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25 March 1999 Edition

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Phillips tainted by Stalker inquiry

David Phillips, the chief constable of Kent who was drafted in to investigate the murder of Rosemary Nelson, was second in command of Greater Manchester police when that force became involved in the effort to discredit John Stalker and have him removed from the investigation into the RUC killings of six men in Armagh in 1982. It was widely believed at the time that Stalker was getting too close to the truth about the shoot-to-kill operations of the RUC's E4a squad and had to be removed from the inquiry.

Stalker was thought to have uncovered a tape from the hayshed in which Michael Tighe was killed near Lurgan which pointed towards a planned RUC killing and not a spontaneous shoot-out.

Further, the Kent police under Phillips was heavily criticised in the MacPherson report into the killing of black teenager Stephen Lawrence. The Kent police ``found no evidence to support the allegation of racist conduct by any Metropolitan police officer'' a conclusion with which MacPherson ``roundly disagreed''.

These revelations will cause serious disquiet among nationalists, who were already less than convinced that Phillips could live up to the responsibility of uncovering the truth about the Nelson killing.

Speaking to An Phoblacht, Sinn Féin's Upper Bann Assembly member Dr. Dara O'Hagan, a close friend of the Nelson family, said: ``Nothing short of an independent inquiry into the murder of Rosemary Nelson will alleviate the fears and concerns of everyone interested in justice and human rights''.

 

Why Rosemary Nelson was silenced



by Laura Friel
John Stalker, the British policemen tasked with investigating the RUC's shoot-to-kill policy in the 1980's, recounts an incident at Crumlin Road court house when he was reprimanded by an RUC officer who objected to Stalker exchanging words with Pat Finucane, a solicitor representing the survivor of the Hayshed stake-out. ``The solicitor is an IRA man, any man who represents IRA men is worse than an IRA man,'' said the RUC Sergeant. The parallels between the killing of Pat Finucane, gunned down in 1989, and last week's murder of Rosemary Nelson are so obvious that they hardly need to be drawn; the sophistication of both killings and the context within which they took place has fuelled allegations of collusion.

In the ten years that have followed, the tenacity and determination of the Finucane family and their supporters has ensured that the significance has never been lost. The murder of a civil rights lawyer and the notoriety of the RUC is now known within political and legal circles throughout the world. In truth Pat Finucane became more dangerous in death, than ever he was in life. Yet despite this someone somewhere decided last week that Rosemary Nelson was more dangerous alive than dead.

So what was it about this slightly built woman, shy enough to turn away from cameras to conceal a minor facial blemish, which had so terrified her killers? As the media images flashed across our television screens of Rosemary Nelson's car with it's doors flung open and the mangled front seat where she had so brutally suffered before dying some hours later, a confidential file was being placed on the desk of the Director of Public Prosecutions. The file was the culmination of a two year investigation into allegations of harassment, including assault and death threats by the RUC against Rosemary Nelson. The DPP will decide if any action is to be taken against the RUC.

In the summer of 1997 Rosemary Nelson had lodged complaints of RUC harassment with the Independent Commission for Police Complaints. An RUC investigation began under the supervision of ICPC member Geralyn McNally. The history of the ICPC is one of being an apologist for the RUC rather than a public watchdog.

A year into the investigation and the ICPC decided to pull the plug, after McNally expressed ``serious concerns'' about the conduct of the RUC to Mo Mowlam.The investigation was scrapped and the RUC team replaced by officers from the London Metropolitan police.

Earlier this week, just days after Rosemary Nelson's death, the ICPC released to her family details of the ``serious concerns'' which had underpinned the decision to remove the RUC from the investigation arising out of Rosemary's complaints, it is telling reading. Criticism by the ICPC included,

general hostility, evasiveness and disinterest of RUC officers involved in the investigation.
ill disguised hostility to Rosemary Nelson from some RUC officers whose mindset could be viewed as bordering on the obstructive.
one RUC officer arrived 45 minutes late for an interview smelling of drink.
the apparent prompting of some RUC officers to prepare statements in advance of interviews. One officer told the ICPC he had prepared his statement at the request of a chief inspector.
An RUC chief inspector involved in the investigation made a number of claims which constitute judgment on the moral character of Rosemary Nelson.
Another senior RUC officer deemed evidence given by Rosemary Nelson ``no better'' than evidence given by criminal suspects,
A chief inspector dismissed the allegations as propaganda.
In short the ICPC found the RUC hostile, evasive, dismissive and abusive.

But Rosemary Nelson's role as defence lawyer in a number of high profile cases was not the only reason she became a target for harassment by the RUC. Six months ago Rosemary travelled to Washington to give evidence before the US Congress subcommittee on International Relations and Human Rights. She told the US hearing that the behaviour of the RUC towards her had worsened over the last three years, particularly ``since I began to represent the residents of the Garvaghy Road area of Portadown.''

Rosemary Nelson had a gift for internationalising issues previously obscured in the political confines of the Six counties. Less than a week before her death, Rosemary had presided over yet another breakthrough. In April 1997, a 25-year-old Catholic Robert Hamill was fatally attacked by a loyalist mob in Portadown. The attack took place in full view of an RUC patrol who did nothing to prevent the sectarian murder. Rosemary Nelson was the Hamill family's solicitor. Two weeks ago it was announced that the families of the murdered black teenager Stephen Lawrence and the Hamill family would be ``forging firmer links''.

Perhaps then Rosemary Nelson was murdered less for what she has done and more for what she was about to do.

Last Autumn Rosemary Nelson gave evidence to a congressional committee investigating the UN report by Param Cumaraswamy. Her evidence of RUC threats against her was damning and convincing according to congress members who heard her testimony. Next month Rosemary was scheduled to present evidence before another congressional hearing bringing further damaging details of RUC direct involvement in killings and bombing over 20 years out into the international arena.

In 1991 Sean McPhilemy produced ``The Committee'' a documentary for British television which revealed a conspiracy involving prominent members of the Unionist community who actively colluded with loyalist paramilitaries in a campaign of terror against the nationalist community. The making of the programme was followed by the rigorous pursuit of the film makers by the RUC through the British courts.

As McPhilemy's solicitor, Rosemary Nelson had extensive documentation on collusion. In a conversation with a close friend, just hours before her death, Rosemary commented on an article which appeared in a Dublin newspaper which named a former head of the RUC Special Branch, Assistant Chief Constable Brian Fitzsimmons as involved in coordinating attacks by the RUC and loyalist paramilitaries. Rosemary confirmed that the story was true.

Brian Fitzsimmons was killed in a helicopter crash in the Mull of Kintyre in 1994. After his death, Ronnie Flanagan took his place as head of the RUC Special Branch.

 

 

International outrage



The brutal murder of human rights lawyer Rosemary Nelson has brought a storm of outrage and condemnation both at home and internationally.

Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams, speaking at Emory University while on tour in the US, described Rosemary Nelson as, ``a brave and courageous woman who refused to allow state violence and intimidation deter her from the task of defending human rights and speaking out against injustice. Her life was an example of how one person can make a difference in standing up for truth and justice''.

Adams highlighted the fact that Rosemary Nelson was a constituent of David Trimble and the people whom she represented were a section that Trimble would not talk to.

He added, ``it is not enough for political leaders to condemn violent actions. We have to ensure that we do not create the space in which the bigots and reactionaries can perpetrate their actions. For Mr Trimble that means he must reach out beyond his own supporters. He must talk and listen to every section of our people. That means burying old enmities and suspicions, grasping the outstretched hand of friendship and moving forward together''.

The death of Rosemary Nelson particularly affected US Congressmen. Ms Nelson had testified before Congress last September that she was in fear of her life from the RUC. She was testifying at a committee hearing which highlighted a United Nation's report that called for an independent inquiry into the harassment of defence attorneys in the Six Counties as well as a specific, independent inquiry into the allegations of collusion in the 1989 death of Pat Finucane.

Ben Gilman, chairman of the Congress's International Relations Committee quickly called for an independent inquiry into the murder and added ``the fact that Ms Nelson openly feared threats from some in the RUC and had no faith in their ability to protect her, makes it all the more important that the RUC engage in a total hands off approach from this inquiry, so that its eventual findings can stand on their own''.

Congressman Chris Smith, chairman of the Sub-committee on International Operations and Human Rights, urged an investigation into the possibility of collusion by British forces. He said that ``it is obvious that the RUC cannot be entrusted with this investigation. The circumstances of her death, her fear of the RUC, and her own forecast that something horrible might happen to her makes it absolutely necessary that an investigative body, other than the RUC investigate her murder''.

Gerry Adams, while supporting the calls for an independent inquiry, dismissed as ``unacceptable'' the inquiry established by the head of the RUC using an English police officer.

He pointed out, ``there have been four such similar inquiries at critical points in the past. The first was carried out by Scotland Yard Detective Chief Superintendent Kenneth Drury who was brought in to investigate the beating to death in his home of Derry man Samuel Devenny in the Summer of 1969, Drury failed to establish the truth and the temporary English head of the RUC, Sir Arthur Young, complained of a ``conspiracy of silence'' within the RUC protecting the guilty. Three subsequent reports by another three English policemen, John Stalker, Colin Sampson and John Stevens, into RUC collusion and shoot to kill tactics by the RUC were never published and have remained under wraps. Clearly this mechanism of appointing English policemen to get at the truth will find no support or confidence among nationalists''.

 

British MP's lead call for Nelson inquiry



by Pádraig MacDabhaid

Labour MP Ken Livingstone has led calls for an independent judicial inquiry into the murder of Rosemary Nelson and the death threats that she had received from the RUC.

Mr Livingstone tabled an Early Day Motion motion in the English House of Commons which called on the House to extend its deepest sympathy to the Nelson family. The motion also asked the House to note that Ms Nelson had complained to the International Operations and Human Rights Sub-commitee of the US House International Relations Committee hearing on Human Rights in the Six Counties of RUC harassment and death threats, a situation which had grown worse since she began to represent the residents of the Garvaghy Road. He also noted that her complaints about RUC death threats ``received no satisfactory response'' and highlighted the links between her death and the murder of Pat Finucane.

Livingstone goes on to note that the UN Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers reported the threats against Mrs Nelson and he accepted that her life was in danger.

He concluded by calling for an independent inquiry into her death and the involvement of the security forces in her death.

The motion is attracting support from MP's from various party's. Immediately after being posted there were 26 open signatures of MP's added to the motion and that number is steadily growing.

The support for an inquiry has also attracted large volumes of support on the ground both in Ireland and England.

In England a large crowd attended a black flag protest held in London's Trafalgar Square on Tuesday 16 March in memory of Rosemary Nelson. In Birmingham a black flag vigil was held on Saturday 20 March with the aim of remembering not only Mrs Nelson but also to draw attention to the significance of her work as ``an inspirational campaigner for justice, freedom and human rights''. The Celtic league also added their support to calls for an independent inquiry.

Protests against the RUC and calls for an independent inquiry also spread across the Six Counties.

A silent vigil was held outside Downpatrick RUC barracks on Tuesday 16 March. Sinn Féin's Down District councillor Paddy McGreevy, who attended the vigil, said, ``Rosemary Nelson was a beacon for truth and justice. Like Pat Finucane before her she fought against state injustice and in particular the excess of the RUC. For this she was threatened many times. He added, ``Ronnie Flanagan's announcement of an RUC inquiry headed by a British Police Chief is totally inadequate.''

Antrim town saw a demonstration on Sunday 21 March while in Strabane hundreds of nationalists took to the streets on Tuesday 16 March and held a 45 minute black flag vigil at Strabane RUC barracks. Those in attendance heard Sinn Féin's John Kelly pay tribute to the work of Mrs Nelson both as a lawyer and as a mother who struggled for human rights.

Among the community and residents groups who lent their support for an independent public inquiry was the South Armagh Farmers and Residents Committee who's PRO Toni Carragher lashed out at any RUC involvement in the inquiry.

 

London meeting remembers Rosemary



Le Fern Lane
There was a tangible sense of loss and genuine grief at a packed meeting in London to pay tribute to murdered human rights lawyer Rosemary Nelson. Gathered together were Gareth Pierce, Suresh Grover of the Stephen Lawrence Campaign, Martin McGovern of Sinn Fein's London office and many others who were united in their admiration for Rosemary's selfless courage and professionalism in defending the human rights of her clients.

The meeting, which was sponsored by the London-based Independent Institute of Peace Studies, called for an International inquiry into the killing and for the disbandment of the RUC as the only appropriate and credible response to the allegations of collusion by the force in this murder and others.

Martin McGovern said, ``the RUC is 93% Protestant, 97% male and 100% Unionist. It cannot be reformed. Rosemary Nelson knew this and did certain things, very simple things. She defended people they said shouldn't be defended, she defended people on the Garvaghy Road. This is why she was killed.''

Lawyer Gareth Pierce spoke about the true nature of the RUC, saying, ``we know there is a police force that is militarised, that is quite extraordinarily strong, that is in fact a standing army. In the course of the conflict it was considered impolitic to have a vast standing army - that would be too grotesque, too obvious. So if you don't want to do that, what do you do? You transform the police into the equivalent of an army and say they are simply policing.''

``It isn't a representative police force and so it isn't a police force for the people or of the people. But, if it is allowing people to be killed then it's far worse than something which is just distorted in its composition.''

Suresh Grover of the Stephen Lawrence made an impassioned plea for black and Irish people to come together to fight for their collective civil and human rights. He reminded the audience of Rosemary's visit to Conway Hall last August to raise awareness of Robert Hamill's case and its similarities with the Stephen Lawrence murder.

``It's an absolute tragedy that we can sit in a meeting with Rosemary and discuss these murders, just let the time pass and then six months later meet again to discuss her death. It's absolutely unacceptable. How can we live like this? How can we allow this to continue?''

 

A moving tribute to Rosemary Nelson




Thousands joined in a silent funeral cortege in Lurgan to pay tribute to Rosemary Nelson. Caítlin Doherty followed the mourners on a day of sadness and overwhelming grief

The procession was silent, and silent to a point it gripped the throat. In the streets of Lurgan, thousands paid tribute to a relative, a friend, and someone for whose work and person they had strong feelings for.

It was for the woman Rosemary Nelson, for the loving relative, passionate human rights solicitor and once cheerful friend or determined colleague that they gathered. By doing so in such numbers, the mourners made one clear statement: Rosemary, the voice of the people, would never be left in the dark.

Croppies won't lie down.

Hundreds had already gathered outside her home in Ashford Grange in the town to follow the funeral cortege. As her father, husband and her closest friends, among which Breandán MacCionnaith and Gerard Rice carried her coffin, they wept. It was Paul, Rosemary's husband, and her three children who then led the funeral crowd to St Peter's church. In their hands, they held a single red flower.

They were not alone in their overwhelming grief. Thousands had arrived from Belfast, Derry, Armagh, Tyrone, Fermanagh and the 26 Counties.

Among them was Dara O'Hagan, Rosemary's close friend and Bairbre de Brún, Gerry Kelly, John Kelly, Barry McElduff and Francie Malloy, all Sinn Féin Assembly members. Relatives of Robert Hamill, who Rosemary represented, Róisín McAliskey as well as English civil rights campaigner Michael Mansfield, solicitor Gareth Pierce and comedian Jeremy Hardy.

As mourners lined the streets, the procession swelled and soon became a stream of outcrying grief.

No church could have ever contained the crowd. In and outside a packed St Peter's Church, lined with microphones, mourners silently filled the aisle. The officiating priest, Father Kieran McPartlan asked how anyone could take the life of a woman who had done so much for her family and her community. Father McPartlan insisted on the need for an independent inquiry into her murder. ``It is absolutely necessary that an independent inquiry be set up to investigate the circumstances surrounding the appalling death of Rosemary Nelson'', he said. Her daughter Sarah brought a bouquet of flowers to the altar during the Offertory procession. Her sons, Gavin and Christopher, also paid a moving personal tribute. ``We, her family, knew her as the best wife, daughter, and parent you could ever wish for. We all come here today to celebrate the life of a wonderful person we all know we were very lucky to have known and loved''. Their voices were strong and suprisingly vibrant at such a difficult moment.

After the ceremony, as the crowd dispersed, there was a deep sense of grief, but also of anger. There was no doubt in the mourners' minds as to who had murdered Rosemary Nelson and the reasons they had silenced her. But by attending the procession in such crowds, a clear signal had been given: Rosemary had campaigned her whole life for justice and truth. And the light of truth and justice has to now be shed on her murderers.

 

Nothing less than an independent inquiry into Rosemary Nelson's murder



By Caítlin Doherty
Cearta, the equality pressure group, and community groups from across Ireland are organising a vigil of remembrance for murdered human rights solicitor Rosemary Nelson on Sunday March 28. Participants are asked to assemble at 3 o'clock in front of Belfast city hall and carry a flower.

The vigil is organised to honour Rosemary's life as a passionate human rights solicitor and demand an international, independent, investigation and inquiry into her murder. A panel of women chaired by a representative of Cearta, representing the community, human rights and legal fields, will address the crowd.

The vigil was organised after Belfast community groups met on the day following the murder. They felt it was necessary to organise a vigil, as well as add their voices to calls demanding an independent inquiry.

Full page advertisements sponsored by groups from across Ireland will be published in local newspapers. The bulk of it's text, translated in Irish, is an extract from an address made by Rosemary to the International Operations and Human Rights Sub-committee of the US House of Representatives in which she talks of the way she was physically abused by RUC members and subject to sectarian verbal abuse.

The aim of the campaign is to prevent the RUC from investigating the murder of a woman they themselves threatened, harassed, as well as physically and verbally abused on many occasions. Rosemary had documented the threats made directly against her or via her clients by the crown forces.

Such threats have been documented in human rights reports such as the one of the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers, Dato Param Cumaraswamy. Shortly after his investigation, Cumaraswamy had advised RUC Chief Constable Ronnie Flanagan and British Direct Ruler Majorie Mowlam of the threats to Rosmary's life.

A coalition of leading human rights organisations has already joined the United Nations special rapporteur in demanding a full and international inquiry. The coalition includes Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, the Lawyers Commitee for Human Rights, the Committee on the Administration of Justice, the British/Irish Rights Watch and the Irish Council on Civil Liberties.

``There has been huge support for this initiative'', said Ciaráin Kearney from the Belfast based Falls Community Council. People across the island feel very very strongly about a totally independent and international inquiry and investigation into Rosemary's murder ten years after the murder of Pat Finucane. The vigil is a dignified vigil and an occasion to add our voices to the calls for an independent inquiry''.

 

American media failed Rosemary Nelson



by Christy Ward
The American media soiled the memory of Rosemary Nelson last week, with one Detroit newspaper going as far as identifying the murdered Lurgan human-rights defender as an ``IRA lawyer.''

Both print and broadcast reporters, largely ignoring the Nelson murder and the threat to the Irish peace process, opted to cover issues of far greater import to the general public. For example, last week Americans were treated to - or bombarded by - nearly hourly updates on a round-the-world balloon trip by a couple of guys with too much money and too much time on their hands.

And there was the 36-straight hours of pre-Oscar drivel, including the latest on Monica, her hair, her book, her weight, her dry-cleaning bill, and her association with Vanity Fair.

To be fair, two networks did trot out some old and new faces on the Irish scene, with Seán O'Callaghan appearing on ABC and Vincent McKenna doing a piece for CBS. John Hume was unavailable; he was picking up a peace award in Antarctica.

Both O'Callaghan and McKenna say they were IRA men, which may surprise those who thought that American media have an unfavorable opinion of Irish republicans in general.

Both have benefited from the largesse of the British government, O'Callaghan as a paid spy for MI6 and McKenna as a spokesperson for the anti-republican group cleverly called ``Families Against Intimidation and Terror,'' a group funded by the British government and never seeming to comment on Unionist actions like the one that killed Rosemary Nelson.

If I didn't know better, I'd swear that there was a vast conspiracy to prevent the truth from coming out; that the British were somehow influencing what was being reported in the United States; that the WASP community had banded together to portray people like Rosemary Nelson as evil incarnate.

Even a fairly good paper like the Atlanta Journal Constitution did a story, based on a live interview with Gerry Adams at Emory University on the eve of Rosemary Nelson's murder. The piece included quotes from Rupert Murdoch's London Times newspaper, that wellspring of Irish sympathy in England.

Perhaps the American media were uncomfortable in reporting the death of Rosemary Nelson because it would require them to include the allegation that the Royal Ulster Constabulary was involved.

Some readers will recall that this column broke the story that CNN had failed to stand up to British-government censorship when Larry King first interviewed Gerry Adams.

The British government was still blacking out republican politicians, even those elected to Parliament, and did so with the CNN interview, not seen in Africa and the Middle East because of British censorship.

A spokesperson for the Larry King Show told me at the time that there was nothing CNN could do. The transmitter that beamed the show across Europe and south was in England, and CNN was afraid the Brits would yank their permit.

CNN's Ralph Beglighter, responding some years back about concerns I had raised about Adams being identified as the leader of the IRA, told me that everyone knows ``they are essentially the same,'' or some words close to that. And there's the rub. The American media play fast and loose with the facts, because some Anglophile in the State Department or some wag from the British Information Services has set them straight (over a single malt on the Empire's expense account), and they swallow it.

The media ignore the murder of Rosemary Nelson because it's difficult to explain why and how they have supported the British side for all these years. And because discovering the truth, as Jo Thomas of the NY Times found out, can be dangerous and lead to a serious journalist loosing a job.

Sad to recount, the American media could have made a major contribution to the peace in Ireland. They could have done for Ireland what they did for the civil-rights movement in the United States in the 1960s, but that would have required nearly 30 years of reporting British government-sponsored atrocities and few in the American glamour media would be willing to turn down lunch with Prince Charles for a pint with Joe Cahill.

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