Category: Archive

A View North The 21st century Troubles: terror turns high tech

February 16, 2011

By Staff Reporter

By Jack Holland

The Troubles aren’t over — but apparently thanks to AOL, they’ve just gone on-line. At least as far as the Ulster Defense Association (aka Ulster Freedom Fighters) is concerned. Its AOL-based website carries an item, "Know The Provo," which lists — alphabetically — alleged members of the IRA, INLA and their alleged supporters, sometimes including their addresses and other personal information.

Included are several U.S. citizens: Long Island Rep. Peter King, Massachusetts college president William Bolger and his brother, the gangster James "Whitey" Bolger, corporate businessman Charles (Chuck) Feeney, New Jersey lawyer Ed Lynch, and former IRA gunrunner George Harrison.

The site also hosts a vitriolic attack on the Ulster Volunteer Force, with which the UDA is currently engaged in a feud. It displays a list of "ordinary Protestants" killed by "these ‘Loyalist’ thugs." Then follows a list of "the real drug dealers, pimps, extortionists on the Shankill Road." Included are several prominent members of the UVF and its political wing the Progressive Unionist Party. Among those subjected to attack are Billy Hutchinson," who it calls "bucket-mouth. It describes him as being an "RUC informer, pimp, drug baron and gutless thug."

On the list, too, Bunter Graham, the UVF’s chief of staff, who it accuses of being an MI5 agent. It says he is continuing to "tax drug dealers" on the Shankill Road.

Gusty Spence, the renowned founder of the modern UVF, is accuses of stealing "350,000 pounds from Belfast Action Team" to buy a "bungalow, luxury caravan."

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Other UVF members are accused of cavorting with the wives of prisoners, and being involved in wife beating, drug dealing and extortion.

However, it is undoubtedly the list of republicans and alleged republicans which will attract the most attention and concern. Among those on the list is Padraigin Drinan, the Nationalist lawyer who succeeded Rosemary Nelson as legal representative of the Garvaghy Road residents after Nelson was murdered by dissident loyalists, some of whom were linked to the UDA and the Loyalist Volunteer Force. The list describes Drinan as "Lawyer for IRA/SF and Garvaghy Road."

King is listed as "Pro-IRA representative from NY" who "wrote a book praising murder of RUC men."

Chuck Feeney is accused of being a "major fund source for IRA," and Harrison is called a "Sinn Fein financial supporter".

Lawyer Lynch, who campaigned in the 1990s to have the restrictions on Gerry Adams’s visa removed, is pronounced to be "pro-IRA."

The UMass president is on the list apparently for having awarded Adams an honorary degree earlier this year.

Also on the list is Terry George, who helped make the Academy Award-nominated film "In The Name of The Father." He is denoted as "INLA. USA. Now film director."

The only journalist listed is Brian Feeney, the former SDLP councilor who now writes a weekly column for the nationalist Irish News in Belfast. He is accused of being "pro-IRA."

Altogether the list contains almost 260 names. According to the accompanying logo, it was complied from "public sources, such as newspapers, books, television and the internet." It says that the list is for "informational purposes only."

Most of the names have appeared in the press, often as a result of court cases, while others are fairly well-known public figures. The many inaccuracies it contains would suggest that the principal source was not the intelligence services. For instance, George Harrison parted company with the Provisional republican movement in 1986, and was never, even when active, a fund-raiser for it. At least two listed — Jimmy Steele, and Larry Marley — are dead. Steele, a prominent Belfast IRA man, died in 1970, and Marley, a high-ranking member of the Provisionals’ Belfast brigade, was murdered by the UVF in 1987.

The inclusion of Rosemary Nelson’s successor, Padraigin Drinan, has already set off alarm bells among nationalists. Nelson was assassinated in March 1999 after purportedly being placed on a loyalist death list.

A spokesman for the RUC said last week that the police first became aware of the UDA site on Sept. 5, after being contacted by an Irish language magazine in Belfast.

"Our computer crime unit is examining it," the spokesman said on Sept. 7. He would not comment on whether the police thought the list a security risk, but said: "We would always warn individuals if they are at risk."

Contacted at his Washington office, King said of his inclusion in the "hit" list: "It’s a tribute of sorts. But I’d hoped those days are over. It shows that certain elements of Unionism haven’t come to terms with the Good Friday agreement." Asked if he was concerned for his personal safety, the congressman replied: "The last time I was in Belfast I feft safe to just walk around. The tension had gone. I’ll be more cautious now when I go to Belfast."

Meanwhile, people close to the loyalist community in Belfast are concerned that the website’s vicious personal attacks on UVF and PUP leaders will worsen the already tense and dangerous situation between the two main paramilitary organizations. Already, three people — two linked to the UDA and one to the UVF — have been shot dead. Dozens have been forced from their homes, and an 11-year-old girl shot and wounded. The UDA website carries a picture of the girl, Charlene Daly, who was shot during an attack on her home by UVF gunmen reportedly using an Uzi submachine gun.

"That is some kick-ass website," said a former loyalist paramilitary, who viewed the site recently. "It’s obviously a propaganda issue. The UVF will respond." He said that already the UDA and UVF have drawn up "roles of shame" which were being passed around the Shankill Road — the main loyalist area of Belfast, where the two groups are battling for control. They are accusing each of other of various crimes, including racketeering and drug-dealing. Though attempts are currently being made to resolve the dispute, a loyalist source said judging by the website that at least some elements in the UDA "seemed determined to break their cease-fire."

The website is billed as belonging to the Ulster Loyalist Information Services. It carries a picture of LVF leader Billy Wright, nicknamed King Rat, who was assassinated by the INLA in December1997. A picture of a loyalist mural reads: "LVF Has Not Forgotten What True Loyalists Fought And Died For. No Surrender."

A spokesman for AOL said last week his company "was unable to confirm that it ever was an AOL-hosted website." But by midweek, it had been removed from the web.

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