DUBLIN – A member of a splinter group of the Irish Republican Army (IRA) has been ordered to stand trial for his alleged involvement in the 1998 Omagh bombing, considered the worst attack in Northern Ireland in the last 30 years. Sean Hoey faces a total of 58 charges relating to the bombing that devastated the Northern Irish town of Omagh in 1998. The IRA wants to unite the Protestant northern province with the predominantly Catholic Irish Republic in the south. It formally ended its armed campaign in July. Coming four months after signing the Good Friday peace agreement, the Omagh bombing that killed 29 people was carried out by the Real IRA, a small dissident group that split from the main, or “Provisional” IRA, due to disagreements with the latter’s ceasefire and adherence to a proposed peace process.
DERRY — On Monday a new grassroots campaign dubbed “Love Ulster” began disseminating newsletters across Northern Ireland aimed at denouncing alleged nationalist dominance of the political process. The Love Ulster campaign will disseminate 200,000 free newsletters across Northern Ireland, highlighting unionist concerns at political concessions granted to Sinn Féin and the Irish Republican Army (IRA) since the latter’s statement that it was ending its nearly four-decade campaign of violence against British rule. In the days after the statement, the British government announced radical plans for demilitarization in Northern Ireland – a move unionists view as premature at best and a betrayal at worst. They see the disbandment of the British army’s Royal Irish Regiment as a move that will harm unionist culture. William Wilkinson, a spokesman for the Love Ulster campaign, told ISN Security Watch that unionists were “shocked at the speed of the [British] concessions [after the IRA statement].”
DERRY — The three Irish Republican Army (IRA) men who re-emerged in Ireland eight months after disappearing from Colombia, where they were due to face 17 years in prison, remain missing in Ireland. The whereabouts of Niall Connolly, James Monaghan, and Martin McCauley – dubbed “The Colombian Three” – are still unknown six days after they revealed their return to an Irish television station. The men were sentenced to 17 years in prison in Colombia, convicted after an initial acquittal was overturned of training leftist rebels of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and of travelling on false passports. The Colombian vice-president and unionist parties in Northern Ireland have called for the men to be extradited to Colombia to face their sentences.
DERRY — Northern Ireland’s largest unionist party has threatened to delay talks on restarting the stalled peace process. Meeting British Prime Minister Tony Blair on Thursday in London, the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) outlined its position on political talks aimed at restoring the devolved government to Belfast. DUP leader Reverend Ian Paisley said the party would require a “prolonged period of assessment” to ascertain whether the Irish Republican Army (IRA) had truly given up its armed campaign. He called for “total decommissioning that everyone can be satisfied with”. In contrast, Sinn Féin (SF) leader Gerry Adams, who met with Blair separately on Thursday, said he believed there was no reason devolution could not be reintroduced quickly.
DERRY — The British government has announced an overhaul of its military and security structure in Northern Ireland, pledging to halve its troops to just over 5,000, end army support for the police, and close down 26 of 40 army sites in the region. The move follows an announcement last week by the Irish Republican Army (IRA) that it “formally ordered an end to the armed campaign” against British control of Northern Ireland. On Tuesday, Peter Hain, the Northern Ireland Secretary of State, said the British government’s pledged would be “achievable within two years” provided the “enabling environment is established and maintained.”
BELFAST — In what is being described as a historic move, the Irish Republican Army (IRA) on Thursday announced an end its armed campaign to end British rule in Northern Ireland. The announcement was read by a former IRA prisoner, and stated “All IRA units have been ordered to dump arms. All Volunteers have been instructed to assist the development of purely political and democratic programs through exclusively peaceful means. Volunteers must not engage in any other activities whatsoever.” The statement called for two independent witnesses – a Catholic and Protestant clergyman – to act as independent witnesses to the destruction or “decommissioning” of the IRA’s arsenal.
DERRY — Eighty police were injured last night as violence erupted in a Catholic-nationalist area of north Belfast after a day of Protestant Orange Order parades throughout Northern Ireland. Tensions were high in the run-up to the parade through the mainly nationalist Ardoyne area of north Belfast. While the morning parade passed off peacefully, the return of the Orangemen through the area on Tuesday evening proved troublesome. Last year, British Army units were attacked by nationalist rioters alleging a heavy-handed response to peaceful protests at the Orange Order march through the Ardoyne.
DERRY — Sir Reg Empey was elected as the new leader of the Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) on Friday, after gaining 53 per cent of the party vote in the second ballot, replacing the David Trimble as the embattled party’s head. Empey, a member of Northern Ireland’s suspended legislative assembly, succeeds Nobel Laureate Trimble, who resigned after the UUP’s heavy defeat at the May General election. After his victory in Friday’s ballot, Empey said he would remain as leader for no more than five years. Empey is only the 13th leader in the party’s history, and takes over at a time when the party is at its weakest ever. Until 2001, the UUP was the largest party in terms of political support and political representation in Northern Ireland. Its share of seats at the UK parliament in Westminster dropped from ten in 1997 to five in 2001, as Protestant-unionist disenchantment grew with the post-peace agreement political stasis in Northern Ireland.
DERRY — Police arrested two men on Wednesday in connection with the January murder of Robert McCartney in Belfast. A 49-year-old man was detained in Belfast. The other, aged 36, was arrested in Birmingham. Meanwhile, follow-up searches have been taking place in the Markets area of Belfast, close to where the killing took place. McCartney was murdered on 31 January outside a pub near the Catholic-nationalist Short Strand enclave in East Belfast.
DERRY — The European Parliament on Tuesday voted to provide funds to the family of Robert McCartney, who was murdered in Belfast in January by members of the Irish Republican Army (IRA), for their quest for justice in the controversial case. In an unprecedented move, a large majority of European parliamentarians voted to fund a possible civil action by the family, should the current criminal case continue to falter. McCartney, a 33-year-old unmarried father, died in January after a brawl inside and outside a Belfast pub. A Catholic from the pro-Sinn Féin enclave of Short Strand, he was stabbed a number of times by IRA members. The McCartney family believe that the current criminal enquiry is being obstructed by lack of cooperation by witnesses, who are either fearful of giving evidence against the IRA members involved, or refuse to cooperate with what is regarded as a pro-British police service.