Irish Blog Whacked

Monday, November 12, 2012



Padraic Wilson, a former leader of IRA prisoners at Long Kesh jail and now a senior Sinn Féin figure, was released on bail on Tuesday after the party strongly protested a court decision to remand him on IRA membership charges.
The 53-year-old was held in connection with alleged meetings of Provisional IRA members arising from the stabbing death east Belfast man Robert McCartney in 2005.
The decision to charge Wilson with membership of the IRA, and addressing a meeting in support of the IRA, was greeted with surprise in Belfast. But Friday’s decision by District Judge Fiona Bagnall to refuse him bail -- consigning him to Maghaberry prison, and the company of either loyalist killers or disgruntled republican ‘dissidents’ -- caused shockwaves at Stormont.
The charges stem from alleged meetings held following a fatal knife-fight outside a city centre bar seven year ago Mr McCartney’s family accused Provisional IRA members of being involved in the incident.
Mr McCartney’s sisters and his former partner now claim that they subsequently met an individual known to them as ‘Padraig’, who said he was a member of the IRA Army Council, and was willing to help them. They believe that they have now discovered his full identity through internet searching, and called for his arrest. He is not accused of any other involvement in the McCartney incident.
In a hand-written statement, he has denied ever being an IRA member or having any involvement in an investigation into the McCartney murder.
Although no-one was ever convicted of the knife attack in which their brother died, the sisters’ high-profile media campaign brought international political pressure for the Provisional IRA to disband. Now Wilson’s arrest, seven years later, has dramatically raised the possibility of retrospective or historical charges against Sinn Féin figures.
Hundreds of party supporters gathered to protest on Monday in defence of a man who now works for the organisation as a political manager. A number of senior Sinn Féin members attended the protests, including Bobby Storey, Sean ‘Spike’ Murray, former Stormont minister Caitriona Ruane, West Belfast assembly member Pat Sheehan and South Belfast assembly member Alex Maskey.
Sinn Féin Policing Board member Gerry Kelly described the decision to charge the 53-year-old with IRA membership as “politically motivated”. He said party members felt “palpable anger” at the arrest, but did not say he would walk away from the Policing Board, an oversight panel which regularly holds meetings with PSNI chief Matt Baggott.
“We are in there to make a difference, we are trying to make that difference, it has made it very difficult in the Policing Board and indeed on the issue of policing and that is far as I will go at this particular point,” he said.
He described the decision to arrest Wilson as “bizarre” and “political”.
“You will remember he (Wilson) was in charge in [the H-Blocks] around the time of the Good Friday Agreement,” he said.
“He was one of the key people who brought prisoners along, he continued that work when he got out within Sinn Féin and continued it right up to his arrest in terms of supporting the political process and peace process.”
Mr Kelly suggested that some PSNI members are involved in “anti-peace process activities”.
“These are the people who have been fighting against the new beginning to policing,” he said.
“Over a very long time you can see these people in the retire and rehire scandal, you can see them in their reaction to the McGurk’s Bar investigation and you can see them in terms of [controversial British police agency] SOCA and all these other anti-peace process activities.”
During a subsequent hearing at the High Court the following day, party colleague Mitchel McLaughlin argued that Wilson had played a key role in the peace process and been part of delegations that met with the 26 County, British and US governments.
Bail continued to be opposed by the prosecution, due to an alleged risk of interference with witnesses, but they admitted there was no evidence to support the claim.
Neil Fox, defending, attacked the strength of the case. “The identification process has been where Google searches took place. That in itself is objectionable,” he said.
Bail was granted by the High Court’s Justice Horner, who ordered Mr Wilson to report to the PSNI twice a week.

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Duffy to challenge ongoing PSNI harassment

Lurgan republican Colin Duffy is to sue the PSNI for unlawful arrest after a judge ordered his release from custody following his latest detention last week.
Judge Gemma Loughran released Mr Duffy and another man on Sunday evening after the PSNI refused to disclose alleged “intelligence”. The men were arrested on Friday in connection with the shooting death of senior prison official David Black.
Lawyer Kevin Winters said the two men would be “issuing High Court civil actions for damages for wrongful arrest and unlawful detention”. It will be Duffy’s second legal challenge to illegal detentions, as another case of his is set to go before the European Court of Human Rights.
Mr Duffy has been a routine target of Crown force harassment throughout his adult life, and a victim of a miscarriage of justice and a litany of wrongful arrests. In 1999, his defence lawyer Rosemary Nelson was assassinated.
Earlier this year, and after almost three years held without bail, he was finally acquitted of the 2009 ‘Real IRA’ attack on Massereene army barracks. He had been held in PSNI custody for a record 13 days before being charged in connection with that attack, in respect of which his lawyers are now taking a case to the European Court of Human Rights.
Speaking after his release on Sunday, he said: “They may come back and arrest me again but the court has ruled that without evidence my arrest was unlawful.
“And that will remain the case as there will never be any evidence, because I had no involvement whatsoever. I was told that I was being arrested as a result of intelligence but not told what that intelligence was.”
He said the PSNI “seem to think they can do what they want”.
“Even when directed by the court they refused to present us with this alleged intelligence,” he said.
“Obviously the general inference that will be drawn from my arrest is that I am in some way guilty and there are people who would like for that to be the inference. But I did not have any involvement in the offences for which I was arrested.”
Asked if he had been arrested as an opportunistic ‘fishing exercise’ for information by the PSNI, he said: “I wouldn’t even class it as a fishing exercise. The only reason for my arrest is that I am a republican from that general area.”
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Prisoner beaten at Maghaberry

A republican prisoner has sustained multiple injuries in what was described as a “savage” attack by prison warders at Maghaberry Prison.
Tony Taylor, a leading member of the Republican Network for Unity (RNU) was being taken to Derry Courthouse, where supporters had been hopeful he would be released at a court hearing due to a lack of evidence to hold him.
But as he was about to leave the prison, a ‘strip search’ turned into a severe beating at the hands of warders, and he was left with broken bones in his hand and wrist.
An eight-strong prison riot team are understood to have smashed his face into the side of a prison van, and held him down while he was kicked and punched. His handcuffed hands were twisted up his back, leaving him with broken bones in his hand and wrist.
As he was being taken to a hospital, and despite his injuries and considerable pain, he was again subjected to a forced strip-search.
Members of the RNU believe the beating was a vindictive response to a fatal gun attack against prison warder David Black last week, and timed to ensure that Mr Taylor would not be released.
“It is our belief that prison officers were aware that Tony was on the verge of release; the day of his last hearing coincided with the death of David Black and on that occasion anger on the faces of prison officers surrounding Tony was apparent.
“RNU were concerned from that point on that Tony would bear the brunt of their aggression.
“This morning it appears that Maghaberry staff did in fact take their aggression out on a lone, vulnerable protesting prisoner, and as a result he was denied the opportunity to face court and gain his rightful freedom.
“RNU again call for an immediate end to barbaric Strip Searching procedures in Maghaberry prison, and for the release of Tony Taylor.”

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Sinn Féin calls for release of Price, McGeough

Sinn Féin party president Gerry Adams and Six-County Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness have written to US political leaders urging them to support calls to free Marian Price from prison.
They have urged Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Congressman Peter King, who chairs the Congressional Friends of Ireland, and Richard Neal of the Friends of Ireland committee to lobby the Dublin and London governments.
In their letter Mr McGuinness and Mr Adams said her human rights had been breached amid concerns she is not fit to stand trial. Mr Adams was travelling to the US this week to lobby for support of Sinn Féin’s campaign for border poll, a proposed Six-County ballot on Irish reunification.
“Mrs Price McGlinchey has been held in virtual solitary confinement since her arrest in May 2011 and is very ill,” they said.
Ms Price’s condition has deteriorated to the point of hospitalisation as a result of being held in isolation, firstly at Maghaberry [all male] Prison and subsequently at Hydebank Women’s Prison.
In their letter Mr Adams and Mr McGuinness described the imprisonment of Marian Price, who is also known by her married name McGlinchey, as “a serious case of injustice and denial of human rights and judicial rights in the North of Ireland.”
“Marian Price McGlinchey has been held in virtual solitary confinement by the British Government since her arrest in May 2011,” they wrote.
“Sinn Féin is very concerned about the manner and conditions in which Mrs Price McGlinchey has been detained.
“We believe that her detention is unjust and runs contrary to the principles of natural justice.
“She has been detained without trial on the basis of secret reports by British intelligence agencies.
“Everyone is entitled to due process and to a fair trial. Mrs Price McGlinchey has been denied this, representing, in our view, a serious breach of her human rights...
“We believe very strongly that Marian Price McGlinchey should be released. Her human rights have been breached. She has been denied justice and due process. She is seriously ill. Her detention undermines the justice system and the political process. She clearly presents no threat to anyone.”
ASSEMBLY ‘SPITE’Sinn Féin also backed former party leadership figure turned independent, Gerry McGeough during a bitter debate on the high-profile republican at the Stormont Assembly this week.
After standing for election as an independent to the Assembly in 2007, Mr McGeough was suddenly arrested in connection with an IRA gun attack dating from 1981, and returned to jail.
Sinn Féin said McGeough’s incarceration was political and unjustified.
Speaking on a unionist motion in support of Mr McGeough’s alleged target in 1981, former British [UDR] soldier Samuel Brush who is now a DUP councillor, Sinn Féin’s Mitchel McLaughlin said Mr McGeough should have been protected from arrest by the 1998 Good Friday Agreement and the 2001 Weston Park Agreement.
“It is a matter of record and indeed long before he was rearrested he made clear his support for the peace process, he made clear that his war was over and that we were in a post-conflict scenario so his entitlement under the Weston Park Agreement (2001) was quite flagrantly set aside,” he said.
DUP leader Peter Robinson described Mr McGeough as “a bloody and evil terrorist who sought in a cowardly fashion to take the life of a public servant”.
Dungannon and South Tyrone Council, of which Mr Brush is a member, last month joined a number of other councils across Ireland that have called for Mr McGeough’s release. The motion infuriated the DUP and prompted this week’s Assembly motion, which passed with the support of the main unionist parties.
In a response from Maghaberry, Mr McGeough said the “surrealism” that pervades the Stormont Assembly had been “laid bare”.
“As the paragons of the DUP engaged in a pointless hour-and-a-half-long hate-filled sectarian tirade against me, more than 320 job losses were being announced in Ballymena, one of the North’s last Unionist strongholds.
“In their sad, pathetic attempts to demonise me, Unionist politicians were in reality deflecting attention from the fact that they are utterly useless... The Irish Protestants of Ulster deserve better leadership than the weak, bitter, Peter Robinson or the quasi-hysterical, spiteful and largely incompetent [DUP Minister] Arlene Foster can ever offer.”
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 Irish Republican News · November 2, 2012

Maghaberry crisis turns fatal

The shooting of a senior British prison official has drawn attention to the conflict in the north of Ireland and the increasingly bitter dispute over the treatment of republican prisoners at Maghaberry jail.
A well-planned ambush on a remote stretch of the M1 motorway resulted in the death of Maghaberry warder David Black yesterday [Thursday] morning. Black had been involved in the torture and abuse of republican prisoners since as far back as the 1980 hunger strike.
Although no organisation has claimed responsibility for the attack, there had been warnings over the years of an IRA response to the abuses of republican prisoners, chiefly by the Continuity IRA.
A government backlash today saw PSNI raids and arrests in Lurgan, County Armagh where the vehicle involved in the attack was said to have been found. Former internee Colin Duffy, who spent almost three years behind bars on IRA charges before finally being cleared in January this year, was one of two men detained.
Sinn Fein and the rest of the political establishment at Stormont have strongly condemned the attack.
“The killing of a prison officer yesterday is wrong,” said Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams. “There is no future in such actions which are rejected by the entire community, North and South.”
He said the organisations that are politically associated with the armed groups had “no popular support or political strategy”.
“On the contrary they play into the hands of those in the British system who are opposed to the peace process and to its potential for achieving a united Ireland.
“These groups must be challenged. The media has a responsibility to ask these organisations where they stand on actions such as Thursday’s murder.”
The attack was also condemned by the DUP, the PSNI Chief Matt Baggott, British Prime Minister David Cameron and 26-County Taoiseach Enda Kenny.
But it drew little sympathy in hardline republican areas of the North. A ‘screw’ who had played an oppressive and mercenary role for the British Crown -- from the original blanket protest and the hunger strikes of Long Kesh, up to the current no-wash protest at HMP Maghaberry -- was seen as a casualty of the war he had engaged in.
Black, who was also a prominent member of the anti-Catholic Orange Order, was the 30th member of the British prison system to be killed in Ireland since 1974.
PROTEST ARRESTThe attack took place just days after a series of international protests were organised by Republican Sinn Fein in protest at the abuse and criminalisation of republican prisoners.
At one picket in Lurgan last weekend, the RSF Ard Chomhairle member Cait Treanor was arrested and taken to Hydebank women’s prison in Belfast.
In March, Treanor was fined for ‘participating in and organising’ a march through Lurgan in January 2011 in support of Martin Corey, interned without trial in Maghaberry since 2010. Treanor refused to pay the fine of 700 euro imposed on her and so was arrested and jailed. She is expected to be released after two weeks.
Pickets also took place throughout Europe, in Canada and in the US to call for the restoration of political status and an end to the strip- searching and controlled movement of the prisoners.
Dieter Blumenfeld, spokesperson of the organising committee, said: “More than 30 years after the H-Block Hunger strikes ended, Irish prisoners are once again forced to protest for their rights. Some of these men are on dirty-protest for more than a year. Injustice in Ireland is growing.
“Marian Price and Martin Corey are both interned for more than a year and an Irishman held in a Lithuanian jail is denied his basic human rights.
“Only international pressure can be successful in the campaign to support the Irish Republican prisoners.”
There were protests in 11 countries on 3 continents. One of the protests, a vigil organised by Irish republicans of the “Maghaberry Awareness Group St. Pauli” in Hamburg was broken up by German police.
PRISONERS’ STATEMENTThe following message was sent from the group of RSF-aligned republican prisoners at Maghaberry to the protests:
“Greetings from the Republican Prisoners in Maghaberry jail to the activists, supporters and participants of the International Day of Action for Irish Republican Prisoners of War 2012.
“We, the Republican Prisoners of War incarcerated in Maghaberry prison camp, wish to send greetings to those assembled all over the world today protesting on our behalf.
“At present we are engaged in a ‘dirty protest’ to end the archaic practice of strip searching and 23-hour lock-down, and to secure conditions befitting of Prisoners of War. The age-old British policy of criminalisation of Irish Republican prisoners is in full swing in Maghaberry and as always we, as Republicans, will oppose this in anyway we can.
“We have been on this current phase of protest now for over 18 months and we see little movement from our captors. The conditions we endure are far from humane or acceptable, yet we will continue in our struggle until our demands are met. We have a duty to all Republicans and to those prisoners who may follow us.
“We find ourselves incarcerated due to British rule in Ireland and are part of the broader struggle for Irish independence. We take heart from gatherings such as this, that Irish Republicanism is alive and vibrant, kept alive by people like you. As Republican Prisoners of War we will not shy away from our duty and we salute all those in Ireland and abroad who work towards the independence of Ireland by any means necessary.”The support we have received from those across the world makes us more determined and resolute, we are indeed grateful for such support, and ask for your continued support and activism on our behalf.
“We applaud those of you who take to the streets all over the world in protest at the detention of true Republicans.
“We will continue to resist all attempts by the British government to criminalise us and our struggle and with your continued support we are confident of victory.
“Onwards to the Republic!
“Signed O/C Maghaberry Gaol
“October 2012”