Author Archives: The Broken Elbow

When Is A Riot Not A Riot?

This is a real riot, June 1970:

This is not a real riot, April 2021:


Buses suspended after this tonight pic.twitter.com/adhCfb01dr 4/7/21, 15:22

At Least Trump Is Gone…..

With thanks to RS for the tip.

‘Blown Away’, An IRA Movie worth watching….

At least that’s what I read on Facebook. You have to go to YouTube to watch so follow the link below. Enjoy:

Irish Times Remembers Bobby Sands But Forgets Richard O’Rawe

The Irish Times today (Apr 3rd) marks the victory in the 1981 Fermanagh-South Tyrone by-election of Bobby Sands, who just shy of a month later would die on hunger strike, the first of ten republican prisoners who would sacrifice themselves ostensibly for the cause of political status but in reality so that Sinn Fein could enter electoral politics.

And since that move into electoral politics would cause unsustainable friction between the political ambitions of Sinn Fein and the violent methods of the IRA – a battle which Sinn Fein would eventually win – it is at least arguable that the 1981 hunger strikers began something that ultimately we would recognise as the peace process.

There were two key aspects of the death toll. The first was the number who gave up their lives, so many that anger at the British – or rather the imperious Margaret Thatcher – spilled over from the traditional but limited republican constituency into more moderate Nationalist homes, threatening the SDLP’s traditional electoral hegemony in that community.

The second was the extent to which the hunger strikes normalised and legitimised electoral politics in a community that had long regarded elections as a virulent political poison, a sellout by any other name. When Bobby Sands died and the British banned serving prisoners from standing in the resulting by-election, Owen Carron, a Sinn Fein activist, stood and won the seat. And when a general election was called that torrid summer in the Republic, protesting prisoners stood and won seats in the Dail.

These election results terrified constitutional politicians on both islands, but persuaded hitherto republican zealots that maybe elections weren’t such a bad thing after all. This would not have been possible had the hunger strike been called off after Sands’ death, or when it became clear, as it did not long afterwards, that Mrs Thatcher would not give the IRA the victory its supporters wanted. And the longer the protest lasted, the more legitimacy was bestowed on the idea of fighting and winning elections.

It is therefore entirely appropriate that The Irish Times chose the anniversary of Sands’ election rather than his death to mark the importance of the part he played in these events. Nor is there much wrong with the paper’s choice of interviewees, tediously familiar though some of them are, especially those from Sinn Fein.

No, the problem is the dog that didn’t bark.

One of the reasons why the hunger strikes lasted so long was the failure of efforts to negotiate a settlement, particularly one that coincided with the by-election in Fermanagh-South Tyrone caused by Sands’ death and which Sand’s election agent, Owen Carron was tipped to win. Had the settlement been accepted and the prison protest ended it is probable that Carron would not have become the area’s MP and the North’s subsequent history might well have been very different.

The story of how all that happened was first told by the prisoners’ then public relations officer in the jail, Richard O’Rawe, in interviews for the Boston College archive. After he was interviewed by Anthony McIntyre he decided, very much against my advice, to write a book about the experience. I knew the Provos would make his life hell. But, seeing that he was determined, I then gave him as much help as I could.

To be sure the book was very controversial but as time has passed, the essential truth of his account has become more widely accepted, not least when Brendan Duddy, the Derry businessman who was the go-between to the British government in the episode at the centre of O’Rawe’s story confirmed the account.

But O’Rawe does not exist in The Irish Times‘ hunger strike universe. You can read Mary Lou McDonald’s view of the hunger strikes, Michelle Gildernew’s and Danny Morrison’s. But not Richard O’Rawe’s. It is as if he never existed. In such ways is history scrubbed clean.

Double Standards In North’s Funeral Rules All About The Peace Process

One IRA funeral, in Belfast, of a leading activist, flagrantly breaches the Covid rules and the authorities, to wit the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) office, decide there shall be no prosecutions.

A second funeral in Co Tyrone, also of a Republican activist, also flagrantly breaches the Covid rules and the DPP decides there shall be prosecutions and two men are charged.

On its face that looks like a double standard in action. So, why one rule in Tyrone and a different one in Belfast?

Silly question, really.

The Belfast funeral was that of Bobby Storey, an enforcer for the Gerry Adams’ leadership who more than any other individual ensured that the party line in relation to the peace process was implemented, often ruthlessly. Few men, for instance, delivered weapons from arms dumps for decommissioning with more ferocity and determination than he; few people were as unquestioningly loyal to the Adams’ leadership.

Francie McNally’s funeral procession – DPP will prosecute here but not Bobby Storey’s much bigger send-off

The Tyrone funeral was also of a republican activist, Francie McNally, whose mourners at his funeral reflected the deep doubts and reservations about the direction and purpose of the peace process strongly, in fact overwhelmingly felt by the IRA and its supporters in that county, especially around the Lough shore where McNally hailed from.

Put simply, one funeral was pro the Adams’ peace strategy, the other was ambivalent at best, against it at worst.

To prosecute those who attended the Storey funeral would mean bringing charges against the national leadership of Sinn Fein, from Mary Lou to Gerry Adams and on downwards.

Prosecuting those involved in the McNally funeral – and so far two former IRA prisoners have been singled out – would mean targeting people with no love or even affection for the peace process.

One set of prosecutions would pitch the peace process into crisis, the other would not.

And so the North’s Director of Public Prosecutions did what so many of his predecessors did in the past, and made a decision that, in appearance at least, has all the characteristics of being influenced by, and made for reasons of political expediency rather than because the law says so.

Isn’t that the sort of place where the Troubles came from, that was supposed to have been left behind?

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…And So It Has Come To This: ‘Beans Out!’

Joe Brolly On Life After RTE Censorship……

Thanks to JM for making this available on the internet. This is Joe Brolly’s riposte to RTE’s recent effort to silence him (Joe is the son of Co Derry singers Ann and Francie Brolly):

Max Hastings, Boris Johnson’s old editor at the Telegraph, wrote last month that “Irish unification will take place within a generation, righting a historical wrong” and “this outcome would serve the best interests of the Irish people”. He added: “Most British people don’t care a fig for the North.”

George Osborne, former Tory chancellor under David Cameron and former Evening Standard editor, said in January: “Northern Ireland is heading for the UK exit door and few people will care.”

When I said on RTÉ’s Claire Byrne Live debate on Monday nightthat the DUP is a short-term fantasy based on triumphalism, homophobia, racism and sectarianism, I was intending to go on and make the point that only when we honestly call this out, can we solve the Northern problem.If you took the sectarians, homophobes and racists out of the DUP, there would be hardly anyone left, so Gregory Campbell must have been bewildered that I was cut off by RTÉ.

Gregory, who, in the way of the DUP, cackled contemptuously at the Irish audience, told me once – during the interval of a debate we were having at the Belfast Festival – that he had found God in a blinding flash of light when he was 16. With the DUP dominated by evangelicals who won’t watch Strictly Come Dancing because there are gay couples on it, who believe Aids was a punishment from God on gays and that Covid is God’s penalty for legalising gay marriage and abortion, serious discussion is pointless.

When a political party claims to speak for God, there isn’t much point in taking a vote at the end of the meeting.Therefore, the solution must be created with or without them. There is recent precedent. Albert Reynolds, John Hume and David Trimble set out to create the peace and, in doing so, ignored them. Ian Paisley and his heavenly warriors bellowed and warned of Armageddon.When the Peace Agreement was signed, the DUP rejected it, then destroyed David Trimble (painting him as a traitor to Ulster) and progressive unionism.

As soon as that was done, Paisley U-turned and became First Minister. In spite of the DUP, we are enjoying the most spectacularly successful peace process in modern history. They have had an opportunity in the 25 years since to create a stable Northern Ireland, but they couldn’t. This is because they are not so much a political party as an emotion.

As historian Brendan O’Leary explains in his masterwork on the North, the North is not a state, or even a province. It is instead an unworkable fantasy based on unionist supremacy. A ragbag of a place whose raison d’etre has always been to rub the Catholics’ noses in it. We have lived through systematic discrimination, electoral fraud, deprivation of the vote, violent repression of civil rights, shoot to kill, massacres of innocent civilians without consequence (Bloody Sunday, Glenanne, Ballymurphy) and so on.

If children in the Republic were taught that in 1971, thousands of Catholic men were rounded up and detained in a detention camp outside Belfast without charge or trial for up to three years, they would think you were joking. Doesn’t that only happen in Russia?In 1976, after a music night at the Bellaghy club, my parents and a few friends, including my Aunt Maura, who was on the lookout for a man at the time, were stopped by a UDR patrol. My father was taken over the hill out of sight and three shots rang out.

Then Packie Kealey (a fiddler). Then Lawrence Mulholland. When car lights appeared on the horizon, the soldiers got back in their Land Rover and drove off. My Aunt Maura said: “Your mother was heavily pregnant with Aine. We ran over the hill in hysterics. We thought they were dead. They were all alive. Just badly beaten.” Subsequently, the men were awarded £5,000 in damages at Magherafelt District Court. No one was ever charged. This was normal life for us.

The Republic turned a blind eye. As writer and historian Paul Larkin put it recently, the only explanation for the hysterical Southern response to anyone talking honestly about the North “is self shame – a phenomenon well attested in post-colonial societies”. It is a sense of guilt that comes from them having sat on their hands as the horrors unfolded. Much easier The short-termism of the DUP is seen in their fantasy that Brexit would lead to the restoration of the Border and a “final solution” (as Gregory put it on RTÉ last week) to the six counties problem. The only way to avoid a border between Britain and the North was a soft Brexit, but the DUP wrecked Mrs May’s deal, proclaimed Rees Mogg and Boris (who wouldn’t pee on them if they were on fire) the saviours of the Union and hurtled on towards self-destruction.

Three years on, Boris, with a majority that returned the DUP to the status of an embarrassing sideshow, duly peed on them from a great height (they were not on fire, to be fair) and did a Brexit deal that created a de facto United Ireland. As MP Ian Paisley put it in Westminster in January, pointing at the Tories, voice trembling with rage: “What did we do to members on those benches to be screwed over by this protocol?”Nothing of substance binds the North to the UK. There is no kinship between English people and Northern unionists. The Tories have always loathed the DUP and are loathed in return.

Unlike in 1920, when the North was an industrial powerhouse, it now contributes nothing to the UK. With Scottish independence looming and 40pc of Welsh voters favouring independence, it is no coincidence that significant English voices are talking openly about severing the link.I have no interest in party politics. I never voted Sinn Féin. I despaired when the Women’s Coalition was destroyed because I believed then as I do now that women from both persuasions can create a new type of politics here. My prediction is that the UK government will soon start the discussion in earnest. They want out. Therefore, it is inevitable.

A civic forum needs to be created that gives a voice to the highly educated and decent Northern Protestant constituency that has been drowned out by the DUP – the one Andrew Trimble referred to on Monday night.The first step might be a two-state solution. Stormont would remain, but it would no longer be a political kindergarten overseen by the British. Both states would be in the EU (a referendum would be needed to return the North fully, but since 56pc voted to remain and only 44pc to leave in the Brexit referendum, this would be a formality). Northern Protestants would continue to have the same rights as they have now, including UK citizenship and UK passport; the same representatives; the same daily lives.

There would be strong bilateral agreements. The US, the UK and the EU would willingly provide long-term financial support. This would be, as Martin McAleese put it recently, “pocket change to them”. With the UK gone, there would be no point in triumphalism. Short-termism would be replaced by the dull nuts and bolts of long-term problem solving. Progressive, well-educated Protestant voices would emerge. We have a very peaceful society. In the new dispensation, we would begin to have a functional society. After that, if people on both sides of the Border felt it would be better to join together, that could be easily worked out. Stormont could remain as a regional parliament.

It would all develop organically.Unionists and Southerners have nothing to fear. The trick is to approach the problems honestly. Only then will the solutions emerge. I could not be more optimistic about the future – and no one will have to choke on their own blood.”

How The Democrat Leadership Would Have Backed Trump To Stop Sanders….

You can see the story here.

British Gov’t To Libyan Semtex Victims: ‘Get Lost’….

You can read HMG’s response to the probe of Libyan aid to the IRA carried out by the author William Shawcross here, but essentially Libyan victims will get nothing from the British government and there is nothing the British can or will do to force the Libyan government to pay up. Shawcross is due to make his findings public tomorrow…..

More Evidence UK’s Joint Intelligence Committee Had A Troubles’ Role

Thanks to PS for this tip which adds further weight to the view that Britain’s Joint Intelligence Committee (JIC) did play a role in the intelligence war in Northern Ireland. Myself and BBC journalist John Ware have clashed over this issue with Ware denying that JIC was a player in the Troubles and myself insisting to the contrary (see here).

The JIC is the British Cabinet-run body which is officially described as: ‘…an interagency deliberative body responsible for intelligence assessment, coordination, and oversight of the Secret Intelligence Service, Security Service, GCHQ, and Defence Intelligence. The JIC is supported by the Joint Intelligence Organisation under the Cabinet Office.’

More evidence supporting the view that the JIC had oversight of intelligence issues in Northern Ireland comes in this recent obituary of a key GCHQ operative, Michael Harman whose passing was marked by The Times newspaper at the weekend.

The obit noted, inter alia :
Between 1972 and 1975 Herman had been seconded to the Cabinet Office as secretary of the Joint Intelligence Committee. Much of his time there was spent on Northern Ireland; such was the threat to the British mainland that it was seen as an equal priority.

Here is the full article:

Michael Herman obituary
Intelligence expert and trailblazer in the study of his secretive profession

Herman joined GCHQ in 1952
Saturday March 20 2021, 12.01am, The Times


Michael Herman’s career in British intelligence began just after the start of the Cold War and ended just before the thaw. Liberated by retirement to study and lecture on the thrust and counter-thrust of spying, Herman came to the conclusion that western intelligence agencies had largely done their job.


London and Washington built up an accurate picture of where Soviet and Chinese troops, weaponry, and naval vessels were, he said, greatly reducing the possibility of a Pearl Harbor-like surprise attack, and allowing some relaxation in western capitals of their trigger grip on the weapons of nuclear deterrence.


However, failures included the conclusion that the Soviet army had 170 divisions, but without realising that only about one third were combat-ready. The West also overestimated the number of Soviet intercontinental ballistic missiles. In reality the “missile gap” in favour of the Soviet Union never existed; the West had more long-range, nuclear missiles than the Soviets.


At the end of his 35-year career, mainly spent in signals intelligence at the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) in Cheltenham, Herman attempted to put right the severe lack of literature for young people entering the service. He had risen to the top of GCHQ by learning from his mistakes and wanted to pass on a rulebook of sorts.


“We didn’t read books. For most of the time there was little serious intelligence literature,” he remarked in 2016 of his career at GCHQ, which was punctuated by a spell as secretary of the Joint Intelligence Committee in the early Seventies. “The prevailing attitude was that intelligence books were dangerous and discouraged.”


After all, the true purpose of GCHQ (to send and intercept intelligence signals) had first come to wider public attention only in 1982 during the trial of the KGB mole there, Geoffrey Prime. Until then, the term “going to the West Country” was met with a nod and a wink by cognoscenti in officialdom.


As a trailblazer in the academic study of intelligence, Herman cracked open his world, producing a number of trusted works as a fellow of Nuffield College, Oxford and the founder of the Oxford Intelligence Group (OIG).
Michael Herman was born an only child in Scarborough, North Yorkshire, in 1929 to Kitty and Carl Herman, who worked for the family bacon-processing business and was also an artist. Michael attended Scarborough High School. National Service from 1947 took him to Egypt as a junior officer in the Intelligence Corps and his first exposure to signals intelligence. In 1949 he went to The Queen’s College, Oxford, to read modern history, graduating with first-class honours.


His tutor was the medieval historian John Prestwich, who had spent the war in Hut 3 of Bletchley Park, decrypting signals and releasing them to commanders in the field.


Herman joined GCHQ in 1952 on Prestwich’s recommendation to Eric Jones, another veteran of Hut 3 who had recently taken over from Edward Travis as the head of GCHQ . Unhappy, Herman was poised to return to academia after a year and was persuaded to stay only after joining GCHQ’s rugby team.


Over the years he was put in charge of V Division, responsible for radar signals and other technical intelligence, and Z Division, responsible for intelligence policy and external relationships. The highlight of his time at GCHQ was running J Division in the late Seventies and early Eighties, which focused on the Soviet target. “I was running nearly 1,000 people in Cheltenham and half our collection resources worldwide, and with all the American and other foreign contacts this entailed: the sort of job you dream about.”


Between 1972 and 1975 Herman had been seconded to the Cabinet Office as secretary of the Joint Intelligence Committee. Much of his time there was spent on Northern Ireland; such was the threat to the British mainland that it was seen as an equal priority.


In the last year of service Herman worked in the Cabinet Office as adviser to the Chief of Defence Intelligence. All the while he collected material for his first book, overcoming fierce resistance in Whitehall with a mixture of doggedness and charm.


On retiring from GCHQ in 1987 he went to Nuffield College, Oxford, on a Gwilym Gibbon Research Fellowship. Nine years later Intelligence Power in Peace and War was published. Chatham House, which co-published the book with the Cambridge University Press, convened a panel of grizzled diplomatic veterans to look over the draft. Herman recalled the red pen of the “brilliant, but acerbic” Sir Reginald Hibbert, former UK ambassador to France, scribbled all over his prose.


He conceived the work as a “thoughtful textbook”. Anyone expecting the excitement of a spy thriller would be disappointed by the sober overview of his craft. What it did do was unpack a subject still considered out of bounds, arcane, increasingly technical and littered with acronyms, even in the days of more open government. It became a standard text


Herman began to lecture widely and wrote several more books.11 September: Legitimizing Intelligence, produced after the 9-11 attacks in 2001, analysed the acceleration of a new intelligence paradigm: targeting “non-state”, “partial state” or “rogue state” entities and supporting multinational action.


Herman gave evidence to Lord Butler’s Review of Intelligence on Weapons of Mass Destruction in 2004. His recommendation to bolster the woefully inadequate technical expertise in the civil service (with many seconded from other departments to deal with intelligence matters) was taken seriously.


His lectures would tell the story of early postwar western surveillance techniques in the days before satellites with US and UK surveillance aircraft, manned and unmanned, being shot down by the Soviets, and how embassies, converted into something resembling medieval castles, became important listening posts around the world.
From the beginning the Soviets had a sophisticated intelligence apparatus, but they were defeated by Joseph Stalin’s increasing paranoia. As a result the Kremlin initially failed to use the information effectively because so much of the product captured by the KGB was viewed as western disinformation. However, Soviet moles burrowed deep into the heart of British intelligence. Herman had supervised Prime. After the latter’s treachery was exposed, he could not bear to hear his name.


Herman’s latest book, Intelligence Power in Practice, will be published this year. A collection of essays, it also contains recollections on the development of the Teufelsberg SIGINT station in Berlin, which had been built on a hill made from the rubble of bombed buildings and was a highly successful surveillance facility, logging, among other things, the mass exodus of Soviet soldiers at the end of each summer to help with the harvest in the motherland.
Another gripping tale in the book is the Soviet reaction to Nato’s Able Archer exercise in 1983, a large-scale war-gaming operation. Acting on intelligence from the KGB double agent Oleg Gordievsky, the West was alerted to the fact that the Soviets had taken the exercise so seriously that they had readied their nuclear warheads.


Herman married Ann Wedel in 1977. They had met at a sailing club near Cheltenham. In his eighties he would sail a single-handed catamaran. He was also a regular patron of the real tennis court in Oxford.


Before his death, Herman called for intelligence to be studied in a worldwide context, so that different approaches could be compared. “The modern challenge is for intelligence to support international co-operation,” he said, “while at the same time developing international ‘rules of the game’.”


Michael Herman, intelligence expert, was born on June 1, 1929. He died of frailty of old age on February 12, 2021, aged 91.