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Inside File: RUC knocking on Ed’s door

February 16, 2011

By Staff Reporter

By Ray O’Hanlon

They say an Englishman’s home is his castle. However, the rule doesn’t quite apply in the wee North. Just ask Sunday Tribune Northern Editor Ed Moloney. The front door to his home in Belfast could be off its hinges before the week’s out as a result of his refusal to turn over notes that formed the basis of a recent story in the Tribune regarding William Stobie, the former UDA man charged in connection with the 1989 murder of lawyer Pat Finucane.

Moloney declined to hand over the notes on the grounds that he was a journalist protecting sources. This has not impressed the boys in bottle green, who have since served Moloney with a court order that expires Thursday of this week.

If Moloney continues to stick to his principled position, he could face imprisonment and seizure of property. The court order was issued under the Prevention of Terrorism laws and is not to be sneezed at.

"They could seize my assets, search my house and arrest me," Moloney told "IF."

The arrest might not happen immediately, as Moloney is currently in the U.S for a few weeks. But August could be long and hot for a journalist who has been one of the more vigorous probers of Northern Ireland’s underbelly during the years of both the Troubles and peace process.

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Moloney was served with the order by members of the Stevens inquiry team — the police unit which has been reinvestigating the Finucane case — before leaving Belfast for the U.S. He described the RUC officers who came to see him as "really aggressive and hostile."

The journalist believes that the attitude of the RUC might be especially vindictive because his recent Tribune story on Stobie strongly suggested that Stobie’s apparently detailed knowledge of the Finucane murder — first uncovered by Moloney in a 1990 interview of the man — has been known to investigators all along.

Moloney believes that a possible reason for Stobie’s arrest is that the RUC wants to make the entire Finucane case sub judice "until Patten goes away."

Moloney is referring to the Patten Commission, which has been examining the record of the RUC with a view to reform or outright scrapping of the force. Sub judice laws, which are particularly strong in Britain and Ireland, can effectively eliminate in-depth press coverage of legal cases in advance of, and even during, public trials.

Moloney is being backed in his stance by, among others, the Sunday Tribune, the National Union of Journalists, which represents journalists in both Ireland and Britain, and the Belfast-based Committee for the Administration of Justice. His sojourn in the U.S., meanwhile, will be anything but restful as he intends to seek Irish-American support for his effort, as he sees it, to simply do his job properly.

Said Moloney: "I will not be giving these documents up. This goes to the very heart of journalism and its defining principles. We do not betray our sources."

No taker for Baker

GOP frontrunner George W. Bush is beginning to gather about him — in those rare moments when he’s not raking in even more money — the beginnings of a foreign policy team that will become better known should he win the race to the White House next year. Absent from the Bush-the-younger camp, at this stage anyway, is James Baker, secretary of state under Bush-the-elder.

The New York Times made a point of the omission in a recent "Editorial Observer" column. This will be comforting to many Irish Americans, who remember Baker’s sole reference to Ireland during his speech at the 1996 GOP National Convention in San Diego. Baker’s take on President Clinton’s Irish policy at the time was summed up thus: "We have also seen a representative of the IRA hosted in the White House just prior to its resumption of terrorist bombings in London. The result has been the worst relationship with our closest ally, Britain, since the Boston Tea Party."

Baker’s take on the events in Boston Harbor back in 1773, of course, wasn’t exactly everyone’s cup of cha.

Steve lauds Steve

GOP presidential hopeful Steve Forbes is casting his net wider than the usual one or two domestic issues that have fueled his presidential ambitions to date. The Forbes campaign issued a statement praising both Bertie Ahern and Tony Blair for their latest efforts to get the peace process rolling forward again by means of a power sharing executive.

"The way to peace and justice in the Isle of Ireland is by such a power-sharing arrangement," Forbes said. He also lavished praise on Steven McDonald, the paralyzed NYPD detective who led a fact-finding mission to Northern Ireland in recent days that was intended to shed light on the views of both Protestants and Catholics. Forbes sponsored the visit and sees McDonald’s forgiveness of the man who shot him in Central Park in 1987 as an example to both communities in the North.

McPhilemy’s battles

Author Sean McPhilemy may have won a round in the London High Court last week, but his legal war on several fronts goes on. There is his own suit against the Sunday Times, not to mention the David Trimble suit against Amazon.com for its retailing of McPhilemy’s controversial book, "The Committee, Political Assassination in Northern Ireland."

In addition, there is the case in Washington, D.C., taken by the Prentice brothers, the Northern Ireland car dealers who say they have been libeled by the book, at the center of which is the allegation of a secret conspiracy involving leading unionists to murder Catholics in the North. McPhilemy will talk about his book at Rocky Sullivan’s, 28th Street and Lexington Avenue in Manhattan on Wednesday, July 21, at 8 p.m. and on the following night in O’Murphy’s Irish Pub, Montauk, L.I.

Additional speakers at the Montauk venue will include former Suffolk County District Attorney Henry O’Brien and McPhilemy’s attorney, Russell Smith. For details on the Montauk event, call (516) 668-0818.

Needless to say, with all the court battles being waged, McPhilemy’s legal costs are mounting up. While copies of "The Committee" will be on sale at both the Rocky’s and O’Murphy’s events, donations will also be accepted for McPhilemy’s legal defense fund. Donations are also being gathered by "The Truth in Ireland Legal Defense Fund," c/o Roberts Rinehart Publishers, P.O. Box 666, Niwot, CO 80544.

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