A WEST Belfast man who intends to stand in next year’s council elections has accused the BBC of “bias” after he was banned from the audience of a current affairs show.
Human Rights campaigner Ciaran Mulholland, who is also a well-known figure in the legal profession, said he was allocated tickets for the Spotlight Special programme recorded last Tuesday. However, just hours before the show was due to be recorded he was contacted by the BBCand told he would not be allowed to take his seat. The panel on the question and answer programme included Shame Fein education minister John O’Dowd and DUP enterprise minister Arlene Foster. Mr Mulholland said he applied for tickets and was contacted by a Spotlight staff member who asked him what questions he would put to panelists. He said he revealed at that point his intention to run in next year’s local government elections on an independant ticket, but was sent the ticket without question. In January the BBC also faced bias accusations after dozens of loyalists packed the studio of a Stephen NolanTV show and heckled nationalist politicians. At the time corporation cheifs refused to reveal how many complaints it received from members of the public. Mr Mulholland beleives he has been unfairly treated. “They said they revoked my invite because I was a ‘politician’,” he said. “I think it was an over-zealous approach and uterly biased and discriminatory. “They only want to provide a platform for the politicial status quo and people who offer an alternative veiw don’t seem to get an equal opportunity.” A spokeswoman for the BBC said as far as she is aware there is no written criteria for audience selection on programmes. However, she added: “Spotlight Special gives ordinary members of the public a chance to put questions to a panel and have their say. “On that basis, audiences for this programme do not normally include elected represtantives or those who declare an interest in participating in upcoming elections.”
‘These dissident republicans have absolute contempt for their own community – Will Kerr
GUNMEN built a makeshift platform to launch a carefully planned attack on police in a built-up area of North Belfast. A rifle found a short distance away from the attack in Ardoyne on Thusday night was thought to have been dumped by the gunmen as they fled.
The military issue Kalashnikov-style automatic weapon was taken away for forensic examination. It was found in an alleyway a short distance from Butler Walk where the gunmen had erected a platform from scaffolding at the side of a high wall. Shots were fired at a convoy of police vehicles at around 7.10pm as they traveled along the Crumlin Road en route to the loyalist protest camp at Twaddell Avenue in North Belfast. Police said three armoured vehicles came under fire, two of which were towing illuminated warning signs towards the Ardoyne interface. At least 10 bullets hit two of the vehicles. While no-one was hurt, Assistance Chief Constable Will Kerr said the officers were shaken by the attack. “These dissident republicians have absolute contempt for their own community”, he said. “They fired military grade weapons, in a highly built up area. “There is no doubt the principle target was police officers.” The senior officer said he beleived the weapon recovered was linked to the attack. A silver Passat car hijacked on Thursday morning in the Poleglass area of West Belfst was also found burning in Elmfield Street in Ardoyne.
The attack was launched out of range of the Twaddell camp occupied by loyalists protesting against a ban on parading through Ardoyne. Around 40 familes in the area were moved from their homes, with many not permitted to return until yesterday evening while police carried out follow-up searches at several locations. Holy Cross Primary School was also forced to close as a result of the police operation. SDLP councillor Nichola Mallon said the people of Ardoyne want those responsible to “get off their backs”. “This is the latest incident to cause major disruption in the area,” she said. “Between the nightly protest parades and the car that was hijacked in Jamaica Street and used to transport the bomb into the city centre, people are concerned things are spiralling, that every time Ardoyne appears on the news it is for negative reasons and that is not an accurate reflection.” Shame Fein assembly member Gerry (the mouthpeice) Kelly said the attack “endangered the local community in Ardoyne”. “Anyone could have been in the vacinity of Holy Cross Chapel at this time which was the direction in which the shots were fired,” he said. “The PSNI were traveling to Twaddell Avenue where they are in place each night in order to prevent illegal marches past Ardoyne. The people of Ardoyne understand this. “Whoever was behind this attack need to come forward to this community and explain their actions.” DUP MP for North Belfast Nigel Dodds said: “This would obviously appear to be the work of dissident republicians and I would hope that the community in Ardoyne will stand against those responsible and with police as they carry out their investigations.”
POLICE are treating a gun attack on officers in North Belfast last night as “attempted murder“. People in the area said they heard between 10 and 15 shots being fired at three police vehicles as they drove along the Crumlin Road at about 7pm.
No injuries were reported. There was a heavy police presence in the area at the time due to a band parade connected to the loyalist protest camp at nearby Twaddell Avenue. Police say the shots were fired from a point near Brompton Park which is a shot distance from Holy Cross Church. A silver Volkswagen Passat, beleived to be used by the gunmen, was found partially burnt-out at nearby Butler Place. Firefighters attended the burning car, having been called by residents who feared that their hiuses might catch fire. After the atttack a police helicopter hovered over the area while officers used spotlights fixed to Land Rovers to examine the car from a distance and shone torches into the front gardens of houses on the Crumlin Road.
One man from the area said he initially thought loyalists had attacked nationalist homes. “We heard the shots and my mother shouted for everyone to get down,” he said. “There must have been 10 to 15 shots. The shooting went on for three or four seconds.” Chief Superintendant George Clarke described the shooting as “attepted murder”. The attack was also condemned by the main political parties. DUP MP Nigel Dodds said it appeared “to be the work of dissident republicans”. Shame Fein North Belfast MLA Gerry (the mouthpiece) Kelly described the shooting as “reckless”. “Whoever was behind this attack need to come forward to this community and explain their actions. To date they have failed to do so and act solely on their own behalf,” he said. SDLP councillor Nicola Mallon said nightly protest parades since the Twelfth “have created a highly volatile situation in the Ardoyne/Twaddell area” and the attack was “a blatant attempt to ratchet tensions up further”. She said the gunmen had displayed a “reckless disregard for life” by firing shots on a busy road. UUP councillor David Browne also condemned the shooting while Alliance North Belfast representative John Blair said there “can be no justification ” for it. Meanwhile, two men arrested in connection with last week’s attempted bomb attack on Victoria Square in central Belfast were released unconditionally last night.
The reason the British handed over responsibilty to Haass for the contentious matters is that there is no answer to the questions which unionists will accept
THREE weeks to go to Richard Haass‘s self-imposed deadline of Christmas. Unless, of course, it’s a misunderstanding and he’s talking about a different Christmas. Do you give him any chance of coming up with agreed proposals on flags, parades and the past? No? Nor does anyone else.
There are several worrying consequences about the current process some of which have already been looked at here. First, even if Haass were miraculously to pull even one rabbit out of his hat, legislation would be required. To further complicate it, the matter’s he’s concerned with all involve UK legislation at least. In the case of deaths and injuries during the Troubles the Irish government would have to be involved too. With the unionist parties already jostling each other about European election candidates, will they support the necessary legislation during the election campaign? No. As the British coalition government sees the election scheduled for May 7 2015 rushing ever closer the DUP will become more important. The treacherous lily-livered Lib-Dems will finally start to break away and oppose some Conservative legislation, particularly on economic and EU matters. Together with the Labour party they might defeat the Conservatives on some issues.
This is where the eight DUP MPs come in. Last week they were able to help the Conservatives defeat a backwoods Tory rebellion on plans to recruit reservists to replace full-time soldiers in return for raising the cap on numbers of recruits from the north. Watch the DUP come to David Cameron‘s rescue in 2014-5 if he dangles a bauble in frount of them. Even if Haass came up with something the parties at Stormont agree on, don’t expect it to go through Westminster unscathed. However, don’t hold your breath. The reason the British handed over responsibility to Haass for the contentious matters is that there is no answer to the questions which unionists will accept. It’s perfectly obvious that on the flags issue unionist leaders are too weak, cowardly and hypocritical to support a rational solution to flags on public buildings. Their hypocrisy stares them in the face every day at Stormont. As for anything vertical in unionist districts, there is no solution. It would be a cat and mouse operation with the police running around after loyalist squads replacing flags the police removed. Unionists do not accept the concept of a neutral space. They want to own Norn Irn. After all, didn’t the British give it them? Now they’re asking them to share it with Fenians on an equal footing. Hah.
There are wider consequences. Past experience has shown that only Westminister-legislated change will bring unionists to heel whether it was the 1985 Anglo-Irish Agreement or the 1998 Public Processions Act. This time there’ll be no Westminster legislation because Cameron might need the DUP in the short term. It’s not the first time a British government has bolstered unionist intransigence and it won’t be the last. It dosn’t matter what colour the government is; it depends on the proconsul for the time being. Peter Hain had little to recommend him but at least his threats of joint rule with Dublin or carving Norn Irn into three sub-regions concentrated unionst minds. This present government’s detachment and the rudderless performance of the present proconsul is sending republicans a dangerous message that unionists have a veto on all change, that Stormont as presently constituted does not function as a vehicle for change. The establishment of Haass as arbiter is not only evidence of British (and Irish) disengagement but is proof that by default they encourage unionist intransigence.The plain fact is that if unionists don’t like what Haass proposes they will be allowed to reject it and Sinn Fein can do nothing about it. Haass is there only because of the failure of the two governments to confront unionist resistance to change and their continual refusal to live on equal terms with the rest of the people on this island by recognising the legitimacy of the symbols and Irish identity of those in the north. The appointment of Haass is further evidence of Sinn Fein’s inadequacy as negotiators and their failure to see the big picture. The DUP is running rings aroud them.
Alex Mackey spoke out about the threat in Larne, Co Antrim, after unearthing a piece of Troubles-related memorabilia – a flyer which was once distributed warning Protestants not to drink in Catholic bars because to do so could “seriously damage your health”. Mr MMackey said the leaflet found in a Protestant bar in the Ravenhill Road area of east Belfast was given to him in 1972. He said it had been distrbuted at a time when Catholic bars were being targeted by loyalist paramilitaries, resulting in murders and soundings in bomb and gun attacks. Mr Maskey said the leaflets, used as beer mats, were issued to Protestants to warn them not to frequent Catholic bars because they might be bombed.
Loyalist paramilitaries are said to have visited at least five bars in Larne last Saturday to warn staff not to serve Catholics. The move led some publicans to consider increasing security at their premises and prompted another Sinn Fein MLA to urge police to “look at Larne as a priority”. Mr Maskey said the threat was “reminiscent of a very sinister period, whenever people were being killed in bombs and shooting attacks on bars”. The latest warnings were “a twist” on the decades-old leaflet, he said. Mr Mackey said it was a “sickening reminder” of the past when bars were targeted “because of the religion of patrons and owners”. “Looking back, a lot of Catholic pubs were targeted,” he said. “There was a campaign on that sector. This is just a bad reminder of that.”
SHAME Fein have called for police to clarify whether shots were fired at a patrol nnear Woodvale Park on Monday night.
Police said on Tuesday they are investigating reports two shots may have been fired at a police vehicle in Brompton Park at around 10.20pm. However, councillor Gerard McCabe said local people think the bangs may have been fireworks. “Speculation or claims that there was an attack on the PSNI vehicle are not helpful and the winner this is either confirmed or refuted the better,” he said. “The community in Ardoyne have undergone a stressful time recently with the Orange Order cranking up tensions with weekly protests. “The last thing they need are any unrepresentative micro groups within the area trying to make themselves relevant.” The DUP‘s William Humphrey said the shooting was “part of a wider pattern of incidents that have the clear intent of increasing community tensions”. “It demonstrates once again that the Parades Commission‘s disastrous decision has not only damaged community relations but has emboldened the sectarian agenda of sections of republicanism,” he said.
DUP assembly member William Humphrey refused to directly condemn the attack on Belfast Lord Mayor Mairtin O Muilleoir despite being asked 18 times in a row.
During an interview on BBC Radio Ulster‘s Evening Eextra programme, Mr Humphrey said his party had advised the council the mayor should not go to the park event, given the tensions in the area around flags. Presenter Seamus McKee repeatedly asked him if the jostling and heckling of Mr O Muilleour was wrong. However, Mr Humphrey did not answer the question directly and said the mayor should have listened to the DUP’s advice. “I’m not going to comment on something I didn’t see,” he added. However, when asked if attacks on police officers who were escorting Mr O Muilleior from the scene were wrong, he said: “All violence is wrong, I said that earlier in the interview”.