Since the effective end of the conflict in the north-east of Ireland, the so-called Irish-British Troubles, a few inquisitive elements of the press in the United Kingdom have found an interest in the Dirty War that was being waged in their name from the late 1960s to the early 2000s. One might argue that this new curiosity is somewhat too little, too late. If the denizens of Fleet Street had investigated the existence of British death squads, torture centres, state-run terror gangs and so on thirty or forty years ago countless lives might have been saved and an inevitable peace settlement negotiated far earlier. Nevertheless, journalists in Britain are now paying a little more attention to the slow drip of facts emerging from the aftermath of the violence, while shying away from the knowledge that these “revelations” were being reported on in Irish, European and American diplomatic, political and media circles decades ago (okay, maybe not so much in the habitually anglophile press in the United States, most of which simply regurgitated statements from the UK authorities).
Alex Thomson, a fine journalist with Channel 4 News in Britain, has produced a short report examining declassified documents, discovered by the Pat Finucane Centre, an Irish human rights organisation, proving that soldiers of the infamous Parachute Regiment and members of the feared RUC Special Branch used waterboarding and electric shock torture on people detained in Belfast in the early 1970s. The evidence comes from several sources, including a memo detailing a meeting in November of 1972 between Ireland’s taoiseach, Jack Lynch, and the UK prime minister, Ted Heath, in which specific cases of abuse were raised. These documents, taken with many, many others, prove beyond any shadow of doubt that Conservative and Labour governments in London during the 1970s – and into the ‘80s – were aware of the use of physical and psychological torture by the British Forces in Ireland, and did their best to conceal these abuses from public scrutiny.
That, of course, is why we have several high profile ministers, politicians and former military leaders in the United Kingdom taking to the domestic, Brexit-loving press demanding that soldiers and paramilitary police officers are granted legal immunity from criminal prosecution for any crimes committed in Ireland during the UK’s counterinsurgency war.
Via The Treason and Felony Blog, The Record of British Brutality in Ireland, published by Northern Aid, in co-operation with The Association for Legal Justice, The Record Press Limited, Bray, Ireland 1972.