18 March 1999 Edition
M U R D E R : T h e c o s t o f d e l a y
Nationalist demands for a full, international and independent inquiry into the killing of human rights lawyer Rosemary Nelson have fallen on deaf ears with RUC boss Ronnie Flanagan insisting that English police officer David Phillips oversee the investigation.
Relatives for Justice spokesperson Martin Finucane reacting to Flanagan's choice of the Chief Constable of Kent to oversee the murder investigation, aided by an FBI officer, has accused the RUC chief's decision as a pathetic and inept attempt to prevent the truth coming out.
Finucane, whose brother Pat was shot dead by loyalists ten years ago amid the very same echoes of collusion between the RUC and the UDA gang who pulled the trigger said in his statement that ``Ronnie Flanagan's sinister move is an attempt to block a full international and independent inquiry to get the truth. It is this and only this which will satisfy the concerns of everyone''.
Since 1969 there have been numerous investigations into the RUC by the RUC which have lead to cover ups.
On at least four occasions English police officers have been wheeled, in to the North, in a blaze of publicity to investigate the RUC.
All these investigations have ended in controversy as, owing to RUC non co-operation these inquiries have collapsed and the truth buried with the dead.
John Stalker, called in to investigate six shoot to kill deaths in Armagh was discredited and his inquiry taken over by Colin Sampson.
The then British Attorney General Patrick Mayhew refused to prosecute any of the RUC officers named in the Sampson report, in the interest of ``national security''.
John Stevens report into collusion between loyalists and the crown forces, a central part of which was the killing of `Pat Finucane, is now lying in the bowels of the British establishment, unseen by all but the British.
In 1969 Kenneth Drury, a detective chief superintendent with Scotland Yard, assisted by George Churchill-Coleman was called in to investigate the killing of Samuel Devenney in Derry.
His report of 236 pages and 1,000 pages of support material, when submitted to Sir Arthur Young the RUC Chief Constable of the time, could reveal nothing whatsoever or identify any of the RUC men who attacked Mr Devenney in his own home in Derry's William Street.
There was a ``conspiracy of silence'', admitted Young.
Nationalists will not tolerate any more walls of silence, there must be an independent inquiry.
Justice demands it: Rosemary Nelson's grieving family deserve it.
A day of shock and grief in Lurgan
It was a day of shock and grief in Lurgan. Hours after the fatal explosion, that killed Rosemary Nelson, nationalist residents of the North Armagh town told An Phoblacht's Caítlin Doherty of their shock and grief at the murder and raised the spectre of collusion between the crown forces and Rosemary's loyalist killers
``She was not only the first woman solicitor in Lurgan and a leading human rights defender. She was not only a mother, but a friend to us all. She represented the voiceless. She represented those who didn't have rights''.
With damp eyes, this mother of four living on one of Lurgan's nationalist estates described her feelings. Plain white graffiti, painted along the rail tracks, echoed the words of shock and anger that ran high on Monday night in Lurgan: ``Rosmary Nelson, the voice of the people. Murdered by RUC/RIR''.
For most Lurgan residents, there is no question as to whose hand was behind the murder of the woman the community regarded as their own.
``Over the past three days there have been constant patrols, check-points and helicopter activity'', one resident, adding weight to the accusations of collusion, told An Phoblacht.
For the past 72 hours, until the late hours of Monday morning, we have seen RUC in areas they would have never have patrolled before.''
At 10.20 AM, a road-block was set up by the crown forces in front of the school just 100 yards from her house. Also, just weeks ago, the British Army dug positions into the fields behind the Nelson home.
According to other residents, the past week, has seen a build-up of RUC and British Army surveillance. Harassment of nationalists had increased with young people in particular targeted. Three
weeks ago, a bomb disposal team cleared an area close to the railway. Crown forces in riot gear were deployed, but not a word was reported in the media.
``In this area, traditionally, when there is such activity, murder has followed'', said one local. Everyone was feeling nervous. Lurgan has been at the heart of collusion. We knew something was going to happen. But this.....?''
It was close to midday when Rosemary drove her silver BMW away from her house and at the end of the street it exploded with the sound of the explosion carrying to the Tannaghmore primary school where the children were sitting in the dining hall. Among them was 8 year old Sarah Nelson, Rosemary and Paul's young daughter.
The car-bomb is thought to have been triggered when Rosemary braked. According to local residents, it took the ambulance half and hour to get to the scene.
Rosemary was then transported to Craigavon hospital where she was accompanied by 3 doctors and 4 paramedics. As her husband, family and friends waited, they were told that she was to be transported to Belfast.
However, minutes later, her husband was called by her side. It was the last time he saw her alive.
Earlier that day, a leading republican from the area was approached by the RUC as he returned from a funeral.
``Your days are numbered'', he was told. Two hours later, as he walked close to the scene of the murder, the same RUC man repeated the threat.
In the afternoon, in the quiet estate, where the car lay wrecked , the silence was deafening. Forensic experts in white suits swept the ground. Neighbours voiced disgust, as they watched the crown forces guarding the removal of the last pieces evidence. ``How can you expect justice when everything is left in the hands of the RUC?'', said Brendan, a local community worker.
``They murdered her and now they are trying to cover it up.''
One man spoke of seeing, ``British forces, deployed on the scene laughing.''
But more than words, the silence said it all. In the afternoon, in a spontaneous outburst of anger and grief over 300 local residents marched to Lurgan RUC barracks.
Speaking at the barracks, Sinn Féin councillor John O'Dowd asked, ``If you are looking for the answers to the murders of Rosemary and Pat Finucane, ask here'' he said pointing at the barracks.
Later as darkness fell, angry youths were being controlled by Sinn Fein activists, ``it is not what Rosemary would have wanted'', said Dara O'Hagan, Assembly member and friend of the Nelson family.
The few incidents that occurred were immediately flagged up in the British media.
``You can't blame the youth'', said one local activist. ``We do not want to play into the hands of those who have done this. But you can't blame them.'' Behind closed doors, family and friends were grieving Rosemary and words were no comfort. As the silence of the night closed in, however they were not alone. Throughout Ireland and beyond, Rosemary Nelson was in the hearts of many. She was not only one of the most respected legal and human rights figures in Ireland. She was not only a mother, a friend and the representative of the voiceless. She was one of us. And her spirit will rise and live forever.
RIR mock solicitor's death
Two Armagh men returning home from Lurgan, where they had attended the wake of murdered human rights solicitor Rosemary Nelson, were stopped by an RIR patrol who poked fun at them when they realised where the men were coming from.
The pair were stopped at about 5.45pm as they travelled home and speaking to An Phoblacht they said the RIR pulled their car into the side of the road where they carried out a thorough search of the vehicle.
The men were also searched, ``they were harassing us pretty badly'', we were told.
As the pair being P-checked they told the British soldiers they had just been to Lurgan and this was like a signal for the RIR men to jeer and poke fun about Rosemary Nelson's death.
``The incident is all the more sickening'', said one of the men because of how the RIR have made threats against the Lurgan solicitor over the years and many of her clients have been harassed by this locally recruited British squad.
Garvaghy Road women in West
The murder of Rosemary Nelson will shock most people in Ireland, and among those will be the various groups in the West of Ireland who last week met with a delegation of four women from the Garvaghy Road to learn at first hand the trauma of the families and women in the ongoing siege.
The women spent two days in Galway City and in Gort and spoke at both private meetings with women's' groups and at well attended public meetings on the theme `Living with Drumcree'.
On Tuesday the delegation was met by local Sinn Féin Representative Vincent Forde and introduced to women from the Westside Resource group. On Wednesday, after separating into two groups, some of the women travelled to Gort where they met with the local press. In the afternoon they travelled to Clare for a radio program and in the evening spoke to a public meeting chaired by Michael Loughrey, Sinn Féin's local spokesperson.
The Galway group, meanwhile, were carrying out a series of meetings, including press briefings, a live interview on local radio, and two further meetings with local women's' initiatives from different parts of the city.
On Wednesday evening the Galway part of the delegation spoke in NUI, Galway, as guests of the Political Discussion Society. The meeting was highly informative, and attended by both students and visitors from the wider community. The meeting passed a unanimous resolution pledging the `active support' of the PDS to the Garvaghy Road residents in their resistance to the Orange marches through their area.
A number of useful contacts were made during the two days and the delegation expressed themselves satisfied that support from the west will be forthcoming should the contacts be developed.
Meanwhile Sinn Fein's Anne Speed has said that, ``the ruthless assassination of Rosemary Nelson was perhaps chillingly forseen last week when women residents of the Garvaghy Road addressed a packed public meeting in Dublin's Liberty Hall and spoke of the loyalist intimidation and ongoing siege of their community''.
Sinn Fein Women's Forum hosted a two day visit to Dublin.
Some 7,000 nationalist residents have been denied justice and human rights by the intransigent Orange Order.
Pressing home the themes of inequality and civil rights Garvaghy Residents spokespersons Orla Maloney, Donna Griffin, Joanna Tennyson and Evelyn White also met with executive members of the Women's National Council and the Private Sector Regional Executive Committee of SIPTU. Later the women met Marian McGennis TD chair of the Fianna Fáil Women's Forum who was accompanied by colleague Beverly Cooper-Flynn and Celia Keaveney.
An informal discussion also took place with Minister for Foreign Affairs David Andrews
The Garvaghy women invited a cross party delegation of women TDs to visit their community, so far the Fianna Fáil women have accepted.
Ending collusion through demilitarisation
By Caítlin Doherty
As the political party leaders gather in the White House, the savage murder of Rosemary Nelson is a brutal reminder of the responsibilities that face Unionism and the British and Irish governments in making the peace process work. Decommissioning will be no doubt flagged up by David Trimble and made a precondition for the setting-up of the Executive. In the recent weeks, the agenda of the pan-unionist front, formed by elements of the no-camp and the Ulster Unionists has been helped by the failure of the British government to establish the Assembly Executive and the governing bodies of the All-Ireland institutions. However, these delaying and obstructionist tactics only throw a shadow on the real issue: implementing the Agreement. Let there be no mistake: the murder of Rosemary Nelson is a tragic reminder of what the process, in the letter and the spirit of the Agreement, entails. All guns must be taken out of Irish politics. The British security apparatus must be dismantled from it's roots.
The paramilitary RUC, and all the crown forces that colluded with loyalist death squads in the assassination of Pat Finucane, those that plotted and carried out Rosemary Nelson's murder and who killed hundreds of nationalist with their legally-held guns, must all be disbanded. It is not enough to acknowledge the grief of the nationalist people. The collusion, highlighted recently by loyalist prisoner Bobby Philpott, must be prevented, the British security framework responsible must be pulled down and the securocrats exposed.
If the peace process is going to work, the British and Irish governments have to ensure that this issue is not pushed aside and becomes the reality that was promised to the people of the island since May last year.
In the past, the main-stream human rights agencies and the United Nations have slammed successive British governments for their massive abuse of human rights. It has been found guilty of collusion. Yet, one year after the unveiling of the report of the UN special rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers, and a year after the Good Friday Agreement, there has not been an inch of progress on this issue. On the contrary, the military build-up continues in areas such as Belast and South Armagh. The RUC is actively attempting to recruit young nationalists on a daily basis. In the past, cover-ups of collusion and the direct consequences of the thousands of legally-held weapons have been a regular fact of life in the Six Counties. Families of victims murdered by the state and loyalist death squads acting on security information, many directly with agents of the Crown, have a right to equality and justice. Rosemary Nelson was among those who fought against the silence surrounding collusion and the effects of militarism on the island.
As a solicitor, she took it upon herself, despite death threats, to passionately fight for the rights of the nationalist people. May it be on the Garvaghy Road, or in the courts, her strength and determination drove her to believe that justice would eventually prevail.
Rosemary Nelson requested independent inquiries into the death of her colleague Pat Finucane and the murder of young Robert Hamill. She fought the British judicial system through the system, despite discriminatory legislation and all the obstacles that lay in her way. Her work was key in the quest for equality, rights and justice in this island.
At this time of transition, the legally-held weapons and know-how of the British securocrats cannot continue to be used to cover-up loyalist murders, in an attempt to silence the nationalist voice.
There is much doubt as to whether the truth will ever be publicly revealed about this latest murder. But there can be no doubt about the urgent need for demilitarisation and the disbandment of the British security apparatus. As anger fills the hearts of the nationalist people, this must be dealt with as a matter of urgency.
Media and politicians playing into murderers hands
by Padraig MacDabhaid
``If a Catholic goes and gets an education and then demands their rights, this is what happens, it's Croppies Lie Down. That's the message they are trying to send out: Croppie Lie Down. All Rosemary Nelson did was get people their rights''. This was the view expressed by a 50 year old Lurgan man, a view shared by most people.
One Lurgan friend said ``With Rosemary it wasn't about Republicanism or loyalism, it was about human rights''. Ms Nelson was well known for her willingness to represent anyone who had suffered injustice, this is why she was killed.
Her death has brought a flood of sympathy from many sources and calls for a an independent public inquiry, but unfortunately it has only been crocodile tears from some quarters.
It is a great disappointment that her death has not brought the attention and support for the ideals which she held so dearly. Many of the establishment/gutter press decided to give more emphasis to the trouble which followed in Lurgan the night of her death, ignoring the role of the RUC in Rosemary's murder and labelling such uprisings as mere ``mindless and sectarian violence''. Most press reports, instead of focusing on the human rights work she had done and the circumstances surrounding her death, choose to highlight a small minority of the cases she worked on in order to offer some sort of a justification for the murder.
Only a small amount of the commentaries which followed her death looked at the fact that she had received numerous death threats from senior RUC officers and had been denied protection by Tony Blair's top aide Jonathan Powell despite documented evidence that her life was in danger.
However, what has been more appalling is the way certain sections of the media portrayed her. She was portrayed as only representing Republican causes, ``the courtroom champion of IRA suspects'' and ``the controversial solicitor who defended suspected IRA men''. One daily paper went as far as to claim that the murderers had created a Republican martyr. All of this takes away from her work as a human rights lawyer.
It is publicity like this which resulted in her murder, not her work.
Some sections of the media must accept a share of the responsibility for the murder in the same way that Douglas Hogg must accept some responsibility for the murder of Pat Finucane, a case which is closely connected with Ms Nelson's murder.
She had often protested herself that she was ``a human rights lawyer'' who believed in the rule of law. It was her belief that the law was not being upheld in her own area, this was why she was held in such high esteem. As Derry solicitor Paddy MacDermott said, ``Rosemary Nelson was killed for representing her clients to the best of her ability without fear or favour''.
Even worse, however, than some of the media reports were the views of some unionist politicians.
The UUP's John Taylor had said that, ``while Unionists would have disagreed with Rosemary Nelson's views and actions, murder can never be justified''.
This, unfortunately, was not the worst view expressed by UUP members. David Trimble on a TV interview implied that Republicans were behind or had a role in the attack. A view also expressed by one editorial which stated that ``if this was a loyalist action, it was oddly counter-productive. For one of its effects will be to take the pressure off the IRA to decommission''. To suggest that this is the case is completely inhuman and unjustified.
All such comments are serving only one purpose. They are hiding the truth about her murder and playing into the hands of all the forces involved in Rosemary Nelson's death.
Rosemary Nelson: the latest in a long list
by Sean Marlow
This column has often referred to the growing evidence of collusion between the RUC and loyalist death squads. This week, of all weeks, I make no apology for returning to this crucial issue.
The cowardly murder of courageous solicitor, wife and mother, Rosemary Nelson, is only the latest in a long list of killings set up and/or carried out by the RUC.
Only last weekend the (anti-republican) Sunday Times published a confession by ex-RUC Sergeant, John Weir, who admitted that;
the RUC [in Armagh alone] were involved in a bomb attack on Tully's bar in Whitecross;
an attempted bombing of Renaghan's bar in Clontibret;
killing two Catholics at the Step Inn in Keady;
passing [decommissioned!] machine guns to the UDA and UVF with assistance from RUC superintendent Harry Breen, who was later shot dead by the IRA;
killing John Francis Green near Castleblaney with UVF hit-men, Robin Jackson and RJ Kerr;
killing shopkeeper William Strathearn;
The Dublin/Monaghan bombings, which killed 33 people and was the worst action of the troubles, although the media seems to have forgotten the victims and their relatives.
The same weekend, the Sunday Tribune and Ireland on Sunday revealed British Forces colluding in 12 killings in Fermanagh, the killing of Councillor Patsy Kelly in Trillick, Co Tyrone and the killing and cover-up of Dundalk man, Seamus Ludlow.
Then we had the revelation from Paul O'Connor of the Pat Finucane Centre that, not only did the RUC encourage loyalists to kill the human rights solicitor Pat Finucane, but they knew exactly when it was going to happen and did nothing to prevent it. Given this sordid history of collusion by the RUC, it is hardly surprising that any rational person should have strong suspicions about the killing of Rosemary Nelson.
Paradoxically this barbarism is even more shocking because it was so blatant and so clearly signalled in advance. Only last September, in a hearing before the US Congress, Rosemary herself related how she had been harassed, assaulted, spat upon and threatened by the RUC. UN Special Rapporteur, Dr Cumaraswamy, reported RUC death threats against several solicitors and warned that Rosemary's life was particularly in danger.
Other aspects of this killing which point towards collusion include the high level of British Forces activity near Rosemary's home before the killing [as happened before Pat Finucane was shot] and the use of a highly sophisticated booby-trap device when, before now, the RUC emphasised that Red Hand Defenders' devices were very crude [echoes of the Dublin/Monaghan bombs].
Despite all of these cases, the RUC and their fellow travellers in the media claim there is no official collusion as many loyalists have been jailed, and at worst only a few bad apples are involved. But the fact that extreme white supremacists in South Africa were jailed did not mean that there was not official collusion with state forces. And, if only a few bad apples in the RUC were setting up nationalists for assassination, why has no RUC member been charged with issuing death threats against Rosemary Nelson or Pat Finucane or with passing thousands of security files to loyalists? Why does the RUC routinely take photos and make detailed drawings of nationalists' homes, including security arrangements?
How should republicans react to these sinister developments? Well, first of all, we should not leave it up to our overworked leaders and press officers to respond in the media. EVERY republican activist and supporter should immediately write to their local [and national] paper and get on to their local radio to point out the facts of collusion and the need for the RUC to be disbanded. YOU should point out the absurdity of calls to leave the nationalist community unarmed [Rosemary Nelson was refused protection by the RUC and British Government], when the RUC, who carried out the first killings of the troubles under the direction of the Unionist Party and who continue to set up nationalists for assassination, are still carrying their lethal weaponry on the streets where the relatives of their victims live.