Monthly Archives: August 2015

Crum Fun: Captain Webber

Crum Fun.

   The summer of 1977 was unforgettable. At least for a teenager who was embarking on his life sentence.  All the talk was of Paisleys rerun of the 1974 strike This time things would be different. There was not the same mood or drive in ‘77. It was not unexpected for 4 o clock knock as the security forces took a different line and many of the suspected paramilitaries should spend a while in the Crum that year.  Up to June  that year a grand total of 1000 men wandered (handcuffed) through the Crum’s doors.  I went to C wing where I had stayed for a while in 1974. This was totally different. Special category status had been stopped in 1976. And now the boot was on the other foot. C wing used to be loyalist,  now it was mixed; republican and loyalist. There was an arrangement between the two factions. Day in; day out. Day out was out in the morning for a wash. Out for hour in yard in the  afternoon. And an hour later in the evening,  either  TV room or the yard. The rest had the 24 hour lock up.

The longest day of my stay started off with loyalists on a day in.  We could hear the usual cacophony of noise outside on the landings as the republicans went about their day out. However there was a change in the atmosphere. Something was different.  I had a penthouse suite in the east side of  C wing overlooking the C wing dining hall. (Now gone if you visit the Crum. ) Things started to get lashed out of the windows onto the rec room roof. We were used to mystery parcels but this was different. Amazing just how much contraband there was. The new steel  doors were totally unlike the old doors I recalled from my stint in 1974. Once the door flap was down you only had the thinnest  of a slit between door and frame to look out.  I was kneeling looking out and could see no prisoners or the usual screws. Instead I spied an army uniform.

The army belonged outside on the external walls. Definitely something was up. The shouting started. This was a major search not the usual turnover.  We became aware that people were being taken from their cells. Doors clanged, keys jangled.  Cat calling started to reduce. Soon our turn came.  ‘You 3.  down to the toilets’. That way’ .  I walked out onto the landing.  The place was a mess on the 1s (bottom floor). Army uniforms and then surprisingly I seen a detective from the A squad.  One army guy had a black Labrador on a lead which was running about with tail wagging as if on a great adventure.

It turned out that all the loyalists were in one toilet at the end of the wing while all republicans were taken to the toilet at the other end. And so started a long day. At first it was a change to routine so there was a buzz and a laugh. As the day dragged on tempers would begin to shorten and the fun mood died off. Of course there was no chairs

Of course,  that amount of men  (maybe 30?) for that length of time, and  in a very small space the inevitable would have to take place.  Taking a piss was easy enough but soon someone needed a carp. (He was dyslexic). Nerves,  plus poor food and  little exercise made for poor digestion. Of course the poor  bonzo who needed to go would have the worst guts in the wing. Did I mention the toilets themselves had no doors?   So with a captive audience this poor sod had to answer the call of nature. And oh no,  it couldn’t be a gentle plop and splash,  more a squish and squirt. There was an instant fight to get nearest to the only window.   Any amount of cursing could not reduce the aroma. An argument started as to whether the guy had dysentery.  Some discussed punching a screw and getting taken to the boards. Anywhere but here. We started asking who this guy’s cell mates where. We commiserated with them.

The wrecking continued outside.  We wondered when, or if,  we would get back to our cells. Soon we were allowed back. The cell was a mess. It was as if a giant took hold of the cell and shook it. The beds had been taken apart literally. The mattresses were on the floor,  the sheets flung around the cell. Food was strewn on the floor, clothes were scattered, books tossed all over the place.  It took us some time to get a semblance of order back.

And so order and routine came back slowly.  Nothing of import was found. Sometime after I left the Crum, to go to the Kesh,  a news report said a bomb had gone off in a cell in C wing?

Captain Webber.


Felon Setting-An Updated Analysis-How AAD are being set up to Protect the Process: Jamie Bryson

Felon Setting

An increasing theme running throughout this murder investigation is blame being attributed to ‘AAD’. A group of less than five low level hoods who apparently were responsible for such a professional ‘hit’, in conjunction with former IRA members. The thought that experienced IRA gunmen would need the assistance of a couple of low level hoods is almost beyond the realms of fantasy. 

AAD entered into the plot with a statement- threatening revenge for the murder of Jock Davison. Unless AAD are complete imbeciles- which they aren’t if they carried out such a professional hit as the one on McGuigan- then there is no rhyme nor reason for them to issue such a statement. Someone needs to explain if they did, why they did.

Then we had the PSNI today blaming IRA members for being involved but maliciously blaming AAD as an organisation, and making clear they were a seperate entity from the IRA, so as to conveniently give Sinn Fein angles of deniability and thus providing the DUP with a way out- namely that the IRA didn’t ‘sanction’ the operation.

And then came the Sinn Fein statement. They too jumped on the AAD bandwagon.

This is a malicious and contrived case of felon setting, all to protect the political process and ensure that Sinn Fein and the DUP can’t proceed propping up institutions that have been on life support for quite some time.

It just doesn’t add up, the PSNI know AAD couldn’t have carried out the hit, Sinn Fein know it and the dogs on the street know it- yet all are keen to firstly build this low level group of petty criminals up into some major criminal outfit, and secondly to fix the blame on them for carrying out a murder that could bring down the peace process, if it was found out who really planned it, ordered it and carried it out.

The PSNI are showing a callous disregard for human life. There is every chance that some low level petty criminal will end up dead- all because of these dangerous games of felon setting, designed to protect the political process.

It is beyond doubt that some innocent player in all this, probably connected to AAD, will be made the scapegoat for all of this and they will either be buried along with any political ramifications that could have arisen or they will be locked away for a long time having been fitted up for soemthing they did not do.

This all leaves us in strange position. The DUP need NAMA to go away and Sinn Fein need this murder to go away- and there lies the basis for the mutual veto on progress, a veto that if overcome will lay the basis for the continuation of the Assembly.

Buried underneath could well be the bodies of innocent people who were built up, blamed and sacrificed- all to ‘protect the process’!

Jamie Bryson



Smoke and Mirrors: The IRA Murder of Kevin McGuigan: Jamie Bryson

Smoke and Mirrors: The IRA Murder of Kevin McGuigan


The murder of Kevin McGuigan has brought into the public consciousness the very real problems with Policing and justice in Northern Ireland.
Policing decisions, statements and arrests have to be carefully weighted between pursuing justice and protecting the fragile political process.

Sinn Fein have already warned it would be ‘unhelpful’ to suggest IRA involvement. They made similar statements following the Columbia three, Robert McCartney & Paul Quinn murders- and the Northern Bank robbery. No one believed them then, and no one believes them now.

The majority of those arrested as part of the PSNI murder investigation are members of Sinn Fein. All are IRA members.

Shankill Bomber Sean Kelly, whose life licence appears to be made of Teflon, is a Sinn Fein member and helped with Gerry Kelly’s election campaign.

The man charged today with possesion of a firearm, Patrick Fitzpatrick, is a member of Sinn Fein.

One of those who is widely believed to have been the gunman- Sean Clinton from Short Strand- is a Sinn Fein member and is still in police custody.

The PSNI have today admitted what everyone knew a week ago- IRA members were involved- but in typical ‘protect the process’ style, the PSNI have added the caveat that ‘it was not sanctioned at command level’.

This is a ludicrous statement, how would the PSNI assess if it was issued at a command level when we are expected to believe the IRA do not exist? Did they make the assessment of a non-existent command structure and decide they couldn’t find any evidence the very same non-existent structure had sanctioned the murder?

Or are the PSNI accepting that some resemblance of the old IRA command structure still exists? Given the murder was ordered by what would have been the Belfast Brigade staff, does this mean that the PSNI are just simply keeping up appearances by letting on ‘they have gone away’? The PSNI assessment leads to questions around exactly what command structure they assessed?

Sinn Fein could not stop this murder, it was happening whether they liked it or not, so instead of actually falling out with the hardliners- they will pretend in political and security circles, that they are furious.

In reality Sinn Fein accepted the reality of the situation and will now manipulate it to present a ‘serious situation’ to the British government and claim that ‘big players’ could go dissident. This will be Sinn Fein’s latest leverage when it comes to extracting concessions.

Of course Peter Robinson threatened consequences if the IRA were found to be involved. Much like the DUP’s partner in government, Sinn Fein, no one really pays much attention to the threats or denials anymore- it is usually just a tissue of lies designed to mislead and cover the tracks of their associates- in Sinn Fein’s case their terrorist assosicates, in Peter Robinsons his higher class of white collar criminal assosicates. Fine bedfellows in OFMDFM.

Jamie Bryson


“Who Would Take Us Back”?-Jamie Bryson

“Who Would Take Us Back”?


Wednesday nights murder of Kevin McGuigan was a reminder of the continued capability of the IRA to carry out murderous acts.
The PSNI attempts to steer blame away from the IRA, and the monotonous warnings coming from Sinn Fein of how ‘unhelpful’ it would be to blame the IRA was only outdone by Peter Robinson’s veiled threat to the institutions.
Peter Robinson is never collapsing the institutions, not least because he has given an undertaking to be gone by the end of September, but furthermore one only has to look at the big storm he created over the OTR scandal- before meekly crawling down without having any of his ‘demands’ met.

And one looks back aghast at the embarrassment of the graduated response, which has become little more than a running joke.
If truth be told Peter Robinson is probably rather pleased his partners in Government have taken the heat of him for a few days.
There is no doubt in anyone’s mind who was behind the murder of Kevin McGuigan. Who carried it out is not known, but who planned it, organised it and ordered it is blatantly obvious.
The media have carried stories about the Belfast Brigade meetings days after Jock Davison’s murder, attended by old militants such as former Ardoyne and Belfast Brigade commanders. It was they, old pals of Jock Davison, who have their fingerprints all over Wednesday nights murder.

Let’s not forget the incident on the 13th of July, a video circulated of Gerry Kelly- IRA royalty- being verbally abused by Dee Fennell, a man viewed as an idiot by PIRA men.
The participation of Fennell was irrelevant, apart from the amusement of imagining Gerry Kelly musing to himself that a few years ago he would have simply blown Dee Fennell’s head off, but in this new political theatre he had to smile and just laugh at Fennell.
What was intriguing in that video was the intervention of Eddie Copeland, the former OC of the Ardoyne IRA and a man I have been repeatedly told by North Belfast loyalists is ‘close’ and who is getting ‘closer’ to the dissidents.
Wednesdays murder could set of an interesting chain of events- what is being said publicly by Sinn Fein is irrelevant, it is what is being said on the quiet ‘walk and talks’ that is important.
Did Sinn Fein accept that the IRA had to hit back and simply made the conspirators aware that they would have to keep up appearances and condemn whatever action took place?
Or did the Belfast Brigade militants just plough on ahead? If it is the latter then it is not beyond the realms of imagination to believe that the militants will be infuriated by the condemnation coming from Sinn Fein.
If I was a betting man I would think it was pretty safe to assume that senior Sinn Fein members knew of the plans to strike back and deep down people like Bobby Storey, Gerry Kelly and Alex Maskey are still the same old people they always were. They may publicly condemn the killing, but privately they will be happy enough.

The IRA are settling old scores. It is unlikely that they will turn their guns on the Unionist community at this stage- but surely the fact they maintain the capability is a threat in itself, is it not?
Recent events play into the narrative that the peace process is really an appeasement process- a concession meter that must be fed or else we might go back to the ‘bad old days’.

Who would take us back, I often ask, I think that question was answered by the two masked gunmen with automatic rifles on Wednesday night- two masked gunmen acting on the orders PIRA Belfast Brigade Staff leadership.


Jamie Bryson




25 After 21: Primo

25  after  21.




England were playing Germany in a World Cup semi-final. Turin Italy 4th July 1990. England had a half decent team for a change.  Platt, Lineker, Waddle, Pearce. A solid team. But it was Gazza the clown prince. The flawed genius,  him that was daft as a brush that would live long in my memory. I had just been released from my life sentence. Terrorist.  Paramilitary.  Killer.  Some of the repeatable terms I have been called through my life.  Now I was embarking on a  new chapter in my life. And here I was in someone’s house watching this great match on a huge colour TV. Sort of engrossed in the match but making pleasant conversation with our hosts.  It’s hard to image that this memory is over 25 years old  and coincides  with my release. It prompted  a mini stocktake. What has happened to me in those speeding years? Is it really a quarter of a century?

I’ve never been in trouble since my release . Quiet the contrary.  I worked every day since release and at times had two jobs. I’ve been a volunteer again, this time helping with children, the homeless and those with addictions. I’ve lost two friends through suicide. I was married quickly, maybe too quickly,  which ended in a messy divorce. But I did have a great son and two young people who make me proud when they call me dad.  There was lots of new friends and travel. Amazing  new places, new customs,  languages and food.  Meeting people of every describable culture,  religion and beliefs.  I’ve been watching events around the world unfold, the Gulf wars, Ebola, 9/11, economic collapse, the rise of the internet, the ‘95 ceasefires , the GFA in ‘98. I went to the Somme twice. But the most moving place still has to be Auschwitz.  A place where hate and blind prejudice saw one group of people try to destroy another group of people in the most horrible way possible.

The highs and lows have been intense but there had been a never ending chain of funerals of both family and friends from Compound 21. I chatted many times with Billy Mitchell, Gusty and Davy Irvine but sadly, all too quickly,  I would be walking behind their coffins.  The Gannet,  Shakey, Swanner, Freddie S, Tommy the Burgermeister, Grouty, Frankie, and many more, all gone.

I lost a doting mother that travelled week in, week out, without fail  to that place just outside of Lisburn. I lost an aunt,  then another. I watch my elderly father, a hard working man all his life,  come to terms with old age, illness and the loss of his wife of over 50 years.  I meet and talk with the enemy – Provo ex-prisoners .  Lifers. Finally seeing at close quarters,  the people we regarded as the ultimate enemy.

I meet victims and their relatives.  I speak to many young people from “both sides”- about where violence can lead.  I ask them to think first and make up their own minds. The gutter press print the twisted truth and hurt my family. I’ve been sent to Coventry in certain jobs when people find out what I did as a teenager.  I have been barred from jobs once the great and the good find out what I am- someone who was involved in “The Troubles”- like thousands of others in those mad days.  I have been humbled and amazed by ordinary people who have accepted me as I am now. I try to copy their forgiveness and understanding.  I have never taken an illegal drug in my life.  I feel like weeping when I see the damage wreaked by drugs and alcohol in so many young people.

I Have shaken hands with both the First and Deputy Ministers.  I have met the President of Ireland.  I visit Dublin.  Enemy capital at one time.

And now the 7th decade of my life rushes on.  I thank God that I have my freedom, my health and that we live in relative peace.  I do think of my victims and their families and the devastation inflicted on them.  But I also recall all too well the dark days of the early ‘70s and what was done to friends.  I think we live in a good place with some bad people.  Of all sorts and types.  I still see some of the men  from Compound 21.  Nearly all have settled down, raised families, have jobs– and all the worries of free people.  Paying bills, the children’s welfare –grandchildren too, too much weight being put on— is my job safe, etc.

I really felt for Gazza that night.  If England had won, he had been booked twice and was going to miss the final.   I heard him speak recently about the course his life has taken since that night. We don’t have much in common except maybe one thing.  We’ll both remember 1990 as a life changing year.





Loyalists To Kick Up A Sorm-ont: Dr. John Coulter

Loyalists to kick up a Stormont! Welfare reform must happen



Young dissident loyalists will spark a bloody Irish Civil War if politicians cannot agree a package which saves Stormont.

While London and Dublin quite rightly point out that older loyalists from the mainstream terror gangs no longer have the appetite for violence, the lust to get the guns out again is coming from hardline Prods who were only crapping their nappies when ceasefires and the Good Friday Agreement emerged in the 1990s.

It was only a decade ago I interviewed a senior mainstream loyalist who in 2005 issued the chilling warning – bomb first, talk later!

During this year’s contentious marching season, photos have appeared of masked loyalists with ‘weapons’, issuing threats against police officers and Parades Commission members.

Politicians would be wrong to dismiss such photos as publicity stunts by ‘two men and a dog’ outfits, which are purely designed to ‘up the ante’.

Such crap appeared in the aftermath of the Good Friday Agreement from a group calling itself the ‘Black Friday Brigade Strategic Army Command’.

It claimed: “We pledge ourselves to repel with absolute resolution any endeavour by this tyrannical Assembly to impose its laws upon us. At every turn we will thwart its attempts to execute its policies.” After this, it was never heard off again.

But the rising tension in the loyalist community should not be dismissed as merely working class Prods pissed off that they are not gaining as much benefit cash as their nationalist counterparts.

If these young Turks who are supposedly buying weapons using cash from the sale of drugs decide to implement their agenda, it will make the notorious Glenanne Gang from the 1970s and 1980s seem like a Sunday School picnic.

This gang, which allegedly included members of the British security forces, was blamed for some of the worst sectarian slaughter of the conflict, including the Monaghan and Dublin car bombs which murdered over 30 people.

Speaking to a loyalist close to the leadership of the Young Turks, he chillingly warned: “Older loyalists who would have been in control during the Troubles are coming under pressure from middle class Protestants to get the guns back out again. They don’t want to.

“The problem is that these younger loyalists have not the same respect for evangelical clerics as the older generation.

“The Christian faith had a much bigger sway then than Protestantism today, which is more pluralist. There is not the same conscience among a section of the Protestant community about killing.”

During the Paisleyite era, a number of loyalist paramilitaries were formed, such as Ulster Protestant Volunteers, Ulster Third Force and Ulster Resistance. Apart from prancing about loyalist roads and streets, they didn’t bomb or shoot like their counterparts in the Provos or INLA.

The Christian conscience of ‘Thou Shalt Not Kill’ always kicked in at some point. The source close to the new loyalist leadership indicated that IRA gunmen and bombers could always seek absolution from priests when they killed.

This could be compared to a scene from the blockbuster ‘The Wind That Shakes The Barley’, in which a Catholic priest hears the confessions of IRA members before they attack the Tans. No such confession facility exists within the Protestant faith.

I first came across this embryo Protestant jihadist thinking in the 1990s when I interviewed an Orange Chaplain for my masters degree in politics.

Granted anonymity, he said: “The reality of this Protestant ‘jihad’ is that it should not be bound by Man’s laws, especially if those laws are contrary to the inspired Word of God as outlined in Holy Scriptures.”

Calling for Stormont to be axed is idiotic. The Assembly is the stop-gap in the dam, which if removed, will unleash the dogs of war from inside the loyalist community.

Attacks on Protestant activists within the Alliance Party demonstrate there is just as much hatred for liberal Protestantism within the ranks of these Young Turks as there is for republicanism and the Irish republic.

One section of these Young Turks favours attacks on dissident republicans; the other wants a Glenanne Gang-style blitz on the South.

The only solution to cool the tempers of the tooled-up young Turks is for Sinn Féin and the DUP to make the Assembly work – and that means making welfare reform work.

August 4, 2015________________


This article appeared in the August 3, 2015 edition of the Irish Daily Star.


From the Archives-A Poem by Finbarr O’Farrell

This poem by Finbarr O’Farrell first appeared in a Workers Party publication in the late 1980’s.  Christy Moore, along with many other celebrities,from Ireland and further afield pledged their allegiance to the Irish cause at the time.  Moore in particular was vociferous in his support of the “Republican Struggle”-without perhaps pausing to ponder what the human cost was.  It may have interfered with his celebruty status.

Pulp: Finbarr O’Farrell