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10 July 2003 Edition

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Loyalist is bailed to attend the Twelfth

BY LAURA FRIEL


Could it happen anywhere but the Six Counties? The fact that a man facing 64 serious charges, including murder, has been granted bail at all is amazing. The fact that those conditions were 'relaxed' to allow him to attend a Twelfth of July parade is utterly astonishing. Or it would be if anyone could be surprised at the crazy operation of the sectarian Orange state.

A senior loyalist and the brother of the notorious LVF killer Mark 'Swinger' Fulton, who is currently charged with a series of serious offences including murder, a number of attempted murders, possession of guns and explosives, membership of the LVF and drug dealing, is not only out on bail but also had his bail conditions relaxed to allow his attendance at an Orange Parade and a Battle of the Boyne re-enactment.

William James Fulton (34) of Queens Walk in Portadown is currently awaiting trial on charges that include aiding and abetting in the murder of Portadown grandmother Elizabeth O'Neill in 1999. The victim was targeted because she was married to a Catholic. Supporters of the Orange Order's Drumcree protest threw a pipe bomb through the front window of the house.

But the circumstances of the killing and its direct link to the Orange Marching Season and its specifically sectarian nature appeared to have held no sway over presiding Judge Brian Kerr during a bail application hearing in Belfast Crown Court this week.

At the hearing, Judge Kerr banned Fulton from attending an 11th Night bonfire, deeming it 'prudent' for him not to attend but granted the loyalist's request to attend an Orange Parade and re-enactment of the 300-year-old battle in which Catholic King James was defeated by the forces of Protestant King William of Orange.

During a bail hearing in June, the court heard Fulton described as a "dedicated terrorist" who had assumed leadership of the LVF after his brother's suicide in jail in 2001. Fulton, who was arrested in England two years ago, has also been questioned in connection with the car bomb killing of Lurgan defence lawyer Rosemary Nelson in 1999.

Commenting, Sinn FÈin's Pat Doherty said nationalists and republicans were "sick and tired" by the sectarian ethos that still operates at the heart of the Six-County judicial system.

"In recent times we have seen a leading loyalist caught with a firearm in the middle of an internecine loyalist turf war released on bail, a man convicted of targeting a Sinn FÈin councillor given a suspended sentence, an RIR member accused of stealing firearms and ammunition granted bail and now Jim Fulton being given a judge's blessing to attend the Twelfth parades," said Doherty.

The court's willingness to accommodate Fulton's leisure activities stand in stark comparison to the courts' attitude in a number of recent cases involving nationalists. John O'Hagan from North Belfast has been held in custody for over a year on charges relating to documents; a 58-year-old businessman on similar charges has also been refused bail.

"At the core of the criminal justice system in the Six Counties are the Diplock judges. These are men who rubber stamped the Special Branch activity in torture centres, who refused security measures to Sinn FÈin politicians facing loyalist death squads and who continue to operate a blatent anti-Catholic securocrat agenda," said Doherty.
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