Thousands attend boy's funeral

Robert Holohan had been missing for more than a week

Thousands of people have attended the funeral of a schoolboy who was found murdered in County Cork.

The body of Robert Holohan, 11, was discovered near Inch Strand in east Cork on Wednesday, more than a week after he disappeared.

The Midleton boy had died from asphyxiation. Gardai said that there was no evidence of sexual assault.

Among the mourners at his funeral were political figures and volunteers who took part in the search for the child.

Robert's body was found in dense woodland about seven miles from where he went missing. Detectives have begun a murder inquiry as they try to piece together when and where he died.

"No-one in Ireland has been untouched by this".
Mary McAleese
Irish President

Gardai are continuing to search the area where his body was found.

Hundreds lined the main street of Midletown on Saturday as Robert's body was brought from the family home to the Holy Rosary Church in the town.

The church was filled to capacity while thousands more gathered outside.

Father Billy O'Donovan, said 4 January, the day Robertdisappeared, would live long in the nation's memory.

The town came to a standstill for the little boy's funeral

He told the congregation that the schoolboy's parents, Mark and Najella, had the support of the country.

"They know themselves they must start the long journey of looking to the future, coping with their grief and, in time, putting their lives back together again," he said.

Many cried as Father O'Donovan recalled his conversation with a police officer who had been guarding the scene where Robert's body was found.

The police officer told him that he wanted Robert's parents to know that their young son was not alone that night.

"I just wished I had a blanket wrapped around him," the officer said.

Fr O'Donovan said all the people who had taken part in the searches for Robert were heroes.

"During the past 12 days we've witnessed and experienced something very special here in Midleton and the surrounding community," he said.

Fr O'Donovan read a message from Irish President McAleese, who said she wanted to convey her admiration for what the community had done to help the family.

"No-one in Ireland has been untouched by this," she added.

The funeral was attended by a number of politicians, including representatives of Taoiseach Bertie Ahern as well as Employment Minister Micheal Martin.

Belfast Telegraph

Cold kills one person a month in province
Shock figures 'not whole story'

By Brian Hutton
15 January 2005

An average of more than one person a month in Northern Ireland dies because of exposure to the cold, according to new Government figures.

However, a leading campaigner against cold-related deaths has dismissed the figures as "disingenuous", claiming the real amount to be significantly higher.

Officially, almost 160 people over the past decade, from 1994 to 2003, had hypothermia listed as a factor on their death certificates.

In the years 1997 and 1998 the number of people who died from coldness in Northern Ireland was 44. Figures for last year are not yet known.

Majella McCloskey, of the National Energy Action group which campaigns against fuel poverty, said the figures were shocking but told only part of the story.

"Hypothermia is a very specific condition related to a period of cold weather, rather than the broader effects of living in a cold, damp house," she said.

"Anytime we have asked for the number of deaths from hypothermia we have been told that it is extremely rare, so these figures are actually quite significant.

"But it's a very narrow focus, which needs to be much wider to give us a more appropriate and accurate account of the effects of cold."

Ms McCloskey accused the Government of "being disingenuous" over the figures.

She pointed to a Department of Social Development draft consultation paper, published less than two years ago, which found that warmer homes in Northern Ireland could prevent as many as 240 deaths a year.

"I would imagine they are afraid of highlighting the true number," she said.

"They have been under a lot of pressure about fuel poverty over the last couple of months.

"I wonder if this an attempt to play it down."

Meanwhile, NIO minister John Spellar has vowed to establish an "inter-departmental group of senior officials" to combat cold-related deaths.

A Government strategy to eradicate fuel poverty in all households in Northern Ireland by 2016 provides for a ministerial group to oversee the issue.

However, Mr Spellar said that in the absence of a devolved assembly he will chair a team to "take forward, monitor and review" the strategy.

"Government are determined to eradicate fuel poverty but recognise that budgets are finite and there are many competing priorities," he said.

Irish Examiner

A memorial card reads: Sleep now little angel

15 January 2005
By Claire O'Sullivan, Midleton

EVERY hour at least a couple of cars slow down, pull up and a little offering is left at the impromptu grotto that has appeared near Inch strand since Robert Holohan’s body was found.
Rain-sodden daffodils, multi-coloured carnations, Mass cards, a lantern, candles and teddy bears mark the junction 300 yards from where his 11-year-old body was dumped down a gully.

Ten-year-old Shauna and five-year-old Craig Condon, from nearby Ballinacurra, asked their mother to drive them to Inch so they could place a teddy bear and a toy truck near the memorial site. “We wanted to leave something there for the little boy, Robert. We think it is very sad. I know one of his cousins,” said Shauna.

Memorial cards attached to flowers read: ‘sleep now little angel’ and ‘I hope you are at peace’.

Passersby smiled sadly as they saw one particular message which read ‘God must have needed another little hurler in heaven. It is so unfair’.

“This site has now become a point where locals can remember Robert and express their empathy with the Holohan family,” one local said. “People want to do something but just don’t know what to make of what has happened in the past 10 or 11 days.”

Some have turned to the Church for solace and for answers.

“People are coming into the church a lot more than usual in the past week. There are mothers and children going in to light candles and quite a few groups of young girls from the local high school have gone in to pray at break time. We would not normally see that,” said Fr Billy O’Donovan.

“I was in and out of the church yesterday and at one stage I was gone for over an hour but some of the people praying were still there when I returned.”

Robert’s body was released to his family yesterday and Fr O’Donovan appealed for them to be allowed “private family time”.

His funeral will take place at 3pm today at Midleton’s Holy Rosary Church, with burial in the adjoining cemetery.

Preparations were underway in the town yesterday to close shops for a period today in honour of the hurling-mad primary school pupil who was found dead eight days after he disappeared.

GAA fixtures have been cancelled in the town, as have social events and a planned wedding fair at Water Rock House.

“Everyone is so upset. The town has just been depressed, whereas it would normally be full of hustle and bustle on a Friday. An awful lot of my customers have been coming in to buy ‘little angel’ Mass cards for Robert. It’s all anybody is talking about,” said Carmel O’Leary, who works in Hurley’s Newsagents.

The urgency in tracking down Robert’s killer was also preying on people’s minds, according to Mary Power, who works in a gift shop on Main Street.

“I keep on thinking that it could be somebody passing me on the street. We don’t know who it is and all this talk about it being someone local is terrifying,” she said. Her question hangs in the air: “Who could want to do this?”

An Phoblacht

The First Dáil - Remembering the Past


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On 21 January 1919, 86 years ago, the first freely elected 32-County Irish assembly met as the first Dáil in the Mansion House in Dublin.

Following the end of World War One, the British Prime Minister Lloyd George, decided to hold a General Election in December 1918. Republicans, many of whom had returned from English jails after the 1916 uprising, were determined to take full advantage of the opportunity provided.

Sinn Féin ran its campaign in an atmosphere of massive intimidation, including the arrest and jailing of over 100 prominent Sinn Féin candidates and activists, the confiscation of election material and the suppression of republican papers. The election result showed that when the Irish people were asked, for the first time in history, to choose between an Irish Republic as expressed in the Sinn Féin manifesto or to support the policies of the Irish Parliamentary Party, which in effect meant the continuing domination of Ireland by Britain, they overwhelmingly and unequivocally demanded an independent 32-County Republic.

They expressed this demand by electing 73 republicans out of a total of 105 seats. Although Sinn Féin won 73 seats, they only had 69 members elected, due to the fact that Eamon de Valera, Liam Mellows, Arthur Griffith, and Eoin MacNeill were each elected to represent two constituencies. The rest of the 105 seats were held by 26 Unionists, all but three in the Six Counties, and by six members of the Irish Parliamentary Party.

The election was the last occasion on which the entire island of Ireland voted in a single election held on a single day, and the landslide victory for Sinn Féin was an overwhelming endorsement of the principle of a United Ireland.

Dáil Éireann assembled for the first time in the Round Room of the Mansion House on Tuesday 21 January 1919. Thirty out of a possible 105 attended. The Unionists and Parliamentary Party members were invited but refused to attend and 34 Sinn Féin elected representatives were held in jail by the British. Michael Collins and Harry Boland were recorded present to conceal the fact that they were in England getting ready to spring de Valera from Lincoln Jail.

The proceedings of the First Dáil were conducted in Irish, French and English. The Dáil elected Cathal Brugha as its Ceann Comhairle. A number of documents were then adopted. The first was the Dáil Constitution and then the Declaration of Independence.

When Cathal Brugha, who read the Declaration of Independence, had finished, he declared to the Hall: "Delegates, you understand from what is asserted in this declaration that we are now done with England. Let the world know it and those who are concerned bear it in mind."

Brugha continued: "Caithfear briseadh do dhéanamh ar an gceangal seo idir an dúiche seo is Sasana. Mura ndéantar sin ní bheidh aon tsíocháin ann." (The connection between this jurisdiction and England must be broken. If it is not there will be no peace).

After the reading of the Declaration, the Message to the Free Nations of the World was read out in Irish by Brugha, in French by Gavan Duffy and in English by Eamon Duggan.

The last document ratified was the Democratic Programme, drafted by the Labour leader Thomas Johnston. The principles of the final document were clearly influenced by James Connolly and have defined Sinn Féin's policies to the present day.

While reiterating the sentiments expressed in the 1916 Proclamation, the Democratic Programme committed Dáil Éireann to "make provision for the physical, mental and spiritual well-being of the children, to secure that no child shall suffer hunger or cold from lack of food, clothing or shelter, but that all shall be provided with the means and facilities requisite for their proper education and training as Citizens of a Free and Gaelic Ireland".

It agreed to replace the Poor Law system with "a sympathetic native scheme for the care of the Nation's aged and infirm, who shall not be regarded as a burden, but rather entitled to the Nation's gratitude and consideration". It would also be the duty of the Dáil to "safeguard the health of the people and ensure the physical as well as the moral well-being of the Nation".

The Programme stated that Dáil Éireann would be responsible for the promotion and development of "the Nation's resources" and the "recreation and invigoration of our industries" in the "interests and for the benefit of the Irish people". The Dáil would be obligated to "prevent the shipment from Ireland of food and other necessaries until the wants of the Irish people are fully satisfied and fully provided for".

Its final provision was for the development of "a standard of Social and Industrial Legislation with a view to a general and lasting improvements in the conditions under which the working classes live and labour".

When Dáil Éireann had risen from its first sitting after two hours, it was greeted outside the Mansion House in Dawson Street by tumultuous cheers from thousands of supporters. The First Dáil had shown that Ireland would no longer accept the rule of Westminster.

And as the crowds cheered the newly-formed government leaving the Mansion House, three IRA men almost echoing the words of Cathal Brugha were returning from a small quarry in Tipperary, they had just taken part in the first action of the Tan War.

An Phoblacht

Intelligence, opinions and illusions


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Photo: PSNI Chief Hugh Orde

Illusionist Derren Brown on TV last week demonstrated how easily people's perception can be manipulated by someone telling them what they are already predisposed to believe. It's been a bit like that here this week.

There is no evidence, no arrests, no significant finds, but for those people who already view all republicans as criminals, no further proof is required. Indeed, the very fact that there is no evidence appears sufficient to leave no doubt in their minds. And the chief magician in all of this? Hugh Orde.

"On the basis of the investigating work we have done to date, the evidence we have collected, the information we have collected, the exhibits we have collected and putting that all together and working through it, it is my opinion the Provisional IRA were responsible for the crime and all main lines of inquiry currently undertaken are in that direction," Orde told the media.

Evidence, information, exhibits; it sounds impressive to those who want to believe but in the end all we are left with is the opinion of the PSNI Chief constable. And this is not the first time Hugh Orde has impacted on the political process by virtue of an opinion, his opinion.

Of course, there is another way of viewing this.

PSNI caught with its pants down
No matter what way you look at it, the PSNI was caught with its pants down. According to the media, a traffic warden reported 'suspicious' behaviour outside the Northern Bank involving a 'white van'. At the height of the Christmas shopping season, with banks and retail outlets heaving with cash, the PSNI's response to a tip off about a possible robbery at a bank was to do almost nothing. They sent two uniformed officers on foot patrol to 'take a look'. They saw nothing suspicious and no further action was taken.

It's just before Christmas and Hugh Orde is watching the prospects of his £25,000 performance related bonus fade into oblivion, along with the reputation of his force. And there are no leads and no prospects of arrests, little hope of recovering the stolen millions and even less hope of securing convictions. Well, what can a PSNI Chief constable do?

RUC tactics

Simple. Employ the old tactics of the RUC. Begin with a series of raids in nationalist areas at the homes of high profile republicans. Bring the media with you, handpicked journalist hacks who won't mind if there are no facts to support the accusations and won't ask too many difficult questions about the status of the PSNI 'investigation'. Peddle the notion that the very fact that there is no evidence linking republicans to the robbery is indisputable 'evidence' of their involvement.

Pitch it high. Confronted with an adversary so ruthless, professional, disciplined, experienced, intelligent and rigorous as the IRA, how can any criticism be attached to the PSNI? Surely any fair-minded member of the Policing Board would not seek to penalise the Chief Constable and his less than efficient force?

The words of the Belfast Telegraph must have been music to Orde's ears. "With their usual gall, republicans are challenging Mr Orde to produce his evidence, but few will now accept the IRA's claim that it was not involved," said the Telegraph. "What other group would have the organisational skill and cold blooded ruthlessness to pull off such an audacious and violent robbery?" the newspaper continued.

The old RUC was never hot on investigation. In fact, they were often not even allowed to pursue an investigation by Special Branch, who intimidated and bullied the CID into accepting the primacy of a counter insurgency anti-republican agenda. The RUC rounded up the usual suspects, tortured and beat detainees into so called confessions, tampered with 'evidence' or, when it suited their political agenda, saw nothing, heard nothing and said nothing.

Of course, the PSNI is supposed to be a part of the new political dispensation, new policing for a new beginning. But with Patten yet to be fully implemented, Special Branch still in place and many former RUC officers within its ranks, given the slightest encouragement, the PSNI appears all too ready to revert to type.

Southern acceptance

True to form, the leadership of the Dublin Government did not contest Orde's baseless accusations. Just after the Chief Constable's press conference, Taoiseach Bertie Ahern announced his disappointment with the IRA. There were no queries as to the evidence behind the PSNI claim. All Ahern had to say on the matter was that the whole event was a setback for the peace process and that he was concerned the IRA could have been organising the robbery while he was in talks with Sinn Féin. His response was similar to the one following the suspension of the Stormont Assembly in October 2002, after the PSNI uncovered an alleged IRA spy-ring. Over two years later, most of the 'evidence' in that case has been thrown out of court. But the Taoiseach has not learned anything from that — blind acceptance of the British line is still the order of the day.

Unquestioning media
Meanwhile, the media were working their magic, somehow knowing what the PSNI Chief was going to say even before he said it. "Orde will blame the IRA," screamed the front-page banner headlines of the British Daily Mirror, hours before Orde was due to brief the media.

As the media swung into action, what one moment was mere opinion devoid of any demonstrative facts became pure assertion. "The Provos unmasked," ran the Belfast Newsletter. And suddenly we were no longer dealing with a specific incident, as the politicking began. This was no longer a police investigation but a political witch-hunt.

"Peace in the balance as Orde points the finger at IRA," said the Newsletter. "The Provisional IRA stood accused last night of stealing any chance of an early peace settlement," wrote Gemma Murray.

"Prime Minister Tony Blair has come under increased pressure to exclude Sinn Féin from any future devolved government," wrote Murray. "IRA link to robbery blows peace process out of the water," ran the editorial of the Belfast Telegraph.

"Northern deal scuppered after IRA bank robbery," declared Suzanne Breen of the Sunday Tribune. "The current talks process is effectively over after the statement from the Chief Constable Hugh Orde. Stephen Collins went further: "the involvement of the IRA does more than cast doubt on the sincerity of Sinn Féin's commitment to democratic politics. It raises fundamental questions about the strategy pursued by the Irish and British governments for the past few years."

And the media knew exactly where to look to reinforce their position. "DUP deputy leader Peter Robinson said if the International Monitoring Commission (IMC) reaches the same conclusion [as Orde], Sinn Féin should be excluded from government for a year," recorded Breen. "In any future negotiations, the DUP would demand even greater proof than before," said Robinson. "The pressure will not be on my party to lower the bar. The pressure will be for a higher bar."

For anti-Agreement unionism, Orde's opinion had become the talisman not only to undermine any prospect of a power sharing agreement emerging out of the current talks process but also any future negotiations. Meanwhile, Ian Paisley announced he would be visiting Downing Street to urge the British PM to fulfil that unionist dream of "a devolved administration to be set up without Sinn Féin".


NIO Secretary of State Paul Murphy said there would be no rush to meet unionist demands and immediately exclude Sinn Féin from taking part in a power sharing government.

"I believe all parties have mandates and we have to respect them. But all of us have to respect the mandate of the Good Friday Agreement," said Murphy.

Addressing the British House of Commons, Murphy backed Orde's assessment but said the British Government still believed that power sharing provided the best long-term guarantee of peace and stability and would not abandon that ultimate goal.

Murphy said decisions and responses were now needed from Sinn Féin and the IRA. Without responses, the British Secretary of State said he could not see how it would be possible to reinvigorate the political talks. The governments would be considering how best to bring pressure to bear on the Republican Movement to complete the transition to exclusively peaceful and democratic means.

Sinn Féin responds

Speaking at a Westminster press conference, Sinn Féin chairperson Mitchel McLaughlin said his party's participation in the process and in any government was based entirely on its substantial electoral mandate and nothing else.

"We are the largest nationalist party in the Six Counties and the third largest party on the island of Ireland," said McLaughlin.

"In contrast, Paul Murphy has no mandate from the Irish people and we will not tolerate attempts by him to sanction or demonise the Sinn Féin electorate," he said.

Meanwhile, Vincent Browne of the Irish Times admitted, although he initially believed the robbery must have been the work of the IRA ("what other organisation has the capacity, the military precision, the logistical know-how and manpower?") that now he's not so sure.

"Now it emerges that £41,000 was being laundered in Craigavon over the last few days and, apparently, this has nothing to do with the Northern Bank robbery. Where did this money come from?" asks Browne. According to the media, the Craigavon arrests involved the seizure of high denomination Northern Bank notes but the PSNI were quick to announce that the arrests had nothing to do with the Belfast robbery. Could that have something to do with the fact that those arrested were not republicans?

It's sufficient to compel Browne to ask: "Is it good enough to put the whole political process on hold on the word of a police officer? Do we not know that police officers and intelligence chiefs get it wrong again and again?"

On the letters page of the Irish Times, a reader from County Laois put it better. "I was quite surprised at the unseemly and unquestioning haste with which most people, including yourself, accepted the word of Hugh Orde that the IRA was responsible for the Northern bank robbery.

"His report was based on 'intelligence'. Could this be related to the British Intelligence that was responsible for the report on Iraqi WMD that was used as an excuse for the illegal war on Iraq that has so far resulted in the slaughter of over 100,000 Iraqis?"

An Phoblacht

Sinn Féin will resist discrimination by governments

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Gerry Adams has given notice to Sinn Féin that the party must prepare to resist any campaign of discrimination by the two governments against its electorate. Speaking to An Phoblacht, the Sinn Féin President said:

"The process was in considerable difficulties following the DUP rejection of the comprehensive agreement in December. At that time, there was an unprecedented opportunity to resolve all of the outstanding issues and see the Good Friday Agreement implemented. This foundered on an unachievable demand from Ian Paisley, supported by the two governments. Despite this, Sinn Féin continued to search for a way forward with the governments.

"Then the Northern Bank robbery was seized upon, by opponents of the process on the one hand and by opponents of Sinn Féin on the other, to prevent any further progress.

"The British Government now appears to be considering a return to the failed policy of discrimination against Sinn Féin, and the Irish Government, for its own reasons, appears to be in support of this.

"Sinn Féin rejects any attack on our democratic and electoral mandate.

"I have spoken to senior officials in both governments and made this very clear to them.

"Despite all of our reservations and concerns as republicans, Sinn Féin has been prepared to work with the British Government in the common interest of building a lasting peace. That remains our focus and intention. However, we will not acquiesce to the undermining of the rights and entitlements of our electorate.

"We are also seriously concerned about the Taoiseach's decision to attack Sinn Féin. His allegation that our leadership was aware in advance of the Northern Bank robbery creates difficulties in the working relationship between the Irish Government and Sinn Féin.

"I reject these accusations totally and I am disappointed that the Taoiseach didn't raise any concerns he might have with me directly.

"It is important that we all avoid knee-jerk reactions. The Sinn Féin leadership is currently assessing all of this, the implications of any attack on our mandate and our future role in the process.

"Unless wiser counsel prevails, short-sighted decisions by the governments could have profound implications."

Adams said that in this context, Sinn Féin is seeking meetings with the British and Irish governments next week.


NUJ slams McDowell comments about North newspaper

14/01/2005 - 14:32:06

The National Union of Journalists has criticised Minister for Justice Michael McDowell for comparing a new daily newspaper in the North to Nazi propaganda.

In the midst of a vitriolic attack on Sinn Féin yesterday, Mr McDowell compared the Daily Ireland newspaper, due to begin publication in February, to a Nazi newssheet.

NUJ secretary Seamus Dooley said today that he was disturbed by the comments, which went beyond the limits of normal political discourse.

He said the Minister's remarks could put journalists’ lives at risk in the North.

Mr McDowell also criticised what he called a small minority of journalists who pandered to the Provisional IRA agenda, but Mr Dooley said all journalists had a duty to report all the news and it was outrageous and unacceptable for the minister to link them to the IRA.


Belfast Telegraph

Man quizzed over murder of teenagers is found dead

By Chris Thornton
14 January 2005

A man questioned about the loyalist murders of teenagers Andrew Robb and David McIlwaine has been found dead.

Noel Dillon, who had been arrested over the butchering of the teenagers in February 2000 near Tandragee, is believed to have taken his own life.

Dillon, who was in his forties, was found dead at a house in the Hamiltownsbawn Road, Armagh, on Monday at teatime.

He was buried yesterday after a funeral service at Ballymore Parish Church outside Tandragee.

Dillon was one of a number of men arrested after the two teenagers were found stabbed repeatedly on a road outside Tandragee.

UVF members were blamed for the killings. It has been alleged that they murdered the teenagers after being unable to locate two LVF members they intended to kill as part of a feud.

A number of items were also seized from Dillon's home.

He was questioned by police and later released. Portadown-area residents say he left Tandragee shortly afterwards and may have lived in the Republic for some time.

He is understood to have been living in Belfast at the time of his death.

"He came from a decent family," said one friend. "They would have had no truck with what happened."

A member of the McIlwaine family said: "Even if he was involved in David's killing, this is not something we would have wanted. We don't want any other families to suffer the way we've suffered."

Last year police began new forensic tests on items seized at the time of the killings.

The PSNI has refused to comment on the tests, but it is believed they hoped recent advances in forensic science would yield new evidence.

It is not known whether items seized from Dillon's home were among the evidence submitted for new testing.

Another man was charged in connection with the killings, but the charge was later dropped.

No one has been convicted in connection with deaths.

The Police Ombudsman is currently looking into police handling of the probe.

Belfast Telegraph

Protection plea for Ulster's gems

By Nevin Farrell
14 January 2005

Areas like the Glens of Antrim and Lough Neagh should have National Park status, an Ulster Unionist Party Assemblyman has said.

Jim Wilson is appealing to the public to campaign for the protection of the countryside and help highlight the need for national park status for some of the areas of outstanding beauty in the province.

He said: "Unscrupulous developers, bad planning practice and, add to this, interference and campaigning by do-gooders who have little knowledge of life in the countryside, are all threats to rural Ulster.

"Northern Ireland is the only part of the British Isles to have no national parks system. Our neighbours in England, Scotland, Wales and the Republic have all enjoyed this privilege for some time.

"A working party has now been established to consider legislation for Northern Ireland's first national park in the Mournes, which is a welcome step in the right direction and I applaud it.

"Here in Co Antrim, however, we have a wealth of natural beauty in the Glens of Antrim and around Lough Neagh and I would like to see ideas progressed about how these areas can also attain national park status.

"National Parks will boost the economy through tourism and careful landscape management plans will help protect farmers and communities steeped in agriculture.

"I am impressed by the efforts of the Ulster Society for the Protection of the Countryside to fortify campaigns to protect rural Ulster.

"Recently they campaigned vigorously to save Wilfred Capper's Ulster Way from being phased out and now they are an influential member of the Mourne National Park Working Party.

"I would urge anyone who has a personal interest in outdoor life and the protection of our environment and its inhabitants to play a more active role by joining such a body."

Belfast Telegraph

Ihab Shoukri on terror charges

By Ben Lowry
14 January 2005

The North Belfast loyalist Ihab Shoukri appeared in court today on terror charges. The 31-year-old defendant, of Alliance Road, is charged with membership of the UFF and the UDA.

He said nothing during this morning's appearance at Belfast Crown Court, and was remanded in custody until January 21.

As Shoukri entered the dock, his brother Andre gave him the thumbs up from the public gallery and five other men sitting nearby grinned at the defendant.

Minutes later, a security man told this group to keep quiet. As Ihab left the dock, his brother told him that they could speak later by phone.

Earlier this month, Ihab agreed to go back to jail of his own accord, deciding not to oppose a prosecution bid to keep him locked up.

Belfast Telegraph

Policing board member in new attack

By Ruairi McLaren
14 January 2005

A North West MLA today vowed that he will not give in to a campaign of terror against him by dissident republicans.

Strabane DPP member, Eugene McMenamin was targeted by hoax bombers yesterday, the second time he has been subjected to threats this week.

But he vowed today that he would face down the threats, saying he would not be bullied into leaving the Strabane District Policing Partnership.

The hoax bomb discovered on his car in Strabane town centre yesterday was the latest attack in a long-running campaign of intimidation being waged against the West Tyrone MLA.

Police cordoned off the area and sent for the bomb squad.

Mr McMenamin said: "I had parked my car near my office in Abercorn Square. I was just getting into it with my wife when we noticed the device on the passenger side windscreen."

Police later confirmed the device was a hoax.

Earlier this week Mr McMenamin was one of a group of District Policing Partnership members targeted with hoax letter bombs.

Nationalist MLAs Mr McMenamin and Pat Ramsey have both been subjected to particularly vicious hate campaigns.


Out of the West
Welcome to the North 2005

The behaviour of those who have accepted as fact the opinion of Hugh Orde on the Northern Bank robbery (and even he said it was just an opinion) is as reprehensible as it is predictable.

They should be aware, though, that this is not consequence-free activity. For those who put their critical faculties to one side in order to promote a partisan political agenda, there is a price to be paid in terms of credibility, and that price will be paid; probably later rather than sooner, but it will be paid.

Let’s be absolutely clear about this: there can be few people thundering on about the Northern Bank robbery and the dire implications for the republican movement who aren’t uncomfortably aware that what they’re doing is shabby and disreputable. To apportion blame authoritatively in regard to a crime for which no-one has been arrested, much less charged, is a very dangerous business indeed. In the long-term, of course, it’s more damaging to the cause of unionism than it is to the cause of republicanism because in the greenest parts of the North, the contemptuous cynicism about this state and its supporters is deepening by the day.

Anyone genuinely interested in a stable future for these six counties as part of the United Kingdom realises that this is only possible when the hitherto reviled and persecuted republican underclass becomes convinced that things are different and that a modus vivendi within the present border is, if not preferable, at least possible. But those behind the present political onslaught are driven not by common sense, but by personal and political animus. Ian Paisley’s ‘Smash Sinn Féin’ campaign was seen to fail miserably, but there are those who are pursuing the same agenda with a lot more vigour and ruthlessness than the old preacher ever did. The pretence that the frequently disappointed but persistent ‘good guys’ – the British and Irish governments, the ‘constitutional’ parties, thinking journalists – are doing their level best to bring Sinn Féin into the political fold lies in tatters, and exposed is a Canute-like determination to hobble republicans electorally, by foul means or foul.

In republican areas of the North, there’s a growing conviction that so rattled is the political establishment by recent republican advances that the intelligence agencies have been given free rein to do whatever it takes to close down Sinn Féin as an electoral force. But because they know as much about this community as they do about the remotest tribes of Equatorial Guinea, the scenarios that are presented to the Sinn Féin constituency as reasons to be fearful – Castlereagh, ‘Stormontgate’, Colombia, the Northern Bank and whatever’s next – are viewed as part of a quasi-military anti-republican conspiracy. And the Shinners reap the benefits. If there was an election here tomorrow with the Northern Bank storm blowing stronger than the Atlantic gales, Sinn Féin would clean up.

The I’m With Hugh gang don’t have to take my word for it: they should walk down the streets, meet people in the shopping centres or chat to them in the pubs and clubs. Maybe they might be able to work out – because I haven’t been able to – whether the most powerful sentiment is anger or disgust.

What kind of state is it, they’re asking, in which a senior policeman has effectively the same power as the highest court in the land? Why would the PSNI, the republican movement’s most ferocious opponent, say anything other than the IRA did it, and just as importantly, why would otherwise intelligent people accept that bald statement without the merest scintilla of evidence?

Because it’s clear now that this is a state whose very inception flew in the face of justice and democracy, and in which those qualities have been corrupted rather than cherished. And that’s more true today than it ever was.
Two weeks ago there was a strong sense in West Belfast that the IRA did the Northern Bank job – that was never the case with the last setpiece scandal, Castlereagh. We could probably go further than that and say that there was a strong hope in West Belfast that the IRA did it. But with the passing of the days and weeks and the political furore growing in inverse proportion to the amount of evidence, suspicion and resentment are the order of the day.

Anger, disgust, suspicion, resentment. Welcome to Northern Ireland, 2005.


Bank Heist: Here we go again
A special Andersonstown News report on another ‘meltdown’

The political fall-out from Hugh Orde’s laying of the blame for the Northern Bank robbery at the door of the IRA has uncanny parallels with another meticulously planned and executed job – the break-in at Castlereagh on the evening of March 17, 2002.

That the IRA was behind the break-in beggared belief. The three-man team behind the raid wore no masks or gloves, they gained easy access past heavy security at the entrance to the building. They made no attempt to conceal their faces from the battery of security cameras outside and inside the building – not suprising, really, because the cameras had been de-activated. The trio knew their way around the building and the only one of them to speak had an English accent. Claims that the IRA had been assisted by an American chef working inside the building have never been substantiated. Undoubtedly, a chef would have been able to tell the break-in team where the HP sauce and the beans were kept; questions about how he would have been able to get the team past perimeter security, or how he would have knowledge of the rooms holding Castlereagh’s most closely guarded secrets have never been answered – although he lives openly in New York, no attempt has been made to have him extradited.

The first question traditionally asked by the IRA when considering the smallest military engagement, never mind a politically explosive high-wire operation, is this: what are the risks compared to the potential benefits? The answer was that the risks were absolutely enormous and the benefits uncertain at best – a calculation that would have seen anyone suggesting such a venture laughed out of the safe house.

All of this was reflected in the considered response at the time of UUP leader David Trimble who said he would wait to see the proof before acting, a position that was warmly welcomed by Sinn Féin’s Mitchel McLaughlin.

Trimble’s party colleague, the then Lord Mayor of Belfast Jim Rodgers, said he didn’t think the IRA was involved and added that the whole episode “stinks to high heaven”. Outgoing RUC Chief Constable Ronnie Flanagan said he would be “most surprised” if the IRA was involved, hinting strongly that he believed it was an inside job. More predictably, though, from other unionists and from the Irish and British media burst a tidal wave of hysterical recrimination which swept away common sense and objective analysis. Republicans were refusing to end the conflict; Sinn Féin weren’t fit for government.

Sound familiar? Stay with it...

Regardless of what their boss thought about the matter, the RUC went on to launch a series of highly publicised raids in nationalist areas of Belfast and Derry during which six people were arrested. Five of them were quickly – and quietly – released and one was later charged with possession of information unconnected to the Castlereagh raids, including possession of biographies of leading Tories John Major and Norman Lamont and a 1988 New Statesman article on international eavesdropping. In a statement the RUC said they were “interested in a number of mobile phones that were being used in West Belfast in the period leading up to the break-in and on the night of the robbery itself.” No more was ever heard about the mysterious mobile phones. The PSNI continued to focus their attention on republicans.

In October four people were charged after raids on their homes in Belfast once again unleashing a flood of shock-horror stories about death lists and prominent targets. A local businessman became the fifth person charged after he rejected attempts to recruit him as an informer. Charges against two, including the businessman, were later dropped (quietly); charges against the remaining three were later substantially reduced (quietly) and a case which many legal observers believe to be pitifully thin is being persevered with (watch this space).

The investigation was frontloaded with the sensational and highly publicised raid on the Sinn Féin offices at Stormont during which a single Windows floppy disc and a CD-Rom were taken in a laughably brief search that nevertheless involved a mob of boiler-suited officers and saw parliament buildings ringed with Land Rovers. At a press conference in November, Acting Deputy Chief Constable Alan McQuillan said the Castlereagh investigation had taken the PSNI “into the very heart of the Provisional IRA.” Impressive stuff, but no-one was ever charged with IRA membership. Ian Paisley Jnr of the DUP said, “The revelations by ACC McQuillan that the police have now uncovered active IRA spying activity is another signal that their political counterpart in Sinn Fein is not fit for government. Lives have undoubtedly been saved by police actions.” The floppy disc and CD-Rom were (quietly) returned to Sinn Féin.

To this day, no-one has been charged in connection with the Castlereagh break-in. Not surprisingly, the Castlereagh episode has all but disappeared from the political discourse.

Against that background, it might be expected that another setpiece shocker involving an elaborately plotted and daringly executed operation followed by virtual political meltdown would give politicians and journalists pause for thought. Not a bit of it – even as the Land Rovers were lining up again outside republican homes in West Belfast in time for the evening news, the same siren voices were raised making precisely the same noisy and apocalyptic political predictions.

Last Friday’s press conference at which Hugh Orde duly pointed the finger of blame at the IRA was a confusing and contradictory hotch-potch of claims and allegations about which no evidence was offered. Mr Orde claimed that he was making the statement for “operational” reasons, without actually telling us what those reasons were; in the next breath he said that he was making the statement because media speculation was getting in the way of the investigation and he wanted to bring it to an end. Here’s the quote: “It now makes sense that we make an attribution because it makes operational sense, and it will allow us to get on with the enquiry unhampered by some of this unnecessary speculation.”

The naming of a culprit by a police force which has not amassed enough evidence to warrant an arrest, never mind charges, is so damaging to fairness and due process that it boggles the mind. And impressed as we are by Mr Orde’s dedication to the operational considerations of a single investigation, one wonders whether the questionable short-term benefit of bypassing the concept of innocent until proven guilty is worth the risk of ending the peace process. Hugh Orde says that is not his concern – he is fond of repeating the mantra that he’s not a politician, he’s a cop. But he revealed at the press conference that he was naming the IRA to end media speculation. If doing something to get the press off your back is not a political act, then perhaps he’s in need of a new dictionary.

Mr Orde also said he was pointing the finger at the IRA because “Northern Ireland is a unique policing environment” which “inevitably gives rise to questions as to who or what organisations committed what crimes, and how did they plan it, and who organised it. This would not happen anywhere else in the United Kingdom.” Really? Is Mr Orde telling us that the Met didn’t come under pressure after the Brinks Mat robbery? That English detectives don’t come in for some rough treatment from Fleet Street during the course of major investigations? Can it really be only here in the North that hacks get excited by big stories? Can it really only be the local press that wants cops to tell them something they can write about? The reality, of course, is that journalists put policemen under huge and sustained pressure – it’s their job.

When we talk about the peace process, we’re talking about people’s lives, let’s be completely clear about this. And yet the standard of proof required for the PSNI – or the Independent Monitoring Commission, for that matter – to cast judgement is not only massively less than even Diplock courts require, it is something about which we are allowed to know absolutely and precisely... nothing.

Mr Orde told us: “But what I can say is, on the basis of the investigative work that we have done to date, the evidence we have collected, the information we have collected, the exhibits we have collected, and bringing all that together, and working through, it is in my opinion the Provisional IRA were responsible for this crime and all main lines of enquiry currently undertaken are in that direction.”

So, on the basis of i) investigative work; ii) evidence collected; iii) information collected; and iv) exhibits collected, the PSNI have not been able to make one single arrest or to get one single republican into an interrogation room (not the hardest of tasks), but they are able to state that the Provisional IRA is guilty and trigger a political reaction exactly the same in effect as if Martin McGuinness been tried and sentenced to 25 years. In the Alice in Wonderland world that we inhabit today, the Chief Constable is able to speak ex-cathedra without producing a grain of evidence, and even the unelected members of the International Monitoring Commission have an effective veto over political progress. Newspaper leader writers treat Hugh Orde’s opinion (he was careful to point out that it was only his opinion, although you wouldn’t know it) as though it were incontrovertible fact and have constructed fantastic political scenarios on that flimsy foundation to the point where a media consensus has been arrived at and to depart from it is to run the risk of being condemned as mad, bad, a fellow-traveller, or all three. If all the papers agree that it was the IRA, if the Chief Constable says it, if the political parties with the exception of Sinn Féin say it, if the British government says it, if the Irish government says it, then it must be true.

The dogs on the street and all that.

In fact, the only thing that can be said with any degree of certainty is that nobody knows. The press is in makey-uppy heaven – that legal limbo when no-one has been arrested or charged and they can (and do) write whatever balderdash takes their fancy. The PSNI knows nothing; if they did they would swoop immediately and decisively, such is the career-threatening depth of their humiliation. The political parties clearly know nothing as they readily admit to have taken their cue from the PSNI. The two governments know nothing because they’re hearing the same things which Hugh Orde is hearing, ie ‘high-grade’ intelligence of such quality that not a single arrest has been made and not a penny has been recovered.

And guess what? The Andersonstown News doesn’t know either. But we’re happy to be among the very few to admit as much.


South Editorial

This week we are proud to unveil the all-new South Belfast News.
As the only paid-for weekly in South Belfast we have been given a makeover for 2005. However, the changes are more than just cosmetic.

South Belfast is the most socially, economically and culturally diverse area of our rapidly changing city.

The community has had to face its fair share of problems over the past 12 months with over outdated planning laws and the problems caused by over population of the Holylands as a result. The recent rise in racially motivated attacks against South Belfast’s growing ethnic community, and the anti-social behaviour caused by a minority of students has meant the spotlight being thrown on the area for all the wrong reasons.

In the three years we have been in business the South Belfast News has never shied away from highlighting injustices wherever we see them.

However, a community is about much more than this, and a community paper that adequately serves the people must be there for not only the trials but also the triumphs.

As the most rapidly expanding area of our city, South Belfast has so much to offer with its diverse population. It is rich in history, the epicentre of our city’s arts and culture, with theatres, art galleries, museums and festivals that attracts thousands of tourists each year.

The South Belfast News wants to reflect the hopes and aspirations of the people of South Belfast, to celebrate the achievements of our children and young people. We want to be there to record your child’s first day at school but also be around for the day they graduate from Queen’s University.

As South Belfast adapts and grows in these rapidly changing times, so this paper will be there each step of the way to report on the important issues and to celebrate the achievements of our children and young people, should that be on the sports pitch or in the classroom, on the stage or in the community sector.

This latest investment is a clear signal to the people of this thriving area of Belfast that the South Belfast News is your paper and is here for the long haul.


Mother shocked that Road Service hasn’t installed improved signs

A coroner’s court has heard that the driver of a car that crashed killing his two passengers was twice over the drink driving limit.
The three young Ardoyne men tragically lost their lives in the crash last January.
And signs at the junction where Gary Black, 22 and David Anderson 18, were killed instantly when the Ford Mondeo in which they were travelling plunged over a steep embankment and crashed into a warehouse wall could have been better displayed, the hearing heard.
Theresa Anderson the mother of David Anderson said she was shocked that the Road Service had not installed improved signage.
It was revealed there was a total of ten accidents at the junction of Hyde Park and Mallusk Road between January 1999 and September 2004.
Forensic expert Damien Coll said the driver had tried to brake to avoid the embankment. Tyre marks on the grass verge indicated that he was travelling around 50mph after he applied the brakes.
“The anniversary of their deaths is on the 26th of this month and it’s very upsetting that other people could have died during this time,” said Theresa Anderson. Belfast coroner John Leckey expressed his concern about the junction.
“The families have understandable concerns about this particular junction and if things had been different regarding the warnings that there was a T-junction the outcome may not have been a fatal one.”
Pearse Doherty, 18, a back seat passenger in the vehicle died five days after the crash that caused a hole in the wall of the warehouse and the car to override the embankment and plunge 14ft.
His mother Eilish this week urged young people to think twice before getting into a car or behind the wheel.
“Pearse was just a normal 18-year-old. He had a girlfriend and liked to go out with his mates,” she said.
“He had gone to the GAA with his friend and then went for something to eat. They were picked up by Gary and David and Pearse’s friend later got out of the car. No one knows where they were going. Pearse had a seat belt on in the back, a thing he never did. But his injuries were too severe for him to survive the crash.
“I would say to young people if they are going out to park the car up. There’s plenty of taxi depots in the area.”

Journalist:: Staff Reporter


Cavehill flasher at large

A flasher who has exposed himself to a number of people around Cavehill and the Waterworks is still at large this week.
A number of people have reported the sick fiend to the North Belfast News and the PSNI confirmed they have received reports of a man exposing himself to walkers.
A PSNI spokeswoman confirmed they were “looking for someone” who had been reported to them in the run up to Christmas.
“The problem is that people are only reporting sighting this individual after they get to work or when they come home from work at night. By then there is no way of knowing where he is.”
One caller to our newsroom said she was sickened with the man who exposed himself to her.
“He’s out in the mornings when mothers are bringing young children to school. It’s really disgusting to have a pervert like this stalking the streets.”

Journalist:: Staff Reporter


Paying the price

by Victoria McMahon

The parking problems that plague residents of South Belfast may be coming to an end but residents will most likely have to pay out for the privilege of parking outside their own homes, it can be revealed.

Three problem-hit areas have already been earmarked for pilot parking schemes to be developed and due to commence the middle of this year.

The scheme will take a similar form to parking programmes currently running in England and Dublin, with ‘residents-only’ designated parking areas being put in place to clamp down on commuter parking, and the decriminalisation of parking offences making it possible for appointed civilians to enforce parking regulations in their own areas.

Minister of State for Northern Ireland John Spellar said: "Depending on the PSNI ability to enforce, it is hoped that three pilot schemes – Joy Street in the Markets, the area between Donegall Pass and Vernon Street and the Blythe Street area of Sandy Row – will be implemented by mid-2005, subject to the backing of local residents."

Sinn Fein’s MLA for South Belfast, Alex Maskey, has broadly welcomed the proposals but fears the finer details of the programme and its dependability on the necessary PSNI resources could halt its implementation.

He said: "I very much welcome this scheme, at least it’s a start that the government is taking this issue seriously.

"My worry is if it is subject to PSNI resources it may not go ahead.
"The subject of PSNI resourcing is the key problem and it could result back into the chicken and egg situation.

"No matter what your views are on policing they don’t need to be involved in issuing car-parking tickets.

"There are many streets where an ambulance won’t be able to get down if someone needed it immediately.

"That is just one of the worries residents are constantly flagging up about parking outside their own homes."

Mr Maskey said there has been a "mixed response" from residents about the strong possibility of being charged for parking outside their homes.

"With people already paying their road tax and their rates they feel it is their right to park outside their own houses.

"Commuter parking has spread like a virus, making it a serious inconvenience especially for young families and the elderly in these areas, so something just has to been done," said the South Belfast MLA.

Journalist:: Staff Reporter


Carmel opposes new barracks development

South Belfast councillor Carmel Hanna has expressed serious concerns over a proposed new development of 75 apartments on the Malone Road Area.

The development, one of the largest in South Belfast, will be at the former British army barracks on 44 Windsor Park.

Developers, the McGinnis Group, have seen their proposal meet with approval by the Planning Service providing they "hear and take on board all views before a final decision is reached."

Speaking yesterday, Councillor Hanna MLA said: "I would have hoped that the local community would have had more say on the matter.

"While I do believe that we need more housing, I don’t think that it’s acceptable to build something of this size in this area. There is too much of this kind of property being built as it is."

The Planning Service confirmed that they had consulted with Roads Service and a Conservation Area architect , as well as meeting with local residents.

“We have listened to all views expressed and there is satisfaction that the development will not cause demonstrable harm,” said a Planning Service spokesperson.

But Cllr Hanna believes that the development will have a serious impact on the area.

"I am very concerned that it will lead to an unwelcome increase in traffic.

“And among other things, it will also have a negative impact on the Malone Conservation Area.

"It’s not that I have a problem with people living there, but I feel that the area would be better served with family housing and not block apartments, which by their very nature do not add to a sense of community.

"We all know that these kind of ventures are purely there to make as much money as possible for the developers. They certainly have very little benefit to the community as a whole.

"I would like to think that the planners would occasionally take a firmer hand with these kind of development proposals rather than just let them pass through all the time."

Journalist:: Staff Reporter


Deaflympics excitement
Ireland defeat Italy 4-3 to make it into semi-final tie with Iran

We, the Deaf Community in Ireland, are getting excited. This month is Deaflympics month, formerly known as the World Games for the Deaf, renamed to capture the spirit of the Olympics and what is even more important is that our national football team is playing there!
The amazing thing about our team is that it is an All-Ireland team – no two-teams-an-island nonsense – there are catholic and protestant players in the team.
It is because of the traditional education system where many Deaf Northies were educated in Dublin's deaf schools.
The Irish side took on an energetic Italian side in what turned out to be a tough match in Melbourne.
In true fashion we blamed the toughness of the encounter on the wind, especially with Italy scoring the first goal within the first minute of the match with the wind at their backs.
We eventually got the win against Italy and at the end of the day the result is what matters – a win is a win.
We beat Australia on Sunday 11-0 and the GB team beat us 2-0 on January 5 and on January 7 we beat Greece 3-1.
Today (Thursday) will see us take on a well-trained team from Iran in the semi final, which should make for an interesting match.
Melbourne is staging a world-class sporting and social event for Deaf and Hard of Hearing athletes and friends from around the world for this 2005 Deaflympic Games.
In organising this event, the organising committee and their partner, Deaf Sports Australia, will raise awareness of deaf-related issues throughout the wider community and strive to ensure that a legacy program for future Deaflympians is achieved.
The Deaflympic Games, under the patronage of the International Olympic Committee, is the second oldest multi-sport and cultural festival on earth with a long and proud history since the inaugural games in Paris in 1924.
A major coup for Australia, the 2005 games will mark the second time this event has been staged in the Southern Hemisphere.
It commenced with the twilight opening ceremony on the evening of January 5, at Olympic Park, the spectacular arrival and lighting of the official Deaflympic torch set the scene for 12 days of elite sports and cultural events.
Over 3,500 athletes and team officials are expected to attend and participate in 15 individual and team sporting events to be held in and around Melbourne City and the nearby historic city of Ballarat.
In the years prior to 1924, international sports provided limited opportunities for young deaf people. Indeed there were very few national federations to provide sporting competitions for Deaf people.
Mr Eugène Rubens-Alcais, a deaf Frenchman, worked very hard to encourage six official national federations, then in existence, to accept the idea and to take part in the International Silent Games, a deaf version of the Olympic Games.
Deaf sporting leaders assembled at the Cafe de la Porte Doree, 275 avenue Daumesnil, near the Bois de Vincennes in Paris on August 16, 1924. This meeting agreed to establish an organisation called the "International Committee of Silent Sports" (CISS) to establish a union between all Deaf sporting federations and to draft statutes for this Organisation to institute and control the quadrennial Games.
This historic meeting heralded the commencement of the Deaflympic Games movement.
Belfast Telegraph's Bob McCullough who writes regularly for Deaf Talkabout, the deaf community based column there, complained about the failing standards at the Deaflympics due to lack of funding that is much needed to run a world event, suggesting that the CISS can host the next one within the next Paralympics, the Olympics designed for people with disabilities.
As everyone in the Deaf Community knows, disability itself is a very hot potato – many Deaf people do not see themselves as people with disabilities and see their deafness as a positive thing to have.
You can see the results and more stories at:

Journalist:: Shane Gilchrist Ó hEorpa


Jennymount Mill still an option for council

The DUP in North Belfast has welcomed the council’s decision to debate again the possibility of moving over 300 council workers to Jennymount Mill on the York Road.
At the first monthly meeting of our city fathers in 2005, members of the chamber narrowly voted to bring the issue of relocating city centre staff back to committee by 23 to 20.
The matter, which has been in the pipeline for two years, will now be further discussed by the Policy and Resources committee on January 21.
DUP Castle area councillor Ian Crozier said he was pleased that hopes for a regeneration of the York Road area were still alive.
“There is a lot of mileage in the proposal. I don’t think that at our last committee meeting the idea was properly discussed as it was not compared to any similar projects,” he said
The councillor maintained that the relocation of staff to Jennymount was the most cost effective option.
“In the next financial year the council is intending to shell out £650,000 on temporary accommodation. In the city centre land is £9 or £12 a square foot, in Jennymount its £7. In the long run it would make a lot of sense for the council to buy this property and fit it out.
“There is no getting away from the fact that the council needs more room and again, space to decant staff while projects are being established. Pinch points would include the departments of development, client services and health and environmental.
“Basically the Cecil Ward Building is swamped and another area would include the council’s computer section in Gloucester Street. In all we need a further permanent 60,000 square feet, and Jennymount [25,000 sq ft] would go some way to tackling this deficit.”
Despite the enthusiasm expressed by Ian Crozier about the move, staff in the council have said they are not eager to relocate to the York Road.
Over 120 staff visited the site and completed a questionnaire that revealed 86 per cent felt ‘displeased or very displeased’ about the move.
On top of this, consultants brought in by the council to review the site, said they would advise against the acquisition of Jennymount Mill.
North Belfast MLA and councillor Alban Maginness said he believed the old courthouse on Crumlin Road would be a better proposal.
“This is a better idea because of its size and location. It is more than 60,000 square foot in size and could be easily adapted to suit council needs, and it is also close to the city centre.”

Journalist:: Staff Reporter


First Belfast hills talk focus on birds

Winter has us firmly in its grip this week, but a new Belfast hills group has already launched its spring events programme beginning with a talk on the birds of the Hills by wildlife enthusiast Aidan Crean.
“It’s great to get our events up and running with such a good first event”, said the new Belfast hills partnership manager, Jim Bradley.
The Partnership is planning to work on a variety of relevant projects such as farm wildlife surveys, improvements to upland heath management and joint work with quarry owners to improve biodiversity.
“Aidan has not just a spectacular set of images of the hills’ range of winter and summer birds, but a fantastic knowledge of them as well,” said a spokesperson.
Taking place at 7pm on Thursday, January 20 at the Ballymac Hotel, the event is aimed at those both with little knowledge of the birds of prey, songbirds and waders that frequent the meadows and valleys of the Belfast hills and also those who know them well.
“Because of the way the Hills have been farmed and managed over the decades,” said Aidan, “there are many birds which have disappeared from other parts but are still to be seen and enjoyed in parts of the hills, such as curlew, lapwing and sky lark. The Hills are great both for birds making their home and those passing through in spring and autumn. It’s vital that we all help the Partnership ensure that this continues to be a haven for these special creatures”.
Further events in the spring include talks and walks about the history of the hills, viability of small scale alternative energy in the hills and the future of Divis, recently bought by the National Trust.
There is a small charge of £2 adult, £1 per child for the talk. To book or for further information on the talk on birds of the Belfast hills, contact the Partnership at 163 Stewartstown Road Belfast BT17 0HW, at telephone 028 90603466 or email info@belfasthills.org.

Journalist:: Staff Reporter


Plaque to be unveiled in memory of murdered boy

A plaque in memory of a 15-year-old boy shot dead by the British army almost 24 years ago is to be unveiled in Ardoyne this Sunday.
Danny Barrett was sitting on a wall outside his front door in Havana Court at the height of the hunger strike in 1981 when a British soldier shot him dead. He was killed one day after Joe McDonnell died in the H-Blocks.
At the inquest into the July 9 killing the British army claimed Danny had a rifle. A member of the RUC disputed the allegations saying that no firearms traces had been found on or near the teenager. No British soldier has ever been charged with the teenager’s murder.
Now Danny’s mates have got together to publicly acknowledge his murder.
Eamon McAuley, a former friend of Danny Barrett said pals had got together thinking it was “high time” he was commemorated.
“There are murals in Ardoyne of innocent victims like Stephen Lawrence, Robert Hamill and solicitor Pat Finucane.
“But there has never been a plaque or mural to remind our children and our children’s children that an innocent 15-year-old from Ardoyne was cruelly taken from his family and friends that fateful summer of ’81,” he said.
“We would like to ask anyone and everyone to come along this Sunday at 3pm to Havana Court at the bottom of Brompton Park to remember Danny.
“We want to remember his short life and to see his plaque unveiled outside the house where he was killed. We have never forgotten him.
“He has always been in our hearts and minds and we are so proud at last to do something for his memory and for his family.”

Journalist:: Staff Reporter

Relatives for Justice

Daniel Barrett 15 years, Havana Court, Ardoyne, north Belfast, shot dead sitting on the garden wall of his home on 9 July 1981, by members of the British army's Welsh Guards.

Image Hosted by ImageShack.us

Daniel was the second oldest of a family with four children. He was attending St Gabriel’s Intermediate School on the Crumlin Road at the time of his death. Daniel’s parents described their son as a normal boisterous 15-year-old teenager, who liked the girls and had plenty of friends. They said his favourite pastimes were playing pool, going to discos, and playing his records.

On the Thursday evening, 9 July, Danny had played pool with friends until 7pm. He then returned home and watched 'Top of the Pops' on television until 8pm. When the programme was over he went to a local a disco along with some of his friends. The disco was empty so the youths left and returned to the Barrett home. As they made their way back to Havana Court there was some minor stone throwing taking place in the Ardoyne area and a couple of shots were heard. Danny's father speaking about the events of that evening to Relatives for Justice said although there was some stone throwing at the bottom of Brompton Park all was quiet in Havana Court.

The street violence in Ardoyne area on 9 July had been taking place sporadically since the previous day when Joe McDonnell, one of the H-Block hunger strikers in Long Kesh, died in the prison hospital. He was fifth of the ten men who were to die in Long Kesh in 1981, protesting against the withdrawal of political status and the brutality of the prison regime.

Havana Court, where the Barrett’s lived, was in 1981 a small square of recently built red brick terrace houses with small gardens surrounded by two-foot high brick walls. The back yard walls of the houses in Havana Court ran parallel with the back walls of a similar row of newly built houses in Flax Street, which faced directly up Brompton Park. The main road access into to Havana Court was via Flax Street. The old Ewart’s Mill in Flax Street, which had been used continuously as a barrack for British soldiers for over ten years, dominated the area. On top of the mill were several military observation posts manned by soldiers and equipped with sophisticated cameras. One such observation post was situated on a part of the mill directly overlooking Havana Court, giving the soldiers inside the post a clear view of the entire length of the small street and the section of Flax Street that backed on to it.

After he returned to his home from the disco Danny and his friends sat about the front garden talking. It was a bright clear summer’s evening, and as they sat and chatted they could heard the sound trouble at Brompton Park, were minor rioting was still continuing and plastic bullets being fired by British Crown forces. At one point came the sound of several gunshots and the youths ran from the garden into the Barrett home. They remained indoors for some time until things had quietened down before they came out again. When they re-emerged from the house Danny sat on the garden wall just outside the front door, one of his friends next to him. The two friends faced the main access road leading from Flax Street and Ewart’s Mill beyond, with one of the military posts on its roof clearly visible. Mr Barrett stood in the doorway along with another of Danny’s friends, while yet another friend stood near the garden gate. Suddenly there was a further burst of gunfire and one of Danny’s friends shouted to him to get down. Danny shouted back ‘Ach it’s alright.’ Moments later a single shot rang out and Danny fell backwards over the wall into a neighbour’s garden.

Mr Barrett at first thought Danny had deliberately thrown himself back off the wall to find cover, but when he looked over the wall he saw his son was losing a lot of blood. Mr Barrett knew then that his son had been shot. He immediately leapt over the garden wall but discovered his son was unconscious and ‘appeared to be dead.’ He whispered an act of contrition into his son’s ear and held him in his arms. He tried to help him his son, pulling of his shirt and using it to stem the flow of blood as they waited for an ambulance.
When the ambulance arrived Danny was quickly placed in the vehicle and it sped off towards the Mater Hospital on the Crumlin Road, not more than a mile from the Barrett home. To reach the Crumlin Road the ambulance had to pass along Flax Street where British soldiers, operating a permanent checkpoint outside Ewart’s Mill stopped it. The soldiers demanded the names and details of all those inside the ambulance before allowing it to proceed. The vehicle travelled a short distance along Flax Street when it was stopped again by British soldiers demanding the same details. Despite the protests of the ambulance crew the vehicle was held up for several more minutes. The soldiers then informed the ambulance crew that they would escort the ambulance to the hospital. However, the ambulance had only turned on to the Crumlin Road from Flax Street when an Royal Ulster Constabulary mobile patrol stopped it. The British army escort made no attempt to explain the situation and drove off. The RUC members entered the ambulance and demanded all the same details the British soldiers had already obtained. When they had finished questioning the people in the ambulance the RUC patrol escorted it to the hospital.

The Mater Hospital was contacted and informed of the situation and had a medical team waiting the arrival of the ambulance at its front gates. Danny was pronounced dead in the back of the ambulance. The RUC patrol asked the neighbour accompanying the dead youth to identify his body, which he did, and Danny Barrett was taken to the morgue.

Shortly after the shooting a large force of RUC and British soldiers arrived at the Barrett home and carried out an extensive searched of the house. The home of one of Danny's friends was also searched. The following morning forensic experts examined the scene of the shooting. The forensic experts told Mr Barrett the shot that killed his son came from the direction of the British army observation post on top of Ewart's Mill.

An inquest into the killing of Danny Barrett took place in August 1992. The British soldiers involved in the shooting attended the hearing, but their names were not disclosed or made known to the Barrett family and were identified as soldier's ‘A’ and ‘B’. A member of the RUC read out their statements for them. Soldier ‘A’, who was responsible for shooting Danny, said that shots had been fired from Havana Court and through the sights of his rifle he saw a person whom he had believed to be a gunman. He said he fired a single shot and saw a man fall. Soldier 'B' in his statement supported soldier 'A'.

An RUC member in an armoured vehicle in Brompton Park said he saw puffs of smoke which he believed were gunfire coming from a spot 70 yards from the Barrett house. Both the RUC and the Ministry of Defence accepted the dead boy was not the gunman. The solicitor representing the Barrett family described the boy's death as ‘summary execution.’

The jury returned an open verdict, adding a rider making it clear that ‘Danny Barrett was not the gunman nor was he involved in the riotous situation which prevailed at the time.’

During the inquest Mr Barrett, unable to control his anger and rage at seeing one of the men involved in killing his son, leapt on top of soldier 'B' as he passed him in the courtroom. Moment’s later soldier ‘B’ had to be assisted from the courtroom.

Some time later the Northern Ireland Department of Public Prosecutions said that following an RUC investigation into the shooting it had decided not to prosecute any of the British soldiers involved.

No British soldiers were ever charged in connection with the killing of Danny Barrett.


Chinese centre to be approved
Council set to approve site for community and resource centre

A site on Stranmillis Embankment for the proposed Chinese Community and Resource Centre looks set to be approved by Belfast council.

The original choice, Donegall Pass, was rejected last year after open hostility to the development from local residents and political representatives.

Now, in a move welcomed by many local politicians, the resource centre will be given a twenty-five year lease after planning permission was finally agreed.

A relieved Anna Lo of the Chinese Welfare Association commended the swiftness of the decision in the light of previous difficulties.

"We’re really pleased that this is going ahead. I think that it sends a very clear and strong message to the whole of Northern Ireland.

"This is not just a victory for the Chinese community, but for everyone here. It is a vital step in promoting cultural awareness."

Laganbank councillor, Peter O’Neill, who sat on the client services committee which approved the go-ahead, lent his support to the venture.

"This is a community that has born the brunt of racist abuse for a number of years now.

"As the oldest and largest ethnic community in the north, it is outrageous that they haven not have this provision up until now.

"I believe that it will enrich the Stranmillis area and South Belfast as a whole."
The Chinese Welfare Association are planning to have the centre ready for use by the autumn.

Journalist:: Staff Reporter


Sign of the times in the Strand
Residents and visitors to district will have no problems finding their way about now - thanks to new street signs

by Joe Nawaz

Signs in Strand Walk have finally been erected after Belfast City Council was lobbied by local representatives and the South Belfast News highlighted the issue.

Deputy Mayor and local councillor, Joe O’Donnell, is delighted for the residents.

“This is a very welcome move by the Council. It was brought to light 12 months ago that this area suffered from a lack of proper street signs.

“Strand Walk has a lot of twists and turns in it and without directions, services like the fire brigade and ambulances have had difficulty finding correct addresses in the past. Even simple things like ordering a taxi or take away food had become difficult.

“There are a lot of elderly residents in Strand Walk and the absence of the signs made life especially difficult for them.”

Cllr O’Donnell was quick to praise Belfast City Council for taking the matter seriously.

“To be fair to them, they were very helpful about the whole thing and were anxious to resolve the matter. This is a real plus for the residents of Strand Walk.”

Journalist:: Staff Reporter


Protests stepped up against hostel

The protest against a controversial wet hostel in Sailortown that could accommodate paedophiles stepped up this week with leaflets being distributed around the north of the city.
The New Lodge housing forum have also issued posters demanding that the plans for the hostel at Stella Maris, to be run by Belfast improved housing (BIH), be axed.
The hostel like the wet hostel at Brunswick Street will be run jointly by BIH and the De Paul trust from Dublin. And those behind the half million pound plan say no one will be turned away.
That has angered the housing campaigners who want an urban village to be built in the docks to eradicate the 83 per cent nationalist housing waiting list in North Belfast.
They say the presence of a wet hostel will discourage private developers and house buyers into the area and make it unattractive.
The Housing Executive, which has encouraged the hostel, insists it will only operate for two years. But that has been rubbished by campaigners.
“We believe that alcoholics should be given every chance to receive treatment – not offered a place where they can literally drink themselves to death. Remember that Brunswick Street has seen its share of murder and extreme violence down the years,” said a statement from the New Lodge housing forum and St Patrick’s and St Joseph’s housing committee.
Brunswick Street has in the past been home to paedophiles and indeed when questioned on the issue BIH refused to admit or deny if they would be housed in Stella Maris.
“The term wet hostel means the residents, mostly alcoholics will be allowed to drink on the premises.
“The wisdom of putting this establishment in an area that consists of little more than four bars and a drinking club is questionable.”
Liam Wiggins of the New Lodge housing forum said businesses, individuals and community groups across Belfast would be getting involved with the campaign in the coming months.
“North Belfast is top heavy with hostels in an area where there is desperate need for housing for the people who actually live in the area. This community is again being used as a dumping ground,” he said.
Evelyn Byrne of the De Paul Trust, which will be running the hostel said she understood concerns about paedophiles.
“For every paedophile we know there are ten we don’t know,” she said.
“As a society we want safe streets for our kids, but is it safer to have people lying around the streets rather than having qualified people working with them?”
There will be a public meeting on Thursday January 27 in the Reccy in the New Lodge at 7.30pm about the proposed wet hostel.

Journalist:: Andrea McKernon


No place to go
Traveller families told to move on

A Traveller community who had encamped in the carpark at Belfast Zoo were told to shift by the city council this week.
And both the council and the Housing Executive are both saying the issue is nothing to do with them. But this morning the Housing Executive released a draft policy to improve the housing needs of ethnic minorities.
The families, with around 25 young children and babies, were told to make tracks on Tuesday despite there being no facilities for the Travelling community anywhere in North Belfast.
The only fixed places are on the Glen Road and the Monagh Bypass in the whole of the city.
And a group that represents Travellers said the family were forced to move “every week” leaving the children without any education and medical care.
Married couple James and Una McDonagh both 19 said their six-month-old little girl Ellen had been suffering from vomiting and diarrhoea with the appaling living conditions.
Sitting in their caravan, the young couple said all they wanted was proper facilities for washing and sanitation.
“We have to keep moving. We’ve no toilets or water and we get a bad reception from people,” said Una.
“We can’t go to the moon. A man from the council and two policemen came up the other morning with the notices. We just want to be able to go somewhere where there’s proper amenities and proper water,” said her husband.
And he revealed that damage had been caused to a caravan after youths went on a rampage attacking the family’s property.
“We’ll have to go to court and the judge will tell the authorities to get something sorted for us, but as usual nothing will be done,” said James McDonagh.
New mum Una said she wanted her baby to be able to go to school, but the current situation made it impossible.
“I’d like the wee one to start school when she’s old enough. None of the kids are able to go because we keep getting shifted every couple of days. It’s important for their communion and confirmation.”
Last month Belfast City Council only managed to agree that legislation to control unauthorised encampments was “a key piece of legislation”.
A previous report in 2003 said there was a need for “a holistic approach to ensure the provision of adequate transit sits and all other forms of suitable forms of accommodation”.
The council has also seen the appointment of a Travellers liaison officer.
Derek Hanway of the Belfast Traveller’s Support Group said the McDonagh family were the bottom of the heap with no authority willing to “take the bull by the horns” and give them an adequate site.
“This family is well known to Belfast City Council and the Housing Executive, but between the two they don’t seem to be able to rectify the situation. They are moving every week and it’s difficult even for us to keep track of where they are to provide assistance,” he said.
“The statutory obligation is with the Housing Executive, but the city council has the access to land provision. They need to provide a piece of land so the Housing Executive can provide facilities at a suitable location. There are no serious attempts being made and no political will on the council. We have staff here to work with the family. These children upwards of 20 are without any basic education or health care.”
Sinn Féin councillor Breige Meehan condemned the attacks on the families.
“No one should be subjected to attack and their property destroyed, especially vulnerable people like this,” she said.
A Housing Executive spokeswoman said: “We have offered them permanent rehousing but this was refused.
“We have also offered them access to Travellers service sites but these offers have also been refused.
“We are currently investigating the potential of providing Traveller specific accommodation for these families and will continue to work closely with them to address their housing needs”.
No one from the city council would comment.

Journalist:: Staff Reporter


Call to tackle domestic violence

The federation is worried the issue is not being taken seriously enough

The government must do more to address the problem of domestic violence against women in Northern Ireland, a leading welfare organisation has urged.

The Women's Aid Federation has said that abuse affects women of all ages and backgrounds in the province.

Federation director Hilary Sidwell said she was worried the issue was not being taken seriously enough.

"How many women must die before domestic violence is addressed by the government?" she said.

"Women who are abused come from every possible background, financial situation, age range and live in every area of Northern Ireland.

"Domestic abuse devastates women's lives and severely affects children, families and the wider community."


'No more chances' for Sinn Fein

David Trimble wants a return to the 1998 Agreement

Republicans should not be given a last chance to join the political process, Ulster Unionist leader David Trimble has said.

Mr Trimble said that the prime minister had not taken strong enough action against them over the years.

His comments come amid calls for the government to impose penalties on Sinn Fein following claims that the IRA was behind the £26.5m Northern Bank raid.

The IRA has denied the claims and Sinn Fein backed its denials.

Purely political

The Democratic Unionist Party has called for the removal of allowances and privileges at Westminster from Sinn Fein's four MPs following an assessment by the PSNI Chief Constable Hugh Orde that the IRA was behind the raid on the bank head office in Belfast on 20 December.

An early day motion in the Commons, which has been signed by Conservative party leader Michael Howard, claims that Sinn Fein can not be treated as a normal political party given its links to the IRA.

Mr Trimble, who was Northern Ireland's first minister until devolved government was suspended in October 2002 amid allegations of IRA intelligence gathering at the Northern Ireland Office, said republicans had repeatedly shunned efforts to make them purely political.

The Upper Bann MP said: "I think that what has happened over the years is that the prime minister has not been sufficiently robust.

Gerry Adams warned republicans to resist discrimination

"He has created within republicans a belief that no matter what happens they will get away with it and that if they just hunker down then eventually he will come back to them as if he was the suppliant."

Mr Trimble said that political parties needed to return to the principles of the 1998 Good Friday Agreement which brought about a power-sharing government in Northern Ireland.

He said: "We must draw a line under current experiments and go back to the basics of the Agreement and consider, with others, where we go from here."

Mr Trimble also said that the devolution of policing and justice to Stormont must be taken off the agenda after the bank raid.

'No option'

On Thursday, Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams warned republicans would resist any attempt to discriminate against their electorate.

He said: "If the governments are going to go in the direction of discriminating against Sinn Fein or to bash Sinn Fein, that leaves us with no option but to defend our position.

"I am saying to republicans: let's not knee-jerk but reflect on the situation.

"But let it be clear we will defend our electorate's rights and entitlement."


Adams says phone calls to Taoiseach are unanswered

14 Jan 2005

The Sinn Féin president, Mr Gerry Adams, has complained that his
telephone calls to the Taoiseach to discuss the political
consequences of the Northern Bank robbery have gone unanswered for
the last week, writes Gerry Moriarty, Northern Editor

Mr Adams said he had phoned every day since Monday, first "more in
disappointment than anger" last Friday.

"After 10 years the least I thought, if we are into this serious
juncture, is that Bertie Ahern would have lifted the phone, as he has
done numerous times, and said, 'Gerry, A, B and C'."

Mr Adams said he was not saying that Mr Ahern refused to take his
calls. "I am also told he is on a break at the moment. I am told he
hasn't been available for any media whatsoever and I have to believe
that. But, as I said to the official, if the Taoiseach wanted to meet
me he would meet me. If the Taoiseach wanted to make a call to me, he
would make a call to me."

The Taoiseach's spokeswoman said Mr Ahern was on a short holiday
break at the moment as he had had a busy working Christmas. He would
be flying to China this weekend and would be available to meet Mr
Adams on his return.

Mr Adams said he wanted to repudiate the Taoiseach's belief that the
Sinn Féin leadership knew during the recent political negotiations
with the British and Irish governments of the plan to rob the
Northern Bank.

The PSNI Chief Constable, Mr Hugh Orde, believes the £26.5 million
robbery was carried out by the Provisional IRA.

Mr Adams said he respected the Taoiseach but he had urged him,
through an official, not to make his allegations of the Sinn Féin
leadership knowing about the planned robbery until he first spoke to

Meanwhile, the Minister for Justice, Mr McDowell, has fired a fierce
broadside against Sinn Féin and the IRA. He spoke of a republican
project to "rewrite history and to baptise the most brutal, cowardly,
blood- soaked, divisive, anti-republican, sectarian, hate-driven and
destructive terror campaign as a heroic struggle for peace and human

"The massive untruth at the heart of Sinn Féin is that it claims to
operate as an organisation wholly separate from the IRA. In fact, as
the Taoiseach has said repeatedly, Sinn Féin and the IRA are two
sides of one coin," added Mr McDowell.

He said the Provisional leadership "betrayed the Tricolour and the
reconciliation that it symbolises. They have hijacked history. They
have put a gun to the head of hope."

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