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News :: International
Boston College and the Belfast Tapes
25 May 2014
A voice from the grave, or a foot in the mouth?
BOSTON COLLEGE has accused Ed Moloney and Anthony McIntyre of a “shameful attempt” not to accept any responsibility for the fiasco and fall-out from the ‘Boston College Tapes’ interviews with former republican and unionist activists.

The tapes include the late Brendan Hughes and Dolours Price and were obtained by the PSNI through the US courts to pursue possible prosecutions and reportedly cited in the arrest of Gerry Adams last week before the Sinn Féin leader was released without charge.

Admitting that everyone involved, including Boston College, had “made mistakes” Jack Dunn, a spokesperson for Boston College, on RTÉ Radio’s Morning Ireland programme on Wednesday accused Moloney and McIntyre of “trying to deflect blame away from themselves consistently that does not stand up in the light of scrutiny”.

Ed Moloney was Director of the Belfast Project, initiated by Lord Paul Bew. Bew, a former adviser to Unionist Party leader David Trimble and a politics professor at Queens University Belfast, was a visiting professor at Boston College’s Burns Library. He later recommended to Burns Librarian Robert O’Neill an oral history project recording first-hand accounts of participants in ‘The Troubles’ in the North of Ireland for scholars and researchers of conflict. The Belfast Project began in 2001.

Lord Bew appointed as Belfast Project Director Ed Moloney, a trenchant critic of Gerry Adams. Moloney subsequently recruited as Researcher Anthony McIntyre, a former IRA member and long-time open critic of Sinn Féin. This has led to such widespread accusations of bias that Jack Dunn and Boston College now feel have “called the validity of the archive into question”.

Jack Dunn said that the Anglo-US Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty (MLAT) under which the PSNI sought and obtained the ‘confidential’ interviews given to Moloney and McIntyre under guarantees by them had been signed in 1994.

He said a legal clause was inserted in the contract signed by Ed Moloney as Director of the Belfast Project and it was confirmed in a letter to Moloney by Robert O’Neill that confidentiality could only be assured by Boston College “to the extent that American law would allow”, Jack Dunn said. American law included MLAT.

Jack Dunn told RTÉ he thinks it was “a caveat that was ignored” by Moloney and McIntyre. There was also a general assumption that the British, Irish and US governments would not consider a move to obtain the tapes given the bedding down of the Peace Process.

The Boston College spokesperson said that he found it “impossible to believe” that an experienced journalist such as Ed Moloney (who has been based in the USA for many years) could not know that MLAT was in existence well before the Belfast Project was launched.

“It is unconscionable to me that they [Moloney and McIntyre] would claim not to know this when the court records state otherwise.”

Claims by Anthony McIntyre and Ed Moloney that Boston College had not done enough to fight the PSNI action in the US courts despite a two-year legal battle were described by the Boston College spokesperson as “tired rhetoric issued repeatedly by Ed Moloney and Anthony McIntyre and, quite frankly, that’s been too willingly accepted by the Irish media”. He pointed out that US academic institutions have no protection against federal court subpoenas against oral history projects.

• The scandal has prompted Boston College’s History Department to publicly disown the Belfast Project, saying it “is not and never was a Boston College History Department project”.

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Re: Boston College and the Belfast Tapes
26 May 2014
It’s Not Your Granny’s Ireland Any More

For many years, Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams was the member of the British parliament for West Belfast in Northern Ireland, albeit one who refused to take his seat in London. Since 2011, however, he has served in the Irish legislature, without abstention, representing constituents across the border in the Republic of Ireland’s County Louth.

But if you can take the man out of Belfast, you can’t take the terrible history of Belfast out of the man. A few weeks ago he was back in his homeplace to face questioning about the 1972 disappearance and murder of widowed mother-of-ten Jean McConville, who the IRA apparently believed was passing information to the British army. The Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) arrested and held Adams, interrogating him intensely, for four days before releasing him. The prosecution service is now considering the evidence.

Why is this particularly shocking cold-case getting warmed over now? The background is murky, complex and divisive, involving a strange and accidental coming together of the interests of cops who haven’t forgotten their anti-IRA war and the memories of republicans who opposed the way Adams took the IRA out of that war. Adams denies any involvement in the murder. He continues to deny he was in the IRA. Few people believe the latter denial, at least. And so in early May the mainstream media in the Republic became convinced that this incredulity and the exhumed horror of the McConville murder would translate into a fall in support for Sinn Fein.

If it has had a negative effect, it’s hard to spot it. Counting continues in the local and European elections — not for the national parliaments — that were held North and South last week. Up North the Sinn Fein party has uneventfully held its status as the main political vehicle for Catholic-nationalists. In the Republic, especially in Dublin, its upward surge has been so dramatic that all of the party’s unsuccessful candidates will probably be able fit glumly around one table in the corner of the crowded celebration party. The past, of Gerry Adams and of Sinn Fein as the political wing of the IRA, was no obstacle to success.

The rise and rise of Sinn Fein is just part of a wider series of triumphs for the Left. (Whatever its political qualities in the North and in rural areas, there is no doubt that in Dublin, where SF will be the largest group on the city council, it is a left-wing party, typified by its newly elected member of the European parliament, Lynn Boylan.) Despite the acrimonious dissolution last year of the further-left alliance that promised so much at the 2011 elections, socialists and left-populists have had remarkable electoral success in councils across the Republic, and to a lesser extent in Northern Ireland too. If this was a protest vote against austerity and its Irish engineers, the protest largely spurned xenophobes, pro-lifers and sundry right-wing conspiracists, of the sort who have done well elsewhere in Europe. Instead it favoured leftists whose divisions may indeed have spurred them to work even harder to build support in working-class communities.

The emblem of this new Ireland, an electorate that refuses to believe that there are no alternatives to neoliberal dictates, is the poll-topper in the huge European-election constituency that stretches across the Irish midlands and around the border: Luke Ming Flanagan came to prominence in the 1990s and early 2000s as a pro-cannabis campaigner and, yes, he got his no-longer-just-a-nickname from his resemblance to a Flash Gordon villain, Ming the Merciless. He has been prominent in support of issues ranging from the interests of small-scale turf-cutters on peat bogs to women’s reproductive rights. No, it’s not your granny’s Ireland any more.

Fine Gael and Fianna Fail, the conservative civil-war parties that have dominated Irish politics for nearly a century, haven’t gone away, but they’ll have to accept their more modest place in a fractured landscape. In Dublin their combined vote in the European election was a mere 28%. Softly, barely social-democratic Labour, always in the shadows as a half-party in what was often called a two-and-a-half-party system, always ready to go into government with Fine Gael, has been beaten by the voters into near-catatonia for forming that coalition again after the last parliamentary election in 2011 — Labour leader Eamon Gilmore resigned that post on Monday afternoon..

Statistically, Ireland is in the midst of a modest recovery: unemployment is down, growth is back. But across the island, the heartbreaking social realities for those below the elite 1% are all about emigration, worsening public services, stagnant wages, new regressive taxes and charges, and a housing crisis to accompany the return of investors to the property market.

The so-called Troika of EU, IMF and European Central Bank no longer runs the country as directly as it did until recently. But international capital still calls the shots in Ireland, where the economy was crushed to make sure that bondholders of even the most delusional bubble-blowing banks got paid back every cent they had gambled.

The actual government won’t change here. As elsewhere in Europe, where the real left made gains but so did neo-fascists, the vote is being interpreted as a ‘midterm’ protest. The EU is an enormous influence on economics and politics across the continent, especially in those countries that are in the euro currency zone, but the EU’s parliament doesn’t wield much power: in Ireland, certainly, there is usually something rather ‘B team’ about the candidates for European elections, despite the fact that the job pays better than a seat in the domestic parliament. A couple of by-elections for domestic seats got at least as much attention as the larger Euro campaigns — and resulted in another trotskyist victory, for the Socialist Party’s Ruth Coppinger, in an increasingly red corner of Dublin.

The full Irish European-election results have been delayed, in part because of a push by eurocrats bent on ‘integrating’ the union to treat this as one giant election across the continent, in which all results arrive together, from Scotland to Portugal, Denmark to Greece. Although some common trends are apparent, this remains largely a nonsense, with campaigns dominated by local and national, rather than ‘European’ issues. And turnout in European elections continues to trail behind the turnout in ‘real’, i.e. national, ones.

But while the French National Front are nowhere to be seen in Dublin, the election weekend here did see an ironic bit of European-style economic reality hit in a rather trendy inner-city eatery called the Paris Bakery, in the shadow of the General Post Office where the Republic was declared in the 1916 Rising. The cafe’s owner is shutting it down, with €130,000 in unpaid wages owed to its employees. The workers and their supporters have occupied the premises for three days now to demand they get paid. From Athens to Madrid, from Paris to the Paris Bakery, the struggle continues long after the polls are closed.
Re: Boston College and the Belfast Tapes
27 May 2014
Modified: 05:56:43 PM
Sinn Fein Wins Election in Northern Ireland

Martina Anderson, Sinn Féin, has topped the poll in the European elections for Northern Ireland. She polled 159,813 votes, beating the quota by over 3,000 votes to become the first of Northern Ireland's three MEPs.

On the unionist side, the DUP's Diane Dodds came in second with 131,163 votes, about 25,000 short of the quota.

Counting ended at 12:40 BST on Tuesday after nearly 16 hours at the King's Hall in Belfast. At stage four in the count, no other candidate reached the quota and Henry Reilly, UKIP, was eliminated.

Tina McKenzie, NI21, and Ross Brown, Green Party, were excluded at stage 3 and the process of transferring their votes began. It took just over nine hours for the first preference votes to be confirmed.

Speaking at 21:00 BST on Monday, Graham Shields, chief electoral officer, at the count in Belfast's King's Hall, said it could be another two hours before all of Martina Anderson's surplus votes were distributed. Mr Shields said it had been a long day. But he said some people had jobs to return to on Tuesday.

He said the delays in counting the European election results "strengthen the case for electronic voting".

Gareth Gordon
BBC News NI Political Correspondent
It was a great result for Sinn Féin and a good one for the DUP. It is the second European election in a row that Sinn Féin topped the poll and, combined with their result in the Republic of Ireland, the party is cock-a-hoop. After an encouraging local government election, the picture is not quite as rosy for the Ulster Unionists, with Jim Nicholson polling 83,438.

Once again the TUV leader Jim Allister polled well, confirming his position as champion of the anti-Agreement unionists. With 24,584 votes, UKIP had a creditable European election. The SDLP's Alex Attwood polled over 80,000 votes, but is not expected to be elected.

However, the counting is continuing slowly. It could be the early hours before the full picture is known. Nigel Dodds, DUP, said the delay in the election result was "a travesty" and there were questions to answer.

He said that there were not enough people counting the ballots and Northern Ireland needed to "up its game". Nigel Dodds called the delay in counting 'a travesty'. Earlier, it was announced that Ulster Unionist Jim Nicholson got 83,438 votes. Alex Attwood, SDLP, received 81,594 votes and Jim Allister, Traditional Unionist Voice, got 75,806 votes.

Anna Lo, the Alliance candidate, received 44,432 votes.

Henry Reilly for UKIP received 24,584 votes; Ross Brown, standing for the Greens, got 10,598 first preference votes. and Tina McKenzie for NI21 received 10,553. Mark Brotherston for the Conservatives was eliminated at the end of the first count. He got 4,144 votes. Votes totalled 636,093 and the valid poll was 626,125. Turnout is just below 52%, compared to 43% in 2009. Ten candidates have been competing for the three seats in Europe.
Re: Belfast
29 May 2014
The UK's only Chinese-born parliamentarian will not seek re-election to the Northern Ireland assembly due to continual racist abuse directed at her by loyalists, she confirmed on Thursday.

Anna Lo says she will not run again for the centrist Alliance party and may leave Northern Ireland because of right wing loyalists' abuse

Anna Lo told the Guardian she had had enough and would not run again for the centrist Alliance party in the next Stormont assembly elections.

The Hong-Kong-born immigrant, who has lived in Northern Ireland for four decades, said she was also considering leaving the province for good because of enduring sectarianism and now rising racism.

Lo, who represents South Belfast in the regional parliament, blamed continual racist behaviour towards her, as well as first minister Peter Robinson's support for a born-again right wing Christian preacher's depiction of Islam as "the spawn of the devil", as her reasons for wanting out of Ulster politics.

In an interview with the Guardian on Thursday, Lo said she was shaken up by a recent incident during the European election campaign when a right wing loyalist mob followed her out of an east Belfast shopping centre.

"They started hurling abuse at me and I decided to get out of Connswater shopping centre as quickly as possible. About three or four individuals then followed me to the car park but I kept ahead of them walking as quickly as I could. Even when I got inside my car there was a young girl who climbed out of the wound-down window of a parked car and started shouting vile things at me. If I hadn't decided to act quickly and get out of there I don't know what would have happened to me," Lo said.

She revealed that her two sons had been trying to persuade her to get out of Northern Ireland and join them in England because of their concerns for her personal safety. "What can I do? I know they are worried about me but I have just bought a house and I have so many friends here. But I am seriously considering it."

Lo – who stood for the Alliance party in the European elections last week, gaining 44,432 first preference votes, but was eliminated at the fifth stage – was also scathing about Robinson's support for Pastor James McConnell, who denounced the Muslim religion as evil during one of his sermons a fortnight ago.

"To support a lunatic who makes remarks like that is adding fuel to the flames in Northern Ireland," she said, adding: "In the last few weeks there have been two to three racist incidents per day in Belfast and other parts of Northern Ireland. And it isn't just Peter Robinson who is supporting this man. Sammy Wilson [the former Democratic Unionist Stormont minister] and Edwin Poots [the DUP's health minister in the power-sharing executive] are supporting this preacher."

Lo said the political establishment had done nothing to combat sectarianism or racism, and this had left her deeply disillusioned about politics.

"I've had enough of the inability of this society and its political leaders to escape from the past. And what's worse is the rising racism in our community. I have been living here for 40 years, and this has forced me out of politics and made me think about getting out of Northern Ireland altogether. So, what must immigrants who have come here only recently think about this place?"

Lo said she had been shocked by the level of vitriol directed at her and the recent spike in racial attacks and abuse against the new immigrant population in the region.

The first minister sought on Thursday to defuse a toxic political row that further polluted relations between himself and his power-sharing partners, in particular the deputy first minister, Martin McGuinness.

Robinson said he "did not mean to insult Islam" when he defended McConnell's comments and stated that he himself would not trust any Muslim who adhered to sharia law.

The Democratic Unionist leader claimed his remarks had been misinterpreted. He added: "For the avoidance of any doubt, I make it clear that I welcome the contribution made by all communities in Northern Ireland, and in the particular circumstances, the Muslim community.

"I very much value their contribution at every level to our society and I will take the opportunity to meet with local Muslim leaders to demonstrate my ongoing support for them as integral, law-abiding citizens in Northern Ireland."
Re: Boston College and the Belfast Tapes
30 May 2014
Modified: 10:50:43 PM
A bomb detonated Friday in the lobby of a hotel in the Northern Ireland city of Londonderry, but police said a swift evacuation ensured that nobody was injured.

The device detonated inside the Everglades, one of the longest operating hotels in Northern Ireland’s second-largest city. Witnesses said a masked man tossed the weapon into the hotel and then fled on foot. The bomb exploded as British Army experts were deploying a remote-controlled robot to examine it.

No group claimed responsibility. Politicians said Irish Republican Army hard-liners opposed to Northern Ireland’s peace process were the most likely culprits.

A witness, Gary Rutherford, said he had just dropped off relatives at the hotel entrance when a man covering his face with a mask and hood ran past him, tossed a bag containing the bomb at the reception desk, and warned they had 30 minutes to escape.

“Someone set off the fire alarm and I called the police. It was quite confusing at the time for most of the guests because they were in bed. It was mayhem,” said Rutherford, whose family was staying at the hotel in preparation for a relative’s funeral Friday.

Small IRA factions continue to mount occasional gun and bomb attacks in hopes of undermining Northern Ireland’s unity government of British Protestants and Irish Catholics, the central achievement of a 1998 peace accord.

Londonderry’s member of British Parliament, Mark Durkan, said today’s IRA die-hards were “trying to drag us all back to worse times.”

“The nature of the device, and the manner of this reckless attack, show that they are a threat to anyone and everyone,” said Durkan, who represents moderate Irish nationalist opinion in the city.

Most IRA members renounced violence and disarmed in 2005 after failing to force Northern Ireland out of the United Kingdom. Breakaway factions remain active in Irish nationalist areas, particularly in the mostly Catholic city of Londonderry, which lies on the border with the Republic of Ireland. The Everglades Hotel is on Londonderry’s predominantly Protestant east side.
Re: Boston College and the Belfast Tapes
04 Jun 2014
Click on image for a larger version

Hand me that.png
JImmy Gralton’s Ireland

Putting the Catholic Church in Its Place


Ken Loach and Paul Laverty’s Jimmy’s Hall is as near as makes no difference to being a sequel to their superb 2006 film, The Wind That Shakes the Barley. The earlier film showed how the Irish independence struggle gave way to a brutal counter-revolution that preserved aspects of British colonialism and entrenched a reactionary Irish bourgeoisie to run the new state.

The great new film picks up ten years later and nearly 200 miles north of the Cork setting of The Wind… in the beautiful, boggy landscape of County Leitrim. The revolution that was crushed in 1922-23 attempts one last, jazzy kick in the arse of the new establishment, as an unapologetic republican-socialist returns from New York after a decade’s exile and re-opens a community hall that accepts no authority except that of the people who built it. And in Ireland in 1932, that means defying the Catholic Church.

The story of Jim Gralton and his hall is absolutely true, though director Loach and writer Laverty have taken plenty of liberties with it. Gralton, who had US citizenship, was deported back to New York from the country of his birth in 1933, ironically by a government that was supposed to be truer to the republican ideals of the Irish rebellion than the one that ruled the first decade after independence. Gralton was gone and nearly but not quite forgotten, with a few leftists and local-historians clinging through the decades to his ideas and to a story that knits together Marxist internationalism with Irish anti-imperial resistance; a love for Irish music and culture with the irresistible strains of American jazz. I can remember a quarter-century ago marching through the lanes of a Leitrim village with a few dozen of the assorted clingers, at a very lovely and thought-provoking event called the Jim Gralton Summer School.

Irish actor, playwright and activist Donal O’Kelly became the latest to draw a spark from the Gralton flame when in 2012 he produced a sort of multimedia, audience-participation pageant, directed by Sorcha Fox, called Jimmy Gralton’s Dancehall. (O’Kelly turns up in Loach’s film in a bit part; Fox is wonderful in a more substantial one.) The ‘play’ gets credited by Loach and Laverty, and so it duly turns up with a mention in many of the (mixed) reviews of the film. But I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that none of the international film-critic fraternity actually saw O’Kelly boogy-woogying as JIm Gralton in any of the handful of performances of Jimmy Gralton’s Dancehall that were staged, with the involvement of scores of local people, in remote locations in the west of Ireland.

I saw it in the old ‘Rainbow Ballroom of Romance’ in Glenfarne, County Leitrim, and wrote about it for the Irish edition of the Sunday Times. (My article is behind Rupert Murdoch’s paywall.) As in Loach’s film, Gralton’s stand-off with his parish priest, hater of both Gralton’s politics and his African-Americanised cultural baggage, was the dramatic centre of the affair; but the dancing, during and after the ‘play’, was the highlight of the show, great Irish highsteppers mixing with African asylum-seekers, and anyone else who showed up, to try some old and new steps, with the floor heaving beneath us. I wrote at the time:

… there’s nothing terribly radical in 2012 about mocking and chiding the 20th-century Catholic Church for its oppressive terror, even if the story of Ireland’s jazz rebellion can always do with more telling. Jimmy Gralton’s Dancehall, happily, does more than mock: it invites everyone to come and dance on the church’s grave. This grave-dance is, you suddenly realise as you’re pulled out on to the dance floor, a party that Ireland has been waiting for, especially now that the hollowness of the Celtic “we all partied” Tiger has been revealed. It’s one thing to condemn the Church for its failings and consign it to history, it’s another thing to celebrate the passing of its power and genuinely let everyone join in.

O’Kelly and Fox used a range of visual and textual tricks, mostly involving slides projected on the back wall of the ballroom, to connect that celebration to various present-day struggles, including that of asylum-seekers fighting against deportation. (The results of the 2004 citizenship referendum, the tenth anniversary of which will be marked next week, mean that the strange spectacle of an Irish-born person being deported as an alien is no longer just a
frontmananomalous old footnote tied to Gralton’s name.)

Loach and Laverty, with their fundamental devotion to realism and verisimilitude, can’t quite play it that way. To be sure, they splendidly capture the joyous defiance of the dancefloor; and cinematographer Robbie Ryan uses Loach’s beloved, dying medium of 35mm film to infuse scenes with a watery Leitrim-light magic. But while playing the story straight, they’ve got a political trick up their sleeves all right: instead of dancing on the Church’s grave, they breathe complex human life into their repressed and repressive clergymen, and remind us that there was (and is) more to reactionary Ireland than the power of the Catholic hierarchy.

It helps that they’ve got great actors to play the young and old priests of the parish: Andrew Scott and Jim Norton. For British and Irish audiences, the latter actor reveals a sort of in-joke that colours our understanding of the film-makers’ purpose. In an absurdly brilliant TV sitcom of the 1990s, Father Ted, produced in London but with Irish writing and acting talent, Norton played Bishop Len Brennan, an occasional character and a nasty, hypocritical piece of work who turned up to bully and discipline the eponymous Father Ted Crilly. In one of the series’ most memorable episodes, Ted, having lost a bet, was required to “kick Bishop Brennan up the arse”.

The joke of the episode (okay, one joke of the episode) is that the beleaguered Ted pursues the arse-kicking task methodically and without rancour, to the extent that when it is completed, the speechless bishop literally cannot believe it has happened. That didn’t stop the TV moment from being enjoyed and understood as a new Ireland’s symbolic revenge for centuries of repression and cruelty (including sexual violence, as the episode’s casual repetition of the phrase “up the arse” keeps insisting). There’s even, inevitably, an academic book called Kicking Bishop Brennan Up the Arse.

So when some of us see actor Jim Norton in clerical garb, part of our reaction is, “Oh yes, we kicked the Church up the arse. In 1998. And in regular repeats since then.” Whether Loach and Laverty intended the connection — and trust me, Jimmy’s Hall can be enjoyed without prior knowledge of Gralton, O’Kelly or Father Ted — they clearly grasp that the idea of the Church as the sole villain of the piece has been done, and it just doesn’t cut it, not in 1932, not in 2014.

In Jimmy’s Hall, Norton’s Father Sheridan calls Gralton’s attention to a painting on the wall of his study, John Lavery’s 1922 The Blessing of the Colours: it shows a patriotic Irish soldier kneeling, head bowed and flag in his grip, in front of a bishop: State subordinate to Church. This, says the priest, is as it should be. But as the film develops, it becomes clear that the relationship is not as simple as the old priest might wish, and that the Church is not Gralton’s only, or most dangerous, enemy. Gralton moves repeatedly into open conflict with the powerful when he challenges their class power, as when he and his followers restore an evicted tenant family to a rural estate that Irish ‘freedom’ hasn’t freed from its near-feudal lord. When the local big landowners and petty bourgeoisie confer with the priests about what should be done with Gralton, they address the clergy with a striking lack of respect; and by the end Father Sheridan appears to realise dimly that his culture-war with Gralton has been providing cover for an economic war being waged by local and national bosses and proto-fascists.

There is nothing trivial or academic about such an analysis today. For decades in Ireland, the liberal-left has been fighting the authority of the Church; even after (incomplete but culturally real) defeat of its power over the last two decades, Irish public life is dominated by retrospective revelations of the horrifying cruelty of the institutions through which bishops, priests and Catholic religious orders ran and ruined the lives of the disenfranchised: just last week we learned of a mass grave for babies at a home for unmarried mothers in County Galway. By refusing to paint the Church only in shades of black and blacker, Loach invites us to consider on whose behalf Mother Church crushed the lives, hopes and joys of generations of Ireland’s poor.

After all, the ruling class here has long since stripped off its ecclesiastical garb. The Taoiseach (prime minister), Enda Kenny, is a direct political descendent of the nationalist clerico-fascists so brilliantly captured by Loach, but he conspicuously made his mark early in his term with a stirring retrospective denunciation of the Church, earning him a great rush of liberal kudos. Meanwhile, though, he has ruled with an iron fist on behalf of international bondholders in Ireland’s casino banks, and on behalf of the multinational companies that are happy to make a low-tax home in post-Catholic Ireland.

Love of Ireland lives in every frame of Jimmy’s Hall, in the scenery, in the chat, in the faces of Loach’s usual mix of professional and undiscovered actors. Barry Ward is magnetic as Gralton, Simone Kirby beautifully blue-eyed and careworn as his comrade and love-interest, Oonagh; and Francis Magee visibly channels Robert Mitchum in a key supporting role. It seems that Loach and Laverty love Ireland enough to know that (some electoral grounds for optimism aside) it still needs a Jim Gralton, or a few, not to fight the Church, but to fight the class that now rules without wrapping itself in Christian piety.

Harry Browne lectures in Dublin Institute of Technology and is the author of The Frontman: Bono (In the Name of Power). Email: harry.browne (at), Twitter @harrybrowne
Re: Boston College and the Belfast Tapes
05 Jun 2014
London (AFP) - Torture methods used during internment of Irish nationalists at the height of the Northern Irish Troubles were sanctioned by the British government minister, an Irish television documentary claimed Wednesday. In 1971, as violence intensified in the sectarian conflict, internment – or imprisonment without trial – was introduced by the British state as they tried to bring order to the province.

Hundreds of Catholic nationalists were brought to detention camps at army bases. Twelve men, who became known as the Hooded Men, were selected for 'deep interrogation'.

The men were subjected to five techniques of deprivation: hooding, wall standing in stress positions for hours, sleep deprivation, water and food deprivation and subjection to noise, according to the report.

"I was stripped naked, given a pair of army overalls and taken in my bare feet to a room and placed in the search position," one of the men, Gerard McKerr told 'Torture Files' on RTE television.

"I was concerned that their objective was just to have my mind in pulp. I was going to be brain washed."

The programme also spoke to the daughter of Sean McKenna, one of the Hooded Men, who was interned in prison after his interrogation.

"And I went in, my father was very broken man, sitting crying, very shaky," Mary McKenna said.

"He was a great father before that, that man never came back. My father never came back."

-- Men 'thrown from chopper' --

The men were also thrown from a low-hovering helicopter while their heads were covered in hoods.

When details of the men's treatment broke, there was public uproar with civil rights' leaders calling for an immediate response.

British Prime Minister Edward Heath banned the techniques in March 1972.

Following the outcry, Dublin said it could no longer stand by as innocent people were injured and insisted the torture was sanctioned at a high level.

Britain denied the claim, saying the techniques used were an unfortunate lapse and parried the blame to lower ranks.

But the programme's reporter Rita O'Reilly discovered a memo at the British National Archives in Kew, which she says, implicates government ministers in the torture.

A letter from Home Secretary Merlyn Rees to Prime Minister James Callaghan dated 31 March 1977 stated a political decision was taken to introduce the techniques.

"It is my view that the decision to use methods of torture in Northern Ireland in 1971/2 was taken by ministers – in particular Lord Carrington, then Secretary of State for Defence."

Ireland took the case to the European Commission on Human Rights, which, in a 1976 ruling, found the treatment was torture.

But in 1978, the European Court of Human Rights overturned that decision, concluding that although the techniques were inhuman and degrading, they did not constitute torture.

In a response to the programme, the Ministry of Defence said "the UK government in no way seeks to defend the use of the interrogation techniques declared illegal by the European Court."

In a letter sent on his behalf, Lord Carrington, now 94, said he had nothing to add to the MoD statement.

Some 3,000 people were killed in the three decades of sectarian bombings and shootings in Northern Ireland known as "The Troubles."