A TRIBUNAL investigating allegations senior gardaí orchestrated a smear campaign against gardaí whistleblower Maurice McCabe has found top officers had a plan to spread false sex claims about him.
The Disclosure Tribunal found former Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan was part of a “campaign of calumny” against Sergeant McCabe. It said he was actively aided by his former press officer Superintendent David Taylor. Sgt McCabe (pictured below) had accused the Irish police force of malpractice, including the quashing of penalty points and later made a complaint against Mr Callinan.
The tribunal said it was convinced Supt Taylor “pursued a scheme that somehow evolved out of his cheeck-by-jowl” working relationship with Mr Callinan. The report found Sgt McCabe was a “genuine person” who at all times has “had the interests of the people of Ireland uppermost in his mind”. It found he regarded those interests as ” superior to any loyalty” which he had to the Garda.
The Disclosures Tribunal investigated allegations that Garda chiefs orchestrated a smear campaign including false historic sex abuse claimes against Sgt McCabe. Superintendent David Taylor, (pictured below), who worked for the press office between 2012 and 2014, had claimed he was ordered by Mr Callinan to negatively brief journalists about Sgt McCabe. The report said it did not accept Supt Taylor’s evidence that he was given specific instructions by Mr Callinan to spread the false sex allegations.
It was also said Supt Taylor’s “credibility was completely undermined by his own bitterness”. Garda Commissioner Drew Harris, a former senior PSNI and RUC officer, said the report made for ” difficult reading”.
Top gardaí hatched plan to plant false sex abuse claimes on whistlebower
“Given the significance and scale of the report, I will be establishing a group to examine Mr Justice Charleston’s findings from policy process, discipline and cultural perspectives to identity the lessons to be learnt and changes to be made,” he said.
With many thanks to: Cate McCurry and The Irish News for the original story.
THE number of homes in the North of Ireland hit by the ‘bedroom tax’ has more than trebled in six months – despite Stormont pledges to prevent the controversial welfare cut.
Top-up payments to mitigate against the cut ended for 86 housing benefit claimants in the period between October and March. It comes after The Irish News revealed last October, right, the bedroom tax had arrived in the north, as it emerged 35 claiments were no longer receiving the top-ups.
The British government policy sees housing benefit claiments have their payments reduced if their home is deemed to have more bedrooms than they need. In the North of Ireland, mitigation measures were passed before Stormont’s collapse so that claiments have their benifits topped up from a separate fund.
The funding was supposed to protect people from being financially worse off due to the tax until 2020. However, under the provisions, people stop receiving the extra money if they move to another Housing Executive or Housing association property that has the same or more bedrooms than their previous home.
The payments are cut unless the claiment has ‘management transfer status’ due to issues such as being intimidated out of their home. SDLP deputy leader Nichola Mallon, who received the details in a letter from the Department for Communities, expressed her concern.
“The latest official figures from the Department for Communities show that number of households being hit with the bedroom tax across the north has more than trebled in a few short months, with people in West Belfast worst hit,” she said. “More and more individuals and families already struggling to make ends meet will be forced to pay this tax on any spare bedroom in their home.”
The constituencies most affected in the six months to March were West Belfast, where supplementary payments ended for 15 claiments; South Belfast with 13 claiments impacted; and Foyle with eight. The tax was introduced in Britain back in 2013 and came into force in the North of Ireland in February last year. It applies to tenants in Housing Executive or housing association houses.
Funding to mitigate against it was pledged in November 2016 under the ‘Fresh Start’ deal between the DUP and Sinn Féin, after the party pulled out of the earlier Stormont House deal in 2015. Sinn Féin had initially claimed the Stormont House measures would protect “current and future” claiments but amid criticism walked away saying it was not what they thought they had agreed to.
Mrs Mallon, an MLA for North Belfast added: “Sinn Féin and the DUP jointly promised people no-one would have to pay the bedroom tax. The question these 89 households will rightly want answered is why were they misled?”
The DUP and Sinn Féin did not respond yesterday, but a Sinn Féin spokesman last year said the party is “totally opposed to the Tory bedroom tax”. ” That is why we provided a £585m found to mitigate the impact of Tory welfare cuts,” he said. “We have made our position known to the department and we are absolutely opposed to the decision to impose this tax on a small number of households.”
With many thanks to: The Irish News and Brendan Hughes for the origional story.
DURING Arelene Foster’s seven year tenure at the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment she developed a reputation among the business community for being a ‘safe pair of hands’.
Her enthusiasm for promoting North of Ireland enterprises, coupled with her legal background, supported the notion of an extremly capable operator who was judicious in her oversight. These characteristics are thought to have been among the reasons she was chosen to succeed Peter Robinson as DUP leader and first minister.
But after a day-and-a-half giving evidence to the RHI inquiry what has emerged, through careful probing by the inquiy’s senior counsel David Scoffield QC, is a picture of a minister who appeared content to defer responsibility for policy detail to her special adviser and department officials. Mrs Foster also has a poor memory of key events in the conception of the RHI, it seems – her powers of recall not helped by the absence of notes of key meetings.
Throughout yesterday’s hearing, we lost count of the number of times she caveated her responses with variations on the phrase “I have no recollection”. Similarly, she was keen to stress the advantages of hindsight in identifying the litany of cock-ups, omissions and lapses that resulted in a botched green energy scheme with a potential £700 million liability for the Stormont executive.
The lasting image from yesterday’s proceedings was Mrs Foster looking sheepish and chastened having just been told by inquiry chairman Sir Patrick Coghlin that she had overseen a department that was edging towards ” dysfunctional”. The dressing down continued with the retired judge noting that it appeared “incontrovertible” that the former Deti minister’s trust and reliance on two key people – the department’s former head of energy Fiona Hepper and special adviser Andrew Crawford – had been “completely unfulfilled”.
Mr Scoffield was equally damning in his assessment of her time in charge at Netherieigh House. ” When it comes to implementing the policy or comes to delivering on representations or assurances that have been given to you, your a very passive participant, if a participant at all,” he said.
The DUP leader may blame her former officials for the RHI’s substantial shortcomings but it will be much more difficult for her to escape responsibility for the catalogue of peocedural failings. There is more evidence to come from Mrs Foster next Wednesday and Thursday in what is proving to be an uncomfortable examination.
With many thanks to: The Irish News and John Manley for the origional story.
A former deputy governor at the Maze has hit back at claims by an ex-IRA prisoner of assaults by jail staff, branding them “dishonest”.
Tom Murtagh was reacting to allegations made by republican bomber Robert McClenaghan.
Controversy has cast doubts over integrity of the forum
In a documentary When The War Ends, McClenaghan, a member of the Victims and Survivors Forum for more than a year, told of being “immensely proud” of joining the IRA and revealed that it was his “daily job” to plant bombs across Belfast.
Police have said they will examine the claims made by the convicted Provo in the 2011 documentary, which is available to watch on YouTube.
McClenaghan’s (pictured above) claims came to light after Jackie Nicholl, whose 17-month-old son died in a no-warning IRA bomb attack on the Shankill Road in 1971, resigned from the same body for victims of the Troubles after learning of his past.
McClenaghan’s grandfather Philip Garry was killed in the UVF McGurk’s bar atrocity in north Belfast in December 1971.
In the YouTube film he also alleged IRA prisoners were beaten by warders during his time in the Maze.
He said: “I could hear men screaming. You heard punches and slaps.
“If they had kept beating us for that intensity… I don’t know how long you could have lasted.
“It used to terrify you when they walked towards you in uniform.”
But his claims have been rejected by Mr Murtagh, who recently published The Maze Prison: A Hidden Story Of Chaos, Anarchy and Politics, his autobiographical account of his life as a deputy prison governor and administrator.
Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph, Mr Murtagh expressed his shock at the “dishonest portrayal” of the situation at the Maze, particularly that IRA prisoners were beaten and brutalised by staff.
“Whilst I sympathise with Robert and his family for their tragic loss, I was truly shocked by his dishonest portrayal of various events and situations,” he said.
“He (McClenaghan) presented an emotional and completely dishonest account of the situation in the Maze Prison and seemed to attempt to present the IRA and republicans as the main victims of the Troubles.
“His comments could only be interpreted by any fair-minded person as an attempt to rewrite history, especially that of the Maze Prison.”
In the documentary, McClenaghan also gave graphic details of what he described as “the mirror search”, accusing warders of carrying out intimate searches inside the mouths of prisoners wearing gloves covered in excrement.
But Mr Murtagh also rejected this account, branding it “misleading”.
Meanwhile, calls are growing for a change in how people are appointed to the Victims and Survivors Forum.
Members are appointed based on them meeting the legislative definition of a victim, but are not asked for a criminal record declaration as it is not part of the criteria for the role.
Kenny Donaldson, director of the South East Fermanagh Foundation (SEFF) victims’ group, said: “There are a lack of checks and balances around people trying to be appointed.
“These people don’t have to go through any form of AccessNI check.”
With many thanks to the: Belfast Telegraph for the origional story.
Former chancellor George Osborne says there is an “enormous gap” in the centre ground of UK politics.
He said “hard Brexiteers” had dragged the Conservatives to the right, while Jeremy Corbyn had moved Labour left.
“I don’t believe that the moderate, pro-business, socially liberal, internationalist part of the British people has disappeared,” he said.
He spoke alongside former prime minister Tony Blair who warned of politics based on “shouting loudest”.
The two former political opponents, speaking together at an international education conference, warned of a polarised political culture.
‘Re-thinking’ the centre
The centre ground was where general elections used to be fought and won, Mr Osborne told the Global Education and Skills Forum in Dubai.
The middle ground might have been eroded by the financial crisis and by divisions over Brexit said Mr Osborne. But he argued that it was where many voters still remained.
The former chancellor said that Labour would be far ahead in the polls with a more moderate leader.
Mr Blair said the culture of “building bridges” in politics seemed to have been lost.
Instead he warned that party politics reflected the type of polarisation and taking of extreme views found on social media.
“Those of use in the centre are going to have to do a lot of re-thinking,” said the former Labour leader.
‘Eccentric’ White House
On threats from Russia and the rising economic power of China, Mr Blair warned that “liberal democracy” would face growing challenges.
He called for the US to be much clearer in its defence of western democratic “values”.
But Mr Osborne said that unity between Western allies had become much more difficult under an “eccentric” and “unpredictable” Trump administration, with a high turnover of senior staff.
“It is very difficult for America’s allies,” said Mr Osborne.
On the diplomatic row with Russia following the nerve agent attack in Salisbury, the former Conservative chancellor said it was important to send out a “tough response”.
But he labelled as “disgraceful” the way that the Labour leader appeared to distance himself from the government’s claims over Russian involvement.
Mr Osborne also revealed another connection with Mr Blair.
He said during Mr Blair’s time in Downing Street, Mr Osborne used to rehearse Conservative leaders getting ready to face prime ministers’ questions in the House of Commons – and in those exchanges Mr Osborne played the part of Mr Blair.
With many thanks to: BBC England for the origional story.
A lawyer for Arlene Foster has said she should not have to pay the costs of a successful legal action against her.
Last week a judge ruled that the former first minister’s decision to block funding for a legacy inquests plan was unlawful and flawed.
The Attorney General said that as she was no longer first minister she had no ministerial responsibility.
John Larkin QC added that she should not be liable for any damages awarded to the person who took the case.
He said this was because an allegation of discrimination had been rejected by the court.
Foster decision on inquests ‘unlawful and flawed’
However a lawyer for the woman who took the case argued that the leader of the DUP should have to pay costs because she was the “main culprit”.
Brigid Hughes challenged the failure by Stormont’s executive office, the justice department and the secretary of state to put in place adequate funding to prevent further delays in holding legacy inquests.
Her husband, Anthony, was a civilian shot dead along with eight members of the IRA in May 1987 by the SAS as republicans attacked Loughgall police station in County Armagh.
Judge Sir Paul Girvan last week ruled in her favour.
He said Mrs Foster was wrong to think the decision on funding a proposal from the Lord Chief Justice for dealing with legacy inquests could be postponed until after a wider political agreement on dealing with the past.
At a hearing to determine costs and other issues on Friday, lawyers for the executive office, the justice department and the secretary of state also argued that they should not have to foot the bill.
At one point the judge said: “The long and the short of is that the various parties failed to progress this issue.”
‘Main culprit in all this’
Barry Macdonald QC, representing Mrs Hughes, rejected the arguments and said his client had won her case and was therefore entitled to have her legal bill paid.
He said those paying should include the leader of the DUP.
“The former first minister was really the main culprit in all this,” he told the court.
“She blocked consideration of the proposal, she promoted the notion that it was permissible and lawful to withhold funding for legacy inquests pending a resolution of overall legacy issues.
“Costs are appropriate against her.”
Last week the judge also ruled that the secretary of state and relevant Stormont departments must now reconsider the issue of funding for Lord Chief Justice Sir Declan Morgan’s plan to deal with all legacy inquests within five years.
Lawyers for the secretary of state, the justice department and the executive office argued he should not issue a court order compelling their clients to reconsider.
Lord Chief Justice Sir Declan Morgan called for extra funding for inquests
They said there was no need to do so as they were public authorities and would therefore comply with his judgement.
But Mr Macdonald insisted there was a need for an order because the response of those named in the legal action demonstrated that they had “failed to recognise their responsibilities”.
“An element of compulsion is necessary because any party failing to act would be in contempt of court,” he said.
‘Lack of transparency’
The judge also referenced comments by the head of Northern Ireland’s civil service, David Sterling, who earlier this week revealed there was a policy of not taking minutes at some meetings.
Speaking at the inquiry into the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) scheme he said this was so the details would not be available under Freedom of Information, and to avoid potential embarrassment to DUP and Sinn Féin ministers.
Discussing Barry Macdonald QC’s submission that there should be an order compelling compliance with the judgement issued last week, Sir Paul Girvan said: “Unless you have a more intrusive order you will end up with a perpetuation of nothing happening – in a context where there’s a lack of transparency of how decisions are reached because it might embarrass somebody.”
The judge will deliver his ruling on costs and the next steps to be taken by the relevant authorities later this month.
With many thanks to: BBCNI for the origional story.
FORMER UUP leader Lord Empey has accused Sinn Féin of “utter hypocrisy” and inaccuracy over claims proposed Parliamentary Boundary changes are “a gerrymander for the 21st century” against nationalists.
In a submission to the Boundary Commission, the republican party criticised the body’s proposal to retain four seats in Belfast – a change to an earlier plan was to cut the number of constituencies to three.
It also argued the Commission has been “unduly influenced” by unionist lobbying, especially regarding proposed changes to Fermanagh/South Tyrone. Lord Empey, pictured, said Sinn Féin “never bothered to engage meaningfully with the Boundary Review at any previous stage”.
“The Ulster Unionist Party had concerns about the origional provisional proposals, largely because we did not beleive they respected community ties and that they would cut towns off from natural hinterlands, and we made representations to the commission in a bid to influence its its thinking,” he said.
“The latest revised proposals are certainly not perfect but they are an improvement on the provisional proposals which Sinn Féin now seem to be championing.” He added that “In order to reduce the North of Ireland’s representation in the House of Commons, our total number of seats will be reduced from 18 to 17, and a unionist seat is being sacrificed.
With many thanks to: The Irish News and Bimpe Archer for the origional story.