CAIN: Events: Internment: John McGuffin (1973) Internment


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Extracts from 'Internment' by John McGuffin (1973)



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Text: John McGuffin ... Page Compiled: Fionnuala McKenna
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CHAPTER 10

THE CIVIL RESISTANCE MOVEMENT

THE 1971-1972 internment period witnessed a new element in the internment saga; a massive civil resistance movement.

The most important aspect of the movement was its spontaneity.

Internment had been in the air in the months of June and July 1971. Faulkner had consistently requested it, and, by and large, all anti-Unionist groups had felt the need for a united front to oppose its imposition. The Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association called a conference several weeks before 9 August after discussions with the Official Republicans, the People’s Democracy and the SDLP. The meeting was held before an enthusiastic audience in St. Mary’s Hall, Belfast, and speaker after speaker was cheered as he denounced internment and the Special Powers Act and pledged support to a united front. But the proposed next meeting, which had been agreed upon by the audience, was not called. The NICRA began to procrastinate, and in the end Brian Faulkner pre-empted everyone by introducing internment on 9 August 1971.

The sorry truth is that there was no real basis for a united front against internment. The SDLP with six MP’s is a middle-class Catholic party which had never contested an election. The party had been formed from the remnants of the old tired Nationalist Party, civil rights independents, the Labour Party and Gerry Fitt’s Republican Labour Party group. At the time when internment was merely in the air they had been desperate to get off the hook of non-participation in Stormont which their constituents in Derry had pushed them onto after the Deny shootings of Cusack and Beattie on 7 July 1971.

But internment finished that. There could be no longer any question of the SDLP participating in Stormont, or in Brian Faulkner’s tempting and lucrative parliamentary committees. They abstained from Stormont, but continued to draw their salaries and to have secret meetings with conservative MP’s.

NICRA was in an awkward position. What once had the pretensions to be a mass public movement had shrunk to a small faction which could no longer hide its obvious function as an Official Republican front with CP backing. For over a year their policy, in line with CP and Official leadership in Dublin thinking, had been reformist: ‘democratise Stormont’, and a ‘Bill of Rights’. But events and the people had passed them by. They were, however, to provide a very real stumbling block to unity with their insistence that any mass movement against internment must be under their control. This was clearly unacceptable to many people and it led to the formation of the Northern Resistance Movement which, in turn, came to be regarded as a front for the Provisional Republicans and the PD.

The NRM was born out of the failure of several meetings in Omagh and Dungannon to agree on a formula for a mass movement. NICRA insisted on having total control. The PD and many individuals felt that NICRA would be undemocratic and a brake upon militant action. The Provisionals were then concerned with the military campaign against the British army and had little time for what they described somewhat contemptuously as ‘politics’.

The fact was, however, that the people at grass roots had, as usual, outstripped their self-appointed ‘leaders’. Within minutes of the initial internment raids by the army on the morning of 9 August 1971, women were out rattling bin-lids as a warning, youths were throwing stones and bottles, barricades were erected. Soon local units of both wings of the IRA engaged troops. Taking advantage of the situation, ‘Loyalists’ began to intimidate and to burn people out of their homes and, in some cases, to snipe from roofs. In the first few weeks of violence 35 people died. The numbers were soon to rise with the concerted bombing and shooting campaign of the Provisionals.

Internment succeeded in uniting the minority as nothing else had ever done. With this final ham-fisted blow Faulkner managed to totally alienate nearly 40% of the population against the State. Nor were most of the 60% that pleased either. Boal and Paisley of the Democratic Unionist Party, as well as the Alliance and Labour Parties,[1] condemned internment. The main prop of the civil resistance was the rent-and-rates strike.

The strike began spontaneously. It was not organized by the SDLP, the Official Republicans or any other movement, though some were to claim it as their creation. The idea caught on like wildfire. Traditionally, strike action by the Catholic minority in the North has always been an impractical weapon. There were very few jobs in which they held key positions or a majority of the workforce, unlike the Protestant Vanguard who were to show they could bring the province to a standstill, though harming themselves more than anyone else in the process. Catholics did have several one-day industrial strikes, especially after ‘Bloody Sunday’, but it was the strike against the State that was the most effective.

Within weeks, more than 40,000 households were on rent-and-rate strike. Placards to this effect appeared in windows all over the country — as well as the more contemptuously militant slogan ‘Rent Spent’. At the conference called by the Tyrone Central Civil Resistance Committee in Omagh on 17 October 1971, which was to lead to the setting up of NRM, delegates gave some examples of the effectiveness of the strike. In Newry 95% solidarity. The Newry Urban Council had lost £150,000 in ten weeks. In Lurgan 4,000 were refusing to pay; £10,000 a week was being held back. In Derry, the Creggan with 15,000 people had 98% strike success; the Bogside and Brandywell had 90%. Coalisland 95%. Andersonstown, Belfast, had 80% refusing to pay. Soon gas and electricity bills, car tax, ground rent, TV licences and fines to courts were added. Local Government virtually ground to a halt.

In many areas Local Government had been halted completely when Opposition councillors and businessmen withdrew from the councils and commissions. Newry, Strabane, Coalisland and various smaller towns were left with no town councils at all and the Government had to step in and try to take over their functions. Faced with the wholesale refusal to pay rent and rates, Unionists had to abandon the normal process of enforcing payments. Their answer was the Payment for Debt (Emergency Powers) Act.

Professor Peter Townsend of the Child Poverty Action Group called it "The worst piece of social legislation passed in the UK in this century." He was right. It had all the crude simplicity of a totalitarian decree.

The Act provides that anyone who owes money to the State and who refuses to pay is to have his or her debts paid by way of deductions from their State entitlements. Families on rent strike have the rent money and arrears deducted from benefits they usually received, before any benefits are paid over. The money so deducted is then paid to the local housing account. These benefits can include any that Stormont controls: supplementary allowances, unemployment benefits, sickness benefits, pensions or family allowance and even death grants. But the Act went even further. As Kevin Boyle, a lawyer and university lecturer, pointed out;

This extraordinary Act concerns itself with more than debts owed to the State. A private landlord whose tenants are withholding rent can also dip into their State benefits to make up the rent. So also may a building society where a person stalls or defaults on repayments; for example gas, electricity or water, can be met in the same way. For those defaulters who have no State benefits to subtract from, powers exist to attack wages or debts, seize property or charge land. An employer who refuses to dock money from his employees’ wages, once ordered, becomes personally liable for his employees’ debts. The Act’s provisions are retrospective, all of these powers being available for debts accruing from 1 April 1972.

To implement this debt-collection service a special administrative unit has been set up at Stormont Castle. Eighty Civil Servants have been seconded from all branches to work the new machinery, a task some regard as distasteful. Their removal from other departments has caused considerable strain on the functioning of normal services, and in the special unit itself conditions have been described as administrative anarchy. There is evidence in the non-payment or delayed payment of some benefits that parts of the social services are close to breakdown with the additional task of collecting 30,000 rents each week. The whole machinery may be unable to cope, particularly if the refusal to pay continues on the present scale, which it shows every sign of doing.

The functioning of this penal act has inevitably brought hardship to the poorer families in the North. In theory, the civil servants can take all the benefits a person receives in satisfaction for the rent and arrears owed since August, and there is no appeal against deductions once made. In practice, directions have been given as follows: The amount to be deducted is the rent money for the week, an amount for the arrears depending on the status of the beneficiary. If the person is unemployed and on the standard rate of benefit, the maximum to be taken for arrears is £1.50 per week. If the person has an earnings related supplement, i.e. not the standard rate of benefit, up to £3.50 can be taken as arrears. If he is employed, then the amount taken is the weekly rent and arrears up to £2,00.

It is obvious that persons either on supplementary benefit or low wages are going to be in severe straits as a result of these deductions. The supplementary benefit standard allowance is taken as the official poverty line, and the effect of this Act will be to put many thousands of families below that line throughout this winter. Particularly vulnerable will be those families affected by the ‘wage-stop’, the device whereby benefits are pegged to the level of wages last earned by the husband. Pensioners and the disabled who get inadequate money at the best of times will also suffer special hardship.

Indeed, hardship is guaranteed by one provision in the debt act, which declares that no exceptional needs grant will normally be paid to a rent defaulter. That has already been administratively interpreted as meaning no payments at all, and there is no appeal against the refusal.

But perhaps the most extraordinary feature of all is that the bureaucracy of the Act will mean for the normal family that it can never leave the rent strike! If a person wishes to start paying his rent, he must inform the local authority, who in turn must inform Stormont Castle, who, again, must inform his local supplementary office. It is calculated that all this will take, in present circumstances, at least two weeks. Meanwhile the tenant will have had money deducted for rent out of his weekly benefit, so he will be effectively paying double rent as well as a sum for arrears. Few families in the rent strike could afford such payments, and even if special secret arrangements exist whereby double payment could be avoided, few are going to pursue them. It is known that the unprecedented publicity campaign prior to this act, to cajole people out of the strike, produced negligible results.

The administrative costs of the new machinery may yet exceed the rent revenue being collected. Civil Resistance and Disobedience committees are determined to increase costs by making applications for extra benefits and information on a massive scale.

The Act did, indeed, fail. The Government tried everything from threats to bribes but to little avail. Full-page advertisements were published in all the newspapers claiming that the Government had information that ". . . many people withholding rent and rates are unwilling participants in the campaign. They are doing so only through fear of intimidation or reprisals. Nevertheless, nearly 2,000 families in the areas concerned have already asked that part of the supplementary benefit should be paid direct to their housing authority, so as to secure the tenancies." Roy Bradford, ex-disc jockey and the then Unionist Minister for Development, cut a sorry sight on television with his ‘Do not be misled — Civil wrongs secure no rights’ speech. Two weeks later[2] the Andersonstown Civil Resistance Committee were able to conclusively answer him:

The Unionists have been asked to disclose the facts about She rent and rates strike . . . . they have refused! We give you the facts. At 20th November 1971, Local Authorities and Housing Bodies had registered 14,000 applications for collection of Rent and Rate from Social Benefits. Civil Servants estimate that by 30th December 1971, 30,000 applications will have been made. Thousands of pounds have been spent on advertising aimed at breaking the anti-internment campaign. Bradford has failed! Less than ¼ of one per cent (only 80 people) have started to pay. The Unionist party is now a debt-collecting machine. Unionism has a future for you . . . . behind bars.

The continuation of the violence showed even more conclusively that internment had failed.

In the four months prior to internment:

four soldiers, four civilians and no RUC men died.
In the four months after internment:
30 soldiers, 73 civilians and 11 RUC and UDR men died.

The violence of the army when patrolling, raiding and sacking the Catholic ghettoes cemented the alienation. The tortures and brutalities exacerbated it even further. The plain and simple truth is that the Unionist Government, the army, the police and the courts had lost all credibility. The Unionists had for years resisted even the most minor demands for justice. The PM Brian Faulkner had been denounced as ‘treacherous’, ‘devious’ and ‘untrustworthy’ by members of his own Cabinet and by the ex-PM Terence (later Lord) O’Neill. He was hardly the man to inspire confidence in anyone.

The RUC had been condemned by two British Commissions (Scarman and Hunt). Many were party to what their own commander, Sir Arthur Young, termed "a conspiracy of silence". The courts were denounced for their bigoted magistrates and unjust sentences. For example, between 28 October 1971 and 16 February 1972, no fewer than ten men were acquitted, whether by jury or the direction of the judge, only to be interned as they left the court. In December 1971 alone, four men were granted bail and detained under the Special Powers Act as they attempted to leave.[3]

As Henry Kelly[4] has pointed out: "As for the office of public prosecutor, some idea of Unionist urgency in introducing this minor but necessary reform can be gauged from the fact that the first incumbent, Mr. Barry Shaw, QC, took up office only in April 1972, nearly three years after the idea was proposed." Meanwhile, a Stormont Government could continue to introduce repressive legislation such as the Criminal Justice (Temporary Provisions) Act (Northern Ireland) in one late-night sitting. And despite promises by PM O’Neill, the notorious Special Powers Act not only remained in toto on the Statute Book but had actually been strengthened.

The civil resistance campaign was to have important side effects apart from the discrediting of internment. Foremost, of course, was the downfall of Stormont. Lord Brookeborough had been PM of Northern Ireland for 20 years. Terence O’Neill lasted from 1963 until April 1969. Chichester Clark survived only from April 1969 until March 1971. Brian Faulkner, who had schemed for, intrigued for, and coveted the job for so long, was to last only 12 months exactly. When he fell, Stormont and the Unionist monolith fell with him.

Nor was the resistance campaign confined to Ireland North and South. Branches of the Anti-Internment League, formed in London immediately after the introduction of internment, by John Gray and Bowes Egan, proliferated throughout the ‘British Isles’ and as far afield as America, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. International organizations, such as Amnesty and The Red Cross, investigated. Reports went to the Human Rights Commission in The Hague and the UN. The Civil Rights Association co-operated with the Irish Congress of Trade Unions to involve trade unionists throughout Britain. Similarly, in many towns the National Union of Students organized demonstrations and protests against internment.

But again, the old tried-and-true tactic of marching, so successful in the early days of the civil rights campaign, was to become decisive. With internment on 9 August Faulkner had imposed a ban on all marches for 12 months. Soon those opposed to repressive legislation began to clamour for street action. NICRA, the traditional march organizers, refused — their logic was simple — you couldn’t march because it was illegal and they might put you in jail if you did! Resentment and frustration grew. Finally, in December, with the full support of the internees in Long Kesh, a group of trade unionists in Tyrone, in co-operation with Belfast and Armagh PD’s, called a march for Christmas Day. It was to go from Beechmount in Belfast along the M1 motorway to Long Kesh itself, ten miles away. Of course, everyone knew that they would not be allowed to get there. Nonetheless, despite the atrocious weather and the delights of the traditional Christmas afternoon, 4,000 people assembled in the snow and marched. The army blocked the left-hand lane to the motorway but, undaunted, the marchers swung past them and began to march down the other lane into the oncoming traffic. They got three miles before the army were able to stop them. The temerity of people, not only parading on the motorway but going down the wrong lane, was apparently beyond the experience of the army.

The march was a great success. The law had been flouted and floodgates were opened. NICRA shamefacedly had to call their own march — straight up the Falls Road to the heart of the ghetto. But the marching season was on. Marches at Magilligan camp, protests at Long Kesh, and finally the march in Derry on ‘Bloody Sunday’.

In Derry the British army showed its ‘answer’ to illegal marches: cold-blooded murder. Lord Widgery was to find that the Paras had, indeed, killed 13 innocent civilians, but that they (the marchers) "shouldn’t have been there in the first place." British justice. The death penalty, without trial, for marching against repression. Laws like the Special Powers Act. "In order to protect the law we had to break it!"

Next week saw an enormous crowd of some 70,000 marching in Newry. This time, with the world’s press there, the soldiers refrained from gunning people down. Marches became a weekly occurrence, despite NICRA’s attempts to restrain the people. Moreover, the ‘Loyalists’ began holding their own marches. The Loyalist Association of Workers (LAW), a crypto-fascist organization led by Billy Hull, held regular marches throughout the towns. The Vanguard movement was formed and parades of men in para-military uniforms — later, masked as well — became a regular feature. Somehow these marches were never illegal — only those of the anti-Unionists were so designated — and none of the organizers was arrested. Members of the NRM, PD and NICRA did not fare so well. In the space of five months, Michael Farrell, PD, collected two years jail sentences (in the form of four separate six-months sentences — none of which he had to serve), Bernadette Devlin MP received three years and Frank McManus MP got five years in all. All were appealed and the process was dragged out for several months. Meanwhile the courts insisted on suspending the sentences passed upon the ‘respectable’ MPs, Fitt, Paddy Devlin, Hume and Cooper.

Eventually, tiring of the farce, Farrell, Devlin and McManus announced that they had no intention of turning up at the courts to answer yet more marching charges, nor would they appeal. Legally, they should have been arrested at once. Political considerations intervened, and Whitelaw, the new supremo, on 27 April announced an amnesty for all sentenced for breaking the march ban. Simultaneously, the ban itself was scrapped. It had been yet another piece of bad legislation from Brian Faulkner, popular with no one, not even with the Orangemen who became increasingly militant as the traditional 12th July marches approached.

The Civil Resistance campaign, in conjunction with the IRA’s military campaign, proved to be a combination with which the Unionist Government could not cope. They had 50 years of uninterrupted rule and had become stultified and inflexible. The resistance campaign did not end internment, but it helped to bring down Stormont. Even more important, with its resistance councils it gave many people, for the first time in their lives, the chance to see that they could "seize the time"; that they could exercise a very real measure of control over their jobs, their streets, their areas. Resistance councils proliferated. Some were better organized than others. Some were experiments which failed.[5]

When we look at the New Lodge Road though, with a council and street committees elected by everyone over the age of 16, area committees, defence, welfare, health, finance and recreational committees, meeting every week, running their own clubs, newspapers, barricades (when necessary), we can see real democracy in action. And freedom is a contagious virus. Internment has brought the people together and made them see the need for organizing from the grass roots up, instead of relying on traditional ‘leaders’. Certainly, many of the people will never be the same again after their involvement in the anti-internment campaign.

They have changed. "A terrible beauty is born."

Publication Contents


CHAPTER 11

TORTURE AND BRUTALITY

My mind could not conceive it. I was living in the twentieth century — the year AD 1951. Surely these men could never bring themselves to torture me in cold blood. Looking around their faces I saw neither passion nor compassion in any of them.

Two of my ribs were cracked from kicks; my head, shoulders and thighs were sore and bruised; my back was covered with cigarette burns, which smarted at the slightest touch from my filthy clothes.

The story that these men had to tell appalled us. . . . Captain Walters had been compelled to stand to attention for over 40 hours before he collapsed. . . .

— Extracts from The Edge of the Sword by Major FarrarHockley. He was writing of his experiences in Korea in 1951, not on the Falls Road, where he served in 1971.

TORTURE and brutality are emotive words. They are words used frequently by propagandists. Nonetheless, in the Northern Ireland context, in the year 197 1 — 1972, they are more honest words than the emasculated semantics of Sir Edmund Compton or the bland lies of Brian Faulkner and General Tuzo. For the simple fact is that brutality by the British army became so usual as to be commonplace, while torture was systematically — and generally inefficiently — carried out by both army intelligence and the RUC Special Branch on an increasing scale.

Britain has a record of torture in Aden, Cyprus and Kenya. Her policy, with the possible exception of Kenya, may not have been as brutal and widespread as that of the French in Algeria or the Americans in Vietnam. There seems to have been no general torture plan emanating from Whitehall, rather it was the work of a handful of soldiers — the name of one soldier crops up in both Cyprus and Aden, for example — who, nonetheless, were acting with official blessing; but torture was undoubtedly carried out. In 1957,49 specified cases of torture by British troops in Cyprus were alleged against Britain at the Council of Europe. It took a hurried conference at Zurich for the cases to be dropped.[1]

Peter Benenson of Amnesty International has written of the torture (which was common knowledge throughout Cyprus) but, as usual, officialdom did nothing — apart from cashiering a captain in the Intelligence Corps and an acting captain in the Gordon Highlanders.[2]

In Aden, in the summer of 1966, following Amnesty reports by Dr. Salahaddin Rastgeldi, a Swede, about torture at the Fort Morbut interrogation centre, the British Government reluctantly set up its own inquiry,[3] under the then Deputy Speaker in the House of Commons, Roderic Bowen QC. The report, however, was a pathetic whitewash which satisfied no one — the Special Branch investigator did not examine the complainant’s medical records, and, though eventually three of the torturers were identified, on the orders of the Director of Intelligence nothing was done.[4]

The main list of allegations against the ‘intelligence service interrogators’in Cyprus and Aden — bears a certain similarity with subsequent events in Northern Ireland, but before coming to what actually went on in the compounds at Palace barracks, Holywood, and at Gird-wood Park, Belfast, it is worth pointing out why the tortures occurred. Cyril Cunningham, a former Ministry of Defence authority on brain-washing techniques, was very revealing when he gave a lecture on ‘The Intelligence Service and the Law’ at the ICA in London in May 1972.

"What we saw in Northern Ireland was a bunch of roughs — who shall be nameless[5] — belonging to field interrogation teams sent out as scouts. People have the idea you can make an interrogator overnight. You can’t. . . . Violence in interrogation occurs when the agency has failed to create an ‘intelligence environment’ where good public relations do not exist because the public is hostile and where overt and covert sources of intelligence are not available. If it is deprived of these it often resorts to what we interrogators call "spontaneous overt verbal examination" — i.e., "if you don’t tell us, we will beat it out of you." Cunningham went on to say that "it seems the intelligence services in Ulster were run into the ground and were scraped together at the last minute to cope with the situation: it is the same wherever we have pulled out."[6]

The British army’s ‘expert’ on counter insurgency was Brigadier Frank Kitson,[7] whose ill-written and indiscreet (from an army point of view) book, Low Intensity Operations, was obligatory reading. The main interrogation centres were at Palace barracks, Holywood, five miles from Belfast, and at Girdwood Park camp which adjoins Crumlin jail.

Palace barracks was the HQ of the 1st Parachute Regiment who were serving a two-year term of duty in Northern Ireland. Also based there were members of the shadowy 22nd Special Air Service Regiment. Major A. H. Watchus, who had been associated with the Joint Services Intelligence Centre at Ashford in Kent, was their CO. The torture compound consisted of four huts surrounded by a corrugated iron perimeter wall. It was located well to the rear of the camp and could not be seen from the road. It was officially called an RUC reception centre, and while soldiers guarded the barracks as a whole, the compound was protected by members of the RUC Special Patrol Group (Number 7 section code named ‘Silver’ and based at Musgrave St. barracks). It was their inefficiency which allowed young Brendan Dunlop to escape on 8 January. Nor were the Paras able to prevent one of their own number from setting off three bombs in the barracks on 27 January before he deserted.[8] Nonetheless, security was pretty strict.

Most of the physical brutality was inflicted by ordinary soldiers during search and arrest operations. Many of them were young and inexperienced. Many were confused and frightened. Their own living conditions were poor. Constant patrolling in a hostile environment, waiting for an urban guerilla to take a pot shot at you or for a claymore mine to go off, is an unpleasant task. Nevertheless, the behaviour of many soldiers cannot be excused. A large number of the men arrested had served with the British army during the war and refused to believe that the behaviour of the troops in Belfast in August 1971 was normal. It is a convenient myth fostered by the British that "our soldiers" just like "our policemen" are "the best in the world"; bright, keen, alert, courageous — yet courteous young men, who could bear no relation to the brutal and at times drunken or Mandrexed louts described by the frightened inhabitants of Belfast. But, alas, it is only a myth. The British soldier is no better nor no worse than the American, Russian or French soldier. He will blindly obey orders (although it is true to say that desertions increased and recruitment fell after soldiers had seen what was happening in Belfast) and he will, in many cases, resort to sadism and violence.

No account of arrest, detention and interrogation in Northern Ireland from August 1971 to April 1973 could be completed without the assistance of the Association for Legal Justice. A non-political body, its members worked tirelessly to expose the brutality and torture, interviewing virtually all the detainees, compiling reports of intimidation and publishing them daily. It was through their efforts that the English press, and the Sunday Times in particular, eventually had to admit that there was a nasty smell emanating from army HQ in Northern Ireland. And all the air fresheners of Sir Edmund Compton couldn’t mask it.

The torture falls into four phases. Firstly, 9-11 August 1971, the brutality inflicted upon those arrested in the initial internment swoop and held at Ballykinlar, Magilligan and Girdwood barracks. At Girdwood barracks the brutality was generally unorganized. Most of it was the work of the arresting soldiers who panicked in their haste to get men out of hostile areas at 4.00 a.m. Fathers were arrested in mistake for sons, nephews for uncles, and so on. Severe beatings were administered as men were dragged along the streets in their pyjamas, to the accompaniment of rattling bin-lids. In certain cases the troops could excuse themselves on the grounds that suspects ‘resisted arrest’, though the Sunday Times and BBC TV ‘24 Hours’ were to highlight a number of particularly scandalous cases, such as those of James Magilton (60) and John Murphy (61), both of Clowney Street. These two men, who were in bad health, were beaten savagely. They were released within 48 hours. It had been ‘a mistake’. Nor can the stubbing out of cigarettes on Eamoun Kerr’s neck by soldiers under Major Lloyd’s[8a] command, outside Mulhouse Street barracks, be forgiven.

But the brutality at Girdwood barracks was of a different order. Men against whom no charge had been made were held in custody there by armed military policemen, most of whom took turns at beating, threatening and sadistically maltreating many of their prisoners. It was there that the infamous ‘helicopter treatment’ was given, and that barefoot prisoners were forced to run over broken glass.

At Ballykinlar and Magilligan the treatment was even worse. What Compton called ‘positions of discomfort’ amounted, in fact, to torture, the Armagh County Court decided six months later. Judge Conaghan declared that, clearly, several army officers had been guilty of telling lies to the enquiry (the officers in question were Lieutenant Barton, Sergeant Smith and Corporal Robert Graham) and he awarded William John Moore of Portadown £300 damages on 18 February 1972. Also, Captain D. David Plant was severely criticised by Judge Conaghan. Subsequently, agreed damages of £3,900 were awarded to 16 internees and former internees from Armagh for the treatment meted out to them by the security forces. (See also chapter on Compton Report, page 127).

The second phase of the torture concerned eleven men[9] during the period 11-17 August 1971. These men were firstly detained on detention orders signed personally by Brian Faulkner and later removed on removal orders also signed personally by Faulkner. They were secretly taken away and held totally incommunicado for a week. They were hooded, spreadeagled against a wall for days, subjected to the ‘noise machine’, deprived of sleep, food, drink and toilet facilities, and in addition were badly beaten. Part of a description of the torture, by Paddy Joe McClean (39), a remedial teacher, follows. McClean was not a member of any section of the IRA; he was merely a local civil rights worker. He was arrested and taken from his home in Beragh, Co. Tyrone, at 5 a.m. on Monday 9 August 1971. He is married and has eight children. McClean stated:

I spent the first 48-hour period with the other detainees at Magilligan camp. At the end of these initial 48 hours a hood was pulled over my head and I was handcuffed and subjected to verbal and personal abuse which included the threat of being dropped from a helicopter while it was in the air. I was then dragged out to the helicopter, being kicked and struck about the body with batons on the way.

After what seemed about one hour in the helicopter I was thrown from it and kicked and batoned into what I took to be a lorry. The lorry was driven only a couple of hundred yards to a building. On arriving there I was given a thorough examination by a doctor. After this, all my clothes were taken from me and I was given a boiler suit to wear which had no buttons and which was several sizes too big for me.

During this time the hood was still over my head and the handcuffs were removed only at the time of the ‘medical examination’.

I was then taken into what I can only guess was another room and was made stand with my feet wide apart with my hands pressed against a wall. During all this time I could hear a low droning noise, which sounded to me like an electric saw or something of that nature. This continued for what I can only describe as an indefinite period of time. I stood there, arms against the wall, feet wide apart. My arms, legs, back and head began to ache. I perspired freely, the noise and the heat were terrible.

My circulation had stopped. I flexed my arms to start the blood flowing again. They struck me several times on the hands ribs, kidneys and my kneecaps were kicked. My hood-covered head was banged against the wall.

[It is thought that this method of torture lasted for two whole days and nights.] McClean continued;

During this time certain periods are blank — fatigue, mental and physical, overwhelmed me; I collapsed several times only to be beaten and pulled to my feet again and once more pushed. spreadeagled against the wall. Food, water, the opportunity to relieve my bowels were denied me. I had to urinate and defecate in my suit. I collapsed again.

I came to in what I believed to be Crumlin Road jail, having been pushed into a chair. The hood was removed and I was handed what I was told was a detention form. I was told to read it. My eyes burnt and were filled with pain; they would not focus and I couldn’t read the form. . . . The hood was pulled over my bursting head. I was roughly jerked to my feet and half pulled, half kicked and beaten for about 400 yards. This was the worst and most sustained beating to date. Fists, boots, and batons crashed into my numbed body, someone else’s not mine. Hands behind my back, handcuffs biting into my wrists. Pain! Someone was pulling and jerking my arms. Thrown headlong into a vehicle — soft seats, beating continued, boots, batons, fists. Then the noise, that dreaded helicopter again. Dragged out of the vehicle by the hair, thrown onto the floor of the helicopter. Blacked out!

When he regained consciousness he was again spread against a wall and examined by a doctor. Then followed an interrogation which was carried out against a background of bright blazing lights. His statement continued:

I was told I would be given half an hour to rest and think. Then I would be asked more questions and if I didn’t answer them I would be taken back to the ‘music room’ — the room with the noise.

Feet wide apart, hands handcuffed — against the wall. Droning noise filled my head. By this time I could feel no pain. Just numb. Dragged away from the wall, legs buckled under me,’ fell to the floor. Dragged by the ankles up and down shallow steps. Didn’t care — past feeling pain. Didn’t have a body.

From now on it was interrogation — back to the ‘music room’ — some sleep. Then the first taste of water in — how many days? Some dry bread and more water.

We were given our first ‘meal’. This consisted of a cup of watery stew which I had to eat using my fingers as utensils. The hood was lifted just enough to leave mouth free. We were allowed then to the toilet for the first time since we arrived.

Punishment now eased off. Interrogation continued. Strict questioning — no beatings — just threats and personal insults. Food of a more substantial nature still badly cooked and served, but at least it was regular.

The hood was taken off and I was allowed to wash. . . .

The hood had remained over his head for six full days except for the brief period when he was served his detention orders, and on one other occasion when the hood slipped off accidentally.

. . . . Now I was allowed to sleep, but the room was so cold that sleep was hard to come by. The fear of more beatings was still with me. I was terribly alone! They gave me one blanket — to keep me warm, they said.

I was then told it was ‘all over’, and that I was to be interned in Crumlin Road jail. I didn’t believe them — another trick. I thought. Still uneasy, still worried — still alone.

Hood still over my head, but treated better now, no questions, no beating. Journey to Crumlin Road jail by lorry, helicopter and Land Rover. I was still alive — still sane, thank God!

McLean was also strung up on a coat hook by handcuffs. His wrists still bear the scars.

The purpose of hooding was to cause sensory deprivation. Dr. Anthony Starr, a psychiatrist, explained:[10]

The normal brain depends for its proper functioning upon a continuous stream of information reaching it from the external world. Deprive it of this sensory input, and it begins to function abnormally. In addition to preventing subjects from solving problems, experiments show that continuous hooding increases suggestibility by as much as eight hundred per cent. A high proportion of victims suffer from hallucinations. In experiments with volunteers, one in five cracked up within forty hours.

The noise machines were designed to restrict the men’s auditory experience to one loud, monotonous, unpleasant noise. Starving the men meant also that their brains would not receive the necessary sugar, thus increasing irritability and suggestiveness. Being forced to stand upright for hours against a wall (43½ hours in the case of Archie Auld) also impairs the blood supply to the brain. Sensory deprivation is frightening enough for volunteers; to innocent men, dragged from their beds and subjected to it for days it was terrifying. Most lost over a stone in weight. Two were mentally affected for months afterwards. It took an exceptionally courageous man like McClean to withstand it.

The publicity given these cases was such that the Government eventually had to prohibit the use of hooding and noise machines, but Her Majesty’s men in Palace barracks were not too worried. Rules could always be bent.

The next phase of the brutality and torture has been listed by Fr. Denis Faul as being from 23 August to 10 December 1971, when interrogation with brutality and a variety of bizarre tortures took place at Palace barracks on men who were subsequently either released or detained on HMS Maidstone or in Crumlin Road jail. Most of the examples of brutality which follow came either from personal interviews or the Association for Legal Justice. In addition, two English Social Scientists, Eric Preston and Danny Kennally of the Independent Labour Party, published a booklet[11] detailing many examples of ill-treatment.

Even though Government announcements stated that the brutality (or ‘ill-treatment’) was to stop, it was, in fact, to become intensified. By November the conservative Sunday Times[12] had to admit that torture was still going on when they reported the case of nine men who had been held in Palace barracks for up to 48 hours and then released. Independent and respectable doctors had examined them and found the clear marks of maltreatment. Thus, Patrick O’Neill, arrested on 2 November, was so badly beaten at Girdwood barracks that he was unable to return to work for three months. J. P. Lane, a surgeon at the Mater Hospital and a former officer of the Royal Army Medical Corps, testified that O’Neill’s left heel was fractured and that the soles of his feet bore the marks of some form of bastinado (a carpet rod). P. L. O’Neill, arrested on 13 November and examined in Crumlin Road jail five days later by Dr. Conor Gilligan, had extensive bruising to the "face, chest, abdomen, lumbar areas, groin, thighs, hands." The extent of the bruising on the abdomen on Patrick McGee, Gerard Maxwell, James Quinn, Thomas Sinclair, Seamus Lynch, John Watson and Michael Nelson was given by other doctors.[13] In addition to severe bruising, Nelson had "a traumatic perforation of the ear drum."

Dr. J. P. Lane and these other doctors were, unfortunately, in a small minority in their profession. All their protests to official channels were relentlessly blocked. The General Medical Council refused to comment on the behaviour of army doctors at the interrogation centres. Likewise, the British Army Medical Authorities refused to comment or to act. Consequently, many doctors were involved in torture-centre activities, either actively or passively. Their first function was to ascertain whether men were 'robust' enough to stand up to 'interrogations. In some cases men with weak hearts were set aside. Doctors were often called in to examine men lying on the floor in agony; then, after 48 hours, they had to certify that men were 'fit to travel'.

The International Code of Medical Ethics, adopted by the 3rd General Assembly of the World Medical Association, held in London in October 1949, lays down that "under no circumstances is a doctor permitted to do anything that would weaken the physical or mental resistance of a human being." The declaration of Geneva in 1948 was even stronger. "Even under threat I will not use my medical knowledge contrary to the Laws of Humanity." Those doctors who witnessed the beating, the electric shock treatment, the administration of hallucinogenic drugs, sensory deprivation, starvation and enforced sleeplessness have much for which to answer. Certainly they have not lived up to their Hippocratic Oath.

By November 1971 authenticated reports of electric-shock treatment were coming out of the interrogation centres and were common knowledge. But it was not until 5 March 1972 that any English newspaper was prepared to print the truth. Again, it was The Sunday Times. It reported that Patrick Fitzsimmons and William Joseph Johnston had been subjected to electric-shock treatment at Girdwood barracks on 14 and 24 January. These men were only the tip of the iceberg, however; from October over 20 men had been subjected to this form of interrogation.

Moreover, from November drugs were used on some men to obtain information. On 5 December the CRA identified two types of drugs being used on selected men. In one category the drugs were Imipramine, Desipramine, Antitryptaline, Nialomide, Isocarboxid and Tanylcypromine, all of which cause dizziness, sweating, muscle tremors and hallucinations. In the other category, the CRA allege that Monomine Oxidase was used to make the victims feel elated and garrulous. Several released detainees experienced sensations similar to hallucinations under LSD. But, finally in May, came medical evidence. Tom Kearns from Newry was arrested that month and taken to Newry police station. For 48 hours he was questioned by Special Branch officers and fed cups of tea. He soon began to feel very unwell and to experience strange sensations. After 48 hours he was released and went to see a local solicitor who got him to give a urine specimen which was sent to the City Hospital in Belfast for analysis. It contained enough Amphetamine to indicate that he had been given a considerable dosage.

One of the most disturbing aspects of this case to minority representatives was that it occurred well after the Whitelaw 'takeover'. Although Whitelaw did not sign any internment orders, in the first month of his take-over more than 20 men were detained — indefinitely. Moreover, although Whitelaw may have ordered a cessation of the brutality, it continued unabated. A particularly bad case was that of Edward Duffy (17), Gerard Bradley and Gerald Donnelly (29), all of Belfast. They were arrested on 20 April, taken to the local military barracks and given a savage beating — particularly around the testicles. After 20 hours the SB men and soldiers responsible panicked and rushed them to Armagh prison. The MO there, however, took one look at their condition and refused to accept them, for fear that at least one of them might die in his custody. They were hurriedly transferred to the military wing of Musgrave hospital. Duffy was unable to appear in court with the others two days later. The others collapsed. The RM expressed horror at their appearance. After five weeks Duffy was still not fit to appear in court. All charges against them were dropped and they were released. However, since it was announced that their cases were to be heard at the European Court of Human Rights in September 1972, they were subjected to heavy army harassment.[14]]

But this case, while horrific, was only typical. By April 1972 even the Ulster judiciary, notoriously one of the most reactionary bodies in the province[15] had begun to throw Crown cases out of court when the only 'evidence' was alleged 'confessions' by battered prisoners. From January, at least six major cases, ranging from causing explosions to shooting soldiers, were thrown out of court because the 'confessions' were clearly the result of torture. As the accused left the court, as 'free men', they were, however ceremonially arrested and detained under the Special Powers Acts.[16]

Army and police often announced 'inquiries' but no report was ever published. Eventually Whitelaw accepted that there must be an inquiry into the treatment meted out to John Carlin of the Waterside in Derry, after John Hume, had taken up his case. As yet, nothing has been announced.

Father Denis Faul and Father Raymond Murray (prison chaplain in Armagh) did extensive investigation into the torture allegations and found conclusively that a wide variety of tortures were used.[17] They list over thirty, including hand squeezing of testicles, "insertion of instruments in the anal passage", injections, electric cattle prod, burning with matches, cigarettes and electric fires, beating with batons on every part of the body. Russian roulette, firing of blanks in prisoner's mouth, urinating on prisoners, deprivation of sleep, food, liquid. In addition, there were the usual threats — to prisoners and their families — bribes offered and confessions alleged. It was standard practice for prisoners in Palace barracks to be forced to stare at a peg-board wall from 18 inches away and monotonously count the number of dots for as long as 12 hours, under a glaring light. When drugs were used in conjunction with this disorientation technique the effects were most frightening.

These are no wild allegations, but carefully documented instances backed by medical evidence. Small wonder that the Ministry of Home Affairs refused to allow a panel of kcal doctors to examine detainees 24 hours after arrest. Faulkner said that it was 'unnecessary' and "a slur on the security forces." Moreover, it must be stressed, for example, that of the first 2,357 people detained no fewer than 67% of them — 1,600 men — were released after 48 hours, as completely innocent. In most cases they could receive no compensation for their injuries, however, and many psychiatrists were extremely worried about the lasting effect such experiences were bound to have on many men.18

It is worth noting that the internment periods of 1938-. 1945 and 1956 — 1961 saw virtually no brutality. It was an innovation. General Massu, Commander of the 10th Parachute Division in Algiers, ten years after the bitter civil war there, wrote with pride in Le Figaro, in 1971, of the tortures he had ordered and distinguished between them and the methods used by the Nazis which were bestial "We didn't degrade people with the water torture or the Gégenè" (electrodes run off a car battery and attached to genitals) - though he didn't mention some of the more sexually depraved methods used by his paras on Algerian women.[19] Perhaps ten years from now General Tuzo's memoirs will relate with pride the actions of 'the fine bunch of men' in Palace barracks. Somehow I doubt it. The brutality meted out to innocent men during 1971 and 1972 in Ulster may just go down as another sordid chapter in the History of British Imperialism, but it is unlikely that anyone will brag about it — not even Frank Kitson. (See also important Amnesty Report in Appendix I, page 197).

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CHAPTER 12

THE COMPTON REPORT

"IF any of these things had happened it would have been public knowledge within 24 hours" — Brian Faulkner on allegations of brutal treatment of men arrested on 9 August 1971, which resulted in the Committee of Inquiry and the Compton Report.

An introduction to the report, written by Reginald Maudling, begins:

On 31 August 1971, I appointed a Committee of Inquiry wider the chairmanship of Sir Edmund Compton, GCB, with his Honour Edgar Fay, QC, and Dr. Ronald Gibson, CBE, as members, with the following terms of reference:

To investigate allegations by those arrested on 9 August wider the Civil Authorities (Special Powers) Act (NI) 1922. Of physical brutality while m the custody of the security forces prior to either their release, the preferring of a criminal charge or being lodged in a place specified in a detention order. The Committee of Inquiry visited NI from 1 September until 26 October and have now sent me their report which is published in this command Paper. The Government are grateful for the care and thoroughness [sic] with which the members of the Committee of Inquiry carried out their difficult task.

Maudling continued with an attack on the IRA. and an attempted justification of internment.

But what of the report itself?

The Compton Report is one of the shabbiest and incompetent attempts at whitewash since the Warren Report in the USA into the assassination of President Kennedy. Even by the standards laid down by the English Royal Commission of Tribunals it falls far short of the minimum requirements on no fewer than seven counts. Lord Justice Salmon, the eminent English High Court Judge, had presided over the Royal Commission set up after the farcical Denning Report into the 'Profumo Affair'. He recommended that: (1) All future inquiries be conducted in public in order that the public could have confidence and justice "could be seen to have been done." Compton sat in secret. (2) Salmon recommended that the chairman of any committee should be "a person holding high judicial office." Compton is not and never has been such a person. He is a Unionist functionary who acted as a supposed 'ombudsman'. (3) Salmon recommended that the other members of the committee be appointed by the head of the judiciary in order to avoid any appearance of political bias. Gibson and Fay were appointed by Reginald Maudling. (4) Salmon recommended that none of the members "should have any close connection with any political party." Sir Edmund Compton, in his role as 'ombudsman', had had very close 'connections' with the Unionist Party. (5) Again, ignoring Salmon's recommendation, the committee was not vested with power to compel the attendance of witnesses. (6) The committee had no power to demand the production of documents — such as medical reports, police duty books, etc., again contrary to Salmon. (7) Initially, the detainees were allowed no legal help at all. Subsequently, after public and professional outcry, they were allowed a lawyer, but he was barred from even seeing or hearing, let alone questioning, the defence witnesses (army and police witnesses were legally represented).

From the detainees' point of view the 'inquiry' was a complete farce. They started with no faith in the impartiality of three Englishmen in hearing complaints principally against English soldiers. Even the conservative Observer was moved to comment that the appointment of Sir Edmund Compton was 'unfortunate'. It also described him as "notoriously bureaucratic and defensive". Moreover, if a detainee was not allowed to confront the people whom he was accusing of brutality, how could he identify them? No one in Girdwood barracks wore a number, and some prisoners had to wear hoods. Secret hearings in front of English functionaries, however 'distinguished' they might be, presaged an obvious whitewash. Accordingly, of 342 men arrested on 9 August all but one boycotted the Inquiry. Compton reports that "only one of those arrested on 9 August has availed himself of the opportunity to substantiate his complaint by appearing before us; this has not frustrated our Inquiry, since material for our investigations has been made available to us in the form of allegations published in the press and transmitted to us from a number of other sources." It is interesting to note what Lord Justice Salmon said on this point: "A tribunal should not base any finding on comment, on anything save the evidence given before it at a hearing." Compton, moreover, refused to accept evidence from organizations such as Amnesty International or the Association for Legal Justice. The Inquiry also ignored the police authorities' call for legal aid for the detainees (20 August).

In fact, Compton was set up by Westminster, following reports in The Irish Times and, more important from the English point of view, The Sunday Times, of persistent torture. It is clear beyond any doubt that by its very nature the committee was intended to be effectively disabled from arriving at the truth, but at the same time give the impression of concern and efficiency. The terms of reference deliberately excluded investigation into the most sadistic tortures. Moreover, the Inquiry was limited to those arrested on 9 August; many of the worst tortures came after that date when the interrogation-torture centre at Palace barracks, Holywood, became fully operational. In addition, the Inquiry was limited to 'physical' torture, no brief being given for psychological maltreatment.

Lord Justice Salmon in concluding his report observed:

The public may be left with the feeling that the Inquiry, if behind closed doors, is no more than what is sometimes referred to as "the usual whitewashing exercise,, - the odds against any such tribunal being able to establish the truth, if the truth is black, are very heavy indeed. Any government which in the future adopts this procedure will lay itself open to the suspicion that it wishes the truth to be hidden from the light of day.

The Compton Commission's task was, as Claud Cockburn expressed it in The Irish Times of 19 November 1971;

(1) "to make with the whitewash as liberally as possible. (2) But in doing so it was not supposed to bring itself into total ridicule and contempt. Some of the things that could not be denied without complete loss of credibility, had to be admitted. (3) It had to prepare the mind of the British public to accept the previously supposedly 'unacceptable'."

And yet, from the Government point of view the Inquiry was a dismal failure. True, the report was couched in such a way that the Unionist Belfast Newsletter could have banner headlines, 'No brutality' says Compton, while the same morning the Irish News could proclaim, "Ill Treatment Admitted By Compton". Nonetheless, this clumsy attempt to differentiate between 'brutality' and 'ill-treatment' was too grotesque to convince anyone.

According to Compton (paragraph 105): "We consider that brutality is an inhuman or savage form of cruelty, and that cruelty implies a disposition to inflict suffering, coupled with indifference to, or pleasure in, the victim's pain. We do not think that happened." In other words, what they admit as having occurred is merely 'ill-treatment' since those inflicting the 'ill-treatment' took no pleasure in the exercise. "This is going to hurt me more than it hurts you." It is a distinction which those at the receiving end of the brutality find difficulty in understanding. It is gobbledegook.

The seeming 'naïvety' of Compton is incredible. Judge Conaghan was not to be so naïve when he awarded compensation for ill-treatment at Ballykinlar and found that Compton's chief army witnesses were liars! The judge found that men at Ballykinlar were forced to carry out a lengthy series of floor exercises "which were physically taxing and of long duration" (paragraph 159); Compton prefers to call the exercises "position changes". He accepts they went on all day on 9 August. He accepts that they were "done under some degree of compulsion" — i.e., you were beaten if you didn't do them. He concludes, however, that these vigorous exercises were devised "to counteract the cold and stiffness of which the arrested persons complained." (Many were still in their pyjamas). He regrets that Desmond Smith, who had 'back trouble' connected with a slipped disc, was made to do these "position changes" all day.

If the picture of solicitous guards, concerned with the physical warmth of the detainees and, therefore, leading them (all day) in a series of "position changes", à la Eileen Fowler, does not strain the credulity, how about the following example of 'Comptonese'?;

We drew the attention to the evidence contradicting the allegations of men taken off the ground in the helicopter, threatened with dogs or otherwise assaulted. In this regard we give special weight to the evidence of the RAF crewman who has the status of an Independent witness (my emphasis).

A member of the armed forces, involved in a process of forcing men to crouch and run out to a helicopter (while batoned all the time), get in, pushed out again backwards, and dragged between rows of armed military policemen. Subsequently, when there are complaints about brutality, the RAF man becomes an independent witness!

The whole purpose of this bizarre incident at Girdwood barracks on the morning of 9 August was, Compton blandly accepts, "a deception operation". "Anyone watching would assume that the men were being transferred elsewhere while in reality they were being kept in Girdwood." Since the helicopter didn't fly off, the point of this deception might be regarded as somewhat ludicrous. Those watching from the houses which overlooked Girdwood must have thought that the soldiers had gone insane. Not so. Merely engaging in a harmless bit of sadism.

The catalogue of obscenities continued. Schoolteacher Paddy Joe McLean apparently slept in his own urine and faeces for three days because he liked it. "He could have gone to the toilet if he had wanted to." In reply to Joseph Clarke's complaint about the beating of his numb hands, we were told that, in a number of instances, as a result of maintaining the required posture for a considerable period (43½ hours up against the wall at finger-tip stretch) a prisoner would find his hands or arms had become numb. In such cases the guards would rub the hands to restore normal feeling. We were, however, told that Clarke was a strong young man who resisted, with considerable force, attempts to make him adopt and maintain the required posture. It is admitted that in order to restrain him he was handcuffed. The first pair of handcuffs were too small for him and chafed his wrists. The notes made at the time by the supervisors at the centre show that Clarke was aggressive and resisted strongly. They could not tell us how the injuries (which are now at last admitted — author's note) were suffered (paragraph 80).

Throughout, Compton reiterates that the security forces deny hitting or maltreating anyone, and that he sees no reason to disbelieve these "trained men". He is at a loss to account for the marks recorded by medical officers on a lot of the men.

The report records some dissatisfaction with the medical facilities (Girdwood, in particular, suffered from this lack of attention to medical planning). There were two medical officials, neither of whom appeared to know that the other existed until they met by chance. Moreover, owing to the rescinding of a Brigade administrative order, no medical examination took place either on admission or discharge from the camp (paragraph 336). This is in direct contradiction to General Tuzo who, in August, stated that everyone had been medically examined and that the records were available — except to the press.

In their conclusions the Compton Tribunal state that

"we consider that the following actions constitute physical ill-treatment: posture on the wall, hooding, deprivation of sleep, diet of bread and water" (questioning in depth, as it is picturesquely called). "The 'helicopter incident' constitutes a measure of ill-treatment." With regard to the "obstacle course at Girdwood, we conclude that the men concerned may have suffered some measure of unintended hardship." "We consider that the compulsory exercises (at Ballykinlar) must have caused some hardship but do not think the exercises were thought of and carried out with a view to hurting or degrading the men who had to do them."

Thus are the beatings, maltreatment and, in some cases, specific torture — men hooded, deprived of sleep and food and subjected to incessant noise for up to eight days as well as being beaten into position every time they collapsed — dismissed. Even the Observer was scathing. "Six grains of truth and a bucket of whitewash" was the headline on 21 November.

The report did, however, "horrify many sensitive MP's" and consequently Maudling ordered the setting up of a new body under Lord Parker to consider guidelines for future interrogation methods. Denis Healey, the former Labour Minister, indignantly denied that 'our boys' had done anything like that in Aden — although the 'guidelines for interrogation methods' date to 1967 — and a Labour Government.

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CHAPTER 13

THE BROWN TRIBUNAL

WITH Long Kesh being rapidly filled, the Unionist Government appointed an "advisory committee to consider representations from internees." Its chairman was Justice James A. Brown QC (56), a county court judge from Co. Down. Its other members were Reginald Berkeley (62), a managing director of the Belfast Steamship Company and "a notable figure in NI business circles." He had been a member of the 'advisory committee' during the 1956-62 period. The third member was the obligatory 'Castle Catholic', Philip Neale Dalton, South African born, English educated, a former Attorney General in Zanzibar, with plenty of experience as a colonial administrator. The press were quick to reassure internees, lest this background might make them feel despondent, that he was a good Catholic.

Like the Compton Committee, these men did not inspire confidence. Nor did the committee work, as Merlyn Rees MP, one of the ten members of the all-party delegation of British MP's who visited the camp, testified. More than 90 per cent of the men in the camp refused to have anything to do with the board. There were many good reasons for this. Firstly, an internee appearing before the committee was asked to prove his innocence without even being informed of what he was being accused. This clearly violated the supposedly sacrosanct principle of 'British Justice' that one is innocent until proved guilty. Secondly, the advisory board had no executive power whatsoever. It was ordered to merely advise the Minister for Home Affairs, who just happened to be the PM who just happened to be the man who had signed the internment orders in the first place, and happened to be the man who had appointed the members to the committee. In most cases, even if the committee were bold enough to recommend a release, Faulkner merely ignored the 'advice'.[1]

Moreover, the internee, completely in the dark as to what allegations about him were being made by anonymous Special Branch men, was only allowed a lawyer to prepare a written submission. The lawyer could not attend the oral session to help the internee put his case to the sophisticated legal 'experts' (two of the three Board members were lawyers), despite the fact that this is contrary to all accepted legal procedures. As well, many questions about the evaluation of supposed 'evidence' remained unanswered. The committee refused to state whether it personally examined those police officers, Special Branch men or paid informers upon whose say-so the suspect was interned. Brown remained silent about this, but one 'power' did emerge — as a result of interrogating internees: Brown could recommend that persons not already interned could be arrested and put in Long Kesh!

To most of the internees there was an even more serious objection: 'the oath'. In Ireland oaths are taken much more seriously than would appear to be the case in England. Men who had not been charged or tried found it extremely objectionable to be required to take an oath never "to join any illegal organization or engage in violence," especially when, under the Special Powers Acts, the Unionist Minister for Home Affairs had the power to declare illegal any political, social or trade union group, without giving any reason. Many, too, felt that to give such an oath would be a tacit admission of previous guilt, and so men like Councilior James O'Kane, whom the board accepted was guilty of no crime, had to languish in camp for four months more before they were released. [In England, except for those holding or accepting high office of state, the oath is not administered. In Northern Ireland, as Austin Currie has pointed out, "one had to take an oath to even become a sheugh cleaner" (ditch digger).]

Brian Faulkner had said that Republicanism was a legitimate political philosophy, provided that violence was not used to obtain its ends, and yet his committee (by their own admission) tried to force innocent men to swear an oath to the monarch, an oath which is repugnant to any Republican, Nationalist, agnostic or atheist, however pacific they may be. Under this duress innocent men like Billy McBurney, Ivan Barr, Pat Shivers, Charles Fleming (67) and Terry McCullough had to take the oath in order to be released. That the oath-taking was only a charade was soon to be demonstrated anyway in the case of Ian Campbell, the only member of the Communist party to be originally interned. He was recommended for release, refused to take the oath and kept in. Two weeks later he was released anyway.

As to the actual proceedings of the 'advisory committee', Paddy Joe McClean, writing to The Irish Times of 28 October 1971, gave a fairly typical account. In an open letter to Judge Brown he said:

On Tuesday October 5th, you invited me to meet you. As far as I can recollect the following conversation took place:

You introduced yourself, Mr. Dalton and Mr. Berkeley to me. You told me that the function of your advisory board was to recommend or not recommend a man's release. You then asked me if I had anything to say. I said I had but that I would need to know why I had been interned in the first place. I told you I could get no answers to this question from anyone and I had asked the military (who wrongfully arrested me), the police, the prison governor and Mr. Faulkner. You said that you had not noticed my open letter to the press but that over 200 people were interned because they were connected with the Official or Provisional wings of the IRA. I went on to say that my letter to the press had publicly stated that I had no such connections but that I was engaged in a number of organisations, notably the GAA, the CRA, the National Graves Association and registration work. You then asked me if I was politically involved and I stated that I was always politically interested, having worked at elections since I worked for a Fianna Uladh candidate in 1953, until the last Westminster election when I supported Miss Devlin MP in her campaign. Both of us agreed that all this was perfectly legal and was, indeed, a man's moral duty. You seemed to wonder that I should support an illegal organisation like Fianna Uladh until I pointed out to you that Fianna Uladh was declared illegal by the then Minister of Home Affairs on or about December 27th 1956 and I had been interned on December 21st. When I was released in 1960 Fianna Uladh was non-existent so I could not have supported an illegal organisation. (This by the way, was the first indication I had of why I was interned from 1956 to 1960).

You then were kind enough to inquire about my wife and family. I told you how my wife's mother had died on the morning of my arrest, how our new baby, our ninth, was about to arrive, and how I was taken away for a week's torture at an unknown destination. You quickly intervened to say that that was no concern of yours and then invited both Messrs. Dalton and Berkeley to ask me any questions, which they declined to do. We then parted. Can you imagine my surprise when on October 15th I learned that your board had recommended the release of some 5 men who were required to sign a document which the news media referred to as an oath? Now, as you know, I and all other teachers take an oath; you never asked me about it — in truth you did not suggest in any way that I had broken it . . . . that same day a prison officer came round and sympathised that your board had not recommended my release. No reason was given. You, as a judge, had condemned me to an indefinite prison sentence as a result of the above conversation. Is this justice? I suggest that you owe it not only to me whose liberty is at stake, but to the dignified position you hold to explain how you arrived at a verdict of guilty. Do you wonder that, seeing this execution of 'justice', other internees refuse to even bother to see you?

Internee No. 2466. Patrick J. McClean.

The Brown Committee was an abject failure. Even before Whitelaw and direct rule it had been allowed to fall into disuse and its members had resigned. They were replaced by Whitelaw's own functionaries: the British Judge Leonard (deputy chairman of Oxfordshire Quarter Sessions), it was announced on 2 May, would head the new "advisory committee to consider representations from internees," but it was little more than a piece of window dressing. The general review of releases was solely the prerogative of Whitelaw himself, and it became obvious that all releases would be not on possible grounds of "danger to the community," but on purely political expediency. Whitelaw was making little secret of the fact that the internees were nothing more than hostages

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