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26 March 1998 Edition

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Parades man was part of anti-republican strategy

by Laura Friel

Revelations about Parades Commission appointee Aidan Canavan have further exposed the anti-nationalist ethos of the Commission.

In a briefing document compiled by Fr Des Wilson and Equality activist Oliver Kearney, Canavan is identified as a key player in a series of economic initiatives fronted by pro-British members of the Catholic Hierarchy. These initiatives, it is suggested, followed a British counter insurgency strategy designed to stifle independent community development in West Belfast. Friars Bush Limited, a private company registered by the DED in December 1985, was headed by Cathal Daly, Bishop of Down and Connor, later Primate of All Ireland, Rev. Professor James McEvoy and Most Rev Patrick Walsh. Aidan Canavan is listed among the company's first shareholders. Friars Bush was the first of a series of companies which sprang up in the late 1980s to access and control public funding in nationalist areas. Canavan appears again, as a director and secretary of Glenwood Enterprises Ltd, a company registered and chaired by Fr Patrick McWilliams in March 1985. Canavan was also amongst a group of prominent Catholics who travelled to America to campaign against the MacBride Principles of Fair Employment at the height of the British government's counter offensive.

Canavan has already been exposed as a member of a law practice which acted as solicitors for the Police Federation. A case of sectarian discrimination was recently taken to a Fair Employment Tribunal by a Catholic solicitor against Canavan and his law partner Richard Murphy. Substantial compensation was paid before the case went to a full hearing in January 1997.

Further controversy around the Parades Commission surfaced last week when it was revealed that recent appointee Glenn Barr met a close associate of LVF founder Billy Wright less than two years ago. A photograph published by the Irish News last week shows Barr shaking the hand of senior loyalist Alex Kerr. The meeting took place in the summer of 1996 at a County Tyrone hotel where both men were attending a meeting of the Ulster Independence Movement.

Barr was one of the speakers at the meeting which was also addressed by DUP councillor Sammy Wilson. Last week Kerr was released from the LVF wing of Long Kesh only hours after being arrested and questioned about the murder of fellow loyalist inmate David Keys. Poyntzpass murder suspect Keys was tortured and beaten to death by LVF prisoners in H6 two weeks ago.

A dissident UDA member, Kerr was forced to leave Belfast in 1996. After spending a short period in County Tyrone, he moved to Portadown where he was a close associate of Billy Wright. Kerr was jailed after being caught staging a LVF show of strength.

This is the second controversy to hit the Parades Commission concerning members' links with loyalist gunmen. A photograph of Apprentice Boy Tommy Cheevers at the funeral of leading loyalist sectarian killer John Bingham appeared in the media just days after his appointment to the Parades Commission.
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