27 March 2014Police in Ireland have been accused of stringing along a coroner and the family of murdered IRA spy Denis Donaldson with bogus claims.
As the eighth anniversary of his killing at a remote famine cottage in Co Donegal approaches next week, lawyers for the family there is no bona fide reason for an inquest into his death not to go ahead.
In a statement issued through their legal team, the Donaldson family said their treatment is consistent with a series of scandals to hit the Garda force over the last few months and claimed some people involved in the controversies have had direct involvement with their case.Denis Donaldson was murdered in 2006
" The gardai are now stringing along the coroner's court and the family with bogus claims and a flagrant disregard for European Court of Human Rights obligations," they said.
"The effectiveness and independence of the investigatory process, and the completed Garda investigation, has lost any credibility," they said.
Mr Donaldson, 55, a senior Sinn Fein official and close colleague of party president Gerry Adams, was shot dead at an isolated cottage near Glenties 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 three years later but the circumstances surrounding Mr Donaldson's outing and subsequent assassination have been shrouded in mystery.
The family said they have no faith in the Gardai and refused to attend the latest preliminary hearing of the inquest, the 13th since the killing.
"From the outset the Donaldson family have implored Gardai to rigorously investigate the role played by state agencies in the circumstances surrounding the exposure and killing of Denis," they said.
"Throughout that time, Gardai have refused to probe these concerns and admitted to the family that they closed the file on Denis's death without interviewing those members of Special Branch who were actively involved in events leading up to Denis' killing."
The Donaldson family said that at previous hearings they have heard explicit assurances that no further time would be required by either gardai or the Director of Public Prosecutions to examine the case.
The family claims lawyers for the Minister for Justice Alan Shatter have consistently contested their attempts to have the inquest heard.
They have instructed their legal team to take a lawsuit over what they claim are ongoing infringements of the human rights of the Donaldson family.
In November 2012 the inquest was told a file on the murder had been submitted to the DPP and a d ecision on a prosecution was expected within four months but no-one has been charged. Several arrests have been made.
Suzanne Breen Independent.ie
24 March 2014Sources close to the investigation said it was "far from over" and that detectives want more information on anyone suspected of involvement in the murder, including Mr Adams.
The Sinn Fein president strongly denies any involvement in the Belfast mother of 10's abduction and death in 1972.
The PSNI is also seeking to question former IRA man turned writer Anthony McIntyre about his Boston College interviews with ex-Provisionals on Ms McConville's murder.
As the interviewer for the US university's oral history project, Mr McIntyre's evidence would be crucial in the case against Bell – and any other alleged former IRA leaders who may in future be charged with involvement.
Belfast Magistrates Court heard on Saturday that Bell was an interviewee in one of the tapes and was known as 'Man Z' – something which Bell denies.
The 77-year-old is charged with IRA membership and aiding and abetting in the murder of Jean McConville.
Other alleged former IRA members are expected to be arrested in coming weeks by detectives – who have in their possession tapes of seven republicans, who are all still alive, allegedly discussing the McConville killing.TAPE
It is understood the PSNI wants to question Mr McIntyre about Bell's alleged interview and the conditions in which it took place, in order to corroborate the claims allegedly made on the tape.
Mr McIntyre would also be quizzed as to whether Bell was 'Man Z'.
However, sources said there were "absolutely no circumstances" in which Mr McIntyre would co-operate with police.
Refusal to do so could result in him facing charges of withholding information – but the sources said he would "go to jail rather than compromise source protection".
Mr McIntyre is a member of the National Union of Journalists and the issue is to be raised with the union this week.
The ex-IRA man has previously said he has "every sympathy with the McConville family in their search for truth recovery" – but added that "journalists, academics, and researchers need protection if they are to gain the necessary information which offers a valuable insight into the past".
As the lead researcher for the Belfast project for Boston College between 2001 and 2006, Mr McIntyre conducted over 170 interviews with 26 republicans. They were undertaken on the agreement that they wouldn't be released until after the interviewee's death.
Tapes of now-deceased IRA members Dolours Price and Brendan Hughes – who both accused Gerry Adams of ordering Jean McConville's murder – were handed over to the PSNI by Boston College.
However, a major legal battle followed over the taped interviews of republicans who are still alive.
Ivor Bell (77) refused bail on charges relating to 1972 murder of Jean McConvilleIrish Times
22 March 2014The police case against a veteran republican charged in connection with the notorious IRA murder of Belfast mother-of-ten Jean McConville is based on an interview he allegedly gave to researchers at a US college, a court has heard.
The claim was made as Ivor Bell (77) was refused bail and remanded in custody by a district judge in Belfast accused of aiding and abetting in the murder as well as membership of the IRA.
Boston College interviewed a number of former paramilitaries about the Troubles on the understanding transcripts would not be published until after their deaths.
But that undertaking was rendered ineffective when a US court last year ordered that the tapes be handed over to PSNI detectives.
The interviews included claims about the murder of Mrs McConville, who was abducted by the IRA at her home at Divis Flats, Belfast in 1972, shot dead and then secretly buried.
Applying for bail, Peter Corrigan, representing Bell, told district judge Amanda Henderson that the prosecution case was that an interviewee on one of the Boston tapes, referred to only as ‘Z ’, was his client.
But the solicitor insisted the person interviewed on the tape had denied any involvement in the murder.
“During those interviews Z explicitly states that he was not involved with the murder of Jean McConville,” he said.
Mr Corrigan also questioned the evidential value of the interviews, pointing out that they had not been conducted by trained police officers.
“The defence submits that the evidence does not amount to a row of beans in relation to the murder of Jean McConville,” he said.
Grey-haired moustachioed Bell, from Ramoan Gardens in the Andersonstown district of west Belfast, sat impassively in the dock wearing a grey jumper as his lawyer made the claims.
Some of Mrs McConville’s children watched on from the public gallery.
A PSNI detective inspector, who earlier told the judge he could connect the accused with the charges, rejected Mr Corrigan’s interpretation of the Boston College interview.
He claimed the transcript actually indicated Bell had “played a critical role in the aiding, abetting, counsel and procurement of the murder of Jean McConville”.
The officer said he opposed bail on the grounds that the defendant would likely flee the jurisdiction. He revealed that he had previously used an alias to travel to Spain and predicted he could use contacts within the IRA to travel beyond Northern Ireland.
But Mr Corrigan said that was out of the question, noting that his client suffered from a range of serious medical conditions, that his family was based in Belfast and that he had “every incentive” to stay in Northern Ireland to prove his innocence.
“Are the prosecution seriously suggesting that a man in this serious ill health, who can’t walk up steps, is going to abscond for an offence where he has every incentive to attend court?” he said.
Judge Henderson said the case was a very “significant and sensitive” one and praised those in court for acting with dignity through the hearing.
She said she was more convinced with the argument the prosecution had made.
“I am persuaded by the prosecution in this case and on that basis I am refusing bail,” she said.
Bell was remanded in custody to appear before court again next month.
He waved to supporters in the public gallery as he was led out of the dock.
Mrs McConville was dragged away from her children by an IRA gang of up to 12 men and women after being accused of passing information to the British Army in Belfast.
An investigation later carried out by the Northern Ireland Police Ombudsman rejected the allegations.
She was shot in the back of the head and buried 50 miles from her home.
The IRA did not admit her murder until 1999 when information was passed on to gardaí.
She became one of the so-called Disappeared, and it was not until August 2003 that her remains were eventually found on Shelling Hill beach, Co Louth.
Nobody has ever been charged with her murder.
After the hearing Mrs McConville’s son Michael said the family’s thoughts were with their mother.
“The pain of losing her has not diminished over the decades since she was taken from us murdered and secretly buried,” he said.
“She is in our hearts and our thoughts always. Whatever the future holds nothing will ever change that”.
Ivor Bell appears in court over 1972 murder of Jean McConville, in case which could implicate senior Irish republicans
Henry McDonaldThe Guardian
22 March 2014Even two decades after the IRA ceasefire, it is a crime from the bloodiest year of the Troubles that continues to haunt senior Irish republicans including Gerry Adams and could yet have fresh ramifications for the peace process.
In a sensational development inside a Belfast court it was alleged that a former IRA negotiator with the British government named fellow republicans involved in the kidnap, killing and secret burial of Jean McConville – one of the most notorious murders of the conflict.
The ex-IRA commander Ivor Bell appeared in Laganside court on Saturday morning where he faced charges of aiding and abetting in the shooting and disappearance of the mother of 10 in 1972.Ivor Bell (BBC image)
The children and grandchildren of the murdered widow were in court to hear a detective allege that Bell was "Mr Z" on a tape recorded for Boston College in the US as part of the Belfast Project, a series of interviews with former IRA and loyalist paramilitaries.
Speaking outside the court, McConville's daughter Helen McKendry told The Observer that she hoped the case would lead to others going on trial for her mother's killing by the IRA.
"I hope this goes all the way up to the top," she said, "All the way up to Gerry Adams. There are more people who need to be in this court to answer what happened to my mother."
The McConville family, along with the former IRA Belfast commanding officer Brendan Hughes, have alleged that Adams created a secret unit to hunt down and kill informers in the city during the early part of the Troubles.
Before his death Hughes claimed that Adams gave the order for McConville to be abducted from her home in Divis Flats in west Belfast, taken across the Irish border, killed and buried in secret.
The Sinn Féin president has always denied any involvement in the McConville murder or that he was ever in the IRA.
It was alleged in court that in the recording, Bell implicates himself and other top republicans in the McConville case.
But his defence solicitor, Peter Corrigan, denied Bell had any involvement in the crime and said "the evidence was not credible".
The recording for the Belfast Project, which the Police Service of Northern Ireland obtained through the US courts, is the centrepiece of the crown's case against Bell.
His solicitor said Bell denied any involvement in the IRA murder of McConville.
Appealing for bail for his client, Corrigan stressed that Bell has not been a member of the Provisional IRA since 1985 and had no network around him to aid him to flee Northern Ireland. He told the judge that they would accept "any conditions that you see fit to impose on this defendant".
However, there was light applause from the McConville family in court when the judge, Fiona Bagnall, refused bail.
McConville was the most famous of the "Disappeared" – 16 people whom the IRA accused of being informers and who were shot and buried secretly across Ireland.
The IRA only admitted her murder in 1993 and her body was not discovered until 2003 on a beach in County Louth. No one until today has ever been charged in connection with her murder.
The IRA accused her of passing information to the British army but her family always denied this, claiming she was singled out because she had tended to a wounded soldier outside her flat.
An investigation by the Northern Ireland police ombudsman rejected the allegation she was an informer.
Bell was a senior IRA officer at the time McConville was seized by armed men and women, and torn away from her children in December 1972.
Six months earlier Bell was part of an IRA delegation that secretly met Willie Whitelaw and several British government officials at the late MP Paul Channon's flat in London.
Bell, allegedly alongside Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness, the future deputy first minister of Northern Ireland, met Whitelaw and his team to discuss a ceasefire. However, the truce later broke down amid ongoing violence in Belfast.
Bell was later expelled from the IRA for plotting a coup d'etat against its leadership in the mid-1980s and warned he would be "executed" if he set up a rival republican organisation.
The full trial against the veteran republican will begin on 11 April.
21 March 2014Ivor Bell in 1983 when he was released after Supergrass, Robert Lean, withdrew evidence against 11 men (Photo: Belfast Telegraph)A veteran republican has been charged in connection with the IRA murder more than 40 years ago of Belfast mother of 10 Jean McConville.
Ivor Bell, 77, is due to appear in court in Belfast tomorrow accused of aiding and abetting in the murder as well as membership of the IRA.
He was detained at his home in the Andersonstown district of west Belfast on Tuesday.
Mrs McConville, 37, was abducted by the IRA at her home at Divis Flats, Belfast in December 1972, shot dead and then secretly buried.
He murder is one of the most notorious incidents of the Troubles.
She was dragged away from her children by a IRA gang of up to 12 men and women after being accused her of passing information to the British Army in Belfast at the time
An investigation later carried out by the Northern Ireland Police Ombudsman rejected the allegations.
She was shot in the back of the head and buried 50 miles from her home. The IRA did not admit her murder until 1999 when information was passed on to police in the Republic.
She became one of the so-called Disappeared, and it was not until August 2003 that her remains were eventually found on Shelling Hill beach, Co Louth.
Nobody has ever been charged with her murder.
Bell was among of a delegation of republicans, which included Gerry Adams, now the Sinn Féin president, and Martin McGuinness, the North's Deputy First Minister and a former IRA commander in Derry who were flown by the RAF to London to have ceasefire talks with British ministers in 1972.
But the truce collapsed within days.
77-year-old held by detectives investigating IRA's kidnapping, killing and secret burial of Belfast widow Jean McConville
18 Mar 2014A former IRA chief of staff and negotiator for the Provisionals with the British government in 1972 is in custody tonight being questioned about the murder and disappearance of a widow whose death in the same year left 10 children orphaned.
West Belfast republican Ivor Bell was arrested in the city earlier today in connection with one of the most controversial murders of the early years of the Northern Ireland Troubles – the case of "disappeared" mother of 10 Jean McConville. The 77-year-old was detained in the city earlier today by detectives investigating the IRA's kidnapping, killing and secret burial of the Belfast woman in 1972.
Bell was part of an IRA delegation that met William Whitelaw at future Tory minister Paul Channon's flat in London six months before McConville's disappearance.
He and other IRA leaders were trying to negotiate a ceasefire with the British which broke down in the summer of 1972. The republican veteran went on to become a leading figure in the Provisionals but was later sentenced to death by the organisation for allegedly trying to stage a coup d'etat against Gerry Adams in the early 1980s because he became convinced the then West Belfast Sinn Féin MP and others around him were determined to "run down the war" and abandon armed struggle. Since his departure from the IRA, Bell has kept a low profile and effectively bowed out of republican politics.
Jean McConville became one of the most famous of the "disappeared" and her body was not found until 2003 on a beach in Co Louth.
Ex-IRA Belfast commander Brendan Hughes has accused Gerry Adams, the Sinn Féin president, of organising a secret unit which abducted and murdered McConville. The unit was charged with smoking out informers for the British within nationalist-republican areas and in most cases killing them and burying their bodies in secret. Adams has always denied the charge from his former friend and also insisted he was never in the IRA. Hughes made his allegation about Adams on tapes for a Boston College academic project in which ex-IRA and loyalist paramilitaries would speak frankly about their roles in the conflict but which would be released only when they died.
The man arrested today is being questioned at the Police Service of Northern Ireland's serious crimes suite in Antrim Police station. In 1999, the IRA admitted that it murdered and buried at secret locations nine of the Disappeared.
The Independent Commission for the Location of Victims' Remains was established in 1999 by a treaty between the British and Irish governments, which gave de facto amnesties for any IRA members who had knowledge about the whereabouts of the missing to come forward without fear of prosecution. It lists 16 people as "disappeared". Despite extensive searches, the remains of seven of them have not been found.
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