Watchdog widens inquiry after RUC/PSNI ‘failure to disclose’ information on 1992 mass murder at Belfast betting shop
The Police Service of Northern Ireland is facing a barrage of criticism and questions for failing to disclose to a police watchdog “significant” information about loyalist paramilitary murders during the Troubles.
The head of the Police Ombudsman for Northern Ireland, Michael Maguire, on Wednesday asked the Department of Justice for an independent review into why the force did not share information about a mass shooting of five Catholics at a betting shop in Belfast on 5 February 1992.
The PSNI has apologised and blamed human error, citing “complex challenges associated with voluminous material”. It denied deliberately withholding information.
The release of the information has prompted the ombudsman to pursue new lines of inquiry into about 20 loyalist murders across Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic in the 1980s and 1990s. Ombudsman reports into those killings, which were expected in coming weeks, have been delayed.
“It would seem information which police told us did not exist has now been found,” said Maguire.
The ombudsman’s office learned of the information when police prepared to disclose it to relatives of those killed in the 1992 attack as part of civil proceedings.
“Following a request from this office police released this material to us which helped identify significant evidence relevant to a number of our investigations,” said Maguire. “Following on from this police have now also identified a computer system which they say had not been properly searched when responding to previous requests for information.”
The Good Friday agreement is 20 – and Britain can’t afford to forget it
The ombudsman called for an independent review in the interests of “public confidence” into a force set up after the 1998 Good Friday agreement, in the hope the force would win more support from Catholics and nationalists than its predecessor, the Royal Ulster Constabulary.
The PSNI responded swiftly on Wednesday with an apology and promise to overhaul the way it disclosed information.
“We deeply regret that the researchers responding to the Police Ombudsman for Northern Ireland’s request were unable to find and disclose it,” said the deputy chief constable, Stephen Martin. The varying levels of experience and knowledge of researchers accounted for the ombudsman receiving incomplete information but ombudsman staff would now receive “full and unfettered access” to material relating to the crimes, he said.
But groups representing victims expressed dismay and said the incident revived concerns about police collusion with loyalist paramilitaries. The Committee on the Administration of Justice said: “[It] is deeply shocking and the claim that it is due to human error simply insults our intelligence.”
Another group, Relatives for Justice, said there was a systemic problem in disclosure of details about killings involving collusion. It said the independent review should start as a matter of urgency.
Tommy Duffin, whose father, Jack, was one of those killed in the attack at the Sean Graham betting shop, on Ormeau Road, told the BBC that relatives were frustrated by the decades’ long quest to uncover details about the massacre. “All we have got is knock-back after knock-back, and this has nearly broken the camel’s back.”
Sinn Féin requested an urgent meeting with police chiefs to discuss what it termed an “appalling and unacceptable” failure.
With many thanks to: The Guardian for the original story
Britain has decided to “tear up” the Good Friday Agreement by going ahead with Brexit, a former Irish prime minister has said.
He argued a no deal will lead to a hard border on the island.
Mr Bruton also said Sinn Féin’s refusal to take their seats in Westminster was a “tragedy”.
“Unfortunately in Ireland we had no say in this [Brexit] – the British people decided on this freely. In so doing, they effectively negated a referendum we had in Ireland,” Mr Bruton told BBC’s Today programme.
“Remember, we changed our constitution, took certain articles out of our constitution in return for an international commitment from Britain to the Belfast Agreement which guaranteed fair treatment of both communities in Northern Ireland, that neither community would be isolated.
“We changed our constitution to make that deal and Britain then comes along unilaterally and essentially decides to tear that up by proceeding with Brexit… and that’s why we have insisted on a backstop to protect the Good Friday Agreement, so that Britain can’t do that.”
Mr Bruton served as Taoiseach between 1994 and 1997. He was later appointed as the EU’s ambassador to the US between 2004 and 2009.
On Tuesday, members of parliament in the UK are expected to hold their vote on Prime Minister Theresa May’s plan for the UK’s withdrawal and future relationship with the European Union.
The key vote has been delayed from 11 December 2018.
The UK is scheduled to leave the EU on 29 March 2019.
“One suspects that those who object to the backstop are people who don’t really ever expect there will be an acceptable agreement that would avoid a hard border in Ireland or between Ireland and Britain,” added Mr Bruton.
On Sinn Féin’s policy of abstention at Westminster, he said: “Ireland was partitioned in 1920 when Sinn Féin refused to take their seats after the 1918 election.
“Sinn Féin have refused to take their seats on this occasion and the most serious threats to the position of Northern nationalists are now about to be realised – with no Sinn Féin, no Northern nationalist voice there to argue a different case.
“I think it’s a great shame, it’s a tragedy.”
With many thanks to: BBCNI for the original story
Brexiters are changing their minds over Brexit all the time. Perhaps a new fact has come to light which they don’t like, or a shift in position may suit their personal aims.
If Brexiters can chop and change with every new revelation, why shouldn’t the people have the final say on whether they want this Brexit mess or not?
Last night’s confidence vote in Theresa May showed that 117 Tory MPs had changed their minds about their leader. They voted for her in 2016, full of hope that she could unite the party around a coherent Brexit policy. It’s all gone badly wrong, and the Conservatives are more fracticious than ever. Tory MPs got a democratic opportunity to overturn two years of Brexit mismanagement — why shouldn’t the people?
Boris Johnson changed his mind about the Irish border backstop. He was part of the Cabinet that agreed to the measure back in December 2017. Now he wants to “junk the backstop” and has called it a “monstrosity” that wipes out the UK’s sovereignty.
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Johnson claims he was misled by Number 10 over the backstop and “absolutely reassured that this was just a form of words that was necessary to float the negotiations off the rocks”. So, he made a decision without full possession of the facts and now wants to think again? Sounds like a good basis for a People’s Vote.
Liam Fox is the latest Brexiter to change his mind on May’s deal. He told the BBC yesterday he would struggle to support it if there were no changes to the backstop. Fox is still in the Cabinet, and has given his support to the government’s Brexit strategy at each crunch decision so far.
Unlike Dominic Raab, who helped negotiate the deal as Brexit secretary before changing his mind and condemning it in a politically timed Cabinet resignation. He now says the government’s deal is worse than staying in the EU.
May herself is not against a change of mind. That general election she was never going to call in 2017? The “meaningful vote” on the government’s deal that was definitely going to take place this Tuesday? May’s premiership has been littered with u-turns and flip flops.
It seems like it’s one rule for May and her Brexiter detractors, and another for the British people. But a lot has changed since 2016.
It is now much clearer what Brexit actually entails, and that the promises made by the Leave campaign cannot be fulfilled. It is only right to ask whether the public has changed its mind about leaving the EU after all.
With many thanks to: Infacts for the original posting.
Key figures from worlds of Business, sport and arts sign letter to taoiseach on Brexit
A Thaosigh, a chara,
In December 2017 you made a commitment to Irish citizens in the north:
“To the nationalist people in Northern Ireland, I want to assure you that we have protected your interests throughout these negotiations. Your birth right as Irish citizens, and therefore as EU citizens, will be protected. There will be no hard border on our island. You will never be again left behind by an Irish Government. These rights will, of course, be available to everyone in Northern Ireland who chooses to exercise his or her right to be an Irish citizen, regardless of their political persuasion or religious beliefs.” Leo Varadkar 8th December 2o17.
Your commitment and assurances assurances are welcomed by all who cherish their Irish citizenship and identity in the north.
However, almost a year latter, the denial of our rights continues.
The political institutions remain in suspension as political unionism continues to deney respect for our Irish identity and and language, marriage equality, access to justice for legacy matters. As you know, these rights are now taken for granted by citizens in other parts of these islands.
The British Conservative government has rendered itself unable to effect any progress on these rights issues due to its dependence on the DUP. Brexit threatens to deppen the rights crisis and there is a real danger of serious erosion of current guarantees.
Access to free healthcare in EU countries will be denied, including if an Irish citizen from the north requires medical treatment while on holiday or visiting friends and family in the south.
The cost of studying at any university in the south will increase substantially rendering this option closed to many young Irish citizens in the north.
Irish citizens in the north will no longer be represented in the European Parliament.
After Brexit occurs, there are presently no guarantees as to the mutual recognition of qualifications. This may affect an electrician wanting to work in Dublin. Or a nurse from Dublin wanting to work in Belfast.
There is a very real potential that potential that partition could be reinforced, and our country and our people further devided. This is a source of grave concern to all of us.
We, as Irish citizens, urge you to adhere to your commitment that we would “never again be left behind by an Irish Government” and to redouble your efforts, and the efforts of government, to ensure that our rights are protected.
Chuir siad siúd sa sa tuaisceart ar mór acu a saoránacht agus a bhféiniúlacht Éireannach, chuir siad sin fáilte roimh na gealltanais a thug tú.
Bliain ina dhiaidh sin, áfach, leanann leis an diúltú cert.
Tá na hinstitiúidí polaitiúla ar fionraí fós mar a dhiúlataíonn polaiteoirí aontachtacha meas a thabhairt ar Ghaeilge agus ar ár bhféiniúlacht Éireannach: ar an chomhionannas posts; agus ar chearta maidir leis an chóras dla, is cearta iad seo nach iontach le sioránaigh in áiteanna eile sna hoileáin seo.
De dheasca go bhfuil siad ag brath ar an DUP, nil an Rialtas Coimeádach sa Bhreatain ábalta aon dul chun a thabhairt i bhfeidhm i dtaobh na gceisteanna ceart seo.
De bharr Brexit, tá an bhagairt ann go rachaidh an ghéarchéim ceart in olcas agus go gcreimfear dearbhuithe reatha.
Diúltófar cúram sláinte saor in aisce do shaoránaigh i dtíortha san Aontas Eorpach; cuimsíonn sé sin an saoránach Éireannach ó thuaidh dá mbeadh cóir leighis ag teastáil air/uirthi agus é/í ar saoire nó ar cuairt ag daoine muinteartha sa deisceart.
Méadóidh an costas a bhaineann me duine ag freastal ar ollscoil sa deisceart: rud a scriosfaidh sin mar rogha do chuid mhór saorábach óg sa tuaisceart.
Ní dhéanfar ionadaíocht, níos mó, sa Parliament Eurpach ar son saoránaigh Éireannacha sa tuaisceart.
Ó thaobh cáilíochtai de, níl aon ghealltanas ann faoi láthair maidir le haitheantas frithpháirteach indiaidh Brexit. Is féidir go gcuirfidh sé sin isteach ar an leictreoir ar mhaith leis/lei bheith ag i mBaile Átha Cliath: nó ar an altra atá ag iarraidh post imBeal Feirste.
Tá fíorchontúirt ann go neartófar an chríochdheighjlt, agus go scarfar ár dtír agus ár muintir níos arís. Is cúis mhór imní í sin ar fad.
Mar shaoránaigh Éireannacha, iarraimid ort cloí leis an choimitmint a thug tú Bach bhfágfaidh rialtas d’Eirnn ina dhiaidh muid “choiche Arís”. Iarraimid ORT do chuid iarrachtaí do rialtais a ghéarú lena a chinntiú go ndéanfar ár gcearta a chosaint.
With many thanks to: The Irish News for the original story
Chief negotiator says EU ready to improve proposal but will not accept British ideas for compromise
Michel Barnier has rebuffed British calls for the European Union to soften its stance on the contested issue of the Irish border and said a “moment of truth” was fast approaching on a Brexit deal.
May will appeal directly to EU leaders at a summit in Salzburg to soften their stance over UK access to the single market and customs union. She is expected to tell them on Wednesday night that Brussels needs to shift. A senior No 10 official said: “To come to a successful conclusion, just as the UK has evolved its position, the EU will need to do the same.”
Barnier, the EU’s chief negotiator, said the bloc was ready to improve its proposal on avoiding a hard border on the island of Ireland but stopped short of accepting British ideas for compromise, after the Brexit secretary, Dominic Raab, called on the EU to show flexibility.
“The European council in October will be the moment of truth, it is the moment when we shall see if we have an agreement,” Barnier said.
The Irish border has emerged as the biggest stumbling block to the Brexit deal that Theresa May hopes to strike with the EU this autumn. While the EU and UK have agreed there should be no hard border to prevent any return to violence, they are deadlocked over how to manage what will become a 310-mile frontier between the UK and EU.
Both sides have proposed fallback plans, known as backstops, that would kick into place if trade talks fail to settle the question. The EU’s involves Northern Ireland following EU law on customs and goods, a plan May has said no British prime minister could ever accept.
Barnier said the EU was working to improve its proposal, adding that the problem had been caused by “the UK’s decision to leave the EU, its single market and the customs union”. Seeking to counter British criticism that the EU plan eroded UK sovereignty, he said: “What we talking about here is not a land border, not a sea border, it is a set of technical checks and controls. We respect the territorial integrity of the UK and we respect the constitutional order of the UK.”
Barnier was speaking after a 90-minute meeting with the EU’s 27 European affairs ministers at a summit in Brussels. Many countries intervened in the debate to stress the importance of reaching a deal and its timing.
Ireland’s deputy prime minister, Simon Coveney, got a full update from Barnier on the backstop developments and later described his meeting as “excellent”. The Irish cabinet had earlier agreed to hire 451 new staff for border duties out of a total of 1,077 needed for ports and airports.
Ireland is among several EU countries concerned that having an emergency summit in November will take the pressure off the British in the coming weeks.
May will appeal to EU leaders at a summit in Salzburg to soften their stance over UK access to the single market and customs union. She is expected to tell them on Wednesday night that Brussels needs to shift. A senior No 10 official said: “To come to a successful conclusion, just as the UK has evolved its position, the EU will need to do the same.”
Downing Street believes that the UK has developed its negotiating position to reach the Chequers plan and it is now time for other EU countries to show some flexibility in order to finally strike a deal. The prime minister will argue that with “goodwill and determination” the UK and the EU could avoid a “disorderly” Brexit that would be damaging for both sides and instead strike a deal that benefited both.
“Neither side can demand the ‘unacceptable’ of the other, such as an external customs border between different parts of the United Kingdom. No other country would accept it if they were in the same situation,” she will say.
May will tell her fellow leaders that the EU’s current proposal does not respect the constitutional and economic integrity of the UK as it effectively suggests a customs border down the Irish Sea with its backstop plan.
She is expected to deny suggestions by EU officials that the UK is attempting to cherry-pick by seeking the rights of membership without the obligations.
“That is not what we are doing,” she will say. “What we are proposing is a fair arrangement that will work for the EU’s economy as well as the UK’s, without undermining the single market.”
No 10 has been cautiously optimistic in recent days that the UK can expect a softening of tone at the Salzburg summit from some EU leaders who are keen to nail down a Brexit deal this autumn.
It remains to be seen whether that translates into a shift in negotiating position from Brussels, where officials have been more sceptical. The EU27 will wait to discuss next steps, including whether to relax Barnier’s negotiating mandate, until May has left the room.
Meanwhile, Brussels is preparing to step up its legal action against the UK in a case of alleged customs fraud. The European commission has accused HM Revenue and Customs of negligence in controls that enabled Chinese fraudsters to evade duties, causing a €2.7bn (£2.4bn) loss to the EU budget.
The commission will announce the next step in the process on Wednesday, the final stage before it can take the government to the European court of justice.
Brussels launched the action in March, and British officials see the timing of the latest move – on the eve of the Salzburg summit – as provocative. “I can only speculate on the reasons, but it seems pretty obvious what is going on,” a No 10 insider said.
A government spokesman said: “The UK does not accept liability for the alleged losses or recognise the estimate of alleged duty evaded. We take customs fraud very seriously and we continue to evolve our response as new threats emerge.”
The alleged fraud has raised tensions between the EU and UK, contributing to mistrust about British officials’ ability to collect duties on behalf of the bloc, as proposed by the government in its unprecedented customs partnership.
With many thanks to: The Guardian for the original story.
Disagreements remain over how the Irish border should be treated after Brexit
The UK must submit written proposals on how it plans to keep a frictionless Irish border after Brexit in the next two weeks, Ireland’s foreign minister has said.
Simon Coveney said if that does not happen the UK will face an uncertain summer of talks.
Both the UK and EU say they are committed to keeping the Irish border open after Brexit.
However, a practical solution has not been agreed.
Brexit: All you need to know
Full text of the EU-UK statement
The EU and Ireland both insist Britain’s withdrawal treaty must lock in a backstop arrangement guaranteeing Northern Ireland will abide by EU regulations in case a future trade pact does not remove the need for border controls.
Britain has signed up to this, but has rejected the EU’s interpretation of what the backstop means.
“In the next two weeks, we need to see written proposals, it needs to happen two weeks from the summit,” Mr Coveney told the Irish Times newspaper, referring to a June summit of EU leaders that is supposed to mark significant progress on the issue.
“If there is no progress on the backstop, we are in for an uncertain summer.
“At this point we need written proposals on the Irish backstop consistent with what was agreed. We await written proposals from the British side.”
In February, the EU proposed a backstop which would involve the UK, in respect of Northern Ireland, maintaining full alignment with those rules of the EU’s single market and customs union which support north-south cooperation.
Prime Minister Theresa May said she could never agree to that as it would “threaten the constitutional integrity of the UK by creating a customs and regulatory border down the Irish Sea”.
With many thanks to: BBC News for the original story.