number of people have suggested to us that it was
a mistake to include the case of Seamus Doherty
in the issues being highlighted by the march marking
the anniversary of the October 5th 1968 launch of
the civil rights campaign in Derry.
commemorative march, called by the undersigned as
three of the 1968 organisers, will take place on
Saturday October 2nd along the original route, leaving
Waterside station, Derry, at 2.30 pm and proceeding
to Guildhall Square.
City councillors are among those who have said that
theyd support the march if Seamus Dohertys
case wasnt included. They seem to fear that
if they were seen to back the Seamus Doherty campaign,
people might assume they are backing the actions
of dissident Republicans.
defending Seamus Dohertys civil rights implies
no such thing. It is possible to be totally opposed
to bombings and shootings claimed by dissident
Republicans (or anyone else) but also totally opposed
to the way the State appears to have set about framing
Seamus Doherty. We urge people to look objectively
at the facts of the case and ask themselves whether
it would not be an act of political cowardice to
march in Derry for civil rights at the present time
while ignoring Seamus Doherty.
is in Maghaberry awaiting trial for possession of
explosives. The charge refers to an abortive Real
IRA bomb attack near Newry in September 2002. Charges
arising from the incident were originally also preferred
against three other men---Kevin Byrne, Martin Brogan
and Mark Carroll.
was arrested near the scene of the bomb find and
accused of being the driver of the bomb car. Charges
against him were dropped at an early stage.
prosecution of the two others arrested near the
scene collapsed following the discovery of documents
suggesting that forensic evidence had been tampered
with and attempts made to persuade forensic scientists
to give perjured evidence.
details are that Adrian Carlin, from defence solicitors
Kevin Winters, was examining the case file, numbered
4981/02, at the Forensic Science Laboratory in Carrickfergus
when he came across an envelope marked do
not open. Inside, he found a typed letter
signed by senior forensic scientist Dr. Gerry Murray
describing a meeting with PSNI Detective Chief Inspector
Derek Williamson to discuss my statement in
relation to case no. 4981/02. Chief Inspector
Williamson, the letter recorded, requested
that I prepare a modified statement, omitting a
number of sections from the original statement.
He provided me with a copy of my original statement
with the relevant sections highlighted.
effect of the suggested omissions would have been
to remove all reference to traces of explosives
found on Kevin Byrnes trousers, shirt, jacket,
right hand and finger nails. Brogan and Carroll
allege that Byrne was a PSNI Special Branch informer
and agent provocateur.
Carlin also discovered a memo from senior forensic
officer Gordon McMillan to all FSNI staff claiming
that: On 25 Nov. I sent a message to business
managers informing them that an army search organisation
had been involved in the examination of items in
relation to case 4981/02, that had not yet been
delivered to the laboratory. This examination involved
them opening bags in the exhibits room of Newry
Police Station and rubbing a gloved hand over the
surfaces of the contents, in this case items of
clothing. The clothing belonged to Brogan
this would appear to indicate is that a senior PSNI
officer tried to persuade a forensic scientist to
give false evidence in order to conceal the involvement
of an alleged informer in a planned bomb attack,
and that members of a British army search
organisation tried to plant evidence so as
to implicate two others in the same attack.
Doherty was arrested in Derry some time after the
bomb find near Newry. The case against him is based
on DNA traces allegedly detected on the bomb. Doherty
had been arrested on an unrelated matter six weeks
prior to the discovery of the bomb, and swabs taken
from him. He denies ever having handled a bomb.
His lawyers have claimed from the outset that the
DNA on the bomb was planted. Against the background
of the Byrne, Brogan and Carroll cases, many who
have no time at all for bombings of any sort might
agree that there is a cause for deep concern here.
Doherty case seems to us sharply reminiscent of
previous, more publicised cases now widely recognised
as miscarriages of justice. It may be politically
awkward to raise the Doherty case in the current
political circumstances. But all such cases are
awkward for somebody. For years after the imprisonment
of the Birmingham Six, it was very difficult to
persuade opponents of Provisional IRA violence to
help highlight the six mens plight. Some were
anxious lest they give the impression of condoning
the pub bombings in which 19 innocent people were
crushed to pulp or blown to bits.
of the same people might agree now that it would
have been better all round to have looked objectively
at the facts of the Birmingham case at a much earlier
appeal to all who want to honour the legacy of October
68 and the early civil rights movement generally
to join us at 2.30pm Waterside station on October
march will also be focusing attention on attacks
on gays and members of ethnic minorities in the
North and on the continued imprisonment in Britain
without charge or trail of Muslims detained under
the new terror laws.