Arm na Breataine (British Army)

The Orange Order – Enough Is Enough

Margaret Thatcher touring the British Occupied North of Ireland in 1981 wearing a beret of the UDR, an infamous British Army militia responsible for scores of terrorist attacks during the 1970s, '80s and '90s

Then British prime minister Margaret Thatcher touring the Occupied North of Ireland in 1981 wearing a beret of the UDR, an infamous British Army militia whose members were responsible for scores of terrorist attacks during the 1970s, ’80s and ’90s

From 1975 to 1982 a British terrorist faction nicknamed the “Shankhill Butchers”, part of the militant UVF, carried out a series of attacks designed to instil terror in the Irish Nationalist community of Belfast, randomly targeting men, women and children living in isolated enclaves around the city. Like Al-Qaeda in Iraq during the intercommunal conflict the Unionist grouping simply didn’t kill their victims. Armed with guns, explosives, axes and butchers knives they kidnapped, tortured, mutilated, hacked the limbs and cut the throats of those they encountered, often using various pubs and bars around the city to carry out their murderous activities (sometimes with the full knowledge of staff and customers). Fuelled by alcohol and drugs they boasted of the time it took to slay their captives or of how many they had killed that week, from ten year-old Kevin McMenamin to forty-eight year Marie McGrattan. Existing in the twilight world of British colonial culture on the island of Ireland, nationalism and religion fused together, they came to represent all that was evil on the ideological fringes of Unionism. Eventually their frenzied behaviour and ancillary criminal ways became too much for the British authorities and paramilitary police and they were brought to heel, arrests and assassinations (both internally and by Irish Republicans) breaking the back of their amorphous organisation.

One of their number was Eddie McIlwaine, a serving British soldier with the infamous Ulster Defence Regiment, who helped the group secure weapons, intelligence information and safe passage through British security cordons and checkpoints (though he was not the only one to do so). He was convicted in 1979 of kidnapping, assault and possession of weapons, the least of the charges that could have been brought against him. His only admitted victim was Gerard McLaverty, a young man the gang grabbed off the street while posing as police officers, beat, strangled and slashed with a knife before leaving for dead. Back then McIlwaine was an acknowledged psychopath, a dangerous soldier-cum-terrorist addicted to inflicting human suffering. Today he is an honoured and all-but venerated member of the Orange Order, the anti-Catholic and anti-Irish fraternity devoted to fundamentalist Protestantism and Britishness. From the Belfast Telegraph newspaper:

“One of the Shankill Butchers stewarded an Orange Order parade past a Catholic church in Belfast last weekend.

Eddie McIlwaine was filmed by Carrick Hill residents ushering members of the loyal orders past St Patrick’s on Donegall Street on the Twelfth.

McIlwaine was jailed for eight years in 1979 for being part of the Shankill Butchers gang that killed 19 Catholics and Protestants.

Last year Sunday Life pictured him parading through east Belfast during the UVF’s 100th anniversary parade.

He wore a UVF armband emblazoned with the words ‘UVF West Belfast 1’, and a medal understood to signify time spent in prison.

McIlwaine’s involvement with the Orange Order was first revealed a decade ago when he was pictured carrying a banner commemorating UVF killer Brian Robinson at the controversial Whiterock parade.

A spokesman for the Orange Order defended the Shankill Butcher’s role in the organisation, saying: “I can confirm that Eddie McIlwaine is a member of that lodge and in good standing…

“As long as Mr McIlwaine upholds the principle of the institution and has paid his debt to society he has done nothing wrong.””

Politicians, journalists and observers sometimes claim a moral equivalence between the actions of the (Provisional) Irish Republican Army, the British Occupation Forces and the British Terror Factions during the conflict in the north-east of Ireland and beyond. They argument goes that they all were equally guilty of militarism and violence. This is simply untrue. While the IRA can be justifiably criticised and condemned for many of its actions, up to and including war crimes, more often than not it exercised restraint. As dreadful as the war was it could have been far worse had the IRA chosen to act entirely outside the norms of western European behaviour at the end of the 20th century (or what the communities who supported it were willing to tolerate). That is not to negate the suffering caused by the Republican Army, the many innocent victims both direct and indirect left by its actions. The litany of its barbarisms, deliberate or otherwise, is lengthy and bring no credit to anyone. The war was not a clean one. Heroes are few and far between.

However the terrorist gangs organised and functioning under the aegis of the British state, acknowledged or otherwise, are a different matter. It was these factions which embraced as a weapon of war the policy of “ethnic cleansing” as the ultimate solution – or fallback – to the conflict and the defeat of their enemy. Acting as the cutting edge of Britain’s counter-insurgency strategy they engaged not armed opponents, guerrilla fighters or their commanders, but ordinary Irish men, women and children.

35% of all those killed by the (Provisional) Irish Republican Army were civilians.

51% of all those killed by the British Occupation Forces were civilians.

85% of all those killed by the British terror factions were civilians.

When the Orange Order permits the membership of someone like Eddie McIlwaine, a literal butcher of human beings, when it elevates him to a position of authority in its organisation, however slight, it sends a message to the people of Ireland as a whole. It is the same message that ISIS, the would-be Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, sends to Shia Moslems and Arab Christians or Israel sends to the Palestinians of Gaza: you and yours are unhumans.

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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

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

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.

The Great Irish Media Cover-Up


Ian Paisley addresses a militant rally while wearing the beret of the Ulster Resistance, the 1980s’ British terror faction in Ireland.

The pretence that the media establishment in Ireland is anything other than anti-Republican in terms of its collective political ideology has pretty much gone out the window over the last week. The arrest and prolonged detention without charge of Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams TD by the PSNI, the British paramilitary police force in the north-east of Ireland, in relation to the 1972 death of Jean McConville has been manna from heaven for the conservative press. With Sinn Féin predicted to do well in upcoming European and local elections across Ireland the opportunity to reverse that electoral steamroller has been seized upon and the propaganda is coming fast and thick from the party’s opponents. If anyone was under the illusion that we on this island nation have a free and pluralist media they will have been bitterly disappointed. Instead we live in a country under the axis of a media consensus that Fox News or other right-wing pundits in the United States could only dream of. There is an old Irish political term known as “Felon Setting”. At its most basic it means setting someone up, through public announcements or actions, for arrest and imprisonment by the British colonial authorities in Ireland (or elsewhere for that matter). In times past it was one of the gravest charges in the Irish political lexicon. The number of revolutionaries who paid with their freedom or their lives through this process of labelling is countless. Our history is replete with examples and more often than not it was fellow Irish men and women doing the labelling for their own personal, political or financial advantage.

So rather than fair and balanced reporting or level-headed analysis we have had the media acting as judge, jury and executioner. It says much for the parlous state of journalistic ethics in Ireland that even some of the press in Britain have proved more rational in their reporting than their Irish equivalents or that one must turn to the United States to escape the ideological feeding frenzy at home. The latest example of that latter phenomenon comes from the Irish Independent newspaper which has published some long public photos implying that these prove that Gerry Adams was linked to those allegedly behind the killing of Jean McConville. It reeks of desperation and displays the utter contempt the media have for the intelligence of their own readers. However, just to show how these things can be turned on their head, here are some examples that display the double-edged nature of the the sword the journalistic establishment is attempting to wield. Sic pilum iactum est!

Pictured above is Ian Paisley, the former leader of the DUP and First Minister in the north of Ireland, wearing the maroon beret of the Ulster Resistance (UR), the British terrorist organisation he helped found in 1986 with the co-operation of a number of known militants from within the British Unionist community. The UR participated with others in the smuggling of weapons and explosives into Ireland from southern Lebanon to rearm the British terror factions in the country during the mid-1980s. These armaments were procured through the Whites-only government of apartheid-era South Africa under the aegis of the British Security Service MI5 (and the tacit permission of the Israeli government) and were used to carry out hundreds of gun and bomb attacks over the following decade. Amongst the more notable victims of the British-procured weapons was the civil rights lawyer Pat Finucane, murdered by a UDA death squad in Belfast controlled by British Military Intelligence.

In the first image below we have Peter Robinson, the current head of the DUP and First Minister, marching alongside other uniformed members of the Ulster Resistance including a convicted terrorist. Robinson himself was convicted in an Irish court of militancy in 1986 after he led five hundred extremists in a cross-border “invasion” of the small village of Clontibret, a Crimea-style stunt that earned him his stripes with his peers. Underneath that we have the DUP politician posing with an AK47 assault rifle during a visit to Israel, close to the Lebanese border. From this same region some years later Unionist terrorists under the direction of Britain’s intelligences services smuggled hundreds of AK47s to Ireland. In the third image Robinson is pictured with former DUP party member and local candidate John Smyth Jr. The same Smyth who is the son of DUP councillor and convicted terrorist John Smyth Sr. and who was himself later tried and found guilty on charges of conducting terrorism.

Peter Robinson leads Ulster Resistance militants in a rally

Peter Robinson leads Ulster Resistance militants in a rally, British Occupied North of Ireland, 1987, including Noel Little, UDA terrorist and arms smuggler

Peter Robinson with an automatic assault rifle

Peter Robinson caught on camera in late 1984 during a visit to the Israel-Lebanon border with an AK47 automatic assault rifle similar to the weapons later smuggled from the region to rearm British terror factions in Ireland

Former DUP member John Smyth Junior pictured with his party leader Peter Robinson in 2010

Former DUP member and now convicted terrorist John Smyth Junior pictured with his party leader Peter Robinson in 2010. He is the son of DUP councillor John Smyth, who was similarly convicted of British terror attacks in the 1970s.

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 Little Englanders Of The American Left

The Stars and Stripes meets the Butcher's Apron

The Stars and Stripes meets the Butcher’s Apron

AlterNet, that online bastion of American left-wing liberalism and anti-establishment rhetoric, has an opinion piece on the attendance of Sinn Féin’s Martin McGuinness, Joint First Minister in Belfast’s power-sharing regional administration, at the ceremony in London welcoming the Irish president Michael D. Higgins on his state visit to Britain. At least that was the main event that happened some weeks ago though you wouldn’t believe it reading the AlterNet piece where President Higgins isn’t even mentioned. In fact one strongly suspects that the author of the article is completely unaware of the reason for the meet-and-greet at Windsor Castle, the first official visit by a President of Ireland to our nearest neighbour, an event filled with historical significance for both nations. Instead we are regaled with a long and frankly incoherent diatribe against the (Provisional) Irish Republican Army and its thirty-year armed opposition to the continued British colonial presence in Ireland. In the article the titles of the main parties to the conflict are confused, individuals as misnamed, history and geography is clearly misunderstood, and everything is reduced to an absurd synopsis of the conflict that owes more to the pages of Britain’s tabloid press than any significant knowledge on the part of the writer. If it weren’t for the fact that the piece is little more than crude pro-British, anti-Irish propaganda it could be dismissed out of hand. Unfortunately propaganda is exactly what it is, which raises the question: why is it that so many on the American Left are so enamoured of all things British (for which one should read, English) that when it comes to Britain’s history in Ireland the truth must be well and truly buried?

This is just one of several articles hostile to Irish Republicanism to be featured by supposedly liberal US publications (online and offline) in recent months. Perhaps the most notable have stemmed from interviews with Anglophile author Paul Theroux where his twisted schadenfreude over the marathon-day bombings in the “Irish-American” city of Boston were given free (and unquestioning) rein. So what is up with Liberals in the United States? Why have intellectuals, writers, journalists and artists consistently fallen for Britain’s “Dirty War” propaganda? Does their love of all things British, their Harry Potteresque passion for Hollywood Englishness make them more susceptible to the myths of the noble British battling for civilization against the savage Irish than other nationalities? Watching television dramas from the United States the portrayals of Irish characters frequently go far beyond stereotype and into outright racism. The infamous “Sons of Anarchy” and its grotesque Irish storylines would be unthinkable if the people being supposedly shown were African-American or Jewish-American. Yet the Irish are fair game. The recent Amazon Sci-Fi pilot, “The After“, helmed by Chris Carter, featured an Irish character who could have stepped straight out of the pages of a KKK pamphlet, circa 1915. A violent, incoherent, foul-mouthed drunk with an obvious intent to rape the nearest female in sight he might as well have worn a tee-shirt asking: “Where’s all the White Anglo-Saxon Protestant women at?”.

So I ask again. American Liberals, why do so many of you act as apologists for Britain’s record of war and injustice in Ireland? Why do you knowingly regurgitate tired old clichés about that centuries-old conflict, clichés taken from the worse excesses of British popular culture? And AlterNet, why are you blocking my Comments from appearing under the article on your website? For the record here is what I wrote in reply to the contentious opinion piece:

“Who exactly were the “Royal Irish (Protestant) Constabulary”? Does the author mean the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC), the British paramilitary police force in the north-east of Ireland made notorious for its ninety-year record of violence, terrorism, sectarianism and racism until it was disbanded as part of the Irish-British peace process of the 1990s? Or perhaps he means the Ulster Defence Regiment (UDR), the British Army militia unit also disbanded as part of the peace process due to its less than enviable record of murder and mayhem? Soldiers by day, gunmen by night. No? Perhaps he has in mind the various British terror factions in Ireland, from the UVF to the RHC? Given that they contained large numbers of serving or former members of the British Forces it is easy to understand the confusion. Not to mention the fact that they were substantially organised, trained, financed, armed and directed by the British state, from intelligence services to government officials (with lots of lovely AK47s supplied by the Apartheid regime in South Africa, right-wing Protestant fundamentalists in Canada and the United States, Neo-Nazis groups in Britain, as well as weapons, ahem, “borrowed” from British Army stores).

How about the UDA-UFF? The largest and most active British terrorist group in Ireland, responsible for hundreds of gun and bomb attacks over the course of two decades? Of course the UDA-UFF was uniquely the only LEGAL terrorist organisation in the whole of Western Europe since Britain refused to ban it until, yes, that’s right, the peace process of the 1990s. Imagine, you could be a terrorist and wear a tee-shirt proclaiming it to the world. Cool! (Just ask Johnny “Mad Dog” Adair who greatly enjoyed his dinner parties with the head of British military intelligence after a hard day of shooting Irish men, women and children)

But then all these masked defenders of the Pax Britannia were part of Britain’s counter-insurgency war against the (Provisional) Irish Republican Army. Of course they started “defending” the last remnant of Britain’s colony in Ireland way back in 1966 when they murdered a grandmother and two teenage boys, one fire-bombed in her home the others gunned down in the streets. The (Provisional) Irish Republican Army didn’t come into existence until four years later but SHUSH, don’t ruin the British propaganda narrative with some Irish historical truth…”

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 well-known political figure in Ireland? The target of the online trolls 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 as part of the secret negotiations during the Irish-British peace process of the 1990s. One of those involved in the assassination, Ray Smallwoods, was himself later assassinated 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 has 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 from the dissemination of militant Islam on the internet it is indeed ironic that the most poisonous forms of British nationalism are given free rein across a host of international websites. Up to and including the most respected of United States’ news organisations.

Ireland’s British Rebels

Members of the Ulster Volunteer Force, an early 20th century British terrorist organisation in Ireland, jointly parade with soldiers of the British Army in Omagh, Ireland, c.1914

Members of the Ulster Volunteer Force, an early 20th century British terrorist organisation in Ireland, jointly parade with soldiers of the British Army in Omagh, Ireland, c.1914

Once again it takes an Irish journalist working in a foreign newspaper to write what the Irish press would never dare write (because they don’t want their readers to stray outside their strict ideological view of history, falsifications and half-truths to the fore). Melanie McDonagh in the London Independent with a rare, rare glimmer of historical accuracy when it comes to Ireland’s troubled British history while discussing Martin McGuinness, the Sinn Féin Joint First Minister in the north of Ireland. She asks in the article:

“…why the militant republicanism he represents was necessary; why the constitutional options for dealing with the Irish problem took so long; why Sinn Fein trumped the Irish parliamentary party in the first place; why – in short – we got where we are now.

For the answer to that, we need to go back exactly 100 years. Well, a bit more possibly, but a century would do nicely. Because that’s when the last chance for resolving the Irish question peaceably and in a unitary fashion was stymied. It’s when the Third Home Rule bill granting self-government, excluding defence, to Ireland was passed, but leaving out Ulster, first temporarily and then permanently.

It was the last time for resolving the Irish Question by peaceful means and it was vitiated by a terrifying combination of violence and the threat of violence, not from Republicans, but from Ulster Unionists bent on ensuring that Home Rule would not apply to Ulster, or at least to the “plantation counties” – what turned into the six counties of Northern Ireland. Two previous Home Rule bills from Gladstone had already been seen off, the second by being blocked by the House of Lords.

And just when it seemed that Home Rule might finally happen, after the House of Lords lost its power of veto, British politicians gave way to the revolutionary methods adopted by Ulster Unionists – chief of which was the formation of a paramilitary army intended to resist the writ of parliament, equipped with guns and ammunitions run from Germany. In their resistance they were backed to the hilt by the British Tory party as represented by Bonar Law, a Presbyterian minister’s son. It must be said, though, that most of the British players in these events, including Churchill and Lloyd George, were influenced, like him, by an instinctive antipathy to Roman Catholicism. And without that recourse to physical force; to violence (which Britons invariably associate with Irish republicanism), the state of Northern Ireland would never have come into being. At least not the way it was constituted.

In response to the formation of the Ulster Volunteers and their successful shipments of guns and ammunition from Germany, the government decided to undertake a show of military force. But it ran into the flat refusal of British Army officers based in the Curragh to move against the Unionists, with whom they very much identified. The response of ministers was to capitulate. (The Army’s reaction was very different when Irish nationalists began their own gunrunning in response, on a much smaller scale: soldiers sent to deal with it fired on a crowed of Dublin civilians, killing four people.)

The lessons of all this were not lost on Irish nationalists. The inevitable result of the success of Ulster Unionist tactics, and the capitulation of British ministers to the threat of force, was that the position of the constitutional nationalist leader, John Redmond, was terminally undermined. His Irish Parliamentary Party, which had held the balance of power in Westminster, was discredited even before the 1916 Easter Rising.”

Nominally British troops of the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) move into Dublin to support the British Occupation Forces during the latter stages of the Easter Rising of 1916. The presence of the despised UVF added to anger in the capital following the actions of the British forces during the week of fighting

Nominally British troops of the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) move into Dublin to support the British Occupation Forces during the latter stages of the Easter Rising of 1916. The presence of the despised UVF added to anger in the capital following the actions of the British forces during the week of fighting

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.

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?