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History > 2009 > UK > 2009 > Northern Ireland (I)



The Guardian        Online edition        10 February 2009
















DNA 'links Colin Duffy with killing

of Northern Ireland soldiers'


March 27, 2009
From Times Online
David Sharrock, Ireland Correspondent


A prominent republican and former Provisional IRA prisoner was linked by DNA evidence to the murder of two soldiers by the Real IRA outside a Northern Ireland Army base earlier this month, a court heard today.

Colin Duffy was remanded in custody charged with the murders of Sappers Mark Quinsey, 23, of Birmingham, and Patrick Azimkar, 21, of London, who were shot dead at the gates of Massereene Barracks on Saturday, March 7, while they collected pizzas from delivery men.

The District Judge at Larne Magistrates' Court said Duffy should reappear via video link at Antrim Magistrates' Court on April 21. But Duffy’s solicitor Pat Vernon said that a challenge would be made to refusal to grant bail in Belfast High Court on Monday.

Duffy, from Lurgan, Co Armagh, was also charged with five counts of attempted murder - of three soldiers and two delivery men - and possession of arms and ammunition with intent.

As he arrived in the crammed courtroom, handcuffed and flanked by two armed officers, he smiled and nodded to his wife and family.

High-level security was also in place outside the court and on roads throughout the seaside town. A small group of loyalists stood outside the court.

Detective Chief Inspector Jeffrey Smyth told the court that DNA evidence found in the car used by the killers in their getaway linked Duffy to the killings.

He said: "This is not trace elements - this is a full DNA profile. It was inside a latex glove found on the floor of the Vauxhall Cavalier."

But under questioning from Duffy’s counsel, he conceded that only the tip of the glove had been found.

Mr Smyth said the DNA profile was the only forensic evidence which has so far connected Duffy to the shootings but added: "There are over 1,000 exhibits in this case."

He said exhibits were being examined in both Northern Ireland and in England but other results had so far come back negative.

Objecting to bail, he said there were three main strands to the prosecution case – the forensics, CCTV and witness evidence.

He said a witness could place the getaway car outside the barracks in the seconds before the attack.

Questioned by barrister Mark Mulholland, acting for Duffy, the detective said he objected to bail on the grounds that Duffy may reoffend, interfere with witnesses or abscond because of the potentially lengthy sentence he faced if found guilty.

He confirmed that Duffy had remained silent during interview except to deny involvement in the crime.

Mr Smyth said in his objection to bail: "These are very serious matters. If convicted he stands to be given a very substantial tariff which may serve as an inducement to abscond. If given bail there is a strong likelihood he may reoffend or interfere with witnesses."

Mr Mulholland argued that District Judge Robert Alcorn should grant bail on the grounds that Mr Smyth had not given sufficient basis for it to be denied and remand in custody would be a contravention of Duffy's human rights.

Mr Mulholland added that the evidence presented by the police against his client was poor.

However, the judge said he was not persuaded to grant bail even under the most stringent conditions.

As he was led from the dock, one of his children shouted “Take care Dad” and there were cheers and a round of applause from more than two dozen supporters, mainly women, sitting in the public gallery.

Outside, loyalists jeered and shouted abuse. One man punched the police vehicle in which Duffy was travelling as it drove away.

Duffy was arrested on March 14 and questioned extensively after police were twice given seven-day detention orders.

His lawyers launched a legal challenge in the High Court against his detention and he was freed, along with five other suspects, on Wednesday after Northern Ireland Lord Chief Justice Sir Brian Kerr ruled that his continued detention was unlawful.

While the other five were released, Duffy was re-arrested as he was leaving Antrim police station.

36 hours later he was charged with the murders and attempted murders.

    DNA 'links Colin Duffy with killing of Northern Ireland soldiers', Ts, 27.3.2009, http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/uk/crime/article5986462.ece






Peace protests across Northern Ireland

• 'No going back' to Troubles, placards declare at vigils
• Police in republic increase border security


Wednesday 11 March 2009
16.18 GMT
Henry McDonald, Esther Addley and Haroon Siddique
This article was first published on guardian.co.uk at 16.18 GMT on Wednesday 11 March 2009.
It was last updated at 16.18 GMT on Wednesday 11 March 2009.


Thousands of protesters took to the streets of Northern Ireland today for silent vigils to protest against the murders of two soldiers and a policeman by dissident republicans.

Carrying placards reading "No Going Back", more than 2,000 people gathered in front of Belfast City Hall. As a lone bagpiper played a lament, the crowd fell silent for five minutes.

Former paramilitary convicts stood alongside mothers cradling children. Some people wept while others shook hands and offered condolences to police.

Aidan Kane, a paramedic who attended the rally with his six-year-old boy on his shoulders, said he was a Catholic who grew up in an area "where the police were the enemy". But he said: "If my wee lad here wants to be a policeman when he grows up, I'd be proud."

John Batch, 49, told Reuters: "What has happened over the last 10 years should not be surrendered. I grew up through the Troubles in Belfast. I don't want that for my children."

Other vigils were held in Londonderry, Newry, Downpatrick and Lisburn.

Speaking outside Belfast City Hall, Peter Bunting, the assistant general secretary of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions which helped organise the protests, said people were delivering a strong message that they did not want a return to bloodshed.

"This lunchtime thousands of citizens are gathering to collectively share moments of silence," he said.

"The trade union movement stands together with all citizens in solidarity to prevent any derailment of the peace process. The callous attacks of the past few days were an assault on every citizen who supports peace.

"Here in Belfast, and in Newry, and in Londonderry, and at spontaneous gatherings across our land, workers and their families are making clear their abhorrence at these murders and the direct threat to the peace process."

Security on the Irish border was tightened today in response to the upsurge in terrorist violence.

Additional checkpoints have been set up on the frontier after a security review by the Garda Siochana. The assistant garda commissioner, Mick Feehan, who heads the force's northern region, has instructed local commanders to increase checkpoints and mobile patrols on the border with Northern Ireland.

Fears of loyalist paramilitary retaliation over Real IRA and Continuity IRA attacks subsided today after the Ulster Defence Association ruled out any revenge attacks.

The UDA leader, Jackie McDonald, praised the Sinn Féin MP and deputy first minister, Martin McGuinness, for his strong condemnation of the killers.

"The IRA blew the two communities apart during the Troubles but the Real IRA and Continuity have actually united the people like never before," the UDA chief said at today's rally in Belfast.

"There is no place in this society for these people [the dissident republicans] but it's up to the police alone to deal with them," McDonald said. "People on the loyalist side are determined not to fall into any more traps. That's what groups like the Continuity IRA and Real IRA want us to do. There is no reason to go there again and nobody wants to go back. Loyalism has matured an awful lot in recent years."

The UDA commander revealed that the organisation's political allies, the Ulster Political Research Group, held talks this morning with the Sinn Féin mayor of Belfast, Tom Hartley.

Hartley later confirmed that the ground-breaking meeting between himself and the UDA's political voice had taken place, with the aim of calming fears within the loyalist community. He said loyalists had a "very important" role to play in building peace.

The other main loyalist paramilitary organisation, the Ulster Volunteer Force, has already made clear its opposition to any return to violence in response to the recent attacks.

During prime minister's questions, Gordon Brown said the murderers should not be allowed to destroy the achievements of the peace process and said today's vigils showed "the unyielding resolution to say with one voice that the peace that the people of Northern Ireland are building no murderers should ever be allowed to destroy".

The prime minister sent his condolences to the families and friends of Sappers Mark Quinsey and Patrick Azimkar, who were shot dead on Saturday, and PC Stephen Carroll, who was killed on Monday. David Cameron, the Conservative leader, said the most important thing was that everyone in the province worked with the PSNI to ensure the "callous killers" were caught, charged and convicted.

The pope joined in the condemnation of the killings, describing them as "abominable acts of terrorism" during an address to pilgrims in St Peter's square, Vatican City.

Feehan said that despite the murder of Carroll, there were no plans to withdraw a small number of Garda officers who were working on secondment at the PSNI as part of an exchange programme between the two police forces.

A man, aged 37, and a 17-year-old youth remained in custody today after being arrested in the Craigavon area yesterday. They were being questioned about the Continuity IRA murder of Carroll, the first member of the PSNI to die at the hands of terrorists.

Meanwhile, Northern Ireland's first and deputy first ministers have left for the US after twice postponing their trip because of the murders. Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness are hoping to persuade US investors to set up businesses in Northern Ireland. During their tour, the DUP and Sinn Féin MPs will attend a St Patrick's Day celebration at the White House hosted by Barack Obama.

    Peace protests across Northern Ireland, G, 11.3.2009, http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2009/mar/11/northern-ireland-peace-protests






Gordon Brown vows to bring Northern Ireland murderers to justice

Prime minister says the people of Ulster are determined to 'stand up to the evil of criminal violence'


Wednesday 11 March 2009
12.44 GMT
Deborah Summers, politics editor
This article was first published on guardian.co.uk at 12.44 GMT on Wednesday 11 March 2009.
It was last updated at 14.21 GMT on Wednesday 11 March 2009.


Gordon Brown today vowed that no stone would be left unturned in tracking down the murderers of two soldiers and a policeman in Northern Ireland.

The prime minister said he had personally spoken to Sir Hugh Orde, the chief constable of the Police Service of Northern Ireland, to ensure he had all resources necessary to "bring criminal murderers to justice" and combat the terrorist threat.

As he joined with the Tory leader, David Cameron, to condemn the killings at prime minister's question time, Brown said: "Out of tragedy we are seeing a unity which shows the determination that while a few murderers may try to disrupt the process, the whole of the people of Northern Ireland want not only to see justice done but to send a message that the political process is here to stay and is working."

Brown said today's peace marches in Northern Ireland showed the "defiance and determination" of people to "stand up to the evil of criminal violence".

Both leaders also criticised the disruption of a homecoming parade of British soldiers by anti-war protesters in Luton yesterday.

"There is a right to freedom of speech but there is not a right to disruption and to public disorder," Brown said.

Cameron, returning to PMQs two weeks after the death of his son Ivan, condemned the "callous killers" who shot the two soldiers on Saturday and the policeman in Craigavon.

Insisting Northern Ireland was not "staring into the abyss", he said there ought to be a "measured" response to the killings.

The most important thing was that everyone worked with the police to ensure the killers could be found and convicted, Cameron said.

    Gordon Brown vows to bring Northern Ireland murderers to justice, G, 11.3.2009, http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2009/mar/11/gordon-brown-northern-ireland-murders






Police officer shot dead in Ulster attack


March 10, 2009
From The Times
David Sharrock, Ireland Correspondent


A police officer was shot dead in a republican stronghold in Northern Ireland last night. He was the third member of the security forces to be killed in 48 hours.

The dangerous and sudden escalation in violence threatened to draw a counter-reaction from loyalist paramilitaries and destabilise the peace process.

“We are tonight staring into the abyss,” said Dolores Kelly, a member of the nationalist party the SDLP who sits on Northern Ireland’s policing board. “I would appeal to people to pull back.”

Two police officers were responding to a call about “suspicious activity” near a school in the Lismore Avenue area of Craigavon, Co Armagh, at about 9.45pm when their patrol cars were attacked. The gunmen were reported to have fired from wasteground. One officer was killed, the second injured.

The estate is reputed to harbour supporters of a splinter group of the Provisionals styling themselves the Continuity IRA. More shots were reported later. Police carrying machineguns were guarding the scene, with helicopters hovering overhead.

Last week MI5 raised the threat level in the Province from “substantial” to “severe”. On Friday night Hugh Orde, the Chief Constable of Northern Ireland, announced that the Armed Forces Special Reconnaissance Regiment was being drafted in to watch suspected dissident republican terrorists.

On Saturday two unarmed soldiers were shot dead as they took delivery of pizzas at Massereene Barracks in Co Antrim. Two other soldiers and two pizza deliverymen were injured. The Real IRA, a splinter group of the Provisional IRA opposed to power-sharing, said it had carried out the murders. It made no apology for shooting and wounding the civilians because, it said, they were “collaborators of British rule in Ireland”.

The officer is the first member of the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) to be killed by terrorists since the force took over from the Royal Ulster Constabulary in 2001.The last police officers to be murdered by the Provisional IRA were Roland Graham and David Johnston. The community constables had been on foot patrol in Lurgan in 1997 when gunmen ran up and shot them in the backs of their heads.

Sinn Féin was swift to condemn last night’s shooting, having waited 14 hours to respond to Saturday’s incident. John O’Dowd, the local Sinn Féin Assembly member, said that it was an attack on the peace process and would do nothing to advance Irish republican goals. He said that the officers were responding to a call from a member of the public. “It is not clear whether it was a hoax or not,” he added.

Loyalist paramilitaries have so far resisted reaction, despite numerous attacks against police officers over the past 18 months. But while the deaths of soldiers is regarded as an attack on the British state, the murder of a local police officer may be interpreted as an attack on the local unionist community.

Fresh graffiti in the area in a loyalist area of nearby Lurgan yesterday said: “An eye 4 an eye — back 2 war”.

Earlier in the day while on a visit to Northern Ireland, Gordon Brown insisted that the peace process was unshakable. On a hastily arranged trip, he visited the scene of Saturday’s shooting and met local political leaders. He said: “These are callous murderers, these are terrorists who showed no sympathy towards people who were dying . . . these people have got to be hunted down. The political process will not and can never be shaken. In fact, the political process is now unshakeable.”

Since the start of last year, dissident groups have mounted 18 gun and bomb attacks.

Mr O’Dowd said of last night’s killing: “This is an attack on the peace process. It is wrong and it is counter-productive and I would extend my condolences to the dead man’s family. As with what happened in Antrim over the weekend, we condemn it. Whoever carried out this shooting was not doing so to advance Irish republican or democratic goals. They have no strategy to deliver a United Ireland.

“This is a time for strong political leadership and cool heads. It is a time for all political parties and the two governments to recommit to the principles which have underpinned the peace process and delivered the stability of recent years.”

David Simpson, Democratic Unionist Party MP for the Upper Bann constituency, where the shooting took place, said: “What we have seen is a deliberate and sustained effort by terrorist murderers to try and drag Northern Ireland back to the worst days of Ulster’s past. I utterly and completely condemn the criminals responsible for this latest outrage and I hope that the vermin responsible for it are brought to justice immediately.

“Events such as the murders at Massereene and this latest terrorist atrocity show us all the need for a swift, co-ordinated and ruthless security and government response.”

A spokesman for the PSNI said that officers were called out to Lismore Manor at about 9.45pm by a member of the public. “Two police vehicles arrived in the area. Both officers alighted from the vehicles. It appears gunshots were fired at them. One officer was struck by gunfire and subsequently he has died from his wounds.”

    Police officer shot dead in Ulster attack, NYT, 10.3.2009, http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/uk/article5878171.ece






Brown holds security talks in Northern Ireland

PM arrives at Massereene barracks
to meet province's most senior army officer for security talks about terror resurgence


Monday 9 March 2009 09.18 GMT
Owen Bowcott
This article was first published on guardian.co.uk at 09.18 GMT on Monday 9 March 2009.
It was last updated at 12.09 GMT on Monday 9 March 2009.


The prime minister, Gordon Brown, arrived at Massereene barracks in Northern Ireland early this morning to hold talks about military security with the province's most senior army officer.

Brown flew in to Aldegrove airport outside Belfast and was driven to the 38 Engineers Regiment base, the scene of the attack at the weekend claimed by the Real IRA.

Flanked by motorcycle outriders, a convoy of armoured black Range Rovers carrying the prime minister arrived just before 8.20am.

They drove through the entrance where the two young soldiers were gunned down on Saturday evening as they came out to collect pizzas.

The convoy passed the accumulating pile of flowers left by wellwishers just outside the entrance to the barracks.

Brown was joined by the Northern Ireland secretary, Shaun Woodward, and the province's security minister, Paul Goggins, for the meeting with Brigadier George Norton, the Northern Ireland garrison commander.

They are discussing measures to improve security at the remaining army bases as the threat of attack from dissident republican groups deepens.

The attack follows an incident in which a 300lb (136kg) bomb was abandoned last month in Castlewellan, County Down. The device had been prepared for use against another army barracks.

After the meeting at the Massereene base in Antrim, the prime minister will be driven to Stormont to hold talks with the leaders of the power-sharing devolved administration.

He will meet Peter Robinson, the first minister and leader of the Democratic Unionist party, and Martin McGuinness, the Sinn Féin politician who is deputy first minister.

A Downing Street spokeswoman said that there were no plans for the prime minister to visit the injured in hospital.

    Brown holds security talks in Northern Ireland, G, 9.3.2009, http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2009/mar/09/brown-arrives-massereene-barracks