An Cogadh Fada (The Long War)

A Colony Cannot Be Reformed

A 1960s’ civil rights march in the north-east of Ireland demanding equality in housing, jobs, justice and voting. Decades on little has changed

In case you missed it, from the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights at the United Nations:

“Press Statement by the United Nations Special Rapporteur on adequate housing…

From 29 August to 11 September 2013, I undertook an official visit to the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland at the invitation of the Government. My visit included various cities in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

The main objective of my visit was to assess the country’s achievements and challenges in guaranteeing the right to adequate housing and non-discrimination in this context, in accordance with existing international human rights standards. The assessment includes legislation and policy frameworks as well as the consideration of concrete outcomes from those policies, examining how they respond to the housing needs of women, men and children, with a particular focus on those most vulnerable and disenfranchised.

Planning systems reforms are also being considered in Northern Ireland, devolving powers to Local Councils, which will also be territorially redefined. In this context, I want to express my concern at the potential that this decentralization may have for increased sectarianism and discrimination.

… population groups, highlighted by the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights in 2009, which continue to face inadequate access to affordable housing are Catholics in Northern Ireland, specifically in North Belfast. The current allocation scheme was created to be fair and open, and to allocate accommodation on the basis of meeting the housing need of people. Despite the efforts of the Northern Ireland Housing Executive, I remain concerned that full equality has not been achieved yet.”

Nearly five decades on from the eruption of the war in the north-east of Ireland and the causes of the conflict remain as current as ever. Despite the signing of the Belfast Agreement in 1998, despite supposed power-sharing and improvements in civil rights institutionalised discrimination based upon religion and ethnicity remains the dominant feature of the last remnant of the historic British colonial state on our island nation. One cannot reform the unreformable. One can only wipe the slate clean and start again.

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The Dirty Secrets Of A Dirty War Get Even Dirtier

Joan Connolly, a fifty year old Irish mother of eight murdered by British troops during the Ballymurphy Massacre of 1971

Joan Connolly, a fifty year old Irish mother of eight murdered by British troops during the Ballymurphy Massacre of 1971

In the “better late than never” category Britain’s Left-leaning newspaper, the Guardian, has published a special investigation by Ian Cobain into the infamous Ballymurphy Massacre of August 1971. During the course of three days rampaging British troops in an isolated Irish Nationalist enclave on the edge of West Belfast murdered ten civilians, 9 men and boys and one woman, while wounding dozens more. If you are a regular reader of An Sionnach Fionn you will have read my own description of the terrifying events that summer some forty years ago. You will also be aware that the government in Britain has refused to hold an official inquiry into the war crime, largely on the grounds that it would not be in the public interest do so. That would be the British public interest, of course.

“One of the most tragic and controversial episodes of the conflict in Northern Ireland will be relived in a Belfast courtroom on Friday when a preliminary hearing is held into the deaths of 10 people shot dead more than four decades ago.

All 10 were killed in one small neighbourhood of west Belfast over little more than 36 hours in August 1971 during the disturbances that were triggered by the introduction of internment without trial.

Drawing upon hundreds of pages of contemporary witness statements, police reports and pathologists’ records gathered for the inquest, the Guardian has reconstructed the events surrounding the killings.

What emerges is a picture that is complex and confused, but which points to a prolonged killing spree by soldiers of the Parachute Regiment, several months before troops from the same regiment massacred protesters at Derry on Bloody Sunday.

Among the nine men and one woman fatally wounded in the streets around Ballymurphy between the evening of 9 August and the morning of 11 August were a local priest, shot twice while giving the last rites to a man who had also been shot, and a 44-year-old mother of eight, shot in the face.

At least eight of those who died appear to have been shot by soldiers of the Parachute Regiment. A ninth was shot by a soldier from a different regiment, while the 10th was shot by an unidentified sniper, possibly a soldier. Another man died of heart failure, allegedly after being subjected to a mock execution by soldiers.

Unlike on Bloody Sunday, however, no journalists were present, no camera crews captured the events, and there was no international condemnation of the killings.”

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

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

Meanwhile the Guardian also reports on new revelations surrounding the assassination by British terrorists of Sergeant Joseph Campbell, a paramilitary police officer with the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC), in 1977. A recent investigation by the Police Ombudsman in the north-east of Ireland has discovered that the planned killing of (the Roman Catholic) Campbell was known before hand by senior commanders in the RUC who did nothing to prevent it. In fact there is considerable suspicion that they permitted the shooting to go ahead in order to protect corrupt and terrorist-supporting men within their own ranks.

“Campbell had been a well-known and respected police officer in the County Antrim community for many years. The shooting took place on the evening of 25 February 1977 and since then his widow and children have campaigned for more information about the circumstances surrounding his death.

The Campbells have always believed their father was murdered by one of the most notorious loyalist paramilitary killers of the Troubles – Robin “The Jackal” Jackson. Jackson was an assassin for the Ulster Volunteer Force, whose targets were mainly Catholics living in the so-called murder triangle of North Armagh and Tyrone.

Since Campbell’s murder there have been allegations that the police officer was shot dead because he discovered links between Jackson and a rogue member of RUC special branch who was organising criminal activities including armed robberies in County Antrim.

The police ombudsman is currently involved in a legal battle with the PSNI over its refusal to allow him access to sensitive historic files on unsolved Troubles crimes.”

If the name of the gunman Robin “The Jackal” Jackson seems familiar to you that is because we discussed him before in relation to the killing of RUC Superintendent Harry Breen in a 1989 ambush by the (Provisional) Irish Republican Army. In a sworn affidavit to a tribunal set up by the government of Ireland an ex-RUC officer-cum-terrorist, Sergeant John Weir, testified that Harry Breen supported the campaign of violence and mayhem by British militants in the mid-Ulster region, led most notably by Jackson. Throughout the 1970s and early ’80s serving and former British police officers and soldiers in the so-called Glenanne Gang staged a series of gun and bomb attacks against the local Irish civilian population in the counties of Armagh, Tyrone, Monaghan and Fermanagh, a region soon dubbed the “Murder Triangle” by the contemporary news media.

The more we uncover the secrets of Britain’s “Dirty War” in Ireland, the dirtier it gets.

The Whole Aim Of Newspeak Is To Narrow The Range Of Thought

And if all others accepted the lie which the Party imposed – if all records told the same tale – then the lie passed into history and became truth. ‘Who controls the past,’ ran the Party slogan, ‘controls the future: who controls the present controls the past.’ And yet the past, though of its nature alterable, never had been altered. Whatever was true now was true from everlasting to everlasting. It was quite simple. All that was needed was an unending series of victories over your own memory. ‘Reality control’, they called it: in Newspeak, ‘doublethink’.

Colm Keena, the journalist and less-than-sympathetic biographer of Gerry Adams, has an article in the Irish Times newspaper examining the Sinn Féin leader and tangentially the origins of the conflict in the north-east of Ireland. It reads like this:

“Militant nationalism. Militant nationalism. Militant nationalism. Militant nationalism. Militant nationalism. Militant nationalism. Militant nationalism. Militant nationalism. Militant nationalism. Militant nationalism. Militant nationalism. Militant nationalism. Militant nationalism. Militant nationalism. Militant nationalism. Militant nationalism. Militant nationalism. Militant nationalism. Militant nationalism. Militant nationalism. Militant nationalism. Militant nationalism.

Virus. Virus. Virus. Virus. Virus. Virus. Virus. Virus. Virus. Virus. Virus. Virus. Virus. Virus. Virus. Virus. Virus. Virus. Virus. Virus. Virus. Virus. Virus. Virus. Virus. Virus. Virus. Virus. Virus. Virus. Virus. Virus. Virus. Virus. Virus. Virus. Virus. Virus. Virus. Virus. Virus. Virus. Virus. Virus. Virus. Virus. Virus. Virus. Virus. Virus. Virus. Virus. Virus. Virus. Virus. Virus. Virus. Virus. Virus. Virus. Virus. Virus. Virus. Virus. Virus. Virus. Virus. Virus. Virus. Virus. Virus. Virus.

Young British soldiers. Young British soldiers. Young British soldiers. Young British soldiers. Young British soldiers. Young British soldiers. Young British soldiers. Young British soldiers. Young British soldiers. Young British soldiers. Young British soldiers. Young British soldiers. Young British soldiers. Young British soldiers. Young British soldiers. Young British soldiers. Young British soldiers. Young British soldiers. Young British soldiers. Young British soldiers. Young British soldiers.

Sinn Féin eradicate. Sinn Féin eradicate. Sinn Féin eradicate. Sinn Féin eradicate. Sinn Féin eradicate. Sinn Féin eradicate. Sinn Féin eradicate. Sinn Féin eradicate. Sinn Féin eradicate. Sinn Féin eradicate. Sinn Féin eradicate. Sinn Féin eradicate. Sinn Féin eradicate. Sinn Féin eradicate. Sinn Féin eradicate. Sinn Féin eradicate. Sinn Féin eradicate. Sinn Féin eradicate. Sinn Féin eradicate. Sinn Féin eradicate. Sinn Féin eradicate. Sinn Féin eradicate. Sinn Féin eradicate. Sinn Féin eradicate.”

Insightful, no?

The Torture Files

Photo taken by civil rights activists of an Irish civilian tortured by the British military interrogators in the Occupied North of Ireland, 1970s

Photo taken by civil rights activists of an Irish civilian tortured by the British military interrogators in the Occupied North of Ireland, 1970s

So the News and Current Affairs Department of RTÉ, our self-proclaimed “national broadcaster” (no sniggering, please), has suddenly become aware that there were two sides to the conflict that raged in the north-eastern part of our island-nation during the 1970s, ‘80s and 1990s. Yes, the war wasn’t solely caused by Irish Republicans (actually it truly began with British soldiers-turned-terrorists back in 1966) and the British Armed Forces participated in it too (y’know, the same ones we used to shoot at during the War of Independence when they patrolled the streets of Dublin and Cork – and Belfast and Derry). RTÉ’s much-hyped documentary broadcast last night revealed the levels of government-authorised torture inflicted by Britain on Irish citizens living in the fifth of our country retained under the British Occupation following the 1916-21 revolution (y’know, the one that was staged and fought on the streets of Dublin and Cork – and Belfast and Derry). The programme was titled “The Torture Files” and the horrifying stories contained within were presented as if something startlingly new and unbeknown to the people of Ireland (except, y’know, the fifth of our population forced to live under the British Occupation despite having supported the same historic struggle fought on the streets of Dublin and Cork – and Belfast and Derry).

Of course the revelations were anything but new or unbeknown. If fact they were widely reported for decades though you might have missed all that if you had relied on RTÉ for such information any time between 1968 and 1998 (or even 2014!). God be with the days when the apparatchiks of the Workers Party controlled the news and current affairs output at Montrose, when state censorship was second to ideological censorship enforced with an iron fist by a closed coterie of journalists and editors. They all thought the same, they all talked the same. Though of course that is not too hard when most of them were screwing each other too (one way or another). Ah, wine and coke parties in Dublin 4; look at us with our beards, our manifestos, our white lines and our ABBA albums too. Fun, fun, fun in the know-nothing sun (of the empire upon which it never sets… ahem).

Here at An Sionnach Fionn, gadfly of the establishment, such items of historical enquiry have been a regular feature for the last three years. Again and again accusations have been levelled, proof has been offered, yet the critics cry: oh no, that cannot be true, it would simply be too dreadful a vista to contemplate…

Yet it was and is true. All of it.

So here are some select highlights from the campaign for truth waged by one lonely blog against the closed face of Irish media denial:

From Ireland To Iraq – The Same Army, The Same Abusers

Former British Agent Admits Irish Citizens Were Waterboarded

The Murder Machine – The British War In Ireland

Dirty Secrets Of A Dirty War

Pat Finucane – A Victim Of Britain’s State-Sponsored Terrorism In Ireland

Death Squad Britain – The Past That Won’t Stay Hidden

Ulster Resistance – Unapologetic British Terrorism In Ireland

The Truth About Ireland’s British Troubles

Death Squad Britain

Death Squad Killers In The Land Down Under

No Investigation Into A 1971 British War Crime In Ireland

Only A General Amnesty Will Yield The Truth

The Continuity RUC

The RUC, the notorious disbanded forerunner of the PSNI, show their respect for funerals in Ireland by smashing and shooting their way through one. These are the scenes the Continuity RUC would love to have back, hey boys?

The hated RUC, the disbanded forerunner to the PSNI, show their respect for funerals in Ireland by smashing and shooting their way through one. These are the scenes the Continuity RUC would love to have back, hey boys?

In an unprecedented move the Police Ombudsman for the north-east of Ireland, Michael Maguire, is to sue the Chief Constable of the PSNI, the region’s paramilitary police force, over his organisation’s repeated failures to cooperate with enquiries into dozens of killings carried out by British terrorist groupings and others during the 1966-2005 conflict. From an investigation by The Detail:

“NORTHERN Ireland’s Police Ombudsman Michael Maguire is to launch a legal action against Chief Constable Matt Baggott over the failure to provide information on major investigations including killings from the Troubles.

The dramatic move follows long-running complaints over delays in the police supplying of documents and intelligence to investigators reviewing allegations of security force wrongdoing.

The ombudsman is understood to have instructed former Director of Public Prosecutions in England and Wales Sir Keir Starmer to seek a judicial review of the police conduct.

The police said they had met their legal obligations but had to balance the release of sensitive information with the right to protect life, a duty which it said it took “extremely seriously”.

The dispute centres on recent and historic cases, but The Detail believes that the list includes the 1994 Loughinisland massacre, where loyalist gunmen killed six people as they watched the World Cup in a Co Down bar.

In a statement to The Detail the ombudsman’s office said investigations into the circumstances surrounding more than 60 deaths “have now been stalled by a PSNI (Police Service of Northern Ireland) refusal to provide certain material”.”

At the start of May the same news and current affairs website revealed that John Leckey, the north-east’s senior coroner, had officially complained that his investigations into historical deaths during the Long War were being being starved of resources by the British state.

Divide Et Impera

Seriously, have people lost all sense of reality in relation to the admittedly bitter divisions within the broad Republican movement stemming from the Boston College Oral History controversy? Yesterday the Pensive Quill, the personal website of writer and Boston Tapes’ researcher Anthony McIntyre, posted an article featuring an interview by the New York-based Radio Free Éireann with the veteran Irish journalist Suzanne Breen, which focuses on the fascinating claim by Gerry Adams that the PSNI accused him of being an agent of MI5, the British security service, during his recent arrest and detention. The allegation focused on 1972, the year the suspected British Army informer Jean McConville was murdered, and some people are now treating this like some sort of revelatory confession by Adams. Even worse Breen needlessly gilded her reporting lilly by repeating the risible second-hand claims by the British “super-spy” Martin Ingram that the bullets used in the attempted assassination of the Sinn Féin leader in 1984 by British terrorists had been rendered less effective by the British military to prevent his death.

If Sinn Féin have been hoisted by their own petard in relation to the politicised enquiries by the RUC Dissidents within the PSNI in the form of the aptly dubbed “Get Adams!” campaign and generally emerged with we-told-you-so egg all over their faces, then those Republicans who oppose SF’s current leadership are descending into the territory of “Fenians in Wonderland“. While those who benefit from Republican in-fighting sit back and rub their hands in front of the self-immolating conflagration that has become Ireland’s revolutionary tradition activists and supporters from across our island nation – and beyond – are happily piling more fuel on the fire. The British state did not bring about the “defeat” of the (Provisional) Irish Republican Army. It did not “win” the war. The role of spies and informers, agents and traitors, in the conflict has been blown completely out of proportion. Yes, by the early 1990s the British had done a good job of penetrating the ranks of (P)IRA. Of course they did. But penetration does not equate with absolute control or even influence. More was gained from emergent “Big Brother” technologies in that era than was ever gained through human assets. By all means understand one’s enemy but don’t transform him into an unstoppable Hercules when he was – and is – nothing more than a Goliath waiting for his David, a Balar ready to fall to a Lúgh.

If Gerry Adams was recruited in 1972 as an agent for MI5 inside (P)IRA and the cessation by (P)IRA took place in 2005 that means it took 33 years for MI5’s secret plan to “defeat” the (P)IRA to work. Surely that would make MI5 the most incompetent bunch of spooks in human history? In truth Adams is no more a “tout” than Anthony McIntyre, however much one may disagree with either or both. And if a former generation of Republican activists wish to tell their story in their own words then who has the right to stop them, even if the manner in which it was done was flawed or mishandled (or contaminated by as yet unclear political agendas)?

No Prosecutions For British Death Squad Confessions

James Cromie murdered by British state-controlled terrorists in the McGurk Bar Bombing

13 year-old James Cromie murdered by British terrorists controlled by the MRF, a covert British Army unit, in the McGurk Bar Bombing, Belfast, Ireland, 1971

In the early 1970s the Military Reaction Force or MRF was a covert unit of the British Army which operated as death squad in and around the city of Belfast, its members orchestrating scores of gun and bomb attacks on the Irish civilian population in co-operation with local British terror factions. Last year former soldiers of the MRF appeared on a British television documentary to boast of their actions, confirming their role in a series of assassinations, random drive-by shootings, kidnappings and “false-flag” operations designed to deepen the crisis in the north-east of Ireland. Now the PSNI, the British paramilitary police force, has announced that none of the unit’s members will face arrest or prosecution despite their on-air confessions. This news follows the recent arrest and prolonged detention of Gerry Adams TD, the leader of Sinn Féin, in relation to activities by the (Provisional) Irish Republican Army in the early 1970s and sustained attempts by the PSNI to secure a criminal case against him.

Unsurprisingly the Irish news media, with its longstanding British-apologist agenda, has effectively embargoed the story. So we must turn to RIA Novosti to learn of it:

“A decision by the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) not to conduct a full investigation into a British Army unit, the Military Reaction Force, which was implicated in the murders of unarmed civilians has been labelled a “travesty of justice” by a leading human rights group.

“The PSNI decision reinforces our long held view that the PSNI cannot under any circumstances be trusted to carry out impartial, independent investigations into so-called ‘legacy or historic’ cases”, Paul O’Connor of the Pat Finucane Centre (PFC) told RIA Novosti.

A BBC special investigations documentary broadcast in November 2013 detailed how a unit of the British Army was established and ordered to carry out random attacks on civilians.

The film linked the Military Reaction Force (MRF) to the murders of at least ten unarmed civilians over an 18 month period in West Belfast, a community perceived to be sympathetic to the republican IRA. The film included interviews with former British Army soldiers who were members of the unit and detailed how captured IRA weapons were used to carry out the shootings with the aim of discrediting the republican paramilitary organisation.

In a short statement the PSNI confirmed detectives from the Serious Crime Branch had “studied” the film but concluded there was no specific “admission of criminality” by individual soldiers. RIA Novosti understands none of the former soldiers who appeared in the film were interviewed by detectives.

Although the MRF was disbanded in 1973 another similar force was established by the British army in the early 1980s and known as the Force Research Unit and linked to British military intelligence. It has been implicated in the murders and disappearance of dozens of people in Northern Ireland and accused of collusion with loyalist terror groups.”

The infamous Force Research Unit (FRU) was the covert British military grouping behind the terrorist assassination of the Irish civil rights lawyer Pat Finucane in 1989. The BBC carries a brief report on the PSNI refusal to investigate the British Army’s previously denied actions:

“Families of people allegedly killed by an Army undercover unit have been told former members of the unit who appeared on TV admitted no crimes.

The Military Reaction Force was the subject of a BBC Panorama programme last November.

Former members said the unit had shot people who may have been unarmed.

The PSNI investigation has found none of the men featured “admitted any criminal act or being involved in any of the incidents portrayed”.

The unit was disbanded in 1973, after 18 months.

The plain-clothes soldiers carried out round-the-clock patrols in Belfast in unmarked cars.

One of the soldiers said they were “not there to act like an army unit, we were there to act like a terror group”.”

In April the PSNI and British government announced a similar refusal to investigate the Ballymuphy Massacre of 1971 when dozens of civilians were killed or wounded in a three-day shooting spree by British soldiers in an isolated Irish Nationalist enclave of west Belfast. Yet again the urgent need for a general amnesty and truth commission is overwhelming.

Tweet: #Time4Truth #AnFhírinneAnois

More Allegations In The Boston Tapes Controversy

Boston College Touts? Eh. no..!

Boston College Touts? Eh. no..!

The “Boston Tapes” controversy just grows murkier by the day. I’m not saying I fall on the side of the conspiracy theorists, by no means, but it’s hard to escape the conclusion that the inspiration for the whole project seems to have arisen from the confluence of several disparate elements, both academic and political (or indeed ideological). Journalist and author Paul Larkin has some more interesting articles over on Cic Saor: “Lord Paul Bew tries in vain to whitewash his Boston tapes…” and the follow-up “In February 2001 Lord Paul Bew signed an employment contract between Ed Moloney, Anthony McIntyre and Boston College…”. Meanwhile Anthony McIntyre’s website features two guest posts which make some very fair points though some of the conspiratorial assertions don’t stand up to close scrutiny: “THE WAR OF THE WORDS” and “THE DIRTY WAR IS FOUGHT ON MANY FRONTS”. As always try to read all the claims and counter-claims in order to make up your own mind.

From my own personal view I can say that what is needed is a cooling of the rhetoric being employed by all the interested parties. This applies first and foremost to Republicans of all strands who need to put their opinions faoi smacht. Former comrades taking bites out of each other serves no one but the common enemy of both. That’s your real conspiracy.

Sinn Féin, A Victim Of Its Own Hubris

So Gerry Adams TD, the leader of Sinn Féin, has been released after several days of detention and interrogation by the PSNI, the British paramilitary police force in Ireland. Despite the pressure of SF’s political rivals, north and south, not to mention the country’s ideologically anti-Republican news media no charges were laid against him though a file has been sent by the PSNI to the northern Director of Public Prosecutions (and what a political hot potato that will be). Am I the only one struck by the irony of Irish newspapers and politicians welcoming the arrest and detention of a democratically elected member of Dáil Éireann, the national parliament of Ireland, by a foreign-controlled police force under foreign-imposed laws in our country? Forget the Ukraine, we have our very own Crimea complete with enemies-within right here on our island nation. In any case Gerry Adams was given a hero’s welcome upon his release despite the presence of a crowd of militant flag-wavers from the British Unionist minority outside the PSNI base where he was being held (Adams left by the back door while the Unionist extremists demonstrated impotently out the front). In a fairly lengthy press conference the Sinn Féin leader proved yet again why a recent poll named him the most popular party leader in Ireland. Though one can legitimately make many criticisms of Adams a lack of intelligence and natural charm cannot be counted among them. If the expectations of the Irish and British establishments was the rolling back of the rising SF electoral tide what may have seemed likely a few days ago may well prove to have backfired in the days to come. Only time will tell.

However even allowing for the possibility of SF emerging intact from the current controversies one must highlight some uncomfortable home truths for the (Provisional) Republican movement. Simply put Gerry Adams and Sinn Féin have brought this trouble on themselves through their overweening pride and their too-frequent willingness to turn a blind eye when the draconian foot was on the political neck of someone else. For several years Republicans in Ireland, within SF as well as independent or non-aligned, have been warning the party that they were pursuing the wrong policies in relation to dealing with “legacy issues” of the Long War as well as the ongoing administration of justice in the north-east of the country. Again and again activists called for the establishment of a general amnesty tied to a South African-style truth commission while Sinn Féin vacillated on the issue. When observers highlighted the failure to truly reform policing and the slow infiltration of the PSNI with ex-RUC personnel they were ignored or shouted down. When former comrades pointed to the veto on political and legislative progress exercised by Unionists they were denounced or cold-shouldered. Blaming one-time (P)IRA Volunteer and writer Anthony McIntyre or veteran journalist Ed Moloney for the arrest and interrogation of Gerry Adams is not only unfair it is politically self-deluding. One can question motivations all one wants, that will not obscure Sinn Féin’s own failures. Additionally attacking rival Republican parties or organisations for their alleged role in “felon setting” is simple cowardice and chicanery. When former Volunteers of the (Provisional) Irish Republican Army face arrest and imprisonment for their past actions in the conflict while former soldiers of the British Army face comfortable, well-pensioned retirements for their actions then the fault is entirely that of (Provisional) Sinn Féin and no one else.

The leadership of SF need to turn their gaze and ire inward. They were presented with numerous opportunities to put in place a “fix” (or many “fixes”) to all the questions and points raised by others over the last decade and consistently failed to do so. Instead the line of least resistance was followed while advantage was taken of potentially booby-trapped mechanisms to side-line rivals and critics. While accepting the obvious political motivations driving the campaign to criminalise Gerry Adams and the nexus of interests that favour it one cannot help but think that what goes around comes around.

No Investigation Into 1971 British War Crime In Ireland

The Ballymurphy Massacre, Belfast 1971 - British war crimes in Ireland

The Ballymurphy Massacre, Belfast 1971 – British war crimes in Ireland

The government of Britain has announced its refusal to investigate the Ballymurphy Massacre of 1971, a three-day killing spree by British troops in an Irish Nationalist enclave of west Belfast during the earliest days of the conflict in the north-east of Ireland.  Despite the demands for an independent investigation made by survivors and their families, politicians from across the Irish political spectrum, the government of Ireland, and members of the European Parliament and United States Congress the British Secretary of State Theresa Villiers has dismissed the need for such a tribunal. The events of that bloody year have been made clear through the work of dedicated researchers, historians and journalists.

In August 1971 the embattled British Unionist regime in the north-eastern part of Ireland imposed “internment” or imprisonment without trial upon the region, a previously tried-and-tested method of suppressing political opposition amongst the Nationalist community to the one-party administration at Stormont. Supported by the government of Britain the implementation of “Operation Demetrius” involved thousands of British paramilitary police officers and troops and the seizure of up to four hundred people from their homes and places of work across the territory in scenes of bloodshed not witnessed since Ireland’s War of Independence some sixty years earlier. Many of the detainees were processed through torture-centres like Castlereagh, some subject to “special interrogation” techniques overseen by military medical personnel, while others were fast-tracked to the sprawling Long Kesh Concentration Camp in County Down or the notorious holding pens of HMS Maidstone, a converted British naval vessel moored in Belfast Harbour. Over seven thousand people were displaced from their homes, many families fleeing across the border to the relative safety of refugee camps in the south, while the cities of Derry and Belfast erupted into virtual insurrection. In the latter the western district of Ballymurphy became the scene of one of the earliest massacres in the entire conflict. The perpetrators were soldiers of Britain’s Parachute Regiment, a unit that was to gain global infamy several months later when its members were ordered to attack a civil rights march in Derry murdering fourteen demonstrators and wounding dozens more. Over the course of three days in 1971 the soldiers of the “Paras” went on a killing-spree in Ballymurphy, at that time a relatively small Nationalist community easily isolated from the rest of the city.

Starting on the night of the 9th of August paratroopers began to target random members of the civilian population, the first death relating to the wounding of Bobby Clarke, shot by a military sniper while trying to carry a child to safety during attacks by British terror gangs from the neighbouring Springmartin estate. When local people went to his aid they were pinned down by fire from nearby troops until a local priest, thirty-eight year old Father Hugh Mullan, moved out into the open waving a white cloth. Despite the danger he managed to reach the injured man, establish that he was alive, before being shot in the back as he retreated to safety. Witnessing the second shooting a nineteen year old youth, Frank Quinn, rushed out to help the priest but he too was shot, this time in the back of the head. Both men eventually died of their injuries, their bodies left in the open for some time before they could be safely recovered by local people.

Joan Connolly, a fifty year old Irish mother of eight murdered by British troops during the Ballymurphy Massacre of 1971

Joan Connolly, a fifty year old Irish mother of eight murdered by British troops during the Ballymurphy Massacre of 1971

Meanwhile soldiers based at a recently commandeered building known as the Henry Taggart Memorial Hall began firing on the surrounding neighbourhood. A number of people were caught in the open when the shooting commenced and sought refuge in a small field opposite the installation. Nineteen year old Noel Phillips was one of several wounded youths trapped in the location and as he lay on the ground Joan Connolly, a fifty year old mother of eight, rushed to his aid. Almost immediately she was shot in the side of the head by one of the ubiquitous British snipers, the impact removing part of her face and blinding her. According to eyewitnesses she stumbled on, local women screaming at her to follow their voices until the soldiers, realising that she might make it to cover, fired several shots at her legs. She collapsed to the ground, another bullet slamming through both her shoulder and her hand as she held it up begging for help.

When the barrage of gunfire ceased dozens of civilians lay injured while Daniel Teggart, a father aged forty-four, lay dead having been hit by fourteen bullets (most of the gunshot wounds were to his back as snipers repeatedly shot him in the hope that others might attempt a rescue, in the process providing fresh targets). Within minutes British troops fanned out from their fortified base and into the nearby field and in front of numerous eyewitnesses the prostrate teenager Noel Phillips was summarily executed with a single shot to the back of the head. A second man was dragged from the field and shot four times at point blank range though he managed to survive his injuries. The many victims, wounded and dead, were thrown into the back of an armoured vehicle and brought back to the hall where they were subject to sustained torture. As well as beatings the soldiers jumped off the top of bunk-beds onto the bodies and heads of the victims while others shoved blunt objects into their gunshot wounds. Joseph Murphy, a forty-one year old father who had been wounded in the leg and was bleeding profusely, was shot at close range with a rubber bullet in the open wound later dying from his injuries. At one stage a group of frenzied soldiers threw the now naked and bloodied corpse of Daniel Teggart into a room containing a number of terrified prisoners. Meanwhile Joan Connolly, who had been ignored by the soldiers when they entered the field, lay wounded and blind. Despite repeatedly crying out for help she bled to death, local people too terrified to approach her as violence continued to erupt around the district.

If the people of Ballymurphy thought their travails were over they were to be bitterly disappointed over the next two days. On the 10th of August Eddie Doherty, a twenty-eight year old father of four anxiously checking on the well-being of his elderly parents, was shot in the back near a street-barricade erected by local people in a desperate attempt to keep the British military out of their area. The improvised defences were being demolished by vehicle-borne troops during riotous scenes when one of them opened fire from an armoured digger. Doherty was carried to a neighbouring house but died some time later of his wounds.

On the morning of the 11th of August another local civilian, twenty year old John Laverty, was gunned down by marauding British soldiers while Joseph Corr, a forty-three old father of six, was fatally wounded with multiple shots fired by a military patrol. Pat McCarthy, a Quaker and community worker from Britain, was hit by gunfire from passing troops as he tried to distribute milk and bread to families that were suffering under a military-imposed curfew. When wounded he was carrying a large Red Cross flag hoping that it would provide some degree of safety. A few hours later he was seized by soldiers who publicly beat him and carried out a mock execution with an unloaded gun. McCarthy suffered a heart attack and died some time later, the members of the Parachute Regiment preventing local people getting the prostrate man to a doctor. John McKerr, a father of eight, was fatally wounded by passing troops with a single shot to the head outside a Roman Catholic church. He was the last to die in three days of violence by the British Forces that left eleven civilians dead and dozens wounded.

Once again while former Volunteers of the Irish Republican Army are subject to arrest, detention and prosecution for actions committed decades ago former members of the British Army are subject to immunity for all their actions up to and including war crimes. The need for a general amnesty and truth tribunal cannot be escaped if balance is to be restored to an increasingly shaky peace.

The Irish Media In Panic Mode

An Active Service Unit of the Irish Republican Army launches an anti-aircraft attack

An Active Service Unit (ASU) of the Irish Republican Army launches an anti-aircraft attack with a .50 calibre HMG (Heavy Machine Gun) in the British Occupied North of Ireland, late 1980s

Reading Ireland’s national and regional newspapers the worried expectations of the media establishment that Sinn Féin and various smaller parties will make unprecedented gains in the upcoming European and local elections, and largely at the expense of the country’s traditional ruling parties, is almost palatable. Hardly a day goes by without an anti-SF report or opinion piece being published, some perfectly legitimate criticisms over policy or concerns about the personal records of elected politicians, others simply fantasy histories from the nuttier fringe of the Irish commentariat (a vote for Sinn Féin is a vote for the Nazis in 1930s’ Germany or something…). Given that for several decades politics in Ireland was essentially tripartite in nature, government by either Fianna Fáil or Fine Gael with the Labour Party (and occasional guests) in a supporting role, it is hardly surprising that the pet monkeys of the press are rattling their gilded cages. What, no more bananas? Of course in the north-east of the country the picture is complicated by SF now functioning as the (Nationalist) establishment but that doesn’t stop the Belfast members of the national Independent group of newspapers playing their part in the ongoing struggle, albeit with the rhetoric turned all the way up to eleven. Suzanne Breen, who I respect more than most Irish journos, has this uncharacteristically OTT report in the Belfast Telegraph. Remember the (Provisional) Irish Republican Army? The insurgent force that declared a ceasefire in 1997 and a compete end to the “armed campaign” in 2005?

“The IRA has a secret arsenal of deadly munitions capable of bringing down military helicopters and penetrating PSNI Land Rovers, killing all personnel travelling inside.

Millionaire Florida stockbroker turned IRA gunrunner, Mike Logan, says he sent the powerful incendiary shells to the Provisionals who tested them and were “delighted with the results”.

In an exclusive interview with Sunday Life, Logan reveals new details of the weapons cache he sent to IRA leader, Sean ‘Spike’ Murray.

As well as arming the Provisionals with hundreds of handguns as previously reported, he has now disclosed that he also sent munitions as powerful as those the US Army deployed against Saddam Hussein in the Iraq war.

He claims that years after the IRA ceasefire, the Provos were still keen to buy heavy weapons capable of killing dozens of police officers and British soldiers.

“I sent them .50 calibre shells called Raufoss rounds,” Logan says.

“The Americans used them to annihilate miles of Saddam Hussein’s tanks in Iraq. I can’t stress how powerful they are.

“These shells are armour piercing. They penetrate the vehicle they’re fired at, then explode and ignite. They can incinerate everything and everybody inside.

“I bought 20 of them for just $10 a piece at a gun show. I sent them to Spike. On my next visit to Ireland, he said he was delighted with them. The look on his face was priceless.

“He told me he’d personally tested one of them on a scrap car down South. He said, ‘Wow, they’re good. They really do the business.’ There are still 19 of these rounds out there. Somebody somewhere in Ireland has them.”

The Raufoss rounds are fired from a heavy duty machine gun or large sniper rifle.”

So the secret arsenal of “deadly munitions” is exactly 19 – that’s nineteen – bullets?

As for their location we know exactly where they are: in one of several permanently sealed underground bunkers along with the weapons that could fire them, placed there as part of the international decommissioning process of the early 2000s. By the by, the use of Raufoss Mk 211 .50 calibre rounds to “annihilate miles of Saddam Hussein’s tanks in Iraq”? Bollocks

Time For Truth, An Fhírinne Anois

With thanks to the Mirror, a powerful video from the Irish victims support organisation “Relatives for Justice” which campaigns for truth and openess in relation to the former conflict in the north-east of Ireland. Though focused on those who suffered at the hands of the British Forces and their terrorist allies the pain and suffering on display here is applicable to all the victims of the Long War regardless of nationality or allegiance. Please watch it in full and share with your family and friends on your social media networks.

Tweet #Time4Truth and #AnFhírinneAnois.

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 about 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 prevented access to selected British Army records relating to this period by journalists and members of the McConville family which is why so much of the case remains in the realms of speculation. In an unprecedented move the so-called “war diaries” of the First Gloucestershire Regiment, which was garrisoned in the Divis area of Belfast where McConvile lived, have been placed under an embargo until 2059. Of the nine British Army units to have toured in the locality during the early 1970s the “Glosters” are the only unit to have its records sealed for a remarkable span of one hundred years.  To compound the suspicions of many the Gloucestershire Regiment was noted in contemporary media accounts  for its “gung-ho” counter-insurgency tactics, actively confronting both Republicans and the civilian population in general, while boasting within army circles of its intelligence gathering capabilities. Remarkably in 2012 the former ombudsperson Nuala O’Loan admitted that the existence of the Gloucestershire war diaries were kept hidden from her initial 2006 investigation and that they now must be made public.

However, that aside, we do know that back in the early 1970s no serious investigation was carried out by the RUC into Jean McConville’s 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 – and the First Gloucestershire Regiment in particular – despite the RUC’s more informed sources who correctly guessed what had happened). 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.

A rare photograph of a soldier from the First Gloucestershire Regiment taken inside the Divis flats, Belfast 1972, the home of Jean McConville. The "walkie-talkie" radio he is using is of the same type that McConville was allegedly caught with by (P)IRA, possibly a Stornophone model.

A rare photograph of a soldier from the First Gloucestershire Regiment taken inside the Divis flats, Belfast 1972, the home of Jean McConville. The “walkie-talkie” radio he is using is of the same type that McConville was allegedly caught with by (P)IRA, possibly a Stornophone model.

The Irish Republican Army is adamant in its counter-claim that Jean McConville was a paid informer who had been arrested and warned about her activities following the discovery of a British-supplied military radio transmitter (a so-called “walkie-talkie“) in her possession several weeks before her death. 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, almost certainly in relation to the uncovering of a replacement radio transmitter at her home. 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 overwhelming evidence of her spying in its hands the local Brigade HQ Staff of the IRA discussed what to do next, 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).

Jean McConville’s refusal to heed the warnings given her and suspicions that her actions had already caused losses led to a majority favouring the death penalty. This resulted in her seizure the next day by female Volunteers of the Irish Republican Army and her eventual transportation across the border to the spot where she was shot dead and buried in a pre-dug grave. 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 close-knit community beyond that offered by the killers themselves. Nor have the circumstances surrounding the uncovering of her alleged spying been examined in any detail with some fingers pointing to family members as the source for the IRA’s information about her covert activities. Finally, if the allegations did prove true what of the British Army’s role in persuading an impoverished widow to risk her own life in return for financial gain, even after she had been discovered by the very people she was informing on?

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.

The Crimea-Of-The-West

Meanwhile in the “Crimea-of-the-West” militants from the British separatist minority in the north-east of Ireland have staged another of their weekly demonstrations at the so-called Twaddle Twaddell Protest Camp in the city of Belfast. Several marching-bands carrying British military and terrorist banners gathered on the Crumlin Road to take part in a parade headed by military-style jeeps driven by militants wearing masks and British-issue combat uniforms. Amongst the marchers were bands from the Orange Order, a once-powerful British and Protestant fundamentalist organisation associated with sectarian and racist views. Accompanied by calls for weapons to be produced or displayed the gathering moved up to the line of officers from the PSNI, the British paramilitary police force in the north of Ireland, where they were halted. Despite the conspicuous presence of paramilitary uniforms, masks and flags, all of which are illegal in the north-east of the country, no effort was made by the PSNI to detain or arrest any of the participants. Though several prominent politicians from the British Unionist minority have attended demonstrations in the past none were present last night, the role falling to members of more extreme Unionist parties like the PUP whose leader, Billy Hutchinson, recently claimed in a newspaper interview that his participation in the murders of two “Catholic” civilians in the 1970s helped prevent the reunification of Ireland.

So ends another night in Britain’s micro-colony on the edge of north-western Europe. Vladimir Putin couldn’t have done any better.

These Unionists in Ireland... I like their style!

These Unionists in Ireland… I like their style!

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!