Monthly Archives: February 2013

HET–Justice or Political Expediency?

Justice or Political Expediency?

 

The recent sentencing of Bobby Rodgers for the 1973 shooting of a young catholic girl brings many important issues to the fore again. Firstly it is an absolute tragedy and horrific loss for a young person to die in such circumstances. It should not have happened but this was the society that was bequeathed to all of the young people who like myself grew up in the troubles. And like young Eileen  Doherty there was   17 year old Vivienne Gibney shot dead by the IRA on 1.12.1971. Or 12 year old Joan Scott shot dead by republicans on May 30th 1972. And so on. To date none of the republicans who killed these young Protestants have not been arrested, charged or sentenced.

This conviction and continued work of the HET highlights the paucity of thought and the weakness and sadness of the situation we find ourselves in. The failure to move on is a reflection of the lack of courage. I accept the pain that exists from all sections– the widows of the policemen, the mothers of the young men who joined paramilitaries and then died. And not to forget the hundreds if not thousands of bereaved people from England, Scotland and Wales whose sons and husbands came here and were killed.

I disagree with the HET and their work and would clearly want a line drawn in the sand. Anything before the Good Friday Agreement should be left alone. By selecting the Loyalists for this special treatment raises issues of un fairness. An unfairness, that may have consequences in the future. Let me also be clear. I do want any return to violence from Loyalists. I do not want any reaction to the dissident violence that kills decent people like Ronan Kerr,  Mc Carroll, the sappers, etc.  However there are astounding and nauseous hypocrisy’s occurring here. While past combatants have served out time for historical offences we will not forget the case of the priest James Chesney, involved in the indiscriminate slaughter of 8 people in Claudy on 31st July 1972. Remember also that the victims included two children. Kathryn Eakin aged 9, and William Temple aged 16. The judges words ring hollow. i.e. the passage of time in no way dilutes the seriousness of such a crime. If that is so then why was the priest allowed to remain free for so long until his death?

Another worry for anybody who has lived with the troubles is when does this work finish? Do we have to look forward to the day when an 80 year old is arrested for a 1970s offence? When that person may die in prison and young extremists from any community want a cause to follow will the rest of us be happy? Unless you are completely blinkered there is a realisation that members of the security forces committed offences linked to the troubles. When would members  of the  police, army, prison service, etc. be arrested, questioned, charged, tried (still in a Diplock Court) and sentenced?

The other more worrying issue for the Loyalist working class is the complete and utter discrimination between Loyalist and Republican ex combatants. Whereas the Loyalists from the 1970s went about they lives upon release and had little protection from their elected representatives the Republicans had the giant of Sinn Fein to defend them. Again, only if you are naïve and a little un street wise there are many top Sinn Feinners  who are in government or just behind, that were involved in serious violence. They cannot be touched because they are integral to the peace movement and if arrested then there is serious repercussion for the assembly,  peace process,  etc . For this read;  if you arrest them you risk us going back to war. This also means that Loyalist ex-prisoners are expendable and of not much worth.  Has someone forgot that  28% of all fatalities were inflicted by Loyalists? Given that Irish Republicans killed some 60% of the total fatalities should there not be twice as many Republicans coming to the attention of the HET than Loyalists? If Sinn Fein where never going back to war then those people could be convicted without consequences on the streets? However, again let me say that I don’t want to see those Republicans ( or security forces) dragged back to courts for the 1970 and 1980s. Draw a line and look forward.

Another amazing issue not publicised by judges,  courts, etc, is that of people like, say Freddie Scappaticci and Ken Barrett. We now know a lot more about the methods and strategy of the hidden forces at work in the troubles. Again I admit that they were integral to achieving peace however unpleasant people feel about their tactics. So if Rodgers can be arrested and brought back to prison what about these men?  Is the murders they were directly involved in OK? Were they qualitatively different from what others did in the 70s?

And what did Rodgers do since his release in the 1990s? He’s friend of mine so I feel I can say what he had been doing. He has worked hard. He has worked with many young Prods to keep them from a life of crime or sectarianism. He has raised his family. He has consistently said that resorting to violence is not the way to go.  He has supported the peace process.  He has never, like many of us ‘dinosaurs’, been involved or supportive of illegal drugs.  Bobby has also had dialogue with Republicans in order to foster understanding and explain the true feelings of working class Prods.

There are many complex issues here. One that is possibly unanswerable is what the difference between justice and revenge? Or is court justice a form of society revenge?  I may have a strange outlook on this issue because of my experiences through the troubles. I had friends killed by Republicans, by  Loyalists and security forces. Do I want them all dragged back to court? No. But, if some are to be dragged back then all should be. That is fair.

Of course one huge lesson for us all in that nothing is simple in N. Ireland.  This issue of the HET is going to remain a thorn in the side of moving on. It has also has the potential to set a small flame alight that is going, sometime, to put us back in the times where we should be forgetting about.

Gaudeamus Igitur

 

 

 

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UVF/RHC Prison Life Document 1998

Introduction

This publication is part of an ongoing project into various prison-related issues.  For the past thirty years there have been thousands of Loyalists incarcerated in Northern Ireland’s prisons and yet very little has been written about the subject.  That neglect is all the more noticeable when one considers the number of books and other publications which have appeared dealing with Republican prisoners.

This document is a socio-political history of events which occurred in our prisons throughout three decades of conflict, focusing primarily on Loyalist politically-motivated prisoners.  Due to limitations of time and resources, it is very much a general overview of the Loyalist prison experience, and cannot hope to do justice to the numerous individual memories retained by ex-prisoners, or adequately relate the many experiences they have had, some of which differed greatly depending on which prison each prisoner was incarcerated in or the time period during which the imprisonment took place.

The research involved in-depth interviews with numerous ex-prisoners and their families, and, as the author of this document, I wish to express my appreciation for the time and hospitality I was given.  If anything, the research and interviews only served as a reminder that the great bulk of the prison ‘story’ is still to be recorded, and it is to be hoped that this publication will encourage more ex-prisoners, and their family members, to come forward with their personal testimonies.

During the entire period of our present ‘Troubles’ the conflict which afflicted Northern Ireland was mirrored by constant strife within the prisons, whether that involved fighting for better conditions, political status or segregation.  More significantly, however, the politicisation which occurred among many prisoners has been acknowledged by most commentators to have been one of the few really positive products of the Troubles, and the impact which ex-prisoners have made, and continue to make, at community level is now well established.

[Indeed, the ‘story’ of the growth of prisoner support networks would require a document on its own: from the early days of the Orange Cross, which was a small family-orientated group of people who set about raising funds and making up food parcels, through the establishment of the Loyalist Prisoners Welfare Association (LPWA) which sought to co-ordinate the efforts made to cater for the welfare of the vastly increasing prisoner population, to the formation of EPIC, which concentrates on the reintegration of prisoners, a role which has taken on greater significance in recent days.]

Just as remarkable has been the crucial impact former prisoners and their associates have made upon the political process – a process once kept remote from working-class aspirations and interventions.  Within the Loyalist working-class community parties such as the Progressive Unionist Party and the Ulster Democratic Party have done much to help move this entire society away from the politics of intransigence and violence to the politics of accommodation and dialogue, while proving that no surrender of identity or aspiration need be involved in the process.

With the Good Friday Agreement and the present commencement of the accelerated release of prisoners it might seem that a ‘chapter’ of Northern Ireland’s history is drawing to a close.  Such a perception would be greatly misplaced, however, for there is much hurt within this whole society, in different sections of our community, and it will take much patient and sensitive work if our wounds are ever to begin to heal.

It is with the intention of creating a greater awareness of prisoner-related issues – and in the hope that this can assist in the healing process – that these EPIC research documents are being produced.

Marion Green

Research Co-ordinator, EPIC

 

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EPIC Research Document on Reintegration of Ex Prisoners 1998.

Preface

 

As Northern Ireland emerges into a new era of democratic government after 30 years of violent conflict, thoughts are focusing on the future arrangements and relationships within Northern Ireland, between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, and on a new East-West concept embracing the United Kingdom and Ireland.  Transition takes time, energy, commitment and an ability to see a brighter, inclusive future while reflecting on past experience.

It has not gone unnoticed that former enemies in that violent conflict are now addressing their differences and representing their communities in a non-violent theatre of debate – the new Northern Ireland Assembly.  Our differences, political and otherwise, have now a new arena within which they can be explored and creatively accommodated.

While we as a community-based self-help organisation welcome and will continue to give our support to these latest developments at the political level, we are also conscious of the impact and legacy of violent conflict at community level.

It is our belief that many sections of our community have an increasing role to play in addressing the casualties of our violent conflict, in acknowledging and endeavouring to resolve injustices, and in striving to heal the wounds (as best as one can) so as to enable all our people to invest in a new future.

EPIC has taken responsibility to assist in the reintegration and transformation of ex-prisoners who engaged in the violent conflict.  As an integral part of this work EPIC has undertaken intensive research into prison-related issues – whether describing the background to the prison experience itself, or cataloguing the many predicaments, problems and concerns which politically-motivated ex-prisoners encounter upon release.

The first results of this research are now being published, aimed not only at our ‘client’ group of ex-prisoners, but also with a view to increasing awareness among the general public about a significant section of our community whose experiences of long-term imprisonment have impacted right across Northern Ireland, and in some cases beyond.

This publication has been compiled from research conducted primarily by Jim Crothers, a member of staff of EPIC Central Services, and, though Jim, a number of other volunteers.  To all those people involved in the research and publication I offer the thanks of EPIC’s client base for putting into print a voice not often heard – indeed, in the past hardly articulated – but a message which should be listened to, and, for those in positions of influence, acted upon.  It is complemented by another EPIC research document, published simultaneously, which presents an historical overview of the prison experience from a Loyalist perspective.

We in Northern Ireland know only too well that to ignore our communities’ ills only guarantees festering sores and fermentation of future conflict.  EPIC feels that its practical work on the needs of ex-prisoners, as well as its ongoing research, will assist in creating the awareness and understanding which is the necessary foundation for purposeful dialogue, without which we can never hope to move forward and reconcile individuals, neighbourhoods, communities and our society in general.

 

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EPIC Research Document on Reintegration of Ex Prisoners 1998.

Fifteen years ago EPIC–Ex Prisoners Interpretative Centre, who represented UVF/RHC political ex prisoners conducted extensive research into the difficulties surrounding ex prisoners and their families.  The main body of research was carried out by Jim Crothers and Marion Green–research that took many months to compile.  The results were sometimes predictable–sometimes surprising–but indicated unambigiously that there were many problems to be faced in the reintegration of our prisoners–particularly thos who had spent many years behind bars.  This is the first of four pieces of documentary evidence that highlights the problems–as they were in 1998.  Many of those problems remain today and in lots of ways are exacerbated by the passage of time.

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Terms and Conditions for Life Sentence Prisoners 1989

Here is an example of the form issued by the Northern Ireland Office to those lifers who were being released through the Work Out Scheme in the late 80′s.  The scheme was housed in the Annexe which basically was an extension of ‘D’ Wing where long term ordinary prisoners were held.  In the work out scheme all types of life prisoners were held together prior to release–both ordinary prisoners and political from both republican and loyalist factions.  The idea was to wean you back into society with the help of probation board and welfare workers.  You were given some short periods outside accompanied by the stats before being allowed out for a weekend alone.  You then had to get yourself a job before finally getting out.  You went to whatever job you had early in the morning and came back at six o’clock to spend Monday-Thursday night in the Annexe.  When you were released on Friday morning to go to work you didnt come back until Monday night.  This period lasted for three months before you were conditionally released.  One of the conditions was that you had to come to the Crumlin Road every Friday to sign a Northern Ireland Office form.  Three months later you were signed off completely but were very aware that you could be brought back at any time for the slightest of reasons.  And some did indeed get brought back for the most dubious of reasons.

 

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The Conflict’s Fifth Business: A Brief Biography of Billy Mitchell

THE CONFLICT’S FIFTH BUSINESS: A BRIEF BIOGRAPHY OF BILLY MITCHELL

1 The Conflict’s Fifth Business:

A brief biography of Billy Mitchell Kate Fearon February 2, 2002 “Those roles which, being neither those of Hero nor Heroine, Confidante nor Villain, but which were nonetheless essential to bring about the Recognition or the denouement were called the Fifth Business in drama and opera companies organised according to the old style; the player who acted these parts was often referred to as Fifth Business.”1 1 Thomas Overskou, Den Danske Skkeueplads, from Robertson Davies’ Fifth Business, Penguin, 1970

THE CONFLICT’S FIFTH BUSINESS: A BRIEF BIOGRAPHY OF BILLY MITCHELL

2 Contents

1. Introduction
2. Sinning and being Saved – life as a young Belfast Baptist
3. Politicising Protestantism: marches, rallies and the UVF
4. Prisoner’s Dilemma
5. Internal Debate – a maze of religion and politics
6. Change on the inside; change on the outside
7. Politics proper, and community development – back on the outside
8. Personal and Practical Peace building: restorative justice and the conflict transformation project
9. Conclusion
10. Select bibliography

 

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Billy Mitchell–A Biography.

Longkeshinsideout pays homage to one of the most innovative and thoughtful figures to emerge in post war Loyalism.  Billy sadly died in 2006 leaving a void in working class politics that has been difficult to fill.  Although an unwavering Loyalist–he dedicated much of his life to the Unionist cause through the UPV, the UVF and latterly the Progressive Unionist Party–he demanded respect from all quarters for his cross community work, and peace building initiatives.  Billy’s is an interesting and in many ways inspirational story.  This biography first appeared in 2002 and was written by Kate Fearon who at that time was political advisor for the Womens Coalition.

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New Loyalism..Combating The Cancer Of The Three “C”s.

 

NEW LOYALISM – COMBATING THE CANCER OF THE THREE   ‘C’s

 

Former Blanket columnist, Dr John Coulter, in   the latest in his exclusive series, outlines the case why his ideology of New   Loyalism should embrace Biblical Christianity as its core belief rather than   trying to create a secular society in Northern Ireland.

 

New   Loyalism radically needs to put God back into the famous maxim – For God And   Ulster.

I am attempting through New Loyalism to   give the loyalist community a fresh direction and a solution to the political   and social cancer which has bedeviled it since 1974. I have branded this   cancer ‘The Three C’s’ – Complacency, Compromise and Catastrophe.

 

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Return The Standard

Return The Standard

Hoist up the Standard high o’er Belfast’s City Hall

“Let’s see the colours fly” will be our battle call

Dare those oppose or block our road-for we shall see them fall

Raise the Union Flag aloft –Rally!!—One and All.

No more we’ll dance a sprightly jig to the Piper’s merry air

Leading into cul de sacs of rejection and despair

No more we’ll blindly place our “X” next imposters names

And refuse to be the scapegoats when they’re laying out the blame.

Protest, support and demonstrate to restore what’s rightly Ours

Don’t hesitate nor vacillate in Ulster’s darkening hours

It’s the People’s right to use their might to keep what’s just and true

Reinstate the Jack-give us back-our old Red White and Blue

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Alliance Supporting Belfast Telegraph…Struck Dumb.

                               THE  ALLIANCE SUPPORTING BELFAST TELEGRAPH STRUCK DUMB.  

The results of the BBC opinion polls, with regard to the overwhelming support for the Union and for the all year flying of the National Standard, on Belfast City Hall, was so news worthy that it was even commented on by the Prime minister at Westminster. It was the banner headline in the Belfast Newsletter, it was the constantly repeated all day long leading news report on both the BBC and UTV.

 

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