Freedom of expression for all- why I joined the National Union of Jounalists

I read, with interest, Jim McDowell’s piece in the Sunday World this week musing about my recent decision to join the NUJ. 
  
Firstly, let me state that I am not a journalist; nor do I wish to be solely defined as a ‘blogger’ . I have long held the view that real journalists are those who work for publications and on traditional radio/television platforms. Real journalists are people who, for them, journalism is a career and pursuing the established principles of the profession is their foremost objective. 

‘Bloggers’ are people hopelessly devoted to that platform and who, quite often, believe themselves to be on a professional level with traditional journalists. I don’t for one minute put myself in that category. I am broadly speaking a ‘blogger’ at this point in time simply because it is an effective political tool and suits my purposes. If a better tool for publishing comes along I will use that as eagerly as I use ‘citizen journalism’, ‘blogging’ or ‘communications’. 

I am not impartial in the slightest. As I have already pointed out, most of my writings are done with a political agenda and purpose. 

Would I relentlessly pursue a story, in the purest form of journalism, if it damaged those on the same political page as me? Of course I wouldn’t! But then again, how many traditional journalists also allow their own views to seep into their pursuit of stories? That is not a criticism, but rather an appreciation that everyone has their own personal prejudices and views, rightly or wrongly. 

I decided to join the NUJ because, as I outlined, the tools I use in pursuit of my political aims, namely writing and blogging and publishing stories that I feel are in the public interest; fall under the membership rules of the Union. 

The NUJ rules state that “[t]he union shall consist of journalists, including photographers, creative artists working editorially in newspapers, magazines, books, broadcasting, public relations and information, and electronic media; as advertising and fashion photographers, advertising copywriters, editorial computer systems workers…”

I have written two books, occasionally written columns for established media outlets and also broke more stories, via my blog, than many mainstream media outlets. That means that membership of the NUJ is open to me. 

NUJ membership was also previously extended to Danny Morrison, the former Sinn Fein propagandist and editor of An Phoblacht. Danny’s writings for the republican movement were political propaganda to opponents, such as myself, but to supporters his writings and work were of important public interest. Whether one subscribes to the propaganda or public interest narrative; Danny’s work was carried out within the context of his right to freedom of expression. The key point here is that there are many competing narratives within the NUJ of what journalism, writing or communicating actually is. People join together not to support one and others work, or promote another’s agenda; but to support the wider principle of the right to freedom of expression. 

I view membership of the NUJ more as a means of protecting freedom of expression for all. Everyone should have the right to publish their writings and pursue- without fear- stories that are in the public interest. The ability to write and publish is available to almost everyone in the age of social media and digital platforms. 

Of course, there are both criminal law restrictions to freedom of expression and there are civil remedies for anyone libelled or defamed by another’s speech or writings.

This brings me on to another point Mr McDowell made in his column. He stated the following in the context of my blogging on the Nama scandal; 

“What he has put in the public domain- whether right or wrong- over the Nama affair would have the rest of us hacks hung out to dry by the courts by now.” 

And here lies the challenge for mainstream media. Would they have been “hung out to dry” for publishing much of what I put into the public domain over Nama? Quite often the mainstream media followed up my stories in the days afterwards. 

Anyone I named in regards to the Nama scandals, whether online or in my book, had a legal avenue for redress open to them. They chose not to pursue it. I say that is because what I said was true, and indeed the vast majority of what I alleged has been since independently verified. Others will say it is because there is no money in it for them; but I don’t accept that. Surely the core principle, in such a scenario as he Nama scandal, is about clearing your name? 

As we have seen recently in relation to Jim Wells; ‘bloggers’ and individuals can be pursued as readily as mainstream media outlets for what they publish. Digital contributors do not operate in a legal vacuum. 

I, by writing blogs, can throw caution to the wind in publishing public interest stories. I only have myself to account for; not an entire media organisation or fellow employees. I understand why some editors have to take a more cautious approach; but could this leave mainstream media constantly following up on ‘scoops’ that have already been published by individuals writing on digital platforms? 

Is there a challenge for mainstream media to push the boat out slightly, to resist the threat of legal action more often and go for it? Or would throwing such caution to the wind erode the professional standards of professional journalism? I don’t know, but I think it’s a relevant debate.

I try and maintain a level of professionalism in what I publish. I also, as a personal principle, always protect my sources of information at all costs. I do the former because the credibility of what I publish rests upon not publishing false stories, but rather factual stories that can be independently verified. I do the latter because in life, trust is everything. If I breach the trust of a single person that tells me something in confidence, then how could anyone ever trust me again? 

I consistently, whether I agree with their stories or not, argue that journalists and individuals have the right to publish their writings unhindered and without fear of threat, coercion or violence. Such publications can then be subject to challenges under the law if they can be proven to be false. All published works are also, quite rightly, open to critique and assessment in the court of public opinion. That’s a cornerstone of freedom of expression within a democracy. 

I support the principle of freedom of expression for everyone. I use broadly defined ‘journalistic’ tools within a political context. I publish many of my writings in the public domain. I, therefore, agree with the aims and objectives of the NUJ. That is why I am a member. 

Advertisements

Agents, Assets and False Flags- The true story of the intelligence failures behind the Omagh bomb 

  
MI5’s ‘hired gun’ informant, a CID handler moonlighting for MI5 and his asset Kevin Fulton. A potent mix. 

Unknown to Judge Smithwick, corroboration of Kevin Fulton’s testimony at the Dublin based tribunal, came from the man who had handled him at the time of the Omagh bomb, Alan Mains. 

Approaching 18 years on from the dreadful bombing, the families of Omagh are still denied truth and justice. Despite relentless campaigning and a landmark civil case, those responsible have still not been made to pay for their vile acts on that day. 

Approximately one year ago, I named Omagh bomber Colm Murphy as a state agent. I have been told that rather than being a ‘tout’, Murphy was more of a ‘hired gun’ for MI5. 

Mr Murphy is also the owner of a ‘palm print’ recovered from the Kingsmill massacre, and yet neither the HET nor the PSNI’s legacy branch have yet arrested the Co Louth republican. 

Also on Murphy’s terrorist CV is involvement in the murders of RUC officers Harry Breen and Bob Buchanan in Dundalk, 1989. Murphy was the gunman that inexplicably opened fire on the officers, despite the PIRA operation being designed to kidnap and interrogate the RUC officers. 

When asked during the Smithwick tribunal why the PIRA opened fire, if the plan was to kidnap and interrogate the officers, the IRA representatives- one of whom was IRA killer Sean ‘the Surgeon’ Hughes- became flustered and asked for a recess. They were unable to provide any satisfactory answer to that question. 

It is now known that Murphy was ordered to open fire by his MI5 handlers in order to protect another agent at the heart of the Loughall ambush, as well as the British security force’s “jewel in the crown”- Freddie Scappaticci. 

During the Dublin based tribunal two individuals give similar accounts- which couldn’t be verified-, all focusing on Owen Corrigan, who was- incidentally- actually passing low level information to the PIRA. On the day of the murders, however, Corrigan was not the informant that set up the two RUC officers. 

Alan Mains- a CID officer that moonlighted for MI5- and Kevin Fulton, corroborated each others stories.

It can now be revealed here for the first time; Judge Smithwick was unaware that far from being unconnected witnesses, Alan Mains had handled Fulton on behalf of CID from 1996 until 2000. 

Alan Mains had been jointly handling Kevin Fulton at the time of his role in a high profile fraud case. Luigi Marotta, 64, was sentenced to five years in jail in 2000 for conspiracy to defraud the Londonderry-based St Brendan’s Liqueur Company.

Mr Marotta’s conviction was later overturned in 2013 amidst allegations that Kevin Fulton had been used to entrap the Italian businessman. This case, according to a former RUC detective, is one of the reasons Mains took early retirement in 2007. 

Following the Omagh bomb Kevin Fulton claimed- correctly- that he had passed intelligence, that could have possibly prevented the bomb, to his CID handlers. At this time Fulton was being handled by Alan Mains, as well as being in contact with MI5. As previously revealed, Alan Mains was also an MI5 link man and asset from the 1980’s. 

After Fulton had publicly revealed he had passed on this information, he was branded a “Walter Mitty” by then RUC Chief Constable, Sir Ronnie Flanagan.

 One retired former senior cop described Flanagan’s  intervention as a “blatant attempt” to cover the back of Alan Mains. Flanagan and Mains remain close friends. 

MI5 had three assets close to the Omagh bombing team. One was Colm Murphy who was working strictly for MI5, the second is widely known to be Dave Rupert who also worked jointly with the FBI and finally MI5 remained in sporadic contact with Kevin Fulton- despite the fact he was being primarily used by Alan Mains and CID on smuggling and fraud cases. 

The information provided by Fulton to his CID handler, Alan Mains, fingered prominent republican Mooch Blair and claimed Blair was mixing explosives in the days prior to the attack. 

MI5 had instructed Colm Murphy to provide mobile telephones to the bombing team in order that they could track their movements. 

It is understood that MI5 were attempting to track the bomb with a GPRS signal from one of the mobile phones. It is claimed that the car being monitored was not, in itself, bugged, but rather the intelligence services were tracking the mobile telephone being carried inside it. 

It is claimed, by another source close to the Omagh investigation- who alleges that the investigation was hampered- that MI5 had planned to let a bomb get through in order to protect ‘assets’ and discredit the RIRA, but did not intend Omagh to be the target, or for the bomb to actually go off. 

This retired RUC officer claims MI5 ‘cocked up’ and then attempted to shift the blame onto the RUC for a failure to properly disseminate intelligence. The officer said; 

 “MI5 cocked up, they wanted to let the bomb through initially and then intercept it in an area where it would have caused big damage had it went off, but there was an intelligence gap and it ended up going off in Omagh with tragic consequences. 

” The bit about them not wanting the bomb to go off is my interpretation of it, because I just could not fathom or comprehend the awful alternative; that MI5 always planned to allow the bomb to go off. 

” I remind myself of the mobile telephones. If MI5 had of just wanted the bombing to proceed unhampered, then why would they have risked Colm Murphy being exposed by providing the mobile phones that they could track?”

The senior officer, who once worked on a high level policing and security joint intelligence task force, further gave some insight into the involvement of Kevin Fulton. 

” Ronnie (Flanagan) was furious when Fulton, assisted by Mains I suspect, tried to blame the RUC. He done this on behalf of MI5, of that there is no doubt. It was a diversion.” 

He continued “Ronnie (Flanagan) hit the roof with Mains, but Mains put all the blame onto Fulton and Ronnie went out in the media and called Fulton a ‘Walter Mitty’ to try and cover Mainsey’s back. He had to backtrack shortly afterwards.” 

It is also claimed that there was security ‘tension’ between MI5 and the Garda following the charging of Colm Murphy for a role in the attack. 

In February 2016 the British Government made an application for a landmark closed hearing- on grounds of National Security- as part of a judicial review application by Michael Gallagher, the father of one of the victims of the Omagh bombing. 

The identity of one British intelligence asset involved in the Omagh bombing, Dave Rupert, is already known. He was a FBI/MI5 agent who had infiltrated the RIRA. 

It is also known that the Garda had an informant within the ranks of the RIRA, Paddy Dixon. 

It is also accepted that Kevin Fulton, whilst not being involved in the bombing team, was providing terrorist related intelligence to his CID handler and remained in contact with MI5. There are questions, and criticisms, over how the terrorist related intelligence being provided to CID was disseminated. 

It is the third British intelligence informer within the RIRA that the closed hearing is designed to protect. This man is ‘palm print’ killer and life long terrorist Colm Murphy, a Co Louth republican working for MI5 from 1986. 

Kevin Fulton remains a MI5 asset. He has secretly recorded compromising conversations with former CID and Customs officers in his flat in London. 

The former senior RUC man says of him; 

“When MI5 need misinformation spread, when they need a counter narrative, they always have Kevin Fulton and (Alan) Mains, just like in the Smithwick tribunal, is there to corroborate it. 

” Fulton has also been known to disseminate dodgy files to politicians, sending them on a false trail. These are MI5 inspired lies designed to build a smokescreen around the truth.  

“Kingsmill, Omagh, Smithwick. Who provided the false flags and why? Colm Murphy was involved in all three, and there lies the key to the dirtiest and filthiest secret.”

Colm Murphy remains at large, operating a public house in Dundalk. He has yet to be arrested on the basis of his palm print. 

The families of Omagh are, to this very day, starved of truth, and justice. As is so often the case with the so called peace ‘process’- the victims are sacrificed for the warped definition of the ‘greater good’. 

Politics and football shouldn’t mix- Why the Milk Cup must resist calls to drop the National anthem 

In Monday’s Irish News a Co Antrim mother called for the removal of the British National anthem from the Milk Cup (SuperCup NI) opening ceremony. 

This parent stated that her son felt “unwanted” by virtue of the fact that the anthem is played at the opening ceremony. 

Sport and politics should always be separate. I played in the Milk Cup myself circa 11 years ago. I found the tournament to be genuinely cross community, multicultural and multi national. Nationalists from Short Strand played alongside me and we got on the very best and developed lasting friendships. 

I am quite sure that the organisers would not wish to make anyone, regardless of their political persuasion or status, feel unwelcome at the Milk Cup. To exclude anyone based on their politics, religion or nationality would run contrary to the ethos of the tournament and furthermore would cast a dark shadow over Northern Ireland football in general. 

It is disappointing that the Milk Cup has been drawn into a political debate and now finds itself in an almost impossible situation, stuck between the two traditions in Northern Ireland. 

In my personal opinion the calls for the removal of the anthem is little more than a contrived and malicious political agenda. Many of the online arguments made by Nationalists on this subject contained a familiar theme- that the Belfast agreement provides for dual nationality and their Irish identity should be held in parity with those of us who identify as British. 

This argument purposefully uses the ambiguous language of the Belfast agreement to conflate national identity with national sovereignty and territory. The right to dual nationality, copper fastened by section 1 of the Northern Ireland Act 1998, does not have any bearing upon the constitutional status of Northern Ireland. 

Therefore due to the principle of consent- agreed to by the majority of Nationalists- Northern Ireland remains an integral part of the United Kingdom. The right to dual nationality does not alter this. In this regard God Save the Queen remains the national anthem of Northern Ireland and the Union flag remains the sovereign flag. 

Some made the argument that the Irish anthem should also be played due to the dual nationality principle contained in the Belfast agreement. This fundamentally misunderstands the architecture of the agreement- which, ironically, I oppose- because to conflate dual nationality with national sovereignty and the constitutional position of Northern Ireland, would actually undermine the principle of consent. The Irish anthem belongs to a foreign jurisdiction and has no more status than the Polish, American or Turkish anthem. 

This does not not stop Nationalists self identifying as Irish or British or both, nor does it stop all citizens- regardless of how they identify- being treated equally. 

In short, it is sad that football- especially as the Northern Ireland team have had such a successful Euro 2016- would be reduced to petty politics. Sport should always be free from politics. 

Dropping the national anthem would be a capitulation to such malicious politicking and cause gross offence to the majority of people within Northern Ireland.