report in todays Andersonstown News has
angered and alarmed Marian Price, the chairperson
of the Irish Republican Prisoners Welfare Association.
According to the West Belfast paper, The Fiddlers
Inn on Kennedy Way had to close up shop on Saturday
night after a bad tempered run-in with a dissident
republican group. Eugene Hughes, the owner of
the premises said that the origins of the conflict
lay in a double booking. Claiming to have been faced
with a function organised by the IRPWA on behalf of
republican prisoners clashing with a 21st birthday,
Mr Hughes stated that management had decided to give
preference to the birthday bash. He expressed reservations
about the hall being hired out to what he alleged
was the 32 County Sovereignty Movement. The Andersonstown
News in its report stated that this group has
close links to the Real IRA.
Hughes went on to say that when this was explained
to the function organisers they became aggressive
and said they would be arriving on the night to use
the hall - regardless of what the management said.
He further alleged that his company had no objection
to republican prisoners: we support all republican
prisoners, and offered to make a donation of 700
pound towards the prisoners fund.
Fein councillor Paul Maskey, in expressing support
for the management of the Fiddlers asserted that the
32 County Sovereignty Movement must realise
that they cannot intimidate people for their own needs.
Oddly enough when quoting him, the Andersonstown
News refrained from using language similar to
that used for the 32 County Sovereignty Movement.
Nowhere was it suggested that his party has close
links to the Provisional IRA.
asked to respond to the allegations by Eugene Hughes
and Paul Maskey, Marian Price was unequivocal in her
rejection of the claims. She was emphatic that the
hall had been hired out by herself. The owners of
the premises knew her identity and areas of West Belfast
had been postered advertising the event. On the Thursday
prior to the function taking place Ms Price claims
to have been informed by the management that the booking
was sound and would be honoured.
Price claimed that on Saturday afternoon, only hours
before the function was to take place, she was summoned
to the Fiddlers as there was a problem with the booking.
When she arrived she was confronted by a man who introduced
himself as John Trainor. Mr Trainor explained that
for the past six weeks he had been employed as a general
manager of the Hughes business concern and in that
capacity allegedly told Ms Price the bottom
line is your function is not going ahead, the 21st
birthday party is. According to Marian Price,
John Trainor stated that he would place bouncers on
the premises to ensure that the function would not
occur, underlining his point by asking, how
many times do I have to go around the garden to get
this into your thick head? While the IRPWA chairperson
took this as a threat, she did state that when she
challenged him about her safety if she were to appear
Mr Trainor stated that it would be guaranteed.
Price, who found her antagonist aggressive and
arrogant argues that John Trainor should
know better. He was a republican prisoner once himself
and why he has taken it upon himself to sabotage fundraising
events for other republican prisoners is beyond me.
And that he should then scuttle off down to Clonard
Monastery telling a priest a whole spoof story about
being intimidated by me is laughable.
disputed is Eugene Hughes version of events.
No stranger to confrontation with republican groups,
Mr Hughes a number of years ago made a complaint to
Sinn Fein that the Provisional IRA had burned one
of his pubs because his was posing competition to
one of their social clubs. He also alleged to have
been threatened by the group on a number of occasions.
Marian Price claims that she spoke on the phone to
Eugene Hughes during the afternoon altercation in
the Fiddlers. She claims that he was in a highly agitated
state, at one point shouting down the line,I
am answerable to bigger groups on this road than your
own. If its money you want Ill give you
money. She says that she immediately made it
clear to Mr Hughes that no money was being sought
from him. When asked if his real problem was the fact
that it was a prisoners function rather than
a birthday bash clashing he is said to have answered
yes. Marian Price is adamant that at no
time was she aggressive or were threats issued. What
purpose would that serve? I have no authority or desire
to threaten anyone.
repeated attempts by The Blanket to contact
Mr Hughes, both at one of his premises and through
his mobile phone, the journal has been unable to reach
him. Marian Price claims that she feels the Andersonstown
News has used the issue to pursue a vendetta against
the Irish Republican Prisoners Welfare Association
and the 32 County Sovereignty Movement. She can readily
point to evidence of vendettas waged against other
parties by one of the papers editors, which
on one occasion resulted in an out of court settlement
and in the other massive public ridicule being poured
on the paper. She remains adamant that at no point
were the 32 County Sovereignty Movement involved nor
were they mentioned until todays report. She
contends that she has left her contact details with
one of the editors at the paper who can catch
her at any time to verify a story. She is insistent
that no effort was made to acquire her side of the
Marian Price feels that a set up of some sort is taking
place. She wants to make her position quite clear
as a matter of public record before anything develops.
suspect that there is the possibility of an insurance
scam under way here. And Eugene Hughes and John Trainor
need to consider that they could become unwittingly
implicated in such a sordid business. Anybody could
use the adverse publicity generated by this incident
for their own ends and destroy the pub, feeling that
it is a safe bet as so called dissident republicans
will have the finger pointed at them. Let me assure
the people of West Belfast and beyond that while certain
people have over the years been involved in many insurance
scams, they do not belong to the Irish Republican
Prisoners Welfare Association or the 32 County Sovereignty
Movement. Mr Hughes made it quite clear that the problem
was the fact that the function was a fundraiser for
Republican Prisoners. Once we had established the
true reasons for the cancellation, we considered the
matter closed. Our only aim was to have fundraiser,
not to put any business in a position they did not
want to be in. If Mr Hughes felt under threat, it
certainly was not from us.'
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