The Pat Finucane Centre weekly updat

Andrew Flood (
Wed, 16 Apr 1997 10:03:39 +0100 (BST)


The Pat Finucane Centre weekly update, more details on their webpage at

Ireland News Update Sunday 13 April 1997

***** Loyalists attack Catholic homes in Belfast ***** News is coming in overnight (12/13 April) of a serious and sectarian attack by over 200 Loyalists on the home of Catholic families living in the Limestone Road area of north Belfast. Our understanding is that over eight Catholic families have fled their ransacked homes as a result of these attacks. The RUC have said that they have arrested one person.

***** Dunloy deal rejected by Orangemen ***** The agreement brokered by the Mediation Network between the County Antrim Grand committee of the Orange Order and the Dunloy Parents and Residents Association was comprehensively and overwhelmingly rejected by members of the County Antrim Orange Order at a meeting in Cloughmills on Wednesday (9 April). In a statement after the meeting William Smyth, a member of the Spirit of Drumcree group and one of those leading the opposition to the agreement said that the Orange members had "forced the Grand Lodge to back down on having anything to do with the Mediation Network or republican-backed residents' groups. The County Grand officers actually faced a fairly humiliating defeat when they were forced to send a resolution to the Grand Lodge of Ireland not to talk to the Mediation Network or any residents' groups as well, and we hope that all other counties in the province will follow suite."

This decision followed a very strong statement made by David Cook, the former head of the Northern Ireland Police Authority who was sacked by Patrick Mayhew following a vote of "no-confidence" in him by Unionist members of the Authority. At a meeting in Portadown last Saturday (5 April) he said that he did not believe that Orangemen have a right to march down the Garvaghy Road. He said that he believed that marches needed to be resolved at a local level. He added that however it had to be recognised that "the message of some Orangemen some of the time has always been and continues to be 'croppies lie down'. It is the intention of some of them some of the time to stuff their music, flags and drums down the throats of some people from communities other than the Orange community".

In a statement by Robin Percival of the Pat Finucane Centre following the vote to reject the agreement he said:

"over the past nine months the Pat Finucane Centre has been in close contact with the Dunloy Parents and Residents Association. We strongly advised them to use the services of the Mediation Network at a time when nearly all other Residents Groups had decided against using their services. We did so because we felt that if there were those within the Orange Order who wanted to reach an accommodation over the issue of contentious parades, then Dunloy provided them with their best opportunity and where the issues were clear cut.

"To begin with Dunloy is a 100% nationalist community. It is not mixed or divided. There can be no doubt whatsoever that the local residents do not want Orange or Loyal Order parades in their community. Furthermore none of the members of the so-called Dunloy Orange Lodge live or work there. Dunloy was also important because, unlike the other residents' associations in the North, Dunloy has no member of Sinn Fein on its committee or any ex-prisoners. This was important because the Orange Order had frequently stated that they did not object to residents groups as such, but to some of the personnel involved. This excuse has been clearly exposed for what it was by the events at Cloughmills. Despite the intervention of the Mediation Network, the Orange leadership steadfastly refused to meet local residents or to negotiate directly. Despite this unhelpful attitude the Dunloy Parents and Residents' Association were prepared to participate in a mediation process and went a considerable way towards trying to reach an accommodation. They agreed to an immediate Orange parade followed by three more parades during the course of the summer. They even removed their objection to the participation of the Dunloy Accordion Band who had participated in the protests against Catholics attending mass at the Harryville Church, Ballymena.

"There can be no question now of any Orange parades in Dunloy until such time as the Orange Order reverses its policy of rejecting negotiations. To do so would be to allow public policy to be determined by extremist groups like the Spirit of Drumcree and to have triumphalist and sectarian parades forced through them. Whilst regretting the decision of the Antrim Orange Order and accepting the disappointment that will be felt by some Orangemen who genuinely want accomodation and agreement, it is our belief that this now resolves the issue of contention parades in Dunloy for the foreseeable future. Put bluntly. There wont be any."

***** Roisin McAliskey refused bail again ***** Despite what appears to be the collapsing prosecution case in Germany, the British legal authorities again refused bailed for Roisin McAliskey when she appeared before magistrates at London's Bow Street court on Wednesday (9 April). Roisin, because of her ill-health, was only able to attend the court in a wheel-chair. This is due to the advice of her doctor as she suffers pain in both her legs which are swollen. She also suffers from bad cramp pains which are aggravated by her pregnancy.

In her submission for bail solicitor Gareth Peirce said that Ms McAliskey's medical condition had deteriorated as well as the fact that the evidence against her in Germany was collapsing. The court hearing was also picketed by members of the Irish political prisoners campaign Fuascailt. In a statement published in the Irish News a spokesperson said: "With the collapse of the case in Germany and with her baby due soon, the Irish community both here in Britain and around the world, human rights campaigns and all those people interested in justice, feel that Roisin McAliskey should be released on bail pending a full court case into her extradition"

Also five members of the US congress have written to the British ambassador in Washington urging bail for Roisin. In their letter they said: "There is growing concern that this treatment is being meted out vindictively because of her mother's role in criticising human rights abuses in Northern Ireland. " After referring to the evidence that the main prosecution witness in German has said that he could not identify McAliskey, the five congressmen went onto say: "Surely under such circumstances your government would not wish to have its international reputation sullied by continuing culpability in jeopardising the health of Roisin McAliskey or her unborn child. The five congressmen are Ben Gilman, Peter King, Tom Manton, Richard Neal and James Walsh.

This coming week Roisin will be having a medical examination on Monday and the report will be translated and sent to Germany on the same day. Elke Nill, the lawyer representing Roisin in Germany will present the report to Herr Morre, who is the head of Germany's prosecution team based in Karslruhe. Later in the week there will be a joint press statement from Gareth Peirce and Elke Nill.

Also a German language version of the petition for Roisin McAliskey which has been drafted by the Roisin McAliskey Support Group in San Francisco will be available shortly and will be posted on our Roisin webpages as soon as it is available. It will be addressed to the appropriate German authorities.

***** Peter McBride's killers to be released? ***** There is a widespread belief amongst human rights workers in Northern Ireland that Patrick Mayhew will shortly order the release of the two killers of Peter McBride, a young Belfast teenager who was shot dead by British soldiers in 1992. McBride was unarmed and had been stopped by a British Army patrol before he was shot dead by two members of the patrol.

According to press reports in both the Irish Times and the Irish News, Mayhew, who will be leaving his post as Northern Ireland Secretary of State on 2 May, will shortly receive recommendations from Prison Service Officials reviewing the case of two British soldiers. Both soldiers who convicted of the murder in a Diplock Tribunal and were sentenced to life imprisonment. Evidence at the trial showed how McBride had been shot in the back by both soldiers and after they had been specifically ordered not to shoot. However the soldiers were granted a judicial review saying that the Life Sentence Review Board should look at their case and their recommendations are expected to be with Mayhew shortly.

In a statement issued by Paul O'Connor of the Pat Finucane Centre he said:

"Once again it is clear that the British Government is determined to continue its policy of early release for British soldiers convicted of murder and allowing them to rejoin their army regiments. This policy is racist and is clearly designed to undermine a fundamental principle of the rule of law which is that everybody is subject to the law and should be treated equitable under it. At a time when British people have been expressing considerable anguish at the suffering of horses due to the postponement of the Grand National at Aintree, Liverpool, it is probably too much to expect that a similar amount of regard should be expressed for human life destroyed wantonly and needlessly by British soldiers. In Ireland over the past twenty five years when soldiers commit unlawful killing they are rarely charged or subsequently convicted of murder, something which has only happened on four occasions. They are then released shortly after conviction and allowed to return to their regiments as heroes. There is no other appropriate way of describing this policy but as one of racism."

***** Support grows for Loyalist convicted of murder ***** In the week that his appeal against a murder conviction began, two public representatives who have been active in support of human rights cases in the North have lent their support to Christopher Sheals, a 30-year old loyalist from Glengormley. Sheals was convicted of involvement in the brutal murder of Margaret Wright, a 31 year old Protestant woman who was killed in a band hall that was controlled by the Red Hand Commando, a small loyalist paramilitary organisation with connections to the larger UVF.

In a statement Chris Mullin, hoping to be re-elected a Labour MP on 1st May and whose book on the Birmingham Six helped to secure their release, said that he was supporting Sheals because "we are still sending people away for life on the basis of uncorroborated confessions in police custody. I had thought that one of the lessons we learned from the big miscarriages of justices was that we no longer accepted such confessions which are repudiated the moment a suspect emerges from custody. I regard this case as litmus test of whether anything has changed for the better."

Sheals has also been supported by Patricia McKenna, the Green MEP who has written to Tanaiste Dick Spring. In her letter to Spring she said: "I believe that this case raises serious issues about the administration of justice in Northern Ireland." She went onto say that Sheals was convicted " without any concrete evidence being presented to the courts linking him directly with the beating and/or murder of Ms Wright."

***** Unionist candidates for Derry announced ***** Gregory Campbell, the leader of the Democratic Unionist party on Derry City Council, in a surprise move, has announced that he will be contesting the East Derry seat in the UK elections which take place on Thursday, 1 May. The outgoing MP for East Derry, and favourite to hold the seat, is Willie Ross, a member of the Ulster Unionist party. The DUP candidate for Foyle will be William Hay, who is also a member of Derry City Council and former Mayor of the City. He will be contesting to secure the Unionist vote against Eileen Bell of the Alliance party. Both the Ulster Unionist party and the Ulster Democratic Party have announced that they will not be contesting Foyle.

Also it has been announced that Alistair Simpson will be the only Unionist candidate standing on the West Bank of Derry in the Derry City Council elections which will take place in the middle of next month. Simpson who is the Governor of the Apprentice Boys Association recently survived an attempt by some members of the Fountain partnership to remove him from the committee, will have the support of both the DUP and the UUP. At the last election in 1993 the last sitting Unionist on the West Bank of the Foyle lost his seat. Simpson is not expected to win a seat because his confrontational style is unlikely to encourage transfers by non-unionist voters.

***** Life means life ***** A Northern Ireland Judge has upheld the right of the British Home Secretary to impose a ruling that life should mean life in the case of two IRA prisoners Paul Kavanagh and Thomas Quigley. Both Kavanagh and Quigley, who are both from West Belfast, were sentenced to life imprisonment at the Old Bailey in 1985 for three killings in London.

Both Kavanagh and Quigley were transferred to Northern Ireland in 1994 but only on the basis of a "temporary transfer" which means that rules governing remission which operate in Northern Ireland do not apply to them.

***** Derry Sinn Fein members have appeals upheld ***** Eight members of Sinn Fein in Derry have successfully had their convictions quashed following disturbances in the city when British prime minister John Major attempted to visit the city two years ago. Amongst those who had their convictions quashed were councillor Mary Nelis and PRO Dominic Doherty. The eight were amongst those arrested following clashes between citizens of Derry and members of the RUC when the RUC attacked demonstrators who were protesting at a visit of the British prime minister whose visit to the city's Tower Museum had to be postponed until the streets were cleared.

In his ruling over turning the conviction Mr Justice Markey made comments which implied that RUC witnesses were being less than truthful in their evidence. In his judgement on Mary Nelis's appeal, Markey said that it was difficult to see how councillor Nelis could have been kicking or "moving her legs in all directions" as alleged if she had been seated in protest.

***** Defence solicitor denied access to key document ***** A British government "gagging order" has been placed on a key document which could help prove the innocence of Belfast man Billy Gorman, according to a report in the Irish News on Friday (11 April), The document - the report of an inquiry into Gorman's conviction of murdering an RUC officer in the 1970s - is the subject of a Public Interest Immunity Certificate believed to have been ordered by the British Attorney General. The report is the result of an investigation into police questioning and controversial note-taking techniques at Castlereagh Holding Centre. A copy of the report was sent to the Director of Public Prosecutions but no prosecution was recommended.

Public Interest Immunity Certificates are normally used to prevent disclosure of security forces' covert operations. In recent years they have been used mainly at inquests to conceal the identity of police and military personnel likely to be called as witnesses to controversial "shoot-to-kill" incidents.

***** Low wages in Derry highlighted ***** Paddy Logue, the spokesperson for the Derry-based Campaign for Decent Wages, has called for renewed efforts to have a minimum wage established in Northern Ireland. He was speaking at the AGM of the Campaign which was held on Wednesday (9 April) in the city. He said that the British Labour party is committed to the principle of a minimum wage and will set up a commission to work out exactly what the rate should be. "It is a sad reflection of the depressed state of the local economy that the figure stlg4.29p considered a minimum wage in London, would be considered generous by many local workers. The Campaign for Decent Wages will continue to highlight the degree and extent to which Derry is the low pay capital of Britain and Ireland. Links are being formed between Derry, Strabane and Letterkenny to strengthen the fight back against this injustice. Concern about the interrelated problems of unemployment, poverty and low pay and a determination to do something about them are the only requirements for membership of the campaign."

Paddy Logue's comments were reinforced by the publication of a report published by the Northern Ireland Anti-Poverty Action Network entitled "All Work and Low Pay: the case for a statutory minimum wage in Northern Ireland". The report shows that one in four people in Northern Ireland stand to get a pay rise if a minimum wage is introduced. The report also shows that in Northern Ireland workers earn on average 20% less than their British counterpart even though some basic essentials like electricity cost more. Indeed the report suggests that the north is significantly worse off than Britain in many respects. For example, 25% of Northern Ireland homes earn less than stlg125 a week compared to just over 20% in England. (The figure for Wales is 28%). However other factors suggest that Northern Ireland is the most impoverished part of the UK. Northern Ireland has an unemployment rate of 11% compared to the UK average of 8%. (These are Government figures and therefore should be treated with a high degree of caution as they significantly underestimate the levels of unemployment in both Britain and Northern Ireland). The North has the highest adjusted mortality rate of 11.65 per one thousand as compared with the UK average of 10.69. It has the lowest gross domestic product per person of stlg8,025 as compared with the UK average of stlg9,768. Weekly earnings for men and women are the lowest for any region of the UK.

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