The questionable tactics used by Scientology linked rehab firm on Irish drug addicts

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Originally published in the Sunday World, 01/04/2018

A controversial drug rehab firm linked to Scientology uses high-pressure sales tactics to get addicts to sign up to its £18,000 detox programme

Cult-linked Narconon, who plan to build a €5.6 million rehab centre in a small village in Co Meath, flew two staff members to Dublin within days of being contacted by our undercover reporter, who was posing as a drug-user looking for help.

In a special investigation, the Sunday World found how staff placed huge pressure on the self-confessed ‘addict’ to sign up to their controversial detoxification course.

They even advised our undercover reporter to get into debt using her credit card to pay for the expensive programme.

She was urged to immediately walk away from her job and partner during a meeting at a Dublin cafe.

She received a total of 54 texts and 11 phone calls in just 24 hours as they plied on the pressure for her to leave immediately for a UK facility.

The encounter came after our reporter contacted the organisation asking for help with a fictitious drug problem.

They were so keen to have her admitted they jetted over from England to escort her from Dublin.

She made contact with the facility after filling out an online form on its website.

Almost immediately she received an email from a staff member called Evan Perkins.

Within minutes of replying she received a text via WhatsApp where she was asked her age and her occupation.

Posing as a young marketing professional told him she was struggling with a daily cocaine and painkiller addiction.

Within ten minutes Mr Perkins, a former HR manager with Narconon’s Californian centre, called her.

After questioning her further about her professional and personal life, she was told she was “suitable” for the programme.

He explained how the detoxification process would begin “straight away”.

Due to Narconon not being fully set up in Ireland yet, she was told she would have to travel to the organisation’s UK clinic.

Set on four acres of countryside, the West Sussex mansion is called the ‘New life Detox Centre’.

There she would receive high doses of vitamins to help cleanse the drugs from her system, spend up to five hours a day in a sauna to “sweat” the cocaine from her body and receive mindfulness type therapy.

She would also complete a course on helping her remove “anti-social personalities” from her life.

When the three month detox plan was completed, she would receive career and life guidance a member of Narconon staff, for up to 18 months, she was told.

After expressing concern about telling family, friends and work colleagues about her addiction, she was advised that she could do so, via email if she wished, when she was admitted to the facility.

He also told her that a qualified doctor, connected to the organisation, would construct a sick note stating “whatever she wanted”. She could then post this to her employer.

“We could go down the line of mental health, or stress, if that was OK with you,” Mr Perkins said.

It was only when she asked about the cost of the treatment that she was told it came with an eye-watering £18,000 price tag.

“In any other treatment facility it would be £10,000 to £20,000 a month, but this is £18,000 for the 12 weeks,” he said. “As well as doing all the steps you get assigned someone from Narconon to help with your life and career for up to 18 months after you leave.”

She informed Mr Perkins she could not afford to pay for the treatment up front.

He then told her: “We will work out with you the best way that will work, you can put a down payment of some size and we can work out a way for you to get a loan or (credit) cards or whatever is comfortable for you, and the organisation, to pay it in a way that works.”

Mr Perkins added: “Our first priority is that we want to help you, the end game.

‘And I’ll just tell you frankly what my end game would be. To fly in (to Dublin) on Wednesday and fly (back) with you on Thursday.

“I can have the team on our end start preparing you a letter, if that will help. You should start putting the pieces in place to pretty much come right away.”

Our reporter met Mr Perkins on Wednesday afternoon at a Dublin city centre cafe.
He jetted in alongside another member of Narconon staff, to meet her.
His companion, an American woman, called herself Reggie.

It was during this bizarre meeting that both well dressed colleagues placed a considerable amount of pressure on her to leave the country and receive treatment.

She was also advised against telling her partner that she planned to leave Ireland.

“Once you are there you are going to get some stability, you are going to have some reality and then we can sit with you and go through it, and you can either do it by email or call,” Reggie said.

She then told her: “Don’t you think it would be better if you just called in to work now and said, I’m not feeling very well, I need to go home.

“It would actually be better. There’s so much stress right now, it would be better if you just stayed with us and worked out the finer details and then go back with us back on the plane. That would be the easiest thing.”

When she said she wanted time to think about joining the programme, and asked for some time alone, Reggie told her: “The problem is when you are by yourself then comes in lots of problems and the person then makes wrong decisions at that point.”

During the strange one hour meeting our reporter was also handed two packets of vitamin based capsules, which ingredients included magnesium and niacin – an organic compound heavily used in Scientology’s ‘purification’ programme.She was told to take them to help with the “stress and anxiety” of leaving Ireland to receive treatment.

When questioned whether it would be possible to take anti-depressants to help with her mood during her time at the clinic, she was told that she could not do so.

“Your depression will more or less disappear on the first day….the vitamins lift your mood massively,” Reggie said.

Before leaving the meeting she was again advised on obtaining credit, whilst in Narconon’s care, to pay for the treatment.

Later that afternoon she was bombarded with texts and calls from Mr Perkins.

In one text he said: “Please answer my call. It is not good for u to be in your head”.

She then informed Mr Perkins she had changed her mind about signing up to the programme.

He responded by sending further texts and attempting to contact her by phone.

In total she received 54 texts and 11 missed phone calls in 24 hours after the meeting.

Independent Dublin city councillor Christy Burke, who has helped hundreds of constituents obtain addiction treatment in the drug ravaged north inner city, said he was appalled at Narconon’s methods and claims at treating drug addicts.

He said: “This is not the way those suffering from drug addiction should be receiving treatment.

“Having helped many constituents obtain addiction services, it is clear what this organisation is saying goes against all medical advice, and almost going into dangerous territory.

“It just comes across as a shady cult.”

Speaking to the Sunday World ex-Scientologist John McGhee – who spent three years in the grip of the cult –  said he was not surprised by the tactics used by Narconon to recruit vulnerable people to the treatment programme.

The Offaly-based embalmer, who has been campaigning against the Ballivor proposed centre, said he believes the centre will be a “recruitment tool” for Scientology.

“They keep trying to distance themselves from Narconon but there is no distance, it is Scientology by another name,” he said.

“When I was involved I was regularly asked to give donations to Narconon.

“The programme that they put the addicts on, they put me on when I joined, and I’ve never done drugs.

“It’s like a purification rundown and it’s supposed to rid your body of residual toxins to get you on what they call the bridge to total freedom, which costs about €400,000 to complete

“But the first step is exactly the same as what they are trying to get addicts on, where they take the high doses of vitamins and go into the sauna.

“This programme offers no cure for anything. It’s all about money, nothing else. It offers no cure for anything.

“If it’s offered to a drug addict whose liver or immune system is compromised they could end up with permanent organ damage. It can even result in death, as has happened in the past.”

In 2012 three patients at Narconon’s chief facility in Oklahoma died within a nine month period.

The deaths resulted in a police investigation and authorities later revoked the centre’s permit for medical detoxification. Staff were also refused counselling certificates.

The addiction treatment – backed by movie stars Tom Cruise and John Travolta –  involves ingesting a high-dose cocktail of vitamins before cooking in a sauna for up to five hours and has been outlawed in the US state of Oklahoma.
In Ireland it has been dismissed by HSE experts and the Department of Heath, who said the treatment has “limited or no basis” in the science of human physiology and brain functioning.

 

However due to a lack of legislation the private facility is free to set up and run in Ireland without being monitored.

It was confirmed last month that Narconon would open a 34 bed facility in the remote Meath village of Ballivor on a proposed nursing home site.

The news came less than two months after 200 people took to the streets against the plans to turn the former national school site into a residential drug treatment centre.

Bosses of the US-born project have since claimed the centre bring will bring in €850,000 per year to the local community, on top of six full-time jobs.

However locals, business owners and politicians have fiercely vented their opposition to the new clinic, and voiced fears it could be a “recruiting ground” for Scientologists.
Last month Narconon officials defended plans for its Ballivor centre in an attempt to allay locals fears.

In an interview with the Meath Chronicle Janet Laveau, of the Church of Scinetology’s National Affairs Office, said: “What we would like to say is that Narconon is really dedicated to addressing the issue of drugs, offering a drug free withdrawal programme that restores people’s lives.

“It’s a safe programme and it is going to bring, I think, a significant benefit to the community both in terms of economic injection in to the area and with very stringent security measure in place so that it is a safe programme and enhances the environment.”

Speaking about the protests against what would be Narconon’s first Irish centre, she added: “I’ve never seen anything like this in my entire life. Never, I’ve been working with Narconon since the early 80s and I’ve never personally experienced anything but complete acceptance because the programme makes so much sense to people.”

Statement from Narconon on Sunday World investigation:

A 2017 study by the Health Research Board, reports the death rate from drug use in Ireland is triple that of other European countries—roughly 71 per million people per year. Studies also show that in Ireland two people die every day from street drugs. There are more Irish people dying of drug abuse than traffic accidents. “Replacement drugs”, originally intended to deal with the problem, are implicated in some of these deaths.
Narconon is a non-profit, non-religious, drug rehabilitation programme aimed at those looking to get off alcohol and drugs and helping them lead better lives. It is open to anyone without regard to religion or belief. Many Irish people have gone through the programme and lead drug free lives today thanks to the programme.
Narconon’s high level of care for the students on the programme and for the surrounding community is reflected in every aspect of its operation. Because the Narconon programme is entirely drug-free – it utilises and tolerates no drugs – students are assured a high level of safety and security, as are local residents.
Narconon’s around the world have put tens of thousands of people successfully through the programme. It has proven to be highly successful. The effectiveness of the Narconon programme and its positive impact on communities have earned broad support of civic and business leaders and government and law enforcement officials worldwide.
Narconon, meaning “no drugs”, is a drug-free residential programme that addresses the debilitating effects of drug and alcohol abuse and has helped tens of thousands internationally to start new lives, free from drugs. The programme consists of three phases; drug-free withdrawal, a detoxification component to help a person feel cleansed of drug residues and life-skills necessary to maintain a drug-free life and restore relationships with family and friends that often have been shattered by drug abuse.
Narconon centres have been saving lives for more than 50 years. The programme has proven results. The safety and effectiveness of its procedures is second to none. There are dozens of Narconon drug rehabilitation centres in 18 countries including the United Kingdom, United States, Mexico, Colombia, Russia, Italy, Egypt, Australia, Taiwan, Nepal and elsewhere.
The Narconon programme was developed from the woks in this area of L. Ron Hubbard, founder of the Scientology religion. Mr Hubbard was a humanitarian whose works include discoveries in the fields of education, morality as well as drug rehabilitation.   Wanting to help those thought lost to drug addiction, Mr Hubbard made his research and discoveries in the field of drug abuse broadly available. The result was the establishment of Narconon, a non-profit, drug rehabilitation programme. A person does not become a Scientologist by completing the programme. The programme is open to anyone without regard to religion or belief.
The Church of Scientology and individual Scientologists support Narconon as part of their social mission. Many Narconon facilities exist today because of generous contributions of time and money from Scientologists over the past decades. 

The RUC widow left with a collusion legacy

Published in the Sunday World (March 25, 2018)

IT’S been over 40 years since Rosemary Campbell was left a heartbroken widow.
But for the 84 year-old nothing has changed since the day her Catholic RUC husband was murdered by loyalist paramilitaries.
That’s because the grandmother has been left with a collusion legacy where walls of silence still exist, and an unwillingness to open the dark doors of the past remains intact.
No-one will tell the Co Antrim woman, left to bring up eight children on her own, that her husband’s death did not involve paramilitary-linked RUC colleagues.
Her long-held belief unshaken despite the lack of conclusive evidence made available to the Police Ombudsman, and more recently, being “let down” by the PSNI.
She told the Sunday World: “Three years ago PSNI Chief Constable George Hamilton visited me in my home.
“He had not read the file into Joseph’s murder and he said he wasn’t sure what else he could do for us.
“He said we’d got a trial, a Police Ombudsman’s report…then he suggested compensation.
“But as my daughter told him that day, the thing we really want no-one can give us – to hear Joseph voice again.
“My son did however give him some information on those involved, and he said he’d go straight back to the police headquarters, look into it and get back to him.
“We are still waiting. We feel completely let down.”
Last week the family were notified that 14 years after submitting a high court writ against the RUC over Sgt Campbell’s death, defence teams for the force have finally responded.
It is hoped the case will proceed this year, but the family say a time scale is currently unclear.
The Donegal-born Sergeant was shot dead as he locked up the gates of Cushendall RUC station in Co Antrim on February 25, 1977.
He’d previously served in Derry as well as Crossmaglen, where a Co Armagh nationalist MP launched a petition to keep him stationed after news he was to be moved.
The day after his murder a Church of Ireland minister broke down on TV as he paid tribute to the officer. He was admired by all sections of the community.
When he was gunned down it was first believed the 49 year-old had been murdered by the IRA.
But within days the murky truth of who was responsible began to emerge.
His son Joe said: “The reason my father was killed was because he was very good at his job. “He discovered something so sensitive that it led to the decision to kill him.
“But I am also confident that my father would not have been killed if he’d been of the Protestant faith.
“He knew that there were people in Special Branch in Ballymena working closely with the army and loyalist terrorists committing atrocities across south Derry and the north Antrim area.
“Key to that they were smuggling guns from our neighbouring parish in Waterfoot through Red Bay and they took the decision to kill him.
“A serial killer, Robin Jackson… was employed by, supported by and covered up for, by the security forces.”
Jackson was not only a member of the Mid-Ulster UVF, but also a member of the notorious Glenanne Gang and a Special Branch agent.
He is suspected of being involved in around 100 sectarian murders before his death in 1998.
Speaking at a Truth and Reconciliation Platform (TaRP) event held in Bellaghy, Co Derry last week, Joe told how he challenged Jackson face-to-face over his father’s murder.
Standing alongside other victims’ relatives and Troubles’ survivors including Stephen Travers, Alan McBride and Eugene Reavey, he said: “It didn’t end well. He didn’t admit to the killing.”
In 2014 a 11 year Police Ombudsman investigation into Sgt Campbell’s murder came to a conclusion.
It stated that the 49 year-old’s murder could have been prevented by senior RUC commanders.
The watchdog added that evidence of collusion could only be determined as “inconclusive”.
“I was briefed every few months in terms of the Ombudsman investigations,” said Joe.
“I was told Special Branch organised the murder by the Ombudsman, I was told there were systematic attempts at cover-up by hiding and destroying documents, a number of ex-RUC officers didn’t co-operate with the Ombudsman, there were many, many, many in senior positions who didn’t.
“Sir Kenneth Newman, who went on to head the Metropolitan Police, said he couldn’t remember the case. It was on his watch.
“Two other assistant chief constables refused to co-operate. One, the Ombudsman told me, that when investigators knocked on his door, he told them ‘f*** off’.”
The only conviction in the case, which was later quashed on appeal, was that of retired RUC Special Branch officer Charles McCormick.
He was convicted of charges including possession of explosives and firearms and armed robbery three years after the sergeant’s death.
A second man Anthony O’Doherty, originally from Portglenone in Co Antrim, was convicted of withholding information about the murder but later received a royal prerogative of mercy.
A republican, O’Doherty was recruited by McCormick to become a Special Branch informer.
Despite disappointment after disappointment, the family still hold out hope for justice, and the truth.
In 2014 the Attorney General ordered a fresh inquest into Sgt Campbell’s death.John Larkin made the call after being presented with fresh evidence by the family’s solicitor Fearghál Shiels.
Said Joe: “I’d say to the people out there looking for justice, don’t give up.
“It’s a hard road and the investigation took 11 years, concurrent to that we took out a writ against the RUC in 2004, they decided last week they are going to answer it.
“Meanwhile, we aren’t going to give up.”

ENDS

 

Bringing the horror of Ulster’s past into today’s classroom

 

By Patricia Devlin

POINTING at an image of his bandmates on an assembly hall screen, Stephen Travers asks a roomful of school pupils, ‘Can any of you identify the Protestants or the Catholics?’

It was a question no teacher would dare ask, but for the Miami Showband survivor it was part of an important lesson not being taught in today’s classroom – the horror of Ulster’s troubled past.

Some shook their heads, others sat in silence. All remained transfixed on the bass player’s harrowing words.

They heard about the bomb, how it prematurely ripped through the band’s bus before blowing the musicians off their feet.

They were told about the hail of bullets, how four of the band were shot at point blank range

And they learned how, as Stephen lay critically injured, he tried to whisper into the ear of his friend Fran O’Toole, unaware he’d just been shot 22 times in the face.

On Thursday 250 young people at St Louis Grammar School, Ballymena became the first in the province to hear Stephen’s story delivered in a school setting.

Three other men who also lost relatives in merciless attacks during the Troubles also spoke to students and staff about the devastating impact of paramilitary violence on their lives.

Eugene Reavey, who lost three brothers in a loyalist attack in their south Armagh home; Michael Gallagher whose only son Aodhan was killed in the Omagh bomb and Joe Campbell, whose RUC father was gunned down by loyalists, delivered heartbreaking testimonies to children as young as 12.

“You could have heard a pin drop when the stories were being told,” history and politics teacher Denise Johnston, who organised the event, told the Sunday World.

“I think they will take the stories they heard with them throughout their lives and in doing so seek out justice.

“Sometimes we shy away from talking to our young people about our past in an attempt to protect them from the full horror of it, but here in St Louis we believe that they are taught about past in variations,” Denise said.

“As part of our teaching of history and politics we want to give students the tools necessary to make informed decisions in the future.

“Our past is still our present in so many ways. The pupils fully engaged with the event.”

Stephen along with Eugene and the other relatives have been taking the Truth and Reconciliation Platform (TaRP) talks around Ireland for sometime.

But last week’s event was the first school they’d delivered their bomb and bullet legacy to.

Michael Gallagher spoke candidly about the day he lost son Aiden in the Real IRA’s 1998 Omagh bomb attack.

“One wee girl was very emotional,” he said. “In fact she left the hall but I was glad to see her come back again.

“The message certainly I was giving was we don’t want you to go through this pain and suffering, we want you to learn that there is a better way of resolving your disagreements and differences other than shooting and bombing. For me, that was the key message.

“And I do believe it should be part of the curriculum. The educationalists could put together something – that we probably would never totally agree on the narrative –  but yesterday I think listening to people’s person own experiences was absolutely invaluable.”

Stephen Travers, who watched three bandmates be murdered in the 1975 UVF Miami Showband massacre, agreed.

“Truth and Reconciliation Platform succeeds because it personalises the tragedy of violence by presenting a real, live link to the consequences of violence,” he said.

“The young people in Ballymena were able to identify and connect with the brother who lost his brothers, the father who lost his son, the son who lost his father and the friends who lost their friends; TaRP is a living history class.
“I certainly agree with Michael that it should be on the curriculum; for the past ten years, I’ve been inundated with requests to have my book be put on the curriculum and, perhaps, it’s time to seriously consider that.”

Two days after the event, the speakers are still getting inundated with messages of gratitude from the students they spoke to.

One wrote: “We heard things that we wouldn’t be able to read in a textbook or online.”

Another simply said: “They showed us how pointless the Troubles were and the true horror of these conflicts.”

ENDS

 

 

‘I know I am not the only one he has raped’ – woman left for dead after horror attack at 8 years old breaks silence

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Simone

aged 8

By Patricia Devlin

A WOMAN left for dead in a sickening sex attack when she was just eight years-old has broken her silence for the first time.
Brave Simone Cunnane from Newry, Co Down, has waived her right to anonymity to tell the Sunday World: “I know the identity of the stranger who raped me.”
The mum-of-two, 31, says she has now made a formal complaint to police, who are investigating her claims 24 years on.
The revelation comes after news a man in his 40s – also from the Newry area – was recently arrested in relation to the 1994 attempted murder.
In a child sex attack that shocked the nation, Simone was playing with a pal close to her Loanda Crescent home when a man lured her into nearby woodland.
He tied a rope around her neck, subjected her to a prolonged sex assault and then hung her from a tree.
The monster then hit her over the head with a brick and raped her as she lay unconscious.
Believing she was dead her attacker fled, leaving the bloodied youngster tied up and alone.
Miraculously she survived and broke free before raising the alarm.
Today she tells her story for the first time and reveals how she is helping other women who believe the same predator attacked them.
“This man was a stranger up until not that long ago,” she told the Sunday World in an exclusive interview.
“For legal reasons I can’t go into further detail about how I came to discover his identity, but I can say that I know he not only has attacked me but others as well.
“And that is why I am speaking out, because I want to help these women and tell them they aren’t alone, and there is help.”
Recounting the day she was attacked on June 10,1994, Simone told how she had been on her way to play football with a friend.
“It was a Friday around 4pm and we left my house to get sweets and made our way to the (Barcroft Community) centre.
“It wasn’t opened, we were about 10 minutes early so we sat outside close to some trees and this is when the man approached us.
“He was smiling and told us he’d lost his wee brother and that sometimes he played in the woods and would we help find him.
“I told him, ‘I’m not allowed in the woods’. But my other friend said sometimes he would play there, so stupidly he went with him.
“I went too and once he got us into the woods he told my friend to go in one direction and then told me that I had to follow him.
“He led me to an overgrowth area and we were sitting on a small muck pile when he reached into his pocket and took out this rope.
“It was tied like a noose and as he took it out he said, ‘my brother give me this before he left’.
“The next thing he had it around my neck and was tightening it. I was choking and I tried to pull it away with my fingers.
“Then I started to shout and he put his hand over my mouth, told me to shut up and that he had a knife.
“I begged him, ‘please, don’t do this’.
In the woodland, set within Daisy Hill Nursery, Simone was subjected to a relentless series of sex assaults.
“He did things to me and he made me do things to him,” she said.
“He then told me to stand up, he had the rope on me still, and he took me towards a tree where there was a bit of an embankment.
“With the rope that was on my neck, he tied the other part of it to a branch and pushed me off the embankment and I was swinging from the tree.
“As I was grabbing at my neck to try to get the rope off I could see him standing in front of me, smiling.
“At some point I must have went unconscious and the tree branch snapped. This is when he hit me on the back of the head with the brick.
“I have a scar on the back of my head still from it. I was told after that he raped me when I was lying there, unconscious.”
Simone woke up sometime later, covered in blood and mud.
“He must have pulled me back up and tied me to the tree,” she said.
“There was muck in my mouth, all over my face, and I was being sick, vomiting.
“There was blood all over me and I remember looking down and seeing all these knots – he had tied loads all over the rope. I was in a panic, I didn’t know if he was still there, or if he was still watching me.
“I was able to get my foot out and eventually I got free.”
The eight-year-old made her way through the woods and into the garden of a family home where a man was watering his flowers.
He spotted the distressed child and went to her rescue.
“I must have collapsed and when I woke he was lifting me up and I remember saying to him, ‘please don’t hurt me, too’.
“His wife wrapped a sheet around me and I can remember hearing them talking about taking me to hospital.”
It was around 7pm when a traumatised Simone was taken to Daisy Hill Hospital where doctors and nurses sprung into action and called police.
Her devastated parents, who were out looking for their daughter at the time, raced to her bedside.
Simone was examined and interviewed by police who took away her clothes and a number of items from the scene of the attack.
But despite a high profile investigation and numerous appeals over 23 years, no-one has been convicted of the despicable attack.
In February 2013, police re-opened the attempted murder investigation.
Detectives released two computer generated images of the suspect.
Last week a PSNI spokesman confirmed that a man on January 30, a man was arrested as part of the police investigation. He was released on police bail pending further enquiries.
Simone, who last week bravely returned to the scene of the attack, said: “I always did believe the person responsible was from the area.
He knew where he was going, it was pre-meditated as he had everything with him.
“What is disturbing is that since that day the man who attacked me has been walking the streets. I know I am not the only one he has attacked.”
Simone, who received support from sexual abuse counselling charity Nexus, has been contacted by numerous women who say they believe the evil predator also attacked them.
She is now now working with Women’s Aid and Nexus to run a support group for those women.
“I went to a lady called Fiona in the Newry Women’s Aid office and explained to her my story.
“I told her how there other girls had come forward to me believing they have been attacked by the same man.
“So we came up with the idea that these women, and anyone else who might come forward, can go to Women’s Aid and get support, and counselling with Nexus.
“Some of these people are ready to go to police and some are not. But the support is there for them,”
Anyone who wishes to make contact with the group can phone Fiona at Newry Women’s Aid on 028 3025 0765.
ENDS

‘I worked on vital negotiations that I believe have changed Ireland forever, and for good’ Martin McGuinness

Martin-McGuinness-007

Martin McGuinness

Martin McGuinness 1950 – 2017

News broke shortly after 7am today that Martin McGuinness, former IRA leader turned peacemaker, had passed away.

The 66-year-old Irish republican died after a short illness in Derry’s Altnagelvin hospital surrounded by his family. He had a rare genetic disease caused by deposits of abnormal protein – amyloid – in tissues and organs.

I had the opportunity to sit down with Martin McGuinness in 2013, weeks after he announced his decision to step down from his role as MP for Mid-Ulster.

At the time I was working for a local newspaper with a circulation of around seven – maybe even eight – thousand. It really served him very little to speak with me, however he made the time because he said he owed a lot to the people of South Derry and East Tyrone who he emphasised made it possible for him to become Deputy First Minister.

He invited me up to his office in Stormont and even though I had a strict 20 minute time slot, he continually pushed it back and made sure all my questions were answered.

He talked at length about his career, the peace process, Ian Paisley and the Queen, and at that time his hope of maintaining the powersharing government with Peter Robinson.

Unsurprisingly he said being central to the peace process negotiations was the highlight of his political life. And he acknowledged the huge significance his role played in making peace possible in the province.

“I was able to engage and work on vital negotiations that I believe have changed for the better the history of the north of Ireland and the island of Ireland forever and for good.”

Here is the interview in full (published in the Mid Ulster Mail on February 5, 2013).

 By Patricia Devlin

IT is unlikely there will ever be another MP who will enjoy a political career as colourful as that of Martin McGuinness’.

Elected in Mid-Ulster three years after the IRA ceasefire, and a year before the Good Friday Agreement, he has been at the helm of the Northern Ireland peace process for over 15 years.

He has negotiated with British Prime Ministers, gone into government with his most bitter enemy, and shook the hand of the Royal Monarch once considered a prime target for the paramilitary organisation he was Chief of Staff for.

On January 2nd this year, he signed off a letter to Chancellor George Osborne that signalled the end of an era for Mid-Ulster, and his career as MP.

“One of the most interesting elections I have ever fought was the very first election that I stood in, in Mid-Ulster. I have never forgotten it, and I never will,” he told the Mail.

“I remember travelling around every town land and trying to get to every single door, up very long lanes and canvassing to very late at night.

“Quite a percentage thought that the seat wasn’t winnable because it had been tried before, and because there had been narrow losses in the past, in other occasions there were very substantial losses because of the divided vote.

“And I had a real engagement with the people of the constituency, I told them, that I believe there was a change in political situation, that the IRA ceasefire in 1994 had changed the ball game completely, that I also believed there would be a change of government in London, that there would be a new government led by Tony Blair and Mo Mowlam.

“That in my view because we had done work with the Labour party that would represent a real opportunity to get a peace agreement and to the forefront of my mind was to be very, very conscious that all of the people of Mid-Ulster, no matter what their political persuasion or religious beliefs, had suffered from the conflict.

“And I was making a pledge to them that I was determined to bring that conflict to an end and so the people came out in huge numbers and I, against all the odds, won the seat by 1800 votes,” he said.

To Mid-Ulster and beyond

Taking the seat from the DUP’s Willie McCrea was seen as a huge victory for nationalists and republicans in the constituency, so much so that Mr McGuinness’’ election as seen as a catalyst for Sinn Fein sowing it’s roots across the province.

“It was clear to me from speaking to the people of Mid-Ulster that they were very tuned in.

“They were very political and they were very willing to seize the opportunity to make their contribution to the peace process, albeit it being a peace process in it’s very early stages.

“And I think that had a very dramatic impact on the peace process, it certainly had a dramatic impact on constituencies like West Tyrone where Pat Dorrity later emerged as MP, Fermanagh and South Tyrone where Michelle Gildernew emerged as the MP and Newry and Armagh where Conor Murphy emerged as the MP.

“I give credit to the people of Mid-Ulster for having accomplished that and by voting for me, then made it possible for people in other constituencies to recognise that voting for Sinn Fein could bring change, not just in terms of recognising the constituency but in terms of bringing peace which I believed at that time was a passionate objective of mine, but I also believed that it was passionate desire of the people of Mid-Ulster.”

Highlights

The Deputy First Minister says he is in no doubt at what the highlight of his time in Mid-Ulster has been.

“It has to be the success of the peace process,” he said.

“The peace process is considered as the most successful peace process in the world today and because I was elected by the people of Mid-Ulster as the MP, in 1997, within a month of that I led a Sinn Fein delegation to South Africa with other parties, Peter Robinson led the DUP delegation, David Trimble led the Ulster Unionists and Mark Durkan led the SDLP, where we met with Nelson Mandela and learned many important lessons about peace negotiations.

“I was then obviously entrusted by the party to be the chief negotiator in the Good Friday negotiations and obviously it was because the people of Mid-Ulster put me in such a prominent political position that I was able to engage and work on vital negotiations that I believe have changed for the better the history of the north of Ireland and the island of Ireland forever and for good.”

Ian Paisley

The challenges? The building of those personal, political relationships that have dominated the headlines since the powersharing agreement in 2007.

“Of course the first meeting between Ian Paisley was historically of huge importance, whenever it was certain that he and I were going to be First and Deputy First Minister.

“He said a very significant thing, which gave me an insight into Ian Paisley, he said ‘you know Martin, we can rule ourselves, we don’t need these people coming over from England, telling us what to do,’ and I immediately said to myself, ‘well that’s common ground that you and I can stand on’.

“So for a year I had a very good working relationship with Ian Paisley, albeit he was coming to the end of his time as leader of the DUP and First Minister, and of course people then described us as the ‘Chuckle Brothers’, christened that by a member of the Ulster Unionist party who thought it would demean us, in fact people liked it.”

The Queen

One of the most defining moments of those personal relationships happened in June 2012, just weeks after Martin McGuinness outlined his intention to step down from his MP role.

He says even at the height of his powersharing role with Ian Paisley, shaking the hand of Queen Elizabeth never entered his mind.

“Back in those days I never contemplated even taking a decision on shaking Queen Elizabeth’s hand, but when I did that, I took a very conscious decision to do it as an act of friendship to those who had an allegiance to her In the north of Ireland.

“I think that recognising that things are constantly changing and showing unionists what a United Ireland, or a reunified Ireland would look like I think it is important that we continue to make gestures that make people feel comfortable that moving forward in a shared way, particularly trying to develop an all island economy, is making economic sense for us both north and south.”

The future

Although standing down from Mid-Ulster as an MP, the Deputy First Minister says he will not be standing down from the constituency.

“Some people had that false impression,” he says. “Nothing could be further from the truth.”

“I will be as proud and honoured to continue on as a humble MLA for Mid-Ulster and as Deputy First Minister because I am very committed to the constituency and very committed to the people of South Derry and East Tyrone who have supported me through thick and thin over the course of the last 15 years.

“I have a great affinity with the people of South Derry and East Tyrone and I am very conscious that I would not be Deputy First Minister or even as many people describe it, joint First Minister, on the basis of equality with Peter Robinson, had it not been for the support I received from Mid-Ulster.”

Where is the missing suspect sketch in the Charles Self murder case?

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Charles Self

It’s been a week now since I contacted Gardai to ask for a response to allegations that the only sketch of a suspect in the brutal, unsolved murder of RTE set designer Charles Self has ‘went missing’ from detective files.

I was told by the press office that my query had been passed to the investigating officers and I would receive a response in ‘due course’.

I don’t know exactly what time frame ‘due course’ is in the books of An Garda Siochana, but given that it is coming up to the 35th anniversary of Charles’ horrific killing (which no one has even been arrested for) and the continued distress those close to him still feel at not only his loss but also the subsequent failure to find his killer, you’d think the gards would be keen to address such a serious claim quickly.

 

Hopefully this week I’ll be able to update both Charles’ friend Bill, who was shown the drawing in 1982, and others, with an official Gardai response to this serious allegation. In the meantime the story from last week’s Irish Daily Star is in full below.

By Patricia Devlin

THE only sketch of a suspect in the brutal murder of RTE man Charles Self has gone missing from garda files, it’s been claimed.

Bill Maher, a friend of the English-born set designer, says detectives have told him the drawing, given to gardai by a man present in the house the night he was killed, can’t be located.

Mr Maher, 60, said he was only told the news after repeated requests to see the artist’s sketch again over 30 years after the January 1982 killing.

“Gardai said they don’t have it, it can’t be located,” Mr Maher said last night. “They say there’s nothing recorded about it any statements given at the time. But I was shown it, as were a number of other people.

“It was drawn by Charles’ friend who was proud of how well he recalled the man’s face.”

The sketch was made by RTE man’s colleague Berty Tyrer, who’d stayed in Mr Self’s Monkstown home on the night he was killed.

He later told gardai how he’d returned and retired to bed at the Annesley Mews address before the 33 year-old returned from a night out.

During the early hours of the morning Berty said he was disturbed by a man who came into the bedroom where he was sleeping and said: “Sorry, wrong room,” and closed the door.

The next morning Mr Tyrer, who passed away in 1995, found Charles’ body lying in a pool of blood partly slumped against the front door.

He had been stabbed fourteen times and there were three slash wounds to his throat. A ligature had also been tied around his neck.

No-one has ever been convicted of Mr Self’s murder.

Mr Maher, who is the nephew of murdered Catholic priest Father Niall Molloy, says it was in the days following Charles’ death that gardai presented him with the sketch of a man with “curly black hair”.

I didn’t recognise him and that was the last time I saw the drawing,” he said.

When the cold case unit was set up some years later I mentioned the drawing to them, but they didn’t really want to talk about it then.

I was told over a year ago the case had been reverted back to Dun Laoghaire garda station and that they’d be in touch.

I didn’t hear from them again until around October/November time and I met with two detectives and I asked them again about the sketch.

I said if they were doing an appeal, why not use the sketch? It’s the obvious thing.

They rang me later to say that they had no record of the sketch and it’s not mentioned in my statement.

But I was interviewed within 24 hours of Charles’ murder, it wouldn’t have been shown to me then, they wouldn’t have had it.

They then said it could be in storage and they’d send someone to look for it.”

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Bill Maher

Mr Maher, who had met his friend for a drink the day before he was killed, was contacted again by detectives last week, ahead of a special Crimecall appeal set to be broadcast around the 35th anniversary of the murder.

I asked them what the story was about the sketch, and they said, ‘we don’t have it, and there’s no record in any statements’.

I told them name of the guy who had been dealing with at the time and to contact him, he would have been present at the time when I was shown it.

Then I met with them for the Crimecall piece and they said there’s no record of it. It’s very peculiar.

Either they have it, they don’t have it or they aren’t putting any effort into finding it.

It’s frustrating and it’s left me quite angry. It shows how appallingly Charles’ case has been handled.”

Gardai have yet to respond to various requests for comments over Mr Maher’s claims.

In 2008 the murder case was given priority by the Garda’s Serious Crime Review Team and Detective Sergeant Alan Bailey, who has since retired, was placed in charge of it.

He reviewed the case files and found that it was widely accepted at the time that Charles had been killed by a rent boy he had picked up in town and who had never been identified.

Mr Self had spent the earlier part of the night of January 20 that year drinking in known gay haunts in Dublin and was in celebratory mood having got a promotion in work.

He left Bartley Dunnes pub on South William Street at around 11.30pm and walked to a takeaway restaurant on Burgh Quay.

Shortly after midnight, he was seen in the vicinity of the public toilets on Burgh Quay by two different witnesses, but when he hailed a taxi on nearby Eden Quay he was in the company of a 25-year-old ‘fair haired’ male dressed in a two-piece suit.

A taxi driver later said the two became ‘amorous’ in the back of his cab before being dropped off at Mr Self’s home. Despite appeals, this man has never been identified.

His description is also very different to that of the man described by Mr Tyrer, who discovered his friend’s body.

ENDS

 

 

 

 

Don’t fund cruelty this Christmas

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One of the dogs rescued from Wilma Little’s Tyrone puppy farm

ONE of the longest running newspaper investigations I have ever carried out was one involving a Co Tyrone puppy farmer who was selling hundreds of sick and dying dogs to animal lovers across Ireland.

Co Tyrone woman Wilma Little posed under so many aliases, used so many phone numbers and managed to meet ‘customers’ in so many different locations across the province that it took our team a year to track her down.

By the time we were able to knock on the door of her plush, newly built two storied house armed with enough evidence to prove she was running a cruel battery farm, she had already made thousands from selling sick dogs – many who died within weeks of leaving her premises after being diagnosed with serious diseases.

This is what you are funding when you are buying puppies from internet selling sites.

If you really have to buy a dog this Christmas please, please, please do your research.

There are shelters across the north and south bursting at the brims with unwanted puppies and dogs who desperately need homes. There are also magnificent breeders across the country who will make sure the dog you are buying is the right one for you.

Thankfully following the publication of the below article, animal welfare officers stepped in and closed down Ms Little’s battery farm. She also appeared in court on a number of illegal breeding charges.

She may no longer be in operation, but there are hundreds more like her currently operating across the country. Watch out.

Puppy farmer exposed

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Wilma Little

This is the heartless puppy farmer selling sick and dying dogs to unsuspecting animal lovers across the province.

Sunday Life unmasks Wilma Little as one of the key players in the cruel money-grabbing trade.

In a year-long investigation into her secluded puppy mill on the outskirts of Dungannon, we can reveal how Little, who also uses the name Emma, has been making a fortune churning out ‘designer’ dogs like ‘jugs’ (a Jack Russell/pug cross) and ‘schoodles’ (a shih-tzu/poodle cross) and selling them on the internet.

Sunday Life also gained access to the squalid shed in Donaghmore where the 40-year-old keeps scores of different pups and dogs locked up in disease-ridden cages.

Our shocking undercover footage shows countless breeds caged together before they are sold on.

In a joint investigation with the the Ulster Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (USPCA), we can also reveal:

  • Little poses under five different identities to sell various breeds of designer dogs;
  • she is raking in thousands of pounds selling dogs for up to £300 a time;
  • she uses countless mobile numbers to advertise on the web; and
  • the USPCA has received hundreds of complaints about her Tyrone puppy farm in the last 18 months.

Sunday Life launched an undercover investigation into the illegal puppy farm last year after being contacted by a number of devastated dog owners who fell victim to Little.

VIRUS

Each bought a different breed of pup from her, and each was left heartbroken when the pets they brought home turned out to be seriously ill. Some were so sick, they had to be put to sleep.

Belfast woman Tracey Cousins, who bought two miniature Jack Russell pups, was left with a vet bill spiralling into hundreds of pounds after both dogs were found to be suffering from the parvo virus – a killer infection spread amongst dogs.

Just one of them survived.

Another dog sold by Little, a small shih-tzu male, had to receive treatment for urine burns to his legs and body – believed to have been caused by other dogs inside the farm shed.

Our undercover reporters called to Little’s Garvagh Road home after responding to one of her many online adverts.

This time she was selling a litter of brown and black maltese, shih-tzu cross pups, known as ‘mal-shis’.

When we arrived at her plush, two storied home, just a few miles from the quiet village of Donaghmore, she greeted us at the door with the tiny, male pup in her arms.

Selling it as a “loving pet” raised in a “family home”, Little , who at that time told our reporter her name was ‘Julie’, said: “It likes running about, and is very good with children as well.”

Little also paraded out a small black and white female shih-tzu, and claimed the female dog was the pup’s mother.

She said the small shih-tzu, around two years old, was a family pet, and that it was her first litter of pups.

When asked if we could see the father of the pup, she replied: “We don’t have the daddy, we got her covered. He was very healthy, very healthy now.”

She also handed our reporter a health card, apparently signed by a vet, with a sticker from a recent vaccination.

She said: “He has no problems – it went to the vet and got checked over.

“The vet looked over him and gave him his first injection, and he is due again on the 7th of June for another one. And he said it was a very healthy, very healthy wee pup.”

Pointing to a sticker on the small, white card which had the words ‘vaccination record’ across the front, she said: “That’s called parvo, and that is very, very important to get into the pups.

“Very, very important. Then that’s him fully vaccinated for a year.”

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HERNIA

We handed over £220 in cash to Little and we did not receive a receipt.

Our undercover team immediately took the animal to the USPCA’s Animal Hospital in Newry where he was examined by a senior vet.

And far from the clean bill of health allegedly given to it by the Co Tyrone woman’s vet, the tiny pup was found to have a list of medical problems.

“He has a large scrotal hernia on his side where you can actually push the contents of the hernia back up inside to the abdomen,” the USPCA’s senior vet told Sunday Life.

“That would be a pretty substantial congenital abnormality. That will require surgical correction.

“Also, you were told the pup was eight weeks old, well at that age they really have all of their teeth – he’s only got a couple of sets. The rest are still under the gum, so he’s probably a bit younger than what you were told.”

He will also require rehabilitative treatment due to behavioural problems – directly caused by being caged with other dogs since being born.

Examining the so-called vet card, handed over by Little, the USPCA vet said: “If your puppy takes sick tonight, who do you contact here? There’s just the name of the company that provide the drugs.

“The second thing is, the vaccine is signed by whoever this is. There really should be a vet stamp here.

“Also, If the puppy is eight weeks, the puppy should have had its first full vaccine and not just its parvo shot.

“We would usually do a parvo shot at six or seven weeks because we can’t give them a full vaccine at that stage.

“So I am little confused as to why it was given a parvo shot at eight weeks, when it could have just been started on the full vaccine.”

Earlier this month we returned to Little’s sprawling home where this time she was selling a litter of ‘schoodles’ – shih-tzu/ poodle cross pups.

FEAR

Appearing at the door of her sprawling country home with two small, white dogs – one male, one female – the puppy farmer told our reporter: “I had six of them and they are all very healthy pups, very healthy.”

She again paraded out the same female shih-tzu dog she brought out to our undercover team five months before, and again claimed that it was the mother of the litter of pups. Again, she also claimed it was the animal’s first litter, and that the female dog had been “covered” by a pal’s male poodle.

Despite both shivering in fear on the front door step of her home, she told our reporter the timid animals were “more used to children” than adults.

Pointing to the female pup, which sat timidly with its head on its paws, she said: “It doesn’t come near me, but it follows my wee girl everywhere. It’s more of a children’s dog.”

Claiming the dog had been “checked over” and vaccinated, she handed our reporter a health card – allegedly signed, stamped and dated by a vet.

She added:”They’ve been parvoed (received a parvo vaccination), wormed and ‘fleaed’.”

Again, we handed over £220 in cash to Little and then rushed the lethargic and distressed pup straight to the USPCA’s Animal Hospital in Newry, where staff were shocked at its condition.

Diagnosed with kennel cough – a serious respiratory infection in dogs – the tiny, white pup sold to our undercover reporter as a “very healthy” house pet, also had an infection in its nasal passage.

Terrified of human contact because it was only used to the presence of other dogs, the distressed animal also had urine burns on its tiny paws.

A senior USPCA vet also said the schoodle was “riddled with worms”.

But just an hour before, crafty Wilma Little told our undercover team a very different story.

COMPLAINTS

In fact the “friendly” dog had been suffering inside the battery farm shed close to lying Little’s Garvagh Road home.

Stephen Philpott from the USPCA said his charity has been inundated with complaints about Little.

He said: “In recent months, she has been by far the person who the public are complaining about the most. There are others, numerous others, but she is the one that is getting the most complaints.”

On Friday we confronted Little with the evidence we had gathered.

She admitted that she knew what she was doing was illegal, but said she was currently awaiting on a block licence from her local council.

“We did have a licence you see,” she said. “It went out of date and we had to do a couple of things, I’ve paid for it (a block licence), and we are just waiting for the dog people to come out.”

When told about the condition of the animals that Sunday Life bought from her, she replied: “Right.”

And when told we had spoken to other victims whose animals became seriously ill, she replied: “I don’t get many complaints because I tell the people, if anything goes wrong, give me a ring. I have said that to people.”

When asked why she uses so many different names, and telephone numbers to advertise the dogs, she replied: “My daughter puts them on (Gumtree) for me. You are only allowed to use two numbers, and that’s why.”

Sunday Life also asked how many dogs she had sold in a year, after saying that she had to “check the book”, she confirmed she currently had 40 dogs on her premises.

She added: “All our dogs are injected every single year. As I said, anything goes wrong with the pups, ring me and I’ll sort money back. No problem. No-one has came to me with complaints.”

We also asked her to show us around the shed where she admitted to breeding the dogs.

She declined, saying her husband “told me not to.”.

Little added: “I have nothing to hide, not a thing.”

Inside Little’s puppy farm

Howling through the bars of their urine-soaked cages, these are the designer dogs being sold off by a Co Tyrone puppy farmer as “beautiful house pets” reared in “a loving family home”.

But as our exclusive footage from inside Wilma Little’s puppy farm shows, nothing could be further from the truth.

Their beds consist of saw dust, and the only heat they have is the October sun shining through an opened wooden shed door.

It’s unlikely these animals have ever seen the inside of a cosy family home as Little makes out in her online ads, where she advertises pups for up to £300 a time.

Inside one small section of this shed, five cross breed pups are caged inside the one pen.

There are pugs, poodles and shih-tzus – all are unclean, and their fur is unkempt.

Next to them is a fully grown dog, who jumps into a plastic basket in fear as the footage is recorded.

Just inches away, two tiny Chihuahuas scurry into the corner, while a black and tan dog inside the same pen barks over the top of a steel panel, used to separate them from the other dogs. Next to them, is one small black and white terrier like dog.

ILLEGAL

She is on her own, so has the luxury of having her own bowl of water and food. The rest share in each pen, covered with a scattering of sawdust, probably caused by the dinner time rush.

These scenes are nothing like the pictures used by Wilma Little to sell these production line dogs.

In one advert, Little, who uses various mobile numbers and identities to avoid being detected as an illegal breeder, called one litter of shih-tzu crosses “balls of fluff” ready for their “loving homes”.

“This footage is just typical of the puppy farms I have seen,” USPCA boss Stephen Philpott said after seeing Sunday Life’s footage. “Par for the course.”

“We are getting these types of dogs into our animal hospital on a twice weekly basis, and countless complaints over the phone.

“Puppy farmers like Little will portray themselves as something completely different.

“They’ll use multiple phones, multiple numbers and this particular one that you have experienced will say they are from one part of the country when they are from another.

“They’ll misrepresent the dog, they will say it is something it is not. They will portray the dog to have health and veterinary work, when they haven’t.”

The USPCA Chief Executive added: “You see the lengths we go to here to control disease, and we don’t have anywhere near the amount of dogs these people have.

“There’s an endemic problem with these dogs, so many of them, coming from this address, are sick and someone needs to go and sort it out.

“For all the animal welfare people, we are asking them through your newspaper, who is going to sort this out?”

(Article originally appeared in Sunday Life in October 2014)