Category Archives: EXPOSING THE TRUTH IN ULSTER

British government seeking to have Omagh bombing intelligence assessed in private court told

 THE British government is to seek to have some intelligence gathered on the Omagh bombing assessed in privite.

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Secretary of State for the North of Ireland Theresa Villigers (pictured below) plans to have a ‘closed material procedure’ form part of a challenge to her refusal to hold a public inquiry into the atrocity, a judge was told. Confirmation of the move came as lawyers for the the father of a young man killed in the Real IRA attack accused authorities of “massively dragging their heels”. Michael Gallagher has mounted a legal action in a bid to force the government to order a full inquiry. His son Aiden was among 29 people, including a woman pregnant with twins, killed on August 15th 1998. In September 2013 Ms Villiers rejected calls for a public investigation, deciding instead that a probe by Police Ombudsman Michael Maguire was the best way to address any outstanding issues. Last October Dr Maguire published a report which that RUC Special Branch withheld some intelligence from detectives hunting the bombers.11066816_784362958317822_4881406483812120168_n No-one ever been convicted of carrying out the attack but Seamus Daly (pictured above), a 44-year-old bricklayer from Cullaville, Co Monaghan,(has been stiched-up) and is currently charged with the 29 murders, which he denies. Central to Mr Gallagher’s case is a contention that the British government has a duty under Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights to protect lives and investigate the bombing. His lawyers claim a range of intelligence from British security agents, MI5 and RUC officers could have been drawn together to stop the killers in their tracks. An alleged gap in the information relates to monitoring of the bomb and scout cars as they crossed from the South into the North of Ireland on the border into Omagh on the day of the attack. It has been suggested that a BBC Panorama documentary has raised the possibility of other intelligence than the intercept material which has been the subject of investigations to date. In the High Court yesterday Paul McLaughlin, for the secretary of state, confirmed her intention to seek a closed material procedure before the full judicial review hearing can take place. 46251_371159356305885_1303888108_n-1The process, brought in under the Justice and Security Act, run by David Ford of the Alliance Party,(pictured left), can assess whether pubilc disclosure of some information would be damaging to (so-called) national security. With the other side in such proceedings kept in the dark about the contents, some have claimed it could give rise to ‘secret courts’. Mr McLaughlin stressed that a special advocate has to be appointed by the Advcocate General for the North of Ireland before the application is made. He said an “intensive” review of all available material has been carried out. “We have been going through a difficult process of trying to work out what evidence there is, and what evidence there is, and what evidence can be served in open as opposed to what is required to be filed in a closed hearing,” the barrister said. “We are trying to put together an enormous jigsaw of what material exists and who it has been examined by.” During exchanges Mr Justice Treacy emphasied how the case centered on whether all intelligence material was made available. 1975096_265836583595060_1936534027_n“If the intelligence services (MI5) don’t know what they shared and who with, that would be deeply troubling,” he said. The case was adjourned for a further review in two weeks’ time.

With many thanks to: The Irish News, for the origional story.

Stephen Carroll’s widow said she is shocked by the Craigavon Two song!

‘I couldn’t care less whether it’s number one of number 90 because at the end of the day nothing will bring home Steve – Kate Carroll.

THE widow of Constable Stephen Carroll has said she is shocked that a song calling for the release of two men convicted of his murder is to be released.

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Mr Carroll was shot dead by the (CIRA) Continuity IRA in March 2009 as he answered an emergency call in Crigavon, Co Armagh. Two men the (Craigavon Two) from the area, Brendan (Yandy) McConville and John Paul (JP) Wootton were subsequently convicted of killing the policeman and wrongly convicted and given lengthy prison terms. Both men deny any part in the attack maintain their innocence. 15286_976249242401584_5738944951227552048_nA group established to campaign for the men, Justice for the Craigavon Two, are set to release a song to highligt the case next month. The officer’s widow Kate Carroll does not accept claims of innocence made by McConville and Wotton “I couldn’t care less whether it’s number one of number 90 because at the end of the day nothing will bring home Steve,” she said. Angela Nelson from the Justice for the Craigavon Two said: “In the past we have had some protest songs to highlight injustices and we feel there is a powerful message in the lyrics of this song.”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-JHukbYMyFQ&feature=youtube_gdata_player

With many thanks to: Connla Young, The Irish News, for the orgional story.

 

PAPERS ON IRISH ROLE IN SPANISH CIVIL WAR UNVEILED

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THE leader of the Irish who fought against facisim in Spain sent 25 men home fearing more loss of life, new records from Russia have revealed.  

Frank Ryan (pictured above), (along with John Robinson) from Knocklong, Co Limerick, was a republican who played an important role within the International Brigades which confronted General Francisco Franco during the Spanish Civil War from 1936.  Comintern papers from Moscow have given a revaling insight into the role of 230 Irish men who sided with the communists in Spain. Almost a third of the volunteers died and researcher Dr Emmet O’Connor from the University of Ulster said Ryan showed courage and leadership in battle. “It is to his credit that he managed to get about 25 men sent home, and his motivation was based on the very high losses among volunteers he himself had brought to Spain in December 1936.” Ryan was wounded during the Battle of Jarama near Madrid in February 1937. Dr O’Conner said: “first, to help rebuild the British battalion decimated after the Battle of Brunete (July 1937) and, second, on his own intiative, to get as many Irishmen as possible repatriated if he felt that they had done enough.”He said he envisaged a propaganda tour of America.”It speaks volumes for his courage and decency that he dropped all such plans when the Repubican front collapsed in Aragon in early March 1938. He was captured on March 31 1938.”

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An enormours increase in knowledge about the Irish in Spain followed the release in 1991 of the files of the brigades held in a Moscow archive. The Communist International (Comintern) library has about 60,000,000 pages of documents, of which 4,000 relate to Ireland. “The size and global scope of this material created a unique opportunity to study an international movement, and was itself a factor in the promotion of transnational history, which is now at the cutting edge of historiography.” Another Limerick man was mentioned in the documents. “Emmet Ryan from The Desmond Hotel in Upper Catherine Street in Limerick city, was the most intriguing: middle-class, a gifted linguist, no political affiliation. “He had a serious drink problem [not unusual in the British battalion because wine was cheap and part of the rations] but he was a constant critic of the British battalion leadership and was executed in circumstances which still remain unclear during the early stages of the Battle of the Ebro, that is in the first days of August 1938.”

http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frank_Ryan_(Irish_republican)

The International Brigades, supported by Russia, were part of an improvised army that had to contend with shortages and crises from the outset. Ultimately the Republic was defeated and Franco marched into Madrid in March 1939. The contingent of 230 Irishmen in the brigades represented 29 counties, particularly Dublin and Belfast but strong contingents from Co Derry, Waterford and Cork. One man, Paddy Byrne from off Dame Street in Dublin, jumped ship in Barcelona in order to join up. Many had been and were still members of the IRA. Dr O’Connor said the papers made clear that socialist republicanism in the 1930s was largely promoted by international communism. “It broke down mainly because of the contradiction in communist international strategy, which sought to push republicans to the left, on the one hand, and have the Communist Party of Ireland displace the republican movement on the other.” The records have gone on display at Queen’s University Belfast.

With many thanks to: The Irish News, for the origional story.

Meehan is booted out of ‘rebels’

REPUBLICAN Martin Og Meehan has been expelled from a number of dissident-linked groups in Ardoyne amid allegations he “colluded” with loyalists.

The extraordinary allegations – which threaten his republican ‘career’ – emerged on Facebook after one of the groups released a statement about how the leading North Belfast republican was caught. The Sunday World understands convicted Provo Meehan was caught slagging off fellow republian rabble rousing Ardoyne community worker Dee Fennell to a North Belfast loyalist. Meehan was a founding member of (GARC) the Greater Ardoyne Residents Collective, a community group which primarly opposes Orange Order parades going past Ardoyne shop fronts. Dee Fennell is now the leader of that group and semmingly not on the best of terms with Meehan. The situaton exploded last week when it emerged Meehan had been sending private messages via social media to a well-known loyalist about Fennell. And last Saturaday when Fennell found out he went stright round to Meehan’s house and demanded answers.

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DENIED

The result has seen Meehan expelled from (RNU) Republican Network for Unity, for whom he has been a spokesperson for eight years. A statment from GARC released on Friday night accuses Meehan of being found “guilty of collaborting and colluding with loyalists”. We have a copy of the statement although shortly after it was posted the GARC Facebook page appeared to have been taken down completely. The Sunday World tried to contact Martin Og Meehan last night but were unable to, however it’s understood that he is furious at what has happened and has strongly denied the allegations against him. 1391459_10204408690833156_6780887297070771622_nGARC claim Meehan Og came to their attention last Saturday when a republican in Tyrone got into an online ‘debate’ with an Orangeman and loyalist from Ballysillan. During the heated discussion on Twitter the loyalist claimed that GARC was in disarray and was split. When this was challenged by the republican the loyalist produced privite messages sent to him by Martin Og Meehan claiming that GARC was in disarray and was split. When this was challenged by the republican the loyalist produced private messages sent to him by Martin Og Meehan claiming that GARC was split and that Dee Fennell was “hated in Ardoyne and needs to be taken down a peg or two”. Martin Og Meehan has been a leading republican voice in the North Belfast area for decades and was previosly in the the PIRA along with his father Martin Meehan who was the first man to be convicted of being a member of the PIRA.

With many thanks to: Steven Moore, The sunday World, for the origional story.

 

 

Carroll murder convictions were a miscarriage of justice says Guilford Four lawyer

#JFTC2

A HIGH profile lawyer who represented the Guildford Four and the Birmingham Six has said he believes that two Co Armagh men convicted wrongly for the killing of PSNI constable Stephen Carroll are victims of a miscarriage of justice.

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Michael Mansfield QC made the remarks after speaking at a memorial lecture for Gerry Conlon, who was wrongly convicted of the 1974 Guildford Pub Bombings. The case of the Craigavon Two was raised during a discussion chaired by the SDLP’s Alex Attwood in West Belfast last week. Brendan (Yandy) McConville was wrongly sentenced to 25 years in prison after he was convicted of murder. His co-accused John Paul Wootton was told he will have to serve a minimum of 14 years behind bars (for a crime he didn’t committ) but this was later raised to 18 years. Both men deny any part in the (CIRA) Continuity IRA sniper attack which claimed Mr Carroll’s life as he answered an emergency call in Craigavon in March 2009. Gerry Conlon was the chairman of a committee (Justice For The Criagavon Two) set up to campaign on their behalf before his death. 15286_976249242401584_5738944951227552048_nHe spent 15 years in prison before his conviction was quashed in 1989. He died last June aged 60 after battling ill-health. As well as being involved in high-profile miscarriage of justice of cases, Mr Mansfield has represented the families of black teenager Stephen Lawrence and families involved in the Hillsborough inquest which is ongoing. Mr Mansfield said he has concerns about the case. “There is nothing more particular about it than any of the other miscarriages and the same features appear in all these things,” he said. “I think the problem is there are so many of them. There should be a general enquiry about more than Crigavon.” 1488266_396009570546805_8502458567551843813_nThe Birmingham Six’s Paddy Hill, who also spoke at the memorial lecture, has backed the case of the Craigavon Two campaign. “The last thing they [the British government] want to do is admit they have it wrong,” he said.

With many thanks to: Connla Young, The Irish News, for the orgional story.

CATHOLIC CHURCH BUILT WITH THE HELP OF PROTESTANT WORSHIPPERS CELEBRATES 200 YEARS

Built with the help of Protestant worshippers, St Patrick’s Catholic Church in Belfast has stood witness to 200 years of the city’s turbulent history. John Monaghan reports on plans for its bicentenary celebrations.

A HISTORIC Belfast city centre church has revealed plans to celebrate a very special anniversary.

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A church was first built on the site of St Patrick’s on Donegall Street in 1815 to accomnodate an influx of Catholic workers into the city. And, as the population continued to grow, a new building was constructed and consecrated in 1877. The second oldest Catholic church in Belfast, plans to mark the bicentenary of St Patrick’s include a Mass to be celebrated by Down and Connor Bishop Noel Treanor, a dinner dance in the Titanic Suite, and a pilgrimage to Rome. Historian and author Eamon Phoenix is also due to give a talk about the parish at Belfast City Hall on March 9, while a lecture by Anne Stewart from the Ulster Museum on April 20 will discuss the life and works of painter Sir John Lavery, who was baptised in St Patrick’s. Sir John was the creator of the famous ‘Lakes of Madonna’ typtich painting which is displayed in the beautiful interior.

‘In 1941 the parish suffered enormous losses as a result of the Nazi bombings. Then in the 1970s there were events such as the McGurk’s Bar bombing and the Shankill butchers were operating. There has been a lot of suffering for the parishioners – Fr Michael Sheehan.

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 Parish priest Fr Michael Sheehan, who will talk about the history of the parish on the religious satellite channel EWTN next month, said the foundations of the church had “stood throughout some of the main points in Irish history”. “The first parish records we hold date back as far as 1798, (The year of the United Irishmen) before the church was even built, and contain baptisms and weddings which probably took place in St Mary’s in Chapel Lane,” he said. “In 1941 the parish suffered enormous losses as a resuslt of the Nazi bombings. Then in the 1970s there were events such as the McGurk’s Bar bombing and the Shankill Butchers were operating. There has been a lot of suffering for the parishioners.” In recent years the church found its3lf at the centre of a parading dispute, after tensions in the area were raised by sectarian music played outside its doors by a loyalist band during a July 12 march.

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 But with around a quarter of the funds raised for the original building by the Presbyterian community, Fr Sheehan said that he hoped to present gifts to other churches to recoginise the cooperation between various congregations which led to the parish’s birth. “The bicentenary provides us with the opportunity to acknowledge the generosity of our Christian brothers and sisters who helped us build the church,” he said. “We would also appeal to anyone with old photos of the parish to donate to our collection which we are preparing”. Built in the Romanesque style of different coloured sandstone, another distinctive feature of the church is the addition of a columbarium for the interment of ashes. However, restoration work requried to the building – at a total cost of £1.3 million – has been hampered by delays in funding from outside agencies. “We were expecting around £300,000 from the Northern Ireland Environment Agency, however they have stalled any decision on funding for the past year.

‘The bicentenary provides us with the opportunity to acknowledge the generosity of our Christian brothers and sisters who helped us build the church – Fr Michael Sheehan.

 

And the Heritage Lottery Fund had approved over £200,000 but won’t release their funds until we get the sufficient money elsewhere to finish the work,” the parish parish priest said. 10441926_295982950578831_3116301160801281417_nFinances have also prevented the parish from fully digitising its invaluable archive of records from 1798 to the 1940s, after Fr Sheehan was quoted a figure of £98,000 to complete that task. “We stopped allowing people to view the archives themselves as some people were ripping out pages from these old documents. People can view the records at PRONI (Public Records Office), and we can still do the issuing of cirtificates.” A fire in October 1995 devastated St Patrick’s but following repairs it was officially reopened two years later by Bishop Patrick Walsh. Today it continues to attract a mix of parish residents, former parishioners who moved away, and city centre workers – as well as many tourists. The church either holds or owns a number of relics and shrines, including St Anthony of Padua and two relics of St Patrick, amongst them a small piece of bone taken from St Patrick’s burial site in Downpatrick.

With many thanks to: The Irish News, for the origional story.

Building’s link to 1916 Easter Rising hero Patrick Pearse

THE building of St Patrick’s Church bears a link to another famous Patrick in Irish history.

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The altar and statue of St Patrick above its door were carved by the father of Patrick Pearse, one of the leaders of the 1916 Easter Rising. James Pearse was born in London in 1839 and upon settling in Ireland founded a stonemasonry firm in Dublin, Pearse and Sons. Commissioned to carry out work at St Patrick in 1877, it is with a certain irony that various historians have attested to James’s atheism. Such was the cynicism around the sincerity of his religious views, according to the magazine History Ireland, that in 1883 James Pearse is said to have written to Archdeacon Kinnane of Fethard maintaining that his conversion to Catholicism, which occurred when married to his first wife, was genuine. However, the report notes “there is evidence to suggest that he may have published anti-religious free-thought pamphlets under the pseudonym ‘Humanitas'”. Despite openly criticising the Catholic Church and setting up schools outside the church’s control, Patrick Pearse, pictured above, is generally believed to have held stronger religious views than his father. James Pearse died in September 1900 while staying with his brother in Birmingham. The firm he created, Pearse and Sons, was wound up a decade later.

With many thanks to: The Irish News

WOMAN TO STAND TRIAL IN RELATION TO BLACK MURDER

Fiona McFadden facing charge of supplying a false alibi

AN UNEMPLOYED single mother from Co Armagh is to stand trial in connection with the murder of prison officer David Black. 

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Fiona McFadden (29), of Killough Gardens, Lurgan, appeared at Belfast Crown Court yesterday for a brief arraignment hearing. She pleaded NOT GUILTY to a single charge that she supplied a false alibi to a murder suspect on the day after Mr Black was killed.The charge alleges that on November 3 2012 she “did an act which had a tendency to pervert the course of public justice, namely, informed police officers investigating the murder of David Black that Sean McVeigh had been in her company at her address between 4pm and 9.30pm on the 31st day of October 2012″. T10407603_10152905296224225_7377460924209570123_nhe court heard her trial is expected to last a number of weeks. McFadden was released on continuing bail to await the fixing of a date for her trial later this year. Mr Black was shot dead on the M1 motorway in Co Armagh as he went to work (as a prison officer) at Maghaberry Prison in November 2012. The 52-year-old father-of-two was the first prison officer in the North of Ireland to be executed in almost 20 years. Sean McVeigh (33), of Victoria Road, Lurgan was charged at Craigavon Magistrates Court last February with the killing of Mr Black. He was further charged with possessing an assault rifle with the intent to endanger life. However, in July last year all the charges against him were dropped (Internment by Remand) he was not found guilty of any crime.

With many thanks to: The Irish News, for the orgional story.

Call’s for inquiry into missing tracking device of the wrongly convicted Craigavon Two

#JFTC2

TWO men wrongly convicted of killing Constable Stephen Carroll have called on the director of public prosecutions to investigate the disapperance of information from a security force tracking device in their case.

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The calls comes days after director of public prosecution Barra McGrory asked the RUC/PSNI to carry out a full investigation into the destruction of evidence connected to the RUC killing of Co Armagh teenager Michael Tighe in 1982. The 17-year-old was shot dead in a hayshed by the SAS which was under security force surveillance near Lurgan in Co Armagh in an (so-called) shoot-to-kill operation. It later emerged that a senior RUC officer had ordered the desruction of an audio recording of the incident. A second recording of the incident held by MI5 was subsequently destroyed. Co Armagh man Martin McCauley, who was with Michael Tighe in the hayshed, was later convicted of the possession of three rifles found in the building but was acquitted (found innocent) on appeal last year. 10408975_1389031321402785_3632460023729632933_nDetails of the tape recordings were not revealed to the court at the original trial. Concerns raised by the judge about the concealment and destruction of potential evidence prompted (director of public prosecution) Mr Barra McGrory’s recent intervention. Both the RUC/PSNI and Police Ombudsman investigating the case. In a letter to The Irish News on Friday The Craigavon Two Brendan (Yandy) McConville and John Paul Wootton claim their case has “glaring parallels” with that of Michael Tighe. Both men are serving lengthy prison terms after they were wrongly convicted of killing Constable Carroll (48) in a (CIRA) Continuity IRA sniper attack in Craigavon in March 2009. During the trial it emerged that data recorded on a tracking device placed on Wootton’s car by the British army was later wiped. They write: “Mr McGroy’s express concern that the case of Michael Tighe could potentially undermine the credibility of the Public Prosecution Service could equally apply to our case,” they said. “How can Mr McGrory attach such significance to the wiping of evidence in the Tighe case while at the same time ignoring similar misconduct in our our case.” And they ask: “Is Mr McGrory prepared to accept that justice in our case was similarly perverted?” Co Wexford independent TD Mick Wallace raised the issue in the Dail earlier this week saying “questions must be asked in regard  to what data was deleted from the device and why.” 10931071_781524151897158_4496795540147747008_nOne can assume that if the evidence corroborated the apparent guilt of Wootton, it would be produced in court rather than deleted,” he said. A spokeswoman for the PPS said: “It is entirely wrong to claim that there any legal similarites relating to survillance evidence in these cases.” She said in the McConville/Wootton case the “deletion of material” from a tracking device was heard in court and the defence were able to challenge its “admissibility and evidential value.” “This contrasts with the quashing of the conviction of Martin McCauley by the Court of Appeal after the uncovering of information that relevant recordings [had] been withheld from the courts and the director of prosecutions and then later destroyed. “In his judgement the lord chief justice said it was “at least arguable that the destruction amounted to a perversion of the course of justice”.

With many thanks to: Connla Young, The Irish News, for the orgional story.

The origional letter which appeared in The Irish News on Friday January 23 2015

Glaring parallels

WE ACKNOWLEDGE  with interest the Decision by the the Director of Public Prosecutions, Barra McGrory, to investigate the circumstances surrounding the murder of Michael Tighe by the RUC in 1982.

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This was clearly a case of injustice in which vital evidence (a recording device) was destroyed. It be difficult to ignore the glaring paralles that exist between this case and our own with the regard to the destruction of key  evidence. This is especially so given the conclusion of the company responsible for manufacturing the device which contributed to our wrongful convictions. At the trial he stated that the wiping of data “would not have been something that could have happened accidentally”. Mr McGrory’s express concern that the case of Michael Tighe could potentially undermine the credibility of the Public Prosecution Service could equally apply to our case. 1503429_768276156572488_3268452766945411571_nHow can Mr McGrory attach such signiificance to the wiping of evidence in the Tighe case while at the same time ignoring similar misconduct in our case? In denying the truth Mr McGory’s predecessors withheld justice from the family of Michael Tighe for more than 30 years. Is Mr McGrory prepared to accept that justice was similarly perverted?

Brendan McConville and John Paul Wootton (The Craigavon Two) Maghaberry Prison, Co Antrim.

 

 

DUPs Willie Hay expenses fraud allegations not reason for exit as speaker – Hay

‘I just could not do the job in the way I want to do it  and my health would not allow me to do it – Willie Hay.

ALLEGATIONS of expenses fraud had nothing to do with Willie Hay’s(pictred below) exit from his role as assembly speaker, he has insisted in his first interveiw since the controversy broke.

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The former DUP Foyle assembly member, who was ennobled last month as Baron Hay of Ballyore, said health concerns were the only thing behind his departure in October. Claiming he is “very, very much” out of the woods, with his angina under control with “a couple of tablets a day”, Lord Hay nevertheless said the demands of long hours as Stormont speaker were too much for him to maintain. His resignation came after revelations a BBC Spotlight programme about his expenses and an oil bill. He has since suspended a member of staff pending the outcome of a police investigation into possible fraud at his constituency office. “I stepped because of health reasons and only health reasons. I just could not do the job in the way I want to do it and my health would not allow me to do it.” Lord Hay told Radio Foyle on Friday. “I was doing 10/12 hours a day, sometimes five/six days a week, the pressure travelling, all of that. “I mean the issues that you’re dealing with on a day to day basis. “All of it builds up and I suppose from my point of veiw I probably should have been to the doctor a year before the situation got worse. 10407654_874335755919510_7530535052657499850_nThat’s were I fell down. “It’s a warning for everybody, I think especially in public life. The pressure gets so great you get so much involved in the job, that you think you can’t be done without.” The Donegal-born politician, who famously suspended Iris Robinson, wife of his party leader, from the assembly, said he had beej suffering from “small pains” in his chest for some time, but it came to a head one day when they did not abate as he was about to leave for the long commute to Stormont. “The wife said to me “I am going to phone the out of hours doctor’ and that’s what happened and then I was taken in, stayed for three or four days. (I’m) still on medication. “I’m feeling reasonably well, but I just have to be careful.” Lord Hay insisted that his conscience is clear about the expenses controversy, saying it was he who contacted police to report the irregularity. “I went to the police long before the programme went out. I made the first move. I have no regrets, none whatso-ever,” he said. There’s an ongoing police investigation but I made the first move here.”

With many thanks to: Bimpe Archer, The Irish News, for the origional story.

£600k for the North of Ireland’s MLAs to be taught how to communicate

‘I can see the benefit of these classes, but it is lot of money and you have to ask if there might be more deserving causes – Jim Allister

SNIDE remarks about Irish ‘curried yogurt’ or scandalous references about unionists could soon be consigned to the political history books (are you having a fucking laugh) with MLAs getting special lessons in learning how to communicate properly.

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The new ‘politics’ classes are being funded to the tune of £600,000 by US billionaire philanthropist Chuck Feeney through his Atlantic Philanthropies organisation which has been donating money to the North of Ireland since the 1990s. Classes on offer during January and February range from ‘Politicial Leadership’ to ‘Speech Delivery and Communication’ and are being made possible thanks to the latest substantial donation from Mr Feeney, whose ancestors hail from Co Fermanagh. Delivered on behalf of the assemby ‘Politics Plus’, other topics on the MLA programme incude a master class in social media featuring sub-sections on how to protect online reputations, understanding hashtags and “actively listening to what the audience wants”. It is the second time the assembly has received money from the charity trust set up by Mr Feeney to assist “the development of political leadership” at Stormont (the House on the Hill).

The philanthropist has previously donated £400,000, with initial efforts in the North of Ireland supporting peace-making and strengthening higher education and expanding to cover programmes for ‘Ageing’, ‘Children and Youth’ and ‘Reconcilaton and Human Rights’. 10704150_903508136349483_7970856634822856009_nBut, despite the generous offer, not all potential participants appeared overly-enthusiastic. On Friday, North Antrim MLA Jim Allister said he “wouldn’t kick a gift horse in the mouth” but wounderd if the “substantial amount” could not be better spent elsewhere. “I can see the benefit of these classes, but it is a lot of money and you have to ask if there might be more deserving causes,” he said. “I haven’t realised how many there are, so I am glad they won’t be at taxpayers’ expense.” However, Alliance MLA Stewart Dickson, one of the trustees of the Northern Ireland Assembly Legislative Strengthening Trust (NIALST) which administers the programne through ‘Politics Plus’, said it was an opportunity for skills improvement. “This is an opportunity for MLAs to cover a range of subjects which in other jurisdictictions simply don’t happen, or if they do happen, they happen at the expense of public funds,” he said. It is understood the assembly will allocate around £60,000 of public money towards funding the programme.

With many thanks to: Gail Bell, The Irish News, For the origional story.

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