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 — When the Queen’s subjects go to the polls on Thursday, they will essentially be voting in two very different elections. The three main political parties on the British mainland have campaigned on issues such as the legality of the US-British invasion of Iraq, immigration policy, education, and leadership personalities, while the polls in Northern Ireland will feature an entirely different set of actors and factors. In April, a delegation from the recently elected provincial legislature of Basra, Iraq visited Belfast and Derry/Londonderry, Northern Ireland’s two largest cities, to learn about Northern Ireland’s peace process. For the prime minister’s advisers, the visit from Basra is an opportunity to put a positive spin on Tony Blair’s unpopular decision to participate in the US-led invasion of Iraq. Drawing parallels between Iraq and Northern Ireland allows Downing Street to deflect attention from the original rationale for the attack – Iraq’s alleged banned weapons stockpiles – and to recast the invasion as an effort to replace dictatorship with democracy. To others, it represents a measure of how far Northern Ireland has come since the quarter-century of civil conflict ended with the 1998 Good Friday Agreement (GFA) peace deal.
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 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.”
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.
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.
DERRY — Police in the Irish Republic have arrested seven people as part of an investigation into Irish Republican Army (IRA) money-laundering. Euro and sterling notes worth a total of €3.6 million were seized in capital Dublin and in Cork, and further police raids were ongoing areas in the midlands and east of the country. One raid on Thursday morning recovered £2 million (nearly €2.9 million) from a house in rural Cork. Senior detectives from Northern Ireland’s police were in Dublin on Friday for a security meeting with their counterparts in the Republic.
DERRY — Politicians and the public in Ireland and the UK have spent the weekend coming to terms with accusations that the Irish Republican Army (IRA) was responsible for a massive Belfast bank robbery on 20 December 2004.
Last Friday afternoon, Hugh Orde, Chief Constable of the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI), stated that he thought that “[…] the Provisional IRA were responsible for this crime and all main lines of inquiry currently undertaken are in that direction.” Orde was speaking after meeting key members of Northern Ireland’s policing board. Martin McGuinness, chief negotiator for Sinn Féin, the political party linked to the IRA, reacted to Orde’s comments by telling press that the IRA had told him that the group had not conducted the robbery, and that Orde’s comments were part of a politically-motivated campaign to undermine Sinn Féin and the peace process.
DERRY – Over £20 million (nearly €29 million) was stolen on Monday from a Belfast bank headquarters, in what was one of the largest robberies ever carried out in Ireland or Britain. Sam Kincaid, Assistant Chief Constable of the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI), said the robbery “was a well-organized crime”, and “could be paramilitary-related”. Former Special Branch police chief in Northern Ireland, Bill Lowry, told the pro-unionist Newsletter newspaper that the Provisional Irish Republican Army was the most likely suspect. Northern Bank headquarters, which holds cash for business clients and for the bank’s network of ATMs, was targeted in what appeared to be a meticulously planned operation.
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.