Irish Republican Information Service (no. 319)

Teach Dáithí Ó Conaill, 223 Parnell Street, Dublin 1, Ireland

Phone: +353-1-872 9747; FAX: +353-1-872 9757; e-mail:

Date: 17 Deireadh Fómhair / October 2013

Internet resources maintained by SAOIRSE-Irish Freedom

In this issue:

1. Joe O’Neill: ‘Rebel without a pause’

2. 26-County Budget – latest salvo in a war of economic imperialism

3. Ann Devlin remembered in Wicklow

4. Wexford remembers Republican Martyrs

5. Revised Corrib gas licence quashed by court

6. Michael Campbell freed

7. Former British army officer appointed minister of state in Occupied Six Counties

8. Loyalist band numbers at new high

9. Priest frustrated by attacks on church

10. Inquest into three men shot by SAS in Co Tyrone to go ahead

11. Pearse Jordan inquest

12. Inquiry into 1993 loyalist killing of Joseph Reynolds to reopen

13. Lurgan man jailed

14. The Insistence Of Absence: The legacy of the McGurk’s Bar bombing – Analysis

1. Joe O’Neill: ‘Rebel without a pause’

Joe speaking at the 2013 CABHAIR Testimonial Dinner.

Joe speaking at the 2013 CABHAIR Testimonial Dinner.

REPUBLICANS throughout Ireland and abroad, particularly the USA, were deeply saddened to hear of the death on October 2 of Republican Sinn Féin Life Vice-President, Bundoran, Co Donegal.

In a tribute to Joe on October 3, 2013, Des Dalton, President, Republican Sinn Féin, said: “It was with sadness that Irish Republicans received the news of the passing of Joe O’Neill on October 2. Joe was a stalwart of Irish Republicanism throughout his adult life and remained an active Republican right up to recent weeks.

“From the 1950s onwards Joe O’Neill served the cause of Republicanism in a variety of capacities at both local as well as national level. On both occasions when a reformist clique attempted to hijack the Republican Movement, in 1969/70 and again in 1986, Joe O’Neill was steadfast in his fidelity to the All-Ireland Republic of 1916. Taking his place in the leadership of Republican Sinn Féin he was elected to the Ard Chomhairle in 1971, where he was to remain up to his death. He was proud to serve alongside close friends and comrades including Ruairí Ó Brádaigh, Dáithí Ó Conaill and Pat Ward. He served as National Treasurer of Republican Sinn Féin for many years up to 2009 when he became a Life Vice-President.

“The ÉIRE NUA programme for a free and federal Ireland was championed by Joe as the key to bringing about a just and lasting settlement for all of the Irish people. For him it represented the best opportunity of fulfilling Theobald Wolfe Tone’s aim of uniting Protestant, Catholic and Dissenter as Irish men and Irish women.

“It was due to the untiring work and sacrifice of Joe O’Neill that the memory of the hunger008 strikers of 1981 was suitably honoured each year in Bundoran despite numerous attempts by the 26-County State to disrupt it. As a member of the Bundoran Hunger Strike Committee Joe and the committee erected the beautiful Garden of Remembrance as a most fitting and lasting tribute to the hunger strikers.

“Joe gave unstinting service to his community for almost thirty years as a local public representative. He was co-opted on to the Ballyshannon Town Commissioners in 1963. He was later elected to Bundoran Town Council where he was to serve for over 25 years. Joe embraced all aspects of Irish culture, including its music and history. He had an enduring love of Gaelic games. Joe was a lifelong member of the GAA.

“For Joe O’Neill there was no shortcut to a free Ireland. He believed that as long as Ireland was partitioned and occupied by the British State there could be no lasting peace. He was a man of high principle with a burning sense of justice. It was this sense of justice that informed his political activities at both a national as well as a local level. He leaves a gap in the ranks of Republicanism that will be hard to fill. However it is because of the lifetime dedication of men and women like Joe O’Neill that there is a new generation there to take up the torch of revolutionary Irish Republicanism.”

Throughout his long life in the Republican Movement Joe was arrested on numerous occasions. In 1970 outside Enniskillen he was held for three days; at Christmas 1971 Joe’s house was raided and he was arrested, spending five months in jail on remand and at Christmas 1972 Joe was again arrested and held for two months, first in Mountjoy in Dublin, where Joe as O/C of the prisoners went on hunger strike for 15 days, and later in the Curragh Camp, Co Kildare.

7In the summer of 1976, as he was leaving the funeral of Vol Pat Cannon in Dublin, Joe was arrested along with Dáithí Ó Conaill and the late Seamus Leonard (Fermanagh and Dublin). It was the day the British Ambassador to Dublin Ewart Biggs was executed by the IRA. Joe spent several months in Portlaoise jail before being acquitted by the special non-jury court in Dublin. When the British royal Mountbatten was killed Joe was held for three days in Sligo.

At the 1986 Ard-Fheis Joe, along with Ruairí Ó Brádaigh, Pat Ward and Des Long were summoned to a meeting in a side room of the Mansion House; they were told not to bring Dáithí Ó Conaill to the meeting. In the room were the majority of the Ard Chomhairle and the military leadership of the Movement.

Those present were very hostile when Ruairí Ó Brádaigh told them they were on the slippery slope. They became abusive at which time Pat Ward hit the table on which Gerry Adams’s feet were resting and said that if he had had the strength he used to have he would drive them all out of the room. They were asked individually not to leave the hall and not to have a walk-out. They all refused and later that day, when they did indeed walk out of the mansion House in Dublin, they adjourned to the West County Hotel, Dublin where Republican Sinn Féin was reorganised.

Joe and Ruairí Ó Brádaigh were later called to a meeting with Pat Doherty and Martin McGuinness where they were again threatened and told that if they reorganised they would be dealt with. Joe always said he was very proud to be in the company of Ruairí Ó Brádaigh, Dáithí Ó Conaill and Pat Ward during this period and considered it an honour to have served with such men.

Joe married Mary Breslin in November 1977 and together they worked tirelessly for the Republican Movement. Their home was always open to all, whether on the run or not. Mary, a nurse, helped Joe run the Ocean Bar in Bundoran for many years where visitors were made welcome, Mary making meals for all who called day and night.

Sadly Mary died just last year in July (2012).

Joe’s coffin, covered in a Tricolour, was flanked by a Republican Guard of Honour, preceded by piper Sean Doyle and the National Flag, furled, from his home in Bundoran, Co Donegal. Several thousand people marched to the edge of Bundoran, and then followed the hearse by car to Ballyshannon, where the Requiem Mass took place in St Joseph’s Church. The Tricolour was removed at the graveside by Mick Cullen, Bundoran and Thomas Kelly, Leitrim and handed to Joe’s sister Ann Pasteur. Joe was buried alongside his beloved wife Mary after a fitting Republican funeral on October 6, 2013.

More than one hundred 26-County police, including armed detectives, mounted a security operation before, during and after the funeral. Checkpoints were set up on the neighbouring border roads with county Fermanagh. On the outskirts of Bundoran uniformed police manned checkpoints. They had a heavy presence in the graveyard. However so had Joe’s comrades and friends and they protected the grave from intrusion by the various branches of the Gardaí present, so ensuring the disgraceful scene which occurred at the funeral of his comrade Ruairí Ó Brádaigh in Roscommon in June was not repeated.

Proceedings were chaired at the graveside by Dan Hoban, Mayo, long-time comrade of Joe’s. Wreaths were laid on behalf of the Republican Movement, Sinn Féin Poblachtach, Cumann na mBan, the Bundoran Commemoration Committee which organises the annual H-Block Commemoration in Bundoran every year and the North West Executive. Wreaths were also left from the families of the Hunger strikers and many many more.

The Paidrín was recited by Pádraig Ó Baoighill, Tír Chonaill agus Muineacháin. Dan paid a tribute to Joe when he spoke of the many years they soldiered together in their fight against the occupation of Ireland by the British. He spoke of their personal friendship and said that if he was ever in a tight corner the man he would want beside him would be Joe O’Neill.

Dan Hoban called for a minutes silence while the piper played a lament. He then introduced Mary Ward, Cork and Burtonport, Co Donegal, to give the main oration. Mary said:

“Joe O’Neill was a towering figure of Irish Republicanism. He came to embody the very essence of the Republican tradition, setting the very highest standards of commitment, duty, honour and loyalty to the cause of Irish Freedom.

“For Joe, the essential principles of Irish freedom were clear and marked the political course to be followed. He dismissed any cult of the personality, warning always of the inherent dangers of following merely the man or the woman over the cause of Irish national independence.

“Joe was born into a strong Republican family. His father Frank born in Pomeroy, Co Tyrone was active in 1916 with the East Tyrone IRB. His mother Agnes from Dungannon was also steeped in Republicanism and was very active. She was also very active in the GAA, founding the first camogie team in Dungannon.

“Joe was born on May 4, 1937. He attended school in De La Salle, Ballyshannon and St Pats, Cavan. On leaving school he entered the family business working between the two pubs. Joe’s involvement in the Republican Movement began in 1954-57 when he worked for Tom Mitchell’s election campaign for Fermanagh-South Tyrone.

“He vividly remembered travelling to Carrickmore with his father where according to Joe they voted ‘early and often’. This was the beginning of Joe’s life-long involvement with elections and he served on Bundoran Town Council for over 25 years.

“In August 1969 when the occupied area erupted in flames Joe was at hand organising and feeding the thousands of refugees who crossed the Border. At one stage the officer commanding the Free State army camp at Finner called on Joe to help them cope.

“Joe was elected to the first Ard Chomhairle at the 1971 Ard-Fheis and remained so until his death early this week. He served as National Treasurer for many years up to 2009 when he became a Life Vice-President.

“In his role as National Treasurer Joe travelled widely in America, raising funds and organising support groups; making friends with people like Mike Flannery and George Harrison, amongst other prominent Irish-American friends of Irish freedom and unity.

“Joe played a leading role in the promotion of the ÉIRE NUA proposals for a four-province Federal Ireland which is based on the principles of true decentralisation of decision-making with full participatory democracy involving all sections of the Irish people as trust founders of a new Ireland.

“Such a democratic template would provide the unionist minority within a new Ireland with real political power and decision-making. Joe’s fervent belief in ÉIRE NUA stemmed from his years as a local representative and his frustration with the limited power at local government level.

“Joe’s standards of commitment, duty, honour and loyalty were naturally carried through to his family life. H love of his wife Mary, his brother Owen Roe, his sisters Cáit and Anne, his and Mary’s nieces and nephews was so obvious. He was so proud of all of them. This love and dedication was very much evidenced by their care to Joe and Mary these last few years.

“Today the O’Neill and Breslin families have asked me to publicly thank the staff of the Sheil Hospital, Ballyshannon and the staff of Sligo General Hospital. Their care and dedication was very much appreciated. They would also like to acknowledge and thank Pat Barry for his kindness, loyalty, friendship and care of Joe.

“Throughout his life Joe was a generous and outgoing gentleman, always a pleasure to meet with a great story to tell. Along with Republicanism, Joe’s other passions in life were music, dancing and the GAA. He played football with Aodh Ruadh for 25 years. While at St Pat’s in Cavan, he once scored a point from 50 yards, the only player to do so, earning him a write-up in the national media.

“Since 1986 he never missed an All-Ireland football final and attended 27 hurling finals. One of the greatest days of his life was in 1992 when Donegal won their first All-Ireland and again in 2003 when Tyrone won their first.

“He was a member of the Fenian Four ballad group with whom he loved to sing and entertain. He loved drama and was a member of the Ballyshannon Drama Society, the Erne Variety Players and Bundoran Musical Society, performing in many plays and pantomimes. Joe loved Céilí dancing and at one time taught it in the Rock Hall.

“In 2011 when Joe was honoured by CABHAIR at the annual Testimonial Dinner Joe said that in a long life of struggle and service his proudest moment was when the people of Ballyshannon and surrounding areas came out and rioted on my arrest in December 1971.

“We in Republican Sinn Féin are proud to remember him are proud to remember him as our Vice-President and as a man with great humanity and empathy for the oppressed, both in Ireland and internationally. We salute his memory and pledge our resolve to honour him by continuing his work, guided by the same principles and maintaining the same high standards of integrity and truth that marked Joe O’Neill as man and patriot. It may be said of Joe that he was a rebel without a pause.”

On a personal note Mary Ward spoke of the great support and friend Joe O’Neill had been to herself, her late husband Pat and her family, in good times and bad. When Pat Ward died in 1988, following the effects of four hunger strikes (including a thirst strike) in a Free State jail in the 1970s, Joe and Mary O’Neill were always there to help and support his family and Mary said how much she would miss a great and true friend.

She concluded by saying: “The Republican Movement extends our profound sympathies to his brother Owen Roe, his sister Cáit and Anne and the extended O’Neill and Breslin families. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam dilís.”

Marie Askin, a niece of Joe O’Neill, read the last verse of the song Four Green Fields, a very appropriate piece for an unrepentant Republican.

The proceedings were brought to a conclusion with the playing of Amhrán na bhFiann on the pipes by Sean Doyle.

2. 26-County Budget – latest salvo in a war of economic imperialism

As a response to the 26-County Budget on October 15 the President of Republican Sinn Féin, Des Dalton, said:

“Once again the Leinster House political elite have targeted the most vulnerable members of society in order to protect the interests of the wealthy. The singling out of the elderly and the young unemployed exposes the harsh reality of the neo-liberal economics that drives the economic and social policy of the 26-County Administration.

“Cutting access to a full medical card to thousands of people over seventy as well as the renewed targeting of the young unemployed, leaving many with no other option but to emigrate, is reminiscent of the ‘Poor Law’ mentality of the 1840s when starvation or the coffin ship were the only options that were provided. The ability to care for the old and provide for the young define what is a civilised society. The barbarians have breached the gates.

“The Leinster House political class are collaborating against the interests of their own people in order to prop up the economic agenda of the EU power elites. This budget is just the latest salvo in a war of economic imperialism being waged against ordinary people, workers, the unemployed, the rural and urban poor, the young and the old across Europe.

“The budget as an exercise is largely a media event, as the major decisions are already made by the political and economic masters in Brussels and the European Central Bank. This is the new face of imperialism and people must awake to the reality that they are now locked in a struggle for the very survival of the norms of a civilised society not only in Ireland but across Europe and beyond.”

Members of Republican Sinn Féin were among groups who assembled at the gates of Leinster House on the day to protest against the latest round of savage cuts by the Fine Gael/labour coalition administration. Hundreds of gardaí, armed and unarmed, in and out of uniform, on horses, bikes and on foot, surrounded Leinster House, back and front, and lined the streets to prevent demonstrators gathering at the gates. Demonstrators were also prevented from walking on the footpaths near the building and were told to ‘leave the area or you will be arrested under the Public Order Act’. Barricades were place across Molesworth Street facing Leinster House and new rigid barriers along the side of the street. The entrance to Kildare Street from Nassau Street was also blocked when the demonstrators attempted to come up the street. So much for democracy and peoples’ right to protest.

The very fact that a small group of protestors were not allowed near Leinster House spoke volumes.

3. Ann Devlin remembered in Wicklow

THE Ruairí Ó Brádaigh/Maolmhuire Ó Raghallaigh Cumann of Republican Sinn Féin recently laid a wreath to remember Anne Devlin who died on September 16, 1851. The wreath was placed at the plaque erected to her memory in the town of Aughrim in County Wicklow.

Anne was born into a small farming family in Cronbeg, between Rathdrum and Aughrim. Her family were well-known Republicans and Anne was brought up in that tradition, she was a first cousin of the bold Michael Dwyer. Like many in County Wicklow, the Devlins became influenced by the ideals espoused by the Society of United Irishmen from the mid-1790’s onwards, leading to Anne’s father and brother becoming members of the organisation in the Spring of 1797.

After the rising of 1798 Anne’s father was arrested and interned in Wicklow Jail, as were two of her uncles and two of her cousins. Following their release the family moved to Rathfarnham, Co Dublin, and it was there that Anne Devlin became a housekeeper and comrade of Robert Emmet. Following his rising in 1803 Emmet fled to the Wicklow Mountains.

On Tuesday, July 26, 1803, Anne Devlin and her eight-year-old sister were questioned by a group of Yeomen at a house in Butterfield Lane. They were treated roughly by the soldiers and almost hanged. This was to be only the beginning of Anne’s troubles. During that night the house was surrounded by a party of British soldiers.

The whole Devlin family was arrested, her parents, three brothers, two sisters and herself. Anne was identified and questioned by a Major Sirr, who realised the importance of his prisoner. Anne refused to talk despite the fact that Sirr tried to bribe her with £500, a fortune at that time. The Governor of Kilmainham Jail, who was noted for his sadistic methods of gaining information, also questioned her but got nothing. During this time, unknown to Anne, Robert Emmet was arrested in a house in Harold’s Cross. Major Sirr now had a warrant issued against Anne for high treason.

This would mean death for Anne if she were convicted. She was transferred to Kilmainham Jail and it was there that she was to meet Emmet for the last time. During a brief conversation, he begged her to give information about him as he was already in essence a dead man walking, but she refused, saying that she would never turn informer.

Robert Emmet was hanged in Thomas Street on October 21, 1803. Anne was taken to the place of execution and forced to watch as the last moments of life were taken from Emmet’s body. She was then taken back to the jail where the man known as “The Devil’s Partner”, Dr Edward Trevor, used every device imaginable (including stabbing her with bayonets) to force her to reveal the locations of Emmet’s hiding places and the names of his companions. All his efforts, including physical and psychological torture, were in vain. Anne’s spirit could not be broken.

After three years Anne was released from prison and spent the last years of her life in the Coombe district of Dublin. Sadly she descended into abject poverty and was blighted with ill-health.

We remember her with pride and think of the unfettering loyalty and resolve she showed in the face of cruel treatment at the hands of British executioners who were paid a princely sum to maim, break down and in many cases murder those who attempted to rid Ireland of tyrannical foreign rule.

As a testament to the great sacrifices she made for her county and country, the readership of the Wicklow People newspaper voted her “Wicklow’s Greatest Person”. D’fheacadh ar a anam leis an tiarna.

4. Wexford remembers Republican Martyrs

ON October 12 Cumann Pádraig Ó Pearaill and Wexford Republican Graves Association marked the anniversary of five men were killed in an explosion at St Kearns in 1920, with a wreath-laying ceremony at the graves of each of the men. A wreath was also laid at the memorial where the explosion happened.

All five men were in a house, along with nine other men, which was used as an explosives factory for the IRA. The men made bombs from old engine pipes cut into six inch lengths and packed with explosives with were then dispatched to Dublin in butter boxes.

It is not known what caused the explosion. The roof of the house was blown off, the walls shattered and the men’s bodies hurled in all directions. The five who died were Section Commanders Martin Roche and Frank Fitzgerald and Vol James Gleeson, James Bryne and Robert Walsh. The dead were buried with full military honours and their funerals were occasions of tragic scenes seldom equalled in the county.

5. Revised Corrib gas licence quashed by court

THE licence permitting the operation of a gas refinery and combustion installations at the Bellinaboy Bridge gas terminal in Co Mayo was quashed by the Commercial Court on October 15, 2013.

In a setback for the Shell Corrib gas pipeline project, the Environmental Protection Agency, which issued the licence in June 2013, conceded in court that Mayo man Martin Harrington was entitled to an order quashing the licence because of defects in carrying out an Environmental Impact Assessment.

Mr Justice Peter Kelly granted the order to Martin Harrington of Doohoma, Ballina, Co Mayo, after the EPA said it was not opposing his challenge to the licence issued by the agency to Shell E&P Ireland. The EPA will also pay his costs.

The licence permitted the operation of a gas refinery and combustion installations at the Ballinaboy Bridge gas terminal in Co Mayo. Shell E&P Ireland told an earlier court hearing that this case had “significant potential commercial consequences” for the €2.7bn Corrib gas project.

In the earlier hearing Shell said the construction of the terminal had been largely completed and it was intended to begin commissioning it in April next year.

Gas was due to be brought in for the first time towards the end of next year or early 2015.

The ruling by the Commercial Court is a setback for the €3 billion project. The EPA licence which was the subject of the October 15 ruling is a vital piece in the jigsaw of statutory authorisations for the project, and was first applied for back in 2004.

Residents objected to the licence on the basis that it posed a risk to the local public drinking water supply at Carrowmore lake, and that it could allow for controversial practices like cold venting and “flaring” of gas to relieve pressure.

6. Michael Campbell released

ON October 2 Michael Campbell (41), a native of Co Louth, was cleared by a court in Lithuania having been convicted in 2012 and sentenced to 12 years imprisonment by a lower court following an MI5 sting operation as he allegedly tried to purchase deadly equipment from arms dealers. He was released from custody immediately.

At the appeals hearing in Vilnius, Judge Viktoras Kazys said: “There was no direct evidence proving Campbell’s ties with the Real IRA. He was never arrested by British or Irish authorities for terrorism-linked activities. The prosecution did not provide enough evidence to deny statements that Campbell’s actions were provoked by undercover MI5 agents.”

Michael Campbell has since returned to Ireland. Interviewed in the Cross Examiner he said on October 14 that he was the victim of a set-up between British, Irish and Lithuanian authorities and says the judicial system is corrupt and without any principles of honesty or fairness.

Stating that without the unwavering support of his family and close friends, he could not have sustained the tough conditions in the jails with regimes designed to inflict the maximum torture on prisoners.

“People might think that the documented conditions were blown out of proportion, but that was not the case,” he said. “It’s very rough – a hole in the ground for the toilet, temperatures of minus 22 to 25 degrees with little or no heating. You’re just given a mattress and a dirty blanket that everybody has been using, there’s no such thing as laundry or cleaning and the food is very poor. Everything is blended and eaten with a spoon, there is never a need for a knife and fork.

“Less than 90 cent is the daily spend on prisoners’ food – to cover three daily meals, so you can imagine what could be bought for that. Prisoners had to buy extra foodstuffs at their own cost to supplement meals. We had to buy everything, even toilet roll, soap, toothpaste.”

Michael says attempted suicides and self-harm were rife among the prisoners.

“The amount of people who tried to commit suicide in the cell with me, as a way to get out, to get to the hospital. There was nothing we could do. Men were coming in, coming off drugs, going cold turkey, there was no rehabilitation for people like that so they’re mentally ill. If you see someone attempting to cut themselves, you have to grab them and bang on the door and when security would come to see what was wrong, you’d have to throw him out because he would be left to bleed in the cell. It was harsh but it was the only way to get help for them. ”

“I was kept with non-English speaking prisoners – Vietnamese, Turkish and Bulgarian. I was not even allowed to mix with Lithuanian people so as to prevent me getting any message out through that way. They move you from cell to cell if they see you getting on or able to communicate with anyone. In one week alone I was in three different cells.

“There was one of each nationality in the cell, four of us, and at times eight. The cell was about 8 foot by 10 foot, a hole in the ground for the toilet, food came to us, that what it was 23 hours a day.”

7. Former British army officer appointed minister of state in Occupied Six Counties

ON October 8 it was reported that a former British army officer Andrew Robathan, who once complained that the Bloody Sunday inquiry had created a £200 million bill to “stir up old enmities and reopen old sores”, was appointed as Minister of State at the Northern Ireland (sic) Office [in the Occupied Six Counties].

Welcoming his appointment last night, British Secretary of State in the Occupied Six Counties Theresa Villiers said his “many years of experience” in government and business would “serve him well in dealing with the complex issues we face”.

8. Loyalist band numbers at new high

THERE are more loyalist bands in the Occupied Six Counties now than ever before, according to media reports on October 7. The organisations include almost 30,000 members and represent a growing movement, the report said.

There are at least 640 bands across the Six Counties now.

Members of the Young Conway Volunteers Flute Band from the Shankill were filmed playing contentious songs and marching in a circle at St Patrick’s Catholic Church on Donegall Street in Belfast on 12 July last year [2012].

9. Priest frustrated by attacks on church

CATHOLIC priest Fr Anthony Alexander said he was frustrated that his church in Newtownabbey had been targeted by vandals again after a spate of attacks this year.

Paint was thrown at St Mary’s Star of the Sea on the Shore Road during the night of Saturday/Sunday October 12/13. It has been targeted in numerous previous attacks — last month a petrol bomb was thrown at the building.

Parish priest Fr Anthony Alexander described the latest attack as “senseless” and a “pointless exercise”.

“My reaction immediately would be a sort of frustration. We’ve just got the last (attack) cleaned up, it took quite a while and to have another attack leaves you speechless in many ways,” he said. “It’s only paint but it annoys the parishioners, it annoys the locals. Most people don’t want this to happen anywhere.”

10. Inquest into three men shot by SAS in Co Tyrone to go ahead

Relatives of three men shot dead by the SAS on June 3, 1991 are angry at the delay into their inquests. Senior coroner John Lecky said on October 1 it was his intention to hold an inquest next autumn. Unresolved legal issues mean it will be 11 months before the deaths are investigated by a coroner’s court.

The car in which the three Provisional Volunteers, Lawrence McNally, Peter Ryan and Tony Doris, were travelling through Coagh in Co Tyrone, was raked by up to 200 bullets, the ferocity of gunfire causing it to burst into flames.

It is one of several incidents where Republicans died in controversial circumstances at the hands of British Crown Forces during the 1980s and early 1990s which are still not dealt with.

Peter Ryan’s cousin Tarlagh Connolly said he was unhappy at the delay: “This happened 22 years ago and we have been fighting this case for the past 12. We will be following this through but it is another year, which is ridiculous.”

Legal issues including the screening of security forces witnesses and where the inquest will sit still have to be considered, a coroner’s court heard. A date for the four-week full hearing was set for September 1 next year.

Lawyers for the British Ministry of Defence and RUC/PSNI are considering which material can be disclosed to the families and court. The army’s lawyers have already read documents to assess their relevance.

Fiona Doherty, barrister for some of the IRA men’s relatives, said the security forces’ lawyers were seeking a considerable amount of time before taking a final decision on which material was redacted (withheld) from the court for national security reasons or the protection of witnesses.

Ms Doherty said: “The material that should be disclosed should be comprehensive in terms of the planning and content of this operation, to include all operational orders and briefing notes and everything that the inquest will require to determine what action was taken to minimise the need for recourse to force.”

11. Pearse Jordan inquest

THE integrity of an inquest into the death of Pearse Jordan, shot by the RUC 21 years ago was compromised by using former Special Branch officers in the disclosure process, the High Court in Belfast was told on October 1, 2013.

Lawyers for the family of Pearse Jordan claimed their involvement raises issues of institutional independence and apparent bias. Barrister Karen Quinlivan argued that using former Special Branch officers compromised the independence of the inquest.

The allegations were made as part of a legal bid to quash the findings reached by a jury at the tribunal into his death.

Pearse Jordan (23) was shot dead on the Falls Road, west Belfast in November 1992.

Witnesses said the RUC shot him in the back as he tried to flee after the stolen car he was driving was rammed.

His death was one of several high-profile cases in the Six Occupied Counties involving allegations of a shoot-to-kill policy operated by British Crown Forces.

In October 2012 a long-delayed inquest failed to reach agreement on key aspects; ie on whether reasonable force was used in the circumstances, the state of belief on the part of the RUC man who fired the fatal shots, and whether any alternative course of action was open to him.

They did agree that Jordan was shot by an RUC member after he got out of a car which had been forcibly stopped on the Falls Road. The also agreed that he died from a bullet would in the chest.

The Jordan family’s legal team claim the inquest was ineffective and violated human rights requirements. They want a new hearing ordered.

As part of a wide-ranging bid for a judicial review they called into question the disclosure process under which police provide all relevant documents to the coroner.

12. Inquiry into 1993 loyalist killing of Joseph Reynolds to reopen

ON October 11 it was reported that an investigation into the murder of Joseph Reynolds, from west Belfast, shot dead on his way to work in east Belfast 20 years ago, is to be reopened.

The decision was taken after new information emerged during a review of the cold case file on the killing in 1993.

Joseph Reynolds (40) was on his way to Shorts aircraft factory, where he worked as a subcontracting painter, when his van was ambushed by UVF gunmen.

The red Nissan van had stopped at a pedestrian crossing on Sydenham Road at 8.25am on the morning of October 12 1993, to allow two men to cross. The two men, who were wearing blue boilersuits and flat caps, walked across the road at Fraser Street but when they drew level with the van they opened fire with a handgun and a rifle. At the same time, another man in a light blue Astra car, which had pulled up behind the van, also opened fire.

Joseph Reynolds’s workmates managed to get the van to the Shorts factory where medical assistance was provided, but Joseph was pronounced dead. Three of the seven other men in the van, four relatives and three workmates, were also injured.

No one was ever charged with the shootings or the murder of Joseph Reynolds.

13. Craigavon man sentenced

A Craigavon man, who pleased guilty to having a gun in suspicious circumstances, was sentenced on October 15 for transporting a handgun.

Judge Stephen Fowler sentenced Kieran Collins to ‘at least two years’ and to an ‘extended licence sentence’. After two years it will be up to the parole commissioners to decide to release him or not and under what conditions. Fowler further stated that Kieran Collins would be on supervised licence for a further three years.

Kieran Collins was arrested in September 2012 and refused to answer any questions out to him by the RUC/PSNI.

14. The Insistence Of Absence: The legacy of the McGurk’s Bar bombing – Analysis

THE issue of how best to deal with the legacy of the past – if at all – continues to be a contested issue in the north of Ireland. The past remains present as those given the responsibility to move the process forward seem to evade their responsibilities to victims and survivors.

“As a child in my grandfather’s home…mere mention of McGurk’s and a pall would descend. It was as if an unwanted guest had barged into the room. Now that I am older, though, I wonder whether that dull presence ever left.”

Ciarán MacAirt, “The McGurk’s Bar Bombing: Collusion, Cover-Up and a Campaign for Truth”

On a cold, quiet night in December 1971, the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) detonated a bomb outside the door of the family owned and operated McGurk’s Bar in downtown Belfast. The impact of the loyalist bomb tore through the roof, causing the walls to cave in and the gas mains to burst into flame, trapping the predominantly Catholic patrons inside. Residents from neighbouring communities raced from their homes and poured into the streets surrounding the bar, many frantically digging through the rubble with their bare hands in an attempt to get to those that were still alive. In all, fifteen people were killed that night, with ages ranging from 13 to 73 years old. Seventeen more were injured in the blast.

In the aftermath of the bombing, it was left to the families who lost loved ones to determine whether their relatives were amongst those killed. The Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) made no effort to notify them; many were informed of their loss while watching the news on television. The remains of Philip Garry, 73, were so badly burned that members of his family were only able to confirm his death when they used a set of keys found in the pocket of an unidentified man to unlock their own front door. Said one grieving relative, Tommy McCready, on going to the hospital to identify James Smyth, 58, “If people had to see what I had to see in that room, there would not have been another bullet fired or bomb exploded.”

The unimaginable grief of the families would soon be compounded by the official line put forth by the British security forces: that the bomb that exploded in McGurk’s that night was an Irish Republican Army (IRA) “own goal.” The police’s immediate response to the tragedy was to blame the victims (all of whom were Catholic), labelling some as Republican paramilitaries carrying a bomb that had exploded prematurely. State authorities used this lie and subsequent campaign of disinformation in the immediate aftermath of the bombing to place the blame on the shoulders of those who died or were injured, implying that they were responsible at worst and guilty by association at best.

In the wake of the explosion, the McGurk’s Bar Massacre Campaign was born, as the families of the victims began to piece together their lives and embarked on a journey to uncover the truth about what happened and why. For over forty years now, the families have pursued every avenue available to them to clear the names of their loved ones and to have the truth about what happened officially acknowledged. Pat Irvine, daughter of Kathleen “Kitty” Irvine, who was killed in the blast, has said that she doesn’t feel like she truly started grieving for the loss of her mother until she started doing research for the campaign. Though one member of the UVF, Robert James Campbell, was prosecuted in 1978 for his role in the bombing, in 2010 the McGurk families discovered that he was named alongside four others by the RUC as perpetrators. The other four were neither arrested nor questioned about their involvement.

In February 2011, the Office of the Police Ombudsman for Northern Ireland (OPONI) released a report revealing investigative bias on behalf of the RUC at the time of the bombing, claiming that the police were so predisposed to the idea of the IRA “own goal” theory that they did not undertake a thorough investigation. In response, the current Chief Constable, Matt Baggott, publicly and contradicted the Ombudsman’s belief that there was any investigative bias.

Ciarán MacAirt was sent as a representative of the McGurk’s families to testify in front of the US Helsinki Commission’s hearing entitled “Northern Ireland: Why Justice in Individual Cases Matters”, chaired by Congressman Chris Smith in March of 2011. “Equivocating on the issue of truth and justice for past crimes will only embolden those elements responsible for them from the resulting impunity,” Congressman Smith said at the conclusion of the hearing. “The time has come to focus truth’s light on the murky relationships and collusion that existed between the security forces and paramilitary organizations in Northern Ireland and hold those responsible to account.”

The Historical Enquiries Team (HET), a division of the police service tasked with investigating unsolved murders during the Troubles, began its investigation of the McGurk’s Bar Bombing in 2006. Though the HET completed its most recent report in 2012, the Chief Constable blocked its release without explanation – a move one relative claimed was re-traumatizing for the families. On September 12 of this year, a High Court judge in Belfast granted Bridget Irvine, another of Kathleen’s daughters, leave to seek a judicial review of the Chief Constable’s decision. Speaking on behalf of the McGurk’s families, Frank O’Donoghue QC told the court that the Chief Constable is under public duty to release the HET’s findings without delay, and called his failure to do so “irrational, unlawful and in breach of their human rights” according to local papers.

Ciarán MacAirt is a generation removed from the bombing that claimed the life of his grandmother, Kathleen, and injured his grandfather, John Irvine. Though the bombing took place over three years before he was born, the impact of his family’s tremendous loss – and in particular, his relationship with his grandfather – would eventually inspire MacAirt to assume a leadership role in the McGurk’s Bar Massacre Campaign.

MacAirt’s grandfather John, who survived the blast that killed his wife, had fought in WWII as a Colour Sergeant in the Royal Irish Fusiliers, an Irish infantry regiment of the British Army. Though MacAirt remembers John as a fiercely quiet and intelligent man, he says he was also wracked with the sort of guilt that only survivors bear.

“Loss and grief can be raw and gravely problematic. For some it is shapeless, uncompromising and very angry. When awake, Granda’s grief was wordless and introspective. When he slept, though, he had horrific night terrors,” MacAirt recalls. Members of the Irvine family would regularly find John trying to push rubble away as he slept, and he would often awaken clawing at his mouth as if to remove the dust and silt from that night.

As a child, MacAirt was always conscious of the absence of a grandmother on his mother’s side, he says about growing up in the shadow of her death. “…for me Kathleen Irvine was omnipresent. We learned young that McGurk’s Bar was a subject that was rarely broached. For me as a child, my grandmother’s absence was as insistent as words that should be said…but are not.”

John Irvine would live another 22 years after the bomb that claimed the love of his life. As he grew older, MacAirt felt more and more of a duty to his grandparents to speak for them. He points to the 30th anniversary of the atrocity, in 2001, as a personal turning point. “I felt ashamed that I had done so little especially since I had promised Granda when I was a teenager that the first book I would write would be about the bombing of McGurk’s Bar. I was 26 years old at that stage and I reconsidered that remembrance alone was not enough,” MacAirt says.

MacAirt’s book, “The McGurk’s Bar Bombing: Collusion, Cover-Up and a Campaign for Truth” was published last year. While the book chronicles the story of the tragic 1971 bombing, it is as much about the collusion and subsequent cover-up as it is about love and loss, and the quiet strength and dignity with which the families continue to struggle to have “an innocence put back” on the names of their loved ones.

“What had always resonated with me was not so much the heavy loss that [Granda] bore but the depth of love he had to lose for such grief to be insurmountable,” writes MacAirt. “This subtlety is important for me as it reveals what he truly shared with every other person across these two islands and beyond who had their lives wrecked by conflict. Behind the horror, behind the terror, is a human love story and this is what I remember when I think of John and Kathleen Irvine.”

The book also details MacAirt’s theory behind the attack – namely that McGurk’s Bar was targeted because its patrons were Catholic, and that the families were then branded criminals by the police, British Army and the Intelligence Services for that very same reason. MacAirt argues that it would not have been feasible for the State to allow a loyalist paramilitary group to accept the blame for the bombing at that time; the British government’s internment policy had begun in August of that year and had to date been used exclusively against Catholic/nationalist communities.

Four months prior to the attack, the British Army put into place “Operation Demetrius,” a program of mass arrest and internment without trial of Catholics. Hundreds of people suspected of being involved in republican paramilitary groups were taken from their homes and jailed; no suspected loyalist paramilitaries were targeted in the sweeps. Had the security forces gone after the real perpetrators of the bombing, MacAirt believes, Protestants would then also have to be interned. “The international mask of its use as a tool of repressing just one community would have slipped,” MacAirt states.

MacAirt’s theory is supported in part by Colin Wallace, a former Senior Information Officer for the British Army’s psychological operations unit in the 1970s, who wrote the foreword to the book. Wallace was stationed at Army Headquarters in the North of Ireland and was on duty the night of December 4, 1971. He claims that the original report he received immediately following the bombing was that the bomb had been placed outside of the pub and that all the evidence pointed to a loyalist attack. The next morning, however, the official line had been changed to the IRA “own goal” theory, stating that the bomb had allegedly exploded inside the pub in the hands of those who had intended to use it elsewhere. Wallace believes that the change in the story – what MacAirt refers as collusion after the fact – was part of the British government’s disinformation strategy, meant to counter recent IRA propaganda successes.

Although MacAirt has never had any faith in the independence or effectiveness of the HET as an organisation for truth recovery, the future direction and focus of the McGurk’s Bar Massacre campaign will be determined by the contents of the HET report once the families are able to gain access to it. Outside of the pending legal action, the families continue their campaign through the book, their website and a new film entitled “The McGurk’s Bar Bombing: Loss of Innocence” which is now available on YouTube.

The issue of how best to deal with the legacy of the past – if at all – continues to be a contested issue in the north of Ireland. For his part, MacAirt shares the beliefs of victims/survivors groups like Relatives for Justice, the Pat Finucane Centre, Justice for the Forgotten, an Fhírinne, and the Ardoyne Commemoration Project – that an independent, international process that allows for all participants in the conflict to come clean would greatly benefit campaigning families specifically and society in general – regardless of how costly or shameful their uncomfortable truths might be.

In 2008, this coalition of groups came together to call for a process tailor-made for Ireland’s circumstances, due in large part to the fact that available mechanisms did not provide any real prospect of truth recovery for affected families. “We believe that an independent, international truth commission provides the best opportunity for truth recovery for the greatest number of those affected by the conflict. We believe this will contribute to individual and societal healing and recovery, dealing with the legacy of the past in a positive way and building a better future for everyone,” the coalition stated. Though a proposal for a truth commission of sorts was recommended by the British-appointed Consultative Group on the Past in 2009 only to be shelved soon thereafter, recent developments appear to be re-opening the idea as a more viable option.

In July, Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) – a crown-appointed watchdog group akin to the US’ Internal Affairs – found that the HET investigated cases involving state violence with “less rigour” than others, and called their approach to investigations inconsistent. The announcement prompted Belfast-based victims group Relatives for Justice to declare the HET “beyond reform” and has called for it to be disbanded to create space for a legitimate investigative process. US diplomat Richard Haass, a former Special Envoy to Northern Ireland, arrived in Belfast this week to chair multi-party talks on some of the unresolved issues of the peace process, including dealing with the past.

On the same day that the McGurk’s families won their court challenge for a judicial review, Amnesty International published a bold report entitled “Northern Ireland: Time to Deal with the Past.” The report criticises the existing mechanisms for truth recovery currently available to families, such as the HET and the OPONI, and calls the lack of political will to deal with the legacy of the past the largest factor preventing the creation of a viable, comprehensive process to move forward.

Amnesty states, “Without the truth, however, Northern Ireland’s past will continue to cast a long, damaging shadow over its present and its future. The longer that truth is kept hidden, and as a result justice and reparation are denied, the greater the potential for damage. The longer each bereaved family or injured individual is left to stitch together facts and fragments of information from disparate, piecemeal processes, the greater their pain.”

It remains to be seen whether or not the new Amnesty report and the upcoming Haass talks, combined with existing local campaigning families and human rights groups, will have the power to prompt more focused and sustained political engagement on the topic of an independent, international truth recovery process. Yet MacAirt’s own experience of growing up in the shadow of his grandmother’s absence, like so many others who lost loved ones during the Troubles, exemplifies the naiveté of any argument about drawing a line under the past. The idea that there is a generation that has not been affected ignores the experience of victims and survivors who continue to shoulder the burden of loss.

Robert McClenaghan, grandson of Philip Garry, remarked on his continued involvement in the McGurk’s Bar campaign, “You would like it to go away and to be able to do something else with your life…but you just feel compelled. The dead cannot speak, and we have to try to speak for them and be their voice. And to try to act on their behalf and say that these people were innocent. And that these people deserve justice.”

Could an international, independent truth inquiry create the conditions necessary for true healing and reconciliation to finally begin? Are the interests of those most intimately affected by the violence of the Troubles being served as these issues are discussed? For them, their families and their communities, the past remains present as those given the responsibility to move the process forward seem to evade their responsibilities to victims and survivors.

Kate McCabe is a former National President of the Irish American Unity Conference and a founder of Relatives for Justice USA. She will attend the Harvard Program in Refugee Trauma this year.

Kate can be contacted at

Eurasia Review, September 26, 2013


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