It is a strange quirk of history that the IRA’s early practice of extreme torture on its abducted and soon-to-be murdered prisoners occurred just as its political wing and proxies were protesting about the treatment of the very first internees back in 1971 who were later termed ‘the hooded men’. The IRA quickly developed its own hooded men and women who were not merely to be interned, but also tortured and then murdered and more than a few ‘disappeared’ for decades.
Following the predictable nationalist objection to the use of ‘inhuman and degrading’ interrogation techniques on the internees, including beatings, the self-declared freedom fighters of the IRA set about the use of limitless torture techniques with a vengeance and continued the use of extreme torture for the rest of its violent ‘armed struggle’.
It was not just the IRA’s infamous ‘nutting squad’ (McGee/Scappaticci) that used extreme torture on victims whose executed and maimed bodies were dumped along the South Armagh border during the 1980s/90s. ‘Brigades’ not associated with this horror unit also applied torture apparently without hesitation, induction or training from 1971 onwards, at least a full decade before the ‘nutting squad’ was formed.
While the Irish government hastened to instigate a case before the European Court of Human Rights about British maltreatment of the internees – whose judgment of ‘inhuman and degrading treatment’ was issued following exhaustive hearings in Stavanger, Norway – it did not ever record or publish the horrific details of the scores of torture cases practiced by the IRA largely within the territory of the Republic of Ireland with the corpses then dumped just inside Northern Ireland beginning in 1971.
How is it that many young Catholic men who now point back to the Civil Rights movement as their springboard to IRA membership – or to Bloody Sunday – could suddenly find the ability to contravene all civil rights, human rights and Geneva Conventions in applying torture to abducted civilians and captured UDR or RUC Reserve members before they further contravened the Geneva Conventions in shooting them in the back of their hooded heads? Who can imagine the last 24hrs of a UDR or RUC reserve member abducted by the IRA and waiting to be murdered?
Neither the Belfast, Derry, Tyrone, Fermanagh nor South Armagh Brigades of the IRA had any difficulty in finding volunteers who were prepared to engage in torture of captured military prisoners and also of abducted civilians, and all this four years before the notorious Shankill Butchers became active in 1975.
How was it that the IRA could easily find young men instantly willing and able to torture a man – or a woman – to an extreme degree and then to hood him, bind his hands behind his back and transport him to a border road – sometimes naked – and shoot him a number of times in the back of the head? How was it that young men and women were willing to participate in this maltreatment of Jean McConville, a mother of ten children? The degree of torture inflicted on Jean McConville in 1972 to extract a confession will never be known since her body was ‘disappeared’ to Shelling Hill beach, County Louth, and not discovered until thirty-one years later after she was shot in the back of the head and buried.
Let’s forget all about the Geneva Conventions – the IRA had no interest in these except as they might apply to its own members captured by the RUC or British Army. From the IRA’s point of view – supported by its cadre of willing lawyers – the Enemy had to play by the Marquis of Queensberry rules while it played by none at all.
The same IRA members who challenged their convictions of many years before on the grounds of ‘forced confessions’ – and a lot of other IRA members – still appear to have no problem rationalizing worse forced confessions (and brutal torture) that were used by the IRA to justify murdering persons alleged to have been informers.
It is no surprise that IRA leaders – some now transmuted into Sinn Féin worthies in expensive suits – don’t wish to be reminded of past torture horrors and human rights’ violations which have escaped justice, prosecution and punishment and even any scrutiny by the brash new cadre of self-proclaimed ‘human rights lawyers’ who have grown wealthy on the legacy of The Troubles but only see human rights violations by one side, that side which pays most of their incomes. Who ever said that you shouldn’t bite the hand that feeds you?
It is incredible that governments believed that a true peace process might be successfully built on a foundation of grand lies and gross injustices where thousands of human rights violations by one side – the IRA side – are totally ignored and victims shafted in the name of ‘prosecuting the peace’. Don’t mention the OTR letters!
Northern Ireland is already a byword for lawyers brazenly adopting the nomenclature of ‘human rights lawyers’ alongside rights’ groups who cannot find it anywhere in their remit to acknowledge and scrutinise the IRA’s horrific human rights’ record.
To borrow a phrase from Alex Maskey, the ‘putrid little secret’ of the IRA’s torture record hasn’t gone away, you know.
How the former torturers and their Godfather commanders can now parade virtuously in victims’ rights marches in Belfast and Derry is beyond belief and the silence of those in Sinn Féin who know about their past crimes against humanity is absolutely deafening.
There is no state in America or democracy in Europe that would tolerate such a situation, as ETA has discovered to its cost in Spain where its former leaders are facing charges of crimes against humanity even after ETA has been disbanded, its weapons decommissioned and its prisoners continue to serve their sentences.