Monday, 30 March 2015

Kate Nash writes to OFMDFM about Christy Walsh.

Kate Nash, Bloody Sunday family member.

Dear Ministers

A very sad case has come to my attention and feel it a moral duty to write to your Government and express my deep concern about a man who was convicted of something he didn't do on the word of a British Paratrooper, may I add by a Judicial system that wouldn't look out of place in a third world dictatorship,  in short a Diplock court.

Christy Walsh served seven years and was eventually released on the basis of an unsafe conviction in 2010.

 I feel it is imperative that this Government rectify in some way the phycological damage that has been done to Christy who at this time is on hungerstrike,  something which I feel is an act of deep despair.

  Compensation must be made as soon as possible to Christy whilst of course his health can be assessed and help given as immediately as is humanly possible, also before a tragedy occurs and blame left solely on those who refuse to recognise the great wrong inflicted on this innocent human being.

To read more about this please click the links below.

Perverting the Course of Justice : The Pensive Quill

Sunday, 29 March 2015

Who is Christy Walsh?

Have you heard about Christy Walsh? Who? I hear you ask, up until a few days I had heard nothing until I was directed to the case via letters from Christy Walsh published on 'The 'Pensive Quill'.

We are often told that there is no hierarchy of victims stemming from the period referred to as the 'troubles'. In her 2007 article, Who are the victims? Debates, concepts and contestation in 'post-conflict' Northern Ireland Dr Sara McDowell wrote;

'Defining the term ‘victim’ is a task fraught with difficulty within the contested terrain of Northern Ireland. In human terms, ‘the Troubles’ cost approximately 3,700 lives and imparted a tangible and intangible heritage of loss, pain and suffering to a much wider population.

Today there is a man on hunger strike to highlight how he was treated by our so called justice system during this period and after. An aggrieved Christy Walsh writes regularly to the Northern Ireland First and Deputy First Ministers to advise them of his situation and the action he has taken.  From reading his correspondence Christy appears disturbed at being continually criminalised by the system that failed and continues to fail him as a citizen.

Jailed in 1991 in what can be only described as another 'troubles related' miscarriage of justice Christy Walsh spent 7 years in prison, his conviction was quashed following an unprecedented third appeal in 2010.

Background Facts: 

This situation dates back to 1991 when Christy Walsh was arrested by a member of the Parachute Regiment in West Belfast accused of possessing a coffee jar device which was found on a nearby wall.

Following his arrest he was taken for interrogation to Castlereagh and questioned over a period of two days in the absence of a lawyer. Later on legal advice Christy gave a written account of his movements on the day to police. The soldier who stopped Christy alleged that he had instructed Christy to remove a coffee jar device from his pocket. In October of that year the findings of forensic examinations could not connect Christy or his coat to the coffee jar device. In addition to this experts confirmed that there was no attempt made to clean the jar.

In February of the following year Christy was advised that a second soldier was claiming to have witnessed him being instructed to remove the device from his coat pocket. During his trial that December the trial judge seemed to take more issue with Christy choosing to remain silent during court proceedings than with the documented flaws in the evidence provided by the soldiers. In the absence of forensic or any substantive evidence Christy Walsh was sentenced in a Diplock Court to 14 years in prison.

During his appeal in January 2002 the Court of Appeal raised concern over how the former judge drew adverse inference in respect of Christy's silence in court despite his co-operation with both the army and police being a matter of record. In legal terms adverse inference means drawing inference/conclusion, unfavourable to the concerned party. Despite this the Court of Appeal ruled that “an exception” was justified with Christy's conviction considered safe despite it being in breach of article 6 of the European Convention which provides for the right to a fair trial.

During a third appeal in March 2010 the Court of Appeal concluded that Christy's conviction was unsafe. Subsequently when reading the prosecutors file Christy discovered that evidence in relation to the arrest of an IRA man around the same time had been omitted during his trial in 1992.

Over the past number of weeks Christy has been writing to the First and Deputy First Ministers to alert them to the action he has taken. This man is clearly aggrieved at how he has been treated, so much so that he has embarked on a hunger strike to have his voice heard.

When reading through the facts of this case one word in particular continually sprang to mind, the word turmoil. Furthermore I could see similarities in this case and the case of Bloody Sunday Victim Gerald Donaghey.

Twenty-one chapters of the Bloody Sunday Inquiry Saville Report focused on whether or not Gerald Donaghey had nail bombs in his pockets when his body arrived at an Army station on Foyle Road, Derry. Evidence provided by numerous sources including the doctor who examined the young boy confirmed that this was not the case. The only rational explanation is that these devices were planted on the young boys body. Not content with murdering Gerald Donaghey the British state, its forces and apologists set about criminalising him, a stain on his memory perpetuated by the Saville inquiry to this day.

Keeping what happened to Gerald Donaghey in life and in death in mind remember this is the same British regiment who through their manipulation of the justice system used a similar method to secure the conviction against Christy Walsh. A man who to this day evidently bears the scars that stem from a blatant miscarriage of justice.

Christy Walsh has never been compensated for what he suffered and continues to suffer. He is in need of urgent support yet outside of internet sources his situation conveniently escapes the notice of the mainstream press not to mention the attention of those he seeks to reach in OFMDFM.

I would encourage everyone to write to both Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness to demand they intervene in this case before it is too late.


Sunday, 22 March 2015

Hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil!!

Monkey see, Monkey don't!!!
Over the past few weeks I have been reading how preparations are under way for centenary celebrations to mark the 100thanniversary of the 1916 Easter Rising. These celebrations will involve immense effort, well choreographed utterings, as well as ongoing efforts to unify Quislings, Republicans and Dissenters under one banner, however whose banner it is, is definitely questionable.
What I have found interesting, but not surprising has been the level of revisionism. The Free State Government released a video 'Ireland Inspires 2016', which had no mention of the executed signatories of the Proclamation, but did feature the British Queen, Ian Paisley, David Cameron, and the arch devil & tax exile himself 'Bono'. Sinn Fein not to be outdone at their recent Ard Fheis held in Derry had local shinner Gerry McCartney appealing for British Royals and member of the British Government to be allowed to attend Easter Rising commemorations, as not to embarrass the Sinn Fein leadership.

But I digress, I was talking about revisionism, I wonder if at any point during these celebrations someone will take time to mention how 2016 will also mark the 40thanniversary of the British criminalisation policy in Ireland? On March 1st1976 Merlyn Rees, then British Secretary of State for 'Northern Ireland' ended Special Category Status in the North of Ireland. Special Category Status for convicted paramilitary-linked prisoners gave them the same privileges previously available only to internees. These privileges included free association between prisoners, extra visits, food parcels and the right to wear their own clothes rather than prison uniforms. This proposal came from Lord Gardiner following a proposal to end internment in 1975. The criminalisation policy consisted of a refusal to give recognition to the political situation in the north with politically motivated actions from this point forward regarded a criminal acts.

The criminalisation policy saw the restructuring of the criminal justice system, an increase in harsh interrogation measures, with the RUC permitted to act with virtual impunity and an increase in Diplock court hearings in which the onus was no longer on the court to prove guilt but on the accused to prove innocence. This policy placed the British government in an environment in which they could not be held to account for their use of violence and abuse, from their torture of the Hooded Men, to the support provided to Loyalist Murder squads and the shoot to kill policy the British state protected itself in legislation and positioned itself as a 'good guy' keeping the warring muck savages apart, well apart from a few 'rotten apples' in the ranks. A further consequence of the criminalisation policy is that to this day ex-prisoners, including those identified with the period known as 'the troubles' are still unable to gain employment in many professions.

Today the criminalisation policy is still alive and well and  is evident through the regular harassment of republican activists and their families this is is happening in communities across the North. This has been shown over a two day period in the Creggan area of Derry where a young family and older woman living alone have been subjected to heavy handed and intrusive raids on their homes. The raid on the young family, had an estimated TWELVE PSNI landrovers, TWO bomb disposal units and a Helicopter. 

The next night, and only a few streets away the older woman, a well respected 'unpaid' community worker who had her home invaded faced six PSNI Landrovers, a number of plain clothes PSNI personnel and the entire proceedings were watched from above by a Helicopter. One of the most disconcerting things to come out of this raid is that the uniformed search team was made up all male officers, just to search the home of an older lady who lives alone.

I can't see the same level of force being used if the Mass Murderers from the Parachute Regiment who butchered innocents in Ballymurphy and on Bloody Sunday are ever arrested, can you?
I'd like you to take a minute and imagine how you would feel if your elderly mother had her home ransacked by a tribe of men wielding guns? This woman became unwell during the raid and needed medical attention.

You would expect elected representatives from local political parties to be up in arms and vocal in their concern, well in any 'Normal' society you would. The truth is only 1 local Councillor, was at the scene of the raids to offer support, Councillor Gary Donnelly.

With the PSNI effectively the RUC through the back door we must question why those who promote them to be something different have remained silent, particularly when members of the community continue to bear the brunt of their heavy handedness. The PSNI tactical support teams by-pass the oversight of local policing partnerships and the Policing Boards. With no independent oversight these groups are free to enter communities in an intimidatory fashion, ransack homes yet are accountable only to the Chief Constable.

After heavy handed PSNI raids last year, Sinn Fein Councillor Colly Kelly said 'As we have said in the past if the PSNI do a good job we will support them but that would also hold them robustly to account.' Last year, SDLP MLA Pat Ramsey raised issue with the PSNI about how they conduct their searches. But here's the rub, Pat Ramsey and Councillor Kelly should consider this, how can they hold people to account who are only accountable to the Chief Constable? The two of them would be better in Quigg's fruit shop straightening bent bananas, I reckon they'd have more success, as to date I have heard nothing of the response they received from the PSNI.

The PSNI claims to be involved in “impartial and accountable policing” adding that they are “Open and transparent in line with overriding Human Rights or legal obligations”. Yet a unit within the PSNI remains free from public scrutiny, independent oversight and condemnation from apologists in both the Assembly and a local Government level. 

The Development of British Defence Policy: Blair, Brown and Beyond page 115

One of the main barriers that the PSNI faced when they morphed from the RUC into the PSNI was that the RUC was known as a sectarian force, 'whose members were overwhelmingly from the Protestant community'. When carrying out some research for this blog I came across a Freedom of information response published by the PSNI asking about the religious/ethnic & gender breakdown of the 'Tactical Support groups'. But I'll not tell you what I think of their response, I'll let you make your own mind up, when you read it here.

I am still awaiting to hear that a member of any political party has called to visit those who suffered in the recent raids, in which I must add nothing connected with 'terrorism' was found. I'm still awaiting even a public statement from the political parties which represent the Creggan area to condemn these raids.

Then again these political parties hold positions on the The Derry Policing and Community Safety Partnership 'which recently hosted a delegation from the Myanmar Police from Burma as part of a fact-finding visit to Northern Ireland.' This is the same Myanmar Police which actually receives training from the PSNI and is internationally known for its corruption and human rights abuses. Amnesty International which says nothing about human rights abuse in the North said the PSNI needs to reconsider its involvement in the country (Burma) and called on the Chief Constable to be more “transparent”. 
The European Union has sanctions against Burma, I'm just wondering if the political parties and representatives on the Derry Policing and Community Safety Partnership have checked to make sure that there has been no violation of these sanctions. Although memories of  Raytheon and weapons manufacture come to mind, I'm sure they'll let us know.

With these facts in mind should we expect anything in terms of condemnation for recent events in Derry from local representatives? It would seem our 'politicians' are hypocrites, I repeat hypocrites, so much for promoting peace!

Friday, 13 March 2015

Requested in triplicate.

Last night I felt saddened at having to miss the annual Rosemary Nelson Lecture due to personal commitments, the event took place in Conway Mill Belfast. The theme of this years event was Freedom of Expression which needless to say covers a broad range of issues both locally and internationally.

Freedom of expression to me is the right to express a view whether it be through protest, art or writing, that said it is open to further interpretation. These freedoms today are continually under threat with British laws becoming overly stringent and oppressive in their continuous attempts to curtail free assembly and the right to free speech.

Having finished off a piece of work today I decided to log into facebook, I have to say I wish hadn't bothered. Without going into too much detail I came across a thread suggesting the need to request permission to hold a protest. Just to be clear this did not come from the Parades Commission this came from a social justice activist. To ensure my interpretation of what I was reading was correct I sought clarification only to be told that this was indeed the case.

If I’m honest this incident set me back years to a time when I allowed myself to be dictated to. A few years ago I had the sheer misfortune of meeting Ireland's answer to Bette Davis, of all the people in Ireland it had to be me!!! This person through constant manipulation had me believing that protesting for her family member required her express permission and that the pleasure was indeed mine. Whilst this was a difficult period in my life it did teach me that no-one irrespective of their circumstances has the right to control you nor has anyone the right to expect you to seek permission to protest over human rights abuses. I personally believe it is incumbent on us all to battle injustice when and where we see it. Equally we must challenge any/ all attempts to control protest whether it be from the state or from other sources.

Freedom of expression is something that is very much under threat. In recent times you may have read the various statements surrounding the release of a song to highlight the plight of the Craigavon Two. The Craigavon Two are serving life sentences for the murder of Constable Stephen Carroll in 2009. The issue of the song has been quite controversial, so much so that some would say that prior to it's release it has already served it's purpose in highlighting the issue. Whilst I deeply sympathise with the wife of the late constable Carroll, having read the court judgements I remain convinced that these two men are innocent as was the opinion of the late Gerry Conlon of the Guildford Four who campaigned tirelessly on their behalf.

In law you often hear the phrase beyond reasonable doubt, this is when the probability the defendant committed the crime (based on the evidence) is equal or greater than the interpretation of beyond reasonable doubt. In the case of the Craigavon Two I would use the term beyond the belief of any reasonable and objective person with the two men serving life sentences on the word of a paid informant, circumstantial evidence and deleted data.

The recent appeal to have the men freed was later dismissed despite the evident holes in the case. The more concerning but not surprising aspects of the case stem from allegations of police harassment and interference, including the arrest of a witness for the defence and attempts to sully the professional integrity of the legal team involved in the case.

The case of the Craigavon Two exposes the malevolence and inbuilt weaknesses within the British justice system coupled with the failure of the PSNI to carry out a robust and comprehensive investigation into the Carroll killing. As a consequence the Craigavon Two, Brendan McConville and John Paul Wooton are languishing in prison cells with the law in this case favouring political expediency over truth and justice.

On March 15th at 7pm the aforementioned song will be available for download from, iTunes , Amazon & Google Play. Please download to show your opposition to this latest miscarriage of justice.

Saturday, 7 March 2015

When in doubt remove foot from mouth.

My husband recently surprised me with two tickets to see 'Give My Head Peace' in Derry's Millenium Forum. However today I feel he could saved money by getting us a place at the Sinn Fein Ard Fheis which is said to be second to none in terms of comedic value. The highlight of yesterdays event is believed to have stemmed from a motion to ban members of the British Government and Royal family from attending centenary events in 2016 to mark the 1916 Easter rising. I would have thought that this makes perfect sense as to do otherwise would be akin to inviting former Auschwitz guards to holocaust commemorations .

The motion at yesterday's gathering of the faithful flock was put forward by the Keating-Sands Waterford Cumann. In immediate defence of the Crown and cohorts, Derry Sinn Fein delegate Gerry McCartney, brother of MLA Raymond, said he believed that the motion should be “rejected” which isn't surprising as the motion makes the Deputy First Minister look like a lone ranger. Significantly this motion demonstrates how the actions of the Sinn Fein leadership are at odds with the views of their grass roots members and supporters. 

Easter 2016

In addition to his concerns yesterday over the upcoming centenary Mr McCartney added “it wasn’t just Irish republicans who died, it was British soldiers who died” further explaining that it would be impossible to commemorate the event without including all sides. The concern for me is where is Gerry going with this? It would be very unlike the Shinners to throw something out to test the water if they didn't have have an end target in sight.

Instead of calling for members of the British Royal family not to be banned from attending events commemorating the centenary of the Easter rising maybe Gerry would've been better calling at the Sinn fein Ard Fheis for his party to support Derry woman Kate Nash. Kate is currently endeavouring to have those who oversaw the murder of 14 innocent civil rights protesters on Bloody Sunday stripped of the honours they received shortly after .

When reading about the motion I began to think of Derry man Vincent Coyle. Vincent exposed how plans by the predominantly Sinn Fein Bloody Sunday Trust were to include a memorial garden/plaza as part of the Bloody Sunday Museum. This garden/plaza was set to include all victims of the troubles including British State Forces. This was denied by the Bloody Sunday Trust yet later shown to be a matter of fact via documents accessed under Freedom of Information Legislation.

When you add the actions of the Bloody Sunday Trust to the bizarre stance from someone who claims to be an Irish republican you can't help but wonder if the reconciliation card was being played when planning the memorial Garden/ Plaza for the Bogside.

Maybe by way of reciprocation the British Government and Royals have secret reconciliation plans in place which include commemorating those who died fighting against the empire in the Easter Rising and the war of independence, followed by the unveiling of a memorial to the Hunger Strikers in London. But then it's highly unlikely.

"If there is to be reconciliation, first there must be truth.”

Sunday, 1 March 2015

Spotlight on a Dimmer Switch!

Somethings never change.

On Tuesday 24th of February I tuned into the BBC's Spotlight to watch what I believed to be a programme highlighting the impact of welfare reform. A few minutes into the programme I pressed the select button on my TV remote control to ensure I had actually tuned into Spotlight and not 'Benefits Street,' which is a programme designed to stereotype and demonise people in need of state benefits.

A large section of the Spotlight programme focused on benefit claimants in Derry, with particular reference made to the high numbers of people in Derry claiming a Disability Living Allowance, or as it was referred to in the programme the 'Derry Living Allowance.'

A cursory glance on the internet would have shown Spotlight that the District Super Council area of Derry and Strabane has the highest unemployment rate in the North which is something even Spotlight would agree may account for high numbers of people on benefits.

A few facts for Spotlight to consider:

In a report published in 2013 it was found that the suicide rate in Derry was 38per cent higher than anywhere else in the Western area. The report by the Men’s Health Forum Ireland (MHFI) found suicide to be a principal cause of death in Ireland amongst men aged between 15-34.

It is a known fact that there is a direct link between suicide and unemployment yet this seems to have escaped the notice of the eagle eyed Spotlight researchers, despite a number of those interviewed mentioning it. Furthermore an interview given by a friend who spoke on how people don't choose to be unemployed or poor was conveniently excluded from the programme.

A recent report from the Prince's Trust showed that unemployed young people risk becoming "socially isolated" and that half of unemployed young people "always" or "often" feel down or depressed. 36% of the young people surveyed said anxiety had stopped them from looking after their health, and 38% said it prevented them eating properly.

A contributor to the show, a young lady who also spoke recently on the BBC Nolan show articulated how her physical disability impacted upon her mental health adding she now faces daily struggles with two disabilities, and not just the health impact, but the associated stigma.

In a report into an increase in the number of people using anti-depressants doctors advised the detail of the growing number of young people being prescribed anti-depressants. The findings of the report suggest that many people still suffer the effects of the troubles but equally that we now have growing numbers of young people with their own new set of troubles.

Maybe Spotlight should have given due to consideration to the above factors when they quoted their “one in seven” (DLA) statistics and made reference to the high number of benefit claimants in Derry.

On a more positive note the programme did briefly expose the reality of welfare reform, the premeditated ambiguity surrounding the implementation of welfare reform and the hypocrisy of the real benefit scroungers, our so called politicians. It's easy to jabber on about protecting the vulnerable when you're on over 40 thousand quid a year, get huge expenses (at our expense) and have daily subsidised meals, no food banks for our politicians!

The opening salvo of the Spotlight programme stated how Derry had been the city of culture, as if the City of Culture job fairy had flown over the city and sprinkled jobs like magic dust. The much vaunted city of culture boom fizzled out in a tide of recrimination amongst those behind the gimmick as the majority of legacy projects designed to carry on the work of the year long celebration floundered before they even began.

With the City of Culture feel good factor only lasting for a short time Derry remains in need of an employment boost as to date things earmarked for the city have ended up in other places. This was witnessed with project Kelvin which ended up in Coleraine and not forgetting Stream which closed it's doors in Derry and later reappeared with government funding in Belfast and was welcomed by none other than Derry man Martin McGuinness who too signed off on project Kelvin.
First and Deputy First Minister dog Derry!

The switching of project Kelvin from Derry to Coleraine would explain why our politicians were keen to support an upgrade to the train line from Derry to Coleraine. The more cynical side of me wonders if the upgrade was a further means of filling the gaps in terms of the university places, with Magee University in Derry now set to lose over 50 courses. So much for the promised expansion!

Until we see an improvement in the infrastructure and an increase in training opportunities then we can only expect to receive little in terms of investment and employment in this the second city (Derry). At present efforts to improve the infrastructure are minimal, disjointed and suffering from any semblance of strategic planning.

Instead of spotlight casting its beam on the vulnerable and stigmatised maybe they should have challenged the politicians to stand up for Derry and not just waffle about it. Maybe they should have put the politicians on the spot by asking them to justify their positions, after all the BBC as a public funded body should have the best interests of the public at heart. Which is more than can be said for our public funded politicians who care more about themselves and and their party agendas than they do about what is right, morally or otherwise.