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Baloney College Archive

September 13, 2011 by  

Wrote a piece about the Boston College’s flawed archive on the conflict, which was produced by two people hostile to the Republican Movement given carte blanche, Ed Moloney and Anthony McIntyre. The feature was published in today’s Irish Voice in the USA. – link here.

 

As the legal case by the US Department of Justice, on behalf of British authorities, to subpoena and recover recorded testaments by former IRA activists who participated in the Boston College Belfast Project continues, it is worth looking at some of the claims and counter-claims.

On the defensive is Boston College’s Thomas Hachey (executive director of the Irish Studies program), Ed Moloney (Project Director) and Anthony McIntyre (who conducted the 26 interviews with former IRA Volunteers). One argument they have made is that if the subpoena is successful it will have a serious negative effect on the practice of oral history generally, which is only partially true as I shall demonstrate.

But Moloney has also ridiculously claimed that there is a “possibility that the IRA could abduct and torture [McIntyre] to learn the names of others who co-operated with the Belfast Project”. This is patent nonsense because McIntyre for the past 15 years has spent his writing life ridiculing the IRA and Sinn Fein and none expressed any fear of IRA retaliation when Hachey penned a glowing introduction to Moloney’s tendentious book ‘Voices From The Grave’, based on interviews McIntyre conducted with former IRA Volunteer Brendan Hughes, the whole thrust of which according to many respected historians, reviewers and commentators was to undermine Gerry Adams and republican involvement in the Good Friday Agreement.       Lately, the pair, invoking patriotism as a last refuge, hilariously claimed that the release of the material “could be immensely destructive to the peace process in Northern Ireland” and could damage Gerry Adams!

We only need to read their published writings to see that Moloney and McIntyre were never innocent historians or researchers.

This project would have been of immense value to oral history and learning from the past had it adopted a few simple principles. Instead, it was poisoned from the outset and Boston College and Thomas Hachey facilitated this skewed version of the past. Did Hachey ever ask why scores of pro-peace process republicans, prominent in the struggle, were never asked to participate?

The organisers and some participants provoked this court case – though we have a duty to defend the confidentiality of the archive though not alone on the spurious grounds suggested by the organisers. Moloney’s book names certain republicans as having been involved in certain killings. One of the interviewees, Dolours Price, in an unguarded newspaper interview, apparently repeating what she had confessed to McIntyre on tape, also speaks about at least three killings.

Did Moloney ever consider the rights of these relatives of victims to go to the PSNI and the Historic Enquiries Team and demand action?

Where was his concern with ethics when he acted as judge and jury to slander and implicate other republicans without giving them a chance to defend themselves or respond to the allegations? To have asked them for their oral history memory would have required a bit of work and might well have undermined Brendan Hughes’s account so substantially as to have rendered him an unreliable witness.

The legacy of the conflict and what happened during the conflict and which party or parties bear major responsibility for the conflict, and who won this or lost that, are arguments heavily contested. They are played out in political debate, in newspapers, in memoirs and biographies, but with some recognisable semblance of cut and thrust and fair play.

In West Belfast the Dúchas project has been collecting oral histories for some time (including, from combatants) and has made many of its interviews available. For a humble community organisation the project would appear to have higher ethical standards than that of Boston College. Participants are interviewed on the basis of ‘informed consent’; that they can delete things with which they are not entirely happy; and that they know that what they say is going to go into the public arena for scrutiny during their lifetime and they are responsible for their own story. They talk about their own lives rather than implicating others (including former comrades)

They are not made promises that the archivists cannot keep and they are clearly told that the archive is not above the prevailing law. The archive is subject to the law.

Similarly one of the core principles of Healing Through Remembering, a politically diverse organisation looking at how we should deal with the past, is drawn from the tradition of medical ethics and includes four components: the disclosure to participants of all information about the risks and benefits of the process, the competency of the participants to evaluate this information, the understanding by participants of the information, and the voluntary acceptance by participants of the risks and benefits.

But when we come to Boston College we have a distorted project. I do not believe that the central aim of those involved is to have Adams arrested and prosecuted but only to punish him through embarrassment and calumny, because the evidential worth of the archive is only hearsay against Adams.

However, where other participants’ contributions involve incriminating confessions about acts for which they have never been prosecuted (and Dolours Price’s putative interviews about kidnappings and cross-border executions is a case in point) then questions have to be asked of Anthony McIntyre, Ed Moloney and Thomas Hachey and the Boston College with whom the buck ultimately stops.

I think the case of total irresponsibility and interview bias against McIntyre and Moloney has been well made and needs no rehearsing. But what of Boston College? On what precedents is it relying to defend not handing over the tapes? It cannot rely on the fact that it promised the participants confidentiality because that was never within its gift and it should have warned the participants of the risk.

The college cannot claim journalistic privilege about sources because the tapes themselves, proffered to the college, identify the sources (they are not shorthand scribbles or anonymous IRA interviews in which the voices are unidentified which McIntyre can refuse to identify).

The College can reasonably claim that the successful seizure of the tapes will deter anyone else, anywhere else in the world from participating in a similar project. But, again, in allowing Moloney to precipitously publish the book upon the death of Brendan Hughes for short-term gain (the embarrassment of Adams) the college exposed its bias and major short-comings. Not too many were thinking of the value of the project – or the imperilment of the project – when the first reviews appeared, were they?

Once the book was published, once Dolours Price said what she said, the families of the victims were bound to kick up a storm and elements of the British security establishment were either bound to exploit the opportunity or were compelled by families to take some action.

Apparently, no one is responsible for this debacle! Ask McIntrye or Moloney who is to blame and they blame everybody but themselves. Meanwhile, Hachey is scrambling for a good defence.

Would Thomas Hachey consider as a defence the innocent people who will be incriminated? That is, those of us who have been named as involved in this or that but to whom the allegations were never put for rebuttal by Moloney or McIntyre but simply lodged in Boston College as a time bomb? As one of those slandered by Brendan Hughes and, more recently, scandalously linked to a 1975 sectarian killing by McIntyre, possibly inadvertently quoting one of those he interviewed and thus breaching the supposed sacrosanct embargo, I believe we have some rights.

But such a motion would involve an admission that the whole process was flawed from beginning to end.

To thwart the PSNI and the subpoenas, I suggest that the participants withdraw the tapes – unless Moloney and McIntyre never gave them that option? Back in Belfast, having been briefed about ‘informed consent’ the participants could then release the tapes if they wish or publish books, knowing, of course, that they are in the same boat as those they implicate.

History could then judge them and their claims.

What could be simpler? 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Murdering Baha Mousa

September 8, 2011 by  

British Prime Minister David Cameron, speaking after the results of an inquiry into an Iraqi man Baha Mousa, who was beaten to death by British soldiers, said “such an incident should never happen again”. The same was said about here by Ted Heath after the revelations of the torture of the hooded men in 1971; and the same thing was said by James Callaghan after revelations of beatings in interrogations centres here in the late 1970s. I wrote two pieces about this subject in 2004 and reprint them here.

The first is about two victims of British army beatings and though they are separated in time the parallels are striking. The second piece is about the hypocrisy of the British government and its forces. It shall mollify the public for now but in five or ten years time its army will be still beating people to death in some far-flung place in the world.

A Tale of Two Cities

DANNY McCooey was taken into the hotel through the back. Baha Mousa was taken out of the hotel through the front.

Earlier, Danny had his dinner with his family at their Falls Road home, got spruced up – it was a Saturday night – and went into Belfast city centre for a drink with his friend Michael Masterson.

Baha was working as a receptionist in the Haitham Hotel in Basra city centre, along with his friend Kifah Taha and other staff.

It was April 30, 1977.

It was September 14, 2003.

Danny and Michael left the bar and were walking along Castle Street when they ran into a British army patrol.

Baha was on the desk when a British army patrol ran into the hotel and ordered everyone to lie on the floor. Soldiers went to the safe and discovered two rifles and two pistols. The owner of the hotel, Haitham Vaha, the man who had hidden the weapons, had fled in the confusion of the raid.

Michael Masterson said, “As we passed, a soldier said, ‘Go on you Irish bastards!’ I stopped and said, ‘Pardon, I can’t understand what you’re saying?’ He kept calling me an ‘Irish bastard’. He took a swing at me with his fist and I threw a punch back.

Danny grabbed me by the shoulder and said, ‘Na, don’t get involved with them.’

“I saw another rifle butt getting swung but it missed me and must have hit Danny about the stomach because he fell to the ground, screaming, ‘My stomach, my stomach!’ I went to his aid and asked the Brits for a doctor but they arrested me. The cops had arrived by now. I was put in the back of a jeep. Two Brits went to where Danny was lying, picked him up, half-dragged him to the jeep and then threw him in the back next to me. He was crying about his stomach.”

A workmate of Baha said, “We were taken to a barracks. We were put in a big room with our hands tied and with bags over our heads. But I could see through some holes in my hood. Soldiers would come in – ordinary soldiers, not officers, mostly with their heads shaved but in uniform – and they would kick us, picking on one after the other. They were kickboxing us in the chest and between the legs and in the back. We were crying and screaming.”

The men were held for three days.

“They set on Baha especially, and he kept crying that he couldn’t breathe in the hood. He kept asking them to take the bag off and said that he was suffocating. But they laughed at him and kicked him more. One of them said, ‘Stop screaming and you’ll be able to breathe more easily.’ Baha was so scared. Then they increased the kicking on him and he collapsed on the floor.”

Michael Masterson said, “We were taken to the barracks at the Grand Central Hotel. Danny was dragged away. About ten minutes later I heard him screaming. I never saw Danny again.”

Twenty-year-old Danny McCooey was taken from the barracks to the City Hospital but because of the seriousness of his injuries it wouldn’t admit him and he was rushed to the Royal Victoria Hospital. He was bleeding internally, his stomach collapsed and there was a hole in the base of his lungs. He died twenty days later.

Twenty-two-year old Baha Mousa died in the barracks and was taken to a British army field hospital. The death certificate stated that he had died from ‘cardiorespiratory arrest: asphyxia’. His nose had been broken, two of his ribs were broken, the skin had been ripped off his wrists by the handcuffs and his torso was covered in bruises.

Michael Masterson was released without charge in the early hours of 1 May.

Kifah Taha was released without charge from hospital in late September, having suffered severe bruising to his upper abdomen, which led to acute renal failure.

A 20-year-old British soldier was charged with the manslaughter of Danny McCooey but was acquitted. The judge said that the soldier “did what he instinctively thought was necessary in the moment of the threatened attack.”

No soldier has been charged with killing Baha Mousa, though the British have offered his family £4,500 in compensation provided the Mousa family do not hold British forces liable for his death. The family refused to sign the settlement and plans to take the Ministry of Defence to court.

Last week in Basra Tony Blair declared that the prestige and reputation of the British armed forces, a party to the Iraqi ‘peace process’, had never been higher.

Last week in Belfast Tony Blair’s government gave itself powers outside of the terms of the Good Friday Agreement and established the International Monitoring Commission, which will scrutinise and judge potential breaches of the peace process. These powers allow the British to exclude Sinn Fein from a power-sharing executive if the Commission were, for example, to find the IRA guilty of a punishment beating.

That is the policy.

“We do not accept admission of guilt. That is the policy,” an MoD spokesperson said last week, in relation to the beating to death of Baha Mousa. The British army carried out the inquiry into itself. There was no International Monitoring Commission, yet the British exercised the power of exclusion.

The lawyer representing the family of Baha Mousa was banned from the hearing.

………………………………………………………………………………………

A Proud Tradition

The Daily Telegraph wrote: “The Royal Military Police are already investigating allegations of mistreatment of Iraqis by British soldiers in southern Iraq after the Mirror’s publication of photographs said to show a member of The Queen’s Lancashire Regiment urinating on an Iraqi lying in a military truck with a hood over his head.”

The Guardian wrote: “The soldier at the centre of the new revelations in the Mirror, Soldier C, said he saw four beatings where PoWs were punched and kicked, the paper reported. In one, a corporal placed a sandbag over a suspect’s face and poked his fingers in the victim’s eyes until he screamed with pain.”

In the Commons, Tony Blair used prime minister’s questions to say any “human rights abuses, torture or degradation” of prisoners were “wholly unacceptable”.

PRISONERS’ STATEMENTS

“On the table was a small bottle of stuff, and two syringes with needles…Somebody came from behind and put on a blindfold. The soldier gave me an injection on the right arm, then he tied something round it, then he did something to my fingers… Then I felt this feeling in my arm, electric shocks, but two given to start off with, not painful, just uncomfortable. Then every time they asked a question, it only kept increasing.”

“He kicked my legs apart and stuck his heel into my privates. Others came in and said that half my district had been wiped out in the fighting. At about 4am I was told that I was to be taken for a ride in a helicopter and that I was to be thrown out.”

“After what seemed about one hour in the helicopter I was thrown from it and kicked and batoned into a lorry.”

“The next I knew was being put into a helicopter and taken away. I overheard voices talking about, ‘Throw him out’ Before I went into the helicopter I was asked if I could swim.”

“What was going to happen to me? Are they coming to kill me? I wished to God they would end it.”

“I was beaten again. I was taken out and made stand against the wall. The soldiers said, ‘You are being taken out to be shot.”

“I was beaten and kicked in the stomach and privates for about half-an-hour. I was made lie on the floor. One put his foot on my throat and the other held my legs. The other one lit matches. He blew them out and then put them to my privates.”

“I was forced to stand against a wall with my hands supporting my body for a long time. I collapsed. My hands and legs were beaten whenever this happened and the insides of my feet were kicked until my ankles were swollen to almost twice their normal size. At the time that I was against this wall I got bread and water once and water alone on two other occasions. I was also punched in the ribs and in the stomach, as well as being nipped.”

“After being hooded I was led to the helicopter and I was thrown bodily into the helicopter. During this my hands and wrists were hurt due to the others handcuffed to me not being pushed equally. On being put into the helicopter, the handcuffs were removed and were applied to the back of the hood to tighten it around the head.”

“I would estimate that the helicopter journey lasted half an hour at the end of which I was put in a lorry. I was made to lie face downwards in the back with other men thrown on top of me.”

“A shot was fired. It went past my ear. They all had a good laugh at this.”

“I was not allowed to dress again but was told to put the hood back over my head. I was taken to another room, stood against the wall, the hood was removed and a flash picture was taken.”

PRINCIPAL METHODS OF INTERROGATION

Twenty-five principal methods of interrogation have been documented, which included: stretching a man over benches with two electric fires underneath and kicking him in the stomach; insertion of instruments in the anal passage; electric shocks given by use of a machine; urinating on prisoners; and psychological tortures such as firing shots close to their faces, playing Russian roulette or throwing them out of helicopters just above the ground (when the prisoners thought they were high in the air).

NEVER AGAIN

All of the above quotes are extracts from statements running to 4,500 pages, compiled by the European Commission on Human Rights over thirty years ago. They refer to the interrogations of Irish people in the North by the British military and Special Branch. The ECHR found Britain guilty of torture and inhuman and degrading treatment of prisoners. A British prime minister stood up in the House of Commons to state that ‘ill-treating’ (sic) prisoners was totally unacceptable and would never happen again.

It happened again and again and again. A proud tradition.

First in Ireland, now in Iraq.

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Pigeons On The Grass

September 8, 2011 by  

‘Pigeons on the Grass’ is Wolfgang Koeppen’s 1951 novel about Germany emerging from the chaos of WWII and is probably set in Munich in 1948 during one twenty-four hour period of the American-occupation, and includes among its host of characters two US GIs, a writer and a celebrated author. Koeppen was scathing of the German people’s failure to confront their recent past.

In his introduction to the book David Ward appears to contradict himself about Koeppen on the role or the responsibility of the writer in and towards society. Ward says, ‘He did not share the conservative, inner-emigration view that granted the writer a privileged status. In his speech accepting the 1962 George Büchner Prize, the Federal Republic’s most prestigious literary award, Koeppen discussed the sense of intense moral commitment he had always associated with the writing vocation: “I saw the writer among society’s outsiders, I saw him as a sufferer, as a sympathizer,… The writer is committed to oppose authority, power, the constraints of the majority, the mass, the great numbers, to oppose convention grown rigid and rotten; he belongs to the persecuted, the expelled…”’

In the wake of defeat and death few can find any purchase or meaning: “The official world was still striving to think in hollow phrases, in slogans long since devoid of any conceptual basis. They saw fixed, immutable fronts, staked off plots of earth, boundaries, territories, sovereignties, they saw in man a member of a soccer team who was supposed to play his life long for the team that he had joined by birth. They were mistaken: the front was not here and not there and not only at the boundary stake over there. The front was omnipresent, whether visible or invisible, and life was constantly changing its position relative to the billion points of the front. The front cut through the countries, it divided families, it ran through the individual: two souls, yes, two souls dwelt within each breast, and sometimes the heart beat with the one and sometimes with the other soul.”

Here is a wonderful description of the coming of evening: “It was that moment, that hour of the evening, when cyclists whisk through the streets and defy death. It was the time when twilight falls, the time when shifts change, when shops close, the hour when workers return home, the hour when night workers swarm into place. The police sirens shrieked. The squad cars rushed through the traffic. The blue lights lent their racing a ghostly glow: danger-boding St. Elmo’s fire of the city. Phillip loved this hour. In Paris, it was the heure bleue, the hour of reverie, a span of relative freedom, the moment of being free from day and night. The people had been released from their workshops and businesses, and they were not yet captive to the demands of habit and obligations to the family. The world hung suspended. Everything appeared possible. For a while everything appeared possible.”

Finished ‘The Vagrants’ by Yiyun Li is probably the best novel I have read this year. It is about the effects the execution of a convicted counter-revolutionary, Gu Shan, has on her family, friends and neighbours in the weeks after death in 1979 and is based on a true story. In the telling of the story – indeed, there are many lateral stories running through the plot – we learn that the execution was expedited so that Shan’s kidneys could be transplanted to a party official. The writing is powerful and I look forward to reading more of Yiyun Li.

 

 

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The Making of a Tout

September 6, 2011 by  

Recently, a log was brought to my attention in which the dissident republican Anthony McIntyre, links me to the killing of a 26-year-old Shankill Road, Protestant man, Samuel Llewellyn. Back then, in July 1975, at 22, just out of internment and living under many aliases and stilll on the run until that year’s ceasefire, I had just been made editor of the Republican News. But, I had nothing to do with the killing of this innocent man who was killed after a car bomb attack close to our Republican News offices.

Having read what Anthony McIntyre said about me , my lawyers have told me that I am now the subject of arrest by the Historical Enquiries Team. Given that I never met Anthony McIntyre until my imprisonment in the H-Blocks in 1991, could it be that his allegation is related to something that has been said in one of his Boston College research interviews which he is now inadvertently/subconsciously referring to?

Anthony McIntyre and Ed Moloney have yet to reveal what they were paid for producing the ‘Belfast Archive’, to which, apparently, Moloney has exclusive rights, allowing him to profit from the confessions of veterans as they die. How the archive was hatched is still the subject of ongoing media scrutiny.

Moloney never served a minute in jail but Mackers served a million, though he has since squandered every second on behalf of the British state, out to historically undermine our integrity, motivation, our choices and decisions, however difficult, complex and perplexing, but informed by the circumstances we found ourselves in.

Anthony McIntyre served a long time in jail, including years on the blanket which would earn one a lot of respect. He has disagreed with the republican strategy for many years and provided a voice of opposition. But he has lost the run of himself, for whatever reason, and has now struck a new low which he will have difficulty in explaining.

I have criticised the fact that he and Ed Moloney possibly misled participants in the collection of the Boston College archive in that their interviews about their IRA activities would not be released until after their deaths.

I cited the fact that I and a dozen others were charged in 1978 in relation to an allegedly sealed archive in the Public Records Office which was seized by the RUC, and my belief that Antony and Ed would have been aware of that case. He has had months to deny that he was aware but I take it from his silence that he knew about our prosecution.

For the past fifteen years, if you read his writings, Anthony has been obsessed with Gerry Adams and this informs his views and responses. It makes for a sad life. This obsession may also have been a factor in his involvement in the Boston College archive. It is also likely to be replicated in the choice of people he interviewed or those willing to have been interviewed.

The only example we have about the nature of these interviews is that provided by Ed Moloney in his book, ‘Voices From The Grave’, where he quotes from the archive the late Brendan Hughes making allegations about Gerry Adams and the IRA.

Throughout this lazy book many other republicans are named and implicated in this and that. My complaint is that none of these republicans were ever given the right of reply because, of course, that would have required a bit of work and might well have undermined Brendan Hughes’s account so substantially as to have rendered him an unreliable witness.

Some months ago it emerged that the British authorities, supported by the US Department of Justice, have issues subpoenas to seize the tapes for their alleged evidential worth in unresolved killings, presumably involving the IRA. However, instead of refuting on ethical grounds the attempt to seize the material – which could still be potentially used to indict the interviewees or those they have implicated – Anthony and Ed’s first instinct was to run with the red herring that if the tapes were handed over they could be killed by the IRA (the IRA that sold out and was infiltrated up to its black berets – according to Anthony, when it suited him!).

I took umbrage at that nonsense and wrote so.

It was what Anthony McIntyre said next that shows the depths to which he has sank. After a long rant, during which he ignored every valid point I made, he then wrote the following about me:

“Does this deceitful hypocrite seriously expect to raise a head of steam against those involved in the Boston College project? More chance that he will raise Sammy Llewellyn from the dead. Pennies for your thoughts on what Sammy might tell.”

The only possible reading of this – unless Anthony has an explanation I haven’t thought of – is that he is insinuating that I had something to do with the 1975 sectarian killing of Sammy Llewellyn, who was known as the Good Samaritan. As I said, after a loyalist car bomb attack on the Falls Road, Sammy Llewellyn and other workers from the Housing Executive came out to board up windows. Sammy was from the Shankill Road, was kidnapped and shot dead. Republicans lost a lot of support after this innocent man’s killing.

Never, in the dozens of times that I came through Castlereagh was I ever asked about or linked to Sammy Llewellyn’s death (because, of course, I had no hand or part in it).

But Anthony McIntyre, presumably on the basis of a rumour, or more dangerous still (only he can clarify), possibly quoting one of those he interviewed for the Boston College archive, links my name to a sectarian killing and has set me up for arrest by the HET. In the old days there was a name for such activity.

What his impetuous remark does show, if its provenance is to be found in the archive, is that he has inadvertently brought to the public’s attention the potential dangers inherent in this archive. Was he quoting from an interviewee and abusing allegedly sealed information, however inaccurate? What was his motive? How would he describe what he has done? How would he justify it?

Increasingly we discover that the Boston College Belfast Archive is not an innocent historical academic project but a politically-motivated venture. It has placed not only the participants in danger but others who would only discover after the deaths of participants that those who politically disagreed with them had slandered and vilified then, leaving them with no one to challenge.

What a mess, what a disgrace.