The An Sionnach Fionn blog highlights a couple of disturbing cases which shows Perfidious Albion at its worse. Sadly the UK coalition government seemed determined to sabotage the gains made in the six counties of the north of Ireland since the Good Friday Agreement was signed.
A major bone of contention amongst nationalists are the letters the UK government gave to Republican volunteers known as the On the Runs. If re-elected on May 7 it looks very much like David Cameron will renegade on this agreement by retracting the letters making them null and void. Which will make many of the OLRs liable to arrest. The letters which were sent out by the British authorities to hundreds of volunteers, state they are free to return to all parts of the UK, including the north, and would face no legal action for activities during the 1966-2005 armed conflict. They were part of bilateral confidence building measures during the peace process negotiations.
The other matter the blog highlights is Christy Walsh's titanic struggle for justice which has now lead him to go on Hunger Strike, today is his 16th day without food. Christy, from west Belfast, was convicted in 1991 by a Diplock court of possessing explosives in connection with the conflict in Northern Ireland, and sentenced him to 20 years.
He has campaigned for 20 years to clear his name on the basis that his conviction was a miscarriage of justice. His case was referred to the Court of Appeal by the Criminal Cases Review Commission in 2000. That appeal having failed, he appealed again and in January 2002 his conviction was upheld, even though the court acknowledged the possibility that procedural irregularities might have amounted to an interference with his right to a fair trial. Following an unprecedented third appeal on the basis of new evidence, his conviction was overturned as unsafe on 16 March 2010. However he has been refused compensation for the conviction and time spent in prison.
I will let An Sionnach Fionn blog take up the story of both issues below.
Couple of things brought to my attention. The first is the case of Christy Walsh, a citizen of this republic, who in 1991 was stopped on a street in his hometown of Belfast by members of the British Army’s infamous Parachute Regiment and accused of carrying a “coffee-jar-bomb”; a hand-thrown improvised grenade deployed by the (Provisional) Irish Republican Army against the UK Forces. Despite the obvious lack of forensic evidence and clear inconsistencies in the case, a British no-jury counter-insurgency court convicted Walsh of possessing an explosive device and sentenced him in 1992 to a fourteen year prison sentence. Released in 1998 he went on to appeal his conviction several times, uncovering evidence that the British soldiers had falsified their accounts of his detention and search, eventually gaining success in 2010 when the Court of Appeal had no choice but to overturn his original 1992 sentence. The Pensive Quill, the website of the former republican activist and author Anthony McIntyre, has charted Christy’s decision to engage in a hunger-strike to publicise and protest his original arrest, trial and imprisonment. So far he has received scant recognition from either the British or northern regional authorities for what he endured and certainly no compensation.
You can follow his campaign at the Christy Walsh website or on the Pensive Quill.
The second case is that of sixty-seven year old Michael Burns from North Belfast, a former Volunteer of the (Provisional) Irish Republican Army, who is gravely ill with a terminal condition called chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (or COPD). Burns, who was resident in this part of the country from 1977 to 2003, was in receipt of a letter from the British government stating that he was free to return to the city of his birth and would face no legal action for his activities during the 1966-2005 conflict. This letter was one of hundreds issued to Republican activists by the UK authorities as part of bilateral confidence-building measures during the peace process of the late 1990s and early 2000s. Now the British are reneging on the carefully negotiated understandings that formed the basis of the Belfast Agreement of 1998, the multi party documents that brought some three decades of war in the north-eastern corner of Ireland to an end. Instead they have launched a campaign of retrospective vengeance on former guerilla opponents, men and women who are now in their 50s, 60s and 70s, attempting to do through British counter-insurgency courts what they were incapable of doing on the battlefield during the conflict itself. The very real danger that such actions risk destroying the political progress of the last two decades seems to matter not a whit in the corridors of power, either in Belfast or London. Imprisoning pensioners and the terminally ill is more important.
Veteran journalist and author Ed Moloney has more over on the Broken Elbow.