You have to hand it to members of the IRA’s Army Council – they got away with murder, mass murder, mass-casualty anti-civilian bombings, institutionalized torture and murders, executions and disappearances of civilians – you name it, they got away with it.
The IRA’s Human Rights’ atrocities have been quietly forgotten and the IRA’s leadership has stepped sideways into the Sinn Féin cash cow still holding the scaffolding of the IRA organisation in place for future reference.
In every country outside Northern Ireland, Human Rights offenders are held to account but not in Northern Ireland.
Legacy denotes a number of things – a bequest, a benefaction, a gift, an endowment, a settlement, a birthright – but in Northern Ireland, legacy just denotes that victims got nothing in the ‘peace process’ – no gifts of reparation of truth or justice for them while bombers and murderers got secret OTR letters of immunity. This is the gravest injustice of the ‘peace process’.
Why should I care about this? Why do I care about this? Why not just accept the dirty deal and roll with the ‘forget the past’ brigade, (except where British military actions are concerned)?
I got a surprise in April 2016 when RTE broadcast a documentary entitled ‘Atonement’ (viewable here) concerning a play I had written about the repentance of a young Irish patriot Kevin Barry. Within hours of that broadcast – which mentioned my own teenage IRA involvement in Derry and in London as a bomber – my email inbox and some social media accounts received requests from families of IRA bomb victims begging me to help them find out the truth about their relatives’ murders.
Most of the contacts concerned the IRA’s infamous Claudy bombings in 1972 when the nearby Bogside and Creggan areas were subjected to Operation Motorman. The IRA has still not admitted this atrocity (along with a host of other similar atrocities).
My first response was – contact Stormont Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness, one of the longest-serving IRA leaders since late 1971 and someone who had been in leadership and oversight of probably everything that occurred in Derry and later across Northern Ireland and later again across the whole of Ireland, Britain and even IRA operations in Europe.
To my surprise, the various families said McGuinness had ‘blanked’ their emails, letters and phone calls for years, but particularly while in office in Stormont.
I myself had seen McGuinness on various television programs and debates lying to the audiences and to the program anchors about the period of his membership of the IRA, about the extent of his knowledge of IRA activities and about his own participation in murders and torture of alleged informers. He lied and lied and lied. (McGuinness and his lies here.)
The entire IRA Army Council has engaged in lies and denials about IRA Human Rights’ atrocities with a particular emphasis on giving victims NOTHING.
These massive lies have occurred in plain sight of journalists, churchmen, politicians and voters who have either never challenged the leadership of the IRA about these atrocities, or have long ceased to do so.
Leading IRA Army Council liars have made their way into prominent positions in Sinn Féin and into democratic politics without any admissions of guilt and totally without any reparation of truth to victims.
Even worse, the IRA Army Council and its lesser proxies together run a campaign to uncover every single possible British or Loyalist human rights’ incident with the intention of creating a din loud enough to overwhelm the IRA’s Human Wrongs’ legacy and they have many fellow-travellers helping them in this immoral deceit.
This deliberate strategy toward victims would not be tolerated in any other civilised country. Spain defeated any such behaviour by ETA which has been seen off into ignominy and disgrace. The people of Colombia rejected the so-called ‘peace process’ in a referendum after coming to believe that the victims got nothing and the perpetrators got too much.
Why should this bother me, even if victims were desperate enough to ask for my help after the RTE documentary?
Well, once more I should answer this question briefly enough.
I had been one of the younger Derry Brigade IRA officers who voted for an IRA ceasefire in late 1974 – along with Martin McGuinness. Many of us believed in 1974 and early 1975 that the IRA’s campaign was over and we were glad of that then. It had been a campaign of suffering for all concerned.
I was arrested during the 1975 ceasefire period and imprisoned first of all in Belfast, and later in London for London bombings.
At my trial in The Old Bailey in September 1976, I was the first IRA volunteer to apologise to ‘innocent civilians victims’ of the IRA’s letter-bomb and time-bomb campaign in London in 1973. There was no excuse for injuring civilians and I took a risk at the time in apologising to them from the dock even while I did not recognise the court that tried me.
After over 14 months naked in solitary confinement in Wormwood Scrubs refusing to wear criminal garb and having studied a lot about The Prison Rules and prisoners’ rights, and after corresponding with the Howard League for Penal Reform and various other Human Rights’ organisations (mainly about prisoners’ rights) I saw clearly that my own choice to involve a campaign of violence in support of an otherwise fair aim – a united Ireland – was contrary to human rights and a number of other ethical positions.
I pressed the Home Office for a year for the right to write letters of apology to my actual victims. I finally got permission to do so privately and I did write letters of apology to those of my victims who had agreed to receive them in 1978.
My unprecedented apologies were publicized in the press after some victims sold my letters to ‘The News of the World’. Other IRA prisoners were appalled by my apologies.
Subsequently, I wrote a letter to ‘The Derry Journal’ in February 1978 calling on the IRA to end its campaign of violence and to enter democratic politics. I used human rights’ arguments and the ‘doctrine of the just war’ in this letter, which became national news for a time.
The IRA, and also IRA prisoners, were horrified and I was both threatened and later ‘sent to Coventry’ by the majority of IRA prisoners for the rest of my time in the English prisons.
With regard to victims, though, I should record that when I discovered that Gerry Conlon and his co-defendants were wrongly convicted (‘The Guildford Four’), I introduced solicitor Gareth Pierce (and a number of Labour MPs and various churchmen) to their case and when IRA prisoners had made Gerry remain in solitary confinement (because they had discovered that he had met Special Branch police while in prison to try to get his ill father released, and had made mostly false statements about various prisoners, including me) I challenged the IRA prisoners to recognise their maltreatment of Gerry. Gerry acknowledged my efforts in his book ‘Proved Innocent’:
Later, when I discovered that the Birmingham Six prisoners were innocent of their convictions, I introduced solicitor Gareth Pierce (and the same Labour MPs and churchmen) to their case also and scripted Paddy Hill’s first letters to MPs about their case. Paddy acknowledged my efforts in his book, Forever Lost, Forever Gone.
After my transfer back to Northern Ireland to the Maze Prison, I later helped one of ‘The UDR Four’ to write letters to MPs about their case.
The prison authorities were generally displeased about all of this ‘barrack room lawyer’ activity at any time and there were frequent petty consequences.
Just before my release from prison, I participated in a Peter Taylor award-winning documentary entitled ‘Families at War’ which told the inside story of a young IRA volunteer disenchanted with armed struggle. (It is viewable here.)
After my release from prison in September 1989 and entry to Trinity College, Dublin, to study English, Lord Longford’s then book editor, Giles Semper, who had seen me on various television programs calling for an end to the IRA’s armed campaign, asked me about a book. I told him I had already written chapter one and HarperCollins nervously published my autobiography in 1993 entitled “The Volunteer – A Former IRA Man’s True Story” which became a bestseller before it was even reviewed. HarperCollins were so nervous of publishing an IRA story – even one that called for an end to the IRA’s campaign of murder – that they moved it into the religious Fount imprint to try to give it a better odour. (Still going here!)
The book initiated many conversations and contacts at the time including with Americans about a possible peace process.
Now to get back to the IRA Army Council’s great escape from any investigations or prosecutions of its massive record of Human Rights’ atrocities and its deliberate two fingers toward victims of its totally unnecessary campaign of murder.
Legacy and the IRA
Neither Sinn Féin nor the IRA Army Council can any longer pretend there is any validity in any so-called ‘agreed legacy institutions’ and for the following reasons:
- The IRA has decided to lie and lie and lie to victims and will continue to lie to them.
- IRA leaders – McGuinness, Adams and others – have lied for years and years to victims.
- The IRA has decided to celebrate murders and murderers ad infinitum and this will not change.
- The IRA cannot claim to speak for former IRA volunteers who might not wish to participate in any ‘legacy’ truth endeavours.
- Very many IRA volunteers are dead and their true stories cannot be told, but they may be conveniently mistold.
- Very many IRA volunteers merged into society after release from prison and don’t want to be reminded of their activities years later. They will not participate regardless of arrangements. Many are in effective hiding outside the jurisdiction of the UK.
- Very many IRA volunteers hate and detest the venality and lies of SFIRA and won’t have anything to do with them, not least those participating in dissident activities.
- IRA leaders such as Adams are more concerned with their lying re-birth as Civil Rights’ heroes to ever admit to leading a campaign of mass murder and mass human rights’ atrocities not least because of the possibility of ending up in the dock of The International Criminal Court of The Hague.
- Various surviving IRA Army Council leaders living in the Republic of Ireland will never travel into the UK jurisdiction and admit leading a campaign of mass murder in Ireland, Britain, Germany and the Netherlands. Many of them detest Adams et al.
- Various ‘republicans’ challenged their convictions – are they likely later to admit to murders and bombings which they previously denied using legal mechanisms? Will they be likely to return compensation monies received?
However, none of this amounts to sufficient reason for the leadership of the IRA (which is still very much intact and enjoying the fruits of peace and Sinn Féin’s new political and financial prosperity) to deny truth and justice to victims, but that leadership will NEVER admit to its thirty years of atrocities.
If ‘Stockholm Syndrome’ describes the extraordinary relationship that sometimes grows up between a kidnap victim and his or her terrorist captors to the degree that these ‘brainwashed’ victims later participate in actions carried out by their captors, then ‘Belfast Syndrome’ justly describes the U-turn practiced by journalists, churchmen and politicians regarding the IRA’s Human Rights’ record.
I find it amazing and unconscionable that leading churchmen associated publicly with McGuinness right up to his death and yet never challenged him about his duty to offer the reparation of truth and justice to his and the IRA’s many many innocent victims.
These include Derryman Eamon Martin (currently Archbishop of Armagh) and Derry’s new Bishop from Down and Connor Donal McKeown. There’s no point in adding Canny or Latimer to this list – they exceeded ‘Belfast Syndrome’ to the extent that each could have been mistaken for one of McGuinness’ tonsils every time he opened his mouth.
I find it equally amazing that journalists did not challenge McGuinness in his last days about his victims.
One of the most craven and shameful journalistic pieces written about McGuinness was by RTE’s Tommie Gorman who gushed cloying warmth and sympathy for McGuinness and yet never mentioned his very many victims – he never challenged McGuinness on behalf of victims about the many secrets he was intent on taking to his grave to protect his own reputation and that of the IRA. (Read it here.)
David Blevins of Sky News did a similar craven interview with Gerry Adams in which he got Adams to suggest that at some point he might tell the truth about his past – but he did not follow up Adams’ admission to challenge him about his years of lies to the public and to victims and his participation in Northern Ireland’s worst year of IRA atrocities, 1972. (Watch it here.)
‘Belfast Syndrome’ has fatally undermined the credibility and effectiveness of proposed ‘legacy’ mechanisms which offer a bonanza to one-eyed lawyers and no truth whatsoever to victims about the IRA’s unnecessary murder campaign, now whitewashed as a Civil Rights’ struggle.
Don’t look to ‘Relatives for Justice’ or to the ‘Pat Finucane Centre’ for any justice for the thousands of victims of the IRA – they are the left and right ventricles at the heart of ‘Belfast Syndrome’. (See here.)
The moral hazards and moral sickness oozing from this unprecedented cover up of Human Rights’ atrocities by the IRA are the real legacy of this particular peace process and they’re going to be around for the foreseeable future.