(en) Updates on Ireland from Derry's Pat Finucane Centre

Struggle in Ireland (irl_strug@geocities.com)
Mon, 19 May 1997 14:07:45 +0000

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Updates on Ireland from Derry's Pat Finucane Centre Sunday 18 May 1997

***** Bellaghy Murder *****

The loyalist murder of Bellaghy man Sean Brown on Monday 16 May has traumatised the south Derry rural community. The chairman of the local Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA) and 61 year old father of six was abducted from outside the clubhouse late on Monday night. He was found shot dead beside his burning car some 10 miles away in Randalstown in Co Antrim. The death sent shock waves throughout the GAA, the largest sporting body in Ireland.

As his burial took place the new British Prime Minister Tony Blair saw fit to praise loyalist paramilitaries for their 'formal' maintenance of their ceasefire. The Combined Loyalist Military Command has officially maintained a ceasefire while 'constituent' elements, according to the RUC Chief Constable, continue to bomb and murder. This has given rise to what has been called a 'No claim, no blame' strategy. No one claims murders such as that of Sean Brown allowing the loyalist parties to remain in the political process while Sinn Fein is barred.

It is believed that the Loyalist Volunteer Force (LVF) are responsible for many of the attacks of the past months. The LVF is made up of allegedly disaffected UVF and UDA members. A question mark hangs over just how disaffected these men are from the leadership.

Meanwhile a Catholic woman in Carnmoney outside Belfast narrowly escaped death when her house was machine-gunned on Sunday night 11 May by loyalists. The woman, who is seven months pregnant, dived to the floor when shots were fired through the living room window. Her two children were asleep upstairs. The husband has called on the British government to admit that the loyalist ceasefire is de facto over.

Two nights later an attempt to murder a Catholic taxi driver in Milford Co Armagh failed when the assailant's gun jammed. The driver had been called to the house on false pretences. Sinn Fein have alleged that the man had been stopped at a security checkpoint two weeks earlier and told that he resembled a Sinn Fein councillor.

Ivan Hetherington, the young Protestant man savagely beaten in Derry in a sectarian attack (see last week's update) has been taken off a life support machine and is said to be making progress. Six men and boys have since been charged in connection with the incident in a remarkable burst of RUC activity not seen in the city during other sectarian incidents.

In further incidents during the past week sectarian attacks were carried out on Catholic homes in Larne, Co Antrim and on Protestant homes in the Dungannon area.

The family of Robert Hamill, the Catholic man from Portadown who died from injuries sustained in an attack by a loyalist gang (see May 11 update) have said that they have little faith in the inquiry announced last week by the Independent Commission on Police Complaints (ICPC). Robert and three friends were attacked yards from an RUC patrol who refused to intervene. The dead man's sister, Diane, said

"We don't feel that the ICPC is enough. What is the point in the RUC investigating themselves ?

She also questioned the misinformation emanating from the RUC press office as highlighted in last week's update.

"Why did they make that initial statement saying that Robert and my cousins were involved in rival gangs?"

***** Roisin to Give Birth this Week ***** Roisin Mc Alliskey is due to give birth this week! The Sinn Fein MP Martin Mc Guinness visited Roisin earlier in the week and reported her to be in "good spirits"despite the fact that she can only move about in a wheelchair. Amnesty International meanwhile have called on the British Government to "comply with the requirements of international standards" in the Mc Alliskey case.

***** RUC Recruitment of Catholics ***** As the marching season looms the spotlight again falls on the policing of contentious parades. With this in mind the Centre has obtained the latest statistics on Catholic membership of and recruitment to the RUC.

In 1996 a total of 36 Catholics were recruited to the RUC. Last year the Centre revealed that 27 Catholics were recruited in 1995 and 13 in 1994. Over a three year period in other words only 76 Catholics were recruited into the force.

Catholic membership of the RUC stood at 7.7 % in 1992 according to Hansard, the official parliamentary record. That has dropped to 7.5% in 1996 according to a recent report of Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary. For the first time the Centre has gained access to the actual statistical breakdown, by gender and religion, of RUC officers. The information was provided to the Standing Advisory Commission on Human Rights (SACHR) and has only ever been published in a thesis by Dr Graham Ellison of the University of Ulster entitled

"Professionalism in the RUC; Examination of the Institutional Discourse.

The table below is based on one which appears in that thesis. However the Centre takes responsibility for the percentages at the end of each table.

Rank Protestant Catholic Undeter- Female Overall mined Total Senior Officers 8 88.9% 1 11.1% 0 0.0% 0 0.0% 9 Chief Superintendent 19 86.4% 3 13.6% 0 0.0% 0 0.0% 22 Superintendent 107 82.3% 20 15.4% 2 1.5% 1 0.8%130 Chief Inspector 140 82.4% 21 12.3% 2 1.2% 7 4.1%170 Inspector 420 83.0% 48 9.5% 15 2.9% 23 4.5%506 Sergeant 1272 84.7% 112 7.5% 28 1.9% 90 5.9% 1502 Constable 5518 78.8% 484 6.9% 221 3.2% 778 11.1% 7001 Total 7484 80.1% 689 7.4% 268 2.9% 899 9.6% 9340

The figures reveal that the RUC could probably apply for Millenium funding since it will take well into the middle of the next century to redress the imbalance of Catholics and women in the force. Of 837 officers from the rank of Inspector upwards there are 31 women which perhaps explains the macho ethos within the RUC.

Worse still are the figures for the RUC Reserve. When the Centre requested recruitment statistics from the RUC last year we were provided with the 1994 and 1995 figures.We then realised that the term 'RUC' means one thing to RUC HQ and quite another to a human rights group like ourselves. In official parlance the term 'RUC' does not include the over three and a half thousand officers in the 'RUC Full or Part-Time Reserve'. Similarily the figures supplied to SACHR and to be found in Dr Ellisson's thesis do not include the RUC Full or Part-Time Reserve. And the reason? It is an open secret that the religious and gender balance within the RUC Reserve is even more embarrassing. Catholics are thought to make up less than 2% of the Reserve. Catholics make up some 43% of the population in the North.

***** Dunloy Parade Banned ***** An Apprentice Boys parade planned for the nationalist village of Dunloy, Co Antrim, late this afternoon has been banned by the RUC. In a statement the Dunloy Parents and Residents Group (DPRG) expressed regret at the continuing deadlock and acknowledged

"the right of the Loyal Orders to uphold their civil and religious liberties. However these have been repeatedly devalued by elements associated within the Loyal Orders who have used the media to abuse and insult our community".

A mediated agreement which would have allowed three church parades in the village was overturned by the local lodge which is dominated by Paisley's Democaratic Unionist Party (DUP). Two of the leading spokespersons for the Loyal Orders in the area, Davy Tweed and John Finlay, are candidates in next week's local elections for the DUP.

The extremist pressure group within the Orange Order, the Spirit of Drumcree, have resisted all attempts at mediated settlements of the parades issue. Loyalists from Belfast and Ballymena have promised to mobilise people to go to Dunloy and the situation is tense. Dunloy was besieged by over 2000 drunken Apprentice Boys last August who attempted to invade the isolated Catholic village following the main 'Boys parade in Derry. (see August updates)

The DPRG have asked the Centre to send observers to the village today, Sunday, and further updates will be posted later this evening.

***** Dunloy Parade Latest ***** -- Dunloy Sunday 7.30 pm

A deputation from the PFC has been observing events in the nationalist village of Dunloy today. After a tense afternoon the situation at Dunloy has now calmed. However we have seen bazaar behavior by the RUC. In the view of the local residents the RUC both showed bad faith and disastrously bad judgment.

-- Dunloy Under Siege

Dunloy felt like a village under siege. Members of various loyalist organisations were present at the point where the road through the village leaves the main Ballymena - Ballymoney road. This crowd included members of the Apprentice Boys, members of ORDER (the right wing loyalist pressure group from the Upper Ormeau Rd, Belfast) and Ian Paisley (the leader of the DUP, recently re-elected as MP). At times the road into the village was blocked by more than sixty RUC Landrovers (armoured RUC vehicles - typically carrying 4-6 heavily armed RUC personnel in riot gear).

Despite having banned the march (as reported above) the RUC this afternoon set about trying to persuade the local residents that they should agree to a "walk" by the Apprentice Boys to the Orange Hall in the village.

-- Negotiations and bad faith

Negotiations ensued between the Dunloy Parents and Residents Group (DPRG) and the RUC. (Pat Finucane Centre observers were invited to sit in on these talks.) The DPRG insisted that they had no objection to the Apprentice Boys driving up to the Orange Hall (in cars and busses and having their church service. However they expressed doubts about the RUC suggestion, asking them how to distinguish between a "walk" and a march.

While the negotiations between the DPRG and a middle ranking RUC officer were in progress, the main road through the village was suddenly blocked by five RUC armoured Landrovers. This trapped a crowd of local residents in the middle of the street. Members of the RUC in full riot gear appeared.

It seemed that the RUC were setting themselves up to baton the local residents off the street in order to force the banned march through. Members of the worlds media were looking on.

For several minutes there was a stand-off between the RUC and the local residents. Then scuffles broke out and one man was arrested. He was subsequently released after a member of PFC suggested that this might calm the situation.

The RUC left themselves no option but to withdraw. Meanwhile the loyalists held their "church service" at the main road. The crowd began to disperse at about 8.00 pm, when amongst others Ian Paisley left the scene.

-- Dismay

The local residents have expressed their dismay that the local media (for example Ulster Television) have reported that the residents:

"blocked the path of the loyalists trying to reach a church service".

They have pointed out that not only was the march banned but that it was the activities of the RUC which exacerbated the situation to the point where the road was blocked.

The centers web page is at http://www.serve.com/pfc/ the text below is from this

What is the PFC

The Pat Finucane Centre is based in Derry, Ireland. The Centre advocates human rights and encourages political development and social change in Ireland. The centre promotes a nonviolent ethos and actively works to build alliances with groups and individuals within the radical and progressive wings of Irish politics. The centre believes that the attainment of human, political cultural and economic rights can only be achieved within the context of active self determination involving all the Irish people.

The Name of the PFC

The PFC is named in memory of Pat Finucane, a human rights lawyer from Belfast who was murdered in front of his wife and children on 12 February 1989 by the pro-British UDA. Pat had successfully challenged the British Government over several important human rights cases. One of those involved in his murder, Brian Nelson, was working for British Military Intelligence.

            Struggle in Ireland

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