Catherine Ross, Colette Dornan, Darren Malone, Padraig
OConnor and Tomas Gorman would have been better
advised to bomb a restaurant.
five were among a group of around 300 who staged a
die-in on the road outside Belfast City
Hall on April 8th last year, protesting against the
war on Iraq.
August 12th, they made their 11th appearace at Belfast
Magistrates' Court to answer charges arising. The
allegations included malicious sitting.
few hours before the April 8th protest, US bombs had
smashed into a restaurant in a suburb of Baghdad.
Intelligence reports that Saddam Hussein would be
settling down to dinner there at the time proved as
reliable as the rest of the intelligence Bush and
Blair used to justify war. Iraqbodycount estimates
that 19 innocent diners and restaurant workers were
crushed to pulp or blown to bits.
men behind the restaurant bombing were, at the time,
in conference a few miles down the road from Belfast,
at Hillsborough Castle, planning the post-war governance
of Iraq. It was at Hillsborough that Blair gave way
to Bush and agreed that the coalition,
not the UN, would run the show once the occupation
was secured. The outworking of this deal is now to
be seen nightly on television, in the pictures from
Falluja, Najaf, Nassiriya, Sadr City, etc.
Dornan, Malone, OConnor and Gorman werent
the only Northerners intervening in Iraqi affairs
on April 8th 2003. As PSNI officers were wading into
the City Hall protestors, David Trimble, Gerry Adams,
Mark Durkan, Monica McWilliams and others were presenting
their passes to the seccurity guards at Hillsborough
as they trooped in to provide Bush with an opportunity
to project himself as a peace-maker. The only journalist
present, Peter Stothard, described the scene: The
human chess pieces arrive, stand in a horse-shoe shape,
and are severally and individually lectured.
was this tableau which enabled the Belfast Telegraph
to carry a front-page April 8th splash describing
the Hillsborough war council as a Peace Summit.
than a year later, it's those who protested for peace,
rather than those who facilitated war, who find themselves
in the dock for, inter alia, malicious sitting.
strikes me that the phrase might more accurately be
applied to sitting around a table pin-pointing restaurants
to be bombed than sitting on a roadway pleading for
the bombing to stop. But what made the sitting malicious
in the minds of the magistracy was, apparently, that
the five had smeared raspberry jam on the roadway
to simulate blood. A messy business, no doubt. Although
hardly as messy as the gobbets of flesh which will
have plopped onto roadways around the Baghdad restaurant
a few hours earlier.
five were bound over, the system which sent out the
bombers warning the campaigners against violence to
desist from breaching the peace.
am frequently told that it's counter-productive to
bring revolutionary politics into anti-war discourse.
But what the case of the City Hall Five surely shows
let's turn away for a moment and first consider the
case of Derryman Seamus Doherty. If he weren't a dissident
Republican, he'd be front-page news.
is in Maghaberry Prison, awaiting trial for possession
of explosives. The charge refers to an abortive Real
IRA bomb attack near Newry in September 2002. Charges
against Martin Brogan and Mark Carroll, both from
Castlewellan---theyd been arrested about a mile
from where the bomb was intercepted on the Omeath
Road---were dropped last November. This followed discovery
of documents suggesting that forensic evidence may
have been tampered with and attempts made to suborn
against a man arrested on suspicion of being the driver
of the bomb vehicle had been dropped without explanation
at an earlier stage. This man, Kevin Byrne, has since
case against Brogan and Carroll fell apart when a
solicitors clerk, examining potential evidence
at the Norths Forensic Science Laboratory (FSNI)
at Carrickfergus, discovered an envelope marked do
not open in the case file, numbered 4981/02.
Opening it, Adrian Carlin 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. 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 deletions would have been
to remove all reference to traces of explosives found
on Byrnes trousers, shirt, jacket, right hand
and finger nails. (Two months ago, Dohertys
lawyers also discovered that Byrnes DNA had
been found on a bomb part and on the steering wheel,
gearstick, handbrake and ignition key of the abandoned
also discovered at the Carrickfergus laboratory 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 and Carroll.
supporters say that the security forces were trying
to contaminate or manipulate the forensic evidence
so as to make a case against Brogan and Carroll, while
undermining the case against Byrne, who, they allege,
was a PSNI Special Branch informer and agent provocateur.
case against Doherty is based on DNA traces allegedly
detected on the Omeath Road bomb. Doherty had been
arrested in Derry on an unrelated matter six weeks
prior to the discovery of the bomb and swabs taken
for forensic examination. He denies ever having handled
a bomb. His lawyers have claimed from the outset that
the DNA on the bomb had been planted---a suggestion
which, in light of subsequent developments, can hardly
be dismissed as implausible.
these circumstances will be familiar to anyone involved
25 years ago in the campaign for the release of the
Birmingham Six. Although it is difficult now to find
an Irish Nationalist who was around at the time who
doesnt claim to have been active on behalf of
the Six from the beginning, in fact it took years
for emigrant Irish organisations in England, British
liberal lawyers and socialist campaigners to coax,
or shame, respectable Irish Nationalism into taking
was a number of reasons. Some, naively, found it difficult
to believe that the State would so blatantly conspire
to falsify evidence. Some were concerned that publicly
espousing the cause of the Six would give the appearance
of tacitly approving the bombing in which 19 innocent
drinkers and bar staff had been crushed to pulp or
blown to bits. After all, the Six were, or seemed
to be, politically sympathetic to the organisation
behind the bombs. The Provos then were anathema. Now
the "dissidents" are anathema---to the Provos
as to other respectable Irish Nationalists.
figure. What I figure is that what the cases of the
City Hall Five and Seamus Doherty show is that if
we don't turn the world upside down we'll never set
it on its feet.
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