31 October 2002 Edition

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New postings for McBride killers

Two British soldiers convicted of murdering 18 year old Peter McBride in Upper Meadow street in the New Lodge Road area of North Belfast in 1992 are due to be moved from their present posting at Oxford Barracks in Muenster in Germany in a few weeks.

Earlier this year, a member of the human rights group, The Pat Finucane Centre, travelled to Germany to raise the case with elected representatives, trade unionists and the media, which resulted in questions being asked about the presence of the two killers in Germany.

The issue was also raised in the German Parliament and the MP for Muenster expressed his concerns to the British Embassy and the British Army.

The Pat Finucane centre has said it will continue to monitor the movements of the two soldiers and will release information on their new postings when it becomes available.

"We are also asking everyone to inform us if the Scots Guards band are due to perform in their area at anytime as a planned performance in Italy was called off last year after the intervention of the McBride family," said the spokesperson.

Solicitors for the McBride family are awaiting a date for a new hearing in the continuing legal battle to have the convicted killers dismissed from the British Army.

In 1998, Mark Wright and James Fisher were released from prison after serving just six years of their life sentences.

Brit press officer tells reporter to "f*** off!"

The chair of the New Lodge Six Committee has said he is not surprised at the attitude of the British Army Press Office after a journalist with the North Belfast News was told to "fuck Off" when he asked for a statement about the wall of silence surrounding the killing of six nationalist men in the area in 1973.

In the incident, six unarmed men, all of whom lived in the New Lodge Road area, were gunned down in a 90-minute killing spree involving both the loyalists and the British Army on 3 February 1973.

"There's no fucking way we work to your rules, you know the score. Fuck off!" was the response from the British Press Office. It is thought to be the only time the British Army have been asked by a member of the media to explain its role in the killings of the six New Lodge men since the massacre.

"The blunt response comes as no surprise to the people of the New Lodge and is a further insult to the families of those killed. It reinforces our view that the only way we will ever establish the truth is by setting up our own inquiry" said Paul O'Neill of the New Lodge Six Committee.

He added that the British Army has no interest in getting to the truth of the case. A community organised public inquiry, headed by internationally recognised human rights lawyers and experts, will examine the events of 3 February later this month

The New Lodge Six Community Inquiry will be held at St Kevin's Hall, North Queen Street, Belfast, on Friday and Saturday 22 & 23 November.

Bik McFarlane targeted by RHD

The Red Hand Defenders, a cover name used by the UDA and the LVF, have claimed responsibility in a telephone call to a Belfast newsroom for an attempt to kill leading republican Brendan Bik McFarlane.

A device was left close to McFarlanes Ardoyne home in North Belfast on Friday night 25 October and in a phone claim the Red Hand Defenders named him as the intended target of the attack, however neither McFarlane or his wife were home at the time.

McFarlane, the OC of IRA prisoners in the H Blocks during the 1981 Hunger Strike, told An Phoblacht that members of the PSNI visited his home on Saturday and informed him that a pipe bomb had been discovered close to his home.

"The device could have killed my three-year-old son or 20-month-old daughter and a babysitter if it had exploded," he said. "The PSNI only informed us of the incident on Saturday evening."

He told us that the RUC and PSNI have now visited him on four separate occasions to warn him that his life was in danger and that he has lost count of how many times he has been threatened by loyalists.

McFarlane blamed unionist politicians "for refusing to work within the Good Friday Agreement.

"They have created a political vacuum in which all nationalists living in North Belfast are seen by unionist paramilitaries as legitimate targets. I am no different from any other nationalists in North Belfast who have been told they are being targeted by loyalists."

Sectarian ram raid on Catholic school

A Catholic school has become the latest target of the ongoing sectarian campaign in Lisburn. Arsonists rammed a stolen car into St Patrick's High School on the Ballinderry Road in Antrim at around 4am on Monday 28 October.

The driver rammed the car through the locked school gates before reversing the Volkswagen Polo at high speed towards the foyer of the school. However the car became impaled on a metal handrail just feet from the main doors of the school and was set alight there. The ensuing fire caused some damage to the front doors of the building.

"The school would have been lost if these people had succeeded in getting the car through the front of the building and into the foyer," said the chair of the schools board, Fr Sean Rogan.

The attack has also been condemned by Sinn Féin Lisburn councillor Paul Butler who criticised the Unionist MP for the area Jeffrey Donaldson, whose for his hardline stance in relation to the peace process, he said, only encourages sectarian attacks on the Catholic community.

"It is important that unionists in Lisburn come out and condemn these sectarian attacks on the Catholic community. Schools must be seen as sacred places which must be protected from such wanton attacks," said Butler.

Two weeks ago two mobile classrooms at the school were destroyed while windows have been repeatedly smashed in Catholic churches in the area.

Kelly slams hypocritical unionists

Sinn Féin Assembly member Gerry Kelly says the response to unionist paramilitary violence from all shades of unionist politicians has been "hypocritical and dangerous".

Kelly was speaking last Friday after he visited the home of a Catholic family in Alliance Avenue, Ardoyne, which had been targeted in the latest sectarian pipe bomb attack on a Catholic family, the fifth such sectarian attack in the area in the past week.

In recent weeks loyalist politicians, including former Mayor of Belfast Jim Rodgers, said that a pipe bomb which injured a 14- year-old boy in Bryson Street in the Short Strand area of East Belfast was "green propaganda".

Frankie Gallagher of the Ulster Political Research Group, which has links with the UDA, said loyalists were not involved in the Bryson Street attack and that it was an 'own goal'.

Rodgers also claimed a PSNI member told him that republicans in the Short Strand were staging attacks on their own community for propaganda reasons, a claim dismissed by a senior PSNI member who oversees operations at interfaces.

Responding, Kelly accused unionists of burying their heads in the sand and of trying to blame everyone but themselves. "We only have to remember David Trimble attempting to link the killing by the UDA of young Ciaran Cummings in Antrim to a drugs dispute," he recalled.

"People are justifiably angry at being under constant attack from unionist paramilitaries while unionist political leaders are actively trying to redirect the blame for loyalist attacks on the Catholic communities or attempting to cover up these attacks.

"At a time when unionist leaders are sitting in talks with loyalist paramilitaries in South Africa, nationalists are accusing unionist politicians of having an acceptable level of loyalist violence directed at Catholics. This position is both hypocritical and dangerous and only gives assistance and excuses to those who carry out these nightly attacks," said Kelly.

An Phoblacht
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Dublin 1