Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Toilet rolls and curried yoghurt!

Having been suffering from a flu recently I have been watching much to my irritation the shenanigans of the Stormont dynasty coupled with the antics of their equally shifty counterparts in the south in Dole (Dail) Eireann.

Yesterday evening it was announced that the Irish Government should open the case of the Hooded men. This comes months after revelations of how the British Government misled the European Court of Human Rights during the trial case. Whilst the suggestion is indeed welcome I won't hold my breath given the close relationship between both governments who these days appear to be intertwined. The recent release of a video about the impending centennial of the 1916 rising featured no reference to the seven signatories of the proclamation of the Irish Republic but did manage to feature the British Prime Minister and British Queen. Now if that doesn't tell you about the subservient relationship between the Free State and British governments nothing ever will.

Additionally we must keep in mind that we are dealing here with a government who are attempting to introduce a water tax despite the Irish people have an exemption within an EU agreement on charges for domestic water use. What is quite frightening is that the contract Irish Water and the Irish Government expect people to sign states that they must seek advance written permission from Irish Water to recycle rain water from their guttering and driveways.  Which would suggest that Irish Water is now claiming ownership of rain water.

In legal terms damage by rainfall is considered an act of God as such insurance companies generally restrict liability. Does this now mean that anyone with a contract with Irish Water can hold them liable if their property suffers flood damage caused by rainfall? Or does this mean that Irish Water hold themselves on par with the almighty?

As equally absurd, in the north of the island we have the outstanding issue of elusive cultural societies with charitable status who rent space to political parties albeit at a high cost. Reading between the lines these societies would appear to be invisible “musical organisations that specialise in fiddling.” Maybe if the owner of the office Arlene Foster availed of had of spoken to the shinners, or to use their non de plume, the societies, he too may have qualified for charitable status, removing the need for Arlene to pay his rates via the public purse. Another issue of deep concern involves the amount of money being paid out for the rental of an over-sized office, which is rented by a Hussey who appears to be partial to a bit of role play.

Next we have Gregory Campbell, say what you like about him but he has always been consistent with his bigoted moronic rants. Lately Gregory's focus in the midst of economic despair has been on toilet paper, curry and yoghurt. I suppose you could argue that with the consumption of curried yoghurt coupled with the vast amount of verbal diarrhea spewed by Gregory one might require extra toilet paper. Gregory and his party leader will no doubt argue that his sentiments have been taken out of context however the reality is Gregory would rather clean his behind with any mention of promoting the Irish language than fulfill the promises outlined in the Good Friday Agreement. What makes the mind boggle further is these nonsensical rants seem to feature highly in news headlines yet appear to escape the attention of the equality commission who seem to make cakes and small businesses their priority.

Today the main news headlines involve the king of amnesia Gerry Adams, who used inappropriate language in a recent statement. Gerry has since taken to time to apologise for his remarks which included the word “bastards” explaining that he was referring to "bigots", and not all unionists. It might be an idea for Gerry to us the word the “bastards” when standing in the Dail pontificating about water charges to remind his cohorts that the water tax is unnecessary and unfair particularly as “ only our rivers run free” which is in no reference to the bottled Irish water sold by Sinn Fein at their Ard Fheis.

You could argue that with his apology Gerry has shown great leadership but then he is as selective with his apologies as he is with his capacity to recall events of the past. After all this is the same Gerry who had a list of alleged sex abusers posted through his letterbox and immediately arranged for it to be delivered to the Gardai. However in the case of his niece the best Gerry could muster was a call to social services over head lice and a signed copy of his book which featured a prominent dedication to his brother Liam (the abuser) who he claimed he was estranged from at that time.

Please don't be fooled by random comedic and choreographed radical outbursts. These headline grabbers are designed to deflect from issues such as the scale back on the police investigation into Bloody Sunday which seems to have escaped the notice of many of our politicians including those who reside locally. Other issues include austerity, the sneaky installation of water meters in areas of the north, the butchering of front line services, and the deaths of people unable to avail of much needed healthcare services, a miscarriage of justice, internment, and not forgetting attempts by the British government to erase the past, rewrite the past and evade justice.

Frankly our politicians have become an insult to human intelligence and now act as a promotional tool for the restoration of Direct British Rule. The recent Spotlight programme showed how our politicians here are more focused on how they can manipulate the system to line their own pockets yet cry foul when challenged over their actions. After all it's not their fault the system is open to abuse, some would even say they are just making good use of it!

Welcome to the island of equity, where elements of the Good Friday Agreement are akin to toilet paper and societies are measured on their financial value.

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

Blackstone's Ratio

On Friday November 14th I attended an event in the Tower Hotel in Derry. The event was held to highlight the plight of the Craigavon Two who it would seem are victims of a gross Miscarriage of Justice.

Brendan McConville and John Paul Wooton have protested their innocence since their arrest. They are currently serving lengthy prison sentences for the murder of Constable Stephen Carroll who was callously gunned down in 2009. Their convictions have been secured on the on the most questionable evidence, yet despite this the silence around their issue remains astounding with particular reference to our seemingly disinterested politicians.

Imagine your child was serving a life sentence on this evidence:

1)The main witness for the prosecution 'Witness M' has been described as a Walter Mitty by his own family.

2)The witness came forward eleven months after the murder whilst heavily intoxicated. Furthermore the witness asked if he would be paid for providing evidence.

3)His eye witness account has been deemed a medical impossibility due to his visual impairment.

4)The witness claimed he had been walking his dog around the time Stephen Carroll was murdered. It later transpired that the witness did not own a dog.

5)His partner from the time refused to corroborate his version of events.

6)This witness has been found to be inconsistent with his evidence from the outset.

7)Security surveillance equipment had been tampered with by security services leading the disappearance of crucial data.

8)The partial finger print found on the murder weapon does not belong to either of the accused nor was their alleged role established by the prosecution.

As I listened to the campaigners at the above event I couldn't help but sympathise with the families of both men on the understanding that this could as easily be a member of my family, in the wrong place at the wrong time. The evidence cited above not only gives rise to reasonable doubt but is an absolute insult to the idea of natural justice and human intelligence.

With the above factors in mind it is clear we continue to live in a society that favours expedience over natural justice as was apparent in the cases of the Birmingham Six, Guildford Four and other less high profile cases.

The harsh reality is many of our people appear apathetic in this instance maybe even fearful of being branded anti- peace process or worse if they decide to speak out. But then this is to be expected with delusional and disinterested political and civic leaders who appear happy to let innocent people rot in jail rather than showing leadership.

Brendan Conville and John Paul Wooton continue to languish in prison on circumstantial evidence, tampered evidence and on the word of a visually impaired Walter Mitty character who is prone to heavy drinking and who claimed to be walking a dog which was later deemed imaginary . The whole thing is absurd, an affront to the notion of justice and would be no better than a comedic farce if it didn't involve the ruination of lives and a lack of investigation into the murder of Constable Stephen Carroll.

In 2008 Professor Graham Zellick, the  chairman of the Criminal Cases Review Commission in England, said the Court of Appeal should rule for retrials in cases where doubt has arisen over the safety of a conviction.

In his interview with the Independent in September 2008 the professor spoke of how “ The Court of Appeal ought to be more active in quashing convictions even though there has not been any irregularity in the trial process."

Professor Zellick also added that "The Court of Appeal is even more reluctant in 2008 than in the 1990s to quash convictions because they think they are unsafe.” 

And it would appear that they are now even more reluctant!

In his interview Professor Zellick made reference to the belief of English scholar William Blackstone who stated that “It is better that ten guilty persons escape than that one innocent suffer". Blackstone was an authoritative speaker on common law. The basis for the concept of “reasonable doubt” is reflected in this quote, known as “Blackstone’s ratio” which is still used today.

Sadly the case of the Craigavon could be considered something out of a policy, war criminal and genocidal maniac Pol Pot would have embraced. Pot believed it was "Better to arrest ten innocent people by mistake than free a single guilty party. "

So much for an era in which 'justice will be done and seen to be done.'

It would seem our justice system is a real as the dog in the case.

Saturday, 15 November 2014

Monsignor Raymond Murray, Derry, 14 November 2014.

The Craigavon Two.

Yesterday evening I attended a public discussion on the plight of the Craigavon Two which was organised by their campaign group and held in the city's Tower Hotel. I had planned to write a piece on last nights event however Monsignor Murray kindly sent me his contribution. This is a great statement from a world renowned Human Rights stalwart.

Monsignor Raymond Murray
In October 1978 I delivered speeches to a hundred Congressmen in Washington DC and to the Ad Hoc Committee for Human Rights in Northern Ireland, Philadelphia. Among the demands I listed were an end to 7 Day Detention; an end to torture and ill treatment of arrested persons; an end to imprisonment without trial; an end to long remands without trial; an end to Special Diplock Courts; the release of 18 Irish prisoners in Britain who were innocent. We are still campaigning some forty years later against legal injustice. There is no adequate procedure for undoing miscarriages of justice.

Our sympathy is with the family of Constable Stephen Carroll, 48 year old Catholic member of the PSNI, murdered in the Lismore Manor area of Craigavon, Co. Armagh, in March 2009. We feel for his wife Kate Carroll, his son Shane, and all members of the family who have suffered grievously. The campaign for the Craigavon Two, Brendan McConville and John Paul Wooton sentenced for the murder, views their conviction as a miscarriage of justice. We also feel for them and their families. The campaign points out the flaws in witness and forensic evidence and one of our legal expert speakers on the panel this evening, Sarah Wilson (and assisted by Angela Nelson in this case) has outlined the case of their innocence. Leaflets are also available to you summarizing the flaws. 

The campaign for the Craigavon Two is mounting at home and abroad and in particular in the USA due to the great work of Helen McClafferty. It follows fast on the recent campaigns for the release of Marian Price, Martin Corey and Gerry McGeough. John Finucane, solicitor for John Paul Wooton, at a campaign meeting in Belfast, in August this year, said 'A campaign will strengthen any legal avenue and I have seen that personally in my father's case' (i.e. Pat Finucane). We are now seeing also an extraordinary development of international concern in the case of the Craigavon Two (and Julian Icom, Canada, present here this evening, will spread the campaign in Canada, Cuba, and Venezuela). After attending the appeal in their case we were surprised by the long delay in the verdict and shocked at the judgement. We were so confident that they would be released. Now the case goes to the Supreme Court. Your support is urgently needed. Write please to the Secretary of State, Teresa Villiers, to the Minister for Justice David Ford, and to the Taoiseach Enda Kenny. There has been little interest in trials in the North by the Irish Government when doubt is cast on a conviction in a Special Diplock Court. Yes, some TDS in recent years have entered campaigns for justice and are involved in the Craigavon Two campaign. We are grateful to them. Bring your view also before local politicians North and South and to human rights organisations.

A year ago I spoke at a Conference in London organised by personnel from Wiltshire University. After my speech a man approached me flanked by two women. It was Billy Power and his two daughters coming to greet me. The last time I saw him was in Brixton Prison. Billy as you know, innocent man, one of the Birmingham Six, spent 16 years in prison. Fr Denis Faul and I wrote a pamphlet The Birmingham Framework within a year after the conviction of the Birmingham Six and also a broadsheet on the forensic aspects of the case - there was ample evidence in those two publications to prove that they were innocent. Corruption of law meant that they and other innocents at that time were condemned to suffer in jail. Why do we still have to fight cases of legal injustice? I recall after giving a copy of our pamphlet The Birmingham Framework to a journalist asking him some weeks later what he thought, 'Guilty as hell' he said. Yes it took 16 years to build up the truth against hostile government and weak media, to establish counter-action to sentences which found the men guilty. We don't want such a delay in this case. Gerry Conlan lately deceased, R.I.P., one of the Guilford Four, joined in this campaign for the release of Brendan McConville and John Paul Wooton and called loudly for their release. He poured scorn on the evidence against them. He knew what it was like to suffer as an innocent in prison. He did not want them to suffer a similar fate as himself.
Corruption of law!
 We had internment in the North in every decade of the Stormont monolithic unionist government. In the 1970s it was introduced with ill-treatment and torture- besides the hooded men in Ballykelly some 400 men within a few months were severely tortured and ill-treated in the Palace Barracks Holywood and Girdwood Park Barracks, Belfast . Even after internment was formally ended in 1975 – a substitute was found – doubling sentences and imposing charges so that innocent people were held in jail for a year and a half before they were found innocent at their trial. The English government was found guilty of torture by the European Commission on Human Rights and guilty of inhuman and degrading treatment by the European Court of Human Rights – their injustice is recorded in legal text books - and the Hooded Men are now bringing their case back to the European Court of Human Rights to have it declared that they had been tortured. Ian Cobain's book Cruel Britannia - A Secret History of Torture (2012) showed how the use of torture had long been a tradition and policy of the British Government. There is still no sense of guilt and reform in British governments regarding the tragedies of the conflict here: are the Ombudsman and The Historic Enquiry Team's work now to be wiped out with a denial of funding and a firm attitude threatening the closure of documentation regarding state violence and crime ? Speaking at the University of Ulster in early November this year European human rights commissioner Nils Muiznieks insisted that the British Government must uphold the rule of law and claimed that it had breached the European Convention of Human Rights by not conducting independent and prompt investigations into conflict killings. The British Government for forty years has avoided its responsibilities in relation to killings carried out by the security forces. Mr Muiznieks said that budget cuts 'should not be used as an excuse to hamper the work of those working for justice'. The British government in these cases and in the cases of convicted innocent people continues to fail victims.

We never have had adequate procedure for undoing miscarriages of justice. We still have Special Courts. During the 30 years conflict Diplock Courts were not acceptable by people seeking truth and justice, and present traces of its workings in the Justice and Security (NI) Act 2007 in non-jury courts with their aura of injustice, are not acceptable. The rule of law in N. Ireland was corrupted by the use of illegal methods of interrogation and by the official efforts to cover up the use of these methods. The end can never justify the means. Justice not expediency is always the principle. Justice, freedom and truth are helped by jury courts. Confidence in the protection of the law is vital to a free society. To retain non-jury courts for certain individuals leads to selectivity and the danger of prejudice. If this is seen in prosecution and preferring of charges then confidence in the courts is undermined. It casts doubts on the objectivity of law officers of the Crown and the police. Law officers depend on security forces (‘intelligence’) for information about crimes committed by private individuals thought to be members or former members of prescribed organizations, and are therefore limited by the quality of their sources of information. Selectivity at stages of the application of the law disturbs peace and justice. During the conflict Catholics/nationalists felt they were denied civil rights and legal justice. This led to alienation. Any measure that indicates retention of selectivity casts doubts on the practice of justice. Will the Stormont government face the problem, has it an interest in it? 
And what of ourselves? How can we fail to be anxious and concerned when we hear of injustice inflicted on individuals? The state is supposed to be the servant of its citizens not the master. It always comes down to the individual with a name, a human being. Names, yes, Brendan McConville and John Paul Wooton and their tormented families. They deserve our special attention. We must not seek excuses for ourselves in the matter of injustice by just proclaiming the abstract. We thank you for attending this meeting. It is an indication that you want to be guided by justice and as you have heard this evening where there is injustice there is suffering. I finish with words of Brendan McConville and John Paul Wooton themselves:
'While we must acknowledge that this partial court system is the only mechanism available to us to obtain our eventual release, we also acknowledge that the only real momentum for the realisation of that eventuality will come from you, the public, and not from a system where the presumption of innocence has been replaced by a single judge who along with his traditional role also fulfils the role of the entire jury single-handedly. We place our faith in the jury that really matters and that is the jury of public opinion. We ask that you demand justice for the Craigavon Two and justice for all'.
Raymond Murray, Derry Meeting, 14 December 2014.

Friday, 7 November 2014

Never a dull moment!

A few observations:

Over the past few months Derry has experienced the occasional upsurge in so called 'dissident attacks.' These attacks could often be seen as timely in that they mostly serve to deflect from important issues and recent announcements such as the millions of pounds being removed from the economy in the form of cuts to front-line services. Now, before I go any further I’m not being dismissive of the danger of such an attack, just that the timing coincided with the announcement that Stormont is going to implement cuts to everything that moves, well except their expense accounts, but that’s another story.

This announcement should have sparked demonstrations similar to those we witnessed in the south of Ireland over the implementation of water charges, yet in Derry the most we witnessed was a dangerous device being launched at a passing police car. I would say to those behind the recent attacks, your actions are negatively impacting on local people and local youth and will no doubt assist with securing more money for the police budget whilst shifting the focus from the total failure of our cowboy politicians.

So for those among you who feel you are on the road to a freeing Ireland my advice is get a grip of yourselves as you are as much of a threat to the British Establishment as the Salvation Army is.

Realistically, there’s no need for dissident republicans to try and bring down Stormont, the 108 cowboys are running it into the ground quicker than you can say ‘gay cake’.

My question is how many cuts to services people will tolerate by the Stormont fat cats before they realise that all those loans and money on tick from the British treasury have to be repaid. If you think we’re in bother now give it a few years, it’s almost like Edward J Smith the captain of the Titanic deciding to play chicken with an iceberg.

Over 24 hours after the attack in Creggan the PSNI in their treatment of residents and young people were considered by some to be acting in a manner worthy of the B Specials. As someone who is not selective with condemnation, I would call on the politicians and moral guardians to condemn these actions which in some cases amounted to child abuse, but then again I wouldn’t hold my breath waiting for them to open their chirpers.

Another issue that has captured a lot of attention this week is that of a cake which has become known as the 'gay cake.' The cake which was ordered at an Ashers bakery in Belfast earlier this year caused a lot of controversy when the bakery declined the custom on the basis that the request was "at odds" with their Christian beliefs. The Northern Ireland Equality Commission in their recent correspondence to the bakery last week said that unless the firm acknowledged their breach of equality laws and offered compensation they would begin legal proceedings.

Ironically in the cases at Stormont where some law makers are persistent equality law breakers the equality commission seem to take a more relaxed approach. The Equality Commission took until October 2013 to enter the debate at Stormont requesting that leadership to  shown over issues including gay marriage, gay and unmarried couples having the right to adopt and permitting gay men to donate blood. These issues had previously been the subject of costly legal challenges via the public purse by the then DUP Health Minister Edwin Poots.

With the above issues in mind I would question why the equality commission have never launched a challenge over the breaches of equality legislation at Stormont yet are overly keen to drag a local business through a costly court process over a cake? The critical side of me can't help but wonder if this selectivity around issues of equality is influenced by the fact the Equality Commission is a sponsored department of the Office of the First and deputy First Minister. Surely if those in government were to set a better example in terms of adhering to equality legislation or were at least reprimanded for their failures local businesses would consider reviewing their own policies.

What was laughable today, was the Nolan show this morning, Catriona Ruane from Sinn Fein told a Catholic priest who had disengaged with 'gay groups' over the cake issue that it wasn't for her to tell any church how they should engage with a community, but if the leadership of the catholic church feels it cant do the job then 'somebody else should be doing it'. and I would say to Ms Ruane, please pass on those sentiments to your party and their buddies, because the people North & South are being failed by those elected, it's simple really, you can't have your cake and eat it.

And on the topic of sugary things Nils Muiznieks an EU official announced yesterday that the government needs to conducting, independent and reasonably prompt investigations into troubles related killings by British military and police. Further stating that budget cuts cannot negate the need to uphold the rule of law and how this is currently in breach of the European Convention of Human Rights.

Alas one more to the chorus of Haas and Larkin!!!!! 

In a response from the Northern Ireland Office a spokesperson said the UK government has a "strong track record in upholding human rights, and takes its human rights obligations extremely seriously". At this statement alone I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. Britain's strong track record in upholding human rights can be summed up in 3 words, ‘The Hooded Men’.

The NIO spokesperson then went a step further saying "We are working assiduously on a range of processes under way which relate to Northern Ireland's past, including very extensive disclosure exercises.” "The government is currently engaged in intensive talks with Northern Ireland's political leaders and the Irish government on a range of matters including how to approach the legacy of the past. The Secretary of State believes that these talks provide a crucial opportunity to address this pressing issue."

Availing of the Control and F function on my laptop to ensure I hadn't missed anything I found no mention of the word prosecution. This will be case a of all those parties involved in discussions trying to work out how to best cover their asses in terms of avoiding prosecution.

I don’t know what island of equals they’re all on, but I can’t seem to find it on a map maybe it’s five miles west of Hy-Brasil?

Lastly yesterday was a busy day as it was also revealed that British intelligence agencies have policies to allow their staff access to communications between lawyers and their clients. These actions conflict with Lawyer/client confidentiality and as such campaigners fear this will have a troubling impact on the British justice system.

The guidance was disclosed for the first time at a tribunal which examines complaints against MI5, MI6 and GCHQ. It would seem that the idea of big brother is not only confined to channel five. But then again, with the NIO lauding the British Government’s Human Rights record, maybe, just maybe, they’re just accessing these communications to protect the accused human rights!!

So to sum up, over the last few weeks we have had the issue of gay cakes, religious bakers, an unequal Equality Commission, Dissident style Dukes of Hazard, EU officials in harmony with Haas and a goodbye to lawyer and client confidentiality.

Welcome to NORN IRON, please feel free to digest as much processed nonsense as you can possibly stomach.