17 Feb 2014Alan Black, pictured at today's hearing, was shot 18 timesA man who survived an IRA massacre of ten Protestant workmen believes state agents may have been involved in the attack, a coroner's court has heard.
A lawyer for Alan Black made the claim as preliminary proceedings got under way ahead of a new inquest into the Kingsmill shootings in 1976.
Ten textile workers were shot dead by the side of a road near the Co Armagh village after masked gunmen flagged down the minibus they were travelling home from work in.
The killers asked all the occupants of the vehicle what religion they were.
The only Catholic worker was ordered away from the scene and the 11 remaining workmates were then shot.
Mr Black survived, despite being shot 18 times. He was the only survivor.
At the first preliminary inquest hearing in Belfast's Old Town Hall, barrister Eugene McKenna, representing Mr Black, told Northern Ireland's senior coroner John Leckey that his client suspected state involvement.
"Mr Black believes there may have been agents of the state involved in the attack itself," he said.
Mr Leckey said he had read Mr Black's account of what unfolded on the day and had been shocked.
"It's difficult really to take in the horror that he experienced," he said.
The coroner added: "This was one of the most horrific incidents in the so-called Troubles and I'm sure not only for Mr Black, but for the families [of the dead], the horror of what happened is still very much to the forefront of their minds."
No-one has ever been convicted of the murders.
There were 12 men in the gang that committed the attack.
The ten men who died were John Bryans, Robert Chambers, Reginald Chapman, Walter Chapman, Robert Freeburn, Joseph Lemmon, John McConville, James McWhirter, Robert Samuel Walker and Kenneth Worton.
The court heard that Richard Hughes, the Catholic man who managed to escape the carnage, has since died.
The IRA never admitted responsibility for the murders but an investigation by the police's Historical Enquiries Team (HET) three years ago found that members of the republican organisation did perpetrate the attack, motivated purely by sectarianism.
Northern Ireland's Attorney General, John Larkin, ordered the fresh inquest last year after a long campaign by bereaved relatives.
By Gemma MurrayNews Letter
17 February 2014 Memorial Wall in memory of all those who lost their lives in the Kingsmills Massacre.Families of Kingsmills victims will today attend Belfast inquest court for a preliminary hearing into the deaths of 10 men killed in an horrific roadside shooting.
Sole survivor of the massacre, Alan Black, said he is “very relieved” that it has finally got to this stage. He said the inquest into the deaths is “long, long overdue”.
The first inquest into the atrocity was held in 1977. No evidence was heard and an “open verdict” was recorded.
In June 2011, a HET report brushed aside all excuses that the IRA had not been responsible and said the murders had been “pure sectarianism” and “appalling savagery” which had been planned for some considerable time before being carried out.
Mr Black, who still suffers from the injuries he received during the shooting, said of today’s preliminary hearing : “This is a giant first step and I never thought I would see this day coming, not for a long long time. None of this would have happened without John McConville’s sisters. They led the way in this. All of this is down to their perseverance and determination to get to the truth of the whole thing.”
Karen Armstong, 56, whose big brother John McConville was murdered, said she started to push for the inquest independently “more than a year ago”.
“So we contacted the attorney general and corresponded with him for a couple of months. I am the oldest sister, having lost our parents, so I felt we could not go through the rest of my life not doing something,” she said yesterday.
“Even though we have this hearing tomorrow it is still very difficult for us as a family to have to face up to listening to the hard facts that may come out. Obviously tomorrow it is a preliminary hearing and we are not sure what the outcome of that will be.”
Mrs Armstrong said her family “loved my brother John so much and had such respect for him”. “John was 20, the oldest, and would have been 58-years-old now,” she added.
UUP MLA Danny Kennedy, who has campaigned for the reopening of the Kingsmills inquest, added: “I expect the inquest to be formerly opened tomorrow morning and the coroner will indicate the information he needs to proceed.
“The inquest has been pursued by all the families. I am pleased we have got to this stage that the inquest is being reopened. It has been a struggle and a battle for all of the families over the 38 years since the dreadful events of Kingsmills, and it is a landmark step in the quest for maximum justice. I hope to provide whatever support I can.”
Victims’ campaigner Willie Frazer has also been heavily involved in helping Kingsmills families fight for a fresh inquest and justice.
“Monday’s preliminary hearing is just the first step in the process of addressing that unacceptable situation,” he said.
“It must also be remembered the Kingsmills massacre is linked to numerous other murders in south Armagh so this inquest could be an extremely significant process indeed.”
Colin Worton, whose brother Kenneth was murdered in the atrocity, said: “We are so thankful it has got this far. We all called for an inquest, and we are here now.”
On January 5, 1976, just after 5pm, the Kingsmills massacre took place in south Armagh.
Gunmen stopped 12 workmen travelling home to Bessbrook from a textile factory in a red minibus, lined them up against the side of the road and shot them.
One Catholic workman was pulled from the line-up and asked to flee the scene. Then the gunmen opened fire.
One of the men – Alan Black – was shot 18 times, but survived. He is now the sole survivor of the atrocity.
The men who were murdered on the roadside were: John Bryans; Robert Chambers; Reginald Chapman; Walter Chapman; Robert Freeburn; Joseph Lemmon; John McConville; James McWhirter; Robert Samuel Walker; and Kenneth Worton.firstname.lastname@example.org
14 Jan 2014
• See also: NI Historical Institutional Abuse InquiryHundreds of witnesses will give evidence to the inquiryTwo religious orders in the Catholic Church have apologised for the abuse suffered by children in their residential homes.
The comments were made on the second day of the inquiry into historical abuse in 13 Northern Ireland care homes and borstals between 1922 and 1995.
Lawyers for De La Salle Brothers and Sisters of Nazareth made the apologies.
The Health and Social Care Board also said that if the state had failed in any way it was sorry.
A barrister representing De La Salle Brothers offered their "sincere and unreserved apology" for the abuse at its home in Kircubbin, County Down.
The QC said the Brothers "deeply regret that boys in their care were abused".
He said their mission was to look after the welfare of vulnerable and deprived children, and the abuse by some Brothers "was in contradiction to their vocation.
"They recognise that there have been failures to protect the victims," he said.HIA abuse inquiry - the numbers
• 434 people have made formal applications to speak to the inquiry
• 300+ witnesses are expected to testify during the public hearings
• 263 alleged victims have already given statements to the inquiry's acknowledgement forum
• 13 residential institutions are currently under investigation by the inquiry team
"This inquiry represents perhaps the last opportunity to establish what exactly occurred during the operation of the homes."
The inquiry also heard admissions made on behalf of the Sisters of Nazareth order of nuns.
A barrister representing them said they "recognise the hurt that's been caused to some children in their care".
"They apologise unreservedly for any abuse suffered by children in their care. They go forward hoping that lessons will be learned, not just by them in the provision of care, but also by carers generally in society and in wider society at large."'Bygone age'
A barrister for the Health and Social Care Board said that where it had failed to meet acceptable standards, it offered its apologies to those involved.
Christine Smith Christine Smith QC outlined the context in which institutional care in Northern Ireland had operated
Earlier, it was told that some children's homes in Northern Ireland in the 1960s were relics of a bygone era.
Post-war welfare reforms were not adopted by some institutions, the senior counsel to the panel said.
"The evidence suggests that those homes operated as outdated survivors of a bygone age," said Christine Smith QC.
Outlining the context of institutional care in Northern Ireland, she said the status of children historically could be illustrated by the fact that while the RSPCA was set up in 1824, the NSPCC was not set up for another 60 years.Institutions under investigationLocal authority homes:
• Lissue Children's Unit, Lisburn
• Kincora Boys' Home, Belfast
• Bawnmore Children's Home, NewtownabbeyJuvenile justice institutions:
• St Patrick's Training School, Belfast
• Lisnevin Training School, County Down
• Rathgael Training School, BangorSecular voluntary homes:
• Barnardo's Sharonmore Project, Newtownabbey
• Barnardo's Macedon, NewtownabbeyCatholic Church-run homes:
• St Joseph's Home, Termonbacca, Londonderry
• Nazareth House Children's Home, Derry
• Nazareth House Children's Home, Belfast
• Nazareth Lodge Children's Home, Belfast
• De La Salle Boys' Home, Kircubbin, County Down
The barrister told the inquiry of one submission received by a woman who had been in care between 1971 and 1976.
She detailed how after wetting her bed, she had her nose rubbed in it, before being stripped, left in a cold room and then forced to wash in cold water and disinfectant.
The biggest ever public inquiry into child abuse ever held in the UK is investigating claims of physical, sexual, and emotional abuse, as well as childhood neglect.
The public hearings stage of the inquiry, which began on Monday, is being held in Banbridge, County Down, and is expected to last for 18 months.
The inquiry's remit is limited to children's residential institutions in Northern Ireland.
During that time, it is due to hear evidence from more than 300 witnesses, including former residents who claim they were abused as children, the people who ran the institutions, health and social care officials and government representatives.
The inquiry's remit is limited to children's residential institutions in Northern Ireland.
To date, 434 people have contacted the inquiry to allege they were abused.
Ex-judge leading inquiry calls on government and accused institutions to co-operate in fair and open way
13 Jan 2014Sir Anthony Hart, chair of the inquiry. (Photograph: Paul Faith/AFP/Getty Images)A retired judge in charge of the biggest inquiry into child abuse in UK legal history has appealed for openness from the institutions in Northern Ireland where crimes against children allegedly took place.
Opening the public inquiry into 13 orphanages, young offender centres and other places where children were kept in care, Sir Anthony Hart said the government had to be open in its dealings with the tribunal.
"This may be a challenging process for everyone involved, but it is our hope that everybody, whether from government or from the institutions, who is requested to assist the inquiry will co-operate in a fair, open and wholehearted way so that this unique opportunity will not be wasted," Hart said at Banbridge courthouse where the hearings will take place.
He assured the more than 400 victims – 300 of whom will give personal testimony to the court – that they "will have the satisfaction of knowing that their experiences are being listened to and investigated".
Christine Smith, senior counsel for the inquiry, told the court: "By examining how vulnerable children living in children's homes between 1922 and 1995 were treated, this inquiry will examine the soul of Northern Ireland in that period."
The inquiry will examine claims of sexual and physical abuse including at the Kincora boys' home in east Belfast, where a senior Orangeman and a number of loyalist extremists are alleged to have raped children.
The inquiry may also explore allegations that the security forces – both MI5 and RUC Special Branch – knew about abuse in Kincora, but failed to act against those responsible because many of the alleged abusers were state agents.
There will be written and oral testimony from 434 individuals. The inquiry will also investigate how 120 children from the institutions were sent to Australia as part of a child migration policy between 1947 and 1956.
The hearings are scheduled to continue to June 2015 and could cost up to £19m. Campaigners in Britain said they wanted the inquiry to extend to England and Wales.
Jonathan Wheeler, a lawyer and founding member of Stop Church Child Abuse, said: "The start of this inquiry will be a relief to the alleged victims, allowing them to take heart in the fact that a process intended to bring them justice is at last under way. Lessons must also be learned by the authorities and all those responsible for the care of young children to prevent this kind of abuse from ever happening again.
"We have been calling for a similar over-arching inquiry in England and Wales. The government has refused, but if Northern Ireland can tackle the issue why should survivors here be denied their say and the proper scrutiny of all they have suffered."
10 Jan 2014
• See also: In Flanders FieldsNorthern Ireland's first and deputy first ministers have joined the Irish deputy prime minister in launching Irish World War One records online.
Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness met Eamon Gilmore in Dublin to mark the launch.
It means records are available to a worldwide audience.
Digital records of individual Irish soldiers are now available online, following collaboration between Google and the In Flanders Fields museum.
"As we enter an important decade of commemorations in both our countries, it is my hope that what has been established here today will keep alive the history and the stories of those who did not return from war," Mr Robinson said.
"This work will allow the stories of the fallen to be recorded for the benefit of future generations and will allow us to express our thanks and acknowledge the sacrifice of men who died helping to preserve our freedom."
Mr McGuinness said: "Over 200,000 Irishmen fought in the war and over 49,000 were killed, which shows the human impact of the war on the island of Ireland. It is important all their personal stories are told and this innovative project ensures the memory of those Irish soldiers killed will continue."
In July 2012, the Irish ambassador to Belgium, Eamonn MacAodha, launched a project with Google to make records available to all and absolutely free.
The collaboration with Google ensured that the work could be financed and technically supported.
Log on to In Flanders Fields
, type in a name and see the place of birth, rank, regiment, service number, date of death and place of burial / commemoration of each individual soldier with that name, where the information is available.
Classes run by sister-in-law of late PUP leader David Ervine at new language centre
Dan KeenanIrish Times
9 Jan 2014Development officer Linda Ervine and PUP founder member Sam Evans (left) with teacher Maitiú Ó hEachaidh at the new Irish language centre ‘Turas’ on the Newtownards Road in Belfast, which opened last night to cope with an increasing number of learners. (Photograph: Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker)An Irish language centre has opened its doors, offering a sincere fáilte romhaibh to the people in loyalist east Belfast. It is on the Newtownards Road. That is Bóthar Nua na hArda.
In response to keen local demand, the Turas (journey) project offers conversation-style language classes to young and old, says development officer Linda Ervine, sister-in-law of the late David Ervine.
A former UVF prisoner, he was a significant voice at the peace talks which led to the Belfast Agreement of 1998 and leader of the loyalist Progressive Unionist Party (PUP).
“People ring me on a weekly, even daily basis,” said Ms Ervine. “All we are doing is opening the door.”
A former English teacher at the local Ashfield school for girls, Ms Ervine developed her love of the language which grew alongside her interest in what she calls the “hidden history” of her part of Belfast.
“I tell people Irish is all around us – it’s in our placenames, it’s everywhere,” she said. “There’s gaGaelic language here, in Scotland, in Wales and in Cornwall. It’s not just an Irish thing, it’s British as well.”
Three years ago, an Irish class began on the strongly loyalist Newtownards Road where the fada and fáinne are rarely seen. About 20 people turned up, and now there are eight classes at various levels. Provision has expanded into one of the local schools.
Housed in the Skainos centre, a community facility linked to the East Belfast Mission church, Turas offers classroom facilities, offices and a social space.Mural
A large indoor mural depicts the twin cranes of Harland and Wolff casting their shadows over a map of the working class streets below. “The mural was painted by David’s son Mark, my nephew. There is no peace line on the map, no politics. There is no agenda.”
That’s a reference to the inclusion of the republican enclave of Short Strand and the main electoral base of local Sinn Féin councillor Niall Ó Donghaille, who attended the opening ceremony along with party colleague, bilingual Belfast Lord Mayor Máirtín Ó Muilleoir.
The opening honours went to Sam Evans, a founder member of the PUP, in the presence of unionists of all varieties and the Alliance Party.
Some 120 learners have signed up for the free courses which are supported by Foras na Gaeilge and the Stormont Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure.
Gemma MurrayNews Letter
8 Jan 2014Former INLA volunteer Tony O’Hara, whose brother Patsy was the fourth republican to die in the 1981 hunger strike, yesterday said that during the Troubles “not one life was worth it”.
The 57-year-old, who spent five years in prison for INLA activities, said “nothing will be achieved by the current republican [dissident] campaign apart from filling up jails”.Tony O'Hara
“They [dissidents] need to realise that,” he added. “Even years ago when I was involved I had difficulty about taking life. But then it seemed a necessary part of the war.
“If they continue it is a waste of their time and only inflicts hardship on a community that is already under terrible hardship from the economy and everything else.
“What they [dissidents] are doing at the moment is going nowhere. When we look back all the people who lost their lives, and those who were injured and hurt in attacks and bombings everywhere, it achieved nothing.”
The former blanketman, who was the cell mate of the first republican prisoner to die on hunger strike, Bobby Sands, added that “all those lives were lost and it wasn’t worth it”.
“Hindsight is a great thing,” he added. “Myself and my friends were prepared to die so that Ireland would be free. But what was I prepared to die for?”
He added that “nothing will be achieved [by dissident republicans] by fighting on apart from misery”.
“Nothing can be achieved for the next 20 years, if they keep going, apart from more people going into jails.
“There is no difference between what the Provos were fighting for and what they [dissidents] are fighting for.
“But the big difference is the lack of support from the community. It is not there any more. If you look back in the history of Sinn Fein from 1975/76 you see headlines like ‘Smash Stormont’.
“Now years later the same members are in government there. They [Sinn Fein] keep on using the word dissidents, but the Provos were the largest dissident group going.
“They left the IRA. For them to use the word dissidents when they themselves were dissidents is laughable.
“They use the word like it is a dirty word.”
Mr O’Hara said that is why he did not use the term.
The Derry man, who joined the INLA in 1975 when the IRA went on a temporary four-month ceasefire, added he “never had any hope for the Haass talks”.
“When you get people who are so entrenched in their position there is no chance of them moving on.”
Tony O’Hara is the sixth former senior republican and blanketman to speak to the News Letter
calling for dissidents to examine the history of the Troubles and rethink their campaign.
In recent weeks former senior Provisional IRA man Tommy Gorman said “a group of us have been making this point about dissidents for a long, long time”.
Earlier, former hunger striker Gerard Hodgins asked dissident republicans to “try and come up with a non-violent alternative because there is no appetite or support for a violent conflict in this country among any significant number of the population”.
Former Provo Tommy McKearney said he believed dissident republican violence was bolstering Sinn Fein support.
And in the first of the series former senior IRA men Anthony McIntyre and Richard O’Rawe branded the ongoing dissident campaign as “madness” and called for them to stop.
Mr McIntyre said: “Republicans lost the war and the IRA campaign failed and the dissidents need to be told that it failed rather then be allowed to continue thinking what they do. It cost so many lives.”
21 Dec 2013An former IRA man convicted of killing the last British soldier to die before the Good Friday peace agreement has been found dead in Monaghan.
Bernard McGinn (56) received jailed terms totalling 490 years for IRA offences in Ireland and England but was released after months under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement.
A Garda spokesman said: "A man in his 50s was found dead in his house in Monaghan Town at 2pm this afternoon."
A post-mortem examination is expected to take place.
It appears however at this stage that he died of natural causes.
Lance Bombardier Stephen Restorick was murdered in South Armagh in February 1997.
McGinn was given three life sentences in 1999 for murdering the soldier, shot in the back with a powerful weapon at an army checkpoint in Bessbrook while talking to a member of the public.
McGinn was also sentenced to a total of 490 years for a catalogue of terrorist offences including making the bombs destined for Canary Wharf, the Baltic Exchange and Hammersmith Bridge in London.
As Lance Bombardier Restorick was speaking to a local woman Lorraine McElroy who was passing the checkpoint, he was hit by a bullet fired from a Barrett Light 50 rifle - a high-powered US weapon used to kill nine soldiers and police officers in Northern Ireland.
McGinn told detectives he travelled in the car used in the attack but that another man fired the fatal shot.
Under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement, he was released months after his conviction - laughing at his sentences as he was led to the cells following the guilty verdict.
McGinn was also found guilty of murdering two other British soldiers: Lance Bombardier Paul Garrett in South Armagh in 1993 and former Ulster Defence Regiment soldier Thomas Johnston in 1978.
He told police that he made explosives north and south of the border on an almost daily basis: "like a day's work".
McGinn and three other men were also found guilty of conspiring to murder a person or persons unknown in April 1997.
Gardaí believe he had become linked to dissident republicans in recent times.
17 December 2013The last man to be sentenced in connection with the sectarian murder of Catholic schoolboy Michael McIlveen will serve a minimum of eight years of his life sentence for the "secondary" role he played in the fatal attack.Michael McIlveen, 15, who was murdered in Ballymena seven years ago.
Michael 'Mickey Bo' McIlveen died in hospital after he was chased and attacked by a group of drunk Protestant youths in Ballymena on May 6, 2006.
Jeff Colin Lewis from Rossdale in Ballymena - who was part of the group of attackers - was handed a minimum eight-year tariff sentence on Tuesday.
Belfast Crown Court heard the 15-year old victim was chased down an alleyway where he became embroiled in a fight with Lewis, who is now 24 but who was 17 at the time of the murder.
The court heard Michael McIlveen "was bettering" Lewis, when he was approached by other members of the Protestant gang, one of whom hit him on the head with a baseball bat that had been picked up from a nearby home.
The blow felled Michael and while he was on the ground, he was attacked and kicked by a number of people, including Lewis.
The head injuries sustained from being struck with the baseball bat proved fatal.
During the tariff hearing, Crown prosecutor Liam McCollum QC said the events which led to Michael's death began at the Seven Tower Leisure Centre.
Michael and his friends fled from the drunken group but were pursued to the alleyway at Granville Drive.
Mr McCollum said it was accepted that Lewis played a "secondary role in the murder of Michael McIlveen."
Defence barrister Richard Weir QC told the court that while there was a sectarian element to the attack, it also involved "immature drunken youths behaving badly."
Saying his client "played a peculiar but particular part in this murder", Mr Weir said Lewis was not aware of the presence of a baseball bat until Michael was attacked with it, and instead of removing himself from the scene, Lewis made the "dire error" of kicking the teenager as he lay on the ground.
Mr Weir also revealed his client had expressed genuine remorse for this role in Michael's death, and had suffered a "complete mental breakdown" whilst in prison.
Branding the incident as "tragic", Mr Justice Weatherup said Michael McIlveen died as the result of a sectarian attack.
He told Lewis that as Michael lay prone on the ground after being struck by the baseball bat, the injured teenager was "kicked by other members of the group who were present and you were a member of that group".
Lewis is the fourth man to be sentenced for the murder of Michael McIlveen.
Mervyn Wilson Moon, 25, from Douglas Terrace in Ballymena, is currently serving a minimum ten-year tariff after he pleaded guilty to his role.
It was Moon who administered the fatal blow to the victim after striking him with the baseball bat.
Christopher Francis Kerr, 26, from Carnduff Drive in the Co Antrim town - who lifted the baseball bat from a house close to where Michael was attacked - was given a minimum nine-year tariff, while Aaron Cavana Wallace, 25, from Moat Road in Ballymena, is serving a minimum eight-year tariff.
17 Dec 2013Prominent republican Colin Duffy has been charged with conspiring to murder members of the security forces in Northern Ireland.
Two other men were separately accused of trying to murder police travelling to the scene of a loyalist protest in Belfast earlier this month. Shots were fired at the officers’ vehicles.
The trio appeared at Belfast Magistrates’ Court surrounded by prison officers and armed riot police but did not speak during the brief hearing.
They waved to a crowd in the gallery who noisily indicated support as they were led away to prison to await their trial.
Duffy, 47, was also accused of membership of the IRA and conspiring with the other defendants, Alex McCrory and Henry Fitzsimmons, to possess firearms and explosives with intent to endanger life or cause serious damage to property since the start of this year.
There were no legal submissions. A detective connected them to the charges.
A convoy of PSNI vehicles pulling digital signs was fired upon from republican Ardoyne as it travelled up the Crumlin Road on December 5 to the scene of an Orange Order protest linked to a July 12 parade.
Duffy, from Forest Glade in Lurgan, faces four charges including conspiring to possess explosives and firearms and belonging to a proscribed organisation, the IRA, between January 1 and December 16 this year, a Courts Service statement said.
Only the membership of the IRA charge was read out in open court.
A Court Service statement said Duffy was charged: “On dates unknown between the 1st day of January 2013 and the 16th day of December 2013, in the County Division of Belfast or elsewhere within the jurisdiction of the Crown Court, conspired with Alexander McCrory and Henry Fitzsimmons and with persons unknown to murder members of the security forces.”
McCrory, 52, from Sliabh Dubh View in Belfast, was accused of conspiring to murder members of the security forces, conspiracy to possess explosives and firearms and belonging to the IRA.
He was also charged with attempting to murder the officers in their vehicles on the Crumlin Road and possessing firearms with intent to endanger life.
Fitzsimmons, 46, of no fixed address, was charged with possession of firearms with intent, attempting to murder the officers on the Crumlin Road, belonging to the IRA and conspiracy with the other two accused to possess firearms and explosives.
Only the possession of firearms charges were read out in court.
A large crowd filled the body of the courtroom as police officers stood near the doorway. Duffy was wearing a grey open-necked top and had a beard. Five prison officers stood in the dock.
A shortened version of the charge sheet was read out and then solicitors for the accused told magistrate Fiona Bagnall they had no submissions to make.
The accused were remanded in custody to Maghaberry high-security prison to reappear before the court via video-link on January 14.
Two people were arrested after supporters clashed with police outside the courthouse.
Photo: The four Provisional IRA terrorists known as the Balcombe Street Terror Gang, from left: Hugh Doherty, Martin O’Connel, Edward Butler and Harry Duggan, in a line up in London.
ON May 10 1998, four men made a dramatic appearance on the platform at a special Sinn Fein conference in Dublin. There was ‘stamping of feet, wild applause and triumphant cheering’ during a 10 minute ovation while the men known as the Balcombe Street gang stood grinning with clenched fists in the air. At the same conference, and to great applause, Gerry Adams described the four men as ‘our Nelson Mandelas!’Article here: Anorak | ‘Our Nelson Mandelas’ – The IRA’s Balcombe Street Gang
5 Dec 2013Northern Ireland police are investigating claims soldiers attached to an undercover unit in Belfast in the 1970s killed unarmed civilians.
Assistant Chief Constable Drew Harris revealed the news to the Policing Board.
He said a previous investigation into the Military Reaction Force (MRF) had spoken to 350 witnesses and saw several soldiers questioned under caution.
Files had been sent to the then Director of Public Prosecutions.
He said following a Panorama programme last month, detectives were looking at the broadcast and reviewing the "very extensive" case papers.
The outcome would then be sent to the Public Prosecution Service for advice on any further steps.
"This is the start of the reinvestigation of this case," Mr Harris said.
Panorama was told the MRF was tasked with "hunting down" IRA members in Belfast.
Three former MRF soldiers, who were speaking publicly for the first time, said that on some occasions they opened fire on targets in the streets of Belfast without actually seeing the person they shot holding a weapon.
Meanwhile, Assistant Chief Constable Will Kerr told the Policing Board the unnamed organiser of last Saturday's flags parade in Belfast city centre has been spoken to by police and will be prosecuted for breaches of the parades commission determination
Policeman appeared on TV displaying captured IRA weapons after SAS operation Irish Times
4 Dec 2013Judge Peter Smithwick said: “Either the IRA did have an extraordinary piece of good fortune, or Harry Breen [above] was the target of this operation. I believe that the evidence points to the latter conclusion.”The fate of Chief Supt Harry Breen, the most senior RUC officer to be killed in the Troubles, was sealed the day he appeared on television displaying the IRA weapons recovered after the SAS ambush at Loughgall that killed eight IRA members and an innocent civilian.
That was the implicit finding of Judge Peter Smithwick in his monumental 1,652-page report into the murders of Chief Supt Breen and Supt Bob Buchanan in an ambush just north of the Border near Jonesborough in south Armagh on the afternoon of March 20th, 1989. ‘Classic IRA operation’
Three IRA members previously and privately in a statement and without the benefit of cross-examination informed Judge Smithwick’s tribunal that the killings were a “classic IRA operation” that involved “no help from anyone at all”.
Judge Smithwick made clear yesterday he did not believe them. His inquiry did not uncover “direct evidence of collusion” but found that one or more unidentified members of the gardaí operating in Dundalk did collude with the IRA, providing information that helped lead to the deaths of the two policemen.
But Chief Supt Breen was the chief target, Judge Smithwick appeared certain. Between August 1988 and the time of the ambush in March the following year Supt Buchanan had travelled on business to Dundalk station 20 or 21 times and was not targeted by the IRA. The judge could only identify one of those occasions – in February 1989 – in which Chief Supt Breen was with him.
Based on his “pattern of travel” IRA members could have tried to kill Supt Buchanan several times but it was Chief Supt Breen they wanted.‘Target of this operation’
Referring to March 20th, Judge Smithwick reported: “Either the IRA did have an extraordinary piece of good fortune, or Harry Breen was the target of this operation. I believe that the evidence points to the latter conclusion.”
His central findings kept coming back to Loughgall. He believed “that the vast majority of the evidence suggests that the intention was to abduct and interrogate these officers”.
“In the latter respect, the evidence keeps pointing back to the desire of the IRA to acquire information as to how the British security services had gotten advance warning of the IRA ambush on Loughgall police station in May 1987,” he reported.
An IRA informant is almost certain to have tipped off the RUC or MI5 or British army intelligence about the planned Loughgall attack. That led to the IRA’s single worst loss of life when eight men were killed by the waiting SAS, with an innocent man also killed in the relentless gunfire. Judge Smithwick was of the view that the IRA wanted to interrogate Chief Supt Breen to establish the identity of that informant or possibly informants.
The evidence to the tribunal indicates that the IRA may also have had revenge on its mind. In a written statement to the tribunal in February three anonymous IRA members said the “instructions to the ASU [active service unit] were to intercept the car and arrest the occupants, but if that was not possible then they were to ensure that neither occupant escaped”.
The IRA said the two unarmed officers “died instantly in gunfire”. That account did not quite tally with eyewitness evidence given to the tribunal last year. A scrapyard worker who saw the incident described the gunmen letting out “a big roar like a hurrah” as they left the scene, while a schoolteacher said Chief Supt Breen tried to surrender but he was gunned down. She said he “put his hands up and they shot him”.
Chief Supt Breen went on television after Loughgall displaying the IRA weapons recovered from the scene. The IRA said he was so “very well known that this image was etched on every republican’s mind”. June Breen, the officer’s widow, in a statement told the tribunal she felt it was wrong that he had been asked by his superiors to display the weapons as it exposed him to additional danger.
She recalled how on the morning of his death she was ill in bed and that her husband told her were it not for the fact his deputy was off he would stay at home to mind her.Two officers came to her door
That evening she remembered preparing chops for their dinner and later how two officers came to her door to say he was dead.
“It was very hard to take at the time and sometimes remains so,” she said. Ms Breen also told how her husband had instructed that were he to be killed, the then RUC chief superintendent Sir John Hermon should not attend his funeral. She did not say why. That was the sad human dimension to the killings.
In terms of fallout it seems unlikely that there will be a major negative political dimension to the Smithwick report.
The judge found there was Garda collusion but that it was localised and, it seems, at a low-ranking level. Such corruption is hard to come to terms with, but will hardly damage British-Irish or North-South relations.
3 Dec 2013**Video onsiteCh Supt Harry Breen and Supt Bob Buchanan were murdered in 1989The IRA were tipped off by gardaí with information which proved vital in the plot to murder the two most senior policemen to die during the Troubles, the Smithwick tribunal into allegations of collusion has found.
RUC Chief Superintendent Harry Breen and Superintendent Bob Buchanan were gunned down on their way home from a high-level meeting at Dundalk Garda Station in 1989.
Questions have long been posed over how the IRA knew enough about their movements to carry out such a detailed plan with deadly accuracy.
Decades later, and after an intensive eight-year investigation led by Judge Peter Smithwick, a damning conclusion has been reached - that there was collusion in the case.
Robert Buchanan's son William expressed appreciation on behalf of his family for the "diligence and integrity" of the investigation.
"The findings are both incredible and shocking and confirm the existence of a mole in Dundalk station. This led to my father's death," he said.
Judge Smithwick was tasked with finding answers, however unpalatable, and was scathing of the state for what he feels was putting itself and political expediency over the pursuit of the truth. "This tribunal has sought to establish the truth and, in so doing, I hope that it has contributed one small part in changing the culture."
--Judge Peter Smithwick
Harry Breen and Robert Buchanan were ambushed by IRA men posing as an Army patrol on the Edenappa Road, in what was known as the 'bandit country' of south Armagh, on 20 March 1989.
Having travelled to meet with gardaí in Dundalk, they were unarmed as they were not allowed to carry their weapons over the Irish border.
The attack on the two men was planned to such a degree that their vehicle was directed to a specific spot, out of sight of a watchtower, before they were gunned down.
Robert Buchanan, a father of two, was already dead when he was shot again in the head.
Harry Breen, also a father of two, was badly wounded and waved a white hankie as he pleaded for mercy from the gunmen. None was shown.
They shot him dead at close range.
The two officers would have been targets for the IRA, as they had been assigned to a joint RUC and An Garda effort to cut off their funding by smashing the huge smuggling operation in south Armagh.
An Garda Siochána had refuted allegations that there was a mole within the force, while the IRA denied having been privy to insider information.
The intelligence picture seemed to tell a different story though, with conversations recorded by the PSNI during an investigation into dissident republican activity containing claims by former IRA members that gardaí had passed information to the Provisionals. "On behalf of the Government and the people of Ireland, I apologise without reservation to the Breen and Buchanan families for any failings identified in the report on the part of the State or any of its agencies."
--Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore
The Smithwick report was handed to the clerk of the Dáil last Friday and then copies were given to the victims' families on Monday night, with the findings finally made public on Tuesday evening.
Irish Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore said he was "appalled and saddened" by the findings and apologised without reservation to the Breen and Buchanan families.
"Their murder deprived June Breen and Catherine Buchanan of their husbands, and Gillian and George Breen and Heather and William Buchanan of devoted fathers," he said.
I know that members of An Garda Síochána will be shocked by these findings today.
"The actions documented in this report are a betrayal of the values and the very ethos of an Garda Síochána, as the guardians of peace."
Irish Justice Minister Alan Shatter also apologised.
"Even with the passage of 24 years and the positive developments which have taken place on the island since, our condemnation of their murder should be as strong today as it was then," he said.
His counterpart in Northern Ireland, David Ford, told UTV: "I don't think you can say because of the possibility that one or two officers sometime in the past were corrupt, that it's a tarnished force.
"I think what we can say is that it contains human beings, and things sometimes go wrong with individuals.
"But with what I see when I meet members of the gardai, I believe that they are providing a good service for the people of the Republic of Ireland - and also across the border, in terms of cooperation with the PSNI."
A statement from the Garda Commissioner welcomed the Smithwick report.
It said: "Given the serious matters under examination by the Tribunal, the report, conclusions and recommendations will now need to be carefully examined by the Garda Commissioner and his senior officers and it would be inappropriate to comment further at this stage."
Meanwhile the PSNI said it will "take time to study the content of the report in detail".
A spokesman continued: "The murders of Chief Superintendent Harry Breen and Superintendent Robert Buchanan are still open. "PSNI has fully engaged with and supported the Smithwick Tribunal and any new evidence that comes to light as a result will be fully considered and assessed."
"We would once again express our sympathy to the families of Chief Superintendent Harry Breen and Superintendent Robert Buchanan and appeal to anyone with information to contact police."
The Superintendents' Association of Northern Ireland added: "Without doubt, the conclusions of this report will make stark and challenging reading for many people and whilst we recognise this step towards bringing out the truth in relation to these tragic and horrendous murders, what is now important for us is to see how these findings are acted upon."
Politicians have also given their reactions to the findings.
Speaking to UTV, Gregory Campbell of the DUP said: "The initial reading of this report does appear to be explosive. But many people will say this only confirms what many of us knew."
Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams said: "People will make up their own minds on this when they read the report. Sinn Féin supported these inquires on the basis that families had the right to full disclosure of all relevant information.
"What Justice Smithwick describes as collusion is very different in form and scale from the collusion that occurred in the north. Sinn Féin believes that there needs to be an effective truth process for dealing with all legacy issues."
Dolores Kelly of the SDLP said: "The Smithwick Tribunal took an independent and fearless approach and this should be a measure of how to deal with the past. Judge Smithwick, through a trying process and painstaking work has gotten to the bottom of this tragedy."
Tom Elliott of the UUP said: "The Irish Minister for Foreign Affairs said in a recent speech in Cambridge that the Irish Government had to address the perception among unionists that successive Irish governments did not do enough to stop the IRA.
"Judge Smithwick's confirmation that it is more than a perception will require the Taoiseach to take the next step to address unionist concerns."
Naomi Long of Alliance said: "I welcome the unequivocal apology from Minister for Justice, Alan Shatter TD, as an important step in acknowledging the Irish State's role in these events. Clearly, all concerned will need to take time to reflect on the full findings of the report."
Secretary of State Theresa Villiers said: "The report raises some serious concerns which I will need to consider in detail and discuss with the Irish Government.
"An important point to remember is that levels of cooperation between An Garda Siochana and the PSNI are now at unprecedented levels and are playing a crucial part in combating terrorist attacks in Northern Ireland.
--of providing phone used to claim the murders at Massereene Army Barracks
By Rebecca Black Belfast Telegraph
22 November 2013Marian 'Price' McGlinchey has pleaded guilty to buying the mobile phone used by the Real IRA to claim responsibility for the murders of two British soldiers outside Massereene Army BarracksOld Bailey bomber Marian Price has pleaded guilty to providing a mobile phone linked to a Real IRA attack in which two soldiers were murdered.
Sappers Mark Quinsey and Patrick Azimkar were killed in the attack at Massereene Army barracks in Antrim in 2009 as they collected pizzas, just hours before they were due to be deployed to Afghanistan.
The 59-year old veteran republican also entered a guilty plea to the charge of aiding and abetting the addressing of a meeting to encourage support for terrorism.
The charge related to a separate incident at a republican Easter commemoration in Londonderry in April 2011 where Price was photographed holding up a statement for a masked man. Price, from Stockman's Avenue in west Belfast, was released on continuing bail, to be sentenced next month. Belfast Crown Court Judge Gordon Kerr QC told Price that the fact she was being released was no indication of how she would eventually be dealt with.
Price's trial, which began on Monday, heard that she had links to "dissident republican activity" and must have known that the mobile she bought was to be used to make the call claiming the attack on the Co Antrim base.
Prosecutor Tessa Kitson told the court that the day after the Massereene attack, a man contacted media outlets claiming responsibility for it on behalf of the Real IRA.
Ms Kitson said that on March 8, 2009, a woman was caught on CCTV purchasing the pay-as-you-go mobile from the Tesco store in Newtownabbey. She said it was the Crown's case that the woman was Price.
Price was questioned about the purchase of the phone but "declined to make any comment in relation to these circumstances and she didn't identify the person or persons to whom she must have passed this telephone to".
Price had been released early from prison on licence in 1980, but it was revoked in May 2011 on the direction of the then Northern Ireland Secretary Owen Paterson, shortly after the Derry rally.
The SDLP had campaigned for her release, arguing that her licence had been revoked on the basis of intelligence rather than evidence that would be admissible in court.
Yesterday, unionists called on those who worked towards the release of Price to apologise and "admit they were wrong".
DUP South Antrim MLA William McCrea said the SDLP needed "to find its moral compass".
"This plea leaves the SDLP and other organisations that campaigned for her release hanging out to dry," he said.
"Now the SDLP and others owe an apology to those they criticised and attacked, who acted rightly in the interests of public safety. It is time for the SDLP to find its moral compass again."
Ulster Unionist MLA Danny Kinahan added: "I trust now that those who were crying the loudest about the 'injustice' of her having her licence revoked will have the good grace to apologise and admit they were wrong."
However, SDLP justice spokesman Alban Maginness insisted his party position was "right at the time", adding it would repeat it in similar circumstances.
Fr Alec Reid ferried messages between republicans and UK and Irish governments, and was witness to arms decommissioningFr Alec Reid was threatened with death in 1988 as he tried to stop out of uniform corporals David Howes and Derek Wood being beaten and shot in Belfast. (Photograph: Ballesteros/EPA)
Press AssociationThe Guardian
22 November 2013An Irish priest who played a key role in brokering peace in Northern Ireland has died.
Fr Alec Reid, 82, acted as a clandestine go-between ferrying messages to and from republicans and the British and Irish governments in the earliest stages of the peace process in the 1980s.
Years later, with paramilitary ceasefires delivered and the 1998 Good Friday peace accord signed, he acted as an independent witness to the decommissioning of the IRA's arsenal of weapons.
During the Troubles his image was seared into the public conscious when he was pictured kneeling over the bloodied corpse of one of two British soldiers he performed the last rites on after they were beaten and murdered by a republican mob in west Belfast.
The Redemptorist order of Catholic priests, of which the Co Tipperary born cleric was a member, announced that he died peacefully in hospital in Dublin.
The Irish president, Michael Higgins, led tributes to the late cleric, who in his later years made Dublin home. "Fr Reid will perhaps best be remembered for the courageous part he played in identifying and nurturing the early seeds of an inclusive peace process," he said.
"Fr Reid's role as a channel for peace laid the ground for the achievement of the IRA ceasefire and created the political space for the multiparty talks that ultimately led to the Good Friday agreement. While he spent the last few years of his life in Dublin, Fr Reid would have been gratified by the positive transformation that is under way throughout Northern Ireland, and especially in the Belfast that he loved so well."
The cleric had a long association with Clonard church in west Belfast and his funeral will be held there on Wednesday.
"He will be especially remembered for his work in the Northern Ireland peace process," the Redemptorist order said.
Reid was a key confidante of Sinn Féin's president, Gerry Adams, and the republican leader trusted him to ferry messages to and from the then Social Democratic and Labour party leader, John Hume, and contacts in the British and Irish governments.
Adams on Friday described the cleric's former base in Clonard as "the cradle of the peace process".
He said he was tenacious in his efforts to end the conflict. "There would not be a peace process at this time without his diligent doggedness and his refusal to give up," said the Sinn Féin leader.
Adams, who recently visited Reid at his hospital bed, said he and the cleric had many discussions during the Troubles about how the violence might be ended.
"Out of those conversations emerged a commitment to dialogue as the first necessary step along that process and a commencement of a process in the early 1980s to commence a process of dialogue with the Catholic hierarchy, SDLP leader John Hume and the Irish and British governments," he added.
Seven years after the signing of the Good Friday agreement, Reid was again called upon to help the peace process move on. The presence of the cleric and Methodist minister the Rev Harold Good, as the IRA put their weapons beyond use, was vital in convincing those sceptical of republicans' intentions.
The priest once famously recalled that an armed IRA member present for the decommissioning act handed over his assault rifle, which Reid said became the last weapon to be "put beyond use".
"The man handed it over and got quite emotional," said Reid. "He was aware that this was the last gun."
Seventeen years earlier, the cleric witnessed the brutality of IRA violence when he tried desperately to save the lives of the two soldiers who had inadvertently driven into the funeral procession of an IRA member.
He was unable to stop corporals David Howes and Derek Wood being beaten and shot, having been threatened with death if he did not get out of the way.
The killings was one of the most shocking incidents of the entire Troubles.
While the dramatic picture of the cleric knelt beside Howes was beamed around the world, no one would know until years later that beneath his coat that day Reid was carrying an envelope containing one of the numerous top secret messages he ferried between Sinn Féin and Hume.
The churchman's career was not without controversy. In 2005 he prompted outrage in some quarters when he likened the unionist treatment of Catholics in Northern Ireland in the past to the Nazis' treatment of the Jews.
By Philip Bradfieldp.email@example.comNews Letter
11 November 2013The man who allegedly shot Belfast mother-of-10 Jean McConville was yesterday named as former Sinn Fein councillor and Belfast IRA commander Pat McGeown.
It was claimed yesterday that he also shot dead ‘Good Samaritan’ Protestant workman Sammy Llewellyn when he went to help Catholics on the Falls Road board up windows after an IRA bomb in 1975.
“I was recently approached by grassroots republicans who were sympathetic to the McConville family,” Jean McConville’s son Jim said yesterday in a Sunday paper.
“I was given some details of what happened and only two weeks ago I gave Pat McGeown’s name to my solicitor.”
The paper claimed that McGeown was only 17 when he shot Mrs McConville in the back of the head, and that he later rose to become a close political confidant of Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams.
The News Letter
understands McGeown’s name had been widely linked to Mrs McConville’s murder before he died in 1996.
Gerry Kelly MLA said at McGeown’s funeral that he had been a prisoner in “Cage 11” of the Maze with Gerry Adams. Adams officially launched the Pat McGeown Community Endeavour Award at Belfast’s Upper Springfield Development Trust in 1998.
He described McGeown as “a modest man with a quiet, but total dedication to equality and raising the standard of life for all the people of the city”, adding that McGeown “would have been one of the last people to expect an award to be given in his name, and yet few others could have deserved the honour more”.
Mr Kelly said McGeown started “barricade duty” at 13 and then joined the local unit of the IRA in the Beechmount area. He added that “at one point he held the most senior rank in the Belfast brigade of the IRA”.
The book Lost Lives
, which lists all those who died during the Troubles, said McGeown’s health never recovered after 47 days on hunger strike.
He was jailed in the Republic for explosives offences aged 14 and at 16 was interned before being imprisoned for a bombing attack.
He served 15 years for bombing the Europa Hotel and was the Officer Commanding of the IRA in the Maze. After being released in 1986, he went on to become group leader of Sinn Fein on Belfast City Council.
Sinn Fein yesterday declined to offer any comment.
Another Sunday paper yesterday reported that the IRA member, then aged 16, who drove Mrs McConville away from her children has phoned her daughter Helen McKendry to apologise.