DUP’s Ian Paisley accuses The Irish News of ‘running hate campaign’

DUP MP Ian Paisley, speaking out about Brexit at Westminister this week.

THE DUP’s Ian Paisley has accused The Irish News of running a “hate campaign” against a council chief executive following an article about an Irish language funding row.

The paper yesterday reported how Conradh na Gaeilge (CnG) said it intended to make a formal complaint against Anne Donaghy in a dispute over comments at a council meeting.

CnG strongly rejected her claims that she had contacted the group and arranged a meeting but it failed to turn up, accusing her of risking it “reputational damage”.

It also claimed her comments impacted on a vote at Mid and East Antrim council on holding events for Irish Language Week (Seachtain na Gaeilge).

The council said a meeting was arranged through a councillor last year and released a redacted email, but no messages were disclosed showing any correspondence with CnG.

Referencing the report yesterday on Twitter, North Antrim MP Mr Paisley wrote: “The Irish News appear to be running a hate campaign against Mid and East Antrim chief executive – every month or so they run ‘well placed sources’ reports attacking her.”

Responding to his comments, CnG advocacy manager Ciarán Mac Giolla Bhéin said it had only spoken out “because of assertions made by the chief executive that we had not shown up to a meeting arranged with her”.

He said CnG has asked for the record to be amended and the council vote on Seachtain na Gaeilge retaken because her remarks “obviously influenced that”.

Ms Donaghy’s comments were made on Monday while councillors discussed whether to hold an event to mark Irish Language Week.

CnG had written to the council in January asking it to consider providing funding for groups or organising its own event.

During the discussion, Ms Donaghy said: “I did contact Conradh na Gaeilge and had a meeting and sat at the meeting with two officers and they didn’t turn up.”

Rather than holding an event, most councillors instead backed TUV councillor Timothy Gaston’s proposal to note CnG’s correspondence and refer the group to the council’s grants scheme.

The council later said its mayor is still “committed to hosting an event to mark Irish Language Week”.

In a fresh statement, a council spokeswoman said: “Contact with Conradh na Gaeilge was made via the chief executive’s office through an elected member.

“The chief executive’s understanding was that this invitation had been extended to the group through the elected member, as requested, and as is often normal practice.

“The chief executive has always been and remains willing to meet groups from all backgrounds and communities, including Conradh na Gaeilge, and has since contacted the group to reiterate this.”

It is the latest controversy to hit the council chief executive.

Last year SDLP councillor Declan O’Loan said Ms Donaghy contacted him to say she was making a complaint after a search of his emails – which Mr O’Loan claimed were searched without his consent or knowledge.

And in October Ms Donaghy faced criticism after claiming that UVF flags put on display during a loyalist band contest were “historic and not illegal”.

With many thanks to: Brendan Hughes and The Irish News for the origional story.

Irish language group in row with council chief over ‘damging’ comments

Anne Donaghy, Chief Executive of Mid and East Antrim council.

AN IRISH language organisation has said it intends to make a formal complaint against a council chief executive in a dispute over comments she made at a council meeting.

Conradh na Gaeilge (CnG) strongly rejected Anne Donaghy’s claims that she had contacted the group and arranged a meeting but it had failed to turn up.

The Irish language group said it has “no record of any such meeting being requested” and accused Ms Donaghy of risking them “reputational damage”.

Ms Donaghy made the claim on Monday at a meeting of Mid and East Antrim council, during which councillors discussed whether to hold an event to mark Irish Language Week.

CnG had written to the council asking it to consider providing funding for groups or organising its own event.

During the discussion, Ms Donaghy defended the council’s efforts to look at holding events for Seachtain na Gaeilge 2018.

She said: “Just to say I have put some work into this. I have done the best I can and I did contact Conradh na Gaeilge and had a meeting and sat at the meeting with two officers and they didn’t turn up.

“Now we contacted them and asked them, and I asked them to come back to me, and they haven’t come back to me.

“I did arrange the meeting and that’s what happened.”

Rather than holding an event for Irish Language Week, most councillors instead backed TUV councillor Timothy Gaston’s proposal to note CnG’s correspondence and refer the group to the council’s grants scheme.

Making his proposal, Mr Gaston referred to Ms Donaghy’s comments about CnG and said it was “embarrassing they couldn’t even turn up”.

Mid and East Antrim council later said its mayor is still “committed to hosting an event to mark Irish Language Week”.

Ciarán Mac Giolla Bhéin, advocacy manager for CnG, yesterday disputed Ms Donaghy’s comments and said the group would be making a formal complaint.

“We would like to state on record that we have no record of any such meeting being requested and were unaware of any meeting having been arranged,” he said.

He said the group “risks reputational damage”, adding: “Given that this was referenced by some councillors during the debate on whether or not to support Seachtain na Gaeilge, we believe it had an impact on the debate and impacted negatively on the outcome from our perspective.”

Asked about Ms Donaghy’s comments, last night the council said a meeting was arranged between several councillors, staff and a CnG representative for August 15 last year but that “a number of those invited did not attend”.

To support this, the council released a redacted email in July last year from Ms Donaghy to a councillor in which she says she would be “happy to meet”.

However, no messages showing any correspondence directly with CnG were disclosed.

Independent councillor Paul Maguire expressed concern over the dispute.

“This is a very serious situation, and an embarrassment for Mid and East Antrim council. Good Relations within both the corporate body and constituency, is consequently at a very low ebb,” he said.

It is the latest controversy to hit the Mid and East Antrim council chief executive.

Last year SDLP councillor Declan O’Loan said Ms Donaghy contacted him to say she was making a complaint after a search of his emails – which Mr O’Loan said were searched without his consent or knowledge.

And in October Ms Donaghy faced criticism after claiming that UVF flags put on display during a loyalist band contest were “historic and not illegal”.

With many thanks to: Brendan Hughes and The Irish News for the origional story.

 

It’s time we had a proper debate on the Union versus Irish unity

Irish unity from a Unionist point of view

I’M NOT really sure why some unionist politicians got so worked up by Leo Varadkar’s recent comments: “Our constitution is clear on this: Our constitution aspires to there being a united Ireland. I share that aspirition. But only on the basis that it is done by consent, and when it does come about I would like to see it command a degree of cross-community support. And thats the way I would envision it. I very much follow the school of thought of the great John Hume, who talked less about a united Ireland and more about an agreed Ireland and a set of relationships that we can all be happy with. That’s the way it should be.”

That’s more or less been the Irish governmen’s official position since the 1985 Anglo-Irish Agreement. It’s not really all that different from the British government position, that the “North of Ireland will remain a part of the United Kingdom for so long as a majority wish it”. Put bluntly, both governments are saying that it’s up to the people in the North of Ireland to decide for their own constitutional future.

Some unionists appear to believe that Varadkar should keep his nose out of ‘our’ affairs. Yet, thanks to the Brexit result, ‘our’ affairs have become their affairs. Nationalists in the North of Ireland are worried. They fear that an identity they thought was guaranteed by membership of the EU will no longer be guaranteed. They fear the North of Ireland being ruled by a succession of isolationist ‘little Englander’ governments in London. They fear that the continuing absence of a local assembly – and the increasing possibility of direct rule – means that there will be nobody to represent them at local level.

The Brexit result changed everything and completely upended the political dynamics on both sides of the border. It changed the nature of the relationship between London and Dublin – leaving it tetchier than it has been for 35 years. It cteated an enormous problem between the Leave Camp (consolidated around the DUP) and the Remain Camp (consolidated around SF, but also embracing SDLP, Alliance, Green). It has made it much more difficult for an executive to be established; because even if they could find agreement on some areas, there would be no agreement on a Brexit deal.

The DUP speeks for the terrorists

And yes, the result has had an unforeseen and entirely unprepared for impact on the Good Friday Agreement. So it’s no surprise that the border and Irish unity are now occuping minds in that way that wasn’t even a possibility three years ago. The uptake in Irish passports is one manifestion of concern. The fact that the leaderships of both Fine Gael and Fianna Fail are openly discussing the possibilities of unity is another manifestation. Sinn Féin’s vote increase is another. The recent joint letter from over 200 Irish citizens in the North’ to Leo Varadkar is another. The recent findings in LucidTalk’s poll about support for Irish unity and a couple of polls from Dublin is another manifestation. Other manifestatations will become apparent over the next year.

At an event at the West Belfast Festival in August (where I was on a panel with Michelle O’Neill), a veteran member of Sinn Féin said to me: “I never really beleived that Irish unity would happen in my lifetime, Alex, but Brexit has changed everything. We’re closer now than we’ve ever been.” As it happens – and I did tell him so – I think he’s wrong about unity any time soon; but he is right about a new palpable air of optimism within republicanism. And it’s that optimism which unionists need to address.

So attacking Varadkar for ‘poking his nose in’ is a wasted response. Pretending that nothing has changed is a wasted response. Ignoring the reality that nationalists (especially those who have been reasonably content to side with the UK in the unity debate up to now) are worried is a dangerously sanguine response. Beleiving that attacking Varadkar is better than sitting around a table with him (he may well be taoiseach for quite a long time) is a self-defeating response.

The UK vs Irish unity debate is going to dominate politics for the next few years – probably right through the centenary of the North of Ireland in 2021. That’s no bad thing in my opinion. It’s about time that the pro-Union arguments were set out, while the Irish unity arguments were deconstructed, piece by piece. And it’s not just an North of Ireland audience which needs addressed: we also (and yes, I write as an unambiguous unionist) need to address audiences across Ireland and the rest of the UK.

With many thanks to: Alex Kane, The Irish News for the origional story.

 

How can amnesty serve the demands of justice?

ON THE floor of a nondescript building in Sarajevo, beside the city’s Catholic cathedral, you will find a long, carefully lit corridor. Occupying most of the space on one wall is a large panel.

Irish Children shot dead by brave British State Forces. Another reason I would never wear your blood stained Poppy.

Impossible to ignore, it pins you to the spot, painfully catching your eye as if it were a magnet dropped in a box of nails. About the length of a bus and around six foot tall, it is covered in neat type, the words roughly the size used in the headlines on the pages of this newspaper. The words are in fact names. They are arranged alphabetically, making it obvious that the same surnames are repeated many, many times.

Their first names are male, and there are 8, 372 listed in all. These men and boys – grandfathers, fathers, sons, brothers, uncles, nephews, cousins – all died in and around the town of Srebrenica within a bloody few days of each other in the middle of July 1995.

On that July 11th, while we were getting excited about Drumcree in our own petty sectarian squabble, thousands of miles away on the far side of Europe Serb forces began systematically murdering thousands of Bosnians because they were Muslims.

Drumcree 1995

Hubris meant that the Serb army filmed many of the atrocities they committed in Bosnia for the entertainment of the audience at home – footage later used to help secure convictions for war crimes. The latest of those was delivered this week. On Wednesday Ratko Mladic, the Serb general, was found guilty of genocide by the special United Nations court that has been considering war crimes perpetrated during the collapse of the former Yugoslavia. Even before he and his troops rolled into Srebrenica in July 1995, Mladic was known as ‘the butcher of Bosnia’.

Ratko Mladic – The Butcher of Bosnia – was sentenced to life

What happened next were crimes “among the most heinous known to humankind”,  as presiding Judge Alphons Orie put it as he read out the court’s judgement and gave Mladic a life sentence. The survivors of Srebrenica didn’t need anyone to tell them that Mladic was guilty. They knew already, because they were there. They were there when thousands of refugees fled Srebrenica and crammed into an old battery factory at Potocari, a few miles away; it should have been a safe haven, as it was under the control of UN peacekeepers, in the guise of Dutch soldiers. There were there when Mladic threatened to systematically kill all of the Muslim men – a hallmark of genocide – and taunted the peacekeepers.

Old battery factory at Potocari

They were there when the Dutch, hopelessly outnumbered on the ground and lacking support, capitulated and effectively handed them over to Mladic. Chilling eye-witness accounts speak of summary executions and rapes as Serb soldiers picked victims at random from the crowd at Potocari.

It would be crass to draw comparisons too tightly, but there are at least resonances between the Bosnian experience – with its competing views of nationalism, religion and the past – and our own Troubles

A baby had its throat slit because its mother could not stop it crying; children were beheaded; a woman pregnant with twins was cut open and the babies beaten to death. Television footage shows Mladic’s soldiers, disguised as UN peacekeepers, trick groups of fleeing Muslim men into the open and shooting them. Men and boys were loaded on to buses and lorries and brought to execution sites, where they were dumped into mass graves. It is unspeakable and seems otherworldly – until you remember that these horrors happened in Europe, to people like you and me, as recently as 22 years ago.

It would be crass to draw comparisions too tightly, but there are at least resonances between the Bosnian experience – with its competing veiws of nationalism, religion and the past – and our own Troubles. There are post-conflict echoes, too.

Politics hasn’t worked there either, nor is there any agreement on how to deal with legacy issues or victims. We have had a fresh reminder that this week with the spectre of a Troubles amnesty returning to haunt what passess for our own political debate. It goes to the heart of how we consider justice.

Do we take the view of Darko Mladic, who not only denounced the judgement against his father as wrong but also said: “It does not achieve anything….. and will be an obstacle to future normal life in the region.”

Enniskillen bombing

In the North of Ireland’s terms, that’s the ‘let sleeping dogs lie, victims and society should move on’ position, the ‘let’s not bother with investigating collusion or atrocities like Loughinisland and Enniskillen’ argument; let’s offer an amnesty, because raking over the coals of the past will just re-ignite old enmities in the future. Would Mladic, a soldier who argued he was following orders, deserve an amnesty?

Or do we follow Munira Subasic, a Remembering Srebrenica ambassador and president of the Mothers of Srebrenica Association. She explained how her world had changed when her son and husband “were taken from me in the most brutal and inhumane way imaginable”. ” I have now waited for over 20 years for the man responsible for their deaths to face justice and I am pleased he has finally been held to account but this verdict will never bring back the thousands of lives he has destroyed.”

An amnesty for Mladic and his cronies just wouldn’t have cut it; her words will resonate with many victims of the Troubles hungry for justice in the circumstances around their own bereavement, life-changing injury or trauma. How we face up to our own troubled past remains just about most vexed question facing our society. Justice demands that we deal with it correctly.

With many thanks to: William Scholes, The Irish News for the origional story.

 

The Wife of Tony Taylor, Lorraine tells of detention impact

 

Mr Taylor’s wife Lorraine, at an earlier protest for the release of Tony Taylor. And calling for an end of Internment in the Six Occupied Six counties of Ulster.

The wife of Derry Republican Tony Taylor has spoken about the impact his detention without charge is having on their family.

Taylor, pictured above, has been held at Maghaberry Prison since his early release licence was revoked by former secretary of state Theresa Villiers in March last year.

Campaigners, including nationalist politicians, have voiced concern about his continued detention. Speaking at the ard fheis of hardline republican party Saoradh in Derry at the weekend. Mr Taylor’s wife Lorraine, pictured above, said the family has been left “traumatised” by her husband’s detention.

“Tony’s continued absence is having a devastating impact on his family. I am at my wits’ end to understand how the British government, after nearly two years, can be allowed to keep Tony in prison without any due legal process, this in reality internment without trial,” she said.

“As a family we are all physically and emotionally drained both because of Tony’s continued detention and absence from his family. “I would also wish to outline the impact on his dentention on his elderly parents, both of which are not in good health.”

Meanwhile, Co Tyrone republican David Jordan has been reelected as chairman of Saoradh. In his address to delegates he criticised Sinn Féin and the DUP and voiced his party’s support for Brexit.

“Saoradh should support strategically any initative that quickens the end of one of the most repulsive and destructive nations that ever existed,” he said. “That which weakens and fragments Britain is good for Ireland. Let us hope that Brexit is as hard as hell and helps usher in the dimise of the last section of the cruel British empire.”

With many thanks to: Connla Young, The Irish News, for the origional story.

 

 

Cemetery arson attack an inexcusable violation of burial sanctuary says priest

THE Catholic Church has said it will review security at Milltown Cemetery after vandals set fire to the gates in a “shocking” attack. 

The front gates of Milltown Cemetery in West Belfast, which date back to 1896.

The front gates at the West Belfast cemetery, which dates back to 1896, were set alight on Friday night after traffic cones and a wheelie bin were placed behind them and set on fire by a gang of youths. The fire service attended the scene and extinguished the blaze. A spokesman for the diocese of Down and Connor last night described the attack as “shocking” and said “significant damage” had been caused both to the gates and the entrance of the cemetery.

West Belfast MP Paul Maskey described the incident as “disgusting behavior”

Fr Eddie Magee said that security would be reviewed in the wake of the attack. “This was a dangerous, inexcusable and deliberate act of vandalism which violated the sanctuary of a site of burial. “This action is particularly shocking because it is not only a manifestation of anti-social behavior but it also engenders a sense of distress among the local community whose loved ones are buried within this sacred place,” he said. “Places of burial hold deep significance for all within the community and such places should not be targeted for criminal acts.”

The area has been plagued by antisocial behaviour in recent times with traffic routinely targeted by stone throwing youths who gather in the Falls Park facing the cemetery. West Belfast MP Paul Maskey described the incident as “disgusting behaviour” and urged parents to monitor their children’s whereabouts. “This is unacceptable behaviour. Enough is enough,” he said. “I’m sure those responsible for this unacceptable behaviour have relatives interred in Milltown like many of us. “This is disgusting behaviour and I will be meeting with agencies over the weekend and early next week to try and get a resolution to this problem.”

Alliance councillor Sian O’Neill described the fire as an attack on the whole community. “It is deeply sad to see the disrespect some people have for our dead, in what is supposed to be an area of respect,” the South Belfast councillor said. “My thoughts are with the loved ones of those buried there, who may have been affected by this incident.

Making an appeal for information RUC/PSNI, area commander for West Belfast, chief inspector Kellie McMillan said: “This is a cemetery, a graveyard, a place for quiet reflection to peacefully pay respects to loved ones who are no longer with us. I cannot understand what any human person would feel could be gained from such thoughtless, criminal vandalism. “Police will be working with the community in West Belfast to prevent this behaviour and stop further hurt being caused to families and friends of those whose lives are remembered here. This is not acceptable behaviour and a robust response from policing and the criminal justice sector is required. “I am appealing to parents and guardians to know the whereabouts of their children and who they are with, and to play a role in preventing them from becoming involved in behaviour which could see them end up with a criminal record.”

With many thanks to: Gareth McKeown, The Irish News. For the original story. 

RUC/PSNI make first loyalist arrests under terrorism laws on crackdown on the UDA in West Belfast.

Storm Ophelia exsposes the face of UDA recruits

UDA searches: Four men arrested and ammunition and drugs seized. 

The men, aged 24, 32, 34 and 36, were arrested in the north of the city on suspicion of being UDA members.

Paramilitary uniforms, drugs, a gun holster and ammunition were seized during a two-day operation which included 13 searches in north Belfast, Holywood, Co Down, and Portadown, Co Armagh.
UDA ties, badges and flags were also seized, along with steroids, cannabis, mobile phones and tablets.
Two of the men, aged 34 and 36, have been released pending a report to prosecutors over UDA membership. The 36-year-old man will also be reported for supplying class C drugs.
The 24-year-old man and the 32-year-old man remained in custody last night.
Detective Inspector Heather Whoriskey appealed to anyone with information about paramilitaries to contact police.
“I understand that people feel afraid to speak out against these paramilitaries, but police need information from local people – as we will act on information we receive,” she said. “It may not always be visible and immediate but please be assured that every piece of information is assessed and acted on.”
With many thanks to: The Irish News.