[R.S.F news] Irish Republican Information Service no 5

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In this issue:

George Harrison remembered in Dublin
Provos in crisis over money-laundering
British police continue harassment of nationalists/Republicans
RUC/PSNI harassment and remilitarisation in Derry
Legislation will have serious implications for civil liberties
Leinster House sub-committee backs criticisms in bomb report
Unionists refuse grant for St Patrick’s Day festival
26-County State forced to pay back elderly €500 million
Councillors claim flag was hidden for Belfast link-up
COI rector speaks out against Cork invitation to Orange Order

ON Saturday, February 19 a tribute to George Harrison, life-long Republican, international revolutionary and Patron of Republican Sinn Féin (1994-2094), who died in New York on October 6 last, took place in Dublin.

The well-attended event, which was by invitation only, was chaired by his long-time friend Cathleen Knowles McGuirk and featured a programme of music, poetry and personal memories of George by his colleagues in Republican Sinn Féin.

Cathleen said that early in his life George came to see that Ireland’s struggle against British imperialism was but one part of the overall anti-imperialist struggle that has been waged by oppressed peoples for centuries. “He was a tireless campaigner for truth and justice, his ceaseless activity directed at addressing liberation struggles throughout the world.”

A clip of an interview with George taped a few months before his death began the proceedings. Each era of the struggle from 1798 on was marked. Seán Ó Sé played The Shan Van Bhocht on the feadóg, following which Dan Hoban, Mayo, gave a brief history of George’s early life in Mayo and his subsequent emigration to the USA and spoke feelingly of George’s great contribution to the Freedom Struggle throughout the decades.

Líta Ní Chathmhaoil recited several stanzas of Speranza’a poem The Stricken Land, written in 1846 as the Great Hunger raged throughout Ireland. Joe O’Neill, Bundoran, then told those present of his memories of George and ended by singing The West’s Awake.

George’s great interest in international struggles was marked by the playing of Joe Hill and the International Brigade and Fergal Moore, Monaghan recited an extract from Pádraig Pearse’s Address at the Grave of O’Donovan Rossa. Richard Walsh, Derry read the 1916 Proclamation and Mary Ward, Donegal spoke movingly of her friendship with George – rebel without a pause – and his hospitality when she was in New York.

Cathleen Knowles McGuirk then recited The Lost Heifer and Róisín Hayden, Dublin, The Last Republicans, both poems by Austin Clarke. Des Dalton, Kildare, read Brendan Behan’s beautiful poem of the 1940s, The Dead March Past.

Andy Connolly, Dublin, sang Seán Sabhat of Garryowen, following which Ruairí Ó Brádaigh paid his tribute to George Harrison, unrepentant revolutionary. Naoimh Rice, Newry read Bobby Sands’ poem The Rhythm of Time.

Séamus Mac Mathúna sung a song he had written after the death of the first four hunger strikers in 1981 as well as an old song about the 1798 Rebellion in Tipperary and he and his wife Úna concluded by singing Róisín Dubh. All those present then sung A Nation Once Again before Cathleen Knowles McGuirk closed the proceedings and Amhráin na bhFiann was played.


BEGINNING on February 16 raids were carried out by the 26-County police in Cork, Louth, Meath, Dublin, Offaly and Westmeath in an operation which resulted in nearly £4 million, mainly in sterling notes, being seized.

Those arrested included a former Provisional councillor and a businessman from the Cork area. On February 16 three people were arrested at Heuston Station, Dublin, one of them from Cork and the others from Derry and more than £54,000 seized in a Daz washing powder box. That night two men were arrested in Cork, one in Passage West and the other in Douglas.

On February 17 a man and a woman were arrested in the Farran area near Cork city and over £2 million in cash was seized. It was reported that senior investigators from special units in the 26-County police, including the Criminal Assets Bureau (CAB), Crime & Security and the Garda Bureau of Fraud Investigations met their RUC/PSNI counterparts at a special security summit at Garda Headquarters in the Phoenix Park on February 18.

It was suggested that at least some of the sterling seized might be part of the proceeds of the robbery of the Northern Bank in Belfast in December.

In a further development a man walked into Anglesea police barracks in Cork and handed over £175,000, saying he had been asked to mind the money by one of those arrested and a man was arrested in Passage West after he allegedly tried to burn sterling notes.

On February 18 Don Bullman (30), Leghanamore, Cork was charged with membership of an illegal organisation at the Special non-jury Court in Dublin. He had been arrested at Heuston Station in possession of £54,000.

All others arrested were released without charge by February 19, files having been sent to the Director of Public Prosecutions. Amongst the premises searched were solicitors’ and accountants’ offices. Both the British and 26-County police said that the operation was an investigation into money-laundering, not into the Northern Bank robbery.

Over the weekend of February 19/20 £437,000 was seized in further raids by CAB officers in Tullamore, Co Offaly, in Dublin, the Millstreet area of Co Cork and Rathmore, Co Kerry.

On February 18 £50,000, identified as being from the Northern Bank robbery, was discovered at an RUC/PSNI social club at Newforge in the Malone area of south Belfast.

On February 23 Ruairí Ó Brádaigh, President of Republican Sinn Féin, said that the current Provo crisis “comes logically from accepting the British-imposed constitutional arrangements and at the same time claiming the historic titles of the Republican Movement. The inherent contradictions have brought about that crisis and have sullied the honoured name of the Movement. The Provisionals cannot have it both ways.”

Five Dublin men were sentenced to four years imprisonment on February 21 at the Special Court in Dublin having being found guilty of membership of an illegal organisation. They were Thomas Gilson (24), Jobstown, Tallaght, Patrick Brennan (40), Clondalkin, Seán O’Donnell (32), Sandymount, John Troy (25), Donard Avenue and Stephen Birney (31), Clontarf.

A stun gun, a CS gas canister, a blue flashing light and a beacon, along with two pickaxe handles, a lump hammers balaclavas and a fake garda jacket were found in the van in which the men were arrested. It also contained a large quantity of Provisional posters, including election posters for Provisional TD for Leinster House, Aengus Ó Snódaigh.

IN A statement on February 21 the PRO of the McKearney/Mc Caughey Cumann of Republican Sinn Féin in Dungannon said that harassment of the nationalist people by the British colonial police, the RUC/PSNI, continued unabated.

The statement said: “Recently in Dungannon the PSNI/RUC mounted a stop and search operation aimed at Republicans and nationalists from the Newwell road area of the town.

“This along with raids on Republican homes in the area and in Coalisland is an effort to raise tensions in the area. The searches started after the brutal murder of a migrant worker living in the area. Two people were later arrested and charged with this crime but still the searching and harassment off the local population continues.

“Republican Sinn Féin calls on the paramilitary wing off unionism to stop this abuse. They clearly enjoy indulging in this kind off behaviour. It is a total disgrace using the murder of a man to stick the boot into the nationalist community but what has angered locals even more is that they say all the police that have taken part in this concerted campaign off harassment were sporting RUC badges on their PSNI uniforms, clearly showing that they remain the same force repackaged.

“Republican Sinn Féin wants to see the total disbandment of this Jekyll and Hyde militia. For too long now they have had a free hand to cause grief and suffering in the nationalist community. The only police force acceptable to the people of Tyrone will be the people’s police in a 32-County democratic Republic.”


A TAXI-driver from Derry has outlined a campaign of harassment against him and his customers by the British colonial police (RUC/PSNI), claiming that they are attempting to cause him to lose his job. It is understood that he is a campaigner for the welfare of several nationalist prisoners.

The man has been stopped by the RUC on several occasions recently, and claims that his fares have been harassed and his vehicle has been tampered with. On one occasion the RUC ran a check on one of his customers and held him after the driver was allowed go on. The taxi driver was told that they had the authority to act in such a manner for as long as they pleased. He found that his vehicle was overheating after the top had been loosened from the water container, and he is adamant that this could only have been done by the RUC/PSNI. The man, who does not wish to be named, is quoted as saying that “this is a punitive, deliberate campaign against me”.

In a separate incident a taxi was stopped and the driver questioned. The RUC then proceeded to question the other occupants of the car – despite the fact that these were paying fares. One of the passengers was a member of Republican Sinn Féin, who was questioned about where he was going and what he was carrying.

It has since emerged that there is an ongoing process of remilitarisation in the Derry City area, with numerous British Crown Forces’ checkpoints as well as increased Crown Forces’ helicopter surveillance/spying activity.


THE Criminal Justice Bill, read [in Irish] to Leinster House in February by Michael McDowell, 26-County Minister for Justice, will give the 26-County police force extensive new powers if passed.

The proposed new powers, which will have serious implications for civil and legal rights, include: increase in detention periods from 12 to 24 hours; allowing a chief superintendent to sign a search warrant in exceptional circumstances; a provision for the admissibility of statements by witnesses who subsequently refuse to testify or retract their original statements; the right to obtain some body samples, such as saliva, without permission and a provision to allow for fixed penalties for lesser public order offences rather than a court case.

He is, furthermore, almost certain to introduce a bill to allow the introduction of electronic tagging; the introduction of ID cards for Irish Citizens and the statutory right to appeal to the courts for a firearm certificate to cater for elite shooters participating in sports events. Some of the proposed powers have been criticised by the Human Rights Commission including the area of a superintendent signing a warrant and the doubling of detention times.

On February 21 the 26-County police commissioner Noel Conroy and the RUC/PSNI Chief Constable Hugh Orde signed up to new all-island police cooperation protocols.

THE Leinster House sub-committee set up to examine the findings of the Barron Inquiry into bombings carried out in the 26 Counties in 1972/73 and 1974 has sharply criticised the British government for failing to cooperate with the inquiry accusing it of being in breach of the Stormont Agreement.

It also singled out the British Secretary for the Six Counties, Paul Murphy, whose argument against the release of official documents had been “totally undermined” by the evidence of Seán Donlon, former secretary general of the 26 County Department of Foreign Affairs.

Paul Murphy had defended the non-release of documents on the basis that it would require a “further major and time-consuming search”. However, Sean Donlon told the sub-committee that the British authorities had already sifted and screened their papers in preparation for the release of official documents.

The sub-committee said it would also consider asking the Leinster House Assembly to specifically address the issue of the Barron Report. It also recommended that the 26-County Justice minister, Michael McDowell, “consider extending the terms of reference of the order establishing a ‘Commission of Investigation’ into the early termination of the Garda investigations and the missing Garda files in relation to the Dublin and Monaghan bombings”.

The Justice for the Forgotten group welcomed the sub-committee’s findings, describing them as a “ringing endorsement” of its concerns.

Greg O’Neill, solicitor for the group said: “It is now clearly a matter for the Irish government and for the Taoiseach to come out publicly and declare that a Taoiseach of this sovereign nation is going to vindicate the rights of the lives of those who were taken in 1972, 1973 and 1974, by moving every diplomatic process that is available to him, and by taking the proceedings which this committee has recommended.”

Bernie McNally, the group’s chairperson said: “Enough time has been wasted over the years and we just hope to see these recommendations implemented as soon as possible.”

ORGANISERS of Belfast’s St Patrick’s Day Carnival say they will be forced to go door-to-door fundraising following the decision by unionists on the city council to withhold their grant of £30,000, this despite the fact that the council are providing “designated sites” for loyalists’ July 12 bonfires as well as providing loyalist groups with up to £50,000 to organise “cultural activities”.

The DUP, UUP and the Alliance Party all voted to deny the grant to the carnival organisers. The PUP’S Billy Hutchinson was the only unionist to vote in favour of grant aid being given.

One of the carnival organisers said that a lot had been done to ensure the carnival did not cause offence to anyone. He said a new multi-coloured emblem had been designed. “We as a committee designed an official logo, a multi-coloured shamrock, which would not be offensive to anybody,” he said.

THE 26-County State will have to repay at least €500 million to elderly residents of state-run institutions and their families. This follows the finding of the 26-County Supreme Court on February 16 to that the Dublin government’s attempt to retrospectively legalise illegal nursing home charges to medical card holders is “unconstitutional”.

The Health Amendment Bill no 2 was rushed through Leinster House in December after 26-County health minister Mary Harney sought and received legal advice from the 26-County Attorney General to the effect that the charging of elderly medical card holders since 1976, for long-term care in state run institutions was unlawful.

However, as if to compound the hurt and anger felt by many people over the whole issue, Mary Harney said she intends to repay the money illegally taken by cutting services. Ruling out an increase in taxes she said funding for services would be cut instead. Asked if the money would come from the health budget, she said this was something the Dublin government would be discussing. “But it will certainly come at the expense of future services in some area,” she said.

The 26-County Supreme Court found that the charges, which had been imposed since 1976, were illegal under the 1970 Health Act as interpreted by the courts in 1976. It found that the attempt to retrospectively legalise the charges involved the “extinguishing” of a property right protected by the 1937 constitution. The court ruled that the imposition of such charges in the future would be within the law.

An inquiry, commissioned by Mary Harney, which is being conducted by John Travers, is to examine how the charges continued since 1976 despite the fact that practice of charge medical cardholders for institutional care was questioned by the 26 County Supreme Court in 1976.


A MAJOR row erupted on February 16 after suggestions that the Tricolour was deliberately hidden and a copy of the 1916 Proclamation was removed from Cork’s City Hall for a twinning ceremony with Belfast City Council.

Cork and Belfast city councils signed the Lagan to the Lee cultural link in Cork City Hall on January 8 during the Cork 2005 opening ceremony.

The project will involve various cultural exchanges between the cities.

26-County President Mary McAleese and Belfast’s Lord Mayor, Alliance Party councillor Tom Ekin, attended the event.

Independent Cork councillor Con O’Connell accused city bosses of hiding the Tricolour and removing the Proclamation from the chamber amid fears they would offend the Belfast mayor.” It was a blatant and gratuitous insult to the people of Cork and to the memory of Terence McSwiney and Tomás Mac Curtàin,” Con O’Connell said.


A CHURCH of Ireland Rector, forced to leave the Six Counties after vicious threats and intimidation from the sectarian Orange Order, spoke out on February 16 about the controversial invitation to Order members to march in Cork’s St Patrick’s Day Parade.

Reverend David Armstrong, 56, a rector at St Mary’s Church in Carrigaline Union, Co Cork, said he felt a deep sense of bewilderment and disbelief when he heard the Cork 2005 office had issued the invitation.

“I fear that ordinary decent Catholic people in the North will see Cork open its doors for this tribe of bigots to march through their streets,” he said. “I feel a desire to tell my Catholic friends in Carrigaline that these people do not march in Cork representing me. You have to stand up as a Christian and say no more bigotry and no more hate. These men have very little to offer us in Cork.”

The Orange Order have subsequently decided against travelling to take part in the parade.

Rev David Armstrong, his wife June, and their children Sarah and Mark, were forced to flee their home in Limavady, Co Derry, in the mid 1980s after extending the hand of friendship to their Nationalist neighbours. They lived across the road from a Catholic Church, which was bombed in 1985.

“I was angry and I spoke out at the time and made it clear I was angry,” he said. “Threats came long. Men in bowler hats who said this was God’s work quoted the bible to me. I was invited to go to the reopening of the church. My colleagues said they were too busy but I said I was going. The Orange Order then opened all their machines to stop me. Every means possible was used. But I went.

“I went through hell, utter hell afterwards. The abuse towards my family was disgusting. And each Christmas Day, the Catholic parish priest, Fr Kevin Mullan, invited me to speak in his church, and I invited him to my church to speak. I paid a very, very heavy price for this. Hell wasn’t hot enough for our family, we were put through the ringer.”

Rev Armstrong said he received a coffin with his name on the plate, wreaths were laid at his door and people would point their hands, shaped like a gun, at him and use finger movements to pull the trigger.

“They would phone up at night with people shouting down phone telling me how my children were going to be killed. They said we know you are changing the route you use to take your kids to school - we’re watching you. We had to flee after long consultation with the security forces.”

The Armstrongs moved to England with the help of Cardinal Tomás Ó Fiach, who described the events as one of the saddest moments in his life.

“In 2000, we came back to our native Ireland, saying ‘thank goodness’ we can live in peace and harmony with our wonderful Catholic neighbours in Cork and we don’t have to put up with those bigots,” Rev Armstrong said of his decision to live in the 26 Counties.

“But I fear we spoke too soon for down they come. The standard of an Orange Parade is a territorial claim -- where they walk they own.

“I am speaking out to keep clear blue water between their behaviour and what I believe. They believe Catholics are not Christian. I am not a parade blocker. There is no use fighting intolerance by physically harming someone. That is wrong.”

But Rev David Armstrong said if the Order takes part in the parade, he and his wife would not attend.

“We ignore bigotry, we turn our backs on bigotry,” he said.


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