Ireland News Update

Saturday 29 March 1997

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Contents

Dramatic new developments in the case of Roisin McAliskey

Anger as British Army shoot Coalisland teenager

Chaos as Orangemen meet to discuss Dunloy

Bloody Sunday marchers libelled

More punitive regime in Long Kesh

Delay in the case of Danny McNamee

Report exposes depth of poverty in Derry

Ireland News Update over Easter.

Dramatic new developments in the case of Roisin McAliskey

There has been a significant development in Germany with regard to the case of Roisin McAliskey which suggests that an already weak case against her is on the verge of collapse.

As a consequence of a television programme shown in Germany on Thursday night (27 March), it appears that the chief witness on whose identification evidence the case against Roisin McAliskey is based has not been shown any photographs of her and does not recognise her on the basis of photographs shown to him by the television programme.

The programme Kontraste an ARD TV production said that while both the German and British authorities have been reluctant to specify exactly what the evidence against Roisin has been, a fax issued by the German embassy in Washington to a US citizen Joseph F Joyce (dated 5 February) states that " the landlord, who had been in regular contact with the [IRA] group, recognised Ms McAliskey and identified her on various photographs which were shown to him. "

The TV programme Kontraste asked Manfred Schmidt, the landlord, to comment.

He said:
"Of course I was shown photographs but I could not recognise any of the tenants in those photographs."
Question:
"What about Roisin McAliskey, were you shown any photographs of her?"
Answer:
"No. Well, I did not recognise her. Is that her?" (Photographs from Irish newspapers are being shown.)
Schmidt:
"I am seeing this for the first time. I cannot comment with regard to the photographs. This photo wasn't shown to me either."
Schmidt again:
"As I said, I know the identikit pictures, but that is all."
Kontraste - Presenter:
"Manfred Schmidt vehemently denies that the successful search of the BKA (Federal Criminal Police Office) is due to him. He had hardly any contact with the suspect who called herself "Beth", while staying in his house. He does not understand why he has been named as principle witness against Roisin McAliskey in the correspondence of the German Embassy."

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Anger as British Army shoot Coalisland teenager

There has been widespread anger expressed at the shooting of a 19 year old man in Coalisland by undercover British soldiers on the night of Wednesday, 26 March. The 19 year old, Gareth Doris, is still in a critical but stable condition after he was shot in the abdomen. The shooting is believed to have followed a bomb attack on the RUC station in Coalisland, County Tyrone.

During the incident in which Gareth Doris was shot soldiers and RUC officers prevented the injured man from receiving medical treatment, handcuffed him and dragged him face down across the street. Subsequently soldiers fired shots over the heads of the crowd that was responding angrily to the fact that soldiers would not allow a doctor to help the injured man. Catholic priest Fr Seamus Rice also had his car riddled with bullets fired by British soldiers as he was driving out of the grounds of the church. Father Rice has stated publicly that he believes that Doris, who comes from a well known Republican family was an innocent civilian walking down the street

Since the attack the RUC have released one of two men they have arrested. They have also "arrested" Gareth Doris at his hospital bed and they have conceded that a "gun" they allegedly found just after the attack was in fact a starting pistol and had nothing to with the incident.

There has been widespread condemnation of both the British Army and the RUC. Even Father Faul, a Catholic priest who has recently been engaged by the RUC to do community relations work within the force and who is a noted anti-republican commented critically on the behaviour of the soldiers, as did spokespersons for both the SDLP and Sinn Féin.


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Chaos as Orangemen meet to discuss Dunloy

A meeting of Orangemen called to discuss the situation in Dunloy, County Antrim ended in chaos on Thursday night (26 March), as members of the so-called "Spirit of Drumcree" group disrupted the meeting. The meeting had been called by the leadership of the County Antrim Orange Order in order to allow members of the Dunloy Lodge to vote on whether to accept an agreement over the issue of parading with the Dunloy Residents and Parents Association which had been brokered by the Mediation Network.

Dunloy is an entirely nationalist community between Ballymoney and Ballymena in County Antrim. Traditionally it has been the occasion of up to eleven Orange and Apprentice Boys parades a year. The agreement brokered by the Mediation Network would have allowed a maximum of three so-called church parades a year, ie to parade to the local Presbyterian church in Dunloy. This despite the fact that none of the members of the Dunloy Lodge actually live in Dunloy and most of them do not normally attend Dunloy Presbyterian Church.

On Thursday night the Spirit of Drumcree group, an extreme Loyalist faction within the Orange Order, bussed many of its members to the meeting and prevented the Grand master of County Antrim from speaking.


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Bloody Sunday marchers libelled

Paddy MacDermott, a well known solicitor in Derry and Treasurer of the recently formed Bloody Sunday Trust, has claimed that an article written by Conor Cruise O'Brien, the prominent member of the UK Unionist party, in the Sunday Independent was "libellous" In the article Conor Cruise O'Brien described those who took part in the original Bloody Sunday march as " Sinn Féin activists operating for the IRA." Paddy MacDermott said that he believed the article was "libellous of almost everyone who was on the march that day."

The article by Cruise O'Brien was highly critical of the recent attention that the Bloody Sunday issue has attracted in the Republic of Ireland. However the piece in the article which may be libellous is contained in O'Brien's criticism of recent comments made by the leader of Fianna Fail, Bertie Ahern. Ahern had said that Bloody Sunday was "armed action [by the British] against civil rights civilians who were about a demonstration in a peaceful way." However O'Brien said: "Actually, no-one who knows anything about Northern Ireland doubts that the "civil rights civilians" were Sinn Féin activists operating for the IRA." Also in another part of the article Conor Cruise O'Brien described the campaign around Bloody Sunday as "anti-British".

Robin Percival, Chair of the Bloody Sunday Trust and a member of the Pat Finucane Centre, speaking to the Derry Journal said "This article is unbelievable. We would have to dispute it on several grounds. Firstly it is utterly untrue and if Conor Cruise O'Brien had checked his facts he would have discovered that the organisation that planned this march, the Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association, was vehemently opposed to the provisional IRA. So it is historically untrue. Secondly it is nonsense to suggest that this issue is in any way anti-British. I would point to the involvement of two English people as members of the Trust as evidence of that. But on a wider basis we are trying to tap into values based around truth and justice and these are values which are shared by many people who see themselves as British as well as Irish people. We have never and no one associated with the campaign has ever indulged in anti- British rhetoric. What we want to do is to expose the truth and in some ways the truth of what happened that day is far more important for English people than Irish people, as most Irish people are already aware of what the truth is. "


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More punitive regime in Long Kesh

A much more punitive regime for Republican prisoners has been announced by the Northern Ireland Prison Service following the discovery on Sunday past (23 March) of a tunnel which was under construction from H7, a part of Long Kesh (officially referred to as the Maze by the British Government). According to reports on both BBC and ITV television, Republican prisoners are now being locked in their cells for long periods of time, have been denied access to handicraft and computing facilities, and have had temporary parole cancelled and are locked in their cells at night. These new conditions do not apply to Loyalist prisoners but have been applied to all Republican prisoners whether or not they were imprisoned in H7 or that part of H7 where the tunnel was discovered. On Friday night (28 March) the head of the prison service has said that these restrictive and punitive measures will end once a search of the H Blocks in which Republicans are housed has finished.


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Delay in the case of Danny McNamee

A Labour member of the Seanad, Sean Moloney, has said that Danny McNamee, wrongly convicted of involvement in the 1982 Hyde Park bombing, is being held in "completely inhuman" conditions. Senator Maloney, who was a guest of the Pat Finucane Centre in Derry at the time of the post-Drumcree disturbances in Derry and the Apprentice Boys parade last August, has visited Danny this week in prison in England. He added that "we'd be concerned about his psychiatric health."

Senator Maloney said he and other Irish politicians had written to the British Home Secretary urging him to refer the McNamee case to the court of appeal. However Sean Maloney said that he did not think that Michael Howard, the British Home Secretary would not do that because of the General Election. Details of the campaign to free Danny McNamee can be accessed at the Pat Finucane Centre website. A German language version is also available.


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Report exposes depth of poverty in Derry

A new report by the Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) has demonstrated the on-going high levels of poverty within Derry. The report entitled "Hidden Troubles" has said that on the West Bank of Derry, which contains the three most deprived electoral wards in Northern Ireland, debt is endemic. It also reveals that three out of every five lone parent families in Derry are living in poverty, which is more than twice the UK average. Author John Mallet says: " Poorer families from this study have exhibited more outward signs of stress and anxiety, resulting from difficulties in paying loans. Such stresses inevitably take their toll on the general well-being on the family unit, with far reaching individual consequences in terms of mental and physical health."


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Ireland News Update over Easter

Due to the holiday period, this weeks Ireland News Update has been posted one day early. Next weeks Update, hopefully, will be posted either later on Sunday evening (BST) or on the morning of Monday (7 April).


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Ireland News Update

Saturday 29 March 1997

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Ireland News Update Service
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