Creggan bomb ‘attempt to kill police officers’

A bomb in Londonderry was an attempt by dissident republican group the New IRA to murder police officers, the PSNI has said.

The bomb was found after up to 80 police officers took part in a security search targeting the New IRA on Monday.

Police said the device contained commercial explosives.

Fifteen families had to leave their homes after the discovery of the device in Creggan Heights, but they have since returned home after it was made safe.

More than 40 petrol bombs and other missiles were thrown at police during the security search.

Police said a crowd of between 60 and 100 young people gathered in the area, some of whom attacked police vehicles.

At least two of the young people suffered burn injuries when they tried to attack the police cordon with petrol bombs.

Sinn Féin’s Karen Mullan said the number of young people who actively attacked police was “smaller” than the total size of the crowd.

“I didn’t see anything orchestrated but one person rioting is one person too many,” she added.

She said people living in Creggan were “angry and disgusted” and those responsible were not “listening to the community”.

“There is no justification whatsoever for rioting or attacking the police when they are in to do their job,” she said.

No police officers were injured.

‘Advanced state of readiness’

Assistant Chief Constable Mark Hamilton said the command wire initiated improvised explosive device was discovered in a car parked in the area.

He said it was in an “advanced state of readiness.”

Image captionPolice are carrying out further investigations in the Creggan area

The device would require someone to be “standing watching for a target to pass by” and then send an electrical charge down its command wire.

“This is effectively like a roadside bomb,” he said.

“It’s a small device to look at but contains what we believe to be commercial explosives and it would have had quite a considerable explosion.”

It was made safe by Army bomb disposal experts at about 04:00 BST.

Analysis: Frequency of attacks increasing

By Julian O’Neill, BBC News NI Home Affairs Correspondent

The PSNI has noted a change of tempo in dissident Republican activity in recent months.

Senior officers believe there is a greater determination to cause harm.

Perhaps dissident Republicans are out to exploit publicity surrounding Brexit.

This year, there have been seven attacks, or planned attacks, in Northern Ireland which are known of.

The majority have been attributed to the so-called New IRA, the bigger of two main dissident groups.

None of the attacks has gone to plan – only two of six murder bids involving bombs involved a device which went off.

However, as the shooting dead of journalist Lyra McKee showed, the intent, the ability to mount attacks, exists.

Overall, the campaign of violence is low-level in historical terms.

MI5, which has the lead role in Northern Ireland counter-terrorism, has hundreds of staff in Holywood working to contain the threat.

‘No regard for life’

ACC Hamilton said officers believed the bomb was to be used against a police patrol in the area.

“This is not a car bomb, it is a smaller device but could have had really devastating consequences,” he said.

Those responsible had “no regard for the lives of anyone living in Creggan” and had “exploited some of the young people in the community to attack police”, he added.

Police said they would remain at the scene and a “full terrorist investigation” was under way.

Journalist Lyra McKee was shot dead during rioting in Creggan in April while standing near a police 4×4.

Fr Joseph Gormley, who anointed Ms McKee on the night she was shot, said had the bomb not been found and diffused, “we could have had another loss of life”.

The New IRA later said its members had murdered the 29-year-old, who was shot in the head when a masked gunman fired towards police and onlookers.

Monday’s police operation in Creggan followed the discovery of a mortar bomb in Strabane , County Tyrone, on Saturday, which police blamed on the New IRA.

Chief Constable’s proposal likened to Israel’s oppressive tactics’ against Palestine

A local councillor has likened proposals made by the PSNI’s Chief Constable to “oppressive tactics” employed by Israeli police against Palestinians.
The comments made by Independent Councillor Gary Donnelly come after recently appointed Chief Constable, Simon Byrne, suggested taking children away from their parents to combat paramilitarism.

Councillor Donnelly said: “Having failed to make any positive impact within working class Nationalist and Republican communities, Simon Byrne’s proposal to effectively kidnap and hold for political ransom children of Republican activists is, at best, idiotic and smacks of Israeli oppression tactics in Palestine.
“Should such a policy be implemented, Mr Byrne will succeed only in uniting the Nationalist and Republican community firmly against him and his failed police force.”

When asked about the recent increase in dissident violence Mr Byrne said on Wednesday that the community should say to all the paramilitaries that “enough is enough”.
“The use of paramilitary attacks, beatings, breaking people’s legs, other limbs, in the name of the rule of law, is just odious. How anyone could think that is justified in a civil society is beyond me,” he said.

Mr Byrne added that he planned to allocate more resources to the PSNI’s paramilitary crime task force “so that we make these people’s lives a misery”.
“My message to them is if you carry on doing this we will have your house, we will have your car, we will have your kids, we will have your benefits, and we will put you in jail.”

He later sought to withdraw “the interpretation that children are pawns, if that’s what’s been heard”, at a meeting of the Policing Board, adding, that it was not his intention.
Sinn Féin Justice spokesperson, Raymond McCartney, said the Chief Constable’s remarks about taking children away from their parents and their homes was unacceptable.

“The safety and welfare of children must always be paramount, they can’t be used as pawns in a wider strategy to ‘deter’ paramilitaries in their anti-community activity.
“It flies in the face of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and all the evidence and current good practice within the criminal justice system concerning the safeguarding of children.
“His comments are all the more unacceptable since they were made at a conference on ‘Young People, Policing and Stop and Search’ powers.”

Saoradh response
Meanwhile, Junior McDaid House, based in Chamberlain Street in Derry, which is the National Headquarters of Republican Party Saoradh, branded his comments as “prejudiced, discriminatory and disgusting”.
In a statement posted on Facebook it said: “Byrne seemingly wants to deprive the children of Republicans the right to a family life by having his armed stormtroopers detain them and put them into care homes.

“What we have here is a situation akin to the worst anti-democratic regimes on the planet, with the foreign head of a State militia threatening to kidnap the children of his opponents.”
It added: “Republicans will not tolerate threats by any representative of Britain to take our children away from us. We will resist any attempts to do so. Rather than killing our children, as in the past, Simon Byrne wants to kidnap them instead.”

With many thanks to: Derry Now and Garrett Hargan for the original story

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Law to stop no-deal Brexit passed by Parliament

Prime minister says the legislation will ‘scupper’ his chances of awithdrawaldealwith no-deal

The author of a new law to block a no-deal Brexit, which completed its passage through parliament on Friday, has said he is “very troubled” by suggestions that prime minister Boris Johnson will not comply with it.

Hilary Benn, the chair of the Commons Brexit committee, was speaking after Mr Johnson suggested he would rather be “dead in a ditch” than request a further delay to Brexit negotiations.

In a warning to the prime minister not to ignore the legislation in the hope of forcing the UK out of the EU without a deal against parliament’s wishes on 31 October, the senior Labour MP said: “Either we have the rule of law or we do not.”

The passage of Mr Benn’s bill through the House of Lords was the latest blow for the embattled PM in a disastrous week which has seen him repeatedly defeated at Westminster, lose his majority, fail to call a snap election, expel 21 of his MPs and watch his own brother walk out of his government.

The legislation, tabled after MPs seized control of the Commons agenda, is now due to become law by going to the Queen for royal assent before parliamentary sittings are suspended next week.

It paves the way for a snap general election, now almost certain to take place in November, after opposition parties agreed to deny Mr Johnson the two-thirds majority he needs on Monday to trigger a general election before his “do or die” Brexit deadline of 31 October.

Mr Johnson said it will “scupper” his chances of negotiating a Brexit deal with the EU, by giving Brussels confidence that the UK will not crash out without a deal at the end of next month.

Thousands protest after Boris Johnson requests to suspend parliament

But asked if he would resign rather than request a third Brexit delay from the EU, he replied: “That is not a hypothesis I am willing to contemplate. I want us to get this thing done.”

A Downing Street spokeswoman declined to rule out the possiblity of the PM resigning, saying only: “We are taking one step at a time here.”

Under the terms of the bill, Mr Johnson must request an extension to Brexit negotiations to the end of January next year unless he can secure a deal or parliamentary approval for no-deal by 19

The legislation passed through the Commons in a matter of hours on Wednesday and completed all stages in the Lords in two days after an agreement between the government and opposition parties ended an attempt to quash it with time-wasting amendments in the early hours of Thursday. It had completed all stages in the Commons in a matter of hours on Wednesday.

Johnson’s Brexit stance ‘could drive Tory voters to Remain parties’
Mr Benn said he was “very troubled” by suggestions that Mr Johnson will not comply with the bill’s requirements.

“Delighted that our bill to stop a damaging no-deal Brexit on 31 October has now been passed by the House of Lords, but very troubled by the prime minister’s repeated statements that he will not seek an extension under any circumstances,” said the Brexit Committee chairman.

“Either we have the rule of law or we do not.”

Sir Keir Starmer, the shadow Brexit secretary, said the passage of the bill was a “hugely important victory in the fight to stop Boris Johnson’s plan for a no-deal Brexit”.

“We will not let this prime minister put jobs and the economy at risk,” said Sir Keir.

Hilary Benn (Getty)

But Tory grandee Sir Malcolm Rifkind condemned the manoeuvre as “juvenile”, warning it would merely introduce a month-long delay to the Brexit process, which would be damaging to business and jobs and prolong uncertainty and political gridlock without affecting the end result.

Speaking to The Independent, Sir Malcolm predicted that Mr Johnson would “grit his teeth” and accept the “humiliation” of the U-turn on his pledge rather than wave goodbye to Downing Street. Or he said Mr Johnson could even stand aside for a matter of weeks and appoint a caretaker PM to undertake the painful job of requesting a further extension before his return to No 10, in order to avoid personally breaking his promise.

Describing the “dead in a ditch” comment as “a theatrical statement, not to be taken too literally”, the former foreign secretary said: “The reality is he is not going to break the law. It is a serious political embarrassment for the government, but in the real world delaying an election which all parties agree is appropriate will have no practical impact on Brexit but will be damaging for business.”

Opposition leaders including Labour’s Jeremy Corbyn and Liberal Democrat Jo Swinson agreed in a conference call not to vote for a 15 October election on Monday, because of fears that Mr Johnson could simply ignore the anti-no-deal legislation until the Halloween deadline has passed.

“We were all clear we are not going to let Boris Johnson cut and run,” said a Liberal Democrat spokeswoman.

“The Liberal Democrat position for a while now is that we won’t vote for a general election until we have an extension agreed with the EU. I think the others are coming round to that.

“As a group we will all vote against or abstain on Monday.”

Conservatives branded Mr Corbyn “chicken” for refusing to vote for an election which he has long demanded.

Speaking during a visit to Aberdeenshire, Mr Johnson said: “I’ve never known an opposition in the history of democracy that’s refused to have an election, but that’s their choice.

“I think obviously they don’t trust the people, they don’t think that the people will vote for them, so they’re refusing to have an election.

“And so what we will do is we will go to the summit on the 17th, we’ll get a deal and we’ll come out on October 31.”

The bill includes provisions for MPs to vote on the final version of Theresa May’s withdrawal agreement, thanks to an amendment passed by accident when tellers were not provided to record votes against.

A cross-party group calling itself MPs For A Deal – including former Tory minister Rory Stewart, who was expelled by Johnson this week, Labour’s Stephen Kinnock and Caroline Flint and Liberal Democrat Sir Norman Lamb – said May’s compromise plan, drawn up in discussions with opposition leaders, provided “a solid and realistic basis” for the PM to secure a deal which could be put to parliament when it returns from prorogation on 14 October.

With many thanks to: The Independent and Andrew Woodcock Political Editor for the original story @andywoodcock

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Boy (15) in legal action over RUC/PSNI ‘terrorism arrest’

The 15-year-old boy claimed his rights as a child were breached when he was detained.

A 15-year-old boy is taking legal action after he was allegedly stopped and searched as a terrorist suspect.

The youth, who cannot be identified, claims the Police Service of Northern Ireland unlawfully breached his rights as a child by the detention in west Belfast.

No reasonable grounds were given for justifying the action taken against the schoolboy, his lawyers contend.

His challenge has been listed for a hearing at the High Court later this month.

According the schoolboy’s solicitor he was in a car being driven by his father when police stopped them in September last year.

He was allegedly required to get out of the vehicle and stand on a footpath for an officer to search him under section 43 of the Terrorism Act 2000.

The legislation enables police to detain and search anyone reasonably suspected of being a terrorist for any evidence.

Nothing was found on the boy, it was stressed.

He is seeking to judicially review the PSNI’s decision to carry out the actions on him.

A challenge is also being brought against the Northern Ireland Secretary of State over an alleged failure to issue a code of practice for the stop and search powers which adequately protects the best interests of the child.

The boy’s solicitor, Michael Brentnall of Brentnall Legal Limited, said: “Our client, a minor, was searched by PSNI officers under the Terrorism Act, effectively on the basis that he was a terrorist.

“We state that by conducting such a search on him in the absence of reasonable grounds that he was a terrorist, the PSNI have not only acted unlawfully, but have strayed into territory whereby they have total disregard for the rights of children.

“This legislation is not covered by a code of practice which adequately covers the use of this power against a child.”

Referring to a suggestion by Chief Constable Simon Byrne that the sons or daughters of paramilitaries could be taken into care, Mr Brentnall added: “We will also be requesting whether these actions form the basis of a new PSNI policy in respect of children.”

With many thanks to the: Belfast Telegraph and Alan Erwin for the original story 

Pipe bomb found during Townsend Street, Strabane, alert

Dissident republicans have been blamed for leaving a viable pipe bomb at Townsend Street in Strahan, County Tyrone.

The device, which was discovered shortly after 01:00 BST on Tuesday, was found in an area known locally as the Back Row.

With many thanks to: BBCNI and Keiron Tourish for the original story 


Skilled journalists shine Spotlight on the darkest secrets of our sad past

THERE’S an old proverb about the road to hell being paved with good intentions. 

And friends of mine have occasionally tried to explain away unionism’s vice-like grip on the first 50 years of the North of Ireland by quoting it. They claim the unionist government which oversaw the North of Ireland always planned to do better, but never quite got there. There’s no doubt that in 1921 after the partition of Ireland was complete, unionist leaders had a chance to create a northern state where few Catholics would have opted to join the newly-formed 26 County Free State.

Rev Ian Paisley Leader of the DUP and Firebrand preacher

But religious bigotry at the heart of at the heart of the Stormont regime meant that opportunity was passed over. And instead unionism firmly pulled the shutters down tight. It viewed every Catholic citizen with suspicion. Unionist Party leaders ignored the parting advice of Sir Edward Carson – the public face of unionism – to be kind to the minority. And although not publicly acknowledged, some unionist establishment figures even gave the green light to loyalist gunmen to wage a war of attrition against Catholics. Pogroms were terrifying and real, with hundreds losing their lives as the contrived state of the North of Ireland became a political reality. A semi-secret plan was hatched where police officers like the infamous DI Nixon were allowed to run their own murder gangs. Their intention was to grind Catholics into submission and force them to accept that they now lived in a place where only those loyal to Britain ruled the roost. Rejecting unionist offers of top police jobs abroad. Nixon eventually quit the RUC to become an Independent Unionist MP.


And until the day he died, he repeatedly threatened to expose fellow unionist politicians’ involvement in violence at the foundation of the state. Eventually many Catholics accepted their diminished status and kept their heads down. Occasional IRA attacks in the north and in England posed no threat to the northern state. But the 1947 Education Act – forced on unionist by the British government  – created an articulate Catholic middle class no longer willing to accept the status quo.

Martin McGuinness Deputy First Minister for the North of Ireland and OC Officer Commanding the IRA Derry Brigade

In 1967, along with other interested groups – including the remnants of the Irish Republican Movement – these people formed the Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association. The organisation had the stated aim of replacing unionist discrimination in jobs, housing and voting rights with British liberal values. It was well received in Ireland and also in the rest of the UK, where people were shocked to learn that the North of Ireland citizens hadn’t the same rights as them. The North of Ireland Prime Minister Captain Terence O’Neill (who the unionist claimed was a Lundy) – steeped in the unionist landed gentry – knew in his heart that if the union was to survive, then things needed to change. But a rabble-rousing fundamentalist preacher called Ian Paisley – who led his own Free Presbyterian Church – had other ideas. He had an ability to tap into ancient Protestant fears and suspicions. And he helped form a series of new loyalist paramilitary organisations opposed to any reforms proposed by O’Neill. Paisley was following in the footsteps of his close friend and hero DI Nixon, a police officer turned politician who had terrorised Catholics at the foundation of the state. Much of Paisley’s involvement with the reconstituted Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) was denied because the authorities feared the clergyman’s Svengali-like powers. But this week – in the first of a new seven part series of TV programmes to mark the 50th anniversary of the beginning of the Troubles – Paisley’s real role in the violence is exposed.

Martin McGuinness above and the Rev Ian Paisley

Spotlight on the Troubles: A Secret History goes out simultaneously on BBC Northern and BBC4 on Tuesday night. Using first-hand testimony of individuals who were around at the time, reporter Darragh McIntyre reveals how Ian Paisley personally financed the UVF bombing of a water pipe line at the Silent Valley Reservoir near Kilkeel in April 1969. Paisley and his cohorts attempted to give the impression that the explosion, coming as it did months before serious violence erupted on the streets of Derry and Belfast, was the work of the practically moribund IRA. But a retired senior British Army officer, drafted in to examine the aftermath of the bomb, told MacIntyre his suspensions were raised as soon as he saw the bomb site. “This just didn’t have the look of an IRA bomb,” he said. And he went on to claim that a senior RUC officer in Killkeel showed him intelligence reports which revealed the entire operation had been financed by Paisley.

A mural which appeared in Moygashel of the late Martin McGuinness

As Paisley’s UVF mates were bombing the place, a young butcher’s apprentice by the name of Martin McGuinness was about to quit his job to assume the role of 2nd in Command of the Provisional IRA in Derry.

Fottage of former Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness overseeing a car bomb being loaded in Co Derry

In newly emerged footage, McGuinness is filmed overseeing an IRA bomb being loaded into the boot of a car. McGuinness sits in the passenger seat and, minutes later, it is transported to Derry city centre and detonated. And in another remarkable clip, McGuinness instructs children on how to load bullets into a revolver.

Martin McGuinness showing teenagers how to load a revolver in Derry city

It is almost beyond belief that 3,500 deaths later, these two men were sworn into office as the First Minister and Deputy First Minister in a new devolved administration at Stormont. But they also became close personal friends.


In an astonishing revelation near the end of the first programme, MacIntyre reveals written details of a top secret report by Sir Michael Carver, the most senior officer in the British Army. In the report, Carver advises the British government to consider an alternative strategy which doesn’t demand maintaining the North of Ireland border by military means, (what Brexit will mean).I.e. British withdrawal.

A burial headstone commenting a member of the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF)

Spotlight editor Jeremy Adams say he’s proud his talented team of investigative reporters consisting of McIntyre, Jennifer O’Leary and Mandy McAuley, have been able to uncover new findings relating to the history of the Troubles. “This past has shaped our present and it’s vitally important that truths continue to be told,” he said. I’m in no doubt that this body of work from the awarding-winning BBC Spotlight team will become the definitive television history of the Troubles. This series of programmes – which uncovers much previously unknown material  – is informative, revealing, shocking and at times very, very moving. It was an enormous undertaking for the reporters and filmmakers involved, but once again, BBC Spotlight comes through with flying colours. Don’t miss it.


With many thanks to the: Sunday World and Hugh Jordan for the original story 


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Could Boris Johnson cut the North of Ireland loose?

Boris Johnson


Boris Johnson is trapped. He has thrown away his working Commons majority by expelling 21 reality-based Conservatives.

He gambled on his political enemies doing the thing he wanted them to, vote for an early general election, then appeared surprised when they declined to do so.

If he can’t get a Commons vote for that election next week, it seems quite likely he will face a legal requirement to request an Article 50 extension, with no prospect of an election and a new majority before 31 October that could free him from that obligation.

How does he get out of the hole he has dug himself? A lot of chatter is about resignation, but that would surely allow Jeremy Corbyn at least an attempt to form a government during the Fixed Term Parliaments Act’s 14-day interval before a dissolution. Corbyn would, you might guess, struggle to form a viable government. But how much would you bet on that?

Johnson is in his current plight because he bet on his opponents doing what he hoped they would; he would be bold indeed to bet again on their willingness to follow his script.

There remains another way out of this mess: pass Theresa May’s Withdrawal Agreement, with the backstop amended to apply only to Northern Ireland.

Could the EU, at this stage, offer such a deal? It’s certainly being discussed in Dublin these days. Remember, the EU originally wanted the backstop to apply only to Northern Ireland; in the EU view, allowing the whole of the UK to have complete access to the single market without an obligation to accept the ‘four freedoms’ was a significant concession to May. Not that she ever actually explained this to colleagues or voters, of course, a failure that partly explains her downfall and Britain’s current nadir.

There were two reasons May rejected an NI-only backstop. First, she needed the DUP’s support. Second, and more important to her, she believed it would jeopardise the Union to have Northern Ireland subject to different international rules to the rest of the UK.

Neither condition applies to Prime Minister Johnson. First, having already thrown away his majority by purging his colleagues, the DUP are irrelevant to him: whether they support him or no, he can’t command the Commons. Second, he’s suggested at least once that he doesn’t think issues around Northern Ireland and its border with the Republic should be central to the Brexit decision. ‘Letting the tail wag the dog’ was how he once described Government policy relating to an integral part of the United Kingdom.

The voters Johnson most cares about don’t care much about Northern Ireland either. One poll suggests that more than 80 per cent of Leave voters in England think unravelling the NI peace process is a price worth paying to get the UK out of the EU.

This is my speculation, of course, but will people happy to countenance a return to terrorist conflict to get Brexit, kick-up that much of a fuss if Brexit requires only the creation of a notional regulatory border in the Irish sea?


I suppose Johnson’s ‘antidemocratic backstop’ rhetoric would make it a bit tricky to apply the measure to Northern Ireland, whose voters would have no direct say on the EU rules that would apply to them. But bluntly, most people at Westminster are intensely relaxed about the suspension of the Northern Ireland Assembly and the possible restoration of direct rule. The democratic rights of people in Northern Ireland are rarely at the top of the political agenda in SW1A 0AA.

Would Tory Brexiteers swallow the WA with an NI-only backstop? I don’t know, but Johnson could reasonably tell them it was that or more delay and maybe no Brexit. OK, that was the May proposition when she tried to sell her deal. But:

i) Boris Johnson isn’t Theresa May: he gets the benefit of the doubt from colleagues and editors in a way she never did.

ii) Events since the rejection of the WA have proved that she was essentially right about her deal being the least bad option. And Johnson could just possibly hope for more Labour votes than May got.

Of course, Nigel Farage and the Brexit party would be furious. But that will happen regardless, and a hard Brexit deal that took the UK mainland out of the Single Market and Customs Union might well take a lot of the wind from their sails.

To be clear, I’m not advocating this course or even predicting it. Resurrecting the May Deal, even with a major change to the backstop, would be an implausible and risky choice. But so is every other option available to Boris Johnson these days. And politics, as someone once said, ultimately comes down to tough choices.


Since filing this piece, I’ve seen that my old colleague Peter Foster has been airing some similar speculation.

I can’t add much to that beyond saying that Peter is very well-informed on these matters and if you don’t follow his work, you should.

With many thanks to: The Spector and James Kirkup for the original story 

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