This letter was written in The Irish News today Monday 24th April – How come our very well paid (by us) politations did not open their eyes to This?
CLAIMS of a legal ‘witch hut’ against former British soldiers who served during the Trouble’s have been made during a rally of British army veterans in Belfast (April 15th). The former soldiers claim there is a prosecutorial bias against former British soldiers over murders during the Trouble’s. Secretary of State James Brokenshire also claims investigations into killings during the Trouble’s are disproportionately focusing on members of the police and army. This claim is without a shredofevidenceorcredibility. Availableevidence suggests that the British government shelving of the in-depth investigations and report by John Stalker and Colin Sampson on British shoot-to-kill policy and the Stevens Report on British security forces collusion with loyalists which resulted in countless killings, in fact shielded British soldiers and police from prosecution. Further evidence of protecting British security forces from prosecution is the continuing withholding of files pertaining to the Dublin and Monaghan bombings. Does Mr Brokenshire need reminding that British soldiers and police were and are acting on behalf of the British State and are a constitutional arm of ‘the UK government and recognised so internationally in law’?
With many thanks to: Tom Cooper Chairperson, Irish National Congress, Dublin 7.
THE ongoing political talks will be successful “against the odds”, Sinn Féin’s Martin McGuinness told a meeting of his party last night.
He said the devolved institutions “are worth saving and I believe the vast majority of people share that view”. But he said the parties must agree to protect the most vulnerable and ensure Stormont (the big house on the hill) has “a workable budget so that public services are delivered to the standard the public expect and deserve”. The deputy first minister also called on the British government to accept they are part of the negotiations and are “not some kind of neutral arbitrator”. He also hit out at the government’s legislation on dealing with the legacy of the Troubles and said it is “in clear breach of the Stormont House Agreement”.
“The legislation proposed by Theresa Villiers and her cabinet colleagues has more to do with covering up the role of the British state as a central player in the conflict and its collusion with unionist death squads,” he said. He said that the executive had succeeded in blocking the worst of the Conservative government’s cuts, including the introduction of water charges. He said lower student fees, free prescriptions and lower rates bills were “rarely highlighted successes of the executive and local parties working together”. The Mid Ulster assembly member warned that a return to direct rule will result in an “unrestrained onslaught on public services and the most vulnerable in our society”. Ms Villiers repeatedly warned that if the parties cannot agree a deal on welfare reforms, the British government will take back welfare powers as a “last resort”. Mr McGuinness said as well as welfare cuts previously announced, new cuts to tax credits in April will affect 120,000 families in the north.
<strong>With many thanks to: Claire Simpson, for the origional story, The Irish News.
FERGAL Hallahan was more right than he imagines (November 25) about the derision accorded anyone with the temerity to accuse Britain of deploying a Military Reaction Force (MRF) of plain-cloths British troopers who gunned down unarmed nationalists using non-military weapons.
During my years as both editor of the Irish Peopleweekly American newspaper and national director of Irish Northern Aid, I was tasked with presenting such facts to the American public and especially congressmen. The contention we republicans repeatedly made was that the crown had sent out the MRF and later wiped British fingerprints from their killings by shifting from the MRF to having the shots fired by loyalist proxies. This tactic had obvious advantages, including avoiding British army ccasualties like those inflicted by the IRA at the Four Square Laundry. It allowed the British plausible deniability. Collusion in murders carried out by loyalists could be denied outright and blamed on a cadre of crown force bad apples, no matter how much targeting intelligence, agent control or safe passage the British had supplied. Britain’s answer to these charges never changed. British officials would declare, self-righteously that “Her Majesty’s government” would never stoop to deploy such a unit. The British army ‘yellow card’ rules were sacrosanct, they scoffed and this code was rigorously applied whenever British troopers opened fire.
These sanctimonious British denials were believed by the public, politicians and journalists to the extent that this handpicked death squard remained largely unknown to the public. Panorama’s Britian’s Secret Terror Force proves that republicans were right about Britain’s deployment of a terror force, the MRF. It proves that those high-ranking British officials who denied that the crown would stoop to such tactics were either deliberately misled by the crown or deliberately misleading others on the crown’s behalf. Members of this British terror squad have no worries that they will face justice for killing unarmed Irish civilians like Daniel Rooney or Patrick McVeigh. They freely boast of their misdeeds, for the television cameras. Confident that they enjoy a selective immunity and impunity, not granted to republicians like Gerry McGeough, Seamus Kearney or John Downey. We republicans were right about Britain’s tactical shift from the MRF terror force to doing their ‘dirty war’ work through loyalist proxies. Must we await another documentary before people face the facts about Britain’s complicity with loyalist killers in collusion murders?
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.”
TWISTED Grey steel killer Stephen Irwin is back walking the streets of Ulster, we can reveal. The 40-year-old UFF murderer walked out of Maghaberry Prison on Wednesday, in a shock decision which is certain to cause distress for the families of his eight victims.
Irwin was responsible for one of the darkest days of the Troubles when he walked into the Rising Sun Bar on Hallowe’en night in 1993 armed to the teeth. Wearing a boiler suit and a balaclaver he fired around 44 shots, killing eight innocent people, and even stopped at one stage to replace his magazine clip so he could cntinue his bloody rampage. Last night the Northern Ireland Office (NIO) confirmed Irwin had been released. The Sunday World has learned that Irwin – regarded as a hero within some loyalist circles – was released under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement for a SECOND time. Irwin – who revelled in the nick-name given to him ‘Stevie Greysteel’ – was released after convincing a panel of Sentence Review Commissioners (SRC) that he was fit to be set free.
The move has shocked senior prison officers who say Irwin is “extremely violent”. Irwin had already been given an undeserved second chance when he was originally released under the terms of the 1998 peace agreement. But the blood-thirsty thug was returned to jail to serve out the remainder of his eight life sentences when he was involved in a vicious knife attack during the Irish Cup Final in 2005. He was given another four years on top for slashing the throat of another football van in a frenzied attack in Windsor Park. But he was told at the time of that court case that even after the four years had been served he would have to convince the SRC that it was safe for him to be set free. It means instead of serving the other eight life sentences Irwin is currently living in the Shankill area of Belfast.
After he was released from prison the first time he refused to return to his home in Co Derry and instead moved into the Shankill because he had fallen in with Johnny Adair and his ‘C’ Company crew inside. There had been speculation within Maghaberry Prison that Irwin had been released on the orders of the Secretary of State, Teresa Villiers. However a spokesperson for the NIO said Ms Villiers had no involvement in Irwin’s release. The spokesperson said: “Mr Irwin applied to the Sentence Review Commissioners (SRC) for early release under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement. “The SRC is an independent body and it is for them, not the Secretary of State, to determine prisoners ‘ suitability for release.”The Sentence Review Commissioners determined that Mr Irwin’s application for early release should be granted.” Last night prison sources said officerd in Maghaberry said they were shocked Irwin had been deemed fit for release. “He had a very bad reputation inside the jail,” said the source. “In fact the prison officers used to call him Stevie ‘what the f**k are you looking at ‘ Irwin because that’s usually how he spoke to people. “He was a real nutter, an nasty little piece of work when he was in here and was responsible for a number of assaults. “Nobody could believe it when they heard he was being let out. “And nobody will be remotely suprised when he walks back through the gates at Maghaerry!” The UFF targeted The Rising Sun Bar in Graysteel because it was a Catholic area, however two of the eight people murdered were Protestant. Irwin subsequently bragged to his fellow inmates about how he prepared for his deathly bussiness when he opened fire on drinkers in the pub. The incident became known as the ‘Trick or Treat’ murders because Irwin messed up his speech.
He was supposed to read out a prepared UFF speech but got nervous and shouted ‘Trick or Treat’ instead. A woman in the bar, who thought it was a Hallowe’en prank said, “that’s not funny” and Irwin shot her first. It followed an IRA bomb attack on the Shankill Road in West Belfast just days earlier in which 10 people, including one of the bombers, were killed. One of his accomplices, Torrens Knight, was handed 12 life sentences for his part in the massacre and for his role in the separate murders of four workmen. He too was returned to jail in 2009 for attacking two woman who rowed with him and his wife in a bar. He also applied to the SRC and was released a year later. In 2006 the Sunday World published photos of Stephen Irwin inside the Old Maze prison partying with other loyalists and taking drugs. At the time it had been claimed he had penned a sick poem called ‘The Reaper’ which glorified the Greysteel massacre. His mother had contacted the Sunday World to deny her son had had anything to do with the poem. But we recieved photos of him sitting in his cell with the gruesome poem painted on his cell wall aloneside another of a gravestone with the words Trick or Treat – Rest in Pieces on it. Former inmates told us he bragged about his heinous crimes. “He was very proud of what he did at Graysteel and he showed no remorse at all,” said a former inmate. “He told everyone how he practised for a whole week to change the magazine on his AK-47 so he could re-load and kill as many people as possible,” said the former inmate. “He said he needed to be able to do it in five seconds just in case anyone tried to attack him when the first clip ran out. He said he practised it over 200 times.”
WHILE many will take part in Friday’s parade to highlight claims of “internment by remand”, some will also see it as a platform to reclaim a significant date in the republican calendar.
The introduction of internment on August 9 1971 saw the detention without trial of thousands of young Catholics across the north. A watershed moment in the early Troubles, which made headlines around the world, it had unintended effect of converting morderate nationalists to the republican cause. Traditionally rRepublicans marked the anniversary witht the lighting of bonbone fires in nationalist areas, which often resulted in violent clashes with police. In recent years Sinn Fein has aa banded the bonfire tradition and attempted to remove tensions by creating the Fleadh around the August date. Opponents have claimed this was part of a process of steering its traditional support away from street politics. In that context, some anti-agreement republicans see Friday’s parade as an opportunity to showcase opposition to Sinn Fein’s strategy, both to the party leadership and wider political establishment.
However, the parade is also being used as an outlet for anger by loyalists involved in flag and other protests this year. Two of the five protests planned at Royal Avenue involve groups set up by leading figures from the Union Flag protests. Despite the parade not directly passing any loyalist areas in North Belfast. Orangemen in the area are also planning to travel to the city centre for a demonstration. Coming after strong police criticism of protests held against restrictions placed on a July 12 parade at Ardoyne, this represents a departure for the organization. Until now it is not thought to have organised any protests at republican parades. Given the serious disruption caused to city centre traders and commuters by the flag protests, and the violence seen on July 12 when loyalists gathered to protest at Ardoyne, the prospect of thousands of republicans and loyalists gathering in the city centre on Friday will be a source of obvious concern for police in the coming days.