COMMUNITY RELATIONS: CURRENT ISSUES (OCTOBER 2004)
- Dissident republicans are now targeting buildings hosting DPP meetings a PSNI spokeswoman revealed. 3 threats were made and it is understood they contained Continuity code words. The caller to a Belfast radio station said any buildings in the Newry and Warrenpoint areas would be attacked, the threat was later changed to province wide.
- The LVF stated this month that it was ready to respond positively to decommissioning and disbandment by the IRA and other loyalist groups. They also called on any politician linked to those terrorist groups to break any formal ties and remove all political terrorist links to the political arena.
- Dissident republicans have been blamed for a gun attack on Randlestown police station. The vehicle used for the attack had earlier been taken from a Catholic couple and their 3 children at gunpoint in their family home.
- A 59 year old man was threatened at gun point when tow men broke into his home demanding money. When the victim said he didn't have any they assaulted him and pointed the gun at him and pulled the trigger. It failed to fire. They told the man he had to pay an unnamed paramilitary group before fleeing.
- Three leading North Belfast loyalists have been returned for trial on a charge of attempted murder. They are charged with the attempting to murder Trevor Gowdy from Ballyclare, falsely imprisoning him and setting fire to his car.
- A 38 year old man has been charged with attempting to murder a man in a gun attack on a bar in Derry. The man was also charged with a series of paramilitary-related crimes. These include possessing pipe bombs, blast bombs and blast incendiary bombs. Also collecting of information likely to be of use to terrorists.
- Gardai are investigating the suspected abduction of a west Belfast man found near the border in Co. Monaghan. The 40 year old is believed to have been abducted from his home off the Falls Rd on Sat night. The man had been tied up, beaten and dumped six miles from the border. The Gardai are investigating paramilitary involvement.
- Two men have been treated in hospital after they were injured in a paramilitary style shooting in Co. Down. The men each suffered gun-shot wounds to a leg in the incident which took place at Glenburn Rd in Newtownards.
- A man has been arrested after a gun attack on a house in Co. Down in which a young mother and her one month old baby escaped injury. Police have ruled out sectarian or racially motivates for the attack and are now investigating possible mistaken identity.
- Two senior north Belfast loyalists were freed after being questioned by police about “terrorist offences”. Ihab Shoukri is understood to have been arrested for questioning in north Belfast.
- A 25 year old man was treated in hospital after a paramilitary-style shooting in Co. Down. The man was shot in the lower leg.
- A man and a woman were both shot in the legs after a gunman opened fire in a Newry pub. The man entered the bar with a mask on and shot the man in the leg and the woman in the foot.
- A 19 year old man was last night injured in a paramilitary-style shooting in east Belfast. The teenager was shot in the right leg in the attack at Armitage Close.
- An orange line was literally drawn round Protestant estates which border sectarian interfaces across Ulster. The move claimed by the Ulster Political Research Group which gives political guidance to the UDA/UFF comes after months of incursions into Protestant areas. In a statement they wrote, we have declared an orange line around all protestant areas, whilst we realise that one community is growing faster than the other we cannot allow another garden another house or another street to be attacked. We can assure to the utmost of our ability that loyalists will not breach the orange line, can republicans do the same.
- A teenage boy has escaped injury after his home was targeted in what his family claim was a sectarian attack. A brick was thrown through a window and a petrol bomb was also thrown, hitting the garden and causing scorch damage.
- A DUP councillor who was found guilty of harassing a gay colleague has been ordered to pay £4,000 in damages. Arthur Templeton was suspended from the DUP and sacked as an independent member of Newtownabbey's District Policing Partnership.
- Police confirmed that they were investigating reports of a number of sectarian incidents in Derry during the month. Community leaders said that efforts were being made to ease tension on the Waterside. A number of houses on Catholic homes came under attack from loyalists.
- Teenagers in a Protestant youth group attacked in east Belfast were targeted because they were mistaken to be Catholics it was claimed this month. The group were attacked while sitting in a min-bus outside Dundonald Ice Bowl. None suffered injury though were said to be badly shaken. A youth approached the mini-bus and asked where they were from. A stone was then thrown at the vehicle, smashing one of the windows.
Victims and Survivors
- The horrendous aftermath of the Omagh bombing is to be displayed on a website developed by the Omagh Victims' Campaign Group. The website will form an archive of material relevant to the disaster. This will be drawn from media coverage of the atrocity.
- Relatives of the Disappeared had useful discussions with the SDLP and Alliance part yesterday in an attempt to push their campaign forward. Both parties pledged their support in principle to an all part forum to deal solely with the issue of the Disappeared.
- A Multi-million pound “trauma industry” has flourished in Northern Ireland in the last 10 years of the peace process a leading sociologist has claimed. Since the 1994 ceasefires more and more people have sought counselling.
- The head of the victims group FAIR who has received repeated death threats won a court battle to be admitted to the Key Persons Protection Scheme. Last year he was turned down for the scheme but then applied for a judicial review in the High Court. The police have assessed that the threat to the Armagh man's life as “significant” and that he was likely to be a “priority target.”
- The Chinese Welfare Association welcomed Belfast City Councils decision to offer the organisation an alternative site for their proposed Community centre. They have been offered a council-owned site at Cadogan Street on the Ormeau Embankment.
- Plans to build a Chinese community centre in south Belfast may have to be abandoned after objections from residents.
- A group of racists attacked Immigrants from Eastern Europe in an Armagh City estate for the third time in 2 months. The targets for the attack are believed to be from Lithuania were forced to flee their home in the predominantly Protestant Alexander Estate. Another family from Lithuania 2 months ago, who lived only a few doors away were subject to racially motivated attacks on 2 occasions.
- In Ballymena there have been 17 racially motivated attacks the PSNI Commander for the area revealed this month. From April to June there had also been 2 homophobic attacks
- An anti-racism group have condemned reports that members of ethnic minorities are being denied the chance to rent property in Belfast. A document by a Belfast based letting agency suggests that some rental properties are vetted on the basis of race and ethnicity. As well as including details of the house, amenities and rental cost, adverts also list conditions such as “no DHSS”, “no Chinese”, “not suitable for people from ethnic backgrounds” and “not suitable for Chinese or black community”. It is thought that some landlords are being pressurised by paramilitaries not to let housing out to these groups.
- Londonderry PSNI who are investigating a racially motivated attack on a house occupied by Polish workers.
- Questionnaires have been distributed around the Newry and Mourne area in an attempt to get a clearer picture of ethnic communities in the region. At a meeting organised by the Confederation of community groups it emerged that over 400 children from minority communities had been enrolled in schools in the Southern Eastern Board area. Anecdotal evidence suggests that the majority of the recent arrivals are from Eastern Europe including Poland, Lithuania, and Latvia. It is hoped that once complete information has been gathered a strategy can be drawn up and to find out what their needs and concerns are.
- Four polish men whose home in Derry's waterside was targeted by youths in what police believe to be a racist attack.
- Racists are being blamed for a petrol bomb attack on a house in Armagh this month. Two devices were hurled through the broken front window of the building, home several eastern Europeans. The first device caused minor scorch damage and the second failed to ignite.
- Loyalists are waging a new campaign of racist bombings and beatings in Northern Ireland. As three Lithuanians fled a petrol bomb attack on their home in Armagh, representatives hit out at an organised mob intent on driving ethnic minorities out.
- Far right race hate groups are taking advantage of paramilitary intimidation of ethnic minorities to gain a foothold in Northern Ireland. The NI Affairs Committee which is holding an inquiry into hate crimes is examining the role of extremist groups from Great Britain. Belfast is now being described as the Race Hate Capital of Europe. The figures suggest that this is true as nowhere else in Europe has there been such a high increase in race related crime
- A south Belfast church has held its first full service in Spanish. In a sign of the growing multi-cultural make up of Belfast Fitzroy Presbyterian Church I the University area yesterday held a service for the growing number of Latin Americans living in the city.
Equality and Human Rights
- The NI Human Rights Commission held a workshop in Londonderry which was attended by community and voluntary groups as well as health care and social service practitioners who work directly with people at risk of being excluded from the rest of society. They asked how a Bill of Rights can best protect the rights of the people who need it most.
- The Protestant residents of Clonduff have pledged to build a memorial to a Roman Catholic Falls road man who won Northern Irelands only World War Two VC. The memorial replica will be erected on a grassy area in the centre of the estate. James Magennis who died in 1986 who lived in the estate after moving from the Falls Rd received an indifference response from many: unionists were embarrassed that he was a nationalist whereas nationalists treated him with suspicion because he had served with the British forces.
- The DUP is planning to block laws which would give gay partners in the Province the same rights as a married couple. They have tabled an amendment to the Civil Partnerships Bill, calling for the legislation not to be enacted here before it is first put to a vote in the NI Assembly. Mr Donaldson said the Bill was of great moral concern.
- The NI Human Rights Commission has added its voice to calls for the repeal of laws allowing the detention of terror suspects without trial.
Crime, Policing and Justice
- SDLP Leader Mark Durkham has written to the PM urging him to force the DUP to commit itself to the transfer of policing and justice powers to Stormont within 18 months.
- Work is to begin on scaling down security at a heavily fortified west Belfast police station as part of an on-going demilitarisation measures. Similar actions across Northern Ireland at army bases are on-going as part of the Government's effort to normalise society by scaling down its military presence. A report by the IMC revealed that 10 out of 19 army observation posts have been demolished in the past 5 years. However, while overall troop's levels are half of those at the height of the troubles, the figure is still 3 times higher than originally planned once ceasefires were in place.
- 27 police stations are to have heavy fortifications removed. Plans to change the appearance of 10 police stations had already been approved and bids to scale down a further 17 have been tabled.
- Councillors in Ballymena have passed a motion of no confidence in Chief Constable Hugh Orde, calling on him to reverse his decision to phase out more than half of the full-time reserve.
- 2,062 police officers are expected to leave under the Patten severance scheme over the next seven years. That is the projected figure drawn up by police in a document obtained by the Irish News.
- An Ulster Scots and Irish Language Seminar were held by Strabane District Council on Oct 14th. 'See you on the Flipside' was organised by the Community Relations Department of the Council and was to examine and dispel the myths that have grown up around the two languages i.e. Ulster Scots for Unionists and vice versa.
- The SDLP accused Peter Robinson of having an 'all take but no give' attitude after comments he made with regard to Castlereagh Borough Council. Peter Robinson claimed that there was no need for power sharing in the borough since there was a clear Unionist's majority that negates the necessity for power sharing. This came after Peter Robinson opposed a motion to ensure non-unionist councillors would not be excluded from the top positions in the council.
- All paramilitary flags have been removed from the Ballymacash area of Lisburn. The move follows protracted negotiations between community groups and the police. DUP councillors for the area say all flags – not only those put up by paramilitaries have been removed.
- A series of courses to promote peace and reconciliation is being held in Limavady throughout October. The Good Relations Programme aims to reinforce progress towards a peaceful and stable society and to promote reconciliation. The Limavady Area partnership is funding the Programme.
- The SDLP has called for all national, paramilitary and sectarian flags to be banned from all public property across the north. Our document calls for public authorities and the police to act together to remove any flags which intimidate anybody. We want the display of national, paramilitary or sectarian emblems on any public building to be made a crime said an SDLP spokesperson.
- Money earmarked for community groups could be used by Derry City Council to help fund the city's Halloween Festival. A regular funder pulled out leaving the council with a major shortfall. The council confirmed that they are considering using money reserved for community groups to help foot the bill. They said that grants would still be available no matter what money the council used as there hadn't been that many applications so there was a surplus of around £85,000.
- Sammy Wilson (DUP) and Alex Maskey (Sinn Fein) have both agreed to take part in a charity paintball event. Sammy Wilson's participation is subject to his paintballs being red, white and blue. Alex Maskey is expected to make a similar demand with his.
- Channel 4 news presenter Jon Snow has revealed in his new book 'Shooting History' how 10 Northern Ireland MP's and himself travelled hundreds of miles to help a Belfast Women get to a church on time for her wedding. The group of MP's included Ian Paisley, Jim Molyneaux and Gerry Fitt. After all flights back to Belfast were cancelled from Heathrow the MP's decided to take up the challenge. After flying to Glasgow, taxied to Stranraer and ferried to Larne the group finally made back. The DUP leader then asked the bride where her wedding was going to be, adding that he might like to come. The young women replied “the Church of our Lady of “…and then tailed off. Mr Snow recalled that Mr Paisley decided not to go.
- Derry's more recent history is proving a greater tourist draw than the city walls and other traditional attractions it has emerged. It has been estimated that more people visited the cities Bogside to learn about the Troubles this summer than walked the walls, the scene of the 17th century Siege of Derry.
- Nominations are sought for the Community Foundation for Northern Ireland awards to celebrate those who worked to improve the situation in the North. The awards will take place at Belfast City Hall in January 2005.
- A Government task force has recommended £250 million in increased funding for community and voluntary groups over the next 10 years. The task force established in 2002 by NIO minister Des Browne to investigate the level of resources for Northern Ireland's 4,500 voluntary and community groups.
- A republican ex-prisoners group published it accounts in an effort to defend continued European Union funding for its projects. Recent media reports had claimed that republican and loyalist prisoner groups had received millions of pounds of European money without any public scrutiny into how the money had been spent. Coiste na nlarchimi published its accounts in an effort to show transparency in its work.
- A cross-community women's group in Derry visited London this month on its latest barrier-shattering venture. Women into Politics visited 10 Downing Street, the House of Commons and many other political venues. It was organised through Derry's Shared City Project.
- Young people from Londonderry's Model school and Bunscoil Cholmcille Primary in Donegal took part in the Children in Conflict project which forms part of a UK wide initiative called Face to Face to encourage children to use photography as a way of exploring issues including conflict, the plight of refugees and asylum seekers and rural isolation.