Belfast Telegraph

Ulster battered by 80mph winds and torrential rain

By Deborah McAleese
08 January 2005

A ferry from Northern Ireland ran aground today off the west coast of Scotland in hurricane-force winds, leaving 100 people stranded on board.

The P&O European Highlander ran into trouble at Cairnryan when it was hit by winds of more than 100 knots.

The P&O vessel, with 43 passengers and 57 crew on board, is currently sitting on a shingle beach as the weather is making it difficult for tugs to get to it.

The severe overnight storms caused havoc across Northern Ireland.

Weather warnings have been issued to motorists by the PSNI and the Met Office after torrential rain and gales reaching 80mph left a trail of destruction throughout the province.

Trees and power lines have been blown down, several roads have been closed due to severe flooding, ferry crossings have been cancelled and thousands of homes left without electricity.

Three people were taken to hospital after a tree fell on their car at Ballygawley's Martrey Road.

A man was also taken to Lagan Valley hospital after a tree fell on to his mobile home at Dromore's Blackskull Road.

In Belfast a chimney top blew off a house at India Street and landed on a number of parked cars.

More than 33,000 households around the Downpatrick, Newry, Bangor and Craigavon areas were left without electricity this morning after several power lines were damaged in the storm.

Northern Ireland Electricity engineers are continuing to try to restore power to almost 20,000 homes.

There was also extensive flooding throughout parts of Fermanagh with sandbags having to be distributed in Irvinestown.

Stena Line has been forced to cancel all its sailing today due to 'adverse weather conditions' and Sea Cat has been forced to postpone some sailings to the Isle of Man.

According to the National Met Office heavy winds and rain are expected to ease off by this evening, but they may pick up again throughout Sunday and Monday.

Belfast Telegraph

Sinn Fein summit as bank crisis deepens
Calls to leave party out in political cold.

By Jonathan McCambridge
08 January 2005

Sinn Fein's leaders were holding an emergency meeting today to discuss the deepening political crisis sparked by the Chief Constable's assessment that the IRA was responsible for the Northern Bank robbery.

Members of the party's national executive were meeting in Dublin amid growing calls for the political process to proceed without republicans.

DUP deputy leader Peter Robinson today said the Independent Monitoring Commission (IMC) should produce an early report into Hugh Orde's assessment that the Provisional IRA stole £26.5m from the vaults of the Northern Bank cash centre.

He said if the IMC reached the same conclusion, then Sinn Fein should be excluded from government for 12 months.

Mr Robinson added: "Why should the whole of democratic society be held back because one party is so tied to criminality and terrorism that it isn't prepared to move forward?"

However, Sinn Fein figures have insisted the IRA was not involved in the robbery and have challenged the Chief Constable to produce evidence to back up his claim.

Ministers in Dublin and London have now conceded there is virtually no chance of a return to power-sharing in Northern Ireland for at least six months.

Secretary of State Paul Murphy said it was "offensive" that the IRA was planning the Northern Bank heist while political negotiations were going on before Christmas.

But he said there would be no rush to meet unionist demands and immediately exclude Sinn Fein from taking part in a power-sharing government.

"I believe all parties in Northern Ireland have mandates and we have to respect them. But all of us have to respect the mandate of the Good Friday Agreement which is a non-violent, peaceful Northern Ireland."

Mr Murphy is due to meet his Irish counterpart, Foreign Minister Dermot Ahern, next week to discuss London and Dublin's response to the raid. A meeting between Tony Blair and Bertie Ahern will follow.

The Secretary of State will address Parliament about the latest crisis on Tuesday. Mr Murphy said the Chief Constable had demonstrated there was "weighty evidence" that the IRA had carried out the world's biggest cash bank robbery.

But Sinn Fein's Martin McGuinness accused the police of making "politically biased allegations".

He said: "He (Hugh Orde) has not produced one scrap of evidence.

"We are witnessing a renewed attempt to undermine the peace process. We need to think long and hard about who is setting this agenda and why."

Derry Journal

Northern Bank Robbery - Dodgy Money Passed In Derry

Friday 7th January 2005

Police in Derry are investigating several incidents in which Northern Bank notes were offered in suspicious circumstances to financial institutions in the city. The investigation is part of their ongoing probe into the £22 million Northern Bank robbery in Belfast shortly before Christmas.

While yesterday the PSNI would only say that they were 'scouring thousands of hours of CCTV' from throughout the North the 'Journal' has learned there have been several incidents where people have tried to change large quantities of Northern Bank notes in Derry.

Several transactions are thought to have involved attempts to change the Northern Bank notes into euros and dollars.

Police have examined some of the money involved but none of it is believed to have matched the numbers given out by the Northern Bank and they also have examined CCTV footage from several financial institutions in the city.

The PSNI stated: "To date 560 exhibits have been seized, and searches have been carried out some in domestic properties, but mainly in commercial properties.

"A team of detectives will conclude the meticulous series of house-to-house and shopto-shop enquiries within days. Information generated is then coordinated by a team charged with developing and prioritising these new lines of enquiry.

PSNI Detective Superintendent Andie Sproule said: "This is a massive police investigation, it has generated over 600 actions already, numerous searches have been conducted, 560 exhibits have been collected, over 100 full interviews have been conducted.

"Co-ordinating such a large amount of witnesses, searches, and CCTV material is a massive logistical task in itself. This is a very large enquiry covering four crime scenes and it will continue to grow as we get closer to establishing all of the facts and bringing those responsible to justice."


High winds cause power cuts

A man was taken to hospital after a tree fell on his mobile home

Severe weather has caused flooding and uprooted trees across Northern Ireland.

Driving conditions are treacherous with many roads closed.

At one stage, about 68,000 homes were without power. Supplies have now been restored to more than 40,000 of these households.

Counties Down and Armagh were worst affected, particularly Downpatrick, Newry and Craigavon.

Northern Ireland Electricity spokeswoman Julie Carson said engineers were working to repair damaged power lines.

"We have over 400 engineers, linesmen and call handlers reinforcing our ability to restore supplies as quickly as possible," she said.

"Damage has been caused by trees and branches down across lines, and by flying debris which has caused damage to poles and other equipment."

Staff from the river, roads and water agencies have been working overtime to deal with emergencies.

Winds of up to 50 miles per hour are forecast throughout Saturday, especially in the north and west of the province, and heavy and wintry showers are expected to continue.

A man had to be rescued after he was trapped when a tree fell on his mobile home in Dromore, County Down.


UDA on “high alert” for Adair jail release

Over 30 leading figures in the UDA are on “high alert” with the pending release of Johnny Adair from jail.
Speculation has been mounting whether the former C Coy boss will return to the Shankill or go to his wife Gina in Bolton.
A source within the UPRG revealed this morning that concerns had been raised by the UDA with NIO officials about Adair’s release, which is due around January 15.
“The UDA has been on ceasefire and we told the government when they asked us what we were going to do about him. We said to them ‘what are you going to do about him?’ We got no answer.
“I think Adair would be daft to come back to the Shankill.
“With Johnny you just don’t know what he might do. The UDA certainly have put contingency plans in place because where there’s Johnny there’s usually a feud.
“Leading members have stepped up their security and that is the Belfast brigade and the South East Antrim brigade. Really all brigades in all areas and all parts of Belfast are on alert because we’re talking about a loose cannon here.”
One source close to the Adairs said there was no way of telling what Adair would do on his release.
“Given Johnny we’ll only find out on the morning of his release what he’ll do. Johnny will get up and he’ll either say, ‘I think I’ll go over and see Gina and the kids’ or ‘I think I’ll head up the [Shankill] Road’. That will be the way of it.”

Journalist:: Staff Reporter


July March cost £255k

Taxpayers’ huge bill for PSNI operation at Ardoyne march that saw UDA men escorted up Crumlin Road...

The cost of the PSNI operation at Ardoyne that escorted UDA men up the Crumlin Road on July 12 cost the taxpayer a whopping quarter of a million pounds.
And that doesn’t include the cost of the British army operation.
The North Belfast News has learned that the bill for the massive operation that hemmed in nationalists behind barriers of steel to allow an Orange Order march was £255,000.
The PSNI claims it doesn’t cost individual parades, but the department of foreign affairs in Dublin confirmed the cost in a letter to community groups in December.
Cops were criticised by nationalists after they allowed UDA supporters to proceed up the Crumlin Road despite a Parades Commission ruling that banned hangers on.
The decision led to a rift between the PSNI and the Parades Commission and sparked some of the worst civil unrest seen in Belfast for years.
Gerard McGuigan of the Ardoyne Parades Dialogue Group said the damage to the area was not limited to the huge cost of the march.
“It would cost that much to bring in another viable route that would take these marches away from Ardoyne. The damage caused is also to community relations. How many millions have been spent to try and improve community relations to then facilitate a sectarian rabble who have refused to engage in dialogue,” he said.
“Taxpayers are paying for a sectarian march to go past an area where those representing these groups won’t even sit down and talk with the residents.”
The NIO said the cost of policing operations was a matter for the chief constable.
A spokeswoman for the PSNI said the cost of the marching season of 2004 for the whole of the North of Ireland was £5.5 million.
“The PSNI does not break down costings for individual parades,” she said.

Journalist:: Staff Reporter

Irish Independent

SF rejects IRA heist role and demands evidence

SINN Fein's Martin McGuinness has angrily rejected the police assessment that the IRA carried out the Northern Bank robbery last month, dismissing the comments as "nothing more than politically-biased allegations".

Speaking at a press conference in West Belfast, Mr McGuinness said the announcement was just another attempt to undermine the peace process with "not one shred of evidence" from PSNI Chief Constable Hugh Orde to back up his claims.

"This is more to do with halting the process of change which Sinn Fein has been driving forward than with anything that happened at the Northern Bank," said the MP for Mid Ulster.

Mr McGuinness said he had "absolutely no idea" who masterminded the massive bank robbery, but insisted that it was not the IRA.

He challenged Mr Orde to produce the evidence that proves the IRA was involved.

"We live in a society where people are innocent until proven guilty. I would like to see the evidence," he said. "An allegation does not prove guilt in my opinion."

When he was questioned about the trauma which had been suffered by the bank officials and their families who had been held hostage during the raid, Mr McGuinness said he was "horrified" that any family should suffer such an experience.

He said that Sinn Fein would not condone any such behaviour.

But speaking from New York, Northern Secretary Paul Murphy immediately said that the revelation of IRA involvement in the multi-million Northern bank heist had "virtually destroyed" any chance of political agreement being reached before the next British General Election takes place.

Expressing his disappointment following Mr Orde's briefing at a press conference held in Belfast, Mr Murphy said the damage to the peace process in the North had been very grave.

The matter had pushed back the efforts which had been made to break the current deadlock until after the election, which is expected to take place during May.

"I think it is unlikely that we will be able to get a resolution along the lines of what we agreed back before Christmas. I do not think that is realistic between now and the election," he said.

"It is deeply damaging for the process, I think mainly because of the problem of trust and confidence that is necessary between the parties, (which) has been affected by this," he continued.

Mr Murphy said the announcement had created "enormous difficulties" for the British and Irish governments as "that sort of paramilitary activity flies in the face of the Good Friday Agreement".

"The feeling I have, which I guess is shared overwhelmingly by the people of Ireland, north and south, is one of great disappointment," he said.

"We were hoping before Christmas for a real breakthrough, we were nearly there, and this has obviously affected the possibility of that very seriously indeed."

Mr Murphy rejected any suggestions that the process in Northern Ireland was being undermined by elements within British intelligence.

"I know Hugh Orde does not want to thwart the peace process," said the Northern Secretary.

"This was a bank robbery. The idea that you invent a bank robbery to stop the peace process is not realistic.

"It is a criminal act, but because it has been committed by the IRA, which has committed itself to the Good Friday Agreement and the process - this goes against the principles of the Good Friday Agreement," he concluded.

Louise McCall

Sinn Féin

PSNI Campaign Against The Nationalist Community Ongoing

Published: 6 January, 2005

West Belfast Sinn Féin Assembly member Michael Ferguson has branded the ongoing PSNI operation against the republican and nationalist community in North and West Belfast as 'political in motivation and violent in nature'.

Mr Ferguson said:

"Since Christmas Eve the PSNI have been involved in an ongoing operation against the nationalist and republican community in North and West Belfast. The guise for this campaign has been their investigation into the robbery at the Northern Bank.

"It has involved raids on scores of businesses and homes in the majority of cases without any form of warrant. Health Board and Education Board offices have been raided along with a children's play group.

"Unsurprisingly nobody has been arrested and nothing linking any of these raids to any robbery has been uncovered. This campaign is not about solving a robbery. It is about pointing the finger at republicans and it is about trying to frustrate efforts to see a comprehensive political deal agreed. This operation is clearly political in motivation and violent in nature and is causing widespread anger within the broad nationalist and republican community." ENDS.

Sinn Féin

Orde produces no evidence for political allegations

Published: 7 January, 2005

Responding to politically biased allegations made today by the PSNI Chief Constable Hugh Orde linking the IRA to the recent robbery in the Northern Bank in Belfast, Sinn Féin Chief negotiator Martin McGuinness MP said:

"Hugh Orde's comments today are nothing more than politically biased allegations. He has not produced one scrap of evidence. Within days of the robbery at the Northern Bank, and following media speculation and PSNI briefings, which suggested IRA involvement, I asked the IRA about this and was assured that they were not involved.

" We are witnessing a renewed attempt to undermine the peace process. We need to think long and hard about who is setting this agenda and why? This is more to do with halting the process of change which Sinn Fein has been driving forward than with anything that happened at the Northern Bank.

"Sinn Féin has a substantial electoral mandate achieved at the ballot box. We will resist any attempt to marginalise, criminalise this party.

"We have told both the British and Irish governments that Sinn Féin will not countenance any attempt by the DUP, or by the governments or by any one else, to demonise this party.

" The campaigns to smash Sinn Féin, to criminalise and marginalise the republican struggle all failed. Sinn Féin represents the majority of nationalists in the north. The securocrats and the DUP need to come to terms with this political reality." ENDS


Garda charged in Omagh bomb case

Twenty nine people died in the Real IRA attack

Two Garda officers have been charged with perjury relating to the prosecution of the only man convicted in connection with the 1998 Omagh bomb.

Detectives Liam Donnelly and John Fahy appeared in Dublin District Court.

The charges arise from an investigation following the judgement delivered in the case DPP v Colm Murphy, a Garda statement said.

In 2002 Murphy was jailed for 14 years for conspiring to cause the Real IRA explosion which killed 29 people.

Belfast Telegraph

Fake plates in taxi scam
Bogus drivers use black market.

By Deborah McAleese
07 January 2005

Illegal taxi drivers in Northern Ireland are beating the new licensing system by buying counterfeit licence plates on the black market.

It has been claimed that licence plates - made compulsory in November - are readily available at Jonesborough Market in Co Armagh where police raids have targeted para-military and other criminal gangs suspected of a multi-million pound counterfeit trade.

All licensed taxis were ordered to display the new plates by the DoE's Driver and Vehicle Licensing Northern Ireland (DVLNI) to discourage rogue taxi operators.

Under the previous system it was difficult to distinguish between a licensed and unlicensed taxi as the only identifying mark was a disc on the windscreen.

The new system requires vehicles to display the plates at the front and rear, with smaller plates inside.

However, one legitimate Belfast taxi driver said there is a "frightening" number of illegal taxis.

He said bogus plates were readily available at Jonesborough Market and that the scam was pushing insurance costs for legal drivers "through the roof".

"We are all aware this is going on and it is unfair on legitimate drivers who must pay for their PSV, insurance and taxi licence.

"The public must be made aware that this is going on and make sure they book their taxi with a reputable firm," he said.

The cost of a PSV for a taxi, which includes the new plates, is £120 while a taxi driver licence is £58.50.

On the black market fake plates and licences can be bought for as little as £20.

The Department of the Environment today admitted it was aware of allegations that forged taxi licence plates could be purchased on the black market.

Since the introduction of taxi plates in November the Driver and Vehicle Testing Agency enforcement section has detected 30 vehicles alleged to be operating unlicensed and unplated.

Further investigations are ongoing to clarify the details of these cases.


Irish Democrat

**See also The Mass Graves of Ireland

Irish 'famines': acts of god, colonial mismanagement or genocide?

Image Hosted by ImageShack.us
Famine Monument

Peter Berresford Ellis asks whether the spate of 'famines' which afflicted Ireland during the 18th and 19th centuries were caused by acts of God, over- reliance on the potato, or were due to English colonial mismanagement

WHAT MOST British histories call 'The Irish Potato Famine' occurred during 1845-1848. There is usually no disagreement about the results. One million Irishmen, women and children died from malnutrition and attendant diseases while a further one and a half million fled the country, of which up to 400,000 are estimated to have died on what became known as the 'coffin ships'. The famine resulted in a decrease in the Irish population, a devastation so severe that even today it has not recovered its 1841 level.

Was this catastrophe merely because of a potato blight? Are we seriously being asked to believe that, in a country producing wheat, corn, dairy produce, with great herds of cattle, pigs, goats and poultry - enough food to feed three times its 1841 population - that a blight affecting only the potato crop could eliminate 25 per cent of the population in the space of three years?

The people of Ireland call the period An Ghorta Mhór - 'The Great Hunger'.

While we have had numerous studies on 'The Great Hunger', not one historian has so far, to my knowledge, has put it into its real context. It was James Connolly who first noticed that context but never had time to develop it as a theme. 'The Great Hunger' was no isolated incidence but part of a continuing theme through the 18th and 19th Centuries.

In fact, between 1722 and 1879 there were no less than twenty-nine 'famines' and the feature of each one of these great mortalities to the Irish nation was that the great estates of Ireland were producing and exporting to England sufficient produce to feed three times the Irish population.

We have to ask whether these events were acts of God, the stupidity of the majority of the Irish population in being solely dependent on the potato as a staple diet, or were they due to English colonial mismanagement or, indeed, was there some more sinister motive? The word gorta can imply a deliberate starvation.

John Mitchel, in his The Last Conquest of Ireland (perhaps), Dublin, 1861, was the first to argue the case for genocide. He wrote:

"A million and a half men, women and children were carefully and peacefully slain by the English Government. They died of hunger in the midst of abundance, which their own hands created…"

There can be no argument that genocide, the eradication of the Irish nation, was the official policy of the English conquests from the end of the 16th and through the 17th Century, through the implementation of the transplantation schemes.

An idea proposed by the English Viceroy, Sir Arthur Chichester, writing on 22 November 1601, to Lord Burghly. Elizabeth's chief adviser, was specific:

"I have often said, and written, it is Famine which must consume them; our swords and other endeavours work not that speedy effect which is expected for their overthrow."

It was during this period, these devastating conquests that the Irish became reliant on potatoes as a staple diet.

The potato found its way into Ireland in the 1590s. Two decades previously, it had been brought into Spain from the New World and by 1600 was regarded as a popular vegetable in many parts of Europe. As the English conquering armies fought back and fro across Ireland, driving people from the land, and, of course, with the notorious transplantation schemes first approved of by the Catholic Queen Mary Tudor, the Irish became a society on the run. There was no time to grow wheat and corn, to herd cattle, pigs and other livestock that could be captured, driven off or destroyed by the English.

The discovery of the potato was a godsend. It yielded more food per acre than other crops, was highly nutritious, and introduced security for the people. It grew underground and was thus hidden from the rampaging soldiers so that when they left the area, the people could return and dig it up. It was the perfect food for a country with an army of occupation, persecuting and despoiling the natives.

By the 18th Century over half of the Irish population was solely dependent on the potato. But the life saving tuber was also a means of destruction.

With the Williamite Conquest and the introduction of the Penal Laws, 95 per cent of Irish land was in the lands of the conquerors. The Penal Laws applied not only to Irish Catholics but also to all Irish Dissenting Protestants. Only Anglicans had rights in Ireland.

During the 18th Century, some 1,500 absentee landlords owned 3.25 million acres of Irish land, and they lived in London. A further 4.25 million acres of Irish land was in the lands of another 4,500 absentee landlords who chose Dublin as their home. It was after the 1801 Union of the colonial parliament with London, that Georgian Dublin was reduced from a 'capital' to a provincial city and these landlords made for London where, by the 1840s, 6,000 were living and their average income from their Irish estates was between £25,000 and £30,000 per year.

The Irish were reduced to a serf population, working on the great estates, usually for middlemen who managed the estates for the landlords. Initially, they let out to tenant farmers - these were usually Anglican farmers because Catholics and Dissenting Protestants could not take out leases on land.

It was not until 1771 that an Act was passed allowing Catholic Irish to lease up to 50 acres of unprofitable bogland, at a distance of not less than a mile from any major habitation, and for no more the 21 years. The condition was that they had to reclaim the land from the bog, if they did not they were immediately evicted without compensation.

Descriptions of what life was like in rural Ireland for the native Irish during the 18th Century are numerous. Arthur Young in 1776 is often quoted but as an English traveller he had no axe to grind in over emphasising conditions. He was describing a vicious medieval feudalism.

The landlord and his agent were feudal seigneurs. The people had to obey their every whim and order, otherwise they could be punished from merely a beating with a cane or horsewhip to being hanged on the spot. The landlords and agents could summon the wife or daughter of one of their workers to their beds and if refused could punish the worker physically, breaking their bones or worse.

Landlords, driving down roads, could have their servants push peasants' carts into ditches to make a passage for their coaches. Reading such accounts as Young's one is remind of the scenes of Charles Dickens' A Tale of Two Cities (1859) as the Marquis of Evrémonde rides over the peasants in the streets in his carriage and summons a servant girl to his bed. This was the reality of life in Ireland.

The first significant 'famine' began in 1722. Blight attacked the potato crop. Rural workers could not afford to buy food from the landlords at the commercial prices and so began to starve to death. Bishop William Nicolson of Derry describes how a horse hauling a wagon dropped dead and fifty people fell on the carcass and began to eat the meat there and there. At the same time three wagons of rich farm produce, guarded by a dozen soldiers with sabres drawn passed by on their way to the docks enroute for England.

Deaths from the famines of 1722, 1726, 1728 and 1738 were measured in the tens of thousands. But in 1741 half a million people died from malnutrition and related disease.

That year of 1741 became known as Bliadhan an Áir - the Year of the Slaughter. The author of a pamphlet The Groans of Ireland, records:

"Want and misery is in every face, the rich unwilling to relieve the poor, the roads spread with dead and dying bodies. Many, the colour of the docks and nettles which they feed on…'

Other famines followed in 1765, 1770, 1774 and 1783. Again the deaths were counted in the tens of thousands and figures barely recorded. More famines followed in 1800, 1807 and 1822.

It was the same old story. As William Cobbett wrote in his Political Register, July, 1822:

"Money, it seems, is wanted in Ireland. Now people do not eat money. No, but the money will buy them something to eat. What? The food is there, then. Pray, observe this: and let the parties get out of the concern if they can. The food is there; but those who have it in their possession will not give it without money. And we know that the food is there; for since this famine has been declared in Parliament, thousands of quarters of corn have been imported every week from Ireland to England."

If people thought that Catholic emancipation and the likes of the right-wing, monarchy loving, Daniel O'Connell, would save them, the attitude was succinctly summed up by John O'Connell MP, the son of the so-called 'Liberator': "I thank God I live among a people who would rather die of hunger than defraud their landlords of rent!"

So yet another death-dealing 'famine' occurred in 1830 more or less lasting through to 1834 and then another in 1836 before the 'Great Hunger' of 1845-48.

It was the London Times of June 26, 1845, that pointed out:

They are suffering a real though artificial famine. Nature does her duty; the land is fruitful enough, nor can it be fairly said that man is wanting. The Irishman is disposed to work; in fact, man and nature together do produce abundantly. The island is full and overflowing with human food. But something ever intervenes between the hungry mouth and the ample banquet.'

That 'something' was the colonial landlord who used the army and also armed police to protect the ample produce from the starving people. Read through the newspapers of the time and you will find harrowing tales. A cold November in 1849, a starving woman was crossing one of the fields of Sir George Colthurst of Ardrum, Co Cork. She saw a single turnip overlooked on the soil and picked it up. She was spotted, arrested and brought before the magistrates at Blarney. Found guilty, she was fined twenty shillings. She had probably never seen so large a sum in her life. Unable to pay, she was transported to the penal colonies.

And between 1845 and 1853 alone records show that landlords evicted 87,123 families because they could not afford to pay their rents.

Even after this terrible devastation, the colonial landlords became ever more severe in their dealing with the rural workers. And, of course, the artificial 'famines' continued. The next one of significance was in 1879 but that was the spark that produced the Land War.

The Land War came in three phrases. Between 1879-82 it was an often violent struggle between the landlords and tenants. The 1886-91 period, known as the Plan of Campaign, was a struggle to secure reduction of rents to a more reasonable level, recognising the depression in world markets. Then came the 1891-1903 phrase that aimed to transfer the great feudal estates by allowing tenants to purchase the land through a series of Land Acts.

The 1903 Land Act allowed some nine million acres of Irish land to be sold to tenants between 1903 and 1920. But the English ruling class had to have its pound of flesh for the land was not only sold at artificially inflated prices but compensation had to be paid to the landowners.

Upon the majority of Ireland securing independence in 1922, a Treaty clause forced the Irish government to pay twice yearly for this at 1922 exchange levels of £5 million per year. In 1932 the Irish government of Eamon de Valéra refused to continue to pay. The United Kingdom retaliated with an economic war against the Irish state lasting six years. The land annuities dispute almost crippled the already weak Irish economy, suffering the effects of the world 1930s depression. It was resolved in 1937 when Dublin finally agreed to pay a capital sum of £10 million to London.

There is a sad irony in a country, having been invaded, having the conquerors steal the land by armed force, and when the people are finally able to get their independence, then having to pay compensation to their former conquerors for recovering the land that had been stolen from them.

Yet again, on a subject we think has been analysed to the point where nothing more need be said, we find that there are questions that have been ignored much less answered.

This article is the substance of a talk 'Starvation and Emigration: colonial landlordism in Ireland in the 18th and 19th centuries', which Peter Berresford Ellis gave at the Marx Memorial Library, London, November 22, 2004.

Danny Morrison Forum

**I like this post:

Junior Member

Re: Northern Bank Robbery
Mr. Orde has gone on record saying that he is accusing the IRA simply because they are capable of carrying out such a clever scheme.

I suppose from his statement that it could have been the CIA. Afterall, they too could carry something like this out.

As a matter of fact, many organisations come to mind when using the same 'reasoning' as Mr. Orde.

I think the people of Ireland deserve an explanation of his accusation. An explanation that makes sense and not one representative of his sectarian, bigoted opinion.


Northern Bank withdraws its notes

Don Price said the bank was the victim of the raid

The chief executive of the Northern Bank has said he will not be resigning over the theft of millions from the bank before Christmas.

Don Price also announced that the bank is to withdraw almost all of its notes and will replace them with banknotes of different colours.

In his first public comment since the robbery, Mr Price said it was an "unprecedented" move.

Mr Price also confirmed that the figure taken in the raid was £26.5m.

Detailed audit

It had earlier been announced that £22m was taken from the bank's head office in Belfast on 20 December.

The bank had carried out a detailed audit in the days after the raid and knew that the figure was £26.5m, but it was only on Friday that the police allowed it to release that information, Mr Price said.

He was speaking on the day that Chief Constable Hugh Orde said that the Provisional IRA was responsible for the crime.

He said that "all main lines of inquiry currently undertaken are in that direction".

However, there have been no arrests in connection to the raid and none of the money has been recovered.

Millions of pounds were stolen from the bank on 20 December

Mr Price said that confidence in the bank had been "affected" by the raid but not "shattered".

He said that his role was to take the bank forward.

"I have done nothing wrong. We are the victims in this. We are not the ones responsible for the raid," he said.

Mr Price said it would cost the bank about £5m to recall and replace all its £10, £20, £50 and £100 notes.

It currently has more than £300m of its notes in circulation and only its existing plastic £5 notes will remain in circulation.

The withdrawn notes are to be replaced by new notes of the same design - but they will be a different colour, have a new logo, and new prefixes to their serial numbers.

Difficult to circulate

It will take up to eight weeks to print the new notes, and they will be in circulation as soon as possible after that.

Mr Price confirmed that the bank had serial numbers for £16.5m of new Northern Bank notes.

However, the other £10m consisted of £5.5m in used Northern Bank notes and £4.5m in mixed notes from other banks which could not be traced.

Mr Price admitted that the robbers will still be able to spend the old notes.

However, the move to withdraw the Northern Bank notes makes it difficult to recirculate the old notes into the economy in the speedy timescale.

And the bank will be monitoring very closely to check whether the serial numbers of the stolen notes turned up in its recalled money.

Mr Price said: "To my knowledge this is the first time this has been done.

"To minimise the impact on our customers, we are going to take the notes out of circulation ourselves.

"So when we bring notes back into the bank, we will take the old notes out of circulation and we will replace them with the new ones."

Belfast Telegraph

Terror murals: PSNI under fire
Councillor hits out at 'lightweight approach'

By Nevin Farrell
07 January 2005

An SDLP councillor who is the husband of Police Ombudsman Nuala O'Loan has accused a police chief of being "lightweight" in dealing with paramilitary murals.

Declan O'Loan told a meeting of Ballymena's District Policing Partnership that the presence of the trappings of terrorism in the town "is an assertion of paramilitary control and a challenge to the authority of the PSNI in enforcing the law".

But Ballymena commander Supt Terry Shevlin said the murals issue was complex and that in the current climate if police moved against them it would create a worse reaction.

He said murals are something for the whole community to deal with and he urged people with influence to take steps to have them removed.

In the meantime, Mr Shevlin said the police focus is on dealing with terrorist groups involved in crime.

Mr Shevlin said he did not condone murals which were across Northern Ireland in both sections of the community but he said police had to be "practical" about how they deal with them.

On the other hand, Mr Shevlin added that he was "more interested in dealing with racketeering and guns. It's more important for me to go after the people who are behind the symbols."

Mr Shevlin said communities should adopt "mature" positions and move away from paramilitary symbols "of whatever ilk".

Councillor O'Loan said a recent court case found that the putting up of a paramilitary flag was an offence and given the amount of time it takes to erect a mural he wondered what they police were doing.

Mr Shevlin said there are potentially offences when the actions of people erecting murals would give rise to the suspicion that they may have paramilitary membership and if such evidence is available then he would not hesitate to investigate it.

But he said Ballymena police had received no complaints about murals which indicated it was not a policing priority.

Councillor O'Loan felt the answer was "lightweight" and he said the police should not think murals aren't an issue because there are no complaints and he said the murals were designed to intimidate people.

He said it takes more than five minutes to paint a mural and was "disappointed" there is not more of a response from police.

Mr Shevlin said if the whole community demanded action on murals then he would take it on board.

DUP councillor Robin Stirling wondered if it would get to the stage where someone painting a portrait of King William crossing the Boyne would be arrested.

Councillor Willie Wright (Independent Unionist) said loyalists in Ahoghill had voluntarily removed a paramilitary mural and said that that was a good example of how the situation could be moved forward.


Bloody Sunday contempt man jailed

The charge was brought by Lord Saville, the inquiry's chair

A man has been sentenced by the High Court to three months in jail for failing to co-operate with the Bloody Sunday inquiry.

The 49-year-old man, known in court as PIRA 9, is the first person to be jailed in connection with the tribunal.

After hearing his sentence, he shouted: "I am the only man to be punished for Bloody Sunday. It's a disgrace."

After declining an opportunity to "reconsider his position" the man was told to begin his sentence on Monday.

Covering fire

The application to punish the man for contempt of the tribunal was brought on behalf of its chairman, Lord Saville.

The inquiry had received evidence from Paddy Ward that the man had been actively involved in the events of Bloody Sunday on 31 January, 1972, when paratroopers shot dead 13 men.

Lord Saville's lawyer, Bernard McCloskey, said the evidence was that the man had been seen firing at soldiers and that Mr Ward and others gave him covering fire to enable him to make his escape.

Defence lawyer John Coyle referred to a letter written to the inquiry by solicitor Denis Mullan quoting PIRA 9 as saying that Mr Ward's evidence contained such a degree of inaccuracy that it did not merit a response from him.

The Lord Chief Justice, Sir Brian Kerr, said the court was concerned about having to send a person to jail with no previous convictions and adjourned the hearing to allow PIRA 9 to reconsider his position.

When the hearing resumed Mr Coyle said: "My client's attitude is unaltered."


Police say IRA behind bank raid

The IRA has been blamed for the multi-million pound Northern Bank raid in Belfast.

Chief Constable Hugh Orde said that organisation was responsible after meeting key members of the Policing Board on Friday.

The Northern Bank has now reassessed the amount stolen from its head office on 20 December as £26.5m.

It now intends to withdraw most of its current notes and re-issue them in a different colour and style.

To date, police have made no arrests nor have they recovered any money from the raid, thought to have been one of the UK's biggest cash robberies.

Homes in republican areas of Belfast were searched in the days following the raid, but republicans have denied the IRA was involved.

'Operational decision'

Mr Orde has been under political pressure to state publicly if the IRA was involved.

He told a news conference in Belfast: "In my opinion the Provisional IRA were responsible for this crime and all main lines of inquiry currently undertaken are in that direction."

However, he said he had not bowed to any pressure to attribute blame to any organisation, but was doing so now because it made "operational sense".

Mr Orde also said the raid was not a victimless crime, but a "violent and brutal crime, not some Robin Hood effort".

The chief constable refused to be drawn on the likely political consequences of his announcement.

Soon after Mr Orde's news conference, Downing Street said the prime minister had made it repeatedly clear the political institutions could only be restored if there was a "complete end" to all paramilitary and criminal activity.

Meanwhile, the Northern Bank said it was to replace most of its current series of notes, in a move which will cost up to £5m.

In a statement it said all existing £10, £20, £50 and £100 notes are to be replaced, but the bank's polymer £5 notes will not be affected.

"All new notes will be of the same design as the old ones, but will be printed in a different colour, feature a new Northern Bank logo, and bear new prefixes to their serial numbers," it said.

'Process damage'

The process of printing new notes will take up to eight weeks and they will be put into circulation as soon as possible after that. The existing stock of notes will be phased out.

Earlier, Sinn Fein's Martin McGuinness said an allegation of IRA involvement would damage the political process.

He told the BBC's Today programme that he had spoken to the IRA following the robbery and was told that it was not involved.

He added: "There are clearly elements within the British system and unionism intent on wrecking the peace process and of using the robbery in Belfast as a pretext for this. They must not be allowed to succeed."

North Belfast MP Nigel Dodds said if there was confirmation the IRA was involved, the political process should move on without Sinn Fein.

At his meeting, the chief constable, accompanied by Assistant Chief Constable Sam Kinkaid, briefed Policing Board Chairman Sir Desmond Rea and Vice-Chairman Denis Bradley.

Speaking beforehand, Sir Desmond said the police needed to be given "time and space" to investigate the robbery.

The Policing Board is an independent public body made up of 19 political and independent members.

It was established in 2001, at the same time as the PSNI, with the aim of securing for all the people of Northern Ireland an effective, efficient and impartial police service which has the confidence of the whole community.


Northern bank to reissue all notes, stolen cash 'worthless'

07/01/2005 - 12:34:09

The Northern Bank in Belfast, from which £22m (€31.3m) was stolen before Christmas, is to withdraw all of its banknotes from circulation and reissue them in a different colour, chief constable Hugh Orde has said.

"The (stolen) money will not be worth anything when that takes place," he said.

Northern Bank is due to make a statement later today.

More to follow.


IRA 'responsible for £22m robbery': Orde
07/01/2005 - 12:38:08

The Provisional IRA is responsible for the £22m (€31.3m) bank raid on the Northern Bank in Belfast city centre, Chief Constable in the North Hugh Orde has said.

Full report to follow.

Belfast Telegraph

Exiled Shankill faction still in English bolthole

07 January 2005

A handful of Adair's closest associates remain in Bolton, a bolthole chosen after they were forced from the Shankill by the UDA.

The exiles - dubbed the 'Bolton Wanderers' - include John 'Fat Jackie' Thompson, who was the target of a car bomb attempt outside his home in the Halliwell area of the town last year.

He has since moved to another part of Bolton and has been working as a labourer.

According to a local police source, Thompson was furious that Adair's son brought unwelcome attention to the grouping through drug-dealing and rarely speaks to others from the Shankill faction.

Imprisoned along with Adair Jnr for their part in the "dial-a-drug operation" were fellow exiles William Truesdale and Benjamin Dowie.

Ian Truesdale, one of Adair's best friends, was jailed later for the same offence.

The four had tried to move into the drugs market after the gangland killing of Bolton drugs lord Billy Webb in the late 1990s had left Bolton's heroin trade needing a new boss.

Ian Truesdale's wife Karen has remained at their house in Halliwell with 17-year-old old son David Officer, from an earlier relationship.

He was given an Anti-Social Behaviour Order in September for terrorising shopkeepers with a gang of teenagers.

Adair's wife Gina, aged 38, is understood to be undergoing a course of treatment at a local hospital for ovarian cancer.

She lives in the same house that came under fire from loyalist gunmen in 2003.

Others in Bolton include Shankill loan-sharks Herbie and Sham Millar who are known to be in the town but have melted into relative obscurity.

Another Adair ally, Alan McCullough, disappeared from Bolton in May 2003 after spending several months living at Gina's house, along with Dowie.

McCullough was suspected of helping to set up the shooting at her house, and had returned to the Shankill believing he was safe from reprisals.

He went missing and was found in a shallow grave just outside Belfast.

Another associate, Gary 'Smickers' Smith, lived in Bolton until spring 2004, when he left to join other loyalists in Stranraer.


Irish Independent

Colombian court 'was split'

THE COLOMBIAN appeals court which passed a 17-year jail sentence on three Irish republicans was split over its decision, it emerged last night.

Two of the magistrates voted in favour of a heavy prison sentence for IRA men James Monaghan and Martin McCauley and Sinn Fein representative Niall Connolly. Details of a minority judgment from the third magistrate are now being sought by lawyers on behalf of the missing Irishmen, whose whereabouts remain a mystery, although arrest warrants have been circulated in 182 countries through Interpol. The Colombian authorities have warned they will take action against any person or organisation known to be in contact with the men.

The defence legal team is expected to travel here from Bogota shortly to hold talks with campaigners and the families of the three and a decision will then be taken on what legal route should be adopted to challenge last month's judgment.

Tom Brady
Security Editor

Irish Echo Online - News

No-fly order snagged Ferry deportation
By Ray O'Hanlon

As he thought he was about to be deported to Ireland, a stunned and bemused Ciaran Ferry looked on as an expletive-laden row erupted between law enforcement officers charged with removing him from the country.

Speaking from Belfast, Ferry, who has vowed to keep up his legal fight to live in the U.S., described a surreal situation in which one arm of federal law enforcement prevented the other from enforcing his federally mandated deportation.

"It spooked all the passengers on the flight to Dublin," Ferry said in a phone interview.

Ferry was settling into the Continental Airlines flight out of Newark Airport on the evening of Dec. 21. He was being escorted across the Atlantic by three officers from the Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

On the surface, at least, Ferry appeared to be just another passenger. He was not in handcuffs or any other form of restraint.

"We were getting ready to take off when the captain came on saying there was a slight problem and that we had to return to the gate," Ferry said. "When we got to the gate, six Port Authority cops got on board and came down the plane to us." Ferry said that the Port Authority officers told him that he would have to leave the plane because his name was on the federal government's no-fly list.

The list is compiled by a number of federal law enforcement and intelligence agencies and is provided to airlines by the Transportation Security Administration, an arm of the Department of Homeland Security. The list, which has existed for about 15 years, was broadly expanded in the aftermath of Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks and is intended to prevent attacks against flights into and out of the U.S.

The controversial list made headlines last September when it resulted in the detention and deportation of Yusuf Islam, formerly the singer Cat Stevens, after he arrived in the U.S. on a flight from London.

Earlier in the year, the list raised many eyebrows following the airport questioning, on no fewer than five occasions, of Sen. Edward Kennedy. Kennedy has been stopped because the no-fly list carried the name "T. Kennedy." It took three weeks of effort by Kennedy and his staff to have the senator's name removed from the list.

Given his record of IRA membership, the inclusion of Ciaran Ferry on the list was rather less surprising than the inclusion of the senior senator from Massachusetts. But Ferry was perplexed as to why he would be pulled from a plane while under federal escort.

"It was bureaucratic nonsense," he said.

Ferry said that once had had walked off the plane, a row broke out between the various law enforcement officers.

Ferry said he stood by as the deportation officers, Port Authority cops, officers from the TSA and Continental Airlines security personnel debated what to do with him.

"There was a lot of what the f ... is going on here," Ferry said.

It was eventually decided that Ferry should not be allowed fly. He was taken to Hudson County Correctional Center in Kearny, N.J., for the night.

Ferry said his federal escort had been clearly frustrated by the snafu.

"They just wanted to complete their task," he said.

Ferry said that he had tried to keep things in perspective during the incident.

"I had this wry grin on my face and I was thinking that when you want to leave the country, they won't let you leave," he said.

A spokesman for the Port Authority police said that the authority officers were only present to assist the TSA. The mix-up over Ferry's flight status, he said, had been a federal one.

A spokeswoman for the TSA said that the no-fly list was provided to all airlines and that it was an airline's responsibility to check it before issuing a boarding pass.

The problem over Ferry's flying status was ultimately cleared up and Ferry was flown to Dublin on Wednesday, Dec. 22.

"I had to hand over my temporary travel document to a Garda officer when we got to Dublin," he said. "He just said, 'welcome home,' and that I was free to go."

Ferry's departure from the U.S. followed his agreeing to give up his habeas corpus bid which would have allowed him to return to his wife Heaven and daughter Fiona in Colorado.

Ferry said that he was now having to deal with mixed emotions. He was glad to be out of prison, but sad that he was thousands of miles from his wife and child.

"We had our wee plan, so we were fairly psychologically prepared for the separation," he said. "Our major concern was that Fiona would have a nice Christmas."

Last month, a Colorado judge denied Ferry's habeas corpus plea, which had been before the court for 19 months. He had been jailed since Jan. 30, 2003 after being detained when he turned up for the green-card interview with his wife.

Though the habeas corpus issue is now moot, Ferry still has an appeal against deportation pending before the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals. He said he was intent on continuing his legal fight to live in the U.S. with his family.

"Much depends on finances, but I'm prepared to take this to the highest court in the land," he said. "It's important that we make a stand so that others won't have to take the same road. Maybe we can pull something out of the fire yet."

This story appeared in the issue of January 5-11, 2005

An Phoblacht

Out of the ashes arose the Provisionals


Remembering the Past

Image Hosted by ImageShack.us
Mural photo by CRAZYFENIAN

On 11 January 1970, 35 years ago, Sinn Féin divided at its Ard Fheis on the issue of abstentionism from the Westminster, Dublin and Stormont Parliaments.

The origins and reasons of this split within the party began a decade earlier, when the Republican Movement, after the demoralising and isolated campaign of 1956-'62, was slowly infiltrated by a small group of intellectuals formerly associated with the British Communist Party. As popular support and many old activists withered away, this faction, led by Cathal Goulding, began to manipulate the movement towards a Marxist ideology.

Cathal Goulding was born and educated in Dublin. He came from a staunchly republican family. His grandfather was a Fenian and his father participated in the 1916 Rising. He joined the IRA in 1939. In 1945, Goulding was arrested by the Irish Special Branch and imprisoned for a year in the Curragh Internment Camp. After his release, Goulding conducted IRA training camps in the Dublin Mountains. In 1953, Goulding, along with Seán Mac Stiofáin and Maurice Canning, took part in an arms raid on a British Army Base in Essex. All three were arrested and sentenced to eight years. It is believed that while in prison, Goulding was converted to Marxism by the Russian Spy Klaus Fochs. Goulding was released in 1958. Within a year he became Quartermaster General of the IRA and in 1962 became Chief of Staff.

In this position he began to win the IRA away from the belief in armed struggle to achieve British withdrawal and an Irish Republic and over to his Marxist three-stage theory of how to win national liberation, a formula familiar in the official Communist Movement since the days of Lenin's "For peace, for bread, for land" speech. The first stage was to unite the Catholic and Protestant working class. The second stage of National Independence was to be postponed until the first stage was obtained and the third stage of a Socialist state lay in an indefinite future. Unsurprisingly, many republicans living in the Six Counties in the 1960s rejected this theory and saw the IRA as the only defence against their continued oppression by unionist and crown forces.

In the typical Stalinist tradition, Goulding began to purge the Republican Movement of any internal opposition. Throughout the '60s, many of the old guard were expelled from the ranks of the IRA. Jimmy Steele, the then OC of Belfast, was stood down after giving a funeral oration in Belfast in which he criticised the running down of the IRA. Many, like Joe Cahill, were given the cold shoulder and left in disgust at the treatment of their comrades and the winding down of the IRA. Goulding even began selling the IRA's arms to Welsh separatists and at IRA training camps weapon training was replaced by political discussion.

While most republicans had no difficulty with the political campaigns undertaken by the leadership in the 1960s, and the necessary increased focus on social and economic issues, they were vehemently opposed to any dilution of the Movement's position on the national question.

With the outbreak of sectarian pogroms in Belfast in August 1969, the IRA was totally unprepared to protect the nationalist population of the Six Counties. Unsupported by Goulding's Dublin-based GHQ, the IRA men on the ground had no weapons to drive off attacks. Some of the old IRA men who had been sidelined by GHQ came forward and put up some resistance, but the nationalist community felt it had been let down by the IRA and the slogan 'I Ran Away' began to appear on Belfast walls. Demoralised by this, the IRA men who had taken to the streets during the pogrom set about reorganising a command structure independent of the Dublin GHQ.

Down south, the Marxists decided to hold an extraordinary convention of the IRA, where the leadership intended to push through two controversial resolutions. The first motion called for the IRA to enter a coalition of the left to be called the National Liberation Front and the second motion was to end abstentionism. Goulding made sure the convention would go his way. It was held late at night, in a small town outside Dublin. Many of the more traditionalist Volunteers were not informed of it. Many were promised lifts that then did not materialise and some were stopped from entering the hall. The convention, packed with Goulding supporters, voted 39 in favour and 12 against the two motions.

After the meeting, the traditionalists, under Seán Mac Stiofáin, met and decided to form the Provisional Army Council. They believed that the IRA GHQ's obsession with parliamentary politics had undermined its role as a fighting force. Mac Stiofáin began travelling the country enlisting support; many long inactive and long suspicious of GHQ returned to the fold, especially from the campaign years and before.

With the split in the army, all attention was focused on the Sinn Féin Ard Fheis, to be held in the Intercontinental Hotel in Dublin on 10 and 11 January 1970, where the two motions would be voted on again. This time, Goulding could not stagemanage the result. Many spoke against the motions including 1916 veteran Joe Clarke and Tom Maguire, the last republican member of the Second Dáil. On Sunday night, the resolution was voted on, with 153 in favour and 104 against. This was 19 votes short of the two thirds majority needed to change the Sinn Féin constitution. Goulding's camp immediately called for a resolution supporting IRA policy, which would need a simple majority. In response, Provisional supporters walked out, refusing to take part in a vote of allegiance to what became known as the Official Army Council. The Provisionals marched to Kevin Barry Hall in Parnell Square, where Ruairí Ó Brádaigh was made president.

The Provisional IRA went on to reorganise itself and become one of the most effective revolutionary fighting forces of the 20th Century. The Official IRA, after a few military operations, called a ceasefire in 1972 It is now considered defunct.

Sinn Féin went on to gain the support of the nationalist communities of the Six Counties. In 1986, from a position of military strength and political unity at the annual Ard Fheis, a motion to end abstentionism from Stormont and Leinster House was passed by a two-thirds majority. About 30 people left the hall and formed Republican Sinn Féin. Official Sinn Féin went on to become the Workers' Party, which later split and became Democratic Left. Its remnants can be seen in the leadership of the current Labour Party.

An Phoblacht

Seán Russell statue attacked in Dublin

Sinn Féin Dublin City Councillor Christy Burke has slammed the partial destruction of a memorial to Dublin republican Seán Russell and a journalist in the Sunday Independent who congratulated the vandals responsible. The attack on the statue of Russell, which saw the head removed, occurred in Dublin's Fairview Park over the Christmas period.

Local people have been incensed at the desecration of this memorial to a figure of national importance who lived in the local area and whose relatives still live in Fairview.

The attack follows a year-long campaign in the Sunday Independent aimed at discrediting the memory of Seán Russell and which was used as another excuse by that newspaper to attack Sinn Féin. The local Sinn Féin cumainn has had held regular commemoration ceremonies at the Russell memorial.

Jim Cusack, who has led the Sunday Independent's campaign against Russell, was also the journalist who published a statement on 2 January purporting to come from an unnamed group claiming that they had carried out the attack over Christmas and accused Russell of being a "Nazi collaborator".

Veteran of the 1916 Rising and former IRA Chief of Staff during the early 1940s, Seán Russell has long been a figure of controversy within Irish republicanism for a number of reasons. These included his decision to launch an armed campaign in Britain during the Second World War and his attempt to acquire arms from Germany. However, Russell was not a fascist, nor did the IRA of that time support the Nazi regime. Indeed, under Russell's direction, the IRA was in contact with numerous foreign agencies, including the Soviet Union and IRA supporters in the USA, for the purpose of acquiring arms.

Commenting on the attack, Councillor Christy Burke said: "Many local people have been angered at the destruction caused to Russell's memorial by outsiders. They came into this area in the dead of night disturbing the peace of the Christmas period to desecrate a memorial to a local man whose family still live in the area and whose memory is respected. I do not believe that this attack was carried out by any genuine anti-fascist group as claimed by the Sunday Independent. I note that Sunday Independent columnist Ruth Dudley Edwards has congratulated those who carried out the vandalism in Fairview. This follows her newspaper's campaign against Russell and criticisms of local Sinn Féin commemorations. The hypocrisy of her remarks in encouraging the destruction of national monuments should be seen in the light of her newspaper's vehement opposition to direct political action of any kind when it doesn't fit with that paper's political agenda."

Councillor Burke has offered his support to the campaign being undertaken by the National Graves Association to restore the monument to this Irish patriot.

An Phoblacht

Papers released under new Freedom of Information Act- Brits decided to let Hunger Strikers die


Documents released under the new Freedom of Information Act, which came into force on 1 January, have revealed that in December 1975, the British Government made a decision that, in the event of a hunger strike by Republican POWs, it would let prisoners die rather than reintroduce Special Category status.

The resolution, promoted by officials within the Ministry of Defence and prison service, came after the implementation of the Gardner report earlier that year, which had recommended the ending of Special Category status and the introduction of the policy of criminalisation for all those convicted after 1 March 1976. Both MoD and prison officials, realising that there would be a response from republican POWs, demanded that the government "withstand the pressure" of dying prisoners in the event of a hunger strike. One MoD report early in 1976 stated that "the campaign will undoubtedly be conducted on one or possibly both sides at a certain level of nastiness and I do not propose that we should be unduly sensitive in our treatment of the subject".

Earlier, on 29 December 1975, the Director of Prisons in the north of Ireland, one W I David, had written a report to the MoD observing that Special Category status had been introduced after hunger strikes in 1972. "Having seen what an administrative and discipline disaster this has proved to be, we should be resolute in our intention not to weaken in our decisions for 1976," he writes. He also adds that the government should make the policy of allowing prisoners to die known to them, saying "the administration will withstand this pressure even after the death/s of prisoners".

His view was reinforced a few weeks later when an official from the NIO ('Northern Ireland' Office), J H Parkes, wrote that hunger strikes may take place in opposition to the ending of Special Category status. He suggested that prison officers refrain from force feeding prisoners, saying that "it is important to recognise that this may well result in prisoners being allowed to die; and prisoners should be made aware in good time that we are quite prepared to contemplate this".

On coming to power in 1979, Margaret Thatcher, who oversaw the deaths of ten men on hunger strike in 1981, seems to have enthusiastically adopted this view that it was better to let people die than to acknowledge their political status. What neither she, nor her officials foresaw, however, was the long term effect of the Hunger Strikes on the political landscape of the north of Ireland. They saw their policy as a means of defeating Irish republicanism; instead it helped to make Sinn Féin the potent political force it is today.

UWC's neo-fascist threat

As the loyalist Ulster Workers Council threatened and attacked workers into joining the strike aimed at bringing down the Sunningdale Agreement and power sharing assembly, a panic-stricken and "fearful" Brian Faulkner told the British Government that the situation was out of control and that the North of Ireland was in danger of becoming an "independent, neo-fascist" state.

The notes of a meeting between Stormont politicians and the British Prime Minister Harold Wilson and his Secretary of State Merlyn Rees, records that Faulkner told the government "with every hour that passed, the Secretary of State and the British Government on the one hand, and he and the Northern Ireland Executive on the other enjoyed less support and credibility, as it became increasingly evident that the administration of the country was in fact in the hands of the Ulster Workers Council".

The solution, he argued, was a rapid "assertion of authority on the ground". Negotiations, he said, were useless as "the situation is now out of the control of Mr West and Mr Paisley".

Control had passed to other and more dangerous hands. The issue was not now whether the Sunningdale Agreement would or would not survive. The outcome which the Protestant extremists sought was "without question an independent, neo-fascist Northern Ireland". Indeed the leader of Vanguard, William Craig, had said that the sectarian attack on Catholics during the strike was "unfortunate but understandable - if democracy is being trampled into the ground you have to take whatever action is needed".

The papers also show that there was extensive discussion on whether or not the British Army should be brought in to secure fuel and electricity supplies, as loyalists had always "backed away" from confrontation with British forces.

Harold Wilson was incensed by the UWC strike and in the confidential notes of a broadcast to be made on 25 May 1974, he wrote that the strike "has nothing to do with wages. It has nothing to do with jobs - except to imperil jobs. It is a deliberate and calculated attempt to use every undemocratic and unparliamentary means for the purpose of bringing down the whole constitution of Northern Ireland so as to set up there a sectarian and undemocratic state, from which one-third of the people of Northern Ireland will be excluded."

Wilson continued, making his now famous remark about loyalist and unionist "spongers".

"British taxpayers have seen have seen the taxes they have poured out almost with regard to cost — over £300 million a year this year with the cost of the army operations on top of that — going into Northern Ireland," he raged. "They see property destroyed by evil violence and are asked to pick up the bill for rebuilding it. Yet people who benefit from this now viciously defy Westminster, purporting to act as though they were an elected government, spend their lives sponging on Westminster and British democracy and then systematically assault democratic methods. Who do these people think they are?"

Of course, the irony was that for all Wilson's ranting and raving, the British Government refused to take on the UWC, preferring instead to do nothing in the hope that the Executive would collapse of its own accord. In a memo to the prime minister, Merlyn Rees acknowledges that the UWC demand for fresh elections "has nothing to do with real power sharing" and that an election "is likely to be no more than a precursor to pressure for a Protestant state for a Protestant people".

However, despite that knowledge, he continues: "While the Northern Ireland Executive remain in being, there can be no real movement. But the situation changes if they go. From our point of view the most desirable situation now is that they should go of their accord, in view of the intervention, they cannot make any plausible complaints that they have not received full support from HMG." On 28 May 1974 Brian Faulkner handed in his resignation and the power sharing experiment came to an end.

Afterwards, Wilson wrote that the British Government was in a position of "responsibility without power" and likened it to "a Eunuch". Events also made him consider the "doomsday" option of British withdrawal and international intervention. A further memo states: "The mere threat of international involvement... might so alarm the parties as to persuade them to an otherwise unthinkable compromise capable of averting international involvement altogether... Even if neither the threat nor the fact of international involvement produced any kind of settlement, HMG would at least be able to share with others the odium of failure and the blame for the ensuing chaos in Ireland."

Heath's fury over torture findings

Papers released under the Freedom of Information Act have revealed the fury of then Prime Minister Edward Heath in 1971, when he was presented with the findings of the Compton report into the torture of detainees in the Six Counties.

In a memo, taken from an incomplete file on the matter, he thundered: "It seems to me to be one of the most unbalanced, ill-judged reports I have ever read". The furious response came despite that fact that Compton had found that the treatment of prisoners including sleep deprivation, prolonged hooding, wall standing and other cruelties, did not amount to actual torture, but merely to "physical ill-treatment".

However, the fact that Compton had not given the army "a clean bill of health" was more than Heath could stand, and he vented his frustration that the report did not understand that Britain was engaged in a war against the IRA. "It is astonishing that men of such experience should have got themselves so lost in the trees, or indeed the undergrowth, that they are proved quite incapable of seeing the wood," he wrote.

And, he argued, the fact of the war justified the illegal mistreatment of those held to be republican detainees: "When you go through the report carefully, the number of incidents involved in the arrest of 300 odd men were small and, in the conditions of war against the IRA, trivial," he said.

Heath goes on to further berate the report for not setting the allegation of torture in "context" and complains that these allegations are given the same credence and "tested evidence" from the RUC and British Army. "They seem to have gone to endless lengths to show that anyone not given three-star hotel facilities suffered hardship and ill-treatment," he complains. "Again, nowhere is this set in the context of war against the IRA. What, above all, I object to... is that the unfounded allegations made for the most part by outsiders are put on exactly the same level as tested evidence from the Army and the RUC. This I believe to be intolerable."

Idi Amin's offer to mediate

During the height of the Ulster Workers' Council Strike in 1974, an offer of help came from an unexpected quarter.

Idi Amin, dictator of Uganda, wrote to the British Prime Minister Harold Wilson offering "to avail my good offices to the opposing sides in Northern Ireland". He writes that, "the political and security situation in Northern Ireland is becoming worse every passing day without any apparent feasible solution to it in sight. This serious and regrettable development calls for Britain's best and sincere friends to come to her assistance".

The British, who despised Amin as much for his pretensions to grandeur as his atrocities against his own people, would undoubtedly have baulked at being referred to as a "best and sincere" friend of the dictator and to have been offered assistance for a political problem by a colonial upstart such as him.

In the telegram, dated 28 May 1974, Amin says that as a former British colony, Uganda has the experience to help out with the conflict in the North of Ireland: "I suggest that representatives of the Catholic and Protestant communities in Northern Ireland, as well as representatives of your government come to Uganda, far away from the site of battle and antagonism, for a conference on how to bring peace to their province".

Amin then signs himself as "Al-Hajji General Idi Amin Dada, VC DSO MC President of the Republic of Uganda". The records do not show any written response from the British Government, but it seems the offer of help was turned down.

Ambassador gloated over Dublin/Monaghan bombings
After the Dublin and Monaghan bombings on 17 May 1974, in which 30 people were killed, the then British Ambassador to Ireland, Sir Arthur Galsworthy, gloated that: "I think the Irish have taken the point."

His comments are contained in newly-released British Government documents from 1974. In writing on the atrocity, Galsworth also comments archly that "It is only now that the South has experienced violence that they are reacting in the way that the North has sought for so long", but that "it would be... a psychological mistake for us to rub this point in".

Galsworthy appears to be equally pleased that "the predictable attempt by the IRA to pin the blame on the British has made no headway at all". Thirty years later, only a few still argue that British agents were not involved in the atrocity, although the official British line is that the UVF were solely responsible.

The papers have also revealed that the then British Prime Minister Harold Wilson told Taoiseach Liam Cosgrave on a number of occasions that the British were "certain" they had interned the UVF men, although the Barron investigation found that he had not passed on this information.

An Phoblacht

Carnival of Reaction: A snapshot of Ireland in 1974 - Key Stormont documents 'missing'


Irish and British cabinet papers, kept secret for 30 years, and released on 1 January, have revealed an Ireland in which the forces of reaction at that time fought and succeeded in holding back the tide of political, economic and social change.

Mysteriously, however, the key documents which should have formed part of the main series of files released by the Public Record Office in Belfast — the minutes of the Sunningdale Executive, have suspiciously "gone missing".

Importantly, these would have included Ministerial decisions and views of Ministers recorded at the time. Dr Eamon Phoenix, who has been reviewing the release of cabinet papers under the 30-year rule for the past 20 years, has said in the Irish Times that it was the first time he found such a tranche of vital historical material to be unaccounted for.

Recurring problems

Many of Ireland's problems North and South in 1974, revealed in these state papers, were to dominate the country's political and social life for the following three decades. These included the failure of successive British Governments to face down unionist reaction, the inability of unionism to produce coherent political leadership and the conservatism of the political establishment in the 26 Counties.

The papers clearly demonstrate the extent and intensity of Britain's military and intelligence apparatus in Ireland and the degree to which British Government policy was ultimately dictated by the threat and use of unionist violence.

The British oversaw elections to a new Six-County Assembly in June 1973 from which Irish republicans were excluded. This was despite huge support for republicans among the nationalist community in the North, which had been in open revolt against unionist domination and British rule for the previous four years and which had recently toppled the 50-year-old Stormont regime. But in 1974, Sinn Féin remained banned as a political party in the North, with its members subjected to arrest or assassination.

Sunningdale and the UWC

The result of the election saw the formation of the 'Sunningdale' Executive that involved unionists sharing power with the SDLP, led by Gerry Fitt. It took office on 1 January but within a week Brian Faulkner had resigned as leader of the Ulster Unionist Party, following a vote of no confidence by the party's Ulster Unionist Council. The UUP's right wing opposed the Council of Ireland contained within the Sunningdale Agreement, claiming it undermined the unionist veto over the North's status quo.

The Ulster Workers' Council (UWC) — an overt and sinister coalition of unionist paramilitaries and politicians — stalked the streets of the Six Counties in 1974, boosted by the victory of anti-Sunningdale Unionists in the Westminster elections, which saw Labour's Harold Wilson replace Conservative Edward Heath as British Prime Minister.

Elements within the British establishment, including Wilson, briefly considered the option of a form 'withdrawal', purely on British terms, and aimed at reducing British obligations to the North while securing its strategic interests there. It was not to be a full withdrawal by the British state in any real sense and was not aimed at producing a United Ireland. Their thinking was undoubtedly influenced by the UWC, who were touting the possibility of a Unilateral Declaration of Independence (UDI), which would inevitably be followed by widespread pogroms against the nationalist community and sectarian slaughter with the aim of a forced displacement of Northern nationalists to the 26 Counties.

British plans to defeat republicans

The documents that have now come to light confirm the republican analysis that the British aimed to divide Irish republicans and drag the IRA into a protracted ceasefire by offering the prospect of 'withdrawal'. It was a deception aimed at fragmenting and defeating the Republican Movement.

On the streets, the neo-fascist form of unionism, which operated under the banner of the UWC, combined tactics such as the intimidation of workers, the shut-down of essential services, political boycotting, sectarian murder and co-ordinated bomb attacks against civilian targets in the 26 Counties. It was this unionist coalition, in concert with British secret service agents, which delivered the single biggest loss of life in the current conflict — the 1974 Dublin and Monaghan bombings.

Ultimately, unionist bullyboy tactics succeeded and the Sunningdale Executive resigned. Wilson's brief toying with ideas such as 'dominion status' were shelved in favour of direct rule from London and the co-option of the 26-County state in British counter insurgency efforts aimed at defeating the republican struggle. The right wing and the securocrats within the British system had won the day and the British settled in for a long war of attrition and the 'Ulsterisation' of the conflict. They expected the Dublin Government to acquiesce.

SDLP divided

Also revealed in the papers are major divisions within the SDLP in 1974, with Sean Donlan of the Irish Department of Foreign Affairs reporting on divisions between leading party figures and leader Gerry Fitt over what was perceived to be Fitt's unduly close and unequal relationship with Brian Faulkner. Fitt and Paddy Devlin openly disagreed on policy when they met Dublin Government ministers and Donlon noted that "Fitt seemed to act as an advocate" for Faulkner.

On a visit to the North a week after the collapse of Sunningdale, Donlon found the SDLP in complete disarray. Their assembly party unanimously reported a "massive swing away from support of their party to support of both wings of the IRA".

Repressive atmosphere

The distinct impression of Ireland in 1974 as revealed in the state papers is of a country where the political atmosphere was one of repression North and South. The arrest by Gardaí of leading republican Martin McGuinness in Donegal in February 1974 may well have been as a result of a direct request by Brian Faulkner.

Faulkner told colleagues that he had urged the arrest of McGuinness during a meeting with the then Taoiseach and Fine Gael leader Liam Cosgrave at Baldonnell. The Special Court at Green Street, Dublin, subsequently jailed McGuinness for a year for membership of the IRA. But it is clear that all sorts of political activists in Ireland were subjected to monitoring, harassment and arrest by state intelligence and security agencies then as now.

Secret files, now declassified, show that Irish Army Intelligence spied on anti-EEC campaigners, including Anthony Coughlan. The secret file even contains details of reference being made to Coughlan in a letter to An Phoblacht and the fact that Coughlan and fellow campaigner Mícheál Ó Loinsigh "signed a letter to An Phoblacht". The Irish state also spied on leading British historian, biographer of James Connolly and Liam Mellowes and friend of Coughlan, Desmond Greaves, who had his travel plans logged.

While open warfare raged in the North throughout the 1970s, the attitude of the Southern state to political opposition, protest and dissidence was also moulded in this era and there is nothing to indicate that the type of behaviour exposed in these papers has changed and lots of evidence to show that it has not.

Fine Gael's wealthy backers

During an economic period characterised by an energy crisis, spiralling inflation and dissatisfaction among ordinary workers at shouldering the tax burden in the 26 Counties, the coalition government in 1974 considered the introduction of a 'wealth tax'. Negative reactions from a wealthy elite within 26 County society, directed at Fine Gael in particular as the party of the big farmers and the middle-class, saw the government considerably water down its tax proposals. John Bruton in particular lobbied the Taoiseach directly on this issue, warning of the dire electoral consequences of Fine Gael's wealthy backers withdrawing support if the tax was introduced unamended. The government changed the tax proposals, exempting many of the categories included in the original plan.

Contraception trains
The conservative nature of the political establishment in the 26 Counties was demonstrated also in the lack of political leadership over the issue of access to contraception. This was the era of the 'contraceptive trains', when campaigners boarded trains from Belfast to Dublin to publicly import condoms, which were then illegal in the Southern state. In March 1974, the Fine Gael/Labour coalition introduced a Bill to allow for the sale of contraceptives to married people. But even this limited measure was defeated in July, when Taoiseach Liam Cosgarve voted against his own government's Bill.

Still waiting

While Ireland has changed, radically in many respects, since 1974, many of the fundamental political problems are the same today. Despite the record of such governments it appears that 30 years later the Irish Labour Party is prepared once again to prop up a Fine Gael-led coalition, with all the attendant negative consequences for ordinary working people.

We are also waiting, three decades later, for the Irish and British governments and political unionism to summon the will to transcend the failure of the Orange state and carve out a new political future based on equality and justice for all.

An Phoblacht

No-one should lose sight of the tremendous progress made - BY MARTIN McGUINNESS

As we enter 2005 I am disappointed that we were unable to see the reinstatement of the Political Institutions and the implementation of the outstanding elements of the Good Friday Agreement (GFA). But we should not lose sight of the tremendous progress that was made. Of course, we will always have the naysayers nitpicking through anything that they can't claim ownership of and in doing so undermine the good work that has been done. What is needed now in the New Year is a renewed effort by both governments and all the parties to reach agreement. In order to ensure agreement happens in the shortest possible period, I am of the firm opinion that the DUP must enter into direct negotiations with Sinn Féin.

I also believe that proceedings would be accelerated tremendously if the Irish Government, the SDLP and Sinn Féin acted as one at all times representing the long term national benefits of all the people of Ireland. It should be remembered at all times that the GFA was not a Six-County agreement. It is all-Ireland in its intent and content and overwhelmingly endorsed in referenda by the people of Ireland. Its full implementation will have beneficial effects for all the people the length and breadth of this island. Therefore, all those claiming to aspire to all-Ireland institutions and unity have a responsibility to promote and develop its all-Ireland concepts without regard to selfish party political considerations.

It is also international in that it is a treaty between two sovereign governments lodged with the United Nations and supported by every political party in Britain and Ireland except the DUP.

I want to pay tribute to all those who played a positive role in the search for agreement in 2004 and to ask that they stay with us in 2005 to ensure that we complete the task of building a new society on this island on the basis of equality and respect for human rights. A society where all political aspirations can be pursued peacefully and with equal legitimacy.

Although some political leaders that should know better — for party political point scoring — have attempted to sow doubt in the minds of nationalists, I can assure you that the fundamentals of the Good Friday Agreement, including its power-sharing, all-Ireland and equality provisions, have been defended and key aspects of the Agreement have been further strengthened.

The overall political package that was achieved by the Sinn Féin Negotiators contained a range of measures -— each having its own significance.

• the reinstatement of the Executive, the Assembly and all-Ireland structures, including the All-Ireland Ministerial Council

• legislation in Westminster to remove the ability of the British Government to suspend the political institutions

• a stronger pledge of office by Ministers to ensure that they participate fully in the Executive

• a requirement of Ministers to engage with the All-Ireland structures

• the removal of the power of First Minister (or Deputy First Minister) to block the attendance of any Minister at all-Ireland Ministerial Council Meetings

• Northern Representation in the Dáil and Séanad

• Devolution of Justice and Policing

• An immediate programme of demilitarisation

• Measures to address the issue of people 'on the run' in both jurisdictions.

When implemented, these will be major steps forward by any reasonable person's calculation.

With the Agreement having been strengthened through these adjustments, the DUP now hopes to prevent progress through unachievable demands for humiliation of republicans. Remember, the DUP is the only anti-Agreement Party and those claiming to be pro-Agreement should be cognisant of this fact when making statements of comfort to the demands of the DUP. The two-pronged agenda of the DUP over the course of the Peace Process has been 'Smash Sinn Féin' and 'Smash the GFA'. Well, Sinn Féin is determined to ensure that they fail on both counts.

We have a huge opportunity to move forward. I believe that the DUP lack the courage and the political will at this time to sign up for a deal. But the fact that they have come so far represents real progress. I am convinced that with time and patience they will come to accept the reality of power sharing and all-Ireland structures as the only viable way forward. But in the meantime, the rest of us must continue to move the process forward. We cannot allow the DUP's anti-Agreement agenda to set the pace of change for everyone else. The door must be left open for them to enter the process at the earliest convenience but the two governments and the pro-Agreement parties must proceed with delivering the benefits of the Agreement that the overwhelming majority of the people of Ireland voted for.

An Phoblacht

41 months of hell


On 11 August 2001, three Irishmen, Niall Connolly, Jim Monaghan and Martin McCauley, were arrested at El Dorado airport in Bogata, Colombia. They were charged with training left-wing FARC guerrillas in bomb-making techniques and holding false documentation. Within days, the men were being referred to as IRA members by the Colombian authorities and much of the international press, despite the fact the IRA stated early on that it had not sent any of its members to Colombia to engage in military cooperation with any group. The basis for these allegations came from the fact that the men were republicans.

Supporters of Connolly, Monaghan and McCauley, including the members of many human rights organisations, began to worry that the men would not get a fair trial.

As it happened, their trial did not begin until 4 October 2002, more than a year after their arrests.

During this time, the men suffered horrendous conditions in the many jails they were held in. Threats were made to their lives, and at one point, food had to be brought in for fear of poisoning. They were even held for several months in extremely confined conditions, without adequate access to fresh air or light, in El Dijin, the main police holding centre in Bogota, in violation of Colombian law.

Their lawyers were constantly harassed and refused entry to their clients because they would not, on principle, agree to remove their belts, ties, jackets, shoes and shoelaces, as demanded by prison officials. The lawyers were, and still are, also under threat of attack from paramilitary groups.

The case begins

In statements they made during the court case, the three men gave the true account of why they had visited Colombia. They told the judge that they had come to observe the peace process between the Colombian Government and the FARC left-wing guerrilla movement, that were occurring at that time.

According to Connolly: "I was motivated by my desire to see first hand another process of conflict resolution in motion." Jim Monaghan said they had spent several weeks in the FARC-controlled zone. "We talked to a great many people. We shared experiences about the peace processes in Ireland and Colombia."

From the beginning, however, the men's case was hampered by incredibly prejudicial comments made by senior Colombian military and politicians.

Six months after they were arrested, former-President Andrés Pastrana wrote in the Washington Post: "Some months ago, IRA members were captured in Colombia after training FARC guerrillas in urban terrorism." The same month, then-commander of the Colombian Armed Forces, General Fernando Tapias, told the US House Foreign Relations Committee that the three men "are leaders within the IRA structures in their field and they have been in Colombia for a long period and they are involved in training the FARC in terrorist activities". As the trial ended, he called for the maximum sentence of 20 years to be imposed.

During the trial, Colombian President Alvaro Uribe told Newsweek magazine: "We have IRA men in jail for training the FARC."

Evidence presented at trial consisted of blatant lies, tainted forensics, and false witnesses. The Colombian military claimed that satellite images would prove the allegation that the men were training the FARC, a claim that was later withdrawn.

The prosecution's two witnesses, one an alleged FARC deserter, testified to having witnessed the three Irishmen training guerrillas on earlier visits to the rebel safe haven in 1999 and 2000. But all three defendants were able to prove to the court that they were not in Colombia on the dates the witnesses claimed to have seen them.

More than eleven defence witnesses travelled to Colombia to help the men. One of those, Dublin Government diplomat Síle Maguire, provided an alibi witness for Niall Connolly, who had been at an Irish Embassy dinner in Havana, Cuba, on the day on which a prosecution witness claimed to have seen him in Colombia.

Jim Monaghan had video evidence proving he had not been in the country on the alleged dates.

Dr Keith Borer, a renowned independent forensic scientist from Britain, examined all material in regard to the forensic tests carried out at the US Embassy and stated in court that there was no forensic evidence against the men. Colombian forensic tests proved negative after 113 tries to find a positive result. Dr Borer also testified that FARC technology was unchanged during this time and that FARC and IRA technology were and remain very different.

While faulty and inaccurate allegations were forwarded by the prosecution, evidence prepared by the defence team was not taken into account.

The travesty of justice continued, with Judge Acosta himself receiving death threats from right-wing paramilitaries in an effort to pressure him into imposing a maximum sentence on the men, even though the trial was receiving international attention. Observers from three continents, comprising lawyers, politicians and human rights activists, the media and an official Dublin Government observer, Ambassador Art Agnew, were present.

The three men did concede the lesser charge of travelling with documents containing false names, which in Colombia is punishable with a fine and deportation.

The trial eventually ended on 1 August 2003. But the men were forced to wait a further eight months in La Modelo jail, packed with right-wing militants, until a verdict was reached. On Monday 27 April 2004, Judge Acosta found the men innocent of training the FARC, but guilty of the lesser charges of travelling on false documents. Their time for that charge had already been served and the men were ordered to pay fines of $6,000 each.

Judge Acosta also ordered the two prosecution witnesses be investigated for perjury. Both these witnesses had been produced by the office of the Attorney General, Luis Camilo Osorio. In a situation akin to the Supergrass trials of the '80s in the Six Counties, one of the prosecution witnesses is believed to have done the circuit of the country's courtrooms, testifying against hundreds of defendants.

It appeared that the men's 33-month Colombian nightmare had ended.

However, the Attorney General's office appealed the judgement immediately. The decision had the potential to expose the political role the office had played in the men's case, as well as thousands of others, where the course of justice had been similarly perverted by fabricated evidence.

The men were forced to stay in the country until an appeal was heard, and stayed in jail for their own safety for a number of weeks. When they finally left jail, they went into hiding. Neither the Colombian authorities nor the men's families and friends currently know where they are.


A record of human rights abuses


Colombian Attorney General Luis Camilo Osorio, the man who pursued the overturning of the acquittal of the Colombia Three, has a long and frightening record of human rights abuses in the Latin American country.

In 2004, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Louise Arbour, released a damning report into rights violations in Colombia and documented some of Osorio's dubious history.

During 2004, the UN office in Colombia registered complaints of violations of the right to life, to physical integrity, to personal freedoms and security, to due process and judicial guarantees, and to the independence and impartiality of the judicial system. Growing numbers of complaints were made regarding violations of human rights by public servants, in particular the Security Forces, on several occasions jointly with the Attorney General's Office.

In the report, Arbour said the main concern was the increase in the numbers of complaints regarding arbitrary or illegal detentions, forced disappearances and extrajudicial executions. In addition to this, the number of torture and mistreatment complaints had grown.

The situation of Colombian journalists (the majority of which were forced to toe their respective papers' lines condemning the Colombia Three) was described as precarious, demonstrating limitations with regard to the exercise of the right to freedom of opinion, expression and information.

During Osorio's term in office, the numbers in Colombian jails have swelled and yet the murderers of those in opposition to the government, like union members, (in 2002, 52 trade unionists were murdered, in 2003, 160 trade unionists were killed and 79 remain 'disappeared') have remained at large.

Osorio has also been accused of slowing down and blocking critical human rights investigations by firing the prosecutors preparing cases involving the military. In many regions, prosecutors are simply too afraid to aggressively investigate, fearing both death threats and lack of institutional support for their investigations.

In 2002, six human rights prosecutors and one judicial investigator requested special protective measures from the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. Others have fled Colombia because of threats on their lives.

Suspicious deaths

On 6 February 2002, public prosecutor Oswaldo Enrique Borja Martínez was killed, allegedly as a direct result of Osorio's policies.

Martínez had been investigating the 2001 massacre in Chengue, Sucre.

In the early-morning hours of 17 January, approximately 50 paramilitaries entered the town of Chengue and went house to house, rounding up dozens of men and marching them to the town square. Over the course of an hour and a half, they bludgeoned the men (and a 15-year-old boy) to death with sledgehammers and heavy stones. Before leaving Chengue, the paramilitaries set fire to many of the town's houses. The killings and burnings led more than 1,100 of the town's 1,200 residents to flee.

Chengue residents had written to the local military authorities and Colombia's president, Andres Pastrana, in April 2000 and again in October 2000, asking the government for protection because paramilitary groups had threatened them. No one was sent.

On the same day as Martínez was killed, Mónica Gaitán, another public prosecutor investigating the massacre, was reportedly forced to resign. Her removal followed the formal initiation, in 2001, of criminal investigations against Rear-admiral Rodrigo Quiñónez Cárdenas for dereliction of duty in failing to prevent the massacre. In March, the Rear-admiral was summoned for questioning by the Attorney General's Office. In the same month, his appointment as military attaché at the Colombian Embassy in Israel was announced. In October, he received a medal while still under criminal investigation. Quiñónez offered his resignation from the armed forces on 26 November following a decision by the US to withdraw his entry visa because of his alleged involvement in drug trafficking.

On 12 November, a lower court cleared a navy sergeant of complicity in the massacre and ordered his provisional release from detention. To date, the Attorney General has prosecuted no one in relation to the massacre.

In relation to the Colombia Three, Osorio has made numerous prejudicial comments claiming they were guilty. Then, when the men were cleared of charges in April of last year, he refused to allow them to go home, stating they had to stay in the country pending an appeal. Two witnesses forwarded by his office for the trial are currently under investigation, and he has been accused of helping to fabricate evidence and making inflammatory statements against the men.

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