FFAI ISSUES UPDATE
A-Johnson has his Brexit majority – Boris Johnson picked up 47 seats and an overall majority more than 70 seats, which will empower him “to get Brexit done quickly.” Meanwhile wins by nationalists and republicans in the north and the Scottish National Party in Scotland, kept Irish unity and Scottish independence on the agenda.
Johnson called the British General Election after a series of parliamentary defeats blocked him from moving forward with Brexit and his renegotiated withdrawal agreement out of the European Union. He banked on winning an outright Tory majority in the election, picking up enough MPs approve his deal. With the largest Tory majority in 30 years, he has his parliamentary backing to get out of the EU by 31 January. Johnson wants to complete a new trade deal with the bloc by December 2020 or go without any trade deal and terminate any interim agreements by the end of 2020.
Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbin will resign after the worst showing by Labour in 30 years.
In the north the Democratic Unionist Party, went into the election with 10 seats and expected to pick up the seat vacated by the retiring Sylvia Hermon. Instead the DUP suffered a “Friday the 13th nightmare” defeat. Both deputy leader Nigel Dodds and Emma Little-Pengelly were ousted, while the vacated seat was taken by Alliance.
The SDLP won seats in Derry and South Belfast, leaving the DUP and unionists with only 8 of the north’s 18 Westminster seats. It is the first time nationalist parties held more seats than unionists in the six counties. Nationalists swept all border communities and 3 of Belfast’s 4 seats.
The DUP also lost all leverage at Westminster. The party’s 10 votes had been needed first by Theresa May and then Boris Johnson to become Prime Minister. However the DUP broke with Johnson over his Brexit plan, calling it a “betrayal agreement” because it allowed for checks and regulations on goods which crossed the Irish sea. Getting his Brexit deal done proved more important to Johnson than keeping his word to unionists about avoiding a line down the Irish Sea.DUP objections to Johnson’s deal will now be dismissed.
The loss of Nigel Dodds, party leader at Westminster, and the seat he had held for 18 years to John Finucane, was a bitter blow for the party.
Meanwhile the SNP swept 48 of Scotland 59 seats. Party leader Nicola Sturgeon called the result a “renewed, refreshed and strengthened” mandate for Scottish independence. Johnson said he will not allow Scotland a new referendum on independence but the calls for a new referendum continue and will be noted in Ireland.
B-Britain reneges on OTR letters for Republicans while moving amnesty for British troopers-Sixty-seven year old John Downey, is being held without bail in Maghaberry Prison, on IRA related charges from 1972,despite an OTR pledge by the British crown that he would not be prosecuted. Meanwhile Boris Johnson has pledged what amounts to a legal amnesty for British troopers, by changing the Human Rights Act, to cease applying to any acts by British forces that took place before 2000, including murders during the Troubles.
This move would cut-off access to British courts for relatives of victims killed by British crown forces, and violate specific sections of the Good Friday Agreement where Britain pledged to put the European Convention of Human Rights into law for the north, with direct access to the courts.
John Downey had been arrested in 2013 and accused of involvement in an IRA attack in England.However those charges were dismissed because he had been granted immunity in an OTR “on the run” letter,which pledged he was not wanted for arrest, questioning or charge by the crown. Terms for the release of Republican prisoners and closure for those Republicans, who the crown wanted to make prisoners for pre-1998 actions, were high on the agenda in negotiations. Tony Blair, the British leader in these negotiations, said the OTR issue was “absolutely critical”, “fundamental” and talks could have “collapsed” without a satisfactory settlement. Negotiations on OTRs continued after the Good Friday Agreement and were amplified in the Weston Park Accord of 2001.The British, in Paragraph 20, pledged to take such steps necessary to insure that prosecutions for pre-April 1998 actions against members of organizations on ceasefire were “no longer pursued”. Administrative mechanisms were constructed to carry oral and later written immunity pledges. Senior staff were assigned to carry out this agreed process. Republicans who had lived years outside the north returned home and lived openly. Following the 2013 arrest and the 2014 dismissal of all charges, the British apparently decided to renege on these immunity grants and make an example of John Downey.
Meanwhile the one-sided secretive scheme of undeclared immunity or impunity for members of the British Army or constabulary who committed or colluded in sanctioned murders is now about to be made British law.
C-Stormont agreement expected from new talks-After a nearly three year absence, talks are beginning this week which are expected to revive the Stormont Assembly. Past talks broke down, most notably in February 2018 when the DUP reneged on an agreement because supporters would not accept an Irish Language Act. However the election results put new pressure on both the DUP and Sinn Fein to make an agreement. The British General Election took away the DUP’s leverage at Westminster and cost it two seats while the Sinn Fein vote share was also reduced. British colonial secretary Julian Smith threatened to call new six county Assembly elections, if there is no deal by mid-January. Stormont collapsed in January 2017 when Martin McGuinness resigned as deputy first minister over the DUP’s handling of the botched Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) scheme. Other issues, such as an Irish Language Act, reform of the Petition of Concern and the legacy of the Troubles, have also come to the fore in successive rounds of failed talks aimed at restoring power-sharing.The talks will begin with individual meetings between Smith and the five largest Assembly parties, the DUP, Sinn Fein, SDLP, Ulster Unionists and Alliance before moving to round table talks. The Irish government is also scheduled to join in the talks.
D-Veteran Republican Ivor Bell vindicated after 5 year ordeal-The five year prosecution of 82 year old prominent Irish Republican Ivor Bell, ended with his being cleared of all charges and a ruling that there was not any admissible evidence against him. Bell had been in his late 70s in 2014, when taken from his home and charged with soliciting the death and disappearance of an informer more than 40 years earlier. Ivor Bell had been one of a 5 member delegation flown to England to represent the IRA in negotiations with the British in 1972,as well as a former IRA Chief of staff and Belfast Commander. The controversial charges were based on statements allegedly made by him in an interview recorded on the Boston College tapes. Bell said he was not the man on the tapes, known as ‘Interviewee Z’ and that he had been living in County Louth at the time of the Belfast killing. The interviewee said only that he was opposed to disappearing or secretly burying any informers killed by the IRA. After 5 years of stringent bail restrictions and petty harassment, the tapes were ruled unreliable and could not be used as evidence against Mr Bell. The judge told jurors: “There is now no evidence which the prosecution can put before you in order to support the case.”My role now is to direct you to return a verdict of not guilty, because you simply cannot find him to have done the acts alleged.”Mr Bell’s solicitor, Peter Corrigan, said his client had been vindicated. The Boston tapes were an oral history project, commissioned by Boston College. Recordings were made of interviews with former combatants about their activities during the Troubles on the understanding these would not be made public until after their deaths. Ed Moloney, the journalist behind the Boston College project, said he welcomed Mr Bell’s acquittal.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is no fiend of Ireland or Irish justice. His top issue is Brexit no matter what Brexit means for Ireland. He wants to deny truth and justice to the families of victims murdered by the crown or loyalist agents by laws that remove Human Rights Acts protections formally agreed in the Good Friday Agreement. He will continue austerity cuts in funding that will bring greater hardship in the six counties.
At times like these, Irish people in the north look to America to stand behind them. We have already received more appeals for help than ever before. America can make a difference for them, at this crucial time but only if the AOH and LAOH, as the voice of the Irish in America, lead the way. Our donations to carefully chosen charities through monies raised by the FFAI Annual Christmas Appeal, alongside our political and educational campaigns, are the cornerstone of our FFAI initiative.
Don’t let them down!!!
AOH-LAOH FFAI CHRISTMAS APPEAL
PO Box 904
New York 10535
TIME TO MAKE McALLISTER’S VICTORY FINAL
It was a “Happy Thanksgiving” for Malachy McAllister, his supporters and for justice. After yet another six months of deep anxiety for himself and his family, the combined efforts by political leaders, Cardinal Dolan and the AOH succeeded in halting Malachy’s deportation for another six months. It is too important a victory to be hollowed out, or even lost, six months from now.
One can only imagine what it is must be like for Malachy to face the real threat of deportation again and again.
Few individuals could have earned the sympathy and backing of the range of supporters necessary to keep him here, given the current political climate. Senators Menendez, Schumer, Congressmen King, Engel, Smith and Pascrell were among those who personally intervened with the administration. Cardinal Dolan called the President. Many law enforcement and military officials publicly endorsed him. The Irish Embassy backed him. The AOH and other Irish organizations campaigned for him.
Malachy has multiple grounds which should have entitled him to full legal permanent residence under American law. He has lived in America for decades, is a father , successful businessman and, respected member of the Irish-American community. He should be allowed to live here without semi-annual battles against deportation hanging over his head, where the British and DHS as the expression goes “only have to get lucky once.”
In 1997 the Irish political deportee cases were settled by the Clinton administration, upon formal request by Secretary of State Albright to Attorney General Reno.It was supposed to open the door for others. Malachy McAllister found the door had been shut. Malachy McAllister, was involved in a conflict which is long over. Clearly Cardinal Dolan, leading politicians, law enforcement and so many Irish Americans would not have backed a criminal. America must not continue to victimize him and his family at Britain’s behest! We cannot enjoy Malachy’s victory only to see him go through it again in 6 months.
FFAI MONTHLY BULLETIN
Please read and distribute the monthly FFAI Bulletin. The is now available on AOH national email blasts, or on the New York State and National AOH web sites. We want to give you monthly updates on key events in the north with short analysis and explanation.
NOLLAIG SHONA DAOIBH!-MERRY CHRISTMAS