How can amnesty serve the demands of justice?

ON THE floor of a nondescript building in Sarajevo, beside the city’s Catholic cathedral, you will find a long, carefully lit corridor. Occupying most of the space on one wall is a large panel.

Irish Children shot dead by brave British State Forces. Another reason I would never wear your blood stained Poppy.

Impossible to ignore, it pins you to the spot, painfully catching your eye as if it were a magnet dropped in a box of nails. About the length of a bus and around six foot tall, it is covered in neat type, the words roughly the size used in the headlines on the pages of this newspaper. The words are in fact names. They are arranged alphabetically, making it obvious that the same surnames are repeated many, many times.

Their first names are male, and there are 8, 372 listed in all. These men and boys – grandfathers, fathers, sons, brothers, uncles, nephews, cousins – all died in and around the town of Srebrenica within a bloody few days of each other in the middle of July 1995.

On that July 11th, while we were getting excited about Drumcree in our own petty sectarian squabble, thousands of miles away on the far side of Europe Serb forces began systematically murdering thousands of Bosnians because they were Muslims.

Drumcree 1995

Hubris meant that the Serb army filmed many of the atrocities they committed in Bosnia for the entertainment of the audience at home – footage later used to help secure convictions for war crimes. The latest of those was delivered this week. On Wednesday Ratko Mladic, the Serb general, was found guilty of genocide by the special United Nations court that has been considering war crimes perpetrated during the collapse of the former Yugoslavia. Even before he and his troops rolled into Srebrenica in July 1995, Mladic was known as ‘the butcher of Bosnia’.

Ratko Mladic – The Butcher of Bosnia – was sentenced to life

What happened next were crimes “among the most heinous known to humankind”,  as presiding Judge Alphons Orie put it as he read out the court’s judgement and gave Mladic a life sentence. The survivors of Srebrenica didn’t need anyone to tell them that Mladic was guilty. They knew already, because they were there. They were there when thousands of refugees fled Srebrenica and crammed into an old battery factory at Potocari, a few miles away; it should have been a safe haven, as it was under the control of UN peacekeepers, in the guise of Dutch soldiers. There were there when Mladic threatened to systematically kill all of the Muslim men – a hallmark of genocide – and taunted the peacekeepers.

Old battery factory at Potocari

They were there when the Dutch, hopelessly outnumbered on the ground and lacking support, capitulated and effectively handed them over to Mladic. Chilling eye-witness accounts speak of summary executions and rapes as Serb soldiers picked victims at random from the crowd at Potocari.

It would be crass to draw comparisons too tightly, but there are at least resonances between the Bosnian experience – with its competing views of nationalism, religion and the past – and our own Troubles

A baby had its throat slit because its mother could not stop it crying; children were beheaded; a woman pregnant with twins was cut open and the babies beaten to death. Television footage shows Mladic’s soldiers, disguised as UN peacekeepers, trick groups of fleeing Muslim men into the open and shooting them. Men and boys were loaded on to buses and lorries and brought to execution sites, where they were dumped into mass graves. It is unspeakable and seems otherworldly – until you remember that these horrors happened in Europe, to people like you and me, as recently as 22 years ago.

It would be crass to draw comparisions too tightly, but there are at least resonances between the Bosnian experience – with its competing veiws of nationalism, religion and the past – and our own Troubles. There are post-conflict echoes, too.

Politics hasn’t worked there either, nor is there any agreement on how to deal with legacy issues or victims. We have had a fresh reminder that this week with the spectre of a Troubles amnesty returning to haunt what passess for our own political debate. It goes to the heart of how we consider justice.

Do we take the view of Darko Mladic, who not only denounced the judgement against his father as wrong but also said: “It does not achieve anything….. and will be an obstacle to future normal life in the region.”

Enniskillen bombing

In the North of Ireland’s terms, that’s the ‘let sleeping dogs lie, victims and society should move on’ position, the ‘let’s not bother with investigating collusion or atrocities like Loughinisland and Enniskillen’ argument; let’s offer an amnesty, because raking over the coals of the past will just re-ignite old enmities in the future. Would Mladic, a soldier who argued he was following orders, deserve an amnesty?

Or do we follow Munira Subasic, a Remembering Srebrenica ambassador and president of the Mothers of Srebrenica Association. She explained how her world had changed when her son and husband “were taken from me in the most brutal and inhumane way imaginable”. ” I have now waited for over 20 years for the man responsible for their deaths to face justice and I am pleased he has finally been held to account but this verdict will never bring back the thousands of lives he has destroyed.”

An amnesty for Mladic and his cronies just wouldn’t have cut it; her words will resonate with many victims of the Troubles hungry for justice in the circumstances around their own bereavement, life-changing injury or trauma. How we face up to our own troubled past remains just about most vexed question facing our society. Justice demands that we deal with it correctly.

With many thanks to: William Scholes, The Irish News for the origional story.


End Internment – Release Gabriel Mackle

On November 9th our friend and comrade Gabriel Mackle was arrested in his home by the RUC/PSNI, he was given no reason and had no chance to say goodbye to his wife and children who were left distraught and shocked. This is the reality of British rule in Ireland, question it and you will quickly realise its faults and unjustified presence, speak against it and you face arrest or internment.

This is not isolated, currently a Derryman Tony Taylor is facing day 620 in Gaol (prison), again interned, no reason given. We where involved in the campaigns against the interment of Martin Corey in 2010 and Marian Price who had licences revoked on the word of a British secretary of state. There are other recent cases too. How long must this go on for? That the life’s and liberty of Irishmen & women can be ‘revoked’ on the word of, what is, a foreign aggressor.
Behind all this are suffering families and for what? For far off Westminster and its political spin doctors to skim the cream of profits that comes with occupying Ireland.
With Brexit, Westminster have shown they can barely run their own country and yet we allow them ruin ours!
Support those who struggle for Irish freedom and call for an end to internment, whether direct or by remand.
People out there think these men and women have nothing to do with issues currently at play on the national agenda, weather it be Brexit, political corruption, housing/homelessness, health, education, water related or industry related such as the billions of euros worth of fish, oil & gas, gold, zinc etc etc, yeah we have all that in Ireland, and more, its all given away!!! Tax free.
On the contrary you will find men such as Gabriel the most tuned in and attentive to the issues afflicting the nation.
People such as Gabriel are driven by love of their country, love of their people, love of liberty, they are driven for real change.
Remember this, those who are prepared to make the greatest change often suffer the greatest consequence.
For whose end, for yours!
(#ReleaseGabrielMackle #IrishUnityNow

With many thanks to: End Internment – Release Gabriel Mackle.

Remembering Patrick and Harry Loughnane, who were kidnapped, brutally tortured and murdered by British Crown Forces on November 26th, 1920.

Their burnt, tortured, mutilated bodies were found near Ardrahan, Co. Galway.

Patrick was 29 years of age and Harry only 22 years. Patrick Loughnane was a local IRA leader and Sinn Féin secretary, he was also active in the local GAA. Harry, his younger brother, was president of the local Sinn Féin club and a goalkeeper with Beagh hurling club.
While working on the family farm in Shanaglish on the evening of November 26, the two brothers were arrested by the Black and Tans. Nothing was heard of, nor from, the boys until a week after their arrest when a group of Auxiliaries called to Mrs. Loughnane to inform her that her sons had escaped their capture. This raised fear and suspicion among the brothers’ family and friends and a search was mounted for them. Ten days after they had been arrested their bodies were found in a muddy pond near Ardrahan.

Exactly what happened to the two brothers will never be known but witnesses, including others arrested at the same time told a tale of merciless brutality. After being arrested the brothers were beaten for hours in Gort Bridewell. From there they were tied to the tailgate of a lorry, bound to each other, and dragged along the roads to Drumharsna Castle, the headquarters of the Black and Tans where they were beaten again. At 11pm that night they were taken from Drumharsna Castle to Moy O’Hynes wood where they were shot. Witnesses have recounted that on Saturday morning, Harry was still alive and was heard moaning. On Sunday morning, the Auxiliaries took the bodies to Umbriste near Ardrahan where they were set alight. After failing to bury the bodies because of the rocky ground they threw them into a muddy pond and to make their discovery more difficult threw dirty oil into the water.

After their bodies were discovered they were examined by a local doctor who found that the letters ‘I.V.’ were cut into the charred flesh in several places, two of Harry’s fingers were missing and his right arm which was broken completely across the shoulder was hanging off. Both of Pat’s legs and wrists were broken. The doctor thought it possible that hand grenades had been put into their mouths and exploded.

A memorial to the two brothers was later built on the spot where they died.

With many thanks to: Clan na Gael.

Irish Government Report Details Europe’s Worries Over The “Chaos” Gripping Britain


For those of us who grew up under Fine Gael taoisigh like Garret Fitzgerald and John “Union Jack” Bruton, the evident annoyance of the FG-led government with their Conservative Party counterparts in the United Kingdom makes for an odd spectacle. This is especially true of the current Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar, a right-wing politician very much in the mould of the more socially liberal wing of the Tories. The shine has very much been taken off the London apple in the eye of the Dublin establishment as the outworkings of the UK’s vote to leave the European Union continue to cause international confusion and uncertainty. Ireland’s ministers and diplomats find themselves in the unusual position of receiving a more sympathetic hearing in the capitals of Europe than their British rivals. Arguably, not since the days of Charles Haughey and Francois Mitterrand  – or indeed, Helmut Kohl – has the country and…

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