19 February 1998 Edition
RUC spin doctors give false information
No evidence to back claims
by Laura Friel
An Phoblacht has learned that the RUC gave false information in briefings to journalists after three men were arrested for the killing of loyalist Robert Dougan.
Immediately after their arrest the men were branded ``IRA suspects'' and later journalists were told that there was forensic evidence against them. The shooting of a drug dealer, Brendan Campbell, 24 hours earlier, was already being labelled as a DAAD killing and linked to the IRA by the RUC.
Briefing the media, the RUC claimed ballistic evidence linked the weapon used in the Campbell killing to a previous shooting which, alleged the RUC, had been carried out by DAAD. According to the RUC, DAAD is simply a covername for the IRA. RUC Chief Ronnie Flanagan believed that a previous gun attack in Meadows Tavern in which Campbell was wounded but survived was carried out by DAAD.
The message was clear. Create a climate of blame around the IRA and allow unionist politicians and the media to clamour for Sinn Féin to be excluded from the talks. The RUC were acting as spin doctors for the Unionist Party.
Significantly, Campbell did not believe DAAD or the IRA was behind the Meadows Tavern attack. After it he took out a £15,000 contract on the man he believed was behind the attempt on his life, another drug dealer known as `Studs'.
Meanwhile, more ``IRA suspects'' were being arrested by the RUC in West Belfast. Some were beaten, many were threatened with death, their families were threatened and their solicitors. Most were later released without charge.
By contrast, months of `investigation' by the RUC into the sectarian killing of Catholics by loyalist death squads had resulted in next to nothing. The admission by the RUC that they had evidence linking the UDA with the murder of Catholics had to be dragged out of a very reluctant Chief Constable.
Nationalists in the North will remember that less than a year ago the RUC said that Robert Hamill had died during ``a clash between rival factions'' in Portadown. The RUC claimed they had moved in to ``separate the groups'' but had been forced back after coming under attack themselves. RUC statements, issued shortly after Hamill had been kicked to death by a loyalist mob while the RUC sat back and let them, were of course later exposed as a tissue of lies.
Now the RUC's word was to be treated as gospel. The RUC asserted it, the British Secretary of State accepted it and the Dublin government believed the British government. Mowlam was `unable' to substantiate the RUC's claim, the case was sub judice. Labelling detainees ``IRA suspects'' even before they are questioned, let alone before a trial, is apparently not considered sub judice.
``There is not a shred of forensic evidence,'' a source has told An Phoblacht. A solicitor representing one of the three men accused of killing Dougan dismissed the prosecution's case and accused the RUC of deliberately misleading the court. Appearing in Belfast Magistrates Court on Monday Philip Breen challenged the RUC. Brandishing a newspaper article, fellow solicitor, Kevin Winters described the media as ``well briefed''. The specifics of evidence were being denied to the court, he said.
There is no forensic evidence to link the accused with the shooting. No weapon has been recovered. The defendants have not incriminated themselves and identification evidence has already been challenged in Belfast's High Court. Circumstantial evidence has been described as flimsy. Despite the RUC's ``IRA suspects'' tag, no one has been charged with IRA membership. In the interests of natural justice Samuel Baker, Sean Valente and William Groves should never go to trial. Tragically, in the interests of political expediency, the charade may be pushed towards an attempted conviction. Pawns in a political game, which even by the time of their first court appearance had already moved to Dublin Castle, the trio face an uncertain future.
The future of a fourth man, Ronan Kennedy, appearing separately on a charge of withholding information, also hangs in the balance. Amnesty International and the Six county based Committee for the Administration of Justice are already monitoring what is already being billed as a possible Birmingham Six style miscarriage of justice case.
Lenadoon raids provoke anger
By Laura Friel
In sharp contrast to the RUC response to the murder of ten Catholics over the Christmas and New Year period, crown forces saturated Twinbrook hours after the death of UDA leader Robert Dougan last Tuesday 10 February. Over the next two days they raided homes in the area and arrested seven men.
Three men were arrested in the first wave of raids. During the raid one man was assaulted and needed hospital treatment as his finger was broken. According to Sinn Fein councillor Paul Butler all three men were beaten as they were dragged from the house and thrown into RUC jeeps. Later that night three more homes in Twinbrook were raided amid a continued heavy military presence throughout the area.
The next day there were four more arrests and more raids. Paul Butler angrily accused the RUC of ``felon setting'' after they told the media that the arrested men were ''IRA suspects''.
Local people are ``extremely angry'', said Butler, ``the RUC is following a political agenda aimed at republicans.''
Later on Wednesday 11 February, the RUC and British Army saturated the nationalist Lenadoon area and raided four homes. At about 2.30pm upwards of 15 RUC and British army jeeps and landrovers descended on Lenadoon Avenue. They stayed for over five hours, raided three homes in a small two storey block of flats.
Stephen, a young man living on the second floor, returned home at midnight and found nothing left of his front door. The man, who was visibly shaken when he talked to An Phoblacht, initially thought hoods had vandalised his flat and only later discovered a form detailing the RUC action - on the form they said there was no damage to the flat.
Two neighbours on the ground floor were also raided. Thomas Maguire spoke of how seven RUC men charged his front door and smashed it open, despite the fact that he was in. Mr Maguire and his family were placed under house arrest by the RUC while a mirror and pictures were damaged as the RUC men became increasingly abusive. It was the same story next door.
Further up the street a fourth raid was taking place. In the most vicious attack of the day, seven RUC men charged up the driveway of a house with sledgehammers. `Marie' (not her real name) was at home with her 17 year old son and one year old daughter. As the RUC charged the house a concerned neighbour followed them, but as he reached the front door they turned on him. Two RUC men grabbed the neighbour by throat and dragged him to ground in the garden. `Marie' was then smacked in the face as she tried to go to his aid. The RUC then turned on her son, Michael, as he moved to put himself between the RUC and his mother. But before he could act he was battered against the inside wall, despite holding his one year old sister in his arms. The baby received bruising to the back of her head, Michael received a black eye.
At this point neighbours and friends came onto the streets outside to protest, blowing whistles and banging binlids, forcing the RUC to withdraw.
However, this didn't stop their pettiness, and before they pulled out they smashed eggs into the hotpress in Marie's house.
Widow accuses RUC
by Laura Friel
The widow of John Slane, a Catholic murder victim, has accused the RUC of double standards.
44-year-old John Slane was shot dead last March when loyalist gunmen burst into his West Belfast home. Speaking almost a year later, Martha Slane said the RUC investigation into her husband's murder appeared ``in sharp contrast'' to the RUC's response to the deaths of loyalist Robert Dougan and Brendan Campbell, a drug dealer.
The widow said `security forces' told her the UFF were responsible for the attack but the RUC denied any group had been identified. Martha Slane believes the investigation into her husband's death was a cover-up to keep fringe loyalist parties in the talks process. ``Because no group has been directly linked to John's murder it is as if it never happened.'' No one ever mentions him, said the widow. Twelve months after the killing the RUC have yet to contact the Slane family. ``They haven't been in touch about forensics or anything. John was just another Catholic and it didn't seem to matter,'' she said.