Spare a thought for Tom ‘Slab’ Murphy as he lies in his cell in Midlands Prison tonight (Republican inmates in Portlaoise refused him entry so he ended up in the smaller jail nearby) serving a sentence of 18 months for evading tax bills between 1996 and 2004.
Over in Europe meanwhile, Apple Corporation has been ordered to pay some $15 billion in unpaid taxes in Ireland; or rather the Irish government has been told by the EC to collect the unpaid debt from the world’s trendiest, but now one of the most crooked corporations, in the history of capitalism.
It is not known for sure how much tax the IRA’s former Chief of Staff evaded thanks to his cross-border shenanigans but his trial was told that Irish police had found some 700,000-800,000 euros in cash and checks at his farm when it was raided while English police had confiscated nearly £500,000 of property in the north-west of England that had been traced to him (was that why Manchester was bombed during the ceasefire interregnum)..
Whatever the full scale of his criminality one thing is for sure: it paled into insignificance compared to the squalid thievery orchestrated by the people who brought you the iPhone, iPad and the MacBookPro.
There is another difference: in ‘Slab’s’ case the Irish state threw its full weight behind the pursuit and prosecution of the South Armagh republican chieftain. Only the innocent or stupid failed to see this for what it was: revenge for South Armagh’s role in the Troubles (including the subversion of key Gardai) and a way to embarrass Sinn Fein and its leader, Mr G Adams.
In Apple’s case, not only did the Irish government not pursue Apple it actually conspired with it to facilitate the tax evasion and now that Apple has been prosecuted, found guilty and sentenced by Europe, the people who run Ireland’s government in Dublin plan to resist legally the order to retrieve Apple’s tax debt.
You could not make this up. Unfortunately it did happen, as a brilliant article penned by my former Sunday Tribune colleague Gene Kerrigan details. As you read, spare a thought for ‘Slab’ Murphy and ask yourself who should be sharing his cell in Midlands Prison.
Published 28/08/2016 | 02:30
You want to get out of paying taxes? We’ll tell you how it’s done.
You already know that much of Irish politics involves throwing shapes. That is, making broad but empty gestures you hope will create a favourable image of yourself. Well, before the General Election, Fine Gael threw lots of shapes. One of them was a promise to get rid of the Universal Social Charge.
Last week, we were told how the mandarins of the Department of Finance felt about that.
If you’ve been around long enough to know who “Sir Humphrey” was, you’ll know how the senior civil service reacts to proposals it doesn’t like. It gives ministers a list of dire choices to live with if they go ahead.
So, Michael Noonan was told he’s free to cut back the USC but he’ll have to increase property tax by 600pc.
Or, perhaps, put 5pc on income tax.
Or, perhaps put up taxes on petrol and beer and throw a 5pc Vat increase on kids’ shoes.
In short – Yes, Minister, you can keep your promise, but you’ll also have to do something else that will make you even more unpopular.
Basically, what the Government’s going to end up doing is putting more money in one of our pockets and taking at least the same amount of money out of some other pocket.
Because, according to the Department of Finance, things are so tight they’re really considering hitting children’s shoes.
Except – things needn’t be that tight.
The Government is actually turning away money it’s owed.
Enda Kenny and Michael Noonan are bracing themselves for an overdue ruling from the European Commission. It was being talked about two years ago, it was promised in 2015, then in early 2016 and it’s expected now in the next few weeks.
In the ruling, Apple is expected to be directed to pay our Revenue Commissioners a large sum of money.
Large could mean hundreds of millions of euro. It could mean thousands of millions of euro – up to €19bn.
Apple produces those neat, shiny phones and lots of other cool stuff. Apple is so cool that it apparently doesn’t see why it should pay tax.
And, so – way, way back – it set about arranging things so it can, eh, maximise its tax efficiency.
You want to pull the same stroke as Apple?
First, set up a company in Ireland to control your income – let’s call it Soapbox Inc. Then, appoint a couple of people to control and manage that company – and they have to be based in the USA.
That’s the trick – set up the company in Ireland; but get someone to manage it from the USA.
Now, when the US Revenue comes looking for taxes you tell them Soapbox Inc wasn’t set up in the USA, and, therefore, is not liable for US taxes. (The United States determines tax liability based on where the company is set up.)
So, you might say, since Soapbox Inc was set up and is based in Ireland, wouldn’t it be liable to pay its taxes in Ireland?
No, because Ireland determines tax liability not on residency but on where the company is controlled and managed from.
And since Soapbox Inc is controlled from the USA, not Ireland, it’s not liable for Irish tax.
Apple’s global web of companies trade with one another, to ensure the costs are borne elsewhere and the profits flow through Ireland. And one part of the Apple web pays nominal taxes here, just to take the bare look off things.
Otherwise, a company called AOI is stacking up the tens of billions in tax-free profits.
AOI is the equivalent of Soapbox Inc. It was set up in Ireland over 30 years ago. It’s based in Ireland but it has no physical presence here. It has no headquarters, no workplace, no address, no employees. It is managed from the USA.
Apple could not reap those monumental profits without the complex global network of services – roads, schools, hospitals, civil service, courts, police – that enable modern states to function.
And it doesn’t pay its fair share to maintain them.
We pay our share. And we pay Apple’s, too. In income taxes, in Vat, in the USC.
Oh, well, says you – leaving morality out of it – at least they can’t get out of paying our legendary 12.5pc tax on Apple’s vast corporate profits, right?
Let Apple explain: “Since the early 1990s, the Government of Ireland has calculated Apple’s taxable income in such a way as to produce an effective rate in the low single digits . . . The rate has varied from year to year, but since 2003 has been 2pc or less.”
In fact, Apple says, in 2009 and 2010 they paid less than 1pc in tax. In 2011, it was 0.05pc.
Is everyone happy with this? No, the European Commission has been investigating Apple’s Irish set-up. And politicians in the USA are annoyed, too.
Well, isn’t the answer simple? This AOI was obviously set up with no function other than to avoid taxes, and companies that do that can be challenged. And that purpose would be clear from the documents created in forming the company.
Eh, they’re lost. The documents. They’re lost.
Can’t find them. Missing, mislaid, gone awol, toor-aloo. Shucks.
Can’t we all, eh, maximise our tax efficiency thusly?
Ah, no. The Government lets cool, vastly rich people like Apple do what they like – we’re not cool enough. Or rich enough.
Ah, come on, it’s more complicated than that.
Yes, it is. Our government parties – FG and FF, both of them (and Labour when they can get their hands on a Merc or three) – believe they have to kiss corporate backsides in order to get investment.
All that stuff about a great workforce, within the EU single market, speaking English – apparently that’s not enough, we have to kiss ass, too.
But, fawning on rich and powerful people is the default position for these guys. Look at the video of Michael Noonan fawning over Donald Trump; look at Enda being tickled by Sarkozy; look at the way they defer to our domestic millionaires.
The EC sees the Apple deal as “state aid” to the company, and therefore illegal. Informed speculation says it may demand that Apple pay Ireland €6bn, which the full 12.5pc tax would have reaped over three years; or €19bn if they reckon it over 10 years. It may be €2bn. (Apple recently had to pay Italy €318m, when prosecutors went after the company for tax fraud.)
What would you or I do? We’d gratefully take the money and turn to Apple and say, Ah, gee, we’re under orders from the EC, but we’ll put the money to good use.
Enda Kenny, with the backing of Micheal Martin, doesn’t want the money. Michael Noonan has said they’ll appeal such a ruling. They’ll fight like dogs not to take it.
To be clear.
The FG government, supported by FF, by Shane Ross and Finian McGrath and all the rest of our great patriots, will insist that we spend a small fortune on lawyers – to ensure that we lose a big fortune in taxes that should have been paid under the 12.5pc rate.
There was “no state aid” to Apple, Noonan told the Dail on 14 January. There was “simply no question” of a “special tax deal”. There’s nothing special, apparently, about paying tax at a rate of 0.05pc.
Pursued by Richard Boyd Barrett, Mr Noonan insisted, “There is no suggestion that there is anything wrong with our tax system”.
You can read it here.
Philip Weiss of Mondoweiss takes a hard look at the evidence, widely accepted by the US and European media, that Russia hacked the Democratic party’s computer archives and finds that not even the US government is making that claim.
It is now an accomplished fact in the mainstream media that the Russian government perpetrated the hack of the Democratic National Committee emails that Wikileaks dropped in July to such fanfare ahead of the Democratic Convention.
Hackers linked to Russian intelligence services may have targeted some prominent Republican lawmakers, in addition to their well-publicized spying on Democrats
The Washington Post also says, the hack is “widely thought by U.S. intelligence officials to be the work of the Russian government.”
Former US ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul said that was the gospel truth on MSNBC’s Hardball Friday night:
Chris Matthews: Do we know that the Russian intelligence forces hacked into DNC emails and dumped them on us?
McFaul: Yes. You know, Government officials have said as much on background. A public– a private firm has investigated it. I have talked to very senior officials at the
White House about it. I don’t think there’s any doubt that they have done that. And let’s remember Chris, that is their job. It’s called spying, it’s called intelligence.
Then covering his ass, McFaul said, “Let’s be precise about what we know and we don’t. Wikileaks dumped [the emails]…The part we don’t know precisely is did the Russians give it to Wikileaks, and I don’t think we’re ever going to know that.”
So gosh, we do know or we don’t know?
This story is glaring because despite all the certainty expressed in the mainstream media, the sources are all unnamed, and there’s a complete absence of hard evidence offered.
Also: the US government does not say what these experts are saying.
Secretary of state John Kerry gave the party line in Laos, July 26, the FBI is investigating:
Okay. Well, with respect to Foreign Minister Lavrov, I did raise the issue of the DNC. And as you know, the FBI is investigating the incident and it’s important for the FBI to do its work. And before we draw any conclusions in terms of what happened or who is behind it it’s very important that whatever public information is put out is based on fact.
So I raised the question and we will continue to work to see precisely what those facts are. And the FBI has responsibility for this investigation and we’ll let them speak as they proceed forward gathering those facts.
State’s John Kirby later specifically addressed the media claims:
Q. one of the major media outlet – the U.S. media – has said – quoted intelligence official that they believe that it’s Russia. So will you be able to confirm or deny if you have anything on that?
MR KIRBY: No. As I said, this is a matter that the FBI is investigating, and I’m not going to get ahead of the work that investigators have to do. And so I think that’s where we absolutely need to leave it.
When a reporter asked deputy White House press secretary Eric Schultz what the government knows, he was very careful. The Russians have done this kind of thing, but we don’t know who did this one. And: “There’s a host of usual suspects out there.”
Russian officials said today that basically — that the accusations that they were involved in the hacking of the DNC or the DCC are basically just a cover or a way to distract from the fact that there’s actually been domestic tampering with the campaign, and basically accusing, I guess, the U.S. of trying to use them as a scapegoat. I was wondering, did you have any response to that? And then also, if the Russians or if a state actor is involved in these hacks — I know you kind of dealt with this before — but what is the administration considering as a way to respond? What is the appropriate response to these types of hacks if they’re being carried out by other state actors?
MR. SCHULTZ: Ayesha, I’ll address a couple points there. First, the FBI is still investigating this matter, so it’s important that I not get ahead of that investigation. So we’re going to wait for that investigation to conclude. They will also make a determination if it’s appropriate to publicly implicate the culprit. That’s a decision that will be made by the FBI and our national security officials to determine if that’s in the U.S.’s best interest, to make that public declaration.
I would refer you to the Director of National Intelligence — James Clapper actually spoke to this late last week. He said that there’s “a host of usual suspects out there that engage in this sort of activity.” But the FBI is still investigating, and if there’s a point where they determine who was responsible for this attack and that it’s in the United States’ best interest to make that conclusion public, that they’ll be the first to do so.
So I don’t have any updates on the investigation for you. We do know — and the President has spoken to this — that Russia has a record of engaging in this activity.
To be clear, I have no idea who did the hacks. What I find concerning is that the media go around saying Russia did it without a lot of backup for the assertion. Again, here is Michael McFaul on MSNBC a month ago.
Let’s be clear what we know and what we have to guess about. I think Everybody agrees that it were Russian organizations tied to the Russian government that hacked the DNC. There’s no debate about that.
Many commenters are reflecting the New York Times story on the matter in July: “Spy Agency Consensus Grows That Russia Hacked D.N.C.” David Sanger and Eric Schmitt reported that high US intelligence officials believe Russia was behind the hack. Unnamed sources, and belief:
American intelligence agencies have told the White House they now have “high confidence” that the Russian government was behind the theft of emails and documents from the Democratic National Committee, according to federal officials who have been briefed on the evidence.
When it came to actual names, The Times offered one, this essay at the Lawfare blog by a former NSA lawyer, Susan Hennessey, concluding, “Paired with the technical indicators, the sum total of evidence is about as close to a smoking gun as can be expected where a sophisticated nation state [Russia] is involved.”
But a lot of Hennessey’s evidence was conjectural. Like:
There are well-documented connections between Wikileaks—the chosen vehicle for the leak release—its founder Julian Assange, and the Russian state apparatus.
Or the fact that DNI director James Clapper said in May that foreign governments were targeting the campaigns.
And some of her recommendations had an argumentative cast: “The US government is uniquely positioned to make the case for Russian attribution.” Again, what are we dealing with, a claim or a proof?
As the New York Times did– and McFaul and Politico too– Hennessey cited the assertion in June by Dmitri Alperovitch of a private outfit called Crowdstrike “specifically naming Russian state actors as behind the DNC hack.”
Without assessing his ideology or background, it is obvious that Alperovitch is an entrepreneur. At his site, he describes himself as “a renowned computer security researcher and thought leader on cybersecurity policies and state tradecraft.”
And BTW, Lawfare has Israel lobby bona fides: it is edited by Benjamin Wittes, who happily sells the Israeli Defense Forces attack on Gaza two years ago as one that took supreme care to protect civilian life (though to her credit, Hennessey has called the civilian casualties in that slaughter “outrageous”).
I’m not going to get to the bottom of this. What is clear is that there is a lot of establishment consensus on this story: Clintonites want a new cold war, against Iran’s good friend. And D.C. security types who are auditioning for jobs know the tune. Even though the head of national intelligence has said, “There’s a host of usual suspects out there that engage in this sort of activity.”
This is a transparent case of leading public figures talking out of their hats when they don’t really have the goods but want to believe something. Leftwingers and outsiders could never get away with anything like this claim. Then the highest epistemological responsible Gradgrindian standards of fact and knowledge would be brought to bear. This story just shows, there’s a sliding scale for truth when access and position are at stake.
Thanks to an anonymous friend for pointing me to the substance of this post
Back at the end of June this year, when the Democratic primary was underway in New York, I had cause to travel into midtown Manhattan, something I rarely do these days, to visit one of the many Irish bars that still flourish despite the preponderance of one percenters in that part of the city, many of whose taste in watering holes, I assume, are a good deal more upscale.
Anyhow, when I arrived who did I bump into but a couple of Sinn Feiners, including one character who way back in the early summer of 1994 had reacted with scorn bordering on derision when I opined that the impending IRA ceasefire would last a good deal longer than the three months he and the rest of the faithful had been told to expect.
Perhaps it was because there was no leadership spy in the vicinity to report their doings or just that they didn’t care if there was – one is now a prosperous businessman who would be foolish to alienate – but a friendly enough conversation followed.
One of the two had spent much of that day at Fitzpatrick’s Hotel, off 57th Street, where it seems the Clinton’s, Bill and Hill, had set up base camp for the primary contest. From the direction taken by our exchange it was evident that Sinn Fein was throwing its weight behind Hillary, notwithstanding the fact that not so long ago Bernie Sanders’ politics would have been their preference.
At that point in the Democratic primary contest, Sanders was giving Hillary a real scare and this was not going down well in the Sinn Fein camp. “Why is he doing it?”, complained one.
You don’t have to be a genius to work out why the Shinners are backing Hill. It’s the peace process, stupid! With Hillary in the White House, Gerry Adams & Co expect to have a friend in the highest place on the globe or at least someone who will ensure that Mr Adams is not again left outside the White House waiting in the cold while lesser mortals enjoy the St Patrick’s Day revelries inside.
Since then the threat from Sanders has dissolved and that from Donald Trump has greatly diminished. And as Hillary Clinton’s confidence has swelled two things have happened: her need to indulge Sander’s supporters has all but evaporated and this has allowed her to move to the right, to cosy up especially to anti-Trump Republicans.
It has also allowed her to welcome support from neoconservative Republicans, including not a few who worked in George W Bush’s White House. Hillary has a well-deserved reputation as a foreign policy hawk, and is expected to take a more robust line than Obama with Russia’s Putin and against Israel’s perceived foes, primarily Iran. Look at how she revelled in the Libyan misadventure! So entertaining neocons’ hopes makes a certain sense.
It remains to be seen how much influence these neocons have over her various policies and/or whether she gives any of them jobs on her foreign policy staff. If she does then Sinn Fein may have cause to start worrying, because the peace process in Northern Ireland is not something they admire or would like to foster.
Take for example the most prominent of the Bush neocons to have thrown his hat into Hillary’s ring. He’s called Elliot Abrams and there’s an article from Counter Punch below which gives you a flavour of his career and an idea of what the man is like.
Abrams was working in the Bush White House during the second phase of the peace process and the mark he left on it should give SF cause to shiver.
The peace process as far as US involvement is concerned went through two distinct stages. The first, during Bill Clinton’s years, was aimed at getting Sinn Fein and the IRA to the Good Friday Agreement; the second, during George W Bush’s time, was directed at mollifying the Unionists and persuading them, in the eventual shape of Ian Paisley’s DUP, to go into government with the Shinners.
That meant kicking Provo ass, specifically finishing off the IRA decommissioning process and getting the republicans to accept the new policing arrangements. Once that was accomplished, and the IRA’s war could be seen to be over, the way was opened for the power-sharing Executive that has functioned more or less successfully since 2006, a full decade.
The American diplomat charged with overseeing this phase of US policy towards the North, was Mitchell Reiss, a former academic turned senior State Department official who Bush made ambassador to the peace process.
Now Reiss was not at all liked by the Provos; he demanded they decommission fully, believed that Tony Blair (along with Bertie Ahern) was coddling the IRA and when the Northern Bank was robbed and Robert McCartney stabbed to death, he withdrew Gerry Adams’ permission to raise money for Sinn Fein in the United States.
Now, you would think that a toughness like this would have gone down well with the White House’s necons. But not a bit of it.
Dealing with terrorists, even when they are prepared to do your bidding, is forbidden in the neocon playbook and so Elliot Abrams conspired to get Mitchell Reiss sacked from his peace process job. Thereafter a virtual empty hole replaced him in the White House bureaucracy, as the peace process was downgraded and it stayed that way when Obama replaced George W Bush.
So, if the Provos have any sense they will still their celebrations this November if Hillary beats Donald Trump and wait to see the shape and colour of her foreign policy staff before they pop the corks. They may not be to their liking.
July 5, 2016
You cannot stress the point too much. When (not if) Hillary Clinton becomes President of the United States of America, U.S. foreign relations will take a step back thirty years to the dark ages of Ronald Reagan.
By comparison, the age of Obama’s drone wars will appear delicate.
The danger of a Hillary Clinton presidency will rear its ugly head from day one, when she officially huddles with the Council on Foreign Relations and its Middle East policy “educator,” Elliott Abrams.
Because neocons like Hillary Clinton more than they do the unpredictable villain Donald Trump, this setup is not a secret and Abrams is but one of Clinton’s many neoconservative champions.
Elliott Abrams is a dangerous man, and everything he scribbles proves it. Read at your leisure.
One of the most infuriating and shameful acts of U.S. foreign policy in my time, excluding the Vietnam War, which amounted to a genocide beyond the pale, was the Reagan Administration’s support of the Contras in Nicaragua in the 1980s. The Sandinista rebel, Daniel Ortega, had come to power on the promise of economic reform in the Central American nation after the overthrow of the U.S. backed dictator, Anastasio Somoza.
Somoza, a U.S.-educated elite from a family of dictators, initially fled, his suitcases stuffed with cash, to Miami in 1979. President Jimmy Carter threw him out and he alit in Paraguay, where Sandinista hitmen finished him off in 1980.
Along came the Reagan Revolution after Carter’s perfunctory humanism—recall he was as anti-Soviet Union as the next American politician.
Ortega’s promise to attack poverty and illiteracy in Nicaragua had swept him into power via free elections and threatened U.S. influence in the region. Reagan and his underlings fought back with all the poison the CIA could muster, including the illegal arms-for-hostages deal with Iran and the arming of anti-Ortega rebels—the so-called Contras, mainly the malingerers of Somoza’s security forces.
Reagan used the long-dead horse of falling dominoes to justify his policy, while later claiming ignorance of the deal. A mostly complacent America went along with the ruse, one of the last incongruities of Cold War containment philosophy.
Into the Nicaraguan conflagration walked a Portland, Oregon kid named Ben Linder, an idealistic and committed activist with a recently-earned engineering degree from the University of Washington. Ben was working on a small hydroelectric project in a rural area north of Managua, April, 1987, when the Contras found him and two local co-workers, tossed grenades at them, and finished the trio off with bullets to the head. Ben and his friends were assassinated by a U.S. sponsored death squad. Our nation was, in the very least, morally culpable.
But you couldn’t tell that to Rep. Connie Mack III, grandson of the baseball legend, and State Department functionary Elliott Abrams after the brutal act. They blamed Ben Linder.
Going before a House Foreign Affairs subcommittee, Ben’s parents sought answers about why their son had to die, and blamed U.S. policy-makers for his death. What transpired at those hearings is one of the most despicable and disgraceful abuses of power in the U.S.’s long history of despicable and disgraceful abuses.
Abrams and Mack seemed to relish their roles as protectors of the CIA-sponsored right-wing death squads controlling the Nicaraguan countryside.
Ben’s mother, Elizabeth, pleaded that the U.S. government should go after the killers. Abrams and Mack angrily told her to mind her own business.
They were heartless, and the entire fiasco was on television for all to see.
That Elliott Abrams could resurface on George W. Bush’s team, after being convicted in 1991 of obstruction charges related to his role in the Iran-Contra scandal, is all you need to know about the deep corruption of the power-elite lineage in America.
Now Abrams, who has grown up to become the senior fellow for Middle East studies at the CFR is counting Hillary Clinton among his friends. The courting and first kiss is about happen.
Wait for it.
I went to see the new Bobby Sands’ movie, ’66 Days’ the other night and this is my review.
This is a film full of unanswered questions, or to be precise, unasked questions.
’66 Days’, which I intend here to examine only for its politics rather than its style (which some might also find controversial), is a very thinly disguised attempt to approvingly link Sands’ sacrifice with the entry of Sinn Fein into electoral politics, thus setting in motion the political physics which led to the peace process.
So Bobby Sands equals peace is the essential message of the movie, reinforced by a frankly monochromatic procession of interviews with mostly loyal disciples of the Sinn Fein gospel. No dissenting voices of significance aired here! It is a simple message which, as one colleague observed the other day, would strike a chord outside Ireland where the subtleties are less understood.
But, of course, Sands and his nine comrades did not die so Sinn Fein could grace the corridors of Stormont or Leinster House. They chose painful, slow deaths for a very different reason. They wanted to be recognised as political prisoners, or as prisoners of war, not common criminals, because they regarded themselves as warriors in an ancient struggle against Britain’s occupation of Ireland. And they belonged to a politico-military movement forged in anti-electoralism, which split from its parent in 1969 partly in protest at the embrace of the parliamentary politics that now characterises Sinn Fein.
So the big question that is never asked much less answered in ’66 Days’ is this: would Bobby Sands have so readily endured an agonising two month-long dance with death had he been able to see two of the most striking pieces of archive that were shown near the end of this movie: one of a greying Gerry Adams smirking (triumphantly?) as marchers in a hunger strike memorial trooped past him; the other of Martin McGuinness, the one-time hard man of the Provos, who ‘did the business’ when Gerry wouldn’t, as so many Provos would tell you in 1993, shuffling into a stately room at Hillsborough Castle to do his duty and exchange meaningless pleasantries with Queen Elizabeth (what on earth goes through her/his head during such encounters?)
Or if he had heard Ireland’s savant de jour, Fintan O’Toole – who would scarcely have allowed himself to been seen within spitting distance of the Provos in 1981 – approvingly proclaim that Sands’ achievement was to end the IRA’s armed struggle not legitimise it, his role that of the midwife to a peace process that has stabilised the constitutional status quo, not weakened it.
Or that the making of a film about his life would be shunned by his family, by his son, would be licensed by a Trust that excludes those nearest and dearest to him, whose finances are kept secret, whose beneficiaries are unknown, whose income over thirty-five intervening years can only be guessed at. And not a mention made of this in the entire movie?
Or that it would show former comrades sliming Brendan Hughes for ‘fucking up’ the 1980 fast, while excluding the most sensational and believable claim made since 1981, that an opportunity to end the second fast and save more than half of those who died was sabotaged by the same leadership that blackens Hughes, and that the author of that claim was ostentatiously interviewed for the film about everything except that?
None of these issues were raised or the relevant quesions asked. They should have been. The central assertion is true, Bobby Sands’ death set the stage for the end of the IRA and for Sinn Fein’s entry into electoral politics, power, respectability and, recently, money. But that’s only part of the story.
Bobby Sands set out to win the IRA legitimacy but only secured the conditions for its eclipse. But the most interesting question, which will long outlive this film, is never put: what the man himself might have thought about all this? Would he have traveled the same road had he known where it would end? It would have been a better movie if it had balanced the narrative thus. And that is the failing of ’66 Days’.
When the US Department of Justice (DoJ) served subpoenas on Boston College seeking multiple IRA oral history interviews on behalf of the Police Service of Northern Ireland, we – that is campaigners against the subpoenas – warned that failure to defeat the government action, or to resist it as strenuously as possible, would open the way for other, similar actions and that the consequence of failure would be disastrous for oral historians – or for anyone wishing to report complex situations honestly.
That would especially be the case, we said, when the history being collected dealt with conflict situations. We had in mind, for an American audience, the difficulties that would surround the collection of candid interviews from American fighters – or their enemies – in Iraq, Afghanistan of other post-911 conflicts.
Five years later The Washington Post is today reporting on precisely such a scenario.
US Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl went missing from his base in Afghanistan in June 2009, and was captured shortly afterwards by the Taliban who held him captive until May 2014 when he was returned to the US as part of an exchange deal with the insurgents.
Bergdahl’s story was that he left the base to report ‘misconduct in his unit’ but that is disputed by the military. Following his disappearance the US Army mounted several searches for him with no success; but in the course of this effort six American soldiers were killed by the Taliban.
After he was released by the Taliban, Bergdahl gave a series of interviews to a public radio journalist called Mark Boal. He was interviewed on tape for 25 hours in all, mostly about his experience in the hands of the Taliban. Not dissimilar to the sort of in-depth interviews carried out by Boston College researchers, Anthony McIntyre and Wilson McArthur.
Some of the Bergdahl interview was used by public radio in a podcast; again somewhat similar to using Brendan Hughes’ and David Ervine’s interviews for the book and documentary film, ‘Voices From The Grave’.
Eighteen months after Bergdahl was safely returned to his family and unit, the US Army decided to refer his case to a ‘general court-martial’; if found guilty he could be sentenced to a life term in jail.
The US military’s prosecuting lawyer has served a subpoena on Boal and his partner Sarah Koenig demanding that the 25 hours of taped interview be handed over to be used, if necessary, against Bergdahl at his trial. Again, just as happened to ourselves.
Boal and his legal team are resisting the subpoena on grounds similar to those initially argued by Boston College, that the request offends a journalist’s First Amendment rights. That argument was rejected at the Federal District Court level in our case but was not appealed by Boston College, which effectively retired from the substantive case at that point, handing victory over to the government.
Mark Boal has an impressive list of media supporters backing his case, and that is an important difference from our situation. Boston College discouraged any sort of public campaign against the PSNI/DoJ subpoenas with the result that very few academics expressed support. We did however get good backing from the media, including the Reporters Committee for the Freedom of the Press who are also backing Boal.
We wish them the best of luck and apologise that in our case Boston College put up such a weak fight. Had the college fought as hard as they should have perhaps Mark Boal and Sarah Koenig would not now be facing this ordeal. And believe me, it is an ordeal.
Here is The Washington Post piece:
When Mark Boal spent 25 hours interviewing accused U.S. Army deserter Bowe Bergdahl, he didn’t plan on those hours of recorded interviews becoming part of a hugely popular podcast. He was just reporting, as he had many times before — whether for his magazine articles or his filmmaking.
But in collaboration with the producers of “Serial,” he and journalist Sarah Koenig teamed up. As a result, the story of the Army sergeant, who left his Afghanistan base in 2009 and was held captive by the Taliban for five years, became the basis of Season 2 of the spinoff of public radio’s “This American Life.”
Nor did Boal plan on his interviews becoming part of the prosecution’s case in Bergdahl’s court-martial at Fort Bragg in North Carolina next February.
That’s what a military prosecutor has in mind, according to court papers. The former soldier faces life in prison if he is found guilty of the charges of desertion and misbehavior before the enemy. Bergdahl was freed in 2014 in exchange for five Taliban fighters being held at Guantanamo Bay.
Boal is trying to prevent the subpoena by asking a civilian federal court in Los Angeles to intervene on First Amendment grounds. After all, unaired recordings are not unlike a reporter’s notes, which news organizations have long objected to being used in court. The prosecutor, Army Maj. Justin Oshana, in a court filing, called Boal’s interviews “relevant and necessary” to the case; he said he shared a draft subpoena with Boal’s attorney. (The Justice Department, which is objecting to Boal’s request and backing the military prosecutor, would not comment for this column.)
The good news for journalists and citizens is that Boal has his own army behind him: a long list of news organizations, including National Public Radio, the Associated Press, The Washington Post, Fox and the other major network news companies.
“This is a dream team of media — from across the political spectrum,” Boal said when the friend-of-the-court brief was filed late last month. Boal’s films include “The Hurt Locker” (for which he won the screenwriting Oscar) and “Zero Dark Thirty” (which he also wrote).
It wasn’t hard to find supporters, according to Katie Townsend, the litigation director for the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, who wrote the brief.
“People were eager to jump to Boal’s aid,” Townsend told me. The reason is clear: News organizations don’t want their newsgathering efforts to be drawn into legal battles. And in a new era, in which a podcast can be every bit as much of a news outlet as a TV broadcast, it’s important to make sure that the newer breed of journalists gets the same protection as more traditional media.
The news organizations fear the effect on other journalists if Boal’s material is successfully brought into the case.
This should all sound familiar for those aware of New York Times reporter James Risen’s fight against testifying in a government leak prosecution in the past few years. For a time, it looked as though Risen’s fierce resistance to giving up his confidential source would land him in jail.
After many years of Risen’s battling the Justice Department, then-Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. said clearly that newsgathering needs to be protected and that no journalist should face jail for doing his or her job. President Obama has echoed that, as has Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch.
If courts — military or civilian — are able to subpoena reporters’ testimony and materials, and use them to prosecute crimes, interview subjects (also known as sources) will be much less likely to agree to speak.
“Journalists conducting newsgathering need protection from being dragged into prosecutions,” said Michael Oreskes, the news chief at NPR. The real protection isn’t for journalists themselves, he said, but for the public and its right to know what journalists turn up.
After all, according to Boal’s lawyer, Jean-Paul Jassy, the prosecution already has more than 300 pages of sworn testimony from Bergdahl himself and 1.5 million pages of material from 28 different agencies.
Oreskes termed the military prosecutor’s plans “just a fishing expedition.” And it would be a harmful one.
After his “dream team” of supporters came together last month, Boal asked a rhetorical question: “When was the last time Fox and NPR agreed on an issue?” That they have done so is a clear signal that the stakes are high, not only for journalists but also for those they are intended to represent: U.S. citizens.
Whatever happens to Bergdahl at Fort Bragg, the recorded interviews shouldn’t be part of the equation. The incremental value they might add to the prosecution’s case wouldn’t come close to being worth the eventual cost to newsgathering and to the public’s right to know.
For more by Margaret Sullivan visit wapo.st/sullivan
Eamonn McCann, responding to criticism from some Bloody Sunday families, untangles the tortuous story of Sinn Fein’s negotiation of the ‘On-The-Runs’ deal, describes the complicating impact it has had on the campaign for justice for Bloody Sunday relatives and alleges that both the SDLP and Sinn Fein have had secret dealings with the British over diluting the official expression of regret for the massacre, most recently over the terms of David Cameron’s House of Commons’ apology, which absolved the military’s top brass and the British political establishment of blame:
On July 22nd, the Derry Journal carried a front-page story saying that a number of relatives of the Bloody Sunday victims had reacted angrily to a statement which I’d issued nine days earlier.
Here is the Journal story:
Relatives of those shot dead on Bloody Sunday have rubbished claims that they struck a ‘deal’ not to campaign for the prosecution of soldiers in return for an apology from the British government.
The ‘deal’ assertion was made by Foyle MLA and former Bloody Sunday Trust chairman, Eamonn McCann, who alleged that, in exchange for an apology from the British and an assertion that all of the dead and wounded were innocent, there would be no more Bloody Sunday marches or efforts to push for prosecutions.
The ‘stitch-up,’ he added, only unravelled because some family members weren’t prepared to accept the ‘deal’ and opted, instead, to keep on marching until the original demands of the campaign – including prosecutions – were met.
Now, a number of relatives have issued a statement in which they angrily refute the ‘deal’ claims, branding them ‘fanciful,’ ‘highly misleading’ and ‘deeply offensive.’
Tony Doherty, John Kelly, Gerry Duddy and Jean Hegarty, who all lost relatives in the 1972 massacre, said Mr McCann ‘knows full well’ there was no such deal or any discussion of a deal.
The Bloody Sunday march was never discussed with the NIO or Downing Street.
‘To suggest otherwise is fanciful.
There was no discussion of the issue of prosecutions. How could there be? None of us, Mr. McCann included, knew at that time what was in the Saville Report.
Here’s my statement of July 13th – the day David Cameron left Downing Street – to which the four family members say they were reacting:
The usual suspect commentators and politicians have been falling over themselves to heap praise on David Cameron for his apology for Bloody Sunday.
In fact, the apology was predicated on no politician or senior military man having been fingered by Lord Saville. Saville blamed one officer and 10 rank and file soldiers for the all the killings and woundings.
If, instead, Saville had followed the evidence and found that members of the top brass – General Michael Jackson, Brigadier Frank Kitson, Major General Robert Ford, Brigadier Patrick MacLellan and half a dozen others – had played key roles in organising, directing and covering up the killings, Cameron wouldn’t have been able to damn the men who had pulled the triggers while at the same time declaring that the reputation of the British army itself wasn’t besmirched in any way.
The Bloody Sunday killers were all rogue soldiers, Cameron argued. Neither the British army nor the government of the day could be held responsible for what they’d done.
Naturally, all of the politicians behind the paras – Edward Heath, Lord Carrington, Reginald Maudling, Alec Douglas-Home etc. – were likewise given a clean bill of health.
MI5, which had been up to its neck in planning Bloody Sunday, wasn’t given even a rap on the knuckles.
This was a perfect example of an official inquiry fulfilling its true purpose – of finding small fry to shoulder all of the blame while enabling the real villains to escape scot-free.
One of the main reasons Cameron’s ‘apology’ worked, at least for a time, is that influential elements in Northern Nationalism had, in effect, already ‘cleared’ his Commons statement. At least one member of Sinn Fein had discussed the terms of the apology with British officials in advance. The deal was that Cameron would acknowledge that all of the dead and wounded had been innocent and would condemn the privates and corporals involved in the massacre in strong terms. But he wouldn’t have to say a bad word about anybody that mattered.
In exchange, there would be no more Bloody Sunday marches – and no attempt to push on for prosecutions. ‘This is as good as it gets,’ the families were systematically told on their doorsteps.
At this time, mid-2010, the British authorities were trying to put together an overall deal by which the past would be put in the past and we’d all ‘move on.’
The stitch-up has unravelled, largely because some Family members – Kate and Linda Nash, Liam Wray, Bubbles Donaghey, Mickey Bridge and others – weren’t prepared to accept the deal and opted instead to keep on marching until the original demands of the Bloody Sunday campaign, including prosecutions, had been met.
Kate, Linda and the others were also conscious of the fact that calling off their campaign would be a kick in the stomach for the bereaved families of other atrocities – Ballymurphy, McGurk’s Bar, Kingsmills, Enniskillen, Birmingham, Loughinisland, etc. – who hadn’t yet reached the stage achieved by the Derry campaign.
In that sense, Cameron’s Commons ploy hasn’t succeeded after all.
The point to keep in mind as Cameron leaves Downing Street to spend more time with his money is that, far from bravely telling the truth about Derry, his Commons statement was just a new and more subtle phase in the efforts of apologists for State violence to escape the verdict of history.
The proper response to Cameron’s departure is – good riddance.”
Thus, it can be seen, the piece was pegged on Cameron’s resignation and on his cynical role in relation to Saville’s report back in June 2010. It was issued after a series of politicians, North and South, in their comments on Cameron’s departure from Downing Street, had referred in glowing terms to his supposedly positive – even “courageous” – Commons apology. I was pointing out that the apology had been grudging, self-serving, meretricious and undeserving of applause.
Nowhere was it said in my statement that members of the Bloody Sunday Families had made a deal about an apology for the massacre or about the Bloody Sunday march. The people I identified as having had discussions with the British authorities on these matters were “influential elements in Northern Nationalism” and “at least one member of Sinn Fein.”
Parts of the statement could have been better worded. But nothing in it could reasonably be interpreted as claiming that the members of the Bloody Sunday Families had struck or discussed a deal with the British government. I have no reason to believe that any such thing happened.
This does not mean that no deal was discussed or that strenuous efforts weren’t made to cajole or persuade family members to get behind these discussions and their outcome.
The British Government’s efforts to “settle” the Bloody Sunday issue go back a long way. It is the incident from our past which most unnerves them. They cannot fit Bloody Sunday into their preferred narrative of the Troubles, of two ethnic groups at one another’s throats, saved from annihilating one another only by British forces standing between them, holding the ring for peace and democracy and encouraging the various factions to learn to live with one another.
Bloody Sunday was daylight mass-murder not by purported representatives of one community or the other but by uniformed representatives of the State. The killing-spree showed the British Army in the same moral category as terrorist organisations. The British State cannot allow that categorisation to go unchallenged. It subverts the basis of their conception of themselves as natural-born rulers. If they allow themselves to be seen as no better than marauding brigands, they cannot expect to command respect, much less obedience. So they first try to smother the issue under cover of a phony inquiry – Widgery – and then, when that doesn’t work, they keep on trying by any means they think necessary.
John Major made an offer in 1992 when he said that the dead and wounded of Bloody Sunday “should be regarded as innocent of any allegation that they were shot whilst handling firearms or explosives.” Right on cue, the SDLP leadership of the time contacted Family members and tried to persuade them to accept Major’s formulation as the final word. They were given short shrift. Sinn Fein, with strong support from many others, roundly attacked the SDLP for urging acceptance of such a low bid.
And so it has continued, the persistence of campaigners matched by the British authorities’ adamant refusal to concede that what had happened in Derry was murder and that those behind it were murderers. In the meantime, local parties manoeuvred in search of advantage.
In January 1998, the Blair government agreed to a second Bloody Sunday Inquiry. This came in the context of the all-party talks then under way which were to lead to the Good Friday Agreement three months later.
Presiding over the second inquiry, Lord Saville of Newdigate took a long time to complete the task, then, in June 2010, published a report which went significantly further than Widgery in acknowledging the wrong done in Derry – but didn’t cross the line into territory which British political chiefs and military top brass wanted kept off limits.
Among Bloody Sunday campaigners and supporters, disagreement arose between, on the one hand, those who reckoned that everything which could be achieved had now been achieved and the campaign could honourably rest on its laurels and, on the other hand, those set on continuing to pursue the outstanding demand of the three originally advanced by the campaign – that the killers be prosecuted for murder. (The other demands were for repudiation of Widgery and acknowledgement of the innocence of the dead and wounded.)
The disagreement about prosecutions quickly became entangled with the issue of “on the run” members of the IRA given “letters of comfort” guaranteeing that they wouldn’t be imprisoned if they now returned home. This arrangement became the subject of another bout of barbed exchanges between the SDLP and Sinn Fein. In March 2013, the Londonderry Sentinel reported:
The war of words between Sinn Fein and the SDLP over the ‘On the Run’s’ (OTRs) issue has continued in the city with Foyle MP Mark Durkan accusing the republican party of ‘dishonesty’ over the political debacle.
The latest twist in the debate between both parties came after the Sentinel spoke to relatives of the Bloody Sunday victims who contended that back in 2005 that (sic.) some of the families met with Sinn Fein representatives and that their support was sought by the party for OTR legislation and in return they would have to drop their desire to see members of the Parachute Regiment prosecuted for the killings on January 30, 1972.
This claim has been flatly denied by Sinn Fein who in response to questions on the matter released a statement from party Justice spokesman, Raymond McCartney MLA which said: “Sinn Fein have always supported the families of those killed by the British army on Bloody Sunday. Some of those families wish to seek prosecution against those responsible for the death of their loved ones.”
Sinn Fein also said that at no point did they agree to a “trade off” between amnesty for British soldiers and “on the runs…”
In response to the Sinn Fein comments, the SDLP MP told the Sentinel: “Sinn Fein’s dishonesty in of all this has related to their primary interest in getting their on the runs back with no questions asked – ie, it has not been about the victims…
Mr Durkan provided the Sentinel with a SDLP document compiled in November and December 2005, the time at which the legislation was presented at Westminster.
The 2005 document said: “Sinn Fein not only accepted that loyalists get skip jail cards, but also state killers. In return for the greater advantage of getting their on the runs back with no questions asked, Sinn Fein sold out the victims of collusion they claimed to fight for. They let state killers and loyalists totally off the hook-without even securing the truth…
“On November 10 (2005), Martin McGuinness was interviewed on Hearts and Minds. He called our (the SDLP’s) objections about state killers ‘naïve’ and said that he did ‘not envisage that any of the people who were involved in the murders of nationalists…is ever going to be brought before a court in this day and age.’ Compare that to what he says now: ‘We support the families of victims in their pursuit of justice and truth.’”
The SDLP document continued by stating that during the Hearts and Minds interview Mr McGuinness “admitted that state killers would be able to get the benefit of the legislation but said that the people who would “gain most advantage from this are those nationalists and republicans who are on the run for over 30 years.”
“It was two whole weeks after the legislation was published before Gerry Adams said he was opposed to state killers being included. Sinn Fein in their side deal, signed up to state killers getting away with it. So Martin McGuinness and Gerry Adams are just not telling the truth when they now say: ‘Sinn Fein did not support, propose, discuss or accept that members of the British state forces should be part of the process.’”
In the transcript of the Hearts and Minds interview from 2005, journalist Noel Thompson asked the Deputy First Minister: “Let’s start with OTRs first. Mark Durkan says you entered into an alliance of sleaze with the government which has delivered, secured an amnesty for the security forces. Are you proud of that?”
Mr McGuinness replied: “When this began its life it was on the basis of On the Runs and On the Runs specifically referred to nationalists and republicans who found themselves in difficult circumstances for over 30 years. How many RUC men/UDR men or British soldiers could have been described as On the Runs? None. Why was that? Simply because they were fortunate in having an undeclared amnesty bestowed upon them by successive British Governments.”
Noel Thompson then asked: “And now you have that written on paper.”
Mr McGuinness stated: “Well how many of them will come forward to avail of that situation? The people who will gain most advantage from this are those nationalists and republicans who are on the run for over 30 years. I don’t envisage that any people who were involved in the murders of nationalists, and Mark knows this better than I do, is ever going to be brought before a court in this day and age.”
Noel Thompson: “But you’ve taken that possibility away from victims?”
Mr McGuinness: “Victims and relatives know, for example in the case of Bloody Sunday families, the British Army was effectively marched up to Buckingham Palace and were decorated by the British Queen for their activities in Derry that day. So what’s the likelihood of those people being brought before a court…?
Noel Thompson: “Mark Durkan is pointing out that it is you who are putting them in that position by giving an amnesty to security forces. He wants their voices to be heard.
Mr McGuinness: “Well, Mark is very naive then if that is the case. because these people have effectively had an undeclared amnesty for over 30 years. Successive British Governments have stood over the murderous activities of some elements of British intelligence services-UDR, RUC and British Army and that’s a fact and people in nationalist and republican areas know that…How many soldiers or RUC men have appeared before court for murders of 100s of Catholics and nationalists that have taken place over the years? Few and far between.”
Noel Thompson: “And now they never will?”
Mr McGuinness: “They never would in my opinion. Anyone from the broad nationalist/republican constituency knows that the State always defends its service people. Those people who were involved, even in the importation of arms from South Africa – what possibility is there that these people would ever stand before a court – I think there is no possibility whatsoever. I am not as naive as Mark appears to be…”
The disagreement over Bloody Sunday between the two Nationalist parties has rumbled in the background ever since. The Bloody Sunday issue is more or less automatically revisited every time talks on patching up or consolidating the Good Friday settlement are started or restarted. This came through in a Derry Journal report on October 6th, 2015:
The ‘Derry Journal’ has obtained a copy of the strand of the Stormont House Agreement dealing with the legacy of the Northern Ireland conflict.
The ‘Journal’ understands that the parties involved in the current negotiations received the legislation on September 29. It is also understood that the legislation is due to be placed before Westminster as early as next week with October 12 being the most likely date.
Previously, a Freedom of Information request seeking to view the details of the proposed bill was refused on the grounds that releasing such information was ‘likely to prejudice development and subsequent implementation and could allow targeted lobbying by certain groups that could inhibit objective decisions being made….’
Kate and Linda Nash whose brother was shot dead on Bloody Sunday and whose father was seriously wounded on the same day have been scathing of the arrangements and of the fact that they have been denied sight of the legislation.
Kate Nash said: “Forty-three years on from the murder of our loved ones and we are no further forward in our quest for justice. The police, military and some politicians know who fired the shots. If this was happening in any other country in the world, the outcry from the international community, including the British government, would be deafening. For us, justice being delayed is justice being denied.
Theresa Villiers also recently stated that the five (sic) political parties in the Stormont Executive – DUP, Sinn Fein, SDLP and Alliance, as well as the British and Irish Governments – all agreed to the proposals last December as part of the SHA negotiations.
Some relatives of people shot dead in Derry had long held suspicions that a deal (had been agreed) allowing perpetrators of killings to make a confession and walk away with assurances of immunity from prosecution. And, despite this being denied by political parties and the Northern Ireland Office, the assertions were subsequently confirmed by the Northern Ireland Secretary of State.”
The disagreement between Sinn Fein and the SDLP over what SF agreed to in 2005 in relation to legislation which would have given an amnesty both to Republican OTRs and State forces accused of crimes has continued to the present. Light may be cast on the controversy by the account of the OTR legislation published in the Sinn Fein ‘paper An Phoblacht on November 10 2005.
British Government publishes OTR legislation
Legislation dealing with the issue of ‘On The Runs’ (OTRs) has been published by the British Government and has been broadly welcomed by Sinn Féin.
The proposals cover around 150 people ‘on the run’ since the introduction of Internment in the 1970s. Since the Good Friday Agreement the British Government has continued to refuse to let many people return to the North without facing imprisonment.
The new legislation would allow men and women to have their cases heard by a special tribunal. If found guilty, they would be freed on licence.
The 26-County Government also announced on Wednesday that it would be setting up an ‘Eligibility Body’ to deal with the issue.
Speaking from London on Wednesday 9 November, the day the British legislation was published, Sinn Féin MP Conor Murphy said it was past time for both Governments to address the matter.
“This is an outstanding issue, an anomaly from the Good Friday Agreement,” he told An Phoblacht. “These people would have been freed as part of the early release scheme, so it makes no sense for them to still be sought by the authorities. The British Government has had this very publicly on its agenda for some time now. We believe that in many of these cases, there isn’t even sufficient evidence for convictions.
“In any conflict resolution process there are from time to time issues like this which quite clearly need to be tackled and addressed in a sensible fashion if we are to build confidence in the future,” he added.
There was no suggestion in the An Phoblacht account that SF might reject or have problems with the legislation because it would apply to British soldiers, including the Bloody Sunday shooters, as well as to Republican OTRs.
The bottom line is that there was never a question of the Bloody Sunday Families doing a deal with the British authorities but of political parties doing deals with the British which undermine the efforts of the Families to find full justice for their loved one at last and then using the Families as a shield when the flak starts to fly.
There is an honourable explanation of SF giving the issue of on-the-runs its highest priority and regarding any knock-on effects with regard to other forces in the conflict as less crucial and less urgent. When a war – and that’s how Republicans characterised the conflict – comes to an end, it is the first duty of the leaders of any set of combatants to ensure that their soldiers are brought safely home.
The problem is that that’s not the way others see it. To most people of most political persuasions it seems fair that if one side in the Northern conflict enjoys an amnesty, the same should apply to the others. If the IRA is amnestied, then British soldiers, too, including the Bloody Sunday paras, should be amnestied.
Thus, when Republican leaders go into negotiations on behalf of on-the-runs, they are opening the door to demands for no prosecution of the men who did murder in Derry on January 30th 44 years ago.
This contradiction has generated much of the confusion surrounding the Bloody Sunday issue, including the confusion which arose in reaction to my statement of July 13th.
Former IRA blanketman, H Blocks PRO and author of ‘Blanketmen‘, Richard O’Rawe reviews the new film about Bobby Sands, ’66 Days’.
‘Drama at the absolute rawest edge it could possibly be,’ was how journalist Fintan O’Toole described the IRA/INLA hunger strike in Brendan Byrne’s new film, Bobby Sands –Sixty-Six Days. No one who was around at that time could argue with him.
I went to the premiere of this film in West Belfast along with my wife, Bernadette. Accompanying us were Dixie Elliott and his wife, Sharon. Dixie, a former cellmate of Sands’, had been interviewed for the film but his contribution did not make the final cut.
Unsurprisingly, the cinema was packed with Sinn Féin members and supporters. Equally unsurprisingly, many of those present cast their eyes into the darkest reaches of the cinema rather than in my direction. The reason why? Because I wrote a book called Blanketmen in which I said that a committee of republicans, led by Gerry Adams, had had control of the hunger strike. I also said that before the fifth hunger striker, Joe McDonnell died this committee rejected an offer from the British government that the prison leadership believed to be acceptable. Consequently, six more hunger strikers died on the fast.
Notwithstanding the preponderance of Sinn Féin members in attendance at the premiere, this is far from a pro-Sinn Féin film. In fact, one viewer later said to me that he thought Byrne had gone ‘a bit too far’ by using Fintan O’Toole as linkman (O’Toole is not known for his Sinn Féin sympathies).
Byrne also afforded speaking rights to former prison officer, Dessie Butterworth, Tory Cabinet minister, Norman Tebbit, and Margaret Thatcher’s biographer, Charles Moore. As well as that, he did not shirk from raising the despicable IRA murder of a young mother and census collector, Joanne Mathers, two days before the electorate of Fermanagh/South Tyrone went to the polls to elect either Bobby Sands or a Unionist as their M.P. To some of us prisoners, it seemed as if someone wanted to sabotage Sands’ chances of being elected.
I have to say, I found this film challenging. For example: Sands gave an interview to Brendan O’Cathaoir of The Irish Times reporter on the third day of his hunger strike.
Commenting on the interview, O’Cathaoir told Byrne: ‘He spoke fluently about how they felt compelled to start the hunger strike. And he made it pretty clear to me he was likely to die. He talked really in terms of laying down his life for his comrades, and of course I am conscious that his protest was in the tradition of positive resistance, immortalised by Ghandi. His most memorial phrase before we parted was: “If I die, God will understand.”’
I later gave some thought to O’Cathaoir saying that Sands’ fast was ‘in the tradition of positive resistance, immortalised by Ghandi’. Ghandi and Sands certainly had things in common: they shared the same imperial foe, they had a great love of their people, and they had iron will.
But unlike the pacifist Ghandi, Sands was committed to armed struggle and, while both revolutionaries may have used the tactic of hunger strike to achieve a political aim, they were altogether different entities.
Another thing that struck me was Fintan O’Toole saying that, ‘Ultimately Bobby Sands’ life effectively marks the end of the tradition of armed struggle because what he said is: There is no justification or need to kill people.’
This is simply not true. The Bobby Sands with whom I lived with for three years on the blanket protest was committed to the armed struggle tradition; he never, during any of his talks with his fellow-prisoners, gave the impression that he viewed constitutional politics as a viable alternative to armed struggle: he was a committed IRA man, with all its attendant violence.
He died believing that his death would enhance the armed struggle, not diminish it.
Moreover, he had absolutely no idea that his death would lead to the peace process. If he had known, I doubt if he would have given his life so freely.
Despite Byrne’s attempt to strike a balance by giving anti-republicans a wide platform, this film is about a republican who died on hunger strike and his testimony. There is skilful use of animation, historical newsreels, and an excreta-covered, H-Block prison cell, complete with two men covered with blankets and lying on dirty mattresses on the floor.
A powerful rendition of Bobby Sands’ hunger strike dairy from actor, Martin McCann leaves one with a feeling of utter helplessness, as does Mrs Sands being interviewed beside a van outside Long Kesh where she tells the world that her son is dying and, holding back her tears, appeals for no violence when he dies.
This is a film that people should go and view if for no other reason than that it has very coherent insights in the Bobby Sands hunger strike, from both sides of the argument. It is also thought-provoking.
And always, at the back of my mind as I was watching this movie, is the question: Was it worth it? It pains me to say that I don’t think it was.
[NOTE – Following my criticism of the Historical Institutional Abuse Inquiry’s (HIAI) website for publishing indecipherable PDF’s of testimony, help arrived from the Iberian peninsula in the form of ‘The Catalunya Kid’ who has kindly translated all the relevant intelligence-related testimony into readable English. Normal coverage can now be supplied. Many thanks CK!]
When the Kincora scandal broke in late 1981, the RUC appointed George Caskey, then a Detective Chief Inspector in the force, to investigate the claims of sexual abuse at the home, claims that would soon expand to include, at one end of the spectrum, allegations of British intelligence knowledge of the abuse and at the other, assertions that a vice ring existed at the home which even served members of the British Royal family.
To insiders, the choice of Caskey was significant. A skilled, thorough and persistent investigator, George Caskey had also built up a reputation as a safe pair of hands when politically sensitive matters were involved.
He had, for instance, been put in charge of probing a notorious shooting incident at Ian Paisley’s Martyr’s Memorial church in south Belfast back in the 1970’s. Paisley had claimed that the IRA had fired the shots, meaning to kill him or one of his flock, but there were also suggestions that Paisley’s own people had staged the incident for propaganda purposes (not the first time, incidentally, that Paisley was suspected by the RUC of staging ‘IRA attacks’ on his home or church).
George Caskey was also brought in to investigate allegations of security force collusion with Loyalist killer gangs in the mid-1970’s made by Fred Holroyd, a former British soldier who claimed to have been working for a shady, MI6-linked undercover group in the Mid-Ulster area.
Holroyd’s claims embraced the accusation that Captain Robert Nairac, an SAS soldier – and British hero – who was later abducted and disappeared by the IRA, had personally assisted or even set up some of the UVF’s most notorious killings, not least the Miami showband massacre. No prosecutions resulted from Caskey’s probe, the results of which were never made public.
It was to George Caskey that the RUC top brass turned when news of Kincora broke and not a few observers remarked on the fact that prime amongst those accused of sexual misconduct at the home was William McGrath, an evangelical preacher, the founder and leader of the shady semi-paramilitary group Tara and a Loyalist whose connections ranged from the top to the bottom of the Orange Order, the DUP, the Official Unionists, the UVF and other Protestant activists. McGrath was on first name terms with Ian Paisley, Jim Molyneaux, Bo McClelland and the Rev Martin Smyth.
George Caskey appears from the testimony below to have given a lengthy witness statement to the HIAI inquiry which provides the basis of the cross-examination that is recorded on the historical inquiry’s website and reprinted here. This statement is not, however, available to the public or media, as far as can be ascertained.
However to call George Caskey’s brief encounter with the inquiry’s junior counsel Joseph Aiken a cross-examination might be regarded by some as generous use of the English language, and by others as a travesty.
Here, for example, are retired Chief Superintendent Caskey’s first dozen or so answers to Mr Aiken’s interrogation, each one evidence not that the former detective was asked searching questions but rather that he was requested to assent to what will inevitably be the inquiry’s received wisdom: “I do”, “Yes”, “I do, sir”, “I do, sir”, “Yes”, “Yes”, “That’s correct, sir”, “That is true, sir”, “Yes”, “Mooney” (correcting an Aiken mistake), “Yes, that’s true”, “Yes, sir”, “Yes, that’s true”.
And so on.
In truth, Mr Aiken’s cross-examination could be summed up in this simple, single exchange: Q – ‘All this stuff about Kincora, George, it’s a crock of shit, yes?’; A – ‘Yes, that is true, sir’.
The problem for those of us who still harbour questions about Kincora and have next to no faith in the established order’s willingness to explore them properly, is that an awful lot of the Kincora story IS a crock of shit. And I have had personal experience of just how shitty the crock is.
The decision by Colin Wallace, for instance, to weave a vast conspiracy around events at the home, some of which, like the best conspiracies, contained grains of truth, must have been regarded as a godsend by the authorities.
Many years ago I interviewed Colin Wallace at length about Kincora and his ‘Clockwork Orange’ claims and I found the whole experience outlandish, a bit like trying to lift mercury with a fork. Many others who followed in my footsteps came to the same conclusion – not just that his story was not credible but that he had attached himself to the story for reasons of convenience.
His decision, first to boycott Caskey’s RUC inquiry in 1981-1983 and now the Historical Inquiry’s ‘deliberations’ must have been met with grins of satisfaction in all sorts on interesting places.
Later, after the experience with Wallace, I had a verbally violent confrontation with the late Frank Doherty, a journalist whose shameless dishonesty has, in my view, no match or equal in the annals of Irish journalism.
Frank, who I first met at Queen’s where he was a mature student, had the conman’s greatest gift, an ability to sell the most implausible proposal to the most sceptical, as evidenced by the legions of news editors and editors he deceived with outlandish stories (an IRA missile downing an RAF Chinook full of British spies in 1994 being one that leaps to mind).
In those days Frank was a regular, albeit anonymous contributor to Phoenix magazine in Dublin, and he had just published a story in its columns saying that Lord Mountbatten (conveniently dead and unable to sue) had used the services of boys at Kincora, as had other members of the British establishment.
We met by chance in Pat’s Bar in the Docks district and I got stuck into him, my anger equaled only by contempt. His story about Mountbatten was nonsense. He had no evidence for the story and he knew it; he’d made it up and all he was doing was undermining the wider story with far-fetched fiction whose only effect was to discredit those trying to establish the truth and to strengthen those who wanted to keep it hidden.
He replied with a unblushing grin: “Well, he (Mountbatten) could have been there”.
There are so many Frank Doherty-type stories and characters associated with Kincora that the task of pouring discredit and doubt on to the genuine areas of concern is not a difficult one. And so it is likely to be with the part of the HIAI inquiry dealing with that unfortunate boys’ hostel.
However one aspect of the sorry saga will not be so easy to dispose of and that is the allegation from former British Army officer, Brian Gemmell that MI5’s man at Thiepval barracks in the mid-1970’s, Ian Cameron, warned him off investigating Tara and William McGrath on the grounds – hardly conceivable in a trade at a time when honey traps were a regular tool – that MI5 did not bother itself with homosexuality.
Northern journalist, Chris Moore, in his book ‘The Kincora Scandal’, wrote that MI5 blocked George Caskey’s efforts to interview Ian Cameron about the Brian Gemmel allegation and in Caskey’s evidence at the HIAI inquiry comes perhaps the most significant revelation yet at the HIAI hearings, confirmation that this was indeed the case, that the intervention even of the RUC Chief Constable and the UK Attorney-General failed to move MI5 in its determination that Caskey would not get to speak to Ian Cameron (who is now dead, incidentally).
I have written before that it is difficult to read the transcripts of evidence given at the HIAI inquiry and not conclude that its outcome will be to absolve those in authority of any responsibility for events at the Kincora home. Except for MI5’s refusal to allow Ian Cameron to be interviewed by the RUC back in 1981-83.
In that refusal lies the stubborn suspicion that the denial was motivated by an unwillingness to discuss matters dealing with an MI5 source, and that someone at Kincora, or in Tara or in McGrath’s circle was working for the Security Service and had been recruited – or blackmailed? – into such employment by virtue of their sexual misbehaviour. Either that or Mr Cameron himself had something embarrassing to hide.
How will the HIAI deal with that?
June 27th, 2016 – Day 217
DCS GEORGE CASKEY (retired) (called)
CHAIRMAN: Yes, Mr Aiken?
MR AIKEN: Chairman, the witness today is now retired Detective Chief Superintendent George Caskey and he is aware, Chairman, that you are going to ask him to take the oath.
DCS GEORGE CASKEY (sworn)
CHAIRMAN: Thank you very much. Please sit down.
Questions from COUNSEL TO THE INQUIRY
MR AIKEN: I was explaining to you earlier, George, that we call everybody by their first name. So don’t be alarmed at that. Coming up on the screen, George, in front of you will be what I hope is the first page of your witness statement, which is at KIN1908. Can you just have a look at it and see that it matches –you recognise the statement as yours?
A. I do.
Q. And if we go to the last page, please, which is at
Q. –and you recognise the last page, and you can confirm that’s your signature on the document, George?
A. I do, sir.
Q. And you want to adopt the content of your witness
statement as part of your evidence to the Inquiry today?
A. I do, sir.
Q. Now, George, you explain at the start of your statement, if we go back to 1908, please, that you served for 39 years in the RUC and you retired in December 1996 as a detective chief superintendent.
Q. And during the 1980s, which is the period of the
investigations that we are going to look at, you were
initially a detective chief inspector investigating
serious crime in Belfast in CID.
Q. And during the investigations that are the subject of this Inquiry’s analysis you became a detective
superintendent, and I think that occurred between the – what we call the Phase One Inquiry, which saw Mains, Semple and McGrath convicted, and then the Phase Two Inquiry, which was sparked off by various media reports in the early part of 1982 after the convictions.
A. That’s correct, sir.
Q. And between 1980 then, when The Irish Independent wrote their article on I think it was 24th January 1980, and the period culminating in the Hughes Inquiry in 1985 you led a series of major police investigations into Kincora Boys’ Hostel and other matters that sprang out of your investigation into Kincora Boys’ Hostel.
A. That is true, sir.
Q. And you acknowledge in your statement that The Police Service have explained to you that they have provided the Inquiry with all of the material that it holds presently in respect of the investigations.
Q. And it may not surprise you or it may surprise you to know that culminated in twenty-six boxes of material being provided to the Inquiry, and just I’m going to summarise it in this way, George, and you can tell me that I’m right about this, because obviously there’s a vast swathe of material and you could spend literally weeks giving evidence about the content of your investigations, which isn’t how we’re going to go about this and wouldn’t be of assistance to you or the Inquiry, but the voluminous papers break down into various phases.
The Phase One Inquiry was started by you being
tasked at the time by, if I have understood this
correctly, Assistant Chief Constable Bill Meharg, who
was the Head of Crime in the RUC, Head of CID, and you were given through him and I think was it Detective Chief Superintendent Monaghan the responsibility –or Mooney. Sorry.
Q. –the responsibility of, “You’re to investigate this” and you were basically given a newspaper article –
A. Yes, that’s true.
Q. –and you were to select your team and then begin the inquiry.
A. Yes, sir.
Q. And the –that was the Phase One Inquiry, which
resulted ultimately –it operated from January 1980.
Your report to the DPP was in August 1980, and in the end it ended with Mains, Semple and McGrath, but not just them, three other men working in two other children’s homes being convicted before the then Chief Justice in December 1981.
A. Yes, that’s true.
Q. And then the Phase Two Inquiry again involved you being asked to investigate matters that were arising in media articles that were being carried about all manner of different issues spawning from Kincora, including allegations that there was an establishment, whatever one means by that term, police officers, judiciary, Justices of the Peace, businessmen, all involved in some form of paedophile ring connected to Kincora, and you were asked then to investigate that, and that formed part of the Phase Two Inquiry, which ran during 1982 and resulted in you providing another report to the DPP.
Q. And as part of that –we call it Phase Two –sorry –
Phase Three, but really it was a secret part of Phase
Two, if I can call it that. You were also as part of
that work examining what the military intelligence knew about Kincora.
A. Yes, sir.
Q. And we have called that Phase Three. Phase Two and Phase Three were overseen by an outside police force. Sir George Terry was called in and brought some of his Sussex officers to oversee your ongoing investigation and to look back at the Phase One investigation.
A. That is correct.
Q. And I am not going to go to the pages, George, but the Sussex superintendents, who I presume were the two individuals Harrison and Flenley that you had most contact with, acknowledge in their report that they were given by you and acknowledged receiving full cooperation not just in the letter but in the spirit. That’s the words that Superintendent Harrison uses in his report.
A. That is true, sir.
Q. Those two parts, if you like, Phase Two, Phase Three, or both part of the one investigation, you were able to submit your open report to the DPP earlier than your closed report, if I can put it that way, or the secret investigation into military intelligence, because there was a loose end that you were trying to get closed off in respect of the secret investigation.
A. That is correct, sir.
Q. And we will come back to look at that.
Then there’s one more major limb, George, to the work that you did, although, as you explain in your
Phase Two report, as you turned over a stone in the main Phase Two Inquiry, that tended to lead off to
an investigation into an offshoot, as it were, and you
had various officers who conducted investigations into specific matters that were raised, which really in the end had nothing whatever to do with Kincora, even though media articles linked them to Kincora.
Q. And then if we scroll down, you had come across Colin Wallace during your initial secret investigation into military intelligence, and I will come back to that, but the Phase Four investigation in 1984/’85 was specifically about a document that was put into the public domain in a rather circuitous manner in 1984, dated 8th November 1974, said to be authored by Colin Wallace, and if that is correct that it was written at that date, contained a whole series of serious allegations that would have entirely changed the complexion of what you had discovered up to that point in time.
Q. I will come back to talk about him shortly.
We have mentioned the smaller investigations that
were offshoots. I was asking you –you I think did start to give evidence to the McGonagle Inquiry in 1982 and then it came to an end, but you didn’t have to give evidence to the Hughes Inquiry, although you were present on occasions when that was being dealt with, but you have agreed even in retirement to come and give evidence to this Inquiry.
A. Yes, sir.
Q. You explain a series of key points in your witness
statement that I just want to highlight, George, and
give you the opportunity to comment on if there’s anything further you want to augment to them.
You have made the point to the Inquiry that you are
satisfied that the reports you provided –and in
fairness to you they are all of considerable length –
that they are an accurate record of the investigations and the conclusions that you reached on foot of your
A. That’s true.
Q. There are some specific points you wanted to draw to the Inquiry’s attention in respect of them. You explain that the Phase One investigation –this all began with you effectively being handed a newspaper article, but it ended up with six men, three of whom worked in other children’s homes not connected to Kincora, being convicted of and imprisoned for sexual offences against multiple victims dating back many years prior to the
date of the article in January 1980.
A. Yes, sir.
Q. And you explain in your statement, if we just scroll
down so it can be seen on the screen, that the direction that you were given, including at the start, because, as you know, George, there ends up being a major issue connected to Assistant Chief Constable Bill Meharg, but the direction you were given, if we scroll down so we can see 6(b) please, from the Chief Constable, at that stage Sir John Hermon, and your superiors –by that I take you to mean Bill Meharg and Chief Superintendent Monaghan and ultimately –
Q. Mooney. Sorry. I keep saying “Monaghan”. Forgive me
–and then later Assistant Chief Constable John
Q. –and throughout all of those investigations the
position you were to adopt was there was to be no stone left unturned.
A. Those were the words of the Chief Constable at the time, sir.
A. A direction down to me, yes.
Q. And the reality, if I can put it this way, George: the materials that are available to the Inquiry demonstrate that there wasn’t –whoever came up whose name came up in whatever way, whether they be a leading politician, Orange Order members, churchmen, in an entirely different direction men engaged in homosexual activity in Belfast, men said to be interested in children, whatever, whoever’s name came up, they were traced and spoken to.
A. That’s true.
Q. And the –I think I’ve lost the –there were many
hundreds, if I can put it that way, of witnesses spoken to both in the first inquiry and then in the second inquiry and then in the secret inquiry you pursued military figures, including some who would not normally want to be engaged in police inquiries because of their own roles, that would give statements to you as part of those investigations.
Q. You make the point that many prominent people in public life were spoken to where it was believed that they could either assist with getting to the bottom of what was being said or investigated where they themselves faced allegations.
Q. I will just give one example that the Panel is aware of. In your Phase Two Inquiry, George, you may remember this, but as a result of one of the media articles linking a particular man who was acquitted of offending in 1970, which was a man called KIN 357 I think, if I’ve got the name right, you went back and reinvestigated what occurred in 1970 that resulted in his acquittal, which included chasing down retired resident magistrates and court clerks and working out who signed the register at a given point in time. I am raising that because the Panel are aware of that case as an example of the point you are making that you turned over every stone regardless of who was sitting on it.
A. That is so.
Q. The point you make, if we scroll on then, please, to (d), certainly, George, when we come to especially the Phase Two Inquiry, which was largely driven by articles that were written or reported in the media –
Q. –that involved you chasing down lots of avenues that were increasingly distant from allegations of sexual abuse in Kincora.
A. That is true.
Q. You make the point that you weren’t always assisted by people who were writing articles but not then sharing with you the sources of the information that were said to be evidence for these articles.
A. That is so.
Q. And is it fair, George, if I put it like this: unless
you can trace where the information is said to come from as a police officer conducting an investigation into serious crime, you are in a rather difficult position starting off?
A. Yes, that would be true.
Q. And the point you make in paragraph (d) that’s on the screen is that many of the media allegations that were made or published turned out to have no evidential basis.
A. That is so, sir.
Q. If I can try and hone that down a little, George, it is not that there was some truth to them that just you
couldn’t get any evidence to prosecute with. It was
when you examined the claims, it was that there was no evidence for them.
A. That is correct, sir.
Q. Now I am not talking about all of the claims and neither R2316 are you, but many of the claims you investigated that result –that arose from media allegations were simply groundless.
A. I think that is fair comment, sir.
Q. You give two examples in paragraph (d), George, I want to just ask you about. Part of what sparked the Phase Two Inquiry was the case, and the suggestion of a paedophile ring through him connected to Kincora.
A. That’s so.
Q. What you spend many pages in your Phase Two Inquiry setting out, having gathered all of the evidence, and if I can boil it down to this, that particular boy, R23 R23, who was abused by his uncle and two of his friends, made the point to you when you traced him that he was never actually in Kincora.
A. That is so, sir.
Q. Didn’t know anybody who lived there and didn’t himself regard himself as involved in a paedophile ring other than being involved with his uncle and his two friends.
A. That is correct.
Q. Now that’s not, as you know, to minimise what happened to him, but it’s an example, if I understand you correctly, of the difficulty that you were faced with, that you were having serious allegations being linked to dreadful events that had happened that were sensationalising them, if I can put it that way, and then when you examined them, they were found to be without foundation.
A. That’s correct, sir.
Q. The other example that you give was the –relates to the horrific murder of Brian McDermott in the early ’70s. During your Phase Two Inquiry a journalist linked that murder to Kincora –
Q. –and individuals said to be associated with Kincora, and as a result of that you had to effectively reopen that investigation to see was there any basis for the claim that was being made to you.
A. Yes, sir.
Q. That resulted by the time you’d done the work and
gathered the evidence that it’s not that there was some evidence of that which wouldn’t amount to a prosecution, but simply there was no evidence whatever of anyone involved with Kincora and your inquiry into Kincora being involved in any way with Brian McDermott or anyone connected to him or his murder.
A. That is true.
Q. But the point you make is it didn’t matter ultimately whether or not they were right. They were investigated as far as you could investigate them and the reality of
the situation as you describe it in your statement is
that took you far and wide –
A. Yes, sir.
Q. –well beyond the jurisdiction of the United Kingdom.
Q. You then cover, George, at paragraph (e) of your statement that obviously there were issues that arose
for the RUC in –when you conducted your investigation, because you yourself identified in your report, and then the Sussex investigators carried them on, two particular occasions which we have been looking at before the Inquiry. One related to Superintendent John Graham and information he had been given and the other related to
information that arose from Detective Constable Cullen and his communications with the Assistant Chief Constable Bill Meharg.
Q. You set those out in your report. Those were different matters, as it were, from –that’s a failure to act potentially on relevant information, different from what you were being asked to do in Phase One, which was to catch the people responsible for abusing children in Kincora.
Q. But the materials in your Phase One report –and you were explaining to me that, in fact, you had
conversations that it was appropriate that an outside
force come in and look at these matters because of what you had found as part of your Phase One work.
Q. What I wanted to ask you, George, as you look back on what was effectively five years of investigating all sorts of matters around Kincora, you make the point that no-one in the RUC ever interfered in the investigations you were conducting.
A. That is so.
Q. So whatever might have been the case about failures to act previously, you weren’t put under pressure not to look at something, or not to investigate something, or not to speak to someone at any stage during your work?
A. That is so.
Q. You make the point, often said by police officers
pursuing serious crime, “I went wherever the evidence took me”.
A. That would be fair comment.
Q. A point you make in paragraph (f), George, is that quite early on in your Phase One report you make the point that you could see that there were boys in Kincora effectively themselves victims but who, as the law stood at the time, were telling you about homosexual activity they were engaged in, which on the face of it could lead to them being prosecuted as well as those they were involved with.
A. Yes, sir.
Q. You felt it was appropriate, so that they could be free to tell you what the position was, that you would go to the then DPP, which was Sir Barry Shaw, and obtain from him an immunity for what began as a particular group of residents who disclosed things in the initial phases of the first inquiry, but then a general immunity as you completed and provided your first report that any resident or ex-resident who was said to engage in homosexual activity shouldn’t face prosecution, that they should have immunity, and that was your way of ensuring that those individuals were free to tell you exactly what had gone on.
A. That is true, sir.
Q. Now part of –the point you make is –lest it be said of your investigation that that was some form of cover-up, you make the point that you in addition to
having a newspaper article and ending with six people in prison, but you genuinely believe that your team couldn’t have done more to ensure that the victims of abuse in Kincora were able to speak freely and fully to your team about what had occurred.
A. That is fair comment, sir.
Q. Now one of the consequences –and I think you were explaining this to me when we spoke previously, George, and you can maybe explain it to the Panel as to what you mean by this –but where an individual who was living in Kincora, you then are quite often speaking to them as an adult, many of them continued to engage in homosexual activity –
Q. –and many of them disclosed to you other individuals not connected to them necessarily during their time in Kincora who they were engaging in homosexuality with – having homosexual relations with. Your investigation, if you like, went to the next step of tracing those individuals who themselves were never said to be in or involved in Kincora or having –engaging in sexual offences connected to Kincora, but because at the time their activity was criminal behaviour, you pursued them and obtained in many cases confession statements from adults who were engaging in homosexual activity with
other adults –
Q. –or in some cases boys or young men under 18, and all of those matters were reported to the DPP, and you recommended they be prosecuted, and it was then a matter for the DPP to decide whether they should be prosecuted or not.
A. Yes, sir.
Q. In the end the Panel are aware from the DPP direction that they elected not to prosecute the significant number of individuals that had disclosed homosexual activity to you as part of the investigation.
Q. But you make the point in your statement, George, that this process of moving to the next ripple, if I can put it that way, was your way of ensuring that you chased down any potential for there being rings and
prostitution or anything of that nature connected to
Kincora, because each time someone was named, you went and found them, and if they named someone else, you went and found the third person and so on until everybody who had been named had been spoken to –
A. Yes, sir.
Q. –where they could be found.
A. Where they could be found.
Q. In paragraph 8 –and we have covered this already, George –you make the point about the cooperation you gave to the outside investigators when they came in –
Q. –which they refer to. You make the point in
paragraph (i) that when it was apparent that Assistant Chief Constable William Meharg had been previously involved to some extent in allegations relating to William McGrath, your recollection is that Sir John Hermon arranged for you to report directly to Assistant Chief Constable John Whiteside.
Q. That was the way to avoid any conflict of interest.
Q. Your recollection is at the start, because he was the Head of Crime, Bill Meharg was involved in effectively setting up the investigation and handing it to you to get on with –
Q. –but your recollection is that John Whiteside
ultimately would become the main person you would
communicate with –
Q. –in respect of it.
A. Yes, sir.
Q. Then in paragraph 7, George, you make points which may well be obvious to the Panel Members, but –that as part of your investigations into Kincora, but in your general policing investigations over the course of a career of almost forty years, but this applied to the Kincora investigations, as I understand the point you are making, not all the allegations that were made were true.
A. Yes. That’s right.
Q. Some individuals were prepared to and did make
allegations which were untrue.
Q. Some individuals exaggerated what happened or attempted to minimise their role in what had occurred.
A. Yes, sir.
Q. If we scroll down to (d), some individuals, including responsible adults, as the Panel has looked at over the last number of days, made allegations to the media that had no basis in fact, or which were wildly exaggerated, or so wildly exaggerated that allegations appeared in the media that were entirely unsupported by the
A. That is correct, sir.
Q. You have made the point which is in paragraph (e), which
is that journalists by not giving you the identities of
sources made it more difficult for you to investigate.
A. That’s right.
Q. Now you then –if we scroll down, please, at
paragraph 8 you address a number of specific incidents
that you draw to the Panel’s attention and the Inquiry
discussed them with you. The first related to Joss Cardwell. You have
explained in the statement, as you did in your report,
that Joss Cardwell’s name only came up in your
investigation because a journalist brought it up –
A. That’s right, sir.
Q. –and that at no time, as I understand –and you have
said this I think if we scroll down slightly further –
yes, it is in paragraph 11 –at no time during your
investigation did anyone ever make an allegation against
A. No-one, sir.
Q. And it doesn’t –to the Inquiry’s knowledge no
allegation has ever been made subsequently. The point you were making is when you carried out the
investigation as a result of his name being raised with you, his name did appear in the visitors’ book in
Kincora, but with good reason –
Q. –in that part of his role meant he was required at
times to visit.
Q. Unfortunately, as you point out, you don’t know why, but he subsequently a number of weeks after being interviewed committed suicide.
A. Yes, that’s true.
Q. You go on, George, in paragraph 13, if we scroll down on to the next page, please, to speak about Ian Cameron –
Q. –the MI5 intelligence officer who was based as the
Assistant Secretary Political with the Army in
Headquarters Northern Ireland in Lisburn in Thiepval in 1975.
Q. You point out at the start of this passage that the direction and your approach was to leave no stone
unturned, and the one area where that was not achieved to your satisfaction was during the secret investigation or the Phase Three investigation, as we are calling it, into military intelligence.
Q. That related to Captain Brian Gemmell and what he said to you in his police statement after an interview with –that he had with Roy Garland.
Q. Now the Inquiry is going to look at, as I explained to you, George, all what was said to you at the time and what has been said subsequently by him and others in relation to it, but what you were dealing with at the time was he had said to you in his police statement that he’d spoken to Roy Garland and that he’d brought information to Ian Cameron.
A. This is Brian Gemmell?
Q. This is Brian Gemmell. He had got his information from Roy Garland, brought it to Ian Cameron and Ian Cameron had given him a direction not to get involved in homosexual matters. Now there’s a major issue about what exactly he was told and what Ian Cameron was answering when he was asked about these matters by Brian Gemmell, and the Inquiry will look at that, but from your perspective as a police officer investigating, Brian Gemmell –Brian Gemmell raised his name with you as someone who had some knowledge that Brian Gemmell had
passed on to him, and he had received a direction from him and as a result you wanted to speak to him.
Q. I think you –it’s phrased delicately in your
statement, but the result of you wanting to speak to him caused all manner of issues, and if I summarise it this way: your desire to speak to him resulted in your Chief Constable, the Director of Public Prosecutions, the Attorney-General of the United Kingdom, the legal adviser for the security service, M15, all engaging in prolonged discussions over many months about your desire to talk to Ian Cameron.
Q. And the –eventually we got to the point of you writing thirty questions that you wanted a formal response to.
A. Yes, sir.
Q. Formal answers were not provided to you.
A. That’s correct.
Q. This ended, as the Inquiry is aware, with Assistant
Chief Constable Whiteside writing a letter in 1983
saying, “Well, this is what we wanted to do. This is
where it’s at. Now over to you”, and he hands it over to the DPP and the Attorney-General, saying you, as in he and you, stand ready to take the matter any further, but you can’t take it further if you can’t talk to this individual.
Q. Now you’ll know –if we scroll down so we can see
paragraph 18 –the Inquiry having gained material –
you were coming at it from an RUC senior officer
investigating and from the knowledge that you had, and what the Inquiry has been able to do, as we were
discussing previously, was gather the information from the other angle, as it were, as to what MI5 were doing and then put the two together and allow the Panel to look at that material in the round.
There are documents, as you know, from July to
November 1982 involving discussions, with Special Branch facilitating discussions, where information is being given to you, and one of those, as I was discussing with you, shows a suggestion at any rate that a summary of what Ian Cameron’s position was, which largely agreed with what Brian Gemmell said in his police statement, was communicated to you, but your position was well – if I can summarise it this way, George, but maybe let you put it in your own words –it’s all very well someone telling you what the position is, but as a police officer that’s not enough for you to finish your inquiries.
A. It was not in this case.
Q. You in paragraph 19 address the fact that although there is the document which suggests the gist of Ian Cameron’s answers were provided to you and you are recorded as having said they matched what Brian Gemmell had said, you don’t at this remove –and you were making this point to me when we discussed it –you don’t remember those meetings specifically at this remove, which would have been in fairness thirty –
Q. –thirty-three, thirty-four years ago.
A. That is true.
Q. But the point you are making is even if the record is entirely accurate that you were conveyed the information and you could see that what was being said broadly matched what Brian Gemmell was saying, you as an investigating police officer wanted a formal response to complete your inquiry –
Q. –and you did not get that formal response.
A. That’s correct.
Q. Therefore am I right in saying, George, that you always regarded that part as not complete, because you can’t get it as a police officer formally on the record?
A. Yes. I would say it was a loose end.
Q. You can understand, and we were discussing, because the material which you didn’t know then but which you know now coming in the opposite direction, which were the reasons why the Security Service didn’t want one of their personnel being interviewed by police generally as a rule, because they regarded it as not being able to contribute anything and so on, and these discussions are going on at a high level, that’s all very well, but you
wanted the thing closed off?
Q. The other loose end, if I can put it that way, George, you then talk about from paragraph 21 on in your statement and that related to Colin Wallace. If we – you can see you have said in paragraph 21 that was the other outstanding line of inquiry. In effect you say, to try and summarise it, he refused to cooperate with the investigation –
Q. –despite claiming he wanted to assist.
Q. Now if I can try and unpack that a little, the sequence of events tended to be he wanted to assist. You would go and see him. There would be some issue raised. You would go off, try and address the issue, come back and be told what you’d done wasn’t sufficient.
A. That’s correct.
Q. Now I think, if I am not being inaccurate, at one stage in one of your reports you thought you had done enough to call his bluff, having got immunity for him in respect of the matters he said he wanted to tell you about.
Q. But when that was presented I think –do you want to explain? It was a very short interview when you presented the immunity.
A. Yes, about fifteen minutes I think. It was under
an hour anyway.
Q. The point that you are making in paragraph 22, George, to summarise a long sequence of exchanges, was you wanted to get to the bottom one way or the other of the claims he was making.
A. That’s correct, sir.
Q. But by him adopting this course of, on the one hand, telling you he wanted to cooperate, but then giving you reasons why he couldn’t cooperate –
A. Yes. He set down conditions.
Q. –the result of that was that you just couldn’t get to
the bottom of it.
A. No, sir.
Q. Did you form a view eventually, George, in the course of this that did he intend to cooperate, did he want to cooperate, or had you formed a view that well, that was what was being said to you, but that wasn’t really the reality?
A. Well, when I –at my final interview with him I formed the opinion that he was not going to cooperate in any way.
Q. You then make the point in paragraph 23, and the Panel has your two reports, because you deal with Colin Wallace’s claims during your secret investigation Phase Three and then Phase Four was looking specifically at the document that came to light, and I am right in saying, George, that when you were looking at the military intelligence aspect and Colin Wallace in ’82 and ’83, there was no mention of this document?
A. No, not at all.
Q. The document materialised at a later date –
Q. –which seems to be I think November ’84, and
thereafter you carry out a specific investigation into
Q. Again the same sequence of events occur.
A. That’s true.
Q. You set out the findings then in your report as far as you could take them.
A. That’s correct, sir.
Q. And the point, if we scroll down to paragraph 25, in summary that you make, George, is: “Colin Wallace adopted a very strange approach for
someone who claimed through many media articles” –and indeed is still claiming through many media articles -” that he wanted to speak and assist about Kincora.”
A. That is true, sir.
Q. Now then, George, I want to look at what you say in the conclusion section of your statement. You have
obviously, George, over the years saw many media articles about this place that you spent five years
Q. You are aware of the more sensational, if I can put it that way, of those allegations that have been carried and continue to be carried.
Q. But the point that you are making to the Inquiry is from your investigations you were satisfied that the RUC identified and had prosecuted those individuals who had sexually abused boys in Kincora.
Q. That the sexual abuse occurred generally in secret
between the two individuals who were involved at any particular point in time.
Q. That you did uncover many potential missed opportunities to detect the offences –
Q. –which you were then uncovering in 1980, but you didn’t find any evidence that an individual had
deliberately tried to cover up the abuse in Kincora, and you explain what you mean by that, because, as you know, the words become more elastic nowadays in reports, but what you are talking about is in the sense that an individual knew boys were being abused and did some positive act to hide it or turned a blind eye to the fact that it was occurring –
A. Yes, that’s true.
Q. –as opposed to different information, which was someone was a homosexual and simply a belief that that, therefore, meant they would be abusing.
The point that I take you to be making here is that
you didn’t –you never found any evidence of an individual who knew boys in Kincora were being abused and did something to try and hide it.
A. That’s fair comment, sir.
Q. Then you make this point, George, in the next
paragraph of your –26(e), and you make the
qualification, just to be clear, it depends what exactly is meant by these phrases, but you were and remain
satisfied there was no evidence of a prostitution ring
A. That is true, sir.
Q. –connected to Kincora; that there wasn’t a paedophile ring as it might be today defined of people coming into Kincora on some sort of organised basis to engage with or take boys out to engage with them in homosexual offences?
A. That is very true, sir.
Q. And the same applies to the concept of a vice ring?
Q. What you did uncover was three men who abused the trust that was placed in them and took advantage of the boys in their care.
Q. But you also found evidence of boys in Kincora engaging in homosexual activity with other people.
A. Yes, sir.
Q. But not prostitution ring or paedophile ring in that sort of form that’s envisaged in the allegations.
A. No such evidence or suspicion.
Q. The point that you make then in paragraph (f), and this was the allegation that sparked the second phase inquiry that led into all manner of investigations in various directions, there was no evidence of any prominent establishment figures coming into Kincora to sexually abuse boys or take boys out of Kincora for that purpose.
A. None whatsoever.
Q. So, George, you from your experience as a police officer will be familiar between the difference of there’s some evidence for this, but it’s not going to be sufficient to sustain a prosecution and there’s just no evidence for it, and what I take you to be describing here is not the former. It is not the case that you found some evidence for this, but you weren’t going to get the person convicted of it. It’s you didn’t find any evidence of this at all.
A. That’s why I said “none whatsoever”.
Q. You point to in your statement that the best evidence of this fact is what the boys themselves have to say, and the Panel is aware, because I have gone through what, giving voice to the victims, each of them had to say to you and to subsequent investigations and have said subsequently to the Inquiry.
Now none of this is to say, George –you, of course, prosecuted the men for the offences that they
did commit –
Q. –on the boys in their care, but the point you’re making is that none of them ever claimed to have been involved in this type of wider activity of paedophile rings or prosecution rings involving prominent or establishment figures, politicians and businessmen and that type of thing. None of them made those claims.
A. That is true, sir.
Q. You make the point there were isolated examples of Kincora residents associating with men outside the home and you investigated those allegations, but they don’t fall into the type of category that you and I are presently discussing.
A. That is true, sir.
Q. You make the point there was no evidence of anyone being blackmailed because of their sexual activity at Kincora. No-one ever claimed to you that that was the case.
A. No-one, sir.
Q. Now then you address at the Inquiry’s request, George, the wider allegation which has continued to run and continued to be reported even to today and that is that there was some State-run operation to promote or facilitate sexual offences in Kincora for some intelligence-gathering or other purpose. So not
a reactive attempt to cover over abuse that was
occurring, but a proactive for a State purpose of some kind operation that saw boys in a care home, a children’s home, sexually abused to gather
information, and the point that you make in this
paragraph is you found no evidence of that whatever. Not again that there was some evidence that wasn’t going to meet the evidential test. There was just no evidence of it.
A. I found no evidence whatsoever, sir, on anything like that.
Q. And no boy or men ever claimed anything like that to you?
Q. Then you make the point that follows from that point, George, in paragraph 5. Consequently you didn’t find any evidence of an individual or organisation trying to cover up that sort of scheme, because you didn’t find that sort of scheme in the first place.
A. That is true, sir.
Q. You make this point then, that you remain content with the conclusions that you reached as expressed in the reports at the end of the different phases of the investigation, and you make the point again that there was no paedophile ring or prominent figures involved in abusing boys in Kincora at least to the extent of your police inquiry, which was to trace I think in the end – there was some debate over the figures –but around about –you managed to trace half of approximately the
resident of Kincora that had ever been through it
between ’58 and ’80.
A. Yes. That is true.
Q. The point you make about those wider allegations is they’re not only not made, but they’re entirely
inconsistent with what the victims of Mains, Semple and McGrath and the other former residents of Kincora actually had to say to you.
A. That is true, sir.
Q. George, as you know, I mentioned to you the Inquiry is looking at the RUC failures in ’74, including involving Messrs Cullen and Meharg, and we’re continuing issues around that. I have said to you we will speak to you again about that –
Q. –if the need arises and you have said you are happy for us to do that.
A. Yes, sir.
Q. I, George, am not going to ask you any further questions at this point. The Panel Members may want to ask you something. So if you wouldn’t mind, if you would bear with us for a short while they do that.
Questions from THE PANEL
CHAIRMAN: First of all, Mr Caskey, can I thank you on behalf of myself and my colleagues for coming out of retirement to look again at what on any showing was a vast undertaking or perhaps more accurately series of undertakings that you and your officers engaged in, but before I do that may I ask you perhaps one or two things that may seem obvious? You retired with thirty-nine years’ service. Was the majority of that as a detective?
A. It was thirty-four years, sir.
Q. And during the period we are looking at you were initially a detective chief inspector and then
a detective superintendent.
A. That is so.
Q. Then subsequently you were promoted to and retired as a detective chief superintendent.
A. Yes, sir.
Q. So if we may put it this way, in operational terms, as opposed to an ACC, who might oversee matters such as the CID in general, you were one of those who was at the highest rank of operational detective policing in the
RUC. Is that correct?
A. Yes, sir.
Q. And as is evident to us from having looked at the vast quantity of material you and your colleagues drew together, you carried out a great many of the interviews of individuals who were investigated yourself with, as is the standard practice, another officer present, usually of junior rank to yourself.
A. That is so, sir.
Q. And if I might just ask you: with your experience as a detective would you agree that not everybody will be either entirely accurate or entirely truthful in what they say to a police officer?
A. Yes, sir. That can happen.
Q. And they may have difficulty in remembering things that happened?
Q. They may need to have their memory prompted with a document or a statement made by another witness and then they may either genuinely or perhaps reluctantly agree that their earlier account was inaccurate or perhaps incomplete?
A. Yes. In cases such as these, sir, because some of the
residents we interviewed had –had been married and they didn’t to disclose entirely what actually happened.
So there was an understanding when interviewing people that we had to make sure that there was no embarrassment alluded to them if they were going to make a statement.
Q. And arising out of that in a general way was it the
approach certainly when you came to submit your reports that where someone had been prevailed upon as a young man perhaps or as a teenager to engage in what were then illegal sexual acts, that generally speaking, unless they themselves had breached some form of trust, that it was your view that it would not be in the public interest for them to be prosecuted?
A. That’s true, sir.
Q. And I think it is evident from the documents that we have looked at that apart from the Kincora Boys’ Home, which we are concerned with at this moment, that, in fact, you investigated –when I say you, you and your team investigated quite a number of other homes, such as Williamson House and places of that nature –
A. Yes. That is true.
Q. –because there were three other men who appeared at the same court as Mains, Semple and McGrath for similar offences perpetrated elsewhere.
A. Yes, sir.
Q. And in addition to those homes which you were directly responsible for it appears to be the case that at some point when allegations emerged in relation to other homes that you were given the task of perhaps maintaining a watching brief over those investigations or at least being informed of them to ensure that, first of all, they were properly investigated and, secondly, that the whole wider picture, if there was one, was laid before you.
A. Yes, sir. That is so.
Q. One of the things that is perhaps not generally
appreciated is that in the normal way when a police investigation is carried out and the papers are
submitted to the relevant prosecuting authorities, if
there is a prosecution, then it follows, does it not,
that the nature and extent of the investigation will
appear publicly if there’s a trial?
A. Yes, it would, sir.
Q. If the accused pleads not guilty –
A. Not guilty, yes.
Q. –then it is laid out in very considerable detail and
you see the witnesses who are called. If the accused pleads guilty, well, then generally, even if the papers are before the court, a relatively short description of
the salient points but not all of the detail –
Q. –will be made before the judge and therefore before the public. Isn’t that right?
A. That’s true.
Q. But if there is a decision that there should be no
prosecution, then the nature and extent in detail of the work that has been done is never brought before the public. Isn’t that so?
A. That’s true.
Q. And even if, as there was in the case of Sir George
Terry’s Inquiry, another force under another Chief
Constable’s direction was brought in, the normal course is only to publish the conclusions. Isn’t that so?
A. That’s true, sir.
Q. But the one exception where there has not been a trial is when there is a public inquiry such as our own or that conducted by the late Judge Hughes, and in those circumstances the nature and extent of any police investigations may well be placed before the public. Isn’t that so?
A. That is true.
Q. When you were conducting your inquiries in 1982 and ’83, that is the second and third, the third being the secret phase, were you aware that, perhaps just from newspapers and public comment, that there were calls for a public inquiry into Kincora and into the way the police had investigated it, that that was a possibility?
A. Oh, yes. It would be, sir.
Q. Yes, and would that knowledge have been in any way an added spur to you to ensure that no stone was left unturned?
A. Well, when you are getting a direction from someone like Sir John Hermon, you left no stone unturned, nor would I even consider leaving any stone unturned in such circumstances.
Q. If we could come then to one or two of the particular things that you have told us about, leaving no stone untold –unturned, you felt that there was a loose end in relation to your attempts to interview Ian Cameron. Isn’t that correct?
A. Yes, sir.
Q. And it will become apparent from documents we will look at later that The Security Service was not very happy with the idea that you would directly speak to Ian Cameron. Isn’t that so?
A. That’s true.
Q. And ultimately you drafted the thirty questions?
A. That’s so.
Q. Can you recall if the idea for the thirty questions was your own idea and adopted and approved by others or did it come from another source and you thought that was a good idea?
A. I wanted to do that, but I did speak with who later became Sir Alasdair Fraser in the Director’s office, who had been appointed by Sir Barry to liaise if there were any difficulties the police investigation encountered, and whilst I can’t remember exactly, but I’m pretty certain that I discussed this with Sir Alasdair and the questions were formulated or they were maybe changed in some way.
Q. And Sir Alasdair sadly has since died –
Q. –who later succeeded Sir Barry Shaw –
Q. –as Director of Public Prosecutions, but in any event, although you may not have been aware of this at the time, your Chief Constable, Sir John Hermon, Sir George Terry, the Attorney-General, the DPP and the legal adviser to the Security Service were all at different times –they weren’t all there on each occasion –but they all appear to have spent a great deal of time discussing how your, if I may say so, very proper insistence that Mr Cameron should at least answer the questions was to be met.
A. I would have thought so, sir.
Q. Yes. Indeed, in 1983, when you finally submitted your report, we will hear I think that Assistant Chief Constable John Whiteside had earlier sent your questions to The Northern Ireland Office in an attempt to through that route get an answer.
Q. Were you aware of that at the time?
A. I was aware that he submitted them, but –to the
Northern Ireland Office.
Q. Yes. So far as Sir Alasdair Fraser, whom you have
referred to, but Sir Barry Shaw was concerned, you I am sure submitted a great many reports which were
ultimately considered in other cases by Sir Barry, cases of –controversial murder cases or matters of that sort?
A. Yes, that would happen, sir.
Q. Was his reputation as a Director someone who was meticulous in the work that he expected others to
provide for him?
A. That’s my belief, sir.
Q. And was he anxious to ensure that whatever was placed before him was dealt with in a thorough and impartial way by his Department?
A. Very much so.
Q. Would it be unfair to put it this way, that you had to cross all the Is and dot all the Ts –the other way
round –I am sorry –dot all the Is and cross all the
A. Well, I know when I was sending anything to Sir Barry, yes, they were all dotted and stroked.
Q. You have pointed out to us that you interviewed a very large number of people. Would it be fair to say, with very few exceptions, everybody, no doubt with varying degrees of enthusiasm, was prepared to submit to being interviewed and to answer questions?
A. Yes, sir.
Q. But there were two areas in which that does not seem to have been the case from what you said. The first was a number –I should say not all, but a number of journalists would not give you the source from which some form of assertion had come.
A. Yes, sir.
Q. If that happens, is there anything you can do?
A. In these cases it depended on the depth of the
information one was getting, and I never saw any reason to threaten, if I may use that word, any journalist that there could be repercussions for them if they didn’t, because most of them, if not all of them, did give me – not giving the names of their sources or the sources of the information, but were passing on the material, which I found useful.
Q. Yes. So in some instances they might say perhaps,
“Well, I will go back and speak to the person and try and encourage them to change their position and speak to you”?
A. No, I never got that position. I don’t recollect
anything that might have happened, sir, but I don’t recollect that happening.
Q. Yes. Finally, you did make a number of efforts I think to speak to Mr Wallace.
Q. More than one, if I recall correctly.
A. I spoke with him twice in prison, in the prison in
Sussex, and I sent my Detective Inspector Ted Cooke on one occasion to see him. That was between my first interview and the second interview.
Q. So there were three visits from RUC officers.
Q. Is that correct? As you said, he was in prison at that time. As will become apparent, he was serving
a sentence for manslaughter and his conviction was
quashed some years later.
A. That’s true, sir.
Q. But he was in prison when you were speaking to him or your officer spoke to him?
A. Yes, he was.
Q. I take it there were quite a number of matters that you would have wished to discuss with him?
A. Yes, indeed.
Q. And I think the way you put it was that you felt he
adopted a very strange approach?
A. He did, and he just wasn’t cooperative and wanted
conditions laid down for him to speak with me. One of them I recall was that he said he would need to return to HQNI and it would take him probably six months or more to find the material that he could address me with, and –but then when –when we got the immunity for him from the Director of Public Prosecutions and the – I think he was entitled Inspector General, but a very high-ranking situation within the Army, and when I served the letters on him, he discussed the matters with his solicitor and the solicitor advised him to say nothing more, and that was the end of our contact with Mr Wallace.
Q. I think you may be referring to Major-General Garrett, who gave an authorisation –
A. Garrett, sir. That’s the very name, yes.
Q. –that he was permitted to discuss matters that might be covered by the Official Secrets Act.
A. That’s it. That’s the one.
Q. And of course when Mr Wallace suggested he would need six months in Lisburn, he was a serving prisoner in England at the time.
A. Yes. He was very keen to get out of prison at that
Q. That’s probably a pretty universal view of most
Q. I think those are all the questions I have for you,
Mr Caskey, unless my colleagues wish to ask you some questions.
MS DOHERTY: Thanks very much, Mr Caskey. I am over here.
Hi! That has been very, very helpful.
I have just one question and I ask it in the
knowledge that this is a long time ago that I’m asking about, but we’re conscious that Mr Semple and Mr Mains knew each other before they actually began to work together in Kincora, and I was just wondering if you ever picked up whether Mr McGrath had relationships with them or knew them or knew of them before he came to join? Was there any –did you pick up any connection between McGrath and those two gentlemen?
A. I don’t recall that indeed. I can’t answer that one.
Q. Okay. Thanks very much.
A. Thank you.
MR LANE: If I might ask one too. You were talking about Colin Wallace just now to the Chairman. Did you feel that whatever solutions you came up with, such as immunity from prosecution, he was going to find other objections and really didn’t want to speak to you?
A. Without a doubt.
Q. Thank you. The second question is that obviously you will have been focusing on looking at the offences and the allegations of offences and so on, but did you form any other views about the way Kincora was run or managed as a hostel?
A. The home itself was very clean. I have to say that’s how I looked upon it, and Mr Mains seemed to be a very competent social worker, if that was his title at the time, in the home, and so much so that he –that the Social Services had every confidence in him, and I just feel he was a man who was able to say “You know, I am on top of all this” and exuded confidence, if you like, to people who would have come into the home.
Q. There were some allegations that boys were beaten and so on on occasion. Did you come across those at all?
A. I have no recollection of that, sir.
Q. You don’t. Fine. One last question. Clearly you made it absolutely clear that there was in your view no ring of any sort that was organised, but how come that three out of three of the staff ended up as being predatory paedophiles? Do you have any view of how that happened?
A. Yes, but when the allegations were made of that, it was that there were other high-ranking individuals coming into the home or boys being rented out to them, and there was no evidence whatsoever of that. Yes. You were saying was it a paedophile ring with Mains, Semple and McGrath?
A. We gained the impression that they operated as
individuals. They knew what each other was doing, but there was no question of, say, running a party in the home and ending up with boys being sexually abused. There was nothing like that.
Q. Accepting that there was no ring, it must have been really an incredible coincidence that three people were all recruited with that sort of proclivity.
A. That is something we looked at.
Q. Did you form any view on that?
A. Well, other than it happened, and very difficult to
understand just how it –the three of them had to keep it quiet. That is the one thing, and it did not appear to get out to the Social Services responsible for running the home.
Q. Thank you very much indeed.
CHAIRMAN: I am afraid, Mr Caskey, I have realised
I overlooked two things and I would like to just ask you about them again, but arising out of my colleague’s last questions, Mains was there for many years, Semple was there for a shorter period of time, McGrath was the last to arrive, and when you started to conduct your investigations, Mains and Semple made a number of admissions. They did not admit everything, but they made a number of admissions to very substantial and serious, very grave sexual crimes up to and including buggery. McGrath denied everything and maintained his
plea of not guilty until he was faced with the prospect of the trial getting underway and on that day he pleaded guilty. Isn’t that right?
A. Yes, that’s right.
Q. So far as he was concerned, neither you nor your
colleagues with the mass of evidence you had were able to come to a position where he would admit his guilt no matter what you put to him. He maintained a complete denial. Isn’t that right?
A. That’s so.
Q. Was that the case when Semple was examined or
A. No. If I could use probably police language, Semple was the weak link –
A. –or the weakest of the three. Mains had more to, if
you want to put it, cover up, because he –he was responsible for the residents coming into the home, and there was a suspicion that when he I believe was
stationed or was based in Williamson House, that others who were passing children on, say, to Bawnmore and then eventually through age coming into Kincora, that Mains knew by then if –what the proclivities of that child –sexual proclivities of that child was to. There was one or two cases of that we looked at quite closely.
Q. And did you find anything to suggest that, as it were, Predator A in one home would pass to Kincora, you know, “Here is a boy that you can exploit”?
A. Well, as I under… –sorry. As I understood it, Mains worked with a fellow who was in Williamson’s House-Williamson House, and that was the suspicion or the information –sorry –that was coming through, that Mains was being advised by a friend of his back either in Bawnmore or Williamson House to –so that he would know whether or not to approach the guy –the resident when he would come in.
Q. Of course, if that were happening, it would be something that would be very difficult to prove without an admission. Isn’t that so?
A. Very much so.
Q. Did you find anything that elevated it perhaps from a mere allegation or not surprising inference to
something more concrete?
A. I have to confess I just could not answer that question now, because of time.
A. I don’t remember.
Q. But I think it’s fair to say there were never any formal charges in relation to anybody procuring children for Kincora?
A. That type of behaviour. You are quite right, sir.
There was not.
Q. And if I might then pose this question to you. If, let
us say, in 1967 or 1971 before McGrath arrived, as he
did, later in 1971, but if in those years the matter had
been reported to the police and Semple was questioned, do you think it is possible or perhaps even more likely or probable that Semple would have immediately confessed and therefore the whole ambit of what had happened up to that date might have been revealed and investigated?
A. I don’t know, but when we interviewed both Mains, Semple and indeed McGrath, the evidence was overwhelming at that time and so it was a pretty strong case against them even at the interviews. Now that other part of it I just could not say if –to what extent –
Q. I believe, subject to correction, I think Semple did make a number of admissions to matters that had not yet been alleged when he was questioned, but perhaps you can’t remember that degree of detail?
A. I don’t remember that in detail, sir.
Q. Well, I think I can promise this is the last question
I am going to ask you, Mr Caskey, and it relates to
a completely different matter, but you are aware to some degree I am sure of the fact that during the Hughes Inquiry it emerged that Detective Constable Cullen of the Drug Squad at Donegall Pass had made a direct approach to Assistant Chief Constable Meharg, the Head of Crime in the RUC. In other words, he did not go through the normal chain of command. He bypassed it, went straight to an ACC and certainly was given some response. I put it in that neutral way. Were you ever aware of that happening in that time when you were an officer of the RUC, a detective constable by-passing many ranks and going straight to the most senior detective in the police?
A. I would find that extraordinary.
Q. Well, Mr Caskey, thank you again for coming to speak to us, particularly since you are being asked to come out of retirement to do so in relation to matters so long ago. I think I can say without in any way pre-judging what it is we are going to decide that one thing that is clear beyond any doubt is that you and your officers worked extremely hard over a very long period of time to investigate all of these matters, and no doubt when our Inquiry is finished, that will become apparent to the public, even if assertions in the past to that effect have been made and not believed, but thank you very much for coming to speak to us.
A. Thank you.