15 January, 2018 – by Michelle O’Neill
“Yesterday evening, Barry McElduff informed me of his intention to resign as Sinn Féin MP for West Tyrone.
“Barry is doing so as a consequence of the unintended hurt caused to the Kingsmill victims and their loved ones by his recent social media tweet.
“Barry recognises that this controversy and his continuing role in public office is compounding the distress to the victims of Kingsmill, and again offers his profound apology to those families and to the wider victim’s community.
“He has said that he does not want to be a barrier to reconciliation and I respect that decision.
“Barry has served Sinn Féin and been a formidable champion for the people of West Tyrone at local government, Assembly and Westminster level over the past 20 years and has done so with great commitment, energy and determination.
“For this I want to personally thank Barry and his family, Paula, Niamh, Blannid and Patrick.
“Over the coming weeks Sinn Féin will focus our full efforts on the restoration of the power-sharing institutions on the basis of equality, integrity and respect and fulfil the mandate we received from the electorate in two successive elections last year.”
With many thanks to: Marianne Collins – Friends of Relatives of Justice
A conservative member of the Scottish assembly is pressing Holyrood to give its full backing to a campaign for justice for three soldiers murdered by the IRA in Belfast. Dougald McCaughey, 23, John McCaig, 17, and Joseph McCaig, 18, were enjoying drinks in a Belfast bar while off duty in 1971. IRA men then lured them to their deaths on the pretext of meeting girls at a part in what became known as the honey-trap murders. Relatives of the soldiers have launched a civil action to seek justice against their killers. Scottish National Party MSP John Mason made disparaging remarks about the campaign in 2017, forcing his party leader first minister Nicola Spurgeon to write an apology to the families. However she failed to give them the backing they wanted in pressing for the release of police files on the original investigation, prompting condemnation from the Scottish Conservative Party. Now Scottish MSP Maurice Corry has tabled a motion which he hopes will bring the full weight of the Scottish Assembly behind the campaign. “The work of campaigns like the Three Scottish Soldiers Justice Campaign, clearly demonstrate the desire of the families and friends to have closure following the murders of their loved in Northern Ireland,” he said. “In some cases, families have been waiting for decades to find out the truth about what happened & that’s not right.
Now is the time for everyone to come together and do what they can to recognise the pain and suffering of the families and help bring them closure which is why I have brought my motion forward and will seek a debate in The Scottish Parliament to help highlight the issue.” Kris McGurk, Director, Three Scottish Soldiers Campaign for Justice, said that if enough cross party signatures can be secured it will result in a debate and possibly the full backing of the Scottish assembly. “I am extremely confident we can achieve this,” he said. He understands that the PSNI passed all their files on the murders to the Metropolitan Police in October, to vet them for national security issues. “If the Scottish Parliament backs our campaign for the release of the files it will allow us to know the full range of evidence available and how best we should proceed in our legal case,” he said. “After all, if your own government does not understand why this is so important to us then what hope have you got?” “I am extremely thankful to Maurice Corry MSP.”
The guy lying on top of me said ‘just pretend you’re dead’ In October 1975 Mary Hannon-Fletcher was left paralysed after she was shot by a sectarian gang who opened fire on her and a companion as they walked home along the Grosvenor Road in Belfast.
With many thanks to the: News Letter for the origional story.
Former Provisional Shane Paul O’Doherty (pictured above) argued in this newspaper last week that republican inmates didn’t qualify as prisoners of war. Here, historian Dieter Reinisch says O’Doherty’s view is at odds with British Government policy throughout the 20th century
Shane Paul O’Doherty argued that “captured (IRA) combatants could never qualify as prisoners of war” because they “did not conduct military operations according to the laws and customs of war”.
He then goes on and uses an appeal by republicans to the European Court of Human Rights as evidence that the “entire republican movement – political and militant – was effectively recognising the jurisdiction of the international humanitarian laws and associated Geneva Conventions”.
However, one cannot take an isolated episode of the Troubles to explain the policy surrounding as controversial a term as “prisoners of war”.
The status of the prisoners, both republican and loyalist, is arguably one of the most controversial topics of Northern Ireland’s recent past.
The debate is politically loaded, as is O’Doherty’s article.
While he discusses a legal term, he falls into the trap of making a moral argument, hence, making use of a barbaric IRA attack and even the 1916 signatories to strengthen his argument.
Instead, I suggest a more sober look at the term “prisoner of war”.
In the context of the Troubles, the term “prisoners of war” is often used for particular political purposes and is, therefore, mystified.
In order to demystify the term, we need to ask what was meant by Irish republicans using this term and what did they want to achieve by using it.
As we answer these questions, we realise that republicans did not aim for “prisoner of war” status under the Geneva Convention, but for a status that distinguished them from ordinary criminal prisoners.
This status is usually referred to as “special category status”, or “political status”.
By demanding this status, republicans did not seek “prisoners of war” status under the Geneva Convention, but a moral distinction of their struggle from the crimes of criminal convicts.
British governments have granted exactly this status to republicans through various phases of history.
Starting with 1916, republicans suspected of participating in the Easter Rising were held in Frongoch internment camp under the same conditions as German First World War prisoners of war.
Following the outbreak of the Troubles and a hunger strike at Belfast’s Crumlin Road Gaol, again, special category status was granted (until March 1, 1976).
This status was eventually phased out and all prisoners arriving in the newly-built H-Blocks were treated as ordinary criminals, while those held in the Long Kesh camp retained their special status.
This led to the situation that merely a fence and a few yards separated members of the same paramilitary organisations enjoying special category status, on the one hand, and the Blanket protest and, eventually, hunger strikes in the fight to re-achieve this status on the other – even though both groups of prisoners were imprisoned for the same reasons, namely, paramilitary activities.
About a year after 10 republicans died on hunger strike for special status, the prisoners were gradually granted some of their demands, resulting in the fact that, in 1983, they had again achieved some form of special category status – this lasted until the closure of HMP Maze in 2000 and continues today in Maghaberry Prison.
In his new book, Sunningdale: The Search for Peace in Northern Ireland, Noel Dorr writes that when Philipp Woodfield, then Deputy Secretary of the Northern Ireland Office, met IRA representatives Daithi O Conaill and Gerry Adams on June 20, 1972, his response to their demand for “political status” of IRA prisoners was, “though unwilling to accept the term ‘political status’, (…) the substance of what they sought was already virtually the case” (pp 154-5).
The IRA delegation was happy with that and dropped this demand.
In sum, during various periods of the Troubles, British governments were willing to grant some sort of special status to republican prisoners. All these categories, no matter if it was before 1976, or after 1983, stopped short of the official “prisoner of war” status under the Geneva Convention.
Nonetheless, republicans were happy to accept it as long as it distinguished them from ordinary prisoners and, therefore, gave them moral justification for their struggle. Prisoner of war status is a flexible and fluid concept, on both sides of the Troubles.
Shane Paul O’Doherty tries to make a case that IRA prisoners should not be “entitled to claim the term ‘prisoners of war'”.
Instead, I argue that one can, indeed, make a case that might not entitle them to use the term under the Geneva Convention, but certainly the term “special category prisoners”.
In a recently published article in the Duke Journal of Comparative & International Law, Samantha A Caesar writes that the British Government should have continued to grant special category status to republican prisoners after 1975.
She writes: “A deeper look at international law and relations between Ireland and the United Kingdom during the late-1970s and early-1980s reveals that there is a strong case for treating the conflict in Northern Ireland as an international, rather than a non-international, conflict under international law. Therefore, whether the denial of PoW status to IRA prisoners during this time was lawful is questionable at best” (p326).
Moreover, by introducing internment and Diplock prosecutions, the British Government prosecuted republicans differently from ordinary prisoners; consequently, they should have allowed them to be treated differently inside prison, as well.
In the introduction to the volume Prisons, Terrorism and Extremism: Critical Issues in Management, Radicalisation and Reform, Professor Andrew Silke explains that “terrorism is not the same as other types of crime and terrorists are not typical criminals”.
According to Silke, the common characteristic of extremist offenders is firstly, the political dimension, which is not normally seen among criminal offenders; secondly, their offending is primarily a group phenomenon; and thirdly, these offenders rarely radicalise and act in isolation.
Analysing the UN framework, Silke concludes that, under this framework, most extremist prisoners can be “reasonably referred to as political prisoners, though, not surprisingly, most governments prefer to avoid this term out of fear that it might transfer some apparent legitimacy to the terrorists and their cause” (p5).
To conclude, the status of prisoners in Northern Ireland is a politically loaded topic – this applies to both republican and loyalist ex-prisoners. Over the past decades, the use of the term has been fluid and flexible on all sides of the conflict.
War is brutal and terrible things happen that would and should never happen in normal societies. Nonetheless, the debate on former paramilitary prisoners needs to be unchained from moral prejudices.
Only if we achieve a sober analysis of events can we learn from the past and move forward to the future.
Dieter Reinisch is a historian at the European University Institute in Florence and an editorial board member of the journal Studi Irlandesi: A Journal of Irish Studies, published by Florence University Press
With many thanks to the: Belfast Telegraph for the origional story.
Mr Justice McCloskey is expected to deliver his final ruling in the Loughinisland challenge on Friday at the Royal Courts of Justice
High Court Loughinisland massacre Mr Justice McCloskey
A landmark judgment in a case taken against the Police Ombudsman by retired officers is expected to be appealed as it emerged the judge previously represented one of the officers in a similar case.
Mr Justice Bernard McCloskey held last month that the ombudsman went beyond his statutory powers in reaching conclusions on the Loughinisland atrocity which are unsustainable in law.
In June last year Dr Michael Maguire said there had been collusion between some officers and the UVF gunmen who opened fire in a Co Down pub in June 1994.
Adrian Rogan (34), Malcolm Jenkinson (53), Barney Green (87), Daniel McCreanor (59), Patrick O’Hare (35), and 39-year-old Eamon Byrne were killed.
Retired policemen Raymond White and Thomas Hawthorne challenged the ombudsman’s report and Mr Justice McCloskey ruled that none of the officers subjected to “destructive and withering condemnations” of collusion had the protection of due process.
Mr White is a former RUC assistant chief constable and senior Special Branch officer.
Tomorrow Mr Justice McCloskey is expected to say whether the report should be quashed.
The case sparked calls for the resignation of Ombudsman Dr Michael Maguire and has ramifications for future investigations in legacy cases.
DUP MP Ian Paisley also called for an inquiry into all previous reports alleging collusion.
The ombudsman has indicated that it intends to appeal the Loughinisland ruling.
The Irish News understands that among potential grounds are questions over whether the judge should have recused himself from the High Court case, having formerly represented one of the officers in a challenge against the ombudsman’s office.
In 2001 former ombudsman Nuala O’Loan ruled there had been failings by the RUC during the investigation into the Omagh bombing.
Her report was unsuccessfully challenged by former chief constable Ronnie Flanagan and Raymond White, with Bernard McCloskey QC representing the policemen.
He was appointed a High Court judge in 2008.
Guidelines issued to judges by the Lord Chief Justice state: “Past professional association with a party as a client need not in itself be a reason for disqualification, but the judge must assess whether the particular circumstances, and in particular any prior knowledge relevant to the case, could create an appearance of bias.”
A declaration in such circumstances is at the discretion of the judge.
When asked if Mr Justice McCloskey had declared previously representing Mr White as a possible perceived conflict of interest, a spokesperson for Sir Declan Morgan’s office said: “The Statement of Ethics for the Judiciary in Northern Ireland provides guidance to judges on when it may be appropriate for them to recuse themselves.
“This will generally be when there is an actual, potential or perceived conflict of interest or where there is the potential for an appearance of bias to be created.
“Judges who are aware of any such conflict or who are asked to recuse themselves will make an assessment based on the circumstances of the individual case.
“There was no such awareness or request in the present case.”
With many thanks to: The Irish News for the origional story