Category Archives: Active Citizenship
The long-awaited inquests are examining the deaths of ten people killed during shooting incidents involving the British Army in the Ballymurphy area of west Belfast in 1971.
The representatives from the Seanad met with relatives of those who lost their lives outside the coroner’s court ahead of heading inside to observe today’s proceedings.
Counsel for coroner Sean Dornan is continuing with an opening statement to the court, with relations of two of the victims due to give evidence about their loved ones this afternoon.
Representatives from Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil, Sinn Féin, Labour and an independent travelled to Belfast for the hearing.
Sinn Féin’s Niall Ó Donnghaile and Rose Conway Walsh, Fine Gael’s Frank Feighan, Fianna Fáil’s Mark Daly and independent Frances Black met with family members ahead of the hearing.
Labour’s Ged Nash was due to attend court later in the day.
Mr Ó Donnghaile said: “It is a significant morning for us that we have such a cross party and indeed such a nationally representative group of senators come here to observe proceedings at the Ballymurphy inquest, but to primarily re-engage and engage with the Ballymurphy families to continue showing solidarity with them, to hear their stories and to the ensure them of our support, the Seanad and indeed the broader Oireachtas’s support for them in their campaign and during what is going to be an arduous number of months for them.”
Yesterday, the court heard the families’ contention that the shootings were the result of “illegitimate, unjustified and indiscriminate use of force by the army”.
Inquests investigating the shooting incidents that unfolded over three days in August 1971, referred to as the Ballymurphy Massacre by bereaved relatives, are expected to last for months.
In 2011, Northern Ireland’s attorney general John Larkin directed that new inquests be heard after a long campaign by family members who claimed the original coronial probes were inadequate.
The shootings took place as the army moved into republican strongholds to arrest IRA suspects after the introduction by the Stormont administration of the controversial policy of internment without trial.
Soldiers have long been held responsible for killing all ten in Ballymurphy between 9 and 11 August 1971, but the accepted narrative became clouded earlier this year when former members of the paramilitary
Ulster Volunteer Force came forward to claim their organisation was also involved.
Mr Doran yesterday outlined some of the evidence that will be examined throughout the inquests.
He said each individual incident and death will require “careful scrutiny”.
In what he described as a “very broad observation” on the core issues, he said: “The narrative of the military is legitimate use of force was used at a time of heightened tension and response to specific threats.”
He said this ran contrary to the Ballymurphy families, who say the deaths resulted from “illegitimate, unjustified and indiscriminate use of force by the Army on civilians”
The families claim the military action resulted in the deaths of ten “entirely innocent civilians”.
First of its kind tracking poll shows the majority of Republic of Ireland residents are in favor of a United Ireland and there should be an all-island citizens assembly established.
The first survey of its kind the “Unifying Ireland Tracking Poll” commissioned by Fianna Fail Senator Mark Daly showed that 73.4% of residents in the Republic of Ireland would be in favor of unifying the people of Ireland.
The face to face survey was carried out by Brandtactics on behalf of Senator Daly. The anonymous survey conducted in September and October, in the Republic of Ireland provinces of Munster, Leinster, and Connaught with a 500-person sample. What makes it unique is that this is the first of four tracking polls that will be carried out – meaning four of the questions will remain the same while three will vary.
Senator Daly said, “I commissioned Brand Tactics to carry out the polling and we will follow on with tracking polls every 4 months to obtain the views and options of the Irish people on the main aim of the Irish state in our constitution.”
The Republic of Ireland residents were asked if they would “vote Yes in favor of unifying the people of Ireland”. A massive 73.4% voted “Yes”, with just 26.6% voting “No”.
When asked if they believed there would be “a referendum on Unity” 29.68% said they believed a referendum would be held within ten years, another 21.7% believed a vote would be held within five years. Only 19.53% said they did not believe a referendum on a United Ireland would take place.
There was a resounding response to the question of whether an all-island citizens assembly should be established to “plan for unity and the future of Ireland”. A huge 64.34% said “Yes”.
Similarly when asked if the Irish government should “establish a task force to ensure the current peace” in the island of Ireland a large portion (47.81% ) said “Yes”, while 19.52% said “No” as they believe “the violence has ended”.
Sadly, when asked when asked which country, the Republic of Ireland or Northern Ireland, ranks higher in the United Nations Human Development Index on the topics of health, education, income and Northern Ireland the answer was overwhelming “The Republic of Ireland”. A massive 78.76% believed that the Republic ranks higher than the North.
The final question asked if the public in the Republic were “aware that the current budget of Northern Ireland would be balanced in a reunification scenario”. A majority, 73.4% said they “No” they were not aware.
Reflecting on the results of the “Unifying Ireland Tracking Poll” Senator Daly said “The results are not surprising and consistent with other polls. The wish of the vast majority of Irish people is for peaceful unification and there is a growing belief that a referendum will happen in the near future, in fact, Unionist MP for North Down Lady Sylvia Hermon, said the “there will be a border poll in her lifetime.”
He explained that in a post-Brexit world what he is now doing is being preparations to look at the issues surrounding the possible referendum on the unification of Ireland.
Daly said “Sixty-three percent of those surveyed believe that the government should establish an all-island citizens assembly to look at all the issues in advance of a referendum.
“The lesson of Brexit is you do not hold a Referendum and then tell people what the future looks like. Policy neglect seldom goes unpunished and Irish government need to do the long-term preparation that is required.”
Senator Daly compiled the first report by the Irish parliament on the issue of the reunification of Ireland. The report was unanimously adopted by the all-party Joint Committee on the Implementation of the Good Friday Agreement.
Joint Committee on the Implementation of the Good Friday Agreement: North South Implementation Bodies: InterTradeIreland
“I am not sure whether Deputy Breathnach got an answer to his question about EU procurement rules. How will Brexit affect the ability of Northern companies to tender for jobs?”
“I thank the Minister for coming to the House to outline the issues addressed in the Charleton report. I will not go into the detail but one point seems to have been lost in this discussion of what happened to Sergeant McCabe, his family and the other whistleblowers. The Minister echoed the words of Othello when he described Sergeant McCabe as having done the State some service. To quote another famous speech, if a man stands for a righteous cause, he is stronger than all of the hosts of error. Sergeant McCabe has stood against all of those “hosts of error”. What we have forgotten, however, is what he was doing when he was whistleblowing. He was taking on a system that was rigging the penalty points system and he was highlighting that assaults were not being properly investigated. As a consequence, people were driving on our roads who should not have been on the road because they were not given the penalty points they deserved. As the Department is well aware, last year more than 60 drivers involved in serious accidents, including some causing death, should not have been on the road.
Let us step back from what happened to Sergeant McCabe and ask what happened to gardaí who fraudulently manipulated the penalty points system, with the result that people died on our roads. What happened to those whose crimes were not properly investigated and who subsequently committed further assaults? Why did the Garda Síochána allow that to happen? What happened to the gardaí who did not investigate those crimes properly and did not ensure our roads were safe because they failed to issue penalty points? We know what befell Sergeant McCabe. In a letter Sergeant McCabe provided to be read out in the Dáil, he stated they had destroyed him, his career and his family.
The Charleton report referred to the astounding inefficiency and inertia of Tusla and stated that the allegations against Sergeant McCabe took on a life of their own. It found that Sergeant McCabe was a good citizen and a good officer.
The question that arises is related to consequences. We know what happened at a high level to the Garda Commissioners and Ministers for Justice and Equality who resigned as a result of the handling of this case. However, at a fundamental level, there have been no consequences for people who engage in the types of activities Sergeant McCabe highlighted and for which he was isolated within An Garda Síochána.
I welcome the initiatives the Minister is taking on reform. However, as a result of the blood transfusion scandal, the Law Reform Commission proposed 13 years ago that a corporate manslaughter Bill be introduced. Deputy O’Callaghan and I, as well as other Members, introduced corporate manslaughter legislation that reflects exactly the proposals made by the Law Reform Commission. It would mean that an official in the Department of Health or a person working for a blood transfusion service who knowingly allowed contaminated blood products to be issued to women, resulting in death, would go to jail. We would all consider this proposal appropriate, yet the Bill has not been passed. Hundreds of women died needlessly, not through human error but because somebody, whose job was to ensure blood products were safe, sent out blood products in the knowledge that they were not safe. Did this person go to jail? No, he did not. Did he die? No, he did not. Did the people he affected die? They most certainly did. Where is the law to stop that happening again? It is sitting in the Department, which does not want section 3 of the Bill enacted. This section provides that people would be held to account if somebody dies. The Minister is far more qualified than I am in the law. If a garda chose not to allow penalty points to appear on a person’s driving record, with the result that the person retained his or her driving licence instead of having it removed, and subsequently that person was responsible for killing someone on the road, should that garda be jailed for corporate manslaughter on the basis that he or she did not do his or her job? The Bill sets a high threshold in that regard, so I am not sure the garda would go to jail.
The reason we are discussing scandals is that there are no consequences for those who do not do their jobs. Sergeant McCabe was trying to do his job as he saw it, and he was correct in what he was doing. However, the system tried to prevent him from doing his job. The people who should have gone to jail and lost their jobs are still members of the Garda Síochána. They are the people who isolated him in his Garda division and felt it was okay to allow penalty points to disappear from the system. They did not investigate serious assaults. The reason people died is that the people who should have investigated certain assaults did not do their job.
We repeatedly hear about systems failure. We expect people to do their job and they should be held accountable when they do not do their jobs. We have not learned the lesson from such a serious and callous episode as that which occurred in the Irish Blood Transfusion Service, as a result of which the Law Reform Commission proposed the introduction of corporate manslaughter legislation. In the Minister’s constituency people knew the maternity services in the Midlands Regional Hospital Portlaoise were not working and chose not to highlight this or intervene. Instead, they allowed the problem to continue, which should have had consequences. Tragedies happen and we understand that. The problem with our system is accountability. When somebody does something wrong, a person can resign and walk away with a pension, if in some disgrace. This will keep happening because there are no consequences for those who do not do their jobs as they should.”