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IRA chiefs in Maze approved building escape tunnel ‘but wanted it to fail’

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A bizarre plan by the republican leadership in the Maze saw it approve an escape tunnel in 1997 that it wanted to fail.

When it was discovered by prison authorities, IRA commanders in the prison said they had allowed republican prisoners to become involved in planning and working on the tunnel but claimed it was a form of occupational therapy.

They said that had the tunnel been completed they would have taken steps to ensure that no prisoner escaped.

“The project would have had value as a form of occupational therapy to keep prisoners occupied and away from drugs,” recounted a member of the Northern Ireland Probation Board who spoke to republican inmates.

The IRA command structure in the prison was supportive of the peace process and did not want the tunnel to succeed amid fears it would allow “hard-line republican prisoners” who opposed the peace process to escape.

The account of the incident is included in secret State papers dating from 1991 to 1998 which are now being made public in Dublin.

In an internal memo, Seán Ó hUiginn, the head of the Anglo-Irish Secretariat in Belfast, described a conversation with Breidge Gadd of the Northern Ireland Probation Board in April 1997.

He wrote that Ms Gadd had criticised the “complacency of the British government’s reaction to the recent escape bid, arguing that this affair would have precipitated a major political furore and ministerial resignations in any other jurisdiction.

Not serious

At the same time, Ms Gadd believes, from recent contacts with inmates, that the work on this tunnel did not constitute a serious escape bid.

“Her understanding is that the work was approved by the Republican leadership in the Maze but that the latter, for various reasons, had no intention of allowing it to be completed.”

Another view of the Maze Prison. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire
Another view of the Maze Prison. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire

The communication points out that the republican leadership in the prison would have been well aware that escaping prisoners who were subsequently caught would be facing stiff additional tariffs at a time when their colleagues might be released under a new ceasefire.

“The Republican command, who support [Sinn Féin leader Gerry] Adams and the political wing of the movement, was worried about the involvement in the escape bid of a number of hard-line Republican prisoners who wish to see a full-scale return to IRA violence and who could have been expected to stir up trouble had they succeeded in escaping,” wrote Mr Ó hUiginn.

He added that Ms Gadd told him the republican leadership in the prison always intended to intervene “to halt the escape attempt shortly before the tunnel was finished”.

“They would also have been conscious, of course, of the propaganda value of even a failed escape bid.

“Whether they tipped off the prison authorities or merely allowed some detail to attract the latter’s attention is unimportant. One way or another, they were going to abort the operation.”

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High Court orders man to repay €30,000 awarded over fall on slippery tiles

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The High Court has ordered a man who fell on slippery tiles on the porch of his rented council home to pay back €30,000 he received in part compensation.

Mr Justice John Jordan also ordered solicitors who acted for Thomas Keegan (53) to repay €20,000 received in part payment of fees.

The judge made the order in relation to monies paid by Sligo County Council as a condition of being allowed to appeal a €105,000 award made by the High Court in 2017 to Mr Keegan over the accident at his home at McNeill Drive, Cranmore, Co Sligo.

Mr Keegan, who previously worked as a paver, had claimed the slippiness of the terracotta tiling originally installed in the porch, as well as the angle of the porch to face the prevailing wind and rain in Sligo, created a particular hazard.

In 2017, the court found the council was liable and there was no contributory negligence on Mr Keegan’s part.

However, the council was permitted to appeal on the basis of paying €50,000, including the monies to Mr Keegan’s solicitors on his behalf.

Failed to prove

The Court of Appeal (CoA) ordered a retrial and, earlier this month, Mr Justice Jordan found that the plaintiff had failed to prove the council was “in any way responsible” for the accident. He also found it “artificial” for Mr Keegan to suggest he was a visitor to his home, which he rented and occupied.

The case came back before Mr Justice Jordan on Friday for the matter of costs in relation to the second High Court hearing.

Peter Bland SC, for the council, argued his client was entitled to those costs but he had no objection to a stay in the event of another appeal to the CoA. He sought the repayment of the €30,000 for Mr Keegan and the €20,000 for his solicitors given the outcome had been overturned.

John Finlay SC, for Mr Keegan, said he could not oppose the costs order or an order for the return of the monies.

Mr Justice Jordan granted the council its costs for the retrial with the exception of one day’s costs related to the evidence of an expert introduced by the council “who made a difference” to the case.

It was unfortunate the council did not engage this expert at an initial stage in the case and Mr Keegan might have been spared all of this time and expense that followed, he said.

Difficulties

He also ordered the return of the monies paid out but noted that if the council had difficulties with that money being paid as a condition of it being allowed to appeal, it could have appealed that matter itself but it did not.

The court heard the accident occurred on November 18th, 2013, when Mr Keegan was returning home sometime after 5pm after visiting a number of pubs in which he had consumed five pints of Guinness.

He suffered a significant injury to his left ankle, with X-rays revealing a fracture to his left distal tibia and fibula.

The council did not argue the consumption of this level of drink was an act of contributory negligence but argued it as a factor in regard to Mr Keegan’s duty to take reasonable care for his own safety and in his conflicting accounts of how the accident occurred.

Having heard expert evidence, Mr Justice Jordan was satisfied the unglazed tiles did not pose a danger.

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Two fans sue Universal for $5 million for cutting Ana de Armas out of ‘Yesterday’ | USA

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There are risks to being an actor. A common one is what’s known in the industry as “winding up on the cutting room floor.” You get hired for a project, and based on the script you’ve read and the time that you spend on the set, you assume that you are one of the characters; that is, until the day the movie is released and you realize that your scenes have been cut out entirely.

In the case of the Cuban-Spanish actress Ana de Armas, who featured in the latest James Bond movie No Time to Die and is on an unstoppable path towards Hollywood stardom, it went further than that: she actually appeared in movie trailers advertising Yesterday, a 2019 film by the British director Danny Boyle in which actor Himesh Patel plays Jack Malik, a struggling singer-songwriter who wakes up after an accident into a world where nobody has heard of the Beatles or knows any of their songs, except himself.

Almost three years after Yesterday’s release, two fans of de Armas are suing Universal Pictures for cutting her scenes out of the final version, claiming the studio engaged in “false, deceptive and misleading advertising.”

Conor Woulfe, a 38-year-old resident of Maryland, and Peter Michael Rosza, 44, from California, rented Yesterday on Amazon Prime Video for $3.99 (€3,52). In their federal class action lawsuit, they claimed that they only rented it because they thought De Armas would be in the movie after watching the trailer. In the promotional material, she is depicted as Roxane, a character who becomes a love interest for Malik – that is, until the movie creators realized that this would draw attention away from the main love story between the songwriter and a character played by Lily James.

It is unclear whether the plaintiffs are as interested in De Armas as they may be in the $5 million (€4.5 million) they could take home if a court rules in their favor. The lawsuit states that the case is being brought “individually and on behalf of all others similarly situated.” It also claims that “by paying to view the falsely advertised movie,” the plaintiffs “suffered injury-in-fact and lost money.”

Regardless of the case’s chances, the story illustrates a US penchant for resolving disputes in court with astronomical figures in the balance, as a first step in the conversation.

The entertainment news website Variety, which first reported on the case, noted the resemblance with a 2011 case brought in Michigan by a movie viewer who was disappointed with Drive, by Nicolas Winding Refn, which she expected to be a “high-speed action driving film” but turned out to be a tortured drama about a solitary driver who finally finds the right girl.

Cutting actors out of final versions is nothing unusual. Terrence Malick, the director of Badlands and The Tree of Life, has a habit of hiring more stars than he will later need on the screen. Adrien Brody, for example, showed up for the premiere of the 1998 The Thin Red Line, convinced that he would be one of the main attractions – in the end, he only showed up in a few scenes. But the prize probably goes to To The Wonder, also by Malick: Rachel Weisz, Jessica Chastain, Michael Sheen, Amanda Peet, Barry Pepper and Michael Shannon all wound up on the cutting room floor.

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Beattie faces long road to redemption after offensive tweets emerge

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In The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, Robert Louis Stevenson’s Gothic tale, the civilised Jekyll, fascinated by the duality of his personality, manages to embody his evil side in the depraved Hyde, then finds he cannot control the transition between the two. Hyde runs amok. That’s Doug Beattie’s twitter account, firing out messages full of attitudes and prejudices that the Jekyll side of Beattie, the man attempting to modernise the Ulster Unionist Party, claims he never had.

Last Saturday, Beattie was all over the front pages with a beaming photo, the only party leader to get a good rating in the new opinion poll. He was in soaring form. “They couldn’t have picked a smugger picture,” he tweeted, with laugh-till-you-cry emojis. That night, still buoyant, he tweeted the now infamous joke that has led to him being sued by the Democratic Unionist Party’s former leader, Edwin Poots. It involved the wives of unionist party leaders, brothels and bodily odours, and many who read it recoiled, then told him it was awful.

Jekyll Beattie responded: ‘Awful, just awful… I’m ashamed… I can’t justify that… horrendous, horrific… I’ve no excuse…’

Beattie took it down, apologised, said he had not meant to cause offence. But the truffle hunters of twitter had a scent. Soon they had snuffled out a haul of Beattie tweets that paraded every offensive stereotype in the charge book. Most dated back to the years 2011-2014, when he was a British army captain in his 40s.

Most were meant to be funny but could only have amused sexists, racists or those indifferent to people not exactly like them. Some were salacious, though more 1960s Benny Hill creepy than 2018 Belfast rape trial nasty. They featured schoolgirls’ skirts, “hookers”, randy, drunken Gurkhas, and humourless feminists with hairy chins. Other tweets held forth on the inability of women, foreigners and people from minority ethnic groups to do things properly. Leave it to the white man.

The next photos of Beattie to appear were of a man humiliated and almost broken. In a statement, now pinned to his twitter feed, he acknowledged and apologised for misogyny, said he was ashamed and embarrassed, and vowed to do better. He embarked on a series of media interviews. He was alone. No press officers, no advisors. He told BBC Northern Ireland’s Stephen Nolan, “My confidence is gone.” But there was something strange about his penance. He was contrite, though he did keep trying to consign Hyde Beattie to history, even though he had sallied forth just last weekend. Nolan read out the tweets. Jekyll Beattie responded: “Awful, just awful… I’m ashamed… I can’t justify that… horrendous, horrific… I’ve no excuse…” But he also professed bewilderment: “I am not the person who was portrayed in those tweets… it’s not me… even ten years ago it is not who I was.” He was adamant that he was “no racist”.

Offence is not the worst outcome of misogyny and racism. These prejudices inform behaviours that cause real and profound harm

When Nolan offered his distraught interviewee the option of pleading post-traumatic stress given his military postings to war zones in Afghanistan and elsewhere, Beattie allowed that on returning from environments in which there was “toxic testosterone”, “you decompress, you desensitise”. He spoke of using “dark humour” which was not, he said, meant to cause offence. But offence is not the worst outcome of misogyny and racism. These prejudices inform behaviours that cause real and profound harm. A climate is created, and denied. It is disempowering. People have to waste energy fighting it, energy that others use to thrive.

Put Captain Beattie’s jokes in context. In 2009 a young black man joined the British army. He was awarded best recruit in his year and had high ambitions. But in 2013, after serving four years in Afghanistan, he quit. He had put up with a lot of “dark humour”, he said, but what started as banter had intensified into outright racism. Raising it with a superior officer made matters worse. “If you talked,” he said, “your career was screwed.” He was persuaded not to cite racial discrimination as his reason for leaving, and put down health reasons instead. In 2015 a young woman in the British navy reported a more senior officer for repeatedly groping her. She was ostracised and nothing was done. Another discovered in the course of leadership training that a male armoured commander would not take orders from her on the radio, “because I am a girl”. Women and black and minority ethnic personnel are under-represented in the British forces, and are repeatedly found to have been subjected to more bullying and harassment at work than white men.

On a BBC NI discussion last week the People Before Profit MLA Fiona Ferguson said that misogyny was institutionalised in Northern Ireland. It was rampant and faced by women on a daily basis. She mentioned bodily autonomy – the Ulster Unionist Party’s health minister continues to thwart implementation of the abortion law. She asked why women were consistently responsible for most caring roles, why they received lower pay than men. UUP veteran Chris McGimpsey said she was exaggerating. She accused him of mansplaining.

With 90 per cent of its MLAs men, it is no exaggeration to say the UUP is a male-dominated party. Beattie pointed to the work he has done to bring in progressive young women. In truth, he needs them to grow his party among those unionists who reject the hopelessly sexist and homophobic fundamentalism of the DUP. These women stood by him last week with more than the grim, stoical smiles of wives of public men who have done them wrong and been found out. But Beattie’s commitment to equality is also undermined on another front. He claims he supports the Belfast Agreement but refuses to declare whether or not he would work in an executive with a Sinn Féin first minister. Dr Jekyll has a lot of work to do.


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