Northern Ireland’s Orange Order cuts party ties – ISN

DERRY — The Orange Order, the largest non-religious Protestant organization in Ireland, has severed its century-old formal link to the Ulster Unionist Party (UUP), adding strength to the claim that moderate forces in Northern Ireland have been put on the defensive. At a Saturday meeting of the Order’s ruling council, or Grand Lodge, the organization decided that political change meant that a link with any political party was no longer in its interests. Speaking after the meeting, Orange Order Grand Master Robert Saulters said: “The Loyal Orange Institution will continue to lobby for the unionist cause as events require and we will seek to establish good relationships with all those engaged in the political interests of the unionist people.”

Sinn Féin conference overshadowed by Northern Ireland murder – ISN

DERRY — On Friday Sinn Féin, the political party linked to the Irish Republican Army (IRA), suspended seven of its members for their alleged involvement in the murder of Belfast Catholic Robert McCartney. Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams said those suspended were named by McCartney’s family as having been involved in the murder. McCartney’s sisters appeared to a standing ovation at the Sinn Féin annual conference in Dublin over the weekend. The conference, which ordinarily would have celebrated the centenary of the founding of the party, was overshadowed by the fallout from McCartney’s violent death in Belfast on 31 January and the alleged theft by the IRA of some €38 million from a Belfast bank in December.

Northern Ireland: secrecy shrouds arrest of IRA murder suspect – ISN

DERRY — Northern Ireland police arrested a 29-year-old man was arrested in Belfast on Tuesday in connection with the murder of Robert McCartney. The suspect handed himself in to police in the company of a solicitor, but was released early on Wednesday without charges. The man, whose name has not been released, was not one of the three expelled last Friday by the Irish Republican Army (IRA) on suspicion of their involvement in the McCartney murder. It is believed that 12-15 men were involved in the killing. Earlier on Tuesday, Hugh Orde, head of the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI), said all three men dismissed from the IRA had left the country. However, the PSNI later retracted that statement.

Northern Ireland: London maintains sanctions on Sinn Féin – ISN

DERRY — Northern Ireland Secretary of State Paul Murphy told the British House of Commons on Tuesday that he would extend sanctions against Sinn Féin, the political party linked to the Irish Republican Army (IRA), for a year. Murphy said Sinn Féin’s Northern Ireland Assembly grant, worth some £120,000 (about €173,000), would be suspended for an additional 12 months. The decision comes in the wake of the latest report from the Independent Monitoring Commission (IMC) accusing the IRA of being behind the theft of around €33 million from a Belfast bank in December. The IMC recommended imposing financial penalties on Sinn Féin. The commission was set up by the Irish and British governments to monitor paramilitary activity. An earlier IMC report, which detailed IRA involvement in smuggling and smaller robberies, led to the initial application of the sanctions.

Ireland: Sinn Féin leader dares govt to arrest him – ISN

DERRY — The Independent Monitoring Commission set up by the Irish and British governments released a report on Thursday, saying that senior Sinn Féin members had advance knowledge of the theft, allegedly by the IRA, of some €31 million from a Belfast bank in December. Both governments have endorsed the findings. In Dublin, Irish Justice Minister Michael McDowell said some of the politicians implicated in the report were household names, but the report did not name anyone directly. Sinn Féin is said to be the political wing of the Irish Republican Army and its president, Gerry Adams, responded to the IMC report by challenging the Irish government to either have him arrested or cease what he termed “unsubstantiated allegations.” Early on Friday, Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern described Adams’ comments as “a little bit childish…a little bit nonsense.”

Northern Ireland political crisis deepens as IRA denies robbery – ISN

DERRY — In its first official statement since the head of Northern Ireland’s police accused them of stealing £26.5 million (nearly €38 million) from a Belfast bank, the Irish Republican Army (IRA) last night denied that it took the money. The denial comes amid a growing political crisis in Northern Ireland. The failure by Sinn Féin, the party linked to the IRA, and the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), to forge a deal to restore the devolved government to Belfast has been compounded by the widespread belief that the IRA planned the heist, which is thought to be the largest in European history. Speaking at Westminster today, British Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Paul Murphy described the robbery as a violation of the 1998 peace agreement. On 7 January, Hugh Orde, the head of Northern Ireland’s police said he believed that the IRA had carried out the robbery. He was backed by the Irish and British governments, as well as the other political parties in Northern Ireland, including the nationalist Social, Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP).

Northern Ireland trying to picture peace – ISN

DERRY – The latest attempts to forge a breakthrough in Northern Ireland’s peace process appear to have failed this morning, with the verification of IRA disarmament the remaining stumbling block. Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) leader, Reverend Ian Paisley, said while “we’ve never been closer to a settlement”, the IRA must “surrender”. However, it appears that the IRA will not consent to giving photographic evidence that their weapons have been destroyed – a key DUP demand. Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams, whose party is regarded as the IRA’s political wing, said last night the IRA would not “submit to humiliation” by giving photographic evidence of disarmament. Northern Ireland’s three decades of civil conflict up to 1998 saw over 3,600 people killed as mostly Catholic Irish nationalists and republicans, who want Northern Ireland to merge with the Republic of Ireland to the south, faced off against mostly Protestant unionists or loyalists who want to remain part of the United Kingdom. British soldiers flooded Northern Ireland but were viewed by many nationalists as a hostile occupation force.

Northern Ireland talks hit fever pitch – ISN

DERRY – It has been two weeks since the Irish and British governments handed Sinn Féin and the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) its revised terms for the restoration of devolution to Northern Ireland, a key part of the 1998 peace deal that ended three decades of civil conflict in the region. Since then, both parties have consulted their grassroots, come up with responses and requests for clarification for the governments, and engaged in a series of talks with relevant policymakers in Belfast, Dublin, and London. However their respective dealings have not included face-to-face meetings as the DUP refuses to meet with a party it sees as indistinguishable from the Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA). The discussions have so far been mediated by the Irish and British governments. This morning the DUP leader Reverend Ian Paisley was in London to meet British Prime Minister Tony Blair, while a Sinn Féin delegation led by Gerry Adams was in Dublin to meet the Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern.

Northern Ireland’s Kent talks fail – ISN

DERRY — Three days of intensive talks on Northern Ireland’s political future ended on Saturday afternoon without a deal. However  the Irish and British governments remained positive in the aftermath of this latest failure to resolve the ongoing problems in fully implementing the Good Friday Agreement, Northern Ireland’s landmark peace deal forged in 1998. Both British Prime Minster Tony Blair and his Irish counterpart Bertie Ahern believe that the basis is there for an agreement in the near future. Held at Leeds Castle in Kent in the south of England, the much-anticipated talks opened amid an uncertain atmosphere.

Northern Ireland loyalist assassin given life sentence for 1989 murder of lawyer – ISN

DERRY — The saga around one of Northern Ireland’s most controversial political assassinations reached a conclusion of sorts on Thursday with the jailing of a former loyalist paramilitary. Ken Barrett, 41, admitted to being one a group of masked gunmen who in February 1989 shot prominent Catholic solicitor Pat Finucane 14 times as he ate a Sunday meal with his family. Finucane was a high-profile lawyer who represented republican clients – but also worked with Protestants. Barrett, then a member the loyalist paramilitary group, the Ulster Defence Association (UDA), was given a minimum 22 year sentence. However, he could be released within just a few months as part of the terms of the Good Friday Agreement, Northern Ireland’s landmark 1998 peace deal. The peace deal included an amnesty for politically-motivated crimes committed during Northern Ireland’s 30-year civil conflict.