Wednesday, October 21, 2015

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Hooded Men Bringing Torture To Book

Nuala Perry provides an account of the re-launch of The Hooded Men in Belfast. Nuala Perry is a former republican prisoner and currently campaigns for prisoners' rights.

On the 30th of September the Anne Devlin 1916 Society had the honour of hosting the re-launch of ‘The Hooded Men’ book in the Red Devil Bar Belfast.

The book had been reprinted to mark the fortieth anniversary of the death of Sean Mc Kenna, one of ‘The Hooded Men’ who died in 1975, aged 45.

Speaking about the re-launch of the book, Jim Mc Ilmurray the Case Coordinator said, ‘

As we head towards Europe we are finding more people want information and I consider the book to be an authority.......the re-issue was the idea of Tyrone Republican and historian Joe Bell, to who we wish to express our gratitude.

Anticipation and a degree of trepidation are usually the two big factors which underpin the preparation of events such as this. However, on this occasion there was another factor, one of which we were very aware, those in attendance would not only be given primary accounts from the ‘dark’ past, they would also be privy to unfolding aspects of redress and accountability and history on the march.

After an introduction from Nuala Perry from the Anne Devlin Society, Monsignor Raymond Murray opened the evening’s launch and talk with his first-hand account of British Torture in Ireland.

The Monsignor outlined, that in 1972 it has been stated by the British Parliamentary Secretary of Home Affairs, Commander Albert Anderson, that since August 1971 2,357 persons had been arrested under the Civil Authorities-Special Powers Acts; 923 detention orders had been made, 631 persons had been interned. In total, this meant that 2% of the adult Catholic male population of the North of Ireland (100,000) had been arrested under Special Powers and held incommunicado from their relatives, doctors and clergy for 48 hours. During this period of disappearance about 20% or more than 400 of these men had been treated with brutality and torture. 

The Armagh Priest who compiled the first edition of ‘The Hooded Men’ book with Fr. Denis Faul from Dungannon also told how this torture fell into Four Phases.

The Four Phases of Torture:

1) 9-11 August 1971-Brutality inflicted upon men arrested and brought to Ballykinlar camp and Girdwood Barracks.

2) 11-17th August-Torture inflicted on 14 men by hooding, spread-eagling against a wall for days, being subjected to high pitched noise, deprived of food, drink and sleep, and badly beaten-all those tortures happening simultaneously.

3) 23-August-10th December-Interrogation with brutality and great number of torture methods in the special Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) holding centres in the Palace Military Barracks, Holywood. These men were detained on the Maidstone and Crumlin Road Prison.

4) 10 December-February 1972-Torture in RUC interrogation centres in Holywood and Girwood Barracks to force men to sign statements admitting crimes that the police wanted to connect them with. These men were then charged on the basis of statements obtained through torture.

Francie Mc Guigan, Brian Turley, Kevin Hannaway and Micky Donnelly, four of ‘The Hooded Men’ spoke poignantly and descriptively to tell the packed hushed audience how they individually experienced the illegal five techniques during the second phase of torture.

The five techniques were illegal interrogation methods which were originally developed by the British Military in other operation theatres and then applied to detainees during the so called ‘troubles’ in the North of Ireland.

The five techniques have been defined as wall-standing, hooding, subjection to noise, deprivation of sleep, and deprivation of food and drink. The five techniques were classified as torture by the European Commission of Human Rights in 1976. However, this was bizarrely over turned in 1978 by appeal.

Jim Mc Ilmurray the men’s Case Coordinator talked with optimism about how ‘The Hooded Men’ had cleared the first stage in a legal battle to have their case fully investigated. He also outlined how last year, the Irish Government had stated it would ask the European Court to revise the 1978 decision.

Darragh Mackin from Kevin Winter’s office, the men’s solicitor, spoke about the massive implications attached to reversing this ‘degrading and inhuman’ ruling. From a legal point his office has argued that the 1978 European Court judgment was, in their view erroneous, and it created a terrible precedent. The UK has relied on it and so have Israel and the US, in the so-called war on terror. In 2003 an Iraqi hotel worker, Baha Mousa, died after interrogation by British soldiers. It emerged in 2009 that his death had been caused by the similar use of the five techniques which had been applied to ‘The Hooded Men’ in Ballykelly.

A historical and informative night ended with a ballot to raise much needed funds for the prisoners. J Mc Laverty and Anne Stewart of the IRPWA then thanked all contributors for their help and ongoing support.

On a final note and on behalf of the Anne Devlin 1916 Society I would like to say Go raibh maith agaibh to all of the above, and also Go raibbh mile maith agaibh teacht mor to those who attended the event and purchased the books. A special thanks to Mairead, Debbie and Eva, the latter due to the continuation of special power restrictions was unable to attend, but who made her contribution anyway.



Fionnuala Perry said...

Thanks so much for this.

AM said...

Delighted to carry all your stuff Nuala.