Memoranda submitted by Professor Liam
Kennedy, Professor of Modern History, The Queen's University of
EXILES: INVISIBLE STORIES FROM NORTHERN IRELAND
The expulsion of individuals, or sometimes whole
families, from their homes has to be seen against the larger background
of paramilitary repression in Northern Ireland. Expulsions are
but one element in a repertoire that runs from warnings, threats,
public humiliation, mass pickets outside homes, beatings, shootings,
to expulsions and death. The common denominator is that violence
or the threat of violence underpins all of these. Violence is
the means whereby paramilitary organisations exercise a degree
of controlin some working class areas almost total controlover
the lives of people. "Punishments" in turn are a sub-part
of the overall functioning of paramilitary organisations, which
also includes racketeering, drug-dealing and other fund-raising
activities, and, until the partial ceasefires, bombings of civilian
and military targets, attacks on the security forces, and assassinations
of civilians deemed to be "legitimate" targets, or sometimes
simply civilians at large.
With the coming into being of the partial ceasefires,
"punishments" have assumed a relatively larger part
in the activity of paramilitary organisations, though it is fair
to say they always bulked large. Paramilitary organisations in
the past sought to convey the impression that such activity was
a minor set of pursuits in which they were reluctantly engaged,
but this is demonstrably not the case. It is, in fact, a core
It is also worth emphasising that the system
of "punishments" and control is exercised over their
"own" people. Thus in Catholic and Nationalist areas
it is the Provisional IRA that exercises control over fellow nationalists.
In Protestant and Loyalist areas it is the UFF, the UVF and, to
a lesser degree, the LVF which inflicts punishment on fellow Loyalists.
This is worth emphasising because outside observers are sometimes
puzzled to hear that the Provisional IRA maims, mutilates and
expels Nationalists as par of its continuing campaign to control
public life within its areas of influence. This is green-on-green
violence. Similarly in Loyalist areas we are talking about orange-on-orange
violence. The paramilitary system of control represses its own
people in arbitrary, unaccountable and brutal ways which would
be unthinkable in liberal democratic society.
There are different kind of expulsions, leading
to the displacement of civilians in Northern Ireland.
Local: for example, moving from one
part of Belfast to another, possibly only a few streets away,
as in recent Loyalist feuding on the Shankill; or from one district
to another, but within the same town.
Regional: movement within Northern
Ireland, from one town to another or from one rural district to
another. For example, a work colleague of mine was forced to leave
Antrim town because he and his brother were involved in a relatively
minor pub fight. One of the other two men had Loyalist paramilitary
connections. The following evening he was given 24 hours to leave
the town. He moved to North Belfast.
Out of Northern Ireland: this could
mean a movement to the Irish Republic, an option more open to
Nationalists than Loyalists, but more usually the destination
is Britain. In principle the movement could be to mainland Europe,
North America or elsewhere, but I would imagine there are very
few such cases, for economic and cultural reasons (to which may
be added the difficulty of obtaining work permits in the case
of places outside the European Union).
Those most likely to be driven out by paramilitary
organisations are those who represent a perceived challenge to
the authority of the Provisional IRA, the UVF and the UFF in local
areas. These might be people who openly voice political disagreement,
as in the case of Councillors Hugh Lewsley and James Fee of the
SDLP, or critical intellectuals such as the Republican Anthony
McIntyre; those the paramilitaries accuse of being petty criminals;
those whose criminal activity might compete with that of the paramilitary
organisations, particularly in the area of drug dealing; members
of the same or competing paramilitary organisations who are perceived
as a threat either to discipline, local control or the interests
of a ruling faction; people in disfavour with elements within
a paramilitary organisation for whatever reason, ranging from
private vendettas, as in the case of the murder of Andrew Kearney
by the Ardoyne Provisional IRA, to paranoia on the part of paramilitaries,
through to cases of mistaken identity.
In the nature of things, the victims are likely
to be young, working class and male. This was true until recently.
However, the mass movement of people linked to, or perceived to
be linked to, the UFF or the UVF in the Shankill Road area of
Belfast this autumn and winter has given a family character to
the problem. One of the councillors for the area, Dr Chris McGimpsey,
told me on Remembrance Sunday that he reckoned more than a thousand
people (possibly as many as 1,200) had been displacedmen,
women and childrenin a two-way exchange of population between
the UFF dominated estates and UVF dominated estates. The distress
and the depth of bitterness to which this gives rise are not difficult
to imagine. It conjures up images of ethnic cleansing, except
the victims come from different sections of the same ethnic grouping
and the security forces ensure that the feuding is contained within
My direct experience with victims of paramilitary
threats have been individuals, a small number who have stayed
with me temporarily while en route to safer accommodation, usually
in England. My most intensive engagement was with two young Newry
men, Liam Kearns and David Madigan, who had been falsely accused
of attacking a Sinn Fein sympathiser, and were ordered to leave
Northern Ireland under threat of "direct military action"
by the Provisional IRA. The two men, and their families, with
the help of various peace groups, resisted the Provisional IRA
threat, and lived in various parts of Northern Ireland until the
threat was lifted unilaterally by the paramilitaries one year
later. The men then returned to their family homes in July 1992.
The reason the paramilitaries withdrew their threats on this occasion
was because the families and the campaigning group had succeeded
in gaining considerable public attention for the case. This included
the critical attention of the founder of Amnesty International
and of the President of Ireland, Mary Robinson, which clearly
embarrassed Sinn Fein.
It might seem that being driven out of one's
home area is one of the lesser of the paramilitary "punishments".
But this is not how some of the victims see the world. Some would
prefer a shooting in the leg to expulsion; I've been surprised
by this but it is a point that has been made to me on a number
of occasions, and it is borne out by the fact that some victims
turn up by arrangement, on time, to be "kneecapped".
My 20 year old daughter told me two weeks ago of the case of one
of her young acquaintances in the village of Ballynahinch, Co
Down. He had been ordered out of Ballynahinch by loyalist paramilitaries,
had taken a flat in Newtownards, less than 20 miles away, and
was visited from time to time by friends from Ballynahinch. In
the end the strain of living on his own, of being cut off from
regular contact with family and friends, and the squalor of the
flat, drove him back to his home village. He accepted being shot
in the leg in preference to continuing to live in "exile"
in another Loyalist area. Fortunately, his was one of the less
damaging cases of a paramilitary "punishment" shooting,
at least in a physical sense.
Why should people, usually young men, find the
prospect and the experience of expulsion so traumatic? I can only
generalise from a small number of cases, but my impression is
that we easily underestimate the shock of the initial threat and
the problems of living in what is perceived as an alien area.
The latter involves negotiating accommodation needs, running a
household (if not being looked after by some voluntary group),
making a living through social security benefits or seeking work,
and, above all, surviving without the emotional support of family
and friends and the familiar surroundings which give meaning to
life. The social skills needed are considerable. These may well
not be available to young men from working class backgrounds,
often lacking academic qualifications, regular job and travel
experience, self-confidence and the skills needed to survive in
a strangely new environment. The loss is not of course confined
to the exiled person: in addition, there are the worries and sense
of loss experienced by loved ones back home. Small wonder then
that some place exile in the same category of seriousness as physical
mutilation at the handsliterallyof the Provisional
IRA, the UVF or the UFF.
As with so many of the big stories concerning
the victims of paramilitary ruthlessness, little is said about
the phenomenon of exiling. Why? It is not as if these human stories
are of little interest to the print and sound media. Little is
said because there is so little to go on. Few break the wall of
imposed silence. To speak out against the Provisional IRA, the
UVF or the UFF in many working class areas is to invite further
retribution, either for the victim or his family. It is hardly
surprising, therefore, that the victims or their families do not
publicise their experiences, except in the cases which involve
paramilitary feuding where victims may feel confident of the support
of one or other of the terror groups.
What is more surprising is the supine attitude
of the community groups, civil liberties groups like the Committee
on the Administration of Justice, of peace "monitors"
from overseas, and of some politicians who seek to pass over the
terror exercised within working class areas with a flourish of
words such as "well, we know this is an imperfect peace".
What is happening is a national and an international disgrace
for the rule of law, in the United Kingdom and on the island of
Ireland. Turning a Nelsonian blind eye to the problem of paramilitary
domination of certain areas, including the practice of exiling,
is a gross betrayal of some of the most vulnerable, powerless
and disadvantaged members of our society.
1. Chart of so-called "punishment"
shootings by paramilitary organisations since 1973
2. Chart of so-called "punishment"
beatings by paramilitary organisations since 1982
The data for the year 2000 are estimates based
on evidence for the first half of the year 2000.
19 November 2000
TERROR IN THE COMMUNITY: THE DEBATE WE NEED
Those two wonderful words, "human rights",
are used extensively in discussions of the state we are at in
Northern Ireland. The term should suggest compassion and protection
for vulnerable people. Yet the human rights debate in Northern
Ireland is extraordinary for its neglect of paramilitary "punishments".
At local level, we have the silence of the streets,
for the obvious reasons of fear and intimidation. But in public
discussion we might expect more, not least in view of the number
of groups, organisations and academic units in Queen's University
and the University of Ulster professing a concern with human rights
issues. Instead we have a heavily lop-sided agenda where State
abuses seem to be the only show in town. In effect, the agenda
for the discussion of human rights in this society is a grossly
distorted one. You can trip around any number of conferences and
seminars on state abuses of people's rights. I'm all in favour
of exposing State abuses of power. But at few of these will you
hear anything about the most serious and most pervasive forms
of rights' abuses, which have to do with the activities of the
IRA, the UVF and the UDA. It just doesn't seem to be polite to
raise the most obvious question of all: what is to be said and
done about paramilitary threats, shootings, mutilations and exiling
of people, sometimes children, in the communities controlled by
Interestingly, outside agencies like Amnesty
International and Helsinki Human Rights' Watch have commented
insightfully on the situation here. Many locally-based agencies
It is astonishing, for instance, that the Committee
on the Administration of Justice has turned a blind eye, apart
from the odd perfunctory statement, to such concerns. Among a
long list of publications from that body, which includes discussions
of anything from plastic bullets to the Irish language, you will
not find one that tackles these issues. The same is true of the
various copies of its magazine, Just News. Looking at articles
published during the last two years, there is not a single report
on paramilitary "punishments". It is as if these happened
on another planet. Alternatively, members of the CAJ may inhabit
another planet. In that period, it may be recalled, there were
more than 200 "punishment" shootings by Loyalist and
Republican paramilitaries, and of course many other forms of "punishment"
visited on individuals and families. More than any single agency,
the CAJ has contributed to the distortion of the human rights
agenda in Northern Ireland. I say this while acknowledging the
much good work it has done; indeed the two are probably interrelated.
Another agency that seems to have taken a self-inflicted
vow of silence is the Children's Law Centre in Belfast. Yet in
recent years, even in recent weeks, we have had horrific attacks
on children by paramilitaries. The silence from the Children's
Law Centre has been deafening, and one might wonder what its definition
of children's rights really adds up to. There is a problem of
paramilitary child and family abuse, and it is hard to see why
issues of law should not have some bearing on the matter.
We hear much about the importance of the institutions
in civil society. Most of us would go along with this. But again
the appalling reality is that community groups, some of whom are
less than representative of local opinion, have been silent. In
some instances, this has been due to fear and intimidation. In
other cases it reflects a narrow political bias. To take one example:
Feile an Phobail, which takes some pride in the craic it introduces
into social life in West Belfast, might also consider addressing
the other crack: the breaking bones of young Nationalists in West
Belfast. West Belfast has the highest incidence of "punishment"
attacks of any Nationalist area of Northern Ireland. Community
groups abdicate responsibility and look the other way.
At the formal political level, we might wonder
about the urgency with which the political administrators of this
province view threats, mutiliations and torture. We might also
raise questions about the contribution of paramilitary political
parties to these debates. Can they speak with other than forked
tongues when their collaborators in the paramilitary underworld
continue to violate people's bodies and minds? More generally,
is there a tendency to "see no evil, hear no evil" in
the matter of violations of human rights by non-state organisations,
as the research of Professor Colin Knox would appear to suggest?
Certainly there seems little appreciation, at government level
in Belfast, in Dublin and in London that Northern Ireland, in
human rights terms, is a disaster area.
The distortion of the human rights debate here
is only part of the story. Closely related is the selective making
of a canon of martyrdom, under the shade of human rights concern.
More than 10 years ago I joined with others in calling for the
opening of a new enquiry into the killings on Bloody Sunday. I
also think it is important that the murder of Pat Finucane is
investigated thoroughly. But I think it is equally important that
the murder of Joey O'Connor, who was shot dead in West Belfast
in recent months, is also impartially investigated. There have
been reports that members of Sinn Fein and the Provisional IRA
were involved, and these claims need to be explored just as dispassionately
as allegations of collusion by the security forces in the Finucane
case. Indeed, in the public interest, we need to know much more
about both Joey O'Connor and Pat Finucane, and their range of
activities, and not just who might be responsibile for their murder.
Similary, if the vile murder of Rosemary Nelson
is to become a cause celebre, then surely the frenzied killing
of Eamon Collins of Newry is equally worthy of our attention.
Both were fearless upholders of unpopular and, to a degree, partisan
views. The attack on each was an attack on two fundamental freedoms:
the right to freedom of expression and the right to life. In the
same vein, is there any reason why Frank O`Reillythe Catholic
RUC man who gave his life in the line of duty at Drumcree, facing
down Loyalist thugsis not also worthy of entry into the
canon of human rights defenders?
There should be no second-class deaths, nor
is there any obvious reason why some murder investigations should
get far more investigative resources than others.
Some of these concerns may seem distant from
the work of the Committee. In fact, I feel these are vital contextual
issues. Unless and until we develop a human and humanitarian rights
culture in Northern Ireland, there is little possibility of ending
the nightmare of paramilitary control and violence. Certainly
a one-sided and selective concern with human rights issues does
not serve us well.
We need to break the silence, at
all levels of society here. There has to be a fundamental debate
about the gravity of the problems posed by paramilitary organisation
in this society, in relation to children, individual adults, families
and communities. The governments in Belfast, Dublin and London
have a major responsibility here. So also do the media and community
It is unlikely that those who have
been the object of paramilitary displeasure, including those driven
from their homes and communities, will ever receive proper justice.
But at least a type of Truth Commission, which heard their testimonies
and which followed this up with therapeutic help, might relieve
some of the pain, the anger and the sense of powerlessness.
Ombudsperson for Children: an office
led by an individual who takes a comprehensive view of the problems
of children, their rights and any threats to their welfare.
A campaign of support for the police,
where most of the political parties, with the likely exception
of the paramilitary political parties, accepted their responsibilities
to support just and fair policing. There is an alternative to
the new policing service which is in the process of being created.
It is the masked, unaccountable vigilantes with guns and nail-studded
7 February 2001