8.3.05


**For current posting and most of the archive, go here: SAOIRSE32. This URL at Blogspot is now an archive. Please use the Google Site Search below to find the article you need. It will work much better than the Blogger search. The old articles from the various months are accessible via the links to the right. Please scroll all the way down this page in order to reach all articles.

Posts through most of October 2014 for SAOIRSE32 are located here: SAOIRSE32 (former main site).

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Sinn Féin

Irish neutrality will be eroded by EU Constitution - Mary Lou McDonald

Published: 8 March, 2005

Sinn Féin Chairperson and MEP for Dublin Mary Lou McDonald has today said that "the EU Constitution is the single biggest step towards an EU Army and which will lead to the complete irreversible erosion of Irish sovereignty since the birth of the European project."

Ms McDonald made her comments after the EU Commission Vice-President Margot Wallstrom was quoted as saying that Irish neutrality would not be affected if the EU Constitution comes into force. Ms Wallstrom is due to visit Ireland in the next number of days.

Speaking today Ms McDonald said:

"The principle of neutrality is of fundamental importance to very many Irish people and I think Commissioner Wallstrom's comments are wrong. The reality is that the EU Constitution will commit all member states to the active development of the EU's common foreign and security policy and member states will be expected to 'unreservedly support' this. In effect the EU Constitution will sound the death knell for neutrality in this state.

"In addition, the EU Constitution legislates for a 'European Defence Agency' where member states are required to progressively develop and increase their military capabilities, and the policy of the EU must be compatible with the common security and defence policy of NATO. The Constitution also has provisions for the contribution of forces to the improvement of military capabilities and the establishment of an EU Armaments Agency - the blueprint for an EU military Industrial Complex.

"The European Commission is desperate to sell this Constitution; therefore Commissioner Wallstrom's comments are of little surprise. Sinn Féin is calling for a full, open and honest debate on the EU Constitution, and its potential ramifications. Irish neutrality has already been compromised by this government, in allowing the US military unhindered passage through Shannon Airport.

"Sinn Féin is calling for a full, open and honest debate on the EU Constitution. The people of the 26 Counties will give their verdict when the referendum is finally put to us before September 2006". ENDS

IrishExaminer.com

SF storms PSNI rights report launch in protest

08 March 2005
By Ian Graham

SINN FÉIN gate-crashed the launch of a human rights report and protested, during a brief stunt about alleged security force collusion.
Around half a dozen protesters entered the conference room in the Stormont Hotel in Belfast and unfurled a large Sinn Féin banner bearing the message “Who sanctioned British death squads? Time for the truth.”

They stood quietly at the rear of the hall but the official proceedings were brought briefly to a standstill when group leader Robert McClenaghan strode to the front of the hall and began addressing delegates.

He said: “If we are serious about promoting human rights in the PSNI (Police Service of Northern Ireland) one of the key issues that has to be addressed is the issue of collusion.”

No effort was made to remove the protesters but a number of people attending the launch walked out in disgust.

Within minutes the protesters were gone and when PSNI chief constable Hugh Orde stood to formally receive the report he dismissed the intrusion as an interesting part of the “rich tapestry” of policing in the North.

He insisted: “We are very proud of our human rights and just for the record the PSNI has always been against death squads and those include, for example, the people who murdered Mr McCartney.”

Robert McCartney was stabbed to death, allegedly by members of the IRA, in a Belfast bar in January.

With Sinn Féin under intense pressure and facing a growing crisis over the incident, the IRA has expelled three members and Sinn Féin has suspended seven members for their alleged involvement in the murder and its cover-up.

Mr Orde told the gathering: “The very reason we are here today is to reassure and convince the community that this report underlines the utter commitment to deal fairly and properly with all the communities that we are privileged to serve.”

He said human rights was not “window dressing” and those who had produced the report had been given unprecedented access to the service and its operation.

He said they were not complacent and acknowledged there was still a lot to learn.

The report said the PSNI had out-performed their counterparts in Great Britain in their efforts to comply with human rights demands.

Nevertheless, legal advisers for the authority that holds the force to account stresses the need to maintain an ongoing awareness of human rights issues.

In its first assessment of the force’s performance, the Northern Ireland Policing Board examined 12 key areas.

Lawyers Keir Starmer QC and Jane Gordon praised the PSNI for its attempts to meet challenges laid down by law.

Their report said: “In our view, the PSNI has done more than any police service in the UK to achieve human rights compliance, and in many respects we have been very impressed with the work the PSNI has undertaken in the human rights field.

“The fact that a range of recommendations have been made does not mean we have found widespread lack of compliance with the Human Rights Act.”

The board’s representatives completed a study on how the service was coping with integrating the 1998 Human Rights Act.

Police compliance has been strengthened by an internal Code of Ethics introduced as part of attempts to reform the force, they found.

A framework for checking police performance was developed and published by Mr Starmer and Ms Gordon in December 2003.

Those guidelines, and the recommendations emerging from the new report, focused on areas including the police programme of action and effectiveness of human rights training.

They were given unrestricted access to officers and police documentation, and attended events and incidents as they happened.

Meetings were also held with all relevant statutory bodies and a range of interested groups.

As well as officers’ adherence to the Code of Ethics, other issues included public order situations; use of force; covert policing; victims’ rights; the treatment of suspects; and human rights awareness among officers.

In future reports the advisers will be focusing on privacy, data protection and the impact of human rights on the role of local District Policing Partnerships.

“Whilst a high number of officers across all ranks and with varying lengths of service demonstrate a good base-level knowledge of human rights, the PSNI must ensure that officers maintain, develop and apply that knowledge in their work.

“It is therefore essential that human rights principles are fully integrated into all aspects of PSNI training and areas of concern identified in relation to training and other areas of this report are given urgent attention.”


Belfast Telegraph

'Opening wounds will hurt, not heal'
Loyalists reject plan for a 'truth process'


By Michael McHugh
08 March 2005

A South Africa-style truth and reconciliation commission for Northern Ireland would risk re-igniting violent conflict instead of helping society move beyond the Troubles, a paper produced by loyalists has warned.

A policy document compiled by a number of loyalist ex-prisoners' groups has questioned the value of a truth process at a time when rival communities are arguably more polarised than ever and follows the Secretary of State's decision to defer a truth and reconciliation process.

Sinn Fein has slammed the Government's position as "contradictory and divisive" but a pamphlet entitled, 'Truth Recovery: A Contribution From Within Loyalism' has warned that violence could be fuelled through old wounds.

The Loyalist Prisoners' Welfare Association, the EPIC centre for ex-prisoners and community groups across Northern Ireland have contributed to the consultation, which urged caution in light of heightened communal tensions.

"The initial optimism and good will generated by the Good Friday/Belfast Agreement has all but evaporated in loyalist areas," the paper said.

"In this kind of unstable, unsettled political context, a 'truth process' that attempts to open up old wounds runs a real risk of re-igniting violent conflict instead of helping society to move beyond the Troubles.

"Many wounds are still too raw for a truth process to have a realistic chance of succeeding. Under such circumstances, any truth process runs the risk of indoctrinating a more militant younger generation with hatred and providing justification for continuing conflict."

Sinn Fein has been pressing for a reconciliation process and North Antrim Assemblyman Philip McGuigan has lambasted Paul Murphy's decision to defer action.

"On the one hand Paul Murphy is recognising the need to deal with the difficulties faced by victims of the conflict while at the same time rejecting the need to create a independent process and framework to allow people to fully deal with the past and the issues of healing and truth," he said.

Mr Murphy said that "in the light of recent events" it was not the time to launch a consultation in advance of a political settlement.

He announced that a Victims' and Survivors' Commissioner was to be appointed as an alternative measure.

The loyalists' paper accused republicans of hijacking the process to blame the British state and its surrogates for everything.

It added that a lack of political remorse on the part of loyalists could be interpreted as rubbing salt in victims' wounds rather than promoting healing.

"Any truth process that would require individual ex-prisoners or ex-combatants to give public testimony about specific past actions will most likely contribute to the continuing demonisation of these loyalist activists," the dossier said.

Belfast Telegraph

Trimble blasted for silence over murder
Teen's family say UUP leader did not go after UVF


>By Chris Thornton
08 March 2005



The family of a teenager murdered by rogue loyalists has blasted David Trimble for not kicking up the same storm over the boy's killing as he has over the murder of Robert McCartney.

In a statement, the family of David McIlwaine accused the UUP leader and other unionists of not putting enough public pressure on the UVF killers of David and another Portadown teenager, Andrew Robb.

The family said they were angered when Mr Trimble accused nationalist politicians of not doing enough to support the family of Mr McCartney.

"It is our view that the McCartney family have shown more courage in six weeks than the unionist leadership has shown in the five years since these boys were murdered," the family said.

A spokesman for the UUP said the party, led by Mr Trimble, has consistently opposed all forms of terrorism. He said the UUP under Mr Trimble has campaigned against mafia culture from all sources, loyalist or republican.

The family's criticism came after Mr Trimble's speech to the annual meeting of his party's ruling council.

Mr Trimble said it was "a reproach to the natural social and spiritual leaders of northern nationalism" that the McCartney sisters had to take the lead in trying to bring their brother's killers to justice.

The McIlwaine family accused Mr Trimble and DUP leader Ian Paisley of failing to support their hunt for facts about the murder. They believe at least one of the killers was a police informer. The DUP was asked to comment on the accusation, but had not responded this morning.

But the Portadown family singled out Mr Trimble, as the MP in the area where the killings took place, for particular criticism.

"We don't think Mr Trimble put enough pressure on the political representatives of the UVF as he has so ably done with Sinn Fein over Robert McCartney's killing.

"He didn't ask questions in the House of Commons about the gruesome slaughter of two children from his constituency as he did about Mr McCartney's murder.

They said: "The psychopaths who butchered these two boys are still enjoying their freedom even though there is overwhelming evidence against them and witnesses have come forward, the two things Hugh Orde said were needed in the McCartney case."

They added: "The silence from Mr Trimble, and Mr Paisley for that matter, is deafening.

"If David had been murdered by republicans we would not have been able to beat Trimble or Paisley away from our doors.

"In the five years since David was murdered we have fought for justice for the child.

"David Trimble or any other mainstream unionist have refused to help us in any way to get justice.

"So Mr Trimble and Mr Paisley by their actions seem to be saying to us that Mr McCartney's killers must face justice but the killers of David and Andrew can escape justice because he or Mr Paisley won't show the same leadership so admired by Mr Trimble in the McCartney sisters."

BreakingNews.ie

£30m to be spent reviewing unsolved NI murders

08/03/2005 - 10:03:34

The British government is set to provide up to £30m (€43m) today to allow police to review unsolved murders in Northern Ireland.

Nearly 2,000 deaths during 30 years of violence remain unsolved and the funding will be spread over a number of years, according to British government sources.

The Police Federation of Northern Ireland welcomed the move. It has been pressing for a review of cold cases for years, particularly of the murders of more than 200 police officers which remain unsolved.

Police Service of Northern Ireland chief constable Hugh Orde is expected to follow the announcement by saying detectives from elsewhere in the UK will be brought in to help with the review.

Police Federation chairman Irwin Montgomery said a review was long overdue and would help families of victims to reach closure.

“Families just want to know what happened to their loved ones. They want to know the circumstances of their deaths.

“Obviously, my interest is in the 211 unsolved police murders particularly. But for all the 1,800 unsolved murders in Northern Ireland, hopefully this will bring closure for a number of families.”

He warned families not to expect prosecutions and convictions from the reviews. Some murders go back over 30 years, evidence has been lost and detectives who investigated them are no longer alive, he said.

But Mr Montgomery said new techniques such as DNA are now available and could be used in some cases.


BBC

Man is charged over hit-and-run


Car was stolen from car park owned by Belfast Education Board

An 18-year-old man has been charged over a hit-and-run incident in Belfast city centre.

He is due in court on Tuesday charged with attempted murder, robbery, assault occasioning actual bodily harm and driving offences.

The incident happened at a car park owned by Belfast Education and Library Board in Academy Street last Tuesday.

A 52-year-old man remains critically ill in hospital after being hit by a car during it.

The car owner was ordered out of the vehicle at Dunbar Link. It was later found burned out at Upper Springfield Road in west Belfast.

The accused went into Musgrave Street police station voluntarily with his solicitor on Monday.

IRISH REPUBLICAN INFORMATION SERVICE (no. 7)

Teach Dáithí Ó Conaill, 223 Parnell Street, Dublin 1, Ireland

Phone: +353-1-872 9747; FAX: +353-1-872 9757; e-mail: saoirse@iol.ie

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Date: Márta / March 7, 2005

Internet resources maintained by SAOIRSE-Irish Freedom

http://saoirse.rr.nu

In this issue:

Who is the legitimate successor?
Derryman released from Maghaberry
Man chased into school by RIR British soldiers
Plane ‘used in US terrorist snatch’ passed through Shannon
Trial of anti-war activists
Orde reveals Provos talk to RUC/PSNI

1. WHO IS THE LEGITIMATE SUCCESSOR?
RUAIRÍ Ó Brádaigh, President, Republican Sinn Féin, replying to a comment on the Provo Ard-Fheis at the weekend carried on RTÉ Five-Seven Live just before 6pm on Monday, March 7 said that it stated quite accurately that whatever else that Ard-Fheis was it was not the centenary national convention of Sinn Féin.

He continued: “It went on to say quite inaccurately that both Provisional Sinn Féin and Republican Sinn Féin were new organisations founded in 1970 and 1986 respectively. They were not. On both occasions the Constitution of Sinn Féin was broken at an Ard-Fheis leaving the minority with no other option only to withdraw and continue the Ard-Fheis elsewhere.

“ ‘Provisional’ Sinn Féin was the continuation of Sinn Féin under the self-same constitution as was ‘Republican” Sinn Féin in its turn sixteen years later.

“Republican Sinn Féin will celebrate the centenary of the organisation under the unbroken constitution next November near to the date of the original and founding Ard-Fheis in the Rotunda, Dublin on November 28, 1905.”

2. DUCKSY DOHERTY SLAMS MAGHABERRY JAIL CONDITIONS
MARTIN ‘Ducksy’ Doherty, who was sentenced to three months in prison for refusing to give evidence to the British Saville Inquiry into the killing of 13 civilians (he only man to have been sent to jail in connection with Bloody Sunday)was released from Maghaberry jail on March 4, having served 44 days.

He said that he had been “harassed” by the Saville Inquiry’s legal team: “I had people calling to my home at 7am. I had letters and letters. Why should I have been punished like this when Colonel Wilford and the people who actually perpetrated this have not. They have been decorated and given medals, they refused to answer any questions on the stand.”

Ducksy Doherty described the conditions in Maghaberry prison as “intolerable” for Republican prisoners.

“I was strip-searched five times. There’s a bigger issue and its about the treatment of Republican prisoners in Maghaberry.”

He said that Republican prisoners are locked up for long periods and are forced to eat “facing the toilet”. He described an exercise yard at the prison as “a budgie cage” and he also criticised a lack of educational resources.

At present there are 27 Republican prisoners held in Maghaberry.

The prison authorities asked him to sign a form to smoke a pipe, something he refused to do. He also refused to sign the “compact for separated prisoners”, a glossy pamphlet handed to him for signing by the prison authorities.

John Kelly, whose brother Michael was shot on Bloody Sunday by a British paratrooper said he was delighted at the release of Martin Doherty

3. MAN CHASED INTO SCHOOL BY RIR BRITISH SOLDIERS
GARY Donnelly (28), from south Armagh was walking to work during the week ending March 5 when he was stopped at an RIR [British soldiers] checkpoint near Foley Primary School in Ballymacnab, Co Armagh.

He said the soldiers asked him for personal details and when he didn’t reply told him they could arrest him under the Terrorism Act.

He said: “They tried to hold me and were grabbing at me so I decided to run away from them. They came after me and I thought I was going to be shot.

“The only place I could think of going to was to the local primary school. I ran into the school and went into a classroom. I asked the teacher if I could wait there and then I noticed the soldiers coming into the school grounds after me so I tried to get away from them.

“They caught me and the secretary of the school came out and pleaded with them to let me go. It’s totally out of order that they can treat people like this.”

Gary Donnelly has an injured shoulder after the incident and is worried that the RIR will come after him again.

Local residents and concerned parents were reported to be outraged by the incident.

4. PLANE ‘USED IN US TERRORIST SNATCH’ PASSED THROUGH SHANNON
A PLANE being used for an alleged illegal snatch of a suspect passed through Shannon twice in January 2003. It was also spotted there in August by members of the Aviation Society of Ireland. The Boeing 707, identification number N313P, at the time owned by what is believed to be a CIA front company, Premier Executive Transport Services.

The Boeing 707, along with a Gulfstream V craft, which has landed in Shannon at least 13 times in the last two years, is known to have been used to pick up persons who have been illegally snatched in various countries and bring them for interrogation either to Guantanamo Bay in Cuba, Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan or to a third country, such as Jordan, Egypt, Uzbekistan and Syria.

A number of illegal snatches have already been documented, including two men in Sweden who were taken to Egypt and a Canadian engineer at JFK Airport, who was transported to Syria. US news sources say the administration has now stopped sending suspects to Syria.

Those who have surfaced say they have been tortured after being grabbed and transported.

Khaled el-Masri, a German citizen, was on holiday in Macedonia when he was taken off a bus and brought to a motel outside the capital city of Skopje. Three weeks later, on January 23, he was brought blindfolded aboard what he believed to be a jet.

He said, “he was chained to clamps on the bare metal floor and wall of the jet.”

Mr el-Masri claimed he was flown to Afghanistan, to a US prison facility where he said he was shackled, repeatedly punched and questioned about alleged extremists at his mosque in Germany. He said he was released five months later, flown back to Macedonia and left by the side of a road.

Flight logs show the Boeing 707, which had its named ownership and identification changed late last year, flew out of Dulles Airport in Washington on January 16 and landed in Shannon early the following day. After a number of stops, it landed in Skopje on January 23, then travelled to Baghdad and finally to Kabul, Afghanistan.

Anti-war activists here have urged gardaí to investigate the use of Shannon by these two planes. A spokesperson for the Anti-War Movement said, “the law on torture, enshrined in the Criminal Justice Act, 2000, states that a person, whatever nationality, whether within or outside the State, who attempts to commit or conspires to commit the offence of torture, shall be guilty of an offence.” They have also made an official complaint to the gardaí.

The 26-County Administration said it had been assured by the US authorities that our airports have not been used to illegally transport suspects and that they would not do so in the future without seeking the authorisation.

A spokesperson speaking for Cumann Mac Curtáin / Mac Suibhne of Republican Sinn Féin in Cork said, “Again the United States authorities show no respect for human rights, while it carries out its imperial war policies. The 26-County Administration by allowing the use of Irish airports and airspace for flyovers are assisting the US in the name of the Irish people in its continued illegal occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan, and facilitating further torture and abductions. The continuing use of Shannon by United States aircraft is a breach of Irish neutrality and as such must stop immediately.”

5. TRIAL OF ANTI-WAR ACTIVISTS
THE trial of the five Pit Stop Ploughshares Catholic Workers commenced at the Four Courts on March 7.

Deirdre Clancy, Nuin Dunlop, Karen Fallon, Ciaran O’Reilly and Damien Moran are charged with two counts of criminal damage — €100 and €2.5million. They say that on February 3, 2003 they ‘made their way into Shannon Airport and non-violently disarmed a US Navy warplane’.

They and their supporters have planned a series of events for the week during the trial. They will meet every morning at 8.30am at the Spire in O’Connell Street. At 9.20am they will walk to the Four Courts where supporters will maintain a presence outside the court until 5pm.

They will be highlighting issues surrounding the use of Shannon by the US Military on its way to an illegal invasion of Iraq such as that the Shannon Airport Authorities have received €40 since 2001 and that €6 million in Irish taxpayers money has been used to subsidise US military flight fees at Shannon.

Those military flights are not all about transporting men and arms to Iraq. According to Village (26 Feb-4Mar) ‘an American Boeing 737 aircraft (registration number N313P) used by the CIA to abduct terrorist suspects in various parts of the world, was routed through Shannon and Dublin on 14 occasions from January 1, 2003 to the end of 2004’ and goes on to list the 14 flights. Up to last November the Free State Minister for Justice, Michael McDowell, denies all knowledge of such flights.

6. ORDE REVEALS PROVOS TALK TO RUC/PSNI
IN A report in a Belfast newspaper on March 2 it was revealed that Provisional representatives regularly talk to police “behind the scenes” on a regular basis. The claim was made by Hugh Orde, Chief Constable of the RUC/PSNI.

ENDS

BBC

Prison wing measures criticised


A separated regime was introduced at the high security prison in March 2004

A prisoners' support group has criticised the placing of non-political prisoners in wings reserved for republican inmates at Maghaberry jail.

The Irish Republican Prisoners Welfare Association said the authorities could turn down prisoners' requests to be accommodated in specific wings.

The prison service said prisoners must apply to be segregated and meet specific criteria.

A separated regime was introduced in the prison in March 2004.

Association spokesperson Marion Price said the current situation was unacceptable.

"We understand that to get onto the republican wing you have to make a request to be put onto that wing," she said.

"But because someone claims to be a republican, it does not make them a republican and certainly people who are in prison for criminal acts have no right to claim that they are republican prisoners.

"When a request is put in, the prison authorities can turn that request down if they so wish."

In September 2003, a review of safety at Maghaberry recommended separating republican and loyalist prisoners.

The move was introduced in the wake of violent clashes between rival groups in the jail and in the face of a "dirty protest" by a group of dissident republican prisoners.

As well as paramilitary prisoners, Maghaberry houses male and female prisoners, whether they are convicted or on remand, and a number of asylum seekers.

Larkspirit

**Bobby's diary - 8th day



Sunday 8th

In a few hours time I shall be twenty-seven grand years of age. Paradoxically it will be a happy enough birthday; perhaps that's because I am free in spirit. I can offer no other reason.

I was at Mass today, and saw all the lads minus their beards, etc. An American priest said Mass and I went to Communion. One of the lads collapsed before Mass, but he's all right now. Another was taken out to Musgrave military hospital. These are regular occurrences.

I am 60.8 kgs today, and have no medical complaints.

I received another note from my sister Bernie and her boyfriend. It does my heart good to hear from her. I got the Irish News today, which carried some adverts in support of the hunger-strike.

There is a stand-by doctor who examined me at the weekend, a young man whose name I did not know up until now. Little friendly Dr Ross has been the doctor. He was also the doctor during the last hunger-strike.

Dr Emerson is, they say, down with the 'flu... Dr Ross, although friendly, is in my opinion also an examiner of people's minds. Which reminds me, they haven't asked me to see a psychiatrist yet. No doubt they will yet, but I won't see him for I am mentally stable, probably more so than he.

I read some wild-life articles in various papers, which indeed brought back memories of the once-upon-a-time budding ornithologist! It was a bright pleasant afternoon today and it is a calm evening. It is surprising what even the confined eyes and ears can discover.

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I am awaiting the lark, for spring is all but upon us. How I listened to that lark when I was in H-5, and watched a pair of chaffinches which arrived in February. Now lying on what indeed is my death bed, I still listen even to the black crows.


Bobby Sands Trust


The Bobby Sands Trust website is BACK!


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click to view


**Thanks to Julie for the notice :)

7.3.05

MURDER ON THE ROCK



How the British Government got away with murder

by Maxine Williams

INTRODUCTION


Mairead Farrell

When IRA members Mairead Farrell, Daniel McCann and Sean Savage were shot dead by the SAS on a sunny afternoon in Gibraltar their deaths were immediately welcomed by the British government, the Labour Party and the press. They acclaimed the killings as a 'victory' against terrorism. The bodies of the three were flown back to Ireland and there too the enemies of Republicanism hounded them to their graves. The RUC and British Army obstructed the passage of their coffins through the mourning Six Counties. A Loyalist gunman attacked the funerals, killing three people.


Sean Savage

In the six months before the inquest into the Gibraltar shootings began the question of whether they had been victims of a British shoot-to-kill operation was debated. The controversy was fuelled by witnesses and evidence flatly contradicting the British version of events. The British government responded with an unparalleled cover-up.


Daniel McCann

Six months later, when the inquest jury returned its verdict of lawful killing, there was intense relief in Downing Street. Mrs Thatcher's government had meticulously planned and worked to ensure that this was the verdict reached. It is not surprising that they should attach such importance to the Gibraltar inquest. It was one of the rare occasions on which British activity against Irish people had been subjected to such serious international scrutiny.

Had the inquest decided that the three were murdered, the effects for the government and its strategy in Ireland would have been incalculable. Not only would the British government and its forces have been made to account for their murderous actions in Gibraltar, but also the questions that remain unanswered from previous shoot-to-kill operations and the Stalker affair would have been placed at the centre of public debate. The British government simply could not allow this to happen.

Barely had the spent cartridges been gathered from the streets of Gibraltar before the government began its campaign to prevent such a disastrous outcome. The machinery of disinformation swung smoothly into operation. The next day's newspapers were full of the government's story. The Daily Telegraph was typical:

'British soldiers... shot dead three high ranking IRA terrorists... in Gibraltar yesterday, shortly after the gang had planted a massive car bomb... shooting broke out when the three were challenged.'

The government had made sure that the public's first and most significant impression was that three armed IRA members had been shot having just planted a massive bomb.

Only on the day after the shootings did the House of Commons hear Geoffrey Howe admit:

'those killed were subsequently found not to have been carrying arms. The parked car... did not contain an explosive device.'


>>>Read on

BBC: ON THIS DAY

**article appearing day after incident

7 March 1988: IRA gang shot dead in Gibraltar


Two IRA members were shot dead at this petrol station

The IRA has confirmed the three people shot dead by security forces in Gibraltar yesterday were members of an active service unit.

They are reported to have planted a 500lb car bomb near the British Governor's residence. It was primed to go off tomorrow during a changing of the guard ceremony, which is popular with tourists.

The three - two men and a woman - were shot as they walked towards the border with Spain. Security officers say they were acting suspiciously and the officers who carried out the shootings believed their lives were in danger.

The three dead have been named as Daniel McCann, 30 and Sean Savage, 24, both known IRA activists and Mairead Farrell, 31, the most senior member of the gang who had served 10 years for her part in the bombing of a hotel outside Belfast in 1976.

The Ministry of Defence confirmed last night military personnel had opened fire on three terrorist suspects. It said no weapons had been found at the scene.

The shooting happened in mid-afternoon.

One eyewitness said he had seen a man in jeans holding a pistol in both hands. He said the man was only four feet from one of those he killed.

Police sealed off the area for several hours after the shooting. A robot was brought in to defuse the car bomb and troops patrolled the streets. Local residents were warned to stay indoors.

The terrorists' target was the band and guard of the 1st Battalion Royal Anglian Regiment, which arrived in Gibraltar recently after a tour of duty in Northern Ireland.

Army intelligence officers have been expecting an IRA attack on a military target for some months after a series of setbacks for the Provisionals. Reports say 20 members of the IRA have been killed in the past 15 months.

The Independent's Ireland correspondent, David McKittrick, said 1987 was "a bad year" for the IRA. They lost eight active service members in an SAS ambush in Country Antrim.

He has raised speculation yesterday's killings in Gibraltar may also have been the work of the SAS.

In Context

The Shootings on the Rock provoked a huge controversy.

Although initial reports made clear the three terrorists had been shot dead after planting a massive car bomb, within 24 hours, the Foreign Secretary, Geoffrey Howe, was forced to admit there had been no car bomb.

He told MPs the three were unarmed when they had been shot.

A car used by the bombers was found two days after the killings containing 140lb of Semtex with a device timed to go off during the changing of the guard.

An inquest in September concluded the three had been lawfully killed. However, the result was overturned at Strasbourg in 1995 when Britain was found to have used excessive force and breached the European Convention on Human Rights.

BBC

BBC told to hand over raid tapes


Chris Ward spoke to the BBC's Spotlight programme

A judge has told the BBC to give tapes of an interview with a Northern Bank employee forced to co-operate with a gang who stole £26m to police. Chris Ward, abducted by the thieves during the robbery, gave an account of his ordeal to the Spotlight programme.

A week after the programme police applied for any unbroadcast material and notes to be handed over.

Judge Tom Burgess said the robbery investigation outweighed the BBC's right to retain its own material.

In the course of the hearing the judge heard evidence from officers leading the hunt for the robbers, including sensitive intelligence information provided to him in closed court.

The officer in charge of the investigation, Detective Superintendent Andrew Sproule, said the unbroadcast material would be useful, because Mr Ward might have mentioned things in his television interview he had not mentioned to police.

Mr Sproule said having access to that material and any notes would allow police, and eventually the prosecuting authorities, to establish the consistency of Mr Ward's account for the purpose of determining his credibility as a witness.

The court heard that Mr Ward had been informed about the police application and had indicated that he had no objection to it.

Ordering the BBC to hand over any unbroadcast material and any notes of direct quotes of Mr Ward, Mr Burgess said the public interest in the investigation of the crime and the prosecution of those who committed it, outweighed the BBC's right to retain its own material.

BBC

McCartney family get Bush invite


Robert McCartney, 33, was killed near Belfast city centre

The family of Belfast murder victim Robert McCartney will be invited to President George W Bush's St Patrick's Day reception, the BBC has learned.

The US government is not inviting local politicians to the White House bash, but is focusing attention on figures it believes are acting as peacemakers.

Mr McCartney, 33, was murdered on 30 January after a row in a bar. His family claim republicans were involved.

Mr McCartney's sister, Paula, said they would use the invite to get justice.

"Our message will be to highlight the murder of our brother Robert. We will be asking him to support us in our campaign for justice and indeed for justice for Ireland," she said.

In recent days, the IRA has expelled three members over the father-of-two's murder, following an "internal investigation", and Sinn Fein has suspended seven members suspected of involvement.


Robert McCartney's sisters attended the Sinn Fein conference

At the weekend, family members attended Sinn Fein's annual conference in Dublin.

In an address to delegates, Mr Adams said the killing was dreadful and the alleged involvement of some republicans made it a huge issue for Sinn Fein.

"As president of Sinn Fein or as an individual, I could not campaign for the victims of British or unionist paramilitary thuggery, if I was not as clear and as committed to justice for the McCartney family," he said.

Mr McCartney's sister Catherine said they were encouraged by Mr Adams' speech but their only concern was to see the perpetrators in court.

All five of Mr McCartney's sisters, and his partner Bridgeen, are going to Washington.


IrishExaminer.com

‘Brace yourselves for new beginning to policing’

07 March 2005
By Senan Hogan

SINN FÉIN has warned its supporters to brace themselves for a new beginning to policing in the North.
Delegates at the Árd Fheis in Dublin were told that if democratically accountable policing is achieved, the party will face fundamental challenges.

Party justice spokesman Gerry Kelly said a special delegate conference would be called if the party reaches its objectives under the Patten Report. “It is not an impossible task and republicans need to be acutely aware that if the republican leadership achieves the objectives set in this area, then this in turn will raise fundamental questions and problems for all activists.

“There is a public commitment if we reach that point to then put a changed policy to our membership and to nationalism as a whole.

“While we are at a substantial distance from that point yet, activists need to realise that we can achieve it and with achievement there is responsibility.”

The party yesterday debated policing motions during which it rejected calls for a boycott of policing initiatives, but delegates passed a motion calling for the Special Branch detective unit to be disbanded.

Speaking on republican participating in policing, Mr Kelly added: “Nobody said it would be easy. Here is the challenge facing us. “as political activists we must rethink strategically, debate strategically and decide what is best for our party.

“But we will pursue proper policing and justice with all our energy.”

Sinn Féin Dublin TD Aengus Ó Snodigh called for reform of the gardaí and said the party was committed to ultimately building an all-Ireland Police Service.

“We recognise that the gardaí are a legitimate police force - albeit one in need of fundamental reform.”

He said Sinn Féin across Dublin were working locally with the gardaí to increase accountability with the community.

Referring to the PSNI Chief Constable, Mr Kelly said: “Hugh Orde needs to know that he is not the justice minister in the North.

“We want to create a new policing service which is representative, accountable and free from partisan political control.”

Irelandclick.com

Only three days left to save your vote

With only three days to the March 10 deadline to register to vote in the May elections the Falls Community Council has urged the public to ensure that they are on the Electoral Register.

A recent campaign by the Falls Community Council and the Electoral Commission has seen 1,200 local voters registered within the last few weeks.
The Falls Community Council’s Steven Corr urged local people to ensure that they are on the Electoral Register.

“The campaign has been a great success and there are still a few days to go to register your vote,” said Steven.

“Those who haven’t already registered can do so at the Falls Community Council offices until Thursday. We will also be running a campaign over the next few weeks to ensure that local people have identification so they are able to vote,” he added.

To register or check you are on the Electoral Register telephone the Electoral Commission’s helpline on 0800 0323 700 or log on to www.secureyourvote.com

Journalist:: Staff Reporter

Irelandclick.com

West axed from City Marathon



Organisers want to make route “more attractive”

The decision not to include West Belfast in this year’s route of the Belfast City Marathon has been slammed by Sinn Féin and SDLP councillors.

Councillor Paul Maskey of Sinn Féin, who is Development Coordinator of Fáilte Feirste Thiar which promotes tourism locally, said the decision to axe West Belfast undermines the hard work done by the tourism organisation to promote that part of the city. Traditionally the Falls Road has been included in the city’s marathon but now that stage of the route has been axed in favour of a more "flatter and faster course" for participants.

Whilst Tiger’s Bay and the Lough Shore in North Belfast is included in the race, the rest of the marathon is focused on Central, South and East Belfast, starting at the City Hall and winding up at the Odyssey Complex by the River Lagan.

Danny O'Connor, chairman of the Marathon Committee, told the Andersonstown News that “there is a safety aspect involved”.

“To make the runners safer we would need to have roads closed as it's too dangerous for the runners to share the traffic with the roads for up to six hours. Out by the Shore Road there is less traffic, we have managed to get part of the road coned off and we'll be returning through a pathway that runs along the side of the lough,” he said.

“Secondly, we have heard complaints about the route by people who participate in the fun-run, they say it is more like an endurance test than fun so we wanted to remove the hilly areas."

Mr O'Connor also pointed to the constraints involved regarding the 26 mile distance.

"We start at the City Hall and are limited by mileage down to the very metre so we have to make it exact."

He also said that the organisers are trying to have the Belfast Marathon included on the international marathon map and by making the route ‘more attractive’, they are likely to attract more participants as well as the media.
But Paul Maskey those excuses don’t wash.

“All other parts of Belfast are included on the marathon route and I think it is an absolute disgrace that West Belfast is not included,” he said.

“Events such as the marathon can be used to showcase an area and brings thousands into an area. The decision not to include West Belfast is a terrible one and undermines the hard work done by organizations such as Fáilte Feirste Thiar which has worked extremely hard to build up a positive image of West Belfast,” he added.

And this message was echoed by West Belfast MLA – and keen marathon runner – Alex Attwood. "The Belfast City Marathon has been successfully run through all areas of Belfast, north, south, east and west, for the last 23 years and it would be a far better route if it continued to enter and leave through all four regions of the city,” he said.

"The runners always received a warm welcome on the Falls and Andersonstown and it would be a loss to the community and a greater loss to the marathon if it doesn't continue to pass through the West."
The Belfast City Marathon takes place on May Day each year. This year it falls on May 2.

Journalist:: Staff Reporter

BBC

Death inquiry delay 'outrageous'


Magilligan Prison

A High Court judge has said it is "outrageous" that a Derry woman still does not know the circumstances of her husband's death in jail.

Patrick Mongan was found hanged in his cell at Magilligan prison in October 2003.

His widow, Julia, was granted leave by the High Court in Belfast on Monday to seek a judicial review into why the police investigation had been delayed.

Mr Justice Girvan described the delay as "outrageous".

He said the system needed "shaking up".

Mrs Mongan, from Carnhill, Shantallow, claimed she had been "kept in the dark" about the circumstances of her husband's death.

She said she still had not been told the outcome of the investigations carried out by the prison service and police.

She also wants to see the results of an internal review carried out in the wake of his death.

"This has been a terrible time for my family," she said.

"I just want to know how and why my husband died.

"I am finding it difficult to move on with my life and cannot find closure in relation to Patrick's death due to the delay in the police investigation and inquest."

Welcoming the judge's ruling, a spokesman for Mrs Mongan's solicitors, Madden and Finucane, said: "Her husband died in tragic circumstances almost 18 months ago and she is still no further forward in learning about the circumstances of his death."

Sinn Féin

TD assaulted by joyriders

Published: 7 March, 2005

Sinn Féin TD Aengus Ó Snodaigh today described 'joyriding' as an "ongoing and potentially lethal problem" in the Ballyfermot area. The Dublin South Central TD made his comments after joyriders assaulted him near his home yesterday evening.

Deputy Ó Snodaigh said, "On my return from yesterday's Ard Fheis at around 5pm I was nearly run off the road by joyriders who were driving extremely recklessly around the area I live and where there are always a lot of young children out playing.

"Concerned about the safety of not only my own children but also of the other kids on the road I challenged the occupants of one car to stop their activity but they sped off. I contacted the Gardai to alert them to the presence of joyriders in the area. I then approached the operator of an ice-cream van who was on the road at the time to warn him that up to four cars were being driven at speed around the area.

"It was while I was talking to this man that a second car came along. The car stopped because they couldn‚t get past the ice cream van. I approached the car to ask the occupants to stop because of the threat they posed to local children. It was then that one of the occupants got out of the car and punched me in the face. When other neighbours came out of their homes the joyriders left the area pursued by the Gardai.

"Joyriding in an ongoing and potentially lethal problem in the Ballyfermot area. Thankfully yesterday evening it ended in nothing more than a bloodied nose for myself. And while I would like to congratulate the Gardai for their prompt response I am still fearful that some young child is going to be tragically killed if we don't tackle this issue. Everybody - the community and the Gardaí - need to work together to bring an end to this scourge." ENDS

Belfast Telegraph

Community relations week tackles the bigots

By Claire Regan
07 March 2005

Thousands of people across Northern Ireland were today set to "engage in a major assault on sectarianism and racism" during the biggest week in the community relations calendar.

Community Relations Week, organised by the Community Relations Council (CRC), will feature over 150 events across Northern Ireland, starting this morning.

Events will include the launch of research into the attitudes of young people in Northern Ireland towards community relations, ethnic celebrations, cultural events, political debates and sports events.

The first of the week is the raising of the frames of two new houses at Habitat for Humanity's site at Lupus Grove in Ligoniel, part of a cross community project to build houses in Ligoniel and Ballysillan.

Peter Farquharson, Habitat for Humanity executive director, said that building in the two areas simultaneously, volunteers and families may cross over and work on both projects at the same time.

Duncan Morrow said that the week will illustrate and celebrate the often unsung work that goes on to help break down division here.

"The One Small Step Campaign has been encouraging everyone in society to take steps to help build a shared future for Northern Ireland and we hope that Community Relations Week will be an opportunity for organisations and individuals to illustrate the steps that they are taking," he said.

"Much of the work that is being put on display in community relations week is carried out on a daily basis and is making a significant contribution to community stability and the push towards a better, stable Northern Ireland," he added.

A full listing of Community Relations Week events is available at www.community-relations.org.uk.

Belfast Telegraph

Father slams unionist stance

By David Gordon
dgordon@belfasttelegraph.co.uk
07 March 2005

A campaigning father today accused unionist politicians of "hypocrisy" over their comments on the murder of Robert McCartney.

Raymond McCord, whose son Raymond Jnr was killed by the UVF in 1997, said unionists had failed to take a stand on loyalist paramilitary murders.

He asked: "Who among unionist politicians is calling for the murderers of my son to be handed over?

"Who is calling for sanctions against the PUP?

"Their demands on the McCartney murder are nothing more than hypocrisy."

Mr McCord, a north Belfast Protestant, claimed unionists have let down victims of loyalist violence in their communities.

Raymond McCord Jnr was beaten to death by a UVF gang in November 1997.

Belfast Telegraph

Boy electrocuted on abandoned site

By Damien McGinley
07 March 2005

A 14-year-old boy was electrocuted by a live electric cable on an abandoned site on the outskirts of Belfast, it emerged today.

Stephen McFerran from Poleglass was recovering in hospital today after he was blown off his feet on Saturday by the electric shock, which melted his clothes.

He was playing football on waste ground behind Glenkeen in Poleglass when he fell on to a live cable.

He was taken to the Royal Hospital in Belfast where he was treated for burns to his arm.

Stephen's father Stephen McFerran said he was lucky not to have been killed.

"We don't understand how he survived, we brought him to the hospital, his face was black from the electric shock, he was put on a drip and a heart monitor."

The cable was on the site of a burned-down school.

"The gates were wide open," Mr McFerran said.

"It's the only place that kids can play football in, it was an accident waiting to happen, it could have happened to anybody."

A spokesperson for NIE said they were informed of the cable on Sunday evening, and engineers were working this morning to secure the site.

Sinn Fein MLA, Michael Ferguson, who reported the incident said: "This young boy is lucky to be alive and it is essential that we reduce the risk to others."

Echoing the family's concern at the lack of playground facilities he added: "There are 6,000 people under 18 living in this area with no playground facilities. Funding was turned down only last year for an astro turf pitch, children have nowhere else to go."

Daily Ireland

Armed RIR soldiers chase man into school grounds

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A 28-year-old south Armagh man feared he was going to be shot last week after being chased by a group of Royal Irish Regiment soldiers.
Local residents and concerned parents in Ballymacnab are outraged after the armed soldiers chased Gary Donnelly onto the grounds of a primary school.
The incident arose at Foley Primary School in Ballymacnab after Mr Donnelly had been stopped at an RIR patrol along the Collmillish Road as he walked to work.
Speaking exclusively to Daily Ireland, Mr Donnelly said, “I was walking to work and there was a checkpoint on the road.
“The soldiers started asking me for details and, when I didn’t answer them, I was told that they could arrest me under the Terrorism Act.
“They tried to hold me and were grabbing at me so I decided to run away from them. They came after me and I thought I was going to be shot.
“The only place I could think of going to was to the local primary school. I ran into the school and went into a classroom. I asked the teacher if I could wait there and then I noticed the soldiers coming into the school grounds after me so I tried to get away from them.
“They caught me and the secretary of the school came out and pleaded with them to let me go. It’s totally out of order that they can treat people like this.”
Mr Donnelly has an injured shoulder after the incident and is now worried that the RIR will come after him again.
Local Sinn Féin assembly member Conor Murphy said, “Fully armed RIR soldiers should have no place in our primary schools.
“Both the principal and school secretary were forced to intervene and it goes without saying that the victim was immediately released following this frightening and horrific ordeal.”
Daily Ireland has obtained a letter sent from school principal Mr M Kelly to parents about the incident. In the letter, he said, “I was extremely concerned for the welfare of the children and staff of the school. Apart from the trauma and distress these events may have caused, I was also concerned that a weapon might have been discharged. Thankfully, this did not occur.”
A spokesperson for the British armed forces said, “We can confirm that a man who had been acting suspiciously was apprehended briefly on Wednesday morning on the grounds of the school.
“Acting suspiciously and then verbally abusing the soldiers, he was asked by the patrol for his personal details and then ran away into the school grounds.
“He was subseqently apprehended by members of the patrol in the school grounds.
“We sincerely regret any distress caused to anyone who may have witnessed the incident.”






Daily Ireland

Family casts doubt on Ombudsman inquiry

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An Armagh family has cast serious doubt on the impartiality of a Police Ombudsman inquiry into the conduct of RUC officers investigating the Ulster Volunteer Force murder of their sons 12 years ago.
On March 7, 1993, 18-year-old Rory Cairns and his 22-year-old brother Gerald were murdered in their Bleary home by a loyalist death squad while they celebrated their younger sister Roisin’s 11th birthday. Had Rory survived, he would have turned 30 today.
One of the gunmen who raked the Cairns farmhouse with bullets was Special Branch informer Mark ‘Swinger’ Fulton, who would later go on to lead the Loyalist Volunteer Force.
The murders rocked the tiny Bleary community. Despite the high-profile nature of the killings, the RUC investigation was decidedly low-key and “woefully inadequate”, according to the brothers’ father, Eamon Cairns.
Because the killings involved at least one British agent, the Cairns family is convinced that detectives never had any intention of bringing their sons’ murderers to justice.
Two years ago, the Police Ombudsman was called in to investigate the Cairns family’s belief that the RUC had never conducted a proper investigation. Although Nuala O’Loan’s office has still to finish its inquiry, the Cairns family is already casting serious doubt over what conclusion it might reach.
Eamon Cairns said, “I am in no doubt that the UVF colluded with the RUC in the build-up to my sons’ murders. It was Special Branch informers who pulled the trigger on my children. But they are only a small part of a bigger picture. I want to see the handlers of the UVF gunmen brought to book for setting my children up to be massacred.
“A while ago, I asked the Police Ombudsman to investigate but I am really unhappy with how its inquiries have been going. I think, and my family shares this view, that the Police Ombudsman is effectively part of the cover-up. What we want is for someone to admit, or the Police Ombudsman to confirm, that there was collusion.”
The village of Bleary is in the heart of north Armagh, an area that local nationalists call the “murder triangle”.
Since the outbreak of the Troubles, 171 people from the area have been murdered by loyalist paramilitaries.
Eamon Cairns said he believed that a large portion of these killings involved collusion between paramilitaries and security agencies.
In a bid to make the whole of Ireland aware of these statistics, Mr Cairns is currently meeting families who have lost loved ones in an attempt to set up an organisation for relatives of collusion victims in north Armagh.
He said, “Most of the people murdered in north Armagh were the victims of the same UVF gang. The RUC are well aware of the names of those who carried out the attack — after all, many were informers — and the lack of charges that followed points straight to collusion.
“Like the murder of my sons, the investigations into all the killings of nationalists in north Armagh were compromised from the start because of the RUC’s need to protect its agents and conceal its role. Although we are faced with this, we are not going to give up fighting for the truth.
“Gerald and Rory are always with us, as is every other lost loved one to their families in north Armagh.
“It is their spirits that has given us the strength to continue.”
A spokesman for the Police Ombudsman said the investigation into the Cairns murders had not been completed and was still under investigation.
He said the investigation was based on evidence and that, if Mr Cairns’ family or anyone else had fresh evidence the Police Ombudsman wanted to hear from them.







Daily Ireland

Letters to the editor - Former blanketman slams Hunger Strike memoirs

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I read with deep anger the extract from Richard O’Rawe’s book Blanketmen where he stated that the IRA Army Council acted in a inexcusable manner by using the last six hunger strikers as cannon fodder for election purposes by blocking a deal that would have ended the hunger strike and saved their lives.
As a former blanketman who joined the protest the same month as Kieran Nugent, I can speak with some authority on the protest.
So I ask myself one question: Why is O’Rawe peddling this line on the 24th anniversary of the Hunger Strike and putting the families through this unneeded turmoil and anguish?
Especially now when the Irish government, the SDLP and media are trying to reinstigate the criminalisation policy for electoral purposes
O’Rawe was only a ‘press release officer' and would therefore not have been privy, anymore than the rest of the blanketmen, nor had any more say than us, if a deal was acceptable or not.
I can only assume that those years of solitary confinement have affected his memory to the extent he gives himself a role and importance he never had.
O’Rawe has no credibility.
Does anyone honestly think that a man who was prepared to swallow his convictions and put on the prison uniform and criminalise himself while his comrades lay dying would be negotiating for us?
Martin Hurson was never in O’Rawe’s wing as he claims in his book.
Martin, from the day and hour he was sentenced until a few weeks before his death, was always on my wing in H Block 5 along with Francis Hughes and Raymond McCreesh who was next door to me.
I stated I could speak with some authority on the Hunger Strike and the facts are these:
On the night the first Hunger Strike ended, Bobby Sands as officer commanding republican prisoners was taken from his cell and escorted around H blocks 3, 4 and 5 at the request and accompanied by Fr Murphy, the then prison chaplain, a chief screw and prison governor to inform us the strike had ended.
This was only a cover for Bobby as we had our own line of communication within the blocks.
It was Bobby’s way of speaking to Francis Hughes, Ray McCreesh and Patsy O’Hara. The only cells Bobby visited in H block 5 that night were Raymond’s and Francis’ who were cell mates and Patsy O’Hara’s.
The plans were laid out that night by Bobby, that failure by the Brits to implement the deal offered that night to end the Hunger Strike would commence in a new one by these four men. Francis Hughes himself, who was a personal friend of mine, later confirmed this to me.
They planned the Hunger Strike that night – not the IRA Army Council. When the new Hunger Strike was announced Bobby as OC laid ground rules which we were all made aware of and supported, inside the prison.
No 1: He appointed Bik McFarland as OC of republican prisoners extracting a promise, against Bik’s own personal wishes, that at no time was he to go on hunger strike but to remain in command until our five demands were met and to liase with the hunger strikers, which he faithfully did.
No 2: He ordered that no one could order the men off Hunger Strike or agree without their input and consent – only the hunger strikers could take themselves off.
Before embarking on hunger strike, Bobby and Francis were sent written commands by the IRA, the written command for Francis was passed to me to pass in through a gap in the heating pipes that ran along the back wall of our cells to give to Francis.
I was unable to do this, as the gap was too tight so I was given permission to open Francis’ command and to read it to him through the gap in the pipes with the instruction to burn it afterwards and to keep the contents secret.
I hope the IRA will forgive me now for disclosing the contents of their command but I feel I owe it to the Hunger Strikers' families and the blanket men to knock O’Rawe's version on the head.
The contents were as follows. The IRA leadership did not agree with the Hunger Strike, so soon after the first one as they felt there would be apathy among grassroots support on the ground outside, that Thatcher’s government would dig their heels in and allow volunteers to die, and that this could be detrimental to the future of the armed struggle and they therefore advised Francis not to go on hunger strike.
That is fact and proof, if needed, that at all times the hunger strikers controlled their destiny – not the IRA as O’Rawe claims.
The very fact these men broke army orders and embarked on hunger strikes showed how courageous and farsighted they were in their thinking that no one must be allowed to criminalise our struggle for justice, peace, equality and freedom and like their comrades in the past right back to the Fenians, who gave their lives rather than criminalise the struggle.
We must honour their memory by ensuring that O’Rawe, the SDLP, the Irish government and the media do not succeed either.
The responsibility for the deaths of the hunger strikers lies with no one but the British government who created the conditions to allow it to happen.

Paul McGlinchey
Toome
Co Antrim

Irelandclick.com

On the ground in Short Strand
The fallout in East Belfast since the murder of Robert McCartney


Short Strand is a community on the ropes. It finds itself at the epicentre of a national tragedy and the focus of unremitting media attention. But the Ballymacarret spirit which has seen the embattled nationalist area emerge unbowed from 30 years on the frontline is serving it well today, say prominent community activists.

On Friday last, the Andersonstown News visited area to allow locals to speak for themselves.

Everyone, without exception, who spoke to us, stressed the sorrow they felt for the McCartney family.

However, there was a fear that the media was using the ordinary people of Short Strand as “A whipping boy”.

“There is not one person from this entire area who doesn’t feel for the family and think that it was disgusting,” said well-known community activist and Aisling Award winner Bernie McConnell. “It was wrong and needs to be dealt with.”

Witness intimidation has featured heavily in the press coverage of the recent events. Bernie said that if this is happening it is unacceptable.

She said that republican famlies are also on the receiving end of hostile media attention. One family named by the media as being involved are, she said, receiving threats through messages on the internet, being spat at on the street and being ignored.

Speaking as a member of the community sector she also called on anyone who is being intimidated to come forward and to let them know.

“I’m calling for all intimidation to stop whether it is intimidation of witnesses or whether it is intimidation against people who were in Magennis’s that night.”

She is worried that the tension in the Short Strand could spill over and result in another tragedy.

“I just fear that because this is such a close-knit area with extended families that there will be another life lost over this whole media frenzy.

“Because of the lies that are being printed in the media, people are getting hyped up within the area. There have already been families fighting with one another over accusations in the media.

“I am also very angry at the likes of the SDLP and the Alliance Party and other unionist parties jumping on the bandwagon here. They are politicising it. They have never done anything for anybody in the Short Strand,” adds Bernie.

Local woman Patricia Johnston was angered at the targeting of houses belonging to republicans by the PSNI. “This was for no reason other than gathering intelligence,” she claimed.

Patricia believes that amidst the whirl of news stories the real issue has been lost. “It is very much politicising the agenda and taking away from the issue here which was the killing of Robert McCartney and making it more about trying to get Sinn Féin to come to the table on the policing issue — getting them to say openly that their electorate or people in the nationalist community should approach the police.”

In the run-up to May’s local election she did not feel that the Short Strand would experience a change in political allegiance after recent weeks.

“This is still very much a staunch republican area for all the hype that’s in the media. Most of the area do support tMcCartneys in terms of getting justice for their brother, but they certainly don’t support the anti-republican agenda, and that’s what this seems to be developing into.

“I think that there are people in the background that are manipulating this situation to suit a much wider agenda.”

Both Patricia and Bernie felt that the Short Strand had been criminalised in the press since the killing. “Everyone in this area has been demonised and vilified,” said Patricia.

One local man told the Andersonstown News that recent events would damage the republican vote in the area.

“Most people are disgusted by Robert’s death. It will hurt Sinn Féin’s vote. Ex-republican prisoners who I’ve spoken to are disgusted too. The general opinion is that most people would be disillusioned with Sinn Féin in the area because of the murder and what happened after the murder.

“Sinn Féin had a strong vote but people’s opinions will have changed.”
Another community activist held a different view. “People are 100 per cent behind the family but there is a ‘but’ there.”

He went on to say that the week after the killing a vigil for Robert – which was well attended – was portrayed by some of the media as an anti-republican protest. This persuaded a lot of people who had been at the vigil to remain away from last Sunday’s protest, he said.

Referring to the possibility of one of Robert McCartney’s sisters standing in the May elections, he said that he would expect the SDLP to tactically stand aside as they could never win the seat. “However, the republican vote will stand up,” he said.

Another local man said that unionists have just jumped on the bandwagon and have “no real compassion for the family”, but was also critical of republicans. “I knew Robert McCartney from no age and have grown up with him.

“In my book there is a simple solution and that is that the IRA to give up those responsible. There is no point expelling them. They can expel them now and in two or three months they could be back in. That is what people here feel.”

RTE News

Adams warns of Sinn Féin expulsions

07 March 2005 09:55



The President of Sinn Féin has said that an expulsion process would begin against suspended Sinn Féin members if they did not make 'full and truthful' statements on the murder of Robert McCartney.

Gerry Adams agreed there was unease in his party over his decision to pass information to the Police Ombudsman in connection with Mr McCartney's killing. However, he said there had been no other way to deal with the issue.

In an interview with the RTÉ Radio One's The Week in Politics programme, Mr Adams said he had been duty-bound to suspend without prejudice Sinn Féin members named by the family.

Meanwhile, the fall-out from the Northern Bank robbery on the peace process is set to dominate a meeting of the British-Irish Inter-Parliamentary Conference which gets under way today.

The two-day gathering of politicians from Britain, Northern Ireland and the Republic is taking place in Bundoran in Co Donegal.

Larkspirit

**Bobby's diary - 7th day



Saturday 7th

I received a most welcome note tonight from Bernie, my sister. old Bernie. I love her and think she's the greatest.

I am now convinced that the authorities intend to implement strict isolation soon, as I am having trouble in seeing my solicitor. I hope I'm wrong about the isolation, but we'll see.

It's only that I'd like to remain with the boys for as long as possible for many reasons. If I'm isolated, I will simply conquer it.

A priest was in today, somewhat pleasant, and told me about Brendan O Cathaoir's article in The Irish Times during the week, which I saw. We had a bit of discussion on certain points, which, of course, were to him contentious. He was cordial in his own practised way, purely tactical, of course, and at the same time he was most likely boiling over inside, thinking of the reference to this week's AP/RN (February 28th issue) calling him a collaborating middle-class nationalist, or appropriate words to that effect.

He is too, says I, and I sympathise with those unfortunate sons of God who find themselves battling against the poverty, disease, corruption, death and inhumanities of the missions...

I am 61 kgs today, going down. I'm not troubled by hunger pangs, nor paranoiac about anything pertaining to food, but, by God, the food has improved here. I thought I noticed that during the last hunger-strike. Well, there is a lot at stake here.

I got the Irish News today, but there's nothing in it, that's why I got it.

I'm looking forward to seeing the comrades at Mass tomorrow, all the younger looking faces, minus the beards, moustaches, long rambling untamed hair matted in thick clumps.

One thing is sure, that awful stage, of the piercing or glazed eyes, the tell-tale sign of the rigours of torture, won't be gone - if it is ever removed. I wonder is it even conceivable that it could be erased from the mind?

We got a new comrade during the week. Isn't it inspiring the comrades who keep joining us? I read what Jennifer said in court. (On being sentenced, Jennifer McCann said: 'I am a Republican prisoner of war and at the moment my comrade Bobby Sands is on hunger-strike to defend my rights as a political prisoner.') I was touched and proud, she is my comrade.

I've been thinking of Mary Doyle and Ellen McGuigan and all the rest of the girls in Armagh. How can I forget them?

The Screws are staring at me perplexed. Many of them hope (if their eyes tell the truth) that I will die. If need be, I'll oblige them, but my God they are fools. Oscar Wilde did not do justice to them for I believe they are lower than even he thought. And I may add there is only one thing lower than a Screw and that is a Governor. And in my experience the higher one goes up that disgusting ladder they call rank, or position, the lower one gets...

It's raining. I'm not cold, my spirits are well, and I'm still getting some smokes -- decadence, well sort of, but who's perfect. Bad for your health. Mar dheas anois, Oíche Mhaith.


6.3.05

Guardian

The price of peace

When £26.5m was stolen from the Northern Bank in Belfast just before Christmas, it proved to be no ordinary heist. The IRA were immediate suspects, and the political repercussions of the fallout have had an explosive impact on the Irish peace talks. Andrew Anthony reports on the shock waves from the most audacious bank raid in British history

Sunday March 6, 2005
The Observer

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Donegal Square (main street)

Around 8pm on 20 December last year, a young couple walking through Belfast's Donegal Square noticed a white van parked in Wellington Street, a narrow alleyway running off the west side of the city's central landmark. Something about the scene aroused their suspicions. Blocking the road, the van was obviously engaged in a delivery or collection. But it was the Monday before Christmas, and there wasn't a lot of business going on at that time of the evening. The van was a distinctive box shape, unlike the standard white van renowned for its aggressive drivers. And then there were its occupants: they were wearing boiler suits, baseball caps and wigs.

The couple went in search of a police officer. Though this part of downtown Belfast is well-patrolled by the PSNI, the Northern Ireland police service, they could only find a traffic warden, who noted details and later contacted the police. A few minutes after that, a patrol car pulled up in Wellington Street, but the van was gone and all was quiet.

Donegal Square stands at the very heart of Belfast, and at the very heart of Donegal Square stands Belfast's City Hall. A dramatic pastiche of St Paul's Cathedral, it is an Edwardian monument to civic order, provincial pride and imperial reach, a steadfast reminder of a version of history the city's residents have laboured both to escape and embrace.

The same neoclassical ambition is also evident in the facade of the buildings that make up the rest of the square, with the exception, that is, of a squat concrete block that fits in like a dressed-down outsider at a society wedding. Situated on the corner of Donegal Square West and Wellington Street, this is the headquarters of the Northern Bank, Northern Ireland's foremost commercial bank.

Built in the late Seventies, when the Troubles were at their most incendiary, it casts more than a nod to the brutalist school of architecture. With its narrow windows, reminiscent of a castle keep's, and thick, forbidding walls, the Northern Bank head office was designed to withstand the wear and tear of modern urban life. It was designed, that is, to be bomb proof.

Although the building contains no bank - at least none that the public can enter - it does hold plenty of money. Hidden away in its basement is a bunker housing the cash centre that supplies Northern Bank's 95 branches. It's a well-chosen site. The area in and around Donegal Square is covered by a network of closed-circuit cameras. Police stand guard at City Hall, and maintain a regular presence in the nearby streets. The Northern Bank itself boasts security cameras on every wall; teams of security guards are stationed inside and out. Within the building, an elaborate system of reinforced air locks, gates and internal cameras leads to an underground corridor, either side of which are two rooms protected by steel bars, like a sheriff's jail in a Western. This is the cash centre.

It would be hard to envisage a more impenetrable or secure setting. And with good reason. At various times, as much as £100m is stored beneath the Northern Bank's Donegal Square offices. There may have been around that amount assembled on that Monday in December. No one seems to be sure. Whatever the sum total, there was £26.5m less at the end of that night. By then, the Northern Bank had suffered one of the biggest and most audacious robberies in living memory.

It began the previous night in a house in Poleglass, west Belfast. Chris Ward and his father were watching a Spanish football game when there was a knock at the door. Ward, a supervisor with Northern Bank, is a keen football fan and assistant treasurer of Celtic supporters' club in Belfast, known as Erin Go Bragh (Ireland Forever). The stranger at the door told him he had come to talk about Celtic. According to Ward, there was nothing out of the ordinary about this, so he let the man in. It was when another man followed in after that Ward realised there was something wrong.

Though the two men did not produce any weapons, they quickly took charge. They explained to Ward they wanted to talk to him about his job, and that they were going to take him away for 24 hours. 'You have a very simple choice,' one of them said. 'If you co-operate with us, your family will be fine. If you don't, they'll be dead.' The arrangement was also reciprocal with regard to the family's cooperation and Ward's life. The family were held hostage by the two men for the next 24 hours.

Another gang-member escorted Ward to a car, where the driver turned and pointed a gun at his head and told him to say nothing and not to move. He was then driven to another car, in which two further men were waiting, and out of Belfast to a village called Loughinisland, where Kevin McMullan and his wife Karen live.

McMullan was the deputy manager of the Northern Bank's cash centre. The Northern Bank's security system required two keys to gain access to the cash centre's vault. And the keys were held separately by two senior staff on a rota system. McMullan had one of the keys for the following day's work, and Ward had the other. They had only been paired together that day by a late change in the rota. Wittingly or not, someone from the bank had passed vital inside information to the gang.

At McMullan's isolated bungalow, Ward was tied up with his arms behind his back and told to stand in the corner of a darkened room. One of the standard methods of interrogation is to extend what security experts call the 'shock of capture'. The idea is to maintain the prisoner in a state of anxiety and disorientation, so that he might be more effectively controlled. After an hour and a half of staring at a wall, Ward was taken in tears into the same room as McMullan, where he learned that Karen had been removed as a hostage under the same conditions as his family. Two men had gained access to the house by posing as policemen. They told Karen that a relation had died in a car crash.

Ward and McMullan were then questioned about details of the bank's security by two men in balaclavas, before being led to separate rooms. Ward said he'd never seen a man in a balaclava before. Neither man was able to sleep that night.

The following day Ward and McMullan were issued with mobile phones by the gang and instructed to drive to work and behave in a normal manner. At 4.45, following instructions, McMullan sent the staff home early as a pre-Christmas treat. He and Ward then filled Ward's Celtic sports holdall with around £1m in cash. One of the mysteries of the robbery and Northern Bank's security system is how this action was not picked up by the internal CCTV. But cameras did capture Ward leaving the building with the bag, a mundane image that is transformed into something tautly surreal by the knowledge that he is carrying a lifetime's earnings. He delivered the bag to a bus stop round the corner from the bank, where a man in a trilby and scarf arrived and walked away with £1m.

Experts believe this was a dummy run, to check that the two men were capable of following their instructions, and to detect any unforeseen systems in Northern Bank's security. It turned out that leaving the building with a seven-figure sum couldn't have been easier. Now the robbery could go ahead in earnest. Back in the cash centre, Ward and McMullan loaded trays of money on to a trolley used to collect rubbish. They also put in old chairs and other detritus to make it appear more authentic.

At around 7pm, the van arrived to pick up the 'rubbish'. The van was driven earlier that day from across the border in Louth. Its exact origins remain unclear, though police say its licence plate belongs to another vehicle. Neither is it by any means certain if this refuse collection was a regular event, or whether it required the rubbish men to present some form of ID. What is known is that the ease with which the robbers escaped with a vanful of cash encouraged them to return for another load.

An hour later, security informed McMullan and Ward that the rubbish men had returned. As instructed by phone, they had already stacked another trolley, and taken it upstairs. It is said that during this second pick-up, a security man left the building on a cigarette break, and chatted to Ward as he loaded the van with his employer's money. The Northern Bank's security procedures are currently undergoing a comprehensive review. As one insider said to me, 'Operation Stable Door is a familiar phrase in Northern Ireland.' Shortly afterwards, the young couple passed by, which led to the traffic warden's phone call, and the arrival of a patrol car. By then the van had disappeared, and with it £26.5m in cash.

Later that night Karen McMullan, who had been kept bound and blindfold, was released in a wood outside Belfast, in such distress that she was nearly hit by a passing car. Her own car was found burnt out. She is still said to be severely traumatised by her treatment. The only hostage to have spoken about his ordeal is Chris Ward, in an interview with Kevin Magee on BBC Northern Ireland's Spotlight. Because he is a Catholic from Poleglass, a republican stronghold, Ward has been the subject of malicious innuendo. In the minds of more sectarian observers, these unfounded rumours gained substance when Ward opted to wear a Celtic football shirt in the TV interview. The tribal folklore of Northern Ireland and Scotland sees the Glasgow football club as representatives of Catholic republicanism in opposition to Glasgow Rangers' Protestant loyalism.

Yet the PSNI has emphasised that Ward is a victim of the crime, not a suspect, and nothing in his performance on Spotlight suggested otherwise. A short, boyish 23-year-old, with a shaved haircut and a gold earring, he looked dwarfed by his experience, as if it were too large and too lethal to squeeze into a life shaped by a steady job and a sporting obsession. He just seemed like the wrong man in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Everybody likes a good heist story, as is demonstrated by the popularity of films like Ocean's Twelve, which opened in Belfast shortly after the Northern Bank robbery. And the Irish are no different. Within hours the joke went about that Donegall Celtic, a tiny football team in republican west Belfast, had put in a £26m bid to buy David Beckham. Mocked-up Northern Bank notes were circulated on the net with the faces of Sinn Fein's president Gerry Adams and chief negotiator Martin McGuinness superimposed on the money. Ocean's Twelve posters were also adapted to feature Adams and McGuinness alongside Brad Pitt and George Clooney. And in west Belfast, young lads waved their cash at police patrols. All this guerrilla artwork reflected the widespread belief that it was the IRA that had pulled off the heist. As one former IRA volunteer told me: 'It's the loyalists that take £26 from post offices. Somebody else does £26m.'

On the early February afternoon I visited Hugh Orde, the chief constable of the PSNI, at police headquarters in a leafy suburb of east Belfast, he was keen to dismiss the idea that what took place at the Northern Bank was in any sense a rollicking caper. He was fed up with the international fascination with the crime. 'I went to speak in Dubai on leadership,' he complained, 'and all they wanted to know about was this wretched robbery.' For the sake of accuracy, and perhaps his own professional pride, he also let me know that, when inflation was taken into account, the Northern Bank was a smaller haul than the Great Train Robbery.

With his slicked-back hair, quick wit and informal manner, Orde is a long way from the dour caricature of a Northern Ireland policeman. For a start, he's English. Though an outsider, he's earned a measure of respect across both nationalist and unionist communities. A veteran of the Met's Operation Trident, he is a man who is at ease with the modern language of diversity and inclusiveness. In accordance with the Patten recommendations on policing, he's successfully instituted a policy of 50/50 recruitment among Catholics and Protestants. And his time spent working for Sir John Stevens on the inquiry into the murder of the lawyer Pat Finucane (which highlighted collusion between the intelligence services and loyalist paramilitaries) means that he cannot be dismissed out of hand by republicans.

I asked him what kind of specialist skills were needed to execute the Northern Bank job, and he shot back: 'The ability to terrify people. You don't need people to break safes. They'd never have got into that bank vault without the keys in a million years. It would have blown the middle of Belfast apart. It's the skills people have learned over the 30 years of terrorism. People forgot that there were a number of victims in this crime. It was seen as a Robin Hood crime. That needed to be dealt with.'

Orde's answer, three weeks after the crime, was to name the Provisional IRA as the prime and only suspects in the investigation. He says this was a purely policing decision, without external or internal political influence. But it was an unprecedented step, and considering the consequences, it's hard to think that he was not given some kind of green light by the Northern Ireland office, or even Downing Street. In any event, it would not be an overstatement to say that Orde's announcement shifted the political landscape of Northern Ireland.

Having previously turned a blind eye to a series of IRA robberies and punishment shootings, both Tony Blair and the Taoiseach, Bertie Ahern, made known their frustrations with the republican movement. In response, the IRA withdrew its offer to decommission its weapons and issued a terse warning to the two governments of Britain and Ireland: 'Do not underestimate the seriousness of the situation.'

It seemed incredible that just two months earlier the IRA was reported to be on the point of disbanding, a deal on decommissioning was all but concluded, and Sinn Fein was ready to share devolved power with its old enemy, Ian Paisley's Democratic Unionist Party. One IRA source was quoted in Ireland's Sunday Business Post: 'I was visited [by a figure within the IRA leadership] and told that the whole movement was going to be dismantled - the structures, the lot. I was asked if there was anything I wanted, anything they could do for me. There would be just a small team left to protect the core leadership from assassination.'

Suddenly, in the wake of the robbery, the peace process was in a greater crisis than at any time since the signing of the Good Friday Agreement in 1998. If the raid on the Northern Bank was a financial success for the IRA, it had turned into a political disaster for Sinn Fein. And it would get worse. Last month, Robert McCartney, a well-known Catholic from east Belfast, was killed in a bar-room brawl. Word soon got out that IRA volunteers were involved, and that CCTV evidence had been destroyed and witnesses intimidated. After republicans took to the streets to protest against the IRA, Sinn Fein was forced to issue carefully worded statements in support of the McCartney family. With the Northern Bank, though, it continued to attack those who named the IRA without producing any evidence. But Orde was adamant he had identified the guilty party in the Northern Bank job. He told me his team of senior detectives had put together what he described as a 'world-class' briefing, based on intelligence and inquiries, that convinced him of the IRA's culpability. The Independent Monitoring Commission, the peace process watchdog, agreed.

The police believed the money was driven to the Grosvenor Road neighbourhood of west Belfast, where it was transferred to another vehicle, which headed south for the border. Raids followed on addresses in north and west Belfast, including the homes of John Trainor, a former republican prisoner said to be an IRA intelligence officer, and Eddie Copeland, once described in court as a senior IRA figure, but who has no criminal convictions. Police opened wrapped Christmas presents at Copeland's house, and took away clothing, a mobile and 16 pairs of shoes, earning Copeland the local nickname of 'Imelda'.

But no arrests were made, and at that stage the case against the IRA, as far as it had been revealed, seemed not only speculative but purely negative. The IRA was responsible, the reasoning went, because no one else was capable. Who else, everyone asked, could drive into a republican area of Belfast and take a household hostage for 24 hours? Similarly, the fact that the thieves were meticulous in erasing forensic evidence was also seen as a hallmark of IRA robberies. The absence of fingerprints has effectively become an IRA fingerprint. And indeed the denials issued by the IRA and Adams and McGuinness were also seen by many as confirmation of IRA guilt.

To this end, Michael McDowell, the Irish minister for justice and a tenacious critic of Sinn Fein and the IRA, brought attention to a statement made by Adams after the murder of a policeman, Jerry McCabe, during a robbery in the Republic in 1996. 'The IRA has denied any involvement and I accept that,' said Adams at the time. 'Crimes like this can play no part in the republican struggle, and those who are seeking to blame Sinn Fein know this.' It was not until some time later that the IRA admitted responsibility. Sinn Fein continues to campaign for the release of McCabe's killers.

This is the paradox which all parties linked to paramilitaries in Northern Ireland have difficulties reconciling. On the one hand they are bound to condemn crime, but on the other, they are seen to benefit from it. Since the Good Friday Agreement, there have been more than 400 armed attacks on cash-delivery vehicles alone, and most of them are thought to be the work of paramilitaries. Sinn Fein is said to be not only the wealthiest party in Ireland, but one of the best-funded in Europe. Adams insists that the money comes from America and legitimate membership activities, but, leaving the Northern Bank aside, the IRA is suspected of a spate of multimillion-pound robberies in the past year. If the money is not being spent on weapons, where is it going?

One reading of the Good Friday Agreement is that it does not cover criminal activity, like bank robberies. McDowell insists 'the fundamental position of the Provisionals - including, of course, Sinn Fein - still remains that the lawful and legitimate power of government of the Irish people is vested in the IRA and not elsewhere'. Therefore raids on banks and superstores are not crimes because they are not carried out in legal statehoods.

North of the border, at least, it's obvious that Sinn Fein does not fully recognise the authority of the criminal justice system. For example, it refuses to take up its two seats on the police board to which Orde must report. Its argument is that the Patten reforms have not yet been properly implemented. Alex Atwood of the SDLP, the moderate nationalist party, told me that in his opinion not only had Patten's recommendations been put into practice, but that, 'The republican movement had done virtually nothing to prepare its community for lawful authority.' Yet it is Sinn Fein that has superseded the SDLP at the polls.

Orde sees it as crucial that Sinn Fein plays its part in overseeing policing. 'I've always said since the day I came here, they should join the board. That's what the law says, that's what the structure says, that's what the constitution says.'

I wondered if he would have minded if Sinn Fein had joined the board the day after he declared the IRA responsible for the Northern Bank robbery.

'It's not a matter if I care or not,' he replied. 'They've got a right to be on it. Now what would happen to the board is a matter you could speculate on; I couldn't possibly comment. It would be interesting.'

Orde was not without sympathy for Sinn Fein's predicament: 'They're in a difficult position. We didn't need the bank robbery and I'm sure someone could argue they didn't, if one assumes they are committed to a peaceful political solution.'

Which begs the question that has divided republican watchers. Is it possible the Sinn Fein leadership could have been left in the dark over such a politically damaging operation? British and Irish security services have long maintained that Adams and McGuinness sit on the Provisionals' army council. Sinn Fein insists this is untrue, and Adams even goes so far as to deny that he was ever in the IRA, though there is no shortage of persuasive counter-evidence.

Orde skirted the question when I put it to him, and it's notable Blair has avoided linking Sinn Fein to the raid. By contrast, Ahern has shown no such reticence. Much to the anger of Sinn Fein, he made public his opinion that Adams was fully aware of what was going to take place even as he sat across the table from the Irish PM during the negotiations on decommissioning. Another who puts Adams in the frame is the republican dissident Anthony McIntyre, a former member of the IRA who served 18 years in prison for killing a loyalist and is now one of Sinn Fein's most vocal tormentors.

'The Sinn Fein leadership effectively runs the IRA,' he told me, 'and given the control freakery that besets the Adams leadership and in particular Adams, there is in my view no doubt that he knew. Would the British army go to war in Iraq without Tony Blair knowing? Do the IRA do one of the biggest bank robberies in the world without the leadership of Sinn Fein knowing?'

The counter-hypothesis is that there exists a genuine tension between the Sinn Fein leadership and IRA hardliners. One republican suggested to me that unionist intransigence in the peace process had led Brian Keenan, a legendary hardman and said to be a leading member of the IRA's ruling army council, to gain the upper hand over Adams and McGuinness. In his auto-biography, the IRA informer Sean O'Callaghan recalls hearing Keenan refer to Adams and McGuinness as 'two fine fucking Catholic boys', something of a put-down from a staunch Marxist like Keenan. O'Callaghan argues that while Keenan was imprisoned in the Eighties and early Nineties, his uncompromising anti-state approach had lost ground to the Catholic pair's pragmatic nationalism. Was the Northern Bank a case of the Keenan faction reasserting itself?

Even if this were so, it's doubtful the raid could have gone ahead without some form of sanction by, or at least the knowledge of, the Sinn Fein leadership. Another republican observer painted a scenario in which Adams reluctantly gave a go-ahead to a 'bloodless spectacular' as a means of avoiding a split within the IRA, or worse still, a return to war. If nothing else, that would make the robbery a unique kind of peace mission.

I took a circuitous route to Sinn Fein's headquarters in the Falls Road in west Belfast. First I dropped into the offices of the Progressive Unionist Party in east Belfast to talk to David Ervine, the chief spokesman for the PUP, which in the way of politics in the province is linked to the UVF paramilitaries. One of Northern Ireland's more colourful politicians, and known as 'Shakespeare' for his rich oratory, he served six years in prison in the Seventies on charges of possessing explosives. He professed himself mystified by the Northern Bank raid. 'You can't imagine that Adams would have remotely considered the consequences and thought where we are now is a good option.'

Ervine was damning of the 'grand militarists of the republican movement' but, in direct contrast to mainstream unionists, he argues that the IRA's weapons are less important than their words.

'I think unionism and the British government have always been asking the wrong questions, and when you ask the wrong questions it should be no surprise that you get the wrong answers. The question always should have been "Is the war over?" and the weapons follow logically, I believe.'

That is not Ian Paisley's outlook. The collapse of the decommissioning deal that preceded the Northern Bank robbery occurred when Paisley demanded filmed evidence of the IRA's weapons. In a now infamous speech in Ballymena, he called for the IRA to be 'humiliated'. 'They need to wear their sackcloth and ashes,' he said, 'not in a back room, but openly.'

Part 2

Sunday March 6, 2005
The Guardian

It has been suggested by many observers that the Northern Bank raid may have been the IRA's response to this speech. Certainly, of the many human qualities the IRA could be accused of lacking, pride is not an obvious one. Paisley's words hurt, as they were intended to. 'I've discussed it with some republicans,' said Ervine, 'and they said, "It wasn't just that I was upset about what he said in Ballymena, my mother went bonkers, too, because it wasn't that long ago that he accused her of being a Catholic incubator for Rome."' Nonetheless, Ervine was dismayed at how easily the republicans had allowed themselves to be outmanoeuvred by their old foe, so that they were now out in the cold, with a badly damaged reputation abroad, and Paisley, of all people, was in danger of assuming the mantle of a wise old man.

As I left to get a minicab from the firm up the road to Sinn Fein's place across town, Ervine offered me a word of advice. 'Don't tell them you're going there, they won't want to take you.' So I kept quiet and listened to my driver talk about 'lying republican scum'. A former soldier in the UDR, in one respect at least he did not conform to the loyalist cliche: he was a Celtic supporter. He took me to the centre of town, from where I caught another taxi. The two-cab ride was a journey through Belfast's past, present and future. In the dilapidated sectarian strongholds in the east and west, you can still see the giant murals celebrating various three-lettered paramilitaries, but they look increasingly like period pieces, not devoid of menace perhaps, yet almost stripped of relevance. In the centre, once made a ghost town by terrorism, the busy shops, bars and cafes pay testament to the city's current confidence in itself and booming economy. And everywhere on the horizon, giant cranes map the promise of a new dynamic city.

Sinn Fein's HQ seems to look backwards and forwards at the same time. A whole exterior wall is taken up with a mural in memory of Bobby Sands, the IRA hunger striker and Sinn Fein MP. And in the reception the anti-imperialist solidarity posters and legal-advice leaflets might put you in mind of an old-fashioned human-rights organisation if you could circumvent the IRA's summary knee-cappings and murders - what Mo Mowlam, the former secretary of state, once referred to as 'housekeeping'. But upstairs, the youthful party workers stationed at their computers give the impression of an operation as up to the moment and on message as that of the Millbank modernisers.

Upstairs is where I met Gerry Kelly, the Sinn Fein representative for north Belfast in the suspended assembly at Stormont. A former IRA volunteer, Kelly was part of the notorious Maze prison break-out in 1983. He shot a prison guard in the head, though it was not fatal, and escaped to live in Holland. He was later captured with an arms cache and extradited back to Britain. A tall, lean man with chiselled good looks, he conveys that air of almost austere authority that republicans seem to have made their own. Orde told me that he thought Kelly came across as cold and implacable on TV, and he was surprised to find him charming and approachable in person.

It used to be said in the Maze that Kelly was so quiet because he said what he thought, but there is no doubting his intelligence, and if anything the problem was getting him to limit his answers. He spoke in dense polemical paragraphs, full of history, nuance, get-out clauses and negation, finally arriving at the Northern Bank robbery. 'The accusation that the IRA did this is one thing,' he said in a voice of stifled outrage, 'and the IRA has spoken on that. But the accusation that leading members of Sinn Fein knew about this - I mean, let's be frank: that's a criminal charge.'

His argument was that Orde, Blair and Ahern had all based their accusations on 'a single funnel of information that comes from the PSNI and the intelligence agencies'. He then outlined the dubious history of Special Branch, MI5, MI6 and the disbanded RUC, many of whose officers continue to work in its replacement, the PSNI. Of course, there is compelling evidence that the British intelligence services have in the past played a sinister role in Northern Ireland, conspiring with loyalist paramilitaries. But if, for argument's sake, the Northern Bank was British black propaganda, that doesn't explain why the Taoiseach is convinced of the IRA's and Sinn Fein's guilt.

'Bertie Ahern has created a civil war within the nationalist community,' he said, 'which can do absolutely nothing for the peace process.' He rationalised Ahern's comments as a crude attempt to combat Sinn Fein's growing electoral presence in the Republic. 'This is the first time in republican history we've had a project throughout all of Ireland,' said Kelly. Sinn Fein has increased its share of the vote in the previous 12 elections on both sides of the border.

But even if Ahern was simply running scared, and the Irish secret services had no intelligence of their own on the Northern Bank, that still wouldn't explain why Tony Blair, who has visited Northern Ireland 34 times in an effort to secure peace, would want his spooks to undermine the process.

'You will notice,' Kelly countered, 'I haven't accused Tony Blair of being one of the ones to put pressure on [Orde].' So Tony Blair, universally seen to have the intelligence services in his pocket over Iraq, is powerless when it comes to Northern Ireland? He can't even protect Orde from the so-called securicrats?

'In fairness,' replied Kelly, with an expression that did not quite qualify as a smile, 'I don't have an answer to all the questions that you're asking.' Anthony McIntyre almost laughed when I mentioned Kelly's analysis. 'The minute Sinn Fein say it's securicrats,' he said, 'it's a guilty plea.'

McIntyre fell out with Sinn Fein after leaving prison, becoming disenchanted with the lack of internal debate and what he saw as mindless deference to the leadership. He was particularly scathing about the level of honesty at the top of the republican movement.

'People say that Adams wears a beard to stop himself from being accused of being a bare-faced liar,' he said. He once questioned Adams at a party meeting and says he was met by an angry Orwellian chorus of 'Gerry's lies are true'. 'Not literally, but their attitude was: the leadership have sat up all night thinking of lies - how dare a selfish bastard like you not believe them?'

A large mound of a man with a goatee beard and glasses, McIntyre seemed to confirm the old saw that loyalists leave prison with a tattoo, while republicans walk out with a degree. He has not only a degree in politics but also a PhD - he wrote his doctorate on the Provisional IRA. The unification of Ireland, he had concluded, 'was not worth a single death'. Of the likelihood of unification, he said: 'There's as much chance as us, Northern Ireland, uniting with France. As much chance as Bradford uniting with Pakistan.'

He thought the IRA should have made a conditional surrender rather than become entangled in an endless peace process. Adams warned the two governments last month that if the IRA was targeted, the peace process could turn out to be as 'transient' as Blair's premiership. 'That was an implicit threat,' said McIntyre. 'But also it was a giveaway, because it showed you that from Adams's point of view the peace process should be endless. For the rest of us it should be transient.'

'At times,' he continued, 'Adams is the most popular politician in the south. Why? It's not due to his policies, they are no different to anyone else's down there. It's the result of the tremendous international public profile that the leader gets. If the peace process ends, the wind in the sails goes down rapidly. So the object of unionism is to bring the process to a conclusion, and the object of republicanism is to postpone the conclusion.'

McIntyre also has an answer to the other big question about the Northern Bank robbery: what was the £26m for? Early reports claimed that the cash was earmarked for pension money for IRA volunteers, one last big job to reward the troops. Orde refused to speculate, other than to say that criminal organisations need money to run themselves. McIntyre has finessed that argument. He thinks that the money was meant for Sinn Fein's electoral coffers, possibly for a presidential campaign in the Republic in 2007.

For all his antagonism towards Adams, McIntyre did not underestimate his ability. The Sinn Fein leader was a brilliant strategist, he said, and he was sure he would reclaim his status as international statesman. And that is what worried him. 'My opposition to Sinn Fein is that they are totalitarian, that they would be a terrible, terrible danger if they got power. If they got power, the police would rob the banks.'

'The largest theft of waste paper in history' is what Hugh Orde called the Northern Bank robbery. He was referring to the historic decision of the Northern Bank to withdraw its entire currency and replace it with a new set of notes by the middle of March. In Northern Ireland there are three banks, including Northern Bank, which are licensed by the Bank of England to print money. Thus each of the major banks has its own bank notes, technically known as 'promissory notes' rather than legal tender. Around £4.5m of the cash stolen from Donegal Square was made up of untraceable 'exchange notes', money from other banks which would be simple to launder. A further £5.5m was made up of untraceable old and high-denomination Northern Bank notes, also relatively easy to disperse, though the clock was ticking on them. The other £16.5m were new notes that would be very difficult to move, especially in the limited time available.

Early on there were stories of people using £50 and £100 Northern Bank notes to pay for small car-park charges, but they were just that: stories. As the weeks went by, not a note with a serial number from the robbery cash was reported anywhere. Orde believed the withdrawal of Northern Bank notes had taken the IRA by surprise. 'In terms of the endgame,' he told me, 'I think that's one thing the gang never thought of. I didn't think of it, one of my detectives did. It had never been tried before.'

Orde believed that the robbers would write-off the £16.5m, but that still left £10m, which is expected to be laundered abroad and in the bars, clubs, minicab offices and various other cash-intensive businesses that the IRA owns. Not a bad return, especially as according to some sources the robbers never intended to steal so much. Apparently it was sheer bad luck that the IRA found themselves with an unanticipated excess of loot, thus forcing the PSNI to voice its suspicions. The major flaw in this argument is that police estimate the crime took upwards of a year to plan, and the same republican sources claim the IRA looked at doing the job as far back as 1997. It defies belief that they failed to realise how much money was in the cash centre, let alone how much they stole.

Orde told me that he was prepared for a long investigation. There were few leads, and the police's best hope seemed to be DNA from the septic tank at the McMullans' home, where the kidnappers are thought to have left their human waste. But, in the middle of February, two significant developments took place. Talking on radio in Spain, Adams acknowledged that he could be wrong about the IRA, that it was possible they were responsible. He later backtracked, but he is too seasoned in the business of dissemination to make statements that could be 'taken out of context'. Then the following day in a fishing village outside Cork, a charred bank note blew into the back garden of a sedate bungalow. The suspicious owner took it along to a nearby garda station, and shortly afterwards armed police raided a neighbour's house, where, in keeping with the cinematic dimensions of the story, they found a middle-aged man feeding a bonfire with Northern Bank notes.

More arrests followed in Dublin and Cork, including that of former Sinn Fein councillor Tom Hanlon, who has shared public platforms with Adams and McGuinness (he was released without charge). A chef was arrested in a car with £54,000 hidden in a box of washing powder. And more than £2.5m was seized in an operation targeting the Provisional IRA's money-laundering network, which Irish police believe extends to Bulgaria and Libya. No one would confirm in public that any of this money came from the Northern Bank robbery, but off the record some garda officers said they were confident the link could be established.

While plainly rocked by the turn of affairs, Sinn Fein kept up a disciplined front, with the leadership reminding an increasingly cynical audience that there was still no proof implicating the IRA, much less Sinn Fein. Adams spoke of a trial by media, and tore into his gloating opponents. There was no shortage of candidates to fit this bill, but he may have been thinking specifically of justice minister McDowell, who said: 'The Provisional movement is a colossal criminal machine laundering huge sums of money. Their mask has now slipped. Their balaclavas have come off.' Adams also began to protect himself from the smoke billowing from the raid in Cork. 'I don't want to be tainted with criminality,' he told reporters. 'I don't want anybody near me who is involved in criminality. I will face up to these issues if and when they emerge.'

McIntyre thought the only restraining influence on the IRA was the Southern electorate. Disillusioned with the institutional corruption in the Republic, voters had been turning to Sinn Fein. Now they had glimpsed sight of the criminal network that supports the republican movement. By coincidence, last month five men were convicted in the Republic of IRA membership, after they had been found with a stun-gun, pick-axe handles, a sledgehammer, CS gas and Sinn Fein posters in a van used for Sinn Fein canvassing.

Perhaps the strangest twist in the tale was the discovery of a stash of shrink-wrapped Northern Bank notes, the only confirmed robbery money, in the Newforge Country Club in south Belfast, a leisure centre used by the PSNI. The police said it was a diversionary tactic to reroute the investigation and public attention. I'd visited Newforge a couple of weeks earlier, to attend a function hosted by Orde. Just about every senior police officer in Northern Ireland was there, and I was struck by how easy it was to slip into the event with only the most cursory flash of a press card, and how no one checked my bag. At the time, I thought this a sign of the peace process's progress. A fortnight later, the PSNI placed all police stations on high alert after intelligence warned of a possible bomb attack.

However, not a single person I spoke to in Belfast expected hostilities to resume. Nor did anyone doubt that when the break in negotiations was over, Sinn Fein would have to be involved in any deal worth making. If the situation looks precarious at the moment, it's worth remembering that the people here have endured far gloomier periods, as indeed has Sinn Fein.

The party's extraordinary ability to bounce back from the ropes was illustrated by a minor footnote in this drama. The Northern Bank is owned by the National Australia Bank, or rather it was. In an unfortunate piece of timing, a longstanding deal to sell the bank to Danske Bank was finally completed just after the robbery, leaving the NAB saddled with the £26.5m loss. When the Australian TV station Channel 9 sent a film crew to Belfast, Sinn Fein decided to put up Alex Maskey, a celebrated republican, to make the necessary denials of IRA participation and Sinn Fein knowledge. Maskey, a former amateur boxer who won 75 of his 79 fights, was twice interned in the early Seventies and later survived a number of loyalist assassination attempts, including one in 1987 in which he was shot in the stomach. At the end of the report, the Australian interviewer reminded Maskey that in 1971 he was convicted of stealing money from the Waring Street branch of the Northern Bank.

A surprised Maskey said it was the mistake of a young man, which he regretted. If Sinn Fein is to prosper, and genuinely represent the aspirations of the Irish on both sides of the border, it also needs to turn its back on crime. It worked for Maskey. Three years ago he was elected Belfast's Lord Mayor, and took charge of City Hall, the grand municipal palace opposite the bank in Donegal Square.



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