Irish lessons for Gitmo Bay?

From time to time I get emails from readers on a given subject. This one is from a Tom Carew in Dublin. He’s in favour of strong state tactics. We’re not sure where he derives his figures from but given the current controversy surrounding the US’s extra territorial detainment camp at Guantanimo Bay, his argument is worth bringing to a wider audience.From Tom Carew:

The democratic Irish Government on 3 separate occasions, had to use Internment, without either trial or charge, to halt “IRA” murder campaigns.

That happened in 1922-1923, with nearly 11,480 held, including 300 women, and 81 executed, which was in response to a Civil War launched on April 15, 1922, by the “IRA” when they seized the “Four Courts” in Dublin. 492 of our Army were killed by the “IRA”.

These Internees were not released immediately the Civil War ended with a unilateral “IRA” cease-fire on April 30, 1923. 1,600 were still held on April 2, 1924, and 616 were still detained by May 21, and during 1924 the remainder were released.

In contrast, the British had only 4,454 interned by the July 11, 1921 Truce which preceded the Dec 1921 Anglo-Irish Treaty, when they had executed 24, and only 1,841 after the Easter Week April 1916 Rising, when they also executed 16 leaders.

In N. Ireland, 728 were interned between May 1922 and Dec 1924.

Before WW II started. the “IRA” had (a) “declared war” on the UK and exploded 7 bombs in UK on Jan 16, 1939, 2 in London, 3 in Manchester, and 1 each in Bermingham and Alnwick, (b) bombed the outside wall of Mountjoy, Dublin’s main prison, on Oct 23, 1939, while (c) on Dec 23, 1939, over 50 men stole 1,084,000 rounds of Irish Army ammunition from Dublin’s Phoenix Park Magazine Fort, using 4 lorries. The Irish Government therefore introduced Internment in Jan 1940. In N. Ireland, Internment commenced on Dec 22, 1938, and around 320 were held during WW II.

In 1940-1945, over 500, perhaps up to 800, were held in our Curragh Army Internment Camp, and a further 600 jailed, plus 6 executed, at a time when 6 of our police were murdered by “IRA” gangs, and another 6 police in Northern Ireland, and 1 “IRA” internee, Barney Casey, was shot dead by our Army in an escape attempt on Dec 14, 1940..

The “IRA” was actively in league with Nazi Germany, their so-called “Chief-of-Staff” Sean Russell died on a Nazi submarine in 1940 on his way back to Ireland, and 10 Nazi spies were landed in Ireland, all of whom were captured, and detained for the duration of the War. Ireland also interned, for the duration of the War, all 480 Nazi airmen or sailors who landed here, but Allies [US, UK or Canadian] were quickly released.

On two occasions during WW II, convicted “IRA” prisoners were let starve themselves to death. Tony D’Arcy, serving 3 months for refusing to answer questions, died on April 16, 1940 after 50 days,and John McNeela, serving 2 years for an illegal radio transmitter, on April 19, 1940]. Even after WW II, in 1946, the Irish Government let a third “IRA” member starve himself to death in prison. The 1946 case was a sentenced former “Chief-of-Staff” of that gang, McCaughey from Northern Ireland. Some “IRA” prisoners also choose to remain naked for the duration.

During the period July 8, 1957 to Nov 15, 1959, 210 men, aged between 17 and 68, were interned in the Republic. Northern Ireland had introduced Internment on Dec 22, 1956, held 256, and released their internees in April, 1961. The Internment by the Republic temporarily halted that “IRA” campaign, but it resumed after a period.

From Nov 1961 to February, 1962, the Irish Government used Special Criminal Courts. composed of Army Officers, to jail some 30 members of “IRA” gangs attacking Northern Ireland across the Border, and the attacks finally ended. A total of 6 police in Northern Ireland were murdered by “IRA” in that 1956-1962 period. The Taoiseach [PM] Sean Lemass declared on Nov 23, 1961, that the only cases before the Special Court would be “those arising from this armed conspiracy of violence”.

And in dealing with the “PIRA” campaign since 1970, 3-judge, no-jury Special Criminal Courts have been successfully used in the Republic. It was also found necessary in Northern Ireland to use no-jury courts to try such suspects.

Such special methods worked in Ireland on each occasion.

Both the Irish Supeme Court in 1940, and the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg in their Gerry Lawless judgment of July, 1961, rejected cases against Irish Internment. Lawless was detained on July 8, 1957, and choose to “sign out” on Dec 10, 1958, and was then released.
The Irish Supreme Court held in 1960 regarding Lawless, who had pleaded Article 5 of the European Convention of Human Rights, that “this Court cannot give effect to the Convention if it be contrary to domestic law or purports to grant rights or impose obligations additional to those of domestic law……The Court cannot accordingly accept the idea that the primacy of domestic law is displaced by the State becoming a party to the Convention”. Should that kind of reasoning not equally invalidate attempts by any UN body to render itself super-ordinate to US national jurisdiction ?

Irish internment was exactly like the US detention of suspects in Gitmo, in that no release date was known. But in Ireland suspects could “sign out” if they undertook to do what is a normal standing obligation on all citizens or other residents here, namely refrain from involvement in secret, armed conspiracies. Some internees exercised that option on each occasion, and were accordingly release.

The systematic “IRA” intimidation of both witnesses and jurors made internment and no-jury courts necessary in Ireland.
Given the unprecedented agenda of the “Fanatical Jihadi Fringe”, and their indiscriminate slaughter of fellow-Moslems at Friday prayers in Mosques, beheading of kidnapped civilians like Dubliner Margaret Hassan-Fitzpatrick in Iraq, or suicide bombings from Bali to Lower Manhattan, from Casablanca to Madrid, from Istanbul to Jerusalem, from Basra to London, or atrocities like the Beslan School massacre, can anyone seriously claim that ordinary criminal procedures are adequate to secure public safety in the face of this global onslaught ? And pubic safety is the first duty of any Government.

The Irish Supreme Court declared in 1940: ” this Court is of opinion that the detention is not in the nature of punishment, but is a precautionary measure taken for the purpose of preserving the public peace and order and the security of the State”.

When under attack in WW II, the US interned around 25,000 residents or even citizens of enemy origin, mostly Japanese, which the US Courts judged lawful.. The same happened in the UK in WW II.

Gitmo stands in a long and necessary chain of exceptional measures which democratic Governments have had to use to prevent and deter terrorist gangs. The key to closing it lies entirely in the hands of those who continue to perpetrate such atrocities against innocent people.

The words of the war-time Irish Justice Minister are interesting: Gerry Boland, whose brother Harry was an “IRA” member killed in action by the Irish Army in 1922, declared to parliament in 1946: ” This court was described outside as a terror court. I have no objection to its being so described. That is exactly what it was. It was a terror court, a court set up to meet terror in a drastic and summary manner in order to save this nation from the perils which threatened it at the time”.

There was no appeal from this Military Court composed of 5 Army Officers [2 Cols, Bennett, McKenna, + 3 Lt.Cols, Joyce, Whelan, Tuite], in respect of either conviction or its sentence of death. The Court, established under Emergency Powers provided for in the 1937 Irish Constitution, sat from 1940 to 1943, tried 13 and acquited only 4, giving a 69.2% conviction rate. 6 were executed.

Ireland also had a “Special Criminal Court” from 1940 to 1946, staffed by Army Officers, but with rights of appeal.

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  • aquifer

    “public safety is the first duty of any government”

    It is always useful to point out the obvious.

    But if our governments decide that there is an acceptable level of co-ordinated non-state violence, or threats of violence, they have licensed a parallel system of terrorist governance, and invited ongoing insurrection.

    More than that, they invite serial overthrows of democratically elected governments, with civil and sectarian warfare as a new norm.

    Or in some cases they just share the policy objectives of the terrorists, but do not wish to admit their own complicity in murder.

    With globalisation making huge revenues available to any decicated criminal conspiracy, governments may have trouble knowing who to cave in to.

    To resist the spread of terrorism they must legally codify and enforce the differences between democratic conduct and coercion, supporting political parties and mass demonstration, for example, while ceasing to legally indulge armed conspiracies as if they were misguided individuals.

    This is difficult for any government, for as part of this they must set out the levels of extra-parliamentary activity that are required to change government policy and conduct.