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12 November 1998 Edition

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Nationalist Belfast sends clear message to Patten

By Ned Kelly

West Belfast


In West Belfast a thousand people packed into the Whiterock hall on Wednesday last week to give their views on the RUC to the Patten Commission on Policing..

Making the first submission, community worker Danny Power said, ``This campaign of terror has not happened by chance. It is about strategic decisions.''

The scale of human rights abuses by the RUC mean they will never be acceptable, Danny said. ``The portrayal of the RUC as the piggy-in-the-middle is an insult to the intelligence to this community.''

Hugh Jordan, whose son Pearse was shot dead by the RUC in 1992, talked of the intimidation his family has suffered from the RUC since his son's death. ``It got to the point where we treated harassment as normal,'' said Hugh. ``Reform is not on, the corruption runs too deep. They need deported never mind disbanded.''

Una Gillespie, a community activist from the Springfield area, said, ``The RUC and British Army has been responsible for 11.6% of the deaths in the North, 86% of their victims have been Catholic.

``Their history on `policing' marches and funerals has been a disgrace. Compare the treatment of Nationalists marching for their rights with how the RUC have handled the Orange Order or even Linfield football supporters.''

``As young people we have first hand experience,'' Stephen McGlade said, ``this is one of the most militarised areas in Europe and young people are harassed on a daily basis.'' The RUC are not accountable. The experience of those who became known as the Ballymurphy 7 and the Beechmount 5 show the corruption of the RUC. The interrogation, humiliation and destruction of part of their youth by the RUC is not acceptable. It is criminal.

Danny Pettigrew, one of the Ballymurphy 7, said: ``I was 17 when I was taken to Castlereagh Interrogation centre. It was hell, the physical and mental torture. At one point they led me to believe that my mum had been shot and killed on the Falls Road. I was forced to sign a confession.''

He was imprisoned for three years before the case against him was thrown out.

Paul Morris spoke of the danger in speaking out against the crown forces. After filing a complaint of RUC harassment, he was threatened, arrested and held in custody for seven months before all charges were dropped. Two years later he was shot in the face at point blank range by the RUC who said they had video evidence he was rioting; this was never produced. ``The people who did this are still working for the RUC,'' he said.

Father Des Wilson turned to Patten: ``The RUC have treated the people of this community with complete contempt, they have encouraged law breaking. To look to the future you must understand what has happened in the past.''

The oppressive powers of the RUC are the powers given to it by the government Patten was part of, said Fr Wilson. ``What we demand is that policing is not decided by government experiments that have been incompetent and deliberately refuse to understand the experience of the Nationalist community and have failed us; we demand that our elected representatives conduct this process.''

Noelle Ryan held up a copy of the controversial book `The Committee'. She said, ``this has not been disbanded, it will not be disbanded until names have been named.''

An anti-plastic bullet campaigner, Clara Reilly, said: ``17 people have been killed by plastic bullets, including eight school children. The youngest was four and the oldest was 75. There have been inquests but still only one RUC officer has ever been charged.''

Springfield community activist Brenda Murphy detailed the RUC response to the loyalist assassinations of people in her community. She spoke of the systematic refusal of the RUC to respond to the loyalist onslaught and the refusal to give first aid to Paul Thompson as he lay in his taxi riddled with 57 bullets.

Patten then quoted directly from an Andersonstown News editorial, essentially dismissing the contributions.

Infuriated locals challenged Patten ``to act in the spirit of the Good Friday Agreement'' and realise that the RUC must make the first move in admitting its past human rights abuses. The floor called for the Commission to get access to the Stalker-Sampson inquiries - which they announced they would do only this Tuesday.

A local woman told of another, more insidious mode of RUC action. She said: ``The RUC has attempted to destroy our community in another way. They are blackmailing our community, by failing to police the criminal element that is tearing our community depart and attacking any community response, intimidating us and using media propaganda,'' she said.

Before the meeting dispersed one man asked for a show of hands of people who believed that the RUC would change or be disbanded. Of a thousand people there was one hand.

North Belfast


Two hundred nationalists in North Belfast told the Patten Commission last Thursday night in no uncertain terms that the RUC was unacceptable.

One community activist told An Phoblacht, ``the importance of this meeting was that people expressed the pain and suffering caused by the RUC and a total rejection of the RUC as a credible force.''

Ardoyne Kickhams GAC chairman John Murphy explained that the RUC were incapable of dealing with young people who identified with Ireland.

Leo Morgan spoke of the continual harassment he has received from the RUC and the recruitment attempts at his place of work.

One community worker spoke of her courteous treatment while on community business inside the RUC barracks but that as soon as she was back in her own community in Ardoyne the RUC treated her with total contempt.

Following a draining evening, one local man said, ``after experiencing that level of hurt and pain, there has to be change, there is no turning back.''

Community groups in both the west and north of the city are now urging every single man, woman and child who has suffered human rights violations at the hands of the RUC to come forward and, if they need any help in preparing submissions to contact local groups or community workers.

Commission meets plastic bullets group


Relatives of RUC plastic bullet victims arranged a meeting in the Policing Commission's York Street HQ last Friday.

One of the United Campaign Against Plastic Bullets delegation was Brenda Downes. Brenda's husband was killed by an RUC plastic bullet during an anti-internment rally on 12 August 1984. RUC man Nigel Haggerty subsequently became the first RUC man ever to be charged with murder.

Brenda said, ``to this day I have never got an inquest. Des Wilson held a public inquiry and contacted many of the hundreds of civilian witnesses that the RUC failed to contact during their initial investigation.

``It has been difficult through the years. Two years ago I was invited to a Congressional hearing in America that was very positive and lots of people were very supportive, the result was a call for the end of plastic bullets. When I returned home Gary Lawlour was in intensive care after being shot in the face with one of these lethal weapons. It was very disappointing after having that response in the US.''

The group had the meeting initially postponed for thirty minutes and then were left waiting at the security doors for a further twenty minutes. One relative asked, ``if we were the RUC widows association would you be treating us with such disrespect.''

Following the meeting one relative expressed disappointment with the attitudes of Commission members. She said, ``in many respects it was a disappointing meeting, you felt it was part of a cosmetic exercise and they didn't take much on board.''
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