The Secretary, Bobby Sands Trust, 51-53 Falls Road, Belfast, BT12 4PD.
By Post & Email Open Letter to the Bobby Sands Trust
By Post & Email Open Letter to the Bobby Sands Trust
I have just read an article written by journalist Mark Rainey: ‘Hunger striker’s family slams republicans profiting from his memory’, dated 25th February 2016. The Secretary of the BST is quoted in the article to have made the following pertinent statements:
“Bobby – in a signed letter witnessed by his solicitor and which is part of the foundation documents of the Bobby Sands Trust – bequeathed his writings to the republican movement.
“These documents are lodged in the National Library, Dublin, for the Irish nation. The library has promised to digitise copies of all the writings and eventually make them accessible to students and historians.” See Article Here.
The letter referred to by the BST Secretary could be a codicil to a more substantive drafted will. A codicil is a document that is similar in effect to a will where something is being bequeathed. In practice a codicil is only used in order to make minor amendments to a pre-existing will; otherwise it is more appropriate to draft a new will. If there was no pre-existing will then, from the information detailed above, the alleged letter written by Bobby Sands appears to be the foundation to the BST in the form of, what is called in law, a half-secret trust.
The BST Secretary’s disclosure only adds to the murky origins of the BST and its secret beneficiary. If, as Mr Morrison claims, Bobby Sands ‘bequeathed’ his property to the ‘republican movement’ this would imply that the BST was established as a half-secret trust. A half-secret trust derives from a will that identifies what property is to be held on a trust, but, the beneficiary is not to be identified; hence, until now, the identity of the BST’s beneficiary has been a mystery. The existence of a half-secret trust must be in the possession of at least one trustee before the settlor’s death, or that the trustee knows where to find it, for example, in the form of a sealed letter held by a lawyer. That Bobby Sands’ family have been unaware of the alleged letter before Bobby Sands died on hunger strike does nothing to allay suspicion that Bobby Sands may have been unduly coerced at a time when he was at his most vulnerable.
If Bobby Sands was advised by the same law firm which also represented the intended beneficiary this could give rise to doubts about any will being written free from coercion or improper advice or influence.
The Secretary of the BST defines the sole beneficiary of Bobby Sands will to be the ‘republican movement’. Prior to Bobby Sands’ death the republican movement was essentially the IRA; Sinn Fein at that time was an insignificant organisation under the umbrella of the republican movement. Reference to the ‘republican movement’ is not very well defined and, if challenged, any will, or trust, would most likely fail for lack of surety of the object for which the will or trust was intended.
Madden & Finucane Solicitor’s would have known that bequeathing property to an unlawful organisation would invalidate any will irrevocably. Thus, it is assumed, that the BST Secretary’s use of the term ‘republican movement’ is intended as a smoke screen to avoid specifically identifying Sinn Fein as the BST’s secret beneficiary.
The law relating to wills are contained in the Wills Act 1837 where Section 7 would require that Bobby Sands had the necessary capacity to write a valid will; capacity defined as being of sound mind, memory and fully cognisant of what he was doing and its consequences. If Bobby Sands wrote the alleged letter during his hunger strike then was the legally required 2nd witness a doctor who had assessed Bobby’s faculties and fitness to sign such an important document? In fact, it is considered best practice for a solicitor to obtain a written medical opinion where the mental health or vulnerability of the testator might be in doubt. The formalities required by the Wills Act serve to protect the testator from fraud and undue influence and from making a will that does not reflect his genuine wishes or to prevent exclusion of someone (a child or vulnerable adult) who ought to have been included in accordance with law.
Section 9 of the Wills Act is to ensure that careful consideration is given to the construction of a will and its contents. A will can be fraudulent if the testator has left a significant person out that would otherwise have benefited but for any misrepresentations. This would be one reason why sound legal advice is so crucial. It was Bobby Sands’ lawyer’s inescapable responsibility to make sure that his client understood, in terms that he could comprehend, the full extent and value of the property of which he was bequeathing to Sinn Fein. The lawyer would also be compelled, under the Wills Act, to advise Bobby Sands that he must make sufficient provision for his 10 year old son in his written will. In addition, the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants Act) 1975 was also relevant at the time, and, Bobby Sands should have been advised by his lawyer against completely disinheriting his own son, or, making insufficient or no reasonable provision for him. The law clearly states that a parent cannot disinherit a child under the age of 18; it appears that former ‘friends’ and ‘comrades’ of Bobby Sands took it upon themselves to disinherit his son.
Trustees act in the interests of the beneficiary for whom they owe a fiduciary duty of care, thus, they cannot do certain things if the beneficiary has instructed them not to. The Public Records Office have informed me that they can find no records that any will or trust relating to Bobby Sands has ever been registered with their office. It is perplexing that the Bobby Sands Trust will not provide Bobby Sands’ next of kin with a copy of the will or trust instrument? It is as if only the Trustees and their legal advisors are the only ones who have ever seen proof that such documents exist. It is also a consideration that Gerry Adams is both leader of Sinn Fein and a long standing trustee who might be exercising his personal controlling interest to ensure that the BST is used as an undeserved secret nest egg for himself and his political party at the expense of Bobby Sands’ next of kin.
It is hard to ignore that Gerry Adams might be applying his dual roles, as both trustee and beneficiary of the BST, to ensure that Bobby Sands’ next of kin do not see copies of any of the ‘foundation’ documents. If Danny Morrison is correct and Bobby Sands ‘bequeathed’ his property to strangers, and not to his next of kin, then Gerry Adams should have nothing to fear from providing the family with a copy of any will, or trust instrument. Perhaps Mr Adams’ resistance to having his pivotal roles scrutinised by Bobby Sands’ family is because both he and his party have enjoyed unjust enrichment from Bobby Sands’ written works to the depravation of Bobby Sands’ son and rightful successor?
Mr Adams’ and Sinn Fein’s objections to allowing the Sands Family to see copies of any of the foundation documents is particularly puzzling given that the BST Secretary has asserted that all the ‘foundation’ documents have been lodged with the National Library for future public access. This causes me to think 2 possibilities; 1) that the Bobby Sands Trust is acting with contempt toward Bobby Sands’ son by refusing him any right to see the alleged documents; or, 2) the alleged ‘foundation’ documents might have been forged or coerced and the Sands Family could expose that possibility. Certainly, one wonders what possible harm could be caused by Bobby Sands’ son having sight of documents written or signed by his own father?
There is no reasonable excuse for Gerry Adams and Sinn Fein, as beneficiary of the trust, for preventing the BST from providing Bobby Sands’ son with copies of, what Mr Morrison describes as ‘foundation’ documents bequeathing Bobby Sands’ writings to the republican movement. Mr Adams and Sinn Fein have already exercised their beneficiary right over the BST to hand the documents over to the National Library so why not allow Bobby Sands’ son immediate access to view these same documents?
Christy Walsh 2nd April 2016