Two weeks ago the Mail published an article I wrote, about a landmark horror of ‘The Troubles’ in Northern Ireland.
It happened 25 years ago on Wednesday, March 19, 1988, when two British soldiers in plain clothes — Corporals David Wood and Derek Howes of the Royals Corps of Signals — blundered into the funeral cortege of an IRA man who had been killed in a loyalist attack on another paramilitary funeral.
Initially mistaken for loyalist terrorists and trapped in their car, they were dragged out in front of the world’s press and viciously beaten in nearby Casement Park. Minutes later they were executed as suspected SAS members.
Brutality: Catholic priest Father Alec Reid administers the last rights to Corporal David Howes, one of two British soldiers brutally beaten and murdered in Belfast 25 years ago
A venue in Mid Ulster will be the setting for a meeting of those persons opposed to the development of a peace and reconciliation centre on the old site of Long Kesh / Maze Prison. This project has also wrongly been dubbed ‘the Terrorists Shrine’. Tom Elliot (UUP) is the main opposition and wants to undermine the project so much that it will be scrapped. The DUP feel the project should reflect all sides and aspects of the Troubles. Mr Elliott said: “A vast swathe of the people affected simply don’t want this shrine. The paramilitaries might want it as a tribute to their murder campaign, but the families of security personnel, prison officers and politicians who know the score just don’t want to be part of it.” (News Letter 25 March 2013) When is Unionist politicians going to accept that Loyalist ex-prisoners and families of these ex-prisoners have a right to be at this meeting? I read the list that Mr Elliot expects and I never noticed EPIC on that list. Have organisations like EPIC been consulted? Has there been any research done with Loyalist ex-prisoners? How do these prisoners feel about this centre? Is it a ‘Terrorists Shrine’? The DUP are seemingly driving this project and it makes me concerned as to their motivation. Those who spent years incarcerated in Long Kesh / Maze Prison could respond to this giving their opinion and perhaps we could take it forward?
Back in April this year we all saw Dr Patricia Lundys’ report on the impartial procedures and investigations of the Historical Enquiry Team. Although rejected by the HET there still will be an independent review of how the HET investigates killings by soldiers during the troubles. Chief Constable Matt Baggott to whom the HET are directly accountable, has requested the review through Her Majestys Inspector of Constabulary. “In a statement rejecting the criticism, the HET said there had been a number of cases where families of victims of Army shootings welcomed apologies from the government and Ministry of Defence after the HET dismissed the original military version of events.” (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-northern-ireland-17619308)
This new concept (The HET) was established to review over 3200 deaths that occurred in the troubles prior to 1998. During the first 6 years the HET received £34m to do the work. In the next 2 years the Dept of Justice in Stormont funded the HET to the tune of £13m. Strangely enough the same Executive and Dept have refused a further request of £10m from the HET. Given that the HET are directly accountable to the PSNI the HET were informed that their application should be paid from PSNI reserves. Apparently the HET have still 950 deaths to investigate and if the funds are not available then hundreds of deaths will go un-investigated. I was wondering if those deaths could be the the ones under review in Dr Patricia Lundys research? So you can see that an investment of £47m isn’t enough and many of the victims are not satisfied then I ask why we need these investigations. Could £47m have been spent on a different format? A format that would take Northern Irelands’ shared future document forward and bring our people closer together. This format would end the useless internment of old ex-combatants and take the working class communities forward. The Dept of Justice has responded by stating that the HETs work is priority and they intend to see a continuation of the HET. Is it safe to assume that £10m will be found to fund a further 2 years work? Such a pity given the fact that our Health system fails us, our education system fails young people, many primary schools are to be closed and the unemployment rate grows. However, the continuation of a format that creates other victims i.e. the loved ones of incarcerated ex-combatants could possibly bring about a serious deterioration of the already unstable peace process. I refer to an article by David Whiteside published in Belfast Telegraph and www.longkeshinsideout.com where he states;
“Of course my point surrounds the actions of the Historical Enquiries Team (H.E.T), never mentioned in a referendum voted by the people of this country and brought onto the scene in 2005 after the St Andrews agreement between the four largest political parties. The majority of those arrested have already served long prison sentences for other offences, which leads me to the question – What are we achieving by locking these old men away for a token gesture of two years? Hardly closure for loved ones. If this is allowed to continue, where will it end? A futile, destabilising and costly process for all communities who voted unanimously to move forward in the name of peace and prosperity after so many troubled years.”
I also listened to Jude Whites’ interview with Stephen Nolan and as a victim who lost his mother he supports a different format and one that will be focused more upon the truth than apologies that may never be meant. Worth listening too.
We as a Northern Irish community need to find a different way to address the issues of closure and justice or we may end up in the depths of despair once more.
The news comes that the Historical Enquiries Team are running into financial problems and finding it difficult to purloin further funding from the Department of Justice. The supposedly independent entity was formed in 2005 with a remit of examing in excess of 3200 murders during the conflict. For the first 6 years of its existence they received an amount of 34 million pounds from the Northern Ireland Office. For this past two years they have received another 10 million pounds from the Department of Justice. Upon applying once again to David Ford for a handout of another 10 million pounds to see them through the next 2 years they have come up short. Ford has apparently informed Dave Cox and his merry band that any future money should come out of Matt Baggots PSNI slush fund.
So, a couple of things here. Of the 44 million pounds spent to date how can that be accounted for. No doubt a huge percentage of it will be paid out in salaries. Can thos independent, mostly retired police officers from around the UK honestly say they have earned their corn? And better still–for such a huge outlay are the “victims” getting value for money? Add these amounts to all the costly inquiries in recent years and you will find that the tax payer is footing hefty bills for little or no return. Dave Cox goes to great lengths to tell us how independent the HET is and that it has to be so because the majority of victims refuse to have the PSNI investigate old deaths because of their past history. Doesnt sound very independent to me when they have to get the begging bowl out to any Tom, Dick and Harry every couple of years.
And as far as being non discriminatory in looking at Cold Cases from ” The Troubles” this is also a falsehood. Not only are Loyalists being targeted more than Republicans..despite the ratio of killings attributed to both during the conflict–it is blatantly obvious that part of thr remit of the HET is to stay away from the gates of Stormont when investigating old murders. I thought that would have been a good starting point.
This is a first time contribution from a young girl who is currently third year student at Ulster University Jordanstown. She is conducting research for an undergraduate dissertation which forms a significant part of her final degree mark. She is studying politics and criminology–her dissertation tutor is well known and distinguished writer, Henry Patterson. This girl has a particular interest in Loyalist thinking around Hunger Strikes. Not just the 1981 Republican strike but others throughout the conflict. She would be interested in hearing from anyone in relation to this, and I can pass any details on if you contact this site through the comments section. Hopefully this student will get the assistance she needs.
I am currently carrying out research into Loyalist and unionist perspectives of the 1981 Hunger strikes. As you are well aware the main bulk of research regarding the Hunger strikes in 1981 is mainly Republican views with very little attention given to loyalist prisoner’s opinions.
I want to attempt to find out if loyalist prisoners supported the Republican prisoners in their strike. If so then why were the loyalists not striking too? I am aware of Gusty Spence’s hunger strike in the bid to obtain political status, the UDA hunger strike and the other number of protests in order to obtain segregation.
I want to try and unearth (if there are any) differences in opinion between loyalist prisoners inside the prison and loyalist outside the prison. I also want to show the difference in opinion of the working class loyalists and the unionist politicians. While showing the difference in opinion I hope to prove there is a difference between ‘loyalism’ and ‘unionism’.
I would be interested in any personal experiences that people have encountered and none of the information which you would provide me with will be used without full permission. I would greatly appreciate any response from this site and thank you for taking the time to read this.
Pictured here is one of the many fine paintings by an ex UVF/RHC prisoner. It is part of an extensive collection of similar works of art which form the basis of the inaugural Epic Exhibition due to take place in Crumlin Road Gaol on Thursday 28th March at 12 noon. On show will be a number of paintings and sketches showcasing 3 exceptional artists and covering many years on incarceration particularly in Long Kesh Compounds and Blocks. This is a not to be missed exhibition and one that we are sure will prove popular and successful–which will enable Epic to replicate in the future.
Just a short personal opinion on the Bill designed to block former prisoners–”with serious offences”-from taking up positions as special advisors at Stormont. TUV MLA Jim Allister brought the Bill basically after the appointment of high profile ex Republican prisoner Mary McArdle as an advisor to the Culture Minister Caral Ni Chuilin. McArdle had been convicted for her part in the 1984 murder of judge’s daughter Mary Travers. The Bill seeks to ban anyone who has been sentenced to more than 5 years in prison, from taking up similar posts in the future.
The only opposition to the Bill predictably came in the shape of Sinn Fein. To think that there would be any Unionist opposition to such a proposal is delusional. At present we, as a Loyalist community do not have anyone in Stormont who we could label as representative of our community. We had in the past and certainly aspire to have representation there again. If we are fortunate enough to once again have people of the calibre of David Ervine or Billy Hutchinson once again established in Stormont the chances are that they will be restricted in who they choose as special advisors. There are a multitude of Loyalist politically motivated ex prisoners who would be qualified to take up such positions but would be prevented from doing so when this Bill is eventually ratified.
Where is the logic behind such thinking from Allister and those who back him? He is prepared and content to sit in government with individuals like Gerry Kelly–Raymond McCartney–Conor Murphy–the aforementioned Caral–Martina Anderson–all, who, if memory served me right served sentences in excess of 5 years. Why such a selective response? The reality from Allisters point of view is that it is quite okay for ex prisoners–Republicans to boot–to help run the country in tandem with himself–but unacceptable for them to have an advisor who may have in theory served less time than them in Long Kesh…or in McArdle’s case Armagh. It is a ludicrous situation–but one that is highly unlikely to be challenged–apart fron Sinn Fein. Allister is a weasel of a politician who will jump on any badwagon when he sees an opportunity. Or jump off one when he cannot get his own way either!! In this particular case he has manipulated a situation where he has championed himself as representative of victims in order to highlight his own dubious profile. Nothing more.
First of all my apologies for speaking about an Irish Republican political group on a Rangers site but the continuing attempts to shoehorn the Green Brigade and the Union Bears into the same pigeonhole has prompted this response. When journalists and politicians start treating the situation with the Green Brigade honestly then I won’t have to write about them ever again. Something I look forward to.
You would be forgiven for thinking that Saturday’s police clash with the Green Brigade was the first time football fans have come a cropper due to the draconian new laws targeting them in Scotland. Of course you would be wrong. Police have on occasion been heavy handed with fans from many different teams in Scotland. However, those attempting to use this latest example as an excuse to berate the police would be well advised to take a step back, because on Saturday they were not policing mere football fans but a political group which Celtic have, until recently, allowed to operate unencumbered within Celtic Park. Normally I wouldn’t care, but I’m noticing journalists, social commentators, bloggers pretending to be journalists and even politicians trying to liken the Green Brigade to the Union Bears in an attempt to disguise their support for fellow Celtic fans as some sort of crusade on behalf of all football fans.
On Friday 15th March Justice Horner delivered the life sentence tariff to Bobby Rodgers three weeks after his absurd conviction on a forty year old murder charge. He decreed that Bobby should serve a minimum of 16 years for the killing of Eileen Doherty in September 1973. Bobby’s conviction was based solely on circumstantial evidence–two hand prints–prints that could easily have been made prior to the day of the killing. In his wisdom Horner reasoned that beacuse Bobby had subsequently served a life sentence the he could safely assume that he must have been responsible for the earlier murder. And because Bobby choose NOT to take the stand during the trial Horner further supposed that this was an admission of guilt. Totally ludicrous. Last Friday after summing up once again and going to great lengths to vindicate his findings Horner again found the time to demonise Bobby Rodgers further. He cast aspersions om Bobby’s bona fides as leading youth worker–with a twenty years unblemished record–by stating that it was wrong to say that Bobby was a changed man because of his “actions” during the trial. By actions I suppose he was referring to Bobby’s legal right to take the stand or not. Horner again–” Rodgers has put Miss Doherty’s family through more pain by pleading not guilty to the murder”. You would think that withsuch a learned mind as Justice Horners he would have had a slight notion that Bobby may have been pleading not guilty because he was in fact innocent.
The judge also stated that it wasnt for him to take into account the fact that Bobby Rodgers will serve a maximum of 2 years as declared in the Good Friday Agreement. So in light of this how then can this system be seen as the way of dealing with the past or of delivering justice to so called victims? Can any victims family be sure that they are getting justice if someone who they believed murdered a loved one “gets off” with a 2 year sentence–especially having waited for 40 years? I doubt it. In this particular case the relatives of Eileen Doherty told reporters that no sentence was long enough as far as they were concerned. That, I am sure would be echoed by other families in the same situation. There is a great danger here that in relation to the actions of the Historical Enquiries Team–who seem to be targeting Loyalists–that rather than an even handed system being applied it will turn into a witch hunt against one section of former combatants, where justice isnt the desired outcome but rather revenge or vengeance.
Bobby Rodgers has already had a rebuke from the Secretary of State in relation to a reprieve through a Royal Prerogative of Mercy–which has been granted to a number of Republicans in recent times–and has, through his legal team lodged a Judicial review on those findings. He also has the right to appeal which, I assume will be lodged in due process. My abiding hope is that proper justice does prevail and that Bobby Rodgers is released on appeal due to the laughable nature of the charges against him. Then he can be returned to his rightful place–the working class protestant communities–he has served admirably since 1990.
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