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.”
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.
DERRY — As expected, the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) emerged as the big winner in the Northern Ireland part of the UK general election held on 5 May. Friday’s results saw the party led by preacher Ian Paisley gain three seats. The DUP increased its vote share by 11 per cent over the 2001 election results to become the largest Northern Irish party at Westminster, taking half of the 18 seats representing the province. The Ulster Unionist Party (UUP), historically the main representative of pro-British sentiment in Northern Ireland, lost four of its five seats, including the constituency of party leader and 1998 Nobel Peace Prize winner David Trimble. In response to the crushing defeat, Trimble resigned as party leader on Saturday afternoon.
DERRY — Speaking on BBC TV over the weekend, Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) leader David Trimble called on voters to support “centrist” parties in Northern Ireland in Britain’s forthcoming general election. Trimble’s call amounted to asking Northern Ireland’s unionist population to vote for the more moderate nationalist party, the Social, Democratic, and Labour Party (SDLP), instead of the UUP’s rivals within unionism, the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP). The SDLP is regarded as the moderate alternative to Sinn Féin – the political party linked to the Irish Republican Army (IRA) – while the UUP sees itself as having a similar profile vis-à-vis the DUP. However, in an attempt to outflank Sinn Féin, the SDLP recently released a strategic paper outlining its proposals on Irish unity, which would see Northern Ireland merge with its larger neighbor, the Irish Republic, which covers most of the island of Ireland.
DERRY — The Irish Republican Army (IRA) on Thursday said it was considering Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams’ request to give up its armed struggle and adopt a peaceful, democratic political campaign to end British rule in Northern Ireland. The paramilitary organization said it was giving “due consideration” to Adams’ request, adding that a definitive response would be given “in due course.” The leader of Sinn Féin, the political party linked to the IRA, welcomed the paramilitary group’s pledge to address his appeal, and responded to critics of the speech, saying that it was “a genuine attempt to drive the peace process forward.” While some welcomed Adams’ statement as significant, others said it was a disingenuous campaign ploy.