BREAKING: King Charles met by BOOS and JEERS as he arrives at Cardiff Castle in Wales with Camilla. It was his first tour as monarch. #Wales #QueenElizabeth #kingcharles #QueenElizabethII #Cardiff


Steak dinners, 4-star hotels and first-class travel.


Talks held in Cardiff in a bid to reduce community tensions ahead of the Twelfth tensions cost taxpayers an extra £1,150 because return flight times were rescheduled. Delegates incurred a £1, 249.55 fee after they changed their return flight times at the end of the disscussions in Wales, bringing the total cost of the trip to £22, 427.48.


Attendees also enjoyed four-star accommodation, dined on steak and buffet dinners and used first-class rail travel between London and Cardiff. Senior police officers, politicians and community representatives travelled to the Welsh capital in May for the weekend-long talks. It was hoped the discussions would improve relations between loyalist and republican communities. But despite the talks, ccommunity tensions have flared over the parading season with parts of Belfast hit by ssuccessive nights of rioting following the Twelfth. A total of 36 people traveled to Cardiff for the discussions on May 17, including representatives from all the main political parties. The bill has been shared between the Northern Ireland Office and the PSNI.

Accommodation at the four-star Mercure Hotel cost the taxpayer £13,500. It included bed and breakfast for three nights, the use of a conference room, lunch on the Friday and Saturday night. Those attending were all informed that any individual costs were to be paid by themselves, according to a Freedom of Information request. The guests incurred a service charge of £247.40 after ordering steak on two evenings, while a buffet dinner cost £436. Police on Tuesday night were unable to disclose whether the accommodation and food bills included drinks. First-class train fares from Cardiff to London Paddington cost a total of £171.82, a return coach from Bristol Airport to Cardiff cost £688.90 and car hire cost £234.61. Flights to and from the talks cost more than £7,000 in total. The majority of flights appear to have been to Bristol Airport at a cost of £3,878.44. A further two return flights to the US cost £1,649.39,  return flight between Belfast and London Stansted cost £180.68 and a return flight between Heathrow and Belfast City cost £192.50.

Last month it emerged that delegates including Sinn Fein’s Gerry Kelly were given mobile phone numbers for some of the north’s top-ranking officers during the Cardiff talks. The contact details  – including those of two assistant chief constables – were shared so that issues aa raising during the marching season could be dealt with swiftly. The talks were attended by Assistant Chief Constables George Hamilton and Will Kerr, tipped as a possible successor to Chief Constable Matt Baggott. Loyalist community representatives who took part included UDA leader Jackie McDonald and Winston Irvine of the UVF-linked PUP. Senior nationalist Sean ‘Spike’ Murray and former moderator of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland, the Rev Norman Hamilton, also took part. The discussions were led by facilitators from the University of Ulster and Stanford University in California.

With many thanks to : Brendan Hughes, The Irish News

Email : b.hHughes@iris

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Police failed to communicate with those on the ground. A quick two minutes to explain the situation to either Gerry Kelly or the SDLP‘s Alban Maginness, who was also present, could have instantly defused a volatile atmosphere.

Shinnermanaaway the shock value of the ‘Gerry on the jeep’ incident and the events in north Belfast at the weekend provides a glimpse into operational policing here that the wider public rarely get a chance to see.

It’s hard to imagine a British cabinet minister hopping on the bonnet of a panda car or a senior TD leaping on a garda vehicle, but thats just what happened on Friday evening at Carrick Hill. Gerry Kelly is a former junior minister, a member of the policing board and one of Sinn Fein‘s most senior figures. In fairness to the Sinn Fein MLA I’ve been covering flashpoint parades and the disturbances that often go with them for a while now and have the scars to prove they can be volatile and unpredictable events. It’s impossible to plan what way things are going to pan out as the aftermath of the Tour of the North on Friday clearly showed. While the parade passed relatively peacefully, albeit with several suspected breaches of the Parades Commission ruling by a number of bands, it was the policing of nationalist residents and the reaction to it that made the headlines. The arrest of a 16-year-old for alleged provocative behaviour was the catalyst for the well documented ‘shinner on the saracen’ incident.

On the face of it Gerry Kelly’s behaviour seems incredibly rash and ill thought out, but what most people aren’t aware of is how much ‘security’ at ththese events is carried out using a ‘policing by consent’ model. While we were given a glimpse of this during the loyalist flags protests – when senior officers admitted for the first time that policing was being carried out on a ‘least worst option basis’ – it is in fact used to police many marches and protests. One side will be hemmed in to facilitate another, not because they are considered the biggest threat but in fact the opposite because they are considered easier to control. You may think the law is black and white but not in the North of Ireland where it can be any one of 50 shades of gray.

DUP assembly members who are also members of the Orange Order are regularly seen marching in parades in which legal determinations are disregarded by the accompanying bands. Elected representatives, community and at times paramilitary figures have the ability to ease tensions, calm situations and form a buffer between youths and police – should they want to. This was seen in east Belfast during the month of January when the UVF stepped in to stop violence by effectively doing the job of the police. Policing in what is often referred to as hard to reach communities is regularly carried out in this way. And in many cases police are happy to facilitate this response.

If there is any doubt that this is the case take a look at the guest list to the talks in Cardiff which included not just elected representatives but unelected paramilitary figures and self styled ‘brigadiers’. All give assurances to communicate in times of tension and swapped contact numbers to ensure that this was followed through. While this may not be ideal in a supposedly democratic society it can be quicker, cheaper and safer than sending in the riot squad. Gerry Kelly was one of those who agreed to the ‘Cardiff principles’ as were senior police officers from assistant chief constable level down. Friday night was the first real test of this new spirit of cooperation and the wheels fell off – or sped up depending what side of the Land Rover windscreen you were on. Police failed to communicate with those on the ground. A quick two minutes to explain the situation to either Gerry Kelly or the SDLP’s Alban Maginness, who was also present, could have instantly defused a volatile atmosphere. Equally putting into practice the method of communication agreed at Cardiff rather than steeping in front of a moving vehicle would have showed the talks were beneficial and more than just a boys’ jolly. We are now just weeks from the Twelfth and tensions are higher than ever. The Cardiff weekend founded by the public purse has failed to produce the goods. Carrick Hill is now on par with Ardoyne with potential for violence at an all time high and still the Orange Order have not sat down with residents to hammer out a solution to the hamster wheel of marches, recrimination and sectarian tensions. Pass me my hard hat – I’m going in…..

With many thanks to : Allison Morris, The Irish News.


Details exchanged at Cardiff talks.

DELEGATES including Sinn Fein‘s Gerry Kelly who took part in talks with police in Cardiff were given mobile phone numbers for some of the North of Ireland‘s top-ranking officers, it has emerged. The contact details – including those of two assistant chief constables – were shared so that issues a raising during the marching season could be dealt with swiftly.


Police are investigating after Mr Kelly, pictured, a Sinn Fein member of the Policing Board, stood in front of a PSNI Land Rover following the Tour of the North parade in north Belfast last Friday. Mr Kelly has made a complaint to the police ombudsman after the police vehicle failed to stop and carried him on its bonnet. It also emerged that the police Land Rover’s tax disk was out of date. The disk was filmed by protesters at Friday’s Tour of the North loyalist march in north Belfast. It had an expiration date of December 31 2012. “All police vehicles are automatically retaxed as and when required,” a PSNI spokeman said. “On this occasion the vehicle was taxed. However, due to an administrative error the tax disc had not been displayed.” Sinn Fein culture minister Caral Ni Chuilin was also injured during the episode which followed the arrest of a nationalist teenager.

The controversy has called into question the ‘Cardiff principles’ in which loyalists and republicans agreed support for policing in May. The PSNI footed a £26,000 bill for the talks in Wales, which while not dealing directly with controversial parades did involve lengthy discussions to establish protocols to deal with issues of contention during the marching season. In a statement issued after two days of negotiations, the delegates agreed to keep lines of communication open, “especially during periods of tension”. Details of the agreements were not revealed, but it is understood mobile phone numbers of senior republicans, loyalists and police officers were shared for use when problems arose. The talks were attended by Assistant Chief Constables George Hamilton and Will Kerr, tipped as a successor to Chief Constable Matt Baggot. SDLP policing spokesman Conall McDevitt said on Tuesday that people must adhere to what was agreed which included “showing respect for both the police and the ombudsman’s office”. “During the discussions we talked about the fact that the principles would be tested and indeed they were tested at the first major event of the parading season,” he said. “What people must do is adhere to the two key Cardiff principles and avoid tit for tat politicking.”

With many thanks to : Allision Morris, Andrea McKernon, The Irish News.



Seosamh O Bradaigh


Today I went to Lisburn City Councils AGM at which Mayor and Deputy Mayor are elected as are Chairs and Vice chairs of committees. It will be no surprise to you to know that bigotry is alive and well in Lisburn with the DUP taking 10 of the 12 positions available and the UUP taking the other 2. The DUP took Mayor and Deputy Mayor being Margaret Tolerton and Andrew Ewing respectively. The chair positions were filled by DUP with 2 vice chair positions given to UUP. Last year SF had a position of chair with the promise that they would be rewarded this year with more positions but that was not the case, in fact there was a retrograde step as they got nothing. So this new dispensation seems to be working but no one has told the DUP in Lisburn. People will ask why can they get away with this and how can they do it? The answer is: because they can! They can go on their junkets to Cardiff and tell Obama all is well in this Unionist dominated state, but they don’t want a taig about the place never mind an Independent Republican like myself.

Today Lisburn Council once more told everyone that the occupied 6 counties are and always will be “A protestant state for a protestant people”. It does not matter who holds what position in Stormont when you get down to the grass roots there are no changes. Peter and Martin can walk about smiling and saying we are building a new and peaceful place with equality for all (not in Lisburn). Republicans who are still on the bus believing that things are changing and we have a voice I say to you, there has been “not an ounce” of change in the mindset of unionism for all the compromises made by past republicans who still sit up on the house on the hill, you are Constitutional Nationalists who have been sold a pup.





FLAGS ssupporting a controversial British Army regiment have been erected at an interface – just days after ‘peace’ talks in Cardiff.


The flags, which bare the insignia of the Parachute regiment, have been fixed onto lamp-posts on the loyalist side of the Donegall Road interface at the Broadway roundabout. They had already been erected in other areas of Belfast and show support for the ‘Paras’ who will forever be despised in nationalist areas of Ulster. Soldiers of the parchute Regiment were responsible for the Bloody Sunday murders in Derry were 14 innocent civilians were shot dead during a civil rights march in 1972. They were also the regiment in the Ballymurphy massacre where 11 innocent civilians were murdered. But it’s the fact these flags were erected just days after loyalist leaders including Winkie Irvine and Jackie McDonald returned from Cardiff that have caused the most surprise. And also the First and deputy ffirst ministers statements around a shared further. Following talks in Cardiff it was declared by all sides that “respect” would be the order of the day to help prevent a violent summer. It’s understood a notorious UVF gang from the Donegall Road, run by ‘The meerkat’ Colin Fulton, was behind the flags.”You have to assume the only reason is they want to intimidate people on this side of the road.” The flags issue is one of the most contentious facing politicians here and the situation has only been made worse since the row over the flying of the union flag at Belfast City Hall. A spokesman for Sinn Fein said last night : “The erection of UVF flags along with flags of the British Parachute Regiment at Broadway roundabout is both provocative and inflammatory.”


“This is Jackie McDonald’s turf and by putting these flags up after he and other loyalists came back from Cerdiff promising a new dawn, is sending a clear message,” said a loyalist source. “And that message is that not everyone is on board with the peace plan.” Why on earth would someone in Belfast want to put up a flag of this particular regiment of the British Army?” asked one nationalist resident who lives nearby. 


‘They are going to solve nothing by going over there. It’s going to be solved in the areas affected by theCalifornia. – Frank Dempsey.

REPRESENTATIVES of some nationalist residents groups at parade flashpoints have criticised a PSNI/RUC initiative to reduce tensions ahead of the main marching season. Police officers, political representatives and community workers are in Cardiff to discuss ways of reducing tensions in the run up to the main marching season.


However, a number of nationalist residents groups at several key flashpoints, which are not aligned to Sinn Fein, were not invited to those talks. Carrick Hill residents spokesman Frank Dempsey, whose group is opposed to loyal order marches past the area and nearby St Patrick’s Church, expects little to come out of the talks. “Even if we had been invited we would not have gone,” he said. “They are going to solve nothing by going over there. “It’s going to be solved in the areas affected by these parades. “We don’t have to go anywhere else to talk, we can go to an orange hall or the front room of someone’s house to talk.” Sean Hanna, chairman of Rasharkin Residents Collective, which is opposed to loyal order and loyalist parades through the mainly nationalist Co An trim village, also criticised the event.”They have used the process so they could choose the right people to deliver in Wales their pre-planned political message,” he said.

Mr Hanna revealed last week that his group has been involved in direct talks with the Orange Order in Rasharkin, although the order has denied the claim. A spokesman for Greater Ardoyne Residents Collective, which objects to loyal order parades going past the nationalist district in north Belfast, said : “They must take a bold step up to the mark and desist from treating our communities as second class citizens and let’s build together a real and genuine island of equals in which a shared further can exist, one in which we and all our children deserve.” “Then and only then, can we together realistically considerer looking at bringing walls and barriers that device our communities down, once and for all.” A police spokeswoman said the event was “planned to enable us to have an open and frank conversation about policing in Belfast”. “Given the critical role played by the police in our communities, our discussion will focus on the issues facing policing in Belfast and on identifying ways of building and sustaining a broad base of support for policing and strengthening community-based approaches,” she said.

With many thanks to : Connia Young, Irish News.

Discussions ‘to reduce tensions’

THE PSNI-organised talks at a four-star Cardiff hotel which began yesterday are being attended by all the north’s main parties, along with republican and loyalist community leaders. However, none of the loyal orders or the Parades Commission is taking part. Headed by Assistant Chief Constable George Hamilton, the 34 participants include six senior police officers. Police have insisted the talks are not about trying to resolve parades disputes but are designed to reduce tensions and address complaints about how police have responded to unrest over recent months.

The discussions are being chaired by facilitators from the Universty of Ulster and Stanford University in Califorina. Delegates include senior republican Sean Murray, UDA leader Jackie McDonald and Winston Irvine of the UVF-allgned PUP. Other delegates include the former moderator of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland, the Rev Norman Hamilton. The event is expected to cost the public up to £26,000 with the cost split between the PSNI and the NIO.

John Manley.


‘Their political policing strategy has had disastrous consequences over the past four months – John Wilson.

A GROUP set up by loyalist flag protesters has branded plans byconsequences the PSNI/RUC to hold talks in Wales with politicians and community represdestroyed s ahead of the marching sseason as evidence of “political policing”. The Ulster People’s Forum (UPF) last night said it had not received a request to take part in talks and would have turned down an invite if asked.


“The UPF view is that the PSNI have been clear their job is policing and we feel they shouldl stick to this remit as their political policing strategy has had disastrous consequences over the past four months with relationships in some loyalist areas almost detroyed to the point of no return,” forum chairman John Wilson said. It emerged this week that the PSNI/RUC in conjunction with Univeristy of Ulster academic Duncan Morrow, has invited representatives of pilitical parties to Cardiff next weekend to discuss policing issues ahead of the summer marching season. Tensions continue in parts of Belfast around loyal parades including Ardoyne and outside St Patrick’s church in Donegall Street.

Policing reached crisis point  during the winter as loyalists blocked roads and attacked police and Alliance politicians in the wake of the decision by Belfast City Council to stop flying the Union Flag every day. The UPF was formed weeks after the flag protests started in December with leading protesters Jamie Bryson and Willie Frazer emerging as spokesmen. This week PSNI/RUC chief constable Matt Baggott said the meeting was an attempt to build relationships “with a veiw to this summer’s parading”. It emerged last night that neither the Orange Order or represtatives of nationalist residents’ groups in flashpoint districts had been invited to attend the Cardiff event. Mr Wilson of the UPF conceded that the number of flag-related protests was well down compared to previously but blamed police tactics which he described as “political policing”. “There  are a lot of people out there with wives, familes and jobs and they can’t afford to be arrested or questioned.” Orange Order grand chaplain the Rev Mervyn Gibson confirmed last night he had been invited to attend the talks through a church group with which he is involved but he declined because of a prior engagement. He confirmed that the Orange Order itself had not been invited to attend the talks.

With thanks to : Connia Young, Irish News.

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