy Christmas
For black and for white
For yellow and red ones
Let's stop all the fight
A very merry Christmas
And a happy New Year
Let's hope it's a good one
Without any fear
And so this is Christmas
And what have we done
Another year over
And a new one just begun
And so this is Christmas
I hope you have fun
The near and the dear one
The old and the young
A very merry Christmas
And a happy New Year
Let's hope it's a good one
Without any fear
War is over over
If you want it
War is over


White Christmas for Ireland

25/12/2004 - 09:38:38

People across vast areas of Ireland north and south are waking up to a white Christmas for the first time in many years.

Snow has been falling in most counties as temperatures dipped to freezing overnight.

The heaviest falls were in the northern half of the country.

The PSNI and gardaí have warned that road conditions are treacherous. Officers have appealed to motorists to be very careful.

Snow has fallen across Northern Ireland, with Co Antrim and Belfast covered on Christmas Day for the first time in years.

The main road from Belfast to Derry is particularly bad around the Glenshane Pass.

There were light snow showers across the south and west of the country.

Heavier snow showers have struck the north west and north east.

It is officially a white Christmas with snow on the ground in many counties including Donegal, Mayo and Sligo. This stretches right across Leitrim, Roscommon, Cavan and on to Louth.

Met Eireann has warned that the west and north can expect more rain, sleet and snow showers, but the eastern side of the country will only see an occasional shower during the day.

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Nollaig shona duit !


Special Branch link to Omagh atrocity
Officer may have made anonymous warning call

Owen Bowcott
Friday December 24, 2004
The Guardian

The six year long investigation into the Omagh bombing - the worst single atrocity of the Troubles - took an extraordinary turn yesterday when it was revealed that a Special Branch officer is to be questioned for allegedly telephoning through an anonymous warning.

The officer, who has not been identified, is now the chief suspect for making the call received by detectives in the County Tyrone town 11 days before the outrage.

The car bomb, which killed 29 people and unborn twins on August 15 1998, was carried out by the Real IRA. Only one person has been convicted for taking part in the attack.

The Guardian has been told the anonymous call, made at 10am on August 4 to a CID officer in Omagh, contained detailed information, including the names of five republican suspects. The information was never passed on to police on the ground.

The fact that the call was made has been known for some time but the source of the call has never been traced. The Special Branch officer is to be asked if he made the call, and if so, why.

In the call, he named those who he claimed would be bringing across the Irish border four dismantled AK-47 rifles and two rocket launchers belonging to the Continuity IRA which, he said, would be used in an attack on police in Omagh on August 15. At the time the Real IRA and Continuity IRA were effectively indivisible.

The caller claimed the weapons would be stored at a house close to the village of Beragh, outside Omagh, and then moved to another address in advance of the attack. The telephone conversation lasted between 10 and 15 minutes and the caller claimed he would contact the police again the following evening.

The CID officer who took the call believed the caller to be genuine, briefed the senior detective on duty and then travelled to Enniskillen, County Fermanagh, where he informed Special Branch officers.

They allegedly told him there was nothing in the information and that the two men named were ordinary criminals. However, one of the officers asked that he be present in the Special Branch office in Omagh the next day for the second call. It never came.

The Omagh atrocity has been the subject of successive investigations over the years, including one by the Northern Ireland police ombudsman, Nuala O'Loan, which produced a scathing condemnation of an earlier police inquiry.

Mrs O'Loan found that officers had ignored warnings, failed to act on crucial intelligence or question key suspects, and that the investigation itself was a catalogue of mistakes. The Police Association contested her report but later withdrew a legal challenge.

Relatives of the victims have in the past pressed for a judicial inquiry into the affair.

The latest development is likely to highlight what has, at times, been an awkward relationship between Special Branch and uniformed officers.

Relatives of the victims were angered by the revelation. Michael Gallagher, whose son Aidan was among the dead, said: "It's devastating. That call was always a concern to the families and we are still awaiting answers. It seems to me to be the final straw in a long line of discrepancies."

Godfrey Wilson, whose daughter Lorraine, 15, died in the bombing, said: "If ever there was a need for a full cross-border inquiry, then this is it. How much longer do we have to wait to get justice?"

It is known that the August 4 call and the text of the information were never registered on the database which was set up for the huge police investigation and it was not until two years later, during a review of the inquiry by the Royal Ulster Constabulary, that officers in Omagh became aware it had been made. After the bombing, it was later discovered, someone had written across the information sheet: "Nothing to do with Omagh".

It is understood the new suspect has not yet been questioned. Assistant Chief Constable Sam Kinkaid, who is overseeing the investigation, declined to comment on the new line of inquiry.

He said the police service continued to dedicate significant resources to investigating the atrocity. "All matters examined by the investigation team will be forwarded to the DPP [Director of Public Prosecutions] for his directions."

A high court action by some of the victims' relatives who have accused five men of being responsible for the bombing is expected to begin in Belfast next year. They are seeking £10m in compensation.

A crown court trial is also due to start of Sean Hoey, 34, of County Armagh, who is facing charges involving explosives and membership of the Real IRA. One of the charges against him involves possession of a timer power unit between March 1997 and August 16 1998, the day after the Omagh bombing.


Loyalists threaten medieval punishment

(William Scholes, Irish News)

Loyalist paramilitaries have threatened to inflict the medieval
punishment of the stocks to publicly humiliate those they judge to be
involved in anti-social behaviour.

Following a spate of burglaries and thefts in south Belfast's Village
area, leaflets bearing a picture of a man with his head and arms
locked in a set of stocks were put through letter boxes in the
district yesterday.

Above the photograph – captioned "This is a shaming punishment, not a
criminal punishment" – it reads: "The residents of the
Village/Donegall Road will not tolerate anymore anti-social behaviour
and we will ensure that the punishment will fit the crime, which the
whole community can partake in."

The A4 leaflet also states: "Do you know your neighbour, if not they
could be robbing you or your friends."

Ulster Unionist councillor Bob Stoker, who lives in the Village area,
said the leaflets reflected community anger at the burglaries.

"From a personal point of view, anyone who knows anything about these
burglaries should inform the police," Mr Stoker said.

"I can understand why someone who has had their house broken into and
their property taken wants immediate retribution but we cannot allow
ourselves to be judge, jury and executioner."

He said he did not know who was responsible for the leaflets.

"There have been a lot of comments to me about them and how they are
not about punishment but community humiliation," Mr Stoker said.

"I think people are starting to realise there is no point shooting
these criminals in the knees – they only get a compensation payment
out of it.

"If they are taken through the legal process they just get six months
at Hydebank [young offenders' centre] or a slap on the wrists and are
back at it again."

The burglars had stolen children's Christmas presents, an engagement
ring and a war medal in recent days, he said.

"One elderly man was visiting his wife in hospital after she broke
her hip and the burglars broke into their house and stole a lot of
cash," he said.

"The vast amount of people in the Village don't have house insurance
because they cannot afford it."

A police spokeswoman said patrols in the Village area had been
increased following a "recent upsurge of crime".

"Actions as suggested in the recent display of posters do not offer a
solution to this problem. Only the police supported by the local
community can deliver this," she said.

Inspector David Gibson said: "We are determined to catch whoever is
involved in this criminality.

"All available resources are being used to eradicate the problem and
provide reassurance to local residents."

Last year the UDA forced two young men it alleged had been involved
in house breaking to stand with placards proclaiming their guilt on
the Ligoniel Road in north Belfast. The group claimed it was moving
away from punishment shootings to 'naming and shaming'.

The Globe and Mail

Police raid IRA strongholds in Belfast

Associated Press

Belfast — Police raided properties Friday in two Irish Republican Army strongholds of Belfast in search of the $42.5-million (U.S.) that was stolen this week from a bank's underground vault.

Among the properties searched was the home of Eddie Copeland, a prominent reputed IRA commander in Ardoyne, a hard-line Catholic enclave of north Belfast. Police confiscated four cell phones and his shoes — and even opened presents under his family's Christmas tree.

Scores of officers, many in white forensic overalls, also searched properties in Catholic west Belfast, the primary power base of the IRA-linked Sinn Fein party. But they did not report any progress in their hunt for the gang responsible for Monday's raid on the Northern Bank headquarters — the world's biggest all-cash robbery in peacetime.

The geography of the raids suggested the IRA — the most sophisticated of Northern Ireland's myriad illegal groups — tops the authorities' list of suspects.

The IRA — which has been observing a cease-fire since 1997 but remains active on several fronts, including criminal rackets — denied Thursday that it was involved.

Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams complained to Britain's Northern Ireland Secretary Paul Murphy about the searches in the Catholic neighbourhood, which he said were harmful to the already strained peace process. Northern Irish peace talks stalled earlier this month when the top Protestant party rejected IRA disarmament promises.

Outside one search site, in Belfast's Ballymurphy neighbourhood, protesters threw rocks and bottles at officers, injuring five, police said. Two of the injured officers needed hospital treatment, and one was knocked unconscious, police said.

Mr. Copeland, who has survived several assassination attempts, declared his innocence at the door of his Ardoyne home as police left without arresting him.

“They deliberately targeted me because they know I'm a republican in the area. It's politically motivated and they're trying to make out republicans were behind this robbery,” Mr. Copeland said.

He said one of the officers even wisecracked to him: “I bet you thought days like this were over.”

Police consider Mr. Copeland, 34, the IRA's top figure in Ardoyne and he has faced death threats from Protestant extremists for a decade.

His father was killed by the British army in disputed circumstances in 1971. His home has been repeatedly searched and he has been arrested on suspicion of committing numerous crimes but never convicted.

A deranged British soldier shot Mr. Copeland twice outside his home in 1993 as IRA supporters gathered there to mourn a local IRA bomber who had accidentally killed himself and nine Protestant civilians, one of Belfast's worst atrocities. In 1996, Mr. Copeland suffered leg wounds when a small bomb detonated under his car outside his home.

Protestant politician David Trimble, who shared the 1998 Nobel Peace Prize, identified Mr. Copeland as leader of the IRA unit responsible for the botched 1993 bombing, an accusation Mr. Copeland denies.

Meanwhile Friday, the 45-member detective team trying to track down the robbers circulated its first partial list of serial numbers for businesses to identify stolen cash. But the numbers covered just $2.9-million worth of the total. Police urged the public to be wary of accepting any large amounts of Northern Bank-brand currency.

Money-laundering experts say the robbers will have a hard time using most of their stolen loot, because it is newly minted pound notes bearing the Northern Bank's own name. These notes, peculiar to this British territory, cannot be spent in large volumes without attracting attention.

And Northern Bank, reflecting growing public anxiety about using any crisp Northern Bank notes in their wallets, announced that anybody wanting to swap notes could come into the bank's 95 branches across Northern Ireland.

In a statement, the bank said it would swap all Northern Bank-branded notes, even “any notes that are the proceeds of the robbery but which have been handled by ordinary members of the public in good faith.”

The bank confirmed it also was discussing with police the possibility of withdrawing some or all of its most recently issued note designs in a bid to make it even harder for the thieves to launder the money locally.

::: u.tv :::

Homes raided in hunt for bank's £22m

Police raided properties in north and west Belfast today in an attempt to recover the stolen £22 million Northern Bank cash.

By:Press Association
FRIDAY 24/12/2004 11:27:32

Teams of uniformed officers were called in as detectives intensified the hunt for the gang which pulled off one of the world`s biggest cash raids.

The Christmas Eve searches of residential and commercial properties- in heavy rain - were ordered as it emerged the bank could consider changing its entire note issue to thwart attempts to shift some of the missing money over the counter.

Northern Ireland chief constable Hugh Orde is under intense pressure to catch the gang, and searches in West Belfast today confirmed a growing belief that republicans, some possibly linked to the IRA, were involved.

There were no immediate reports of arrests but detectives clearly believe they could be close to a major breakthrough.

Authoritative sources also confirmed that the bank`s Australian owners may, at some stage, look to recall every Northern £5, £10, £20, £50 and £100 note in circulation in an unprecedented move to prevent the stolen cash being filtered into the economy.

Banking experts said such action might not be considered at such an early stage of the police inquiry but it is an option which could not be ruled out.

It would be a complex, difficult and seriously expensive operation taking a considerable time to complete.

But security sources revealed today that both police and the bank had discussed it.

One source said: "It`s the bank`s call. It`s out of police hands but it`s something they may want to do at some stage."

A banking expert said: "A product recall and changing the entire note issue would be an extremely drastic course of action. Implementing it now would effectively mean the bank giving up on the chances of the money ever being recovered.

"But it still has to be an option."

One of the properties searched today was a three-storey house at Holmdene Gardens, Ardoyne, a fiercely republican area with vast IRA support.

Forensic experts were brought in to carry out a full examination while armed officers stood guard outside.

The blinds were pulled on downstairs windows, while a child`s toy car sat next to a silver-coloured Golf in the driveway, which has ornate gates.

Police refused to make any comment at the scene.
Meanwhile, shops throughout Northern Ireland were on full alert today amid fears that the criminals may attempt to start passing some of the money in the last-minute Christmas sales rush.

At the same time the Northern Bank moved to reassure customers with banknotes in their wallets.

A spokesman for the bank said: "All Northern Bank notes will be honoured by the bank. These will include any notes that are the proceeds of the robbery but which have been handled by ordinary members of the public in good faith.

"If people have any suspicions about notes in their possession they should bring them to any local branch, where they will be replaced."

::: u.tv :::

Home of top Republican searched in bank probe

The home of top Belfast Republican Eddie Copeland was searched today by police involved in the hunt to recover the stole £22 million Northern Bank cash

By:Press Association
FRIDAY 24/12/2004 11:45:49

They checked every room in his three-storey home and took away shoes and mobile phones and at one stage during the two hours inside opened 30 Christmas presents.

Mr Copeland said: "They had no reason to come here because I have nothing to fear and this to me looks like a politically-motivated operation. I had nothing to do with any robbery."

Forensic experts in white overalls were involved in the search as armed policemen stood guard outside the house at Holmdene Gardens, Ardoyne, a fiercely republican area of North Belfast which has powerful IRA links.

A second house in the Lenadoon area of West Belfast was also searched by officers trying to recover the money, which went missing in one of the world`s biggest cash raids.

Even though republicans have denied any involvement in the robbery, police chiefs have not ruled out the possibility the IRA masterminded the £22 million theft from the headquarters of the Northern Bank last Monday night.

But Mr Copeland insisted today he had no part in the raid.

He was in bed with his partner while their 20-month-old daughter slept in another room when uniformed and CID officers knocked on his front door. Mobile phones belonging to him, his partner and two others due to be handed over at Christmas as gifts were taken away, as well as chips from a digital camera.

The search took place after a warrant was issued. At one stage, according to Mr Copeland, 34, one of the officers allegedly told him: "I bet you thought days like this were over."

The top republican said he is to make an official complaint to his solicitor.

He said: "They deliberately targeted me because they know I`m a republican in the area. It`s politically motivated and they`re trying to make out republicans were behind this robbery.

"There`s no reason why they should come here, no reason at all, and I have nothing to fear. Police can come here at any time, not that I would ever want them to.

"They took all my shoes away, including those I`d had for Christmas. All they left me was a pair of slip-ons.

"And they opened all the Christmas presents as well. They just peered in and put them back again but it was a serious invasion of my privacy."


**From yesterday evening

Press Release: 32 County Sovereignty Movement
Date: 24/12/04 (For Immediate Release)
Contact: 07801 729412.

32 County Sovereignty Movement: Ongoing House Raid in Derry.

Approximately 3pm this afternoon the RUC/Northern Ireland Police Service
raided the house of Martin O'Neill in the Gallainh area of Derry.

At the time of this press release (6.20pm) at least 15 members of the
Forensic team are still occupying and searching the premises. Mr O'Neill
arrived home with friends at 5pm to find his house completely sealed off and
subsequently he himself is currently being detained under house arrest.

One of the friends who left the scene later returned to the location with a
digital camera to record the incident in progress but was quickly tackled by
several RUC officers and forced to the floor where his camera was removed
from his person.

The atmosphere in the area is described as "tense" with a number of local
people also turning up to witness another blatant example of the harrassment
of one of their community.

Their concern, and that of the wider Republican community, is well deserved
especially after the recent stitch ups by the same notorious forensic
science department, including the case of local man Seamus Doherty.

A further update will be issued as soon as further details become available.

Message Ends.


Search police 'attacked by mob'

Forensic scientists examined a car

Five officers have been injured after police searching homes in connection with a £22m bank raid in Belfast came under attack.

The officers' vehicles were battered with stones, bricks and hammers as they searched a house in the Ballymurphy area of west Belfast.

Police raided a number of homes in west and north Belfast, including that of a prominent republican.

The officers took away a number of items for forensic examination.

Monday's bank raid is thought to have been one of the UK's biggest cash robberies.

Family members of two senior executives of the Northern Bank were held hostage for 24 hours, after gunmen threatened to kill them if the bank employees did not follow their demands.

They were released once the robbery was reported at about 2345 GMT on Monday.

The Northern bank is considering recalling all its bank notes to prevent the stolen cash being filtered into the economy.

Police have said the possible involvement of paramilitaries is a "key line of inquiry".

But the IRA has denied involvement in the robbery. On Thursday, a senior republican dismissed "any suggestion or allegation that we were involved".

In Friday's police raids officers searched a home in the Ardoyne area of north Belfast.

Christmas presents were opened and search teams took clothes, shoes, mobile phones and other items away for forensic examination.

In the Lenadoon area of west Belfast, the crowd had to be calmed down as the police moved in to search a house.

Sinn Fein assembly member Michael Ferguson said the searches were "black propaganda".

"This is an attack on republicans and an attack on the peace process," he said.



Bank Heist: Local man's ordeal--
Cops clueless as more details emerge of what kidnap victims had to go through

Cops carry out forensic examination on Poleglass home after £22million robbery

A family home in West Belfast was yesterday forensically examined as part of the investigation into the robbery of £22 million from the Northern Bank.

The Ward family from Colinmill in Poleglass were held hostage at gunpoint for 25 hours by those behind the heist. Son Christopher (22), who works for the Northern Bank Cash Centre at Donegall Square West, was kidnapped from his home as part of the elaborate robbery plan.

Neighbours in Colinmill say that they are shocked that the close-knit family were held hostage in the area. They have described both Christopher and the other members of the Ward family as quiet people who keep themselves to themselves. It is believed that the family will now require counselling for the ordeal they endured.

Christopher is a leading member of one of the north’s top Celtic Supporters’ Clubs, Eire Go Bragh.

The PSNI have said at this stage that they are not in a position to say who carried out the robbery, but have said that the number of robbers in the gang ran into double figures. They are examining a number of lines of enquiry and said that one of the lines of enquiry they are spending much time looking at is paramilitary involvement in the incident.

The stolen money is made up of £12 million in new Northern Bank £10 and £20 notes, £1.15 million in new Northern Bank £100 and £50 notes, and in excess of £5 million in used notes.

Events began to unfold at 10pm on Sunday night when a number of masked men went to the Ward family home. At home at the time with Christopher were his parents, Rose and Gerry, Christopher’s brother, Gerard, and Gerard’s girlfriend.

The masked men entered the house and at least two masked men stayed with the family for over 24 hours, holding them at gunpoint. Christopher was taken in a red car from Colinmill in Poleglass to Loughinsland Road near Downpatrick, where his supervisor, Kevin McMullan, lives. When Christopher arrived in Downpatrick masked men had already taken over the house. Men dressed as PSNI officers had earlier called at the Co Down house and told Mr McMullan that a member of his family had been killed in a road accident. A gun was then put to the bank official’s head and he was tied up. The man’s wife was taken in a car to an unknown location where she was held for 24 hours.

At around 6.30am the masked men left the house in Downpatrick and gave instructions to the bank officials as to what they were to do. The bank workers went into work at midday and carried on as normal during the afternoon. Both men were working in the cash centre in the basement of the bank in Wellington Street. At 6pm one of the workers left the bank on foot carrying a holdall and walked to Upper Queen Street where he met a man.

The holdall, containing in excess of £1 million in new notes, was handed over to a man wearing a hat and a scarf.

Over the next few hours more money from the cash centre was loaded on to crates. Twice, shortly after 7pm and shortly after 8pm, a white van registration number RCZ 6632, called at the Wellington Street entrance to the bank and took away substantial amounts of cash. The van headed towards Grosvenor Road and the Westlink, say cops. The PSNI will now examine hundreds of hours of CCTV footage from the bank and city centre cameras in an attempt to identify those who took part in the raid.

Detective Superintendent Andy Sproule, who is in charge of the investigation, said that at the time of going to press no arrests had been planned. He said that although forensic examinations were ongoing, he believed that the robbers had been “forensically aware”.

“There is clear evidence that the individuals who took over the houses were forensically aware and that they took precautions so that they could not be forensically traced.”

Christopher Ward and Kevin McMullan are currently being interviewed by the PSNI in a bid to get further information on the heist gang.

“The bank employees are being interviewed as witnesses and the line of enquiry in relation to insider involvement is ongoing but it happens in all these type of enquiries and this is standard procedure,” added the PSNI officer.

The National Australia Bank, which owns the Northern Bank, said the robbery would have no knock-on effect on the sale of the Northern to the Danish Danske Bank Group announced earlier this month.

"The theft is covered by self-insurance and, as such, National Australia Bank will bear the impact of any losses arising from the theft."

Journalist:: Roisin McManus

Irish Echo

Ferry gives up 2-year struggle to stay in U.S.

Ciarán Ferry

By Ray O'Hanlon

Former IRA man Ciaran Ferry could be flying home to Ireland for Christmas. He will leave behind him not just a Colorado jail cell but quite possibly his wife and child. Not to mention his American dream. Ferry's wife, Heaven, and daughter, Fiona, are expected to soon join him in Ireland. Whether they can get a flight before Christmas, however, was in some doubt this week.

Either way, a reunion between Ferry and his family will be bittersweet because he had hoped to raise his 3-year-old daughter on her native American soil.

The imminent end of Ferry's almost two-year battle to avoid deportation became starkly clear in recent days as he faced another Christmas in jail.

Attorney Eamonn Dornan, one of Ferry's team of attorneys, said that Ferry had agreed to withdraw a motion seeking a stay on deportation if he could secure a guarantee that he would be able to return to Ireland by Christmas.

A release from custody in order so spend Christmas with his wife and child in their Colorado home was not going to happen. And even if an unlikely court decision had directed such a release, Dornan said he had it would have been immediately stymied by a government appeal.

"Because the Department of Homeland Security has exhibited such belligerence in this case, there was little reason to expect that it would have immediately complied with such an order," Dornan said.

All the DHS would have had to do was file a form to prevent any early release on bond, Dornan said.

"There was no give whatsoever in this case by the Department of Homeland Security," he added.

Dornan said that he was hoping that the department would, however, abide by an agreement that would ensure a quick flight to Ireland in return for Ferry ending all avenues of appeal.

The withdrawal of "any and all" of Ferry's requests for stay of removal from the U.S. was submitted "sadly but respectfully" in a motion to the U.S. Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals last week by Dornan and Ferry's attorneys in Colorado, Jeff Joseph and Thomas Burke.

Last month, a Colorado judge denied Ferry's habeas corpus plea, which had been before the court for 19 months.

Ferry's continued presence on U.S. soil looked extremely doubtful from the moment the decision was signed.

The court ruling was handed down Nov. 8. Ferry had 30 days from that date to appeal.

Ferry had argued that his detention violated due process and his right to equal protection. He said he was denied his rights because he was prevented from having a green-card hearing following his marriage to his Arkansas-born wife, Heaven.

Ferry has been jailed since Jan. 30, 2003. He was detained when he turned up for the green-card interview with his wife.

Ferry was first held at the Federal Corrections Institution in Englewood, Colo. He was transferred at the end of February to the maximum-security wing of Denver County Jail. In September 2003 he was moved to the Jefferson County Jail in Denver. He has been held there since.

Ferry, through his lawyers, argued that he was treated in an arbitrary fashion by the Department of Homeland Security. He also disputed the government's position that he posed a threat to U.S. security. He was supported in this contention by 12 members of Congress who wrote to the DHS on his behalf.

However, in his habeas corpus decision, U.S. District Court Judge Edward Nottingham ruled that while Ferry had been lawfully admitted to the U.S. under the visa-waiver program, he had, under the rules of the program, effectively waived his rights to legally fight deportation on any basis other than a plea for political asylum.

In his ruling, Judge Nottingham noted that such a plea for asylum had been separately denied by U.S. immigration authorities. Nottingham, in denying habeas corpus, stated that Ferry was "subject to removal" from the U.S.

That decision was still in appeal before the Tenth Circuit Court when Ferry decided to end his legal battle.

When he appeared for his green-card interview, Ferry was questioned about a prison term he served in Northern Ireland for IRA-related activities in the early 1990s.

Ferry was arrested in Belfast in 1993 after two guns and ammunition were found in a car in which he was a passenger. He was sentenced to 22 years but was released in 2000 under the terms of the Good Friday agreement.

Ferry, when he first entered the U.S., did not reveal that he had been in prison. He did, however, admit to IRA membership on his green-card application.

This story appeared in the issue of December 22-28, 2004


Premises searched in raid inquiry

A number of homes of republicans are being raided by police investigating the robbery of £22m from a Belfast bank, Sinn Fein has said.

Police said a number of residential and commercial premises in the west and north of the city were searched.

Monday's raid is thought to have been one of the biggest UK cash robberies.

The Northern Bank is considering recalling all its bank notes to prevent the stolen cash being filtered into the economy.

Detectives have issued the serial numbers of 150,000 Northern Bank £10 notes.

The IRA has denied involvement in the robbery. On Thursday, a senior republican dismissed "any suggestion or allegation that we were involved".

They have identified two criminal gangs and three paramilitary factions that they believe are capable of carrying out the robbery.

Meanwhile, the PSNI has denied it botched the operation over the robbery from the bank's Belfast headquarters.

It has emerged police missed the robbers by a matter of minutes.

Officers went to the area after reports of suspicious activity near the Northern Bank headquarters on the night of the raid.

The serial numbers of the stolen notes run from BC8500001 to BC8550000, BC9100001 to BC9150000 and BC9350001 to BC9400000.


Pair without valid visas ‘treated like terrorists’ in US

24 December 2004
By John Breslin

ONE of two cousins detained in the United States for two months after being caught without a valid visa described how they were transported by plane, shackled and surrounded by armed guards.
“It was like something out of Con Air. You’d swear we were terrorists,” said Alan Whelan after he and cousin Cliff, both 23, returned home to Waterford yesterday.

The pair were detained after being arrested by border guards in Montana. They overstayed their three-month holiday visas and after being arrested were held in a number of detention centres.

They arrived back in Ireland at 8am off a flight from Chicago.

Speaking from his home in Ballybeg in the city, Alan Whelan said he was delighted to be home to spend Christmas with his family. He was met at the front door by his father Pat, sister Mandy, cousins and friends. His mother Anne had gone to do shopping for his dinner.

He described how the two were caught. “When we were on the train, the border guards came on and asked if we were citizens. I thought that if I was honest they’d let us through and I said we weren’t citizens,” said Alan.

“He asked for our passports and then they took us off the train and into jail.

“Being in jail and in the detention centres was a nightmare. We were transported from one to another and had to spend 15 hours in a bus, handcuffed, and then 30 of us had to sleep on the detention centre floor.

“The next day we were all put on a plane, with 50 US marshals pointing guns.”

Local TD John Deasy raised the case with the US Ambassador James Kenny and there were even calls for him to appear before an Oireachtas committee.

The pair had been told they could expect to remain in detention for 90 days, so they were delighted to hear they were to return home earlier and in time for Christmas.

Alan said: “I didn’t think we’d be out for Christmas. We met some people who were detained for four years, mainly South Americans and people from the Middle East. We were told the minimum we’d probably be held would be 90 days so it’s brilliant, absolutely brilliant, to be home.”

Alan explained how they were caught. “When we were in Boston, the other Irish people said there should be no trouble with visas unless you got into trouble. We were going by train to Seattle but the Irish in Boston said that even though it would be close to the border, they didn’t think there would be trouble and that the border guards never get on the train. But they do every day.

“Don’t get on a train in Montana!

“Seriously, they don’t seem to bother people in the cities but if you travel around, especially by train, you could get caught. I can’t go back for 10 years but I don’t think I’ll go back anyway. I’m really looking forward to a few drinks and some nice Christmas food. The food in the cells was like chicken feed. And you’d be wrecked trying to get to sleep, it was like a nightmare thinking we wouldn’t be home for Christmas, but now we are and it’s brilliant.” [


Incendiary found in town store

The device was found in Cameron's

A partially exploded incendiary device has been found in a department store in County Antrim.

The device was found in Cameron's, in Ballymena, at about 0920 GMT on Thursday.

The extent of any damage is not yet known.

Dissident republicans have been linked to a recent wave of fire bombings, and police have warned there may be further attacks.

Police are urging keyholders in the town to check their premises.

The attack in Ballymena is the seventh suspected fire bomb attack in five days.

On Wednesday, police passing the Harry Corry premises on Church Street, Ballymena, noticed smoke coming from the property and called the fire brigade.



Were you expecting the PISSNI to admit they fcuked up???

Police deny 'bank robbery botch'

The van, bottom left, is seen close to the bank

Police have denied they botched the operation over the robbery of £22m from a Belfast bank.

It has emerged police missed the robbers by a matter of minutes.

Officers went to the area after reports of suspicious activity near the Northern Bank's headquarters on the night of the raid.

Monday's raid is thought to have been one of the biggest UK cash robberies.

The IRA has denied involvement in the robbery, the BBC has learned. A senior republican dismissed "any suggestion or allegation that we were involved".

Police confirmed that a report of suspicious activity outside the bank was received on the night of the robbery.

It is understood a traffic warden called police to report two men acting suspiciously after a white van was spotted parked in a nearby side street.

A foot patrol had been sent to check out the reported suspicious activity and it would now appear those officers missed the gang by just a few minutes.

Detective Superintendent Andy Sproule said: "Police did receive a call from a traffic warden at 20.13 (GMT). Officers were here within five minutes, unfortunately the van appeared to have gone."

He added: When officers arrived here, there was no evidence of a crime. The gates were closed and it was some two hours later that a crime was reported to police - that wasn't the police's fault.

"It wasn't a botched police investigation and I want to nail that quite clearly at the start."

Police say they cannot yet confirm if the reported van was the one used in the raid.

Police put a similar van on display at the robbery scene

Detectives have released CCTV footage of the van.

Detectives said the possible involvement of paramilitaries was a "key line of inquiry".

They have identified two criminal gangs and three paramilitary factions that they believe are capable of carrying out the robbery.

They are comparing the previous activities and methods used by these groups and comparing that with what happened on Monday evening.

Female hostage

At least 10 men are now known to have been involved in the robbery. DUP deputy leader Peter Robinson said there was "considerable speculation that the IRA may have been involved".

"If the speculation emerges as the reality, it would deliver a lethal blow to Sinn Fein hopes of being accepted as suitable for government in Northern Ireland," he said.

Detectives said they soon expected to know the serial numbers of most of the stolen money.

Police said the robbery was carried out by professional criminals who had "clearly done their homework".

The two bank officials whose families were held hostage are being interviewed in depth by detectives who say the process could take several days.


NI lorry driver hijacked as trailer load is stolen

23/12/2004 - 14:03:41

A lorry driver delivering alcohol and cigarettes to a Northern Ireland supermarket was hijacked and held for six hours before being freed, it was revealed today.

The lorry driver – taking goods to Sainsbury’s in Derry – was flagged down by people in a car who indicated there was something wrong with his vehicle.

It happened on the Glenshane Pass, near Dungiven, Co Derry, at around 6pm on Wednesday.

When the driver got out to inspect his lorry and trailer he was confronted by a man with a gun and ordered back into his cab.

At gunpoint he was forced to drive on back roads half-way across the North, through Co Antrim and into Co Armagh.

Police said at Markethill in Co Armagh he was ordered to pull into a lay-by where he was put into the boot of a car.

He was released unharmed but shaken some time after midnight.

A police spokesman said that some time after dumping the driver the hijackers swapped the lorry tractor unit.

The original tractor unit was found near Markethill and the Sainsbury’s trailer – minus its load – at a roundabout on the main Portadown – Armagh road shortly before 7am today.

Police appealed for anyone who saw the lorry on its route across the back roads to contact them.

They also believe it suffered a puncture at some time during the night and asked for anyone who saw a wheel being changed on a trailer to contact them.


Republicans point blame at loyalists for raid

23 December 2004
By John Breslin

REPUBLICANS connected to the IRA have blamed disaffected members of the British security forces and loyalist paramilitaries for the Belfast bank raid.

An Phoblacht, the news service with an inside track on the thinking of the IRA, claimed the robbers had access to precise information on the bank's security. It also reported the gang "confidently operated with local knowledge of the County Down countryside in an area associated with unionist paramilitaries".

The report further said: "The raiders will experience considerable difficulty in capitalising on their success. The haul largely consists of cash in the North's peculiar local currency - although legal tender, is not accepted in Britain and can even be difficult to spend in the North."

Eight ways to launder £22 million

Pubs and clubs: large cash businesses. Paramilitaries have an interest in pubs throughout the island, but particularly the North. Large-scale lodgments of takings, particularly of Northern Bank notes, could lead to a suspicious transaction report (STR).

Bookies and amusement arcades: also large cash businesses, neither are required by law to report suspicious transactions. Again, paramilitaries, particularly the PIRA, would be in a much better position to successfully launder the money as they would have connections in both areas including bookies shops and on track.

Property: dealers in both jurisdictions, along with financial institutions and lawyers, are required by law to make STRs to the authorities. A crooked dealer would still have to filter the money through a financial institution at some point, thereby alerting authorities.

Banks: any large, or even small lodgements in the next few months, of Northern notes will likely trigger a suspicious transaction report. A bank official tempted to lodge money for others faces tough penalties if caught.

Smuggled out of the country: there are crooked banks in various parts of the world that take cash no questions asked. However, one risk is that someone could be caught smuggling the cash.

Spend the cash on resale goods: can only be done in relatively small amounts without raising suspicions and, if the money is split up, there's a greater possibility the weakest links will be caught.


Incendiary found in town store

A store was also targeted on Wednesday

A partially exploded incendiary device has been found in a department store in County Antrim.

The device was found in Cameron's, in Ballymena, at about 0920 GMT on Thursday.

The extent of any damage is not yet known.

Dissident republicans have been linked to a recent wave of fire bombings, and police have warned there may be further attacks.

Police are urging keyholders in the town to check their premises.

The attack in Ballymena is the seventh suspected fire bomb attack in five days.

On Wednesday, police passing the Harry Corry premises on Church Street, Ballymena, noticed smoke coming from the property and called the fire brigade.


IRA denies £22m bank raid

Suspicious activity was reported in a nearby side street

The IRA has denied involvement in the robbery of £22m from a Belfast bank, republican sources have told the BBC.

Monday's raid at the Northern Bank's Belfast headquarters is thought to be one of the biggest UK cash robberies.

A senior republican source said: "We are dismissing any suggestion or allegation that we were involved."

The IRA is one of five paramilitary groups or criminal gangs which the police believe was capable of carrying out the raid.

Meanwhile, police say that a report of a suspicious van outside the bank on the night of the robbery was in fact made on the previous evening.

£12m in new Northern Bank £100 and £20 notes were taken
£5m of assorted used NI banknotes were taken
£1.15m of new Northern Bank £100 and £50 notes were among the stolen cash
Four people were held hostage at a house in Poleglass on the outskirts of west Belfast
Two people were held in County Down
A woman was held blindfolded for more than 24 hours
45 detectives are working on the case

Detectives said the possible involvement of paramilitaries was a "key line of inquiry".

They have identified two criminal gangs and three paramilitary factions that they believe are capable of carrying out the robbery.

They are comparing the previous activities and methods used by these groups and comparing that with what happened on Monday evening.

At least 10 men are now known to have been involved in the robbery.

Police appealed on Wednesday for help in tracing a "distinctive" white box van which had been used to load the cash from the Wellington Street entrance of the bank on two occasions.

Detectives said they soon expected to know the serial numbers of most of the stolen money.

Police said the robbery was carried out by professional criminals who had "clearly done their homework".

The two bank officials whose families were held hostage are being interviewed in depth by detectives who say the process could take several days.

Police say they want to establish how the gang knew which staff to target.

A female hostage held during the raid raised the alarm after scrambling through a forest.

The raid at the Northern Bank's Belfast headquarters is thought to be one of the biggest UK cash robberies.

The robbers stole millions from the vaults of the bank in Donegall Square West on Monday as the families of two bank officials - one at Downpatrick, County Down, and the other at Poleglass near Lisburn - were held hostage.

The bank officials are Kevin McMullan from Downpatrick and Chris Warde from Colinmill in Poleglass.

Senior investigating officer Andy Sproule appealed for help in tracing a "distinctive" white box van which had been used to load the cash from the Wellington Street entrance on two occasions.

The van was so unusual that police had so far been unable to find a similar one to put on display, said the detective superintendent.

Kevin McMullan's wife Karen - wearing blue overalls and soaking wet trainers, made her way to a house near Drumkeeragh Forest Park at about 2200 GMT on Monday.

She was in a distressed state, but was reluctant to tell the male householder too much about the incident as she was concerned about her husband. However, she said she had been a hostage in a bank robbery.


**This is an American issue, but because it involves the inhumane treatment of animals, I am including it here so that more people might see it and help. The wording is an edited version of two different emails.

"If people around the world could actually witness the brutal killing of a wolf by aerial gunning, I know they would rise up and stand with us against this slaughter But the Alaska Board of Game and Governor Frank Murkowski don't want the media to spotlight this carnage. They know that the last time the national media covered such wolf atrocities, public outrage caused the barbaric practices to stop.

The Board of Game has started issuing hunting permits. At least four wolves have already been killed - and this is just the beginning. Trophy hunters are now using airplanes to gun down wolves or run them to exhaustion, then land and shoot the helpless animals. 900 more wolves could die this winter - this is in addition to the 147 already killed under this barbaric practice.

SIGN THE PETITION. We've already flooded Governor Murkowski's phone lines,demanding an end to the aerial killing of wolves in Alaska. Let's keep up the pressure: 907-465-3500. The Federal Airborne Hunting Act (FAHA) was passed in 1971, in large measure to stop the aerial wolf killing in Alaska. Alaska's current practice is in clear violation of this law. Sign this petition to urge President Bush to enforce FAHA in Alaska to stop the aerial gunning of wolves:


VIEW THE BRUTALITY. Generous support in these past few weeks has enabled Defenders of Wildlife to produce a powerful flash video depicting the horror of aerial gunning, with a strong warning to potential viewers because it graphically shows wolves being killed from airplanes. This video depicts a brutality that can no longer be ignored:


Now we need to spread the word. When people see what's really happening in Alaska, I know they will join us in opposing aerial gunning. Please take a moment to send an email to the major news networks urging them to cover the planned killing of 900 wolves in Alaska. We need to generate as many emails as possible to get their attention. Thank you."

American National Network News Links:

ABC News: NETAUDR@abc.com Subject: World News Tonight
CBS News: Go to CBSNews.com and click on contact us to use their Feedback Form.
CNN: Go to CNN.com and click on contact us to use their feedback form.
FOX News Channel: comments@foxnews.com
MSNBC: viewerservices@msnbc.com
NBC News: Nightly@NBC.com

To contact Defenders of Wildlife please go here: HERE.



Burnt-out car found in hunt for Belfast bank raiders

22/12/2004 - 08:12:35

Police in the North are carrying out forensic tests on a car found burnt out in a forest park in Co Down to determine if it had any link with this week's multi-million pound bank heist in Belfast.

A gang of up to 20 men escaped with around £27m (€39m) in used notes from the headquarters of the Northern Bank on Donegall Square West.

The raiders took the families of two senior employees hostage on Sunday night and forced the pair to allow them into the premises at close of business on Monday.

The gang then proceeded to empty the vaults and move the money out of the bank in at least one lorry.

Police are still unsure of there was any paramilitary involvement, but said the robbery was well-organised and carried out with military precision.


Shop damaged as firebombers strike again

22/12/2004 - 08:14:39

A furniture store was damaged overnight as firebombers behind a wave of attacks on shops across Northern Ireland struck again.

As firefighters fought a blaze caused by two incendiary devices at the Harry Corry premises in Ballymena, Co Antrim, a third bomb ignited.

No-one was injured, but brigade chiefs said the crew had been put in danger.

With six attacks in four days, police commanders believe dissident republicans are behind the campaign to cause major disruption over Christmas.

Other retailers in Ballymena, Magherafelt and Maghera were also warned to check their premises.

In the latest incident, a police patrol spotted smoke billowing from the shop on Church St at around 3am.

Fire station officer Mark Beresford hit out at those who tried to destroy the store.

He said: “It makes me sad that we have come back to this, and to a degree angry at the fact that this has started to happen again.

“But the crews and the officers are all well trained to deal with this type of incident and they know how to minimise the risk to their personnel.”



There is no inclusion in the new agreement

(Mark Durkan, Irish News)

Sinn Féin and the SDLP have clashed on the merits of the potential
deal almost agreed between the DUP and republicans. Here SDLP leader
Mark Durkan argues that the proposed new deal would weaken the
fundamentals of the Good Friday Agreement, while Sinn Féin president
Gerry Adams says the SDLP is wrong and arguing against the deal for
party-political reasons.

The governments have published a new "Comprehensive Agreement" so the
public can debate it.

As a party that did not negotiate this "Agreement" we believe there
is a lot to debate – and it's not just about photos.

First, to be clear: there are things in the 'Comprehensive Agreement'
that the SDLP warmly welcomes.

We welcome the IRA's commitment to decommissioning.

We welcome the DUP's commitment to power-sharing.

Both of these are requirements of the Good Friday Agreement. We want
to see them delivered – not just on paper but on the ground.

The SDLP does not want to jeopardise any of this important progress.

But we also cannot be dishonest with the electorate.

Where there are problems, we have to say so.

That's why we are upfront that this new Agreement weakens important
fundamentals of the real agreement – the Good Friday Agreement.

When the SDLP negotiated the Good Friday Agreement, we insisted all
parties should have the right to be included in government on the
basis of their democratic mandate – no more and no less.

That's why the DUP and Sinn Féin were both entitled to their seats in
government even though they did not vote for Seamus Mallon and David
Trimble as First and Deputy First Minister.

That's gone now.

Now if the SDLP – or any party – registers dissent with the new
regime introduced by this deal and the changes to the Good Friday
Agreement, we will be automatically excluded from government. That's
automatic exclusion – without a debate, without a vote and without
having done anything wrong.

This is totally unprecedented. It is against the Agreement – and it
is against the whole principle of inclusion.

Inclusion is about respect for difference and respect for all
mandates. Automatic exclusion strips away and shatters both of these.

The governments say that it was not the DUP that put automatic
exclusion into this deal.

We want to know who did, and why? Why does any party want others to
be automatically excluded, especially when this 'Comprehensive
Agreement' is meant to end all the problems and difficulties of the
last few years?

The damage to inclusion does not stop there.

The DUP have also got a veto over the appointment of nationalist

That's because the Executive now has to be voted in by a majority of
unionists and a majority of nationalists in the Assembly.

The DUP has the majority of unionist votes.

So if they don't want a nationalist or a republican to hold for
example the sensitive education or justice portfolios, all they need
do is threaten to vote against the new Executive if this happens.

Sinn Féin at first denied that this was a new veto.

Now, however, they accept that it is – but argue that it doesn't
matter because if the veto is exercised, there will have to be fresh
Assembly elections. But that won't scare the DUP.

They will be happy to seek the backing of the unionist electorate for
their stance.

The damage to the Agreement goes further still.

The DUP has also won a veto over the decisions of nationalist
ministers, exactly what the SDLP argued against and resisted at Leeds

There are problems on North/South too.

We welcome the commitment to the North South Parliament-ary Forum –
which the last Executive already agreed.

But given that the DUP in government refused to work in the North
South Ministerial Council, they should have been pressed to agree
upfront to new areas for North South cooperation and implementation.

That way nationalists would know that their obstructionist tactics
were over.

Instead, there is a review of North South which could recommend more
North South work – or less. Either way, the DUP can stop anything
going ahead. And it does not end there.

The DUP has been given secret "clarification" on over 40 separate
issues from the British government. Apparently, no other party has
seen this clarification.

We are demanding that it be published – and the public have the
chance to debate it too.

How did all this come about? By private negotiations between the DUP
and Sinn Féin, using the two governments as intermediaries. The
secretive and exclusive nature of those negotiations allowed parties
to put their own private interests – and private armies – ahead of
the public interest.

Instead of resisting vetoes which the DUP will use to humiliate
nationalists again and again in government, Sinn Féin worried about
the governments' compromise proposal on photos.

Instead of getting the Good Friday Agreement honoured by all parties,
the DUP got a contrived "Comprehensive Agree-ment" to supersede it.

Instead of the Agreement's inclusive politics, we have the politics
of automatic exclusion – to be used against parties that register
their concern about the dilution of the Agreement.

If that is not a weakening of the Agreement's fundamentals, then
nothing is.

December 21, 2004


Warning as shops targeted in fire blitz

21/12/2004 - 09:00:01

Police chiefs in Northern Ireland today warned that people’s lives were being put at risk by a spate of firebombs.

Assistant Chief Constables Duncan McCausland and Peter Sheridan issued a joint appeal to shoppers and retailers to be extra vigilant after incendiary devices were discovered in stores across the North.

They launched a fierce attack on the dissident republicans believed to be responsible for the recent incendiary devices, which have caused serious damage and major disruption.

“Lives could have been lost or people seriously injured. The quick thinking of staff and the emergency services has prevented this so far but we cannot be complacent,” they said in a joint statement.

They urged business owners and managers to review security measures and check premises thoroughly both during and after trading.

“All right-thinking people should be appalled by these attacks. As the season of goodwill approaches, some elements of society are intent on causing destruction and putting lives at risk.

“These attacks also threaten the jobs of ordinary people in communities across Northern Ireland.”

The statement followed the destruction of a large store in a suspected firebomb attack on the outskirts of north Belfast.

The blaze broke out in the stationery section of the Poundstretcher shop in Newtownabbey shortly before midnight.

As fire crews arrived to fight the blaze, it threatened to spread to nearby electrical premises.

It was the latest in a series of incidents which have sparked fears of a Christmas bombing blitz in the province.

Although the cause of the fire has not yet been established, keyholders of stores in the vicinity were urged by police to return and check their premises for incendiary devices.

Yesterday it was confirmed that a blaze at a major DIY store was caused by an incendiary bomb.

The B&Q superstore on the Sprucefield retail park outside Lisburn, Co Antrim, was extensively damaged in an overnight fire.

It took more than 100 firefighters several hours to get the blaze, which started in the rugs department, under control.

The rest of the store, which opened earlier this year, was damaged by smoke and water from the sprinkler system.

Police called those responsible for the arson attack “mindless criminals”.

Lisburn district commander, Chief Inspector Ken Henning, urged all businesses to exercise “extreme vigilance”.

Last night, a partially-exploded incendiary bomb was discovered by staff in a Homebase DIY store in Derry.

Only minor damage was caused to the shop on the Crescent Link retail park.

Police urged store holders throughout the city to return to their premises and search them for incendiary bombs.

Meanwhile, a fire which caused (euro)145,000 damage to a carpet store at another retail park in Derry on Sunday morning is also believed to be the result of arson, though forensic tests have so far proved inconclusive.

Another viable device was found in a sports shop in Newry, Co Down, on Saturday night.


UK charity pulls out of Darfur

Rafe Bullick (right) is among the charity's employees killed recently

UK-based charity Save the Children is pulling out of the troubled Darfur region of western Sudan after attacks that have killed four of its staff.

The charity said it was "devastated" it could no longer serve some 250,000 children in the area but the risks facing its workers were "unacceptable".

Thousands continue to pour into refugee camps amid fresh fighting in Darfur.

The latest attack on the agency saw two of its 350-strong Darfur team shot dead on a highway on 12 December.

According to the charity, the workers were travelling in a convoy of clearly-marked humanitarian vehicles when they were shot.

Two Save the Children staff were killed in October when their vehicle hit a landmine.

The charity are one of the larger agencies operating in Darfur.

Mike Aaronson, the charity's UK director, told BBC News world leaders must effect a ceasefire deal before setting out to solve Darfur's political problems.

Decrying the region's "endless ceasefire violations" and its "atmosphere of increasing lawlessness", he called for a stop to "foot-dragging" on the UN Security Council and for more African Union troops to be committed on the ground.

Helicopter fired on

Hundreds of thousands of displaced people remain beyond the reach of humanitarian organisations, says our Khartoum correspondent, Jonah Fisher.

The UN has termed Darfur one of the world's worst humanitarian crises, with some two million refugees relying on aid handouts for their survival.

Tens of thousands of people have been killed in almost two years of clashes between rebels, the army and militia groups known as the Janjaweed.

Khartoum has denied allegations it is backing the Janjaweed.

A small African Union force monitoring a shaky ceasefire between the warring groups has stopped flights over southern Darfur after one of their helicopters came under fire.

Some 200 Gambian troops are due to join the force, but there are still less than 1,000 - a third of the agreed size - to cover an area the size of France.

The government has promised to halt a two-week offensive in the south.

Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo is set to meet Darfur rebels and Sudanese government representatives shortly to determine the course of stalled African Union sponsored peace talks.

He is expected to urge all parties to commit to a new ceasefire and return to positions they held when an earlier peace deal was struck in April.


Meanwhile, the Sudanese parliament has voted to extend the country's five-year state of emergency by a further year.

Reports from Khartoum say the government justified its decision by citing the security situation in Darfur and what it said was the threat posed by opposition groups to the country's oil infrastructure in the north and east.

The Sudanese government is still negotiating with rebels from the south, to try and establish a final ceasefire agreement by the end of the year.



Millions stolen in bank raid

It is understood two employees of the bank were held captive

Raiders have stolen millions of pounds in cash from a bank in Belfast.

The precise amount of money taken from the Northern Bank is not yet known but the bank said it was "significant".

It is understood two employees of the bank and their families were held captive before the robbery took place.

It happened at the bank's headquarters in Donegall Square West in the city.

It is believed it could be one of the biggest cash robberies in the UK.

No figure has been put on the amount stolen, but speculation has varied from between £20m and £30m.

Police were first alerted to the robbery at about 2345 GMT on Monday.

It is believed members of the gang took over the homes of senior officials from the bank.

The building houses the bank's cash centre, where tens of millions of pounds are believed to have been stored.

It is traditionally one of the busiest shopping weeks in the run-up to Christmas and large amounts of cash would have come in from businesses in the city.

The centre also takes in newly printed notes, sorts and distributes them.


A police team headed by Assistant Chief Constable Sam Kinkaid was immediately called in. Its officers specialise in investigating serious and organised crime.

Detectives and uniformed officers are at the bank as the investigation continues.

In a statement on Tuesday, the bank said: "A theft has occurred at Northern Bank in Belfast, a wholly-owned subsidiary of National Australia Bank.

"The theft is being investigated by the police in Northern Ireland and we cannot discuss details at this stage.

"However, initial indications are that affected staff are safe - this is our number one priority."

Earlier this month, the Northern Bank and the National Irish Bank were sold to Denmark's biggest bank, Danske.

The Northern Bank has 95 branches and 30% of the market in Northern Ireland.

Guardian Century

**Reprint of an article published one day after the death of Bobby Sands

How the IRA manufactured a new martyr
Sands' motives are examined

John Cunningham
Wednesday May 6, 1981

Death through self-starvation is a potent political symbol in Ireland, and Bobby Sands is the latest in a line of Republicans to die this way. But more than any previous political figure, his protest combined a bizarre mixture of heroism, idealism, criminality and black comedy.

Sands, who was 27, began his fast in the Maze Prison knowing that failure to persuade the British Government to grant prisoners their five demands - amounting to their being classified as political detainees - would mean, in the logic of his own protest, that he had to starve to death. This he achieved yesterday. It was a largely unspent life, moulded by and following the course of the turbulence in Northern Ireland from 1968. Whilst he was a teenager intimidation forced his family to move in 1972 from Rathcoole, in north Belfast, which was becoming predominantly Loyalist, to Twinbrook in the west, a staunchly Republican area. He was an apprentice coachbuilder.

At 18 he joined the IRA. He was convicted on armed robbery charges, went on the blanket protest, and died a Westminster MP. He was elected in April by a majority of 1,400 votes for Fermanagh and South Tyrone, a constituency in which he had never set foot as a candidate. The decision to nominate Sands as a British parliamentary candidate was one of the most bizarre tactics in the IRA's campaign to focus world attention on the man whom Ulster Loyalists angrily dismissed as a convicted criminal. But the activities of the two groups of protesters - the three men who refused food along with Sands, and the group who fasted from October 27 last year - not only grabbed the headlines. Their protest itself has fixed the direction of a phase of the Republican struggle in Ireland, even though the IRA leadership was at first opposed to hunger strikes.

"The hunger strikes went ahead against the express wishes of the movement," says Danny Morrison, editor of Republican News. "But once they started, we were 1,000 per cent behind them."

Sands's real value to the IRA began once he was in prison. Outside, he was a willing but rather unsuccessful participant in raids and bomb attacks. He was sent to prison first in 1973 for five years for robbery, and attempted robbery. He was at liberty for only six months, until September 1977, when he was imprisoned for 14 years on two charges of possessing a gun.

True, he joined the Provisionals when he was 18, and said of his decision: "I had seen too many homes wrecked, fathers and sons arrested, friends murdered. Too many shootings and blood, most of it our own people." But it was prison which really radicalised him.

During his first term in Long Kesh he was a "special category" prisoner, enjoying the privileges for which he later went on strike. This was because a three year component of his sentence was for being a member of a banned organisation, the IRA.

But by the time he had returned to the Maze, in 1977, after a second set of charges, special category status had been abolished (for crimes committed after March 1976). So he became an H-Block protester. The blanket became the uniform of dissent, instead of Prison clothes, and Sands took part also in the Dirty Protest, which was terminated only in March this year.

The H-Block protest itself was for some time regarded as a distraction from the main thrust of the struggle by the leadership of the IRA. Danny Morrison, a close friend of Sands, says, "The H-Block business was a millstone round the neck of the Republican movement for four years."

The foulness of the cells, whose walls had been smeared with excrement, and the physical conditions, in which prisoners were naked, can never be appreciated fully by outsiders. It was pressure of H-Block prisoners which compelled the Republican leadership to endorse the hunger strikes, against its better judgment. The hunger protests themselves were a desperate act by the men on the blanket.

Danny Morrison sees it as "no accident" that the hunger strike started after four years at the Maze because the IRA was looking for a solution.

If the Dirty Protest and the hunger strikes had not happened, the movement would have been concentrating on local issues of discrimination in Northern Ireland, building up public anger and trying to put international pressure on the British Government to end partition.

However, with the H-Block as the issue making the running in the campaign, Bobby Sands began to move from his position of an unimportant blanket prisoner, first to be public relations officer for the Maze prisoners, then, last year, to be "officer commanding" of IRA prisoners.

Danny Morrison explains: "He was always politically mature, and in the Maze he was a surrogate father for young blanket men. He succeeded Brendan Hughes as O.C. when Hughes went on hunger strike."

It was Sands' willingness to adhere to instructions from the Provisional leadership which first led to his enhanced status in their ranks. Later, when the hunger strikes got under way, it was his inflexible resolve which became the dominating trait.

Sands was largely responsible for negotiations which terminated the first hunger strike. However, this was not clearly construed as a victory for the Provisionals.

It was Sands's own dissatisfaction with the outcome of these talks which led him to start a fast himself. In this he, as a participant, would be in the best position to judge if the British Government was unequivocally acceding to his demands. The outcome of that protest became clear yesterday.

Bobby Sands' testament has been available almost from the beginning of his fast. Twelve of the articles he wrote on scraps of lavatory paper and smuggled out of the Maze over the last three years have been published in a booklet by Sinn Fein in Dublin.

"There have been many attempts to break my will but each one has made me more determined. I know my place is here with my comrades," he wrote in September 1978.

But the physical and mental deprivation was searing his personality. "I think of the only break in the monotony, the 40 minutes I spend at Mass each Sunday - 'turn the other cheek', 'love thy neighbour' - and I wonder, because I know that bitterness has grown inside me. A hatred so intense that it frightens me."


Mexican rebel chief writes novel

The Zapatistas want greater autonomy and indigenous rights

Mexico's Zapatista rebel leader Subcomandante Marcos has joined forces with the country's top crime writer to pen a novel.

The third instalment of Muertos Incomodos (Awkward Dead) was published in the newspaper La Jornada on Sunday.

Paco Ignacio Taibo II and the masked professor-turned-rebel are writing alternate chapters of the tale, said to be based loosely on Marcos' real story.

The novel is set to be published across the Spanish-speaking world and Italy.

An English version of the book may follow, which has reportedly boosted La Jornada's Sunday sales by 20%.

Zapatista investigator

Mr Taibo received a hand-delivered proposal to co-author a novel with the Zapatista chief.

"I started off thinking, 'This is ridiculous'," he said, quoted by Britain's Guardian newspaper.

But then I said to myself, 'Paco, when have you ever shied away from something crazy'."

"We all know that it will not be an innocent novel."
Paco Ignacio Tabo II

Within days the first instalment was published in La Jornada. The newspaper has run previous pieces by Marcos, whose group prompted a 1994 uprising in the southern state of Chiapas to improve the lot of indigenous Indians.

Reports say Marcos is writing chapters 1, 3 and 5, which will centre on a Chiapas-based Zapatista investigator named Elias Contreras.

Mr Taibo will reportedly write chapters 2, 4 and 6, focusing on the Mexico City escapades of a detective in his previous novels.

''Our pact is based on the idea that we are going to write a novel together,'' Mr Taibo, a Zapatista sympathiser, told the Associated Press.

"We all know that it will not be an innocent novel."

Demands by the Zapatista National Liberation Army (EZLN) for greater autonomy and indigenous rights have been largely peaceful since the violence of January 1994, when at least 150 people died in clashes.


Firebomb warning to shopkeepers

A fire at a B&Q warehouse was started by an incendiary device

Keyholders of large stores in Derry were asked to return to their shops after an incendiary device partially exploded on Monday night.

The Homebase store in the Waterside was evacuated about 2100 GMT but only minor damage was caused.

The store is in the Crescent Link area of the city where a fire broke out at a Carpetrite shop on Sunday.

Earlier, police confirmed a fire at the B&Q DIY store near Lisburn was started by an incendiary device.

Extensive damage

More than 100 firefighters were involved in tackling the blaze at the warehouse in Sprucefield Retail Park on Sunday night.

There was extensive damage to the rug department and smoke damage to the rest of the property.

At one stage 20 fire engines attended the blaze, which took eight hours to bring under control.

Democratic Unionist Party MP for Lagan Valley, Jeffrey Donaldson, condemned the attack.

A blaze destroyed a large carpet shop in Derry

He said: "Those responsible have absolutely nothing to offer the people of this province and are only seeking to drag us backwards.

"In the run up to Christmas, this is a serious blow to the local economy."

Meanwhile, forensic tests after the blaze on Sunday morning at the Carpetrite store at the Crescent Link complex, have not established the cause.

The fire, which caused £100,000 of damage, was so fierce that it took 40 firefighters three hours to bring it under control.

Police said that a "detailed and thorough" examination was carried out and the cause of the fire is, as yet, "undetermined".

Inquiries are continuing.


News Letter

Former Provo May Be Jailed

By Ian Starrett
Monday 20th December 2004

A former Provisional IRA man who has declined to appear at the Bloody Sunday Inquiry could be jailed tomorrow.

Known as PIRA 9, he has been referred to the High Court in Belfast by Lord Saville's tribunal for ignoring a subpoena to give evidence at the Government-ordered probe into the shooting dead of 13 civilians in Londonderry in 1972.

Said to be a senior member of the Provos at the time, he could be jailed for contempt.

Lord Saville's inquiry has wrapped up its multi-million pounds operation at Londonderry Guildhall, where it had been based for four-and-a-half years.

If PIRA 9 - who has refused to give a statement or to meet Bloody Sunday tribunal lawyers - changes his mind he could yet appear before a reconvened session of the inquiry, which is expected to take place in Londonderry Courthouse early in the New Year.

The tribunal may also hear from Witness X, who asked to be excused from giving evidence on safety grounds.

A second man, said to be commanding officer of the Official IRA on Bloody Sunday, now says he wants to give evidence to the inquiry. He was earlier excused from giving evidence on medical grounds.

News Letter

Tell People What's Been Agreed - SDLP

Monday 20th December 2004

SDLP leader Mark Durkan has called for greater transparency about the secret negotiations leading up to the " comprehensive agreement".

He said the new "comprehensive agreement" introduces automatic exclusion against any party that registers dissent with the new regime introduced by this deal and the changes to the Belfast Agreement.

"That's automatic exclusion - without a debate, without a vote and without having done anything wrong.

"This is totally unprecedented. It is against the Agreement and it is against the whole principle of inclusion. Inclusion is about respect for difference and respect for all mandates. Automatic exclusion strips away and shatters both of these. "The governments say that it was not the DUP that put automatic exclusion into this deal. We want to know who did and why. Why does any party want others to be automatically excluded - especially when this 'comprehensive agreement' is meant to end all the problems and difficulties of the last few years?

"Surely, the public is entitled to some transparency about this.

"The DUP have been given secret "clarification" on over 40 separate issues from the British Government. Apparently, no other party has seen this clarification."

Belfast Telegraph

Bogota three case for Europe

By Noel McAdam
20 December 2004

As the hunt for the Colombia Three went on, Sinn Fein today said it would raise their cases with the European Union.

The party held a press conference at lawyers' offices for the three men in Bogota as it emerged no decision had been made on an appeal against last week's verdict.

A party spokesman also made clear it had no idea where the three men - sentenced to 17 years in prison last week - are.

As a Sinn Fein delegation arrived in Bogata, it was suggested the trio - Niall Connolly, Martin McCauley and James Monaghan - could be in Cuba, Ecuador or Brazil.

The trio disappeared while on bail awaiting the court of appeal decision after their original acquittal on charges of having trained FARC guerillas back in April.

Assembly members Gerry Kelly and Caitriona Ruane said the verdict was a "travesty of justice of international proportions".

Ms Ruana, chairwoman of the Bring Them Home campaign, said: "Having met with the lawyers we are now exploring every legal option left open to the men. The lawyers are currently consulting experts in relation to this.

"We are planning to bring the case of these three Irishmen and EU citizens to the EU parliament.

"This campaign will continue, intensify and internationalise these cases.

"We are not prepared to accept this blatant violation of (their) rights."

Belfast Telegraph

Sinn Fein dismisses 'hoax' IRA weapons calendar

By Alison Bray
20 December 2004

Sinn Fein last night denied any knowledge of an apparent IRA 2005 calendar that shows colour photographs of provos posing with guns.

The calendar, entitled the Republican Resistance Calendar, contains photographs of figures in balaclavas and camouflage gear posing in shooting stances and holding various weapons, including AK 47s and other assault rifles, in the apparent training photos.

A Sunday tabloid newspaper published the photos yesterday, claiming the calendar was bought by a reporter at Sinn Fein's headquarters on the Falls Road in Belfast for €7.30. The reporter, posing as a Republican sympathiser, claimed he was told the photographs are recent.

However, the origin of the calendar and whether the pictures it contains are real or posed could not be confirmed last night.

Sinn Fein spokesman Michael Nolan denied the party has any knowledge of the calendar.

"I'm not aware of it," he said last night. "The only official Sinn Fein calendar is on our website. I'm not sure where this is coming from."

The official 2005 calendar marks the party's 100th anniversary with a special commemorative edition, depicting such events at the 1916 Rising, the hunger strikes in the '80s and the War of Independence.

Meanwhile, it has been suggested the resistance calendar was published as a hoax in light of the controversy surrounding the stalled Northern Ireland peace process and the DUP's insistence on photographic evidence of IRA arms decommissioning.


Remembering Emma Lynch and Christopher Shaw

ONE YEAR ON: Community to come together to pay tribute to tragic Emma (8) and Christopher (11)

The community in Clonard will unveil a plaque this weekend in memory of two children who died following a tragic road crash shortly before Christmas last year.

Christopher Shaw (11) from Valleyside Close and Emma Lynch (8) from Pollard Street died after being struck by a car on the Springfield Road on December 19 last year. Christopher was killed instantly and Emma died in hospital three days after the crash. (**stories here)

Christopher’s brother Darren was also seriously hurt in the crash. The brothers had been out walking with their father, sister and little Emma when the car struck them on the Springfield Road.

The tragedy shocked the entire community in West Belfast.

Daniel Jack from the Clonard Residents’ Association said that it is fitting that the children should be remembered.

“This was a tragic event and we thought it would be fitting to have a plaque in memory of Christopher and Emma.

“We will have a short prayer service and local children will hopefully be singing carols. I would invite local people to come along and remember the children,” he added.

The service will take place at the junction of Crocus Street and the Springfield Road at 7.45pm on Sunday.

Masses in remembrance of the children will be held in St Paul’s Church at 12 noon on Sunday December 19 and in Clonard Monastery at 6.15pm on Tuesday 21 December.

Journalist:: Staff Reporter


Double tragedy at Christmas

Exactly 40 years ago this week the tragic deaths of two young boys in a devastating house fire shocked the Falls Road. Today for the first time the McCrory family – originally from English Street in the Pound Loney – speak about the tragedy and the boys’ Christmas Day burial in 1964

In the soaring blaze, which resulted from an electrical fault in their Pound Loney home, brothers Cornelius and Gerard, aged just four and eight, lost their lives through smoke inhalation as they lay, wrapped in each other’s arms on the night before Christmas Eve, 1964.
Once part of the close-knit Pound Loney community, their parents Con McCrory and his wife Kathleen, nee Ferris, had lived in their home in English Street with their two daughters, Patricia, 5, Anne Marie, 7, and three sons, Cornelius, 4, Gerard, 8, and Dermott, aged just six months, until the events of that tragic night.
And speaking about the tragedy that shook their world 40 years ago this week, Kathleen and daughter Anne Marie McGlone are still clearly devastated by their loss, and can both remember vividly the events of that horrific night, December 23, 1964.
Now on the eve of the 40th anniversary of the double tragedy, a special Mass has been organised in honour of the two young boys.
“I can remember that night so vividly,” says Anne Marie. “All of us were in bed, there only were two bedrooms, my mother and father were in the front room with the cot and in the back room there were two double beds, myself and Patricia in one, and Gerard and Cornelius in the other.
“And I remember when we woke up and realised there was a fire. I remember my mother, she had baby Dermott in one arm and Patricia by the hand, and she told me and Gerard to hold on to her petticoat, so that we could all get out together.
“My father wasn’t there,” adds Anne Marie, “he was already downstairs trying to control the blaze, and Cornelius wasn’t with us either, but nobody even realised he was still in bed, he never woke up.”
Anne Marie, who was aged just seven at the time, says that the memories of the fire still haunt her even now, and admits that she can still see the thick black smoke that shrouded their home, as clearly as she did on that tragic night.
“We couldn’t even see in front of us,” says Anne Marie, who was regularly left in charge of the other children given her maturity and sense of responsibility for her brothers and sister. “The smoke was so thick and when we got to the top of the stairs we were all holding onto my mother, but the stairs were so hot that I let go.
“And I was holding Gerard, so we were left behind, and my mother didn’t realise because the smoke was so bad. So we let go . . . well . . . I let go.
“We kept going back and forth to the stairs to try and escape, but we were so young and it was so hot and we were scared, and we couldn’t see,” says Anne Marie. “So Gerard and I went back to our parents’ bed and tried to bury our faces in it, because we couldn’t breathe.
“And then the last time I went back to the top of the stairs, I went on my own, and the man from next door was standing there and he just picked me up and took me,” recalls Anne Marie.
“I was just seven, and Gerard was just slightly older than me – and I didn’t think anything of it for years – but, as an adult, I say to myself ‘I could have saved him’. You think that way. I could have said to the man, ‘Oh hold on, Gerard’s here’ and as an adult I say I could have done that, why didn’t I do that?”
“If only I had said, ‘Gerard’ – and Cornelius, he never woke up, and no one knew.”
Suffering further separation after the events of that night, Anne Marie recalls how her family were separated, her mother and father, and baby Dermott going to live with her grandmother, and herself and sister Patricia with an aunt in Beechmount.
“I don’t think we really minded being apart as kids. I understood that my brothers had died, but I don’t think at seven you really understand, or feel how you would if you were older.”
Escaping from their blazing home in only their underwear, Anne Marie tells of the support the local community offered at the time and of the kindness extended to them by their mum’s sister, then Marie Ferris, who was due to get married on St Stephen’s Day.
“My mother had made her sister’s bridal gown and the bridesmaids’ dresses but those were both in the house the night of the fire, so they were gone too.
“Marie got married, as planned, but we got out of the fire with nothing, so instead of going on her honeymoon, she bought us clothes to wear. We had nothing and I still remember her kindness in doing that.
“The two boys were buried on Christmas Day, 1964, and I don’t think the family were ever the same again.
“Our whole family were different, and my mother is very different. You can hardly speak to her over Christmas, and all the family know that now.
“They know the period of Christmas is still so difficult for her, that 40 years on she is still living what happened, but I don’t think you could ever put that to rest, how could you, if you’d lost your children?”
The last happy days before the tragedy are remembered fondly by the McCrory family; decorating their home with beautiful Christmas decorations and ornaments that Kathleen was always so proud of, and the excitement of the children – with the prospect of new toys – emanated through their home.
The two boys were so different. Gerard – a quiet boy with a very kind face, a member of the Boys’ Clonard confraternity, Cornelius – a different more mischievous child, with an eternal twinkle in his eye who loved to run home from school with his coat tied around his neck like a cape, slapping his leg like he was riding a horse. Long gone, but never forgotten.
A Mass will be held in honour of Cornelius and Gerard McCrory, in Clonard Monastery after the evening Novena on Thursday December 23, and all are welcome to attend.

Journalist:: Staff Reporter

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