On this day 2nd April my dear father Óglach Lauarence Marley by a Loyalist Death Squad who had working in Collusion with RUC Special Branch, British Military Intelligence and A Informant.
You will Never be Forgotten you were taken from us after a year and a half and after serving 14 years in the H Blocks for Irish Freedom your legacy will live on in our hearts you never be Forgotton. And the fight will continue for Justice for you and many others.
THE BRAVE Men & Women Who Give Their Lives For Irish Freedom.
80 men and women travelled the Irish Sea from various parts of the UK to play their part with the Irish Volunteers in the Easter Rising some had Irish Parents,some had not.They too helped fight against the oppression and tyranny of British Government and Crown Forces in Ireland 1916
With many thanks to: Easter Rising War of Independence and Irish Civil War History.
The women of the Cullinane Family first is Bridget Cullinane and her two sisters Hannah Cullinane Mary Cullinane and their mother Catherine Kent nee Cullinane
The four Cullinane sisters of Newtown Kilmacthomas, were often referred to as the Rebel Sisters”, eldest sister Mary (later Power) (referred to as Queen Rebel), Katie (Kent), Hannah Imelda (Power) and Bridget Cullinane. During the War of Independence and throughout the Civil War their home and business (Public House/Grocers) were the centre for dispatches in the area and a well-known safe house for Volunteers. The sisters acted as look out, gathered intelligence, hid and transported arms. According to the memoirs of the youngest of the sisters Hannah, Mary Cullinane managed and helped her mother Mary Phelan, with the running of the family business. In 1916, Mary became interested in national events and visited Dublin to attend Cumann na mBan conferences. On a visit to St Edna’s she spoke with Miss Pearse and her sisters would eagerly await her rerun and listen closely to events happening in Dublin. In 1918, Kate Cullinane was nursing and during this period visited republican prisoners in the City Jails. Kate Cullinane’s nursing training would later become an essential skill required for treating the sick and wounded volunteers in need of medical care.
Hannah recalls Mary’s great organisation skills, setting up a Cumann na mBan group in Kilmacthomas and Kilrossanty, here the sisters met with like-minded women, the Keating’s sisters of Comeragh. The families developed lifetime friendships with women of nationalist ideals and a strong sense of duty to the cause for Irish freedom. During the War of Independence, Katie Cullinane returned from nursing in London, Bridget from working in Dublin and events would become very hostile with regular hold up and raids on their home. Hannah recalls how there door was never really shut, as it would not stand the pounding and urgency of military raids. Mary was always first on the scene to any military raid be it day or night and the constant raids began to take their toll on the family business, events intensified with the arrival of the Black and Tans.
The sisters played a role following the Burgery Ambush in 1921, Mary Cullinane was engaged to volunteer Pat Keating who was shot by Soldiers and later died from his injuries following the Ambush. She was one of the first on the scene to collect his body from Monarud, Dungarvan. According to Hannah, a note had been placed in his top pocket for her, but she never disclosed to her sisters his lasts written words to Mary.
“My sister Bridget accompanied Mary with the coffin across the mountains, it was carried by Pats father miles to my grandmother’s grave in Newtown and buried a few feet down, and there it was for three weeks. Then one night it was decided to move the remains, I was present when Pats body was taken out. I shall never forget that scene as they lifted the body the wound made by a dumb dumb bullet left an open jagged wound. In his clothes there were lumps of congealed bold and oh! The agony he must have suffered dragging his poor body along in that state. There was no stiffness in his body, he was washed by my nurse sister Katie and clothed in a blessed habit….his uniform is still with us.”
Following the final burial of Pat Keating a group travelling by pony and trap including Mary, Kate Cullinane, Mary Keating and a number of volunteers met with a group of soldiers. Some of the party escaped, however Kate, Mary Cullinane, Mary Keating and several volunteers were arrested. Hannah recalls, when the pony arrived back at their gates at 3am they knew something was wrong. The women were held in the military barracks, Waterford for two days and then transferred to Waterford Jail. Kate Cullinane and Mary Keating were released after a couple of weeks. Mary Cullinane was sentenced to five years imprisonment for carrying and concealing arms, serving six months and was released December 1921. Following the siege of Waterford, Erskine Childers stayed at the family’s home with many Officers and men of Cork and Tipperary Brigades. Hannah’s final words “When Civil war came with attack on the four courts after that divide and conquer, disunity, insanity, chaos and imprisonment etc. As for the rebel sisters, for us it was another war and we were anti-treaty”.
Eldest sister Mary Cullinane married Ned Power and on 10th October, 1933, died suddenly aged 37 suddenly leaving six young children, husband Ned Power died a few months later due to his treatment while imprisoned as a volunteer.
Catherine (Mother) Kent nee Cullinane
Nurse Katie Cullinane became Mrs Kent and her and her husband ran the family business, Katie lived to old age 95 in 1992 28th April. Hannah Imelda Cullinane married P.J and the family moved to Dublin, Dublin. Mrs Bridget Power nee Cullinane later lived in Waterford City and passed away on the 27th November 1992. Hannah Imelda married P.J Power died in 1991, her great friend Mai O’Higgins wrote a tribute to her. Following the final burial of Pat Keating a group travelling by pony and trap including Mary, Kate Cullinane, Mary Keating and a number of volunteers met with a group of soldiers. Some of the party escaped, however Kate, Mary Cullinane, Mary Keating and several volunteers were arrested. Hannah recalls, when the pony arrived back at their gates at 3am they knew something was wrong. The women were held in the military barracks, Waterford for two days and then transferred to Waterford Jail. Kate Cullinane and Mary Keating were released after a couple of weeks. Mary Cullinane was sentenced to five years imprisonment for carrying and concealing arms, serving 6 months and was released December 1921. Following the siege of Waterford, Erskine Childers stayed at the family’s home with many Officers and men of Cork and Tipperary Brigades.
Hannah’s final words “When Civil war came with attack on the four courts after that divide and conquer, disunity, insanity, chaos and imprisonment etc. As for the rebel sisters, for us it was another war and we were anti-treaty”.
“Another incident during a military raid on our home, some of the boys had been in but got away. Some guns were to be hidden very quickly, and not much time, we had a young cousin staying with us at the time, Caith Culinnane. She was only five years old, we packed guns under her and told her to scream and cry when she saw military coming, it worked and the guns were safe”
“It was Christmas day 1920, my mother was preparing the dinner and just as Mary and I got back from Mass we were standing at the door talking to an IRA man. Pat Keating had just gone out to visit another neighbour, Eddie Power was around too. Out of the Ford car came four men with plain clothes and caps H.T & W.U badges, just the real thing. We recognised Capt. Valentene. Before we could move he had gone into my mother and asked her quite casually as he placed the revolver beside her, where is Pat? She didn’t recognise him and asked him to take the gun away and turned to little Caith and said go and get Pat Keating. However by now Pat and Eddie were safe and keenly watching events from the railway and waiting with bombs at the road to apprehend our military friends, but they did not go their direction. Raids continued and especially on Saturday nights our shop was cleared and men held for hours with their hands up.”
Poem by Mai O’Higgins in tribute to Mrs Hannah Power (nee Cullinane) (6.6.1968)
Extract of poem
Ireland – she loved
Its language sweet upon her tongue
And in the long ago
When years were young
And the rebel blood courses through her veins
A patriot crown she won
Life’s simple things she loved
To reminisce across the years
On Ireland wrongs- its joys and tears.
To be among old friends-
Around her loved Kilmac
Together we planned when summers days were nigh
To roam the Comeraghs by Crotty’s rock
Under the evening sky.
Someday maybe- her wish for me comes true
By Crotty’s rock I’ll feel the joy she knew
Sleep gently on – on your soul- angels attend
I breathe a prayer, a Te Deum,
You are my friend
Ref: Memoirs of one of the Rebel Sisters, Hannah Imelda Power, Later, Mrs Paddy Joe Power. (Written early 1950’s) credit to Waterford County Museum
With many thanks to: Easter Rising War of Independence and Irish Civil War History.
FOIF has been under a siege of attacks by a group of ppl claiming to be Republicans. They threatened FOIF in October & November 2010. This is the same group of thugs that took sealed envelopes for POW families and opened them and removed money raised in the USA. They began an attack on FOIF 48 hrs ago on the FREE MICHAEL CAMPBELL fb pg. Many ppl saw it. When we decided to NAME & SHAME they suddenly deleted their crude posts.FOIF will not tolerate ruthless attacks and slander made by thugs pretending to be Republicans. Our record stands on it’s own merits. We have been around a lot longer than these phonies. One can only conclude they are doing the work of Ireland’s enemy. End statement.
7. Boston College to challenge handover of interviews
8. UDA super-grass evidence dismissed in Belfast trial
9. Nationalists living in flats die earlier
10. Loughinisland victims’ families begin legal challenge
11. HET investigation ‘whitewash’
12. Advisers back all-Ireland anti-fracking campaign
13. Campaigners convicted as community members block Shell’s haulage in Mayo
14. Accountability for RUC raid
15. Khader Adnan to be released
16. Shaker Aamer, the Briton still locked in Guantánamo, will not be forgotten
17. Jingoism is no answer to England’s ebbing power
1. Death of Brian Mór Ó Baoighill
ON February 18, 2012 Cumann na Saoirse Náisiúnta/The National Irish Freedom Committee (NIFC) in the United States reported the death of Brian Mór Ó Baoighill.
The statement said: “Brian was, first and foremost, a true Irish Republican, an unrepentant Fenian who gave so much of his time and energy to the cause of Irish freedom and unity.
“Amongst his many other attributes Brian was a renowned Celtic artist, a prolific satirical cartoonist, a historian and a fountain of knowledge and wisdom. He broke bread with practically every notable Irish-American personality of this past half century and played a prominent role in every historic event involving the New York Irish-American community.
“He was our friend and fellow traveller who now takes his rightful place in the ranks of our departed Fenian stalwarts. He leaves us with fond memories, but, also with a void that will never be filled. Farewell dear friend.
“Ar dheis láimh Dé go raibh anam uasal — Ní bhe?dh a le?théid ann go deo arís.”
“Irish Republicans were saddened to hear the news of the death of Brian Mór Ó Baoighill, in New York. Brian was a life-long Irish Republican activist and a man steeped in the history and revolutionary Fenian tradition of Irish America.
“Brian’s unique gifts as an artist were given selflessly to aid the cause of a free Ireland. His paintings were used to highlight the plight of the Hunger Strikers in 1981 as well as every other facet of the ongoing struggle against British rule in Ireland. Famously in December 1983 he was responsible for an electronic sign in New York’s Time Square sending out Christmas greetings to Republican prisoners. Brian took great pride in the fact the British Ambassador was questioned over the sign. Brian used his artwork as a weapon against imperialism and in defence of the men and women of no property. Among his last works were cartoons in opposition to the visit by the Queen of England to the 26 Counties in May of last year.
and the 1798 Rising, being hung in Belfast City Hall. Brian saw this as merely an attempt to distract from the fact that Belfast and the rest of the Six Counties were still occupied by British forces. In his own inimitable style Brian finished his letter by declaring: ‘When the Belfast City Hall is located in a united Ireland, not the United Kingdom, I would be honoured to see my artwork displayed. Until then, I request that it be taken down. Moving the picture of the Queen of England from one wall to another does not in any way make Belfast part of a United Ireland. I object to my artwork being used to pretend otherwise.’
“Brian’s involvement in the cause of Ireland stretches out over five decades; he was a founder member of Irish Northern Aid (NORAID) in 1972 and worked with the Irish People newspaper for almost 20 years. In 1986 he rejected the attempts of a reformist leadership to hijack Republican Movement and was among the founders of Cumann na Saoirse of which he remained an officer up to his death.
“Brian had a deep understanding and knowledge of Irish history and was a living link with previous generations of Irish Republicans who fanned the flames of revolutionary Republicanism such as Michael Flannery, Joe Stynes and George Harrison. Brian very much followed in their footsteps and ensured that the torch was passed to a new generation. Brian Mór was a friend, comrade and mentor to succeeding generations of activists in the cause of Irish Freedom in the US and Ireland over many years and was always willing to give freely of his time and experience.
“Brian leaves behind a gap in the ranks but his legacy of unflinching loyalty and tireless commitment to ideal of the All-Ireland Republic of Easter Week is an inspiration to his friends and comrades on both sides of the Atlantic. In the words of Thomas Davis: “The rudder of our ship was he, our castle’s corner stone.”
“Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam dílis.”
2. Clonmult Martyrs commemorated in Cork
THE 91st Anniversary Clonmult Martyrs commemoration took place in Midleton on Sunday, February 19.
The commemoration assembled at 2.30pm outside the Courthouse and proceeded to St. John the Baptist Churchyard where the proceedings were chaired by Donal Varian. After welcoming everyone Donal asked Tony Horgan to lay a wreath on behalf of Republican Sinn Féin on the grave of Volunteer Deasy and a decade of the Rosary was recited.
The Commemoration then continued to the Republican Plot, Holy Rosary Churchyard. Where Donal said a few brief words before asking the following to lay wreaths. Donal Dennehy laid a wreath on behalf of the families of the Clonmult Martyrs on the Republican Plot. Veteran Republican Kerry John Mangan laid a wreath on the grave of Commandant Diarmuid Hurley OC, who was killed by Crown Forces three months after his comrades. Mary Ward ,Republican Sinn Féin, laid a wreath on behalf the Republican Movement.
Donal then spoke about the sacrifice the Clonmult Boys, the men and women of 1916 and the generations since have made.
He then introduced Mary Ward of Republican Sinn Féin to give the oration. She said:
“The strongest common bond uniting mankind is love of liberty and a willingness to sacrifice anything to achieve it. From man’s earliest record to the present time the names that glow forth from the yellowed pages of history are not the names of rulers who controlled men’s lives, not the great orators and poets who stirred men’s hearts but the simple honest men of every race. Men like those we honour here today, the Clonmult Martyrs. Who by sacrificing themselves for the ideal of freedom ennobled men’s souls.
“Throughout history’s pages there is no story so sorrowful yet so grand as Ireland’s long struggle for freedom. Indeed no country has laboured so long and diligently, has suffered so much and failed so often and yet had the strength, the courage and the character to try again. The dying words of Robert Emmet ‘When my country takes her place among the nations of the world, then, not till then, let my epitaph be written’. The glorious words of Alan Larkin and O’Brien ‘God save Ireland’ were spoken before a hostile tribunal for a cause which they knew in their day at least was doomed to failure. They failed but they inspired other to follow in their example. And so it was the Fenians inspired the men and women of 1916 and they in turn inspired the men and women of the 1919-1922 period.
“During the 1919-1922 period the IRA were well aware that they faced the might of the British Empire, a far more superior and equipped enemy, so they changed and adapted their tactics. They perfected the art of guerrilla warfare; a method which was later employed by freedom fighters the world over from Kenya to Algeria. When the men from East Cork went to the farmhouse in Clonmult, they had witnessed the cruelty of the Black and Tans auxiliaries, they had attended the funerals of Tomás MacCurtain murdered in front of his pregnant wife and children and of Terence Mac Swiney following a long hunger strike in Brixton prison. They had witnessed the burning of Cork city, yet they pledged to fight for the freedom of Ireland, to uphold the Republic proclaimed in arms at Easter week and ratified by the Irish people in open ballot in 1918.
”In January 1921 the active service unit of the fourth battalion of the first Cork brigade took possession of a disused farmhouse in a secluded position overlooking the village of Clonmult. Commandant O’Hurley decided to ambush a military train at Cobh junction on Tuesday Feb 22nd 1921. He set out to make the necessary arrangement accompanied by Vice-commandant Joseph Ahern and Captain Patrick Whelan.
“On Sunday February 20 Michael Desmond and John Joe Joyce left the farmhouse to go to a nearby spring when they noticed the house was surrounded by British forces. They both died as they fought to return to the house, but not before they had warned those inside of the situation. A sortie from the farmhouse was attempted in the hope that assistance could be organised from the local company in Conan. With the farmhouse burning around them, an attempt was made to escape, but many of the volunteers were killed in a hail of bullets from the Blank and Tan forces who had come to re-enforce the British regulars. Of the prisoners taken, two were later executed, five others had their sentences commuted and one, Captain Higgins, who had been shot through the mouth, had his life spared by the advent of the truce in July.
“The Ireland of today is a product of a counter-revolution, which succeeded in over throwing the 32-County Republic of 1916 and the all-Ireland Dáil Éireann of 1919. The forced partition of Ireland in 1922 was brought about by the threat of an immediate and terrible war by England and by the collaboration of erstwhile Irish Republicans. The more recent Stormont agreement of 1998 updated and secured English rule in the six counties, again with the collaboration of former Republicans. In helping to bring all of this about these lost souls, we are told, had been infiltrated by English agents. There is scarcely a doubt about this but they were already infiltrated from deep within by an overweening pride and arrogance, which has been the downfall of many before. No Irish patriot died for a new Stormont or a new style English crown police force. But some are so conceited in their self-importance that they think they can ignore this truth.
“The objective of the so-called peace process never was a peace in Ireland; its objective was to bring the armed struggle for Irish freedom to an end, just as in 1921-1922 the English found more devious and wily ways of defeating Irish resistance to their rule.
“There is also a more ominous, more menacing and longer-term objective behind this un-holy alliance of English imperialism and Irish collaboration, it is to extinguish forever Irish Republican resistance to English rule in our country, but there are still faithful republicans in Ireland, north and South. We, you and I, men and women, boys and girls renew our Republican vows here today, we pledge ourselves, as the Clonmult martyrs pledged themselves never to desist in our efforts until we have ended English rule in our country for all time.
“There is so much in the Ireland of today which is an affront to the noble ideals of our patriot dead. The dishonesty, the lies, the deceit, the mercenary and shameless selfishness and greed in public life are the very anti-thesis of the generous and honourable ideals of our patriot dead. The contrast is obvious and unmistakable.
“Not only have we the unjust and undemocratic partition of our country, we also have an ever widening gap between the rich and the poor, the haves and the have-nots. This has not happened by any accident or misfortune. This is the result of deliberate and pre-meditated policies implemented under the cover of a clever smoke screen provided by well-paid and unscrupulous spin doctors.
“The education system has been fundamentally re-shaped to train workers for the multinational enterprises which are now more powerful than governments and for export to Australia and elsewhere. Just this week the government was calling for the speeding up of apprenticeships from FAS, they can’t get rid of our young people quick enough, our best and our brightest.
“Even in the universities, the classics, the Irish language, Irish history and Irish and Celtic studies have been downgraded, some would say virtually abandoned. Is this any wonder when the Smurfit’s and the O’Reillys now provide considerable finance for some of these colleges? Skills are certainly important, but the schools and colleges should also be helping parents to imbue their children with standards and values for life. They should also be helping students and pupils to appreciate and develop their Irish identity, as well as to develop their critical facilties, their capacity to think things through, to assess and appraise and evaluate all that they will have to encounter in life. The politicians and the bosses of finance and industry, however, prefer to keep young people malleable and compliant, a prey to advertising hype and disinformation.
“The travesty of democracy, which we witness daily in our country, is a well-managed spectacle of mockery and deception. From the local councils and shady deals to the mock theatre of Leinster House and Stormont, to the mandarins of Westminster and the European Union, and the invincible looking power of the United States and Britain backed by the muscle and might of international capitalism, the ordinary, decent, hardworking people of Ireland in town and country are being exploited, and the weakest and most vulnerable, the old, the ill, the incapacitated, the disadvantaged many young people who come from our schools barely literate are the most exploited of all. We have ever rising levels of crime, some of it quite vicious and ruthless.
“Both states fail to protect their citizens from exploitation by trans-national capital and manipulative commercial interest, from drug pushers and alcohol producers, as well as from British spies and agents. Politicians get into power backed by the wealthy groups and individuals and then they are the prisoners of these people. Two examples of this are the compliant hire of Shannon airport to the US administration and the revelations that Irish hospitals have to pay twice what they pay in Spain for essential drugs manufactured by companies in Cork.
“In a democratic system, power rests with the people; in Ireland today there is collusion and a conspiracy among the wealthy, the politicians and sections of the media to accumulate and share the spoils at the expense of ordinary people. Yet the ordinary people have to pay for the bank bail-out and the excesses of these gangsters who are actually being paid up to €200,000 by NAMA, 8 times more than the average industrial wage.
“The priorities in public life in Ireland are the priorities of rampant capitalism and this is facilitated and made possible by politicians whose only interest is power for powers sake. Meanwhile we have a plethora of tribunals, enquiring into all kinds of misconduct and costing millions of euro each year. A lot of fraud and corruption has been unearthed, but nobody ever seems to be prosecuted for misdeeds. Ads since shame and embarrassment are in short supply; these tribunals serve now as expensive and protective shock-absorbers, where wrong doing can be reluctantly exposed while even more corruptive practices proceed apace.
“We have lost our manufacturing base, our fishing rights, mineral rights and financial independence to the EU and the infamous Troika. No the Ireland of today is not a pretty sight. English imperialism is alive and well and holds six of our counties in direct occupation. This same power infiltrates the other 26 counties and dictates its terms to them. In the whole country, there is a basic affliction which is a lack of principle, standards, value and morality. Both states are in hock to English imperialism, neo liberal capitalism and its free market and culture of greed.
“The great and almost daunting, challenge to us Irish Republicans is to confront and change all of this. In the 1790’s Wolfe Tone and his comrades faced a similar challenge. They rose to the occasion in every sense of the word. They formulated their plans and they confronted those who were the exploiters of the Irish people, foreign and domestic.
“The hallmark of their approach was that they sought no personal gain for themselves, their rallying cry was liberty, equality and fraternity and they gave generous and unstinting service. Then, they made their appeal to the broad mass of the Irish people, Protestant, Catholic and Dissenter, and they organised their generation. They were truly revolutionary and their message struck a chord with the common people. The broad mass of the people always retain and cherish a yearning for freedom based on justice.
“We are not alone in the task we seek to accomplish. We have many active supporters who are not present here today. We have our Republican prisoners, who are also a source of inspiration to us as they keep their lonely vigil for Ireland, and to whom we send greetings from this historic spot. We have many friends and sympathisers throughout Ireland and we have active supporters abroad. All share with us our vision of a New Ireland – ÉIRE NUA,
a New Democracy of four provinces with regional, local and community self-government. For us the model is neither Boston nor Berlin. For us the task is to restore the historic Irish nation on the basis of liberty, equality and fraternity, and to put the people of Ireland in charge of their own destinies. We will continue to work to accomplish this noble task, for which so many have laboured over the centuries. We will continue to work regardless of the defections of recent years and regardless of the sinister efforts by certain elements in the Establishment and in the media to denigrate our work and to smear our good name.
“In the Six Occupied Counties, the nightmare of the nationalist people continues. In some areas it is particularly acute and communities live in continual fear of attack. The Stormont Agreement has not brought reassurance to the Unionist people either. And neither Westminster nor Leinster House can bring peace with justice, because both of these institutions operate to a different agenda. As Wolfe Tone said of the Ascendancy of his time “They see Ireland only in their rent rolls, their places, their patronage and their pensions”.
“The ÉIRE NUA programme for a four province federal Ireland represents a modern progressive project based on the original ideas of Tone. It is the surest guarantee of a secure place in Ireland for all our people.
“I will conclude with the words of General Liam Lynch ‘We have declared for a Republic, We will have no other law.’
“An Phoblacht Abú.”
3. Ex-soldiers jailed for brutally beating Irishman
IT was reported on February 19 that two ex-British soldiers had been jailed having been convicted of a savage street attack on an Irishman in England.
In the previous week Bolton Crown Court heard how after brutally beating 24-year-old Stephen Mahon the British soldiers congratulated each other as they walked off leaving their victim in agony on the ground.
Stephen Mahon was targeted in the totally unprovoked attack because the assailants, who were serving soldiers at the time, heard his Irish accent. He told the court that his nationality was the only reason he was assaulted.
One of the British soldiers, Simon Pierce, already has a conviction for breaking the jaw of a black man in a racist attack. Christopher Turner’s face was so horrifically smashed that surgeons had to insert a metal plate in his mouth and he was unable to work for a month. Pierce wasn’t jailed for that attack because the trial judge was told a prison sentence would ruin his promising British army career. He also assaulted his parents, smashed his father’s window with a concrete block, and head-butted a policeman.
Pierce (19) and Philip Arrowsmith (20) pleaded guilty to attempting to cause grievous bodily harm with intent. They attacked Stephen Mahon after a night’s drinking in Bolton town centre last year. They repeatedly kicked him as he lay defenceless on the ground.
Stephen Mahon managed to get up and stagger away but the soldiers followed him and launched another attack on him, kicking him as he lay injured on the street.
After the attack on Stephen Mahon both soldiers were discharged from the British army.
4. POA ‘rethink’ strip-searching in Maghaberry jail
THE prison officers’ union in the Occupied Six Counties called on February 23, 2012, for a rethink on the routine use of full body searches in jails in the Six Counties.
Finlay Spratt of the Prison Officers Association (POA) believes the practice can never be dispensed with completely, but is angry at the lack of progress on introducing new technology.
The POA chairman described the justice minister’s failure to introduce state-of-the-art search equipment as “completely unacceptable” – claiming the delays were causing unnecessary tensions within our prisons.
“There’s no excuse for not introducing the type of search equipment used in airports,” he said. “If these new machines are good enough to stop people bringing things on to aeroplanes, with hundreds of people on board, then they should be adequate for prison establishments.”
Republican groups have been campaigning for an end to strip searches for some time.
The NI Prison Service is currently undergoing a radical overhaul following recommendations made by a review panel.
A spokeswoman for the Prison Service in the Six Counties said “alternative technologies” to body searches were being explored including the possibility of low-dose X-ray technology.
5. Ford ‘actively’ pursuing alternatives to prison strip-searching
STORMONT justice minister David Ford said he is ‘actively pursuing other alternatives to full body searching in Northern Ireland prisons’.
On February 22 he defended his decision not to publish the findings of a Prison Service study into other options to strip-searching at Maghaberry Prison in Co Antrim. He said the report ‘contained sensitive material relating to security issues’.
Ford said that strip-searching was “not particularly pleasant for either the officers carrying it out or for the prisoners” but said the searches were necessary until a suitable alternative was found. He said the use of an x-ray system was one of the options being considered.
The minister denied claims by those protesting against the searches that the external arrangements had been relaxed.
“An agreement was made and it related to the issues of searching within the prison,” he said. “It did not cover the issue, which applies to every prison in the UK (sic), that there must be full body-searching on entry to and exit from prison.”
6. Continued detention of Marian Price ‘internment’
ON February 17 Marian Price – also known by her married name, Marian McGlinchey – was moved from Maghaberry prison to the women’s prison at Hydebank outside Belfast.
Former Armagh Women’s prison chaplain, Monsignor Raymond Murray, said British secretary of state Owen Paterson’s decision to revoke Marian Price’s license had echoes of the past for nationalists.
“This is a form of internment,” said Monsignor Murray. “I am just shocked that the secretary of state wouldn’t be aware of how seriously nationalist people look on internment. We thought it had all ended and here it is coming under a form of revocation, revoking a license.
“He would have to explain to us and explain the process of law as regards Marian Price. In any way has she broken the law? That would have to be provided but it is not provided by shoving her into prison on a pretence in an unjust way.”
7. Boston College to challenge handover of interviews
IT was revealed on February 23 that Boston College has decided to appeal the decision of the US district court requiring the college to hand over interviews from seven republicans who participated in its oral history project on the Troubles.
The college, however, is not appealing a ruling that tapes of interviews with former IRA prisoner Dolours Price be handed over to the British authorities.
In a statement the college confirmed that on February 17 it filed an appeal against the requirement that it turn over all or parts of the interviews with the seven republicans which were carried out by writer and former IRA prisoner Anthony McIntyre.
“The university is seeking further review of the court’s order to ensure that the value of the interviews to the underlying criminal investigation by the Police Service of Northern Ireland outweighs the interests in protecting the confidentiality of academic research materials,” Boston College said in its statement.
The Belfast Project was directed by author and journalist Ed Moloney and involved interviews with former IRA and loyalist paramilitaries based on guarantees that the information would not be disclosed until after they died.
Anthony McIntyre carried out interviews with 26 former IRA members. Challenging the demand for the interviews to be released, Ed Moloney and Anthony McIntyre said such action would endanger the life of Anthony McIntyre and his family and the lives of those who gave the interviews. Ed Moloney, Anthony McIntyre and Wilson McArthur – who interviewed loyalists who engaged with the project – issued a qualified welcome for the Boston College appeal, but again called on the university to take action to try to safeguard the tapes of Dolours Price.
“With respect to the standard of review of the materials, we can see absolutely no difference between the seven cases now to be appealed by Boston College and that of Dolours Price. For our part, we will continue our fight to protect all our interviewees, republican and loyalist, including Dolours Price,” they added.
Anthony McIntyre said last night there was no reason why the college couldn’t also seek to protect Dolours Price’s tapes. “They are covering their tracks and have abandoned Dolours. There is no rhyme, reason or consistency or logic to it. We are still in the fight to protect Dolours and everybody else, and Boston College should do the same,” he added.
None of the tapes has been handed over to the British authorities yet pending the outcomes of the appeals. Tapes have been given to a US commissioner acting on behalf of the US justice department.
8. UDA super-grass evidence dismissed in Belfast trial
ON February 22 nine men, including senior north Belfast loyalist Mark Haddock, were acquitted of the murder of Ulster Defence Association leader Tommy English, after the judge dismissed key “super-grass” evidence in the trial.
Three other men who were accused of lesser Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) crimes such as assisting offenders and perverting justice were also cleared.
Only one of 13 men who were in the dock at Laganside Crown Court over the full 71 days of the trial – reckoned to be one of the most expensive criminal trials in Northern Ireland history with some suggesting it could cost up to £10 million – was convicted.
Neil Pollock (34), from Fortwilliam Gardens in Belfast, was found guilty of possessing a sledgehammer for terrorist purposes and of intending to pervert the course of justice. He was granted bail, with Justice Gillen due to impose sentence in the coming weeks.
Haddock (43), who is facing other criminal charges, was returned to Maghaberry Prison near Lisburn. He was sentenced to 10 years in prison in late 2006 for an attack on a nightclub doorman.
As well as the murder on Halloween in 2000 of Tommy English at his home in Newtownabbey on the outskirts of north Belfast, the nine defendants also faced a range of other charges including wounding with intent, possessing guns and hijacking.
The main evidence was given by two so-called super-grass brothers Robert and Ian Stewart. They are both convicted UVF members who turned queen’s evidence against the accused. They received hugely reduced sentences of 3½ years each for a number of UVF crimes, including the murder of English, who was shot during a UVF-UDA feud in which seven died.
The Stewart brothers, who are in a witness protection programme, said they were part of the gang that killed English. Implicating the defendants they said they regretted their actions and turned queen’s evidence because “we could not live with our lives”.
Justice Gillen, however, was withering in his evaluation of the evidence from the Stewarts. He found it “risible” that it took them eight years to build up the courage to give evidence against their former colleagues.
Justice Gillen said: “In summary, these are dishonest witnesses of very bad character who have lied to the police and to the court, on some occasions wrongly implicated a number of men who were clearly not present at the crimes suggested, on other occasions at worst falsely embellished or at best wildly confused the roles and words of those whom they alleged were present, have clear difficulties distinguishing one crime scene from another, have obviously colluded to produce certain parts of their testimony and have given evidence which is flatly contradicted by unchallenged independent evidence throughout the process.”
Referring to how, in January, two men were convicted of the racist murder of teenager Stephen Lawrence in London in 1993 the judge said advances in forensic science and current law allowing the temporary setting aside of the rule against double jeopardy “may yet ensure that those who committed these egregious crimes, including potentially even some of those whom I have acquitted in this case, will yet face their just deserts and be subject to condign punishment from the courts”.
Those acquitted of the nine more serious charges including murder were: Haddock; John Bond (45), Essex Court, Carrickfergus; Ronald Bowe (35), Ross House, Mount Vernon estate, Belfast; Samuel Higgins (36) The Meadow, Antrim; Philip Laffin (34), Bridge Street, Antrim; Jason Loughlin (36), Bryson Court, Newtownabbey; David Miller (40), Upritchard Court, Bangor; Darren Moore (42), Mount Vernon Park, Belfast; and Alexander Wood (35), Milewater Way, Newtownabbey.
9. Nationalists living in flats die earlier
SIX-County Department of Health research that shows nationalists and tenants living in flats are more likely to die earlier than unionists or those living in houses is proof that families should not be living in the New Lodge tower blocks, a local campaigner said this week.
Kate Ward from the Participation and the Practice of Rights Project was speaking after new research was released from the department last month on mortality rates between 2003 and 2007. The Analysis of Mortality patterns in the Six-County report showed that Catholic males died at the average age of 76.3 compared to Protestant men at the age 77.2, while Catholic females died at the age of 80.8 compared to their Protestant counterparts who died on average at the age of 81.7.
The highest death rates were also found in those living in flats or apartments compared to terraced houses. Females living in detached homes had a 44 per cent lower death rate than those living in flats.
Campaigner Kate Ward said the latest report showed that the ongoing campaign to move families out of the New Lodge tower blocks is entirely justified.
“The residents of the Seven Towers’ most recent survey results show the health effects of poor housing; 71 per cent of residents feel their health has been affected by the poor heating, 83 per cent by the dampness and over 76 per cent of the residents visit their GP far in excess of the UK average of five times per year,” she said.
“Despite this however, when the residents, together with health and housing experts Professors Green and Ormandy, last year worked to construct a cost alternative proposal to the NIHE’s cladding proposal which would actually improve the health of the residents, they were told by Minister McCausland that they should accept the substandard scheme since ‘half a loaf is better than none at all’.
“Government has a duty to proactively engage with residents to improve their health regardless of where they live or what religious background they belong to. It is a duty which the government has thus far, failed to live up to for Towers’ residents.”
10. Loughinisland victims’ families begin legal challenge
RELATIVES of those who died in the Heights Bar shooting in Loughinisland, Co Down in 1994 are seeking to overturn the finding that there was no evidence of collusion between the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) and the UVF.
Families of victims gunned down in the bar by loyalists while watching the 26-County soccer team beat Italy in the 1994 World Cup have started legal action to overturn the police ombudsman report into the murders.
The relatives are challenging the report’s conclusions that there was no evidence of collusion between the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) gang responsible and the RUC.
Lawyers and families of the dead believe the RUC investigation was compromised because a number of those directly involved in the shooting were police informers. However, before being able to challenge the report, they are contesting a decision to refuse legal aid.
A judge has granted permission to seek a judicial review of the funding denial. A full hearing on that preliminary issue will take place in June and the challenge to the ombudsman’s report is expected to follow this summer.
Six nationalist men were shot dead when the UVF sprayed the Heights bar in Loughinisland with gunfire on June 18, 1994. No one has been convicted of the murders, although 16 people have been arrested for questioning in connection with the attack, all were released.
In June last year, the outgoing police ombudsman in the Occupied Six Counties, Al Hutchinson, found there was not enough evidence of collusion between the RUC and the loyalist gang, although he did identify failings in the investigation, criticising it for “a lack of diligence, focus and leadership”.
11. HET investigation ‘whitewash’
family of Manus Deery, the Derry teenager shot dead by the British Army 40 years ago dismissed a report into his killing as a “whitewash”.
The British Army maintain that a soldier in a lookout post on Derry’s walls fired at what appeared to be a gunman about 200 metres away, missed him and the ricochet fatally injured the teenager in the Bogside in 1972. His family have always disputed the Army’s version and on February 17, 2012 they criticised the Historical Enquiries Team report into the teenager’s death.
Manus Deery’s sister Helen said she wanted the case re-opened.
“With the information which they were given it is near impossible to come back with the same report that I now have,” she said. “Letters with different dates, they didn’t even get my mother’s name right the second time round.
“They got it wrong the first time round and I made them take note of that and they came back the second time with her name still wrong. It’s a whitewash.”
12. Advisers back all-Ireland anti-fracking campaign
ON February 17 it was reported that a new organisation is to campaign against fracking and is being backed by advisers in the areas of economics, law, science, public health and policy development.
Good Energies Alliance Ireland will cover the covering the 32 Counties of Ireland, and will also promote ways in which the wise use of energy can be supported from sustainable sources and practices.
Fracking, which involves using water to fracture rocks to drill for shale gas, is causing concern over the potential environmental and health considerations related to the activity.
However, while there are genuine fears about this method of extracting natural resources, companies are promising hundreds of jobs in rural areas.
Bringing together the many community groups around the country, Good Energies Alliance says its plan is to use information and creative communication to raise awareness of the process of fracking and:
* To lobby nationally and internationally for a ban on hydraulic fracturing until independent scientific studies verify that it can be undertaken sustainably and will not result in environmental, social or economic harm.
* To research and support ways in which the wise use of energy can be supported from sustainable energy sources and practices by means of programmes and events.
One company, Tamboran, which hopes to be granted a license to frack in Leitrim made a presentation in Leinster House earlier this week. It hopes to drill for up to 2.2 trillion cubic feet of gas in Leitrim over more than 30 years.
Widespread unregulated fracking in the USA has caused environmental damage in many states, while France has banned the practice. A report being carried out by the university of Aberdeen on behalf of the Environmental Protection Agency is set to be published later this month.
13. Campaigners convicted as community members block Shell’s haulage in Mayo
IN Belmullet district court on Monday, February 20, 2012, six campaigners were convicted of a total of 13 charges between them with fines totalling €3,035.
While the court was in session local residents blocked Shell’s haulage route between Bellanaboy refinery and the compound in Glengad. Monday was the beginning of a week-long special sitting for anyone arrested in the last year for protesting against Shell’s Corrib Gas project. In all 19 protestors face 80 charges between them for “civil disobedience”.
On Monday six out of 19 people’s cases were heard, and all six were convicted of every charge they faced. A bench warrant was issued for one person who was unable to attend court. So 12 people are left to be heard, some of them with four or five charges each.
Around 1pm a group of local residents decided to block the haulage route to Glengad, and were thrown off the road by Gardaí. The usual camera person Terence Conway was up in court in Belmullet, so the Gardaí took advantage of the lack of cameras and were fairly rough with people. One woman was thrown into a ditch, and another had her breast pinched by a Garda.
The last special sitting dealing with campaigners against Corrib resulted in 24 of 27 people being acquitted. So far this week, the Judge has not accepted any of the defence arguments.
At one stage when one defendant questioned the level of force that had been used on the protesters, Superintendent Patrick Diskin responded that “Public order situations are never pretty, pushing and shoving sometimes has to happen to ensure people don’t get hurt.”
Gardaí refused to arrest local people on the roads on Monday, instead using brute force. Yet they are happy to criminalise outside supporters in their effort to further isolate the community of Erris.
Around 70 people stopped all Shell work on Friday and Saturday February 17 and 18 including the haulage and massive convoys that have been distressing local residents for the past few weeks.
Two buses from Cork and Dublin with 20 people each arrived to the Rossport Solidarity Camp on February 17 and including local residents and folks already on the camp about 70 people went out at 7am Friday morning to stop work.
A few Shell vehicles carrying workers tried but failed to get into the Aughoose compound because of the number of people standing in the road.
After several hours of relaxed but effective protesting, around 2pm one of the fence panels near the gate decided to fall down in solidarity. Seeing openings in the fence behind the fallen panel, about 12 people got into the compound before IRMS security were able to secure the fence.
The protesters made their way through the compound and exited of their own accord, without any bother from IRMS or the Gardaí. However within 5 minutes up to 40 Gardaí showed up on the scene, coming out in full force at the first call from Shell security.
A CO Antrim mother wants to know why six armed RUC/PSNI members charged her house last October with weapons drawn.
She told The Detail of her anger at being informed by the policing watchdog that it could not investigate her complaint because only the RUC/PSNI’s Professional Standards Department can question the deployment of the armed response unit.
The woman, who does not wish to be named except as Rosie, also told The Detail how she views that response as totally inadequate. She said: “The police investigating the police is not an acceptable alternative.”
Her experience raises yet more questions about the value of the Police Ombudsman’s office – this time to members of the public looking for accountability in contemporary cases – following a year of revelations about political interference in high-profile investigations into the past.
Rosie and her husband are both disabled and were horrified when they found themselves the subject of an armed police raid on their home in Co Antrim on October 22 last year.
“It was a terrifying experience,” she said, “six armed men in black in full body armour, and black helmets ran towards my house with guns pointed at my home. They did not identify themselves and they could clearly see my 15-year-old son standing beside his father at the front door.
“But they did not speak at all. My husband ran out with hands above his head shouting, ‘there’s no threat…what’s going on…why are you here?’ But they did not respond.”
She said the only communication was a demand to know, “which room is he in?” – this was a reference to a visitor to her home.
This man, she says, is diagnosed as a psychotic schizophrenic. He had arrived at her house that evening in a very drunken state and only after he had been speaking to a neighbour with whom Rosie’s family have been having a long-running dispute going back many years.
After the chat, the man walked the short distance to Rosie’s house and said he had resolved the dispute – and then fell into a drunken sleep on a chair in the living room.
This is her account of what happened after the initial arrival of police officers: “A dark unmarked car pulled up outside our neighbour’s home, followed very shortly afterwards by another car and a [RUC/]PSNI squad car.. I phoned a friend and asked her to come over. She arrived in a taxi…
“Approximately 30 to 40 minutes later, we saw an Armed Response Unit [ARU] pull up. There was a lot of activity between the officers who had arrived in the original cars and the officers that appeared to be connected to the Armed Response Unit.
“In particular, we noticed that the ARU officers seemed extremely agitated…and my family began to become very frightened about the reason that they had been called in by the Antrim PSNI as we were completely unaware of the allegations made by our neighbours.
“No-one from the Antrim [RUC/]PSNI even attempted to make contact with us. The Antrim-based officers would have been well aware of the history and as the Community Police have been both regularly and recently involved with this situation, it would not have been very difficult to obtain the contact details for either me or my husband.
“[After] approximately 30 minutes a group of ARU officers started charging towards our home, in full attack uniform and fully armed.
“I ran…into the living-room to find that our drunk visitor had been wakened by all the fuss, had decided to try to explain his actions to the police. He did not seem to realise the exact situation.
“The ARU officers did not identify themselves in any way or even tell us why they were there.. They stopped at our doorway. My husband shouted to them: ‘Could you please give us a bit of a hand here, he’s just drunk, he’s not armed, he’s not any kind of threat, he doesn’t even know what’s happening’.
“None of the officers responded in any way, they just stood there pointing their guns…our drunken visitor eventually overpowered me and went staggering down the hall towards the front door.
“Only then did the officers respond, by shouting at him to get his hands out of his pockets and to get down on the ground and put his hands behind his back. The officers moved in and cuffed him while he was lying face down on the ground.
“Four [RUC/]PSNI officers entered our home, two females, who proceeded into the living room to see who else was in the house and two male officers, who remained in the hall talking to my husband.
“I went into the hall in time to hear the two male officers explain the neighbour’s allegations about our drunken visitor having a gun.
“Me and my husband accompanied the two male officers upstairs. One officer stepped just inside my son’s bedroom doorway and apologised to my son for disturbing him and asked if there was a gun in the room, explaining about the statement made by the neighbour suggesting our drunken visitor had dumped a gun in there.
“Our son was quick to point out, as we had, that our visitor had never been in his room and told them there was no gun. The officer glanced around the room and at the two beds briefly before leaving, seemingly satisfied that there was no gun present. He did not go fully into my son’s bedroom or even make an attempt at a proper search, which seemed disproportionate with the whole fiasco in the front street.
“All four officers left our home immediately after that and that was the last contact we had with the investigating officers for that incident. They did not question or take statements from any of the people present in our home that night about anything that had happened.
“The Antrim [RUC/]PSNI and the Armed Response Unit showed a complete lack of concern for the fact that we had our two young children in our home that night, The man taken away that night was subsequently convicted in court of threatening behaviour and was given a three year suspended sentence. He has also been served with a restraining order to keep him away from the neighbour’s house.
Rosie said he has moved to another area and is currently taking his medication and has stopped drinking. “He couldn’t even defend himself,” she said, “because he had no memory of the events of that night…at all.”
“This was a terrifying experience for us all,” she said. “The police could have handled this is a much better way. There was no need for the aggression towards our family.
“…they chose to charge with weapons drawn. This was not necessary and I want the officer who made the decisions on the night to be investigated as to his conduct and his flawed decision making.”
— Chris Moore, The Detail, February 22, 2012.
15. Khader Adnan to be released
A PALESTINIAN who fasted for 66 days to protest his detention without charge ended his hunger strike on February 21 after the Israeli authorities agreed to release him in mid-April, if no major new evidence is brought against him.
In making the deal, Israel averted the possibility of widespread unrest that many expected if the detainee, a 33-year-old member of Islamic Jihad, had died, as medical experts had determined was an imminent danger. More important, it forestalled an emergency hearing at the High Court of Justice that could have set off a broader review of Israeli military courts’ practice of administrative detention, which has been used against thousands of Palestinians over time.
Palestinian rights activists and other supporters of the detainee, Khader Adnan, insisted that the outcome remained a victory, though the case had failed to force any fundamental change in Israeli policy.
“In the end Khader’s life was saved and his message, raising awareness about administrative detention, got out to the world,” said Shawan Jabarin, director of Al Haq, a Palestinian human rights organization based in the West Bank city of Ramallah. He added that Khader Adnan was “a hero, a champion,” and compared him to Bobby Sands, who died in the H-Blocks of Long Kesh in 1981 after 66 days on hunger strike.
Qadura Fares, the president of the nongovernmental Palestinian Prisoners Society based in Ramallah, said that in any case, the issue of administrative detention had come to the Israeli High Court a number of times in the past and that the judges had always accepted the arguments of the Israeli security establishment.
“We have been in that movie several times before,” Qadura Fares said, who was involved in the negotiations for the deal, communicating with the Israelis through Mr Adnan’s lawyer.
The court had scheduled an emergency hearing for February 21 in the case of Mr Adnan after his condition was judged critical, but the sides cancelled the petition after the deal was signed by Khader Adnan’s lawyer, Jawad Boulus, and a lawyer for the state prosecution.
The Israeli Justice Ministry said in a statement that the deal had been reached after Mr Adnan’s case was brought before Israel’s attorney general, attesting to the concern at the highest levels of the Israeli government about Mr Adnan’s fate and the potential consequences. The Palestinian Authority minister of prisoner affairs, Issa Qaraqe, told the Palestinian news agency Maan that the Palestinians had asked Jordan to intervene to help save Mr Adnan.
Palestinians have been holding demonstrations in support of Khader Adnan throughout the West Bank and Gaza. Palestinian prisoners refused meals on February 21 in solidarity.
The issue of administrative detention touches many Palestinian families. Israel has used the measure over the decades for periods ranging from a few months to several years. About 310 administrative detainees are in Israeli jails, down from more than 800 in January 2008.
The father of two young girls, Mr Adnan has worked as a baker, but is also known as a leader of Islamic Jihad, an extremist organization that has carried out suicide bombings and fired rockets from Gaza into southern Israel. He has been detained several times before, mostly by Israel but also by the Palestinian Authority.
Mr Adnan began his hunger strike on December 18, a day after he was taken from his village, Arraba, in the northern West Bank, and it lasted longer than any other Palestinian hunger strike. A medical report prepared last week by an Israeli-accredited doctor on behalf of Physicians for Human Rights-Israel, and filed along with the petition to the High Court, stated that Mr Adnan was “in immediate danger of death” and that “a fast in excess of 70 days does not permit survival.”
Israel defends its use of administrative detention as necessary for national security, and says it is used when a case is based on informants or intelligence material that cannot be revealed. Critics say the secret evidence makes it impossible for administrative detainees or their lawyers to mount a proper defence.
Administrative detention orders can be issued for a maximum period of six months, but can be renewed indefinitely. Mr Adnan was issued a four-month detention order on January 8, and it was confirmed by a military judge a month later. A first appeal was rejected on February 13.
Under the terms of the deal, Mr Adnan will be released on April 17 instead of May 8. The three-week reduction is to take into account the time that Mr.. Adnan spent in interrogation after his arrest.
Israel has pledged not to renew his detention if there is no new, weighty evidence against him.
Mr Adnan is hospitalised in northern Israel. A physician visited him after the deal was reached and confirmed that he had ended his hunger strike, Physicians for Human Rights said.
16. Shaker Aamer, the Briton still locked in Guantánamo, will not be forgotten
TEN years since he was incarcerated in Guantánamo Bay, Aamer has been abandoned by successive British governments.
When the allied invasion of Afghanistan began in October 2001 with the bombing of Kabul, among the families forced to flee were the Aamers. With three young children and a fourth expected, the family had only recently moved from London to the poorest nation in the world. Their work was teaching the sons and daughters of Arabic-speaking expatriates in the capital, but the school was flattened in the first days of the bombing and the family quickly fell victim to the lawlessness that ensued.
By November Shaker Aamer had been sold on twice by bounty hunters, the third time by the Northern Alliance to US forces, who helicoptered him to Bagram airbase in what he described years later as a kidnapping operation pure and simple. “We were hostages not prisoners,” he said, an issue distinction successive British governments have failed to confront.. On 14 February 2002 he was airlifted again, to Guantánamo Bay. The urgent question today is why, 10 years on, he alone of the 16 detainees who possessed British citizenship and residency is still held hostage there?
If we look through a small window into the Blair government’s first few months of enthusiastic participation in the Afghan war, opened by chance through accidents of litigation in which internal communiqués were required to be disclosed, we can see clearly how it all began. Arbitrary incommunicado detention of a prisoner is a crime under international law; such detention, extended indefinitely, can be categorised as torture. Presence at and encouragement of such detention is a crime too.
Yet on 10 January 2002, then foreign secretary Jack Straw was urging in emails to colleagues the transfer of UK detainees to unlawful imprisonment in Guantánamo as the “best way to meet our counter-terrorism objective”, rejecting “the only alternative of repatriation to the United Kingdom”. In response to a question, scribbled on a copy of the Cabinet Office agenda for 11 January, about the legality of US detention of non-prisoner of war combatants, he offered a scribbled answer: “Consider later if we have to in extremis but it’s still dodgy I would think.” Three days later, a Cabinet Office note records that no objections “in principle” had been raised to transfers to Guantánamo. A month later, another note records then home secretary David Blunkett’s opinion: “The longer they stay in Cuba/Afghanistan the better.” Who are “they”? Using Blair’s language, Islamist views constituted a “virus” to be “eliminated”. In practical terms, human beings presumed to hold those views could be taken out of circulation by any means possible, and permanently.
By 31 January 2002 the prime minister, Tony Blair, was greeted at Bagram airport by interim Afghan leader Hamid Karzai. A stone’s throw away, in a freezing aircraft hangar, was Aamer. What reports went back to Whitehall from British intelligence agents, there to interrogate on the express instructions of government ministers? If frank, they would have described small groups of men sitting, hour after hour, on the concrete floor in unnatural postures, forbidden to move or speak. Screams echoed around the open space from interrogation rooms above. If a door opened, there would be a glimpse for a minute of a man hanging shackled by his wrists.
All of this was criminal; no one present could be unaware. But Aamer’s ordeal has one unique feature: he is the only prisoner to have described a UK intelligence agent being present while he was beaten. Is this why he, the key to any serious investigation of British complicity in the lawless activities of the invading allies, is now entering his 11th year of captivity, with the coalition government insisting, just as its predecessor did, that it is impotent to persuade the US to return him home to the UK?
Each of the families of the 15 British men who came back from Guantánamo had been told the same; nevertheless each ministerial claim of impossibility buckled in turn under the adverse publicity generated by the horrific tales that US-cleared lawyers brought out from Guantánamo – not just of torture and rendition but of British complicity. Even those awaiting trial before military commissions came to find themselves instead on a plane bound for London.
Ministerial memos betrayed a passing concern – that Aamer too might launch litigation in the UK. But Aamer, fiercely independent, had no lawyers throughout the key years to bring out news of his treatment – savage attacks by US guards, brutal force-feeding to break his hunger strikes, and years of isolation in punishment for protest, which is still continuing. And so, after 2007, Britain, shamefully, felt able to “close its file” on Aamer.
So how to explain the repetition of the same message Aamer’s wife and children in Battersea heard from Blair and then Gordon Brown, when the coalition vowed to do better? The excuse given for impotence is now that the US has toughened its criteria for removal. But we are, after all, the US’s closest ally and possess sophisticated methods of detecting risk. Besides, Aamer faces no charges in Guantánamo and has been “cleared for release” for many years.
Aamer is described by all who know him as principled and fiercely resistant to every aspect of the unlawful Guantánamo regime. It seems this singled him out for what has become indefinite detention. His US captors view him as a “leader” for whom the only acceptable exit route is transfer to his country of origin, Saudi Arabia.
As is clear from an internal ministerial memo written in 2007, the UK government was actively assisting the US to achieve Aamer’s permanent removal to detention in Saudi Arabia, a country condemned by NGOs as perpetrating a regime of draconian repression.
Aamer’s British wife, with or without a husband free to be with her, would be a non-person, in a country where women are liable to be flogged for attempting to drive a car. The US’s continuing private belief that this is achievable is inexplicable unless it believes the mindset of the Blair government is shared by its successors. For the 16th Guantánamo hostage, just as for the 15 before him, it seems it will be informed public indignation alone that will bring him home.
— Gareth Peirce, February 14, 2012, The Guardian.
18. Jingoism is no answer to England’s ebbing power
FROM the EU to football and the Falklands, England must abandon its memories of empire to survive in a changing world
Jingoism is a particularly British strain of belligerent nationalism. It comes decked not only in the union flag, but with a long trail of imperial relics meant to signify that we are still a world power. You could hear it in David Cameron’s speech in Edinburgh on Thursday, when he invoked Britain’s seat on the UN security council and prominent position in NATO. It’s there when his back-benchers liken the European Union to the Third Reich. And we saw it last week in images of the gunboat that we have hastily dispatched to defend the Falklands.
Now that Cameron appears to have ruled out the status quo by promising greater devolution to the Scots if they vote no to independence, we’re likely to hear more about how great Britain is in the days to come. For jingo is the default reaction of the English ruling class when they feel their interests are under threat. Unsure about our true position in a changing world, they hold on to the union flag like a comfort blanket, wrapping themselves in it to enhance their sense of importance.
While the Scots seem confident about their future, a Little Englander mentality is in danger of taking hold south of the border, in which every external challenge is perceived as a threat. This attitude can already be detected in the search for a new manager for our national football team. The media are calling for an Englishman, but shouldn’t we be demanding the best man for the job, wherever he’s from?
Our overblown sporting expectations are a hangover from an imperial past in which we not only ruled the world, but also taught everyone how to play soccer, rugger, cricket and tennis. We English have never been able to shake off the feeling that, having invented all these games, we should be the world champions, hence our continual disappointment with our miserable performances in Test matches, World Cups and Wimbledon.
More dangerously, our imperial instincts remain so strong that we are often to be found in the front rank of any military intervention, willing to deploy our troops into situations where even the genuine superpowers are reluctant to tread. “By Jingo” was the refrain of a music-hall song that was taken up as the rallying cry for those spoiling for war with Russia in 1878. That same aggressive clamour could be heard in the spurious justifications for the overthrow of Saddam Hussein.
If the ultimate outcome of the Greek crisis is a greater integration among eurozone members, then Britain will find itself isolated in Europe while at the same time debating whether or not it wishes to remain a united kingdom. The English will be caught in a double bind, with the future of Britain being decided in Edinburgh, while the future of Europe is debated in Brussels.
The rattling of the old jingoistic sword is a sure sign that the English ruling class feels its power ebbing away, torn between a European super-state, the aspirations of the Celtic fringe and demographic changes within England itself. Whether the English can awake from their long dream of empire and use this opportunity to renew their sense of iden