Feature: Review of the Year 2003
In January, only 48 hours into the new year, the ongoing
loyalist feud claimed another victim, Roy Green. The associate
of ousted UDA leader Johnny Adair was gunned down as he left a
bar in south Belfast.
The annual release of government documents under the
30-years-rule dominated the news. They revealed how Sinn Fein
President Gerry Adams was involved in talks with the British
government as far back as 1972.
As the loyalist feud escalated, Johnny Adair was put back
behind bars by British Secretary of State Paul Murphy, who
revoked his early release licence for the second time.
But that did not prevent the murders in February of UDA
'brigadier' John Gregg and fellow UDA man Robert Carson,
gunned down as they sat in a taxi in Belfast.
In a dramatic twist, the family of Johnny Adair and his
remaining supporters fled the Lower Shankill to seek sanctuary
Republican dissidents admitted responsibility for an attempted
bombing of Laganside courthouse. The device failed to go off.
Two high-profile court cases were brought to an end in March.
Former loyalist "supergrass" Clifford McKeown was found guilty
of the vicious sectarian killing in 1996 of Catholic taxi
driver Michael McGoldrick.
Hopes were high for a breakthrough in the peace process as
Tony Blair and Bertie Ahern met for talks. However that
optimism proved ill-founded and assembly elections were
postponed - for the first time.
Sinn Fein held its Ard Fheis at the end of the month. Gerry
Adams told the crowd that he could envisage "a future without
US President George Bush made a surprise visit to Ireland in
April and was greeted with anti-war protests.
John Stevens's eagerly awaited report into collusion was
published. He concluded that there was collusion between
elements of the RUC Special Branch and British Army and
Former British agent Brian Nelson was reported to have died in
mysterious circumstances. For the last twelve years, Nelson
was at the centre of allegations that British forces had
directed and colluded with loyalist paramilitaries.
Chances of a political deal faded further in May, with Sinn
Fein declaring that "the paper chase is over", and the British
government postponing the elections indefinitely as the peace
process entered a new period of uncertainty.
Newspapers identified alleged IRA double agent 'Stakeknife' as
west Belfast man Freddie Scappaticci. He denies the claims.
The father of Armagh man Gareth O'Connor blamed the IRA for
the disappearance of his 24-year-old son.
Self-confessed UDA killer Ken Barrett was charged with the
murder of Catholic solicitor Pat Finucane.
Alex Maskey's reign as Mayor of Belfast ended in June, and was
replaced by SDLP councillor Martin Morgan.
A massive 1200lb bomb constructed by republican dissidents was
intercepted in the Derry area.
The body of Alan McCullough, a 21-year-old loyalist, was found
by workmen in Mallusk. The UDA admitted responsibility for his
David Trimble saw off another challenge from anti-agreement
unionist Jeffrey Donaldson. Mr Trimble won by 56 per cent of
the vote in a head-to-head battle with his Lagan Valley
Trouble flared at a notorious interface in north Belfast
during an Orange Order parade. A tense stand-off developed
between marchers and residents, sparking fears for the coming
But it was a relatively quiet July, with litte trouble on the
Sinn Fein former Lord Mayor Alex Maskey slammed DUP leader Ian
Paisley's calls for the IRA to disband as "farcical".
'Real IRA' leader Michael McKevitt was convicted of directing
terrorism. He was sentenced to 20 years in prison.
Danny McGurk was shot dead at his west Belfast home in an
attack blamed on a dispute with dissident republicans.
The body of 'disappeared' woman Jean McConville was found
after a dig in County Louth. The family of the woman, killed
by the IRA, simply said their wish was now to "bury our mother
Pupils and staff at a north Belfast school were left shocked
after a terrifying sectarian attack. Loyalists torched staff
cars at Our Lady of Mercy girls school in the loyalist
Catholic priest Fr Dan Whyte, left, received a death threat
from loyalists on the eve of Cemetery Sunday. Fr Whyte, parish
priest of St Mary On The Hill in Glengormley, said he refused
to be intimidated.
Three members of District Policing Boards in the north
resigned after the 'Real IRA' threatened all DPP members as
Hopes of a major breakthrough in the peace process were dashed
after the dramatic collapse of a highly choreographed sequence
of political movements.
First, fresh assembly elections were called. Then Sinn Fein
leader Gerry Adams came close to a declaration that the 'war
is over'. Then the IRA carried out its largest act so far of
decommissioning, in an verified by the IICD arms body. But UUP
leader David Trimble delcmared he was not satisified with the
'transparency' of the arms move, and brought the sequence to a
halt. He refused to give his support to a return to power
sharing. The Irish and British governments then refused to
make promised moves on the full implementation of the 1998
Good Friday Agreement.
However the Assembly election was finally alloweed to proceed,
and so a downbeat campaign got underway. A lowlight occurred
when leading members of the DUP and UUP got into a public
slanging match in Donegall Street.
The DUP emerged from the assembly elections as the largest
party, winning 30 seats. The UUP held their ground at 27 seats
while on the other side of the house Sinn Fein increased their
representation from 18 to 24. The SDLP were the big losers,
dropping six seats to finish with 18. Hopes for progress were
put on hold.
The Alliance Party held their six seats while David Ervine was
the sole PUP representative. Robert McCartney was returned for
the UKUP as well as hospitals campaigner Kieran Deeny in West
Meanwhile 21-year-old Catholic man James McMahon was murdered
by loyalists in Lisburn.
Sinn Fein's Martin McGuinness gave evidence to the Saville
Inquiry about his knowledge of Bloody Sunday. A media circus
The party executive of the UUP issued an ultimatum to
dissident MP Jeffrey Donaldson to toe the party line. Mr
Donaldson responded by resigning from the party.
In Dublin, the Barron report concluded that there was probably
collusion between British Crown forces and loyalists in the
Dublin and Monaghan bombings of 1974. He also criticised the
Dublin government of the day for being disinterested in the