I am indebted to CM for bringing this fascinating and important document to my attention. It was actually released by the Irish government in 2015 under the thirty-year rule, but appears to have gone largely unnoticed, despite its significance as an insight, admittedly not a neutral one, into the workings of the upper reaches of the Northern Ireland legal system on the eve of the 1985 Anglo-Irish Agreement.
I could find only one reference to the document on the internet and that was a single paragraph in a preview of the Hillsborough Agreement written by John Bowman for The Irish Times. Otherwise it appears to have escaped the Irish media entirely, although I stand ready, and will be happy to be corrected. (A copy of this document can also be found on the CAIN archive.)
The document is an account of a four hour interview cum conversation featuring one of the North’s most distinguished Catholic QC’s, Charles Hill, better known by his colleagues as Charlie, that was conducted by Daithi O Ceallaigh, an official with the Department of Foreign Affairs. Journalists who were active in the 1980’s will remember the DFA man as one of the so-called ‘Travellers’, diplomats who had the task of venturing North to collect intelligence and gossip from as many sources as would talk to them.
The subject of this conversation/interview was twofold: the role Catholic QC’s would like to play in the administration of justice in Northern Ireland and the role played by then Lord Chief Justice, Robbie Lowry in frustrating them.
It is a fascinating insight into a world which then, as now, was too often closed to the world.
The boycott of the above title by The Irish Times and RTE appears not merely to have been extremely successful, but also contagious.
Not one single media outlet reported the recent shocking admission by Frank Fitzgibbon, the former Irish editor of The Sunday Times, that the allegation made by his newspaper that I was an antisemite was completely wrong and unjust. This lie was repeated across the world. I think you all know the consequences of that falsehood for me.
My memoir “Burning Heresies“, which covers my career as a columnist and war correspondent, and includes the shocking events of 2017, has still not been reviewed by The Irish Times, four months after publication. Pre-booked interviews with RTE were cancelled at the last minute, and the station has never mentioned the book. Neither The Irish Times nor RTE News has ever revealed the costly settlement RTE was forced to agree to for calling me a Holocaust Denier.
In their reviews, Alan Shatter and Eilis O’Hanlon praised Burning Heresies in glowing terms. Amazon reviews are 84% five stars, 16% four stars.
Please urge as many people as possible in your address book not merely to consider buying “Burning Heresies“, but for them also to make the same request via their address books.
Every day, the mob claims more victories. This cannot and must not continue.
I am sort of kicking myself this morning for not asking just exactly who Sir Desmond de Silva was when it really mattered. I mean, we know he was the distinguished barrister who agreed to head a British government inquiry into the British Army’s Force Research Unit, and that he cleared the military of any involvement, via a FRU/UDA agent called Brian Nelson, in the UDA’s plans to assassinate Belfast solicitor Pat Finucane.
But just exactly who was Sir Desmond de Silva?
It is a relevant question because governments are not stupid. The choice of the person to lead an investigation invariably predetermines its outcome. Choose someone who has a track record as a trouble making, doubting Thomas and you can be pretty sure that his or her probe is going to be hard hitting. Pick a team player on the other hand and the odds are that everyone but the real culprits will get the blame.
So, which category was Sir Desmond de Silva in?
Sir Desmond de Silva died of heart problems in June 2018 and the obituary writers, freed of the usual restraints when writing about a member of the establishment, allowed themselves a little indiscretion.
There was, for instance, this little gem in the The Times obituary:
Forgive my scepticism but what odds would you give me for a wager on the possibility of someone who elicits immediate facial recognition on the part of the monarch, judging the soldiers of that same monarch guilty of conspiring to murder a solicitor who specialised in defending the same monarch’s sworn and violent enemies some of whom had, in fact, murdered her dearest uncle? Or was it cousin? I can never remember.
Perhaps I am being too hasty.
In September 2017, a year before his untimely death, Sir Desmond de Silva published his autobiography, ‘Madam, Where Are Your Mangoes?’ and the book’s launch was lavishly covered by Britain’s premier society magazine, Tatler.
The launch was held at the exclusive Carlton Club in London’s West End, where prospective members must be nominated and then elected, i.e. must be judged acceptable by their peers. Thanks to its links to the Tory Party, the club was bombed by the IRA in 1990, resulting, some months later, in the death from his injuries of Lord Kaberry, a prominent and popular member.
Amongst the club’s distinguished members is the former British prime minister, David Cameron whose government asked Sir Desmond de Silva to head the Finucane inquiry. So one Carlton Club member hired another to investigate one of the most controversial killings of the Troubles, of a solicitor, many of whose clients belonged to the organisation which bombed their exclusive club.
This is how Tatler magazine featured Sir Desmond de Silva’s book launch:
So, who attended his book launch? You can read the whole article and view the pics here, but this is the list of luminaries who came to celebrate the launch: Lord Fellowes, Marjorie Wallace and Lady Colin Campbell, Lady Emma Fellowes and Anne Hodson-Pressinger, Doreen, Marchioness of Londonderry and Sir Toby Clarke, Michael Cockerell and David Oldroyd-Bolt, Basia Briggs, Alexander Newley and Anne Dunhill, Lauren Goldstein-Crowe, Selina Blow, Viscountess and Viscount Bangor, Naim Attallah and Ramsay Attallah, Sir William Cash and Lord Magan, Lady Cash, Princess Katarina of Yugoslavia and Victoria de Silva.
Would the same illustrious crowd have been so eager to attend Sir Desmond de Silva’s book launch, one wonders, if he had found the Force Research Unit complicit in the murder of Pat Finucane?
Thanks to RS for the tip. This piece, in the Dandelion Salad blog, takes Power to pieces. Even so, Joe Biden has made her head of USAID, a body which overtly performs many of the covert functions once undertaken by the CIA.
One of the genuinely puzzling aspects about the IRA’s claim that Divis Flats widow and mother-of-ten, Jean McConville was an informer for the British Army is what use she could be, other than perhaps identifying some local IRA members or republican sympathisers.
Wouldn’t the Army’s time have been better spent trying to turn IRA members and by that route seriously infiltrate and damage their enemy rather than endanger the life of widowed mother who was in important ways an outsider in Divis?
Well, one answer to that conundrum can be found in a British Army document, recently unearthed by James Kinchin White, outlining reasons to launch what would become known as Operation Motorman, the military occupation of Republican areas in Derry and West Belfast.
Marked ‘Top Secret’ – and limited to those with Top Secret clearance, hence the tag ‘Perimeter’ – the document argues that the mood in Catholic areas in the wake of the disastrous bombings of Bloody Friday, on July 21st, was sufficiently critical or cool towards the IRA that there would be little resistance if the British Army occupied so-called no go areas in Derry and West Belfast.
The plan was approved at the highest political and military levels and just ten days after Bloody Friday – on July 31st – the British Army, employing heavy armour, duly occupied previously strong IRA redoubts in both cities, setting up forts from which to launch military operations against the Provisionals.
But the real significance of the document is that it reveals that a dearth of intelligence on the IRA was a major, if not the major reason for launching Motorman.
Describing military operations in the wake of Bloody Friday, the document paints a picture of a British Army that had virtually no contemporary intelligence on the IRA:
The Army’s search operations (in the wake of Bloody Friday) have been based on old or almost non-existent intelligence. Their success has been exaggerated for political or PR reasons. Such yields as have been obtained were principally due to chance. Continuation at the present level cannot be expected to produce any better results and is likely in fact to produce diminishing returns. The degree of antagonism these operations are likely to arouse will probably increase as the memory of July 21st fades and the Army’s searches are seen to be random and resulting in searches of houses and arrests of individuals with no direct connection with the hard-line Provisional IRA.
So, was it in such circumstances that the British Army, desperate for any intelligence on the IRA, turned to a widow and mother-of-ten for help?
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