News of Interest: Lurgan dissident republican ‘finds bugs in his car’

Lurgan dissident republican ‘finds bugs in his car’
By Vincent Kearney
NI Home Affairs Correspondent
BBC News
12 June 2014

A dissident republican from Lurgan, County Armagh, is taking legal action after finding surveillance equipment hidden in his car.

The man, who does not want to be named, is a member of the Republican Network for Unity.

He discovered what appear to be battery packs and a transmitter hidden behind the rear bumper of his car.

They are believed to have been attached to a listening device hidden somewhere in the vehicle.

There was also a smaller device, believed to be a GPS locator that would have enabled those who planted it to track his movements as well as listen to anything said inside the car.

The man believes the equipment was placed in his car after he refused an attempt to recruit him as an informer.

He told the BBC he was approached at Belfast International Airport in April as he waited to board a plane to fly to Spain with his wife.

“Two men introduced themselves as members of the British security services and asked me if I would be willing to work for them. I refused,” he said.

“A few weeks ago Martin McGuinness said there is still a dark side of policing, well this is it.

“This is not the work of ordinary police officers, this is clearly the work of special branch, MI5, the Army, or a combination of all of them.”

The man brought the equipment to a solicitor in Belfast on Thursday morning and has now initiated legal action.

Solicitor Kevin Winters said complaints will be lodged with the Police Ombudsman and the Investigatory Powers Tribunal, which investigates complaints about the activities of MI5.

“We do not know who is responsible for planting these devices so are making complaints to the ombudsman and the body set up to investigate allegations against the security services,” he said.

“This kind of activity represents one of the worst types of oppressive state interference in a person’s rights to privacy it also puts his life at risk as he was previously asked to work as an informer.

“We are now due to contact the PSNI or any agency so directed to collect their property for safe guarding.”

‘House raided’

The man at the centre of these complaints, referred to by his solicitor as Mr X, claims he has been subjected to a sustained campaign of harassment since refusing to agree to work for the security services,

“My house has been raided three times in recent weeks, my car has been bugged and I’m watched every time I step outside my front door,” he claimed.

The discovery of listening devices is nothing new. There have been many similar discoveries during the past 40 years, including one hidden in a car regularly used by Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams.

The police and security services argue that they are an essential part of their armoury in their efforts to minimise the risk posed by dissident republican groups.

Chief Constable Matt Baggott secured an additional quarter of a billion pounds of security funding from the Treasury over a four-year period.

Kevin Winters Solicitor Kevin Winters said complaints will be lodged with the Police Ombudsman and the Investigatory Powers Tribunal,
Much of the money was used to pay for covert policing operations aimed at monitoring and disrupting the activities of dissident republican groups.

The security service MI5 and the Army’s Special Reconnaissance Regiment are also involved in covert operations, including surveillance of known and suspected members of these groups.

They argue that it would be negligent not to observe individuals who may be involved in dissident activity, and say covert policing has resulted in large numbers of planned attacks being disrupted.

See also:

Listening Devices


Court and controversy: Garrett in the dock

Court and controversy: Garrett in the dock
Times Higher Education

Bradley Garrett was one of a group of nine people charged with conspiracy to commit criminal damage after scaling London’s skyscrapers and exploring the city’s disused Underground tunnels.

Court proceedings began at the end of April. All but two of the defendants had the charges against them dropped.

The two remaining defendants, Garrett and co-defendant Christopher Reinstadtler, 32, of Riverside Close, Farnborough, also had charges of conspiracy dropped and replaced with counts of criminal damage, for which Reinstadtler received an 18-month conditional discharge and Garrett a three-year conditional discharge on 21 May. Garrett was also ordered to pay costs of £2,000.

Garrett pleaded guilty to five counts of criminal damage to railway property, including removing a wing nut from a door and removing a board and replacing it again.

Photographs of Garrett on top of the Shard have appeared in the national press, and the author Robert Macfarlane, a fellow of Emmanuel College, Cambridge, joined Garrett on a visit to an empty 19th-century subterranean reservoir for a feature published in The Guardian in September last year.

In the Evening Standard on 25 April, the author Will Self called the court case “bizarre” and argued that Garrett “was working in the tradition of ethnographers from Malinowski to Margaret Mead when he joined the place-hackers on their nocturnal adventures”.

Danny Dorling, Halford Mackinder professor of human geography at the University of Oxford, told Times Higher Education that “it’s perfectly clear from the outcome reached that it was a mistake to bring [the case] in the way it was”.

But a spokesman for the British Transport Police said: “The railway, whether disused or in operation, is a dangerous place for those not meant to be there and access restrictions, which should not be taken lightly, are in place to protect members of the public from harm.”

A spokeswoman for Royal Holloway, University of London, where Garrett obtained his PhD, issued the following statement.

“Dr Garrett raises some important issues which are worthy of debate in the academic community and beyond. As things stand, Royal Holloway, like all universities, is not in a position to offer protection to researchers from police investigations or criminal charges, and cannot hinder their investigations.”

The statement continues: “Like all individuals and organisations, we also cannot make any public comment, whether in support or otherwise, about ongoing criminal proceedings in which our staff are witnesses, without being in contempt of court. For us the key debate is around the extent of protection in law for bona fide academic research, as Dr Garrett suggests himself.”

Times Higher Education reporters

Place-hacker Bradley Garrett: research at the edge of the law

Access denied
Place-hacker Bradley Garrett: research at the edge of the law

Bradley Garrett
Times Higher Education
5 June 2014

Bradley Garrett, whose fieldwork was seized and used in court against the urban explorers he studied, says researchers need clear support

“Such a methodological orientation embodies a troubling tangle of ethical contradictions and legal ambiguities.” – Jeff Ferrell, 1998

In 2008, I began a four-year doctoral research project with urban explorers in London. Urban explorers are groups of people interested in sneaking into, and often photographing, off-limits architecture, trespassing into abandoned buildings, infrastructure systems and under-construction skyscrapers. Given the nature of what they do, conducting research with them was always going to require a level of deep participation; passive “observers” are swiftly identified, censured and disregarded in this community. I chose to undertake ethnographic work in the tradition of the Chicago School of Sociology. What followed over the next few years was, by any stretch of the imagination, an incredible series of events that concluded two weeks ago with a qualified victory for me and eight of my project participants after beating a charge of “conspiracy to commit criminal damage”, which carries with it a 10-year maximum jail sentence. Elated as we were to be out of the dock, this was a victory with sombre caveats for me as a researcher.

This case raises important concerns about how we might, and perhaps should, react when our research takes us close to, and even across, lines, whether these be lines the law draws for us, the ethical lines we negotiate with our institutions or the moral lines we draw for ourselves. While the groups we study may occupy positions close to legal boundaries for a wide variety of reasons, to argue that because they operate at these boundaries we should not work with them is deeply problematic. As researchers we have a responsibility to engage with people and places that society as a whole might find perturbing. It remains up to individual researchers, and also their institutions, to be aware of how close to the edge they work, and to choose carefully and in full awareness of the consequences, whether to cross over such boundaries in the course of their research.

Ethnography (what anthropologist Clifford Geertz called “deep hanging out” – immersing oneself completely in a culture, group or social experience) has been long practised by geographers, sociologists, criminologists and anthropologists. Running parallel to my project, on the other side of the Atlantic, Alice Goffman, assistant professor of sociology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, spent six years in an inner-city Philadelphia neighbourhood where precarious legal existences were part of everyday life on the streets. Her research, detailed in On the Run: Fugitive Life in an American City, often brought her close to the law. Her work, however, is also a testament to the value of spending long periods of time in legally murky social contexts to learn more about marginalised members of society, people who often have less voice.

While I certainly would not want to conflate ethnographies of socially marginalised groups with the particular kinds of politics opened out by urban exploration, the range of ethnographic work undertaken with groups involved in illicit activities over the past 150 years is vast. Researchers have worked with sewer scavengers, homeless communities, protesters, sex workers, squatters, train hoppers, dealers and dopers – and in each case have raised awareness about parts of our society that likely would have otherwise remained hidden. My research with urban explorers, while harbouring obvious demographic and motivational differences from many of these studies, laid bare the consequences of working in legally edgy environments in the present-day political climate, especially in heavily surveilled and policed cities such as London.

My research with urban explorers laid bare the consequences of working in legally edgy environments in the present-day political climate

The goal of the urban explorers I worked with is deceptively simple – to explore the hidden city and to share their discoveries with the public. London’s disused Tube stations, obvious sites of urban heritage, were primary points of interest. From Mark Lane to Brompton Road, Aldwych to City Road and Down Street, the group was eager to “catch them all”, as one of my project participants once said. The designated “scribe for the tribe”, I detailed our explorations for various academic and popular outputs. As the years progressed, and we built a public following, Transport for London took an increasingly severe stance towards our activities. In the lead-up to the publication of my 2013 monograph, Explore Everything: Place-Hacking the City, TfL’s lawyers sent a letter to my publishers, Verso Books, that stated: “TfL is considering all legal remedies it may have available to it to prevent the publication of illegally obtained information.” That was (and is) an incredible suggestion – that because the group had trespassed to take photos and collect stories, for academic purposes or otherwise, those materials were “illegally obtained information” that a government organisation would seek to censor.

Shortly after my very public arrest at Heathrow Airport in August 2012, where I was dragged off a plane in handcuffs and all my research materials were seized, a team of British Transport Police appeared in the corridors of Royal Holloway, University of London, where I did my PhD, taking witness statements and causing the registrar to send a strongly worded email to my supervisor, adviser and head of department indicating that, “as it is neither prosecution nor defendant, the college has no direct involvement in [the case]”. It seemed to me that staff had been cautioned about communication with me. Only a few brave colleagues dared to continue to do so. This was despite the fact that my project had gone through all the necessary ethics procedures and had been reviewed annually and been signed off by my PhD committee and, during my viva voce, by an internal and external examiner who found no fault in my methodology. This situation exposed the limitations we all inevitably encounter when conservative bureaucratic structures clash with idealistic expectations. In the face of legal action, the university was apparently unable to offer any protection or support to me or my project participants, or even come close to attempting to uphold the anonymity of the data I had collected, as I had assured my project participants I would.

The explorers would have done what they did with or without me there. My presence obviously changed the course of events in various ways; no serious practising researcher who works with people would make any pretence of objective observation, especially when they are running through Tube tunnels at 2am with their project participants wearing a ski mask. However, as a participant/observer, my thesis and the very publications I was producing were at the same time the material that earned me my doctorate and the material that ended up gaining me a central place at the head of the alleged conspiracy. In placing me thus, the BTP gained access to personal text messages, quotes from my thesis, fragments of field notes, photographs, video footage and even chat logs from social media, all collected from me in August 2012 off my person and from my house, which they raided while I was in custody after taking my door down with a battering ram. These materials were then “extracted” over the next two years and delivered as thousands of pages of evidence in seemingly endless bundles to me and my project participants, along with material from their houses and computers. This scenario is every ethnographer’s worst nightmare. In a strange way, it felt a bit like being observed by a particularly cack-handed anthropologist operating without their subject’s permission.

For any social researcher, especially one working with groups whose activities may cross legal lines, the idea that all your communication with your project participants over many years could be open to police scrutiny, and indeed even become evidence, is a chilling one. I invested a great deal of time and money instructing my solicitors to make clear to the BTP that the material on my drives was “special procedure material”, collected under an ethical framework that also should have guided its “inspection”. The police ignored these representations and opened up my password-protected drives.

The idea that all your communication with your project participants over many years could be open to police scrutiny is a chilling one

As an even more serious political battle has been waged over access to Boston College Belfast Project materials by police in Northern Ireland, it seems clear that as a research community we need to ask ourselves some difficult questions. These questions concern whether we will stand up to authorities who wilfully undermine our integrity as researchers in order to undertake fishing expeditions for “incriminating” data. Furthermore, we need to put more thought into how we can realistically, not idealistically, protect our research participants and ourselves from the potentially devastating consequences of these sorts of investigations. These are pressing issues that are compounded by the neoliberal academy’s pressures to engage with the media (I did this prolifically and, I thought at the time, beneficially), which can bait those wielding the battering rams.

I feel an enormous amount of guilt over the knowledge that I exacerbated the legal problems of my project participants by unintentionally supplying the police with a (very well organised) ready-made package of evidence that I naively had stored on my computer unencrypted. This was driven home in the opening statement of the prosecution barrister (Queen’s Counsel, no less) who told the court that the investigation stemmed from “material recovered from Dr Garrett’s hard drive”, a statement that caused the blood to drain from my face in the dock, even as one of my project participants grabbed my shoulder in solidarity.

We need to think more carefully about our data collection and protection procedures in UK academia. Rapidly changing technology, covert collection tools, off-site storage methods, new police powers and increasing social unrest are challenging our ethical frameworks and the flaccid protections we offer our project participants. We might question whether these frameworks and protections are still fit for purpose. It’s time for more open and honest discussion about ethical frameworks. And rather than establishing restrictive prescriptions counterproductive to the intellectual spirit of our work (as many of my US-based colleagues describe the institutional review board process in that country), what we need are discursive ethics fit for purpose on a project-by-project basis, robust yet responsive in the face of change, especially in the heat of the moment during intense fieldwork.

A good place to start is in thinking about how we handle our data. It seems to me that password protection and encryption need to become as commonplace as referencing software, both in terms of institutional licensing purchases and training. We also might want to consider abandoning unsecure software packages, as Adam Fish, lecturer in sociology and media studies at Lancaster University, has suggested. The point, of course, in becoming more dogmatic in our handling of data is not to create inflexible, draconian procedures that prevent work from taking place, but to provide a safer space where edgy research can happen. It is also time that researchers, hopefully supported by our unions, lobby for legislation to provide them and their research participants the same levels of protection as journalists and their “sources”, so that valuable work on difficult topics can continue. Because even if we succeed in convincing institutions to support our work, participants may flee for fear of the consequences if we can’t protect them.

I began this piece by suggesting that ours was a qualified victory. It is precisely the “conditional” in the “conditional discharge” I was given that continues to cause me angst. The condition, as spelled out in law, is that I commit no further offence in the next three years, lest I be brought up on these charges again. While I’m delighted to be free again, I’ve also been prevented, in no uncertain terms, from doing research on any social practice that may cross legal lines for the next few years, an unfortunate by-product of an already disconcerting attempt to stifle reasonable academic research.

Bradley L. Garrett is a researcher in the School of Geography and the Environment at the University of Oxford, where he sits on the school’s research ethics committee. In September, he will take up a permanent lecturer position in geography and environment at the University of Southampton. He is author of Explore Everything: Place-Hacking the City (2013).

Saint Martin de Process

Saint Martin de Process
Anthony McIntyre
The Pensive Quill

This article was submitted to the Irish Times in response to an earlier opinion piece by Martin Mansergh. The Irish Times politely declined to publish on the grounds that Ed Moloney had already responded in a column to Mansergh.

Martin Mansergh is deeply committed to the peace process and has been for almost as long as anyone can remember. Not without justification he believes himself to have been one of the early architects responsible for the current edifice. He has battled tenaciously to navigate it to a safe port and away from the violent waves sometimes caused by peace process partners not entirely committed to peaceful means.

Martin Mansergh is without question someone who has made a considerable emotional investment in the peace process and is eager to defend it against all who might cause it some “inflight turbulence.”

Yet the peace process is not something that is restricted to the securing of peace. It is also a political project strategically utilised by Sinn Fein to fuel its expansionism across the island. It goes without saying that the peace process has not always been a peaceful process, as the Northern bank robbery revealed. The then Taoiseach, Bertie Ahern, when left with no option, openly accused members of the Sinn Fein leadership of having prior knowledge of that robbery. Prior to that, he had been given to claiming that when the IRA spoke it was worthy of belief. It was of course arrant nonsense but underscored the way in which the peace process at times has sought to stupefy the Irish public.

It is important therefore not to frame the peace process in a one dimensional optic, where it is only to be viewed as driven by the search for peace and nothing else; and where those with serious misgivings about the moral quagmire it spawns are smeared as enemies of the peace, their judgement to be scorned and their own contributions to peace undermined because they are not enamoured to the opacity or partisan instrumentality of the process.

It is axiomatic that the peace in the peace process be protected. But that is no reason to protect the political careers of its main beneficiaries. The process should be transparent and held up to public scrutiny at all times. The figures at its centre should not be shielded. Imagine the health of society had public scrutiny of Bertie Ahern’s financial affairs been shelved on the grounds that he was a central figure in the peace process.

The peace process has become one of the Big Brothers of the modern Irish era. No other project has demanded and received such intellectual acquiescence, nor breathed such censorious fumes throughout political discourse.

It is in such a context that we find Martin Mansergh, an academic, arguing that the peace process be protected from academic research and hurling disparagement upon those who unlock non peaceful secrets. The Boston College oral history project in this jaundiced view is simply without merit because people not acquiescent in the myths of the peace process are incapable of Mansergh’s much cherished deference of having “respect for your betters.”

While the Boston College project was never about holding Gerry Adams to account it was very much about bringing to the surface knowledge from the republican subterranean world. And when Mansergh refers to “Adams’s past IRA association” it would be remiss of any historian to bury references to Adams out of concern for the peace process. While some concession should be made to Diarmaid Ferriter’s assertion that history retrieval and current affairs are separate strains, neither must it be insisted upon that they are mutually irreconcilable. History is yesterday and yesterday is current affairs.

Martin Mansergh seeks to strip authenticity from the interviewees by labelling them as so embittered they would give testimony against Adams via oral history. Why is whistle blowing admirable for garda but bitterness for former members of the IRA? Does Mansergh think Gerry Adams should be protected in a way that Alan Shatter should not?

Mansergh is right in arguing that the Boston College oral archive was “commandeered by the PSNI.” Perhaps he should direct his ire its way given that it not the Boston College researchers who arrested Gerry Adams. And spare us the bull about the police only following the evidence.

In the week that sees the 40th anniversary of the Dublin Monaghan bombing there is no PSNI subpoena issued in pursuit of documentation within the bowels of the British state security apparatuses that would shed light on that horrific war crime.

Mansergh’s argument topples under the weight of its own inconsistency when he suggests that the Good Friday Agreement amounted to a de facto amnesty that should have precluded the arrest of Gerry Adams. He could have vociferously flagged up his amnesty claims when Gerry McGeough, Seamus Kearney and Bobby Rodgers were all convicted for offences supposedly amnestied. Forgetting Pastor Niemöller’s words he waited until the PSNI came for Gerry Adams.

Ultimately, what is going to protect intellectual investigation from Martin Mansergh and the peace process?

Why an amnesty is needed in the North

Why an amnesty is needed in the North
A weakness in the Haass agenda has been lack of engagement by the British and Irish governments
Adrian Guelke
Irish Times
Wed, May 28, 2014

As the results of European and local elections across these islands are absorbed, it might seem that at least in Northern Ireland little has changed since the last major test of opinion there, the Assembly elections in 2011. The reality is a bit more disturbing.

An unfortunate sequence of events has unfolded that has the potential to threaten the peace, including the failure of the Haass talks, histrionics from some senior members of the Police Service of Northern Ireland and the Boston College archives affair that culminated in the arrest of Gerry Adams. These challenges have been compounded by some unhelpful and sensationalist commentary in the media, the determination of the political parties in Northern Ireland not to be out-victimed and a lack of understanding of how other societies that have needed to face up to dealing with the past after a long-running violent conflict have actually done so. These circumstances ensured that the atmosphere surrounding recent elections was different from that in 2011.

A weakness in the Haass process from the outset was the lack of engagement by the British and Irish governments. The relatively recent change in the political composition of both governments probably didn’t help insofar as neither government seems to have fully grasped how dependent political progress in Northern Ireland has been on conflict management from London and Dublin. The distance of the British government from the Haass process was reflected in the contradiction between its urging that the parties should accept the Haass proposals unequivocally, and being equivocal itself about who would meet the financial costs of the institutions Haass had proposed in a vain effort to satisfy all parties of the Executive on the subject of dealing with the past.

Misleading the public The impression created by coverage of the on-the-runs issue has been that members of the Provisional IRA have been able to escape justice because of a deal done under the last British government. In fact, the scheme put into effect by the government fell far short of an amnesty for the on-the-runs. The mistake in John Downey’s case that led to a judicial finding of abuse of process was the responsibility of those within the PSNI given responsibility for carrying out the checks on whether the names put to them were wanted in connection with any offence. It is outrageous that those who made these mistakes should seek to defend themselves by misleading the public as to the very limited nature of the scheme. It may be unusual to tell individuals who might consider themselves persons of interest whether they are wanted for questioning or not, but it is far from wrong in principle, particularly given its relevance to ensuring such individuals did not gravitate to the dissidents.

Martin Mansergh has already lucidly laid out the story of the Boston College tapes in these pages. Most of the blame in this affair lies with those who made it known that they had explosive secrets to divulge and yet imagined that this material could be kept confidential insofar as that suited them. At the same time, the British government should have considered how the interests of anyone legitimately seeking to establish an archive through the collection of oral testimony for the sake of posterity might have been protected. However, the police cannot be faulted for wanting to follow up leads laid by others.

The difficulties have enabled commentators in the North, especially ones with a visceral dislike of the DUP-Sinn Féin duopoly, to question the moral foundations of the political settlement itself. Paradoxically, the very success of the settlement in reducing the threat of renewed lethal political violence on a sustained basis has increased its vulnerability to high-minded criticism of this sort. At the same time, the argument that it is time to move on, rather than engage in endless recriminations about what happened during the Troubles, has gained little traction amid the lurid headlines about past atrocities.

In the case of the political parties, the wish to be seen to champion victims of past violence has trumped all other considerations. Alone of the political parties, NI21 has shown a willingness to speak sense on this subject and to give priority to the wider public interest in sustaining the peace for future generations. But the party’s lack of electoral success shows it has secured no reward for doing so. That strengthens the argument for action by the two governments as the parties in the North left to their own devices are unlikely to rise above partisan considerations, particularly given how the victims issue has played out in these elections, with headway made by the Traditional Unionist Voice and the Ulster Unionist Party through their exploitation of the on-the-runs and the abandoned plan for a peace centre at the Maze prison.

Truth and reconciliation In the context of dealing with the past, South Africa’s example tends to be invoked across the political spectrum, but with a cavalier disregard for what happened there.

The basis of South Africa’s truth and reconciliation commission lay in the agreement in the country’s transitional constitution: that “amnesty shall be granted in respect of acts, omissions and offences associated with political objectives and committed in the course of the conflicts of the past”.

Adopting the same principle in relation to the actions, omissions and offences of both the paramilitaries and the security forces in the course of the Troubles would serve Northern Ireland well. It is time for this nettle to be grasped by the two governments, before another crisis comes along with the potential to destabilise the political settlement that underpins the peace.

Adrian Guelke is visiting fellow at Queen’s Institute for the Study of Conflict Transformation and Social Justice

News of Interest: Belfast and Boston named ‘sister cities’

Belfast and Boston named ‘sister cities’
Monday, 12 May 2014

Belfast has signed a Sister Cities agreement with Boston, Massachusetts, it has been announced.

The agreement was signed on Monday morning in the American city by Belfast Lord Mayor Máirtín Ó Muilleoir (Sinn Fein) and Boston Mayor Martin J Walsh.

The agreement is designed to foster stronger economic development, trade and investment, tourism, youth, cultural, faith-based exchange and educational linkages between the two cities.

It also aims to increase awareness of both cities as being growth cities in the connected health and life sciences, creative industries, tourism and financial services sectors.

It commits both cities to identifying activities that can generate new initiatives to further their economic, social and cultural relationships.

Belfast has two other Sister Cities – Nashville in the United States and Hefei in eastern China – which were signed in 1994 and 2005 respectively.

The Men Will Talk to Me: Oral History of IRA launched by Taoiseach

In the 1940s and 1950s Ernie O’Malley travelled around Ireland interviewing survivors of Ireland’s struggle for Independence. These interviews, now being made available to the public for the first, time give a fascinating insight into the times and the people who fought. Many of those who were interviewed were unwilling to talk – even to their own families – about their experience, but because O’Malley was such a well-respected figure they consented to be interviewed by him.

This book includes accounts of activities in many parts of Mayo and neighbouring parts of Roscommon and Sligo and most of those interviewed also fought against the Free State in the civil war. The key events described took place in the early months of 1921 in places such as Kilmeena, Tourmakeady and Carrowkennedy.

The Men Will Talk to Me: Mayo Interviews by Ernie O’Malley

‘The Men will Talk to Me’ Mayo Interviews
By The Castle Bookshop
26, Apr 2014

Mayo County Library in association with The Castle Bookshop and successfully launched, ‘The Men will Talk to Me Mayo Interviews’ by Ernie O’Malley, Edited by Mr. Cormac O’Malley and Mr. Vincent Keane, Friday the 25th of April.

The book was launched by An Taoiseach, Mr. Enda Kenny TD and the editor of the book, Mr. Vincent Keane.

It is with great excitement and anticipation that announce the publication of ‘The Men will Talk to Me: Mayo Interviews’ by Ernie O’Malley.

This book, brings the reader a valuable and interesting account of the War of Independence and the Civil War in Mayo. The deceased athor, Ernie O’Malley, collected interviews from Mayo men who fought in the War of Independence. This book, brings these interviews together, in a wonderful collection of primary historical sources.

Dramatic events, including the ‘Battle of Tourmakeady’ are discussed in the book, and it adds to the already wonderful collection of books, published by Mercier Press by Ernie O’Malley.

The Castle Bookshop, Castle Street, Castlebar were delighted to have been involved in the launch of this fantastic book. The launch event will took place on Friday, April 25th at 6.30pm. The launch was held in Mayo County Library and the book was launched by An Taoiseach, Mr Enda Kenny T.D. and co-editor, Mr. Vincent Keane.

The book is available at The Castle Bookshop, Castle Street, Castlebar, Co. Mayo.

Contact the shop by telephone at 094 9024422 or by e mail at

The book is also available online at

The Men Will Talk to Me: Kerry Interviews by Ernie O’Malley

From Easter 1916 until the bitter end of the Civil War, Kerry was embroiled in bloody conflict. Now, for the first time in published form, many of the county’s main participants in the struggle tell their own stories. These were narrated to Ernie O’Malley in the late 1940s and early 1950s. During their lifetimes, these men were reluctant to recount their exploits, even to their own families, but were willing to speak to Ernie O’Malley, a respected and legendary IRA leader during the War of Independence and Civil War.

Working from his father’s notebooks, Cormac O’Malley, with local Kerry historian, Tim Horgan, has produced the only comprehensive first hand accounts of the War of Independence and the Civil War in Kerry. Many of the bloody and controversial incidents of the period are brought vividly to life through the words of the participants. The extensive footnotes enrich the original interview text and the work is complemented by a photographic section which includes previously unpublished photographs of the time.

DUP: No role for Sinn Fein in writing story of Troubles

DUP: No role for Sinn Fein in writing story of Troubles
by Sam McBride
The News Letter
01 May 2014

The DUP has pledged to prevent Sinn Fein from having any role in writing a “joint narrative” of the Troubles.

In a policy paper on victims’ issues to be published today, the party said that it was “very clear about the truth of the Troubles and will never compromise this by asking those who have engaged in terrorism to agree a joint narrative”.

The document said: “Sinn Fein will not be given a role in agreeing the narrative of the past. This would be morally repugnant. The facts are the facts; Sinn Fein’s agreement or lack thereof to those facts will not change the truth of the past.”

The paper also sets out a commitment that the party will “lobby for innocent victims to be prioritised in European and Peace Funding, and will press the European institutions to agree that victims are a named beneficiary for Peace IV funding”.

Millions of pounds of EU peace money has gone to former terrorist ex-prisoners’ groups, something which has been criticised by unionists and victims of terrorism.

The document also commits to “supporting a special pension for all physically severely injured innocent victims”.

The party – which last year did a U-turn on its initial support for a peace centre at the Maze prison site – said that it had always been opposed to “any glorification of terrorism or any shrine to what happened at the Maze Prison or elsewhere”.

It pledged that “we will never allow terrorism to be glorified at the Maze site” and “there shall be no Peace Centre at the Maze unless there is broad support across the community for any such proposal”.

DUP leader Peter Robinson said: “The DUP has always prioritised the needs of innocent victims. These commitments are the most wide-ranging of any political party in relation to innocent victims and go beyond any manifesto request from victims across the Province.

“We stand not just on our words, but our record, and since the restoration of devolution in 2007 we have ensured that funding to victims has more than tripled.”

Attacking those who supported the Belfast Agreement in 1998, Mr Robinson said that its rule that those convicted of Troubles crimes would only serve a maximum of two years in prison was “a form of amnesty”. He added: “We will not contemplate any rewriting of the terrorist campaign or compromise the truth of what happened here by asking those who engaged in terrorism to agree a joint narrative.”

DUP MEP Diane Dodds said that she had worked with victims “often quietly and away from the glare of publicity”.

Mrs Dodds challenged the SDLP and Alliance Party to join unionists in working to change the definition of a victim to exclude terrorists, something she said was “at the core of victims issues”. She said that the current definition was “wrong and must be addressed”.

NEWS OF INTEREST: Facing His Torturer as Spain Confronts Its Past

Facing His Torturer as Spain Confronts Its Past
New York Times
April 6, 2014

José María Galante said he was tortured after being arrested for his anti-Franco protest activities. “I agree with the idea of reconciliation,” Mr. Galante said. “But you just can’t turn the page.”

MADRID — José María Galante was a leftist college student when he was handcuffed to the ceiling of a basement torture chamber, his body dangling in the air. A police inspector laughed and taunted him, striking martial arts poses before repeatedly kicking and beating his face and chest.

The man who Mr. Galante says tortured him was an infamous enforcer of the Franco dictatorship in the 1970s, widely known as Billy the Kid for his habit of spinning his pistol on his finger. So Mr. Galante was startled last year when he located the man — living in a spacious apartment less than a mile from his own neighborhood in central Madrid.

“How did I feel when I saw him for the first time? We got you now, you bastard,” Mr. Galante said, adding: “I agree with the idea of reconciliation. But you just can’t turn the page. You have to read that page before you turn it.”

This week, Mr. Galante is again planning to see Billy the Kid, whose real name is Antonio González Pacheco. This time, it will be at a hearing at Spain’s National Court, where Mr. Galante and other victims are, for the first time, seeking to prosecute Mr. Pacheco in a case that is reopening the country’s painful Francoist past and threatening the political pact that helped Spain transition from dictatorship to democracy.

Spain’s democratic transition has been a source of national pride, a period that saw political rivals make compromises credited with allowing a new country to emerge. The public wistfulness for that lost political spirit was evident last month with the death of Adolfo Suárez, the prime minister who guided the country in those early years.

But the grand bargain that allowed this transition was a complicated one. After Franco’s death in 1975, a sweeping amnesty law absolved everyone — leftists and right-wing Francoists — and encouraged a kind of collective forgetting in the name of reconciliation. The belief was that Spain could prosper only by looking to the future, not the past.

For victims like Mr. Galante, this meant the door to justice was slammed shut. For more than 40 years, Spanish courts have refused to hear these cases, citing the amnesty law. So Mr. Galante and others have taken their complaints to Argentina, invoking the legal principle of universal jurisdiction under which certain crimes, because of their magnitude, transcend borders. An Argentine judge is now seeking the extradition of Mr. Pacheco and another individual accused of torture. Mr. Pacheco’s hearing on April 10 in Madrid is to decide whether to grant the request.

Spanish courts are usually reluctant to extradite Spanish citizens. But whatever the outcome, the Argentine case is stirring up old demons in Spain. Critics say Spain must confront its past and even push aside the amnesty law. Others warn that doing so could lead to a slew of prosecutions, even reaching the country’s elite.

Today, Spanish politics, business and law are still sprinkled with people who have direct or indirect links to the Franco regime. Last week, a lawyer for the victims asked the Argentine judge to bring charges against five former ministers from the Franco era.

“I just don’t think it would be good for the country,” said Ramón Jáuregui, a lawmaker with the opposition Socialist Party, who opposed Franco during the 1970s but is reluctant to break the amnesty pact. “We don’t know where it starts and where it finishes. If we take someone who was a torturer in 1970, why aren’t we going to go after some ministers in Franco’s government who are still alive? Why not the courts? Where do we set the limit?”

Spain’s government is already facing growing pressure from the United Nations. Pablo de Greiff, a United Nations special rapporteur, said Spain “lagged behind” other European countries in addressing its recent past. He said Spain’s government had done too little to help victims of the Franco era, and recommended setting aside the amnesty law so that prosecutions could go forward, either in Argentina or in Spain.

“Some problems do not go away,” Mr. de Greiff, the special rapporteur on the promotion of truth, justice, reparation and guarantees of non-recurrence, said in an interview. “They cannot be swept under the rug. People, not surprisingly, do not forget.”

Franco was a contemporary of Hitler and Mussolini, though his dictatorship lasted until the 1970s and his legacy is more complicated, and contested. Not far from Mr. Pacheco’s apartment, the National Francisco Franco Foundation serves as the watchdog of the Franco legacy. The small office is like a time capsule from the dictatorship: Portraits of Franco hang on the walls, while a small display offers souvenir Franco T-shirts and other memorabilia.

“Since the Catholic Kings, Franco was in power the longest, and with the most public support,” said Jaime Alonso, the foundation’s spokesman and second in command. “He had great popular support until his death — despite what the propagandists maintain.”

Mr. Alonso, a lawyer, argues that Franco was not a dictator and scoffs at evidence of forced labor and postwar atrocities. “What is happening now is the need the left has to delegitimize history,” Mr. Alonso said.

Most historians agree that Franco oversaw a regime that trampled civil liberties and often ruled by fear and with impunity.

For several years, private associations led by the descendants of Franco victims have pushed for the exhumation of mass graves from the Spanish Civil War and the dictatorship. In recent years, it was revealed that thousands of infants were abducted from Republican families and placed in institutions or adopted by families loyal to Franco.

Controversy also surrounds the Valley of the Fallen, the massive mountaintop shrine where Franco is buried along with 30,000 others. Franco called the shrine a symbol of reconciliation. But scholars now say that some of the interred are Republican soldiers who were put there without their families being notified.

In 2008, Judge Baltasar Garzón, a crusading magistrate known for stirring up controversy, opened an inquiry to investigate crimes against humanity during the Franco era. Within two years, Judge Garzón’s investigation was shut down after a right-wing group (represented by Mr. Alonso of the Franco Foundation) filed a lawsuit accusing him of overstepping his judicial authority.

Eventually, Spain’s Supreme Court removed him from the bench after finding that he had wrongly used illegal wiretapping in a different case — a finding that his supporters say was politically motivated. “In my case, it was an example of killing the messenger,” Judge Garzón said in an interview. “What they don’t understand is, yes, the transition was fine — at the time of the transition. But they don’t understand that now, the government is not allowing access to the truth, to justice.”

One of the lawyers in the Pacheco case, Carlos Slepoy, said that the Spanish authorities have sought to derail his prosecution, too, even as depositions have been taken at Argentine embassies around the world. Groups of Spanish victims have flown to Argentina to provide testimony.

“Initially, there were two families and a few human rights organizations that set this in motion,” Mr. Slepoy said. “Now, there are 350 lawsuits, innumerable depositions and a huge public support movement.”

Ángel Llorente, an official with Spain’s Ministry of Justice, said the government was cooperating with the Argentine judge and has allowed the extradition process to continue. Mr. Pacheco and his lawyers could not be reached for comment, despite repeated efforts. He has not spoken publicly about the torture allegations against him.

Mr. Galante, the man accusing Mr. Pacheco of torture, has already testified in Argentina about his experiences in the 1970s — a period when the abuses of the dictatorship had supposedly ended. He was arrested several times for protesting and joining an illegal anti-Franco student union. In custody, Mr. Galante said, he was beaten on his genitals and subjected to a form of water boarding.

“Billy the Kid had such a sense of impunity,” he said. “He never thought he would get caught. He didn’t ever think about getting information. He just wanted to beat people up.”

Last year, Mr. Galante and others began their search for him. They discovered he had founded a private security company. Later, a contact provided a copy of his national identity number, which helped them discover that he had competed in the New York City Marathon and a half marathon in Madrid.

Finally, they found his address, not far from Bernabéu Stadium of the Real Madrid soccer team. “We did what he used to do with us: A bunch of us would stand in the neighborhood, and if we spotted him, we would follow him,” he said. “The first time we saw him, he was running. We had to pretend we were running, too.”

Patricia Rafael and Brenda Yastremski contributed reporting.

Irish terrorist murders ‘should be left unsolved’; Historic banquet at Windsor, but in Belfast there’s still a bitter taste

Irish terrorist murders ‘should be left unsolved’
Sean O’Neill Crime and Security Editor
The Times
April 7 2014

A de facto amnesty should be offered to terrorists who killed, bombed and maimed during Northern Ireland’s 30 years of violence, a former Northern Ireland Secretary said yesterday.

Peter Hain’s radical proposal, which would end any prospect of prosecutions in 3,000 unsolved murders from the Troubles, comes on the eve of the first Irish state visit to Britain.

President Higgins arrives in London today and will be welcomed by the Queen tomorrow. The Sinn Féin politician and Deputy First Minister, Martin McGuinness — a former IRA commander — will attend the State Banquet at Windsor Castle.

The visit comes amid a spate of “cold-case” inquiries connected to the Troubles, and controversy over “comfort letters” given to on-the-run IRA members to protect them from prosecution.

Mr Hain, Labour’s Northern Ireland Secretary from 2005-07, said he understood that his proposal would make victims and survivors of the Troubles “desperately angry” but argued that it was vital if Northern Ireland were to stop being “stalked” by its past.

“I think there should be an end to all conflict-related prosecutions,” he said. “That should apply to cases pre-dating the Good Friday agreement in 1998. This is not desirable in a normal situation. You would never dream of doing this in England, Scotland and Wales — but the Troubles were never normal.

“You can keep going back all the time and you can keep looking over your shoulder or turning around all the time, but what that does is take you away from addressing the issues of now and the issues of the future.”

Mr Hain said that political leaders in Northern Ireland urgently needed to face the legacy of the conflict, amid signs that dissident republicans are taking inspiration from the Taleban to use homemade rockets against the police.

He added: “This is not going to go away. It’s going to continue stalking the First Minister, the Deputy First Minister and the entire body politic there. The past just stalks them and they’re either going to confront it and deal with it together or they’re going to continue to be stalked by it.”

After the furore over letters to rule out prosecution for IRA fugitives, Mr Hain called last month for a halt to the criminal investigation into the Bloody Sunday shootings. His latest intervention goes farther, advocating an across-the-board end to investigation and prosecution of unsolved crimes by loyalist and republican paramilitaries and members of the security forces.

The former minister said that there had to be an even-handed process — a judicial tribunal or a truth-and-reconciliation commission — by which cases could be resolved without prosecutions.

He said: “A soldier potentially liable for prosecution who’s being investigated for Bloody Sunday has got to be treated in the same way by whatever process emerges as a former loyalist or republican responsible for a terrorist atrocity.”

Cases thrust back on to the agenda include a judicial examination of the letters given to IRA “on-the-runs” and criminal inquiries into three incidents from the Seventies: the IRA murder of Jean McConville; the killing by the British Army of 14 marchers on Bloody Sunday and the loyalist bombing of McGurk’s Bar, in which 15 people died.

Ivor Bell, 77, a former colleague of Mr McGuinness in the IRA leadership, will appear in court in Belfast on Friday charged with aiding and abetting the murder of Mrs McConville in 1972. Gerry Adams, the Sinn Féin President and one of the architects of the peace process, has had to deny allegations that he ordered Mrs McConville’s murder and has offered to speak to police about the case.

Mr Hain’s call echoes a similar proposal last year by John Larkin, Northern Ireland’s Attorney-General. It met stiff political opposition, with Peter Robinson, the Province’s First Minister, saying that it would allow people to “get away with murder”.

Many victims’ families are expected to react angrily, but William Frazer, a victims’ campaigner whose father was murdered by the IRA in 1975, said that his mind was not closed to any proposal that was fair. “We all need justice but a lot of us do realise that we will never get it,” he said. “But that doesn’t mean we have to give up on the right to justice. We all know we have to move on, but you can’t ask people to forgive if they don’t want to forgive and you can’t ask them to forget.”

Seamus McKendry, the husband of Mrs McConville’s daughter Helen, said: “I don’t agree but I understand where he’s coming from. You have to let things go at some time, but people just can’t forget that easily. Jean McConville has become such an iconic figure, a tragic figure. And there are other such cases, like Bloody Sunday. I think if you can resolve some of those bigger cases, at least it lets the people know they haven’t been forgotten about.”

Historic banquet at Windsor, but in Belfast there’s still a bitter taste
Sean O’Neill
The Times
April 7 2014

In the magnificent surroundings of St George’s Hall in Windsor Castle, the Queen will mark another milestone in Anglo-Irish relations tomorrow night when she hosts a state banquet for President Higgins.

Following the Queen’s successful trip to Ireland in 2011 and her handshake with Sinn Féin’s Martin McGuinness in 2012, the first Irish state visit to Britain is being cast as a further step towards consigning centuries of conflict to the history books. Mr McGuinness, a former IRA leader, will attend the banquet in tie and tails.

Enda Kenny, the Taoiseach, yesterday welcomed Mr McGuinness’s decision to go to Windsor, saying that people needed to “move on and not be blocked by the past”.

In Northern Ireland, however, the past is everywhere. The place seems harnessed to its history and that carries the potential to derail the future.

Bloody hatreds and painful memories are painted on gable walls and kerbstones, wrapped in flags and banners and cemented in the sectarian division of schools and neighbourhoods.

In Belfast you can take an open top bus tour around the murals of the loyalist Shankill Road and the nationalist Falls Road, depicting their own versions of struggle and sacrifice, and take pictures of the “peace walls” that divide Protestant from Catholic and scar the city physically and mentally.

The Good Friday agreement, the settlement that ended three decades of violence that claimed more than 3,600 lives, is 16 years old this week. Division, rancour and distrust persist, such that Ulster can seem to have settled for separation rather than reconciliation.

“The conflict may be over on the street but it’s still very much in people’s minds,” one veteran republican said.

That conflict is also being given a new lease of life in a spate of historical investigations which could lead to former paramilitaries standing trial, including some who put away their guns and re-emerged as politicians.

The case of John Downey, the former IRA man acquitted of the Hyde Park bombing when his trial at the Old Bailey collapsed this year, caused outrage.

In Ulster such cold cases are increasingly common. Police are investigating the deaths of 14 demonstrators shot by soldiers of The Parachute Regiment in Derry in 1972. Last month detectives arrested a 75-year-old man over the loyalist bombing in 1971 of McGurk’s Bar in north Belfast, in which 15 people died.

Later this week, Ivor Bell, 77, a former IRA member, will appear in court charged with aiding and abetting the murder of Jean McConville, who was abducted, tortured and shot in 1972 because the IRA suspected her of being an informant.

Sources say that taped interviews with former paramilitaries, recorded as part of an oral history project, name the Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams as the IRA commander who ordered Mrs McConville’s murder. Her family, who have faced vilification over the years, are hoping for justice.

“It’s good to get the can open at last, maybe a few worms will come out,” said Seamus McKendry, the husband of Mrs McConville’s eldest daughter, Helen. “Jean McConville is never coming back from the dead, but we could at least give her memory a bit of peace.”

Mr Adams denies any involvement in the killing.

Advances in forensic science will bring more old cases within reach of resolution. Republicans watch the arrests of former IRA men and, according to one, “are beginning to ask if things are being clawed back, if you can ever have an honourable agreement with the British”. Loyalists look at the “amnesty letters” for the IRA’s on-the-runs and wonder why people in their community were not treated likewise.

Richard Haass, the former US diplomat who led failed talks on the legacy of the conflict, warned that agreement on dealing with the province’s past was now urgent and time alone would not bring healing. He told a US Congress committee last month: “Absent political progress, the passage of time will only create an environment in which social division intensifies, violence increases, investment is scared off, alienation grows and the best and brightest leave to make their futures elsewhere.”

Amid the gloom, Peter Sheridan, chief executive of Co-operation Ireland, said that it was important to remember the achievements of 1998. “There are hundreds of people alive today, thousands who are uninjured because of the Good Friday agreement.”

With hindsight, he says, the issue of the Troubles legacy should not have been devolved to local politicians. “Dublin and Westminster can’t take those devolved powers back now, but they do need to engage. I don’t think we’re going to go back to violence, but we do need to find a way to deal with our horrible past.”

He believes that proposals to end conflict prosecutions are worth further debate. “We need to be honest with victims and honest with ourselves — too often we overestimate what can be achieved with investigations. We can never do justice to the scale of the injustice that happened in this place.”

As the prime mover in orchestrating the historic handshake, Mr Sheridan has another suggestion that holds out the prospect of hope. “Rather than spending £200 million on inquiries and investigations, we should use it to build a memorial hospital — perhaps that is the best we can offer.”