Cogaíocht (Warfare)

Yahoo News And The Murder Advocates

Can someone explain to me how Yahoo News can permit comments by its readers advocating the murder of a highly regarded political figure in Ireland? In this case it is the civil rights activist Bernadette Devlin McAliskey, the former elected representative for the constituency of Mid-Ulster and a life-long socialist republican. In 1981 Bernadette and her husband Michael narrowly escaped death when British terrorists smashed their way into their home and shot both several times, the attack watched by a nearby foot patrol of soldiers from Britain’s infamous Parachute Regiment. The gunmen were members of the UDA, a Unionist terror faction that the British government refused to ban until 1992 and the secret negotiations leading up to the Peace Process of the 1990s. One of those involved in the assassination, Ray Smallwoods, was himself later killed by the (Provisional) Irish Republican Army, his coffin carried by a number of prominent Unionist politicians including the DUP’s Peter Robinson MP, the present Joint First Minister of the regional administration in the north-east of Ireland.

This is what Yahoo permits on its website as of 07.00 this morning:

Proud Scotsman  •  11 hours ago

Is that #$%$ still living ? she should have been killed years ago for prolonging the troubles and I am saying this as I know she was behind a lot of the troubles caused, even the IRA wanted her gone.

Daniel  •  11 hours ago

sloppy work on the UDA`s part, they really should have tapped one in her head, Republican Jezebel, she has the face of purest evil, lets hope she dies very soon somehow from complications of her old wounds.”

While the news media in Britain focuses on reports detailing the alleged threat of militant Islam on the internet it is indeed ironic that the most poisonous forms of British nationalism are given free reign across a host of international websites. Up to and including the most respected of United States’ news organisations.

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Atmo-Craft, Colin Wilson

An Atmo-craft from the Rogue Trooper story Marauders drawn by Colin Wilson

An Atmo-craft from the Rogue Trooper story Marauders drawn by Colin Wilson (Íomhá: © 2002 Rebellion A/S)

During a quick discussion over on CLR in relation to Joss Whedon’s short-lived Sci-Fi series “Firefly” I was reminded of the New Zealand comics’ artist Colin Wilson and the incredibly realistic hardware illustrations he produced in the early 1980s for “Rogue Trooper”, 2000AD’s future war series. Some of the best – and most convincing – designs in futuristic weapons and machines I’ve ever seen came from Wilson’s accomplished hands, hardly surprising given that many were clearly based on contemporary military products. From the Mil Mi-24 Hind, the famous Soviet-era attack helicopter, to the lesser-known Centurion main battle tank Wilson took real world inspirations and extrapolated their future equivalents in technically exquisite detail. One was left thinking that if such machines did not exist in the present they most certainly would do so at some stage in the future. After my first exposure to Wilson’s carefully engineered designs I spent much of my teenage years copying his style and still do so whenever I turn to Science-Fiction themed art. In a long and extremely varied career the New Zealander went on to contribute to the Star Wars franchise beginning in 2007 with artwork for the comic book series “Star Wars: Legacy”. However his influence is in evidence well before that through the likes of the “Low Altitude Assault Transport/infantry (LAAT/i)”, a CGI military aircraft that features in the 2002 movie “Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones” and which bears an uncanny resemblance to the hardware designs produced by Wilson for the Rogue Trooper story “Marauders” way back in 1982.

A Low Altitude Assault Transport or Republic Gunship from the Star Wars movie franchise

A Low Altitude Assault Transport or Republic Gunship from the Star Wars movie franchise (Íomhá: © 2002 Lucasfilm Ltd)

A Low Altitude Assault Transport or Republic Gunship from the Star Wars universe

A Low Altitude Assault Transport or Republic Gunship from the Star Wars universe (Íomhá: © 2002 Lucasfilm Ltd)


Negationists Ahoy!

Seán O'Callaghan

Seán O’Callaghan

So that tired old spy/informer/traitor of yore, Seán O’Callaghan, is back peddling his same tired old “analyses” of political and military events in Ireland. Or more specifically the bit of Ireland still occupied by our neighbours over yonder (and with himself at the centre of the story as always). It’s hard to know what to say about O’Callaghan that hasn’t been said before. I suppose it tells us more about the Negationist generation of Irish and British writers, apologists for all of Britain’s history on our island nation, that one of their most recognisable “sources” is an acknowledged fantasist and narcissist of legendary standing. Oh yes, one can’t help but feel sorry for the man. He has destroyed his life by allowing himself to become the political plaything of ideological others. However, couldn’t he just retire peacefully into obscurity and give up the fame-game instead of being trotted out every few months to entertain the prejudices of various obscure Unionist and British nationalist “think-tanks” and organisations? Or is the cheese and cracker circuit in London all that he has left? A few more gullible or willing fools to fool, a few more inexperienced journos to win over with a lop-sided smile and a twinkle in those sad eyes? It was ever thus…

Meanwhile over in the Irish Times historian Diarmaid Ferriter gets mightily annoyed with fellow historian John Regan for calling out the ideologically-driven philosophy of historians like, er, Diarmaid Ferriter. In fact the pugnacious Diarmaid goes a wee bit OTT so outraged is he. The whole article (given plenty of room by the IT, one notes) fairly rips into Regan and anyone who dares to question the bona fides of the Irish academic classes when it comes to examining the tortured history of Britain’s colonial rule in Ireland. That he has to do so by metaphorically standing on his head to make his arguments appear the right way up says it all. Ah, nothing like an orthodoxy scorned or an establishment challenged.

Viva la revolución!

Britain’s Very Own Own Crimea In Ireland

British terrorists of the UDA-UFF on parade in the north-east of Ireland.

British terrorists of the UDA-UFF on parade in the north-east of Ireland. The organisation remained a legal grouping until the 1990s when Britain was forced by international pressure to ban it. However it continues to enjoy relative immunity from prosecution.

Military jeeps driven by masked men wearing combat fatigues drive through the darkened streets of a city while hysterical crowds scream “Bring out the guns!” before confronting local paramilitary police. A week later over a hundred masked and uniformed men invade a local community, ransack homes, setting some on fire, driving people onto the streets before again confronting paramilitary police officers this time with sustained violence.

The Ukraine? Crimea? Transnistria?

No, this is Western Europe and this is Britain’s rotten colony in the north-eastern corner of Ireland. A medieval anachronism in a modern world. So why do we put up with it when we know what the solution is? The same solution that ended the greater part of Britain’s historic colony on our island nation and centuries of misrule. “Northern Ireland” is simply the rotten afterbirth of British imperial ambitions and it is time to flush it into the sewer of history where it rightfully belongs.

Only A General Amnesty Will Yield The Truth

Jean McConville, a Belfast woman suspected of being a British Army informer, was arrested and executed by the Irish Republican Army in December 1972 and her body hidden as one of the so-called “Disappeared” until August 2003

As the impact of the arrest of the veteran activist Ivor Bell continues to reverberate within Republican circles there is a lot to agree with in this analysis by Kevin Cullen of the Boston Globe:

“Ivor Bell is awaiting trial in Belfast on charges he aided and abetted the murder of Jean McConville, a widowed mother of 10 who in 1972 was abducted, shot, and secretly buried by the IRA after she was accused of being an informer.

Bell’s lawyer said Bell was innocent, but acknowledged that Bell was the man referred to as Mr. Z in a series of tape-recorded interviews made by a researcher hired by BC to compile recollections of republicans and loyalists who fought in Northern Ireland.

That researcher, former Irish Republican Army volunteer and prisoner Anthony McIntyre, told me from Ireland that he expects police to knock on his door any day. If they do, they’ll be wasting their time. “I wouldn’t even tell them hello,” he said.

Neither will Bell, 77, who was a senior IRA commander before his star dimmed…

Bell was among a group of IRA veterans who opposed the compromise accepted by Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams in 1998, effectively ending the Troubles.

Now, police would love Bell to implicate his former comrade turned foe, Adams, who has repeatedly denied involvement in McConville’s murder. Adams says BC naively allowed McIntyre, who openly opposed his leadership, to interview former IRA members who were inclined to implicate him for political reasons.

McConville’s children believe that Adams was behind their mother’s murder and insist he face justice. But this debacle has never been about justice. It’s about politics, specifically about sticking it to Adams and his party…

…the prosecution is so biased and politically motivated as to undermine all credibility.

The police in Northern Ireland have shown no interest in the other half of the oral history project: interviews with loyalists, who presumably could shed light on state-sanctioned murders they carried out with the covert assistance of the police and British military.

Ed Moloney, the journalist who oversaw the Belfast Project paid for and archived by Boston College, called Bell’s arrest “a cheap publicity stunt” by police and prosecutors who know that the oral histories, given to an academic by people who were neither under oath nor given legal warnings about self-incrimination, will not stand up as evidence in court.

As critical as he is of the authorities in Northern Ireland, Moloney said it wouldn’t have gotten this far if the US Department of Justice had rebuffed British authorities who asked their American counterparts to gain custody of the BC tapes, or if BC officials were willing to risk fines and even imprisonment to defy the government.

What a mess. An American university has been unwittingly and unwillingly used by a foreign government, with the acquiescence of the US government, to build a criminal case.

Oral history and academic freedom are dead and gone.”

The author Ed Moloney has suggested on several occasions that the pursuit of the forty-year old McConville case by Britain, and particularly by the PSNI or the British paramilitary police force in the north-east of Ireland, has more to do with the settling of old scores than any concerns over justice delayed. During the Irish-British conflict from the late 1960s to the early 2000s the RUC, the much-feared predecessor to the PSNI, incurred thousands of casualties amongst its officers while combating the (Provisional) Irish Republican Army and others. Though that came to an end with the Peace Process of the late-to-mid 1990s the negotiated settlement also brought an end to the RUC. However despite promised reforms many hardcore RUC men were kept within the ranks of the new PSNI or subsequently rejoined it when the political spotlight moved on to elsewhere. Under their influence, and that of some senior British government officials, retribution upon former opponents has become a primary impulse of law and order in the north-eastern region of Ireland. This post-conflict vendetta is one that anti-Sinn Féin elements of the Irish and British media have proven eager to pursue with little thought for the consequences (which in this case is a not inconceivable eruption of renewed armed conflict). Nor is SF itself blameless. Elected members of the party, notably Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness, have been less than honest with their electorates and the Irish people as whole. While there were good reasons for their obfuscation during and in the immediate aftermath of the war those reasons are looking increasingly threadbare now that we have had over a decade of (near) peace. Furthermore Sinn Féin’s willingness to see former, now rival, Republican comrades and colleagues thrown to the PSNI wolves is less than edifying.

All this is not to excuse the Republican movement of any wrongdoing when it comes to the central issue of Jean McConville’s death. It is clear that after a considerable debate McConville was executed/killed/murdered by the (Provisional) Irish Republican Army on the orders of senior officers within the organisation, her body hidden and her relatives left with no (honest) account of what had happened. Repeated claims by the news media in Ireland and elsewhere that McConville was killed because she had lent aid to a British soldier wounded outside her home by a sniper are completely unfounded. It simply never happened, as a 2006 investigation by the Police Ombudsman Nuala O’Loan made clear. Indeed the belief that such a gesture of simple human decency would elicit the ultimate penalty says much about the wilful ignorance of the conflict by observers both in Dublin and London.

While the O’Loan examination went on to find no evidence of McConville communicating with the British Forces, and specifically denied that she was a known informer, it did reveal that the British Army had initially insisted that her disappearance was a hoax or later that she had willingly deserted her children and was living elsewhere in Ireland. Whether that reflected poor intelligence or something more sinister has never been established (certainly such rumours may have originated with the IRA in an effort to confuse any potential investigation though local people were aware of her execution and the reasons behind it within weeks). Unfortunately Britain has refused access by journalists and members of the McConville family to the regimental records of British Army units deployed in Belfast during this period which is why so much of the case remains in the realms of speculation. However we do know that no serious investigation was carried out by the RUC into her disappearance until some considerable time after her death (and that the subsequent investigation was thrown off track by the misinformation supplied by the British military despite the RUC’s more informed sources). The evident reluctance of the British to address the disappearance of Jean McConville in 1972/3 remains the subject of much discussion, both fair and unfair.

The Irish Republican Army is adamant in its counter-claim that Jean McConville was a known informer who had been warned about her activities until finally discovered in the possession of a concealed military radio transmitter supplied to her by the British Army. Though we cannot be sure it seems likely that she was seized by the IRA’s Belfast Brigade the day before her known disappearance, interrogated (perhaps beaten) and then released. That would match British military reports and statements from some of her family relating to the discovery of a woman likely to be McConville in streets near her home in a state of some distress and confusion the day before she was abducted. With the radio transmitter in its hands the IRA must have discussed what actions to take based upon the evidence gained, no doubt in part spurred on by fears that Jean McConville would be spirited away to safety by the British now that her cover was truly blown or that she had further knowledge to impart to the enemy (her son, Robert McConville, was a member of the Official IRA and detained in the infamous Long Kesh concentration camp at the time of her death. During this period the OIRA and PIRA were bitter rivals, especially in Belfast and McConville remained a committed Republican activist going on to serve with the insurgent INLA). This resulted in her arrest the next day by the Irish Republican Army and transport across the border to the spot where she was shot dead. Or at least we can suppose that is the sequence of events. The truth is, of course, that everything to do with the killing of Jean McConville is supposition. We simply don’t know what happened during that dreadful period some forty years ago. However, as yet, no one has produced a plausible reason for the controversial killing of a mother of ten from an intensely closeknit community beyond that offered by the killers themselves.

The only legitimate way to end yet more years of speculation and anguish for the McConville family is for the governments of Ireland and Britain to agree a general amnesty that will allow all participants to the conflict, willing or otherwise, to give truthful testimonies free of fear or repercussion. Only then will we learn the truth about Jean McConville. Or about Gerry Adams.

Will Hezbollah Be The Biggest Victor In The Syrian Civil War?

Deceased fighters of Al-Muqawama al-Islamiyya, the military wing of Hezbollah, arrive back in the Lebanon from service in Syria

Deceased fighters of Al-Muqawama al-Islamiyya, the military wing of Hezbollah, arrive back in the Lebanon from service in Syria

Just a quick post to highlight a recent report carried by the Brown Moses blog examining the ongoing civil war in Syria. What is noticeable about the report is the key role played by Al-Muqawama al-Islamiyya, the military wing of Hezbollah, on behalf of the besieged al-Assad regime. Without the presence of Hezbollah “volunteers” the Damascus dictatorship would still be locked into a stalemate with its opponents and facing the very real possibility of defeat (or usurpation from within its own ranks). Instead its Lebanese allies (following a “settling-in” period marked by poor battlefield performance and considerable confusion over chains of command) has slowly turned the tide of war, clawing back lost territory and widening fractures  in the already disparate Insurgency. However the emergence of Hezbollah’s military wing as an almost conventional army must be a cause of deep concern to those in power in Beirut, Jerusalem and Washington. Forget the brief Lebanese War of 2006. This is the conflict that will be the making (or breaking) of the Shiite guerilla movement. And so far it is all positive for them (that’s if one leaves aside the terrible cost in human life and suffering, of course).

British Spooks Seek Irish Hookups

In recent years MI5, Britain's Security Service or SS, has significantly expanded it's clandestine intelligence operations in Ireland despite the Peace Process of the late 1990s and early 2000s

In recent years MI5, Britain’s Security Service or SS, has significantly expanded it’s clandestine intelligence operations in Ireland despite the Peace Process of the late 1990s and early 2000s

It seems that the Irish-based spooks of MI5, Britain’s Security Service, are growing ever-more brazen now that the dangers of staring down the business-end of a Browning automatic pistol have (almost) gone away. From a statement by Phoblachtáigh do Aontiú or the Republican Network for Unity (PA – RNU), an independent Irish Republican political party:

“British Intelligence agents today made an overt daylight approach to a recently released Maghaberry POW in Belfast City Centre, less than 6 days after he lost his job in a call center due to ‘security reasons’.

The target of the approach (who for personal reasons does not want to be identified) was taking a walk as part of the daily routine he has adopted to help him adjust to life on the outside.

While making his way across Queen’s Bridge he noticed a man who he did not know gesturing in his direction as if to attract his attention.

Choosing to ignore this individual the ex-prisoner walked on a few steps before his path was blocked by two more men who had previously been leaning across the bridge looking into the river.

Both men in English accents then identified themselves plainly as ‘MI5′ before attempting to speak to their target about his RNU membership, as well as the ‘tough week he had’.

The ex-prisoner who is a member of the Nora Connolly Cumann Belfast and participated in the ‘dirty protest’ of 2010, calmly and confidently told both spooks that he had ‘done six years for keeping his mouth shut and wasn’t going to start talking now’.

After threatening him with future imprisonment and insinuating that he ‘could make money by helping them’, both spooks were told in no uncertain terms where to go.

Later in the afternoon he received a phone call from a man with an English accent who identified himself as ‘Adam’ and ‘the man on the bridge’, again he was told where to go. The number provided by the spook is 07840907802.”

Below is an audio recording of a phonecall from the eponymous British Intelligence agent “Adam” posted by the PA – RNU to their YouTube channel.

Ah, bring back the good old days. They haven’t gone away y’know! So for “Adam” and all the lads an’ lasses up in the Monkey Palace (aka. Palace Barracks) a blast from the past.

Some Cock And Bull

Female Irish Republican activists on parade in Dublin, Ireland

Female Irish Republican activists on parade in Dublin, Ireland. Do Islamic insurgents wear miniskirts?

First off we have some serious (if highly improbable) cock-waving by Resistance Republicans via a rather bland report by the BBC:

“Dissident republicans claim to have used newly acquired Semtex in a bomb attack on police in west Belfast.

A mortar was fired from a tube attached to railings at the City Cemetery at around 22:30 GMT on Friday.

It was detonated by a command wire. A family escaped injury when their car was hit by debris.

It was not possible to verify the claim that a new batch of Semtex was used as the police would not comment on the nature of the device.

It is understood the mortar device contained a conical-shaped warhead designed to penetrate armour.

Dissident republicans claim the mortar contained the military explosive Semtex and a commercial detonator.

They claim both were newly acquired – in other words, not from old supplies previously under the control of the Provisional IRA.”

I think there was also some stuff in there about magic beans but I stopped reading after a while…

Next up is some serious bull (of the ordure kind) carried in a suitably alarmist report by the Unionist-leaning Newsletter:

“Dissident republicans are attempting to forge links with Islamic extremists in an effort to bolster their terrorist capabilities, Jeffrey Donaldson has warned.

The DUP MP, who sits on the Commons’ defence committee, was responding to BBC claims that the bomb used to attack police officers in west Belfast on Friday contained newly-acquired Semtex explosive.

When asked if the UK’s security services were alerted to the possibility of dissidents attempting to access weaponry through Islamic extremists, Mr Donaldson replied: “Absolutely.””

Ah yeah. As in absolutely desperate to create a false analogy between the conflict in Ireland and the conflict in the Islamic world in the hope of eliciting some sympathy for the tattered remnant of Britain’s first and last colony. Again

The Irish Revolution And Native America

Éamon de Valera, President of the Irish Republic, made an honorary chief of the Ojibwe-Chippewa people, 1919

Éamon de Valera, President of the Irish Republic, made an honorary chief of the Ojibwe-Chippewa people, 1919

In June 1919 Éamon de Valera, the American-born president of Ireland’s revolutionary government, was smuggled out of a war-torn country on an ocean liner and into the United States of America where he launched on a whirlwind, coast-to-coast tour that brought crowds numbering in the hundreds of thousands onto the streets of several major American cities. The Irish political leader who just months earlier had escaped from a jail in Britain led rallies in New York (where he was born in 1882), addressed congressmen, governors and state legislators, and raised millions of dollars for the embattled Irish Republic, Sinn Féin and the Irish Republican Army. Despite the reluctance of an isolationist White House to interfere in British imperial affairs, and the outright opposition of the anglophile State Department, de Valera’s mission succeeded in bringing further international pressure to bear on London during Ireland’s struggle for independence.

However one of the more notable events attended by the “Chief” was at ”the Chippewa tribal reservation” in Spooner, Wisconsin, where on October 18th he was made an honorary leader of a Native American nation in front of a large and appreciative audience. The name granted to him in the Chippewa language was rendered phonetically by contemporary newspaper accounts as Nay Nay Ong Abe or “Dressing Feather”. This is almost certainly a reference to Chief Beautifying Bird or Dressing Bird (Nay-naw-ong-gay-be, Na-naw-ong-ga-be or Ne-na-nang-eb) whose name means “[Bird that] Fixes-up Its Wing-feathers”. In 1854 the latter signed the Treaty of La Pointe with representatives of the United States government and though we cannot be sure it seems likely that the Chippewa who greeted de Valera are the Lac Courte Oreilles Tribe.

Unfortunately Éamon de Valera’s speech is long since lost and we must rely on second-hand sources for what was said but here is one contemporary account:

Irish World and American Industrial Liberator 25 October 1919


3,000 SEE RITE

President of Irish Republic Named ‘Nay Nay Ang Abe’ After Old Indian Leader

Chappewa Indian reservation, Spooner, Wis., Oct. 18 – Eamonn De Valera, president of the Republic of Ireland, is a Chippewa Indian chieftain.

He was adopted today by the old Indian tribe on their reservation in Northern Wisconsin and was named ‘Dressing Feather’ or Nay Nay Ong Abe, after the famous Indian chief of that tribe who secured for the Chippewa their rights to the Wisconsin land under the treaty of 1854.

The ceremony took place in an open field in the reservation in the presence of more than 3,000 Indians and white people and was interpolated by a weird series of Indian dances and speech-making.

Dance to Tom Toms

The recipient of the honors sat in the centre of a semi-circle of clergymen and Indian chieftains. In front five Indians beat continuously on a tom tom drum and at intervals a score of tribesmen dressed in the full regalia of paint and feathers of a great occasion danced around the guests.

Chief Billy Boy, resplendent in a head dress of feathers reaching to his ankles, greeted De Valera in Chippewa. Billy Boy was followed by Joe Kingfisher, the headsman of the tribe.

Kingfisher, who presented the Irish leader with a handsome beaded tobacco pouch and moccasins, expressed a poetic sentiment as he tendered the gifts.

‘I wish I were able to give you the prettiest blossom of the fairest flower on earth, for you come to us as a representative of one oppressed nation to another’.

The ceremony continued and Chief Billy Boy then invested President De Valera with his new name and informed him of his adoption by the Chippewa nation.

Mr De Valera rose and walked to the center of the ring. He accepted the head dress of a Chippewa chieftain with gravity as the tom toms sounded louder and louder. Signifying he wished to speak, the music ceased and the Irishman then began talking in Gaelic.

‘I speak to you in Gaelic,’ he said, reverting to English, ‘because I want to show you that though I am white I am not of the English race. We, like you, are a people who have suffered and I feel for you with a sympathy that comes only from one who can understand as we Irishmen can.

‘You say you are not free. Neither are we free and I sympathise with you because we are making a similar fight. As a boy I read and understood of your slavery and longed to become one of you.’

Mr De Valera then told the red men how Ireland had been oppressed by England for 750 years.

‘I call upon you, the truest of all Americans,’ he said, ‘to help us win our struggle for freedom.’

The Indians listened to his impassioned address with owl-like gravity, but when Ira Isham, the tribe interpreter, translated Mr De Valera’s words into Chippewa they cheered him wildly.

Mass Precedes Ceremony

The ceremony was preceded by a memorial mass in the reservation church by Father Phillip Gordon, Chippewa priest, for the Indians who died in France.

President De Valera and his party, consisting of J.P. Finnerty of St. Paul, Sean Nunan, secretary to Mr De Valera, and Fathers Phillip Gordon, P.J. O’Mahony, John Harrington, Peter Rice and Floren Gerhardt, left the reservation for the Twin Cities tonight, where he will speak Sunday and Monday on the Irish bond issue soon to be floated in this country. He journeyed to the Indian reservation from Milwaukee Friday night. At every station on the way through Wisconsin delegations were waiting for him at the depot.

At Spooner, Wis., his party left the train and was met by a dozen automobiles, which carried them over forty miles of wild country to the Chippewa reservation on the edge of Lake Court Oreilles.”

Both in Ireland and the United States this symbolic coming together of two native peoples who experienced the disastrous effects of invasion, occupation and colonisation is all but forgotten which is a great pity. The only real memory in this country is the iconic photograph featured above of President de Valera taken in his ceremonial headdress (I have cleaned up this image in Photoshop from an original online copy). The official website of the Tribal Government of the Lac Courte Oreilles nation can be found here if you wish to learn more about them and their Native American “Gaeltacht”.

Note: Technically in 1919 Éamon de Valera was the Príomh Aire or president (literally “Prime Minster”) of the Aireacht or government (literally “Ministry/Cabinet”). However he was commonly referred to as the President of the Irish Republic and in the United States this term was used to match American political nomencalture. In August of 1921 the revolutionary constitution of Ireland was altered by Dáil Éireann to clarify the use and recognition of the title of “President”.

Glenn Greenwald On War By Other Means

GCHQ - the spiders web

GCHQ – the spiders web

From Glenn Greenwald a must-read for Republican and progressive activists in Ireland and elsewhere examining how the internet is used and abused to manipulate individuals and groups in the interests of major nation-states. To defeat one’s enemy one must understand (or become?) one’s enemy.

“One of the many pressing stories that remains to be told from the Snowden archive is how western intelligence agencies are attempting to manipulate and control online discourse with extreme tactics of deception and reputation-destruction. It’s time to tell a chunk of that story, complete with the relevant documents.

By publishing these stories one by one, our NBC reporting highlighted some of the key, discrete revelations: the monitoring of YouTube and Blogger, the targeting of Anonymous with the very same DDoS attacks they accuse “hacktivists” of using, the use of “honey traps” (luring people into compromising situations using sex) and destructive viruses. But, here, I want to focus and elaborate on the overarching point revealed by all of these documents: namely, that these agencies are attempting to control, infiltrate, manipulate, and warp online discourse, and in doing so, are compromising the integrity of the internet itself.”

The Peace Process Elicits Irish Pride But British Shame?

An Active Service Unit of the Irish Republican Army

An Active Service Unit of the Irish Republican Army sets up a vehicle-checkpoint, British Occupied North of Ireland, 1994 (Image: © Rory Nugent, used with permission)

So suddenly the news media around the globe have become aware of one the most widely-known secrets in Irish and British politics. As part of the Peace Process of the late 1990s and early 2000s dozens of former Volunteers of the (Provisional) Irish Republican Army sought by the British authorities were recognised as having de facto immunity under UK law. The so-called “on-the runs” (OTRs) were guaranteed non-prosecution in very carefully phrased legal language by the government of Britain, language that allowed the folks in London to keep face by not publicly acknowledging that the past actions of the insurgents were political or military in nature while in private doing exactly that. In politics as in war obfuscation is king.

Given that pretty much everyone knew that such an agreement had been reached between the various parties, and over a period of some years, why all the excitement now? Perhaps it is due to the fact that politicians, the media and much of the general public in Britain are still unable to face up to the realities of a peace process in Ireland that they actively sought and participated in? After decades of denying the political nature of the insurgency aligned against them (while covertly communicating with it the whole time) the British agreed to negotiate in open with their Irish Republican opponents in a carefully orchestrated dance of give-and-take throughout the 1990s. Yes, there are many criticisms to be made of that period and from all sides. They are well rehearsed and there are those both in Ireland and Britain who cry loudly about “sell-out” and “betrayal”, albeit from diametrically opposed viewpoints. However the relative success of the era of talks and counter-talks cannot be denied, even if some regard it as no more than a generational breather in an ongoing struggle (and one with an inevitable endpoint).

One outcome of all this is that Irish popular culture views the Peace Process very differently from British popular culture. In Ireland the 1998 Belfast Agreement and other accords are regarded as historic compromises and are largely praised as such. They remain touchstones for speeches, rallies and point-scoring in the political world. In contrast in Britain the Belfast Agreement and the negotiations around it are barely mentioned at all, as if the people of Britain are collectively unable to accept that an end to the Long War came at the price of Sinn Féin in regional government in Belfast and ex-IRA Volunteers treated as statesmen. The British tabloid press still act and publish as if 2014 was 1974. It is this dualistic perception of the Peace Process, the Irish positive, the British negative, which ironically carries within it the seeds for future misunderstandings and conflict.

Update: the Daily Mail, Britain’s hugely popular right-wing newspaper, carries some traditional Fleet Street reporting on the farcical arrest, detention and trial of John Downey, including some old school racial profiling:

“John Downey has always denied involvement. Two months after the bombing, police issued an artist’s impression – thickly bearded, with dark hair and rugged, Celtic features…”

Celtic features? Bring back the 1970s and ’80s when the British press used to tell its readers to watch out for “labourer-types” with ruddy faces, red hair and beards!

ETA Bolsters Faltering Basque Peace Process

The Basque insurgent organisation ETA has carried out a symbolic act of arms decommissioning in front of international observers as part of its commitment to the ongoing peace process in the Basque Country. So far the Spanish government has adamantly refused to participate in any political negotiations with representatives of ETA or any of the more progressive Basque parties such as the popular Bildu coalition. Instead Spain has ramped up its authoritarian actions in the Basque Country, moving political prisoners to detention centres hundreds of miles away from the region and often in extremely adverse conditions, prolonging sentences and imprisonments, carrying out wide-scale arrests and destructive property searches, harassing journalists and censoring news outlets, banning certain political and cultural movements and in general fostering an air of crisis on the streets.

Letter Bombs In Britain. A Failure Of Vision

Letter bombs to Britain - turning a noble cause ignoble

Letter bombs to Britain – turning a noble cause ignoble

This is not 1884 nor is it 1974. So what on earth is the military or revolutionary rationale for sending letter-bombs to local recruitment offices of the British Army in towns and cities across Britain? How does that in any way shape or form represent an act of military resistance to the continued British Occupation of the northern-eastern part of our island nation? What strategic goal is achieved by such tactics? What political or media gain is accrued from the use of force that is little different from the wild – and ultimately pointless – acts of would-be anarchist revolutionaries in the 19th and 20th centuries?

The prosecution of a war using the militant methods of long dead radicals reveals minds that are frozen in time, in ideology and in vision. It lowers the public perception of the Irish Republican cause to the same level as the nihilist objectives pursued by the Red Brigades in Italy or the Red Army Faction in Germany during the turbulent 1970s. It makes a mockery of the very real and very genuine justifications for previous actions in previous decades and centuries. Actions born out of desperation, violence born out of the infliction of violence. Colonial occupation and exploitation, sectarianism and racism, famine and exile gave birth to the Fenian movements of the mid-to-late 1800s. The young men (and women) who filled their ranks were the children of serfdom, poverty and hunger. They were the ones who saw their prematurely aged parents buried in mass graves, their siblings dying with bellies swollen and limbs shrunken through malnutrition and disease. They were the off-spring of the “coffin ships”. The children of the Irish holocaust.

What excuse, what justification, can there be in the 21st century for the tactics of the 19th? The British continue to claim colonial sovereignty over part of our nation and our people but the modern British are not the imperialist ogres of yesteryear. Yes, in historical terms they have hands dyed red with the blood of our race both in times near and times past. But at some point we Irish must take responsibility for our own bloodletting. I do not agree with military resistance to the British occupation at this time. I do not believe that the end to Ireland’s British troubles can come about through force given the circumstances that currently pertain. However I can, at least, understand the rationale of those who do believe so and wish to prosecute a war to finish what was begun in 1916 (or 1169). To finish the unfinished business.

Yet even those on the armed revolutionary wing of modern Irish Republicanism must see that the sending of letter bombs to locations in Britain simply reduces their struggle to that of the most base form of terrorism and erodes whatever support they hope to sustain or gain. By all means resist the medieval anachronism of British rule in modern Ireland. Resist it politically, linguistically, culturally and socially. Work day and night to extinguish the Northern Pale, to dispatch into the pages of history the last administrative remnants of the British colony on our island nation. But this ongoing campaign, in this form? That is revolutionary madness.

Update: G Ó Cáthasaigh presents another view on the efficacy of armed struggle in early 21st century Ireland over at the Pensive Quill [with thanks to Mary for the link].

Death Squad Killers In The Land Down Under

Maria McGurk murdered by British state-controlled terrorists at McGurk's Bar

12 year old Maria McGurk, murdered by British state-controlled terrorists in 1971 at McGurk’s Bar, Belfast, Ireland. Another victim of Britain’s dirty war in Ireland

An update on the revelations late last year by a BBC news documentary examining the murderous activities of the British Army’s covert Military Reaction Force (MRF) during the early days of the conflict in the north-east of Ireland. From 1971 to 1973 the unit carried out a series of terrorist attacks against the civilian population and suspected Irish Republican activists, largely confined to Belfast, as well as acting in concert with various British terror factions (notably in the atrocity known as the McGurk’s Bar Bombing which took the lives of fifteen men, women and children). Now reports are coming in from Australia of attempts to bring former gunmen of the MRF living under assumed identities in the country to justice. From an article in WAToday:

“A member of a violent and secretive unit which allegedly hunted IRA members in Northern Ireland in the 1970s is thought to have fled to Queensland.

Former sergeant Clive Williams was a member of the Military Reaction Force, a group of undercover soldiers, who were active mainly in nationalist west Belfast in 1972.

He is understood to now be living in Queensland under another name, and the Australian government is being urged to investigate.

The MRF carried out a series of drive-by shootings in which two civilians were killed and 12 others were injured – even though there was no evidence that any were armed, or IRA members.

They included Patrick McVeigh, a 44-year-old father of six and 18-year-old Daniel Rooney, who was shot on St James Road.

Some members of the unit told a recently broadcast BBC Panorama program they ‘‘were not there to act like an army unit, we were there to act like a terror group”.

The MRF say they sometimes acted as bait, goading the IRA to come out and fight.

In the Panorama program, Mr Williams was confronted by reporter John Ware in Brisbane, but refused to answer questions.

In 1973, Mr Williams was put on trial at Belfast Crown Court accused of attempted murder, for shooting four unarmed men on the Glen Road in west Belfast.

Mr Williams claimed they had fired at him first. No guns were found at the scene and forensic tests on all four proved negative. None were members of the IRA.

Mr Williams told detectives he had fired from a standard army issue gun, but when confronted with evidence of bullet casings he said he had used a Thompson sub machine gun – a weapon frequently used by the IRA at the time.

He was subsequently promoted, left the army with the rank of captain and a military medal for bravery.”

From the late 1960s onwards the former subject territories of the British Empire have served as a convenient bolthole for British soldiers, paramilitary police, spies, informers and civil servants who participated in some manner in Britain’s dirty war in Ireland. At the expense of British taxpayers new lives and new identities, frequently in some splendour, were provided for those who needed to be placed beyond the reach of the law or journalistic endeavour. While members of the British Unionist minority in Ireland invariably choose Canada, South Africa or New Zealand, those from Britain favoured Australia. One wonders how many other former death squad killers, official or unofficial, are living the good life in lands faraway from those they brought such pain and misery to?

Chief Superintendent Harry Breen, What You Weren’t Told

Chief Superintendent Harry Breen, killed in the 1989 ambush at Baile an Chláir by an Active Service Unit of the South Armagh Brigade of the Irish Republican Army. His suspected links to British terrorist factions in the north-east of Ireland have gone unreported by both the Irish and British news media

In all of the discussions emanating from the controversy around last year’s Smithwick report it is strange that no one in the media in Ireland or elsewhere has examined in any detail the professional histories of Superintendent Bob Buchanan and Chief Superintendent Harry Breen, the two senior officers of the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) killed in the ambush at Baile an Chláir by an Active Service Unit of the South Armagh Brigade of the Irish Republican Army (the wounded Breen almost certainly being shot dead while attempting to surrender). Both men had served as British paramilitary police officers in the north-east of the country since their twenties and Harry Breen in particular had a colourful career. A small part of that history has been the focus of several newspaper reports (and indeed Judge Smithwick himself) with tenuous claims that Breen was specifically targeted by the Republican Army because he was photographed in 1987 with weapons captured from the ambush site at Loch gCál, an engagement that saw eight Volunteers of the East Tyrone Brigade of the IRA and one civilian killed by British Special Forces (at least three of the wounded men were killed while surrendering or shortly thereafter). Most cogent observers have dismissed the “revenge” allegation as a motive for the ambush yet it continues to be stated as an established fact by some tabloid media pundits.

However before 1987 and his subsequent death in 1989 Breen was rather better known for the allegations circulating in security and political circles north and south linking him to the so-called “Glenanne Gang”. This was a British terrorist grouping composed of serving or former members of the British army and paramilitary police and attached to the outlawed Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF). These suspicions accounted for the supposed “coolness” that existed between Breen and representatives of An Garda Síochana in contrast to the warmer relationship enjoyed by Bob Buchanan. In fact Harry Breen was specifically named in a 1999 witness statement by Sergeant John Weir, an RUC officer who served with the elite Special Patrol Group (SPG) while at the same time being an active terrorist with the Glenanne Gang. The testimony was made to the Irish government’s tribunal under Justice Henry Barron re-investigating the 1974 British terrorist attacks on Dublin and Monaghan where the sequential detonation of four car-bombs killed thirty-three men, women and children as well as wounding three hundred others. The terror strikes were carried out by members of the Glenanne Gang under the direction of British Military Intelligence and senior British officials at a time of strained relations between the governments in Ireland and Britain.

The parts relating to Chief Superintendent Harry Breen are highlighted below.

“3rd January 1999

1. I am a former member of the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) which I joined in 1970 and served until 1980. After initial training in Enniskillen Training Depot, I began my police career in Strandtown RUC Station in East Belfast.

2. I left the RUC in 1980 following my conviction for the murder of William Strathearn at Ahoghill, Co. Antrim, which occurred in April 1977. I will deal with this incident later in this statement.

3. I recall that in 1970 or 1971, while I was serving as a young constable, aged 20, in Strandtown there was an arms amnesty in which members of the public handed in substantial quantities of guns and ammunition of different types. Many of these guns were then given out by RUC officers to local members of a Loyalist paramilitary organization, the Ulster Defence Association, with the knowledge of the senior officers in my station. On one occasion I was ordered by Inspector Don Milligan to remove a number of rifles which had been handed in under the amnesty, and place them in the boot of his car. I do not know where he took them but it was common knowledge among my colleagues that such weapons were being given to Loyalists whom my colleagues supported.

10. Sometime after my transfer to Belfast, I received a visit from two of my former colleagues in Armagh SPG, Gary Armstrong and Ian Mitchell. They told me that ACC Rodgers had spoken to their unit once more and that they had expressed their view to him that a drastic change of policy was necessary to combat the IRA more effectively in South Armagh. They told me that they had decided for themselves, as a result of the discussions stimulated by his visits, that the time had come to take direct action against not merely known Republicans or IRA activists but against the Catholic population in general. I agreed with them that the only way to stop the IRA murder campaign was to attack the Catholic community itself, so that it would put pressure on the IRA to call off its campaign. After I had indicated my interest in their plans, Armstrong and Mitchell informed me that they had already begun to implement them. They had started their campaign by carrying out a bomb and gun attack near Keady village, in June 1976, at the Rock Bar which is located within yards of the border with the Irish Republic.

20. I was friendly at that time with RUC Constable Billy McBride and I visited his home on one occasion at a time when Chief Inspector Harry Breen was present. We discussed McBride’s connection to a group of Loyalists in Co. Down called Down Orange Welfare, which was headed by a retired Army officer, Lt. Col. Edward Brush. McBride told us he was a member of this group, which was almost entirely composed of members or ex-members of the security forces. He produced a .38 revolver from a drawer in his living room and after I had examined it he replaced it in the drawer. He then went into another room and brought out two homemade sub-machine guns, copies of the Sterling machine-gun. He explained that Down Orange Welfare was manufacturing Sterling sub-machine guns and that the two he had shown me were the prototypes and were of imperfect design. McBride added that the group were in the process of making an M1 carbine, an American rifle, and that the only remaining problem to be tackled was the ejector mechanism for spent bullets. He anticipated that this would not present any insuperable difficulty. In Chief Inspector Breen’s presence he then offered me the two sub-machine guns because he knew about my connections to Loyalist paramilitaries. I accepted them and took them to Mitchell’s farmhouse.

21. Constable McBride was a gunsmith and, following this initial meeting with him, guns changed hands on several occasions. On one occasion, after McBride had told me that he had received four new sub-machine guns from Down Orange Welfare, I contacted Armstrong who soon arrived with McClure at Newry RUC station. Armstrong had a conversation with Chief Inspector Breen, whom he knew well, and the three of us went to McBride’s house where we collected the guns. These sub-machine guns were transported to Mitchell’s farmhouse where I later test fired them in a hayshed. They worked perfectly. Mitchell subsequently sold these weapons to Jackie Whitten, a UVF paramilitary leader in Portadown for 100 pounds each. I then gave the 400 pounds to McBride so that the money could be used for the manufacture of further weapons. In summary, Down Orange Welfare was using RUC officers in Newry RUC station – McBride, Breen, myself – and another RUC officer, Sergeant Monty Alexander from Forkhill RUC station – to supply weapons to the UVF in Portadown. I later learned that these weapons were being manufactured by Samuel McCoubrey in Spa, Co. Down.

25. I was on duty in Newry RUC station when I received a phone call from RUC Constable William McCaughey asking me to meet him in Armagh. We met in a pub in Armagh and he discussed with me a reported shooting incident in Ahoghill in which a police officer was, as I recall, shot in the leg. McCaughey raised the issue of the need for a retaliation but nothing specific was planned at that stage. McCaughey then asked me if I would accompany him to meet Robin Jackson in Lurgan and I agreed. We travelled to Lurgan in my car and we met Jackson at his home. When we arrived, I soon realised that the proposed retaliation was at a more advanced level than McCaughey had indicated or than I had appreciated. It quickly became obvious to me that the proposed attack had already been discussed in detail and I was taken aback to discover that Jackson and McCaughey proposed to carry out the operation on that particular night. I listened when McCaughey told Jackson that the gun to be used in the attack had never been used in any shooting before, that he had taken it from Lurgan RUC station and that it was in his home. I heard McCaughey and Jackson agree how they would proceed with Jackson saying he would go and collect his helper on the lorry R.J. Kerr while McCaughey would take me with him to his house, where he would collect the gun, before going on to rendezvous with Jackson and Kerr at the roundabout in Moira, Co. Antrim. I did not know at that stage the identity of the proposed target in Ahoghill nor did I know for certain whether Jackson and McCaughey merely intended to frighten a particular person or to kill him. I found I was participating in an operation that I had not discussed fully and whose consequences I did not properly appreciate. The entire discussion at Jackson’s home lasted a few minutes. However, I wish to make it clear that I took part in this operation voluntarily and that I went along with the arrangements made by McCaughey and Jackson.

26. After McCaughey had collected the gun from his home in Lurgan I drove him in my own car to the roundabout at Moira where Jackson and his helper were already waiting in a lorry. Jackson drove the lorry and we followed him towards Ahoghill, stopping behind him when he parked approximately one mile before reaching the village. I now recall, on the basis of my conversation with McCaughey in the car, that McCaughey, like me, did not fully appreciate that Jackson was going to commit a murder. And even after Jackson and Kerr had got into my car outside Ahoghill village, McCaughey seemed still to think that Jackson was merely going to frighten the chosen person rather than kill him. I believed, wrongly as it was soon to turn out, that Jackson and Kerr were merely going to fire into the house to frighten the occupants and it was evident to me that McCaughey also held the same opinion. After giving Jackson the gun, McCaughey told him just to fire through the upstairs windows so as to make sure the occupants got the message. My main concern, at that late stage, was that my car number plates would be easily identified but when I shared this concern with McCaugheyhe assured me there was nothing to worry about and that he was certain that there were no security forces in the area. McCaughey and I waited in the car not far from the target house and we both heard the shooting. After Jackson and Kerr had returned and got into my car, Jackson said that he had shot the man twice and we then left the village calmly. I drove my car back to the lorry, where Jackson and Kerr got out so they could go on to their ultimate destination to deliver a load of chickens. I drove McCaughey to his father’s house in Ahoghill and McCaughey told his father, in my presence, that Jackson had shot somebody dead in the town. He gave his father the gun for safe keeping. Next morning I learned from the news on the radio that the victim had been William Strathearn.

27. After leaving McCaughey’s father’s house I drove McCaughey back to Armagh and dropped him off at the RUC station. I then proceeded to Bessbrook RUC station where I had living quarters even though I was still stationed in Newry. I went to work early on the morning after the killing and carried on with my normal work. However, over the following week I told three colleagues about what had happened. These were Chief Inspector Breen, Constable Bob Hamilton and RUC Special Branch Constable Ian Begley. All of these three men already knew about collusion between Loyalist paramilitaries and RUC officers including McBride, Sergeant Monty Alexander and myself. Chief Inspector Breen also knew about similar illegal activities by McCaughey and Armstrong. Ian Begley, for example, had previously told me that he thought McBride had been involved with Jackson in the murder of a Catholic close, I believe, to Mayobridge in South Down in the early 1970s.

28. I think it is important to make it clear that this collusion between Loyalist paramilitaries such as Robin Jackson and my RUC colleagues and me was taking place with the full knowledge of my superiors. I recall that after I had told Chief Inspector Breen about my involvement in the Strathearn murder, that he told me to forget about it. I also recall later witnessing a conversation between Chief Inspector Breen and Inspector Harvey who was in charge of Newry CID when both men discussed with approval McCaughey and Armstrong’s continuing activity in Loyalist terrorism with Robin Jackson. And I recall another occasion, in the toilets at the Pitbar near Bessbrook when RUC Special Branch Constable David Miller indicated to me that he knew I had been involved in the Strathearn murder and suggested he would not object if I was to kill an identified IRA man in Newry. For these and other reasons I did not think there was the slightest possibility that I would ever be arrested or charged with my role in the Strathearn murder.

29. Some months after the Strathearn murder I was called to a meeting with the head of RUC Special Branch in Newry, Chief Inspector Brian Fitzsimmons. He confirmed what I had already been told by Chief Inspector Breen that I was to be transferred to Newtownhamilton RUC station. During this meeting Mr. Fitzsimmons let me know that he was aware that I had been involved in Loyalist terrorist activity for some time but it was clear he was not bothered by this. He told me that he knew all about my paramilitary past activities with James Mitchell and that my local connections to Loyalist paramilitaries were part of the reason why I was being placed in charge of Newtownhamilton RUC station. I understood the message of my meeting with Chief inspector Fitzsimmons to be that I had the green light to carry on with my activities. I now know that Chief Inspector Fitzsimmons rose to the rank of Assistant Chief constable and that he was killed in the Chinook helicopter crash in Scotland in 1994.

John Oliver Weir

Signed 3rd February 1999”

While some have challenged Weir’s testimony his detailed statements have yet to be refuted and both Justice Barron and investigatory officers from the Garda Síochána accepted him as a highly knowledgeable and credible witness. In addition other accounts claim that Harry Breen’s membership of the extremist Down Orange Welfare while serving as a police officer in the 1970s was widely known in the region since the organisation enjoyed a privileged status under the leadership of Lieutenant-Colonel Peter Brush CB OBE, a former senior officer of the British Army and member of the ruling Ulster Unionist Party (UUP). Likewise his relationship with Robin “the Jackal” Jackson in the 1980s, a notorious former British soldier-turned-terrorist with close links to the RUC’s Special Patrol Group and British Military Intelligence, was believed to be common knowledge in so-called “Loyalist” terror circles and to several journalists. So why, in all the investigations and reporting around the killing of officers Breen and Buchannan, were the serious allegations of Harry Breen’s involvement with British death squads not brought to public attention? Why, by all accounts, did the national news media in Ireland and Britain simply gloss over these crucial background facts to Breen’s career and untimely death? These are the questions asked by the Irish journalist and author Paul Larkin of RTÉ and its news and current affairs department and the reaction is revealing of the political intent that shaped the reporting of the Smithwick Tribunal (while blithely ignoring the findings of the earlier Barron Tribunal).

The people of Ireland need to know the truth about the dreadful nature of the conflict in the north-east of our island nation – but evidently our journalistic “betters” believe we should only know part of the truth.