(en) PFC news from Ireland

Struggle in Ireland (irl_strug@geocities.com)
Tue, 27 May 1997 13:13:13 +0000


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Updates on Ireland from Derry's Pat Finucane Centre Sunday, 25th May 1997

***** Harryville Protests at Chapel ***** Four people were injured following continuing loyalist protests outside Harryville Catholic chapel in Ballymena Co Antrim on Saturday evening, May 23. The protests, now in their 40 week, are an attempt to force villagers in nearby Dunloy to allow an Orange parade through the nationalist area. Since September 1996 massgoers can only enter the chapel under the protection of a large force of RUC. The situation turned ugly on Saturday evening when the newly elected councillor from Paisley's Democratic Unionist Party, Davy Tweed, and representives from the Belfast based Ormeau Residents Demand Equal Rights (ORDER) showed up at the scene. ORDER is an extreme loyalist grouping demanding the right to march through the nationalist Lower Ormeau Road in Belfast. The clashes were witnessed by members of a German peace group and the Pat Finucane Centre. The German group are in the North on a fact finding tour as guests of the Centre. Much has been written about the ongoing intimidation of massgoers at Harryville but it is difficult to imagine the reality of sitting in a quiet chapel while a large crowd stand outside shouting sectarian insults, singing loyalist songs and baying for blood. The final ceremony of the mass was accompanied by chants and insults from the crowd outside. As this writer left the chapel with the German delegation an RUC riot squad had formed up and was pushing a crowd of several hundred loyalists from the railings and roadway surrounding the chapel to enable massgoers to leave the area. The usual exit route was blocked, stones and bottles were being thrown and some individuals were standing on the railings shouting vile abuse at worshippers, none of whom responded. Following an RUC baton charge incidents continued for some 45 minutes after which the loyalist mob attacked workmen in a nearby housing estate and burnt their vehicles. Earlier this week the homes of a number of RUC men in Ballymena were attacked by loyalists angered that an Orange parade had been stopped the previous Sunday in Dunloy. (see news update 16.5)

It is no coincidence that this sectarian intimidation is taking place in the constituency of the Rev Ian Paisley. The presence on Saturday of one of his councillors was a clear indication of support for the protests which have been condemned by the Unionist Mayor of Ballymena and the Grand Master of the Orange Order, Robert Saulters.

***** Roisin McAliskey granted limited bail ***** Roisin McAliskey has been granted conditional bail from Holloway prison and transferred to the nearby Whittington Hospital following a High Court decision in London.

Under the bail conditions, Roisin will have to reside in a secure room in the maternity wing of the hospital. Newspaper sources (e.g. in today's Sunday Tribune, suggest that medical staff believe that the baby which is underweight was likely to be born tomorrow (Monday) or Tuesday. Roisin is being accompanied by her partner and her mother, Bernadette McAliskey.

It is expected that bail conditions will be reviewed after the birth depending on the baby's health. Roisin suffers from asthma and has a difficult pregnancy. Doctors say that the her baby weighs around five pounds.

The British and Irish Human Rights Centre in London has alleged that Roisin had suffered a panic attack in prison following threats from staff that her baby would be artificially induced tomorrow and that she would only be brought to hospital for the final stages of labour.

In a statement Roisin's MP, Martin McGuinness said

"The British authorities should now remove any restrictions attached to her bail so that she can also mentally prepare herself for what should be one of the most joyful events in the life of any woman. As Roisin's MP I will be writing to the British Minister concerned and also the German authorities urging that they both take the opportunity to end the inhuman treatment which Roisin McAliskey has been subjected to and who has already served the equivalent of a two year prison sentence without either the British or the German authorities producing even a shred of evidence of wrong doing against her."

***** Orange Parades Update ***** During the week there were a number of developments in the controversy surrounding orange parades. At the beginning of the week John Hume, leader of the SDLP, announced that he had met with the Grand Master of the Orange Order, Robert Saulters, and would be convening a meeting between the Orange Order and representatives of the Garvaghy Road residents in Portadown in an attempt to avoid a repetition of the stand-off at Drumcree. (see summer 1996 updates) The news that the Orange Order were willing to meet with residents came as a shock but within hours the phones were"ringing hot" at Orange HQ in Belfast. Saulters claimed that he had never agreed to meet with the Garvaghy Road Residents Coalition. Within twenty four hours however a more concillatory statement from the Order suggested that mediators may have a role to play. In the confusion that followed, John Hume and David Trimble, leader of the Ulster Unionist Party, met and agreed that Trimble would approach the Orange Order while Hume would discuss the situation with the Residents Coalition. Brendan MacClionnaith, spokesperson for the residents, was elected as an Independent candidate to Craigavon council in this weeks local council elections. Political commentators have questioned Hume's premature announcement of a breakthrough on the Drumcree issue which caused a backlash from the right wing of the Orange Order against the Grand Master. Cynical observers attribute the timing of the SDLP leader's press statement to the local elections two days later and the need to upatage Sinn Fein whose two new MP's were on a highly publicised visit to Westminister where they were denied an office in the House of Commons. (see last update)

A further political storm greeted the decision by the new Secretary of State, Mo Mowlon, to visit resident's groups in three of the areas affected by contentious parades, Dunloy Co Antrim, Garvaghy Road in Portadown, and the Lower Ormeau Road in Belfast. Unionists went ballistic over the visits to groups that they have refused to recognise or negotiate with. It would appear that the new Labour government may indeed be attempting to seriously address some of the more contentious issues. Time will tell. Drumcree III is only weeks away.

***** Prisoners transferred ***** In a welcome development it has been announced that two Irish prisoners, Danny Mc Namee from Crossmaglen and Liam Mc Cotter from Belfast are to be transferred from Special Security Units (SSU) in British jails to Maghaberry Prison here in Ireland. Concerns have been expressed for some time about the physical and mental health of those held in Special Security Units. Closed visits involving strip searches were introduced in the Units more than two years ago and Irish prisoners refused visits as a protest. Many have not seen their families in over two years as a result. The Irish Foreign minister, Dick Spring, called the transfers "an important step towards resolving the serious concerns about prisoner issues which have inhibited the building of confidence." One of those to be transferred, Danny Mc Namee, is at the centre of a clear miscarraige of justice. His case is outlined on the home page of this site along with a link to the latest Amnesty International report on SSU's. Please download and distribute.

***** Human Rights Watch Report ***** The influential human rights body, Human Rights Watch/Helsinki Watch will release a hard hitting report on human rights in the North of Ireland this week at press conferences in London on May 29 and Belfast on May 30. The report will call for the repeal of emergency legislation, closure of Castlereagh Interrogation Centre, the banning of plastic bullets and an inquiry into the murder of Pat Finucane among other recommendations. The report also highlights human rights violations by the IRA and loyalist paramilitaries. The centre has been sent a copy of the report but since it is press embargoed until Thursday we will not release further deatails until the next update. Readers should note that the Lawyers Committee for Human Rights have also released an excellent book titled At The Crossroads : Human Rights and the Northern Ireland Peace Process The Lawyers Committee can be contacted at:

330 Seventh Avenue, 10th floor, New York 10001 USA tel: (212) 629 6170 fax (212) 967 0916

http://www.lchr.org

***** Scots Guards Renew Appeal ***** On Tuesday May 20 lawyers for two Scots Guardsmen serving life sentences for the murder of Belfast man Peter Mc Bride were granted leave to appeal the decision not to review their life sentences until October of this year. The judge granted leave to review the case again on May 30. A high profile campaign led by British Establishment figures has sought the release of the two British soldiers on the grounds that they "were only doing their duty" in shooting a young Belfast father of two in the back. The centre has supported the family of Peter Mc Bride who have argued that it is unjust to release the two after less than four years since to do so again devalues an Irish life. Full details of the case are posted on the home page and we would urge letters of protest to British Embassies and the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Dr Mo Mowlom. Contact details are available.

*******

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.

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