Monthly Archives: April 2018

Hillary Clinton And The Tiresome Joyce McCartan Teapot Trope

For some inexplicable reason I wasn’t invited to today’s gathering of the great and good at QUB to celebrate (is that the right word these days?) the 20th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement.

Master of ceremonies was Richard English, who now rejoices in this title: ‘Distinguished Professorial Fellow in the Senator George J. Mitchell Institute for Global Peace, Security and Justice.’ He has also been awarded a CBE (Commander of the most Excellent Order of the British Empire) for, to quote the citation, ‘….services to the understanding of modern day terrorism and political history’.

The Distinguished Fellow, like myself, wrote a book about the IRA. His was called ‘Armed Struggle: The History of the IRA‘. Mine was titled: ‘A Secret History of the IRA‘. He became a CBE who rubs shoulders with the masters of the universe. I now live in the Bronx and we have pizza and vodka martinis on Friday nights. Go figure.

Anyway among those swarming like flies around the proverbial at Queen’s University today were the Clintons, le and la, one a president who these days would have been impeached for his sexual abuse of Monica Lewinsky, the other whose miserable failure to beat the most transparent snake oil salesman in American political history could well lead to a different president being impeached. We live in hope.

Anyway la Clinton, better known as Hillary, has also penned a piece in The Guardian today about Brexit, the collapsed Assembly and the threats posed to the Good Friday Agreement.

It was one of those articles which rejoice in the description ‘transferable’. In other words much of it has been published, or delivered from a podium dozens of times before, the only difference each time is a bit of an update and the switching around of a few paragraphs.

And so we were treated once again to Hillary’s tedious account of her trip to Belfast in the early 1990’s and as soon as I spotted the work up, with a groan I knew what was coming.

And here it was:

It was on that same trip that I first met some of the women whose names are too often forgotten, despite their vital role in the agreement. One of those women was Joyce McCartan, a Catholic mother whose 17-year-old son had been shot dead by a Protestant gunman. Joyce invited me to join women from both traditions at the safe house she had set up in a local fish and chip shop. We sat around a small table, drinking tea out of an old aluminium teapot, while the women told me how they had first reached across their divides to band together to stop the price of their children’s milk from going up. Along the way, they discovered that the deep-rooted causes of the violence – the terrors of sectarianism, the burdens of poverty, the despair of unemployment – touched all of their lives.

Ah yes, Joyce McCartan. Now sadly no longer with us but the memories live on.

Actually it is the memory of her sons which really sear the brain cells.

Joyce and her family lived in the lower Ormeau Road, not far from the republican Markets area and adjacent to the scores of student flats that fan out from Botanic Avenue.

Joyce’s sons were thieves. Their speciality was to burglarize these flats and to steal anything that could be moved, from TV sets to purses carelessly left on mantelpieces. They also terrorised the lower Ormeau area, specialising in robbing pensioners and the like.

Hillary and Joyce share a cup of tea in Belfast, poured from that teapot!

The thing about Joyce’s sons was that they seemed to have a free hand to indulge their criminality. The RUC in nearby Donegall Pass seemed not to care a whit about the misery they caused. The Provos kneecapped them once or twice but the sons seemed to have the protection of the Officials who were quite strong in the area.

Not surprisingly quite a few people concluded that the RUC’s apathy was deliberate, intended to get people complaining about lawlessness and the need for what was called in those days ‘normal policing’. (It was more probably just laziness. Cops hate to do work.)

I remember once coming back to our home in the Botanic Ave area to find the front door locked from the inside. This was a classic sign of a burglar at, or having been at his work. While rifling your drawers the burglar would hear the front door being rattled and know it was time to flee over the back wall. Thanks to the locked door he would make it in plenty of time.

We lost a TV set that day and needed new locks. So I had to report it to Donegall Pass to get the insurance and when the uniformed cops arrived I said to one of them that everyone knew it was the McCartan’s who did most of these robberies. Why weren’t they being done? People said the authorities wouldn’t touch them because they had official protection. Was that true, I asked.

‘You better ask the Special Branch, sir’, came the reply.

Anyway back to Hillary’s teapot. Joyce McCartan made a gift of it to the First Lady and every time Hill returned to Belfast to make a speech, she would bring the teapot with her, place it on the podium and tell the story along the lines in today’s Guardian.

Belfast folk are known for their cynical sense of humour. It is that sort of city and pretty soon a variation on Hillary’s teapot story was doing the rounds.

Hillary would tell the story of Joyce McCartan’s teapot and as she got to the punchline, she would flourish the teapot to show the audience.

In the cynical version of this, as she picks up the teapot a voice can be heard from the back of the hall:

‘Oi! I recognise that teapot! It was nicked from our kitchen last year!’


Trump’s America (continued)

April 4, 2018
By Joe Kloc

A 38-year-old animal rights activist and vegan-lifestyle advocate posted to her website accusations that YouTube had failed to properly compensate her for ad revenue generated by videos she uploaded to the site, then drove to the company’s headquarters, took out a pistol, shot three people, shouted, “Come at me,” and fatally shot herself. A survivor of a mass shooting at a high school in Florida tweeted that the YouTube shooting was “proof” that children aren’t the only Americans who need to worry about being shot to death in their day-to-day lives, and US president Donald Trump proposed additional tariffs on Chinese-made flamethrowers. Trump tweeted that the US “Department of ‘Justice'” was “an embarrassment” because it was “slow walking” the turnover of documents related to investigations of his political opponents, a 33-year-old white man and Trump campaign associate from the Netherlands was sentenced to 30 days in prison for lying to special prosecutors investigating state-sponsored interference in the US presidential election, and a 43-year-old black woman from Texas was sentenced to five years in prison because she unknowingly violated the conditions of her supervised release by voting in that election. A police officer in Asheville, North Carolina, stopped a black man for jaywalking, forced him to the ground, repeatedly punched him in the face while he shouted, “I can’t breath,” tased him multiple times, and called him a “bro” and a “tough boy”; a deputy sheriff in Sacramento, California, ran over a 61-year-old woman who was attending a demonstration for Stephon Clark, a 22-year-old unarmed black man who was holding his cell phone in his grandmother’s back yard when two officers approached him and shot him eight times, which they told investigators they did because he lunged at them; and an autopsy of Clark’s body revealed that the majority of shots were fired into his back. In Baton Rouge, Louisiana, prosecutors announced that they would not charge a white police officer who was filmed shouting, “I’ll shoot your fucking ass” at a 37-year-old black man named Alton Sterling, whom he then shot six times and called a “stupid ass motherfucker,” which the officer later told investigators he said because he was “mad” at Sterling for “making” him kill him. A 68-year-old white man in Kentucky assaulted his wife with a flashlight and then pointed a rifle at responding officers, opened fire, and was apprehended alive; and footage was released of a police officer in Houston shouting, “I’ll shoot your ass” at an unarmed black man named Danny Ray Thomas and then moments later firing a fatal shot into Thomas’s chest. Police in Augusta, Georgia, apprehended alive a 22-year-old white man who fired multiple shots at the driver and the passenger of a nearby vehicle; police in Chicago apprehended alive a 21-year-old man in a train station who was carrying a loaded pistol, wearing body armor, and holding a duffel bag filled with SWAT equipment; and police in Elgin, Illinois, released more than 30 hours of footage of the traffic stop of a 34-year-old black woman named Decynthia Clements, which showed the officers agree that if force was necessary to apprehend her they would use rubber bullets and Tasers, and then order Clements from the car and shoot her with live ammunition, killing her. “She had a couple knives in her hands,” said one of the at least seven officers at the scene. “I don’t know what else we were going to do.”

British Army Knew About IRA ‘Unknowns’ Months Before Disappearances Began

British Army intelligence chiefs knew that the IRA had a secret unit called “the Unknowns” several months before the unit began disappearing people whose killings the IRA wished to keep secret, according to an official British record.

(The Guardian has picked up the story which can be read here)

A declassified British Army document on file at the national archives at Kew in Surrey, England – compiled on behalf of British Army Headquarters in Northern Ireland – shows that military chiefs evidently knew about “the Unknowns” as early as April 1972, between three and four months before the IRA disappeared Joe Lynskey, the first victim of the practice, and eight months before widowed mother-of-ten Jean McConville was abducted, killed and buried in a secret grave in Co. Louth.

Joe Lynskey

Evidence of military knowledge of the unit is contained in a log of incidents compiled at British Army headquarters at Thiepval barracks, dated April 25th, 1972. The document would have been prepared for the Army’s most senior personnel and staff, including its commanders, and it recorded the most significant incidents and events occurring daily in the military’s three brigade areas in Northern Ireland.

The log includes a report of an armed robbery carried out by three men, apparently members of an IRA unit which, at 9:28 a.m. on that day, was intercepted by soldiers who arrested the trio and recovered one pistol. The robbery was in Manor Street in the Oldpark district of the city but the precise target was not identified.

The document describes one of the men as: ‘vol “the Unknowns”’, i.e. a volunteer in “the Unknowns”. This suggests that not only did the military know about “the Unknowns” but may have been aware of the unit’s membership. The man’s full name and address is being redacted by which will refer to him in this report only by his first name, ‘Gerald,’ for his  safety.

The grave site in Co. Louth where the remains of Jean McConville were discovered

The two other men were Peter McAwley (sic) of Jamaica Street and Bernard Logan of Brompton Parade, both in Ardoyne. The question of whether these two were also involved with “the Unknowns” is not addressed in the document.

The document is reproduced below:

The relevant section highlighted:

Two weeks ago this reporter visited ‘Gerald’s’ home, which is in North Belfast, and by telephone from a relative’s house which he was visiting, ‘Gerald’, who is now 68-years old and retired, confirmed that he had indeed been a member of the North Belfast unit of “the Unknowns”.

He described it as a unit which was made up of people whose membership of the IRA was still a secret to the authorities – although in his case that appears not to have been the case. He also said he had undertaken ‘operations’ while a member of “the Unknowns”.

‘Gerald’ was tried and convicted of the attempted armed robbery in Manor Street and sentenced to seven years imprisonment, which he served in the Long Kesh prison complex.

‘Unknowns’ commander, Pat McClure, relaxing at an Irish festival in Connecticut

The revelation that the British military had enough knowledge of the unit to quickly identify one of its members begs some obvious and potentially difficult questions for Whitehall: how and what did the army know about the unit, did they have a source inside “the Unknowns”and, crucially, what, if anything, did the military know about the IRA’s practice of disappearing people?

The information about the IRA unit contained in the Army document broadly mirrors knowledge already in the public arena. According to former members of the unit there were two cells of ‘”the Unknowns” in Belfast in 1972; one was in West Belfast commanded by Pat McClure, the other in North Belfast, commanded by the late Larry Marley, a legendary figure in Provisional mythology.

Marley is best known as the brains behind the mass IRA escape from the Maze prison in 1983 when 38 prisoners broke out of the heavily guarded jail. His role was recently dramatised in the 2017 movie ‘Maze‘. He was later shot dead at his home in Ardoyne by Loyalists.

The architect of the 1983 mass IRA break out from the Maze prison, Larry Marley was also the commander of the North Belfast unit of “the Unknowns”.

The disappearances were all carried out by the West Belfast unit of “the Unknowns”; the North Belfast cell was not involved, as far as is known, in this activity.

The West Belfast unit was given the task of ferrying people condemned to death by the IRA to secret graves on the southern side of the Border. That unit’s commander, Pat McClure, who was arrested and interned in early 1973, emigrated to America over three decades ago where he died a few years later of lung cancer.

McClure Grave2

Pat McClure’s gravestone in Connecticut, USA. Unlike ‘the disappeared’ his burial place is marked

Four people – Joe Lynskey, Kevin McKee, Seamus Wright and Jean McConville – were disappeared in 1972, the year the practice began.

Orders were allegedly handed out by Gerry Adams, who was made Belfast commander of the IRA following a failed ceasefire in the summer of 1972. However a month before the intercepted Manor Street armed robbery, Adams was arrested by British troops and interned at Long Kesh. He was released some four months later so he could participate in the July 1972 IRA ceasefire talks with British ministers.

The job of driving victims to their deaths was given to the late Dolours Price.

Adams has denied any involvement or part in the disappearances, while Price has admitted her role.

The British Army log has an intriguing entry under the heading “Action” which indicates that the information that ‘Gerald’ was a member of “the Unknowns” was passed on to “PR” to deal with.

Colin Wallace, pictured during his time as a British Army press officer

While “PR” ostensibly stands for “public relations”, in those days it more likely meant that the information should be referred to the military’s psy ops (psychological operations) branch, otherwise known as the Information Policy Unit (IPU), which operated from Thiepval barracks, the British Army’s HQ in Northern Ireland.

Put crudely, the IPU’s job was to disseminate propaganda to the media designed to undermine paramilitary and political groups opposed to British policy. One of the IPU’s public faces in the early days of the Troubles was Colin Wallace.

The following letter from a Brigadier Mark Bond of the Ministry of Defence to Rear-Admiral ‘Teddy’ Gueritz, dated August 5th, 1971, makes it clear what British policy on Military Psy Ops in Northern Ireland was. Gueritz was the commander of the Joint Warfare Establishment in Old Sarum, Wiltshire which was then the training centre for British psychological warfare operations.

The letter reads in part:

Our policy is that we do conduct Military Psy Ops in Northern Ireland. (By definition Psy Ops can be employed to influence enemy, friendly or neutral groups, or individuals – all exist in Northern Ireland.)

What the IPU did with the information about ‘Gerald’ and “the Unknowns” is not disclosed in the currently available files lodged at Kew. But in the absence of any evidence to the contrary, it would appear that the IPU did nothing with the information. It may be that someone in the military decided it was better to keep quiet about “the Unknowns”.