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90 Catholic families forced from homes

POSTED ON February 16th  - POSTED IN Archive

By Anne Cadwallader

BELFAST – Ninety Catholic families were intimidated or burned out of their homes during the week, hundreds of RUC men were injured, and millions of pounds damage caused to tourism and the economy as Northern Ireland continues to reel from the Drumcree crisis.

Hundreds of Orangemen, meanwhile, remain encamped near Drumcree church in Portadown, protesting the Parades Commission decision to ban their annual march, which was to have been held almost two weeks ago.

As the Orangemen protest is joined nightly by thousands of their brethren, a low level of ethnic cleansing has been going on against vulnerable Catholic families, particularly in the eastern parts of Counties Antrim and Down, including Carrickfergus, Antrim town, Larne, Coleraine in County Derry and parts of Belfast.

One Catholic woman was forced to leave her home of 27 years after it was attacked by firebombs twice within a week. Protestant families who sheltered the Catholic neighbors were also intimidated and forced from home.

The village of Dunloy in County Antrim was besieged for a night by two thousand Orangemen who subsequently issued a military-style statement that they had “taken up positions” and “held” the village to show what they were capable of.

Local people armed with only hurley sticks were prepared to defend the area, but the Orangemen backed off when it became obvious villagers had been forewarned about their arrival.

Loyalists in both the UDA and UVF, the two main extreme Protestant paramilitary groups, were believed involved in widespread violence and intimidation during the week-long Drumcree siege. But they thrown themselves wholeheartedly behind the Orange protest, they would have brought Northern Ireland to a standstill, as they did in 1996, leading to a British government U-turn and forcing an Orange march down the Garvaghy Road.

It seems that although individuals were involved, the two main groups held back from outright participation in violence, for fear of losing their early prison release schemes.

The UDA is being blamed for gun attacks on members of the RUC in north and west Belfast, while the UVF was held responsible for a spate of blast bomb attacks at Drumcree and in Carrickfergus.

Every day of the week-long protest, hundreds of roads were blocked, with motorists advised to stay at home, cross-border trains canceled and no form of public transport in many areas after dark.

Mowlam threat

Neither group admitted breaking its cease-fire, with the Northern Ireland secretary, Mo Mowlam, threatening to postpone the prisoner-release schemes if they were proved to be involved.

The UDA, prompted by her warning, said any person found rioting would not be accepted onto its wings in the Maze jail, widely seen as an attempt to prevent its members being penalized for the violence.

The RUC-released film showing a gunman equipped with a long-barreled rifle firing at their lines under cover of darkness at Drumcree. The police also put on show catapults, lead weights, ball bearings and other missiles used against its members during the siege.

The UVF is the only group known to have pipe-bomb-making skills, and over 40 of these devices were hurled at the police and soldiers, night after night, in full view of international journalists and camera crews.

At no time, either day or night, was there any overt RUC or British Army presence at the Orange encampment. On Thursday, 20,000 Orangemen and supporters massed there from around County Antrim, the largest attendance of the week.

They crowded down at the 20-ft wide flooded trench, dug out by the British Army, yelling abuse and threats at police and soldiers. Shouts of “traitors,” “sell out to the IRA,” “cowards” and “you are no Ulstermen” are only the more repeatable.

On Thursday night, the sky was riven by huge blasts and at least four policemen were injured, one seriously. The following day more than 100 plastic bullets were fired to keep the Orangemen at bay.

Twenty people were taken to hospital with injuries, including a 21-year-old woman student who lost an eye. When hand-to-hand fighting broke out on the barricade blocking their path to Garvaghy Road, two arrests were made.

The Garvaghy Road resembled an armed camp, with long lines of massive British Army vehicles patrolling day and night and checkpoints at each end. Loyalists would sporadically mount roadblocks, preventing people getting to work or to shops.

U.S. observers

More than 50 U.S. and other international observers worked around the clock, equipped with two-way radio contacts, monitoring loyalist and police/army activity. The accents of Boston, New York and New Jersey, in particular, could be heard throughout the week.

The observers were lodged with local families and proved invaluable to the Garvaghy Road Residents’ Committee in providing a buffer zone of neutral witness – and calling for assistance at time of high tension.

David McNarry, a leading Orangeman and member of its Grand Lodge “strategy committee,” caused uproar when he claimed on British radio that the Order “if it had a mind to” could “paralyze” Northern Ireland within hours.

A convoy of 100 cars bringing food, diapers and provisions to Garvaghy Road was ambushed by loyalists close to Portadown and two women and a man injured when a cudgel was thrown through a car window.

RUC men and women who were recognized at the main battlefield in Drumcree were also targeted. A policewoman whose car was set on fire was forced to leave the home she’d lived in for 30 years in Carrickfergus.

New loyalist paramilitary groups, hitherto unknown, sprung up. they are mostly believed to be flags of convenience for loyalists who didn’t want to risk the prisoner release scheme.

There were claims by the “Ulster Loyalist Action Force,” the “Ulster Protestant Association” and the “Protestant Freedom Fighters” who are believed to exist in name only. The “Orange Volunteer Force” was also resurrected and is believed to be behind arson attacks on Catholic churches.

Lower Ormeau Orange march peaceful

POSTED ON February 16th  - POSTED IN Archive

By Anne Cadwallader

BELFAST – Black flags of mourning, black balloons and a somber, resentful silence awaited Orangemen as they crossed the River Lagan into the Nationalist Lower Ormeau Road district on Sunday, July 12.

Catholic residents had voted to stage a “peaceful dignified protest” on one side of the road only, without any attempt to block the parade’s path, as a gesture of respect to the three Quinn brothers, who were killed earlier in the day after a loyalist firebomb attack of their home in Ballymoney.

Heavy rain began pelting down as the Orangemen crossed the Lagan bridge into the area and continued as they marched down to Havelock Bridge, toward the Protestant Donegall Pass area.

Placards reading “March of Shame” were held up, and banners showing the Red Hand of Ulster symbol were pinned to buildings, bearing the caption: “The red hand of Ulster is dripping with innocent blood.”

Orange tunes were forbidden by the Parades Commission between the two bridges, but it did not escape the residents’ attention that at the very moment the first band reached the edge of the area, it struck up “The Sash” at full volume. The second band played “No Surrender,” also at full tilt.

The RUC had swamped the area 28 hours before the march was due to take place, only allowing residents through. There was great anger that, once again, residents were being hemmed in to facilitate an unwanted Orange parade.

After a meeting with local people, however, when assurances were given that no attempt to prevent the parade taking place were given, the blockade was lifted.

John Gormley, a spokesman for the Lower Ormeau Concerned Community, said that their gesture was a “one off” in respect to the grief of the Quinn family, and was not a precedent for allowing the parade to proceed.

He said in the future, the LOCC would oppose parades that did not have the residents’ consent and once again called for dialogue between his group and the Orange Order, who refuse to meet them.

Gormley said he was proud of the people of the area for their forbearance and dignity in the face of Orange provocation and pledged to continue campaigning for dialogue during the year ahead.

A spokesman for the Orange Order in Ballynafeigh, which had been represented at the Drumcree standoff, said the Order fully intended to press for the right to march down the Lower Ormeau in future years.

Quinn brothers Mass at St. Teresa’s, Queens

POSTED ON February 16th  - POSTED IN Archive

The weekly Saturday evening Irish community Mass at St. Teresa’s Church in Sunnyside, Queens, will be dedicated this week to the three Quinn brothers. The Mass begins at 7:30. The church is at 44th Street and 50th Avenue.

Ambassador post likely to be vacant

POSTED ON February 16th  - POSTED IN Archive

By Susan Falvella-Garraty

WASHINGTON, D.C. – As for the selection of a replacement for outgoing U.S. ambassador to Ireland, Jean Kennedy-Smith, chances for Senate confirmation during this session are dimming. Michael Sullivan, former Democratic governor of Wyoming, is waiting in the wings as the Clinton administration’s choice.

Because of appropriation bills taking priority on Capitol Hill, the Senate majority leader, Sen. Trent Lott, the Mississippi Republican, said ambassadorial nominations would have to take a back seat while congress sorts out funding issues.

Democrats said the senate Republican leadership is also attempting to stymie several Clinton nominations because of political considerations. It seems the United States’ top post in Phoenix Park will not be filled soon because of Sen. Jesse Helms will not allow James Hormel’s nomination to be ambassador to Luxembourg for consideration by the committee he chairs. Hormel is openly gay.

“It’s a shame that Ireland won’t have an ambassador from here at a very critical time because of a moral litmus test,” said one staff member from Capitol Hill.

The congressional session will end in October to allow for congressional races and will not come back into session until the beginning of next year.

Boston scammer rips off Irish students

POSTED ON February 16th  - POSTED IN Archive

By Jim Smith

BOSTON – A brazen scam artist took exploitation of Irish students to a new level last week when he entered an apartment building in Brookline, found a set of keys to a vacant apartment, and ended up renting the apartment to three unsuspecting Irish students.

The bizarre chain of events began last Monday when George Moses, 25, of Cambridge allegedly told Jane Woodlock, Elizabeth Prior and Aoife O’Mahoney that he was an independent realtor and would sublease the vacant apartment to the students for the summer. The young women, here on a summer work visa, gave Moses $3,450 for the apartment later that day .

On Tuesday, the women returned from work to the apartment and discovered that their belongings had been removed by the building manager. When they learned that they were the victims of a cruel and costly hoax, the students contacted the Boston police.

Detectives Arthur O’Connell and Kevin Mullen of the Brighton station then devised a sting operation in which the women, all in their early 20s, contacted Moses on his cellular phone, asking him if he could find them a more suitable apartment. They agreed to give him an additional $750 for more desirable accommodations.

On Thursday, Moses was arrested at a street corner in Brighton while attempting to make the transaction with the students. On Friday, he was arraigned in Brighton District Court on charges of larceny over $250 and attempting to commit larceny. He is being held in jail on $30,000 cash bail set by Judge Albert Burns.

According to David Falcone of the Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office, Moses had 10 outstanding warrants at the time of his arrest last week. Those charges include forgery, writing bad checks, trespassing, resisting arrest and assault and battery on a police officer. He is due back in court at the end of July.

The students, who are reportedly reluctant to discuss their plight publicly, have been assisted by their friends and employers in obtaining housing and other forms of support.

In addition, the offices of the Irish Consulate in Boston and the Union of Students International Travel, which handles the J-1 visa program, are maintaining an active involvement in the case.

Feds to probe immigrant-exploitation claims

POSTED ON February 16th  - POSTED IN Archive

By Patrick Markey

Federal officials have opened a preliminary investigation into the allegations of exploitation surrounding the death of an Irish immigrant, Liam Mason, who was found hanged in a Bronx park last month.

Investigators from the US Department of Labor are looking into allegations that Mason was forced to work long hours for very little pay, and into the concerns about how employment practices may have contributed to the young man’s death, officials said.

Department of Labor officials are looking into the matter and communicating with other federal, state and local agencies and with worker organizations, David Saltz, a Department of Labor spokesman, said.

“There is a preliminary investigation to ascertain whether any labor violations have taken place because of allegations that these employees were not paid or not paid regularly,” said Dominick Denato, a wage and hour representative at the Department of Labor New Jersey office.

A spokesman for the U.S. Attorneys Office for the District of New Jersey said the office would not confirm that any investigation was under way by their investigators.

Mason, 23, an immigrant from County Monaghan, hanged himself in Van Cortlandt Park in the Bronx four months after arriving in the United States. Friends of the dead man said he had been promised $600 to $1,000 a week to work on a New Jersey paving and cementing project by a man who recruited him in Ireland four months earlier.

After he and several other men were allegedly left without cash in their New Jersey motel, Mason stayed with friends from Monaghan in Yonkers. After a final failed attempt to get a flight home to Ireland, he returned from the airport to the Bronx, where he was found hanged from a tree branch two days later. Friends of Mason claim the subcontractor was Irish and was now back in Ireland.

Brian O’Dwyer, chairman of the Emerald Isle Immigration Center, and Joe Jamison, director of the Irish American Labor Coalition, last week sent duplicate letters to federal officials urging them to investigate the allegations of exploitation. Last Friday in Washington, D.C., O’Dwyer and Jamison, along with other Irish American labor representatives, met with Marvin Krislov, solicitor for the Department of Labor, and John Frasier, acting administrator for the department’s wage and hour division.

Walter Kane, a representative of the Irish American Labor Coalition who also attended the meeting in Washington, said officials were also considering looking into how pervasive the problem of exploitation is in the Irish community. Department of Labor investigators were not concerned with the immigration status of victims, but rather in the labor regulations broken, he said.

Anyone with information on the Mason case or exploitation should contact Brian O’Dwyer at (212) 571-7100, Dominick Denato at the Department of Labor, District of New Jersey at (609) 989-2247 or the Irish American Labor Coalition at (212) 254-9271.

Bombing try by dissidents is foiled in London

POSTED ON February 16th  - POSTED IN Archive

By Andrew Bushe

DUBLIN – A joint Irish-British police operation foiled an attempted incendiary bomb attack Thursday on leading stores in London by dissident republicans, the first time the British capital had been targeted by them.

Four people were arrested in Ireland and six in London, three of them carrying primed incendiary devices, according to Scotland Yard’s anti-terrorist squad. Three men, ages 25, 21 and 19, and one woman, 21, were charged Tuesday with conspiracy to cause explosions. All but the oldest man were also charged with possession of explosive substances. They are to appear in Woolwich court today.

Gardai arrested a man and a woman in Dublin and two other men in Dundalk and Wexford.

The arrests were preceded by a search of a house in Dundalk that resulted in the seizure of documents, two shotguns, ammunition and a quantity of bomb-making components.

All those arrested in Ireland were released after being detained for questioning under the Offenses Against the State Act for two days.

Files in respect of three of them are being prepared for the director of public prosecutions.

A woman arrested in London was also released. Police in Britain can hold suspects for seven days without charge under the Prevention of Terrorism Act.

Security forces on both sides of the Irish Sea are concerned about cooperation between dissident groups since the Northern Ireland peace agreement in April.

The London bombing operation would have been their most ambitious move so far.

It is understood that some of those detained in London are students from universities in Dublin and Belfast who had traveled to London for summer jobs and had not been previously known to the security forces.

On April 2, a substantial car bomb was intercepted as it was about the board a ferry to Britain from Dun Laoghaire. It was believed to have been destined for the British Grand National race meeting at Aintree.

British Prime Minister Tony Blair praised the work of the British and Irish security forces in foiling the bomb attack.

“This has clearly been a very important and successful operation and further reflects the close cooperation that exists between the security forces in the United Kingdom and Ireland as together we defeat terrorism wherever it may exist,” he said in a statement.

Taoiseach Bertie Ahern also congratulated the police and said the actions “provide further evidence of the extremely effective cooperation which is maintained between the security forces on both sides.”

A week of loyalist violence

POSTED ON February 16th  - POSTED IN Archive

The following are RUC statistics of Northern Ireland violence since the beginning of the Drumcree standoff on July 5 through Sunday:

Attacks on RUC/British Army: 598

Shooting incidents: 19

Bombing incidents: 44

Arrests: 254

Firebombs recovered by RUC: 2,237

Incidents of firebomb attacks: 621

Damage to homes: 137

Damage to other buildings: 155

Damage to vehicles: 453

RUC officers injured: 70

Number of plastic bullets fired: 751

Number of Catholic churches burned: 10

Hibernians to meet to elect national officers

POSTED ON February 16th  - POSTED IN Archive

The 89th biennial AOH National Convention will take place in the Pittsburgh Hilton Hotel from July 19- 23.

Hibernians from across the nation will take part in the deliberations, meetings, seminars, workshops and take time out to go on tours, attend banquets and a variety of social, cultural and religious events.

The main business will be electing officers, setting an agenda for the next two years, and deciding which city will host the next national convention, in the year 2000.

Nineteen Hibernians have announced their candidacy for the 11 offices. Vice President Thomas Gilligan of Fort Lauderdale is uncontested in his bid for national president. Five Hibernians are running for vice president: Philip Gallagher, Connecticut; John McAnaw, Virginia; Ned McGinley, Pennsylvania; Kevin Talty, Ohio, and Patrick Troy, Virginia. The quest of 14-year National Secretary Thomas McNabb of New York for another two-year term is being challenged by outgoing National Director James Gallagher of Connecticut. Al O’Hagan of New York and John Meehan of Massachusetts Hibernians are seeking the vacated office of national treasurer.

The eight Hibernians going after the six positions as National Director are David Burke, Massachusetts; James Clarke, Washington, D.C.; Gerry Curran, Ohio; Rich Masterson, Ohio; Raymond Meehan, New York; Edward O’Hearn, Kentucky; Jerry O’Keefe, California, and Peter O’Neill, New Jersey.

Two cities are bidding for the 2000 Convention, Baltimore and New Orleans.

All indications are that the LAOH elections will be cut and dried. The outlook is for the incumbent officers to move up one chair, without contest – Peggy Cooney of Pittsburgh to LAOH national president; Mary Dolan of Massachusetts to vice president; Eleanore Grimley of Virginia to national secretary; Mary Callanan of California to national treasurer; Mary Leathem of New York to Irish historian; Eileen McNeill of Ohio to chairlady of missions; Dorothy Weldon of Pennsylvania to the open position of chairlady of Catholic Action.

Among those scheduled to make speeches are Rep. Peter King, who will be receiving the John F. Kennedy Memorial Medal; Ray Flynn, former U.S. ambassador to the Vatican; Archbishop Sean Brady, primate of All Ireland; Ireland’s ambassador to the U.S., Sean O’Huiginn, and Sean McPhilemy, author of the controversial “The Committee – Political Assassination in Northern Ireland.”

THE COSTOF HATE

POSTED ON February 16th  - POSTED IN Archive

By Anne Cadwallader

RASHARKIN, Co. Antrim – In displays of agony rarely seen in recent years in Northern Ireland, the parents of three children who were burned to death in a sectarian firebombing of their house wept as their bodies were borne to their burial place Tuesday.

The Quinn brothers – Richard, 11, Mark, 10, and Jason, 9 – were burned to death in their home on a mainly Protestant estate early Sunday morning. Their mother is Catholic, their father Protestant. They attended a Protestant school.

Three white coffins were carried from their grandmother’s house in the small village of Rasharkin, Co. Antrim, for funeral Mass in Ballymoney, where they had been killed.

The funeral cortege then returned for burial in Rasharkin, because their mother never intends returning to Ballymoney and wanted them buried where she could visit their graves.

The dead boy’s mother, Christine Quinn, had to be supported as she walked behind the cortege. Their father, John Dillon, cried aloud as he carried his son’s coffins, constantly stroking them as he walked. Thousands of people came to the chapel of Our Lady and St. Patrick in Ballymoney to pay their respects, including fire crews and policemen who had tried to save their lives early on Sunday morning.

Also attending was the family’s last surviving son, Lee, who had been staying the night with his grandmother in Rasharkin when the fire broke out and was saved.

At the funeral, the bishop of Down and Connor, Dr. Patrick Walsh, left few people guessing as to whom he was referring when he spoke of “strident voices carrying words of hatred.”

Walsh said that “for too long the airwaves have been saturated with noises – strident, harsh, discordant voices, carrying words of hatred, of incitement, of recrimination.”

“The weapons of hate-filled words inevitably fuel weapons of murderous destruction – indeed, how true are the words of the Psalm: ‘Their teeth are slings and arrows. Their tongues sharpened swords.’ ”

The leader of the DUP, the Rev. Ian Paisley, had said the previous night, speaking to 5,000 diehard Orange protesters at Drumcree, that Brid Rodgers of the SDLP had found his “teeth were tougher than hers.”

Still, Walsh said there was hope amid the pain. “Agonizing words, words of self-examination, courageous words, words of strength, words of healing, have been spoken,” he said.

Northern Ireland’s first minister, David Trimble of the Ulster Unionists, visited the Quinn family the day before the funeral. His deputy, Seamus Mallon of the SDLP, attended the funeral as a “statement of abhorrence at the way these children were murdered.”

Though many Orangemen who remained at encamped near Drumcree church insisted that the killings of the three children were not sectarian, the RUC said they were satisfied they were. It’s understood one of the two men being questioned about the killings has paramilitary links.

Young people from the area read a poem about their sadness and confusion about the murders. “Who would have so much evil at their fingertips?” it asked, saying they had been snatched away and would never be forgotten.

Early morning attack

The petrol bomb that started the fire that killed the boys was thrown through a downstairs window at 4:30 a.m. Sunday when all six people inside the house were asleep. Neighbors heard a bang before the house was engulfed in flames.

Richard screamed for help, saying he was in a corner of his bedroom. Neighbors shouted that he should go to the stairs, but they collapsed in flames before the child could make it.

When the three small bodies were lifted out of the charred remains of their home, they were unrecognizable. “You couldn’t tell one from the other,” said a neighbor.

The RUC were on the scene in minutes, but were beaten back by flames, heat and smoke. The fire brigade entered the house with breath apparatus, but the three boys were already dead.

Their mother and her boyfriend were injured trying to save them, but they could not rescue the children either. Both were treated in hospital for cuts and shock.

The family had been threatened numerous times before and were planning to move out of the mainly Protestant estate. In the wake of the tragedy, other Catholic families have been warned to leave, some were sent bullets in the post, and are packing up to go.

The boys had even been helping gather wood for a loyalist “Eleventh Night” bonfire on the day they were killed. One man said, “Instead of watching the bonfire, they were burned themselves.”

The night before the tragedy, at Drumcree church, where loyalists had gathered to protest at being rerouted away from the Garvaghy Road, one loyalist said: “We have to burn the Catholics out and kill their children with swords. All of them.”

“You think I’m joking, well I’m not. It may sound extreme, but if you don’t kill the kids they will grow up and will be killing you. We must have them all out.”

Condemnation

Condemnation was immediate and absolute. One of the first on the scene, Chief Inspector Terry Shevlin of the RUC, said, “It is the unbelievable result of sectarianism and naked hatred at its worst.”

Chief Constable Ronnie Flanagan said: “This was not protest. We believe we are investigating the sectarian murder of three children asleep in their beds. That’s not protest – that’s murder.”

British prime minister, Tony Blair, said they were “evil, vicious sectarian murders” and those responsible must not be allowed to triumph over the majority who wanted a new future for Northern Ireland.

David Jones, the Orange Order spokesman for County Armagh condemned the murders but accused the chief constable and others of making political capital out of the crime. He denied the cause of the deaths was sectarianism.

The Orange Order’s Co. Armagh Grand Chaplain, Rev. William Bingham, said walking down a road was not worth one human life. “I believe the Order needs to call off its protests because we can’t control them,” he said.

Northern Ireland Secretary Mo Mowlam said everyone should focus on what needed to be done so that another family would not suffer in the same way as the Quinn family.

“Last night a family went to bed in Ballymoney,” she said. “When they woke up, three young boys were dead. A family which has never done anybody any harm.” She appealed to everyone to think about their collective guilt.

A spokesman for the Garvaghy Road Residents’ Coalition, Breandan MacCionnaith, said the need for dialogue was becoming more stark. “We need to start embracing one another instead of putting more distance between ourselves,” he said.

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