20 November 1997 Edition
British forces wrecking peace
An intensive campaign of harassment and intimidation against nationalists in Armagh by the RUC over the past number of weeks finally exploded into the wider public consciousness on Tuesday, 18 November.
The increasing level of harassment and provocation and the arrest, once again, of Lurgan man Colin Duffy led resentment to burst forth onto the streets of Armagh City and Lurgan.
In the past few weeks one solicitor's firm in Armagh had received over 100 complaints from nationalists of harassment by the RUC. It appears that the RUC have been given carte blanche at a senior level for their actions.
It is clear that the only cessation being observed by any of the armed groups in the Six Counties is that of the IRA. The British Army and the RUC have intensified their activities in nationalist areas.
Threats to the current peace process are emanating entirely from the British and Unionist camp. Those threats are coming from unionist politicians who are refusing to engage in the negotiations process and from the militarists within the British security services and political establishment who have yet to be brought to heel by Tony Blair's government.
As the events in Armagh demonstrate, the British policy of militarisation has been increased and expanded. Figures released last week show that there are now more British soldiers in the Six Counties than there were before the IRA ceasefire (up from 10,395 in 1996 to 11,016 now). Nationalist communities are still subjected to house raids. Routine daily harassment of the population continues as does surveillance, targeting, and the building of military installations.
For faith to be injected into the peace process the British government needs to replace the current security agenda with a peaceful political agenda. Otherwise the entire process will be brought down by the actions of those on the British side who have no interest in it surviving.
Vendetta against Duffy continues
After a vicious RUC assault on Lurgan man Colin Duffy and five companions in the early hours of Monday morning, the RUC returned to his home at lunchtime and arrested him.
Within hours the RUC had charged Duffy with grevious bodily harm and issued statements through their press office claiming that their members were attacked by a crowd of between 30 and 40 people.
The reality, though, is different. Of the people with Colin Duffy and a number of people who were injured at the scene one woman received four stitches to an arm wound and another suffered severe bruising. A Portadown man, Vincent Hamill, was beaten to the ground and set upon by three RUC men and suffered bruising, lacerations and a broken finger. Duffy's injuries included a badly bruised left arm which was in a sling as he appeared in court, a cut lip, a baton mark on his left upper arm and muscle strain.
According to Duffy's solicitor, Rosemary Nelson, ``the RUC disregarded the witness evidence of at least six people, preferring instead to charge Mr Duffy with the most serious offence they could. Indeed, the RUC refused to interview these potential witnesses''.
An RUC sergeant admitted in Lisburn court on Tuesday morning that these witnesses had not been interviewed as a ``prima facie'' case existed.
In the early hours of Monday morning 17 November Colin Duffy along with a number of companions left a Lurgan pub where they had gone to celebrate the christening of Duffy's second daughter, Sinéad, who was born three weeks ago.
An RUC car at the junction of Waring Street and Edward Street blocked the car in which Duffy and his companions were travelling. Sonia Conlon, the driver, told An Phoblacht that the RUC approached them and asked for their details and that they cooperated.
``The RUC then asked us to get out of the car; one said it was something to do with the PTA and the RUC opened the car doors. When we got out Collie was still in the car and before he got a chance to get out one RUC man got in and started to beat him. A second RUC man got in the other side and hit Collie with a baton''.
Ms Conlon says she tried to pull one of the RUC men off Collie and he bit her finger; another RUC man behind Ms Conlon beat her with a baton leaving her with a cut elbow requiring four stitches and serious wrist damage.
In her statement Anne Hamill corroborated Ms Conlon's version of events and added that one RUC woman present called her a ``whore''. Another woman reported this same female RUC member calling her a ``fenian whore''. Ms Hamill suffered bruising to her arm, leg, her breast and had her hair pulled.
Anne Hamill's husband, Vincent, was beaten to the ground and received a broken finger, cuts to the head and bruising to the legs, thighs, to his upper body and shoulders.
``I don't even remember the incident ending,'' said Vincent, ``I was so dazed and shocked''.
Sinn Fein councillor John O'Dowd said the RUC are determined to drive Colin Duffy out of Lurgan and maintains that the RUC ambushed him.
``After the first RUC patrol stopped Mr Duffy and his companions other back-up units arrived almost immediately and began to beat anyone who was at the scene. It was totally indiscriminate,'' concluded O'Dowd.
Meanwhile serious rioting which erupted in North Armagh on Tuesday night 18 November was being attributed to nationalist anger at the high levels of harassment levelled at them by the crown forces.
Cars and buses were hijacked in Lurgan and Armagh City. In Lurgan the Old Portadown Road was closed while the motorway was blocked between Lurgan and Moira. In Armagh vehicles were set alight and placed across Moy, Monaghan, Killyleagh and Cathedral Roads.
Solicitors in the North Armagh area are taking hundreds of complaints about harassment An Phoblacht has been told. ``You would never believe there is a cessation in place,'' one solicitor said, ``the RIR and RUC are not going to stop until someone is dead''.
Concern at RUC and Loyalist actions
Against a background of increasing violence against nationalists carried out by both the crown forces and loyalists Sinn Fein Chairperson Mitchel McLaughlin has called for ``real and tangible change on the ground'' and called on the British government to match ``the new situation created by the IRA cessation.''
In a statement Gerry Adams said, ``Nationalists throughout the Six Counties are witnessing high levels of RUC and British Army activity, especially in border areas like South Armagh. This interruption of daily life and the attitude of these patrols is at best provocative and is obvious evidence of the continued security agenda being pursued by the British.'' He went on to warn against,''those who still hold the mindset of war.'' Adams called upon the British government to take responsibility and ``face down the `securocrats' and end the intrusion, harassment and militarisation of nationalists.''
The South Armagh Farmers and Residents Committee has hit out at RUC Assistant Chief Constable Freddie Hall that security in South Armagh had been scaled down.
``One only has to come and visit the area to appreciate the upsurge of military/RUC presence, both in the air and on the ground, together with the continuing refurbishment and expansion of lookout posts at some 19 locations along the South Armagh border overlooking counties Louth and Monaghan,'' a statement from the Committee said.
In the early hours of Friday 14 November in Shaftesbury Square, Belfast the RUC, using batons and with dogs, attacked Queen's University students. The incident began after an RUC jeep crashed into a taxi and as student revellers gathered around the accident, a group of ten loyalists from Sandy Row, who were standing with the RUC, started singing `The Sash' and taunting students. A loyalist then lashed out at a student. The RUC drew batons and attacked the students. Within minutes five more RUC jeeps and a dog van arrived. The RUC herded the students towards University Road and attempted to isolate small groups of students, using the dogs, while continuing to beat them.
An RUC dog handler was shouting, ``here's some dogs to bite your balls off, you Fenian bastards.''
A Queen's student councillor told An Phoblacht that one young woman was knocked to the ground then beaten around the head and shoulders by an RUC man. The student councillor then approached an RUC man and asked for the officer in charge in an attempt to calm the situation. He was knocked to the ground and told to fuck off. Up to 20 or 30 Queen's University students were battered by the RUC and 15 arrested, he said. He added that increasing RUC activity and a number of loyalist attacks in the area had led to an increase in fear among students.
In another incident in Belfast a man from the Oldpark area has expressed his fear to An Phoblacht after he was threatened by a telephone caller within a short period of attending a Saoirse protest at Belfast's High Court. The man returned home and his daughter, who took the call, explained that a caller had asked for him by name. When she said her father wasn't home the caller told her to tell him ``he'd be got''. The man asked BT how the caller had been able to get his ex-directory number but they refused to investigate the matter unless it went through the RUC.
Chairperson of Cookstown Council Sean Begley has called on people to be wary after the movements of Sinn Fein councillors were monitored entering and leaving a council meeting on Wednesday, 12 November. Sinn Fein councillor Finbar Conway was then stopped, held and harassed by Paratroops as he returned home.
Also in Tyrone Dungannon man Anthony Fox and his family have been the target of persistent harassment over the last three weeks. On 2 November he was stopped by Paras who used sniffer dogs to search his car. A week later his wife, sister and another woman were stopped by the RUC just after they had donated blood in the Presbyterian Church on Scotch Street, Dungannon. They were held for 30 minutes.
Meanwhile a 38-year old Tummery man was approached by the RUC at Hannigan's Cross in the Dromore area of Tyrone on Tuesday 4 November. The man was stopped at noon by two uniformed RUC men who knew details about his routine, lifestyle and business. They menacingly said, ``you never know what is around the corner'', and offered him money for information on the local community. The man promptly contacted his local Sinn Fein councillor.
Reporting suspicious activity Martin O'Neill, Sinn Fein councillor from Dunloy has told An Phoblacht of three separate incidents which suggest that there are moves to set him up. On 4 November, his brother and a friend heard voices outside his back door, which disappeared after O'Neill flashed his garden lights on and off. A car was subsequently heard driving at speed from the direction of Dunloy.
The previous week his brother had heard voices outside the house during the night and in the week prior to that Martin's sister-in-law heard the sound of people moving and talking in the fir trees behind her mobile home, which is beside the O'Neill family home. This was at about 5 am as she readied herself for work. The voices disappeared when she went out to investigate.
In a separate statement Martin O'Neill, commenting on the Monday evening arson attack on a Catholic church in Ballymoney, has called on Ian Paisley to use his influence to end such attacks. He asked for ``those directly responsible and those who fuel the bigots by their public sectarianism and sabre rattling to realise the consequence of their actions.''