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14 December 2006 Edition

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Mary Nelis Column

Someone out there does not like Nuala O’Loan

Even by Six Counties standards, it was an extraordinary incident. A high profile woman holding down one of the most powerful positions in the North and a man, son of one of the most powerful politicians around, almost coming to blows in a coffee shop.
Nuala O’Loan, the Police Ombudsman and Ian Paisley junior, were involved in a very public row a few months ago, when she challenged Paisley Jnr, about alleged comments he had made about her children.
Her 23-year-old son Damien O’Loan had been attacked and knocked unconscious by four men as he walked through Belfast City centre. At the time there were concerns that O’Loan was singled out though the attack was one of 491 sectarian attacks mainly against Nationalists, between April and August. The DUP claimed that the attacks were tit-for-tat.
There is no love lost between the DUP and the Ombudsman. Paisley junior, a member of the Policing Board hit out at O Loan after her office detained the CID whistle blower, retired RUC Sergeant ‘Jonty’ Brown and two of his colleagues. All three were questioned about alleged attempts to pervert the course of justice in the probe into the RUC handling of the hunt for the UVF killers of Raymond McCord, beaten to death in 1997. At the Centre of O’Loans investigation are claims that at least one of the gang involved worked for the Special Branch. The report on the murder of Raymond Mc Cord due to be published in September has been delayed.
O’Loan, whose term of office ends next year, has been under constant attack from Unionist politicians. She was only in office a year when Ken McGuinness the former B-Special and retired UUP politician, likened her to a ‘suicide bomber’. A party colleague called for her removal claiming no Unionist believed in the independence of her office as she was married to an SDLP Councillor.
But it was her damning assessment of the RUC mishandling of the Omagh bomb enquiry, which earned her the enmity of those in political circles close to the Special Branch and MI5.  She disclosed that she was deliberately obstructed in her investigation by the Special Branch who withheld vital information.
The latest bizarre incident, involves an employee within her investigative team who was suspended last year after allegations that there had been an attempt to pervert the course of justice. The PSNI were called in when concerns were raised about evidence given in a trial involving a policeman.
The suspended employee whose photograph mysteriously appeared on a notice board with the words ‘gardening leave’ written underneath is a constituent of Jeffrey Donaldson. The DUP man described the incident as shocking and went on to say that the suspended employee may have acted as a whistleblower inside the Ombudsman’s office. Someone out there does not like Nuala O’Loan.

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