Friday, 10 May 2019

WANTED MAN: THE STORY OF MUKHTAR ABLYAZOV: A Manual for Criminals on How to Avoid Punishment in the EU

With the tenth anniversary of his flight from the authorities in his homeland of Kazakhstan fast approaching, the raft of transnational court cases involving fugitive embezzler Mukhtar Ablyazov show no sign of abating. 

In a global saga which stretches from an institutional aversion to tackling kleptocracy in the United Kingdom to United States President Donald Trump’s shady business partners, the murky world of Mukhtar Ablyazov even led his family to make a pit stop in the Central African Republic to pick up diplomatic passports. 

Yet despite having judgements against him totalling $4.9 billion in the British courts alone, almost six years since he fled from the UK to avoid three concurrent 22-month sentences for contempt of court, Ablyazov remains a free man.   

So who is this criminal mastermind, a man found to have committed ‘fraud on an epic scale’ in the UK and sentenced in absentia in his homeland of having ordered the assassination of his erstwhile business partner? A country boy turned kleptocrat, current estimates as to the total amount embezzled by Ablyazov stand at in excess of $10 billion, yet from his villa in France, Ablyazov continues to bemoan his plight to be a simple case of ‘political persecution.’ 

This is an argument supported by parties such as the NGO, the Open Dialog Foundation, whose activities, a report from a conference held in the European Parliament in November 2017 found, are funded by companies ‘flagged and sanctioned by the West.’

Now available from Amazon:

“In his book, Cartwright shines a light on the extraordinary antics of the fugitive kleptocrat and his retinue. Exhaustively researched, yet succinct and easily comprehensible, Wanted Man: The Story of Mukhtar Ablyazov lays bare the startling facts behind this opaque tale.”
Stephen M. Bland
Award winning author & Journalist

“For those of us who have fought tirelessly for Human Rights, it feel like a punch in the stomach when someone abuses mechanisms to slyly promote their own self interest.  Such actions undermine the work of genuine Human Rights activists and deserve to be highlighted. I commend this book for doing just that.”

Nikki Sinclaire
Former Member of the European Parliament
Member of the EP Committee on Human Rights 2009-2014 

"Gripping... an expose of how money talks in the EU and in individual member states. Corruption is a growing problem and as always, as this book shows, the guilty remain at large, and the taxpayer foots the bill."

Colin Stevens, Publisher, EU Reporter.

Wednesday, 8 May 2019

Is Great Britain on the verge of collapse?

There was a time, during the post-war boom of the 1950s and 1960s, when a working class family could live comfortably on one income, and in such circumstances private home ownership was growing. Those days are but a distant memory now. 
Those born in this millennium, poorly educated in Britain’s failing state schools and with little chance of obtaining meaningful employment, many on the notorious Zero Hours contracts - around 780,000 people are employed on zero hours contracts in the UK, roughly 2.4% of people in employment, or about one in 40 workers - are unlikely to be able to even afford the rent on a modest home, let alone raise the enormous sums now required in order to obtain a mortgage and acquire property of their own. 
In the London district of Bermondsey, once a grim slum on the south side of the River Thames, and which under the guidance of social reformer Dr Alfred Salter became a beacon of urban regeneration allowing under-paid and exploited dock workers to buy their own modern homes, and to enjoy a high level of health care, the cost of a so-called starter home, usually a one-bedroomed flat or small house with little or no garden, now “costs an average of £638,530, a ‘mid-market’ home an average of £691,300 and a top-of-the-range home nearly £1.5million,” according to a survey by the Sunday Times, carried out in conjunction with mortgage broker Habito and published recently (April 14th). What chance would a young couple or a single person with a reasonable income and level of job security have of getting on the property ladder have under such circumstances?
Social housing is no longer a viable option as much of what was available was either demolished in order that the land could be sold to private developers, or sold off cheaply to tenants under Margaret Thatcher’s government. Much of what is still available is occupied by those with the most pressing needs, often economic migrants and refugees, denying local families access. This situation, incidentally, was exploited ruthlessly during the run-up to the June 2006 Brexit referendum, and was one of the major factors in the result.
Schools themselves, as mentioned above, are failing, with the situation set to get worse. A letter obtained by EU Today, and signed by six headteachers in an area renowned for the high quality of its state schools refers to real term cuts in funding of 10% for the education of 11-16 year old pupils over recent years. Over the same period funding for sixth formers has dropped in real terms by 20%.“We have held off from writing to parents until now but are finding it increasingly unrealistic to maintain the high quality of provision for your children we feel currently exists. We are blessed to have a great range of highly successful schools in the area, but if nothing is done to reverse this funding crisis immediately, we will almost certainly not be able to operate at the same level in the future.”
The letter also points out that funding intended to pay for education is being used to pay “local government pension contributions”. The government is robbing Peter to pay Paul.
As for the national curriculum, pupils learn little of their country’s history, but are well versed in the US civil rights movement of the 1960s. Health and nutrition issues get but a cursory glance, tucked away in domestic sciences; however no primary or secondary school class is complete, it would appear, with at least one trans-gender pupil.
When launched by the then minister of health, Aneurin Bevan, on July 5th 1948, the National Health Service  was based on 3 core principles: that it meet the needs of everyone, that it be free at the point of delivery, and that it be based on clinical need, not ability to pay.
The NHS was designed to meet the needs of an island nation with a largely homogenous population of 50 million, impoverished and traumatised by two world wars, and looking for social change. The NHS promised, and it delivered. It is, however, totally unsuited for today’s globalised high-tech world. 
The population of the UK today officially stands at 66.85 million, but nobody believes that statistic for one moment. 
Trolley Crisis
To appreciate the inadequacy of the NHS one really needs to live, work, and possibly raise a family on the continent in order to make comparisons with what is accepted as the norm there.
But to put it it into stark contrast, the UK has amongst the highest rates of cancer mortality in Europe - research suggests that the main reason for low survival rates in the UK seems to be delayed diagnosis, underuse of successful treatments and unequal access to treatment, particularly among elderly people. It is also the only country in the EU in which average life expectancy is actually declining. Hospital waiting times are virtually unheard in the other member states. And yet the NHS is amongst the most expensive health services not just in Europe, but globally.  
What it lacks in results, it makes up for in its services to the labour market: the NHS is the largest employer in the UK. It employs legions of managers and administrators, and also heavily supports the private sector by outsourcing, at considerable expense, many of its functions. The recipients of these lucrative health contracts, however, are often based offshore. 
Unless they wish to see a end to their career, senior politicians are obliged to repeat the mantra about the NHS being the jewel in Britain’s crown. It is not. It is a monkey on our backs. There is much talk of reform, but reforms would take decades, and today’s politicians think only in 4-5 year electoral cycles, and so we cannot expect words to be translated into actions. In any event, the NHS does not need to be reformed, it needs to be replaced.
Much like the NHS, what was once a public transport network has also been privatised and asset stripped. Take the case of the railways: archaic infrastructure that requires constant and highly expensive attention, and which is often the cause of delays and trains cancellations, remains the responsibility of the taxpayer, whereas the highly profitable train services themselves have been sold off to the private sector. One employee of Greater Anglia Rail told EU Today “customer services are being cut to the bone, we have no staff on the trains. Customers complain about fare increases, trains don’t run on time, all profits go to a Dutch company”.
Compare this to continental railways where onboard train managers and buffet cars are the norm, passengers are assured of a seat, trains generally run on time, and fares are a fraction of what British commuters pay. British railways are a classic example of a system in terminal decline. 
Britain is currently experiencing a murder rate of almost Biblical proportions. In particular, knife crime is on the rise, with multiple killings in various parts of the London on a single day often now being reported. On March 26th, two boys both 17, and four men aged 18 to 26 were knifed in separate attacks in London. 
The following morning, shopkeeper Ravi Katharkamar, 54, was murdered with a knife wound to his chest as he opened Marsh Food and Wine in Pinner, north-west London.
On April 16th a man was killed after a car was driven into a mass brawl outside a north-west London tube station, bringing the tally of murder victims to 36 so far this year.
Oxford St Stabbing
A recent study, published in the Cambridge Journal of Evidence-Based Policing, found that 21% of the 590 fatal stabbings in London over a 10-year period were flagged by police as involving gangs: in 2017-18 the proportion rose to 29% suggesting that gang culture is spreading in the capital.
The hopelessly inept Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police Service Cressida Dick, limply stated that “youth knife violence is at the worst level I have ever seen it”. It not known if Ms. Dick, who was in charge of the bungled operation that saw the brutal slaying by police officers of Jean Charles da Silva e de Menezes at Stockwell underground station in 2005, intends to do anything about the state of affairs she is currently presiding over. (Ms. Dick is the Met’s first openly gay Commissioner, and she is openly conducting a relationship with a subordinate, which surely should raise serious questions.)
It should not require the deductive skills of Sherlock Holmes to link this appalling situation to the fact that more than 600 police stations have closed in the last eight years, largely due to budget cuts. It has been explained, however, that these closures are partly because people now rarely report crimes at police stations. How can they when there are no stations left open?
It is interesting to note that whilst stations offer no service to the public, administrative work often continues apace behind the closed doors.
Burglaries are rarely, if ever, investigated by police, who no longer even attend the scene in most cases.
The current terrorist threat in the UK has provided the government with what politicians would term a beneficial crisisUnder the guise of this threat a major change in the way Britain is policed has taken place. The lack of visible policing, the failure - or is it lack of will? - of the police to protect the public, the closure of police stations and the move towards intelligence led policing all point to a major shift in priorities. The police no longer protect the public, they police them in order to protect the state.
Brexit has itself provided the government with another beneficial crisis. The security forces have been making preparations in order take to the streets to quell civil unrest in the event of supermarkets running out of French cheese or Veuve Cliquot Champagne. 
In January, it was announced that Her Majesty’s Government had issued a formal notice calling up British army reservists to help tackle the impact of crashing out of the EU “on the welfare, health and security of UK citizens and economic stability of the UK”.
Why are they really making such preparations?
Britain is a horribly overcrowded nation in which public services are in decline and in which the indigenous population has lost its identity. Cities are seething in gang violence, and the background smell in every town centre is that of cannabis, the police having given up on the fight against drugs long ago. 
There is real danger on the streets, and those few who take the time to look up from their iPhones will be aware of the growing legions of rough sleepers in shop doorways. Britain is now a country in which the elderly, the mentally ill, and the displayed sleep in the street, and police officers carry sub-machine guns. It has become an ugly place indeed.
Img 0332

The two homeless men, pictured left, sleep outside a supermarket close to London's exclusive Eccleston Square. As visitors from the continent arrive at Victoria coach station this is the sight they are met with. 
All this is happening in the fifth largest economy in the world. Exactly where is all the money going? 
If the UK is the successful economy that the government claims, why is the maximum weekly state pension £141 in the UK, £304 in France, £507 in Germany, and £513 in Spain? Again, where is all the money going?
Post-Brexit, we can expect to see employment laws relaxed and environmental regulations adjusted to suit the needs of industry at the expense of public health - London already has amongst the worst air quality in Europe, resulting in thousands of premature deaths each year. Mayor Sadiq Khan’s charges for motorists entering London’s ultra low emission zone will achieve nothing to solve this health crisis.
It is a sad truth, but one that has to be faced up to, that Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II will not be with us forever. The length of her reign has already been astonishing, and has given the nation a sense of stability and consistency: there are octogenarians today who were schoolchildren when she ascended to the throne in 1952. She is one of the last links to the Britain that many of us were born into and grew up in. We need to consider whether the affection, loyalty, and trust that she inspires in the British people will be transferred to her heirs and successors, to the “what Megan wants, Megan gets” generation of royals. 
The complete failure of the British government to manage Brexit has been but another symptom of the failings of the country’s out of date and out of step party system. Only in times of such confusion and despair could a political anachronism the likes of Jeremy Corbyn appear to some to make sense. 
Only in such times could his former lover, the ghastly hypocrite Diane Abbot, be presented to the public as Shadow Home Secretary. Abbot is all over the British press today (20th April) having been photographed drinking alcohol at lunchtime on a London train in flagrant contravention of a ban that has been in place since 2008.  The Home Secretary, it should be noted, is responsible for maintaining law and order in the UK.
The current ongoing eco-protests taking place in London have led to 682 arrests at the time of writing, leading to a crisis in those London police stations that remain open; they are running out of cells. How would they cope in a real state of emergency?
Any one of the failings described above should give cause for serious concerns. Coming altogether as they do, and the parlous state of Britain’s armed forces has not even been discussed here, a picture emerges of a country, a society, facing crisis or even collapse. If Britain’s infrastructure is unable to cope, if the forces of law and order have lost control of the city streets, and Her Majesty’s Government, paralysed by indecision and incompetence is unable to enact the will of the people as expressed at the ballot box, then to quote Virgil, "as I look ahead, I am filled with foreboding; like the Roman, I seem to see the River Tiber foaming with much blood”.

Monday, 29 October 2018

UKIP MEP Nathan Gill Weighs In To Defend Pro-Kremlin Media From Action By Ukrainian Parliament

Regular readers of EU Today will be aware that there have been many questions raised over the four years since Russia’s illegal annexation of Ukrainian sovereign territory, Crimea, and the continuing Russian “backed” military activities in the Donbass region, concerning the involvement of individual Members of the European Parliament with Russian state controlled media.

Very famously, Nigel Farage of UKIP was once described by Russia Today (RT) as their favourite British politician. The feeling appeared somewhat mutual as in March 2014 Farage had described Putin as the world leader he most admires.
It was even rumoured at one point that he might be given his own show on the Kremlin controlled station.
Now another UKIP MEP has apparently succumbed to the flattery of the pro-Russian media, Nathan Gill, who sits in Farage’s political group in the European Parliament, the EFDD.
There is currently a controversy in Ukraine concerning two TV channels: 112 and News One because of the intention to close them down in response to their direct and clear pro-Russian and pro-Kremlin positions. 
A draft law on “Approval of recommendations to introduce personal special economic sanctions and other restrictive measures (sanctions)” on the two channels came into force earlier this month.
The Verkhovna Rada, Ukraine’s Parliament, stated that “there are systematic signs of imitation of discourse practices of Russian propaganda in the activities of a number of legal entities, permanent demonstration of propaganda and spreading of the ideology of terrorism”.  
These sanctions are to include, amongst other things, asset freezes on the two channels and their subsidiaries, and cancellation of their broadcasting licences.
The two channels are believed to be under the control of Viktor Medvedchuk, a Ukrainian oligarch and chairman of the pro-Russia political organisation Ukrainian Choice.  He is an opponent of Ukraine’s expressed desire for future membership of the EU, and was claimed by Newsweek to have been identified as a former Russian intelligence agent (23 Nov 2017). 
After one of his December 2013 meetings with Russia's President Vladimir Putin, it has been reported that Medvedchuk publicly promised to "deal with" pro-European protesters in Ukraine.
On 24 June 2014, the Donetsk People's Republic and Lugansk People's Republic informed the OSCE that Medvedchuk was appointed their representative in the negotiations with the Ukrainian Government. He was to become one of the first to be placed on the US sanctions list following Russia’s Legal Annexation of Ukraine.
He was one of the mediators in the bidding process that gave Russia the right to host the 2018 World Cup, and Russian President Vladimir Putin is godfather of his daughter Darina, who was born in 2004.  
The Independent newspaper has referred to him as “Putin’s best friend in Ukraine” (Aug 30 2018), and in his book “All the Kremlin's Men: Inside the Court of Vladimir Putin” (2006) Russian journalist Mikhail Zygar claimed that Vladimir Putin believed that no question involving Ukraine could be solved without Viktor Medvedchuk.
"The fact that the channel (112) has gone under Medvedchuk's control is evidenced not only by connection with him of the new management. In the summer of 2018, the politician's 'presence' on 112 shows has grown significantly. A man behind the scenes of the Ukrainian politics, Medvedchuk does not personally give interviews, at least for the time being. But the channel's broadcast is full of his quotes, while statements of his political power make separate news.

UNIAN Information Agency (Ukraine) 21 August 2018
And so where does Nathan Gill enter into this narrative?
In fact, he weighed into the debate very shortly after being elected to the European Parliament in 2014 when on September 16th of that year he delivered a speech in Strasbourg telling fellow MEPs that the “EU-Ukraine Association Agreement is leading us into war”. When the European Parliament voted on this on the same day of Gill voted against the Agreement along with his UKIP colleagues.
On November 13th that same year he told MEPs in Brussels that the “EU-Moldova agreement risks deepening crisis in Ukraine”
On his website, on October 15th of this year, under the headline “Why Moldova should NOT join the EU” Gill writes “At the end of September 2018 I was invited to the Moldo-Russian Economic Forum held in Chisinau, Moldova. We discussed issues such as trade development, economic cooperation and membership of the European Union”.
This was the first such forum; next year’s event will take place in Moscow.
Whether unwittingly or otherwise, Gill is consistently echoing the Kremlin line precisely.
Now, with attention focussed on Putin’s "best friend in Ukraine", who should come to his defence but none other than Gill himself.
On October 23rd,  just days after the draft law calling for sanctions on the two Ukrainian TV channels, Gill was to table a written question to  the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Federica Mogherini. 
“The Ukrainian Parliament has voted in favour of sanctions against various news broadcasters, such as NewsOne TV and 112, which may now be forced to terminate their activities. Freedom of expression and freedom of the media are fundamental commitments of the Ukraine under the terms of the Association Agreement signed with the EU. How will the EU ensure that there is freedom of the press in the Ukraine and that the terms of the Association Agreement are honoured?”
Note that Gill is asking the EU to ensure that the terms of the Association Agreement, which he personally voted against, are honoured.  Astonishing hypocrisy, one might say. 
In tabling this question, which has no legislative value whatsoever, not to mention the answer, which will be written by a staff member in the European Commission’s Berlaymont headquarters in Brussels and will be of little interest to the world, Gill has, either unwittingly or otherwise, handed Zyagar’s “Kremlin's Men” a propaganda coup.
EU to consider issue of Ukrainian authorities' pressure on 112 Ukraine and NewsOne TV channels”, screamed the headline on the 112 website on October 24th. 
“Federica Mogherini will assess the actions of the Ukrainian Parliament in relation to free media in Ukraine” it continued to misinform its readers, courtesy of Gill’s naivety. Or otherwise.
Lobbyists from these channels - often posing as journalists or human rights activists - are known to be operating in Brussels trying to find support from European politicians claiming violations of freedom of speech and media persecution in Ukraine. It appears they are finding their targets. This is an issue the European institutions might better use their time addressing.

Sunday, 7 October 2018

Peggy Sue has passed away....

A long, long time ago.... as Don McLean sang....

Buddy Holly was working on a ballad that he could not quite get together: it was provisionally titled 'Cindy Lou'. He ran it past the band, and his drummer, Jerry 'Ivan' Allison, picked up on it straight away.

Jerry was courting a young lady by the name of Peggy Sue Gerron, and he felt that he might win her heart more easily if Buddy was to release the song under a different title. He also persuaded Buddy to make it a more up tempo rocker, and he added a frenetic drum back beat.

And so the song was released as 'Peggy Sue', and was to become one of the best selling records in Rock n Roll history.

Sadly, Peggy Sue passed away a few days ago at the age of 78, in her, and Buddy's, home town of Lubbock, Texas.

Her name will live forever, thanks to Buddy Holly.

Friday, 5 October 2018

The death of British comedy... Johnny English Strikes Out!

I love comedy. It is my great passion. I particularly love Jewish comedy (the best!) and the unashamedly 'naughty' British comedy of the 50s & 60s (think about Carry On movies and seaside postcards) and I have been totally unaffected by the disease of political correctness.

Tonight I watched the new Rowan Atkinson movie Johnny English Strikes Again.

Credit where credit is due, I think this is the first movie I have watched at a cinema where I haven't either fallen asleep or simply gotten bored and wandered out in about two years.

I did chuckle once or twice during the film, but to be honest just one hour after the end end of this screening I have no recollection of any single line in the script. Nor do I recall the plot, if indeed there was one.

Rowan Atkinson is one of our greatest comics, without doubt, but he deserves better material then this. 

Monday, 19 March 2018

Up Pompeii!

I remember when, whilst enduring Primary School, I first learned about the events of some 2000 years ago at Pompeii. This detail of ancient history really caught my imagination.

And so I was enthralled by the current Pompeii exhibition in Brussels, which I wholeheartedly recommend.

I am often critical about such expos in Belgium, as they have a tendency towards replicas. Replica dinosaur bones, replica terracotta warriors, replica governments, and so on. But this one really delivers.

More than 100 of the artefacts on display are from Pompeii, and how fascinating they are. I had the feeling that I could pick up any of these ancient relics and use them for their intended purpose; and so many of them are very personal - they were actually held and used on a daily basis by the men and women who perished so long ago.

The highlight for any political obsessive such as myself is what is believed to be the skull of Pliny the Elder. Displayed alongside a Gladio - the ancient Roman sword - found by his remains, this is a glimpse into the very beginning of classical European history.

The expo runs until April 15th.

Saturday, 24 February 2018

Sunday, 11 February 2018

Daily Mail: Leading The Race To The Bottom

I first realised that something was wrong in 2004 or 2005 when I picked up a copy of the Daily Mail and on the front page headline the word "marriage" was spelled incorrectly.

 Since then, I have noticed an accelerating decline in the use of the English language in all media. But it is not only a grammatical problem: this is from the Mail on Sunday today (11 Feb).

"Over the past century, photography has emerged as perhaps the most accessible and influential art form, allowing us to bear witness to some of our planet's most formative moments in recent time. 

Whether it be the the scenes of devastation on 9/11 or the aftermath of nuclear fallout in Vietnam, many of us are able to instantly recognise the most iconic and controversial photographs ever taken." 

Nuclear fallout in Vietnam?

Newspapers now appear to expect journalists to work for nothing. We have a saying "pay peanuts, and you get monkeys”.

Was there not a sub-editor in place to pick this up?

Well, I suspect that I know the answer to that. No, there wasn't. I wonder even if the typesetting (is it still called that now?) is outsourced to a country where English is not the native language, but labour is cheap.

It is not just the Daily Mail, of course. As a publisher myself I follow my competitors carefully. 

It may be that the Daily Mail simply reflects the academic level of its readership, which I think is quite likely the case. But that is no excuse for editorial incompetence and illiteracy.

Tuesday, 6 February 2018

John Mahoney Has Left The Building

I love comedy, and one of my great indulgences, when I have the time, is to watch Channel 4 on a weekday morning when 3 episodes of Frasier are screened over 90 minutes. It is my absolute favourite on every level. I am particularly fond of the episodes written by Christopher Lloyd.

And so I was saddened to learn this morning of the passing of John Mahoney, the English-born and highly esteemed actor who played the role of Martin Crane, Frasier's father. Like every character in the show, Martin was indispensable to every plot. This was the most beautifully written and played character.

Interestingly, Mahoney didn't even want to read for the part; he had bad experiences with tv sitcoms in the past. However, when he did read the first script he realised that this role would define his career.

I tend to analyse comedy somewhat, and the beauty of Frasier is that it rewards repeat viewings. There are episodes I have watched at least 3 times, and always I find something new. Funnily, when Frasier Crane first appeared as a character in Cheers I didn't like him at all. The character was somewhat out of place, and I found him an irritating distraction. I would now say that I would consider Frasier to sit alongside Fawlty Towers as one of the greatest comedy series of all time.

The dynamics between Martin, a disabled former police officer, and the other characters were just wonderful. His dog, Eddie, was a prop utilised to perfection. But what I have always enjoyed most of all is the relationship between Martin and his housekeeper, Daphne, played brilliantly by Jane Leeves.

An intensely private man - even his co-stars knew nothing of his personal life - he passed away in a Chicago hospice after a short illness. He will be much missed, but he will continue to make us laugh for decades to come.

Friday, 29 December 2017

Did Gerry Adams Set Up His Own Men For Ambush?

Irish Republican leader Gerry Adams was rumoured to have set up a notorious terrorist gang for ambush, according to newly released files from Irish National Archives.
Eight members of the Provisional IRA’s East Tyrone Brigade were shot dead in May 1987 after they loaded a 200lb bomb on to a stolen digger and smashed through the gates of police barracks in Loughgall, Co Armagh.
The resulting explosion destroyed half the building. The gang had also planned to murder three off-duty police officers who were due to leave the station at that time.
British Army Special Forces were lying in wait and killed them all: in terms of the number of terrorists neutralised this was the most successful operation of its kind to be carried out by the security services during ‘the Troubles’.
Declassified documents released through the National Archives in Dublin revealed that ballistic tests on weapons found on the dead were used in 40-50 murders.
Three civilian contractors had been murdered in the counties that year along with officers in the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) and the British Army's Ulster Defence Regiment (UDR).
The rumour about Mr Adams was passed on to Ireland's Department of Foreign Affairs by respected priest Fr Denis Faul about three months after the Loughgall operation, who had attended school in Dungannon with Padraig McKearney, one of the IRA gang, said the theory doing the rounds was that 'the IRA team were set up by Gerry Adams himself'.
Fr Faul, a school teacher and chaplain in Long Kesh prison, where terrorists were incarcerated during the Troubles, said the rumour was that two of the gang - Jim Lynagh, a councillor in Monaghan, and McKearney - 'had threatened to execute Adams shortly before the Loughgall event'.
It was being claimed that Lynagh and McKearney 'disliked Adams' political policy' and that they were leaning towards Republican Sinn Fein.
Three days after the operation, Irish Foreign Affairs Minister Brian Lenihan wrote to Northern Ireland Secretary of State Tom King urging him not to triumph over the killings.
Mr King wrote back over a week later and revealed: 'My advice is that that group had at least 40-50 murders to their score over the years.'
Notes from briefings by the British Government to Irish officials in London revealed the security forces claimed the IRA fired first; that the gun battle lasted two to three minutes; that the SAS fired 'no more rounds than were necessary' and that every IRA weapon had been fired.
This particular operation has long been associated with speculation about an informer having tipped off the RUC and British Army. 
The 1987 archives offer some indication as to why such suspicions might fall on Adams, generally accepted to have been head of the Army Council of the Provisional IRA.  Files also suggest that Adam privately believed the IRA's campaign would not succeed, and that terrorism was hampering his own personal ambitions and attempts to win support for the party at the ballot box.
The revelation was passed on to a diplomat by senior Catholic cleric Bishop Cahal Daly who commented on Mr Adams' 'deviousness and fundamental untrustworthiness’.
The report said: 'The Bishop has picked up a rumour that Gerry Adams is currently trying to put together a set of proposals which would enable the Provisional IRA to call a halt to their paramilitary campaign. 'He has reached the view that the 'armed struggle' is getting nowhere, that it has become a political liability to Sinn Fein both North and South and that, as long as it continues there is little chance that he will be able to realise his own political ambitions.' 
If the suggestions do in fact have a basis in fact, Adams would not be the first IRA leader to fall under suspicion. In July 2015, the Belfast Telegraph reported on claims made by a former British Army agent that Adams confidant and fellow IRA Army Council member Martin McGuinness was himself an informer with the codename ‘J118’.
McGuiness is believed to have fired the first shots, with a Thompson sub-machine gun, that sparked off violence at a demonstration in Londonderry on January 30th 1972 that led to 14 deaths.

Sunday, 5 November 2017

A Look Over A Phantom!

This is XV424 - "I-India" - a Phantom FGR2 of 56 squadron. I was rather pleased to take a look inside the cockpit recently, for the first time since 1983.

My responsibilities were few, and consisted of taking photographic equipment off the crew as soon as they landed, not a particularly demanding task, but an enjoyable one as I loved being around these aircraft, and in those days the noisier they were the better, which might go some way to explaining why my hearing is not quite what it should be. It was either that or all those Rockabilly gigs.....

The Phantom had a 16mm camera - the G90 - that basically filmed the aircraft's attack radar, allowing the crew to analyse their performance after an exercise, or occasionally, after a QRA intercept on a Russian aircraft over the North Sea.

QRA involved the use of a hand-held camera - a bulky but reliable 35mm Canon F1 - the film from which had to be processed (by hand) and printed (also by hand) very quickly. At weekends there would only be one of us on duty on the photo section, so it was quite an intense hour or so before getting two sets of prints - one for the squadron and one for JARIC (Joint Air Reconnaissance Intelligence Centre) - out as quickly as possible. The prints had to be of the highest quality.

It was a great joy to see the image appear in the developing tray - often the Russian aircrew could be seen waving at the camera - one of the better parts of the job in a section where, over the years, the avoidance of tiresome duties had been perfected to an art form. The only things that really did any work there were the old B&W TV set and the kettle.

The beauty of RAF Wattisham, however, was that we got heaps of overseas detachments that were never boring.

There were two Phantom squadrons at Wattisham, 23 being the second.

XV424 is now housed in a museum, just another part of the global conspiracy to make me feel old.

Tuesday, 26 September 2017

Tony Booth 1931-2017

I was saddened to learn today of the passing of an old acquaintance: the actor, comedian, and political activist, Tony Booth. 

He was 85 years old, not such a bad age, but had suffered from Alzheimers.

Our paths first crossed in 1975, if memory serves correct, in Leeming Road, Borehamwood. I was walking home from school, and he was taking a break from filming, and sheltering from the rain in a shop doorway. At that time he was famous for being Alf Garnett's son-in-law, the 'Randy Scouse Git', so I strolled over to wind him up. He told me to "fuck off home".

Tony's character was highly politicised, and reflected his own political views. He was, to put it bluntly, a Marxist-Leninist.

We maybe met half a dozen times, and it was always a great pleasure. I particularly enjoyed explaining to him in the Red Lion in Whitehall in the late 90's that the only half decent economic manifesto that his beloved Labour Party ever produced was the one written by Sir Oswald Mosley. He didn't take that so well - the Labour Party prefers to forget that the facist leader Mosley was once one of their MPs.

I once threw a firework at Tony, at a demo, again in Whitehall. I missed.... He told me to "fuck off" again.

The last time we met was when we both addressed the National Pensioners Convention, I believe in 2002. Bill Morris, the trade union leader, and Jack Jones - a former Communist Party commissar during the Spanish Civil War - were also on the bill. I was in seriously dodgy company that afternoon.

I think my speech went down well, but Tony gave a great one. Having taken his chair about 1 minute before he was due to speak, and despite being totally pissed, he got a standing ovation.

A lot of people suspected that Tony had a drink problem, but he would have strongly disagreed: for him it was no problem at all.

Tony will of course be best remembered for being the father-in-law of Tony Blair, something that will really piss him off. There was a love-hate relationship between the two.

There could not be two people more ideologically opposed than Tony Booth and myself, but he was a great character, and a lovely chap to be around. There are far too few people like Tony Booth in this world.

Rest In Peace, Tony.