Old enemies confront the past…

WHILE it has been three decades since Lieutenant Cliff Burrage served in Belfast, his latest trip is likely to be as memorable as the first visit, when he shot dead Ardoyne man Michael McLarnon. Burrage now recognises he made a mistake, and met with the dead man’s sister to try to acknowledge what she always believed – that he shot a civilian. Now facing the truth, Burrage has gone one further, and met the man he might have meant to hit… former paramilitary commander and Sinn Fein politician, Martin Meehan.

  • missfitz

    The series of reconciliation meetings is starting to take on a surreal quality. In this particular show, you get to see Martin Meehan and the former soldier having a quiet pint and happily reminiscing about the olden days. I honestly didnt know what to think when Meehan presented him with a gift, a belt he had made in Long Kesh.

    Last night, the strange adventure continued with Ronnie McCarthy and the policeman he shot in England meeting, having coffe, and then meeting again with their families and going out for dinner.

    It looks like an extraordinary series of journies, and perhaps the bottom line in all of this is that progress is being made at the level where the problems occurred.

    It was also interesting to hear Jeremy Adams on the Nolan show yesterday morning. He came in for a lot of criticism about the shows, but when he dug a little more, it seemed that those criticising had more than a little to hide.

    Congratulations to the BBC and all the participants for the courage to put themselves centre stage in this fashion and make a real attempt to find closure in their own lives.

  • This is typical fare we have to settle for when it comes to British atrocities in N. I. during The Troubles.

    Instead of having real inquiries into real murders – and I can provide a long list of them if anyone is interested, starting with the mistaken killing of forester Seamus Ludlow instead of Daithi O Conaill in 1976 – we get another one that isn’t even mentioned in all the books I have read on the subject – that of the innocent Michael McLarnon who was killed instead of escapee Martin Meehan during 1971’s internment of suspected republicans. Similar mistakes happen all the time in law-enforcement

    When is the BBC and the media in general going to start treating viewers like adults, and tell serious secrets?

  • Pat Mc Larnon

    ‘Burrage has gone one further, and met the man he might have meant to hit…’

    I don’t think even Burrage has claimed that Meehan was the man he tried to murder that night. Burrage murdered an innocent man (Michael Mc Larnon) so are we now at the stage where excuses are being manufactured for the Burrages of this world, Michael Mc Larnon was innocent but he really meant to kill a baddie like Meehan.

    The Green Howards had taken a hammering at the hands of the IRA in Ardoyne at that time and in response had killed a number of civillians. On the night Michael mc Larnon was shot they had taken over a number of houses in Ardoyne and launched sniper attacks against a number of civillians, John Copeland was also fatally wounded that night.

    I believe Burrage killed the person he was aiming at that night (is Gonzo stating that Meehan was next to Mc Larnon when he was shot.?) His pathetic excuse at trying to ease his own conscience in stating that he only meant to kill the ‘gunman’ next to Michael Mc Larnon is contempuous.

    Stone was pathetic in his woe is me contribution, Burrage isn’t too far behind.

  • made at the level where the problems occurred

    the problems and responsibilities for the problems went well beyond the foot soldiers and cannon fodder of conflict. for the most part former combatants (in any conflict) have not had much trouble when the conflict is over sitting down together and in fact tend to find much in common and that ‘if but for the war’ who knows what would have been

    so are we now at the stage where excuses are being manufactured for the Burrages of this world

    that is good television, not a forum where there is some structured accountable parameters but where the bottom line is what makes a good story

    so we all feel nice and fuzzy but is that the truth

    and do people not have the right – victims or perpetrators – to say no, to maintain some privacy – without being judged as a coward or worse. does everything in this big brother culture have to be broadcast on tv to be valid

    no cannot agree with this. it is not the forum to be happening, it cheapens what does need be done by making it a sideshow and lets the govts off of the hook for producing a real truth and reconciliation commission that could have some meaning

  • BogExile

    ‘…Stone was pathetic in his woe is me contribution, Burrage isn’t too far behind.’

    PML,

    We must have been watching different programmes. Your reaction seems so poisoned with bile.

    I think that you want Stone to be pathetic. I think you want Burrage to be a wanton killer. I think it because there is something inside you that cannot challenge the caricuture of the conflict that those of us not intimately involved build around it.

    It looks like you have made no effort at all to humanise the pro-British protagonists in the programme. That’s a shame because I found myself fascinated and moved by the idea that the ‘auld enemy’ from my perspective – republican terrorists – were not two-dimensional killers but were people operating within their own context who could feel remorse.

    Two men from either side embracing each other after so much bitterness and hatred makes your reaction look very trivial and tiny indded, i’m afraid.

  • DK

    Interesting to read the McLarnon was a former soldier himself (a para). This fact should probably get the conspiracy theorists going.

  • Pat Mc Larnon

    ‘We must have been watching different programmes. Your reaction seems so poisoned with bile.’

    No, the bile came from the original actions of Burrage and Stone.

    ‘I think that you want Stone to be pathetic.’

    No, the ‘you don’t know what it is like to be me,’ ramblings of Stone came across as quite pathetic, it was merely an observation.

    ‘I think you want Burrage to be a wanton killer.’

    Burrage is a self confessed killer, wanton or not is another question. I know of the facts of that night because my uncle was murdered that night. Burrage’s ‘wrong man’ excuse is a lie. As stated the British Army were on a murder mission because the IRA were hammering them, they took over a number of homes and went on a shooting spree. My original point was that Gonzo seems to have put Martin Meehan at Michael Mc Larnon’s shoulder, how is that?

    ‘Two men from either side embracing each other after so much bitterness and hatred makes your reaction look very trivial and tiny indded, i’m afraid.’

    Stone is still trying to convince himself that what he did was correct, Burrage is obviously haunted after murdering someone. But their participation was self serving and begged for justification. Stone saw the ‘files’ on Hackett. Burrage fired at a mystery gunman. Always a ready excuse to hand.

    If that impresses you then that is a pretty low yardstick with which to measure yourself.

  • pol

    Isn’t it interesting that you have people who have suffered the most, willing to sit down and reach across the table to each other.

    Then you have those who profess to be God fearing christians of high moral fiber refusing to sit down and share power with there fellow elected country men.

    sackcloth and ashes.

  • shelly madden

    Academy award winning movie this year–Crash. Yes we are all human, foiblles and all. Lesson, through art, to be learned, perhaps, we are all Matt Dillon and yet we are not, and neither is he. Look at that film and think how it could make your place better.

    One.

  • woof mcdog

    I thought some of the exchanges in this series of programmes were quite incredible. People on both sides of the troubles coming together and deciding the best thing for the future was dialogue and understanding. And sometimes those involved admitting that had the shoe been on the other foot they may well have done what the person on the other side of the table had.

    Stone didnt come off very well.

    Of course what I would have asked him was – where DID your “intelligence” REALLY come from?.

    Maybe from some of the people being paid off today – and if their definition of an IRA man was someone who delivered bread and worked for St Vincent De Paul – well it just goes to show you what a sorry place this was (is?)

  • Belfast Gonzo

    I think I should respond to Pat’s interpretation of my blog entry, when he asked: “My original point was that Gonzo seems to have put Martin Meehan at Michael Mc Larnon’s shoulder, how is that?”

    Firstly, I did not put Meehan at McLarnon’s shoulder. I actually wrote: “Burrage has gone one further, and met the man he might have meant to hit”.

    The reasons are as follows. According to Kevin Magee’s report in the Tele:

    Shaking with emotion Burrage said: “I’m certain now that the man I shot at was a gunman, but that I hit Michael and he … he was just there. But he wasn’t … he wasn’t … the man I aimed at.

    “He wasn’t the man you aimed at?” asked Mary McLarnon.

    “Definitely not, no,” said the soldier.

    Mary McLarnon asked: “So he (Michael) was shot by mistake?”

    Burrage replied: “Yes. Yes. I just want to say I’m so sorry. I’m so sorry.”

    Then, in the Daily Ireland report on Martin Meehan’s meeting with Burrage, Meehan said of the former soldier: “He said his ambition every time he went out on patrol was to kill me”.

    And, indeed, it appears Burrage almost did that. Burrage also said of the night he murdered McLarnon: “I went out that night and it was a peculiar feeling, I thought ‘tonight I am going to kill a gunman’. I just knew that I was going to get somebody that night. There was a real sense of wanting revenge, a real sense of you know wanting revenge for being hit on the head with a bottle.”

    Burrage’s own account implies he was strongly motivated by revenge for the attack on him earlier. He killed McLarnon on October 28, 1971, and Meehan was beaten by Burrage’s men on November 9, 1971, indicating a certain pattern of behaviour, which I doubt Burrage would deny.

    Unprofessional at best; murderously criminal at worst.

    I have no idea if Meehan was at McLarnon’s shoulder when he was shot, but Burrage claimed that he was aiming at a gunman, who could have been Meehan… assuming there was a gunman at all. Pat plausibly casts doubt on this. Sadly, I don’t have the benefit of a eyewitness accounts.

    My own sense is that Burrage, as Pat suggests, may well be embellishing the truth, and I guess I could have qualified my thoughts more clearly. He may have done this to ease his own conscience, but his admission about killing an innocent man seems to have helped McLarnon’s sister somewhat.

    There is a difference between missing a target (whether Meehan or not) and aiming at a civilian. I have are two accounts (now), and while Pat has made useful points, he should understand that I only had one account up until he posted.

    Burrage was motivated by revenge and participated in savage beatings and murder. I won’t excuse that, but it was in the context of him losing quite a few of his own men. Emotions were running high at the time, and Burrage doesn’t appear to have been able to keep his in check.

    While I think Burrage might be in denial or still afraid of admitting the entire truth, at the very least it demonstrates that he can acknowledge some mistakes and wrong-doing from the past, can lay aside his hate, and that personal enemies from the Troubles can move on.

    Burrage’s account of his actions might not have been the whole truth, but it’s a fuller account of the mistakes in his past than we’ve heard from the IRA men who were returning fire at him in Ardoyne.

  • Also, way back in 1977 Captain Robert Nairac was kidnapped and murdered by the IRA. The “Times” report it “The death of Captain Nairac remains one of the most horrific acts of individual violence in the history of the 30-year Troubles in Northern Ireland.”
    Now the Grenadier Guards have paid a special tribute to the young officer to mark the 350th anniversary of the founding of the regiment by Charles II, and disclosed that he made “repeated and spirited attempts to escape” from his captors during his ordeal. more @ http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,2-2149230,00.html

  • Concerned Loyalist

    Pat McLarnon,
    I know it is hard to take or understand from a republican perspective such as yours, or for the families that suffered at his hands, but Michael Stone is a hero to thousands of loyalists.

    I believe that it is wrong to take life, but when Michael went into that cemetery on that cold March morning the IRA knew from that point on that they could never coerce the Loyalist people into a “United” Ireland. They knew then that there were no no-go areas for extraordinarily brave or insane loyalists, depending on your outlook, and although they dragged their feet for another 6 years, the increasing number of SF/IRA and republican sympathisers in general executed by the UFF and UVF brought us to the place we are today – a subdued IRA who have finally realised that the only way forward is through politics (although their criminality and paramilitarism is still ongoing, but at a lower level than pre-ceasefires).

    Ask yourself Pat McLarnon…without loyalists like Michael Stone and Stevie “Top Gun” McKeag, who also targeted numerous republican apologists, would we be where we are today?

  • elfinto

    Ask yourself Pat McLarnon…without loyalists like Michael Stone and Stevie “Top Gun” McKeag, who also targeted numerous republican apologists, would we be where we are today?

    You’re one sick pup.

    Republican apologists = Catholic civilians

    Of course, if it wasn’t for Pablo Escobar types within the UDA the aforementioned killer might be in Bolton instead of Roselawn.

  • Busty Brenda

    have you guys got this right because I saw an advert on the tv saying this weeks spotlight was about Denis Donaldson.

  • lib2016

    Concerned Loyalist,

    You mean loyalists should be grateful for the position they find themselves in? What planet…argh – never mind!

  • elfinto

    They should be grateful to the republican movement that they’re not behind bars.

    Their only loyalty is crime!

  • kensei

    “I believe that it is wrong to take life, but when Michael went into that cemetery on that cold March morning the IRA knew from that point on that they could never coerce the Loyalist people into a “United” Ireland. They knew then that there were no no-go areas for extraordinarily brave or insane loyalists, depending on your outlook, and although they dragged their feet for another 6 years, the increasing number of SF/IRA and republican sympathisers in general executed by the UFF and UVF brought us to the place we are today – a subdued IRA who have finally realised that the only way forward is through politics (although their criminality and paramilitarism is still ongoing, but at a lower level than pre-ceasefires).”

    Holy Shit. Just Holy Shit.