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Irish victims' groups to lobby US President

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The proposal by the British government to cease all investigations, inquests and legal actions against the murky conduct of its soldiers in Northern Ireland between 1969 and 1998, has caused fury. Families of those that died from the guns and bombs of British soldiers as well as Irish and British terrorists, are determined that Boris Johnson will not be allowed to get away with this development, which undermines all the principles of justice in a modern democratic society and stands to let his army veterans off the hook. As Ken Murray reports from Dublin, a number of victims’ groups look set to lobby US President Joe Biden (pictured) in the hope he will lean on the British PM to back down.

Some readers may find it extraordinary that 23 years after the British-Irish Peace Agreement was signed in 1998 and brought a formal end to ‘The Troubles’, families of those that died in the conflict are still wrapped up in costly, frustrating and lengthy legal actions against the UK government seeking compensation but, more importantly, elusive answers!

The British Army’s role in some of the most horrific killings during the conflict include the 1972 Bloody Sunday massacre in Derry City where 14 innocent victims were shot dead by soldiers from the Parachute Regiment.

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Not only did the British make a mess of its explanation for the killings but Lord Widgery in his subsequent Report lied to the World saying ‘the [British] soldiers had been fired on first’!

His poor attempt at a whitewash Report resulted in IRA numbers swelling beyond its wildest dreams which helped to pro-long a conflict which was still in its early days.

After persistent pressure on successive British Governments, a second Bloody Sunday Inquiry lasting 12 years running to 5,000 pages headed by Lord Saville and costing the British taxpayer just under £200 million, produced a different result saying the shooting of innocent victims was ‘unjustified’ resulting in Prime Minister David Cameron issuing a public apology in the House of Commons in June 2010.

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In the meantime, the emergence that certain British soldiers and MI5 officers had been working in unison with terrorists in the Ulster Volunteer Force to murder targeted Irish republicans, has seen a growing number of catholic families seeking answers about the controversial killings of their loved ones.

Not surprisingly, the British have been playing hardball in all subsequent legal actions.

As Stephen Travers, a survivor of the 1975 Miami Showband massacre-as seen on Netflix- told Newstalk Radio in Dublin last week, “the British establishment is playing the long game by applying the three Ds, namely, deny, delay and die.”

In other words, if the UK Government can drag out the growing number of legal actions they are facing from victims’ families, the likelihood is that those either taking the litigation or the British soldiers who are defending themselves, will be dead by the time they get in to court thus cancelling the justification for such a case therefore letting the British off the hook for their alleged murders!

In recent months, the pressure has been mounting on the British to come clean on its illegal activities after a Coroner ruled last May that ten catholics shot dead by Her Majesty’s Army in Ballymurphy Belfast in 1971 were entirely innocent.

The Ballymurphy finding has set a precedence that up until last week, was shaping up to be an embarrassment and financially costly one for the London Government, one that has the potential to reveal that certain elements in the British Army deliberately murdered innocent Irish catholics without a valid reason!

To add to the frustration being experienced by families who lost loved ones in the conflict, earlier this month, the Northern Ireland Public Prosecution Service announced its intention to withdraw proceedings against two former British soldiers – Soldier F for the murder of two men during Bloody Sunday in 1972 and Soldier B for the murder of 15-year-old Daniel Hegarty six months later, a signal perhaps that the UK Government is prepared to go to any length to protect its own.

When Northern Ireland Secretary of State Brandon Lewis announced last week that a statute of limitations is being proposed to close down all investigations, legal actions and procedures to deal with actions against British security services as well as catholic and protestant terrorist groups, his remarks provoked outrage across the island of Ireland.

For the first time in a long time, British unionists and Irish nationalists in Northern Ireland were, surprisingly, united for once over the same issue!

Irish Taoiseach Micheál Martin said “the announcement was unacceptable and amounted to a betrayal.”

The Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney was somewhat more diplomatic saying, “the Irish government has a very different view… as do NI political parties & victims groups.

 “This is not a fait accompli,” he added on Twitter. 

To complicate matters, the British actually agreed with the Irish Government at the 2014 Stormont House talks to deal with legacy issues assuring suffering families that their respective issues would be dealt with satisfactorily.

However, last week’s surprise announcement by Brandon Lewis even caused anger on the opposition benches in Westminster.

The Shadow secretary of state for Northern Ireland, Labour MP, Louise Haigh said UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson needed to properly explain the move.

“This Government gave victims their word [that] they would deliver the proper investigations denied to victims and their families for so long.

“To tear up that pledge would be insulting and to do so without the faintest hint of consultation with those who lost loved ones would be staggeringly insensitive.”

Meanwhile Victims’ group are looking across the Atlantic Ocean for political pressure to be applied on the British.

Dublin-based Margaret Urwin, who represents ‘Justice for the Forgotten’, said “I’m calling on the Irish Government to lobby US President Joe Biden.

“They have nothing to lose,” she said.

Eugene Reavey’s three innocent brothers were shot dead by the UVF with the support of rogue British Army personnel at their home in south Armagh in January 1976.

He jointly heads up TARP-the Truth and Reconciliation Platform-and has vowed that until the day he dies, he will follow the London Government to the ends of the earth to get justice for his brothers and those murdered by the British Army.

Talking to eureporter.co this week, he said, “I am writing to Nancy Pelosi, the Speaker of the House of Representatives and pleading with her to lobby President Biden to lean on the British to ensure this statute of limitations is not implemented.

“Nancy Pelosi’s son in-law is Irish and Joe Biden’s ancestors were Irish. We have influential support in Washington and we aim to ensure to use it to the max to ensure the British don’t get away with this one.

“They’ve been at it for centuries and it’s time their lies and evil deeds were finally exposed to the wider world.”

Margaret Urwin and Eugene Reavey’s calls are unlikely to fall on deaf ears.

Last year as the EU/UK Brexit withdrawal deal was reaching a conclusion, President Biden said he would not support a US trade deal with London if actions by the British undermined the 1998 [Good Friday] Peace Agreement.

It looks like it could be an uncomfortable few months ahead for the stiff upper lips in the British establishment.

ENDS:

Ireland

Simon Coveney: Irish foreign minister to face confidence vote

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Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney (pictured) is to face a confidence vote later when the Dáil (Irish parliament) returns from its summer recess, writes the BBC.

Coveney has been criticized for his handling of the appointment of former government minister Katherine Zappone as a UN special envoy.

He has denied that he was lobbied to appoint her but apologised for not informing cabinet before a meeting in July.

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She has since turned down the post.

Sinn Féin has tabled a motion of no confidence in Mr Coveney, but the government is to put down a counter, confidence motion which will be debated by TDs (members of parliament) and voted on later.

Taoiseach Micheál Martin, of Fianna Fáil, described it as an "oversight" that Coveney had not informed his government colleagues about the appointment ahead of the cabinet meeting, a move which has been reported to have caused divisions.

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Coveney's party, Fine Gael, is part of a coalition with Fianna Fáil and the Green Party.

Katherine Zappone
Katherine Zappone was a ministerial colleague of Simon Coveney and Leo Varadkar

It later emerged that Coveney's party leader Leo Varadkar had not been aware of the appointment of a "Special Envoy to the UN for Freedom of Opinion and Expression" until a week before cabinet, when Zappone texted him about it.

In messages released by Varadkar in September, he showed that he subsequently asked Coveney about the role before the cabinet meeting in July.

Zappone replied that her contract was soon to be finalised.

On 4 August, Zappone announced she would not take on the special envoy position as she believed "it is clear that criticism of the appointment process has impacted the legitimacy of the role itself".

Sinn Féin President Mary Lou McDonald has called for Coveney to be sacked and raised the prospect of a vote of no confidence.

She branded his actions as not being "of the standard expected of a minister".

The Labour Party has indicated that it does not have confidence in the government, but leader Alan Kelly said there were "bigger issues" than the row.

On Tuesday (14 September), Coveney told a party conference that he was "embarrassed" that the appointment had led to a "fiasco".

"It's not been my finest month in politics," he said.

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Commission approves €10 million Irish support measure for fishery sector in the context of Brexit

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The European Commission has approved, under EU state aid rules, a €10 million Irish scheme to support the fishery sector affected by the withdrawal of the UK from the EU, and the consequent quota share reductions foreseen in the provisions of the Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA) between the EU and the UK. The support will be available to companies that commit to temporarily cease their fishing activities for a month.

The aim of the scheme is to save part of the Irish reduced fishing quota for other vessels, while the beneficiaries temporarily suspend their activities. The compensation will be granted as a non-refundable grant, calculated on the basis of gross earnings averaged for the fleet size, excluding the cost of fuel and food for the crew of the vessel. Each eligible company will be entitled to the support for up to a month in the period between 1 September to 31 December 2021. The Commission assessed the measures under Article 107(3)(c) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU), which allows Member States to support the development of certain economic activities or regions, under certain conditions.The Commission found that the measure enhances the sustainability of the fishery sector and its ability to adapt to new fishing and market opportunities arising from the new relationship with the UK.

Therefore, the measure facilitates the development of this sector and contributes to the objectives of the Common Fisheries Policy to ensure that fishing and aquaculture activities are environmentally sustainable in the long term. The Commission concluded that the measure constitutes an appropriate form of support in order to facilitate an orderly transition in the EU fishery sector following the withdrawal of the UK from the EU. On this basis, the Commission approved the scheme under EU State aid rules.

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Today's (3 September) decision does not prejudge whether the support measure will eventually be eligible for Brexit Adjustment Reserve ‘BAR' funding, which will be assessed once the BAR Regulation has entered into force. However, it already provides Ireland with legal certainty that the Commission considers the support measure to be compliant with EU State aid rules, irrespective of the ultimate source of funding. The non-confidential version of the decision will be made available under the case number SA.64035 in the state aid register on the Commission's competition website once any confidentiality issues have been resolved.

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Unmasked: 23 detained over COVID-19 business email compromise fraud

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A sophisticated fraud scheme using compromised emails and advance-payment fraud has been uncovered by authorities in Romania, the Netherlands and Ireland as part of an action co-ordinated by Europol. 

On 10 August, 23 suspects were detained in a series of raids carried out simultaneously in the Netherlands, Romania and Ireland. In total, 34 places were searched. These criminals are believed to have defrauded companies in at least 20 countries of approximately €1 million. 

The fraud was run by an organised crime group which prior to the COVID-19 pandemic already illegally offered other fictitious products for sale online, such as wooden pellets. Last year the criminals changed their modus operandi and started offering protective materials after the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

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This criminal group – composed of nationals from different African countries residing in Europe, created fake email addresses and webpages similar to the ones belonging to legitimate wholesale companies. Impersonating these companies, these criminals would then trick the victims – mainly European and Asian companies, into placing orders with them, requesting the payments in advance in order for the goods to be sent. 

However, the delivery of the goods never took place, and the proceeds were laundered through Romanian bank accounts controlled by the criminals before being withdrawn at ATMs. 

Europol has been supporting this case since its onset in 2017 by: 

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  • Bringing together the national investigators on all sides who have seen been working closely together with Europol’s European Cybercrime Centre (EC3) to prepare for the action day;
  • providing continuous intelligence development and analysis to support the field investigators, and;
  • deploying two of its cybercrime experts to the raids in the Netherlands to support the Dutch authorities with cross-checking in real-time information gathered during the operation and with securing relevant evidence. 

Eurojust co-ordinated the judicial co-operation in view of the searches and provided support with the execution of several judicial cooperation instruments.

This action was carried out in the framework of the European Multidisciplinary Platform Against Criminal Threats (EMPACT).

The following law enforcement authorities were involved in this action:

  • Romania: National Police (Poliția Română)
  • The Netherlands: National Police (Politie)
  • Ireland: National Police (An Garda Síochána)
  • Europol: European Cybercrime Centre (EC3)
     
EMPACT

In 2010 the European Union set up a four-year policy cycle to ensure greater continuity in the fight against serious international and organised crime. In 2017 the Council of the EU decided to continue the EU Policy Cycle for the 2018 - 2021 period. It aims to tackle the most significant threats posed by organised and serious international crime to the EU. This is achieved by improving and strengthening cooperation between the relevant services of EU member states, institutions and agencies, as well as non-EU countries and organizations, including the private sector where relevant. Cybercrime is one of the priorities for the Policy Cycle.

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