By Anne Cadwallader
BELFAST — As representatives of the North South Council held their groundbreaking session in Armagh, reports emerged that British military sources had privately admitted bugging a car used by the Sinn Fein president, Gerry Adams, and its chief negotiator, Martin McGuinness.
The owner of the car, which was routinely used by Sinn Fein’s leadership, was named by the British Sunday Times newspaper, and it is understood he is seeking legal advice over invasion of privacy because of the bugging.
The taoiseach, Bertie Ahern, has expressed his concern to the British prime minister, Tony Blair, about the surveillance. Adams called the bugging during this highly sensitive part of the peace process "an outrageous breach of faith which must be addressed at the highest levels."
Unionist politicians have reacted angrily to Sinn Féin proposals to remove all Union emblems from administrative buildings in the North, including Union flags and portraits of Queen Elizabeth.
Sign up to The Irish Echo Newsletter
The proposal is part of Sinn Féin’s program for government, which also includes making St. Patrick’s Day a national holiday throughout the island of Ireland.
The program recommends that where unionist emblems, such as the crown and the Red Hand of Ulster, are not removed, the Tricolor and nationalist symbols should be put up alongside them.
But unionists have vowed to fight the proposal. Ulster Unionist M.P. Jeffrey Donaldson said Sinn Féin is pursuing a narrow agenda of removing the British identity from Northern Ireland.
"Any attempt by Sinn Féin to impose these policies should be resisted by unionists. The Belfast agreement talks about respecting the constitutional legitimacy of Northern Ireland remaining part of the United Kingdom," he said.
Castlereagh to close
In another signal of change in Northern Ireland, the Castlereagh Holding Center, in East Belfast will close down at the recommendation of the Patten Report on policing.
At the center of controversy for more than 20 years, Castlereagh acted as the RUC’s main interrogation center, with 23 cells and 22 interview rooms. The center had a fearsome reputation throughout the early 1970s when allegations surfaced of torture, beatings and human-rights abuses.
The mother of an 8-year-old girl befriended by President Clinton on his first visit to Belfast, has learned that her father was murdered by the UDA with information allegedly supplied by British military intelligence.
Cathy Hamill became a symbol of the peace process after she read a welcoming message to Clinton at an engineering plant in West Belfast in 1995.
A new book, published this week, alleges that her father, Patrick, aged 29, was only targeted by the UDA at the instigation of the Force Reconnaissance Unit of the British Army.
The book, "Ten-Thirty-Three, The Inside Story of Britain’s Secret Killing Machine in Northern Ireland," by Nicholas Davies, says Hamill was shot dead on the orders of the British military.
Hamill had no political or paramilitary connections when he was shot dead in September 1987 by two gunmen at his home. Questioned by the inquest coroner, an RUC detective-inspector in the case said the victim was most definitely not a member of any paramilitary organization.
Contacted at her new home in West Belfast, Cathy’s mother, Laura, was stunned by the allegations. The family had never heard had any suggestion of collusion between the UDA and the British Army in the murder.
When Cathy met the president, she told him: "My first Daddy died in the Troubles. It was the saddest day of my life."