‘Internment’ by John McGuffin (1973)

Chapter 14

THE British Government imposed no fewer than 105 Coercion Acts to protect the Act of Union.[1]
     Internment in England was first introduced in the 20th century under the Defence of the Realm Act 1914. The new Stormont Government introduced it under the Special Powers Act 1922. The Free State used the Public Safety Act 1923 and later the Offences Against the State Act. But throughout the last seventy years Ireland has seen her fill of political prisoners who, although not formally interned, were sentenced under such repressive or derisory legislation that their status is that of political prisoner.
     Of course, there is bound to be an area of confusion. A man arrested in possession of arms may claim to be a political prisoner, and certainly in some cases he indeed may be one. Equally possible also is the fact that he may be a 'common criminal'. The position is complicated in Northern Ireland where the difference between a 'legal' and an 'illegal' gun is often its owner's religion. Any 'Loyalist' who wishes to own a gun has little or no difficulty in obtaining a permit for it from the police.[2] A Catholic will generally not be so fortunate. Nonetheless, there are various clear examples of political prisoners in Ireland, both north and south of the border, and an outline of their treatment and its difference from that of internees is necessary.
     Before Independence and Partition, under DORA and in particular under its special 'Irish clauses', literally thousands of people were arrested, charged and jailed. The most common offence was the vague one called 'sedition'. This could entail a speech, an article, possession of an 'illegal' newspaper, a flag, or even whistling 'derisively' at a policeman. More important prisoners were shipped out to England; the jails in Lewes, Usk, Lincoln, Birmingham, Manchester and Wakefield were all used, and whether the prisoners received 'political status' or not depended largely upon the prison governor. The vast majority of Irish prisoners insisted on this status. They refused to wear the broad-striped arrow of the convict and refused to do convict labour; they demanded their own clothes and demanded free association with their comrades. In their fight for political status they resorted to various tactics, foremost of these being hunger strikes. The most famous hunger strikers were Terence MacSwiney, Lord Mayor of Cork, who died in Brixton prison, London, on 25 October 1920, after 74 days without food; and Thomas Ashe who died in the Mater Hospital, Dublin, on 25 September 1917, from forcible feeding during a hunger strike in Mountjoy prison. It should be recalled also that men like Mick Burke from Glencoole endured, and survived, a hunger strike of 90 days in Cork jail during August, September, October and November 1920. After Ashe's death the authorities never again attempted forcible feeding, preferring to rely on the cat-and-mouse tactics of release and re-arrest.
     From 1922 hunger strikes were of value only when a Government was likely to be embarrassed sufficiently by the death of a prisoner. This was true of the first de Valera government, but rarely in the North. Hunger strikes in Crumlin were frequent, but seldom successful, and then only when minor concessions were sought.
     Another ploy was the 'Lewes tactic' of wrecking the jail. The best example of it took place during the big Belfast jail riot in December 1918. John Doran of County Down, who was a prisoner awaiting trial in D wing, was refused the political-prisoner status accorded the men in B wing. As a result the political prisoners 'kidnapped' him and kept him safe in B wing. The men, through their elected leader, Austin Stack, declared that they were prepared to lose lives to establish the principle that they, the prisoners, were the only judges as to who were or were not political prisoners. A siege ensued, during which the men wrecked the iron railings along the cat walks of B2 and B3, making approach to the cells very difficult and dangerous. They climbed onto the roof of the laundry and planted a tricolour, but Belfast was not Dublin and a hostile mob gathered outside the jail and stoned them. The gas, food and water were cut off, but gas was restored when the prisoners, who had by now demolished the roof, threatened to burn everything. It was over a fortnight before a truce could be arranged through the offices of Larry O'Neill, Lord Mayor of Dublin. Eleven of the men involved, including Doran, were removed to Strangeways, Manchester, on 29 April 1919. It should be noted that times were then exceptional. Many of those jailed as political prisoners were TD's including Austin Stack, Piaras Béaslaí, James Crowley, Fionan Lynch, Harry Boland and Ernest Blythe.
     After the twenties the 'Lewes tactic' seems to have largely died out. Hunger strikes continued but a new tactic was introduced, the 'strip strike'. This was generally as a refusal to wear the ordinary convict clothes, but was also used in protest against the general conditions which, especially in the North, were appalling. The first strip strike in Belfast was in June l943.[3] Twenty-two men took part, many of them Treason and Felony men. An old Republican, first jailed in 1929 for political offences, recalled to me: "In the first week we lay on a board and mattress. For food we got gruel, rotten potatoes and porridge. We got out of our cells only for one hour a day, and not at all on Saturday. We tried everything, but it wasn't until the Treason and Felony men came in, in 1936, that things improved."
     On 25 April 1936, 13 IRA men were arrested in a raid on No. 10 Crown Entry, Belfast. They were tried under the Treason Felony Act of 1848, last used in the 1880's. It charged that they "with divers other evil disposed persons feloniously and wickedly did compass, imagine, invent, devise and intend to deprive and depose our Lord the King from the Style, Honour and Royal name of the Imperial Crown of Great Britain, Ireland and of the British Dominions beyond the seas, and the said felonious compassing, imagination, device and intention then feloniously did express utter and declare by divers overt acts ...... (that they intended) to levy war against the King."[4] With this sort of law one could be found guilty of nearly anything. Moreover, as the Crown prosecutors knew only too well, Republicans always made things easy for them by refusing to recognise the court or defend themselves. This meant that they could get six months to start with.[5]
     Basically, the strip strike was a foolish idea. The men refused to wear prison clothes and sat naked in their cells. The authorities retaliated by taking every item from their cells, from bedding to handkerchiefs. Bedding was returned at 8.30 p.m. each night, but no books, other than the Bible, were allowed. The boredom was killing. The June 1943 strike was a failure and was called off after three months. The hunger strikes were as unsuccessful as the strip strikes.
     Geordie Shannon was one of the 150 political prisoners housed in A wing of Crumlin. He had been sentenced to two years for possessing a pistol and refusing to recognize the court. At the time he was 16½. Like the others, he was bitter at not being accorded the 'political' treatment of the internees. The food was "army left overs that no one would eat." "A man who complained at finding part of a dead mouse in his porridge was given three days bread and water."
     Shannon says of the strip strikes: "My arse was black from sitting on the pipes (for warmth), for three years after I got out." The brutality was much worse for the political prisoners. By and large internees were not too badly treated, but the politicals were "kicked up to see the Governor and kicked back down again." Under the Special Powers Acts floggings were still officially and legally carried out. Many of the senior prison officers were so hated that they became virtual prisoners themselves within the walls. One was shot dead in Durham Street when he ventured out. Another had a fortunate escape when a bullet hit his belt buckle.
     Being refused political prisoner status had severe financial consequences too. Dependants received nothing from the PDF or the Green Cross. On release, most prisoners had 'security risk' stamped on their insurance cards and consequently found it almost impossible to get a job.
     As well as the suffering and hardship caused to the sentenced men and their dependants, there was also a spiritual problem for many of the more religiously devoted among all the prisoners. They had been denounced from the pulpit for belonging to immoral, illegal secret organizations. As Geordie Shannon put it "There were only a handful of Republican-minded priests we could go to for confession." Despite this, he claims, "no one lost their faith." Such was not the case in England. There, during the war, the bulk of men caught during the ill-fated and disastrous bombing campaign languished in Dartmoor, Wormwood Scrubbs, Pentonville and Strangeways. Denounced by their Church and denied absolution by most of the English Catholic priests in the jails, many drifted away from the 'old faith'.
     Most of the men lifted in England were young – by 24 July 1938 and the Introduction of the Prevention of Violence (Temporary Provisions) Bill at Westminster 66 IRA men had been convicted, and the numbers were to rise to 89. Their sentences were long: 20 years for many, and with the campaign a disastrous failure from the start, they were left to rot in English jails. They were not accorded political treatment despite their protests. They were also, in many cases, attacked by other prisoners, egged on by the warders, especially after the Coventry explosion on 25 August 1939 when five people were killed by a bomb which went off in the Broadgate.[6] Irish prisoners in Dartmoor were savagely attacked. Eleven were hospitalized. Jack Healey had his leg broken. Those in Chelmsford prison were kept in isolation from the English prisoners for some time afterwards. Most prisoners became disillusioned. Men like Gerry Dunlop, who was very young at the time, were defeatist from the start. "I knew I would be caught," he said, "but orders were orders." He got 20 years and served ten. During that time, like many, he re-thought his ideas. He says that reading broadened his mind and he became a socialist. Since his release in 1949 he has never been in trouble with the police. "Most of us were very disillusioned with the movement then, long before the end," he said.[7] Ten years passed very slowly, and there was no 'release the prisoners campaign' going on outside for most of the time.
     The most horrific experiences of political prisoners occurred in the Twenty-six Counties. During World War II virtually every prominent member of the IRA and allied Republican groups was arrested. Under the Emergency Powers (Amendment) Act 1940, some 800 were interned, but many others were sentenced as political prisoners for 'refusing to answer questions', 'possessing illegal radios', 'belonging to proscribed organizations' or 'possession of firearms'. The most notorious cases involved George Plant, an old-style Republican and Protestant dissenter. He, together with Joe O'Connor, was accused of the murder of Michael Devereux, believed to be an informer, whose body was discovered in a cave in Tipperary in September 1941. Michael Walsh and Patrick Davern were allegedly accomplices and were savagely beaten by the police to get them to incriminate Plant and O'Connor. At the trial they announced that they had been beaten and refused to give evidence. The charges were dismissed. Plant was not let go. He was rearrested in the courtroom and taken to Arbour Hill. Gerry Boland transferred the case to a military tribunal, where the sentence was death. And there was no right of appeal. The normal rules of judicial procedure were revoked. Plant was retried and the illegally extracted 'confessions' of Davern and Walsh were used against him. All three were sentenced to death. On 5 March 1942 George Plant was officially dispatched by a firing squad. The other two were reprieved. O'Connor was not re-tried.
     The war period was to see even more barbarity. Hardcore Republicans like Sean McCaughey, Liam Rice, Tomas MacCurtain (son of the Lord Mayor of Cork, murdered by the RIC), Jim Grafton and Michael Traynor were not accorded political treatment when incarcerated in Portlaoise jail, with MacCurtain and McCaughey with death sentences commuted. They went on strip strike. From 1941 to 1943 they were naked and in solitary confinement. They were not even permitted to go to the toilet. In 1943 they were allowed to meet each other for two hours a day and get one letter a month. They received no visitors. In the four-and-three-quarters years he was in there, McCaughey received no visits. On 19 April 1946 he went on hunger strike. After five days he went on to thirst strike also. He died on 11 May after suffering excruciating agony. Paddy McLogan, who saw the body, said that the "tongue had shrunk to the size of a three penny bit."[8] An inquest was held in the jail, but Sean McBride, counsel for next-of-kin, was not even allowed to cross examine the governor. The prison doctor, Duanne, admitted that he would not treat his dog in the fashion McCaughey had been treated. News of what was going on in Portlaoise shocked the people; war-time censorship meant that few had any earlier idea of the conditions, which became public only through the McCaughey inquest and subsequent Dail questions. The 'release the prisoners' campaign raised a clamour. With a change of government in 1948 the new Minister for Justice, General Sean MacEoin, who himself had been sentenced to death by the British in 1921, released the political prisoners.
     Since then, however, there has been no shortage of political prisoners to fill the cells of Belfast and Dublin. In addition to internment, each State has Emergency Powers (Northern Ireland has apparently been in a state of emergency for 50 years) which means that people can be jailed for their politics. Co-operation between the Special Branch, North and South, has been effective, one of the notorious examples being Harry White who was arrested in Deny in 1945 and handed over to the gardai on a trumped-up murder charge. White escaped the death penalty, however, on appeal.
     In the Twenty-six Counties the Offences Against the State Act is still in force, and the Forcible Entries Act makes squatting a political offence. In the North the mandatory six-month sentences ordained by the Criminal Justice (Temporary Provisions) Act 1970 have proved the measure to be not only extremely repressive but even counterproductive from the Government point of view. The Sunday Times of 21 November 1971 reported that even the Attorney General, Basil Kelly, admitted that, "Harsh cases will arise as a result of this Bill, perhaps even wrong convictions on the basis of mistaken identity." Captain Robert Mitchell said, with satisfaction, "It brings in an element of ruthlessness." It brought, in fact, chaos to the courts. Moreover, between 1 July and December 1970, when it was repealed, 109 people went to court. All were convicted and given the mandatory six months.[9]
     In the totally justified indignation which internment has aroused in the minds of many, we should not forget the plight of the political prisoner in Irish history – from the horrors and rigours suffered in English jails by the old Fenians like O'Donovan Rossa (handcuffed and in chains, often naked, he had at times to lap his bread-and-skilly off the floor like a dog, while held in a perpetual dark cell in Chatham jail) to men like Jimmy Steele, the old Republican who died in 1969, having spent 17 years in jail – most of them as a prisoner without charge or trial, or when charged on the obscure Treason and Felony 1848 Coercion Act. Nor should we forget that today an increasing number of young people are being jailed for their political beliefs, whether these take the form of civil disobedience or physical attempts to defend their homes when attacked. The jail conditions accorded them have always been worse than those grudgingly allowed to internees, and the International Red Cross, on 30 November 1971, reported that these conditions are inadequate.
     1972 saw a new development in the struggle for political status. Within Crumlin Road jail it is accepted by all, except the governor, that anyone convicted of some violation of the law connected with politics, from rioting to being in possession of a gun, is a political prisoner. As usual in jail "prisoners have no rights, only privileges." Political prisoners have no privileges. These are reserved for the 'trusties' – generally toadies, informers or good 'Loyalists' – all of whom are eligible for parole, extra visits, reductions of sentence. In 1972 over 50 convicted men were let out to make room for internees found guilty of no crime. The old principle of divide and rule still operates. 'Loyalists' get the jobs with 'perks' – kitchens, orderlies. They are allowed to have any papers sent in – including John McKeague's Loyalist News with its threats and support for sectarian thuggery. Republican political papers like An Phoblacht are banned. Loyalist badges such as the Red Hand, Orange Widows and Ulster Covenant are permitted. Neither Connolly nor Red Fist badges are allowed, since they are held to be provocative. In themselves, these are mere minor irritants, but in the claustrophobic atmosphere of a jail they can have lasting effect. Catholics who in 1971 wore Easter Lilies in memory of the dead of 1916 were locked in their cells for the day. James Daly, lecturer in Scholastic Philosophy at Queen's University, Belfast, who spent time in Crumlin Road jail for his principles (he refused to fill in his census forms or to pay the fine) wrote:[10]

There is no sense of guilt on the part of political prisoners, only one of resistance to oppression. The level of revolutionary consciousness is high and this includes consciousness of national as well as class oppression. In Crumlin, as in Long Kesh, our own Irish warders are preferred to the insufferable English ones.

Daly may have been a shade optimistic. A more prevalent view, I believe, would be that of Niall Vallely of the People's Democracy, who served terms for political offences. He believed in locating the "most decent, amiable screw and beating the shit out of him, in order that he wouldn't confuse other prisoners about the intrinsic evilness of jailers."
     But things were stirring in Crumlin Road. The 'Loyalist' prisoners had started to change their attitude to prisoner status. The Republican and Socialist prisoners have always regarded themselves as political prisoners. Many have the scars and the memories of broken limbs provided by the Special Branch torturers to convince them of it. At the beginning of May 1972, 35 of the 'Loyalists', including men like Gusty Spence,[11] serving 20 years for shooting a Catholic barman in Malvern Street in 1966, announced that henceforth they were to be regarded as political prisoners, members of the banned but still very much active UVF. The 'Loyalists' began to produce The Orange Cross, a monthly paper printed for them by John McKeague. More surprising still, on 7 May 1972 the Sunday News reported how 'Loyalist' and Republican had formed an alliance to demand political status. Michael Mallon, A wing, Official IRA, claimed that they "were bound to win since the Loyalists are with us and they hold the key jobs like cooking and heating. They can stop the jail dead with a work strike." The Provisional IRA were also prepared to strike but refused to have anything to do with the UVF men.'[12]
     From Monday 8 May the groups refused to wear the official prison uniform and instead appeared in civilian clothes, hoarded over the previous few months. The Loyalist News was quick to deny that any 'Loyalists' were co-operating with the 'rebel scum', but nonetheless, unity was soon to be seen again when an integrated group of would-be political prisoners rioted in the recreation room on 12 May. Troops in full riot gear stood-by in a yard but were not called in when the men eventually agreed to go back.
     Whitelaw had made a statement three days previously stating that there could be no question of political prisoner status being granted, but the governor, in a bid to cool the situation, assured the prisoners that their requests had not yet been rejected out of hand. The political prisoners, however, refused to climb down. One of the things that particularly incensed them was the 'double standard' under which they were treated in that if they applied for parole like other prisoners they were turned down on the grounds that they were politicals. Yet when they applied for political status, which would result in more letters and visits being allowed, they were told they were mere common criminals. The work strike continued.
     The question of political prisoner status proved contagious. 18 May 1972 saw the most violent demonstrations in the history of Mountjoy prison in Dublin. Many men had been held there for months awaiting trial and were on indeterminate remands – this often meant that Republicans could be arrested, charged, remanded for six months and then acquitted on lack of evidence."[13] Their frustration over the refusal of the authorities to accord them political status was exacerbated by these delays, as well as by the poor food, but the final spark was the refusal to allow a Republican, Joseph Canning from Ardoyne in Belfast, parole to get married. As the PO was locking up B wing, where most of the remand prisoners were held, he was overpowered and his keys were taken. Other prisoners were released by their comrades and a major six-hour riot ensued. Provisional IRA men climbed on the roof and shouted their demands, claiming they would negotiate only with the Taoiseach Jack Lynch or Provisional leader Sean MacStiophan. Over 400 men were involved and at one time Chief Officer Ralph Lee was held as hostage. Extensive damage was done to the jail. The Minister for Justice, Desmond O'Malley, claimed that "almost everything that is breakable, from furniture, doors and bars to toilets, showers and baths, is destroyed." A bizarre note was sounded when O'Malley was asked whether the prisoners had smashed up the gallows. They had.

O'Malley:  I don't know. I wasn't sure there was one.
Reporter:   The one where Kevin Barry was hanged?
O'Malley:  I thought Kevin Barry was shot. I may be wrong.

After the six-hour riot a truce was called and gardai entered to survey the wreckage. The authorities denied that they had made a deal with the prisoners to avert reprisals for the damage caused. "Those prison rioters who can be identified will be charged," claimed O'Malley. Chief Officer Lee, unharmed after his ordeal, was promoted "on the spot." Joseph Canning did get out to be married that Saturday. The large crowd which had gathered outside the prison and stoned the gardai were dismissed as "the usual gurrier element" by the Minister for Justice. "There was no popular feeling against the gardai," he added.
     More important, however, was the aftermath to the riot. 178 prisoners were moved from the wrecked prison. Forty men, including 30 Republicans on remand, were moved to the Curragh detention barracks, 'The Glasshouse', and held there under military guard. Thirty-six were taken to the maximum security prison at Portlaoise, 35 to St. Patrick's in Dublin, and 67 transferred to another military detention centre in Cork, Collins barracks. At once there were cries from Republicans that this, in fact, constituted a form of internment – men being held without trial in camps surrounded by armed soldiers. The Minister for Justice rejected these allegations, though again his answers were perhaps not as convincing as he may have hoped. Prison warders would be going down to the Curragh, he said, but the Press would not at present be able to inspect the conditions.[14] Rest assured, the 'Glasshouse' had not been used during the internment period in the fifties, it just happened to be in the same camp. Yes, the warders would have the assistance of the army. He did not accept, and "thought that it had never been accepted in the history of the State, that there was any such thing as a political prisoner." (But then, O'Malley knows very little about his country's history, about Kevin Barry or the IRA either). "All these people have been charged with ordinary criminal offences" (such as belonging to proscribed organizations, refusing to recognize courts, etc.). "At least one-third were there of their own volition;" they had been offered bail, very nominal bail, and refused to take it. In fact, as O'Malley must have been only too well aware, all this was standard ploy. He knows well that, stemming from their historical traditions, members of the Provisional wing of the IRA are dismissed from their organization if they recognize a court by applying for bail (a foolish tactic which makes it all too easy for the police or gardai, and one which has caused dissension in the ranks). The Minister admitted that 40 prisoners "who were not ordinary prisoners" would be divided around different prisons. As to what constitutes the difference between an 'ordinary' prisoner and the 'extraordinary' prisoner the Minister was at a loss to say.
     Within three days of the riot in Mountjoy special legislation was rushed through the Dail to ratify the situation. The 'emergency' Prisons Bill became law on 25 May and empowered the Minister for Justice to transfer Republican prisoners to military custody in 'exceptional' circumstances, the Minister being the one to determine the circumstances. The Bill was passed in a day by 114 votes to eight. The Irish Times described it as "internment with trial". Republicans were more critical. Moreover, O'Malley announced that the Government was preparing mechanics for the reactivation of Section V of the Offences Against the State Act of 1939-40, so as to introduce Special Criminal Courts. There had been no evidence of intimidation of jurors or witnesses, but Fianna Fail, heartened by what they felt to be a mandate from the overwhelming success with the EEC referendum, pushed ahead.[15] By Government proclamation – and consequently no discussion on the subject could take place in the Dail – Part V of the Offences Against the State Act was reactivated. Special Courts with three judges and no juries. Five days later Joe Cahill, former O/C of the Provisionals in Belfast, and Rory and Sean O'Bradaigh of Kevin Street Sinn Fein, were arrested under the Act and remanded in custody. They immediately went on hunger strike. Two weeks later the Special Courts began to jail people.
     Meanwhile in the North, hunger strikes were entering their third week. On 15 May four Provisionals in A wing in Crumlin went on hunger strike for political status. They were led by veteran Republican Billy McKee,[16] Belfast O/C until he was framed by English SB officers on an arms charge in 1971. A week later another five men joined them. Outside, the campaign of support built up. Six Republicans in Armagh jail went on hunger strike in support of the demands of their comrades in Crumlin. Forty internees in Long Kesh joined in. Vigils, fasts and pickets were held in major Catholic areas. But the authorities refused to budge. Then, on 6 June, after 21 days, Robert Campbell, from the New Lodge Road, Belfast, had to be moved to hospital, so weak had he become. Campbell, a 30-year-old married man, serving 11 years for armed robbery, had lost four stone in weight and his condition was giving cause for alarm. Accordingly, he was transferred to the adjoining Mater Hospital. Anxiously, people waited. Campbell proved resilient, however. In spite of his weakened condition he managed to escape through a ground-floor window at 8.00 a.m. the next day while the RUC and the Paras strolled about the corridors. He fell six feet and was carried to a waiting car by comrades. As usual, the Ministry for Home Affairs was the last to know of the escape – after the BBC informed them that it had occurred.
     On 13 June, the 28th day of the strike, a rumour spread around Belfast that Billy McKee had died. Reaction was almost instantaneous: eight buses were hijacked and burnt before the death rumour was officially denied. The prison authorities still said, however, that they were unconcerned about the hunger strikers. But publicity was becoming too widespread for their liking. Despite the indifference of Lord Windlesham,[17] Minister of State for Northern Ireland, it became obvious that it would be impolitic to let McKee and his comrades die.
     On 19 June, the 35th day of the strike, McKee was moved in a very weak condition to the Royal Victoria Hospital. That day, following talks with ex-internee Councillor O'Kane, and the two SDLP MP's, Hume and Devlin, Whitelaw announced that changes would be made in the prison. Henceforth 80 Republicans and 40 'Loyalists' would be housed in a separate wing, away from the 'common criminals'. They would be allowed to wear their own clothes, receive more visits and parcels and have greater opportunity for education. Of course, the Government "refused to be blackmailed" etc. or to concede that any such thing as political prisoner status even existed, but the feebleness of the protestations served only to convince everyone that at long last the category of 'political prisoner had been officially recognized. The courage of the hunger strikers had paid off. On Tuesday 20 June the men began the slow process of being weaned back onto food again. They had their first glass of milk."[18]
     By September 1972 there were 184 men in A wing in Crumlin with definite political prisoner status. They were left to their own devices by the warders, had no prison work to do, could receive one visit a week and unlimited letters, as well as one food parcel a week. Old-timers described it as 'heaven' compared to the 'bad old clays'.
     On 8 January 1973 the last 220 political prisoners were transferred from Crumlin Road jail to Long Kesh and the damp squalor of its cages. The reason given was 'security' following the discovery, during the previous week, of a 40-yard tunnel from outside the jail towards A wing. Despite this, Daniel Keenan (17) from Derry walked out of the jail on 11 January and escaped, masquerading as another prisoner who was due to be released that day.
     [Although not legal even under the Special Powers Acts, Joseph Conlon (22) from Ardoyne, Belfast, was released from custody and deported to England. Special Branch men brought him from Long Kesh and put him on the Liverpool boat on 10 January 1973.]

Footnotes Chapter 14:

  1. During the Home Rule crisis of 1911-1914 the British Government decided that "no matter what illegalities the gentlemen who arrogated to themselves the title 'Ulster' committed, they must not be 'coerced'." The illegalities included the Larne gun-running and open drilling.
  2. There are 117,000 'legal' guns in civilian hands.
  3. Jimmy Steele wrote an account of this in Resurgent Ulster, 1954, part of which is quoted in Tim Pat Coogan's The IRA, London (Praeger), 1970, pp. 193-196.
  4. City of Belfast Commission of 21 July 1936. One would have thought that such obviously outdated legislation as the Treason Felony Act 1848 would no longer be used. Not so. Michael Callinin, Louis Marcantonio and Thomas Quinn were arrested on 14 June 1972 at Hyde Park Corner, traditionally the home of free speech, and charged with incitement – urging people to go and fight in the North of Ireland. They are also charged under the 1848 Treason Felony Act – which can carry a sentence of life imprisonment, and refused bail. (See 'Inside Story', No.5).
  5. This has now changed. Many of the older Republicans still refuse to recognize the court, but not so the younger ones. Consequently, in 1971 the Special Branch men were very bitter: "In the past we only had to arrest you and that was it. But now a lot of you are sneaky [sic]. You defend yourselves and even get lawyers, and some would even take an oath to sign out. All the old values are dying." So said SB man Harry Taylor to Hugh Corrigan on 9 August 1971. The Provisional lRA still expect their members not to recognize the court – e.g. 'Dutch' Doherty, 1972, was expelled for so doing. Sean MacStiofain, however, recognized the court when arrested 19 November 1972.
  6. The bomb had not been intended for there, but had been left by a panicky volunteer. Barnes and McCormack were executed on 7 February 1940. McCormack (alias Frank Richards) had made the bomb, but Barnes, though an IRA man, had had nothing to do with it. The volunteer responsible is still alive, according to the Sunday Times, London, 6 July 1969.
  7. Nevertheless, despite being in the clear for 22 years, on 9 August Gerry Dunlop was lifted, interned, and kept in Long Kesh until April 1972.
  8. See T. P. COOGAN, The IRA, pp. 258-259.
  9. The Act had been rushed through Stormont in18 hours. It had been brought in because of the incompetence of army witnesses during riots. Their evidence was frequently so poorly manufactured that nearly everyone was acquitted. After the Act the handing out of prison sentences was a simple matter. In the most notorious case, John Benson, a Belfast docker, got the mandatory six months for painting the words "no tea here" on a wall.
10. The Irish News, Belfast, 10 March 1972.
11. Spence even sent a letter of condolence to the widow of Joe McCann, the IRA man and revolutionary who was gunned down in the markets. Spence escaped while on parole on 2 July 1972, but was recaptured on 4 November 1972.
12. A bizarre incident involved William John Stoker, a 'Loyalist' serving three years. His brother Cyril left him a book on witchcraft at the jail and when the censor went through it two hacksaw blades dropped out! Asked by Crown Prosecutor, Desmond Boal, if it was not surely impossible for the blades to have fallen into the book by accident, Stoker replied that he couldn't answer this as he had not been inside the book at the time. Boal said that surely if Stoker was a White Witch, as he claimed, it might have been possible for him to be in the parcel at that time. Stoker replied "Witchcraft is my religion – don't mock it." He got 14 months. See The Irish News, Belfast, 9 June 1972. Two UVF men, Cull and Stilt, escaped from Crumlin also. By September 1972 the UVF, so long declared to be non-existent by the RUC, decided to adopt a Republican principle. For example, on 15 August 1972 four self-confessed UVF men, each sentenced to six years for armed robbery, answered from the dock that they refused to recognize the court because "it is illegal and undemocratic – with no disrespect to you, your honour". Other 'Loyalists' followed this example.
13. For example, the case of Desmond Hensey, Liam Walsh and Leo Delaney, arrested on 19 February and charged with being members of an illegal organization, eventually came to trial three months later. The judge threw the case out of court on the grounds of no evidence.
14. Protest marches from PD and NRM were met with fixed bayonets and guns with live rounds.
15. 1,041,890 voted 'Yes' for joining the EEC; 211,891 voted 'No'.
16. The others were Malachy Leonard of Armagh, Martin Boyle of Tyrone, and Robert Campbell of Belfast.
17. Windlesham refused to telephone the hospital or prison to tell the authorities that the Government had, in fact, capitulated.
18. The granting of 'political status' to certain prisoners did not please Basil Strange, chairman of the Police Federation of Northern Ireland. On 4 September 1972 he made a bitter speech denouncing this "appeasement of murderers". Yet another example of police meddling in politics.

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