Log in

Ní neart go cur le chéile
Recent Posts 
Please go >>here to read the article.

 photo Joe McCann 1971 Belfast - Photo by Ciaran Donnelly5.jpg

Joe McCann, 1971 in Belfast - Photo by Ciaran Donnelly

Men to be tried for Belfast shooting of Joe McCann in the first prosecution over British army killings in Northern Ireland

Henry McDonald
The Guardian
16 December 2016

 photo 1971.jpg

Confrontation between British soldiers and the IRA in Belfast in August 1971. (Photograph: Popperfoto/Getty Images)

Two retired soldiers have become the first members of the military to be charged with murder in connection with a Troubles-related death in Northern Ireland.

They are being prosecuted over the killing of Official IRA commander John McCann, who was shot dead in central Belfast in 1972. They are known as Soldier A and Soldier C and are believed to have been paratroopers.

Charging the pair 42 years after McCann’s death will provoke controversy over the retrospective prosecution of members of the security forces over killings related to the Troubles.

A Public Prosecution Service (PPS) spokesperson said: “Following a careful consideration of all the available evidence, it has been decided to prosecute two men for the offence of murder.

“The two defendants in the case are surviving members of the army patrol which shot Mr McCann. A third member of the patrol who also fired at Mr McCann died in the intervening years. At present, these individuals are not being named and are identified as Soldier A and Soldier C.”

The Official IRA leader was a republican legend even before his killing for organising the “Battle of Inglis’ Bakery” in the Market district of Belfast on 9 August 1971. Nine months later, McCann was shot dead by troops in the same area.

The original RUC investigation was conducted in 1972 and, based on the evidence then available, it was decided not to prosecute anyone.

The PPS spokesperson said: “The decision to prosecute is the outcome of a review which was undertaken after the case was referred to the director of public prosecutions by the attorney general for Northern Ireland in March 2014. The decision was reached following an objective and impartial application of the test for prosecution that was conducted in accordance with the code for prosecutors and with the benefit of advice from senior counsel.”

An annual commemoration of McCann’s death is held in Joy Street where he was gunned down and where there is a permanent plaque erected on a wall in his honour. His two sons, Ferghal and Ciaran, and his widow Anne run a website called bigjoemccann to commemorate the Official IRA commander.

The family claim McCann was shot in the back by members of the Parachute Regiment at a time when he was one of the most wanted republican gunmen in Northern Ireland.

McCann sided with the Marxist Officials when the IRA split in 1969. He took part in the Official IRA gun battle with the British army in the Lower Falls district a year later.

In 1971, McCann led an Official IRA unit that temporarily held back 600 British troops who had flooded into the Market district to arrest local men without trial when the late Edward Heath agreed to unionist demands for internment.

Photographed amid flames in Eliza Street, holding an M1 carbine rifle beside the Starry Plough – the flag of the Irish labour movement – McCann’s image during the gun battle became one of the earliest iconic images of the Troubles.

The PPS’ decision to prosecute two soldiers in connection with McCann’s death is bound to provoke fierce opposition from within the British military establishment, the Tories and the Conservative press.

Earlier this month, the Sun reported that police officers would be reinvestigating all 302 killings carried out by British troops. The paper said at least 500 ex-servicemen, many now in their 60s and 70s, would be “viewed as suspects” during the process.

The investigation was branded a witch-hunt by Conservative MP Johnny Mercer, a former army officer.

The Police Service of Northern Ireland said on Friday that it was not behind the decision to prosecute the two ex-soldiers.

ACC Mark Hamilton, head of the PSNI’s legacy and justice department, said: “The decision to prosecute two former soldiers in relation to the death of Mr John Joseph McCann in 1972 follows an internal review of the case by the PPS. Itt is not as a result of a police investigation or re-investigation and, as such, we are unable to comment further on this.”

However, the PSNI and the police-linked Historical Enquiries Team (HET) – the body that investigates unsolved crimes from the near 4,000 deaths of the Troubles – has been criticised by unionist politicians, loyalist paramilitary representatives and former senior army officers for being one sided.

They allege the HET and the legacy investigations are over-focused on killings involving police officers and soldiers between 1969 and 1997.

The PSNI is carrying out criminal inquiries into the actions of a number of British soldiers during the Bloody Sunday massacre in 1972 when troops opened fire on an anti-interment rally in Derry, killing 13 civilians. No soldier has ever been prosecuted over the Bloody Sunday deaths.

Denis Bradley, a former secret envoy between the IRA and the UK government and ex-chair of a consultative group investigating Northern Ireland’s past, has argued that putting the PSNI into the historic prosecutions from the Troubles is “polluting” policing in the region.

Bradley has expressed concern that Troubles-related crime inquiries could expose the identities of thousands of informers inside the IRA and loyalist terror groups if there was full disclosure of all British intelligence files in these investigations.

Kent Online
29 October 2016

 photo Raymond Gilmour.jpg

Raymond Gilmour

An IRA informer living under an assumed name in Kent has been found dead at his flat.

Raymond Gilmour's body was found at his home, where it had lain undiscovered for up to a week, according to reports.

The 55-year-old former IRA member was forced to leave his native Derry after giving evidence in one of the republican supergrass trials in the 1980s.

 photo Raymond Gilmour 1984sm.jpg

Raymond Gilmour in 1984 (Image source: Belfast Telegraph)

When the case brought against 31 people collapsed in 1984, MI5 moved him to England for his own protection.

Gilmour first joined the IRA in 1980 and was involved in several operations, mainly as a getaway driver.

He was arrested in 1981 after he and several others were intercepted on their way to attack police.

 photo Murder-victims-of-Bloody-Sunday3.jpg

Gilmour's cousin was one of those killed on Bloody Sunday.

Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph, friends said Gilmour had never got over being separated from his family in Northern Ireland, and had suffered from alcoholism and mental health problems prior to his death.

Thy blamed MI5 for 'abandoning' Gilmour, and failing to provide him with proper support (See: 'Raymond Gilmour: The lonely death of a Derry Catholic...').

His funeral will take place next week.

By Philip Bradfield
News Letter
20 Oct 2016

The chief constable of Bedfordshire has addressed concerns that a probe into Stakeknife will focus on state actors at the expense of IRA personnel involved in some 50 related murders.

 photo Stakeknife 2003 Belfastsm.jpgStakeknife was an Army agent within the IRA who has been linked to some 50 murders. Belfast man Freddie Scappaticci has denied he is the agent.

Victims’ campaigners have expressed concern that the probe unveiled in recent days may focus primarily on the role of the state, at the expense of IRA members – and have asked how panel members were selected.

Bedfordshire Chief Constable Jon Boutcher has appointed two independent groups of experts to support the investigation, code name Kenova.

Freddie Scappaticci in Belfast 2003 (Photo: Pacemaker via The Sun)

An Independent Steering Group (ISG) of senior law enforcement figures, has three members from the US and one each from Scotland, Australia and Northern Ireland – Baroness Nuala O’Loan.

A further six people will address the needs of the victims and their families via the Victims Focus Group (VFG). They are:

• Judith Thompson – the Northern Ireland Commissioner for Victims

• Maria McDonald – an Irish barrister who has acted as a consultant on international criminal law and victims’ rights

• Sue O’Sullivan – a former deputy chief of police (Ottawa) and Canada’s Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime

• Mary Fetchet – a social worker who co-founded Voices of September 11th following the death of her son in the attacks

• Levent Altan – a former UK Ministry of Justice official who developed the European Union’s policy on victims’ rights

• Alan McBride – whose wife and father-in-law were killed in the IRA Shankill bomb in 1993. He is now a peace builder.

But victims’ campaigner Anne Travers expressed reservations.

“The only real victims on it are the lady from America and Alan McBride,” she said.

“I wonder how they were chosen? I would have liked to have seen more victims from Northern Ireland who lived through the Troubles, can empathise with families and who have a lived understanding of life here.

“I’m sure the panel chosen will do their very best but I feel something is missing.”

Another campaigner, Ken Funston of the South East Fermanagh Foundation, whose brother was also murdered by the IRA, said the probe would remove further resources from legacy policing.

“The confidence in the PSNI doing anything for ‘ordinary’ victims is ebbing away, the only way you can get anything done is to allege ‘collusion’,” he said.

Victims’ campaigner Willie Frazer accepted the right of the families concerned to the investigation, but insisted it would have to be fair and focus equally on state and IRA actors.

For each murder involving Stakeknife, he said, the victim will have been chosen by senior high-profile republicans, as will the killers and support staff.

“All this will have been reported back to Stakeknife’s handlers and will have been recorded in intelligence files,” he said.

Senior republicans must therefore be arrested and charged, he added.

But Mr Boutcher told the News Letter he would go wherever the evidence takes him.

“The remit of this investigation is clear – Operation Kenova will seek to establish if there is any evidence of criminal offences by any party in relation to cases connected to the alleged agent known as Stakeknife.

“We will go wherever the evidence takes us, regardless of who that might potentially implicate,” he said.

“I have made a pledge to the victims’ families that I will do everything in my power to establish the truth of what happened to their loved ones, and bring anyone who had any involvement in these crimes to justice.”

Explaining how the panel members were chosen, he said: “I have carefully put together the Victims Focus Group and the Independent Steering Group, as I believe the members are among the very best in their field.”

They have championed victims’ rights “in complex and challenging situations” he added.

Press Association
Belfast Telegraph
14 Oct 2016

 photo Jon Boutcher.jpg

Bedfordshire Police Chief Constable Jon Boutcher, who is heading up the investigation into IRA agent Stakeknife

Significant new evidence has been uncovered by an English police chief investigating more than 50 murders linked to the Army's notorious IRA agent Stakeknife.

Victims' families have told stories never divulged before at the start of an independent probe by Bedfordshire Police Chief Constable Jon Boutcher into the high-ranking mole who led the IRA's "nutting squad" internal security unit while in the employ of the state.

A group of six international policing experts has been appointed to inform the investigation on a voluntary basis. They include senior police officers from the US, Scotland, an Australian ex-officer and ex-Northern Ireland police ombudsman Nuala O'Loan.

In 2003 Stakeknife was widely named as west Belfast man Freddie Scappaticci but he has always strongly denied the allegation.

Mr Boutcher said: "This week we have heard things that from what the families have told me they have never told anyone before, because nobody has asked them.

"What I have been told this week is significant evidence against the people responsible for these offences."

He has asked the victims' families to give him time to investigate and recover the evidence.

"It is incredible what I have heard.

"There is a pessimism which I understand, I completely get, because people felt let down and almost abandoned.

"It almost feels like their rights were taken away from them because of the nature of what happened to their loved ones.

"They have now got a voice and that is this investigation, and they told me of what they saw at that time that they have never been able to tell anybody before and we need people to do that."

The investigation is centred on possible crimes by paramilitaries, agents and Army and police handlers linked to Stakeknife, allegedly the military's highest-ranking spy within the IRA.

Multiple murders, attempted murders and unlawful imprisonments are included in the probe.

NYPD deputy commissioner for intelligence and counter-terrorism John Miller and Mike Downing, deputy chief of the Los Angeles Police Department, will be part of the expert advisory group.

It will also include Kathleen O'Toole, part of the Patten Commission which reformed policing in Northern Ireland.

Iain Livingstone, Deputy Chief Constable with Police Scotland, and Nick Kaldas, a former deputy commissioner of police in New South Wales who has been working with the UN on a Hezbollah probe in the Middle East, complete the group.

A second team of six victims' representatives have been appointed to address the needs of Stakeknife's alleged victims and their families. It includes: Alan McBride, bereaved in the IRA's Shankill Road fish shop bombing; Victims Commissioner Judith Thompson and Mary Fetchet, who founded Voices of September 11 following the death of her son at the World Trade Centre in 2001.

The Stakeknife investigation was launched after Northern Ireland's Director of Public Prosecutions Barra McGrory referred the multiple allegations to the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI).

PSNI Chief Constable George Hamilton asked external police to undertake the probe in an effort to ensure its independence. No former or current officers who have served in Northern Ireland will work on the investigation, nor will ex or serving Ministry of Defence or Security Service personnel.

It is funded by the PSNI.

A 'wealth' of unseen evidence uncovered by fresh inquests set to be revealed

Jonathan Corke
Mirror Online
1 Oct 2016

 photo Wreckage-left-at-the-Mulberry-Bush-pub-in-Birmingham-after-a-bomb-exploded.jpg

The aftermath of the Mulberry Bush pub bomb

The bombers behind two pub blasts in Birmingham over 40 years ago may finally be brought to justice by a DNA breakthrough.

Police re-investigating the 1974 IRA attacks – of which six innocent men were wrongly convicted – have found three profiles and two fingerprints on items collected in the aftermath.

The discovery by a £1.6million review codenamed Operation Castors was revealed in a top-level memo seen by the Sunday Mirror.

The memo says the finds are being checked against databases in Britain, Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic.

And it adds: “It is possible that this could generate new lines of inquiry.”

The attacks on the Mulberry Bush and Tavern in the town pubs killed 21 people and injured 222. A third device was found near a Barclays bank.

The men convicted of the attacks, known as the Birmingham Six, spent 16 years in prison while the real ­perpetrators were never caught.

Now a “wealth” of previously unseen evidence is set to be revealed after fresh inquests were ordered following a lengthy campaign by relatives. In total, Operation Castors, which involved 16 officers and forensic experts, examined more than 18,000 items including exhibits, reports and statements.

The memo from the Office for ­Security and Counter-Terrorism reveals how 35 exhibits from 1974 have been lost, saying this is “deeply worrying”.

It also condemns the original West Midlands Police probe into the ­bombings as “deeply flawed”.

In deciding to order the fresh inquests, Birmingham coroner Louise Hunt said police may have ignored two tip-offs the IRA were about to strike.

Last week the Government told relatives wanting help with legal fees at the new hearings that direct Home Office funding had been refused.

Belfast Telegraph
29 Sept 2016

Michael McKevitt

Real IRA Leader Michael McKevitt had appealed over a civil court finding against him.

A bid by two republicans to overturn a landmark civil ruling that found them responsible for the Omagh bomb has been rejected by the European Court of Human Rights.

Convicted Real IRA chief Michael McKevitt and Co Louth man Liam Campbell were two of four republicans ordered to pay £1.6 million in damages to bereaved relatives who took the historic case.

The Real IRA outrage in the Co Tyrone market town in August 1998 killed 29 people, including a woman pregnant with twins, and injured 200 others.

The pair took their case to Europe, arguing that the civil trial in Belfast High Court had been unfair.

They said the judge should have applied a criminal rather a civil standard of proof, due to the severity of the allegations, and further claimed that the evidence of an FBI agent heard during the trial should not have been admitted.

The seven ECHR judges unanimously rejected the case and made clear their decision was final.

"The applicants had not demonstrated that their trial was unfair, and the Court dismissed their applications," said an ECHR statement.

McKevitt was jailed for 20 years in August 2003 after being convicted of directing a terrorist organisation and being a member of the Real IRA.

The ECHR case was the latest in a series of separate legal attempts by the four defendants to overturn the 2009 civil judgment.

The relatives who took the action are still pursuing the damages.

No one has ever been criminally convicted of the bomb, which inflicted the most bloodshed of an single atrocity during the Northern Ireland Troubles.

One of the key witnesses in the families' case was FBI agent David Rupert, who had infiltrated the Real IRA.

He did not attend the trial in person due to concerns about his security and medical condition.

McKevitt and Campbell argued that their lawyers' inability to cross-examine Mr Rupert had been unfair.

The ECHR dismissed this argument, insisting the trial judge had taken the "appropriate safeguards and considerations" in dealing with the evidence of an absent witness.

The applicants also claimed the judge should have applied a criminal standard of proof - beyond reasonable doubt - rather than a civil one - balance of probabilities - due to the severity of the allegations facing them.

The European judges said that was not necessary because the proceedings had been for a civil claim for damages and there had been no criminal charge involved.

Rejecting both grounds for the application, the ECHR said: "The Court found that the national court's findings could not be said to have been arbitrary or unreasonable."

Michael Gallagher, whose son Aiden was killed in the bomb, described the ruling as "vindication" for the families.

"We feel like we have been under siege since the first judgment, with appeal after appeal," he said.

"We are relieved it is now over. The families have been vindicated.

"Enormous expense has been paid by taxpayers to make sure these people got the best of British and European justice. The British and Irish Governments must now make sure the interests of the victims comes first."

He said the authorities had to help the families recover the money owed to them.

"It would be a very hollow judgment if it was only words," he said.

"These people value money and it's where it can hurt them and both governments must work together to make sure the families receive the money that was awarded to them."

Mr Gallagher made clear the bereaved relatives would continue to campaign for a full cross-border inquiry into the Omagh bombing, amid persistent claims the outrage could have been prevented.

Diane Dodds, Democratic Unionist MEP, said it was unfair that the men had access to legal aid to fight their case in Europe and branded it an abuse of human rights laws.

"The reality is whilst these individuals had full access to legal aid during the appeal process, the families of those murdered in the Omagh bombing have not received a single penny from the civil ruling," she said.

"Innocent victims are tired of these double-standards."

Kirsty Blake Knox
Irish Independent
22 Sept 2016

 photo Dr-John-Anthony-oGrady.jpg

Dr John Anthony O’Grady

Dublin dentist Dr John Anthony O'Grady will be laid to rest at the Church of St Mary, Star of the Sea, Sandymount, this Saturday at 11am.

Dr O'Grady passed away at Blackrock Clinic following an illness on September 20.

He was subjected to a vicious kidnapping ordeal at the hands of ex-IRA man Dessie O'Hare in 1987.

Dr O'Grady, who had his dental surgery in Ballsbridge, was kidnapped from his home in Cabinteely on October 13, 1987, by O'Hare, also known as the 'Border Fox'. He was held captive for 23 days before his release. O'Hare was sentenced to 40 years in prison.

Dr O'Grady is survived by his partner Rachel, children Darragh, Anthony, Louise and their mother Marise, and his siblings Willie and Catherine.


News Letter
23 Sept 2016

Tributes have been paid to Dublin dentist John O’Grady who had two fingers cut off by former south Armagh IRA terrorist Dessie O’Hare. Mr O’Grady suffered the horrendous ordeal after being kidnapped from his Dublin home by Mr O’Hare in 1987.

The dentist was held prisoner for 23 days before being freed by the Garda, while O’Hare, also known as ‘the Border Fox’, went on the run, becoming ‘Ireland’s most wanted man’.

O’Hare chopped the tips of Dr O’Grady’s little fingers off with a chisel but this did not stop the dentist from later resuming normal life at his surgery in Ballsbridge.

A ransom of IR£1.5m was demanded from his father-in-law, which he was unable to raise. Dr O’Grady was finally freed by the Garda during a shoot-out in which one officer was seriously wounded and Dr O’Grady was shot in the hand.

O’Hare fled to Kilkenny where he was shot and injured by an Irish army sniper. He never apologised for his actions and justified them on the basis of “war”. He was sentenced to 40 years of which he served 16 in Portlaoise jail before being released under the Good Friday Agreement.

It is understood Dr O’Grady passed away on Tuesday in the Blackrock Clinic after having been ill for some time. Funeral details are to be announced.

Kenny Donaldson, spokesman for Innocent Victims United, which has members in the Republic of Ireland, said Dr O’Grady epitomised the resilience of those subjected to the evils of terrorism.

“He was not prepared to allow terrorism to define his life, ultimately he triumphed,” he said. “How did he do so? By vowing that he would not be deterred from his work and vocation of providing service to the community through the dental practice he was attached to.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with the O’Grady family, they have lost someone in Dr John whom they can and should feel very proud of.”

By Mark Rainey
News Letter
16 Sept 2016

 photo Paul-Maxwell2.jpg

Portora Royal pupil Paul Maxwell was killed when the IRA bombed a boat owned by Lord Mountbatten

A film maker has angered some terror victims by describing the IRA attack on Lord Mountbatten’s fishing party in Sligo as “an act of war”. In an online pitch to raise funds for a short film about the 1979 bombing that claimed the life of 15-year-old Paul Maxwell, as well as the Queen’s cousin and two of his relatives, Joe Madden uses the word “war” several times.

Yesterday the ‘Boat Boy’ film appeal hit its target of £15,000 and the film-maker behind the project told the News Letter he hoped to begin filming as soon as possible.

Paul Maxwell’s family lived in Enniskillen but owned a cottage in Mullaghmore. The Portora Royal pupil had taken a summer job as a crew member on Mountbatten’s boat Shadow V and was saving his pay to buy a bicycle.

Mr Madden said he was prepared to meet any victims’ group concerned about his description of the film’s backdrop. He said: “Everyone talks about the Mountbatten death, but no one remembers a young boy, or very few people do, especially in England, so I really wanted to tell this story. “They (the victims’ groups) can call me and we can discuss it.

The thing that I have put up online is a pitch to get money for a short film. It will annoy some people but then other people, and especially English people who are our main financiers behind all this... that’s who we’re trying to sell it to.”

Mr Madden added: “I’m not saying it should have happened, or that it shouldn’t have happened, I’m not saying any of that. If they want I can send the script to them and they can have a read of it to see what they think. It’s dealing with a delicate subject so it’s always going to rub someone up the wrong way.”

In a video to promote the fundraising effort, Mr Madden says: “Boat Boy is not a politically motivated film. It is the coming of age story of Paul Maxwell and how in the summer of ‘79 he takes his first steps into becoming a responsible young adult with his first summer job. I wanted to show that, even in times of war, life must go on, and when I came across the story of Paul Maxwell I thought it was a really interesting way to express that idea. “Paul Maxwell tragically lost his life in an act of war. It is in this fatal climax that we are reminded that not all casualties of that are soldiers.”

Kenny Donaldson of the South East Fermanagh Foundation (SEFF) accepted that the film could prove to be “extremely powerful,” but said some of the language being used was unacceptable. “What happened in Mullaghmore, Sligo was an act of terrorism, an act of cold and brutal murder, an act of cowardice – it was not an act of war,” he said.

“If the narrative is not accurate to the reality of events then the film’s potential for good is thwarted. If it was a war then senior members of the republican movement, who now wear suits, and others who don’t belong to that elite, plus many others would be up in The Hague for serious war crimes.”

Paul’s mother Mary Hornsey said she has been “taken aback” in the past when her son’s murder has been the subject of press or television coverage without prior warning to the family. “That can come as an awful shock to people,” Ms Hornsey said.

Ms Hornsey revealed that she was never quite comfortable in the Mullaghmore cottage, and had reservations about Paul taking the Mountbatten job due to the security risk. “I was assured that there was going to be a lot of protection on that boat and that is why I said ‘okay then,’ but there wasn’t,” she added.
website metrics

Belfast Telegraph
16 Sept 2016

 photo ib.jpg

Ivor Bell leaves Laganside Court on Friday. The Veteran republican is due to stand trial for the involvement in the 1972 murder of mother-of-10 Jean McConville. (Picture: Pacemaker)

A veteran republican charged in connection with the IRA murder of a mother of 10 is to undergo medical examination to determine whether he is fit to plead.

Ivor Bell, 79, faces two counts of soliciting Jean McConville's killing in 1972.

The defendant was due to plead at a scheduled arraignment hearing in Belfast Crown Court ahead of his trial.

But the hearing was adjourned after Bell's barrister told the judge a medical exam was to be commissioned.

Granting the four week adjournment, judge Seamus Treacy said: "This relates to unfitness to plead issues."

White-haired, moustachioed Bell, from Ramoan Gardens in west Belfast, sat in the dock during the brief legal exchanges.

His lawyers have made clear the pensioner denies the offences at previous hearings.

A number of Mrs McConville's children watched on from the public gallery.

The 37-year-old mother was dragged from her home in Belfast's Divis flats complex by an IRA gang of up to 12 men and women.

She was accused of passing information to the British Army - an allegation later discredited by the Northern Ireland Police Ombudsman.

Mrs McConville was shot in the back of the head and secretly buried 50 miles from her home, becoming one of the "Disappeared" victims of the Troubles.

It was not until 1999 that the IRA admitted the murder when information was passed to police in the Irish Republic.

Her remains were eventually found on Shelling Hill beach in Co Louth by a member of the public in August 2003.

Nobody has been convicted of her murder.

The case against Bell is based on the content of tapes police secured from an oral history archive collated by Boston College in the United States.

Academics interviewed a series of former republican and loyalist paramilitaries for their Belfast Project on the understanding that the accounts of the Troubles would remain unpublished until their deaths.

But that undertaking was rendered meaningless when Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) detectives investigating Mrs McConville's death won a court battle in the US to secure the recordings.

It is alleged that one of the interviews was given by Bell - a claim the defendant denies.
Mrs Thatcher offered concessions to the inmates, but proposal was rebuffed, writes Alban Maginness

Alban Maginnis
Belfast Telegraph
7 Sept 2016

Every year, the British Government releases secret papers relating to Northern Ireland under the 30-years rule, and as time goes by we get to know a little bit more about the truth behind the Troubles. It can be a fascinating insight into the workings of the direct rule administration.

Recently, the Government released a memo from a British civil servant, Stephen Leach, to a more senior civil servant, John Blelloch, who served as a deputy permanent secretary during the hunger strikes in 1981. He had a crucial involvement at that critical time with Margaret Thatcher, the Prime Minister. The memo confirms that a "good offer" was made that could have ended the hunger strike and saved four or maybe six of the republican prisoners.

The official Sinn Fein narrative of the hunger strikes is that Margaret Thatcher was the Iron Lady, inflexible and immovable throughout, who was by her very inflexibility directly and solely responsible for the deaths of the 10 republican prisoners who were on hunger strike in Long Kesh.

Richard O'Rawe, who was PRO of the republican prisoners in Long Kesh during the hunger strikes, has courageously put forward in his books Blanketmen and Afterlives an alternative narrative which disputes that and which is much more credible.

Bobby Sands

O'Rawe makes it abundantly clear that Danny Morrison of Sinn Fein told Bik McFarlane, the IRA leader in the prison, the terms of a British offer to end the hunger strike and that McFarlane then told O'Rawe and that both of them agreed that the offer was good. However, he points out that the hunger strikers themselves were never consulted on the terms of this "good offer". He argues strongly that Adams and a committee of leading republicans, for self-interested political reasons, refused this "good offer" from the British Government in early July 1981 and when it was repeated again on July 21, 1981.

The main reason for this, he suspects, was to ensure the safe election of Owen Carron in the by-election to fill the seat left vacant by the late Bobby Sands MP. If the hunger strike continued, electoral victory was assured.

If there was no continuing hunger strike, then the seat could have been lost to another nationalist candidate, or on a divided nationalist vote to a unionist, thereby depriving Owen Carron of victory. This would have prevented the emergence of Adams' political strategy for the republican movement. If that was the IRA strategy at the time, then it was both cunning and ruthless, involving the additional and unnecessary deaths of the six remaining hunger strikers.

This "good offer" was confirmed to intermediaries the Irish Commission for Justice and Peace (ICJP) by Adams at a meeting in a house in Andersonstown in early July 1981. This is also referred to in Leach's Government memo.

The commission confirmed that Adams admitted to them in July 1981 that a "good offer" had been made by the British Government through a back channel whose code name was Mountain Climber. Adams also warned the ICJP to stay out of the process.

Richard O'Rawe has kept track of previously released Government papers and says that they substantially support his narrative. The recent Leach memo reinforces his argument.

He believes that Adams should apologise to the hunger strikers' families and the wider community.

He is adamantly of the view that, "the British were broke, the hunger strike broke the British".

As O'Rawe succinctly puts it: "The hunger strikers broke Thatcher's resolve."

In essence, that's why the British made a good offer, which met almost in full four out of the five demands of the prisoners. The most important concession made was the right to wear their own clothes and not be forced to wear the prison uniform, the very symbol of criminalisation. Criminalisation of the IRA prisoners was at the centre of the hunger strikes.

For years now, the republican leadership has rejected O'Rawe's account and has systematically tried to discredit both him and his version of events.

Fearlessly, he has countered their arguments and refuses to be bullied by them. He and his family have had to endure persistent vilification and criticism.

He has continued to examine the evidence that has come out through Government papers to strengthen his arguments. He has challenged senior republicans to debate with him publicly, but they have refused.

He has supported the idea of an independent inquiry into the hunger strikes and would be willing to give evidence to it. Sinn Fein has refused to participate in such an independent enquiry. The party has even refused to go on TV with him to debate the issues arising from the hunger strikes.

Now he says that they should have, "A bit of humility after 35 years - it's the decent thing to do".

The problem is, neither Adams, nor Sinn Fein understand either humility, or the truth.
website metrics

NY Times
8 August 2016

 photo daly.jpg

Father Edward Daly waving a bloodied white handkerchief in a widely circulated picture from Jan. 30, 1972, known as Bloody Sunday. (Credit Mirrorpix)

Edward Daly, who as the Roman Catholic bishop of Northern Ireland’s second-largest city argued relentlessly for peace during the three decades of sectarian violence known as the Troubles, died on Monday in Derry. He was 82.

His death, at Altnagelvin Area Hospital, was announced by Bishop Donal McKeown of Derry, the diocese that Bishop Daly led from 1974 to 1993, when he stepped down after having a stroke. (The city, officially Londonderry, is commonly known by its shorter name.) He was hospitalized after a fall several weeks ago.

“Bishop Daly served, without any concern for himself, throughout the traumatic years of the Troubles, finding his ministry shaped by the experience of witnessing violence and its effects,” Bishop McKeown said in a statement.

On Jan. 30, 1972, as a 38-year-old curate at St. Eugene’s Cathedral, Father Daly escorted unarmed protesters on a march toward the city center when British soldiers opened fire, resulting in the deaths of 14 people. The massacre became known as Bloody Sunday.

Images of Father Daly waving a bloodied white handkerchief as protesters tried to carry a wounded man, Jackie Duddy, to safety circulated around the world.

“I went in front with this handkerchief in my hand, and they carried Jackie behind me,” he later told the BBC. “All hell was let loose. We were very nervous and frightened, and when we laid him down on the pavement, he had died.”

He added: “It was utterly disgraceful. There was nothing fired at them — I can say that with absolute certainty because I was there.”

Father Daly later told The New York Times that the massacre fueled the growth of the Irish Republican Army, the paramilitary group that battled British security forces and the unionist segments of Northern Ireland’s population throughout the Troubles.

“Many young people I have talked to in prison have told me they would have never joined the I.R.A. had it not been for what they witnessed on Bloody Sunday,” he said.

In 2010, after a 12-year investigation that cost about 200 million pounds, or $265 million at current exchange rates, “a serious and widespread loss” of discipline among the soldiers was blamed for the massacre.

Britain’s prime minister at the time, David Cameron, apologized, calling the massacre “unjustified and unjustifiable.” The next year, the government agreed to compensate the victims’ families.

Edward Daly was born on Dec. 5, 1933, in the village of Belleek, County Fermanagh, near the border with Ireland. He attended St. Columb’s College, a boys’ grammar school in Derry, before the diocese sent him to the Pontifical Irish College in Rome to prepare for the priesthood.

 photo Daly 2.jpgHe was ordained as a priest in 1957 and appointed a curate in Castlederg, County Tyrone; in 1962, he was named a curate at St. Eugene’s, the Roman Catholic cathedral in Derry, and he was ordained a bishop in 1974.

As bishop, he repeatedly denounced waves of violence. In 1976, he deplored a firebombing that destroyed much of Londonderry’s shopping district, and in 1987, he stopped church funerals for I.R.A. men after one service was turned into a paramilitary display by republican gunmen.

On Oct. 24, 1990, the I.R.A., threatening to kill his family if he did not obey, forced Patrick Gillespie, 42, a Catholic kitchen worker at a British Army base, to drive a van containing explosives into a military checkpoint outside Derry.

The retired bishop Edward Daly in Derry, Northern Ireland, in 2014. He died on Monday at the age of 82. (Credit Brian Lawless/Press Association, via Associated Press)

The attack, one of three “proxy bombs” that day, killed Mr. Gillespie and five soldiers. At a Mass attended by Catholics and Protestants, Bishop Daly said the killers had “crossed a new threshold of evil.”

“They may say they are followers of Christ,” he said. “Some of them may even still engage in the hypocrisy of coming to church, but their lives and their works proclaim clearly that they follow Satan.”

Bishop Daly was equally unsparing in his criticism of the British authorities. After prosecutors moved to quash the murder convictions of six Catholics who said they had been coerced into confessing to the 1974 bombings of two bars in Birmingham, England, he said in 1991, “The justice system in Britain has problems, and it must face up to those problems.”

The same year, he expressed alarm about the covert recruitment of I.R.A. members by the British security services; some were found out and killed.

The Troubles largely ended in 1998 with the Good Friday Agreement, which provided for self-government in Northern Ireland with power sharing among its political factions.

The agreement also set out the principle that Northern Ireland would remain part of the United Kingdom until a majority of people in both Northern Ireland and Ireland wished otherwise.

Bishop Daly, who is survived by two sisters, spent his retirement as a chaplain to the Foyle Hospice in Derry and as archivist for the diocese.

He wrote two memoirs, “Mister, Are You a Priest?” (2000) and “A Troubled See: Memoirs of a Derry Bishop” (2011).

In the 2011 book, he questioned the Vatican’s policy on priestly celibacy. “I think priests should have the freedom to marry if they wish,” he told the BBC, expressing worries about a shortage of priests.

On Monday, religious and secular leaders, Catholic and Protestant alike, mourned Bishop Daly’s death.

Bishop Kenneth Good of Derry — of the Church of Ireland, which is part of the Anglican Communion — praised him “for unwavering Christian leadership and guidance when it was desperately needed in this city and community, during the darkest days of the Troubles.”

By Eamon Sweeney
Derry Journal
5 August 2016

**There are more photos on-site

Johnny McAnnaney, Derryman, is pictured on the back row, second from the left.

A film version of the forgotten story of 156 soldiers who held a 3,000 strong force at bay during a battle in the Congo fifty-five years ago is to be released by US media giant Netflix next month.

The lead character will be played by Jamie Dornan, the Co. Down born star of ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ and Belfast set thriller ‘The Fall’.

However, behind the glitz of the Hollywood sheen placed on this story lies the shameful post-conflict treatment of the Irish combatants by Irish Army top brass after they returned from Africa.

The battle which took place in September, 1961 has drawn comparison in its scale with the British defence of Rourke’s Drift - an event of course immortalised in the film ‘Zulu’.

And, as always seems to be the case with conflicts down the historical ladder of the centuries, whether by accident or by design, a Derry man was in thick of the action in the Congo.

The story goes as follows:

On September 13, 1961, the United Nations (UN) gave permission for its forces to launch a military offensive, code named Operation Morthor, against mainly mercenary military units working for the State of Katanga which had broken away from Congo-Leopoldville the previous year.

Under UN rules, its force in the Congo was to remain strictly impartial in the conflict.

Yet, the Katangese political leadership believed that the UN had broken its mandate and was siding with its opponents-the central Congolese Government. Soon after the launch of Operation Morthor, the Katangese led an attack on an isolated UN military unit based at the mining town of Jadotville.

The 156 strong contingent of Irish troops under the auspices of the UN were stationed at Jadotville.

"God, my men were fine. Ireland never reared better sons."

--Cmdt Pat Quinlan

Their leader was Commandant Pat Quinlan.

The positioning of the Irish men had come about after an angry phone call from the Belgian Foreign Minister to the UN Secretary General complaining that Belgian settlers within the local population had been left unprotected and open to attack from the anti-colonialist Kantagese.

Yet, when the Irish troops arrived it transpired that they were not welcome and there was in fact strong support for the insurgents.

The initial attack took place whilst the Irish men were at an open air Mass.

Expecting to take full advantage of the element of surprise, the attackers were however seen by an Irish sentry. His warning shot alerted the members of the 35th Irish battalion and the battle had begun.

A combined force of between 3,000-5,000 Belgian, French and Rhodesian mercenaries with local Luba tribesmen spearheaded the assault carrying light and heavy weaponry and they also used a Fouga Meister fighter jet carrying underwing bombs and machine guns.

The Irish men carried only light weapons and antiquated Vickers machine guns.

When the battle commenced the Irish radioed their headquarters. The message said: “We will hold out until our last bullet is spent. Could do with some whiskey.”

Astonishingly, whilst the Katangese attacked in 600 strong waves, having previously bombarded the area with heavy mortar fire, the Irish lost no men in the five day long siege. Instead, only five men were reported injured.

In return the attackers suffered an estimated death toll of around 300 and an indeterminate number of them were wounded. This has always been attributed to the tenacity of the Irish soldiers but also was due in great part to the brilliant tactical capability of Commandant Pat Quinlan.

Commandant Pat Quinlan pictured with his men in the aftermath of the Siege of Jadotville.

However, whilst Pat Quinlan retired a full Colonel in the Irish Defence Forces he was never to serve overseas again.

Eventually, after running out of ammunition, water and food the Irish had no choice but to surrender. Despite the fact they had outfought a vastly numerically superior force, their surrender rankled with the Irish Army hierarchy.

The soldiers who fought at Jadotville regarded Quinlan as an exceptional leader who saved their lives. Eventually in 2004, then Minister of Defence Willie O’Dea held an inquiry that cleared Pat Quinlan and A Company of any notion of misconduct.

A commemorative stone honouring the soldiers was erected in Athlone Barracks in 2005 and a portrait of Comdt Quinlan now hangs in the Congo Room of the Irish Army UN School.

Born in 1921, John McAnaney hailed from Derry’s Bishop Street.

On joining the Irish Army he was initially stationed in Athlone before being shifted to the now defunct Collins Barracks in Mullingar where he later married Pauline O’Mahony. They had five children.

By the time the Irish Army reached the Congo in 1961 John had attained the rank of Corporal.

John’s daughter Kathleen Lafferty still lives in Mullingar told the ‘Journal’: “When he came home from the Congo, I was only about two-and-a-half years old, but I remember it like it was yesterday. I remember being handed up to this man on the back of a lorry. I didn’t have a clue who he was. I thought I was being given away and remember saying ‘I promise, I’ll be good!’.

Whilst Kathleen says that her father wasn’t one to talk in detail about what happened in the Congo she does recall that he spoke about what happened during his time in captivity,

“He said that while they were being held, the local women were worse than the men as they would poke them through the compound wire with sticks. As well as that, my father and a Private Peppard were singled out for particularly bad beatings by their captors.”

Whilst letters were sent home from the Congo by her dad, Kathleen says that what happened and what will be seen in the film are worlds apart in terms of what her father wrote.

“Of course, nothing was ever wrong and everything was always fine in the letters.

“Another memory I have is sitting on the floor watching ‘Jackanory’ on TV with my brother and mum was making dinner. when a big breadknife was thrust between both of us and pointed at the TV and mum shouted: ‘There’s your father on the news!’

“That’s how we knew he was home.”

The subsequent shoddy treatment of the men who fought so valiantly at Jadotville by the Irish Army hierarchy who unspokenly ‘frowned’ upon the fact that the men had surrendered - even thought they had no choice - still rankles with the families of many of the men.

Kathleen Lafferty said: “It was heart wrenching and stomach churning. It grew with me. Now, I have the greatest respect for the the Army lads on the ground. It was those upstairs in the top brass that I had the problem with.

“It was awful to grow up as a daughter thinking that my father was treated like that. He was a very proud man. He walked upright with his shoulders back. We still have the morals he gave us to this day.

“He loved Derry so much. I still remember sitting on his knee on the bus to Derry and him singing about the town even as we neared it. I am very proud of what these men did-all of them.”

Despite the treatment received by her father and his comrades by the upper echelons of the Irish Defence Forces it not deter Kathleen Lafferty’s brothers, Tony, Martin and Paul McAnaney following their father into military service. All of them also saw overseas service during their careers in both Cyprus and the Lebanon.

Sadly, John McAnaney passed away suddenly in 1967 at the age of 45.

The shock of this and the fact that her mother was left to raise five children alone caused great distress.

“Dad was buried with full military honours, but after he died there was no contact from the Army-no support at all,” she said.

Asked if she is looking forward to watching the Netflix film ‘The Siege of Jadotville’ next month, Kathleen told the ‘Journal’: “I am, but I am fearful of looking at it too. It will be extremely emotional.

“I remember my dad as a wonderful, loving father. One thing I do remember was that Army overcoat cast over the chair at home. Chocolate was a rare treat in those days, but he always had a Kit-Kat or something in it.

“The game was that he’d leave it there to see if my friends and I could find it hidden somewhere in the coat without him seeing us.

“There was no central heating in those days and that coat would also be put around us at night over the top of the Army blankets. The coat was so big and so heavy.

“Imagine being sent out to Africa with this type of clothes.”

‘The Siege of Jadotville’ is a feature length movie that will be available for viewing on Nextflix in September. For details go to the Netflix website.

After their surrender, the Irish contingent were held for around a month. It is believed that their captivity lasted so long because the Katangese used them as a bargaining tool to improve their political bargaining power.

The ‘Derry Journal’ reported on the situation in the Congo on Tuesday, September 19, 1961.

Under the headline ‘Jadotville Garrison is being treated well’, the report said: “Reports on the situation in the Congo continue to be confused, but an Irish Government announcement yesterday stated that Irish troops at Jadotville, which had been overwhelmed by vastly superior numbers, were being treated well by their captors and that there were no further casualties among them.

A statement issued by the Government Information Bureau in Dublin yesterday afternoon said that the message was received from Leopoldville at 1.20pm from the Commander of the 35th Irish Battalion: “All ranks of the battalion in Elizabethville fit and well. Morale tip-top. We now have two channels of communication through another source.”

“The Jadotville garrison is reported to be well housed and it appears they are being well treated.

“They have been allowed to retain their light arms without ammunition.

“There are no more casualties than they have already reported. It is still three wounded and two shell-shocked. But, my men are showing the signs of the strain that they have been through since they went to Jadotville.”

Garda Síochána hold man in his 40s for questioning in Co Donegal over killing in April 2006

Henry McDonald
The Guardian
4 August 2016

Irish detectives have arrested a man in his 40s in connection with the murder of Denis Donaldson, an MI5 spy who operated at the heart of the IRA and Sinn Féin.

The suspect was detained at Cloghercor in Doochary, Co Donegal, on Thursday. The Garda Síochána are questioning him at Letterkenny garda station.

Donaldson – a former close associate of Sinn Féin’s president, Gerry Adams – was killed by a shotgun blast as he answered the door of his isolated cottage near Glenties, Co Donegal, in April 2006. The Real IRA admitted responsibility for his murder.

Last month a 74-year-old man from Glasgow, Patrick Gillespie, was charged with withholding information in connection with the MI5 agent’s murder. Gillespie, who has an address in Glasgow’s East End as well as one in Donegal, was granted bail.

Denis Donaldson

Before being exposed as a British spy, Donaldson was a prominent figure in Sinn Féin and eventually became head of the party’s administrative team at the Stormont parliament in Belfast. Donaldson was also renowned as a “fixer” for the republican movement’s leadership and was responsible for the removal of candidates the party’s hierarchy were concerned about and their replacement with those who would toe the line.

At one time he was also in charge of international relations for Sinn Féin and spent time in the Middle East meeting Palestinian factions and Hezbollah in Lebanon. Throughout that period, Donaldson was also working for British intelligence.

The inquest into his death has been delayed at least 19 times, resulting in his family taking legal action against the authorities. It is understood the delays are partly connected to sensitive material that the Garda Síochána possesses, namely the journal that Donaldson was writing after being unmasked as a British agent.

Fifty-nine-year-old held on suspicion of killing 10 Protestant workmen in County Armagh after forensic breakthrough

Henry McDonald
The Guardian
5 August 2016

A bullet-riddled minibus near Whitecross in south Armagh, where 10 Protestant workmen were shot dead in a suspected reprisal attack. (Photograph: PA)

A fresh police investigation into one of the most notorious sectarian mass killings of the Northern Ireland Troubles has led to the arrest of a 59-year-old man.

The arrest on Friday follows a breakthrough by the Police Service of Northern Ireland in their historical inquiry into the Kingsmills massacre in which 10 Protestant workmen were shot dead in 1976.

At the end of May this year the PSNI said they had made a potential DNA match regarding a palm print on the getaway vehicle used by the people behind the murders.

Although the organisation has never admitted responsibility for the atrocity, the IRA is widely blamed for the attack during which the killers freed the only Catholic man on the workers minibus before gunning down his colleagues.

Their minibus had been stopped on the Whitecross to Bessbrook Road at Kingsmills in South Armagh by a man who had an English accent waving a red light. The victims, according to one of the survivors of the massacre, believed at first that the man was a British soldier.

Karen Armstrong with a photograph of her brother John McConville, who was killed in the Kingsmill attack (Photograph: Brian Lawless/PA)

The gunmen, who were hiding in hedges, ordered the workers to leave the van and then questioned them about their religion. After allowing the Catholic worker to flee, the IRA unit then opened fire on the Protestant workers.

The revelation about the palm print was made during the first week of a long-delayed inquest into the Kingsmills atrocity this year.

The man the PSNI arrested on Friday is from the Newry area of South Armagh. The Newry and Armagh Ulster Unionist member of the Northern Ireland Assembly, Danny Kennedy, who worked closely with the Kingsmills families for an inquest, welcomed the arrest. He said: “The families and sole survivor have waited 40 years in their pursuit of maximum truth and justice for this brutal and barbaric crime.

“The news that someone has been arrested in connection with Kingsmills must be seen as a potentially positive development. We must now wait and allow the police investigation to take its course.”

Kennedy added: “It is my sincere hope that the police now have a realistic prospect of mounting a successful prosecution of some of those responsible.”

RTÉ News
28 July 2016

A 74-year-old man has appeared before the Special Criminal Court charged in connection with the murder of Denis Donaldson ten years ago.

Patrick Gillespie, with an address at Craigvar Street, Glasgow, Scotland was charged with withholding information regarding the involvement of another person in the killing of Denis Donaldson.

Mr Donaldson, 55, a senior Sinn Féin official was shot dead at an isolated cottage near Glenties in Co Donegal in April 2006.

He had been living there since his exposure as an MI5 agent the previous year.

The Real IRA claimed responsibility for the murder in 2008 but the circumstances surrounding Mr Donaldson's outing as a British agent and subsequent murder have long been shrouded in mystery.

A long-delayed inquest into the shooting has been adjourned almost 20 times.

Gardaí have repeatedly urged the coroner to postpone the inquiry, citing concerns it might compromise their criminal investigation.

The delays have been a source of anger for Mr Donaldson's relatives. They have launched a legal action against the Irish State as a consequence.

In 2014, gardaí made a mutual assistance request to a police force outside the Republic in a bid to gain what it described as potentially "significant" evidential material.

That material was secured in March this year.

Two men were arrested in Donegal on Tuesday as part of the investigation into the murder.

The second man, who is in his 40s, has been released without charge.

A file is being prepared for the Director of Public Prosecutions.

Senior Sinn Féin official was shot dead in Co Donegal in 2006, a year after being exposed as an MI5 agent

Henry McDonald
The Guardian
26 July 2016

One big happy family! Denis Donaldson, centre, with Martin McGuinness and Gerry Adams in 2005. (Photograph: Paul Faith/PA)

Irish detectives have arrested two men in connection with the murder of one of MI5’s most important spies inside the IRA.

The pair have been detained for questioning about the murder of former leading Sinn Féin member Denis Donaldson in Co Donegal in 2006.

The Garda Síochána said the men, who are in their 40s and 70s, were detained on Tuesday under the Irish Republic’s Offences Against the State Act.

They are being held at Letterkenny garda station in Co Donegal. Donaldson, a former close associate of Sinn Féin’s president, Gerry Adams, was killed by a shotgun blast as he answered the door to his cottage near Glenties in April 2006.

The 55-year-old had been exposed months before his death as an MI5 agent working inside Sinn Féin and the IRA. Dissident republican terror group the Real IRA admitted responsibility for the murder.

Prior to his exposure as a British spy, Donaldson was a prominent figure in the republican movement and eventually became head of Sinn Féin’s administrative team in the Stormont parliament in Belfast.

The inquest into his death has been delayed at least 19 times, with his family taking legal action against the authorities in Ireland over the delays.

There have been allegations that a journal belonging to Donaldson was found in his cottage and, due to its sensitive contents, the Irish police have consistently applied for postponements of the inquest.
website metrics

Killing of 10 Protestant workmen was believed to have been carried out by IRA despite republican organisation denying it all these years

Henry McDonald
The Guardian
23 May 2016

Alan Black, the sole survivor of the Kingsmill massacre, arrives at Belfast coroner’s court for the inquest. (Photograph: Niall Carson/PA)

The sole survivor of the Kingsmill massacre, when 10 Protestant workmen were killed by the IRA in 1976, has called for the “unvarnished truth” at the opening of an inquest into the atrocity.

Alan Black survived despite being shot 18 times when members of the IRA’s south Armagh brigade opened fire on the workers at Kingsmill, in County Armagh, after stopping them on a minibus going to work.

It later emerged at the hearing that two suspects connected to the killings were given “letters of comfort” from Tony Blair’s government as part of a secret deal with Sinn Féin during the peace process, to allow IRA members on the run, or wanted fugitives, back into Northern Ireland.

Speaking outside Laganside courthouse in Belfast on Monday, Black said it was a “red letter day” for him and the families of the murdered men. “We have fought long and hard for this review.

“Obstacles were put in our way. Thanks to these people we have gotten over each one,” he said referring to the families of those who died in the attack. The inquest will hear opening statements from family members of the murdered men.

The atrocity was claimed by the South Armagh Republican Action Force in revenge for a loyalist sectarian double murder in the county. However, republican and security sources down through the decades have said the IRA was behind the Kingsmill killings, even though the organisation has never publicly admitted it.

Monday’s inquest also ruled out a conspiracy theory that claimed an SAS captain, Robert Nairac, had a hand in the murders. Nairac went undercover within the IRA and was later killed by republicans after being abducted from a pub. The inquest was told that the soldier was not serving in Northern Ireland at the time of the atrocity.

The inquest will also hear from police officers belonging to the historical enquiries team, a policing unit tasked with reopening unsolved cases from the Troubles. In 2011, the HET concluded the IRA was responsible for the Kingsmill massacre.
Daughter of woman shot dead by Provos as an alleged informer after being held 15 days speaks out as battle for justice gathers pace

By Suzanne Breen
Belfast Telegraph
18 May 2016

Shauna Moreland, whose mother Caroline was abducted and murdered by the IRA in June 1994 - (BBC image)

A daughter has described the emotional meeting she had with the elderly woman who found her murdered mother's body lying on a lonely border road.

Shauna Moreland also revealed how police had let the body of 34-year-old Caroline lie on the roadside near Roslea, Co Fermanagh, for 13 hours because they feared the IRA had booby-trapped it.

The heartbreaking delay was also caused by the fact that half of Caroline's body was on the northern side of the border and the rest was in the South, leading to lengthy talks between the RUC and Garda over which jurisdiction her murder fell.

In a powerful interview with the Belfast Telegraph, Shauna - who was only 10 when her mother was murdered as an alleged informer in July 1994 - described the horrific details of her killing.

"She was taken from west Belfast and brought to Fermanagh in the boot of a car where she was held for 15 days," she said.

"She was killed, on her knees and blindfolded, with tissue under the blindfold. She was shot three times in the side of the head. I've pictured what happened in my mind 50,000 times."

Last year Shauna met the woman who found her mother's body when she was out walking her dog at 7am that summer morning.

"The lady was bed-bound and in her 80s," she said. "It was very emotional for me. I brought her a bunch of flowers and I apologised to her for what she had to see on the road. It devastated our lives, but that woman was traumatised too."

Caroline, a single mother-of-three from west Belfast, was shot dead by the Provos six weeks before the 1994 ceasefire for allegedly working as an informer.

Her family believe she was a victim of Freddie Scappaticci - named in the media as the high-ranking British agent codenamed Stakeknife - and are seeking truth and justice through the courts.

The Morelands maintain that the authorities had ample opportunity to step in and save Caroline's life, but chose to let her die in order to protect a more senior and valuable alleged informer.

The last time Shauna saw her mummy was at home ironing. "I miss her so much," she said.

"I'm a chef and on Mother's Day I stand in the kitchen cooking food for God knows how many mothers.

"It makes me sad and angry that I never had the chance to cook a meal for my own mother."

Shauna explained how her two big brothers, then aged 13 and 14, also grieved for Caroline but that she felt her loss differently.

"There are things for which daughters need mothers and she wasn't there, like buying my first bra and getting my first period," she said.

"I had my grannies and my aunts, but it wasn't the same. Even now I feel that void. I'm not able to buy her presents. For 22 years on Mother's Day and on her birthday, all I can do is bring flowers to her grave.

"On my 18th and 21st birthday parties I looked around the room at all the people who were gathered to celebrate with me, but the most important person wasn't there."

It is not just on the big occasions that 31-year-old Shauna misses her mother most.

"The smaller stuff is even harder," she said. "I called in on a friend the other day as she was making her mummy a cup of tea and it hit me that I'd never done that for my mother. I wouldn't have a clue how she liked her tea, if she took milk or sugar.

"I get jealous when I see other people with their mummies. I had mine for just 10 years. She's been dead twice as long as she was with me."

Shauna also told this newspaper how Caroline could not have been a better mother.

"She was warm and affectionate," she said. "We always knew that we were loved. We felt safe with her, like nothing or nobody could harm us.

"Other mothers can complain a lot about their kids, but mummy loved being with us.

"She would have shouted at us for making a mess or being boisterous, but my strongest memories are of a house filled with fun and laughter.

"During the summer holidays she wouldn't have the money to take us to Spain or Turkey, but she organised countless days out. We went on the bus to Newcastle or the train to Crawfordsburn. She packed sandwiches and took us to the Ulster Museum.

"On Christmas Eve she had her rituals. She'd put a Christmas film on the TV and make hot chocolate for us. Then we'd be allowed to open two presents each - it was always the selection boxes and the pyjamas."

When Caroline was abducted by the IRA relatives told the children she was in hospital.

"She had a difficult birth with me - her spine crumbled and she had metal plates inserted - and she was in and out of hospital regularly, so we didn't doubt what we were told," said Shauna.

"But I remember the phone ringing and my granny and daddy going upstairs afterwards to talk to my brother. I heard him crying, and he never cried. When they told me mummy was dead; I was hysterical."

Shauna remembers being brought to the wake in her granny's home. "Mummy had auburn hair and her curls tumbled around her face," she said. "The woman in the coffin had her hair pulled back, so I said to myself: 'That's not my mummy'. I tried to escape from her death, to blank it out, rather than deal with it.

"I told myself that mummy had just gone away on a wee break because she was tired of my brother and I fighting. I convinced myself she wasn't dead, that it was a dream and I'd wake to see her standing over the bed saying: 'Ready for school?'"

After talking to relatives, Shauna and her brothers decided not to go to their mother's funeral. "I still don't know if it was the right call," she said. "I go to the funeral of relatives of friends and say to myself: 'I'm at the funeral of someone I barely knew and I wasn't at my mum's'."

Shauna's one consolation is that the IRA did not try to hide Caroline's body. "At least they left mummy on the road. They didn't 'disappear' her like Jean McConville," she said.

But Shauna is tormented by thoughts of the 15 days the IRA held Caroline. "I've gone over what could have happened and I probably imagine it 100 times worse than it was," she said. "The inquest found nothing to suggest she was tortured or assaulted, but they had her two weeks - they hardly did nothing."

In her 20s Shauna started to Google her mother's name. "The words that constantly came up were 'IRA informer'," she said. "I hated that because it was the label the IRA had created to try to excuse or lighten murdering her.

"Caroline Moreland wasn't just an IRA informer, she was a mother, a daughter and a sister. They tried to write her story, but I am here now to tell what they omitted."

Shauna is particularly proud that her mother, along with her grannies, raised thousands of pounds for muscular dystrophy.

And although she grew up in a working-class nationalist area, she was never taunted about her mother. "I wasn't filled with hate against the IRA, but when I heard people condemn the British or loyalists for what they did, I'd think: 'My own ones hurt me more'," Shauna explained.

"Some media have wanted to steer me down the road of battering only the IRA, and I won't do that. The State was equally to blame for my mother's death. It made the bullet, the IRA fired it."

Shauna has been told that she has a similar temperament to her mother. "That makes me happy, but I think mummy was more confident," she said.

"She was a very strong woman. If she walked into a room, people knew she was there. She's my role model. I find the strength to fight for my mother from my mother."

Many bereaved relatives pose for media photographs holding a picture of their loved one. Shauna refuses to do that. "It's too painful," she said. "I don't want to hold a photo, I want to hold her. I want to give her the biggest hug in the world and never, ever let her go."

Alan Erwin, Belfast
17 May 2016

The only man charged in connection with the murder of prison officer David Black has been blocked from asking the Supreme Court to overturn an order for him to stand trial.

Senior judges in Belfast refused Damien McLaughlin's application after rejecting claims his case raised a point of law of general public importance.

Lawyers for the 39-year-old claim he was unfairly denied the chance to cross-examine a key prosecution witness. They also contended that a district judge who committed him for trial applied the wrong legal test.

McLaughlin, from the Kilmascally Road in Dungannon, is facing four charges in relation to the prison officer's killing.

They include aiding and abetting his murder, having a Toyota Camry car for use in terrorism, preparing a terrorist act by starting and moving the vehicle which the killers used, and belonging to a proscribed organisation, namely the IRA.

Damien McLaughlin

Mr Black was shot dead on the M1 in Co Armagh in November 2012 en route to work at high security Maghaberry Prison.

The 52-year-old father of two was the first Northern Ireland prison officer to be murdered in nearly 20 years. The prosecution alleges McLaughlin transported the Toyota car across the Irish border on the eve of the attack.

In June last year a preliminary investigation resulted in the district judge ordering him to be returned for trial.

McLaughlin's legal team launched judicial review proceedings against decisions to admit hearsay evidence and to return him for trial.

Their challenge centred on statements from a man who was arrested and interviewed by the Garda as a suspect in the murder plot.

He was not called as a witness during the preliminary investigation.

Counsel for McLaughlin, who is currently on bail, argued that there is a statutory right to cross-examine witnesses before trial.

A prosecution barrister countered that the proceedings were a form of satellite litigation.

Last month the High Court dismissed the judicial review challenge after ruling there was nothing irrational or perverse about the process.

McLaughlin's legal team returned on Tuesday to seek permission from judges to take their case to the Supreme Court in London.

But refusing leave, Lord Chief Justice Sir Declan Morgan said: "We have decided we are not going to certify a point of law of general public importance.

"The decision for the magistrate in committal (proceedings) is a broad discretionary judgment taking account of all relevant factors.

"We have concluded the magistrate did not err in the approach in this particular case."

This page was loaded 23rd Feb 2017, 2:44 am GMT.